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Genetic Factors in Mental Illness

February 28th, 2013

800px-Detailaufnahme_Weihnachtsstern_-_großFrom The Boston Globe today:

An international consortium, including researchers from Boston, has for the first time discovered a handful of common genetic underpinnings for five distinct psychiatric illnesses, providing evidence that disorders such as schizophrenia and autism overlap — and may share fundamental biological causes.

The study is one step in an ambitious effort that could ultimately redraw or blur the boundary lines between psychiatric illnesses, based on a precise understanding of the underlying biology.

Over the past five years, many teams have focused on analyzing genetic variants — spots in the genome that commonly differ among people — to pinpoint the risk factors for disorders. In the new work, published Wednesday in The Lancet, researchers examined genetic data from people with autism, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and found clues that genes involved in signaling within the brain may go awry in a broad set of psychiatric illnesses.

“This is the first time we’ve seen specific genetic variants that seem to confer risk across traditional boundaries, to a broad range of child- and adult-onset disorders,” said Dr. Jordan Smoller, a professor of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and a leader of the study. “Each one of them, by themselves, still accounts for a small amount of the risk. The fascinating thing is there might be such variants that cross our clinically distinct syndromes.”

Smoller and colleagues analyzed genetic data from more than 33,000 people with the five disorders and compared them with nearly 28,000 people without mental illness. They found four spots in the genome that were more common among those with psychiatric disease, two of which occurred in genes involved in communication between brain cells.

They also found that genetic risk factors for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia had the most overlap. Interestingly, autism, a disorder that emerges in childhood, overlapped with both disorders, which typically emerge in adulthood.

Those are tantalizing clues for scientists, who now have a range of starting points for teasing out more about the shared biological basis of these psychiatric diseases. What the new study cannot do is provide a way of predicting mental illness with a gene test. All the genetic variants highlighted are very weak risk factors.

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A ball of light in one’s hands

February 27th, 2013

‘Man reading shd. be man intensely alive. The book shd. be a ball of light in one’s hands.’

Ezra Pound photographed in Kensington, London, October 22, 1913. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn

Ezra Pound photographed in Kensington, London, October 22, 1913. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn

Ezra Pound

EDF Tries to Stifle Dissent

February 23rd, 2013

12830d1264346345-other-uses-eggs-egg_on_faceIf you’ve had a look at the two Adam Curtis films I’ve posted up here recently you’ll be aware of his topic, which is the way our governments have been trumpeting the ideal of freedom while they and big business have been eroding our freedoms year by year.

Here’s another example: EDF the big energy company in the UK are trying to sue activists and in the attempt have made an awful PR blunder and now have egg on their faces. As it says in The Guardian: “EDF’s decision to take out a £5m lawsuit against a handful of climate activists represents a new low in corporate attempts to stifle democratic dissent.”  Do sign the petition – these online petitions really do help, as we all discovered when the government tried to sell off  public forests and the petition against it made them change their policy.

Here’s the message I received today:

Our daughter Claire was one of 21 activists who spent a week up a chimney at West Burton power station to protest against the use of gas-fired power stations.

It was a peaceful protest to draw attention to the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels for power. No one was hurt but now EDF Energy are suing our daughter and her fellow activists for £5 million.

We believe this is totally unfair and unprecedented. That’s why we have started a petition to call on EDF to drop the suit against our daughter and her friends, the West Burton activists. Click here to sign our petition.

Our daughter and her friends protested peacefully. They knew they would be arrested but were brave enough to accept this possibility. Peaceful protest has never before been followed by an injunction for costs like this. If EDF are successful in this suit it will set a dangerous precedent for the right to peaceful protest in this country.    SIGN THE PETITION HERE

EDF is one of the largest electricity companies, and heavily involved in nuclear power. EDF Energy, the British wing of EDF, is fully owned by the French state owned EDF (Electricity de France). In France, EDF has many nuclear power stations, and is building a new European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) in Flamanville. In Britain, EDF is pushing heavily for nuclear new build, and wants to build new reactors at four sites, the first being Hinkley Point and Sizewell. See the BOYCOTT EDF WEBSITE

Pagans And Pilgrims: Britain’s Holiest Places

February 22nd, 2013


A great new series is coming up on the Beeb. More about it later, meanwhile here is the BBC’s announcement:

Presenter and Welsh poet Ifor ap Glyn explores the wealth of Britain’s extraordinary holy places on a pilgrimage that spans almost 2,000 years of history.

Travelling across the breadth of the UK, Ifor will uncover the stories and rich history behind many of our most famous sites, explaining the myths and legends of some of Britain’s most sacred places.

