TIME diabetes

Antibiotics Are Linked To Type-2 Diabetes

Antibiotic use is associated with type-2 diabetes diagnoses, the latest research reveals

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism finds that people who develop type-2 diabetes used significantly more antibiotics—even 15 years before they were diagnosed—than people without the disease.

The researchers used data from citizens of Denmark, since the country has a single-payer national health insurance system with detailed health and pharmacy records. Using national health registries, the researchers looked at 170,504 people who had type-2 diabetes and tracked their prescriptions for antibiotics. They matched those people with 1.3 million other Danish citizens of the same age and sex who did not have diabetes and compared data from the two groups.

People with type-2 diabetes were more likely to receive more courses of antibiotics (0.8 prescriptions per year) than those who didn’t have the disease (0.5 prescriptions per year). An increased use of antibiotics was detected up to 15 years before people with type-2 diabetes were even diagnosed; an increased usage was also found after diagnosis.

MORE: How This Common Drug Can Have Lasting Effects On Kids

The study wasn’t designed to be able to determine a cause, but the authors point out two interpretations of the results. One is that people who go on to develop type-2 diabetes are more vulnerable to infections years before they’re diagnosed, so it would make sense for them to take more antibiotics. The other theory is that antibiotics raise the risk of type-2 diabetes.

This second theory is derived largely from research in rodents, and it’s the one that compels Dr. Martin Blaser, professor of medicine and microbiology at New York University Langone Medical Center and a longtime researcher of the effects of antibiotics. (Blaser was not involved with this study but is familiar with the research.)

“When you take antibiotics,” he says, “you change the composition of the microbiota”—your personal collection of bacteria in the body that communicates with human cells. Blaser has a hypothesis for how this might work in children who develop type-1 diabetes: the change in composition from taking antibiotics also alters metabolism, possibly making people more likely to become diabetic. “This work coming out that antibiotics might be affecting adults in a similar fashion is a little surprising to me, but in no way shocking,” he says. “I thought by the time you’re adult things are pretty much fixed, but maybe they’re not.”

The results of the study are not conclusive. But Blaser says they add to the body of research about the potential risks of antibiotics. “It’s evidence consistent with the idea that antibiotics have cost—not just monetary cost, but a biological cost in terms of potentially causing long-term effects,” he says. “As we’re studying it more and more, it suggests that things may bounce back, but it may not be the same normal, and it may predispose to other diseases—including important diseases, common diseases, like type-2 diabetes.”

TIME arctic

Russia Ups The Ante In The Race For The Arctic

Russian President Vladimir Putin salutes
MAXIM MARMUR—AFP/Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the observation point of the Arctic cosmodrome in Plesetsk.

Area could hold almost a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas

Russia is not giving up in its bid to claim as much of the Arctic as it can.

Eight years after literally placing a flag via submarine on the seabed of the North Pole, Russia announced that it has submitted a formal claim to Arctic territory to the United Nations.

According to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, the country is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers of Arctic sea shelf. Last year, according to the Moscow Times, the Russian Natural Resources and Environment Minister said the forthcoming claim would contain about 5 billion tons of oil and gas resources.

As global warming causes the Arctic ice cap to melt, more of the previously unchartered territory has become accessible. Russia is jockeying with Canada, the United States, Denmark, and Norway to claim the territory that could hold almost a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.

Russia already submitted Arctic claims to the United Nations in 2002, but those were rejected due to lack of evidence. Denmark and Canada have also staked claims to Arctic territory, citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

TIME Denmark

Denmark Bans Kosher and Halal Animal Slaughter

A customer passes by Halal butchery shelves in a supermarket in Illzach, eastern France, on Aug. 21, 2009.
Sebastien Bozon—AFP/Getty Images A customer passes by Halal butchery shelves in a supermarket in Illzach, eastern France, on Aug. 21, 2009.

“Animal rights come before religion”

Editor’s note: This story was published in error; it incorrectly suggested that Denmark’s ban is new. See correction appended

Denmark enacted a sweeping ban on the religious slaughter of animals in 2014, prompting a furious backlash from Jewish and Muslim community representatives.

