Saturday, December 15, 2012

an ill-fitting, poorly-designed, too-tight suit...,

The Personality that we all acquire receives the impressions of life. But it does not transform them because it is a dead machine. If impressions fell on Essence they would be transformed because they would fall directly on real and vital centres.

Personality, which is the term applied to all that we acquire, (and we must acquire Personality), translates impressions from every side of life in a limited and practically stereotyped way according to its quality and associations.

The Personality in this respect is sometimes compared in the work with a secretary who sits in the front room, dealing with everything according to her own unexamined ideas. She has a number of dictionaries and encyclopedias and reference books, etc. round about her and rings up the three centres—that is, the Moving, the Emotional and the Instinctual centres—according to her limited ideas.

The result is that the wrong centres are nearly always being rung up.

This means that incoming impressions are sent to the wrong places and produce the wrong results.

A man's life depends on this secretary(Personality), who mechanically looks up things in her reference books without any understanding of what they really mean and transmits them accordingly without caring what happens, but knowing and feeling that she is doing her duty.

This is our inner situation. What is important to understand in this allegory is that this Personality which we all acquire and must acquire begins to take charge of our lives. And it is no use imagining that this only happens to certain people. It happens to everyone. Whoever we are, we find ourselves, through self-observation, possessed of a certain small number of typical ways of reacting to the manifold impressions of incoming life. These mechanical reactions govern us. Everyone is governed by his own set of reactions to impressions— that is, to life—whether he is revolutionary or conservative, or good or bad in the ordinary sense.

And these dead and mechanical reactions are his life.

Mankind is mechanical in this sense.

A man has formed in him a number of reactions which he takes as himself and his life experiences are the result of them.

If you can relax enough physically, and drop away mentally from all ideas of yourself (which is mental relaxing) you will be able to see what I mean. You will see that, as it were, there are a number of things below you—namely, external to you—that you keep on taking as yourself. In such a passive state you can see them dimly.

At first sight they seem to be above you.

Immediately you tense your muscles or begin to talk you become them.

They become you or you become them, and off you go again.

But you must not try to do this exercise too much at first.

Actually they are like little grasping machines that insist on taking charge of you and demand that you should enter them again. They are set in motion by this "secretary"—that is, by the habitual way this secretary responds to impressions.

And the reactions which follow you take as life. You take your typical and mechanical reactions to impressions as life.

You take your reactions to a person as him or her.

All life—that is, outer life, which is what you usually think "life" is—namely, what you see and hear—is for each person his or her reactions to the impressions coming in from it.

It is a great mistake to think that what is called "life" is a solid fixed thing, the same for everyone. '

No one has the same impressions of life. Life is our impressions of it and these can be transformed.

But as was said, this is a very difficult idea to reach, because of your identification with the machinery of Personality and loss of connection to Essence.

You cannot help thinking and feeling that the machinery of your Personality gives you reality. But because of this, your real and essential inner life remains dim to your subjective experience.

To establish a point in the work, to make it more real than life, you must observe yourself and make your innermost life of thoughts and feelings a fact more powerful than any "fact" given by your Personality.

This is the beginning of transforming.

One cannot transform anything in oneself if one is bound up in that tight ill-fitting suit of Personality.

The work teaches that if you are negative it is your own fault. The Personality teaches that it is this or that person in the outer world, that you see and hear by means of your eyes and ears, who is at fault. This other person, you will say, because he or she does this or talks like that, is to blame for your thoughts and feelings about them. But actually, if you are made negative, what you have to work on, what you have to observe, is this negative emotion projected from your Personality into your inner life—that is, into the inner invisible "place" where you really exist. Your real being is in the inner invisible world of yourself.

when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child

Now suppose in some way you could act only from undeveloped Essence; it would be foolish, even not human. You must not imagine that Essence is wholly beautiful and charming. Essence is lazy. From the standpoint of the astral or planetary world, Essence is often more or less like an animal. There are very few human beings at this level anymore.

So here lies the paradox of Personality and Essence.

To be able to act from Essence requires a development of Essence. For Essence to grow, Personality must become passive. To say that Personality must teach Essence is one way of putting it, but however you put it,  Essence must learn from Personality.

The difficulty is that Essence cannot be compelled to grow.

No external compulsion can make Essence grow. Essence cannot be persuaded directly, by outside force.

You cannot compel a small child to grow. Why? Because each child is a self-developing organism by creation. That is, it can only develop itself.

The esoteric problem—the task of Work—is how to make Essence grow. It does not grow from itself save to a point. Something else is necessary.

This is the central idea of religion and explains why religions exist.

How to make Essence grow is the real work of religious praxis—i.e., how to make what is real in you grow so that there is no duality of acquired Personality and born Essence.

Now if you do not steal, from yourself, from others, no matter what the circumstances, this is Essential. If you do a thing because no one is looking, or you wish a reward or praise, or from fear, it is not from within, but from outside—that is, from external circumstances, from Personality. It is not real.

When stripped of external life what will you be—when Personality is removed? What remains that is real?  I advise you to think about this problem that arises from the fact that you are created as a self-developing organism. You will see how all external compulsion and social systems will never develop you and will, in fact, only further separate you from Essence completely.

All the long process and living of Work is to pass from Personality to Essence, bringing to Essence the gifts that Personality has acquired. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

possible development...,

This third stage is all concerned with a possible further development of Essence. Since this further development is only a possibility, not a necessity, it is unfamiliar to 99.9999 of humanity. 

Many apparently paradoxical or at least strange things are said in the Gospels about man. These sayings seem strange because they all have to do with the unfamiliar possibility of allowing Essence to grow at the expense of Personality. This is the only way in which Essence, which is too weak by itself to grow, can continue to develop. In this sense, Personality, which is formed around Essence, and must be formed around Essence, becomes eventually, if this third stage is entered upon, the very source from which Essence can grow further. Suppose that Personality is in a particular individual very richly developed. He is, then, a rich man, in the sense of the Gospels. He knows about everything, he is an important person, and so on.

What is poor in him?

What is poor in him is his Essence. He is not yet a real man. What he does, he does to acquire merit, or from fear of loss of honour or reputation, and so on, but he does nothing from himself, nothing from the love of doing it, quite apart from praise, authority, position, popularity, or any other gain in the eyes of the world. Suppose that this man feels, in some way, like the Prodigal Son—namely, that he is eating nothing but husks. I mean simply that he may feel in himself very empty in spite of all of his "richness". He has got the finest house, the richest clothing and jewels, he is famous, and he has in some way got the better of everybody else, and yet he feels empty. Such a man is approaching the third possible stage of development.

