An Amazonian tea stimulates the formation of new neurons

An Amazonian tea stimulates the formation of new neurons
Preparation of ayahuasca in Ecuador. Credit: Terpsichore.

One of the main natural components of ayahuasca tea is dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which promotes neurogenesis —the formation of new neurons—according to research led by the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM).

In addition to , the infusion used for shamanic purposes also induces the formation of other neural cells such as astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.

“This capacity to modulate brain plasticity suggests that it has great therapeutic potential for a wide range of psychiatric and neurological disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases,” explained José Ángel Morales, a researcher in the UCM and CIBERNED Department of Cellular Biology.

The study, published in Translational Psychiatry, a Nature Research journal, reports the results of four years of in vitro and in vivo experimentation on mice, demonstrating that these exhibit “a greater cognitive capacity when treated with this substance,” according to José Antonio López, a researcher in the Faculty of Psychology at the UCM and co-author of the study.

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The Russia-China Vote

Whatever the geopolitical and geoeconomic consequences of the spectacular US dystopia, the Russia-China strategic partnership, in their own slightly different registers, have already voted on their path forward.

Here is how I framed what is at the heart of the Chinese 2021-2025 five-year plan approved at the plenum in Beijing last week.

Here is a standard Chinese think tank interpretation.

And here is some especially pertinent context examining how rampant Sinophobia is impotent when faced with an extremely efficient made in China model of governance. This study shows how China’s complex history, culture and civilizational axioms simply cannot fit into the Western, Christian hegemonic worldview.

The not so hidden “secret” of China’s 2021-2025 five-year plan – which the Global Times described as “economic self-reliance” – is to base the civilization-state’s increasing geopolitical clout on technological breakthroughs.

Crucially, China is on a “self-driven” path – depending on little to no foreign input. Even a clear – “pragmatic” – horizon has been set: 2035, halfway between now and 2049. By this time China should be on a par or even surpassing the US in geopolitical, geoeconomic and techno power.

That is the rationale behind the Chinese leadership actively studying the convergence of quantum physics and information sciences – which is regarded as the backbone of the Made in China push towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The five-year plan makes it quite clear that the two key vectors are AI and robotics – where Chinese research is already quite advanced. Innovations in these fields will yield a matrix of applications in every area from transportation to medicine, not to mention weaponry.

Huawei is essential in this ongoing process, as it’s not a mere data behemoth, but a hardware provider, creating platforms and the physical infrastructure for a slew of companies to develop their own versions of smart cities, safe cities – or medicines.

Big Capital – from East and West – is very much in tune with where all of this is going, a process that also implicates the core hubs of the New Silk Roads. In tune with the 21stcentury “land of opportunity” script, Big Capital will increasingly move towards East Asia, China and these New Silk hubs.

This new geoeconomic matrix will mostly rely on spin offs of the Made in China 2025 strategy. A clear choice will be presented for most of the planet: “win win” or “zero sum”.

The failures of neoliberalism

After observing the mighty clash, enhanced by Covid-19, between the neoliberal paradigm and “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, the Global South is only beginning to draw the necessary conclusions.

No Western propaganda tsunami can favorably spin what is in effect a devastating, one-two, ideological collapse.

Neoliberalism’s abject failure in dealing with Covid-19 is manifestly evident all across the West.

The US election dystopia is now sealing the abject failure of Western liberal “democracy”: what kind of “choice” is offered by Trump-Biden?

This is happening just as the ultra-efficient, relentlessly demonized “Chinese Communist Party” rolls out the road map for the next five years. Washington cannot even plan what happens the day ahead.

Trump’s original drive, suggested by Henry Kissinger before the January 2017 inauguration, was to play – what else – Divide and Rule, seducing Russia against China.

This was absolute anathema for the Deep State and its Dem minions. Thus the subsequent, relentless demonization of Trump – with Russiagate topping the charts. And then Trump unilaterally chose to sanction and demonize China anyway.

