A South African surgical team has just announced the world’s first successful penile transplant. On December 11, 2014, a young man received a donor’s penis during a nine-hour procedure performed at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. Now, three months after, the transplanted organ is fully functioning -- for sex and for urination -- though full sensation may take a bit longer. "Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery," team leader Andre van der Merwe of Stellenbosch University says in a statement.
The sexually active 21-year-old recipient will now be able to have children if he chooses to. Three years ago, he lost all but one centimeter of his penis when complications arose during a ritual circumcision -- which members of the Xhosa group often undergo. "There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world," Van der Merwe adds, "as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision." According to previous estimates, as many as 250 penile amputations occur across the country every year.
It is probably ironic that I found the area around Srinagar in “the Vale of Kashmir” to be one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to, in its physical sense, at least. However, in the last few decades (I was there in 1983), there has been much agitation and many terrorist acts as a result of a separatist movement to take predominantly-Moslem Kashmir out of the Indian federation.
Srinagar, the capital, inspired the West’s notions of “Shangrila”. I remember Dal Lake, on which the city sits, being absolutely beautiful even in November. I marvelled at the siting of the famed Shalimar Gardens overlooking the lake below. The whole valley is surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks at that time of year.
In recent years, the US has witnessed multiple outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses, including pertussis (whooping cough) and measles. In the same time frame, vaccine refusal rates have gone up, and an increasing number of parents are requesting modified vaccine schedules that differ from the one recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The majority of parents do have their children vaccinated on schedule. It’s a small number of parents who refuse all vaccinations for their children. A slightly larger minority want their children to receive some but not all vaccines or want a different vaccination schedule.
Why do these groups disregard AAP recommendations about vaccination? A 2011 study suggests it has a lot to do with fear of vaccines' negative side effects. Some parents worry about the “chemical composition” of vaccines or multiple vaccines being given at once. Some don’t believe vaccines are effective. Others feel the illnesses some vaccines protect against, like influenza or varicella (chickenpox), aren’t that serious. Importantly, though not the focus of this article, the AAP Committee on Bioethics notes that some parents might refuse vaccines due to cost issues or barriers to accessing appropriate health services.
We had finished 5 days of sailing on the Aegean coast and had a pleasant ride in our minivan, hugging the Mediterranean coast, and arriving at the ruins of the ancient city of Olimbos, which has undergone changes which made it almost unrecognisable from a previous visit here. The archaeological site has been cleared of all of the shabby development that encroached on the ruins but at the same time all of this development has been squeezed into a long and unattractive band of shops, bars and small restaurants.
Nearby, is the small town of Cirali, with its many small hotels and B&B’s that nestle between the mountains and the sea, comprised mostly of self-contained bungalows. The beach is long and wide and dinners are often served overlooking the sea, under the stars and candlelight.
Young adults who smoked marijuana every day for three years during their teen years have an oddly shaped hippocampus and performed poorly on long-term memory tasks, according to a new study published in Hippocampus this week.
A team led by Northwestern’s Matthew Smith used MRI to map the brains of 97 participants: 44 healthy controls, 10 subjects with a history of marijuana use disorder, 28 schizophrenia patients with no history of substance use disorders, and 15 schizophrenia patients with a marijuana use disorder. Participants with past cannabis use disorder were in their early twenties during the study and had stopped smoking pot for two years; they all started using marijuana daily when they were between 16 and 17 years old for about three years.
All of the recruits took a narrative memory test designed to assess their ability to encode, store, and recall details from stories. "The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family," study co-author John Csernansky of Northwestern explains in a news release. Previous work have linked adolescent cannabis use with poor short-term and working memory, as well as the abnormal shape of sub-cortex structures. The hippocampus, on the other hand, plays a key role in long-term (or episodic) memory—the ability to remember life events.
You remember the photograph: President Obama hunched in a corner of the Situation Room with his national-security staff, including Hillary Clinton with a hand over her mouth, watching the live feed from the compound in Pakistan where the killing of Osama bin Laden is under way. This is a Machiavellian moment: a political leader taking the ultimate risks that go with the exercise of power, now awaiting the judgement of fate. He knows that if the mission fails, his presidency is over, while if it succeeds, no one should ever again question his willingness to risk all.
