There might be dangerous chemicals in your tap water — here’s how to stay safe

Remember the movie “Erin Brockovich”? Of course, you do.

But unless you’ve rewatched it recently, you may not remember that Brockovich—in real life, and in the movie—was fighting a company suspected of polluting a small California town’s drinking water with a cancer-causing contaminant called chromium-6 (aka, hexavalent chromium).

Fast-forward 20 years, and it may shock you to learn that chromium-6 is still a threat to 218 million Americans, including residents of every state. That’s just one of the many findings of a just-released Environmental Working Group (EWG) report on the state of our nation’s drinking water.

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“We’ve known about chromium-6 since Erin Brockovich, but it’s still a pervasive problem, and there’s no federal legal standard for it,” says Nneka Leiba, MPH, the director of Healthy Living Science at the EWG.

Unfortunately, chromium-6 isn’t the only dangerous chemical of concern. After examining data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and almost 50,000 public water systems across the nation, the EWG found 267 different contaminants in our nation’s water supply—more than half of which have no established legal limit.

How could this be, you ask? “The Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t put a new contaminant on its regulated list since 1996, which is when the Clean Water Act was passed. We’ve learned so much more about chemicals since then, but we still haven’t made any improvements in our policies,” Leiba explains.

Arsenic, lead, the agricultural herbicide Atrazine, perchlorate, and perfluorinated chemicals are just a handful of the hundreds of contaminants the EWG found to be widespread in public tap water systems. Many of these chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic, impair thyroid function, and cause harm to fetal growth and development.

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When asked for a response, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson was quick to point out that “more than 90 percent of the country’s drinking water systems meet all of EPA’s health-based drinking water standards” and that the EPA has “set drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants, including microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic and organic chemicals, and radionuclides.”

How you can protect yourself

Start by plugging your zip code into the EWG’s database to learn what contaminants are in your local tap water.

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  • Your bottled water has 24,500 chemicals

Next, check out the EWG water filter guide and buy one, stat. You can input contaminants of concern and find filters that are third-party certified by NSF International, a product testing, inspection, and certification organization.

“In most cases, activated carbon water filters will reduce many or all contaminants,” Leiba says, referring to the pitcher-style water filters many of us already use. “Having one is especially important if there’s a vulnerable population in your house—someone who is pregnant or sick, or a baby,” Leiba says. (One EWG-approved filter to try: Brita Chrome 8-Cup Water Filter Pitcher, $40, amazon.com)

Put your water filter to good use with this de-bloating sassy water recipe:

One thing you shouldn’t do: turn to bottled water.

“In many cases, bottled water is just filtered tap water, so it’s the same thing you’d get using a filter,” Leiba says. “But bottled water is much more expensive, and it can also expose you to contaminants leaching into your water from the plastic bottle itself.”

Protecting future generations

Leiba says we all need to “raise our voices” and let elected officials know we need greater source-water protections and infrastructure upgrades (contact information for local government officials can be found on USA.gov.) “Our water utilities are constantly dealing with the influx of contaminants, but the onus isn’t only on the utility,” she says. “They’re usually within federal safety limits, but being within federal limits does not mean our water is safe. In many cases, we’ve done the science and the testing, and we know that these contaminants are unsafe, but there’s been no action taken.”

10 Reasons to Say No to Botox

It seems that everyone is getting Botox these days, but did you know that Botox is just a toxic byproduct of bacteria? In fact, the name Botox derives from the phrase Botulinum toxin, the same toxin responsible for some cases of food poisoning. This is just one reason to consider saying no to Botox. Here are ten more.

1. It Doesn’t Work
Botox has some great medical applications that make it a valuable treatment for serious ailments, such as migraines. What it isn’t so great at, however, is making you look younger. It can smooth out wrinkles and relax facial muscles, but even the experts who administer Botox injections admit that it can do little to make a person look younger. The “filled” look was fashionable for a while, which is why people really got Botox, but even that has gone by the wayside now.

2. It’s Expensive
Botox can cost thousands of dollars, and considering it doesn’t do that much in the long run, you have to wonder why people spend so much on it. There are actually much better ways to reduce the signs of aging, like exercise and improving diet, so save your money for those things instead.

3. Dangerous Side Effects
Though serious side effects with Botox aren’t common, they aren’t nonexistent. Complications from Botox can include infection, paralysis, allergic reactions, and even death. Less serious complications include pain, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Remember that Botox is a neurotoxin.

4. Addiction
Many people who have started with “just a little” Botox report that they found their need escalated over time. It isn’t addictive in the sense that alcohol can be addictive, but many people do find that quitting Botox is difficult. The more of it they have, the more “flaws” they want to fix with it. One of the problems that people run into is that relaxing muscles to reduce wrinkles in one area of the face can lead to more wrinkles in another area. Thus, using Botox will likely reveal a further need for Botox.

5. No Antidote
If a Botox injection ends up not producing the results you want, there is little you can do but wait. There is no way to reverse the effects of Botox, so the effects have to wear off on their own. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before Botox fully wears off.

