Amazing Health Benefits Of Meditation

Meditation is something I’ve heard a lot about, but never really thought about doing because I had no idea it had so many health benefits! Especially after researching all of the health benefits of meditation, I can’t believe that such a simple practice can help the body in so many ways. Meditation can help improve your immune system, reduce pain and even improve insomnia! Now that I not only learned the benefits of meditation but also the research behind the benefits which prove that it really works, I’ve made meditation a priority and a part of my daily routine.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is mostly well known for helping promote relaxation and calmness, but it also does much more than that. It is described as the practice of inducing a mode of consciousness. Meditation can be viewed as concentrating on something or imagining something that creates peace for us.

There are several different types of meditation. Most involve being in a quiet spot where you’re comfortable and focus on something (your breathing, sensations/what you’re feeling, or visualizing).

For example, you may meditate by focusing on the present, being aware of where you are and what you’re feeling in the moment. Not focusing on the past or future.

10 Health Benefits Of Meditation:

1. Improves Your Immune System

Practicing meditation significantly increases your immune system. One study from 2013, found that participants who meditated regularly had an increase in their immune system function. This was particularly noted in patients with suppressed immune systems and those with cancer or HIV. Another study found that people who meditated had an increase in antibodies in the blood that fight viruses such as the flu and infections.

2. Reduces Stress And Cortisol

Meditation is one of the best and simplest ways to help reduce stress, lower cortisol, and promote relaxation. Studies have found that if you practice meditation for as little as 10 minutes a day, you can significantly reduce stress and decrease anxiety.  One study found that people that meditated for an hour one time a week for seven weeks effectively decreased mood disturbance in both males and females of all ages.

Another study found that participating in just a 4 day meditation program resulted in a lower serum cortisol level in the blood, which signifies a decrease in stress.

Ever since I started meditating, I’ve definitely noticed that I feel more relaxed and less stressed.

3. Reduces Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression

There’s quite a bit of research supporting the effectiveness of meditation for reducing anxiety and depression. Meditation is very relaxing and calming. It involves training your mind in a level of awareness and focusing on the present where you don’t worry about day to day things. It gives your mind a break from the worry and stress.

A review study at Johns Hopkins University found that meditation resulted in a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression similar to that of antidepressants!

Studies have even shown that those who participate in an 8 work course in meditation see results in reducing anxiety and depression even for years after the course is over.

A specific type of meditation called mindfulness meditation has also been found to help relieve symptoms of social anxiety.

4. Reduces Inflammation In The Body

This is one of the most surprising benefits of meditation I learned about when researching. Meditation is effective at reducing inflammation in your body. A study found that those who participated in an 8 week course of mindfulness meditation training saw a reduction in stress-induced inflammation better than those that altered their diet and exercise level.

5. Lowers Blood Pressure

One study found that meditation was so effective for 40 out of 60 patients with high blood pressure, that they could stop taking blood pressure medicine.

Meditation helps promote relaxation and is very calming. Practicing meditation helps blood vessels to open and improves blood flow, which aids in decreasing blood pressure.

6. Reduces Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome And Ulcerative Colitis

Meditation can help alleviate symptoms of both Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). Many researchers are unsure of exactly how it works for these conditions are unknown, but the results are undeniable.

When a group of patients with IBS practiced meditation for 8 weeks, more than 38% reported a significant improvement in symptoms.
Meditation may help reduce the frequency of flare-ups with IBS and IBD related to stress.

7. Helps Improve Sleep And Reduce Insomnia

A doctor from Harvard University describes meditation as one of the best ways to trigger a “relaxation response”. Those that have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep through the night often see a great improvement by meditating daily. One study found that adults who practiced mindfulness meditation 6 times noted improved sleep and less insomnia.

Meditation was also found to help those with insomnia to fall asleep twice as fast on days they mediated compared to before.

The results appear to also last long term. 91% of people that participated in a meditation course who were on medication due to sleeping difficulty, reported reducing their medication dose or completely stopping the medication.

8. Improves Mood And Makes You Happy

Meditation increases serotonin (the happy chemical) which makes you feel good and boosts your mood. Those that are under high stress or dealing with depression often have low levels of serotonin.

