Volunteers Save Beached Whales on Indonesian Shore

Government workers, residents and environmentalists try to help to a pod of sperm whales stranded in shallow water in Aceh Besar, Aceh, Indonesia on Monday.

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Antara Foto/Ampelsa via Reuters

Ten sperm whales that had beached themselves in the Aceh Province of Indonesia were spotted early Monday. Professional rescue teams and local volunteers worked into the night and were able to release six of them. The remaining four died.

Officials still don’t know what caused the whales to strand themselves.

Conservation groups sent a team of at least 50 into the water to try and save the whales with the help of people nearby who were willing to lend a hand.

The LIVE stranding of 10 sperm whales in Aceh. Video credit WWF Indonesia @WWF_ID@WWF via Dwi Suprapti. pic.twitter.com/YgiW9pN3AD

— Strandings Indonesia (@stranding_ID) November 13, 2017

“Some people got injured on the coral and the high tide was also an obstacle but we tried our best,” Sapto Aji Prabowo, head of the Aceh conservation agency, told Reuters.

The teams released seven of the whales in the morning but one washed back to shore after dying, The Jakarta Post reports. They used boats, ropes and tarps to free the whales from the shallows and tow them back to the open ocean.

Officials say injury and exhaustion led to the four whale deaths. Scientists will continue to monitor the survivors using drones to ensure they don’t wash back to shore, risking death or further injury.

World Wildlife Fund Indonesia official Aryo Tjiptohandono told the Post that keeping crowds under control is essential during rescues. The stress of seeing masses of people, Tjiptohandono said, can negatively affect whale health.

The challenge now is to bury the corpses of the dead whales before they bloat. Gases inside the whales can cause their bodies to explode, which could spread disease. The World Wildlife Fund of Indonesia tweeted that they will perform autopsies to try and find out what caused the beaching.

Beachings are uncommon in Indonesia. But in the archipelagian nation of more than 17,000 islands, it’s not unheard of. A group of 29 pilot whales were stranded in 2016 on the eastern shore of Java — the island where the capital city, Jakarta, is located.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists sperm whales as endangered species. Before worldwide whaling practices decreased the population, it stood at about 1.1 million. Now it’s an estimated 360,000, according to the American Cetacean Society. Sperm whales live in every ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Adult males can reach almost 60 feet in length and weigh up to 45 tons. They’re the largest of the toothed whales, and are most famously portrayed in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

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After Sexual Harassment Accusations, Congress Moves Toward Mandatory Training

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California testifies on Capitol Hill Tuesday and leveled accusations of sexual harassment against a current, unnamed congressman.

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Two female lawmakers accused sitting members of Congress of sexual harassment, but did not divulge their identities at a House hearing today.

“This is about a member who is here now, I don’t know who it is. But somebody who I trust told me the situation,” said Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., a member of the House Administration Committee which is conducting a review of existing policies to prevent and report sexual harassment.

According to Comstock: the male lawmaker asked a young female staffer to bring some paperwork to him at home; he answered the door in nothing but a towel.

“At that point, he decided to expose himself,” Comstock said. “She left. And then she quit her job.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., divulged she is also aware of harassing behavior by her colleagues.

“In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now, who serve, who have not been subject to review, but have engaged in sexual harassment,” she said without identifying the lawmakers.

There was broad agreement at Tuesday’s hearing that the House needs to make some changes, starting with mandatory sexual-harassment training.

Currently, the training is optional.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement later Tuesday that the House will move toward adopting mandatory training for harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

“Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution,” Ryan said.

Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., was an employment attorney before he entered Congress. He testified at the hearing and urged a series of additional reforms, including a universal harassment policy.

Currently, each of the 435 member offices is considered an independent hiring authority and can set their own terms for training policies.

Byrne also said the House should revise the Code of Official Conduct for lawmakers to expressly prohibit sexual relations with their staff.

“It is my opinion that given the inherent power differential between a member and their staff that they supervise we should include a strict prohibition on members engaging in a sexual relationship with staff under their direct supervision,” he said.

Byrne also want to change the current system that shields the details of settlements. If a claim against a lawmaker is settled and involves a financial award, it’s paid for by taxpayers, and it’s never disclosed to the public. There’s no public data on how many claims have been paid out, and at what cost.

