Saturday, January 10, 2009

'Tetris' May Help Reduce Flashbacks

ScienceDaily (Jan. 9, 2009) — Playing ‘Tetris’ after traumatic events could reduce the flashbacks experienced in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), preliminary research by Oxford University psychologists suggests.

If this early-stage work continues to show promise, it could inform new clinical interventions for use immediately after trauma to prevent or lessen the flashbacks that are the hallmark symptom of PTSD. Existing treatments can only be provided once PTSD has become established.

The researchers report in PLoS ONE that for healthy volunteers, playing ‘Tetris’ soon after viewing traumatic material in the laboratory can reduce the number of flashbacks to those scenes in the following week. They believe that the computer game may disrupt the memories that are retained of the sights and sounds witnessed at the time, and which are later re-experienced through involuntary, distressing flashbacks of that moment.


I am aware of a psychological technique called EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. This is a therapeutic technique of directing the patient's eyes to move back and forth in a specific pattern guided by the therapist, while the patient concentrates on disturbing or upsetting emotional material. The movement is thought to affect the way memory is accessed and treated.  I have seen this technique used successfully in several cases and suspect that the game Tetris may serve a similar eye-movement desensitization.  Clearly the 'game' is a more appealing technique, especially for younger clients.  Surely the many PTSD soldiers who are returning from Afghanistan and Iraq would choose this 'game' therapy rather than sessions with a therapist.  In fact, perhaps the reason for the 'game' might be withheld during the sessions, offering the Veterans a kind of 'play therapy' that is often successful in younger children.

Bush says he'll leave office with head held high

The Austin American-Statesman reports:

In an Oval Office conversation about his past and his future, President George W. Bush, said Friday that his mission has been accomplished.

"We will let history be the judge," he said. "I will tell you this. I have a great sense of accomplishment, and I am going home with my head held high."

Bush acknowledged some mistakes, gave himself high marks and said he is leaning toward giving a farewell address to thank the nation and to talk about "lessons learned."


Lessons learned?  From George W. Bush?  Is this a joke or what?  The man has learned nothing in his 8-year fiasco.  Nada!  It was all hunches and intuition.  Garrison Keillor's descriptive phrase, cheerfulist idiot, is most appropriate. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

World Religions Speak Cruel Things

Recently in the Toledo Blade, there have been many letters to the editor castigating Islam for urging war and hate among its followers.  This topic has become more intense as the Israeli attacks on Gaza continue.  Letters supporting both Israel as well as the Palestinians often point out the ugliness in the Holy Book of both religions. 

A Christian minister today penned his own letter shining a red light on Christian cruelty in his Holy Book.  He writes:

All religious groups have some cruelty

In response to the Dec. 30 letter to the editor about violence in the Qur'an, there also are verses about violence in the Bible.

From the book of Revelation: "And he [Jesus] is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and his name is called the word of God .•.•. from his mouth comes a sharp sword, so that he may smite the nations .•.•. these two [leaders] were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of him [Jesus] who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh."

There are enough violent quotes and deeds within Christianity to fill an encyclopedia. "Have mercy on these poor people. Stab, smite, slay, whoever can. If you die in doing it, well for you!" (Martin Luther regarding the peasants' revolution of 1525)

Therefore, as a Christian pastor who believes in truth, and as a citizen of this land who believes in liberty and justice for all, I hope that we can hold together as a community.

First, I hope we can admit that every religion struggles with justice and righteousness. The majority position of every major religion is about living peaceably with their neighbors.

We need to understand the context of these violent verses in holy books, beginning with our own.

Second, I hope we can embrace the diversity within our own community of Toledo.

Who would wish that we become polarized like Northern Ireland?

It is hurtful to attack the integrity of the thousands of good Muslims in our community by saying they are not living compatibly with democracy.

Perhaps as a new year's resolution we should all promise to study world religions and world history in order to erase the hate from ourselves, and emerge a better and more hopeful Holy Toledo.

The Rev. Ed Heilman

Park United Church of Christ
Harvard Boulevard

No Purple Heart for PTSD

The New York Times:

The Pentagon has decided that it will not award the Purple Heart, the hallowed medal given to those wounded or killed by enemy action, to war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because it is not a physical wound. 

