Alzheimer’s Could Be Diabetes-like Illness, Study Suggests

“That’s the tantalizing suggestion from a new study that finds insulin production in the brain declines as Alzheimer’s disease advances.

‘Insulin disappears early and dramatically in Alzheimer’s disease,’ senior researcher Suzanne M. de la Monte, a neuropathologist at Rhode Island Hospital and a professor of pathology at Brown University Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

‘And many of the unexplained features of Alzheimer’s, such as cell death and tangles in the brain, appear to be linked to abnormalities in insulin signaling. This demonstrates that the disease is most likely a neuroendocrine disorder, or another type of diabetes,’ she added.

The discovery that the brain produces insulin at all is a recent one, and de la Monte’s group also found that brain insulin produced by patients with Alzheimer’s disease tends to fall below normal levels.

Now her group has discovered that brain levels of insulin and its related cellular receptors fall precipitously during the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Insulin levels continue to drop progressively as the disease becomes more severe — adding to evidence that Alzheimer’s might be a new form of diabetes, she said.

In addition, the Brown University team found that low levels of acetylcholine — a hallmark of Alzheimer’s — are directly linked to this loss of insulin and insulin-like growth factor function in the brain.” (Yahoo! News)

I have just heard anecdotal preliminary reports from research a psychiatrist friend of mine is doing suggesting that “insulin-sensitizing” medications improve cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s patients regardless of whether they have peripheral diabetes or not. A larger study is underway.

Dalai Lama Gets Meditation Lesson

Seems like a Western-centric headline from Wired:

“Scientists present at this month’s meeting included Richard Davidson, a Harvard University-trained neuroscientist who has done pioneering research on Buddhist monks, and Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University professor who studies the effects of stress on the body. They told the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and an audience of 2,500 about recent experiments showing meditation can strengthen the immune system, prevent relapse in people with depression and lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress.

…[But] while Western researchers are exploring the effects of meditation on physical health, Alan Wallace, a leading Tibetan scholar and one of the Dalai Lama’s translators, pointed out that when faced with physical ailments, Tibetans traditionally turned to doctors or healers, not to meditation.

The purpose of meditation, added the Dalai Lama, is not to cure physical ailments, but to free people from emotional suffering.”

When the Doctor Is in…

…but You Wish He Wasn’t: “Ms. Wong had come across a bane of the medical profession: the difficult doctor. These doctors may be arrogant or rude, highhanded or dismissive. They drive away patients who need help, and some have been magnets for malpractice claims.

And while such doctors have always been part of medicine, medical organizations say they fear that they are increasingly common – doctors, under pressure to see more patients, are spending less and less time with each one and are replacing long discussions with laboratory tests and scans – and that most problem doctors apparently have no idea of their patients’ opinions of them.” (New York Times )

CDC plans flight e-tracking

“Battling a pandemic disease such as avian flu requires the ability to quickly track sick people and anyone they have contacted.

In response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have proposed new federal regulations to electronically track more than 600 million U.S. airline passengers a year traveling on more than 7 million flights through 67 hub airports.

The new regulations, which are available on the CDC’s Web site and will be posted for a 60-day comment period in the Federal Register starting Nov. 30, would require airlines, travel agents and global reservations systems to collect personal information that exceeds the quantity of information currently collected by the Transportation Security Administration or the Homeland Security Department.” (Gov’tHealth IT)

Inside the Sect:

“Opus Dei is an international lay Catholic group whose core ideal is the sanctification of work. But critics and some former members have accused the group of having cult-like practices and promoting a right-wing agenda.

Opus Dei was founded in Spain in 1928; today, it has 84,000 members in 80 countries. For many, the group first gained wide attention when it was portrayed in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code. The thriller depicted the group as a repository for arcane knowledge and fervent — even dangerous — belief.

Vatican reporter John Allen’s new book is Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church. The book is being billed as the first serious journalistic investigation of the highly secretive organization. Allen writes for the National Catholic Reporter; he is also a Vatican analyst for CNN and NPR.” (NPR: Fresh Air)

Seymour Hersh: Where is the Iraq War Headed Next?

Hersh is one of my heroes in journalism, from his coverage of Vietnam on through to Iraq. He has either cornered the market on most of the useful covert sources since Deep Throat or he has a vivid imagination that both makes sense of things and is prophetic. His fall ’03 New Yorker article on ‘stovepiping’, Cheney’s castration of the intelligence machinery in the service of hearing what he wanted to hear to justify the invasion of Iraq was the single most important piece on dysadministration duplicity and its roots since the runup to the invasion. It presaged exactly what people now think Bush and Co. were up to with the ‘uranium lie’, but it was two years before Plamegate shaped the country’s perceptions.

More people should have listened to him then, but of course the country didn’t read The New Yorker then, and they don’t now, as he writes about the shape of our engagement in Iraq to come. He points out that the wdespread speculation that Bush will begin troop pullouts in the face of the growing unpopularity of the war at home may be thwarted if he perceives that a pullout will impede the war against the insurgency. Bush is impervious to political pressure given his sense of religious mission to bring democracy to Iraq. He disparages any information conflicting with his sense of the purpose and progress of the war and continues to live with the belief that the American people settled the issue of what they wanted in Iraq on election day 2004, and that he need not listen to the subsequent changes in public opinion. Hersh describes one illustrative encounter:

‘The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.

“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”’

The institutional Army is not conferred with for troop strength decisions. Given that there is no drive toward — I would say no possibility of — increasing troop strength, Army officials say in private — but do not dare do so publicly — that it would be impossible to stay the course in Iraq without current troops doing four or five tours of duty, with disastrous consequences for morale and competency. Pentagon commanders have shared their feelings with Rep. John Murtha for decades, and Murtha’s November 17th speech which so enraged the dysadministration was filled with devastating inside information. Murtha’s speech, predictably however, only strengthened Bush and Cheney’s resolve.

