Teens Are Being Bullied ‘Constantly’ on Instagram


A woman stares at her phone in bed.

No app is more integral to teens’ social lives than Instagram. While Millennials relied on Facebook to navigate high school and college, connect with friends, and express themselves online, Gen Z’s networks exist almost entirely on Instagram. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of teens use the platform, which now has more than 1 billion monthly users. Instagram allows teens to chat with people they know, meet new people, stay in touch with friends from camp or sports, and bond by sharing photos or having discussions.

But when those friendships go south, the app can become a portal of pain. According to a recent Pew survey, 59 percent of teens have been bullied online, and according to a 2017 survey conducted by Ditch the Label, a nonprofit anti-bullying group, more than one in five 12-to-20-year-olds experience bullying specifically on Instagram. “Instagram is a good place sometimes,” said Riley, a 14-year-old who, like most kids in this story, asked to be referred to by her first name only, “but there’s a lot of drama, bullying, and gossip to go along with it.”

Teenagers have always been cruel to one another. But Instagram provides a uniquely powerful set of tools to do so. The velocity and size of the distribution mechanism allow rude comments or harassing images to go viral within hours. Like Twitter, Instagram makes it easy to set up new, anonymous profiles, which can be used specifically for trolling. Most importantly, many interactions on the app are hidden from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers, many of whom don’t understand the platform’s intricacies.

“There is no place for bullying on Instagram, and we are committed to fostering a kind and supportive community. Any form of online abuse on Instagram runs completely counter to the culture we’re invested in —a platform where everyone should feel safe and comfortable sharing their lives through photos and videos,” an Instagram spokesperson told The Atlantic in September. This week, the company also announced a set of new features aimed at combatting bullying, including comment filters on live videos, machine-learning technology to detect bullying in photos, and a “kindness camera effect to spread positivity” endorsed by the former Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler.

Still, Instagram is many teens’ entire social infrastructure; at its most destructive, bullying someone on there is the digital equivalent of taping mean flyers all over someone’s school, and her home, and her friends’ homes.

After a falling-out with someone formerly in her friend group last year, Yael, a 15-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym, said the girl turned to Instagram to bully her day and night. “She unfollowed me, blocked me, unblocked me, then messaged me days on end, paragraphs,” Yael said. “She posted about me constantly on her account, mentioned me in her Story, and messaged me over and over again for weeks.”

Yael felt anxious even just having her phone in her pocket, because it reminded her of the harassment. “Every time I logged on to my account, I didn’t want to be there,” she said. “I knew when I opened the app, she would be there. I was having a lot of anxiety over it, a lot of stress.”

But still, she hesitated to quit the app entirely. Her friends on Instagram serve as a source of support. Also, quitting wouldn’t stop her tormentor from talking about her, and she’d rather know what the girl was saying. “You know someone’s talking about you, they’re posting about you, they’re messaging about you, they’re harassing you constantly,” she said. “You know every time you open the app they’re going to be there.”

Because bullying on your main feed is seen by many as aggressive and uncool, many teens create hate pages: separate Instagram accounts, purpose-built and solely dedicated to trashing one person, created by teens alone or in a group. They’ll post bad photos of their target, expose her secrets, post screenshots of texts from people saying mean things about her, and any other terrible stuff they can find.

“I’ve had at least 10 hate pages made about me,” said Annie, a 15-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym. “I know some were made in a row by the same person, but some were from different people. They say really nasty things about you, the most outrageous as possible.”

Sometimes teens, many of whom run several Instagram accounts, will take an old page with a high amount of followers and transform it into a hate page to turn it against someone they don’t like. “One girl took a former meme page that was over 15,000 followers, took screencaps from my Story, and Photoshopped my nose bigger and posted it, tagging me being like, ‘Hey guys, this is my new account,’” Annie said. “I had to send a formal cease and desist. I went to one of those lawyer websites and just filled it out. Then she did the same thing to my friend.”

The scariest thing about being attacked by a hate page, teens say, is that you don’t know who is doing the attacking. “In real-life bullying, you know what’s doing it,” said Skye, a 14-year-old. “Hate pages could be anyone. It could be someone you know, someone you don’t know—you don’t know what you know, and it’s scary because it’s really out of control at that point. Teachers tell you with bullying [to] just say ‘Stop,’ but in this case you can’t, and you don’t even know who to tell stop to.”

Aside from hate pages, teens say most bullying takes place over direct message, Instagram Stories, or in the comments section of friends’ photos. “Instagram won’t delete a person’s account unless it’s clear bullying on their main feed,” said Hadley, a 14-year-old, “and, like, no one is going to do that. It’s over DM and in comment sections.”

Mary, a 13-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym, said that relentless bullying on Instagram by a former friend gave her her first-ever panic attack. It started, Mary said, after she made the cheer team and her former friend did not. “She would DM me, or when I was with my friends, if they posted me on their Story, she would [respond] and say mean stuff about me since she knew I would see it since I’m with them,” Mary said. “She would never do it on her own Story; she’d make it seem like she wasn’t doing anything.”

“There was literally a group chat on Instagram named Everyone in the Class but Mary,” she added. “All they did on there was talk bad about me.”

On Instagram, it’s easy to see what people are up to and whom they’re hanging out with. For teenagers who are acutely aware of social status, even a seemingly innocent group photo can set a bully off. Teens say that tagging the wrong friend in a photo can unleash a bully’s wrath. Every location tag, comment, Story post, and even whom you follow or unfollow on your finsta (a secondary Instagram account where teens post more personal stuff) is scrutinized.

