MonthFebruary 2012

The Great Adderall Shortage

Kelly Bourdet writes for Vice Motherboard:

To prevent hoarding of materials and their potential for theft and illicit use, the Drug Enforcement Agency sets quotas for the chemical precursors to drugs like Adderall. The DEA projects the need for amphetamine salts, then produces and distributes the materials to pharmaceutical companies so that they can produce their drugs. But with the number of prescriptions for Adderall jumping 13 percent in the past year, pharmaceutical companies claim that the quotas are no longer sufficient for supplying Americans with their Adderall.

I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t known how these drugs work:

Despite the millions of prescriptions written each year for ADHD, the scientific community isn’t entirely in agreement on how these drugs actually work. Ritalin increases focus and energy through inhibiting the re-uptake of both dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These neurotransmitters then remain in the synapse longer, and their effects are felt in the form of heightened focus and awareness. Adderall, however, works via a slightly different mechanism. While it’s postulated that Adderall also inhibits the re-uptake of these same neurotransmitters, amphetamines also trigger the release of dopamine. This affects the brain’s reward mechanisms, so it’s not only easier to focus on mundane or repetitive tasks, it can also feel positively delightful to do so.

Motherboard: Anatomy of the Great Adderall Drought

The article also goes into some of the shadier aspects of the shortage – such as Shire’s missed shipments to competitors and the creation of its newer, more expensive alternative Vyvanse.

Why so much demand? From a recent Portland Tribune article:

Ritalin and Adderol are commonly prescribed for attention deficit disorder. But a recent study showed that as many as one in four students at an Ivy League university were using one of the two not because they had a diagnosis, but because it helped them study.

And it’s not just the students:

“I’ve had several colleagues say to me, ‘You’re a stupid guy if you’re not using Ritalin to stay up all night.’ You’re much more productive, your career takes off much faster,” says Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.

Zak isn’t sure that those Ivy League students and his college professor colleagues are doing anything wrong.

“I’m very conflicted,” he says.

And, on the subject Adderall, here’s an interesting paper: When we enhance cognition with Adderall, do we sacrifice creativity? A preliminary study. The study concluded that Adderall might actually improve creativity for those who score poorly on tests of creativity (for some background on creativity testing see here).

Welcome to the Acid Age

From a press release issued by the United States Geological Survey:

Human use of Earth’s natural resources is making the air, oceans, freshwaters, and soils more acidic, according to a U.S. Geological Survey – University of Virginia study available online in the journal, Applied Geochemistry.

This comprehensive review, the first on this topic to date, found the mining and burning of coal, the mining and smelting of metal ores, and the use of nitrogen fertilizer are the major causes of chemical oxidation processes that generate acid in the Earth-surface environment.

These widespread activities have increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing the acidity of oceans; produced acid rain that has increased the acidity of freshwater bodies and soils; produced drainage from mines that has increased the acidity of freshwater streams and groundwater; and added nitrogen to crop lands that has increased the acidity of soils.

The United States Geological Survey: Earth’s Acidity Rising – Major Causes and Shifting Trends Examined to Guide Future Mitigation Efforts

(via Doc Searls)

You can find the study here (I’ve not read it).

A few thoughts, assuming this study, and the description of i, is accurate:

1) I’ve argued for a while that even if global warming isn’t real, or if humans aren’t causing it, most of the tasks associated with trying to slow or stop it are still worth while (see: What If We Created a Better World for Nothing?). This study seems to confirm that.

2) I was skeptical about the value of organic farming, but this essay by Manuel Delanda convinced me that there is value there, if nothing else, in reducing dependence on external sources for fertilizers, therefore creating more resilience for organic farms (but I still think it’s an overhyped, poorly defined term mostly used by large corporations to bilk customers into paying more for food). This study presents another reason to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizers.

If Male Superheroes Were Drawn Like Female Superheroes

Metafilter has a great round-up of depictions of male comic characters depicted the same way female characters typically are (See here if you don’t understand why all those beefy Hulk-like characters aren’t equivalent to the way women are portrayed in comics, though yes I do think there are pop cultural portrayals of men that are also problematic).

For example, this one by kevinbolk:

… which is a parody of this Avengers poster.

There’s also a gallery at Gammasquad, which features gems such as these:

I’ll add to this list these images from a great Comics Bulletin article:

Green Lantern objectified

Also, this was a real New X-Men cover:

I wonder what the mainstream fan reaction was. Anyway, it seems to be a real outlier.

So why does this matter? Marvel and DC are free to publish whatever trash they see fit, and the fans are free to buy it. And if males are having their perceptions of women warped, actual pornography is probably much more damaging. And for females, there are far more damaging portrayals of women in mass advertising campaigns, where women actually see them. Can’t avoid seeing them, actually. And really, not that many women will ever see most many of these comic book images.

I guess that’s what bothers me – seeing the comics industry slit its own throat. Here’s a great comic from Shortpacked about why the Starfire reboot was stupid from a business perspective. That Comics Bulletin piece breaks it down as well.

