Oct 24, 2009
The technique supposedly permits "writing directly to memory," and allowed one scientist to enthuse about being able to "seize control of the relevant brain circuits" for producing all sorts of mental states and behavior. Researchers have discovered 12 specific brain cells that they can stimulate to implant the false memories of events that never occurred -- except in the mind, of course.
This represents just one of the latest steps in the relatively new field of optogenetics, where scientists encode genetic switches inside certain cells and trigger the switches using tailored flashes of light. The genetic switches are made from eye cells that can translate light into the electrical signals used for communication by neurons.
Plenty of past research has manipulated the minds of animals and humans alike by using more blunt methods such as electrodes inserted into the brain. But optogenetics has taken mind control to a new level by permitting researchers to target very specific types of brain cells by merely flashing specific light signals.
The team from the University of Virginia and Oxford University in the UK even hints that such work could eventually go beyond flies. Their technique certainly makes the brainwashing of The Manchurian Candidate look rather coarse by comparison -- if that drama were enacted by tiny insects.
[via The Register]
Source: Pres. Obama Declares H1N1 A National Emergency (CBS 2 Chicago)
Updates: Obama's H1N1 Emergency Declaration: Is Martial Law Unfolding?
Obama has declared a 2009 H1N1 swine flu a national emergency. It is not clear if this declaration falls under the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601--1651). The act is not mentioned in media reports.
The National Emergencies Act was passed in 1976. It has been extended six times. In 2007, the declaration was strengthened with the issuance of National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51) which gave the president the authority to do whatever he deems necessary in a vaguely defined "catastrophic emergency" including everything from canceling elections to suspending the Constitution. ... Read all
Gates: NATO sending more troops to Afghanistan 23 Oct 2009
U.S. 'Defense' Secretary Robert Gates says NATO allies are moving toward sending more troops and civilian aid to Afghanistan. Gates said Friday he was "heartened" by allies' commitment to the 8-year-old war, even as the Obama administration mulls whether to order tens of thousands more U.S. troops to the fight.
Commentary, from The Pen and The Sword:
Tom Shanker of the New York Times tells us that NATO defense ministers have given their “broad endorsement” to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s plan to escalate the Afghanistan war into a full-Monty counter insurgency effort. NATO defense ministers love Afghanistan; it justifies their phony-baloney jobs.
Like much of the U.S. military, NATO became irrelevant when the Cold War ended. Pseudo-counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, who has been an adviser to David Petraeus and McChrystal, says one of the major reasons to press for a larger effort in Afghanistan is to preserve the NATO alliance. He doesn’t think counterterrorism is a particularly important reason to be in Afghanistan. (It’s not at the top of his list.)
To escalate our woebegone war in Afghanistan because NATO wants us to would be the dumbest foreign policy choice our country has ever made, and we’ve made a lot of dumb foreign policy choices. (My favorite example is becoming involved in World War I. We should have stiff-armed that fandango, let the Europeans bleed themselves ashen, then offered to feed them on strict conditions. Alas.)
The world needs NATO like fish need hammers. I had fun galore getting pie-faced with Brits and Germans other Europeans at after-hour planning sessions for international combat exercises, but fun galore isn’t a reason to escalate our war in Afghanistan. How much more blood and treasure do we need to pour into one of the bleakest parts of the world in order to throw a party for our European pals?
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been consistently critical of NATO involvement in Afghanistan to date. Gates has danced on a lot of laps in regard to this subject. He always wants more help from NATO, but he doesn’t like the help he gets. NATO doesn’t know how to do counterinsurgency, Gates has complained. But now, they’re all lovey-dovey about counterinsurgency, now that they realize how manpower intensive it is and how much throwing in with the McChrystal plan will defend their defense budgets. NATO, like much of the U.S. military, hasn’t had a reason to exist since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in the early 1990s.
Ludicrous Dick Cheney has asserted that the Obama administration’s “dithering” on what course to take in Afghanistan will “embolden” the evil ones. Everybody who can find the ends of their noses knows Dick Cheney is a dithering idiot; he’s never been right about anything. The only entity that has been emboldened is the western alliance military industrial complex, led by the Pentagon, who are fighting not for the safety of their countries but for their own existences.
