Sunday, March 09, 2014

warsocialist welfare dug in deeper than an alabama tick...,

tomsdispatch | Washington is pushing the panic button, claiming austerity is hollowing out our armed forces and our national security is at risk. That was the message Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered last week when he announced that the Army would shrink to levels not seen since before World War II. Headlines about this crisis followed in papers like the New York Times and members of Congress issued statements swearing that they would never allow our security to be held hostage to the budget-cutting process. 

Yet a careful look at budget figures for the U.S. military -- a bureaucratic juggernaut accounting for 57% of the federal discretionary budget and nearly 40% of all military spending on this planet -- shows that such claims have been largely fictional. Despite cries of doom since the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration surfaced in Washington in 2011, the Pentagon has seen few actual reductions, and there is no indication that will change any time soon.

This piece of potentially explosive news has, however, gone missing in action -- and the “news” that replaced it could prove to be one of the great bait-and-switch stories of our time.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

"protect and serve" welfare recipients have no rights that the warsocialist state is bound to respect

ecowatch |  A stunning new report indicates the U.S. Navy knew that sailors from the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan took major radiation hits from the Fukushima atomic power plant after its meltdowns and explosions nearly three years ago. 

If true, the revelations cast new light on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by the sailors against Tokyo Electric Power. Many of the sailors are already suffering devastating health impacts, but are being stonewalled by Tepco and the Navy.
The Reagan had joined several other U.S. ships in Operation Tomodachi (“Friendship”) to aid victims of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami. Photographic evidence and first-person testimony confirms that on March 12, 2011 the ship was within two miles of Fukushima Dai’ichi as the reactors there began to melt and explode. 
In the midst of a snow storm, deck hands were enveloped in a warm cloud that came with a metallic taste. Sailors testify that the Reagan’s 5,500-member crew was told over the ship’s intercom to avoid drinking or bathing in desalinized water drawn from a radioactive sea. The huge carrier quickly ceased its humanitarian efforts and sailed 100 miles out to sea, where newly published internal Navy communications confirm it was still taking serious doses of radioactive fallout.
Scores of sailors from the Reagan and other ships stationed nearby now report a wide range of ailments reminiscent of those documented downwind from atomic bomb tests in the Pacific and Nevada, and at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. A similar metallic taste was described by pilots who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and by central Pennsylvanians downwind of Three Mile Island. Some parts of the atolls downwind from the South Pacific bomb tests remain uninhabitable six decades later.
Among the 81 plaintiffs in the federal class action are a sailor who was pregnant during the mission, and her “Baby A.G.,” born that October with multiple genetic mutations. 
Officially, Tepco and the Navy say the dose levels were safe.
But a stunning new report by an American scholar based in Tokyo confirms that Naval officers communicated about what they knew to be the serious irradiation of the Reagan. Written by Kyle Cunningham and published in Japan Focus, “Mobilizing Nuclear Bias” describes the interplay between the U.S. and Japanese governments as Fukushima devolved into disaster.
Cunningham writes that transcribed conversations obtained through the Freedom of Information Act feature naval officials who acknowledge that even while 100 miles away from Fukushima, the Reagan’s readings “compared to just normal background [are] about 30 times what you would detect just on a normal air sample out to sea.”
On the nuclear-powered carrier “all of our continuous monitors alarmed at the same level, at this value. And then we took portable air samples on the flight deck and got the same value,” the transcript says.

warsocialist welfare support is concentrated in the confederate states of america...,

Where poverty, obesity, smoking, ignorance, and disease prevail. Deep dysfunction where warsocialist welfare, social conservatism, and the political right-wing rule.

All of them except resource-rich Texas are federal "beneficiary" states. That means that they receive far more in federal subsidization than they submit to federal government in income taxes. Texas is such a stubbornly oppositional fustercluck, that it refuses to match-fund many of the programs under which it receives a tidal wave of federal subsidization, and that's not even including the massive Medicaid funding refusal.

Net of natural resource wealth, Texas would be just another net dependent on Federal welfare largesse. What would these uniformly red fusterclucks be like if they did not receive the lion's share of domestic federal subsidization?  Frost that turd any way you want. Warsocialist expenditures on unneeded military bases, research projects, etc.., are all without exception forms of welfare directed toward the support or organically unnecessary activity that would not exist in the free market. 

Remember the nature of this welfare and how it works when you listen to right wing authoritarian nutters howl like hit dogs about social safety net programs. Weaponized welfare for surplus labor is still just welfare. Right wingers will preposterously insist that the constitution supports imposition of the warsocialist welfare program on everyone else - and that this useless and scandal plagued make-work is somehow useful in the protection of our "rights" and "freedoms". Absolutely NOTHING could be further from the truth.

the hot mess spawned by warsocialist welfare support of the surplus labor pool...,

Friday, March 07, 2014

not that any IQ-75's and over were ever confused or in doubt about the underlying motive.....,

parliamentary sissies runnin nothin but they mouth...,

rsn |  In the wake of an explosive new allegation that the CIA spied on Senate intelligence committee staffers, one senator felt this morning that he needed to make something clear.

"The Senate Intelligence Committee oversees the CIA, not the other way around," Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) said in a press release.

In normal circumstances, that would have been a statement of the obvious. Today, it was more a cry for help.

McClatchy News Service on Tuesday reported that the CIA's inspector general has asked for a criminal investigation into CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides who were investigating the agency's prominent role in the Bush-era torture of detainees.

Specifically, McClatchy reported: "The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers - in possible violation of an agreement against doing so - that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge."

In a letter to President Obama on Tuesday, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) referred to what he called "unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review," and described it as "incredibly troubling for the Committee's oversight responsibilities and for our democracy."
The allegation comes on the heels of a fruitless quest by members of the House and Senate to get NSA officials to confirm or deny whether information on phone calls by members of Congress has been swept up in the agency's metadata dragnet. (Since it's so indiscriminate, presumably they have, but the NSA won't say so.)

The Senate report at the heart of this confrontation took four years to complete, runs 6,000 pages, and was adopted by the committee in December 2012. It is said to be highly critical of both the CIA's role in the torture regime and its public protestations of innocence. But the White House, under ferocious lobbying by the CIA, has refused to declassify it.

Most recently, controversy has arisen over an internal CIA report that was reportedly critical of the agency's practices, but was withheld from Senate investigators.

