Friday, February 23, 2007

Iran Defies UN, Iraq Chemical Attacks, Autism Explained By Amanda Baggs, And ANS Crap With Perspective (Thursday's First Hour)

Hi everyone! We've got Anderson back tonight and he's coming at us from Los Angeles. I bet he's happy to be in a nice clean suit, far away from sadistic Animal Planet hosts and things that jump. He starts off by talking about Anna Nicole and my heart sinks, but then says, "But we begin with news that actually matters, or should matter, to all of us." So you do get it! Thank God. The news that actually matters is that the UN gave Iran a deadline to stop enriching uranium or face sanctions. The thing is they haven't stopped...and the deadline was yesterday. Oh, here we go. Now there's major concern about the instability of the region and talk that Iran may be a bigger threat than al Qaeda. Oh, c'mon. Pick a boogieman and stick with it! I can't just transfer my fear on a dime, you know.

We delve into this issue further with a piece from Tom Foreman and he, of course, breaks out the maps. You may or may not have heard, but there's a lot of oil in the middle east and a great deal of that oil has to travel through the Strait of Hormuz. The fear is that Iran will somehow attack this strait, thus causing all hell to break loose. It's nice to hear the Strait of Hormuz being talked about in the mainstream media. Bloggers have been talking about this scenerio since Sy Hersh was writing pieces about possible war with Iran back in 2005. Also discussed back then was the fact that an attack on Iran would possibly result in massive attacks on our troops in Iraq as well as attacks around the mideast from Hezbollah. Just for the record. Twenty percent of the world's oil market flows through the Strait of Hormuz and shutting it down would basically cut off Saudi oil. Even if the US tapped its oil reserves we could be looking at $7-$8/gallon gas if an attack were to happen. It's noted that the Iranians are "staging naval maneuvers and testing weapons in the area." Not noted is the fact that the US itself has sent carriers to the area, which some believe are meant to provoke the Iranians into doing something. You reported this before 360. It's kind of an important piece of information to leave out here, don't you think? Look, the threat to the Strait of Hormuz is real, but I'm not entirely convinced that there's all of the sudden this immediate danger, especially with all the war drums being pounded lately.

To explore this further, we're joined by Military strategist Dan Goure and Anderson asks if Iran already has nuclear weapon capabilities. Dan thinks yes and maybe even actual weaponization. Anderson points out that though we tend to hold Ahmadinejad up as the bad guy, he really doesn't even have that much power. Dan admits that this is all being driven by supreme leader Khamenei and other parts of the government. I appreciate that Anderson brings this point up a lot because I don't think the majority of the US has any idea how little power Ahmadinejad has. Anderson asks about the US options and Dan mentions strong sanctions. Also brought up is the military option, which is pretty crappy because as Anderson points out, the nuclear sites are deep in the ground and all spread out. Plus Dan notes that the US doesn't have bunker buster capabilities at that level and there are probably sites that we don't even know about. Unfortunately, they're talking about this like the people making the decisions are sane and rational. They're not. We're dealing with, "I'm staying in Iraq even if it's just me and my God damn dog" guy. Feel safe? Anderson mentions that Iran must know how stretched our military is, but Dan notes that the Navy is actually okay and they're suited for operations around the Gulf. Yeah, and I'm sure everything will go exactly according to plan and we won't have to worry about any other divisions. I mean, just look at how according to plan Iraq went. Oh wait, that's right, we didn't have a plan. Unless of course the plan was to be as incompetent as possible. Because if that was the plan? Mission Accomplished baby!

On now to Michael Ware live to further discuss those chemical attacks he was telling us about yesterday. Anderson notes that Michael has said the chemical attacks have actually been happening since 2003-2004 and he wonders why the surge now. Michael says he doesn't know. I have to say, I appreciate it when someone doesn't know something and they actually say that they don't know. It would be nice if they all did that, but of course that would put a lot of talking heads out of a job. Michael tells us he has seen some of the insurgent's chemical arsenals and when he breathed in it burned his throat. I guess I've become a total Michael fangirl because when he said that I literally yelled, "Don't do that!" Anderson asks how successful the attacks are and Michael explains that it's hard to determine how many people are killed from the actual blast versus the chlorine. He notes the real number is the 200 people that have been hospitalized for respiratory problems. "Those people don't have to die to spread the fear amongst the community."

