Monday, September 24, 2007

FL Orchestra faces restraints

National trends favoring privatization (for example of prisons, social services, and hospitals) added together with tax cuts driven by conservative fiscal principles, which have caused cuts in spending especially in Florida where Republicans lead. Such budget restraints are trickling down to cultural and community expenditures such as parks, social services, non-profits, and the arts. These trends are traveling a road our local communities must avoid. In Tampa Bay, there is an essential need to balance priority amongst municipal and social services in addition to investment in cultural enhancement that in turn bring tourism dollars including attracting newcomers generating tax revenue. Tampa Bay is no New York, San Francisco or Miami however being situated along the I-4 corridor and the bay it possesses such potential. The restraints surfacing within the Florida Orchestra is an alarming economic indicator. Tampa Bay without a doubt is in a well-built position supportive of a thriving arts sector.

The Florida Orchestra is a strapping cultural pillar within Florida and its wealth of Arts; supported by a modest endowment valued at $10 million. Orchestra musicians now as stated in the St. Pete Times “are far from harmony on a contract. There is no labor contract between the musicians and board of directors, as a result orchestra members voted to give its negotiation committee the authority to call a strike if that was deemed necessary. The Orchestra’s board is pushing to cut expenses from its budget. The musicians payroll is the largest part of the budget.” Sources say approximately $450,000 federal, state and local government funding was slashed from the Orchestra’s overall budget.

Source: St. Pete Times 09/20/07

Dan Rather Sues CBS

Rather says "CBS wanted to pacify the White House" "Government is influencing newsrooms".

St. Pete Times 09/20/07

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Iran's president

“TEHRAN, Iran - A day before flying to New York to speak directly to the American people, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck a confrontational tone Saturday with a parade of fighter jets and missiles and tough warnings for the United States to stay out of the Mideast.
Three new domestically manufactured warplanes streaked over the capital during the parade marking the 27th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Iran, which sparked a 1980-88 war that killed hundreds of thousands of people. The parade also featured the Ghadr missile, which has a range of 1,120 miles, capable of reaching Israel.
Some of the missile trucks were painted with the slogans "Down with the U.S." and "Down with Israel." The parade also featured unmanned aerial surveillance drones, torpedoes, and tanks.
Tensions are high between Washington and Tehran over U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and helping Shiite militias in Iraq that target U.S. troops. Iran denies the claims.
Washington has said it is addressing the Iran situation diplomatically, rather than militarily, but U.S. officials also say that all options are open.
"Those (countries) who assume that decaying methods such as psychological war, political propaganda and the so-called economic sanctions would work and prevent Iran's fast drive toward progress are mistaken," Ahmadinejad.
Iran launched an arms development program during its war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own jets, torpedoes, radar-avoiding missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.
"Those who prevented Iran, at the height of the war from getting even barbed wire must see now that all the equipment on display today has been built by the mighty hands and brains of experts at Iran's armed forces," Ahmadinejad said.
He is expected to address the American people directly in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" airing Sunday, and through appearances at the U.N., Columbia University and several other events.
His request to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center site was denied and condemned by Sept. 11 family members and politicians. Protests against his Columbia appearance are planned at the university and the United Nations by demonstrators angry at his questioning of the Holocaust and declarations that Israel will cease to exist.
Iran and the U.S. have not had diplomatic ties since militants took over the U.S. Embassy following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Since then, the cleric-led regime has vilified the United States as the "Great Satan."
Despite Ahmadinejad's frequent anti-U.S. rhetoric, he has tried to appeal to the American people before. Recently, he told a live satellite television show that his country wanted peace and friendship with the U.S. Since coming to power in 2005, Ahmadinejad has also sent letters to the American people in which he criticized Bush's Mideast policy.
He is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Tuesday _ his third time attending the New York meeting in three years. Last year, Ahmadinejad was harshly critical of U.S. policies in Iraq and Lebanon and insisted that his nation's nuclear activities were "transparent."
At the parade, Ahmadinejad repeated his demand for foreign forces to leave the region and urged the United States to acknowledge it has failed in Iraq. Outside the 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, there are 40,000 troops on U.S. bases in Persian Gulf countries and another 20,000 in Mideast waters.
"Nations throughout the region do not need the presence of the foreigners to manage their own needs. Foreign presence is the root cause of all instability, differences and threats," he said.
On the sidelines of the parade, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said the event highlighted the "might of Iran's armed forces to its enemies," adding that Iran is ready to retaliate if attacked.
"Iran has drawn up plans to confront enemies in the face of any possible attack," the official IRNA news agency quoted Jafari as saying.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also issued a warning against any launch of a limited strike on Iran.
"Military aggression against Iran in the form of a hit-and-run attack is not possible anymore," he was quoted on television as saying to the nation's top military leaders. "Anybody attacking us will become entangled with grave consequences."
The Bush administration is expected to soon blacklist a unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, subjecting part of the vast military operation to financial penalties. The step would be in response to Iran's involvement in Iraq and elsewhere.
The U.S. is also leading a push in the U.N. Security Council for a third round of economic sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes including generating electricity. The Security Council is not expected to take up the issue before October.
"Learn lessons from your past mistakes. Don't repeat your mistakes," he said in a warning to the United States over its push to impose more sanctions.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Analysis of Iraq War

