Adam Driver:’ Compared with the military, acting isn’t that difficult’

The Star Wars actor on leaving the Marines, filming nude scenes with Lena Dunham and get in touch with his darknes side

Adam Driver has a reputation for being a serious young man, which is partly a matter of stance and partly, I suspect, to do with some aspect of his physiognomy: he has a large head and outsize features that somehow combine to give an impression of gravity. Before the photoshoot, he let it be known that he procures it uncomfortable to have a journalist( me) in his sightline on decide, the kind of specification one might expect of a particularly precious Hollywood star. But this turns out to be misleading. Driver’s discomfort is with the entire celebrity facet of his job, which stimulates talking about his role in the most recent Star Warstrilogy somewhat tricky. I don’t even know where to start with The Last Jedi, I tell, as we settle down after the shoot, and Driver smilings, then seems gloomy.” Me, neither ,” he says.

We are in downtown Manhattan, a few miles from Driver’s Brooklyn Heights neighbourhood( Lena Dunham lives there, too) and a more upscale part of Brooklyn than the grungy Greenpoint location of Girls. That depict, the sixth and final season of which ran on HBO earlier this year, was watched by relatively modest numbers, but has had an outsized influence on the culture. Scarcely a day goes by without Dunham being mentioned in a blogpost somewhere, and it dedicated Driver, who played her on-off boyfriend, the kind of career launch twentysomething performers can only dream of. At 34 , not only does he have his second go as Kylo Ren in the most recent Star Wars movie, but he has just shot The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, directed against Terry Gilliam, was in the Steven Soderbergh film Logan Lucky and played the title role in the Jim Jarmusch movie Paterson. Pretty good, I’d say, although I presume the two Star Wars films- The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi- are the real life-changer.

“No,” Driver says, looking genuinely baffled.

But to be part of a juggernaut that sizing- wasn’t he cautioned it would change his life?” I don’t think anyone used to say, and I wouldn’t have listened to them, anyway. As a person, I’m the same. The problems I had before Force Awakens, it didn’t solve any of them .” He laughs.” For me, the only noticeable difference is your visibility as a person. Loss of anonymity is a big thing. I didn’t realise how I would see that in a billion little routes .”

The fame he had before Star Wars was somewhat localised. As Driver says drily,” In my neighborhood, a lot of people watch HBO .” Star Wars is different:” Seven-year-olds to 70 -year-olds .” It is global and almost impossible to escape. Driver is 6ft 3in and distinctive-looking, like a child’s depict of a human brought to life. He’s even recognisable when travelling at speed.” I supposed, I’ll ride my motorcycle around the city ,” he says,” and within two seconds I get pulled over by the cops, who said,’ Hey, can we take a image ?'”

Really?” Yeah. I mean, I also operated a red light, so it was fair .”

Driver has been in New York since his early 20 s, and part of his appeal as relevant actors has to do with his background. Before attending drama school at Juilliard, he was in the Marine. He was discharged after two years of training, and before his division get shipped to Iraq, following an injury brought on while he was out mountain biking, a terrible jolt at the time.

It is this- the combined effects of the classical theatre training and the military experience- that devotes Driver an unusual ruggedness. As with most things that come up during our conversation, he is mildly amused and emphatically deflating about the role of the military in his appeal as an actor. He already knew he wanted to perform where reference is joined the Marines in his late teens, a move partly inspired by 9/11 and partly by youthful absence of direction.Driver’s application to Juilliard had been rejected; he had no other plans and was listlessly living in his mother and stepfather’s house in Indiana when 9/11 happened, filling him with what he described in a recent TED talk as” an overwhelming sense of duty “. He was also feeling” generally pissed off” and underconfident, and for some reason- he agrees, looking back, that it was in many ways an odd move- signing up seemed to be the answer.

At high school, Driver wasn’t particularly macho.” I didn’t do organised athletics , not because I didn’t like them, but because I wasn’t very good at them. Except basketball. But I was never, like: let’s play football .”

He principally hung out with the high school drama nerds.” I wasn’t someone who was into groups of guys- we’re men ! We’re going to eat meat !” He appears momentarily wry.” I don’t know what guys do. Anyway, I would never have talked to those people before the military. Now you’re stuck in the epitome of alpha-male territory .”

To everyone’s surprise, he loved it. One can virtually consider why: there is an earnestness to Driver that enjoyed the purity of military life and the more he talks about it, the more he makes it sound like a combat version of Buddhism.” There’s something about going into the military and having all of your identity and possessions stripped away: that whole lucidity of purpose thing. It becomes very clear to you, when you get your liberty back, that there’s stuff you want to do .”

The bonds Driver constructed with his fellow Marines were startling to him, devoted how different many of them were in terms of background.( In his own family, his mother is a paralegal, his stepfather a Baptist preacher and his father works” at the copy counter at Office Depot “.) In the military, Driver tells , none of that mattered.” You’re in this high-stakes environment where who you are as a person is constantly tested. And, in my experience, a lot of the person or persons I was closest to in the military were very self-sacrificing. For me, it speaks volumes, more than how well they were able to articulate, or whatever front they were putting on. You get to see them at their most vulnerable and they’re literally going to back you up. All pretences dissolve .”

