Thursday, December 17, 2009

There's plenty here for everyone!

This semester I took 3 academic classes.

Global Social Problems
Abnormal Psychology
Philosophy and Star Trek

Since Philosophy and Star Trek was a 100-level throw-away class, intended to round out my schedule after two years out of school, I won't be uploading those papers.

Included here, though, are the papers I am most proud of, mostly psych and political science.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Genocide in Darfur

The assignment: Desribe the genocide in Darfur, including the major players, to someone with no knowledge of the situation.
The book: Not On Our Watch, by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast

Eliyahu N. Kassorla
Global Social Problems
C. Dale, Ph.D.
Darfur: A Brief Explanation
There is a country in Africa named Sudan. Sudan is independent now, but it was not always. The age of imperialism brought the Egyptians the north, and the British to rule the south. The Egyptians instituted Muslim rule and encouraged the spreading of Islamic values. The Egyptians were neglectful of the region of Darfur, and funneled their support and resources to the Arab north. The British, in control of the south, were also neglectful of the Darfur sultanate, devoting resources to the southern ports. The British did institute many reforms, including making English the official language and increasing the activity of Christian missionaries, to reduce the Islamic influence (53). Additionally, the northern-Sudanese are ethnic Arab, while the southern Sudanese are ethnic African (52).
 As time progressed, the northern and southern halves of Sudan drifted apart and became very different. When the British withdrew after World War II, they left control and rule of south Sudan to the elites of north Sudan. Two years later, conflict began when General Ibrahim Abboud began violently proselytizing Islam in southern Sudan. This Islamisation triggered the first of many conflicts, using religion to justify mass murder and wanton human destruction. The Muslim north is very intolerant to non-Muslim beliefs and religions, and this immediately led to rebellion in the non-Muslim South. This conflict later took over baggage from the United States and Soviet Union, each attempting to win their ideological battle during the Cold War era. The Soviet Union regularly sold weapons to the north Sudanese, arming the militant Islamist government. Other governments armed the south Sudanese. After a failed military coup in the north, however, the north and south signed a peace agreement in 1972 (54). Nearly four years later, another Islamist dictatorship emerged. In 1983, the government ordered the southern Sudanese soldiers to abandon their weapons. When the soldiers refused this order, the northern Sudanese army was sent to attack, and the south Sudanese sought refuge in Ethiopia (56). Islamists, acting under the National Islamist Front, continued to enact laws demeaning the non-Arabs, such as declaring Arabic the official language, or imposing Islamic law (56-58). Three southern rebel groups emerged, the Justice and Equality Movement, Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement, and the Sudanese Liberation Army.  In 1991, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army entered Darfur to spread pro-southern rebellion. In retaliation, northern forces burned dozens of villages.
All of these conflicts left Darfur underdeveloped, and the tribes of Darfur blamed the Arabs. Darfur is home to about eighty tribes, some of which are the Fur, the Masalit, and the Zaghawa. Further, the northern policies left Darfur with many displaced persons. To escape the conflict, many of the displaced persons crossed the border, in to Chad. Northern Sudanese were responsible for abduction and impressments into slavery of the Darfur people. These slaves were forcibly converted to Islam and denied education (61). Northern Sudanese were also responsible for 550,000 deaths by starvation (61). The Janjaweed, pro-Islamic-Arab mercenaries, continued to burn homes, mass killings, looting, rapes, and aerial bombardment of villages of non-Arabs (71).
Additionally, because of the famine, many more people died. Darfur is home to many nomadic tribes who depend on livestock for their sustenance. The encroaching desert reduced the grazeable area and the available water, leading to dramatic decline in the ability of the people of Darfur to provide food. Compounding this, the widespread theft of livestock by Janjaweed, as well as poisoning of the wells, left even more to starve (76). The north controlled government also diverted humanitarian aid, further compounding the starvations (77). Between 2003 and 2004, the northern Sudanese government impeded, and essentially blocked, international aid workers, relief supplies, equipment, and medicines (82). Further, the northern Sudanese government denied the ability of aircraft to fly the humanitarian aid (82). Further, upon arrival of aid workers to Sudan, on visas that were extremely difficult to obtain, the north Sudanese government further required the aid workers to attain travel permits to go to Darfur (83).
Although the conflict is seemingly complicated, one unalienable truth rings loud: it is unquestionably wrong to intentionally target non-combatant civilians, women and children. The goal of every civilized human being must be the extermination of any practice which contributes to the intentional destruction of innocent and non-combatant human life. Darfur is just one in a long list of conflicts intended to deprive persons of their inalienable, and Lockean, natural rights.