The ban, which requires slaughterhouse workers to stun animals before killing them, now extends to religious communities that were previously afforded an exemption. “Animal rights come before religion,” Danish minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2.

Activists with Danish Halal called the restriction a “clear interference in religious freedom,” the Independent reports, while Israeli chief rabbi David Lau slammed the law as “a serious and severe blow to the Jewish faith and to the Jews of Denmark,” according to Times of Israel.

Both observant Jews, under kashrut laws and Muslims, under halal laws, will not eat meat unless the animal has been killed with a single slice to the neck, with the intention to minimize its pain.

Correction: This story was based on old sources and incorrectly suggested that Denmark’s ban is new. It was enacted in February 2014.

TIME Denmark

The Danes Are Going to Complete a Karmic Circle by Recycling Urine Into Beer

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Getty Images

Talk about perfect, self-sustaining systems

Danish music festival organizers are offering attendees a simple way to help the environment. And that’s peeing.

Roskilde, the largest music festival in Northern Europe, is held every year in Zealand, Denmark, the Guardian reports. This year’s 100,000 expected attendees won’t just be rocking out to the likes of Florence and the Machine and Pharrell, though. They’ll be contributing to an operation called “From Piss to Pilsner.”

“The huge amount of urine produced at festivals was having a negative impact on the environment and the sewage system,” Leif Nielsen from the Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC) said. Now organizers are hoping to use that pee to fertilize barley used to brew beer.

Festival-goers are being encouraged to pee into a metal trough next to a sign that says, “Don’t waste your piss. Farmers can turn it into beer again.” The urine will then be funneled into special holding tanks and finally spread as a fertilizer over malting barley used to brew beer. The DAFC hopes to collect around 25,000 L of urine from those attending, the Guardian reports.

By 2017, attendees will be drinking beer made from ingredients fertilized by the pee gathered this year, organizers say. Insert your favorite taste-of-beer joke here.

[Guardian]

TIME Culture

Americans’ Flag Obsession Is Not Exceptional

american-flag
Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Even the mild-mannered Danes go nuts over their national colors

On the very first day I set foot in the United States as a young student from Europe too many years ago, I accidentally mistook a renowned fast food restaurant for the local post office. Why the silly mistake? Because of the national flag flying in front of it. I thought it was the official building I was looking for, not a commercial joint.

It seemed the Stars and Stripes were everywhere, enjoying an extraordinary status in American public culture and in Americans’ private lives. But even if some of the flags flying over car dealerships across the United States are impressively large – as is the number of U.S. politicians wearing flag pins on their lapels – Americans should resist the temptation to chalk up their love of the national symbol to some wonderful “only in America” exceptionalism.

People across Europe also have a passionate relationship with their flying colors, even if they are less conscious of it, and don’t normally fly the flag at fast food joints. Think back to the dramatic Mohammed cartoon controversy of 2006, when Danish flags joined American flags in flag-burning rallies across the Muslim world after a Danish newspaper published a cartoon depicting the prophet. Danes reacted with shock and sorrow because, they said, the national colors (depicting an off-center white cross on a red background) are to them a sacred and beloved object, a banner of joy and tolerance, of solidarity and community.

Newspaper accounts pointed out that in Denmark, the flag — affectionately called the Dannebrog or “Danish cloth” in ancient Danish — is everywhere. It flies on public buildings and churches to celebrate local and national holidays, including Denmark’s Flag Day—on June 15. It is hoisted over private homes to mark occasions like weddings and funerals, anniversaries and graduations, or just plain fine weather. It is printed on gift-wrapping paper. It decorates birthday cakes and Christmas trees.

Throughout Scandinavia, the flags of Norway, Sweden, and Finland are revered and domesticated broadly. They are considered people’s flags, not state’s flags. Their use is so pervasive that nobody notices it anymore, and those asked about it react with a “Do we really do that?” like the two young fish in David Foster Wallace’s parable who wonder “What the hell is water?” Indeed, Scandinavians might even be tempted to think their flag fetishism is a sign of Nordic exceptionalism – at least until they try finding a post office in America.