Chris Ramirez for The New York Times

The Purple Heart will be given for physical wounds only.

The decision, made public on Tuesday, for now ends the hope of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have the condition and believed that the Purple Hearts could honor their sacrifice and help remove some of the stigma associated with the condition.

In June 2008 I wrote about a 22-year-old returning Iraq War Veteran from Newark, Ohio charged with killing his 3-year-old stepson. Corey S. Flugga, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas,  stood emotionless as he was read the murder charge.  At the trial, Family members have said he suffered a traumatic brain injury in August 2006 while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He was later awarded the Purple Heart. Yesterday a judge sentenced. Flugga to 15 years to life in prison. At his trial, he denied  the charge.  He said, "I don't think anyone could do anything that would make me do that to one of my boys. I don't think either one of them could do anything to make me do that to them."  

The title of my June writing was, Heal the Warrior Before He Returns Home I recall that the great American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, often mentioned  'the warrior' in his works and the need to heal the warrior after the battle. 

It is interesting in a pitiful way to note that on the 'All American Bowl' section of the U.S. Army website, Specialist Flugga is quoted as saying, " By training and fighting for the Army, not only have I become a better, stronger Soldier, I have also become a better husband, father, and friend."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Fountain of Youth: SIRT6

STANFORD, Calif. — Two previously identified pathways associated with aging in mice are connected, say researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding reinforces what researchers have recently begun to suspect: that the age-related degeneration of tissues, organs and, yes, even facial skin with which we all struggle is an active, deliberate process rather than a gradual failure of tired cells. Derailing or slowing this molecular betrayal, although still far in the future, may enable us to one day tack years onto our lives — or at least delay the appearance of that next wrinkle.

"There is a genetic process that has to be on, and enforced, in order for aging to happen," said Howard Chang, MD, PhD, associate professor of dermatology at the school and a member of Stanford's Cancer Center. "It's possible that those rare individuals who live beyond 100 years have a less-efficient version of this master pathway, just as children with progeria — a genetic aging disease — may have components of this pathway that are more active."

The study, which will be published in the Jan. 9 issue of Cell, grew out of a three-year collaboration between Chang and Katrin Chua, MD, PhD, assistant professor of endocrinology, gerontology and metabolism at Stanford and member of the Stanford Cancer Center and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. Chang and Chua are co-senior authors of the research.

The researchers focused their investigation on two seemingly separate pathways linked to aging. One involved a molecule known as SIRT6 — a member of the sirtuin family of proteins that modulate life span in organisms such as yeast and worms — that Chua's laboratory has been studying for several years. She and her lab members have previously shown that SIRT6 is involved in genomic stability and the protection of chromosomal ends called telomeres. Telomeres, which grow shorter with each cell division, are thought to function as a kind of internal molecular clock associated with aging. Furthermore, mice lacking SIRT6 are born normally but die within a few weeks because of a rapid, multi-organ degeneration that somewhat resembles premature aging.

The other pathway involved a more well-known protein called NF-kappa B, or NF-kB, that binds to and regulates the expression of many genes, including those involved in aging. The expression of many of these genes increases with age, and blocking the activity of NF-kB in the skin cells of elderly mice causes them to look and act like younger cells.

The researchers wondered if NF-kB and SIRT6 somehow work together to help cells age appropriately.

Stanford Medical Center website: [here]

Artificial Molecule Evolves in the Lab

[caution: this information may be harmful to fundamentalists]
"A new molecule that performs the essential function of life – self-replication – could shed light on the origin of all living things.If that wasn't enough, the laboratory-born ribonucleic acid (RNA) strand evolves in a test tube to double itself ever more swiftly. Obviously what we're trying to do is make a biology," says Gerald Joyce, a biochemist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. He hopes to imbue his team's molecule with all the fundamental properties of life: self-replication, evolution, and function.

Further in the New Scientist article:

A life-mimicking molecule will also need to assemble itself from simpler components than two halves, says Michael Robertson, a biochemist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Both DNA and RNA currently replicate with the help of a protein enzyme that joins individual nucleotide "letters". Early life may have done the same, or it could have joined short stretches of RNA, Robertson says.

The conclusion of this article:

"If somebody makes something great in the lab, it's fantastic. But really the origin of life on Earth is an historical problem that we're never going to be able to witness and verify," he says.

