In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 14 years, calls for a new approach
In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks.
The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America?
The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called the grief exception, and it seemed to resolve the problem.
Then, as the years and decades passed, doctors on the frontline started to come back with another question. All over the world, they were being encouraged to tell patients that depression is, in fact, just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain it is produced by low serotonin, or a natural lack of some other chemical. Its not caused by your life its caused by your broken brain. Some of the doctors began to ask how this fitted with the grief exception. If you agree that the symptoms of depression are a logical and understandable response to one set of life circumstances losing a loved one might they not be an understandable response to other situations? What about if you lose your job? What if you are stuck in a job that you hate for the next 40 years? What about if you are alone and friendless?
The grief exception seemed to have blasted a hole in the claim that the causes of depression are sealed away in your skull. It suggested that there are causes out here, in the world, and they needed to be investigated and solved there. This was a debate that mainstream psychiatry (with some exceptions) did not want to have. So, they responded in a simple way by whittling away the grief exception. With each new edition of the manual they reduced the period of grief that you were allowed before being labelled mentally ill down to a few months and then, finally, to nothing at all. Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.
Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we dont, she said, consider context. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take peoples actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require an entire system overhaul. She told me that when you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Lets get to the deeper problem.
I was a teenager when I swallowed my first antidepressant. I was standing in the weak English sunshine, outside a pharmacy in a shopping centre in London. The tablet was white and small, and as I swallowed, it felt like a chemical kiss. That morning I had gone to see my doctor and I had told him crouched, embarrassed that pain was leaking out of me uncontrollably, like a bad smell, and I had felt this way for several years. In reply, he told me a story. There is a chemical called serotonin that makes people feel good, he said, and some people are naturally lacking it in their brains. You are clearly one of those people. There are now, thankfully, new drugs that will restore your serotonin level to that of a normal person. Take them, and you will be well. At last, I understood what had been happening to me, and why.
However, a few months into my drugging, something odd happened. The pain started to seep through again. Before long, I felt as bad as I had at the start. I went back to my doctor, and he told me that I was clearly on too low a dose. And so, 20 milligrams became 30 milligrams; the white pill became blue. I felt better for several months. And then the pain came back through once more. My dose kept being jacked up, until I was on 80mg, where it stayed for many years, with only a few short breaks. And still the pain broke back through.
I started to research my book, Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions, because I was puzzled by two mysteries. Why was I still depressed when I was doing everything I had been told to do? I had identified the low serotonin in my brain, and I was boosting my serotonin levels yet I still felt awful. But there was a deeper mystery still. Why were so many other people across the western world feeling like me? Around one in five US adults are taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem. In Britain, antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in a decade, to the point where now one in 11 of us drug ourselves to deal with these feelings. What has been causing depression and its twin, anxiety, to spiral in this way? I began to ask myself: could it really be that in our separate heads, all of us had brain chemistries that were spontaneously malfunctioning at the same time?
To find the answers, I ended up going on a 40,000-mile journey across the world and back. I talked to the leading social scientists investigating these questions, and to people who have been overcoming depression in unexpected ways from an Amish village in Indiana, to a Brazilian city that banned advertising and a laboratory in Baltimore conducting a startling wave of experiments. From these people, I learned the best scientific evidence about what really causes depression and anxiety. They taught me that it is not what we have been told it is up to now. I found there is evidence that seven specific factors in the way we are living today are causing depression and anxiety to rise alongside two real biological factors (such as your genes) that can combine with these forces to make it worse.
Once I learned this, I was able to see that a very different set of solutions to my depression and to our depression had been waiting for me all along.
To understand this different way of thinking, though, I had to first investigate the old story, the one that had given me so much relief at first. Professor Irving Kirsch at Harvard University is the Sherlock Holmes of chemical antidepressants the man who has scrutinised the evidence about giving drugs to depressed and anxious people most closely in the world. In the 1990s, he prescribed chemical antidepressants to his patients with confidence. He knew the published scientific evidence, and it was clear: it showed that 70% of people who took them got significantly better. He began to investigate this further, and put in a freedom of information request to get the data that the drug companies had been privately gathering into these drugs. He was confident that he would find all sorts of other positive effects but then he bumped into something peculiar.
Dallas, Texas (CNN)It’s a place where serious big game hunters hang out and network — kind of a supermarket for hunting enthusiasts.
Tens of thousands of them have come from all over the world to the annual Dallas Safari Club Convention & Sporting Expo.
Everywhere you look in this sprawling 800,000-square-foot convention you see weapons, gear and just about every type of hunting paraphernalia available. There are also lots of animals — none of them alive. Rhinos, lions, antelopes and various types of big game animals that have all been stuffed by taxidermists to be trophies in someone’s home or office.
Want to book the hunting adventure of your dreams?
If you pony up enough cash, you’ll find yourself heading to remote parts of North America, Africa, China or Russia — places many people can only dream about — for the chance to track and kill some of the world’s most magnificent and endangered beasts.
The annual convention takes place during a critical time for big-game hunting. Activists are fighting hard to stop it — while hunters are trying to save it. And the debate is centered around a concept that aims to create a model for sustainable hunting.
Many of these hunters here pass the time trading stories about how they’ve bagged some of nature’s most exotic animals — following a tradition made famous by writers such as Ernest Hemingway.
“I care about all of wildlife in wild places, and I want it to be around for our future generations,” Knowlton told CNN, getting slightly emotional. “I believe this is the best model that exists for it, if you like or you don’t like it.”
The model he is referring to is “conservation,” terminologythat is part of The Dallas Safari Club’s mission statement, and a debate that Knowlton knows well after his rhino hunt.
And even though the animal is considered “critically endangered” by wildlife organizations around the world, Knowlton is steadfast in his belief that sustainable hunting like this is the key to help save the black rhino species.
“It’s about a value on wildlife, and the proof that it works is the fact that we are sitting here in this building, and all these people are marketing and supporting wildlife, and so there is a value on it beyond its value of meat,” Knowlton said.
Animal rights versus big game conservation
Trophy hunting as a conservation strategy “is just a myth,” Khetan said. “I think it’s a mere contradiction to even think about killing animals is in some way going to help the survival of a species.”
Any benefits of conservation programs Khetan said, are “grossly exaggerated.”
Because of rampant corruption and “lack of oversight” only a small percentage of the money generated from many hunts actually ends up where it is supposed to, Khetan said, benefiting an elite few — like governments and private companies — and not the animals or the general public.
