Scientists confirm there’s a second layer of information hidden in our DNA.

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Scientists confirm there’s a second layer of information hidden in our DNA.

Theoretical physicists have confirmed that it’s not just the information coded into our DNA that shapes who we are – it’s also the way DNA folds itself that controls which genes are expressed inside our bodies.

That’s something biologists have known for years, and they’ve even been able to figure out some of the proteins responsible for folding up DNA. But now a group of physicists have been able to demonstrate for the first time through simulations how this hidden information controls our evolution.

Let’s back up for a second here, because although it’s not necessarily news to many scientists, this second level of DNA information might not be something you’re familiar with.

As you probably learnt in high school, Watson and Crick discovered in 1953 that the DNA code that determines who we are is made up of a sequence of the letters G, A, C, and T.

The order of these letters determines which proteins are made in our cells. So, if you have brown eyes, it’s because your DNA contains a particular series of letters that encodes for a protein that makes the dark pigment inside your iris.

But that’s not the whole story, because all the cells in your body start out with the exact same DNA code, but every organ has a very different function – your stomach cells don’t need to produce the brown eye protein, but they do need to produce digestive enzymes. So how does that work?

Since the ’80s, scientists have found that the way DNA is folded up inside our cells actually controls this process. Environmental factors can play a big role in this process too, with things like stress known to turn certain genes on and off through something known as epigenetics.

But the mechanics of the DNA folding is the original control mechanism. That’s because every single cell in our body contains around 2 metres of DNA, so to fit inside us, it has to be tightly wrapped up into a bundle called a nucleosome – like a thread around a spool.

And the way the DNA is wrapped up controls which genes are ‘read’ by the rest of the cell – genes that are all wrapped on the inside won’t be expressed as proteins, but those on the outside will. This explains why different cells have the same DNA but different functions.

In recent years, biologists have even started to isolate the mechanical cues that determine the way DNA is folded, by ‘grabbing onto’ certain parts of the genetic code or changing the shape of the ‘spool’ the DNA is wrapped around.

So far, so good, but what do theoretical physicists have to do with all this?

A team from Leiden University in the Netherlands has now been able to step back and look at the process on a whole-genome scale, and confirm through computer simulations that these mechanical cues are actually coded into our DNA.

The physicists, led by Helmut Schiessel, did this by simulating the genomes of both baker’s yeast and fission yeast, and then randomly assigning them a second level of DNA information, complete with mechanical cues.

They were able to show that these cues affected how the DNA was folded and which proteins are expressed – further evidence that the mechanics of DNA are written into our DNA, and they’re just as important in our evolution as the code itself.

This means the researchers have shown that there’s more than one way that DNA mutations can affect us: by changing the letters in our DNA, or simply by changing the mechanical cues that arrange the way a strand is folded.

“The mechanics of the DNA structure can change, resulting in different packaging and levels of DNA accessibility,” they explain, “and therefore differing frequency of production of that protein.”

Again, this is confirming what many biologists already knew, but what’s really exciting is the fact that the computer simulations open up the possibility for scientists manipulate the mechanical cues that shape DNA – which means they might one day be able to fold DNA to hide unwanted genes, like the ones that trigger disease.

We’re a long way off doing that, but the more scientists understand about how our DNA is controlled and folded, the closer we get to being able to improve upon it.


10 Most Notorious Suicide Cults in History.

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10 Most Notorious Suicide Cults in History.

In ancient times and during the Dark Ages it was common for entire groups of people to commit suicide to avoid subjugation to enemy invaders, whilst in the past few centuries ritual suicide has been seen within religious offshoots and collectives who follow cults of the occult.

10. Puputan, Bali

Honor and pride were the pillars of ancient kingdoms throughout the world, to the point where death was preferable to subjugation. In 1906 a Balinese ritual mass suicide, known as Puputan, was committed so that its practitioners would avoid being captured and enslaved by the Dutch invaders. The Raja commanded that all valuables be burnt and that everyone from the youngest child to the wives and priests be marched ceremoniously towards the aggressors. When face to face with the Dutch regiment, the head priest thrust a dagger deep into the Raja’s heart signaling the commencement of Puputan. From here the entire group simultaneously began to kill one another while the women mockingly flung money and jewelery onto the stupefied troops. Over 1000 Balinese people committed suicide on that warm September afternoon, leaving little for the Dutch to do. Today children are taught about Puputan and the day is commemorated with make believe street reenactments.

