Antihypertensive drug may remove major component of drug and alcohol addiction

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Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have successfully stopped cocaine and alcohol addiction in experiments using a drug already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat high blood pressure. If the treatment is proven effective in humans, it would be the first of its kind — one that could help prevent relapses by erasing the unconscious memories that underlie addiction…

Scientists once believed that drug addiction was simply a physical craving: Drug addicts who became sober and then later relapsed merely lacked willpower. But that view has gradually shifted since the 1970s.

Today, most experts acknowledge that environmental cues — the people, places, sights and sounds an addict experiences leading up to drug use — are among the primary triggers of relapses. It was an environmental cue (a ringing bell) that caused the dogs in Ivan Pavlov’s famous experiments to salivate, even when they couldn’t see or smell food.

Led by Hitoshi Morikawa…a team of researchers trained rats to associate either a black or white room with the use of a drug. Subsequently, when the addicted rats were offered the choice of going into either room, they nearly always chose the room they associated with their addiction.

Then one day, the researchers gave the addicted rats a high dose of an antihypertensive drug called isradipine before the rats made their choices. Although rats still preferred the room they associated with their addiction on that day, they no longer showed a preference for it on subsequent days. In fact, the lack of preference persisted in the isradipine-treated group in ways that couldn’t be found in a control group — suggesting the addiction memories were not just suppressed but had gone away entirely…

Addictive drugs are thought to rewire brain circuits involved in reward learning, forming powerful memories of drug-related cues. Antihypertensive drugs all block a particular type of ion channel, which is expressed not only in heart and blood vessels but also in certain brain cells. The researchers found that blocking these ion channels in brain cells, using isradipine, appears to reverse the rewiring that underlies memories of addiction-associated places…

“Addicts show up to the rehab center already addicted,” Hitoshi Morikawa said. “Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted.”

Morikawa noted that because isradipine is already labeled as safe for human use by the FDA, clinical trials could potentially be carried out much more quickly than with nonapproved drugs.

Regular readers of my personal blog know I’m not especially positive about dealing with junkies. It’s just the streets where I grew up don’t ever seem to lose that population. I don’t spend much time on the range of reasons why – or why not. There hasn’t been any diminishing of my cynicism over a long, long time.

This sounds positive. This sounds potentially useful. My basics haven’t changed. I still think we can take the crime out of drugs by completely decriminalizing drug use. That removes most costs from addiction and from society. But, this is an addition to treatment worth following up on in serious research.

Americans tired of explaining things to idjits


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Many Americans are tired of explaining things to idiots, particularly when the things in question are so painfully obvious, a new poll indicates.

According to the poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, while millions have been vexed for some time by their failure to explain incredibly basic information to dolts, that frustration has now reached a breaking point.

Of the many obvious things that people are sick and tired of trying to get through the skulls of stupid people, the fact that climate change will cause catastrophic habitat destruction and devastating extinctions tops the list, with a majority saying that they will no longer bother trying to explain this to cretins.

Coming in a close second, statistical proof that gun control has reduced gun deaths in countries around the world is something that a significant number of those polled have given up attempting to break down for morons.

Finally, a majority said that trying to make idiots understand why a flag that symbolizes bigotry and hatred has no business flying over a state capitol only makes the person attempting to explain this want to put his or her fist through a wall.

In a result that suggests a dismal future for the practice of explaining things to idiots, an overwhelming number of those polled said that they were considering abandoning such attempts altogether, with a broad majority agreeing with the statement, “This country is exhausting.”

The Borowitz Report nails it, once again. Though I’ve spent most of my adult life fighting to overcome several of the most significant stupidities in American culture I admit that retirement from work a number of years ago – combined with the Web offering avenues for activism that don’t involve getting into my pickup truck and driving to town – opened the door to a life of being a proper hermit.

Now that my wife has achieved early retirement, we get to be hermits together. Which suits both of us. I can holler at the idjits on television. Which I can turn off. I can harangue the nation via my personal blog. Which I can turn off.

We go for walks with Sheila the dog.

Congratulations to our LGBT friends and relatives – Constitutional progress prevails

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White House illuminated in celebration, tonight

A special Thank You to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is the sole traditional American conservative within that court. The sole honest conservative in that court. Willing to look forward, willing to join in building progress and understanding in a nation still wracked by divisions grounded in hate and fear on the Right.

Including the syllabus of the original filing, here is the Supreme Court’s decision [.pdf] – which Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

Court rules “gay conversion therapy” nothing more than consumer fraud

A New Jersey group that claimed it could “cure” gay people and make them straight has been ordered to pay $72,400 in damages to its former clients, after being found by a jury to have broken the state’s consumer fraud protection law.

