Monday, March 31, 2014

Suicide Barrier on Golden Gate Bridge?

 Even if they approve a barrier, how long until it is installed? My guess: July 2018


Last year was a record: 46 people plunged to their deaths from the majestic orange bridge. Bridge workers stopped 118 others. That is a suicide or an attempt almost every other day at what is the most popular suicide spot in the nation, and among the most popular in the world.
Unlike the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Golden Gate lacks a suicide barrier.
For 60 years, the directors of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, reflecting the live-and-let-live ethos that animates this city, never agreed to build a barrier. Now, with the numbers of suicides rising — the country has more annually than traffic fatalities — and the ages of those jumping here declining, they are moving forward.
As early as late May, the directors are expected to reverse longstanding policy and vote in favor of using toll money in addition to federal and state funds for a suicide barrier.
The plan calls for a $66 million stainless-steel net system 20 feet below the sidewalk. Over the years, much concern has been expressed about marring the bridge’s beauty; the barrier will be invisible from most angles. Many critics continue to assert that suicidal people will always find another way. Experts who have appeared before the board explained that the suicidal impulse is typically fleeting.
In a 1978 study, “Where Are They Now?” Richard H. Seiden, a former professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, looked at the question of whether someone prevented from committing suicide in one place would go somewhere else. He studied people who attempted suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge from 1937 to 1971 and found that more than 90 percent were still alive in 1978.
Suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge are trending younger.
Until recently, the largest group of Golden Gate Bridge suicides was ages 35 to 45, said Capt. Lisa Locati of the Golden Gate Bridge, who oversees bridge security. “Now, it’s 20- to 30-year-olds,” she said.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

They Can't Take That Away From Me -- Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (George Gershwin)

The way you wear your hat.
The way you sip your tea.
The memory of all that -
No, no - they can't take that away from me.

The way your smile just beams.
The way you sing off-key.
The way you haunt my dreams.
No, no - they can't take that away from me.

We may never, never meet again
On that bumpy road to love
Still I'll always,
Always keep the memory of...

The way you hold your knife (do-do-do-do do-do).
The way we danced until three.
The way you've changed my life.
No, no - they can't take that away from me.
No, they can't take that away from me.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Night and Day -- Fred Astaire (Cole Porter, 1932)

Night and day, you are the one
Only you 'neath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me or far
It's no matter, darling, where you are
I think of you day and night

Night and day, why is it so
That this longin' for you follows wherever I go ?
In the roarin' traffic's boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you day and night

Night and day, under the hide of me
There's an oh, such a hungry yearnin' burnin' inside of me
And its torment won't be through
Till you let me spend my life makin' love to you
Day and night, night and day


Night and day, you are the one
Only you 'neath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me or far
It's no matter, baby, where you are
I think of you day and night

Night and day, why is it so
That this longin' for you follows wherever I go ?
In the roarin' traffic's boom
Silence of my lonely room
I think of you day and night

Night and day, under the hide of me
There's an oh, such a hungry burning inside of me
And its torment won't be through
Till you let me spend life makin' love to you
Day and night, night and day

Friday, March 28, 2014

Twentynine Palms Marines more likely to die in US than on deployment

Desert Sun

The Desert Sun has spent the last year investigating the lives, and untimely deaths, of Marines at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms. Here are some of our key findings:
• Since 2007, the base in Twentynine Palms has suffered more non-hostile deaths, like car crashes and suicides, than war fatalities. Sixty service members from the base have died in war zones in the Middle East, but at least 64 have died on American soil, mostly in the High Desert, while stationed or training at the base.
• Marines at the Twentynine Palms base have been significantly more likely to be killed in an off-duty vehicle accident than their counterparts at other Marine bases. As of 2002, Marines at Twentynine Palms were three times more likely to die in a traffic crash than the average Marine. Safety measures have made crashes less frequent in recent years, but the base maintains one of the highest fatal crash rates in the Marine Corps.
• Marines who commit suicide while at the Twentynine Palms base are nearly twice as likely to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of their death. Of the 15 Marines who committed suicide at the base between 2007 and 2012, seven had alcohol in their system at the time of death. This is nearly double the percentage reported by the Marine Corps as a whole. The base suffers an annual suicide rate of about two deaths per year, matching the Marine Corps average of 19 deaths per 100,000 troops. The civilian rate is 12 deaths per 100,000.
• In one particularly troubling case, a Marine at Twentynine Palms died after military doctors prescribed him six separate medications for post traumatic stress disorder. The Marine died of "multiple drug toxicity," and his death was ruled an accident.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Classic videos for Intro Psych: Asch Conformity


Asch, S. E., Effects of Group Pressure Upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgements. In H. Guetzkow (ed.) Groups, Leadership, and Men, 1951.This is a summary of the famous Asch experiment where subjects were placed with a group of confederates who gave different measurements of a line than was reality. Asch measured whether the subject would modify their interpretation based on the majority opinion.

The test objective was to study "the social and personal conditions that induce individuals to resit or to yield to group pressures when the latter are perceived to be contrary to fact.

A group of eight individuals (one subject and seven confederates) sat in a room and verbally stated which of three unequal lines matched a given line. The subject was seated so that he made his verbal judgement last. In most cases the confederates and subject agreed, but in certain cases the confederates all agreed on a wrong answer.

The "majority effect" was measured as the % of responses that erroneously conformed to the majority. They also tried to ascertain whether the subject was aware of the majority effect on him and why they acceded to group opinion. They also watched the reaction of the subject when the experiment was revealed. All subjects and confederates were male college students.

Initial Results
About one third of the responses conformed to the erroneous majority (compared to almost no errors in the control group). Some subjects always defied the group, some always went along with them. 25% were completely independent, 33% were more than half with the erroneous majority. Some were completely confident throughout, some were disoriented and confused.

The independent subjects were categorized as 1) confident in their differences 2)withdrawn and 3)considerable tension and doubt, but adhere to their views

The yielding subjects could be categorized as 1)distorted perception who believed the majority estimates as correct 2)distortionof judgement -- they believe their own perceptions are inaccurate (they have primary doubt and lack of confidence). 3)Distortion of action -- they believe the group is wrong but conform to avoid being different.

Experimental Variations

The effect of "ununanimous" majorities

In one variation, they added one more subject at position 4. This reduced the % of errors from 32% to 10%. In another variation, having one confederate give right answers throughout reduced it to 5.5%.

This shows that even a minimal amount of dissenting support is enough to give people confidence in their opinions against the majority. The researchers found that even a unanimous majority of only three is better than 8 with one dissenter.

The effect of withdrawal of a "true partner"
Surprisingly, if a confederate who was answering correctly "defects" back to the majority halfway through, the % of with-the-majority responses returns from 5.5 to 28.5%.

The effect of late arrival of a "true partner".
If a confederate answering with the majority changes to answering truly, the rate of majority response drops down to 8.5%.

The effect of a "compromise partner" (who answered with majority sometimes, correctly sometimes).
This reduced the rate of majority response but not significantly.

The effect of majority size.
They varied the number of confederates from 1,2,3,4,8, and 10-15 persons. There was no majority effect with only one other person. There was a small change with two people, and nearly the full amount with three confederates. There was little change above three confederates.

