Taliban “Escape”

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

When I read that hundreds of Taliban had escaped from prison, I knew Gary Brecher (The War Nerd) would cynically point out the corruption involved:

The official story, which is just plain ridiculous, is that this is one of those classic POW escapes like some old British WW II drama about Stalag 17. Sure. The Talibs secretly dug a tunnel more than 300 meters long, right under the guards’ noses, right in the middle of a big city, and nobody noticed.

That’s a major construction operation. Just think of the volume of dirt you’d have to move, the amount of noise you’d have to make. I’m not buying the idea that this was a Hogan’s Heroes operation with the Talibs sneaking out the excavated dirt inside their baggy pants and then opening the drawstring to let it fall out in the yard while they were getting their exercise. Even in Afghanistan, where dust was invented, that’d be enough dirt to be noticed. The prison yard would be a good-sized hill before the tunnel was finished. And the noise! This is something you know about if you grew up in Bakersfield. My friends and I would try to dig out forts in the dirt like Civil War soldiers used to, and we’d be shocked — in the real sense of shocked — because the dirt is so dry in Bakersfield that shovels bounced off it with this noise like they’d hit a car fender. You couldn’t dig yourself a fort unless you soaked the ground down for days, unless you had picks and bigger shoulders than we did. It wasn’t that different from digging in concrete.

And Bakersfield is only “semi-arid,” a humid jungle compared to Afghanistan. In a place like that, the dirt is either rock or dust. If it’s rock, you need heavy equipment to dig; if it’s dust, you need half a lumber yard to make supports for your tunnel. Either way, they didn’t do it with spoons.

The only question is whether it was threats, bribery or outright double agents helping the inmates. Although realistically, it could be all of the above. Siting a Taliban prison in Kandahar is stupid in the first place; any locals you recruit for your staff are going to be Pashtun, and that means Taliban. And even if they weren’t sympathetic to begin with, they’re living and breathing in Talib notions every day in a place like that. Prime the pump with a few thousand in cash or gold from your ISI friends and it wouldn’t be hard to recruit the whole prison staff to help you stage your big breakout. Cough up a few extra dollars for a boom box to play the Mission Impossible theme while they’re going through the tunnel and you’ve got the next big Taliban DVD.

The Library of Utility

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Kevin Kelly suggests creating a Library of Utility to serve as civilization’s backup:

Most great libraries of today have a broad mandate to be very inclusive. They contain “everything.” This everything is being duplicated in digital form by Google and others as the long-desired Universal Library. But the library at the top of the mountain would be different. It would be a very selective library. It would not contain the world’s great literature, or varied accounts of history, or deep knowledge of ethnic wonders, or speculations about the future. It has no records of past news, no children’s books, no tomes on philosophy. It contains only seeds. Seeds of utilitarian know-how. How to recreate the infrastructure and technology of civilization so far.
This information is not usually found in libraries, or in books, or even on the web in text. These days much instructional and utilitarian information is conveyed in YouTube clips. Partly because video is a good way to show how something is done, but also because it is much easier to record a video that put things into words and diagrams. But often that ease lowers the quality of instruction. If you had to rely on a university library to find instructions on how to make sheet metal from ore, or even to find and extract the ore, or to make plastic from oil, or to grow silicon to make make a chip, it would be very difficult. Usually such utilitarian knowledge is missing from books, but even when it is present in the library, it is dilute and spread throughout many books or journals. A lot of this utilitarian knowledge is implicit knowledge and passed along outside of written documentation. And when written down, these documents are often not the type to find their way into libraries.

It need not be a giant library. It may be possible to fit all the essential information needed to bootstrap the infrastructure of civilization into 10,000 books or so.

When it comes to bootstrapping society, my concern is creating a society where technological progress is likely to happen, where it’s rewarded, and where the fruits of ingenuity aren’t immediately seized or declared heretical.

The Battle of Breitenfeld

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Gary Brecher (The War Nerd) “celebrated” Good Friday by discussing The Battle of Breitenfeld from the Thirty Years’ War, a religious war between Protestants and Catholics.

At the time, everyone feared the Spanish infantry, who fought in a dense phalanx called the tercio (“thirds”): one-third swordsmen, one-third pikemen, one-third musketmen.