As of late a majority of the resources of this organization have been devoted to ending the War in Iraq. I encourgae my fellow bloggers to follow suit.

I sincerely write about this topic in neither hope nor anticipation of my country, the United States loosing the Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and on Terror. However, because I believe that in our Democracy it is the duty of American citizens to entertain such a discussion to pledge support on the challenge of our generation.

Excerpts from the essay How the Weak Win Wars are the basis of this paper. Since the start of the War in Iraq, five items have repeatedly appeared on the media and discussions amongst the public.
1) The Motives for Going to War2) Justifications for the Iraq War3) Information provided to the American People and International Governing Bodies in regards to the War4) The legalities of charges and subsequent conviction of ousted Iraq President Saddam Hussein.

Rational leads one to question the validity of these charges based on humanitarian incursions occurring in 1982. This being the second instance the U.S has waged War in Iraq based on these identical charges. Secondly, allegations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), now known to be to be a false claim. Therefore one would induce charges being brought against Saddam Hussein are at the least questionable. Furthermore, there is a deeper theoretical concern; these indictments are nearly spurious unless all the citizens of Iraq equally are instituted in the opportunities manifested by a stable democratic government. Subsequently more questions arise; how can these charges be justified in light of faulty intelligence. Moreover, how are these charges justified when the motives, ethics and credibility of certain U.S. political leaders are in question?

5) The War on Terror. The readers of this paper don’t to be enlightened however the fact that Al Qaeda moved to wage war against the U.S.A. and not Iraq is worthy to be restated. It is fact not partisan rhetoric the War in Iraq has diverted government resources (law enforcement, FBI, CIA), funding, military, diplomatic resources from eliminating Al Qaeda. Great Britain, the closet ally of the United States for example has endured multiple terrorist attacks coordinated by Al Qaeda and their sympathizers. To paraphrase the words of Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair “an attack against Great Britain is an attack against America“.

Below is a summary and excerpts from an essay entitled:How the Weak Win Wars“With the U.S. military engaged in armed conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ivan Arreguin-Toft’s How the Weak Win Wars is a timely contribution to the ongoing debate over U.S. defense strategy in the post-September 11 security environment. First, Arreguin- Toft provides a well-structured discussion of existing theories in the literature on how weaker actors have won wars against substantially more powerful states and articulates his own hypothesis to explain this phenomenon, which he calls “strategic interaction theory.”
He postulates that intuition would tell us “power matters most,” but notes that history tells us otherwise. In fact, not only have weak actors had sporadic successes in asymmetric conflicts, but the trend of their successes is increasing.
His argument is constructed on the premise that there are four competing explanations for weak victory in asymmetric wars, each of which has weaknesses in predicting outcomes or explaining the trend of increasing weak actor victories. The first of these hypotheses focuses on the nature of the actors. In this theory, authoritarian strong actors are said to have a greater probability of success in asymmetric conflict because they tend to lack the political vulnerability of a democracy. The second theory states that the diffusion of arms, particularly since the Second World War, has closed the aggregate power gap between weak and strong. In other words, even a weak power has a chance of success when equipped with modern weaponry. The third theory is that of interest asymmetry, which asserts that asymmetric wars tend to be fought with limited means for limited ends by the strong actor, but with unlimited means for the unlimited ends by the weak. Theoretically this interest asymmetry is more important to the outcome than relative power.
The final competing explanation is Arreguin- Toft’s own theory of strategic interaction. He postulates that the interaction of the strategies employed by the actors in an asymmetric conflict is the most likely predictor of outcome. His method of proof begins by dividing military strategy into two general categories. These categories are direct, such as conventional attack or defense, and indirect, such as counter-insurgency or guerilla warfare. His thesis is that when asymmetric actors employ similar strategies, as in the cases of direct versus direct or indirect versus indirect, the conflict favors the strong. On the contrary, when the strategies are of dissimilar types, the conflict favors the weak. The bulk of How the Weak Win Wars is dedicated to five case studies chosen from the statistical sampling. They include the Russo- Murid War of 1830- 1859, the Boer War, the Italo- Ethiopian War of 1935 - 1940, the Vietnam War, and the Afghan Civil War of the 1980’s.

