Intoxicated With Happiness

Recently there has been much publicity about the dangers of texting, talking on the phone, posting, and taking selfies when you are driving. On April 24, 2014 a young woman in North Carolina posted on twitter how happy she was while listening to the Happy Song on the radio. A minute later there was an emergency call. She had gone into the wrong lane while she was posting and hit a waste management truck head on. The car swerved off the road and caught fire. By the time help arrived she was dead.

While everyone wants happiness, sometimes your level of euphoria can get so high that you lose your reasoning capacity. It creates the same effect as alcohol or drugs where the pleasure center of the brain get stimulated and the reasoning centers of the brain don’t work as well. Although the effect is much less intense than alcohol or drugs, it impairs reasoning.

The brain has chemicals that make you feel pleasurable feelings. Serotonin is the chemical that makes you able to feel good even when nothing exciting happens. Dopamine makes you go into a happy stupor when you just had good news. That is not a bad thing. norepinephrine makes you excited and ebullient. Some people who have a deficiency of these chemicals need antidepressant medication.

When you are very happy and excited, these chemicals get secreted in greater amounts than the usual. It can create a decrease in your reasoning capacities. Suddenly you feel as if the laws of nature do not apply to you. For example, you don’t have to drive right, study for a test, or do anything that is a nuisance. The feelings are addicting so you don’t want to stop feeling this high and go back to your duties. A basic example would be when you go out to lunch with a friend, have a great time but then let out a sigh when you change your thoughts back to the afternoon work agenda.

You might ask, “So was should never get very happy so we can survive, who wants to do that”? No the trick is to keep thinking and to realize that you can return to your euphoria later. When you are doing something that requires concentration, being present with your endeavor is a form of quiet happiness. Even if you drive down the same road every day driving down it and focusing on your driving is not only good sense but you always feel happy when your mind is in the present moment. You can return to feeling good about your good news. If you are happy about a song on the radio you will do okay enjoying it now and texting your friends only when you get to your destination. You will live, both literally and figuratively.

When you feel intense emotion, whether it is happy or unhappy, your lower brain gets active and your higher brain (cerebral cortex) is not as active. Alcohol and drugs intensify this. This is why it is important to focus and think when you do an activity. You re capture the happy feeling when you finish the task and enjoy it safely.

Finally, by writing this I am not condemning the woman who died in the accident. Anything that happens is meaningful. Her death is meaningful as it can make others aware of the dangers of texting and driving. It can save lives.

Is the EFF A Sober Alternative For South Africans?

Until recently, South Africa lay claim to the title of Africa`s biggest economy, being the beacon of its former President Thabo Mbeki`s vision of an African renaissance. Two decades post independence, the rainbow nation is at a precipice. Unemployment, particularly amongst the youths is high, service delivery has been a major bone of contention, and labour unrests in the mining sector; an integral component of its economy have been prevalent. As the national elections draw close, perhaps the most seminal issue at hand is that of ownership of resources and transformation of the economy to include the previously disenfranchised South Africans.

The issue of resource ownership has never been more relevant as it is today to the ordinary South African. It is apparent that the means of production have remained in the hands of the minority, and the country is a reflection of the chasm between those living in plenty, and those of barely getting by. Contrasts between Alexandra township decked with ramshackle structures and its neighbour, Africa`s richest square mile; the glitzy Sandton adorned with structures resembling those in developed economies, has probably been the most quoted example in highlighting the socio-economic disparities in the country.

Under the stewardship of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa`s GDP Per Capita (an indicator of a country`s standard of living) has grown by close to 33 percent since 1994 to around $7,508 today. Official statistics reveal that nearly 5 million more people are now employed than in 1994 at independence. Efforts have been made by the liberation movement to provide education for all, with the ANC boasting that because of its policies, twice as many youths attended university in 2012 than in 1994. Massive infrastructure development programmes, social welfare spending initiatives have been spearheaded by the party over the years. It would appear then that the successive ANC led governments have done reasonably well in transforming the rainbow nation from its apartheid marred past into the vibrant democracy it is today.

For many however, the dawn of a new era promised in 1994 still remains a flight of fancy as many still reel in abject poverty and squalor. A report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that at least 25 percent of South Africans still live below the poverty datum line, albeit the proportion of people living on less than $2 a day fell from 12 percent to 5 percent between 1996 and 2010.

