love and creativity

Does Falling in Love Make Us More Creative?
A new study demonstrates that thinking about love–but not about sex–causes us to think more “globally,” making it easier to come up with new ideas

By Nira Liberman and Oren Shapira

Love has inspired countless works of art, from immortal plays such as Romeo and Juliet, to architectural masterpieces such as the Taj Mahal, to classic pop songs, like Queen’s “Love of My Life”. This raises the obvious question: why is love such a stimulating emotion? Why does the act of falling in love – or at least thinking about love – lead to such a spur of creative productivity?

One possibility is that when we’re in love we actually think differently. This romantic hypothesis was recently tested by the psychologists Jens Förster, Kai Epstude, and Amina Özelsel at the University of Amsterdam. The researchers found that love really does alter our thoughts, and that this profound emotion affects us in a way that is different than simply thinking about sex.

The clever experiments demonstrated that love makes us think differently in that it triggers global processing, which in turn promotes creative thinking and interferes with analytic thinking. Thinking about sex, however, has the opposite effect: it triggers local processing, which in turn promotes analytic thinking and interferes with creativity.

Why does love make us think more globally? The researchers suggest that romantic love induces a long-term perspective, whereas sexual desire induces a short-term perspective. This is because love typically entails wishes and goals of prolonged attachment with a person, whereas sexual desire is typically focused on engaging in sexual activities in the “here and now”. Consistent with this idea, when the researchers asked people to imagine a romantic date or a casual sex encounter, they found that those who imagined dates imagined them as occurring farther into the future than those who imagined casual sex.

According to construal level theory (CLT), thinking about events that are farther into the future or past – or any kind psychological distancing (such as considering things or people that are physically farther away, or considering remote, unlikely alternatives to reality) triggers a more global processing style. In other words, psychological distancing makes us see the forest rather than the individual trees.

A global processing style promotes creative thinking because it helps raise remote and uncommon associations. Consider, for example, the act of finding a gift for your partner. If we think about a gift while in a local mindset, then we’ll probably focus on more literal and concrete options, most of which involve a tangible object wrapped in colorful paper. We’ll probably consider the usual suspects, such as a watch, a book, or perfume. However, thinking about a gift more globally might inspire us to consider a gift as “anything that will make him/her happy”. This may, in turn, bring to mind more diverse and original ideas, such as going on a joint vacation, writing a song, or cleaning and remodeling the house. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should always think globally. While local processing might interfere with creativity, it also promotes analytic thinking, which requires us to apply logical rules. For example, if you are looking for a piece of furniture in a big display according to a pre-defined list of criteria (e.g., size, color, price), a local mindset may help you find a match, by preventing you from being side-tracked by attractive but irrelevant options and by making you pay more attention to relevant details.

In sum, the authors suggest that, because love activates a long-term perspective that elicits global processing, it should also promote creativity and impede analytic thinking. In contrast, inasmuch as sex activates a short-term perspective that elicits local processing, it should also promote analytic thinking and impede creative thinking.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=does-falling-in-love-make
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original article: http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/0146167209342755v2
Jens Förster, Prof. Dr.*, Kai Epstude, and Amina Özelsel
Why Love Has Wings and Sex Has Not: How Reminders of Love and Sex Influence Creative and Analytic Thinking

end the needle exchange funding ban

Syringe exchange program save lives—scientific studies have proven they reduce the spread of HIV without increasing drug use. Urge your Senators to vote to end the ban on federal funding for SEPs

send to your senators . . .
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The Senate has a chance to fight AIDS and help provide needed health services to injecting drug users by lifting the ban on federal funding of needle and syringe exchange programs (SEPs) in the 2010 Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill.

I urge you to vote to end this harmful ban, and ensure the bill contains no last-minute language or amendments that would place restrictions on SEPs.

More than a dozen scientific and federally-funded major reviews of SEPs by experts have shown that when implemented as part of a comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention strategy, SEPs help reduce HIV transmissions without increasing drug use.

Indeed, SEPs do more than provide clean syringes and properly dispose of used ones; they link people into the health care system and drug treatment programs that save lives.

Every medical and scientific body that has studied syringe exchange has concluded that SEPs are essential, including the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, American Nurses Association, and American Public Health Association.