6. Self Esteem
Many people see Botox as a reflection of low confidence. They even associate Botox with shallowness and an overemphasis on appearance. Having Botox may send a message to others that you aren’t confident in your abilities, which can be a major problem in business relationships.

Even more important than how others see you, however, is how you see yourself. Getting Botox often leads to excessive time spent looking in the mirror. Do you really want to spend so much time nitpicking over every detail of your appearance? Will Botox improve your self esteem?

7. The Plastic Look
Too much Botox can lead to a mannequin-like appearance. You may say that you’ll just get a few spots done and so this doesn’t apply to you, but read tip #4 before you make that claim. The fact is, Botox will affect your muscles and make it more difficult to express emotion, which may make you appear artificial and even aloof.

8. Immunity
It turns out that the body can become accustomed to the effects of Botox over time. This means that each treatment wears off faster than the last, which means that you have to have Botox more often to achieve the same effects. Having Botox more often increases your risk for all of the complications that come with the injections and means more money out of your pocket.

9. The Rogue Eyebrow
Sometimes Botox can lead to a look of permanent surprise. This happens when one eyebrow is affected more than the other by the Botox or when the effects of the injection are not evenly spaced across the entire brow. Either way, you look like your are surprised all of the time. Not cool!

10. Heavy Brow
Some people report that injections of Botox into their forehead leave their brow feeling heavy. This occurs because the muscle in the forehead has been weakened to reduce wrinkles and thus has to work harder to keep the brow lifted. The muscle will fatigue easier and your brow will feel heavier.

Botox has its uses, even in cosmetics, but do you really want to put a neurotoxin into your body just to erase a few fine lines and wrinkles? Given that the effects are marginal at best, why not look to other methods of reducing the signs of aging? Aging gracefully is becoming ever more popular as people reject the obsession with appearance that has made Botox into a billion dollar industry.

This woman’s pimple turned out to be a dangerous staph infection

A woman’s pimple turned out to be a dangerous staph infection caused by a dirty eyebrow brush  (iStock)

In the age of Dr. Pimple Popper, the previously repulsive act of pimple-popping has become an almost euphoric experience. Watching videos of enlarged cysts, deep-rooted blackheads, and even inflamed whiteheads getting slowly extracted has become an oddly satisfying pastime, which, admittedly, Allure editors take part in. But watching said stomach-churning clips is one thing, acting on them is another — because, in case you forgot, we don’t actually condone popping — of any kind. Sadly, Katie Wright found out why the hard way.

According to Pedestrian TV, Wright began squeezing what she believed to be an inflamed zit, but the situation quickly started going south. “A week ago I decided to pick at what I thought was a giant under the skin pimple because it had been hurting for a while and got too painful to ignore,” she wrote on Twitter. “Within an hour my entire face swelled up and HURT. It felt like something was going to burst out of my skin.”

Turns out, Wright’s pimple wasn’t actually a pimple at all — it was a serious infection possibly brought on by a dirty eyebrow pencil brush. “I went to the emergency room and they said it was a very serious case of Cellulitis, which is a version of a Staph infection, but instead of having a head like Staph, it effects the deep cellular tissues with no main source to attack,” she said. “Since it was on my face, there was a huge risk of it spreading to my brain or my eyes causing me to go blind. Serious shit.”

The area Wright is referring to is the elusive “triangle of death” (which is totally real, so real it’s a topic taught in medical school and there’s a Wikipedia entry under “danger triangle of the face”), a zone from the corners of the mouth to between the eyebrows.

Right smack in the center of that triangle, under the skin, is the cavernous sinus, which houses essential nerves and blood vessels that carry blood back to the brain. According to Sandra Lee, a Los Angeles–based dermatologist, who you may know as Dr. Pimple Popper, if the surface skin were to be infected, the infection could spread, seep into the blood vessels and, worst-case scenario, lead to cavernous sinus thrombosis (the formation of blood clots), stroke, or death. (See, it’s not just an urban legend!)

“If you ever get an infected pimple here it has a shorter distance to get to the cavernous sinus,” Lee says. “If the inflammation from a zit spreads, there’s the potential for blindness or stroke,” she explains. But with a little medication the infection can easily be cleared. “In this day and age with antibiotics, we won’t really let [an infection] get to that level,” says the dermatologist. “Obviously, if a pimple gets big enough and ends up causing problems, you should see a dermatologist or a doctor about it right away. And it’s easy to treat a lot of these infections with [oral] antibiotics.”

Bottom line: If you’ve got a lump, bump, or zit, clean the inflamed area with a gentle cleanser (like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser Face and Body), top it with a spot treatment, and — most importantly — don’t touch it. Seriously, leave it alone.

Investigation shows Australian supermarkets are selling dangerous or banned foods

AN alarming number of heavy metals, carcinogenic insecticides and arsenic chemicals has been found in foods being imported into Australia, and stocked on the shelves of various ethnic grocery stores.
SBS Radio’s Punjabi program exclusively investigated 18 common food products found in small grocery stores across Melbourne, including well known brands of basmati rice, Indian spices and even Ghee (rendered fat used in cooking).

