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As might be expected, Amish Christmas customs are simple, oriented to the family and the religious meaning of the holiday. So, Amish children don’t visit Santa Claus in the store. There is no lavishly decorated Christmas tree in the home. And strings of colorful electric lights do not grace the front of the Amish house. But the making of special cookies and candies is certainly a part of the holiday activities. Greens and candles may decorate some home interiors. School children often pick names and exchange small gifts, such as writing paper or a needlepoint kit. Families usually exchange some small gifts as well. Some Amish also send Christmas cards, often to their “English” friends.

The Christmas church service may or may not be held on December 25th, but both Christmas and the following day, sometimes called “second Christmas,” are holidays for the Amish. This second day is usually one of relaxation or visiting others. Christmas dinners are a special part of the celebration, These are usually large meals, not unlike those served at weddings, and various groups beside the family will hold get togethers, such as single women, teachers, and others of like interest. These gatherings may continue into January and February of the New Year.

One of the highlights of the Christmas season, for children and their parents, is the Christmas program held in many of the one room schools. Beforehand there is much rehearsal and perhaps some simple decorations made by the children for the school. At one Amish school, children worked on making a quilt showing the school and eight apple trees, for the eight grades. Each tree had an apple for each student in that grade, along with his or her name.

On the day of the presentation,
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carriages arrive and parents file anxiously into the room. Some, of course, may have more than one child attending in grades one through eight. Stories, plays, and songs are filled with humor and messages of the meaning of the season. And this is one of the few times you will ever see Amish children on a “stage” or “performing for an audience.”

For non Amish visitors who may be invited to enjoy one of these presentations, it is a memorable experience indeed, since most of the program is in English rather than the Pennsylvania German dialect.

A few years ago, I discovered an interesting book in an Amish bookstore titled “Getting Ready for Christmas.” This book was filled with “Christmas plays, poems, and songs suited for Amish schools.” An Amish lady, Emma Lapp, collected the materials included, and the typing was done by a wheelchair patient, who “will get a percent of all the books sold.”

The Christmas programs usually begin with a welcome, sometimes by one of the younger “scholars.” Here is a sample from the book.

I’m glad it isn’t size and weight

‘Cause then I might not have the chance

While stories are often about their non Amish neighbors, and may even mention Santa Claus and Christmas trees, clearly this is not what the season represents. Some of the dialog from the plays suggests the morals behind the stories.

“Sometimes the gifts you make bring more happiness than anything you can buy.”

“Giving and making others happy is the best part of Christmas.”

“The best gift you can give is simply called love.”

Here are some sample selections from the book, beginning with one of the many poems that might be heard:

This Christmas season let us try

In this selection, “Christmas Bees,” imagine the seven children walking to the front of the classroom,
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each holding a bee shaped “shield” with a word on it. They begin by reciting in unison:

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan has once again taken aim at interest rates, repeating his unorthodox claim that high rates cause high inflation.

“My stance on this is clear: Interest rates are the cause and inflation is the result. We will make no concessions, we will reduce rates,” Erdoan told reporters on the return journey from an official trip to Italy on Feb. 5.

Amid persistently high inflation rates, he noted that inflation has not declined to single digits for a long time and suggested that it would not do so “unless the mentality changes.”

Erdoan criticized the fact that some banks are charging up to 20 percent interest, warning that such expensive credit “discouraged investments and job creation.”

“How could employment conditions improve in these circumstances? There will be no jobs unless there is investment,” he said.

“Recently a bank posted a profit of 6 billion liras. Are we working for the interest rate lobby? Customers who take loans from banks are suffering,” Erdoan added.

Interest rates have long been a bugbear of the Turkish president,
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who has repeatedly suggested that an international “interest rate lobby” is working to hold the country back.

Erdoan said he recently held meetings with government officials to discuss interest rates, adding that there would be “another meeting when officials finalize their studies.”

“The Central Bank, the Banking Regulatory and Supervision Agency [BDDK] and state owned banks must play an active role in this. We will reduce interest rates and when we do that inflation will fall,” he claimed.

Turkey’s annual inflation eased to 10.4 percent in January, from December’s 11.9 percent, driven by a strong base effect, data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TK) showed on Feb. 5.

At its latest monetary policy committee meeting on Jan. 18, the Central Bank kept its key rates on hold. The Bank left the repo rate at 8 percent,
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the overnight borrowing rate at 7.25 percent and the late liquidity window rate at 12.75 percent.

