from the world's big
Hooman Majd Considers The Upcoming Iranian Election
Hooman Majd was born in Tehran, Iran in 1957, and lived abroad from infancy with his family who were in the diplomatic service. He attended boarding school in England and college in the United States, and stayed in the U.S. after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Majd had a long career in the entertainment business before devoting himself to writing and journalism full-time. He worked at Island Records and Polygram Records for many years, with a diverse group of artists, and was head of film and music at Palm Pictures, where he produced The Cup and James Toback's Black and White.
He has written for GQ, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Observer, Interview, and Salon, and has been a regular contributor to The Huffington Post from its inception. A contributing editor at Interview magazine, he lives in New York City and travels regularly back to Iran.
Question: How is Ahmadinejad looking heading into the election?
Hooman Majd: Nobody has insight at this stage because the Iranian campaign is a much shorter campaign than the US campaign. Now our campaigns are two years long, and you start getting a feel for the candidates, you start getting an understanding of where it’s going to go, you have polls and all kinds of things.
Iran has polls too ,and President Ahmadinejad is particularly unpopular right now. His popularity ratings, according to unofficial polls, sits somewhere around George [W.] Bush’s was at the end of his presidency, in the 25 to 30% range, so he is deeply unpopular mainly because of his economic performance and because of the economy in Iran, and there are other factors too.
Now, that doesn’t mean he can’t win. The campaign season itself is a very short season. The Iranian New Year is in March, coming out of the New Year, if there’s a two week holiday, kind of like Christmas for us. By the beginning of April, the candidates will start setting up their agendas. They’ve already started a little bit in terms of giving speeches and going to universities and setting up a little bit of their agenda but there’ll be this flurry of flurry activity and a furious activity for the last two weeks, three weeks of the campaign. And so many things can happen in Iran between now and May  which is when it’s going to happen, that it’s really hard to say.
There could be an outside force that turns the election one way or another. If the United States, for example, opens up a dialogue with Iran, that could effect the election, one way or another. If the United States does something else; intimidating to Iran, that could help Ahmadinejad, for example.
There’ll be a new prime minister in Israel within weeks presumably Benjamin Netanyahu. If the Israeli government does something that could potentially help Ahmadinejad.
We don’t know, there’s so many unknown factors right now. The reality is that I think most people in Iran would like to see some sort of change.
Question: What should Americans realize about elections in Iran?
Hooman Majd: The thing that would surprise many Americans is that elections are actually quite free and in Iran, some American journalists described them as free relative to Middle-Eastern election, but that’s really not true.
In Egypt, if Hosni Mubarak wants to be re-elected, he gets a 99% positive vote. That doesn’t happen in Iran. The election for president is actually quite free. When I say quite free, there’s always going to be some sort of shenanigan on some level, even in the United States, whether it’s completely illegal activity, stuffing ballot boxes, which can happen, but not to a large degree, or there’s intimidation of voters and things like that, which happens even in the United States.
But by and large, they’re very free. Unless an election is decided by very, very small margin, less than 200,000 votes in a country where there’s 70 million people and 40 million can vote, 50 million can vote, then it’s a truly free election for the president.
Question: What is the most important campaign issue for most Iranians?
Hooman Majd: I think it’s a pocketbook. It’s like everybody, every country in the world. Iranians are not that different from Americans. Yes, I think the economy is going to be the number issue.
To the degree that international relations and the nuclear issue affect the economy, it becomes more of a factor, it’s not so much that, “Oh, are we deciding whether we want to go ahead and have nuclear energy the way that Ahmadinejad proposes it or do we want to back down in front of America?” It’s not that.
It’s more about, “Well, how is this affecting our economy? How is this affecting the sanctions? How is this affecting unemployment?” And Iranians are quite smart about that. They understand that when; for example, and certainly be at least understanding when President Ahmadinejad goes on television and/or at a speech somewhere and says something very inflammatory about Israel or about America and gives America the opportunity to go to the [United Nations] Security Council and gives America a better excuse to impose sanctions, other countries will go along with it.
They understand that that kind of rhetoric is not necessarily helpful, whether or not the intention of Iran is to pursue nuclear energy or not. So those issues are going to be debated by certainly amongst the educated elite and I think even trickling down all the way to the poor who understands that the isolation of Iran, not from the rest of the world so much but certainly for America has affected the economy.
Recorded on: March 11, 2009.
Hooman Majd on the upcoming Iranian election.
If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.
- Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
- Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
- One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
- The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
- The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.
- 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
- Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
- Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.
The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.
In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.
That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.
70 data points and machine learning
Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash
Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:
"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."
The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.
Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."
Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.
Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.
On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.
Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash
Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."
"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.
The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.