abortion. anti-​choice activists. privacy. limits on free speech.


uneth­i­cal, cruel, and likely ille­gal: anti-​choicers make family’s tragedy pub­lic with­out their con­sent by brid­gette dunlap

Anti-​choice activist Jill Stanek recently pub­lished online the name and photo of a woman who passed away fol­low­ing a late abor­tion at the Mary­land clinic of Dr. Leroy Carhart. The name and pic­ture of the woman, I’ll call her Marie, along with infor­ma­tion about her job, mar­riage, and preg­nancy were soon all over the inter­net. Pro­test­ers plas­tered Marie’s pic­ture on signs and marched out­side Dr. Carhart’s clinic and held a “vigil” out­side the emer­gency room where she was treated. Inter­net com­men­ta­tors char­ac­ter­ized Marie’s hus­band, par­ents, and sis­ter, who trav­eled with her from out-​of-​state for the three-​day pro­ce­dure, as every­thing from bad Catholics to killers. Beyond being immoral, uneth­i­cal and unbe­liev­ably cruel, mak­ing the family’s tragedy pub­lic with­out their con­sent was likely illegal…

…Many of the anti-​choicers cir­cu­lat­ing infor­ma­tion about Marie and her fam­ily seem to be under the impres­sion that pub­lish­ing any­thing about any­one is free speech and fair game. This is not the case. The vast major­ity of states rec­og­nize a com­mon law, statu­tory, or state con­sti­tu­tional right to pri­vacy. There are four main com­mon law inva­sion of pri­vacy torts (a tort is a wrong with a civil rem­edy, as opposed to a crime). They are: (1) unrea­son­able intru­sion upon the seclu­sion of another, (2) appro­pri­a­tion of another’s name or like­ness, (3) unrea­son­able pub­lic­ity about another’s pri­vate life, and (4) pub­lic­ity that unrea­son­ably places another in a false light before the pub­lic. Whether one can sue for inva­sion of pri­vacy will depend on the facts of the case and which state’s law will apply. Mary­land, where the pro­ce­dure and protests took place, rec­og­nizes all four pri­vacy torts as well as inten­tional inflic­tion of emo­tional distress.

augmented vision. infrared. cortex. rats.

benjamin parry

sculp­ture by ben­jamin parry

ter­mi­na­tor vision, can i haz it?

Now a new study by researchers at Duke Uni­ver­sity sug­gests that ‘Ter­mi­na­tor Vision’ could one day be a real­ity for some, after suc­cess­ful exper­i­ments on rats found increased learn­ing and per­cep­tion skills when pros­thet­ics were fit­ted into their brains. Eric Thom­sen, Rafael Carra and Miguel Nicolelis trained a cohort of six rats on a sim­ple visual dis­crim­i­na­tion task: Rats were placed in a cir­cu­lar cham­ber that had three reward ports. On each trial, a vis­i­ble LED was acti­vated in a par­tic­u­lar port and rats who poked their noses in the cor­rect port were rewarded with a drink of water. After three weeks of train­ing, the rats man­aged to be 70% cor­rect on aver­age. They were then fit­ted with an infrared detec­tor as well as implants into the whisker region of the S1 cor­tex, a touch-​sensitive area of the pari­etal lobe which is largely respon­si­ble for spa­tial navigation.

Bear­ing in mind that rats are nor­mally blind to infrared light (as are we), it would be worth putting them back into the cham­ber to see if they could per­form the task as well as before. As for how it works: The IR detec­tor trans­mits elec­tri­cal impulses directly into the rats’ S1 cor­tex if the rat moved towards the infrared light, which were increased as the rats moved closer or ori­ented their heads in the light’s direc­tion. And here’s where it gets inter­est­ing: Not only did the rats per­form bet­ter on the task as before by find­ing the infrared lights with greater accu­racy, but other inter­est­ing behav­iour was noticed too. Namely, “they learned to actively for­age through the behav­iour cham­ber, sweep­ing the IR sen­sor on their heads back and forth to sam­ple their IR world”.

Read that again: They learned to incor­po­rate their new IR vision rel­a­tively quickly into their nor­mal sen­sory range as a type of “IR vision”. And they did this by tak­ing the time to re-​orient them­selves and make sense of their sur­round­ings. They didn’t imme­di­ately asso­ciate the new stim­u­la­tion with the task but just assumed it was “some­thing new” for them, scratch­ing their faces in response to the elec­tri­cal micros­tim­u­la­tion. Isn’t that awesome?!

illicit drugs. frankenmolecules. bath salts. synthetic cannabinoids.


bath salts mixed with spice: two drugs in one

Researchers in Japan have run across what is believed to be the first exam­ple of a hybrid syn­thetic drug that is a com­bi­na­tion of a methamphetamine-​related cathi­none (bath salts) and an entirely new syn­thetic cannabinoid…

…one addi­tional prod­uct the Japan­ese researchers ana­lyzed was found to con­tain a syn­thetic cannabi­noid in com­bi­na­tion with a trypt­a­mine, a cat­e­gory of com­pounds that includes psy­che­delics such as LSD, DMT, psilo­cy­bin, and oth­ers. Swell. It’s now com­pletely clear that with­out a sophis­ti­cated lab analy­sis of bath salt and spice prod­ucts, there are no guar­an­tees what­so­ever about what is being smoked, snorted, or based.

