back to brainwaving.com

About

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

Over on Brainwaving.com

WordPress database error: [INSERT command denied to user 'dbo296380814'@'82.165.85.199' for table 'wp_options']
INSERT INTO `wp_options` (`option_name`,`option_value`,`autoload`) VALUES ('_transient_timeout_rss_4d6f030bac35610ead8a648282c5caf1','1634392410','no')

WordPress database error: [INSERT command denied to user 'dbo296380814'@'82.165.85.199' for table 'wp_options']
INSERT INTO `wp_options` (`option_name`,`option_value`,`autoload`) VALUES ('_transient_rss_4d6f030bac35610ead8a648282c5caf1','O:9:\"magpierss\":17:{s:6:\"parser\";i:0;s:12:\"current_item\";a:0:{}s:5:\"items\";a:10:{i:0;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:26:\"‘Molecules of Madness’\";s:4:\"link\";s:77:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/07/04/%e2%80%98molecules-of-madness%e2%80%99/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:86:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/07/04/%e2%80%98molecules-of-madness%e2%80%99/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 04 Jul 2011 17:06:54 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:11:\"Tony Wright\";}s:8:\"category\";s:41:\"Big IdeasConsciousnessScience of the Mind\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1544\";s:11:\"description\";s:361:\"Addressing the question of our obvious insanity at a causal level A Kickstarter collaboration with award winning film maker David Malone Davids Trailer on Youtube I wrote an article for Brainwaving just over a year ago, &#8216;Consciousness and the Direction of Structure&#8217;. What appeared to be a harsh diagnosis regarding the underlying cause of the [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:4458:\"<p><strong>Addressing the question of our obvious insanity at a causal level</strong></p> <p><a href=\"http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lanawalker/molecules-of-madness-the-story-of-our-descent-to-i\"><a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/molecules-of-madness-small.jpg\"><img src=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/molecules-of-madness-small-300x230.jpg\" alt=\"\" width=\"300\" height=\"230\" class=\"alignright size-medium wp-image-1548\" /></a></a></p> <p><strong>A <a href=\"http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lanawalker/molecules-of-madness-the-story-of-our-descent-to-i\">Kickstarter</a> collaboration with award winning film maker <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Malone_%28independent_filmmaker%29\">David Malone</a></strong></p> <p>Davids Trailer on <a href=\"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqDWCgFNWhE\">Youtube</a></p> <p>I wrote an article for Brainwaving just over a year ago, <a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2009/11/17/377/\">&#8216;Consciousness and the Direction of Structure&#8217;</a>. What appeared to be a harsh diagnosis regarding the underlying cause of the obvious insanity that afflicts humanity. Though it accorded well with the Arcadian traditions, modern scientific data and our extremely self destructive behavior, as expected some people found it a little challenging. However the general reaction has been one of relief and in fact even excitement as the nature of the condition outlined implies a relatively easy fix that is well within our reach today.</p> <p>The next objective is to bring the diagnosis into mainstream culture ASAP in such a way that the rational mind cannot escape the implications despite its phenomenal capacity for delusion and denial. Restoration of the molecular structure and configuration necessary to facilitate sanity as an urgent priority i.e. fixing our brain and its associated state of mind and sense of self. As the very institutions one might expect to address these issues are no less afflicted by the condition, more so in many ways, it will be necessary to throw out the rule book and do whatever is necessary to at least address the question of our neural integrity. Simply asking this question will be enough to initiate a chain reaction that will result in either a clean bill of health, personally I have my doubts, or a massive shift in our collective priority.</p> <p>We already know our current collective state of mind correlates very well with our current neuro-chemical structure, neuro-chemical fuel and degree of cerebral dominance. We also know that changing those parameters, effectively moving towards their original specifications brings rapid and profound changes including a deep sense of connectedness and empathy, enhanced senses and cognitive ability including an improved capacity to perceive reality. So we can choose more madness, more fear, control and delusion if that is what we want? Such a response would be no more than the continued expression of symptoms typical of serious mental ill health and the inevitable consequences of neural degeneration? Or we could risk a massive improvement that would end the overwhelming symptoms we have created at a causal level.</p> <p>With this in mind a major Kickstarter project has just gone live and will be launching via media interviews over the next few weeks. It will need a collective effort to network it sufficiently to succeed and is very much a practical first step to initiating a completely new and paradoxically very ancient way of addressing our increasing propensity for industrial scale self harm at its source.</p> <p>Is it such a great leap from the perspective that &#8216;humans are mad&#8217; in one way or another, a common view shared by many great philosophers and psychologists and implied in the spiritual and religious traditions to the idea of an underlying neuro-degenerative condition. Its not exactly an uncommon reaction today from a great many people from very diverse cultures and backgrounds.</p> <p>I invite you to get involved and help unleash a simple idea so powerful that it will eat its way into the hierarchy of madness and change the way we see and eventually experience everything forever.</p> <p><strong>Links </strong></p> <p><a href=\"http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lanawalker/molecules-of-madness-the-story-of-our-descent-to-i\">Molecules of Madness</a><br /> <a href=\"http://beyond-belief.org.uk/\">Beyond Belief</a></p> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:82:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/07/04/%e2%80%98molecules-of-madness%e2%80%99/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"0\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:361:\"Addressing the question of our obvious insanity at a causal level A Kickstarter collaboration with award winning film maker David Malone Davids Trailer on Youtube I wrote an article for Brainwaving just over a year ago, &#8216;Consciousness and the Direction of Structure&#8217;. What appeared to be a harsh diagnosis regarding the underlying cause of the [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:4458:\"<p><strong>Addressing the question of our obvious insanity at a causal level</strong></p> <p><a href=\"http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lanawalker/molecules-of-madness-the-story-of-our-descent-to-i\"><a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/molecules-of-madness-small.jpg\"><img src=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/molecules-of-madness-small-300x230.jpg\" alt=\"\" width=\"300\" height=\"230\" class=\"alignright size-medium wp-image-1548\" /></a></a></p> <p><strong>A <a href=\"http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lanawalker/molecules-of-madness-the-story-of-our-descent-to-i\">Kickstarter</a> collaboration with award winning film maker <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Malone_%28independent_filmmaker%29\">David Malone</a></strong></p> <p>Davids Trailer on <a href=\"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqDWCgFNWhE\">Youtube</a></p> <p>I wrote an article for Brainwaving just over a year ago, <a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2009/11/17/377/\">&#8216;Consciousness and the Direction of Structure&#8217;</a>. What appeared to be a harsh diagnosis regarding the underlying cause of the obvious insanity that afflicts humanity. Though it accorded well with the Arcadian traditions, modern scientific data and our extremely self destructive behavior, as expected some people found it a little challenging. However the general reaction has been one of relief and in fact even excitement as the nature of the condition outlined implies a relatively easy fix that is well within our reach today.</p> <p>The next objective is to bring the diagnosis into mainstream culture ASAP in such a way that the rational mind cannot escape the implications despite its phenomenal capacity for delusion and denial. Restoration of the molecular structure and configuration necessary to facilitate sanity as an urgent priority i.e. fixing our brain and its associated state of mind and sense of self. As the very institutions one might expect to address these issues are no less afflicted by the condition, more so in many ways, it will be necessary to throw out the rule book and do whatever is necessary to at least address the question of our neural integrity. Simply asking this question will be enough to initiate a chain reaction that will result in either a clean bill of health, personally I have my doubts, or a massive shift in our collective priority.</p> <p>We already know our current collective state of mind correlates very well with our current neuro-chemical structure, neuro-chemical fuel and degree of cerebral dominance. We also know that changing those parameters, effectively moving towards their original specifications brings rapid and profound changes including a deep sense of connectedness and empathy, enhanced senses and cognitive ability including an improved capacity to perceive reality. So we can choose more madness, more fear, control and delusion if that is what we want? Such a response would be no more than the continued expression of symptoms typical of serious mental ill health and the inevitable consequences of neural degeneration? Or we could risk a massive improvement that would end the overwhelming symptoms we have created at a causal level.</p> <p>With this in mind a major Kickstarter project has just gone live and will be launching via media interviews over the next few weeks. It will need a collective effort to network it sufficiently to succeed and is very much a practical first step to initiating a completely new and paradoxically very ancient way of addressing our increasing propensity for industrial scale self harm at its source.</p> <p>Is it such a great leap from the perspective that &#8216;humans are mad&#8217; in one way or another, a common view shared by many great philosophers and psychologists and implied in the spiritual and religious traditions to the idea of an underlying neuro-degenerative condition. Its not exactly an uncommon reaction today from a great many people from very diverse cultures and backgrounds.</p> <p>I invite you to get involved and help unleash a simple idea so powerful that it will eat its way into the hierarchy of madness and change the way we see and eventually experience everything forever.</p> <p><strong>Links </strong></p> <p><a href=\"http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lanawalker/molecules-of-madness-the-story-of-our-descent-to-i\">Molecules of Madness</a><br /> <a href=\"http://beyond-belief.org.uk/\">Beyond Belief</a></p> \";}i:1;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:71:\"How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico?s murderous drug gangs\";s:4:\"link\";s:109:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/how-a-big-us-bank-laundered-billions-from-mexicos-murderous-drug-gangs/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:118:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/how-a-big-us-bank-laundered-billions-from-mexicos-murderous-drug-gangs/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 11 Apr 2011 22:49:24 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:17:\"Brainwaving Admin\";}s:8:\"category\";s:132:\"Social InsightbanksbrainwaveCrimeDrug PolicydrugsfutureLatin Americamoney launderingpoliticsprohibitionsocial commentaryThe Guardian\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1538\";s:11:\"description\";s:366:\"As the violence spread, billions of dollars of cartel cash began to seep into the global financial system. But a special investigation by the Observer reveals how the increasingly frantic warnings of one London whistleblower were ignored. A soldier guards marijuana that is being incinerated in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AP On 10 April 2006, [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:29244:\"<p>As the violence spread, billions of dollars of cartel cash began to seep into the global financial system. But a special investigation by the Observer reveals how the increasingly frantic warnings of one London whistleblower were ignored.</p> <div id=\"article-wrapper\"> <div id=\"main-content-picture\"><img class=\"alignleft\" src=\"http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Observer/Pix/pictures/2011/4/1/1301681009143/Mexico-drugs-007.jpg\" alt=\"Mexico drugs\" width=\"414\" height=\"248\" /></p> <div>A soldier guards marijuana that is being incinerated in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AP</div> </div> <div id=\"article-body-blocks\"> <p>On 10 April 2006, a DC-9 jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of <a title=\"More from guardian.co.uk on Mexico\" href=\"http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/mexico\">Mexico</a>, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else – more important and far-reaching – was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel.</p> <p>From <a href=\"http://www.guardian.co.uk/\">the Guardian</a> by Ed Vulliamy</p> <p>During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the <a title=\"More from guardian.co.uk on United States\" href=\"http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/usa\">United States</a>: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo.</p> <p>The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller&#8217;s cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war.</p> <p>Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year&#8217;s &#8220;deferred prosecution&#8221; has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine.</p> <p>More shocking, and more important, the bank was sanctioned for failing to apply the proper anti-laundering strictures to the transfer of $378.4bn – a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico&#8217;s gross national product – into dollar accounts from so-called <em>casas de cambio</em> (CDCs) in Mexico, currency exchange houses with which the bank did business.</p> <p>&#8220;Wachovia&#8217;s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,&#8221; said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank&#8217;s $12.3bn profit for 2009. On 24 March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86 – up 1% on the week of the court settlement.</p> <p>The conclusion to the case was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the &#8220;legal&#8221; banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.</p> <p>At the height of the 2008 banking crisis, Antonio Maria Costa, then head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, said he had evidence to suggest the proceeds from drugs and crime were &#8220;the only liquid investment capital&#8221; available to banks on the brink of collapse. &#8220;Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the <a title=\"More from guardian.co.uk on Drugs trade\" href=\"http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/drugs-trade\">drugs trade</a>,&#8221; he said. &#8220;There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.&#8221;</p> <p>Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo during the 2008 crash, just as Wells Fargo became a beneficiary of $25bn in taxpayers&#8217; money. Wachovia&#8217;s prosecutors were clear, however, that there was no suggestion Wells Fargo had behaved improperly; it had co-operated fully with the investigation. Mexico is the US&#8217;s third largest international trading partner and Wachovia was understandably interested in this volume of legitimate trade.</p> <p>José Luis Marmolejo, who prosecuted those running one of the <em>casas de cambio</em> at the Mexican end, said: &#8220;Wachovia handled all the transfers. They never reported any as suspicious.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;As early as 2004, Wachovia understood the risk,&#8221; the bank admitted in the statement of settlement with the federal government, but, &#8220;despite these warnings, Wachovia remained in the business&#8221;. There is, of course, the legitimate use of CDCs as a way into the Hispanic market. In 2005 the World Bank said that Mexico was receiving $8.1bn in remittances.</p> <p>During research into the Wachovia Mexican case, the <em>Observer</em> obtained documents previously provided to financial regulators. It emerged that the alarm that was ignored came from, among other places, London, as a result of the diligence of one of the most important whistleblowers of our time. A man who, in a series of interviews with the <em>Observer</em>, adds detail to the documents, laying bare the story of how Wachovia was at the centre of one of the world&#8217;s biggest money-laundering operations.</p> <p>Martin Woods, a Liverpudlian in his mid-40s, joined the London office of Wachovia Bank in February 2005 as a senior anti-money laundering officer. He had previously served with the Metropolitan police drug squad. As a detective he joined the money-laundering investigation team of the National Crime Squad, where he worked on the British end of the Bank of New York money-laundering scandal in the late 1990s.</p> <p>Woods talks like a police officer – in the best sense of the word: punctilious, exact, with a roguish humour, but moral at the core. He was an ideal appointment for any bank eager to operate a diligent and effective risk management policy against the lucrative scourge of high finance: laundering, knowing or otherwise, the vast proceeds of criminality, tax-evasion, and dealing in arms and drugs.</p> <p>Woods had a police officer&#8217;s eye and a police officer&#8217;s instincts – not those of a banker. And this influenced not only his methods, but his mentality. &#8220;I think that a lot of things matter more than money – and that marks you out in a culture which appears to prevail in many of the banks in the world,&#8221; he says.</p> <p>Woods was set apart by his modus operandi. His speciality, he explains, was his application of a &#8220;know your client&#8221;, or KYC, policing strategy to identifying dirty money. &#8220;KYC is a fundamental approach to anti-money laundering, going after tax evasion or counter-terrorist financing. Who are your clients? Is the documentation right? Good, responsible banking involved always knowing your customer and it still does.&#8221;</p> <p>When he looked at Wachovia, the first thing Woods noticed was a deficiency in KYC information. And among his first reports to his superiors at the bank&#8217;s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, were observations on a shortfall in KYC at Wachovia&#8217;s operation in London, which he set about correcting, while at the same time implementing what was known as an enhanced transaction monitoring programme, gathering more information on clients whose money came through the bank&#8217;s offices in the City, in sterling or euros. By August 2006, Woods had identified a number of suspicious transactions relating to <em>casas de cambio</em> customers in Mexico.</p> <p>Primarily, these involved deposits of traveller&#8217;s cheques in euros. They had sequential numbers and deposited larger amounts of money than any innocent travelling person would need, with inadequate or no KYC information on them and what seemed to a trained eye to be dubious signatures. &#8220;It was basic work,&#8221; he says. &#8220;They didn&#8217;t answer the obvious questions: &#8216;Is the transaction real, or does it look synthetic? Does the traveller&#8217;s cheque meet the protocols? Is it all there, and if not, why not?&#8217;&#8221;</p> <p>Woods discussed the matter with Wachovia&#8217;s global head of anti-money laundering for correspondent banking, who believed the cheques could signify tax evasion. He then undertook what banks call a &#8220;look back&#8221; at previous transactions and saw fit to submit a series of SARs, or suspicious activity reports, to the authorities in the UK and his superiors in Charlotte, urging the blocking of named parties and large series of sequentially numbered traveller&#8217;s cheques from Mexico. He issued a number of SARs in 2006, of which 50 related to the <em>casas de cambio</em> in Mexico. To his amazement, the response from Wachovia&#8217;s Miami office, the centre for Latin American business, was anything but supportive – he felt it was quite the reverse.</p> <p>As it turned out, however, Woods was on the right track. Wachovia&#8217;s business in Mexico was coming under closer and closer scrutiny by US federal law enforcement. Wachovia was issued with a number of subpoenas for information on its Mexican operation. Woods has subsequently been informed that Wachovia had six or seven thousand subpoenas. He says this was &#8220;An absurd number. So at what point does someone at the highest level not get the feeling that something is very, very wrong?&#8221;</p> <p>In April and May 2007, Wachovia – as a result of increasing interest and pressure from the US attorney&#8217;s office – began to close its relationship with some of the <em>casas de cambio</em>. But rather than launch an internal investigation into Woods&#8217;s alerts over Mexico, Woods claims Wachovia hung its own money-laundering expert out to dry. The records show that during 2007 Woods &#8220;continued to submit more SARs related to the <em>casas de cambio</em>&#8220;.</p> <p>In July 2007, all of Wachovia&#8217;s remaining 10 Mexican <em>casa de cambio</em> clients operating through London suddenly stopped doing so. Later in 2007, after the investigation of Wachovia was reported in the US financial media, the bank decided to end its remaining relationships with the Mexican <em>casas de cambio</em> globally. By this time, Woods says, he found his personal situation within the bank untenable; while the bank acted on one level to protect itself from the federal investigation into its shortcomings, on another, it rounded on the man who had been among the first to spot them.</p> <p>On 16 June Woods was told by Wachovia&#8217;s head of compliance that his latest SAR need not have been filed, that he had no legal requirement to investigate an overseas case and no right of access to documents held overseas from Britain, even if they were held by Wachovia.</p> <p>Woods&#8217;s life went into freefall. He went to hospital with a prolapsed disc, reported sick and was told by the bank that he not done so in the appropriate manner, as directed by the employees&#8217; handbook. He was off work for three weeks, returning in August 2007 to find a letter from the bank&#8217;s compliance managing director, which was unrelenting in its tone and words of warning.</p> <p>The letter addressed itself to what the manager called &#8220;specific examples of your failure to perform at an acceptable standard&#8221;. Woods, on the edge of a breakdown, was put on sick leave by his GP; he was later given psychiatric treatment, enrolled on a stress management course and put on medication.</p> <p>Late in 2007, Woods attended a function at Scotland Yard where colleagues from the US were being entertained. There, he sought out a representative of the Drug Enforcement Administration and told him about the <em>casas de cambio</em>, the SARs and his employer&#8217;s reaction. The Federal Reserve and officials of the office of comptroller of currency in Washington DC then &#8220;spent a lot of time examining the SARs&#8221; that had been sent by Woods to Charlotte from London.</p> <p>&#8220;They got back in touch with me a while afterwards and we began to put the pieces of the jigsaw together,&#8221; says Woods. What they found was – as Costa says – the tip of the iceberg of what was happening to drug money in the banking industry, but at least it was visible and it had a name: Wachovia.</p> <p>In June 2005, the DEA, the criminal division of the Internal Revenue Service and the US attorney&#8217;s office in southern Florida began investigating wire transfers from Mexico to the US. They were traced back to correspondent bank accounts held by <em>casas de cambio</em> at Wachovia. The CDC accounts were supervised and managed by a business unit of Wachovia in the bank&#8217;s Miami offices.</p> <p>&#8220;Through CDCs,&#8221; said the court document, &#8220;persons in Mexico can use hard currency and … wire transfer the value of that currency to US bank accounts to purchase items in the United States or other countries. The nature of the CDC business allows money launderers the opportunity to move drug dollars that are in Mexico into CDCs and ultimately into the US banking system.</p> <p>&#8220;On numerous occasions,&#8221; say the court papers, &#8220;monies were deposited into a CDC by a drug-trafficking organisation. Using false identities, the CDC then wired that money through its Wachovia correspondent bank accounts for the purchase of airplanes for drug-trafficking organisations.&#8221; The court settlement of 2010 would detail that &#8220;nearly $13m went through correspondent bank accounts at Wachovia for the purchase of aircraft to be used in the illegal narcotics trade. From these aircraft, more than 20,000kg of cocaine were seized.&#8221;</p> <p>All this occurred despite the fact that Wachovia&#8217;s office was in Miami, designated by the US government as a &#8220;high-intensity money laundering and related financial crime area&#8221;, and a &#8220;high-intensity drug trafficking area&#8221;. Since the drug cartel war began in 2005, Mexico had been designated a high-risk source of money laundering.</p> <p>&#8220;As early as 2004,&#8221; the court settlement would read, &#8220;Wachovia understood the risk that was associated with doing business with the Mexican CDCs. Wachovia was aware of the general industry warnings. As early as July 2005, Wachovia was aware that other large US banks were exiting the CDC business based on [anti-money laundering] concerns … despite these warnings, Wachovia remained in business.&#8221;</p> <p>On 16 March 2010, Douglas Edwards, senior vice-president of Wachovia Bank, put his signature to page 10 of a 25-page settlement, in which the bank admitted its role as outlined by the prosecutors. On page 11, he signed again, as senior vice-president of Wells Fargo. The documents show Wachovia providing three services to 22 CDCs in Mexico: wire transfers, a &#8220;bulk cash service&#8221; and a &#8220;pouch deposit service&#8221;, to accept &#8220;deposit items drawn on US banks, eg cheques and traveller&#8217;s cheques&#8221;, as spotted by Woods.</p> <p>&#8220;For the time period of 1 May 2004 through 31 May 2007, Wachovia processed at least $$373.6bn in CDCs, $4.7bn in bulk cash&#8221; – a total of more than $378.3bn, a sum that dwarfs the budgets debated by US state and UK local authorities to provide services to citizens.</p> <p>The document gives a fascinating insight into how the laundering of drug money works. It details how investigators &#8220;found readily identifiable evidence of red flags of large-scale money laundering&#8221;. There were &#8220;structured wire transfers&#8221; whereby &#8220;it was commonplace in the CDC accounts for round-number wire transfers to be made on the same day or in close succession, by the same wire senders, for the … same account&#8221;.</p> <p>Over two days, 10 wire transfers by four individuals &#8220;went though Wachovia for deposit into an aircraft broker&#8217;s account. All of the transfers were in round numbers. None of the individuals of business that wired money had any connection to the aircraft or the entity that allegedly owned the aircraft. The investigation has further revealed that the identities of the individuals who sent the money were false and that the business was a shell entity. That plane was subsequently seized with approximately 2,000kg of cocaine on board.&#8221;</p> <p>Many of the sequentially numbered traveller&#8217;s cheques, of the kind dealt with by Woods, contained &#8220;unusual markings&#8221; or &#8220;lacked any legible signature&#8221;. Also, &#8220;many of the CDCs that used Wachovia&#8217;s bulk cash service sent significantly more cash to Wachovia than what Wachovia had expected. More specifically, many of the CDCs exceeded their monthly activity by at least 50%.&#8221;</p> <p>Recognising these &#8220;red flags&#8221;, the US attorney&#8217;s office in Miami, the IRS and the DEA began investigating Wachovia, later joined by FinCEN, one of the US Treasury&#8217;s agencies to fight money laundering, while the office of the comptroller of the currency carried out a parallel investigation. The violations they found were, says the document, &#8220;serious and systemic and allowed certain Wachovia customers to launder millions of dollars of proceeds from the sale of illegal narcotics through Wachovia accounts over an extended time period. The investigation has identified that at least $110m in drug proceeds were funnelled through the CDC accounts held at Wachovia.&#8221;</p> <p>The settlement concludes by discussing Wachovia&#8217;s &#8220;considerable co-operation and remedial actions&#8221; since the prosecution was initiated, after the bank was bought by Wells Fargo. &#8220;In consideration of Wachovia&#8217;s remedial actions,&#8221; concludes the prosecutor, &#8220;the United States shall recommend to the court … that prosecution of Wachovia on the information filed … be deferred for a period of 12 months.&#8221;</p> <p>But while the federal prosecution proceeded, Woods had remained out in the cold. On Christmas Eve 2008, his lawyers filed tribunal proceedings against Wachovia for bullying and detrimental treatment of a whistleblower. The case was settled in May 2009, by which time Woods felt as though he was &#8220;the most toxic person in the bank&#8221;. Wachovia agreed to pay an undisclosed amount, in return for which Woods left the bank and said he would not make public the terms of the settlement.</p> <p>After years of tribulation, Woods was finally formally vindicated, though not by Wachovia: a letter arrived from John Dugan, the comptroller of the currency in Washington DC, dated 19 March 2010 – three days after the settlement in Miami. Dugan said he was &#8220;writing to personally recognise and express my appreciation for the role you played in the actions brought against Wachovia Bank for violations of the bank secrecy act … Not only did the information that you provided facilitate our investigation, but you demonstrated great personal courage and integrity by speaking up. Without the efforts of individuals like you, actions such as the one taken against Wachovia would not be possible.&#8221;</p> <p>The so-called &#8220;deferred prosecution&#8221; detailed in the Miami document is a form of probation whereby if the bank abides by the law for a year, charges are dropped. So this March the bank was in the clear. The week that the deferred prosecution expired, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo said the parent bank had no comment to make on the documentation pertaining to Woods&#8217;s case, or his allegations. She added that there was no comment on Sloman&#8217;s remarks to the court; a provision in the settlement stipulated Wachovia was not allowed to issue public statements that contradicted it.</p> <p>But the settlement leaves a sour taste in many mouths – and certainly in Woods&#8217;s. The deferred prosecution is part of this &#8220;cop-out all round&#8221;, he says. &#8220;The regulatory authorities do not have to spend any more time on it, and they don&#8217;t have to push it as far as a criminal trial. They just issue criminal proceedings, and settle. The law enforcement people do what they are supposed to do, but what&#8217;s the point? All those people dealing with all that money from drug-trafficking and murder, and no one goes to jail?&#8221;</p> <p>One of the foremost figures in the training of anti-money laundering officers is Robert Mazur, lead infiltrator for US law enforcement of the Colombian Medellín cartel during the epic prosecution and collapse of the BCCI banking business in 1991 (his story was made famous by his memoir, <em>The Infiltrator</em>, which became a movie).</p> <p>Mazur, whose firm Chase and Associates works closely with law enforcement agencies and trains officers for bank anti-money laundering, cast a keen eye over the case against Wachovia, and he says now that &#8220;the only thing that will make the banks properly vigilant to what is happening is when they hear the rattle of handcuffs in the boardroom&#8221;.</p> <p>Mazur said that &#8220;a lot of the law enforcement people were disappointed to see a settlement&#8221; between the administration and Wachovia. &#8220;But I know there were external circumstances that worked to Wachovia&#8217;s benefit, not least that the US banking system was on the edge of collapse.&#8221;</p> <p>What concerns Mazur is that what law enforcement agencies and politicians hope to achieve against the cartels is limited, and falls short of the obvious attack the US could make in its war on drugs: go after the money. &#8220;We&#8217;re thinking way too small,&#8221; Mazur says. &#8220;I train law enforcement officers, thousands of them every year, and they say to me that if they tried to do half of what I did, they&#8217;d be arrested. But I tell them: &#8216;You got to think big. The headlines you will be reading in seven years&#8217; time will be the result of the work you begin now.&#8217; With BCCI, we had to spend two years setting it up, two years doing undercover work, and another two years getting it to trial. If they want to do something big, like go after the money, that&#8217;s how long it takes.&#8221;</p> <p>But Mazur warns: &#8220;If you look at the career ladders of law enforcement, there&#8217;s no incentive to go after the big money. People move every two to three years. The DEA is focused on drug trafficking rather than money laundering. You get a quicker result that way – they want to get the traffickers and seize their assets. But this is like treating a sick plant by cutting off a few branches – it just grows new ones. Going after the big money is cutting down the plant – it&#8217;s a harder door to knock on, it&#8217;s a longer haul, and it won&#8217;t get you the short-term riches.&#8221;</p> <p>The office of the comptroller of the currency is still examining whether individuals in Wachovia are criminally liable. Sources at FinCEN say that a so-called &#8220;look-back&#8221; is in process, as directed by the settlement and agreed to by Wachovia, into the $378.4bn that was not directly associated with the aircraft purchases and cocaine hauls, but neither was it subject to the proper anti-laundering checks. A FinCEN source says that $20bn already examined appears to have &#8220;suspicious origins&#8221;. But this is just the beginning.</p> <p>Antonio Maria Costa, who was executive director of the UN&#8217;s office on drugs and crime from May 2002 to August 2010, charts the history of the contamination of the global banking industry by drug and criminal money since his first initiatives to try to curb it from the European commission during the 1990s. &#8220;The connection between organised crime and financial institutions started in the late 1970s, early 1980s,&#8221; he says, &#8220;when the mafia became globalised.&#8221;</p> <p>Until then, criminal money had circulated largely in cash, with the authorities making the occasional, spectacular &#8220;sting&#8221; or haul. During Costa&#8217;s time as director for economics and finance at the EC in Brussels, from 1987, inroads were made against penetration of banks by criminal laundering, and &#8220;criminal money started moving back to cash, out of the financial institutions and banks. Then two things happened: the financial crisis in Russia, after the emergence of the Russian mafia, and the crises of 2003 and 2007-08.</p> <p>&#8220;With these crises,&#8221; says Costa, &#8220;the banking sector was short of liquidity, the banks exposed themselves to the criminal syndicates, who had cash in hand.&#8221;</p> <p>Costa questions the readiness of governments and their regulatory structures to challenge this large-scale corruption of the global economy: &#8220;Government regulators showed what they were capable of when the issue suddenly changed to laundering money for terrorism – on that, they suddenly became serious and changed their attitude.&#8221;</p> <p>Hardly surprising, then, that Wachovia does not appear to be the end of the line. In August 2010, it emerged in quarterly disclosures by HSBC that the US justice department was seeking to fine it for anti-money laundering compliance problems reported to include dealings with Mexico.</p> <p>&#8220;Wachovia had my résumé, they knew who I was,&#8221; says Woods. &#8220;But they did not want to know – their attitude was, &#8216;Why are you doing this?&#8217; They should have been on my side, because they were compliance people, not commercial people. But really they were commercial people all along. We&#8217;re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the biggest money-laundering scandal of our time.</p> <p>&#8220;These are the proceeds of murder and misery in Mexico, and of drugs sold around the world,&#8221; he says. &#8220;All the law enforcement people wanted to see this come to trial. But no one goes to jail. &#8220;What does the settlement do to fight the cartels? Nothing – it doesn&#8217;t make the job of law enforcement easier and it encourages the cartels and anyone who wants to make money by laundering their blood dollars. Where&#8217;s the risk? There is none.</p> <p>&#8220;Is it in the interest of the American people to encourage both the drug cartels and the banks in this way? Is it in the interest of the Mexican people? It&#8217;s simple: if you don&#8217;t see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and the 30,000 people killed in Mexico, you&#8217;re missing the point.&#8221;</p> <p>Woods feels unable to rest on his laurels. He tours the world for a consultancy he now runs, Hermes Forensic Solutions, counselling and speaking to banks on the dangers of laundering criminal money, and how to spot and stop it. &#8220;New York and London,&#8221; says Woods, &#8220;have become the world&#8217;s two biggest laundries of criminal and drug money, and offshore tax havens. Not the Cayman Islands, not the Isle of Man or Jersey. The big laundering is right through the City of London and Wall Street.</p> <p>&#8220;After the Wachovia case, no one in the regulatory community has sat down with me and asked, &#8216;What happened?&#8217; or &#8216;What can we do to avoid this happening to other banks?&#8217; They are not interested. They are the same people who attack the whistleblowers and this is a position the [British] Financial Services Authority at least has adopted on legal advice: it has been advised that the confidentiality of banking and bankers takes primacy over the public information disclosure act. That is how the priorities work: secrecy first, public interest second.</p> <p>&#8220;Meanwhile, the drug industry has two products: money and suffering. On one hand, you have massive profits and enrichment. On the other, you have massive suffering, misery and death. You cannot separate one from the other.</p> <p>&#8220;What happened at Wachovia was symptomatic of the failure of the entire regulatory system to apply the kind of proper governance and adequate risk management which would have prevented not just the laundering of blood money, but the global crisis.&#8221;</p> </div> </div> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:114:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/how-a-big-us-bank-laundered-billions-from-mexicos-murderous-drug-gangs/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"2\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:366:\"As the violence spread, billions of dollars of cartel cash began to seep into the global financial system. But a special investigation by the Observer reveals how the increasingly frantic warnings of one London whistleblower were ignored. A soldier guards marijuana that is being incinerated in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AP On 10 April 2006, [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:29244:\"<p>As the violence spread, billions of dollars of cartel cash began to seep into the global financial system. But a special investigation by the Observer reveals how the increasingly frantic warnings of one London whistleblower were ignored.