Category Archives: International

Study Finds People Who Can Legally Treat Themselves With Cannabis Use Less Allopathic Prescription Drugs

By: Kat Mccue of Salud Móvil

A new study finds that patients who can legally treat themselves with medical cannabis stop using prescription opioids or use fewer opiates to care for chronic pain symptoms.

Patients enrolled in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program also suffered less pain, and they enjoyed a higher quality of life, better social experiences, higher levels of activity, and concentration.

The investigation published in the journal PLOS One analyzed health records from 66 habitual opioid users who were diagnosed with severe chronic pain to determine if and how legalized medical marijuana programs affected patients’ opioid use. Thirty-seven of the patients were enrolled in a legal medical cannabis program in New Mexico between 2010 and 2015 while the remaining 29 patients were not registered

New Mexico’s medical marijuana program allows its patients with severe chronic pain to self-manage their marijuana use, including how and how often the patients take cannabis, and what strength and strain of cannabis are used, giving patients much latitude over managing their condition.

For the study, researchers had access to 21 months of prescription data, including three months of data before patient enrollment in the medical cannabis program. Compared to those patients not enrolled in the program, cannabis users were 17 times more likely to cease their prescription opioid use and over five times more likely to reduce their daily dosage of opioids.

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The Battle For Net Neutrality Is In Full Effect

By: Jake Johnson of Common Dreams

“The FCC under Pai is handing over the internet to a few humongous gatekeepers who see the rest of us as products to be delivered to advertisers, not as citizens needing communications that serve democracy’s needs.”

Open internet advocates warned that “we’re running out of time” to save the web from corporate control and called on Americans to make their representatives’ phones “ring off the hook” Tuesday after FCC chairman Ajit Pai unveiled (pdf) his long-awaited plan to scrap net neutrality that critics slammed as “naked corporatism” designed to give a major gift to the telecom industry at the expense of the public.

“The reckless wrecking ball strikes again,” former FCC commissioner and current special adviser at Common Cause Michael Copps said in a statement. “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s scorched-earth plan for net neutrality displays callous disregard for both process and substance. The chairman’s plan to do away with net neutrality will be a disaster for consumers and yet another handout for big business.”

Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, said Pai’s plan “makes no sense” for a variety of key reasons.

“It ignores the will of people from across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly support these protections. It ignores the law and the courts, which have repeatedly upheld the 2015 Title II rules. And it ignores the vibrancy of the internet marketplace following adoption of that 2015 order, with incontrovertible economic data showing that both investment in networks and online innovation are flourishing under the very same rules Pai wants to destroy,” Wood said.

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Germany Tops U.S.A As Best International Country

By: Ronan J O’ Shea of The Independent

Germany has been named the country with the best “brand image” according to a new study of 50 countries.

It has leapfrogged the USA, which previously held the title.

The Nation Brands Index, conducted in association with independent policy advisor Simon Anholt, conducts what it says is the world’s most comprehensive global nation branding survey, combining six dimensions: governance, exports, people, culture & heritage, tourism, investment and immigration.

It considers factors such as how people perceive a country’s quality of life, business environment, tolerance and the public image of a country’s products and services The survey measured “the power and quality of each country’s ‘brand image”, according to DW.com.

Speaking to The Independent, Anholt said: “There are over 50 statements about each of the 50 countries in the index, reflecting views on their landscape, people, tourist appeal, economy, government, educational system, products, culture, and much else besides. Each year since 2005, we’ve sent this questionnaire to around 20,000 people in 20 countries, chosen using UN statistics to select a typical sample of the general population. It’s used by more than 40 governments who want to keep track of their country’s international standing.”

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15 States Join Global Alliance To Phase Out Coal

By: Nina Chestney and Stine Jacobsen of Reuters

At least 15 countries have joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030, delegates at U.N. climate talks in Bonn said on Thursday.

Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Mexico and the Marshall Islands have joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, delegates said.

The alliance aims to have 50 members by the next U.N. climate summit in 2018 to be held in Poland’s Katowice, one of Europe’s most polluted cities.

But some of the world’s biggest coal users, such as China, the United States, Germany and Russia, have not signed up.

Powering Past Coal comes just days after U.S. administration officials, along with energy company representatives, led a side event at the talks to promote “fossil fuels and nuclear power in climate mitigation.”

The event triggered a peaceful protest by anti-coal demonstrators and jarred with many ministers who are working on a rule book for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to move the world economy off fossil fuels.

