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Yoga helps war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

Disinformation - 1 hour 50 min ago

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

By Flora Lisica, The Conversation

It’s no secret that yoga can aid mental well-being. What is more, it can help soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to new research.

Some of the most damaging consequences of seeing combat can happen in the mind. Of the 2.3m American veterans who returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, up to 20% go on to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point. In a report published by the US Department of Veterans Affairs at least 22 American veterans take their lives every day.

The effects of PTSD can include intrusive memories, heightened anxiety and personality changes. Individuals can also experience hyper-arousal, where they are easily startled, feel “jumpy” and constantly on guard. Standard current treatment for PTSD generally involves prescriptions for antidepressants and psychotherapy, with mixed results.

In a new study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers say that yoga can be used to bring better mental balance.

Yoga has previously been shown as valuable in reducing the stress of university students, and depression, anxiety, alcoholism and PTSD in tsunami survivors, as well as helping cancer patients. The charity Yoga for America runs programmes for serving soldiers and war veterans.

Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, senior lecturer in psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, said the benefits of yoga included moving people away from negative thoughts.

The beneficial effects are due to the increased ability to focus on breathing that, firstly, focuses a person on a present moment and breaks rumination on negative traumatic thoughts, and secondly, increases ability of ‘intraception’ – observing and understanding internal states and the ability to control them, or understanding them as temporal and passing.

But the new study is the first of its kind to provide scientific support for the benefits of yoga’s breathing techniques for PTSD patients in a randomised and controlled (though small) long-term study which monitored effects of yoga over the course of the year.

The study focused on the effects of sudarshan kriya yoga, a practice of breathing-based meditation which has a balancing effect on the autonomic nervous system.

Camp Adder soldiers hit the mats in Iraq. The National Guard/flickr

Twenty-one male veterans who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan, diagnosed with PTSD, were included in the study: 11 undertook a seven-day programme involving daily three-hour sessions of sudarshan kriya, including meditation, stretching and group discussion, while ten others didn’t take part were used as a control group.

The soldiers’ PTSD symptoms were assessed one week before the beginning of the programme and then a week, a month and a year after its completion. Seven of the 11 involved in the active group continued practising yoga after completing the programme.

The study found that the group who had done yoga demonstrated fewer or less intense PTSD symptoms in comparison. Those who took part in the yoga sessions showed lower anxiety and lower respiration rates. They performed better in tests measuring eye-blink and breathing frequency in response to stimuli such as noise bursts, which are used to measure hyper-arousal and how an well individuals are regulating emotions. The researchers also found that the sessions helped with intrusive memories: patients reported re-experiencing trauma during the exercises, but felt that the impact of the memories was reduced.

“The authors describe their results as ‘promising’ and I think this is what they are,” said Golec de Zavala, who is also a qualified yoga teacher. She emphasised, however, that like many other studies examining the benefits of yoga, this study is limited by the small study groups on which their results are based. “More studies are needed and such studies would be highly valuable regarding low costs of this form of treatment and the initial evidence suggesting its effectiveness,” she added.

Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the UW-Madison and one of the authors of the study, said he hoped that that the study could be extended to more participants with wider demographic representation. If still promising, then doctors could prescribe yoga as treatment for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in the future.

A clinician could use a ‘tool box’ of psychological assessments to determine the cognitive and emotional style of the patient, and thereby determine a treatment that would be most effective for that individual. Right now, a large fraction of individuals who are given any one type of therapy are not improving on that therapy. The only way we can improve that is if we determine which kinds of people will benefit most from different types of treatments.

And one of those tools could be yoga.

The post Yoga helps war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder appeared first on disinformation.

D.C. Circuit won’t televise NSA arguments

Disinformation - 3 hours 51 min ago

via Josh Gerstein at Politico:

A federal appeals court set to wrestle with the legality of the National Security Agency’s massive collection of information on Americans’ phone calls will not do so in front of TV cameras, the court said in an order Monday.

Without comment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied a motion surveillance opponent Larry Klayman and his clients filed last week seeking to televise the oral arguments in the case, currently set for November 4. The court acted before the government stated a position on the request. The order (posted here) does not indicate which specific judges denied Klayman’s motion.

Earlier this month, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held a lively and interesting round of oral arguments on the same issue with live TV coverage provided on C-SPAN’s websiteand delayed coverage on C-SPAN’s TV networks.

While most federal court proceedings remain closed to cameras, the 2nd Circuit and the 9th Circuit have permitted video coverage of oral arguments upon request for years. In addition, the tech-friendly 9th Circuit recently began releasing videos of many oral arguments soon after they take place and now provides live audio of all arguments.

Those who can’t attend the D.C. Circuit’s NSA arguments are not totally out of luck: audio of the session should be posted on the court’s websiteMost of the federal appeals courts now do that routinely. One that does not, the 10th Circuit, recently posted audio of oral arguments in a pair of same-sex marriage cases.

Some federal district courts make their own video recordings in certain civil cases as part of an experiment, but criminal cases in federal trial courts are strictly off limits to cameras.

Continue reading.

The post D.C. Circuit won’t televise NSA arguments appeared first on disinformation.

The Cult of CrossFit

Disinformation - 4 hours 51 min ago

Here at disinformation we’re always alert to weird cults, whether of the suicide variety (Heaven’s Gate) or the brainwashing/cash-draining variety (Scientology). We’ve been following a new cult that’s sweeping America – CrossFit – although we’re not sure that it’s in any way insidious.

