Friday, April 19, 2013

measuring consciousness?


thescientist | General anesthesia has transformed surgery from a ghastly ordeal to a procedure in which the patient feels no pain. Despite its widespread use, however, little is known about how anesthesia produces loss of consciousness—a blind spot brought into sharp focus by the fact that patients still occasionally wake up during surgery. But over the past 5 years, researchers have made significant progress in understanding what happens in the brain as consciousness departs and returns.

Peering into the anesthetized brain with neuroimaging and electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings, scientists have found evidence to support the “integrated-information theory,” which holds that consciousness relies on communication between different brain areas, and fades as that communication breaks down. EEG studies have also revealed distinctive brain wave patterns that signal when consciousness is lost and regained, offering easily identifiable markers for this impairment of communication.

Though many questions remain, advances in brain activity monitoring promise to shed light the neural basis of consciousness, and to eradicate the nightmare of mid-surgery awakenings. What’s more, by combining EEGs with magnetic brain stimulation, researchers may be able to measure consciousness and track recovery in unresponsive patients diagnosed as “vegetative,” who in recent years have been shown to sometimes have higher levels of consciousness than previously realized.

the chosen: competitive advantage of a religion of literacy

pbs | The key message of "The Chosen Few" is that the literacy of the Jewish people, coupled with a set of contract-enforcement institutions developed during the five centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple, gave the Jews a comparative advantage in occupations such as crafts, trade, and moneylending -- occupations that benefited from literacy, contract-enforcement mechanisms, and networking and provided high earnings.

Once the Jews were engaged in these occupations, there was no economic pressure to convert, which is consistent with the fact that the Jewish population, which had shrunk so dramatically in earlier times, grew slightly from the 7th to the 12th centuries.

Moreover, this comparative advantage fostered the voluntary diaspora of the Jews during the early middle ages in search of worldwide opportunities in crafts, trade, commerce, moneylending, banking, finance, and medicine.

This in turn would explain why the Jews, at this point in history, became so successful in occupations related to credit and financial markets. Already during the 12th and 13th centuries, moneylending was the occupation par excellence of the Jews in England, France, and Germany, and one of the main professions of the Jews in the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and other locations in western Europe.

A popular view contends that both their exclusion from craft and merchant guilds and usury bans on Muslims and Christians segregated European Jews into moneylending during the Middle Ages. But our study shows, with evidence we have come upon during more than a decade of research, that this argument is simply untenable.

Instead, we have been compelled to offer an alternative and new explanation, consistent with the historical record: the Jews in medieval Europe voluntarily entered and later specialized in moneylending and banking because they had the key assets for being successful players in credit markets:
  • capital already accumulated as craftsmen and traders,
  • networking abilities because they lived in many locations, could easily communicate with and alert one another as to the best buying and selling opportunities, and
  • literacy, numeracy, and contract-enforcement institutions -- "gifts" that their religion has given them -- gave them an advantage over competitors.
With these assets, small wonder that a significant number of Jews specialized in the most profitable occupation that depended on literacy and numeracy: finance. In this sector they worked for many centuries. As they specialized, just as Adam Smith would have predicted, they honed their craft, giving them a competitive advantage, right up to the present.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

the terrifying reality of long-term unemployment...,


theatlantic | Close your eyes and picture the scariest thing you can think of. Maybe it's a giant spider or a giant Stay Puft marshmallow man or something that's not even giant at all. Well, whatever it is, I guarantee it's not nearly as scary as the real scariest thing in the world. That's long-term unemployment.

There are two labor markets nowadays. There's the market for people who have been out of work for less than six months, and the market for people who have been out of work longer. The former is working pretty normally, and the latter is horribly dysfunctional. That was the conclusion of recent research I highlighted a few months ago by Rand Ghayad, a visiting scholar at the Boston Fed and a PhD candidate in economics at Northeastern University, and William Dickens, a professor of economics at Northeastern University, that looked at Beveridge curves for different ages, industries, and education levels to see who the recovery is leaving behind.