Interestingly, in one condition they put 16 naive persons in a room and had two confedrates give wrong answers. The group responded with amusement at their errors.

They also found that the degree of independence increases with the deviation of the majority from the truth. However, even big differenes didn't create complete independence. They also concur with other researchers that the effect of majority opinion increases with decreased clarity in a situation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Classic videos for Intro Psych: Milgram and Zimbardo

1. Milgram's Obedience Studies

It is ironic that virtues of loyalty, discipline, and self-sacrifice that we value so highly in the individual are the very properties that create destructive organizational engines of war and bind men to malevolent systems of authority. The aftermath of the Holocaust and the events leading up to World War II, the world was stunned with the happenings in Nazi German and their acquired surrounding territories that came out during the Eichmann Trials. Eichmann, a high ranking official of the Nazi Party, was on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The questions is, "Could it be that Eichmann, and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?" (Milgram, 1974)

Milgram answered the call to this problem by performing a series of studies on obedience to authority. Typically, two individuals show up for a study and are taken to a room where one is strapped in a chair to prevent movement and an electrode is placed on his arm. Next, the other person who is called the "teacher" is taken to an adjoining room where he is instructed to read a list of two word pairs and ask the "learner" to read them back. If the "learner" gets the answer correct, then they move on to the next word. If the answer is incorrect, the "teacher" is supposed to shock the "learner" starting at 15 volts and going up to 450 volts, in 15 volt increments. The "teacher" automatically is supposed to increase the shock each time the "learner" misses a word in the list. Although the "teachers" thought that they were administering shocks to the "learners", the "learners" were actually confederates who were never actually harmed. The theory that only those on the sadistic fringe of society would submit to [commit] such cruelty is disclaimed. Findings show that, "two-thirds of this studies participants fall into the category of "obedient" subjects, and that they represent ordinary people drawn from the working, managerial, and professional classes". Ultimately 65% of all of the "teachers" punished the "learners" to the maximum 450 volts. (Milgram, 1974)


2.Stanford Prison Experiment (Zimbardo)
The Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) took place in 1971. Young men were divided into the roles of Prisoner and Guard and put in a prison-like environment in the basement of the Psychology Department at Stanford University. The study was meant to last two weeks. But the brutality of the Guards and the suffering of the Prisoners was so intense that it had to be terminated after only six days.
The study provided a graphic illustration of the power of situations to shape individuals' behaviour. Zimbardo argued that the Guards acted the way they did because they conformed blindly to their assigned role, as did he in his position as Prison Superintendent:
Guard aggression … was emitted simply as a ‘natural’ consequence of being in the uniform of a ‘guard’ and asserting the power inherent in that role.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Antidepressants or Exercise?

Percent of patients in each condition six months after treatment.(Psychosomatic Medicine)

Depression is the most common mental illness—affecting a staggering 25 percent of Americans—but a growing body of research suggests that one of its best cures is cheap and ubiquitous. In 1999, a randomized controlled trial showed that depressed adults who took part in aerobic exercise improved as much as those treated with Zoloft. A 2006 meta-analysis of 11 studies bolstered those findings and recommended that physicians counsel their depressed patients to try it. A 2011 study took this conclusion even further: It looked at 127 depressed people who hadn’t experienced relief from SSRIs, a common type of antidepressant, and found that exercise led 30 percent of them into remission—a result that was as good as, or better than, drugs alone.

Though we don’t know exactly how any antidepressant works, we think exercise combats depression by enhancing endorphins: natural chemicals that act like morphine and other painkillers. There’s also a theory that aerobic activity boosts norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood. And like antidepressants, exercise helps the brain grow new neurons.

But this powerful, non-drug treatment hasn’t yet become a mainstream remedy. In a 2009 study, only 40 percent of depressed patients reported being counseled to try exercise at their last physician visit.
Instead, Americans are awash in pills. The use of antidepressants has increased 400 percent between 1988 and 2008. They’re now one of the three most-prescribed categories of drugs, coming in right after painkillers and cholesterol medications.

Monday, March 24, 2014

"Advising Suicide is No Crime," says Minnesota Court

Sadistic creep.


"Encouraging someone to commit suicide is not a crime, Minnesota’s high court ruled Wednesday, reversing the conviction of a nurse who urged people to hang themselves and let him watch via webcam.

William F. Melchert-Dinkel had been found guilty under a law that made it illegal to “advise, encourage, or assist” in a suicide.

The Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that advising or encouraging suicide was speech protected by the First Amendment and carved the words from the statute.

“We conclude that the State may prosecute Melchert-Dinkel for assisting another in committing suicide, but not for encouraging or advising another to commit suicide,” wrote Justice G. Barry Anderson for the majority.

The Rice County Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, and a lawyer for Mr. Melchert-Dinkel didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Melchert-Dinkel had posed online as a suicidal female nurse, building bonds with others who were contemplating death.

He pressed Mark Drybrough in England and Ottawa native Nadia Kajouji to hang themselves and to allow him to watch on webcam. Mr. Melchert-Dinkel made suicide pacts with both, according to court documents.

Mr. Drybrough, 32 years old, hanged himself in his bedroom in 2005. Ms. Kajouji, 19 years old, jumped off a bridge to her death in 2008.

Mr. Melchert-Dinkel, 51 years old, was sentenced to a year in prison in 2011 and remained free pending his appeal.

The justices sent the case to back to a trial court to determine whether any of his actions amounted to assisting a suicide.

Certain speech is beyond the protection of the First Amendment, such as fraud, incitement of a violation of the law and speech that plays a key part in a crime.
The Supreme Court rejected the state’s contention that Mr. Melchert-Dinkel’s words fit into those exceptions.

Suicide isn’t illegal in Minnesota. So Mr. Melchert-Dinkel’s speech couldn’t have incited a crime or been integral to criminal conduct, Justice Anderson wrote.

The justices acknowledged the enormity of Mr. Melchert-Dinkel’s lies but said they fell short of fraud, which courts have defined as false claims that are made to gain material advantage."

 The victims

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rikki Tikki Tavi -- Rudyard Kipling

     At the hole where he went in
     Red-Eye called to Wrinkle-Skin.
     Hear what little Red-Eye saith:
     "Nag, come up and dance with death!"

     Eye to eye and head to head,
        (Keep the measure, Nag.)
     This shall end when one is dead;
        (At thy pleasure, Nag.)
     Turn for turn and twist for twist—
        (Run and hide thee, Nag.)
     Hah!  The hooded Death has missed!
        (Woe betide thee, Nag!)

