Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cruise line pleads guilty in deadly blast

Federal prosecutors on Friday charged Norwegian Cruise Line with gross negligence almost five years after a boiler explosion on the historic SS Norway killed eight crew members and seriously injured 10 others in the Port of Miami.

The U.S. attorney's office said Norwegian agreed to plead guilty to the criminal charge, which alleges the cruise line operated the vessel in a ``grossly negligent manner that endangered the lives, limbs and property of the persons on board.''

Norwegian is liable for at least $500,000 in criminal penalties for the deadliest accident on a U.S.-based ocean liner in more than a decade. The cruise line also has agreed to carry out safety inspections of its vessels with an independent consultant.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral Robert Branham called the May 25, 2003, explosion a ``preventable tragedy.''

''Hopefully, this case will send a message to the maritime industry that marine safety should be the paramount consideration in maintaining their vessels,'' he said in a statement.

The cruise line said Friday evening that it has cooperated with federal authorities since the explosion and will continue to do so. ''The safety and security of our passengers and crew has been and always will be of the utmost importance,'' Norwegian's statement said.

A National Transportation Safety Board report on the accident, quietly completed in November, showed NCL engineers had expressed concerns since the late 1990s about the condition of the four boilers that powered the elegant ship. The massive high-pressure boilers, each holding 20 tons of 528-degree water, had a history of cracks, leaks, corrosion and repairs.

''We must realize that we have reached a point where the operation of the vessel is not safe,'' one unnamed NCL port engineer wrote in a 1998 e-mail to the company's vice president of ship operations, the NTSB report said. The engineer cited ''numerous boiler tube failures'' that were subsequently repaired.


The NTSB found the primary cause of the explosion was the fracture of a weld on a seam of a high-pressure drum. The scalding water flashed into steam, swept through the engine spaces and some adjacent crew berthing areas and killed eight crew members while injuring nearly a dozen others. No passengers were hurt.

Investigators also found questionable welds and crack-repair efforts; inconsistent water chemistry that led to corrosion; inadequate inspections from both NCL and Bureau Veritas, an international inspection agency, and an operating schedule that exposed the aging boilers to extreme thermal stresses.

In January and July 2002, a year before the boiler burst, NCL port engineers e-mailed NCL management with concerns that the ship's routes and busy schedules forced crew to fire up and cool down the boilers more rapidly than the operating manual called for.

The report was also critical of NCL's handling of persistent cracks in the boilers, which first appeared in original welds in the 1970s. Cracks were ground down until boiler walls reached a minimum allowable thickness then built back up with weld repairs. The length and width of the welds, the NTSB found, probably accelerated pitting and cracking.

At some point, copper -- an unacceptable metal for repairs -- also appeared to have been deliberately applied to cracks on the boiler that exploded.

''The only explanation for the presence of the copper is that it was introduced to mask the crack, impede inspection and avoid necessary repairs,'' the report said.

Investigators also found a lengthy gap in formal inspections, ``even though it was known that they were susceptible to cracking and were in fact cracked in 1996.''

The report found that the header, the part of boiler No. 23 that failed, had not had a material test or appropriate visual inspection since 1990.

The cruise line was charged in an ''information,'' not a criminal complaint or indictment. That means Norwegian executives and prosecutors negotiated the misdemeanor charge.

''Charges such as those today are necessary to show that companies operating and managing ships have a duty to take reasonable measures to assure the safety of all onboard -- passengers and crew,'' said U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta.

In addition, the NTSB noted that NCL had agreed to improve its fleet emergency response, safety measures and maintenance records. Though few ships, aside from Naval vessels, still rely on large high-pressure boilers for primary power, smaller low-pressure ones are routinely used to heat water or for other shipboard systems.


Miami attorney Charles Lipcon, who represented many of the victims and is the author of the new book, Unsafe on the High Seas, praised the criminal charge.

''I'm pleased to see that the U.S. attorney stepped up to the plate and got involved,'' he said. But he called it ''unfortunate'' that the crew members and their families were not able to press civil lawsuits against Norwegian in federal court in Miami.

The dead and injured seamen were mostly Filipino. Their contracts with Norwegian called for settling claims in arbitration, so their lawsuits were dismissed from federal court in Miami. The cruise line negotiated settlements afterward.

A cruise industry representative called the criminal case a strong signal.

''We take safety very seriously as an industry, and we hope this gets resolved and look forward to a resolution,'' said Michael Crye, executive vice president of the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group.

The SS Norway had a storied past. It was launched as the SS France in 1960. At 1,035 feet, it was the longest passenger ship afloat and could carry more than 2,000. It was too long and too wide for the Panama Canal.

Deemed unprofitable in 1974, the ocean-liner was mothballed in France. In 1979, Norwegian Cruise Line bought it for $18 million -- its value in scrap metal -- and revamped it at a cost of $120 million. After a ''farewell cruise'' to Europe in 2001, the SS Norway returned to Miami for seven-day cruises in the eastern Caribbean. It was among the last ocean-liners powered by high-pressure steam boilers.

It has been out of commission since the boiler explosion five years ago. The company has since sold it for scrap.

Miami Herald staff writer Martha Brannigan contributed to this report.

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Original here

Fat chance: A diet pill won't make you thin

Richard Drew / AP
The side effects are part of the reason that GlaxoSmithKline's Alli, the first over-the-counter diet pill, works for dieters who take it.

When the fat-blocker Alli hit pharmacy shelves last June, hopeful consumers stampeded for the first government-approved over-the-counter weight-loss drug. But it didn’t take long for the troublesome side effects such as not being able to control your bowels, and the lack of real weight loss for some, to convince many dieters that Alli wasn’t the sole answer to their weight problems.

In addition to Alli, there are about six prescription weight-loss drugs on the market. Some, like Alli, block the absorption of fat in the body. Others work in the brain to suppress appetite. But the reality is, no matter how many weight-loss pills you take, they don’t work by themselves.

“The pills we currently have don’t seem to be terribly effective for long-term weight loss,” says registered dietitian Anne Fletcher of Mankato, Minn. “When people go off the pills, many put weight back on.”

Still, the drug industry and many dieters remain convinced that a pill is the answer to the nation's growing obesity epidemic. Several new prescription diet pills are in late stage trials, including the experimental drug lorcaserin, a variation of Fen-phen which was pulled for causing heart problems. At least 30 companies are developing weight-loss drugs, with experts estimating that in the next few years there will be 10 to 15 medications meant to help dieters in different ways. The pharmaceutical research firm Decision Resources projects that the obesity drug market will grow in the U.S. from $222 million in 2006 to nearly $2 billion by 2016.

When combined with diet and exercise, anti-obesity drugs can help someone lose about 5 to 10 percent more weight, research suggests. But because the various pills affect the body in different ways, it’s possible that certain people may be better suited to using one type of pill over another.