‘Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”’

Hersh reports that departing US troops will be replaced by American airpower to improve the combat capabilities of even the weakest Iraqi units and vastly decrease American casualties, at the expense of course of overall violence and Iraqi fatality levels. Count on the dysadministration to lie to the public again when it says it plans to diminish the war. Hersh dwells at length on how unhappy Air Force officials are about the idea that targeting decisions would devolve upon Iraqis and not Air Force forward air controllers. In urban areas where the insurgency is concentrated, precision laser-guided bombs must be used to avoid collateral damage, and these must be directed by lasers ‘painted’ on the target by ground units. Because there needs to be a ‘hot read’ on the ground, targets cannot be identified in advance in a preflight briefing and because the Air Force needs to maintain radio silence, there is no confirmation between the spotters and the mission pilots. “The people on the ground are calling in targets that the pilots can’t verify. And we’re going to turn this process over to the Iraqis?”” The Iraqi penchant for targeting tribal and personal enemies with artillery and mortar fire has created “impatience and resentment” within the military. “There has to be training to be sure that somebody is not trying to get even with somebody else.”

Things will be especially ugly if Iraqi counter-insurgency efforts continue to operate as the US Army and Marines have been doing, and have presumably been training them to do — plowing through Sunni stronghold areas on search-and-destroy sweeps. Casualties would go up with injudicious use of airpower, and political scientists who study airpower say it would not necessarily be any more feasible to put a lid on the insurgency with bombing than it has been on the ground. But

“[t]he Air Force’s worries have been subordinated, so far, to the political needs of the White House. The Administration’s immediate political goal after the December elections is to show that the day-to-day conduct of the war can be turned over to the newly trained and equipped Iraqi military. It has already planned heavily scripted change-of-command ceremonies, complete with the lowering of American flags at bases and the raising of Iraqi ones.”

Hersh reflects on the fact that American and British support is solidifying around Iyad Allawi, the former interim Prime Minister, for the December elections, perhaps with the other secular Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi in coalition. Allawi would make a show of asking America to leave but allow continuing Special Forces covert operations, including expanding operations to Syria. Hersh’s sources describe a covert Special Forces unit ordered under stringent cover to target suspected supporters of the Iraqi insurgency over the Syrian border. The other consequence of a rapid US withdrawal will, of course, be the furtherance of the civil war which, although underreported, is already in full swing.

Gimme an Rx!

Cheerleaders Pep Up Drug Sales: “Anyone who has seen the parade of sales representatives through a doctor’s waiting room has probably noticed that they are frequently female and invariably good looking. Less recognized is the fact that a good many are recruited from the cheerleading ranks.” (New York Times )

Shadows of Venus

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“It’s often said (by astronomers) that Venus is bright enough to cast shadows. So where are they?

Few people have ever seen a Venus shadow. But they’re there, elusive and delicate—and, if you appreciate rare things, a thrill to witness.

Attention, thrill-seekers: Venus is reaching its peak brightness for 2005 and casting its very best shadows right now.” (NASA)

A Sense of Scale

A Visual Comparison of Various Distances, from the fermi to the distance to the furthest known object in the universe. When, as a child, I saw Powers of Ten, which attempts to do the same thing, I seem to recall that one of the take-away lessons was that a person, on the one-meter scale, was about equally poised between the smallest and the largest. However, either I misremember or the universe has vastly expanded, because the distances here span 41 orders of magnitude, with us standing only 15 orders of magnitude away from the bottom.

A Sense of Scale

A Visual Comparison of Various Distances, from the fermi to the distance to the furthest known object in the universe. When, as a child, I saw Powers of Ten, which attempts to do the same thing, I seem to recall that one of the take-away lessons was that a person, on the one-meter scale, was about equally poised between the smallest and the largest. However, either I misremember or the universe has vastly expanded, because the distances here span 41 orders of magnitude, with us standing only 15 orders of magnitude away from the bottom.

Surfing the Consensual Reality Wave

Web 2.0 Validator: “The score for http://gelwan.com/followme.html was 12 out of 20:

* Is in public beta? Yes!
* Uses python? Yes!
* Is Shadows-aware ? No
* Uses the prefix “meta” or “micro”? Yes!
* Mentions startup ? Yes!
* Refers to mash-ups ? No
* Appears to be web 3.0 ? Yes!
* Has favicon ? Yes!
* Uses Cascading Style Sheets? Yes!
* Uses Google Maps API? No
* Appears to use AJAX ? No
* Refers to VCs ? No
* Refers to Flickr ? Yes!
* Mentions Nitro ? Yes!
* Mentions Cool Words ? No
* Uses microformats ? No
* Refers to web2.0validator ? Yes!
* Mentions RDF and the Semantic Web? Yes!
* Validates as XHTML 1.1 ? No
* Mentions 30 Second Rule and Web 2.0 ? Yes!”

The 12:20 score is abit recursive, however, since just by virtue of posting this item I meet some of the “…mentions…” criteria. Originally, I was 5:18.

Here is Wikipedia’s piece on Web 2.0:

“The term “Web 2.0” refers to development of the World Wide Web, including its architecture and its applications.

As used by its proponents, the phrase currently refers to one or more of the below :

* a transition of websites from isolated information silos to sources of content and functionality, thus becoming a computing platform serving web applications to end users
* a social phenomenon referring to an approach to creating and distributing Web content itself, characterised by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and “the market as a conversation”
* a more organized and categorized content, with a more developed deeplinking web architecture.
* a shift in economic value of the web, potentially equalling that of the dot com boom of the late 1990s

However, a consensus upon its exact meaning has not yet been reached. Skeptics argue that the term is essentially meaningless, or that it means whatever its proponents decide that they want it to mean in order to convince the media and investors that they are creating something fundamentally new, rather than continuing to develop and use well-established technologies.

Many recently developed concepts and technologies are seen as contributing to Web 2.0, including weblogs, wikis, podcasts, rss feeds and other forms of many to many publishing; social software, web APIs, web standards, online web services, AJAX, and others.

The concept is different from Web 1.0, as it is a move away from websites, email, using search engines and surfing from one website to the next. Others are more skeptical that such basic concepts can be superceded in any real way by those listed above.”

Schwarzenegger Mulls Clemency for Williams

“The governor said he would meet Dec. 8 in a private hearing with Williams’ lawyers, Los Angeles County prosecutors and others involved.

Williams, 51, faces a lethal injection on Dec. 13 for the 1979 slayings of a Whittier convenience store clerk and three people at a Pico Rivera motel. He has maintained his innocence and has asked the California Supreme Court to reopen his case, alleging shoddy forensics wrongly connected him to three of the murders. The Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on the petition.

