Monthly Archives: December 2007

The UK is “an endemic surveillance society”

As a country with the the world’s largest CCTV network and a government keen to propose various intrusions on civilians’ privacy, is it any surprise that Britain achieved the rating “endemic surveillance society” by civil liberties watchdog Privacy International? (along with such privacy luminaries as the United States, Russia, Singapore and China)

I guess that we can be reassured that the UK government knows how to safeguard the personal data of citizens… unless you: receive child benefitreceive a pension, are learning to drive, or have accessed healthcare, of course.


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Filed under United Kingdom

Street slang or thought disorder? A tough call.

Nice little article in the British Medical Journal last week (written by several clinicians from the OASIS service), about a difficulty that can arise in assessing young people who might have the early signs of psychosis: putting their unconventional speech in context. (The use of unusual words and phrases as part of a pattern of disorganised speech can be evidence of formal thought disorder, a symptom of psychosis).

The authors describe the case of a young man whose use of street slang in the assessment interview made him appear more thought disordered than he actually was. Thankfully the clinician had the foresight to check the and discover that many of the words the man used were “legit”, rather than neologisms (there is a quiz in the article to test yourself on how you would classify the words, as slang or neologism). The authors describe the detailed assessment procedures the team used to further ascertain the presence of an at risk mental state (pdf).

The article made me think about what happens in routine mental health assessments in less specialised settings: how often do clinicians misclassify heavy use of slang as evidence of thought disorder?

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Filed under Clinical Psychology, Mental Health, Psychology

South Pole Scuffle

Also in the news today – a couple of men had “a drunken christmas punch up” at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station, resulting in one having injuries serious enough to need medical evacuation to a hospital in New Zealand. Just as well it was summer over there, so that the injured fellow could be flown to hospital relatively easily (at great expense, which was the not-so-interesting angle the Australian press took).

I wouldn’t think it was the first time that things got a bit heated at the South Pole, so to speak. Bad puns aside, there are some fascinating articles here about the psychology of wintering at the Antarctic, for you not-so intrepid explorers out there.    

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Filed under Mental Health, Places, Psychology

Planning to build your own Great Pyramid? Check that copyright.


Interesting news today as the Guardian reports that the Egyptian government plans to pass a law to have copyright on the country’s ancient monuments and museum pieces.

How this is going to be enforced is not clear, but one suspects the law is aimed at extracting cash from (amongst so many others) big Hollywood studios. Perhaps that remake of Cleopatra might be put on hold then.

Apparently private individuals will also have to ask for permission to build replicas. I guess I’m gonna rethink my plan to build the Sphinx as a garden ornament…

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The release of David Hicks, a test of Australian values

Another moment to test the compassion of the Australian public, as the news has broken that David Hicks is to be released from prison, albeit under a control order. Although the Federal Police regard Mr Hicks as an ongoing danger it would seem that he currently poses little risk to others, considering his mental state (Sydney Morning Herald, 24/12/07):

DAVID HICKS’S mental condition is so fragile that – only five days before his scheduled release from jail – he suffers from agoraphobia and retreats to the kind of solitary confinement he endured for five years in Guantanamo Bay.The former Muslim extremist has suffered panic attacks and has ventured into the sunshine, in the prison yard, only once since his return to Australia in May this year to serve the balance of his nine-month sentence at Yatala Labour Prison in Adelaide. He could not cope and preferred the enclosed prison and artificial lighting, where he felt more safe.

Is it any surprise to read that Mr Hicks experiences panic attacks and agoraphobia, after his incarceration at Guantanamo Bay?   Imprisoned without trial for 5 years, kept in solitary and tortured with impunity, his case was a convenient political football for the Howard Government’s war on terror (until suddenly it wasn’t). His treatment is a sobering example of what any Australian citizen could experience if they are caught ideologically on the wrong side. Regardless of the legality of Mr Hick’s actions, Australia’s government was willing to trade away the country’s humanitarian values for political reasons.

I hope that Mr Hicks can be supported to lead a productive and peaceful life on his release, after all, isn’t this what Australia really stands for – a fair go?  

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Filed under Australia, Mental Health, Politics