Meditation has been found to result in changes in brain circuits that are crucial in regulating emotions.

9. Reduces Pain

This is another very interesting benefit of meditation. I never would have guessed that meditation could help relieve pain. Practicing meditation has been found to help reduce pain from common headaches to pain associated with fibromyalgia. This study showed that meditation can help reduce pain from headaches.

Another study found that meditation reduced the symptoms of muscle pain and fatigue for individuals with fibromyalgia.

10. Helps Your Heart – Lowers Heart Rate And Improves Blood Circulation

Meditation is very relaxing and helps lower your stress hormones produced in the body which in turn lowers your heart rate. It’s been found that those who meditate have lower heart rates, better blood circulation and lower levels of lipid peroxide (which can lead to atherosclerosis).

Even just meditating one time for 10 minutes can lower your blood pressure immediately.

How To Meditate:

There are different types of meditation you can use to get the benefits. The 2 most common are guided meditation and mindfulness meditation.

  • Guided meditation generally involves listening to a tape/teacher and visualizing certain places or experiences.
  • Mindfulness meditation involves being fully aware at the present moment. You may focus on noises you hear in nature if you’re outside or you can focus on just your breathing.

To learn more about how to mediate, I found this site to have some helpful tips.

How Often Should You Meditate?

Meditating for just 10 minutes every day has be shown to provide many the health benefits mentioned above. When you’re just starting out with meditating and getting used to it, you may want to start with one or two minutes as you’re learning to do it.

Natural Alternatives To Glucose Drink – Glucola For Pregnancy Glucose Screening Test

When I first found out I was pregnant one of the first things I began researching was about all of the prenatal tests and procedures.

There are many more tests and procedures done now compared to over 30 years ago when I was born.

One of the tests that I researched was the pregnancy glucose screening test. I wanted to find natural alternatives to glucose drink that’s required for the test.

At first, I researched online and found that many women just consume 50 grams of sugar as a natural alternative to the pre-made glucose drink called glucola. Then they take the glucose blood just as they would when you drink the glucola.

My OB, who actually delivered me when I was born, said that I can have anything with 50 grams of sugar an hour before the test instead of drinking the gluocla. He said that if it was him, he would just have a fruit smoothie containing 50 grams of sugar for the test.

Before I talked to him about natural alternatives to the glucose drink, I was prepared for him to tell me that I had to drink the gluocla and there were no other options. I was surprised that he supported drinking something else instead of the glucola.

Even though drinking glucola isn’t healthy, I would if I needed to. But, when you’re already nauseous from pregnancy and want to try to avoid processed/chemically laden foods, why not choose the healthier option with less side effects as long as it’s just as effective.

How The Pregnancy Glucose Screening Test Works:

The pregnancy glucose screening test is recommended some time between 24 and 28 weeks of your pregnancy. It is a test used check for pre-diabetes and diabetes. The test results reveal your body’s ability to use glucose, a type of sugar.

The test involves drinking a sugary drink called Glucola that contains 50 grams of sugar. Then, one hour later, your blood will be tested to measure your blood glucose level. Many recommend taking the test while fasting, however; that is not necessary.

Risk Factors For Gestational Diabetes And Is It Necessary To Do The Glucose Screening Test?

When I first asked my OB about the pregnancy glucose screening test, he said that he was not concerned with me having gestational diabetes because I have no risk factors. He said that he can almost guarantee I will not have gestational diabetes, but due to the less than 1% chance of me having it, just because doctors don’t want (the liability) to be sued, they have to recommend testing all pregnant women. He stated that 40 years ago they wouldn’t have even tested me for gestational diabetes because I have no risk factors. Before 1973, pregnant women were only screened for gestational diabetes and not tested unless they had risk factors.

Risk factors for Gestational Diabetes Include:
– Family history of gestational diabetes
– Prior diagnosis of pre-diabetes or diabetes
– Overweight

Can You Refuse The Glucose Screening Test?

Yes, as with any tests or procedures, you can refuse it or ask to use a natural alternative to glucose drink. I would definitely ask your OB or midwife about using an alternative glucose drink if you don’t want to drink glucola. They may be more open to it than you think, such as with my doctor.

