Comparing First and Final Scenes

‘This fantastic video on Vimeo (below) from Jacob T. Swinney could be the best five minutes you’ll spend today. It shows the opening and closing scenes of famous movies, displayed side by side. I’ve written a few posts here about beginnings and at least one post about endings. But once you have your story finished, whether it’s a piece of fiction or creative nonfiction, take some time to compare the first page or so to the last. What is the first image you’ve created for the reader and what is the final image you’re leaving behind?’

Source: Tracy Staedter

These Parrots Can Make Other Parrots ‘Laugh’—a First

‘Forget the laughing kookaburra—kea are the birds that really tickle each other’s funny bones. The highly intelligent parrot has a specific call, that—like human laughter—puts other parrots that hear it in a good mood. This makes the kea the first known non-mammal to show contagious emotion, joining the ranks of humans, rats, and chimpanzees.’

Source: National Geographic

Opioid Addiction Is Eroding the Life Expectancy of Trump’s Core Supporters

‘…As first highlighted by Princeton economists in 2015, the death rate for non-Hispanic, white Americans has been climbing since the late 90s. For decades, death rates (the number of deaths in a given population) have dropped for Americans overall, and middle-aged whites were no exception. Each year, on average, the death rate dropped by 2 percent.

But in 1998, something flipped, and while the death rates for everyone else—including black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans—continued to steadily drop, the death rates for middle-aged white Americans start to creep up: 0.5 percent a year, every year.

They’ve been dubbed “deaths of despair,” due to the high number of overdose and suicide deaths. Those same economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, have now published a follow-up report where they’ve attempted to untangle the cause of this epidemic. While many experts supposed it’s linked to a worsening economy and lower incomes, Case and Deaton say their analysis shows it’s not so simple.

“The story is rooted in the labor market, but involves many aspects of life, including health in childhood, marriage, child rearing, and religion,” the researchers wrote. “Although we do not see the supply of opioids as the fundamental factor, the prescription of opioids for chronic pain added fuel to the flames, making the epidemic much worse than it otherwise would have been.” …’

Source: Motherboard

Rep. Devin Nunes’s latest stunt could make Trump’s Russia problem worse

‘The latest stumble came Friday, when Nunes abruptly canceled a planned public hearing with top former national security officials about Russian interference in the 2016 election. The House panel was originally scheduled to hear from President Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Tuesday. But Friday morning, Nunes abruptly pushed back the hearing…

Nunes’s behavior shows that the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation is already being impaired by partisan warfare. That could help fuel calls for a special prosecutor or a select committee where both parties would have subpoena powers. Nunes, in other words, could wind up paving the way for exactly the things he and Trump most want to stave off…’

 

Source: Vox

6 ways President Trump tried to spin his total defeat on health care

1) How legislating works

2) If your bill fails because not enough people in your party will vote for it, it’s the other party’s fault

3) Obamacare is failing, and when it does, Democrats will be begging for a bipartisan deal

4) The Republican Party is complicated

5) He really wanted to do tax reform anyway

6) Anyway, this crushing defeat is actually for the best

Source: Vox

Public entomologists struggle with an epidemic of delusional parasitosis

Cory Doctorow writes:

‘Dr Gale Ridge is a public entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, where an average of 23 people a day call, write or visit; an increasing proportion of them aren’t inquiring about actual insects, they’re suffering from delusional parasitosis, and they’re desperate and even suicidal.

Nancy Hinkle, a colleague of Gale’s, professor of veterinary entomology at the University of Georgia in Athens, estimates that she spends “a couple of hours every day” dealing with “the invisible bugs.”

The entomologists’ jobs are confounded by the possibility that the weird “bugs” aren’t delusional. The world of arthropods is sufficiently weird that it’s hard to rule out a rare or unknown bug causing mischief; not to mention the complications of industrial de-humidifiers that make “the room buzz with static electricity” that feels like bugs crawling on your skin. Then there are the well-meaning MDs who mistake their patients’ scratch-marks for bug bites.

The entomologists have learned to stage interventions with their “clients'” families, bringing them together to explain the realities of insect behavior, to bring them to the gradual understanding that their problems are real, but the bugs are not.

Not addressed in the story, but very interesting: why the sharp increase in delusional parasitosis? Is it a reduction in the public health services that would have intercepted these people before they got to the entomologists? Is it scare-stories about bedbugs and lyme disease? Aggressive hand-sanitizer ads with their subtext of lurking, dangerous dirtiness? …’

Source: Boing Boing

Police warn you not to fall for ‘Siri 108’ prank

‘The Sheriff’s office of Harris County, Texas has posted a message on its official Facebook page, pleading with people not to fall for a social media prank in which they’re encouraged to say “108” to Siri.

That’s because the number prompts Siri to dial 9-1-1, or the emergency phone number of whichever country they are in at the time.“

…“This viral prank is becoming increasingly popular on social media, with various speculation as to what the command does. The command, in fact, will instruct Siri to call emergency services, which could potentially tie up emergency lines.”

The reason the 108 code dials emergency services is because it is India’s equivalent of 9-1-1. To protect iPhone users, Apple embedded various international emergency numbers into Siri, with the numbers redirecting to whatever your local number may be. That means that saying “9-1-1” in the U.K. will dial the equivalent number 9-9-9, even if a visitor didn’t know that.

Unfortunately, 108 isn’t particularly well known by Texas youths, apparently, which is why it’s turned out to be fairly easy to trick people into dialing it. Saying the number does give you a few seconds to cancel the call, but evidently enough people aren’t doing this that it’s causing a problem…’

Source: Cult of Mac

Trump Targets 17-Year-Old Girl’s Cat Site

‘A 17-year-old only identified as Lucy tells The Hollywood Reporter that her website, trumpscratch.com, attracted the attention of the White House after receiving only about 1,200 visitors. She built the site as a joke while she was applying for web developer jobs back in February. It allows users to hit Trump in the face with cat paws while the rickroll music plays. Yeah, it’s basically a meme singularity.

On March 1st she received her first cease and desist letter from Trump’s lawyers. They claim that she was infringing Trump’s “internationally known and famous” trademark. The idea being that he really only sells two things: his name and bullshit.

So, Lucy says she changed the domain name to kittenfeed.com and assumed this nonsense was over. But soon she received another letter demanding that she remove a link to an anti-Trump t-shirt on Amazon. She complied and added some scratches to Trump’s face as you hit him as well as text that reads, “Trump seems tough at first, but he gets weaker with every scratch.” She hasn’t heard anything from them since. The White House hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment.

“I really just want people to be aware that this is a president who’s clearly more concerned about what people think of him than doing things of substance,” Lucy tells THR.

Trump’s inability to let the tiniest slight go is legendary. But this is ridiculous. And the Streisand Effect is in full swing. The site’s now up to 219,000 visitors and rising.

It’s certainly possible that the President’s lawyers are just doing this on their own while he focuses on feuding with Arnold Schwarzennegar. But even then, this is ridiculous. CNN reported tonight that “the FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” One would think his lawyers would have plenty of bigger issues to tackle at the moment.’

Source: Gizmodo

Meet the Humans Debating Whether or Not We Should Contact Aliens

‘Going beyond SETI, the new organization METI plans to send a message intended for extraterrestrials. But leading scientists and experts including Stephen Hawking are not so sure this is a good idea.

Doug Vakoch started METI International with the goal of sending messages to aliens, hoping to make some kind of contact. But scientists and cosmologists are split on the issue. John Gertz, the head of an initiative dedicated to the search for intelligent life, warns that proactively making contact could spark a diplomatic crisis. Even Stephen Hawking has weighed in on the debate. Should we call out to ET, or watch and wait? …’

Source: Motherboard

Falsum Style Guide: Resis⊥ ⊥rump

‘The falsum “⊥” (Upside down T, Uptack or Eet) is a symbol used in various mathematic disciplines, but throughout them it shares the meaning of “arbitrary contradiction” and “false.” Wiktionary further defines falsum as meaning  “an untruth, falsehood, fraud, deceit, lie; forgery.”

The upside-down T aspect also obviously refers to a rejection of Trump, his hatred, fear, and policies. It’s literally the inverse of the first letter of his name…

I believe this is a powerful symbol for us to rally around. And we need a symbol…’

Source: Falsum Resist Style Guide

Report: FBI evidence suggests Trump associates and Russians may have coordinated to sink Clinton

‘CNN just dropped a bombshell report about President Donald Trump’s potential ties to Russia:

  • “The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.”

There are a lot of unanswered questions in this. Who were the Trump associates and Russian officials? How exactly did these different people communicate and possibly coordinate? Is CNN’s report even reliable, given that it cites anonymous US officials? …’

Source: Vox

A veteran GOP strategist explains why conservative elites put up with Trump’s lies and corruption

‘A lot of weird stuff happened over the past seven days in American politics that might make President Trump’s party skeptical of him. The Trump administration provoked a minor international incident with the United Kingdom by accusing its surveillance agency of complicity in an illegal scheme to subject Trump’s campaign to surveillance. The directors of the FBI and the National Security Agency, plus the chairs of the congressional intelligence committees, rebuked the president for lying about these surveillance issues. Trump also provoked a minor international incident with Germany by accusing Angela Merkel’s government of being somehow in debt to NATO.