“Lots of bullying stems from jealousy, and Instagram is the ultimate jealousy platform,” Hadley said. “People are constantly posting pics of their cars, their bodies. Anything good in your life or at school goes on Insta, and that makes people jealous.”

Many high schools have anonymously run “confessions”-style Instagram accounts where users submit gossip about other students at school. For instance, an account like Greenville High School Confessions will pop up with a bio asking followers to “send the tea,” i.e., gossip. Students will follow the locked account and submit texts of people saying bad things about one another or gossip they’ve heard about people at school. The account admin or admins will select the juiciest rumors and blast them out on Stories or on the main feed, sometimes even tagging the student’s handle.

When someone who runs a school’s confessions account doesn’t like you, it can feel like the whole school has turned against you. “There was a page made called DTS.gossip, the initials of our school,” Riley said. “The account was made to post rumors and crap about people in my school, but a lot of them were about me.”

Rory, a 15-year-old, said that confessions accounts had gotten so out of control at her high school that administrators had banned taking photos of other students on campus. “People at my school would … expose drama or make up stuff, Photoshop people’s faces, bully them basically. It’s all anonymous.”

But Rory said that the no-picture rule hasn’t really curbed bullying. Not long ago, someone posted an entire diss track saying awful things about a 15-year-old girl to SoundCloud, which students promptly set as the link in their Instagram bio.

“I think a lot of kids get really invested in drama,” Riley said, “with beauty gurus, YouTube, stuff like that. When it happens at school, they’re very interested in it. It’s fun. Which is horrible.”

In Rory’s case, Instagram has been both the catalyst and the medium for bullying. When she was 13, she was featured on the official Instagram account of Brandy Melville, a popular teen clothing brand.

“Tons of people from my school saw it immediately and started to make memes of me, calling me anorexic,” she said. “Then there were others suggesting I wasn’t thin enough. On their finstas, people were posting these mean things, people I thought I was friends with. I would block their finstas and they would tag my main account.”

But even in the midst of the worst bullying, teens say they’re wary of logging off. Rory is still active on the platform, though she only uses one account.

“Everyone has friends from Instagram,” said Liv, a 13-year-old. “Everyone makes friends that way. It’s inevitable. Everyone does it.” Some teens did say they’d deactivate or take a break if their parents forced them to, but quitting forever “wasn’t an option.”

“You can message someone on insta ‘Hey, you’re a bitch’ so easily,” Liv said. “People need to think more about what they say before they say it, even if it’s a DM you forget about and log off. The person you sent that message to, it can impact them. You can really screw someone’s life up.”

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UN gives 12-year deadline to crush climate change


Climate change activists holding a banner that reads '1POINT5 = LIFE LINE' during previous UN Climate Conference. /

Climate change activists holding a banner that reads ‘1POINT5 = LIFE LINE’ during previous UN Climate Conference.

The world’s politicians have just over a decade left to implement drastic transformations in their energy, food and transport systems that could avoid dangerous climate change, a report has revealed.

The report, published today by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that crucial policies to reduce global warming must be in place by 2030 to avoid the worst. If emissions continue at the current rate, 1.5 degrees of warming could be reached between 2030 and 2052, and temperatures would continue to rise steeply, the IPCC authors said.

According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Earth has already warmed by nearly a degree since 1900 due to carbon emissions from industry, farming, heating, and transport. Stabilising global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level is possible, the authors of the report said. But, they added, meeting the goal will depend entirely on the political will of all countries.

“But it also comes with some wishful thinking that the messages are being taken up by the public, by policymakers and by governments,”

Hans-Otto Pörtner

The aim of the report was to follow up on the Paris Agreement, a set of targets to limit climate change signed at a UN summit in Paris, France, in 2015. Scientists have warned that, even if all pledges under the agreement are implemented, humans will still emit around 58 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2030, far beyond the 35gt needed to halt global warming at 1.5 degrees.

The report highlights a number of potential pathways to prevent further warming, including removing carbon from the atmosphere, phasing out coal and reducing food waste. “The preparation of this report […] was a benefit in itself,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, an ecologist at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, who chairs an IPCC working group. “But it also comes with some wishful thinking that the messages are being taken up by the public, by policymakers and by governments.”

The IPCC report pointed out that there would be significant differences between a 1.5 degree world and 2 degrees of global warming. Under a 2-degree scenario, the proportion of people exposed to heat waves at least once every five years would leap from 14 to 37 percent. This will increase ozone-related mortality and the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, the report warned.

Even under the 1.5-degree scenario, ocean fishing is expected to decline by 1.5 million tonnes a year. But this figure would double, were global mean temperatures to reach 2 degrees of additional warming, the report said.

However, the IPCC authors make it clear that some mitigation measures need to be carefully managed to avoid negative ‘trade-offs’. “Any poorly designed policy is going to have unexpected consequences,” says Joyashree Roy, an economics researcher at Jadavpur University in India, who coordinated the report’s summary for policymakers. “For example, if we adopted bioenergy at massive scale, this may lead to competition for land, which in turn may cause food prices to spike.”

Niklas Höhne, a co-founder of the NewClimate Institute think tank in the Netherlands, said that many transformations have already happened on a small scale. “One example is renewable energy, that has developed much faster than people thought only five years ago,” he told SciDev.Net. “Right now, renewables are so cheap that are outpricing coal even in countries like India, where people always thought this would never happen.”

Höhne concedes that the 1.5 degree target by itself is an aspirational goal, but that striving for it keeps global leaders aware of the problem. “Whether we reach it or not,” he said, “is not the most important question.”

