TIME Pornography

Porn May Be Bad for Your Brain, Study Suggests

Pasieka—Getty Images Coloured MRI scan of the human head

A German study suggests that watching porn may be linked to reduced activity in certain areas of the brain

A new study finds that men who watch a lot of pornography tend to have less gray matter volume as well as less activity in the region of the brain linked to rewards.

The German study, published in JAMA Psychiatry and which analyzed a relatively small sample, provides the first evidence which could lead to establishing a link between pornography consumption and brain size. However, it did not determine whether watching porn leads to the decreased volume and activity, or if people born with certain brain characteristics watch more porn.

The study’s researchers questioned 64 healthy men aged 21 to 45 about their porn watching habits. They also examined how their brains reacted to pornographic images and took images of their brains in order to measure volume.

The results also show that the brain region activated when people view sexual stimuli is less active in men who watch a lot of pornography. It also shows the part of the brain associated with processing rewards is smaller in men who view pornography more often.

TIME Drugs

Study: U.S. Heroin Users Are Mostly White Suburbanites

New study on heroin users confronts preconceived ideas on addicts and challenges prescription of opioids

The long-prevailing image of American heroin users is changing, as a new study shows 90% of the drug’s users are white and 75% live outside of cities.

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, also confirmed the link between medical opioid abuse and the rise in heroin use. Of the nearly 2,800 heroin users surveyed, 75.2% of them were introduced to opioids through prescription drugs.

The study also found that apart from the ‘high’ specific to heroin, it was often used because it was more readily accessible and cheaper than prescription opioids. The number of U.S. heroin users has surged as prescription drugs have gotten more expensive and pills have become more difficult to crush, making them harder to snort, inject or chew. As a result, many prescription drug abusers turned to heroin, which is more dangerous as it’s often cut with other drugs or chemicals.

The study goes on to highlight a few big differences between modern heroin users and those using the drug decades ago. People who started using heroin recently are on average older (mean age, 22.9 years) and of both genders, whereas people who started using heroin in the 1960s were younger (mean age, 16.5 years) and mostly male. Also, whites and nonwhites were equally represented among first-time heroin users before the 1980s, while almost 90% of people who started using the drug in the last decade were white.

TIME Eurasian Economic Union

Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus Sign Treaty Creating Huge Economic Bloc

Citizens of the three countries will have the right to work freely throughout the member states without any special work permits

Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus signed a treaty Thursday forming a massive new trading bloc known as the Eurasian Economic Union, Reuters reports.

The treaty will come into effect on January 1, 2015 as long as it’s approved by the countries’ respective parliaments. It will create the largest common market across ex-Soviet states, which its signatories hope will challenge the might of the European Union, the U.S. and China.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said shortly before signing the treaty that their meeting was of “epoch-making significance,” but that it was no attempt to recreate the Soviet Union. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the treaty represented “a bridge between the East and the West.”

Ukraine refused to join the treaty considering the conflict currently shaking the country and Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are considering joining the bloc, but other countries have turned down the opportunity to do so.

The new treaty unites three countries which have a combined population of 170 million people and a gross domestic product of 2.7 trillion dollars. Two of those countries, Kazakhstan and Russia, are oil producers. The deal will guarantee free transit of goods, services, capital and workers.


TIME Exercise/Fitness

America’s Teens Are Out of Shape

The numbers are in: Over half of American teenagers ages 12 to 15 are physically unfit

More than half of U.S. adolescents ages 12-15 are physically unfit, according to a new report.

The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2012, only about 42% of American youths had adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, a 10% drop compared to 2000. The study also found that the percentage of young people who had adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness decreases as their weight increases.

More than 600 teenagers were tested for the study. Their fitness was measured in a treadmill test, during which researchers tested how well their hearts and lungs could move blood to supply muscles.

The report found no disparities in cardiorespiratory fitness levels according to to race or family income. It did show a clear difference between boys and girls, with just over half of boys deemed fit but only a third of girls.

TIME Accident

Flying Buzzsaw Hits Woman on New York Street

Passersby watched in horror as the buzzsaw flew off the machine and came shooting down the sidewalk

A woman was hit by a flying buzzsaw as she walked past a construction site in New York City on Tuesday.

Construction workers were tearing up a street to fix a water main in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan when the buzzsaw flew off, the local NBC affiliate reports. The saw traveled about 100 feet and hit a tree before hitting a passerby in the leg. A police spokesperson said she was taken to Bellevue hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

“It was huge,” a witness, Sean Kulian, told NBC of the buzzsaw. “It looked like it was from a horror flick. I couldn’t believe it.”

“I just turned, kinda ducked, put my head down, thing came flying right by my head, missed me by that much,” said Matthew Bisi, another witness. “You could hear it coming and it went right by me.”