He has now reached a position in which his Essence—namely, that part of him which is material and real—can grow. It is possible for such a man to replace his immaterial feeling of emptiness with a material feeling of meaning. But in order to bring about in this man this further development, he must begin to sacrifice his Personality and to go in a sense in the opposite direction to that in which he has gone up to that point in time. In other words, a kind of reversal must take place in him which is well-expressed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Unless we understand that this third stage is possible and leads to a man's real development we will never understand what the Gospels are speaking about.

and everything else is merely conversation...,

personal religion...,

A man is born as Essence (Instinctual/Emotional/Moving Centres) and this constitutes his real part, the part from which he can really grow and develop. But this part in him can only grow in a very small way. It has not the strength to grow by itself any further after, say, the age of three or four or five. Let us call this the first stage of a man. That is, the first stage of a man is pure Essence which by itself is capable of a certain amount of growth but reaches a point very soon in which it can grow no further.

Christianity teaches that the Essence in a man can only grow a very short way by itself. People naturally think that growth and development is something continuous or that it should be, but here is this extraordinarily interesting idea within Christian praxis that this is not the case. Man's Essence can only grow by itself unaided to a very small extent, and as such, a man is nothing but a little child. Now in order for it to grow further something must happen. Something must form itself round Essence and this is called Personality(Intellectual Centre) Essence must become surrounded by something that is really foreign to itself, acquired from life, which enters through the senses from family and culture.

A little child must cease to be itself and become something different from itself.  A child's locus of awareness (self-awareness) passes from Essence into Personality. It learns all sorts of things, it imitates all sorts of things, and so on. This formation of the machinery of Personality around Essence is actually necessary for the further development of Essence. The formation of this machinery of Personality can be called the second stage of man. This is the end of psychological development for the overwhelming majority of these humans.

But let us clearly understand this notion, the future development of Essence depends on the formation of Personality around it.

If a very poor Personality, a very weak Personality, is formed round Essence, there is very little to help further growth of Essence. In the second stage, the formation of Personality is taking place, and, as was said, the richer the Personality the better. Most have neither the eyes to see, nor the ears to hear the extraordinary situation we are in—namely, that we cannot grow continuously from Essence because Essence is too weak to grow by itself. Most are not even aware of the distinction between Essence and Personality. Most know nothing whatsoever about the action of, and the specific qualities of, the Instinctual, the Emotional, the Moving, and the Intellectual Centres.

The further growth of Essence depends first of all on the formation of Personality and the richer the Personality the better eventually for the growth of Essence, but, ordinarily speaking, the formation of Personality is quite sufficient for the purposes of cultured human life. A man finds himself in a good position, able to deal with life through the formation of a rich Personality in him. And if he is satisfied, he is, for all life purposes, adequate.

Christianity is about a possible, but not necessary, further stage of human development. In the Christic scheme of possible development - Personality is sublimated into Essence as food for its possible further life and growth.

Everything else is merely conversation...,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

the neuroscience of fair play

amazon | Pfaff, head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior at Rockefeller University, explains his purpose in clear terms: The whole focus in these pages is on the possibility that some rules of behavior are universally embedded in the human brain—that we are 'wired for good behavior.' He claims he's surveyed the world's religions and found some variant of the Golden Rule in every one, leading him to conclude that this trait is likely to be under some sort of genetic control. The simple mechanism for the occurrence of altruistic acts, he says, is the brain's tendency to confuse self and other—similar to the blurring of identities that occurs in a love relationship. This empathy—whose neural mechanism Pfaff explains—can prevent us from harming others as well as leading us to do good. The author goes into great detail, far more than is necessary to drive his point home, about how neurobiology and neurochemistry interact to help shape behavior. His sections on parenting, sexual love and aggression are intriguing, but the technical information will make this appeal primarily to those with a strong interest in the brain and the science of behavior.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

seeing god in the third millenium...,

atlantic | There are many carefully documented accounts in the medical literature of intense, life-altering religious experience in epileptic seizures. Hallucinations of overwhelming intensity, sometimes accompanied by a sense of bliss and a strong feeling of the numinous, can occur especially with the so-called "ecstatic" seizures that may occur in temporal lobe epilepsy. Though such seizures may be brief, they can lead to a fundamental reorientation, a metanoia, in one's life. Fyodor Dostoevsky was prone to such seizures and described many of them, including this:
The air was filled with a big noise and I tried to move. I felt the heaven was going down upon the earth and that it engulfed me. I have really touched God. He came into me myself, yes God exists, I cried, and I don't remember anything else. You all, healthy people ... can't imagine the happiness which we epileptics feel during the second before our fit. ... I don't know if this felicity lasts for seconds, hours or months, but believe me, for all the joys that life may bring, I would not exchange this one.
A century later, Kenneth Dewhurst and A. W. Beard published a detailed report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry of a bus conductor who had a sudden feeling of elation while collecting fares. They wrote:
He was suddenly overcome with a feeling of bliss. He felt he was literally in Heaven. He collected the fares correctly, telling his passengers at the same time how pleased he was to be in Heaven. ... He remained in this state of exaltation, hearing divine and angelic voices, for two days. Afterwards he was able to recall these experiences and he continued to believe in their validity. [Three years later] following three seizures on three successive days, he became elated again. He stated that his mind had "cleared." ... During this episode he lost his faith.
He now no longer believed in heaven and hell, in an afterlife, or in the divinity of Christ. This second conversion -- to atheism -- carried the same excitement and revelatory quality as the original religious conversion.

More recently, Orrin Devinsky and his colleagues have been able to make video EEG recordings in patients who are having such seizures, and have observed an exact synchronization of the epiphany with a spike in epileptic activity in the temporal lobes (more commonly the right temporal lobe).

Ecstatic seizures are rare -- they only occur in something like 1 or 2 percent of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. But the last half century has seen an enormous increase in the prevalence of other states sometimes permeated by religious joy and awe, "heavenly" visions and voices, and, not infrequently, religious conversion or metanoia. Among these are out-of-body experiences (OBEs), which are more common now that more patients can be brought back to life from serious cardiac arrests and the like -- and much more elaborate and numinous experiences called near-death experiences (NDEs).

Both OBEs and NDEs, which occur in waking but often profoundly altered states of consciousness, cause hallucinations so vivid and compelling that those who experience them may deny the term hallucination, and insist on their reality. And the fact that there are marked similarities in individual descriptions is taken by some to indicate their objective "reality."

But the fundamental reason that hallucinations -- whatever their cause or modality -- seem so real is that they deploy the very same systems in the brain that actual perceptions do. When one hallucinates voices, the auditory pathways are activated; when one hallucinates a face, the fusiform face area, normally used to perceive and identify faces in the environment, is stimulated.

pandit only virtual now...,

how widespread is sentience in the animal kingdom?

psychologytoday | We all know that nonhuman animals (animals) such as chimpanzees, wolves, dogs, cats, and all other mammals are sentient beings. They have "the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences." The recent Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness also noted that consciousness is more widespread than some people had previously thought and that certainly all mammals are conscious beings. But what do we know about other vertebrates and invertebrates?