For example, a study looking at the differences between sibutramine (Meridia) and orlistat (Xenical and Alli), found that greater weight loss with orlistat occurred in people who could be described as “conscientious,” that is, their personalities were more order-oriented or deliberate. Therefore, carefully monitoring fat intake works for them. People who have a hard time restraining their eating habits saw a greater impact with sibutramine — which affects serotonin in the brain and makes you feel full sooner when eating.

If at first, you don't succeed ...
In general, the biggest mistake people make in taking diet pills is looking at them as magic bullets.

"People cannot expect a medication to do it for them,” says Gary Foster, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia. “It’s a 50/50 partnership with the pill being half the equation. Exercise, what we eat and our lifestyle habits … are critical to long-term success.”

When clients request to use a weight loss medication, Fletcher, author of the book “Thin for Life,” tells them to think of it as “one leg of a four-legged stool.”

“One leg is physical activity; one is diet; one is behavior change and the final leg can be diet pills,” she says. “Take out any of the legs that support the diet pill and the stool will fall over.”

From her research Fletcher found that people who lost significant amounts of weight often had made multiple efforts to lose weight before they realized long-term success.

“When we try to change any behavior it takes most of us a few attempts to get it right,” she says.

Side effects
There’s no real data on how safe the pills are long-term, especially for young people. However, the Food and Drug Administration has only approved them for adults for up to two years of continuous use. According to an analysis of 30 trials done on adults taking anti-obesity drugs for one to four years, about 30 to 40 percent stopped taking them after a year, although it wasn't clear why.

In addition, side effects are common. Sibutramine can increase blood pressure and heart rate in some patients. Orlistat, which alters the absorption of fat in food, can have embarrassing intestinal side effects. Rimonabant (used in Europe, but awaiting approval in this country) may, for some users, cause nausea, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

However, for the obese — people with a body-mass index of 30 or greater— the benefits of prescription diet drugs can outweight the risks, experts believe.

“The people most successful are those who are ready to make a serious commitment to losing weight and willing to take responsibility for their actions and for change," says Pat Baird, a dietitian and nutrition consultant for GlaxoSmithKline’s Consumer Healthcare division, who serves as an online moderator for people using Alli. She talks with 25 people a day, fielding questions about weight loss, the program and the pill.

Baird concedes that the side effects are part of the reason Alli works for some people. When someone eats more than the prescribed 15 grams of fat per meal, they can experience the not-so-pleasant digestive problems. "It helps keep people honest," she says.

Susan Moores, R.D., is a nutrition consultant and spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association

Original here

Watch what you touch: A bad germ gets worse

Scientists cultured the imprint of a health care worker's gloved hand after examining a patient infected with Clostridium difficile, known as C. diff. The larger yellow colonies outlining the fingers are clusters of the potentially deadly bacteria responsible for at least 300,000 infections a year in U.S. hospitals. The patient had showered an hour before the specimen was collected, say researchers.
Courtesy Dr. Curtis Donskey, Clinical Infectious Diseases, February 2008.

Amy Warren had never heard of the germ that made her so miserable.

In January 2005, weeks after giving birth to her daughter, the Ohio mother of two knew only that she was in pain, suffering cramping so severe she felt like she was still in labor. Then came the diarrhea, uncontrollable bouts up to 50 times a day, which left Warren weak and raw and stranded in her Maineville home.

"I was so sick; I thought I had colon cancer and was dying," Warren recalled.

Three tests failed to detect the source of her intestinal trouble. A fourth, however, confirmed Warren as part of a toxic trend: She was among growing numbers of people sickened by an especially virulent form of the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile, known as C. diff.

Doctors told Warren she’d contracted the NAP1 type of the bacteria, a mutated version that produces roughly 20 times the toxins responsible for illnesses ranging from simple diarrhea to blood poisoning — and death.

“It’s like a science fiction disease,” said Warren, who struggled for six months through three relapses before controlling the infection. “That’s what scared me. People die from this.”

C. diff has long been a common, usually benign bug associated with simple, easily treated diarrhea in older patients in hospitals and nursing homes. About 3 percent of healthy adults harbor the bacteria with no problem. But overuse of antibiotics has allowed the germ to develop resistance in recent years, doctors said, creating the toxic new type that stumps traditional treatment.

"This is the one we're scared of," said Dr. Brian Koll, chief of infection control at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

C. diff produces anaerobic spores transmitted through feces that are able to survive for months on most surfaces. People are infected when they ingest the bacteria, typically by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their mouths, or by eating contaminated food.

Overall infections caused by C. diff more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, according to the latest government figures. In 2005, the year of Warren’s illness, 301,200 cases of C. difficile-associated disease (CDAD) were logged in discharge records kept by the nation’s hospitals. Some 28,600 people who had the infection died.

That's only hospitals, however. Counting nursing homes and other care centers, the number of cases nationally is likely closer to 500,000, experts estimate.

Contaminated health care settings remain the main source of C. diff infections, primarily because they treat so many people with serious diarrheal illness. The NAP1 strain has been found in other sites and populations in recent years, infecting young adults and pregnant women with no history of antibiotic use, according to federal sources.

Despite the concern, scientists don't know how many people contract NAP1 infections, or how many die from them. C. diff infection is not a reportable condition in most states, although a rare pilot project that mandated reporting in Ohio in 2006 found more than 14,000 cases in hospitals and nursing homes that year, according to the state health department.

Mutant strain detected in 38 states
What is clear is that the most toxic strain is taking hold, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In February 2007, 23 states told the CDC they'd seen cases of the NAP1 strain; by November, that number had grown to 38. Officials in the remaining states and territories contacted by said they hadn't detected the virulent bug, but most also said they don't look for it.

Better data about the scope of the C. diff problem may be available by this fall, when the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) presents the results of a prevalence study being conducted this month.

Last year, APIC was among the first agencies to note that rates of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, were about 10 times previous estimates. The so-called superbug claimed headlines last year when researchers linked it to more than 94,000 infections and nearly 19,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2005.

States with  NAP1 strains of C. difficile, November 2007

Health officials now rank C. diff on par with MRSA as one of the top two infections acquired in hospitals.

“In light of how frequently it is already occurring as well as the trajectory of its recent increase, it is an infection that definitely deserves our respect and attention,” said Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, chief of prevention and response for a division of the CDC.

Attention must also be paid, scientists say, because the infection that mostly affects older, sicker people with long histories of antibiotic use now appears to be showing up in younger, healthier patients like Warren.

Warren’s not sure how she contracted the infection, which is caused when normal flora in the gut is disturbed, typically by antibiotics. About 90 percent of CDAD cases occur in patients who've used antibiotics recently, especially fluroquinolines such as the popular drug Cipro.

The resistance allows the C. diff bacteria to take over and flourish. Consequences can range from severe diarrhea to colitis and toxic megacolon, a condition that can lead to shock and death.