Okay, so what is a Beveridge curve? Well, it just shows the relationship between job openings and unemployment. There should be a pretty stable relationship between the two, assuming the labor market isn't broken. The more openings there are, the less unemployment there should be. If that isn't true, if the Beveridge curve "shifts up" as more openings don't translate into less unemployment, then it might be a sign of "structural" unemployment. That is, the unemployed just might not have the right skills. Now, what Ghayad and Dickens found is that the Beveridge curves look normal across all ages, industries, and education levels, as long as you haven't been out of work for more than six months. But the curves shift up for everybody if you've been unemployed longer than six months. In other words, it doesn't matter whether you're young or old, a blue-collar or white-collar worker, or a high school or college grad; all that matters is how long you've been out of work.

sprawling and struggling: poverty in the suburbs


nbcnews | Like many Americans who move to the suburbs, Tara Simons came to West Hartford because she wanted her daughter to grow up in a nice, safe place with good schools.

Her fall from a more financially secure suburban life to one among the working poor also happened for the same reason it’s happened to so many others. She had a bout of unemployment and couldn’t find a new job that paid very well.

As a single mother, that’s made it hard to hold on to the suburban life that is, in her mind, key to making sure her daughter gets off to the right start.

“I’m basically paying to say I live in West Hartford,” she said. “It is worth it.”

It’s a struggle that many Americans bruised by the weak economy can relate to.

The number of suburban residents living in poverty rose by nearly 64 percent between 2000 and 2011, to about 16.4 million people, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of 95 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. That’s more than double the rate of growth for urban poverty in those areas.

“I think we have an outdated perception of where poverty is and who it is affecting,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the research. “We tend to think of it as a very urban and a very rural phenomenon, but it is increasingly suburban.”

Simons’ situation is complicated by the fact she’s a single mom. Poverty and financial insecurity among single moms is far higher than for households headed by single dads or two parents.

The rate of poverty among single mothers actually improved dramatically through the 1990s, thanks to a strong economy, more favorable tax breaks and the success of so-called welfare-to-work programs. But two recessions and years of high unemployment erased many of those gains.

Moving for a better life
Simons and her daughter Alexis moved from Massachusetts to West Hartford eight years ago because Simons had a job with a local rug retailer.

Alexis, now 14, made friends, became an avid lacrosse player and is now a high school freshman.

Simons expected to work for the rug retailer until retirement, but about a year ago she quit after disputes with one of the two owners. She had never had trouble finding a new job and was unprepared for how hard it would be.

“I know that part of it is my fault and I absolutely take responsibility for that, but I never in a million years thought that I would (be in this position),” she said.

Simons went without work or unemployment benefits for five months before she got her current job about six months ago. The position, as a customer service representative for a local health products company, pays $14 an hour. That leaves her with take-home pay of about $460 to $480 a week, plus about $127 a week in child support. Simons has full custody of her daughter.

She is behind on her electric and gas bills and owes nearly $400 to her daughter’s club lacrosse team, which has her worried that her daughter won’t be able to play this spring.

Like many working poor people, she has fallen into a debt spiral. She took out an $800 payday loan, and she estimates that it will end up costing her $1,600 to pay it back. She also has several hundred dollars in credit card debt and has worked to pay off hundreds of dollars in bank overdraft fees. She’s sold jewelry for cash.

She and Alexis had to leave the house they were renting after she lost her job and a roommate. She got one-time aid from the city’s crisis fund to help with the down payment for her new, cheaper apartment. Still, the $1125 rent eats up more than half of her monthly take-home pay.

She went on Medicaid after being unable to afford health insurance.

Simons said it’s been hard, and sometimes embarrassing, to accept help.

“The thing is, I don’t want it,” she said. “I want to pay my bills.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

nutrient-shaped, nutrient-seeking, macro-molecular machines...,

the beer of yesteryear...,
figshare | We now know that new species arise from relatively sudden changes in the supply of nutrients. The problem that remains with the concept of Darwinian Natural selection for phenotype is that statistical arguments first eliminate consideration of genes with large effects (Carter, 1969). That approach has led many evolutionary theorists and philosophers to ignore existing pleiotropy, which is especially evident in microbial species, and to also ignore the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks by nutrients in all species. The epigenetic effects of nutrients are clearly required for individual survival, and nutrients metabolize to species-specific pheromones. The problem with mutations theory extends to a denial of species-wide pheromone-controlled reproduction, which is required for epistasis and survival of species.

