Saturday, November 08, 2014

consanguinity and reproductive health among arabs

reproductive-health journal |  Socio-cultural factors, such as maintenance of family structure and property, ease of marital arrangements, better relations with in-laws, and financial advantages relating to dowry seem to play a crucial role in the preference of consanguinity in Arab populations [3]. Consanguineous marriages are generally thought to be more stable than marriages between non-relatives, though there are no studies to compare divorce rates of consanguineous and non-consanguineous marriages among Arabs. It is generally believed that the husband's family would side with the consanguineous wife in marital disputes since she is considered part of the extended family. When there are children with disabilities, more family members share in caring for these children. Unlike what is thought, consanguinity in the Arab World is not only confined to Muslim communities. Several other communities, including the Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian Christian populations, have also practiced consanguinity, but to a lesser extent than Muslims [4-7].
Consanguinity rates show wide variations among Arab countries, as well as within the same country (Table 1, Additional file 1). However, reports from Arab countries on consanguinity rates may sometimes include marriages between third cousins or far relatives within the consanguineous category. Although this discrepancy affects the total consanguinity rate, it does not markedly alter the average inbreeding coefficient. Therefore, for comparison of consanguinity rates among populations, two parameters are best used; the mean inbreeding coefficient (F) and marriages between first cousins. However, Arab societies have a long tradition of consanguinity, and the cumulative estimate of (F) may exceed the estimated value which is calculated for a single generation [8].
Secular changes in the consanguinity rates have been noticed in some Arab populations. In Jordan[9], Lebanon [5], Bahrain [10], and among Palestinians [11-13], the frequency of consanguineous marriage is decreasing. Several factors may be playing a role in decreasing the consanguinity rates in Arab countries. Amongst these factors are the increasing higher female education levels, the declining fertility resulting in lower numbers of suitable relatives to marry, more mobility from rural to urban settings, and the improving economic status of families. Moreover, genetic diseases may be feared more now that infectious diseases are on the decline as causes of severe morbidity and mortality.
Generally, the highest rates of marriages to close relatives are consistently reported in the more traditional rural areas and among the poorest and least educated in society [8]. Reports from some Arab countries have shown that consanguinity rates are lower in urban when compared to rural settings. Urban to rural first cousin rates in Algeria were 10% and 15% [14], in Egypt, 8.3% and 17.2% [15], and in Jordan, 29.8% and 37.9% [6], respectively. Likewise the mean inbreeding coefficient was lower in urban as compared to rural settings in Syria (0.0203 versus 0.0265) [16]. In Jordan, it was evident that the higher the level of education of the female partner, the lower the consanguinity rate. Only 12% of university educated females would marry their first cousins, whereas 25% of university educated males tend to marry first cousins [6]. Similar trends of lower consanguinity rates among educated women, but not educated men, were noticed in Yemen [17] and Tunisia [18].
On the other hand, social, religious, cultural, political and economic factors still play roles in favoring consanguineous marriages among the new generations just as strongly as they did among the older generations, particularly in rural areas. Consanguinity rates seem to be increasing at a higher pace in Qatar [19], Yemen [17], the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [20], and Tlemcen in Algeria [14]. In Morocco, a study indicated an increasing consanguinity rate from the previous (21.5%) to the present (25.4%) generation [21], while another study indicated a decreasing consanguinity rate [22]. Consanguinity rates are not declining in some Arab countries because it is generally accepted that the social advantages of consanguinity outweigh the disadvantages [23], and consanguinity is regarded as a deeply rooted cultural trend. It is believed that the practice of consanguinity has significant social and economic advantages. Consanguineous marriages among Arabs are respected because it is thought that they promote family stability, simplify financial premarital negotiations, offer a greater compatibility between the spouses and other family members, offer a lesser risk of hidden financial and health issues, and maintain the family land possessions [3,24,25]. Among 390 women attending reproductive health clinics in Jordan, consanguinity was protective against violence during pregnancy [26]. In all cases, reports on secular trends in consanguinity need to be treated with some caution because in countries where consanguinity is favored, major regional and ethnic differences in prevalence are commonly observed [3].

the problem of inbreeding in islam

pjmedia |  There is a dire phenomenon rising in Europe that is crippling entire societies and yet the continent sleeps, refusing not only to confront the destructive elephant in the room, but also to admit its very existence. The troubling reality being referred to is the widespread practice of Muslim inbreeding and the birth defects and social ills that it spawns.
The tragic effect of the left’s control of the boundaries of debate is that any discussion about vital issues such as these marks an individual as an “Islamophobe” and a “racist.” A person who dares to point at the pathology of inbreeding in the Muslim community is accused of whipping up hatred against Muslim people. But all of this could not be further from the truth. To fight against inbreeding anywhere is to defend humanity and to defend innocent babies from birth defects. Fighting against this Islamic practice stems from a pro-Muslim calling, since identifying destructive ideologies and practices in Islam enables the protection of the Muslim people from harm.
Massive inbreeding among Muslims has been going on since their prophet allowed first-cousin marriages more than 50 generations (1,400 years) ago. For many Muslims, therefore, intermarriage is regarded as being part of their religion. In many Muslim communities, it is a source of social status to marry one’s daughter or son to his or her cousin. Intermarriage also ensures that wealth is kept within the family. Islam’s strict authoritarianism plays a large role as well: keeping daughters and sons close gives families more power to control and decide their choices and lifestyles.
Westerners have a historical tradition of being ready to fight and die for their country. Muslims, on the other hand, are bound together less by patriotism, but mainly by family relations and religion. Intermarrying to protect the family and community from outside non-Islamic influence is much more important to Muslims living in a Western nation than integrating into that nation and supporting it.
Today, 70 percent of all Pakistanis are inbred and in Turkey the amount is between 25-30 percent (Jyllands-Posten, 27/2 2009 “More stillbirths among immigrants“). A rough estimate reveals that close to half of everybody living in the Arab world is inbred. A large percentage of the parents that are blood related come from families where intermarriage has been a tradition for generations.
BBC investigation in Britain several years ago revealed that at least 55% of the Pakistani community in Britain was married to a first cousin. The Times of India affirmed that “this is thought to be linked to the probability that a British Pakistani family is at least 13 times more likely than the general population to have children with recessive genetic disorders.”

