While they are being called "aid workers," the primary mission of the South Koreans held hostage in Afghanistan appears to have been the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Although their mission was illegal under Afghan law, the Koreans decided that going to a very dangerous place to illegally gain converts superseded any concern about the personal dangers, the dangers to others and the political ramifications of their actions:
The hostages, members of Saemmul Church from Bundang, near Seoul, appear to have been somewhat naive. They were traveling from Kabul to Kandahar on one of the most dangerous routes in Afghanistan. They rode a charter bus often used by foreigners, immediately attracting attention, and they did not alert local police to their presence for fear of being questioned about their identity papers, the bus driver has said. Photos of some of the missionaries, mostly women in their 20s and 30s, have surfaced on the Internet; they are seen giddily posing in front of the government sign at Seoul's Incheon International Airport warning about the dangers of travel to Afghanistan...
...As Christianity has taken firmer hold in the past few decades, riding the boom that has turned South Korea into one of the world's leading economies, competition among churches has turned fierce. Deploying missionaries abroad has become one of the quickest ways for a church to broaden its reputation and attract members. The more volatile the area, the holier the mission.
In highly wired South Korea, the debate is heating up online. President Roh Moo Hyun, who is Catholic, issued a statement yesterday asking bloggers to stop lashing out at the missionaries for bringing the nation to a standstill. His government is being criticized for not adding Afghanistan to its list of no-travel zones earlier. Some devout Christians are calling the abductees martyrs, evoking the self-glorification of extreme Islamist jihadists. The head of Saemmul Church has been forced to apologize to the nation for sending ill-prepared congregants on such a mission.
The South Korean government has asked the Afghan and American governments for flexibility in dealing with the kidnappers' demand for the release of Taliban prisoners. Both governments have refused to negotiate with the hostage takers.
I can't find fault with the position of the U.S. and the Afghan governments on this one. Afghanistan is a war zone and the Koreans were there voluntarily on a mission to exploit the instability in Afghanistan for their own purposes. Freeing Taliban prisoners that the US government has deemed dangerous would send the wrong message. It would encourage future kidnappers and future Korean missionaries.
Maj. General Lemuel Shepherd (Iwo Jima, 1942). Click photo to view larger size.
"[Shepherd] fondly hopes that Marine officers will once more take to carrying swagger sticks, and in the field he is never without his own oversized version, a polished length of Haitian Coco-macaque wood -- Time 11-24-52
Science Daily reports that an MRI study comparing brain activity in children diagnosed with PTSD with their non-traumatized peers found differences between the two groups:
...subjects were placed inside the fMRI machine... and then asked to push a button each time a letter other than X flashed on a screen in front of them. Because Xs were introduced only after a string of non-Xs, the test is a good way to measure what's known as response inhibition, or a subject's ability to suppress the natural tendency to push the button as soon as any letter appears...
The researchers found that, although the two groups accomplished the task equally well, they used different parts of their brains to do so. The children with PTSD symptoms showed less activity than their non-traumatized peers in the left middle frontal cortex, an area known to be involved in response inhibition, and more activity in several other areas of the brain including a region involved in emotional awareness known as the insula.
"We found that affected kids who injured themselves-a subgroup of our study sample-had more activity in the insula than did kids who did not injure themselves," said Carrion. "What's more, we found a very good correlation between the levels of activation of this structure and the severity of PTSD symptoms experienced by the child."
And in another study reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers report on a genetic variation associated with better recall for emotionally charged events:
"This was a first proof of principle that we are able to identify genes [specifically] related to emotional memory," says the new paper's lead author Dominique de Quervain, a professor in the University of Zurich's Division of Psychiatry Research. "[This work] may have consequences for anxiety disorders where emotional memory plays a critical role."
At age 12, Howard Dully's stepmother convinced psychiatrist and trans-orbital lobotomy pioneer, Walter Freeman, to lobotomize her stepson. I have no first-hand knowledge of this particular case, but in similar situations I would speculate about stepmother externalizing the problem (located in her own head) and then having it cut out surgically.
