Saturday, February 25, 2012

Charlie Chaplin

Parasites Control Humans?


"The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis—the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells—or at least that’s the standard medical wisdom.

But if Flegr is right, the 'latent' parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, 'Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.'

An evolutionary biologist at Charles University in Prague, Flegr has pursued this theory for decades in relative obscurity. Because he struggles with English and is not much of a conversationalist even in his native tongue, he rarely travels to scientific conferences. That 'may be one of the reasons my theory is not better known,' he says. And, he believes, his views may invite deep-seated opposition. 'There is strong psychological resistance to the possibility that human behavior can be influenced by some stupid parasite,' he says. 'Nobody likes to feel like a puppet. Reviewers [of my scientific papers] may have been offended.' Another more obvious reason for resistance, of course, is that Flegr’s notions sound an awful lot like fringe science, right up there with UFO sightings and claims of dolphins telepathically communicating with humans.

But after years of being ignored or discounted, Flegr is starting to gain respectability. Psychedelic as his claims may sound, many researchers, including such big names in neuroscience as Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky, think he could well be onto something. Flegr’s 'studies are well conducted, and I can see no reason to doubt them,' Sapolsky tells me. Indeed, recent findings from Sapolsky’s lab and British groups suggest that the parasite is capable of extraordinary shenanigans. T. gondii, reports Sapolsky, can turn a rat’s strong innate aversion to cats into an attraction, luring it into the jaws of its No. 1 predator. Even more amazing is how it does this: the organism rewires circuits in parts of the brain that deal with such primal emotions as fear, anxiety, and sexual arousal. 'Overall,' says Sapolsky, 'this is wild, bizarre neurobiology.' Another academic heavyweight who takes Flegr seriously is the schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey, director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, in Maryland. 'I admire Jaroslav for doing [this research],' he says. 'It’s obviously not politically correct, in the sense that not many labs are doing it. He’s done it mostly on his own, with very little support. I think it bears looking at. I find it completely credible.'

What’s more, many experts think T. gondii may be far from the only microscopic puppeteer capable of pulling our strings. 'My guess is that there are scads more examples of this going on in mammals, with parasites we’ve never even heard of,' says Sapolsky."

Article in its entirety:  "How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy"

Friday, February 24, 2012

"At The Top Of The World"



Lyrics:
At the top of the world there's an island
A place where the sun never shines
But the people don't care because the snow over there
Is so bright, they nearly go blind

They live at the foot of a mountain
Where the flowers last hardly a day
But they live off the land and lend each other a hand
On this island where night is their day

They'd punish me if I dare tell you
And if I ask them, they'd say they don't know
But what keeps them healthy even though they are not wealthy
On this magical island, is snow

The flakes as they fall look like candy
And the children rush out when it snows, for a treat
When they open their mouths and gulp down the flakes
Because nothing on earth tastes so sweet

But then one dark day, smoke blew in their way
And the temperatures got higher
On the horizon they saw fire and the waters did rise
And the snow started melting away

And the people weren't tearful, nor fearful or scared
Because the secret was out there
At last, the secret was shared

They watched as the ice turned to water
And streamed down into the sea
And lit up the ocean and crept in slow-motion
Through the world they never did see

And people in lands around the planet were in shock
As the light came to shore and lit up the beaches
And even their teachers couldn't say what the bright light was for

It flowed upstream through the mountains
Burst out through their fountains
Breaking all life's natural laws
Till they lit up the planet and all who lived on it
Were touched by this magical force

Neutrality, Immorality

"I would not be who I am and I would not write what I write without having learned from some of my elders who refused to believe that writers should or can be apolitical or neutral or objective. The truth is most important, they said. It is more important than money. It is more important than fame. It is more important than your career. It’s more important than your preconceptions. Follow the truth—follow the words and ideas—wherever they lead. Words matter, they said. Art matters. Literature matters. Words and art and literature can change lives, and can change history. Make sure that your words and your art and your literature move people individually and collectively in the direction of justice and sustainability. They said literature that supports capitalism is immoral. A literature that supports patriarchy is immoral. A literature that does not resist oppression is immoral. But you can help to create a literature of morality and resistance, as each new generation must create this literature, with the help of all those generations who came before, holding their hands for support, just as those who come after will need to hold yours."

- Derrick Jensen, http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6698

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gut





"A man is only what his microbes make him."

