Daily Archives: July 29, 2008

A delusion for the reality-TV era

Montreal psychiatrists Joel and Ian Gold have coined ‘the Truman Show Delusion,’ where patients claim that the world around them is an elaborate production.

National Post | Jul 18, 2008

By Craig Offman

Joel and Ian Gold, brothers and psychiatrists from Montreal, believe they have discovered a signature mental illness of the YouTube era: patients who claim they are subjects of their own reality TV shows.

They have named the malady the “Truman Show Delusion” and though they are in the process of putting together a medical paper on the topic, their discovery is already are causing a stir.

While traditionalists insist that this delusion offers nothing new – it is no different from say, a deranged man who believes that the CIA has planted a microchip in his tooth – the Gold brothers argue otherwise.

“It’s really a question of the extent of the delusion,” said Joel Gold, 39, who has been on staff at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center for eight years. “The delusions we typically treat are narrow: There is Capgras Delusion, where someone will think his family has been replaced by doubles. Or the Fregoli Delusion, where someone believes that one person is persecuting him: a doctor, mailman, butcher. the Truman Show Delusion, though, involves the entire world.”

He also says that The Truman Show had an impact on patients that other films did not, no matter how powerful they were. “I never heard people say, ‘The Godfather, that’s my life.’ ”

While Dr. Gold says they could have easily called their new disorder the EdTV Delusion or the Matrix Delusion – both films that refer to an unreal existence – three of the five patients he treated at the storied mental health hospital directly likened their plight to The Truman Show, the 1998 film which depicts Truman Burbank, an affable suburbanite who slowly becomes aware that his every movement is broadcast 24/7 to voyeuristic viewers around the world.

The five patients Dr. Gold treated were white men between the ages of 25 and 34, the majority of whom held university degrees.

“I realized that I was and am the centre, the focus of attention by millions and millions of people,” explained one patient, an army veteran who came from an upper middle-class upbringing. “My family and everyone I knew were and are actors in a script, a charade whose entire purpose is to make me the focus of the world’s attention.”

The patient added that he planned to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty, and if his true love were waiting for him, the puppeteer strings would be cut. If she failed to show up, he would jump to his death.

Another patient even had first-hand experience with reality TV. A 25-year-old New Englander with a bachelor’s degree in film and communication studies, he worked as intern on a program where, he complained, cameras were secretly tracking him.

Thinking that he was also being filmed while at a polling station on Election Day in 2004, he felt that it was his duty to protest against the Bush administration by shouting that the President was “Judas.” The outburst led to his admission to the Bellevue Center.

“Typically, the Truman Show Delusion is a combination of paranoia, grandiosity and ideas of reference, which means that patients believe they are receiving signals specifically meant for them from a newscast or something like that.” said Dr. Gold, adding that since he started presenting these cases at conferences two years ago, colleagues have informed him of six more examples.

Ian Gold, who holds a Canada Research Chair in philosophy and psychiatry at McGill University, added that there are unprecedented cultural triggers that might explain the phenomenon: the pressure of living in a large, connected community can bring out the unstable side of more vulnerable people.

“The wish for fame is a form of grandiosity, and the fear of threats such as surveillance can bring about paranoia,” said the Montreal-based Dr. Gold, 46, who specializes in delusion. “New media is opening up vast social spaces that might be interacting with psychological processes.”

The elder Dr. Gold said that despite all the modern technology of brain imaging, little is known about delusions, which are a common trait of schizophrenia. Most experts say there is no set criterion for a delusion beyond defining it as fixed false belief.

Austrian Thomas Stompe, a leading psychiatrist with a traditional bent, believes that there are seven kinds of delusions, period.

“A number of recent case reports published during the last 20 years described a quick inclusion of new technologies and cultural innovations into schizophrenic delusions which led many of the authors to the conclusion that the ‘Zeitgeist’ is creating new delusional contents,” warns Dr. Stompe, the lead author of a paper entitled “Old Wine in New Bottles? Stability and Plasticity of the Contents of Schizophrenic Delusions.”

