Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Amazingly, the country of Norway has voted to decriminalize all drugs. This philosophical question of whether or not to punish a criminal or try harder to reform him is not a new one. While there are some people who believe in maximum punishment and enforcement, which includes both the death penalty and solitary confinement, others prefer a more lenient approach and opt to invest more in rehabilitating criminals and integrate them right back into their society.
Will Legal Drugs Destroy Society?
This question will always get very heated when the discussion turns to drugs. The war on drugs that America declared some years is believe to be a continual failure, all the way from the abuse of crack during the 1980s to the current problem with opioid abuse. Obviously, the first step would be defining exactly what drugs are, and the way they can and cannot be used. That entire answer has become a political one over the years. Many people argue that sugar may be the most additive, the most potent and the deadliest drug on Earth today, and the fact it is cheap, widely available, and even celebrated makes it even more dangerous.
Consider Drugs that are Already Legal
Sugar is so engrained into society today that if anyone ever called it a “drug”, they would immediately get laughter and sneers. Every person who has minimal intelligent knows that alcohol is a drug, yet it is used for celebrations, it is sanctioned, and is severely taxed – so it can’t be all that bad, can it? Pretty much the same could be said about cigarettes – although society has greatly restricted their public use over the past few decades.
Slowly, these are the comparisons that countries all over the world have been making. As a result of this viewpoint, Norway has voted to totally decriminalize all illegal drugs, and they have decided to treat offenders rather than sending them to prison. Even though parliamentary support for this legislation has been approved, it still has to make find its way through governmental approvals.
Sveinung Stensland, who is a deputy chairman from the Storting Health Committee, made these comments regarding this decision:
“The change will take some time, but that means a changed vision: Those who have a substance abuse problem should be treated as ill, and not as criminals with classical sanctions such as fines and imprisonment.”
This has not been a quick decision. Politicians in Norway have debated this issue for many years. In the year 2001, Portugal decided to decriminalize drugs, and this move resulted in the reduction of overdoses, HIV infections, and even drug-related crimes. For instance, in 2001, HIV infection cases were occurring at 104.2 new cases per million people. By the year 2015, that number fell to an amazing 4.2 new cases per million people.
Obviously, a huge obstacle for this issue is the social stigma. The Guardian reported:
“The language began to shift, too. Those who had been referred to sneeringly as drogados (junkies)—became known more broadly, more sympathetically, and more accurately, as “people who use drugs” or “people with addiction disorders.”
Today we see families in America suffer from an opioid epidemic that is only getting worse—fentanyl deaths have increased around 540% from 2014 to 2016. And the data from 2017 doesn’t look very promising.
Many claim that President Richard Nixon publicly linked addiction to criminal activity as a means of suppressing minorities and other political radicals during the 1970s. It is believed that this mindset pretty forced legislators from America—and also the American public—to connect certain substances as evil and others as benign. And now since opioids are linked mostly to white working class Americans, there is criticism that opioids have been looked upon with understanding and compassion, while crack has been viewed upon as blight because it is an inner city issue.
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We have all done it when standing in line at our grocery stores. When it seems that the store line we are standing in is going nowhere we make the jump. But now science is now telling us that switching to shorter store lines rarely works, and that we shouldn’t bother making that switch to another queue. So unless a cashier comes and opens up a new register right next to you and there is no waiting, researchers claim that skipping from the line you are in over to another one is usually counterproductive on average.
Say No to Switching Lines
Scientists from the prestigious Harvard Business School have discovered recently that whenever a person discovers that they are at the very back of a line, they are much more prone to making decisions that will backfire on them. The overall issue is due to the notion that no person wants to be “last,” as reported in The Guardian.
When you find yourself standing in a line and there is no one behind you, then you are about 4 times more likely to determine that a nearby line next to you would be a much better option and make the jump. But the chances are about equal for those people who have waited longer for service than if they would’ve just stayed where they were.
Really a Perception Issue
This notion is very interesting since the amount of time that you wait in a store line actually has absolutely nothing at all to do with the quantity of people who are waiting in line behind you, but it will strongly affect the way you perceive this situation.
When there are no other people behind them and they perceive another line next to them moving much faster than their line, they will usually choose to switch lines without considering other important factors. For example, the line beside them could have moved faster for that one instance because some lady only had 2 items, but the very next customer could be some dude with 90 items and 45 coupons, and then they will not be moving at all for a while.