Recently I caught up with JC Herz, who’s penned the definitive book on CrossFit, Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness, to answer some questions:

JC, I discovered CrossFit myself a few years ago when I looked up “what is fitness.” For those who don’t know can you briefly describe what CrossFit it and how it addresses my original search question?

The CrossFit catechism is: “Constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains.” Which is technical jargon for: Move your whole body (not single muscles in isolation) and heavy weight, lots of different ways, going flat-out for anywhere between four minutes and half an hour. CrossFit is a mash-up of sprinting bodyweight movements (running, jumping on boxes, burpees), gymnastic movements (pull-ups, handstand push-ups, rope climbs), and weighted movements (Olympic lifts, power lifts, weight carries, sled pushes). All of the movements can be modified and scaled down for beginners. For instance, a jumping pull-up can be substituted for a regular pull-up. Box jumps can be scaled down to step-ups. The point is to learn how to move efficiently and well, then get out of your comfort zone. It should feel difficult and deeply uncomfortable, but doable. Miserable, but not painful. That “embrace the suck” mentality, and the group bonding that goes with it, is the most polarizing aspect of CrossFit – it fires up adherents and riles critics. But for better or worse, it’s also what achieves dramatic results.

What is it about CrossFit that makes people who get into it as fervent about it as any fundamentalist religious type?

Part of it is the results: people do drop weight and get stronger, dramatically so. The measurable progress is a motivator. The “band of brothers” tribal dynamic is powerful – the experience of doing something difficult and uncomfortable with a group of people (think Outward Bound three times a week). For women, the most powerful thing about CrossFit, the thing that gets them proselytizing, is a shift in focus from aesthetics to function. There aren’t any mirrors in a CrossFit box. It’s not about the cosmetic appearance of hips, buns and thighs. There’s none of that weird gym-class voyeurism of comparing your body to other people’s bodies. It’s all about: doing push-ups on knees and then being able to do them on your toes. Or getting a pull-up, or deadlifting your body weight. For women, it’s an incredible joy and relief to celebrate what their bodies can do instead of obsessing over the scale or tape measure.

It does seem that CrossFit participants prefer to not only work out but also socialize with other CrossFitters, talk all the time about CrossFit, follow a special diet, and other behavior that could easily describe a religion … or a cult. Is there a cult of CrossFit?

It is a little cult-y in the sense that people who do it want to talk about it all the time (the first rule of CrossFit: always talk about CrossFit) and hang out with other people who do it. In that way, it’s similar to parenthood – it’s a transformative experience that launches you into hyper-communication mode about this amazing new chapter in your life, in a way that’s annoying to friends and co-workers who haven’t gotten on that same bus. The training bit actually isn’t as annoying as the diet bit – CrossFitters are invariably drawn into Paleo/Primal nutrition, and with that comes a rejection of the high-glycemic processed foods that everyone else considers normal and yummy, combined with a sense of superiority about rejecting those foods. It’s scientifically valid – there are good biochemical reasons not to eat ice-cream and bread. But that doesn’t make talking about it less annoying to people who still eat ice-cream and bread.

Conversations about exercise and diet hit raw nerves, even around the water cooler. Everyone takes that stuff personally. On a macro level, we’re living in an increasingly stratified society. News headlines and political campaigns focus on income, but the divergence in health is even more dramatic. There are 29 million diabetics in the US (7 million of those don’t know they’re diabetics), and 86 million pre-diabetics (http://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesfactsheet/). Chronic disease accounts for 65% of American health costs. So you have this group of CrossFitters, the “physiological 1%,” who are reacting to the majority around them. Their fellow CrossFitters are fit, and outside that circle people getting more and more obese. CrossFitters proselytize because the cultural tectonics are pulling fit-and-healthy people apart from millions of people with chronic diseases who’ll end up in motorized wheelchairs. It is absolutely evangelical (“Cast your gaze away from free pizza night at Planet Fitness, bruthah! Step into the light!”), because CrossFitters don’t want to see people they love cast into the slow hell of chronic disease.

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (right). Photo: Nathan Rupert (CC)


Although CrossFit was started by Greg Glassman, he’s not necessarily the star. In a recent Men’s Fitness magazine article Kelly Starrett was likened to Michael Jackson in terms of his celebrity status. Is he the face of CrossFit or are there others?

If there’s a “face” of CrossFit right now, it’s probably Rich Froning, the four-time CrossFit Games champion. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, this year’s female champion, will get a lot of exposure because in addition to being a world class athlete she’s beautiful. And of course, Dave Castro, the Games director and MC, is a prominent figure. But CrossFit is a highly decentralized phenomenon – most people associate CrossFit with their local box and the coaches they see every other day. It’s not about celebrity.

Rich Froning at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games


Is there a dark side to CrossFit? Anyone who googles the term is going to find criticism, some pretty severe, convening its safety, for instance.

Every sport has an injury rate – for people who are interested in the injury rates of various sports, there’s a good paper here: http://www.exra.org/Epidem1.htm. It contains a quantitative analysis of injury rates in different sports. CrossFit’s injury rate is about 3 injuries per thousand hours of training (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24276294). That’s higher than college cross-country or swimming, but lower than, lacrosse, field hockey or basketball. CrossFit’s injury rate is significantly lower than college soccer or youth taekwondo (more than 20 injuries per thousand athlete exposures). And yet, we continue to watch our sons and daughters do taekwondo and feel good about it, even though the injury rate of youth taekwondo is eight times higher than CrossFit.