“Personally I find this unacceptable,” he said. “If a member of Congress settles a claim as the harasser or as found liable as the harasser, it is my belief the member should be personally liable or required to repay the Treasury for such damages.”

Gloria Lett, an attorney for the House Employment Counsel, testified that the majority of complaints do not involve lawmakers.

“Overwhelmingly, the mediations concern staff and staff,” she said. “It’s very rarely when it involves the member but those occasions have occurred.”

Lett told lawmakers she thinks the current process is effective despite lawmakers’ concerns.

“I think it’s a very effective process,” she said. “We have lots and lots of cases that are resolved through that process. Employment cases, in general, the overwhelming majority are resolved before full-blown litigation.”

Attorneys testified Tuesday that this process includes protections for both the accusers and the accused.

Barbara Childs Wallace chairs the board of the Office of Compliance, an office established by the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act that is charged with adjudicated workplace disputes. Under the law, there is a detailed three-step process that requires counseling and mediation before an employee can file a complaint.

It goes like this: an employee must start the initial review process within 180 days of the alleged violation of the law, which is kept confidential. If it’s not resolved within 30 days, it goes to mediation where the employing office is notified about the claim and the parties attempt to settle the matter by a neutral mediator appointed by the compliance office.

It is also a confidential process. The mediation period is another 30 days, but can be extended. If mediation fails, an employee can file an administrative complaint with the compliance office, which will handle it privately or they can file a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court. Only then would it make the matter public record. The employee has 90 days to go to court if mediation fails to resolve the matter.

Wallace also told lawmakers that there is often a difference between what is illegal and what is inappropriate, and the compliance office is involved in resolving all kinds of disputes.

“One thing I think that needs to be understood is there is illegal sexual harassment,” Wallace said, “and there are bad practices. A complainant might not win in court with what their complaint is, but it can still ruin the morale of an office and be inappropriate.”

To that end, Wallace said the compliance office has been recommending mandatory sexual harassment training since 2010.

Lawmakers, like Speier and Comstock, voiced reservations that the reporting process is too cumbersome and complicated to encourage people to speak up.

“I’m not convinced the system we have in place protects the victim at all,” Speier said.

“Yeah, agreed,” Comstock replied.

Speier is expected to introduce bipartisan legislation to overhaul the reporting process and how the compliance office handles complaints on Wednesday.

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Barbie Heads Into New Ground With Hijab-Sporting Doll

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad holds a hijab-wearing “Barbie Shero” in her likeness at the 2017 Glamour Women of the Year Awards on Monday.

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Evan Agostini/Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Mattel unveiled its first hijab-wearing Barbie doll on Monday, modeled after fencer Ibtihaj Muhammed, who has broken ground herself as the first U.S. Olympic athlete to compete in the head scarf.

“Perfect hijab moment right here, this is amazing,” Muhammed said as she beheld the doll for the first time at the Glamour Women of the Year Summit, her likeness clad in a white fencing uniform and clutching a sword and helmet.

Muhammed said she played with Barbies until she was a teenager, but none of the dolls looked like her, so she resorted to sewing mini hijabs onto them. Now she is hoping the new doll inspires other girls “to embrace what makes them unique.”

In an interview with ESPNW, Muhammed, 31, said, “I feel like I’ve always embraced being ‘different’ in respect to breaking boundaries, being an African-American Muslim woman in the sport of fencing.”


It was more than figurine’s hijab that mattered to Muhammed. “Growing up I was always told that my legs were big,” the New Jersey native told ESPN. “(I)t was important to me that my doll has an athletic build and toned legs, which I have. Those legs helped me win my medal at the Olympic Games.”

Muhammed won bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, which also gave her the distinction of becoming the first Muslim American woman to take home an Olympic title.

The doll, which won’t be available for purchase until 2018, is part of Mattel’s “Sheroes” line, modeled after real-life women who are “breaking boundaries.” In May, Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Gabby Douglas was recognized with her own “Shero” doll.

Mattel has been working to move Barbie’s image away from the blonde-haired, blue-eyed and unattainably proportioned clone. In 2016, it rolled out its Barbie Fashionista’s line, with dolls of four body types, seven skin tones and 24 hairstyles. The new dolls have been credited with helping revive sales.