And consider Great Britain. The venerable Union Jack has joined the nouveau riche Stars and Stripes in its association with unabashed merchandising. It seems that to Britons, much like to Americans, commercialism does not pollute the sanctity of the national symbol or one’s underlying patriotism. Branding the flag in unexpected, often crassly commercial setting and products, is instead deemed evidence of a more democratic, accessible, and friendly nationalism – one curated by people, not an aloof state.

Since the 1950s, the Union Jack has been enthusiastically stamped on goods and shopping venues, perhaps in celebration of the nation’s survival of so many trials to become a peaceful and affluent society. Later on, the Union Jack became the selling symbol of British cool, a design icon in posters, mugs, tourist souvenirs, record cover sleeves, cars, sneakers, garments – like the notorious Union Jack underwear.

In France, the national flag is venerated by the state and citoyens alike as a powerful republican symbol, the product, like the American flag, of one of the great revolutions of the transatlantic world. Like the Stars and Stripes, and perhaps in competition with the Stars and Stripes, le drapeau tricolore is supposed to represent liberté, egalité, fraternité.

The French and American flags share an often-overlooked commonality. Along with the red flag, a transnational banner of social protest before being adopted by a variety of socialist states, they belong to the minority of Western flags born republican and secular. There is no monarchical or imperial center to their design. And there are no religious symbols: in contrast to the Christian crosses on the Nordic flags, conceived centuries ago as crusading ensigns.

Of course, both French and American flags and their historical spin-offs (like the Italian tricolore) have been absorbed over time into national civic religions, despite their secular origins. In democratic, secular republics, the flag acquires an even greater, near-sacred, civic importance, if anything, in the absence of other public binding icons, like king or God. Hence the need to pledge allegiance to the flag, and to develop rites around the proper use and treatment of the sacred cloth in public and private settings; hence the impassioned debates over flag-burning in the United States.

In Europe, the first flag days were established around the same time as the U.S. Flag Day, in the 1910s: usually in June, a time of traditional summer festivals. The latest have been created since the 1990s, in Russia, Romania and Poland, in Sweden (revived to become a bank holiday) and in my own country, Italy, on January 7. Globalization and immigration-related anxieties over national identities and, in former Communist countries, the desire to advertise new flags and new loyalties, seem to account for these late revivals.

And, of course, it feels like flag day anytime international soccer matches are played across Europe, and the flags come unfurled.

There is, of course, our shared continental flag, the flag of the European Union. This official emblem somewhat recalls the flag flown by George Washington’s Continental Army (a circle of 12 yellow stars on a blue background), and has its own day (May 9). But it attracts little passionate attachment – at least in the nations entitled to fly it. The EU flag seems to conjure up more excitement as an aspirational symbol, among those outside the Union seeking to join a community they associate with prosperity and democracy.

And that is all you can ask of your flying colors – that they be associated with a society’s shared accomplishments and values. Even if it’s flying over a fast food joint.

Arnaldo Testi is a professor of American history at the University of Pisa, Italy. He wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Denmark

Danish Radio Host Criticized for Killing Rabbit on Air During Animal Rights Debate

The host said he hit the rabbit over the head with a bicycle pump

A radio station in Denmark was heavily criticized Tuesday after one of its hosts killed a rabbit live on air in a debate about animal rights before later cooking it.

Radio24syv presenter Asger Juhl said he killed 9-month-old Allan by hitting him over the head with a bicycle pump.

The incident, which took place in a studio, was broadcast live on air.

The station explained on its Facebook page that Juhl intended to “stir a debate about the hypocrisy when it comes to perceptions of cruelty towards animals.”

It posted a video that it said showed the rabbit being cooked…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Switzerland

This Country Has the World’s Happiest People

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Dale Reubin—Getty Images/Cultura RF View of mountains and lakeside village, Switzerland

Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom and the economy all play a role in happiness

The happiest people in the world live in Switzerland, a new study found.

The third World Happiness Report, released by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network on Thursday, ranked 158 countries based on Gallup surveys from 2012-15 and analyzed the key factors contributing to happiness levels.

Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada were the top five happiest countries, while the West African nation of Togo was the least happy.