Assuming a Dem victory, the scenario will veer towards Russia demonization on steroids even as hysterical Hybrid War on China will persist on all fronts – Uighurs, Tibet, Hong Kong, South China Sea, Taiwan.

Now compare all of the above with the Russian road map.

That was clearly stated in crucial interventions by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrovand President Putin at the recent Valdai Club discussions.

Putin has made a key assertion on the role of Capital, stressing the necessity of “abandoning the practice of unrestrained and unlimited consumption – overconsumption – in favor of judicious and reasonable sufficiency, when you do not live just for today but also think about tomorrow.”

Putin once again stressed the importance of the role of the state: “The state is a necessary fixture, there is no way […] could do without state support.”

And, in concert with the endless Chinese experimentation, he added that in fact there are no economic rules set in stone: “No model is pure or rigid, neither the market economy nor the command economy today, but we simply have to determine the level of the state’s involvement in the economy. What do we use as a baseline for this decision? Expediency. We need to avoid using any templates, and so far, we have successfully avoided that.”

Pragmatic Putin defined how to regulate the role of the state as “a form of art”.

And he offered as an example, “keeping inflation up by a bit will make it easier for Russian consumers and companies to pay back their loans. It is economically healthier than the deflationary policies of western societies.”

As a direct consequence of Putin’s pragmatic policies – which include wide-ranging social programs and vast national projects – the West ignores that Russia may well be on the way to overtake Germany as the fifth largest economy in the world.

The bottom line is that, combined, the Russia-China strategic partnership is offering, especially to the Global South, two radically different approaches to the standard Western neoliberal dogma. And that, for the whole US establishment, is anathema.

So whatever the result of the Trump-Biden “choice”, the clash between the Hegemon and the Top Two Sovereigns is only bound to become more incandescent.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

Gotcha! This brave stand against Rupert Murdoch’s cancerous stranglehold on the world’s anglophone media needs to be supported

Ex-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is pushing for an inquiry to be set up into the massive influence the Australian-born tycoon has over politics there. It’s the same across Britain and America, and it all needs to end.

At the ripe old age of 89, Rupert Murdoch is probably the most successful media tycoon alive right now. In fact, too successful for anyone’s good. The Australian turned American multi-billionaire oversees a vast empire under his web of various companies, which span the anglophone world. To the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the Fox News channel in the United States, to the Sun and the Times in the UK, and to a near-total monopoly over the Australian market amounting to around 70% of its major news outlets, it’s difficult to deny the influence which one person has over the flow of politics around the world.

To no surprise, not everyone is happy about it, not least in Australia itself. Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has long been a vocal critic of the Murdoch empire, denouncing it as a “cancer on our democracy,” and he has now launched a petition against it arguing for a royal commission into its influence. It has attracted a record 500,000 signatures. He finds company in the belief that these media outlets exercise disproportionate control over the country’s politics, and it has never been a secret that most Murdoch linked outlets have, either implicitly or explicitly, a strong right-wing disposition.

Although the varying quality and editorial guidelines of its outlets vary, there is no question that Murdoch’s media outlets have played a key role in the march towards populist and nationalist politics in the English speaking world. In the United Kingdom for one, such outlets have been disproportionately associated with support for the Conservative Party, and to an extent, Brexit, with Murdoch himself having described Britain’s departure from the EU as a “wonderful thing” and praised Trump. The influence of the Murdoch owned tabloid, the Sun, has been iconified: the newspaper has been famously associated with having the power to swing election results in its favour, infamously claiming that in the 1992 election,“It’s the Sun wot won it”, and it’s held persistent bias towards Labour.

Not surprisingly, as in Australia now, Murdoch outlets in Britain have also been subject to long-standing controversies relating to their ethics, ties to big business interests and politicians, and their dodgy editorial standards. The Murdoch papers were a big focus of the 2011 Leveson Inquiry following the scandal of the News of the World, a downmarket Sunday rag owned by Murdoch, hacking the phones of dozens of celebrities, politicians, and members of the British royal family, as well as a murdered schoolgirl, relatives of deceased British soldiers, and victims of terrorist attacks.