9. Order of the Solar Temple, Switzerland and Canada

The Order of the Solar Temple, headquartered in Switzerland and operating in Canada as well, is the secret society that believes in the continued existence of the Knights Templar. Their aims are to establish correct notions of authority and power in the world, to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus, and to unify the Christian and Islamic faiths. Their activities include a blend of early Protestant Christianity and New Age philosophy. For many years, murders and suicides have been associated with the cult, including the 1994 Canadian murder of a 3-month-old boy, who was ritually sacrificed because he was identified as the Anti-Christ. Then in October of the same year, 48 adults and children were found dead, shot through the head, victims of a mass suicide in a Swiss underground chapel that was found lined with items of Templar symbolism.

8. Harakiri, Japan

A true tale of terror involving blood, guts and gore comes in the form of the Japanese ritual suicide, known as Seppuku or Harakiri. As part of the Samurai Bushido code of honor, suicide by disembowelment was practiced to retain honor or lessen shame. The individual would take a short sword known as a tanto and plunge it into his abdomen, making an excruciatingly painful and lethal cut. Lastly, to ensure certain death the Samurai’s assistant would decapitate him. It was a common custom during battle by means of which warriors avoided death or torture by the enemy, though it was also used to punish serious offenses. Although capital punishment was abolished in 1873, voluntary Seppuku was recorded well into the 1900s – notably at the end of WWII, when numerous soldiers and civilians publicly performed Seppuku to avoid surrender. Then, in 1970 a group of rebels committed public Seppuku at the Japan Self-Defence Forces headquarters after an unsuccessful attempt to stage a coup d’etat.

7. Sicarii Rebels, Masada, Israel

In 60 AD, a time when spears and catapults were the weapons of war, the Roman conquest of Judea forced 960 zealot Jews to first seize and then barricade themselves atop King Herod’s fortress. The citadel, built on a rock plateau in the Judean Desert, was (and still remains) the site of ancient fortifications and palaces. The group lived there for half a decade, building homes and slowly expanding, until the Roman siege of 72 AD, when Emperor Lucius Flavius Silvius commissioned an enormous ramp with which to breach the walls of the fort and capture the rebels. Little did he know that at its summit were smoldering buildings and the rotting cadavers of those who chose death over surrender. Only two women and five children survived to tell the story of how their people had been exterminated – summed up in the words of the zealot leader, Eleazar ben Yair, in his final speech: “Let our wives be killed before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted slavery, and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually…”

6. Jauhar, Rajput, India

A similar story unraveled in the depths of the Indian subcontinent. Jauhar describes the practice of female mass suicide that occurred in Rajput kingdoms during Mughal times so that women could avoid capture and dishonor at the hands of enemy invaders. In the 14th century, Rani Padmini, the queen of Chittor, led all the royal ladies and their children to jump into a bonfire in order to protect themselves from the Sultan of Delhi’s lustful army. Whilst the women and children would perform self-immolation, the men (fathers, husbands and sons) would charge against the attackers, facing certain death, a practice intended to protect both the sexes’ honor. A second and third Jauhar took place in Chittor during the 16th century, which saw the obliteration of entire Rajput lineages.

5. Self-immolation, Vietnam

Ritual suicide is not always connected to supernatural offerings or salvationist logic as has often been the case in contemporary times. In the case of Buddhist monks in the sixties ritual suicide was a sign of protest against the Vietnam War. Thích Quang Duc fearlessly burnt himself to death in a busy Saigon road in 1963 to protest the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s administration. Despite being revered as a Bodhisattva (a being that has attained Nirvana) by the world’s Buddhist communities, the government repudiated the action and punished the monks further, many of whom followed Thích Quang Duc’s example by performing self-immolation in public places. Although self-harm is prohibited in the Buddhist religion, self-immolation was perceived as a selfless action by the monks – an act that spread the light of the Dharma and opened the eyes of those around them.

