Er, don’t try this at home?
Er, don’t try this at home?
Nearly 2,600 veterans of the UK’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan have been jailed in the past year for violent crimes and sexual offences.
Nearly 2,600 British war veterans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the US-led invasion of the two countries have been imprisoned over the past year over committing violent crimes as well as sexual offences.
The figure represents between four and five percent of Britain’s total prison population, according to UK’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ), prompting concerns about the impact the military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq has had on the mental health of former members of the British armed forces, The Guardian reported Saturday.
The MoJ began identifying the convicted ex-soldiers as they entered the prison system in January 2015 after concerns over the management of British war veterans were raised in a review of the criminal justice system.
Based on the figures, the former members of the armed forces accounted for 721 of the “first receptions” from July to September 2015, the initial period when they were released.
The numbers, the report adds, appear to have dropped since, 545 arrived in the system in the same period a year later. In the year leading up to last September, 2,565 veterans were imprisoned.
The development came after historic murder conviction against British soldier Alexander Blackman, who shot dead a seriously wounded Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan, was overturned earlier in the week and replaced with the lighter charge of manslaughter on the grounds of “diminished responsibility,” according to the report.
Blackman’s lawyers argued that he had adjustment disorder at the time of the killing after “serving for months on the frontline in terrible conditions.”
Although the British veterns of the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent five percent of UK’s prison population, “but they represent a disproportionate number of serious violent offences and sexual offences, and that raises questions that need answering,” said Fraces Crook, the chief executive of independent charity organization, the Howard League for Penal Reform.
“These are not victimless crimes. They have a terrible effect on the victim,” he added.
Crook further added that several factors contributed to the number, including alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Research by the organization also found that 25 percent of former combat forces were in prison for sexual offences, compared with 11 percent of the civilian prison population.
The report further quoted a Defense Ministry spokesperson as saying, “Most former service personnel return to civilian life without problems and are less likely to commit criminal offences than their civilian counterparts, but we’re determined to help those who fall into difficulty, and last year awarded £4.6m to schemes targeted at tackling this issue.”
“The government has enshrined the Armed Forces Covenant in law to make sure veterans are treated fairly and receive the support they deserve, including with mental health issues, getting on the housing ladder, and applying for civilian jobs,” the official added.
British soldiers represented the second largest contingent of mostly Western military forces that took part in the US-led occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 under the purported “war on terror” schemes. Nearly 15 years later, both countries are struggling with unrelenting incidents of terrorism amid growing suspicions that they have directly and indirectly aided the establishment of some terrorist elements in both countries.
Our modern-day anxieties about sleep are the symptom of another, more complicated disease in society today.
Source: The Night Shift | New Republic
For $149, a company called Hello will sell you Sense, a two-and-a-half-inch, machine-tooled orb that watches you while you sleep. Tracking room temperature and other data through the night, the device awards you a “sleep score” between 0 and 100, based on how well you rested. You can then boost your rating by following certain tips and best practices, like shelling out for a humidifier or fiddling with the thermostat. It’s not clear how much this element of gamification helps you drift off, but Hello’s numbers are certainly on the rise: Founder James Proud, a protégé of Peter Thiel, has raised more than $40 million in funding, and garnered admiring profiles from the likes of Forbes and Business Insider.
Sense, and a host of apps and biobehavioral doodads like it, are the vanguard of a vast new industry that promises a better-rested future. From meditation apps to glasses that prevent screen-induced eye strain to green tea lotions, this brave new world of sleep products ranges from new age to high-tech and back again. Arianna Huffington, in her latest iteration, has emerged as a sleep guru, preaching that Americans are trapped in a “sleep crisis”—one that can conveniently be ameliorated by following the steps outlined in her book The Sleep Revolution or buying products (eye masks, pajamas, microbiome-analysis kits, light bulbs that imitate a sunrise) from Thrive Global, her wellness startup.