Published five years ago in the journal Psychopathy, the abstract concludes that there are only a few eternal themes of “extraordinary anthropological importance”: persecution, grandiosity, guilt, religion, hypochondria, jealousy, and love.

Those other Zeitgeist developments, presumably the Truman Show Delusion among them, belong in subcategories according to this categorization.

When reached at his office in Vienna, Dr. Stompe said he had heard the buzz about the findings of the brothers Gold, but did not see anything new in them.

“I have seen someone who thinks they are part of the Matrix,” he said. “This is very near. The patient also told me that the world had changed, that there was an unreal quality in the world.”

Despite that first-hand experience and the talk about the Golds’ theory, Dr. Stompe is unmoved, asserting the unshakeable truths of his field. “The major topics are always the same.”

Beware your children: They might be ‘Climate Cops’

Company recruits kids to keep records, bust parents for ‘energy crimes’

WorldNetDaily | Jul 28, 2008

A new website campaign designed by a British power company recruits children through games, badges and cartoons to enlist as “Climate Cops,” actively keeping records on their parents and neighbors for violations of “energy crimes” against the planet.

The “Climate Cops” website encourages children to investigate family and friends and “then build your ‘Climate Crime Case File’ and report back to your family to make sure they don’t commit those crimes again (or else)!” The site also warns children that they “may need to keep a watchful eye” to prevent future violations.

A link on the site for teachers to download free materials for building lesson plans indicates the website is targeting children from ages 7-11.

The so-called crimes children are to watch for are listed on a poster (visible at right) and range from leaving the tap running and failing to use energy-saving light bulbs to running the dryer on a sunny day and putting hot food in the refrigerator.

The website also encourages children to download a series of “Climate Crime Cards” (such as the one pictured below) in which enlisted “Climate Cops” can keep an ongoing record of their family’s violation of energy “crimes.”

Recruiting children to spy on and keep records of their parents’ infractions reminds some of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi youth program, only with an environmentalist bent. The author of the blog EU Referendum wrote: “In a system which has echoes of Hitler’s Deutsches Jungvolk movement … perhaps successful graduates can work up to becoming block wardens, then street and district ‘climate crime Fuehrers,’ building a network of spies and informers.”

Hitler’s youth program, which began in the 1920s and ended in 1945, enlisted children to be trained in the ideals of the Nazi party. Eventually folded into the German Sturmabteilung, also known as the SA or the “brownshirts,” the Hitler Youth were given authority over different regions to report and keep records on neighbors, especially Jewish neighbors, as part of Nazi Germany’s fear- and propaganda-based social control efforts.

A blogger at Watts Up With That? wrote, “I find this method of indoctrinating school children to normal everyday living being harmful to the earth with the ‘climate crime’ connotation as distasteful and wrong headed.”

“I have no problems with energy conservation, in fact I encourage it,” the blogger wrote, “But combining such advice with a ‘climate cop’ idea is the wrong way to get the message across. Can you imagine what sort of reaction the neighbors will have? … Will the result of this now be hiding your electric dryer behind false walls so the kids and neighbors don’t see it?”

The “Climate Cops” website was created by the British power company npower, which has received recognition for investing in community causes through partnerships with youth sports programs, cancer victim support charities and an environmental group called The National Trust.

The website targets children with flashy graphics and cartoon characters. The site’s opening video shows cartoon depictions of hurricanes and floods, stating, “Climate change is threatening our world. The more energy we waste the worse it gets. It’s time to fight back.”

Children who visit the site can then play games, including one game in which “Climate Cops” chase down a gas-guzzling SUV that discharges incandescent light bulbs to slow them and another in which children zap as many energy wasters as they can find before a poor polar bear’s iceberg melts.

Those who complete the site’s three games receive code numbers that unlock a codeword, enabling visitors to “join the elite cadets and train to become a Climate Cop.” The codeword then unlocks a download, where successful “cadets” can print out a “Climate Cop ID”.

US annual budget deficit surging to record half-trillion as Bush leaves

AP | Jul 28, 2008

By ANDREW TAYLOR

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s budget deficit will surge past a half-trillion dollars next year, according to gloomy new estimates, a record flood of red ink that promises to force the winner of the presidential race to dramatically alter his economic agenda.