Simply put, statistical analyses are used to deny nutrient-dependent / pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution (Kohl, 2013). By default, statistical analyses also tend to 1) eliminate climate change, 2) eliminate the thermodynamic complexity of molecular bonds, and 3) eliminate the complex systems biology of thermoregulation and adaptively evolved biodiversity. Because statistical analyses of cause and effect start by eliminating biological facts from calculations and equations, some researchers have viewed adaptive evolution only in the context of a mathematical “garbage-in, garbage out” theory -- with no model of biologically based adaptive evolution.

not only bad statistics, but deeply flawed/erroneous theories, as well...,


wired | The fields of psychology and cognitive neuroscience have had some rough sledding in recent years. The bumps have come from high-profile fraudsters, concerns about  findings that can’t be replicated, and criticism from within the scientific ranks about shoddy statistics. A new study adds to these woes, suggesting that a wide range of neuroscience studies lack the statistical power to back up their findings.

This problem isn’t just academic. The authors argue that there are real-world consequences, from wasting the lives of lab animals and squandering public funding on unreliable studies, to potentially stopping clinical trials with human patients prematurely (or not stopping them soon enough).

“This paper should help by revealing exactly how bad things have gotten,” said Hal Pashler, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. Pashler was not involved with the new study, but he and colleagues have previously raised concerns about statistical problems with fMRI brain scan studies in human subjects.

The aim of the new study wasn’t to rake neuroscientists over the coals, but to get them talking about how to change the culture and the incentives that promote statistically unreliable studies, says co-author Marcus Munafò, a psychologist at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom. “We’re really trying to be constructive about this.” Fist tap Dale.

classic BD-ism: Since genetics is today's topic - genes for criminality -- Why IQ-75'z are disproportionately in prison...???


theprovince | This is thought to be the first time that scientists have analyzed the genetic blueprint of a “spree killer”, but it’s far from the first attempt to examine a murderer’s biology. In 1931, the brain of the “Vampire of Dusseldorf”, Peter Kurten, a serial killer, was removed from his corpse after his execution for examination, although no useful conclusions were published. Today, it is displayed in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum in Wisconsin.

Over the past decade, Dr. Kent Kiehl, a neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico, has visited eight high-security prisons in two US states with a mobile MRI unit, scanning the brains of criminals to see if those defined as psychopaths have different brain structures from “someone who commits a robbery out of poverty”, as Kiehl puts it.

Kiehl’s and others’ research has found that psychopaths’ brains tend to have very low levels of density in the paralimbic system, the area of the brain associated with the processing of emotion, something that may be genetically determined. The result is that psychopaths tend to have impulsive personalities and show little evidence of feeling guilt, remorse or empathy.

In contrast, “spree killers” tend to be extremely depressed, to the point of suffering from a delusional psychosis accompanied by voices or hallucinations, or — as in Lanza’s case — to be young people with physiologically immature brains, who in their state of ultra-sensitivity decide to exact “revenge” on the world for perceived injustices.

THE WARRIOR GENE
Recent years have seen huge advancements in DNA research, with researchers now able to identify specific genes that are linked to anti-social or aggressive behaviour, in particular the MAO-A gene (nicknamed “the warrior gene”), which appears to be hereditary.

A study of Danish twins concluded that a Danish man who has an identical twin with a criminal record is about 50 per cent more likely to have been in prison himself than the average Danish male. Non-identical twins are between 15 and 30 per cent more likely to both have criminal records. Similarly, adoption studies around the world have shown that a child of criminal parents is more likely to become a criminal, even if the adoptive parents are law-abiding.

Irving Gottesman, a psychologist at the University of Virginia who has worked on the Danish twin study, believes the results show that “criminals are not born, but the odds at the moment of birth of becoming one are not even”.

But so controversial are the links between biology and violence that only the bravest scientists have dared tackle it.

“There are many political objections and that means there’s not been enough research into the area,” says Kiehl.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

are genes a "product of nature"?



BusinessInsider | The US Supreme Court heard the most high-profile genetics case in history on Monday, as justices considered whether private firms should be allowed to patent human genes linked to breast cancer.

The court's decision could have broad implications for research, patient health and the pharmaceutical industry, with nearly 20 percent of the approximately 24,000 human genes currently under patent, some linked to cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

At issue are the actions of Myriad Genetics, a Utah-based company which holds patents on genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, both associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

The firm says patents for the two genes, awarded in 1998, have helped it raise the money "necessary to decode the genes, design and deliver the tests, interpret the results, and help patients," to the benefit of a million people.

