While there are more guns in the US than there were thirty years ago, fewer households actually have guns. According to UPI, over half of US households in 1977 had guns; now less than a third have guns. The reason for the steep decline, says UPI, is "aging of the current-gun owning population, a lack of interest in guns by youth, the end of military conscription, the decreasing popularity of hunting; land-use issues that limit hunting and shooting and the increase in single-parent homes headed by women."

 

Needless to say, gun sales are increasingly to households that already have guns, reflecting the sales pitches after the election of President Obama and the Sandy Hook massacre that new guns laws, if not outright confiscation, would ensue. Right. Actually laws became even more gun friendly after Newtown.

 

Households that were already armed are even more armed today. It is reminiscent of a New Yorker cartoon that said, "Let's say you have up to six hundred intruders per minutes," as he tries to sell a customer a military style weapon.

 

Still, the post Newtown profit party is over. In December, both Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. and Remington Outdoor Co. reported profits down, according to the Wall Street Journal. Outdoor retailer Cabela's Inc. also reported sales of firearms and ammunition down, as much as 50 percent. Chief Executive Thomas Millner admitted the feeder frenzy after Newtown was "a bubble."

 

The sinking of gun culture, whether for self-defense or hunting, is especially apparent in young people.  Half of all millennials now support stricter gun laws and only 18 percent of 18 to 25 year olds even own a gun! Hunting is not cool anymore compared to soccer, snowboarding and social media.

 

Kids are more involved with "cars, girlfriends or hanging out" and "think it's boring to sit in a tree for hours and have nothing walk by," said Kevin Kelly, a college student, to the lower Hudson Valley's Journal News. It's not popular in middle school either agreed Carmel student Nick Sadowski.

 

"Only a couple of my friends really hunt," high school student Jonathan Gibbons told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The rest have never really found the appeal of sitting out in the cold to shoot an animal." According to the Wildlife Service, the number of young hunters, aged 16 to 24, fell by 300,000 from 1996 to 2006.

 

The message of the young people statistics is clear. The old white men of the NRA who have terrorized this country and caused 30,000 gun deaths a year are on the wrong side of history. So are the old white lawmakers who do their bidding.

 

National Gun Victims Action Council has Declared a Boycott of Hallmark cards in time for Fathers Day. Here is why--join in!

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101718214

 

 

 

 

 

Released in theaters on May 9, the documentary Fed Up untangles the roots of obesity in America’s youth. Directed by Stephanie Soechtig and narrated by Katie Couric, Fed Up does not shrink from telling viewers how the government’s decades-long capitulation to Big Food and its lobbyists has fostered an epidemic of excess pounds. The national focus on diet, diet foods and exercise is not abating the obesity epidemic and actually making it worse, charges the film.

 

Examples of capitulation to Big Food are many in the film. In 1977, the McGovern Report warned about an impending obesity epidemic and suggested revised USDA guidelines to recommend people eat less foods high in fat and sugar. The egg, sugar and other Big Food industries, seeing a risk to profits, demanded that guidelines not say "eat less" of the offending foods but rather eat more "low-fat" foods. Ka-ching. They won over the objection of Sen. McGovern.

 

In 2006, the United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) released similar food recommendations and then Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy G. Thompson actually flew to Geneva, according to Fed Up, to threaten WHO that if the guidelines stood, the US would withdraw its WHO financial support. Again, Big Food won.

 

The US government plays both sides of the obesity street--admonishing people to eat right while pushing the foods that make them fat--because of the USDA's double mission of protecting the nation's health and protecting the health of the nation's farmers. According to Fed Up, the low fat movement allowed the USDA to maximize those split loyalties.

 

First, in order to maintain taste in low-fat foods (which tend to be bland once the fat is removed), sugar became the evil stand-in. Much of Fed Up examines the role of excess sugar in obesity, metabolic disorder and food addiction, especially in soft drinks. (The film's exposure of Big Food's financially-driven infiltration of public school lunchrooms with junk food is astonishing.) But the low-fat craze had another pernicious effect. All that unused fat had to go somewhere, says Fed Up, and it ended up in the dairy industry's cheese operations. Even as the USDA recommended "low-fat" diets, it worked with the industry group, Dairy Management, to "cheesify" the American diet and even worked with Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy's and Domino's!

 

Appearing in Fed Up are food experts Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, Deborah Cohen, author of A Big Fat Crisis, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, President Bill Clinton and award-winning reporter Duff Wilson who uncovered high-level conflicts of interest in the food and beverage industry. Fed Up chronicles the struggle of obese children who have become addicted to food through unethical advertising, snack ubiquity, enabling parents (who also look overweight in the film), bad school environments but primarily a government that has caved to Big Food. The government practiced similar complicity with Big Tobacco, Fed Up accurately points out, until the death statistics could not be ignored anymore.