But the Swedes were about to introduce their own ideas:

They had a couple of other things going for them in this battle, things the Imperial forces weren’t expecting. First, the Swedes had been fighting on the Eastern Front against Polish/Lithuanian cavalry, some of the best around, and they’d perfected combined-arms tactics on the Polish plains. Second, they were organized in battalions of about 600 men instead of Tercios three times or four times that size. And they were more heavily armed than the infantry in the Imperial tercios, because one of the combined-arms lessons learned Gustav brought back from Poland was that if you used these new, light (relatively light) artillery pieces, you could wheel them along right with the infantry in the battalions, and when you stacked your musketeers four or five deep and added the firepower of cannon firing homemade grapeshot, you could stop any cavalry charge or infantry advance dead in its tracks. And the small size of the battalion, compared to the Tercio, made for a thinner, longer line, with more guns sprouting from it. Dangerous when edged weapons and cavalry ruled the battlefield but a good idea as firepower improved for the infantry.

Gustavus was a true pioneer in the use of field artillery, mobile artillery. The guns he used look ridiculous; some were so crude they used leather to hold a copper barrel together, and let me tell you, if somebody was going to fire one of those anywhere near me I’d want to be sure he measured out the powder charge with a teaspoon. But they could be carried by a couple of horses, or a half-dozen Swedes if horses were scarce, so the Swedish had a lot more tubes, operating a lot closer to the front line, than their opponents. These pieces had no range or accuracy, but loaded with forks and spoons, they were Hell up close; think of them as early Claymore mines, more than artillery.

Taming the Wild

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

National Geographic Magazine‘s recent Taming the Wild piece discussed the famous Siberian silver fox experiment:

Miraculously, Belyaev had compressed thousands of years of domestication into a few years. But he wasn’t just looking to prove he could create friendly foxes. He had a hunch that he could use them to unlock domestication’s molecular mysteries. Domesticated animals are known to share a common set of characteristics, a fact documented by Darwin in The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. They tend to be smaller, with floppier ears and curlier tails than their untamed progenitors. Such traits tend to make animals appear appealingly juvenile to humans. Their coats are sometimes spotted — piebald, in scientific terminology — while their wild ancestors’ coats are solid. These and other traits, sometimes referred to as the domestication phenotype, exist in varying degrees across a remarkably wide range of species, from dogs, pigs, and cows to some nonmammalians like chickens, and even a few fish.

Belyaev suspected that as the foxes became domesticated, they too might begin to show aspects of a domestication phenotype. He was right again: Selecting which foxes to breed based solely on how well they got along with humans seemed to alter their physical appearance along with their dispositions. After only nine generations, the researchers recorded fox kits born with floppier ears. Piebald patterns appeared on their coats. By this time the foxes were already whining and wagging their tails in response to a human presence, behaviors never seen in wild foxes.

Driving those changes, Belyaev postulated, was a collection of genes that conferred a propensity to tameness — a genotype that the foxes perhaps shared with any species that could be domesticated.

In 2009, UCLA biologist Robert Wayne led a study comparing the wolf and dog genomes — with much larger implications:

The finding that made headlines was that dogs originated from gray wolves not in East Asia, as other researchers had argued, but in the Middle East. Less noticed by the press was a brief aside in which Wayne and his colleagues identified a particular short DNA sequence, located near a gene called WBSCR17, that was very different in the two species. That region of the genome, they suggested, could be a potential target for “genes that are important in the early domestication of dogs.” In humans, the researchers went on to note, WBSCR17 is at least partly responsible for a rare genetic disorder called Williams-Beuren syndrome. Williams-Beuren is characterized by elfin features, a shortened nose bridge, and “exceptional gregariousness”—its sufferers are often overly friendly and trusting of strangers.

After the paper was published, Wayne says, “the number one email we got was from parents of children suffering from Williams-Beuren. They said, Actually our children remind us of dogs in terms of their ability to read behavior and their lack of social barriers in their behavior.” The elfin traits also seemed to correspond to aspects of the domestication phenotype. Wayne cautions against making one-to-one parallels between domestication genes and something as genetically complex as Williams-Beuren. The researchers are “intrigued,” he says, and hoping to explore the connection further.