Critics accuse Myriad of barring research by other institutions on the BRCA genes and making the test too expensive for many patients, with a cost of $3,000 to $4,000.

"Competition is what leads to innovation and improvement," said Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist and a plaintiff in the case.

"We don't want to tie up the uses of our genes," he told reporters, adding that if Myriad did not own the patents, "I would start offering testing to my poor patients in the Bronx."

Dozens of breast cancer survivors and women's health advocates assembled on the Supreme Court steps as the arguments were heard inside. Some hoisted signs, including one that read: "Corporate Greed is Killing My Friends."

the human genome project 10 years on...,



NYTimes | How hard is it today to sequence a person’s genome? We can sequence a human genome in a couple of days for well under $10,000, probably around $4,000 or $5,000. And we sequence the genome you got from your father and the one you got from your mother. That’s a total of six billion bases. It is already around the cost of an M.R.I., and it will get cheaper yet. The original Human Genome Project sequenced just one representation, three billion bases.

How did it get so cheap? In April 2003, right after the completion of the human genome, our institute put into print a call for technology to deliver a $1,000 human genome sequence. That became the battle cry. I remember thinking someday we would get to a $1,000 genome. I don’t worry about the $1,000 genome anymore. We have had six orders of magnitude improvement in a decade.

What about the naysayers who asked, “Where are the cures for diseases that we were promised?” I became director of this institute three and a half years ago, and I remember when I first started going around and giving talks. Routinely I would hear: “You are seven years into this. Where are the wins? Where are the successes?”

I don’t hear that as much anymore. I think what’s happening, and it has happened in the last three years in particular, is just the sheer aggregate number of the success stories. The drumbeat of these successes is finally winning people over.

We are understanding cancer and rare genetic diseases. There are incredible stories now where we are able to draw blood from a pregnant woman and analyze the DNA of her unborn child.

Increasingly, we have more informed ways of prescribing medicine because we first do a genetic test. We can use microbial DNA to trace disease outbreaks in a matter of hours.

These are just game changers. It’s a wide field of accomplishment, and there is a logical story to be told.

Monday, April 15, 2013

the war on abortion spawned hell on earth, much as the war on drugs has done.....,


houston chronicle | Across the country, abortion is being attacked by all sides.  Legal arguments for the North Dakota abortion legislation start todayTexas continues its unnecessary and inexplicable funding attacks on Planned Parenthood in the name of abortion prevention–even though the funding doesn’t even cover pregnancy termination.  Little by little, day by day, legal precedent by legal maneuver, we’re chipping away at a woman’s right to choose without thought of the consequences.  And the stakes are huge.

Why didn’t government agencies crack down on Gosnell’s clinic sooner?  Because we don’t even want to talk about abortion in this country.  There is a culture of distaste when it comes to pregnancy termination–despite the fact that it is still legal.  We don’t want to throw our tax dollars away on the oversight and regulation of clinics.  Who needs that?  No one wants to listen when abuses are reported.  If you are getting an abortion, you deserve whatever you get.  We want to pretend that abortion isn’t there. We want to punish women who seek to actually use their legal rights to terminate a pregnancy.  And in this way, we, as a country, as humans, have failed Gosnell’s patients almost as much as he did.

Let’s not kid ourselves:  abortion is not going to go away.  Legal or illegal, women will still get pregnant.  Women will still seek to end their pregnancies.  One way or another, it’s going to happen.

Which is why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s trial does not give ammunition to the pro-life camp.  On the contrary, it’s yet another reminder why it’s so important to keep abortion safe, humane and legal.  It’s a reason why women everywhere, no matter their beliefs, should stand up and fight for choice.  Because once Roe vs. Wade is gone, “clinics” like Gosnell’s will flourish.  They will be the ones that will replace–yes, illegally, but still–replace safe and humane providers like the Planned Parenthood clinics that our own state is trying to discredit. And those horrifying places will be women’s only option.

an educated fool is the last to realize his own uselessness....,

the economist | ON THE evening before All Saints' Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research—a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master's degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as “slave labour”. Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. “It isn't graduate school itself that is discouraging,” says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. “What's discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach.”

Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

celebrated michelle rhee now just another incompetent busted cheater...,



takingnote | With the indictment of former Atlanta School Superintendent Beverly A. Hall and 34 other public school employees in a massive cheating scandal, the time is right to re-examine other situations of possible illegal behavior by educators. Washington, DC, belongs at the top of that list.