did inbreeding shape the course of human evolution?

newscientist |  TALK about an inauspicious beginning. For thousands of years our ancestors lived in small, isolated populations, leaving them severely inbred, according to a new genetic analysis. The inbreeding may have caused a host of health problems, and it is likely that small populations were a barrier to the development of complex technologies.
In recent years, geneticists have read the genomes of long-dead humans andextinct relatives like Neanderthals. David Reich of Harvard Medical School in Boston has now sequenced the Neanderthal genome and that of another extinct human, the Denisovan, to an unprecedented degree of accuracy. He presented his findings at a Royal Society meeting on ancient DNA in London on 18 November.
Describing the genomes as "nearly error-free", Reich says both species were severely inbred due to small populations. "Archaic populations had low genetic diversity, really extraordinarily low," he said. "It's among the lowest diversity of any organism in the animal kingdom."
One Neanderthal, whose DNA Reich obtained from a toe bone, had almost no diversity in about one-eighth of the genome: both copies of each gene were identical. That suggests the individual's parents were half-siblings.
That's in line with previous evidence of small populations, says Chris Stringerof the Natural History Museum in London. "In the distant past, human populations were probably only in the thousands or at best tens of thousands, and lived locally, exchanging mates only with their nearest neighbours."
Our genomes still carry traces of these small populations. A 2010 study concluded that our ancestors 1.2 million years ago had a population of just 18,500 individuals, spread over a vast area (PNAS,
Fossils suggest the inbreeding took its toll, says Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. Those he has studied have a range of deformities, many of which are rare in modern humans. He thinks such deformities were once much more common (PLoS ONE,
Despite the impact on health, it is unclear whether inbreeding could have killed off the Neanderthals and Denisovans. More likely is the effect of small populations on culture and technology, says Mark Thomas of University College London. Larger populations retain more knowledge and find ways to improve technologies. This "cumulative culture" is unique to humans, but it could only emerge in reasonably large populations. In small populations, knowledge is easily lost, which explains why skills like bone-working show up and then vanish, says Trinkaus.

gene-centrism vs. multi-level selection

guardian |  A disagreement between the twin giants of genetic theory, Richard Dawkins and EO Wilson, is now being fought out by rival academic camps in an effort to understand how species evolve.
The learned spat was prompted by the publication of a searingly critical review of Wilson's new book, The Social Conquest of Earth, in Prospect magazine this month. The review, written by Dawkins, author of the popular and influential books The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion, has prompted more letters and on-line comment than any other article in the recent history of the magazine and attacks Wilson's theory "as implausible and as unsupported by evidence".
"I am not being funny when I say of Edward Wilson's latest book that there are interesting and informative chapters on human evolution, and on the ways of social insects (which he knows better than any man alive), and it was a good idea to write a book comparing these two pinnacles of social evolution, but unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of erroneous and downright perverse misunderstandings of evolutionary theory," Dawkins writes.
The Oxford evolutionary biologist, 71, has also infuriated many readers by listing other established academics who, he says, are on his side when it comes to accurately representing the mechanism by which species evolve. Wilson, in a short piece penned promptly in response to Dawkins's negative review, was also clearly annoyed by this attempt to outflank him.
"In any case," Wilson writes, "making such lists is futile. If science depended on rhetoric and polls, we would still be burning objects with phlogiston [a mythical fire-like element] and navigating with geocentric maps."
Wilson, 83, is a Harvard professor of evolutionary biology who became famous in the early 1970s with his study of social species in his books The Insect Societiesand Sociobiology. He is internationally acknowledged as "the father of sociobiology" and is the world's leading authority on ants.
For lay spectators, the row is a symptom of the long and controversial evolution of the very idea of evolution. At root it is a dispute about whether natural selection, the theory of "the survival of the fittest" first put forward by Charles Darwin in 1859, occurs only to preserve the single gene. Wilson is an advocate of "multi-level selection theory", a development of the idea of "kin selection", which holds that other biological, social and even environmental priorities may be behind the process.

Friday, November 07, 2014

the $9billion dollar witness; meet jpmorgan chase's worst nightmare

rollingstone |   She tried to stay quiet, she really did. But after eight years of keeping a heavy secret, the day came when Alayne Fleischmann couldn't take it anymore. 
"It was like watching an old lady get mugged on the street," she says. "I thought, 'I can't sit by any longer.'" 

Fleischmann is a tall, thin, quick-witted securities lawyer in her late thirties, with long blond hair, pale-blue eyes and an infectious sense of humor that has survived some very tough times. She's had to struggle to find work despite some striking skills and qualifications, a common symptom of a not-so-common condition called being a whistle-blower.

Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported – more on that later) to keep the public from hearing.

Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as "massive criminal securities fraud" in the bank's mortgage operations.
Thanks to a confidentiality agreement, she's kept her mouth shut since then. "My closest family and friends don't know what I've been living with," she says. "Even my brother will only find out for the first time when he sees this interview." 

Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it's not exactly news that the country's biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That's why the more important part of Fleischmann's story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.

She was blocked at every turn: by asleep-on-the-job regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission, by a court system that allowed Chase to use its billions to bury her evidence, and, finally, by officials like outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the chief architect of the crazily elaborate government policy of surrender, secrecy and cover-up. "Every time I had a chance to talk, something always got in the way," Fleischmann says.

why would omidyar sponsor journalism probing global capitalism?

rall |  Just over one year ago, billionaire eBay cofounder Pierre Omidyar issued one of the most dramatic announcements America’s beleaguered journalists had experienced in their lifetimes. After decades of closing newspapers, shrinking newsrooms, vanishing foreign bureaus and the near extinction of investigative reporting due to brutal, relentless budget-cutting, Omidyar would endow a new company, First Look Media, with a staggeringly large sum of cash – $250 million – to be deployed in the service of a breathtakingly ambitious attempt to reinvent advocacy journalism in everything from investigations of financial corruption to sports coverage.

Even better, from the standpoint of progressives living in the political wilderness since the rise and fall of George McGovern, First Look Media would be edited by leftist pundits and advocacy journalists like the legal columnist Glenn Greenwald, to whom former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked more than a million classified US government documents, the documentarian Laura Poitras, also involved intimately in the Snowdon saga, and the respected anti-militarism critic Jeremy Scahill.

As some cynics opined, it all sounded too good to be true. (Disclosure: for just shy of a month earlier this year, I worked for Pando Daily.) Why would a billionaire like Omidyar bankroll a bunch of antiestablishment types like the financial reporter Matt Taibbi – hired away from Rolling Stone – whose mission in life is in large part to undermine global capitalism?

Although it’s too soon to declare First Look dead and gone, and Omidyar claims to be as committed to his utopian company as ever, things have gone from bad to worse over the last year. Omidyar’s $250 million pledge shrunk to $50 million. The mission to fund hard-hitting journalism and commentary was recast as, among other things, possibly a “platform” expected to generate significant revenue. Tales of shrinking budgets, diminished expectations, shrinking ambitions and staffers leaving after complaining of managerial incompetence appeared with increasing frequency in the trade press.

omidyar's version of events...,

firstlook |  Matt Taibbi, who joined First Look Media just seven months ago, left the company on Tuesday. His departure—which he describes as a refusal to accept a work reassignment, and the company describes as a resignation—was the culmination of months of contentious disputes with First Look founder Pierre Omidyar, chief operating officer Randy Ching, and president John Temple over the structure and management of Racket, the digital magazine Taibbi was hired to create. Those disputes were exacerbated by a recent complaint from a Racket employee about Taibbi’s behavior as a manager.

The departure of the popular former Rolling Stone writer is a serious setback for First Look in its first year of operations. Last January, Omidyar announced with great fanfare that he would personally invest $250 million in the company to build “a general interest news site that will cover topics ranging from entertainment and sports to business and the economy” incorporating multiple “digital magazines” as well as a “flagship news site.”

One year later, First Look still has only one such magazine, The Intercept.

Omidyar has publicly and privately pledged multiple times that First Look will never interfere with the stories produced by its journalists. He has adhered to that commitment with both The Intercept and Racket, and Taibbi has been clear that he was free to shape Racket‘s journalism fully in his image. His vision was a hard-hitting, satirical magazine in the style of the old Spy that would employ Taibbi’s facility for merciless ridicule, humor, and parody to attack Wall Street and the corporate world. First Look was fully behind that vision.

Taibbi’s dispute with his bosses instead centered on differences in management style and the extent to which First Look would influence the organizational and corporate aspects of his role as editor-in-chief. Those conflicts were rooted in a larger and more fundamental culture clash that has plagued the project from the start: A collision between the First Look executives, who by and large come from a highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment, and the fiercely independent journalists who view corporate cultures and management-speak with disdain. That divide is a regular feature in many newsrooms, but it was exacerbated by First Look’s avowed strategy of hiring exactly those journalists who had cultivated reputations as anti-authoritarian iconoclasts.

The Intercept, through months of disagreements and negotiations with First Look over the summer, was able to resolve most of these conflicts; as a result, it now has a sizable budget, operational autonomy, and a team of talented journalists, editors, research specialists, and technologists working collaboratively and freely in the manner its founders always envisioned.