“Severe” is a relative term. Compared to the injury rate for elliptical machines, Zumba classes, and Nautilus circuits, CrossFit’s injury rate is high. But compared to contact sports like rugby, basketball and wrestling, it’s low, and compared to high-contact sports like football and ice hockey it’s even lower. Whether people get worked up about CrossFit’s injury rate depends on whether they’re comparing it to gym-based fitness activities or to sports. CrossFitters consider their training in the context of sport, as a risk to manage with good coaching and technique. Critics view it as a fanatical alternative to cardio hip-hop classes. It’s a false debate, with two sides talking (very loudly) past each other.

Lastly, what’s the connection between tech and CrossFit? I started going to the CrossFit box in NYC almost as an extension of being involved in the tech start up world, and it seemed as though there is an unusually high correlation.

Techies love data. CrossFitters love data (hence the CrossFit mantra: measurable, observable, repeatable). Both techies and CrossFitters love to geek out on analysis. It’s possible to geek out, to a really embarrassing degree, about CrossFit workouts and benchmarks, especially when discussing CrossFit competition. It turns into a fitness version of Magic the Gathering (“I play the card of Lightning-Fast Butterfly Pull-ups!” “I counter with the Deadlift of Fury!”)

J. C. Herz is a former rock critic and tech writer for Rolling Stone and Wired, and wrote The New York Times’ first game design column. A two-time author and technology entrepreneur, she started doing CrossFit in a gym where white-collar professionals and new moms hit WODs with active-duty military and members of the presidential Secret Service detail. Her favorite CrossFit workout is “Cindy.” Learning to Breathe Fire is available at Amazon and other good booksellers.

The post The Cult of CrossFit appeared first on disinformation.

Thoughts From a Conservative Mom Who Buys Weed For Her 12-year-old Son

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 17:00

Brett Levin via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

GB from xoJane via AlterNet:

To say I’m your standard Conservative Suburban Mom is probably an understatement.

I’ve voted with the GOP hardline in the last three elections (which is probably enough to get me burned at the stake with most of you reading this.) I wear sweater sets with pearls. We go to church every Sunday.

And I score drugs for my 12-year-old son.

Why yes, that is my SUV (with the “Romney 2012” bumper sticker) outside Milo’s cheesy college apartment, picking up this month’s supply. I always guiltily hit up 2 different ATMs to get the money, not wanting the nice girl at my bank branch to wonder why I’m always getting cash. I dose my son with a nice home-baked chocolate chunk cookie. (Important: keep those cookies in a separate jar.)

As a baby, my Matthew developed in a perfectly normal fashion. He hit every milestone right on time, like walking at 12 months, complete sentences at 18 months (“Mom, that was a fart.”)  And at 22 months, my son disappeared. Autism is a cruel disorder; 4 out of 5 children are born neurotypical and then regress into the silence of those beautiful, mysterious brains.

As the final F-U, one in four kids with autism develop seizure disorders. Matthew was one of them. His first seizure was at Target when we were shopping for a new bike for his 9th birthday. He gave out a loud bird-like screech and fell to the floor, shaking and moaning. To see my child frothing at the mouth and shrieking makes me understand a little better why so many cultures thought seizures were actually demonic possession. The kindly EMTs nodded knowingly when I gasped that Matthew had autism.

“Sorry to hear it, but we see this a lot with the autistic kids,” the paramedic said, injecting my baby with Versed to stop the seizure.

Our pediatric neurologist put Matthew on a potent cocktail of three different anti-convulsant medications. They didn’t stop the seizures from increasing in frequency or severity. But Matthew endured endless rashes, nausea and sleeplessness. One of the other autism moms was the first to suggest marijuana.

“How is getting my son stoned going to be any help!” I hissed.

She rolled her eyes. “There are several different types of cannabis. You want one with a lower THC — that’s what gets you high — and containing a higher CBD level.

Continue reading.

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Hollywood Must Turn Its Head to Personalized Longevity Science instead of Anti-Aging Pseudoremedies

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 16:00

I think Konovalenko hits the nail on the head when she says that celebrities are looking for quick solutions, but she fails to understand that that’s precisely why celebs don’t look to “personalized science” for answers. Our society is predicated on a fast, easy, and cheap mentality – a mentality that seems to be perpetuated by Western celebrity culture.

By Maria Konovalenko via The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:

This attention-worthy article in The Hollywood Reporter signals that Hollywood people are ready and willing to do something about their longevity. The article mentions hormone replacement therapy, different check-ups and other things available in California, however completely misses 99% of what actually can be done about aging – science.

Why doesn’t the author talk about the work done at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, USC, UCLA and Stanford University?

People are looking for a ready solution, something that they can do today, and mistakenly dismiss science completely, because they think it is too far away for being applied to them. Well, this is a wrong approach. Science can be applied to a particular person’s health.

It is called personalized science. It means that we can treat a given person’s health as a scientific task. There already are several examples for personalized science in action.

Martine Rothblatt created a pharma company to invent a cure for her daughter Jenesis’s rare disease primary pulmonary hypertension, she hired the best researcher in that area back in 1996 and they created the pill that significantly improved the well-being of these patients including her daughter. This venture turned out to be quite profitable as well as being life-saving.

The other example is Michael Snyder and his recent attempt to analyze “omits” data about himself. Dr. Snyder is the Head of Genetics Department at Stanford University. He was measuring 40,000 parameters and by analyzing all this health data, his team managed to spot the onset of type 2 diabetes way earlier than he would have noticed it using conventional methods.