</p> <div id=\"article-wrapper\"> <div id=\"main-content-picture\"><img class=\"alignleft\" src=\"http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Observer/Pix/pictures/2011/4/1/1301681009143/Mexico-drugs-007.jpg\" alt=\"Mexico drugs\" width=\"414\" height=\"248\" /></p> <div>A soldier guards marijuana that is being incinerated in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AP</div> </div> <div id=\"article-body-blocks\"> <p>On 10 April 2006, a DC-9 jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of <a title=\"More from guardian.co.uk on Mexico\" href=\"http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/mexico\">Mexico</a>, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else – more important and far-reaching – was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel.</p> <p>From <a href=\"http://www.guardian.co.uk/\">the Guardian</a> by Ed Vulliamy</p> <p>During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the <a title=\"More from guardian.co.uk on United States\" href=\"http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/usa\">United States</a>: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo.</p> <p>The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller&#8217;s cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war.</p> <p>Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year&#8217;s &#8220;deferred prosecution&#8221; has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine.</p> <p>More shocking, and more important, the bank was sanctioned for failing to apply the proper anti-laundering strictures to the transfer of $378.4bn – a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico&#8217;s gross national product – into dollar accounts from so-called <em>casas de cambio</em> (CDCs) in Mexico, currency exchange houses with which the bank did business.</p> <p>&#8220;Wachovia&#8217;s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,&#8221; said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank&#8217;s $12.3bn profit for 2009. On 24 March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86 – up 1% on the week of the court settlement.</p> <p>The conclusion to the case was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the &#8220;legal&#8221; banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.</p> <p>At the height of the 2008 banking crisis, Antonio Maria Costa, then head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, said he had evidence to suggest the proceeds from drugs and crime were &#8220;the only liquid investment capital&#8221; available to banks on the brink of collapse. &#8220;Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the <a title=\"More from guardian.co.uk on Drugs trade\" href=\"http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/drugs-trade\">drugs trade</a>,&#8221; he said. &#8220;There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.&#8221;</p> <p>Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo during the 2008 crash, just as Wells Fargo became a beneficiary of $25bn in taxpayers&#8217; money. Wachovia&#8217;s prosecutors were clear, however, that there was no suggestion Wells Fargo had behaved improperly; it had co-operated fully with the investigation. Mexico is the US&#8217;s third largest international trading partner and Wachovia was understandably interested in this volume of legitimate trade.</p> <p>José Luis Marmolejo, who prosecuted those running one of the <em>casas de cambio</em> at the Mexican end, said: &#8220;Wachovia handled all the transfers. They never reported any as suspicious.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;As early as 2004, Wachovia understood the risk,&#8221; the bank admitted in the statement of settlement with the federal government, but, &#8220;despite these warnings, Wachovia remained in the business&#8221;. There is, of course, the legitimate use of CDCs as a way into the Hispanic market. In 2005 the World Bank said that Mexico was receiving $8.1bn in remittances.</p> <p>During research into the Wachovia Mexican case, the <em>Observer</em> obtained documents previously provided to financial regulators. It emerged that the alarm that was ignored came from, among other places, London, as a result of the diligence of one of the most important whistleblowers of our time. A man who, in a series of interviews with the <em>Observer</em>, adds detail to the documents, laying bare the story of how Wachovia was at the centre of one of the world&#8217;s biggest money-laundering operations.</p> <p>Martin Woods, a Liverpudlian in his mid-40s, joined the London office of Wachovia Bank in February 2005 as a senior anti-money laundering officer. He had previously served with the Metropolitan police drug squad. As a detective he joined the money-laundering investigation team of the National Crime Squad, where he worked on the British end of the Bank of New York money-laundering scandal in the late 1990s.</p> <p>Woods talks like a police officer – in the best sense of the word: punctilious, exact, with a roguish humour, but moral at the core. He was an ideal appointment for any bank eager to operate a diligent and effective risk management policy against the lucrative scourge of high finance: laundering, knowing or otherwise, the vast proceeds of criminality, tax-evasion, and dealing in arms and drugs.</p> <p>Woods had a police officer&#8217;s eye and a police officer&#8217;s instincts – not those of a banker. And this influenced not only his methods, but his mentality. &#8220;I think that a lot of things matter more than money – and that marks you out in a culture which appears to prevail in many of the banks in the world,&#8221; he says.</p> <p>Woods was set apart by his modus operandi. His speciality, he explains, was his application of a &#8220;know your client&#8221;, or KYC, policing strategy to identifying dirty money. &#8220;KYC is a fundamental approach to anti-money laundering, going after tax evasion or counter-terrorist financing. Who are your clients? Is the documentation right? Good, responsible banking involved always knowing your customer and it still does.&#8221;</p> <p>When he looked at Wachovia, the first thing Woods noticed was a deficiency in KYC information. And among his first reports to his superiors at the bank&#8217;s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, were observations on a shortfall in KYC at Wachovia&#8217;s operation in London, which he set about correcting, while at the same time implementing what was known as an enhanced transaction monitoring programme, gathering more information on clients whose money came through the bank&#8217;s offices in the City, in sterling or euros. By August 2006, Woods had identified a number of suspicious transactions relating to <em>casas de cambio</em> customers in Mexico.</p> <p>Primarily, these involved deposits of traveller&#8217;s cheques in euros. They had sequential numbers and deposited larger amounts of money than any innocent travelling person would need, with inadequate or no KYC information on them and what seemed to a trained eye to be dubious signatures. &#8220;It was basic work,&#8221; he says. &#8220;They didn&#8217;t answer the obvious questions: &#8216;Is the transaction real, or does it look synthetic? Does the traveller&#8217;s cheque meet the protocols? Is it all there, and if not, why not?&#8217;&#8221;</p> <p>Woods discussed the matter with Wachovia&#8217;s global head of anti-money laundering for correspondent banking, who believed the cheques could signify tax evasion. He then undertook what banks call a &#8220;look back&#8221; at previous transactions and saw fit to submit a series of SARs, or suspicious activity reports, to the authorities in the UK and his superiors in Charlotte, urging the blocking of named parties and large series of sequentially numbered traveller&#8217;s cheques from Mexico. He issued a number of SARs in 2006, of which 50 related to the <em>casas de cambio</em> in Mexico. To his amazement, the response from Wachovia&#8217;s Miami office, the centre for Latin American business, was anything but supportive – he felt it was quite the reverse.</p> <p>As it turned out, however, Woods was on the right track. Wachovia&#8217;s business in Mexico was coming under closer and closer scrutiny by US federal law enforcement. Wachovia was issued with a number of subpoenas for information on its Mexican operation. Woods has subsequently been informed that Wachovia had six or seven thousand subpoenas. He says this was &#8220;An absurd number. So at what point does someone at the highest level not get the feeling that something is very, very wrong?&#8221;</p> <p>In April and May 2007, Wachovia – as a result of increasing interest and pressure from the US attorney&#8217;s office – began to close its relationship with some of the <em>casas de cambio</em>. But rather than launch an internal investigation into Woods&#8217;s alerts over Mexico, Woods claims Wachovia hung its own money-laundering expert out to dry. The records show that during 2007 Woods &#8220;continued to submit more SARs related to the <em>casas de cambio</em>&#8220;.</p> <p>In July 2007, all of Wachovia&#8217;s remaining 10 Mexican <em>casa de cambio</em> clients operating through London suddenly stopped doing so. Later in 2007, after the investigation of Wachovia was reported in the US financial media, the bank decided to end its remaining relationships with the Mexican <em>casas de cambio</em> globally. By this time, Woods says, he found his personal situation within the bank untenable; while the bank acted on one level to protect itself from the federal investigation into its shortcomings, on another, it rounded on the man who had been among the first to spot them.</p> <p>On 16 June Woods was told by Wachovia&#8217;s head of compliance that his latest SAR need not have been filed, that he had no legal requirement to investigate an overseas case and no right of access to documents held overseas from Britain, even if they were held by Wachovia.</p> <p>Woods&#8217;s life went into freefall. He went to hospital with a prolapsed disc, reported sick and was told by the bank that he not done so in the appropriate manner, as directed by the employees&#8217; handbook. He was off work for three weeks, returning in August 2007 to find a letter from the bank&#8217;s compliance managing director, which was unrelenting in its tone and words of warning.</p> <p>The letter addressed itself to what the manager called &#8220;specific examples of your failure to perform at an acceptable standard&#8221;. Woods, on the edge of a breakdown, was put on sick leave by his GP; he was later given psychiatric treatment, enrolled on a stress management course and put on medication.</p> <p>Late in 2007, Woods attended a function at Scotland Yard where colleagues from the US were being entertained. There, he sought out a representative of the Drug Enforcement Administration and told him about the <em>casas de cambio</em>, the SARs and his employer&#8217;s reaction. The Federal Reserve and officials of the office of comptroller of currency in Washington DC then &#8220;spent a lot of time examining the SARs&#8221; that had been sent by Woods to Charlotte from London.</p> <p>&#8220;They got back in touch with me a while afterwards and we began to put the pieces of the jigsaw together,&#8221; says Woods. What they found was – as Costa says – the tip of the iceberg of what was happening to drug money in the banking industry, but at least it was visible and it had a name: Wachovia.</p> <p>In June 2005, the DEA, the criminal division of the Internal Revenue Service and the US attorney&#8217;s office in southern Florida began investigating wire transfers from Mexico to the US. They were traced back to correspondent bank accounts held by <em>casas de cambio</em> at Wachovia. The CDC accounts were supervised and managed by a business unit of Wachovia in the bank&#8217;s Miami offices.</p> <p>&#8220;Through CDCs,&#8221; said the court document, &#8220;persons in Mexico can use hard currency and … wire transfer the value of that currency to US bank accounts to purchase items in the United States or other countries. The nature of the CDC business allows money launderers the opportunity to move drug dollars that are in Mexico into CDCs and ultimately into the US banking system.</p> <p>&#8220;On numerous occasions,&#8221; say the court papers, &#8220;monies were deposited into a CDC by a drug-trafficking organisation. Using false identities, the CDC then wired that money through its Wachovia correspondent bank accounts for the purchase of airplanes for drug-trafficking organisations.&#8221; The court settlement of 2010 would detail that &#8220;nearly $13m went through correspondent bank accounts at Wachovia for the purchase of aircraft to be used in the illegal narcotics trade. From these aircraft, more than 20,000kg of cocaine were seized.&#8221;</p> <p>All this occurred despite the fact that Wachovia&#8217;s office was in Miami, designated by the US government as a &#8220;high-intensity money laundering and related financial crime area&#8221;, and a &#8220;high-intensity drug trafficking area&#8221;. Since the drug cartel war began in 2005, Mexico had been designated a high-risk source of money laundering.</p> <p>&#8220;As early as 2004,&#8221; the court settlement would read, &#8220;Wachovia understood the risk that was associated with doing business with the Mexican CDCs. Wachovia was aware of the general industry warnings. As early as July 2005, Wachovia was aware that other large US banks were exiting the CDC business based on [anti-money laundering] concerns … despite these warnings, Wachovia remained in business.&#8221;</p> <p>On 16 March 2010, Douglas Edwards, senior vice-president of Wachovia Bank, put his signature to page 10 of a 25-page settlement, in which the bank admitted its role as outlined by the prosecutors. On page 11, he signed again, as senior vice-president of Wells Fargo. The documents show Wachovia providing three services to 22 CDCs in Mexico: wire transfers, a &#8220;bulk cash service&#8221; and a &#8220;pouch deposit service&#8221;, to accept &#8220;deposit items drawn on US banks, eg cheques and traveller&#8217;s cheques&#8221;, as spotted by Woods.</p> <p>&#8220;For the time period of 1 May 2004 through 31 May 2007, Wachovia processed at least $$373.6bn in CDCs, $4.7bn in bulk cash&#8221; – a total of more than $378.3bn, a sum that dwarfs the budgets debated by US state and UK local authorities to provide services to citizens.</p> <p>The document gives a fascinating insight into how the laundering of drug money works. It details how investigators &#8220;found readily identifiable evidence of red flags of large-scale money laundering&#8221;. There were &#8220;structured wire transfers&#8221; whereby &#8220;it was commonplace in the CDC accounts for round-number wire transfers to be made on the same day or in close succession, by the same wire senders, for the … same account&#8221;.</p> <p>Over two days, 10 wire transfers by four individuals &#8220;went though Wachovia for deposit into an aircraft broker&#8217;s account. All of the transfers were in round numbers. None of the individuals of business that wired money had any connection to the aircraft or the entity that allegedly owned the aircraft. The investigation has further revealed that the identities of the individuals who sent the money were false and that the business was a shell entity. That plane was subsequently seized with approximately 2,000kg of cocaine on board.&#8221;</p> <p>Many of the sequentially numbered traveller&#8217;s cheques, of the kind dealt with by Woods, contained &#8220;unusual markings&#8221; or &#8220;lacked any legible signature&#8221;. Also, &#8220;many of the CDCs that used Wachovia&#8217;s bulk cash service sent significantly more cash to Wachovia than what Wachovia had expected. More specifically, many of the CDCs exceeded their monthly activity by at least 50%.&#8221;</p> <p>Recognising these &#8220;red flags&#8221;, the US attorney&#8217;s office in Miami, the IRS and the DEA began investigating Wachovia, later joined by FinCEN, one of the US Treasury&#8217;s agencies to fight money laundering, while the office of the comptroller of the currency carried out a parallel investigation. The violations they found were, says the document, &#8220;serious and systemic and allowed certain Wachovia customers to launder millions of dollars of proceeds from the sale of illegal narcotics through Wachovia accounts over an extended time period. The investigation has identified that at least $110m in drug proceeds were funnelled through the CDC accounts held at Wachovia.&#8221;</p> <p>The settlement concludes by discussing Wachovia&#8217;s &#8220;considerable co-operation and remedial actions&#8221; since the prosecution was initiated, after the bank was bought by Wells Fargo. &#8220;In consideration of Wachovia&#8217;s remedial actions,&#8221; concludes the prosecutor, &#8220;the United States shall recommend to the court … that prosecution of Wachovia on the information filed … be deferred for a period of 12 months.&#8221;</p> <p>But while the federal prosecution proceeded, Woods had remained out in the cold. On Christmas Eve 2008, his lawyers filed tribunal proceedings against Wachovia for bullying and detrimental treatment of a whistleblower. The case was settled in May 2009, by which time Woods felt as though he was &#8220;the most toxic person in the bank&#8221;. Wachovia agreed to pay an undisclosed amount, in return for which Woods left the bank and said he would not make public the terms of the settlement.</p> <p>After years of tribulation, Woods was finally formally vindicated, though not by Wachovia: a letter arrived from John Dugan, the comptroller of the currency in Washington DC, dated 19 March 2010 – three days after the settlement in Miami. Dugan said he was &#8220;writing to personally recognise and express my appreciation for the role you played in the actions brought against Wachovia Bank for violations of the bank secrecy act … Not only did the information that you provided facilitate our investigation, but you demonstrated great personal courage and integrity by speaking up. Without the efforts of individuals like you, actions such as the one taken against Wachovia would not be possible.&#8221;</p> <p>The so-called &#8220;deferred prosecution&#8221; detailed in the Miami document is a form of probation whereby if the bank abides by the law for a year, charges are dropped. So this March the bank was in the clear. The week that the deferred prosecution expired, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo said the parent bank had no comment to make on the documentation pertaining to Woods&#8217;s case, or his allegations. She added that there was no comment on Sloman&#8217;s remarks to the court; a provision in the settlement stipulated Wachovia was not allowed to issue public statements that contradicted it.</p> <p>But the settlement leaves a sour taste in many mouths – and certainly in Woods&#8217;s. The deferred prosecution is part of this &#8220;cop-out all round&#8221;, he says. &#8220;The regulatory authorities do not have to spend any more time on it, and they don&#8217;t have to push it as far as a criminal trial. They just issue criminal proceedings, and settle. The law enforcement people do what they are supposed to do, but what&#8217;s the point? All those people dealing with all that money from drug-trafficking and murder, and no one goes to jail?&#8221;</p> <p>One of the foremost figures in the training of anti-money laundering officers is Robert Mazur, lead infiltrator for US law enforcement of the Colombian Medellín cartel during the epic prosecution and collapse of the BCCI banking business in 1991 (his story was made famous by his memoir, <em>The Infiltrator</em>, which became a movie).</p> <p>Mazur, whose firm Chase and Associates works closely with law enforcement agencies and trains officers for bank anti-money laundering, cast a keen eye over the case against Wachovia, and he says now that &#8220;the only thing that will make the banks properly vigilant to what is happening is when they hear the rattle of handcuffs in the boardroom&#8221;.</p> <p>Mazur said that &#8220;a lot of the law enforcement people were disappointed to see a settlement&#8221; between the administration and Wachovia. &#8220;But I know there were external circumstances that worked to Wachovia&#8217;s benefit, not least that the US banking system was on the edge of collapse.&#8221;</p> <p>What concerns Mazur is that what law enforcement agencies and politicians hope to achieve against the cartels is limited, and falls short of the obvious attack the US could make in its war on drugs: go after the money. &#8220;We&#8217;re thinking way too small,&#8221; Mazur says. &#8220;I train law enforcement officers, thousands of them every year, and they say to me that if they tried to do half of what I did, they&#8217;d be arrested. But I tell them: &#8216;You got to think big. The headlines you will be reading in seven years&#8217; time will be the result of the work you begin now.&#8217; With BCCI, we had to spend two years setting it up, two years doing undercover work, and another two years getting it to trial. If they want to do something big, like go after the money, that&#8217;s how long it takes.&#8221;</p> <p>But Mazur warns: &#8220;If you look at the career ladders of law enforcement, there&#8217;s no incentive to go after the big money. People move every two to three years. The DEA is focused on drug trafficking rather than money laundering. You get a quicker result that way – they want to get the traffickers and seize their assets. But this is like treating a sick plant by cutting off a few branches – it just grows new ones. Going after the big money is cutting down the plant – it&#8217;s a harder door to knock on, it&#8217;s a longer haul, and it won&#8217;t get you the short-term riches.&#8221;</p> <p>The office of the comptroller of the currency is still examining whether individuals in Wachovia are criminally liable. Sources at FinCEN say that a so-called &#8220;look-back&#8221; is in process, as directed by the settlement and agreed to by Wachovia, into the $378.4bn that was not directly associated with the aircraft purchases and cocaine hauls, but neither was it subject to the proper anti-laundering checks. A FinCEN source says that $20bn already examined appears to have &#8220;suspicious origins&#8221;. But this is just the beginning.</p> <p>Antonio Maria Costa, who was executive director of the UN&#8217;s office on drugs and crime from May 2002 to August 2010, charts the history of the contamination of the global banking industry by drug and criminal money since his first initiatives to try to curb it from the European commission during the 1990s. &#8220;The connection between organised crime and financial institutions started in the late 1970s, early 1980s,&#8221; he says, &#8220;when the mafia became globalised.&#8221;</p> <p>Until then, criminal money had circulated largely in cash, with the authorities making the occasional, spectacular &#8220;sting&#8221; or haul. During Costa&#8217;s time as director for economics and finance at the EC in Brussels, from 1987, inroads were made against penetration of banks by criminal laundering, and &#8220;criminal money started moving back to cash, out of the financial institutions and banks. Then two things happened: the financial crisis in Russia, after the emergence of the Russian mafia, and the crises of 2003 and 2007-08.</p> <p>&#8220;With these crises,&#8221; says Costa, &#8220;the banking sector was short of liquidity, the banks exposed themselves to the criminal syndicates, who had cash in hand.&#8221;</p> <p>Costa questions the readiness of governments and their regulatory structures to challenge this large-scale corruption of the global economy: &#8220;Government regulators showed what they were capable of when the issue suddenly changed to laundering money for terrorism – on that, they suddenly became serious and changed their attitude.&#8221;</p> <p>Hardly surprising, then, that Wachovia does not appear to be the end of the line. In August 2010, it emerged in quarterly disclosures by HSBC that the US justice department was seeking to fine it for anti-money laundering compliance problems reported to include dealings with Mexico.</p> <p>&#8220;Wachovia had my résumé, they knew who I was,&#8221; says Woods. &#8220;But they did not want to know – their attitude was, &#8216;Why are you doing this?&#8217; They should have been on my side, because they were compliance people, not commercial people. But really they were commercial people all along. We&#8217;re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the biggest money-laundering scandal of our time.</p> <p>&#8220;These are the proceeds of murder and misery in Mexico, and of drugs sold around the world,&#8221; he says. &#8220;All the law enforcement people wanted to see this come to trial. But no one goes to jail. &#8220;What does the settlement do to fight the cartels? Nothing – it doesn&#8217;t make the job of law enforcement easier and it encourages the cartels and anyone who wants to make money by laundering their blood dollars. Where&#8217;s the risk? There is none.</p> <p>&#8220;Is it in the interest of the American people to encourage both the drug cartels and the banks in this way? Is it in the interest of the Mexican people? It&#8217;s simple: if you don&#8217;t see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and the 30,000 people killed in Mexico, you&#8217;re missing the point.&#8221;</p> <p>Woods feels unable to rest on his laurels. He tours the world for a consultancy he now runs, Hermes Forensic Solutions, counselling and speaking to banks on the dangers of laundering criminal money, and how to spot and stop it. &#8220;New York and London,&#8221; says Woods, &#8220;have become the world&#8217;s two biggest laundries of criminal and drug money, and offshore tax havens. Not the Cayman Islands, not the Isle of Man or Jersey. The big laundering is right through the City of London and Wall Street.</p> <p>&#8220;After the Wachovia case, no one in the regulatory community has sat down with me and asked, &#8216;What happened?&#8217; or &#8216;What can we do to avoid this happening to other banks?&#8217; They are not interested. They are the same people who attack the whistleblowers and this is a position the [British] Financial Services Authority at least has adopted on legal advice: it has been advised that the confidentiality of banking and bankers takes primacy over the public information disclosure act. That is how the priorities work: secrecy first, public interest second.</p> <p>&#8220;Meanwhile, the drug industry has two products: money and suffering. On one hand, you have massive profits and enrichment. On the other, you have massive suffering, misery and death. You cannot separate one from the other.</p> <p>&#8220;What happened at Wachovia was symptomatic of the failure of the entire regulatory system to apply the kind of proper governance and adequate risk management which would have prevented not just the laundering of blood money, but the global crisis.&#8221;</p> </div> </div> \";}i:2;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:20:\"Zeppelin Renaissance\";s:4:\"link\";s:59:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/zeppelin-renaissance/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:68:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/zeppelin-renaissance/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 11 Apr 2011 22:42:23 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:17:\"Brainwaving Admin\";}s:8:\"category\";s:98:\"Science & TechnologyAfghanistanaviationclimate changeEnvironmentfutureSciencetechnologywarzeppelin\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1535\";s:11:\"description\";s:334:\"When the Hindenburg blew up in 1937, so did the airship industry. So why is Britain building a fleet of the world&#8217;s biggest, for the Americans, in our old Zeppelin sheds? 2015: Regent’s Park International Airport A line of limousines and taxis snakes its way into the Royal Park to deliver 300 well-heeled passengers and [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:17559:\"<h2><span>When the Hindenburg blew up in 1937, so did the airship industry. So why is Britain building a fleet of the world&#8217;s biggest, for the Americans, in our old Zeppelin sheds? </span></h2> <h2><span>2015: Regent’s Park International Airport</span></h2> <p><span>A line of limousines and taxis snakes its way into the Royal Park to deliver 300 well-heeled passengers and their smart luggage to the discreet air terminal. They are in no rush because the flight they are about to board to New York will take two days. </span></p> <p><span>Moored on the grass outside the terminal is a 600ft long behemoth, a vast Hybrid Air Vehicle. A cross between a balloon and an aircraft wing, this new-wave blimp is filled with non-flammable helium and air. Slung beneath is a vast passenger cabin akin to a miniature first-class cruise ship with dining rooms, a ballroom, bars and a casino.</span></p> <p><span> For the same price as a club-class plane ticket, these 300 discerning travellers will eat, sip cocktails and dance as they float serenely across the Atlantic.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>There is no runway; there is no need. Once clearance is given for take-off, the captain disengages the hover cushions that suck the craft to the ground, directs the thrust of four 8,000hp engines down, and powers the ship up to 9,000ft.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>In 48 hours they will touch down in New York harbour, having burned just a fifth of the fuel used by an aeroplane. It’s a stress-free hop from central London to the centre of Manhattan, with no lengthy airport connections at either end, and no icebergs either.</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-095BA86C000005DC-168_634x476.jpg\" alt=\"The doomed R101 in one of the hangers\" width=\"634\" height=\"476\" />The doomed R101 in one of the hangers</p> </div> <p><span>Airship travel has been a distant dream ever since a catastrophic fire in 1937 ripped through the  LZ-129 Hindenburg as it neared its mooring mast in New Jersey, killing thirty-five people on board and one man on the ground.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Reporter Herbert Morrison’s vivid eye-witness testimony would become the industry’s epitaph: ‘It’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It’s smoke, and it’s in flames now; and the frame is crashing to the ground… Oh the humanity!’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Could an industry dogged by tragedy and belonging to a bygone era finally have found the technology to cruise back into the mainstream?<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The American Department of Defense thinks so. They have just handed a £315 million contract to design and build the world’s largest flying object to a small British company based in Bedfordshire. Having beaten aviation giants Lockheed Martin, Hybrid Air Vehicles have just four months to build the belly and bones of the craft – the payload module, the fuel tanks, the four engines, the propulsion ducts and bow thrusters (the prototype is pictured on the previous pages).<br /> </span></p> <p><span>If all goes to plan these parts will leave its secure manufacturing facility in May, be loaded on a vast Antonov cargo plane, and flown to Arizona where they will join up with the ‘envelope’ (ie, the balloon).<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Once assembly is complete, military technology giant Northrop Grumman will add the top-secret surveillance equipment and the vehicle will travel on its own power to a U.S. army base on the east coast of the United States. Once there the U.S. military will put the fully assembled 300ft long craft through its places, flying it with pilots and without.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>When it finally completes testing and trials in January 2012, it will leave the US and fly back across the Atlantic to the UK, the first time this has happened since the heyday of Zeppelins in the Thirties.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Guided by a three-man crew, the giant ship will stay at a U.S. Army base here, ready to be deployed. It will be available for use in Afghanistan where it can be flown remotely, climbing to 20,000ft and circling for 21 days, an omniscient god perpetually surveying the battlefield and giving advance warnings of IED attacks and ambushes.</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-0D1A7FBC000005DC-153_634x345.jpg\" alt=\"The Cardington airship hangars in Bedfordshire\" width=\"634\" height=\"345\" />The Cardington airship hangars in Bedfordshire</p> </div> <p><span>A zeppelin in a war zone?</span></p> <p><span> Testing has shown that bullets, even missiles pass directly through the envelope because of the incredibly low pressure. Reassuringly, the company insists it has come a long way from the technology of the Thirties.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The 60 per cent helium and 40 per cent air mix replaces flammable hydrogen. And where the classic cigar-shaped Zeppelins struggled against the wind, hybrids use it in combination with their aerodynamic shape  to get more lift. They are helped by vectored thrust, like a Harrier jet, which directs the engine output downwards to provide vertical lift and allows them to take off carrying heavy payloads, even in high winds. They also burn less fuel than a plane while hauling more cargo and, with hovercraft-style landing gear, they don’t require an airport. They can even touch down on water.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The vast 800ft-long Cardington Airship Hangars in Bedfordshire are an eerie sight, dominating the skyline for miles around. Here history looms large.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>In 1916 about 800 people worked at Cardington for Shorts Brothers, producing their first airship in 1918. In hard times after the war, the station was closed and construction abandoned, reopening again in 1924 as part of the Imperial Airship Service.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>It was in Cardington that the 777ft-long R101, the then biggest airship in the world, was built, and from here that it began its ill-fated final voyage at 6.24pm on Saturday October 4, 1930 bound for India; first planned stop Egypt.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>R101 reached London by 8pm, crossed the Channel in two hours, and at midnight a final message went out: ‘15 miles SW of Abbeville speed 33 knots. Wind 243 degrees (West South West) 35 miles an hour. Altimeter height 1,500ft. Air temperature 51 Fahrenheit. Weather – intermittent rain. Cloud nimbus at 500 feet. After an excellent supper our distinguished passengers smoked a final cigar and having sighted the French coast have now gone to bed to rest after the excitement of their leave-taking. All essential services are functioning satisfactorily.’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Two hours later, R101 went into a steep dive, the nose hitting the ground at just 13.8mph. Then fire broke out, from which only eight of the 56 passengers and crew survived. Plans for more advanced and bigger airships were scrapped. After a brief resurgence during World War II when they made barrage balloons for the war effort, the Cardington sheds and the industry slid into decline.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Now, Cardington shed No 2 acts as a temporary home to Warner Brothers’ technicians. The cavernous space was just the job for a full-sized mock-up of Gotham  City for Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman series. The other largely derelict shed is out of bounds, a reminder of the industry’s capricious history.</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-0D41E367000005DC-950_634x422.jpg\" alt=\"How the new breed of Hybrid Air Vehicles would look over London\'s Olympic complex\" width=\"634\" height=\"422\" />How the new breed of Hybrid Air Vehicles would look over London&#8217;s Olympic complex</p> </div> <p><span>But just as cruise ships survived the Titanic disaster, so some enthusiasts never gave up hope for the airship. Among them was Roger Munk, the epitome of a charismatic British engineering visionary. The idea for the Hybrid Air Vehicle was his; he spent much of his  40-year career designing and building airships, completing a number of ‘lighter than air’ projects for the American military.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Yet his own work was haunted by the inherent danger of airships going up in flames. In 1995, a fire apparently caused accidentally during welding work set alight the Weeksville hangar in North Carolina. At half-a-mile long, it was the largest wood-construction building in the world. Supports for the 180-ton doors were being rebuilt when the fire took hold, burning the hangar to the ground and destroying his Sentinel 1000 blimp.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Munk refused to give up. He decided to begin a new project creating a vehicle that would solve some of the problems inherent in airships, especially ground handling and ballast issues. He based his 15-man team in portable huts in the shadow of the Cardington sheds, and went back to the drawing board.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>With a small beer tent as a hangar, Munk created the concept of a hybrid. The first prototype was flown in 2000. Though Munk was able to oversee the final perfection of his vision, he died of a heart attack in February 2010 – before the team heard news that they had won the U.S. military contract.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The team now has 100 engineers and designers and the firm has ditched its draughty sheds for two brand new office buildings nearby. But if Hybrid Air Vehicles’ potential is taken up then the team hopes to begin manufacturing and storing the vehicles again in Cardington.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The 50ft long prototype itself seems otherworldly. Almost as wide as it is long, it is surprisingly balloon-like to the touch. Even the most cynical observer cannot disguise the thrill of childlike wonder on feeling just how light this huge craft is. The pressure inside it is just 0.1 psi – a car tyre is between 20 and 40 psi.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>CEO Gary Elliott, the man largely responsible for putting together the Northrop Grumman deal, says: ‘We took existing technologies and the concept of an airship, took a step back and thought – why don’t we do this and this differently, so that it projects itself through the air?’</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-0D41E3DC000005DC-381_634x349.jpg\" alt=\"The Hybrid Air Vehicles\' flight simulator\" width=\"634\" height=\"349\" />The Hybrid Air Vehicles&#8217; flight simulator</p> </div> <p><span>In a nearby office a team of flight-control specialists occupies a meeting room. In the corner of another office sits a full-size mock-up of the cockpit, constructed entirely from cardboard. The cabinetry is the work of the team’s 70-year-old handyman.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Pilots sit here and try out all possible instrumentation combinations to find the most practical configuration. Who needs  virtual reality when you have a few old computer boxes and some photocopied instruments?<br /> </span></p> <p><span>A few footsteps away, though, there is a concession to technology – a large simulator which operates using four screens linked to four networked, high-end gaming PCs. Veteran airship pilots, recruited from across the industry, with experience flying blimps and seaplanes, are teaching the computers how to react to various flying situations, so that when a remote operator issues the ship with a command, the automated system will be able to move the controls in the same way as a human pilot; in other words, they are teaching it to fly itself.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The system has been designed by another UK company, Blue Bear Systems Research. It designed the flight-control system of the Harrier jump jet and also designs UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that can be launched and fly themselves autonomously along a pre-programmed route.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Although every Hybrid Air Vehicle (HAV) will be capable of being flown remotely as a military surveillance platform, it will also be able to operate with a three-man crew – a pilot, co-pilot and load master. It takes about 100 hours of flight training to convert a pilot, though they don’t all make the switch easily, often because they aren’t used to stopping in mid-air.