An online debate between Indiana University's Colin Allen and myself was recently held, hosted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) as part of their Sentience Mosaic, that focused on the question, How widespread is sentience in the animal kingdom? You can see the full text here. And, what's great about these debates is that you can also post questions after they are held.

do animals dream: of course they do

psychologytoday | From time to time people ask me if nonhuman animals (animals) dream. Just this morning I received an email from Canada's Discovery Channel flagship science and technology show "Daily Planet". I was asked to comment on a video of an English bulldog puppy dreaming and to answer a few questions on dreaming in animals.

I feel confident claiming that all mammals dream but this does not mean that other animals do not dream. We really just don't know if they do or not and we should keep the door open about this very challenging question. Charles Darwin's ideas about evolutionary continuity note that the differences among various species in anatomy, physiology, behavior, and emotions, for example, are differences in degree rather than kind. This basically means that the differences are shades of gray and not stark, black and white, variations. So, following up on Darwin, I like to say, "If we have or do something, 'they' (other animals) have or do it too."

beluga attempting "first contact" with these humans...,

psychologytoday | This story, hot off the press, of a captive beluga whale named Noc mimicking human voices is well-worth reporting (see also where there is a great video of Noc, and here). It's the first demonstration of a whale mimicking human voices.

Here's a great teaser to draw you into this fascinating discovery: “Who told me to get out?” asked a diver, surfacing from a tank in which a whale named NOC lived. The beluga’s caretakers had heard what sounded like garbled phrases emanating from the enclosure before, and it suddenly dawned on them that the whale might be imitating the voices of his human handlers." The abstract of the original research report can be seen here.

Canaries of the sea
Belugas are also called white whales and "canaries of the sea" because of their highly developed vocal repertoire. What Noc does is unexpected and fascinating. To wit, "These sounds are even more surprising because whales typically produce sounds in a completely different way from people, using their nasal tracts and not the voice box or larynx as humans do. To make these humanlike sounds, Noc had to vary the air pressure in his nasal tract while adjusting liplike valves and over-inflating sacs under his blowhole."

these humans are comically inconsistent

physorg | In economics, classical theory holds that we have consistent risk preferences, regardless of the precise decision, from investments to insurance programs and retirement plans. But studies in behavioral economics indicate that people's choices can vary greatly depending on the subject matter and circumstances of each decision.

Now a new paper (PDF) co-authored by an MIT economist brings a large dose of empirical data to the problem, by looking at the way tens of thousands of Americans have handled risk in selecting health insurance and retirement plans. The study, just published in the American Economic Review, finds that at most 30 percent of us make consistent decisions about financial risk across a variety of areas.

This empirical finding belies the notion that people are uniformly consistent in their approach to risk, across types of financial decisions—but it also shows that not everyone continually changes their risk tolerance, either.

"As economists, we often place great value on where people put their money in the real world," says Amy Finkelstein, the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT, who helped conduct the research. "Most extremes are not true in the reality, and we found our answer was in the middle."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

science knows and understands shockingly little about emotions...,

The faces of former poster-child Big Don leading up to and immediately following yesterday's expulsion - start in lower right corner and go left, then upper right corner and go left - top middle is shit&shoe epiphany moment 
ucla | While human emotions are clearly derived from a psychological foundation shared by social mammals, we likely possess some emotions that are considerably less developed, or wholly absent, in other creatures. Humans are unique in the extent of their reliance on socially transmitted information in coping with physical and social environments.

An important class of emotions consists of those which mediate the acquisition, use, and dissemination of cultural information. Admiration of successful persons involves a desire for proximity and a willingness to provide client services to obtain it, as well as a desire for close observation and imitation.

These patterns lead individuals to adopt ideas and practices of probable local utility. At a larger scale, conformity to cultural values, beliefs, and practices makes behavior predictable and allows for the advent of complex coordination and cooperation; shame and pride motivate an assessment of prevailing norms, an awareness of the presence of observers, and conformity to pervasive expectations when under observation. Conversely, contempt and moral outrage motivate publicizing the actions of nonconformists, excluding them from cooperative endeavors, and inflicting costs upon them. A richer understanding of the evolution of contempt and moral outrage is needed given that punishment plays a key role in maintaining cooperation.

Finally, while considerations of kin selection and reciprocal altruism indicate that many animals should experience emotions in a corporate fashion (i.e., harm to kin or allies is experienced as harm to self, etc.), humans link their identities to group membership at scales not explicable in terms of kin selection or reciprocal altruism, suggesting that the benefits of coordination and cooperation favored the evolution of highly developed human corporate sensibilities.

Monday, December 10, 2012

a new model of empathy?

WaPo | At the very least, the new experiment reported in Science is going to make people think differently about what it means to be a “rat.” Eventually, though, it may tell us interesting things about what it means to be a human being.

In a simple experiment, researchers at the University of Chicago sought to find out whether a rat would release a fellow rat from an unpleasantly restrictive cage if it could. The answer was yes.

The free rat, occasionally hearing distress calls from its compatriot, learned to open the cage and did so with greater efficiency over time. It would release the other animal even if there wasn’t the payoff of a reunion with it. Astonishingly, if given access to a small hoard of chocolate chips, the free rat would usually save at least one treat for the captive — which is a lot to expect of a rat.

The researchers came to the unavoidable conclusion that what they were seeing was empathy — and apparently selfless behavior driven by that mental state.

“There is nothing in it for them except for whatever feeling they get from helping another individual,” said Peggy Mason, the neurobiologist who conducted the experiment along with graduate student Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal and fellow researcher Jean Decety.

“There is a common misconception that sharing and helping is a cultural occurrence. But this is not a cultural event. It is part of our biological inheritance,” she added.

The idea that animals have emotional lives and are capable of detecting emotions in others has been gaining ground for decades. Empathic behavior has been observed in apes and monkeys, and described by many pet owners (especially dog owners). Recently, scientists demonstrated “emotional contagion” in mice, a situation in which one animal’s stress worsens another’s.

But empathy that leads to helping activity — what psychologists term “pro-social behavior” — hasn’t been formally shown in non-primates until now.

If this experiment reported Thursday holds up under scrutiny, it will give neuroscientists a method to study empathy and altruism in a rigorous way.

are animals moral creatures?

yahoo | Does Mr. Whiskers really love you or is he just angling for treats?

Until recently, scientists would have said your cat was snuggling up to you only as a means to get tasty treats. But many animals have a moral compass, and feel emotions such as love, grief, outrage and empathy, a new book argues.

The book, "Can Animals Be Moral?" Oxford University Press, October 2012), suggests social mammals such as rats, dogs and chimpanzees can choose to be good or bad. And because they have morality, we have moral obligations to them, said author Mark Rowlands, a University of Miami philosopher.