Study May Confirm GMO DNA is Transferred to Human Consumers


Scientists used to think that DNA from our food was always broken down during digestion. But a number of research studies aggregately show otherwise. The truth is, whole genes from other organisms can remain intact after we consume them and they can be found in our bloodstreams!

Foreign DNA in Our Blood?

According to a published article in the Public Library of Science (PLOS), genes from genetically modified foods we eat can enter the human blood. This report is based on four different studies with over 1000 human samples that found DNA fragments of organisms outside of our own that have entered the human circulation system through an unknown mechanism.

These genes were able to avoid degradation, a process that the digestion system undergoes to break down proteins and DNA. In fact, one of the blood samples showed a higher concentration of plant DNA compared to human DNA, which is quite alarming for the human body.

You may ask, “what danger does this information pose on my body?” Well, it’s important to give you a brief understanding of genetically modified foods and what effects they can have on your body.

Dangers of Genetically Modified Foods

corn-gmoYou have probably heard the acronym GMO in the past, and you might’ve even come across food labels that have “non-GMO” printed on the front label. Many food products contain this specific information because GMOs are a major concern when it comes to our health and here’s why.

GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. They are organisms (i.e., plants, animals, or microorganisms) where their DNA gets manipulated through artificial recombination and cross-breeding methods. The process of genetically modifying foods (GMO foods) is meant to bring perceived advantages to producers and consumers of these foods.

GMOs have the ability to develop traits like resistance to browning in apples. What that means for producers is that they are more likely to protect their crops using genetically modified organisms that resist plant diseases, and that in turn means higher levels of production. On the side of consumers, products are priced lower, and there are claims of added nutritional value, although many researchers will beg to differ. The non-GMO project says, “Despite biotech industry promises, there is no evidence that any of the GMOs currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.”

GMO Must Be Disclosed on Food Labels in Many Countries

It can be deceiving to think that it’s okay to consume foods that contain GMO especially because their prices are much lower than non-GMO foods and they aren’t banned in the food industry. But beware, not everything in the food market is good for you and genetically modified foods, in particular, may bring risks to your health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), gene transfer and the movement of genes from genetically modified plants into conventional crops or related species may have an effect on food safety and food security.

Quote: “This risk is real, as was shown when traces of maize type which was only approved for feed use appeared in maize products from human consumption in the United States.”

Presently, 64 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union require genetically modified foods to be labeled. The same can’t be said for the U.S. and Canada, even though a 2015 ABC News survey found that 93% of Americans believe that genetically modified foods should be labeled.

As for the rest of the world, there are 300 regions with outright bans of growing GMOs.

Geneticist, David Suzuki Expresses His Concerns Regarding GMOs

Geneticist David Suzuki expresses his concern that human beings are just part of a “massive genetic experiment” over many years, as thousands of people continue to consume GMOs. He even used an analogy to further explain the artificial process of genetic modification and that its drastic effects are beyond current comprehension.

He said, “One small mutation in a human being can determine so much, the point is when you move a gene, one gene, one tiny gene out of an organism into a different one, you completely change its context. There’s no way to predict how it’s going to behave and what the outcome will be. We think that we design these life forms, but it’s like taking the Toronto orchestra prepared to play a Beethoven symphony, and then you take some random drummers from ‘here’ and flip them in with the Toronto Symphony, and you say, ‘play music.’ What comes out is going to be something very different. Publicists say that there is good intention behind GMOs, but the fact of the matter is it’s driven by money.”

Suzuki’s concern is only one of many regarding GMOs. The truth of the matter is that the safety of GMOs is unknown and rigorous research is further needed to prove that there are any health benefits tied to GMO. As such, people are increasingly choosing to take matters into their own hands by choosing to purchase food products that have non-GMO.

Conclusion

If you have been oblivious to the dangers of GMO, it’s time you pay careful attention to what’s in your food and how it’s made. If possible, make an effort to eat non-GMO foods to protect your health.

Physicians Experience Highest Suicide Rate of Any Profession


With one completed suicide every day, US physicians have the highest suicide rate of any profession. In addition, the number of physician suicides is more than twice that of the general population, new research shows.

A systematic literature review of physician suicide shows that the suicide rate among physicians is 28 to 40 per 100,000, more than double that in the general population.

Physicians who die by suicide often suffer from untreated or undertreated depression or other mental illnesses, a fact that underscores the need for early intervention, study investigator Deepika Tanwar, MD, Psychiatric Program, Harlem Hospital Center, New York City, told Medscape Medical News.

“It’s very surprising” that the suicide rate among physicians is higher than among those in the military, which is considered a very stressful occupation, Tanwar told Medscape Medical News.

The findings were presented here at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2018 annual meeting.

Stigma, Access to Lethal Means

Using MEDLINE and PubMed, the investigators conducted a systematic literature review of physician suicide that included articles published in peer-reviewed journals during the past 10 years.

The review showed that the physician suicide rate was 28 to 40 per 100,000; in the general population, the overall rate was 12.3 per 100,000.

The results also showed that although female physicians attempt suicide far less often than women in the general population, the completion rate for female physicians exceeds that of the general population by 2.5 to 4 times and equals that of male physicians.

Experts are trying to understand why physician suicide rates are so high, said Tanwar. She pointed out that their review shows that some of the most common diagnoses were mood disorders, alcoholism, and substance abuse.

One study showed that depression affects an estimated 12% of male physicians and up to 19.5% of female physicians, a prevalence that is on par with that of the general population.

Depression is more common in medical students and residents, with 15% to 30% screening positive for depressive symptoms.

