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viernes, 15 de noviembre de 2013

Messing with Our Minds

Messing with Our Minds: Psychiatric Drugs, Cyberspace and “Digital Indoctrination”

By Greg Guma

El presente ensayo de Greg Guma puede resultar perturbador. Por un lado, al parecer en Estados Unidos se dispara el número de personas a las que se les diagnostica una enfermedad mental. El uso de antipsicóticos ha dejado en el camino a los tratamientos contra el colesterol. Me ha llamado particularmente la atención el efecto de drogas usadas en psiquiatría que según la investigadora Nancy Andreasen, deterioran la corteza pre frontal. Ya se sabía que los antidepresivos pueden desencadenar cuadros maníacos. Pero dejando a un lado las neurociencias y la farmacolgía con la que se pretende modificar el funcionamiento cerebral, hay otros sectores a quienes les interesa, y mucho, llegar a conectar directamente con el órgano que nos hace ser personas. Suena a historieta cyberborg pero no van por allí los tiros.Se trata de realidades no virtuales.

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"Brain-altering drugs and digital “indoctrination” pose a potential threat not only to the stability of many individuals but of society itself.
At least 10 percent of all Americans over six-years-old are on antidepressants. That’s more than 35 million people, double the number from less than two decades ago. Anti-psychotics have meanwhile eclipsed cholesterol treatments as the country’s fastest selling and most profitable drugs, even though half the prescriptions treat disorders for which they haven’t been proven effective. At least 5 million children and adolescents use them, in part because more kids are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

This raises some troubling issues: Are a growing number of people experiencing psychological troubles? Have we just become better at recognizing them? Or is some other dynamic at work?

One possibility is that the criteria for what constitutes a mental illness or disability may have expanded to the point that a vast number appear to have clinical problems. But there’s an even more insidious development: the drugs being used to treat many of the new diagnoses could cause long-term effects that persist after the original trouble has been resolved. That’s the case made by Robert Whitaker in his book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.
Speaking of long-term impacts on the brain, we’re also heading toward a world where humans are directly linked with computers that profoundly influence their perceptions and ideas. Despite many potential benefits, there is danger here as well. Rather than simply augmenting our memories by providing neutral information, the brain-computer connection may lead people into separate realities based on their assumptions and politics.

Brain-altering drugs and digital “indoctrination” – a potent combination. Together, they pose a potential threat not only to the stability of many individuals but of society itself. Seduced by the promise that our brains can be managed and enhanced without serious side-effects, we may be creating a future where psychological dysfunction becomes a post-modern plague and powerful forces use cyberspace to reshape “reality” in their private interest.

Do prescription drugs create new mental problems? And if so, how could it be happening? For Whitaker the answer lies in the effects of drugs on neurotransmitters, a process he calls negative feedback. When a drug blocks neurotransmitters or increases the level of serotonin, for instance, neurons initially attempt to counteract the effects. When the drug is used over a long period, however, it can produce “substantial and long-lasting alterations in neural function,” claims Steven Hyman, former director of the National Institutes of Mental Health. The brain begins to function differently. Its ability to compensate starts to fail and side effects created by the drug emerge.

What comes next? More drugs and, along with them, new side effects, an evolving chemical mixture often accompanied by a revised diagnosis. According to Marcia Angell, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, it can go this way: use of an antidepressant leads to mania, which leads to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which leads to the prescription of mood stabilizers. Through such a process people can end up taking several drugs daily for many years.

What may happen after that is deeply troubling. Researcher Nancy Andreasen claims the brain begins to shrink, an effect she links directly to dosage and duration. “The prefrontal cortex doesn’t get the input it needs and is being shut down by drugs,” she explained in The New York Times. “That reduces the psychotic symptoms.” But the pre-frontal cortex gradually atrophies.

Anyone who has been on the psychiatric drug roller coaster understands some of the ride’s risks and how hard it can be to get off. But the new implication is that we may be experiencing a medically-induced outbreak of brain dysfunction caused by the exploding use of drugs. One big unanswered question at the moment: What does Big Pharma really know, and when did they learn it?

Drug companies are not the only ones experimenting with our brains. Bold research is also being pursued to create brain-computer interfaces that can help people overcome problems like memory loss. According to writer Michael Chorost, author of World Wide Mind and interface enthusiast who benefited from ear implants after going deaf, we may soon be directly connected to the Internet through neural implants. It sounds convenient and liberating. Ask yourself a question and, presto, there’s the answer. Google co-founder Larry Page can imagine a not-too-distant future in which you simply think about something and “your cell phone whispers the answer in your ear.”