This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment. Darzee, the Tailorbird, helped him, and Chuchundra, the musk-rat, who never comes out into the middle of the floor, but always creeps round by the wall, gave him advice, but Rikki-tikki did the real fighting.
He was a mongoose, rather like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but quite like a weasel in his head and his habits. His eyes and the end of his restless nose were pink. He could scratch himself anywhere he pleased with any leg, front or back, that he chose to use. He could fluff up his tail till it looked like a bottle brush, and his war cry as he scuttled through the long grass was: "Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!"
One day, a high summer flood washed him out of the burrow where he lived with his father and mother, and carried him, kicking and clucking, down a roadside ditch. He found a little wisp of grass floating there, and clung to it till he lost his senses. When he revived, he was lying in the hot sun on the middle of a garden path, very draggled indeed, and a small boy was saying, "Here's a dead mongoose. Let's have a funeral."
"No," said his mother, "let's take him in and dry him. Perhaps he isn't really dead."
They took him into the house, and a big man picked him up between his finger and thumb and said he was not dead but half choked. So they wrapped him in cotton wool, and warmed him over a little fire, and he opened his eyes and sneezed.
"Now," said the big man (he was an Englishman who had just moved into the bungalow), "don't frighten him, and we'll see what he'll do."
It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is "Run and find out," and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose. He looked at the cotton wool, decided that it was not good to eat, ran all round the table, sat up and put his fur in order, scratched himself, and jumped on the small boy's shoulder.
"Don't be frightened, Teddy," said his father. "That's his way of making friends."
"Ouch! He's tickling under my chin," said Teddy.
Rikki-tikki looked down between the boy's collar and neck, snuffed at his ear, and climbed down to the floor, where he sat rubbing his nose.
"Good gracious," said Teddy's mother, "and that's a wild creature! I suppose he's so tame because we've been kind to him."
"All mongooses are like that," said her husband. "If Teddy doesn't pick him up by the tail, or try to put him in a cage, he'll run in and out of the house all day long. Let's give him something to eat."
They gave him a little piece of raw meat. Rikki-tikki liked it immensely, and when it was finished he went out into the veranda and sat in the sunshine and fluffed up his fur to make it dry to the roots. Then he felt better.
"There are more things to find out about in this house," he said to himself, "than all my family could find out in all their lives. I shall certainly stay and find out."
He spent all that day roaming over the house. He nearly drowned himself in the bath-tubs, put his nose into the ink on a writing table, and burned it on the end of the big man's cigar, for he climbed up in the big man's lap to see how writing was done. At nightfall he ran into Teddy's nursery to watch how kerosene lamps were lighted, and when Teddy went to bed Rikki-tikki climbed up too. But he was a restless companion, because he had to get up and attend to every noise all through the night, and find out what made it. Teddy's mother and father came in, the last thing, to look at their boy, and Rikki-tikki was awake on the pillow. "I don't like that," said Teddy's mother. "He may bite the child."