Stylist: Michael Fisher at The Wall Group. Fashion assistant: Hannah Neser. Grooming: Amy Komorowski at Art Dept. T-shirt and sweater by APC. Opening photograph: T-shirt by APC. Photo: Andreas Laszlo Konrath for the Guardian

Being discharged on medical grounds before deployment was devastating for Driver; but the experience of having been in the military also made rehabilitation easier. Nothing, he believed at the time, could be as hard again, and after a period of working in a warehouse back in Indiana, he found that he still wanted to act and reapplied to Juilliard. It was different this time.” Whereas at 17 I just wanted to be liked, and to be funny, and accepted, afterwards I had a bit more life experience .” He was accepted and moved to New York.

He has worked almost constantly since then, to the extent that he took four months off recently simply to hang out at home with his wife Joanne Tucker.( They met at Juilliard and she is also an actor .) Most of his early roles- “hes in” Frances Ha, the excellent Noah Baumbach movie, and in the Coen brethren’ Inside Llewyn Davis– were very good, but relatively small scale and indie. Even Girls, his breakthrough role , didn’t look like much when it first arrived on screen. The Force Awakens, on the other hand, became the fastest film to take$ 1bn( PS740m) at the global box office. I try again: surely this does something to Driver’s basic levels of self-confidence?

” No, because that’s not what I was after when I started to be an actor ,” he insists.” It would if that was my goal. I know people think that if you’re relevant actors, it’s your goal to be famous and wealthy. Surely you want to be famous and wealthy! And there are great things about that part of it- it frees you up to do other things. But part of my job is being anonymous and I think being able to live, to find more than to be observed, is important.[ Being famous] seems counterintuitive to my job. It’s a weird dynamic when you walk into a room and there’s an image people project on to you .” He interrupts himself to say, conscientiously,” My problems compared with global issues, or anybody else’s, are very low. Even that I have time in my day to think about the existential .”

This is how it goes with Driver: he is assiduously mindful of broader sensitivities and somewhat embarrassed to air his own.” What it means to lose anonymity is a bougie problem in and of itself. And I won’t garner sympathy , nor am I asking for it. The image of us on our red carpet wearing expensive suits, where people naturally assume your life is, is not what I was after when I started this task. Believe it or not .”

I do believe it, I say. One has only to look at him, twisting this style and that in his chair. (” I’m not doing it on purpose to get away from you ,” he tells .)

So he doesn’t take any credit for, or validation from, the success of Star Wars?” You mean, am I, like, yes !” He dedicates a little satirical air punch.” I’m excited that people liked it, but do I think that I got it right? No. If I had directed it, perhaps. But I didn’t write it, direct it, pick out the costumes. All these decisions- about the lightsaber, that it’s unfinished and unpolished- none of this organization is mine. I know enough about this chore not to take credit .” He looks pained.” That would be an illusion .”


Driver’s family have no roots in acting, although his stepfather’s task as a minister might be said to have some performance aspect to it. Driver sang in the church choir well into his teens, which, he tells, gives you an idea of how left-field his decision to enlist was. When he joined the school theater, it was because his friends were doing it and it looked fun.” They auditioned for Oklahoma !, so I did. And I got a part in the chorus. I recollect being backstage and it seemed like a community that was a bunch of weirdos, and I liked that part of it. I also felt that I was kind of OK at it. I tend to get frustrated with things that I don’t pick up right away .”

When people in the US think of Indiana, he says, they think of somewhere” boring and flat “. It is also deep into Trump country, such that Driver and his family are careful to avoid talking about politics when he goes home for the holidays.

Occasionally, his worlds collide. A few years after being demobbed, Driver set up a nonprofit organisation called Arts In The Armed Force, which puts on theatre performances for personnels at military basis. His burgeoning celebrity has stimulated it easier to recruit other well-known actors to the cause, but it is testament to his management abilities that from the outset, the company has been smartly and seriously run. His aim, he tells, was to broaden the scope of amusement put one across for the troops. When Driver was stationed at Camp Pendleton, in California, the troop entertainment was, “‘ The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are going to come and dance for you .’ Which is great, but there wasn’t anything like theatre or performance art brought to us .”

As Kylo Ren in new movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Unlike Bryan Doerries’ excellent stage project Theatre Of War, in which Greek drama is performed before military audiences as a public health initiative, “were not receiving” therapeutic element to Driver’s nonprofit. Still, it can have an interesting impact.” In one of our first performances, Laura Linney did a monologue from this Scott Organ play called China, about a female employer reprimanding a female employee for not wearing a bra. It’s really funny, that’s why I picked it- not really supposing it through. It are members of a series of monologues, and the male Marines were coming out and saying, we really liked it, but we thought[ that particular one] was an indirect attack on how we do things in the military .”

When Driver asked why, they responded,” Because there’s a uniformity and structure and a reason in the military, and we thought that’s what you were trying to criticise. I said, OK, that’s interesting. And then the female Marines were coming out and telling, I liked the whole thing, especially that monologue, because I know what it’s like to be a female in a very male-dominated surrounding. That’s the best answer we could’ve asked for. Hopefully they like it and it’s entertaining. But the committee is also tackles them, and they bring something to it that a civilian audience wouldn’t think of .”

It can take a little persuasion on Driver’s part to get officers to allow him on to the base, and if he is adept at overcoming the military’s initial scepticism towards theatre, it is thanks to the experience of having overcome similar racism in himself. Theatre school seemed insane after the Marines, he tells.” It is a very egocentric four years, just sitting around and focusing on what does the back of my tongue sound like when I make this sound? What is a Scottish dialect ?”

