Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Malcom X: His Own story… As it Really Happened, by Arnold...

Malcom X: His Own story… As it Really Happened, by Arnold...: "

Malcom X: His Own story… As it Really Happened, by Arnold Perl, 1972


“Dark Girls: Preview”  Directed by Bill Duke and D....

“Dark Girls: Preview” Directed by Bill Duke and D....: "

“Dark Girls: Preview” Directed by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry

Clips from the upcoming documentary exploring the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color—-particularly dark skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture.”


'Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, 13' the child martyr Tortured: Shot, kneecapped and had genitals removed before being killed by Syria's sadistic regime

'Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, 13' the child martyr Tortured: Shot, kneecapped and had genitals removed before being killed by Syria's sadistic regime: "Devotedly washed and sprinkled with rose petals, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb lies prepared for burial.

But the rituals of death cannot wipe away the horrific injuries that have mutilated his body almost beyond recognition.

Nor do they blot out that Hamza - riddled with bullets, kneecapped and with neck broken and penis hacked off - has the rounded cheeks and gentle face of a child.

At 13, he is one of the youngest known victims of Syria's ruthless crackdown on protesters who have tried to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The teenager's family were told not to speak of his terrible fate. But in a pitiful act of defiance, they posted the footage of his corpse online.

The action led to his father being arrested last week. His whereabouts are unknown.

Posted on YouTube, the video is accompanied by a chilling commentary which details the worst of Hamza's dreadful wounds.

An unseen attendant tenderly shifts the scarred limbs and head so that the viewer can see each injury, including two bullets which were fired through each arm and then entered his chest.

'Look at the evidence of his torture,' the narrator urges. 'Take a look at the bruises on his face and his neck that was broken. Take a look at the bruises on his right legs

'In addition there is worse. They did not satisfy themselves with all the torturing so they cut off his genitals.'

At this point, the video is censored as the wounds are too horrific to show. Read More


Pentagon: Cyber attack will be considered act of war

Pentagon: Cyber attack will be considered act of war: "The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.

The Pentagon's first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country's military.

In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. 'If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,' said a military official.

Recent attacks on the Pentagon's own systems—as well as the sabotaging of Iran's nuclear program via the Stuxnet computer worm—have given new urgency to U.S. efforts to develop a more formalized approach to cyber attacks. A key moment occurred in 2008, when at least one U.S. military computer system was penetrated. This weekend Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor, acknowledged that it had been the victim of an infiltration, while playing down its impact.

The report will also spark a debate over a range of sensitive issues the Pentagon left unaddressed, including whether the U.S. can ever be certain about an attack's origin, and how to define when computer sabotage is serious enough to constitute an act of war. These questions have already been a topic of dispute within the military.

One idea gaining momentum at the Pentagon is the notion of 'equivalence.' If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a 'use of force' consideration, which could merit retaliation. (read more)


Why the truth will out but doesn’t sink in

Why the truth will out but doesn’t sink in: "

Bin Laden used a woman as a human shield and fired at the commando team sent to kill him – at least according to the first reports. These have just been corrected to say he was unarmed and standing alone, but the retractions follow a useful pattern – media friendly version first, accurate version later – because the updates make little impact on our beliefs.

In this particular case, I can’t speculate why the corrections came as they did. Maybe it was genuinely the ‘fog of war’ that led to mistaken early reports, but the fact that the media friendly version almost always appears first in accounts of war is likely, at least sometimes, to be a deliberate strategy.

Research shows that even when news reports have been retracted, and we are aware of the retraction, our beliefs are largely based on the initial erroneous version of the story. This is particularly true when we are motivated to approve of the initial account.

Psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky has been studying this effect for several years and not just with abstract test material. Here’s a summary of his study study on retracted reports of the Iraq war:

Media coverage of the 2003 Iraq War frequently contained corrections and retractions of earlier information. For example, claims that Iraqi forces executed coalition prisoners of war after they surrendered were retracted the day after the claims were made. Similarly, tentative initial reports about the discovery of weapons of mass destruction were all later disconfirmed.

We investigated the effects of these retractions and disconfirmations on people’s memory for and beliefs about war-related events in two coalition countries (Australia and the United States) and one country that opposed the war (Germany). Participants were queried about (a) true events, (b) events initially presented as fact but subsequently retracted, and (c) fictional events.

Participants in the United States did not show sensitivity to the correction of misinformation, whereas participants in Australia and Germany discounted corrected misinformation. Our results are consistent with previous findings in that the differences between samples reflect greater suspicion about the motives underlying the war among people in Australia and Germany than among people in the United States.

