Saturday, December 16, 2017

Judge Blocks Trump Attempt to Trim Access to Birth Control

PHILADELPHIA — 
A federal judge in Philadelphia on Friday ordered the Trump administration not to enforce new rules that could significantly reduce women’s access to free birth control.
Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued the injunction, temporarily stopping the government from enforcing the policy change to former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
The law required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations.
The new policy would allow more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing free contraception to women by claiming religious objections. It would allow any company that is not publicly traded to deny coverage on moral grounds.
Health care rollback
Beetlestone, appointed to the bench by Obama, called the Trump administration’s exemptions “sweeping” and said they are the “proverbial exception that swallows the rule.

With Obesity on Rise, Paris Takes Hard Look at ‘Fatphobia’

PARIS — 
France gave the world butter croissants and foie gras, yet it has often been a place where being overweight was seen as almost sinful.
Now, after taking a hard look at the contradictions in the mirror, its capital has launched a campaign to counter sizeism, an often disregarded kind of discrimination in the image-conscious city known for luxury fashion brands and tiny waists.
Paris anti-discrimination chief Helene Bidard began the initiative after falling victim to weight-related insults and noticing how bias against French people who are overweight went unnoticed, never mind unpunished.
“We see fat people as ugly and even stupid, lacking hygiene and in bad health,” Bidard said.
Anti-discrimination campaign
As part of its annual week devoted to raising awareness about discrimination, Paris on Friday unveiled its “Fatphobia, stop! Taking action together” campaign with a plus-size fashion show and panels featuring bloggers from the “body positive” movement.

Facebook Highlights Dangers of Using Facebook

SAN FRANCISCO — 
With nearly 2 billion users, Facebook’s survival depends on people continuing to use its service.
That’s why observers were surprised by an unusual company blog post Friday that highlighted some of the potential harm of using the social media service.
Titled Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?,the company cited studies that suggested some of the possible downsides of using social media.
In one study, people who passively read about others’ lives reported feeling worse about themselves. One possibility is “negative social comparison” when reading about others online, the company said, because “people’s posts are often more curated and flattering” than how they are in their real, offline lives.

Sierra Leone Health Workers Sue Government Over Ebola Response

Two Sierra Leone health workers who survived Ebola are suing their government for allegedly mismanaging funds during the epidemic.
The Ebola survivors blame a lack of resources provided by the government for their infection and for the deaths of many of their co-workers. Their suit claims the government’s mismanagement of funds violated the plaintiffs’ “right to life and health.”
The virus surfaced in Guinea in 2013 and spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone the following year. More than 3,000 people died in Sierra Leone and more than 11,300 died worldwide, mostly in those three West African countries.
Foreign governments and aid organizations donated millions of dollars to help the West African countries stop the spread of the epidemic, but allegations have arisen in all three nations that the governments misused the funds.

US Prosecutors Move to Cash in on $8.5M in Seized Bitcoin

SALT LAKE CITY — 
U.S. attorneys in Utah prosecuting a multimillion-dollar opioid drug-ring are moving quickly to sell seized bitcoin that’s exploded in value to about $8.5 million since the alleged ringleader’s arrest a year ago.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah cites the digital currency’s volatility in court documents pressing for the sale. The bitcoin cache was worth less than $500,000 when Aaron Shamo was arrested on drug charges, but the value of the digital currency has skyrocketed since then.
Bitcoin was created as a digital alternative to the traditional banking system, and is prone to swings in value based on what people believe its worth.
For federal prosecutors in Utah, sales of seized assets like cars are routine, but bitcoin is new territory, spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said Thursday.

German Government Says It Backs ‘Open and Free Internet’

BERLIN — 
The German government says it backs an “open and free internet” following the U.S. decision to repeal net neutrality rules.
A spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry said Friday that Germany had “taken note” of the U.S. move but declined to comment directly on it.
However, spokeswoman Beate Baron said the German government supports rules introduced across the European Union last year forbidding discriminatory access to the internet.
Baron told reporters in Berlin that “an open and free internet is indispensable for the successful development of a digital society that everyone wants to take part in.”
The Republican-controlled U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday repealed Obama-era rules requiring all web traffic to be treated equally.
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Study: Cannabis Component May Treat Psychosis

LONDON — 
An ingredient in cannabis called cannabidiol or CBD has shown promise in a clinical trial as a potential new treatment for psychosis, scientists said Friday.
In research involving 88 people with psychosis, a mental disorder characterized by anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations, the scientists found patients treated with CBD had lower levels of psychotic symptoms than those who received a placebo.
They were also more likely to be rated as improved by their psychiatrist, the study found, and there were signs of better cognitive performance and functioning.
The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. It can induce paranoia and anxiety and other unpleasant psychotic symptoms.
Two ingredients, two effects
But its second major constituent, CBD, has the opposite effects to THC, leading scientists to think it might one day be useful as a treatment in mental health.

Next Generation of Detection Dogs Could Sniff Out Complex Explosives

Research funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research is helping give sniffer dogs the skills they need to detect complex modern explosives. Faith Lapidus reports.
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Scientists Working on Writing Five-day Forecast for Solar Storms

Charged particles from the sun are responsible for the brilliant auroras at the earth’s poles. But there can be cases of too much of a good thing. When huge solar storms push massive waves of energized particles into Earth’s path, they can wreak havoc on our satellites and electric grid. That is why researchers are trying to figure out what causes solar storms. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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Giant Rats Expand Tuberculosis Fight in Tanzania

NEW YORK — 
The use of giant rats to sniff out the potentially deadly disease tuberculosis (TB) in Tanzania is set to nearly double by the end of the year thanks to successful detection rates, a charity who trains them said Thursday.
African giant pouched rats, which are taught to detect TB using their olfactory abilities, have been so successful at the task that they will now service nearly 60 clinics countrywide, up from 29.
The rats, which can measure up to 3 feet (0.9 m) and can spot TB in samples of human mucus, were introduced in Tanzania in 2007 by Belgian charity APOPO as an alternative to more costly and slower traditional chemical testing.
“APOPO is very encouraged about the support and trust in our diagnostic service,” Lena Fiebig, the nonprofit’s head of TB, said in a statement.
Tanzania a TB hotspot
Tuberculosis, which is curable and preventable, is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), killing 1.