Image: Amy, C. diff victim, with her children
Courtesy Amy Warren
Amy Warren of Maineville, Ohio, smiled despite her illness in a 2005 photograph with her children, Shane and Celeste. Warren was 37 when she contracted a toxic strain of C. difficile after her baby's birth.

Warren, now 39, may have gotten the infection from her daughter, Celeste, who had a mild C. diff infection shortly after birth. Infants often harbor C. diff harmlessly in their intestines for about the first year of life, before more mature flora take over, experts said.

It's also possible Warren may have acquired the bacteria the previous fall, when she was briefly hospitalized and wound up sharing a room with a woman with severe diarrhea.

“I was sharing a bathroom with her,” Warren said.

‘Filthy’ hospitals perpetuate problem
There's no question that the rise of C. diff is tied to the cleanliness of the nation's hospitals, say researchers and health care advocates lobbying for better infection control.

"Outbreaks highlight the fact that standard infection control procedures in hospitals are not as good as they could be," said Dr. Curtis Donskey, director of infection control at the Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Even after cleaning, studies show that C. diff spores linger on virtually every hospital surface, including bedrails, telephones, call buttons and toilets.

C. diff spores cling to patient skin, and not only in expected areas, such as the groin, according to a small-but-telling study published by Donskey and colleagues in the February issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Disease. Nearly 40 percent of patients diagnosed with CDAD infections tested positive for C. diff on their hands, and nearly 20 percent had the bacteria on their forearms, researchers found. About 60 percent had C. diff detected on their chest and abdomen.

Typical hospital germicides and alcohol hand sanitizers don’t kill C. diff, experts said. Instead, it takes bleach to eliminate it from surfaces and the friction of soap and water to remove it from hands.

But many hospitals have failed to make controlling C. diff a priority, critics contend.

“The biggest problem in our hospitals is that they are filthy dirty,” said Dr. Alfonso Torress-Cook, an epidemiologist who says he adopted practices that cut C. diff infections by 90 percent at his acute rehabilitation center in Orange County, Calif.

"If we start cleaning the environment, the infection will take care of itself," he added.

Interventions can range from ultra-violet light targeted to kill C. diff germs to silver-infused flooring and antimicrobial curtains aimed at resisting the bugs.

Original here

Close Read

By now, everyone's heard the urban legend about the woman who tried to "freshen up" before going to the gynecologist by spritzing herself with what she thought was perfume (apparently a shower hadn't occurred to her) but turned out to be ... glitter body spray! And so when the gyno peered beneath the hood, he uttered a reverent cry of "Fancy!" (Cosmopolitan attempted to spin this well-worn tale as true as recently as a year ago.) Har, har. But ... so unprofessional! Gynecologists would never say such things!

Or maybe it's that no woman would actually be stupid enough to put glitter body spray in her nether regions. Because if she had, it's not unlikely that a gynecologist would say something in response! Something wacky! Gynecologists have been known to say some rather inappropriate things while their subjects are splayed out on the examination table, feet in stirrups, grimacing as the doctor inserts pointy metal objects into their vaginas. It's not exactly a time when women feel like carrying on a conversation ... much less hearing about, say, some positions they may find pleasurable during sex. Not okay.

We asked women around the country to share their tales of being the ultimate captive audience for aspiring comedians or just otherwise awkward practitioners of the vaginal arts. These are their stories.

"I once had a (female) doctor tell me my cervix was cute. Not sure what that means, but I took it as a compliment."
Kate, 28, Seattle

"My gynecologist recently told me I have an adorable uterus."
Sarah, 32, Brooklyn

"My gyno took a look and said, 'You know what? I'm going to use the baby speculum.' For a long time I thought it meant that I was special, but a few weeks ago a friend was telling me a story where her gyno said the same thing to her. I think it's just a gyno line. I'm not even sure that there are baby speculums, now that I think about it."
Ruth, 31, New York

"Looking at a vagina while you're getting an exam is like having a baby cow on display outside McDonald's right before you get your burger. No one needs to see a bunch of vaginas while the instruments are up there""At the gyno I go to, you are lying there and you look up and there is art overhead, like right where you stare up at the ceiling while cringing. It's African folk art of women spreading their legs with direct shots of the vaginas. Looking at a vagina while you're getting an exam is like having a baby cow on display outside McDonald's right before you get your burger. No one needs to see a bunch of vaginas while the instruments are up there."
Karen, 24, Miami

"I was in the stirrups and I had a big long scratch on my thigh from my cat. My gyno said, 'What happened here?' I said, 'My cat scratched me.' And he said, 'Riiiiiight.'"
Zoe, 25, Chicago

Original here

Much ado about virginity

SOMETIME ago, I was watching a talk show programme of a local television channel. A group of supposedly virgin girls and a lady were presented, and the topic of discussion was the desirability of promoting the culture of virginity amongst girls before they get married.

The presenters of the talk show programme asked the girls questions about how they were able to remain virgins in our "permissive" society, how they avoided "temptation", and what they did, individually, whenever they feel the urge to have sex.

The lady who accompanied the girls talked about her new initiative to identify, celebrate and reward virgins. The discussants were unanimous in praising the virginity test which the girls underwent and the initiative for encouraging girls to remain virgins as long as they are unmarried.

Although after the programme I felt that one should address objectively the issue of virginity and its desirability or undesirability in this column, I never really made up my mind to do so until I read an essay on the subject by Madam Adunni Adediran, who was described as "the unofficial mother of the virgin girls" (Sunday Sun, April 13, 2008).

In the essay, Mrs. Adediran claimed that the celebration of Nigerian virgin girls is the only concept that throws light on the chastity of Nigerian girls, "without which the populace was of the opinion that it is impossible to find a virgin girl in Nigeria after the age of fifteen years".

She also claimed that prior to her programme, "nobody knew that virgin girls could be fished out in Lagos, and that attitude had dragged numerous people into the rural areas for spouses, which many regretted later."

According to Mrs. Adediran, men worldwide are very much interested in virginity, but thinking it impossible, they had said "to hell" with the sacred thing. She has started receiving messages already from some men in Nigeria and abroad asking her to introduce virgin girls to them for permanent relationship.

Mrs. Adediran made some other dubious unscientific claims which I will discuss in the course of this analysis. Suffice it to say that Mrs. Adediran, perhaps a devout Christian, from the general tenor of her essay, believes that it is a commendable feat for girls above fifteen to remain incontinent as long as they are not married, deserving of a "certificate of virtue", that it is perfectly alright to avoid sex before marriage, and that a child of God will never be raped.

Before I deal with the specific claims of Mrs. Adediran, I would like to say a few words about a "virgin." Like most words related to human sexuality, the term "virgin" is not completely exact in its meaning.

It can be used as a noun, an adjective, or even as a verb. The 20th Century Chambers Dictionary defines "virgin" as "one (especially a woman) who has had no sexual intercourse." This definition is deceptively simple, because when the question is asked about how to physically identify a virgin, complexities rear up.