"Animals are owed a certain kind of respect that they wouldn't be owed if they couldn't act morally," Rowlands told But while some animals have complex emotions, they don't necessarily have true morality, other researchers argue. [5 Animals With a Moral Compass]
Moral behavior?
Some research suggests animals have a sense of outrage when social codes are violated. Chimpanzees may punish other chimps for violating certain rules of the social order, said Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-author of "Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals" (University Of Chicago Press, 2012).
Male bluebirds that catch their female partners stepping out may beat the female, said Hal Herzog, a psychologist at Western Carolina University who studies how humans think about animals.
And there are many examples of animals demonstrating ostensibly compassionate or empathetic behaviors toward other animals, including humans. In one experiment, hungry rhesus monkeys refused to electrically shock their fellow monkeys, even when it meant getting food for themselves. In another study, a female gorilla named Binti Jua rescued an unconscious 3-year-old (human) boy who had fallen into her enclosure at the Brookline Zoo in Illinois, protecting the child from other gorillas and even calling for human help. And when a car hit and injured a dog on a busy Chilean freeway several years ago, its canine compatriot dodged traffic, risking its life to drag the unconscious dog to safety.

All those examples suggest that animals have some sense of right and wrong, Rowlands said."I think what's at the heart of following morality is the emotions," Rowlands said. "Evidence suggests that animals can act on those sorts of emotions."

Sunday, December 09, 2012

today's music...,

great brubeck fresh air interview from 1999

npr | This interview was originally broadcast in 1999. Brubeck died on Wednesday at age 91.
In 1954, polls in the leading jazz magazines Metronome and Downbeat selected Dave Brubeck's band as the year's best instrumental group. That same year, Brubeck was the second jazz musician ever featured on the cover of Time Magazine (the first being Louie Armstrong).

Brubeck celebrated a milestone in 2009, when his seminal album Time Out, featuring the hits "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk," celebrated its 50th anniversary. Brubeck marked the occasion with an outdoor concert at the Newport Jazz Festival. A month later, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced that he would be a 2009 Kennedy Center Honoree.

In 1999, Brubeck talked to Terry Gross about his decades in the music industry. He explained that he grew up on a 45,000-acre ranch in California, the son of a music teacher and a cattle rancher.

Though Brubeck and his two older brothers studied piano with their mother, the future jazz pianist initially didn't take lessons for very long. He quit when he was 11 to focus on his first love: rodeo roping. But his mother, who thought he was talented at the piano, wouldn't allow him to rope anything larger than a yearling.
"She didn't want my fingers to become hurt," Brubeck said. "My uncle, who was also a rodeo roper, got his finger caught between the saddle horn and the rope, and it took his finger off. And he used to kid the other cowboys and say, 'I would've been a great pianist like my nephew Dave, had I not lost this finger.'"

Brubeck returned to studying the piano after his first year of college, after his zoology teacher offered him some advice. The teacher noticed that Brubeck's attention span seemed more focused on the music school across the street.

"He said, 'Brubeck, your mind is not here with these frogs in the formaldehyde,'" Brubeck said. " 'Your mind is across the lawn, at the conservatory. Will you please go over there next year?'"

Brubeck agreed and started taking classes at the conservatory. But he had a secret: Despite his lessons as a child, he couldn't read music. Once the dean of the conservatory found out, he threatened to not graduate Brubeck.

"But when some of the younger teachers heard this, they went to the dean and said, 'You're making a big mistake, because he writes the best counterpoint that I've ever heard,'" Brubeck said. "So they convinced the dean to let me graduate. And the dean said, 'You can graduate if you promise never to teach and embarrass the conservatory.' And that's the way I've gotten through life, is having to substitute other things for not being able to read well. But I can write, which is something very few people understand."

Saturday, December 08, 2012

dopamine: not about pleasure anymore...,

uconn | “Often, depressed people say they don’t want to go out with their friends,” says Salamone. But it’s not that they don’t experience pleasure, he says – if their friends were around, many depressed people could have fun.

“Low levels of dopamine make people and other animals less likely to work for things, so it has more to do with motivation and cost/benefit analyses than pleasure itself,” he explains.

In essence, says Salamone, this is how amphetamines work, which increase dopamine levels and help people motivate to focus on tasks at hand.

“When you give people amphetamines, you see them putting more effort into things,” he says.
The big implications of this change in understanding come at the level of overlapping motivational symptoms of depression with those seen in other disorders such as schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms of fatigue may be related to low levels of dopamine or changes in other parts of the same brain circuitry.

On the one hand, this lack of perceived energy is maladaptive, because it reduces the tendency to interact with the environment. But, Salamone says, it could also reflect the body’s attempt to save energy in a crisis.
He points out that new ideas in science are traditionally met with criticism. But after all the mounting evidence, he says he’s no longer regarded as “a crazy rebel,” but simply someone who thought differently.
“Science is not a collection of facts. It’s a process,” he says. “First we thought dopamine was involved only in movement. Then that faded and we thought it was pleasure. Now we’ve gone beyond that data on pleasure.”

Although he has thought about writing a popular-press book, he’s not sure he really wants to go to the public and “debunk” the dopamine hypothesis of pleasure and reward. But if he ever does, one thing is for sure.
“I can sum up all this work with one phrase, which would make a great book title,” he says. “Dopamine: it’s not about pleasure anymore.” Fist tap Arnach.


amphetamines | In a letter dated November 9, 1939, to his "dear parents and siblings" back home in Cologne, a young soldier stationed in occupied Poland wrote: "It's tough out here, and I hope you'll understand if I'm only able to write to you once every two to four days soon. Today I'm writing you mainly to ask for some Pervitin ...; Love, Hein."

Pervitin, a stimulant commonly known as speed today, was the German army's -- the Wehrmacht's -- wonder drug.

On May 20, 1940, the 22-year-old soldier wrote to his family again: "Perhaps you could get me some more Pervitin so that I can have a backup supply?" And, in a letter sent from Bromberg on July 19, 1940, he wrote: "If at all possible, please send me some more Pervitin." The man who wrote these letters became a famous writer later in life. He was Heinrich Boell, and in 1972 he was the first German to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in the post-war period.

Many of the Wehrmacht's soldiers were high on Pervitin when they went into battle, especially against Poland and France -- in a Blitzkrieg fueled by speed. The German military was supplied with millions of methamphetamine tablets during the first half of 1940. The drugs were part of a plan to help pilots, sailors and infantry troops become capable of superhuman performance. The military leadership liberally dispensed such stimulants, but also alcohol and opiates, as long as it believed drugging and intoxicating troops could help it achieve victory over the Allies. But the Nazis were less than diligent in monitoring side-effects like drug addiction and a decline in moral standards.

