Tuesday, November 20, 2012


A ‘Party Drug’ May Help the Brain Cope With Trauma

A ‘Party Drug’ May Help the Brain Cope With Trauma
New York Times
November 19, 2012

Hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-traumatic stress have recently contacted a husband-and-wife team who work in suburban South Carolina to seek help. Many are desperate, pleading for treatment and willing to travel to get it.

Can a Party Drug Treat Post-Traumatic Stress?

The soldiers have no interest in traditional talking cures or prescription drugs that have given them little relief. They are lining up to try an alternative: MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, a party drug that surfaced in the 1980s and ’90s that can induce pulses of euphoria and a radiating affection. Government regulators criminalized the drug in 1985, placing it on a list of prohibited substances that includes heroin and LSD. But in recent years, regulators have licensed a small number of labs to produce MDMA for research purposes.

“I feel survivor’s guilt, both for coming back from Iraq alive and now for having had a chance to do this therapy,” said Anthony, a 25-year-old living near Charleston, S.C., who asked that his last name not be used because of the stigma of taking the drug. “I’m a different person because of it.”

In a paper posted online Tuesday by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, Michael and Ann Mithoefer, the husband-and-wife team offering the treatment — which combines psychotherapy with a dose of MDMA — write that they found 15 of 21 people who recovered from severe post-traumatic stress in the therapy in the early 2000s reported minor to virtually no symptoms today. Many said they have received other kinds of therapy since then, but not with MDMA.

The Mithoefers — he is a psychiatrist and she is a nurse — collaborated on the study with researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

The patients in this group included mostly rape victims, and experts familiar with the work cautioned that it was preliminary, based on small numbers, and its applicability to war trauma entirely unknown. A spokeswoman for the Department of Defense said the military was not involved in any research of MDMA.

But given the scarcity of good treatments for post-traumatic stress, “there is a tremendous need to study novel medications,” including MDMA, said Dr. John H. Krystal, chairman of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

The study is the first long-term test to suggest that psychiatrists’ tentative interest in hallucinogens and other recreational drugs — which have been taboo since the 1960s — could pay off. And news that the Mithoefers are beginning to test the drug in veterans is out, in the military press and on veterans’ blogs. “We’ve had more than 250 vets call us,” Dr. Mithoefer said. “There’s a long waiting list, we wish we could enroll them all.”

The couple, working with other researchers, will treat no more than 24 veterans with the therapy, following Food and Drug Administration protocols for testing an experimental drug; MDMA is not approved for any medical uses.

A handful of similar experiments using MDMA, LSD or marijuana are now in the works in Switzerland, Israel and Britain, as well as in this country. Both military and civilian researchers are watching closely. So far, the research has been largely supported by nonprofit groups...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


CIA Officers Made Grave Mistakes, Then Got Promoted

To me, this sounds typical of just about any human enterprise.

CIA Officers Made Grave Mistakes, Then Got Promoted
Feb 9, 2011
Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo

In December 2003, security forces boarded a bus in Macedonia and snatched a German citizen named Khaled el-Masri. For the next five months, el-Masri was a ghost. Only a select group of CIA officers knew he had been whisked to a secret prison for interrogation in Afghanistan.

But he was the wrong guy.

A hard-charging CIA analyst had pushed the agency into one of the biggest diplomatic embarrassments of the U.S. war on terrorism. Yet despite recommendations by an internal review, the analyst was never punished. In fact, she has risen to one of the premier jobs in the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, helping lead President Barack Obama's efforts to disrupt al-Qaida.

In the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officers who committed serious mistakes that left people wrongly imprisoned or even dead have received only minor admonishments or no punishment at all, an Associated Press investigation has revealed. The botched el-Masri case is but one example of a CIA accountability process that even some within the agency say is unpredictable and inconsistent.

Though Obama has sought to put the CIA's interrogation program behind him, the result of a decade of haphazard accountability is that many officers who made significant missteps are now the senior managers fighting the president's spy wars.