Generally, it is impossible to obtain a physical proof that an adult male is not a virgin. For girls and women, however, the presence of hymen, a thin membranous substance which partially closes the entrance to the virgina, is typically interpreted as a physical index of virginity.

Yet, it is well known that the hymens of many girls who have never had sex had been lacerated as a result of vigorous physical exercise or masturbation. Again, it is plainly ridiculous to say that a woman whose hymen was torn by a man's probing finger while there was absolutely no penile entry into her virgina has had sex. Consequently, the absence of an intact hymen is not a reliable sign that a woman is not a virgin.

Male dominated societies

One of the reasons why the issue of virginity weighs more heavily on women than on men, apart from the masculine character of male-dominated societies, is that there is no physical basis that can be used to tell a man who had never had sex from one who had.

Other biological and socio-cultural factors, such as pregnancy, marriage and religious rites which stress the importance of girls remaining "chaste and pure" until their wedding night, work dialectically together to put the burden of establishing virginity on women.

The ritual importance attached to virginity and the cult of virgins began in ancient times as human societies became increasingly segregated along gender lines and as men widened their dominance over women.

Borrowing from the virgin cults of ancient Egypt, Babylon and Greece, Christianity especially the Catholic Church, elevated the status of "virgin" Mary almost to the level of a goddess, to relieve the spiritual austerity of Judaism, the religion of the Jews from which Christianity evolved.

Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, did not make such concession to females, although the Koran and Hadith contain texts that acknowledged the importance of women in Islam. In traditional African societies, emphasis on female virginity also began in the remote past, with religion as its basis.

The preoccupation with preserving the virginity of women before they marry was, and still is, based on unscientific understanding of human nature and human sexuality, and on the need to properly identify the paternity of children.

Hence, it should not be surprising to anyone seriously interested in knowing the truth that developments in the relevant sciences, such as psychology and medicine indicate that abstinence from sex after sexual maturity is generally not beneficial to both men and women. More precisely, it is unhealthy, both physically and psychologically for both men and women to wait for too long until they are married before they start having sex.

This position contradicts Mrs. Adediran's attitude. It also contradicts the prevailing opinion in Nigeria today, particularly in the face of the campaigns against sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS. But consider dispassionately the following arguments.

Dr. Albert Ellis, one of America's foremost authority on sex, in his work Sex And the Single Man, discussed in details some of the problems associated with prolonged abstinence from sex in individuals who have reached sexual maturity. His discussion was centered on man, but it also contains information about similar problems in women.

According to him, prolonged virginity impairs physical health. He cited the studies of Dr. W.J. Robinson a sexologist, who asserted that abstinence from sexual activity after maturity produces distinctly unfavourable physical and psychical conditions which are incurable sometimes.

Another scholar, Dr. Hugo G. Biegel, held that: "varied though the consequences of abstinence may be, the gratification of the sexual drive is a necessity for the normally developed human, and the disregard of this necessity over a long period of time is likely to break the life impulses and thus to affect not only happiness and well being but also physical and mental health.

" W.S. Taylor confirms that prolonged sexual abstinence in women leads to chlorosis, dysmenorrhea, shrinking of the breasts, and congestion of the ovaries. In both sexes, according to Taylor, it produces insomnia, metabolic and nervous disorders.

The danger of prolonged virginity is definitely more pronounced at the psychological level than at the physical level. Especially for people in whom the sexual instinct is very strong, continued chastity “induces repression and makes them vulnerable to psychasthenia, sexual obsession, and then perversion".

In Sigmund Freud's Collected Papers, Bertrand Russell's Marriage and Morals, L.A. Kirkendall's The Problem of Remaining a Virgin and other studies, it has been established beyond reasonable doubt that abstinence lasting many years has very unpleasant consequences for both men and women.

Similarly, Albert Ellis reports that different kinds and degrees of emotional tenseness and disturbances in many individuals with high sex drives have been traced to prolonged virginity.

Researchers have unearthed evidence that for many people, complete abstinence has disastrous effects on sexual performance, and could render someone temporarily or permanently impotent or frigid.

Distortions of social values are also part of the problem of prolonged sexual continence.

No less an authority then the patron saint of psychoanalysis, Freud, recognized the negative social dimension of long-standing abstinence from sex when he wrote: "Let us add that together with the restrictions on sexual activity in any nation there always goes an increase of anxiety concerning life and of fear of death, which interfere with each individual's capacity for enjoyment.

And do away with his willingness to incur risk of death in whatever cause "showing itself in diminished inclination to beget offspring, thus excluding many people or group of such a type from participation in the future."

Overemphasis on chastity tends to make parents unduly harsh, hard and inconsiderate about the erotico-emotional needs of their children.

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1 Written by ucheThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 20-04-2008 20:15 , IP:
There is nothing wrong in a woman\'s decision to remain a virgin for life. Forget about all those scholars you researched on. Virginity is recommendable and there is no psychological problem attached to it. The only problem is that sometimes after keeping yourself for your mate, you found out they can\'t satisfy you in bed and by that time, it is already too late because you guys are already married. You end up having sex 3 times in a month. Whereas if you are familiar with his low sex drive, you wouldn\'t opt for marriage with him.
2 prolonged virginity and problems
Written by pascalThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 28-04-2008 17:37 , IP:
hi sir,
could your phrase in the you kindly explain vanguard article of page 12 april 27 on the above subject matter, 1st paragragh and i quote,' ........prolonged virginity or chastity both in male and female is very damaging'

could you furnish in layman's language, the price for prolonged virginity and when you say prolonged, what age range are you looking at.
I will be glad to get a response.

3 Much Ado About Virginity
Written by AmechiThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 30-04-2008 13:05 , IP:
Nobody knows all the information about a product except the manufacturer of the product.It was not man that created man,but God that created man,if so then God can not be a liar,i must say that science has always wanted to prove that it knows better than God who himself is the Greatest scientist.Finally virginty is still in vogue and i will advise every girl to remain one until marriage.If scientists say that i will have a problem if i remain a virgin till i marry then God is not fit to be God again,but if their findings are false then let every man be a liar and God be true.
4 Written by jeremyThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 02-05-2008 17:02 , IP:
Let's not forget the role celebrities play in this whole virginity debate. They are not helping:
5 Forget God
Written by AithrilThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 02-05-2008 17:03 , IP:
Forget everyone on here who talked about God. The fact is- SCIENTIFICALLY- that people are better adjusted if they have sex at the proper period in their life. End of story.
6 What's so wrong with sex?
Written by MarkThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 02-05-2008 17:14 , IP:
I honestly can't figure out why there is such a hatred towards something so pleasurable? Why wait till you're married when you enjoy pleasure now?