Somewhat separately, the FBI confirmed the existence of an open counterintelligence investigation dealing with members of Trump’s campaign. And they confirmed, of course, that Russia interfered in the 2016 election campaign in hopes of electing Donald Trump president, perhaps realizing that he’d be likely to provoke unnecessary fights with key American allies.

Yet for all that, Trump continues to enjoy the overwhelming support of the institutional Republican Party and the American conservative movement, and this quote obtained by Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker explains why:

“All that really matters this week is Gorsuch moving forward and the House passing step one of Obamacare repeal,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist who works for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “All the rest is noise.” …’

Source: Vox

Small RNA identified offering clues for quieting “voices” of schizophrenia

The effectiveness of most if not all existing antipsychotic medications in stopping auditory hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms depends on blocking the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine at a class of dopamine receptors in the brain called D2. (This is undoubtedly an oversimplification but it is the basis of most therapeutic approaches to schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses.)

However, blockade of D2 receptors cannot be limited to the region of the brain where the dopamine activity causes psychotic symptoms, and furthermore the existing drugs affect other neurotransmitters as well, causing distressing and morbid side effects.

What if, instead of blocking D2 receptors, it were possible simply to decrease the numbers of D2 receptors in the pertinent brain areas? Researchers at St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital reported in Nature Medicine that they have done just that (in a mouse model) with a piece of RNA that regulates the body’s manufacture of the protein constituting the D2 receptor. This promises a potentially cleaner, more effective and more tolerable therapy for voices and other psychotic distress.

 

Source: Neuroscience Stuff Tumblr

Where to Hide If a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off In Your Area

‘This is advice I hope you never need but should know anyway. A nuclear attack is everybody’s worst nightmare, and the immediate aftermath is just as bad, if not worse, than the explosion itself.

 

You’ll know a nuclear bomb went off near you if there’s a sudden flash of bright, white light, which may or may not give you flash blindness if you’re within 50 miles or so of ground zero. If that bright, white blindness eventually clears up, and you don’t suddenly feel at peace, you’re alive. Other signs of a nuclear blast include near instant first-degree to third-degree burns if you’re within 10 miles or so, and of course, the trademark mushroom cloud looming over the skyline.

Here’s what you should do if you survive the initial blast…’

Source: Lifehacker

Trump to House Republicans: “Many of you will lose your seats” if health care plan doesn’t pass

‘Did President Donald Trump just threaten members of his own party?

In a meeting with House Republicans Tuesday morning, Trump attempted to convince the remaining critics of the GOP health care bill to support the legislation when it goes to the House floor for a full vote on Thursday. Over the past two weeks, multiple health industry groups and Republicans had come out against the bill. Monday night, Republicans released a revised draft, which included specific provisions aimed at winning the support of moderates in the GOP’s New York delegation such as Reps. Chris Collins and Claudia Tenney.

According to two reporters covering the Tuesday meeting, Trump insinuated that those Republicans who voted against the bill could lose their seats in the next election…’

Source: Vox

Remarkable slowdown in global CO2 emissions and 5 ways to think about it

This is such potentially hopeful news in the face of my environmental despair, but will it be undone by 4 years of braindead Trump policy?

‘…[O]ver the past three years, something genuinely shocking has happened. Global CO2 emissions from energy have stayed flat, even as the world economy has kept chugging along, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. It’s the first time that’s happened without a sharp economic slowdown (as in the early 1980s).

This pause in CO2 emissions growth, the IEA says, was driven by “growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.” Notably, US energy-related emissions fell 1.6 percent in 2016, thanks to the ongoing shift from coal to cleaner natural gas, wind, and solar. Chinese coal consumption appears to be declining (though stats can be unreliable there), led by a shift away from heavy industry. And Europe’s emissions stayed flat last year.

This is a big deal! But we’re still a long, long way from getting a handle on global warming. So here are five ways to think about this chart…’

Source: Vox

 

How Buddhist Monks Offset 40 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gases

‘A newly released study shows that by eating a vegetarian diet, Buddhists in China annually prevent roughly 40 million tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of 9.2% of all the greenhouse gases produced each year by France.

…[T]he study, by Ampere A. Tzeng from Arizona State, was published in the Journal of Contemporary Buddhism. Called “Vegetarian Diets: A Quantitative Assessment,” it may provide further impetus for a trend that’s already underway: More and more Buddhists are going vegetarian. In Tibetan Buddhism, a number of voices have spoken out in favor of eliminating animals from one’s diet, including the head of the Kagyu school, and “the world’s happiest man,” Buddhist monk Matthieu Richard…’

Source: Big Think

Disappointed by Paris, Some Tourists Need Psychiatric Hospitalization

‘Paris Syndrome sounds like a condition a college freshman that has read too many Jane Austen books might develop. While the name implies something young and idealized, it can be a very serious disorder that, in the tourist season of 2011, affected twenty tourists visiting the city of lights, according to The Atlantic.

The idea of Paris is a perfect one: used in the backdrop of romantic movies, or to show how heavenly a perfume might smell in commercials. Paris is an alleged heaven on earth. Bridges are pictured over shimmery rivers in front of romantic sunsets, and when a person goes they expect to have a lovely honeymoon experience. Paris Syndrome exists specifically because there is a distance between reality and those expectations.

Paris Syndrome, which on average affects about a dozen tourists per year, hurts Japanese travelers more than anyone else. It has become such a problem that the Japanese Embassy in the city itself created a hotline for the very purpose of helping out its citizens. The line is available 24 hours a day, and aims to help those flustered by their unmet expectations. The hotline helps tourist get past their culture shock, or even seek hospitalization for those that need it…’

Source: Big Think

This ‘Ghost Plane’ Crash Is One Of The Weirdest Mysteries Of 2017

‘U.S. and Canadian authorities are rightfully spooked following a plane crash in Ontario, Canada on Wednesday night. What’s got them shook? There’s absolutely no trace than anybody actually went down with the plane, sparking one of the weirdest mysteries of the year so far.

The alleged “ghost plane” was a rented Cessna 172 based out of Michigan, which went down into the snow near the north shore of Lake Superior around 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday night near Marathon, Ontario, according to AVweb.com.

The spooky part is that local police reported no sign of a pilot at the crash site. There were no footprints or tracks of any kind in the snow and the crashed plane was empty. Evidently it had crashed after running out of fuel while on autopilot, which was still engaged in the wreckage…’

Source: Jalopnik

A new definition would add 102 planets to our solar system — including Pluto

‘In a giant exhibit hall crowded with his colleagues, [Kirby Runyon, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University,] is attempting to reignite the debate about Pluto’s status with an audacious new definition for planet — one that includes not just Pluto, but several of its neighbors, objects in the asteroid belt, and a number of moons. By his count, 102 new planets could be added to our solar system under the new criteria.’

Source: The Washington Post

Thinking Critically About Animal Rights

Nathan Nobis, a philosophy professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, recently published Animals and Ethics 101: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights. A well-reviewed introduction to animal ethics, the textbook (created to accompany an online course on the same subject) evaluates the arguments for and against various uses of animals, including:

  • Is it morally wrong to experiment on animals? Why or why not?
  • Is it morally permissible to eat meat? Why or why not?
  • Are we morally obligated to provide pets with veterinary care (and, if so, how much)? Why or why not?

You can buy the paperback on Amazon for $5.99 or Kindle for $2.99. But Nobis has also made the text available free online, under a Creative Commons license. You can download it in multiple formats here.

Source: Open Culture

Happy Ostara

‘As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals.

The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word estrogen, whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit. The Christian religion adopted these emblems for Easter which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 Old Lady Day, the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time.

The Christian religion adopted these emblems for Easter which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 Old Lady Day, the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time.’

Source: Wicca.com

The risk of a single 5-day opioid prescription, in one chart

‘Now that it’s clear opioid painkillers have helped cause the worst drug epidemic in history, health experts are scrambling to figure out when dependency on these powerful prescription drugs starts — and how to prevent it.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the relationship between the number of days of someone’s first opioid prescription and their long-term use. It found that that number has a huge impact: Patients face an increased risk of opioid dependency in as few as four days of taking the drugs.

As you can see in the chart below, opioid prescriptions longer than five days in length significantly increased the likelihood of continued opioid use both one and three years later…’

Source: Vox

How ‘Dutch Trump’ Geert Wilders Won by Losing the Netherlands Vote

‘Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders lost by a significant margin in Wednesday’s elections, but his brother said the Netherlands shouldn’t be too quick to celebrate: Losing was exactly what Wilders wanted. And, although his Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) was overtaken by the ruling center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Wilders still poses a grave threat.