‘A proven success’
Back amid the exhibition space full of enthusiasts at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas, conservation organizations from across the globe are represented.
Before joining the Dallas Safari Club as executive director last September, biologist Corey Mason says he spent the last sixteen years with theTexas Fishing and Game Agency working with conservation agencies and organizations all over North America.
He says that the restoration of many species on the continent shows that “the conservation through hunting model is a proven success.”
‘Trophy’ film explores big-game hunting
He has no doubt that well-regulated hunting programs based on science are sustainable — as long as specific quotas are developed and followed. The animals that are taken, he said, represent a very small percentage of the population, and in most cases they are older-aged males.
Mason said the money raised through “scientific” conservation is used to protect the habitat where the animals live and to combat poaching.
Knowlton acknowledges that he has a lot of respect for outspoken critics of conservation hunting. But he also questions their “understanding of reality.”
“Every single one of (these animals) is going to die,” Knowlton said. “But if you have the power to put a value on it, and supply those communities that are very poor with money … I believe it’s a very good symbiotic relationship.”
Technology of Business has garnered opinions from dozens of companies on what they think will be the dominant global tech trends in 2018. Artificial intelligence (AI) dominates the landscape, closely followed, as ever, by cyber-security. But is AI an enemy or an ally?
Whether helping to identify diseases and develop new drugs, or powering driverless cars and air traffic management systems, the consensus is that AI will start to deliver in 2018, justifying last year’s sometimes hysterical hype.
Yet almost by stealth, AI is infiltrating almost all aspects of our working lives, from machine learning algorithms improving the accuracy of translation software, to call centre chatbots answering our questions.
“AI-powered chatbots will continue to get better at conveying information that can help consumers make better, more informed purchase decisions,” says Luka Crnkovic-Friis, chief executive of Peltarion, a Swedish AI specialist.
Customer experience firm Servion predicts that by 2020, 95% of all customer interactions will involve voice-powered AI, and that 2018 will be the year this really takes off.
“Advances in speech recognition, biometric identification, and neurolinguistics will also mean that as we interact with businesses and brands via voice, our experiences will become increasingly conversational and human-like,” says Servion’s Shashi Nirale.
J. Walker Smith, executive chairman of Kantar Futures, agrees, saying that “learning emotional empathy is the final barrier to AI’s full-scale market growth”.
Talking to machines will become as natural as typing used to be, the tech utopians believe. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Home voice-activated assistants are already in many homes, rapidly learning new skills.
In the workplace, these digital assistants – think of IBM’s Watson – will give employees “more immediate access to data” that will lead to “a reduction in repetitive or administrative tasks in their roles”, say Javier Diez-Aguirre, vice president of corporate marketing at office equipment maker Ricoh Europe.
This means that AI-powered machines “will become colleagues, not competitors”, concludes Mark Curtis, co-founder of Fjord, the Accenture-owned design and innovation company.
AI-powered human resources systems could even help workforces become “superhuman”, argues Pete Schlampp, vice president of analytics at software platform Workday.
All those forecast to lose their jobs as a result of AI-powered automation may disagree.
And global collaboration will become easier, the world smaller, as translation services become more accurate, argues Alec Dafferner, director of GP Bullhound, a San Francisco-based tech investment and advisory firm.
“Driven by machine learning – seamless and instantaneous translation will become the new normal,” he says.
There seem to be few areas AI will not permeate, from recruitment to facial recognition, cyber-security to energy management systems.
The explosion in the amount of data generated by mobile devices, computers and the “internet of things” is feeding these learning algorithms. While the ability to analyse it all in real time using virtually unlimited cloud computing power has accelerated the pace of development.
AI still operates according to the rules we set – until we allow it to develop its own rules, of course. But what if those rules and assumptions are inherently biased?
It’s something Rob McCargow, AI programme leader at global consultancy firm PwC, warns about, particularly in the field of recruitment and human resources.
“AI-augmented recruitment stands out as a key growth area with a range of offerings in the market,” he says.
“But if not governed and implemented responsibly, it can lead to an amplification of bias and discrimination.”
In other words, if past data shows the algorithm that white middle-class males have previously performed well at a company, it might conclude that this is the type of candidate it should select in future, reinforcing gender and racial stereotypes. An example of AI not acting intelligently at all.
The old computing maxim “rubbish in, rubbish out”, still applies.
Cyber-security: ‘Weaponised AI’
While many cyber-security firms point out AI’s potential in combating cyber-attacks – monitoring computer networks in real time for signs of abnormal behaviour, for example – others soberly observe that AI will also be “weaponised” by the hackers.
“2018 could be the year we see the first battle of the AI bots,” warns Dr Adrian Nish, head of threat intelligence at BAE Systems.
“It’s inevitable that attackers will begin to incorporate machine learning and AI at the same rate as network defence tools. We may already be at this point, with online Twitter bots able to react to emerging events and crafting messages to respond.”
Simple but effective email phishing attacks, whereby employees are hoodwinked into clicking on dodgy links or downloading malware because they think the message is from someone genuine, could reach another level of sophistication, says Dave Palmer, director of technology at security firm, Darktrace.
Cyber-security experts also warn about a growing threat to the integrity of data – hackers sabotaging data rather than stealing it. You can do a lot of damage to a company’s reputation, profits and share price if you mess with the facts on which it bases important investment decisions.
The burgeoning number of internet-connected IoT devices is another soft target for hackers.
“If security isn’t internally integrated, then these IoT devices will be low-hanging fruit for attackers, who will always target the path of least resistance,” says Asaf Ashkenazi of semiconductor and security firm Rambus.
Meanwhile, businesses are steeling themselves for more ransomware attack, building up stockpiles of bitcoins with which to pay extortionists, says Chris Mayers of Citrix.
AI will only accelerate the cyber-security arms race.
Blockchain, mixed reality and other trends
While Bitcoin’s price leaps up and down like a crazy bucking bronco – the underlying technology blockchain will make steady progress, many believe.
The distributed ledger tech “has the potential to add an important aspect of traceability to the foods we eat”, says Tony Rodriguez, chief technology officer at Digimarc Corporation.
“Walmart, Kroger, McCormick, Tyson Foods and others have teamed up with IBM to experiment with track-and-trace tests on Chinese pork and Mexican mangoes, and we expect blockchain to be used more prevalently in grocery, retail and other industries.”
International banks have already experimented with blockchain-based trading systems that cut out the need for any middleman.
Meanwhile, lighter, more powerful virtual reality (VR) headsets will move the tech beyond gaming into more everyday uses, from looking round properties to virtual shopping, accurately recreating real stores.