Even Barbie’s boyfriend Ken got a makeover earlier this year, with more than a dozen new dolls of varying shapes, shades and hairdos — man-bun included.

More than just toys, Muhammed tells ESPN the dolls can be tools to “show children how to embrace what makes them different and to remind them that they’re beautiful and they can be whatever they want. We can help push that narrative through role play, through dolls and through using your imagination.”

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India Declares War On Unsafe Selfies

A man snaps a selfie in Bharuch, India.

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Harish Parmar/EyeEm/Getty Images

How far would you go to snap the perfect selfie?

For some people, the answer is clearly: too far.

Take India, for example.

In July, a 28-year-old man sneaked into a restricted safari area at the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bengalurum with his friends. He held his camera up to get a photo of himself with an elephant. The animal trampled him to death.

That same month, four people were trying to take a selfie on a cliff at Nagoa Beach. As waves crashed into the cliff, they fell in the Arabian Sea and were swept away. All of them drowned.

India’s authorities are out to quash risky selfies, joining other countries like Russia (which has created signs and campaigns to promote safe selfie-taking) and Spain (which has banned people from taking selfies during the annual running of the bulls).

The Mumbai police has identified 16 accident-prone zones in the city where selfie-related deaths were rising. They are trying to raise awareness about the risks of selfies at places like Mumbai’s iconic seafront at Marine Drive and the popular Girgaum Chowpatty Beach. The was created in the wake of a selfie-related accident in January 2016, when three young women slipped while taking a selfie and fell into the water in Bandra, a beachfront neighborhood in Mumbai. A passer-by saved two of them; the third drowned — and their rescuer is also believed to have drowned.


And in June, this YouTube video, sponsored by the mobile giant Samsung, Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister for shipping, road transport and highways urged people to use their mobile phones responsibly.

These dire selfie warnings come on the heels of a study published last year: Me, Myself and My Killfie. The title of the report uses the word “killfie” to describe selfies taken under circumstances dangerous enough to kill you.

To find these “killfies,” researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in New Delhi rounded up newspaper reports and data on selfie deaths worldwide.

Because the study relies on media accounts, it’s not a definitive tally of deaths by selfie worldwide. “There is very little empirical data [on selfie-related deaths] at the moment,” says Rajendran Narayanan, a social scientist based in Trichy, India, and former dean of arts at Bharathidasan University who did not work on the report.

In this photograph taken on June 15, 2015, young Indian students take ‘selfies’ on Marine Drive promenade in Mumbai.

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Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

The results of the study, however, are indicative of a larger trend, he notes. “While the act of taking a selfie in itself isn’t harmful or dangerous, taking a selfie in a dangerous location is,” he says. “As a society, we need to be aware of this.”

The research team found accounts of 127 reported deaths by selfie between 2014 to 2016, with more than half in India. Among the causes of death: taking selfies with wild animals, on railway tracks and in moving vehicles.

Deaths caused by taking a selfie with a gun were reported in the U.S. and Russia but did not appear to be an Indian phenomenon.

The researchers didn’t just want to keep count of selfie deaths. They wanted to create a tool to identify hazardous areas for selfie-taking.

“We analyzed the data of thousands of dangerous locations in India and across the world,” says Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, a computer scientist at IIIT. The team also studied photos posted to social media with the hashtags #dangerousselfies and #extremeselfies to identify potentially hazardous selfie settings. They used the research to build an app called Saftie, which launched in June and is currently is available for download for free on Android phones. (Saftie is a mash-up of “safety” and “selfie.”)

The app sends users a text message when they are near a location that poses a threat to selfie-takers. Users will also be notified if they are at the locations where the 127 selfie deaths from the the study occurred.

The developers hope that users can build on its resources. Anyone with access to the app can contribute. If three people mark a location as risky, the app will add it to the list of danger spots. This system helps safeguard the app from pranksters.

Ultimately, the researchers just want people to be safe when taking a selfie. Perhaps the Mumbai police said it best. Just before this year’s monsoon season in June, they warned people not to take selfies in the heavy rains.

