Archive for August, 2014


  • Frances Abbott accepted a $60,000 ‘chairman’s scholarship’ for her course at the Whitehouse Institute of Design
  • Liberal supporter Les Taylor sits as chairman on the board of governors at the school
  • Students claim ‘more deserving’ candidates than PM’s daughter


Ms Abbott, 22, accepted a ‘chairman’s scholarship’ for her Bachelor of Design course from the Whitehouse Institute of Design, where Liberal supporter Les Taylor sits as chairman on the board of governors.

The news came on Wednesday, the same day that thousands of students protested across Australia about the cuts to tertiary education funding, announced in Mr Abbott’s federal budget.

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By guest blogger Robin Abrahams.

If you’ve been on the internet at all this year, you may have noticed an explosion of fiction-based personality quizzes. What house would you belong to inHogwarts—or in Westeros? Which “Mad Man” are you? WhatShakespeare role were you born to play?

Why do we want to know?

Researchers led by Randi Shedlosky-Shoemaker may have some answers. Their paper, “Self-Expansion through Fictional Characters” rests on the concept of parasocial relationships—a relatively new construct in the social sciences that is becoming increasingly relevant in our media-saturated age.

While there is a clear, bright line between real people and imaginary people (I exist, Hermione Granger does not), there is no such line dividing real and imaginary relationships. (As far as you are concerned, dear reader, both Ms. Granger and I are studious women who exist only on the page or screen.) Even in our most intimate personal relationships, we are often interacting with a mental model of our partner or parent, imagining their current state of mind, or how they would respond to whatever situation we find ourselves in. Although operationalised in this article as relationships with…


Here’s an extract from the report of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014…


9.3.1 Torture and trauma prior to arrival in Australia

Since more than 90 per cent of children in immigration detention over the period of the Inquiry have been found to be refugees, it follows that many children in immigration detention are likely to have been affected by prior experiences of trauma.(46)

The Inquiry commissioned a literature review to consider factors affecting the psychological well-being of child and adolescent refugees and asylum seekers.(47)The paper concludes that:

research clearly demonstrates that refugee children and adolescents are vulnerable to the effects of pre-migration, most notably exposure to trauma. It is also apparent that particular groups in this population constitute higher psychological risk than others, namely those with extended trauma experience, unaccompanied or separated children and adolescents and those still in the process of seeking asylum.(48)

The Inquiry received evidence from a range of sources that children in immigration detention may have experienced significant trauma prior to their arrival in Australia. For example, the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMH) reported that:

Refugee parents may have experienced torture, imprisonment, persecution and institutional violence by the political regimes of their country of origin, or have witnessed a spouse or close family members undergoing such experiences.

Many families prior to detention in Australia have experienced long and perilous journeys and been in transit for months or years in refugee camps or in countries where they have had no citizenship rights, lived in very poor and overcrowded housing and where basic needs have been barely met. Children are conceived and born in such situations of deprivation, uncertainty and with minimal or no health care.(49)

The Inquiry also heard evidence that detainees were more likely than other asylum seekers to have had prior experiences of trauma:

Those who had suffered the most severe persecution are perversely at most risk of detention in Australia. This is not really surprising because these are the people most desperate to leave and hence the most likely to enter ‘illegally’ (sic).(50)

The Department acknowledges that pre-arrival experiences have a significant impact on the mental health of child detainees:

Of course, some of these people have had a very difficult and perilous voyage to get to Australia and they may well have other predispositions or issues in their life well before any thought of coming to Australia which might also be impacting on their personal circumstances whilst here.(51)

However, the Inquiry also received evidence that pre-arrival experience does not exclusively account for the mental health problems of children in detention. In other words, detention itself also had a significant impact on the mental health of children, particularly for those held in detention for prolonged periods.

International experience with refugee children resettled to Western countries indicates that while some mental health conditions from prior trauma may persist, particularly post traumatic stress reactions, children generally display a pattern of recovery and adaptation on arrival and integration in their new home.(52)

This can be compared with a 2003 report regarding asylum seekers and their children in a remote Australian detention centre, which found that the impact of detention outweighed that of pre-migration experiences on the development of psychiatric illness:

Lifetime assessment of psychiatric morbidity indicated that there was little psychopathology amongst the children prior to arrival in Australia. One child who had witnessed severe domestic violence in Iran had multiple previous disorders. In contrast at the time of assessment, after having spent in excess of two years in detention, all children were diagnosed with at least one psychiatric disorder and most (16, 80%) were diagnosed with multiple disorders, representing a 10-fold increase in the total number of diagnoses identified.(53)