- N. Ropeloff

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Water Work"

Swim in a lake.
Float down a river.
Dive in an ocean.

One tests the body.
One provokes the mind.
One challenges the soul.

- HK Stewart, Christian Taoism

Hyper Analyze


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Doing Word


"God is a verb rather than a noun. God is a process rather than an entity. There is some biblical justification for this. God, after all, answered Moses’ request for revelation with the words, 'I AM WHO I AM.' This phrase is probably more accurately translated 'I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.' God seems to be saying to Moses that the reality of the divine is an experience. God comes to us in the profound flashes of insight that cut through the darkness, in the hope that permits human beings to cope with inevitable despair and suffering, in the healing solidarity of kindness, compassion and self-sacrifice, especially when this compassion allows us to reach out to others, and not only others like us, but those defined by our communities as strangers, as outcasts. 'I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.' This reality, the reality of the eternal, must be grounded in that which we cannot touch, see or define, in mystery, in a kind of faith in the ultimate worth of compassion, even when the reality of the world around us seems to belittle compassion as futile."

"We are tempted, indeed in a consumer culture encouraged, to reduce life to a simple search for happiness. Happiness, however, withers if there is no meaning. The other temptation is to disavow the search for happiness in order to be faithful to that which provides meaning. But to live only for meaning—indifferent to all happiness—makes us fanatic, self-righteous and cold. It leaves us cut off from our own humanity and the humanity of others. We must hope for grace, for our lives to be sustained by moments of meaning and happiness, both equally worthy of human communion. And it is this grace, this love, which in our darkest moments allows us to endure."

Entire essay: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/acts_of_love_20120219/

Friday, February 17, 2012

Anthropocentric Environmentalism

"Like all of us, I am a foot soldier of empire. It is the empire of Homo sapiens sapiens and it stretches from Tasmania to Baffin Island. Like all empires, it is built on expropriation and exploitation, and like all empires it dresses these things up in the language of morality and duty. When we turn wilderness over to agriculture, we speak of our duty to feed the poor. When we industrialize the wild places, we speak of our duty to stop the climate from changing. When we spear whales, we speak of our duty to science. When we raze forests, we speak of our duty to develop. We alter the atmospheric makeup of the entire world: half of us pretend it’s not happening, the other half immediately start looking for new machines that will reverse it. This is how empires work, particularly when they have started to decay. Denial, displacement, anger, fear.

The environment is the victim of this empire. But the 'environment'—that distancing word, that empty concept—does not exist. It is the air, the waters, the creatures we make homeless or lifeless in flocks and legions, and it is us too. We are it; we are in it and of it, we make it and live it, we are fruit and soil and tree, and the things done to the roots and the leaves come back to us. We make ourselves slaves to make ourselves free, and when the shackles start to rub we confidently predict the emergence of new, more comfortable designs.

I don’t have any answers, if by answers we mean political systems, better machines, means of engineering some grand shift in consciousness. All I have is a personal conviction built on those feelings, those responses, that goes back to the moors of northern England and the rivers of southern Borneo—that something big is being missed. That we are both hollow men and stuffed men, and that we will keep stuffing ourselves until the food runs out, and if outside the dining room door we have made a wasteland and called it necessity, then at least we will know we were not to blame, because we are never to blame, because we are the humans."

Entire essay: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6599

Laws Of Nature



















Buildings and bridges
are made to bend in the wind,
to withstand the world,
that's what it takes.
All that steel and stone 
is no match for the air, my friend.
What doesn't bend breaks.
What doesn't bend breaks.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Genetically Modified Omega-3 Soybeans

"The biotechnology firm Monsanto stands just one FDA approval away from growing soybeans that have been genetically modified to produce those omega-3 fatty acids that doctors are always recommending."
"Monsanto plans to include SDA soybean oil in just about everything: 'baked goods and baking mixes, breakfast cereals and grains, cheeses, dairy product analogs, fats and oils, fish products, frozen dairy desserts and mixes, grain products and pastas, gravies and sauces, meat products, milk products, nuts and nut products, poultry products, processed fruit juices, processed vegetable products, puddings and fillings, snack foods, soft candy, and soups and soup mixes, at levels that will provide 375 milligrams (mg) of SDA per serving.'"