Two other clemency petitions have come before Schwarzenegger. Neither was granted.” (Yahoo! News)

More Good Reasons to be Polite and Civil

Man Cuts in Line, Is Wrestled to Ground: “Security guards wrestled a man to the ground in a Wal-Mart after he cut in line to get laptop computers that were on sale Friday, a television station reported.

The man started arguing with people inside the store, WFTV-TV in Orlando reported. He then started fighting with the guards, the station reported…” (Yahoo! News)

And: a fantastic opportunity to nail just the people who deserve to pay. (Freakonomics)

Also: 

Lynne Truss has another gripe with you: “She turned a book on her peeves with grammar into an unlikely bestseller. Now she’s unhappy with manners.” (New York Times Magazine)

And:  one amusing suggestion for incivility (Life’s Little Annoyances)

"I Wish Bush Would Be (Coherent, Eschewed) For Once During A Speech"…

“The school superintendent whose district includes Mount Anthony Union High School has labeled ‘inappropriate’ and ‘irresponsible’ an English teacher’s use of liberal statements in a vocabulary quiz.

‘I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes,’ said one question on a quiz written by English and social studies teacher Bret Chenkin.” (HuffPo via Friends of Elvis)

Sea level rise doubles in 150 years

“Global warming is doubling the rate of sea level rise around the world, but attempts to stop it by cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be futile, leading researchers will warn today.

The oceans will rise nearly half a metre by the end of the century, forcing coastlines back by hundreds of metres, the researchers claim. Scientists believe the acceleration is caused mainly by the surge in greenhouse gas emissions produced by the development of industry and introduction of fossil fuel burning.” (Guardian.UK)

Related:

Study: More CO2 Now Than Past 650K Years

“There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point during the last 650,000 years, says a major new study that let scientists peer back in time at ‘greenhouse gases’ that can help fuel global warming.

By analyzing tiny air bubbles preserved in Antarctic ice for millennia, a team of European researchers highlights how people are dramatically influencing the buildup of these gases.” (Yahoo! News)

Torture claims ‘forced US to cut terror charges’

CIA worried case would expose prison network: “The Bush administration decided not to charge Jose Padilla with planning to detonate a radioactive ‘dirty bomb’ in a US city because the evidence against him was extracted using torture on members of al-Qaida, it was claimed yesterday.

Mr Padilla, a US citizen who had been held for more than three years as an ‘enemy combatant’ in a military prison in North Carolina, was indicted on Tuesday on the lesser charges of supporting terrorism abroad.” (Guardian.UK)

The long march of Dick Cheney

“For his entire career, he sought untrammeled power. The Bush presidency and 9/11 finally gave it to him — and he’s not about to give it up.

…The hallmark of the Dick Cheney administration is its illegitimacy. Its essential method is bypassing established lines of authority; its goal is the concentration of unaccountable presidential power. When it matters, the regular operations of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department have been sidelined.

Richard Nixon is the model, but with modifications. In the Nixon administration, the president was the prime mover, present at the creation of his own options, attentive to detail, and conscious of their consequences. In the Cheney administration, the president is volatile but passive, firm but malleable, presiding but absent. Once his complicity has been arranged, a closely held ‘cabal’ — as Lawrence Wilkerson, once chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, calls it — wields control.” — Sidney Blumenthal (Salon)

Life: The disorder

“More and more adults and teens are popping pills for ADD, “generalized anxiety disorder” and other quasi-societal conditions. Is it time to retire our moralistic distinction between “recreational” and “medical” drugs?

…We live in a society where it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate between adults and kids. Go to a mall, squint your eyes, and see if you can tell the difference between the alarming 18-year-olds who seem 35 and the much more alarming 35-year-olds trying to pass for 18. A case can be made that recognizing adult ADD isn’t so much an enlightened leap in Western medicine as a questionable evolution in a culture that recently welcomed the dubious word ‘adultescent’ into the 2005 edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary. ” (Salon)

Ex-FEMA Head Starts Disaster Planning Firm

“Former FEMA Director Michael Brown, heavily criticized for his agency’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job.

…”I’m doing a lot of good work with some great clients,” Brown said. “My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me.”” (Yahoo! News)

Back-Up Warning

Confessions of a photocopier repairman: “Photocopier supplier Canon is warning customers to take better care of their office equipment during the Christmas period, claiming that the festive season traditionally leads to a 25 percent hike in service calls due to incidents such as the classic backside copying prank.

Such a stunt, a mainstay of the office party, often results in cracked glass on the copier, with 32 percent of Canon technicians claiming to have been called out to fix glass plates during the Christmas period after attempts to copy body parts went wrong. Tim Andrews, a Canon employee from London, said: ‘We always fit lots of new glass to copiers after New Year due to ‘rear-end copying.” In fact, Canon claims a shocking 46 percent of service calls are in response to non-work-related breakages.

…Partly in response to this trend–or perhaps because of the ‘supersizing’ of the western physique–Canon has now increased the thickness of its glass by an extra millimeter.” (CNET [via walker])

Painkiller may aid dementia patients

“The over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen may help elderly adults with dementia become more active and socially engaged, the results of a small study suggest.

Researchers found that when they gave acetaminophen to nursing home patients who had moderate to severe dementia, the medication helped changed some of the patients’ behaviors. They tended, for example, to spend less time in their rooms and more time watching television, listening to music, reading or performing ‘work-like’ activities.

The findings suggest that unrecognized, untreated pain in dementia patients keeps them from being as active as they can be, according to the study authors, led by Dr. John T. Chibnall of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri.” (Yahoo! News)

Spirit of 1776

The Secret History of Rum: “While Fidelistas may berate Bacardi for its feud with Havana Club, rum aficionados almost universally deplore the company for the effect it has had on rum. Gresham’s law observes that bad money drives out good; Bacardi has achieved this with rum. Its bland ubiquity has been driving the distinctive rums of the world from the mass consumer market. It is the equivalent of American cheddar driving out the 300 cheeses of France. Its monopoly power has been used to keep much better, genuinely local Caribbean brands from reaching takeoff. The islands cannot compete with subsidized and tariff protected high fructose corn syrup and Floridian sugar grown by former Cuban barons, so their one chance to market a value-added branded commodity is frustrated by the transglobal black bat.