Why Do They Want You To Drink Glucola Instead Of Eating 50 Grams Of Sugar?

The drink makes it easier for doctors and patients as it is a pre-made drink with an exact amount of 50 grams of sugar. When you eat or drink other foods in place of it, it makes it harder for doctors to determine if you had the exact 50 grams of sugar. However, for conscientious patients, it is an easy task to determine what foods or drinks to consume that contain 50 grams of sugar. Finding natural alternatives to the glucose drink is actually very easy! Many fruit smoothies contain nearly the exact 50 grams of sugar amount.

What’s In Glucola?

The drink contains artificial flavoring and preservatives. These include; dextrose, food starch modified, glycerol ester of wood rosin, brominated soybean oil, FD & C Yellow # 6, sodium hexametaphosphate BHA and sodium benzoate.

Study Shows consuming 50grams of sugar instead of glucola is just as effective with less side effects

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that jelly beans were an effective alternative to the 50 gram glucose drink (glucola) when used to test for gestational diabetes. There was no significant difference in the one hour serum glucose levels for those that had jelly beans instead of glucola. The jelly beans were preferred by 76% percent of patients in the study. There was also 38% less side effects reported with the jelly beans compared to the glucola drink.

Natural Alternatives To Glucose Drink – Glucola

You can really have any sugary food or drink as an alternative to the glucose drink, glucola as long as it contains 50 grams of sugar. Or you can have a combination of foods/drinks that will bring you to the 50 grams of sugar level.

Just prepare ahead of time, days before the test, by looking at food and drink labels to decide what you’re going to have and make sure it contains close to the 50grams of sugar level.

It doesn’t have to be perfectly 50 grams of sugar, just as close to that as you can get.

For my pregnancy glucose screening test, my alternative to the glucose drink was a fruit smoothie and muffin, which together was about 50 grams of sugar. This was much more appetizing than drinking glucola – a sugary orange drink, especially when you’re already nauseous from pregnancy.

  • This is the fruit smoothie I drank. It contains 49grams of sugar. So, it’s a perfect alternative to the glucose drink. That’s all you need to have because it is close enough to the 50grams of sugar level, which makes it easy! I drank half of it (25grams of sugar) along with muffin (25grams of sugar).

Also, for someone like me that never drinks sugary drinks, it was a better option. Over the last 10 years, pretty much, the only drinks I have are water, lemon water or tea. For people that are used to drinking soda and all kinds of sugary drinks, drinking glucola may not give them as many side effects as it would for me.

How To Talk To Your Doctor About Using Natural Alternatives To Glucose Drink – Glucola

Your doctor may be more open to you using an alternative to the glucose drink than you think. I was very relieved when my doctor approved of me using an alternative to glucola. When I went to my doctor’s appointment, I brought a printed out copy of the study to show him (although I never had to take it out). I felt confident that I was well informed about alternatives to glucola and that there was research showing that it was effective.

My Results With Using Natural Alternatives To Glucose Drink

I was glad I opted for using natural alternatives to glucose drink, glucola. It was much easier for me to get down a smoothie and have a muffin as opposed to the glucola drink (which made me nauseous even just thinking about something similar to soda)

John Boyega and Amber Riley lead nominations at The Stage Debut Awards

You might know them best from Glee and Star Wars – but it’s Amber Riley and John Boyega’s performances on the London stage which have bagged them nominations for a new industry award.

Both are up for the Joe Allen Best West End Debut prize at the inaugural The Stage Debut Awards.

It recognises a debut performance in the West End, with the winner decided by a public vote.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’s Anthony Boyle is also nominated.

‘Great optimism’

The other nominees for the prize are:

  • Andy Karl, Groundhog Day
  • Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
  • Andrew Polec, Bat Out of Hell
  • Imogen Poots, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Charlie Stemp, Half a Sixpence

“It’s great to see such a range of talented theatre makers and gives cause for great optimism about the future of theatre in the UK,” said The Stage’s associate editor, Lyn Gardner.

Anthony Boyle, wins the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award for 'Harry Potter And The Cursed Child' on stage during The Olivier Awards 2017Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBoyle played Scorpius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Mark Shenton, The Stage’s associate editor and one of the judges, said: “While the other categories in The Stage Debut Awards only recognise complete newcomers, the Joe Allen Best West End Debut Award is a chance to celebrate talent making their mark in the West End for the first time.