4. Heaven’s Gate, San Diego, California

This next entry is a real life story of horror meets UFO sci-fi, for the 1970s Heaven’s Gate cult based their belief system on a combination of Christian ideas of the apocalypse and elements of science fiction. If their ideas were to be believed, planet Earth was due to be wiped clean by supernatural forces, and the only path to salvation was to escape to the “Next Level”. According to founder Marshall Applewhite, this escape could be achieved through an ascetic existence, which meant detachment from family, friends, jobs, possessions and other trappings of modern existence. In 1997, however, Applewhite announced a fast-track route to the Next Level: boarding a spacecraft that was trailing the comet Hale-Bopp. On March 26th, when the comet was at its brightest, Applewhite and 38 of his followers committed suicide in order to abandon their terrestrial forms and gain access to the UFO.

3. The Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists, Waco, Texas

The “Branch” is (for it still survives) a Protestant sect born in 1959 during a schism with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, when Florence Houteff announced the Second Coming of Jesus on the summit of a hilltop in Texas. Following the failure of this prophecy, a number of “Prophets” took center stage, the most prominent being Vernon Howell (later renamed David Koresh), who indoctrinated the group into believing that he alone had the responsibility and authorization to prophesize and reproduce the “House of David”. In 1994, after allegations of illegal firearm ownership and child abuse, the ATF obtained a warrant to search the premises; but their offensive strategy was met with barricades and gunfire. After many days of fighting, the FBI was afraid of mass suicides and tried to corner the followers with tear gas. However the compound was set on fire from within, killing 80 people. Whether this was mass suicide or an FBI cover-up remains unclear.

2. Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, Uganda

The MRTC were an apocalyptic Catholic offshoot established in the 1980s after an alleged vision of the Virgin Mary, ordering strict obedience to the Ten Commandments. The sect members spoke very little and sometimes adopted sign language to avoid bearing false witness to their neighbor, they prohibited sex to avoid adultery, and they implemented bi-weekly fasting. As the supposed year of the apocalypse drew near, daily confession was encouraged, the sell-off of possessions was enforced, and work in the fields ceased. However, when ‘Judgment Day’ failed to occur the followers began to question their leaders’ authenticity, and so a second doomsday was announced for March 17th, whereby all the 1000 followers, adults and children were invited to celebrate their imminent salvation. Little did they know this would culminate in self-immolation and poisoning.

1. People’s Temple Jonestown Massacre, Guyana

This frightening tale of mass suicide was carried out by members of the People’s Temple, a cult born in the 1950s with the supposed objective of practicing Apostolic Socialism. In the 1970s a Caribbean missionary post was established in Guyana; “Jonestown” was allegedly a benevolent communist community and sanctuary for racial and social equality headed by leader and self-styled prophet Jim Jones. However Jones, claiming to be the Messiah, applied mind-control strategies to brainwash the sect and receive full and incontestable devotion; implemented torture holes to solve disciplinary matters (for both adults and children); and had sexual control over women and children.

In November 1978, strange disappearances began to occur, including the murder of inspecting California Congressman Leo Ryan and a number of fugitives from the ‘camp’. Afraid of American retaliation, Jones brainwashed his 912 followers into preserving the People’s Temple for eternity by committing the ultimate sacrifice. Poisoning themselves, they thus participated to the largest mass suicide in modern history.


Anti-gay pastor arrested on 70 counts of child pornography.

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Anti-gay pastor arrested on 70 counts of child pornography.

This is Dave Reynolds, the recently fired pastor of the Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Sherwood, Arkansas. He’s currently facing 70 counts of distributing, possessing, or viewing child pornography.

Oh, and he’s also vehemently antigay.

The 40-year-old pastor regularly preached that marriage is between a man and a woman and that all homosexual activity is a sin.

He was arrested after police received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which claimed that a social media account in Sherwood was storing pages and pages of child pornography.

The account allegedly belonged to Reynolds.

In March, Reynolds informed elders at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship that he was under investigation for child porn possession.

When they asked if he had engaged in viewing the material, Reynolds told them he had “not knowingly done so.”

The elders ultimately decided to relieve Reynolds of his duties and put out a statement saying the church was fully cooperating with police.