STDs? Wear condoms
Pregnancy? Pills, Condoms, and various other solutions
Emotional Distress? It happens, but really sex has little to do with it. And if partner A will use partner B for sex, then partner B will get emotionally distressed anyways when he/she denies Partner A's advances.
Nothing left for marriage? That argument doesn't make sense. After 10 years with the same person, sex will get boring unless you come up with creative ways to have it. Whether you're a virgin or not, that will still hold true.

The attitude many have towards sex seems to be more about controlling women and taking their freedom of choice away than anything else. Why are women chastised for their lack of virginity when men aren't?

Sex will let you feel as good as possible with your body, but like with anything else that's fun and pleasurable, there are inherent risks. But the benefits (numerous health benefits at that) are great.

So kids, go out and play, just remember to play it safe.
7 Agreeing
Written by Mandy Antone, on 02-05-2008 17:23 , IP:
Virginity is far overrated. In a male-ruling country, they only want virgin women because its instinctual. A man who has sex with a virgin is guaranteed to be the father of her offspring (assuming they have unprotected sex). A man who has sex with a woman who has had sex in the past, automatically assumes that she's easy and therefore even if he has sex with her to produce children, its not 100% guaranteed that he will be the father. That's honestly what the whole deal with virgins is... its that men dont like it when they think of their girl having ever been with another man.
8 Psycological affects of sex at early age
Written by mistylgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 02-05-2008 17:25 , IP:
What was really missing from this article was the opposing evidence, so that the reader could see both sides of the story. Where is the information on what happens psycologically the first time you have sex, those smells and visions that are left in the mind for a life time? There is also evidence that the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that helps see consequences, isn't fully developed until the age of 25?

There are different ways to look at this and both sides were not equally, and objectively represented.
9 How do you know Gods master plan?
Written by sajThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 02-05-2008 17:25 , IP:
All that you are going on is a book written from the perspectives of men who lived thousands of years ago.

God does not create men. Men are created by a biological process that works the way god intended. Nothing more nothing less. God simply made the rules (science), and we simply live by them and live to understand them. Just because you read something in a book does not make it truth. Truth is ever changing and can only be found by people with open minds and eyes that observe the world around them and are willing to change their opinions and perspectives.

If science manages to prove that prolonged virginity has physical and emotional repercussions, then that is how the world works and that is how god intended it. That is just the natural order of things, and that natural order is God's Law. Not what was written by men in some book. All the bible is is the collection of different philosophies and papers written by a collection of various Christian sects from ancient times.

Or did history not really happen either and all of human knowledge is a lie?
10 Very Informative Article
Written by DougThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , on 02-05-2008 17:32 , IP:
Disregarding all creationist viewpoints as idiotic, and all pro-religion and pro-obedient thoughts, all we have is our choice.

One could be a sheep and do what someone older than you tells you to do. Or you could listen to people who believe all animals lived within walking distance of Noah's house tell you that virginity is a virtue. But at the end of the day, all you have and all you are are the choices that you make. Sex before marriage and virginity are big topics because many of the people in "power" such as those with religious control are trying to control your thoughts and tell you what to do! The government, however, sets no law on virginity, does not say it is a sin, and sets an age limit on consent for the reason that psychological trauma can occur when sex occurs at too young an age. There is a reason for those laws, but within that reason, choice is left open. If you, and someone you like want to have sex at 16, go for it, don't let anyone tell you what to do. Be yourself.

And there's only a few reasons you should ever have sex with someone. You like each other, and it feels good, or your trying to have a kid. If you are having sex for any other reason, you're lying to yourself.

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Medical marijuana user who was denied liver transplant dies

SEATTLE (AP) — A man who was denied a liver transplant because he used marijuana with medical approval to ease the symptoms of hepatitis C has died.

Timothy Garon, 56, died Thursday at Bailey-Boushay House, an intensive care nursing center, said his lawyer, Douglas Hiatt, and Alisha Mark, a spokeswoman for Virginia Mason Medical Center, which operates Bailey-Boushay.

His death came a week after his doctor told him a University of Washington Medical Center committee had again denied him a spot on the liver transplant list because of his use of marijuana, although it was authorized under Washington state law.

The case highlights an ethical consideration for those allocating organs for transplant: whether using dope with a doctor's blessing should be held against a dying patient in need of a transplant.

The Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation's transplant system, leaves it to individual hospitals to develop criteria for transplant candidates.

At some, people who use "illicit substances" — including medical marijuana, even in the dozen states that allow it — are automatically rejected. At others, patients are given a chance to reapply if they stay clean for six months. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Dr. Brad Roter, who authorized Garon to smoke pot to alleviate nausea and abdominal pain and to stimulate his appetite, said he did not know it would be such a hurdle if Garon were to need a transplant.

Garon told The Associated Press last week he believed he contracted hepatitis C by sharing needles with "speed freaks" as a teenager. In recent years, he said, pot was been the only drug he used.

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Instant messaging -- a new language?

OMG! LOL. TTYL. For many adults over the age of 30, the former groupings of letters would seem incoherent, but for a newer generation of technologically-savvy young adults it can say a lot.

“Instant messaging, or IM, is not just bad grammar or a bunch of mistakes,” says Dr. Pamela Takayoshi, Kent State University associate professor of English. “IM is a separate language form from formal English and has a common set of language features and standards.”

Takayoshi, Kent State associate professor of English Dr. Christina Haas and four Kent State undergraduate researchers examined the language of instant messaging. Using IM conversations produced by college students, the group analyzed and identified nonstandard features of the IM language, or the places where writers had used language features which varied from Standard Written English. They found that what looked like nonstandard features of written language were, actually, the standardized features within the IM language. The language of instant messaging was found to be informal, explicit, playful, both abbreviated and elaborated, and to emphasize meaning over form and social relationships over content.

“When we look at the kinds of technology young people are using today,” says Haas, “we see that many of those technologies — IM, blogs and Facebook — are writing technologies. Even the phone is used for writing now.”

Currently, the Kent State team is extending their analysis of IM to the popular Web site to determine whether the site’s language is similar or different to instant messaging standards.

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On the brink

Venerable newspapers face extinction

Illustration by David Simonds

THE New York Times once epitomised all that was great about American newspapers; now it symbolises its industry’s deep malaise. The Grey Lady’s circulation is tumbling, down another 3.9% in the latest data from America’s Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). Its advertising revenues are down, too (12.5% lower in March than a year earlier), as is the share price of its owner, the New York Times Company, up from its January low but still over 20% below what it was last July. On Tuesday April 29th Standard & Poor’s cut the firm’s debt rating to one notch above junk.

At the company’s annual meeting a week earlier, its embattled publisher, Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger, attempted to quash rumours that his family is preparing to jettison the firm it has owned since 1896. Carnage is expected soon as dozens of what were once the safest jobs in journalism are axed, since too few of the staff have accepted a generous offer of voluntary redundancy.