Quite a haul: A new type of designer drug, 12 new cannabis-​like drugs, and a crazy reac­tion prod­uct made up of syn­thetic cannabis and cathi­none. The DEA charts above clearly show that some­thing is caus­ing an increase in drug-​related toxic reac­tions lately.

Over­all, the trend of sci­en­tific research on bath salts and spice drugs con­tin­ues to be trou­bling. Whether any of this will res­onate with peo­ple in their prime drug-​using years, after all the years of “This is Your Brain on Drugs” dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns, remains to be seen. It looks more and more like the best harm reduc­tion advice avail­able is to stick with mar­i­juana and meth, if that’s what you’re using or abus­ing. Noth­ing com­ing down the pike as bath salts or spice cannabi­noids is an obvi­ous improve­ment, and the abil­ity to know what you are actu­ally tak­ing has fallen to vir­tu­ally zero in this cat­e­gory. Early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and con­stant mon­i­tor­ing of new sub­stances is now a vital task, how­ever Sisyphean.

banks. deregulation. accounting control fraud.

william banzai

paint­ing by william banzai

the amaz­ing van­ish­ing act: account­ing con­trol fraud dis­ap­pears from the reg­u­la­tory lex­i­con by william k. black

The pri­mary rea­sons that account­ing con­trol fraud can pro­duce cat­a­strophic losses are the seem­ing legit­i­macy of the firm, the supreme sta­tus and respectabil­ity of the CEO lead­ing the fraud, the fact that account­ing con­trol fraud is a “sure thing” (Akerlof & Romer 1993), the abil­ity of con­trol fraud to hyper-​inflate bub­bles, allow­ing the fraud to per­sist for years and mag­nify losses, and the para­dox that the opti­mal means for a fraud­u­lent CEO to loot “his” bank is to cause the bank to make excep­tion­ally bad loans.

The last ele­ment is so counter-​intuitive that despite the account­ing con­trol frauds’ dom­i­nant role in dri­ving the S&L deba­cle and the Enron-​era account­ing con­trol frauds many peo­ple can­not really believe that elite CEOs would loot “their” banks despite the many felony con­vic­tions of the elite CEOs that drove the two pre­de­ces­sor crises.

Ben­jamin Wag­ner, a U.S. Attor­ney who is actively pros­e­cut­ing mort­gage fraud cases in Sacra­mento, Calif., points out that banks lose money when a loan turns out to be fraud­u­lent. “It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be delib­er­ately defraud­ing them­selves,” Wag­ner said.”

Wag­ner is so befud­dled that he thinks that he can­not keep his pro­nouns straight in the same sen­tence. “They” is the fraud­u­lent CEO. The fraud­u­lent CEO loots “his” bank. The bank is “them­selves” in Wagner’s bewil­dered sen­tence. The CEO is not loot­ing him­self when he loots the bank. Wag­ner is so con­fused that he assumes away the exis­tence of insider fraud. Sacra­mento is one of the epi­cen­ters of mort­gage fraud by some of the largest account­ing con­trol frauds, and it is no sur­prise that they have been able to com­mit their frauds with impunity.

racism. morality. economic costs.

vintage chicago

paint­ing by ernie barnes

moral appeals are nice, but mate­r­ial real­i­ties may be even more com­pelling: racism and sex­ism are net drains on the u.s. economy

Maybe con­tem­po­rary Repub­li­cans do not really believe in free mar­kets, and would rather engage in rent seek­ing behav­ior, as well as get­ting paid of off other scams?

Sys­temic white racism has served as one of the great­est sub­si­dies from one group of peo­ple to another in the his­tory of the United States. While many of them, espe­cially on the Right, may com­plain and cry about how black and brown folks (and women) are “pro­tected classes,” white men have col­lec­tively been given tril­lions and tril­lions of dol­lars in wealth trans­fers, stolen land, resources, and other ben­e­fits which were denied to those not in that cohort.

In Amer­ica, affir­ma­tive action (as viewed through the lens of its most per­ni­cious car­i­ca­tur­iza­tions by con­tem­po­rary con­ser­v­a­tives) has truly been white…and male for cen­turies. Thus, a great con­tra­dic­tion. The White griev­ance pol­i­tics of the Right are pref­aced upon a sense of white dis­ad­van­tage: the inse­cu­rity felt by many white men is a direct response to a sense that they are “los­ing” the most in today’s economy.