Continue reading.

Maria Konovalenko is a molecular biophysicist and the program coordinator for the Science for Life Extension Foundation. She earned her M.Sc. degree in Molecular Biological Physics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

The post Hollywood Must Turn Its Head to Personalized Longevity Science instead of Anti-Aging Pseudoremedies appeared first on disinformation.

IRS Has “Lost” Emails From 5 More Employees

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 14:30

This whole story makes me extremely nervous and the fact that they are probably going to get away with it is alarming.

via AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS says it has lost emails from five more workers who are part of congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax exempt status.

The tax agency said in June that it could not locate an untold number of emails to and from Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. The revelation set off a new round of investigations and congressional hearings.

On Friday, the IRS said it has also lost emails from five other employees related to the probe, including two agents who worked in a Cincinnati office processing applications for tax-exempt status.

Continue reading.

Back in June, emails from Lois Lerner (the former head of the agency’s tax-exempt status department) were lost. This was, according the IRS, due to how their email is stored on internal servers.

via The Washington Post:

Here’s what the IRS says happened. (A quick background on email before we begin. Email moves back and forth between servers. Email sent to IRS.gov goes to the IRS’ email server; emails sent from IRS.gov to, say, gmail.com, travel over the internet to Google’s email servers. You access your email using an email client, a tool that reads email from the server either directly or by downloading it first. As with everything tech-related, it is actually more complicated than this.)

Prior to the eruption of the IRS controversy last spring, the IRS had a policy of backing up the data on its email server (which runs Microsoft Outlook) every day. It kept a backup of the records for six months on digital tape, according to a letter sent from the IRS to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). After six months, the IRS would reuse those tapes for newer backups. So when Congressional committees began requesting emails from the agency, its records only went back to late 2012.

The IRS also had two other policies that complicated things. The first was a limit on how big its employees’ email inboxes could be. At the IRS, employees could keep 500 megabytes of data on the email server. If the mailbox got too big, email would need to be deleted or moved to a local folder on the user’s computer.

Emails considered an “official record” of the IRS couldn’t be deleted and, in fact, needed to also have a hard copy filed. Those emails that constitute an official record are ones that are loosely defined under IRS policy as ones that were “[c]reated or received in the transaction of agency business,” “appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function or activities,” or “valuable because of the information they contain”. The letter sent to the senators suggests that it was up to the user to determine what emails met those standards. It’s not clear if Lerner had any hard copies of important emails.

Read the entire WP article.

The post IRS Has “Lost” Emails From 5 More Employees appeared first on disinformation.

The Dangers of Ambien and Other Sleeping Aids

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 13:30

via AlterNet:

It has been several years since the bloom fell off the rose of Ambien, the blockbuster sleeping pill. Recently, the FDA has warned about Ambien hangovers, sedation and the risk of dangerous driving and recommended lower doses. The FDA warnings came a year after Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and former wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, was arrested for what was believed to be Ambien-inebriated driving. The arrest came six years after her cousin, former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, son of Sen. Edward Kennedy, was also involved in an apparent Ambien-related traffic mishap.

After Rep. Kennedy’s crash, as stories of more bizarre behavior on the sleeping pill surfaced, Ambien’s manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis, was forced to launch an ad campaign telling people if they were going to take Ambien, to get in bed and stay there. (Or you’ll “break out in handcuffs” as the joke goes.) Reports of driving, eating, sex and other “wakeful” behavior in Ambien blackouts proliferated.

Under the influence of Ambien, people say they have sexted married friends, drawn penises in the middle of their handwriting, ordered expensive and unwanted items online and one person “tried to legally change my name on the computer.” One woman I interviewed drank an entire bottle of black shoe polish under the influence of Ambien. Tiger Woods reportedly used it for sex. Dieters report being horrified at the type and amount of foods consumed during an Ambien blackout.

But Ambien blackouts are not just about night-eating and zany behavior—they are as serious as cancer.

In 2012, in San Antonio, Julie Ann Bronson, a 42-year-old flight attendant was tried for running over a mother and her two daughters while “sleep driving.” Her life was “ruined” by Ambien, says her lawyer. In 2006, a 36-year-old lawyer from Andover, Massachusetts, was sleep-driving on Ambien when he struck and killed a man who was changing a tire alongside his wife and young son, according to Marie Claire magazine. Two years later, a 56-year-old woman also sleep-driving while on Ambien killed a mother of 11 children.

In 2012, the Mayo clinic in Rochester announced it would no longer prescribe Ambien to inpatients because they are four times as likely to experience falls from the drug. Ambien is also linked to suicide and suicidal thoughts in users.

Continue reading.

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David Cronenberg: ‘My imagination is not a place of horror’

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 12:30

David Cronenberg, Genie Awards 2012 by Alan Langford via Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

Cronenberg compares himself to Gergor Samsa? I like him even more.

via The Guardian (Follow the link to read the entire interview):

When the great Canadian film-maker David Cronenberg turned 70 last year he felt, in a word, old. An admirer of Franz Kafka, he said he found himself comparing himself to Gregor Samsa, the protagonist of The Metamorphosis, who wakes up one morning to find – very Cronenbergian – that he’s become a giant beetle.

