My hacker(s) and I

It appears that we may slowly be (16 March:) still are not developing an understanding.

As the constant freezing of my PC and his unexpected butting in was very disruptive, a week ago or so, I suggested setting a schedule or some general rules. Not rigid rules, more like a guideline.

He seems to like it, but when I am late in the morning, he lets me know that he is very angry by messing up my screen incredibly (controlling the monitor) and rebooting the PC non-stop for about 15 minutes. He can also tell my PC’s fan to gear up. He hacks hardware too, yes.

This morning, he arrived at 8:30, causing my PC to freeze, requiring me to flip the UK-style socket’s power switch, and he appeared to leave my PC at around 9:50. At around 11:15, he seemed to be back, but it is more likely that he’s been logged into my system since 8:30. He can be present without me noticing it, and sometimes believes that he’s tricked me into believing that he’s gone, lol. After 10+ years of this, I have more or less gotten used to it, though on some days, it becomes too much and I yell at the computer and/or at one of the other people involved in this circus.

(He doesn’t want me to post the little video I made. Keeps deleting it.)

My PC sometimes also freezes for other reasons, however, and I am aware of that. The site of The Independent almost always makes my PC freeze.

The more I think about it, after having skimmed a few papers on the topic, the more convinced I am becoming that yes, he has a form of Asperger’s. (16 March: But how would I know? NPD apparently can look exactly the same, and I doubt that Asperger’s goes with taunting.) (19 March: No, apparently, it’s got nothing to do with autism.)

People with Asperger’s too have a problem with theory of mind. This can make them appear to be devoid of empathy, hence make them appear to have NPD and/or psycho/sociopathy. It is hard for him to assess how some of his actions and behaviours affect other people. He seems to see those as independent of himself, the way one would look at a computer problem when a computer is malfunctioning.

He does not think of the “cups of coffee” he throws “into other people’s keyboards”, so to speak. He has a tendency to take over my entire life (also in terms of getting into my head, of course, just like it is hard not to think of water when you just fell into a pond).

As some of you know, the story is a lot more complicated than this, but figuring out individual components is certainly helpful.

I am the one who has to live with this, after all, so I have to do the best I can to make my life as liveable as possible regardless of whatever the hacker’s doing, or any of his associates.

It’s taught me that we don’t all speak the same language. Some of us use music as language, others visual art, and his language is, well, coding, I guess. Or the general way he interacts with software and hardware.

I think I can often tell whether he is in my PC or not by things like how quickly some or all web pages load and refresh (the ones he wants access to, either to control what I get to see or do or to add messages from him), and whether they load once, or two times.

In 2011, I took a photo of the hacker, by the way. I know who he is, what he looks like, roughly where he lives and what is name appears to be.

I also know that he is not doing all of this on his own. There is someone else involved, with a different condition, who sometimes does terrible things, partly to support and perpetuate his own hero role, obscuring what is really going on – like someone who pushes you into the canal so that he can pretend he is rescuing you and who quickly pushes you back when nobody’s looking, and should someone notice, then he’ll use it as proof of how clumsy you are – and partly to try and drive me crazy, to frustrate me and hurt me. At least, that is how it often comes across on the receiving end. Not always.

Someone – mostly the hacker, usually on behalf of the other person, I suspect, or my immediate downstairs neighbour on behalf of them – has also been going into my flat when I am out, for years, until I managed to stop it – AS, 16 April 2019: temporarily, as it turned out later – by installing an extra lock. Sometimes he took something, or he returned something he took earlier. At other times, he moved something, left a note, destroyed something, or hurt an animal. He – or his brother – has also killed animals. His theme is decapitated pigeons, though I also suspect him of having killed all the stray cats here where I live in the past year or so.

The first time I knew for sure that someone had been in my flat was on Good Friday, I think it was in 2015 (I can check), when something had been moved, something relatively heavy. Up to that point, I only sometimes had had a strange feeling, but it had never occurred to me that someone could actually be shimmying the locks and going into my flat.

Neither of them can help doing this. I understand that.

This is part of the story of how I got into bioethics and inclusivity.

I’ve learned a lot from it.