“We have a really great shortlist that ranges from genuine newcomers like Anthony Boyle, who made his professional debut in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, to Audra McDonald, a legend on Broadway making her belated West End debut in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.”

‘Making my own way’

Boyega made his West End debut as the lead in Woyzeck, with Riley appearing as Effie White in Dreamgirls.

Switching space for the Cold War, Boyega received largely positive reviews for his performance in the modern adaptation of George Buchner’s unfinished play set in 1980s Berlin.

Riley took on the role played by Jennifer Hudson in the 2006 Dreamgirls film – having previously performed one of its songs, And I am Telling You I’m Not Going, in the first series of Glee.

Amber Riley won the Best Actress In A Musical award for 'Dreamgirls' at The Olivier Awards 2017Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionRiley won the best actress in a musical award for Dreamgirls at The Olivier Awards

After collecting the award for best actress in a musical in April, Riley told The Stage it felt “exceptional” to be in a show where the three leads were black women.

She said: “I think it’s incredible. In theatre, I feel like you want to see people that look like you and know that you can do that.

“I’m not necessarily the standard of what the industry may feel is beautiful or could be a star, but I’m doing it anyway because I’m making my own way.”

The awards ceremony will take place in London on 17 September

Fire and Fury: How to Survive a Nuclear Attack

North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead that could be fitted onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, and has now threatened to attack Guam, a U.S. territory, according to several news reports.

In response, President Donald Trump used some apocalyptic rhetoric of his own.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to news reports. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” [7 Strange Facts About North Korea]

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The saber rattling has raised concerns about the possibility of a nuclear attack on U.S. soil and heightened fears of doomsday. But is a global nuclear winter just around the corner?

While the effects of a detonation on American soil would certainly be scary and could set off a larger global catastrophe, one nuclear attack in itself isn’t a certain death sentence, as many people assume, said Michael May, a professor emeritus at the Engineering-Economic Systems and Operations Research Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

In addition, survival rates depend on whether the weapons are deployed by a well-armed hostile nation like Russia; a country, like North Korea, that has with a limited nuclear arsenal; or a terrorist group, he said. It also depends on how far people are from the epicenter, May said.

When most people think of nuclear war, they imagine a Cold War-type, mutually assured destruction scenario in which two countries lob a flurry of nuclear weapons at each other, decimating each other’s military, food and power infrastructure and raining radioactive fallout on large swaths of the world.

But despite the current tensions with Russia, a terrorist attack using a dirty bomb — a nuclear weapon patched together from explosives and radioactive nuclear waste — or a lone attack from a country such as North Korea is slightly more likely, May said. While the United States has a prototype nuclear missile-defense shield, this technology doesn’t work very well, Live Science previously reported. Still, the likeliest scenario would be one detonation, rather than the hundreds that would leave America a post-apocalyptic wasteland, May said. [Doomsday: 9 Real Ways Earth Could End]

“If it’s a lone, single weapon, [then] outside that central area, there’s a pretty good chance of survival,” May told Live Science.

Even Cold War analyses that forecasted a complete war of annihilation between Russia and the United States would likely result in “only” 40 million casualties on American soil, said May. Of course, the food and water infrastructure would likely be destroyed in such a scenario, leading to catastrophe, he added.

The worst effects would likely be felt in the heart of an urban blast zone, May said.

For instance, for a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon, equivalent to the size of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, would immediately kill about 50 percent of the people within a 2-mile (3.2 kilometers) radius of ground detonation, according to a 2007 report from a Preventive Defense Project workshop. Those deaths would be caused by fires, intense radiation exposure and other fatal injuries. Some of these people would be injured by pressure from the explosion, while most would be exposed to injuries from collapsed buildings or from flying shrapnel;  most buildings in a 0.5-mile (0.6 km) radius of the detonation would be knocked down or heavily damaged.

