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The real reason some people become addicted to drugs

Cogent explanation based on the distinction between liking and wanting.

In the 1980s, researchers made a surprising discovery. Food, sex and drugs all appeared to cause dopamine to be released in certain areas of the brain, such as the nucleus accumbens.

This suggested to many in the scientific community that these areas were the brain’s pleasure centers and that dopamine was our own internal pleasure neurotransmitter. However, this idea has since been debunked. The brain does have pleasure centers, but they are not modulated by dopamine.

So what’s going on? It turns out that, in the brain, “liking” something and “wanting” something are two separate psychological experiences. “Liking” refers to the spontaneous delight one might experience eating a chocolate chip cookie. “Wanting” is our grumbling desire when we eye the plate of cookies in the center of the table during a meeting.

Dopamine is responsible for “wanting” – not for “liking.” For example, in one study, researchers observed rats that could not produce dopamine in their brains. These rats lost the urge to eat but still had pleasurable facial reactions when food was placed in their mouths.

All drugs of abuse trigger a surge of dopamine – a rush of “wanting” – in the brain. This makes us crave more drugs. With repeated drug use, the “wanting” grows, while our “liking” of the drug appears to stagnate or even decrease, a phenomenon known as tolerance.

Source: The Conversation

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Ta-Nehisi Coates to Chris Hayes: why Donald Trump really is a white supremacist

‘I think if you own a business that attempts to keep black people from renting from you; if you are reported to say that you don’t want black people counting your money; if you say—and not even reported, just come out and say—that someone can’t judge your case because they are Mexican; if your response to the first black president is that they weren’t born in this country, despite all proof; if you say they weren’t smart enough to go to Harvard Law School, and demand to see their grades; if that’s the essence of your entire political identity you might be a white supremacist, it’s just possible. …’

Source: Quartz

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Scientists Link ‘Cat’ Parasite to Common Neurological Disorders

‘A new study shows that Toxoplasma gondii—a brain parasite often transmitted to humans by cats—triggers various changes in the human brain which potentially allow the pathogen to exacerbate several pre-existing neurological conditions. It’s a worrisome finding given that nearly one in ten Americans may be infected with the parasite, but more work is needed to assess T. gondii’s full impact on human health.

The new research, published recently in Scientific Reports, links T. gondii with several brain conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and even some cancers. The research, which involved 32 scientists across 16 institutions in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, identifies key vulnerabilities in the human brain that enable the parasite to alter the course of a disease, and potentially make it even worse. The findings could eventually serve as a guide to help scientists design medications and interventions to repair and prevent neurological damage inflicted by T. gondii on the human brain…’

Source: Gizmodo

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Peril to Amazonian Indigenous Peoples is Growing

‘They were members of an uncontacted tribe gathering eggs along the river in a remote part of the Amazon. Then, it appears, they had the bad luck of running into gold miners.

Now, federal prosecutors in Brazil have opened an investigation into the reported massacre of about 10 members of the tribe, the latest evidence that threats to endangered indigenous groups are on the rise in the country.

The Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, Funai, said it had lodged a complaint with the prosecutor’s office in the state of Amazonas after the gold miners went to a bar in the town of Tabatinga, near the border with Peru, and bragged about the killings. They brandished a hand-carved paddle that they said had come from the tribe, the agency said…’

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Can American Survive the Drumpf Administration?

 

 

‘…On matters concerning the possible disintegration of democratic norms, I turn to the most urgent and acute text on the subject, “How to Build an Autocracy,” an Atlantic cover story by David Frum published earlier this year. Frum, a senior writer for the magazine (and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush), made the argument in this groundbreaking article that if autocracy came to America, it would be not in the form of a coup but in the steady, gradual erosion of democratic norms. Frum’s eloquent writing and ruthlessly sharp analysis for The Atlantic has made him an indispensably important—perhaps even the leading—conservative critic of President Trump….