"He'll do no such thing," said the father. "Teddy's safer with that little beast than if he had a bloodhound to watch him. If a snake came into the nursery now—"
But Teddy's mother wouldn't think of anything so awful.
Early in the morning Rikki-tikki came to early breakfast in the veranda riding on Teddy's shoulder, and they gave him banana and some boiled egg. He sat on all their laps one after the other, because every well-brought-up mongoose always hopes to be a house mongoose some day and have rooms to run about in; and Rikki-tikki's mother (she used to live in the general's house at Segowlee) had carefully told Rikki what to do if ever he came across white men.
Then Rikki-tikki went out into the garden to see what was to be seen. It was a large garden, only half cultivated, with bushes, as big as summer-houses, of Marshal Niel roses, lime and orange trees, clumps of bamboos, and thickets of high grass. Rikki-tikki licked his lips. "This is a splendid hunting-ground," he said, and his tail grew bottle-brushy at the thought of it, and he scuttled up and down the garden, snuffing here and there till he heard very sorrowful voices in a thorn-bush.
It was Darzee, the Tailorbird, and his wife. They had made a beautiful nest by pulling two big leaves together and stitching them up the edges with fibers, and had filled the hollow with cotton and downy fluff. The nest swayed to and fro, as they sat on the rim and cried.
"What is the matter?" asked Rikki-tikki.
"We are very miserable," said Darzee. "One of our babies fell out of the nest yesterday and Nag ate him."
"H'm!" said Rikki-tikki, "that is very sad—but I am a stranger here. Who is Nag?"
Darzee and his wife only cowered down in the nest without answering, for from the thick grass at the foot of the bush there came a low hiss—a horrid cold sound that made Rikki-tikki jump back two clear feet. Then inch by inch out of the grass rose up the head and spread hood of Nag, the big black cobra, and he was five feet long from tongue to tail. When he had lifted one-third of himself clear of the ground, he stayed balancing to and fro exactly as a dandelion tuft balances in the wind, and he looked at Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake's eyes that never change their expression, whatever the snake may be thinking of.
"Who is Nag?" said he. "I am Nag. The great God Brahm put his mark upon all our people, when the first cobra spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!"
He spread out his hood more than ever, and Rikki-tikki saw the spectacle-mark on the back of it that looks exactly like the eye part of a hook-and-eye fastening. He was afraid for the minute, but it is impossible for a mongoose to stay frightened for any length of time, and though Rikki-tikki had never met a live cobra before, his mother had fed him on dead ones, and he knew that all a grown mongoose's business in life was to fight and eat snakes. Nag knew that too and, at the bottom of his cold heart, he was afraid.
"Well," said Rikki-tikki, and his tail began to fluff up again, "marks or no marks, do you think it is right for you to eat fledglings out of a nest?"
Nag was thinking to himself, and watching the least little movement in the grass behind Rikki-tikki. He knew that mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later for him and his family, but he wanted to get Rikki-tikki off his guard. So he dropped his head a little, and put it on one side.
"Let us talk," he said. "You eat eggs. Why should not I eat birds?"
"Behind you! Look behind you!" sang Darzee.
Rikki-tikki knew better than to waste time in staring. He jumped up in the air as high as he could go, and just under him whizzed by the head of Nagaina, Nag's wicked wife. She had crept up behind him as he was talking, to make an end of him. He heard her savage hiss as the stroke missed. He came down almost across her back, and if he had been an old mongoose he would have known that then was the time to break her back with one bite; but he was afraid of the terrible lashing return stroke of the cobra. He bit, indeed, but did not bite long enough, and he jumped clear of the whisking tail, leaving Nagaina torn and angry.
"Wicked, wicked Darzee!" said Nag, lashing up as high as he could reach toward the nest in the thorn-bush. But Darzee had built it out of reach of snakes, and it only swayed to and fro.
Rikki-tikki felt his eyes growing red and hot (when a mongoose's eyes grow red, he is angry), and he sat back on his tail and hind legs like a little kangaroo, and looked all round him, and chattered with rage. But Nag and Nagaina had disappeared into the grass. When a snake misses its stroke, it never says anything or gives any sign of what it means to do next. Rikki-tikki did not care to follow them, for he did not feel sure that he could manage two snakes at once. So he trotted off to the gravel path near the house, and sat down to think. It was a serious matter for him.
If you read the old books of natural history, you will find they say that when the mongoose fights the snake and happens to get bitten, he runs off and eats some herb that cures him. That is not true. The victory is only a matter of quickness of eye and quickness of foot—snake's blow against mongoose's jump—and as no eye can follow the motion of a snake's head when it strikes, this makes things much more wonderful than any magic herb. Rikki-tikki knew he was a young mongoose, and it made him all the more pleased to think that he had managed to escape a blow from behind. It gave him confidence in himself, and when Teddy came running down the path, Rikki-tikki was ready to be petted.
But just as Teddy was stooping, something wriggled a little in the dust, and a tiny voice said: "Be careful. I am Death!" It was Karait, the dusty brown snakeling that lies for choice on the dusty earth; and his bite is as dangerous as the cobra's. But he is so small that nobody thinks of him, and so he does the more harm to people.
Rikki-tikki's eyes grew red again, and he danced up to Karait with the peculiar rocking, swaying motion that he had inherited from his family. It looks very funny, but it is so perfectly balanced a gait that you can fly off from it at any angle you please, and in dealing with snakes this is an advantage. If Rikki-tikki had only known, he was doing a much more dangerous thing than fighting Nag, for Karait is so small, and can turn so quickly, that unless Rikki bit him close to the back of the head, he would get the return stroke in his eye or his lip. But Rikki did not know. His eyes were all red, and he rocked back and forth, looking for a good place to hold. Karait struck out. Rikki jumped sideways and tried to run in, but the wicked little dusty gray head lashed within a fraction of his shoulder, and he had to jump over the body, and the head followed his heels close.
Teddy shouted to the house: "Oh, look here! Our mongoose is killing a snake." And Rikki-tikki heard a scream from Teddy's mother. His father ran out with a stick, but by the time he came up, Karait had lunged out once too far, and Rikki-tikki had sprung, jumped on the snake's back, dropped his head far between his forelegs, bitten as high up the back as he could get hold, and rolled away. That bite paralyzed Karait, and Rikki-tikki was just going to eat him up from the tail, after the custom of his family at dinner, when he remembered that a full meal makes a slow mongoose, and if he wanted all his strength and quickness ready, he must keep himself thin.
He went away for a dust bath under the castor-oil bushes, while Teddy's father beat the dead Karait. "What is the use of that?" thought Rikki-tikki. "I have settled it all;" and then Teddy's mother picked him up from the dust and hugged him, crying that he had saved Teddy from death, and Teddy's father said that he was a providence, and Teddy looked on with big scared eyes. Rikki-tikki was rather amused at all the fuss, which, of course, he did not understand. Teddy's mother might just as well have petted Teddy for playing in the dust. Rikki was thoroughly enjoying himself.
That night at dinner, walking to and fro among the wine-glasses on the table, he might have stuffed himself three times over with nice things. But he remembered Nag and Nagaina, and though it was very pleasant to be patted and petted by Teddy's mother, and to sit on Teddy's shoulder, his eyes would get red from time to time, and he would go off into his long war cry of "Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!"
Teddy carried him off to bed, and insisted on Rikki-tikki sleeping under his chin. Rikki-tikki was too well bred to bite or scratch, but as soon as Teddy was asleep he went off for his nightly walk round the house, and in the dark he ran up against Chuchundra, the musk-rat, creeping around by the wall. Chuchundra is a broken-hearted little beast. He whimpers and cheeps all the night, trying to make up his mind to run into the middle of the room. But he never gets there.
"Don't kill me," said Chuchundra, almost weeping. "Rikki-tikki, don't kill me!"
"Do you think a snake-killer kills muskrats?" said Rikki-tikki scornfully.
"Those who kill snakes get killed by snakes," said Chuchundra, more sorrowfully than ever. "And how am I to be sure that Nag won't mistake me for you some dark night?"
"There's not the least danger," said Rikki-tikki. "But Nag is in the garden, and I know you don't go there."
"My cousin Chua, the rat, told me—" said Chuchundra, and then he stopped.
"Told you what?"
"H'sh! Nag is everywhere, Rikki-tikki. You should have talked to Chua in the garden."
"I didn't—so you must tell me. Quick, Chuchundra, or I'll bite you!"
Chuchundra sat down and cried till the tears rolled off his whiskers. "I am a very poor man," he sobbed. "I never had spirit enough to run out into the middle of the room. H'sh! I mustn't tell you anything. Can't you hear, Rikki-tikki?"
Rikki-tikki listened. The house was as still as still, but he thought he could just catch the faintest scratch-scratch in the world—a noise as faint as that of a wasp walking on a window-pane—the dry scratch of a snake's scales on brick-work.
"That's Nag or Nagaina," he said to himself, "and he is crawling into the bath-room sluice. You're right, Chuchundra; I should have talked to Chua."
He stole off to Teddy's bath-room, but there was nothing there, and then to Teddy's mother's bathroom. At the bottom of the smooth plaster wall there was a brick pulled out to make a sluice for the bath water, and as Rikki-tikki stole in by the masonry curb where the bath is put, he heard Nag and Nagaina whispering together outside in the moonlight.
"When the house is emptied of people," said Nagaina to her husband, "he will have to go away, and then the garden will be our own again. Go in quietly, and remember that the big man who killed Karait is the first one to bite. Then come out and tell me, and we will hunt for Rikki-tikki together."
"But are you sure that there is anything to be gained by killing the people?" said Nag.
"Everything. When there were no people in the bungalow, did we have any mongoose in the garden? So long as the bungalow is empty, we are king and queen of the garden; and remember that as soon as our eggs in the melon bed hatch (as they may tomorrow), our children will need room and quiet."
"I had not thought of that," said Nag. "I will go, but there is no need that we should hunt for Rikki-tikki afterward. I will kill the big man and his wife, and the child if I can, and come away quietly. Then the bungalow will be empty, and Rikki-tikki will go."
Rikki-tikki tingled all over with rage and hatred at this, and then Nag's head came through the sluice, and his five feet of cold body followed it. Angry as he was, Rikki-tikki was very frightened as he saw the size of the big cobra. Nag coiled himself up, raised his head, and looked into the bathroom in the dark, and Rikki could see his eyes glitter.
"Now, if I kill him here, Nagaina will know; and if I fight him on the open floor, the odds are in his favor. What am I to do?" said Rikki-tikki-tavi.
Nag waved to and fro, and then Rikki-tikki heard him drinking from the biggest water-jar that was used to fill the bath. "That is good," said the snake. "Now, when Karait was killed, the big man had a stick. He may have that stick still, but when he comes in to bathe in the morning he will not have a stick. I shall wait here till he comes. Nagaina—do you hear me?—I shall wait here in the cool till daytime."
There was no answer from outside, so Rikki-tikki knew Nagaina had gone away. Nag coiled himself down, coil by coil, round the bulge at the bottom of the water jar, and Rikki-tikki stayed still as death. After an hour he began to move, muscle by muscle, toward the jar. Nag was asleep, and Rikki-tikki looked at his big back, wondering which would be the best place for a good hold. "If I don't break his back at the first jump," said Rikki, "he can still fight. And if he fights—O Rikki!" He looked at the thickness of the neck below the hood, but that was too much for him; and a bite near the tail would only make Nag savage.
"It must be the head"' he said at last; "the head above the hood. And, when I am once there, I must not let go."
