Japan Highly Concerned Over North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Threat

A computer-generated image of North Korea's flag. There are silhouettes of nukes in front of it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

On September 21, 2016, world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to discuss matters related to international peace and security. During the assembly, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that Japan’s nuclear threat has reached a “different dimension.”

According to Abe, North Korea has already launched 21 ballistic missiles and administered two nuclear tests within this year alone. Several of the missiles have breached Japanese waters, 200 nautical miles away from its coast.

“There is no alternative but to say that the threat has now reached a dimension altogether different from what has transpired until now,” Abe stated.

On September 9, CNN reported that North Korea had successfully tested its most powerful weapon yet: a 10-kiloton nuclear warhead. This week, it’s testing a new weapon of mass destruction: a high-powered rocket missile that can be detonated across multiple continents. North Korea has persisted in their nuclear warhead testing, despite grave warnings from South Korea.

“We must therefore respond to this in a manner entirely distinct from our responses thus far. We must concentrate our strengths and thwart North Korea’s plans,” Abe stated, as he urged the United Nations to take action.

Abe used a metaphor to describe the fragility of peace; if peace were glass, then when it’s properly maintained and taken care of there are no problems. However, one small crack can cause the entire structure to shatter. In order to avoid this kind of catastrophe, cracks must be addressed immediately before they get to the breaking point.

This December will mark Japan’s 60th anniversary as a member of the United Nations. Japan’s total contribution to the U.N. well exceeds over $20 billion, making them the second largest contributor behind the U.S. In addition, Japan has given $334.5 billion to its overseas development initiative, marking a deep-rooted commitment to world peace.

Posted in Global News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iranian Women Protest Law That Bans Female Cyclists

A photo of a beautiful Middle Eastern woman wearing a hijab.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

This past year, Iran introduced a new fatwa that bans women from riding their bicycles in public. A “fatwa” is an Islamic ruling made by a recognized authority figure. In this case, that authority figure was Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei stated that, “Riding a bicycle often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women’s chastity.”

It all started with Iran’s latest environmental movement: car-free Tuesdays. Instead of driving, citizens began riding their bikes as a way to reduce pollution. When more women started cycling, that’s when religious clerics took issue. Devout leaders claimed that the activity was immodest, and inspired lustful thinking in the minds of men.

But women are taking to social media to fight back against the latest fatwa. Several women have posted pictures/videos of themselves bicycling around town, deliberately violating the law. One young woman, accompanied by her mother, stated in her video that, “It’s our absolute right and we’re not going to give up.”

Another female cyclist claims that nobody protested her actions because she was accompanied by a group of men. In her video, she states, “Here they say when you have a man as your company, you are protected.” However, as soon as she got further ahead of the men in her group, she claims that people began saying “nasty things” about her.

Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad is credited with starting the rebellious movement. Alinejad titled the movement, “My Stealthy Freedom,” and since then, dozens of women have taken to social media to post videos/images of themselves cycling under the hashtag #IranianWomenLoveCycling.

Although the women in these two videos managed to avoid being arrested, that’s not to say that they won’t be detained in the future. Back in July, a group of Iranian female cyclists were arrested for breaking the fatwa. Eyewitnesses claim that some were being detained while other were forced to sign a pledge stating that they would never cycle in public again.

The recent defiance displayed by Iranian women is a sign that the country is in civil unrest, as tensions mount over human rights.

Posted in Global News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Colombian Study Challenges Zika-Microcephaly Connection

A photo of a newborn baby with a mosquito on it.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The outbreak of Zika in Brazil has been linked to microcephaly in children whose mothers contracted the disease while pregnant. However, new evidence has given scientists reason to question the Zika-microcephaly link. A recent study of almost 12,000 pregnant women in Colombia, who also have Zika, found no cases of microcephaly. If the two diseases were linked, then there should have been some cases based on the rate of concurrence of the two diseases in Brazil.