And augmented reality services on smartphones will begin to transform the static world around us into something more dynamic and interactive – a golden opportunity for brands to market their wares more entertainingly.
“This will bring new meaning to the phrase ‘try before you buy’,” says Chris Wood, director of retail at Salesforce, the customer relationship management platform.
Drones will extend their surveying and photographing work, helping farmers, utility companies, estate agents, insurance companies and emergency services. And driverless cars and trucks will continue to be tested.
All aboard the (self-driving) bus – next stop, CES: Las Vegas’ annual gigantic tech fest.
About 4,000 companies – many of them start-ups – are arriving in town this weekend. Over the coming days, they will reveal new products, secure orders and hopefully provide a taste of the future at the trade fair.
The event has its roots in consumer gadgets, but now sprawls into fields including artificial intelligence, automobiles, medicine, marketing and even agriculture.
Most of the big technology brands in attendance will have something new to brag about. But increasingly, they hold flagship products back for stand-alone events.
In recent years much of the excitement has instead been delivered by smaller, lesser-known companies for whom CES presents a “break-out” opportunity.
Below is a sample of what to expect, including several exclusive hands-on videos with some of the new tech:
If one firm could be said to have “won” last year’s expo, it was Amazon.
From fridges to cars, watches to robots, device-makers fell over themselves to support or build in its Alexa smart helper, leaving Google’s Assistant trailing in its wake.
Earlier this week, LG revealed its latest top-end TVs will feature the Assistant.
And this year, the search giant has booked a CES booth to show off its AI, as well as splurging on a new paint job for the Las Vegas monorail to promote it.
While the battle to secure the most tie-ups will likely be intense, one trend to look out for is products that provide the best of both worlds.
GE has pre-announced a ceiling light that supports both companies’ virtual assistants, and HTC already sells a smartphone that answers to both AIs’ wake words.
“We believe customer choice is important, and that multiple AIs can be complementary of each other,” an Amazon spokesman told the BBC.
Elsewhere, expect “AI-enhanced” to be the buzz phrase of the moment, even if it’s not always clear what that means.
“AI has become an overused term – often it just refers to there being a voice component or related cloud service,” commented Simon Bryant from the consultancy Futuresource.
He added that the key question to ask was whether the promise of artificial intelligence meant a device or service would become better over time.
So, to take one example, when HiRide Suspensions promises to show off a smart bicycle suspension system that uses AI, does it mean its electronics will learn to deliver a smoother ride over time, or merely that they have developed algorithms that would always deal with the same bump in the road in the same way?
The Italian start-up’s pre-CES materials are unclear on the matter.
The so-called wellness market could prove to be CES’ most vibrant sector this year.
One recent forecast suggested the world’s annual healthcare spend will be nearly $9tn by the end of the decade. Both the big brands and start-ups believe there’s an opportunity to disrupt a sector currently dominated by specialists.
Doubtless, not all the claims being made at CES will stand up to scrutiny, but it’s heartening to see new tech trying to do something truly useful.
For example, Israel’s ICI Vision is in town to promote a pair of prototype glasses designed to tackle blind spots caused by retinal diseases.
It is trying to combine small cameras, eye-tracking software and projection tech to direct views onto the healthy parts of the back of a patient’s eye.
An app adds contrast, draws outlines and makes other colour changes to the view to make it clearer before floating the altered image into the eyewear’s display.
Several firms are seeking to treat undesired behaviour via vibration-based “haptic” feedback.
They include Keen – a smart bracelet that buzzes if it detects the wearer pulling their hair or picking their skin – and Snore Circle – an eye-mask that vibrates at different levels of intensity to nudge the owner into a different position if they make noises at night.
New parents also appear to be a favoured target for the latest health tech.
Stand-out launches include Me.Mum, a smartphone camera attachment whose maker claims it can detect mould-like particles in a woman’s saliva that signal when she is at her most fertile.
China’s Tuoxiao will be demoing a smart stethoscope designed for use with infants that sends heart and lung readings to the cloud for analysis to determine if pneumonia might be present.
Meanwhile, two European start-ups are seeking to help women strengthen their pelvic floor muscles to combat bladder leaks caused by childbirth.
Fizimed’s solution involves exercising with a force-sensing silicone device that provides feedback via an app.
Lifesense Group’s offering centres on smart underwear that tracks the reduction of urine loss over time in order to motivate its owner to keep exercising.
The surprise success of smart speakers has meant that the smart home and wider “internet-of-things” category is finally taking off.
A flood of water use-tracking, temperature-adjusting, humidity-measuring, pollution-detecting gizmos will be on show, as well as dozens of smart locks – even though consumers remain suspicious about letting apps control access to their homes.
There are, however, some participants seeking to break out from the crowd by taking a different approach.
Crownstone is promoting a system in which a home’s lights and plug sockets automatically react to a resident’s presence based on them having a Bluetooth-broadcasting wearable or smartphone on them, rather than waiting to be given a command.
Miliboo will be showing off a smart sofa that not only wirelessly charges your handset or tablet but also keeps track of how long you’ve been sat in front of the TV while monitoring your posture.
Smarter homes will also be pitched as being safer homes.
Several companies will show off fall-detectors to warn if elderly residents have taken a tumble, and a safe that sends a smartphone alert if it detects it has been tampered with will also debut.
But perhaps most the extreme system we’ve spotted so far comes from Cherry Labs.
The Silicon Valley-based firm uses cameras and audio sensors to keep track of which family members and pets are in which room at what time.
It then collates a twice-daily log of their activities for the person in charge.
On the flip side, if the idea of being put under surveillance makes you feel queasy, Cone of Silence promises to prevent your smart speakers being able to eavesdrop on you – accidentally or otherwise.
It works by generating a white noise signal specifically designed to overload the speakers’ microphone arrays.
LG has already shown off an outsized 8K TV – with 16 times as many pixels as a 1080p “full HD” screen – ahead of CES.
But with a distinct lack of content for the super hi-vision format available, expect the focus to remain on 4K for the time being.
Manufacturers may instead try to convince enthusiasts to upgrade by boosting the maximum brightness levels of their screens, which has the benefit of delivering superior high dynamic range (HDR) images. As a result, glints of sunlight off water can be more startling, and shadows can reveal more detail.
Several brands will likely add support for Samsung’s HDR10+ standard, which is designed to prevent details in the brightest parts of the image being blown out on on some screens – a problem the rival Dolby Vision format already tackles.