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Dave Burns is a pilot with thousands of hours experience flying passenger airliners for BA and Monarch. He is the company’s test pilot and chief flight training officer, and also the man who will fly the HAV 304 back across the Atlantic.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘It doesn’t respond like a plane at all,’ says Burns. ‘You move the stick, telling the ship to move, and nothing happens for three or four seconds – and then it responds, which can be a little disconcerting. Plus, the mass underneath it acts like a pendulum, always trying to make it come level again.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>&#8216;The difficult thing is landing and take-off. In the past airships had ropes and ground crew waiting; we don’t need those so now what you have to do is present the vehicle so it comes down very slowly.’</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-0D1B4204000005DC-373_634x372.jpg\" alt=\"A German Graf Zeppelin visiting Britain in 1931\" width=\"634\" height=\"372\" />A German Graf Zeppelin visiting Britain in 1931</p> </div> <p><span>Although the first 300ft version of the craft has been commissioned by the U.S. military, the real commercial potential of the vehicles could be for heavy lifting, says director of sales Gordon Taylor who has been living and breathing the things through multiple prototypes since joining his friend Roger Munk in 1997.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Our hybrids are based on a blend of technologies, in the same way that a Toyota Prius is a hybrid because it runs on electricity and petrol,’ he says.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Firstly it uses aerodynamics. The shape is like a big wing – air moves over it, lower air pressure is created across the top of the wing and it creates lift. Only if it’s fully loaded does it need a runway, and even then, with a 20 knot headwind they can land in three hull lengths.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Secondly we use “lighter-than-air” technology. With a normal airship you moor it on the ground to a mast. In order to fly anywhere it has to take off ballast, then it floats up. In a hybrid we push ourselves forward and that immediately generates lift.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Thirdly we have vectored thrust: our propulsion ducts rotate like a jump jet. Finally, we have hovercraft-style landing gear – a cushion of air that means that you can land on any reasonably flat surface, including water. This also works in reverse to secure the vehicle to the ground by suction.’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The company has calculated that it would take only 20 minutes to move a shipping container from Milton Keynes to London by HAV – a journey that presently takes hours thanks to traffic. Add a road network that grinds to a halt after a seasonal dusting of snow and you suddenly find an application for a cheaper, faster form of transport.</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/19/article-1357747-0066567500000258-296_634x565.jpg\" alt=\"The Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 which marked the end of the era of passenger-carrying airships\" width=\"634\" height=\"565\" />The Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 which marked the end of the era of passenger-carrying airships</p> </div> <p><span>‘You can forget ice road truckers too in places with more extreme cold,’ he adds.</span></p> <p><span> ‘They can carry the same load that goes on the back of those trucks and they love the cold because you get more lift in the denser air. We have a version with a 20-ton payload, which is what a Lockheed C-130 Hercules carries. We have plans for craft to eventually carry up to 1,000 tons.’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The team is already in formal discussions with oil companies that routinely spend hundreds of millions of dollars on roads and airports every time they find a new supply of oil or gas. By using HAVs the oil companies would simply be able to touch down without need of an airport.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Some of these companies are paying a million dollars a day in the development of infrastructure.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>&#8216;You could run these hybrids in convoy too, of course. The price difference between air freight and shipping is huge – so what if you could move freight by air but for a similar price as a ship? It could mean a whole new market in transport.’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Later this year the full-scale version of the current prototype will become the largest flying object in the world. After its initial use in military surveillance and heavy lifting, it could be just a few years before passengers are floating around beneath them. Need to be in New York fast? Take a plane. Don’t mind being in New York a day later? Then take an HAV.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>And precisely how long will it take after that  for us to see a fleet of orange easyBalloons hauling budget passengers to and from Malaga? </span></p> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:64:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/zeppelin-renaissance/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"1\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:334:\"When the Hindenburg blew up in 1937, so did the airship industry. So why is Britain building a fleet of the world&#8217;s biggest, for the Americans, in our old Zeppelin sheds? 2015: Regent’s Park International Airport A line of limousines and taxis snakes its way into the Royal Park to deliver 300 well-heeled passengers and [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:17559:\"<h2><span>When the Hindenburg blew up in 1937, so did the airship industry. So why is Britain building a fleet of the world&#8217;s biggest, for the Americans, in our old Zeppelin sheds? </span></h2> <h2><span>2015: Regent’s Park International Airport</span></h2> <p><span>A line of limousines and taxis snakes its way into the Royal Park to deliver 300 well-heeled passengers and their smart luggage to the discreet air terminal. They are in no rush because the flight they are about to board to New York will take two days. </span></p> <p><span>Moored on the grass outside the terminal is a 600ft long behemoth, a vast Hybrid Air Vehicle. A cross between a balloon and an aircraft wing, this new-wave blimp is filled with non-flammable helium and air. Slung beneath is a vast passenger cabin akin to a miniature first-class cruise ship with dining rooms, a ballroom, bars and a casino.</span></p> <p><span> For the same price as a club-class plane ticket, these 300 discerning travellers will eat, sip cocktails and dance as they float serenely across the Atlantic.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>There is no runway; there is no need. Once clearance is given for take-off, the captain disengages the hover cushions that suck the craft to the ground, directs the thrust of four 8,000hp engines down, and powers the ship up to 9,000ft.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>In 48 hours they will touch down in New York harbour, having burned just a fifth of the fuel used by an aeroplane. It’s a stress-free hop from central London to the centre of Manhattan, with no lengthy airport connections at either end, and no icebergs either.</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-095BA86C000005DC-168_634x476.jpg\" alt=\"The doomed R101 in one of the hangers\" width=\"634\" height=\"476\" />The doomed R101 in one of the hangers</p> </div> <p><span>Airship travel has been a distant dream ever since a catastrophic fire in 1937 ripped through the  LZ-129 Hindenburg as it neared its mooring mast in New Jersey, killing thirty-five people on board and one man on the ground.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Reporter Herbert Morrison’s vivid eye-witness testimony would become the industry’s epitaph: ‘It’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It’s smoke, and it’s in flames now; and the frame is crashing to the ground… Oh the humanity!’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Could an industry dogged by tragedy and belonging to a bygone era finally have found the technology to cruise back into the mainstream?<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The American Department of Defense thinks so. They have just handed a £315 million contract to design and build the world’s largest flying object to a small British company based in Bedfordshire. Having beaten aviation giants Lockheed Martin, Hybrid Air Vehicles have just four months to build the belly and bones of the craft – the payload module, the fuel tanks, the four engines, the propulsion ducts and bow thrusters (the prototype is pictured on the previous pages).<br /> </span></p> <p><span>If all goes to plan these parts will leave its secure manufacturing facility in May, be loaded on a vast Antonov cargo plane, and flown to Arizona where they will join up with the ‘envelope’ (ie, the balloon).<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Once assembly is complete, military technology giant Northrop Grumman will add the top-secret surveillance equipment and the vehicle will travel on its own power to a U.S. army base on the east coast of the United States. Once there the U.S. military will put the fully assembled 300ft long craft through its places, flying it with pilots and without.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>When it finally completes testing and trials in January 2012, it will leave the US and fly back across the Atlantic to the UK, the first time this has happened since the heyday of Zeppelins in the Thirties.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Guided by a three-man crew, the giant ship will stay at a U.S. Army base here, ready to be deployed. It will be available for use in Afghanistan where it can be flown remotely, climbing to 20,000ft and circling for 21 days, an omniscient god perpetually surveying the battlefield and giving advance warnings of IED attacks and ambushes.</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-0D1A7FBC000005DC-153_634x345.jpg\" alt=\"The Cardington airship hangars in Bedfordshire\" width=\"634\" height=\"345\" />The Cardington airship hangars in Bedfordshire</p> </div> <p><span>A zeppelin in a war zone?</span></p> <p><span> Testing has shown that bullets, even missiles pass directly through the envelope because of the incredibly low pressure. Reassuringly, the company insists it has come a long way from the technology of the Thirties.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The 60 per cent helium and 40 per cent air mix replaces flammable hydrogen. And where the classic cigar-shaped Zeppelins struggled against the wind, hybrids use it in combination with their aerodynamic shape  to get more lift. They are helped by vectored thrust, like a Harrier jet, which directs the engine output downwards to provide vertical lift and allows them to take off carrying heavy payloads, even in high winds. They also burn less fuel than a plane while hauling more cargo and, with hovercraft-style landing gear, they don’t require an airport. They can even touch down on water.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The vast 800ft-long Cardington Airship Hangars in Bedfordshire are an eerie sight, dominating the skyline for miles around. Here history looms large.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>In 1916 about 800 people worked at Cardington for Shorts Brothers, producing their first airship in 1918. In hard times after the war, the station was closed and construction abandoned, reopening again in 1924 as part of the Imperial Airship Service.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>It was in Cardington that the 777ft-long R101, the then biggest airship in the world, was built, and from here that it began its ill-fated final voyage at 6.24pm on Saturday October 4, 1930 bound for India; first planned stop Egypt.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>R101 reached London by 8pm, crossed the Channel in two hours, and at midnight a final message went out: ‘15 miles SW of Abbeville speed 33 knots. Wind 243 degrees (West South West) 35 miles an hour. Altimeter height 1,500ft. Air temperature 51 Fahrenheit. Weather – intermittent rain. Cloud nimbus at 500 feet. After an excellent supper our distinguished passengers smoked a final cigar and having sighted the French coast have now gone to bed to rest after the excitement of their leave-taking. All essential services are functioning satisfactorily.’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Two hours later, R101 went into a steep dive, the nose hitting the ground at just 13.8mph. Then fire broke out, from which only eight of the 56 passengers and crew survived. Plans for more advanced and bigger airships were scrapped. After a brief resurgence during World War II when they made barrage balloons for the war effort, the Cardington sheds and the industry slid into decline.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Now, Cardington shed No 2 acts as a temporary home to Warner Brothers’ technicians. The cavernous space was just the job for a full-sized mock-up of Gotham  City for Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman series. The other largely derelict shed is out of bounds, a reminder of the industry’s capricious history.</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-0D41E367000005DC-950_634x422.jpg\" alt=\"How the new breed of Hybrid Air Vehicles would look over London\'s Olympic complex\" width=\"634\" height=\"422\" />How the new breed of Hybrid Air Vehicles would look over London&#8217;s Olympic complex</p> </div> <p><span>But just as cruise ships survived the Titanic disaster, so some enthusiasts never gave up hope for the airship. Among them was Roger Munk, the epitome of a charismatic British engineering visionary. The idea for the Hybrid Air Vehicle was his; he spent much of his  40-year career designing and building airships, completing a number of ‘lighter than air’ projects for the American military.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Yet his own work was haunted by the inherent danger of airships going up in flames. In 1995, a fire apparently caused accidentally during welding work set alight the Weeksville hangar in North Carolina. At half-a-mile long, it was the largest wood-construction building in the world. Supports for the 180-ton doors were being rebuilt when the fire took hold, burning the hangar to the ground and destroying his Sentinel 1000 blimp.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Munk refused to give up. He decided to begin a new project creating a vehicle that would solve some of the problems inherent in airships, especially ground handling and ballast issues. He based his 15-man team in portable huts in the shadow of the Cardington sheds, and went back to the drawing board.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>With a small beer tent as a hangar, Munk created the concept of a hybrid. The first prototype was flown in 2000. Though Munk was able to oversee the final perfection of his vision, he died of a heart attack in February 2010 – before the team heard news that they had won the U.S. military contract.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The team now has 100 engineers and designers and the firm has ditched its draughty sheds for two brand new office buildings nearby. But if Hybrid Air Vehicles’ potential is taken up then the team hopes to begin manufacturing and storing the vehicles again in Cardington.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The 50ft long prototype itself seems otherworldly. Almost as wide as it is long, it is surprisingly balloon-like to the touch. Even the most cynical observer cannot disguise the thrill of childlike wonder on feeling just how light this huge craft is. The pressure inside it is just 0.1 psi – a car tyre is between 20 and 40 psi.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>CEO Gary Elliott, the man largely responsible for putting together the Northrop Grumman deal, says: ‘We took existing technologies and the concept of an airship, took a step back and thought – why don’t we do this and this differently, so that it projects itself through the air?’</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-0D41E3DC000005DC-381_634x349.jpg\" alt=\"The Hybrid Air Vehicles\' flight simulator\" width=\"634\" height=\"349\" />The Hybrid Air Vehicles&#8217; flight simulator</p> </div> <p><span>In a nearby office a team of flight-control specialists occupies a meeting room. In the corner of another office sits a full-size mock-up of the cockpit, constructed entirely from cardboard. The cabinetry is the work of the team’s 70-year-old handyman.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Pilots sit here and try out all possible instrumentation combinations to find the most practical configuration. Who needs  virtual reality when you have a few old computer boxes and some photocopied instruments?<br /> </span></p> <p><span>A few footsteps away, though, there is a concession to technology – a large simulator which operates using four screens linked to four networked, high-end gaming PCs. Veteran airship pilots, recruited from across the industry, with experience flying blimps and seaplanes, are teaching the computers how to react to various flying situations, so that when a remote operator issues the ship with a command, the automated system will be able to move the controls in the same way as a human pilot; in other words, they are teaching it to fly itself.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The system has been designed by another UK company, Blue Bear Systems Research. It designed the flight-control system of the Harrier jump jet and also designs UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that can be launched and fly themselves autonomously along a pre-programmed route.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Although every Hybrid Air Vehicle (HAV) will be capable of being flown remotely as a military surveillance platform, it will also be able to operate with a three-man crew – a pilot, co-pilot and load master. It takes about 100 hours of flight training to convert a pilot, though they don’t all make the switch easily, often because they aren’t used to stopping in mid-air.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Dave Burns is a pilot with thousands of hours experience flying passenger airliners for BA and Monarch. He is the company’s test pilot and chief flight training officer, and also the man who will fly the HAV 304 back across the Atlantic.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘It doesn’t respond like a plane at all,’ says Burns. ‘You move the stick, telling the ship to move, and nothing happens for three or four seconds – and then it responds, which can be a little disconcerting. Plus, the mass underneath it acts like a pendulum, always trying to make it come level again.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>&#8216;The difficult thing is landing and take-off. In the past airships had ropes and ground crew waiting; we don’t need those so now what you have to do is present the vehicle so it comes down very slowly.’</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/18/article-1357747-0D1B4204000005DC-373_634x372.jpg\" alt=\"A German Graf Zeppelin visiting Britain in 1931\" width=\"634\" height=\"372\" />A German Graf Zeppelin visiting Britain in 1931</p> </div> <p><span>Although the first 300ft version of the craft has been commissioned by the U.S. military, the real commercial potential of the vehicles could be for heavy lifting, says director of sales Gordon Taylor who has been living and breathing the things through multiple prototypes since joining his friend Roger Munk in 1997.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Our hybrids are based on a blend of technologies, in the same way that a Toyota Prius is a hybrid because it runs on electricity and petrol,’ he says.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Firstly it uses aerodynamics. The shape is like a big wing – air moves over it, lower air pressure is created across the top of the wing and it creates lift. Only if it’s fully loaded does it need a runway, and even then, with a 20 knot headwind they can land in three hull lengths.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Secondly we use “lighter-than-air” technology. With a normal airship you moor it on the ground to a mast. In order to fly anywhere it has to take off ballast, then it floats up. In a hybrid we push ourselves forward and that immediately generates lift.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Thirdly we have vectored thrust: our propulsion ducts rotate like a jump jet. Finally, we have hovercraft-style landing gear – a cushion of air that means that you can land on any reasonably flat surface, including water. This also works in reverse to secure the vehicle to the ground by suction.’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The company has calculated that it would take only 20 minutes to move a shipping container from Milton Keynes to London by HAV – a journey that presently takes hours thanks to traffic. Add a road network that grinds to a halt after a seasonal dusting of snow and you suddenly find an application for a cheaper, faster form of transport.</span></p> <div><img src=\"http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/02/19/article-1357747-0066567500000258-296_634x565.jpg\" alt=\"The Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 which marked the end of the era of passenger-carrying airships\" width=\"634\" height=\"565\" />The Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 which marked the end of the era of passenger-carrying airships</p> </div> <p><span>‘You can forget ice road truckers too in places with more extreme cold,’ he adds.</span></p> <p><span> ‘They can carry the same load that goes on the back of those trucks and they love the cold because you get more lift in the denser air. We have a version with a 20-ton payload, which is what a Lockheed C-130 Hercules carries. We have plans for craft to eventually carry up to 1,000 tons.’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>The team is already in formal discussions with oil companies that routinely spend hundreds of millions of dollars on roads and airports every time they find a new supply of oil or gas. By using HAVs the oil companies would simply be able to touch down without need of an airport.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>‘Some of these companies are paying a million dollars a day in the development of infrastructure.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>&#8216;You could run these hybrids in convoy too, of course. The price difference between air freight and shipping is huge – so what if you could move freight by air but for a similar price as a ship? It could mean a whole new market in transport.’<br /> </span></p> <p><span>Later this year the full-scale version of the current prototype will become the largest flying object in the world. After its initial use in military surveillance and heavy lifting, it could be just a few years before passengers are floating around beneath them. Need to be in New York fast? Take a plane. Don’t mind being in New York a day later? Then take an HAV.<br /> </span></p> <p><span>And precisely how long will it take after that  for us to see a fleet of orange easyBalloons hauling budget passengers to and from Malaga? </span></p> \";}i:3;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:15:\"Time for Change\";s:4:\"link\";s:54:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/time-for-change/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:63:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/time-for-change/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 11 Apr 2011 22:37:01 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:15:\"Amanda Feilding\";}s:8:\"category\";s:173:\"Drug PolicyAltered StatesAmanda FeildingBeckley FoundationbrainwavecocaineConsciousnessdrugsEvolutionfutorologyGlobal Cannabis Commissionpoliticsprohibitionsocial commentary\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1532\";s:11:\"description\";s:342:\"In 1998 the UN declared: &#8220;a drug-free world, we can do it!&#8221; In reality, we cannot. The War on Drugs has failed. According to all available indices, it is no longer defendable. Vast expenditure on drug law enforcement has resulted in increasing levels of overall drug-use and lowered drug prices. 2011 is the 50th anniversary [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:4991:\"<p>In 1998 the UN declared: &#8220;a drug-free world, we can do it!&#8221; In reality, we cannot.</p> <p>The War on Drugs has failed. According to all available indices, it is no longer defendable. Vast expenditure on drug law enforcement has resulted in increasing levels of overall drug-use and lowered drug prices. 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the 1961 UN Convention, which lies at the root of the criminalizing approach to drug control. Now is the perfect time to re-evaluate our approach.</p> <p>Of all regions in the world, Latin America has perhaps been the most affected by the unintended consequences of global prohibition. Huge criminal markets have at times turned countries such as Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico into nigh-on war zones. Drug enforcement and eradication in one Andean country has displaced production into neighboring countries and back in turn, in an ongoing cycle. The criminalization of drug control has seen the numbers of those incarcerated for drug offenses (even the possession of minor amounts for personal consumption) rise to levels that overwhelm judicial systems. Currently there are over 10 million people in prison worldwide.</p> <p>However, Latin America, as the region that has suffered the most, is now leading the way to an open and frank discussion of drugs. Recent declarations from certain politicians show a much greater understanding of the problems than those coming from some of their Western counterparts. In Peru, former President and current presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo declared himself open to full decriminalization. Whilst he nuanced his argument a few days later, the declaration itself shows that Latin American governments are becoming increasingly progressive in their nature. The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, led by former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, has declared its outright opposition to a &#8220;misguided and counter-productive war.&#8221;</p> <p>The most significant declaration of all, however, may well be that of current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Santos is head of a country traditionally felt to be one of the US&#8217; major allies in the War on Drugs. However, President Santos has declared himself open to a discussion on alternative approaches that may reduce both the risks and harms associated with illegal drugs. A recipient of major US aid, Colombia cannot turn away directly from Plan Colombia, but Santos&#8217; comments show that Colombian drug policy may be slowly turning against the whirlpool of US foreign policy.</p> <p>A fellow Andean country, Bolivia, has recently seen more and more countries support its proposals to reform the international prohibition of chewing the coca leaf. Flexibility and cultural sensitivity are vital within approaches to drug conventions. Drug control regimes should be respectful of human rights and take account of different cultural norms in societies around the world. There must be the freedom for individual countries to work out what is best for them. The one-fit-all model has shown itself to be highly destructive.</p> <p>Various countries such as Portugal have shown how successful a change in policy can be. They have demonstrated that the decriminalization of use and a commitment to provide health and rehabilitation programs as alternatives to incarceration, together with a sustained educational program, can diminish the harms associated with drug-use. Both Hungary and the Czech Republic criminalized use in 1999. However, studies showed that this policy had been a disaster and brought more social costs than benefits. Consequently, both countries reversed this policy (in 2003 and 2010 respectively). We cannot let such lessons go unheeded. We must learn from these examples.</p> <p>It is time for a new approach. The 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, with its zero-tolerance approach, was written in a very different context to today, both socially and politically. A rewriting of the UN Convention would enable us to move forward from the present impasse. Individual countries should have more freedom to be able to decriminalize the personal use of drugs and, should the country so wish, to legally regulate certain substances, such as cannabis, thereby being able to control and label their content, and tax them. This would have the advantage of saving vast sums on the continuation of the coercive approach, as well as raising substantial tax to implement an educational and treatment approach to drug-use. It would also solve the problem of hundreds of billions of dollars going into the hands of criminals each year.</p> <p>The Beckley Foundation Global Initiative for Drug Policy Reform 2011-2012 is proposing such a model.</p> <p>2011 is the 50th anniversary of the 1961 UN Convention, the 40th anniversary of the UK Misuse of Drugs Act and the 10th anniversary of the Portuguese drug decriminalisation. There has never been a more appropriate time for change.</p> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:59:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/04/11/time-for-change/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"0\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:342:\"In 1998 the UN declared: &#8220;a drug-free world, we can do it!&#8221; In reality, we cannot. The War on Drugs has failed. According to all available indices, it is no longer defendable. Vast expenditure on drug law enforcement has resulted in increasing levels of overall drug-use and lowered drug prices. 2011 is the 50th anniversary [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:4991:\"<p>In 1998 the UN declared: &#8220;a drug-free world, we can do it!&#8221; In reality, we cannot.</p> <p>The War on Drugs has failed. According to all available indices, it is no longer defendable. Vast expenditure on drug law enforcement has resulted in increasing levels of overall drug-use and lowered drug prices. 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the 1961 UN Convention, which lies at the root of the criminalizing approach to drug control. Now is the perfect time to re-evaluate our approach.</p> <p>Of all regions in the world, Latin America has perhaps been the most affected by the unintended consequences of global prohibition. Huge criminal markets have at times turned countries such as Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico into nigh-on war zones. Drug enforcement and eradication in one Andean country has displaced production into neighboring countries and back in turn, in an ongoing cycle. The criminalization of drug control has seen the numbers of those incarcerated for drug offenses (even the possession of minor amounts for personal consumption) rise to levels that overwhelm judicial systems. Currently there are over 10 million people in prison worldwide.</p> <p>However, Latin America, as the region that has suffered the most, is now leading the way to an open and frank discussion of drugs. Recent declarations from certain politicians show a much greater understanding of the problems than those coming from some of their Western counterparts. In Peru, former President and current presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo declared himself open to full decriminalization. Whilst he nuanced his argument a few days later, the declaration itself shows that Latin American governments are becoming increasingly progressive in their nature. The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, led by former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, has declared its outright opposition to a &#8220;misguided and counter-productive war.&#8221;</p> <p>The most significant declaration of all, however, may well be that of current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Santos is head of a country traditionally felt to be one of the US&#8217; major allies in the War on Drugs. However, President Santos has declared himself open to a discussion on alternative approaches that may reduce both the risks and harms associated with illegal drugs. A recipient of major US aid, Colombia cannot turn away directly from Plan Colombia, but Santos&#8217; comments show that Colombian drug policy may be slowly turning against the whirlpool of US foreign policy.</p> <p>A fellow Andean country, Bolivia, has recently seen more and more countries support its proposals to reform the international prohibition of chewing the coca leaf. Flexibility and cultural sensitivity are vital within approaches to drug conventions. Drug control regimes should be respectful of human rights and take account of different cultural norms in societies around the world. There must be the freedom for individual countries to work out what is best for them. The one-fit-all model has shown itself to be highly destructive.</p> <p>Various countries such as Portugal have shown how successful a change in policy can be. They have demonstrated that the decriminalization of use and a commitment to provide health and rehabilitation programs as alternatives to incarceration, together with a sustained educational program, can diminish the harms associated with drug-use. Both Hungary and the Czech Republic criminalized use in 1999. However, studies showed that this policy had been a disaster and brought more social costs than benefits. Consequently, both countries reversed this policy (in 2003 and 2010 respectively). We cannot let such lessons go unheeded. We must learn from these examples.</p> <p>It is time for a new approach. The 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, with its zero-tolerance approach, was written in a very different context to today, both socially and politically. A rewriting of the UN Convention would enable us to move forward from the present impasse. Individual countries should have more freedom to be able to decriminalize the personal use of drugs and, should the country so wish, to legally regulate certain substances, such as cannabis, thereby being able to control and label their content, and tax them. This would have the advantage of saving vast sums on the continuation of the coercive approach, as well as raising substantial tax to implement an educational and treatment approach to drug-use. It would also solve the problem of hundreds of billions of dollars going into the hands of criminals each year.</p> <p>The Beckley Foundation Global Initiative for Drug Policy Reform 2011-2012 is proposing such a model.</p> <p>2011 is the 50th anniversary of the 1961 UN Convention, the 40th anniversary of the UK Misuse of Drugs Act and the 10th anniversary of the Portuguese drug decriminalisation. There has never been a more appropriate time for change.</p> \";}i:4;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:28:\"Do You Want to Live Forever?\";s:4:\"link\";s:66:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/29/do-you-want-to-live-forever/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:75:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/29/do-you-want-to-live-forever/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Tue, 29 Mar 2011 08:43:45 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:17:\"Brainwaving Admin\";}s:8:\"category\";s:118:\"Big Ideasbrain sciencebrainwavecognitive enhancementdrugsEvolutionfutorologynatureSciencesocial commentarySpirituality\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1528\";s:11:\"description\";s:321:\"This show is all about the radical ideas of a Cambridge biomedical gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey who believes that, within the next 20-30 years, we could extend life indefinitely by addressing seven major factors in the aging process. He describes his work as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:999:\"<p>This show is all about the radical ideas of a Cambridge biomedical gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey who believes that, within the next 20-30 years, we could extend life indefinitely by addressing seven major factors in the aging process. He describes his work as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).</p> <p><object id=\"VideoPlayback\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 326px;\" classid=\"clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000\" width=\"100\" height=\"100\" codebase=\"http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0\"><param name=\"src\" value=\"http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-3329065877451441972&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=true\" /><param name=\"allowfullscreen\" value=\"true\" /><embed id=\"VideoPlayback\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 326px;\" type=\"application/x-shockwave-flash\" width=\"100\" height=\"100\" src=\"http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-3329065877451441972&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=true\" allowfullscreen=\"true\"></embed></object></p> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:71:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/29/do-you-want-to-live-forever/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"0\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:321:\"This show is all about the radical ideas of a Cambridge biomedical gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey who believes that, within the next 20-30 years, we could extend life indefinitely by addressing seven major factors in the aging process. He describes his work as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:999:\"<p>This show is all about the radical ideas of a Cambridge biomedical gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey who believes that, within the next 20-30 years, we could extend life indefinitely by addressing seven major factors in the aging process. He describes his work as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).</p> <p><object id=\"VideoPlayback\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 326px;\" classid=\"clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000\" width=\"100\" height=\"100\" codebase=\"http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0\"><param name=\"src\" value=\"http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-3329065877451441972&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=true\" /><param name=\"allowfullscreen\" value=\"true\" /><embed id=\"VideoPlayback\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 326px;\" type=\"application/x-shockwave-flash\" width=\"100\" height=\"100\" src=\"http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-3329065877451441972&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=true\" allowfullscreen=\"true\"></embed></object></p> \";}i:5;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:30:\"Gold Farming: Virtual Slavery?\";s:4:\"link\";s:67:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/28/gold-farming-virtual-slavery/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:76:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/28/gold-farming-virtual-slavery/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 28 Mar 2011 11:54:47 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:17:\"Brainwaving Admin\";}s:8:\"category\";s:65:\"Social InsightComputersEvolutionfuturesocial commentarytechnology\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1524\";s:11:\"description\";s:343:\"It was an hour before midnight, three hours into the night shift with nine more to go. At his workstation in a small, fluorescent-lighted office space in Nanjing, China, Li Qiwen sat shirtless and chain-smoking, gazing purposefully at the online computer game in front of him. The screen showed a lightly wooded mountain terrain, studded [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:31193:\"<p>It was an hour before midnight, three hours into the night shift with nine more to go. At his workstation in a small, fluorescent-lighted office space in Nanjing, China, Li Qiwen sat shirtless and chain-smoking, gazing purposefully at the online computer game in front of him. The screen showed a lightly wooded mountain terrain, studded with castle ruins and grazing deer, in which warrior monks milled about. Li, or rather his staff-wielding wizard character, had been slaying the enemy monks since 8 p.m., mouse-clicking on one corpse after another, each time gathering a few dozen virtual coins — and maybe a magic weapon or two — into an increasingly laden backpack.