 

It is too bad that Fed Up ignored what many believe is a bigger reason for American obesity than sugar: Big Meat's use of growth enhancers like antibiotics, hormones, ractopamine and even arsenic. It certainly makes sense that chemicals and hormones that balloon livestock into huge carcasses with no increase in the amount of their feed would have the same effect on people who eat the meat. But only recently has the role of antibiotics in childhood obesity been examined, notably by Martin Blaser of New York University Langone Medical Center. Eighty percent of US antibiotics go to livestock and residues are regularly found in US meat.

 

While the US' affair with sugar and soft drinks is decades old, it is only since 1997 that Big Ag started treating meat with the asthma-like drug ractopamine, largely unnoticed by consumers, to produce weight gain in animals. It is also in the late 1990s that extreme obesity and heightened asthma rates (sometimes linked to hormones) surfaced in children. Ractopamine, antibiotics, the beef hormones oestradiol-17, zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate and arsenic (used by US poultry producers for weight gain) are all prohibited in most of the EU. Europe also has much lower obesity rates than the industry-pleasing US which Fed Up so well describes.

 

++++++++++

 

Martha Rosenberg is the author of the award-cited food expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health distributed by Random House.

 

Imagine a treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism that uses no drugs, requires no trained personnel, resources or insurance and makes no money for anyone. This "people's program" is the anonymous twelve-step programs which have quietly saved millions for 79 years.

But lately, Big Pharma sees potential in all that free healing. Increasingly, it is "partnering" with rehab facilities to monetize addiction recovery, especially by facilitating dual diagnoses that require expensive pills. A patient is no longer just an alcoholic, he is an alcoholic with bipolar disease or major depressive disorder. Ka-ching.

The US's National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), often working closely with Pharma, is trying to fix one of the few things in the health care system that is not broken--free, anonymous treatment for alcoholics and addicts. Proof that NIDA has high-tech, expensive plans for addicts is apparent in its recent NIDA flier which trumpets that, "All addictions can be eliminated if the brain’s receptors can be controlled." What?

Behind the search for bio-control brain solutions like a vaccine or pill to treat addictions is Nora Volkow, NIDA director. She is called "an early champion of the idea that drug addiction is a medical problem, rather than a lack of willpower or moral fiber" which actually was the founding precept of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. Hello?

But unlike AA founders who discovered that free, anonymous moral support--without drugs and outside of traditional medicine--worked in almost all cases, Volkow seeks high-tech interventions which will help Pharma at the same time they harm animals.

"We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors [of addiction] and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease," says Volkow with chilling, Orwellian fervor.

Why is seeking genetic causes and bio treatments Orwellian? First, because addiction and alcoholism are diseases of denial and few would take a medical treatment voluntarily which is why the drug Antabuse (which makes people violently sick it they drink) never caught on. If an addict were "out of denial" enough to seek a vaccine or Antabuse, he wouldn't need either. On the other hand, if he really needed it, he would be in too much denial to take it. You would think NIDA as the government's top drug agency would know that.

Secondly,  Pharma, with whom Volkow has published many papers, loves to market "early treatment" drugs for diseases that have not appeared yet, treating the "risk" of heart disease, diabetes, bone thinning and mental illnesses. Patients never know if they needed the meds, are afraid to quit and Pharma creates  lifelong customers. Already NIDA is talking about people "at risk" of addiction. Watch out.

Finally, development of biotech  addiction treatments subjects animals to painful, unnecessary experiments when they do not even share the human afflictions.  Making animals "addicts" to treat the uniquely human phenomenon is a fool's errand and a cruel one at that. One paper co-written by Volkow shows a bloody "pregnant bonnet macaque in transverse position within HR+ PET scanner... positioned so that maternal and fetal organs were within same field of view."  The paper concludes that when primates are dosed with cocaine, fetuses are affected too. Animals died for this "insight"?

Animal lovers and substance counselors are not the only ones to object to NIDA's pricey, cruel nostrums. So many scientists have objected to NIDA's "vaccine for addiction," Volkow had to  defend the work by denying that "funding in other areas is being sacrificed to support the medication development portfolio.”

high-tech treatment that few will take voluntarily that treats a condition treatable with a cup of coffee and peer support and kills animals in the process? Sounds like the NIDA is thinking a lot like Big Pharma.

 

 

 

 

 

The JOBS Act is a "game changer" that would allow "ordinary Americans…to go online and invest in entrepreneurs they believe in," says President Obama.