In fact, according to Paul Wilders, losing the bid to become prime minister may be the optimal electoral outcome for Geert, who has campaigned on a platform of leaving the European Union, tolerating “fewer Moroccans,” imposing a “head rag tax” on hijab-wearing women, and paying settled Muslims to leave the Netherlands—promises on which it would be difficult to deliver…’

Source: The Atlantic

Senator Feinstein Just Hinted Trump Is Headed Towards Impeachment

“Well, we have a lot of people working at this. Technical people. And I think he’s gonna get himself out. I think sending sons to another country to make a financial deal for his company and then have that covered with government expenses — I think those government expenses should not be allowed… We are working on a bill that will do that now. We’re working on a couple of bills that would deal with conflict of interest. It’s difficult because this is a field that relates to some extent to the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. And there’s no preceding legislation to do this. But we’ve got good people looking at it. And we’re going to some of the ethicists along the line.I’ve been doing what I do for a long time and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Source: Occupy!

A Tweet, a Strobe and a Seizure. Now, an Arrest.

‘When the journalist Kurt Eichenwald opened an animated image sent to him on Twitter last December, the message “You deserve a seizure for your posts” appeared in capital letters along with a blinding strobe light. Mr. Eichenwald, who has epilepsy, has said he immediately suffered a seizure.

On Friday, the F.B.I. said it had arrested and charged a man for sending the electronic file, though the agency did not immediately release the suspect’s name or specify the criminal charges.

The unusual case has shown how online tools can be deployed as weapons capable of physical harm. Mr. Eichenwald said the attacker used the strobe light knowing that the visual elements were likely to lead Mr. Eichenwald, who has publicly discussed his epilepsy, into a seizure.

Steven Lieberman, Mr. Eichenwald’s lawyer, has argued that the use of the strobe light in a GIF, or moving graphic, was akin to sending an explosive or poison in the mail.’

Source: New York Times

Stop Social Media Strip Searches

‘Homeland Security officials have started asking people to unlock their phones and computers and log into their social media accounts at routine border crossings, and Congress could make that practice permanent.

We need to stop this threat to our basic privacy rights before handing over all of your most personal information becomes as commonplace as removing your shoes to fly.

Let’s draw a line — sign the urgent petition: “Demanding warrantless access to our phones and computers at the border is an invasion of privacy and weakens our security. Ban this practice immediately.” …’

Source: New rules at the airport could force you to hand over your phone and passwords

Physicists Are Closing in on Intriguing Evidence For a Fifth Force Of Nature

The idea that inertial and gravitational mass are the same is known as the weak equivalence principle. It became a crucial issue when Einstein formulated his theory of general relativity around 1912-16, which rested on the central idea that the acceleration caused by gravity is the same as the acceleration of an object subject to the same force in free space. If that’s not true, general relativity won’t work.“

The equivalence principle is one of the basic assumptions of general relativity,” says Stephan Schlamminger, who works at the Mecca of high-precision measurement, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “As such, it should be thoroughly tested. Tests of the equivalence principle are relatively cheap and simple, but could have a huge impact if a violation was found. It would be careless not to perform these experiments.

”If the weak equivalence principle fails, then there are two possibilities. Either Newton’s expression for the force of gravity between two masses (which is also what general relativity predicts if gravity and speeds are not extreme) is slightly inaccurate and needs tweaking. Or gravity might be fine as it stands—but there might be a new, fifth force that makes it look different. That fifth force would add to the four we already know to exist: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces that govern the interactions of subatomic particles inside atomic nuclei.

Whether we think about “modified gravity” or a fifth force is, says Fischbach, in the end just a semantic distinction. Either way, says Feng, there is “no reason at all that there can’t be a fifth force that we have not noticed until now.”

Source: Nautilus

The secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death

‘The Queen is Britain’s last living link with our former greatness – the nation’s id, its problematic self-regard – which is still defined by our victory in the second world war. One leading historian, who like most people I interviewed for this article declined to be named, stressed that the farewell for this country’s longest-serving monarch will be magnificent. “Oh, she will get everything,” he said. “We were all told that the funeral of Churchill was the requiem for Britain as a great power. But actually it will really be over when she goes.” …’

Source: The Guardian

In any case, if you hear Sabres of Paradise’s Haunted Dancehall playing on the radio, go to a news source immediately.

The Oxford comma: A Maine court settled the grammar debate over serial commas with a ruling on overtime pay for dairy-truck drivers 

As an Oxford commadian, I consider this an important victory.

‘A Maine court ruling in a case about overtime pay and dairy delivery didn’t come down to trucks, milk, or money. Instead, it hinged on one missing comma.Delivery drivers for local milk and cream company Oakhurst Dairy have been tussling with their employers over whether they qualify for overtime. On March 13, a US court of appeals determined that certain clauses of Maine’s overtime laws are grammatically ambiguous. Because of that lack of clarity, the five drivers won their appeal and were found eligible for unpaid overtime. The case now can be heard in a lower court.

The profoundly nerdy ruling is also a win for anyone who dogmatically defends the serial comma…’

Source: Quartz

 

Trump goes feral on Muslim ban ruling, vows to destroy 9th Circuit court, crowds: “Lock Her Up!”

‘Donald Trump reacted to a Hawaii court’s smackdown on his “watered-down” (his words) travel ban with a full-on fascist rant in Tennessee, where he rallied the crowds into screaming “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton, then attacked the U.S. judicial system.

…In a rambling speech, President Trump called revised travel ban `unprecedented judicial overreach,’ and more or less vowed to destroy the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit…’

Source: Boing Boing

Rare Nuclear Test Films Saved, Declassified, and Uploaded to YouTube

‘From 1945 until 1962, the United States conducted 210 atmospheric nuclear tests—the kind with the big mushroom cloud and all that jazz. Above-ground nuke testing was banned in 1963, but there are thousands of films from those tests that have just been rotting in secret vaults around the country. But starting today you can see many of them on YouTube.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) weapon physicist Greg Spriggs has made it his mission to preserve these 7,000 known films, many of them literally decomposing while they’re still classified and hidden from the public.

According to LLNL, this 5-year project has been tremendously successful, with roughly 4,200 films already scanned and around 750 of those now declassified. Sixty-four of the declassified films have been uploaded today in what Spriggs is calling an “initial set.” …’

Source: Gizmodo

Creepiness

big-eye-girl-and-boys-1There has been very little writing or research about this experience. A recent study is the only one you will find if you Google the topic. It seems to find creepiness to be a variant of anxiety and bases the distinction between the creepy and the anxiety-provoking largely on the ambiguity, as opposed to the certainty, of the threat in the former. A recent episode of the podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind dissected the concept of the creep and took a similar tack.

I was surprised that it never mentions another deeply innate aversive emotion distinct from fear or anxiety — namely disgust or repulsion, which I think plays a part in the experience of creepiness which cannot be ignored.

Let’s start with the ‘origin myth’. The concept of creepiness may have arisen from a visceral experience. Someone or something is creepy if it “gives us the creeps.” This sensation is distinct from the visceral experience of fear, which involves autonomic arousal. When we are creeped out, we are not merely afraid. As I experience it, creepiness combines the spine-tingling and the sickening or queasy. It is not simply a variant of fear, but somewhere between fear and disgust and, I would argue, often much closer to the latter.

There are various reasons we find something aversive. If it presents a threat to our safety or bodily integrity, it stimulates anxiety and the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. Regardless of whether it is a definite danger or merely one of sufficient likelihood, it stimulates the same reaction. There is no different emotional experience associated with an ambiguous threat, if it crosses some probability threshold of threat assessment. Thus, on its own, I find the idea that the distinction between the fearful and the creepy is based merely on the ambiguity of the threat an insufficient explanation.

In contrast, disgust operates to make us avoid those things that might make us physically ill rather than those that might simply harm or injure us. Ulike fear, disgust is protecting us against our own appetites. A food or a sexual encounter is pleasant, but if we are not protected by disgust we will not avoid creepy foods or sexual encounters which might sicken us. Sexual violence is violence done to us in the course of an act we are otherwise prone to enjoy, whereas the same is not true of nonsexual violence like a mugging. That is the sense in which the threat when we are repulsed by something is ambiguous, because our aversion is struggling with our own appetite or attraction in a way it does not when we are simply afraid of something.

Disgust is a distinct experience from fear, serves a distinct purpose, and developed evolutionarily as a distinct mechanism with a distinct neurobiology. In several psychological typologies of basic emotion, e.g. those of Robert Plutchik or Paul Rozin, disgust is distinct from other emotions such as fear, anger and sadness; it is a different archetypical emotion. Paul Ekman says that it invokes a distinct and characteristic facial expression, one of the universal facial expressions of emotion. Physiologically, while fear causes tachycardia and hypertension, disgust drops the heart rate and blood pressure. Changes in skin conductance and respiratory control differentiate the two states as well.