Beyond the fact that this could become irritating, there’s an unspoken assumption that the information received is basically unbiased, like consulting an excellent encyclopedia or a great library catalog. This is where the trouble starts. As Sue Halperin noted in a New York Review of Books essay, “Mind Control and the Internet,” Search engines like Google use an algorithm to show us what’s important. But even without the manipulation of marketing companies and consultants who influence some listings, each search is increasingly shaped to fit the profile of the person asking. If you think that we both get the same results from the same inquiry, guess again.

What really happens is that you get results assembled just for you. Information is prioritized in a way that reinforces one’s previous choices, influenced by suggested assumptions and preferences. As Eli Pariser argues in The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, environmental activists and energy executives get very different listings when they inquire about climate science. It looks and feels “objective” but they’re being fed data that fits with their existing view – and probably not seeing much that conflicts.

A study discussed in Sociological Quarterly looked at this development by following attitudes about climate science over a decade. Here’s a strange but significant finding: Although a consensus emerged among most scientists over the years, the number of Republicans who accepted their conclusion dropped. Why? Because the Republicans were getting different information than the Democrats and others who embraced the basic premise. In other words, their viewpoint was being reflected back at them.

Does this sound dangerous? Pariser thinks so, and suggests that the type of reinforcement made common by search engines is leading to inadvertent self-indoctrination. For democracy to function effectively, people need exposure to various viewpoints, “but instead we’re more and more enclosed in our own bubbles,” he writes. Rather than agreeing on a set of shared facts we’re being led deeper into our different worlds.

Whether this is a problem depends somewhat on your expectations. For some people it is merely a bump in the road, a faltering step in the inevitable evolution of human consciousness. Techno-shamen and other cosmic optimists see the potential of drug-induced enlightenment and an Internet-assisted “hive mind,” and believe that the long-term outcome will be less violence, more trust, and a better world. But others have doubts, questioning whether we’ll really end up with technological liberation and a psychic leap forward. It could go quite differently, they worry. We could instead see millions of brain-addled casualties and even deeper social polarization".
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Nancy Andreasen
She is a prominent neuroscientist and psychiatrist. Throughout her career she has successfully integrated interests in the arts and sciences. Her Ph.D. is in English literature, with specialization in Renaissance literature. Her first book was "John Donne: Conservative Revolutionary." After spending five years as an English professor, she changed fields, attended medical school, and began her career as a physician-neuroscientist.
Her research spans multiple topics, including creativity, spirituality, neuroimaging, genomics, and the natural history and neural mechanisms of schizophrenia. Her career has been marked by many "firsts": the first quantitative Magnetic Resonance (MR) study of schizophrenia; development of the first scales to measure the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia; the first modern empirical study of creativity that examined familial and environmental factors, cognition, and relationship with mental illness; and the first study to combine genomic techniques with neuroimaging techniques.
She has also contributed to the area of psychiatric diagnosis by serving on both the DSM III and DSM IV Task Forces. She was responsible for building the foundations for the study of stress disorders by writing the definition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for DSM III.
She is past president of the American Psychopathological Association and the Psychiatric Research Society. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and was elected to serve on its governing council for two four year terms. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Society for Neuroscience.
She was awarded the President’s National Medal of Science in 2000. She has also received many other awards, including the Interbrew-Baillet-Latour Prize from the Belgian government, the Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat Prize from the Institute of Medicine, the Lieber Prize for Outstanding Schizophrenia Research, the Sigmund Freud Award from the American College of Psychoanalysis, the Kolb Award and the Sachar Award from Columbia University. The American Psychiatric Association has awarded her its Prize for Research, its Kempf Award for Mentoring, the Hibbs Award, it Adolph Meyer Award, and its Distinguished Service Award. She has received the Stanley Dean Award from The American College of Psychiatrists, as well as its Distinguished Service Award. Most recently, Dr. Andreasen won the Vanderbilt Prize for Biological Science and Mentoring. She was Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Psychiatry for 13 years, completing her third term in 2005.