I also urge you to prevent any language or amendments in the Senate bill that would place undue restrictions on SEPs. The House of Representatives included the detrimental “1,000 Foot Rule”, which states that no federal funds may be used for needle exchange programs within 1,000 feet of schools, universities, playgrounds and other institutions.

This language severely and unnecessarily limits the locations of SEPs. In some cases, the rule makes it impossible for urban communities to have needle exchange programs at all. I urge the Senate to reject this rule and let states and communities decide how to run their own SEPs.

Syringe exchange is a scientifically proven tool to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other diseases. As your constituent, I urge you to vote to support this lifesaving program.

APEC motorcade stunt

the chaser’s war on everything: quite hilarious.

when getting beaten by your husband is a pre-existing condition

*unreal.

by Ryan Grm
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/14/when-getting-beaten-by-yo_n_286029.html

With the White House zeroing in on the insurance-industry practice of discriminating against clients based on pre-existing conditions, administration allies are calling attention to how broadly insurers interpret the term to maximize profits.

It turns out that in eight states, plus the District of Columbia, getting beaten up by your spouse is a pre-existing condition.

Under the cold logic of the insurance industry, it makes perfect sense: If you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you’re more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure.

In human terms, it’s a second punishment for a victim of domestic violence.

In 2006, Democrats tried to end the practice. An amendment introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), now a member of leadership, split the Health Education Labor & Pensions Committee 10-10. The tie meant that the measure failed.

All ten no votes were Republicans, including Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), a member of the “Gang of Six” on the Finance Committee who are hashing out a bipartisan bill. A spokesman for Enzi didn’t immediately return a call from Huffington Post.

At the time, Enzi defended his vote by saying that such regulations could increase the price of insurance and make it out of reach for more people. “If you have no insurance, it doesn’t matter what services are mandated by the state,” he said, according to a CQ Today item from March 15th, 2006.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for an insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), said that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has proposed ending the discrimination. “The NAIC has a model on this that we strongly supported. That model bans the use of a person’s status as a victim of domestic violence in making a decision on coverage,” he said.
During the last health care reform push, in 1993 and 1994, the industry similarly promised to end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.

Murray pushed to include the domestic violence concern in this year’s comprehensive health care bill. “Senator Murray continues to believe that victims of domestic violence should not be punished for the crimes of their abusers. That is why she worked to include language in the Senate HELP Committee’s health insurance reform bill that would ban this discriminatory and harmful insurance company practice,” said spokesman Eli Zupnick.

In 1994, then-Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), now a member of Senate leadership, had his staff survey 16 insurance companies. He found that eight would not write health, life or disability policies for women who have been abused. In 1995, the Boston Globe found that Nationwide, Allstate, State Farm, Aetna, Metropolitan Life, The Equitable Companies, First Colony Life, The Prudential and the Principal Financial Group had all either canceled or denied coverage to women who’d been beaten.

The Service Employees International Union asked members to write letters to Congress regarding the exclusion and have quickly generated hundreds, says an SEIU spokeswoman.

The relevant provision:

SEC. 2706. PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPANTS AND BENEFICIARIES BASED ON HEALTH STATUS.

‘(a) IN GENERAL.–A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage may not establish rules for eligibility (including continued eligibility) of any individual to enroll under the terms of the plan or coverage based on any of the following health status-related factors in relation to the individual or a dependent of the individual:

(1) Health status.
(2) Medical condition (including both physical and mental illnesses).
(3) Claims experience.
(4) Receipt of health care.
(5) Medical history.
(6) Genetic information.
(7) Evidence of insurability (including conditions arising out of acts of domestic violence).
(8) Disability.
(9) Any other health status-related factor determined appropriate by the Secretary.

UPDATE: The eight states that still allow it are Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming, according to a report by the National Women’s Law Center.

UPDATE II: Scratch the Tar Heal state from that list. North Carolina insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin had his staff research the state’s law and his attorneys concluded that insurers in that state would not be allowed to use domestic violence as a pre-existing condition. Group plans were specifically forbidden from using it thanks to a 1997 law, he said. For individuals and non-group plans, it’s more complicated.