Finally, he refers to the current conflict in Iraq as a “costly quagmire.” Arreguin- Toft means to convince the reader that when the very strong meet the weak in asymmetric armed conflict, strategy matters more than power. His work is extremely relevant in the current geopolitical context and serves as a warning to US policy makers to get military strategy right, regardless of relative power. Arreguin- Toft’s argument makes perfectly clear the perilous consequences of neglecting the importance of strategic interaction. ( Excerpts taking from a Review Essay found in the Harvard International Review Vol. 27 # 2, pg. 78 ) ”.

Article published Checks & Balances Org 07/25/05 by Anthony T. Brooks
Image Source:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

U.S.A. in Iraq

Reports proving that American presence in Iraq is recruiting terrorists give further justification to an immediate end to the War in Iraq.

This is substantiated by Donald Rumsfeld’s statement, "Foreign troops in a country are unnatural, and the goal is not to keep them there” ( .


"By AMY WESTFELDT, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago
NEW YORK - Relatives of Sept. 11 victims bowed their heads in silence Tuesday to mark the moments exactly six years earlier when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. The dreary skies created a grim backdrop, and a sharp contrast to the clear blue of that morning in 2001.
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"That day we felt isolated, but not for long and not from each other," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as the first ceremony began. "Six years have passed, and our place is still by your side."
Construction equipment now fills the vast city block where the World Trade Center once stood. The work under way for four new towers forced the ceremony's move away from the twin towers' footprints and into a nearby park for the first time.
As people clutched framed photos of their lost loved ones, Kathleen Mullen, whose niece Kathleen Casey died in the attacks, said the park was close enough.
"Just so long as we continue to do something special every year, so you don't wake up and say, 'Oh, it's 9/11," she said.
On this sixth anniversary, presidential politics and the health of ground zero workers loomed, perhaps more than any other.
The firefighters and first responders who helped rescue thousands that day in 2001 and later recovered the dead were to read the victims' names for the first time. Many of those rescuers are now ill with respiratory problems and cancers themselves, and they blame the illnesses on exposure to the fallen towers' toxic dust.
For the first time, the name of a victim who survived that towers' collapse but died five months later of lung disease blamed on the dust she inhaled was added to the official roll.
Felicia Dunn-Jones, an attorney, was working a block from the World Trade Center. She became the 2,974th victim linked to the four crashes of the hijacked airliners in New York, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pa., where federal investigators say the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 fought the hijackers on the rallying cry "Let's roll!"
A memorial honoring Flight 93's 40 passengers and crew began at 9:45 a.m., shortly before the time the airliner nosedived into the empty field.
"As American citizens, we're all looking at our heroes," said Kay Roy, whose sister Colleen Fraser, of Elizabeth, N.J., died when the plane went down.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also spoke to the mourners, telling them: "You have my promise that we will continue to work every single day to protect the people of this country, all in the name of those who perished heroically on Flight 93."
In New York, drums and bagpipes played as an American flag saved from the collapse was carried toward a stage.
Firefighters shared the platform with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who many victims' families and firefighters said shouldn't speak at the service to keep from politicizing it.
Giuliani, who is running for president, has made his performance after the 2001 terrorist attacks the cornerstone of his campaign, but he has said his desire to be there Tuesday was entirely personal.
"It was a day with no answers, but with an unending line of people who came forward to help one another," he told those gathered.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeking the Democratic Party presidential nomination, also attended the ceremonies. Republican Mitt Romney, another presidential contender, issued a statement describing the attacks as the day "radical Islamists brought terror to our shores" and paying tribute to U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath.
In Washington, President Bush paused for a moment of silence outside the White House, while at the Pentagon, Gen. Peter Pace spoke at the wall where the hijacked plane broke through.
Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the victims' families that their loved ones will always be remembered.
"I do not know the proper words to tell you what's in my heart, what is in our hearts, what your fellow citizens are thinking today. We certainly hope that somehow these observances will help lessen your pain," he said.
Pace also spoke of the military, calling the anniversary "a day of recommitment."
At the main U.S. base at Afghanistan, service members bowed their heads in memory of the victims.
National intelligence director Mike McConnell said U.S. authorities remain vigilant and concerned about "sleeper cells" of would-be terrorists inside the United States.
"We're safer but we're not safe," McConnell said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Even though the World Trade Center ceremony gathering was moved out of ground zero, thousands of family members descended briefly into the site to lay flowers near the twin towers' footprints.
Among the first family members down the ramp was Marjorie Miller, whose late husband Joel worked at Marsh & McLennan. She said the rain was almost welcome after five consecutive years of Sept. 11 sunshine.
"A lot of tears coming down from up there," she said, gesturing toward the sky, "and a lot of tears down here."
In all, 2,974 victims were killed by the Sept. 11 attacks: 2,750 connected to the World Trade Center, 40 in Pennsylvania and 184 at the Pentagon. Those numbers do not include the 19 hijackers. "

