Health experts ask Brazil to consider moving or delaying Olympics due to Zika virus.

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Health experts ask Brazil to consider moving or delaying Olympics due to Zika virus.

Health experts on Friday urged the World Health Organization to consider whether the Rio de Janeiro Olympics should be postponed or moved because of the Zika outbreak.

The 150 experts — including a former White House science adviser — issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency, calling for the Games to be delayed or relocated “in the name of public health.”

The letter cited recent scientific evidence that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects, most notably babies born with abnormally small heads. In adults, it can cause neurological problems, including a rare syndrome that can be fatal or result in temporary paralysis. The authors also noted that despite increased efforts to wipe out the mosquitoes that spread Zika, cases in Rio have gone up rather than down.

Several public health academics have previously warned that having hundreds of thousands of people head to the Aug. 5-21 Games in Brazil will inevitably lead to the births of more brain-damaged babies and speed up the virus’ global spread.

WHO declared the Zika epidemic to be a global emergency in February and in its latest assessment this week, said it “does not see an overall decline in the outbreak.”

“The fire is already burning, but that is not a rationale not to do anything about the Olympics,” said Amir Attaran, a professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the letter’s authors. “It is not the time now to throw more gasoline onto the fire.”

WHO has already advised pregnant women not to travel to Rio and says other travelers should avoid poor and overcrowded parts of the city. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said earlier this month that the U.N. health agency is increasingly worried about Zika but stopped short of recommending the Rio Olympics be moved or postponed. Chan, who is not of child-bearing age, noted that she herself would be going to the Games.

Among the letter’s signatories are experts from more than two dozen countries in fields including public health, bioethics and pediatrics. The letter also noted a potential conflict of interest, highlighting the decades-long collaboration between WHO and the International Olympic Committee.

The authors said that partnership “was last affirmed in 2010 at an event where the Director-General of WHO and president of the IOC signed a memorandum of understanding, which is secret because neither has disclosed it.”

They also pointed to a group that WHO established to help cities not only with health advice, but to potentially help them bid for major events including the Olympics.

“WHO cannot credibly assess the public health risks of Zika and the Olympics when it sets neutrality aside,” the letter stated.

WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

In an email to the AP, the IOC said it would “always consult the WHO for guidance and advice on health matters.”

Concerns over Zika have prompted USA Swimming to move its pre-Olympic training camp from Puerto Rico to Atlanta and Major League Baseball also scrapped a series of games that were going to be held in San Juan.

No Olympic Games have ever been moved from their host city due to medical concerns, but in 2003, FIFA decided to switch the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament from China to the United States on short notice due to the threat posed by the respiratory virus SARS.


Saudi Arabian man shoots doctor who delivered his baby because he ‘saw his wife naked’

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Saudi Arabian man shoots doctor who delivered his baby because he ‘saw his wife naked’

Saudi authorities have arrested a man for shooting a male doctor who had helped his wife’s delivery, after arguing that a female doctor should have overseen the birth.

The doctor, Muhannad Al Zabn, delivered the baby in April at the King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh, Gulf News reported. The father offered his thanks to the doctor and asked to meet him at the hospital to show him his appreciation in person for the delivery.

The pair proceeded to meet in the hospital garden to talk about the delivery when the father unveiled a firearm and shot at the doctor, seriously wounded him.

The father ran from the scene but Saudi police later arrested him. Health workers transferred Al Zabn to the hospital’s intensive care unit but he is now in a stable condition.

Bassam Al Buraikan, spokesperson for the King Fahad Medical City hospital confirmed the incident to Gulf News and said that authorities were conducting an investigation using evidence from the scene of the shooting.

The incident divided opinion online, with most supporting the doctor but some questioning why the father was put in such a position.

One Twitter user wrote: “Just when you thought ‘jealousy’ can’t get worse.”

A prominent Arab Twitter user, Ahmad S. Algarni, asked why the hospital did not meet the request of the jealous father.


Metalcore Singer Renounces Christianity After Reading Richard Dawkins’ ‘God Delusion’

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Metalcore Singer Renounces Christianity After Reading Richard Dawkins’ ‘God Delusion’

The lead singer of the Missouri-based metalcore band The Order of Elijah announced on Saturday that he has renounced his faith, citing evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion with helping answer existential questions that he claims no Christian wanted to address.

On Saturday, Shannon Low, the lead singer of the band, confessed on the band’s Facebook page that he has decided to shed his faith “like a cocoon.”

In the post, Low explained that he was baptized at the age of 20, and once felt called to be a pastor. However, he derailed from that plan and spent over a decade doing drugs, having sex and playing guitar in metal bands.

