07 April 2015

20% of us have 'exploding head syndrome'

20% of us have 'exploding head syndrome' where we hear loud noises | Daily Mail Online

If you've ever heard a 'boom' in the night that you can't explain, you might have 'exploding head syndrome', psychologists warn.

It's estimated between 10 and 20 per cent of people have experienced this bizarre condition, in which a person is woken up by an abrupt loud noise they soon realise is imaginary, a study found.

The phenomenon strikes as a person is dropping off to sleep.

And the type of noise can vary from explosions and fireworks to slammed doors, the sound of a gun firing, an enormous roar, shouting, thunder or a crack of lightning.

The noises start suddenly and last for a few seconds, and some people also experience visual disturbances, such as seeing lightning or flashes.

The condition stops people from sleeping and leads to other psychological problems as sometimes believe they are having a seizure or being attacked, experts said.

For some, the condition is so bad it significantly impacts their lives.
Before this current study, it was believed the condition only occurred in people over the age of 50, but Dr Brian Sharpless, of Washington State University, says his research proves it commonly occurs in young people too.

As part of the study, he interviewed 211 undergraduate students, and found a fifth had experienced exploding head syndrome at least once.

Previous studies found one in ten people will experience the condition at least once in their lifetime, with women twice as likely to suffer than men. 

Dr Sharpless explained the disorder tends to come as a person is falling asleep, and doctors suspect it stems from problems with the brain shutting down.

When the brain goes to sleep, it's like a computer shutting down, with motor, sound and visual brain cells turning off in stages.

But instead of shutting down properly, the brain cells responsible for sound are thought to fire all at once, creating a blast of energy that the brain interprets as a loud noise.

'That's why you get these crazy-loud noises that you can't explain, and they're not actual noises in your environment,' Dr Sharpless said.

He also found more than a third of students who had exploding head syndrome also experienced isolated sleep paralysis, a frightening experience in which one cannot move or speak when waking up.

People with this condition will literally dream with their eyes wide open, he said.
While exploding head syndrome might sound funny, Dr Sharpless said it is actually extremely frightening.

It can lead to sleeping problems and worse: an attack may cause temporary tachycardia - a faster heart rate than normal - and palpitations.


Doctors suspect exploding head syndrome is caused by problems with the brain shutting down as a person is falling asleep. 

Dr Brian Sharpless, of Washington State University, explained when the brain goes to sleep, it's like a computer shutting down.

Motor, sound and visual brain cells turn off in stages.

But for people with exploding head syndrome, instead of shutting down properly, the brain cells responsible for sound are thought to fire all at once, creating a blast of energy that the brain interprets as a loud noise.

'That's why you get these crazy-loud noises that you can't explain, and they're not actual noises in your environment,' Dr Sharpless said.

In the longer term, it can also lead to panic disorder, depression and catastrophising, where patients misinterpret symptoms as signs of more serious conditions, such as a stroke. 

'Some people have worked these scary experiences into conspiracy theories and mistakenly believe the episodes are caused by some sort of directed-energy weapon,' he said.

Others are so bewildered by the experience that they don't even tell their spouse.

He said: 'They may think they're going crazy and they don't know that a good chunk of the population has had the exact same thing.'

In fact, he believes both exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis have been misinterpreted as unnatural events.

The waking dreams of people with sleep paralysis can make for convincing hallucinations, which might account for why some people in the Middle Ages would be convinced they saw demons or witches.

'In 21st century America, you have aliens,' Dr Sharpless said.

'For this scary noise you hear at night when there's nothing going on in your environment, well, it might be the government messing with you.'

Dr Sharpless is concerned with the lack of treatment for both exploding head syndrome and sleep paralysis.

However, researchers are trialling drugs that may be promising.

'One of the drugs they gave for exploding head syndrome actually didn't make the noises go away,' he said. 'It just turned the volume down.'

Many people are simply relieved to get a diagnosis and learn that they are not alone.

'There's the possibility that just being able to recognize it and not be afraid of it can make it better,' Dr Sharpless said.

The research was published online in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews.