“Though there is not a specific statute for individual plans or non-group plans, there is another statute that our attorneys here tell us addresses this issue. For example, North Carolina law defines what a preexisting condition is. Now, here in North Carolina, it says a preexisting condition means – quote – those conditions for which medical advice, diagnosis, care or treatment was received or recommended within a one year period immediately preceding the effective date of the person’s coverage.” Domestic violence, he said, doesn’t met the state’s definition of a medical condition and so can’t be used as a pre-existing condition.

Wyoming Department of Insurance staff attorney James Mitchell said the state’s insurance laws do not ban insurers from using domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, but his staffers were unable to find cases of insurers having done so and he said they had not received any complaints. “We are not aware of any policies that have been submitted to us that addressed domestic violence as a pre-existing condition,” he said. The remaining six states have yet to respond.

UPDATE TO UPDATE II: A few readers have noted that the ambiguity of North Carolina’s law regarding individual and non-group plans could still leave domestic violence victims vulnerable to discrimination. And Commissioner Goodwin himself, in a Facebook note summarizing my conversation with him, does say “that North Carolina’s law on this subject vis-a-vis individual/non-group plans could be clarified and made more direct, and that we should also consider the NAIC national model law on the subject, too. The legislature doesn’t return until May 2010, so there is time to work on the best way to clarify this issue for folks while educating them in the meanwhile.”

He posted his response on the FB page of journalist Christine Tatum, who had posted a link to this story and asked her friends to contact him. Goodwin noted on her wall that allowing insurance companies to discriminate against domestic violence victims is a tragedy and something he wouldn’t allow in his state.

North Carolina, however, given the fuzziness of the law, still belongs on a list of states whose laws could be clarified to assure that domestic violence victims aren’t denied coverage or charged higher premiums. Forty-two states have made that specific clarification and the Senate health committee bill would do so nationally.

If you’re an attorney with experience in this field and want to weigh in, write me at ryan@huffingtonpost.com.

UPDATE III: Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney provided the following statement through a spokeswoman:

Mississippi does not at this time have a law which bans insurance companies from considering domestic violence as a pre-existing condition. However, the reason there is not such a law is that there has not been a problem with insurance companies denying coverage or refusing to pay the claims of domestic violence victims in this state. If it were an issue, the Legislature and the Department would have addressed it by now.

The Mississippi Department of Insurance is unaware of any insurance company operating in this state that would deny coverage if the applicant had been a victim of domestic violence. Nor have we received any complaint from a consumer stating their insurance company refused to pay their medical bills incurred from domestic violence. Such action by an insurance company would not be tolerated by the Department.

It is the position of the Department that if an insurance company denied payment of a claim incurred in an act of domestic violence, such action would be a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Act, as promulgated in Miss. Code Ann. §§ 83-5-29 through 83-5-51, and the Department would take the appropriate action.

Should the Mississippi Legislature choose to enact legislation addressing this issue, the Mississippi Insurance Department would be very supportive of the passage of such legislation.

UPDATE TO UPDATE III: Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney was much blunter in an interview with the Jackson Free Press:

“The truth is we’ve got eight states in the union that count domestic abuse as a pre-existing condition, and Mississippi is one of them,” Chaney told the Jackson Free Press. “I’ve got to get some of my lawyers to do some research on this, but we have only six mandated (conditions that must be covered) in our state statues, and we have 25 or more optional coverages, but domestic abuse doesn’t seem to be one of them.”

Chaney said all insurance companies in the state can take advantage of the state’s limited coverage mandate, and that he would prefer the state to change its law to force insurance companies to cover victims of domestic abuse.

“Would I do something about it? Hell, yeah, I’d do something about it, but I’m a regulator, not a legislator. I have to come to terms with that every week,” Chaney said. “The whole situation is bad. Let’s say a woman works with a company that had Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and she gets beat up in her house and Blue Cross says ‘we’re not covering you because getting beat up is your pre-existing condition.’ That’s terrible.”

Read the whole story here.

UPDATE IV: North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm, a former violent-crimes prosecutor, told the Huffington Post that he and Gov. John Hoeven (R) are working to change the standing policy in their state. “To put it mildly, Wayne and I are on the same page,” he said, referring to the North Carolina insurance commissioner.