Republicans used to inveigh against the Democrats as the party of ‘Rum, Romanism and Rebellion,’ but now Bacardi has the GOP in its pocket, it symbolizes the complete turnaround of political positions.” — Ian Williams, author of Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 (The Nation)

PhD in Conspiracy Theory

“Cult classic The Prisoner is set to return almost 40 years after it first hit TV screens. Sky One is in talks to bring back the adventure series, which starred Patrick McGoohan as Prisoner Number 6.

…The new version will not be placed in the original setting, the north Wales village of Portmeirion, or have the arty, ‘pop’ feel of the original, according to the magazine Broadcast. Damien Timmer, who has been lined up to executive produce the show, told the television and radio industry magazine that the new series ‘takes liberties with the original’. He said: ‘Although it will be a radical reinvention, it will still be a heightened show with themes such as paranoia, conspiracy and identity crisis.’

The original show, which ran on ITV for 17 episodes, has been the subject of university courses.” (This is London [via walker])

Thatcher used ‘nuclear blackmail’ to get missile codes

“Margaret Thatcher forced Francois Mitterrand to give her the codes to disable Argentina’s French-made missiles during the Falklands war by threatening to launch a nuclear warhead against Buenos Aires, according to a book.

Rendez-vous: the psychoanalysis of Francois Mitterrand , by Ali Magoudi, who met the late French president up to twice a week in secrecy at his Paris practice from 1982 to 1984, also reveals that Mr Mitterrand believed he would get his ‘revenge’ by building a tunnel under the Channel that would forever destroy Britain’s island status.” (The Age [via the null device] )

Related: Elvis Costello’s Tramp the Dirt Down.

Conservation Refugees

When protecting nature means kicking people out: “Sadly, the human rights and global conservation communities remain at serious odds over the question of displacement, each side blaming the other for the particular crisis they perceive. Conservation biologists argue that by allowing native populations to grow, hunt, and gather in protected areas, anthropologists, cultural preservationists, and other supporters of indigenous rights become complicit in the decline of biological diversity. Some, like the Wildlife Conservation Society’s outspoken president, Steven Sanderson, believe that the entire global conservation agenda has been ‘hijacked’ by advocates for indigenous peoples, placing wildlife and biodiversity in peril. ‘Forest peoples and their representatives may speak for the forest,’ Sanderson has said, ‘They may speak for their version of the forest; but they do not speak for the forest we want to conserve.’ WCS, originally the New York Zoological Society, is a BINGO lesser in size and stature than the likes of TNC and CI, but more insistent than its colleagues that indigenous territorial rights, while a valid social issue, should be of no concern to wildlife conservationists.

Human rights groups, such as Cultural Survival, First Peoples Worldwide, EarthRights International, Survival International, and the Forest Peoples Programme argue the opposite, accusing some of the BINGOs and governments like Uganda’s of destroying indigenous cultures, the diversity of which they deem essential to the preservation of biological diversity.” (Orion)

Getting Out of Iraq

Norman Solomon: ” If the Pentagon had been able to subdue the Iraqi population, few in Congress or on editorial pages would be denouncing the war. As in so many other respects, this is a way that the domestic US political dynamics of the war on Iraq are similar to what unfolded during the Vietnam War. With the underpinnings of war prerogatives unchallenged, a predictable response is that the war must be fought more effectively.

That’s what the great journalist I.F. Stone was driving at when he wrote, a few years into the Vietnam War, in mid-February 1968: ‘It is time to stand back and look at where we are going. And to take a good look at ourselves. A first observation is that we can easily overestimate our national conscience. A major part of the protest against the war springs simply from the fact that we are losing it. If it were not for the heavy cost, politicians like the Kennedys [Robert and Edward] and organizations like ADA [the liberal Americans for Democratic Action] would still be as complacent about the war as they were a few years ago.'” (truthout)

Dept. of Last Taboos (cont’d.)

Cleaning Needed, in the Worst Way: “Mr. Gospodarski, a paramedic for 23 years, is what is known as a bio-recovery technician, a highly trained, extremely efficient, self-employed house-cleaner of sorts whose specialty is removing the unpleasant aftereffects of suicides, attempted suicides, shotgun murders, accidental impalements and, in the case of lonely, unnoticed passings like that of the man in 6-F, ‘decomps.'” (New York Times )

This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis

“‘The idea that perceptions can be manipulated by expectations’ is fundamental to the study of cognition, said Michael I. Posner, an emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of Oregon and expert on attention. ‘But now we’re really getting at the mechanisms.'” (New York Times )

Hypnosis in many ways represents psychology’s dirty little embarrassment, at the cutting edge of what cannot be explained and has therefore been ridiculed, ignored or relegated to a parlor game. But it is intimately related to, as Posner says, the subjectivity of experience and the active or constructed nature of the perception of ‘objective’ reality. It is also closely related to the clinical phenomenon of dissociation, which is absolutely central to psychopathology but has not been grappled with effectively since psychoanalysis was born with Freud’s deprecation of the central role dissociation had played the theories of predecessors like Janet.

Dissociative responses are a core part of consciousness and range from the everyday to the unbelievably extreme, as in what used to be called multiple personality disorder. When not recognized, patients (usually women with trauma histories) are shoehorned into the Procrustean bed of all sorts of other psychiatric diagnoses. A psychodiagnostician will not see dissociation unless s/he has taken a major leap of faith to be open to it. The flip side of that coin is that it inspires a profound skepticism about the rigidity and self-fulfilling prophecy with which conventional psychiatric diagnosis (read: DSM-IV) is usually done. And such misdiagnosis is not just an academic issue, because the treatment approach to dissociation is very different than, say, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Patients whose dissociative symptoms are not recognized are loaded up on all sorts of medications which not only do not help them but have substantial side effects impacting quality of life and, indeed, may worsen their dissociative tendencies.

Gartner: piece of tape defeats any CD DRM

“The highly controversial XCP digital rights management (DRM) technology bundled by Sony BMG on 52 of its audio CD albums can be defeated by applying a small piece of tape to the discs, according to analyst firm Gartner.

Applying a piece of opaque tape to the outer edge of the disk renders the data track of the CD unreadable. A computer trying to play the CD will then skip to the music without accessing the bundled DRM technology.