The scandal forced Murdoch’s parent company, News Corp, to shut the paper (a cynical move to save the rest of his empire), but the Leveson report’s recommendations have never been implemented and lie largely forgotten, showing the enormous obstacles which often stand in the way when one seeks to challenge such a huge, powerful monopoly. There is simply no denying that Murdoch’s remaining outlets continue to be powerful, widespread and influential.

But for the rest of the world, this should be a wake-up call. These days, there is a strong focus and obsession in public discourse into what is described as “state-owned media,”“misinformation” and “propaganda,” often thrown predominantly at countries such as Russia (and outlets like RT.com) and China.

In making these distinctions, there is an underlying assumption that the mere “independence” of a media outlet is a benchmark of its objectivity and impartiality, and in turn that a privately owned publication cannot possibly have an agenda behind it. One which may skewer its reporting and seek to potentially mislead its readers in favour of a given interest group, or its own pursuit of profits. In essence, the term “propaganda” is a pejorative which is slanted to focus on official enemies and not potential problems at home.

The Murdoch empire, however, is the perfect case study as to why this thinking is inherently problematic and, at best, fails to see the wood for the trees. Those seeking apparent propaganda from abroad as a source of “hostile influence,” often overlook the fact that not just Murdoch himself, but corporate oligarchies behind other commercial news outlets, have an iron grip over published and broadcast media across a number of countries, and are able to drive forward an unspecified number of private and opaque interests in manipulating the politics of many nations.

Who, for example, is the real threat – China or Russia’s public broadcasters, or a privately owned news empire spanning many outlets which routinely deceives the public, spreads conspiracy theories, half-truths and overwhelmingly, not marginally, influences elections? Murdoch is testament to the fact that an idealized free, impartial and objective Western press doesn’t really exist in practice, and that “state versus private” as a barometer for reporting quality is, in fact, a misleading trope.

Thus while Rudd’s petition may not change a lot in practice, and will certainly not gain the political capital in Canberra to do so, it should be a signal to wake people up. For example, Murdoch’s papers in Australia are fermenting mass hysteria against China every day. Is it not time the public realizes who is really poisoning the well here, and manipulating their politicians and filling minds with fear? The true enemy is often a lot closer to home than people realize.

Caitlin Johnstone: Don’t fool yourself, your Biden vote was not a ‘vote against fascism’

By Caitlin Johnstone, an independent journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her website is here and you can follow her on Twitter @caitoz
Caitlin Johnstone: Don’t fool yourself, your Biden vote was not a 'vote against fascism'
Trump supporter Robert Burck, also known as Naked Cowboy, is confronted by protesters during a “Count Every Vote” rally the day after the U.S. election in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 4, 2020 ©  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
If you voted for Biden, fine. But all of the ugly things which have been happening during the Trump administration will continue to happen during the Biden administration if he wins.

Well, the post-election battle rages on, with rank-and-file Democrats freaking out that Trump will remain in office by force (spoiler: he won’t, he’ll leave office peacefully like his predecessors) and rank-and-file Republicans freaking out that Biden will enslave them to communism (spoiler: he won’t, he’ll enslave you to end-stage imperialist neoliberalism like everyone else).

There are accusations of cheating and shenanigans on both sides, and at this point, I honestly don’t know how to care about any of it. Like, what am I supposed to say? “Oh no, you mean the fake election for two fake candidates is really fake??” One corporate war whore is as good as another. Let Raytheon pick the winner, for all I care.

Anxiety remains high, with mass media going out of its way to play up civil unrest fears as protests and counter-protests erupt across the country. I’ll just reiterate what I said before the election: any violence as this thing unpacks will only benefit the powerful, will be used to justify authoritarian agendas which serve the powerful, and will in all probability have been instigated by the powerful. There are situations in which one can argue that intelligent application of force by the citizenry could have good results, but dying over which oligarch crony gets to rule you isn’t one of them. Please be smart and stay safe.