“You are a new creature,” Cronenberg explains. “Ask anybody who is not advanced in years what they think of 70-year-olds – if they think of them at all – and it’s Alzheimer’s, senile old people and Zimmer frames. Just, ‘Wow, what a burden on the healthcare system.’ Three score and ten, that’s supposed to be it, that’s the biblical age. So there are precedents for considering 70 to be a major moment in your life.”

Once he had come to terms with the shock, though, Cronenberg returned to his work with renewed vigour. He directed a script called Maps to the Stars, a savagely funny takedown of contemporary Hollywood, that he had been tinkering with for a decade with the writer Bruce Wagner. He also finished his debut novel, Consumed, which has been perhaps 50 years in the making. Both are unveiled in the next few weeks.

“You have huge power and potency at this age,” Cronenberg continues. “There’s the mythology of age, the bearded elder, the wise old man. In some cultures advanced age is very much revered, the Chinese culture, Confucius and so on: you are supposed to gain in wisdom and experience and therefore be quite a valuable member of society who should be honoured and listened to. At the moment, in the west, we certainly don’t have that.”

Cronenberg is certainly not ready for his Zimmer frame just yet. He’s 71 now, but maintains a slim, athletic build and often disappears into the hills around his home in Toronto on his bicycle. His soaring hair has a metallic sheen and the density of chinchilla fur. He is ferociously intelligent and quick-witted, but, over a long conversation on Skype, not in the least bit intimidating. His reputation in film circles is for being decent, even moral; qualities not easily retained in that industry.

It’s clear, too, that Cronenberg’s ambition is undimmed. “I can say,” he goes on, “that the novel that I wrote now, I really expected to have written when I was 21 instead of 71, but it couldn’t have been the same novel and I doubt that it would have been as good. I really don’t think it could have been.”


The post David Cronenberg: ‘My imagination is not a place of horror’ appeared first on disinformation.

California’s Plastic Bag Ban: An Analysis

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 11:30

Trash Tree by Alex via Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

This is why I try to just use the tote bags I’ve collected from trade shows and festivals (I also use them for laundry days).

Via Mother Jones:

Last week, California became the first state to pass a bill banning the ubiquitous disposable plastic bag. If signed into law, the measure will prohibit grocery and retail stores from providing single-use plastic bags and require them to charge at least ten cents for paper bags, compostable bags, and reusable plastic bags. The bill, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-LA), will also provide funding for California-based plastic bag companies to develop sturdier, reusable options.

Worldwide, consumers use an estimated one trillion plastic bags each year—nearly two million a minute—with the use time of a typical bag just 12 minutes. Californians alone throw away 14 billion a year, creating 123,000 tons of waste and untold amounts of litter.

There is evidence that bag bans and taxes can cut down on some of this waste: Ireland’s 2002 tax cut bag usage between 75 and 90 percent. An analysis of bag use in Australia found that 72 percent of customers accepted single-use bags that were offered for free. When a nominal fee was charged, usage dropped to 27 percent (33 percent switched to reusable bags and 40 percent made do without).

But there’s one major downside to bag bans: Although plastic bags’ manufacture is relatively energy intensive (according to the Australian government, a car could drive 36 feet with the amount of petroleum used to make a single plastic bag), other kinds of bags use even more fossil fuel. A heavy-duty, reusable plastic bag must be used 12 times before its global warming impact is lower than continuing to use disposable bags, according to a study by the UK Environment Agency. A cotton bag takes 132 uses, and a paper bag—which will still be legal with California’s ten-cent fee—must be used four times before its global warming impact is less than using single-use bags.

Unless Californians reuse their ten-cent paper bags several times, opting for paper won’t do much to decrease environmental impact. And although the UK study doesn’t factor in other benefits of reusable bags, such as reduced litter, it underscores the fact that reusable bags are only beneficial if they’re actually used. Freebie branded totes gathering dust in closets are not worth the energy they took to produce.

Continue reading.

The post California’s Plastic Bag Ban: An Analysis appeared first on disinformation.

The Potato That Killed!

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 10:30

Beer and chips by Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A tale of science gone wrong.

via io9:

They thought they had created the perfect potato – but they were wrong. In a dramatic tale of science gone wrong, a killer potato rises from a secret breeding program, intent on killing those who wronged it. Learn about… the Lenape potato!

All right, perhaps the potato wasn’t invested with a sense of revenge. After all, it was only going about its business, and defending itself against those who would destroy it. Mainly insects. All potatoes, and other plants in the same family, like tomatoes, contain different kinds of glycoalkaloids. These give them a distinctive flavor that humans sometimes enjoy, but that insects hate.

One of these glycoalkaloids is solanine. Solanine generally collects in the stems, leaves, and eyes of the potato. A little does no harm, but too much cause cramps, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. A very great deal, well over 100 miligrams, can cause death. Solanine develops as the potato ages. It’s usually stimulated by an exposure to light, which is why potatoes are stored in dark, out of the way places, despite their extreme attractiveness. Since most potatoes only have about 8 to 12 miligrams of solanine per spud, they can’t hurt anyone. People only get into trouble when they boil potato leaves for tea.

Or when they eat the Lenape potato. In the 1960s, when fries and potato chips were gaining popularity as snacks, farmers wanted to breed the perfect potato.

Continue reading.

The post The Potato That Killed! appeared first on disinformation.

Caffeine Powder and Overdoses

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 09:30

I’ve used caffeine powder before. I would put a little bit in my coffee to make it stronger.

via Cincinnati.com:

With a new school year underway, poison control officials in Kentucky and across the nation are sounding the alarm about powdered caffeine, used by some teens to boost workouts, weight loss or energy but implicated in the death of a high school wrestler in Ohio.