And some of the higher-end sets may also introduce support for the new HDMI 2.1 specification, which can handle higher data rates and potentially allow screens to be sent 4K video at up to 120 frames per second.
But the big question is whether Samsung will unveil a “micro-LED” TV.
The technology uses tiny components that emit their own light rather than relying on a backlight.
This allows micro-LEDs to deliver the kind of deep blacks currently restricted to the OLED displays that LG specialises in.
But micro-LEDs should also be capable of brighter output than OLED, making it a superior choice for HDR content.
Those with a good memory may recall that Sony showed off a Crystal LED TV in 2012 based on the same technology.
That never went into mass production because it proved too expensive to make. We’ll soon find out whether Samsung has found a way to keep costs down.
The rise of electric-powered cars and self-driving technologies have seen automobiles take on a greater role at CES.
This year, Ford’s new chief executive, Jim Hackett, is delivering one of the event’s high-profile keynote presentations, where company bosses often like to make a splash with headline-grabbing reveals.
Hyundai has promised to debut a hydrogen fuel cell-powered sports utility vehicle (SUV).
And Nissan says it will demonstrate a bonkers-sounding brain-to-vehicle interface. It involves using a brainwave-reading headset to anticipate when steering wheel turns or accelerator pedal presses are about to be made.
The idea is that cars can use this information to “enhance” their response as well as source more data for autonomous driving research.
In general, however, the big automakers tend to hold their most significant news back until the Detroit Auto Show, which begins the day after CES ends this year.
That gives smaller rivals a chance to grab attention.
This year, Chinese electric car start-up Byton will be premiering a model with a gigantic dashboard touchscreen, which it plans to put into production in 2019.
From the US, Fisker will formally reveal a $129,000 (£95,125) luxury electric sports car with a 400 mile (643km) range and fast-charging capabilities.
France’s Navya will reveal details about a plan to deploy “robo-taxis across the world.
Switzerland’s concept vehicle designer Rinspeed will show off Snap – a modular design in which a passenger pod detaches from its skateboard-like underside.
Faraday Future returns, despite its cash struggles, to host an invite-only update about its self-proclaimed Tesla-killer, the FF91.
And Electra Meccanica may have the oddest electric car on show – a three-wheeler that looks like a Reliant Robin in reverse.
It would be wrong, however, to think the only transport options on show will be cars.
Yamaha intends to demo a self-driving motorcycle prototype racing at speeds above 120mph.
And Surefly has been given permission to fly a sci-fi inspired passenger octacopter.
The plan is for the drone to eventually autonomously carry two passengers to their destination.
But a pilot will be involved for the CES test.
There will be plenty of smaller drones too at CES.
Market-leader DJI is attending, but has not unveiled major new product lines at the show in past years.
It will, however, be aware that several rivals have pre-announced what look like copycats of its popular fold-up Mavic Pro model, and many of its customers are hoping it will fire back with a second-generation version.
What’s fascinating about several of the other new drones is how distinctive they are.
“The reason that we’re seeing drone-makers specialising in different areas is that the technology has become extremely commoditised, so to succeed you need a specific use case of your own,” commented tech consultant Ben Wood from CCS Insight.
One example is Nuaviation’s Hyperlift 200E, which is designed to carry objects weighing up to 200lb (91kg) at high speeds, and is being pitched as a delivery tool for the construction industry.
Another is the Sirius CX-180, which features two powerful LED lamps, and is designed for use in night-time search-and-rescue missions.
There’s also a model with a video screen designed to be used by desk-bound security guards, and a drone that’s been engineered to fly around warehouses scanning the shelves to check the inventory.
But perhaps the award for most novel use of a quadcopter should go to SwellPro’s Splash Drone 3.
It is designed to help fishing expeditions catch tuna, sharks and other large sea life by dropping bait from above.
Even so, Qualcomm will likely be trumpeting the battery-life benefits of powering Windows 10 PCs with its smartphone chips, which became possible after Microsoft added support for ARM’s architecture.
Meanwhile, Intel will be promoting the virtue of new processor modules that integrate AMD’s graphics hardware, which it hopes will prove attractive to gamers.
When it comes to handsets, there are rumours that Samsung might unveil a Galaxy X model with a foldable display.
But if that fails to make an appearance, there will still be a new phone from China’s Vivo that carries out fingerprint scans by getting its users to tap the display.
This makes it possible to offer an “all-screen” device without forcing fingerprint readings to be done on the rear.
And for those who prefer their tech to be more retro, London’s Planet Computers will be showing off Gemini.
The clamshell handheld resembles the long-retired Psion computer but gives it an Android twist, as you can see below.
Virtual and augmented reality
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality headsets have now been on sale for nearly two years, and sales haven’t been stellar.
Sony’s PlayStation VR has fared a bit better, but what many are hoping will turbo-charge demand is the emergence of standalone headsets that don’t need to be linked to a PC or powered by a phone.
The move could make them much easier to deploy in schools and marketing campaigns, for example, and help them break out of a gaming niche.
At CES, Austrian start-up Exchimp will gatecrash the market with its solution.
Lenovo is also rumoured to be ready to show off its Mirage Solo model. And HTC could announce that it’s ready an international launch for its all-in-one Vive Focus, which is already on sale in China.
Much of the other VR hardware news out of the show is likely to be about prototype controls for the technology, with various attempts to put sensors and robotic gloves on people’s hands or to recognise their gestures via cameras and sound wave sensors.
Ultimately, many believe augmented reality – in which graphics are mixed together with real-world views – has more potential.
But while there are several firms showing off AR apps and components designed for use in reality-mixing smart glasses, it seems unlikely a market-ready high-quality headset will emerge for at least another year or two.
However, for those just wanting a taste of the tech there are a few solutions on show, including the cardboard-based fold-up Aryzon into which you slot a phone.
There should be more robots than ever before at this year’s event. LG and Honda are among the bigger firms showing off new models, which include a luggage-carrying hotel droid and a face-pulling “compassionate” companion.
How practical any of them are is another matter.
Nonetheless, we’re promised innovations including a bot that plays Scrabble, two that fold clothes and a third designed to be cuddled at night to help send its user to sleep.
Other tech of questionable merit includes:
Aveine – a smart wine aerator that uses the internet to identify a bottle of wine to judge just the right amount of air to pump into it to improve the taste
Blimp – an online marketplace where you can rent your front door or even your t-shirt out to marketers for micro-advertising campaigns
Short Edition – a terminal that prints out short stories and poems for people to read in waiting rooms as a higher-cost alternative to providing magazines
Volt Case – a smartphone case equipped with an electric stun gun that can only be triggered if you unlock it with a fingerprint
But while it’s easy to sneer at the many seemingly obvious misfires, CES also presents an opportunity to be entertained and impressed by all the imagination and effort involved.