Injuries to extremities would be extremely common, according to the Preventive Defense Project study. A few people would be injured by thermal burns caused by the fireball after the detonation. People in this area may also be exposed to extremely high levels of radioactivity, and many first responders and search-and-rescue workers would have to wait to enter these areas until the radiation levels had dropped, meaning assistance would be limited. [Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth]

People with subsurface basements in the primary blast zone may be able to survive the primary blast, assuming there’s only one, May said.

Even those who are a mile away from the epicenter of the explosion may have time to increase their survival odds; the light flash from the detonation travels much faster than the pressure and shock waves, meaning people may have a bit of time to close their eyes, move away from windows, duck and cover themselves, according to the Preventive Defense Workshop report.

The next immediate hazard to deal with is the radioactive fallout. When a nuclear bomb explodes, it pulverizes thousands of tons of earth, comingling that material with radioactive particles from the explosion. This process forms the iconic mushroom cloud, and as those thousands of tons of radioactive bits of ash, rock and dust float toward the ground, they emit radioactivity. The largest, heaviest particles of this nuclear snow settle first and are mostly contained in the initial blast area.  Smaller particles may float higher and farther and reach 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km) downwind, but the bulk of their radioactivity rapidly decays over time and they often take a long time to settle back to ground level.

In the absence of snow or rain — which would help to pull the fallout to the ground faster — far-flung particles may have minimal radioactivity by the time they float to Earth, according to the handbook “Nuclear War Survival Skills” (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1987)

By 48 hours after the blast, an area that is initially exposed to 1,000 roentgens per hour of radiation will experience only 10 roentgens per hour of radiation, according to “Nuclear War Survival Skills.” About half of the people who experience a total radiation dose of about 350 roentgens over a couple of days are likely to die from acute radiation poisoning, according to the handbook. (A typical abdominal computed tomography scan may expose people to less than one roentgen.)

Those in the blast area can take some measures to protect themselves, if they have some warning. For example, they can go into a heavily reinforced building and stay away from windows; fall to the ground and cover their bodies (duck and cover), waiting at least 30 seconds after the blast for the shock wave to hit; and remain in a shelter until word comes that it’s safe to evacuate. After the blast, people should remove their outer clothing and shower if possible to remove radioactive particles. [Top 10 Largest Explosions Ever]

In a full-scale nuclear war, there may be more long-term contamination of the food supply. For instance, fallout may land on croplands and be taken up by the food supply, which could then cause longer-term problems such as cancer, May said. Radioactive iodine, in particular, could be a problem, he said.

“Cows are concentrating the iodine in the milk, and children concentrate the iodine in the milk into the thyroids,” leading to thyroid cancer, May said.

Nuclear detonations also cause electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that can damage a wide range of electrical and communications equipment, especially within a radius of 2 to 5 miles (3.2 to 8 km) from a ground-level, 10-kiloton explosion. Vehicles could stall, communications and cell towers would be disrupted, computers would be destroyed, and the water and electrical grid could also be destroyed. First responders that come in from outside the area with unaffected electronics should still be able to operate their devices, according to the 2007 report.

Among preparatory steps people can take, the coordination and planning of first responders would likely have the biggest effect on casualty levels, but individuals can also take a few easy preventive steps, May said. The ultrawealthy may build high-end bomb shelters, but even the average person can take steps to minimize risks, he said. Some of those steps — such as having extra food, water and first-aid supplies available — will work for other emergencies, too.

Other steps may be unique to a nuclear attack. For instance, respiratory protection, such as cheap face masks or even cloths held over the nose and mouth, can help reduce radiation exposure, according to the workshop report.

Nuclear attacks would also necessitate equipment for measuring radiation. People who are waiting to emerge from their shelter after a blast will want to know which areas have dangerous levels of radiation.

“You might get yourself a radiation meter. They don’t cost very much,” May told Live Science.

Other safety tips: Keep a radio to maintain communications with the outside world. This radio can be placed in a metal storage box to protect it against EMPs, along with a sealed, large plastic bag for containment to protect against humidity, according to the “Nuclear War Survival Skills” handbook.

Dental brace wire lodged in intestine for a decade, doctors say

A woman in Australia discovered more than she anticipated when she went to the doctor due to stomach pains — only to find a dental brace wire that had been lodged in her intestine for a decade.