The investigators note that mood disorders in the medical profession is not restricted to North America. Studies from Finland, Norway, Australia, Singapore, China, and elsewhere have shown an increase in the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and suicidality among medical students and practitioners alike.

Stigma, said Tanwar, is a major obstacle to seeking medical treatment. She pointed to a study in which 50% of 2106 female physicians who completed a Facebook questionnaire reported meeting criteria for a mental disorder but were reluctant to seek professional help because of the fear of stigma.

The new review showed that poisoning and hanging are among the most common means of physician suicide. The findings also suggest that greater knowledge of and easier access to lethal means account for the higher rate of suicide completion in physicians.

The review also showed that of all medical specialties, psychiatry is near the top in terms of suicide rates.

There is growing awareness of physician suicide, and initiatives to prevent it are increasing.

Tanwar noted that several sessions at this year’s APA meeting address physician wellness and burnout, which may help reduce suicide rates.

Alarming Rates

Commenting on the findings for Medscape Medical News, Beth Brodsky, PhD, associate clinical professor of medical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University and the Irving Medical Center, New York City, who is an expert in this field, said the very high rate of physician suicide is “alarming.”

However, she added, it is not surprising, given the stressors physicians face.

The stress starts in medical school and continues in residency with the high demands, competitiveness, long hours, and lack of sleep. This may contribute to substance abuse, another risk factor for suicide, said Brodsky.

This high stress is exacerbated by dwindling healthcare resources and residency positions, she noted. There are many stories of individuals dying by suicide after not securing one of these coveted spots.

When medical students graduate and enter the profession, they face different but equally challenging stressors, said Brodsky.

As more women enter the medical profession, they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the fallout from work stressors. As a result, their rate of suicide is also increasing, said Brodsky.

Brodsky is among the experts advocating for better ways of addressing these problems, which may start with simple semantics. People do not “commit” suicide but “die by suicide,” she said. She noted that suicide is an “illness and not a crime.”

Brodsky welcomes the APA’s focus on physician suicide because it raises awareness of the issue and will ultimately lead to improved prevention and intervention initiatives.

Openly discussing suicide as an illness helps “bring it out of the darkness” and shed the stigma shadowing this problem, she said.

Increase in ‘Fake News’ Placing Cancer Patients at Risk


A decline in public trust in physicians and the rise of misinformation and “fake news” spread via the Internet has led to an increase in the use of unproven, unconventional treatments by cancer patients, claims an editorial that says efforts to communicate genuine medical advances need to be redoubled.

The editorial, published in the September issue of the Lancet Oncology, says that the “collision” between greater patient autonomy, falling trust, and the rise in social media has led to an increase in self-diagnosis and the use of alternative therapies by cancer patients.

This, it warns, may result in patients refusing conventional, proven therapies and increase their risk for death compared with patients who follow recommended treatment regimens, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News.

The editorial urges all those working in the oncology world to tackle the “disinformation and…lies” that are spread across social media, news platforms, and marketing channels by focusing on the communication of accurate information.

It points to a National Institutes of Health website that aims to help users evaluate health information on the Internet, as well as the recent hiring of a digital nurse by UK charity Macmillan Cancer Support to debunk fake news via a question-and-answer service.

There is nothing new in having to deal with fake news and misinformation in oncology, says Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at the leading charity Cancer Research UK. “This is something that has been around for a long time, and as a charity, our position is to challenge where there isn’t a decent evidence base for a treatment that’s being promoted,” he told Medscape Medical News.

Ledwick explained that Cancer Research UK set up its online forum around 10 years ago partly because “we could see when we looked around at the time that there wasn’t really a properly moderated forum out there for cancer patients.

“You could see that people were having suggestions made to them about alternative therapies and things like that, and no one was really picking that up,” he commented.

Ledwick noted that Cancer Research UK’s science blog also “spends a lot of time debunking myths and reinforcing the value of proper evidence base before people make decisions.”

Their team of nurses staffing their helpline “respond to a lot of inquiries from people who have heard about something perhaps through the Internet and want to explore it but haven’t understood that it’s not as good as it looks,” he said.

Ledwick believes that the growth of the Internet in recent years has created “much more of a platform for ideas to spread” and that that has led to a shift in the nature of the inquiries they receive.

He said that complementary treatments are “usually pretty harmless.” As long as the people offering them “are not overclaiming about them,” there is no problem with people taking them, he said.

“What gets tricky is when you’ve got someone saying this will definitely work and getting people signing up to it for that reason,” he warns.

Another problem, Ledwick noted, is when patients think they can use alternative treatments instead of conventional therapies.

“That, I think, is a worry,” he said, “that sometimes people think, well, maybe I will put off having conventional treatment and see if this works first, because, to be honest, it won’t.

“If it’s not a scientifically based, properly researched therapy, you’re basing your choices in hearsay and anecdotes rather than proper evidence,” he warns.

Decline in Trust in Health Professionals

The editorial notes that a “major challenge” in oncology today is a decline in trust by the lay public in professional opinion, at the center of which is “a collision between personal autonomy, specious journalism, social media, widespread disinformation, and political marginalisation.”

The editorial states that together, these factors undermine the standing of science and academic endeavor, which, in oncology, has led to self-diagnosis and patients’ “demand for specific treatments irrespective of their doctors’ advice.”

Patients are also turning to “alternative unproven therapies,” and clinicians are practicing what has been termed “defensive medicine” to avoid lawsuits, primarily through the overuse of diagnostic tests.

The editorial points to two studies, one published earlier this year and one in 2017, that show that cancer patients who use complementary medicine are more likely to refuse surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy and are more than twice as likely to die than those who receive conventional medicine.