Heinrich, in his statement, complained: "Since I joined the Committee, the CIA has refused to engage in good faith on the Committee's study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program. Instead, the CIA has consistently tried to cast doubt on the accuracy and quality of this report by publicly making false representations about what is and is not in it."

The resistance to oversight about torture mirrors similar problems legislators have experienced when it comes to trying to monitor surveillance programs and other secret activities, with one huge exception: The torture report was championed and endorsed by Senate intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other senior members of that committee. By contrast, Feinstein and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) have emerged as the strongest defenders of surveillance activity, leaving the so-far-losing battle for disclosure to be fought by more rebellious legislators.

The consistent theme is that members of Congress are finding themselves at an ever-increasing disadvantage when it comes to even finding out what intelligence agencies are doing - not to mention reining them in.

parliamentary sissies fabulous ballin...,

aljazeera | Match your U.S. lawmaker with the corresponding charges on his or her fundraising expense account, and one can get a textured glimpse of exactly what it takes these days to charm donors.

For example, which congressman spent $91,000 in 2013 for a getaway at Dorado Beach Club, a luxury resort in Puerto Rico known for its championship golf courses and plantation-style residences?
That would be Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, who has lamented the widening income gap that separates rich and poor and has been a forceful advocate for a minimum wage hike.

Which lawmaker appears to have an insatiable taste for red meat, having dropped $54,000 at BLT Steakhouse in Washington last year and another $5,000 at Bobby Van’s, a favorite haunt of D.C. lobbyists?

That’s House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. If that wasn’t enough to put his political contributors in a giving mood, his PAC, Every Republican Is Crucial, spent $2,300 on “golf fees” and “golf items” through 2013, in addition to the $26,000 the organization expended on a single fundraiser at the luxury golf resort Creighton Farms in northern Virginia.

Since the GOP’s loss in the 2012 presidential election, Cantor has been at the forefront of the party’s efforts to rehabilitate its image, visiting a number of inner-city schools and touting the conservative approach to combating poverty.

Last one: Which senator spent about $8,000 on private car services, $15,000 on a reception at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan and thousands more on caterers from Pasadena to Nantucket to London?

That would be Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who focuses most of her legislative work on measures to improve the lives of women and families. Shelley Rubin, one of the owners of the Rubin Art Museum, then donated $5,000 right back to Gillibrand’s political action committee, Off the Sidelines, later the same year.

Al Jazeera America combed through the year-end Federal Election Commission filings of some of the most active PACs, looking for the more creative ways lawmakers choose to spend money to make money.  

None of the disbursements detailed above were made directly by the lawmaker’s offices or official campaign apparatuses, but rather by their affiliated PACs. Cantor and Hoyer, along with dozens of other lawmakers, run leadership PACs — operations intended to leverage their star power in order to raise money on behalf of their colleagues.

parliamentary sissy fight signifying nothing...,

cleveland |  Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge on Thursday sought removal of California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa from his Government Oversight chairmanship for cutting off the microphone of the committee's top Democrat at a hearing.

Issa asked former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner to testify before his committee Wednesday on whether the tax agency targeted tax exemption requests of Tea Party groups for special scrutiny.

After Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment rights several times in refusing to answer his questions, Issa ignored Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings' request to speak on behalf of the committee's Democrats, adjourning the hearing and ordering that Cummings' microphone be turned off. His actions infuriated Cummings and other Democrats.

Fudge wrote a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that demanded he be reprimanded for abusing his authority. She said Issa's conduct violated rules of the House of Representatives and his committee. 

"Mr. Issa is a disgrace and should not be allowed to continue in a leadership role," her letter said. "As the Speaker, you are responsible for maintaining decorum and appropriate conduct in the House of Representatives and ordering the Sergeant at Arms to enforce House rules. We urge you to take prompt action to maintain the integrity of this body and remove Mr. Issa as chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee immediately."

Fudge and other Democrats also brought a resolution to the House of Representatives floor to seek Issa's ouster. It was tabled on a party-line vote

In a briefing with reporters, Boehner said he thinks Issa was "within his rights to adjourn the hearing when he did."

“The issue here is our effort to try to get the truth of the abuse by the IRS of groups around the country that some in the administration don’t agree with," said Boehner. “Darrell Issa is the chairman. He's done an effective job as chairman. And I support him.”

A spokesman for Issa has not yet responded to The Plain Dealer's request for comment. Issa is a Cleveland-area native who became a multimillionaire by running a company that makes anti-theft devices for cars.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

social cognition and social decision-making

frontiersinneuroscience |  Is social decision-making unique? How does it differ from non-social decision-making? The answers to these questions have been of interest to researchers in a variety of fields including social psychology and behavioral economics. Combining these literatures can help us understand the answers to these questions. Economists originally believed that social decision-making was not different from non-social decision-making and tried to model social decisions with traditional economic models. However, after the influential paper by Tversky and Kahneman (1974) demonstrating heuristics and biases affecting decision-making, it became apparent that the decision-making process is not as rational as we may have originally thought. Psychologists have long believed that social cognition is important for predicting the actions of others and that humans are different from objects in some very important ways. More recently, brain-imaging studies have highlighted these differences, with a network of brain regions responding to social stimuli and social cognitive processes that presumably affect social decision-making. Investigations of social decisions have also highlighted the effects of social information on decision-making processes within brain regions like the striatum and MPFC. Although both social and non-social agents engage these brain regions, the social context modulates this activity. The use of mathematical models suggests that both social neuroscience and neuroeconomics studies have each been tapping into different processes. Initial impressions allow for predictions that guide decision-making. These impressions then interact with feedback processing and affect how predictions are updated.

In economics, behavioral game theorists recognize that people's beliefs about others matter when modeling social decisions. The models assume that players strategically choose options that maximize utility, and evaluations of payoff options often include social factors beyond pure economic payout (Camerer, 2009). These social factors may include other-regarding preferences, indicating that people care about the well-being of other players (Fehr, 2009). Whether decisions are made in order to increase the well-being of others or manage the impression formed of oneself, mental state inferences are still relevant. For instance, one may assess well-being by inferring the mental state of the person. Similarly, the extent to which one infers the mental state of a person may influence the extent to which other-regarding preferences influence decisions (e.g., do people show other-regarding preferences for traditionally dehumanized targets?).