 

Do you know what PIPRs (private issuers publicly raising) are? Do you know what the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 or JOBS Act is? If not, you are like many people who are legally and culturally cut off from Wall Street which tends to be a bastion of rich, white one percenters.

 

Until the JOBS Act, passed by the Obama administration in 2012, if you had a business, you could not advertise its stock unless you were registered with the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state securities agencies. While this restriction, dating back to 1933, was designed to protect the investing public, its effect on small and start-up companies has been to shut them out of capital funding.

 

Thanks to Title II of the JOBS Act, which went into effect last fall, all this has changed. No longer do entrepreneurs who are not Wall Street insiders, especially women and minorities, have to wait for an invitation to appear before a venture capital company or other largesse from the "old boys' network" to get a chance at funding: they can literally advertise their stock on twitter, Facebook, in person or on TV. And many are.

 

There is another democratizing principle to the JOBS Act, which is not yet active but expected to go into effect before the end of the year. Per 1933 securities legislation, private companies were legally restricted from marketing stock to anyone but "accredited" investors--defined as "as an individual with an income in excess of $200,000 per year, or a couple with a joint income of $300,000 in each of the last two years, or an individual with a net worth exceeding $1 million, either individually or jointly with a spouse." Limiting buyers to "accredited" investors obviously also perpetuates the "old boys' network"--only rich people hear about deals and the common person would miss out on the chance to invest in promising companies. Title III of the JOBS Act will let everyday, non-accredited people invest online into private companies in small amounts like $1,000 to $5,000.

 

Raising funds publicly "is more efficient and less time consuming than making presentations individually to one venture capital or angel investment firm after another until one decides to invest. The company seeking the money prepares one presentation that can be viewed by multiple potential investors," agrees Practical Ecommerce. "Raising funds publicly gives the company a good deal of free exposure to potential investors, customers, and the media. General solicitation gives companies that are not in 'hot' technology categories an opportunity to reach investors who might not otherwise find them."

 

Of course crowdfunding has been revolutionary in amassing financial support for political and environmental causes, direct action, charities, artists and movies but many socially aware people, especially women, are more comfortable donating than investing. The JOBS Act and crowdfinance should change this, letting people invest in good causes and socially aware entrepreneurs and get something back.

 

"Women-led businesses got only three percent of venture capital backing last year," Luan A. Cox, founder and CEO of the New York City-based Crowdnetic told me in a phone interview. "We only have 'up' to go."

 

Half Vietnamese and residing with her wife and small son in Brooklyn, Cox is not shy about wanting to see more women and minorities like herself wrestle away the financing prerogatives that have keep Wall Street a closed and elite game since its origins. "We are missing out on the 'next Google,'" she told me because only the "the rich are hearing about the hot deals."

 

Crowdnetic is providing the infrastructure to aggregate and list the offerings of private companies now taking advantage of the JOBS Act. Already there are almost 3,000 companies on the Crowdnetic real-time data platforms, Cox told me. Private companies availing themselves of the new JOBS Act possibilities have raised more than $116 million from September to February, according to a Crowdnetic recent report on the industry.

 

Not enough people are aware of the new egalitarian opportunities to raise capital, says Cox. "Not enough people realize the JOBS Act stand for "Jumpstart Our Business Startups.'"

 

 

It has been 24 years since an inflammatory art exhibit vaulted the city of Cincinnati and its Contemporary Arts Center to national attention. A sadomasochistic photo installation by the late Robert Mapplethorpe, condemned by the late North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, forced what was believed to be the first criminal trial of an art museum, especially one centered on obscenity. If convicted, the museum faced up to $10,000 in fines and its director, Dennis Barrie, up to a year in jail. The Center was acquitted. Thanks to the face-off between Mapplethorpe and Helms and shocking photos like a man urinating in another man's mouth, the trial put discussion of what is "art" and what is "obscenity" on the nation's front burner.

 

Flash forward to this spring when a display at the Cincinnati Art Museum by conceptual artist Todd Pavlisko is igniting similar debate. Crown, which opened on March 15, consists of a 36-inch brass cube with 19 holes in a plexiglass case with eight flat-screens flanking visitors as they approach the cube. What is so controversial about that? The audio and video on the flat-screens record, in slow motion, the firing of a Tactical 308 rifle by a sharpshooter within the walls of the Cincinnati Art Museum which is how the cube came to sustain its holes. Nineteen bullets were fired by a Navy SEAL in 2012 past masterpieces in the museum's Schmidlapp Gallery like Warhol’s “Soup Can” and Duveneck’s “Whistling Boy.”