When First Look was launched last October, it was grounded in two principles: one journalistic, the other organizational. First, journalists would enjoy absolute editorial freedom and journalistic independence. Second, the newsroom would avoid rigid top-down hierarchies and instead would be driven by the journalists and their stories.

nouveau petit elite honeypot for out of pocket journalists?

nymag |  The confusion inherent to any start-up has been exacerbated by Omidyar’s ruminative style. This spring, he went through a period of deep thinking, highlighted by a summit with news-­industry veterans at a hotel he part-owns in Laguna Beach, California. Under “Chatham House Rules,” no one was to talk directly about what was said. “He’s a true believer, I believe,” says Ken Doctor, a media analyst who attended. Many of those who have heard Omidyar and his aides, at that summit and other meetings, have come away thinking his plans sounded na├»ve and not fully baked. Sandy Rowe, a former editor of the Oregonian who was brought on as a consultant, says the fuzzy vision gives Omidyar flexibility. “This is a man who, since he said he would put down this $250 million, has never said, ‘Here is my plan.’ ”

The absence of a plan, however, contributed to dissension within First Look, and chatter began to emanate from behind its wall of operational secrecy. There was an East Coast–West Coast feud, a divide between the journalists and the technologists. Omidyar’s loyalists out in California and Hawaii grumbled as Greenwald traveled the world, promoting a book, picking up awards, and speaking out of turn. Poitras, meanwhile, was immersed in finishing a documentary on Snowden. There was an internal battle over budgets, which stalled hiring and hindered journalistic output. The Intercept initially published at a piddling rate. In June, the three co-founders of the Intercept and Taibbi wrote a joint letter to Omidyar demanding freedom to proceed with their expansion.

Omidyar then published a blog post saying he had “definitely rethought some of our original ideas and plans.” Instead of quick expansion, he announced that First Look would be in “planning, start-up, and experimental mode for at least the next few years,” focusing its immediate efforts on the Intercept and Racket while working to develop new journalistic technology and design with a team in San Francisco. He also appointed a confidant as First Look’s editorial boss: the former Civil Beat editor John Temple. “I think that the message,” Temple told me in August, “is that we’re not trying hard enough if we’re not failing a little bit, if we’re not saying things that don’t bear fruit.”
The shift proved beneficial to the Intercept, which is no longer under the day-to-day management of its founders. Omidyar lured editor John Cook away from Gawker to run the site, and after a publication pause and a redesign, it has been gaining momentum, breaking big stories about the NSA’s surveillance of American Muslim leaders and the seemingly arbitrary standards of the government’s terrorist-screening system. The latter disclosure reportedly came from a leaker other than Snowden; the FBI recently searched the home of a government contractor suspected of being the source.

The factional conflicts within Omidyar’s enterprise, however, seem far from settled. In August, Temple spoke enthusiastically about Racket, which he said had broadened its focus to include political topics. But as its launch date neared, Taibbi disappeared from the company amid disputes with First Look ­higher-ups. Omidyar announced Taibbi was leaving and that First Look would now “turn our focus to exploring next steps” for Racket, a project that a spokeswoman said had cost him $2 million over its eight months of development. In the wake of the tumultuous departure, the Intercept published a remarkable inside account describing “months of contentious disputes” between Taibbi and his superiors over his management, including a complaint from an employee that he was “verbally abusive.” But the journalists did not spare Omidyar from blame, describing what they called “a collision between the First Look executives, who by and large come from a highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment, and the fiercely independent journalists who view corporate cultures and management-speak with disdain.” The iconoclasts even questioned Omidyar’s “avowed strategy” of hiring “anti-authoritarian iconoclasts.”

Even before the turmoil, Temple hinted that a strategic reconsideration was under way. “It will be more complex,” he told me, “than an organization of iconoclasts.” He says that Omidyar sees journalism as “the third phase of his professional life,” bringing together his technology experience and philanthropy, and is prepared to be patient, even if it perplexes outsiders. Temple says there is no incongruity between Omidyar’s communitarian ideals and his financing of an insurgency. “It’s not all about civility,” Temple says. “It’s about having a healthy and open society.” There’s a tangible insight buried in that amorphous sentiment: Omidyar’s interest in journalism is mechanistic. He wants to aggregate to himself the power to declassify and to bring about the “greater good,” as he defines it.

In October, the founding Intercept gang — minus Omidyar — got together for a party at Mayday Space, a loft in a graffitied section of Bushwick. The Snowden saga had entered its Redford-and-Hoffman phase with the premiere of Poitras’s documentary Citizenfour, which was partly financed by Skoll’s Participant Media and looks destined for Oscar consideration. A DJ spun songs next to a huge ­propaganda-style poster reading ­WHISTLE-BLOWER! KNOW YOUR PLACE … SHUT YOUR FACE. Smokers congregated on the balcony, which had a distant view of the Empire State Building, lit red. Greenwald hinted of further scoops. “Stay tuned, is all I can say,” he told me.
Greenwald says that he and Omidyar plan to finally meet later this month, when they will appear at a very different sort of gathering: an invite-only event called Newsgeist, co-sponsored by Google and the Knight Foundation. Billed as an “unconference,” it has no agenda other than “reimagining the future of the news.” Greenwald told me “top editors, executives, moguls, and founders” are expected to attend, including Dean Baquet of the New York Times. I asked the organizer from Google about other attendees and speakers, but he said he could disclose no further details, to “protect the privacy and security of our invited guests.” It seems that the Newsgeist is very hush-hush.

no journalist has been luckier...,

rollingstone |  Today is my last day at Rolling Stone. As of this week, I’m leaving to work for First Look Media, the new organization that’s already home to reporters like Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras.

I’ll have plenty of time to talk about the new job elsewhere. But in this space, I just want to talk about Rolling Stone, and express my thanks. Today is a very bittersweet day for me. As excited as I am about the new opportunity, I’m sad to be leaving this company.

