Clinton Press Release: Hillary to Be Funnier, More Spontaneous

Hillary Clinton continually tweaks her public image, but there is a greater cost to not knowing who you are: We don't know, either. 

Hillary Clinton is trying. Trying to stay out of legal trouble, trying to appear to be less robotic, and also trying to look like she’s not trying. Her campaign announced that she would now be funnier and more spontaneous. There’s nothing more spontaneous than planning, and no one funnier than that person at the party who is trying so hard to be funny. While she gets an A+ for effort, at times it seems like she is an overzealous student who wants to be valedictorian so badly she takes too much Adderall and loses her mind.

Clinton’s headquarters are in Brooklyn, New York, the capitol of curating an “I just woke up like this” image. There, among the artists and trustfund babies is a Dr. Frankenstein PR experiment. A little Instagram here, a little self-deprecating joke there, and here is Hilbot 2016. But none of her efforts have convinced me she’s not pulling a reverse Toy Story and actually shuts down when people leave the room. We have just gone through an administration where we’ve seen the president and vice president cry publicly multiple times, unafraid to show their hearts and having the courage to be vulnerable. If America wanted a wax figure as Commander-in-Chief, we would have elected Mitt Romney.

Her campaign announced that she would now be funnier and more spontaneous.

There is something at play here, something more than a bad public image, that has many people deboarding the Clinton train. If we can’t tell who you are, how do we know we can trust you? The Benghazi scandal is a divisive and confusing ordeal, a political funhouse mirror that is deeply unsettling mostly because it’s so hard to know who to believe. Is it really driven by a right-wing conspiracy? And what of the email fallout; did she know she had highly classified documents about North Korea on an unsecure server?

The fact that I’m not entirely sure about what she did or didn’t know is enough of a trigger to give me flashbacks to 2005, when the “who knew what, and when” inquiry arose out of the Iraqi war. Clinton would not be pleased to be compared to the Bush administration, but many people, particularly Millennials, are weary of political dynasties (particularly when the politician’s moral compass is going all Bermuda Triangle on us). The conversations I have with my left-leaning peers are centered on the question: What if Joe Biden has Elizabeth Warren as a running mate and we have to choose between them and Bernie Sanders? Clinton isn’t even a part of the equation for many of us.

Clinton isn’t even a part of the equation for many of us.

Clinton will likely continue to reinvent herself, but the results won’t be what she’s looking for. If she’s not comfortable with herself, we won’t be either. If I run into her on the streets of Brooklyn, I will tell her this: Be yourself, play to your strengths, and don’t forget who you are. When someone tries to be someone they are not, they seem awkward, stilted, and somewhat untrustworthy.

If Hillary wants to be president (and there’s no denying she does), she’s got to stop listening to focus groups, polls, and anyone else. She’s got to figure out what she believes in so much that we can’t help but believe, too. Otherwise, HilBot 2016 will be as passe as an old iPhone. Robotic politicians went out with Dwight Eisenhower. In this era, being human means admitting fault, embracing your uniqueness without exploiting it, and showing emotion. Humanity 2016, anyone?

* * *

Lori Chandler is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, NY, which is the most unoriginal sentence she has ever written. You can look at her silly drawings on Tumblr, Rad Drawings, or read her silly tweets @LilBoodleChild. Enough about her, she says: How are you?

PHOTO CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

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