 

Crown is both Pavlisko first solo museum exhibition in the town where he grew up and the Cincinnati Art Museum's first cross-disciplinary collaboration of this type. The rifle became an actual “drawing tool” says Pavlisko and the sharpshooter's use of physics to place each bullet on the brass cube are part of the artistic statement. To create Crown, which was "drawn" by a rifle in 2012 but delayed a year in presentation, the cube had to be placed in a ballistic bunker made especially for the project. The shooting was expected to cause an inward collapse of the cube, creating an imprint that resembles a crown and depicting the beauty of imperfection and transgression.

 

By re-enacting the bullets’ high-speed paths and sounds, the exhibit "collapses art history into a millisecond and then expands it again, slowing down the footage as the camera travels past icons," says the Cincinnati Art Museum. "The bullet is a docent for the art historical backdrop," agrees Pavlisko. "It waltzes people through the history and into modernism; and that would be the cube where the bullets came to rest. Then we'll show the whole installation amongst this institution in its more contemporary capacity, which in my eyes, is a full circle of art history."

 

Recording the path of the bullets also turns the Cincinnati Art Museum's pieces into perceivers rather than objects says Pavlisko. "I've edited this video to force the objects the bullet passed to act as voyeurs for the art that is happening." he said in an interview on WVXU radio in Cincinnati. "I've removed them from being the things that are looked at to becoming the things that are currently watching art take place." Crown references both the late Harold Edgerton's use of high-speed photography to record a bullet going through an apple and French filmmaker Jean Luc Godard's "Bande à part," in which the characters try to break the world record for running through the Louvre, writes Janelle Gelfand.

 

The estate of Harold Edgerton has allowed Pavlisko to include some of the late MIT professor's images in the display. Pavlisko often incorporates the physics' principles of time and space in his work and has created paintings and sculptures of the astrophysicist Carl Sagan and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, says Cincinnati's CityBeat.

 

This is not the first time Pavlisko has created controversial, violent art. His recent piece called Centerpiece involved "observing cadavers for years before hammering a metal spike through his foot," reports CityBeat, commensurate with Pavlisko's desire to "engage non-artists in a cross-disciplinary approach to art creation."

 

While the Cincinnati Art Museum had to get city permission for creation of Crown and patrons and employees were not present during the shooting, the exhibition continues to draw antipathy. "Certain members of the art world are voicing concerns about the apparent recklessness of allowing a high-powered rifle to be fired in a museum; many argue that the sound vibrations echoing through the marble hall could have caused damage to the museum’s collection, even damage that may not manifest until many years later," wrote the website ArtLog.

 

"I just cannot understand why the board allowed it. The shooting of the gun went on all day long. When you have gunfire inside a building, the vibrations go into the building, the sculpture and the artworks, and the long-term effects may not be seen for 100 years," said Mary Ran of Cincinnati's Mary Ran Gallery.

 

But many others vehemently defend the Pavlisko work and the value of provocative art. Tamara Harkavy, artistic director and CEO of ArtWorks, while acknowledging that "Todd as an artist makes art that isn't apparently instantly beautiful," also notes "if you look deeper [into Pavlisko's art] it does have beauty to it."

 

Cincinnati Art Museum Board President Martha Ragland also affirms Crown's artistic merit as well as the Museum's charge "to present all different types of exhibitions." Crown takes visitors "along on that journey from the past to the present" and is "breathtaking" she says.

 

As art lovers and the curious line up to see Crown, two things are certain: that Crown fulfills  the "point" of art--to create dialogue, debate and take people outside of their comfort zone, so they think in ways in which they’re unaccustomed. And, that the city of Cincinnati has come a long way since the Mapplethorpe fight, to the point where even in the face of criticism, the community can support a controversial art piece and the conversation it creates. Displays like Crown are why the Cincinnati Art Museum is considered among the most renowned in the country.

 

Crown is on display until June 15, 2014 at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

 

 

 

 

Frazier Glenn Miller, accused of killing three outside two Jewish Community Centers in Kansas the day before Passover, embodies many features of the extreme gun rights movement--notably its persecution fantasies and insurrectional hatred of the government. Miller, who  founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, "knew enough of the law, enough of American history, enough of the thinking of the founders that he could craft this bastardized notion of liberty and this notion of states’ authority and states’ rights,” Michael L. Williams, Texas commissioner of education who investigated Miller when he was a federal prosecutor, told the New York Times.

 

States' rights like bills to nullify federal gun laws and to arrest and jail federal agents trying to enforce them and a murderous hatred of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) are prominent features of the gun rights movement.

Miller has written that the white race is “drowning literally in seas of colored mongrels” a remark that is disturbing close to longtime NRA Board Member Ted Nugent's depiction of President Obama as a "sub-human mongrel." Nugent retracted the remark--kind of.