A jury of seven men and women took about three hours to reach what is being hailed as a landmark civil-rights verdict on Thursday against the founders of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (Jonah), a group that said it had provided “gay conversion therapy” to clients largely from the Jewish faith.

The group was sued by three former clients and two mothers of ex-clients, who collectively told the court in Jersey City that they had suffered great psychological damage as well as considerable financial loss as a result of the fraudulent program.

The lawsuit, launched by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is believed to have been the first in the US to use consumer protection laws to challenge the controversial practice. Most of the major professional bodies including the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association have long denounced the treatment, and many states have also moved to restrict its practice. The White House supports a ban…

David Dinielli, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director…said…“Conversion therapy and homophobia are based on the same central lie – that gay people are broken and need to be fixed,” he said. “Conversion therapists, including the defendants in this case, sell fake cures that don’t work and can seriously harm the unsuspecting people who fall into this trap.”

Theocratic mumbo-jumbo has a “cure” rate roughly akin to any other placebo based on superstition. That someone might convince themselves to behave to a societal norm doesn’t have a damned thing to do with altering behavior that’s part of the genetic chemistry set you were handed on birth.

Nice to see a brilliant legal response like this winning the start of what I hope will be a long string of victories.

Washington think tank says cute little nukes are just what America needs

Normally, when you hear the term “think tank” you assume that the people within the organization are there to actually think. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. During the course of trying to find “outside the box” solutions to national and international problems, sometimes think tanks come up with ideas that are patently absurd. Such is the case with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and their plan to arm America with numerous small, tactical nukes.

The United States should develop new low–yield, tactical nuclear weapons to deter countries from seeking nuclear weapons of their own, a new think-tank report says. It also argues that the U.S. should base more nuclear weapons around the world to better deter attacks.

“Forward deploying a robust set of discriminate nuclear response options conveys the message that the United States will ‘respond in kind’ and proportionately to nuclear attacks on its allies,” wrote Clark Murdock, a former Pentagon policy official who is now a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies…

Boy, where I do start? First off, since when did building nuclear missiles prevent other countries from doing the same? Doesn’t it have the opposite effect? I thought that was the Cold War in a nutshell. We built a few, then they built a few, and then we kept going back and forth with the Russians like that, until they went bankrupt. Now the planet is littered with thousands of these weapons in several different countries. Also, haven’t the war hawks in Washington been telling us for years that the Iranians want to build nuclear weapons, in part because they want to counter Israel’s nukes?…

…And finally, arming ourselves with small yield nuclear weapons is just an all around terrible idea. In fact, we’ve done it before. Meet the Davy Crockett:

2,100 of these nukes were produced in the late 50’s, and they were deployed to conventional forces between 1961 and 1971. There were several different versions that had an explosive yield of between 10 tons, and 1 kiloton. Franz Josef Strauss, the former defense minister of West Germany, was obsessed with this weapon and desperately wanted the Americans to give them to the German Army. His request was repeatedly denied.

Why? Because it practically guaranteed that any ground war with the Soviets would inevitably escalate into a nuclear war. If you considered using high yield strategic nukes, you’re talking about the end of the world as we know it. But these tiny devices don’t carry the same psychological weight. It’s easier to pull the trigger on something that would only level a few acres.

So all in all, this think tank’s plan for maintaining America’s military dominance, is probably one of the worst ideas anyone has ever come up with. It reads like a how-to guide for starting a nuclear war.

Joshua Krause at The Daily Sheeple has it wired.

And I fall apart every time, any time, someone reminds me of the Davy Crockett rocket. Because I did a little bit of work on that silly-ass piece of crap. I made it clear at the time it was one of the dumbest ideas in military history.

Krause doesn’t wander into details; but, the damned thing never sent a warhead far enough away to keep from frying the troops using it in their own radiation-whoopee. A portable death trap. Anyone who survived the testing phase was a walking lawsuit for stupid WMDs.

NO, even BITD no one let me near the part that went BOOM! I was involved with other portions of the launch.

What’s Really Warming the World? NASA data provides proof

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Click through to a dynamic set of infographics

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has done a knockout series of infographics based on decades of data and study. They deserve all the credit in the world for maintaining real science in the face of superstition, myth and the new American disease – self-deception.

Obamacare upheld by SCOTUS


Click to enlargeJim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Chief justice John Roberts has come to the rescue of Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms for a second time as the US supreme court struck down a Republican-led challenge to Obamacare that could have gutted the legislation and stripped millions of Americans of their health insurance.

Rescue? No. Roberts may be a conservative dork; but, his style of judgement rests on the intent of Congress and law. Passed by a Congress lightyears ahead of what we’ve had to bear since Year 3 of Obama, the intent of the ACA was clear and Roberts supported the law – as far as Congress went.