So, to end on a positive note here are some other innovations that caught our eye as having potential if they can fulfil their promise:
Shapescale – weight scales that also provide 3D body scans so you can see how exercise changes your shape over time
D Free – a sensor system that claims to be able to anticipate when elderly patients are likely to want to go to the toilet, so that their carers can get them there in time
Biowatch – a vein-reading module for smartwatches straps that identifies the wearer and avoids them having to type in a password code
Emojime – headphones fitted with a brainwave scanner that animate emoji symbols on their outside to illustrate the wearer’s mood
The book, Dangerous, was to be produced by Threshold Editions, a conservative imprint of the publishing giant, but was dropped in late February following intense criticisms by other authors and the general public. (The same month, Yiannopoulos made comments seemingly defending pedophilia, in addition to his regularly scheduled promotion of racism, sexism and other forms of intolerance.)
Yiannopoulos subsequently released Dangerous independently and watched as reviewersyawnedin unison. He also filed a lawsuit against the publisher that rejected him.
Now we owe Simon & Schuster’s legal defense team a small debt of gratitude. Last week, they pulled back the curtain on what went down between the alt-right agitator and his would-be publisher through a series of documents filed to the New York County Clerk’s office. Among them is Yiannopoulos’ first submitted manuscript ― chock-full of criticisms by his editor, Mitchell Ivers, who serves as vice president and editorial director of Threshold. Through his own affidavit, Ivers presented among his qualifications a publishing career spanning more than 30 years and experience editing “hundreds” of books including “many” on “controversial topics.”
In short, Ivers determined Yiannopoulos’ book was a mess.
He doesn’t exactly rebuke Yiannopoulos’ ideas on women, people of color, gay people, the political left and Muslims. Instead, as an editor, Ivers suggests ways to strengthen the writer’s arguments on those topics and make them palatable for a broad audience of all ages. Yet many of the hundreds of comments he made in Yiannopoulos’ first manuscript suggest the author’s thinking to be unsubstantiated, simplistic and, in Ivers’ words, “ridiculous,” “preposterous” and “phenomenally petty.”
An email summarizing seven main problems with the manuscript stated that a chapter originally titled “Why Other Gay People Hate Me” needed “a better central thesis than the notion that gay people should go back in the closet.” Additionally, the feminist chapter needed a “stronger argument against feminism than saying that they are ugly and sexless and have cats.” While Yiannopoulos made passing reference to Leslie Jones, the comedian he harassed over Twitter until the platform banned him, Ivers told him a more complete explanation was necessary ― sans jokes about her looks. A chapter called “Why Ugly People Hate Me” needed to be cut entirely.
The most stinging edits, though, were contained in the first-draft manuscript itself.
“This entire argument is ridiculous,” Ivers wrote alongside a section about JCPenney marketing itself “to women who think Cool Ranch Doritos are a food group.”
“Unsupportable charge,” he stated next to a line about progressives “importing” minority voters.
“Can you offer proof?” he asked beside Yiannopoulos’ claim that he is privately loved by “mischief-making musicians, actors and writers.”
“This entire paragraph is just repeating Fake News,” Ivers noted alongside a bizarre section on witchcraft, blood, semen and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“This is what people say about you,” Ivers said next to a line describing feminists as “more desperate to be noticed than Kanye West at an awards show.”
The list of criticisms goes on.
Alongside a headline “Feminists Don’t Hate Men, But It Wouldn’t Matter If We Did” that Yiannopoulos termed as hate speech: “If that headline is hate speech, THIS WHOLE BOOK is hate speech.”
Next to an argument that feminism is merely a “money-grab designed to sell t-shirts to Taylor Swift and Beyoncé fans with asinine slogans and feel-good girl power motifs”: “Um .. like your MILO SWAG?”
Beside a claim that fake news is “an invention of the mainstream media”: “No. You can’t say this. It actually exists and is used on both sides of the political spectrum.”
Some of Ivers’ most repeated complaints came back to Yiannopoulos’ insistence on writing for his base ― the editor encouraged him to define terms such as “rare Pepe” and “4chan” ― and his all-too-frequently-irreverent tone. A chapter on “Why Black Lives Matter Hates Me” was apparently one of the more readable ones, but it, too, suffered from attempted humor, the editor noted.
Ivers wrote “dumb joke” several times throughout the text.
And still, the list continues:
“Unclear, unfunny, delete.”
“You construct this metaphor very badly.”
“Let’s not call South Africa ‘white.’”
“Let’s keep ‘fecal waste’ analogies out of this chapter.”
“Ego gets in the way in this paragraph. Delete.”
″‘Autists’ sounds like a mental health slur.”
“Do you have credible evidence for this?”
“This rumor cannot appear in this book.”
“No need to drag the lesbians into this!”
“Three unfunny jokes in a row. DELETE.”
“Is this even true?”
“This is definitely not the place for more of your narcissism.”
“So much inappropriate humor is irritating.”
“Can you really prove a causality between [Black Lives Matter] and crime rate?”
“Too much ego.”
“This paragraph doesn’t make sense.”
“Stop spreading fake news.”
“Are you seriously telling the reader that you advocate SMEAR CAMPAIGNS?”
“Attempts at humor here are too weak and too long.”
“This is not the time or place for another black-dick joke.”
“Don’t make fun of school shooters ― and certainly don’t compare them to liberals.”
“You MUST ACKNOWLEDGE that this is EXACTLY what people accuse you and Breitbart of being: a new age of partisan propaganda masquerading as journalism.”
“I still want to know if trolling is really planning out these things in advance or just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.”
“NO MORE REFERENCES TO YOUR BOOK ADVANCE OR THE PUBLISHING PROCESS.”
“This is a stupid way to end a terrible chapter. Not worth keeping in. DELETE.”
Yiannopoulos submitted a revised copy of Dangerous around one month after receiving Ivers’ edits.
Lawyers for Simon & Schuster noted that “among other issues,” Yiannopoulos’ text “remained riddled with what [he] labeled ‘humor’ but actually constituted the incendiary speech that [Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy] declared that Simon & Schuster would never publish.”
Reidy released a statement in late January affirming that her company would not publish material intended to “incite hatred” in response to overwhelming criticism over the publisher’s decision to work with the alt-right figure in the first place.