Unemployment still remains a major hurdle with close to quarter of the population said to be unemployed, although this number increases to north of 40 percent if a broader definition of unemployment to include those who have stopped looking for jobs is considered. There is some truth to the ANC`s mantra of declaring how they have lifted many out of poverty since the establishment of black majority rule, however the simmering tensions over poor service delivery, corruption and economic inequalities paint a picture of growing public discontent with the ANC government.

With the ANC having consistently garnered over 60 percent of the votes in previous national elections, there hasn`t been any real threat to the ANC`s hold on power. In the 2009 elections, the Democratic Alliance South Africa`s main opposition party only managed 17 percent of the vote, further giving credence to the point that until now, there has been no real opposition to the ANC.

In my mind, that is up till the emergence of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led by the erstwhile ANC gunslinger Julius Malema whose radicalism on issues such as nationalisation of mines and the expropriation of land without compensation sent many tongues wagging within the ruling ANC party. The EFF seeks to capitalise on the general public frustrations with the ANC that the neo-liberal economic policies it has advanced post 1994 have done little if anything to reverse the wrongs created by the apartheid system. The general feeling among many especially the black working class is that the ANC has abandoned the ideals of the Freedom Charter, and has pursued policies which engrain a capitalist system not unlike the one existent during colonialism. This has led to the once formidable tripartite alliance between the ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) weakening over the years. In fact, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) an affiliate of the COSATU unanimously passed a Special Congress resolution to stop supporting the ANC in the forthcoming 2014 elections. General Secretary of NUMSA, Irvin Jim commenting on the resolution said, “The ANC led government continues to ignore and duck the question of how to fundamentally change property relations in the country.” Julius Malema`s EFF could potentially offer abode to the 338, 000 strong NUMSA membership because of its left-leaning political ideology.

The ANC appears to have skirted around the volatile issues of resource ownership and land reform as it sought to avoid scaring away foreign capital which has been oiling South Africa`s economic engine since independence when most financial sanctions were lifted. This has meant that these crucial issues have never been adequately addressed. Sensing the frustrations regarding economic transformation, the ANC introduced the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme in a bid to placate the masses, one may conclude. However, the success of this policy is very much subjective! Economic commentator, Moeletsi Mbeki sees this policy as a form of “legalised theft” that has only succeeded in creating a class of a few black elites looting state resources and co-opting the economic system in their favour. These now popularly referred to as “tenderpreneurs”.

Now at hand is the fact that the EFF`s policy agenda resonates with many of the black working class who have had to endure years of the ANC`s ‘frozen politics’. Clearly Julius Malema is able to conjure up emotion in people and in the past has displayed the uncanny ability to drum up support for the causes that matter to him, the ouster of former President Thabo Mbeki being a case in point.

Julius Malema has nailed his colours to the mast! If elected, his party proposes state-led, protected industrial development and diversification. This would entail state control and ownership of the Reserve Bank, 60 percent of both mines and banks being held by the state, and at least half of the country`s mineral resources remaining “on-shore” for local benefaction. Furthermore, his party would introduce a minimum wage of R4, 500 across the board, increase salaries of civil servants by 50 percent, ban labour brokers, and make all workers in mining and agriculture permanent. An education tax will be imposed on all corporations to fund education training programmes. These are some of the underlining tenets of the EFF`s socialist philosophy of a “people driven state”.

The ANC has an audited membership of over 1, 2 million people and in January, the EFF announced they had 400, 000 paid-up members with the objective of pushing that number upwards to 500, 000 by the time elections were conducted. If these figures are to be trusted, then the EFF has significant support base for a party its age. To deny that the EFF indeed has an audience for its message would be akin to denying that the sun rises from the east. However, questions still remain as to the efficacy of the EFF`s policies. Beyond their drive to nationalise farms, mines and expropriate land, then what? Is their vision for South Africa forward looking enough past nationalisation to ensure continued development? How exactly do they create the jobs they promise? Others feel that should they push forward with their proposed land redistribution exercise, they risk creating another ‘Zimbabwe version 2.0’ as one commentator puts it. It is not clear if they have the necessary capabilities to drive an economic powerhouse like South Africa. Then there is the issue of Julius Malema`s somewhat curt character and whether he has the tact to be a statesman.