Sunday, September 09, 2007

G8 may become G13

The leader of France said he supported calls to expand the Group of Eight (G8) club of wealthy countries to a G13 to bring in Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

Thursday, September 06, 2007



Some are afraid of black men. Some plead guilty because they can't take the pressure an innocent plea would bring. Others just felt compelled to forgo treatment by a trained massage therapist, favoring the tender massage only a prostitute could deliver.

Welcome to the excuse vault of the scandalized Republican politician.
Of course, philandering Democrats have excuses, too, but they tend to hinge on the common (a drinking problem as in the case of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom) or the peculiarly semantic (President Clinton positing, "It all depends on what the meaning of the word `is' is") But not the morally upright Republicans, for whom allegations of gay sex are much worse than heterosexual indiscretions.

Despite pleading guilty to charges of disorderly conduct (after asking an undercover cop for sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom through an elaborate ritual of toe taps and hand motions. Oh, and repeatedly peering into the officer's stall), Republican Idaho Sen. Larry Craig says he's not gay. Sure, just refer to the "Boys of Boise" - the title of a 1965 book on the state's homosexual, hypocritical political underground.

Craig maintains that the guilty plea was a "mistake." He was under pressure. He was being "hounded" by the press. You know how it is.
Okay, you might not, but there's a bunch of Republicans who do. Forget about all the other scandals - Scooter Libby's indictment, or the coke-dealing Thomas Ravenel, the South Carolina chairman for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. Focusing on the sex scandals alone offers plenty of fodder. Let's see
In July, Florida State Rep. Bob Allen was busted propositioning an undercover male cop in a park bathroom. He offered the officer $20 for oral sex.

But Allen also says he's not guilty and that that he's not gay. No, he's not denying that he propositioned the cop, and he's not saying that he was misunderstood when he made the offer. He says he did it because he was afraid the black cop would hurt him.

"This was a pretty stocky black guy, and there was nothing but other black guys around in the park," Allen said, in describing the officer who approached him. Allen, who was also the co-chairman of Sen. John McCain's campaign, said that he went along with it because he feared that if he didn't offer to perform oral sex on the stranger, he "was about to be a statistic."

Well, that's the normal response any of us would have when we find ourselves (irrationally) intimidated by a stranger, right? Either that, or (to paraphrase Jerri Blank from "Strangers with Candy"), "I guess what I'm trying to say is Bob, you're a racist."

Last year, Florida Rep. Mark Foley quit the House after it was discovered that he had sent naughty e-mails to pages. Male and underage, natch.
Some guys, like Louisiana's Sen. David Vitter, go pro. They don't dilly-dally in men's bathrooms. The married man's digits were found on the D.C. Madam's client list. Vitter, incidentally, filled the seat emptied by Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston, who stepped down in 1999 after Hustler publisher Larry Flynt found evidence of Livingston's "indiscretions" and threatened to go public with them. Just prior to that, Livingston was to succeed Newt Gingrich as House speaker, and in March we learned that Gingrich was having an extramarital affair while he was hammering President Clinton over his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Back to the D.C. Madam, aka Deborah Jeane Palfrey. She's been charged with running a prostitution ring, which also boasted Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias, as a client. Taking a page out of the Ted Haggard playbook (the evangelical preacher initially claimed that he repeatedly hired a gay prostitute for massages and not sex), Tobias said he didn't use the escort service for sex but, "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage." He stepped down in April for "personal reasons" having nothing to do with the massages he claims he's now getting through a service "with Central Americans." Dude.