Ah, but there is the interesting part of it all.  Of course, one group of people already 'know' the answer because it is written in an ancient manuscript some 4000 years ago.  Although this document does not mention RNA or DNA, it does explain life on earth.

I'm fascinated by science and find new and exciting discoveries each day as I link to my favorite science sites. I find it hard to imagine that a small knot of people would refuse to acknowledge these spectacular science revelations in favor of a  4000 year-old legend. The ignorance is beyond belief, pun intended.

"One of the cheerfullest idiots you ever saw."

Five men stood together in the Oval Office; one is the current resident, one awaiting. As I watched the video of these Presidents, I could not help focusing on 'W.'  He was odd, but then, no news there.  He seemed uncomfortable with a Cheshire grin and odd body movements. Naturally one could easily read into these gestures: he knows he's the idiot among ther wise men.

Garrison Keillor wrote the title of this post.  He said, "And we allow the Current Occupant to leave the Mansion d'Blanc with a big grin in a couple weeks, his self-esteem apparently fully intact, imagining that his legacy will emerge golden and shining in a hundred years after all of us are deceased. He is one of the cheerfullest idiots you ever saw, a man who could burn down his own house and be happy that the patio was still standing. Had Congress impeached him, his defense would have been that he was not capable of understanding the charges."

Adolescent males and Bush have much in common.  In several earlier posts I suggest that George W. never exited adolescence. His quirky facial and body expressions smack of those awful later teen years that every adult male wishes to forget. Hormonal thinking and a thimbleful of wisdom dominated life then.  It was, clearly awful!

In less that two weeks, a fully-functioning adult male will take up residency in the 'Mansion d'Blanc.'  It will seem odd at first to Americans accustomed to the juvenile posturing of 'W' for the past eight years. We will need to reprogram our listening skills. We will have to listen to the words, for a change, because they will actually mean what they say.  We will easily follow the linguistics because he will speak in complete English sentences, syntactically accurate.  Further, we will not be distracted by odd facial gestures and semi-winks.  

In short order, though, the American citizens will recall the speeches of Bill Clinton, the elder Bush and Jimmy Carter and once again become accustomed to adult male speech patterns.  We might, ever so slowly,  even believe what the speaker is saying.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Canadians Select Leonard Cohen's Democracy

CBC Radio in Canada is asking its listeners to suggest songs by Canadian artists that would be fitting to honor Barack Obama on his Inauguration.  One that is quite high on the Canadian list is Democracy by Leonard Cohen.

The anouncer suggested that Democracy might be very fitting 'after the last 8 years of Bush.'  He was dead-on!

Republicans: Asses, Baboons, Yokels, Racketeers?

"It's just that modern Republicans are, well ... they're so darned, well ... they're just such asses. Such unmitigated baboons, ranging from clueless yokels to calculating racketeers. They got no class -- know what I mean?"

That from P. M. Carpenter on Buzzflash this morning in an essay titled, What Obama Owes to Congress.  He concludes his essay similarly:  "And then he'll learn what he conscientiously owes Republicans, the ideological baboons, yokels and racketeers who got us into this mess to begin with: Nothing."

He's right in both the description as well as the content.  On MSNBC yesterday the youngest member of Congress, a 28-year-old Republican from Peoria, a self-proclaimed 'fiscal conservative, was interviewed by Chris Matthews.  When Matthews asked the young man about the doubling of the National Debt under the Bush Administration, he quickly retorted, "But the Democrats were in control of Congress for the past two years!"

'Blaming' ought to be added to Mr. Carpenter's pejorative list. The novice Congressman received a quick retort from Matthews when told, 'But Mr. Bush never vetoed a single spending bill in all eight years of his presidency.'

My friend from Mississippi and I have often posed the rhetorical question on this blog, 'Where has the Republican Party of our youth gone?  Both he and I supported and applauded many Republicans during our young adult days.  Men like Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford, Ev Dirkson, Robert Taft...  My parents were Republicans and I recall clearly wearing my "I Like Ike" pin to school on election day, 1952.