After receiving tip offs from listeners and social media posts, the radio program — lead by Walkley-nominated Executive Producer and Presenter Manpreet Kaur Singh— sent a selection of surveillance food products to a lab at the National Association of Testing Authorities.

There, the 18 products from the thousands imported into Australia were tested for various chemicals — and the results were concerning.

Some products found in Asian and Indian specialty supermarkets include insecticides, pesticides and unsafe levels of heavy metals.Source:istock

“Of the few products we were able to test, which is an expensive process, the experts we interviewed said two in particular should not be sold in Australia,” Ms Singh told news.com.au.

“As we understand it, the Department of Agriculture receives the imports, then the Food Standards Australia & NZ write the code where the product must comply with relevant standards and requirements, but it’s up to the local and State Government to ensure that what’s in the store are compliant, and that’s where the issue is happening.”

Some of the products tested that came back with alarming results, and that shouldn’t be stocked on Australian shelves include;

— Kohinoor brand basmati rice found to contain Buprofezin, an insecticide banned in Australia.

— Indian spice brand MDH found to contain pesticides above the accepted Australian limit.

— Banned substance Betel Nut readily available for sale in Australia

In addition to products that failed to meet FSANZ standards, at least three other products could be considered unsafe due to the levels of copper and lead:

Complan — a powdered milk drink for growing children manufactured by Heinz in India

Indus basmati — a rice from Pakistan

Verka Ghee — a clarified butter widely used by South Asians in their daily cooking.

One brand of basmati rice had alarming levels of Buprofezin, an insecticide banned in Australia. Picture: SBS.Source:SBS

Ms Singh said that the Kohinoor brand of basmati rice and the Indian MDH spice were the two products that completely failed Australian food safety standards.

“The rice and spice we tested outright failed the testing,” she said.

“The chemicals we found in the rice are not allowed to be in that product in Australia. This is not a cheap brand of basmati rice, and is very common especially in specialty food stores.”

One of the biggest issues Ms Singh found from the investigation was the amount of product that were being sold as parallel imports, meaning the particular product is only supposed to be sold in the country of origin.

“We find a lot of people selling these parallel imports, which are products that have been made to the standard to the home country,” Ms Singh said.

“For example, these products are usually marked as having to be sold in a certain country, and only to be consumed in say, India. Usually the sale price is in rupees, so it’s obvious when it’s not an authorised product.”

Only five per cent of packaged food imports to Australia are being tested, and this is because packaged foods are not deemed high risk by Australian authorities.

Hundreds of people have expressed concern over small ethnic food shops tampering with use-by dates on certain products.Source:istock

SBS found that drug Betel Nut, a substance banned from sale in Australia, was found to be readily available at South Asian grocery stores in Melbourne.

Another incident that was common across the small Asian and Indian grocery stores in Melbourne was the tampering with use-by dates on packaging.

“Changing the dates on packaging is easily done with spirit and a cotton ball, to erase an existing date and changing it to a time in the future,” Ms Singh said.

“We’ve had hundreds of listeners complain about this happening, and I wonder if it’s happening because of the amount of time it takes to ship product to Australia.

Ms Singh said that while people can usually tell when a product has gone bad, her investigation was to showcase the “poisons we can’t see”.

“The heavy metals and pesticides and insecticides are what we are concerned about,” she said. “Are we checking enough? Are we at world standards? Maybe something needs to be put into place that testing is more stringent and across the board.”

How genetically-altered E.coli strain can kill dangerous bone-eating superbug Pseudomonas aeruginosa

A BONE-EATING superbug named by the World Health Organisation as one of the three most dangerous antibiotic-resistant threats to humans may be foiled by a turbocharged E.coli gut bug.

Scientists have trained an E.coli strain to search and destroy the dangerous pathogen by acting as suicide bombers.

The genetically-altered E.coli strain hunts the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria then explodes and releases a toxin that selectively kills the pathogen.

The work in Singapore gives new hope in the fight against the superbug.

In February, WHO released its first list of the world’s most dangerous antibiotic-resistant superbugs with the grim warning that “the pipeline is running dry” when it comes to new antibiotic weapons — Pseudomonas aeruginosa was one of top three.

In 2015, news.com.au reported the case of a Melbourne father whose skull was being eaten by the bug following an ear infection which fought off every antibiotic treatment available in Australia.

Patient Metodi Sazdov flanked by his son Goran and wife Lena. Picture: Hamish BlairSource:News Corp Australia

Metodi Sazdov caught the bug from a hot spring while on holiday in Macedonia and doctors at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital tried every available antibiotic but none would halt the condition.

Finally, a new antibiotic was sourced from London which worked — Zerbaxa has since been

registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

At the time, director of infectious disease at St Vincent’s Hospital Dr John Daffy said he thought Mr Sazdov was going to die.