‘After more than five years of trying, the recording industry has not yet demonstrated a workable DRM scheme for music CDs,’ Gartner concluded in a newly published research note.

The use of a piece of tape will defeat any future DRM system on audio CDs designed to be played on a stand-alone CD player, the analyst said.” (vnunet.com)

Is God an Accident?

“Despite the vast number of religions, nearly everyone in the world believes in the same things: the existence of a soul, an afterlife, miracles, and the divine creation of the universe. Recently psychologists doing research on the minds of infants have discovered two related facts that may account for this phenomenon. One: human beings come into the world with a predisposition to believe in supernatural phenomena. And two: this predisposition is an incidental by-product of cognitive functioning gone awry. Which leads to the question …” — Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and linguistics at Yale and author of Descartes’ Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human and How Children Learn the Meanings of Words (The Atlantic)

The Suicide Bombers Among Us

Theodore Dalrymple: “The mere contemplation of a suicide bomber’s state of mind is deeply unsettling, even without considering its practical consequences. I have met a would-be suicide bomber who had not yet had the chance to put his thanatological daydream into practice. What could possibly have produced as embittered a mentality as his—what experience of life, what thoughts, what doctrines? What fathomless depths of self-pity led him to the conclusion that only by killing himself and others could he give a noble and transcendent meaning to his existence?” (City Journal)

The Tao of Bush

Putting the fear of Dongyue into the heart of Dubya: “If you’ve ever fantasized about sitting George W. Bush down and being the one to make him see the error of his ways, you already have it worked out in your head: Maybe you want to take him for a tour around an inner-city school, introduce him to a working family without health care, or have a long talk about the human costs of war.

In my version of the fantasy, I take Bush to the Dongyue temple in Beijing, China, for a little fire and brimstone, Taoist style. In small halls off the courtyard of this imposing place of worship, brightly-colored, hero-sized gods preside over the 76 departments of hell. Near-life-sized sinners carved out of wood suffer appropriate punishments, the saintly reap blessings, and hell’s bureaucrats record every detail. All this is explicitly narrated on stainless steel panels bolted to each hall.

Hell doesn’t have 76 departments for nothing; it’s enough to make anyone feel that each transgression and act of kindness, great and small, makes an indelible mark on the soul.” — Morgon Mae Schultz (Utne Reader)

Mildly depressed people more perceptive than others

From a new study in Cognition and Emotion: “Surprisingly, people with mild depression are actually more tuned into the feelings of others than those who aren’t depressed, a team of Queen’s psychologists has discovered. The researchers were so taken aback by the findings, they decided to replicate the study with another group of participants. The second study produced the same results: People with mild symptoms of depression pay more attention to details of their social environment than those who are not depressed.

Their report on what is known as ‘mental state decoding’ – or identifying other people’s emotional states from social cues such as eye expressions – is published today in the international journal, Cognition and Emotion.

Previous related research by the Queen’s investigators has been conducted on people diagnosed with clinical depression. In this case, the clinically depressed participants performed much worse on tests of mental state decoding than people who weren’t depressed.

To explain the apparent discrepancy between those with mild and clinical depression, the researchers suggest that becoming mildly depressed (dysphoric) can heighten concern about your surroundings. ‘People with mild levels of depression may initially experience feelings of helplessness, and a desire to regain control of their social world,’ says Dr. Harkness. ‘They might be specially motivated to scan their environment in a very detailed way, to find subtle social cues indicating what others are thinking and feeling.'” (EurekAlert!)

Monster Scope to Dwarf Rivals

“Astronomers are preparing to build the world’s largest telescope that could be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble and will peer back to the very beginning of the universe.

The new TMT (Thirty-Meter Telescope) will be the first of a new generation of massive Earth-based telescopes that will far eclipse today’s largest observatories. The TMT scope will be so large, it will be housed in an observatory the size of a football stadium resembling an eyeball. The TMT project will be the first realization of a new breed of super-scopes, known as Giant Segmented Mirror Telescopes. The National Academy of Sciences, in a report called ‘Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium,’ said these scopes are the top priority for ground-based astronomy…. Although a site has yet to be chosen for the behemoth, the higher elevations of Hawaii or Chile are under consideration. ” (Wired News)

GM pea causes allergic damage in mice

“For the first time, a genetically modified plant has been shown to cause inflammation in animals — the 10-year project to develop pest-resistant peas is dropped.

Researchers took the gene for a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests from the common bean and transferred it into the pea. When extracted from the bean, this protein does not cause an allergic reaction in mice or people. But when the protein is expressed in the pea, its structure is subtly different to the original in the bean. This structural change probably caused the unexpected immune effects. The researchers are calling for improvements in screening requirements for genetically engineered plants.” (New Scientist )

‘If it glows, throw it…’

Glowing meat alarms Australians: “Australians have been told there is no need to panic after a recent ‘glow-in-the-dark pork chop’ scare.” A caller to a Sydney radio show raised the spectre of radioactive meat but authorities say the glow is called by Pseudomonas fluorescans. a species of bacteria which naturally inhabit the pork chops. However, proliferation of the bacteria occurs when it is stored at an improper temperature, so it can be an indication that it is going off. (BBC)

Lie detectors may be next step in airline security

“A new walk-through airport lie detector made in Israel may prove to be the toughest challenge yet for potential hijackers or drug smugglers.

Tested in Russia, the two-stage GK-1 voice analyzer requires that passengers don headphones at a console and answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ into a microphone to questions about whether they are planning something illicit.

The software will almost always pick up uncontrollable tremors in the voice that give away liars or those with something to hide, say its designers at Israeli firm Nemesysco.” (CNET)

‘Wherever humans live, not much else lives. It isn’t that we’re evil and want to kill everything — it’s just how we live.’

It is a little bit of a sensationalization of what the group wants, but the UPI says:

Group wants to see humans extinct: “Make no mistake about it, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement isn’t anti-child, it’s more like anti-human.

The VHE is dedicated to phasing out the human race in the interest of the health of the Earth, founder Les Knight told Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle.

With 16,000 people born per hour and a current global population of 6.5 billion, there are already more than enough people on the planet, Knight said.