</p> <div id=\"articleInline\"> <div id=\"inlineBox\"> <div><img class=\"alignleft\" style=\"border: 0pt none;\" src=\"http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/06/17/magazine/17avatar190.1.jpg\" border=\"0\" alt=\"\" width=\"190\" height=\"253\" /></p> <div>Robbie Cooper for the <a href=\"http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/magazine/17lootfarmers-t.html?pagewanted=7&amp;_r=1\" target=\"_blank\">New York Times</a></div> <p>The end of a 12-hour shift at Donghua Networks in Jinhua, China.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>Twelve hours a night, seven nights a week, with only two or three nights off per month, this is what Li does — for a living. On this summer night in 2006, the game on his screen was, as always, World of Warcraft, an online fantasy title in which players, in the guise of self-created avatars — night-elf wizards, warrior orcs and other Tolkienesque characters — battle their way through the mythical realm of Azeroth, earning points for every monster slain and rising, over many months, from the game’s lowest level of death-dealing power (1) to the highest (70). More than eight million people around the world play World of Warcraft — approximately one in every thousand on the planet — and whenever Li is logged on, thousands of other players are, too. They share the game’s vast, virtual world with him, converging in its towns to trade their loot or turning up from time to time in Li’s own wooded corner of it, looking for enemies to kill and coins to gather. Every World of Warcraft player needs those coins, and mostly for one reason: to pay for the virtual gear to fight the monsters to earn the points to reach the next level. And there are only two ways players can get as much of this virtual money as the game requires: they can spend hours collecting it or they can pay someone real money to do it for them.</p> <p>At the end of each shift, Li reports the night’s haul to his supervisor, and at the end of the week, he, like his nine co-workers, will be paid in full. For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25, earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American or European player) for as much as $20. The small commercial space Li and his colleagues work in — two rooms, one for the workers and another for the supervisor — along with a rudimentary workers’ dorm, a half-hour’s bus ride away, are the entire physical plant of this modest $80,000-a-year business. It is estimated that there are thousands of businesses like it all over China, neither owned nor operated by the game companies from which they make their money. Collectively they employ an estimated 100,000 workers, who produce the bulk of all the goods in what has become a $1.8 billion worldwide trade in virtual items. The polite name for these operations is youxi gongzuoshi, or gaming workshops, but to gamers throughout the world, they are better known as gold farms. While the Internet has produced some strange new job descriptions over the years, it is hard to think of any more surreal than that of the Chinese gold farmer.</p> <p>The market for massively multiplayer online role-playing games, known as M.M.O.’s, is a fast-growing one, with no fewer than 80 current titles and many more under development, all targeted at a player population that totals around 30 million worldwide. World of Warcraft, produced in Irvine, Calif., by Blizzard Entertainment, is one of the most profitable computer games in history, earning close to $1 billion a year in monthly subscriptions and other revenue. In a typical M.M.O., as in a classic predigital role-playing game like Dungeons &amp; Dragons, each player leads his fantasy character on a life of combat and adventure that may last for months or even years of play. As has also been true since D. &amp; D., however, the romance of this imaginary life stands in sharp contrast to the plodding, mathematical precision with which it proceeds.</p> <p>Players of M.M.O.’s are notoriously obsessive gamers, not infrequently dedicating more time to the make-believe careers of their characters than to their own real jobs. Indeed, it is no mere conceit to say that M.M.O.’s are just as much economies as games. In every one of them, there is some form of money, the getting and spending of which invariably demands a lot of attention: in World of Warcraft, it is the generic gold coin; in Korea’s popular Lineage II, it is the “adena”; in the Japanese hit Final Fantasy XI, it is called “gil.” And in all of these games, it takes a lot of this virtual local currency to buy the gear and other battle aids a player needs to even contemplate a run at the monsters worth fighting. To get it, players have a range of virtual income-generating activities to choose from: they can collect loot from dead monsters, of course, but they can also make weapons, potions and similarly useful items to sell to other players or even gather the herbs and hides and other resources that are the crafters’ raw materials. Repetitive and time-intensive by design, these pursuits and others like them are known collectively as “the grind.”</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>For players lacking time or patience for the grind, there has always been another means of acquiring virtual loot: real money. From the earliest days of M.M.O.’s, players have been willing to trade their hard-earned legal tender — dollars, euros, yen, pounds sterling — for the fruits of other players’ grinding. And despite strict rules against the practice in the most popular online games, there have always been players willing to sell. The phenomenon of selling virtual goods for real money is called real-money trading, or R.M.T., and it first flourished in the late 1990s on <a title=\"More information about eBay Inc.\" href=\"http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/ebay_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org\">eBay</a>. M.M.O. players looking to sell their virtual armor, weapons, gold and other items would post them for auction and then, when all the bids were in and payment was made, arrange with the highest bidder to meet inside the game world and transfer the goods from the seller’s account to the buyer’s.</p> <p>Until very recently, in fact, eBay was a major clearinghouse for commodities from every virtual economy known to gaming — from venerable sword-and-sorcery stalwarts EverQuest and Ultima Online to up-and-comers like the Machiavellian space adventure Eve Online and the free-form social sandbox Second Life. That all came to an official end this January, when eBay announced a ban on R.M.T. sales, citing, among other concerns, the customer-service issues involved in facilitating transactions that are prohibited by the gaming companies. But by then the market had long since outgrown the tag-sale economics of online auctions. For years now, the vast majority of virtual goods has been brought to retail not by players selling the product of their own gaming but by high-volume online specialty sites like the virtual-money superstores IGE, BroGame and Massive Online Gaming Sales — multimillion-dollar businesses offering one-stop, one-click shopping and instant delivery of in-game cash. These are the Wal-Marts and Targets of this decidedly gray market, and the same economic logic that leads conventional megaretailers to China in search of cheap toys and textiles takes their virtual counterparts to China’s gold farms.</p> <p>Indeed, on the surface, there is little to distinguish gold farming from toy production or textile manufacture or any of the other industries that have mushroomed across China to feed the desires of the Western consumer. The wages, the margins, the worker housing, the long shifts and endless workweeks — all of these are standard practice. Like many workers in China today, most gold farmers are migrants. Li, for example, came to Nanjing, in the country’s industry-heavy coastal region, from less prosperous parts. At 30, he is old for the job and feels it. He says he hopes to marry and start a family, he told me, but doesn’t see it happening on his current wages, which are not much better than what he made at his last job, fixing cars. The free company housing means his expenses aren’t high — food, cigarettes, bus fare, connection fees at the local wang ba (or Internet cafe) where he goes to relax — but even so, Li said, it is difficult to set aside savings. “You can do it,” he said, “but you have to economize a lot.”</p> <p>This is the quick-sketch picture of the job, however, and it misses much. To sit at Li’s side for an hour or two, amid the dreary, functional surroundings of his workplace, as he navigates the Technicolor fantasy world he earns his living in, is to understand that gold farming isn’t just another outsourced job.</p> <p>When the night shift ends and the sun comes up, Li and his co-workers know it only by the slivers of daylight that slip in at the edges of the plastic sheeting taped to the windows against the glare. As Li clocks out, another worker takes his seat, takes control of his avatar and carries on with the same grim routines amid the warrior monks of Azeroth. On most days Li’s replacement is 22-year-old Wang Huachen, who has been at this gold farm for a year, ever since he completed his university course in law. Soon, Wang told me, he will take the test for his certificate to practice, but he seems in no particular hurry to.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>“I will miss this job,” he said. “It can be boring, but I still have sometimes a playful attitude. So I think I will miss this feeling.”</p> <p>Two workstations away, Wang’s co-worker Zhou Xiaoguang, who is 24, also spends the day shift massacring monks. To watch his face as he plays, you wouldn’t guess there was anything like fun involved in this job, and perhaps “fun” isn’t exactly the word. As anyone who has spent much time among video-gamers knows, the look on a person’s face as he or she plays can be a curiously serious one, reflective of the absorbing rigors of many contemporary games. It is hard, in any case, for Zhou to say where the line between work and play falls in a gold farmer’s daily routines. “I am here the full 12 hours every day,” he told me, offhandedly killing a passing deer with a single crushing blow. “It’s not all work. But there’s not a big difference between play and work.”</p> <p>I turned to Wang Huachen, who remained intent on manipulating an arsenal of combat spells, and asked again how it was possible that in these circumstances anybody could, as he put it, “have sometimes a playful attitude”?</p> <p>He didn’t even look up from his screen. “I cannot explain,” he said. “It just feels that way.”</p> <p>In 2001, Edward Castronova, an economist at Indiana University and at the time an EverQuest player, published a paper in which he documented the rate at which his fellow players accumulated virtual goods, then used the current R.M.T. prices of those goods to calculate the total annual wealth generated by all that in-game activity. The figure he arrived at, $135 million, was roughly 25 times the size of EverQuest’s R.M.T. market at the time. Updated and more broadly applied, Castronova’s results suggest an aggregate gross domestic product for today’s virtual economies of anywhere from $7 billion to $12 billion, a range that puts the economic output of the online gamer population in the company of Bolivia’s, Albania’s and Nepal’s.</p> <p>Not quite the big time, no, but the implications are bigger, perhaps, than the numbers themselves. Castronova’s estimate of EverQuest’s G.D.P. showed that online games — even when there is no exchange of actual money — can produce actual wealth. And in doing so Castronova also showed that something curious has happened to the classic economic distinction between play and production: in certain corners of the world, it has melted away. Play has begun to do real work.</p> <p>This development has not been universally welcomed. In the eyes of many gamers, in fact, real-money trading is essentially a scam — a form of cheating only slightly more refined than, say, offering 20 actual dollars for another player’s Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly. Some players, and quite a few game designers, see the problem in more systemic terms. Real-money trading harms the game, they argue, because the overheated productivity of gold farms and other profit-seeking operations makes it harder for beginning players to get ahead. Either way, the sense of a certain economic injustice at work breeds resentment. In theory this resentment would be aimed at every link in the R.M.T. chain, from the buyers to the retailers to the gold-farm bosses. And, indeed, late last month American WoW players filed a class-action suit against the dominant virtual-gold retailer, IGE, the first of its kind.</p> <p>But as a matter of everyday practice, it is the farmers who catch it in the face. Consider, for example, a typical interlude in the workday of the 21-year-old gold farmer Min Qinghai. Min spends most of his time within the confines of a former manufacturing space 200 miles south of Nanjing in the midsize city of Jinhua. He works two floors below the plywood bunks of the workers’ dorm where he sleeps. In two years of 84-hour farming weeks, he has rarely stepped outside for longer than it takes to eat a meal. But he has died more times than he can count. And last September on a warm afternoon, halfway between his lunch and dinner breaks, it was happening again.</p> <p>The World of Warcraft monsters he faces down — ferocious, gray-furred warriors of the Timbermaw clan of bearmen — are no match for his high-level characters, but they do fight back and sometimes they get the better of him. And so it appeared they had just done. Distracted from his post for a moment, Min returned to find his hunter-class character at the brink of death, the scene before him a flurry of computer-animated weapon blows. It wasn’t until the fight had run its course and the hunter lay dead that Min could make out exactly what had happened. The game’s chat window displayed a textual record of the blows landed and the cost to Min in damage points. The record was clear: the monsters hadn’t acted alone. In the middle of the fight another player happened by, sneaked up on Min and brought him down.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>Min leaned back and stretched, then set about the tedious business of resurrecting his character, a drawn-out sequence of operations that can put a player out of action for as long as 10 minutes. In farms with daily production quotas, too much time spent dead instead of farming gold can put the worker’s job at risk. And in shops where daily wages are tied to daily harvests, every minute lost to death is money taken from the farmer’s pocket. But there are times when death is more than just an economic setback for a gold farmer, and this was one of them. As Min returned to his corpse — checking to make sure his attacker wasn’t waiting around to fall on him again the moment he resurrected — what hurt more than the death itself was how it happened, or more precisely, what made it happen: another player.</p> <p>It isn’t that WoW players don’t frequently kill other players for fun and kill points. They do. But there is usually more to it when the kill in question is a gold farmer. In part because gold farmers’ hunting patterns are so repetitive, they are easy to spot, making them ready targets for pent-up anti-R.M.T. hostility, expressed in everything from private sarcastic messages to gratuitous ambushes that can stop a farmer’s harvesting in its tracks. In homemade World of Warcraft video clips that circulate on YouTube or GameTrailers, with titles like “Chinese Gold Farmers Must Die” and “Chinese Farmer Extermination,” players document their farmer-killing expeditions through that same Timbermaw-ridden patch of WoW in which Min does his farming — a place so popular with farmers that Western players sometimes call it China Town. Nick Yee, an M.M.O. scholar based at Stanford, has noted the unsettling parallels (the recurrence of words like “vermin,” “rats” and “extermination”) between contemporary anti-gold-farmer rhetoric and 19th-century U.S. literature on immigrant Chinese laundry workers.</p> <p>Min’s English is not good enough to grasp in all its richness the hatred aimed his way. But he gets the idea. He feels a little embarrassed around regular players and sometimes says he thinks about how he might explain himself to those who believe he has no place among them, if only he could speak their language. “I have this idea in mind that regular players should understand that people do different things in the game,” he said. “They are playing. And we are making a living.”</p> <p>It is a distinction that game companies understand all too well. Like the majority of M.M.O. companies, Blizzard has chosen to align itself with the customers who abhor R.M.T. rather than the ones who use it. A year ago, Blizzard announced it had identified and banned more than 50,000 World of Warcraft accounts belonging to farmers. It was the opening salvo in a continuing eradication campaign that has effectively swept millions in farmed gold from the market, sending the exchange rate rocketing from a low of 6 cents per gold coin last spring to a high of 35 cents in January.</p> <p>Of course, nobody expected the farmers’ equally rule-breaking customers to be punished too. Among players, the R.M.T. debate may revolve around questions of fairness, but among game companies, the only question seems to be what is good for business. Cracking down on R.M.T. buyers makes poorer marketing sense than cracking down on sellers, in much the same way that cracking down on illegal drug suppliers is a better political move than cracking down on users. (Only a few companies have found a way to make R.M.T. part of their business model. <a title=\"More information about Sony Corporation\" href=\"http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/sony_corporation/index.html?inline=nyt-org\">Sony</a> Online Entertainment, which publishes EverQuest, has started earning respectable revenues from an experimental in-game auction system that charges players a small transaction fee for real-money trades.) As Mark Jacobs, vice president at Electronic Arts and creator of the classic M.M.O. Dark Age of Camelot, put it: “Are you going to get more sympathy from busting 50,000 Chinese farmers or from busting 10,000 Americans that are buying? It’s not a racial thing at all. If you bust the buyers, you’re busting the guys who are paying to play your game, who you want to keep as customers and who will then go on the forums and say really nasty things about your company and your game.”</p> <p>The cost to farmers of being expelled from WoW can be steep. At the very least, it means a temporary drop in productivity, because the character has to be to built up all over again, as well as the loss of all the loot accumulated in that character’s account. Given the stakes, some Chinese gold farms have found that the best way to get around their farmers’ pursuers is to make it hard to distinguish professionals from players in the first place. One business that specializes in doing just that is located a few blocks from the gold farm where Min Qinghai works. The shop floor is about the same size, with about the same number of computers in the same neat rows, but you can tell just walking through the place that it is a more serious operation. For one thing, there are a lot more workers: typically 25 on the day shift, 25 on the night shift, each crew punching in and out at a time clock just inside the entrance. Nobody works without a shirt here; quite a few, in fact, wear a standard-issue white polo shirt with the company initials on it. There is also a crimson version of the shirt, reserved for management and worn at all times by the shift supervisor, who, when he isn’t prowling the floor, sits at his desk before a broad white wall emblazoned with foot-high Chinese characters in red that spell: unity, collaboration, integrity, efficiency.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>The name of the business is Donghua Networks, and its specialty is what gamers call “power leveling.” Like regular gold farming, power leveling offers customers an end run around the World of Warcraft grind — except that instead of providing money and other items, the power leveler simply does the work for you. Hand over your account name, password and about $300, and get on with your real life for a while: in a marathon of round-the-clock monster-bashing, a team of power levelers will raise your character from the lowest level to the highest, accomplishing in four weeks or less what at a normal rate of play would take at least four months.</p> <p>For Donghua’s owners — 26-year-old Fei Jianfeng and 36-year-old Bao Donghua, both former gold-farm wage workers themselves — moving the business out of farming and into leveling was an easy call. Among other advantages, they say, power leveling means fewer banned accounts. Because the only game accounts used are the customers’ own, there is much less risk of losing access to the virtual work site. For their workers, however, the advantages are mixed. Though there is a greater variety of quests and quarries to pursue, the pay isn’t any better, and some workers chafe at the constraints of playing a stranger’s character, preferring the relative autonomy of farming gold.</p> <p>As one Donghua power leveler said of his old gold-farming job, “I had more room to play for myself.”</p> <p>It may seem strange that a wage-working loot farmer would still care about the freedom to play. But it is not half as strange as the scene that unfolded one evening at 9 o’clock in the Internet cafe on the ground floor of the building where Donghua has its offices. Scattered around the stifling, dim wang ba, 10 power levelers just off the day shift were merrily gaming away. Not all of them were playing World of Warcraft. A big, silent lug named Mao sat mesmerized by a very pink-and-purple Japanese schoolgirls’ game, in which doe-eyed characters square off in dancing contests with other online players. But the rest had chosen, to a man, to log into their personal World of Warcraft accounts and spend these precious free hours right back where they had spent every other hour of the day: in Azeroth.</p> <p>Such scenes are not at all unusual. At the end of almost any working day or night in a Chinese gaming workshop, workers can be found playing the same game they have been playing for the last 12 hours, and to some extent gold-farm operators depend on it. The game is too complex for the bosses to learn it all themselves; they need their workers to be players — to find out all the tricks and shortcuts, to train themselves and to train one another. “When I was a worker,” Fan Yangwen, who is now 21 and in Donghua’s main office providing technical support, told me, “I loved to play because when I was playing, I was learning.” But learning to play or learning to work? I asked. Fan shrugged. “Both.”</p> <p>Fan himself is a striking case of how off-hours play can serve as a kind of unpaid R. and D. lab for the farming industry. He is that rarest of World of Warcraft obsessives, a Chinese gold farmer who has actually bought farmed gold. (“Sure, I bought 10,000 once,” he said, “I don’t have time to farm all that!”) When Fan shows up at the wang ba after work, it is a minor event; the other Donghua workers pull their chairs over to watch him play — his top-level warlock character is an unbelievable powerhouse that no amount of money, real or virtual, can buy.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>What makes Fan’s dominance so impressive to his peers is that he achieved it in regions of the game that are all but inaccessible to the working gold farmer or power leveler. Therein lies what is known as the end game, the phase of epic challenges that begins only when the player has accumulated the maximum experience points and can level up no more. The rewards for meeting these challenges are phenomenal: rare weapons and armor pieces loaded with massive power boosts and showy graphics. And the greatest cannot be traded or given away; they can only be acquired by venturing into the game’s most difficult dungeons. That requires becoming part of a tightly coordinated “raid” group of as many as 40 other players (any fewer than that, and the entire group will almost certainly “wipe” — or die en masse without killing any monsters of note). Each player has a shot at the best items when they drop, and players must negotiate among themselves for the top prizes. These end-game hurdles have some subtle but significant effects. For one thing, they force the growth of “guilds” — teams of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of players who join together to hit high-end dungeons on a regular basis. For another, they shut farmers out from an entire class of virtual goods — the most marketable in the game if only they could be traded.</p> <p>For a long time the Donghua bosses, Fei and Bao (known even to employees as Little Bai and Brother Bao), could do no more than nurse their envy of the raiding guilds’ access to the end game. But Fan’s prowess pointed to another way of looking at it: raiding guilds weren’t the competition, they realized; they were the solution. Donghua would put together a team of 40 employees. They would train the team in all the hardest dungeons. And then, for a few hundred dollars, the team would escort any customer into the dungeon of his or her choice. And when the customer’s longed-for item dropped, the team would stand aside and let the customer take it, no questions asked. Thus would the supposedly unmarketable end-game treasures find their way into the R.M.T. market. And thus would gold farming, of a sort, find its way at last into the end game.</p> <p>When Brother Bao and Little Bai put their team together in April of last year, Min Qinghai, a veteran Donghua employee at the time, was among the first to make the roster.</p> <p>“Before I joined the raiding team, I’d never worked together with so many people,” Min told me. They were 40 young men in three adjoining office spaces, and it was chaotic at first. Two or three supervisors moved among them, calling out orders like generals. A dungeon raid is always a puzzle: figuring out which tactics to use to kill each boss is the main challenge; doing so while coordinating 40 players can be dizzying. But members of the team raided just as diligently as they had power-leveled: 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, making their way through the complexities of a different dungeon every day.</p> <p>There was a lot of shouting involved, at least in the beginning. Besides the orders called out by the supervisors, there were loud attempts at coordination among the team members themselves. “But then we developed a sense of cooperation, and the shouting grew rarer,” Min said. “By the end, nothing needed to be said.” They moved through the dungeons in silent harmony, 40 intricately interdependent players, each the master of his part. For every fight in every dungeon, the hunters knew without asking exactly when to shoot and at what range; the priests had their healing spells down to a rhythm; wizards knew just how much damage to put in their combat spells.</p> <p>And Min’s role? The translator struggled for a moment to find the word in English, and when I hazarded a guess, Min turned directly to me and repeated it, the only English I ever heard him speak. “Tank,” he said, breaking into a rare, slow smile, and why wouldn’t he? The tank — the heavily armored warrior character who holds the attention of the most powerful enemy in the fight, taking all its blows — is the linchpin of any raid. If the tank dies, everybody else will soon die too, as a rule.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>“Working together, playing together, it felt nice,” Min said. “Very . . . shuang.” The word means “open, clear, exhilarating.” “You would go in, knowing that you were fighting the bosses that all the guilds in the world dream of fighting; there was a sense of achievement.”</p> <p>The end arrived without warning. One day word came down from the bosses that the 40-man raids were suspended indefinitely for lack of customers. In the meantime, team members would go back to gold farming, gathering loot in five-man dungeons that once might have thrilled Min but now presented no challenge whatsoever. “We no longer went to fight the big boss monsters,” Min said. “We were ordered to stay in one place doing the same thing again and again. Everyday I was looking at the same thing. I could not stand it.”</p> <p>Min quit and took the farming job he works at still. The new job, with its rote Timbermaw whacking, could hardly be less exciting. But it is more relaxed than Donghua was, less wearying — “Working 12 hours there was like working 24 here” — and he couldn’t have stayed on in any case, surrounded by reminders of the broken promise of tanking for what might have been the greatest guild on Earth.</p> <p>In the meantime, Min is doing his best to forget that his work has anything at all to do with play or that he ever let himself believe otherwise. But even with a job as monotonous as this one, it isn’t easy. On his usual hunt one day, he accidentally backed into combat with a higher-level monster. Losing life fast, he grabbed his mouse and started to flee. He hunched over his keyboard, leaning into his flight, flushed now by the chase. His boss, 26-year-old Liu Haibin, an inveterate gamer himself, wandered by and began to cheer him on: “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . go!”</p> <p>Finally the monster quit the chase, and Min got away with no consequence more untoward than having to explain himself. “It’s instinctual — you can’t help it,” he said. “You want to play.”</p> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:72:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/28/gold-farming-virtual-slavery/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"0\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:343:\"It was an hour before midnight, three hours into the night shift with nine more to go. At his workstation in a small, fluorescent-lighted office space in Nanjing, China, Li Qiwen sat shirtless and chain-smoking, gazing purposefully at the online computer game in front of him. The screen showed a lightly wooded mountain terrain, studded [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:31193:\"<p>It was an hour before midnight, three hours into the night shift with nine more to go. At his workstation in a small, fluorescent-lighted office space in Nanjing, China, Li Qiwen sat shirtless and chain-smoking, gazing purposefully at the online computer game in front of him. The screen showed a lightly wooded mountain terrain, studded with castle ruins and grazing deer, in which warrior monks milled about. Li, or rather his staff-wielding wizard character, had been slaying the enemy monks since 8 p.m., mouse-clicking on one corpse after another, each time gathering a few dozen virtual coins — and maybe a magic weapon or two — into an increasingly laden backpack.</p> <div id=\"articleInline\"> <div id=\"inlineBox\"> <div><img class=\"alignleft\" style=\"border: 0pt none;\" src=\"http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/06/17/magazine/17avatar190.1.jpg\" border=\"0\" alt=\"\" width=\"190\" height=\"253\" /></p> <div>Robbie Cooper for the <a href=\"http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/magazine/17lootfarmers-t.html?pagewanted=7&amp;_r=1\" target=\"_blank\">New York Times</a></div> <p>The end of a 12-hour shift at Donghua Networks in Jinhua, China.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>Twelve hours a night, seven nights a week, with only two or three nights off per month, this is what Li does — for a living. On this summer night in 2006, the game on his screen was, as always, World of Warcraft, an online fantasy title in which players, in the guise of self-created avatars — night-elf wizards, warrior orcs and other Tolkienesque characters — battle their way through the mythical realm of Azeroth, earning points for every monster slain and rising, over many months, from the game’s lowest level of death-dealing power (1) to the highest (70). More than eight million people around the world play World of Warcraft — approximately one in every thousand on the planet — and whenever Li is logged on, thousands of other players are, too. They share the game’s vast, virtual world with him, converging in its towns to trade their loot or turning up from time to time in Li’s own wooded corner of it, looking for enemies to kill and coins to gather. Every World of Warcraft player needs those coins, and mostly for one reason: to pay for the virtual gear to fight the monsters to earn the points to reach the next level. And there are only two ways players can get as much of this virtual money as the game requires: they can spend hours collecting it or they can pay someone real money to do it for them.</p> <p>At the end of each shift, Li reports the night’s haul to his supervisor, and at the end of the week, he, like his nine co-workers, will be paid in full. For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25, earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American or European player) for as much as $20. The small commercial space Li and his colleagues work in — two rooms, one for the workers and another for the supervisor — along with a rudimentary workers’ dorm, a half-hour’s bus ride away, are the entire physical plant of this modest $80,000-a-year business. It is estimated that there are thousands of businesses like it all over China, neither owned nor operated by the game companies from which they make their money. Collectively they employ an estimated 100,000 workers, who produce the bulk of all the goods in what has become a $1.8 billion worldwide trade in virtual items. The polite name for these operations is youxi gongzuoshi, or gaming workshops, but to gamers throughout the world, they are better known as gold farms. While the Internet has produced some strange new job descriptions over the years, it is hard to think of any more surreal than that of the Chinese gold farmer.</p> <p>The market for massively multiplayer online role-playing games, known as M.M.O.’s, is a fast-growing one, with no fewer than 80 current titles and many more under development, all targeted at a player population that totals around 30 million worldwide. World of Warcraft, produced in Irvine, Calif., by Blizzard Entertainment, is one of the most profitable computer games in history, earning close to $1 billion a year in monthly subscriptions and other revenue. In a typical M.M.O., as in a classic predigital role-playing game like Dungeons &amp; Dragons, each player leads his fantasy character on a life of combat and adventure that may last for months or even years of play. As has also been true since D. &amp; D., however, the romance of this imaginary life stands in sharp contrast to the plodding, mathematical precision with which it proceeds.</p> <p>Players of M.M.O.’s are notoriously obsessive gamers, not infrequently dedicating more time to the make-believe careers of their characters than to their own real jobs. Indeed, it is no mere conceit to say that M.M.O.’s are just as much economies as games. In every one of them, there is some form of money, the getting and spending of which invariably demands a lot of attention: in World of Warcraft, it is the generic gold coin; in Korea’s popular Lineage II, it is the “adena”; in the Japanese hit Final Fantasy XI, it is called “gil.” And in all of these games, it takes a lot of this virtual local currency to buy the gear and other battle aids a player needs to even contemplate a run at the monsters worth fighting. To get it, players have a range of virtual income-generating activities to choose from: they can collect loot from dead monsters, of course, but they can also make weapons, potions and similarly useful items to sell to other players or even gather the herbs and hides and other resources that are the crafters’ raw materials. Repetitive and time-intensive by design, these pursuits and others like them are known collectively as “the grind.”</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>For players lacking time or patience for the grind, there has always been another means of acquiring virtual loot: real money. From the earliest days of M.M.O.’s, players have been willing to trade their hard-earned legal tender — dollars, euros, yen, pounds sterling — for the fruits of other players’ grinding. And despite strict rules against the practice in the most popular online games, there have always been players willing to sell. The phenomenon of selling virtual goods for real money is called real-money trading, or R.M.T., and it first flourished in the late 1990s on <a title=\"More information about eBay Inc.\" href=\"http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/ebay_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org\">eBay</a>. M.M.O. players looking to sell their virtual armor, weapons, gold and other items would post them for auction and then, when all the bids were in and payment was made, arrange with the highest bidder to meet inside the game world and transfer the goods from the seller’s account to the buyer’s.</p> <p>Until very recently, in fact, eBay was a major clearinghouse for commodities from every virtual economy known to gaming — from venerable sword-and-sorcery stalwarts EverQuest and Ultima Online to up-and-comers like the Machiavellian space adventure Eve Online and the free-form social sandbox Second Life. That all came to an official end this January, when eBay announced a ban on R.M.T. sales, citing, among other concerns, the customer-service issues involved in facilitating transactions that are prohibited by the gaming companies. But by then the market had long since outgrown the tag-sale economics of online auctions. For years now, the vast majority of virtual goods has been brought to retail not by players selling the product of their own gaming but by high-volume online specialty sites like the virtual-money superstores IGE, BroGame and Massive Online Gaming Sales — multimillion-dollar businesses offering one-stop, one-click shopping and instant delivery of in-game cash. These are the Wal-Marts and Targets of this decidedly gray market, and the same economic logic that leads conventional megaretailers to China in search of cheap toys and textiles takes their virtual counterparts to China’s gold farms.</p> <p>Indeed, on the surface, there is little to distinguish gold farming from toy production or textile manufacture or any of the other industries that have mushroomed across China to feed the desires of the Western consumer. The wages, the margins, the worker housing, the long shifts and endless workweeks — all of these are standard practice. Like many workers in China today, most gold farmers are migrants. Li, for example, came to Nanjing, in the country’s industry-heavy coastal region, from less prosperous parts. At 30, he is old for the job and feels it. He says he hopes to marry and start a family, he told me, but doesn’t see it happening on his current wages, which are not much better than what he made at his last job, fixing cars. The free company housing means his expenses aren’t high — food, cigarettes, bus fare, connection fees at the local wang ba (or Internet cafe) where he goes to relax — but even so, Li said, it is difficult to set aside savings. “You can do it,” he said, “but you have to economize a lot.”</p> <p>This is the quick-sketch picture of the job, however, and it misses much. To sit at Li’s side for an hour or two, amid the dreary, functional surroundings of his workplace, as he navigates the Technicolor fantasy world he earns his living in, is to understand that gold farming isn’t just another outsourced job.</p> <p>When the night shift ends and the sun comes up, Li and his co-workers know it only by the slivers of daylight that slip in at the edges of the plastic sheeting taped to the windows against the glare. As Li clocks out, another worker takes his seat, takes control of his avatar and carries on with the same grim routines amid the warrior monks of Azeroth. On most days Li’s replacement is 22-year-old Wang Huachen, who has been at this gold farm for a year, ever since he completed his university course in law. Soon, Wang told me, he will take the test for his certificate to practice, but he seems in no particular hurry to.