Don’t make ‘taking a selfie’ mean ‘taking your own life’ #SafeMonsoonTipspic.twitter.com/9YMYjapA78

— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) June 28, 2017

They wrote on Twitter: “Don’t make ‘taking a selfie’ mean ‘taking your own life.’ “

Kamala Thiagarajan is a freelance journalist based in Madurai, South India. Her work has appeared in The International New York Times, BBC Travel and Forbes India. You can follow her @kamal_t

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FDA Approves First Digital Pill That Can Track If You've Taken It

The FDA has approved the first drug with “a digital ingestion tracking system.” Abilify MyCite is an antipsychotic with an ingestible sensor that transmits data to a patch, which then sends the information to a smartphone app.

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Proteus Digital Health

The Food and Drug Administration has approved its first digital drug: a pill embedded with a sensor that transmits whether someone has taken it.

Although the approval is a big step for digital medicine, there are concerns about privacy, convenience and cost.

The tablet and embedded sensor is called Abilify MyCite. Abilify, made by Japan-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical, is the brand-name version of aripiprazole, an antipsychotic drug used for treating schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and as an add-on treatment for depression in adults.

The tiny sensor, made by a company called Proteus, is about the size of a grain of sand. It’s activated when it comes into contact with fluid in the stomach. The sensor detects and records the date and time the pill is ingested.

The sensor transmits that data to a patch worn by the patient. The patch then sends the data to a smartphone application; the data can then be shared with selected family members or caregivers.

That’s a lot of moving parts, but the problem it aims to address is a real (and expensive) one: nonadherence, which is the term for patients not following through with prescribed treatment. Nonadherence is a problem for people with many kinds of health issues, such as hypertension and high cholesterol.

“Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients,” said Mitchell Mathis, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers.”

In its announcement, the FDA notes that Abilify MyCite’s labeling information states the product hasn’t been shown to improve patients’ compliance with their treatment regimen. It also says that “Abilify MyCite should not be used to track drug ingestion in ‘real-time’ or during an emergency because detection may be delayed or may not occur.”

Some health experts were surprised that the first digital drug to be approved by the FDA is an antipsychotic, because some people who have schizophrenia experience paranoia and delusions that they are being watched.

Taking a pill that transmits data from their body to others might not be desirable to these patients.

“Many of those patients don’t take meds because they don’t like side effects, or don’t think they have an illness, or because they become paranoid about the doctor or the doctor’s intentions,” Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia University’s psychiatry department, toldThe New York Times.

“A system that will monitor their behavior and send signals out of their body and notify their doctor?” Appelbaum said. “You would think that, whether in psychiatry or general medicine, drugs for almost any other condition would be a better place to start than a drug for schizophrenia.”

Still, there are upsides to a pill with a built-in sensor, says Dr. Walid Gellad, co-director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Gellad tells NPR that while Abilify MyCite might not be attractive to patients, it may appeal to caregivers and family members who worry about whether a person has taken their medication. Most of the other current tracking options involve pill bottles that track whether they’ve been opened, he says.

With this drug, Gellad says, “you will actually know if a person has taken the pill, put in in their mouth, and it’s in their stomach.”

But he points out that other possible solutions to the nonadherence problem already exist. For instance, there is an injectable version of Abilify, a monthly shot administered by a health care professional.

Then there’s the potential cost factor for Abilify MyCite, which doesn’t yet have a set price.

The list price for a month’s supply of nondigital Abilify pills “is at least $891,” according to The Wall Street Journal, which adds that “the smallest vial of the long-acting injectable — introduced in 2013 — has a list price of $1,478.”

The FDA approved the first generic versions of Abilify two years ago, and Gellad predicts that “the daily generic is going to be much less expensive than this one with the sensor.”

And he warns that there are broader privacy concerns when it comes to sensors that transmit health information.

“We’ve seen time and time again that stuff that’s being transmitted ends up in the hands of people it shouldn’t,” Gellad says. “There are real concerns about data security.”

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Republican Senators Add Repeal Of Individual Health Care Mandate To Tax Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., at a news conference on Tuesday where they announced that the individual mandate to have health insurance would be repealed in the Senate GOP tax bill.

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Republicans now plan to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate as part of a tax overhaul bill.

Several Senate Republicans said Tuesday that including the repeal in tax legislation, currently making its way through a key Senate committee, would allow them to further reduce tax rates for individuals without adding more to the deficit.