After a consumer alerted him Tuesday via e-mail, Hamm said, “Quite frankly, I was stunned and I couldn’t believe it.” His office then contacted Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Medica, John Alden and American Family, who together account for 98 percent of the state’s health insurance policies, and none of the four companies treat domestic violence as a preexisting condition, he said. Nor has the state insurance department recorded any complaints of being denied care on those grounds.

“We have no record of any of that ever occurring in our state,” Hamm said. “So we’re obviously happy about that.”

To keep it from happening in the future, the state insurance department will push legislation as soon as possible, Hamm said. Since the North Dakota legislature only meets every other year, he projected a 2011 vote.

In the meantime, Hamm said he wants to know why North Dakota never joined the 42 other states who passed bans years ago. Agents are combing legislative files going back to the mid-1990s to see if such a measure was ever introduced, he said.

UPDATE V: State Farm writes in to note that it has changed its policy since that 1995 Boston Globe story and no longer discriminates against victims of domestic violence.

A follow-up Globe item reported that “recent ‘media attention,’ and the company’s own research, caused the company to revise its policy, [spokeswoman K.C.] Eynatten said. State Farm no longer ‘rates or denies life or health insurance to battered women, even if there’s a history of domestic violence.’

It went on: “‘We realized our position was based on gut feelings, not hard numbers,’ Eynatten said, explaining the change. ‘And we became aware that we were part of the reason a woman and her children might not leave an abuser. They were afraid they’d lose their insurance. And we wanted no part of that.'”

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/14/when-getting-beaten-by-yo_n_286029.html

what being uninsured means

A study (see original article below) estimates nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance. That figure is about two and a half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002. The authors found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993.

Lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper, said, “The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health. We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease — but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.”

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original article:
Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults
American Journal of Public Health | December 2009, Vol 99, No.12
Andrew P. Wilper, MD, MPH; Steffie Woolhandler, MD; Karen E. Lasser, MD, MPH; Danny McCormick, MD, MPH; David H. Bor, MD; and David U. Himmelstein, MD

development as freedom

Sometimes the lack of substantive freedoms relates directly to economic poverty, which robs people of the freedom to satisfy hunger, or to achieve sufficient nutrition, or to obtain remedies for treatable illnesses, or the opportunity to be adequately clothed or sheltered, or to enjoy clean water or sanitary facilities.

In other cases, the unfreedom links closely to the lack of public facilities and social care, such as the absence of epidemiological programs, or of organized arrangements for health care of educational facilities, or of effective institutions for the maintenance of local peace and order.

In still other cases, the violation of freedom results directly from a denial of political and civil liberties by authoritarian regimes and from imposed restrictions on the freedom to participate in the social, political and economic life of the community.

[amartya sen]

we can’t afford to wait.

enough said.

dialogue (n.qabbani)

Do not say my love was
A ring or a bracelet.
My love is a siege,
Is the daring and headstrong.
Who, searching sail out to their death.

Do not say my love was
A moon.
My love is a burst of sparks.

[Nizar Qabbani]

a look at the labor movement in iran

by: Faramarz Dadvar

In Iran, a corrupt and theocratic regime has made life extremely difficult for workers, the poor, and for the great majority of the country’s citizens. Almost 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line; the unemployment rate is about 20 percent, more than 1,500 factories have closed, and inflation runs around 30 percent, in part due to mismanagement of the budget by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. At the same time, the country has undergone increased privatization in which state firms are sold—underpriced—to those with connections to the regime’s insiders, among them the rich and powerful. As a result, the country’s wealth is being redistributed, mainly in favor of a tiny minority. The richest 10 percent of the population has 21 times more income than those in the lowest 10 percent.

In the last 30 years, the clerical rulers and their economic partners in the traditional commerce centers (bazaars) have brutally suppressed the legitimate emancipatory and economic demands of the people, particularly the poor, the working class, women, and youth. These oppressors have been joined by security/military members whose organizations either own major financial firms or exert control on the basis of “friendly” privatization of previously state-run economic institutions.

In the recent mass demonstrations against the presidential election results (apparently rigged in favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with the support of Ali Khamenei, the religious supreme leader), the Revolutionary Guards and Paramilitary Basiji participated in the violent attacks against the protestors. In fact, in the past 30 years, the regime has been able to suppress dissidents and periodic uprisings by consistently playing the “anti-imperialist,” nationalist card and using populist-religious propaganda. As a last resort, it does not hesitate to violently repress any mass resistance.