Failure didn’t especially worry him; he was still in his early 20 s and brimming with the trust of youth and the machismo of two years of hard training.” In the military, you are put in hard circumstances, so I’m thinking, I’ll move to New York and be an actor, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll only live in Central Park. You know, compared with the military, it can’t be that difficult. I’ll dumpster dive. I’ll survive. Civilian problems compared with the military are small; that was my guessing at the time. That’s not right. But at the time, that’s what I guessed .”

With his wife Joanne Tucker, whom he met at Juilliard. Photograph: Barry King/ Getty Images

It wasn’t just the contrast between the two worlds that devoted Driver confidence. There is something virtually fanatic about his belief in the right and wrong way to do things. When he was still at school and decided to be an actor, the only place he applied to was Juilliard; nowhere else , no backup. He had heard it was the best place in the US to develop, so that’s where he wanted to go.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, he isn’t on social media. Those kinds of exchanges don’t interest him. As a result, he missed out on a lot of the hype around Girls, although even he couldn’t fail to recognise that the indicate was a made.( Driver won three consecutive Emmy nominations for his role as Adam Sackler .) It was a strange thing, he says, to sign up for what felt like a relatively obscure prove-” Something that felt like it was constructed in the basement of a friend’s house”- and watch it rise, while he and his friends rose with it.( We speak before the controversy over Lena Dunham’s defence of a Girls writer against an accusation of rape .)

It did not escape Driver’s notice that his own nudity on the depict was less remarked upon and criticised than that of Lena Dunham, even though Dunham wrote, made and directed the display.” Of course there’s a double standard for men and women. I don’t think that’s a controversial thing for me to say. It’s so obvious, and one of the things that she was fighting against, which I understood right away, is that it wasn’t gratuitous. There was always a point behind it, it was always still storytelling. It just seemed very natural. We talked just as much about being naked, and what was the tale and the sexuality scenes, as we did about scenes where there’s dialogue .”

It wasn’t uncomfortable to film?” If it’s for no intent whatsoever, that would be very uncomfortable. But part of the storytelling is about our bodies and how they seem, and if there’s something that’s not flattering about it, that was probably what we were going for. That’s my job, to tell the story .”

With Lena Dunham in Girls, 2013. Photograph: c.HBO/ Everett/ REX

What did he learn from Dunham?

” Um. I entail, Lena is a great writer. She’s a good thief, also: she’s very aware of her surrounding and is very good about processing her experience of something immediately. I feel like I need more time to get distance on it, so I can look back and have an opinion. She is forming sentiments as she does things. Which I think is a rare ability .”

Driver sometimes wonders if he’ll ever come to firm conclusions about anything.” I never figure anything out ,” he tells, winningly.” I do my job. That’s my goal, to be as economical as is practicable. Basically, the only thing I try to do is know my lines .”

His ego is contained, too.” Usually, the mood of the decide is what I adapt to, as opposed to having a defined style of working and imposing it on everybody else. If this is necessary private hour, usually people give you space for that. But getting set into one way of doing something seems like closing yourself off from being incorrect .” On the other hand,” interesting things can come out of being wrong “. He smiles. “Sometimes.”

Can he let things run?

” No. I don’t think so. Maybe after a while. I maintain replaying scenes in my intellect. That’s why I don’t like to watch anything I’m in – it’s not my responsibility .” It’s a Zen attitude Driver has worked hard to perfect and he frowns with the endeavours of maintaining it. To be a small part of the machine is where he has always felt comfy.” It’s not about me ,” he says.

* Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens on 14 December.

Commenting on this piece? If you would like your commentary to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in publish, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publication ).

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FDA drops-off lifetime ban on blood donations from homosexual and bisexual men

Agency will bar men who have had sex with another man in the previous year from donating, a policy activists believe is still discriminatory

US government health officials are lifting the nations 32-year-old lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, but major restrictions will remain on who can donate.

The ban had been aimed at preventing the transmission of HIV, the virus which causes Aids, but medical groups and gay activists have long said the ban could no longer be justified, based on modern testing methods. The US Food and Drug Administration said on Monday that the change is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply.

Officials are replacing the blanket ban with a policy barring donations from men who have had sex with another man in the previous year. While the policy has been criticized by activists, the FDA stance is in line with that of other countries, including Australia and Britain. The US lifetime ban was put in place during the early Aids crisis.

The agency said people with hemophilia and related blood-clotting disorders will continue to be banned from donating blood due to potential harm they could suffer from large needles. Previously they were banned due to an increased risk of transmitting HIV.

The agency said it has also put in place a safety monitoring system for the blood supply, which it expects to provide critical information to help inform future FDA blood donor policies.

Ultimately, the 12-month deferral window is supported by the best available scientific evidence, at this point in time, relevant to the US population, Dr Peter Marks, deputy director of the FDAs biologics division, said in a statement. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, have 12-month deferrals.

During the change in Australia from an indefinite blood donor deferral policy essentially a ban to a 12-month deferral, studies evaluating more than eight million units of donated blood were performed using a national blood surveillance system, the FDA said.

These published studies document no change in risk to the blood supply with use of the 12-month deferral, the agency said. Similar data are not available for shorter deferral intervals.

The agency said its policies to date have helped reduce HIV transmission rates from blood transfusions from 1 in 2,500 to 1 in 1.47 million.

But many medical providers and activists working directly in HIV/Aids said the new policy is still discrimination.