Humans evolved in a social context in which interacting with other people was essential for survival. As such, these social cognitive processes have been evolutionarily preserved and continue to affect our decision-making in a social context. The fact that human agents engage different brain regions than computer agents should perhaps not be all that surprising. The social brain did not evolve interacting with computers or other types of machines. Therefore, we see differences not only in behavior (most of the time) but also differences in brain activity for these two inherently different types agents. Here we have highlighted that these differences lie in engagement of the social cognition/person perception brain regions for human agents. But the underlying mechanisms—the social processes that engage these brain regions and how they interact with decision-making processes—are still being investigated. Social psychological theory can help answer these questions by providing a theoretical background for why human and computers differ in the first place (e.g., mental state inferences, impression management, etc). Keeping this fact in mind will provide future research on social decision-making with the most informed and cohesive theories.

Finally, decisions are made in a social context everyday. Whether deciding to do a favor for a friend or close a deal with a potential business partner, decisions have consequences that lead to significant rewards and punishments such as a better relationship with the friend or a poor business transaction. Therefore, it is important to understand how decisions are influenced by the presence or absence of others and how we incorporate social information into our decision-making process. Here we have highlighted differences arising when interacting with human and computer agents and use social psychological theory to provide some explanation for why these differences arise. It is important to point out these differences in social and non-social decision-making because interactions with computers and other machines are becoming more widespread. Businesses often try to find ways to simplify transactions, often replacing human agents with automated computers. However, the decisions made with these different types of agents may affect businesses in unanticipated ways. Financial decisions (e.g., buying and selling stock) are increasingly made through the use of online computers, whereas previously investors had to interact with stockbrokers in an investment firm. Similarly people are able to bid in online auctions for a desired item rather than sitting in a room full of people holding numbered paddles. The decisions to buy and sell stock or possibly overbid in an online auction may be influenced by these different agents, as evidenced by the research described above.

the real price of a cup of tetley tea...,

guardian |  This article is the subject of a legal complaint made on behalf of Tata Global Beverages Limited.

Poverty pay on tea estates in Assam fuels a modern slave trade ensnaring thousands of young girls. A Guardian/Observer investigation follows the slave route from an estate owned by a consortium, including the owners of the best-selling Tetley brand, through to the homes of Delhi's booming middle classes, exposing the reality of the 21st-century slave trade

the kafala system

guardian |  A foreign worker can only come in to the Arab Gulf states through a kafeel (sponsor). However, the essence of the kafala system is the relationship binding employee to the employer, which has often been criticised as "slave-like".

The kafala directly contradicts the labour law. The raison d'être of the law is to bring about a balance, in terms of rights and obligations, between the employer and the employee, but the kafala puts far too much power in the hands of the employer/sponsor. The employer can dictate the recruitment process and working conditions. The paradox is that the kafala is not a law but a tradition that seems to have precedence over the labour law. This is at the root of abuses of workers' rights.

The sponsorship system has become a lucrative business. In its early incarnation in the 1930s, it was in the best tradition of Arab hospitality, but now unscrupulous kafeels exploit the system.

The main issue is that kafala restricts labour mobility. In fact, one could argue that it prohibits any mobility on part of the worker unless approved by the kafeel. If the kafeels are unwilling to let them go, workers cannot leave them for better employment. In fact, workers can even be victims of blackmail by kafeels: if they protest or question their terms of employment, kafeels can have them deported. Being in a precarious situation forces them to accept whatever terms and conditions are given to them.

The kafeel can also shift the financial burden on to the worker. The law says the kafeel is expected to pay for medical insurance and fees for employment and residence permits and the like. Workers, on the other hand, are not supposed to bear any of these expenses. However, kafeels and intermediaries such as recruitment agencies often charge such fees to foreign workers. Indemnities for delays in registration are also often billed to workers. Similarly, some kafeels partially withhold final payments to foreign workers to recover some of the recruitment costs. Also, many kafeels exploit the workers by only leasing their sponsorship against payments. Although kafeels behaving in this way remain a minority, their victims are in the tens of thousands.

The retention of passports and identity documents has, in many instances, led to forced labour situations. Under such conditions migrants can be forced to work in arduous conditions for longer hours than envisaged by the law, without overtime payments. They are often deprived of weekly rests, annual leaves or home leave. Many have even complained of harassment.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

a one-room school house for the 21st century..,

publicradio |  Carpe Diem is a public charter school system. The Indianapolis campus is the first step in what's meant to be a national expansion. A school opened in Cincinnati, Ohio in August 2013. A school is on track to open soon in San Antonio, Texas and there are plans underway to start Carpe Diem schools in Detroit, Baton Rouge, and Washington, D.C.

The Indianapolis campus is called Carpe Diem-Meridian. It's located on North Meridian Street, about two miles north of downtown, in a brand new two-story building across from a Wendy's and a liquor store. The school opened in August of 2012. It's designed for 300 students in grades six through 12; the first year there were about 90 students.

The school's founder, Rick Ogston, was a Christian pastor before getting into education. The idea for a school where students would spend part of their day learning on computer came to him after a prayer.

It was 2003. Ogston was running a charter school in Yuma, Arizona. He describes it as a "traditional" school with "traditional teachers, in traditional classrooms, doing traditional things." The school had been open for a few years and things were going pretty well. Test scores were fine. But Ogston felt something wasn't right.

One day he was walking the halls of the school, peering into classrooms. He saw students sitting quietly at their desks, listening to teachers lecture. Everyone looked kind of bored -- the teachers and the kids.

He went back to his office, put his head on his desk, and prayed for guidance.

When Ogston opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the cell phone clipped to his waist. Then he lifted his head, "and I looked on my desk and saw the computer." He scanned his office and noticed other forms of technology -- a copier, a fax machine. These were devices he rarely thought about, but now, looking around his office, he realized how much technology had changed the way he worked and lived his life.

Technology had not changed school, though. "We had some of it in classrooms," he says, "but it wasn't nearly being leveraged or used like it could be."

Ogston began to imagine a new kind of school, where students would use computers for their work as much as he did for his. Teachers could stop lecturing if students watched lectures on a computer instead. Teachers could then use class time to answer questions. Some teachers and professors around the country were already experimenting with this approach; it's known as "flipping the classroom." But Ogston didn't know about that. He was following his instincts.

Transforming his school from "traditional" to something new wasn't going to be an easy feat. He predicted teachers and parents would resist.