The decision was a rapid change of direction for Republicans, who previously believed it would be politically dangerous to add any health care measure to the tax legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that members of the Senate Finance Committee believe tacking on the repeal will ensure the bill has sufficient votes to pass when it comes up for a vote in the Senate.

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful,” McConnell said, “and that’s obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well.”

The Congressional Budget Office said last week that such a repeal would reduce federal deficits by $338 billion over the next 10 years, which would help the GOP avoid exceeding a $1.5 trillion cap on how much the tax bill can add to the deficit over the same time period. The repeal would also increase the number of uninsured by 13 million by 2027, according to the CBO.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a top McConnell deputy, said the savings from the repeal would give Republicans more room to cut taxes for the middle class.

“It will be distributed in the form of middle-income tax relief,” Thune said. “It will probably mean adjusting the rate structure as we have today. We’ll probably still have seven brackets, but they would be at different rates.”

Asked if he was confident such a bill could pass, Thune said yes, adding that leaders had already “whipped” the bill, meaning they already know how their colleagues will vote.

Not all Republicans agree with the decision. Moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she had not decided how she will vote on the tax bill, but she worries that ending the individual mandate could increase health care premiums.

“I personally think it complicates tax reform to put the repeal of the individual mandate in there,” Collins said. “I’m going to wait and see what the bill says.”

But adding it in could appeal to other skeptics of the legislation, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who supports the individual mandate repeal.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to release an updated version of the legislation Tuesday evening. The committee plans to approve the bill later this week in hopes of holding a vote in the full Senate before Thanksgiving.

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He Wrote The Book(s) On Scrabble. But Has He Been Playing By The Letter Of The Law?

Allan Simmons, then 51, competes in the final of the U.K.’s National Scrabble Championships in London in 2008, which he would go on to win.

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Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

He has won the Scrabble national championship in the U.K. Self-described as “the world’s only scrabble consultant,” he has penned or co-written a number of books on the game, including several authoritative reference works. And despite decades of high-level play, he showed few signs of slowing — maintaining a No. 5 ranking worldwide, according to one rating system.

Now, though, Allan Simmons has been banned for three years by the very association he helped found. What happened?

Simply put, the Association of British Scrabble Players found the Scottish Scrabble titan guilty of “actions that led to a suspicion of cheating,” as quoted by the Times of London.

Put a little less simply … well, we’ll leave that explanation to the Times:

“At the heart of the controversy are the rules on selecting tiles from cloth bags used in timed matches. Before picking them, players must show opponents their palm with the fingers splayed to prove they are not secretly dropping unwanted letters into the bag.”

“They are also required to hold the opening of the bag at shoulder height to ensure they cannot be accused of looking at the tiles during selection.”

According to fellow Scrabble player Lewis Mackay, Simmons failed to meet those standards. Mackay says he noticed something fishy while watching Simmons compete against another player in a 2016 match, noting in his complaint to the ABSP that “at one point, I was surprised to see him draw a tile, look at it, and return it to the bag, all at shoulder height. I thought I was seeing things at first — I was shocked to witness this at all.

“I said nothing to anyone at the time,” Mackay said. “On reflection, perhaps I should have.”

Mackay said his next chance came when he played Simmons during the British Masters in June. As they played, a “sequence of events” detailed by Mackay in his complaint “led me to the only sensible conclusion: that he was returning a drawn tile to the bag and drawing a new one.”

After Mackay lodged his complaint, similar allegations were raised, leading the ABSP to “the natural conclusion … that he had been cheating,” Elie Dangoor, a member of the ABSP, said in a statement to multiple media organizations.

“There’s no one person bigger than the game,” Dangoor added.

Simmons acknowledged some occasional, slight discrepancies in his play in an interview with the Times, where wrote a weekly column until the paper noted Monday he would “no longer be a contributor.” But Simmons denied cheating.

“You have to remember that at the top level, games can be quite intense and there’s a lot going through one’s mind let alone remembering to religiously ensure tile drawing rules are followed meticulously,” he said. “From the outset I have said that no one is beyond suspicion and complied fully with the investigative process.”

The ban, which Simmons has elected not to appeal, and the attention it has received have raised eyebrows in the Scrabble community, The New York Times reports. The paper points out that ASBP Chairwoman Amy Byrne resigned in the wake of the ban, and Nicky Huitson, a tournament organizer, explained to the newspaper that “most of us don’t want to talk about it.”