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It was the third deadly wreck involving Amtrak in less than two months. when it struck a CSX train loaded with automobiles at an estimated 59 mph, Gov. Henry McMaster said. The crash happened near a switchyard about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Columbia where autos are loaded and unloaded from railcars.

“The CSX was on the track it was supposed to be on,” while the question for investigators is how the Amtrak train ended up on the side track, McMaster said.

Amtrak President Richard Anderson appeared to point the finger at CSX, saying the signal system run by the freight railroad at that spot was down at the time, and CSX dispatchers were manually routing trains.

The only way the Amtrak train could have gotten onto the siding was for a switch to have been thrown, Anderson said.

CSX issued a statement expressing condolences but said nothing about the cause of the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to the scene.

The force of the crash dislodged a seat and knocked it onto passenger Tronia Dorsey’s legs, said her son, Andre Neblett, who spoke with her. The 43 year old woman, who escaped with minor scratches and bruises, described a terrifying scene inside the dark compartment, with people screaming and babies wailing, he said.

“It was chaos,” Andre Neblett said after driving in from North Carolina to retrieve his mother’s suitcase from a Red Cross shelter. “She said she was just waiting on somebody to get to her.”

The conductor and engineer aboard the Amtrak locomotive were killed. And 116 people were taken to four hospitals, according to the governor.

Palmetto Health emergency room doctor Eric Brown said so many passengers were hurt that they were brought in on two buses, and a tent that had been set up as a waiting room to keep people separate from flu patients was turned into a triage area.

The locomotives of both trains were left crumpled, the Amtrak engine on its side. One car in the middle of the Amtrak train was snapped in half, forming a V off to one side of the tracks.

“It’s a horrible thing to see, to understand the force involved,” the governor said after touring the scene.

In a statement, Amtrak said that it was “deeply saddened” by the deaths and added that it was cooperating fully with the NTSB, as did CSX. But Amtrak also also said CSX maintains all the tracks and signals where the accident happened and controls access to the sidings and yards.

Amtrak’s Anderson said the crash shows the importance of making sure that positive train control GPS based technology that can prevent accidents by automatically slowing or stopping locomotives is installed on every train and track in the nation by the government’s end of the year deadline. have gotten extensions to the deadlines.

Many passengers were asleep when crash happened.

Elliot Smith told The State newspaper of Columbia that he was staying with a friend when they heard what sounded like a propane tank exploding.

“The sound was so loud, you instantly knew it was bad,” he said.

Amtrak officials gathered up luggage and other belongings and within hours put passengers aboard buses to their destinations.

Before being sent on their way, those who were not hurt were taken to a shelter set up at a middle school, and local businesses provided coffee and breakfast.

“We know they are shaken up quite a bit. We know this is like nothing else they have ever been through. So we wanted to get them out of the cold, get them out of the weather get them to a warm place,” sheriff’s spokesman Adam Myrick said.

The dead were identified as engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida.

Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher’s voice caught as she released the names of the dead.

“Any time you have anything that happens like that, you expect more fatalities. But God blessed us, and we only had the two,” Fisher said.

On Wednesday, a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress to a strategy retreat slammed into a garbage truck at a crossing in rural Virginia, killing one person in the truck and injuring six others.

And on Dec. 18, an Amtrak train ran off the rails along a curve during its inaugural run on a route south of Tacoma, Washington, killing three people and injuring dozens. It was going nearly 80 mph, more than twice the speed limit.

After the latest crash, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the nation’s railroads must be made safer, declaring, “Business as usual must end.” He said proven technology, including positive train control, cannot continue to be delayed.
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American Medical Response Portland Operations hosted a dual celebration to honor National Emergency Medical Services Week and AMR 100th anniversary of ambulance service to the Portland area.

AMR provides services in the United States to more than 18,500 AMR paramedics, EMTs, RNs and other professionals, with a fleet of 4,100 vehicles, transporting more than 3 million people nationwide each year in critical, emergency and nonemergency situations. Locally, AMR provides ambulance services in Multnomah, Clackamas and Clark counties.