A 1994 study concluded a single person born in the 1990s would be responsible during a lifetime for 22 million pounds of liquid waste and 2.2 million pounds each of solid waste and atmospheric waste, the newspaper said. He or she will have a lifetime consumption of 4,000 barrels of oil, 1.5 million pounds of minerals and 62,000 pounds of animal products that will necessitate the slaughter of 2,000 animals.

‘Wherever humans live, not much else lives,’ Knight said. ‘It isn’t that we’re evil and want to kill everything — it’s just how we live.'”

Why They Don’t Hate Us

Why They Don’t Hate Us, the latest book by University of California professor Mark LeVine, is his attempt to ‘figure out how to get out of the mess the Muslim world and the West have gotten into since 9/11,’ says the author. LeVine writes that ‘Why do they hate us?’ is the wrong post-9/11 question for the West to ask. He argues that although an ‘axis of arrogance and ignorance’ has produced the violence that defines global politics, there are models for empathy and understanding emerging in youth culture and the world music scene. LeVine recently spoke to Beliefnet senior editor Alice Chasan about his book.”

Spell Checker

Bee Season–movie review by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner: “Sometimes a movie can be important for its inaccuracies. Take Bee Season, for example. The story takes place in Oakland, Calif., and ricochets off the foibles of the members of the Naumann family: Eliza, a grade school girl with a gift for spelling; Aaron, her older brother, who is a spiritual seeker; their mother who, it turns out, is basically bonkers; and their father, who is a religion professor and failed Kabbalist (Jewish mystic). It is a beautifully photographed but unsatisfying rendition of Myla Goldberg’s beautifully written but unsatisfying novel of the same name. Despite its disappointments, however, Bee Season inadvertently offers some highly instructive insights into the state of religion–and, specifically, Kabbalah–in America today. ” (belief.net)

Congress’s Quiet Holiday Plans

“For all the shambles Congress has made of this year’s public agenda, the reigning politicians of Washington are diligently attending to their own private wish list, which emphasizes ever greater protections for incumbents like themselves.

Waiting like a ship in the night for a quick, opportunistic vote is a Republican proposal that could devastate existing campaign controls by allowing politicians to collude with big-check donors from corporations, unions and lobbying blocs to finance unlimited amounts of campaign ads on the Internet. This would signal the return to unregulated soft-money politicking that a wiser and warier Congress outlawed three years ago.” (New York Times editorial)

Which Bush Crony will be the Next ‘Brownie’?

Molly Ivins: “Today’s fun challenge is ‘Spot the Next Brownie.’ In this fab game for the whole family, review a list of Bush administration cronies in office and see if you can pick the next Michael ‘Heckuva Job’ Brown, another disaster waiting for a hurricane to happen.”

The strange case of supernatural water

“Florida tested ‘Celestial Drops’ to see if they warded off citrus canker. Florida’s citrus crop contributes billions of dollars to the state’s economy, so when that industry is threatened, anything that might help is considered. Back in 2001, when citrus canker was blighting the crop and threatening to reduce that vital source of revenue, an interesting — if not quite scientific — alternative was considered.

Katherine Harris, then Florida’s secretary of state — and now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives — ordered a study in which, according to an article by Jim Stratton in the Orlando Sentinel, ‘researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test ‘Celestial Drops,’ promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its ‘improved fractal design,’ ‘infinite levels of order,’ and ‘high energy and low entropy.”” (MSMBC)

Image Overload

“The average person sees tens of thousands of images in the course of a day. One sees images on television, in newspapers and magazines, on websites, and on the sides of buses. Images grace soda cans and t-shirts and billboards. Internet search engines can instantly procure images for practically any word you type. The question is not merely rhetorical. It points to something important about images in our culture: They have, by their sheer number and ease of replication, become less magical and less shocking—a situation unknown until fairly recently in human history.(The New Atlantis)

An End to Baldness…

…for those who can stomach it: “If you’re bald, we have some good news and some bad. The good news is, a cure has been found. The bad is what this cure involves: it means – and squeamish readers should look away now – having your scalp sliced open and repositioned on your head.” (Independent.UK)

Millions face glacier catastrophe

Glacial lakes in the Himalayas are filled to the brim and poised to overflow due to increased glacial melt from global warming. The short-term danger of too much water coming out of the Himalayas, however, will give way in the long run to reduced runoff from shrunken glacial volumes. As meltwater dries up, some of the world’s mightiest rivers whose headwaters are on the spine of the world — the Indus, the Yellow, the Mekong — will shrink to trickles. Drinking and irrigation water for hundreds of millions of people will disappear. (Guardian.UK)

Related:

The big thaw

“Greenland’s glaciers have begun to race towards the ocean, leading scientists to predict that the vast island’s ice cap is approaching irreversible meltdown.” (Independent.UK)

Lie detectors may be next step in airline security

“A new walk-through airport lie detector made in Israel may prove to be the toughest challenge yet for potential hijackers or drug smugglers.

Tested in Russia, the two-stage GK-1 voice analyzer requires that passengers don headphones at a console and answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ into a microphone to questions about whether they are planning something illicit.

The software will almost always pick up uncontrollable tremors in the voice that give away liars or those with something to hide, say its designers at Israeli firm Nemesysco.” (CNET)

It’s Your War Now

“For months, media watchers have wondered if we would any time soon witness another “Cronkite moment” — some sort of dramatic statement by a mainstream media figure that would turn hearts and minds against an ill-advised war, for good. It hasn’t happened. But perhaps a not-very-famous, 73-year-old gentleman named John Murtha will be the new Cronkite.” — Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher)

Decoding Mr. Bush’s Denials

“To avoid having to account for his administration’s misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He’s tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He’s tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A. Lately, he’s gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.

Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.

It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the W.M.D. reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true.(New York Times op-ed)

Withdrawal — From Reality

“Instead of hearing the anguish of a majority of Americans who have soured on the Iraq war, instead of searching in good faith for some reasonable way forward – or back— the House Republicans turned instead to a game of playground double-dare. Murtha was asking for a series of hearings, for a national dialogue, some sort of bi-partisan search for a policy that starts getting us of out of Iraq. Instead, the GOP leadership bastardized and mocked his notion and put forward a surprise resolution — designed to fail– asking for immediate and unconditional withdrawal. The bogus resolution put forward last night was engineered solely in an attempt to blackmail and embarrass Democrats rather than find some way to stop the bloodshed.