Our present concern is with the people of Cornerstone to whom the Lord has entrusted us as shepherds,” the church said in a statement. “We have been and will continue to pursue all avenues to determine whether any of Cornerstone’s people may have been directly or indirectly affected by any actions Dave may have taken.”

Meanwhile, Reynolds is maintaining his innocence.

In a statement released earlier this week, his attorney, Blake Hendrix, said, “Mr. Reynolds has pleaded not guilty and intends to vigorously defend himself against the accusations.”

Reynolds appeared in Sherwood District Court on Wednesday.

Bond was set at $250,000.


10 Facts About Atheists – A new study by The Pew Research Center.

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10 Facts About Atheists – A new study by The Pew Research Center.

Estimating the number of atheists in the U.S. is complicated. Some adults who describe themselves as atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. At the same time, some people who identify with a religion (e.g., say they are Protestant, Catholic or Jewish) also say they do not believe in God.

But one thing is for sure: Along with the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans (many of whom believe in God), there has been a corresponding increase in the number of atheists. As nonbelievers and others gather in Washington, D.C., for the “Reason Rally,” here are key facts about atheists and their beliefs:

1. The share of Americans who identify as atheists has roughly doubled in the past several years. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study found that 3.1% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 1.6% in a similarly large survey in 2007. An additional 4.0% of Americans call themselves agnostics, up from 2.4% in 2007.

2. Atheists, in general, are more likely to be male and younger than the overall population68% are men, and the median age of atheist adults in the U.S. is 34 (compared with 46 for all U.S. adults). Atheists also are more likely to be white (78% are Caucasian vs. 66% for the general public) and highly educated: About four-in-ten atheists (43%) have a college degree, compared with 27% of the general public.

3. Self-identified atheists tend to be aligned with the Democratic Party and with political liberalism. About two-thirds of atheists (69%) identify as Democrats (or lean in that direction), and a majority (56%) call themselves political liberals (compared with just one-in-ten who say they are conservatives). Atheists overwhelmingly favor same-sex marriage (92%) and legal abortion (87%). In addition, three-quarters (74%) say that government aid to the poor does more good than harm.

4. Although the literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who believes that God does not exist,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary8% of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Indeed, 2% say they are “absolutely certain” about the existence of God or a universal spirit. Alternatively, there are many people who fit the dictionary definition of “atheist” but do not call themselves atheists. About three times as many Americans say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit (9%) as say they are atheists (3%).

5. Unsurprisingly, more than nine-in-ten self-identified atheists say religion is not too or not at all important in their lives, and nearly all (97%) say they seldom or never pray. At the same time, many do not see a contradiction between atheism and pondering their place in the world. Three-in-ten (31%) say they feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being at least weekly. A similar share (35%) often thinks about the meaning and purpose of life. And roughly half of all atheists (54%) frequently feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe, up from 37% in 2007. In fact, atheists are more likely than U.S. Christians to say they often feel a sense of wonder about the universe (54% vs. 45%).

6. In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.

7. Virtually no atheists (1%) turn to religion for guidance on questions of right and wrong, but increasing numbers are turning to scienceAbout a third of atheists (32%) say they look primarily to science for guidance on questions of right and wrong, up from 20% in 2007. A plurality (44%) still cite “practical experience and common sense” as their primary guide on such questions, but that is down from 52% in 2007.

8. Americans like atheists less than they like members of most major religious groups. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey asked Americans to rate groups on a “feeling thermometer” from zero (as cold and negative as possible) to 100 (the warmest, most positive possible rating). U.S. adults gave atheists an average rating of 41, comparable to the rating they gave Muslims (40) and far colder than the average given to Jews (63), Catholics (62) and evangelical Christians (61).

9. About half of Americans (51%) say they would be less likely to support an atheist candidate for president, more than say the same about a candidate with any other trait mentioned in a Pew Research Center survey – including being Muslim. This figure, while still high, has declined in recent years – in early 2007, 63% of U.S. adults said they would be less likely to support an atheist presidential candidate. There are currently no self-described atheists serving in Congress, although there is one House member, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who describes herself as religiously unaffiliated.

10. About half of Americans (53%) say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral, while 45% say belief in God is necessary to have good values, according to a 2014 survey. In other wealthy countries, smaller shares tend to say that a belief in God is essential for good morals, including just 15% in France. But in many other parts of the world, nearly everyone says that a person must believe in God to be moral, including 99% in Indonesia and Ghana and 98% in Pakistan.