More than 15 years ago, Rolling Stone sent a reporter, Brian Preston, to do a story on the eXile, the biweekly English-language newspaper I was editing in Moscow at the time with Mark Ames. We abused the polite Canadian Preston terribly – I think we thought we were being hospitable – and he promptly went home and wrote a story about us that was painful, funny and somewhat embarrassingly accurate. Looking back at that story now, in fact, I’m surprised that Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana gave me a call years later, after I’d returned to the States.

I remember when Will called, because it was such an important moment in my life. I was on the American side of Niagara Falls, walking with friends, when my cell phone rang. Night had just fallen and when Will invited me to write a few things in advance of the 2004 presidential election, I nearly walked into the river just above the Falls.

At the time, I was having a hard time re-acclimating to life in America and was a mess personally. I was broke and having anxiety attacks. I specifically remember buying three cans of corned beef hash with the last dollars of available credit on my last credit card somewhere during that period. Anyway I botched several early assignments for the magazine, but Will was patient and eventually brought me on to write on a regular basis.

It was my first real job and it changed my life. Had Rolling Stone not given me a chance that year, God knows where I’d be – one of the ideas I was considering most seriously at the time was going to Ukraine to enroll in medical school, of all things.

In the years that followed, both Will and editor/publisher Jann S. Wenner were incredibly encouraging and taught me most of what I now know about this business. It’s been an amazing experience.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

cannabis pharmacy | Evidence-based information on using cannabis for ailments and conditions, plus a comprehensive guide to the most popular varieties

The most comprehensive, easy-to-use book available on understanding and using medical marijuana

There are currently 4.2 million medical cannabis patients in the United States, and there are 20 states plus the District of Columbia where medical cannabis is legal. As medical cannabis becomes an accepted herbal medicine, there is a demand for clear, easy-to-follow information for the layperson based on the latest sound medical and evidence-based research.

Written by Michael Backes, a respected expert in the field, Cannabis Pharmacy begins with the history of medical marijuana and an explanation of how cannabis works with the body's own endocannabinoid system. Backes goes on to explore in detail 27 of the most popular cannabis varieties, how to identify them, the differences between them, and the medical conditions for which patients have reported effectiveness. Additional chapters describe how to prepare and store cannabis, how best to administer those preparations, and how to modify and control dosage. Also included is a guide to 29 ailments and illnesses for which doctors commonly recommend medical marijuana, including chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia, and Parkinson's disease.

only confederate wattles can rally behind a political process or a political figurehead that's phonier than a $3.00 bill....,

WaPo |  As Insiders readers know, in politics, what’s supposed to happen tends to happen. Elections usually fit into a historical pattern, even though there are always unique circumstances, different candidates and topical issues at play.  President Obama and the Democrats got shellacked in the 2014 midterms.  That is exactly what was supposed to happen. A lot of what happened was already written in the stars. Anyone who wants to talk about a new coalition or a new anything for 2016 should keep this in mind. If you had to bet today, it would be prudent to bet on a Republican winning the White House in 2016.

But back to 2014 and what it all means. The day before the election, my friend and colleague Jonathan Capehart wrote that the “Democrats’ mistake was running away from Obama.” Well, more than 48 hours later, Jonathan has been proven right. At least, he was right in the sense that the Democratic Senate candidates would perhaps be no worse off today if they had run the Obama-friendly campaign that Jonathan advocated. However, I would also add that perhaps the Democratic brand would have suffered less if the Democrats had run honest campaigns, said what they really believed and were truthful about their allegiances. The idea that Michelle Nunn, Alison Lundergan Grimes and the rest of the lot would have been anything other than typical liberal Obama minions was laughable, and voters knew it. In fact, when Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) suggested that he actually stood up to Obama, voters literally laughed. A campaign that relies on pretending, posing, outright deceit and a hope that voters have amnesia is a long shot at best.

Republicans constantly try to blow the whistle on Democrats who campaign to the right and govern to the left. Well, maybe Tuesday’s results will help put an end to that practice and liberate Democratic candidates to tell the truth about who they are and what they believe.

To state the obvious, our political process lacks authenticity. Perhaps the great rebuke of 2014 will convince Democrats that it is easier to just be yourself and hope for the best.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

iq75 LOOZERZ gettin they way

Chicago Tribune |  Residents of Oregon, Alaska, and the nation's capital voted to legalize marijuana on Tuesday, in key victories that could fuel the legalization movement as cannabis usage is increasingly recognized by the American mainstream.

The Oregon and Alaska measures would legalize recreational pot use and usher in a network of retail pot shops similar to those operating in Washington state and Colorado, which in 2012 voted to become the first states to allow marijuana use for fun.

A less far-reaching proposal in the District of Columbia to allow marijuana possession but not retail sales won nearly 65 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, unofficial results showed.

The referendums come amid shifts in American opinions on marijuana in recent years that have energized efforts to legalize cannabis, a drug that remains illegal under federal law even as Colorado and Washington state have been given the go-ahead to experiment with legalization.

what's so important about musical scales...

