The Ketamine Key

415px-Ketamine2

K-holes for everyone!

via Psychology Today:

As with everything in the brain, the story isn’t so simple as a single neurotransmitter system like dopamine. Neurotransmitters have complex interactions. Another system using the neurotransmitter glutamate has always been known to be at the heart of depressive disorders. Glutamateis the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, meaning it is the “on” switch. Problem is, if things are put “on” too aggressively or too much, you get what is called “excitotoxicity” leading to neuron damage and even cell death. There’s some evidence that glutamate overload of glutamate receptors like the NMDA receptor may be responsible for the key symptom of depression, anhedonia. Chronic stress seems to damage the nerve synapses.

In a recent paper (news coverage here), researchers described how they used a noncompetitive inhibitor of the NMDA receptor and partial dopamine receptor agonist, ketamine (originally developed as a tranquilizer/anesthetic agent that is now used mostly in veterinary practice and sometimes in children) to rapidly reverse the symptoms of anhedonia in depressed patients.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Is Obama Stalling Until Republicans Can Bury the CIA Torture Report?

difi-article-display-b

Dan Froomkin writes at the Intercept:

Continued White House foot-dragging on the declassification of a much-anticipated Senate torture report is raising concerns that the administration is holding out until Republicans take over the chamber and kill the report themselves.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s intelligence committee sent a 480-page executive summary of its extensive report on the CIA’s abuse of detainees to the White House for declassification more than six months ago.

In August, the White House, working closely with the CIA, sent back redactions that Feinstein and other Senate Democrats said rendered the summary unintelligible and unsupported.

Since then, the wrangling has continued behind closed doors, with projected release dates repeatedly falling by the wayside.  The Huffington Post reported this week that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, a close ally of CIA Director John Brennan, is personally leading the negotiations, suggesting keen interest in their progress — or lack thereof — on the part of  Brennan and President Obama.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Amnesty: US Human Rights Abuses on Display in Ferguson

ferguson_ai

Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams:

In a report released on Friday, Amnesty International roundly condemns the excessive force used by local law enforcement agencies in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this year and called for ‘accountability and systemic change’ in order to curb the kinds of human rights abuses increasingly seen in U.S. communities when it comes to regulating street protests and use of force by police.

The report—entitled On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson (pdf)—documents the human rights concerns witnessed first-hand by Amnesty investigators dispatched to Ferguson following initial protests in the city spurred by the shooting death of an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, by a police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The Amnesty team arrived and documented public protest and the behavior of local law enforcement from  August 14 to August 22.

Amnesty’s report makes takes no position or determination on the killing of Brown, but says the shooting and his death “highlighted on a national level the persistent and widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers across the United States, including unjustified stops and searches, ill treatment and excessive, and sometimes lethal, use of force.”

Focused on both the community response to Brown’s death and the subsequent police reaction to protests, the report’s authors present what they witnessed first-hand in Ferguson in order to highlight some of the national trends of human rights abuses that often, though with less attention, take place in U.S.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The British-American coup that ended Australian independence

Prime minister Gough Whitlam watches ACTU president Bob Hawke drink beer from a yard glass Melbourne, Australia, 1972. Photograph: News Ltd/Newspix/REX

Prime minister Gough Whitlam watches ACTU president Bob Hawke drink beer from a yard glass Melbourne, Australia, 1972. Photograph: News Ltd/Newspix/REX

via The Guardian:

Across the media and political establishment in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The Difference Between a Great Horror Movie and a Great Halloween Movie

trick-treat-630x420

via Screen Crush:

I never watch ‘Halloween’ on Halloween.

That’s not to say that I dislike John Carpenter’s slasher classic. In fact, it’s one of the best horror movies ever made and a masterpiece that I find myself revisiting at least once a year. But when I do revisit it, I tend to watch it in December. Or February. Or even in the heat of the July. The moment October rolls around, I shelve any interest I have in it.