But then, as Ogston sees it, God intervened. The school lost its lease and the only space available in Yuma was a huge, open room in a University of Phoenix building. There was no way to turn the space into traditional classrooms. To keep operating, his school would have to do things differently. Ogston seized the opportunity to make his vision a reality. All of the students were going to be in one room, working independently on computers. It would be like a one-room schoolhouse for the 21st century.

lack of individualization is the 19th century school model's fundamental defect

publicradio |  Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham wrote a book called Why Don't Students Like School? The book is complex and fascinating - and 228 pages - but you can basically boil the answer down to this: Students don't like school because school isn't set up to help them learn very well.

The first thing to know is that everyone likes to learn.

"There is a sense of satisfaction, of fulfillment, in successful thinking," writes Willingham.

But it's not fun to try to learn something that's too hard.

"Working on a problem with no sense that you're making progress is not pleasurable," writes Willingham. "In fact, it's frustrating."

Working on a problem that's too easy is no fun either. It's boring.

What people enjoy is working on problems that are the right level of difficulty.

"The problem must be easy enough to be solved yet difficult enough to take some mental effort," Willingham writes. He calls this the "sweet spot" of difficulty.

The problem with most schools is that kids don't get to their sweet spot enough. There are 20 other kids in the class - or maybe 30 or even 40. Everyone is in a slightly different place. Some kids get it and want to move ahead. Others are struggling to catch up and need more explanation. It's a challenge for teachers. The best teachers try to meet each student's needs. But a lot of teachers end up teaching to the middle. That leaves a lot of kids bored, or frustrated, or both.

"I think teachers are acutely aware that this is an enormous problem," Willingham said in an interview. "I don't think it's easily solved."

You can trace the roots of the problem back to the Industrial Revolution. That's when American public schools as we know them today got started.

Prior to the rise of factories and cities, most people lived on farms and in small villages. Children were typically educated in one-room schoolhouses. "In such environments, education could be individualized," says Angeline Lillard, a professor at the University of Virginia who has written about the history of education.

Not everything was perfect in the one-room school. But if you were 10 and needed to learn addition, that's what the teacher taught you. If you were 5 and already knew how to write your name, you'd move on with the older kids.

Then in 1847 in Quincy, Massachusetts a new kind of school appeared on the scene. Instead of being together in one room, students were separated into classrooms based on how old they were. It was seen as a more efficient way to educate children.

"The whole country was so taken by this idea that we could improve through industrialization," says Lillard. "Mass production was going to be the wings through which we could fly into the future. And schools were no different."

By the early 20th century, some education experts were actually referring to schools as factories. Elwood Cubberley, dean of Stanford University's School of Education from 1917 to 1933, put it bluntly: Schools were "factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life."

"What we lost from the one-room schoolhouse days was individualization," says Lillard. "We replaced that with an expectation that all children be the same."

Today it's a big challenge to deal with the 10-year-olds who haven't learned addition; they're supposed to be doing fifth-grade math. There's not a good way to deal with the 5-year-olds who are ready to move ahead either.

the left ineluctably retreats to smaller ideas, seeking to expand the options within the existing society

Harpers |  As the “human cipher” Taibbi described, Obama is the pure product of this hollowed-out politics. He is a triumph of image and identity over content; indeed, he is the triumph of identity as content. Taibbi misreads how race figures into Brand Obama. Obama is not “without” race; he embodies it as an abstraction, a feel-good evocation severed from history and social relations. Race is what Obama projects in place of an ideology. His racial classification combines with a narrative of self-presentation, including his past as a “community organizer,” to convey a sensation of a politics, much as advertising presents a product as the material expression of inchoate desire. This became the basis for a faith in his virtue that largely insulated him from sharp criticism from the left through the first five years of his presidency. Proclamation that Obama’s election was, in Žižek’s terms, a “sign in which the memory of the long past of slavery and the struggle for its abolition reverberates” was also a call to suspend critical judgment, to ascribe to the event a significance above whatever Obama stood for or would do.

In fact, Obama was able to win the presidency only because the changes his election supposedly signified had already taken place. His election, after all, did not depend on disqualifying large chunks of the white electorate. As things stand, his commitments to an imperialist foreign policy and Wall Street have only more tightly sealed the American left’s coffin by nailing it shut from the inside. Katrina vanden Heuvel pleads for the president to accept criticism from a “principled left” that has demonstrated its loyalty through unprincipled acquiescence to his administration’s initiatives; in a 2010 letter, the president of the AFL-CIO railed against the Deficit Commission as a front for attacking Social Security while tactfully not mentioning that Obama appointed the commission or ever linking him to any of the economic policies that labor continues to protest; and there is even less of an antiwar movement than there was under Bush, as Obama has expanded American aggression and slaughter into Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where else.

Barack Obama has always been no more than an unexceptional neoliberal Democrat with an exceptional knack for self-presentation persuasive to those who want to believe, and with solid connections and considerable good will from the corporate and financial sectors. From his successful wooing of University of Chicago and Hyde Park liberals at the beginning of his political career, his appeal has always been about the persona he projects — the extent to which he encourages people to feel good about their politics, the political future, and themselves through feeling good about him — than about any concrete vision or political program he has advanced. And that persona has always been bound up in and continues to play off complex and contradictory representations of race in American politics.

Particularly among those who stress the primary force of racism in American life, Obama’s election called forth in the same breath competing impulses — exultation in the triumphal moment and a caveat that the triumph is not as definitive as it seems. Proponents of an antiracist politics almost ritualistically express anxiety that Obama’s presidency threatens to issue in premature proclamation of the transcendence of racial inequality, injustice, or conflict. It is and will be possible to find as many expressions of that view as one might wish, just as lunatic and more or less openly racist “birther” and Tea Party tendencies have become part of the political landscape. An equal longer-term danger, however, is the likelihood that we will find ourselves with no critical politics other than a desiccated leftism capable only of counting, parsing, hand-wringing, administering, and making up “Just So” stories about dispossession and exploitation recast in the evocative but politically sterile language of disparity and diversity. This is neoliberalism’s version of a left. Radicalism now means only a very strong commitment to antidiscrimination, a point from which Democratic liberalism has not retreated. Rather, it’s the path Democrats have taken in retreating from a commitment to economic justice.