While it is difficult to envisage the ANC losing the May 7 election, it is also hard to imagine them amassing the 60 percent majority they have become accustomed to. With some ANC stalwarts in the form of Trevor Manuel and Pallo Jordan publicly criticizing President Zuma for his excesses and others like former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils launching a spoilt vote campaign in protest against the ANC, clearly the ruling party is at a crossroads. Now as voters get ready to cast their ballots, should they not vote for the ANC, is the newly formed socialist leaning EFF a sober choice to usher South Africa into a new era of transformation and economic development, the question begs.

Antidepressant Link With Preterm Birth and Autism

According to research published online ahead of print in March 2014, women who take antidepressants during pregnancy are more likely to deliver their babies prematurely than women who don’t take them.

Increased fourfold

Lead author of the study Krista Huybrechts, MS PhD from the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School said the number of women using antidepressants whilst pregnant has increased over the past twenty years.

“Preterm birth is a major clinical problem throughout the world and rates have been increasing over the past two decades. At the same time, rates of antidepressant use during pregnancy have increased approximately four-fold,” said Dr Huybrechts.

41 papers studied

According to senior Author Dr Adam Urato, they found a link between antidepressants and preterm birth.

“We studied 41 papers on this topic and found that the available scientific evidence is becoming clearer that antidepressant use in pregnancy is associated with preterm birth”.

Could depression be the culprit?

Apparently not!

“The complication of preterm birth does not appear to be due to the maternal depression, but rather it appears likely to be a medication effect” said Dr Urato.

SSRIs and autism link

A study by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed that when antidepressants called SSRIs are taken during pregnancy, there is a higher risk of autism and developmental delays.

SSRI’s or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors work by increasing the levels of Serotonin (a feel good hormone) in the brain by inhibiting the mechanisms that naturally absorbs serotonin.

The autism link, which was published in the online Journal Pediatrics, involved researchers looking at almost 1,000 children, most of them boys, who had Autism and developmental delays and also children with typical development.

Boys affected more

The researchers found gender differences in the effect of prenatal exposure to anti depressants with boys being more likely to be affected than girls.

“We found prenatal SSRI exposure was almost three times as likely in boys with autism spectrum disorders relative to typical development, with the greatest risk when exposure is during the first trimester,” said study co-author Li-Ching Lee, an associate scientist in the department of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore.

Should women stop taking their meds?

No, say some experts, as the risks are low and it’s important to treat depression in pregnant women. Others aren’t so sure. Although medication may be the only option for severe depression, other safer alternatives may be a better option for milder cases.

What about whilst breastfeeding?

Research presented at the 18th Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand annual conference in Perth, explained that women are more likely to continue breastfeeding if they continue taking their antidepressants.

Research carried out by Adelaide University found that 67 percent of women stopped taking antidepressants before becoming pregnant or when they started to breastfeed. The remaining 33 percent continued to take their antidepressant medication throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding and they breastfed for longer.

“These women were much more successful at maintaining breastfeeding up to and beyond the recommended 6 months” explained Dr Luke Grzeskowiak who led the research.

Dr Grzeskowiak and his colleagues maintain that women should be supported and encouraged by health care providers, as well as family and friends to continue with their medication.

Conflicting information

Unfortunately there isn’t an exact science to weigh up the benefits of taking antidepressant medication during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding, against the risks to the baby. Of the numerous studies carried out, many carry conflicting results leaving women and even some doctors unsure of whether medication is really safe.

According to a research study by Filomina Fortinguerra et al and published in Pediatrics in October 2009, the main concern about taking SSRIs whilst breastfeeding, is whether long term exposure may have long term neurobehavioural effects as most of the studies carried out so far have been short term studies.

This research report also said that Fluoxetine (Prozac) was contraindicated whilst breastfeeding. However, another research study by Professor Louis Appleby et al and published in the British Medical Journal found Prozac to be an effective treatment for women with Post Natal Depression.

Just to confuse the matter even more, NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) advises that Prozac is not recommended whilst breasting unless a woman has already been taking it without any problems during pregnancy.

