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.