28 March 2015

US "Loses" $500 Million In Weapons Given To Yemen, Now In Al-Qaeda Hands | Zero Hedge

US "Loses" $500 Million In Weapons Given To Yemen, Now In Al-Qaeda Hands | Zero Hedge:

Nobody could have possibly foreseen that yet another US foreign diplomacy "success story" would turn out to be an epic disaster. Well, nobody, except for those who accurately predict that every US intervention abroad is now a staggering fiasco (for everyone involved except the US military-industrial complex of course). As for Yemen, the outcome was clear long ago:
And, naturally, after noting that "the employees said that more than 20 vehicles were taken by the fighters after the Americans departed from Sanaa's airport" we asked how long until we have a "tabulation of losses to US taxpayers, just like the great Islamic State 'robbery' of hundreds of millions in US military equipment in Iraq?" That, of course, was another epic US intervention success story.
Anyway, thanks to WaPo we have an answer: according to Jeff Bezos' recent media acquisition, "the Pentagon is unable to account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid given to Yemen."
Obviously, "can't account for" means "has lost." But while the US does not know where nearly half a billion in weapons can be found, it is more than informed who is the current owner: there are "fears that the weaponry, aircraft and equipment is at risk of being seized by Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials."
And just like that, America's now laughable, pathetic foreign policy has not only resulted in another US-supported administration to be exiled or worse, but is has directly armed the adversary. And to think it was only 6 months ago when the Teleprompter in Chief was praising the "Yemen success story." From Obama's Statement on ISIL as of September 10, 2014:
Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL.  And any time we take military action, there are risks involved –- especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions.  But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.  This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.  This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.  And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year:  to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.
Some may find it odd then, that 6 months later this "strategy" has been flipped on its head, and the Obama administration is taking out its partners (in Yemen), while supporting the terrorists who threaten us.
But almost everyone will say this was obvious from day one.
Here is what else was obvious:
With Yemen in turmoil and its government splintering, the Defense Department has lost its ability to monitor the whereabouts of small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies donated by the United States. The situation has grown worse since the United States closed its embassy in Sanaa, the capital, last month and withdrew many of its military advisers.

U.S. firearms supplied to the Interior Ministry in Yemen, which has
$500 million in aid from the United States since 2007 under an
array of
Defense Department and State Department programs. (GAO)

In recent weeks, members of Congress have held closed-door meetings with U.S. military officials to press for an accounting of the arms and equipment. Pentagon officials have said that they have little information to go on and that there is little they can do at this point to prevent the weapons and gear from falling into the wrong hands.

“We have to assume it’s completely compromised and gone,” said a legislative aide on Capitol Hill who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

* * *

Washington has supplied more than $500 million in military aid to Yemen since 2007 under an array of Defense Department and State Department programs. The Pentagon and CIA have provided additional assistance through classified programs, making it difficult to know exactly how much Yemen has received in total.
Below is a graphic representation of all the equipment that has been "misplaced."
Another day for the US State Department under John Kerry, another day of endless embarrassment.
U.S. military officials declined to comment for the record. A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon, said there was no hard evidence that U.S. arms or equipment had been looted or confiscated. But the official acknowledged that the Pentagon had lost track of the items.

“Even in the best-case scenario in an unstable country, we never have 100 percent accountability,” the defense official said.
It gets better:
U.S. government officials say al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen poses a more direct threat to the U.S. homeland than any other terrorist group. To counter it, the Obama administration has relied on a combination of proxy forces and drone strikes launched from bases outside the country.
And now it is relying on an even more radical strategy: arming al-Qaeda directly.
But the absolute punchline is the way the US government justifies this most recent fiasco:
Although the loss of weapons and equipment already delivered to Yemen would be embarrassing, U.S. officials said it would be unlikely to alter the military balance of power there. Yemen is estimated to have the second-highest gun ownership rate in the world, ranking behind only the United States, and its bazaars are well stocked with heavy weaponry. Moreover, the U.S. government restricted its lethal aid to small firearms and ammunition, brushing aside Yemeni requests for fighter jets and tanks.
See, it's no biggie that US taxpayers are half a bill out of pocket: the Yemen branch of Al-Qaeda was already armed to the teeth anyway, peace out.
Up next? US-trained Ukraine troops with ultra-modern equipment mysteriously defect, and end up in the Russian army?
The winner? The US Military Industrial Complex, because as General Sline said in Spies Like Us, "a weapon unused is a useless weapon." And if there is anything the US military-industrial complex is good at, it is exporting war first courtesy of the CIA operating the in the shadows of incompetent figureheads like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, followed promptly - like in this case - by arms to fight it (while HSBC, JPM and others provide the funding).