Transitioning now to another Sanjay Gupta piece on the autistic woman we met last night, Amanda Baggs. We learn that Amanda was diagnosed at age 14, but there were signs of the autism much earlier. She tried to fit in and even attended a regular elementary school, but ultimately found it easier to relate to animals. Sanjay notes that when he was with Amanda she could have cared less what he was doing in terms of body language and how he related to her. He could have just sat there the whole time and she would have been fine with it. I'm trying to imagine living in a world with no body language and I can't do it. I'm a people observer and am very attuned to body language to pick up how people are feeling or their motivations. Nervous ticks, voice tone, movement, facial expression. Imagine not having any of that. I can even read people on television if I've been watching them a while. For example, Anderson? Really excited at the beginning of the Amazon adventure, but not too thrilled by the end. I don't think people even think about body language that much until they meet someone who doesn't use it.

Next up we're joined by cognitive psychologist Morton Ann Gernsbacher and she's communicated with Amanda online. It's noted that Amanda guest blogged for 360 and people sent in their questions to her. Anderson is going to read some of those now. One of the emailers asks Amanda why she thinks it's important for autistic people to be around each other and Amanda states that autistic people can pick up things from each other that others can't. Morton thinks it's important for parents of autistic children to sort of know what to expect. Another emailer asks Amanda what she's feeling when she hits herself. Amanda replies that, "It's usually a reaction to stress or overload, or else something I'm compulsive about that has just gone wrong, and often a combination of the three." Morton thinks it's important to understand an individual's motivation. You know, I don't think we really need Morton. Amanda's getting it done on her own, though I understand why 360 doesn't want to just have Anderson reading these. Another question asks whether or not autistic people can show affection. Amanda says that they can and do, just not in typical ways. Morton tells us that every study done shows autistic children are just as attached to their caregivers as other children. Okay, I guess that was helpful information. We'll go ahead and keep you Morton. The last question asks, "How do you think an island, populated only by autistic persons such as yourself, would function?" Well that's pretty messed up. That dude's kind of sick...or he's just been watching too much Lost. Amanda says, "I don't know. I don't think I would want to live on an island with people of only one neurological configuration, no matter what it was." Seriously. If we were only suppose to deal with people just like us God would have made us all the same. Anyway, check out Amanda's website, though apparently all the attention has become a little overwhelming and she might not post for a while.

We end the night with ANS crap and tonight's edition includes a bewildered Anderson. He tells us he could only watch a few minutes of the spectacle before he had to turn it off. Good for you Anderson! But, uh, why were you watching at all? Okay, so blah, blah blah. Jeffrey Toobin thinks people will be talking about this case for years to come. "Well, I'm not sure I will be, but I'm sure a lot of others will be," says Anderson. Not me! Toobin then states that the real battle is going to be over the money, which people will be fighting over for years. This is the part where I smack my forehead and quietly weep. Erica does the headlines tonight and I get all excited for Anderson/Erica interaction, but...nothing. Well that was disappointing. They probably didn't even tape at the same time. In my alternaworld those two are totally prom king and queen. Also, Al Gore is working on his second term. Oh, and I have money. I love alternaworld. Obviously it's getting late.

The show tonight would have been pretty good if there wasn't so much Anna Nicole crap. Holy hell! They did upwards of 25 minutes (commercials included) in just the first hour. Bad 360! Bad! Don't tell us it's not news and then bash us over the head with it. C+

So what do you guys think about the new Iran developments? Any thoughts on the autism story and body language?


Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

I think what ticks me off the most about the Amanda Baggs story is that she does NOT have autism. Before I get some hate mail, please let me explain. She is displaying autistic traits, yes. She cannot speak, flaps and hums.... yeah. Okay. But autistics follow a specific profile. They act a certain way, and then at age 2-3 they go through "the autistic progression". They ALL do. So if you suddenly lost it and start acting autistic at 14? No, I'm sorry, you don't fit the profile. Therefore, she's probably more PDD-NOS or something along those lines, which would explain why you cannot take my autistic friend's son and go, hey, if I teach him to type, will he be like Amanda? No. The kid is 8 and he CAN type. He's got Kanner's, the most severe type of autism. Can he communicate? Yes. He can make sign language and even make statements. But like Amanda? No. Autistic children will not display like Amanda because SHE IS NOT DISPLAYING CLASSIC AUTISM!! There. I said my piece. I wanted to say that on Sanjay's blog but I resisted.