Yes, there will be times that your line jumping may work to your advantage, but odds are that it will not work in the long run, and if there are people standing behind you then you are a lot less apt to make the jump.
So unless you get that occasional golden ticket when a person free new line suddenly opens up, most of the time you will be much better off to remain in the very first line you choose to stand in. Even though you may start at the very back in the beginning of your wait, there will eventually be some poor sap that will stand right behind you.
So be happy with this choice because you now know that science says switching to shorter store lines rarely ever works.
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There are many who believe that 2017 was a tough year. However, we humans are still living in the most prosperous times ever. The world is better off that it has ever been in its history. People are actually living much longer. And they are enjoying better health, they are much more educated, and they have more freedom, generally speaking.
Drop in Poverty
However, the very best news of all is that the number people that live in extreme poverty (defined as those subsisting on under $1.90 daily) have plummeted dramatically over the past 3 decades.
In year 1990, the United Nations established a goal to reduce the poverty rate of the World by 50% by the year 2015. That goal was reached 5 year early in the year of 2010. This means that more than a billion people were saved from extreme poverty in over 20 years. This is quite an amazing and even unprecedented shift.
But Poverty is Still Alive and Well
Before enjoying the new numbers too much, we can’t forget about the 10% of the world who still live in extreme poverty. The question is can we ever get that number down to zero? Further still, would it even be possible to accomplish that? When we look at all the factors that were responsible for cutting poverty over the past 20 years, all signs indicate that there are more obstacles than bridges in the future.
The story behind the poverty drop that began in the 1980s to today was mainly driven by only two countries, and those were India and China. The data from China is particularly amazing. In the year 1981, there was an incredible 88% of all Chinese who were living in extreme poverty, but by the year 2013, that number had fallen to 2%. The statistics from India are not as dramatic, but are still very good. In India, that number fell from 54% down to 21%.
Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, started with a 54% extreme poverty population in year 1990, and that number fell to 41% by 2013. These numbers are an example of how statistics can lie to you. Because of the massive growth in population taking place in Africa, the actual number of people living in poverty actually increased by 113 million during those years – even though the percentages show a decline.
So why exactly could the World not eradicate extreme poverty altogether? Could we not duplicate the actions that China took to improve their people’s lives?
The Chinese Miracle
In order to allow 86% of their people to escape extreme poverty in 32 years, China obviously did some things right, or had some great luck – maybe even both. To begin with, we understand that China enjoyed an explosion in manufacturing because of the country’s plentiful supply of cheap labor. China also enjoyed 3 primary drivers for this shift – each also has its own drawback.
China has operated under an authoritarian government for many years. This has actually helped reduce poverty over the past few decades. The government owns all lands, so it has no roadblocks when building infrastructure projects that create jobs. And when it implements policy, there is no reason to worry about appeasing voters.
The drawback with their politics is that they are lagging far behind the west in vital areas like human rights and most certainly environmental concerns – China among the worst in the world when it comes to pollution and clean air.
As we pointed out with Africa’s population growth earlier, if a country’s population isn’t controlled somehow, it will not matter how much growth they have. When the population grows more than the GDP does, there will not be enough to go around. China overcame this by introducing its one-child policy back in the year 1979.
This policy indeed worked when you compare China’s 38% population growth from 1980-2013, to the 84% population growth of India during the same time period, and Africa’s whopping 147% growth.
A big drawback with this one-child policy was a general preference to have boys rather than girls which led to baby girls getting discarded. This has led to dramatic gender imbalance.
China’s economy had great timing as well. Because there were high birth rates prior to the government’s one-child policy, this provided them with a massive population of working age adults. This led to the biggest urban migration in history as people in their 20s to 40s moved to cities for employment.
The drawback here is that all these people who were in the prime and available to work are not anymore. They have all aged and now the country’s reduced birth rate are not high enough to replace them. Needless to say, the Chinese miracle is coming to an abrupt halt.
As we can see, China has pretty given the World all the improvement in reducing extreme poverty that it possibly can. We can no longer look to them for more poverty reduction.
However, if their actions starting in the 1980s could be applied to Africa, then maybe we could be talking about the African Miracle in about 30 years.