I asked Frum to analyze his March cover story. Did he overplay or understate any of the threats? “The thing I got most wrong is that I did not anticipate the sheer chaos and dysfunction and slovenliness of the Trump operation,” he said. “I didn’t sufficiently anticipate how distracted Trump could be by things that are not essential. My model was that he was greedy first and authoritarian second. What I did not see is that he is needy first, greedy second, and authoritarian third. We’d be in a lot worse shape if he were a more meticulous, serious-minded person.”

The Trump presidency is still young, but we thought it would be worthwhile to ask several writers to assess its first several months. Eliot A. Cohen, who served in the State Department under George W. Bush, examines how Trump has affected America’s global standing; Jack Goldsmith, who served as a high official in the Bush Justice Department, investigates the possible damage Trump has done to American institutions. And our national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates refracts the Trump presidency through the prism of race…’

 

 

Source: The Atlantic

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Great Apes Know When They Don’t Know

‘It’s a familiar problem: you leave the house and while closing the door, the question whether the stove was turned on or off pops up in your head. Although annoying, this problem could easily be solved by turning around and taking a second look. This simple example illustrates an important form of thinking: metacognition or the ability to monitor ones’ own mental states. Before turning around, you assess whether you remember the state of the stove. Once you realize that you don’t remember, you seek additional information. Importantly, in humans, this monitoring process is very flexible and can be applied to all sorts of thoughts, not just the ones about your stove. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of St. Andrews asked what great apes would do when they are confronted with such a situation…’

Source: Neuroscience News

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What to Do if You Encounter a Murderous Clown

‘We here at io9 take clown safety very seriously, so we wanted to familiarize everyone with a) how to differentiate between harmless human clowns and their (much more) murderous cousins; and b) how to confront a clown should the situation call for it. Remember, people, clowns are much less afraid of you than you are of them, so it’d behoove you to have a game plan at the ready unless you’re trying to get got…’

Source: io9

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When to Say No to a Police Officer

‘…It’s easier for a white nurse than a black motorist to say no to a cop. Last weekend Alex Wubbels, a nurse at University University Hospital in Salt Lake City refused a cop’s orders to draw blood from an unconscious patient. Wubbels had hospital policy on her side as well as her supervisor’s support, and the cop still handcuffed her and tossed her in the back of a squad car until cooler heads prevailed.

She was right to say no to the officer’s demands, and there has been an outpouring of support nationwide for her standing firm in the face of police bullying and ultimately assault—support that is often conspicuously absent when the victim of police brutality is a person of color.

It is much easier for a person in a position of relative privilege to refuse to comply with a cop’s demands, and every person must gauge their own level of risk in interactions of cops—your safety is your number-one concern, and everyone must make their decisions accordingly. Nonetheless, there are some interactions with police when civilians are within their legal rights to say no. I spoke with Jason Williamson, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, about when we may legally say no to police.

1. When they ask for your consent to search your person, your car, or your home…

2. When they ask you for more information than your name and your driver’s license (and car registration and insurance, if you’re pulled over)…

3. When they ask you to do something illegal (a la Alex Wubbels)…

4. When they try to ask you questions after you are under arrest…

5. When they want to listen when you call your lawyer…

6. When they ask your immigration status or if they ask you to sign something…’

Source: Lifehacker

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Stop Faking Service Dogs

‘…I encounter dogs that are blatantly not service animals on a daily basis. Recently, during a morning visit to my local café, I laughed when a woman whose tiny dog was thrashing around at the limits of its leash and barking fiercely at other customers loudly proclaimed that it was a service animal. “It’s my service dog,” she said to me, scowling. “You’re not allowed to ask me why I need it!”

Data backs my anecdote up. A study conducted at the University of California at Davis found that the number of “therapy dogs” or “emotional support animals” registered by animal control facilities in the state increased 1,000 percent between 2002 and 2012. In 2014, a supposed service dog caused a U.S. Airways flight to make an emergency landing after repeatedly defecating in the aisle. A Google News search for “fake service dog” returns more than 2.2 million results.