The Pentagon’s long war grand strategy is good for everybody’s war business. The Afghanistan conflict is particularly suitable; it’s the kind of Orwellian war that can go on forever without getting too obnoxious, and in the case of America, it’s one that the Democrats, not the Republicans, have ownership of. Or at least it can be sold that way.
Shanker writes, “Mr. Gates, who has kept his views about additional troops close to his vest and has discouraged his commanders from lobbying too publicly for their positions, declined to be drawn out on this assessment.” That’s the biggest lie out of the New York Times since the Nigergate hoax that led to the invasion of Iraq. The media campaign the Pentagon has been waging to pressure Obama into acceding to McChrystal’s demands amounts to a soft coup.
Candidate Obama stuck his nose in the wringer when he deflected criticism of his vote against the surge in Iraq by saying it took vital assets away from the effort in Afghanistan, the “war of necessity.” That may turn out to be the tragic flaw of his presidency. The war in Afghanistan is no more necessary than most other American wars have been. None of the 9/11 attackers came from Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda isn’t there any more. As best we can tell, what remains of al-Qaeda is in Pakistan, and very little remains of it.
America and its NATO allies account for about 90 percent of global arms sales. We have no competitors.
There’s a lot of money to be made now on body and vehicle armor that don’t work. So the more kids we send to Afghanistan to get blown up, the more the folks who make the body and vehicle armor that don’t work make.
The neoconservatives who push our war agenda are invested in it, and they have, incredibly, gained a toehold in intellectually elite circles. That the “dumbest freaking human being on the planet,” Cheney sycophant Doug Feith, managed to become a visiting lecturer at Columbia University gives you an idea of how badly the national brain trust has been damaged by neoconservative influence. He eventually got canned, but he never should have been hired in the first place.
The Obama administration has finally had direct talks with Iran. As physicist Gordon Prather wrote recently, “Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Secretariat, Mohamed ElBaradei is seeking approval by the Obama-Biden administration of an agreement which ‘could open the way for a complete normalization of relations between Iran and the international community.’”
Is it possible that the war crowd will allow that to happen? Prather notes that we’re on the verge of getting the kind of transparency on Iran’s nuclear program that Iran offered early on in the Bush administration, only to be shunned.
Let’s pray that Obama doesn’t make the mistake of listening to NATO or his generals or the right-wing noise machine, and does the smart thing by beginning to back out of Afghanistan, and continues toward normalizing relationships with Iran.
And oh, mainstream media—especially the New York Times and the Washington Post—stop letting unnamed “officials” drop propaganda into your “news.” That sort of thing gets us into wars we don’t need to fight.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.
'His remarks have raised alarming questions about the US involvement in the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Iran.'
After a series of intensive investigations into the deadly bomb blast in southeastern Iran, new revelations show that the culprit was trained and equipped in Pakistan. " Based on our latest findings, the perpetrator [of the bombing] had received specialized terrorist training in Pakistan," Jalal Sayyah, Deputy Chief for security affairs in the Sistan-Baluchestan Province, said early Saturday. "Fully-trained with bombs and explosives, he was then sent to Iran to carry out this tragic incident," he said, referring to a bomb blast that killed more than 40 people on Sunday in the borderline region of Pishin.
Sayyah said the findings were confirmed following the confession of a number of detainees, who were arrested for having links with the Jundallah group... Abdulhamid Rigi, the apprehended brother of the Jundallah point-man, told Press TV in a recent interview that Abdulmalek had held several "confidential" meetings with FBI and CIA agents in Karachi and Islamabad. He added that during one of the meetings, two female US agents had offered weapons, safe bases in Afghanistan and professional trainers and had attempted to recruit volunteers.