“How has society got to this point, where unproven interventions are being chosen in preference to evidence-based, effective treatments?” the editorial asks.

“Unfortunately, disinformation and — frankly — lies are propagated widely and with the same magnitude as verified evidence due to the ease with which social media, ubiquitous online news platforms, and disreputable marketing exercises can populate information channels, which often do not have sufficient funding to employ subject-specific journalists to weed out facts from fiction,” it comments.

The editorial asserts that to tackle this problem and to stem the decline in public trust, greater efforts need to be made to communicate medical advances accurately to both patients and the lay public “to ensure genuine knowledge can be separated from false material.”

It adds that oncologists need to be better protected from “spurious legal proceedings, bureaucracy, and unnecessary stresses.

“If these challenges are not addressed soon, the great advances in science and medicine that have markedly improved human health worldwide could be easily undone and society will come to regret such inaction and reliance on unreliable sources of information,” it concludes.

Nobel Prizes still struggle with wide gender disparity


STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — Nobel Prizes are the most prestigious awards on the planet but the aura of this year’s announcements has been dulled by questions over why so few women have entered the pantheon, particularly in the sciences.

The march of Nobel announcements begins Monday with the physiology/medicine prize. Since the first prizes were awarded in 1901, 892 individuals have received one, but just 48 of them have been women. Thirty of those women won either the literature or peace prize, highlighting the wide gender gap in the laureates for physics, chemistry and physiology/medicine. In addition, only one woman has won for the economics prize, which is not technically a Nobel but is associated with the prizes.

Some of the disparity likely can be attributed to underlying structural reasons, such as the low representation of women in high-level science. The American Institute of Physics, for example, says in 2014, only 10 percent of full physics professorships were held by women.

But critics suggest that gender bias pervades the process of nominations, which come largely from tenured professors. “The problem is the whole nomination process, you have these tenured professors who feel like they are untouchable. They can get away with everything from sexual harassment to micro-aggressions like assuming the woman in the room will take the notes, or be leaving soon to have babies,” said Anne-Marie Imafidon, the head of Stemettes, a British group that encourages girls and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s little wonder that these people aren’t putting women forward for nominations. We need to be better at telling the stories of the women in science who are doing good things and actually getting recognition,” she said.

Powerful men taking credit for the ideas and elbow grease of their female colleagues was turned on its head in 1903 when Pierre Curie made it clear he would not accept the physics prize unless his wife and fellow researcher Marie Curie was jointly honored. She was the first female winner of any Nobel prize, but only one other woman has won the physics prize since then.

More than 70 years later, Jocelyn Bell, a post-graduate student at Cambridge, was overlooked for the physics prize despite her crucial contribution to the discovery of pulsars. Her supervisor, Antony Hewish, took all of the Nobel credit.

Brian Keating, a physics professor at the University of California San Diego and author of the book “Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science’s Highest Honor,” says the Nobel Foundation should lift its restrictions on re-awarding for a breakthrough if an individual has been overlooked. He also says posthumous awards also should be considered and there should be no restriction on the number of individuals who can share a prize. Today the limit is three people for one prize.

“These measures would go a long way to addressing the injustice that so few of the brilliant women who have contributed so much to science through the years have been overlooked,” he said. Keating fears that simply accepting the disparity as structural will seriously harm the prestige of all the Nobel prizes.

“I think with the Hollywood #MeToo movement, it has already happened in the film prizes. It has happened with the literature prize. There is no fundamental law of nature that the Nobel science prizes will continue to be seen as the highest accolade,” he said.

This year’s absence of a Nobel Literature prize, which has been won by 14 women, puts an even sharper focus on the gender gap in science prizes. The Swedish Academy, which awards the literature prize, said it would not pick a winner this year after sex abuse allegations and financial crimes scandals rocked the secretive panel, sharply dividing its 18 members, who are appointed for life. Seven members quit or distanced themselves from academy. Its permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, said the academy wanted “to commit time to recovering public confidence.”

The academy plans to award both the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize next year — but even that is not guaranteed. The head of the Nobel Foundation, Lars Heikensten, was quoted Friday as warning that if the Swedish Academy does not resolve its tarnished image another group could be chosen to select the literature prize every year.

Stung by criticism about the diversity gap between former prize winners, the Nobel Foundation has asked that the science awarding panels for 2019 ask nominators to consider their own biases in the thousands of letters they send to solicit Nobel nominations.

“I am eager to see more nominations for women so they can be considered,” said Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and vice chairman of the Nobel Foundation. “We have written to nominators asking them to make sure they do not miss women or people of other ethnicities or nationalities in their nominations. We hope this will make a difference for 2019.”

It’s not the first time that Nobel officials have sought diversity. In his 1895 will, prize founder Alfred Nobel wrote: “It is my express wish that in the awarding of the prizes no consideration shall be given to national affiliations of any kind, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.”

Even so, the prizes remained overwhelmingly white and male for most of their existence. For the first 70 years, the peace prize skewed heavily toward Western white men, with just two of the 59 prizes awarded to individuals or institutions based outside Europe or North America. Only three of the winners in that period were female.

The 1973 peace prize shared by North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho and American Henry Kissinger widened the horizons — since then more than half the Nobel Peace prizes have gone to African or Asian individuals or institutions.

Since 2000, six women have won the peace prize. After the medicine prize on Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the Nobel in physics on Tuesday and in chemistry on Wednesday, while the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded Friday by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. On Oct. 8, Sweden’s Central Bank announces the winner of the economics prize, given in honor of Alfred Nobel.