PNAS | Significance

The song of the hermit thrush, a common North American songbird, is renowned for its apparent musicality and has attracted the attention of musicians and ornithologists for more than a century. Here we show that hermit thrush songs, like much human music, use pitches that are mathematically related by simple integer ratios and follow the harmonic series. Our findings add to a small but growing body of research showing that a preference for small-integer ratio intervals is not unique to humans and are thus particularly relevant to the ongoing nature/nurture debate about whether musical predispositions such as the preference for consonant intervals are biologically or culturally driven.

pathetically distorted judgement of the figurehead of US imperial power...,

medialens |  Sometimes a piece of propaganda is so glaring you almost have to splash cold water on your face to make sure your eyes are not deceiving you. Take a bow John Simpson, the grandly titled 'World Affairs Editor' of BBC News. You don't earn a moniker like that by offending the global power elite. But is it really necessary to genuflect before US President Barack Obama as Simpson did in a recent article masquerading as informed commentary?
Simpson began poetically:
'On a chilly November night in 2008 I stood with my camera crew in Grant Park, in Chicago, and watched the new 44th president of the United States being greeted by his ecstatic supporters.
'It was a magnificent, unforgettable moment.'
He added:
'I had heard several of his speeches and knew what a moving and thoughtful orator he could be.'
Simpson, in other words, like so many corporate journalists, gets that lovely warm feeling in his tummy in the presence of Great Power devoted to the cause of doing Great Good. As a Guardian leader simpered in 2008:
'Today is for celebration, for happiness and for reflected human glory. Savour those words: President Barack Obama, America's hope and, in no small way, ours too.'
Simpson, though, had 'a nagging question' in his mind about Barack Obama. What could this be? That Obama was a fabricated PR puppet? That he would turn out to be like all modern American presidents - a heavily-marketed figurehead for elite US corporate, financial and military interests? That he would maintain, perhaps even intensify, the grip of US imperial power around the globe? Not exactly. Rather, it was that Simpson:
'had a nasty feeling that he wanted me and everyone else he met to like him.'
The veteran BBC journalist 'found that worrying.' After all, Simpson had 'spent much of my career reporting on strong political leaders who didn't care whether you liked them or not.' His finely-attuned journalistic antennae were twitching that Obama might not be up to the job. Indeed now, six years later, 'it's hard to imagine that Barack Obama can possibly be judged a success when he leaves office.' You could almost hear Simpson sigh:
'In a way, it's deeply unfair.'
After all, claimed the BBC man, the 'economic judgement' of Obama is 'clearly positive'. Informed commentators may well beg to differ. Noam Chomsky, for example:
'If you take a look at the [US] economy that is being created, it's one in which real wages for male workers are back to the level of 1968. Over the last decade, about 95% of the growth has gone to 1% of the population. This is not a functioning economy. Just take a look around the country. The infrastructure's collapsing. There's a huge amount of work that has to be done. There are eager hands, tens of millions of people trying to get work, there are plenty of resources, corporate profits are going through the roof, the banks and financial institutions are rich. They don't invest it, but they've got it. [...] If you look at the unpeople (the majority of the population), their economic positions, wages and income have pretty much stagnated or else declined for a generation. Is that an economy that's working?'

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

the arab-isreali conflict is the crux of all that is going on in the middle-east...,

independent | What on earth has descended upon the Middle East?

Why such an epic explosion of violence? It feels strange to ask these questions of Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s close advisers and former translator to his father, Hafez. Her office is spotless, flowers on the table, her female secretary preparing a morning round-up of the world’s press on the Middle East, the coffee hot and sweet. At one point, when she spoke of the destruction in Syria and the mass attacks on the region’s Arab armies, it was difficult to believe that this was Damascus and that a few hundred miles to the east Isis have been cutting the throats of their hostages. Indeed, Shaaban finds it difficult even to define what Isis really is.

Not so with America and the war in Syria. “Right from the beginning of this crisis, I never truly felt that the issue was about President Assad,” she says. “It was about the weakening and destruction of Syria. There has been so much destruction – of hospitals, schools, factories, government institutions, you name it. I think the Americans take their battles against leaders and presidents – but only as a pretext to destroy countries. Saddam was not the real target –it was Iraq. And it’s the same for Libya now – America told everyone it was about Gaddafi. The real issue is about weakening the Arab armies, whoever they are. When the Americans invaded Iraq, what was the first thing they did? They dissolved the Iraqi army.”

Shaaban, of course, reflects Syria’s regime. Thus she calls the war a “crisis” and does not choose to reflect on the regime’s responsibility for this – or the numbers killed by the regime forces as well as by the rebels. What she does have is a very clear analytical brain which can shape an argument into coherence however much you disagree with her. She showed this in her research through Syrian presidential and foreign-ministry archives when she was writing a remarkable book about Hafez al-Assad’s peace negotiations with the Clinton administration, in which the old “Lion of Damascus” turns out to be a lot shrewder than the world thought he was –and his betrayal by America much deeper than we suspected at the time. She talks on about the destruction of the Iraqi army, the losses in the Syrian army, the massive suicide attack against Egyptian troops in Sinai and the killing of Lebanese troops in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. And you have to listen.

“Now all Arab armies are targeted – and the purpose is to change the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the crux of all that is going on in the Middle East. I am not saying these tactics will work. I am saying ‘they’ are targeting the Arab armies. The Egyptian army is very strong. It is a logical army that is defending its country. And then it received this huge attack in Sinai. It’s my opinion that the target is to eliminate the threat that Arab armies represent for the liberation of Gaza and the West Bank and Golan and to make Israel’s occupation easier and less costly. This is a major dimension of the cause of the ‘Arab Spring’. In fact I call it an ‘Israeli Spring’.”

assad's syria, truncated, battered, but defiant..,

WaPo |  The Obama administration’s Syria strategy suffered a major setback Sunday after fighters linked to al-Qaeda routed U.S.-backed rebels from their main northern strongholds, capturing significant quantities of weaponry, triggering widespread defections and ending hopes that Washington will readily find Syrian partners in its war against the Islamic State.