It wasn’t until Low joined the Ignite church in Joplin, Missouri, and became friends with the pastor that he got his life in order and stopped drinking and doing drugs. Low eventually played guitar for the church’s worship team and became the leader of the church youth group.

“For the first time ever I felt I was doing what God had called me to do,” Low wrote. “The story short is it all fell apart. I’m just pledging this flag to let you know how passionate I was about Christ and having a ministry. This was the time when TOOE was taking root and forming.”

But after Low and his wife divorced about a year after his daughter was born, he explained that he fell back to his old drinking habits and entered a dark place in his life.

After returning from absence to church, Low said he began to question some of the injustices that he read about in the Old Testament and wondered how a just religion could promote things like sacrificing a virgin child for the sake of a battle victory and the mauling of children who insulted Elisha.

“This didn’t break me though. I still claimed Jesus, I said to myself ‘Jesus must have realized everyone was insane and there to set it straight,'” Low reasoned. “Which many people were quick to inform me that was blasphemous because Jesus condones and quotes the Old Testament quite frequently. I still stuck to my guns but received a lot of flak by my spiritual peers for not understanding why the OT God was so racist, ethnic cleansing, jealous as an insecure girlfriend, cruel and power hungry.”

Low said he then “picked up a book called The God Delusion which talks about how all of this chaotic puzzle adds up. It answered so many questions that my Christian friends would literally get furious for me to even address,” Low stated. “Sometimes I would lose Christian friends by simply pondering certain questions. I would see these same Christians publicly calling my other friends ‘abominations’ for being gay.”

Low then asserted that if God’s message was so important, it shouldn’t be filled with “contradictions.”

“Why allow his message to be spread by fallible humans and sit by idly while falsehoods are spread in his name?” Low asked. “Why sentence [two-thirds] of the world to Hell for being born in the wrong culture? I’d think a perfect God would never need to correct His Word if our literal souls depended on it.”

“After one of the most difficult decisions in my adult years, I had no choice but to accept that I had shed my faith like a cocoon,” he added. “It was scary yet liberating, it confusing yet simple, I felt at peace yet completely shaken, I pretty much had to reprogram my way of thinking about the world. Not only that, I felt I had lived a lie for half my life. I read books, tried meditating, hell sometimes I’d even try to talk to God.”

Low even argued that dropping his faith helped him to regain control of his life and his alcohol problem.

“After a few months I read about the science of addiction and life trauma. I stopped trying to pray my alcoholism away and began combating it with real methods,” Low wrote. “I began confronting my problems head on rather than ‘giving them to God.’ I became very interested in researching science and the culture of other religions daily. I eventually completely gave up alcohol, got my health back, and enrolled in college. I’m proud to say I have a 3.75 GPA.”

Low’s announcement comes as The Order of Elijah is set to take off on a multi-city tour in June. The tour is titled “God’s Unwanted Tour.”

“Look, I love you guys and I’m sorry I’m not a Christian anymore,” Low told the fans. “This is honestly me completely coming out of the faith closet, I tried to avoid throwing all my mental baggage into the road but you guys very important to me and the rest of the TOOE crew.”


Muslim cleric says gay sex ‘disgusts Allah and causes earthquakes’

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 Muslim cleric says gay sex ‘disgusts Allah and causes earthquakes’

A Muslim cleric in Ghana has defended rising attacks on homosexuals in the country after claiming gay sex ‘disgusts Allah’ and ’causes earthquakes’.

Mallam Abass Mahmud made the comments amid reports of heightened hostility among Zongo communities in Kumasi and the capital Accra towards people in same-sex relationships.

He said in an interview: ‘Allah gets annoyed when males engage in sexual encounter and such disgusting encounter causes earthquake.’

Mallam Abass Mahmud made the comments amid reports of heightened hostility among Zongo communities in Kumasi and the capital Accra towards people in same-sex relationships (file picture)

Mallam Abass Mahmud made the comments amid reports of heightened hostility among Zongo communities in Kumasi and the capital Accra towards people in same-sex

Mahmud said Allah destroyed the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah ‘as the result of homosexuality’.

According to the British Government's travel advice for Ghana homosexuality in the country is illegal (file picture)

According to the British Government’s travel advice for Ghana homosexuality in the country is illegal.

The cleric added: ‘Should we allow such a shame to continue in our communities against our holy teachings?

‘Certainly no, and we are very happy to chase away such idiots from our Zongo communities.’

According to the British Government’s travel advice for Ghana homosexuality in the country is illegal.