After it was first introduced into the market in 1938, Pervitin, a methamphetamine drug newly developed by the Berlin-based Temmler pharmaceutical company, quickly became a top seller among the German civilian population. According to a report in the Klinische Wochenschrift ("Clinical Weekly"), the supposed wonder drug was brought to the attention of Otto Ranke, a military doctor and director of the Institute for General and Defense Physiology at Berlin's Academy of Military Medicine. The effects of amphetamines are similar to those of the adrenaline produced by the body, triggering a heightened state of alert. In most people, the substance increases self-confidence, concentration and the willingness to take risks, while at the same time reducing sensitivity to pain, hunger and thirst, as well as reducing the need for sleep. In September 1939, Ranke tested the drug on 90 university students, and concluded that Pervitin could help the Wehrmacht win the war. At first Pervitin was tested on military drivers who participated in the invasion of Poland. Then, according to criminologist Wolf Kemper, it was "unscrupulously distributed to troops fighting at the front."

po thangs...,


Friday, December 07, 2012

the liminal view of subjective reality...,

When we are young children, impressions fall upon - and the locus of our awarness is in - Essence. This is because the Personality is not yet fully formed. However, our parents and our culture strive to subdue the Essence and supplant it with a completely contrived - and thus socially acceptable - cultural machinery of Personality. By about the age of seven, in most children, the further development of Essence has been arrested, and we have been successfully terrorformed into predictable and manageable little automata of Personality.

Personality, the acquired part of ourselves, is a built up set of view-points, likes, dislikes, customs, attitudes, and so fourth. Can any of you see that you have acquired a machine of this kind and that what is you is not it? Such as we are, such as we have been made to be, catching a glimpse of the machinery of personality is difficult but immensely valuable. Such as most of us are, such as we have been made to be, we take the mechanical operations of the Personality as absolute truth and absolute right, and know no other way of being.

If Personality can be rendered passive for a time, and if impressions can be made to fall upon Essence, it is possible to make Essence resume the development which was arrested around about the age of seven.  Resumption of the growth of Essence is an extraordinary experience.

Matt 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Now, when we make Personality passive - temporarily dissolve it - then impressions fall on the Essence which lies behind Personality. These temporary dissolvings of the machinery of Personality give us a great deal of force. Everythng looks much fresher, much more brilliant, much more interesting. As the Personality is mechanical, it ceases to take in new impressions often at a very early stage in our lives. Once the machinery of personality has formed, it simply takes in the same impressions over and over again and in the exact same way - with the consequence that you - deeply identified with Personality and walled off from Essence  - see everything in exactly the same way and take one another in exactly the same way.

As long as impressions fall on Personality they will always produce the same effects mechanically. But when they begin to fall on Essence everything is always new and far richer and more varied. In fact, everything is wonderful. Instead of having the feeling that everything is repeating itself, everything is the same, one begins to feel that nothing is ever the same. But one condition that is necessary is that one lives more in the moment and notices those forces coming at the moment and so takes in impressions from the actual moment. If one is always living in imagination or in the past (part of the machinery of Personality) this is impossible. When we are in the Personality and only react in set, stereotyped mechanical ways to every moment we soon feel a strange staleness, a deadness in ourselves. We are making no attempt to take in new impressions. We are really in a person(mask) that has been formed in us that we mistakenly think of as our self.

The most interesting thing is that people say: How can I think differently? How can I feel differently? This is the whole point of the Work.

If you can not observe how you react, if you cannot notice the mechanical operation of the machinery of Personality - then of course nothing can be changed. If you cannot or will not take in any new ideas or new impressions nothing can be changed. If you think that yu can retain your former ways of thinking and feeling and estimating things and simply add something new to yourself as you are, then again, you cannot change. It is you that has to change and you are just how you mechanically think and feel about everything. Such as you are, you are the mechanism of your Personality. That IS you.

Do you know how to catch a glimpse of this thing?

If you know how, have you then begun to observe this thing, this mechanism which you erroneously or helplessly identify as you?

Are you satisfied with what you see out the corner of your eye?

the mysterious noh mask

plosone | A Noh mask worn by expert actors when performing on a Japanese traditional Noh drama is suggested to convey countless different facial expressions according to different angles of head/body orientation. The present study addressed the question of how different facial parts of a Noh mask, including the eyebrows, the eyes, and the mouth, may contribute to different emotional expressions. Both experimental situations of active creation and passive recognition of emotional facial expressions were introduced.

Methodology/Principal Findings

In Experiment 1, participants either created happy or sad facial expressions, or imitated a face that looked up or down, by actively changing each facial part of a Noh mask image presented on a computer screen. For an upward tilted mask, the eyebrows and the mouth shared common features with sad expressions, whereas the eyes with happy expressions. This contingency tended to be reversed for a downward tilted mask. Experiment 2 further examined which facial parts of a Noh mask are crucial in determining emotional expressions. Participants were exposed to the synthesized Noh mask images with different facial parts expressing different emotions. Results clearly revealed that participants primarily used the shape of the mouth in judging emotions. The facial images having the mouth of an upward/downward tilted Noh mask strongly tended to be evaluated as sad/happy, respectively.


The results suggest that Noh masks express chimeric emotional patterns, with different facial parts conveying different emotions This appears consistent with the principles of Noh which highly appreciate subtle and composite emotional expressions, as well as with the mysterious facial expressions observed in Western art. It was further demonstrated that the mouth serves as a diagnostic feature in characterizing the emotional expressions. This indicates the superiority of biologically-driven factors over the traditionally formulated performing styles when evaluating the emotions of the Noh masks.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

only virtual now...,

lincoln uncensored...,

dailyreckoning | In order to understand Lincoln’s passion for preserving the Union, you have to put yourself into a different era of federal finance. There was but one source of revenue: the tariff. There were no internal taxes. There was no “too big to fail,” because there was no central bank capable of bailing out an entire industrial base. As Lincoln himself said by way of explanation, “The tariff is to the government what a meal is to the family” (1861). The South’s ports collected 75% of all federal tax revenue. Without that revenue — that’s what secession meant — the federal government would be starved.

So in one sense, Lincoln was doing only what we’ve come to expect of presidents. One only has to imagine how Bush or Obama or any modern American president would react to the prospect of a 75% cut in incoming revenue — especially if there were no central bank to make up the difference. Would any modern president let the people go, just stand by, and let the federal government starve? Let every opportunity for graft, payoffs, spending on projects, and patronage just evaporate? No chance.

The controversy has raged for a long time about whether the Civil War was really about slavery. It depends on the meaning of “about.” In terms of Lincoln’s motivation, the Fallon book makes it indisputably clear that it was not the desire to end slavery that drove Lincoln’s prosecution of the war, but the need for national unity, which in turn comes down to enforcing the revenue stream. Anyone who knows anything about how politics operates can see this very clearly. In fact, I don’t even know why this would be a controversial claim at all. Why does the head of any state put down rebellion? To liberate people or to enslave them?