All that said, the election itself is now over. Which means the lies people on the true political left have been telling themselves in order to psych themselves out for a painful Biden vote must now be dispensed with. “I voted against fascism” is a common mantra I’ve been seeing around social media lately, and it is one such lie.

I get that American lefties have had to come up with all kinds of arguments for their decision to help elect a right-wing authoritarian warmonger with whom they have nothing ideologically in common, and to be clear I am not interested in telling them they are wrong for doing so. I can’t fault any American for whatever way they choose to interface with a fundamentally broken system, and I’m not here to vote-shame anybody.

But let’s be clear here: there is no legitimate basis upon which to claim that your vote for Biden was a “vote against fascism.” You can claim it was a vote against what you perceived as a more dangerous iteration of fascism, but you cannot claim with any validity that your vote for a lifelong murderous authoritarian was a vote against fascism.

This is a very important distinction for everyone to get clear on because repeating the mantra that you “voted against fascism” by voting for Biden can lead people to the very mistaken perspective that the US president is no longer advancing fascistic policies that need to be fought tooth and claw. By telling yourself you voted out fascism, you are lying yourself into a state of future complacency.

This is the same Joe Biden, after all, who is so hawkish that he not only supported the unforgivable Iraq invasion but played a leading role in actively making it happen. Who passed the notorious 1994 crime bill which helped explode the US prison population to levels unseen anywhere else in the world. Who made a career out of attacking Republicans for being insufficiently tough on drug use and crime. Who takes credit for authoring the words of the Orwellian Patriot Act years before it was passed, when he tried to pass the same measures at a time when everyone else found such authoritarian oversteps horrifying. Who called WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a “high-tech terrorist.” Who has shamelessly exploited racism at any time it could be used to advance his political career.

All of the ugly things which have been happening during the Trump administration will continue to happen during the Biden administration. White supremacist groups, cruel treatment of undocumented immigrants, attacks against the political left – both at home and around the world – war, oppression, exploitation, and austerity for the benefit of the wealthy (and apathy toward everyone else). Hell, even the obnoxious tweets of Donald Trump. All of it will continue; all that’s changed with Biden’s election is that some parts of it might possibly not be as bad.

So it serves nobody to claim that fascism has been defeated by what looks likely to become Biden’s eventual inauguration. At best, it has arguably suffered a minor setback. The Biden administration will continue to attack any nation which disobeys its authoritarian decrees, will continue its reactionary assaults on socialist progress in the Global South and China, will continue murdering black and brown people who happen to live in geostrategically valuable regions overseas, will continue to advance domestic authoritarian surveillance measures, will continue to militarize and expand the US police state, and will continue pressing the boot into the neck of the powerless for the benefit of the powerful, just as the Trump administration did.

If you voted for Biden, fine. Now do what you know is right and start throwing haymakers at the new head of the fascist empire.

Era of Western hegemony over, Iran’s FM Zarif says on LatAm tour

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) is seen at a forum in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, on November 5, 2020, alongside his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza. (Photo by IRNA)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the times when the industrialized West would determine what goes on in the rest of the world is over, reminding how the US has been on a campaign of incessant warmongering to prevent this inevitable change in the course of history.

Zarif made the remarks at a forum in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, on Thursday during a three-leg tour of Latin America that is to take him to Cuba and Bolivia next.

“The West is fighting for its survival …, the era of Western hegemony is over,” he said, speaking alongside his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza.

“Today, the United States and all its allies combined cannot control what happens in the world, they have lost control … The West is losing its integrity, it is losing its coherence, its cohesion,” he said.

The remarks came after the US failed to prevent Iran from sending two massive sets of shipments featuring gasoline supplies and refinery equipment to Venezuela earlier this year. The exports came in blunt defiance of the US’ economic war on both the countries that has seen Washington targeting them with across-the-board sanctions.

Zarif said Western states have lost their monopoly and power has been decentralized due to emergence of “sources of power that are independent and inspire others, such as Iran and Venezuela.”