The decision in the high-stakes case of King v Burwell all but guarantees that Obamacare will survive intact until at least the 2016 election, giving its supporters hope that it will become impossible to reverse even if a Republican is elected to the White House.

The case, which turned on the meaning of four words – “established by the state” – was brought by Virginia limousine driver David King, who sued the then health secretary, Sylvia Burwell, on the grounds that insurance subsidies erroneously paid to those on low to middle incomes forced him to take out cover against his will by pushing him above an affordability threshold…

In most respects, the same as laws establishing minimum levels of automobile insurance. Opposed just as vehemently in its day by cheapskate conservatives who hate paying for anything.

But six of the nine justices, including Roberts, sided with the government in agreeing that other parts of the legislation made the broader meaning clear and allowed subsidies to be paid to exchanges run by states or the federal government.

“Given that the text is ambiguous, we must turn to the broader structure of the act to determine the meaning,” wrote Roberts in a passage that represents a huge victory for the Obama administration…

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton…praised the court’s decision, tweeting: “SCOTUS affirms what we know is true in our hearts & under the law: Health insurance should be affordable & available to all.”

Fellow presidential candidate and leftwing Vermont senator Bernie Sanders praised the court for recognizing “the common-sense reading of the Affordable Care Act” but went on to call for replacing Obamacare with a “Medicare-for-all, single-payer system”.

If and when we get a Congress that not only fights for the needs of average Americans; but, has the courage to provide a bit of leadership – we’ll get round to Bernie’s proposal. Only a bit over a half-century after the rest of the industrial West did so.

Which prompts me to note why I – as someone who has nothing more than contempt for the 2-party/electoral college bordello our politics are chained to – still suggest voting for Democrats when there isn’t a progressive 3rd-Party alternative. If we leave a mediocrity to fall into the hands of truly corrupt class-worshippers, we’re really in line to be screwed. And we will be getting what we deserve for our inaction.

How do toddlers use tablets? — a limited survey

Can babies use iPads?

If you’ve ever viewed YouTube videos of infants and toddlers using iPads, then you know the answer is a resounding “Yes.”

But how are they using them?

To answer that question and others, a team of University of Iowa researchers set out to study more than 200 YouTube videos. Their paper is published in the proceedings of the CHI 2015 conference, the most prestigious in the field of human-computer interaction.

In the paper they write that their goal was to “provide a window into how these children are using tablets through an analysis of relevant YouTube videos.”

What they found was information that supports “opportunities for research and starting points for design.”

“By age two, 90 percent of the children in the videos had a moderate ability to use a tablet,” says Juan Pablo Hourcade, associate professor of computer science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study. “Just over 50 percent of 12-to-17-month-old children in the videos had a moderate ability…”

He says that to his knowledge, other researchers have conducted surveys of the prevalence of tablet use by young children, however, the UI study is the first to study how infants and toddlers are actually using the devices…

Hourcade acknowledged the drawbacks of using unsolicited YouTube videos, such as not knowing the exact ages of the children pictured and that the children pictured were selected by their caregivers and may not be representative of the larger society. However, he says the researchers were able to estimate the ages of the children (two-thirds of the videos included the age) and observe a clear progression of successful performance linked to age that is consistent with developmental milestones

He says he hopes that the study and others that follow will influence the development of apps that encourage interactive education for infants and toddlers. The apps he envisions might be similar to the social and interactive-like children’s programs currently found on public television.

Interesting stuff. I almost always end up supporting any sort of investigation that encourages early education.

My parents taught both my sister and me to read by the time we each were 4 years old. And we had plenty of reading material available for the following age group – and beyond. Speaking subjectively, it was a great advantage throughout school for each of us.

Winnipeg coppers’ sex discussion broadcast to neighborhood – from the sky

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Voices in the night – from your local copper chopper

Police in the Canadian city of Winnipeg apologized on Tuesday after a lewd conversation about sex was broadcast from the loudspeakers of a police helicopter to a neighborhood below.

Officers on a routine helicopter patrol on Monday night inadvertently activated the aircraft’s public address system while they were having a private conversation…

News of the R-rated conversation took off on Twitter as the city residents who could hear the conversation took to social media to urge the police to turn off their loudspeaker.

Pilots in the Winnipeg police helicopter having a conversation with their loudspeaker on. Pretty funny to hear,” tweeted one resident.

“Does the #Winnipeg chopper realize the entire West End can hear their convo about blow jobs right now?” tweeted another, who noted she was listening from her backyard.

The police service said the incident was being reviewed.

Reviewed? How many stars did it get?