In the end, Yiannopoulos got to keep his $80,000 advance.
(CNN)Ibuprofen has a negative impact on the testicles of young men, a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. When taking ibuprofen in doses commonly used by athletes, a small sample of young men developed a hormonal condition that typically begins, if at all, during middle age. This condition is linked to reduced fertility.
Advil and Motrin are two brand names for ibuprofen, an over-the-counter pain reliever. CNN has contacted Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, the makers of both brands, for comment.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group that represents manufacturers of over-the-counter medications and supplements, “supports and encourages continued research and promotes ongoing consumer education to help ensure safe use of OTC medicines,” said Mike Tringale, a spokesman for the association. “The safety and efficacy of active ingredients in these products has been well documented and supported by decades of scientific study and real-world use.”
The new study is a continuation of research that began with pregnant women, explained Bernard Jégou, co-author and director of the Institute of Research in Environmental and Occupational Health in France.
Jégou and a team of French and Danish researchers had been exploring the health effects when a mother-to-be took any one of three mild pain relievers found in medicine chests around the globe: aspirin, acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol and sold under the brand name Tylenol) and ibuprofen.
Their early experiments, published in several papers, showed that when taken during pregnancy, all three of these mild medicines affected the testicles of male babies.
Testicles and testosterone
Testicles not only produce sperm, they secrete testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.
All three drugs then are “anti-androgenic,” meaning they disrupt male hormones, explained David M. Kristensen, study co-author and a senior scientist in the Department of Neurology at Copenhagen University Hospital.
The three drugs even increased the likelihood that male babies would be born with congenital malformations, Kristensen noted.
Tringale noted that pregnant and nursing women should always ask a health professional before using medicines.
Knowing this, “we wondered what would happen in the adult,” he said. They focused their investigation on ibuprofen, which had the strongest effects.
A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen is often taken by athletes, including Olympians and professional soccer players for example, before an event to prevent pain, Jégou said. Are there health consequences for the athletes who routinely use this NSAID?
The research team recruited 31 male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35. Of these, 14 were given a daily dosage of ibuprofen that many professional and amateur athletes take: 600 milligrams twice a day, explained Jégou. (This 1200-mg-per-day dose is the maximum limit as directed by the labels of generic ibuprofen products.) The remaining 17 volunteers were given a placebo.
For the men taking ibuprofen, within 14 days, their luteinizing hormones — which are secreted by the pituitary gland and stimulate the testicles to produce testosterone — became coordinated with the level of ibuprofen circulating in their blood. At the same time, the ratio of testosterone to luteinizing hormones decreased, a sign of dysfunctional testicles.
This hormonal imbalance produced compensated hypogonadism, a condition associated with impaired fertility, depression and increased risk for cardiovascular events, including heart failure and stroke.
For the small group of young study participants who used ibuprofen for only a short time, “it is sure that these effects are reversible,” Jégou said. However, it’s unknown whether the health effects of long-term ibuprofen use are reversible, he said.
After this randomized, controlled clinical trial, the research team experimented with “little bits of human testes” provided by organ donors and then conducted test tube experiments on the endocrine cells, called Leydig and Sertoli cells, which produce testosterone, explained Jégou.
The point was to articulate “in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro” — in the living body, outside the living body and in the test tube — that ibuprofen has a direct effect on the testicles and so testosterone.
“We wanted to understand what happened after exposure (to ibuprofen) going from the global human physiology over to the specific organ (the testis) down to the endocrine cells producing testosterone,” Kristensen said.
More than idle curiosity prompted such an extensive investigation.
Questions around male fertility
The World Health Organization estimates that one in every four couples of reproductive age in developing countries experiences childlessness despite five years of attempting pregnancy.
A separate study estimated that more than 45 million couples, or about 15% of all couples worldwide, were infertile in 2010, while another unrelated study suggested that men were solely responsible for up to 30% and contribute up to 50% of cases overall.
Meanwhile, a recent analysis published in the journal Human Reproduction Update found that sperm counts of men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand are plunging. Researchers recorded a 52% decline in sperm concentration and a 59% decline in total sperm count over a nearly 40-year period ending in 2011.
Erma Z. Drobnis, an associate professional practice professor of reproductive medicine and fertility at the University of Missouri, Columbia, noted that most drugs are not evaluated for their effects on human male fertility before marketing. Drobnis, who was not involved in the new study, has done extensive research into sperm biology and fertility.
“There is evidence that some medications are particularly harmful to the male reproductive system, including testosterone, opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, immune modulators and even the over-the-counter antacid cimetidine (Tagamet),” she said. “However, prescribing providers rarely mention these adverse effects with patients when prescribing these medications.
She believes the new study, though small, is “important” because ibuprofen is among the most commonly used medications.
Though the new research indicates that ibuprofen disrupts the reproductive hormones in healthy young men, she thinks it’s possible there’s an even greater negative effect in men with low fertility. The other OTC drugs concerning for potential fathers are cimetidine and acetaminophen. She recommends that men who are planning to father a child avoid drugs for several months.
“Larger clinical trials are warranted,” she said. “This is timely work that should raise awareness of medication effects on men and potentially their offspring.”
Jégou agrees that more study is needed to answer many questions, including whether ibuprofen’s effects on male hormones are seen at low doses and whether long-term effects are reversible.
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“But the alarm has been raised now,” he said. “if this serves to remind people that we are really dealing with medical drugs — not with things which are not dangerous — this would be a good thing.”
“We need to remember that it is a pharmaceutical compound that helps a lot of people worldwide,” Kristensen said. He noted, though, that of the three mild analgesics examined, ibuprofen had “the broadest endocrine-disturbing properties identified so far in men.”
(CNN)Just weeks before a barricaded man shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy in a Colorado apartment, he apparently was writing alarming messages in email and on social media that included threats to police officers, officials have said.
Matthew Riehl, a 37-year-old former Army reservist, shot four sheriff’s deputies who responded to a complaint at his apartment in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch on Sunday morning, killing one, police say. Riehl was killed during a subsequent shootout with a police tactical team — a clash that also left a SWAT officer injured, authorities say.
The slain deputy was Zackari Parrish, a 29-year-old father of two. Two civilians outside the apartment also were shot and injured during the incidents, police say.
Police haven’t revealed suspected motives for Sunday’s shootings, but several law enforcement agencies had been aware weeks beforehand that Riehl was accused of writing harassing or suspicious messages online, officials said this week.