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>“I will miss this job,” he said. “It can be boring, but I still have sometimes a playful attitude. So I think I will miss this feeling.”</p> <p>Two workstations away, Wang’s co-worker Zhou Xiaoguang, who is 24, also spends the day shift massacring monks. To watch his face as he plays, you wouldn’t guess there was anything like fun involved in this job, and perhaps “fun” isn’t exactly the word. As anyone who has spent much time among video-gamers knows, the look on a person’s face as he or she plays can be a curiously serious one, reflective of the absorbing rigors of many contemporary games. It is hard, in any case, for Zhou to say where the line between work and play falls in a gold farmer’s daily routines. “I am here the full 12 hours every day,” he told me, offhandedly killing a passing deer with a single crushing blow. “It’s not all work. But there’s not a big difference between play and work.”</p> <p>I turned to Wang Huachen, who remained intent on manipulating an arsenal of combat spells, and asked again how it was possible that in these circumstances anybody could, as he put it, “have sometimes a playful attitude”?</p> <p>He didn’t even look up from his screen. “I cannot explain,” he said. “It just feels that way.”</p> <p>In 2001, Edward Castronova, an economist at Indiana University and at the time an EverQuest player, published a paper in which he documented the rate at which his fellow players accumulated virtual goods, then used the current R.M.T. prices of those goods to calculate the total annual wealth generated by all that in-game activity. The figure he arrived at, $135 million, was roughly 25 times the size of EverQuest’s R.M.T. market at the time. Updated and more broadly applied, Castronova’s results suggest an aggregate gross domestic product for today’s virtual economies of anywhere from $7 billion to $12 billion, a range that puts the economic output of the online gamer population in the company of Bolivia’s, Albania’s and Nepal’s.</p> <p>Not quite the big time, no, but the implications are bigger, perhaps, than the numbers themselves. Castronova’s estimate of EverQuest’s G.D.P. showed that online games — even when there is no exchange of actual money — can produce actual wealth. And in doing so Castronova also showed that something curious has happened to the classic economic distinction between play and production: in certain corners of the world, it has melted away. Play has begun to do real work.</p> <p>This development has not been universally welcomed. In the eyes of many gamers, in fact, real-money trading is essentially a scam — a form of cheating only slightly more refined than, say, offering 20 actual dollars for another player’s Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly. Some players, and quite a few game designers, see the problem in more systemic terms. Real-money trading harms the game, they argue, because the overheated productivity of gold farms and other profit-seeking operations makes it harder for beginning players to get ahead. Either way, the sense of a certain economic injustice at work breeds resentment. In theory this resentment would be aimed at every link in the R.M.T. chain, from the buyers to the retailers to the gold-farm bosses. And, indeed, late last month American WoW players filed a class-action suit against the dominant virtual-gold retailer, IGE, the first of its kind.</p> <p>But as a matter of everyday practice, it is the farmers who catch it in the face. Consider, for example, a typical interlude in the workday of the 21-year-old gold farmer Min Qinghai. Min spends most of his time within the confines of a former manufacturing space 200 miles south of Nanjing in the midsize city of Jinhua. He works two floors below the plywood bunks of the workers’ dorm where he sleeps. In two years of 84-hour farming weeks, he has rarely stepped outside for longer than it takes to eat a meal. But he has died more times than he can count. And last September on a warm afternoon, halfway between his lunch and dinner breaks, it was happening again.</p> <p>The World of Warcraft monsters he faces down — ferocious, gray-furred warriors of the Timbermaw clan of bearmen — are no match for his high-level characters, but they do fight back and sometimes they get the better of him. And so it appeared they had just done. Distracted from his post for a moment, Min returned to find his hunter-class character at the brink of death, the scene before him a flurry of computer-animated weapon blows. It wasn’t until the fight had run its course and the hunter lay dead that Min could make out exactly what had happened. The game’s chat window displayed a textual record of the blows landed and the cost to Min in damage points. The record was clear: the monsters hadn’t acted alone. In the middle of the fight another player happened by, sneaked up on Min and brought him down.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>Min leaned back and stretched, then set about the tedious business of resurrecting his character, a drawn-out sequence of operations that can put a player out of action for as long as 10 minutes. In farms with daily production quotas, too much time spent dead instead of farming gold can put the worker’s job at risk. And in shops where daily wages are tied to daily harvests, every minute lost to death is money taken from the farmer’s pocket. But there are times when death is more than just an economic setback for a gold farmer, and this was one of them. As Min returned to his corpse — checking to make sure his attacker wasn’t waiting around to fall on him again the moment he resurrected — what hurt more than the death itself was how it happened, or more precisely, what made it happen: another player.</p> <p>It isn’t that WoW players don’t frequently kill other players for fun and kill points. They do. But there is usually more to it when the kill in question is a gold farmer. In part because gold farmers’ hunting patterns are so repetitive, they are easy to spot, making them ready targets for pent-up anti-R.M.T. hostility, expressed in everything from private sarcastic messages to gratuitous ambushes that can stop a farmer’s harvesting in its tracks. In homemade World of Warcraft video clips that circulate on YouTube or GameTrailers, with titles like “Chinese Gold Farmers Must Die” and “Chinese Farmer Extermination,” players document their farmer-killing expeditions through that same Timbermaw-ridden patch of WoW in which Min does his farming — a place so popular with farmers that Western players sometimes call it China Town. Nick Yee, an M.M.O. scholar based at Stanford, has noted the unsettling parallels (the recurrence of words like “vermin,” “rats” and “extermination”) between contemporary anti-gold-farmer rhetoric and 19th-century U.S. literature on immigrant Chinese laundry workers.</p> <p>Min’s English is not good enough to grasp in all its richness the hatred aimed his way. But he gets the idea. He feels a little embarrassed around regular players and sometimes says he thinks about how he might explain himself to those who believe he has no place among them, if only he could speak their language. “I have this idea in mind that regular players should understand that people do different things in the game,” he said. “They are playing. And we are making a living.”</p> <p>It is a distinction that game companies understand all too well. Like the majority of M.M.O. companies, Blizzard has chosen to align itself with the customers who abhor R.M.T. rather than the ones who use it. A year ago, Blizzard announced it had identified and banned more than 50,000 World of Warcraft accounts belonging to farmers. It was the opening salvo in a continuing eradication campaign that has effectively swept millions in farmed gold from the market, sending the exchange rate rocketing from a low of 6 cents per gold coin last spring to a high of 35 cents in January.</p> <p>Of course, nobody expected the farmers’ equally rule-breaking customers to be punished too. Among players, the R.M.T. debate may revolve around questions of fairness, but among game companies, the only question seems to be what is good for business. Cracking down on R.M.T. buyers makes poorer marketing sense than cracking down on sellers, in much the same way that cracking down on illegal drug suppliers is a better political move than cracking down on users. (Only a few companies have found a way to make R.M.T. part of their business model. <a title=\"More information about Sony Corporation\" href=\"http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/sony_corporation/index.html?inline=nyt-org\">Sony</a> Online Entertainment, which publishes EverQuest, has started earning respectable revenues from an experimental in-game auction system that charges players a small transaction fee for real-money trades.) As Mark Jacobs, vice president at Electronic Arts and creator of the classic M.M.O. Dark Age of Camelot, put it: “Are you going to get more sympathy from busting 50,000 Chinese farmers or from busting 10,000 Americans that are buying? It’s not a racial thing at all. If you bust the buyers, you’re busting the guys who are paying to play your game, who you want to keep as customers and who will then go on the forums and say really nasty things about your company and your game.”</p> <p>The cost to farmers of being expelled from WoW can be steep. At the very least, it means a temporary drop in productivity, because the character has to be to built up all over again, as well as the loss of all the loot accumulated in that character’s account. Given the stakes, some Chinese gold farms have found that the best way to get around their farmers’ pursuers is to make it hard to distinguish professionals from players in the first place. One business that specializes in doing just that is located a few blocks from the gold farm where Min Qinghai works. The shop floor is about the same size, with about the same number of computers in the same neat rows, but you can tell just walking through the place that it is a more serious operation. For one thing, there are a lot more workers: typically 25 on the day shift, 25 on the night shift, each crew punching in and out at a time clock just inside the entrance. Nobody works without a shirt here; quite a few, in fact, wear a standard-issue white polo shirt with the company initials on it. There is also a crimson version of the shirt, reserved for management and worn at all times by the shift supervisor, who, when he isn’t prowling the floor, sits at his desk before a broad white wall emblazoned with foot-high Chinese characters in red that spell: unity, collaboration, integrity, efficiency.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>The name of the business is Donghua Networks, and its specialty is what gamers call “power leveling.” Like regular gold farming, power leveling offers customers an end run around the World of Warcraft grind — except that instead of providing money and other items, the power leveler simply does the work for you. Hand over your account name, password and about $300, and get on with your real life for a while: in a marathon of round-the-clock monster-bashing, a team of power levelers will raise your character from the lowest level to the highest, accomplishing in four weeks or less what at a normal rate of play would take at least four months.</p> <p>For Donghua’s owners — 26-year-old Fei Jianfeng and 36-year-old Bao Donghua, both former gold-farm wage workers themselves — moving the business out of farming and into leveling was an easy call. Among other advantages, they say, power leveling means fewer banned accounts. Because the only game accounts used are the customers’ own, there is much less risk of losing access to the virtual work site. For their workers, however, the advantages are mixed. Though there is a greater variety of quests and quarries to pursue, the pay isn’t any better, and some workers chafe at the constraints of playing a stranger’s character, preferring the relative autonomy of farming gold.</p> <p>As one Donghua power leveler said of his old gold-farming job, “I had more room to play for myself.”</p> <p>It may seem strange that a wage-working loot farmer would still care about the freedom to play. But it is not half as strange as the scene that unfolded one evening at 9 o’clock in the Internet cafe on the ground floor of the building where Donghua has its offices. Scattered around the stifling, dim wang ba, 10 power levelers just off the day shift were merrily gaming away. Not all of them were playing World of Warcraft. A big, silent lug named Mao sat mesmerized by a very pink-and-purple Japanese schoolgirls’ game, in which doe-eyed characters square off in dancing contests with other online players. But the rest had chosen, to a man, to log into their personal World of Warcraft accounts and spend these precious free hours right back where they had spent every other hour of the day: in Azeroth.</p> <p>Such scenes are not at all unusual. At the end of almost any working day or night in a Chinese gaming workshop, workers can be found playing the same game they have been playing for the last 12 hours, and to some extent gold-farm operators depend on it. The game is too complex for the bosses to learn it all themselves; they need their workers to be players — to find out all the tricks and shortcuts, to train themselves and to train one another. “When I was a worker,” Fan Yangwen, who is now 21 and in Donghua’s main office providing technical support, told me, “I loved to play because when I was playing, I was learning.” But learning to play or learning to work? I asked. Fan shrugged. “Both.”</p> <p>Fan himself is a striking case of how off-hours play can serve as a kind of unpaid R. and D. lab for the farming industry. He is that rarest of World of Warcraft obsessives, a Chinese gold farmer who has actually bought farmed gold. (“Sure, I bought 10,000 once,” he said, “I don’t have time to farm all that!”) When Fan shows up at the wang ba after work, it is a minor event; the other Donghua workers pull their chairs over to watch him play — his top-level warlock character is an unbelievable powerhouse that no amount of money, real or virtual, can buy.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>What makes Fan’s dominance so impressive to his peers is that he achieved it in regions of the game that are all but inaccessible to the working gold farmer or power leveler. Therein lies what is known as the end game, the phase of epic challenges that begins only when the player has accumulated the maximum experience points and can level up no more. The rewards for meeting these challenges are phenomenal: rare weapons and armor pieces loaded with massive power boosts and showy graphics. And the greatest cannot be traded or given away; they can only be acquired by venturing into the game’s most difficult dungeons. That requires becoming part of a tightly coordinated “raid” group of as many as 40 other players (any fewer than that, and the entire group will almost certainly “wipe” — or die en masse without killing any monsters of note). Each player has a shot at the best items when they drop, and players must negotiate among themselves for the top prizes. These end-game hurdles have some subtle but significant effects. For one thing, they force the growth of “guilds” — teams of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of players who join together to hit high-end dungeons on a regular basis. For another, they shut farmers out from an entire class of virtual goods — the most marketable in the game if only they could be traded.</p> <p>For a long time the Donghua bosses, Fei and Bao (known even to employees as Little Bai and Brother Bao), could do no more than nurse their envy of the raiding guilds’ access to the end game. But Fan’s prowess pointed to another way of looking at it: raiding guilds weren’t the competition, they realized; they were the solution. Donghua would put together a team of 40 employees. They would train the team in all the hardest dungeons. And then, for a few hundred dollars, the team would escort any customer into the dungeon of his or her choice. And when the customer’s longed-for item dropped, the team would stand aside and let the customer take it, no questions asked. Thus would the supposedly unmarketable end-game treasures find their way into the R.M.T. market. And thus would gold farming, of a sort, find its way at last into the end game.</p> <p>When Brother Bao and Little Bai put their team together in April of last year, Min Qinghai, a veteran Donghua employee at the time, was among the first to make the roster.</p> <p>“Before I joined the raiding team, I’d never worked together with so many people,” Min told me. They were 40 young men in three adjoining office spaces, and it was chaotic at first. Two or three supervisors moved among them, calling out orders like generals. A dungeon raid is always a puzzle: figuring out which tactics to use to kill each boss is the main challenge; doing so while coordinating 40 players can be dizzying. But members of the team raided just as diligently as they had power-leveled: 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, making their way through the complexities of a different dungeon every day.</p> <p>There was a lot of shouting involved, at least in the beginning. Besides the orders called out by the supervisors, there were loud attempts at coordination among the team members themselves. “But then we developed a sense of cooperation, and the shouting grew rarer,” Min said. “By the end, nothing needed to be said.” They moved through the dungeons in silent harmony, 40 intricately interdependent players, each the master of his part. For every fight in every dungeon, the hunters knew without asking exactly when to shoot and at what range; the priests had their healing spells down to a rhythm; wizards knew just how much damage to put in their combat spells.</p> <p>And Min’s role? The translator struggled for a moment to find the word in English, and when I hazarded a guess, Min turned directly to me and repeated it, the only English I ever heard him speak. “Tank,” he said, breaking into a rare, slow smile, and why wouldn’t he? The tank — the heavily armored warrior character who holds the attention of the most powerful enemy in the fight, taking all its blows — is the linchpin of any raid. If the tank dies, everybody else will soon die too, as a rule.</p> <p><a name=\"secondParagraph\"></a></p> <p>“Working together, playing together, it felt nice,” Min said. “Very . . . shuang.” The word means “open, clear, exhilarating.” “You would go in, knowing that you were fighting the bosses that all the guilds in the world dream of fighting; there was a sense of achievement.”</p> <p>The end arrived without warning. One day word came down from the bosses that the 40-man raids were suspended indefinitely for lack of customers. In the meantime, team members would go back to gold farming, gathering loot in five-man dungeons that once might have thrilled Min but now presented no challenge whatsoever. “We no longer went to fight the big boss monsters,” Min said. “We were ordered to stay in one place doing the same thing again and again. Everyday I was looking at the same thing. I could not stand it.”</p> <p>Min quit and took the farming job he works at still. The new job, with its rote Timbermaw whacking, could hardly be less exciting. But it is more relaxed than Donghua was, less wearying — “Working 12 hours there was like working 24 here” — and he couldn’t have stayed on in any case, surrounded by reminders of the broken promise of tanking for what might have been the greatest guild on Earth.</p> <p>In the meantime, Min is doing his best to forget that his work has anything at all to do with play or that he ever let himself believe otherwise. But even with a job as monotonous as this one, it isn’t easy. On his usual hunt one day, he accidentally backed into combat with a higher-level monster. Losing life fast, he grabbed his mouse and started to flee. He hunched over his keyboard, leaning into his flight, flushed now by the chase. His boss, 26-year-old Liu Haibin, an inveterate gamer himself, wandered by and began to cheer him on: “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . go!”</p> <p>Finally the monster quit the chase, and Min got away with no consequence more untoward than having to explain himself. “It’s instinctual — you can’t help it,” he said. “You want to play.”</p> \";}i:6;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:26:\"Time for a New Convention?\";s:4:\"link\";s:64:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/28/time-for-a-new-convention/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:73:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/28/time-for-a-new-convention/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 28 Mar 2011 11:45:15 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:17:\"Brainwaving Admin\";}s:8:\"category\";s:11:\"Drug Policy\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1521\";s:11:\"description\";s:348:\"War on drugs has failed, say former heads of MI5, CPS and BBC The &#8220;war on drugs&#8221; has failed and should be abandoned in favour of evidence-based policies that treat addiction as a health problem, according to prominent public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service. From the Daily Telegraph Leading [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:5013:\"<h1>War on drugs has failed, say former heads of MI5, CPS and BBC</h1> <h2>The &#8220;war on drugs&#8221; has failed and should be abandoned in favour of evidence-based policies that treat addiction as a health problem, according to prominent public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service.</h2> <p>From the <a href=\"http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8393838/War-on-drugs-has-failed-say-former-heads-of-MI5-CPS-and-BBC.html\" target=\"_blank\">Daily Telegraph</a></p> <div> <p>Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become more accessible.</p> </div> <div> <p>Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.</p> </div> <div> <p>The increasing use of the most harmful drugs such as heroin has also led to “enormous health problems”, according to the group.</p> </div> <div> <p>The MPs and members of the House of Lords, who have formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.</p> </div> <div> <p>It could lead to calls for the British government to decriminalise drugs, or at least for the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to jail people for possession of small amounts of banned substances.</p> </div> <div> <p>Their intervention could receive a sympathetic audience in Whitehall, where ministers and civil servants are trying to cut the numbers and cost of the prison population. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has already announced plans to help offenders kick drug habits rather than keeping them behind bars.</p> <p>The former Labour government changed its mind repeatedly on the risks posed by cannabis use and was criticised for sacking its chief drug adviser, Prof David Nutt, when he claimed that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol.</p> <p>The chairman of the new group, Baroness Meacher – who is also chairman of an NHS trust – told <em>The Daily Telegraph</em>: “Criminalising drug users has been an expensive catastrophe for individuals and communities.</p> <p>“In the UK the time has come for a review of our 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. I call on our Government to heed the advice of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that drug addiction should be recognised as a health problem and not punished.</p> <p>“We have the example of other countries to follow. The best is Portugal which has decriminalised drug use for 10 years. Portugal still has one of the lowest drug addiction rates in Europe, the trend of Young people&#8217;s drug addiction is falling in Portugal against an upward trend in the surrounding countries, and the Portuguese prison population has fallen over time.”</p> <p>Lord Lawson, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1989, said: “I have no doubt that the present policy is a disaster.</p> <p>“This is an important issue, which I have thought about for many years. But I still don&#8217;t know what the right answer is – I have joined the APPG in the hope that it may help us to find the right answer.”</p> <p>Other high-profile figures in the group include Baroness Manningham-Buller, who served as Director General of MI5, the security service, between 2002 and 2007; Lord Birt, the former Director-General of the BBC who went on to become a “blue-sky thinker” for Tony Blair; Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions; and Lord Walton of Detchant, a former president of the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council.</p> <p>Current MPs on the group include Peter Bottomley, who served as a junior minister under Margaret Thatcher; Mike Weatherley, the newly elected Tory MP for Hove and Portslade; and Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.</p> <p>The group’s formation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which paved the way for a war on drugs by describing addiction as a “serious evil”, attempting to limit production for medicinal and scientific uses only, and coordinating international action against traffickers.</p> <p>The peers and MPs say that despite governments “pouring vast resources” into the attempt to control drug markets, availability and use has increased, with up to 250 million people worldwide using narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin in 2008.</p> <p>They believe the trade in illegal drugs makes more than £200 billion a year for criminals and terrorists, as well as destabilising entire nations such as Afghanistan and Mexico.</p> <p>As a result, the all-party group is working with the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust, to review current policies and scientific evidence in order to draw up proposed new ways to deal with the problem.</p> </div> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:69:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/03/28/time-for-a-new-convention/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"0\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:348:\"War on drugs has failed, say former heads of MI5, CPS and BBC The &#8220;war on drugs&#8221; has failed and should be abandoned in favour of evidence-based policies that treat addiction as a health problem, according to prominent public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service. From the Daily Telegraph Leading [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:5013:\"<h1>War on drugs has failed, say former heads of MI5, CPS and BBC</h1> <h2>The &#8220;war on drugs&#8221; has failed and should be abandoned in favour of evidence-based policies that treat addiction as a health problem, according to prominent public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service.</h2> <p>From the <a href=\"http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8393838/War-on-drugs-has-failed-say-former-heads-of-MI5-CPS-and-BBC.html\" target=\"_blank\">Daily Telegraph</a></p> <div> <p>Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become more accessible.</p> </div> <div> <p>Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.</p> </div> <div> <p>The increasing use of the most harmful drugs such as heroin has also led to “enormous health problems”, according to the group.</p> </div> <div> <p>The MPs and members of the House of Lords, who have formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.</p> </div> <div> <p>It could lead to calls for the British government to decriminalise drugs, or at least for the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to jail people for possession of small amounts of banned substances.</p> </div> <div> <p>Their intervention could receive a sympathetic audience in Whitehall, where ministers and civil servants are trying to cut the numbers and cost of the prison population. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has already announced plans to help offenders kick drug habits rather than keeping them behind bars.</p> <p>The former Labour government changed its mind repeatedly on the risks posed by cannabis use and was criticised for sacking its chief drug adviser, Prof David Nutt, when he claimed that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol.</p> <p>The chairman of the new group, Baroness Meacher – who is also chairman of an NHS trust – told <em>The Daily Telegraph</em>: “Criminalising drug users has been an expensive catastrophe for individuals and communities.</p> <p>“In the UK the time has come for a review of our 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. I call on our Government to heed the advice of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that drug addiction should be recognised as a health problem and not punished.</p> <p>“We have the example of other countries to follow. The best is Portugal which has decriminalised drug use for 10 years. Portugal still has one of the lowest drug addiction rates in Europe, the trend of Young people&#8217;s drug addiction is falling in Portugal against an upward trend in the surrounding countries, and the Portuguese prison population has fallen over time.”</p> <p>Lord Lawson, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1989, said: “I have no doubt that the present policy is a disaster.</p> <p>“This is an important issue, which I have thought about for many years. But I still don&#8217;t know what the right answer is – I have joined the APPG in the hope that it may help us to find the right answer.”</p> <p>Other high-profile figures in the group include Baroness Manningham-Buller, who served as Director General of MI5, the security service, between 2002 and 2007; Lord Birt, the former Director-General of the BBC who went on to become a “blue-sky thinker” for Tony Blair; Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions; and Lord Walton of Detchant, a former president of the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council.</p> <p>Current MPs on the group include Peter Bottomley, who served as a junior minister under Margaret Thatcher; Mike Weatherley, the newly elected Tory MP for Hove and Portslade; and Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.</p> <p>The group’s formation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which paved the way for a war on drugs by describing addiction as a “serious evil”, attempting to limit production for medicinal and scientific uses only, and coordinating international action against traffickers.</p> <p>The peers and MPs say that despite governments “pouring vast resources” into the attempt to control drug markets, availability and use has increased, with up to 250 million people worldwide using narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin in 2008.</p> <p>They believe the trade in illegal drugs makes more than £200 billion a year for criminals and terrorists, as well as destabilising entire nations such as Afghanistan and Mexico.</p> <p>As a result, the all-party group is working with the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust, to review current policies and scientific evidence in order to draw up proposed new ways to deal with the problem.</p> </div> \";}i:7;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:71:\"Hackerville: How a Remote Town in Romania Has Become Cybercrime Central\";s:4:\"link\";s:109:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/02/14/hackerville-how-a-remote-town-in-romania-has-become-cybercrime-central/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:118:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/02/14/hackerville-how-a-remote-town-in-romania-has-become-cybercrime-central/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 14 Feb 2011 09:53:06 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:17:\"Brainwaving Admin\";}s:8:\"category\";s:119:\"Social InsightComputersCrimefutorologyGoogleinternetpoliticsprohibitionSciencesocial commentarytechnologyWired Magazine\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1516\";s:11:\"description\";s:363:\"Three hours outside Bucharest, Romanian National Road 7 begins a gentle ascent into the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps. Meadowlands give way to crumbling houses with chickens in the front yard, laundry flapping on clotheslines. But you know you’ve arrived in the town of Râmnicu Vâlcea when you see the Mercedes-Benz dealership. From Wired Magazine [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:20480:\"<p><strong>Three hours outside Bucharest</strong>, Romanian National Road 7 begins a gentle ascent into the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps. Meadowlands give way to crumbling houses with chickens in the front yard, laundry flapping on clotheslines. But you know you’ve arrived in the town of <a href=\"http://maps.google.com/maps?q=R%C3%A2mnicu+V%C3%A2lcea,+V%C3%A2lcea,+Romania&amp;oe=UTF-8&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=FVI-sAIdBPFzAQ&amp;split=0&amp;sll=37.0625,-95.677068&amp;sspn=23.875,57.630033&amp;hq=&amp;hnear=R%C3%A2mnicu+V%C3%A2lcea,+V%C3%A2lcea,+Romania&amp;ll=45.104546,24.367676&amp;spn=10.932144,17.687988&amp;z=6\">Râmnicu Vâlcea</a> when you see the Mercedes-Benz dealership.</p> <p>From <a href=\"http://www.wired.com/\" target=\"_blank\">Wired Magazine</a></p> <p>It’s in the middle of a grassy field, shiny sedans behind gleaming glass walls. Right next door is another luxury car dealership selling a variety of other high-end European rides. It’s as if the sheer magic of wealth has shimmered the glass-and-steel buildings into being.</p> <p>In fact, expensive cars choke the streets of Râmnicu Vâlcea’s bustling city center—top-of-the-line BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes driven by twenty- and thirtysomething men sporting gold chains and fidgeting at red lights. I ask my cab driver if these men all have high-paying jobs, and he laughs. Then he holds up his hands, palms down, and wiggles his fingers as if typing on a keyboard. “They steal money on the Internet,” he says.</p> <p>Among law enforcement officials around the world, the city of 120,000 has a nickname: Hackerville. It’s something of a misnomer; the town is indeed full of online crooks, but only a small percentage of them are actual hackers. Most specialize in ecommerce scams and malware attacks on businesses. According to authorities, these schemes have brought tens of millions of dollars into the area over the past decade, fueling the development of new apartment buildings, nightclubs, and shopping centers. Râmnicu Vâlcea is a town whose business is cybercrime, and business is booming.</p> <p><strong>At a restaurant</strong> in a neighborhood of apartment buildings and gated bungalows, I meet Bogdan Stoica and Alexandru Frunza, two of just four local cops on the digital beat. Stoica, 32, is square-shouldered and stocky, with a mustache and prominent stubble. His expression rarely changes. Frunza, 29, is tall and clean shaven. He’s the funny one. “My English will improve after I have a few beers,” he says. We sit at a table on the edge of a big courtyard, piped-in Romanian pop music blaring.</p> <p>Stoica and Frunza grew up in Râmnicu Vâlcea. “The only cars on the streets were those made by Dacia,” Stoica says, referring to the venerable Romanian carmaker. Access to information was limited, too: Weekday television consisted of two hours of state-run programming, mostly devoted to covering the dictator, <a href=\"http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/c/nicolae_ceausescu/index.html\">Nicolae Ceauşescu</a>. “We had half an hour of cartoons on Sunday,” Stoica says.</p> <p>In 1989, a revolution that began with anti-government riots ended with the execution of Ceauşescu and his wife, and the country began the switch to a market economy. By 1998, when Stoica finished high school and went off to the police academy in Bucharest, another revolution was beginning: the Internet. Râmnicu Vâlcea was better off than many towns in this relatively poor country—it had a decades-old chemical plant and a modest tourism industry. But many young men and women struggled to find work.</p> <p>No one really knows how or why those kids started scamming people on the Internet. “If you find out, you let us know,” says Codruţ Olaru, head of Romania’s Directorate for Investigation on Organized Crime and Terrorism. Whatever the reason, online crime was widespread by 2002. Cybercafés offered cheap Internet access, and crooks in Râmnicu Vâlcea got busy posting fake ads on eBay and other auction sites to lure victims into remitting payments by wire transfer. Eventually, FBI agents in the US and Bucharest started to get interested.</p> <p>In the early days, the perpetrators weren’t exactly geniuses. One of the first cases out of the region involved a team based in the neighboring town of Piteşti. One crook would post ads for cell phones; the other picked up the wired money for orders that would never ship. The two men had made a few hundred dollars from victims in the US, and the guy receiving the cash hadn’t even bothered to use a fake ID. “I found him sitting in an Internet café, chatting online,” says Costel Ion, a Piteşti cop who had been working the cybercrime beat. “He just confessed.”</p> <p>But as in any business, the scammers innovated and adapted. One early advance was establishing fake escrow services: Victims would be asked to send payments to these supposedly trustworthy third parties, which had websites that made them look like legitimate companies. The scams got better over the years, too. To explain unbelievably low prices for used cars, for example, a crook would pose as a US soldier stationed abroad, with a vehicle in storage back home that he had to sell. (That tale also established a plausible US contact to receive the money, instead of someone in Romania.) In the early years, the thieves would simply ask for advance payment for the nonexistent vehicle. As word of the scam spread, the sellers began offering to send the cars for inspection—asking for no payment except “shipping.”</p> <p>The con artists got even sneakier. “They learned to create scenarios,” says Michael Eubanks, an <a href=\"http://romania.usembassy.gov/embassy/law_enforcement.html\">FBI agent in Bucharest</a>. “We’ve seen email between criminals with instructions on how to respond to different questions.” The scammers started hiring English speakers to craft emails to US targets. Specialists emerged to occupy niches in the industry, designing fake websites or coordinating low-level confederates.</p> <div><img class=\"alignleft\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-02/ff_hackerville_romania2b_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Nick Waplington\" width=\"315\" height=\"472\" />Internet scammers and their underlings have turned Râmnicu Vâlcea into a hub of international organized crime.<br /> Photo: Nick Waplington</p> </div> <p>By 2005, Romania had become widely known as a haven for online fraud, and buyers became wary of sending money there. The swindlers adapted again, arranging for payments to be wired to other European countries, where accomplices picked up the cash. A new entry level evolved, people who’d act as couriers and money launderers for a cut of the take. These money mules were called arrows, and their existence elevated Râmnicu Vâlcea to a hub of international organized crime.</p> <p>Many arrows were Romanians living in Western Europe and the US; some were youngsters from Râmnicu Vâlcea who had moved overseas expressly for the job. They’d go to wire transfer offices to collect remittances from victims, then turn around and wire that money—minus a commission—to Râmnicu Vâlcea or to other arrows in the network. The system served as a kind of firewall, making it much more difficult for law enforcement to track the masterminds.</p> <p>Back home, the local police were starting to realize they needed people on the cybercrime beat full-time. Frunza, who’d studied informatics in high school before attending the police academy, was working drug cases in Bucharest when he decided to come home. He ended up joining Stoica on the hunt for online con artists. The two learned that suspects expect leniency from the police because their crimes target only foreigners. “The guys will often say, ‘I am not stealing from our countrymen,’” Frunza says. “But a crime is a crime. You have to pay for it.”</p> <p>Nowadays, Stoica and Frunza occasionally find themselves investigating a childhood acquaintance or, conversely, running into known criminals in social situations. Frunza used to play on the same soccer team as a suspect who was under surveillance. Those connections have helped the two cops pose a formidable challenge to the industry.