This has recently led state governments to try and curb the problem through law. In Massachusetts, a House bill seeks to apply a $500 fine to pet owners who even falsely imply that their animal may be a service dog. In California, the penalty is $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Twelve states now have laws criminalizing the misrepresentation of a pet as a service animal. That’s good, but with all the confusion surrounding what a service dog actually is, there’s less and less protection for their unique status.

A new bill introduced to the Senate this summer by Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin threatens to add to the confusion even more. If it becomes law, you’ll be able to take any animal on a plane simply by telling the airline that it’s an ESA. Alarmingly, the bill seems to include ESAs in its definition of service animals.

Look, I get the desire to bring your pet along with you everywhere you go. My dogs are as important to me as my friends and family. The first criteria my girlfriend and I apply to where we eat, drink, and travel is whether our dogs can enjoy it with us. But out of respect for the needs of disabled people, for the incredible work that real service dogs perform, and for the people managing and patronizing these businesses, we will not lie. We do not take our pets places where they’re not welcome. We never want to compromise the ability of a service dog to perform its essential duties.

As an animal lover, don’t you want the same thing? …’

Source: Outside Online

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Please, please stop sharing spaghetti plots of hurricane models

Technical discussion of why you should not believe everything you hear about the projected plots of Hurricanes:

‘…spaghetti plots are not good decision-making tools. Sorry, they’re just not. To understand why, let’s take a look at the models on Nate Silver’s plot, which he shared with his 2.5 million followers at 7:34pm ET Tuesday:

XTRP: This is not a model. It is simply a straight-line extrapolation of the storm’s current direction at 2pm Tuesday.

TVCN, TVCX: These are useful, as they are consensus forecasts of global model tracks. NHC: This is the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

TABD, TABM, TABS: These are simple statistical models, which are essentially useless for track forecasting.

NVGM: Useful, but the model is from about 8am ET, or 12 hours before Silver posted the graphic. Wildly out of date.

HMON: This is NOAA’s new hurricane model, but it was badly wrong during Hurricane Harvey. Also 12 hours old. Essentially useless.

HWRF: This is NOAA’s primary hurricane model, and while it’s OK, it is nearly 12 hours old. Not useful.

COTC: A version of the US Navy’s global model, which is kind of meh for hurricanes and is 12 hours old.

AVNO, AEMN: Two variants of NOAA’s premiere global model, the GFS. Both are worth looking at, but again the forecasts are 12 hours old.

CMC, CEMN: Two variants of the Canadian global model, which is worth looking at, but again the forecasts are 12 hours old.

UKM: The UK Met Office’s global model, which is definitely worth looking at. But the forecasts are 12 hours old.

CLP5: Not a model at all. Just a forecast based on where storms in this location historically go.

This is the essential problem with spaghetti plots. To the untrained eye, all models are created equal, when they most certainly are not. Plots like this also often include forecasts that are 12 or more hours old, which is generally out of date when it comes to hurricanes. Finally, the world’s most accurate model, the European forecast system, is proprietary and not included on such plots.So what should you do? First and foremost, pay attention to the National Hurricane Center, which publishes updated track and intensity forecasts every six hours. I know a lot of these forecasters personally, and they are absolute pros without agendas who dedicate their summers to getting these forecasts right. There are no absolutes in track and intensity forecasts, and there is a lot of uncertainty. They understand all of this as well as anyone can…’

Source: Ars Technica

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Boasting of His Experience, 6-Year-Old Makes Heartfelt Application for Lego Job

‘After Legoland Windsor posted a job listing earlier this year seeking designers to help create animated Lego figures, staff at the British theme park received one application that really caught their eye.

“I am the man [for] the job because I have lots of experience,” wrote a confident Stanley Bolland in a handwritten note.