Functional MRI studies have correlated the experience of disgust with the activation of the anterior insula, quite distinct from fear, whose neural correlates include various cortical regions and the amygdala. Lesions of the anterior insula lead to deficiencies in experiencing disgust and also in recognizing it in others. It would be interesting to do fMRI studies of subjects exposed to something they find creepy and see if the consequent neural activation is closer to the fear experience or the disgust experience.

Behavioral studies have found that disgust is elicited, across cultures, by: bodily products and secretions; spoiled foods; disease-bearing animals; visible dirt; violations of the body envelope (blood, gore, mutilation); visible signs of infection or bodily distortion; death and decay. The aversion to pathogens inspired by disgust has been referred to as the behavioral element of the body’s immune system, causing us to avoid contracting disease or contamination rather than having to fight it once infected or contaminated.

In the zombie oeuvre, doesn’t the zombie become creepier and creepier the more decayed and disgusting s/he is? The reanimated newly dead, at first, are merely threatening, not creepy.

Social norms function to protect us from harm, and there are distinct but equally important social norms against both* violent antisocial behavior* and against uncleanliness and disease. The threateningly creepy person, as opposed to the merely threatening one, threatens to violate different social norms which have more to do with contamination and impurity than merely dangerous antisocial behaviors. These are an important, if covert, source of many of our social mores, as argued forcefully in Mary Douglas’ masterful Purity and Danger. Disgust thus has a role in enforcing certain forms of morality. Disgust functions to apply to social contaminants as well as physical ones, inspiring social avoidance as well as other aversions. We shun or expel the moral reprobate much as we avoid a physically disgusting stimulus like a pool of vomit. We refer to criminals with such terms as “slime” or “scum.” The creep, I would argue, is someone who inspires moral disgust.

Some of the cultural differences in what is disgusting — and what is found creepy — can thus obviously be seen in terms of the distinct social norms across cultures. It is perhaps no accident, from this point of view, that the ostracized lowest class in Indian society are “untouchable.” Creepiness may entail a flavor of ethnic otherness. This should be seen in light of the danger of impurity — often, the ethnic other has been seen as unclean and diseased. (If greasy hair is seen as the creep’s attribute, it is because his appearance inspires disgust of his dirtiness and potential disease, I would argue. ) Indeed, research has shown that people more sensitive to disgust tend to make stricter moral judgments. They find their social in-group more attractive and have more negative attitudes toward others. Interestingly, in some studies people of different political persuasions have different fMRI activity patterns in response to disgusting images even if reporting similar conscious reactions to the images. In one study, the reaction to a single image could predict a person’s political persuasion with 95% accuracy.

FMRI studies also show that, when viewing images of people from stigmatized groups that inspire disgust (homeless, drug addicts), subjects have reciprocally reduced activation of brain regions associated with the experience of empathy. Stereotyping, xenophobia, and dehumanizing of the outsider may be based on the neurology of disgust or creepiness. Ethicist Martha Nussbaum, for example (From Disgust to Humanity), argues that the “politics of disgust” supports sexism, racism and antisemitism and that disgust is employed to enforce oppression. She and others argue that it is urgent that reactions of disgust to social others be rebutted.

Women more often react to others as creepy. Studies have shown that women generally report greater disgust than men as well, especially regarding sexual disgust. Interestingly, disgust rises during pregnancy, perhaps mediated by increasing levels of progesterone. (Do innate differences in sensitivity to disgust correlate with progesterone levels even in nonpregnant individuals?) Some have conjectured that this behavioral avoidance (“behavioral immunity”) is a compensation for the pregnant mother’s need to dial down her immune system so as not to attack or reject the embryo. As the immune system is weakened, disgust becomes a more important line of defense.

Matt Damon Reads Howard Zinn’s “The Problem is Civil Obedience,” a Call for Americans to Take Action

‘Say, for example, that a gang of obscenely rich mercenaries with questionable ties and histories had taken power with the intent to destroy institutions so they could loot the country, further impoverish and disempower the citizenry, and prosecute, imprison, and demonize dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities. Such a scenario would cry out, one might think, for civil action on a never-before-seen scale. Millions, one might imagine, would either storm the castle or refuse to obey the commands of their new rulers. We might describe this situation as a topsy-turvy turn of events, should, say, such an awful thing come to pass. Topsy-turvy is exactly the phrase Howard Zinn used in his characterization of the U.S. during the Vietnam War, when he saw a situation like the one above, one that had also obtained, he said, in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.’

Source: Open Culture

Spicer: Trump didn’t mean wiretapping when he tweeted about wiretapping

‘The White House on Monday walked back a key point of President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

Namely, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump wasn’t referring to wiretapping when he tweeted about wiretapping.

“I think there’s no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election,” Spicer said. “The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.”

6 days later, no more clarity from Trump on wiretapping claimsWiretapping is a narrowly defined surveillance activity that involves tapping into “a telephone or telegram wire in order to get information,” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Spicer also said that Trump was referring to the Obama administration broadly — and not accusing Obama of personal involvement — when he tweeted that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” and accused Obama of being a “bad” or “sick guy.” …’

Source: CNNPolitics.com

Diet Reduces Risk of Postpartum Depression

‘A dietary supplement kit, created to counter mood-altering brain changes linked to depression, virtually eliminated the “baby blues” among women in a new study at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Postpartum blues are common among women after giving birth. However, when severe, they substantially increase the risk of clinically diagnosed postpartum depression, which affects 13 per cent of new mothers and is the most common complication of child-bearing.The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was led by Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, who heads the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was led by Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, who heads the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute…’

Source: Neuroscience News

An Artist Turned NYC’s ‘See Something, Say Something’ Ads Into a Powerful Commentary on Fear

More power to you, from one hater of the “See something…” messages to another:

‘It’s easy to be paranoid in 2017. We’ve got Wikileaks telling us just how much power the CIA has over our devices. We have a government pretending Russia did not, and is not, hacking our political system. And on the ground, racism and implicit bias have fueled a spike in hate crimes—resulting in the deaths of brown and black people across the country.

But there’s a difference between fear and vigilance, and only one works in our favor as a democratic country. Fear drives people to react—pull the trigger, scapegoat entire communities, describe the wrong suspect. Vigilance, on the other hand, assumes that power belongs to the people, and places a magnifying glass on any loopholes in that process.

A New York City’s artist drove that message home in a two-car installation. The artist, The Gothamist reported, altered the usual “If You See Something, Say Something” message with some fine print: “Stay awake, not afraid. Scared people are easy to manipulate. #Resist.” Another one says, “Call your representatives. Tell them you’re watching.” …’

Source: Motherboard

‘Protect Us From This Dangerous President,’ 2 Psychiatrists Say

These are friends and mentors of mine and two of the most preeminent psychiatrists in America.

To the Editor:

‘Soon after the election, one of us raised concerns about Donald Trump’s fitness for office, based on the alarming symptoms of mental instability he had shown during his campaign. Since then, this concern has grown. Even within the space of a few weeks, the demands of the presidency have magnified his erratic patterns of behavior.In particular, we are struck by his repeated failure to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and his outbursts of rage when his fantasies are contradicted. Without any demonstrable evidence, he repeatedly resorts to paranoid claims of conspiracy.

Most recently, in response to suggestions of contact between his campaign and agents of the Russian government, he has issued tirades against the press as an “enemy of the people” and accusations without proof that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, engaged in partisan surveillance against him.

We are in no way offering a psychiatric diagnosis, which would be unwise to attempt from a distance. Nevertheless, as psychiatrists we feel obliged to express our alarm. We fear that when faced with a crisis, President Trump will lack the judgment to respond rationally.

The military powers entrusted to him endanger us all. We urge our elected representatives to take the necessary steps to protect us from this dangerous president.

JUDITH L. HERMAN MD

ROBERT JAY LIFTON MD

Dr. Herman is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Lifton is a lecturer in psychiatry at Columbia University and professor emeritus at CUNY.’

Source: NYTimes.com

Critic: “21 Movies I’m Embarrassed to Admit I Love”

Germain Lussier wrote (Source: 21 Movies I’m Embarrassed to Admit I Love):

‘We all have them. Our guilty pleasure movies. Movies we like that we don’t like to tell other people. Films that bring us unbridled joy while making others cringe in pain. Films so many people hate but you just, somehow, for whatever reason, love. This is my list. Here are 21 movies that I’m embarrassed I like at all, let alone as much as I do, in alphabetical order…’

I have seen five of the movies on this list and am not embarrassed to say that I liked all five. Moreover, I agree with Lussier that one — Cloud Atlas — was overwhelmingly good, not at all a guilty pleasure but a pure pleasure. But perhaps that was because David Mitchell’s book, from which it is adapted, is even more of a pure pleasure, on my list of the very best modern novels. It is one of those books about which I say that the most likely reason you did not like it is that you did not really understand it.

(PS: Beyond the five I have seen, I cannot conceive of having any desire to waste my time seeing any of the other films on the list.)