The 30-year-old woman went to the doctor complaining about intense stomach pains, BMJ Case Reports wrote in a medical article published on Monday. Her heart was beating faster than normal and her abdominal wall was inflamed.

However, doctors remained stumped when laboratory tests, ultrasound and scans of her liver, gallbladder and bile ducts turned up normal. She also did not have any recent surgery done.

“Then we looked at kidney function and liver function as well to tell if there was some kind of larger problem affecting other organs,” Dr. Talia Shepherd, who worked on the woman’s case, told Popular Science.

Doctors then conducted a CT scan where they discovered a nearly 3-inch dental brace wire lodged into her intestine.

“We were all a bit dumbfounded,” Shepherd recalled. “It wasn’t what I was expecting to find at all.”

The woman developed a condition called volvulus, when the intestine twists around itself.

“The wire penetrated through the small bowel and the small bowel mesentery and to another loop of the mid–small bowel,” the BMJ article read.

The woman told doctors she had braces at least 10 years ago and didn’t recall swallowing the brace or even having one missing. She later underwent surgery to remove the dental brace wire.

Shepherd told Popular Science it’s common for people to swallow objects, but it usually doesn’t take more than a decade to be noticed.

“The case is so unique because normally if you swallow something like that it presents (itself) earlier,” Shepherd said.

American Student Released from Captivity in North Korea Has Died

Last month, the American student Otto Warmbier returned from North Korea in a coma. He had been imprisoned in North Korea for nearly two years, and returned home with significant brain damage. Doctors in his native Ohio described Warmbier’s condition as an “unresponsive wakefulness”, but were unable to identify what had caused his medical condition. Now, roughly a week after he landed on June 13, Otto Warmbier has passed away in a Cincinnati hospital. In the wake of his death, his parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier blamed their son’s death on “the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans”, while President Trump has criticised the peninsula for their “brutality”. He was 22 years old.

In January 2016, Otto Warmbier was arrested at Pyongyang International Airport, North Korea. An economics student at the University of Virginia, Warmbier had traveled there a month earlier as part of a trip organised by Young Pioneer Tours, but the North Korean government held him in custody, accusing the then-21-year-old of a “hostile act”.

Two months later, Warmbier confessed to stealing a propaganda poster in a trial that lasted less than an hour. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour, and at the trial, Warmbier tearfully admitted he had stolen the poster to “harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people”, and said to the court he had “made the worst mistake” of his life.

Some time after his trial, North Korean authorities then reported that the American student fell ill from botulism, a life-threatening condition, caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, that results in paralysis. He was then reportedly given a sleeping pill, and remained in a coma until his death earlier this week.

Upon his return to the United States, Dr Daniel Kanter, the director of neurocritical care for the University of Cincinnati Health system, described his condition as an “unresponsive wakefulness”. Scans showed extensive damage in all regions of his brain. They said:

“He has spontaneous eye opening and blinking. However, he shows no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands or awareness of his surroundings. He has not spoken.”

Speaking after his death, Otto Warmbier’s parents paid tribute to their son, and revealed they had only known about their son’s condition a week prior.

It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost – future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. 

When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on 13 June he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.

Otto Warmbier’s death has prompted a response from organisations around the world. The Human Rights Watch stated that the 22-year-old’s treatment “after being abused in North Korean custody” demonstrated the North Korean regime’s ability to “brutalize and kill to maintain their hold on power”.

Additionally, Young Pioneer Tours, the Chinese-based company that allowed Warmbier to visit North Korea in late 2015, said “the risk is too high” for American students in North Korea, and have now stopped taking US citizens into North Korea. Our thoughts are with the Warmbier family at this difficult time.

What Is Cloaking And How Is Facebook Dealing With It?

With its latest announcement, Facebook is informing us that it’s taking decisive steps against cloaking, by deploying artificial intelligence. 

First things first though: What is cloaking? Cloaking is a technique used to circumvent Facebook’s review processes, in order to show users content that would not have made the community guidelines standards otherwise. The mechanism which cloaking employs consists of concealing the true destination of an ad or post, or the real content of the destination page, in order to bypass Facebook’s reviewers.