“I am 6 years old,” he wrote.

According to the BBC, the Legoland job listing had sought applicants with “experience in product design, IT and design packages, as well as an ‘interest or knowledge about Lego and creation of Lego models.’”…

In his letter, Stanley, who lives in the town of Waterlooville, England, cited his one box of Lego blocks ― which he said he hides “so my brother can’t get it” ― as evidence of his experience. …’

Source: HuffPost

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How the Summer of Love helped give birth to the Religious Right

Neil J. Young writes:

‘Sex, drugs, and — Jesus? It’s not what the Summer of Love generally calls to mind. But of all the things that came out of San Francisco in 1967, perhaps none was more unexpected, or more consequential, than the Jesus Freaks or, as they were more commonly known, the Jesus People.

While they would give up their drugs and promiscuous sex, the Jesus People retained much of their countercultural ways, bringing their music, dress, and laid-back style into the churches they joined. Their influence would remake the Sunday worship experience for millions of Americans. As the historian Larry Eskridge has argued, today’s evangelical mega-churches with their rock bands blasting praise music and jeans-wearing pastors “are a direct result of the Jesus People movement.” …’

Source: Vox

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R.I.P. Walter Becker

 

Co-Founder of Steely Dan Dies at 67

JON PARELES writes:

‘Walter Becker, the guitarist and songwriter who made suavely subversive pop hits out of slippery jazz harmonies and verbal enigmas in Steely Dan, his partnership with Donald Fagen, died on Sunday. He was 67.

His death was announced on his official website, which gave no other details. He lived in Maui, Hawaii…’ Source:  NYTimes.com

Although he was a few years ahead of me, Becker and I went to the same high school, although it wasn’t until after high school that I discovered my passion for Steely Dan.

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R.I.P. John Ashbery; Hear Him Read “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror”

 

Dan Colman writes:

‘Poet John Ashbery has passed away, at the age of 90. About the poet, Harold Bloom once said. “No one now writing poems in the English language is likelier than Ashbery to survive the severe judgment of time. He is joining the American sequence that includes Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens and Hart Crane.” 

In 1976, Ashbery won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Above, you can hear him read the title poem, his masterpiece. The Guardian calls “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” a densely written epic about art, time and consciousness that was inspired by the 16th century Italian painting of the same name.” The text of the poem appears on the Poetry Foundation website…’ Source: Open Culture

 

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Independent Analysis on Supplements

This could be the best site to scratch your itch about nutritional supplements:

‘What is Examine.com? 

We were frustrated. There was no place we could turn to in order to get unbiased information on supplements. Sure, there was Wikipedia, but it wasn’t getting deep into the science.
Everyone else? Had an agenda. Supplement companies misrepresenting science. Media sensationalizing headlines. Companies and individuals pushing unneeded supplements and other products onto you.

That’s why Examine.com started in 2011. Fully independent from the start, we’ve never sold any supplements. Or done any coaching or consulting. Or any kind of advertising or sponsorship.

Our goal from day 1 has always been: read the research, make sense of it, and put it online. We’re an education company that looks at the research — nothing more, nothing less. …’

Source: Examine.com

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The Photos the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Don’t Want You to See

Nicholas Kristof writes:

‘Let’s be blunt: With U.S. and U.K.
complicity, the Saudi government is
committing war crimes in Yemen.

“The country is on the brink of famine, with over 60 percent of the population not knowing where their next meal will come from,” the leaders of the U.N. World Food Program, Unicef and the World Health Organization said in an unusual joint statement.

Yemen, always an impoverished country, has been upended for two years by fighting between the Saudi-backed military coalition and Houthi rebels and their allies (with limited support from Iran). The Saudis regularly bomb civilians and, worse, they have closed the airspace and imposed a blockade to starve the rebel-held areas into submission.

That means that ordinary Yemenis, including children, die in bombings or starve….’

Source: The New York Times