But would comics with less absurd women actually sell? Well, first of all even as a male comics reader you could be put off by this stuff, even if you’re not in the least bit gender progressive. As someone pointed out in the Metafilter comments, stuff like the Starfire comics would be downright embarrassing to be seen reading in public in a way that something like a Sandman comic wouldn’t. You could be the most sexist, body-negative mofo on the planet and still not want to buy this stuff.

Also, let’s take a look at some (relative) recent comics history. Look at these covers from Harbinger from the early 90s (actually that last one is the cover to a more recently published collected edition, I think):

Harbinger, now nearly forgotten, was one of the hottest titles of the early 90s. Yes, there’s a scantily clad woman there, but there’s also a bigger girl – something that wasn’t often seen then or now (though the fact that her name was Zepplin ["blimp," get it?] doesn’t really help matters). The Valiant Comics line had a meteoric rise, with both commercial and critical success. Those books sold well in a climate where comics it competed with stuff like this:

I don’t know the history of Valiant’s demise, but it was after it was sold to the video game company Acclaim. Even before the sale, the company was starting to “Image-ize” its comics with titles like Bloodshot and Ninjak. But those old Valiant books, from before the acquisition and before the Image-ization, had a huge following and proved that there was a market comics featuring something other than the cartoonishly distorted anatomies of the Image founders.

I suppose, given the recent shabby treatment towards creators on Marvel’s part and the history of abuses by DC, I should be happy to see those companies self-destruct. It’s probably just nostalgia keeping me from wanting to see these corporations get eaten in the market. On the other hand, the comic industry in general hinges in a lot of ways on those two big companies and I don’t think it would necessarily be a good thing for smaller publishers to see Marvel and DC implode any further.

See also:

Escher Girls: Redrawing Embarrassing Comic Book Women

Leah Moore on Women in Comics

Researchers Say Humans Didn’t Wipe Out the Neanderthals

new xmen neanderthals

I thought the idea that humans killed off the Neanderthals was already losing currency. And now a paper published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution casts more doubt on that particular hypothesis.

i09′s Alasdair Wilkins summarizes:

A team of Spanish and Swedish researchers say that new DNA evidence paints a far grimmer view of the state of Neanderthals. Their analysis suggests the Neanderthal population had crashed 50,000 years ago, and a relatively small band of survivors then recolonized central and western Europe before their final end 20,000 years later. In a statement, Love Dalén of the Swedish Museum of Natural History explained what they discovered:

Instead the paper’s authors suggest climate change had a greater impact on neanderthals than previously thought.

Alasdair Wilkins writes: “This also raises the question of just how humans would have really fared against a Neanderthal population at full strength. I’m sensing some pretty serious alternate history fodder here…”

i09: The extinction of Neanderthals had nothing to do with us

Image from New X-Men

The Atlantic: Stratfor Was Always a Joke

It’s clear now that, much like HBGary before it (see: Inside the World of Wannabe Cyberspooks for Hire) private security research firm Stratfor is a joke.

But according to The Atlantic International Editor Max Fisher, Stratfor was always a joke in the foreign policy community:

The group’s reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight. As a former recipient of their “INTEL REPORTS” (I assume someone at Stratfor signed me up for a trial subscription, which appeared in my inbox unsolicited), what I found was typically some combination of publicly available information and bland “analysis” that had already appeared in the previous day’s New York Times. A friend who works in intelligence once joked that Stratfor is just The Economist a week later and several hundred times more expensive. As of 2001, a Stratfor subscription could cost up to $40,000 per year.

Fisher also chide Wikileaks for buying into Stratfor’s marketing hype:

It’s true that Stratfor employs on-the-ground researchers. They are not spies. On today’s Wikileaks release, one Middle East-based NGO worker noted on Twitter that when she met Stratfor’s man in Cairo, he spoke no Arabic, had never been to Egypt before, and had to ask her for directions to Tahrir Square. Stratfor also sometimes pays “sources” for information. Wikileaks calls this “secret cash bribes,” hints that this might violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and demands “political oversight.”

For comparison’s sake, The Atlantic often sends our agents into such dangerous locales as Iran or Syria. We call these men and women “reporters.” Much like Statfor’s agents, they collect intelligence, some of it secret, and then relay it back to us so that we may pass it on to our clients, whom we call “subscribers.” Also like Stratfor, The Atlantic sometimes issues “secret cash bribes” to on-the-ground sources, whom we call “freelance writers.” We also prefer to keep their cash bribes (“writer’s fees”) secret, and sometimes these sources are even anonymous.

The Atlantic: Stratfor Is a Joke and So Is Wikileaks for Taking It Seriously

I suppose much of that depends on whether these payments were made to, as Fisher suggests, freelance researchers/writers, or to, as Wikileaks implies, to government officials and employees. The Stratfor employee mentioned by that NGO worker may not be the only type of “informant” on the company’s pay role.