In the meantime, the Iranian people have never stopped their resistance, striving for freedom, democracy, social justice, and the right of social self-determination. The labor movement has long fought for its rights. In the first months of the 1979 revolution, workers organized labor councils and seized some factories and institutions. Soon, however, political repression began and these labor activists, along with progressive and socialist individuals and groups, were violently suppressed. Thereafter, regime-sponsored labor centers and institutions, such as the Worker’s House and Islamic Labor Councils (ILCs), were installed to control workers. Under Iranian labor law, these councils can be set up in companies with more than 50 workers. Their objectives are to “propagate and spread Islamic culture and defend the achievement of the Islamic Revolution.”

In the past few years, labor activists have organized independent unions. Their efforts have been a response to privatization, in which new owners, searching for quick profits, closed down many companies. That, in turn, caused a dramatic increase in layoffs and difficult conditions for workers, who endured longer periods of pay delays and forced temporary employment at lower wages.

Some activists, conscious of the fact that Iran has signed the charter of the International Labor Organization (ILO), have made connections with a few international unions, including the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) and EI (Education International), according to the Trades Union Congress (briefing document, issued April 13, 2009). The ITF (International Transport Worker’s Federation) and the IUF (International Union of Food Agriculture, Hotels, Restaurants, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations) called a worldwide action on June 26, 2009 to demand the recognition of basic democratic labor rights in Iran.

In the labor struggles in Iran during recent years, some activists with radical political tendencies were able to form smaller solidarity groups, such as the Free Union of Workers in Iran, the Center for Worker’s Rights in Iran, the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Worker’s Organizations, and the Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Free Worker’s Organizations. A key event was the announcement of the formation of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company in 2005 and its recognition by ITF and a few other international unions. Another major move by the Iranian labor movement was the formation of the independent Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company in October 2008, which brought the regime’s wrath down on militant workers.

Since 2005, members of the Bus Company Syndicate, and, in the last three years, labor activists belonging to the Haft Tapeh Syndicate, the Teacher’s Union, the Painter’s Syndicate, and many other labor groups have been harassed, flogged, tortured, and sentenced to many years in prison. In the last few years, labor activists have celebrated International Workers’ Day, even though the regime has made it clear it will suppress such symbolic actions. As a result, many are still in prison or have been taken to court for participating in May celebrations and similar activities.

Nevertheless, efforts by militant workers have had important political reverberations. The proclamations issued by labor activists include a statement that indicates a politically sophisticated labor force. It reads, in part: “The workers of Iran face severely low wages, mass layoffs and expulsions, non-payment of wages for millions of workers, enforcement of temporary work contracts, subcontracting…blank-signed contracts, arrest and incarceration of workers, repression of workers’ protests and organizations… medieval sentences… flogging workers…violations of worker’ rights…. Such oppressive conditions have gone [on] for years…. We workers…are the organized producers of all wealth and riches in the society and consider it our most basic right to live in peace and comfort according to the highest standard of today’s humanity.”

The statement raises numerous demands, including:
• Guaranteed job security
• Immediate increase in minimum wages
• The right to form independent workers’ organizations
• Full equality for women
• Release of all incarcerated workers
• The recognition of May 1 as an official holiday

In the recent demonstrations against the presidential election in June and July 2009, organized labor solidly supported the people’s demands for free elections, civil liberties, political democracy, and economic justice. Although labor activists are not united and the pro-socialist opposition is very weak, certain radical groups stress participating in the people’s struggle to change the existing political system. For example, among the demands raised by the coordinating committee to help form workers’ organizations are “unconditional political freedom” and freedom of association, including the “anti-capitalist organization.” Another group, the Committee in Solidarity for Formation of Construction Labor Union, supported the mass revolt and called for a “free and democratic election,” freedom of political parties, and freedom to demonstrate. Undoubtedly, the Iranian working class is already involved in the ongoing democratic struggle.

Faramarz Dadvar is a socialist feminist writer and activist.
from: Z Magazine – The Spirit Of Resistance Lives