09 March 2015

Emails May Be a Key to Addressing 'Pay-to-Play' Whispers at Clinton Foundation - NationalJournal.com

Emails May Be a Key to Addressing 'Pay-to-Play' Whispers at Clinton Foundation - NationalJournal.com:

March 8, 2015 "Follow the money." That apocryphal phrase, attributed to Watergate whistle-blower "Deep Throat," explains why the biggest threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential dreams is not her emails. It's her family foundation. That's where the money is: corporate money, foreign money, gobs of money sloshing around a vanity charity that could be renamed "Clinton Conflicts of Interest Foundation."

What about the emails? Hillary Clinton's secret communications cache is a bombshell deserving of full disclosure because of her assault on government transparency and electronic security. But its greatest relevancy is what the emails might reveal about any nexus between Clinton's work at State and donations to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation from U.S. corporations and foreign nations.

Under fire, Bill Clinton said his namesake charity has "done a lot more good than harm"—hardly a ringing endorsement. One of his longest-serving advisers, a person who had worked directly for the foundation, told me the "longtime whispers of pay-to-play are going to become shouts."

This person, a Clinton loyalist and credible source, has no evidence of wrongdoing but said the media's suspicions are warranted. "The emails are a related but secondary scandal," the source said. "Follow the foundation money."

(RELATED: In Clinton Woes, Republicans See Opportunity—and Peril)

Is the foundation clean? Is it corrupt? Or is the truth in the muddy middle, where we so often find the Clintons? Due to the fact that Hillary Clinton chose to skirt federal regulations and house her State Department emails on an off-the-books server, even the most loyal Democrat can't honestly answer those questions without an independent vetting of her electronic correspondence.

Without those emails, we may never be able to follow the money. Could that be why she hasn't coughed up the server?

Disclosure: I've known and respected the Clintons since the 1980s, when I covered state politics for the Arkansas Democrat (now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) and the Associated Press. Over the years, they've been kind to my family, and my career obviously benefited from their rise. Of all the public servants I've covered since moving to Washington in 1993, none approach the Clintons in terms of both strengths and weaknesses. While I've never called them corrupt (the Whitewater land deal was legitimate), I can tell you almost 30 years of stories about their entitlement, outsized victimization, and an aggravating belief in the ends justifying the means.

(RELATED: Hillary Clinton Still Doesn't Get It)

Which is why I wasn't surprised when veteran Clinton chronicler Todd S. Purdum of Politcocompared Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon.

Not even Clinton's harshest critics could claim that Servergate (or Chappaquadata, or whatever it may come to be called) constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor. But it does connote a reflexive wariness about her enemies—a wariness that sometimes seems to border on paranoia—that has long dogged Clinton, and that struck at least a few old Nixon hands as familiar …

"There is, of course," Purdum continued, "a bitter paradox in the fact that Clinton, as a young staffer on the House Judiciary Committee, actually worked on Nixon's impeachment."

I wonder what a young Hillary Clinton would think of a private charity run by a former U.S. president and a potential future president that collected hundreds of millions of dollars from countries and companies hoping to influence the pair. Actually, I don't wonder: She would think it smells.

And yet, a New York developer donated $100,000 to the foundation at about the same time Hillary Clinton helped secure millions of dollars in federal assistance for the businessman's mall project.

An aide close enough to Bill Clinton to be considered a surrogate son, Doug Band, set up Teneo, a company that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd calls "a scammy blend of corporate consulting, public relations, and merchant banking." Band recruited clients from the foundation donor list while encouraging others to donate. "Its marketing materials highlighted Mr. Band's relationship with Mr. Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, where Mr. Band sat on the board of directors through 2011 and remains as an advisers," according to a 2013 New York Times exposé.

Money came in. Favors went out. While there is no direct evidence of quid pro quo, the foundation and its namesakes created this perception problem. They own it.

Bill Clinton noted Saturday that the foundation discloses most of its donations, a level of transparency beyond strict legal requirements. Nobody can argue that the foundation doesn't save lives and do other good deeds. "You've got to decide when you do this work, whether it will do more good than harm if someone helps you from another country," the former president said.