You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. "

Monday, September 03, 2007

New bipolar disorder treatments tested

Scientists are testing seasickness patches and other surprising options in a challenging search for new ways to treat the crushing depression and uncontrolled mania of bipolar disorder.

"Also called manic-depression, it's an illness that can rip careers and marriages apart and drive people to suicide. And it's so complex and mysterious that researchers haven't developed a medication specifically for it since lithium, more than half a century ago.
Yet bipolar appears in various forms and severity in about 1 in every 25 American adults at some point in their lives, according to a major study published in May.

Current medicines help, but often fall short.
They "certainly reduce symptoms but don't do a good enough job," said Dr. Husseini Manji of the National Institute of Mental Health. "Many patients are helped, but they're not well."
Nobody knows yet whether the latest crop of possible treatments will pan out. Besides the motion sickness patch, unusual choices include a drug that treats Lou Gehrig's disease and a device that produces an electric field around the brain. Even the breast cancer drug tamoxifen has been tested.
Some of these approaches were identified by logic, and others by pure chance. Scientists already have early evidence that someday they may prove useful against bipolar.
The disorder's classic feature is episodes of mania, which are periods of boosted energy and restlessness that can run for a week or more.
"You have so much energy, you have so many great ideas" said Tamara, 26, a Pittsburgh resident who was diagnosed several years ago. She asked that her last name not be used.
"You feel like you're thinking so clear, you've got the answer for everybody. You need to tell them, you need to phone all your friends... It's so hard to sleep. You keep thinking of all sorts of things."
But mania can also bring extreme irritability. Tamara's energetic charisma made her the life of the party, but "if somebody spilled a drink on me, I would just explode," she recalled. "It's like all your emotions are just completely intensified."
She got into fights and experienced road rage. She made bad decisions, plagiarizing a college paper and behaving promiscuously.
"A lot of things sound like a good idea when you're manic," she said, "and they're really not."
During manic episodes many people even get hallucinations or delusions, and Tamara experienced those too. "I was convinced I could hear other people's thoughts, or at least know what they were," she recalled. "I thought everybody was saying bad things about me."
The other side of the bipolar coin is episodes of depression that last a week or more. For Tamara, depression was life turning gray.
"Nothing is interesting. You're bored with everything... Nothing sounds fun anymore. All you want to do is sleep. I slept days and days away."
In her senior year of college, thoughts of suicide frightened her into seeking help.
Doctors currently treat bipolar with a variety of drugs including lithium, anticonvulsant medications that can stabilize mood, and antipsychotics. Psychological therapy and patient education greatly boost the effectiveness of the drugs.
Tamara takes lithium and another drug, and says, "I'm doing fine right now."
She's lucky. Bipolar disorder is hard to treat chiefly because the depressive episodes are more severe and more resistant to therapy than ordinary "unipolar" depression, notes Dr. Andrea Fagiolini, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.
What's more, many patients can't tolerate current bipolar medications because of side effects like weight gain, sleepiness, tremor, and the sense of feeling "drugged," Fagiolini said. (Some patients also stop taking their medicine because they miss the "highs" of the disease, he noted).
A study of treated patients published last year found that about 60 percent got well for at least eight weeks, but only half of that group remained well when followed for up to two years. And this was with very good therapy, noted Dr. Andrew Nierenberg, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
"That means there's a lot of room for improvement," Nierenberg said. "That's why we need new treatments."
But there's a basic problem. Just as heart attacks come from chronic heart disease, the manic and depressive episodes come from an underlying chronic brain disease. And "we just don't really understand what's behind the illness," said Dr. Gary Sachs, who directs bipolar research at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital.
That mystery and the complexity of the disorder have discouraged scientists from trying to develop drugs for bipolar, Manji said. Not since lithium, developed more than 50 years ago, have they developed a drug specifically for bipolar, Manji said.
Like lithium, some of the latest crop of early candidate drugs revealed their potential simply by chance.
Take the experience of NIMH researchers Maura Furey and Dr. Wayne Drevets with the drug scopolamine, which is normally used to keep people from getting seasick or carsick. Several years ago, they were studying whether scopolamine could improve memory and attention in depressed people. So they gave the drug intravenously to depressed patients, trying to find the right dose for a brain-imaging study.
But then they noticed an odd thing. These patients started feeling less depressed the night after the injections, a remarkable thing since most antidepressants take weeks to kick in.
"Some patients would say it was the best night of sleep they'd had in many years, and the next morning they woke up feeling a substantial lifting of their depression," Drevets said. "In many cases that improvement persisted for weeks or even months."
Drevets and Furey quickly changed their research focus to test the drug's effect on depression itself. And in October 2006 they published an encouraging, though preliminary, result with a small group of depressed patients, some of whom had bipolar.
Now Furey is leading a study using scopolamine skin patches — like those travelers wear to prevent motion sickness — to treat depression in bipolar disorder as well as ordinary depression. For now, people shouldn't try patch treatment for depression on their own, she said.
A similar bit of serendipity showed up at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., in 2001. Depressed bipolar patients who were getting their brains scanned for a study of brain chemistry suddenly felt a lot better. Alerted by a research assistant, scientists started taking a closer look. And in 2004, they published their conclusion that the electric fields produced by the brain scans might lift depression. It's still not clear how.
Follow-up studies have had inconsistent results. But researchers have now built a device that resembles a hair-salon dryer to produce electric fields. They plan to start testing it this fall.
Apart from luck, researchers have taken advantage of the few insights they have into bipolar disease to develop potential treatments.
That's the story with riluzole, now used to treat the paralyzing disorder Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Scientists found that a drug that's effective against depression in bipolar disorder boosts the abundance of a certain protein in rat brain cells, and that riluzole does too. So the researchers tried riluzole in a small number of depressed bipolar patients, and in some patients the symptoms virtually disappeared, Manji said.
So riluzole, which is distributed by Sanofi-Aventis, might become a treatment for bipolar disorder, he said.
Similar research used an off-the-shelf drug to get a lead for developing a new medication. Studies in rats showed that lithium and another anti-mania drug hamper the effect of a particular enzyme in the brain. That suggested that other drugs that hamper that enzyme might work against mania too, Manji said.
The best available candidate: tamoxifen, used to fight breast cancer. And sure enough, Manji's recent study in a small group of bipolar patients found that tamoxifen quickly quelled mania. Other studies have found similar results, he said.
That shows the value of blocking the enzyme, and now Manji is trying to develop other drugs that will do that, perhaps for use in emergency rooms. He wants to avoid tamoxifen itself because of concern about long-term side effects, since his work requires a higher dose than women use to stave off breast cancer for years.
Scientists say the real key to unlocking the mysteries of bipolar disorder — and thereby exposing targets for drugs — lies in a new generation of research into DNA.
In recent months, scientific journals have begun to publish the early results of a revolution in DNA analysis: the ability to scan entire genomes in detail to find genetic variants that predispose people to particular diseases. Some of the new work is implicating dozens of variants in bipolar disorder.
Such work can expose the hidden biological underpinnings of disease, and so tip off researchers to unsuspected targets for intervening.
"We've been stumbling in the dark for most of our history" of bipolar research, said gene expert Dr. Francis McMahon of NIMH. But "these kinds of studies ... will really give us the chance to reason from biological insights back to the patient."
Sachs, of Harvard, agreed: "I think these whole-genome scans will in fact be the important bridge to better treatments."
And not just in some far-distant future. The new gene studies, Sachs said, help give "a great potential to advance the field in our lifetimes and treat people who are living now."