Technology and social media are feeding addictive behaviors and mental illness in society


Image: Technology and social media are feeding addictive behaviors and mental illness in society

Smart phones and tablets have become a cancerous growth in our lives – never leaving us, feeding off our essence, and sucking away our attention, life, and energy. Social media is like an aggressive form of brain cancer, attaching to our mind, addicting us to cheap dopamine rushes, replacing human interaction with a digital façade of living. Stealing away our time, technology has become a disease that infiltrates our mental and social health, leaving us depressed, anxious, worried, envious, arrogant, and socially isolated.

What we type and text to others causes over-thinking, rumination, and misunderstanding. The way we respond with type and text can be misinterpreted, leading to social strain in relationships. Digital communication lacks the natural flow of body language, eye contact, touch, voice inflection, tone, and real-life rapport. Accustomed to digital communication, people lose their ability to have adult conversations. This hurts everyone’s ability to work together, discuss ideas, solve problems, and overcome multi-faceted challenges.

Popular social media platforms prey on human weaknesses

On Facebook, the pursuit of likes and comments can become an addicting sensation. When the attention fails to come in, the Facebook user may feel unheard or undesirable. When the user sees their friends getting more likes, they may perceive other people having a better life than they do, leading to depressed feelings. (Related: Former Facebook exec: “Social media is ripping society apart.“)

On Twitter, communication is limited to short bursts. These bursts encourage people to engage in divisive language that is used in inflammatory ways and is easily misunderstood. Twitter is used to build a “following” which becomes a high-school-esque popularity contest that easily inflates egos and gives a platform to the most annoying ones in the bunch.

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Instagram and Snapchat have become more popular as well, making users anxious to show off their lives online 24-7. This infatuation with documenting every moment is an anxious, self-absorbed way to live and it does the person no good, because these technology gimmicks interrupt the actual moment and disturb the flow of real life. Do we really think that everyone cares about every picture, every meal, and everything that we do? As the digital world continues to bloat up with information, pictures, and voices, all of it loses its value and sacredness. Over time, no one genuinely cares. The louder a person gets on social media, the more annoying they are perceived.

Technology addiction destroys sleep, leads teenagers to other addictive substances

As parents pacify their children with screens, the children are exposed to constant light stimulation which excites brain chemicals. The colorful games and videos over-stimulate the child’s mind, making them addicted to the sensation. Consequentially the child becomes more restless and behavioral distress increases over the long term.

Technology has made our lives more selfish, isolated, and interrupted. Social media has preyed on our weaknesses, trapping us in its mesmerizing facade of happiness. According to SurvivoPedia, teenagers who spend more than five hours a day on their devices are at a 72 percent higher risk for suicide risk factors. In order to alleviate the mental health issues associated with social media, teenagers may turn to other addictive substances to take the edge off.

Additionally, these devices interfere with healthy sleep patterns — which are essential for proper brain development. The onslaught of blue light and electromagnetic frequency interferes with healthy melatonin levels in the brain. The things that we post online can keep us up at night as well. The addiction to check the phone for responses and likes can keep a person up, too. All this brain excitement and depression throws off the body’s circadian rhythm, leading to poor sleep and mental fatigue during the daytime.

Check out more on mental health at Mind.News.

Sources include:

SurvivoPedia.com

NaturalNews.com

NaturalNews.com

More than 1.2 million adolescents die every year, nearly all preventable


WHO and partners recommend actions to improve adolescent health.
More than 3000 adolescents die every day, totalling 1.2 million deaths a year, from largely preventable causes, according to a new report from WHO and partners. In 2015, more than two-thirds of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries in Africa and South-East Asia. Road traffic injuries, lower respiratory infections, and suicide are the biggest causes of death among adolescents.

Most of these deaths can be prevented with good health services, education and social support. But in many cases, adolescents who suffer from mental health disorders, substance use, or poor nutrition cannot obtain critical prevention and care services – either because the services do not exist, or because they do not know about them.

In addition, many behaviours that impact health later in life, such as physical inactivity, poor diet, and risky sexual health behaviours, begin in adolescence.

“Adolescents have been entirely absent from national health plans for decades,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General, WHO. “Relatively small investments focused on adolescents now will not only result in healthy and empowered adults who thrive and contribute positively to their communities, but it will also result in healthier future generations, yielding enourmous returns.”

Data in the report, Global accelerated action for the health of adolescents (AA-HA!): Guidance to support country implementation, reveal stark differences in causes of death when separating the adolescent group by age (younger adolescents aged 10–14 years and older ones aged 15–19 years) and by sex. The report also includes the range of interventions – from seat-belt laws to comprehensive sexuality education – that countries can take to improve their health and well-being and dramatically cut unnecessary deaths.

Road injuries top cause of death of adolescents, disproportionately affecting boys

In 2015, road injuries were the leading cause of adolescent death among 10–19-year-olds, resulting in approximately 115 000 adolescent deaths. Older adolescent boys aged 15–19 years experienced the greatest burden. Most young people killed in road crashes are vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

However, differences between regions are stark. Looking only at low- and middle-income countries in Africa, communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory infections, meningitis, and diarrhoeal diseases are bigger causes of death among adolescents than road injuries.

Lower respiratory infections and pregnancy complications take toll on girls’ health

The picture for girls differs greatly. The leading cause of death for younger adolescent girls aged 10–14 years are lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia – often a result of indoor air pollution from cooking with dirty fuels. Pregnancy complications, such as haemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labour, and complications from unsafe abortions, are the top cause of death among 15–19-year-old girls.

