November 4th, 2008

Chris Keeley

He started seeing a therapist and said he came to realize that he lacked empathy. He vowed to turn h

A Chess Master From Brooklyn Seeks World Poker Immortality

For Ylon Schwartz, poker and, before that, chess were not just games; they were ways to avoid having to work a steady job. He’s scratched out a living for 15 years, but he is about to enter a higher tax bracket than most gamblers dare to dream about — the million-dollar club.

When Mr. Schwartz was starting out, no wager was too small or too far-fetched. Like the day he bet several people on the street that he could throw a lemon across Church Street from Liberty Plaza and onto the roof of a Burger King near the World Trade Center. Unbeknownst to the bettors, he had practiced the night before. He walked away with $340.

Mr. Schwartz, 38, is one of nine finalists in the World Series of Poker Main Event, which is considered the unofficial world championship. He beat out more than 6,800 competitors to get to the final table, which will be held on the weekend in Las Vegas.

First place is $9.1 million, but even last place will take home $900,000. Going into the final table, Mr. Schwartz, who lives in Brooklyn, is in fifth.

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Chris Keeley

by Philip Gourevitch

by Philip Gourevitch

Last Tuesday morning—a week before Election Day—John McCain called on Senator Ted Stevens, of Alaska, the longest-serving Republican in Congress, to step down. The day before, a jury in Washington, D.C., had found Stevens guilty on seven counts of lying on his financial-disclosure forms in order to conceal gifts that he had received from oil-industry executives: a sled dog, a gas barbecue grill, an electronic massage chair, the addition of a new story to his house—in all, more than a quarter million dollars’ worth of booty. Stevens, who is eighty-four, was seeking a seventh term in the Senate, and now, after a five-week trial that had kept him in Washington throughout the campaign season, he was a convicted felon. For McCain, who had never much liked him, denouncing and renouncing Stevens was an obvious political move.

But McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, was more circumspect. She greeted Stevens’s conviction with a statement in which she proclaimed herself a fighter against corruption but avoided taking a stand on the case. She said only, “I’m confident Senator Stevens will do what is right for the people of Alaska.” Pressed to clarify what that right thing would be, Palin eventually took a line more consistent with McCain’s, saying, “The time has come for him to step aside.” But she was careful not to hurry him out the door. “Even if elected on Tuesday,” she went on, “Senator Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress.”

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Chris Keeley

Dr. Kent Kiehl uses MRI technology to scan prison inmates for signs of pyschopathy in the hope of di

Dr. Kent Kiehl uses MRI technology to scan prison inmates for signs of pyschopathy in the hope of discovering a treatment. ILLUSTRATION: JOHN RITTER

Dr. Kent Kiehl uses MRI technology to scan prison inmates for signs of pyschopathy in the hope of discovering a treatment.

Suffering Souls

The search for the roots of psychopathy.
 


by John Seabrook

The Western New Mexico Correctional Facility sits in high-desert country about seventy miles west of Albuquerque. Grants, a former uranium boomtown that depends heavily on prison work, is a few miles down the road. There’s a glassed-in room at the top of the prison tower, with louvred windows and, on the ceiling, a big crank that operates a searchlight. In a box on the floor are some tear-gas shells that can be fired down into the yard should there be a riot. Below is the prison complex—a series of low six-sided buildings, divided by high hurricane fences topped with razor wire that glitters fiercely in the desert sun. To the east is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Taylor, the highest in the region; to the west, the Zuni Mountains are visible in the blue distance.

One bright morning last April, Dr. Kent Kiehl strode across the parking lot to the entrance, saying, “I guarantee that by the time we reach the gate the entire inmate population will know I’m here.” Kiehl—the Doc, as the inmates call him—was dressed in a blue blazer and a yellow tie. He is tall, broad-shouldered, and barrel-chested, with neat brown hair and small ears; he looks more like a college football player, which was his first ambition, than like a cognitive neuroscientist. But when he speaks, in an unexpectedly high-pitched voice, he becomes that know-it-all kid in school who intimidated you with his combination of superior knowledge and bluster.

At thirty-eight, Kiehl is one of the world’s leading younger investigators in psychopathy, the condition of moral emptiness that affects between fifteen to twenty-five per cent of the North American prison population, and is believed by some psychologists to exist in one per cent of the general adult male population. (Female psychopaths are thought to be much rarer.) Psychopaths don’t exhibit the manias, hysterias, and neuroses that are present in other types of mental illness. Their main defect, what psychologists call “severe emotional detachment”—a total lack of empathy and remorse—is concealed, and harder to describe than the symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This absence of easily readable signs has led to debate among mental-health practitioners about what qualifies as psychopathy and how to diagnose it. Psychopathy isn’t identified as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s canon; instead, a more general term, “antisocial personality disorder,” known as A.P.D., covers the condition.

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Chris Keeley

Shaman

Earliest known shaman grave site found:

  • Students stand near an excavation site (unseen) in a cave in the lower Galilee Reuters – Students stand near an excavation site (unseen) in a cave in the lower Galilee region of northern Israel …

LONDON (Reuters) – An ancient grave unearthed in modern-day Israel containing 50 tortoise shells, a human foot and body parts from numerous animals is likely one of the earliest known shaman burial sites, researchers said on Monday.

The 12,000-year-old grave dates back to the Natufian people who were the first society to adopt a sedentary lifestyle, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researcher Leore Grosman and colleagues said.

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