Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry sparked immediate backlash from Big Pharma when on June 19 he suggested that a history with psychiatric drugs might have contributed to the deranged behavior of South Carolina mass murderer Dylan Roof. “There may be a real issue in this country, from the standpoint of these drugs and how they’re used,” Perry told Newsmax TV’s Steve Malzberg.
Pharmaceutical company apologists leaped to ridicule Perry, but they couldn’t get the genie back in the bottle. A Google News search in late June for “Psychiatric Drugs” returned these headlines:
“Why dementia care experts urge replacing psychiatric drugs with [alternatives]” (Newton Citizen)
“Does Long Term Use of Psychiatric Drugs Cause More Harm Than Good?” (GlobalResearch.ca)
“‘Stop Almost All Psychiatric Meds to Prevent Harm,’ Expert Says.” (Medscape)
“House of Lords Speaker Addresses Harms From Psychiatric Drugs and Prescription Addictions.” (Madinamerica.com)
Psychs Shielded U.S. Torture Program, Report Finds
A report on the American Psychological Association’s (APA) involvement with post-9/11 interrogations raises troubling questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.
First obtained by The New York Times and made public in early July, the report revealed that the CIA’s own health officials repeatedly criticized the agency’s harsh interrogation tactics, which were found to have crossed the line into torture, but were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists.
The report, prepared by the international law firm Sidley Austin at the request of the APA, found that the association’s top officials, including APA ethics director Stephen Behnke, “prioritized the protection of psychologists—even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior—above the protection of the public” and “colluded” with high-ranking Defense Department officials to shield the torture program from growing dissent inside the CIA.
It further revealed that Behnke, who coordinated the APA’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, received a Pentagon contract to help train interrogators while he was the APA ethics director and without the knowledge of the APA board. Additionally, two former APA presidents were on a CIA advisory committee, and one of them had an undisclosed ownership stake in a consulting company founded by two of the men charged with overseeing the agency’s interrogation program.
The APA has released a statement of apology and has said it is considering barring psychologists from participating in CIA interrogations and updating its ethics policy.
Good Clean Fun
Evangelical Christians in Brazil rejoiced in July at the launch of FaceGlória, a social media platform that bans profanity, violence and sexually provocative content—and where you don’t ‘Like’ a post, you say ‘Amen.’ Dubbed the ‘sin free Facebook,’ FaceGlória is currently available only in Portuguese, but founder Atilla Barros has plans to roll it out worldwide. “On Facebook you see a lot of violence and pornography,” he told Agence France-Presse. “That’s why we thought of creating a network where we could talk about God, love and to spread His word.”
Though the endeavor has been widely, if subtly, mocked, the conservative social network seems to be gaining a foothold. According to Barros, 100,000 people joined FaceGlória in its first month. And he’s not stopping there. “We have bought the Faceglory domain in English and in all possible languages,” Barros told AFP. “We want to take on Facebook and Twitter here and everywhere.“
Heroin Use, Related Deaths Skyrocketing in U.S., CDC says
“To reverse this trend we need an all-of-society response“
— CDC director Tom Frieden
Deaths involving heroin have quadrupled since 2000 and heroin use in the U.S. has almost doubled since 2007, according to a CDC report released in July. Heroin use is “increasing rapidly across nearly all demographic groups,” CDC director Tom Frieden said in releasing the report. “And with that increase we’re seeing a dramatic rise in deaths.”
Fueling the surge is cheaper, more available heroin and an increase in the abuse of opiate painkillers, which “are essentially the same chemical with the same impact on the brain as heroin,” according to the CDC chief. “Heroin costs roughly five times less than prescription opiates on the street,” said Frieden, explaining that the rising cost of painkillers has driven prescription drug addicts to heroin.
And while the number of people abusing the drug is soaring, the face of heroin addiction is also changing. “We’re seeing heroin affecting people in urban and rural areas—white, black and Hispanic, low, middle and high income,” Frieden said. “What’s most striking and troubling is that we’re seeing heroin diffusing throughout society to groups that it hasn’t touched before.”
The groups among the most likely to abuse the drug include men, non-Hispanic whites, and people between the ages of 18 and 25—among whom use of the highly addictive substance rose 109 percent between 2002 and 2013. The report also found increases in groups that previously had low rates of heroin use—use among women increased 100 percent in the same period.
“To reverse this trend we need an all-of-society response—to improve opioid prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand access to effective treatment for those who are addicted … and work with law enforcement partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin,” says the CDC.
National Aviation Day August 19
Also the birthday of Orville Wright, whose first journey aloft in 1903 lasted just 12 seconds, but began an era of aviation and gave us the enduring wonder of flight.
Big Brother is Listening—Again
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) ruled June 29 that the National Security Agency can temporarily resume bulk collection of Americans’ domestic phone records.
The secret spy court’s ruling came nearly three weeks after Congress passed—and President Obama signed into law—the USA Freedom Act, which reauthorized Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act for six months following its expiration on June 1, which had halted the NSA’s bulk-collection powers.
A potential conflict now looms between the FISA court and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which in May ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union in a case against the government over Section 215. While analyzing metadata remains legal, the appeals court ruled, bulk collection is not.
Because Congress neither contradicted the 2nd Circuit ruling nor specifically authorized bulk collection, the very legality of Section 215 is unclear. The issue came before the FISA court when FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group, filed a motion to block the administration’s authority to resume bulk collection under the USA Freedom Act, citing the 2nd Circuit’s decision that the practice is illegal.
The FISA court rejected the challenge. Even though the spy court is lower in standing than the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, FISA Judge Michael W. Mosman said its rulings “are not binding” on FISA. In response, the ACLU on July 14 asked the appeals court to issue an injunction against the government’s collection of bulk data. The matter is pending.
Living the Dream
Most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep. Reducing that just slightly, to six hours nightly, impairs cognitive functions, increases vulnerability to disease, and shortens life expectancy. But a few people can get far less sleep—as little as four hours per night—without displaying any ill effects. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco began studying these ‘short sleepers’ in 2009 and have linked the rare trait to a mutation in a gene called DEC2. The mutation seems to improve sleep efficiency, allowing the body and brain to do the general housekeeping that is scientists’ best guess as to the purpose of sleep—repairing cellular damage, flushing accumulated toxins, replenishing energy supplies and laying down memories—much faster. How the DEC2 mutation achieves this is a mystery—as is much about the process of sleep—but the finding raises the interesting possibility that there’s an evolutionary process underway. A person requiring only four hours of sleep has 60 extra days awake every year. Imagine the advantage of all that extra time.