Moderate rebels who had been armed and trained by the United States either surrendered or defected to the extremists as the Jabhat al-Nusra group, affiliated with al-Qaeda, swept through the towns and villages the moderates controlled in the northern province of Idlib, in what appeared to be a concerted push to vanquish the moderate Free Syrian Army, according to rebel commanders, activists and analysts.

Other moderate fighters were on the run, headed for the Turkish border as the extremists closed in, heralding a significant defeat for the rebel forces Washington had been counting on as a bulwark against the Islamic State.

Moderates still retain a strong presence in southern Syria, but the Islamic State has not been a major factor there.

A senior Defense Department official said the Pentagon “is monitoring developments as closely as possible” but could “not independently verify” reports from the ground. The official was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Monday, November 03, 2014

"Well, I don't like the idea of someone hearin' what I'm thinkin'"

New Scientist | As you read this, your neurons are firing – that brain activity can now be decoded to reveal the silent words in your head

TALKING to yourself used to be a strictly private pastime. That's no longer the case – researchers have eavesdropped on our internal monologue for the first time. The achievement is a step towards helping people who cannot physically speak communicate with the outside world.

"If you're reading text in a newspaper or a book, you hear a voice in your own head," says Brian Pasley at the University of California, Berkeley. "We're trying to decode the brain activity related to that voice to create a medical prosthesis that can allow someone who is paralysed or locked in to speak."

When you hear someone speak, sound waves activate sensory neurons in your inner ear. These neurons pass information to areas of the brain where different aspects of the sound are extracted and interpreted as words.

In a previous study, Pasley and his colleagues recorded brain activity in people who already had electrodes implanted in their brain to treat epilepsy, while they listened to speech. The team found that certain neurons in the brain's temporal lobe were only active in response to certain aspects of sound, such as a specific frequency. One set of neurons might only react to sound waves that had a frequency of 1000 hertz, for example, while another set only cares about those at 2000 hertz. Armed with this knowledge, the team built an algorithm that could decode the words heard based on neural activity aloneMovie Camera (PLoS Biology,

The team hypothesised that hearing speech and thinking to oneself might spark some of the same neural signatures in the brain. They supposed that an algorithm trained to identify speech heard out loud might also be able to identify words that are thought.

overseers hiding their misdeeds

SFGate | The U.S. government agreed to a police request to restrict more than 37 square miles of airspace surrounding Ferguson, Missouri, for 12 days in August for safety, but audio recordings show that local authorities privately acknowledged the purpose was to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests.
On Aug. 12, the morning after the Federal Aviation Administration imposed the first flight restriction, FAA air traffic managers struggled to redefine the flight ban to let commercial flights operate at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and police helicopters fly through the area — but ban others.
"They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out," said one FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police in a series of recorded telephone conversations obtained by The Associated Press. "But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

haaretz mistranslates hebrew?!?!?!

haaretz |  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he was under attack by "anonymous" critics simply because he was defending Israel and its national security interests, but stressed that he "cherished" Israel's alliance with the United States despite the arguments. 

Speaking to Knesset hours after a senior U.S. official was quoted calling him a "chickenshit prime minister," Netanyahu told Knesset: "When there are pressures on Israel to concede its security, the easiest thing to do is to concede. You get a round of applause, ceremonies on grassy knolls, and then come the missiles and the tunnels." 

"I am not prepared to make concessions that will endanger our state," Netanyahu said. "Understand, our national interests, topped by security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not what top the interests of those anonymous forces attacking us, and me personally. I am under attack simply because I am defending the State of Israel. If I didn't stand firm on our national interests, I would not be under attack." 

"I respect and cherish the deep connection with the United States," Netanyahu said. "Since the establishment of the state, we’ve had our arguments and then some. We have seen time after time, year and year, support rising among the American public. The strategic alliance between the stances is continuing and will continue."

how arms-makers took over the world

thirteen |  Cousins: Dick, the arms manufactures in this country have on their payrolls today more than two hundred former employees of the Pentagon, many of the Generals, who are awarding contracts. Congress required competitive bidding for military contracts. And so the large companies have been turning in the lowest bids. But a few months later they turn in revised estimates. Once they get their contracts, they turn in revised estimates on a much higher level which are approved. What I’m trying to say is that it’s the kind of situation we see with the Contras, going around, getting in the back door, and become a very unhappy but perhaps standardized aspect of American foreign policy. And has perverted our security.

Heffner: Yes, but you know, in The Pathology of Power, you write, “nor could school children be blamed if they concluded after a Ronald Reagan statement that psychological factors rather than ideology or other supposedly intrinsic problems are at the heart of the volatile antagonisms in the world today. You still haven’t struck through what you believe are the reasons unless you’re saying it’s all economically motivated.

Cousins: And so the school children might well ask, was it necessary for these men, who are at the head of great nations, to wait until we have an invasion from outer space before we come to our senses?

Heffner: But you see, in a sense that’s the question I’m asking you. How can we explain, how can we explain the thought that MacArthur’s injunction, Eisenhower’s injunction, the understanding of these military men being swept aside, not just by the two hundred men on the payroll of the munitions manufacturers today, but by those of us who vote for the people who build the big budgets. Build more nuclear weapons.

Cousins: Dick, I see your point. You’re saying that these things don’t happened outside context.

Heffner: Yes.