In 1913, Ben Buck and Frank Sheperd were founding owners of AMR earliest predecessor company, Oregon Ambulance Service, which was renamed Buck Ambulance in 1924. After Ben Buck retirement in 1949, son Barney Buck family ran the ambulance operations. Buck Ambulance led the nation in innovations in patient care including: carrying oxygen (1943), two way radios (1948), first aid kits, and was the first ambulance service in the nation to save a cardiac arrest patient (as part of the Coronary Ambulance Project in 1969).

With a special appearance by the Buck family, AMR honored a century of innovation and excellence by the companies and employees that came together to form AMR Northwest: Oregon Ambulance Service, Buck Ambulance, Willamette Falls Ambulance, American Ambulance, Alpine Ambulance, AA Ambulance, MEDIX Ambulance and Care Ambulance.

Since 1913, AMR and its predecessor companies have provided emergency medical services and medical transportation in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

As part of the celebration, AMR Portland Operations showcased historical ambulance memorabilia and antique ambulances (1923 Dodge and 1947 Cadillac) alongside today state of the art vehicles and the latest in pre hospital medical care technologies.

This year EMS Week theme was One mission One team. National EMS Week brought together local communities and medical personnel to publicize safety, and honor the dedication of those who provide the day to day lifesaving services of medicine line.
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Akali is the only Indian in the jury committee for this particular category.

The One Club for Creativity, a non profit organisation celebrating creative excellence in advertising and design, recently announced the selection of Amit Akali, chief creative officer at Medulla Communications and What’s Your Problem, as the jury of The One Show Health, Wellness and Pharmaceutical Awards. Akali is the only Indian in the jury committee for this particular category.

The One Show judging will take place in March 2018, with finalists announced in April in lead up the The One Show awards ceremonies on May 9 and 11, 2018 during Creative Week in New York.

Amit Akali, CEO, The One Club for Creativity, says in a press release, “This new jury consists of esteemed creative professionals from around the world who specialise in this unique field where work often needs to pass both creative and regulatory muster. Health, wellness and pharma continue to be fast growing segments with their own unique regulatory challenges, and the creative work deserves to be judged by a separate dedicated jury of advertising experts.”

He adds, “The quality of creative work in these areas has advanced significantly in recent years. Soon after launching One Show Rx in 2000 as the ad industry’s first awards show for pharma, we recognized much of the work was not yet up to One Show Pencil standards and rolled the discipline back into the overall One Show four years later. Today, health wellness and pharma deserve to be a separate discipline due to the elevated quality of the work.”

The jury, representing nine countries, will judge work from around the world based on creativity of ideas and quality of execution. The full jury is as follows:
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When most of us visit a foreign country, we go with many stereotypes and misconceptions. In many ways, coming to Amish country is not unlike a visit to another world. For years, the local Convention and Visitors Bureau encouraged people to “visit another country Pennsylvania Dutch Country.” Many visitors come with preconceived ideas about the Amish. Some of these may be true, such as the Amish driving a horse and buggy, or married men having beards. But others prove to be incorrect, such as Amish parents arranging marriages, or all teenage boys having “courting buggies.”We pick up our misinformation from various sources, particularly newspapers, TV, the Internet, and movies. (See our series on “The Amish in the Media.”) A columnist for the New York Post recently wrote that “everything I know about the Amish I learned from the old Harrison Ford movie, Witness.” This is a disturbing, but honest confession.1. Amish have mirrors in the house and, of course, on their carriages.2. While in the past dolls often didn’t have faces, today many Amish buy commercial dolls and dress them in Amish clothing.3. There is no “rule” about when to wear a particular hat. One older Amishman lamented to me,
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“Why, some men even wear straw hats to funerals nowadays!”4. The formal dress coat and vest have hooks and eyes, but work coats, shirts, sweaters, and pants have buttons.5. The Amish continue to change and most here have bottled gas stoves and refrigerators. Many Amish enterprises have machinery operated by diesel engines, compressed air, and hydraulics. Car batteries are used for lights on the carriages.6. Although Amish church members do not own or drive cars, they are allowed to ride in cars, buses, and trains, especially for long distance trips.7. Traditionally, the Amish have not used hex signs or barn decorations.8. By now, less than half of Lancaster’s Amish are farmers, largely due to the increasing population and the scarcity and high price of remaining farmland.9. The Amish may use phones, but they are usually outside the house and often shared by two or more families. The use of cell phones has become more common.10. With large families and most young people joining the faith,
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the population here doubles about every 23 years. There are more Amish now than at any time in history.