Then he jumped. The head was lying a little clear of the water jar, under the curve of it; and, as his teeth met, Rikki braced his back against the bulge of the red earthenware to hold down the head. This gave him just one second's purchase, and he made the most of it. Then he was battered to and fro as a rat is shaken by a dog—to and fro on the floor, up and down, and around in great circles, but his eyes were red and he held on as the body cart-whipped over the floor, upsetting the tin dipper and the soap dish and the flesh brush, and banged against the tin side of the bath. As he held he closed his jaws tighter and tighter, for he made sure he would be banged to death, and, for the honor of his family, he preferred to be found with his teeth locked. He was dizzy, aching, and felt shaken to pieces when something went off like a thunderclap just behind him. A hot wind knocked him senseless and red fire singed his fur. The big man had been wakened by the noise, and had fired both barrels of a shotgun into Nag just behind the hood.
Rikki-tikki held on with his eyes shut, for now he was quite sure he was dead. But the head did not move, and the big man picked him up and said, "It's the mongoose again, Alice. The little chap has saved our lives now."
Then Teddy's mother came in with a very white face, and saw what was left of Nag, and Rikki-tikki dragged himself to Teddy's bedroom and spent half the rest of the night shaking himself tenderly to find out whether he really was broken into forty pieces, as he fancied.
When morning came he was very stiff, but well pleased with his doings. "Now I have Nagaina to settle with, and she will be worse than five Nags, and there's no knowing when the eggs she spoke of will hatch. Goodness! I must go and see Darzee," he said.
Without waiting for breakfast, Rikki-tikki ran to the thornbush where Darzee was singing a song of triumph at the top of his voice. The news of Nag's death was all over the garden, for the sweeper had thrown the body on the rubbish-heap.
"Oh, you stupid tuft of feathers!" said Rikki-tikki angrily. "Is this the time to sing?"
"Nag is dead—is dead—is dead!" sang Darzee. "The valiant Rikki-tikki caught him by the head and held fast. The big man brought the bang-stick, and Nag fell in two pieces! He will never eat my babies again."
"All that's true enough. But where's Nagaina?" said Rikki-tikki, looking carefully round him.
"Nagaina came to the bathroom sluice and called for Nag," Darzee went on, "and Nag came out on the end of a stick—the sweeper picked him up on the end of a stick and threw him upon the rubbish heap. Let us sing about the great, the red-eyed Rikki-tikki!" And Darzee filled his throat and sang.
"If I could get up to your nest, I'd roll your babies out!" said Rikki-tikki. "You don't know when to do the right thing at the right time. You're safe enough in your nest there, but it's war for me down here. Stop singing a minute, Darzee."
"For the great, the beautiful Rikki-tikki's sake I will stop," said Darzee. "What is it, O Killer of the terrible Nag?"
"Where is Nagaina, for the third time?"
"On the rubbish heap by the stables, mourning for Nag. Great is Rikki-tikki with the white teeth."
"Bother my white teeth! Have you ever heard where she keeps her eggs?"
"In the melon bed, on the end nearest the wall, where the sun strikes nearly all day. She hid them there weeks ago."
"And you never thought it worth while to tell me? The end nearest the wall, you said?"
"Rikki-tikki, you are not going to eat her eggs?"
"Not eat exactly; no. Darzee, if you have a grain of sense you will fly off to the stables and pretend that your wing is broken, and let Nagaina chase you away to this bush. I must get to the melon-bed, and if I went there now she'd see me."
Darzee was a feather-brained little fellow who could never hold more than one idea at a time in his head. And just because he knew that Nagaina's children were born in eggs like his own, he didn't think at first that it was fair to kill them. But his wife was a sensible bird, and she knew that cobra's eggs meant young cobras later on. So she flew off from the nest, and left Darzee to keep the babies warm, and continue his song about the death of Nag. Darzee was very like a man in some ways.
She fluttered in front of Nagaina by the rubbish heap and cried out, "Oh, my wing is broken! The boy in the house threw a stone at me and broke it." Then she fluttered more desperately than ever.
Nagaina lifted up her head and hissed, "You warned Rikki-tikki when I would have killed him. Indeed and truly, you've chosen a bad place to be lame in." And she moved toward Darzee's wife, slipping along over the dust.
"The boy broke it with a stone!" shrieked Darzee's wife.
"Well! It may be some consolation to you when you're dead to know that I shall settle accounts with the boy. My husband lies on the rubbish heap this morning, but before night the boy in the house will lie very still. What is the use of running away? I am sure to catch you. Little fool, look at me!"
Darzee's wife knew better than to do that, for a bird who looks at a snake's eyes gets so frightened that she cannot move. Darzee's wife fluttered on, piping sorrowfully, and never leaving the ground, and Nagaina quickened her pace.
Rikki-tikki heard them going up the path from the stables, and he raced for the end of the melon patch near the wall. There, in the warm litter above the melons, very cunningly hidden, he found twenty-five eggs, about the size of a bantam's eggs, but with whitish skin instead of shell.
"I was not a day too soon," he said, for he could see the baby cobras curled up inside the skin, and he knew that the minute they were hatched they could each kill a man or a mongoose. He bit off the tops of the eggs as fast as he could, taking care to crush the young cobras, and turned over the litter from time to time to see whether he had missed any. At last there were only three eggs left, and Rikki-tikki began to chuckle to himself, when he heard Darzee's wife screaming:
"Rikki-tikki, I led Nagaina toward the house, and she has gone into the veranda, and—oh, come quickly—she means killing!"
Rikki-tikki smashed two eggs, and tumbled backward down the melon-bed with the third egg in his mouth, and scuttled to the veranda as hard as he could put foot to the ground. Teddy and his mother and father were there at early breakfast, but Rikki-tikki saw that they were not eating anything. They sat stone-still, and their faces were white. Nagaina was coiled up on the matting by Teddy's chair, within easy striking distance of Teddy's bare leg, and she was swaying to and fro, singing a song of triumph.
"Son of the big man that killed Nag," she hissed, "stay still. I am not ready yet. Wait a little. Keep very still, all you three! If you move I strike, and if you do not move I strike. Oh, foolish people, who killed my Nag!"
Teddy's eyes were fixed on his father, and all his father could do was to whisper, "Sit still, Teddy. You mustn't move. Teddy, keep still."
Then Rikki-tikki came up and cried, "Turn round, Nagaina. Turn and fight!"
"All in good time," said she, without moving her eyes. "I will settle my account with you presently. Look at your friends, Rikki-tikki. They are still and white. They are afraid. They dare not move, and if you come a step nearer I strike."
"Look at your eggs," said Rikki-tikki, "in the melon bed near the wall. Go and look, Nagaina!"
The big snake turned half around, and saw the egg on the veranda. "Ah-h! Give it to me," she said.
Rikki-tikki put his paws one on each side of the egg, and his eyes were blood-red. "What price for a snake's egg? For a young cobra? For a young king cobra? For the last—the very last of the brood? The ants are eating all the others down by the melon bed."
Nagaina spun clear round, forgetting everything for the sake of the one egg. Rikki-tikki saw Teddy's father shoot out a big hand, catch Teddy by the shoulder, and drag him across the little table with the tea-cups, safe and out of reach of Nagaina.
"Tricked! Tricked! Tricked! Rikk-tck-tck!" chuckled Rikki-tikki. "The boy is safe, and it was I—I—I that caught Nag by the hood last night in the bathroom." Then he began to jump up and down, all four feet together, his head close to the floor. "He threw me to and fro, but he could not shake me off. He was dead before the big man blew him in two. I did it! Rikki-tikki-tck-tck! Come then, Nagaina. Come and fight with me. You shall not be a widow long."
Nagaina saw that she had lost her chance of killing Teddy, and the egg lay between Rikki-tikki's paws. "Give me the egg, Rikki-tikki. Give me the last of my eggs, and I will go away and never come back," she said, lowering her hood.
"Yes, you will go away, and you will never come back. For you will go to the rubbish heap with Nag. Fight, widow! The big man has gone for his gun! Fight!"
Rikki-tikki was bounding all round Nagaina, keeping just out of reach of her stroke, his little eyes like hot coals. Nagaina gathered herself together and flung out at him. Rikki-tikki jumped up and backward. Again and again and again she struck, and each time her head came with a whack on the matting of the veranda and she gathered herself together like a watch spring. Then Rikki-tikki danced in a circle to get behind her, and Nagaina spun round to keep her head to his head, so that the rustle of her tail on the matting sounded like dry leaves blown along by the wind.
He had forgotten the egg. It still lay on the veranda, and Nagaina came nearer and nearer to it, till at last, while Rikki-tikki was drawing breath, she caught it in her mouth, turned to the veranda steps, and flew like an arrow down the path, with Rikki-tikki behind her. When the cobra runs for her life, she goes like a whip-lash flicked across a horse's neck.
Rikki-tikki knew that he must catch her, or all the trouble would begin again. She headed straight for the long grass by the thorn-bush, and as he was running Rikki-tikki heard Darzee still singing his foolish little song of triumph. But Darzee's wife was wiser. She flew off her nest as Nagaina came along, and flapped her wings about Nagaina's head. If Darzee had helped they might have turned her, but Nagaina only lowered her hood and went on. Still, the instant's delay brought Rikki-tikki up to her, and as she plunged into the rat-hole where she and Nag used to live, his little white teeth were clenched on her tail, and he went down with her—and very few mongooses, however wise and old they may be, care to follow a cobra into its hole. It was dark in the hole; and Rikki-tikki never knew when it might open out and give Nagaina room to turn and strike at him. He held on savagely, and stuck out his feet to act as brakes on the dark slope of the hot, moist earth.
Then the grass by the mouth of the hole stopped waving, and Darzee said, "It is all over with Rikki-tikki! We must sing his death song. Valiant Rikki-tikki is dead! For Nagaina will surely kill him underground."
So he sang a very mournful song that he made up on the spur of the minute, and just as he got to the most touching part, the grass quivered again, and Rikki-tikki, covered with dirt, dragged himself out of the hole leg by leg, licking his whiskers. Darzee stopped with a little shout. Rikki-tikki shook some of the dust out of his fur and sneezed. "It is all over," he said. "The widow will never come out again." And the red ants that live between the grass stems heard him, and began to troop down one after another to see if he had spoken the truth.
Rikki-tikki curled himself up in the grass and slept where he was—slept and slept till it was late in the afternoon, for he had done a hard day's work.
"Now," he said, when he awoke, "I will go back to the house. Tell the Coppersmith, Darzee, and he will tell the garden that Nagaina is dead."
The Coppersmith is a bird who makes a noise exactly like the beating of a little hammer on a copper pot; and the reason he is always making it is because he is the town crier to every Indian garden, and tells all the news to everybody who cares to listen. As Rikki-tikki went up the path, he heard his "attention" notes like a tiny dinner gong, and then the steady "Ding-dong-tock! Nag is dead—dong! Nagaina is dead! Ding-dong-tock!" That set all the birds in the garden singing, and the frogs croaking, for Nag and Nagaina used to eat frogs as well as little birds.
When Rikki got to the house, Teddy and Teddy's mother (she looked very white still, for she had been fainting) and Teddy's father came out and almost cried over him; and that night he ate all that was given him till he could eat no more, and went to bed on Teddy's shoulder, where Teddy's mother saw him when she came to look late at night.
"He saved our lives and Teddy's life," she said to her husband. "Just think, he saved all our lives."
Rikki-tikki woke up with a jump, for the mongooses are light sleepers.
"Oh, it's you," said he. "What are you bothering for? All the cobras are dead. And if they weren't, I'm here."
Rikki-tikki had a right to be proud of himself. But he did not grow too proud, and he kept that garden as a mongoose should keep it, with tooth and jump and spring and bite, till never a cobra dared show its head inside the walls.

