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The Placebo Phenomenon

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 17:43 by Paul Jay in category: News


TWO WEEKS INTO Ted Kaptchuk’s first randomized clinical drug trial, nearly a third of his 270 subjects complained of awful side effects. All the patients had joined the study hoping to alleviate severe arm pain: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, chronic pain in the elbow, shoulder, wrist. In one part of the study, half the subjects received pain-reducing pills; the others were offered acupuncture treatments. And in both cases, people began to call in, saying they couldn’t get out of bed. The pills were making them sluggish, the needles caused swelling and redness; some patients’ pain ballooned to nightmarish levels. “The side effects were simply amazing,” Kaptchuk explains; curiously, they were exactly what patients had been warned their treatment might produce. But even more astounding, most of the other patients reported real relief, and those who received acupuncture felt even better than those on the anti-pain pill. These were exceptional findings: no one had ever proven that acupuncture worked better than painkillers. But Kaptchuk’s study didn’t prove it, either. The pills his team had given patients were actually made of cornstarch; the “acupuncture” needles were retractable shams that never pierced the skin. The study wasn’t aimed at comparing two treatments. It was designed to compare two fakes.

Although Kaptchuk, an associate professor of medicine, has spent his career studying these mysterious human reactions, he doesn’t argue that you can simply “think yourself better.” “Sham treatment won’t shrink tumors or cure viruses,” he says.

But researchers have found that placebo treatments—interventions with no active drug ingredients—can stimulate real physiological responses, from changes in heart rate and blood pressure to chemical activity in the brain, in cases involving pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and even some symptoms of Parkinson’s.


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  1. Interesting link, Sue, thanks.

    There’s some discussion worth reading in the HackerNews thread.

Colbert, Stewart, and Carell – On Religion

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 16:06 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News

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Houses from beyond the grave.

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 16:00 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


The latest foreclosure horror: the zombie title

The Kellers are caught up in a little-known horror of the U.S. housing bust: the zombie title. Six years in, thousands of homeowners are finding themselves legally liable for houses they didn’t know they still owned after banks decided it wasn’t worth their while to complete foreclosures on them. With impunity, banks have been walking away from foreclosures much the way some homeowners walked away from their mortgages when the housing market first crashed.

via Naked Capitalism:Another Nightmare, “Zombie Title” Shows How Servicer Refusal to Foreclose Hurts Stressed Homeowners and Communities

Home Seizures Rise As Banks Adjust To Foreclosure Flow, especially since Bank Deal Ends Flawed Reviews of Foreclosures:

Federal banking regulators are trumpeting an $8.5 billion settlement this week with 10 banks as quick justice for aggrieved homeowners, but the deal is actually a way to quietly paper over a deeply flawed review of foreclosed loans across America, according to current and former regulators and consultants.

To avoid criticism as the review stalled and consultants collected more than $1 billion in fees, the regulators, led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, abandoned the effort after examining a sliver of nearly four million loans in foreclosure, the regulators and consultants said.

Feds Replace Flawed Foreclosure Review With Vague $8.5 Billion Settlement

The Independent Foreclosure Review was supposed to be a full and fair investigation of the big banks’ foreclosure abuses, and it was trumpeted as the government’s largest effort to compensate victimized homeowners. Federal regulators, who designed the review, forced banks to spend billions to carry it out. Millions of homeowners were eligible and hundreds of thousands submitted claims. But Monday morning, the very regulators who launched the program 18 months ago announced that it had all been a massive mistake and shut it down.

Instead, 10 banks have agreed to pay a total of $3.3 billion in cash to the 3.8 million borrowers who had been eligible for the review. That’s an average of around $870 per borrower. But typical of a process that’s been characterized by confusion, delays and secrecy, regulators said the details of how the money will be doled out were not yet available.

NC, again:
$8.5 Billion Foreclosure Fraud Settlement: Yet Another Loss for Homeowners Touted as a Victory
Yes, Virginia, the IRS Does Not Treat the Connected Like the Rest of Us (REMIC Edition)

The failing, as we’ve stressed again and again, was not in the law, the deal design, or the contracts, but that the sell side systematically refused to live up to the terms of its own agreements.

Letters To Bank Of America

Anyway, Detroit used to be a really nice place to live. And lots of people would like to buy homes in Detroit and fix them up and make them pretty again, but Bank of America and Countrywide probably wouldn’t stand to make too much money if houses sold cheaply and mortgages were fair and banks were more flexible when the unemployment rate in America is around 9% (here in Detroit, it’s more like 14%—that’s really high, in case you didn’t know).

With abandoned houses falling into disrepair, the target of thieves who strip appliances, copper, and bathroom fittings, blighting neighborhoods and posing fire hazards, there may be one solution: Inside the Radical Plan to Fight Foreclosures With Eminent Domain

From the comments:

So, once again, if you don’t follow the rules, you get fined, and maybe even go to jail.

If the banks don’t follow the rules, you still get fined, and maybe even go to jail.

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UK police report 50 years of Savile sex abuse

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 15:56 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News



British police say that Jimmy Savile, the late BBC star presenter, was a “predatory sex offender” whose victims were as young as eight years old, according to a newly released extensive report.

Savile preyed on children and adults in hospitals and even a hospice, according to the report, released by the police and child protection services on Friday.

The television presenter was accused of having committed more than 200 sex crimes over more than half a century, from 1955 to 2009.

He had an annoying catch phrase, “Jim’ll fix it!” I think we should have been using another f-word.



