Know Your Fats: Trans Linked To Death And Heart Disease, Saturated Not

Cardiovascular disease
Share this

Not all fats are equal, according to research by a McMaster University team. Some fats are linked to death, heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes, while other fats are not associated with these health conditions at all. The issue is not as simple as a line between healthy and unhealthy fats, however, as lead author Dr. Russel de Souza explained.

“Fats should not be considered as one entire group of food,” de Souza told The Speaker.

“We have known for many years that different types of fat have different health effects. Fats that are liquid at room temperature, like olive oil, or canola oil, or those hidden away in nuts — contain essential fats that the body needs for growth and development. Saturated fat, which is solid at room temperature, like butter, behaves differently. Trans fat, which is a liquid fat that has been made solid in a food lab, behaves differently still.

De Souza and his fellow researchers at McMaster University, where de Souza is an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, analysed 50 studies, seeking for correlations between trans and saturated fats and health outcomes.

The team’s findings, which were published in the British Medical Journal, pointed to the danger of consuming trans fat. Trans fat, de Souza explained, has no health benefits but poses real heart health risks.

Trans fats is associated with a 34 percent increase in death overall, and more specifically a 28 percent increased risk of death from heart disease and a 21 percent increase heart disease risk.

The evidence for saturated fat is so far not conclusive enough for medical professionals to give a certain recommendation. A tentative one, though, was provided by de Souza, who advised that even though saturated fats were not associated with coronary heart disease, diabetes or stroke, many foods high is saturated fat, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and higher-fat milks, have been shown by research to increase cancer risk.

Health guidelines for dangerous trans fat limit consumption to less than one percent of energy. For saturated fats, the current recommended limit is less than 10 percent.

De Souza pointed out that there were very healthy options to the unhealthy fats — as well as the white flour and sugar commonly used as fat substitutes — in the foods people buy. In particular, de Souza suggested nuts, seeds and olive oils as healthier choices when it came to fats. Some diets, he said, already comply with these recommendations.

Cardiovascular disease
Dr. Russel de Souza

“The whole diet matters. Dietary patterns consistently associated with good health, such as Mediterranean diets, plant-based diets, or the DASH diet, tend to be low in saturated fat, but their healthfulness is not due solely to the fact that they are low in saturated fat — it’s likely because they combine a number of foods that are highly nutritious, such as whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetable, and nuts; and avoid foods that contain refined starch and sugar and processed trans fats.”

The importance of the study, which confirmed five previous coronary heart disease studies, lies largely in the evidence that, contrary to what is commonly advised in popular dietary information, saturated fats are not the cause of increased death and heart disease, but trans fats definitely are.

“It’s important to remember that not all fats are equal,” stated de Souza. “And there may be important differences in the health effects of saturated fats from different foods.”

By Cheryl Bretton

Quasicrystal Growth Observed For First Time Under Microscope

Share this

Quasicrystals in the act of growing have for the first time been recorded by Japanese researchers using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, answering a mechanical dilemma of chemistry with an “error-and-correction” observation.

“For the first time, we succeeded in observing the quasicrystal growth directly,” University of Tokyo’s Dr. Keiichi Edagawa told The Speaker. “By the direct observation, we obtained [a] picture of formation.”

The researchers heated a two-dimensional quasicrystal sample of aluminum, nickel, and cobalt (Al70.8Ni19.7Co9.5) at temperatures between 1123 and 1183 Kelvins.

Using HRTEM, the researchers put together a series of images of the sample as the quasicrystals transformed under heat.

The composite video illustrates the researchers’ main finding:
Quasicrystals, at least in the decagonal phase observed, grow according to an “error-and-correction” pattern.

The team observed a quasicrystal grain growing into the space left by another shrinking quasicrystal grain.

The action takes place in the middle of the growing and shrinking grains — a region known as the “growth front.” There, atomic clusters appear as a row of tiles being flipped, breaking the long-range quasiperiodic order of the lattice and resulting in disorder.

However, as more rearrangements take place over time, the disordered clusters correct, sometimes after several rows have grown incorrectly.

Dr. Keichi Edagawa
Dr. Keiichi Edagawa

“Quasicrystals grow with frequent error-and-repair, where the repair process corresponds to the relaxation of so-called phason strain,” Edagawa told us. “No strict local growth rules are at work, which is somewhat different from the ideal growth models previously proposed theoretically.”

What drives the errors and corrections during growth is still not known. Also unknown remains whether the phenomena observed also takes place in other quasicrystal phases.

The report, “Experimental Observation of Quasicrystal Growth,” was completed by University of Tokyo and Tohoku University researchers Drs. Keisuke Nagao, Tomoaki Inuzuka, Kazue Nishimoto, and Keiichi Edagawa, and was published online in APS Physics.

The brain and music: McGill team graphs regions of the brain responsible for music training and individual skill

brain and music
Share this

Nature and nurture in music has now been mapped by McGill neurologists who have recorded the activity and changes in the brains of young adults over the course of a six-week piano training session. Among the results of the research is a greater understanding of how natural disposition factors into skills like music.

“I would venture to say that new skills probably change almost the entire brain in some way or another,” Dr. Robert Zatorre, Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill’s Montreal Neurological Institute and lead author of the work, told The Speaker.

“What we try to do in our experiments is to isolate specific components of these changes so that we can characterize them accurately.”

In their recent work, the Neuro team sought to display and map the brain’s response to learning music. They also sought for differences in how individuals learn and respond to musical training.

The team provided six weeks of piano training for 15 young adults who had little or no background in music.

Robert Zatorre
Dr. Robert Zatorre

“We measured the entire brain simultaneously using functional MRI,” Zatorre told us, “and then searched the whole brain to find the areas that changed after training, and to distinguish them from those areas which were predictive of learning success.”

The brains of all of the young adults changed as they learned the motor skills involved with playing simple piano pieces, but the team found that the brain activity of some students predicted how quickly they would become skilled.

“The areas that changed most after training were in the premotor cortex and in the parietal cortex, regions concerned with coordinating movements and mapping actions to sounds; the areas that were predictive of subsequent learning were totally different from these and involved the auditory cortex and the hippocampus, the latter of course a structure involved in the formation of memories.”

Zatorre commented on the important role of individual predisposition in learning a skill like music.

“We think that those people who are better at initially encoding sound properties will subsequently have an edge when it comes to learning how to move their fingers to produce that same sound pattern,” Zatorre said.

And the findings do not apply only to music, but are an example of how the brain responds to any skill, according to the neurologists.Dr. Robert Zatorrebrain and music (1)

“We see it in the context of other research looking at skills such as learning the sounds of a foreign language, or skilled sports activities. In each of these cases there are distinct neural circuits that have to be “trained up” so the specific brain regions involved might differ. But we think the same principle may apply, that is, that some brain circuits are changed by training, but others may be indicative of the predisposition to learn a specific skill.”

The report, “Dissociation of Neural Networks for Predisposition and for Training-Related Plasticity in Auditory-Motor Learning,” was completed by Sibylle C. Herholz, Emily B.J. Coffey, Christo Pantev, and Robert J. Zatorre, and was published in Cerebral Cortex.

By Sid Douglas

Images 3 and 4 from the report of the Neuro team

China can’t host Olympics, fails Olympic Charter, rights groups say

Share this

With one week to go before the International Olympic Committee makes its decision, Human rights groups are raising their voices in protest over the possibility of China being awarded another Olympic Games. One hundred seventy-five such groups have joined in submitting a letter to the committee saying the IOC should refuse China’s bid on the grounds of China’s human and civil rights record.

“In order for China to be considered a worthy host of the Olympics, its Charter and Code of Ethics require that certain basic standards are honored,” Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, told The Speaker.

“Specifically, the Olympic Code of Ethics says, ‘Safeguarding the dignity of the individual is a fundamental requirement of Olympism’ while the Charter aims to put ‘sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to encouraging the establishment of a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.'”

Matteo Mecacci, President of ICT
Matteo Mecacci, President of ICT

“To evaluate the issue of the next winter Olympic games in China we have to take a broader look at the developments in China,” Mecacci told us.

Meccaci, who has presided over the ICT since 2013, elaborated on the types of offences dealt with every day by the organization.

“ICT is very concerned about the serious human rights violations that continue to take place in Tibet through repressive political campaigns, institutional racism, and long-term policies that marginalize Tibetans economically, threaten the survival of the Tibetan identity, and cause tension and ill-will between the Chinese and Tibetans peoples. We are also concerned about the increasing repression of human rights advocates all over the country since Xi Jinping rose to power.”

Read more: Under Xi Jinping, repression in China has increased – Freedom House Report

Mecacci also commented on the recent mass jailing of Chinese lawyers and the death of one of China’s most notable Tibetan prisoners.

“The last 2 weeks have seen a wide-ranging attack on civil society by Chinese authorities, including the detention of more than 70 lawyers, and the death of a revered Tibetan lama, the highest profile Tibetan political prisoner whose case was raised by governments worldwide.

Read more: With days to go, human rights groups question whether China should be awarded another Olympic Games

“There is an urgent need for the international community to push back against China’s hardline policies and violations of human rights and to send a signal of support to Chinese civil society and the Tibetan and Uyghur people.”

Mecacci expressed sentiments similar to other Tibetan rights groups that if the IOC chooses China as host again, they would in effect be condoning China’s continued human rights abuses.

“They would be supporting a government that continues to jail and intimidate responsible and moderate individuals who are trying to create a better and fairer society,” stated Mecacci.

“The Chinese people deserve to be part of international sport events, including hosting them, but it is up to the Chinese leadership to show — and to make a credible and verifiable commitment — to the International Olympics Committee and the international community that it is deserving of yet another Olympics. Sadly, the Chinese Government so far has failed to make this commitment and show concrete results. Without this, awarding China with another Olympics will not be a wise decision.”

Sea change based on evidence: warmer waters may mean LESS fish due to unexpected factors

warmer waters
Share this

Warmer waters in the north mean less overwinter death and increased growth for cold-blooded fish, so they will benefit from global warming… or so the theory went. New research says that these species may actually suffer more than they benefit, and global warming will end up reducing their populations.

“Even if summer conditions are better for growth under a warmer climate, this may mean little if the number of offspring produced has already been limited by short, warm winters,” Auburn University’s Dr. Troy Farmer told The Speaker.

The research team studied a particular species of northern fish, yellow perch, in Lake Erie, one of North America’s Great Lakes shared between the United States and Canada.

The reason for the yellow perch population reduction, the team found, had to do in large part with reproduction and early development.

Troy Famer
Dr. Troy Famer

“Our results suggest that climate warming during winter may negatively affect yellow perch populations by reducing reproductive success,” Farmer told us.

A shorter winter, the researchers found, results in a spawn that takes place within warm waters. A warm water spawn is different from a cold water spawn for yellow perch: smaller eggs are produced that hatch at lower rates and produce smaller larvae.

“Our research also offers an explanation for observed trends in Lake Erie yellow perch populations. Specifically, it indicates that reduced reproductive success may be responsible for lower juvenile abundance following short, warm winters. Ultimately, we also found that years of low juvenile abundance led to lower adult abundances in future years.”

This makes for a new picture of the future cold water fish species, according to Farmer:

Yellow Perch
Yellow Perch

“Climate change will likely affect northern fish species in many different ways. As winters get shorter, longer summer growing seasons may benefit some fishes. However, shorter winters may also have negative effects on reproduction, as our study indicates. Understanding which species thrive and which species decline in a warmer climate will require a more complete understanding of how warmer temperatures during both summer and winter influence all aspects of survival, growth, and reproduction. For some fishes, such as our study species, yellow perch, the negative effects of short winters on reproduction may outweigh any positive benefits from a longer growing season.”

Read more: Research Looks at Two Northern Oceans Fish Species, One of Which Has Thrived and One Diminished, to Explain the Future of Biological Species in Global Warming

“Prior to our research, scientists speculated that cool-water fish species like yellow perch would benefit from warmer temperatures associated with climate change. Warmer temperatures would equate to a longer growing season, which could lead to larger fish that survive the winter better or that could produce more eggs or better quality larvae.  But, few studies have speculated on how reproduction might be affected by a change in winter severity or temperature.

“When we looked at long-term monitoring data for yellow perch in Lake Erie, however, we saw just the opposite: short, warm winters were followed by fewer juveniles the following year. The largest cohorts of juvenile fish came after long, cold winters.

Lake Erie in winter
Lake Erie in winter

“Yellow perch females spawn (or lay their eggs) during the spring, which means any effect of winter temperatures on juvenile production were likely the result of temperature effects on adults during the egg development phase. This phase occurs during winter.

“One potential explanation for this pattern was suggested by previous laboratory research, conducted in the 1970s, which suggested that yellow perch require a certain number of cold days to successfully develop their eggs – but the reasons for this were unknown.”

The teams research involved a simple comparison; they studied yellow perch in both warm and cold water conditions and recorded how the two groups fared.

“We conducted a laboratory experiment in which we exposed half of a group of adult female yellow perch to a short winter and the other half to a long winter. Females exposed to the short winter produced smaller eggs that hatched at lower rates and produced smaller larvae than females exposed to a long winter. This is important because large larvae grow and survive better than small larvae during their first months of life in Lake Erie. These results help explain why short winters were associated with poor years of yellow perch production in Lake Erie.

Farmer also touched upon the complexity of the cold water ecosystem of Lake Erie, and how the diet of fish species like yellow perch might also be affected by warmer waters.

Yellow Perch eggs
Yellow Perch eggs

“We also observed another negative effect of warm winters on yellow perch reproduction. When spring arrival was extraordinarily early, yellow perch did not shift their spawning time. Instead, females spawned at the normal time when temperatures were already too warm. Unfortunately, zooplankton (the prey of the yellow perch larvae) might grow in response to warming temperatures, appearing earlier in years with an early spring. Thus, short winters may cause a mismatch in timing between yellow perch larvae and their prey.”

What can we expect then, for ectotherms if their environments continue to suddenly heat up?

“Most temperate ectotherms have highly evolved lifecycles that are tightly coupled to seasonal temperature cycles,” Farmer told us. “As summers grow longer and the duration of cold winter temperatures shrink, this may disrupt the highly evolved lifecycles of ectotherms. In our study species, yellow perch (a cool-water fish), we saw that shorter winters negatively affected egg development and altered the timing of spawning, leading to lower reproductive success.”

The report, “Short winters threaten temperate fish populations,” was completed by Troy M. Farmer, Elizabeth A. Marschall, Konrad Dabrowski & Stuart A. Ludsin, and was published on Nature Communications.

By Sid Douglas

Images 4 and 5 from Ohio State University’s Aquatic Ecology Laboratory 

With days to go, human rights groups question whether China should be awarded another Olympic Games

Olympic Games
Share this

The International Olympic Committee will make its decision about which nation will host the 2022 Games July 31, and rights groups are questioning — and petitioning — the committee about China’s bid, referring to China’s ongoing human rights abuses and claims the committee made last time around that awarding China the Games would improve human rights in the Asian nation.

Awarding China again, rights groups like Free Tibet say, would in effect be supporting China’s human rights abuses.

“Giving the Games to Beijing again when we know it won’t alter their policies is sending the message to China that their human rights abuses are no obstacle to prestige on the world stage,” Alistair Currie, Campaigns and Media Manager at Free Tibet, told The Speaker.

Read more: Repression in China has increased – Freedom House Report

Alistair Currie
Alistair Currie

“The human rights situation in China and Tibet is getting worse not better — within the last week China has been jailing Chinese human rights lawyers in large numbers, for instance.

“Unlike in 2001, when China was an unknown quantity when it came to the Olympics, we now know how it responds to being awarded them. The IOC had hopes that the award may improve human rights in China. In reality, it did no such thing. Continued repression in China culminated in the brutal suppression of the March 2008 Uprising in Tibet, just a few months before the Games.

Read more: Sentencing of Christians in China increases 10,000% in less than a decade, rights group reports

“China is far more confident on the world stage than it was 14 years ago but is on a backwards path when it comes to respect for human and civil rights. Now couldn’t be a worse time for giving China a gift like the Olympics Games.”

“Unlike in 2001, when China was an unknown quantity when it came to the Olympics, we now know how it responds to being awarded them.”

Currie elaborated on a focal area of ongoing human rights abuses in China, Tibet:

“In Tibet now, Tibetans face more intensive surveillance than ever before and China will use any indication of Tibetan pride and resistance to Beijing’s policies as a pretext for repression — including arbitrary detention and punitive sentences. Tibetans can be imprisoned for simply singing a song or peacefully protesting to protect their environment. Entire communities can be punished for the acts of one person and China doesn’t hesitate to use force — just last week, they fired upon a demonstration, leading to 25 people being admitted to hospital. China’s grip on Tibet is tightening. What we know for sure is that Tibetans will continue to resist China’s rule — and that means things could be worse by 2022.”

In addition to an online petition that has reached almost 10,000 signatures, Free Tibet recently joined 174 other rights groups and communicated with the Olympic Committee to question the propriety of awarding China another Olympics. Currie referred to the return letter from the IOC, in which the Olympic board stated, “Choosing the host city of the Olympic Games does not mean that the IOC necessarily agrees with the political and/or the legal system in the host country.”

“We must acknowledge that we have neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country,” the letter continued. “The IOC is neither a world government, nor a superior world parliament.”

However, Currie noted recent changes in Olympic policy following the Sochi Games in Russia last year. He also commented on a distinction he saw between the two 2022 candidates — both of which raise questions about human rights abuses and Olympic hosting rights.

“Now couldn’t be a worse time for giving China a gift like the Olympics Games.”

“Interestingly, they do say they should be aware of the “political implications” of their choice but the remainder of the letter suggests that that level of “consideration” is very limited. After Sochi, the IOC introduced measures in the Host City contracts to ensure no discrimination or, for instance, environmental destruction accompanies the Games themselves. These requirements don’t apply to the political system overall, however.

“The IOC is trying to insulate itself from any criticism or fallout from giving the Games to countries with political and human rights problems and there’s no surprise in that when both candidates for 2022 – Beijing and Almaty – fall into that category. One distinction with Almaty, however, is that it’s a small country and it remains possible that the award of the Games may bring about some positive change. That may not be the case of course, but in Beijing’s case, we know it won’t bring about positive change.”

This year’s Ramadan most violent on record, almost 3,000 religiously motivated deaths

Share this

Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, regularly sees a significant increase in religiously-motivated killing, but this year’s was the most deadly of the century, according to The Religion of Peace, a terrorism watch group that keeps records of killings in the name of Islam.

“This year’s Ramadan was the highest since I’ve been keeping track,” Glen Roberts, editor of TROP, told The Speaker. “Normally, Islam’s holiest month sees about 30 percent more terror deaths over a typical month.”

Read more: Islamic terrorists have committed 25,000 separate violent acts worldwide that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in last 15 years

“Nearly 3,000 people were shot, beheaded, blown up, drowned, burned or hacked to death in the name of Islam,” stated Roberts in the summary on TROP’s webpage, noting that no deaths in the name of other religions took place during that time.

According to TROP’s daily records, over 26,000 attacks have been carried out in the name of Islam since the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York — which is when TROP began it’s documentation. Five such attacks which result in at least one death take place every day around the world, on average.

For the period roughly corresponding with Ramadan, which lasts 29-30 days based on visual sightings of the crescent moon, 314 terror attacks took place globally, including 63 suicide bombings, which resulted in 2,988 deaths and 3,696 wounded.

Killings during the first few days of Ramadan
Killings during the first few days of Ramadan(TROP resource)

However, as Roberts pointed out, the actual numbers are higher than reported because TROP relies on news reports for figures. There is not a news report for every attack, Roberts told us, and the reports are not followed up by deaths that occur days or longer after the initial incident.

The figures include all killings motivated by a sentiment of religious duty, and so include killings by the Islamic State. “Any killing that I come across by the Islamic State is included in the count. I’m sure that there’s quite a bit that I miss,” commented Roberts.

The 314 attacks that resulted in death between June 18 and July 16 took place in Iraq, Niger, Somalia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Egypt, Mali, Chad, Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Kenya, India, Phillipines, Thailand, China, France, and Austria.

Couchsurfing toddlers get bullied more as kids

Couchsurfing toddlers
Share this

Are your rugrats babysat by the TV? Dr. Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal, who just completed an extensive study of the long-term effects of toddler TV viewing, says they might suffer for it later.

“Basically, too much time in front of the telly creates a time-debt for other enriching activities,” Pagani told The Speaker. “In early childhood children need live interaction to help their brains develop and to maximize their emotional intelligence. It is like IQ, we are born with a potential, but need interactions with people and objects in the environment to fully develop it. More television time means less time for play and less time in active social exchanges of ideas and information.”

In their most recent research, Pagani and her team surveyed the experience of almost 2,000 Canadian children and their parents, and found that kids were likely to be bullied in sixth grade an extra 11% for every 53 minutes of daily TV viewing at 29 months of age.

Not only were kids more likely to be bullied, but early television viewing was also found to be associated with deficits in problem solving ability, emotional control, peer play competence, social contact ability, and eye-contact — which is important for friendship and self-affirmation in relationships.

Dr. Linda Pagani
Dr. Linda Pagani

“Watching the telly is not an effortful activity, and thus it fosters lifestyle habits that are less energetic and there is less of a tolerance for more demanding interactions on a social level. It also does not hone shared eye contact, for which we are wired at birth. Therefore, less effortful interactions mean less activities that foster and reinforce shared eye contact. Eye contact is the most powerful mode of information exchange apart from talking and one reinforces the other.”

So how should a child’s day be broken up? Pagani referred to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional association dedicated to the health and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. Half of the 24 hours of their day should be spent sleeping, eating, and tending to hygiene, according to the AAP, which leaves 12 hours to fill. Of those 12 hours children should get no more than 1 to 2 hours of television per day. She pointed out, though, that the recommendations relate particularly to quality TV viewing time.

“Assuming the content is of quality not more than two hours per day for over age 2,” Pagani advised, “and try to favor other pastimes that involve interaction between the child and others, and add some creative play to that too.”

Pagani had a simple suggestion for busy parents who wanted to mitigate the negative effects of occupying their toddlers with television: “Lots of social interaction.”

Pagani also offered some broader context for understanding the role of television in the lives of children:

“Television is effortless — is this the kind of natural habit we want our children to develop? The brain is like a muscle and social, cognitive, and motor sedentariness (effortlessness) is detrimental to its architecture.

“Our previous research has shown that excessive televiewing has a long-term negative influence on children’s bio-psycho-social well-being,” Pagani told us, referring to a wealth of past research she and her team had completed, “therefore the AAP guidelines which discourage any viewing prior to age 2 and not more than two hours beyond age 2 are there to favor conditions for brain development and (intellectual, social, and physical) non-sedentary lifestyle habits.”

Too Much Television? Prospective Associations Between Early Childhood Televiewing and Later Self-Reports of Victimization By Sixth Grade Classmates” was published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

By Cheryl Bretton

Russian soldiers deserting in much higher numbers this year

Share this

The number of Russian desertions in the first half of 2015 is already almost double the number of desertions between 2010 and 2014, according to Russian journalists and lawyers involved, who also say that Russian soldiers do not want to fight in Donbas despite high pay promised by recruiters.

Commenters have noted that the actual number of desertions may be much higher than the reported number. According to a lawyer defending five Russian deserters, the military justice system in Moscow is becoming overwhelmed due to the scale of desertions.

The desertions are taking place, lawyer Tatyana Chernetskaya said, because Russian soldiers do not want to fight in the Donbas even for the high pay rate — up to 8,000 rubles or $160 per day — promised by senior officers and other recruiters, who, soldiers report, present themselves out of uniform but with clear marks of rank.

“If there is a real trial according to the law, the commanders will be responsible for the violation of order”

Russian deserters face up to 10 years in prison.

One such deserter is Anatoly Kudrin, 23, who served in Maikop Intelligence Brigade, has received six months in a settlement colony, feared being sent to war in Donbass.

“I did not want to take part in the fighting on the territory of Ukraine,” Kudrin told news.

The defence of the soldiers includes the soldiers’ own oaths of service. One soldier facing charges wrote in a brief that he “did not fulfill a criminal order since he did not want to go against the oath which [he] took and did not want to participate in military actions on the territory of Ukraine.”

Human Rights Council’s Sergei Krivenko agreed. Russian military statutes, Krivenko noted, provide that important orders shall be written. “In case of doubt it requires the order in writing by any officers.”

Further, Krivenko said, sending troops on combat missions abroad is impossible without a presidential decree. Formally, any such soldiers could be considered “mercenaries” and “participating in illegal armed groups.”

“If there is a real trial according to the law, the commanders will be responsible for the violation of order,” said Krivenko.

“I did not want to take part in the fighting on the territory of Ukraine”

Russian journalists said that they could not provide comment on the issue from the Russian defence ministry, but noted that the ministry has repeatedly provided news outlets with their official position: that Russian soldiers are not in Ukraine.

By James Haleavy

Months of uncertainty end in deportation to China for Uighurs in Thailand

Share this

After months held in Thai immigration detention centers, over 100 Uighurs have been deported to China, despite protests from the United Nations and the Uighurs themselves, who fear punishment in China.

“Thailand and Turkey are not rivals and we do not want to destroy trade and commerce with Turkey,” said Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok Friday. “At the same time, we do not want to destroy the relationship between China and Thailand.”

Without public notice, last month the Thai government sent 172 Uighurs to Turkey from the holding camps where they had been provided for in Thailand.

This week they sent 109 Uighurs to China, reporting this deportation July 9.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) commented on the move, saying it was “shocked by this deportation of some 100 people and consider it a flagrant violation of international law.”

Many of the deported Uighurs have been accused of terrorism by Chinese officials. China’s Foreign Ministry said those Uighurs suspected of “committing serious crimes” would be brought to justice, while others would be dealt with in “proper ways.”

Read more: China Executed Three times More People Last Year Than Rest of the World Combined – Report

Thai authorities have come under fire for washing their hands of the matter.

“If we send them back and there is a problem, it is not our fault,” said Prayuth Thursday.

Protests have erupted in Thailand and Turkey, including vandalism against the Thai consulate in Istanbul.

Over 60 Uighurs remain in Thai custody awaiting deportation. The Thai government is processing their paperwork to be sure of their citizenship status before moving them.

By James Haleavy

CIOs are switching to Microsoft’s cloud even though they think they will pay MORE

Microsoft Cloud
Share this

Some costs cut down on other costs, as any businessperson knows.

Microsoft’s focus on cloud computing — after its recent failed purchase of Finish multinational communications and information technology company Nokia — is showing proof of smart business, according to analysts who point to findings that chief information officers are already using or are planning to use Microsoft’s cloud.

Not only are business people going to invest in Microsoft’s cloud, they are going to do it despite thinking that they will end up spending more with Microsoft over time. Fifty-seven percent of CIOs who were using or planned to use services like Azure and Office 365 said they thought they would spend MORE with Microsoft in a recent poll. Only 16 percent thought they’d end up paying less to Microsoft.

Using cloud services is widely considered to be a way for businesses to cut down on other costs — for example, hardware and IT staff — although results are far from uniform.

Microsoft thinks that it will make almost double its returns by providing cloud services to customers compared with what the company would make selling software as it did in years past.

This is in part due to the ongoing nature of cloud service provision– the lifetime customer value in a budding industry projected to be worth $150 billion when it ripens. According to Morgan Stanley’s Keith Weiss, current evidence supports Microsoft’s calculations of a 1.2-1.8X increase in customer value — a future that sounds more sunny than cloudy.

By Andy Stern

New changes in how Facebook shows users newsfeeds

facebook newsfeed
Share this

Who knows best what content users of social media want to see? According to Facebook in statements accompanying the roll out of their latest news feed update, users themselves.

“We know that ultimately you’re the only one who truly knows what is most meaningful to you and that is why we want to give you more ways to control what you see,” said Facebook’s product manager Jacob Frantz.

“Today we are announcing even better tools for you to actively shape and improve the experience. We’ve redesigned and expanded Facebook’s News Preferences to give you more control.”

With the new algorithm, Facebook users will choose their own top 30 friends or pages. This will leave all the others further below when users check their newsfeeds.

For businesses, this could be boon or misfortune, according to social media expert Dionne Lew, whose remarks were reported by SmartCompany. “I think this is a really good change to the algorithm,” said Lew.

“People have been unhappy about the decline in reach as a result of the changes with the last news feed update and there’s been general unhappiness — from people using it personally, but also businesses who have seen a significant decline in organic reach.”

The companies that have the best relationships with their customers will have the best chances of rising to the top in the new newsfeed, Lew predicted.

“It’s going to work really well for those brands who’ve put the effort into building relationships.”

In order to get prioritized, though, businesses on Facebook may need to ask for it.

“For some brands it might be appropriate to ask directly for some people to prioritize them,” said Lew.

“But it’s a bigger ask. When it was a click of a button [to like a page] it was just click and off you go. But what you’re saying here is we know you have limited space and you’re actually going to have to find that option in your settings. It’s not something that’s as easy as clicking a button – it needs to be a more thoughtful ask and you need to give them a bit of a reason and a call to action.”

By Andy Stern