The AP investigation of the CIA's actions revealed a disciplinary system that takes years to make decisions, hands down reprimands inconsistently and is viewed inside the agency as prone to favoritism and manipulation. When people are disciplined, the punishment seems to roll downhill, sparing senior managers even when they were directly involved in operations that go awry.

Two officers involved in the death of a prisoner in Afghanistan, for instance, received no discipline and have advanced into Middle East leadership positions. Other officers were punished after participating in a mock execution in Poland and playing a role in the death of a prisoner in Iraq. Those officers retired, then rejoined the intelligence community as contractors.

Some lawmakers were so concerned about the lack of accountability that last year they created a new inspector general position with broad authority to investigate missteps in the CIA or anywhere else in the intelligence community.

"There are occasions when people ought to be fired," former Sen. Kit Bond said in November as he completed his tenure as the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Someone who made a huge error ought not to be working at the agency. We've seen instance after instance where there hasn't been accountability."...

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Can the US beat the Taliban by out-greening them?

The U.S.S. Prius
New York Times
December 18, 2010

As I was saying, the thing I love most about America is that there’s always somebody here who doesn’t get the word — and they go out and do the right thing or invent the new thing, no matter what’s going on politically or economically. And what could save America’s energy future — at a time when a fraudulent, anti-science campaign funded largely by Big Oil and Big Coal has blocked Congress from passing any clean energy/climate bill — is the fact that the Navy and Marine Corps just didn’t get the word.

God bless them: “The Few. The Proud. The Green.” Semper Fi.

Spearheaded by Ray Mabus, President Obama’s secretary of the Navy and the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the Navy and Marines are building a strategy for “out-greening” Al Qaeda, “out-greening” the Taliban and “out-greening” the world’s petro-dictators. Their efforts are based in part on a recent study from 2007 data that found that the U.S. military loses one person, killed or wounded, for every 24 fuel convoys it runs in Afghanistan. Today, there are hundreds and hundreds of these convoys needed to truck fuel — to run air-conditioners and power diesel generators — to remote bases all over Afghanistan.

Mabus’s argument is that if the U.S. Navy and Marines could replace those generators with renewable power and more energy efficient buildings, and run its ships on nuclear energy, biofuels and hybrid engines, and fly its jets with bio-fuels, then it could out-green the Taliban — the best way to avoid a roadside bomb is to not have vehicles on the roads — and out-green all the petro-dictators now telling the world what to do...

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 20, 2010


Pakistani Role Is Suspected in Revealing U.S. Spy’s Name

Who revealed the name of a US spy? This time it wasn't a Bush administration official.

Pakistani Role Is Suspected in Revealing U.S. Spy’s Name
December 17, 2010
New York Times

The Central Intelligence Agency’s top clandestine officer in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, was removed from the country on Thursday amid an escalating war of recriminations between American and Pakistani spies, with some American officials convinced that the officer’s cover was deliberately blown by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency.

The American spy’s hurried departure is the latest evidence of mounting tensions between two uneasy allies, with the Obama administration’s strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan hinging on the cooperation of Pakistan in the hunt for militants in the mountains that border those two countries. The tensions could intensify in the coming months with the prospect of more American pressure on Pakistan.

As the cloak-and-dagger drama was playing out in Islamabad, 100 miles to the west the C.I.A. was expanding its covert war using armed drones against militants. Since Thursday, C.I.A. missile strikes have killed dozens of suspects in Khyber Agency, a part of the tribal areas in Pakistan that the spy agency had largely spared until now because of its proximity to the sprawling market city of Peshawar.

American officials said the C.I.A. station chief had received a number of death threats since being publicly identified in a legal complaint sent to the Pakistani police this week by the family of victims of earlier drone campaigns.

The American officials said they strongly suspected that operatives of Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, had a hand in revealing the C.I.A. officer’s identity — possibly in retaliation for a civil lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month implicating the ISI chief in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008...