At least 18 albinos have been killed in Malawi Since 2014 due to superstition.

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At least 18 albinos have been killed in Malawi Since 2014 due to superstition.

For Agness Jonathan, every day is a gamble with her children’s lives. Simple questions like whether they should go to school carry an unimaginable risk of death and dismemberment to satisfy a barbaric demand. This is because her daughters are living with albinism, a genetic condition resulting in little or no pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. And this makes them a target.

It is children like Agness’ who, according to a newly released Amnesty International report, are being hunted like animals in Malawi where their bones are sold in the belief the body parts bring wealth, happiness and good luck.

The report chronicles the day-to-day lives of those living with the condition, and details the extent of a recent surge in killings of albinos living in the landlocked country in southern Africa.
The bloodiest month was April this year, when Amnesty says four people were murdered, including a baby. One of the victims was 17-year-old Davis Fletcher Machinjiri, who left his home to watch a soccer game with a friend, but never returned.
The Malawian police say he was abducted by “about four men who trafficked him to Mozambique and killed him.” Describing his gruesome death, they say “the men chopped off both his arms and legs and removed bones. They then buried the rest of his body in a shallow grave.”
Since 2014 at least 18 albinos have been killed, another five have been abducted and are still missing. And if it weren’t for alert locals, Agness’ youngest daughter Chakuputsa would be one of them. She was grabbed by three men while her mother was out working the fields. Agness describes how villagers chased after the men who eventually dumped the child in the bushes nearby. It turned out one of the attackers was a relative, someone, Agness tells Amnesty, she had considered like a brother. This, the community says, is all too common.
Attackers are known to sell body parts to witchdoctors in Malawi and neighboring Mozambique, hoping to make quick money. Amnesty says “thousands of people with albinism are at severe risk of abduction and killing by individuals and criminal gangs,” while the United Nations warns that Malawi’s albinos are at risk of “total extinction.”
Grace Mazzah, a board member of the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi, is always aware of the price on her head.
“It really raises fear,” she says. “Why should people hunt me like they’re hunting for animals to eat?”


Doctors must lead the way to end prescription drug abuse epidemic.

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Additionally, an opiate abuser is characteristically “nodding out” and often scratching their itchy skin. While their face is becoming pale and clammy, their fingernails and lips are starting to turn blue or even a sickly purplish-black. When the choking noises — or the deep snore gurgling sounds, known as the death rattle — begins, it’s time to act — and fast. That is a pretty clear sign the opiates have just turned off the person’s drive to breathe and they are in the throes of an overdose.
It is an awful sight, and yet someone in this country dies like this every 19 minutes. There is no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently. The majority of those deaths result from prescription opioid medications, such as hydrocodone, OxyContin and Percocet.
It is so common that specialists even have a profile for the most typical victim: non-Hispanic Caucasian male, mid 30s. Initial diagnosis: back pain due to trauma, surgery or degenerative arthritis. And, most remarkably, average time from first prescription to time of overdose death: just 31 months.
Gupta: Let's end the prescription drug death epidemic

This is a public health epidemic and one that is uniquely American. No other country in the world has the perverse amount of consumption as we do in the United States. And nowhere do we pay the price as dearly as with prescription opioid medications.
As of 2011, 75% of the world’s opioid prescription drugs are prescribed and swallowed up in a country that makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, leading to the most common cause of unintentional death in America today — drug overdoses. It is a horrifying and shameful statistic.
And, having traveled all over the world covering natural disaster, wars and famine, I am fully confident we Americans don’t have 75% of the world’s pain.

Who is at fault?

There is plenty of blame to go around. Drugs are cheaper than a multidisciplinary approach to treating pain, and cost savings are what insurance companies like to hear.
For decades, certain pharmaceutical companies misled the FDA about the risks of opioid dependence in an effort to sell more of the drugs, and three top executives from Purdue Pharma even pleaded guilty to those criminal charges.
Our federal government has created nearly insurmountable hurdles to studying other therapies such as medicinal marijuana, which has for years been used safely and effectively in other countries for chronic neuropathic pain, one of the most difficult types to treat.
Addicted? How to get help
If you’re addicted to prescription drugs, help is available. You can call the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration 24/7 hotline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357) or visit their website.