In practice, the new policy is still a continuation of the lifetime ban and ignores the modern science of HIV-testing technology while perpetuating the stereotype that all gay and bisexual men are inherently dangerous, said Kelsey Louie, the executive director of the Gay Mens Health Crisis, a leader in HIV/Aids providing care, after the announcement. Blood donation policies should be based on science, not stigma.

GMHC sees the focus on abstinence as just a continuation of stigma towards gay and bisexual men in the US, even stating the US needs to stop reacting to HIV like it is the early 1980s.

And some elected officials rushed to agree.

It is ridiculous and counter to the public health that a married gay man in a monogamous relationship cant give blood, but a promiscuous straight man who has had hundreds of opposite-sex partners in the last year can, said Colorado representative Jared Polis in a statement after the announcement.

There is no scientific reason to impose a celibacy requirement on gay men before they can donate blood, he continued.

In an official statement released by the congressional LGBT Equality Caucus calling for the FDA to end all bans on gay and bisexual men from donating blood, congressional members pointed to a 2014 FDA BloodDROPS survey, which found that found the prevalence of HIV in gay and bisexual male blood donors was just 0.25%, which is actually lower than the overall prevalence in the US of 0.38%.

This past year, we saw tremendous progress for the LGBT community with the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide, said Illinois congressman Mike Quigley.

Unfortunately, todays official policy change by the FDA on blood donations from men who have sex with men from a lifetime ban to one-year deferral does not keep up with that same progress.

Zach Stafford, Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Ocean Giants Could Be Significantly Threatened By Microplastics

The mass of the plastic in the oceans right now can be compared to 17 Great Pyramids of Giza, and per year, another 550 Brooklyn Bridges’ worth is added. Make no mistake: plastic pollution is an ecological and environmental scourge.

One of the primary components of this waste are microplastics, sesame seed-sized beads that a plethora of marine life can accidentally ingest. An international team of researchers, led by the Marine Megafauna Foundation( MMF) and Murdoch University, use a new examine to highlight the risks that microplastics may pose to big filter feeders, including baleen whales, whale sharks, and manta rays.

These animals strain particles suspended in the water column using a specialized structure. Plenty use this mechanism to eat plankton, but it’s been thought that microplastics- either as isolated particles or already in the digestive systems of prey they’re about to eat- could be posing a number of problems for these beasts too.

The team explain that their review of a recent studies underscores not just how prevalent microplastic is in marine ecosystems, but how little we currently understand about it. Although the extent of the biological effects of ingesting microplastics isn’t yet clear, research has found that these polyethylene plastic particles are causing toxicity in fish and birds that eat them.

Filter feeders, which tend to have fewer offspring and live long lives, are likely to be at risk too; if these key species die off, this could severely disrupt local food chain. Only a few analyses looking into how microplastic threatens big filter feeders exist, though, and ultimately, more work is required to constrain these underreported and under-researched threats. This paper serves as a rallying cry in that regard.

“Understanding the effects of microplastic pollution on filter-feeding megafauna is imperative because nearly half of the mobulid rays, two-thirds of filter-feeding sharks, and over one quarter of baleen whales are listed by the IUCN as globally threatened species and prioritized for conservation, ” the authors note in their study.

The paper also points out that sizeable filter feeders tend to gather in the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Bengal, the Coral Triangle, and the Mediterranean Sea, which are known to be microplastic “hotpots”. The team’s its consideration of recent data, published in the periodical Trends in Ecology& Evolution, suggests that this means that microplastics could be regularly making their style through their filtration mechanisms.

Fin whales, for example, are estimated to eat up to 2, 000 plastic particles per day.

A 2016 examine focusing on these oceanic giants concluded that “exposure to microplastics because of direct ingestion and consumption of contaminated prey represents a major threat to the health of fin whales in the Mediterranean Sea.” As another example, the MMF that same year noted that preliminary findings, based on concentrations of microplastics, “suggest that mantas could be ingesting 40 -9 0 pieces of plastic per hour of surface feeding in the locations studied.”

It’s not actually a recent problem- microplastics have been falling seaward for half a century now, which means that the cumulative effects of this pollution over hour could be more severe than we’re currently aware. This analyse underscores another facet to this crisis, and its findings can be added to an already extensive, tragic tapestry.

Plastic- wherever in the ocean is may be found- is fundamentally altering our planet’s ecosystems. Coral reefs infested by it are find their diseases rates skyrocket, and bacteria are appearing to evolve to digest this massive, new resource.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that the plastics consumed by aquatic fauna throughout the world’s oceans are often retrieved from the sea by fisheries, which means we’re eating our own plastic waste. One calculate indicates those with a penchant for seafood are eating around 11, 000 plastic fragments every single year.

What goes around, comes around, as they say.

Studies like this raise awareness, and governments around the world are beginning to implement both plastic and microplastic prohibitions. Progression is slow, though- which attains the future of our oceans profoundly and disconcertingly unclear.

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‘We no longer die in childbirth’: how Indian villages saved their moms

A little feminism goes a long way in parts of rural India where the number of women who die in labor has been cut by 90 percent

The message is written on a poster, hung between trees that offer shade but little relief from the shining sunlight. It spells out what has been achieved in this rural Indian village:” We no longer succumb in childbirth .”