martes, 12 de noviembre de 2013

Kuba pronostica los huracanes

Paisaje costero. Cuba.
El Centro Nacional de Pronósticos del Instituto de Meteorología logra desde hace varios años un promedio de efectividad superior al 92 por ciento superior al resultado de países insulares desarrollados como Inglaterra y Japón, según José Rubiera, director de dicho centro.
El Doctor José Rubiera explicó a este blog que tal resultado científico "es el producto de la labor de un colectivo de más de 40 doctores, másteres, ingenieros y licenciados, entre quienes se incluye un grupo de jóvenes que ha ingresado al centro y lo ha fortalecido".
«Esa efectividad que acumulamos en nuestra institución —rango de nivel mundial— constituye otro éxito de la obra revolucionaria cubana», comentó.
Rubiera se graduó en 1974 como licenciado, en 1991 como Doctor, y desde 1988 dirige el Centro de Pronósticos. Es vicepresidente del Comité de Huracanes de la Organización Meteorológica Mundial en la región.
Igualmente es Profesor Titular de la Cátedra de Meteorología en el Instituto Superior de Tecnología Aplicada en La Habana, y comunicador meteorológico de la Televisión Cubana.
Ha pronosticado, según él, «con la intención de acertar cada vez más», no menos de 20 huracanes y tormentas tropicales importantes que han amenazado o azotado a Cuba.(Con información de L. Hernández)

A Perfect Typhoon and the Climate Change

Global Warming and the Ideology of Anthropogenic (Human Caused) Climate Change

By James Divine

La catástrofe provocada por el tifón Haiyan en distintas zonas de Asia, en las islas de Filipina particularmente, con cerca de 10,000 muertos, ha desatado una rápida reacción internacional para contribuir a paliar la situación de los miles de damnificados. Desgraciadamente, a la hora de tomar medidas preventivas frente al cambio climático las potencias más industrializadas esquivan el bulto. No saben o no contestan. Estados Unidos será en unos años el mayor productor de petróleo. Brasil no va a la saga. Rusia, que es dueña de un continente, tiene encerrados de mala manera a 30 activistas de Greenpeace por llamar la atención sobre la necesidad de protección del Océano Ártico. La tragedia que hoy mueve a compasión debería hacer pensar en medidas tecnológicas. En inversiones inteligentes. Y por cierto, no doy un euro para ayuda: que los suelten a chorros gordos el FMI, Wall Street, el Chicago Board of Trade, Coca-Cola McDonalds, los del club ese  que reúne empresarios y testas semi coronadas, creo que Bidelberg o algo por el estilo, and of course Mr. Obama, Master of the Planet. Los inversores desaforados que dicen que están acabando con su codicia con lo único que nos pertenece, la Tierra a la que tarde o temprano regresamos.

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The purpose of this work is to provide an investigation into the ideology of anthropogenic (human caused) climate change.
It has been written with the confidence that further research within the public, as well as the academic realm is required. Furthermore, the investigative strategy incorporated in this paper serves to provide a starting place for additional investigation. Therefore, the foundational reason for this work is to empower the understanding of the readership.

“We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent    facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it...And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand  its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to  permit to the extent that it is in my control.”  John F. Kennedy
To initiate an evidentiary inquiry into geopolitical decision making, one must first understand the causal relations that frame how a scientific issue is presented, addressed and subsequently dismissed. Of importance, is the distinction between sound science and methods motivated by political self interest. In the case of the former, the observer maintains a qualitative standard founded upon the premise that such an investigation will enhance the comprehensive intelligence within their respective discipline. In the case of the latter, the observer upholds a personal standard founded upon the ideology that this method will satisfy their self-interest and accelerate their ascendance to academic prominence. Thus, to value the integrity of the former method, the current directive must be to inspire a holistic understanding within the readership, as well as to identify the inconsistencies that arise within the discourse pertaining to anthropogenic climate change.

To further clarify, the guiding principals and intent of this work is to transform power. Since the prevailing dominant discourse derives its influence through maintaining ignorance, a praxis grounded upon intellectual empowerment is the most effective use of this knowledge. This investigation begins with an analysis of inconsistencies documented by official sources.
First to be examined is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is the prerogative of NASA to research and identify causal forces within Earth’s solar system. NASA identifies multivariate concerns over uncertainties pertaining to potential causal forces influencing climate change. “There’s a great deal that we don’t know about the future of Earth’s climate and how climate change will affect humans”, including the impacts of solar irradiance, aerosols/dust/smoke, clouds, the carbon cycle, ocean circulation, precipitation and sea level rise (NASA 2013). As illustrated by researcher Victor Herrera of the Institute of Geophysics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, this statement by NASA is critical for “the models and forecasts of the UN IPCC are incorrect because they only are based on mathematical models and presented results at scenarios that do not include, for example, solar activity” (Morano 2008, pg 4). To omit such an influential contributor to climate change as the sun would inherently bias statistical models in favour of anthropogenic theorizing. NASA’s admission is important  for it sets the groundwork for a genuine understanding on climate change.