Confusion and critical paralysis prompted by the racial imagery of Obama’s election prevented even sophisticated intellectuals like Žižek from concluding that Obama was only another Clintonite Democrat — no more, no less. It is how Obama could be sold, even within the left, as a hybrid of Martin Luther King Jr. and Neo from The Matrix. The triumph of identity politics, condensed around the banal image of the civil rights insurgency and its legacy as a unitary “black liberation movement,” is what has enabled Obama successfully to present himself as the literal embodiment of an otherwise vaporous progressive politics. In this sense his election is most fundamentally an expression of the limits of the left in the United States — its decline, demoralization, and collapse.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

john kerry's priceless moment...,

1940's board game to teach kids tactics of colonialism

slate | Published in 1941, this “Trading Game: France—Colonies” aimed to teach French children the basics of colonial management.  

Players drew cards corresponding to colony names, then had to deploy cards representing assets like boats, engineers, colonists, schools, and equipment, in order to win cards representing the exports of the various colonies.  “Images on the game,” Getty Research Institute curator Isotta Poggi writes in her blog post on the document, “provide a vivid picture of the vast variety of resources, including animals, plants, and minerals, that the colonies provided to France.” Cartoons on the cards depict coal (mined by a figure clearly intended to be a “native”), rubber, wood, and even wild animals.

Along the way, players needed to avoid pitfalls like sickness, “laziness,” and intemperance (illustrated by a cartoon of a red-cheeked white man in khakis and a white hat, served by a “native” in “traditional” dress). Once the cards representing a colony’s major exports had been won, the colony was considered “exploitée,” and was out of the game.

As the map at the center of the board shows, at the time France’s empire held colonies in Africa, South America, and Asia. The postwar movements for decolonization and independence changed this picture completely. By 1962, when the eight-year-long Algerian War finally led to Algerian independence, many of the colonies marked in red on this map were no longer under French control.
The game is currently on view at the Getty Research Institute, as part of the exhibition “Connecting Seas: A Visual History of Discoveries and Encounters.

suffering? well, you deserve it!

truthdig |  “One of the issues here is when those in authority, whether political, academic or civic, are expounding their doctrines through Enlightenment idioms and we must ask, is this being done in good faith?” he said. “And here I think the genuine insight provided by the economics of opportunism is that we cannot assume it is being done in good faith.” 

“When I hear Republicans in the United States say that taking away people’s food stamps will do them good I ask, what do you know that allows you to say this? This rhetoric invokes the Enlightenment model. We all use it. It is improvement by means of reason. But Enlightenment discourse should not be taken at face value. We have to again ask whether it is being carried out in good faith.”

“Economics, political science and even philosophy, ever since rational choice swept through the American social sciences, have embraced the idea that an individual has no responsibility towards anyone except himself or herself,” he said. “A responsibility to anyone else is optional. The public discourse, for this reason, has become a hall of mirrors. Nothing anymore is what it seems to be.”

Our current economic model, he said, will be of little use to us in an age of ecological deterioration and growing scarcities. Energy shortages, global warming, population increases and increasing scarcity of water and food create an urgent need for new models of distribution. Our two options, he said, will be “hanging together or falling apart.” Offer argues that we cannot be certain that growth will continue. If standards of living stagnate or decline, he said, we must consider other models for the economy. Given the wealth and resources of industrialized nations, he said, a drop in living standards to what they were one or two generations ago would still permit a good quality of life.

Offer has studied closely the economies of World War I. Amid this catastrophe, he notes, civilian economies adapted. He holds up these war economies, with their heavy rationing, as a possible model for collective action in a contracting economy.

“What you had was a very sudden transition to a serious scarcity economy that was underpinned by the necessity for sharing,” he said. “Ordinary people were required to sacrifice their lives. They needed some guarantee for those they left at home. These war economies were relatively egalitarian. These economics were based on the safety net principle. If continued growth in the medium run is not feasible, and that is a contingency we need to think about, then these rationing societies provide quite a successful model. On the Allied side, people did not starve, society held together.”

However, if we cling to our current economic model—which Offer labels “every man for himself”—then, he said, “it will require serious repression.”

“There is not a free market solution to a peaceful decline,” he said.

“The state of current political economy in the West is similar to the state of communism in the Soviet Union around 1970,” he went on. “It is studied widely in the university. Everyone knows the formula. Everyone mouths it in discourse. But no one believes it.” The gap between the model and reality is now vast. Those in power seek “to bring reality into alignment with the model, and that usually involves coercion.”

“The amount of violence that is inflicted is an indicator of how well the model is aligned with reality,” he said. “That doesn’t mean imminent collapse. Incorrect models can endure for long periods of time. The Soviet model shows this.”

Violence, however, is ultimately an inefficient form of control. Consent, he said, is a more effective form of social control. He argued, citing John Kenneth Galbraith, that in affluent societies the relative contentment of the majorities has permitted, through free market ideology, the abandonment, impoverishment and repression of minorities, especially African-Americans. As larger and larger segments of society are forced because of declining economies to become outsiders, the use of coercion, under our current model, will probably become more widespread.

Monday, March 03, 2014

asimov: the future of humanity - crunch time

asimovonline |  Well, here we are. We have just come through a thirty year period of mankind's maximum prosperity, on the whole. We've done very well since World War Two. We have...the world as a whole has eaten better, has lived better, has had a higher standard of living than it has ever had before. Now, you might tell me that through this entire thirty years there have been millions...hundreds of millions of people always hungry, always starving, with very little, and I'll say yes; it's been rotten. My point is that before now, it's always been rotten-ER. And we haven't really appreciated how temporary this is.

For one thing, we've had ample supplies of food, and part of the reason for that was that we've had an extremely good spell of weather for the last thirty years. In fact, there are some people who say that this last thirty years was the best thirty year spell of weather that we have had in the last thousand years. Now you may remember cold spells, and floods, and droughts, and all the rest of this stuff. But there has been less of it the world over than usual. In addition, just as we've had this good weather, we've also been applying energy at a far greater rate than ever before to farm machinery, to irrigation machinery. In addition, we've been using insecticides and pesticides of various sorts, to sort of clobber those little beasties and those weeds who think they're going to get some of our food. And in addition to that we've also developed new strains of grain, so-called "green revolution", that grow a lot of protein very fast. And what with all these things put together, our food supply has been going up.

But now, look what happens.

The very thing that makes it possible for us to use more and more energy is our industrial technologized world. And another thing that our industry produces is dust. And the air is dustier now than its ever been before in human history. Except perhaps very temporarily after a large volcanic eruption.