The alliance was kicked off by Britain, Canada and the Marshall Islands, who urged other nations to join them in a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

A source close to the matter said signatories to the alliance so far had been at least a dozen, in addition to some U.S. states, Canadian provinces and businesses.

“It is a rebuke to (President) Donald Trump from the UK and Canada, two of America’s closest allies, that his obsession for dirty energy will not spread,” said Mohamed Adow, international climate lead at Christian Aid.

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Countries Are Using Digital Disinformation To Manipulate Public Opinion

By: Alex Hern of The Guardian

The governments of 30 countries around the globe are using armies of so called opinion shapers to meddle in elections, advance anti-democratic agendas and repress their citizens, a new report shows.

Unlike widely reported Russian attempts to influence foreign elections, most of the offending countries use the internet to manipulate opinion domestically, says US NGO Freedom House.

“Manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 17 other countries over the past year, damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate,” the US government-funded charity said. “Although some governments sought to support their interests and expand their influence abroad, as with Russia’s disinformation campaigns in the United States and Europe, in most cases they used these methods inside their own borders to maintain their hold on power.”

Even in those countries that didn’t have elections in the last year, social media manipulation was still frequent. Of the 65 countries surveyed, 30, including Venezuela, the Philippines and Turkey, were found to be using “armies of opinion shapers” to “spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media”, according to Freedom House’s new Freedom on the Net report. In each of the 30 countries it found “strong indications that individuals are paid to distort the digital information landscape in the government’s favour, without acknowledging sponsorship”.

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Study Finds Cats Protect NewBorns Against Asthma 

By: Thomas Hoffman 

We know that cats keep mice away. But did you know that they can also help prevent asthma in newborns? That is the conclusion of a new study by scientists from the Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood Research Center (COPSAC), Denmark.

Cats neutralise the effect of a gene that, when activated, doubles the risk of developing asthma in children.

Having a cat in the home when a child is born means that this gene is never activated.

The result surprised co-author Hans Bisgaard, professor of paediatrics and the head of COPSAC. Not because the results will lead to any new treatments—they will not—but because the study shows that the genes behind a disease can be switched on or off depending on the environment around us.

“For me, this is the core message because it’s a recognition in the direction of how disease occurs. It documents the interplay between genetics and the environment we live in, and in particular that this occurs very early in life, both during pregnancy and in the home,” says Bisgaard.

Cats help children who carry a particular gene

In the new study, Bisgaard, Jakob Stokholm, and three colleagues from COPSAC and Næstved Hospital, Denmark, studied data from 377 Danish children whose mothers have asthma.

They mapped the children’s genes and collected information about their upbringing and surroundings, both by taking samples from the children’s home and by a number of surveys taken by the parents.

The results reveal that cats remove the increased risk of developing asthma among children with a particular variation of the gene 17q21, called TT, which has the strongest impact on whether or not a child could develop asthma.

Almost one in three children in the study carried the TT gene variant, regardless of whether or not their mother had asthma.

No protection from dogs

Interestingly, only cats seem to reduce the risk of developing asthma among children carrying the TT gene variant. Dogs do not have the same effect, say the scientists behind the new study.

Their analyses suggest that cats not only protect against asthma, but also against pneumonia and inflammation in the lower airways of small children (bronchitis).

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Syria Signs The Paris Climate Agreement Leaving U.S.A As The Only Country Out

By: Akshat Rathi of QZ

It’s everyone against the United States of America.

When Donald Trump announced that he intends to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, the implication was that the US would join Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-signatories of the accord. The other holdouts had legitimate excuses: Syria was in the middle of a war and Nicaragua thought the agreement wasn’t ambitious enough.

Now, both countries have had a change of heart.

At the climate talks in Bonn, Germany today (Nov. 7), the Syrian government announced that it will sign the Paris climate agreement after all, according to Climate Tracker. Last month, Nicaragua also signed up. That leaves the US as the only country opting not to be part of the global consensus on climate action.

The Paris climate agreement sets out a goal to stop global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, a crucial threshold above which dangerous changes to the climate are likely irreversible. This requires the world to achieve net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by about 2050.

The climate accord lets each country determine its own plan of action. As per current commitments, even if Trump were to change his mind and re-engage the US in climate action, the total reduction in global emissions would still warm the planet beyond the 2°C threshold. In Bonn, countries are trying to figure out ways to work together to ensure we don’t cross that threshold.