Does diversity hurts civic life?

Reductions in rates of civic participation in more racially diverse communities may be linked to an erroneous perception held by members of one race, believing they are unable to equally trust members of a different ethnicity. This analysis gives basis for a need in intensified work to raise understanding of and tolerance for differing cultures. Comments welcome. -A.T. Brooks

"The downside of diversity - A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?

Source: The Boston Globe 08/07/2007
IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

The study comes at a time when the future of the American melting pot is the focus of intense political debate, from immigration to race-based admissions to schools, and it poses challenges to advocates on all sides of the issues. The study is already being cited by some conservatives as proof of the harm large-scale immigration causes to the nation's social fabric. But with demographic trends already pushing the nation inexorably toward greater diversity, the real question may yet lie ahead: how to handle the unsettling social changes that Putnam's research predicts.
"We can't ignore the findings," says Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "The big question we have to ask ourselves is, what do we do about it; what are the next steps?"

The study is part of a fascinating new portrait of diversity emerging from recent scholarship. Diversity, it shows, makes us uncomfortable -- but discomfort, it turns out, isn't always a bad thing. Unease with differences helps explain why teams of engineers from different cultures may be ideally suited to solve a vexing problem. Culture clashes can produce a dynamic give-and-take, generating a solution that may have eluded a group of people with more similar backgrounds and approaches. At the same time, though, Putnam's work adds to a growing body of research indicating that more diverse populations seem to extend themselves less on behalf of collective needs and goals.

