Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 17th, 2014

Moments of wakefulness, consciousness and conscious awakening

You might think that “wakefulness” and “consciousness” can be confounded as meaning the same.  However, after the brain is injured, the two can be dissociated.

Not being comatose is not the same as feeling aware of your environment.

garyharstein posted this April 4, 2014 (selected as one of the top posts)

A superb day.

Sabine has told us two incredibly important things (about the status of Michael in the hospital), things that not only inform us as to where we are, but open up rather more optimistic possibilities than some of the darker options we’ve considered until now, based on not knowing.

I want to repeat, because it’s important to fully understand what will follow, that while “wakefulness” and “consciousness” usually are pretty much one and the same, after the brain is injured, the two can be dissociated. What do I mean?

Assuming that the terms are being used and translated correctly (and Sabine is a consummate professional and wouldn’t get this wrong), awakening refers to (at least) the appearance of . . . being awake. Basically that means eyes open. And as I mentioned before, this eye opening can even be cyclic, following what looks just like a sleep-wake cycle (even if not synchronised to real day-night hours).

Wakefulness WITHOUT consciousness is the definition of a vegetative state.

The eyes are open, but there’s no interaction with the environment. If Sabine had “only” said that Michael was showing wakefulness, it would mean that he is not comatose. That in itself is a damned sight “better” than persistent coma, not just in terms of life expectancy, but in terms of the chances of neurologic improvement.

But Sabine has also told us that Michael is showing signs of consciousness.

My lord, the brain is an amazing organ. And Michael a remarkable man. What does this consciousness probably look like? It consists of episodes of clear, purposeful interaction with the environment, and/or clear signs of awareness of self, even if these signs are not constantly present.

For example, if Michael smiles when a member of his entourage talks to him – reproducibly and consistently on at least a few occasions. Or following people with his eyes. Or trying to communicate, or obeying simple commands. Any of this constitutes objective signs of contact between the “outside” and the “inside”.

This would be a minimally conscious state. And that is about the best news we could possibly get right now. Why?

Because of what it means for everyone – Michael himself, his loved ones, and his fans. It means that Michael may well see, hear, and feel the love that’s around him. That he is, in some very real way, HERE.

It means his life expectancy has now improved VERY significantly. And last, but perhaps most important, it opens up a very real chance for further improvement.

This would mean spending more time “in touch” with his surroundings, and also improvement in the quality of the interaction. How incredibly positive!

This means rehab, lots of rehab.

Michael is used to working hard. Getting that brain to learn new ways of doing things, stimulating it, forcing it to handle data, and all the while working hard to build him up again physically. All very exciting. And very good.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a very important step, but we don’t want Michael to stay like this. But this is a very big step.

We all need to thank the team taking care of Michael as well as the people around him, for their devotion and patience. Everyone is going to need to be patient – for weeks, months, maybe years.

But if you’re even the slightest bit spiritual, it’s time cast a look upwards and mouth the words “thank you”

Resilient stubborn fatalism in rebel held enclaves? Or inability to leave?

Syrians in rebel-held areas have borne near-daily attacks, enduring President Bashar Assad’s military might with a resilience bordering on stubborn fatalism.

The family members stood shivering on a balcony in Aleppo’s Anadan suburb as midnight approached, their sleep interrupted by the nightly duty of a government helicopter pilot somewhere above them.

They followed the sound of the helicopter’s whirring blades as well as scratchy updates coming over a walkie-talkie from rebels spread throughout the area.

News came in that the helicopter had dropped two barrel bombs — oil drums filled with TNT that can level buildings — on nearby towns.

In Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, a kebab vendor works in the midst of a destroyed building. As Syria’s war rages on, Aleppo is a city under gradual demolition, with a shrinking civilian population struggling to survive . More photos

They knew that the helicopters can carry up to four of the bombs. They waited for the last two.

Below them, lights came on in basement bunkers as others sought a small measure of protection.

Khansa Laila walked out onto the balcony cloaked in several layers but still shaking in the nighttime chill.

“I woke up from the sound of the alarm, so I’m still cold,” she said referring to the warning system the town’s residents installed. “Also, fear makes you cold.”

Against a starry sky, a series of red streaks from a 14.5-millimeter machine gun shot upward. But the streaks rose and fell without striking their target, their reach far less than the height of the aircraft.