For the women of Purabgaon, in the Amethi district of Uttar Pradesh, expectations had always been clear. Get married young, then have back-to-back pregnancies. Those newborns would be delivered in unsanitary conditions at home by a dai , a village midwife with no training and many superstitions.

” Even if a woman was taken to hospital for the birth, half an hour subsequently she would be bundled home to do the chores, feed the cattles and cook ,” told Gulab Yadav, research projects manager in Amethi for Save a Mother.

The maternal mortality rate( MMR) in Amethi has been one of the highest in the world- 451 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to a 2008 government survey. Anaemia is one key problem: around 55% of Indian women are anaemic, and rural women’s diets are often poor.

Save a Mother aims to educate rural girls about pregnancy, nutrition, immunisation, delivery and care of the child.” We told them to delay having the first baby and leave a three-year gap between pregnancies to keep mom and child safe and healthy. And they understand that delivery in hospital is safest because complications such as heavy bleeding can be treated ,” said Gita Gupta, a Save a Mother team leader.

Gupta leads a group of 20 female” change agents” in Purabgaon. Each of the 360 villages in Amethi covered by the scheme has a team of 20 agents- local women trained to educate other women.

Gupta sometimes changes the lyrics of romantic folk song to refer to iron supplements, intrauterine devices( IUDs) and breastfeeding.” They find it easier to remember what I’ve told them if they sing it ,” she said.

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Beginning with 20 villages in Amethi 10 years ago, Save a Mother has expanded to 1,100 villages in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana. The maternal mortality rate for those working villages has been reduced by 90% and infant mortality is down by 60%.

Last year in Purabgaon , not a single mother been killed in childbirth. Nationwide there are five maternal deaths in childbirth every hour, but the mortality rate has been falling steadily, from 280 per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 174 in 2015 and 130 in 2016.

Shiban Ganju, a Chicago-based doctor, founded Save a Mother after a visit to rural Uttar Pradesh.” As a physician I knew[ the high mortality rate] could be solved by a dedicated group working with the community ,” he said.

Ten years on, he said he had learned two key things. Firstly, that changing social behaviours is the most effective and least expensive way to reduce the impact of illnes. And secondly, that the Indian government should increase its public health expending from the present 1.1% of GDP- one of the lowest proportions in the world- to 2.5%.

Some of the older women in Purabgaon talked candidly about the relentless pressure they were put under to give birth.” I had five children in quick succession, my mother-in-law kept telling she wanted a grandson. Then I wedded off my eldest daughter at 15. That was wrong ,” said Urmila Devi.” I know better now. My youngest girl won’t get married before 20 and I will tell her to control her pregnancies .”

The village remains highly conservative, but the project had an effect: many women can now leave the house and attend meetings without requiring the permission of their husband or mother-in-law. Moreover, empowered by the information they have absorbed about pregnancy and childbirth, they have some leverage in family discussions.

” They tell their spouses that if they want a healthy baby … the mother has to eat well. If they aren’t dedicated fish or meat, they drink two glass of milk instead. And they insist on a hospital delivery ,” told Gupta.

In the past, tradition has dictated that girls wait for a clergyman to announce an auspicious moment to start breast-feeding the newborn. While waiting, often for up to three days, they fed goat or cow milk to the baby, causing diarrhoea.” Now we breastfeed at once. We don’t wait for the priest ,” said one of the mothers, Kanti Devi.

Seema Agrahari’s three children , now six, three and one, are always being implemented in hospital.” I had an IUD for my family planning. It’s the best thing I did. I felt well during each pregnancy ,” she said.” But I could have been one of those who died in childbirth. Datum saved me .”

This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the world’s most stubborn problems. What else should we cover-up? Email us at theupside @theguardian. com

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Timeline Of The Zika Virus: How The Tropical Disease Affect The US

Health officials in the US are actively pushing for the development of vaccines for the prevention and treatment of the Zika virus, in light of the ongoing outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been quoted as stating that the situation requires no less than all hands on deck .

The New England Journal of Medicine has recently described the situation as an explosive pandemic, potentially threatening the United States.

The Zika virus was brought to the publics attention in December 2015, when Brazil proclaimed a emergency situations.

Over 2,700 babies were born with a birth defect known as “microcephaly, ” which is characterized by incomplete brain development.

Brazilian health authorities believe the cases are linked to the recent outbreak.

They suspect the Zika virus is being transmitted from infected moms to their unborn children.

This causes the birth defect. Regrettably, it can be difficult to detect the virus until after the baby has been born.

As of January 23, 2016, the number of microcephaly lawsuits in Brazil has risen to 3,893.

This unusual national crisis has caused some Brazilian health officials to go so far as to recommend families temporarily delay their plans to conceive.

There are currently no effective means of preventing the increasing rate of this type of brain damage within the population, and there also seems to be no way of treating the disorder.

Currently in the US, microcephaly is uncommon.

Itoccurs in roughly two to 12 per 10,000 newborns.

In Brazil, there are suspected examples in approximately 1 percent of all newborns in the worst affected areas.

The number in 2014 was1 50. It has now gone up to 3,893. This marks an increase in the number of cases by 2,495 percent.

This type of microcephaly is calledprimary microcephaly .

It is diagnosed in newborn children who have an abnormal occipitofrontal head circumference.

Itdevelops during pregnancy and results in the infant being born with an remarkably small head and impaired brain development.

This disorder is also linked with numerous other conditions, such as seizures, developmental delays and intellectual problems, among others.

This is a lifelong condition.There is no cure or standard of treatment.