Robert Baer, a former Middle East CIA field officer, revealed Saturday that Washington had formed relations with the Jundallah group, while aware of its terrorist nature. Read all
More: Ex-CIA agent confirms US ties with Jundullah
24 Oct 2009 A former Central Intelligence Agency officer has confirmed US relations with the terrorist group Jundullah, despite the CIA knowing that the group has close links with the al-Qaeda. "American intelligence has also had contact with Jundullah. But that contact, as Iran almost certainly knows, was confined to intelligence-gathering on the country," Robert Baer, a former Middle East CIA field officer wrote on the Time.com, IRNA reported early on Saturday. "I've been told that the Bush Administration at one point considered Jundullah as a piece in a covert-action campaign against Iran, but the idea was quickly dropped because Jundullah was judged uncontrollable and too close to al-Qaeda [al-CIAduh]. There was no way to be certain that Jundullah would not throw the bombs we paid for back at us," said the former CIA agent who is a columnist in the weekly, and very probably an advisor in the Middle East.
Michael Moore just came out with an"Action Plan" in response tothe number 1 question he gets after people see "Capitalism -- A Love Story":
"OK -- so NOW what can I DO?!"
His response is, "You've come to the right place! 'Cause I got 15 things you and I can do right now to fight back and try to fix this very broken system."
Number 4 on the list is my favorite:
"Each of the 50 states must create a state-owned public bank like they have in North Dakota."
The whole Action Plan is here.
"Michael Moore's Action Plan: 15 Things Every American Can Do Right Now"
Because these issues tie into several of my ongoing themes, it's worth spending some time analyzing the methods and purposes of these recent remarks by Obama. (I use that link solely because it was the first one I encountered that offers a lengthy transcript of what Obama said on this occasion.)
Consult the link for the longer version of Obama's comments. I will focus on several passages in particular... Read all
October 23, 2009
- ...We, the citizens of the United Kingdom and other countries listed, wish to uphold The United Nations Charter, The 1998 Rome Statute of The International Criminal Court, The Hague and Geneva Conventions and the Rule of International Law, especially in respect of:
We therefore call on you to indict Anthony Charles Lynton Blair in his capacity as recent Prime Minister of the UK, so long as he is able to answer for his actions and however long it takes, in respect of our sample complaints relating to the 2003 Iraq War waged by the UK as ally to the United States of America...
drop this nonsense about the dollar and deal with getting people back to work and paying them decently
October 23, 2009 "Information Clearing House"
-- The "dollar debate" on the Internet has been ferocious and emotionally-charged, but sadly lacking in logic. To oppose the "dollar will crash" theorists is like arguing a woman's right to choose with the fist-waving throng assembled outside an abortion clinic. The results are equally disappointing. To say that "minds are already made up and the issue is settled", is an understatement. For many, the dollar's transition from the world's reserve currency to a Wiemar era Deutschemark is not a question "if" but only of "when". One reader summed up the distrust that's felt for anyone who dares to challenge the prevailing dogma like this:
"Mike.....Your article on October 19th 2009 titled “The Dollar will NOT crash,” made all of us in this part of the world who respected your views and opinions feel disturbed and appalled....Then my friend explicated and reminded me, “From the time of Chaim Weizmann’s solicitous and guile behavior towards the politicians, the media and the newspersons, the powerful Zionists lobby had perfected the art of falsity and misrepresentation."
Uh, okay. So, now opposing the dominant theory not only proves that one is a fool, but also a tool of the "Zionist lobby"?
This is why struggling writers always keep the refrigerator stocked with a hearty malt.
No one can deny that the dollar COULD crash or that it faces stiff headwinds in the years ahead as the fiscal deficits continue to pile up. But let's not overreact. Japan's deficits are twice the size of GDP and bond yields are still hovering below 2 percent. In other words, the Japanese are fighting deflation, so no one is particularly worried about inflation. That's as it should be. In the US, deficits are a paltry 12 percent of GDP, and already people have their knickers-in-a-twist. Even deficits soar above 100 percent ($14 trillion) it's unlikely that they'll crush the dollar. But--on the other hand-- if the government suddenly stops spending money and running huge deficits; unemployment will skyrocket, banks and businesses will default, foreclosures will rise, and the economy will slip back into a very severe recession. The myth that "You can't solve a debt problem by creating more debt" is pure bunkum. That's for people who want to balance the budget at all costs, regardless of its effect on working people. The goal should be to get the economy back on its feet and worry about the red ink later.