This means that the Earth's albedo, the percentage of light from the sun that it reflects back into space before it hits the ground, has been going up slightly because dusty air reflects more light than clear air does. And...well, not very much more, but enough. It has been making the temperature of the Earth drop since 1940. It's been going down steadily. Again, not very much. You're probably not aware that the summers are cold, or that the winters are extraordinarily icy, they're not. The drop in temperature may be one degree. But it's enough to cut down on the growing season in the northern climates. It makes the weather a little bit worse. It sends the storm tracts further south, so that the Sahara Desert creeps southward, so that the monsoon rains in India fail a little bit. Just enough so that the harvests aren't as good as they used to be, and the Earth's reserve supply of food sinks to it's lowest in recent history.

And just as this is happening...and it's going to continue happening because the air isn't going to get un-dusty unless we stop our industrial activity. And if we stop our industrial activity, that's going to be because we've suffered some complete disaster.

So, the weather isn't going to turn better. The air is going to stay dusty, and it's going to continue getting a little colder. And at the same time, it's getting hard to get energy. Energy is much more expensive than it used to be; oil prices are up. And that means that fertilizer is more expensive than it used to be. And it turns out that the green revolution depends on strains of grain that require...yes, they do what they're supposed to do...but they require a lot of irrigation; a lot of water, and a lot of fertilizer. And the fertilizer isn't there. And the irrigation machinery is hard to run now with expensive oil. And, of course, the pesticides are produced in high-energy chemical factories; their price goes up. Everything is combining to cut down on the food supply. And to arrange it so that in years to come, we may have trouble keeping our present level of food, let alone increasing it.
Of course you might say: "Well, heck! Mankind got along thirty years ago, before the good weather spell came, when there were droughts in the midwest, and dust bowls, and when there was comparatively much less farm machinery in use, and irrigation machinery, and there was no green revolution, and we weren't using pesticides...except Paris Green and other tasty things like that. And when we weren't worrying, we weren't worrying about all the other means of improving the food supply either, so we'll go back to what it was then, and we'll live the simple life."

There are always people who think that all we have to do, after all is abandoned, all this foolish technology that we've made ourselves slave to, and go back like our ancestors and live close to the soil with the good things of nature. That would be great if we could do it. If we could go back to the way it was before World War II, technologically, we could support all the people that lived on Earth before World War II. The catch is that in these last thirty years one billion and a half people have been added to the population of the Earth. And we have been feeding them largely because of all these things that we have done in these last thirty years, the good weather, the fertilizers, and the pesticides, and the irrigation, and the green revolution, and all the rest of it. If we abandon that, we also have to abandon a billion and a half people; and there are going to be very few volunteers for the job.

Alas, this goes in general. We are in a situation where we cannot go back. We cannot abandon technology. We can't say "Well, heck! We'll go back to the good old fireplace with wooden logs! We don't need this damned central heating!" There's two things about the fireplace with those good old natural wooden logs. In the first place, it's a rotten system for heating the house, which is why everyone switched to first the coal furnace, and then the oil furnace. They didn't do that because they hated nature. They didn't do that because they turned their backs on things that were nice, and just wanted filthy modern stuff, no.

[group quietly chuckles]
The wood fire doesn't work! That's what it doesn't!

And in the second thing, if all of us decide to have wood fires the way our pioneering ancestors did, we'd better remember that there were maybe three million of our pioneering ancestors, and there are two hundred million of us. And there ain't enough wood. And the price will go up instantly. And there will be a black market. And the forests will be destroyed.

And the same will be if you substitute for electric lights, candles. There's something very romantic about studying by candlelight unless you try it.

[group laughs mildly]
And if you think studying by candlelight is bad, wait until you try to run a television set by candlelight.

[group laughs mildly]
Well then, what are we going to do in the future? Population is still going up. Population right now is higher than it's ever been in the world's history; it stands at just under four billion. And the increase, the rate of increase is higher that it's ever been in world history; two percent a year. Never been anywhere near that high. Right now, the world's population is going up by two hundred thousand hungry mouths every day. By the year 2000, barring catastrophe, the Earth's population is going to be seven billion. Nobody thinks the Earth's food supply is going to nearly double by the year 2000. It may be that our food supply won't go up much at all. There's going to be terrific amounts of famine. What can we do about it?

Well, throughout the history of life on Earth, there have been periods where a given species has, for one reason or another, spurted it's numbers upward temporarily. There's been a surprisingly good supply of food, the weather has been just right, somehow there have been no predators...something has happened, and the numbers went up. They always went down again, and always the same way; by an increase in the death rate. The large numbers of the species starved when the food ran short. They fell victim to some disease, when as a result of being on short rations they were weaker. They made good marks for predators. It always went down. And the same thing will happen to mankind, we don't have to worry. The death rate will go up, and we will die off through violence, through disease, through famine.

The only thing is, must we have our numbers controlled in the same way that all other species have them controlled? We have something others don't; we have brains. We can foresee. We can plan. We can see solutions that are humane. And there is a solution that is humane, and that is to lower the birth rate.

No species in the history of the Earth has ever voluntarily lowered it's birth rate in order to control it's population, because they didn't know what birth rate was, how to control it, that there was a population problem. We're the only species in the history of the Earth.

There is no need to decide whether to stop the population increase or not. There is no need to decide whether the population will be lowered or not. It will, it will!

global riot epidemic due to demise of cheap fossil fuels

guardian |  If anyone had hoped that the Arab Spring and Occupy protests a few years back were one-off episodes that would soon give way to more stability, they have another thing coming. The hope was that ongoing economic recovery would return to pre-crash levels of growth, alleviating the grievances fueling the fires of civil unrest, stoked by years of recession. 

But this hasn't happened. And it won't.

Instead the post-2008 crash era, including 2013 and early 2014, has seen a persistence and proliferation of civil unrest on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. This month alone has seen riots kick-off in Venezuela, Bosnia, Ukraine, Iceland, and Thailand

This is not a coincidence. The riots are of course rooted in common, regressive economic forces playing out across every continent of the planet - but those forces themselves are symptomatic of a deeper, protracted process of global system failure as we transition from the old industrial era of dirty fossil fuels, towards something else.