A secondary piece of pertinent evidence is a report issued in 2012 by the United Kingdom’s National Weather Service. In this report, Colin Morice et al. state: “this model cannot take into account structural uncertainties arising from data set construction methodologies. It is clear that a full description of uncertainties in near-surface temperature, including those uncertainties arising from differing methodologies, requires that independent studies of near-surface temperatures should be maintained” (Morice, 2012, pg 5). This is important for the scientists involved clearly state the limitations of their chosen methodology, ie the HADCRUT4 data set, and recommend that independent research be conducted to affirm their findings.

David Rose, reporting for the UK’s Daily Mail, incorporated the graphs from this study into an article he wrote entitled Global Warming Stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report. Rose also interviews a number of climate scientists who express uncertainty regarding the accuracy of climate modeling.
These interviews include “Professor Phil Jones, [former] director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia... [who] admitted that he and his colleagues did not understand the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun” (Rose 2012). Professor Phil Jones is the same individual “who found himself the centre of the ‘Climategate’ scandal over leaked emails..” (Rose 2012).

In these emails, Jones, in association with Michael Mann and other collaborators, communicate their intention to censor academic papers via intervening in the IPCC peer review process, as well as manipulate statistical data to conform to inaccurate climate forecast models. In a 2009 email correspondence between Kevin Trenberth and Michael Mann, Trenberth states: “the fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t... Our observing system is inadequate” (Global Research 2009). As identified in the introduction, the actions of Jones and Mann perfectly illustrate the ideal of scientists working for academic self interest and not for the benefit of scientific understanding.
Arising from this case of intellectual manipulation is collateral damage. The scientific discipline of climate change and the severe ways upon which human beings are impacted by it, are dismissed in favour of the expert management of human populations. In the dominant discourse, additional issues such as globalization, corporatism, effective waste management, public health impacts, fresh water scarcity and natural resource privatization are often conveniently omitted. This practice of academic self interest attempts to discredit legitimate science while effectively empowering an environment of division, disinformation and subsequently, ignorance. It is within such an environment that opportunists thrive, pseudo-scientists whose rhetorical machinations frame the discourse of public opinion.

“[Thus it has become the case that] our government’s science and technology policy is now  guided by uniformed and emotion-driven public opinion rather than by sound scientific advice.  Unfortunately, this public opinion is controlled by the media, a group of scientific illiterates    drunk with power, heavily influenced by irrelevant political ideologies, and so misguided as to  believe that they are more capable than the scientific community of making scientific decisions”    (Cohen 1984, pg 59).
A classic example, is Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former United States vice president Al Gore. A significant proponent of anthropogenic climate change, Gore also happens to be a major benefactor  (The Telegraph). According to the Capital Research Centre’s publication Foundation Watch, “along with Gore, the co-founder of GIM [Generation Investment Management] is former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson...[In September 2006] Goldman Sachs bought 10% of CCX [Chicago Climate Exchange] shares for $23 million. CCX owns half of the European Climate Exchange (ECX), Europe’s largest carbon trading company...” (Barnes 2007, pg 4). This sale occurred the same year Al Gore released the film An Inconvenient Truth, which claims both a scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, as well as pushing the need to offset carbon emissions via green investments. (Freeman 2007, pg 29).  In fact, the Executive Intelligence Review reports that “Al Gore spoke at the May 2005 INCR [Investors Network on Climate Risk] Investors Summit at the United Nations, in his capacity as Chairman of his Generation Investment Management. He called for following the model of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, which started up in 2005. Monetize emissions; trade them; reduce them, was Gore’s mantra” (Freeman 2007, pg 29).
Upon further analysis, Foundation Watch affirms that “like CCX, the European Climate Exchange has about 80 member companies, including Barclays, BP, Calyon, E.ON UK, Endesa, Fortis, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Shell, and ECX has contracted with the European Union to further develop a future market in carbon trading” (Barnes 2007, pg 4). It is apparent that several significant benefactors are among the most powerful captains of banking, business and industry. The benefits they incur via the successful management of government policy and mainstream environmental activism is enormous and therein is the real inconvenient truth.
Therefore it is evident that the intentional manipulation of a scientific subject, can be designed to both generate a public reaction, as well as to benefit private interests. However, the real danger is when rhetorical mechanisms infiltrate the common sense of a particular population and influences that populations’ moral consciousness.(To read the article, please visit the corresponding URL)