Friday, April 21, 2006
Five are Nobel laureates, three are former presidents of the
American Physical Society and all thirteen believe the use of
nuclear weapons against Iran would be "gravely irresponsible."
Their letter to President Bush was prompted by media reports
that the White House had called on the Pentagon to prepare a
plan for a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities,
which are, unfortunately, largely underground. No problem!
What are nuclear bunker-busters for? Jorge Hirsch at UCSD was
behind the letter to the President. Last fall Hirsch
organized a petition signed by more than 1,800 physicists that
opposed any policy of preemptive nuclear strikes against non-
nuclear adversaries. Iran, unfortunately, is dying to be a
nuclear adversary. It's hard to tell how far they've gotten,
and how much is just the old Muslim custom of shouting and
waving their guns in the air. There has been no response to
the physicist's letter from the White House, which is not
surprising since Bush's long-time policy advisor, Karl Rove,
has been sent packing. The President's plunging popularity
raises concern that he might try something really dumb,
whether he can pronounce it or not.
When our Pleistocene ancestors saw movement in the tall grass,
their brains released stress hormones, increasing heart rate
and respiration, dilating eyes to increase awareness and
diverting blood from the digestive tract to arms and legs.
The body was preparing to fight, or run very fast in the
opposite direction. Carnivores in the tall grass are not a
problem today, but there is plenty to fear. It's a lousy
feeling that hits you right in your blood-deprived stomach.
If anxiety persists due to war in Iraq, terrorists, bird flu,
arctic melting, gas prices, or Rumsfeld, the brain switches to
a long-term strategy. The hypothalamus, which controls
emotion, tells the adrenal cortex to release cortisol, another
stress hormone that raises blood pressure and increases blood
glucose levels. New findings from Harvard Medical School
links cortisol levels directly to depression for the first
time. You're being manipulated by your hypothalamus. You can
try to persuade your brain that there are no tigers, or take
antidepressants that boost serotonin, another hormone that
constricts blood vessels, countering the cortisol.
The new site http://www.HealthNewsReview.org , was created by
University of Minnesota journalism professor Gary Schwitzer,
who patterned it after similar efforts in Australia and
Canada. A team of 20 reviewers from universities across the
country will write the critiques. It is apparently limited to
print news, and will not expose the outrageous commercials
disguised as news that keep showing up on local television.
It begins Monday. WN will check the cortisol story.