That bit about Williams Syndrome was news to me. I’d say elfin is a bit euphemistic.

Machine Carbine Promoted

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Going into WWII, the Germans armed their infantry with bolt-action rifles and machine-guns firing the same full-power rifle ammunition.

The Germans also emphasized armor and mechanized infantry and found submachine-guns, which are smaller and fire pistol rounds, more convenient for troops in cramped vehicles.  But submachine-guns — or machine pistols — aren’t effective beyond 100 yards or so.

What the Germans eventually decided on was a machine carbine, a fully automatic weapon, firing an intermediate cartridge that was effective at typical combat ranges but not too powerful to fire rapidly on the move, without a bipod or tripod.

This weapon would be perfect for storming enemy positions.  So, Hitler, always aware of a weapon’s propaganda potential, dubbed it the Sturmgewehr, or assault rifle.

The American experts analyzing it at the time weren’t impressed with the concept, as this Tactical and Technical Trends piece from April 1945 illustrates — Machine Carbine Promoted: MP43 Is Now Assault Rifle StG44:

In their attempts to produce a light, accurate weapon having considerable fire power by mass production methods, however, the Germans encountered difficulties which have seriously limited the effectiveness of the Sturmgewehr. Because it is largely constructed of cheap stampings, it dents easily and therefore is subject to jamming. Although provision is made for both full automatic and semiautomatic fire, the piece is incapable of sustained firing and official German directives have ordered troops to use it only as a semiautomatic weapon. In emergencies, however, soldiers are permitted full automatic fire in two- to three-round bursts. The possibilities of cannibalization appear to have been overlooked and its general construction is such that it may have been intended to be an expendable weapon and to be thrown aside in combat if the individual finds himself unable to maintain it properly.

The incorporation of the full automatic feature is responsible for a substantial portion of the weight of the weapon, which is 12 pounds with a full magazine. Since this feature is ineffectual for all practical purposes, the additional weight only serves to place the Sturmgewehr at a disadvantage in comparison to the U.S. carbine which is almost 50 percent lighter.

The receiver, frame, gas cylinder, jacket, and front sight hood are all made from steel stampings. Since all pins in the trigger mechanism are riveted in place, it cannot be disassembled; if repair is required, a whole new trigger assembly must be inserted. Only the gas pistol assembly, bolt, hammer, barrel, gas cylinder, nut on the front of the barrel, and the magazine are machined parts. The stock and band grip are constructed of cheap, roughly finished wood and, being fixed, make the piece unhandy compared to the submachine guns with their folding stocks.

The curved magazine, mounted below the receiver, carries 30 rounds of 7.92-mm necked-down ammunition. The rounds are manufactured with steel cases rather than brass; inside the case is a lead sleeve surrounding a steel core. With an indicated muzzle velocity of approximately 2,250 feet per second and a boat-tail bullet, accuracy of the Sturmgewehr is excellent for a weapon of its type. Its effective range is about 400 yards, although the Germans claim in their operating manual that the normal effective range is about 650 yards. The leaf sight is graduated up to 800 meters (872 yards).
All things considered, the Sturmgewehr remains a bulky, unhandy weapon, comparatively heavy and without the balance and reliability of the U.S. M1 carbine. Its design appears to be dictated by production rather than by military considerations. Though far from a satisfactory weapon, it is apparent that Germany’s unfavorable military situation makes necessary the mass production of this weapon, rather than of a machine carbine of a more satisfactory pattern.

A few years later, when the Soviets introduced the AK-47, the American experts dismissed it as a submachine-gun, lacking the accuracy and power of American rifles.

What the World Sees in America

Monday, April 25th, 2011

America has much to be proud of, Peggy Noonan reminds us — and a lot to be embarrassed by, too:

Imagine for a moment that you are a foreign visitor to America. You are a 40-year-old businessman from Afghanistan. You teach a class at Kabul University. You are relatively sophisticated. You’re in pursuit of a business deal. It’s your first time here. There is an America in your mind; it was formed in your childhood by old John Ford movies and involves cowboy hats and gangsters in fedoras. You know this no longer applies — you’re not a fool — but you’re not sure what does. You land at JFK, walking past a TSA installation where they’re patting the genital areas of various travelers. Americans sure have a funny way of saying hello!