Darzee's Chant

     (Sung in honor of Rikki-tikki-tavi)

     Singer and tailor am I—
        Doubled the joys that I know—
     Proud of my lilt to the sky,
        Proud of the house that I sew—
     Over and under, so weave I my music—so weave I the house that I

     Sing to your fledglings again,
        Mother, oh lift up your head!
     Evil that plagued us is slain,
        Death in the garden lies dead.
     Terror that hid in the roses is impotent—flung on the dung-hill
     and dead!

     Who has delivered us, who?
        Tell me his nest and his name.
     Rikki, the valiant, the true,
        Tikki, with eyeballs of flame,
     Rikk-tikki-tikki, the ivory-fanged, the hunter with eyeballs of

     Give him the Thanks of the Birds,
        Bowing with tail feathers spread!
     Praise him with nightingale words—
        Nay, I will praise him instead.
     Hear!  I will sing you the praise of the bottle-tailed Rikki, with
     eyeballs of red!

     (Here Rikki-tikki interrupted, and the rest of the song is

The classic Chuck Jones cartoon version, narrated by Orson Welles:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wisdom from Lemony Snicket

The Carnivorous Carnival

Book the Ninth of a Series of Unfortunate Events

The story of the Baudelaires does not take place in a fictional land where lollipops grow on trees and singing mice do all of the chores. The story of the Baudelaires takes place in a very real world, where some people are laughed at just because they have something wrong with them, and where children can find themselves all alone in the world, struggling to understand the sinister mystery that surrounds them.


With the Baudelaire orphans, it was as if their grief were a very heavy object that they each took turns carrying so that they would not all be crying at once, but sometimes the object was too heavy for one of them to move without weeping, so Violet and Sunny stood next to Klaus, reminding him that this was something they could all carry together until at last they found a safe place to lay it down.


One of the most troublesome things in life is that what you do or do not want has very little to do with what does or does not happen.


The sad truth is that the truth is sad.

See also: Freud: Civilization and its Discontents

Thursday, March 20, 2014

PTSD Prevention report, follow-up

This is the report that I was referring to in my earlier post, Martin Seligman's PTSD Prevention Program Doesn't Work.