</p> <p>A little after 11 pm, Stoica hushes our conversation and tells me to turn around and check out a table across the courtyard, where a small group of flashily dressed young men has just arrived with two blond women who seem barely out of their teens. The men are all under investigation. “It’s a small city,” Stoica says.</p> <div><img class=\"alignleft\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-02/ff_hackerville_romania3_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Nick Waplington\" width=\"315\" height=\"447\" />The sudden appearance of luxury car dealerships among the grass fields marks the entrance into Râmnicu Vâlcea.<br /> Photo: Nick Waplington</p> </div> <p><strong>Defining the town</strong> center of Râmnicu Vâlcea is a towering shopping mall that looks like a giant glass igloo. The streets are lined with gleaming storefronts—leather accessories, Italian fashions—serving a demand fueled by illegal income. Near the mall is a nightclub, now closed by police because its backers were shady. New construction grinds ahead on nearly every block. But what really stands out in Râmnicu Vâlcea are the money transfer offices. At least two dozen Western Union locations lie within a four-block area downtown, the company’s black-and-yellow signs proliferating like the Starbucks mermaid circa 2003.</p> <p>Driving past a block of low-rise buildings with neatly trimmed hedges, Stoica notes a couple of apartments owned by people currently under investigation. “I don’t know if the people of Râmnicu Vâlcea are too smart or too stupid,” Stoica says grimly. “They talk a lot to each other. One guy learns the job from another. They ask their high school friends: ‘Hey, do you want to make some money? I want to use you as an arrow.’ Then the arrow learns to do the scams himself.”</p> <p>It’s not so different from the forces that turn a neighborhood into, say, New York’s fashion district or the aerospace hub in southern California. “To the extent that some expertise is required, friends and family members of the original entrepreneurs are more likely to have access to those resources than would-be criminals in an isolated location,” says Michael Macy, a <a href=\"http://sdl.soc.cornell.edu/index.html\">Cornell University sociologist</a> who studies social networks. “There may also be local political resources that provide a degree of protection.”</p> <p>Online thievery as a ticket to the good life spread from the early pioneers to scores of young men, infecting Râmnicu Vâlcea’s social fabric. The con artists were the ones with the nice cars and fancy clothes—the local kids made good. And just as in Silicon Valley, the clustering of operations in one place made it that much easier for more to get started. “There’s a high concentration of people offering the kinds of services you need to build a criminal scheme,” says Gary Dickson, an FBI agent who worked in Bucharest from 2005 to 2010. “If your specialty is auction frauds, you can find a money pick-up guy. If you’re a money pick-up guy, you can find a buyer for your services.”</p> <p><strong>Stoica and Frunza</strong> both complain that they’re fighting an unstoppable tide with limited resources. But they haven’t been entirely unsuccessful—in fact, the 2008 case that first revealed the anatomy of Râmnicu Vâlcea’s fraud networks stemmed from Stoica’s investigation of a young entrepreneur named Romeo Chita.</p> <p>Stoica says Chita started out as an arrow in the UK, and he was good. He moved up the ranks and eventually hired a few friends to establish his own ring. The Romanian authorities began investigating him in 2006, when he started buying new cars every few months and going to clubs every night with no apparent source of legitimate income. Chita launched an Internet service provider called NetOne, which authorities believe he was using as a shelter for fraudulent activity. When cops wanted to identify his customers, Stoica says, Chita usually told them that NetOne didn’t keep records.</p> <div><img class=\"alignright\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-02/ff_hackerville_romania4_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Nick Waplington\" width=\"315\" height=\"472\" />Western Union signs have multiplied downtown like the Starbucks mermaid circa 2003.<br /> Photo: Nick Waplington</p> </div> <p>In January 2008, an informant gave Stoica the cell numbers of two men working for Chita. The police tapped the phones, and the next day one of the men sent Chita a text message with money transfer control numbers—unique numeric sequences required to pick up cash. Stoica and his team followed up with surveillance of Chita and his associates, which established what Stoica calls “the money circuit,” the route through which the funds flowed from victims in the US to Chita and others. Prosecutors now allege that the operation turned into something a little more sophisticated than the usual Râmnicu Vâlcea scam. For example, the case against them details a con known as spear phishing—sending email to US companies that appeared to be from the IRS, the Department of Justice, or some other agency. Through Trojan horses attached to these emails, Chita’s group could obtain the companies’ bank account numbers and passwords. Allegedly, they even hired people in Las Vegas—Stoica says some were homeless—to open fake corporate bank accounts and receive the money.</p> <p>The same month that Stoica began pursuing Chita, a police officer stopped a car for speeding in the Westlake suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. About to write a ticket, the cop noticed some drug paraphernalia in the car and arrested the two men inside. A further search turned up eight cell phones, two computers, fake IDs, two dozen money transfer receipts, and $63,000 in cash. The pair turned out to be Romanian and eventually confessed to being arrows for an organization authorities traced back to Chita. They had spent most of January driving around the Midwest, picking up money from various Western Union and MoneyGram locations. Their confessions led to more wiretaps and surveillance in the US and Romania over the following months, uncovering a network of at least two dozen accomplices.</p> <p>That summer, Romanian authorities and FBI agents conducted <a href=\"http://www.mediafax.ro/english/romanian-authorities-arrest-24-suspects-in-internet-crime-frauds-2782723\">a series of raids</a> on both sides of the Atlantic. Chita spent 14 months in custody before being granted a provisional release pending the completion of his trial, still pending. On an org chart filed in Stoica’s office, Chita’s photo remains at the top.</p> <p><strong>Class Café</strong> is an inviting coffee shop with a terrace that overlooks a quiet street. It’s nearly empty when I walk in—just the owner behind the counter and a young couple at a corner table.</p> <p>Stoica discouraged me from attempting this meeting, but I wanted to know what an alleged kingpin looks like. I ask the owner if he knows where Chita is, and he offers to call him. After a brief phone conversation, he hangs up and tells me that Chita is in Bucharest. I remind him that Chita isn’t allowed to leave Râmnicu Vâlcea under the terms of his release, and the owner smiles. He spends a few more minutes on the phone, then hangs up again and asks me to sit. Chita is on his way.</p> <p>I take a table on the terrace. During our tour of town, Stoica had pointed out Chita’s silver Mercedes on the road, so I ignore the green Jaguar that drives up until a man in Bermuda shorts, canvas shoes, and a white T-shirt climbs out, enters the café, and approaches my table. He introduces himself as Chita’s brother, Marian. He licks his lips nervously and fidgets with an iPhone. “Chita’s coming,” he says after lighting a cigarette and making some phone calls. “But he’s a little drunk.”</p> <p>A few minutes later, Chita walks around the corner and ambles into the café. Boyish, dressed in shorts, a light-blue polo shirt, and flip-flops, he looks more like a college student than a criminal mastermind. Despite the reputation of Râmnicu Vâlcea’s underworld as relatively free of violence, he has brought along some muscle—a young man in dark glasses with a big tattoo on his arm. The bodyguard slams a beer bottle down on the table and flexes his hand, as if getting ready for a boxing match.</p> <p>Chita shakes my hand dourly and sits down next to me, looking away. Two other men join us. The young couple from the corner comes over to greet Chita with fawning smiles and handshakes. They clearly recognize him, too. The café owner gets up and leaves. As he walks away, he looks at me gravely and says, “Good luck.”</p> <div><img class=\"alignleft\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-02/ff_hackerville_romania5_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Nick Waplington\" width=\"315\" height=\"472\" />Râmnicu Vâlcea has become the Silicon Valley of online thievery— a place where the clustering of operations makes boot-strapping a criminal start-up easier.<br /> Photo: Nick Waplington</p> </div> <p>The tattooed man leans toward me ominously. “Were you sent by Barack Obama?” he asks. I say that I wasn’t, and everyone but me lights cigarettes. Marian, getting increasingly jumpy, demands to know my true agenda. Finally, I spell my name and tell him to search for my stories on his iPhone. He Googles me and shows the screen to his brother. Everybody relaxes a bit, and I silently give thanks for wireless broadband.</p> <p>Marian asks the young couple to translate for Chita, and they agree to stay. Chita has them tell me to stand, then he pats me down, asking if I’m wearing a wire.</p> <p>“What do you say to the charges against you?” I ask.</p> <p>“They are fake,” Chita says, in English.</p> <p>Marian adds, “It’s all bullshit.” For clarification.</p> <p>Chita continues with his defense in Romanian, and the couple translates enthusiastically. “He doesn’t even know how to speak English, so it is impossible for him to post ads or exchange email with buyers,” the young woman says. “He doesn’t even have an email address,” she says. “How can he do fraud on the Internet?”</p> <p>I press Chita about the wiretapped conversations, but his tattooed bodyguard interrupts loudly. “You go back to your hotel room, we send you some nice pussy,” he says, raising his hand for a high five that I feel obligated to meet. The two men beside him laugh, and Chita takes a final drag from his cigarette before rising from his chair. He’s in no mood to discuss the evidence. “This interview is over,” Marian says.</p> <p>They saunter out of the café and onto the sidewalk, looking surprisingly banal for guys accused of organized cybercrime, enjoying the good life with little effort or risk. Officials have <a href=\"http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/04/romania-cyber-thieves/\">dismantled a few fraud rings</a> in recent years—there were just 188 arrests in all of Romania in 2010—but scores remain in business.</p> <p>I am left with the friendly couple that helped with the translating. The young man says he’s heard about Chita from his friends and has seen his name in the papers. He tells me he has just received a diploma in engineering from an institution in Bucharest and is now looking for a job here in Râmnicu Vâlcea, his hometown. “I haven’t found anything yet,” he says. Thinking about Marian’s Jag and Chita’s Mercedes, I wonder if he’ll consider a job as an arrow. It’s like Frunza told me at the restaurant: “You arrest two of them and 20 new ones take their place,” he said. “We are two police officers, and they are 2,000.”</p> <p><em>Yudhijit Bhattacharjee</em> (yudhijit@gmail.com) <em>is a staff writer at</em> Science. <em>He wrote about decoding a spy’s messages in issue 18.02.</em></p> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:114:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/02/14/hackerville-how-a-remote-town-in-romania-has-become-cybercrime-central/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"0\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:363:\"Three hours outside Bucharest, Romanian National Road 7 begins a gentle ascent into the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps. Meadowlands give way to crumbling houses with chickens in the front yard, laundry flapping on clotheslines. But you know you’ve arrived in the town of Râmnicu Vâlcea when you see the Mercedes-Benz dealership. From Wired Magazine [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:20480:\"<p><strong>Three hours outside Bucharest</strong>, Romanian National Road 7 begins a gentle ascent into the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps. Meadowlands give way to crumbling houses with chickens in the front yard, laundry flapping on clotheslines. But you know you’ve arrived in the town of <a href=\"http://maps.google.com/maps?q=R%C3%A2mnicu+V%C3%A2lcea,+V%C3%A2lcea,+Romania&amp;oe=UTF-8&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=FVI-sAIdBPFzAQ&amp;split=0&amp;sll=37.0625,-95.677068&amp;sspn=23.875,57.630033&amp;hq=&amp;hnear=R%C3%A2mnicu+V%C3%A2lcea,+V%C3%A2lcea,+Romania&amp;ll=45.104546,24.367676&amp;spn=10.932144,17.687988&amp;z=6\">Râmnicu Vâlcea</a> when you see the Mercedes-Benz dealership.</p> <p>From <a href=\"http://www.wired.com/\" target=\"_blank\">Wired Magazine</a></p> <p>It’s in the middle of a grassy field, shiny sedans behind gleaming glass walls. Right next door is another luxury car dealership selling a variety of other high-end European rides. It’s as if the sheer magic of wealth has shimmered the glass-and-steel buildings into being.</p> <p>In fact, expensive cars choke the streets of Râmnicu Vâlcea’s bustling city center—top-of-the-line BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes driven by twenty- and thirtysomething men sporting gold chains and fidgeting at red lights. I ask my cab driver if these men all have high-paying jobs, and he laughs. Then he holds up his hands, palms down, and wiggles his fingers as if typing on a keyboard. “They steal money on the Internet,” he says.</p> <p>Among law enforcement officials around the world, the city of 120,000 has a nickname: Hackerville. It’s something of a misnomer; the town is indeed full of online crooks, but only a small percentage of them are actual hackers. Most specialize in ecommerce scams and malware attacks on businesses. According to authorities, these schemes have brought tens of millions of dollars into the area over the past decade, fueling the development of new apartment buildings, nightclubs, and shopping centers. Râmnicu Vâlcea is a town whose business is cybercrime, and business is booming.</p> <p><strong>At a restaurant</strong> in a neighborhood of apartment buildings and gated bungalows, I meet Bogdan Stoica and Alexandru Frunza, two of just four local cops on the digital beat. Stoica, 32, is square-shouldered and stocky, with a mustache and prominent stubble. His expression rarely changes. Frunza, 29, is tall and clean shaven. He’s the funny one. “My English will improve after I have a few beers,” he says. We sit at a table on the edge of a big courtyard, piped-in Romanian pop music blaring.</p> <p>Stoica and Frunza grew up in Râmnicu Vâlcea. “The only cars on the streets were those made by Dacia,” Stoica says, referring to the venerable Romanian carmaker. Access to information was limited, too: Weekday television consisted of two hours of state-run programming, mostly devoted to covering the dictator, <a href=\"http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/c/nicolae_ceausescu/index.html\">Nicolae Ceauşescu</a>. “We had half an hour of cartoons on Sunday,” Stoica says.</p> <p>In 1989, a revolution that began with anti-government riots ended with the execution of Ceauşescu and his wife, and the country began the switch to a market economy. By 1998, when Stoica finished high school and went off to the police academy in Bucharest, another revolution was beginning: the Internet. Râmnicu Vâlcea was better off than many towns in this relatively poor country—it had a decades-old chemical plant and a modest tourism industry. But many young men and women struggled to find work.</p> <p>No one really knows how or why those kids started scamming people on the Internet. “If you find out, you let us know,” says Codruţ Olaru, head of Romania’s Directorate for Investigation on Organized Crime and Terrorism. Whatever the reason, online crime was widespread by 2002. Cybercafés offered cheap Internet access, and crooks in Râmnicu Vâlcea got busy posting fake ads on eBay and other auction sites to lure victims into remitting payments by wire transfer. Eventually, FBI agents in the US and Bucharest started to get interested.</p> <p>In the early days, the perpetrators weren’t exactly geniuses. One of the first cases out of the region involved a team based in the neighboring town of Piteşti. One crook would post ads for cell phones; the other picked up the wired money for orders that would never ship. The two men had made a few hundred dollars from victims in the US, and the guy receiving the cash hadn’t even bothered to use a fake ID. “I found him sitting in an Internet café, chatting online,” says Costel Ion, a Piteşti cop who had been working the cybercrime beat. “He just confessed.”</p> <p>But as in any business, the scammers innovated and adapted. One early advance was establishing fake escrow services: Victims would be asked to send payments to these supposedly trustworthy third parties, which had websites that made them look like legitimate companies. The scams got better over the years, too. To explain unbelievably low prices for used cars, for example, a crook would pose as a US soldier stationed abroad, with a vehicle in storage back home that he had to sell. (That tale also established a plausible US contact to receive the money, instead of someone in Romania.) In the early years, the thieves would simply ask for advance payment for the nonexistent vehicle. As word of the scam spread, the sellers began offering to send the cars for inspection—asking for no payment except “shipping.”</p> <p>The con artists got even sneakier. “They learned to create scenarios,” says Michael Eubanks, an <a href=\"http://romania.usembassy.gov/embassy/law_enforcement.html\">FBI agent in Bucharest</a>. “We’ve seen email between criminals with instructions on how to respond to different questions.” The scammers started hiring English speakers to craft emails to US targets. Specialists emerged to occupy niches in the industry, designing fake websites or coordinating low-level confederates.</p> <div><img class=\"alignleft\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-02/ff_hackerville_romania2b_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Nick Waplington\" width=\"315\" height=\"472\" />Internet scammers and their underlings have turned Râmnicu Vâlcea into a hub of international organized crime.<br /> Photo: Nick Waplington</p> </div> <p>By 2005, Romania had become widely known as a haven for online fraud, and buyers became wary of sending money there. The swindlers adapted again, arranging for payments to be wired to other European countries, where accomplices picked up the cash. A new entry level evolved, people who’d act as couriers and money launderers for a cut of the take. These money mules were called arrows, and their existence elevated Râmnicu Vâlcea to a hub of international organized crime.</p> <p>Many arrows were Romanians living in Western Europe and the US; some were youngsters from Râmnicu Vâlcea who had moved overseas expressly for the job. They’d go to wire transfer offices to collect remittances from victims, then turn around and wire that money—minus a commission—to Râmnicu Vâlcea or to other arrows in the network. The system served as a kind of firewall, making it much more difficult for law enforcement to track the masterminds.</p> <p>Back home, the local police were starting to realize they needed people on the cybercrime beat full-time. Frunza, who’d studied informatics in high school before attending the police academy, was working drug cases in Bucharest when he decided to come home. He ended up joining Stoica on the hunt for online con artists. The two learned that suspects expect leniency from the police because their crimes target only foreigners. “The guys will often say, ‘I am not stealing from our countrymen,’” Frunza says. “But a crime is a crime. You have to pay for it.”</p> <p>Nowadays, Stoica and Frunza occasionally find themselves investigating a childhood acquaintance or, conversely, running into known criminals in social situations. Frunza used to play on the same soccer team as a suspect who was under surveillance. Those connections have helped the two cops pose a formidable challenge to the industry.</p> <p>A little after 11 pm, Stoica hushes our conversation and tells me to turn around and check out a table across the courtyard, where a small group of flashily dressed young men has just arrived with two blond women who seem barely out of their teens. The men are all under investigation. “It’s a small city,” Stoica says.</p> <div><img class=\"alignleft\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-02/ff_hackerville_romania3_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Nick Waplington\" width=\"315\" height=\"447\" />The sudden appearance of luxury car dealerships among the grass fields marks the entrance into Râmnicu Vâlcea.<br /> Photo: Nick Waplington</p> </div> <p><strong>Defining the town</strong> center of Râmnicu Vâlcea is a towering shopping mall that looks like a giant glass igloo. The streets are lined with gleaming storefronts—leather accessories, Italian fashions—serving a demand fueled by illegal income. Near the mall is a nightclub, now closed by police because its backers were shady. New construction grinds ahead on nearly every block. But what really stands out in Râmnicu Vâlcea are the money transfer offices. At least two dozen Western Union locations lie within a four-block area downtown, the company’s black-and-yellow signs proliferating like the Starbucks mermaid circa 2003.</p> <p>Driving past a block of low-rise buildings with neatly trimmed hedges, Stoica notes a couple of apartments owned by people currently under investigation. “I don’t know if the people of Râmnicu Vâlcea are too smart or too stupid,” Stoica says grimly. “They talk a lot to each other. One guy learns the job from another. They ask their high school friends: ‘Hey, do you want to make some money? I want to use you as an arrow.’ Then the arrow learns to do the scams himself.”</p> <p>It’s not so different from the forces that turn a neighborhood into, say, New York’s fashion district or the aerospace hub in southern California. “To the extent that some expertise is required, friends and family members of the original entrepreneurs are more likely to have access to those resources than would-be criminals in an isolated location,” says Michael Macy, a <a href=\"http://sdl.soc.cornell.edu/index.html\">Cornell University sociologist</a> who studies social networks. “There may also be local political resources that provide a degree of protection.”</p> <p>Online thievery as a ticket to the good life spread from the early pioneers to scores of young men, infecting Râmnicu Vâlcea’s social fabric. The con artists were the ones with the nice cars and fancy clothes—the local kids made good. And just as in Silicon Valley, the clustering of operations in one place made it that much easier for more to get started. “There’s a high concentration of people offering the kinds of services you need to build a criminal scheme,” says Gary Dickson, an FBI agent who worked in Bucharest from 2005 to 2010. “If your specialty is auction frauds, you can find a money pick-up guy. If you’re a money pick-up guy, you can find a buyer for your services.”</p> <p><strong>Stoica and Frunza</strong> both complain that they’re fighting an unstoppable tide with limited resources. But they haven’t been entirely unsuccessful—in fact, the 2008 case that first revealed the anatomy of Râmnicu Vâlcea’s fraud networks stemmed from Stoica’s investigation of a young entrepreneur named Romeo Chita.</p> <p>Stoica says Chita started out as an arrow in the UK, and he was good. He moved up the ranks and eventually hired a few friends to establish his own ring. The Romanian authorities began investigating him in 2006, when he started buying new cars every few months and going to clubs every night with no apparent source of legitimate income. Chita launched an Internet service provider called NetOne, which authorities believe he was using as a shelter for fraudulent activity. When cops wanted to identify his customers, Stoica says, Chita usually told them that NetOne didn’t keep records.</p> <div><img class=\"alignright\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-02/ff_hackerville_romania4_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Nick Waplington\" width=\"315\" height=\"472\" />Western Union signs have multiplied downtown like the Starbucks mermaid circa 2003.<br /> Photo: Nick Waplington</p> </div> <p>In January 2008, an informant gave Stoica the cell numbers of two men working for Chita. The police tapped the phones, and the next day one of the men sent Chita a text message with money transfer control numbers—unique numeric sequences required to pick up cash. Stoica and his team followed up with surveillance of Chita and his associates, which established what Stoica calls “the money circuit,” the route through which the funds flowed from victims in the US to Chita and others. Prosecutors now allege that the operation turned into something a little more sophisticated than the usual Râmnicu Vâlcea scam. For example, the case against them details a con known as spear phishing—sending email to US companies that appeared to be from the IRS, the Department of Justice, or some other agency. Through Trojan horses attached to these emails, Chita’s group could obtain the companies’ bank account numbers and passwords. Allegedly, they even hired people in Las Vegas—Stoica says some were homeless—to open fake corporate bank accounts and receive the money.</p> <p>The same month that Stoica began pursuing Chita, a police officer stopped a car for speeding in the Westlake suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. About to write a ticket, the cop noticed some drug paraphernalia in the car and arrested the two men inside. A further search turned up eight cell phones, two computers, fake IDs, two dozen money transfer receipts, and $63,000 in cash. The pair turned out to be Romanian and eventually confessed to being arrows for an organization authorities traced back to Chita. They had spent most of January driving around the Midwest, picking up money from various Western Union and MoneyGram locations. Their confessions led to more wiretaps and surveillance in the US and Romania over the following months, uncovering a network of at least two dozen accomplices.</p> <p>That summer, Romanian authorities and FBI agents conducted <a href=\"http://www.mediafax.ro/english/romanian-authorities-arrest-24-suspects-in-internet-crime-frauds-2782723\">a series of raids</a> on both sides of the Atlantic. Chita spent 14 months in custody before being granted a provisional release pending the completion of his trial, still pending. On an org chart filed in Stoica’s office, Chita’s photo remains at the top.</p> <p><strong>Class Café</strong> is an inviting coffee shop with a terrace that overlooks a quiet street. It’s nearly empty when I walk in—just the owner behind the counter and a young couple at a corner table.</p> <p>Stoica discouraged me from attempting this meeting, but I wanted to know what an alleged kingpin looks like. I ask the owner if he knows where Chita is, and he offers to call him. After a brief phone conversation, he hangs up and tells me that Chita is in Bucharest. I remind him that Chita isn’t allowed to leave Râmnicu Vâlcea under the terms of his release, and the owner smiles. He spends a few more minutes on the phone, then hangs up again and asks me to sit. Chita is on his way.</p> <p>I take a table on the terrace. During our tour of town, Stoica had pointed out Chita’s silver Mercedes on the road, so I ignore the green Jaguar that drives up until a man in Bermuda shorts, canvas shoes, and a white T-shirt climbs out, enters the café, and approaches my table. He introduces himself as Chita’s brother, Marian. He licks his lips nervously and fidgets with an iPhone. “Chita’s coming,” he says after lighting a cigarette and making some phone calls. “But he’s a little drunk.”</p> <p>A few minutes later, Chita walks around the corner and ambles into the café. Boyish, dressed in shorts, a light-blue polo shirt, and flip-flops, he looks more like a college student than a criminal mastermind. Despite the reputation of Râmnicu Vâlcea’s underworld as relatively free of violence, he has brought along some muscle—a young man in dark glasses with a big tattoo on his arm. The bodyguard slams a beer bottle down on the table and flexes his hand, as if getting ready for a boxing match.</p> <p>Chita shakes my hand dourly and sits down next to me, looking away. Two other men join us. The young couple from the corner comes over to greet Chita with fawning smiles and handshakes. They clearly recognize him, too. The café owner gets up and leaves. As he walks away, he looks at me gravely and says, “Good luck.”</p> <div><img class=\"alignleft\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-02/ff_hackerville_romania5_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Nick Waplington\" width=\"315\" height=\"472\" />Râmnicu Vâlcea has become the Silicon Valley of online thievery— a place where the clustering of operations makes boot-strapping a criminal start-up easier.<br /> Photo: Nick Waplington</p> </div> <p>The tattooed man leans toward me ominously. “Were you sent by Barack Obama?” he asks. I say that I wasn’t, and everyone but me lights cigarettes. Marian, getting increasingly jumpy, demands to know my true agenda. Finally, I spell my name and tell him to search for my stories on his iPhone. He Googles me and shows the screen to his brother. Everybody relaxes a bit, and I silently give thanks for wireless broadband.</p> <p>Marian asks the young couple to translate for Chita, and they agree to stay. Chita has them tell me to stand, then he pats me down, asking if I’m wearing a wire.</p> <p>“What do you say to the charges against you?” I ask.</p> <p>“They are fake,” Chita says, in English.</p> <p>Marian adds, “It’s all bullshit.” For clarification.</p> <p>Chita continues with his defense in Romanian, and the couple translates enthusiastically. “He doesn’t even know how to speak English, so it is impossible for him to post ads or exchange email with buyers,” the young woman says. “He doesn’t even have an email address,” she says. “How can he do fraud on the Internet?”</p> <p>I press Chita about the wiretapped conversations, but his tattooed bodyguard interrupts loudly. “You go back to your hotel room, we send you some nice pussy,” he says, raising his hand for a high five that I feel obligated to meet. The two men beside him laugh, and Chita takes a final drag from his cigarette before rising from his chair. He’s in no mood to discuss the evidence. “This interview is over,” Marian says.</p> <p>They saunter out of the café and onto the sidewalk, looking surprisingly banal for guys accused of organized cybercrime, enjoying the good life with little effort or risk. Officials have <a href=\"http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/04/romania-cyber-thieves/\">dismantled a few fraud rings</a> in recent years—there were just 188 arrests in all of Romania in 2010—but scores remain in business.</p> <p>I am left with the friendly couple that helped with the translating. The young man says he’s heard about Chita from his friends and has seen his name in the papers. He tells me he has just received a diploma in engineering from an institution in Bucharest and is now looking for a job here in Râmnicu Vâlcea, his hometown. “I haven’t found anything yet,” he says. Thinking about Marian’s Jag and Chita’s Mercedes, I wonder if he’ll consider a job as an arrow. It’s like Frunza told me at the restaurant: “You arrest two of them and 20 new ones take their place,” he said. “We are two police officers, and they are 2,000.”</p> <p><em>Yudhijit Bhattacharjee</em> (yudhijit@gmail.com) <em>is a staff writer at</em> Science. <em>He wrote about decoding a spy’s messages in issue 18.02.</em></p> \";}i:8;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:36:\"The neurons that shaped civilization\";s:4:\"link\";s:75:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/02/14/the-neurons-that-shaped-civilization/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:84:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/02/14/the-neurons-that-shaped-civilization/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 14 Feb 2011 09:44:56 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:17:\"Brainwaving Admin\";}s:8:\"category\";s:155:\"Science of the MindAltered StatesBeckley Foundationbrainwavecognitive enhancementConsciousnessemotionEvolutionnatureneural activitySciencesocial commentary\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1512\";s:11:\"description\";s:249:\"Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:2223:\"<p>Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.</p> <p><object classid=\"clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000\" width=\"446\" height=\"326\" codebase=\"http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0\"><param name=\"allowFullScreen\" value=\"true\" /><param name=\"allowScriptAccess\" value=\"always\" /><param name=\"wmode\" value=\"transparent\" /><param name=\"bgColor\" value=\"#ffffff\" /><param name=\"flashvars\" value=\"vu=http://video.ted.com/talks/dynamic/VilayanurRamachandran_2009I-medium.flv&amp;su=http://images.ted.com/images/ted/tedindex/embed-posters/VilayanurRamachandran-2009I.embed_thumbnail.jpg&amp;vw=432&amp;vh=240&amp;ap=0&amp;ti=724&amp;introDuration=15330&amp;adDuration=4000&amp;postAdDuration=830&amp;adKeys=talk=vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization;year=2009;theme=unconventional_explanations;theme=a_taste_of_tedindia;theme=evolution_s_genius;theme=how_we_learn;theme=how_the_mind_works;event=TEDIndia+2009;&amp;preAdTag=tconf.ted/embed;tile=1;sz=512x288;\" /><param name=\"src\" value=\"http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf\" /><param name=\"bgcolor\" value=\"#ffffff\" /><param name=\"allowfullscreen\" value=\"true\" /><embed type=\"application/x-shockwave-flash\" width=\"446\" height=\"326\" src=\"http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf\" flashvars=\"vu=http://video.ted.com/talks/dynamic/VilayanurRamachandran_2009I-medium.flv&amp;su=http://images.ted.com/images/ted/tedindex/embed-posters/VilayanurRamachandran-2009I.embed_thumbnail.jpg&amp;vw=432&amp;vh=240&amp;ap=0&amp;ti=724&amp;introDuration=15330&amp;adDuration=4000&amp;postAdDuration=830&amp;adKeys=talk=vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization;year=2009;theme=unconventional_explanations;theme=a_taste_of_tedindia;theme=evolution_s_genius;theme=how_we_learn;theme=how_the_mind_works;event=TEDIndia+2009;&amp;preAdTag=tconf.ted/embed;tile=1;sz=512x288;\" bgcolor=\"#ffffff\" wmode=\"transparent\" allowscriptaccess=\"always\" allowfullscreen=\"true\"></embed></object></p> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:80:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/02/14/the-neurons-that-shaped-civilization/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"3\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:249:\"Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:2223:\"<p>Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors, some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it.</p> <p><object classid=\"clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000\" width=\"446\" height=\"326\" codebase=\"http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0\"><param name=\"allowFullScreen\" value=\"true\" /><param name=\"allowScriptAccess\" value=\"always\" /><param name=\"wmode\" value=\"transparent\" /><param name=\"bgColor\" value=\"#ffffff\" /><param name=\"flashvars\" value=\"vu=http://video.ted.com/talks/dynamic/VilayanurRamachandran_2009I-medium.flv&amp;su=http://images.ted.com/images/ted/tedindex/embed-posters/VilayanurRamachandran-2009I.embed_thumbnail.jpg&amp;vw=432&amp;vh=240&amp;ap=0&amp;ti=724&amp;introDuration=15330&amp;adDuration=4000&amp;postAdDuration=830&amp;adKeys=talk=vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization;year=2009;theme=unconventional_explanations;theme=a_taste_of_tedindia;theme=evolution_s_genius;theme=how_we_learn;theme=how_the_mind_works;event=TEDIndia+2009;&amp;preAdTag=tconf.ted/embed;tile=1;sz=512x288;\" /><param name=\"src\" value=\"http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf\" /><param name=\"bgcolor\" value=\"#ffffff\" /><param name=\"allowfullscreen\" value=\"true\" /><embed type=\"application/x-shockwave-flash\" width=\"446\" height=\"326\" src=\"http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf\" flashvars=\"vu=http://video.ted.com/talks/dynamic/VilayanurRamachandran_2009I-medium.flv&amp;su=http://images.ted.com/images/ted/tedindex/embed-posters/VilayanurRamachandran-2009I.embed_thumbnail.jpg&amp;vw=432&amp;vh=240&amp;ap=0&amp;ti=724&amp;introDuration=15330&amp;adDuration=4000&amp;postAdDuration=830&amp;adKeys=talk=vs_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization;year=2009;theme=unconventional_explanations;theme=a_taste_of_tedindia;theme=evolution_s_genius;theme=how_we_learn;theme=how_the_mind_works;event=TEDIndia+2009;&amp;preAdTag=tconf.ted/embed;tile=1;sz=512x288;\" bgcolor=\"#ffffff\" wmode=\"transparent\" allowscriptaccess=\"always\" allowfullscreen=\"true\"></embed></object></p> \";}i:9;a:13:{s:5:\"title\";s:42:\"Inside the Battle to Define Mental Illness\";s:4:\"link\";s:81:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/01/31/inside-the-battle-to-define-mental-illness/\";s:8:\"comments\";s:90:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/01/31/inside-the-battle-to-define-mental-illness/#comments\";s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 31 Jan 2011 10:51:55 +0000\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:17:\"Brainwaving Admin\";}s:8:\"category\";s:178:\"Science of the MindAltered Statesbrain sciencebrainwavecognitive enhancementConsciousnessdrugsemotionfutureneural activityperceptionpoliticsSciencesocial commentaryWired Magazine\";s:4:\"guid\";s:34:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1505\";s:11:\"description\";s:336:\"Every so often Al Frances says something that seems to surprise even him. Just now, for instance, in the predawn darkness of his comfortable, rambling home in Carmel, California, he has broken off his exercise routine to declare that “there is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:33141:\"<p><strong>Every so often</strong> Al Frances says something that seems to surprise even him. Just now, for instance, in the predawn darkness of his comfortable, rambling home in Carmel, California, he has broken off his exercise routine to declare that “there is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define it.” Then an odd, reflective look crosses his face, as if he’s taking in the strangeness of this scene: <a href=\"http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/dsm-5/content/article/10168/1425378\">Allen Frances</a>, lead editor of the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s<em>Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders</em> (universally known as the <a href=\"http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html\"><em>DSM</em>-IV</a>), the guy who wrote the book on mental illness, confessing that “these concepts are virtually impossible to define precisely with bright lines at the boundaries.” For the first time in two days, the conversation comes to an awkward halt.</p> <p>From <a href=\"http://www.wired.com/\" target=\"_blank\">Wired Magazine</a> by Gary Greenburg</p> <p>But he recovers quickly, and back in the living room he finishes explaining why he came out of a seemingly contented retirement to launch a bitter and protracted battle with the people, some of them friends, who are creating the next edition of the <cite>DSM</cite>. And to criticize them not just once, and not in professional mumbo jumbo that would keep the fight inside the professional family, but repeatedly and in plain English, in newspapers and magazines and blogs. And to accuse his colleagues not just of bad science but of bad faith, hubris, and blindness, of making diseases out of everyday suffering and, as a result, padding the bottom lines of drug companies. These aren’t new accusations to level at psychiatry, but Frances used to be their target, not their source. He’s hurling grenades into the bunker where he spent his entire career.