 

The NRA supported Ronald Reagan when, as California governor, he led new gun laws to keep Black Panthers and other black power activists from having firearms. In promoting the Mulford Act which he signed in 1967, President Regan said “There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” What a difference a few decades--and the change in color of the carrying citizens--makes. Many say gun laws would change overnight if the "law-abiding citizens standing their ground" were African-Americans and not George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn (the "loud music" killer).

 

This is hardly the first anti-Semitic gun attack in the US. In 1998 former Aryan Nations guard Buford O’Neal Furrow Jr. fired more than 70 rounds from a submachine gun at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles. In 1999, in Skokie and Rogers Park, white supremacist Benjamin Nathaniel Smith went on a racist shooting rampage killing Northwestern University Men's Basketball Coach Ricky Byrdsong and Won-Joon Yoon, a computer science doctoral student. He also wounded nine Orthodox Jews and an African-American minister. Smith was issued a gun owner's ID card despite an order of protection filed by an ex-girlfriend. The hate spree spawned a yearly event called the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.

 

Wade Michael Page, who fatally shot six people and wounded four others at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012, was another white supremacist. Page was reportedly a member of the Hammerskins and played in neo-Nazi bands. He founded the band End Apathy in 2005 and played in the band Definite Hate, both considered racist white-power bands by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors such hate groups which are some of the nation's biggest gun advocates, preaching insurrection and stockpiling weapons. David Duke, one of the nation's best known Klan members, for example, is a big fan of the NRA. "National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has a new rallying cry to spotlight the importance of every American’s right to keep and bear arms," he wrote on his website, quoting a LaPierre speech.

 

There is nothing quieter than gun advocates after a mass shooting. After April's Fort Hood and Jewish Community Centers shootings, the normally belligerent gun fanatics turn meek and mute. Their only remarks tend to be that we should not "legislate on top of fresh graves."

 

But of course legislating on top of fresh graves is the NRA's marketing plan! Screaming that Congress would pass restrictions on semiautomatic rifles after Sandy Hook, the NRA induced a profit party for gun makers in 2013 and convinced the Frazier Glenn Millers of the world to acquire yet another weapon.

 

 

 

Was your "ex" violent and possessive? Did he drink too much? Was he emotional, unpredictable and prone to rages and anger management problems? When you tried to end the relationship did he threaten or stalk you? If you tried to date someone else did he intervene? Did you have to notify the authorities?

 

It is no coincidence that violent "exes" are so alike. There is a definite "domestic batterer" personality. The dark behavior begins with possessiveness and extreme suspicion and graduates into violence including violence against their partners' pets. Many domestic batterers say "you're never leaving me alive" and, despite orders of protection, their chilling prediction often comes through. No wonder one woman we know in New Orleans says the "best thing about my marriage was we didn't have children and we didn't have a handgun."

 

And no wonder the Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius trial is bringing back so many flashbacks to abused women.

 

Pistorius claims he loved Reeva Steenkamp the girlfriend he murdered, but emails presented in his trial do not profess love. They do criticize her for chewing gum and flirting with someone else at a party. Pistorius "loved" Reeva Steenkamp but did not check to see if she was in her bed (or in another safe place) before firing four shots into the bathroom to kill an "intruder" and killing her. Neighbors report hearing female screams before the shooting which Pistorius' defense said was him. Right.

 

Pistorius, reported to be a gun lover by witnesses, also has a lot of contradictions about the murder itself.  He claims to have heard the intruder but the prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, says a loud air treatment system nearby would have baffled the noise. He claims he was afraid of the intruder but ran toward the intruder rather than out of the house when an exit was close by. Nor did he intentionally fire four shots, he says.

 

Pistorius also denies firing a pistol in a restaurant in 2013, months before his girlfriend's murder. "The athlete said he could not explain how the gun went off," reports CNN.

 

Like many gun lovers in the US, Pistorius mentions instances where he "defended" himself against criminals and stopped crimes while admitting that he never reported the incidents to law enforcement officials. Like US cop wannabes, he is such a believer in "good guys" defending themselves that he lets "bad guys" get away to strike again…..Thank you gun lovers.

 

Obviously not all gun lovers are domestic batterers or bullies. But many domestic batterers and bullies are gun lovers as reams of police records reveal. In fact, women are three times as likely to be shot and killed by gun-wielding intimate partners than by strangers. Nonetheless, the NRA works hard for laws that allow such men, accused of domestic violence, to retain their weapons while under orders of protection.

 

Are you against the NRA's violent, anti-woman agenda? Sign NGVAC's free TELL AND COMPEL pledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a sign on a popular campus hangout that brought the owner such blowback from gun lovers, he was forced to change his phone number and have police open his mail. Gun lovers also attacked his restaurant on Yelp and ruined his ratings.