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  1. So after 53 years they finally have a case?
    He had friends in high places?

  2. Just Mrs Thatcher and the Pope. Actually the parallels with Lance Armstrong are striking. Both managed to intimidate and silence and bully through not much more than force of personality. The triumph of the will, to use a phrase from another context. And both worked not just in plain sight, but in the brightest spotlight imaginable. Truly mind-boggling.

  3. How bad is it? Well, if you need three separate bar charts to split abuse by year and location from age of male and female victims, I’m guessing pretty bad..

Hydrogen Explosions (Slow Motion)

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 15:45 by John Sinteur in category: News

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Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 15:07 by Paul Jay in category: News


“There is absolutely no reason—not for hunting, protection, or otherwise—that an ordinary citizen would need to possess a 600-pound silverback,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), one of the most outspoken gorilla control advocates in Congress. “The general public frankly has no business owning apes of this size, and the only people who do are zookeepers who are trained to properly handle them. Otherwise, they are nothing but a threat to society and only serve to perpetuate more violence.”

Opponents to gorilla control legislation, however, appear to be fervent in their defense of their gorilla possession rights. A spokesperson for the powerful yet controversial national gorilla lobby told reporters that a ban on gorillas would not end incidents such as that in San Diego, as those who want the large primates could simply buy them from illegal dealers who smuggle them into the country from the jungles of sub-Saharan Africa.

Many gorilla owners also told sources that the creatures are primarily used for legal hunting purposes and that the overwhelming majority of gorilla enthusiasts are completely responsible with their apes.

“Listen, it’s my God-given right as an American to have the freedom to own a gorilla to protect myself and my family,” said Nashua, NH resident James Harrington, 46, adding that he personally owns 12 different gorillas of various sizes, but keeps them “safely locked away in [his] home.” “And the government has another thing coming if they think they can come into my house and take away my gorillas.”

“What happened in San Diego was horrible, but that doesn’t mean all gorillas are bad,” Harrington added. “In fact, if every person at that mall had a gorilla, then the tragedy probably never would have even happened in the first place.”

At press time, following the increase in national gorilla sales, four isolated gorilla attacks had just been reported across the country, with the overall civilian death toll currently estimated at 37.

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Tactical Response CEO Threatens To ‘Start Killing People’ Over Possible Obama Gun Measure

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 14:46 by John Sinteur in category: batshitinsane


One CEO says he’s willing to go to outrageous lengths to protect his right to use a gun.

James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a Tennessee company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills, claimed in a video posted on YouTube and Facebook that he would “start killing people” if President Barack Obama decides to take executive action to pass further gun control policies, Raw Story reports.

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  1. Well at least he cleared up one issue – it is not about hunting, it is all about killing people.

Today’s Edition of ‘Not the Onion’

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 13:21 by John Sinteur in category: News


In today’s edition of Not The Onion, CNN interrupts coverage of Biden on the NRA with news of another school shooter.

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  1. Wait, why are they getting so upset. After all the shooter was probably just following the fine example of James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response (see previous post) and defending his gun rights – correct? (~~~~~)


Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 13:19 by John Sinteur in category: Apple


There’s nothing that can fill your underwear faster than seeing your product fail during a Steve Jobs demo.

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NASA’s GALEX Reveals the Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 13:00 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture



This composite of the giant barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 combines visible light images from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope with far-ultraviolet (1,528 angstroms) data from NASA’s GALEX and 3.6-micron infrared data acquired by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. A previously unsuspected tidal dwarf galaxy candidate (circled) appears only in the ultraviolet, indicating the presence of many hot young stars. IC 4970, the small disk galaxy interacting with NGC 6872, is located above the spiral’s central region. The spiral is 522,000 light-years across from the tip of one outstretched arm to the tip of the other, which makes it about 5 times the size of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Images of lower resolution from the Digital Sky Survey were used to fill in marginal areas not covered by the other data. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ESO/JPL-Caltech/DSS

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EU antitrust chief hints at forced changes for Google

Posted on January 11th, 2013 at 12:57 by John Sinteur in category: Google


Google is abusing its dominant place in the search market, according to Europe’s antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia.

In an interview with the Financial Times of London, Google could be forced to change the way that it provides and displays search results or face antitrust charges for “diverting traffic,” in the words of Almunia, referring to Google’s self-serving treatment to its own search services.

Despite the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s move earlier this month to let off Google with a slap on the wrist — albiet, a change to its business practices, a move that financially wouldn’t dent Google in the short term but something any company would seek to avoid — the European Commission is looking to take a somewhat different approach: take its time, and then hit the company hard.

Almunia said in the interview: “We are still investigating, but my conviction is [Google] are diverting traffic,” adding: “They are monetising this kind of business, the strong position they have in the general search market and this is not only a dominant position, I think — I fear — there is an abuse of this dominant position.”

That’s pretty much as black and white as one can get, short of actually saying: “Google, bad! Here’s a whopping great big fine.”

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  1. Google isn’t the only search engine out there (yahoo! bing, et al) that people can choose to use. Does this pinhead (Almunia) think they don’t do the same as Google? That’s the name of competition. For all its warts, Google provides the best overall search experience on the Net, and filtering out ads for the most part is not difficult.

    In any case, this term “diverting traffic” in this context is extremely troubling to me. All internet services “divert” traffic – that’s just the way it works. Before Almunia tries to tell people how to run their internet businesses, he should first learn how it works!