Friday, October 15, 2004

Direct Link Between Stress and Aggression

Direct Link Between Stress and Aggression

Mad and Irritated? Check Your Stress Level

Oct. 13, 2004 Oct. 13, 2004 - — Scientists have found biological evidence that stress and aggression feed off of each other, contributing to a "cycle of violence" that can be tragic. When we are under stress, we are more likely to fly off the handle, and when we fly off the handle, that increases our level of stress.

It's a mutual back-scratching phenomenon, and new research shows that there is a biochemical basis for this potentially deadly spiral of stress and aggression.
Researchers in The Netherlands and Hungary found the biological connection in 53 rats, so it's not yet been demonstrated in humans, but that connection has held up in similar research in the past. They experimented with rats because it's possible to implant electrodes in the brain to turn on and off the stress sensors, and of course that sort of thing would be frowned upon if the subjects were humans.

Opening the Flood Gates
The researchers found that when they turned on the electrodes to convince the rats that they were in a stressful situation, the level of corticosterone soared upward in their bloodstreams. That's the major hormone produced by bodies -- both rats and humans -- to help us get through stressful situations.
What happened next was very revealing. The rats became very aggressive, even attacking other rats that had been drugged to the point that they were almost lifeless. That, in turn, stimulated the attacking rats to produce more of the hormone, thus plunging them into a hopeless cycle of stress and violence.
The researchers found they could turn the cycle on and off just by regulating the hormone, and the rats could care less that their opponents were under "profound sedation," according to a report on their study in the October issue of "Behavioral Neuroscience," which is published by the American Psychological Association.
It gets worse. The stressed rats didn't even need another rat to get riled up.
"The confrontation with an opponent apparently is not required," they report.
That "feedback mechanism," the researchers say, may explain why someone who has had a bad day at work may go home and take it out on his or her loved ones. That cycle of stress and aggression can, in extreme cases, be deadly.
That vicious cycle "would explain why aggressive behavior escalates so easily and is so difficult to stop once it has started," they add.
Lead author Menno R. Kruk of the Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research notes that stress hormones are supposed to prepare the body to either fight or flee in the presence of an enemy, but the research shows that the hormones "talk back'' to the brain to encourage fighting.
Lethal Emotion
Kruk and his colleagues believe their findings may help explain why a normal, peaceful chap who is not prone to violence can suddenly boil over, leading to road rage, spouse abuse or worse. That jerk ahead of you cut into your lane, sending your stress up, which in turn fed your aggressive side, sending your stress up even higher, and suddenly, bam.
The research is part of an odd reversal in our attitudes toward stress. For thousands of years, people recognized that stress could make us sick. But as more and more specific causes for various diseases became known, that common-sense perception of the impact of stress lost favor, at least among medical professionals.
However, within the last couple of decades, the wisdom of our ancestors has returned with a vengeance. According to the National Institutes of Health, as well as research institutions around the world, stress is now known to make us much more vulnerable to just about everything from coronary heart disease to cancer.
According to studies sponsored by the NIH, those same hormones that convinced the rats to beat up their drugged cellmates can also turn off the immune systems, apparently to conserve energy while recovering from an illness, thus leaving us more vulnerable to bacteria or viruses.
Getting sick, of course, also elevates the stress level, so that cycle of mutual reinforcement comes back into play again. Get stressed, get sick, stress soars, get sicker.
Managing Stress
These findings suggest that one of the best ways we can help ourselves is to learn how to manage our stress. That's not always easy. The NIH recommends several steps. Figure out where the problems lie, in the family, on the job, or how about that commute between the two? Once the problem is known, deal with it, or seek help.
But like so many psychological problems, just simply knowing about it, and concentrating on solutions, is stressful. The NIH says if you've got a lousy job, maybe you ought to change jobs. Yeah, sure. No stress there, right?
Professional counseling might be a help, but one interesting study found that people may be better equipped to solve their own problems than to rely on someone else. A couple of years ago, researchers were trying to figure out how to help cancer patients deal with stress while undergoing chemotherapy.
They brought in some patients who had been trained by professionals, and some who had been given some literature and told to train themselves.
Surprisingly, those who had taught themselves did better than those who had been tutored by professionals.
Another indication that some of the best medications come from within ourselves.
Lee Dye's column appears weekly on A former science writer for the "Los Angeles Times," he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.
Copyright © 2004 ABC News Internet Ventures