Pick almost any American newspaper company and you can tell a similar story. The ABC reported that for the 530 biggest dailies, average circulation in the past six months was 3.6% lower than in the same period a year earlier; for Sunday papers, it was 4.6% lower. Ad revenues are plunging across the board: by 22.3% at Media General, for example. In 2007 total newspaper revenues fell to $42.2 billion, not to be sniffed at, certainly, but a lot less than the peak of $48.7 billion in 2000.

Much of this decline is being blamed on the rise of the internet, which offers free, round-the-clock coverage, and which has provided a new, better home for classified advertising, once the bedrock of most newspapers’ revenue. But some of the fall in revenues is actually due to the economic slowdown in America, and especially in the housing market, which contributes a large slice of classified advertising.

The credit crunch has also come at a bad time for a group of new newspaper owners, who used loans that were readily available until last summer to buy their way into the business, but must now be having second thoughts. Sam Zell, a property tycoon who bought the Tribune Company, the owner of papers such as the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, is finding the going harder than expected. He is trying to sell assets such Newsday, a New York tabloid that is the subject of a bidding war between two other moguls, Mort Zuckerman and Rupert Murdoch, and perhaps other firms.

Mr Murdoch’s enthusiasm is a reminder that not all newspapers are suffering. He bought the Wall Street Journal last year, and is investing in a vigorous expansion of its political coverage and international news. This foray on to the traditional turf of the Times seems to be working: the Journal’s circulation is rising. Another flourishing outlet is the web-only Huffington Post, which is fast evolving beyond a series of political blogs into a fully fledged online newspaper with liberal sensibilities close to those of the New York Times.

Industry experts such as Lauren Rich Fine of Kent State University do not think that the Times is responding forcefully enough. “Now is the time to beef up its business section,” she says. Ms Fine also points out that although all newspapers are being buffeted by the internet, their ability to respond will probably depend on whether their audiences are national, metropolitan or local. The first category can afford to invest in distinctive international or business coverage, while the last can prosper by becoming “more intensely local”. But she fears for the big metropolitan newspapers, which may find themselves trapped in the middle.

Not all is lost, however. Plenty of innovation is taking place, particularly at local papers, as the latest “Newspaper Next” report from the American Press Institute, an industry group, makes clear. It quotes 24 examples of newspapers becoming “information and connection utilities”, through such offerings as local internet forums.

The hero for industry optimists is Brian Tierney, a former public-relations executive who led a group of investors that borrowed heavily to buy Philadelphia’s two main dailies. He has since revived them with a vigorous marketing drive. He is also finding new ways to drum up advertising, such as introducing a business column sponsored by a local bank. People said pigs will fly before our circulation rises, Mr Tierney recalled in a recent speech, before recounting how he celebrated a rise in circulation by projecting flying pigs onto the walls of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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The new fame: Internet celebrity

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The Internet is setting a new standard for celebrity. Fame is no longer about getting "15 minutes"; it's about becoming famous to 15 people.


Leslie Hall shows off one of the sparkly tops that earned her notoriety on the Web.

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The Internet allows the masses to wrest control of fame from traditional media, creating micro-celebrities with the click of a mouse, says David Weinberger of the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Weinberger focused on the Internet celebrity in his keynote address at ROFLCon (pronounced roffle-con), a conference on Internet culture held at MIT.

Some say ROFLCon is the biggest gathering of micro-celebrities ever: "the Internet, in person," as one organizer said.

Among the panelists: "gem sweater" fashionista Leslie Hall, "Tron Guy" Jay Maynard, founder Drew Curtis, World of Warcraft character Leeroy Jenkins (born Ben Shultz) and Kyle MacDonald, who gained international attention for an online chronicle of his adventures starting with one red paper clip and trading, one item at a time, up to a home in Saskatchewan, Canada.

If you've never heard of these people, don't worry.

At least a few Internet users have, and that's all that matters. It is what makes Internet celebrity so different from the tabloid-fodder fame of folks like Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears.

Traditional celebrity lives and dies based on raw numbers: how many magazines mention them, how many television shows feature them, how many people talk about them around the water cooler.

Internet fame can be more intimate, Weinberger says, more of a personal connection between the one and the few.

Sometimes the content of a Web site becomes much more famous than the people behind it. Internet-circulated videos, photographs, catchphrases or other concepts are called memes, and creating or harnessing a successful one is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

A key question at ROFLCon is what makes one meme succeed when thousands of others fail.

Geoffrey Golden of Meteor Games says, "If we had the answer, we would be gazillionaires. It's what marketers, what everyone is trying to figure out."

The most successful meme today is LOLcats, pictures of cats captioned with a unique blend of text speak, fractured grammar and Internet in-jokes. The main repository can be found at a site called I Can Has Cheezburger, which gets millions of page views every day.

The site is so popular, it now needs a staff of eight to handle traffic and submissions. LOLcats have spawned dozens of copycats, including a LOLcat Bible, LOLpresidents, LOLbots and LOLtheorists.

The word-of-mouth spread of any given meme is another aspect of how Internet fame differs from traditional celebrity. Even the slickest PR effort can fail miserably if Internet users choose to ignore it. The general consensus of the content providers gathered at ROFLCon is that you have to just build it and see whether they will come.

Adam Lindsey, who created a computer language spinoff of LOLcats called LOLcode, said, "The idea is everything; you are nothing. If it is successful, all you are is sort of a midwife helping it into the world. If you try to control a meme, you just tend to squash it, so enjoy it without ego and let it take itself wherever it wants to go."

Mouse clicks determine what becomes famous and what withers away in obscurity. And the most certain way to get a huge bump in traffic is to be featured on Web news aggregators like Slashdot, Fark, Digg or Reddit, influential blogs such as Boing Boing and MetaFilter, or social bookmarking sites like

These sites are the new "critics," but their power to create fame lies largely in their communities. Although a traditional critic talks as one to the many, visitors to these sites act, as Weinberger noted, "the many to the many."

Before, fame was about scarcity, with only a few people reaching the status of celebrity. But Weinberger points out that the fame of the Internet is about abundance.

As a community, we help bestow it, and as individuals, any of us can achieve it, given the right circumstances. Weinberger said, "Fame is becoming ours; we are making it ours, as we are doing so much else in our culture. Fame now reflects us."
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Trip of a lifetime: How LSD rocked the world

A psychedelic love-in in London's Hyde Park, 1967 © Rex Features

It was known as acid, blotter acid, window pane, dots, tickets and mellow yellow. It was sold on the street in capsules and tablets but most often in liquid form, usually absorbed on to a piece of blotting paper divided into several squares: one drop, or "dot", per square. Lysergic acid diethylamide, or C20H25N30 to give it its snappy chemical formula, derived from lysergic acid, and it introduced you to a world of cosmic harmony and all-embracing love, or a black schizoid hell of paranoia and screaming demons.