In many cases, these bad actors will go as far as setting up web pages, specifically for Facebook reviewers. These pages abide by the advertising guidelines, however, once they get approved, users are taken to a different destination when they click on the same link through Facebook app.

wersm-facebook-cloaking_inlinegraphics

So how will Facebook combat cloaking exactly? As the company states, it will start using artificial intelligence as an additional checkpoint along with its reviewers. This way, Facebook will be able to observe and track offenders. According to some initial results, it has already taken down thousands of them. Moreover, Facebook will partner with other companies, in order to find new ways to combat and punish offenders.

Facebook is serious about cloaking as it will ban those who deliberately use cloaking to promote shady businesses.

Instagram Tests Feature Allowing Users To ‘Go LIVE With A Friend’

Instagram has announced that it is “testing a fun way to go live with a friend.” The feature allows users to add a guest to their live broadcasts on the platform. 

Since Instagram introduced Live on its platform, I am sure there have been many of you out there who have wished that you could “go live” with one of your friends. Well, today is a great day, because you will be happy to hear that the photo-sharing platform is starting a to test a brand new feature that will allow you to do just that.

Only a small percentage of users have the feature for the time-being, but Instagram has promised a global rollout in the next few months. With this new feature, Instagram wants to make live sharing less intimidating, but keep it authentic. It’s simple. While broadcasting, simply tap on the new icon at the bottom of your screen, picking “Add,” to invite any one of your viewers to join.

Once they do so, the screen will split into two – and it will be the two of you. Other viewers can continue liking and commenting as usual. But say you want to be able to add someone else to the broadcast. You simply remove your first guest and add someone else. Guests can of course leave the broadcast on their own accord.

The resulting video can be shared to your Stories or discarded altogether. This feature has been available on Facebook Live since May. Any of you got the Instagram version? Please share your views!

‘1,000 likes or I will drop him’: Dad jailed for holding son out window in Facebook post

An Algerian father who dangled his son from a 15th-floor window demanding “1000 Facebook Likes” or he would drop him, has been sentenced to prison.

The man posted a video to Facebook while holding his son with one hand and his phone in the other with the caption “1,000 likes or I will drop him,” news website Alarabiya reports.

The young boy appeared frightened and bewildered as he looked at the ground nearly 50 metres below him.

Facebook users immediately condemned the man’s behaviour and contacted authorities to intervene.

The father demanded ‘1000 likes’ or he would drop the son, according to his Facebook post. Source: Supplied

“What is most striking is that it appears that the father is carrying his son with his left hand while using his right hand to take the picture,” one user wrote.

“This means the picture is more important than the child’s life.”

Prosecutors told the court the father carried out the twisted stunt for no other reason but to achieve a high amount of engagement on Facebook.

He was sentenced to two years prison on Monday after being found guilty of child abuse.

Media activist Dalila Belkheir told local news outlets the offender was “not a father but a terrorist”.

Facebook’s Secret “Mind Reading” Hardware Could Be Announced At F8

Facebook is not averse to innovation. But now, the company could be take a giant leap forward, possibly creating the first ever “mind reading” device. Freaky?

Facebook could actually be working, not on one, but four new consumer products to be announced at the upcoming F8 Conference in April. A new AR device, a drone (take that Snapchat!), a medical project and more intriguing than everything else… a mind reading device?

 Yes, Facebook is building a “brain computer interface” which would allow users to share information telepathically. And it’s not the first time this comes up: Mark Zuckerberg had hinted such a platform/product was on its way back in 2016. In a Q&A session, Facebook’s CEO described how people would soon be able to

capture a thought, what you’re thinking or feeling in kind of its ideal and perfect from in your head, and be able to share that with the world.

Of course, if such device becomes capable to read our minds, I’m 100% convinced that “share that with the world” will mean share that on Facebook. It makes sense, right?

Now this will probably be “just” an announcement and not the launch of the “mind reader” itself. Zuckerberg himself has hinted that research would take several decades for such a product to be completely accurate and safe to use. And that is not even taking into account the privacy issues such a product would raise immediately.

However, just the thought of it (see what I did here?) is amazing. And scary. And fantastic. And freaky

All these surprising and intriguing projects are the fruit of Facebook’s new futuristic hardware division called Building 8 (Facebook’s equivalent to Google X.)