 

It is a phenomenon familiar to many reporters, bloggers and activists who criticize the "guns-everywhere-all-the-time" agenda. Single-issue gun bullies pile on with Internet attacks on gun critics' careers and personal lives, even publishing their home addresses in some cases. At NGVAC, both a board member and a senior editor have been attacked by such "law-abiding" gun owners, provoking bans from the major social media organizations but not before the damage was done.

 

Gun advocates' wrath, spite and retaliation is instructive for two reasons. First, it is how politicians are coerced into co-signing the gun agenda--they never hear from gun critics with as much emotion, implied reprisals and numbers. Secondly, it is the biggest reason for gun regulation. Gun advocates are the first and last to get violent and get even with those who make them angry. They are the reason road rage incidents result in deaths not dented fenders. They are the reason for the recent Skittles, Popcorn and Loud Music murders. Who can forget gun advocates lying in wait for unarmed anti-gun violence mothers outside of a Texas mall, locked and loaded? What? Should people with hair trigger tempers really be armed?

 

Illinois' recent legalization of Concealed Carry presents the same dilemma to business owners as the pub owner who posted “If you are such a loser that you feel a need to carry a gun with you when you go out, I do not want your business” faces. The majority of the public does not want to be in the same room with a "carrier" who may get angry, drunk, mistake someone's identity, have a accident or decide he is "protecting" us from bad guys like Zimmerman and Dunn. And those are the customers the business wants. (That's why Starbucks "unwelcomed" carriers.)

 

While gun advocates have a loud bark, an attempt by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre to aggregate their buying power and teach ConocoPhillips a lesson for gun regulations by boycotting them proved an embarrassing flop. There are only an estimated one million gun extremists in the US--not enough to hurt ConocoPhillips much less make a restaurant crave their business.

 

Many Illinois businesses don't want carriers in their stores and restaurants but also do not want to post signs banning them as the law now requires. Thanks to the NRA and the Illinois State Rifle Association, guns are now welcome in any building (with a few categories of exceptions) that does not post a guns banned sign. But businesses have not spent huge amounts of money beautifying their exteriors only to have an ugly gun decal on their door! Moreover, the very image of a gun causes mental reactions in people, studies have now shown--none of which are good. The sign could also suggest to potential customers, especially tourists, that they are not as safe as they thought if there are so many guns they need to be banned by a sign. Finally, businesses don't want to invoke the wrath of the gun lunatics who forced the pub owner, mentioned above, to change his phone number.

 

To those of us who have lost loved ones to gun violence or do not want ourselves and our children to be around guns and gun carriers, the new sign law is as backwards as having a specially marked lane on the highway for sober drivers with all other drivers presumed to be drunk. While screaming they are "victims," gun lovers have bullied through such extreme laws, a person without a lethal weapon is now considered an exception!

 

Not all gun owners agree with the "carry everywhere" mentality. Even though chef Sean Brock says he sleeps beside a 9-millimeter handgun every night, he also doesn’t want guns in his restaurants. “It’s a bit strange to me that you think you need to carry a gun when you’re having a cheeseburger,” he says.

 

 

 

 

Are you DONE ASKING for sane gun laws? Force them! Join the thousands making the TELL AND COMPEL™  pledge.

 

 

 

Interview with Gayathri Ramprasad, Author of Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within 

 

 

The just published memoir, Shadows in the Sun, is a first-of-its-kind, cross-cultural lens to mental illness through the inspiring story of the author's thirty-year battle with depression.

 

Rosenberg: Your book gives vivid images and details of your childhood, growing up in India. It seems like you were never alone, between your immediate family, your extended family and, later, your in-laws. Yet, psychologically you were totally alone.

 

Ramprasad: India is collectivistic culture and the Indian family can either be a fortress or a prison. When the "enemy" is mental illness, it is often a prison. Not because of a lack of love. But, because of a lack of understanding. As a culture, there are many myths and misperceptions about mental illness, and tremendous shame and stigma associated with it.  If I would have been diagnosed with depression as a teenager when my symptoms started, my life would have been over. Perhaps, I would have never finished school or gotten married and I would have brought such shame onto my family, my sister might not have gotten married either. I want to point out, however, that once my family was educated about depression, they became the greatest support system I ever had.

 

Rosenberg: Has mental illness in India lost some of the stigma since then?