Republicans Actually Named an Obamacare Replacement Bill the ‘World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017’ and I Think I Might Be Losing My Mind Oh Fuck This Can’t Be Real Life 

‘You know how Obamacare’s real name is The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? Well, guess what Republicans recently submitted as an official name of what might eventually become known as Trumpcare? The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017. That’s what it’s really called…’

Source: Matt Novak, Gizmodo

‘Blue whale’ game: Russian teens killed by social media fad

‘A sick suicide game called ‘Blue Whale’ is being probed by Russian cops after being linked to 130 teen deaths. Fears have been raised that the sinister game is just the tip of the iceberg in the country — which has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, reports The Sun.

Blue Whale involves teens completing daily tasks for 50 days including self-harming, watching horror movies and waking up at unusual hours.But on the 50th day, the controlling manipulators behind the game reportedly instruct the youngsters to commit suicide.

Mental health professionals and activists are calling on Russian politicians to probe the reasons youngsters are being attracted to these games. There are concerns the suicide rate could worsen in the country which saw 24,982 suicides in 2014. Last week, two schoolgirls Yulia Konstantinova, 15, and Veronika Volkova, 16, fell to their deaths on Sunday from the roof of a 14-storey apartment block…’

Source: News.com.au

How to fight Trump fatigue syndrome

Lee Drutman writes:

‘We are now less than two months into the Trump administration, and it feels like it’s been at least two years. Or maybe 20. Or 200. It’s hard to tell at this point.

For two months now, we’ve been told to say outraged, to stay hypervigilant. And so, like a good citizen, I try constantly to absorb and parse the latest round of craziness, and sometimes offer some commentary on it. And by the time I’m caught up on the latest news, we’re on to some new round of craziness.

I’m not sure how much longer I can take. I’m exhausted. And I suspect many others are as well. Let’s call it “Trump fatigue syndrome”: the exhaustion you feel from trying to stay on top of the nonstop scandals and absurdities emanating from the Trump administration. TFS, for short.In what follows, I’ll go through the potential symptoms, all of which are dangerous, and then offer some ways to combat them…’

 

Source: Vox

Brain Chip Implants Could Be the Next Big Mental Health Breakthrough—Or a Total Disaster

This is an article I hope some of my patients don’t read. It is a common trope in paranoid psychosis to believe that you have had chips implanted in your brain by sinister government forces experimenting on or monitoring you:

‘Deep brain stimulation is the bleeding edge of mental health treatment. Originally developed to treat the terrible tremors that patients with Parkinson’s disease suffer from, many researchers now view it as a potentially revolutionary method of treating mental illness. For many patients with mental health disorders like depression, therapies like drugs are often insufficient or come with terrible side effects. The numbers are all over the place, but doctors and researchers generally agree that significant numbers of people don’t respond adequately to current treatment methods—one often-cited study pegs that number somewhere around 10%-30%. But what if doctors could simply open up the brain and go directly to the source of a problem, just as a mechanic might pop open the hood of a car and tighten a loose gasket?

Now, [researchers are] halfway through a five-year, $65 million research effort funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to use the same technology to tackle some of the trickiest psychiatric disorders on the books. The goal is ambitious. DARPA is betting that the research teams it is funding at Mass. General and UCSF will uncover working therapies for not just one disorder, but many at once. And in developing treatments for schizophrenia, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, addiction and depression, along the way their work also aims to completely reframe how we approach mental illness to shed new light on how it flows through the brain…’

Source: Gizmodo

Why quantum mechanics might need an overhaul

‘Steven Weinberg used to be happy with quantum mechanics as it is and didn’t worry about the debates. But as he has thought about it over the years, the 83-year-old Nobel laureate has reassessed.

“Now I’m not so sure,” he declared October 30 in San Antonio at a session for science writers organized by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. “I’m not as happy about quantum mechanics as I used to be, and not as dismissive of its critics.”

One reason Weinberg thinks there’s a need for a new chapter in the quantum story is that those who think everything is fine with quantum mechanics take different sides in the debates about it.“It’s a bad sign in particular that those physicists who are happy about quantum mechanics, and see nothing wrong with it, don’t agree with each other about what it means,” Weinberg says…’

Source: Science News

American “Political Regicide”

‘Donald Trump is going down. His house of cards will collapse at some point. The leaks will keep flowing and eventually his position will become untenable. Conflicts of interest. Connections to Russia. All of it will become too great a weight to carry, especially since The Donald has very few genuine allies in Washington.

The Democrats want him gone. So too do most of the Republicans. Hell, they never wanted him to begin with. The GOP did everything it could to derail his candidacy, and only climbed aboard after Trump’s runaway train was the last red line careening towards the White House. So for now they’re playing nice with the former Democrat who eschews Conservative dogma in a variety of ways and is loyal to absolutely no one save himself. But when the moment comes, they’ll gladly trade Trump in for Mike Pence, a Conservative’s wet dream. For all these reasons, Trump may not make it to the finish line.

…Should the Democrats regain the House in 2018 the midterm elections, it seems all but certain that Trump will face impeachment. But even if Republicans maintain their control of the House, they may yet work behind the scenes to manifest a more informal regicide.

If things continue to deteriorate, Republicans may pressure Trump to resign. Perhaps he would cite health concerns to save face, claiming an endless string of supposed victories on his way out the door.

And if things degenerate to the point that even a sizeable share of Republican voters disavow Trump, then the GOP itself could begin impeachment proceedings should The Donald fail to heed. That scenario, which seems rather far fetched at the present, highly partisan moment, could become more viable should the revelations of Trump’s connections to Russia and Vladimir Putin become so clear that all rational voters can no longer deny them.

Under those circumstances, it would be vital for Republicans to get Trump out of office with enough time for Pence to assert himself as a legitimate incumbent for the 2020 election. Over a year should do it. By the time the 1976 election rolled around, Gerald Ford had spent two years as president after taking over for Nixon. It almost worked. He was able to fend off a challenge within the party from Ronald Regan, and probably would’ve beaten Jimmy Carter had he not hung himself with the albatross of pardoning Nixon in one of his first acts as president.

The Republicans will remember this. If they need to remove Trump from office because they risk going down in flames with him, then they will move quickly so that Pence can establish himself.

All in all, it seems some level of attempted political regicide against Donald Trump will emerge over the next four years. The details of course are impossible to predict. Whether it is the actual regicide that Nixon suffered, the near regicide that Clinton endured, or the far less successful attempts that everyone after Carter has witnessed, remains to be seen. At this point, we can’t even know if it will be out in the open or take place behind closed doors, or if it will be initiated and pushed by the Democrats or the Republicans. But something is probably in the offing.

The king will soon be dead. Long live the king…’

Source: Akim Reinhardt, 3quarksdaily

Can Marches Become a Movement?

This is important. I am afraid we are in grave danger of dissipating our energy by simply coming out every weekend to march and chant. This is easily dismissed by The Orange One and his minions.

‘The esteemed Theda Skocpol lays out the lessons the Tea Party movement holds for the left today.’

Source: Democracy Journal

 

Early study suggests new opioid is non-addictive, works only where it hurts

‘With a straightforward chemical tweak, the addictive—and often deadly—opioid painkiller, fentanyl, may transform into a safe, non-addictive, targeted therapy. Researchers reported this on Thursday in Science.

In rats, a chemically modified form of the opioid could only work on inflamed, hurting tissue—not the rest of the body. Plus, it wasn’t deadly at high doses, like the original, and it didn’t spur addiction-forming behavior in the rodents, researchers at Freie Universität Berlin reported.

“This yielded a novel opioid analgesic [pain reliever] of similar efficacy to conventional fentanyl, however, devoid of detrimental side effects,” the authors concluded.

For their chemical makeover, the researchers noted that when tissue is damaged and hurting, it becomes inflamed and more acidic. The pH drops from approximately 7.4—what’s seen in normal, healthy tissue—to between 5 and 7. Fentanyl can work regardless of the pH, so it’s active throughout the nervous system no matter what. But, if it was altered to only work at the lower pH, then it could target just the pain source at the peripheral nerves, the researchers hypothesized. And with no activity in the central nervous system, it would dodge opioid’s serious side-effects, including addiction and systemic responses that can be lethal during overdoses.

Using computer simulations, the researcher figured out how modify fentanyl so that it only worked in more acidic conditions. The resulting molecule is (±)-N-(3-fluoro-1-phenethylpiperidin-4-yl)-N-phenyl propionamide, or NFEPP for short. NFEPP has an added fluorine, which attracts protons and allows the drug to become active only in low pH.
In experiments with human cells, the researchers found that NFEPP could still activate the classic μ-opioid receptor in the nervous system—but only at low pH.