Michelle A. Rhee, America’s most famous school reformer, was fully aware of the extent of the problem when she glossed over what appeared to be widespread cheating during her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC. A long-buried confidential memo from her outside data consultant suggests that the problem was far more serious than kids copying off other kids’ answer sheets. (“191 teachers representing 70 schools”). Twice in just four pages the consultant suggests that Rhee’s own principals, some of whom she had hired, may have been responsible (“Could the erasures in some cases have been done by someone other than the students and the teachers?”).

Rhee has publicly maintained that, if bureaucratic red tape hadn’t gotten in the way, she would have investigated the erasures. For example, in an interview[1] conducted for PBS’ “Frontline” before I learned about the confidential memo, Rhee told me, “We kept saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this; we just need to have more information.’ And by the time the information was trickling in back and forth, we were about to take the next year’s test. And there was a new superintendent of education that came in at the time. And she said, ‘Okay, well, we’re about to take the next test anyway so let’s just make sure that the proper protocols are in place for next time.’”

At best, that story is misleading.

The rash of “wrong to right” (WTR) erasures was first noticed by the DC official in charge of testing, who, after consulting with the test-maker, asked Rhee to investigate, in November, 2008. Through her data chief, Rhee turned to Dr. Fay G. “Sandy” Sanford for outside analysis.

I have a copy of the memo[2] and have confirmed its authenticity with two highly placed and reputable sources. The anonymous source is in DCPS; the other is DC Inspector General Charles Willoughby. A reliable source has confirmed that Rhee and Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson discussed the memo in staff gatherings. Sanford came to Washington to present his findings in late January, 2009, after which he wrote his memo.

In response to my request for comment, Rhee issued the following careful statement: “As chancellor I received countless reports, memoranda and presentations. I don’t recall receiving a report from Sandy Sanford regarding erasure data from the DC CAS, but I’m pleased, as has been previously reported, that both inspectors general (DOE and DCPS) reviewed the memo and confirmed my belief that there was no wide spread cheating.” After receiving this statement, I sent her the memo; her spokesman responded by saying that she stood by her earlier statement.

Chancellor Henderson did not respond to my request for a response.
Sanford wanted the memo to be kept confidential. At the top and bottom of each page he wrote “Sensitive Information–Treat as Confidential,” and he urged, “Don’t make hard copies and leave them around.” (The memo.)

The gist of his message: the many ‘wrong to right’ erasures on the students’ answer sheets suggested widespread cheating by adults.

“It is common knowledge in the high-stakes testing community that one of the easiest ways for teachers to artificially inflate student test scores is to erase student wrong responses to multiple choice questions and recode them as correct,” Sanford wrote.

Sanford analyzed the evidence from one school, Aiton, whose scores had jumped by 29 percentiles in reading and 43 percentiles in math and whose staff–from the principal down to the custodians–Rhee had rewarded with $276,265 in bonuses. Answer sheets revealed an average of 5.7 WTR erasures in reading and 6.8 in math, significantly above the district average of 1.7 and 2.3.[3]

Sanford, a Marine officer who carved out a post-retirement career in data analysis in California, spelled out the consequences of a cheating scandal. Schools whose rising scores showed they were making “adequate yearly progress” as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act could “wind up being compromised,” he warned. And what would happen to the hefty bonuses Rhee had already awarded to the principals and teachers at high-achieving schools with equally high erasure rates, Sanford asked? And, Stanford pondered, “What legal options would we have with teachers found guilty of infractions? Could they be fired? Would the teachers’ contract allow it?”[4]

While Sanford’s memo doesn’t raise the issue, falsely elevated scores would deny remedial attention to children whose true scores would trigger help. Just how many children could only be determined by an investigation.

Michelle Rhee had to decide whether to investigate aggressively or not. She had publicly promised to make all decisions “in the best interests of children,” and a full-scale investigation would seem to keep that pledge. If cheating were proved, she could fire the offenders and see that students with false scores received the remedial attention they needed. Failing to investigate might be interpreted as a betrayal of children’s interests–if it ever became public knowledge. Fist tap Big Don.


more police in schools means more kids in court...,



NYTimes | As school districts across the country consider placing more police officers in schools, youth advocates and judges are raising alarm about what they have seen in the schools where officers are already stationed: a surge in criminal charges against children for misbehavior that many believe is better handled in the principal’s office.