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Sunni police officer gives his life to save Shiites in Iraq suicide bombing

In Seconds Before Blast, the Making of a Hero
December 16, 2010

As the suicide bomber clutched the detonator to his explosive belt, preparing to spray fire and shrapnel into a religious procession here, an Iraqi police officer named Bilal Ali Muhammad faced a choice between his own life and something larger.

If he ran and took cover, Mr. Muhammad, 31, had a chance to save himself, to continue supporting his widowed mother, to help put his younger brother through college and to watch his three young daughters grow up.

Instead, the officer — a Sunni Muslim — threw himself onto the bomber, blunting the explosion’s impact on the Shiite worshipers.

“He gave his soul to the country,” said his mother, Alaahin Hassan, holding two of his daughters in her lap as dozens of black-veiled women filled her living room this week with ritualized wails of grief. “He believed in God. That made him great.”

In a country fractured by sect and ethnicity, from villages like this all the way to the government that is finally forming in Baghdad, Mr. Muhammad’s last act was a burst of heroism and humanity set against the viciousness that still stalks Iraq.

Many Iraqis see the police and the army as corrupt, incompetent and brutal, still unprepared to secure the country as the Americans withdraw over the next year. But Mr. Muhammad’s death, one of thousands among Iraqi security forces, offers a counterpoint to that view...

Labels: ,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christian Right Activist Blasts Medal of Honor as 'Feminized,' Sparks Fury
Nov. 21, 2010
David Gibson
Politics Daily

While a divided nation last Tuesday finally rallied around one bright shining moment of patriotic glory -- President Obama's awarding of the Medal of Honor to Afghan hero Army Sgt. Salvatore Giunta -- a popular right-wing Christian commentator sharply split opinions even within his own camp. He blasted the award as "feminized" because it honors Giunta for saving his comrades rather than killing the enemy.

The Army's official citation details how Giunta "exposed himself to withering enemy fire" during a daring effort to engage the enemy and extract his wounded comrades from an ambush. But Bryan Fischer, a columnist for the American Family Association who has often provoked headlines and consternation with his commentaries, read the narrative as hardly the sort of thing American soldiers were once known for.

President Obama awards Medal of Honor to Army Sgt. Salvatore Giunta"When we think of heroism in battle, we used the think of our boys storming the beaches of Normandy under withering fire, climbing the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc while enemy soldiers fired straight down on them, and tossing grenades into pill boxes to take out gun emplacements," wrote Fischer, director of issue analysis for the AFA, a longtime lobby on the Christian right. "That kind of heroism has apparently become passé when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them."

"So the question is this: when are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things, so our families can sleep safely at night?" he asked.

Fischer based his claim on a line in a column in The Wall Street Journal by William McGurn, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. In the midst of his high praise for Giunta's heroism, McGurn noted that rather than "Rambos decorated for great damage inflicted on the enemy," every Medal of Honor awarded from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "has been for an effort to save life."

In fact, that's not exactly the case. The official account of the first Medal of Honor given for service in Iraq, to Army Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith, shows how, among other courageous acts, Smith "braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons," losing his life in the process."...

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Why is Iran still holding US hikers?

Why is Iran still holding US hikers?
By Scott Peterson
Christian Science Monitor
July 31, 2010

A year ago, Iranian soldiers arrested three Americans along the border with Iraq.
Skip to next paragraph
Related Stories

* In ironic twist, Iran detained US hikers critical of Israel and America
* US hikers' moms take more aggressive tack with Iran

Accused of espionage and of crossing illegally into Iran, which says it has "evidence" of contact with US intelligence agencies, they have been in prison ever since.

But the three friends say they were innocent hikers, inadvertently caught up in a regional tug of war between archenemies Iran and America.

The US news magazine The Nation in June cited Iraqi eyewitness accounts stating that Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal were arrested on the Iraqi side of the poorly marked border by Iranian guards who briefly crossed a few yards into Iraq to pick them up. It reported that the man likely responsible for their arrest – the head of the Revolutionary Guard intelligence for the region – has since been imprisoned for a string of kidnappings and murders...

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]