It doesn’t appear that Simmons wants to either. He has only offered comment so far to the Times of London.

“I had actually been winding down the number of tournaments I play anyway with a view to retiring because I was spending far too much time keeping on top of word learning, coupled with long drives to events, and stressful games,” he told the British publication.

“I am now going to enjoy more of my world beyond Scrabble which has been somewhat neglected. I will rise above this issue and get on with more important things in life than playing Scrabble.”

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Increased Hours Online Correlate With An Uptick In Teen Depression, Suicidal Thoughts

The study drew on survey data from half a million U.S. teenagers from 2010 to 2015.

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A study published Tuesday in the journal Clinical Psychological Science finds that increased time spent with popular electronic devices — whether a computer, cell phone or tablet — might have contributed to an uptick in symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts over the last several years among teens, especially among girls.

Though San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge, who led the study, agrees this sort of research can only establish a correlation between long hours of daily screen time and symptoms of alienation — it can’t prove one causes the other — she thinks the findings should be a warning to parents.

“One hour, maybe two hours [a day], doesn’t increase risk all that much,” Twenge says. “But once you get to three hours — and especially four and then, really, five hours and beyond — that’s where there’s much more significant risk of suicide attempts, thinking about suicide and major depression.”

Twenge and her colleagues took a hard look at national surveys that asked more than a half million young people, ages 13 to 18, questions that get at symptoms of depression.

Twenge says the surveys asked students to respond to statements such as “Life often feels meaningless,” or “I feel I can’t do anything right,” or “I feel my life is not very useful.

Between 2010 and 2015 Twenge found the number of teens who answered “yes” to three or more of these questions increased significantly, from 16 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2015.

By far the biggest increase was among girls — who were six times more likely than boys to report these or other symptoms of depression.

Twenge says the gender difference in the findings might be because the screen experience for boys — typically playing computer games — is a lot different than it is for girls.

“For girls, she says, “a lot of social media revolves around concerns about popularity — am I going to get likes on this photograph, do I look good enough in this picture?

The study also looked at survey responses to questions about suicidal thoughts.

“These include things like depression, thinking about suicide, making a plan to commit suicide and then actually having attempted suicide at some point in the past,” Twenge says.

Her team found an increase in suicidal thoughts over that time period and,according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increase in suicide deaths among teens from 1,386 in 2010 to 1,769 in 2015.

Again, the findingabout suicidal thoughts was strongest among girls.

Financial stresses and anxiety related to academics and homework are often cited as factors in teen depression. But the overall economy improved between 2010 and 2015, Twenge notes. And surveys suggest the amount of homework given over that time period did not increase.

What did increase significantly, she says, was students’ online activity, via computer games and social media.

Her research found that teens who spent the most time on their electronic devices were more likely to also show signs of depression.

Meanwhile, she says, the surveys suggested that hours spent in face-to-face activities — sports, parties, even just going to the mall with friends — seemed to be protective.

Nonetheless, psychologist Andrew Przbylski, an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, takes issue with the researchers’ conclusion that online activity is likely behind a shift in teen mood. Przbylski says teens may now simply be more willing to admit they are worried or sad.

“It could be that young people are reaching out, telling parents, telling friends,” he says, “and certainly not feeling bad about filling out a survey about how they feel.”

And the study doesn’t eliminate the possibility that financial strains at home may have contributed to any genuine uptick in depressive symptoms among teens, says Przbylski. Even though statistics suggest the overall U.S. economy improved during the time period of the study, the researchers didn’t explore what was happening in individual households in terms of job loss, for example.

Changes in a family’s economic circumstances, he says, can be a leading cause of a child’s depression.

Twenge responds that though her findings don’t prove cause and effect, they are in synch with results from other studies, including some randomized trials — that have found that when people spend less time on electronic devices they tend to be happier and less lonely.

Twenge says the findings should spur continued research and, in the meantime, should serve as a warning for parents that if their teen spends lots of time online they may be at heightened risk of depression.

While the strength of the findings may be controversial, many parents worry about their child’s reliance on social media, says Adam Pletter, a child psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C.