The recent surge in microcephaly is strongly suspectedof being associated with the Zika virus.

The virus has been found in theamniotic fluidof two women whose newborns were diagnosed with microcephaly.

However, a direct causal link has not yet been scientifically established.

In response to the Zika virus outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention( CDC) have issued a travel advisory warning.

The affected areas include the Carribean, Central America, South America, Mexico and Puerto Rico; that’s 22 countries in total.

These travel advisories currently recommend that pregnant women consider postponing travel to these affected areas, due to this potential link.

The Zika virus — originally discovered in 1947 in Uganda — is an arthropod virus.

It isnative to insects like the Aedes mosquitoes, which were responsible for the initial transmission of the virus to humans.

According to the CDC, only about one in five individuals who are infected with the virus was ill.Deaths from the virus are rare.

The symptoms are similar to the dengue virus.

The symptoms typically present themselves as fever, rash, headache, muscle pain and conjunctivitis.

However, more serious illnes symptoms have been noted, such as Guillain-Barr syndrome. This causes muscle weakness, and may even result in paralysis.

The syptoms of the Zika virus usually last a few days to a week. There are currently no available treatments or vaccines, other than rest and fluids.

Its suspected that the recent spread of the Zika virus in Brazil is in part due to two important events that have taken place in the past few years.

In 2014, theFIFA World Cup and an international canoe racing event in which merely Pacific nations were represented, attracted many tourists to the country.

There have also been cases of transmissionvia blood transfusion or sexual relations.

The CDC has stated that, although there have not been any documented cases of local transmission in the US, travelers who contract the disease and return to the US may end up locally transmittingthe virus in some of the continental countries.

In fact, the virus has already been identified in some Northeastern states.

On January 22, 2016, New York State corroborated three positive cases of the Zika virus, which were likely contracted by individuals who had traveled to some of the affected countries.

Officials have stated that the chances of it spreading locally are low due to the incapacity of the virus to get transmittedvia casual contact. The winter weather conditions restriction mosquito activity in the area.

Ultimately, more the investigations and investigation is required into the Zika virus transmitting and impacts, in order to accurately determine if the rise in microcephaly is directly caused by perinatal infection.

If so, this alarming outbreak has all the potential to remain headline news for quite some time.

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Will you catch the influenza? Answer could be in your blood

Indonesian liquor forbidding could hurt tourist hot spot Bali | Fox News

Want to enjoy a drinking on the beach? That may soon be banned in Bali. ( iStock)

Indonesia is considering a new statute that would ban the production, distribution and intake of alcohol across the country, including in Bali.

And while booze manufacturers and marketers caution the move would crush Balis tourism industry, it may also fuel sly-grogging on the island a deadly problem that claims tourists among its victims.

A bill to ban the sale, distribution and intake of beverages containing more than one per cent of alcohol was introduced by two Islamicist parties, the United Development Party and the Prosperous Justice Party, and is being deliberated by Indonesias House of Representatives.

If passed, the law “wouldve been” first of its kind in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

There may be some exceptions to the booze prohibit for travellers, customary activities and religion rituals.

But the introduction of the bill has sparked uproar within Indonesias tourism and hospitality industries, which caution tourism would be crippled if the law was passed.

If the bill is passed, our business will be done, Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association head Hariyadi Sukamdani told the Jakarta Post .

The tourists … drink alcohol all the time. It will be very inconvenient for them if they cant find alcohol.

Indonesia has already attained moves to restrict the fact that there are alcohol. Last year it outlawed the sale of alcohol in mini marts, despite an outcry from tourism and alcohol industries. Hariyadi said that alone had struck a blow to tourism, and travellers were already complaints about how difficult it was to find booze.

No matter how beautiful the country is, if they cant find alcohol, they wont want to come here, Hariyadi said.

In a desperate bid for compromise in the wake of the booze-ban bill, liquor sellers have implored the Indonesian government to consider tougher monitoring and control on the sale of alcohol, rather than full-blown prohibition.

Liquor sellers in West Java held an emergency fulfilling last week to discuss the new bill.

One woman, who said she made a living on selling brews, told the Post : I dont mind regulations. But dont apply a complete ban because it will kill my business. If you want to regulate selling, I would be ready to comply.

Others have complained about raids on sellers who had liquor licenses that were difficult to obtain.

Indonesias beverage importers also alerted their already ailing industry would be crippled if the law was passed.

Imported liquor contributes to up to 10 per cent of Indonesias liquor consumption and as many as 17 beverage importers and distributors are expected to collapse in the wake of a liquor ban.

Representatives for Indonesias tourism and hospitality industries caution proscription would merely cause marketings in bootlegged booze to skyrocket, with potentially deadly consequences.

Due in part to the increasing cost of importing liquor, Bali has considered a rise in the sale of home-brewed drinkings laced with methanol, which have been linked to the deaths and serious illness of tourists, including Australians, on the party island.

Last month, Perth woman Jen Neilson was rushed to intensive care in a Bali hospital with suspected methanol poisoning after a night of drinking.

On New Years Eve in 2013, Perth teenager Liam Davies died after drinking alcohol cut with methanols in a Lombok bar. Perth woman Tess Mettam went blind for two days after drinking two cocktails at a Kuta Bar in December 2013, while Newcastle teenager Jackson Tuckwell also went blind after being poisoned while celebrating Schoolies in Bali in 2014.

