Going Vegan May Not Be The Most Sustainable Option for Humanity.

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Going Vegan May Not Be The Most Sustainable Option for Humanity.

If you’ve decided to go vegan because you think it’s better for the planet, that might be true—but only to an extent.

A group of researchers has published a study in the journal Elementa in which they describe various biophysical simulation models that compare 10 eating patterns: the vegan diet, two vegetarian diets (one that includes dairy, the other dairy and eggs), four omnivorous diets (with varying degrees of vegetarian influence), one low in fats and sugars, and one similar to modern American dietary patterns.

What they found was that the carrying capacity—the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely by the resources of an ecosystem—of the vegan diet is actually less substantial than two of the vegetarian diets and two out of the four omnivorous diets they studied.

 

When applied to an entire global population, the vegan diet wastes available land that could otherwise feed more people. That’s because we use different kinds of land to produce different types of food, and not all diets exploit these land types equally.

  • Grazing land is often unsuitable for growing crops, but great for feeding food animals such as cattle.
  • Perennial cropland supports crops that are alive year-round and are harvested multiple times before dying, including a lot of the grain and hay used to feed livestock.
  • Cultivated cropland is where you typically find vegetables, fruits and nuts.

The five diets that contained the most meat used all available crop and animal grazing land. The five diets using the least amount of meat—or none at all—varied in land use. But the vegan diet stood out because it was the only diet that used no perennial cropland at all, and, as a result, would waste the chance to produce a lot of food.

One downside of non-perennial crops is that when springtime rolls around, the frozen soil’s stored nutrients usually drain into rivers and streams before farmers have a chance to plant the next season’s crops. Here’s Brooke Borel, reporting for NOVA Next in 2014:

Perennial crops, on the other hand, could survive for many seasons, axing the annual cycle and lessening farming’s wear-and-tear on the environment. Some varieties could also have longer, lusher root systems that would sink deeper into the ground, helping maintain soil health and curbing erosion. They could even help the plants survive a drought.

Such a system would allow for longer growing seasons, too, taking advantage of the late autumn and early spring months when fields usually lay bare. Assuming that perennial crops produced the same amount as their annual counterparts—a big assumption—this would provide additional food each year from the same plot of land. A shift from annuals to perennials, or a mixture of both, could benefit both the environment and food security.

If modern agriculture in the U.S. were adjusted to the vegan diet, according to the study in Elementa, we’d be able to feed 735 million people—and that’s from a purely land-use perspective. Compare that to the dairy-friendly vegetarian diet, which could feed 807 million people. Even partially omnivorous diets rank above veganism in terms of sustainability; incorporating about 20 to 40% meat in your diet is actually better for the long-term course of humanity than being completely meat-free.

Of course, some environmental ethicists would argue that this is an overly utilitarian, anthropocentric view of how a person should live. What the study doesn’t take into account is the moral question of whether or not we should be raising livestock for our benefit at all. So while the jury’s out on whether veganism is a good way to sustain the future of humanity, it’s certainly a viable life choice for people who are vegan for other reasons, including dietary or ethical concerns.

Source: http://to.pbs.org/2c6Eg0G

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Taking a Picture of Your Hotel Room Could Help Stop Child Trafficking.

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Taking a Picture of Your Hotel Room Could Help Stop Child Trafficking.

The TraffickCam app enables travelers to submit pictures of hotel rooms around the world. The images are matched against a national database used by police.

“You just enter your hotel room, and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou said. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”

Stylianou was among the speakers at a Human Trafficking Town Hall at Maritz Tuesday.

“Right now there are pictures posted every day. Hundreds of pictures, in every city around the United States, posted online, that show victims of trafficking, in hotel rooms posed on beds,” she said.

Hotel photos submitted by travelers will allow police to querry the database to determine where the pictures of victims were taken.

TraffickCam now has more than 1.5 million images of hotels across the world, thanks to support from the public.

The idea for the app is merging of ideas between researchers at Washington University and the Exchange Initiative, a non-profit formed by Nix Conference and Meeting Management. A few years ago, police sought the help of Nix staff to identify the specific hotel where a victim was trafficked.

“It was a photo that they had from the internet,” Nix Principal Molly Hackett said. “One of the girls in our office knew exactly what it was.”

The Exchange Initiative created the app, which Hackett said is widely used by her staff. But use of the app isn’t limited to her line of work.

“It’s great that everyday citizens can do everyday things by taking a picture help stop sex trafficking,” Hackett added.