The Genocide in Rwanda

The Assignment: Describe the genocide in Rwanda, identifying the major players, to someone who has no knowledge of the situation.

Eliyahu N. Kassorla
Global Social Problems
C. Dale, Ph.D.
Understanding Rwanda
            It is a sad fact that the majority of people believe that the last of the genocides ended in 1948. World War II had concluded and the Nuremberg Trials reflected our evolution into a more evolved species. It is therefore no great surprise that the world was inactive when, in 1994, the Rwandan government began to systematically target and destroy the Tutsi.
            In Rwanda, there are two primary ethnic groups: the Hutu and the Tutsi. The first tensions were laid down in 1990, when the Tutsi invaded Rwanda from Uganda, under the auspices of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) (Novogratz, 148). This group was composed of the displaced Tutsi of a previous attempt to exterminate the Tutsi. The government of Rwanda, dominated by the Hutu, attempted to fight back, but had not achieved a decisive victory against the RPF. “This marked the beginning of fear. And with fear began the disinformation campaigns, the lying, and the manipulation by Rwanda’s leaders to instill even more defensiveness–and paranoia […] For the next five years, the questions would be asked [… a]re you a Hutu or a Tutsi?” (Novogratz, 149). 
In 1994, the plane of Rwandan president Habyarimana, with Burundi president Ntaryamina – a Hutu – onboard, was shot down outside Kigali International Airport. The government both attributed the attack to the Tutsi, and began to speak openly about extermination of the Tutsi. Almost immediately, the already strained Arusha Accords were, in effect, nullified, and the RPF stationed in Kigali were fired upon. “All across the country, government officials were whipping up the populace with a paranoid torrent of words [, …] the message was consistent: The Tutsis had invaded Rwanda to regain power and subjugate the Hutus. [… O]rdinary Rwandan citizens resorted to murdering their neighbours, cheered on by local authorities” (Novogratz 150).
The Interhamwe, along with the Impuzamugambi, were two violent militia groups. They were responsible for most of the violence in the Rwandan genocide. Both groups included youth wings, employing child soldiers to commit grave atrocities to human life. The Interhamwe and Impuzamugambi organized marches on the street declaring the Tutsi “inyeni,” or cockroaches, to galvanize support for their agenda of wanton murder. There is no question that support for these groups came directly from the Rwandan government. Both the government and these groups adopted the idea that both the Tutsi and moderate Hutus, including those who refused to participate in the slaughter of the Tutsi, must die. “The government’s grand plan was to ensure the collective guilt of every Rwandan, while exterminating every single Tutsi and moderate Hutu” (Novogratz, 151).
The government of France cannot be held blameless. Rwanda was a French colony, and Uganda a British colony. When the RPF crossed the border from Uganda, the French supported the Hutus against what they believed to be was an English plot to disrupt French influence. Further, many crimes of murder and rape occurred in the French held areas in Zaire. Further, France continued arms shipments in to Rwanda before the genocide, in violation of the Arusha Accords, arming the Hutus to the teeth.
The government of the United States, bogged down in bureaucracy, was also slow to react. Though the genocide began in April, government officials would not use the term genocide until May.
The United Nations is also a major actor who shares the fault. Their unbelievably slow response to the killings is a major reason that the genocide continued. Despite a UN presence, the peacekeeping force was prohibited from using their weapons. The lack of investigation into the genocide allowed it to continue. The UNAMIR, or United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, was not a peacekeeping force; rather it was a spectator to the violence. Unclear of their mission and their mandate, the UNAMIR troops did nothing to stop the violence from spreading. Belgum, previously a member of UNAMIR, recalled their forces, leaving the remaining 270 soldiers impotent to stop the widespread massacres around them. Since the end of the 100-day genocide, UNAMIR, however, has been recognized for saving the lives of thousands with humanitarian aid.

Human Trafficking - The Underground Human Slave Trade

The film: Human Trafficking
The assignment: What are your reactions to the film?