More recent studies have supported the remarkable power of first strike news. The emotional impact of the first version has little influence on its power to persuade after correction, and the misinformation still has an effect even when it is remembered more poorly than the retraction.

Even explicitly warning people that they might be misled doesn’t dispel the lingering impact of misinformation after it has been retracted.

So while the latest reports say Bin Laden was alone and unarmed, the majority of people are likely to believe he was firing from behind a human shield, even when they can remember the corrections.

And if this isn’t being used as a deliberate strategy to manage public opinion, I shall eat my kevlar hat.

Link to Iraq was misinformation study DOI.

pdf of full text.

Link to related 2007 WashPost piece on the persistence of myths.


Total information war

Total information war: "

Perhaps one of the most important articles yet published on military infowar, propaganda, media influence and PSYOPs has appeared online.

Called ‘Military Social Influence in the Global Information Environment: A Civilian Primer’ – the piece is written by psychologist Sarah King who outlines the theory and practice of US information warfare as it stands today.

Although the piece gives a fascinating and sometimes jaw dropping account of US information operations (replete with examples) it serves as an essential general introduction to how military thinking has moved on from assuming wars are fought with troops on the ground to conceptualising conflict as inseparable from its social impact.

A more prominent view among information warriors is that changes in information, technology, and social influence capabilities have actually transformed the terms of war. War between standing armies of nation-states is seen as increasingly unlikely, both because the United States is an unmatched military superpower and because damage that would result from use of modern physical weapon systems is deemed intolerable.

Our military’s enemies, experts predict, are most likely to be small, rogue groups who attempt to prevail by winning popular support and undermining U.S. political will for war. The argument here is that in most modern war, physical battles, if they exist, will be for the purpose of defining psychological battlespace.

What’s striking is the effort to dominate all aspects of the ‘information sphere’ – from public opinion, to news coverage, to acceptance on the ground, to shaping the general cultural concept of the country’s military.

The many examples given of how this has been attempted during the recent and ongoing conflict are completely fascinating.

If you only ever read one article on ‘information ops’ make it this one. It’s online and open-access with expert commentary due to appear during the year.

Link to excellent InfoWar article (thanks Stephan!).


The testing of Alan Turing

The testing of Alan Turing: "

The Providentia blog has a brilliant three part series on Alan Turing, focusing on how his homosexuality was treated at the time both as a mental illness and a criminal act.

As with all of the posts of Providentia it’s wonderfully written and captures the sad circumstances leading to the death of one of the world’s artificial intelligence pioneers and breaker of key German codes in the Second World War.

The piece places Turing’s ‘treatment’ in the context of how homosexuality was conceived and dealt with by the medical establishment of the time

In a 1949 paper, F.L. Golla and his colleagues presented the results obtained from a sample of thirteen convicted homosexuals and concluded that “libido could be abolished within a month” with sufficiently high dosages of female sex hormones. The authors concluded that “in view of the non-mutilating nature of this treatment and the ease with which it can be administered to a consenting patient we believe that it should be adopted whenever possible in male cases of abnormal and uncontrollable sexual urge”. Politicians and newspaper editorials alike praised the potential value of hormonal therapy. While critics warned that there was still too many unknowns involving the treatment, the potential gain was felt to be worth the risks involved. Controlling “unnatural” sexual urges with hormone treatments fit in well with the radical advances being made in other areas of psychiatry. Considering other types of experimental treatment being tried (including aversive conditioning, lobotomies, and electroconvulsive therapy), such treatment seemed relatively benign.

A highly recommended read about an exceptional man who was sadly let down by the country for whom who worked to protect.

Link to ‘The Turing Problem’ Part 1.

Link to ‘The Turing Problem’ Part 2.

Link to ‘The Turing Problem’ Part 3.


A mind of our own

A mind of our own: "

The New York Times has an amazing article on conjoined twins Tatiana and Krista Hogan who share part of their brains and seem to be aware of each others’ minds at work.

It’s a long read but worth it both for how the piece captures both the scientific interest in the possibility of shared consciousness and the personalities of the twins.

Twins joined at the head — the medical term is craniopagus — are one in 2.5 million, of which only a fraction survive. The way the girls’ brains formed beneath the surface of their fused skulls, however, makes them beyond rare: their neural anatomy is unique, at least in the annals of recorded scientific literature. Their brain images reveal what looks like an attenuated line stretching between the two organs, a piece of anatomy their neurosurgeon, Douglas Cochrane of British Columbia Children’s Hospital, has called a thalamic bridge, because he believes it links the thalamus of one girl to the thalamus of her sister.