TIME Obesity

Poor Economy Has Fueled Rising Obesity Rates, Study Finds

Amid the lasting recession more families have had to cut back on how much they spend on food, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — often favoring less healthy but cheaper options

A new report suggests that obesity rates are spiraling in developed countries, thanks in part to the global economic slowdown of the past few years.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report released Wednesday says that sharper increases in obesity rates have been observed in women and the poor, and in countries such as France, Australia, Switzerland and Mexico, where the obesity rate climbs by as much as three per cent a year.

But not all developed countries have been affected in the same way; stable obesity rates have been observed in the United States, Italy and Canada.

Researchers at the OECD wrote that “the economic crisis is likely to have contributed to further growth in obesity,” as many families hit by the recession in 2008 had to cut back on healthy food such as fruits and vegetables, which are often more expensive than less healthy options.

Although the overall growth rate of obesity has slowed among developed countries, the report suggests governments still need to do more in order to get their citizens to slim down. High obesity rates can cost governments dearly, through treatment of obesity-linked conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

“The economic crisis may have contributed to a further growth in obesity, but most governments need to do more to stop this rising tide,” OECD health policy analyst Michele Cecchini said in a statement.

TIME Syria

Chemical Weapons Inspectors Attacked in Syria

Local Committee of Arbeen/AP In this Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 file citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, members of the UN investigation team take samples from the ground in the Damascus countryside of Zamalka, Syria

Inspectors and U.N. staff emerged alive

A convoy of chemical weapons inspectors and United Nations staff came under attack in Syria on Tuesday morning.

All staff emerged safe and were traveling back to their operating base, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement. The inspectors were traveling to the rebel-held village of Kafr Zaita, where alleged chlorine attacks took place. Earlier on Tuesday, the Syrian government said the group had been kidnapped by “terrorists.” Bashar Assad’s government and the rebels had agreed to a one=day truce in the area.

OPCW director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said both sides in Syria’s ongoing civil war have to provide safe access to inspectors. “Our inspectors are in Syria to establish the facts in relation to persistent allegations of chlorine gas attacks,” Uzumcu said. “Their safety is our primary concern.”

Western officials have recently raised the possibility that chlorine was used in a government attack. The Chemical Weapons Convention signed last year by Syria bans the use of common industrial chlorine gas as a chemical weapon.

TIME Switzerland

Swiss Group Will Help Elderly Who Aren’t Terminally Ill Commit Suicide

The group Exit changed its practices to allow patients who are not terminally ill to request assisted suicide

A Swiss assistance suicide organization will now extend its services to elderly people who aren’t terminally ill but simply wish to die as old age advances.

The group Exit added “suicide due to old age” to its list of services at annual meeting over the weekend, the Guardian reports, amid criticism from Swiss doctors. Patients will now have the choice to end their life if suffering from psychological or physical problems associated with age.

The Swiss Medical Association condemned this change, saying it will encourage suicide among the elderly. “We do not support the change of statutes by Exit,” association president Dr Jürg Schlup said. “It gives us cause for concern because it cannot be ruled out that elderly healthy people could come under pressure of taking their own life.”

Exit stood by its decision, saying patients who consider that option had already been looking into assisted suicide for years.

Euthanasia has been legal in Switzerland since 1942 but organizations administering life-ending drugs only gained legal status in the 1980’s. The shift by Exit came shortly after a doctor was acquitted by a Swiss appeals court for administrating life-ending drugs to a 89-year old man without examining him first.




Finally: Here’s What Morgan Freeman Sounds Like on Helium

Morgan Freeman's legendary voice like you've never heard it before

It’s finally time to find out what Morgan Freeman sounds like after inhaling helium.

The clip, via Entertainment Weekly, is from the fifth season of Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole, a documentary series exploring the mysteries of the universe.


Ex-Congolese Militia Leader Sentenced to 12 Years for War Crimes

Germain Katanga was convicted for crimes against humanity and four war crimes by the International Court of Justice, he was acquitted of rape and sexual slavery

The International Criminal Court sentenced former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga to 12 years in jail Friday, the BBC reports.

Katanga was found guilty in March of one crime against humanity and four war crimes. He’s only the second person to have been convicted by the Netherlands-based court.

The ICC found that Katanga, 36, was behind the massacre of hundreds of people in a village in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003. The battles escalated into an inter-ethnic conflict in which up to 50,000 people were killed.

Katanga was convicted of “accessory to one crime against humanity (murder) and four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging)” by the ICC. He was also found guilty of procuring weapons that were used to kill villagers, but he was acquitted of direct involvement in any mass killings.

Katanga was also acquitted of using child soldiers, selling women into sexual slavery and rape.

The judge in the case said that the more than six years Katanga has already spent in custody, as well as his role in helping with the demobilization of child soldiers, was taken into account during his sentencing.



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