The guide adds: ‘Although there is a small gay community, there is no ‘scene’ and most Ghanaians don’t accept that such activity exists.’


Teenagers are picking and choosing religion to customize their needs on Facebook.

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Teenagers are picking and choosing religion to customize their needs on Facebook.

Regardless of what their religious tradition teaches, teenagers on social media platforms like Facebook are “picking and choosing” religion to customize their needs than those who do not use social media, researchers have revealed.

Women are more inclined to believe that all religions are true as opposed to that only one is true or that there is very little truth to religion.

Married people are less likely to accept the notion of many religions being true when compared with only one, the findings suggested.

“On Facebook, there is no expectation that one’s ‘likes’ be logically consistent and hidebound by tradition,” said sociology researcher Paul K. McClure from Baylor University.

Religion, as a result, does not consist of timeless truths. “Instead, the Facebook effect is that all spiritual options become commodities and resources that individuals can tailor to meet their needs,” McClure added.

Social media users also are more likely to see it as acceptable for others of their faith tradition to practice other religions.

However, the so-called “spiritual tinkerers” are not necessarily more likely to believe all religions are true.

“Social networking site users are between 50 to 80 percent more likely to be flexible about varied religious beliefs and practices,” according to McClure’s findings published in the journal Sociological Perspectives.

The study is based on an analysis of data from the National Study of Youth and Religion.

McClure used three waves of telephone surveys with youths and their parents from 2002 to 2013. More than 89 percent of young adults report using social network sites with some frequency.

“What this study suggests is that social technologies have an effect on how we think of religious beliefs and traditional institutions,” McClure said.

In particular, those who spend time on social networking sites like Facebook are more likely to think it’s perfectly acceptable to experiment with other religions and claim they do not need to remain committed to the teachings of a singular tradition.

“In this way, emerging adults may distinguish themselves from older generations not only in their use of technology, but in how they think of religion,” the findings showed.


Oklahoma bill that would jail abortion doctors has been vetoed.

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Oklahoma bill that would jail abortion doctors has been vetoed.

The bill, part of an overt strategy to challenge the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, had passed the state senate 32-12 without debate and had gone to the governor’s desk.

“The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered ‘necessary to preserve the life of the mother,’” Fallin, a Republican, said in a statement.

“The absence of any definition, analysis or medical standard renders this exception vague, indefinite and vulnerable to subjective interpretation and application,” she said.

Fallin is staunchly pro-life and has signed 18 bills supporting pro-life causes. Lawmakers can still attempt a veto override, which requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

Abortion-rights supporters said the measure was clearly unconstitutional, but the bill’s author said he hoped it would be a first step toward overturning the 1973 Roe ruling that legalized abortion.

“Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it’s a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception,” Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, the bill’s author, said.

Under the bill, doctors who perform abortions would have faced three years behind bars and lose their medical licenses. There were no exceptions in the case of rape or incest but consideration would have been given if a mother’s life is in jeopardy.

Abortion rights supporters — including the state’s medical association – argued the bill was unconstitutional and vowed to fight it.

State Sen. Ervin Yen, the only doctor in the Senate and a Republican, described the legislation as “insane” and voted against it.

The Center for Reproductive Rights also slammed the bill, describing it as “cruel and unconstitutional.”


‘Psychic’ arrested after charging $41,000 to remove ‘evil spirits’

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‘Psychic’ arrested after charging $41,000 to remove ‘evil spirits’

An East Rutherford woman who operated as a psychic out of an office on Fairview Avenue was arrested this week after a client told police she gave the woman $41,000 to remove spirits from her life, police said Thursday.

The victim said she began to meet with Holly Stanley, 25, in March for help with personal matters. She paid Stanley $100 for a crystal ball reading, police said.

“At the conclusion of the crystal ball reading, Ms. Stanley told the victim that there were spirits affecting her life,” Paramus Police Chief Kenneth R. Ehrenberg said in a statement.

Stanley told the victim she needed $5,000 to remove the spirits, Ehrenberg said.

The victim, who is from Glen Rock, paid the money, according to the chief.

After several more psychic sessions, Stanley allegedly told the victim she needed an additional $36,000 to help her.

“The victim gave Stanley the money,” the chief said.

On or about April 7, Stanley told the victim more money was needed to remove an unwanted spirit, according to Ehrenberg.

“Stanley at this time asked for an additional $90,000,” the chief said.

Instead of paying the money, the victim became suspicious and went to police several days later.

After an investigation, Stanley was arrested at the Paramus Police Department and charged with theft by deception.

She was released on $5,000 bail.

Police ask anyone with information about Stanley or the case to call them at 201-262-3400.