Most of the blame, however, belongs on the shoulders of the American doctors themselves. I am a practicing neurosurgeon, and this is not an easy thing to acknowledge. The fact is, we have accepted the tall tales and Pollyannaish promises of what these medications could do for too long. As a community, we weren’t skeptical enough. We didn’t ask enough questions. We accepted flimsy scientific data as gospel and preached it to our patients in a chamber that echoed loudly for decades.
Even worse, too many doctors who didn’t actually believe the hyperbole surrounding opioids doled out long-term prescriptions regardless, in the same way doctors write antibiotic prescriptions for viral illnesses. In both cases, they don’t work. In both cases, they can cause colossal harm.

The King of Pain

It was a particular American doctor who, in many ways, started all of this. If you want to identify a specific moment this opioid epidemic sprouted wings, many would point to a paper written 30 years ago this month.
Based on a study of just 38 patients in 1986, Dr. Russell Portenoy challenged the conventional wisdom. Up until that time, opioids had been reserved for cancer patients and palliative care and only for short durations because of the concern about addiction. Dr. Portenoy, armed with his small study, believed prescription opioids could safely be used in all patients with chronic pain for years on end. He maintained that the drugs were easy to quit and that overdoses hardly ever occurred.
As it turns out, almost none of this was true.
When we reached recently retired Dr. Hershel Jick, author of the oft-quoted “1% letter,” he was quick to point out that his statistic was misrepresented. It was intended to represent only patients prescribed opioids in the hospital who were carefully monitored. He told us he never anticipated the remarkable impact a one-paragraph letter would have in the decades to follow.
Why are opioids so addictive?

Even Portenoy, once mockingly referred to as the King of Pain, appears to have recanted and apologized for his part in walking the American people into an abyss of addiction.
There is no question that many people suffer unimaginable chronic pain, and we don’t want to solve the epidemic by impeding their ability to obtain pain relief. But the truth is, they deserve medications better suited for the job. They deserve medications that uncouple powerful analgesia from terrible addictive potential. They deserve medications that don’t cause hyperalgesia, a syndrome of increased pain necessitating escalating doses of opioids. Most of all, they deserve to have doctors who rely on scientific evidence that is solid, not fanciful.

Where we stand

We have a long way to go. Instead of safer pain therapeutics, patients are now being offered expensive new medications that only treat the consequences of the opioid epidemic. With 259 million opioid prescriptions being written yearly, it turns out side effects — such as constipation — are a big enough business to warrant its own Super Bowl commercial.
There are other grim signs. We now know that heroin has made a resurgence and 80% of new heroin users start off using pain pills, which contain the same type of base ingredients.
Most disturbing, however, is a recent study showingthat 91% of people who survived an overdose were still able to get another opioid prescription, typically from the same prescribing doctor. Not only are we failing to learn and make progress, it seems we are turning a blind eye to the tragedies unfolding right in front of us.

A doctor call to action

As policymakers begin to catch on, rules and regulations will start to change. As part of a discussion I moderated with President Obama last month, we learned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending against doctors prescribing opioids for most chronic pain situations. When a prescription is written, it should be for the lowest effective dose and the shortest amount of time: usually just a few days.
Pills will also come with safeguards to make them difficult to abuse and discourage “doctor-shopping,” as well as a strong warnings about addiction — something we doctors should have been diligent about all along.
But most simply, we as doctors need to engage our patients and discuss treatment with them, whether its short term opioids or alternatives like physical and occupational therapy. We need to help set realistic expectations for our patients: Living entirely pain free is not always possible. As doctors, we need to have follow-up conversations with our patients to see how treatment is going. If we better understand our patients, we can provide better treatment and help develop pain strategies that are effective and safe.
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It is not too late. In order for this American-made epidemic to finally end, however, it is the American doctors who must lead the way.

Woman set on fire and killed for rejecting marriage proposal in Pakistan.

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Woman set on fire and killed for rejecting marriage proposal in Pakistan.