The internet has made it easier for criminals to engage in sex trafficking and child exploitation, Sgt. Adam Kavanaugh with St. Louis County Police said. Kavanaugh is the deputy commander of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

He said detectives are noticing an increase in younger victims.

“The average age, when we talk to our girls that we deal with, most of them have started at 13, 14 years old. And most of them have been sexually abused as children,” he said.

He said he is optimistic the new technological tool will make a difference.

“I think it’s going to be crucial to help us identify not only where they’re at now, but where they’ve been at. Which is something we need – that’s helps with prosecution.”

TraffickCam is free and available for iPhone, iPads, and Android devices.

Source: http://bit.ly/2c11fvo

WikiLeaks outs gay people in Saudi Arabia in reckless mass data dump.

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WikiLeaks outs gay people in Saudi Arabia in reckless mass data dump.

Whistleblowing group WikiLeaks is under fire for publishing Saudi government data that outs gay men, leaving them at risk of attack.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most repressive countries when it comes to LGBT rights, and gay people can face punishments ranging from a fine or flogging up to to the death penalty.

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Wikileaks is known for routinely publishing illicitly-obtained government data from around the world – recently publishing emails illegally hacked from the servers of the US Democratic National Convention. That attack was thought to have been perpetrated by Russian-backed hackers.

The organisation has now been accused of carelessly and recklessly publishing unredacted data from Saudi Arabia in a separate mass info dump, including the personal details of thousands of Saudi people.

Among the thousands of documents, the data includes personal information identifying at least one man with a gay sex conviction – as well as a number of rape victims and people living with HIV.

It also makes public the identity of domestic workers who had been tortured or sexually abused by their employers – even listing people’s passport numbers, alongside their full names.

One of the cables includes private details of a Saudi man detained for ‘sexual deviation’ – the charge for homosexuality – raising fears of reprisals or ‘vigilante’ attacks.

A disabled woman whose private debt information was released in the data dump told Associated Press: “This is a disaster.

“What if my brothers, neighbours, people I know or even don’t know have seen it? What is the use of publishing my story?”

A doctor whose patients’ data was released branded the leak “illegal”.

Embattled WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who has spent years hiding in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, said previously: “The Saudi Cables lift the lid on an increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship that has not only celebrated its 100th beheading this year, but which has also become a menace to its neighbours and itself.”

Source: http://bit.ly/2ciSD6R

Putin appoints church historian as Russia’s new science minister.

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Putin appoints church historian as Russia’s new science minister.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed a church historian as the country’s new science and education minister.

On 19 August, the president announced that Olga Vasilyeva would succeed the current science minister, Dmitry Livanov, who will become presidential envoy on trade and economic relations with Ukraine, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

During his 4-year term as minister, Livanov oversaw a radical overhaul of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia’s main basic research organization. The formerly separate academies of sciences, medical sciences and agricultural science were merged and put under the governance of a federal agency. Livanov told Nature last year that the academy’s future role will mainly be to provide expert advice to the government and society.

But many members of the academy, which runs hundreds of research institutes across Russia, are unhappy with the changes and with the way that Livanov handled the painful reform. Vladimir Ivanov, a vice-president of the academy, told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta news portal that he welcomed the move because Livanov had failed to involve scientists and academic officials in the overhaul of the academy.

In making the decision, Putin followed a proposal made by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, according to Interfax.

Putin gave no reason for Livanov’s replacement. The minister was unpopular in public for his education policies — many parents are upset, for example, that they must now pay fees for their children’s school textbooks, according to Rossiyskaya Gazeta. But whether a lack of public popularity was the reason for Livanov’s dismissal is unclear. Putin and Medvedev did value Livanov’s work, and they say that they consider his experience to be important in other spheres, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

Some scientists fear that Vasilyeva’s appointment might mark a rise of Christian orthodoxy and religious attitudes in the realms of school education, higher learning and public life. But Vasilyeva, formerly in charge of religious public education in the presidential administration, told Interfax that religion will not interfere with her future work as education and science minister.

Stanford University Bans Hard Liquor From On-Campus Parties to Help Curb Future Rapes.

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Stanford University Bans Hard Liquor From On-Campus Parties to Help Curb Future Rapes. Outrage ensues.

As Stanford undergrads get ready for the fall semester, the university’s administrators have issued a new mandate: Pack your books and calculators, but leave the fifths and handles at home.

On Monday, just over a month before classes resume, the university announced a set of changes to its alcohol policy.

Hard liquor will now be completely banned from on-campus parties — unless the party is hosted by groups exclusively for graduate students, and in that case, only mixed drinks are allowed. “Straight shots of hard alcohol are never allowed at any party,” the school says.