The report aims to provide policymakers around the world with new metrics that place a higher emphasis on subjective well-being. While income appeared to play a significant role in boosting happiness—the GDP per capita is 25 times higher in the 10 happiest countries than in the 10 least happy—it was far from the only factor. Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom, generosity and corruption levels also helped explain the happiness scores, according to the report.

The U.S., for example, ranked 15th in the world, one below Mexico and three below Costa Rica, where per capita GDP is roughly a fifth of that in the U.S.

“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being,” Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said in a statement. “It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health.”

But sharp economic changes in a country can play a role in people’s happiness, the report found. Greece, where the global recession triggered prolonged economic turmoil, saw its happiness levels fall the most since 2005-07, compared to 125 other countries where data was available.

Still, the report warned policymakers against overemphasizing income levels.

“When countries pursue GDP in a lopsided manner, forgetting about social and environmental objectives, the results can be adverse for human well-being,” the report said. “Many countries in recent years have achieved economic growth at the cost of the sharply rising inequalities of income and grave damage to the natural environment.”

TIME Denmark

What Transformed Copenhagen Gunman From Petty Thug to Lethal Jihadi?

People lay flowers outside a synagogue where an attack took place in Copenhagen, Feb. 15, 2015.
Rumle Skafte—AP People lay flowers outside a synagogue where an attack took place in Copenhagen on Feb. 15, 2015

Two weeks after release from prison for stabbing, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, managed to find guns and select targets

In the two weeks or so since he was released from prison, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein must have been a busy man. He had to learn about the discussion that Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who had once published a drawing of Mohammed as a dog, would be giving at a cultural center in Copenhagen, and figure out the best way to attack it. He likely had to stake out the city’s main synagogue as well in order to familiarize himself with its security arrangements. And he had to secure guns: the automatic weapon and the pistol he would use to kill two and injure five before being killed himself by police early in the morning of February 15.

But two days after El-Hussein committed the first terrorist attack on Danish soil in more than 20 years, many here are wondering if the really hard work didn’t go on well before that. Whether it occurred in prison, or in the gangs he was associated with, or in the larger community where he lived, something happened to turn the Danish-born 22-year-old from an ordinary criminal into a terrorist. With the number of Islamist extremists growing in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe — to say nothing of the number of attacks perpetrated by European-born terrorists — the need to answer the question of how and where radicalization occurs is becoming increasingly acute.

Two other men have been arrested as suspected accomplices in the Copenhagen attacks. They are accused of helping El-Hussein secure the weapons he used in the shootings that left 55-year-old filmmaker Finn Norgaard and 37-year-old synagogue security guard Dan Uzan dead, and of helping hide him during the roughly 13 hours between the first attack and the shootout with police that left him dead.

That man was known to police long before he showered the Krudtønden cultural center with bullets while a discussion about blasphemy and freedom of expression was underway. A known gang member, in November 2013, he was arrested after he stabbed — without apparent provocation, according to witnesses — a fellow passenger on a subway train and taken into custody. He was sentenced to two years of prison in December 2014, but was released in January because he had already served more than two thirds of his time while in custody.

What is less clear is whether El-Hussein was a hardened Islamist or simply a common criminal. Journalist Jesper Braarud Larsen covered El-Hussein’s trial for attempted homicide in December 2014 for the news website Dagens.dk, and was present in the courtroom when he was sentenced. “There was absolutely nothing about him that gave any sense of his being religious,” Braarud Larsen says of the young man who appeared in court dressed in black and with scars visible beneath his nearly-shaved hair. “He seemed most like a hardened criminal, who was no stranger to extreme violence. He said he was paranoid because he had been smoking hash that day, and he thought that the 19-year-old victim was someone who had attacked him previously.”

Increasingly, however, the distinction between common criminals and radicals is becoming meaningless, at least in Denmark. “Here, there’s crossover between criminal gangs and extremism,” says terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp, a researcher at the Swedish National Defence College. “In other places you have a division between petty criminals and people [who join extremist groups] to give their life meaning. Here you have individuals who can switch between the two worlds, people who even use extremism as an exit strategy from gangs. Gang experience makes them more serious in extremist circles. They have access to weapons, they know how police work, they’re hardened, they have the skillset.”