And it’s not alone. You won’t find me revisiting a lot of famous, respected and beloved horror movies when the season of the witch rolls around. No ‘Exorcist.’ No ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ None of those brutal French or Japanese movies that horror buffs like to spring on their unsuspecting friends. The Halloween season brings out something different in me. It focuses my tastes for 31 days. I don’t spend my October watching tons of horror movies, I like to spend my October watching tons of Halloween movies.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Digital Afterlife: 2045

Excerpt from Richard Weber’s History of Religion and Inequality in the 21st Century (2056)

Excerpt from Richard Weber’s History of Religion and Inequality in the 21st Century (2056)

via The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:

Of all the bewildering diversity of new of consumer choices on offer before the middle of the century that would have stunned people from only a generation earlier, none was perhaps as shocking as the many ways there now were to be dead. As in all things of the 21st century what death looked like was dependent on the wealth question.

Certainly, there were many human beings, and when looking at the question globally, the overwhelming majority, who were treated in death the same way their ancestors had been treated. Buried in the cold ground, or, more likely given high property values that made cemetery space ever more precious, their corpses burned to ashes, spread over some spot sacred to the individual’s spirituality or sentiment.

A revival of death relics that had begun in the early 21st century continued for those unwilling out of religious belief, or more likely, simply unable to afford any of the more sophisticated forms of death on offer.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Dreams of the Universe: Is Particle Physics Unscientific?

From string theory to the multiverse, the theories of modern physics look increasingly exotic and untestable. But while they may be good for selling books, are they bad science? Do we need a return to empirical experiment, or should imagination be allowed its playground?

The Panel
Cambridge string theorist David Tong, experimental physicist Tara Shears, and author of The End of Science John Horgan seek the place where facts and fantasy collide.

This lecture was submitted via the Disinfo contact page.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Ebola News Gives Me a Guilty Thrill. Am I Crazy?

Ebola virus. (Photo: NIAID/Flickr)

Ebola virus. (Photo: NIAID/Flickr)

via Pacific Standard:

Folks speak blithely about their guilty pleasures. But if you get a little thrill when you contemplate the worldwide obliteration of society in a horrific Armageddon, have you crossed a line from “person with a guilty pleasure” to “person who is a dangerous psychopath”?

This was a question that wrecked most of one afternoon following a discussion of Ebola with some co-workers. We were brainstorming ideas for stories about the awful pandemic, and the topic of American preparedness came up. Although Ebola seems decently isolated on our shores, public health officials are girding our infrastructure for worst-case scenarios.

I made the following confession: Although obviously the West African Ebola crisis sickens and saddens me, and although I of course don’t want Ebola to run rampant … whenever I hear about the idea of our nation crumbling in an apocalyptic plague, I get an amoral twinge of excitement.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake: More U.S. Cities Are Banning Feeding the Homeless

US Navy 060526-N-5142K-011 New York Fleet Week 2006, Community Service EffortI’m regularly asked for something to eat by people on the subway or on the streets of New York City. Complying with such a request may well be illegal before long if a trend in other American cities expands. Story from Yahoo News:

Reading through the latest report from the National Coalition for the Homeless might spark one of those moments when you wonder, what would Marie Antoinette say? French peasants who had no bread to eat were so enraged by rumors that their queen uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake” that she ended up decapitated. Well, the coalition’s modern-day researchers found that since January 2013, 21 cities have restricted or flat-out banned feeding the homeless at all—and 10 municipalities have similar ordinances in the works.

At the heart of the bans and restrictions, write the authors, is the misguided belief that feeding people who are sleeping on the streets or in shelters encourages homelessness.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Writing about demonic possession is a thankless task

reddit-alien_5722This week I have added /r/Shinto and /r/Buddhism to the list of subreddits I follow, including /r/Christianity which I am currently banned from on Reddit for talking about psychosis as a rite of passage in mystical experiences related to sorcery. The moderators of the Christian sub claimed that the books I referenced, which were found in University as a student, are not academic. Seemingly because they don’t line up with their views.

Some of the books I had referenced, besides the one by T. M. Luhrmann cited below, were Gothic Ireland: Horror And The Irish Anglican Imagination In The Long Eighteenth Century by Jarlath Killeen. Killeen talks about gothic horror and the liminal as an Anglican identity, transubstantiation as a form of cannibalism, and erotic necrophilia. The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism In Late Victorian England by Alex Owen documents the epidemic of hysteria caused by interests in mediumship and psychosis understood as a rite of passage.… Read the rest

Continue Reading