Another opinion

The key to our humanity isn’t genetic, it’s microbial

File 20181211 76977 1euccsw.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The microbes that live in our gut are essential to good health.
Alpha Tauri 3D Graphics/SHutterstock.com

Ian Myles, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

What if the key to perfecting the human species were actually … yogurt?

Continue reading

Surrogacy

For a while, I’d been wanting to watch the documentary “Big Fertility“, by the Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC), which was released on 17 September 2018. I was mainly curious.

I finally got around to it today. I watched the puzzling trailer this morning – It’s all about the money – and it intrigued me so much that I rented the video from Vimeo.

This documentary features Kelly Martinez, her husband and the director of the CBC as well as Kelly’s doctor during her last surrogacy.

Kelly has earlier addressed the United Nations, as is mentioned in the documentary. This took place on 15 March 2017.

She also went to Spain. I found an article in Spanish newspaper El Pais of 24 February 2017 that mentions her and discusses the problem of gestational surrogacy. It’s not allowed in Spain, but that does not stop people who have lots of money.

My conclusions:
  • The issue of surrogacy needs to be resolved globally, and as soon as possible, as many others have been saying for a long time. Some surrogacies go fine, but many don’t – and the victims are often the babies, for example when they can’t travel from the countries in which they were born or when people who bought a pregnancy change their mind.
  • As Dr Diehl (Kelly’s doctor) explains in the documentary, physicians are currently left in limbo. They are faced with making decisions for which there is (often) no legal framework yet (depending on state/country), which can expose them to lawsuits. An example he gives is the situation that a surrogate does not want vaccinations, while the person who bought the pregnancy does.
  • If it were up to me, surrogacy would be banned altogether. Babies are not products. (Nobody knows what happened to the two boys Kelly produced during her third and final surrogacy.)
  • Thankfully, with the soon expected advent of artificial uteruses – incubation pods for embryos (yes, we will have something like this; there is no doubt in my mind about this and they’ve already been used successfully for sheep – the problem will disappear, at least as far as the surrogates are concerned and to some degree also as far as the babies are concerned.
  • I am reminded of Michael Sandel’s words about the effects of various practices on inclusive solidarity. What’s technologically possible is not by definition mandatory. It is not at all a matter of choosing between nature or science and technology, as some suggest.

I believe that truly altruistic cases or surrogacy will not be stopped by bans but it would curb the predominantly negative instances and effects of gestational surrogacy. In my own family, there is a case of one family giving one or their babies to another couple that could not conceive. It concerned two siblings and their spouses and happened many decades ago.

She’s GOOD!

She raps a poem she wrote to an Iranian-American student repeatedly tasered by police at a UCLA library when he did not want to show his ID when challenged, repeatedly tasered and then told to stand up again. (It was recorded on video.)

And she’s surprisingly good. It’s powerful.

This is 11 years old yet highly current.

When irrational fears on the side of police officers cause deaths, people sometimes get angry…

This concerns my home town of St. Petersburg in the US. I’d just left…

Tyron Lewis was an unarmed teenager. Of course he was black. Hence automatically considered dangerous. And shot. Killed.

I watched the news about it on TV from Amsterdam but for most people around me, it was just another Rodney King story that happened on the other side of the world. It did not concern them.

Particularly for young people (?), the internet – still in its infancy back then, with most people not even using e-mail – enabling like-minded strangers from all over the world to connect has changed this.

(Or has it?)

I knew from my own experiences in St. Petersburg that there were officers in St. Pete who were scared. For their own lives. Expecting the worst. (I once had to ask for police assistance when I came home and found my front door locked from the inside. Seemed a bit peculiar, best to take no risks and let the professionals deal with it. To my astonishment, the officers were much more scared and nervous than I was.)

This video has great sound. One of the reasons why I am posting it.

 

Theresa May’s hostility in practice

While the Home Office’s illegal practice to force medical staff to report migrants to them as if they were hounds pointing out foxes in the field has recently been terminated, if I recall correctly, the hostility policy that Theresa May started against foreigners (though it was touted as a measure to flush out illegal immigrants) continues.

The irony of it all is that for most legal immigrants in Britain, there is no official paperwork that states that they’re here legally. Leave to remain should be automatic for those who have it automatically, on the basis of the law. On paper, I have already had the same rights as British people for about nine years, but in practice, that is not quite the case.