Many poison control officials want the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to restrict the use of the increasingly popular powder, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is calling for an outright ban.

FDA officials say they are collecting information and will consider regulatory action, and urge consumers to avoid the product in the meantime.

“I drink coffee. … We’re not trying to get rid of caffeine. It is just this form and this dose,” said Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center. “It’s like going to buy firecrackers and someone handing you a stick of dynamite. This is frighteningly dangerous. You can’t have 16- and 17-year-olds buying something off the Internet and playing with dynamite.”

Ashley Webb, a toxicologist who directs the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center of Kosair Children’s Hospital, said no cases have been reported to her center — although Spiller has heard of a case in Indiana. But Webb said Kentucky’s center is on high alert for caffeine overdoses.

“We’re worried,” Webb said. “With it being back-to-school time, kids are getting involved in sports and starting to study for tests” and may take the product believing it will help.

The problem, Webb said, is that the powder is so concentrated that it’s easy to overdose. One serving is a sixteenth of a teaspoon, which is so small most people don’t have a way to measure it. Also, it’s often used in homemade energy or protein shakes along with other ingredients measured in large scoops. People also mix it into drinks to make them more alert — figuring caffeine is safe because it’s in sodas, energy drinks and coffee.

Continue reading.

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The Golden Age of Sexual Taboos: How Indie Movies Brought Deranged Sex Acts to the Big Screen

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 08:30

Still from Lars von Trier’s Antichrist

Interesting read brought to you by Gary M. Kramer at Salon via AlterNet:

I recently wrote an article on ethical dilemmas in torture porn and received some rather extreme reactions. Given that two new films—James Franco’s “Child of God” and Kim Ki-duk’s “Moebius”–depict some rather extreme sexual activities, it seemed appropriate to consider how sexual taboos are depicted in indie films.  “Child of God” features a tender scene of necrophilia, as Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) makes love to the corpse of a young woman he finds in a car. And over the past few years, indie films have produced some of the most haunting, bizarre scenes of deranged sexual behavior in the history of cinema.

“Love Is a Mad Dog From Hell” (aka “Crazy Love”) (1987), by Belgian writer/director Dominique Deruddere, is an outstanding adaptation of a trio of Charles Bukowski stories. Unfolding as a triptych, the last and most provocative act has the main character, Harry Voss (Josse De Pauw), making love to a corpse he and his buddy have stolen. Staring at the beautiful, blonde, nude corpse, Harry registers a peculiar desire. He gently caresses this ethereal beauty, and Deruddere emphasizes her luminescence, perhaps to offset the disturbing nature of the depraved act that is soon performed. The sex is discretely presented—a few thrusts, really. The affection Harry displays in the next scene, as he strokes her face before carrying his love out into the ocean, feels sincere.

 “Kissed” (1997) is director Lynne Stopkewich’s striking character study of Sandra (Molly Parker), a mortuary assistant, who falls in love with her “clients.” She has, it is revealed, a death obsession/fetish, and it piques the interest of Matt (Peter Outerbridge) a living, breathing medical student who becomes her confidant. That Matt becomes jealous of Sandra’s “other men” is an interesting wrinkle; it shifts the audience identification point. If the film provides a clinical presentation of embalming, it takes a different approach to depicting sex with the dead. Although Sandra is seen nude and climbing on to a corpse, Stopkewich stops at showing anything explicit. Instead, she lets the audience’s imagination take over as Sandra is “transported,” by engaging in her passion. Which is perhaps more effective, and maybe even a little creepy. As the film’s poster indicates, “Love knows no bounds.”

Then there’s the wild, challenging new psychosexual drama, “Moebius.” This film, written and directed by Kim Ki-duk, features a wife, preparing to castrate her husband as punishment for his infidelity. When he escapes harm, she takes her frustration out on their sleeping son. While the act of castration happens off-screen, the aftermath forms the crux of the “Moebius.”

Continue reading.

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Wearable computing and privacy invasions you might want to think about now

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 07:27

Google Glass © Rijans007/Wikimedia Commons, 2013. Via Flickr.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

By Tom Foulsham, University of Essex

Are you being recorded? Thanks to the ubiquity of CCTV and camera phones, the answer is more than ever before likely to be “Yes”. Add to this the growth of wearable technology such as Google Glass and people are increasingly exposed to devices that can monitor and record them, whether they realise it or not.

The privacy implications are obvious, but also interesting to psychologists such as myself, are how such invasions of privacy – real or perceived – change the way people behave in everyday life.

My colleagues and I have been examining the ways people change their behaviour when they are being recorded. In a typical psychology experiment, participants are aware that they are being watched, and a range of equipment monitors their responses, from computers and cameras to eye-trackers and electrodes. Do people in this scenario behave the same way as they’d behave, unwatched, in everyday life? While this may be true for some people and some behaviour, it is not in all cases. Thankfully, with some ingenuity, we can investigate whether being monitored changes how people behave. This should be a crucial topic for psychologists.

Research using eye-tracking devices, led by Eleni Nasioupolous and Alan Kingstone from the University of British Columbia, Evan Risko at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and myself, provides a good example. In several situations participants were left alone in a room with a calendar featuring a scantily-clad female, behind which lay a hidden spy camera. When people were free of any recording device, they usually looked at the calendar. However, when they wore an eye-tracking device, which records the wearer’s field of view and their eye movements within it (just like Google Glass) they stopped behaving naturally and avoided looking at the saucy image.