It is worth mentioning that the actual omega-3 fatty acids that are going to be produced by the soybeans are not the same kind that are found in fish.  According to the FDA:
The oil is obtained from a bioengineered soybean. Monsanto states that SDA soybean oil is compositionally different from conventional soybean oil. SDA soybean oil contains 15 to 30 percent SDA and 5 to 8 percent gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), neither of which is present in conventional soybean oil. SDA soybean oil also contains slightly higher levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and palmitic acid than conventional soybean oil. SDA soybean oil contains lower levels of oleic acid and linoleic acid (LA) than those present in conventional soybean oil. Monsanto notes that the variability in the oil’s fatty acid composition, notably the SDA concentration, is due to natural variation in growing conditions for the soybean.
Basically, this means that a bunch of junk food is going to be erroneously marketed as healthy using the "Omega-3" catch phrase to reel in innocent, unknowing consumers.

Source:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2011/04/11/monsanto-modifies-soy-beans-to-grow-fish-oil/

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Of Monsters And Men - "Little Talks"



A lovely song and a stunning music video.  The colors!

Empathic Grace

Artwork by Barry Stevens

"Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look at me: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird whose wings are still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing in the
surface of the river.
I am also the bird which, when spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily in the
clear water of a pond.
I am also the grass-snake who,
approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
I am also the merchant of arms, selling deadly
weapons to Uganda.

I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after
being raped by a sea pirate.
I am also the pirate, my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with
plenty of power in my hand.
I am also the man who has to pay his
'debt of blood' to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes
flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it
fills up all the four oceans.

Please call me by my correct names,
so that I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are but one.

Please call me by my correct names,
so I can become awake,
and so that the door of my heart be left open,
the door of compassion."

- Thich Nhat Hanh, Earth Prayers -

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Heaven Can Wait"



This music video is, well, I am not quite sure.  But I will say this, its awkwardness really brings back childhood memories, especially when in group settings.  Not to mention I have watched it several times and notice something new each playback.

Half Empty, Half Full


"I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will."

- Antonio Gramsci -

Pinkwashing



The CEO of The Susan G. Komen Foundation nonprofit has an annual salary of over $500,000 and the Vice President of Development made over $400,000 in just one half of a year...

"The Komen Foundation owns stock in General Electric, one of the largest makers of mammogram machines in the world. It also owns stock in several pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca (now AzkoNobel).

AstraZeneca has long been a Komen booster, making educational grants to Komen and having a visible presence at the Race For the Cure. At the 1998 Food and Drug Administration hearings, the Komen Foundation was the only national breast cancer group to endorse the AstraZeneca cancer treatment drug tamoxifen as a prevention device for healthy but high-risk women, despite vehement opposition by most other breast cancer groups because of its links to uterine cancer.

The organization’s biggest sponsors are — surprise! — the corporations that profit from cancer through chemotherapy and radiation. To them, Komen for the Cure isn’t really about finding a cure for cancer; it’s about promoting cancer so that they can sell more drugs and radiotherapy that keeps more patients locked into a cycle of dependence on toxic cancer treatments."

"Komen receives over $55 million in annual revenue from corporate sponsorships, from such health-minded companies as Coca Cola, General Mills, and KFC — that’s right, the fast-food joint contributing to American society with buckets of diseased and tortured birds fried in genetically modified toxins. Buy a bucket of junk food, and pretend as though you’re helping to save lives while you slowly take your own!"

"Did you know that Susan G. Komen for the Cure spends nearly a million dollars annually suing small charities over the use of the word 'cure' in their charitable endeavors? Komen’s general counsel, Jonathan Blum, had the following to say regarding a legal battle of Komen's that threatened to shut down a small lung cancer organization for using the word “cure” in its name: 'We see it as responsible stewardship of our donor’s funds.'"

Source: http://www.alternet.org/story/154010/i_will_not_be_pinkwashed%3A_komen%27s_race_is_for_money%2C_not_cure__/?page=entire

Pseudo-Progessivism


"The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

Most of all, America’s National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh just christened “Obama’s Romance with the CIA.” He has created what The Washington Post just dubbed “a vast drone/killing operation,” all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama’s steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called “Top Secret America” has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the “austerity” measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America’s middle and lower classes.

The simple fact is that progressives are supporting a candidate for President who has done all of that — things liberalism has long held to be pernicious."

Essay in its entirety: http://www.salon.com/2011/12/31/progressives_and_the_ron_paul_fallacies/singleton/

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dreams



"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."

- Vincent Van Gogh