Institute of Medicine

(pp. 89 and following)

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness
In 2009 the Army launched the $125 million Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program (U.S. Army, 2009), the largest universal prevention program of its kind. At present it has already reached 1 million soldiers (Lester et al., 2011b). The goals of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program are to prevent adverse psychological health consequences of trauma exposure—most notably, PTSD and depression—by increasing resilience in service members before deployment. The CSF program is based, in part, on the Penn Resiliency Program, which was developed by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania (Cornum et al., 2011). The Penn Resiliency Program is based on positive psychology as well as on cognitive behavioral theories of depression, and it includes training in assertiveness, negotiation, social skills, creative problem solving, the use of optimism and positive explanatory approaches, and decision making.
The CSF resilience-building program has four components that are designed to enhance service members’ mental, spiritual, physical, and social capabilities: (1) master resilience training, a 10-day, hands-on, face-to-face training course that includes the principles of positive psychology (Reivich et al., 2011); (2) comprehensive resilience modules (formerly known as Battlemind), which are training modules that focus on specific resilience skills using precepts of positive psychology, cognitive restructuring, mindfulness, and research on posttraumatic stress, unit cohesion, occupational health models, organizational leadership, and deployment in order to prepare service members for military life, combat, and transitioning home; (3) the global assessment tool (GAT), a confidential online 105-question survey that must be taken annually; and (4) institutional resilience training, which is expected to occur at every level of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System and the Officer Education System (U.S. Army, 2013b). Master resilience training for noncommissioned officers and mid-level supervisors is a “train the trainer” component of CSF for sergeants to use with their troops.
Versions of the program are also available for military families and Army civilians, although this committee found no evidence of their implementation with these groups. The CSF GAT measures psychosocial well-being in four domains: emotional fitness, social fitness, family fitness, and spiritual fitness. Results of the GAT are used to refer soldiers to programs aimed at enhancing their strengths and addressing their weaknesses, for example, training in flexible thinking if scores in this area are lower than the norm. A similar instrument, the Family GAT, is being developed for soldiers’ spouses and partners to provide advice about possible resources for building emotional assets.
Internal Evaluation of CSF
Although evaluations that were conducted by CSF staff and were not subject to peer review have demonstrated statistically significant improvement in some GAT subscale scores, the effect sizes have been very small, with no clinically meaningful differences in pre- and posttest scores. Accordingly, it is difficult to argue there has been any meaningful change in GAT scores as a result of participation. For example, in The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program Evaluation Report #3: Longitudinal Analysis of the Impact of Master Resilience Training on Self-Reported Resilience and Psychological Health Data (Lester et al., 2011b), in a pre–post comparison the maximum effect size (partial η2) of any outcome measured by the GAT was found to be 0.002 after exposure to the intervention. The only resilience or psychological health measures that saw significant improvement post-exposure were emotional fitness (a 1.31 percent improvement; 0.002 partial η2) and social fitness (a 0.66 percent improvement; 0.000 partial η2) (Lester et al., 2011b).
While Lester et al. (2011b) cite these figures as evidence of CSF’s effectiveness for prevention, this committee does not find these results meaningful, given the low level of improvement and the very small effect size. External reviews, discussed below, have raised similar questions concerning the effect sizes of reported findings and related problems in accurate interpretation of the impact.
More recently, in another internal non–peer-reviewed report, The Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program Evaluation Report #4: Evaluation of Resilience Training and Mental and Behavioral Health Outcomes, Harms et al. (2013) examined psychological health diagnosis outcomes for 7,230 soldiers who received the GAT before Master Resiliency Training was initiated (October 2010) and again approximately 6 months later (about April 2011) and who consented to use of their data for research. The researchers compared five psychological health diagnoses recorded in the U.S. Army Medical Department’s Patient Administration Systems and Biostatistics Activity (anxiety, depression, PTSD, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse) 3 months after return from deployment or completion of the second GAT for the 4,983 who had received the training (80 percent of whom had deployed) versus the 2,247 who had not (72 percent of whom had deployed). Findings revealed no change in the GAT factors and no difference in diagnosis among those receiving the intervention. Therefore, the subsequent mediation analysis performed by the authors cannot be interpreted as evidence of intervention/program impact.
External Reviews of CSF
In their review of CSF, Steenkamp et al. (2013) observed that the program that served as the blueprint for CSF, the Penn Resiliency program, did not, according to a meta-analysis, produce powerful effects in its own target, preventing depression in civilian adolescents and schoolchildren. The meta-analysis found that although the program reduced symptoms of depression, the effect size was small, and the program did not prevent, delay, or lessen “the intensity or duration of future psychological disorders” (Brunwasser et al., 2009, p. 1051). Prevention trials in adolescents and children find that an improvement in subclinical levels of depression is a more likely outcome than the prevention of a depression diagnosis in the future (Stice et al., 2009). With regard to the prevention of PTSD, Steenkamp and colleagues assert that no data at all support the effectiveness of the Penn Resiliency Program for adults; instead, they say, the best evidence for PTSD prevention can be found not in universal prevention programs like CSF, but in selective and indicated prevention programs, whose strongest effects are in preventing chronic PTSD in those who are already self-reporting clinically diagnosable stressrelated symptoms (Bryant et al., 1998).
Steenkamp and colleagues also criticized the GAT as not being designed to assess PTSD symptoms; it assesses only strengths and problems in emotional, social, family, and spiritual domains. “Thus the program evaluation could not adequately assess CSF’s success in preventing PTSD” (Steenkamp et al., 2013, p. 509). Steenkamp and colleagues also question the underlying assumption of the program that increasing resilience prevents onset of PTSD, noting that “it is possible to be psychologically high functioning and still develop PTSD” (p. 510).
In their article “The Dark Side of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness,” Eidelson and colleagues (2011) emphasize that CSF was initiated without the use of pilot testing to determine program effectiveness. Like Steenkamp and colleagues, they criticize the application of the Penn Resiliency program in the face of the small effect sizes found in the meta-analysis by Brunwasser et al. (2009). Eidelson and colleagues also criticized the lack of CSF review by an independent ethics board, especially in light of the mandatory nature of the program. They assert that resilience training may “harm our soldiers by making them more likely to engage in combat actions that adversely affect their psychological health” (Eidelson et al., 2011, p. 643).
Smith (2013) critiques the CSF program as potentially causing harm. She observes that CSF’s emphasis on positive emotions and reducing the frequency of negative emotions could be detrimental. Service members experiencing negative feelings could feel “marginalized and demoralized for failing to cope using CSF’s strategies” (p. 244). To support this view, Smith cites a study by Norem and Illingworth (2004) finding that when a positive mood is induced, individuals who are pessimists display decreased ability to problem-solve. Smith also argues that CSF shifts responsibility for psychological health away from external causes, such as multiple deployments and prolonged periods of combat stress, and onto the individuals, who blame themselves for not preventing their own disorder. She points out that service members who experience self-blame are at risk for further mood disturbances and poorer quality of life (Smith, 2013).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Third Battle of Fallujah?


More than two years after U.S. forces withdrew from the country it occupied for almost a decade, Iraq is on a bloody downward spiral. Devastating terror attacks now kill dozens of people with horrifying regularity. Highly organized and well-armed militants, capable of bold strikes against police and military targets, have been able to take and hold territory.
Indeed, the past year of worsening sectarian tensions and violence has already produced death tolls reminiscent of Iraq's not-so-distant past. At least 7,818 civilians were killed in Iraq in 2013, the highest annual total since 17,956 were killed in 2007, the year the sectarian civil war first began to subside, according to the United Nations. And the violence hasn't let up: In Baghdad on Saturday, a car bombing—a style of attack that has become routine—killed 19 people.
Experts say that as the crisis deepens, the country risks returning to the kind of sectarian civil war that, at its zenith in 2005 and 2006, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and nearly tore the country apart.
Nowhere are signs of the country's crumbling more evident than in Fallujah, a city seared in the minds of U.S. Marines who did fierce battle with insurgents there. Mr. Maliki, who is vying for a third term in parliamentary elections at the end of April, has sought to portray the occupation of Fallujah as an al Qaeda uprising with international links.