You get to town, settle into a modest room at the Hilton on Sixth Avenue. You’re jet-lagged. You put on the TV, not only because you’re tired but because some part of you knows TV is where America happens, where America is, and you want to see it. Headline news first. The world didn’t blow up today. Then:

Click. A person named Snooki totters down a boardwalk. She lives with young people who grunt and dance. They seem loud, profane, without values, without modesty, without kindness or sympathy. They seem proud to see each other as sexual objects.

Click. “Real Housewives.” Adult women are pulling each other’s hair. They are glamorous in a hard way, a plastic way. They insult each other.

Click. Local news has a riot in a McDonalds. People kick and punch each other. Click. A cable news story on a child left alone for a week. Click. A 5-year-old brings a gun to school, injures three. Click. A show called “Skins” — is this child pornography? Click. A Viagra commercial. Click. A man tried to blow up a mall. Click. Another Viagra commercial. Click. This appears to be set in ancient Sparta. It appears to involve an orgy.

You, the Kabul businessman, expected some raunch and strangeness but not this — this Victoria Falls of dirty water! You are not a philosopher of media, but you know that when a culture descends to the lowest common denominator, it does not reach the broad base at the bottom, it lowers the broad base at the bottom. This “Jersey Shore” doesn’t reach the Jersey Shore, it creates the Jersey Shore. It makes America the Jersey Shore.

You surf on, hoping for a cleansing wave of old gangster movies. Or cowboys. Anything old! But you don’t find TMC. You look at a local paper. Headline: New York has a 41% abortion rate. Forty-four percent of births are to unmarried women and girls.

You think: Something’s wrong in this place, something has become disordered.

The next morning you take Amtrak for your first meeting, in Washington. You pass through the utilitarian ugliness, the abjuration of all elegance that is Penn Station. On the trip south, past Philadelphia, you see the physical deterioration that echoes what you saw on the TV — broken neighborhoods, abandoned factories with shattered windows, graffiti-covered abutments. It looks like old films of the Depression!

By the time you reach Washington — at least Union Station is august and beautiful — you are amazed to find yourself thinking: “Good thing America is coming to save us. But it’s funny she doesn’t want to save herself!”

Training to Shoot

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Because deliberate practice is so important to mastering a skill, and because  getting to the range and shooting live rounds is so inconvenient and expensive, I’ve been thinking about tools for practicing shooting.  Matt Burkett, for instance, has some simple Flash-animation dry-fire drills on his site, and Mike Hughes has developed his SIRT laser training pistol.

Of course, there’s another very popular kind of shooter training, the first-person shooter video game — which doesn’t train shooting at all, actually, since the in-game character always perfectly indexes his weapon, even on the move.  Rather, the FPS can teach tactics — which may or may not reflect real-world tactics, depending on how the game is set up.

What I didn’t foresee is the FPS trainer:

FPS Trainer is a free-to-play browser-based multiplayer First Person Shooter (FPS) game, combining an innovative coaching system with a community website and social network integration.

That is, it’s a first-person-shooter game designed to train you to… play first-person-shooter games:

The objective of the game is for players to rapidly improve their FPS skills based on sound training principles, in order to become more competitive at any online multiplayer FPSs, such as Quake Live, Halo and Call of Duty. Skills will be directly transferable from our game to other FPSs.

Buzz Lightyear of Mars

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

The artists at Draw2D2 give each other two weeks to produce mash-ups from two geek references — in this case, John Carter of Mars and Pixar:

That’s Jessie the yodeling cowgirl beside Buzz — as re-imagined by Adam Carlson, who was clearly inspired by Frank Frazetta:

Baghdad Romance

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Iraqi terrorist-hunter Omar Mohammed and his wife, Amira, tell a tale of Baghdad romance:

“He saved my life,” Amira says quietly. “It was very romantic.”

Omar leans against the counter. “I got shot twice in the leg.”

Amira, an electrical engineer, had done some work for the Americans in the Green Zone when she started getting threats. She was living with her parents, and her family took the threats seriously because her sister, who was also working with the Americans, had already been shot in the chest three times by militants at a roadblock. Army doctors worked fifteen hours and saved her life.

