December 28th, 2008

Chris Keeley

Mid East

This is a very valuable analysis of this delicate but critically important subject by long-time TIME Magazine Middle East Bureau Chief Scott Macleod.  It's posted on Scott's personal blog, and therefore represents his private opinions, not those of Time, Inc.  The article contains reminders of important historical events to support what might otherwise be dismissed as subjective personal opinion.  I found it extremely informative and persuasive, and strongly recommend that you friends, whom I know to be keenly interested in the subject, take the time to read it carefully.

Obama Mideast Watch: Ross vs. Kurtzer

  Middle East watchers are trying to follow a behind the scenes contest for
Barack Obama's ear when it comes to the region. The winner could become
the incoming administration's single most influential advisor on the
area--perhaps Obama's Middle East czar. Obama has properly emphasized that
as president he will set the policy, and his subordinates will be tasked
with implementing it. Yet his choice of Middle East guru-- a special
envoy, or whatever the title may be-- will be an important signal of his
inclinations. And given the complexities of the Middle East, and the
complex intersection of those complexities with American politics
nowadays, it's hard to exaggerate the influence such a position could have
as the question of war and peace hangs in the balance in Israel,
Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran.

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Chris Keeley

lsd 25

December 28, 2008
Albert Hofmann | b. 1906

Day Tripper

In the circles where LSD eventually thrived, the moment of its discovery was more cherished than even the famous intersection of a fine English apple with Isaac Newton’s inquiring mind, the comic cosmic instant that gave us gravity. According to legend, Dr. Albert Hofmann, a research chemist at the Sandoz pharmaceutical company, fell from his bicycle in April 1943 on his way home through the streets of Basel, Switzerland, after accidently dosing himself with LSD at the laboratory. The story presented another example of enlightenment as trickster. As a narrative it was very fondly regarded because so many of us imagined a clueless botanist pedaling over the cobblestones with the clockwork Helvetian order dissolving under him.

At Sandoz, Hofmann specialized in the investigation of naturally occurring compounds that might make useful medicines. Among these was a rye fungus called ergot, known principally as the cause of a grim disease called St. Anthony’s Fire, which resulted in gangrene and convulsions. Ergot had one positive effect: in appropriate doses it facilitated childbirth. Hofmann set out to find whether there might be further therapeutic applications for ergot derivatives. Indeed, he discovered some for Sandoz, including Hydergine, a medication that, among other things, enhances memory function in the elderly. Most famously, of course, Hofmann’s ergot experiments synthesized D-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate, LSD. On April 16, 1943, Collapse )

Chris Keeley

Patty H

December 28, 2008
Harry Kozol | b. 1906

Inside Her Head

Patty Hearst did not like Harry Kozol. “I think Dr. Kozol’s testimony caused her more distress than anyone else’s,” wrote her attorney, F. Lee Bailey, in The Ladies Home Journal. In her own memoir, Hearst recalled Kozol as an elderly man with “a high, squeaky voice” who had reduced her to “hysterics” within minutes of their introduction.

Distress, hysterical and otherwise, had been Kozol’s life work from 1934, when he graduated from Harvard Medical School, until he retired from neurology and psychiatry five decades later. Kozol elicited enormous trust in some patients. Eugene O’Neill saw him almost daily in the final years of his life, relying on Kozol so extensively that O’Neill’s wife would call Kozol some evenings to plead for a house call.

In addition to his successful private practice in Boston, Kozol operated in a grim arena marked by extreme violence. He directed a state treatment center for the psychotic and dangerous, where he treated rapists, murderers and other violent criminals, including Albert DeSalvo, the confessed Boston Strangler.

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Chris Keeley


December 28, 2008
Bobby Fischer | b. 1943

The Wonder Match

Before he was secretly buried on a dark winter morning in a lonely Icelandic churchyard at the age of 64 (there were only four people in attendance at the hastily arranged funeral) . . . before his last ailing days of bad kidneys and rotting teeth (he had all of his fillings removed, convinced that U.S. and Russian agents would otherwise send radio signals to his brain) . . . before the long hours whiled away at a Reykjavik bookstore, a place that vaguely reminded him of one from his Brooklyn youth (in both, he read comic books and studied chess) . . . and before his decades of ghostly peregrinations through the world, like a profane monk or an idiot savant searching for perfect exile (from Pasadena to Hungary to the Philippines, where he supposedly had a child, and on to Japan, where he supposedly married and was arrested and imprisoned for a passport violation) . . . before his bizarre eruptions (he applauded the events of 9/11 as “wonderful news” and believed, among other defamations, that the Jews wanted to eradicate the African elephant because its trunk was a reminder of an uncircumcised penis) . . . and before the spectacle of meeting his one-time nemesis, the former world-champion chess player Boris Spassky, for an anticlimactic 1992 rematch in war-torn Yugoslavia despite U.N. sanctions against it (in front of whirring cameras, he spat on the U.S. order forbidding him to play) . . . even way back before their original 1972 meeting, called the Match of the Century, when the eyes of the world were riveted on him as a shining emblem of American will, innovation and brilliance (the match in which he took on the Soviet chess machine and single-handedly crushed it, but not before the fabled call from Henry Kissinger, urging him to put aside his jumbled demands and just play) . . . even before his brazen, almost obnoxious deconstruction of a cavalcade of grandmasters who stood in his path to Spassky (he won 20 games in a row, the longest winning streak in modern chess) . . . before he traded the rags of his youth for his new wardrobe of expensive suits . . . before his mind slowly unhinged and he became a walking paradox (the anti-Semitic Jew; the anti-American national hero, the wastrel-wizard of his craft) . . . yes, before the whole circus of his life unfolded, he was a 13-year-old kid in the first flush of the thing he most loved in the world: chess.Collapse )

Chris Keeley

(no subject)

If Gaza falls . . .

Sara Roy

Israel's siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel's siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population.

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