In experiments in rats with foot injuries, the drug dampened pain responses in just the foot that was injured. In rats given fentanyl, pain responses were dampened in all feet. Next, rats on either fentanyl or NFEPP, were given a drug that blocks opioids but can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. In rats on fentanyl, the opioid blocker partially reversed the pain-relieving effects of fentanyl—which makes sense because fentanyl can target opioid receptors in the brain. But, in rats given NFEPP, the opioid blocker totally reversed pain relief. This suggests that NFEPP’s effects weren’t due to any activity in the brain, rather they were due only to activity at the site of the injury…’

Source: Ars Technica

Sleepwalking: survival mechanism gone awry

‘Recent research from Stanford University shows that up to 4 per cent of adults [sleepwalk]. In fact, sleepwalking is on the rise, in part due to increased use of pharmacologically based sleep aids – notably Ambien.

Often, the episodes are harmless. Sometimes, of course, sleepwalking is dangerous. Somnambulists are in an irrational state during which they could harm themselves or others…

Why do some enter into such a potentially harmful state during sleep? One answer comes from studies suggesting that ‘sleepwalking’ might not be an appropriate term for what is going on; rather, primitive brain regions involved in emotional response (in the limbic system) and complex motor activity (within the cortex) remain in ‘active’ states that are difficult to distinguish from wakefulness. Such activity is characterised by ‘alpha wave’ patterns detected during electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings. At the same time, regions in the frontal cortex and hippocampus that control rationality and memory remain essentially dormant and unable to carry out their typical functions, manifesting a ‘delta wave’ pattern seen during classic sleep. It’s as though sleepwalking results when the brain doesn’t completely transition from sleep to wakefulness – it’s essentially stuck in a sleep-wake limbo.

‘The rational part of the brain is in a sleep-like state and does not exert its normal control over the limbic system and the motor system,’ explains the Italian neuroscientist Lino Nobili, a sleep researcher at Niguarda Hospital in Milan. ‘So behaviour is regulated by a kind of archaic survival system like the one that is activated during fight-or-flight.’..

Scientists now agree that bouts of localised wakeful-like activity in motor-related areas and the limbic system can occur without concurrent sleepwalking. In fact, these areas have been shown to have low arousal thresholds for activation. Surprisingly, despite their association with sleepwalking, these low thresholds have been considered an adaptive trait – a boon to survival. Throughout most of our extensive ancestry, this trait may have been selected for its survival value.

‘During sleep, we can have an activation of the motor system, so although you are sleeping and not moving, the motor cortex can be in a wake-like state – ready to go,’ explains Nobili, who led the team that conducted the work. ‘If something really goes wrong and endangers you, you don’t need your frontal lobe’s rationality to escape. You need a motor system that is ready.’ In sleepwalking, however, this adaptive system has gone awry. ‘An external trigger that would normally produce a small arousal triggers a full-blown episode.’ …’

Source: Aeon Ideas

Trump’s “Moderate” Defense Secretary Has Already Brought Us to the Brink of War

‘Did you know that the Trump administration almost went to war with Iran at the start of February? Perhaps you were distracted by Gen. Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser or by President Trump’s online jihad against Nordstrom. Or maybe you missed the story because the New York Times bizarrely buried it in the midst of a long piece on the turmoil and chaos inside the National Security Council.

Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to the paper, had wanted the U.S. Navy to “intercept and board an Iranian ship to look for contraband weapons possibly headed to Houthi fighters in Yemen. … But the ship was in international waters in the Arabian Sea, according to two officials. Mr. Mattis ultimately decided to set the operation aside, at least for now. White House officials said that was because news of the impending operation leaked.”

Get that? It was only thanks to what Mattis’s commander in chief has called “illegal leaks” that the operation was (at least temporarily) set aside and military action between the United States and Iran was averted.

Am I exaggerating? Ask the Iranians. “Boarding an Iranian ship is a shortcut” to confrontation, says Seyyed Hossein Mousavian, former member of Iran’s National Security Council and a close ally of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Even if a firefight in international waters were avoided, the Islamic Republic, Mousavian tells me, “would retaliate” and has “many other options for retaliation.” …’

Source: Intercept

And Mattis is the Trump appointee to whom some pundits point as the moderate voice of reason…

Panpsychism is crazy, but it’s also most probably true

‘Common sense tells us that only living things have an inner life. Rabbits and tigers and mice have feelings, sensations and experiences; tables and rocks and molecules do not. Panpsychists deny this datum of common sense. According to panpsychism, the smallest bits of matter – things such as electrons and quarks – have very basic kinds of experience; an electron has an inner life.

The main objection made to panpsychism is that it is ‘crazy’ and ‘just obviously wrong’. It is thought to be highly counterintuitive to suppose that an electron has some kind of inner life, no matter how basic, and this is taken to be a very strong reason to doubt the truth of panpsychism. But many widely accepted scientific theories are also crazily counter to common sense.

…I maintain that there is a powerful simplicity argument in favour of panpsychism. The argument relies on a claim that has been defended by Bertrand Russell, Arthur Eddington and many others, namely that physical science doesn’t tell us what matter is, only what it does. The job of physics is to provide us with mathematical models that allow us to predict with great accuracy how matter will behave. This is incredibly useful information; it allows us to manipulate the world in extraordinary ways, leading to the technological advancements that have transformed our society beyond recognition. But it is one thing to know the behaviour of an electron and quite another to know its intrinsic nature: how the electron is, in and of itself. Physical science gives us rich information about the behaviour of matter but leaves us completely in the dark about its intrinsic nature…’

Source: Phillip Goff, associate professor in philosophy at Central European University in Budapest. His research interest is in consciousness and he blogs at www.conscienceandconsciousness.com. Writing in Aeon.

Arkansas Rushes to Execute 8 Men in the Space of 10 Days

MATTHEW HAAG and RICHARD FAUSSET write:

‘The state of Arkansas plans to put to death eight inmates over a span of 10 days next month, a pace of executions unequaled in recent American history brought about by a looming expiration date for one of the drugs used in the state’s lethal injection process.

The eight men facing execution — four black and four white — are among 34 inmates on death row in Arkansas, a state where the death penalty has been suspended since 2005 over legal challenges to the state’s laws and difficulty in acquiring the necessary drugs for lethal injections. All eight men were convicted of murders that occurred between 1989 and 1999, and proponents of the death penalty and victims’ rights in the state have been frustrated that the men’s cases have dragged on for so long without resolution…’

Source: New York Times

Understanding American authoritarianism

‘As part of his PhD research for UMass Amherst, Matthew MacWilliams surveyed the psychological characteristics of authoritarians — not the people who lead authoritarian movements, but the followers, those who defer to them.

His work echoed the independent research of Vanderbilt’s Marc Hetherington and UNC’s Jonathan Weiler, whose 2009 book Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics concluded that a sizable fraction of the US voting public were authoritarian: people who wanted to be controlled, and wanted their neighbors to be controlled, because they were afraid the status quo was slipping away and they didn’t believe that anything better would replace it.

They all posit that there are really three American parties, not two: the Democrats, the Republicans, and the authoritarian Republicans, who aren’t conservatives in the sense of wanting tax cuts for the rich or caring about specific religious or moral questions. Rather, they want strong leaders who’ll fight change, preserve hierarchies, and talk tough.

Vox’s Amanda Taub recounts the long struggle to understand authoritarianism, something social scientists have struggled with since the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth. She describes many authoritarians as latent, waiting to be “activated” by threats — demographic and economic shifts, messages of fear and terror. …’

Source:  Boing Boing

Trump’s Already Small Circle Of Trusted Advisers Suffers Another Big Blow

S.V. Date writes:

‘When you get to the White House with such a tiny band of brothers, each and every one seems that much more indispensable.

Or so it must seem to President Donald Trump who, just five weeks into his term and two weeks after having to fire his national security adviser, has now watched his closest Cabinet ally neutered in a key role.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he was recusing himself from any investigations pertaining to the Trump campaign, following the revelation that he spoke with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year, despite having testified under oath during his confirmation hearings that he had no contact with any Russians.

“I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States,” Sessions said at a hastily called news conference.

The attorney general is the one Cabinet member of any presidential administration with the independent authority to launch investigations that could undo the presidency. In Trump’s case, that danger became plausible even before he took office, with U.S. intelligence agencies reporting that Russia had meddled in the presidential election with the goal of electing Trump.

Sessions’ decision to stay out of any of the probes underway now, or to come at some point in the future, means he can no longer shield Trump from the results. …’

Source: The Huffington Post

Jeff Sessions said that people who commit perjury must be removed from office

Ian Millhiser writes:

‘The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to Russia’s ambassador twice last year, despite testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee that “I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Eighteen years ago, however, then-Sen. Sessions (R-AL) was called upon to judge a president who, he believed, had lied under oath. As political scientist Scott Lemieux notes, Sessions did not look kindly on President Bill Clinton during that president’s impeachment.