As for the motivation of the South to secede, matters become more complex. The desire to shore up slavery and protect the territory from the abolitionists played a large and even decisive role, given that most everyone assumed that slavery was essential to the South. There was also the desire on the part of Southern elites to set up a new government that could form its own trading relationships with foreign nations. And though the demand for secession is an essential right of a free people, the new Confederate government drafted, taxed, and inflated in a way that contradicts every other principle of liberty.

The lesson here is that no government or power of any size or scale can be relied upon to defend liberty. And governments in wartime come into their own, stopping at nothing to protect their power at the people’s expense.

is secession a right?

mises | The issue has been addressed with unsurpassed clarity by one of the foremost of all classical liberals, Ludwig von Mises.
The right of self-determination … thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time … their wishes are to be respected and complied with.[5]
Mises emphasizes that this right
extends to the inhabitants of every territory large enough to form an independent administrative unit. If it were in any way possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, it would have to be done.[6]
Once one has grasped Mises's point, the fallacy in an often-heard argument is apparent. Some have held that the Southern states acted "undemocratically" in refusing to accept the results of the election of 1860. Lincoln, after all, received a plurality of the country's popular vote.

To a Misesian, the answer is obvious: so what? A majority (much less a plurality) has no right to coerce dissenters. Further, the argument fails on its own terms. It was not undemocratic to secede. The Southern states did not deny that Lincoln was in fact the rightfully elected president. Rather, they wanted out just because he was. Democracy would oblige them only to acknowledge Lincoln's authority had they chosen to remain in the Union.

But a problem now arises. I have endeavored to defend secession from an individual-rights standpoint. Notoriously, Mises did not acknowledge natural rights. I fear that, like Jeremy Bentham, he regarded declarations of rights as "nonsense on stilts." Why, then, did Mises accept self-determination?

Mises's reasoning is characteristically incisive. If people are compelled to remain under a government they do not choose, then strife is the likely outcome. Recognition of the right to secede "is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars."[7] Mises's argument does not rest on natural rights, but it is of course consistent with the approach I have sketched out. Regardless of one's moral theory, it is surely a strong point in favor of a view that it has beneficial consequences.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

the death of "near death"

ScientificAmerican | You careen headlong into a blinding light. Around you, phantasms of people and pets lost. Clouds billow and sway, giving way to a gilded and golden entrance. You feel the air, thrusted downward by delicate wings. Everything is soothing, comforting, familiar. Heaven.

It’s a paradise that some experience during an apparent demise. The surprising consistency of heavenly visions during a “near death experience” (or NDE) indicates for many that an afterlife awaits us. Religious believers interpret these similar yet varying accounts like blind men exploring an elephant—they each feel something different (the tail is a snake and the legs are tree trunks, for example); yet all touch the same underlying reality. Skeptics point to the curious tendency for Heaven to conform to human desires, or for Heaven’s fleeting visage to be so dependent on culture or time period.

Heaven, in a theological view, has some kind of entrance. When you die, this entrance is supposed to appear—a Platform 9 ¾ for those running towards the grave. Of course, the purported way to see Heaven without having to take the final run at the platform wall is the NDE. Thrust back into popular consciousness by a surgeon claiming that “Heaven is Real,” the NDE has come under both theological and scientific scrutiny for its supposed ability to preview the great gig in the sky.

But getting to see Heaven is hell—you have to die. Or do you?

Neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander claimed that “Heaven is Real”, making the cover of the now defunct Newsweek magazine. His account of Heaven was based on a series of visions he had while in a coma, suffering the ravages of a particularly vicious case of bacterial meningitis. Alexander claimed that because his neocortex was “inactivated” by this malady, his near death visions indicated an intellect apart from the grey matter, and therefore a part of us survives brain-death.

Alexander’s resplendent descriptions of the afterlife were intriguing and beautiful, but were also promoted as scientific proof. Because Alexander was a brain “scientist” (more accurately, a brain surgeon), his account carried apparent weight.

Scientifically, Alexander’s claims have been roundly criticized and, in my view, successfully refuted. Academic clinical neurologist Steve Novella removes the foundation of Alexander’s whole claim by noting that his assumption of cortex “inactivation” is flawed:
Alexander claims there is no scientific explanation for his experiences, but I just gave one. They occurred while his brain function was either on the way down or on the way back up, or both, not while there was little to no brain activity.
In another takedown of the popular article, neuroscientist Sam Harris (with characteristic sharpness) also points out this faulty premise, and notes that Alexander’s evidence for such inactivation is lacking:
The problem, however, is that “CT scans and neurological examinations” can’t determine neuronal inactivity—in the cortex or anywhere else. And Alexander makes no reference to functional data that might have been acquired by fMRI, PET, or EEG—nor does he seem to realize that only this sort of evidence could support his case.
Without a scientific foundation for Alexander’s claims, skeptics suggest he had a NDE later fleshed out by confirmation bias and colored by culture. Harris concludes in a follow-up post on his blog, “I am quite sure that I’ve never seen a scientist speak in a manner more suggestive of wishful thinking. If self-deception were an Olympic sport, this is how our most gifted athletes would appear when they were in peak condition.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

literal holocaust and hell on earth...,

Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering The Truth explores the role that the United States allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played in triggering the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century. Fist tap Bro. Makheru.

gog and magog: top lives off the yield of the bottom

ukcolumn | For those of us who, after many years of careful and detailed research, now understand the hidden machinations of global finance and who are aware of the secretive network of criminals and traitors who seek world government on their terms, this annual spectacle of corporate celebration and respectability by people who are not household names clearly masks an evil that must now be exposed quickly and effectively.

With the exception of a few thousand very powerful people, the entire world’s population, all seven billion of us, are trapped ... trapped into a criminal debt creating banking ‘system’ that has taken hundreds of years to perfect and to come to fruition. This ‘system’ results in enslavement and servitude. It creates dreadful unhappiness amongst ordinary decent people and causes wars, debt, starvation, pollution and environmental destruction. It feeds on greed, fear and division. It forces people onto the corporate treadmills of mass mindless production and mass mindless consumption. It uses lies, deception, intimidation and entrapment at all times. It is a system that is so clever and so cunning that most of the world is completely oblivious to its existence. It is a system that allows a few winners at the expense of a huge number of losers. It is a system that considers itself to be unbeatable and indestructible and is now so arrogant that it believes it can control everything and everyone on its terms. It is a system where psychopaths and sociopaths can flourish. And without question the centre of this system, the heart of this global corporate beast is the innocent sounding Square Mile known as the City of London.

Put very simply, the banking dynasties, such as the House of Rothschild, control the political processes around the world to such an extent that their network of private central banks have the right to create money completely out of thin air and then charge interest on that ‘nothingness’. The polite term is ‘Fractional Reserve Lending’ but in reality it is just simple fraud. The result is that the whole world is currently drowning in a sea of fraudulent debt.