(via Alex Burns)

See also:

Inside the World of Wannabe Cyberspooks for Hire

Anonymous Publishes E-Mail Saying Stratfor CEO to Resign Over Wikileaks E-Mail Dump

Anonymous Reveals Private Intelligence Firm Stratfor Infiltrated Occupy Austin

Anonymous Publishes E-Mail Saying Stratfor CEO to Resign Over Wikileaks E-Mail Dump

From SiliconAngle:

Wikileaks has returned with an astonishing release of more than five million emails from Stratfor, a Texas-based security intelligence company that is associated with CIA type of operations. The company has been the target of hackers in recent months. Though Wikileaks has not stated how it acquired the large cache of information, Anonymous members boasted of their partnership with Wikileaks in releasing this information.

The article quotes one of the Wikileaks dumps:

“Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to “utilise the intelligence” it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. [...] CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS: “What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like””

Anonymous has posted an e-mail purported to be Stratfor CEO George Friedman’s resignation from the company.

SiliconAngle:Stratfor CEO to resign after Wikileaks releases 5mil emails – covert operations exposed

See also:

Anonymous Reveals Private Intelligence Firm Stratfor Infiltrated Occupy Austin

Alex Burns on the Creation of The Book of Oblique Strategies

Alex Burns, who was editor of Disinformation from 1998 to 2008, has made his work The Book of Oblique Strategies available online as a free PDF. It’s not so much a work on Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s famous deck. Alex describes it as a channeled work in the vein of Aleister Crowley’s Book of Lies.

In addition to the work, Alex has explained how he came to write it and its significance to him. I don’t really understand the work itself and haven’t read the list of prerequisites that Alex suggested. But I appreciate the insight into Alex’s life and work and think anyone else who was shaped by Disinfo during his tenure as editor will appreciate it as well. Characteristic of Alex’s work at Disinfo, the write-up is more link dense Memepool and contains a huge number of references connecting seemingly disparate people and ideas.

My life changed dramatically in the next month. I hit a series of simultaneous inflection points or a Black Swan event cascade that overshadowed the document. REVelation Magazine folded and could not publish my interview with the late ethno-botanist Terence McKenna. 21C Magazine folded and could not publish my interview with space migration advocate Marshall Savage. The real estate sold out the rental house from beneath us. The relationship broke up. The 20th anniversary loomed of my mother’s death in a car accident on 28th March 1978. I experienced a period of referential ideation and had a nervous breakdown that my family helped me to recover from. I then struggled to pull together freelance magazine articles. When reconciliation was impossible with my former girlfriend, I attempted suicide (which influenced a later article on the Nine Inch Nails album The Fragile). A few months later I started to correspond with Richard Metzger and to write for the Disinformation alternative news site. I attended an academic seminar on process philosophy. Sean Healy invited me to This Is Not Art. I negotiated re-enrolling in my undergraduate degree on film and politics. Hence, the ‘Ordeals of Transmutation Fire.’

Alex Burns: The Book of Oblique Strategies

Crack the Surface: Free Documentary Series on Urban Exploration

Crack The Surface – Episode I from SilentUK on Vimeo.

Crack The Surface – Episode II from SilentUK on Vimeo.

Produced in association with:

silentuk.com
sub-urban.com
placehacking.co.uk
prourbex.com

Previously: Urban Exploration

Wyoming Considering So-Called “Doomsday Bill”

State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.

House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.

Casper Tribune: Wyoming House advances doomsday bill

This may sound like wingnut survivalist paranoia, but this is pretty interesting. Much of the state quite vulnerable to system shocks. Services ranging from food shipping to postal mail processing depend on out of state resources. The state is extremely petroleum dependent, so gas shortages would hit people hard. I’ve been told that although Wyoming produces huge amounts of coal, but is highly dependent on out of state resources for electricity (but I’m not sure that’s true).

Have any other states proposed official bills for state resilience?

See also: Resilient communities with Jeremy O’Leary – the Technoccult Interview

Update: This has already been shot down.

Government Proposes to Forbid London Urban Explorers From Speaking To Each Other for 10 Years

Last year four members of the London Consolidation Crew were caught exploring the abandoned platforms of Aldwych tube station four days before the Royal Wedding. They were let off with a warning. But now Transport for London is trying to stop the group from even associating with each other:

Last month TfL applied to issue anti-social behaviour orders which would not only stop them undertaking further expeditions and blogging about urban exploration but also prohibit them from carrying equipment that could be used for exploring after dark. Extraordinarily, it also stipulates they should not be allowed to speak to each other for the duration of the order – 10 years. [...]

For Garrett, part of the goal is helping to iron out the security loopholes they exploit. But this “service to the city” has proved a double-edged sword. “What this all comes down to is the Olympics because what we’re doing could make London’s security seem weak, which is embarrassing for TfL,” he says.

“But rather than stifling our free speech to tell Londoners there are security weaknesses all over the system, they should probably call us and bring us on as consultants to help fill these gaps.”

Guardian: Underground ghost station explorers spook the security services

See Also:

Place Hacking, a blog on urban exploration with tons of photographs and videos.

Night Vision

This news story on Ningunismo and the late Agent 222 (aka Roy Khalidbahn aka Rodrigo Sierra)

© 2014 Technoccult

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