The letters LSD once denoted English money in pre-decimalisation days: librae, solidi, denarii, the Latin forms of pounds, shillings and pence. From the mid-1960s, however, the letters had only one meaning: they stood for the most powerful mood-altering drug in the world.

Those who experienced the 12-hour "trip" it engendered would report back with all the fervour and awe of travellers returned from mystic lands, desperate to relay the sights and sounds of their wild adventures, but frustrated by the impossibility of making their listeners see or understand their experiences. Sometimes, they'd been on a physical journey (usually no further than the garden or local shops); but mentally, the trip had taken them into a new realm of consciousness that was a) hard to evoke and b) very boring to listen to. They talked about the blinding sensory enhancement, and the synaesthesia of hearing colours and smelling the stars. They saw profound truths in cracks in the pavement and cosmic harmonies in a match flame. They tended to mention God, several times. The man who invented the stuff had a lot to answer for. He was a Swiss chemist called Albert Hoffman, and he died on Tuesday morning.

The fact that he reached the age of 102 seems a tribute to the efficacy of his invention. But its importance to the 20th century isn't as a therapeutic medical treatment. It may have altered some lives for the better, but its real importance is cultural. For LSD gave the Sixties a brand-new concept to embrace and apply to every area of life, especially the arts: psychedelia. The word was spelt wrongly – it should, strictly, be psychodelia – but its meaning was clear. It meant the making-visible of the soul: opening up your inner, half-glimpsed metaphysical self for inspection while in a state of profound relaxation and pleasure.

The English writer Aldous Huxley had, of course, been there years before, when he experimented with mescaline in the early 1950s. His 1954 book, The Doors of Perception (the title is taken from William Blake – "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite") argued that altered-state-inducing drugs were good for you, if you were sufficiently clever.

"To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by the Mind at Large – this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual," he said. But LSD was, by 1968, becoming available to all, and seemed, for a time, a thing that could change the world.

In theory, the entire young "counterculture" of the West, the same young people who listened to rock'n'roll, smoked dope, rejected the values of their straight, bourgeois parents and demonstrated against the Vietnam War, could all drop acid, discover their transcendent inner being, forsake their redundant ego and refuse to cooperate with the ordinary forms of society. They could, in the immortal phrase of Timothy Leary, LSD's greatest fan and most articulate zealot, "Turn on, tune in and drop out."

They could share with each other soul-perceptions that were denied to the straights, the military-industrial complex, the politicians and judges.... It didn't happen. But, for a few years, it felt as if the doors of perception might budge an inch.

The first acid trip was on 16 April 1943. It was an accident. Dr Hoffman had been conducting experiments with LSD-25, which he had synthesised from lysergic acid in 1938 and was trying to make again, having a "presentiment" that it could possess "properties other than those established in the first investigations". The doctor got some of the stuff on his fingers. In the afternoon he felt dizzy, couldn't work, went home to bed and wrote later that he entered a dream-like state. Behind his closed eyes, he saw streams of "fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colours" for a whole two hours.

Three days later, with a Dr Jekyll-like foreboding, he put himself through a guinea-pig experiment. He took 250mg (a colossal dose by blotting-paper standards) and went for a bicycle ride. Wherever he looked, the landscape became distorted as if seen through a funfair mirror. Though he was moving fast he felt completely stationary, as though the fields were whizzing by him.

Back home, he experienced the world's first bad trip. He became convinced that he was possessed by a demon, that his neighbour was a witch and that his furniture was trying to kill him. The doctor was summoned, found nothing wrong beyond a dilation of the pupils, and packed him off to bed. Hoffman's panic subsided and he started to enjoy the visions and exploding colours, the shifting kaleidoscope of shapes breaking up and folding into themselves. Every noise from the street became a visual event.

He woke next day full of beans, refreshed, reborn. His breakfast tasted delicious. In the garden, looking at birds and smelling the flowers, he described his senses as "vibrating in a condition of highest sensitivity, which persisted for the entire day".

"Bicycle Day", 19 April, was later commemorated by acid enthusiasts because it was the first conscious "trip" and it had had – just about – a happy ending. But the doors to perception are, for some truth-seekers, booby-trapped and dangerous. When LSD was co-opted by medical staff for recreational use, two decades after Hoffman's bike ride, users learnt the hard way how impossible it was to control the wild ride once it had started.

At Oxford in the early 1970s, we were frankly intimidated by the drug's reputation. We all wanted to try it, but were too chicken. The word in the quad was: if you had any secret hang-ups, mental instabilities, phobias, sexual inadequacies or social insecurities (the kind that surface in dreams,) you were wise of steer clear of acid. We knew when one of us was going to try it. "Tonight," I'd hear during dinner in hall, "Roger's tripping for the first time. But he'll have Will and Ollie with him, so he'll be OK."

I've always remembered Roger's first trip (so, I'll bet, has he). We all knew he'd be fine because he was so perfect: cool, handsome, easy-going, a hit with the girls, a dead ringer, with his corkscrewy curls, for Marc Bolan of T. Rex. And he was rich; he owned a Morgan, which he casually parked in the back quad. We knew Roger would survive the experience and bang on about it, like he banged on about his Bang and Olufsen state-of-the-art hi-fi. And anyway, Will and Olly would look after him.

The evening started well. The three students took a tab each, drank some wine and waited for results. An hour later, they were happily tripping on the college lawn, listening to the grass grow and hearing their voices transforming into harp notes. They went to Olly's room, smoked, listened to Tubular Bells in a haze of bliss. Then Roger went the gents. This proved a mistake.

After using the facilities, he washed his hands, dried them and looked in the mirror. Something caught his eye. He looked closer. Just below his cherubic lower lip, there was a spot. It's wasn't huge or septic, but it was unquestionably a skin eruption, a blemish. As he watched, it grew bigger and bigger until it took on the size and texture of a Brussels sprout. Roger was transfixed. He looked on in horror, as the distended spot grew wobblingly larger, and began to pull his features into its green heart. His nose disappeared, his cheeks and eyes began to twist down, his Marc Bolan curls hung uselessly over his aghast, imploding face.

Roger, you see, was indeed a near-perfect human being but he was as vain as a canary. And discovering a spot on his immaculate physiognomy played straight into his worst insecurity: that he might secretly be unattractive. He ended up imagining his whole head was a great blob of pus; and sat screaming with paranoia for two hours as his friends dosed him with orange juice (vitamin C is the only known cure for bad trips). Other occupants of his staircase, alerted by the noise, called in to discover a scenario straight from the locked unit of Bedlam hospital, circa 1880.

During the Cold War, both the British and the US governments were keen to exploit LSD's unique qualities, for "social engineering". They were convinced it would be useful as a "truth drug" during interrogations – a rather prosaic understanding of the kind of visionary truth revealed by communing with one's soul.