</p> <p>As a practicing psychotherapist myself, I can attest that this is a startling turn. But when Frances tries to explain it, he resists the kinds of reasons that mental health professionals usually give each other, the ones about character traits or personality quirks formed in childhood. He says he doesn’t want to give ammunition to his enemies, who have already shown their willingness to “shoot the messenger.” It’s not an unfounded concern. In its first official response to Frances, the <a href=\"http://www.psych.org/\">APA</a> diagnosed him with “pride of authorship” and pointed out that his royalty payments would end once the new edition was published—a fact that “should be considered when evaluating his critique and its timing.”</p> <p>Frances, who claims he doesn’t care about the royalties (which amount, he says, to just 10 grand a year), also claims not to mind if the APA cites his faults. He just wishes they’d go after the right ones—the serious errors in the <cite>DSM</cite>-IV. “We made mistakes that had terrible consequences,” he says. Diagnoses of <a href=\"https://health.google.com/health/ref/Autism\">autism</a>, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bipolar disorder skyrocketed, and Frances thinks his manual inadvertently facilitated these epidemics—and, in the bargain, fostered an increasing tendency to chalk up life’s difficulties to mental illness and then treat them with psychiatric drugs.</p> <p>The insurgency against the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 (the APA has decided to shed the Roman numerals) has now spread far beyond just Allen Frances. Psychiatrists at the top of their specialties, clinicians at prominent hospitals, and even some contributors to the new edition have expressed deep reservations about it. Dissidents complain that the revision process is in disarray and that the preliminary results, made public for the first time in February 2010, are filled with potential clinical and public relations nightmares. Although most of the dissenters are squeamish about making their concerns public—especially because of a surprisingly restrictive nondisclosure agreement that all insiders were required to sign—they are becoming increasingly restive, and some are beginning to agree with Frances that public pressure may be the only way to derail a train that he fears will “take psychiatry off a cliff.”</p> <p>At stake in the fight between Frances and the APA is more than professional turf, more than careers and reputations, more than the $6.5 million in sales that the <cite>DSM</cite> averages each year. The book is the basis of psychiatrists’ authority to pronounce upon our mental health, to command health care dollars from insurance companies for treatment and from government agencies for research. It is as important to psychiatrists as the Constitution is to the US government or the Bible is to Christians. Outside the profession, too, the <cite>DSM</cite> rules, serving as the authoritative text for psychologists, social workers, and other mental health workers; it is invoked by lawyers in arguing over the culpability of criminal defendants and by parents seeking school services for their children. If, as Frances warns, the new volume is an “absolute disaster,” it could cause a seismic shift in the way mental health care is practiced in this country. It could cause the APA to lose its franchise on our psychic suffering, the naming rights to our pain.</p> <div><img title=\"DSM-5 Sparks Psychiatric Revolt\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-01/ff_dsmv2_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Garry Mcleod; Origami: Robert Lang\" width=\"660\" height=\"527\" />Allen Frances is worried that the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 will &#8220;take psychiatry off a cliff.&#8221;<br /> Photo: Susanna Howe; photographed at Café Sabarsky, Neue Galerie, NYC</p> </div> <p><strong>This is hardly</strong> the first time that defining mental illness has led to rancor within the profession. It happened in 1993, when feminists denounced Frances for considering the inclusion of “late luteal phase dysphoric disorder” (formerly known as premenstrual syndrome) as a possible diagnosis for <cite>DSM</cite>-IV. It happened in 1980, when psychoanalysts objected to the removal of the word <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurosis\">neurosis</a>—their bread and butter—from the <a href=\"http://www.psych.org/MainMenu/Research/DSMIV/History_1/DSMIIIRandDSMIV.aspx\"><cite>DSM</cite>-III</a>. It happened in 1973, when gay psychiatrists, after years of loud protest, finally forced a reluctant APA to acknowledge that homosexuality was not and never had been an illness. Indeed, it’s been happening since at least 1922, when two prominent psychiatrists warned that a planned change to the nomenclature would be tantamount to declaring that “the whole world is, or has been, insane.”</p> <p>Some of this disputatiousness is the hazard of any professional specialty. But when psychiatrists say, as they have during each of these fights, that the success or failure of their efforts could sink the whole profession, they aren’t just scoring rhetorical points. The authority of any doctor depends on their ability to name a patient’s suffering. For patients to accept a diagnosis, they must believe that doctors know—in the same way that physicists know about gravity or biologists about mitosis—that their disease exists and that they have it. But this kind of certainty has eluded psychiatry, and every fight over nomenclature threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the profession by revealing its dirty secret: that for all their confident pronouncements, psychiatrists can’t rigorously differentiate illness from everyday suffering. This is why, as one psychiatrist wrote after the APA voted homosexuality out of the <cite>DSM</cite>, “there is a terrible sense of shame among psychiatrists, always wanting to show that our diagnoses are as good as the scientific ones used in real medicine.”</p> <p>Since 1980, when the <cite>DSM</cite>-III was published, psychiatrists have tried to solve this problem by using what is called descriptive diagnosis: a checklist approach, whereby illnesses are defined wholly by the symptoms patients present. The main virtue of descriptive psychiatry is that it doesn’t rely on unprovable notions about the nature and causes of mental illness, as the <a href=\"http://psychology.about.com/od/sigmundfreud/p/sigmund_freud.htm\">Freudian theories</a> behind all those “neuroses” had done. Two doctors who observe a patient carefully and consult the <cite>DSM</cite>’s criteria lists usually won’t disagree on the diagnosis—something that was embarrassingly common before 1980. But descriptive psychiatry also has a major problem: Its diagnoses are nothing more than groupings of symptoms. If, during a two-week period, you have five of the nine symptoms of <a href=\"https://health.google.com/health/ref/Major+depression\">depression</a> listed in the <cite>DSM</cite>, then you have “major depression,” no matter your circumstances or your own perception of your troubles. “No one should be proud that we have a descriptive system,” Frances tells me. “The fact that we do only reveals our limitations.” Instead of curing the profession’s own malady, descriptive psychiatry has just covered it up.</p> <p>The <cite>DSM</cite>-5 battle comes at a time when psychiatry’s authority seems more tenuous than ever. In terms of both research dollars and public attention, molecular biology—neuroscience and genetics—has come to dominate inquiries into what makes us tick. And indeed, a few tantalizing results from these disciplines have cast serious doubt on long-held psychiatric ideas. Take schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: For more than a century, those two illnesses have occupied separate branches of the psychiatric taxonomy. But research suggests that the same genetic factors predispose people to both illnesses, a discovery that casts doubt on whether this fundamental division exists in nature or only in the minds of psychiatrists. Other results suggest new diagnostic criteria for diseases: Depressed patients, for example, tend to have cell loss in the hippocampal regions, areas normally rich in serotonin. Certain mental illnesses are alleviated by brain therapies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, even as the reasons why are not entirely understood.</p> <p>Some mental health researchers are convinced that the <cite>DSM</cite> might soon be completely revolutionized or even rendered obsolete. In recent years, the National Institute of Mental Health has launched an effort to transform psychiatry into what its director, Thomas Insel, calls clinical neuroscience. This project will focus on observable ways that brain circuitry affects the functional aspects of mental illness—symptoms, such as anger or anxiety or disordered thinking, that figure in our current diagnoses. The institute says it’s “agnostic” on the subject of whether, or how, this process would create new definitions of illnesses, but it seems poised to abandon the reigning <cite>DSM</cite> approach. “Our resources are more likely to be invested in a program to transform diagnosis by 2020,” Insel says, “rather than modifying the current paradigm.”</p> <p>Although the APA doesn’t disagree that a revolution might be on the horizon, the organization doesn’t feel it can wait until 2020, or beyond, to revise the <cite>DSM</cite>-IV. Its categories line up poorly with the ways people actually suffer, leading to high rates of patients with multiple diagnoses. Neither does the manual help therapists draw on a body of knowledge, developed largely since <cite>DSM</cite>-IV, about how to match treatments to patients based on the specific features of their disorder. The profession cannot afford to wait for the science to catch up to its needs. Which means that the stakes are higher, the current crisis deeper, and the potential damage to psychiatry greater than ever before.</p> <p><a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Psychiatry-Table.png\"><img class=\"aligncenter size-full wp-image-1506\" title=\"Psychiatry Table\" src=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Psychiatry-Table.png\" alt=\"\" width=\"534\" height=\"477\" /></a></p> <p><strong>Allen Frances’ revolt</strong> against the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 was spurred by another unlikely revolutionary: <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Spitzer_%28psychiatrist%29\">Robert Spitzer</a>, lead editor of the <cite>DSM</cite>-III and a man believed by many to have saved the profession by spearheading the shift to descriptive psychiatry. As the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 task force began its work, Spitzer was “dumbfounded” when <a href=\"http://www.psych.org/MainMenu/Research/DSMIV/DSMV/MeettheTaskForce/DarrelARegierMDMPH.aspx\">Darrel Regier</a>, the APA’s director of research and vice chair of the task force, refused his request to see the minutes of its meetings. Soon thereafter, he was appalled, he says, to discover that the APA had required psychiatrists involved with the revision to sign a paper promising they would never talk about what they were doing, except when necessary for their jobs. “The intent seemed to be not to let anyone know what the hell was going on,” Spitzer says.</p> <p>In July 2008, Spitzer wrote a letter to <em>Psychiatric News</em>, an APA newsletter, complaining that the secrecy was at odds with scientific process, which “benefits from the very exchange of information that is prohibited by the confidentiality agreement.” He asked Frances to sign onto his letter, but Frances declined; a decade into his retirement from Duke University Medical School, he had mostly stayed on the sidelines since planning for the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 began in 1999, and he intended to keep it that way. “I told him I completely agreed that this was a disastrous way for <cite>DSM</cite>-5 to start, but I didn’t want to get involved at all. I wished him luck and went back to the beach.”</p> <p>But that was before Frances found out about a new illness proposed for the <cite>DSM</cite>-5. In May 2009, during a party at the APA’s annual convention in San Francisco, he struck up a conversation with Will Carpenter, a psychiatrist at the University of Maryland. Carpenter is chair of the Psychotic Disorders work group, one of 13 <cite>DSM</cite>-5 panels that have been holding meetings since 2008 to consider revisions. These panels, each comprising 10 or so psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, report to the supervising task force, which consists of the work-group chairs and a dozen other experts. The task force will turn the work groups’ proposals into a rough draft to be field-tested, revised, and then ratified—first by the APA’s trustees and then by its 39,000 members.</p> <p>At the party, Frances and Carpenter began to talk about “<a href=\"http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevisions/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=412\">psychosis risk syndrome</a>,” a diagnosis that Carpenter’s group was considering for the new edition. It would apply mostly to adolescents who occasionally have jumbled thoughts, hear voices, or experience delusions. Since these kids never fully lose contact with reality, they don’t qualify for any of the existing psychotic disorders. But “throughout medicine, there’s a presumption that early identification and intervention is better than late,” Carpenter says, citing the monitoring of cholesterol as an example. If adolescents on the brink of psychosis can be treated before a full-blown psychosis develops, he adds, “it could make a huge difference in their life story.”</p> <p>This new disease reminded Frances of one of his keenest regrets about the <cite>DSM</cite>-IV: its role, as he perceives it, in the epidemic of bipolar diagnoses in children over the past decade. Shortly after the book came out, doctors began to declare children bipolar even if they had never had a manic episode and were too young to have shown the pattern of mood change associated with the disease. Within a dozen years, bipolar diagnoses among children had increased 40-fold. Many of these kids were put on antipsychotic drugs, whose effects on the developing brain are poorly understood but which are known to cause obesity and diabetes. In 2007, a series of investigative reports revealed that an influential advocate for diagnosing bipolar disorder in kids, the Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Biederman, failed to disclose money he’d received from Johnson &amp; Johnson, makers of the bipolar drug <a href=\"http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000944\">Risperdal</a>, or risperidone. (The <cite>New York Times</cite> reported that Biederman told the company his proposed trial of Risperdal in young children “will support the safety and effectiveness of risperidone in this age group.”) Frances believes this bipolar “fad” would not have occurred had the <cite>DSM</cite>-IV committee not rejected a move to limit the diagnosis to adults.</p> <p>Frances found psychosis risk syndrome particularly troubling in light of research suggesting that only about a quarter of its sufferers would go on to develop full-blown psychoses. He worried that those numbers would not stop drug companies from seizing on the new diagnosis and sparking a new treatment fad—a danger that Frances thought Carpenter was grievously underestimating. He already regretted having remained silent when, in the 1980s, he watched the pharmaceutical industry insinuate itself into the APA’s training programs. (Annual drug company contributions to those programs reached as much as $3 million before the organization decided, in 2008, to phase out industry-supported education.) Frances didn’t want to be “a crusader for the world,” he says. But the idea of more “kids getting unneeded antipsychotics that would make them gain 12 pounds in 12 weeks hit me in the gut. It was uniquely my job and my duty to protect them. If not me to correct it, who? I was stuck without an excuse to convince myself.”</p> <p>At the party, he found Bob Spitzer’s wife and asked her to tell her husband (who had been prevented from traveling due to illness) that he was going to join him in protesting the <cite>DSM</cite>-5.</p> <p>Throughout 2009, Spitzer and Frances carried out their assault. That June, Frances published a broadside on the website of <em><a href=\"http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/\">Psychiatric Times</a></em>, an independent industry newsletter. Among the numerous alarms the piece sounded, Frances warned that the new <cite>DSM</cite>, with its emphasis on early intervention, would cause a “wholesale imperial medicalization of normality” and “a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry,” for which patients would pay the “high price [of] adverse effects, dollars, and stigma.” Two weeks later, the two men wrote a letter to the APA’s trustees, urging them to consider forming an oversight committee and postponing publication, in order to avoid an “embarrassing <cite>DSM</cite>-5.” Such a committee was convened, and it did recommend a delay, because—as its chair, a former APA president, later put it—”the revision process hadn’t begun to coalesce as much as it should have.” In December 2009, the APA announced a one-year postponement, pushing publication back to 2013. (The organization insists that Frances “did not have an impact” on the rescheduling of the revision.)</p> <div><img title=\"DSM 5 Sparks Psychiatric Revolt\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-01/ff_dsmv3_f.jpg\" alt=\"Illustration: Owen Gildersleeve\" width=\"660\" height=\"590\" />Illustration: Owen Gildersleeve</p> </div> <p><strong><a href=\"http://www.webofnarcissism.com/forums/index.php?topic=6585.5;wap2\">James Scully</a></strong>, medical director of the APA, fills the big leather chair in his office overlooking the Potomac River and the government buildings beyond. He’s a large, ruddy-faced man with a shock of white hair, and when he leans forward, his monogrammed cuffs perched on his knees, to deliver his assessment of Frances, even though it’s only two words—”he’s wrong”—you can hear his rising gorge and the sense of betrayal that seems to be swelling behind it.</p> <p>Of all the things that Frances is wrong about—and there are many, Scully says, including his position on psychosis risk syndrome—the confidentiality agreement seems to be the one that really galls. First of all, it’s simply an intellectual property agreement “about who owns the product.” Second, he insists, this is the most open and transparent <cite>DSM</cite> revision ever, certainly more open than the process that produced Spitzer’s and Frances’ manuals, which were written in the pre-Internet era, before it was possible to field, as the task force has, 8,000 online comments on the proposed changes.</p> <p>The agreement may well be mere intellectual property boilerplate. But, as I explain to Scully and later to APA research chief Darrel Regier, that hasn’t reassured all the psychiatrists who’ve had to sign it. They fret privately that the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 will create “monumental screwups” that will turn the field into a “laughingstock.” They accuse the task force of “not knowing where they’re going” and of “not having managed this right from the very beginning.” They worry that the “slipshod nature of the whole process” will lead to a “crappy product” that alienates clinicians even as it makes psychiatry “look capricious and silly.” None of them, however, are willing to go on record, for fear—unfounded or not—of “retaliation” and “reprisal.”</p> <p>Regier wants to know who said these things.</p> <p>Not all the dissidents are insisting on anonymity. E. Jane Costello, codirector of the Center for Developmental Epidemiology at Duke Medical School, says she doesn’t mind going on record because she’s “too small a fish” for them to bother with. Costello was one of two psychiatrists who resigned from the Childhood Disorders work group in spring 2009. In her resignation letter, which she subsequently made public, Costello excoriated the <cite>DSM</cite> committee for refusing to wait for the results of longitudinal studies she was planning and for failing to underwrite adequate research of its own. The proposed revisions, she wrote, “seem to have little basis in new scientific findings or organized clinical or epidemiological studies.” (In a response, the APA cited “several billions of dollars” already spent over the past 40 years on research the revision is drawing upon.)</p> <p>To critics, the greatest liability of the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 process is precisely this disconnect between its ambition on one hand and the current state of the science on the other. Of particular concern is a proposal to institute “dimensional assessment” as part of all diagnostic evaluations. In this approach, clinicians would use standardized, diagnostic-specific tests to assign a severity rating to each patient’s illness. Regier hopes that these ratings, tallied against data about the course and outcome of illnesses, will eventually lead to psychiatry’s holy grail: “statistically valid cutpoints between normal and pathological.” Able to reliably rate the clinical significance of a disorder, doctors would finally have a scientific way to separate the sick from the merely suffering.</p> <p>No one, not even Frances, thinks it’s a bad idea to augment the current binary approach to diagnosis, in which you either have the requisite symptoms or you don’t, with a method for quantifying gradations in illness. Dimensional assessment could provide what Frances calls a “governor” on absurdly high rates of diagnosis—by <cite>DSM</cite> criteria, epidemiologists have noted, a staggering 30 percent of Americans are mentally ill in any given year—and thereby solve both a public health problem and a public relations problem.</p> <p>But <a href=\"http://asp.cumc.columbia.edu/facdb/profile_list.asp?uni=mbf2&amp;DepAffil=Psychiatry\">Michael First</a>, a Columbia University psychiatrist who headed up the <cite>DSM</cite>-5’s <a href=\"http://lucarinfo.com/czblog/117/\">Prelude Project</a> to solicit feedback before the revision, believes that implementing dimensional assessment right now is a tremendous mistake. The tests, he says, are nowhere near ready for use; while some of them have a long track record, “it seems that many of them were made up by the work groups” without any real-world validation. Bad tests could be disastrous not just for the profession, which would erect its diagnostic regime on a shaky foundation, but also for patients: If the tests have been sanctioned in the <cite>DSM</cite>, insurance companies could use them to cut off coverage for patients deemed not sick enough. “If they really want to do dimensional assessment,” First says, “they should wait the five or 10 years it would take for the scales to be ready.”</p> <p>Regier won’t say how many of the tests are usable yet. “I don’t think it will be useful to get into this level of detail,” he emails. He acknowledges that dimensional assessment is still evolving, and he says the<cite>DSM</cite>-5 field trials—studies in which doctors will test the rough draft of the manual with patients—will help refine the tests. But the field trials, too, are bumping up against formidable deadlines. Although trials were scheduled to begin in May 2010, as of October only a pilot study was actually under way—and protocols for the rest of the trials couldn’t be finalized until that study was completed. Meanwhile, Regier has pegged May 2013 as a drop-dead date for publication of the new manual, which means that two sets of field trials and revisions must be completed by September 2012.</p> <p>The time crunch only gives critics more fuel. Frances, on hearing of the trials’ delay, BlackBerried out a communiqué about the task force’s “Keystone Kops” missteps—the “<a href=\"http://www.rubegoldberg.com/\">Rube Goldberg design</a>,” the “numerous measures signifying nothing,” the “criteria sets that are unusable because so poorly written.” All of which, he wrote, will lead to “a mad dash to dreck at the end.”</p> <p><strong>When the rough draft</strong> of the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 was released, in February 2010, the diagnosis that had galvanized Frances—psychosis risk syndrome—wasn’t included. But another new proposed illness had taken its place: “attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome,” which has essentially the same symptoms but with a name that no longer implies the patient will eventually develop a psychosis. In principle, Carpenter says, that change “eliminates the false-positive problem.” This is not as cynical as it might sound: Carpenter points out that a kid having even occasional hallucinations, especially one distressed enough to land in a psychiatrist’s office, is probably not entirely well, even if he doesn’t end up psychotic. Currently, a doctor confronted with such a patient has to resort to a diagnosis that doesn’t quite fit, often an anxiety or mood disorder.</p> <p>But attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome still creates a mental illness where there previously was none, giving drugmakers a new target for their hard sell and doctors, most of whom see it as part of their job to write prescriptions, more reason to medicate. Even Carpenter worries about this. “I wouldn’t bet a lot of money that clinicians will hold off on antipsychotics until there’s evidence of more severe symptoms,” he says. Nonetheless, he adds, “a diagnostic manual shouldn’t be organized to try to adjust to society’s problems.”</p> <p>His implication is that the rest of medicine, in all its scientific rigor, doesn’t work that way. But in fact, medicine makes adjustments all the time. As obesity has become more of a social problem, for instance, doctors have created a new disease called metabolic syndrome, and they’re still arguing over the checklist of its definition: the blood pressure required for diagnosis, for example, and whether waist circumference should be a criterion. As Darrel Regier points out, diabetes is defined by a blood-glucose threshold, one that has changed over time. Whether physical or mental, a disease is really a statistical construct, a group of symptoms that afflicts a group of people similarly. We may think our doctors are like Gregory House, relentlessly stalking the biochemical culprits of our suffering, but in real medicine they are more like Darrel Regier, trying to discern the patterns in our distress and quantify them.</p> <p>The fact that diseases can be invented (or, as with homosexuality, uninvented) and their criteria tweaked in response to social conditions is exactly what worries critics like Frances about some of the disorders proposed for the <cite>DSM</cite>-5—not only attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome but also binge eating disorder, temper dysregulation disorder, and other “sub-threshold” diagnoses. To harness the power of medicine in service of kids with hallucinations, or compulsive overeaters, or 8-year-olds who throw frequent tantrums, is to command attention and resources for suffering that is undeniable. But it is also to increase psychiatry’s intrusion into everyday life, even as it gives us tidy names for our eternally messy problems.</p> <p>I recently asked a former president of the APA how he used the <cite>DSM</cite> in his daily work. He told me his secretary had just asked him for a diagnosis on a patient he’d been seeing for a couple of months so that she could bill the insurance company. “I hadn’t really formulated it,” he told me. He consulted the<cite>DSM</cite>-IV and concluded that the patient had obsessive-compulsive disorder.</p> <p>“Did it change the way you treated her?” I asked, noting that he’d worked with her for quite a while without naming what she had.</p> <p>“No.”</p> <p>“So what would you say was the value of the diagnosis?”</p> <p>“I got paid.”</p> <p><strong>As scientific understanding</strong> of the brain advances, the APA has found itself caught between paradigms, forced to revise a manual that everyone agrees needs to be fixed but with no obvious way forward. Regier says he’s hopeful that “full understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of mental disorders” will someday establish an “absolute threshold between normality and psychopathology.” Realistically, though, a new manual based entirely on neuroscience—with biomarkers for every diagnosis, grave or mild—seems decades away, and perhaps impossible to achieve at all. To account for mental suffering entirely through neuroscience is probably tantamount to explaining the brain <em>in toto,</em>a task to which our scientific tools may never be matched. As Frances points out, a complete elucidation of the complexities of the brain has so far proven to be an “ever-receding target.”</p> <p>What the battle over <cite>DSM</cite>-5 should make clear to all of us—professional and layman alike—is that psychiatric diagnosis will probably always be laden with uncertainty, that the labels doctors give us for our suffering will forever be at least as much the product of negotiations around a conference table as investigations at a lab bench. Regier and Scully are more than willing to acknowledge this. As Scully puts it, “The <cite>DSM</cite> will always be provisional; that’s the best we can do.” Regier, for his part, says, “The <cite>DSM</cite>is not biblical. It’s not on stone tablets.” The real problem is that insurers, juries, and (yes) patients aren’t ready to accept this fact. Nor are psychiatrists ready to lose the authority they derive from seeming to possess scientific certainty about the diseases they treat. After all, the <cite>DSM</cite> didn’t save the profession, and become a best seller in the bargain, by claiming to be only provisional.</p> <p>It’s a problem that bothers Frances, and it even makes him wonder about the wisdom of his crusade against the <cite>DSM</cite>-5. Diagnosis, he says, is “part of the magic,” part of the power to heal patients—and to convince them to endure the difficulties of treatment. The sun is up now, and Frances is working on his first Diet Coke of the day. “You know those medieval maps?” he says. “In the places where they didn’t know what was going on, they wrote ‘Dragons live here.’”</p> <p>He went on: “We have a dragon’s world here. But you wouldn’t want to be without that map.”</p> <p><em>Gary Greenberg</em> (<a href=\"http://www.garygreenbergonline.com/\">garygreenbergonline.com</a>) <em>is the author of</em> Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease.</p> \";}s:3:\"wfw\";a:1:{s:10:\"commentrss\";s:86:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2011/01/31/inside-the-battle-to-define-mental-illness/feed/\";}s:5:\"slash\";a:1:{s:8:\"comments\";s:1:\"1\";}s:7:\"summary\";s:336:\"Every so often Al Frances says something that seems to surprise even him. Just now, for instance, in the predawn darkness of his comfortable, rambling home in Carmel, California, he has broken off his exercise routine to declare that “there is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:33141:\"<p><strong>Every so often</strong> Al Frances says something that seems to surprise even him. Just now, for instance, in the predawn darkness of his comfortable, rambling home in Carmel, California, he has broken off his exercise routine to declare that “there is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define it.” Then an odd, reflective look crosses his face, as if he’s taking in the strangeness of this scene: <a href=\"http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/dsm-5/content/article/10168/1425378\">Allen Frances</a>, lead editor of the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s<em>Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders</em> (universally known as the <a href=\"http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html\"><em>DSM</em>-IV</a>), the guy who wrote the book on mental illness, confessing that “these concepts are virtually impossible to define precisely with bright lines at the boundaries.” For the first time in two days, the conversation comes to an awkward halt.</p> <p>From <a href=\"http://www.wired.com/\" target=\"_blank\">Wired Magazine</a> by Gary Greenburg</p> <p>But he recovers quickly, and back in the living room he finishes explaining why he came out of a seemingly contented retirement to launch a bitter and protracted battle with the people, some of them friends, who are creating the next edition of the <cite>DSM</cite>. And to criticize them not just once, and not in professional mumbo jumbo that would keep the fight inside the professional family, but repeatedly and in plain English, in newspapers and magazines and blogs. And to accuse his colleagues not just of bad science but of bad faith, hubris, and blindness, of making diseases out of everyday suffering and, as a result, padding the bottom lines of drug companies. These aren’t new accusations to level at psychiatry, but Frances used to be their target, not their source. He’s hurling grenades into the bunker where he spent his entire career.</p> <p>As a practicing psychotherapist myself, I can attest that this is a startling turn. But when Frances tries to explain it, he resists the kinds of reasons that mental health professionals usually give each other, the ones about character traits or personality quirks formed in childhood. He says he doesn’t want to give ammunition to his enemies, who have already shown their willingness to “shoot the messenger.” It’s not an unfounded concern. In its first official response to Frances, the <a href=\"http://www.psych.org/\">APA</a> diagnosed him with “pride of authorship” and pointed out that his royalty payments would end once the new edition was published—a fact that “should be considered when evaluating his critique and its timing.”</p> <p>Frances, who claims he doesn’t care about the royalties (which amount, he says, to just 10 grand a year), also claims not to mind if the APA cites his faults. He just wishes they’d go after the right ones—the serious errors in the <cite>DSM</cite>-IV. “We made mistakes that had terrible consequences,” he says. Diagnoses of <a href=\"https://health.google.com/health/ref/Autism\">autism</a>, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bipolar disorder skyrocketed, and Frances thinks his manual inadvertently facilitated these epidemics—and, in the bargain, fostered an increasing tendency to chalk up life’s difficulties to mental illness and then treat them with psychiatric drugs.</p> <p>The insurgency against the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 (the APA has decided to shed the Roman numerals) has now spread far beyond just Allen Frances. Psychiatrists at the top of their specialties, clinicians at prominent hospitals, and even some contributors to the new edition have expressed deep reservations about it. Dissidents complain that the revision process is in disarray and that the preliminary results, made public for the first time in February 2010, are filled with potential clinical and public relations nightmares. Although most of the dissenters are squeamish about making their concerns public—especially because of a surprisingly restrictive nondisclosure agreement that all insiders were required to sign—they are becoming increasingly restive, and some are beginning to agree with Frances that public pressure may be the only way to derail a train that he fears will “take psychiatry off a cliff.”</p> <p>At stake in the fight between Frances and the APA is more than professional turf, more than careers and reputations, more than the $6.5 million in sales that the <cite>DSM</cite> averages each year. The book is the basis of psychiatrists’ authority to pronounce upon our mental health, to command health care dollars from insurance companies for treatment and from government agencies for research. It is as important to psychiatrists as the Constitution is to the US government or the Bible is to Christians. Outside the profession, too, the <cite>DSM</cite> rules, serving as the authoritative text for psychologists, social workers, and other mental health workers; it is invoked by lawyers in arguing over the culpability of criminal defendants and by parents seeking school services for their children. If, as Frances warns, the new volume is an “absolute disaster,” it could cause a seismic shift in the way mental health care is practiced in this country. It could cause the APA to lose its franchise on our psychic suffering, the naming rights to our pain.</p> <div><img title=\"DSM-5 Sparks Psychiatric Revolt\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-01/ff_dsmv2_f.jpg\" alt=\"Photo: Garry Mcleod; Origami: Robert Lang\" width=\"660\" height=\"527\" />Allen Frances is worried that the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 will &#8220;take psychiatry off a cliff.&#8221;<br /> Photo: Susanna Howe; photographed at Café Sabarsky, Neue Galerie, NYC</p> </div> <p><strong>This is hardly</strong> the first time that defining mental illness has led to rancor within the profession. It happened in 1993, when feminists denounced Frances for considering the inclusion of “late luteal phase dysphoric disorder” (formerly known as premenstrual syndrome) as a possible diagnosis for <cite>DSM</cite>-IV. It happened in 1980, when psychoanalysts objected to the removal of the word <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurosis\">neurosis</a>—their bread and butter—from the <a href=\"http://www.psych.org/MainMenu/Research/DSMIV/History_1/DSMIIIRandDSMIV.aspx\"><cite>DSM</cite>-III</a>. It happened in 1973, when gay psychiatrists, after years of loud protest, finally forced a reluctant APA to acknowledge that homosexuality was not and never had been an illness. Indeed, it’s been happening since at least 1922, when two prominent psychiatrists warned that a planned change to the nomenclature would be tantamount to declaring that “the whole world is, or has been, insane.”</p> <p>Some of this disputatiousness is the hazard of any professional specialty. But when psychiatrists say, as they have during each of these fights, that the success or failure of their efforts could sink the whole profession, they aren’t just scoring rhetorical points. The authority of any doctor depends on their ability to name a patient’s suffering. For patients to accept a diagnosis, they must believe that doctors know—in the same way that physicists know about gravity or biologists about mitosis—that their disease exists and that they have it. But this kind of certainty has eluded psychiatry, and every fight over nomenclature threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the profession by revealing its dirty secret: that for all their confident pronouncements, psychiatrists can’t rigorously differentiate illness from everyday suffering. This is why, as one psychiatrist wrote after the APA voted homosexuality out of the <cite>DSM</cite>, “there is a terrible sense of shame among psychiatrists, always wanting to show that our diagnoses are as good as the scientific ones used in real medicine.”</p> <p>Since 1980, when the <cite>DSM</cite>-III was published, psychiatrists have tried to solve this problem by using what is called descriptive diagnosis: a checklist approach, whereby illnesses are defined wholly by the symptoms patients present. The main virtue of descriptive psychiatry is that it doesn’t rely on unprovable notions about the nature and causes of mental illness, as the <a href=\"http://psychology.about.com/od/sigmundfreud/p/sigmund_freud.htm\">Freudian theories</a> behind all those “neuroses” had done. Two doctors who observe a patient carefully and consult the <cite>DSM</cite>’s criteria lists usually won’t disagree on the diagnosis—something that was embarrassingly common before 1980. But descriptive psychiatry also has a major problem: Its diagnoses are nothing more than groupings of symptoms. If, during a two-week period, you have five of the nine symptoms of <a href=\"https://health.google.com/health/ref/Major+depression\">depression</a> listed in the <cite>DSM</cite>, then you have “major depression,” no matter your circumstances or your own perception of your troubles. “No one should be proud that we have a descriptive system,” Frances tells me. “The fact that we do only reveals our limitations.” Instead of curing the profession’s own malady, descriptive psychiatry has just covered it up.