 

Ramprasad: Yes and no. There are a few people who are standing up and speaking out about their mental health experiences, but the stonewalls of stigma, shame, and secrecy are still intact. Recently, I met with a group of Indian professionals struggling with mental health issues, while working with ASHA International, the nonprofit organization I founded to promote mental health awareness, hope and holistic wellness. All of them told me they admired how I was speaking out about my struggles with mental illness and breaking the bonds of silence but they could not do the same thing. Medical professionals said they would lose their clients' respect. An engineer said he would lose his job. A stay-at-home mom said it would hurt her children and bring dishonor to her family. When I visited a government hospital in India, fairly recently, there were hundreds of people camped out on the hospital grounds. They had come from miles away on trains and auto rickshaws just for a psychiatric consult and were waiting for days. In India and many parts of the world, the situation is terrible.

 

Rosenberg: Your symptoms of depression began as a teenager and were heightened by your "desperate need to please others" and "perfectionistic attitudes," according to your therapist, who pointed out they were common traits in Indian culture. Later in life you found out that your father had also been diagnosed with depression. Why would he have not been more empathetic to you since he shared the disease? Why was your dad's struggle with mental illness kept a secret from you for so long?

 

Ramprasad: My father, like many men around the world, perceived the expression of emotions as a sign of weakness and suppression of emotions as a strength. He had difficulties accepting his struggles with depression, and, therefore, couldn’t empathize with my pain. Looking back, it was difficult for me to understand how my mother could have considered my father's suicidal behavior—wanting to throw himself under a bus, for example, and other things--"normal." She said they did not tell me because they didn't want me to "worry about it." My parents, like millions of people in many cultures around the world, were imprisoned by ignorance about depression.

 

Rosenberg: Did your dad's depressed behavior start after you left the house?

 

Ramprasad: Growing up in a patriarchal culture where a man’s temper is his prerogative, my father’s flare-ups were a mere fact of life. While my father is a very loving man, to this day, he regards the show of emotions as a weakness.

 

Rosenberg:  Your recovery story includes the Twelve Step principles like surrendering to a higher power and powerlessness. Both self-help recovery and the advice to "snap out of it" that is often given to depressed people rest on individual self-reliance yet they are complete opposites. Can you explain the difference?

 

Ramprasad: I think the one word that captures the difference is "knowledge." When you don't understand what is happening to you, you can't "snap out of it." I finished college, married, emigrated to the US, had a child--I did everything I was supposed to do to snap out of it. But I lacked the knowledge. I did not understand how pregnancy caused my symptoms. I did not understand that I had the genetic predisposition to depression. I certainly did not appreciate how much early experiences had affected me.

 

Rosenberg:  Your first depressive episode began when you failed math even though you were a good student. You discovered that a male student had maneuvered the failure because you had rejected his advances.

 

Ramprasad: Yes! And, as a young woman born and raised within the Indian culture, I felt utterly powerless to confront him, even when he threatened to rape me. Unfortunately, women continue to be victimized in India even today.  And, despite all the media attention on the recent gang rapes across India, we as a culture are striving to ensure that justice is served.

 

Rosenberg:  Was there a moment when your recovery from depression began?

 

Ramprasad: Yes. When I was stripped of all freedom and human dignity in an isolation cell. Until then, I blamed everyone else, God, my parents, my society, my husband, my culture. But in the cell, I realized I was the only one with the key to set myself free. I realized that I was not evil, an ingrate, weak, a drama queen, possessed or being punished--all the names I was called and had internalized. That is when I discovered the light within me – the light of love, wisdom, courage and compassion that has sustained me on my journey to wellness.

 

Rosenberg:  In Shadows in the Sun you also discuss the people who helped you along your journey.

 

Ramprasad: Yes! I had never had a roommate other than my sister. My roommate in the hospital, Sanya, demystified mental illness for me. I could see myself for the first time through her. There were also women I worked with who shared their stories with me and let me know I was not alone or different by having mental illness. There was also a wonderful nurse I write about in the book. Probably the strongest influence was a woman named Aida, the wife of my husband's boss. She was a mother figure and she embodied everything I wanted to be when I grew up. She instilled in me the conviction that I could make it despite the mental illness and made me promise I would not kill myself.

 

Rosenberg: One thing that is remarkable about your story is how even though you were in the United States, it was Indian practices like pranayama and meditation that finally helped you.

 

Ramprasad: Yes--I write in the book that India gave me my roots but the US gave me the wings to fly.

 

Rosenberg: Despite experiencing psychotic post partum depression with your first daughter, you were able to have a second baby through practicing pranayama, transcendental meditation, nutrition, exercise and other factors. You used no drugs!

