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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Malaysia begins blocking online HIV and AIDS, LGBT travel information

TMNet, a Malaysian Internet Service provider, has begun tampering with Internet DNS domain names to prevent users in Malaysia from accessing HIV/AIDS and LGBT travel information online.

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IMAGE DETAIL FROM Zukiman Mohamad FROM PEXEL.COM

In an unprecedented move for a multi-cultural tourism destination, Malaysia has begun to block Internet access to public information about HIV/AIDS and LGBT travel, effecting busy travel hubs like Kuala Lumpur’s International airport and creating digital roadblocks for citizens throughout the country.

On May 4, Sinar Project, a Malaysian media watchdog, reported the country’s first known online censorship of an LGBT-specific community travel website, Utopia-Asia.com, which TMNet, a Malaysian Internet Service provider, began blocking in April without explanation.

Ooni Explorer, a global observation network for detecting censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation on the Internet, found that TMNet was engaging in DNS tampering by re-routing Utopia Asia’s domain name to display a false notice and deceive customers in Malaysia into thinking those resources no longer existed.

“Is your website down? I cannot access Utopia-Asia.com in Malaysia any longer,” wrote confused netizen, Ian T. “My browser displays a ‘server error 404 – file or directory not found’ message.”

Utopia Asia, based in Bangkok, has hosted the oldest and largest HIV/AIDS information and news archives for the region since 1995. The website also provides extensive information for travelers and locals alike, such as hotels, restaurants, NGOs, clubs and social opportunities in 20 Asian countries.

David H., a traveler in Malaysia, posted on Utopia Asia’s Facebook page, “I’m currently at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and can’t access Utopia-Asia.com with either airport Wi-Fi or Starbucks Wi-Fi. Come on Starbucks, why are you blocking the LGBT community? Oddly, gay dating apps with much raunchier content are let through! Feeling angry.”

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In mid-2012, Indonesian ISPs began blocking websites with non-pornographic LGBT content. In the years following, local activists and international rights organizations have sounded the alarm about growing harassment, threats, and attempts to punish or criminalize LGBT who previously were protected by law and largely accepted by tolerant traditional cultures. Now, Malaysia seems to be copycatting its neighbor.

“When LGBT people travel, local community information including the HIV situation is critical, ” said Paul Causey, an HIV Community Consultant for 30 years with special focus on Asia/Pacific. “Utopia Asia has been an important educational ally since its beginning. It also helps isolated, suffering people to feel a part of a larger community, especially true for the lesbian, gay and transgender men and women in Malaysia where discrimination has now become appalling.”

“It’s telling that Malaysia, rather than banning hardcore sex sites, decided to bully an LGBT community page recommended over the years by TIME Magazine, The New York Times and Lonely Planet,” said John Goss, who founded Utopia Asia with Thai and Singaporean partners 24 years ago to help create positive social alternatives for LGBT in the region.

“This move is especially egregious,” said Goss, “because Utopia – a free, non-pornographic public resource – is designed to help improve people’s lives. Malaysia should worry about the corrosion of human rights and rising religious intolerance, rather than which healthcare providers, hotels or restaurants welcome gays. Otherwise they will be implicated in the growing humanitarian crisis in their own back yard and that’s going to dent their tourism dollars.”

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Health & Wellness

Study suggests why some young adults may be more likely to engage in unsafe sex

A study found that heterosexual men tended to choose more passive strategies in condom negotiation (and were most likely to agree to sex without a condom); heterosexual women tended to choose more assertive strategies (like withholding sex); and MSM tended to aim for more verbal but selecting strategies that were not confrontational.

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Gender, sexual orientation, and the desire to form lasting romantic relationships appear to influence sexual risk-taking among young adults, according to a new research published in the Journal of Sex Research.

As far as the researchers are aware, this is the first study to directly compare how heterosexual men, heterosexual women, and men who have sex with men (MSM) differ in their approach to condom decision-making with a new sexual partner.

The findings may help explain why some young people engage in unsafe sex even though they are aware of the risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, cervical cancer, and unplanned pregnancy.