 

The number of extremists has risen in Denmark in the past few years to around 200, according to the Danish intelligence service PET. The conflict in Syria has increased their ranks; officials say that 110 Danes have gone to Syria or Iraq as foreign fighters, though the real numbers are likely higher. Kaldet til Islam, an organization with ties to Wahabism and the British radical group Sharia4UK has been attracting a number of returning Danish foreign fighters, and posted a video in which several cartoonists, including Vilks, were depicted as targets.

There is no evidence that El-Hussein was influenced by Kaldet til Islam, and PET has admitted it had only passing awareness of him. That means his time in prison will come under even greater scrutiny as a potential source of his radicalization. Certainly it played a pivotal role for Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, two of the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. Both men were known to have been in contact during their time in Europe’s largest prison with convicted jihadi Djamel Beghal.

Investigators in Denmark are looking into whether El-Hussein had the same kind of experience. “The Danish prison service is vastly different from the French and Belgian, which are serious incubators of terrorism,” says Ranstorp. “In Denmark, they are aware of this issue, and they document the cases of people who get involved, and try to address it. But of course the big issue is who did he come in contact with, what was his behavior there like?”

One measure of the seriousness with which Denmark takes the issue of extremism is the nearly 60.9 million kroner ($9.1 million) deradicalization plan recently agreed to by the government. The plan includes an ‘exit center’ for foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, as well as prevention programs for susceptible youth. That the plan is viewed as potentially effective was evident in Kaldet til Islam’s response. On Feb 4, it was denounced as “a hostile desire to separate Muslims from their Islam” on the group’s Facebook page.

Whether that kind of program would have prevented the Copenhagen attacks is impossible to predict. And El-Hussein’s actions, however they were inspired, suggest a keen determination to carry out violence; sources have told Politiken newspaper that he pretended to be drunk so as to get close enough to the synagogue security to shoot them. But in the choice of his victims, the young man is representative of a nascent breed of homegrown terrorists who combine radicalized views of Islam with common crime. “He’s a hybrid,” Ranstorp says of El-Hussein. “You don’t attack these specific targets based just on criminality. You need an ideology that legitimates the model.”

TIME Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Says the Chapel Hill Shootings Were a ‘Terrorist’ Act

Namee Barakat, center, watches during funeral services for his son, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Feb. 12, 2015, in Wendell, N.C.
Chuck Liddy—The News/ Observer/AP Namee Barakat, center, watches during funeral services for his son Deah Barakat in Wendell, N.C., on Feb. 12, 2015

Thousands also march in Qatar to show solidarity with victims

Saudi Arabia has condemned the killing of three American Muslims in North Carolina as “heinous” and a “terrorist” act.

A statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency on Sunday also called for an end to incitement against Muslims, the Associated Press reports.

On Sunday, several thousand people took part in a march in neighboring Qatar to show solidarity with the families of the North Carolina victims.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is made up of 57 Muslim countries, also expressed concern, saying the murders reflected “rising anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobic acts” in the U.S.

Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were killed last Tuesday by their neighbor Craig Hicks. The FBI is now investigating whether their deaths were the result of a hate crime.

[AP]

 

TIME Israel

Europe’s Jews Should Move to Israel, Says Israel’s Prime Minister

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Feb. 15, 2015
Abir Sultan—AP Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Feb. 15, 2015

The statement comes after recent attacks against Jews in Paris and Copenhagen

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday that European Jews should embark on a “mass immigration” to Israel.

The statement follows recent murders of Jews in Copenhagen and Paris, including Saturday’s death of a Jewish guard in front of a synagogue and last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, which left four French Jews dead.

“Jews have been murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews,” Netanyahu said. “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home.”

Denmark’s chief rabbi Jair Melchior said he was “disappointed” by the invitation, however. “People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism, but not because of terrorism,” he told the Associated Press.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt expressed a similar view, saying, “The Jewish community is a large and integrated part of Danish society.”

Last year, over 7,000 French Jews moved to Israel, double the previous year’s figure, prompting French President François Hollande to tell the country’s Jews in an address last month, “Your place is here, in your home. France is your country.”

[NYT]

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