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Chanting “Keep that dream alive” and “We shall overcome,” nearly 100 local residents black, white, young and old marched through snow and slush from the Boys and Girls Club to Durrett Avenue Baptist Church in honor of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The national holiday marked 50 years since King was assassinated on his balcony at a Memphis hotel. Today, he would’ve been 89, noted the Rev. Lisa Lewis Balboa as she welcomed guests to the church service.

Miller, pastor of Moore’s Baptist Church, said that Moses, like the Civil Rights activist, realized that his people were suffering and needed to be free, so he set out on a mission to lead the children of Israel out of slavery from the Egyptians.

“(Moses) recognized that no matter how good I got it on the inside of this house, there are some people on the outside of the house that look just like me who aren’t eating good like me,” Miller said. “Moses got tired of seeing what was happening to the folks that looked like him, and one day Moses decided that I’m not going to take it no more.”

Miller went on to talk about how African Americans today need to realize the need to stick together and to be a part of the team, even more so since the Civil Rights Movement.

“If you’re African American, you’re just as African American as the other,” he said, noting that when stopped by the police, they don’t give you a questionnaire to determine clout, education or sexuality. “At this time, we’re living in a society where,
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because of the color of our skin, we’re being blocked from achieving certain things more than ever.

“We have to make up our minds that if we don’t come together, we won’t be together when the enemy comes to divide us.”

Along with sticking together, Miller said African Americans should continue the journey that King started. He noted that they overcame a lot, but there is still so much to overcome.

“It seems like, 50 years later, we’re not marching for the same reason they marched for, but we’re in danger of going back to the place where they started from,” the pastor said. “Since we have so much education to choose from, we choose not to get an education . since we have so many candidates to choose from, we choose not to vote for anyone.”

He continued by saying there’s so many people talking, but no one is actually doing anything a note that received an applause from the crowd.

Miller concluded his message urging the crowd to not get discouraged while trying to do something for the greater good. He also said, “Don’t allow yourself to go back to a place that’s pure hell because it was comfortable.”

“You’d rather die a slave than die fighting for your freedom,” he said, as the crowd listened in. “You’d rather die working for someone else than die trying to make something happen for you and your people.”

In closing, Miller encouraged the crowd to pray instead of panic, know your history, be cautious of fake smiles, and to not let religion hinder progress for the people.

“Dr. King was a preacher, but he didn’t let his religion interfere with his spirituality,” he said “Don’t let your religion lead you in a place that just because someone doesn’t believe what you believe,
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it stops us from progress.”.

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No one’s financial information is safe from hackers at the Internal Revenue Service not even President Trump’s.

That’s according to fraud investigator John Powers, who suspects Trump’s tax returns have been stolen from the IRS. Powers also believes that expert hackers could take anybody’s data from the agency if they wanted it.

“Considering Trump’s risk profile, the determination of his detractors, and the current state of cybersecurity,
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it’s almost inconceivable his tax returns haven’t been hacked successfully by someone with more experience and expertise,” Powers wrote in Wired on Sunday.

“After all, American taxpayers should assume their personally identifying information is already in the hands of criminals and then act accordingly, as former IRS commissioner John Koskinen recently told reporters.”

Koskinen said: “Our estimate is a significant percent of those taxpayers already had their information in the hands of criminals.”

The IRS awarded a contract to Equifax for fraud protection services. Equifax is the credit bureau that lost data from about 145 million people to hackers earlier this year.
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“And then you were actually on the M1 and you were sitting in stationary traffic. What would happen?

“Or if I told you: ‘No, it’s lovely out there. Seriously if you haven’t gone out yet, go out in shorts, don’t forget your sunglasses. It’s absolutely toasty right across the United Kingdom.’ What would happen, when the evidence of your own senses prove to you that I was lying? Nothing happened. This is fascinating isn’t it?

“I think it’s as if we wait for an international police force of truth to say no no no no no. We can do spin and there’s always a little bit of fibbing on both sides, but to claim that black is white, to claim that two plus two does not equal four, I’m afraid you’ve just set off the alarm and you going to have to stop. There is no alarm, which is why I think he’s going to get away with it.

“We are watching the descent of America into a comparable relationship with information and truth that you see in North Korea. And what’s astonishing is that we should have had all the weapons to stop it from happening.”
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