But those cases are there. Four women with Zika who did not show symptoms have had children with microcephaly, though because they didn’t show symptoms they weren’t part of the study. They illustrate that there are likely many more cases of pregnant women with Zika not showing signs of the illness, but those four cases don’t show a correlation between the two diseases. They are likely just a coincidence, because if Zika were a cause of microcephaly, there would be more cases.

As such, the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), which conducted the study, has suggested that we rethink the cause of microcephaly in Brazil. One possible culprit, which NECSI thinks we should be looking at, is the pesticide pyriproxyfen, which is used to treat water in Brazil in order to kill the larvae of mosquitoes which spread Zika. That pesticide is analogous to juvenile mosquito hormones, which can react to things in very similar ways to retinoic acid, a known cause of microcephaly.

So it might be, pending investigation, that the pesticide used to try and prevent the spread of Zika might be the actual culprit in the spread of the disease. Of course, more research is needed before any final conclusions can be made, but the latest news provides a break-through in alternative treatment options.

Posted in Health, News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

EU Considers Easing Travel Restrictions From Georgia and Ukraine

A photo of a person standing behind a barbed wire fence. Beyond the fence, a plane is landing.

Image: Shutterstock

Travelling the world is often seen as something only possible for the wealthy, but that’s not entirely true. It’s quite possible to find a cheap flight, and cheap housing, and visit interesting places around the world. A more significant barrier to such movement is the matter of legality.

Travelling across national borders often requires more than just a passport, and travel visas of various sorts are often a requirement to legally move between countries, whether for work, business, travel, or to relocate there. It doesn’t seem like a problem that affects most Americans, but then again most Americans are travelling for personal pleasure or business, and that can be easier to pull off than moving there for study or work.

In the European Union, freedom of travel is an important right, and going between say, France and Germany, is relatively painless. Getting to the United Kingdom will get more difficult following the Brexit vote this past June, but the EU will likely try to keep that as uncomplicated as they can. EU leadership views ease of travel as a valuable reward to countries that want to build closer connections with the Union, and even to join it.

Recently, they’ve started considering easing restrictions on travel to the EU from Georgia (the nation in the Caucasus Mountains, not the southern state) as well as Turkey and Kosovo, and are looking to consider the same for Ukraine as well. Easing those restrictions is something that the EU can offer neighbors to sweeten the pot for trade deals and to try and sway countries to adopt economic or human rights policies the EU supports. A country’s willingness to agree to such actions can act as a litmus test for certain neighbors, like Turkey, to see if they can actually join the EU.

Posted in Global News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Giving iPads to Kids as Effective as Giving Them Sedatives Before Surgery

A photo of a doctor using an iPad.

Image: Shutterstock

Undergoing surgery is stressful for everyone, but it can be particularly nerve racking for young children (aged 4 to 10). Generally, children are given a sedative to help them relax before they undergo anesthesia, but a recent study has shown that giving kids iPads to play with beforehand is just as effective, and might even make the whole process easier.

A recent study shows that both sedatives and iPads reduced anxiety in children and adults alike, but children in particular had better experiences with the anesthesia. The children were more receptive and the anesthesia took effect much quicker.

Interactive media (in this case age-appropriate games) can provide a variety of benefits ranging from educational fun to calming the mind and body. This was the first study of its kind, and the sample size wasn’t huge, so further studies will be needed in order to confirm findings. But the information is still useful, and something that hospitals and parents may be inclined to implement.

Children who already have iPads could use them before receiving anesthesia to help ease their worries. For kids who have difficulty taking pills, this offers a creative solution to sedatives, which themselves can be unpleasant to take. Some parents might also be leery about the idea of “drugging” their kids before giving them anesthesia, making the entire process of surgery that much more difficult for them. Increased anxiety in parents can lead to increased anxiety in their kids as well, so this process is just as much about the parents as it is their children.

And who knows, maybe the iPad system will work better for older patients as well. After all, while adults may be better at hiding it, they are just as prone to experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety before surgery.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment