Previous research was flawed, say experts, but findings will shock those who campaign against the drug’s use.
The finding will shock campaigners who have claimed ecstasy poses a real risk of triggering brain damage. They have argued that it can induce memory loss, decrease cognitive performance and has long-lasting effects on behaviour.
But experts who have argued that the drug is relatively safe welcomed the new paper. “I always assumed that, when properly designed studies were carried out, we would find ecstasy does not cause brain damage,” said Professor David Nutt, who was fired as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by Alan Johnson, then home secretary, for publicly stating alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than ecstasy.
The study was carried out by a team led by Professor John Halpern of Harvard Medical School and published in the journal Addiction last week. Funded by a $1.8m grant from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, it was launched specifically to avoid methodological drawbacks that have bedevilled previous attempts to pinpoint whether or not ecstasy users suffer brain damage.
Ecstasy – or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA – came into widespread use in the 1980s when taking it was linked to raves and the playing of dance music. Its symptoms include euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others and diminished anxiety and depression. In the US alone, more than 12 million have taken it.
But the taking of ecstasy has also been linked to damage to the central nervous system and research in recent years has suggested that long-term changes to emotional states and behaviour have been triggered by consumption of the drug. Possession of it has been made an offence in most western nations.
However, Halpern was sharply critical of the quality of the research that had linked ecstasy to brain damage. “Too many studies have been carried out on small populations, while overarching conclusions have been drawn from them,” he said. For a start, some previous research has studied users who were taken from a culture dominated by all-night dancing, which thus exposed these individuals to sleep and fluid deprivation – factors that are themselves known to produce long-lasting cognitive effects. Non-users were not selected from those from a similar background, which therefore skewed results. In addition, past studies have not taken sufficient account of the fact that ecstasy users take other drugs or alcohol that could affect cognition or that they may have suffered intellectual impairment before they started taking ecstasy. In Halpern’s study only ecstasy users who took no other drugs and who had suffered no previous impairment were selected.
The resulting experiment whittled down 1,500 potential participants to 52 selected users, whose cognitive abilities matched those of a group of 59 non-users. “We even took hair samples of participants to test whether they were telling the truth about their drug and alcohol habits,” said Halpern. “Essentially we compared one group of people who danced and raved and took ecstasy with a similar group of individuals who danced and raved but who did not take ecstasy. When we did that, we found that there was no difference in their cognitive abilities.” In other words, previous studies highlighted problems triggered by other factors, such as use of other drugs or drink, or sleep deprivation.
But the drug still posed risks, he said. “Ecstasy consumption is dangerous because illegally made pills often contain contaminants that can have harmful side-effects.”
HIGHS AND LOWS
1912 First synthesis of MDMA by a German chemist, Anton Kollisch, who worked for the giant Merck company.
1970 The drug is first detected in tablets seized on the streets of Chicago.
1977 UK makes MDMA a Class A drug.
1984 Term ‘ecstasy’ coined in California.
1985 MDMA becomes a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the US. In the UK the street price is £25.
Mid1980s Raves become increasingly popular, spreading out from the centres of London and Manchester
1988-89 Raves, electronic dance music and ecstasy lead to a second “summer of love”. First recorded ecstasy-related death in UK.
1995 Essex schoolgirl Leah Betts, 18, dies after taking ecstasy.2000 British Crime Survey finds the proportion of 16-29 -year-olds who have taken ecstasy is 12%.
2003 6,230 people found guilty, cautioned or fined for ecstasy-related offences
2005 In a survey of 500 Edinburgh students, 36% said they had taken ecstasy. Of those, 75% considered ecstasy a “positive force”.
2011 The street price is now between £3 and £8.
Rebel with a camera:
When the actor and director Dennis Hopper died last year, it sparked renewed interest in his ‘other’ career – a chronicler of Sixties America. As his stunning photographic archive is published in a book for the first time, John Walsh pays tribute.
Saturday, 19 February 2011
Dennis Hopper Ike and Tina Turner, 1965
The film critic Matthew Hays wrote of him: “No other persona better signifies the lost idealism of the Sixties than that of Dennis Hopper”. Note the word “persona” – as if the real Hopper lay forever hidden behind the image he projected, of the scary, wild-eyed, chemically enhanced, crazily enthusiastic combination of hippy visionary and serious artist.
He was born in Kansas but his parents relocated to San Diego in 1949 when he was 13. California clearly suited him. In his high-school graduate class of 1954, he was voted the Boy Most Likely To Succeed. He didn’t waste much time. His film career began a year later, when he appeared in Rebel Without a Cause, the first of two films with James Dean. Hopper hero-worshipped Dean, and was with him almost every day for eight months before Dean died in a car crash. And it was Dean who encouraged him to pick up a camera.
Ironically, the death of his friend pitched Hopper into such a fever of anti-authority attitude that for years Hollywood studios refused to use him. Photography became a substitute. His first pictures were street scenes in New York, where he moved to study acting at Lee Strasberg’s method school. The turn of the 1960s was an explosive time for the arts – pop music, pop art, wayward graphics, post-studio cinema, photo-realist reportage, the rise of the art super-dealer like Robert Fraser in London and Henry Geldzahler in Manhattan. Hopper lapped up all the new influences around him. He was, reputedly, the first person ever to buy a Warhol soup can (for $75). He became a self-confessed “gallery bum”. And his photographs began to reflect two things he had discovered: the texture of the ordinary, and the attractions of fame.
His pictures of empty highways, graffiti and torn posters on city walls were eloquent statements of everyday decadence. When Hopper moved on to photographing people, he revealed a talent for capturing expressions. Check out the three black kids on the “Full Employment” demonstration in Alabama (above): the boy in the middle is clearly wondering if the white snapper is going to use his image for good or ill; but his friend grins sardonically as though pleased just to have his picture taken.
Look at the biker couple in his 1961 double portrait: the man so handsomely chiselled, his hair so back-slicked, his beard so trim, his tattoos so expressive of death, glory and rebellion as he gazes into the future – and his girlfriend so contrastingly down-to-earth, as if she’s wondering just how long she can put up with this troubled, self-preening hero.
As he grew more confident and better known into the Sixties, Hopper acquired some famous friends and put them under the intelligent gaze of his lens. Paul Newman is snapped, looking grumpily like his jailbird alter ego Cool Hand Luke, behind a wire-mesh fence, so that its shadows imprison him in a net. He photographed Jane Fonda and her husband Roger Vadim in a series of loving poses, but managed to snap Jane flexing her independent muscles with a bow and arrow. He caught Ike and Tina Turner in a wonderfully ambiguous mood, amid the carnival paraphernalia of his house: Ike sitting on a kind of throne, fingering the organ keys, while Tina is left (ironically?) playing the role of washerwoman, scrubber, and cowed helpmeet (not that she looks terribly cowed).
His photography became more experimental (see Twins, right, where two bursts of strong Klieg lights blind the viewer who is trying to concentrate on the girls’ bottoms) and more celebrated. In the mid-1960s, Better Homes & Gardens magazine commissioned a profile of him as “a photographer to watch” by the novelist Terry Southern, later to write Candy and The Magic Christian. By 1967, however, his photographic career was over. No longer an up-and-coming snapper, he was soon to become the hottest new director around. His counter-cultural masterpiece, Easy Rider, won a prize at Cannes, and was nominated for an Oscar (for best original screenplay). But his photographs, which capture with intelligence both street-life and the lives of famous friends, remain Hopper’s vivid calling-card, announcing the arrival in town of a wild and wayward talent.
‘Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961-1967′ is published on Monday by Taschen
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 17 February 2011
The film Inside Job brilliantly exposes the corruption in US banking that led to the 2008 crash. We ask four bankers for their verdict on this damning indictment of their world
When Michael Moore made his debut feature, Roger and Me, he set about vilifying the boss of General Motors, the now deceased Roger B Smith, for destroying his home town of Flint, Michigan. Charles Ferguson’s film Inside Job attempts to blame a wider cast list for the banking crash of 2008 and explains why so little has been done to reform the financial world or bring criminal prosecutions against the main protagonists.
His villainous lineup includes bankers, politicians (many of whom were previously bankers), regulators, the credit ratings agencies and academics. When Glenn Hubbard, George Bush’s chief economic adviser and dean of Columbia Business School, is shown as a partisan advocate of deregulation, we have one of the movie’s punch-the-air moments. During the interview, Hubbard, who denies he was corrupted by his paid-for relationships with government, angrily barks: “You’ve got five minutes, mister. Give it your best shot.”
- Inside Job
- Production year: 2010
- Country: USA
- Cert (UK): 12A
- Runtime: 108 mins
- Directors: Charles Ferguson
- Cast: Matt Damon
Britain’s banks are bankrupt. We have said it many times. They are trading while insolvent, and in this country at least, that is illegal. The British establishment is owned lock, stock and barrel by these banks, and so nothing is done. They have already taken us very close to the point of no return, and the financial collapse is only one symptom of their fraudulent thinking.
As we published recently in the paper edition of the UK Column, this stage of the process began in 1971, with the double whammy of the “Nixon Shock”, where President Nixon unilaterally cancelled the US Dollar’s link to gold that essentially ended the Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange, combined with Rothschild’s formation of the Inter Alpha Group.
The Inter Alpha Group is a cartel of European banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, AIB and ING among others. The most notable name in the list is Santander. Notable because it is exhibiting the greatest symptoms of bankruptcy.
As a result of that bankruptcy, Santander has been sucking the blood out of any and all profitable assets the banking system may still have through mergers and acquisitions, in an vain effort to stay afloat.
For example, lets take the case of Allied Irish Bank. AIB, also an Inter Alpha Group member, is also insolvent. It went cap in hand recently to the Irish Government for bailout money. The Irish Government, in their emminent wisdom, told AIB that they could have bailout money, but that they would have to attempt to raise as much capital for themselves first, as a condition of it.
As a result of that condition, AIB sold the only profitable portion of its operation – its wholly owned Polish subsidiary, Bank Zachodni WBK to Banco Santander. AIB then qualified for bailout by the Irish taxpayer. AIB was asset stripped, leaving the bankrupt empty shell, on the backs of the Irish. Job done.
Santander has done the same in the UK, sucking the final embers out of Bradford and Bingly, Alliance and Leicester, and Abbey, as well as the hight street branches of RBS and Natwest in Scotland.
It seems, though, that none of this has been enough to save Santander, which has had to announce a 26% drop in its third quarter “profits.” The bank had to write off around €400 million in bad debts during the quarter as a result of new bank accounting rules in Spain, and it has announced a floatation of 20% of its UK arm in an attempt to raise €3 billion.
Santander is merely the leader on the way to hell, as Greek, Irish and other Spanish banks follow quickly behind. All are on European Central Bank life support machines – isn’t it time these were switched off?
As Bloomberg recently reported, Spanish, Irish and Greek banks took 61% of the loans supplied by the ECB in September, which was 50% up on August. Why? Because no-one wanted to invest in their bonds.
All this resulted in last week’s agreement, led by the Cabbage Patch himself, to make changes to the Lisbon Treaty which will create a permanent bailout mechanism to “preserve the stability of the euro.”
The truth is that we are at the end of the road with the current financial system. Those setting policy are bent on destroying our nations, asset stripping them, “normalising” living standards globally and imposing global governance. So they continue to actively push the collapse, which is not limited to the financial system. Food supplies, energy, roads, rail – all our key infrastructure necessary for maintaining our population is collapsing at an accelerating rate. In the case of food, we are already using food reserves in order to feed ourselves today.
This is the worst depression the world has known. As I have said many times before, it is similar in nature to the breakdown that occurred in Germany in 1923, except this time, there are no national boundaries to contain it.
The Solution – Glass Steagall
The Banking Act of 1933, known as the Glass-Steagall Act, was American legislation which introduced post-depression banking reforms, designed to control speculation. Its repeal effectively removed the separation between investment banks and high street banks, and paved the way for the speculation which brought about the present financial collapse.
There are more calls daily for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall type banking regulation, mainly in Europe.
In Austria, the financial spokesman for the Freedom Party of Austria (FPOe) parliamentary group, Lutz Weinzinger, said his party is in favor of a banking system like the one that was introduced as a reaction to the 1929 stock market collapse:
It should concretely result in a split between commercial bank activities and investment bank activities … It is a matter of protecting them [the commercial banks], because they provide deposit, credit functions, and safe money-transfer operations – customer-oriented services with low risk and modest profits … In the future, investment banking firms should be like all firms, and in case of failure, they should be out of the economy, lest they jeopardize the functionality of ‘basic banking.’
In Switzerland, Konrad Haedener, a Thun city council member, posted a call for Glass-Steagall on his blog on Oct. 3. The statement reads:
We need regulatory interventions in the financial economy, namely the partition of today’s universal banks into a separate banking system, where payments, credit and mortgage loans, capital management, and investment banking are separated again. The U.S.A. had such a regulation in the Glass-Steagall Act, as a lesson from the 1929 stock market crash and the resulting Great Depression. After the lifting of this split-system in 1999, the problems started in the U.S.A., which led the country and partly also Europe into the serious crisis in the financial and real economy, which we are still in.
I couldn’t agree more with these sentiments. Bringing in Glass Steagall style legislation has to be done immediately. If it isn’t we are dead; the nation is dead. Realistically, that means the CameronClegg lovefest has to end. We need them out, and all their criminal colleagues. In fact, taking control of our financial system is not the only reason to do that.
What else we might do – fixed exchange rates, banks in administration, writing off the fraudulent national debt, taking control of our national currency, ending fractional reserve banking, government sponsored infrastructure rebuilding and so on – can’t happen until Glass Steagall style legislation is in place.
By Wayne Madsen
WMR ( www.waynemadsenreport.com ) has been informed by a strictly anonymous source that many of the “terrorist” attacks in Iraq that have been blamed on “Al Qaeda” and its allies were, in fact, carried out by CIA-supported Sunni cells. US Special Forces teams seconded to the CIA units provided protection to the Sunni cells as they carried out their terror missions.
The CIA and Special Forces teams ensured that the Sunni terrorist cells hit their pre-determined targets. In some cases, when the certain Sunni teams were thought to be unreliable, the CIA and Special Forces overseers would execute the Sunnis.
In other cases, a remotely-controlled car bomb would prematurely detonate, requiring the CIA-Special Forces units to clean up the evidence and chalk the terrorist event off as a “suicide bomb.” The media would be fed press releases that “confirmed” the bombing as a suicide attack. Our source worked with two different Sunni terrorist cells in Iraq.
On June 24, 2009, WMR reported: “WMR has learned from an intelligence source who served in 2007 at the Tallil Air Base in Iraq, also known as Camp Adder by the U.S. Army and Ali Air Base by the U.S. Air Force, that United States intelligence services imported Afghan mercenaries into Iraq in order to attack Iraqi civilians and military personnel, as well as coalition forces, including U.S. service personnel. The Afghans were recruited from Taliban ranks and were paid for their services in Iraq. WMR has learned that during 2007, Iraqi police stopped a truck hauling a 40-foot trailer on the Kerrada Bridge in Baghdad. When the Iraqi police officers checked the truck’s trailer they were amazed to discover between 30 and 40 Afghan Taliban. They said they were brought into Iraq by the United States and were tasked with stirring up trouble in Iraq., much of it ascribed by U.S. military commanders as the work of the dubiously-named Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn(Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers) or, more commonly known as ‘Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia.'”
The case of Raymond Davis, the so-called U.S. diplomat arrested in Lahore, Pakistan after shooting two Pakistani men, indicates that the CIA is carrying out similar false flag terrorist attacks in that country. Pakistani police recovered from Davis’s car a pistol, facial make-up, ATM cards from five different banks, a Global Positioning System device, a telescope, two mobile telephones, maps, a wireless radio, a passport, photos of different possible target locations in Multan, Sargodha, and Lahore. Concerned that Davis may spill the beans to Pakistan about CIA false flag terrorist attacks in Pakistan, the Obama administration is demanding Davis’s immediate release and repatriation to the United States, citing the CIA officer’s diplomatic immunity. The Davis case has opened a wide rift in U.S.-Pakistani relations.
Steve Watson & Paul Watson Feb 18, 2011
As far as mega corporations in bed with the government go, Google sits somewhere close to the top of the tree. The company was seeded with CIA money and is literally an a corporate arm of the intelligence community.
The following ten facts highlight how much influence Google has, and how the company has seemingly abandoned its own corporate motto, “Don’t be evil”.
The company has established a close working relationship with the National Security Agency, the government spy force responsible for warrantless monitoring of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails in the wake of 9/11. Google is supplying the software, hardware and tech support to US intelligence agencies in the process of creating a vast closed source database for global spy networks to share information.
Google’s partnership with the intelligence network is not new. As we reported in late 2006, An ex-CIA agent Robert David Steele has claimed sources told him that CIA seed money helped get the company off the ground.
Recent disclosures under the Freedom Of Information Act have also revealed that the federal government has several contracts with social media outlets, including Youtube which is owned by Google. The contracts are said to waive rules on monitoring users and permit companies to track visitors to government web sites for advertising purposes.
#2 – Google is one of the corporations at the forefront of the government’s drive to use cybersecurity as a pretext for restricting the openness of the Internet.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that government regulation of Internet service providers (ISPs) is necessary. In fact, he said he thinks the entire concept of the Internet marketplace relies on it.
#3 – Google is reported to have jointly invested with the CIA in an Internet monitoring project that scours Twitter accounts, blogs and websites for all sorts of information, and can also “predict the future”.
Google Ventures, the investment arm of Google, has injected a sum of up to $10 million, as has In-Q-Tel – which handles investments for the CIA and the wider intelligence network – into a company called Recorded Future.
The company describes its analytics as “the ultimate tool for open-source intelligence”.
#4 – The recent scandal involving the company’s street view roaming vehicles accessing the wi-fi details of internet users and mapping their online activities has also raised serious questions.
Google Earth and Street View are also being used by the government to spy on Americans in an effort to collect revenue and enforce ordinances on swimming pools without safety certificates, junk cars being stored without permission, unlicensed porches, and a myriad of other petty transgressions that the state is feeding off in complete violation of the Fourth Amendment to suck citizens dry of whatever income they have left after being looted of trillions of dollars in wealth that the state has transferred to foreign banks.
#5 – Outgoing Google CEO Eric Schmidt, a regular special guest of the Bilderberg kingmakers, has on several occasions displayed a complete lack of respect for the right to privacy and the Fourth amendment.
In the past two years alone he has made the following statements in public:
People who don’t like Google’s Street View cars taking pictures of their homes and businesses “can just move.”
“Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it,”. Google implants, he added, probably crosses that line.
“…the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.”