What makes the Republican ploy particularly repugnant is that it comes precisely on the same day that we learn that the top American military commander in Iraq has presented Donald Rumsfeld with a plan to begin withdrawing U.S. military troops — as soon as a handful of weeks from now.

In other words, Democrats who propose a withdrawal are aiding and abetting the enemy, even though the White House and the Pentagon are secretly drafting a plan to do the same.” (marccooper.com)

Session Exposes Political Risks Ahead for G.O.P.

“The ferocity of the fight in the House over a measure to withdraw American troops from Iraq shows that the war may command the high ground in the coming electoral contest, and that the course of events in Iraq – whether a new government takes hold, whether the violence continues, whether American troops are still committed in large numbers and still being killed by the scores each month – will be of prime political consequence here.” (New York Times )

What the In-Crowd Knows

Profession by profession, what the insiders read to stay current: “No self-respecting industry these days is without a must-read blog. Although they vary wildly on fine points like accuracy, they are now so widely read that it’s assumed anybody in the business is up to speed on the latest postings. For outsiders, they are also a window into the inner workings, preoccupations and gossip of fields ranging from real estate to mergers and acquisitions.” (WSJ)

Holocaust denier arrested

“Far-right British author David Irving has been arrested for Holocaust denial in Austria and has been in jail in Graz for six days, Austria’s interior ministry confirmed today.

Mr Irving was arrested last Friday on a warrant issued in 1989 under Austrian laws that make Holocaust denial a crime. The charges stemmed from speeches he delivered that year in Vienna and in the southern town of Leoben.

…’I don’t see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz,’ Mr Irving declared in 1991 before a group of rightists and neo-Nazis. ‘It’s baloney. It’s a legend … more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz.'” (Guardian.UKvia walker)

Young, Assured and Playing Pharmacist to Friends

“For a sizable group of people in their 20’s and 30’s, deciding on their own what drugs to take – in particular, stimulants, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications – is becoming the norm. Confident of their abilities and often skeptical of psychiatrists’ expertise, they choose to rely on their own research and each other’s experience in treating problems like depression, fatigue, anxiety or a lack of concentration. A medical degree, in their view, is useful, but not essential, and certainly not sufficient.

They trade unused prescription drugs, get medications without prescriptions from the Internet and, in some cases, lie to doctors to obtain medications that in their judgment they need.” (New York Times )

WHO Meeting: Bird Flu Threatens ‘Incalculable Human Misery’

“A dark outlook got even darker on Monday, when delegates to a meeting at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva heard grim forecasts of the potential costs of an avian flu pandemic. The H5N1 strain has killed half of the 120 people it has infected; if it acquires the ability to pass directly from person to person it could kill millions and cause as much as $800 billion in economic damage across the world, experts warned.

‘It is only a matter of time before an avian influenza, most likely the H5N1 strain, acquires the ability to be transmitted human-to-human,’ warned WHO director-general Lee Jong-wook. ‘The signs are that it is coming.'” (Hard To Do Any Worse)

US Patent Granted for Warp Drive

pdf document: Doesn’t anyone at the patent office read these before granting patterns to someone who is either a liar, a hoaxer or seriusly deluded? “Quantized vortices of lattice ions project… a gravitomagnetic field that forms a spacetime curvature anomaly.” [via Interesting People listserv]

Neurocourage?

Gene turn-off makes meek mice fearless — Deactivating the gene for a brain protein called stathmin makes lab mice more fearless and less quick to learn fear responses to stimuli associated with painful outcomes. The protein destabilizes microtubule structures that help maintain neuronal connectedness. It is thought that such disruption is a basic prerequisite for learning, which occurs through the creation of new neural connections. Thus, mice that lack the protein do not learn to fear as easily. However, in case you were wondering about the obvious, the study suggests that they do not experience interference with other learning experiences because stathmin is largely restricted to the amygdala, where the fear response is thought to be controlled. The researchers said that the fearless mice were, for example, able to learn to navigate through a maze as well as control animals. How convenient to have a protein specific to the learning processes around fear. (There must have been some intelligent design, don’t you think??!! [grin]) (New Scientist)

There are evident implications for humans, if stathmin has the same role in our brain. I doubt, however, that other learning is so distinct from learning the fear response in humans. In the complex learning process that psychotherapy patients undergo in my field, for example, optimal learning is associated with an optimal level of anxiety. If anxiety is reduced too much, there is no motivation to learn, while if it is excessive, the organism is too overwhelmed to acquire, integrate and make available new information. Disrupting the ability to learn to fear certain experiences, I fear, would in humans disrupt overall learning efficiency.

Moreover, the brain’s fear circuitry is absoutely central and phylogenetically ancient. I would imagine we don’t have a clue how much else in CNS function would be disrupted if we found a way to disable stathmin in humans.

A fearless human being without much capacity to incorporate new learning might not be a problem for some, however. The military might very much like to fund some research into deactivating stathmin in humans, to prevent the fear response from paralyzing soldiers in combat. I imagine that Pentagon officials would not lose sleep at night if new learning — thinking for oneself — were concomitantly inhibited in its recruits. How much thought does one need just to follow orders? As the US’s wars get more and more dubious, it becomes harder to fight them with thoughtful people with even the slightest capacity for questioning authority. With the egregious futility adn duplicity of the invasion of Iraq, the Bush regime may have broken the bank at attracting recruits. (One can only hope.)

Some have worried since the ’50’s about the increasing efficiency and subtlety of mind control and the growing ability of powerful governments to turn their citizens into ‘a nation of sheep.’ Plausible deniability is being perfected. Since the Cold War, I have said that the US is not freer than, say, the Soviet Union was. It is just that its efforts to control its citizens (until the Bush dysasdministration’s transparent, egregious and clumsy lies, which rival those of the rather unsubtle Soviet regime) have been more subtle and refined, more difficult to counter, recognize or talk about.

But until now they have remained largely in the realm of propaganda and spin through media manipulation and co-optation of the educational system, etc. Except for small pilot programs like MK Ultra, we have yet to see it exercised on a direct neural basis, unless you believe the folks who walk around in tinfoil hats. And some say that even those are part of a government conspiracy!