You know what cracks me up? Two days ago I sent CNN a letter (I posted it on my blog) about what I thought of what they've done to 360. Primarly- "I hate it!". I also specifically said "There is a war going on, but you wouldn't know it from watching THIS boradcast!" And then (I think in the second hour), Anderson is talking about ANS and says "I'm sure this is important to some, but there is a war going on! There is a war going on!!" I was like- BWAH!! Did he just quote me? LOL. I love it.

And oh yes- the body language. I can read people very well, like you said, even ones on TV that I don't personally know. And when I saw that Anderson was in California, I said, "WTH? Is he too cold to go home?!" Come on, it's not that bad :).....

6:55 AM  
Blogger ballastexistenz said...

Sharla, I was different from birth. I then gained a few skills and lost some of them in very early childhood (slightly earlier than 2), regained them tenuously later on, and then lost them again. I did not suddenly become autistic as a teenager, I suddenly lost some skills as a teenager that I'd previously had.

But no, not all autistic people go through "the autistic progression," some are simply unusual from birth and stay that way without actually losing anything. Some seem normal at birth and then lose things, and then some seem unusual at birth and then gain things then lose them again. There's more than one pattern of being autistic, all that has to be there is that you have to be autistic by the age of three. Which I was.

The loss of previously-gained skills during puberty is a known and documented fact for a significant minority of autistic people, and that in fact is what happened to me. Had it not happened to me, I would still be autistic, I would just speak better and have somewhat fewer problems with motor planning than I do. The flapping and humming and such, by the way, I've done all my life, and the speech problems were there all along too (including loss of previously-acquired speech sometime before the age of 2), just superficially milder before my period of what I consider a form of burnout from overuse of a very difficult skill.

But you can't get into an entire developmental history on a short news segment. Generally, though, you'd think you'd be aware that child psychiatrists do not diagnose people with autism if they begin to look autistic past a certain age, and you would assume that a developmental history would have been taken (as it was) and thorough testing would have been undergone (as it was) before the diagnosis was confirmed. I did in fact have loss of speech in early childhood, impaired social interactions, communication, repetitive behavior, resricted interests, and all the other things that go along with being autistic, the only difference today versus before is that I speak less, I have more trouble moving, and I have less tolerance for overload. But it's not like I was speaking and moving perfectly before and never got overloaded, or like I suddenly became autistic when these problems became more pronounced.

And this is a known phenomenon. Just because it's not the most common way autistic people grow up, does not mean a person isn't autistic if it happens. If it hadn't happened to me, I would still be autistic. But it did, and I can't exactly represent myself as if it didn't (and so far the only reason I wish it didn't is so that I wouldn't have to respond to this kind of ridiculousness, and could instead just get the ridiculousness of "You can speak, you can't possibly be autistic").

8:15 AM  
Blogger Dannie said...

Eliza, your Michael fangirl reacted exactly as mine did! I think my heart skipped a beat when he said he received a "sample" of a chemical substance and had to have a hazmat team remove it from his house in Baghdad. Talk about "getting too close for comfort"! Man, whatever happened to sending a fruit basket?

9:48 AM  
Blogger ballastexistenz said...

In fact, I just remembered my experience used to be one of the stereotypes repeated to parents: Judy Barron (whose adult autistic son, Sean Barron, now can pass for non-autistic) was told when Sean was little that her son would likely not make progress, but that if he did make progress, he would lose all that progress at puberty. I don't doubt that I'm in the minority, but losing previously-gained skills in puberty has been documented in a pretty significant minority of autistic people (and my guess would be it would be more common in those of us who overextended ourselves beforehand, but it's only a guess), the reasons still unknown (some people have said it might be seizure-related, others have noticed a movement disorder, etc). Mary Newport, who retained speech during puberty but lost other skills, writes about a version of the same thing in Mozart and the Whale. I know a number of other people it happened to, all of whom were autistic to begin with. I used to belong to a mailing list for the discussion of this topic, in fact, because it was a common and bewildering experience for many autistic people.

9:49 AM  
Blogger mcewen said...

Glad you're responding Amanda - best wishes.

10:23 AM  
Blogger mcewen said...

Glad you're responding Amanda - we're thinking of you, best wishes.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

Hi Amanda!

I'd like to say that my biggest issue with Autism is that it is on a spectrum, and therefore, every single case is different, with "diagnoses by impairments to social interaction, communication, interests, imagination and activities" being the main determining factor. I am utterly fascinated with the brain and how it works Chemically, which is why I'm continuing my education to go into Cognitive Neuroscience.