Eliyahu N. Kassorla
Global Social Problems
C. Dale, Ph.D.
                                                     Reaction to Human Trafficking                                     

            The film Human Trafficking explores the complicated web of the world of illicit human trafficking, their sale and exploitation in bondage. The film follows several victims, Nadia Tagarov and Helena Votrubova from the former Soviet Union, as well as Annie and her mother, Samantha Gray; victims from closer to home: Unites States citizens.
            I felt that the film did an excellent job of portraying the struggle between crime syndicates and law enforcement officers. From the beginning, in discovering the death of an illegal immigrant, there was a constant cat-and-mouse game of finding the Mafia’s safe houses, keeping the women segregated, locking the doors from the inside, and keeping the women silenced. This maltreatment for women, as well as a constant recruiting, reinforces the belief that these women are expendable.
Another struggle portrayed is getting witnesses to testify. Helena, fearful of her daughter’s safety, negotiates with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She will testify if her mother and daughter are bought to the United States, away from the close reach of the Russian Mafia. When Helena’s location is discovered and she is killed, the other women do not want to cooperate with the ICE investigation – they do not want to die like Helena.
Annie Gray, a victim taken while vacationing in the Philippines, is a normal vacationer. While millions of people go on vacation every year, none expects an innocent weekend getaway to become a hunt to find a loved one. Samantha Gray, Annie’s mother, franticly searches for her daughter. Annie’s impact is that she shows us that it’s not just a problem in a far-away locale, but a problem that is far too easy to stumble into.

Life and Debt - Jamaica and Global Debt

The film: Life and Debt
The Assignment: According to the film, answer these questions:
1. Why is Jamaica in poverty
2. What keeps Jamaica in poverty
3. What are the barriers that hinder Jamaica's elevation from poverty?
(Click to open - the original Word file has been destroyed by a catastrophic hard drive failure)

Global Social Problems - The Blue Sweater and Microfinance

The book:The Blue Sweater.
The assignment: Describe what the book is about, and how does the author aim to fix poverty?
(Click to open - the original Word file has been destroyed by a catastrophic hard drive failure)

Exploration on the Efficacy of CBT and Psychodynamic Treatment Models for PTSD

The assignment: Pick any mental disorder from DSM-IV-TR and evaluate the literature to answer a question.

My chosen question: Which treatment model provides the highest treatment effect for PTSD. The answer is not as simple as originally believed. Let's read...

Exploration on the efficacy of treatments for PTSD
This paper is intended to serve as an overview of treatment models for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is seen with increasing prevalence in the United States, likely because of current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other potential causes of PTSD include childhood abuse, sexual abuse, rape, and exposure to violent crime.

Reflections - synthesizing research with class topics

The assignment: Pick a topic from class and synthesize it with a peer-reviewed journal article.

Eliyahu N. Kassorla
Abnormal Psychology
Dr. A. Daniels
My education has been primarily research focused, and now I am looking at treatment options and outcomes. Being empirically validated means that a treatment is general enough to have broad implications, something that psychodynamic theories and psychoanalysis cannot do. In the search for emerging and empirically validated treatments, I have been looking at articles that branch clinical realities with cool research, despite a glaring lack of sharks with laser beams on their heads.