Outrageous Outtakes

** The most overlooked story of the week: The International Atomic Energy Agency said materials and equipment used for Iraqi nuclear energy - the "WMD- related program activities" central to the Bush administration's rational for war - have gone missing and may turn up in Europe or elsewhere in the region. How did this happen? The US government banned UN weapons inspectors from returning to Iraq after the war and failed to prevent massive looting at Iraq's main nuclear complex, home to tons of natural uranium. Now the US occupiers may have actually succeeded in turning a nonexistent nuclear threat into a real one.
** "Be afraid, be very afraid," is the unofficial motto of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign. Now we know why. According to a new Cornell University study, Bush's approval rating rises every time the federal government issues a new terrorist warning, by an average margin of 2.75 points. "Terrorist warnings also boost support for the president on issues that are largely irrelevant to terrorism, such as handling of the economy," the study found. Clearer signs as to why Tom Ridge curiously heightened the terror alert two days after the Democratic convention.
** Nefarious Character Watch, DeLay edition: Rep. Joel Hefley, the House ethics chairman investigating Tom DeLay, is the only Republican on the committee who hasn't accepted money from the majority leader's political action committee. Bad move for him. This week he told The Hill that House Republicans have threatened him in response to the panel's three recent rebukes of DeLay, even though the committees admonishments were the lowest form of reprimand they could have given "The Hammer."
** Nefarious Character Watch, Republican dementia edition: Kentucky Republican Senator Jim Bunning has been acting awfully strange lately. This week Bunning refused to debate his opponent - Democratic state senator Daniel Mongiardo - in Lexington as scheduled, lied about needing to stay in Washington and participated from an RNC studio, where he read his opening and closing statements off a TelePrompTer. This follows weeks of bizarre behavior, including requesting a special public escort to protect him from Al-Qaeda. "There may be strangers among us," Bunning said. He need only look in the mirror.
** And finally, the cowardly FDA has buckled even to the walnut industry, New York's Newsday reported as part of an outstanding series on corporate coddling in Washington. After months of intense lobbying, the FDA inserted labeling on all walnut packaging claiming "walnut consumption reduces the risk of heart disease," despite extensive research proving otherwise. FDA chief counsel Daniel Troy - a former clerk for Robert Bork - has met with lobbyists 129 times over the past three years. His Clinton-appointed predecessor had one such meeting from 1998 -2001. That's more than a dime's worth of difference.