Eventually the sound of the helicopter grew faint and was replaced by that of a warplane.

“We don’t take the warplanes seriously anymore,” Laila said. “They launch rockets that are precise, but helicopters drop barrel bombs that can destroy dozens of homes with one barrel.”

The family went to sleep that night to the sound of machine-gun fire and the occasional rocket.

For more than 3 months, Aleppo’s opposition-held neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs have been terrorized nearly daily by barrel bombs unleashed from helicopters. The bombs, TNT-filled oil drums that can level buildings, have killed more than 2,000 people, activists estimate.  More photos

Three years into Syria’s conflict, the cacophony of war has become a familiar companion to daily life here in the country’s largest city, the sad soundtrack to its gradual demolition and a shrinking civilian population struggling to survive.

Those still in the city have adjusted to enduring the brunt of President Bashar Assad‘s military might with a resilience that borders on stubborn fatalism.

In a shoe store, a woman tries on a pair of wedge heels and deems them not comfortable enough “to flee” in. A 1-year-old with curly hair and big brown eyes speaks mostly in mumbles, but one word she knows clearly: tabit — it fell.

“A barrel falls and 10 minutes later people return to what they were doing,” said Muhammad, a young man working at a makeshift gas station: 12 oil drums resting on their sides serving six varieties of gasoline.

Hours earlier, a barrel bomb had struck the Sakhour roundabout, hitting three vehicles and killing eight people. With the blood fresh on the pavement, motorists stopped and peered at the carnage.

The next day people walked by without a glance; the destroyed vehicles had become one more addition to the city’s apocalyptic backdrop.

“Every day we see the names of the dead scrolling across the TV screen; they’ve just become numbers,” one man said. “When I was a kid and someone died we mourned for 40 days, the TV could not be turned on. Now someone dies on one side and you turn around and watch a soap opera.”

Since the government’s barrel bomb offensive began in late December, the city and suburbs have traded off bearing the burden of the attacks.

On a recent day in an Aleppo vegetable market, a warplane’s low rumble halted all transactions and conversation.

Unripe almonds and lettuce were momentarily forgotten as everyone turned their faces upward to track the plane by its sound. Drivers slowed down and stuck their heads out the window to look up.

Not until the rumble had faded, leaving only a billowy white trail across the sky, did the people return their attention to the mundane particulars of life. The plane was now the concern of another Aleppo neighborhood.

As he drove away from the market, Saleh Laila said, “If it had been a helicopter, they would watch it till it dropped the barrel, then pandemonium would break out and cars would start driving into each other and people would run, trying to get away.”

A couple of charred and stripped vehicles mark the entrance of rebel-held Aleppo, a fitting welcome to a city that in some parts is a barren urban landscape.

The helicopter attacks day and night, coupled with poundings by warplanes and artillery as well as regular clashes between government and rebel forces, have transformed the once-vibrant commercial hub into one with entire neighborhoods deserted.

More than two-thirds of the city’s population is estimated to have fled north either to Turkey or, for those not allowed passage into the country, along its border in ramshackle refugee tents. Certain suburbs have also seen a large exodus.

A makeshift gas station provides different varieties of fuel.  More photos

As one Aleppo resident said of the city, “There are fighters, activists and shop owners. No one else is left.

Some neighborhoods of Aleppo have only one or two families left.

At the roundabout in one such neighborhood, Muhammad Khair and his father sat in the grassy center and watched as their two dozen goats grazed. They heard rumors that a sniper was shooting people at the field where the goats customarily graze, so when the animals began bleating from hunger they came here.

Two months earlier in this district of dense, unregulated housing, the goats wouldn’t have been able to safely cross the road to get to the grass. Now, Khair said, in the span of 15 minutes, two cars had passed by.

At the scene of twin barrel bombings at a busy market, bodies, or what was left of them, were laid out along a sidewalk, covered with whatever was on hand: a green curtain, a plastic tarp and a banner for Dar al Shifa hospital, which had closed after repeated attacks.

A man, his shirt bloodied and neck bandaged, smoked a cigarette as those around him congratulated him on sustaining only a minor injury: “Thank God for your safety.”

“Don’t gather, don’t gather!” yelled one rebel with a Kalashnikov rifle, warning people that a crowd could invite another attack.