Since the early 1990s, thousands of districts, often with federal subsidies, have paid local police agencies to provide armed “school resource officers” for high schools, middle schools and sometimes even elementary schools. Hundreds of additional districts, including those in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have created police forces of their own, employing thousands of sworn officers.

Last week, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, a task force of the National Rifle Association recommended placing police officers or other armed guards in every school. The White House has proposed an increase in police officers based in schools.

The effectiveness of using police officers in schools to deter crime or the remote threat of armed intruders is unclear. The new N.R.A. report cites the example of a Mississippi assistant principal who in 1997 got a gun from his truck and disarmed a student who had killed two classmates, and another in California in which a school resource officer in 2001 wounded and arrested a student who had opened fire with a shotgun.

Yet the most striking impact of school police officers so far, critics say, has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts.

contractor neglected and underserved kids and exploited incompetent and inattentive administrators


NYTimes | Cheon H. Park ran a company that had begun to prosper on government contracts, but he had bigger ambitions. So he tore down his shabby headquarters on a quiet street in Flushing, Queens, and replaced it with a lavish three-story building that had marble floors, granite countertops, red carpets and a soaring chandelier.

Then he brought in the clients: 3- and 4-year-olds with developmental disabilities.

Scores of them came each weekday, their parents lured by the attractive surroundings and the promises of state-of-the-art therapy. New York City and New York State paid for it all, from the expensive renovations to the services themselves, at a rate of as much as $98 an hour.

But many of the children entrusted to Mr. Park’s company did not get the care they needed, according to numerous interviews with workers and parents and an extensive analysis of government records.

Some children whose first language was Chinese languished in classes taught in Spanish or Korean. Others who were supposed to receive individual tutoring were thrown into groups of four or more children, all with different types of disabilities.

Some children did not have disabilities at all and were simply being used to generate billings, the interviews show.

“We had kids who were little rocket scientists being put in there — who could read and write at a third-grade level,” said Angel Tirado, a former aide to Mr. Park.

Mr. Park’s contracts were canceled by the city at the beginning of this school year after The New York Times questioned officials about his company.

But his success until then underscores how private contractors have taken advantage of this generously financed but poorly regulated segment of the special-education system, often called special ed pre-K, according to an investigation by The Times.

At Mr. Park’s company, the costs to treat these 3- and 4-year-olds were enormous. The government routinely spent more than $50,000 in a single year on services for one child, according to an analysis of billing records.

In all, that occurred 281 times from 2005 to 2012, the records show.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

letting more hot air out of TED...,

realitysandwich | The cause of our concern: while the original criticism against Hancock and Sheldrake was later retracted -- literally crossed out on the blog page -- after the speakers rebutted it, the initial decision to remove the videos still held. Statements from TED staff implied that the presentations were "pseudoscience," but no specific allegations were made. Both Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock offered to debate a member of the anonymous science board, or any other representative, about actual criticisms, but got no response. To an outsider, TED's actions are baffling.

In your personal statements you say that TED is not censoring the videos, since they are available on a back page of your site, and technically that may be true. But by relegating them to obscure blogs that are not indexed as part of the regular pool of TEDx talks, the unequivocal message is that these talks are not fit to be seen among the thousands of other presentations that TED offers through YouTube. Somehow they were mistakes that slipped through and need to be quarantined from the "good" TED talks, to keep them from contamination. Given TED's influence, this treatment is unfairly damaging to the reputations of the speakers singled out.

The subsequent cancellation of TEDxWestHollywood's license, apparently due to the involvement of three of its speakers, who were named in a letter from TED staff, seems to be a continuation of the same baffling behavior. Again, the only reason given was a vague reference to "pseudoscience."  But why these speakers? What had they done to justify reprimand -- especially since TEDxWestHollywood had been in development for a year and was only two weeks from taking place?

The five people identified as problematic by TED work in different fields. Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist. Graham Hancock is a journalist who has written about archeological ruins. Larry Dossey is a doctor. Russell Targ is a physicist. Marylin Schlitz is a social anthropologist and consciousness researcher. The one subject they all have in common is a shared interest in the non-locality of consciousness, the possibility that consciousness extends beyond the brain. Each speaker has devoted many years to the rigorous study of consciousness through the lens of their respective disciplines, and they have come up with provocative results.