I was leading a psychotherapy group of Korean War veterans the day it was reported that North Korea had a soon-to-be-successful nuclear weapons program. The group members were bummed, to say the least, feeling in part that their sacrifices had been in vain.

Can you imagine how the guys feel who took Fallujah? Twice?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pilot suicide?: Cory Lidle, Yankees pitcher


October 12, 2006

A single-engine plane carrying the Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle smashed into a 42-story building on the Upper East Side yesterday, killing Mr. Lidle and his flight instructor, the authorities said.
The afternoon crash beneath overcast skies sent debris clattering hundreds of feet to the sidewalk and started a fire that destroyed several apartments and left a charred smudge on the face of the building.
Mr. Lidle, 34, a pilot for less than a year who was traded to the Yankees in the summer, had talked enthusiastically about flying to his home in California this week.
As he cleaned out his locker at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, the day after the Yankees’ playoff hopes fizzled in a series loss in Detroit against the Tigers, he said that he planned to work on instrument training exercises yesterday before he left for California, and that his regular instructor, whom he identified as Tyler Stanger, was coming in to work with him. Officials said they believed that Mr. Stanger was the second victim.

A 5-foot-11 right-hander who rarely threw his fastball above 90 miles an hour, he was not drafted out of high school and played for three organizations in the minor leagues, including an independent team, before joining the Mets in 1997. He had also played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Oakland Athletics, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies before joining the Yankees.
Mr. Lidle made one memorable start, a victory on Aug. 21 that concluded the Yankees’ five-game sweep of the Red Sox in Boston’s Fenway Park. He had a 4-3 record with a 5.16 earned run average for the Yankees and made a brief relief appearance in the team’s final playoff game on Saturday.
For his career, Lidle was 82-72 with a 4.57 earned run average, pitching in 277 games. He was a free agent and was not expected to return to the Yankees, though he said on Sunday that he hoped to sign a two-year contract this winter.
Mr. Lidle, who was married with a 6-year-old son, lived in Glendora, Calif. He had earned his pilot’s license during the last off-season. He said last month that the four-year-old plane had cost $187,000 and had “cool safety features.”

From the New York Observer's blog the day of the crash:

I’m surprised that everyone covering Corey Lidle’s death has avoided the psychological question: Was depression or suicidal feeling a factor in the crash?
Let’s go to the videotape: in his last appearance in the public eye, just four days before his death, Saturday October 7, Corey Lidle came into the Yankees’ most important game of the season in the third inning. The Yankees were losing the game, 4-0, and Lidle then closed the door in the third and fourth, but couldn’t get an out in the 5th; he gave up three runs. When he was lifted, the Yankees were down 7-0. Yes, Jaret Wright lost the game; but Lidle put it out of reach. The Yankees departed the postseason, 8-3.
I’m blanking on his name, but at least one MLB pitcher who screwed up committed suicide in the off-season. [If the author is thinking of Donnie Moore, he or she might be wrong about the reason for the suicide.] Athletes in other sports have, too.
I don’t mind Katie Couric oozing a widow’s sympathy last night when she asked her reporter, “And what about his family?” But I’d like to hear some other questions: How did Corey Lidle respond to his dramatic failure on Saturday? Did he hold himself responsible for the Yankees’ demise? How fit was he to get in behind the controls?


This interactive graphic is one of the best that the NYT's have ever done.

The NSTB concluded that it was pilot error and a civil trial found the manufacturer not at fault.

If it wasn't an accident, Lidle would not be the only ex-Yankees pitcher to die by suicide.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Suicide (and Mass Murder) by Airplane?


A dozen years ago, U.S. investigators filed a final report into the 1999 crash of EgyptAir Flight 990, which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, killing all 217 aboard. They concluded that when co-pilot Gameel El-Batouty found himself alone on the flight deck, he switched off the auto-pilot, pointed the plane downward, and calmly repeated the phrase "I rely on God" over and over, 11 times in total.
Yet while the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the co-pilot's actions caused the crash, they didn't use the word "suicide" in the main findings of their 160-page report, instead saying the reason for his actions "was not determined." Egyptian officials, meanwhile, rejected the notion of suicide altogether, insisting instead there was some mechanical reason for the crash.
This is the best article I know of on that EgyptAir crash.

There was also disagreement over the cause of the crash of SilkAir Flight 185, which plunged into a river in 1997 during a flight from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Singapore, killing all 104 passengers and crew. A U.S. investigation found that the Boeing 737 had been deliberately crashed, but an Indonesian investigation was inconclusive.
Mozambique officials have been investigating a crash that killed 33 people in November. They say preliminary investigations indicate that the pilot of the Mozambican Airline plane bound for Angola intentionally brought it down, and they're continuing to look into his possible motives.
A 2014 study by the Federal Aviation Administration indicates that in the U.S. at least, flying remains a remarkably safe mode of transport and pilot suicide is a rare occurrence.
The study found that during the 10 years ending in 2012, just eight of 2,758 fatal aviation accidents in the U.S. were caused by pilot suicide, a rate of 0.3 percent. The report found that all eight suicides were men, with four of them testing positive for alcohol and two for antidepressants.
The cases ranged from a pilot celebrating his 21st birthday who realized a woman didn't want a relationship with him, to a 69-year-old pilot with a history of drinking and threatening suicide by plane. Seven of the cases involved the death of only the pilot; in the eighth case, a passenger also died.
"Aircraft-assisted suicides are tragic, intentional events that are hard to predict and difficult to prevent," the FAA's report found, adding that such suicides "are most likely under-reported and under-recognized."
Here is the complete FAA report.

In at least one case, a major international airline allowed a pilot who had expressed suicidal thoughts to continue flying. He flew nearly three more years, without incident, before he resigned in 1982 with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported that the Workers Compensation Commission heard that the Qantas pilot struggled several times to resist an overwhelming urge to switch off the plane's engines. Once during a flight to Singapore, the pilot's hand moved "involuntarily" toward the start levers and he was forced to "immobilize his left arm in order not to act on the compulsion."
"He left the flight deck and, once he felt calm enough, returned to his seat," the newspaper reported.
After telling his colleagues of his urges, the newspaper said, the pilot was examined by several doctors and ultimately declared fit to fly.
Here is the Sydney Morning Herald article on the Qantas pilot, Bryan Arthur Griffin.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thanatopsis -- William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

TO HIM who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides 5
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images 10
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—
Go forth under the open sky, and list
To Nature's teachings, while from all around— 15
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—
Comes a still voice—Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears, 20
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go 25
To mix forever with the elements;
To be a brother to the insensible rock,
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould. 30
Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world,—with kings,
The powerful of the earth,—the wise, the good, 35
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun; the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods—rivers that move 40
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste,—
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man! The golden sun, 45
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.—Take the wings 50
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings,—yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first 55
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest; and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe 60
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come 65
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man— 70
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take 75
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch 80
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.