Mar 27th, 2010 by ravi
Neurobiologist describes life after the Tea Party
Colin Blakemore is a neurobiologist and below he is talking about the capacity of the human brain, but the scenario he lays out quite aptly describes what awaits us after the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and Fox News (not dissimilar from Afghanistan after the Taliban, for approximately the same reasons)!

My argument stresses the plasticity that our brains were endowed with when this mutation occurred. Some scientists believe that skills like language have a strong genetic basis, but my theory stresses the opposite, that knowledge, picked up by our now powerful brains, is the crucial mental component. It means that we are uniquely gifted in our ability to learn from experience and to pass this on to future generations. That has a bad side: a single generation starved of knowledge, thanks to some global disaster, for example, would be cast back to the Stone Age.

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Mar 22nd, 2010 by ravi
Animal Abuse as Clue to Additional Cruelties – NYTimes

What has changed over the past few years is the recognition that animal abuse is often a warning sign for other types of violence and neglect.

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Mar 19th, 2010 by ravi
Notes from the Tea Party

I asked one woman whether she’d been part of “9/12,” as tea partiers call the great taxpayer march on Washington, D.C., last September. No, she’d missed it, she said, and “felt really guilty” about doing so, but she and her husband had been on vacation.

“Where did you go?”

“We spent a week in Amalfi, then we toured Tuscany, then we spent a week in Rome.”

Another woman, hearing my accent, told me about her and her partner’s second home in Torquay, England, which they visited three times a year from their base in Atlanta, and about their thirty-five-foot powerboat, in which they’d crossed the Channel to Le Havre and cruised down the French canals to Marseilles.

From the NYRB, amusing anecdotes from the Palin and other circus acts Tea Party convention.

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Mar 12th, 2010 by ravi
Physician, wean thyself!

More than half of the nation’s medical residency programs to train doctors in internal medicine accepted financial support from the drug industry, even though three-fourths of the programs’ directors said accepting the aid was “not desirable,” a survey found.

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Mar 12th, 2010 by ravi
Mishra on India, Pakistan, Kashmir and the military-industrial complex

Of course, protecting American security interests isn’t the only reason why India and Pakistan should work toward a solution in Kashmir. As Basharat Peer’s new book, Curfewed Night, recounts, India’s occupation of the valley, enforced by more than half a million soldiers, has given a powerful raison d’etre to militant organizations in Pakistan, which have grown exponentially since 1989. Peer, a Kashmiri journalist and currently a Fellow at the Open Society Institute, was in his teens when the insurgency began in Srinagar, the capital of India-held Kashmir. His own friends, enraged by police firing upon unarmed demonstrators, left the valley to train in militant camps set up across the border by Pakistani intelligence and army officers. Sent away to India by his parents, Peer witnessed the progressive alienation and isolation of Muslims as Hindu nationalists unleashed one violent campaign after another through the 1990s. He later returned to Kashmir as a journalist, and Curfewed Night reflects his diverse experience of the valley by combining memoir with reportage, history, and analysis.

From a review of “Curfewed Nights” (Basharat Peer) by Pankaj Mishra, covering the current situation in the region and the rise of the “military-industrial complex” in India.

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Mar 10th, 2010 by ravi
Prison rape and its defenders

In 2000, in a Texas prison, a corrections officer was sexually harassing Garrett Cunningham, touching him inappropriately during pat searches and making crude comments. Cunningham, as he told the commission, complained to prison authorities, but they told him that he was exaggerating, and that the officer was just doing his job. Soon after, the officer handcuffed Cunningham, pushed his face into a pile of laundry, and raped him. Cunningham weighed 145 pounds; the officer more than twice that. He said that if Cunningham ever tried to report the rape, he would have other officers write false charges against him, or else transfer him to a rougher unit where he would be raped by gang members “all the time.” Then he told Cunningham that the officials he had complained to previously were friends of his who would always take his side.

[…]

When Laura Berry told the Arkansas corrections officer who had raped her that she thought she might be pregnant, he forced her, according to the commission’s findings, to drink turpentine and quinine, hoping that would induce an abortion. After Kenneth Young was raped at knifepoint by a cellmate in Pennsylvania, he flooded the cell to attract the attention of officers, and as punishment was put in a “dry cell” for ninety-six hours, with no access to running water, a shower, or a toilet—forced “to live in his own excrement,” as a court later put it. Alisha Brewer told our organization, JDI, that she was raped by three different corrections officers as a twenty-two-year-old prisoner in Kentucky; she reported the last two incidents, and was punished with more than four months of punitive segregation and loss of sixty days of good time on her sentence.[9] Another prisoner who wrote to us, and who for obvious reasons prefers to remain anonymous, quoted the male officer who was abusing her: “Remember if you tell anyone anything, you’ll have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life.” We get letters like this every day.

The piece also documents the opposition from correctional authorities and related associations to reform recommended by a committee that included them.

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Mar 10th, 2010 by ravi
BBC – Rachel Corrie relatives sue Israel over her death

Rachel Corrie relatives sue Israel over her death

A court case brought by the family of Rachel Corrie, a US protester killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003, has begun in Israel.

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Mar 2nd, 2010 by ravi
The Sea World incident and our treatment of animals

At this very moment, a dozen boats in the town of Taiji, Japan, are heading out and rounding up hundreds of dolphins in a secluded cove. The fisherman will close off the cove with nets, and with the help of employees from various dolphinariums, they will try to find the next “Flipper” among their catch. The fishermen will snatch these beautiful creatures from their natural habitats, hoist them into nets, load them onto airplanes and drop them into a cement tank in the middle of Turkey, Korea or other nearby Asian countries.

In some ways, these animals are the lucky ones. These dolphins escaped the fate of many of their pod mates, who are brutally slaughtered with primitive harpoons — turning the cove into a scene straight from Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

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Mar 2nd, 2010 by ravi
Guardian: does activism make you happy?

Marching in the drizzle against wars in far-off countries, writing letters protesting the government’s latest reactionary policy, sitting through interminable meetings that keep sprouting Any Other Business. It may be noble, but political activism is hardly a barrel of laughs. And yet it makes you happier.

So find two university psychologists in new research that looks for the first time at the link between political activity and wellbeing. Malte Klar and Tim Kasser started by interviewing two sets of around 350 college students, both about their degree of political engagement and their levels of happiness and optimism. Both times, they found that those most inclined to go on a demo were also the cheeriest.

So there’s a link – but can politics actually make a person happier? In the third study, the academics took a bunch of students and divided them up into groups. The first were encouraged to write to the management of the college cafeteria asking for tastier food. The next lot wrote asking the cafe to source local or Fairtrade products. They were then tested on their wellbeing, and the group who had involved themselves in the political debate were far and away the strongest on the “vitality” scale: they felt more alive and enriched than those who merely complained about the menu.

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Mar 1st, 2010 by ravi
Adam Smith on Banking and Regulation

From An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [emphasis mine]:

“To restrain private people, it may be said, from receiving in payment the promissory notes of a banker for any sum, whether great or small, when they themselves are willing to receive them ; or, to restrain a banker from issuing such notes, when all his neighbours are willing to accept of them, is a manifest violation of that natural liberty, which it is the proper business of law not to infringe, but to support.

Such regulations may, no doubt, be considered as in some respects a violation of natural liberty. But those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments; of the most free, as well as of the most despotical. The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communication of fire, is a violation of natural liberty, exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed.”

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