The USA now has a National Debt of over 16 trillion dollars, whilst the UK owes its creditors over one trillion pounds. The planned contagion of spiralling and unlawful debt is now sweeping over Europe with a renewed vigour. Greece and Spain are being torn apart by appalling austerity measures to the point that civil war or military intervention are now being openly talked about on the streets. Italy is giving all the signs that its economy is now entering into very stormy waters indeed. Ireland, Portugal, France and Belgium are already in a mess and are unlikely to see their debts become more manageable. Tens of millions of people have experienced a major downturn in their quality of life, along with their prospects for a more secure and better future, as unlawful austerity measures brought in by corrupt politicians begin to bite. Even the stronger economies of Germany, The Netherlands and Luxembourg have now been downgraded by Moody’s, the Rothschild controlled credit rating agency.

why israel lost the u.n. palestine vote...,

Slate | Four days ago, the United Nations General Assembly voted to accept Palestine as a non-member observer state. The vote was 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions. Israel tried to squelch the resolution, then tried to defeat it, then scoffed that the vote meant nothing, but punished the Palestinians anyway by announcing new settlements and withholding Palestinian tax revenue. Now even the United States is ticked off. How has Israel managed to lose the vote in a landslide and alienate its friends? By blowing its credibility on ludicrous complaints.

Monday, December 03, 2012

former assistant secretary of state for africa got some splainin to do...,

foreignpolicy | Televised comments made by Amb. Susan Rice shortly after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi have dominated the debate over her probable nomination for secretary of state. This is a bit surprising, since it's clear that she played only a marginal role in the affair and appears to have just been reading from the briefing notes provided. It's also unfortunate that the "scandal" has crowded out a healthy discussion of her two-decade record as U.S. diplomat and policymaker prior to Sept. 2012 -- and drawn attention away from actions for which she bears far greater responsibility than Benghazi.

Her role in shaping U.S. policy toward Central Africa should feature high on this list. Between 1993 and 2001, she helped form U.S. responses to the Rwandan genocide, events in post-genocide Rwanda, mass violence in Burundi, and two ruinous wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 
She did not get off to an auspicious start. During her first year in government, there was a vigorous debate within the Clinton administration over whether to describe the killing in Rwanda as a "genocide," a designation that would necessitate an international response under the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention. In a now infamous incident from that April, which was reported in her now State Department colleague Samantha Power's book, A Problem from Hell, Rice -- at the time still a junior official at the National Security Council -- stunned her colleagues by asking during a meeting, "If we use the word 'genocide' and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional midterm] election?"

there's no tomorrow...,

Sunday, December 02, 2012

the clinton plan for africa redux

A few years ago, my man T3 threw himself at the Herculean task of trying to wrap his mind around the long-term American imperial plan for Africa. In context of the currently percolating Susan Rice controversy, it's imperative that we peep game on this negroe 1% who has been providing racial mimetic cover for the long term imperial plan for Africa for a very long time.

Chinese demands for energy are driving the US to pursue new relationships in Africa. The guise of humanitarian aid must be viewed within the context of the Defense Department’s critical role in the advance of US-Africa relations. And, perhaps most disastrously, it must be borne in mind that at precisely the point when Gilead Sciences (a leader in HIV vaccination research) was making its most headway, the chairman of its board was none other than Donald Rumsfeld (more in Part V).
From Reuters (February 28, 2008):
LOS ANGELES, Feb 28 (Reuters) – A safety board has recommended that certain AIDS patients taking part in a study of GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s (GSK.L: Quote, Profile, Research) Epzicom consider switching to Gilead Sciences Inc’s (GILD.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Truvada, sending Gilead’s shares up about 4 percent on Thursday.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s AIDS Clinical Trials Group, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, is comparing the two drugs in a head-to-head trial involving 1,858 patients.

The unit said on Thursday that an independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board recently found that for patients with high levels of HIV virus, treatment regimens containing Epzicom were less effective at controlling the virus than regimens containing Truvada.

The board also found that patients with high levels of HIV virus treated with Epzicom developed side effects such as body aches and high cholesterol more quickly.

Glaxo said in a statement that the NIH study did not routinely exclude patients at risk for a known reaction with Epzicom, which might have accounted for some adverse events.

The trial recommendation applies to about half the patients being treated with the Glaxo drug and, if translated to real world usage, could mean a 20 percent market share gain for Gilead’s Truvada and Atripla, Morgan Stanley analyst Sapna Srivastava said in a research note on Thursday.
Remember Tamiflu and the avian flu virus? That was also Gilead Sciences.

The stakes in the energy game are very high. In 2006, China’s president visited Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya. Today, the United States of America imports more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia. The US has protected the House of Saud from all comers and precluded other nations from breaking up the dollar-oil peg which prevails in Saudi Arabia. No such arrangements exist on the ground in Africa…and yet – the US is proposing to establish its first military command. China’s strategy for African partnership centers on infrastructure.
Beijing plans to invest $4 billion in Nigeria’s infrastructure, including a Nigerian state-run oil refinery, a railway line and power plants. Two Chinese telecommunication companies will install rural telephone services financed by $200 million in loans from Beijing.

On the eve of Hu’s visit, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) paid $2.7 billion for a 45 percent stake in a Nigerian oil field due to start production in 2008. Last year, Nigeria agreed to provide 30,000 barrels of oil per day for five years to China’s largest state-owned oil company, PetroChina, in a deal worth $800 million.

Oil was also top of the agenda in Kenya on April 27-30. In Nairobi, the Chinese president signed an agreement for licenses to allow CNOOC to explore six possible oil blocks off the coast of Kenya. Last year, China provided $36.5 million in aid to Kenya, mainly to upgrade its power stations.

China’s deals with Nigeria and Kenya, as well as other African countries, are direct challenges to the traditional domination of the continent’s oil by American and European companies. (See Western concern at China’s growing involvement in Africa)

China’s energy diplomacy was spelled out by Yang Peidong, a foreign ministry consultant, in a recent edition of China Economic Weekly. Beijing is now focusing on “the extension of trade and the promotion of energy, resources and technology cooperation” as the heart of China’s foreign policy, he wrote.

China’s strategy is to offer infrastructure projects to the resource-rich countries in Middle East, Africa and Latin America to facilitate, and in exchange for, the export of minerals to China. China is now the world’s sixth largest engineering contractor, with its new contracts up 24 percent to $39 billion last year. In some cases, China has also financed and even armed regimes, such as in Sudan and Zimbabwe, in order to protect its resource interests.

In comments to Reuters during Hu’s visit, former Nigerian foreign minister Bolaji Akinyemi attempted to play down possible tensions with Washington. “In the Middle East, the US regards China’s incursion with alarm, but Nigeria is more virgin territory for suitors and Washington should not be too worried,” he said.