In other words they were aware that what they were looking at was being watched and changed their behaviour accordingly. This reinforces our natural assumption that we can’t take for granted that people will behave normally when they know they’re being watched, both in lab experiments and when using wearable technology out in the world.

Those aware that what they are looking at is being monitored seem to act in a more socially acceptable manner, something that is consistent with a range of behavioural research. The presence of others leads us to act in a way that converges with social norms. Security cameras – even a picture of someone’s eyes – can have the same effect by implying that someone is watching.

In our recent paper published in the British Journal of Psychology we varied the amount of time that people had to get used to wearing the eye-tracker. Surprisingly, we found that even after only 10 minutes of wearing the equipment, users essentially forgot about being monitored and started acting normally again. Soon enough the socially acceptable behaviour associated with being watched dissipated and they again spent time, for example, looking at the calendar.

But while the implied social presence of another watching the participant’s behaviour wore off surprisingly quickly, when they were reminded that they were wearing the eye-tracker they once more reverted to a socially acceptable pattern of behaviour and averted their eyes.

So what does this mean for privacy in the age of Google Glass and other wearable smart devices? We shouldn’t assume that people will be sufficiently self-aware to regulate what they’re doing while using wearable technology. Our research shows that users can easily forget that they are recording (or being recorded) and even with the best intentions could violate the privacy of others.

This is good news for those of us who seek to measure and understand natural behaviour, and particularly for using eye-trackers to achieve this. However it could be bad news for those who champion the use of wearable computing in everyday life. With even short periods of use, people may stop being aware of their own actions and in doing so end up recording things they would rather not be seen – look away now if you value your privacy.

Tom Foulsham receives funding from The British Academy.

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Rand Paul: From Purist to Politician

Disinformation - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 06:38

One thing you can say about former Congressman Ron “Dr. No” Paul: he never compromised his libertarian views. It definitely held him back, career-wise; now his son Rand seems to have learned this lesson and is showing all the signs of a politician whose opinions change with the wind. Major profile in the Washington Post:

Sen. Rand Paul wanted to eliminate aid to Israel. Now he doesn’t. He wanted to scrap the Medicare system. Now he’s not sure.

He didn’t like the idea of a border fence — it was expensive, and it reminded him of the Berlin Wall. Now he wants two fences, one behind the other.

And what about same-sex marriage? Paul’s position — such marriages are morally wrong, but Republicans should stop obsessing about them — seems so muddled that an Iowa pastor recently confronted him in frustration.

“With all due respect, that sounds very retreatist of you,” minister Michael Demastus said he told Paul (R-Ky.) after the senator explained his position during a stop in Des Moines.

Paul has built a reputation as a libertarian ideologue, a Washington outsider guided by a rigid devotion to principle.

But his policy vision is, in fact, a work in progress. While he has maintained his core support for cutting spending and protecting Americans’ privacy rights, Paul has shaded, changed or dropped some of the ideas that he espoused as a tea party candidate and in his confrontational early days as a senator.

As the prospect of a 2016 presidential bid looms larger, Paul is making it clear that he did not come to Washington to be a purist like his father, former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.).

He came to be a politician, like everybody else.

This transformation carries enormous risk. As Rand Paul seeks to broaden his appeal, he may damage his image as an authentic non-politician who is unafraid to stand up for his beliefs…

[continues in the Washington Post]

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There’s Lithium In The Water Supply

Disinformation - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 19:00

Stylised Lithium Atom. CC BY-SA 3.0

Forget about the awful things that fluoride in the water supply supposedly does to us; the New York Times is reporting that there’s lithium in our water supply:

THE idea of putting a mind-altering drug in the drinking water is the stuff of sci-fi, terrorist plots and totalitarian governments. Considering the outcry that occurred when putting fluoride in the water was first proposed, one can only imagine the furor that would ensue if such a thing were ever suggested.

The debate, however, is moot. It’s a done deal. Mother Nature has already put a psychotropic drug in the drinking water, and that drug is lithium. Although this fact has been largely ignored for over half a century, it appears to have important medical implications.

Lithium is a naturally occurring element, not a molecule like most medications, and it is present in the United States, depending on the geographic area, at concentrations that can range widely, from undetectable to around .170 milligrams per liter. This amount is less than a thousandth of the minimum daily dose given for bipolar disorders and for depression that doesn’t respond to antidepressants. Although it seems strange that the microscopic amounts of lithium found in groundwater could have any substantial medical impact, the more scientists look for such effects, the more they seem to discover. Evidence is slowly accumulating that relatively tiny doses of lithium can have beneficial effects. They appear to decrease suicide rates significantly and may even promote brain health and improve mood.

Yet despite the studies demonstrating the benefits of relatively high natural lithium levels present in the drinking water of certain communities, few seem to be aware of its potential. Intermittently, stories appear in the scientific journals and media, but they seem to have little traction in the medical community or with the general public.

When I recently attended a psychopharmacology course in which these lithium studies were reviewed, virtually none of the psychiatrists present had been aware of them.

The scientific story of lithium’s role in normal development and health began unfolding in the 1970s. Studies at that time found that animals that consumed diets with minimal lithium had higher mortality rates, as well as abnormalities of reproduction and behavior…

[continues at the New York Times]

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Pope Declares Start of World War III

Disinformation - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 17:00

World War III isn’t like its two 20th century predecessors, but it’s ON, says the Pope, via Reuters:

Pope Francis said on Saturday the spate of conflicts around the globe today were effectively a “piecemeal” Third World War, condemning the arms trade and “plotters of terrorism” sowing death and destruction.