“This bacteria was resistant to every antibiotic we knew of or had access to in Australia,” he said. “This guy had a 100 per cent chance of mortality without this antibiotic.”

People with weakened immune systems, wounds from surgery, on catheters and recovering from burns may be at risk from Pseudomonas infections and it can also cause ear infections in inadequately chlorinated spas or pools.

Multi-drug-resistant superbugs Pseudomonas aeruginosa.Source:Supplied

The bug that may be its nemesis, E.coli is usually known for being linked to food poisoning.

However, most strains of the bacteria found in the intestine are harmless and can benefit hosts by preventing colonisation of the gut by other bacteria.

Scientists at the National University of Singapore have announced they have used exploding E.coli to eliminate Pseudomonas infections in animals.

A study published in Nature Communications details their work genetically engineering the E.coli strain Nissle 1917, a probiotic shown to have beneficial effects on intestinal disorders.

Associate Professor Matthew Chang said the genetically engineered microorganisms were successful in preventing and eliminating the pseudomonas infection in mice and worms.

They suggested the engineered E.coli could be used for its usual health benefits while also potentially guarding the user against the superbug.

“In support of this idea, our animal data demonstrate that the engineered strain is more efficient in preventing the onset of an infection than in fighting a pre-established one,” they said.

“Protection was provided by a single dose of engineered probiotics administered seven days before exposure to the pathogen.”

The breakthrough comes as a Nevada woman died in January from a bacterial infection which proved resistant to all antibiotics available in the United States, prompting warnings humans face a new era of death from infections.

Originally published as Unleashing gut bacteria to kill lethal bone-eating superbug

The world’s most dangerous roads claims thousands of lives a year

ABOUT 1.3 million people die in road accidents every year — an average 3,287 deaths a day — according to global figures from the Association for Safe International Road Travel.

But some of the roads that claim the most lives worldwide are still among the most popular tourist attractions.

The Sun has taken a look at ten of the most dangerous roads around the globe where extreme caution is advised.

World’s scariest roads

View of the El Camino della Muerte, Yungas Valley, Bolivia, South America Picture: Alamy
Aerial view of destroyed Iraqi vehicles beside the Highway 80 west of Kuwait City. Picture: Alamy

rentino Alto Adige, Venosta Valley, Stelvio National Park. Picture: Alamy

Road into Skippers Canyon near Queenstown, New Zealand. Picture: Alamy

Zojila Pass; Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir State, India. Picture: Alamy

Karakorum Highway, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Picture: Alamy

View of the A537 from Shining Tor in the Peak District in Cheshire. Picture: Alamy

Serpentines, Caracoles near Juncal, Valle del Rio Juncalillo. Picture: Alamy

Tibet’s Sichuan highway. Picture: Alamy

Dubrovnik town in Croatia. Picture: Alamy

Death Road, Bolivia. Picture: Alamy

1 of 11

The Road of Death, Bolivia

The “Death Road” in Bolivia connects the Amazon rainforest region of northern Bolivia, or Yungas, to its capital city.

The mainly single-lane road cliffs of up to 1,968 feet and has no guard rails and — resulting in about 300 deaths every year.

Death Road, Bolivia. Picture: AlamySource:Alamy

The Highway of Death, Iraq

Officially known as Highway 80, the six-lane motorway runs from Kuwait City to the border town of Safwan in Iraq and then on to the Iraqi city of Basra.

The death toll has never been accurately recorded and estimates vary from 300-400 fatalities a year.

Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand

Skippers Canyon Road is 25 minutes away from Queenstown in Mt. Aurum Recreation Reserve. British driving firm Driving Experience gave an ‘overall road fear factor’ a seven out of ten.

Although fatalities in Skippers Canyon Road is low, it’s deemed dangerous because of its steep drop into the ravine below it.

Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand. Picture: AlamySource:Alamy

Karakoram Highway, Pakistan

At least 810 Pakistani and 82 Chinese workers lost their lives mostly in landslides during construction.

The highway also known as the “Friendship Highway” has been dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world” because it is one of the highest paved roads in the world.

The Zoji Pass, India

The Zojila mountain pass is on the western section of the Himalayas and is s located at a staggering 11,580ft above sea level.

Over the years, countless vehicles especially buses have gone tumbling down from the extremely narrow road which has no barriers.

Sichuan-Tibet Highway, China

The Sichuan-Tibet Highway, a high-elevation road between Chengdu and Tibet where landslides and rock avalanches are common.

It is a road with a record of over 7,500 deaths for every 100,000 drivers has reason to be feared.

Sichuan-Tibet Highway. Picture: AlamySource:Alamy

The Widow-maker, United Kingdom

The A537, also known as the ‘Cat & Fiddle road’, is a 12km stretch of road between Macclesfield and Buxton, and is considered to be the most dangerous road in Britain.

There were 44 serious or fatal crashes between 2007-2011 — the last recording of incidents available.

Coastal roads, Croatia

Croatia is among leading countries in Europe with the highest number of dead and injured on roads. More than 11,600 collisions take place in the Balkan country every year.