Every day, Pletter says, he sees struggles between kids and their parents. Adults are often way behind, he says, when it comes to technology their kids are fluently using.

“We are digital immigrants,” Pletter says. “We did not grow up with internet and cell phones — at least most of us did not. So there’s a real dilemma, in that we’re in charge of safeguarding our kids and teaching our kids how to be savvy digital users, and we don’t have all the skills. Many of us are afraid of the technology.”

Pletter offers workshops in person — and online — aimed at helping parents figure out ways to reduce their children’s reliance, and in some cases, addiction, to screen time.

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For Some Native Americans, Uranium Contamination Feels Like Discrimination

Many people who live in the Blue Gap-Tachee Chapter in northeastern Arizona remember when mining companies blasted uranium out of the Claim 28 site near their homes. Dust from mine explosions coated everything.

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Helen Nez had 10 children. Now she only has three.

Seven of her children died of a disorder called Navajo neuropathy, which is linked to uranium contamination.

“Many people died and some have liver disease, kidney disease and some suffer from cancer as a result,” Nez said through a translator.

When she was pregnant, Nez and her children drank from a spring, located on Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, with uranium levels at least five times greater than safe drinking water standards, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in 2015.

Four of her children died as toddlers. Three died in early adulthood. Their stomachs became bloated, and their eyes turned a cloudy gray. The three remaining children, now adults, have health problems.

“It is worrisome and troublesome, and you hope that something will be done,” Nez said.

Helen Nez, shown with Blue Gap Chapter President Aaron Yazzie, has lost seven of her 10 children to a disorder called Navajo neuropathy, which is linked to uranium contamination.

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In a new poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, more than 1 in 4 Native Americans say the quality of their drinking water is worse than in other places.

From 1944 to 1986, mining companies blasted 30 million tons of uranium out of Navajo land. When the U.S. Energy Department had stockpiled enough for the Cold War, the companies left, abandoning 521 mines. Since then, many Navajo have died of conditions linked to contamination.

Nez’s sister Sadie Bill drives out to an abandoned uranium mine called Claim 28. Along the way, she points to the site of her neighbor’s home that was so contaminated it had to be hauled away.

“She passed on about 2 1/2 years ago,” Bill said. “And this one over here, she was on dialysis. And she passed on, oh, eight, nine months ago.”

We drive by four more homes where people have died.

This mesa is all that is left of the Claim 28 mine in northeastern Arizona. Scientists say the springs where many people drank have uranium levels at least five times greater than of safe drinking water standards.

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“People on the outside world say, ‘What’s wrong with you? Get out of there. Move!’ ” said Chris Shuey, the director of uranium impact assessment at Southwest Research and Information Center. “That’s not economically or culturally feasible. People have been captive to these exposures now for three generations.”

Shuey, an environmental health scientist, has been studying the impacts of uranium mining on the Navajo people for almost four decades. He points out that Navajos are connected by tradition to the land. When a Navajo baby is born, the umbilical cord is buried in the ground, tying them to that place forever.

The community and many others like it want to know why it’s taking the federal government so long to clean up the abandoned mines.

In the NPR poll, 39 percent of Native Americans say discrimination based in laws and government policies is a bigger problem than discrimination based on individuals’ prejudice.


“The slow pace of cleanup is directly related to the law, itself,” Shuey said. “The law places more importance on the relationship between EPA and the companies that caused the problem than it creates a right of sitting at the table of the local affected community. And so on Navajo, that is institutional racism.”

In this case, Shuey said the policies of the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the tribe have hurt the Navajo people.

Of the 521 abandoned mines, the EPA has only cleaned up nine so far. And Shuey says cleanup presents a lot of challenges.

“There’s not a lot of places to take this stuff to,” Shuey said. “You invariably put it in somebody else’s backyard.”

The EPA said in a statement that the federal government has reached settlements valued at $1.7 billion with mining companies — enough to clean up about 40 percent of the abandoned mines.

“The EPA is really caught between a rock and a hard place,” said University of New Mexico toxicologist Matt Campen, who is studying the air quality surrounding abandoned mines. “They get attacked by both advocacy groups for not doing enough and by industry for doing too much.”

Sadie Bill’s cabin sits at the base of Claim 28. She no longer lives there because of concerns about uranium contamination.