“Humanity needs to weep and this is the time to weep,” Francis said in the homily of a Mass during a visit to Italy’s largest war memorial, a large, Fascist-era monument where more than 100,000 soldiers who died in World War One are buried.

The pope began his brief visit to northern Italy by first praying in a nearby, separate cemetery for some 15,000 soldiers from five nations of the Austro-Hungarian empire which were on the losing side of the Great War that broke out 100 years ago.

“War is madness,” he said in his homily before the massive, sloping granite memorial, made of 22 steps on the side of hill with three crosses at the top.

“Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction,” he said…

[continues at Reuters]

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Gummies Shaped Like Penises Outrage Parents in New Zealand

Disinformation - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 17:00

via The New Zealand Herald:

Inappropriately shaped lollies on sale exclusively in the South Island have been branded offensive and recalled from shops.

Barrie Aburn, of Dunedin, said his daughters Cadence (8), Rhianna (6) and Payton (5) bought a bag of Dragon Sweets from Moyles SuperValue in Green Island and gave it to him for his birthday.

Mr Aburn’s partner, Jacqui Hawkins, said she randomly took a sweet from the bag and found it was shaped in the form of male genitals.

Another lolly in the bag was a gummy baby with a penis, she said.

”I don’t find anything amusing about it at all. I find it disgusting,” she said.

Dutch Rusk managing director Willem Van de Geest, of Nelson, said the Stoke confectionery company imported 7200 bags of mixed gummy lollies, called Dragon Sweets, from a Chinese manufacturer about six weeks ago.

The lollies were distributed to shops in the lower South Island.

About two weeks later, complaints started coming in about the lollies, Mr Van de Geest said.

He was unaware ”inappropriate” lollies were inside the bags.

”You have to look at it two or three times to think that doesn’t look right.”

The offensive lolly was a gummy bear, and not a gummy baby, he said.

The lollies were a ”one-off” and he had recalled and dumped thousands of bags.

”It won’t happen again.”

Mr Van de Geest said he had imported lollies from around the world for 25 years and an offensive lolly had never been included in a mix before.

The manufacturers had sent him a letter apologising for the mistake and had refunded some money.

Continue reading.

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Jews To Israel: If Not Now, When

Disinformation - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 15:00

Abby Zimet writes at Common Dreams:

In the wake of ongoing abuses by Israel against the Palestinian people – from the most recent devastation in Gaza to the brute fact of the Occupation itself – a growing number of Israelis and other Jews are renouncing, often with a mix of sorrow and anger, a Zionist project most have grown up supporting. The flood of leave-takings has come from all sides, starting with the rapid growth of Israeli peace organizations, mostly notably If Not Now. Then came the decision by leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem to stop cooperating with Israel, which recently banned several independent human rights groups, in its so-called “investigation” of abuses in Gaza. The group cited the IDF’s well-documented  history of “whitewashing,” arguing, “Common sense has it that a body cannot investigate itself…Based on past experience, we can only regretfully say that Israeli law enforcement authorities are unable and unwilling to investigate allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law (in) Gaza.” Around the same time, an even more startling rejection came from a group of Holocaust survivors and their families, who wrote an open letter calling Israeli conduct in Gaza “genocide.” This week, they were joined, in his fashion, by Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and illustrator Art Spiegelman, who became one of the most acclaimed voices of the Holocaust when he told the story of his father’s survival at Auschwitz with his extraordinary graphic novel Maus. After admitting he’d “spent a lifetime trying to NOT think about Israel,” Spiegelman created a re-constituted David and Goliath image for The Nation as his way of acknowledging that “Israel is like some badly battered child with PTSD who has grown up to batter others.” And Friday, 43 veterans of Unit 8200, Israel’s most secretive military intelligence unit, released a letter refusing to serve in operations in the Occupied Territories, citing their growing “moral dilemmas” in the face of an “all-encompassing” surveillance of largely innocent people that “is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society.” This is the sound of people waking up: “We refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories.”

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Apocalypse Pooh: One of the earliest mash-ups (Bonus: Blue Peanuts)

Disinformation - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 13:00

I’m ashamed to say that I just came across this, thanks to Slate

This is by far the most meticulously edited mash-up I’ve seen. I’m very impressed. A hauntingly surreal Winnie the Pooh.

Apocalypse Pooh:

Via the YouTube page:

This is a recently remastered version of Todd Graham’s original 1987 VCR-made remix that appropriates famous fictional animals from Disney’s animated version of Winnie the Pooh and recasts them as characters in Francis Ford Coppola’s gritty Vietnam War drama Apocalypse Now. In the new narrative, the beloved Hundred Acre Wood is transformed into a horrific war zone in which Pooh, Piglet, and the rest of the gang struggle to keep their sanity. The humorous and slightly disturbing juxtaposition was an underground viral hit at comic book conventions, and bootlegged copies were passed around and traded on VHS tape. Graham’s work, which he called telejusting, differs in some respects from that of later media jammers in that it requires viewers to at least know, if not be a fan of, the original source material. Graham, unlike many political remixers, also managed to create some sympathy for his telejusted cartoon characters.

Blue Peanuts:

Here’s Blue Peanuts, a mash-up of Blue Velvet and Peanuts. It is a companion piece to Apocalypse Pooh.

An interview with Todd Graham from 1991:

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