Beer and wine are still allowed.

And in dorms, individual students (provided they’re 21 and over) will be allowed to have liquor — but only in bottles smaller than 750 mL.

Violating the policy could prompt “administrative action” and could result in people being kicked out of on-campus housing.

In its statement, Stanford called this “a sensible, creative solution that has roots in research-based solutions.” Administrators say they are aiming not to prohibit alcohol, but to limit high-risk behavior, specifically. They believe limiting bottle sizes will have that effect:

“Most alcohol retailers only sell large-volume containers — 750 mL and above. Only select retailers sell hard alcohol containers smaller in volume than 750 mL. Therefore, the outlet density of establishments that sell hard alcohol around campus will be greatly reduced. Also, the costs associated with purchasing smaller containers of hard alcohol are higher than the cost per volume of larger containers, which may serve as a deterrent.”

Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin tells NPR that her office is not aware of any other college that has instituted a bottle-size limit on hard alcohol.

But Stanford is far from the first school to restrict liquor on campus. Bowdoin, Bates, Colby and Notre Dame have all had bans in place for more than six years.

Dartmouth banned hard liquor entirely at the beginning of 2015, while the University of Virginia established rules limiting hard liquor at large Greek parties to events with a hired bartender.

Both Dartmouth and U.Va. announced their policy changes in the wake of high-profile sexual assault allegations.

Stanford’s policy change comes just a few months after former Stanford student Brock Allen Turner was sentenced to just six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

During the case, Turner blamed his behavior on drinking. “I made a mistake, I drank too much, and my decision hurt someone … my poor decision making and excessive drinking hurt someone that night,” he said in a statement. “I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school.”

In a letter that went viral, the woman Turner assaulted repeatedly pointed out that drinking was not Turner’s crime: It was assault.

“You were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing,” she said, before graphically describing the assault. “Why am I still explaining this.”

“You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone?” she said.

On Twitter, two Stanford professors expressed frustration with the announcement of the alcohol policy change, specifically that it was announced in the wake of sexual assaults but addresses drinking instead of consent.

Source: http://n.pr/2bpTfDo

 

Outrage in Russia after religious leaders back female genital mutilation.

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Outrage in Russia after religious leaders back female genital mutilation.

Two prominent religious leaders in Russia have provoked outrage after suggesting female genital mutilation could help reduce sexual promiscuity.

The scandal erupted on Wednesday when Vsevolod Chaplin, a former spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, rushed to the defence of Ismail Berdiyev, a senior Muslim cleric from Dagestan who said “all women” should be subjected to the practice to eliminate sexual depravity.

Mr Berdiyev, chairman of the Coordination Centre of North Caucasus Muslims, made the controversial comments when asked to comment on a report into the practice published earlier this week.

“All women should be circumcised so there would be no debauchery on earth, so that sexuality is minimised,” Mr Berdiyev, a prominent figure in Dagestan, told a correspondent from Interfax, a Russian news agency. “The Almighty created woman to bear and raise children,” he added. “[Circumcision] would not affect that. Women would not stop giving birth. But there would be less promiscuity.”

He went on to clarify that although Islam does not prescribe the practice, “it is necessary to reduce female sexuality. If it was done to all women, it would be very good.”

Mr Berdiyev was commenting on a recent study that found female genital mutilation is common in remote mountain villages in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia’s north Caucasus.

Research by the Russian Justice Initiative, an NGO, found that in areas where the practice continues female genital mutilation tends to be carried out on girls up to three years old, without anaesthetic and often in unsanitary conditions.

The researchers said most cases they came across involved removal, or part-removal, of the clitoris and labia.

Archpriest Chaplin, one of the most prominent Orthodox priests in Russia, rushed to the mufti’s defence after outraged headlines splashed across Russian media and social networks.

“What feminist howling!” he wrote in a Facebook post defending the right of minorities to preserve religious traditions.

“Circumcising all women probably isn’t necessary. Orthodox women don’t need it because they are not promiscuous,” he wrote.

“Of course God created women to bear and raise children. Feminism is a lie of the 20th century,” he added.

Mr Berdiyev himself later said he had been misquoted.

The United Nations estimates 200 million women and girls across 30 countries where the practice is concentrated are victims of female genital mutilation.

The practice can cause severe pain and long term health problems and is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights.

Source: http://bit.ly/2bgjoXZ

Organ Donor? There’s more you need to understand.

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Organ Donor? There’s more you need to understand.

Becoming an organ donor seems like a win-win situation. Some 3.3 people on the transplant waiting list will have their lives extended by your gift (3.3 is the average yield of solid organs per donor). You’re a hero, and at no real cost, apparently.