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Tuesday, January 2, 2018
How would you like to learn 10 ways to make your brain sharper? This would be especially nice for older Americans. Fortunately, the field of science provides a lot of assistance regarding this topic. Let us examine several things that can be done right now.
10 Ways to Make your Brain Stronger
- Quit multi-tasking – In spite of a lot of popular beliefs, it is virtually impossible for the human brain to multitask fully – this is supported by several studies. If you do several things simultaneously, your brain is not able to devote full attention to any of them. What happens is that you end up paying a little attention to the first thing before moving on, and then paying a little attention to the second thing before moving on, and so forth. Instead, try focusing only on one single thing at a time before proceeding to another thing.
- Read a book – This is actually a no-brainer to those who study brain functions. Reading will increase both your emotional and fluid intelligence. And scientists have also discovered that reading will produce brand new white matter in our brains, which will help with our communication ability and even aid our brains in the processing of information in a more efficient manner.
- Meditate– Very recent research has demonstrated that the practice of meditation will not only reduce stress but it will actually change our brains as well. The types of brain changes your experience depends of the type of meditation you will practice.
- DoWeightlifting – Research has indicated that going out and pumping some iron twice a week at the very least will make our brains operate better and it will even help ward off dementia, particularly if you are elderly.
- Begin to Learninganother Language – Scientists have discovered that people who are bilingual enjoy a certain “advantage” because they tend to use less brain power to achieve tasks, and it helps their brain age better. A study from Canada revealed that those who speak two or more languages process information much more economically and use up less brain power.
- PlayChess– Studies indicate that those who play chess have much better pattern recognition, and tend to use both sides of their brain in making decisions. Chess is also great for improving memory skills and the game will force people to mentally exercise lots of variables and possibilities at all times.
- Eat with Chopsticks– if you do no use them already, switching utensils will actually grow new branches of nerve cells. This will actually improve communication among your brain cells.
- Think Positively– When people learn to think in a positive way, this will literally rewire their brains. Scientists have proved that when you consciously change thought processes via practices like mindfulness, this will cause your brain to move from right-side thinking to the left. This can also make people much less anxious, enjoy much more energy and have a happier mindset.
- Go Out Dancing– Studies have shown that dancing can actually boost and speed up the processing speed of the brain because of its unique combo of physical, cognitive, and the social activity. This can also slow down aging effects and even create new white matter much more than walking does.
- Get Plenty of Sleep – Several studies have shown that the lack of sleep could result to several ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, depressions, and actually trigger seizures. This will have a negative effect on both your thinking and your memory.
Try out some of the ways to make your brain sharper!
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Finding new ways to treat various medical ailments is often a frustrating and tedious process for researchers. Many times, these newly created medications simple do not work as they were intended to work, and thus, they fall way short of all those great expectations and result in another failure and a dead end. But then there are those other times when a brand new drug that was created for that one sole purpose and it proves to go beyond all expectations.
Creating Drugs that Provide Pleasant Surprises
In fact, it will be so good that it proves to be effective even for ailments that are totally different than the original target. This appears to be the case in regards to an exciting new drug class that was originally intended for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. But it has been discovered that the same drug has shown to greatly benefit mice that are suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Affected Mice Showed Dramatic Improvements
This brand new class of drugs, which have been classified as “triple agonist” (due to their ability to work in three distinct ways), have been tested on mice who had been developed to express genes connected to Alzheimer’s. These animals had already been showing several of the symptoms linked to the disease, which includes memory that has been compromised as well as having difficulty in learning. These same mice indicated a marked improvement in brain functionality after getting a unique treatment.
This treatment “holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” said Professor Christian Holscher, who is the lead researcher for this study. This research has been posted in the publication, Brain Research.
According to this research, this triple-acting treatment is believed to be effective against Alzheimer’s disease as it protects nerve cells, and reduces amyloid plaques within the brain (which are connected to Alzheimer’s), and also reduces inflammation as it slows the degradation of nerve cells. Mice receiving treatment had shown incredible improvement in their learning ability and also their memory formation.
While the discovery of a possible treatment for a horrible disease such as Alzheimer’s is great news, but the fact that this medication was indeed originally intended as a treatment for type 2 diabetes is not a coincidence. The fact is that Type 2 diabetes has actually been connected to Alzheimer’s before, and these two ailment many times have gone hand-in-hand among the elderly. “Insulin desensitisation has also been observed in the Alzheimer’s disease brain,” the researchers pointed out in their press release. “The desensitisation could play a role in the development of neurodegenerative disorders as insulin is a growth factor with neuroprotective properties.”