It’s a Machiavellian moment in a second sense: an instance when public necessity requires actions that private ethics and religious values might condemn as unjust and immoral. We call these moments Machiavellian because it was Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, written in 1513, that first laid bare the moral world of politics and the gulf between private conscience and the demands of public action.
As people around the world try and come to terms with what happened in Taiwan this morning, some truly unbelievable dashcam footage has surfaced on the web.
We take you to Taipei, Taiwan, where a commercial TransAsia flight dramatically crashed into a highway before ending up in the harbour. The ATR-72 twin-engine aircraft had just taken off from Taipei’s Songshan Airport with passengers onboard.
When you were little, were you afraid of the dark? Most of us were. And I doubt we ever thought to question this fear. We were almost naturally taught to be afraid of the dark, because the dark is full of unknown things that might hurt us.
But what usually happened when you turned the light on? You learned the unknown things were not so scary. And they were not so unknown. They were just part of the environment.
We learned to associate darkness with scary and unknown, and we learned it’s better not to speak with our dark thoughts and emotions. Turning the light on our emotional shadow is a lot more challenging than flicking a physical light switch on. So we avoid it. Superficiality is easier. But this darkness of our soul has a life of its own which thrives, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. It’s there, and it’s powerful.
This fear of our emotional complexity grew as we grew, and with time became our shadow. It’s a hidden part in us that influences our choices more often than we are aware.
In truth, much effort goes into repressing and hiding it from ourselves and others. It’s our dark side. The parts we are ashamed and afraid to show. But through denial, we fail to see that in the obscurity of darkness also lay our strengths.
For reasons originating in the past, we have decided to negate and hide this dark side without exploring it further. And so in return it keeps us distant from truly expressing ourselves.
In many ways, hiding our shadow can be considered the highest form of betrayal. By concealing this part of us, we are saying we don’t deserve to show our complete selves, thereby betraying ourselves. In return, secrecy, manipulation, and pretending take over large parts of our lives from fear of being ‘exposed’ and rejected for the part of ourself we are hiding.
As mentioned, our shadow can show itself as weakness or strength. Becoming aware of our complete self allows us an opportunity for expressing strength. Ignoring these qualities, however, will always produce a damaging result.
The more we repress these dark corners of our being, the more we face disorder in our personality. This can manifest as addiction, anxiety, intentionally failed relationships or jobs, or other behaviors that cause destruction to ourselves and others.
To become aware of our shadow is to shed light on our earliest wounds and to give ourselves a chance for healing and transformation. But as long as we choose to close our eyes to this, the wounds will continue to decay while emitting poison into our lives.
To Deepen Our Spirituality, We Must Pass Through the Shadow
Any spiritual work must entail exposure and understanding of our shadow. Solely focusing on finding our light keeps us away from places of shame, guilt, jealousy, greed, competition, lust and aggression. But it is these very emotions that must be worked through first before coming near our lighter sides.
Even certain spiritual practices like meditation can become difficult when we try to ignore our shadow self. Its repression shows up when we shut our eyes, and we’re left with only our thoughts.
As with all strong emotions, what we don’t want to look at always keeps us contracted and in rejection. Deep down we know these qualities and feelings reside in us, and hiding them leads us to a life of inauthenticity and sometimes incomprehensible self-destructive behavior.
If our shadow is not acknowledged and embraced, the depth of our spiritual and personal growth is limited. Denying to look at the darkness is rejecting ourselves the need to be received in totality by others.
We start to overidentify with the side of ourself acquired through our own perception of reality. This in turn shapes our personality, the superficial side of us, which the world meets.
Our roles and personality try their best to help us feel worthy and lovable. For some, it is by being intelligent, successful, and powerful while for others it is the opposite. In whichever way our personality tries to control life, it remains just another attempt to be loved for something we know we’re not.