His findings on the downsides of diversity have also posed a challenge for Putnam, a liberal academic whose own values put him squarely in the pro-diversity camp. Suddenly finding himself the bearer of bad news, Putnam has struggled with how to present his work. He gathered the initial raw data in 2000 and issued a press release the following year outlining the results. He then spent several years testing other possible explanations.
When he finally published a detailed scholarly analysis in June in the journal Scandinavian Political Studies, he faced criticism for straying from data into advocacy. His paper argues strongly that the negative effects of diversity can be remedied, and says history suggests that ethnic diversity may eventually fade as a sharp line of social demarcation.
"Having aligned himself with the central planners intent on sustaining such social engineering, Putnam concludes the facts with a stern pep talk," wrote conservative commentator Ilana Mercer, in a recent Orange County Register op-ed titled "Greater diversity equals more misery."
Putnam has long staked out ground as both a researcher and a civic player, someone willing to describe social problems and then have a hand in addressing them. He says social science should be "simultaneously rigorous and relevant," meeting high research standards while also "speaking to concerns of our fellow citizens." But on a topic as charged as ethnicity and race, Putnam worries that many people hear only what they want to.

"It would be unfortunate if a politically correct progressivism were to deny the reality of the challenge to social solidarity posed by diversity," he writes in the new report. "It would be equally unfortunate if an ahistorical and ethnocentric conservatism were to deny that addressing that challenge is both feasible and desirable."
. . .
Putnam is the nation's premier guru of civic engagement. After studying civic life in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s, Putnam turned his attention to the US, publishing an influential journal article on civic engagement in 1995 that he expanded five years later into the best-selling "Bowling Alone." The book sounded a national wake- up call on what Putnam called a sharp drop in civic connections among Americans. It won him audiences with presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and made him one of the country's best known social scientists.

Putnam claims the US has experienced a pronounced decline in "social capital," a term he helped popularize. Social capital refers to the social networks -- whether friendships or religious congregations or neighborhood associations -- that he says are key indicators of civic well-being. When social capital is high, says Putnam, communities are better places to live. Neighborhoods are safer; people are healthier; and more citizens vote.

The results of his new study come from a survey Putnam directed among residents in 41 US communities, including Boston. Residents were sorted into the four principal categories used by the US Census: black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. They were asked how much they trusted their neighbors and those of each racial category, and questioned about a long list of civic attitudes and practices, including their views on local government, their involvement in community projects, and their friendships. What emerged in more diverse communities was a bleak picture of civic desolation, affecting everything from political engagement to the state of social ties.

Putnam knew he had provocative findings on his hands. He worried about coming under some of the same liberal attacks that greeted Daniel Patrick Moynihan's landmark 1965 report on the social costs associated with the breakdown of the black family. There is always the risk of being pilloried as the bearer of "an inconvenient truth," says Putnam.
After releasing the initial results in 2001, Putnam says he spent time "kicking the tires really hard" to be sure the study had it right. Putnam realized, for instance, that more diverse communities tended to be larger, have greater income ranges, higher crime rates, and more mobility among their residents -- all factors that could depress social capital independent of any impact ethnic diversity might have.

"People would say, 'I bet you forgot about X,'" Putnam says of the string of suggestions from colleagues. "There were 20 or 30 X's."
But even after statistically taking them all into account, the connection remained strong: Higher diversity meant lower social capital. In his findings, Putnam writes that those in more diverse communities tend to "distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television."

"People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down' -- that is, to pull in like a turtle," Putnam writes.
In documenting that hunkering down, Putnam challenged the two dominant schools of thought on ethnic and racial diversity, the "contact" theory and the "conflict" theory. Under the contact theory, more time spent with those of other backgrounds leads to greater understanding and harmony between groups. Under the conflict theory, that proximity produces tension and discord.
Putnam's findings reject both theories. In more diverse communities, he says, there were neither great bonds formed across group lines nor heightened ethnic tensions, but a general civic malaise. And in perhaps the most surprising result of all, levels of trust were not only lower between groups in more diverse settings, but even among members of the same group.
"Diversity, at least in the short run," he writes, "seems to bring out the turtle in all of us."