I honestly hope I have not been offensive to you in picking you apart in my above post. I actually did something pretty bad- I tried to stuff you into a box and I'm fully aware that no Autistics will fit into ANY box! I apologize. I am one of those people constantly screaming "look at the person, not the disability!" and then I turn right around and do it myself.

Thank you for the very nice response even though I wasn't being very kind to you. I am in no way insinuating that you are faking, or that you are not what you say. I believe my issue simply is in Classification. It is frustrating that there is a HUGE spectrum of what Autism can be, yet, we just call ALL of it "Autistic". I believe that's where the problems lie.

I wish with all of my heart that the issues for Autistic people could be solved. I would not want to change who you are; no, I simply wish that I could understand what it is that makes Autism what it is and why it is difficult for you to communicate with others. Thankfully in today's day and age, you have found a way to communicate with (idiots like ME) people. You truly are remarkable and are doing what I love most in life- making people see you for who you are inside. Which is what counts, in my opinion.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

You know, I've been sitting here for a few minutes, thinking about what a big-fat-jerk I am. I've re-read everything I've been writing and I look rather like a asshole. This upset me greatly. I went and reviewed your video (the one one YouTube) and in the last few minutes, I've been wandering around my apartment to see what it was like.

I tapped a rhythm out across my desk. I went and touched a bunch of pots and pans in my kitchen with my eyes closed. I put my hand in the sink for a while and listened to the sound and felt the silky water run over my fingers. I even sat here and rocked back and forth on my ball (I don't sit on a chair). I then closed my eyes and zoned out while humming to myself.

And now I see what you're getting at. After discovering (in about three seconds) how nice the sensations are from these things, I went and picked up my Chemistry book and stuck my face in it. Fascinating. Smooth, cool, smells neat. My son, who has Asperger's, asked me if I'd gone nuts. Nope, I said, I am attempting to see the world from someone else's shoes.

You, Amanda, are one utterly fascinating, incredible human being. Please don't let anyone make you change yourself.

I now feel the urge to rub my face on my friend's cat.

11:23 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

@ballastexistenz-Hi Amanda! Welcome to the blog. On my previous post some of us were discussing the possible vaccination-autism connection and I wondered what your thoughts are on that. I was also wondering if you watched much television or if that was too visually overwhelming to you. I know all the cable news graphics and such can even become visually overwhelming to me and I don't have autism. Were you able to watch yourself on 360?

@sharla-Glad to see you apologized. We don't want you going all Bill Frist (senator who "diagnosed" Terry Schiavo via video) on us. :)

12:52 PM  
Blogger Maddy said...

What a great discussion! This is what I enjoy about blogs like this and others that tend to promote discussion of issues that really matter to people.

I loved the story on Amanda Baggs. I'm glad 360 decided to extend their coverage of her story.

Even though I don't know anyone with autism, Amanda's amazing insight has helped me better understand my own way of interacting with my nephew that has Down Syndrome and for that I am extremely grateful.

Amanda is truly a remarkable woman. I hope she can recover from all the attention she is getting right now. I would like to hear more from her.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous gissou said...

I echo your sentiments. It's great to have open discussion about topics that matter and can educate us.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous gissou said...

Larry is once again covering the ANS crap tonight. He may wanna consider renaming his show the ANS show. Yesterday, he asked Bawa Wawa what the fascination of the news media is with ANS. She fired back, I don't know Larry. You tell me since you've been covering it every night! We on the other hand, have chosen not to. Yikes!

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can honestly say that I've learned more here than I would have if I'd watched the damn show! I love how you cut out all the crap Eliza. I just do yoga now and read, cause I know you'll fill me in on the important stuff.
And Sharla, I sent both CNN and AC360 an e-mail too. It's nice to know they are listening (if only a little) to their viewer feedback.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

Yes, it's nice they are seeming to listen to us. Just now (about five minutes ago), I was watching how Anderson just totally chewed up and spit out the congressman who said we should bomb Mecca. YES!! THAT IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, PEOPLE!! NEWS!! WHAT A CONCEPT!!

10:47 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@maddy-It's nice to have an intelligent discussion, isn't it?

@gissou-Larry's barely even conscious anymore. I think they prop him up with those suspenders. He doesn't even know what he's saying.

@anne-Thanks! I guess my lack of graphics and sound effects make it easier to focus. ;)

@sharla-I loved the fact check. All the ANS crap? Not so much.

11:16 PM  

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