Every time I leave the UK, I don’t know whether I will be let back into the country again (also because the UK government has been changing its definition of who is allowed to live here and who is not so many times). Dutch people tell me that of course I will be allowed back into the UK, as I am an EU citizen, but they are not familiar with what happens in practice. Last time I returned, the customs officer held back my passport teasingly for a few seconds when he handed it to me, before he let go of it. To remind me that I am nothing but a rotted banana peel in the eyes of people like Theresa May? Because he was bored? Or because I am a female?

Anyway, last year MPs reported foreigners to the Home Office 68 times and “since 2012, MPs have contacted Immigration Enforcement to raise concerns about constituents’ immigration status 723 times”.

I’d like to see a list with the names of those MPs. One of them is Conservative MP Christopher Chope.

Thankfully, 107 MPs have signed up to the pledge that they will not inform the Home Office on their constituents within this hostile climate context. These MPs include for example Diane Abbott, Jon Ashworth and Richard Burgon, yet apparently only one Conservative MP, namely Heidi Allen.

Even at some universities, I read on Twitter earlier this year, the situation has turned into a situation eerily reminiscent of what happened 100 years ago, when Jews in Germany were challenged on every occasion and eventually were forced to wear a band on their arm, with professors who’ve been working in the UK for a long time suddenly being challenged on their eligibility to for example serve on a PhD student’s graduation committee and being asked to show their passports.

Theresa May’s hostility policy remains a highly worrisome development.

The world in terms of flowers – kind of

A large part of my book “We need to talk about this” was an effort in logical reasoning to find a practically applicable guideline, something that would hold up within a legal framework and provide clarity, a way forward instead of remaining gridlocked.

One or two people have said that they do not agree with my views. As none of them were specific, I can only guess what they meant. Were they in favour of encouraging discrimination of those who aren’t mainstream? Were they in favour of locking up people in institutions because they are autistic and putting people in chains attached to walls because of “mental” illness? Surely not.

I suspect that what they want is to see new technologies being used to rid the world of diseases and conditions closest to their heart. I do not believe that that would be just. Cancer runs rampant in my family, for example, but focusing all attention on the prevention of the development of cancer is wrong when cancer is mostly developed later in life and can be tied to the way we live. (By contrast, sickle cell anaemia does not occur in my family and I am not familiar with what it entails whereas I have seen the pain and suffering related to advanced cancer from up close.)

I have no personal ties to childhood cancer, but it seems to me that preventing the development of childhood cancers should take priority over preventing the development of cancers that occur later in life. (But note that I am not saying at all that no attention should ever go to the prevention of cancers that occur later in life!)

In my book, I came up with a guideline according to which more attention should first go to the prevention (or treatment) of conditions that lead to lives considered not worth living. Because it is just and fair, also in view of the fact that it is a generally accepted view that allowing people to have been born in itself does not constitute harm.

Once we have those figured out, we could move on to progressively less serious illnesses and conditions if people with those conditions perceive them as so problematic that they would like to see them prevented. Progressive multiple sclerosis is an example that comes to mind.

This is the opposite of the approach currently generally taken in medicine, in which those with the worst lives and most serious conditions get the lowest priorities. That is like ignoring the ship that is still miles away from the shore (sinking or not) but focusing all your attention on the ships that are closer and sure to make it to the harbour or that are already in the harbour.

Both approaches contain their own logic. Both approaches make sense. I don’t think that one is wrong and the other is right.

But if I put it in terms of another metaphor, then I have no choice but to say that it is wrong to provide water and nutrition only to roses and withhold them from geraniums.

Then the question becomes: Who am I to say that geraniums or sunflowers aren’t worthy of life or that the people on the ship farthest away from the shore aren’t worth saving? In a world full of roses and only roses, roses will soon become boring and plain.

I believe that it is a mistake to put the onus exclusively on medicine when so much more can also still be done by society to make people’s lives better and enable everyone to flourish, roses, begonias, sunflowers, tulips, orchids, daffodils and geraniums alike.

Punitive, mean-spirited and often callous

That is what the United Nations have called the British government’s treatment of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable.

You can read more on the site of The Independent and on the site of the BBC.