How­ever, many on the Right are ide­o­log­i­cally dri­ven to deny the empir­i­cal fact that racism against peo­ple of color exists and pro­foundly impacts our life chances – even in the Age of Obama. Yet, there is a deep sense that the unearned priv­i­leges that come with being white (and male) in Amer­i­can soci­ety are being stolen away by the “unde­serv­ing” minori­ties, immi­grants, and women.

prescription drugs. overdose. deaths.


drug over­dose deaths up for the eleventh straight year

Drug over­dose deaths rose for the 11th straight year, fed­eral data show, and most of them were acci­dents involv­ing addic­tive painkillers despite grow­ing atten­tion to risks from these medicines.

The big pic­ture is that this is a big prob­lem that has got­ten much worse quickly,” said Thomas Frieden, head of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, which gath­ered and ana­lyzed the data.

In 2010, the CDC reported, there were 38,329 drug over­dose deaths nation­wide. Med­i­cines, mostly pre­scrip­tion drugs, were involved in nearly 60% of over­dose deaths that year, over­shad­ow­ing deaths from illicit narcotics.

The report appears in Tuesday’s Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Association.

It details which drugs were at play in most of the fatal­i­ties. As in pre­vi­ous recent years, opi­oid drugs — which include Oxy­Con­tin and Vicodin — were the biggest prob­lem, con­tribut­ing to 3 out of 4 med­ica­tion over­dose deaths.

the humanities. relevance. markets.


the knowl­edge that dare not speak its name by michael meranze

At the heart of the attack on the human­i­ties is the assump­tion that the new global econ­omy and the rise of the dig­i­tal makes what we do indul­gent and unpro­duc­tive. From this per­spec­tive, the sup­port of the human­i­ties and the social sci­ences was an effect of the mod­ernist wel­fare state that fol­lowed the New Deal. In that world of pub­licly endowed sol­i­dar­ity and expert knowl­edge, the human­i­ties and social sci­ences flour­ished because they were signs of the shared pos­si­bil­ity of social life and cru­cial aspects of society’s steer­ing mech­a­nisms. But that world, so we are told, is now gone for­ever: the state may exist as a mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal entity but it can­not con­trol its econ­omy and the global economy’s destruc­tion of all that seemed solid con­demns every­one to an exis­tence bound at most by fam­ily. In this world view, the human­i­ties are at best a dis­trac­tion and at worst a block to the devel­op­ment of econ­omy and tech­nol­ogy. The tri­umph of short-​term finance over long-​term man­age­ment has suc­ceeded where the cul­ture war failed: with the dele­git­i­ma­tion of the knowl­edge pro­duced in the humanities.

racism. individual. institutional.


reflec­tions on racism, both indi­vid­ual and systemic

…in Flint, Michi­gan recently, a new father — and this is a term he has earned in only the most nar­row, bio­log­i­cal sense — demanded that when his recently arrived child was sent to the Neona­tal Inten­sive Care Unit of the hos­pi­tal where she had been born, no African Amer­i­can nurses were to attend to her needs, to care for her, to do what neona­tal ICU nurses do, which is to say keep sick babies alive. White hands only for this white, fresh as snow child, whose father, sport­ing a shiny new swastika tat­too (a Christ­mas present no doubt from his pathetic skin­head bride) pri­or­i­tized his own hatreds above and beyond the needs of his pre­cious lit­tle girl. That the future does not bode well for her seems hardly worth say­ing. To be deliv­ered from an ICU into the arms of one as unhinged as this can only, by rea­son­able peo­ple, be seen as a turn for the worse. Incu­ba­tors and breath­ing machines might be prefer­able to hav­ing par­ents such as she has, through no fault of her own, inherited.

But what is worse, per­haps, than the big­otry of this one neo-​Nazi — which is at least to be expected and so, can, despite its irra­tional­ity in a case such as this, remain some­what within the realm of the banal — is that the hos­pi­tal in ques­tion, Hur­ley Med­ical Cen­ter, actu­ally capit­u­lated to his psy­chot­i­cally racist demands, post­ing a sign on the lit­tle girl’s chart instruct­ing the unit to dis­al­low any black nurses from as much as touch­ing this baby.

dsm-​5. labels. insurance. medical neglect.


some rea­sons why the dsm-​5 does matter

Hav­ing a bipo­lar diag­no­sis will get you rejected from under­writ­ten health insur­ance for the self-​employed – even if you apply for a pol­icy that specif­i­cally excludes men­tal health cov­er­age (as I did). And you can’t get the faux bipo­lar diag­no­sis removed from your med­ical record because even if it’s a fad diag­no­sis there is no way to prove that you don’t have it once you’ve been labelled.