Through its actions, TED appears to be drawing a line around this area of investigation and marking it as forbidden territory. Is this true? In the absence of any detailed reasoning in TED's public statements, it's hard to avoid this conclusion. It would seem that, despite your statement that "TED is 100% committed to open enquiry, including challenges to orthodox thinking," that enquiry appears to not include any exploration of consciousness as a non-local phenomenon, no matter how it may be approached.


It was hot the night we burned Chrome...,

Omni Magazine July 1982

OMNI Magazine collection online...,


archive | OMNI was a science and science fiction magazine published in the US and the UK. It contained articles on science fact and short works of science fiction. The first issue was published in October 1978, the last in Winter 1995, with an internet version lasting until 1998.

OMNI was launched by Kathy Keeton, long-time companion and later wife of Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione, who described the magazine in its first issue as "an original if not controversial mixture of science fact, fiction, fantasy and the paranormal". Before launch it was referred to as Nova, but the name was changed before the first issue to avoid a conflict with the PBS science show of the same name, NOVA.

The magazine was initially edited by Frank Kendig, who left several months after the magazine's launch. Ben Bova, who was hired as Fiction Editor, was promoted to Editor, leaving the magazine in 1981. After Kendig and Bova, Editors of OMNI included Richard Teresi, Gurney Williams III, Patrice Adcroft, Keith Ferrell, and Pamela Weintraub (editor of OMNI as one of the first major standalone webzines from 1996-1998). Kathleen Stein managed the magazine's prestigious Q&A interviews with the top scientists of the 20th century through 1998. Ellen Datlow was Associate fiction editor of OMNI under Robert Sheckley for one and a half years, and took over as Fiction Editor in 1981 until the magazine folded in 1998. The very first edition had an exclusive interview with renowned physicist, Freeman Dyson, the second edition with American writer and futurist, Alvin Toffler.

In its early run, OMNI published a number of stories that have become genre classics, such as Orson Scott Card's "Unaccompanied Sonata", William Gibson's "Burning Chrome" and "Johnny Mnemonic", Harlan Ellison's novella "Mefisto in Onyx", and George R. R. Martin's "Sandkings". The magazine also published original sf/f by William S. Burroughs, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Carroll, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and other mainstream writers. The magazine excerpted Stephen King's novel Firestarter, and featured a short story, "The End of the Whole Mess". OMNI also brought the works of numerous painters to the attention of a large audience, such as H. R. Giger, De Es Schwertberger and Rallé. In the early 1980s, popular fiction stories from OMNI were reprinted in "The Best of OMNI Science Fiction" series and featured art by space artists like Robert McCall.

OMNI entered the market at the start of a wave of new science magazines aimed at educated but otherwise "non-professional" readers. Science Digest and Science News already served the high-school market, and Scientific American and New Scientist the professional, while OMNI was arguably the first aimed at "armchair scientists" who were nevertheless well informed about technical issues. The next year, however, Time introduced Discover while the AAAS introduced Science '80.

Advertising dollars were spread among the different magazines, and those without deep pockets soon folded in the early 1980s, notably Science Digest, while Science '80 merged with Discover. OMNI appeared to weather this storm better than most, likely due to its wider selection of contents.

International editions of OMNI magazine were published in at least five markets. The content in the British editions closely followed the North American editions, but with a different numbering sequence and British advertising. At least one British edition was entirely unique and was shipped under the banner of "Omni UK". The Italian edition was edited by Albert Peruzzo and ran for 20 issues from 1981 to 1983. The Japanese edition ran from at least 1982 to 1989. German and Spanish editions were also published.

Friday, April 12, 2013

dead brains, clear as jello...,



NYTimes | The visible brain has arrived — the consistency of Jell-O, as transparent and colorful as a child’s model, but vastly more useful. 

Scientists at Stanford University reported on Wednesday that they have made a whole mouse brain, and part of a human brain, transparent so that networks of neurons that receive and send information can be highlighted in stunning color and viewed in all their three-dimensional complexity without slicing up the organ.
Even more important, experts say, is that unlike earlier methods for making the tissue of brains and other organs transparent, the new process, called Clarity by its inventors, preserves the biochemistry of the brain so well that researchers can test it over and over again with chemicals that highlight specific structures and provide clues to past activity. The researchers say this process may help uncover the physical underpinnings of devastating mental disorders like schizophrenia, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder and others. 