But what are you giving up when you check the donor box on your license? Your organs, of course—but much more. You’re also giving up your right to informed consent. Doctors don’t have to tell you or your relatives what they will do to your body during an organ harvest operation because you’ll be dead, with no legal rights.

The most likely donors are victims of head trauma (from, say, a car or motorcycle accident), spontaneous bleeding in the head, or an aneurysm—patients who can be ruled dead based on brain-death criteria. But brain deaths are estimated to be just around 1% of the total. Everyone else dies from failure of the heart, circulation and breathing, which leads the organs to deteriorate quickly.

The current criteria on brain death were set by a Harvard Medical School committee in 1968, at a time when organ transplantation was making great strides. In 1981, the Uniform Determination of Death Act made brain death a legal form of death in all 50 states.

The exam for brain death is simple. A doctor splashes ice water in your ears (to look for shivering in the eyes), pokes your eyes with a cotton swab and checks for any gag reflex, among other rudimentary tests. It takes less time than a standard eye exam. Finally, in what’s called the apnea test, the ventilator is disconnected to see if you can breathe unassisted. If not, you are brain dead. (Some or all of the above tests are repeated hours later for confirmation.)
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Here’s the weird part. If you fail the apnea test, your respirator is reconnected. You will begin to breathe again, your heart pumping blood, keeping the organs fresh. Doctors like to say that, at this point, the “person” has departed the body. You will now be called a BHC, or beating-heart cadaver.

Still, you will have more in common biologically with a living person than with a person whose heart has stopped. Your vital organs will function, you’ll maintain your body temperature, and your wounds will continue to heal. You can still get bedsores, have heart attacks and get fever from infections.

“I like my dead people cold, stiff, gray and not breathing,” says Dr. Michael A. DeVita of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “The brain dead are warm, pink and breathing.”

You might also be emitting brainwaves. Most people are surprised to learn that many people who are declared brain dead are never actually tested for higher-brain activity. The 1968 Harvard committee recommended that doctors use electroencephalography (EEG) to make sure the patient has flat brain waves. Today’s tests concentrate on the stalk-like brain stem, in charge of basics such as breathing, sleeping and waking. The EEG would alert doctors if the cortex, the thinking part of your brain, is still active.

But various researchers decided that this test was unnecessary, so it was eliminated from the mandatory criteria in 1971. They reasoned that, if the brain stem is dead, the higher centers of the brain are also probably dead.

But in at least two studies before the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act, some “brain-dead” patients were found to be emitting brain waves. One, from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the 1970s, found that out of 503 patients who met the usual criteria of brain death, 17 showed activity in an EEG.

Even some of the sharpest critics of the brain-death criteria argue that there is no possibility that donors will be in pain during the harvesting of their organs. One, Robert Truog, professor of medical ethics, anesthesia and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, compared the topic of pain in an organ donor to an argument over “whether it is OK to kick a rock.”

But BHCs—who don’t receive anesthetics during an organ harvest operation—react to the scalpel like inadequately anesthetized live patients, exhibiting high blood pressure and sometimes soaring heart rates. Doctors say these are simply reflexes.

What if there is sound evidence that you are alive after being declared brain dead? In a 1999 article in the peer-reviewed journal Anesthesiology, Gail A. Van Norman, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Washington, reported a case in which a 30-year-old patient with severe head trauma began breathing spontaneously after being declared brain dead. The physicians said that, because there was no chance of recovery, he could still be considered dead. The harvest proceeded over the objections of the anesthesiologist, who saw the donor move, and then react to the scalpel with hypertension.

Organ transplantation—from procurement of organs to transplant to the first year of postoperative care—is a $20 billion per year business. Recipients of single-organ transplants—heart, intestine, kidney, liver, single and double lung and pancreas—are charged an average $470,000, ranging from $288,000 for a kidney transplant to $1.2 million for an intestine transplant, according to consulting firm Milliman. Neither donors nor their families can be paid for organs.

It is possible that not being a donor on your license can give you more bargaining power. If you leave instructions with your next of kin, they can perhaps negotiate a better deal. Instead of just the usual icewater-in-the-ears, why not ask for a blood-flow study to make sure your cortex is truly out of commission?

And how about some anesthetic? Although he doesn’t believe the brain dead feel pain, Dr. Truog has used two light anesthetics, high-dose fentanyl and sufentanil, which won’t harm organs, to quell high blood pressure or heart rate during harvesting operations. “If it were my family,” he said, “I’d request them.”

Source: http://on.wsj.com/2bbcApy