In 1953 and 1954, scientists working for MI6 drugged servicemen with LSD without telling them what to expect; the scientists told them they were looking for a cure for the common cold. One soldier, aged 19, reported that he saw "walls melting, cracks appearing in people's faces... eyes would run down cheeks, Salvador Dali-type faces... a flower would turn into a slug." Not surprisingly, the experiment failed; MI6 reported that LSD was of little practical use as a mind-control drug. It took 50 years for the human guinea-pigs to be compensated for what they'd been put through.

Watch an early LSD experiment on British troops

If LSD was no use in war, what was it good for? At first, the scientific community thought it could be a wonder drug to use in psychoanalysis, because it would help patients unblock repressed subconscious thoughts they couldn't unblock by other therapies; more than 2,000 research papers were written about the compound's possible applications.

At Harvard University in the early 1960s, the psychologists Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert set out to show that it could be used as a path to spiritual enlightenment, a catalyst to religious experience, a tool for accessing the divine; they preached their gospel all over America. As time went by, they seemed less and less like scientists, and progressively more like visionaries; Leary came on like a hippie, a guru, a slightly creepy uncle to the teenage students he was seeking to "turn on". By 1966, just as LSD was becoming established as the ultimate recreational drug, the US government lost patience with the mystical bullet, and banned it.

From that moment, it took off as symbol of the enlightenment that cops, governments and teachers didn't want you to experience. It was a holy drug that wasn't allowed near your tongue, no matter how much you craved communion with the cosmos. Instead of rebelling (that would come later) the counter-culture embraced the whole idea of LSD, and celebrated its effects in music, art, film, books, clothing, dance routines and in the floaty patterns of light-shows on walls.

Becoming stoned, murmuring "Wow, the colours, man..." while weaving across a roomful of acidheads listening to Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn – that was the UK version of psychedelia, the diluted legacy of Albert Hoffman's great discovery. Not that he regretted its chequered history. His book about the drug that turned the world inside out was titled LSD: My Problem Child.

The acid effect: LSD's influence on...


The definitive acid movie is The Trip, scripted by none other than Jack Nicholson, directed by Roger Corman and starring Easy Rider duo Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Because it's wholly in favour of the acid experience (ad-man Fonda drops a tab and suffers nothing more than a swirly, psychedelic hallucination on the beach), it was refused a certificate by the censors. The LSD binge in Easy Rider, in which the boys celebrate their arrival in New Orleans by tripping with two hookers, features some vérité footage of Fonda enduring a real-life acid moment in a graveyard, wailing about his dead mother. The clash of violence and rock'n'roll, and the mingled identities of the lead characters in Performance, directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, is resolved when Mick Jagger and James Fox get weirded-out together on acid, and seem to enter each other's heads (shortly before a bullet enters Fox's.) Ten years later, in Altered States, Ken Russell attacked the enlightening powers of acid when he portrayed a psychedelically grooved-up William Hurt heading for perdition. Three decades after The Trip, LSD became a transformative magic spell in Irvine Welsh's 1998 film The Acid House (where a single tab makes a Hibs hardnut swap personalities with a yuppie infant) and a terrible means of torture in Dead Man's Shoes, as Paddy Considine feeds bad-trip acid tablets to the horrible men who made his brother hang himself.


The combination of flower power and hallucinogenic drugs in Haight-Ashbury in 1967 was as potent as gunpowder and matches. Rockers who'd tried the big blotting-paper experience strove to replicate it in performances that were floaty, spacey, woozy and seemingly without beginning or end. The result was called acid rock: it was supposed to suggest the album had been recorded by a band in the grip of LSD, and was to be listened to by fans similarly stimulated. Lyrics were often minimal, and the sound often relied on randomly wacky special effects, complemented, during live shows, by a light show of wiggly patterns playing against a wall.

The Grateful Dead, from San Francisco's Bay Area, were the key US acid rock band; their leader, Jerry Garcia, a portly figure with a prodigious beard, could spin out the solo on "Dark Star" for 25 minutes. Jefferson Airplane also hailed from San Francisco and defined acid rock in 1967 with their album, Surrealistic Pillow. It featured "White Rabbit," which sneakily refers to the apparent drug consumption in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and ends on the line: "Remember what the Dormouse said: Feed your head, Feed your head." Elsewhere The Doors drew their name from Aldous Huxley's book, and their leader Jim Morrison sang "The End" and "Riders on the Storm" in a blurry, reflective drone, like one intensely drugged.

Watch The Doors performing 'Light My Fire'

In the UK, 1967 was the year of The Beatles' masterpiece, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, whose early highlight was an hallucinogenic vision of tangerine trees and marmalade skies called "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". The capitalised letters seemed a dead giveaway, but Paul McCartney always denied it was a song about LSD. He later revealed that he'd tried the hallucinogenic, and is thought to be the person who first introduced it to Bob Dylan. The pre-eminent UK acid band was Pink Floyd in the days of Syd Barrett and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Their song titles took their cue from space travel – "Astronomy Domine", "Interstellar Overdrive" – as did the Rolling Stones in their single burst of psychedelia, "2000 Light Years From Home".


Because of the fundamental difficulty (pace Aldous Huxley) of evoking an acid trip in any meaningful way, the literature of LSD is limited. Heroin, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol may inform The Man with the Golden Arm, Bright Lights, Big City, Junky and The Lost Weekend, but the acid trip has proved elusive to prose. Perhaps the most notable literary "trip" was indeed a genuine trip: the journey taken by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in 1964 in a psychedelically painted school bus called "Further". The pranksters included Neal Cassady, Sandy Lehmann-Haupt, Stewart Brand, Carolyn Adams (the wife of Jerry Garcia) and two proto-hippies called Wavy Gravy and The Cadaverous Cowboy. They rolled east to New York, giving out tabs of acid to strangers, and were immortalised in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It was that kinda time – when, in the words of William Burroughs, "a tiny psychoactive molecule affected almost every aspect of Western life".


Swirling shapes, paisley patterns, surreally "fat" lettering, howlingly discordant but vivid colours and lots of strobe effects were the characteristic of acid art. The acid genre hardly lasted long enough to establish a niche in art history, but it enjoyed a considerable vogue in the world of posters. Between 1967 and 1972, there was hardly a "progressive" rock-gig poster that did not feature distorted lettering and swirly colours. Much of it was the work of Karl Ferris, a Hastings-born photographer who worked on the Psychedelic Happening shows of the mid-1960s, and, through them, met John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Graham Nash, Eric Clapton, T Rex and Pink Floyd. He brought his fish-eye lens and infrared colour film to several classic LP covers, including the US versions of Hendrix's three albums, Donovan's A Gift from a Flower to a Garden and The Hollies' Evolution.

Elsewhere, the market was dominated by Hipgnosis, a British art design group made up of Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, who were responsible for the freaky early covers of Pink Floyd and Genesis. Other artists influenced by psychedelia include Victor Moscoso and Alan Aldridge.

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