Except for Maine, not a single Republican from New England sits in the Senate this morning and only 4 members of the House of Representatives are from the GOP.  Many good Congressmen and women swept away in the anti-Republican tidal wave of November 2008. The Republican label, pundits tell us, was poison.

Poison.  A toxic tag associated with the miscreants who were permitted free reign in the GOP for the past 20 years, poisoning everyone identified with Republican.  It is high time that the Grand Old Party cleanse itself of the asses, baboons, yokels and calculating racketeers in a grand purge.  But will it?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

As a Graham Cracker Too Long in Milk

I am as a graham cracker too long in milk when I read or hear more stories of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Apparently we Americans are not able to grasp the deep seated, well-taught hatred that tribes in that part of the world hold. Perhaps one needs to have lived there to 'appreciate' the hate. Neither culture, not the Israeli nor Palestinian, are relevant in the 21st century. They are cemented in their historical roots, historic hate, and neither is wise enough to see a differing path other than killing.

Yet here we Americans are, sucked into this ancient tribal affair through an unnaturally resolute relationship with Israel. Obviously the Israeli propagandists are much more effective than the Palestinians in shaping our foreign policy. I wonder if that same lopsided patronage will continue throughout the Obama Administration.

One of the most perplexing comments that flowed from the mouths of many Americans after the 9-11 attacks was this: 'Why do they hate us so?' Obviously these Americans had not been paying attention to the American foreign policy in the past half-century. The subject 'they' of the phrase obviously referred to Muslims or Arabs. It is patently clear to those of us who pay attention to foreign affairs that our policy has been clearly viewed as unbalanced in the Arab/Muslim world. Perhaps that is why 'they' hate us.

Here we are in the 11 day of an assault on Gaza, an assault with American-supplied bombs and logistics, killing hundreds of Palestinians while our president says only that it was the fault of Hamas. Israeli and American flags are burned together on the streets of the Arab and Muslim countries all over the world. They know. They have known for years. They know why they hate us.

Time to Pull Out of Afghanistan Too

While Obama is removing our troops from George Bush's idiotic preemptive invasion of Iraq, he should send them home rather than to Afghanistan.  It seems clear to me that there is little to be gained from the loss of more blood and treasure in the mountains of Afghanistan.  The Europeans are painfully lukewarm to sending their men and women there and we should follow that example for a change.  Emiliano Zapata, the great Mexican liberator. once said, 'I'm not the savior of the world!' when he was asked to extend his campaign even farther. We are not the savior of the world either.

Columnist Bob Herbert writes today, "The government we are supporting in Afghanistan is a fetid hothouse of corruption, a government of gangsters and weasels whose customary salute is the upturned palm."  No kidding.  Apparently the Bush Administration was too naive to understand trivial realities such as that.  Who could have known?

“Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.”

Herbert suggests and I agree that President Obama ought to go before the cameras and tell the American citizens exactly why sending more of our men and women to Afghanistan will make us more safe back home.  Isn't it time to fix America?  Surely we Americans ought to be afforded a bit of narcissism and look after our own.  Enough with playing world policeman.  It's time to play a home game for a change.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Surprise Visitor On this January Day

While coming in from the garage a bit ago, I heard a very summery bird call.  It was a robin, whose song is etched into my childhood memory of  warm summer evenings at dusk.  Sure enough, a pair of robins, looking for food or scraps for nest-building, decended into my yard.  What an uplifting sight for northern Ohio in early January.

A naturalist friend of mine told me that many robins go into the deep woods during the winter rather than flying South.  Apparently this pair journeyed out for a bit of adventure.  Whatever the reason, it perks up an otherwise dull winter's day.

Bigoted Fundamentalists Encourage Gay-Hate Murders

A local teacher, raised in the Toledo area, was murdered in Las Vegas just before Christmas. He was buried here Saturday. He was found dead in his home Dec. 22. Two brothers, ages 17 and 18, one reportedly a student of the teacher, were arrested on charges of murder, burglary and robbery, the Las Vegas Sun reported. He was a Western Michigan University graduate and a choir director for about five years in Hopkins Public Schools, a small rural village north of Kalamazoo, before leaving in 2006 to teach in Nevada. The teacher was gay.