Such companies find a primed market. Up to 70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder, and millions more self-medicate with booze, drugs, meditation, diets, or elaborate hygiene regimens. Offices are strewn with Red Bulls, coffee machines, and (when budgets allow) the occasional napping pod. We complain about sleeplessness in the same way we complain about how busy we are: as a signal of our success and engagement with society.
The less sleep we get, the more it has come to mean. As the new sleep industry has flourished, so has a whole field of study, dedicated to the culture surrounding sleep. Countless new books, relying on the language of efficiency and hacking, analyze the “sleep paradox” and “smarter sleep.” In 2015, the mattress startup Casper launched a magazine about sleep, titled Van Winkle’s, and there is hardly a lifestyle publication in America for which sleep isn’t a staple subject.
What all this thinking tends to ignore is that our current sleep dysfunction is not a glitch, a minor bump in the smooth running of a success-oriented society, but an inextricable part of our working lives. If millions are experiencing a crisis of sleep, it reflects a full-scale unraveling, a crisis centuries in the making.
It wasn’t always this way. Sleep as we know it—along with many of its disorders—is a relatively recent development. For most of human history, sleep was social, Benjamin Reiss argues in Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World, a new cultural and anthropological examination of sleep through the ages. It was “generally distributed in several chunks throughout the day and night” and it varied to fit into the changing of the seasons and of daily life. People slept longer in winter to conserve energy, and between short bouts of sleep there was time to have sex, pray, or socialize. Don Quixote could satisfy himself with one short spell, but his companion Sancho Panza slumbered much longer, spending “from night to morning” in uninterrupted repose.
Just as different cultures developed distinct notions of family and hospitality, they fostered different sleep rituals. Among the Asabano people of Papua New Guinea, it is polite, even an honor, to offer to sleep in the same bed or room as a guest. Co-sleeping offers protection, warmth, and comfort. In other contexts, though, co-sleeping can feel threatening: Homeless shelters, Reiss notes, are often loud and dangerous, with people coming and going at all hours, many of them suffering from untreated mental illness. And since co-sleeping can also contribute to the spread of disease, the practice eventually came to be associated, at least in the United States, with the very poor and destitute. “Massive group sleep was really only for the neglected or unwanted members of society,” Reiss writes.
During the Industrial Revolution, a new kind of “sleep dogma” took hold, one immediately recognizable to many Westerners today. The new “sleep norms” included “sleeping in private” and “consolidating one’s sleep at night”—the eight hours we now think of as a gold standard for proper rest. Children were trained to “reproduce these norms,” and those who couldn’t learn to sleep this way were diagnosed as medical exceptions. Society began to hum to the carefully managed timetables of factories, offices, schools, and militaries. Civilized people now rose early in the morning, labored during the day, and slept at night—customs that served to create “hearty, autonomous, self-willed adults who could march off confidently into the workforce” and toil more productively.
Michael T. Osterholm & Mark Olshaker
March 18, 2017
About 4 million years ago, a cave was forming in the Delaware Basin of what is now Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. From that time on, Lechuguilla Cave remained untouched by humans or animals until its discovery in 1986—an isolated, pristine primeval ecosystem.
When the bacteria found on the walls of Lechuguilla were analyzed, many of the microbes were determined not only to have resistance to natural antibiotics like penicillin, but also to synthetic antibiotics that did not exist on earth until the second half of the twentieth century. As infectious disease specialist Brad Spellberg put it in the New England Journal of Medicine, “These results underscore a critical reality: antibiotic resistance already exists, widely disseminated in nature, to drugs we have not yet invented.”
The origin story of antibiotics is well known, almost mythic, and antibiotics, along with the other basic public health measures, have had a dramatic impact on the quality and longevity of our modern life. When ordinary people called penicillin and sulfa drugs miraculous, they were not exaggerating. These discoveries ushered in the age of antibiotics, and medical science assumed a lifesaving capability previously unknown.