It should be noted here that this treatment has not yet received any official approval for Alzheimer’s disease, and has just been used for the early trials for mice. Additional research will definitely be needed, and if we are lucky, we could get approval for this medication sooner rather than later.
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One of the more exciting events to look forward to in the upcoming year is the expected archaeological findings. In fact, here are the 5 archaeology discoveries that are expected in 2018.
New Burial Ground in Greece
There has been a tomb discovery in Greece belonging to a warrior who got killed by a sword. The good news is that there are at least 4 others who have been buried with this warrior. These 5 individuals were originally buried with silver and gold rings, swords that had ivory handles, daggers with gold decorations and several additional artifacts.
However, this amazing find was never made public because the area where the tomb was found has already been ravaged by looters. Archaeologists are very leery about disclosing any information about tombs until after excavations are completed and the area is better secured.
The security effort in 2018 is believed to improve well enough so that this discovery can be revealed in much more detail. This is why no images are available yet.
Another Dead Sea Scrolls Cave?
During the year of 2017, another Dead Sea Scrolls cave was located near Qumran. Unfortunately, this cave was plundered during the 1950s or maybe the 1960s, but archaeologists did find a blank scroll after finished the excavation. This was the 12th cave discover near Qumran that had once contained the Dead Sea Scrolls. The additional 11 caves had been found during the 1940s and the 1950s.
The finding of this 12th cave captured headlines all over the world, but this discovery is very unlikely to be the end of this tale. The excavation team who found this 12th cave is still surveying additional caves that may possibly contain even more Dead Sea Scrolls. This survey is actually part of a bigger project being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The IAA is rushing to quickly identify and excavate all caves located in the Judaean Desert that could be holding any archaeological remains, as many looters continue to operate within the Judaean Desert. Several of them have been captured by authorities during the past couple of years. Some of these looters had been found to be carrying the remains of potential scrolls.
Given that this survey is presently ongoing and that numerous possible Dead Sea Scrolls caves have been identified already, it would not be a shock to learn about a 13th Dead Sea Scroll discovery in the 2018.
New Discoveries of Prehistoric Sites in Saudi Arabia
In 2017, we learned about some great new prehistoric-site discoveries from Saudi Arabia. In fact, there were some 46 prehistoric sites found there, some of them could be more than one million years old. These discover were found by researchers belonging to the Palaeodeserts Project, whose aim is to better understand Saudi Arabia’s environmental past and human history.
During the month of October 2017, there was yet another archaeological team who claimed that they had discovered some 400 mysterious structures that were described as rectangular and that archaeologists referred to as “gates” (because of a resemblance to field gates) which were also found in Saudi Arabia. Presently, there are roughly 6,000 aerial images and a vast quantity of data being analyzed.
During November 2017, the nation held a “1st Saudi Archaeology Convention,” during which the research from all over the country was presented. In 2018, we are very much expecting to learn of some about even more prehistoric-site discoveries, and also discoveries coming from time periods that are more recent in Saudi Arabia.
Valley of the Kings
Over the past few years, there has been new research being conducted in the famous Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Because of this, it is expected that 2018 may yield some new finding there.
In July 2018, archaeologists identified a new area close to pharaoh Ay’s (1327-1323 B.C.) tomb that contains 4 foundation deposits and radar readings has indicated the possible presence of a new tomb. There is also another team of archaeologists that have surveyed the western region of the Valley of the Kings recently. Then there is also third group coming from the University of Basel located in Switzerland, who are presently analyzing and publishing findings from KV 40, which is a tomb from the valley that was found in 2014 and contained mummies by the dozens.
Science Against Looters
In the upcoming year, scientists plan to work with some new technologies and solutions which will hopefully help resolve the global nuisance of looting. Some of these include using robots to venture into hazardous looter tunnels to evaluate damage that looters cause, or training dogs to sniff and find artifacts being smuggled into the United States, and even software that will identify stolen art that crook are attempting to sell.
Countries that constantly put up with conflicts, wars, and also political and economic strife receive the most damage from looting. In the past, looters have been known to gun down antiquities guards, and even cause the deaths of children by making them crawl in dangerously narrow tunnels.
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