The highest number of road fatalities was recorded in 2008 with 664 fatalities.

Los Caracoles Pass, Chile

This road passes though the Andes Mountains connecting Chile and Argentina.

The road is snow-covered almost all the year and boasts some of its steepest slopes.

Its elevation of 3,176 meters and the procession of buses, and trucks make the drive exhausting.

The Stelvio Pass, Italy

The road is situated at an altitude of 9,045 feet and is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alp.

There are many accidents caused by drivers who underestimate the difficulty of the zigzag road.

Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue is becoming the most dangerous wonder of the world

DOES Brazil’s Christ shed a tear looking down over the sadness below him?

It’s a question Rio de Janeiro’s residents ask as they gaze up to what has become the most dangerous wonder of the world.

Last Friday the steep 4km Corcovado jungle trail to the giant Christ the Redeemer statue was closed the day after a Polish man was stabbed, one of 58 people to have been robbed along the trail in just 10 days. More than 150 people have been robbed this year.

Young, armed criminals from nearby favelas (slums) have been sneaking in from the mountainside, laying in wait and pouncing before disappearing back from where they came.

Five men aged between 18 and 28 have been arrested and charged over the stabbing.

Locals have become so concerned that they’ve taped makeshift signs to trees and poles printed with a handgun warning in English and Portuguese: “Be cautious. Do not risk your life.”

One of the warning signs posted at the beginning of the trail.Source:Supplied

ROBBED AT JESUS’ FEET

Dutch student Renate Trinks, 21, told news.com.au how, two weeks ago, she and two friends had passed tropical plants, waterfalls and monkeys and were close to the end of the hike when they came around a bend to find three young Brazilian men waiting for them.

“When we were closer they showed us their knives and told us to sit down and give them all our stuff,” Ms Trinks said.

“While we were handing over our belongings more tourists were coming and they robbed everyone.

“Some people had a lot of cash on them, and expensive cameras, [the robbers] had two backpacks full of stuff.”

With one of the victims, an American woman, growing anxious, half an hour passed before the gang walked everyone 200m back down the pathway. The robbers then disappeared into the trees behind them.

“They said there was a guy waiting for us with a gun, but we never saw this guy. So I think it was just to scare us,” Ms Trinks said.

“At the beginning when I saw their knives I was a little scared but the robbery itself was not too scary, they were pretty calm. They gave back passports and credit cards.

Renate Trinks (right) and her friend Jip Versluis, who was with her during the robbery.Source:Supplied

“I had read online that the hike was pretty dangerous and I already had a bad feeling about it so I didn’t bring my watch and rings. I decided to bring my phone to take pictures.”

PARADISE LOST TO PARADISE FOUND

The trail’s closure has capped a year from hell for Brazil and Rio since the 2016 Olympic cauldron’s flame was extinguished and the world’s TV cameras left its shores.

Leaving too have been a record number of Brazilians for Australia, tired of the lack of security and worsening prospects as their country suffers its worse economic and political crises in a generation.

As its unemployment rate tripled to over 13 per cent and its first female president Dilma Rousseff was fired by parliament just days after the Olympics ended, over 48,000 Brazilian tourists and students arrived in Australia last year, up 181 per cent from a decade ago.

They make up the fifth highest number of overseas students, the only country in the top five from outside of Asia, many with dreams of permanent residency.

The Brazilian Community Council of Australia estimates that there are as many as 60,000 Brazilians living in the country. Census data revealed the majority were in professional, managerial or trade jobs.

Insurance worker Luciana*, 35, and her husband Marcos*, 40, who works in computing, are two of the latest arrivals, leaving their beachside Rio life last October to escape the violence.

Sydney with its similar weather, beaches and natural beauty was a “dream” come true to raise their two-year-old daughter.

It’s safer to access Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue by bus or car than it is by foot.Source:Supplied

“Rio is beautiful but it is abandoned,” Luciana, who was the victim of two robberies, said.

“When I got pregnant I was sure I didn’t want to raise my child there and the dream to move to Australia came.

“From her birth to moving to Australia I never left her in the car seat alone. I was next to her always thinking about how to get her out of the car in case of a robbery.

“Did you know that I only realised that when I got here? I was so used to the violence that this was normal for me.”

Now in the relative safety of her Lane Cove home she told of a horror list of crimes recently suffered by people she knew back home in Rio.

“After I moved my brother was robbed going to work, my cousin was robbed along with her husband and three children in their car,” she said.

“The children saw the bandits put a gun to their father’s head and threatened to shoot him if he couldn’t get his ring off his finger. The boy vomited in fear, he’s only 5 years old.

“And the father of a friend who was a retired police officer was killed at a Lojas Americanas [supermarket]. And last week two more people I know were robbed on the street.

”In October I’m going back to Rio [to visit] but I’m already worried.”

WHERE TO NOW?

Many of Rio de Janeiro’s forgotten and dilapidated Olympic venues now stand as a symbol of hard times.