The overall findings may be jarring during a time when it's become commonplace to sing the praises of diverse communities, but researchers in the field say they shouldn't be.
"It's an important addition to a growing body of evidence on the challenges created by diversity," says Harvard economist Edward Glaeser.
In a recent study, Glaeser and colleague Alberto Alesina demonstrated that roughly half the difference in social welfare spending between the US and Europe -- Europe spends far more -- can be attributed to the greater ethnic diversity of the US population. Glaeser says lower national social welfare spending in the US is a "macro" version of the decreased civic engagement Putnam found in more diverse communities within the country.
Economists Matthew Kahn of UCLA and Dora Costa of MIT reviewed 15 recent studies in a 2003 paper, all of which linked diversity with lower levels of social capital. Greater ethnic diversity was linked, for example, to lower school funding, census response rates, and trust in others. Kahn and Costa's own research documented higher desertion rates in the Civil War among Union Army soldiers serving in companies whose soldiers varied more by age, occupation, and birthplace.

Birds of different feathers may sometimes flock together, but they are also less likely to look out for one another. "Everyone is a little self-conscious that this is not politically correct stuff," says Kahn.
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So how to explain New York, London, Rio de Janiero, Los Angeles - - the great melting-pot cities that drive the world's creative and financial economies?
The image of civic lassitude dragging down more diverse communities is at odds with the vigor often associated with urban centers, where ethnic diversity is greatest. It turns out there is a flip side to the discomfort diversity can cause. If ethnic diversity, at least in the short run, is a liability for social connectedness, a parallel line of emerging research suggests it can be a big asset when it comes to driving productivity and innovation. In high-skill workplace settings, says Scott Page, the University of Michigan political scientist, the different ways of thinking among people from different cultures can be a boon.

"Because they see the world and think about the world differently than you, that's challenging," says Page, author of "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies." "But by hanging out with people different than you, you're likely to get more insights. Diverse teams tend to be more productive."
In other words, those in more diverse communities may do more bowling alone, but the creative tensions unleashed by those differences in the workplace may vault those same places to the cutting edge of the economy and of creative culture.

Page calls it the "diversity paradox." He thinks the contrasting positive and negative effects of diversity can coexist in communities, but "there's got to be a limit." If civic engagement falls off too far, he says, it's easy to imagine the positive effects of diversity beginning to wane as well. "That's what's unsettling about his findings," Page says of Putnam's new work.
Meanwhile, by drawing a portrait of civic engagement in which more homogeneous communities seem much healthier, some of Putnam's worst fears about how his results could be used have been realized. A stream of conservative commentary has begun -- from places like the Manhattan Institute and "The American Conservative" -- highlighting the harm the study suggests will come from large-scale immigration. But Putnam says he's also received hundreds of complimentary emails laced with bigoted language. "It certainly is not pleasant when David Duke's website hails me as the guy who found out racism is good," he says.
In the final quarter of his paper, Putnam puts the diversity challenge in a broader context by describing how social identity can change over time. Experience shows that social divisions can eventually give way to "more encompassing identities" that create a "new, more capacious sense of 'we,'" he writes.
Growing up in the 1950s in small Midwestern town, Putnam knew the religion of virtually every member of his high school graduating class because, he says, such information was crucial to the question of "who was a possible mate or date." The importance of marrying within one's faith, he says, has largely faded since then, at least among many mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.

While acknowledging that racial and ethnic divisions may prove more stubborn, Putnam argues that such examples bode well for the long-term prospects for social capital in a multiethnic America.
In his paper, Putnam cites the work done by Page and others, and uses it to help frame his conclusion that increasing diversity in America is not only inevitable, but ultimately valuable and enriching. As for smoothing over the divisions that hinder civic engagement, Putnam argues that Americans can help that process along through targeted efforts. He suggests expanding support for English- language instruction and investing in community centers and other places that allow for "meaningful interaction across ethnic lines."
Some critics have found his prescriptions underwhelming. And in offering ideas for mitigating his findings, Putnam has drawn scorn for stepping out of the role of dispassionate researcher. "You're just supposed to tell your peers what you found," says John Leo, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "I don't expect academics to fret about these matters."

But fretting about the state of American civic health is exactly what Putnam has spent more than a decade doing. While continuing to research questions involving social capital, he has directed the Saguaro Seminar, a project he started at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government that promotes efforts throughout the country to increase civic connections in communities.

"Social scientists are both scientists and citizens," says Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, who sees nothing wrong in Putnam's efforts to affect some of the phenomena he studies.
Wolfe says what is unusual is that Putnam has published findings as a social scientist that are not the ones he would have wished for as a civic leader. There are plenty of social scientists, says Wolfe, who never produce research results at odds with their own worldview.
"The problem too often," says Wolfe, "is people are never uncomfortable about their findings."