That includes “harassing posts” that Riehl put on his social media sites in November about a traffic stop in the Denver suburb of Lone Tree, just a few miles east of his apartment in Highlands Ranch, said Lone Tree spokeswoman Denisse Coffman.
Shortly after those posts, Riehl allegedly sent harassing emails to Lone Tree police officers, Coffman said.
“At that point, the Lone Tree Police Department immediately contacted the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to investigate, given that a Lone Tree police officer was being targeted by the suspect’s harassing communication,” Coffman said.
Coffman said she couldn’t reveal any other information about the case because the investigation wasn’t finished. But these apparently weren’t the only messages that recently were brought to the attention of authorities.
In late 2017, the University of Wyoming — where Riehl was a 2010 law school graduate — alerted students and faculty to what it called his suspicious behavior.
According to a letter sent to faculty and staff in November, Riehl posted “rambling, nonsensical messages on his Facebook page” that mentioned the school. Campus police and the Laramie Police Department were both alerted to the posts. The faculty was asked to alert authorities if Riehl was spotted on campus.
Chad Baldwin, associate vice president for communications and marketing at the university, told CNN the posts were “outrageous, vulgar and alarming.” Baldwin said the university heightened security on campus, but there were no reported sightings of Riehl in the area.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock told reporters Sunday that Riehl had previous contacts with law enforcement “throughout the metro area,” but had no criminal history.
‘Well over 100 rounds fired’
Sunday’s shootings began after 5:30 a.m. at the Copper Canyon Apartments in Highlands Ranch, about 20 miles south of Denver.
It was the second time deputies had gone to the apartment Sunday. There was a noise complaint call at around 3 a.m., but when deputies got there, there was no noise. After they spoke with a roommate in the apartment, they left, the Douglas County sheriff’s office said.
“One male said the suspect was acting bizarre and might be having a mental breakdown,” a police news release said.
The second call was dispatched as a domestic disturbance, and by 5:35 a.m. the four deputies had arrived at the scene.
The sheriff’s office said the roommate returned to the scene, gave deputies a key and said they could enter the residence. The roommate then left, police said.
Not long after the deputies found the suspect barricaded in his room, Riehl opened fire, Spurlock said.
“There were well over 100 rounds fired,” Spurlock said, adding that the deputies “all went down within almost seconds of each other, so it was more of an ambush type of attack on our officers.”
The wounded deputies crawled to safety as other law enforcement agencies responded to the shots fired call.
Riehl was killed about 90 minutes later during a shootout when a tactical team went into the apartment, the sheriff’s office said.
‘A tragic day that we will be feeling for a long time’
Parrish, the slain deputy, was a “good kid” who was “eager to work, eager to serve,” Spurlock said Sunday.
“This is a tragic day that we will be feeling for a long time,” the sheriff added.
President Donald Trump tweeted his “deepest condolences to the victims of the terrible shooting in Douglas County … and their families.”
Gunman served one year in Iraq
Riehl served with the Wyoming National Guard from 2006 to 2012, according to Deidre Forster with the Wyoming National Guard’s office of public affairs.
Forster told CNN that Riehl enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2003. He spent time in Iraq in 2009 as part of a security mission during a one-year deployment with the 300th Field Artillery Regiment, according to Forster. He was honorably discharged in 2012 as an E-4 (specialist), Forster said.
In July, Riehl attended an eight-hour firearms course in Colorado Springs taught by Kenaz Tactical Group, the company said. Riehl’s “demeanor during the training sessions was not alarming,” company owner Robert Butler said in statement.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Erica Anderson in Atlus’ Catherine.
2017 has been a great year for Japanese game developer Atlus, between receiving critical acclaim for Persona 5’sWestern release and officially unveiling Shin Megami Tensei V for the Nintendo Switch. But Atlus is experiencing a Twitter firestorm this week over a remake of its adventure puzzle-platformer Catherine, after some fans claim the game’s new romanceable character is transphobic.
For the uninitiated, Catherine deals with Vincent Brooks, a 32-year-old bachelor who keeps pushing off marriage with his long-time girlfriend, Katherine McBride. After Vincent cheats on Katherine with a mysterious woman called Catherine, he begins having nightmares where he must climb enormous towers while being chased by monsters. The game does this by blending narrative-driven gameplay with puzzle-platforming levels, allowing for multiple endings through different romance options. And on release, Catherine was hailed as pretty groundbreaking for taking two distinct genres and seamlessly merging them together.
But Catherine has always been a source of controversy since it first released back in 2011. That’s partly because Catherine used Erica Anderson, a transgender waitress over at the game’s Stray Sheep bar, for endless jokes about her gender identity. This is a point that’s largely handled well in Erica’s characterization, but Catherine’s male characters repeatedly treat her with disdain, often making transphobic jokes or treating her transness as disgusting. Even Catherine’s writing suggests she is actually a man because she has tower-climbing nightmares, which only men experience, and it uses her deadname in the game’s manual.
So from the start, many LGBTQ fans are skeptical of Atlus’ handle on queer topics. Which bleeds over to Catherine: Full Body, the game’s brand new remaster for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Along with updated graphics, the game teases a new romance route with a woman called Rin, a young girl sporting short pink hair and a knack for piano playing.
Many fans of the original game are excited to see where her story goes. But initial reports from Kotaku U.K.’s Laura Kate Dale are leaving some trans women concerned that the game will use Rin as a punchline for the same endless transphobic jokes used against Erica. For one, the game’s new teaser trailer shows Rin seducing Vincent, who proceeds to look on in horror as he stares at Rin’s exposed crotch. Plus the Japanese teaser site for Catherine: Full Body features the transgender gender symbol in both the favcon as well as the trailer’s “play” button, which bounces forward from Rin’s hidden crotch, implying that Rin may have a penis instead of a vagina.
Dale proceeded to argue that Rin’s introduction draws on transphobic humor about trans women manipulating men into sleeping with them, suggesting that Rin “tricks” Vincent into sex. If so, the trailer’s joke hearkens back to some of the transphobia that riddled the original Catherine, along with anime in general.
So, there's a trailer for the Catherine remake, and it looks like the third romance option is going to be a trans woman who Vincent will be horrified about having slept with. URGH, yep, of course this is happening. pic.twitter.com/PnRNC449jX
They use a god damn trans symbol as the website icon for the official new site. All the key art is her lifting her dress to reveal her crotch. Gender neutral name. I don't see how people are reading this as "oh he's just shocked the same as every route in the game.