Recycled water bottles to be used to store bootlegged arak. A traditional beverage, arak is a clear, rice-based spirit but batches cut with methanols can have disastrous effects. Source : News Corp Australia

The family of British backpacker Cheznye Emmons, who died in Bali from methanol poisoning, created $20,000 to publish and distribute educational posters around Indonesia warning revellers of the dangers of alcoholic drinks with potentially lethal amounts of methanol.

Dangerous levels of methanol in cheap drinkings served throughout Bali has prompted the Australian Government to warn tourists to consider the risks of alcoholic drinks and avoid homemade brews.

Cases have usually involved local spirits and spirit-based drinks, such as cocktails, but supposed brand name alcohol can also be adulterated, the governmental forces Smartraveller website alerts, adding that adulterated arak a traditional rice-based spirit was also linked to a number of tourist deaths, as well as a large number of Indonesians every year.

Association of Beverage Importers and Distributors chairwoman Agus Silaban told the Jakarta Post last week the proposed law would trigger rampant alcohol smuggling practices and the illegal distribution of bootleg liquor.

The nations brew vendors have argued that their product should be exempted from the ban as brew was not linked with poisoning cases.

Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor told moves to ban liquor in Indonesia did is supportive, and not only from religion groups.

Aussie teenagers party at the Bounty Nightclub in Kuta. Image: Nathan Edwards Source : News Corp Australia

Theres a lot of people in Indonesia right now taking the opinion and they might not be wrong that if you look at the Western world, and what alcohol done in order to young people, we dont want that in Indonesia and we want to ban alcohol, he said.

Theres a lot of discussion in Indonesian society about the damage[ alcohol] does to the wider community. The problem, of course, is if you prohibit it, you then generate this enormous black market and it causes a whole lot of other problems.

But in Bali, especially, theres a very strong feeling that its the last thing youd want to do, because if tourists cant have a brew or wine on the beach, the potential consequences for tourism are going to be very severe indeed.

Mr Taylor told a nationwide booze prohibition was unlikely but he wouldnt be surprised if it ran ahead in provinces with more hard line governments, such as East Java and North Sumatra.

In my view, I think that nationally, the bill won’t get up. I dont think in the Indonesian government theres enough support for it, he said.

Moderation is a better route to go because they need tourists to go to Indonesia and tourists having a glass of wine or a Bintang[ Beer] wont do any harm.

What I dont feel that confident about is what will happen to individual provinces. Then its going to depend on where you are. In the more conservative provinces , not only might you see these forbiddings coming in, some are actually going ahead with them now.

What has to predominate in Indonesia is some kind of comprise, which merely the Indonesians can do, where some provinces will do this, but then the national government will come in and say there will be some exempt zones, such as Bali.

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Experts Call On WHO To Reconsider Global Cannabis Ban

A resulting independent scientific committee on narcotics has conducted a review of all the existing research regarding the health effects of marijuana, which it hopes the World Health Organization( WHO) will use as a basis to reassess the science behind the global forbidding on the drug.

An international pact known as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs led to cannabis being classified as a Schedule 1 substance back in 1961. This means that it is considered to be highly addictive and have no therapeutic value. However, in the more than five decades since this arrangement was put in place, our understanding of marijuana impacts has changed dramatically, which is why experts are now calling for a reappraisal of this scheduling.

The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is supposed to base all of its decisions on scientific evidence provided by the WHOs Expert Committee on Drug Dependence( ECDD ). However, the ECDD has never conducted a review into the effects of cannabis, meaning that the last body to do so was the Health Committee of the League of Nations in 1935.

With the ECDD set to meet in November, a committee called DrugScience which is made up of some of the worlds leading experts on medications has compiled a full review of all the evidence for and against cannabiss inclusion in Schedule 1.

“DrugScience provides a unique opportunity … to initiate a critical review process of cannabis and cannabis resin for their scheduling under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, ” explain the authors.

Medications containing cannabis are now licensed in 28 different countries. Africa Studio/ Shutterstock

Among the issues raised by the report is that, according to the ECDDs official criteria, Schedule 1 is set aside for drugs that are at least as addictive as codeine. However, codeine is an opioid, entailing it binds to the opiate receptors in the central nervous system, while marijuana contains compounds that bind to cannabinoid receptors, so it is not possible to immediately compare the two.

By analyzing all the existing research on cannabis, the authors found that there is evidence that the narcotic leads to dependency by altering the route that a cannabinoid receptor called CB1R works, although proof suggests that this returns to normal soon after employ of the drug is stopped.

The report also reveals that there is a potential connection between cannabis use and psychosis, and that the narcotic also appears to have therapeutic value particularly for the therapy of multiple sclerosis, chronic ache and chemotherapy-related nausea which explains why medications containing cannabis are currently licensed in 28 countries.

Though the review does not pass an overall judgment on how cannabis should be scheduled, the authors insist that much of the evidence they present suggests that the scientific justification for the current restrictions on the narcotic require urgent reconsideration.

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Grindr wants tech people to combat LGBTQ inequalities

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and fag people make up nearly 40% of the 1.6 million youth who experience homelessness every year. Meanwhile, trans people are almost fourtimes more likely than the average American to be living on less than $10,000 a year. In short, theres a bevyof issues that negatively impact the LGBTQ community. Its time to do something about that.