Best for baby

The most important thing for anyone suffering from depression or considering medication options whilst pregnant or breastfeeding is to discuss their case and all their symptoms with a qualified health care provider. Some women with severe depression will almost certainly need to take medication to keep their depression under control and in these cases this would be in the best interests of the baby too.

However, for many, particularly those with mild depression, it may be that with support and possibly alternative treatments like psychotherapy or natural remedies that the depression is completely manageable without antidepressants and this would be ideally be the best option for baby.

How To Become a Private Investigator

There are around 10,000 private investigators in the UK of which, approximately 2,500 are registered with the Information Commissioners Office.

This year, 2014, the government are meant to be introducing a licensing scheme for private detective and investigators and it’s rumoured that the BTEC Level 3 in Advanced Private Investigation will be suitable criteria to obtain a license. It’s not definitive who will manage it but rumours suggest the SIA (Security Industry Authority) will be responsible for policing the private investigation industry.

So how do you become a Private Investigator?

Firstly, the most sensible thing to do is research fully what the job entails. So many people have misconceptions about what a private Investigator does, especially here in the UK. Contrary to popular myth, we don’t carry guns, handcuffs, or have any special powers, I don’t mean super powers, I mean legal powers!

However, without sounding like I’m contradicting myself, there is the odd moment of excitement that will have you taking deep breaths.

Basically, the bread and butter (what pays the bills) is often the more mundane jobs, such as Process Serving and Tracing missing people or debtors. The majority of the work will be serving court papers on respondents, such as; divorce papers, statutory demands, bankruptcy petitions, witness summons and so on. This will most likely come from solicitors, in fact, depending on what area you decide to specialise in, most of your work will come from law firms and solicitors.

Every so often something more exciting, more challenging arises and you’ll be asked to carry out background reports, asset searches or even Corporate Intelligence work. This type of work entails, skills, knowledge and a good deal of resources or connections within the industry to achieve a satisfactory and comprehensive report.

One of the most exciting aspects of being a Private Investigator is carrying out covert surveillance and observations. This is often for Matrimonial cases or where an insurance claimant is suspected of committing fraud. An Investigator is then tasked with carrying out a period of observations on the subject to obtain evidence that will discredit the claimant in a claim.

So you’re still excited

If you are still keen to become a Private Investigator it’s wise to follow a few basic house rules and get some credibility behind you. Registering with the Information Commissioners Office (Data Protection Act) is an essential task. It only costs around £35.00 but ensures you are registered for the information you will be holding. It pays to read up on the data protection act as well to ensure you follow the guidelines for keeping personal information.

Next port of call would undoubtedly be to obtain some form of qualification. One such organisation that provides this is the API (Academy of Private Investigators), they offer a BTEC Level 3 Private Investigator home study course which is typically studied over a 12 week period, however, some have completed it in a third of the time with respectable passes. The course gives you fundamental knowledge of the industry and information that is needed in order to keep yourself out of trouble and more importantly achieve results lawfully.

A good addition or add on to this course is the BTEC Level 3 in mobile or foot surveillance. There is a book and a course run by Peter Jenkins from ISS on this.

A course won’t make you a private Investigator!

You’ll here it here and you’ll here it dozens of times in the future, a course will not make you a private Investigator, time, knowledge and experience will do that. This is important to know, as you’ll find out, it’s best to start small and work your way up. Your fist assignment, case or job as you want to call it, should be something simple to give you a feel for the processes involved.

Issues to consider are;

  • Implementation
  • Planning
  • Equipment
  • Reporting
  • Invoicing
  • Presentation…

One of the key considerations in business should be how to retain a client as much as it should be about satisfying a client.

In terms of first impressions, you need a good clean website, simple but sharp logo and branding. Professional letterheads, compliment slips and business cards as a minimum. It will most definitely give you an edge, a business looking at your stationary against that of someone who has simply printed it off their home printer pays dividends in the long run. It gives a great first and lasting impression.

So you have stationary, website, training manuals and you’ve registered with the data controller. You have a business name and should have sorted out a PO Box, virtual office or alternative business address and of course have a computer and printer.

What’s missing… Oh yes, clients. How do we get some clients?

Join me in part 2 when I’ll be discussing the most cost effective and free ways of obtaining clients and how to make clients want your services!