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Campen said it comes down to allocation of resources and authority to get things done. A Navajo group is currently evaluating the cost to remediate the mine near Helen Nez and her sister Sadie Bill’s home.

“We lost too many people,” Bill said. “We don’t want our future young people to have to go through this again.”

At the current rate, it would take multiple generations for the Navajo to be free of uranium contamination. For this family and for many others though, it’s already too late.

Our ongoing series, “You, Me and Them: Experiencing Discrimination in America” is based in part on a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. We have previously released results for African-Americans, Latinos and whites so far. In coming weeks, we will release results for LGBTQ adults, Asian-Americans and women.

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2 Months After Maria And Irma, U.S. Virgin Islands Remain In The Dark

The Virgin Islands is home to more than 106,000 Americans. More than 33,000 people, which is over a third of the U.S. territory’s population, are still awaiting help from FEMA.

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The continuing blackouts in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria have overshadowed the devastation in the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands, where nearly 73 percent of residents remain without power two months after the Category 5 storms made landfall.

More than 33,000 people, which is over a third of the U.S. territory’s population, are awaiting help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Virgin Islands are home to more than 106,000 Americans, according to the most recent census data.

“The damage is just so pervasive,” says Fredreka Schouten, a reporter for USA Todaywho returned to her native St. Croix and St. Thomas this month.

Schouten tells Here & Now’s Robin Young that she could sense the severe devastation as she flew into Frederiksted, the historic port town where she was born.

“The line of beaches along Frederiksted … [were] just pounded clean of sand to stone left from the storm surge,” she says. And then as we got closer and sort of turned to make our landing, I started to see the blue tarps covering scores and scores of homes on the southwest corner of the island.”

The Virgin Islands Power and Water Authority is continuing efforts to restore electricity and reconstruct the power grid, bringing back power for more than 16,000 customers this past weekend and on Monday.

“With supplies to include poles, transformers, wire and other hardware arriving weekly, the Authority remains committed to its goal of restoring 90% of all areas across the Virgin Islands by Christmas 2017,” the public utility wrote last week on Facebook. “Another 200 off-island linemen are expected to arrive over the next few days to augment the restoration effort.”

The boil-water notice was also lifted last week for St. Thomas and St. John but remains in effect for St. Croix. People who don’t have access to bottled water are advised to boil water for at least one minute before drinking.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson in September that the damage was so extensive because “St. John and St. Croix and St. Thomas really hold a lot of the main infrastructure, particularly St. John is reliant on the infrastructure of St. Thomas.”

President Trump recently signed a $36.5 billion disaster relief bill, which is expected to provide $800 million in low-interest loans to help the Virgin Islands cover operating expenses. On a recent visit, a bipartisan congressional delegation led by GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer pledged to rebuild the island to a higher standard.

“There is a federal law that says that basically after disasters you rebuild to the standard that was there,” Schouten says. “And there is increasing talk … to change that and actually bill to a 21st century standard. Because their argument is this is just a waste of taxpayer money — hurricane after hurricane rebuilding the same way you always have.”

In addition to exposing the rocks on the beaches, this year’s hurricanes also uncovered longstanding financial issues in the Virgin Islands. The government owes more than $2 billion to bondholders and creditors, which represents the highest per capita debt of any state or U.S. territory — even Puerto Rico.

Schouten says the territory’s financial woes were magnified when a large oil refinery in St. Croix shuttered its doors in 2012.

“It was the single largest private employer, and they need to find other other folks too who are willing to invest in the Virgin Islands and diversify the economy,” she says.

Questions also remain about how the government managed its money. Officials have increasingly relied on borrowed money to operate, and Schouten reports that at times this year, the government only had a few days worth of operating cash available.

Schouten recalls returning to St. Croix after Hurricane Hugo in 1989, when more than 80 percent of the island’s buildings were leveled. The storm set the island back 20 years, and discouraged tourists from visiting, she says.

In a statement this week, FEMA urged cultural institutions to apply for disaster assistance. Schouten says there is concern that if too many American citizens leave the Virgin Islands, it will undermine the territory’s recovery.

“There is a feeling that the Virgin Islands won’t be the Virgin Islands if too many people who are from there and make up the place in the culture leave,” she says. “But I do think that the sense from local authorities is that they are going to get assistance.”

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