A year on from the Rio Olympics, many of the city’s Olympic venues have been abandoned, including this tennis facility. Picture: Mario Tama / Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

As the state hovers close to bankruptcy and struggles to pay its public workers on time, including police, crime has flourished.

Its Institute of Public Security’s May data revealed there were 424 murder victims for the month, 55 more than in the same month last year. In the first five months of the year there were 2,329 homicide victims in total, 11% more than for the same period in 2016.

So far this year 85 police officers in Rio have been killed and innocent civilians are injured and killed by stray bullets in gun battles between cops and drug trafficking gangs in favelas regularly, including a pregnant woman who last week was shot in the womb, paralysing her unborn child, though both survived.

The head of Rio’s tourist police department (DEAT) Valéria Aragão has ordered the closure of the trail inside Tijuca National Park until sufficient police resources can be put there.

“Patrolling in the region will never be efficient because human resources in the security forces are overwhelmingly under-resourced,” she told reporters.

As crime and unemployment continues to rise so too will the number of educated and skilled Brazilians leaving their beloved homeland for a new life in Australia.

“I was afraid even of my shadow,” Luciana said.

“As I travelled a lot outside Brazil I knew that this was a life that I did not want to take.”

Christ the Redeemer, which receives on average 5,500 visitors per day, is still able to be accessed by train, van and taxi.

Mark Zuckerberg might be the most dangerous presidential candidate who isn’t yet

© AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File FILE – In this March 25, 2015, file photo, Mark Zuckerberg talks about the Messenger app during the Facebook F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco. Facebook reports…

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

If I’m honest, the main reason I can hardly bear to look at Facebook isn’t its well-documented negative effect on mental health, its tedious photos of people I barely know and hardly remember, or the videos it automatically generates of the lowest and most desperate moments from my life, accompanied by ukulele.

None of that. I’ve come to hate Facebook because every so often, a box appears on the screen telling me I might want to like the Facebook page for Mark Zuckerberg. And there he is, grinning like a cartoon imp at me and millions of other unfortunates, intruding with his gangly stomp and his eyes full of monstrous wonder.

I do not like Mark Zuckerberg. But he wants me to.

Let’s not pretend Zuckerberg isn’t up to something, and whatever it is, he shouldn’t be allowed to do it. He’s claimed repeatedly that he’s not interested in making a presidential run, but if he isn’t, his behavior simply makes no sense. Normal, everyday megalomaniacal billionaires might decide to go on a year-long, 50-state tour of America, dropping in on hard-working folks and small business owners, publicly rhapsodizing about the food in every roadside diner they happen to come across. But they probably wouldn’t do it while accompanied by President Obama’s former campaign photographer. Tech giants might be keen to hire some political intelligence. But if it was just smarts Zuckerberg was after, he wouldn’t have snapped up the strategist and in-house pollster who disastrously mismanaged the last election for Hillary Clinton. Our new breed of dorky oligarch micro-messiahs might constantly promote Big Ideas That Could Save World. But they don’t proclaim that the good people of Wilton, Iowa, “share these values around mobility.”

So much for innovation. Mark Zuckerberg can send solar-powered drones to beam Facebook-only internet across the global south, but he can’t deviate from the tired folksy script of every other self-important grifter who decided he wanted the power of life and death over every human being on the planet.

There are some very good reasons why Mark Zuckerberg should not be allowed anywhere near the presidency. For a start, he will lose — to Trump or to whatever other monstrosity the Republicans run against him. He can only embody the politics of bland aspiration and imperious technocratic mumblings, alienating the left and inflaming the right. Second, with the entire media basically functioning as a command economy run by Facebook, Zuckerberg in office would constitute a conflict of interests and a potential for corruption so vast it would make any of Trump’s misdeeds look like minor accounting problems. Third, it would entrench the long slow rot of electoral politics, permanently establishing the nuclear codes as the private property of TV clowns and gussied-up motivational speakers. Fourth, he keeps on describing Facebook as a “community” based on “friendship,” rather than what it is — a social utility that occasionally reveals itself as a seething plasm of technologically mediated dislocation. Finally, the tech industry is a hive of inflated egos and reckless self-regard, widening the wealth gap, steadily consigning most of the human population of Earth to the status of surplus flesh, and it must not be let anywhere near political power.

All of these are very good reasons. But they’re not the most pressing or the most urgent. The real reason all Zuckerberg’s dreams of power have to be crushed now before they bear terrible fruit is this: in the 13 years since he first launched Facebook, he never gave us the dislike button.

If you want to know what Zuckerberg would be like as the warlord-in-chief of human history’s most terrifying empire, go to Facebook and look at the seamless nothing where the dislike button ought to be. It’s not just that it’s thoroughly undemocratic. For as long as Facebook has been an inescapable fact of life, its users have been clamoring for the ability to dislike each other’s posts, and Zuckerberg will not give it to them. Instead, we’ve gotten a series of incoherent cosmetic overhauls—groups are now pages, pages now have groups for pages—that nobody asked for and which are met with an immediate hatred that gives way to impotent acceptance.

