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.
sculpture by benjamin parry
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?!
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.
painting by william banzai
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.
painting by ernie barnes
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.
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 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.
…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.
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
painting by fernando botero
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.