Now 56-years-old, here is Dully's moving account of his efforts to learn more about what actually happened. Mr. Dully was able to see his original medical file. He also interviews his father, the late psychiatrist's son and family members of other lobotomy patients.
The interview with Dully's father (beginning at 15:15 into Dully's report) offers a vivid picture of a man warding off the experience of guilt. Also interesting are the younger Mr. Dully's comments on the discussion with his father. He notes that his father does not take responsibility, yet he describes the opportunity to talk with his father about the lobotomy as "the happiest moment of my life."
Mr. Dully's book, My Lobotomy, will be released in September 2007 in the U.S. and in February 2008 in the UK.
Located Wilmette, IL, a suburb north of Chicago, the temple was designed by Canadian Louis Bourgeois. The corner stone was laid in 1923 by Abdu’l Baha, son of Bahá’u’lláh, the Persian founder of the Bahá'í faith. It took 30 years to complete construction of the temple.
This is fascinating: researches at Northwestern University showed that consumer preferences can be radically manipulated by re-grouping the presentation of products. In a print advertisement featuring two sofas, participants preferred sofa B over sofa A -- until sofas C & D were added to the advertisement. Then, by a large majority, participants switched their preference from sofa B to sofa A. More here and a possible explanation.
Simon Baron-Cohen at In Character discusses deception, theory of mind and autism.
Children on the autistic spectrum, such as those with Asperger's syndrome, show delays in the development of mind-reading ability. This neurological (and ultimately genetic) set of conditions can leave the person with autism or Asperger's syndrome prey to deception and exploitation.
Each teen was hooked up to a device that used the reflection in the cornea and pupil to track eye movements when they were looking at the ads. Teens spent an average of seven seconds looking at the ads but only 0.35 seconds looking at moderation messages, according to the study. They spent more time looking at bottles, product names, models and headlines than moderation messages.
Immediately after looking at the ad, most of the teens could not remember the general concept of the responsibility message.
A spokesperson for the Distilled Spirits Council dismissed the significance of the finding, stating that the messages aren't intended for teens. The question remains, are the messages simply window dressing or would the messages have any effect on teen or adult drinking behavior even if drinkers noticed the message?
When I was a kid growing up Catholic, we took our religious faith seriously, but we loved a good Catholic joke. Recently, I found myself wondering if Muslims have a tradition of self-deprecating humor. Eric Rasmusen is wondering , too.
The cartoon above is probably not produced by a Muslim and it deals with such a sensitive area that it might not draw a chuckle from the average Muslim. The cartoon below capitalized on a sensitive subject and offended many Catholics, but it made me laugh. Humor often draws upon matters that make us uneasy, resolving in juxtapositions that crack us up.
In an interview with NRO, retired General Jack Keane said that the surge is working better than expected (H/T: Bird Dog, Think Progress). Keane authored and promoted the surge proposal to the Bush administration together with AEI neocon Fred Kagan earlier this year.
Since his 2003 retirement from the military, Keane has profited handsomely from the continuation of the war. He sits on the board of General Dynamics, a major military contractor. From the company’s 2005 annual report on the commercial significance of the continuing war:
“The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan fueled continued strong demand for several of our largest programs, including the Stryker wheeled infantry vehicle, the M1 Abrams tank and the Marine Corps’ Light Armored Vehicle (LAV). The high operational tempo of the U.S. military also generated increased requirements for the company’s ammunition and high-performance armaments.”
General Keane also advises the chairman and chief executive officer of URS Corp. According to the URS website, the company derives a significant part of its income from “military construction, infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction projects in Iraq."
Reviewing the testimony of Mr. Keane and three other former generals on January 18 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there is a distinct pattern. Those most involved in the military industry, Mr. Keane and former four-star army general Barry McCaffery, endorsed, respectively, escalation and continued investment in the Iraq War. Those with the least involvement in the military industry, former Marine General John P. Hoar and former army Lt. Gen. William Odom were for withdrawal.
None of this means that Keane's assessment is wrong, but reasonable people should question the credibility of General Keane's assessment since the continuation of the war is deeply tied in with the profitability of corporations that pay him.