The thalamus is a kind of switchboard, a two-lobed organ that filters most sensory input and has long been thought to be essential in the neural loops that create consciousness. Because the thalamus functions as a relay station, the girls’ doctors believe it is entirely possible that the sensory input that one girl receives could somehow cross that bridge into the brain of the other. One girl drinks, another girl feels it.

We covered an earlier article that touched on whether the two young children had access to each others’ experiences but the NYT piece explores the issue in far more depth.

Link to excellent NYT piece on the Hogan twins (via @mocost).


The Red Market: book on the criminal trade in orphans, organs, bones, skin, eggs, hair, and other human flesh

The Red Market: book on the criminal trade in orphans, organs, bones, skin, eggs, hair, and other human flesh: "

Scott Carney's The Red Market is a book-length investigative journalism piece on the complicated and sometimes stomach-churning underground economy in human flesh, ranging from practice of kidnapping children to sell to orphanages who get healthy kids to pass off to wealthy foreigners to the bizarre criminal rings who imprison kidnapped indigents in 'blood farms' or lure impoverished women into selling their kidneys.

Carney's story starts when he was living and working in India, showing around groups of American students; one of his charges commits suicide and he is plunged into the grisly midst of the bureaucracy of human remains and the disposal thereof. Carney uses this story as a jumping-off point for a series of investigative chapters, each of which is a relatively self-contained look at a different part of the 'red market' -- the black market for human bodies and their parts.

Many of these chapters focus on India, which seems to be at the middle of much of the red market trade, having the unique and unfortunate combination of huge population, massive poverty, widespread corruption, ineffectual bureaucracies, enormous wealth discrepancy, and a post-colonial relationship with the west whose legacy is a set of trade routes and relationships for everything from articulated skeletons (dug up by grave-robbers who terrorize whole villages) to human hair (the sole example of a purely altruistic supply-side in the book -- it's donated by religious pilgrims to help fund a temple) to 'orphans' who are actually poor children, kidnapped by unscrupulous brokers who know that Westerners would rather adopt a healthy, well-looked-after kid than a genuine orphan who's endured privation in an underfunded orphanage.

But Carney also looks at other red markets, grilling cowboy and quack doctors in Cyprus who trade in extreme fertility therapy, preying on vulnerable eastern European women who are coerced into giving up their eggs; recounting his own experiences as a human guinea-pig in pharmaceutical trials in the American midwest; and investigating Falun Gong claims about mass-arrests and organ harvesting from political dissidents in China.

On the way, Carney looks at the wider context of the red markets, the history of graverobbing and medical education, the toothless efforts to contain the trade, and especially the ethical and regulatory frameworks for human tissue and human beings that have been employed and discarded in the past. Carney lays a lot of the blame for the red market in the principle that tissue donors (and birth-parents of adoptive children) should be anonymous. He stipulates that this principle was taken up with the best of intentions, but that the net effect has been to rob the system of transparency, so that middlemen and 'buyers' can disclaim any connection to unethical conduct at the supply side.

Carney also asks some pointed questions about whether market logic can be applied to human tissue, and what it says about the equal sanctity of human life when unequal human wealth puts some of us in a position of selling (or being robbed of) our organs, blood, skin, remains and children so that the rest of us can enjoy a few more years of life, or fertility, or a family.

All of this is raised in order to ask how the real benefits of adoption, blood transfusion, organ transplantation, fertility therapy and so on can go on to be enjoyed without being a less-than-zero-sum game that visits enormous tragedy on the many to improve the lives of the few. Carney examines the claims that synthetic human tissues will come along soon to alleviate the pressure that creates the red markets, and finds it wanting. He notes that each expansion in the supply of human tissues has been attended by an equal growth in demand, created by entrepreneurial surgeons who expand the definition of who might benefit from the use of the tissue.

Carney writes with a novelist's eye for character and detail and a muckraking reporter's gift for asking uncomfortable questions about stuff that most of us shy away from learning too much about. The Red Market is a gripping account of an invisible crime wave that lurks in the wings of every story about miracle medical breakthroughs and dazzling recoveries from the brink of death.

The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers


Benefits of Tai Chi to Prevent Falls, Improve Mental Health Confirmed

Benefits of Tai Chi to Prevent Falls, Improve Mental Health Confirmed: "

Systematic review of 35 published studies confirms that the Chinese wellness practice of Tai Chi confers a variety of physical and mental health benefits.


‘Hitler directed Hess to secure peace with UK’

‘Hitler directed Hess to secure peace with UK’: "It was Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler who actually gave the go-ahead to Rudolf Hess’s mission to the UK during World War II to secure peace with Britain’s wartime PM Winston Churchill, according to new documents.