Archive | June 3, 2014

Alexander Shulgin, “Godfather of Ecstasy,” Dead at 88

PIC: JonRhanna (CC)

PIC: JonRhanna (CC)

RIP Alexander Shulgin – dead at 88.

He spent three decades synthesizing new psychedelic drugs in his California backyard lab, and he was credited with creating more than 100 previously unknown psychoactive compounds, but he was best known for a drug he didn’t invent:

Ecstasy.

Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, who in the 1970s rescued the circa-1912 pharmaceutical from obscurity by suggesting it would be viable for mental therapy, died yesterday at the age of 88, the organization Erowid announced:

The former Dow Chemical Co. research chemist synthesized drugs with the approval of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which gave him a license to analyze narcotics so that he could be an expert witness.

He said he invented more than 150 drugs while he also worked a day job as a scientific consultant after leaving Dow.

via Sasha Shulgin, “Godfather of Ecstasy,” Dead at 88 | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly.… Read the rest

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Conquering the Stigma Of Mental Illness From Within: Why ‘Suck It Up’ Makes Things Worse

PIC: Pablo Picasso, "Melancholy Woman"

PIC: Pablo Picasso, “Melancholy Woman”

Janice Arenofsky writes at Esperanza:

When Stacy G. was diagnosed with depression, the Calgary mother of two rejected the notion. In her family, mental illness was either a taboo topic or ridiculed with terms like “nut cake” or “nut job.” Stacy blamed her persistent sadness and negativity on a stressful job and pledged to banish this “crappy thing” from her life through sheer determination. Friends told her to think positively, turn herself over to God or push through it.

“You see people every day thinking you should just ‘suck it up’ …,” says Stacy, referring to widely held views that depression is a moral failing or character flaw.

Then a close family friend died, and her “suck it up” strategy stopped working. Once a Type A personality, she became easily fatigued and unable to concentrate or cope with pressure. She couldn’t stop crying. She began to draw away from friends and family, in part from fear of their negative reactions.

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Brain Zapping: The Future of War?

Photo: Michele Eaton 88 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Photo: Michele Eaton 88 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Military tech very often becomes consumer tech, so how long before we see students zapping their brains during exams? Or bond traders? Website editors? … BBC Future says, “Shocking the brain with mild electrical current was once a controversial treatment for the mentally ill. Now evidence is emerging that it could quicken learning and improve attention, and as Emma Young discovers, the US military is very interested in its potential”:

An unusual trial is underway at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio. An airman sits at a monitor in a laboratory, wired up with electrodes, his jacket slung over the back of his chair. Plane-shaped icons keep entering his airspace. He has to decide whether each incoming plane is a friend or a foe. If it’s a foe, he must send a warning. If it flies off, fine. If it doesn’t, he must bring it down.

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Can You Point Out The Flaws In This Recent Article On Tiananmen Square?

NY Book review - Tiananmen 2014 This is an exercise for the public to learn how to distinguish between honest journalism and agenda based writing. To the right is an embedded screenshot of an article on The New York Review of books (20 May, 2014) title ‘Tiananmen: How Wrong We Were’ by Jonathan Mirsky. There are a number of common sense flaws (lack of logic) in the following report that allow people to tell that the author was making up the story. Can you detect those flaws. I left a short comment to point out one of the most prominent flaws, and was deleted minutes later. Before you check for the answer at the bottom of this article, please read the content in this embedded screenshot from the article, and try to identify the flaws yourself to see how good a detective you are...
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On ‘Butthurt’: Are You ‘Butthurt’ If You Think ‘Butthurt’ Is Homophobic Or Misogynistic?

PIC: Lara604 (CC)

PIC: Lara604 (CC)

Mobutu Sese Seko writes at Gawker:

The wages of criticism on the internet is an uphill battle against endless counter-arguments made in bad faith. Bob Costas learned that on Sunday night. He responded to a gun-related murder-suicide with an appeal for gun control. Conservatives howled. You know who else liked gun control? Hitler. Gun control is bad, because anything Hitler favored is bad. Like freeways or crushing communism.

Sadly, Hitler references are almost overwrought at this point. There are analogies. They require books or History Channel episodes. The internet, meanwhile, evolves ever more efficient ways to marginalize arguments. This isn’t new. A few years ago, Bob Costas would have only been “care- and real mad.” But that’s four words. Now he’s just “butthurt.” Goodbye, Mr. Costas.

Although it’s by far the most offensive iteration, “butthurt” is just the latest in line of cop-out dismissals.

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Black Bloc In Brazil To Interrupt World Cup

Illustrazione di un Black BlocCould it be that Black Bloc “members” are football fans (soccer if you’re a Yank)? Apparently they’re going to be in Brazil for the world’s greatest sporting event–the FIFA World Cup–and certain media reports would have it that they’ll be turning the tournament cities into riot zones. From Global Post via The Week:

Their faces hide behind scarves, gas masks, and motorcycle helmets. TV images show them smashing cars, hurling bricks at police, and setting tires ablaze on the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian politicians have claimed they are a national security threat.

But who really are these protesters who plan to run riot at the World Cup as soon as the inaugural game kicks off on June 12?

Brazil’s police allege the militants form an extremist group called the Black Bloc, and say they are watching its leaders. The local press has published exposes claiming that the Black Bloc is funded by foreigners intent on spoiling the nation’s moment of glory.

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Supreme Court Declines To Intercede On Behalf Of Reporter James Risen: What’s Next?

state of warNew York Times reporter James Risen, author of “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration”, won’t give up one of his sources, and now that the Supreme Court won’t hear his case, he could be facing some serious prison time. The Washington Post has a run-down on what’s likely to happen now:

So what does this mean for Risen’s case? Will the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter be sent to prison? What does he have to say about the decision? And how does this fit into the Obama administration’s war on leaks? Here’s a primer on what is going on, where things stand and what could happen next.

Who is James Risen?

Risen is a reporter for the New York Times who writes about national security issues. In 2006, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his stories about the Bush administration’s domestic wiretapping program.  He continues to write about national security, and published a front-page story Sunday about how the National Security Agency is intercepting massive numbers of images shared to social media platforms to use in facial recognition programs.

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Female-Named Hurricanes Kill More Than Ones With Male Names Because People Don’t Respect Them

HurricaneWhat’s in a name? A lot, apparently. People die because they don’t respect hurricanes with female names.

Wait until Hurricane Aretha comes to town.

People don’t take hurricanes as seriously if they have a feminine name and the consequences are deadly, finds a new groundbreaking study.

Female-named storms have historically killed more because people neither consider them as risky nor take the same precautions, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes

Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University examined six decades of hurricane death rates according to gender, spanning  1950 and 2012.  Of the 47 most damaging hurricanes, the female-named hurricanes produced an average of 45 deaths compared to 23 deaths in male-named storms, or almost double the number of fatalities.  (The study excluded Katrina and Audrey, outlier storms that would skew the model).

The difference in death rates between genders was even more pronounced when comparing strongly masculine names versus strongly feminine ones.

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Use Humor To Educate Your Less Tech-Savvy Friends On The Importance Of Net Neutrality

John Oliver’s hilarious segment on net neutrality is a great way to introduce the issue to your less tech-savvy friends, and it finishes with a worthwhile call to action. The FCC is currently soliciting comments on proceeding 14-28, “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet,” and it looks like the public is beginning to rally. Where most proceedings have gathered less than one hundred comments, 14-28 currently numbers over 40,000 filings, and the FCC site itself is barely staying afloat. You can comment by visiting fcc.gov/comments. While you’re there, you might also add your two cents about the proposed TimeWarner-Comcast merger.

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