The Migrant and Workers Resource Centre (MWRC) from Queensland conducted a study of 40 former child detainees and found that ‘[t]he detention of asylum seekers upon their arrival in Australia has a deleterious psychological effect upon asylum seekers through maintaining or aggravating these pre-existing conditions’.(54)

Furthermore, a psychiatrist who has examined several children detained at Woomera stated that detention was the worst thing that had happened to a number of them:

People are resilient and given appropriate circumstances, people can recover from the most horrible traumas, but on average you would expect a significant proportion of these children to continue to suffer, throughout their life, the effects of the detention experience. Now, that is obviously not the only traumatic experience that many of these children have had, but it is certainly – a number of the families that I’ve been involved with discussions about,the trauma – the traumatic nature of the detention experience has out-stripped any previous trauma that the children have had…

….So it has got to the point where being in detention is the worst thing that has ever happened to these children.(55)



“Media reports that I have drawn or believe

there is a link between abortion and breast

cancer are incorrect…”

Eric … Friday, 08 August 2014 09:58

For far too many years suicide prevention has not engaged the perspectives of those who have lived through suicidal experiences. Because of social stigma and fear, as well as personal shame, a culture of silence prevailed. The Way Forward represents a seminal moment in this field’s history; it is an opportunity to benefit from the lived experience of suicide attempt survivors. Many of its recommendations are derived from evidence-based practices, and several are aspirational. All are grounded in the evidence of recovery and resiliency that is clear in the lives of our Task Force members. Viewing suicide prevention through the lens of the eight core values presented in The Way Forward can help us enhance safety while also bringing hope and meaning to those in suicidal despair.

The Core Values represent the group consensus on the values that attempt survivors want suicide prevention professionals and organizations to consider when developing or implementing suicide prevention supports. Research has indicated that promoting protective factors and addressing risk factors for suicide can prevent suicidal behavior.Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that activities that support the Core Values have the potential to prevent future suicide attempts, and improve the quality of life for people who have survived a suicide attempt.

Foster hope and help people find meaning and purpose in life

 Preserve dignity and counter stigma, shame, and discrimination

 Connect people to peer supports

 Promote community connectedness

 Engage and support family and friends

 Respect and support cultural, ethnic, and/or spiritual beliefs and traditions

 Promote choice and collaboration in care

 Provide timely access to care and support


Zak Mohyuddin was born in Bangladesh, raised in Pakistan and moved to Tennessee years ago, in the 1970s. He was 18 when he arrived. Today, at age 58, he’s a longtime resident in Tullahoma, a small town in Coffee County, halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga...

PRI’s The World:


…But something else also happened — hitting close to home for Mohyuddin. Barry West — an elected commissioner at the time in the same county that Mohyuddin ran to represent — posted something online that made Mohyuddin shudder.

On West’s Facebook page, he shared an image showing a man with a double-barrel shotgun aiming, with eye closed. The caption read, “How to wink at a Muslim.” It went viral. But instead of ignoring it, Mohyuddin reached out to West and invited him over to his house for dinner.

Mohyuddin said that, during their evening together, West told him how he felt that the “word Muslim and terrorist were one and the same.”

“He didn’t think there was anything he’d done that was out of place,” Mohyuddin said. West said he was surprised by Mohyuddin’s dinner invite, but accepted. He said, “So, I apologized, and went to Zak’s home, my son and I.”

“We met with his family, and just had a real good conversation about the world situation, and what I had done. We were just full of questions,” West said, “because I had never been around a Muslim that close, to ask about his religion, or what he believes in.”

Mohyuddin said that it was important for him to reach out to a neighbor. “It’s not like I’m an immigrant living in a big city, where I can stay within my own community and remain in a bubble,”

PRI’s The World



Remembering and imagining appear to be very different functions, one recovering true information from the past, the other considering the unreal or exploring the future. And yet many patients with damage to the hippocampus (a structure in the temporal lobes) – and resultant memory impairment – struggle in imagining the future. Moreover, neuroimaging data show the hippocampus is involved in both tasks. Taken together, this evidence suggests that memory for the past and imagination for the future may depend on shared neural processes.

A new imaging study by Brock Kirwan and his colleagues confirms at a broad anatomical level that both memory and future imagination call on similar regions of the hippocampus. But the research also shows how these two mental functions do depend on distinct neural processes after all.