The work, reported on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is not part of the Obama administration’s recently announced initiative to probe the secrets of the brain, although the senior author on the paper, Dr. Karl Deisseroth at Stanford, was one of those involved in creating the initiative and is involved in planning its future. 

Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which provided some of the financing for the research, described the new work as helping to build an anatomical “foundation” for the Obama initiative, which is meant to look at activity in the brain. 

Dr. Insel added that the technique works in a human brain that has been in formalin, a preservative, for years, which means that long-saved human brains may be studied. “Frankly,” he said, “that is spectacular.”
Kwanghun Chung, the primary author on the paper, and Dr. Deisseroth worked with a team at Stanford for years to get the technique right. Dr. Deisseroth, known for developing another powerful technique, called optogenetics, that allows the use of light to switch specific brain activity on and off, said Clarity could have a broader impact than optogenetics. “It’s really one of the most exciting things we’ve done,” he said, with potential applications in neuroscience and beyond. 

“I think it’s great,” said Dr. Clay Reid, a senior investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, who was not involved in the work. “One of the very difficult challenges has been making the brain, which is opaque, clear enough so that you can see deep into it.” This technique, he said, makes brains “extremely clear” and preserves most of the brain chemistry. “It has it all,” he said. Fist tap Rembom.

not just brain-function visualization, but brain-function visualization in social context...,


frontiersin | Although significant advances have been made in our understanding of the neural basis of action observation and intention understanding in the last few decades by studies demonstrating the involvement of a specific brain network (action observation network; AON), these have been largely based on experimental studies in which people have been considered as strictly isolated entities. However, we, as social species, spend much more of our time performing actions interacting with others. Research shows that a person's position along the continuum of perceived social isolation/bonding to others is associated with a variety of physical and mental health effects. Thus, there is a crucial need to better understand the neural basis of intention understanding performed in interpersonal and emotional contexts. To address this issue, we performed a meta-analysis using of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies over the past decade that examined brain and cortical network processing associated with understanding the intention of others actions vs. those associated with passionate love for others. Both overlapping and distinct cortical and subcortical regions were identified for intention and love, respectively. These findings provide scientists and clinicians with a set of brain regions that can be targeted for future neuroscientific studies on intention understanding, and help develop neurocognitive models of pair-bonding.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

genuinely challenging, entirely mysterious...,



wikipedia | Charles Howard Hinton (1853, UK – 30 April 1907, Washington D.C., USA) was a British mathematician and writer of science fiction works titled Scientific Romances. He was interested in higher dimensions, particularly the fourth dimension, and is known for coining the word "tesseract" and for his work on methods of visualising the geometry of higher dimensions.

In an 1880 article entitled "What is the Fourth Dimension?", Hinton suggested that points moving around in three dimensions might be imagined as successive cross-sections of a static four-dimensional arrangement of lines passing through a three-dimensional plane, an idea that anticipated the notion of world lines, and of time as a fourth dimension (although Hinton did not propose this explicitly, and the article was mainly concerned with the possibility of a fourth spatial dimension), in Einstein's theory of relativity. Hinton later introduced a system of coloured cubes by the study of which, he claimed, it was possible to learn to visualise four-dimensional space (Casting out the Self, 1904). Rumours subsequently arose that these cubes had driven more than one hopeful person insane.[citation needed]

Hinton created several new words to describe elements in the fourth dimension. According to OED, he first used the word tesseract in 1888 in his book A New Era of Thought. He also invented the words kata (from the Greek for "down from") and ana (from the Greek for "up toward") to describe the two opposing fourth-dimensional directions—the 4-D equivalents of left and right, forwards and backwards, and up and down.[11]

Hinton's Scientific romances, including "What is the Fourth Dimension?" and "A Plane World", were published as a series of nine pamphlets by Swan Sonnenschein & Co. during 1884–1886. In the introduction to "A Plane World", Hinton referred to Abbott's recent Flatland as having similar design but different intent. Abbott used the stories as "a setting wherein to place his satire and his lessons. But we wish in the first place to know the physical facts." Hinton's world existed along the perimeter of a circle rather than on an infinite flat plane.[12] He extended the connection to Abbott's work with An Episode on Flatland: Or How a Plain Folk Discovered the Third Dimension (1907).