The deficit will hit $482 billion in the 2009 budget year that will be inherited by Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain, the White House estimated Monday. That figure is sure to rise after adding the tens of billions of dollars in additional Iraq war funding it doesn’t include, and the total could be higher yet if the economy fails to recover as the administration predicts.

The result: the biggest deficit ever in terms of dollars, though several were higher in the 1980s and early 1990s as a percentage of the overall economy.

Neither campaign is backing off campaign promises — McCain to cut taxes and Obama to expand health and education programs — in light of the bleaker new figures.

“We can’t afford not to invest in some major initiatives such as health and energy and more tax cuts,” said Obama economic adviser Jason Furman.
But Democrats controlling Congress suggest that may have to change once President Bush’s successor takes office.

“Whoever becomes the next president will have a very, very sobering first week in office,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

McCain promises to renew the full roster of Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 and add many more for businesses and upper income people who pay the alternative minimum tax. The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2010 and renewing them would soon cost well over $200 billion a year. Eliminating the alternative minimum at the same time would cost almost as much.

Obama would repeal tax cuts on wealthier taxpayers and investors but would leave most of the Bush tax cuts in place while seeking additional cuts for senior citizens, the middle class and the working poor. And he also wants lots of new spending for health care, education and many other federal programs.

“There’s a total disconnect between today’s report and what we’re hearing on the campaign trail,” said Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition budget watchdog group.

The deficit situation confronting the next president is reminiscent of that which Bill Clinton faced in 1993. Under Wall Street pressure, Clinton abandoned promises of tax cuts and pushed a tax-heavy deficit reduction plan through a Democratic Congress.

The administration said the deficit was being driven to an all-time high by the sagging economy and the stimulus payments being made to 130 million households in an effort to keep the country from falling into a deep recession. But the numbers could go even higher if the economy performs worse than the White House predicts.

The budget office predicts the economy will grow at a rate of 1.6 percent this year and will rebound to a 2.2 percent growth rate next year. That’s a half point higher than predicted by the widely cited “blue chip” consensus of business economists. The administration also sees inflation averaging 3.8 percent this year, but easing to 2.3 percent next year — better than the 3 percent seen by the blue chip panel.

“The nation’s economy has continued to expand and remains fundamentally resilient,” said the budget office report.

A $482 billion deficit would easily surpass the record deficit of $413 billion set in 2004. The White House in February had forecast that next year’s deficit would be $407 billion.

The deficit numbers for 2008 and 2009 represent about 3 percent of the size of the economy, which is the measure seen as most relevant by economists. By that measure, the 2008 and 2009 deficits would be smaller than the deficits of the 1980s and early 1990s that led Congress and earlier administrations to cobble together politically painful deficit-reduction packages.

Still, the new figures are so eye-popping in dollar terms that they may restrain the appetite of the next president to add to the deficit with expensive spending programs or new tax cuts. In fact, pressure may build to allow some tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 to expire as scheduled, with Congress also feeling pressure to curb spending growth.

The administration actually underestimates the deficit since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition — and in violation of new mandates from Congress — the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs.

On a slightly brighter note, the deficit for the 2008 budget year ending Sept. 30 will actually drop from an earlier projection of $410 billion to $389 billion, the report said.

McCain used the new 2009 estimates to slam both the Bush White House for its “profligate spending” and Democratic rival Obama, who has declined to endorse the goal of McCain — and congressional Democrats — to balance the budget.

“I have an unmatched record in fighting wasteful earmarks and unnecessary spending in the U.S. Senate, and I have the determination and experience to do the same as president,” McCain said in a statement. McCain again called for a full plate of multi-trillion dollar tax cuts, though campaign adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said some modifications could be made to McCain’s economic plan to try to reach balance.

Obama’s campaign used the new numbers to assail McCain for embracing Bush’s tax cuts. As for Obama’s plans, campaign adviser Furman said the candidate would cut wasteful spending, close corporate loopholes and roll back the Bush tax cuts on upper brackets while still promising to make “health care affordable and putting a middle class tax cut in the pocket of 95 percent of workers and their families.”