It now appears very likely that Sessions committed the very same crime he once voted to convict President Clinton of. The federal perjury statute forbids anyone who has “taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person” from “willfully and contrary to such oath” making a statement on “any material matter which he does not believe to be true.” …’

Source: Think Progress

Giant Previously Unnoticed Neuron Circles Brain Like a ‘Crown of Thorns’ and May Give Rise to Consciousness

‘At the February 5, 2015 meeting of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative in Bethesda, Maryland, Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, announced something truly startling: His team as identified three previously unnoticed neurons reaching from the an area called the claustrum into both the left and right brain hemispheres, and a massive one that wrapped around the circumference of the entire brain like, in Koch’s words, a “crown of thorns.” The team suspects these neurons may constitute nothing less than the pathways that produce consciousness. Certainly the announcement of a single, entire-brain-encompassing neuron is shocking all by itself…’

Source: Big Think

Here Are the Top Ten Republican Accomplishments of 2017 So Far

Kevin Drum writes:

‘Trump signs executive order on immigration, but it’s so badly drafted it causes chaos around the country and is immediately put on hold by court.

Trump chooses crackpot as National Security Advisor, fires him three weeks after inauguration.
Trump tries to bully China by playing games with One China policy, is forced into humiliating retreat after realizing he’s playing out of his league.
Paul Ryan proposes border adjustment tax to raise $1 trillion, but can’t convince anyone to sign on.
Trump casually green-lights raid on Yemen over dinner, it turns into an epic disaster that kills a SEAL and accomplishes nothing.
Trump blathers about the wall and a 20 percent border tax on Mexico, causing the Mexican president to cancel a planned visit.
Congress goes into recess, but Republicans are embarrassingly forced to cancel town hall events because they’re afraid of facing big crowds opposed to their policies.
Trump continues to claim that crime is skyrocketing; that he won a huge election victory; that his inauguration crowd was immense; that polls showing his unpopularity are fake; and that refugees have wreaked terror on America, despite the fact that these are all easily-checkable lies.
After weeks of confusion on their signature priority, Republicans finally realize that repealing Obamacare isn’t all that easy and basically give up.
Trump proposes spending an extra $54 billion on defense without realizing he can’t do that.
Have either Trump or the Republican Congress done anything yet that’s been both successful and non-routine? Unless I’m forgetting something big, it’s just been one failure after another for the past two months. And that’s not even counting all the day-to-day idiocy coming out of the White House (“enemy of the people,” Sweden, “so-called judge,” Bowling Green massacre, national security confabs at Mar-a-Lago restaurant, etc.).

Help me out here. Am I missing some big success? …’

Source:  Mother Jones

“Surgeons Should Not Look Like Surgeons”

Nassim Taleb writes:

‘…Avoid people who look and talk the part, whether surgeons or scientists or stockbrokers. They are trying to win your confidence by means of rituals rather than results. Practitioners who are exceptionally good at producing results have less need to conform to professional stereotypes. And those who succeed in a profession despite not looking the part must, all other things being equal, have greater talent…’

Source:  Medium

There is another, related point to make — nonconformity may be its own virtue. Is this what Thoreau meant:

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

When Things Go Missing

‘Broadly speaking, there are two explanations for why we lose all this stuff—one scientific, the other psychoanalytic, both unsatisfying. According to the scientific account, losing things represents a failure of recollection or a failure of attention: either we can’t retrieve a memory (of where we set down our wallet, say) or we didn’t encode one in the first place.

According to the psychoanalytic account, conversely, losing things represents a success—a deliberate sabotage of our rational mind by our subliminal desires. In “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,” Freud describes “the unconscious dexterity with which an object is mislaid on account of hidden but powerful motives,” including “the low estimation in which the lost object is held, or a secret antipathy towards it or towards the person that it came from.” Freud’s colleague and contemporary Abraham Arden Brill put the matter more succinctly: “We never lose what we highly value.” …’

Source: Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker

A Growing Archive of Global Street Music

‘Maybe you don’t have a lot of street performers where you live, but all over the world they represent a web of underrepresented artists dedicated to performing live, day after day. It’s exactly that fleeting, often unremarked quality of street music that led Daniel Bacchieri, currently a Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism Fellow at CUNY, to launch the Street Music Map project in 2014…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Did the Large Hadron Collider Just Disprove the Existence of Ghosts?

‘University of Manchester particle physicist and media personality, Brian Cox, may have sparked off a controversy. He said, during BBC Radio Four’s, The Infinite Monkey Cage program, “I want to make a statement: We are not here to debate the existence of ghosts because they don’t exist.”

He went on to explain:”If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made. We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That’s almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies.”

Astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was also a guest on the show, clarified by saying, “If I understand what you just declared, you just asserted that CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, disproved the existence of ghosts.”

Cox said yes. If ghosts were real, he posits, they would have a certain frequency or particle associated with them, corresponding with the human or body, with which it was once attached. If that was the case, we would be able to detect them. After all this time and with all our advanced instruments, we haven’t picked up anything close…’

Source: Big Think

A Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him

‘This document has been making the rounds in a number of magical groups both secretive and public. It was allegedly created by a member of a private magical order who wishes to remain anonymous. I make no claims about its efficacy, and several people have noted it can be viewed as more of a mass art/consciousness-raising project (similar to the 1967 exorcism and levitation of the Pentagon), than an actual magical working. But many are clearly taking it very seriously. …’

Source: Medium

I Ignored Trump News for a Week. Here’s What I Learned.

Farhad Manjoo writes:

…’Mr. Trump is likely to be president for at least the next four years. And it’s probably not a good idea for just about all of our news to be focused on a single subject for that long.

In previous media eras, the news was able to find a sensible balance even when huge events were preoccupying the world. Newspapers from World War I and II were filled with stories far afield from the war. Today’s newspapers are also full of non-Trump articles, but many of us aren’t reading newspapers anymore. We’re reading Facebook and watching cable, and there, Mr. Trump is all anyone talks about, to the exclusion of almost all else.

There’s no easy way out of this fix. But as big as Mr. Trump is, he’s not everything — and it’d be nice to find a way for the media ecosystem to recognize that.

Source: NYTimes.com

These Newly Discovered Frogs Are Adorable and Already in Peril

‘While frogs haven’t traditionally been revered for their cuteness, a stunning new discovery could be a game-changer for all of ribbit-kind: According to a study published this week in PeerJ, scientists have discovered seven new frog species belonging to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as Night Frogs. Four of them are alarmingly tiny—in fact, they’re thought to be some of the smallest frogs in all of India, where they were found…’

Source: Gizmodo

NASA Telescope Reveals Record-Breaking Exoplanet Discovery

  • ‘NASA astronomers have discovered a single star system, 40 light-years away, that has seven Earth-like planets (small, rocky, and within the range of orbit in which liquid water could form). [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • Three of the planets are directly in what’s called the “habitable zone,” meaning temperature water could easily remain in liquid form on their surfaces; the other four could have water as well, depending on the compositions of their atmospheres. [NASA]
  • The star at the center of the system — called Trappist-1 — isn’t like the sun at all. It’s a super-cool dwarf star (which means sunsets on these planets are likely salmon-colored). [The Atlantic / Marina Koren]
  • That’s actually extremely promising — not only are super-cool stars easier to discover planets around (because they are dim enough to flicker when a planet passes in front of them), but they are also far more common than sun-like stars. [TRAPPIST.one]
  • To discover more potential Earth-like planets around super-cool stars, NASA is working with an initiative called (in an epic act of backronymy) SPECULOOS — like the cookie butter. [SPECULOOS]
  • Few, if any, of these worlds will actually be habitable by human standards. The astronomical term “habitable” applies to plenty of arrangements that sensible humans would call, as Katie Mack puts it, “lethal nightmare planets.” [Cosmos / Katie Mack]
  • But for the moment, the planets of Trappist-1 exist in the world of tantalizing possibility. Fittingly, Nature magazine published a sci-fi story side by side with the paper announcing the discovery. [Nature / Laurence Suhner]’

R.I.P. Larry Coryell

Guitarist of Fusion Before It Had a Name Dies at 73

‘Most established jazz musicians regarded rock with suspicion if not hostility when Mr. Coryell arrived in New York from Washington State in 1965. But a younger cohort, steeped in the Beatles as well as bebop, was beginning to explore an approach that bridged the stylistic gap. Mr. Coryell, who had grown up listening to a wide range of music, became one of the leaders of that cohort…’

Source: New York Times obituary

The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

‘We know, by this point, that Trump is funny. Even to us leftists, horrified by his every move, he is hilarious. Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does is — from an objective standpoint — comedy gold. Someone who accuses his enemies of the faults he at that very moment is portraying is comedy gold. But, strangely, as the left realized after the election, pointing out Trump was a joke was not helpful. In fact, Trump’s farcical nature didn’t seem to be a liability, rather, to his supporters, it was an asset.

…Trump supporters voted for the con-man, the labyrinth with no center, because the labyrinth with no center is how they feel, how they feel the world works around them. A labyrinth with no center is a perfect description of their mother’s basement with a terminal to an endless array of escapist fantasy worlds…’

Source: Medium

Donald Trump’s Media Attacks Should Be Viewed as Brilliant

‘I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s [attacks on
the press] simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.