Abnormal Psychology - Definitions

The assignment: Choose and define words that are relevant to class discussions

Eliyahu N. Kassorla
Abnormal Psychology
Dr. A. Daniels
TERM: Anhedonia
DEFINITION: Anhedonia, as described by you in class, is the inability to take or feel pleasure and express joy or happiness.
USAGE: “Boy, that Weyoun. He has command of the station Deep Space Nine, and still he cannot be happy. Has anyone ever called him anhedonic?
DISCUSSION: Anhedonia, as a state, is expressive of depression, and the DSM considers it as a symptom of the mood disorder depression. You also stated that anhedonia is relatively common in chronic and long-term marijuana use. There are several clinical approaches to easing anhedonia. There is the obvious psychopharmeceutical approach, which has a very high clinical efficacy for relieving depressive symptoms. However, anti-depressants with counseling or psychotherapy, has the highest efficacy in treatment of depressive symptoms (Daniels 2009). Another approach is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT aims to influence the thought and outcome portion of the thought-feeling-behavior cycle (Goldstein 2005). By changing the thought from a negative to a positive, the hope is to change the emotions from negative to positive. Even with changing the client’s behaviors to engage in non-depressed activities, like playing with friends, the thoughts and emotions often follows and relieves symptomology. With anhedonia, having the client think that he will have fun, thinking that she will have joy, may be helpful in relieving the feeling of anhedonia.
TERM: Dose-Response Curve
DEFINITION: A dose- response curve is a graphical representation of a dose of a drug, the effect of a drug, and the interval which it acts (Pinel 2005).
USAGE: “When Billy-Bob tried to defend his Vicodin use, I tried showing him a dose-response curve. He didn’t understand why he felt a crash taking so much, and why he needed more to feel high.”
DISCUSSION: A dose-response curve is, as Pinel explains, a graphical representation of how a given dose acts over time. With habitual use of a substance, one of two processes acts: sensitization and desensitization. In sensitization, a lower dose than the first exposure is required to elicit the same response (Pinel 2005). Bee venom is an excellent example, where the first sting provides a mild reaction, but repeat exposures produce increasingly dangerous effects. Desensitization is the opposite effect, where a higher amount of a substance is required to elicit the same effects (Pinel 2005). Cocaine, as an example, in its initial dose will get someone feeling high: their brain activity lights up from neuron firing and their neurons are flooded with key neurotransmitters. Taking a consistent dose, the dose-response curve will become flatter. It is only by increasing the dose past the initial dose does the drug provide any more effects, breaking through the plateau. Too much of a substance, and the drug user may be faced with death. Very high doses in people not adapted to using a substance, or experienced users in novel environments, can cause death (Pinel 2005). In a clinical setting, this presents challenges to a chemically dependent, substance abusing client. During the mental status exam, and anytime where new information is revealed, an accurate history must be established with respect to substance use. This gives the clinician an idea where on the curve a client fits. When a client is advised to discontinue a substance the dose the client take to feel effects will enable the clinician to recommend titration, or weaning off the drug. The client will surely feel that he needs his high, but the clinician, and other medical professionals, can establish a plan that eliminates substance use and abuse, freeing the client of their physical and psychological chemical addiction.

Daniels, Aaron. Abnormal psychology. Fall 2009: New England College. Henniker, NH
Goldstein, E. Bruce. (2005). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. Wadsworth Publishing: Florence, KY.
Pinel, John P. J. (2005). Biopsychology, 6th ed. Pearson Allyn and Bacon: Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Twelve Angry Men, and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony

The assignment: Watch the movie "Twelve Angry Men" and talk about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, citing specific examples

Eliyahu N Kassorla
Twelve Angry Men

The right to a jury trial is guaranteed in the sixth amendment. The framers believed that the right was so valuable that there needed to be a guarantee against its infringement. Eyewitness testimony, however, is much older than that. In our modern time, far too much reliability is entrusted with eyewitness accounts and their accuracy, and we are far too trusting of a jury of our peers.
Eyewitness testimony is very powerful. In many cases eyewitness testimony is often the deciding factor. Juries and judges alike are far too quick to accept an eyewitness at face value. Eyewitnesses may have ulterior motives such as immunity from prosecution if they are involved, for example. They may also have either indirectly witnessed an event and later “filled-in” the details using cognitive heuristics or utilized the constructive nature of memory to add details. Mental heuristics may have filled in large blocks of details, which the brain uses for filling in information.


The assignment: Find an article "popular psychology" magazine and explore how the article deals with the science underlying the topic.
Eliyahu N Kassorla
Behavioral Neuroscience

Forgetting Faces
I. The article Forgetting Faces is about a phenomenon called “prosopagnosia”. Prosopagnosia is a deficit, or series of deficits, related to the inability of identifying either faces or facial expressions. For people with prosopagnosia, the author notes, facial features hold no interest.

Are Humans Naturally Violent

Eliyahu N. Kassorla
Debate Position Paper

Are Humans Naturally Violent?
It is my firm belief that humans are naturally violent creatures. That is to say that violence is programmed deep in our biological and psychological makeup, forged by time and evolution. Those who say that humans are not naturally violent attribute the expression of violence to be caused by social learning and conditioning.
The biology of violence is four-fold: neurological, biopsychological (chemical), genetic, and evolutionary. The neurological basis for violence is seated in the emotional center of the brain, the limbic system. The limbic system, known as the paleomammalian complex in MacLean’s triune brain model, exhibits activation that corresponds to emotional expression, especially in the amygdala. The prefrontal cortex appears to act as an inhibitor to the paleomammalian complex, providing a buffer between instantaneous emotion and behavior. Violence, then, is expressed when a situation or specific stimulus overwhelms the prefrontal cortex.