Fourteen study participants were invited into a scanner where they were presented with photographs in a series of runs. One run contained…


Best-selling author and renowned neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel explains why adolescents turn to their peers and away from their parents for security, attachment, and approval.

This clip is from a March 11, 2014 talk for the UC Berkeley

The 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza has entered its final day. Talks are ongoing to extend the truce, but no agreement has been reached. Palestinian and Israeli officials are in Egypt, however have not held face-to-face negotiations on securing a lasting ceasefire. Meanwhile, Gaza is in a state of devastation and ruin. Close to 1,900 Palestinians were killed during the 29-day conflict, including at least 1,354 civilians, of whom 415 are children. More than 10,000 people have been injured. There are 373,000 children who require psychological support. Some 500,000 Palestinians have been displaced with 187,000 still living in U.N. emergency shelters. An estimated 10,000 homes have been completely destroyed, and 30,000 homes partially destroyed. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers were killed in Gaza, and three civilians in Israel. We go to Jerusalem to speak with Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

Panel members said phone data had limited role preventing terrorism in testimony before Senate judiciary committee


The members of president Barack Obama’s surveillance review panel on Tuesday rejected some of the central contentions offered by the National Security Agency for its bulk collection of phone records, including the program’s potential usefulness in preventing the 9/11 attacks.

Testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, members of the panel said that restricting the NSA is necessary in order to rebalance the competing values of liberty and security.

Richard Clarke, who was the White House’s counter-terrorism czar on 9/11, echoed the 9/11 Commission in saying that the biggest obstacle to preventing the terrorist attack was not the NSA collecting an insufficient amount of data, but a failure to share information already collected.

“If the information that the federal agencies had at the time had been shared among the agencies, then one of them, the FBI, could have gone to the Fisa Court and could have in a very timely manner gotten a warrant to monitor” US-based al-Qaida conspirators, Clarke told the Senate judiciary committee…

::: click here for piece in full :::

British Psychological Society research digest:

‘You’ve probably experienced this. You’re in the middle of telling your friend a story when his eyes flick across to his phone. Perhaps he even picks it up, checks the screen. “Sorry, go on,” he says. But your flow is interrupted. And you know his mind is at least half elsewhere.

Shalini Misra and her team approached 100 pairs of people (109 women; average age 33) in cafes across Washington DC and neighbouring districts. They asked them to chat for ten minutes at a table in the cafe about a trivial topic (plastic festive trees) or about the most meaningful events of the past year. For each pair, the researchers observed from a discreet distance and checked whether either party put a mobile device on the table, or held one in their hand. After ten minutes was up, each person in each pair was asked to fill out a few questionnaires about the conversation and their partner.

Feelings of “interconnectedness” (rated by agreement with statements like “I felt close to my conversation partner”) were reduced for pairs in which a mobile device was placed on the table or held by one of them. Similarly, “empathetic concern” (measured by items like “To what extent did your conversation partner make an effort to understand your thoughts and feelings about the topic you discussed?”) was rated lower by pairs in which a mobile device was brought into view. The topic of conversation made no difference to these results, but the reduction in empathetic concern associated with the presence of a mobile device was especially pronounced for pairs of people who were in closer relationships, perhaps because their expectations about the interaction were higher…’

::: click on through to the results @ BPS research digest :::



August 2014

… assault on Gaza; Egypt’s workers struggle on; Syria’s new artists in exile; IT,

how much for your data? rise of the web documentary;

Piketty in the light of Marx; Latin America’s very modern coups;

Balkans, hope after the rains, Algeria’s frustrated youth;

Vietnam’s Costa del Cam Ranh;

Gabriel Garcia Marquezr emembered …

::: click cover to access :::

Russia has lost contact with its only missile detection satellite in geostationary orbit above the US. The satellite was originally supposed to operate until at least 2017, but began malfunctioning shortly after its launch in 2012. Russia still has two remaining missile detection satellites in elliptical orbits around the planet, but they are reportedly able to monitor US missile activity …click story for more @ the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute

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What is the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute?

The Global Catastrophic Risk Institute (GCRI) is a nonprofit think tank working on the topic of global catastrophic risk. GCRI was founded in 2011 by Seth Baum and Tony Barrett. GCRI is geographically decentralized, meaning that it has no central headquarters and its affiliates are located in many places. GCRI works with researchers from many academic disciplines and professionals from many sectors.

As of July 2013, GCRI is a project of the fiscal sponsorship organization Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs.


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