Adolescents are at very high risk of self-harm and suicide

Suicide and accidental death from self-harm were the third cause of adolescent mortality in 2015, resulting in an estimated 67 000 deaths. Self-harm largely occurs among older adolescents, and globally it is the second leading cause of death for older adolescent girls. It is the leading or second cause of adolescent death in Europe and South-East Asia.

A vulnerable population in humanitarian and fragile settings

Adolescent health needs intensify in humanitarian and fragile settings. Young people often take on adult responsibilities, including caring for siblings or working, and may be compelled to drop out of school, marry early, or engage in transactional sex to meet their basic survival needs. As a result, they suffer malnutrition, unintentional injuries, pregnancies, diarrhoeal diseases, sexual violence, sexually-transmitted diseases, and mental health issues.

Interventions to improve adolescent health

“Improving the way health systems serve adolescents is just one part of improving their health,” says Dr Anthony Costello, Director, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, WHO. “Parents, families, and communities are extremely important, as they have the greatest potential to positively influence adolescent behaviour and health.”

The AA-HA! Guidance recommends interventions across sectors, including comprehensive sexuality education in schools; higher age limits for alcohol consumption; mandating seat-belts and helmets through laws; reducing access to and misuse of firearms; reducing indoor air pollution through cleaner cooking fuels; and increasing access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene. It also provides detailed explanations of how countries can deliver these interventions with adolescent health programmes.

Top 5 causes of death for all adolescents aged 10–19 years in 2015
Cause of death Number of deaths
1. Road traffic injury 115 302
2. Lower respiratory infections 72 655
3. Self-harm 67 149
4. Diarrhoeal diseases 63 575
5. Drowning 57 125

 

Top 5 causes of death for males aged 10–19 years in 2015
Cause of death Number of deaths
1. Road traffic injury 88 590
2. Interpersonal violence 42 277
3. Drowning 40 847
4. Lower respiratory infections 36 018
5. Self-harm 34 650

 

Top 5 causes of death for females aged 10–19 years in 2015
Cause of death Number of deaths
1. Lower respiratory infections 36 637
2. Self-harm 32 499
3. Diarrhoeal diseases 32 194
4. Maternal conditions 28 886
5. Road traffic injury 26 712

Source:WHO

Suicide


Key facts

  • Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year.
  • For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide every year. A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.
  • 79% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.

Every year close to 800 000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds globally in 2016.

Suicide does not just occur in high-income countries, but is a global phenomenon in all regions of the world. In fact, over 79% of global suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2016.

Suicide is a serious public health problem; however, suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions. For national responses to be effective, a comprehensive multisectoral suicide prevention strategy is needed.

Who is at risk?

While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.

In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour. Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons; and prisoners. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.

Methods of suicide

It is estimated that around 20% of global suicides are due to pesticide self-poisoning, most of which occur in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries. Other common methods of suicide are hanging and firearms.

Knowledge of the most commonly used suicide methods is important to devise prevention strategies which have shown to be effective, such as restriction of access to means of suicide.

Prevention and control

Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. These include:

  • reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
  • reporting by media in a responsible way;
  • introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
  • early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
  • training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour;
  • follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.

Suicide is a complex issue and therefore suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labour, agriculture, business, justice, law, defense, politics, and the media. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.

Challenges and obstacles

Stigma and taboo

Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need. The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it. To date, only a few countries have included suicide prevention among their health priorities and only 38 countries report having a national suicide prevention strategy.

Raising community awareness and breaking down the taboo is important for countries to make progress in preventing suicide.

Data quality

Globally, the availability and quality of data on suicide and suicide attempts is poor. Only 60 Member States have good-quality vital registration data that can be used directly to estimate suicide rates. This problem of poor-quality mortality data is not unique to suicide, but given the sensitivity of suicide – and the illegality of suicidal behaviour in some countries – it is likely that under-reporting and misclassification are greater problems for suicide than for most other causes of death.

Improved surveillance and monitoring of suicide and suicide attempts is required for effective suicide prevention strategies. Cross-national differences in the patterns of suicide, and changes in the rates, characteristics and methods of suicide highlight the need for each country to improve the comprehensiveness, quality and timeliness of their suicide-related data. This includes vital registration of suicide, hospital-based registries of suicide attempts and nationally representative surveys collecting information about self-reported suicide attempts.

WHO response

WHO recognizes suicide as a public health priority. The first WHO World Suicide Report “Preventing suicide: a global imperative” published in 2014, aims to increase the awareness of the public health significance of suicide and suicide attempts and to make suicide prevention a high priority on the global public health agenda. It also aims to encourage and support countries to develop or strengthen comprehensive suicide prevention strategies in a multisectoral public health approach.

Suicide is one of the priority conditions in the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) launched in 2008, which provides evidence-based technical guidance to scale up service provision and care in countries for mental, neurological and substance use disorders. In the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020, WHO Member States have committed themselves to working towards the global target of reducing the suicide rate in countries by 10% by 2020.

In addition, the suicide mortality rate is an indicator of target 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals: by 2030, to reduce by one third premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and well-being.

Source:WHO

Should we be worried about artificial intelligence?


Not really, but we do need think carefully about how to harness, and regulate, machine intelligence.

By now, most of us are used to the idea of rapid, even accelerating, technological change, particularly where information technologies are concerned. Indeed, as consumers, we helped the process along considerably. We love the convenience of mobile phones, and the lure of social-media platforms such as Facebook, even if, as we access these services, we find that bits and pieces of our digital selves become strewn all over the internet.