Note that we use the word discoveries rather than inventions. Antibiotics were around many millions of years before we were. Since the beginning of time, microbes have been competing with other microbes for nutrients and a place to call home. Under this evolutionary stress, beneficial mutations occurred in the “lucky” and successful ones that resulted in the production of chemicals—antibiotics—to inhibit other species of microbes from thriving and reproducing, while not compromising their own survival. Antibiotics are, in fact, a natural resource—or perhaps more accurately, a natural phenomenon—that can be cherished or squandered like any other gift of nature, such as clean and adequate supplies of water and clean air.
Equally natural, as Lechuguilla Cave reminds us, is the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance. Microbes move in the direction of resistance in order to survive. And that movement, increasingly, threatens our survival.
With each passing year, we lose a percentage of our antibiotic firepower. In a very real sense, we confront the possibility of revisiting the Dark Age where many infections we now consider routine could cause severe illness, when pneumonia or a stomach bug could be a death sentence, when a leading cause of mortality in the United States was tuberculosis.
The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) determined that, left unchecked, in the next 35 years antimicrobial resistance could kill 300,000,000 people worldwide and stunt global economic output by $100 trillion. There are no other diseases we currently know of except pandemic influenza that could make that claim. In fact, if the current trend is not altered, antimicrobial resistance could become the world’s single greatest killer, surpassing heart disease or cancer.
In some parts of the United States, about 40 percent of the strains of Streptococcus pneumonia, which the legendary nineteenth and early twentieth century physician Sir William Osler called “the captain of the men of death,” are now resistant to penicillin. And the economic incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics are not much brighter than those for developing new vaccines. Like vaccines, they are used only occasionally, not every day; they have to compete with older, extremely cheap generic versions manufactured overseas; and to remain effective, their use has to be restricted rather than promoted.
As it is, according to the CDC, each year in the United States at least 2,000,000 people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. More people die each year in this country from MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, often picked up in hospitals) than from AIDS.
If we can’t—or don’t—stop the march of resistance and come out into the sunlight, what will a post-antibiotic era look like? What will it actually mean to return to the darkness of the cave?
Without effective and nontoxic antibiotics to control infection, any surgery becomes inherently dangerous, so all but the most critical, lifesaving procedures therefore would be complex risk-benefit decisions. You’d have a hard time doing open-heart surgery, organ transplants, or joint replacements, and there would be no more in vitro fertilization. Caesarian delivery would be far more risky. Cancer chemotherapy would take a giant step backwards, as would neonatal and regular intensive care. For that matter, no one would go into a hospital unless they absolutely had to because of all the germs on floors and other surfaces and floating around in the air. Rheumatic fever would have lifelong consequences. TB sanitaria could be back in business. You could just about do a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie on the subject.
To understand why antibiotic resistance is rapidly increasing and what we need to do to avert this bleak future and reduce its impact, we have to understand the Big Picture of how it happens, where it happens, and how it’s driven by use in humans and animals.
Think of an American couple, both of who work fulltime. One day, their 4-year-old son wakes up crying with an earache. Either mom or dad takes the child to the pediatrician, who has probably seen a raft of these earaches lately and is pretty sure it’s a viral infection. There is no effective antiviral drug available to treat the ear infection. Using an antibiotic in this situation only exposes other bacteria that the child may be carrying to the drug and increases the likelihood that an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria will win the evolutionary lottery. But the parent knows that unless the child has been given a prescription for something, the daycare center isn’t going to take him and neither partner can take off from work. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to write an antibiotic prescription to solve this couple’s dilemma, even if the odds the antibiotic is really called for are minute.
While the majority of people understand that antibiotics are overprescribed and therefore subject to mounting resistance, they think the resistance applies to them, rather than the microbes. They believe that if they take too many antibiotics – whatever that unknown number might be—they will become resistant to the agents, so if they are promoting a risk factor, it is only for themselves rather than for the entire community.
Doctors, of course, understand the real risk. Are they culpable to the charge of over- and inappropriately prescribing antibiotics? In too many cases, the answer is Yes.