Grindr, the hookup app for lesbian men, is taking advantage of its massive reaching( the app has two million daily users who spend an average of 54 minutes employing it) and putting it toward some serious good.Born out of Grindr for Equality, Hack4Equalityis ahackathon that is culminating in a demo day next week at Grindrs Los Angeles headquarters.

We really want to see great innovation to help support justice and equities for the LGBTQ community in international problem, Grindr Head of People and Culture Jeremy Foreshew told me.

In total, there are 13 challenges across fourmajor issues affecting the LGBTQ community: homelessness, trans visibility and economic empowerment, international LGBTQ issues( refugees and travel) and access to sex health services and PrEP.Grindrs partners for this initiative include the White House, the U.S. Census Bureaus Opportunity Project, Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, the It Get Better Project and others. The U.S. government, for example, has opened up the census data to enable Hack4Equality participants to solve the representation issue for LGBTQ people.

Were merely not being represented because no one is asking about us or has asked about us historically, Foreshew told. My colleagues anonymized Grindr data to basically set a rainbow filter over the census data, and to figure out if there are unique LGBTQ issues or flags that can be used to help solve problems.

Grindr expects over 100 technologists to be present at the LA demo day, with hundreds more participating around the world.Through Hack4Equality, Grindr is hoping someof the hacksend up coming to market, either as standalone products or ones that live within the Grindr ecosystem.

When we talk about something being part of the Grindr ecosystem, we talk about taking advantage of the scale andthe massive community, Foreshew said. Whats really important for us is to find possibilities where people can use the reach we have and use the goodwill weve created with the millions of users we have to various kinds of get that warm handshake.

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How Your Christmas Turkey Arrives Already Stuffed With Antibiotics


You may consider the turkey to be a traditional part of your Christmas festivities. But however you cook it, something about this festive bird is changing its get fatter.

The median turkey now weighs in at more than 10 kg, a much bigger animal than its wild ancestor. And, while this has partly been achieved by more sophisticated genetics and husbandry, the use of antibiotics has furthermore played a key role. Stopping the spread of disease in animal production is an important way of delivering welfare and a healthy turkey gains weight more quickly.

The trouble is that antibiotics are often the first line of attack in both preventing and treating animal diseases. And just as it does in humen, over utilize of antibiotics has resulted in the emergence of more antimicrobial resistance in the organisms which cause bacterial and fungal diseases.

Many of the antibiotics being implemented in farming are also used in treating human diseases and the transfer of resistant bacteria through our food supply chain does pass. Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli , are organisms which can be harmless in both animal and human environments but it is their antibiotic resistant variants that are of major concern to us. Staphylococcus aureus can cause blood poisoning and its methicillin-resistant sort( MRSA) is known as the superbug. Antibiotic resistant different forms of E.coli such as E.coli o157 cause severe sickness.

Antimicrobial resistance in livestock farming will reduce the impact of the suite of pharmaceuticals we rely on for fighting human diseases. It is a threat which has been highlighted by revelations that MRSA variants have been found in pork sold in UK supermarkets.

We urgently need a greater awareness of health risks associated with administering antimicrobial therapies on livestock farms and a better understanding of what products are being used. For while the antibiotic-resistant superbugs besetting hospital wards have been well documented in the media, the similar epidemic in livestock farming has been much less well publicised.

How we choose to source meat is a major factor dealing with this risk and it is not just turkey production that has changed significantly in recent years. Pigs represent the greatest sum of livestock rendered globally China renders 54m tonnes of pork per year. This is 17% of global meat production and represents a huge pressure point for the use of antimicrobial treatments.

In November 2015, Chinese scientists proclaimed they were on the cusp of the post-antibiotic era after bacteria resistant to the antibiotic use when all others have failed, colistin, were found on livestock farms. This caused the global community to sit up and take note before everyone went back to business as usual, with demand and production of meat continuing to rise.

The problem is that we do not know how often or how many antimicrobial therapies are used in global agriculture. There are big gaps in our data and understand. What we do know is that a considerable amount of antibiotic material applies in rearing healthy animals to be free of infection. An independent analyse reported the amount of antimicrobials used in food production in the UK is at least the same as that in humans.


Time for turkey. Shutterstock

The requirement for antibiotics is not in doubt here and, when they are properly used for treating infections, the outcomes are positive. But other countries have shown that the need for using antimicrobials can be reduced by detecting cancers more effectively and by considering different management practices.

Farming changes

In the Netherlands and Denmark changes have been introduced since 1995 which focus on producers working with public health agencies. This stronger relationship identified where greater surveillance and the application of resistance detecting would be most likely to succeed. This has led to 50% reductions in antimicrobial use in pork meat and ten-fold reductions in their use in poultry production. Improvements in animal housing, disease detection and resistance detection that have been initiated by these programmes have also enhanced trust across the food supply chain.

The role of livestock farming in tackling antimicrobial resistance must be linked to animal welfare. If production practises can reduce the misuse of antimicrobial therapies, then strong government policy must help to make this happen. This year the UK government halted plans to devolve responsibility for the codes of practise in livestock farming because of this type of issue. At a day when a coordinated approach to tackling antimicrobial resistance is most needed, it is critical for farmers and policymakers to work together and fully understand the issues at stake.

Animal welfare is important and antibiotics help to provide it. But it would be catastrophic if they were to lose their effectiveness through overuse. Then the post-antibiotic era actually would have arrived when minor infections become lethal.

TheWayne Martindale, Senior Research Fellow, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sheffield Hallam University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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