US’ desperate warmongering

Once it sensed the unpreventable change in the global order, the Iranian top diplomat said, the US began waging back-to-back wars across the world, the top Iranian diplomat said.

During the last decades, the US “has waged one war per year” in the world, that is against Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, among other countries, because it has realized that in the unfolding of history, “the industrial Western world is losing its central role,” Zarif said. “The US wages a war every year to prevent precisely this change in the movement of history,” he added.

The American officials, who were alarmed by the receding Western sphere of control, set off this campaign of spreading violence across the world so they would be able to “institutionalize the domination of the West” by “instrumentalizing military supremacy,” the Iranian official concluded.

Zarif arrived in Venezuela on Wednesday for high-level talks as he begins a three-nation Latin America tour that will also take him to Cuba and Bolivia.

Zarif was welcomed by his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza, upon his arrival in Caracas.

Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Zarif would travel to Venezuela and Cuba as well as Bolivia, where he would attend the inauguration of president-elect Luis Arce.

US elections: The Trump interregnum is over

By Dennis Etler
American political analyst who has a decades-long interest in international affairs. He’s a former professor of Anthropology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. He recorded this article for Press TV website.

File:Joe Biden (49385189948).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

As things now stand, Joe Biden looks to be assured of becoming the 46th President of the USA. The Trump interregnum is over and American political life will return to some semblance of normalcy. The political temperature will eventually be turned down and the chaotic and bombastic verbal assaults of Trump will eventually fade into the past.

Trump turns out to have been a political anomaly who exposed the racist, misogynist, xenophobic underbelly of half of the US electorate. If you look at the election returns compared to the past, Biden has outperformed all Democratic candidates since 2000 other than Obama in 2008 and 2012. If Biden had been the candidate in 2016 instead of Clinton he would have probably trounced Trump. Hilary was a poison pill.

Biden will find a bevy of challenges once he assumes office. The failure of the US to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic under Trump’s watch has made the crisis of capitalism more severe than ever. It will only get worse, but while the disease is terminal the patient’s decline will be long and protracted. Biden has been given the unenviable task of presiding over it.

In retrospect, the election results have not been out of the ordinary. A look at the last 5 presidential elections since 2000 shows an electorate that is split down the middle, urban vs. rural, coastal vs. central, liberal vs. conservative, north vs. south, secular vs. religious, white vs. multiethnic, no matter how you cut it there are two Americas, blue vs. red and never the twain shall meet. Some people may be pulled in one direction or the other but the pattern persists.

Underlying these differences, however, is a political, economic and social system that is under the absolute control of different factions of the big bourgeoisie, the corporate, financial and media moguls who serve their own self-interests. The two major factions take the divisions within the electorate and demagogically fashion coalitions that favor their hold on power. The fundamental interests of both factions, Democrat and Republican, are, however, in unison, the preservation of corporate and financial capitalism at home and US hegemony abroad. They only differ in their tactics.

When Biden assumes power he will face a Congress that is evenly split and a Supreme Court that is in Republican hands. The end result will be the continuation of political deadlock and an inability to address the systemic problems of the crisis of capitalism. We will see a mirror image of the last four years, but instead of aggrieved Democrats and triumphant Republicans pandering to their base, you will see aggrieved Republicans and Democrats pandering to theirs.

It is a mistake, however, to discount the positives and negatives of the two factions. With all his bluff and bluster Trump can be credited with putting the Korean situation on the back burner, but the policy of maximum pressure on the DPRK has not changed. Trump also fashioned a tentative withdrawal from Afghanistan, but US troops are still engaged there and in Syria. His Middle Eastern policies have been driven by his allegiance to both the Zionists and the Saudis. None of that will change under Biden. The one bright spot will hopefully be a US return to the framework of the JCPOA (aka Iran nuclear deal) and an easing of sanctions.