Fundamentalist Christians preach and teach a strong anti-gay agenda. They assert moral authority from God to denounce the homosexual life-style.  Many use the biblical term, abomination, to describe the wrath of God on those who are gay or lesbian.  Fundamentalists would like to amend the Constitution to deny rights to homosexual Americans.  In fact, they work hard, in the right-wing of the GOP, to enact such legislation and they have a political network upon which to rely for help, resources and lobbying.  Ohio pastor Rod Parsley and McCain-supporter John Hagee are two such politically active fundamentalists who work very hard to push the anti-gay agenda among the 'faithful.'

Here in Toledo a local Christian Fundamentalist blogger has much the same agenda.  She came to my attention when I read her letter to the editor that she wrote to the Toledo Blade in early 2007 which bashed the gay life-style with the scriptural references about the laws of God.  The other day I read a comment by her stating, "The issue about homosexuality is that we are being asked to approve a sin in the name of tolerance. I have to go with the Bible on this one; political correctness which calls us to justify sin itself in the name of tolerance is wrong-headed. A sign of the last days: calling good evil, and evil, good."

Today she wrote, "It's just as bigoted to blame Christianity and Christians for murder of a homosexual --as to hate homosexuals. When you blame the Christians, calling them bigots because they believe the Bible that homosexual acts are sins, you foment hatred for them which makes YOU less tolerant than Christians."

An amazing spin.  I do not blame CHRISTIANS. There are millions of Christians throughout this nation who embrace gays and lesbians and welcome them into their congregations.  There are many gay and lesbian ministers and even bishops in the Christian churches. I do not blame Christians: I blame Fundamentalist Christians for the bigotry and hate-filled sermons.

Fundamentalists like these are in total denial that they have any guilt for promoting the anti-homosexual agenda.  Not only promoting it, but publishing letters to a newspaper and posts on blogs her own blog and comments like these on the blogs of others all around this nation.

What gives Fundamentalists the right of bigotry?  Is it justified to lift some passages from an ancient text written by a nomadic desert tribe to deride and degrade a set of American citizens?  What kind of 'god' would condone this hateful bigotry? 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Thought From Tim Fuller

Tim Fuller posted this on the TPM Cafe'  He has his own website as well.

His Only Begotten Son

I apologize to the faithful for my affront to the insanity of their religious beliefs, but I can't really get all excited about God supposedly sacrificing his only begotten son on our behalf.  Why not?   God can have as many sons as he wishes.  He's omnipotent.  He could have saved the first one if he had wanted to and he could create as many more as his heart desires. Forgive me if I lack the empathy towards God that such a show of 'devotion' supposedly inspires.  God can't really consider himself THAT lonely since we are all regarded as his children.

Is there a qualified Christian apologist who has rationalized an 'answer' to that conundrum?

Parents of the soldiers killed in Iraq don't have the requisite omnipotent powers to replace their missing loved ones.   Those are the people I really grieve for.

America's Ship of State Has Hit the Iceberg

Igor N. Panarin, Russian commentator, professor, dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats and former KBG agent, predicts that the United States will break up into 4 smaller chunks by 2010.  The map at right is the supposed new grouping of the states.  [link]

 Professor Panarin predicts  that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces -- with Alaska reverting to Russian control.

Russia, of course, would rejoice at this demise of the United States and would rise to take its place as the number one superpower.  Putin surely has been watching how this nation has fallen from its once-powerful perch during the past 7 years.  Surely he is privately gloating at the damage George Bush has done to America's reputation in the world.

Although I doubt that the U.S. will break-up, our nation has been dealt a glancing blow across its bow and the Russian Navy is awaiting, just beyond the foggy waters.  Putin along with bin Laden are quite pleased with how George Bush has piloted the Ship of State during these past 8 years.  It has hit the iceberg.

Four Presidents Gather with Obama at White House

George Bush has invited his father, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama to the White House this Wednesday.  Wow, what a bold move by the current president!  No doubt, Bush Sr. will be on edge throughout the meeting.  Why?  Because he is the father of the worst president ever.  What must he be thinking as these other, quite competent men, sit around the table discussing the presidency.

We recall the father crying openly at his other son, Jeb's, retirement from his governorship of Florida.  Many suggested that the father knew tha tthe wrong son followed him into office.  Will the father be able to control his emotions during this meeting?  That will be interesting to watch.

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