</p> <p>The <cite>DSM</cite>-5 battle comes at a time when psychiatry’s authority seems more tenuous than ever. In terms of both research dollars and public attention, molecular biology—neuroscience and genetics—has come to dominate inquiries into what makes us tick. And indeed, a few tantalizing results from these disciplines have cast serious doubt on long-held psychiatric ideas. Take schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: For more than a century, those two illnesses have occupied separate branches of the psychiatric taxonomy. But research suggests that the same genetic factors predispose people to both illnesses, a discovery that casts doubt on whether this fundamental division exists in nature or only in the minds of psychiatrists. Other results suggest new diagnostic criteria for diseases: Depressed patients, for example, tend to have cell loss in the hippocampal regions, areas normally rich in serotonin. Certain mental illnesses are alleviated by brain therapies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, even as the reasons why are not entirely understood.</p> <p>Some mental health researchers are convinced that the <cite>DSM</cite> might soon be completely revolutionized or even rendered obsolete. In recent years, the National Institute of Mental Health has launched an effort to transform psychiatry into what its director, Thomas Insel, calls clinical neuroscience. This project will focus on observable ways that brain circuitry affects the functional aspects of mental illness—symptoms, such as anger or anxiety or disordered thinking, that figure in our current diagnoses. The institute says it’s “agnostic” on the subject of whether, or how, this process would create new definitions of illnesses, but it seems poised to abandon the reigning <cite>DSM</cite> approach. “Our resources are more likely to be invested in a program to transform diagnosis by 2020,” Insel says, “rather than modifying the current paradigm.”</p> <p>Although the APA doesn’t disagree that a revolution might be on the horizon, the organization doesn’t feel it can wait until 2020, or beyond, to revise the <cite>DSM</cite>-IV. Its categories line up poorly with the ways people actually suffer, leading to high rates of patients with multiple diagnoses. Neither does the manual help therapists draw on a body of knowledge, developed largely since <cite>DSM</cite>-IV, about how to match treatments to patients based on the specific features of their disorder. The profession cannot afford to wait for the science to catch up to its needs. Which means that the stakes are higher, the current crisis deeper, and the potential damage to psychiatry greater than ever before.</p> <p><a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Psychiatry-Table.png\"><img class=\"aligncenter size-full wp-image-1506\" title=\"Psychiatry Table\" src=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Psychiatry-Table.png\" alt=\"\" width=\"534\" height=\"477\" /></a></p> <p><strong>Allen Frances’ revolt</strong> against the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 was spurred by another unlikely revolutionary: <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Spitzer_%28psychiatrist%29\">Robert Spitzer</a>, lead editor of the <cite>DSM</cite>-III and a man believed by many to have saved the profession by spearheading the shift to descriptive psychiatry. As the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 task force began its work, Spitzer was “dumbfounded” when <a href=\"http://www.psych.org/MainMenu/Research/DSMIV/DSMV/MeettheTaskForce/DarrelARegierMDMPH.aspx\">Darrel Regier</a>, the APA’s director of research and vice chair of the task force, refused his request to see the minutes of its meetings. Soon thereafter, he was appalled, he says, to discover that the APA had required psychiatrists involved with the revision to sign a paper promising they would never talk about what they were doing, except when necessary for their jobs. “The intent seemed to be not to let anyone know what the hell was going on,” Spitzer says.</p> <p>In July 2008, Spitzer wrote a letter to <em>Psychiatric News</em>, an APA newsletter, complaining that the secrecy was at odds with scientific process, which “benefits from the very exchange of information that is prohibited by the confidentiality agreement.” He asked Frances to sign onto his letter, but Frances declined; a decade into his retirement from Duke University Medical School, he had mostly stayed on the sidelines since planning for the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 began in 1999, and he intended to keep it that way. “I told him I completely agreed that this was a disastrous way for <cite>DSM</cite>-5 to start, but I didn’t want to get involved at all. I wished him luck and went back to the beach.”</p> <p>But that was before Frances found out about a new illness proposed for the <cite>DSM</cite>-5. In May 2009, during a party at the APA’s annual convention in San Francisco, he struck up a conversation with Will Carpenter, a psychiatrist at the University of Maryland. Carpenter is chair of the Psychotic Disorders work group, one of 13 <cite>DSM</cite>-5 panels that have been holding meetings since 2008 to consider revisions. These panels, each comprising 10 or so psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, report to the supervising task force, which consists of the work-group chairs and a dozen other experts. The task force will turn the work groups’ proposals into a rough draft to be field-tested, revised, and then ratified—first by the APA’s trustees and then by its 39,000 members.</p> <p>At the party, Frances and Carpenter began to talk about “<a href=\"http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevisions/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=412\">psychosis risk syndrome</a>,” a diagnosis that Carpenter’s group was considering for the new edition. It would apply mostly to adolescents who occasionally have jumbled thoughts, hear voices, or experience delusions. Since these kids never fully lose contact with reality, they don’t qualify for any of the existing psychotic disorders. But “throughout medicine, there’s a presumption that early identification and intervention is better than late,” Carpenter says, citing the monitoring of cholesterol as an example. If adolescents on the brink of psychosis can be treated before a full-blown psychosis develops, he adds, “it could make a huge difference in their life story.”</p> <p>This new disease reminded Frances of one of his keenest regrets about the <cite>DSM</cite>-IV: its role, as he perceives it, in the epidemic of bipolar diagnoses in children over the past decade. Shortly after the book came out, doctors began to declare children bipolar even if they had never had a manic episode and were too young to have shown the pattern of mood change associated with the disease. Within a dozen years, bipolar diagnoses among children had increased 40-fold. Many of these kids were put on antipsychotic drugs, whose effects on the developing brain are poorly understood but which are known to cause obesity and diabetes. In 2007, a series of investigative reports revealed that an influential advocate for diagnosing bipolar disorder in kids, the Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Biederman, failed to disclose money he’d received from Johnson &amp; Johnson, makers of the bipolar drug <a href=\"http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000944\">Risperdal</a>, or risperidone. (The <cite>New York Times</cite> reported that Biederman told the company his proposed trial of Risperdal in young children “will support the safety and effectiveness of risperidone in this age group.”) Frances believes this bipolar “fad” would not have occurred had the <cite>DSM</cite>-IV committee not rejected a move to limit the diagnosis to adults.</p> <p>Frances found psychosis risk syndrome particularly troubling in light of research suggesting that only about a quarter of its sufferers would go on to develop full-blown psychoses. He worried that those numbers would not stop drug companies from seizing on the new diagnosis and sparking a new treatment fad—a danger that Frances thought Carpenter was grievously underestimating. He already regretted having remained silent when, in the 1980s, he watched the pharmaceutical industry insinuate itself into the APA’s training programs. (Annual drug company contributions to those programs reached as much as $3 million before the organization decided, in 2008, to phase out industry-supported education.) Frances didn’t want to be “a crusader for the world,” he says. But the idea of more “kids getting unneeded antipsychotics that would make them gain 12 pounds in 12 weeks hit me in the gut. It was uniquely my job and my duty to protect them. If not me to correct it, who? I was stuck without an excuse to convince myself.”</p> <p>At the party, he found Bob Spitzer’s wife and asked her to tell her husband (who had been prevented from traveling due to illness) that he was going to join him in protesting the <cite>DSM</cite>-5.</p> <p>Throughout 2009, Spitzer and Frances carried out their assault. That June, Frances published a broadside on the website of <em><a href=\"http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/\">Psychiatric Times</a></em>, an independent industry newsletter. Among the numerous alarms the piece sounded, Frances warned that the new <cite>DSM</cite>, with its emphasis on early intervention, would cause a “wholesale imperial medicalization of normality” and “a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry,” for which patients would pay the “high price [of] adverse effects, dollars, and stigma.” Two weeks later, the two men wrote a letter to the APA’s trustees, urging them to consider forming an oversight committee and postponing publication, in order to avoid an “embarrassing <cite>DSM</cite>-5.” Such a committee was convened, and it did recommend a delay, because—as its chair, a former APA president, later put it—”the revision process hadn’t begun to coalesce as much as it should have.” In December 2009, the APA announced a one-year postponement, pushing publication back to 2013. (The organization insists that Frances “did not have an impact” on the rescheduling of the revision.)</p> <div><img title=\"DSM 5 Sparks Psychiatric Revolt\" src=\"http://www.wired.com/magazine/wp-content/images/19-01/ff_dsmv3_f.jpg\" alt=\"Illustration: Owen Gildersleeve\" width=\"660\" height=\"590\" />Illustration: Owen Gildersleeve</p> </div> <p><strong><a href=\"http://www.webofnarcissism.com/forums/index.php?topic=6585.5;wap2\">James Scully</a></strong>, medical director of the APA, fills the big leather chair in his office overlooking the Potomac River and the government buildings beyond. He’s a large, ruddy-faced man with a shock of white hair, and when he leans forward, his monogrammed cuffs perched on his knees, to deliver his assessment of Frances, even though it’s only two words—”he’s wrong”—you can hear his rising gorge and the sense of betrayal that seems to be swelling behind it.</p> <p>Of all the things that Frances is wrong about—and there are many, Scully says, including his position on psychosis risk syndrome—the confidentiality agreement seems to be the one that really galls. First of all, it’s simply an intellectual property agreement “about who owns the product.” Second, he insists, this is the most open and transparent <cite>DSM</cite> revision ever, certainly more open than the process that produced Spitzer’s and Frances’ manuals, which were written in the pre-Internet era, before it was possible to field, as the task force has, 8,000 online comments on the proposed changes.</p> <p>The agreement may well be mere intellectual property boilerplate. But, as I explain to Scully and later to APA research chief Darrel Regier, that hasn’t reassured all the psychiatrists who’ve had to sign it. They fret privately that the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 will create “monumental screwups” that will turn the field into a “laughingstock.” They accuse the task force of “not knowing where they’re going” and of “not having managed this right from the very beginning.” They worry that the “slipshod nature of the whole process” will lead to a “crappy product” that alienates clinicians even as it makes psychiatry “look capricious and silly.” None of them, however, are willing to go on record, for fear—unfounded or not—of “retaliation” and “reprisal.”</p> <p>Regier wants to know who said these things.</p> <p>Not all the dissidents are insisting on anonymity. E. Jane Costello, codirector of the Center for Developmental Epidemiology at Duke Medical School, says she doesn’t mind going on record because she’s “too small a fish” for them to bother with. Costello was one of two psychiatrists who resigned from the Childhood Disorders work group in spring 2009. In her resignation letter, which she subsequently made public, Costello excoriated the <cite>DSM</cite> committee for refusing to wait for the results of longitudinal studies she was planning and for failing to underwrite adequate research of its own. The proposed revisions, she wrote, “seem to have little basis in new scientific findings or organized clinical or epidemiological studies.” (In a response, the APA cited “several billions of dollars” already spent over the past 40 years on research the revision is drawing upon.)</p> <p>To critics, the greatest liability of the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 process is precisely this disconnect between its ambition on one hand and the current state of the science on the other. Of particular concern is a proposal to institute “dimensional assessment” as part of all diagnostic evaluations. In this approach, clinicians would use standardized, diagnostic-specific tests to assign a severity rating to each patient’s illness. Regier hopes that these ratings, tallied against data about the course and outcome of illnesses, will eventually lead to psychiatry’s holy grail: “statistically valid cutpoints between normal and pathological.” Able to reliably rate the clinical significance of a disorder, doctors would finally have a scientific way to separate the sick from the merely suffering.</p> <p>No one, not even Frances, thinks it’s a bad idea to augment the current binary approach to diagnosis, in which you either have the requisite symptoms or you don’t, with a method for quantifying gradations in illness. Dimensional assessment could provide what Frances calls a “governor” on absurdly high rates of diagnosis—by <cite>DSM</cite> criteria, epidemiologists have noted, a staggering 30 percent of Americans are mentally ill in any given year—and thereby solve both a public health problem and a public relations problem.</p> <p>But <a href=\"http://asp.cumc.columbia.edu/facdb/profile_list.asp?uni=mbf2&amp;DepAffil=Psychiatry\">Michael First</a>, a Columbia University psychiatrist who headed up the <cite>DSM</cite>-5’s <a href=\"http://lucarinfo.com/czblog/117/\">Prelude Project</a> to solicit feedback before the revision, believes that implementing dimensional assessment right now is a tremendous mistake. The tests, he says, are nowhere near ready for use; while some of them have a long track record, “it seems that many of them were made up by the work groups” without any real-world validation. Bad tests could be disastrous not just for the profession, which would erect its diagnostic regime on a shaky foundation, but also for patients: If the tests have been sanctioned in the <cite>DSM</cite>, insurance companies could use them to cut off coverage for patients deemed not sick enough. “If they really want to do dimensional assessment,” First says, “they should wait the five or 10 years it would take for the scales to be ready.”</p> <p>Regier won’t say how many of the tests are usable yet. “I don’t think it will be useful to get into this level of detail,” he emails. He acknowledges that dimensional assessment is still evolving, and he says the<cite>DSM</cite>-5 field trials—studies in which doctors will test the rough draft of the manual with patients—will help refine the tests. But the field trials, too, are bumping up against formidable deadlines. Although trials were scheduled to begin in May 2010, as of October only a pilot study was actually under way—and protocols for the rest of the trials couldn’t be finalized until that study was completed. Meanwhile, Regier has pegged May 2013 as a drop-dead date for publication of the new manual, which means that two sets of field trials and revisions must be completed by September 2012.</p> <p>The time crunch only gives critics more fuel. Frances, on hearing of the trials’ delay, BlackBerried out a communiqué about the task force’s “Keystone Kops” missteps—the “<a href=\"http://www.rubegoldberg.com/\">Rube Goldberg design</a>,” the “numerous measures signifying nothing,” the “criteria sets that are unusable because so poorly written.” All of which, he wrote, will lead to “a mad dash to dreck at the end.”</p> <p><strong>When the rough draft</strong> of the <cite>DSM</cite>-5 was released, in February 2010, the diagnosis that had galvanized Frances—psychosis risk syndrome—wasn’t included. But another new proposed illness had taken its place: “attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome,” which has essentially the same symptoms but with a name that no longer implies the patient will eventually develop a psychosis. In principle, Carpenter says, that change “eliminates the false-positive problem.” This is not as cynical as it might sound: Carpenter points out that a kid having even occasional hallucinations, especially one distressed enough to land in a psychiatrist’s office, is probably not entirely well, even if he doesn’t end up psychotic. Currently, a doctor confronted with such a patient has to resort to a diagnosis that doesn’t quite fit, often an anxiety or mood disorder.</p> <p>But attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome still creates a mental illness where there previously was none, giving drugmakers a new target for their hard sell and doctors, most of whom see it as part of their job to write prescriptions, more reason to medicate. Even Carpenter worries about this. “I wouldn’t bet a lot of money that clinicians will hold off on antipsychotics until there’s evidence of more severe symptoms,” he says. Nonetheless, he adds, “a diagnostic manual shouldn’t be organized to try to adjust to society’s problems.”</p> <p>His implication is that the rest of medicine, in all its scientific rigor, doesn’t work that way. But in fact, medicine makes adjustments all the time. As obesity has become more of a social problem, for instance, doctors have created a new disease called metabolic syndrome, and they’re still arguing over the checklist of its definition: the blood pressure required for diagnosis, for example, and whether waist circumference should be a criterion. As Darrel Regier points out, diabetes is defined by a blood-glucose threshold, one that has changed over time. Whether physical or mental, a disease is really a statistical construct, a group of symptoms that afflicts a group of people similarly. We may think our doctors are like Gregory House, relentlessly stalking the biochemical culprits of our suffering, but in real medicine they are more like Darrel Regier, trying to discern the patterns in our distress and quantify them.</p> <p>The fact that diseases can be invented (or, as with homosexuality, uninvented) and their criteria tweaked in response to social conditions is exactly what worries critics like Frances about some of the disorders proposed for the <cite>DSM</cite>-5—not only attenuated psychotic symptoms syndrome but also binge eating disorder, temper dysregulation disorder, and other “sub-threshold” diagnoses. To harness the power of medicine in service of kids with hallucinations, or compulsive overeaters, or 8-year-olds who throw frequent tantrums, is to command attention and resources for suffering that is undeniable. But it is also to increase psychiatry’s intrusion into everyday life, even as it gives us tidy names for our eternally messy problems.</p> <p>I recently asked a former president of the APA how he used the <cite>DSM</cite> in his daily work. He told me his secretary had just asked him for a diagnosis on a patient he’d been seeing for a couple of months so that she could bill the insurance company. “I hadn’t really formulated it,” he told me. He consulted the<cite>DSM</cite>-IV and concluded that the patient had obsessive-compulsive disorder.</p> <p>“Did it change the way you treated her?” I asked, noting that he’d worked with her for quite a while without naming what she had.</p> <p>“No.”</p> <p>“So what would you say was the value of the diagnosis?”</p> <p>“I got paid.”</p> <p><strong>As scientific understanding</strong> of the brain advances, the APA has found itself caught between paradigms, forced to revise a manual that everyone agrees needs to be fixed but with no obvious way forward. Regier says he’s hopeful that “full understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of mental disorders” will someday establish an “absolute threshold between normality and psychopathology.” Realistically, though, a new manual based entirely on neuroscience—with biomarkers for every diagnosis, grave or mild—seems decades away, and perhaps impossible to achieve at all. To account for mental suffering entirely through neuroscience is probably tantamount to explaining the brain <em>in toto,</em>a task to which our scientific tools may never be matched. As Frances points out, a complete elucidation of the complexities of the brain has so far proven to be an “ever-receding target.”</p> <p>What the battle over <cite>DSM</cite>-5 should make clear to all of us—professional and layman alike—is that psychiatric diagnosis will probably always be laden with uncertainty, that the labels doctors give us for our suffering will forever be at least as much the product of negotiations around a conference table as investigations at a lab bench. Regier and Scully are more than willing to acknowledge this. As Scully puts it, “The <cite>DSM</cite> will always be provisional; that’s the best we can do.” Regier, for his part, says, “The <cite>DSM</cite>is not biblical. It’s not on stone tablets.” The real problem is that insurers, juries, and (yes) patients aren’t ready to accept this fact. Nor are psychiatrists ready to lose the authority they derive from seeming to possess scientific certainty about the diseases they treat. After all, the <cite>DSM</cite> didn’t save the profession, and become a best seller in the bargain, by claiming to be only provisional.</p> <p>It’s a problem that bothers Frances, and it even makes him wonder about the wisdom of his crusade against the <cite>DSM</cite>-5. Diagnosis, he says, is “part of the magic,” part of the power to heal patients—and to convince them to endure the difficulties of treatment. The sun is up now, and Frances is working on his first Diet Coke of the day. “You know those medieval maps?” he says. “In the places where they didn’t know what was going on, they wrote ‘Dragons live here.’”</p> <p>He went on: “We have a dragon’s world here. But you wouldn’t want to be without that map.”</p> <p><em>Gary Greenberg</em> (<a href=\"http://www.garygreenbergonline.com/\">garygreenbergonline.com</a>) <em>is the author of</em> Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease.</p> \";}}s:7:\"channel\";a:7:{s:5:\"title\";s:11:\"Brainwaving\";s:4:\"link\";s:26:\"http://www.brainwaving.com\";s:13:\"lastbuilddate\";s:31:\"Mon, 04 Jul 2011 18:37:28 +0000\";s:8:\"language\";s:2:\"en\";s:2:\"sy\";a:2:{s:12:\"updateperiod\";s:6:\"hourly\";s:15:\"updatefrequency\";s:1:\"1\";}s:9:\"generator\";s:29:\"http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.1\";s:7:\"tagline\";N;}s:9:\"textinput\";a:0:{}s:5:\"image\";a:0:{}s:9:\"feed_type\";s:3:\"RSS\";s:12:\"feed_version\";s:3:\"2.0\";s:5:\"stack\";a:0:{}s:9:\"inchannel\";b:0;s:6:\"initem\";b:0;s:9:\"incontent\";b:0;s:11:\"intextinput\";b:0;s:7:\"inimage\";b:0;s:13:\"current_field\";s:0:\"\";s:17:\"current_namespace\";b:0;s:19:\"_CONTENT_CONSTRUCTS\";a:6:{i:0;s:7:\"content\";i:1;s:7:\"summary\";i:2;s:4:\"info\";i:3;s:5:\"title\";i:4;s:7:\"tagline\";i:5;s:9:\"copyright\";}}','no')

WordPress database error: [INSERT command denied to user 'dbo296380814'@'82.165.85.199' for table 'wp_options']
INSERT INTO `wp_options` (`option_name`,`option_value`,`autoload`) VALUES ('_transient_timeout_rss_c0dcc2bc8897c937da7cc59f69c43ecb','1634392411','no')

WordPress database error: [INSERT command denied to user 'dbo296380814'@'82.165.85.199' for table 'wp_options']
INSERT INTO `wp_options` (`option_name`,`option_value`,`autoload`) VALUES ('_transient_rss_c0dcc2bc8897c937da7cc59f69c43ecb','O:9:\"magpierss\":17:{s:6:\"parser\";i:0;s:12:\"current_item\";a:0:{}s:5:\"items\";a:10:{i:0;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:123:\"Comment on Wasson and the Psychedelic Revolution by Egodeath Yahoo Group – Digest 157 (2016-07-15) ? Egodeath Yahoo Group\";s:4:\"link\";s:104:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/comment-page-1/#comment-1048\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:71:\"Egodeath Yahoo Group – Digest 157 (2016-07-15) ? Egodeath Yahoo Group\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Sun, 10 Jan 2021 05:28:59 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:46:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=873#comment-1048\";s:11:\"description\";s:88:\"[...] http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/ [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:202:\"<p>[...] <a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/\" rel=\"nofollow\">http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/</a> [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:88:\"[...] http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/ [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:202:\"<p>[...] <a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/\" rel=\"nofollow\">http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/</a> [...]</p> \";}i:1;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:124:\"Comment on Was there a whiff of cannabis about Jesus? by ¿Es Jesús Una Metáfora De Un Hongo Psicodélico? - Pothead Media\";s:4:\"link\";s:108:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/04/26/was-there-a-whiff-of-cannabis-about-jesus/comment-page-1/#comment-1047\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:67:\"¿Es Jesús Una Metáfora De Un Hongo Psicodélico? - Pothead Media\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 24 Aug 2020 18:39:14 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:47:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1227#comment-1047\";s:11:\"description\";s:245:\"[...] bien la proposición de Allegro puede sonar un tanto desaforada, existe unahipótesis bastante seria que presume que Jesús usaba cannabis o que en los misterios religiosos de esas épocas —desde Elysium, los misterios egipcios e [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:263:\"<p>[...] bien la proposición de Allegro puede sonar un tanto desaforada, existe una&nbsp;hipótesis bastante seria que presume que Jesús usaba cannabis&nbsp; o que en los misterios religiosos de esas épocas —desde Elysium, los misterios egipcios e [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:245:\"[...] bien la proposición de Allegro puede sonar un tanto desaforada, existe unahipótesis bastante seria que presume que Jesús usaba cannabis o que en los misterios religiosos de esas épocas —desde Elysium, los misterios egipcios e [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:263:\"<p>[...] bien la proposición de Allegro puede sonar un tanto desaforada, existe una&nbsp;hipótesis bastante seria que presume que Jesús usaba cannabis&nbsp; o que en los misterios religiosos de esas épocas —desde Elysium, los misterios egipcios e [...]</p> \";}i:2;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:58:\"Comment on Genetically Modified Animals by GMO - bionyt.dk\";s:4:\"link\";s:95:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/07/28/genetically-modified-animals/comment-page-1/#comment-1046\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:15:\"GMO - bionyt.dk\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Tue, 28 Jan 2020 00:26:04 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:47:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1397#comment-1046\";s:11:\"description\";s:224:\"[...] (20). Guidance for industry. USA: Center for veterinary medicineLink.^ Murray, Joo (20).Genetically modified animals. Canada: Brainwaving^ Jaenisch R, Mintz B (April 1974).\"Simian virus 40 DNA sequences in DNA [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:252:\"<p>[...] (20). Guidance for industry. USA: Center for veterinary medicine&nbsp;Link.^ Murray, Joo (20).&nbsp;Genetically modified animals. Canada: Brainwaving^ Jaenisch R, Mintz B (April 1974).&nbsp;&quot;Simian virus 40 DNA sequences in DNA [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:224:\"[...] (20). Guidance for industry. USA: Center for veterinary medicineLink.^ Murray, Joo (20).Genetically modified animals. Canada: Brainwaving^ Jaenisch R, Mintz B (April 1974).\"Simian virus 40 DNA sequences in DNA [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:252:\"<p>[...] (20). Guidance for industry. USA: Center for veterinary medicine&nbsp;Link.^ Murray, Joo (20).&nbsp;Genetically modified animals. Canada: Brainwaving^ Jaenisch R, Mintz B (April 1974).&nbsp;&quot;Simian virus 40 DNA sequences in DNA [...]</p> \";}i:3;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:58:\"Comment on Genetically Modified Animals by GMO - bionyt.dk\";s:4:\"link\";s:95:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/07/28/genetically-modified-animals/comment-page-1/#comment-1045\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:15:\"GMO - bionyt.dk\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Tue, 28 Jan 2020 00:26:04 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:47:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1397#comment-1045\";s:11:\"description\";s:224:\"[...] (20). Guidance for industry. USA: Center for veterinary medicineLink.^ Murray, Joo (20).Genetically modified animals. Canada: Brainwaving^ Jaenisch R, Mintz B (April 1974).\"Simian virus 40 DNA sequences in DNA [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:252:\"<p>[...] (20). Guidance for industry. USA: Center for veterinary medicine&nbsp;Link.^ Murray, Joo (20).&nbsp;Genetically modified animals. Canada: Brainwaving^ Jaenisch R, Mintz B (April 1974).&nbsp;&quot;Simian virus 40 DNA sequences in DNA [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:224:\"[...] (20). Guidance for industry. USA: Center for veterinary medicineLink.^ Murray, Joo (20).Genetically modified animals. Canada: Brainwaving^ Jaenisch R, Mintz B (April 1974).\"Simian virus 40 DNA sequences in DNA [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:252:\"<p>[...] (20). Guidance for industry. USA: Center for veterinary medicine&nbsp;Link.^ Murray, Joo (20).&nbsp;Genetically modified animals. Canada: Brainwaving^ Jaenisch R, Mintz B (April 1974).&nbsp;&quot;Simian virus 40 DNA sequences in DNA [...]</p> \";}i:4;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:109:\"Comment on Wasson and the Psychedelic Revolution by Debunking Jan Irvin | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man\";s:4:\"link\";s:104:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/comment-page-1/#comment-1044\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:57:\"Debunking Jan Irvin | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Wed, 27 Feb 2019 04:21:37 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:46:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=873#comment-1044\";s:11:\"description\";s:158:\"[...] Jan was not the first person to say that Gordon Wasson was part of the CIA?s MKULTRA program. Carl Ruck was talking about it (and Huxley) in 2010. [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:172:\"<p>[...] Jan was not the first person to say that Gordon Wasson was part of the CIA&#8217;s MKULTRA program. Carl Ruck was talking about it (and Huxley) in 2010. [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:158:\"[...] Jan was not the first person to say that Gordon Wasson was part of the CIA?s MKULTRA program. Carl Ruck was talking about it (and Huxley) in 2010. [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:172:\"<p>[...] Jan was not the first person to say that Gordon Wasson was part of the CIA&#8217;s MKULTRA program. Carl Ruck was talking about it (and Huxley) in 2010. [...]</p> \";}i:5;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:43:\"Comment on Vegetarian Brains by promoocodes\";s:4:\"link\";s:84:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/06/30/vegetarian-brains/comment-page-1/#comment-1043\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:11:\"promoocodes\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 31 Dec 2018 09:18:36 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:47:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=1339#comment-1043\";s:11:\"description\";s:215:\"\"health and happiness\" it was such zestful and compelling stuff that you have shared with us thank you for s great post it contains much information that can make us happy https://www.promoocodes.com/coupons/cupshe/\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:314:\"<p>&#8220;health and happiness&#8221; it was such zestful and compelling stuff that you have shared with us thank you for s great post it contains much information that can make us happy<br /> <a href=\"https://www.promoocodes.com/coupons/cupshe/\" rel=\"nofollow\">https://www.promoocodes.com/coupons/cupshe/</a></p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:215:\"\"health and happiness\" it was such zestful and compelling stuff that you have shared with us thank you for s great post it contains much information that can make us happy https://www.promoocodes.com/coupons/cupshe/\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:314:\"<p>&#8220;health and happiness&#8221; it was such zestful and compelling stuff that you have shared with us thank you for s great post it contains much information that can make us happy<br /> <a href=\"https://www.promoocodes.com/coupons/cupshe/\" rel=\"nofollow\">https://www.promoocodes.com/coupons/cupshe/</a></p> \";}i:6;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:137:\"Comment on Are Charter Cities the way to Third World Prosperity? by Climate change and growth ? Nordhaus and Romer | Michael Roberts Blog\";s:4:\"link\";s:119:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/02/01/are-charter-cities-the-way-to-third-world-prosperity/comment-page-1/#comment-1042\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:69:\"Climate change and growth ? Nordhaus and Romer | Michael Roberts Blog\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Tue, 09 Oct 2018 13:26:14 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:46:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=956#comment-1042\";s:11:\"description\";s:238:\"[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer saw it as an ‘intervention’ that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:246:\"<p>[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer saw it as an ‘intervention’ that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:238:\"[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer saw it as an ‘intervention’ that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:246:\"<p>[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer saw it as an ‘intervention’ that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. [...]</p> \";}i:7;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:167:\"Comment on Are Charter Cities the way to Third World Prosperity? by Why Isn’t The World Bank’s Choice of Chief Economist More Controversial? ? Developing Economics\";s:4:\"link\";s:119:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/02/01/are-charter-cities-the-way-to-third-world-prosperity/comment-page-1/#comment-1041\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:99:\"Why Isn’t The World Bank’s Choice of Chief Economist More Controversial? ? Developing Economics\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Sun, 31 Jul 2016 20:07:58 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:46:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=956#comment-1041\";s:11:\"description\";s:243:\"[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer sees it as an intervention that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. Therefore, [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:251:\"<p>[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer sees it as an intervention that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. Therefore, [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:243:\"[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer sees it as an intervention that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. Therefore, [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:251:\"<p>[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer sees it as an intervention that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. Therefore, [...]</p> \";}i:8;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:128:\"Comment on Wasson and the Psychedelic Revolution by Carl Ruck article on Wasson and backstory of Road to Eleusis | cyberdisciple\";s:4:\"link\";s:104:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/comment-page-1/#comment-1040\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:76:\"Carl Ruck article on Wasson and backstory of Road to Eleusis | cyberdisciple\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:06:44 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:46:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=873#comment-1040\";s:11:\"description\";s:88:\"[...] http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/ [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:202:\"<p>[...] <a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/\" rel=\"nofollow\">http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/</a> [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:88:\"[...] http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/ [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:202:\"<p>[...] <a href=\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/\" rel=\"nofollow\">http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/01/18/wasson-and-the-psychedelic-revolution/</a> [...]</p> \";}i:9;a:9:{s:5:\"title\";s:183:\"Comment on Are Charter Cities the way to Third World Prosperity? by Blog post: Why Isn’t The World Bank’s Choice of Chief Economist More Controversial? ? Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven\";s:4:\"link\";s:119:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/2010/02/01/are-charter-cities-the-way-to-third-world-prosperity/comment-page-1/#comment-1039\";s:2:\"dc\";a:1:{s:7:\"creator\";s:115:\"Blog post: Why Isn’t The World Bank’s Choice of Chief Economist More Controversial? ? Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven\";}s:7:\"pubdate\";s:31:\"Sat, 23 Jul 2016 15:33:19 +0000\";s:4:\"guid\";s:46:\"http://www.brainwaving.com/?p=956#comment-1039\";s:11:\"description\";s:243:\"[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer sees it as an intervention that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. Therefore, [...]\";s:7:\"content\";a:1:{s:7:\"encoded\";s:251:\"<p>[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer sees it as an intervention that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. Therefore, [...]</p> \";}s:7:\"summary\";s:243:\"[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer sees it as an intervention that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. Therefore, [...]\";s:12:\"atom_content\";s:251:\"<p>[...] Kong. Rather than seeing Hong Kong’s signing away to Britain as unjust or humiliating for China, Romer sees it as an intervention that has done much more to reduce poverty than any aid program and at a much lower cost. Therefore, [...]</p> \";}}s:7:\"channel\";a:6:{s:5:\"title\";s:24:\"Comments for Brainwaving\";s:4:\"link\";s:26:\"http://www.brainwaving.com\";s:13:\"lastbuilddate\";s:31:\"Sun, 10 Jan 2021 05:28:59 +0000\";s:2:\"sy\";a:2:{s:12:\"updateperiod\";s:6:\"hourly\";s:15:\"updatefrequency\";s:1:\"1\";}s:9:\"generator\";s:29:\"http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.1\";s:7:\"tagline\";N;}s:9:\"textinput\";a:0:{}s:5:\"image\";a:0:{}s:9:\"feed_type\";s:3:\"RSS\";s:12:\"feed_version\";s:3:\"2.0\";s:5:\"stack\";a:0:{}s:9:\"inchannel\";b:0;s:6:\"initem\";b:0;s:9:\"incontent\";b:0;s:11:\"intextinput\";b:0;s:7:\"inimage\";b:0;s:13:\"current_field\";s:0:\"\";s:17:\"current_namespace\";b:0;s:19:\"_CONTENT_CONSTRUCTS\";a:6:{i:0;s:7:\"content\";i:1;s:7:\"summary\";i:2;s:4:\"info\";i:3;s:5:\"title\";i:4;s:7:\"tagline\";i:5;s:9:\"copyright\";}}','no')