It says a lot about his style of leadership. He knows what’s best for us, and he’ll do it, and what we think doesn’t really matter. But it’s more fundamental than that. Commenting on his refusal to add the dislike button, Zuckerberg said, “Some people have asked for a dislike button because they want to be able to say, ‘That thing isn’t good.’ That’s not something that we think is good. . . I don’t think there needs to be a voting mechanism on Facebook about whether posts are good or bad. I don’t think that’s socially very valuable or good for the community to help people share the important moments in their lives.”

He wants to deprive people of their ability to say no.

What’s at stake is nothing less than the possibility of negation or distinction. After all, at the core of managerial centrism is an instinctive reluctance to say that anything is good or bad. Zuckerberg’s idea is that Facebook can be a discursive space without conflict, in which people can simply share what they want, and meet a quantifiable reward. Everything starts with zero likes and grows from there: you accrue social currency mollusc-like onto yourself, until you’re encased in a hard shell of likes and shares. Everything finds its inherent value, and a community is formed. It’s a shadowless world of pure positivity. But the ability to oppose is essential for anything approaching a critical activity; it’s only by some kind of negation that thought can wrench itself free from what simply is. Negativity, as Hegel puts it, “is the energy of unconditional thinking.” A world of countable positivity is a world that is, essentially, mute.

More simply, this is not how society or politics really work. They do not form a kind of harmonious totality, where we all start from the same place and reach upward. Politics is a sphere of competing interests, agonisms and class struggle, in which the success of one set of aims always means the defeat of others. The expansion of labor rights means muzzling a powerful class of industrial capitalists; civil rights for ethnic minorities means tearing apart an entrenched system of white supremacy. Politics is struggle. But in the Facebook utopia, struggle is supposed to be impossible. There’s no contestation; instead, what is deemed to be bad is simply canceled out, removed silently and overnight by a team of invisible moderators.

In this context, a lot of Zuckerberg’s weirder pronouncements start to make sense. Earlier this year, he published a long, jargon-choked manifesto titled Building Global Community. He wants the world to be coded like Facebook — and by Facebook — as a community based on connections and commonality. The struggles going on in the world don’t need to be won, they just need to be subsumed through a greater inclusion in this community. It’s padded out by a lot of friendly sounding pap like:

“The purpose of any community is to bring people together to do things we couldn’t do on our own. To do this, we need ways to share new ideas and share enough common understanding to actually work together.”

In the end, it can all be summarized in five words. No dislike button, for anybody.

Of course, Zuckerberg isn’t the first to promote these kind of ideas. The notion that a national or supernational entity forms a cohesive community without internal conflict is as old as politics itself, and everywhere it’s put forward it’s as a mask for horrific acts of exploitation within that community. Zuckerberg is different in that he seems to genuinely believe it. This is why he might be the most dangerous presidential candidate yet. In the same way that the Republican party spent decades churning out paranoia and nonsense for a base of frothing reactionaries until they finally found themselves saddled with a president who actually believes everything he reads on Breitbart, the Democrats might be about to create a monster of their own: someone who mouths all their nonsense about never disliking anything and never saying that anything is bad with absolute conviction, a cherub-cheeked gargoyle of pious equanimity, entranced by his own capacity to bring everyone together, as those who suffer are smashed brutally underfoot. And then he’ll turn his terrifying grin toward us, and say: you might like this.

This article was written by Alternet from Salon and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

A ‘Month of Silence’ After Birth Isn’t Just Unrealistic, It’s Downright Dangerous

On August 10, Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder welcomed their daughter Bodhi Soleil Reed Somerhalder, who will most likely be one of the most beautiful human babies ever created. E! News announced the arrival, but there was no official word from the celebrity couple. That’s because, just a day earlier, they announced that they would institute a “month of silence” following the birth.

Reed explained their reasoning in an interview with Fit Pregnancy. “We’ll take the baby’s first month for ourselves. After the baby arrives, we’re doing one month of silence. Just the three of us, no visitors, and we’re turning off our phones too, so there’s no expectation for us to communicate. Otherwise, every five minutes it would be, ‘How are you feeling? Can we have a picture?’ You don’t get those first 30 days back, and we want to be fully present.”

She’s right, those first 30 days are a tiny window of magic. That’s when you want to do all the bonding you can as a new family. But cutting off your extended family and friends seems unrealistic and unfair. Don’t they deserve a chance to connect with the newest member of their family (blood-related or not)? And don’t you want their help during this crazy transition time?

As a (non-celeb) mom who’s been through that process five times now, I’m not sure I’d want a month of silence. One of the first things I learned as a new mom was how vitally important other moms of all ages and stages are. Everything is new to you at this stage, and it can be easy to feel alone and scared. Opening yourself up to the people around you is a guarantee that you’ll have support at the very least, and access to crucial information at best. No one wants to be barraged with unsolicited advice, but sometimes another mom’s reassurance that the two-week sniffles are a real thing or her tip for kneading gas bubbles out of a baby’s tummy is the difference between sanity and a crying jag while panic-calling the pediatrician.