He isn’t [saying] that he’s got his facts wrong. He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them — or, in his case, both…’

Source: Time.com

This Neuroscientist Wants to Know Why People Who See UFOs Feel So Good

‘Although the US government has launched formal inquiries into the UFO phenomenon, little has changed in the last six decades to indicate that ufology will ever be anything more than pseudoscientific. But Bob Davis, a retired neuroscientist and self-described “UFO agnostic,” wants to change that. I caught up with him at the International UFO Congress to find out why he thinks ufology can become a serious scientific discipline…’

Source: Motherboard

Twitter Has Made Our Alien Contact Protocols Obsolete

‘In 1990, the International Academy of Astronautics published a special issue of their journal , Acta Astronautica, dedicated to the problem of what to do in the event that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) detected an alien signal. These “post-detection protocols” as outlined in the IAA’s Declaration of Principles in 1989 were inspired by increasingly rapid technological advances in the SETI field that made the likelihood of detecting a signal more likely than at any other point in the search’s 30 year history.

But the one technological development that its collaborators couldn’t have anticipated was the rise of social media, which could seriously complicate the ability of government and private research institutions to control the social consequences resulting from the detection of an extraterrestrial message…’

Source: Motherboard

John McCain just systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s entire worldview

‘John McCain is increasingly mad as hell about President Trump. And on Friday, he went after Trump — hard.

During a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, the Republican senator from Arizona delivered a pointed and striking point-by-point takedown of Trump’s worldview and brand of nationalism. McCain didn’t mention Trump’s name once, but he didn’t have to.

And even considering the two men’s up-and-down history and the terrible things Trump has said about McCain, it was a striking display from a senior leader of a party when it comes to a president of the same party.

In his speech, McCain suggested the Western world is uniquely imperiled this year — even more so than when Barack Obama was president — and proceeded to question whether it will even survive.

“In recent years, this question would invite accusations of hyperbole and alarmism; not this year,” McCain said. “If ever there were a time to treat this question with a deadly seriousness, it is now.” …’

Source: Washington Post

David Brooks: What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like

‘I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.

Trump’s White House staff is at war with itself. His poll ratings are falling at unprecedented speed. His policy agenda is stalled. F.B.I. investigations are just beginning. This does not feel like a sustainable operation.

On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.

There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress like Howard Baker and Sam Ervin to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality.

Everything about Trump that appalls 65 percent of America strengthens him with the other 35 percent, and he can ride that group for a while. Even after these horrible four weeks, Republicans on Capitol Hill are not close to abandoning their man.

The likelihood is this: We’re going to have an administration that has morally and politically collapsed, without actually going away.

What does that look like?’

Source: New York Times op-ed

Block Scott Pruitt

Senator Susan Collins from Maine is the first Republican to announce that she will vote NO on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the EPA. We only need to get a couple more Senators to join her — but we need your help!

Your pressure is working. Just yesterday the nominee for labor secretary, fast food titan Andy Puzder, withdrew his nomination due to growing opposition.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on Pruitt’s confirmation as EPA head tomorrow. Please take  just a minute to call and email your Senators and urge them to vote NO on Scott Pruitt for EPA! Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected with the Senate office of your choice. Don’t know who your Senators are? Look them up here.

Source: Center for Food Safety

Whither the adverbs of place?

‘In contemporary English, here refers to the speaker’s location regardless of whether the sentence involves things or people remaining in that place, moving to that place, or leaving that place. We say I have been waiting here for hours or Come here! or Get out of here!

But historically English has used three separate adverbs to convey these three different relations to place. A speaker of the sixteenth century might have said I have been waiting here for hours, but she would have said Come hither! instead of Come here! and Get thee hence! instead of Get out of here!

Likewise, when referring to a location other than where we are, we now use there indiscriminately: Who is there? I will take you there. We sailed from Ireland to Iceland and from there to Greenland. Our sixteenth-century speaker, for her part, might have said Who is there? but I will take you thither or We sailed from Ireland to Iceland and thence to Greenland.

Finally, for asking about places, though English relies now on just where, there were once three separate adverbs. If our twenty-first-century speaker says Where am I? or Where are you going? or Where is that smell coming from? our hypothetical Elizabethan speaker might say Where am I? or Whither goest thou? or Whence cometh that reek?’

Source: 3quarksdaily

Help Fix the Biggest Problem with American Democracy

We elect our President via the Electoral College. States get a vote for each Representative and each Senator. Representatives are somewhat proportional to population but every state has two Senators. This creates a huge imbalance in the power of your vote.

If you live in Texas that’s 733,226 people per elector. In Wyoming it’s just 195,167. Occasionally this has consequences.

Bush and Trump

Presidents we could have avoided.

As well as sacrificing one person one vote there are other issues with the Electoral College.

Presidential candidates largely ignore states where the outcome is nearly certain. If you live in a solid Republican or Democrat state then you will be taken for granted.

Originally the Electoral College was supposed to be a safeguard against the electorate making a horrible mistake. You might have good reason to believe that it no longer serves this purpose.

National Popular Vote

We could fix the imbalance with an amendment to the Constitution. This would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters (38) of the States.

Luckily there is another option. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The plan is quite simple. Each State passes legislation that promises to throw its Electoral College votes behind the popular vote winner. This only comes into force when enough States have enacted the NPVIC to have a majority in the Electoral College (270 votes)

You might be surprised to learn that the National Popular Vote already has 165 Electoral College votes. Adding Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Texas would be enough to switch to a popular vote. They are also all states that are among the least well represented by the current system.

Most Americans support the National Popular Vote (78% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans and 73% of Independents). (Source: Washington Post, 2007)

What can I do?

You can make a difference. Please do at least one of the following:

  1. Share this page with your friends on Facebook and Twitter with a personal message asking them to take action.
  2. Call your Senators and Representative and ask them to support the National Popular Vote.
  3. Call your State representatives and ask them to support the National Popular Vote.
  4. Donate to the National Popular Vote (this site has no affiliation with National Popular Vote Inc.)
 Source: Robert Ellison,  Democracy Vision: One Person, One Vote

Naomi Klein: ‘Get Ready for the First Shocks of Trump’s Disaster Capitalism’

‘We already know that the Trump administration plans to deregulate markets, wage all-out war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” trash climate science and unleash a fossil-fuel frenzy. It’s a vision that can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.

All this is dangerous enough. What’s even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically…’

Source: The Intercept

Mental Health Experts Are Publicly Arguing About Whether Donald Trump Is Mentally Ill

‘Ethically speaking, mental health experts are supposed to refrain from publicly offering diagnoses for politicians. And so, for the most part, doctors and psychiatrists have refrained from joining in on the internet speculation that President Donald Trump has narcissistic personality disorder, dementia, or another condition.

But that changed in Tuesday’s New York Times, in a very public way. A pair of letters — written originally in response to Charles Blow’s scathing op-ed about the president — authored by prominent psychiatric experts faced off on the question of Trump’s mental health.

The first, written by Dr. Lance Dodes and Dr. Joseph Schachter and signed by 33 other experts, asserts that Trump is unfit to lead the country given his mental state. The latter, which was penned by Dr. Allen Frances (who literally wrote the criteria that define narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV), sharply rebukes Dodes and Schacter’s letter…’

Source: Digg

Dr. Frances makes several arguments. The first is that although Trump has impressive narcissism, he should not be considered to have narcissistic personality disorder because the disorder requires that his personality attributes cause him distress or dysfunction. His second objection to the letter is to reiterate the ethical standards against a clinician making a diagnosis of someone she is not engaged in treating face-to-face.

Here is my response, as a psychiatrist myself. First, the requirement that the patient be distressed is only partly true in modern practice, particularly for the subset of mental conditions known as personality disorders. Rigid personality styles often act to defend the patient against insight into their disorder and any distress caused by their way of doing business in the world. Instead, they cause distress among those around him or her. They cause dysfunction for the afflicted person without distressing her or him.

Secondly, for an ethical relativist, a sufficient emergency such as that we face now allows suspension of some ethical guidelines for the greater good.

Of course, I am far from confident that the opinion of any number of experts that this man is unfit to serve as President will actually influence anything. Frances’ coda that “the antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological” may well be true, but we should all continue to speak our version of truth to power. I am firmly with Dodes and Schachter.

“We should not — and cannot — trust this man.” A CIA vet on Trump’s feud with US spies.

Sean Illing: The president of the United States just tweeted that “Information is being illegally given” to the New York Times and the Washington Post “by the intelligence community.” Are we witnessing a shadow war between President Trump and the intelligence community?

Glenn Carle: What’s happened is that the organs of government sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States have been trying to do their jobs. Intelligence professionals take their responsibilities seriously. Whatever they do, they do it because they believe it is necessary, because they believe duty demands it. They’re not playing political games… The real issue is what I’ve been saying… in public for many months: We are facing the gravest threat to our institutions and our government since 1861, since the country broke in half. This is a graver crisis than Watergate, which was about corruption, not the usurpation of our laws and our checks and balances. It’s graver than World War II, when Hitler never actually threatened our institutions or occupation of Washington.

Source: Vox