Fitzgerald Going Back to Grand Jury

“Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will present evidence next week to a grand jury in his two year-old investigation into the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson in the hopes of securing a criminal indictment against an undetermined number of senior officials in the Bush administration for playing some sort of role in the leak, attorneys who have been working on this case since its inception said.

Adding a new wrinkle in the ongoing drama surrounding a federal probe into the Plame Wilson leak, Bob Woodward, the assistant managing editor of the Washington Post, disclosed that he testified under oath this week before Fitzgerald, stating that he too was told about Plame Wilson’s CIA status in June 2003 by an administration official.” (truthout)

U.S. War Crimes Update

Pentagon Used White Phosphorous in Iraq: “Pentagon officials say white phosphorous was used as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Fallujah last November, but deny an Italian television news report that it was used against civilians.

Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that while white phosphorous is most frequently used to mark targets or obscure a position, it was used at times in Fallujah as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.” (New York Times )

Is Earth in a Space-Time Vortex?

NASA’s Gravity Probe B spacecraft has gathered all the data physicists need to check a bizarre prediction of Einstein’s relativity... Time and space, according to Einstein’s theories of relativity, are woven together, forming a four-dimensional fabric called ‘space-time.’ The tremendous mass of Earth dimples this fabric, much like a heavy person sitting in the middle of a trampoline. Gravity, says Einstein, is simply the motion of objects following the curvaceous lines of the dimple.

If Earth were stationary, that would be the end of the story. But Earth is not stationary. Our planet spins, and the spin should twist the dimple, slightly, pulling it around into a 4-dimensional swirl. This is what GP-B went to space to check…” (NASA)

Ninety-five bishops from President Bush’s church Repent Iraq War ‘Complicity’

” ‘In the face of the United States administration’s rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent,’ said a statement of conscience signed by more than half of the 164 retired and active United Methodist bishops worldwide.

President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, according to various published biographies. The White House did not return a request for comment on the bishops’ statement.

Although United Methodist leadership has opposed the Iraq war in the past, this is the first time that individual bishops have confessed to a personal failure to publicly challenge the buildup to the war.” (FoxNews [sic] via kos [thanks, walker])

Five questions non-Muslims would like answered

Dennis Prager: “Hundreds of millions of non-Muslims want honest answers to these questions, even if the only answer you offer is, “Yes, we have real problems in Islam.” Such an acknowledgment is infinitely better — for you and for the world — than dismissing us as anti-Muslim:

(1) Why are you so quiet?

(2) Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?

(3) Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?

(4) Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?

(5) Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?” ( LA Times op-ed via walker)

Top 10 books on cults and religious extremists

from Sam Jordison, author of the recent The Joy Of Sects – An A-Z of Cults, Cranks and Religious Eccentrics. The list starts out with Mark Twain’s neglected Roughing It, with its portrait of the early Mormon Church. (Anyone interested in the topic has either already read, or is obliged to, Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, which is not on Jordison’s list.) A couple of these caught my eye and have to go on my to-read list:

3. La-Bas (The Damned) by JK Huysman
In the course of his research for this novel Huysman became genuinely entangled with black magic groups. One of the few virtuous characters in La-Bas, a tireless master exorcist called Dr Johannes, was based on a priest, the Abbe Boullan. It only later emerged that this priest, who convinced the writer he was an all round good-egg, was also fond of performing rites involving orgies, incest and bestiality. The novel itself is remarkable: a trawl through the Satanic underworld of fin de siecle Paris complete with evil old cults, dark garrets, unspeakable rites and mad perversions. The prolonged and graphic descriptions of child murder make American Psycho look like Peter Rabbit. A must read – but not after you’ve just eaten.

5. Spying In Guruland by William Shaw
In the early 90s William Shaw took it upon himself to join half a dozen of the stranger British new religious movements, including the delightfully named Chrisemma, the cult of two people called Chris and Emma. I’m pretty jealous of the guts William Shaw demonstrated in getting so deeply involved with so many crazy cult groups and his descriptions of the rigours of life within the Hare Krishna organisation are unforgettable. I don’t envy him all those insanely early mornings, however.

(Parenthetically, I don’t think The Da Vinci Code really belongs on the Top 10 anything list! Jordison includes it, even though he says, “I hate this book almost as much as I love it. It’s literary crack cocaine – reading it does you no good at all, but you just can’t stop.”.) (Guardian.UK via walker)

Are You a Metrospiritual?

“The growing ranks of the hip and holistic are seeking their inner bliss with serious style — Gwyneth Paltrow is one. So are Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio. Chances are your bikram yoga teacher has the major characteristics and so does the guy who makes your fruit smoothie at Jamba Juice. Donna Karan is totally in on it. The salesperson who helps you find the right Botanical Kinetics moisturizer at Aveda is probably one, along with your eco-tourism guide at Costa Rican surf camp. Richard Gere may be the proto-one and Uma Thurman was pretty much born into it. What is influencing Hollywood stars and Wal-Mart shoppers, fashionistas and Filene’s basement-dwellers alike? It’s called metrospirituality, and chances are you already know or even lead the life of a metrospiritual.” (Beliefnet)

The Worst Speech of Bush’s Presidency

“For speechwriters drafting a presidential address for a patriotic holiday such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, or Veterans Day, there are three rules: Don’t be wordy; don’t be wonky; and, most important, don’t be partisan. In his Veterans Day remarks today at the Tobyhanna Army Depot near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, President Bush and his staff broke all three rules, producing a strident speech that went on for almost 50 minutes, included a lengthy comparison of ‘Islamic radicalism’ and ‘the ideology of communism,’ and concluded by attacking ‘some Democrats,’ while taking an implicit shot at ‘my opponent during the last election.’ It may have been the worst speech of his presidency.” — David Kusnet (The New Republic via Common Dreams)

Internet Killed the Alien Star

It’s hard to remember just how large UFOs loomed in the public mind a mere ten years ago, (but if) “you’re looking for one of those famous, big-eyed alien abductors, try looking on the sides of milk cartons. The UFO cultural moment in America is long since over, having gone out with the Clintons and grunge rock in the 90s. Ironically, the force that killed the UFO fad is the same force that catapulted it to super-stardom: the Internet. And therein hangs a tale about how the Internet can conceal and reveal the truth.” (Tech Central Station)