“A plane is coming, a plane is coming!” another rebel shouted while standing atop a traffic barrier, trying a more direct tactic to get the crowd to scatter. People ran away and then a few minutes later drifted back.

When local citizen journalists arrived and began filming, residents breathlessly screamed through a familiar script, praising God and cursing Assad.

Hours later, the broken glass and concrete had been swept and the blood washed away.

Children gathered around an ice cream stand, standing on tip-toes to peer at the available flavors, and men bought produce from a fruit vendor, the color of the oranges bright against the gray of fallen concrete.

Note: The Syrian army and its supporting militias of patriots have reconquered areas containing 16 million of citizens. All the main strategic roads for supplies and linking the main cities have been liberated.

The US trained “rebels” in Jordan are trying to re-enter Jordan, but they are stopped by the Jordanian forces because they don’t want to do with any of these extremist terrorists.,0,3916136.htmlstory#ixzz2ygh6CeeQ



Saudi Arabia is world’s fourth biggest military buyer

WORLD – APRIL 15, 2014

Saudi Arabia generally doesn’t announce military purchases, but multi-billion-dollar orders often facilitated by foreign governments are hard to conceal.

Saudi Arabia’s military spending in 2013 was $67 billion, up 14% from 2012. It jumped to number four on the list of the world’s biggest military spenders, passing France, Japan and the UK, according to an April 14 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Saudi Arabia spends the most on the list as a percentage of GDP by far.

British defense firm BAE Systems announced on Feb. 19 that it had renegotiated a deal to sell 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia. The original 2007 price was 4.4 billion British pounds, but the Saudis requested advanced weaponry and equipment.

The announcement coincided with a visit by Prince Charles, but his spokesman said BAE was not discussed. The deal became controversial when it was revealed that former premier Tony Blair pressured a UK attorney general to drop a fraud inquiry into a past BAE sale to the kingdom for Tornado combat jets.COPYRIGHT 2014 REUTERS

The announcement coincided with a visit by Prince Charles, but his spokesman said BAE was not discussed. The deal became controversial when it was revealed that former premier Tony Blair pressured a UK attorney general to drop a fraud inquiry into a past BAE sale to the kingdom for Tornado combat jets.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud visited Pakistan Feb. 15-17 (2014) to meet with military officials. He was expected to sign a security pact. Pakistan has expressed interest in selling its JF-17 Thunder combat jets (pictured), based on the F-16. Both countries deny nuclear arm discussions.

“The whole-of-government approach to export sales gives us a strategic advantage as we pursue international markets.”DANNY DEEP, GENERAL DYNAMICS LAND SYSTEMS – CANADA

U.S. weapons maker General Dynamics Corp. said on Feb. 14 that its Canadian subsidiary signed a 14-year contract for up to $13 billion to build light-armored vehicles for Saudi Arabia, the largest advanced manufacturing export deal in Canadian history. Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast helped lead negotiations.

The Pentagon notified Congress on Dec. 5, 2013, of a sale of 15,000 Raytheon anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia worth $900 million. Although the notification said the sale was for Saudi defense, the kingdom has no known land threats. This raised speculation that the weapons were going to Syrian rebels.

In March 2013, Lockheed Martin signed a $253 million maintenance and training program for the kingdom’s F-15 fleet. In Dec. 2011, Saudi Arabia purchased 84 F-15SA fighter jets for $29.4 billion, in a deal that also upgraded its 70 F-15S jets.

“Lockheed Martin also recognizes that Saudi Arabia requires much more than defense and security capabilities. Our diverse portfolio of programs also includes offerings in other areas such as health, cyber-security, air traffic control and energy solutions.”LOCKHEED MARTIN WEBSITE

Lockheed Martin’s Saudi Arabian subsidiary also sells missiles, naval equipment, sniper guns, surveillance equipment, and satellite communications to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has made several purchases from the U.S. for Apache (pictured) and Blackhawk helicopters. The orders have been followed up with upgrades and training. Saudi Arabia signed $75.7 billion worth of U.S. arms transfer agreements from 2004-11, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Saudi weapons purchases have raised red flags because of the kingdom’s poor record on human rights and its support of hardline Islamists.

The militaries of countries that have poor human rights records such as Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain have also received help from Saudi Arabia amid crackdowns.




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