“Friends in the FBI asked me to check up on Amira,” Omar says. “So I went to see her…”

He gave Amira his cell number — and told her to call anytime, day or night.

“I’m on night shift when she calls,” Omar says. “She’s terrified, whispering that men with guns are in her house looking for her.”

Amira had locked herself in the bathroom. The gunmen were ransacking the house and yelling, Which one works for the Americans?

Omar grabbed a vest and an AK-47 and raced to the house in his SUV, lights flashing. There were two cars parked at her front gate, and an armed lookout. Omar crashed straight into the first car.

“My SUV landed right on top of it, killing the getaway driver inside. And then I shot the lookout.”

Clemente’s youngest son asks, “You killed him?”

Omar looks to Tim, who nods, It’s okay.

“Yes, I killed him,” Omar says softly. “The gang was shooting at me from inside the house. I kept firing, killing two of them, and I saw a third go down. I ran inside the gate, trying to get to the house. That’s when I felt the first bullets hit me.”

As Omar was falling, he returned fire, killing the last gunman. By that point his backup had arrived.

“So you know what he does?” Amira says. “He tells his guys to carry him inside. So they do, and he knocks on the bathroom door.”

“I wanted her to hear my voice,” Omar says. “So she’ll know she’s safe.”

“I opened the door,” Amira says, “and saw him, leg bleeding and shattered, being held up by his men.”

“She squeezed my breath out,” Omar laughs, “and we fell to the ground.”

“I waited at the hospital all night outside his room.”

“In the morning she kissed me. And three months later we got married! That’s Baghdad romance.”

Super Dictionary

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

The idea of a Super Dictionary — that is, a children’s dictionary illustrated with superheroes and villains — makes a certain amount of sense, but the 1978 volume put out by Warner Educational Services does not:

Naturally our DC Comics Super Dictionary illustrates the word super with… El Dragon, a character made up just for the dictionary.

(Hat tip to Todd.)

Hunting terrorists is just good police work

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Hunting terrorists is just good police work, FBI agent Tim Clemente believes, but Omar Mohammed, who became his Iraqi partner, didn’t start out with the same training as his American colleague:

Omar would drive, as he knew the neighborhoods, the culture, and could immediately distinguish Shiite from Sunni. Clemente grew a beard to blend in a little and took to wearing a kaffiyeh. Together they built an informant network from nothing, and before long they had people in bakeries, driving taxis, sweeping floors inside mosques. Omar’s men started bringing in low-level terrorists, locals who were being paid by the insurgency to set bombs and provide intelligence on the Americans to Al Qaeda.

By American standards, Omar didn’t have much formal police training, but he was eager and seemed fearless. Under Saddam, police loyalty to the regime was valued much more than detective work. At the police academy, Omar’s class was ordered to skin and eat a live dog. After that, his instructors believed, no order would be too repulsive to carry out.

Hunting terrorists, Clemente told Omar, is just good police work. But doing police work in a war zone complicates things somewhat. Leads disappear or get shot, so it pays to act fast. Some days, Omar and Clemente would interview a source in the morning, identify a suspect, tap the phone a few minutes later, have a unit doing surveillance in the afternoon, make an arrest, and be interrogating by evening.

Calculatingly Reckless with Disciplined Daring

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

It’s a bit odd to think that it took a character like Wild Bill Donovan to get our government to even form a “real” spy organization:

Donovan, who had come to admire FDR proposed to the president the creation of a spy and sabotage service based on Britain’s MI6, “with men calculatingly reckless with disciplined daring.” With the support of the secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, but in the teeth of the opposition of practically everyone else, Donovan was appointed “Coordinator of Information” in July 1941. Roosevelt loved the intelligence with which Donovan then deluged him — more than 200 memos in his first six months — calling him “my secret legs.”
“Hush-Hush” Donovan hired anyone of ability, believing that “later on we’ll find out what they can do.” Future CIA directors Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby and William Casey all served under Donovan. From its headquarters at 25th & E streets on Navy Hill in Washington and at Rockefeller Center in New York, the Office of Strategic Services became America’s first world-wide intelligence service. World-wide except for Latin America, which Hoover managed to ring-fence for the FBI. Donovan and Hoover — who each kept files on the other—maintained a fiction of professionalism that barely hid their mutual detestation.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

I’ve recently noticed the 1939 Keep Calm and Carry On poster everywhere these days:

What I didn’t realize is that it’s not really a classic poster:

The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information in 1939 during the beginning of World War II. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster. Two-and-a-half million copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers. The designer of the poster is not known.