Cousins: The context is one in which you have large sovereign units in the world today. These sovereign units are given the right, or insist on the right to decide for themselves what their security requires, which is to say they insist on reserving for themselves the right to act arbitrarily outside their own borders. So long as that right persists, in short as Eisenhower says, “as long as we have a condition of anarchy rather than law in the world, everything is going to work back from that particular fact. The power that we exercise will be a direct reflection of the fact that we think we have no responsibility, anymore than other nations think that they have responsibilities to act according to any other standard other than that which they define for themselves. What I’m trying to say is that we live at a very primitive time in human history. We’re trying to make due with institutions, which were obsolete the moment these large weapons came into being. We need security. I think security is important. But we have yet to understand exactly what our security requires. If President Eisenhower was right, our security requires first of all an understanding the limitations of force. It requires an understanding that we have to replace that force with international institutions. If it is said that we can’t build international institutions because of the state of other nations and their own behavior, Eisenhower would say, since he was asked, The fact of the matter is, we try. We try, we try. And one day there will come an opening. I think we may have that opening today.

Heffner: Well, we have one minute left. And you at the end of The Pathology of Power talk about what you want to have as first principles. Read them in a moment… in a minute I should say.

Cousins: If there is a conflict between the security of the sovereign state and the security of the human commonwealth, the human commonwealth comes first. If there is a conflict between the well being of the nation and the well being of mankind, the well being of mankind comes first. If there is a conflict between the needs of this generation and the needs of later generations, the needs of the later generations come first. If there is a conflict between the rights of the state and the rights of man, the rights of man come first. The state justifies its existence only as it serves and safeguards the rights of man. If there is a conflict between public edict and private conscience, private conscience comes first. And finally, there is a conflict between the easy drift of prosperity and the ordeal of peace, the ordeal of peace comes first.

using mass hypnosis to wake you humans from mass hypnosis

Saturday, November 01, 2014

fascinating perspective on living memory history of relations with the imperial garrison state...,

wipokuli |  To put things clear again: believing that that Mossad would have dared to kill Kennedy because of his opposition to Israel´s nuclear armament would at least to be called be naive taking Israel´s situation and stand in 1963 (, though things today might be different ( At least those days Israel´s secret service could not even have dreamt of something like that – not because of moral reasons, but because of the fact that Kennedy´s opposition was quite in the line of US geopolitics. Today there can be no doubt anymore that Kennedy was the victim of a deep split in the US Power Elite over strategic questions, his assassination being an “inside job”, but not because of Israel! The split between the “Traders” and the “Warriors” within the US Power Elite (today continued in the division between the “Soft Power Fraction” and the “Neocons”) those days was about Kuba and the risking of a big war, which Kennedy´s opponents were ready to risk ( But I´d bet that the Mossad had all around Kennedy´s assassination “on the screen” as well. “Knowledge is power”, the power to force that fraction of the US Power Elite being involved in the murder to change the line on Israel and its nuclear armament as well as in general!

elite gunsel monkey-bidness...,

WaPo |  The mysterious workings of a Pentagon office that oversees clandestine operations are unraveling in federal court, where a criminal investigation has exposed a secret weapons program entwined with allegations of a sweetheart contract, fake badges and trails of destroyed evidence.

Capping an investigation that began almost two years ago, separate trials are scheduled this month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., for a civilian Navy intelligence official and a hot-rod auto mechanic from California who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.

The exact purpose of the silencers remains hazy, but court filings and pretrial testimony suggest they were part of a top-secret operation that would help arm guerrillas or commandos overseas.
The silencers — 349 of them — were ordered by a little-known Navy intelligence office at the Pentagon known as the Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration, according to charging documents. The directorate is composed of fewer than 10 civilian employees, most of them retired military personnel.

Court records filed by prosecutors allege that the Navy paid the auto mechanic — the brother of the directorate’s boss — $1.6 million for the silencers, even though they cost only $10,000 in parts and labor to manufacture.

Much of the documentation in the investigation has been filed under seal on national security grounds. According to the records that have been made public, the crux of the case is whether the silencers were properly purchased for an authorized secret mission or were assembled for a rogue operation.

china dispatching some gunsels into liberia to "fight" ebola...,

HuffPo |  China will dispatch an elite unit of the People's Liberation Army to help Ebola-hit Liberia, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, responding to U.N. calls for a greater global effort to fight the deadly virus in West Africa.

Washington has led the international drive to stop the spread of the disease that has killed nearly 5,000 people, sending thousands of troops and committing about $1 billion, but Beijing has faced criticism for not doing enough.

The PLA squad, which has experience from a 2002 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), will build a 100-bed treatment center in Liberia, the first such facility in the three countries most impacted by Ebola to be constructed and run by a foreign country, said Lin Songtian, director general of the ministry's Department of African Affairs.

The center will be open for operation in a month's time, he told a briefing in Beijing. China will also dispatch 480 PLA medical staff to treat Ebola patients, he said.

It's the first time China has deployed a whole unit of epidemic prevention forces and military medical staff abroad, Lin said.

China is Africa's biggest trade partner, tapping the continent's rich vein of resources to fuel its own economic growth over the past couple of decades. Some critics have rounded on Beijing for not helping more in Africa's hour of need.

China has so far donated 750 million yuan ($123 million) to 13 African countries and international organizations to combat Ebola, according to the government.

"China's assistance will not stop until the Ebola epidemic is eradicated in West Africa," Lin said.