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Scientist May Have Found The Key To Intrusive Thoughts 

Compliments of the BBC 

Scientists could have the secret. They have identified a chemical in the brain’s “memory” region that allows us to suppress unwanted thoughts.

The discovery may help explain why some people can’t shift persistent intrusive thoughts – a common symptom of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and schizophrenia.

Researchers say controlling our thoughts is “fundamental to wellbeing”.

Associated words

Prof Michael Anderson, from the University of Cambridge, who conducted the study, said: “When this capacity breaks down, it causes some of the most debilitating symptoms of psychiatric diseases – intrusive memories, images, hallucinations, ruminations, and pathological and persistent worries.”

Researchers found a particular chemical, or neurotransmitter, known as Gaba, held the key.

Gaba is the brain’s main “inhibitory” neurotransmitter. That means, when it’s released by one nerve cell it suppresses the activities of other cells to which it is connected.

They found people who had the highest concentrations of Gaba in their brain’s hippocampus (or memory hub) were best at blocking unwanted thoughts or memories.

“What’s exciting about this is that now we’re getting very specific,” said Prof Anderson.

“Before, we could only say ‘this part of the brain acts on that part’, but now we can say which neurotransmitters are likely to be important.”

New approaches to treatment

The discovery might shed light on a number of conditions, from schizophrenia to PTSD, in which sufferers have a pathological inability to control thoughts – such as excessive worrying or rumination.

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New Republican Tax Plan Will Kill Electric Vehicle Incentive 

By: Jonathan M. Gitlin of Ars Technica 

The nascent market for electric cars will suffer a big setback if the Republican tax plan released on Thursday enters into law. Among the changes to the current tax code would be an end to the Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit. That’s the tax incentive that currently means up to $7,500 back from the IRS when you purchase a new battery or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

Personal EV incentives gone

Since the start of 2010, the EV tax credit has been $2,500 for a plug-in vehicle with at least 5kWh battery capacity. Every extra kWh nets another $417 up to a maximum of $7,500, although you would need at least that amount in income tax liability—the IRS won’t cut you a check to make up the full amount. It was never meant to be permanent; once an automaker sells 200,000 qualifying vehicles (starting from January 1, 2010) its eligibility is phased out over a matter of months.

But in the almost seven years since, no one has reached that limit yet. Tesla will almost certainly be first, with General Motors not far behind; between them, they’ve sold a lot of Model Ses and Chevrolet Volts. If this tax plan is enacted, it will surely mean pain for both companies, as well as anyone else hoping to sell a lot of EVs here in the US. The data is pretty clear—tax incentives sell electric cars, and the market for EVs can dry up very fast when they’re abolished, as Georgia’s recent experience shows.

GM told Ars that “tax credits are an important customer benefit that can help accelerate the acceptance of electric vehicles. Because General Motors believes in an all-electric future, we will work with Congress to explore ways to maintain this incentive.” Tesla was not immediately available for comment.

Renewables for investors not so bad

Things aren’t quite as bad on the renewable energy side. There are new incentives to invest in small-scale wind, geothermal, solar, or fuel cell energy properties, and others have been extended. The nuclear industry also gets an extension on a tax incentive that was meant to expire in 2021. But the wind industry won’t be happy. Currently, wind power qualifies for a 2.3 cents/kWh credit; under the new scheme this would be just 1.5c/kWh.
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Tokyo Firm Grants 6 Day Additional Holiday To Non-Smoking Employees 

By: Chloe Farand if The Independent 

A Japanese company is granting its non-smoking staff an additional six days of holiday a year to make up for the time off smokers take for cigarette breaks. 

Marketing firm Piala Inc introduced the new paid leave allowance in September after non-smokers complained they were working more than their colleagues who smoked. 

Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for the company, told The Telegraph: “One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems.”

Following the suggestion, the company’s CEO Takao Asuka decided to give non-smoking employees extra time off to compensate, Mr Matsushima added. 

The matter has been taken seriously by the Tokyo-based company which is reportedly based on the 29th floor of an office block — making any cigarette break last at least 15 minutes, according to staff. 
Mr Asuka hopes the scheme will create an incentive for the company’s staff to quit smoking. 

Efforts to reduce the number of smokers and impose tougher anti-smoking regulations have been seen across Japan in recent months. 

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