Monday’s figures capped a remarkable deterioration in the United States’ budgetary health under Bush’s time in office.

He inherited a budget seen as producing endless huge surpluses after four straight years in positive territory. That stretch of surpluses represented a period when the country’s finances had been bolstered by a 10-year period of uninterrupted economic growth, the longest expansion in U.S. history.
In his first year in office, helped by projections of continuing surpluses, Bush drove through a 10-year, $1.35 trillion package of tax cuts.

However, faulty estimates, a recession in March 2001 and government spending to fight the war on terrorism contributed to pushing the deficit to a record in dollar terms in 2004.

There had been progress since then, with a $161.5 billion deficit for 2007 representing the lowest amount of red ink since an imbalance of $159 billion in 2002.

Rockefeller wanted on kidnapping and assault charges

Clark and Reigh Rockefeller (from Boston Police Department).

The Valley News, in Lebanon, N.H., said Rockefeller refused to confirm whether or not he was related, directly or otherwise, to the famed Rockefeller family. “Maybe I am, maybe I’m not; it’s not something that I would either confirm or deny,” Clark Rockefeller responded.

Boston Globe | Jul 28, 2008

Father trying to flee with daughter on yacht

Police said they believed the girl was in danger

By Maria Cramer, Globe Staff

The father accused of abducting his 7-year-old daughter during a supervised visit Sunday in the Back Bay was last seen at 7:30 p.m. at Grand Central Terminal in New York City, police said this afternoon.

Authorities fear that Clark Rockefeller may be trying to flee with his daughter, Reigh, on a 72-foot yacht that he recently purchased and had docked on Long Island. The Coast Guard is searching for the boat, which is named “Serenity” or “Serendipity.”

The FBI has also joined authorities in New York and Boston as they search for Rockefeller, who is listed as a director of the prestigious Algonquin Club of Boston.

“We are definitely concerned for her safety,” said Boston Police Superintendent Bruce Holloway at press conference this afternoon.

Reigh, known by the nickname Snooks, is a petite, blond-haired girl with glasses who speaks with a British accent. She was on her first supervised visit Sunday with her father since divorce proceedings in January 2007, according to police.

The alleged kidnapping occurred as the father, daughter, and a social worker were walking to the Boston Common from the Four Seasons Hotel at 12:45 p.m. A sport utility vehicle pulled up and Rockefeller allegedly grabbed his daughter, pushed the social worker out of the way, and jumped into the vehicle, which sped off.

The social worker, who police said works for an independent agency, grabbed onto the vehicle and was dragged several feet. He was treated for minor injuries at Massachusetts General Hospital and released, police said.

Boston Police searched the area without success, and State Police issued the Amber Alert just before 5 p.m. Police issued a warrant for the father’s arrest last night. He faces charges of custodial kidnapping, assault and battery, and assault and battery with a deadly weapon — the sport utility vehicle.

The Amber Alert was canceled this morning in Massachusetts when authorities learned that Rockefeller was spotted in New York City. An Amber Alert has not been issued in New York because it is a custodial case, according to a spokesman for the state police. New York State Police have instead issued a missing child alert, which is a step below an Amber Alert.

Boston Police are still searching for the black SUV. It was described as a black Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, GMC Yukon, or Denali with a Red Sox license plate and Red Sox stickers on the window. That vehicle is still believed to be in the area.

WHDH-TV reported that the girl’s backpack and toy doll were left on the steps of the father’s home. The station also reported that Rockefeller was a scientist who had moved to the area two years ago and was in the midst of a bitter divorce involving a large amount of money.

The girl’s mother, Sandra Boss, a 41-year-old senior partner at McKinsey & Co., has been talking with detectives at the Four Seasons, where she has been staying since she arrived from London, where she works.

Boss is chairwoman of the Board of Trustees at the Mount, Edith Wharton’s Lenox estate.

She joined the board in 2006 because of her expertise in finance and her great love of Wharton, who wrote about New York’s high society in her novels “House of Mirth” and “Age of Innocence.”

