December 2003

No posts for a few weeks.

by Limbic on December 18, 2003

Dear Readers,

I will be away until 9th January 2004. I am off to India for an extended vacation. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year.




Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight.
Taylor SE, Klein LC, Lewis BP, Gruenewald TL, Gurung RA, Updegraff JA.

Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles 90095-1563, USA.

The human stress response has been characterized, both physiologically and behaviorally, as “fight-or-flight.” Although fight-or-flight may characterize the primary physiological responses to stress for both males and females, we propose that, behaviorally, females’ responses are more marked by a pattern of “tend-and-befriend.” Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process. The biobehavioral mechanism that underlies the tend-and-befriend pattern appears to draw on the attachment-caregiving system, and neuroendocrine evidence from animal and human studies suggests that oxytocin, in conjunction with female reproductive hormones and endogenous opioid peptide mechanisms, may be at its core. This previously unexplored stress regulatory system has manifold implications for the study of stress.


Africa isn’t dying of Aids [Spectator]

by Limbic on December 18, 2003

“The headline figures are horrible: almost 30 million Africans have HIV/Aids. But, says Rian Malan, the figures are computer-generated estimates and they appear grotesquely exaggerated when set against population statistics.”

Same over here. Every year a new influx of HIV/AIDS infected Asians and Africans immigrants arrive in the UK and push up the “infection rates” which causes predictable hand wringing about the young ignoring safe sex messages. When will interest groups stop lying about this sort of thing? It causes needless worry and generates expensive campaigns targeting non-problems.

Given the number of victims, AIDS is massively over funded and massively exaggerated as a threat. More people die of Malaria very year than AIDS.

Beyonce and Bono teaming up to beat the mozzies. Not any time soon….


Not the least of the casualties of the Iraq war is the death of anti-fascism. Patriots could oppose Bush and Blair by saying that it wasn’t in Britain’s interests to follow America. Liberals could put the UN first and insist that the United States proved its claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the court of world opinion. Adherents to both perspectives were free to tell fascism’s victims, ‘We’re sorry to leave you under a tyranny and realise that many more of you will die, but that’s your problem.’

The Left, which has been formally committed to the Enlightenment ideal of universal freedom for two centuries, couldn’t bring itself to be as honest. Instead millions abandoned their comrades in Iraq and engaged in mass evasion. If you think that it was asking too much to expect it to listen to people in Iraq when they said there was no other way of ending 35 years of oppression, consider the sequel. Years after the war, the Kurdish survivors of genocide and groups from communists through to conventional democrats had the right to expect fraternal support against the insurgency by the remnants of the Baath Party. They are being met with indifference or active hostility because they have committed the unforgivable sin of cooperating with the Americans. For the first time in its history the Left has nothing to say to the victims of fascism. MORE


This interesting Kinship Chart has been published by people who have married their cousins and want to show they are not incestuous, but it is a handy tool for working out geneological relations.


Chirac backs ban on headscarves [BBC]

by Limbic on December 18, 2003

“French President Jacques Chirac has voiced support for a law that would ban the wearing of headscarves in schools.”

I think Liberty out to trump secularism, but I think this is the right decision.


“A political scientist at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico has devised a mathematical method that could help civil-war negotiators to find the most stable peace treaties.

Elisabeth Wood calculates that a settlement will be stronger and more likely to last if it finds the ideal way to apportion the stakes. For example, if two warring factions each want control of some part of a disputed region, negotiators need to divide the territory in a way that comes closest to satisfying them both.

This doesn’t guarantee that neither party will fight on in the hope of gaining more. But it may lead them to decide that further fighting will not substantially improve the eventual outcome.” MORE


“A new immunization strategy could help to prevent disease epidemics without blanket vaccination, suppress computer viruses, and even break up terrorist networks. At least, so say its designers.

All you need do is choose people at random and treat some of their friends, suggest Reuven Cohen, of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, and his colleagues.” MORE


Magnificent revenege visited on this idiotic 419 scammer. With photos. Here is the story.

Also see:

Polly Toynbee caught out by 419 scam [Guardian]

There is a smart catch difference to this 419, namely, once the 419ers have your signature and bank details (you have handed these over to get your goods), and you go cold on them (perhaps after realising the spoof) they attempt to instruct your bank to deposit money into their account

With embarrassment, feeling a fool, I admit I was a victim of a Nigerian fraud. Looking back now, I can’t think why I was so easily taken in but I did make a reasonable check. A hand-written letter arrived from a Nigerian 14-year-old called Sandra. It was nicely written on a religious school’s headed paper, though not too perfect, telling me her sad story. Both her parents had died and she had to complete her last two years of school. Her results were good, and it would only cost £100 a year for the last two years to cover the cost. I wrote back and I also wrote to her headmaster, whose name appeared on the school letterhead, at a PO box. He wrote back in more adult handwriting to say Sandra was indeed a needy and promising student, and he enclosed her last term’s report. It was an impressive document, each subject carefully filled in by a teacher with different writing, giving an excellent but not over-the-top report, with some subjects subtly lagging a bit behind. So I sent a cheque for £200 and received another of Sandra’s letters, a bit too full of God’s mercy and Jesus’s blessings for my taste. I had an idea I might keep in touch with her to see what became of her. If I had any doubts, £200 was a modest sum for all the effort a fraudster took to create these letters.

Not long afterwards my bank received a letter with a perfect copy of my signature, giving my bank account numbers, asking for £1,000 to be transferred at once to a bank in Osaka, Japan. Luckily, the bank thought to ring me up and query it. It turned out that a host of recent scams had asked for money to be transferred to Japan and the police had alerted all banks. It took me a little while to work out how they got my signature and my bank details, but then it clicked. Sure enough, when I reported it to the police, they laughed. They knew the Sandra letters very well and the real purpose was to sting the victim’s bank account. It happened again last week when my bank got another request for a £1,000 transfer to Japan and I do feel a fool. Looking back at the letters now, I can see it all. For heaven’s sake, she even said both her parents had died of the ebola flesh-eating virus.”


Selling Directly to the Mind [The Scientist]

by Limbic on December 11, 2003

Reproduced from The Scientist:

You see a sweater for sale and think, “I have to have that!” Clint Kilts wants to know why.

Kilts, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, is investigating the underlying neural organization that governs personal preferences and the decision-making process. Regarding a product, there’s not a lot of conscious deliberation, he says. People decide quickly whether they like something.

Kilts and scientists at BrightHouse Institute for Thought Sciences in Atlanta asked people to look at ads of familiar products and to envision themselves using them. Meanwhile, researchers scanned the subjects’ brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging. They determined that neural activity increased in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region linked to self-identity, when people saw products that promoted a positive personal response. They observed activity in different brain areas when subjects viewed products they disliked.

The team plans to publish its results within the next few months. BrightHouse is funding its own research.

Companies could benefit from knowing how consumers identify with their products, Kilts says. “It’s surprising how little of business ‘research’ is done according to the scientific method,” he says, citing the ineptitude of focus groups and public surveys. BrightHouse’s approach, which is based on Kilts’ research (known as neuromarketing), is already attracting some advertisers. Kilts declined to identify who they are.

Helen Mayberg, a psychiatrist who recently joined Emory’s psychiatry department, sees broader applications for this research. “People who are depressed see things in the world as being negative as applied to them,” she says. “Where they make those connections is important.” –Maria W. Anderson