An 18-year-old Pakistani schoolteacher died Wednesday from injuries after her body was set on fire for refusing a marriage proposal, police said. The perpetrators beat Maria Abbasi, then drenched her in petrol and set her body ablaze before leaving her for dead, her family members told CNN.

“Maria was at home baby-sitting her 5-year-old sister while her family went to a funeral in a nearby town,” said Rafaqat Abbasi, her uncle. “At the funeral her family was alerted that she ‘was on fire.’ Initially the thought was there had been some sort of accident, perhaps a pipe had burst or something.”
Pakistani relatives stand alongside an ambulance carrying Maria Abbasi, June 1, 2016.

The horror of what had happened set in Monday night when her family returned home to the village of Davel outside Murree in northeastern Pakistan.

“Maria was lying on the floor, with 85% of her body covered in burns,” the uncle said.
Four men earlier had barged into her parents’ home, said Murree police inspector Sohail Abbasi, who is no relation to the family.
“There is no direct major road that passes through the village. We had to carry Maria on a chair to the closest road to get her to an ambulance,” said Rafaqat Abbasi, the uncle.
The young woman was taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) away, for treatment, where she later died.
Maria's grandmother mourns next to her body in an ambulance outside a hospital in Islamabad.

Three people were arrested Wednesday in Islamabad in connection with the teenager’s killing, said Nabeela Ghazanfar, Punjab police spokesman.
An arrest warrant is out for a fourth individual, according to the Murree police inspector.
Teenager burned in ‘honor killing’ The chief minister of Punjab province has assigned a three-member team to investigate the case, according to the Punjab police.
Violence against women remains rampant in the country, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. In 2015, police formally investigated 76 cases of women being set on fire, according to the commission’s latest report.



Buddhist Temple caught with 40 Dead Tiger Cubs amidst trafficking claims.

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Buddhist Temple caught with 40 Dead Tiger Cubs amidst trafficking claims.

Thai authorities found 40 dead tiger cubs in a freezer during a raid on a Buddhist temple Wednesday. Authorities say they don’t know why the cubs were kept but plan to investigate. The temple, for its part, says the cubs died of natural causes and were preserved by a veterinarian, possibly to prove that the bodies had not been sold on the black market.

The “Tiger Temple” in Kanchanaburi province charged admission and let visitors pose with tigers, The Associated Press reports. This week’s raid was prompted by allegations that the Buddhist monks were illegally breeding and trafficking tigers.

“The temple, a popular tourist attraction, has been criticized by animal rights activists because of allegations it is not properly set up to care for the animals and flouted regulations restricting the trade of tigers,” the AP reports. “The monks resisted previous efforts to take away the tigers, but relented this week after police obtained a court order.”

Officers with Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation observe the carcasses of 40 tiger cubs and a binturong (also known as a bearcat) found at the "Tiger Temple" on Wednesday.

Officers with Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation observe the carcasses of 40 tiger cubs and a binturong (also known as a bearcat) found at the “Tiger Temple” on Wednesday.

Officials with Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) have been transferring the temple’s adult tigers to shelters elsewhere. In the process, they made the grisly discovery of the 40 frozen cubs, as well as the body of a binturong (or bearcat) and the organs of other animals, the Bankok Post reports.

The monks have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

On the Tiger Temple’s Facebook page, the temple re-promoted a post from March denying that the temple was engaged in selling tiger cubs to the black market. As part of their defense, the monks said tiger cubs that might appear to be “missing” had died of natural causes and that their bodies were still on site at the temple:

“[A]s happens in life, cubs do occasionally die for various reasons, most often when a new mother lacks the experience to properly care for them. In the past, as per Buddhist customs, these tiger cubs were cremated.

“In 2010, the ex-vet of Tiger Temple changed this policy. Instead of cremation, the deceased cubs were preserved in jars or kept frozen. We have documented all the deaths from 2010 and have photographic evidence of them still being within the Temple.”

The veterinarian no longer works at the temple, but on the Facebook account, the temple suggests that the vet might have made the policy change to provide proof that the temple was not illegally selling cubs or cub parts on the black market.

The temple alleges that DNP officials were “fully aware” of the presence of the cub bodies.

There is a thriving black market for tiger parts, for use in luxury goods and traditional Chinese medicine.