Even before the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia in December 2010, analysts at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned of the danger of civil unrest due to escalating food prices. If the Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) food price index rises above 210, they warned, it could trigger riots across large areas of the world.

china's poorest beat our best pupils...,

telegraph | British schoolchildren are lagging so far behind their peers in the Far East that even pupils from wealthy backgrounds are now performing worse in exams than the poorest students in China, an international study shows. 

The children of factory workers and cleaners in parts of the Far East are more than a year ahead of the offspring of British doctors and lawyers, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Researchers said the study, which looked at the performance of 15-year-olds in mathematics, showed countries to could overcome traditional social class divides to raise education standards among relatively deprived pupils.
The report was published as a senior European Commission politician attacked the standards of British schools and warned that UK politicians must improve the education system before focusing on changing the country’s relationship with the EU.
Viviane Reding, the vice-president of the European Commission, warned that ministers should focus on raising school standards instead of blaming the country’s problems on foreigners. In a speech in Cambridge she suggested that the UK’s poor education system is the reason Britons cannot compete with foreigners for jobs. She said politicians needed to “work on the quality of education and welfare, so that people in this country can find employment and enjoy reasonable social standards”

Sunday, March 02, 2014

china plays the "acting white" card and calls departing u.s. ambassador a rotten banana...,

seattletimes |  A major Chinese government news service used a racist slur to describe the departing U.S. ambassador in an editorial Friday that drew widespread public condemnation in China.

The editorial — which called former Washington Gov. Gary Locke a “rotten banana,” a guide dog for the blind and a plague — reflected Chinese nationalists’ loathing for the first Chinese American to have been the nation’s top envoy to Beijing.

Locke’s ethnic background particularly interested the Chinese government and people. Locke won public applause when he was seen carrying his own bag and flying economy class, but he drew criticism from officials in Beijing as his demeanor became an unwelcome contrast to Chinese officials’ privileges and entitlements.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry paid tribute to Locke as “a champion of human dignity and a relentless advocate for America’s values.” Asked about the China News Service commentary, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Friday: “We are not going to dignify the name-calling in that editorial with a response.”

In his 2½ years in Beijing, Locke oversaw the defusing of two delicate diplomatic episodes, when a powerful police chief fled to a U.S. Consulate and later when a persecuted blind activist sought shelter in the embassy. The Chinese public also credit him with making them realize the harm of the tiny particulate pollutant PM2.5 and the severity of China’s foul air by posting the embassy’s hourly readings of air quality.

Meanwhile, editorials in Chinese state media turned from initial reservation to unfriendliness and to the insolence of the final piece.

“I think it shows the unfriendliness and impoliteness by the Chinese government toward Gary Locke, and it is without the manners and dignity of a major power,” legal scholar Hao Jinsong said. “It is unfitting of China’s status as a diplomatic power. As a Chinese, I am very angry and feel ashamed of it.”

The editorial “Farewell, Gary Locke” took direct aim at Locke’s identity as a third-generation Chinese American, calling him a “banana,” a term for Asians identifying with Western values despite their skin color.

“But when a banana sits out for long, its yellow peels will always rot, not only revealing its white core but also turning into the stomach-churning color of black,” read the editorial.

The author Wang Ping — likely a pseudonym — slammed Locke’s portrayal as an official judicious with public funds and called him hypocritical as he retreated into his multimillion-dollar official residence and specially made, bulletproof luxury vehicle.

time and economic tide respect no culture...,

time | Surely what bothers Lee is not that Fort Greene is now a cushy neighborhood. He just wishes it had gotten that way with all black faces. He’s yearning for the multi-class black communities that people of his generation regret the dissolutions of after the end of institutionalized segregation (when black people like my parents, for example, moved out to mixed or white neighborhoods).

But let’s face it: The reason there were black communities like that was because of segregation. If there still were black communities like that, no matter how beautiful they would look when shot lovingly in films like Lee’s, it would signify racial barriers. The neighborhood would be prime fodder for people like Lee to intone with smug indignation about how non-post-racial America is. “You barely see a white face on the streets. What’s that about? What are they afraid of?”

this article perfectly describes what happened to the mythical black "community" at the end of legal segregation...,

theatlantic |  In his State of the Union address, President Obama lamented how Washington “has been consumed by ... rancorous argument,” which over the past year has prevented us “from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy.” The vast ideological chasm that separates politicians on the left from those on the right shows little sign of narrowing, and the midterm elections this fall promise to be extremely contentious. Most observers expect the environment will guarantee that Congress will achieve next to nothing between now and November. Why has political polarization in our country reached such dangerous levels?

A familiar explanation for our deepening partisan divide is Bill Bishop’s Big Sort hypothesis. He contends that over the past 40 years, Americans have been sorting themselves into communities where people increasingly live, think, and vote like their neighbors. In 1976, for example, just more than a quarter of Americans resided in counties where presidential candidates won the election by a margin of 20 percent or more; but by the year 2004, nearly half of Americans lived in these more politically homogeneous counties.

Bishop’s idea is a convincing description of what is happening. But why is it happening? Thanks to research in demographics and anthropology, it’s now possible to get a clearer picture of the underlying reasons: education and evolution.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors

The microbiota–gut–brain axis: neurobehavioral correlates, health and sociality

socioaffectiveneuroscienceandpsychology |  Background: Olfactory cues directly link the environment to gene expression. Two types of olfactory cues, food odors and social odors, alter genetically predisposed hormone-mediated activity in the mammalian brain.

Methods: The honeybee is a model organism for understanding the epigenetic link from food odors and social odors to neural networks of the mammalian brain, which ultimately determine human behavior.

Results: Pertinent aspects that extend the honeybee model to human behavior include bottom-up followed by top-down gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ-system, and organism reciprocity; neurophysiological effects of food odors and of sexually dimorphic, species-specific social odors; a model of motor function required for social selection that precedes sexual selection; and hormonal effects that link current neuroscience to social science affects on the development of animal behavior.

Conclusion: As the psychological influence of food odors and social orders is examined in detail, the socioaffective nature of olfactory cues on the biologically based development of sexual preferences across all species that sexually reproduce becomes clearer.

biota, diet, brains, power...,

bbc |  I have some startling news: you are not human. At least, by some counts. While you are indeed made up of billions of human cells working in remarkable concert, these are easily outnumbered by the bacterial cells that live on and in you – your microbiome. There are ten of them for every one of your own cells, and they add an extra two kilograms (4.4lbs) to your body. 

