Magic mushrooms ‘less harmful than thought’ and should be reclassified, says leading psychiatrist

RuthArt (CC BY 2.0)

RuthArt (CC BY 2.0)

Charlie Cooper via The Independent:

Psychedelic drugs including LSD and magic mushrooms are much less harmful than has been claimed, and should be reclassified to make it easier for scientists to research their potential benefits, a leading psychiatrist has said.

Promising medical research into psychedelics ground to a halt as long ago as 1967, when they were made illegal amid widespread concern about their psychological and social harms.

However, writing in the BMJ, psychiatrist Dr James Rucker, said that no evidence had ever shown the drugs to be habit-forming. There is also little evidence of harm when used in controlled settings, and a wealth of studies indicating that they have uses in the treatment of common psychiatric disorders, he said.

Researchers are beginning to look again at how LSD and psilocybin – the active compound in magic mushrooms – might be of benefit in the treatment of addiction, for obsessive compulsive disorder and even, according to one small Swiss study, to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety in terminally ill patients.

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Chicago Police Put Antlers on Black Man and Posed for Pictures

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Juan Thompson writes at the Intercept:

The photo shows two white Chicago Police officers posing with an unidentified black man [above]. The officers — Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan — are holding rifles as the black man lies on the floor with a dazed look on his face and with antlers on his head as if he were a prized, big buck finally hunted down.

Finnegan is smiling and grabbing the right antler, while McDermott is holding up the man’s head as if it were his trophy.

The photo was taken in a police station on the West Side of Chicago sometime between 1999 and 2003. The Chicago Police Department successfully kept it hidden from the public until a judge refused to keep it under seal and the Chicago Sun-Times pulled a copy from a court filing. 

Finnigan is a notoriously dirty ex-cop who was a member of the police department’s elite Special Operations Section (SOS) until 2006, when he was charged with leading a gang of fellow officers who robbed suspects, illegally invaded homes and stole thousands of dollars in cash.

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Rebranding Genetic Modification of Plants as ‘Rewilding’

Genetically Modified Grain Rice.jpg

Genetically Modified Grain Rice

Do you remember George Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant!? He was the guy dubbed “the father of framing,” meaning that he taught us how describing an issue in words of our choosing (rather than an opponent’s) defines the debate around it. Scientists who want to genetically modify plants may have been listening to Lakoff as they plan to rebrand their activities as “rewilding,” per the New York Times:

What’s in a name?

A lot, if the name is genetically modified organism, or G.M.O., which many people are dead set against. But what if scientists used the precise techniques of today’s molecular biology to give back to plants genes that had long ago been bred out of them? And what if that process were called “rewilding?”

That is the idea being floated by a group at the University of Copenhagen, which is proposing the name for the process that would result if scientists took a gene or two from an ancient plant variety and melded it with more modern species to promote greater resistant to drought, for example.

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Navigating the Shadow: Psilocybin Mushrooms and Transformation – Free Radical Media

You can also listen to the FRM podcast via Itunes.

In this episode, the Free Radical Media crew is joined by fellow Disinfonaut and host of the AttMind Radio podcast, James W. Jesso. Jesso and the crew discuss the psilocybin mushroom and its potential for transformation, whether that transformation be personal, spiritual, or cultural. Jesso discusses his personal history with the “magic mushroom” and other entheogens in a candid, fun conversation. We also talk about his first book, “Decomposing the Shadow,” as well as his upcoming work ‘The True Light of Darkness.”

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Inside Russia’s Troll Army

Have you noticed the vast number of “Kremlin Trolls” of late? BBC News reports on this latest scourge of the internet:

Over the past year, Russia has seen an unprecedented rise in the activity of “Kremlin trolls” – bloggers allegedly paid by the state to criticise Ukraine and the West on social media and post favourable comments about the leadership in Moscow.

Though the existence and even whereabouts of the alleged “cyber army” are no secret, recent media reports appear to have revealed some details of how one of the tools of Russian propaganda operates on an everyday basis.

Leaving comments about murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was described as a "technical task." Photo: Dhārmikatva (CC)

Leaving comments about murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was described as a “technical task.” Photo: Dhārmikatva (CC)

“Troll den”

The Internet Research Agency (“Agentstvo Internet Issledovaniya”) employs at least 400 people and occupies an unremarkable office in one of the residential areas in St Petersburg.

Behind the plain facade, however, there is a Kremlin “troll den”, an investigative report by independent local newspaper Moy Rayon (“My District”) suggests.

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Facebook’s Real-Name Hellhole: Part 1

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Shit is getting real at Facebook over what people choose to call themselves, but why the controversy has lasted this long leads to even stranger questions.

Native Americans have filed a class action lawsuit against the behemoth’s longstanding, but previously rarely enforced, “real-name” policy. In this case, Facebook suspending the accounts of Native American names that are not Anglicized enough to appear authentic. Over the legal name weirdness, activists like Dana Lone Elk are joined by what some might consider unexpected allies.

In Facebook’s home turf of San Francisco, after what are now being recognized as failed negotiations with the company, the LGBTQ community has redoubled its fight against the company for not only allowing users to go by their drag and trans names, but also for disregarding how their policy affects vulnerable individuals. The legal name policy not only stifles self-expression, but also puts users at risk of bullying, bigotry, or worse.… Read the rest

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Why & How you stop Arctic drilling…

#ShellNo

The drilling and spilling off both coasts weren’t enough. Now, according to Obama and friends, it’s time to take advantage of receding ice and drill, baby, drill in the Arctic – home to 15 billion barrels of oil, and oh you know animals, pristine water, clean air and negligible things like that. Eleanor highlights the efforts of those standing (and sitting) up to the cronies ready to destroy one of the few pure places on this planet, speaking with Bill Moyer of Backbone Campaign and George Edwardson, a leader of the native Inupiat tribe. Wherever you are, join in and say #ShellNO to Arctic drilling!

Click here to see the full episode of Act Out! 

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Can we unlearn social biases while we sleep?

Betsssssy (CC BY 2.0)

Betsssssy (CC BY 2.0)

Xiaoqing Hu, University of Texas at Austin

Your brain does a lot when you are asleep. It’s when you consolidate memories and integrate the things you’ve learned during the day into your existing knowledge structure. We now have lots of evidence that while you are sleeping, specific memories can be reactivated and thus strengthened.

We wondered whether sleep could play a role in undoing implicit social biases. These are the learned negative associations we make through repeat exposure – things like stereotypes about women not being good at science or biases against black people. Research has shown that training can help people learn to counter biases, lessening our knee-jerk prejudices, many of which can operate without our notice. We know from earlier studies that sound can cue the process of memory consolidation. Can this sleep-based memory trick strengthen newly learned information and in turn help reduce or reverse biases?… Read the rest

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The Last Mile: Inside San Quentin’s Tech Incubator

There’s a tech incubator popping up, but it’s not in Silicon Valley—it’s inside San Quentin State Prison. The Last Mile program teaches inmates entrepreneurship skills with the goal that each participant founds a socially conscious, tech-forward company. Award-winning filmmaker Ondi Timoner goes inside the innovative non-profit and follows inmates as they work to craft a business plan, pitch their ideas in front of venture capitalists, and then, transition back into society.

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