Further allussion to Rin being a trans woman with a penis, the teaser site for the game has a huge image of her lifting her dress, fading before you see the crotch. Everything here screams trans woman route. https://t.co/3NBgYp51DW
There are people telling me to give Catherine: Full Body a chance, maybe the Rin trans woman plotline won't be anti trans people. Reminder, the original game's credits and manual deadname their only trans character. I'm not holding my breath on this one.
In the past decade, Atlus has displayed a bumpy track record with queer representation, including gay panic jokes in both Persona 4 and Persona 5. Many are convinced Atlus will mess up Rin’s characterization if she ends up being a trans girl.
“Rin being a trans woman love interest could be HUGE!!” everyone that knows better, considering Atlus’ history of terrible LGBT/Q rep: pic.twitter.com/1bHUa4JH6r
I doubt they’ll play this off well. Imo this is a bad start but they could potentially make her actual route/arc Less Transphobic but if I know Atlus I know they’ll probably fuck it up & be Gross so. I’m Disappointed
But other theories abound about Rin, including the fact that she may lack genitals at all. If so, that would explain the overlap between the male and female gender symbols on the Catherine: Full Body site.
I feel so many people already discounting Catherine: Full Body as bad and like
guys it was JUST announced, before getting your panties in a knot let it release
Also we don’t even know IF Rin is trans, crossdressing, intersex, sexless, not worth hyping “potential controversy”
Isn't it far more likely that Rin has no genitals at all, because they decide to add an Angel/Law character; to go against Catherine, who as a demon is clearly representative of the Chaos faction. Meanwhile, human beings in SMT have always been neutral at best until swayed.
I think that they probably won't make rin a trans woman but instead a feminine man seeing that rin's va appears to be a guy(?). but even if thats the case I don't doubt that theres gonna be a lot of homophobic/transphobic undertones surround rin
And yet, despite all the controversy, some are hopeful about Atlus including Rin as a romanceable character. After all, no AAA video game to date features a transgender woman as a love interest. Catherine: Full Body may end up being the first, and if she’s given as much care as Catherine, Katherine, or Erica, she could end up being a decently written character.
So as it turns out, Rin, the new character in Catherine: Full Body, is a trans woman. As a major love interest.
There's always the possibility of this being really badly handled, but I still can't help but smile.
I was ready to hate Catherine Full Body for forcing a fanfic Marie type character into a perfectly working story that speaks of a very dualistic view on relationships, no space for a third character, but if Rin is trans Im curious what story Atlus is planning to tell.
I’m hoping this isn’t the case, having recently played the original Vincent pulls these over expressed facial expressions all the time and probably how he would react to seeing another woman’s naked body cementing his cheating on Katherine.
It’s hard to say where Atlus will take Rin, seeing as so much is still up in the air about who she is. She may not be transgender after all. Either way, it’ll be a while until fans learn more about Rin’s story. Catherine: Full Body is scheduled for a winter 2018 release in Japan, and the game’s Western launch has yet to be revealed. In the meantime, Catherine is available through PlayStation Now for PlayStation 4 owners who want to try the original release.
(CNN)America’s powerful corporations made a killing with the passage of the Republican tax cuts. The tax cuts will hand trillions of dollars to the companies and their moneyed owners following a massive corporate lobbying campaign.
And make no mistake — America’s health crisis is the result of greedy corporations and their reckless practices.
The US life expectancy is slipping further and further behind other high-income countries. According to the most recent comparative data of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, US life expectancy in 2015 (at 78.7 years) ranked 27th out of 35 OECD countries, more than five years behind the leader, Japan (83.9 years), and roughly four years behind the next three countries, Spain (83.0), Switzerland (83.0) and Italy (82.6).
Yet Americans pay on average almost $10,000 per person per year for health care — twice or even three times the cost in Canada and many European countries. So, then, what accounts for America’s shorter life span?
One problem is the low value for money in America’s healthcare spending. Unlike the highly regulated health systems abroad, America leaves much more of the pricing for drugs, procedures and hospital stays in the hands of the private sector, which exploits its market power by charging outrageous prices and leaving millions of Americans without coverage.
Another cause of America’s lagging life expectancy is the nation’s rising inequality of income. America’s poor die much younger on average than America’s rich, with a discrepancy of up to 10-15 years on average. The combination of overpriced American health care and poverty is lethal.
Two corporate-caused US epidemics — obesity and opioid addictions — add to the misery.
America’s obesity epidemic is shortening the lives of Americans and burdening them with a range of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, type-II diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers. Obesity is also a risk factor for the onset of depression, while depression, in turn, contributes to the onset of obesity.
America’s opioid epidemic is leading to soaring deaths from drug overdoses, and substance abuse more generally is contributing to soaring rates of suicide, addiction and suffering. The CDC calculates that there were 63,600 deaths from drug overdoses in 2016, and more than a tripling in the age-adjusted rate of drug-overdose deaths from 1999 to 2016.
Why are opioids so addictive?
While the obesity and opioid epidemics are sometimes written off as “bad life choices,” these epidemics are largely the handiworks of an irresponsible corporate sector. As University of California pediatric endocrinologist and neuroscientist Dr. Robert Lustig describes in his remarkable book, The Hacking of the American Mind, America’s soaring obesity reflects a fast-food diet that has been deliberately stuffed with high-fructose corn syrup and various processed meats and grains that cause obesity.
American are being killed slowly and painfully by their own food industry. Yet instead of taking responsibility for the epidemic and doing something about it, most of the leaders of the food industry actively resist a change of direction and the needed changes in public-health regulation. The beverage industry, for example, is fighting strenuously against public health measures aimed at cutting America’s deadly over-consumption of sugar-packed sodas. Sad to say, things — human health, for one — do not go better with soft drinks.
The corporate hidden-hand is also present in the opioid epidemic. A recent expose in the New Yorker and lawsuits filed against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, allege that the company pursued a marketing campaign that pushed OxyContin onto doctors. According to the article, Purdue allegedly did not adequately study the risks of OxyContin, paid off doctors to ignore them and pushed aggressive advertising despite growing concerns and evidence of an addiction crisis. While the company rejects this characterization and denies the allegations, drug makers — at the very least — failed to respond adequately to the growing alarm bells as the opioid epidemic soared. (Purdue has since issued a statement saying it is committed to helping in the fight against prescription opioid abuse and to supporting the recommendations of the Food and Drug Administration’s Opioid Action Plan.)
Corporate power has run amok in American politics. Yet the mortality crisis is even worse. The health of the American people depends on restoring democratic oversight and regulation over powerful food and drug companies blinded by greed and arrogance.