But there was a reason why the Obama White House asked the foundation to stop taking foreign donations while she served as secretary of State. It looks unethical. It may be corrupt. And yet, shortly after she left the State Department to begin presidential planning, the foundation opened up the foreign-money spigot.

It never stopped taking money from favored corporations, and recently it entered into partnerships with "at least six banks that were under investigation, involved in litigation, or had been fined by government agencies and regulators," according to a CNN investigation.

What did these companies and countries expect in return for their cash? Did the Clintons promise any favors? Those are fair questions—not partisan questions and not media "gotcha" questions. The Clintons are responsible for the management of their foundation. Hillary Clinton is responsible for stashing her emails in a secret server. She is running for president. The rest of us should follow the money.

03 March 2015

Dogs Don't Remember

Dogs Don't Remember | Psychology Today:

Dogs are wonderful creatures. Our dogs recognize me and are always happy to see me. Dogs are also smart and successful creatures. Our dogs have learned several cute tricks. But dogs (and other non-human animals) are missing something we take for granted: episodic memory. Dogs don't remember what happened yesterday and don't plan for tomorrow.
In defining episodic memory, Endel Tulving argued that it is unique to humans. Experience influences all animals. Most mammals and birds can build complex sets of knowledge or semantic memory. You and I also remember the experience of learning these complex sets of information. Dogs don't.
Episodic remembering is mental time travel and depends on a few crucial cognitive capabilities. First, in order to experience episodic remembering, an individual must have a sense of self. Most non-human animals have a dramatically different experience of self than we do. For example, most animals (and young humans) fail to identify themselves in mirrors. If I look in a mirror and see that I have something stuck between my teeth, I try to correct the problem. (I also wonder why my friends didn't tell me I had something stuck between my teeth.) In contrast, put a red dot on a child's forehead, put the child in front of a mirror, and watch what happens. Young children are more likely to reach for the baby in the mirror than for their own foreheads. Dogs treat the dog in the mirror as another dog; not as themselves. Most animals fail at the red dot mirror task.
A self concept is not, however, enough to ensure episodic remembering. Mental time travel is the other critical cognitive capability. I understand that yesterday is different from today and that tomorrow will be different as well. We realize that when we remember, the mental experience is a disjointed slice of time. Thus episodic remembering is the combination of a self concept and mental time travel: recollecting the self in that other time period. Mental time travel also enables planning for the future. Dogs don't plan forparticular future events although they have a general expectation of when dinner will appear.
Tulving also argued that since episodic memory in a recent evolutionary development, it is particularly likely to suffer damage and loss. Anterograde amnesia is the failure to encode and remember new episodic memories. Anterograde amnesiacs can learn from single experiences without recollecting the experience. They retain a clear sense of self, but they have difficulty with time as personally experienced. Because they lack episodic memory, they can't recall what occurred just before the present moment and constantly feel like they just woke up. If you meet an anterograde amnesiac, leave the room, and return after 10 minutes, you'll remember having met the individual, but the amnesiac won't remember having met you.
My dogs display this particular failure of episodic remembering. If I walk into the backyard, the dogs are overjoyed to see me and act like they haven't seen me for days. If I stay in the backyard, they quickly become bored with me. If I go inside and return after 10-15 minutes, my dogs are overjoyed to see me and act like they haven't seen me in days. They don't remember that I was in the backyard just a few minutes ago.
Arguing against Tulving's notion that episodic remembering is unique to humans is hard. Showing the impact of a single experience is not enough. Even without episodic memory, humans can show the impact of single events. Anterograde amnesiacs can learn fear, learn new skills, and gain new conceptual knowledge. Normal humans also gain knowledge without remembering when and where they learned the information (see my earlier post on Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before).
Although I appreciate Tulving's conception of episodic memory, I've always been troubled by the difficulty of documenting that other animals have episodic memory. Episodic remembering hinges on the conscious experience of the self in some other time and place. Episodic memory is thus hard to demonstrate without the verbal ability to describe conscious experience.
Nonetheless, in a recent edited volume (The Missing Link in Cognition: Origins of Self Reflective Consciousness, edited by Terrance and Metcalf), several individuals have taken up the challenge. In my next post, I'll present the counter-argument: Dogs don't remember, but maybe chimps do. Since some non-human primates can perform self recognition with mirrors, they may perform episodic remembering. Even if they can't describe their memories, chimps may engage in mental time travel. My dogs, however, are stuck in an eternal present.