Here's Paul Krugman explaining why the Fed is engineering a weaker dollar:
"Although there has been a lot of doomsaying about the falling dollar, that decline is actually both natural and desirable. America needs a weaker dollar to help reduce its trade deficit, and it’s getting that weaker dollar as nervous investors, who flocked into the presumed safety of U.S. debt at the peak of the crisis, have started putting their money to work elsewhere.
But China has been keeping its currency pegged to the dollar — which means that a country with a huge trade surplus and a rapidly recovering economy, a country whose currency should be rising in value, is in effect engineering a large devaluation instead.
And that’s a particularly bad thing to do at a time when the world economy remains deeply depressed due to inadequate overall demand." (Paul Krugman, "The Chinese Disconnect" New York Times)
So, if China is so worried about their massive investment in dollars, (as everyone seems to think) then why aren't they letting their currency rise so the dollar can weaken? It's because they are more concerned about sustaining demand then problems with the greenback. They're showing they have more confidence in the dollar than most Americans.
It is true that the dollar has dipped 15 percent since summer, but so what? That just means that people are less scared now then they were after Lehman Bros. collapsed. Here's a clip from the Economist explaining it all:
"The simplest explanation for the currency’s decline is based on risk aversion. On the days when risky assets fall, the dollar tends to go up. When risky assets rise, the dollar falls. The dollar has fallen fairly steadily since March, a period which has seen stockmarkets enjoy a phenomenal rally. Domestic American investors may be driving the relationship, repatriating funds in 2008 when they were nervous about the state of financial markets and sending the money abroad again this summer because of a perception that the global economy is reviving." ("Down with the Dollar" The economist, Oct, 2009)
As time goes by, the relationship between stocks and the dollar will change, but for now, the rule is still holds.
So why is this debate about the dollar so important?
Because the majority of people believe that the real problem is the deficits, and not the economy. That's just flat wrong, and it creates political opposition to more stimulus, which we need. Blame it on the media for convincing people that we are in a recovery and that "green shoots" are sprouting up everywhere. It's pure fiction. The country could still wind up in a Depression when the stimulus wears off. And it's wearing off very quickly. (The effects of the stimulus will peak in the Third Quarter)
Consumer credit is contracting at a year-over-year rate of 5 percent. Household balance sheets are in tatters, savings are up, spending is down, and unemployment is headed for 10 percent. Record foreclosures, delinquencies, bankruptcies, and defaults are sucking credit from the system making it harder for the Fed to keep the economy sputtering along. If the Fed cuts off the bloodflow of monetary stimulus, the patient will slip into a deep coma.
Here's a likely scenario of what could take place in the next few months:
Even though the signs of severe deflation are visible everywhere, investors short the greenback and the dollar plunges to $1.60 per euro. That increases public angst which sets off a firestorm on Capital Hill. The Congress forces the Fed to stop its quantitative easing (QE) program (which has already pumped over $1 trillion into US Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities) and long-term interest rates spike overnight. This puts downward pressure on the housing market and the slump deepens. More jobs are lost, more banks and financial institutions default, perfectly good businesses cannot role over their debt and call it quits, prices fall across the board, the stock market retraces its March lows, and the economy ends up in the ditch.
Think it can't happen?
Bernanke's problem, is that all the tools at his disposal are blunt instruments. It's like performing kidney surgery with a meat cleaver. Dropping interest rates and printing money can stave off deflation, but it also pushes stocks higher than anyone really wants. That leaves traders on the sidelines waiting for a market correction before they jump back in. The same is true of the dollar. Sure, Bernanke wants a cheap greenback to spark exports and reduce household debt, but when the dollar plunges to $1.60 per euro, then the sh** hits the fan and the public outcry forces him to change directions. If the dollar falls any further, the Fed will have to shut down the printing presses altogether and watch while the boat capsizes. The problem is more political than economic.
US policymakers should drop this nonsense about the dollar and deal with the underlying problem itself; lack of demand. That means the focus should be on wage growth and full employment. If that means printing up a couple more trillion; then get to it! Getting people back to work and paying them decently should be job one.
More: As unemployment claims riseWhite House rejects new measures to stem jobs crisis
Even as the Labor Department reported an unexpected rise in initial claims for unemployment benefits, the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders reiterated their opposition to any significant new outlays to address the jobs crisis.
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