This is a great exam­ple of why the DSM does mat­ter, even if the par­tic­u­lars of DSM-​5 don’t (at least not so much). It’s also a totally under­ap­pre­ci­ated aspect of using med­ical insur­ance to pay for men­tal health treat­ment. The diag­no­sis your ther­a­pist puts on your bill, those innocuous-​seeming 4 or 5 dig­its that he or she may or may not even men­tion to you or may assure you are merely a for­mal­ity, will become part of your per­ma­nent med­ical dossier. And as elec­tronic med­ical records become the law of the land, the diag­no­sis will not be some­thing that some­one has to dig around in the paper­work to find.

Rebecca writes of one of the impli­ca­tions: you might be denied health insur­ance in the future. In the Oba­macare era, you won’t be denied, but you may well be put into the assigned risk pool, or what­ever it is even­tu­ally called, and your pre­mi­ums increased accord­ingly. But you may be denied life insur­ance and, who knows, as all our datal­ives con­verge in the Mother Com­puter, your credit rat­ing, your car insur­ance pre­mi­ums, your employ­ment prospects, and so on may also be affected.

And that’s not all. I have a patient who has chronic ill­nesses that some­times become acute and life threat­en­ing. Her array of symp­toms and syn­dromes is so vast and com­pli­cated and con­fus­ing, and so con­founded by the inter­ac­tions among her treat­ments, that she stumps every doc­tor that comes into con­tact with her. Once, when hos­pi­tal­ized at a lead­ing uni­ver­sity med­ical cen­ter, a psy­chi­atric eval­u­a­tion was ordered, and she was diag­nosed with Somato­form Dis­or­der, largely on the basis of a Min­nesota Mul­ti­pha­sic Per­son­al­ity Inven­tory, an old-​line per­son­al­ity test that has among its fea­tures a hypochon­dri­a­sis scale. Con­ven­tional wis­dom holds that the Hs scale is not valid for peo­ple who are actu­ally sick (duh!), but that didn’t stop the clin­i­cian, a psy­chi­a­trist who spent 45 min­utes with the patient and then read the test results, from ren­der­ing the diag­no­sis. Since that time, when she has been hos­pi­tal­ized, and espe­cially when she has been hos­pi­tal­ized in a new (to her) hos­pi­tal, doc­tors con­fronted with her bewil­der­ing array of symp­toms have seized this one diag­no­sis to decide that she is a men­tal patient. Con­tinue read­ing

ptsd. soldiers. traumatic exposures.


paint­ing by fer­nando botero

why some sol­diers develop ptsd while oth­ers don’t

Of the sol­diers who expe­ri­enced any poten­tially trau­matic com­bat expo­sures, only 31.6% devel­oped the PTSD syn­drome. When the researchers lim­ited their analy­sis to the sol­diers who expe­ri­enced the most severe trau­matic expo­sures, there was still a sub­stan­tial pro­por­tion — about 30% — that did not develop the syn­drome. This sug­gests that there were other fac­tors and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties involved for the minor­ity of exposed who did end up devel­op­ing the PTSD syndrome.

Among these fac­tors, child­hood expe­ri­ences of phys­i­cal abuse or a pre-​Vietnam psy­chi­atric dis­or­der other than PTSD were strong con­trib­u­tors to PTSD onset. Age also seemed to play an impor­tant role: Men who were younger than 25 when they entered the war were seven times more likely to develop PTSD com­pared to older men. The researchers also found that sol­diers who inflicted harm on civil­ians or pris­on­ers of war were much more likely to develop PTSD.

The com­bined data from all three pri­mary fac­tors — com­bat expo­sure, pre­war vul­ner­a­bil­ity, and involve­ment in harm­ing civil­ians or pris­on­ers — revealed that PTSD syn­drome onset reached an esti­mated 97% for vet­er­ans high on all three. While sever­ity of com­bat expo­sure was the strongest pre­dic­tor of whether the sol­diers devel­oped the syn­drome, pre-​war vul­ner­a­bil­ity was just as impor­tant in pre­dict­ing the per­sis­tence of the syn­drome over the long run.

The researchers con­clude that these find­ings have impor­tant impli­ca­tions for poli­cies aimed at pre­vent­ing cases of war-​related PTSD.

Given the seem­ingly potent inter­ac­tion between com­bat expo­sure and pre-​war vul­ner­a­bil­ity, these results empha­size the need to keep the more vul­ner­a­ble sol­diers out of the most severe com­bat situations.

Dohren­wend and col­leagues also point out that the recent con­flicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, like the Viet­nam War, are “wars amongst the peo­ple,” and they under­line the need for research exam­in­ing the cir­cum­stances in which harm to civil­ians and pris­on­ers is likely to occur. Such research could pro­vide impor­tant clues for pre­vent­ing such dev­as­tat­ing vio­la­tions of the rules of war.