You can also read this pdf: 1 Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights London, 16 November 2018

I discussed that in my book too (and I believe that it is linked to a British-designed approach to life called utilitarianism):

 

What’s being said in the BBC article about the, well, delusional focus of the ministers is excellently depicted by this photo I took on 29 October. The text in this government poster at a local bus stop contains not a promise but a threat, as wages in Britain aren’t particularly high (to put in an understatement). Universal credit is the new benefits system, by the way.

I found the tone of this poster mean-spirited. That’s why I took the photo.

What it means to be human

Do you agree with this? Don’t other species also have to respond to the circumstances around them, including being chased by humans, having been born in a zoo or as part of the pet trade or to droughts and food shortages, as well as the fact that humans take up more and more of their natural habitat and force them to live in our built environment?

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Beyond Disadvantage: Disability, Law, and Bioethics

The above is the title of the 2018 Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference, which took place in June. I had registered for the event because the topic interests me greatly and I have so much to learn in this area. Unfortunately, I turned out to be away and unable to attend after all.

I am delighted that the Petrie-Flom Center not only decided to make some of the lecture materials available beforehand, but recorded the lectures and has made the videos shareable.

Prominent point of discussion at he conference was the question whether a disability is merely a difference, or a bad difference. Putting the question like this is an oversimplification but it is a good starting point. I will discuss this matter and these lectures in greater detail in coming posts.

For now, here are the opening remarks, and first talks.

“Beyond Disadvantage: Disability, Law, and Bioethics” Opening Remarks and Panel 1: Theory and Definitions of Disability from Petrie-Flom Center on Vimeo.

 

 

 

Very severe animal cruelty at Mahard Egg Farms in the US

Last evening, I saw a video and photos that I found shocking. It concerns severe animal cruelty that occurs near Sulphur in Oklahoma. The farm is part of Mahard Egg Farms who appear to be headquartered in Texas. I searched LinkedIn and found nine accounts associated with the company, including that of its CFO, Kaitlin Mahard.

I believe that severe animal cruelty can be considered “violent crimes” which would mean that LinkedIn should remove the accounts associated with Mahard Egg Farms. The LinkedIn Professional Community Policies state that “those who engage in violent crimes are not welcome and not permitted on the Services”.

In 2011, Mahard Egg Farm, Inc., indeed a Texas corporation, was told to pay a $1.9 million penalty to settle claims that the company violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) at its egg production facilities in Texas and Oklahoma, according to the EPA:
https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/mahard-egg-farm-inc-clean-water-act-settlement

The latter apparently resulted in this:
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2013-09/documents/mahardegg-cd.pdf

That document includes the following:

C. MORTALITY MANAGEMENT
18. Defendant shall comply with the Mortality Management Requirements in Appendix D at the Vernon-Chillicothe Facility, the Springhill Facility, the Prosper Facility, the Boogie Hill Facility, the Nebo Ranch, and the Ravia Facility, unless such facility is not growing poultry.

Appendix D stated:

APPENDIX D:
MORTALITY MANAGEMENT

I. Texas
65.
No later than the Effective Date of this Decree, Mahard shall cease any transfer of
carcasses between Facilities unless a composting plan is in place that is consistent with 30 T.A.C. 332, Subchapter B, and has been approved by EPA and TCEQ.

66.
Mahard shall ensure that all carcass disposal at the Vernon-Chillicothe, Prosper, and
Springhill Facilities is conducted in accordance with TCEQ Regulatory Guidance, RG-326, Handling and Disposal of Carcasses from Poultry Operations (August 2009) and in accordance with 30 T.A.C. § 335.25. Mahard shall collect all carcasses within 24 hours of death and properly disposed of them within three (3) Days of death. Animals must not be disposed of in any liquid manure or process wastewater system. Disposal of diseased animals shall be conducted in accordance with Tex. Agric. Code § 161.004.

II. Oklahoma
67.
Mahard shall comply with the terms and conditions in Mahard’s 4/29/09 Carcass Disposal Plan, as amended and supplemented by the letter from ODAFF, dated May 7, 2009, to Mahard (both attached here as the Appendix D Supplement).

The Kroger chain has meanwhile dropped Mahard’s eggs and I’ve reached out on LinkedIn to it spokeswoman Kristal Howard to thank Kroger and ask her to ensure that Kroger will never be associated with such severe animal cruelty again.