Over six half-hour episodes, Ifor will visit crumbling ruins, tranquil healing pools, sacred caves, island refuges, towering mountain hideaways and ancient shrines to find out what these historical sites tell us about who we are today. From the divine to the unexpected, the series uncovers Britain’s extraordinary variety of inspirational, surprising and half-forgotten holy places, and brings to life our spiritual history.

In the first episode, Ifor explores why ruins are among the best-preserved and most-loved holy sites in Britain. He’ll take in the famous ruins of St Andrews Cathedral, the mystical atmosphere of Wales’ best-preserved Roman site, the battered remains of Coventry’s iconic cathedral and the Gothic majesty of North Yorkshire’s Whitby Abbey – the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Along the way, he’ll ask why we’re drawn to holy ruins long after their religious use is over. Is it just nostalgia or something much deeper that fuels our obsession and enduring fascination with the decaying grandeur of a ruin?

6 episodes starting  Thursday 7 March  8.30-9.00pm  BBC FOUR

Police Raid Pub Looking for Nuns

February 22nd, 2013

800px-NO_VAT_Facciamo_Breccia_Roma_9_feb_2008_0236From the BBC website:

An Irish publican has been prosecuted after police found dozens of “nuns” drinking illegally, several hours past closing time on his premises.

Christy Walsh, who runs the bar in Listowel, County Kerry, has been fined a total of 700 euros (£605) after his pub was raided twice in one night.

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Thought for the Day

February 21st, 2013

120px-Anemone_blanda_BWFrom a great blog post of Stephen Jenkinson:

The real dilemma with time is the vague theology, the vague notion of Something Bigger Somewhere Else, that this culture clings to. Somewhere along the line each of us ‘learns’ that the past is gone, the best of it maybe perched at the right hand of the Divine. And that leaves the future as everything that hasn’t happened yet, and the present all there is. It is a savage, graceless thing that the elders among us are now obliged to see their lives as mostly ‘gone’, and that the rest of us are obliged to keep jogging, keep eating power bars and topping up our RSP’s so as not to be as ‘gone’ as our parents or grandparents or dead spouses are. This is the poverty that my culture has come to now: we don’t have to die to be gone anymore. We, with all the perishables in the grocery store, have a ‘best before’ date too. We have a peak of freshness. Aging gets us gone, well before most of us thought it would, and almost no one – certainly no one undespairing – wants to get there. I myself refuse all of this.
Stephen Jenkinson

See rest of post here

Does God Wear a Kilt?

February 20th, 2013

de3180_a1d41da346823fa66264c890f712e7f3.jpg_srz_325_175_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Some years ago I met Tim Firth – who used to be a Catholic theologian: one of the Vicars General of Cardinal Basil Hume, the Archbishop of Westminster.

In the delicious way a life dedicated to Druidry creates extraordinary opportunities,  my meeting with Tim was organized because he wanted to create a ceremony with some Druid input beneath a majestic oak that graces his garden in Sussex.

​When we met I pounced on him with all those questions I’d stored up about what I found so strange about Christianity and in particular Catholicism. Instead of being given stock answers I discovered that Tim was as open and as questioning as I was. He had stopped being a priest, had married and was now involved with Interfaith work. He belongs to a number of inclusive spiritual networks such as Greenspirit and the Wrekin Forum and is a co-founder of Renewal Arts, an international fellowship which believes that the arts are catalysts for spiritual change.

Over the years we’ve annually held open, inclusive ceremonies at his oak, letting go of labels that try to indicate our beliefs, finding that meeting around a beautiful old tree beside a stream provides all the definition we need.

And now Tim’s book is available: it’s called God’s Favourite Colour is Tartan, and you can read about it on his website here.

The Narrow Logic of Numbers

February 19th, 2013

Indian_pre-school_girl_in_pink_shirt_plays_with_abacusHere is another brilliant documentary by Adam Curtis, second in the series I posted on the other day. This film focuses on the narrow logic of numbers and how politicians have tried to use numbers in the service of their ideals with such hopeless results.
What is so interesting is the way he demonstrates how certain beliefs and ideas about what the human being is have been used by politicians and economists to startling effect in the very tangible worlds of health care, social mobility, and wealth distribution.

It shows us how vital the search for the understanding of the human being is –  how the study of philosophy, psychology and spirituality are of fundamental importance. The film is full of extraordinary information: about the Impossibility Theorem, hospitals taking the wheels off trolleys to classify them as beds to hit their targets, and of the similarity in responses between economists and psychopaths.

A Cyclical Universe?

February 19th, 2013

650px-CMS_Higgs-eventSee this BBC article which suggests an idea which will make a lot of sense to Druids and Pagans:

‘the possibility of a cyclical universe, in which every so often all of space is renewed.’

Scientists say they may be able to determine the eventual fate of the cosmos as they probe the properties of the Higgs boson.

A concept known as vacuum instability could result, billions of years from now, in a new universe opening up in the present one and replacing it…

Read more here