The Bush administration, however, regards China’s moves in Africa as far from benign. Its recently published National Security Strategy openly states US concerns over China as “expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow ‘lock up’ energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up—as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era; and … supporting resource-rich countries without regard to their misrule at home or misbehaviour abroad of those regimes.”
The West has not directed itself to resolving the infrastructure crisis across the continent precisely because they are architects of that crisis.

why did israel lose europe's support in the U.N.?

ha'aretz | "We lost Europe," said a senior Foreign Ministry official. The erosion of Israeli support and shift to the Palestinians started a few days ago in France. President Francois Hollande's words at a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris a month ago, in which he expressed doubts about the Palestinian move in the UN, disappeared as if he never spoke them.

Despite previous declarations, France announced that instead of abstaining, it would vote in favor of recognizing Palestine as a non-member state - an observer state without full membership in the United Nations.

Sixteen members of the European Union have announced their support for the Palestinian move: Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, Luxembourg, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Malta, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and Greece all joined France in the past few days. Norway and Switzerland, which are not members of the European Union, also announced their support for the Palestinian request.

The UN General Assembly resolution recognizes Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member observer state. One hundred and thirty eight countries voted in favor of the resolution. Israel suffered a humiliating political defeat and found itself isolated along with the United States, Canada, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and, at best, the Czech Republic and Germany. Britain, which only a few days ago led the attempt to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw his resolution, also changed its position.

The British promised they would abstain or vote against, but changed their stance and notified Israel they are leaning toward supporting the Palestinian request in the vote, if the Palestinians provide the British with a number of guarantees to restart the peace negotiations without any preconditions - as well as a Palestinian promise not to petition the International Criminal Court in The Hague against Israel. Israel hoped the British would not receive such guarantees - and abstain.

But the hardest blow came from Berlin. In Jerusalem, Germany was considered a certainty to vote against the UN resolution, and the German decision not to oppose the Palestinian bid but rather to abstain shocked the top brass at the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister's office. A top German official who took part in discussions in Berlin, however, stressed that the writing was on the wall.

The senior German official, who has requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, told Haaretz that Germany has been trying to help Israel on the Palestinian issue for a long time but Israel has not taken the necessary steps to advance the peace process. "The Israelis," he said, "did not respond in any way to our request to make a gesture on settlements."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

greeks on the road to haitian hell...,

guardian | It is early Sunday. The sun has barely risen above the chestnut forest that lies somewhere near the crest of Mount Pelion, but loggers' pick-up trucks are already streaming through the muddy slush, their cargo bouncing in the back. Theirs are rich pickings, much in demand as winter envelopes the villages and towns of an increasingly poverty-stricken Greece. As they pass, they do not look up because many do not have permits to do what they have just done.

From their new home a little further on, Yiannis Chadziathanasiou and Natasa Rempati watch the ebb and flow of this traffic. So, too, do the residents of Tsagarada, the picturesque hamlet where the sound of chainsaws pierces the morning air. "Things are getting desperate," says Chadziathanasiou, who clothed Greek celebrities before he moved to the countryside. "You hear all the time of people illegally clearing forests for firewood. It's horrible if you're a green like me."

In their wellington boots and designer jeans, the couple stand out in Tsagarada. Like most middle class Europeans raised in cities, nature is a new world and one that does not come naturally to them. Until last year, both enjoyed successful careers in fashion and architecture. "But then we did our sums," said 29-year-old Rempati, whose firm had designed hospitals and metro stations before being forced to close down. "And although we were both earning good salaries, taking home around €3,500 a month, we were really squeezed. There was never a euro left over. Our heating bill alone cost €3,000 and that was before the €500 we spent on petrol and all the new taxes. We were stressed and really anxious and didn't think we could afford to go through another winter in Athens."

greeks quick to throw fists when pissed...,

reuters | For hours the leader of the Greek journalists' social security fund had been chairing a meeting about disastrous losses on retirement savings caused by the country's economic collapse. "She tried to present herself as the fund's savior and asked (members) to double contributions to 6 percent of salaries," said one of those present that night at the Titania hotel. Spanopoulou, 58, did not succeed.

When she rose to leave around midnight, enraged fund members first swore, then waded in punching, kicking and tearing at her clothes, according to witnesses. A bodyguard managed to bustle her out of the room, but another group caught her just outside the hotel and gave her a second beating. She spent the night in hospital.

It was a brutal sign of the fury many Greeks feel at the way the country's debt crisis has dashed hopes of a comfortable old age. Greece's pension funds - patchily run in the first place, say unionists and some politicians - have been savaged by austerity and the terms of the international bailout keeping the country afloat.

Workers and pensioners suffered losses of about 10 billion euros ($13 billion) just in the debt restructuring of March 2012, when the value of some Greek bonds was cut in half. That sum is equal to 4.6 percent of the country's GDP in 2011.

Many savers blame the debacle on the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, which administers three-quarters of pension funds' surplus cash. Pensioners and politicians accuse it of failing to foresee trouble looming, or even of investing pension fund money in government bonds that it knew to be at high risk of a 'haircut' - having their value reduced.

A Reuters examination of previously unpublished data from the Bank of Greece reveals the bank invested pension fund money in 1.18 billion euros of Greek bonds after the economic crisis began.

Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a lawmaker in the ruling coalition's conservative New Democracy party and former interior minister, said: "From July 2010 it was obvious that a debt restructuring would be inevitable. While foreign banks were unloading their Greek government bonds, no one moved to tell Greek pension funds to do something, that a haircut was coming."

Spanopoulou, while deploring the violence she suffered, said: "The Bank of Greece knew about the haircut on bonds well in advance and should have informed (our) fund."

california marijuana decriminalization drops youth crime rate to record low

HuffPo | Between 2010 and 2011, California experienced a drastic 20 percent decrease in juvenile crime--bringing the underage crime rate to the lowest level since the state started keeping records in 1954.

According to a recently released study, much of that improvement can be credited to the decriminalization of marijuana.

The study, entitled "California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low" and released by the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, looked at the number of people under the age of 18 who were arrested in the state over the past eight decades. The research not only found juvenile crime to be at its lowest level ever but, in the wake of then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signing a bill reducing the punishment for possessing a small amount of marijuana from a misdemeanor to simply an infraction, the drop in rates was particularity significant.

In that one-year period, the number of arrests for violent crimes dropped by 16 percent, homicide went down by 26 percent and drug arrests decreased by nearly 50 percent.

The category of drug arrests showed decreases in every type of crime; however, the vast majority of the drop resulted from far fewer arrests for marijuana possession. In 2010, marijuana possession accounted for 64 percent of all drug arrests, and in 2011, that number decreased to only 46 percent.

California's drop in serious youth crime has decreased faster than in the rest of the nation.