Far from being freeloading passengers, many of these microbes actively help digest food and prevent infection. And now evidence is emerging that these tiny organisms may also have a profound impact on the brain too. They are a living augmentation of your body – and like any enhancement, this means they could, in principle, be upgraded. So, could you hack your microbiome to make yourself healthier, happier, and smarter too?

According to John Cryan, this isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. As a professor of anatomy and neuroscience at University College Cork, he specialises in the relationship between the brain and the gut. One of his early experiments showed the diversity of bacteria living in the gut was greatly diminished in mice suffering from early life stress. This finding inspired him to investigate the connection between the microbiome and the brain.

The bacterial microbiota in the gut helps normal brain development, says Cryan. “If you don’t have microbiota you have major changes in brain structure and function, and then also in behaviour.” In a pioneering study, a Japanese research team showed that mice raised without any gut bacteria had an exaggerated physical response to stress, releasing more hormone than mice that had a full complement of bacteria. However, this effect could be reduced in bacteria-free mice by repopulating their gut with Bifidobacterium infantis, one of the major symbiotic bacteria found in the gut. Cryan’s team built on this finding, showing that this effect could be reproduced even in healthy mice. “We took healthy mice and fed them Lactobacillus [another common gut bacteria), and we showed that these animals had a reduced stress response and reduced anxiety-related behaviours.” Fist tap Dale.

iron, dopamine, activity, creativity...?

frontiersin |  The present significant associations between iron levels and behavioral and psychological variables extended previous relevant findings reported in infants to adults using a large sample. As described in the Introduction, previous studies of infants with anemia, correlation studies of body iron levels, and intervention studies of iron supplementation have shown that lower body iron or hemoglobin levels are associated with higher levels of negative effects, lower levels of attention to people and objects, and activity levels (Lozoff et al., 1996, 1998, 2003; Wachs et al., 2005). The present findings of the positive associations between novelty seeking, extraversion, and physical activity levels were congruent with these previous results, considering the similarity of extraversion and novelty seeking with the measures reported in the previous study. Thus, it can be said that the present findings extended the previous findings to young adult samples using a larger sample size and suggested that these associations of temperament, personality, body activity levels, and body iron levels are not limited to infants without life experiences.

There are a few limitations to this study. One is that similar to majority of studies using hair mineral analysis, the present study was a cross-sectional study. Thus, despite the strength of the hair mineral analysis and the large study sample, any implications regarding causal effects cannot be viewed as definitive. To solve this problem, intervention studies of iron supplementation are warranted for determining whether iron supplementation can increase dopamine-related traits and physical activity levels. Through these studies, it can be determined whether iron intake can facilitate dopamine-related traits and body activity levels, both of which are essential parts of our social and physical everyday life. In addition, despite the importance of iron in the dopaminergic system, evidence is available that suggests iron accumulation in the brain helps the progression of neurological diseases (Zecca et al., 2004), and whether any detrimental effects of higher iron levels in the body of older subjects are observed, may have to be investigated in future studies. Finally, in this study, the study population was unbalanced toward males due to the low availability of hair that fulfilled these conditions of the study in females, and we did not and could not investigate gender-specific relationships between hair iron levels and psychological variables. The measures used in this study, such as creativity, were measured by DT tests that show gender differences. It is therefore possible that the relationship between iron levels and psychological variables may differ between females and males. Future studies are needed to investigate this issue.

Creative cognition and dopamine-related traits, states, and physical activity levels, which are related to creativity, are important aspects of our cultural and everyday life. Our findings showed that hair iron levels did not significantly and directly correlate with creativity but instead positively correlated with novelty seeking, extraversion, and physical activity levels. Our findings may imply the importance of iron intake, even in normal samples, for the facilitation of these traits and activity. Future longitudinal studies are warranted to confirm these notions.

vitamin d, serotonin, autism, sociality...,

sciencedaily |  A new study by Rhonda Patrick, PhD and Bruce Ames, PhD of Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) demonstrates the impact that Vitamin D may have on social behavior associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Dr. Patrick and Dr. Ames show that serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin, three brain hormones that affect social behavior, are all activated by vitamin D hormone. Autism, which is characterized by abnormal social behavior, has previously been linked to low levels of serotonin in the brain and to low vitamin D levels, but no mechanism has linked the two until now.

In this study, Dr. Patrick and Dr. Ames show that vitamin D hormone activates the gene that makes the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2), that converts the essential amino acid tryptophan, to serotonin in the brain. This suggests that adequate levels of vitamin D may be required to produce serotonin in the brain where it shapes the structure and wiring of the brain, acts as a neurotransmitter, and affects social behavior. They also found evidence that the gene that makes the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (TPH1) is inhibited by vitamin D hormone, which subsequently halts the production of serotonin in the gut and other tissues, where when found in excess it promotes inflammation.

This mechanism explains many of the known, but previously not understood, facts about autism including: 1) the "serotonin anomaly" low levels of serotonin in the brain and high levels in the blood of autistic children; 2) the preponderance of male over female autistic children: estrogen, a similar steroid hormone, can also boost the brain levels of serotonin in girls; 3) the presence of autoimmune antibodies to the fetal brain in the mothers of autistic children: vitamin D regulates the production of regulatory T-cells via repression of TPH1. The Patrick/Ames mechanism is relevant to the prevention of autism, and likely its treatment.

The current guidelines for adequate vitamin D levels are concentrations above 30 ng/ml. Most Americans' vitamin D is made in the skin from exposure to UVB radiation; however, melanin pigment and sunscreen inhibit this action. This is an important cause of the well-known widespread vitamin D deficiency among dark-pigmented Americans, particularly those living in Northern latitudes. The most recent National Health and Examination survey reports that greater than 70% of U.S. population does not meet this requirement and that adequate vitamin D levels have plummeted over the last couple of decades. This precipitous drop in adequate levels of vitamin D in the US is concurrent with the rise in autism rates.

The study suggests dietary intervention with vitamin D, tryptophan and omega 3 fatty acids would boost brain serotonin concentrations and help prevent and possibly ameliorate some of the symptoms associated with ASD without side effects. There is little vitamin D present in food and fortification is still inadequate as is the amount in most multivitamin and prenatal supplements. Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and offer a simple solution to raise vitamin D levels to an adequate status. In addition, vitamin D levels should be routinely measured in everyone and should become a standard procedure in prenatal care.  Fist tap Dale.