Kroger’s 2018 Sustainability Report includes an animal welfare policy, which states:

“Kroger has a long-standing commitment to responsible business practices, including the humane treatment of animals,” Kroger says in its policy. “We require our suppliers to adopt industry-accepted animal welfare standards that we endorse, and we monitor our suppliers for compliance with these standards. We align with the Food Marketing Institute’s industry-adopted and industry-aligned animal welfare standards for the following animal proteins: beef, pork, chicken, turkey and eggs. For nearly a decade, Kroger has convened our own independent panel of animal science experts to make recommendations on how we can work with the industry to improve animal welfare.”

I’ve also contacted the EPA.

Why we need to talk about stuff that is hard to talk about

I quickly shot this with my mobile so the quality is not that great and you get to see my saggy wrinkly skin up close. Hey, I am no longer 20 or 30 and that’s perfectly fine!

Here is the article in the Atlantic that I mention in the video:
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/07/you-really-dont-want-to-know-what-its-like-to-be-a-right-whale-these-days/566009/

Will designer babies dissolve the glue that binds society?

That is one of the questions I’ve been wondering about, as you’ll know if you read my latest book.

I just watched Brené Brown’s TED Talk about vulnerability again. I first saw it a few years ago. It turns out that her research appears to indicate that yes, the unbridled creation of designer babies would destroy our capacity for connection.

 

You thought animals we eat have no feelings?

Boiling water hurts them too.

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Illness and the social self (upcoming Uehiro lectures)

The annual Uehiro lectures will take place in Oxford next week. This year, they are by Richard Holton, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Their topic interests me because I feel strongly that we need to start looking differently at various forms of illnesses. Continue reading

Dealing with empathy

Humans occur along vast ranges of characteristics and one of those ranges is the scale that has empaths and extreme altruists on one end and probably psychopaths on the other. They all have their pluses and minuses. Nothing is bad or good. Everything is both. There is good in bad and bad in good. Good and bad can’t even exist independently. They are expressed relative to each other, after all.

Do you know where on this spectrum you are? Continue reading

Sadistic stalking

In my book “We need to talk about this“, I mention sadistic stalking (description below). That is, I point out how difficult it is to tell that the target of such activities is not imagining things, is not mentally ill.

I give the example of the woman who was stalked for a long time and eventually found the excavated remains of her deceased husband dumped on her doorstep. She had a heart attack. In my book, I take you through a few scenarios that put you in such a woman’s shoes to show you various sides of what are in fact “mental health” prejudices. Continue reading

Time for a rethink?

There is no such thing as a dumb animal. Okay, with the possible exception of that one bee who currently keeps flying into my kitchen, again and again and again. But he always finds his way out again. Hm. Then maybe even this bee isn’t really that dumb… I haven’t figured out yet what smell on my windowsill could be attracting him. Or her.

The challenges of publishing a book

Well, of course, after I thought I had weeded out all the typos, added a reference that I was sure I had already added, and tweaked the new cover for the print version sufficiently, I still found a missing space, and one or two missing words in the proof. That’s how it goes! Continue reading

We need to reconsider our view of other species, urgently.

Read this story: https://www.thedodo.com/on-the-farm/starving-pig-shared-food-with-his-friends

Two pigs were rescued, one had piglets and was well and the other one was very thin. Rescuers were puzzled. Turned out that the latter had been giving most of the food he had to the other pig. To help the other pig survive.

We need to reconsider our views regarding other species, urgently.

Personally, I have seen small parrots stand up for cats.

How on earth did we “developed” humans manage to think for so long that other species have no cognitive abilities? No capacity for emotions? Mind-boggling. The more developed we become, the less wisdom we humans seem to have?

Traditional scientists have to stop being so damn pig-headed about this. To see the obvious does not make you stupid, silly or dimwitted.

“We need to talk about this”

Hi there!

Welcome to this website and blog. I am the author of “We need to talk about this“.

In this book, I discuss matters of life and death, such as abortion, designer babies and euthanasia, within the context of the new eugenics.

(Incidentally, if you have the 1st edition – with the bright-blue baby on the cover – or a flawed early author’s copy of the current edition, with for example errors in the Table of Contents, typos, or a different photo on the back than the one on the left, contact me. I can send you an up-to-date epub or mobi file.)

 

Continue reading