The World Wildlife Fund has accused the Tiger Temple of selling tigers and tiger parts “for an enormous profit.”

The WWF said in a statement that the temple does not have a license to keep tigers and “has repeatedly ignored Thai Government prohibitions against breeding tigers in captivity and allowing contact with the public.”


Edible Six Pack Rings Could Save Marine Animals.

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Edible Six Pack Rings Could Save Marine Animals.

Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Fla., has come up with an idea that could save the lives of marine animals around the world: biodegradable and edible six-pack rings.

The public has gotten used to seeing tragic pictures of birds, otters, turtles, and fish stuck in plastic six-pack rings that slowly kill them after getting wrapped around their necks when humans chuck them in the ocean or lose them on the beach. Saltwater Brewery’s product makes it easy for animals to simply chew them off and even eat them. Even better, the rings are created from a by-product of the beer-making process (think: grains), meaning that they are not only completely safe for fish to eat, but they are completely sustainable and biodegradable, too. If nothing eats them, they simply dissolve.

As with many environmentally friendly products, the edible six-pack rings are more expensive to produce. Saltwater Brewery is working to add the rings to all of their canned products, and ideally they will share the technology with other breweries and drink makers, so the future will be littered with less plastic.


Philippine’s president says journalists are not exempt from assassination.

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Philippine’s president says ‘ journalists are not exempt from assassination.

The Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte said corrupt journalists were legitimate targets of assassination, as he amped up his controversial anti-crime crusade with offers of rewards for killing drug traffickers.

Duterte won this month’s elections by a landslide largely due to an explosive law-and-order platform in which he pledged to end crime within six months by killing tens of thousands of suspected criminals.

The foul-mouthed politician has launched a series of post-election tirades against criminals and repeated his vows to kill them – particularly drug traffickers, rapists and murderers. In a press conference called on Tuesday to announce the new cabinet, in his southern hometown of Davao, Duterte said journalists who took bribes or engaged in other corrupt activities also deserved to die.

“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte said when asked how he would address the problem of media killings in the Philippines, after a reporter was shot dead in Manila last week.

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous nations in the world for journalists, with 174 murdered since a chaotic and corruption-plagued democracy replaced the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos three decades ago. “Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong,” Duterte said, adding that many journalists in the Philippines were corrupt.

Duterte also said freedom of expression provisions in the constitution did not necessarily protect a person from violent repercussions for defamation. “That can’t be just freedom of speech. The constitution can no longer help you if you disrespect a person,” he said.

Duterte raised the case of Jun Pala, a journalist and politician who was murdered in Davao in 2003. Gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead Pala, who was a vocal critic of Duterte. His murder has never been solved. “If you are an upright journalist, nothing will happen to you,” said Duterte, who has ruled Davao as mayor for most of the past two decades and is accused of links to vigilante death squads.

“The example here is Pala. I do not want to diminish his memory but he was a rotten son of a bitch. He deserved it.”

One of the world’s deadliest attacks against journalists took place in the Philippines in 2009, when 32 journalists were among 58 people killed by a warlord clan intent on stopping a rival’s election challenge. More than 100 people are on trial for the massacre, including many members of the Ampatuan family accused of orchestrating it.

Duterte has named Salvador Panelo, the former defence lawyer for the Ampatuans, as his presidential spokesman, a nomination criticised by the victims’ families and journalists’ organisations. Duterte, who will assume office on 30 June, also said he would offer bounties to law enforcement officers who killed drug traffickers. He said 3m pesos (£44,000) would be paid to law enforcers for killing drug lords, with lesser amounts for lower-ranking people in drug syndicates.

Outlining some of his other plans for his war on crime, Duterte said he would give police special forces shoot-to-kill orders and send them into the main jail in Manila where prisoners run drug trafficking operations.

He also said he would enlist junior soldiers to kill corrupt top-ranking police officers who were involved in the drug trade. “I will call the private from the army and say: ’Shoot him’,” Duterte said. He urged police not to wait until he assumed the presidency, and start killing criminals immediately. “Now, now,” he urged them.

Police earlier confirmed killing 15 people in a series of drug raids across the country over the past week, which Amnesty International described as a sharp and sudden escalation in the long-standing problem of questionable deaths by Filipino security forces.