Speaking of sanity, I believe going incommunicado for a month could actually be hazardous to your mental health. About two weeks after my first baby was born, I got hit hard with postpartum depression and anxiety. Here’s the thing about PPD — it’s really freaking hard to recognize it in yourself. My husband, brand-new to this whole parenting thing himself, thought my refusing to put my baby down, not sleeping or eating, and second-guessing every decision was just what new moms do. It took a dear friend telling me this wasn’t normal and I needed help to get me to see the deep dive I’d taken into the dark side.

A close female relative of mine had an even worse experience. She’d isolated herself after the birth of her first child, and when she finally let me come visit, I was horror-struck by her mental and physical state. She had crossed into postpartum psychosis and was having delusions and serious thoughts of harming herself and her baby. None of us knew because she wouldn’t let us in.

One mom’s cocoon of quiet bliss could be another’s solitary cell of insanity.

Will every mom have mental health issues after giving birth? Of course not. But one mom’s cocoon of quiet bliss could be another’s solitary cell of insanity — and you won’t know which one it will be for you until you’re in it. Postpartum depression and anxiety are common enough that it’s wise to have others (who aren’t your partner) check in on you. Sure, they’ll probably ask for a picture and maybe they’ll be a little annoying with all their unsolicited advice, but isn’t it better to be a over-loved than not loved enough? Plus, they’ll probably bring dinner.

Nikki and Ian may have the best of intentions with their “month of silence” idea, but I don’t think it’s one that most moms should embrace. (And, actually, they already broke it, at least on social media.) There are just so many things you can’t know before your baby is born, and that includes how you’ll react to the hormone crash. A month of tuning out of social media and putting off well-meaning but distant relatives? Great idea. Shutting out other moms and loving friends and family who will be your most critical support system? That just seems like needlessly putting yourself at risk.

Herbal Viagra: Just plain dangerous

Herb capsule spilling out of a white bottle in wooden spoon with green leaf on sack background.  (Gam1983)

These days, anyone that labels their products as natural gets a leg up in the consumer world. Consumers by the thousands are looking for natural alternatives to traditional medicines, including the erectile dysfunction pill known as Viagra. They turn to DIY mixtures, vitamins, and herbal supplements to take its place. In the case of herbals, though, men should be careful: herbal Viagra poses huge risks for their health.

Side Effects

Because doctors don’t have to prescribe herbal supplements, people often mistake them as low-risk with few side effects. What they don’t realize is that herbals can have the same potency as traditional medicine.

They have highly active ingredients and can interact with other drugs. Because of their potency, they can influence health for the worse if not used correctly.

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According to Dr. Landon Trust, a urologist at the Mayo Clinic, men are endangering their health by taking herbal Viagra.

Normally, a doctor would evaluate a man’s overall health to give him the right prescription with the right dosage. If he has underlying health problems, the doctor may look into other options.

When consumers turn to over-the-counter herbals, they have no way of knowing the exact effect that the herbals will have on their health. For example, drugs and supplements that help erectile dysfunction do so by relaxing the blood vessels.

However, this herbal medication doesn’t target which blood vessels relax like traditional Viagra does. This effect can lower blood pressure throughout the body, and in turn, result in less blood flow to vital organs.

For men taking blood pressure medication or suffering heart problems, this side effect could land them in the hospital——or worse.

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Secret Ingredients

In addition to the side effects, researchers have often found secret ingredients in herbal Viagra. In 2015, the FDA warned the public not to take the herbal supplement because researchers had actually found sildenafil in them.

Sildenafil is the active ingredient in traditional Viagra. In many cases, these supplements actually contained double the amount of sildenafil, making them extremely dangerous for men.

The list doesn’t end there. These supplements might contain high levels of stimulants that can also mess with men’s health. Combine these stimulants, impurities, and spikes with alcohol or drug use, and people have a deadly concoction on their hands.

In 2015, officials found former NBA star Lamar Odom entirely unconscious and unresponsive in his room. After a night of heavy drinking and drug use, Odom had taken as many as 10 herbal supplement pills.

The celebrity was found unconscious on a Tuesday and didn’t wake up again until that Friday. He had escaped a potentially tragic end.

While Odom had certainly overdosed on this supplement, the FDA and other health officials do not deem it safe even in small doses.

Manufacturers can come from around the world with little regulation as to the ingredients in their products. Simply put, the short-lived benefits of herbal Viagra do not outweigh the risks.

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Why Do People Take It?

Despite the warnings, many people still take herbal Viagra. They may be avoiding an awkward medical conversation about their erectile dysfunction. Men may like that it’s a cheap, fast alternative to the prescription.

In many cases, people opt for the herbal medicine because they genuinely think that it’s safer or more natural. In this case, however, the herbal supplement may have fewer herbs and nature in it than the prescription itself.

When dealing with supplements, people need to treat them just like other prescription medicines. They should realize that they may be endangering themselves if they don’t talk with their doctor first. In the case of herbal Viagra, men should stay away from it. It’s just plain dangerous for their health.