 

Ramprasad: I am not opposed to medication and they have worked wonders with my brother and sister. But for me, the antidepressants and antipyschotics were anti-life and anti-wellness. They were supposed to abate my symptoms and they exacerbated them. They made me more depressed and more suicidal. Now, we know more about those drugs and they have black box warnings. My husband and family would say to me you have the best doctors, the best health care, the best medication--what is wrong with you? The medications were hurting me. Nearly 50 percent of people are not helped by antidepressants. I was lucky my doctor and family supported me going off drugs. Western medicine focuses too much on treatment, including medication and not wellness.

 

Rosenberg: You have parlayed your journey into ASHA International to help others struggling with mental illness and social stigmas, especially in other countries.

 

Ramprasad:  Yes. I would not wish my experience on anyone else. But those who go through such experiences have an obligation to use them to help others --which is what I am doing. We need to embrace our loved ones who have mental illness and not hide them away as is too often done. 

 

Gayathri Ramprasad is the Founder and President of ASHA International a nonprofit organization promoting personal, organizational and community wellness. She is the author of Shadows in the Sun: Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within

 

 

 

It took academic, government and military researchers five years to say they don't really know what is causing military suicides but whatever it is--it isn't the psychoactive drugs they are prescribing and pushing. There have been more than 6,500 suicides since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars says Army Times---one every 80 minutes according to a 2012 Veterans Affairs report. Thirty percent of military personnel who kill themselves have never deployed and 60 percent have not seen combat say published reports, leading to the suspicion that the excessive administration of psychoactive drugs in the military is the culprit.

 

Yet, if you're looking for names of the Pharma companies who've created the most drugged up fighting force in history, you'll have to look at the conflicts of interest of the authors of the research, which appeared in JAMA Psychiatry in March. They report at least 15 financial links to Big Pharma including to Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Ortho-McNeil Janssen Scientific Affairs, Pfizer, sanofi-aventis, Shire US and Johnson & Johnson. Reported links of some authors are conspicuously absent.

"Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of PAXIL or any other antidepressant in a child, adolescent, or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need."

 

That's the "black box" warning on the antidepressant Paxil, which the VA’s Iraq War Clinician Guide says is "clearly effective" for combat veterans suffering with PTSD, even though most are clearly "young adults." Paxil and other SSRI antidepressants, all of which carry suicide warnings, are recommended in the Guide as "first line medications for PTSD pharmacotherapy in men and women with military-related PTSD." Between 2001 and 2009, 73,103 prescriptions for Zoloft,  38,199 for Prozac, 17,830 for Paxil and 12,047 for Cymbalta were dispensed according to Tricare data.

 

Prescriptions for anticonvulsants like Topamax and Neurontin, which also carry suicide warnings, rose 56 percent in the same group, says Navy Times. And the use of antipsychotics like Zyprexa, Seroquel and Risperdal which also carry suicide warnings?  Seroquel leapt by 700 percent in active duty troops from 2001 through 2009 reported the New York Times. Maybe the suicides are caused by the green beans as Dorothy Parker would have said.

 

The authors of the long-awaited papers turned over every stone except the ones that feather their nests. They considered military personnel's gender, race/ethnicity, age, age at enlistment, mental history, deployment history, rank, marital status and even  education. But nowhere do the words "medication," antidepressant" or "prescription" appear in the new research even though "At least one in six service members is on some form of psychiatric drug," according to Military Times. An internal study of all deaths in Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) "found the biggest risk factor may be putting a soldier on numerous drugs simultaneously, a practice known as polypharmacy," wrote Marine Times in 2010.

 

There is money for Pharma in keeping troops and veterans drugged up. And there is money for doctors willing to live with conflicts of interest. One example is Matthew Friedman, MD, executive director of the VA’s National Center for PTSD who admits receiving an AstraZeneca honorarium in an online course, Pharmacological Treatment of PTSD and Comorbid Disorders which--surprise!--promotes psychoactive drugs. AstraZeneca makes Seroquel. Friedman has also served as a Pfizer Visiting Professor. Neither relationship was reported on his section of the military suicide research in JAMA Psychiatry.

 

Friedman is far from the only official working for the government while taking Pharma money. VA administrators unabashedly receive money from Pharma, and even enroll veterans in their Pharma-financed clinical trials, making no effort to hide the dual loyalties. One DOD official cited in Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, recommends off-label use of psychoactive drugs in published reports while attributing military suicides to the availability of firearms and "dear John" letters from the girl back home. Right. She also appears in a Pharma-funded video despite being a government official.

 

While academic, government and military researchers continue to play their game of funding Whac-A-Mole, pretending they don't know the source of many suicides while profiting from them, we may never know the true toll. "The number of military suicide victims who may have been taking antidepressants or anticonvulsants is unclear," says Army Times. "The Army repeatedly has denied a Military Times Freedom of Information Act request for that data."