This week's casualty: the legal case for war in Iraq

This week's casualty: the legal case for war in Iraq
It can only be a matter of time before the invasion is challenged in court
Robin Cook Friday October 15, 2004
The Guardian
When I met Zaneb in Brighton during the Labour party conference she could only walk with the help of crutches. One of her legs had been amputated after she and the children with whom she was playing were caught in the bombing around Basra at the time of the invasion. Seventeen members of her extended family were killed that day, including her mother.
It is a characteristic of modern, aerial warfare that it leaves behind more casualties among civilians than among combatants; and in a developing country such as Iraq where half the population is under 14, many of them will be children. Any decision to go to war, in full knowledge of the casualties that will follow, therefore has to be born out of necessity and built on cast-iron certainty. The awful truth that is now clear is that the Iraq war was not necessary and was based, in the Joint Intelligence Committee's own words, on "sporadic and patchy" intelligence which has turned out to be wholly false.
The formal admission this week that the 45-minute claim was bunkum comes 18 months too late to save Zaneb and her family, or to influence the vote on war in parliament. Whitehall knew long before that vote that much of the intelligence in the September dossier was unsound. They knew because Hans Blix and his inspectors had visited sites it identified and drawn a blank. They knew because SIS had already developed doubts about the credibility of the source of the 45-minute claim. Andrew Gilligan was only in error about timescale when he claimed Whitehall knew that intelligence in the September dossier was wrong. They did not know it at the time of its publication, but they did know when they asked parliament for authority for war.
The political dilemma for Downing Street is that it desperately wants the nation to move on from the controversy over the origins of the war, but is also determined to avoid anyone taking the rap. Yet it is impossible to see how the government can achieve closure on the biggest blunder since Suez without first achieving a catharsis which attributes responsibility and apportions blame.
At prime minister's questions, Tony Blair again pleaded the defence of good intentions - he acted in good faith but was misled by wrong information. This leaves a conundrum: why is he not more angry with those who misled him? John Smith, for example, would have been incandescent with an intelligence agency that had so badly misinformed him, and with a private office in Downing Street that apparently did not ask elementary questions, such as whether they were talking about battlefield or strategic weapon systems. Tony Blair is curiously indulgent to all those who led him into the most damaging episode of his premiership. We even read that all the key players in preparing the false prospectus for war are to be rewarded in a special honours list. A parade of the relevant officials down Whitehall in sackcloth and ashes would provide a more convincing demonstration that Downing Street is really sorry.
There is another awkward question that has become more acute with each new revelation, and which will not go away until it is answered. What does the government now think was the legal basis for war?
The initial opinion of the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, was that invasion would require a second UN resolution. This was an opinion that he only revisited when it became evident that there would be no second resolution. At this point Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office, resigned and subsequently protested that "the conflict in Iraq was contrary to international law". This week we learned that two other colleagues resigned along with her, which must have left a lot of empty desks in the legal department.
The attorney general himself still appeared unsure of his ground, but his dilemma was eased by the suggestion from Downing Street that he outsourced the drafting of his opinion to a law professor with a record of support for war. As a result the nation went to war against the advice of Whitehall's experts in international law and on the strength of an opinion from a professor at the LSE.
The government has resisted publishing the text that resulted, presumably because even it would reveal awkward reservations and legal quibbles, but a precis was produced as a parliamentary answer. What is striking is the centrality that disarmament plays in it as the justification for war. Thus Iraq is held to be in material breach of the ceasefire resolution because it had not fulfilled "its obligations to disarm". There is a logical, inescapable conclusion from this chain of reasoning. If Iraq had in reality fulfilled its disarmament obligation there was no legal authority for the invasion.
Tony Blair appeared conscious of this problem when he answered questions this week. He does not now rely on the need to disarm Iraq, but on other breaches by Saddam of UN resolutions. But the only breach that could have justified a war would have been failure to disarm. To be sure, Saddam was in breach of his obligation to keep proper paperwork on the destruction of his chemical and biological weapons, but that hardly justifies an intensive bombing campaign and a ground invasion by a quarter of a million troops. Any international court would be certain to rule by its first coffee break that such a response was not legitimate when weighed against the twin tests of proportionality and necessity. We are left with the unsettling conclusion that the legal case for the war collapses among the rubble of false intelligence in the same way as the political justification.
Lord Goldsmith is a decent, able lawyer. It may be that he was just as duped as parliament by the assurances from Downing Street that the evidence of the intelligence was much firmer than it has turned out to be. Maybe they also withheld from him the growing evidence from the UN inspections that our intelligence was simply wrong. If so, the attorney general owes it to himself, never mind the rest of us, to state what would have been his opinion on the legality of the war if he had been given the true facts. It may be prudent on his part to prepare a revised opinion, as now it can only be a matter of time before the legality of the war is challenged in the British or international courts.
Does the legality of the war still matter over a year after the event? The only responsible answer must be yes.
In the first place we are still struggling with the legacy of our decision to conquer Iraq and the incompetence of an occupation that has compounded the original misjudgment. Iraq may have been no threat to us at the time of the war, but we have certainly turned it into one as a base for international terrorism. Instead of delivering a modern Iraq as a model for the region, we have made Iraq a source of instability in a Middle East that looks much more precarious than two years ago.
But it also matters because the fabric of orderly relations between nations, the strength of human rights law and cooperation against terrorism are built on respect for international law. We cannot demand that respect from other nations if we ourselves do not give it a higher priority than we appear to have done in reaching our decision to go to war in Iraq.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

Franks Says U.S. Should Have Hired Iraqis

Just Incredible: How many ways can they admit mistakes and say the mistakes weren't Bush's????

News Home - Help

Franks Says U.S. Should Have Hired Iraqis
Tue Oct 12,10:07 PM ET
By BILL KACZOR, Associated Press Writer
NICEVILLE, Fla. - The United States should have quickly reformed the Iraqi army after most of its soldiers walked off the battlefield and got them "working for us," retired Gen. Tommy Franks said Tuesday.
AP Photo

Franks, who oversaw combat in Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites), told reporters it may have taken "a couple billion dollars," but that he would have liked to have put Iraqi troops "back on the payroll right quick."
"What we could have done better, should have done better, what I would have liked to have seen done better, once they were gone, is hire them back," the former Army general said before making his first Florida campaign appearance for President Bush (news - web sites).
Neither Bush nor Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should be blamed because Congress never appropriated money for that purpose and no other country offered to pay for it, Franks said.
"I fault bureaucratic behavior in my own country and in the international community," he said.
Franks spoke with reporters before addressing a staunchly Republican, pro-Bush crowd of about 800 at Okaloosa-Walton College in this military town. Niceville is within earshot of warplanes landing and taking off at nearby Eglin Air Force Base.
Visiting the Florida Panhandle after appearing with Bush in Colorado, Franks also disputed statements attributed to him in "Intelligence Matters," a new book by Sen. Bob Graham (news, bio, voting record).
The Florida Democrat wrote that Franks told him in February 2002, more than a year before the Iraq invasion, that his resources already were being shifted for that conflict.
Graham also contends Franks told him fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere should take priority over invading Iraq.
"Not at one point — ever — did I ever question the need to move into Iraq," Franks said.
Franks said Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) already was harboring terrorists and that eight years of U.S. pilots getting shot at while enforcing sanctions against Iraq was enough and it was time to act.
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