Otherwise, Thump’s policies towards China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba have been extremely antagonistic. A perceived tilt toward Russia was purely rhetorical and never materialized. His protectionism was opposed by China’s call for a new globalism that favors emerging markets. Trump’s China policy has been a complete failure. While disruptive, it encouraged China to double down on protecting its sovereign rights in the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and its peripheral autonomous regions and bolster its economy by becoming more self-sufficient. In that respect, many Chinese, and friends of China, saw Trump’s China-bashing as a loss for the US and a win for China.

Biden’s presidency will see a return of the Clinton-Obama bureaucrats to power and a continuation of their domestic and foreign policies. But the times have changed. Domestically progressive forces have gained strength and influence and abroad resistance to US hegemony has grown. Biden will try to reverse the US decline but it will be too little, too late.

US Murder Machine Now Under Competent Management

caitlinjohnstone.com
Nov 7, 2020

Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the United States is now all but certain.

In order to have any chance of successfully advancing his legal narrative of electoral shenanigans President Trump would have to both (A) really want to remain president and (B) have the backing of sufficiently large power structures, neither of which appear to be the case. When you’re a Republican president and Murdoch is actively fighting against you, it doesn’t matter what the facts are. The narrative war is lost. Trump is done.

[Forrest Gump voice:] And just like that, the Russians were gone.

Every Kremlin agent hiding under every bed, every Saint Petersburg troll lurking around every corner, every Russian hacker we’ve been told was working around the clock to destroy America’s imaginary democracy–poof! We’re not hearing a word about them anymore.

If the Russians had really been trying to influence this election, as we’ve been told for years they most definitely would, and if foreign election interference really is an act of war comparable to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, as we’ve been told for years that it is, then it should be just as big a deal regardless of which candidate win. Yet we’re not hearing a peep on the subject from the blue-checkmarked commentariat who’ve been shrieking about the Russian menace for four years.

We have, oh so very predictably, been hearing a fair bit about China though.

Liberals are heaving a sigh of relief around the country, not because their actual lives have gotten much worse as a result of Trump’s presidency (they have not), but because it means at long last they’ll stop being psychologically abused by the mass media who’ve been screaming hysterical nonsense in their faces and making them feel crazy.

Bit by bit cautious celebrations are beginning to erupt from coast to coast (okay maybe just the coasts) as Biden’s January inauguration becomes less of a possibility and more of a certainty. It’s not the thunderous rejoicing it will be when they make it official, but little expressions of glee are popping up everywhere. Kids are being hugged. Parents are being called. Bold tie choices are being made.

“At long last there will be adults in the White House again!” goes the common refrain.

And I couldn’t agree more! I think we’re all breathing a lot easier knowing that the US government will now be run by grown-ups who murder people instead of emotionally stunted children who murder people. We’ll all sleep so much better knowing that there are adults in the room who murder people, and that the insatiable US murder monster is under competent management once more.

And make no mistake, murdering people is what the Biden administration will be doing. This will in fact be the only president in recent memory who actually campaigned on being more interventionist and attacking his opponent for not being hawkish enough. Trump ran on a platform of scaling back US interventionism, as did Obama, as did even Bush, but Biden did the opposite. He is beginning from a much more hawkish position than he predecessors right off the bat.

Add to this the bloodthirsty ghouls who appear likely to wind up in Biden’s cabinet and the hawkish rhetoric of his foreign policy advisors, and you’re likely looking at a president who will serve as an empty vessel for whatever the US war machine wants to pour into him. Mass murders are being planned, and it’s going to get ugly.

It’s odd, you know. US political leaders are so revered by the media and so normalized on our screens that it’s easy to forget how many children they’ve killed. You see the doddering old man eating ice cream enough times and it becomes difficult to marry him in your mind with the butcher who played a crucial leading role in advancing the Iraq invasion which killed a million people and ushered in an unprecedented new age of military expansionism.

But the important thing is that he won’t be making rude tweets and bungling coup attempts in the Global South. He will be a Competent Grown-Up, like the daddy we always wanted. He will pilot the insatiable death machine with grace and decency, right into the homes of the world’s most vulnerable.