More and more tasks are being automated. Computers (under human supervision) already fly planes and sail ships. They are rapidly learning how to drive cars. Automated factories make many of our consumer goods. If you enter (or return to) Australia with an eligible e-passport, a computer will scan your face, compare it with your passport photo and, if the two match up, let you in. The “internet of things” beckons; there seems to be an “app” for everything. We are invited to make our homes smarter and our lives more convenient by using programs that interface with our home-based systems and appliances to switch the lights on and off, defrost the fridge and vacuum the carpet.

Robots taking over more intimate jobs

With the demise of the local car industry and the decline of manufacturing, the services sector is expected to pick up the slack for job seekers. But robots are taking over certain roles once deemed human-only.

Clever though they are, these programs represent more-or-less familiar applications of computer-based processing power. With artificial intelligence, though, computers are poised to conquer skills that we like to think of as uniquely human: the ability to extract patterns and solve problems by analysing data, to plan and undertake tasks, to learn from our own experience and that of others, and to deploy complex forms of reasoning.

The quest for AI has engaged computer scientists for decades. Until very recently, though, AI’s initial promise had failed to materialise. The recent revival of the field came as a result of breakthrough advances in machine intelligence and, specifically, machine learning. It was found that, by using neural networks (interlinked processing points) to implement mathematically specified procedures or algorithms, machines could, through many iterations, progressively improve on their performance – in other words, they could learn. Machine intelligence in general and machine learning in particular are now the fastest-growing components of AI.

The achievements have been impressive. It is now 20 years since IBM’s Deep Blue program, using traditional computational approaches, beat Garry Kasparov, the world’s best chess player. With machine-learning techniques, computers have conquered even more complex games such as Go, a strategy-based game with an enormous range of possible moves. In 2016, Google’s Alpha Go program beat Lee Sedol, the world’s best Go player, in a four-game match.

Allan Dafoe, of Oxford University’s future humanities institute, says AI is already at the point where it can transform almost every industry, from agriculture to health and medicine, from energy systems to security and the military. With sufficient data, computing power and an appropriate algorithm, machines can be used to come up with solutions that are not only commercially useful but, in some cases, novel and even innovative.

Should we be worried? Commentators as diverse as the late Stephen Hawking and development economist Muhammad Yunus have issued dire warnings about machine intelligence. Unless we learn how to control AI, they argue, we risk finding ourselves replaced by machines far more intelligent than we are. The fear is that not only will humans be redundant in this brave new world, but the machines will find us completely useless and eliminate us.

The University of Canberra's robot Ardie teaches tai chi to primary school pupils.
The University of Canberra’s robot Ardie teaches tai chi to primary school pupils.

If these fears are realistic, then governments clearly need to impose some sort of ethical and values-based framework around this work. But are our regulatory and governance techniques up to the task? When, in Australia, we have struggled to regulate our financial services industry, how on earth will governments anywhere manage a field as rapidly changing and complex as machine intelligence?

Governments often seem to play catch-up when it comes to new technologies. Privacy legislation is enormously difficult to enforce when technologies effortlessly span national boundaries. It is difficult for legislators even to know what is going on in relation to new applications developed inside large companies such as Facebook. On the other hand, governments are hardly IT ingenues. The public sector provided the demand-pull that underwrote the success of many high-tech firms. The US government, in particular, has facilitated the growth of many companies in cybersecurity and other fields.

Governments have been in the information business for a very long time. As William the Conqueror knew when he ordered his Domesday Book to be compiled in 1085, you can’t tax people successfully unless you know something about them. Spending of tax-generated funds is impossible without good IT. In Australia, governments have developed and successfully managed very large databases in health and human services.

The governance of all this data is subject to privacy considerations, sometimes even at the expense of information-sharing between agencies. The evidence we have is that, while some people worry a lot about privacy, most of us are prepared to trust government with our information. In 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that, for the first time, it would retain the names and addresses it collected during the course of the 2016 population census. It was widely expected (at least by the media) that many citizens would withhold their names and addresses when they returned their forms. In the end, very few did.

But these are government agencies operating outside the security field. The so-called “deep state” holds information about citizens that could readily be misused. Moreover, private-sector profit is driving much of the current AI surge (although, in many cases, it is the thrill of new knowledge and understanding, too). We must assume that criminals are working out ways to exploit these possibilities, too.

If we want values such as equity, transparency, privacy and safety to govern what happens, old-fashioned regulation will not do the job. We need the developers of these technologies to co-produce the values we require, which implies some sort of effective partnership between the state and the private sector.

Could policy development be the basis for this kind of partnership? At the moment, machine intelligence works best on problems for which relevant data is available, and the objective is relatively easy to specify. As it develops, and particularly if governments are prepared to share their own data sets, machine intelligence could become important in addressing problems such as climate change, where we have data and an overall objective, but not much idea as to how to get there.

Machine intelligence might even help with problems where objectives are much harder to specify. What, for example, does good urban planning look like? We can crunch data from many different cities, and come up with an answer that could, in theory, go well beyond even the most advanced human-based modelling. When we don’t know what we don’t know, machines could be very useful indeed. Nor do we know, until we try, how useful the vast troves of information held by governments might be.

Perhaps, too, the jobs threat is not as extreme as we fear. Experience shows that humans are very good at finding things to do. And there might not be as many existing jobs at risk as we suppose. I am convinced, for example, that no robot could ever replace road workers – just think of the fantastical patterns of dug-up gravel and dirt they produce, the machines artfully arranged by the roadside or being driven, very slowly, up and down, even when all the signs are there, and there is absolutely no one around. How do we get a robot, even one capable of learning by itself, to do all that?

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