“It’s a terrible situation,” said Gordon Travers, who sits on the board. “It’s a hideous situation. We’re all just praying and worrying ourselves to pieces.”

Boss’s daughter would play at the Mount and frolic near its pond, asking endless questions about the animals that lived in the water, recalled Stephanie Copeland, the former president and CEO of the Mount.

“I had the great good fortune of meeting Snooks and I was quite taken with her,” Copeland said. “When a child has a mind like hers where she’s just curious about everything, it’s wonderful for an adult to be around a child like that.”

Copeland said she only met Rockefeller once, when Boss introduced him to her a couple of years ago at a black-tie fund-raising event in Boston for the Mount.

“I didn’t see any signs of distress,” she said.

Police said that though there was no indication of past abuse, they believed the girl was in danger, and they asked the public for help finding her and her father.

Police described Clark Rockefeller as a white, 48-year-old man. He is 5 feet 6 inches tall, and 170 pounds with a stocky build. He was last seen wearing khaki pants and a blue polo shirt. He is listed as a director with the Algonquin Club of Boston, but officials with the social club could not be reached last night for comment.

The New York Times, in telephone interviews on Monday, contacted Amy Fitch and Michele Hiltzik, senior archivists at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., which maintains the records of the Rockefeller family associated with Standard Oil, philanthropy and politics, said there was no indication that Clark Rockefeller was a descendant of William Avery Rockefeller, the father of John D. Rockefeller Sr. and William Rockefeller.

The newspaper reported that in 2004, The Valley News, in Lebanon, N.H., said Rockefeller refused to confirm whether or not he was related, directly or otherwise, to the famed Rockefeller family. “Maybe I am, maybe I’m not; it’s not something that I would either confirm or deny,” Clark Rockefeller responded, according to the paper. “I just don’t want anything to do with the whole question.”

The New Hampshire newspaper was trying to determine Clark Rockefeller’s lineage after he reportedly wrote a $110,000 check to the town of Cornish, N.H., in exchange for a deed to a historic church.

Reigh Rockefeller is 4 feet tall, weighs 50 pounds, and has blond hair and blue eyes, police said. She was last seen at the intersection of Marlborough and Arlington streets, wearing a pink and white sundress, red shoes, and sunglasses, police said.

Authorities asked anyone with information to call 617-343-4328.

Related

Police explore the high society past of kidnapper Clark Rockefeller

Cancer doctor warns against kids’ cellphone use

Canwest News Service | Jul 28, 2008

By Tiffany Crawford

A prominent cancer specialist in the United States is cautioning parents to limit the use of cellphones by kids to emergencies because he claims the electromagnetic energy the mobile emits likely penetrates the brain of a child more deeply than that of an adult.

That claim follows on the heels of a similar warning recently issued by Canadian experts that suggests children under 10 use land lines as much as possible and limit their chatting on mobiles to short and infrequent calls.

Dr. Ronald B. Herberman of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, along with a team of international experts, has posted a report on the university’s website urging people to take precautions in the use of cellphones.

“The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields,” said Herberman in one of the report’s recommendations.

“Do not allow children to use a cellphone except for emergencies.”

Health Canada says there is no scientific evidence yet to show a link between cellphone use and the development of cancer.

“So far, there is currently no convincing evidence, from animal or human studies, that the energy from cellphones is enough to cause serious health effects, such as cancer, epileptic seizures or sleep disorders,” says the federal agency on its website.

According to Herberman, the problem is that living tissue is vulnerable to electromagnetic fields within the frequency bands used by cellphones. He argues kids have a higher absorption rate because their brains are still developing.

Herberman believes because studies do not yet “clearly show they are dangerous,” people should consider them a potential health risk. He does not advocate eradicating cellphones but rather reducing exposure. Some of his recommendations include using headsets, not keeping your phone near your body and using text messaging whenever possible.

The experts also advise avoiding using a cellphone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, because it increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.

In June, Toronto Public Health published a report from the medical health officer recommending parents limit children’s access to cellphones.

“The research that is available suggests that children are likely more vulnerable than adults,” concludes the report.

Toronto Health is also recommending that children use land lines and hands-free devices wherever possible.