The poster was third in a series of three. The previous two posters from the series, “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory” (800,000 printed) and “Freedom is in Peril” (400,000 printed) were issued and used across the country for motivational purposes, as the Ministry of Information assumed that the events of the first weeks of the war would demoralise the population.

The “Your Courage” poster was much more famous during the war, as it was the first to go up, very large, and was the first of the Ministry of Information’s posters.

In 2000, a copy of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was rediscovered in Barter Books, a second-hand bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland. Since Crown Copyright expires on artistic works created by the UK government after 50 years, the image is now in the public domain.

What I Am Legend would have looked like with non-CG monsters

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

The I Am Legend movie suffers from a couple of glaring flaws.

First, the story misses the point of the original novella. Our vampire-slaying protagonist does not become a legend to a colony of plucky survivors who owe him a debt of gratitude for his brave self-sacrifice. He becomes a legend — a boogie-man, really — to the perfectly intelligent non-zombie vampires he’s been killing in their sleep, as they go on to forge a new non-human civilization.

Second, if there’s one thing we know we can do with practical effects, rather than computer graphics, it’s undead ghouls. Special-effects artist Steve Johnson demonstrates what I Am Legend would have looked like with non-CG monsters:

Therapist-Free Therapy

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

It’s not often that a new evidence-based psychological treatment comes around, but a few 15-minutes sessions of cognitive-bias modification (CBM) may be enough to treat anxiety and other ailments:

CBM is based on the idea that many psychological problems are caused by automatic, unconscious biases in thinking. People suffering from anxiety, for instance, may have what is known as an attentional bias towards threats: they are drawn irresistibly to things they perceive to be dangerous. Similar biases may affect memory and the interpretation of events. For example, if an acquaintance walks past without saying hello, it might mean either that he has ignored you or that he has not seen you. The anxious, according to the theory behind CBM, have a bias towards assuming the former and reacting accordingly.

The goal of CBM is to alter such biases, and doing so has proved surprisingly easy. A common way of debiasing attention is to show someone two words or pictures — one neutral and the other threatening — on a computer screen. In the case of social anxiety these might be a neutral face and a disgusted face. Presented with this choice, an anxious person instinctively focuses on the disgusted visage. The program, however, prods him to complete tasks involving the neutral picture, such as identifying letters that appear in its place on the screen. Repeating the procedure around a thousand times, over a total of two hours, changes the user’s tendency to focus on the anxious face. That change is then carried into the wider world.
In a recent study of social anxiety by Norman Schmidt of Florida State University and his colleagues, which involved 36 volunteers who had been diagnosed with anxiety, half underwent eight short sessions of CBM and the rest were put in a control group and had no treatment. At the end of the study, a majority of the CBM volunteers no longer seemed anxious, whereas in the control group only 11% had shed their anxiety. Although it was only a small trial, these results compare favourably with those of existing treatments. An examination of standard talk therapy carried out in 2004, for instance, found that half of patients had a clinically significant reduction in symptoms. Trials of medications have similar success rates.

The latest research, which is on a larger scale and is due to be published this month in Psychological Science, tackles alcohol addiction. Past work has shown that many addicts have an approach bias for alcohol — in other words, they experience a physical pull towards it. (Arachnophobia, a form of this bias that is familiar to many people, works in the opposite way: if they encounter a spider, they recoil.)

This study, conducted by Reinout Wiers of the University of Amsterdam and his colleagues, attempted to correct the approach bias to alcohol with CBM. The 214 participants received either a standard addiction treatment — a form of talk therapy — or the standard treatment plus four 15-minute sessions of CBM. In the first group, 41% of participants were abstinent a year later; in the second, 54%. That is not a cure for alcoholism, but it is a significant improvement on talk therapy alone.