As long as this partial picture of ourselves is kept intact, we create separation. The message is “I don’t want to look and feel certain parts inside me and I prefer to judge others for showing and living what I choose to reject”, hence choosing separation, inside and out. It is a painful cage of continuous isolation.
Embracing The Complete You
The way to our light is through darkness. Whether we want it or not, the dark side in us is very active even though it is concealed and not evident to the outside. But we know it’s there, continuously asking for recognition.
The shadow should be met in a safe and loving environment. Otherwise, it is too afraid that its face will cause devastation and result in further isolation. When it’s safe we can start looking, seeing, and expressing what has been hidden from our awareness.
There are many unpolished diamonds of strength, creativity, and beauty, which we’ve kept limited so that others close don’t feel small, intimidated or scared. Speaking to our shadow is an immense step towards healing and self-love.
Initially, when we embark on this exciting and necessary journey, we may not be sure who we really are. But this is only because we are so used to our masks that expressing our true self is like meeting a familiar stranger. Soon new possibilities, choices and, perceptions appear.
Suddenly we can face the many question marks in our life from a place of strength and authenticity. We strengthen our capacity to be in this world more fully and completely. So, are you ready?
I can't be Charlie. I can't blatantly disrespect and mock any religious or ethnic group even for satire.
I can't find humour in depictions of religious figures of any stripe as animals or any other degrading manner when I know that those figures mean something to others even if they don't to me.
I find it offensive to continually attack another's beliefs and faith for entertainment. As Benito Juarez, who was a lawyer and former President of Mexico famously said: "Respect for the rights others means Peace."
Are you aware that genetically modified mosquitoes are being set for release worldwide? Right after GM mosquitoes were let loose in Brazil, dengue fever cases spiked. Now, the Florida Keys are in danger of facing a similar fate. The mosquitoes haven’t even been officially approved, but Oxitec, the British company who created the mosquitoes, has already shipped them to Florida. The only hope is a very vocal grassroots effort to tell the Governor of Florida that these mosquitoes will ruin tourism and possibly turn the natural ecosystem there on its head.
The GM mosquitoes could be released in the Keys as early January or February of next year. Though the approval process is still underway, Oxitec is so sure they will have its way that it shipped the mosquitoes in anticipation.
So far, there are no reported cases of dengue fever in Florida this year, so why do they need GM mosquitoes meant to prevent the spread of such diseases? When they were used in Brazil, they increased dengue fever while upsetting the ecological balance of the area. They did not ‘pave the way for dengue fever protection’ as Oxitec propagandized. A state of emergency actually had to be declared in the town where the GM mosquitoes were released.
Fracking, Tar Sands, & OPEC Meet Decades of Mismanagement
OPEC member Venezuela has one of the largest oil and natural gas proven reserves in the world. It’s the 12th largest producer in the world. It’s still one of the top suppliers of crude oil to the US. Oil produces 95% of Venezuela’s export earnings. Oil and gas account for 25% of GDP. Oil is Venezuela’s single most important product. Oil is its critical source of foreign currency with which to pay for all manner of imported consumer and industrial products. But the price of oil has plunged 35% since June.
Venezuela was already in trouble before the price of oil plunged. The fracking boom in the US and the tar-sands boom in Canada have been replacing Venezuelan imports of crude to the US for years. The Keystone pipeline, if Congress approves it, will replace costly oil trains to move Canadian tar-sands crude to US refineries, making it even more competitive with Venezuelan crude. Shipments of crude from Venezuela to the US will continue to dwindle.
Venezuela’s budget deficit is 16% of GDP, the worst in the world. Inflation is running at a white-hot 63%, also the worst in the world. The economy is heavily subsidized, but now the money for the subsidies is running out.
Minority report was released in 2002, but it's striking ad scene is coming to fruition today. Only, instead of scanning eyes to mark individuals and serve content accordingly, we willingly carry what silently identifies us to anyone sniffing for a packet.
Today's equivalent to the above scene in Minority Report would be beacon tech and the big data opportunities that go along with it. Beacons already come from a variety of vendors and are sprouting at retail locations, integrated into digital signage and are present at events.