To explore this aspect of risk, researchers studied how heterosexual men (157 participants), heterosexual women (177), and MSM (106) aged 18-25 years, recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk system (a crowdsourcing marketplace) and a university in Canada, make decisions about using condoms.

Participants were presented with a vignette describing an encounter with a hypothetical new sexual or romantic partner and were asked to rate their attitudes and likelihood of choosing particular courses of action, as well as their relationship motivation.

Results showed that all three groups had a preference for different condom negotiation strategies– heterosexual men tended to choose more passive strategies (and were most likely to agree to sex without a condom); heterosexual women tended to choose more assertive strategies (like withholding sex); and MSM tended to aim for a balance, choosing more verbal strategies than heterosexual men, but selecting strategies that were not confrontational.

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The findings may also explain some of the motives and reasoning that influence risky behaviours. For example, the study suggests that heterosexual women may be more willing to take risks when they both have stronger relationship motivation and view their partner as having more relationship potential.

“Understanding what factors make it more difficult to recognize risk during a sexual encounter, such as the desire for a long-term romantic relationship and partner familiarity, can lead to better prevention”, says Dr. Shayna Skakoon-Sparling from the University of Guelph, Canada who led the research. “It is particularly striking that women had lower expectations that their partner would be interested in condom use–this highlights how challenging heterosexual women expect the negotiation of condom use to be.”

The authors conclude that the findings have important implications for policy and prevention and should inform the creation of more effective sexual health education programs and interventions.

This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect and the authors point to several limitations including that it did not involve women who have sex with women, or any other gender/sexuality minority groups, which could limit the generalisability of the findings. They also note that a hypothetical scenario may not invoke the same emotional response or reflect real-life behavior.

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Technology

Best way to create a product configurator for an e-commerce store

As an e-commerce business owner, it is essential that you embrace technology in all ways possible. Unlike having a physical store, online shops are technology intensive.

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Photo by Brooke Lark from Unsplash.com

If you are wondering what a product configurator is, it is merely a customizer that allows consumers to configure specific products the way they want. A product configurator allows you as the business to reach customers in ways that no other tool can. Is it not amazing to be able to have a product just how you imagined it? That is when it comes to the choice of colors, flavor, and material and so on? Product configurators have proven to be handy tools when it comes to making the experience of customers better. That is, on top of being able to offer them tailor-made services and products that meet their individual needs.

Now, the catch is you need to get it right from the word go, in order for you to end up choosing the best e-commerce product configurator for your online store.

The following tips will go a long way in helping you achieve that.

1. Consider the workflow

Already, you have an idea of how you would want the product to work. This is the first step towards having a practical configurator. You cannot get started if you do not have a picture of how you would want your displays to appear and how the product should appear at the end of the process.

2. Make it simple

The difference between an innovation that diffuses fast and one that does not is its complexity. To have the best configurator, it has to be simple and one that will not give the consumers a hard time. The workflow should be seamless and be able to outline the process for the consumers until its completion clearly.

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Building a product customizer is one of the best ways in which you can enhance the experience of your customers and have the competitive edge.
Photo by Charles 🇵🇭@charlesdeluvio from Unsplash.com

3. Include a help section

You can always expect your customers to get stuck once in a while. It is why you need to have the help section. Besides, your product configurator may not be as simple as you think. A helping hand will do.

4. Include a summary for the process

If you have a clear overview, you will make it easier for the customers to evaluate the end product. The summary could include the customized product, its cost among other useful information. From there, they will be in a better position to pick what best suits them and rethink their choices before they get too deep into it.

As an e-commerce business owner, it is essential that you embrace technology in all ways possible. Unlike having a physical store, online shops are technology intensive. More so, due to a few complexities, owners are required to do everything in their power to make the experience of the consumers worth the while. Building a product customizer is one of the best ways in which you can enhance the experience of your customers and have the competitive edge.

Being able to stand out in the crowd is what will make customers keep coming back for more: a product configurator is the key that you need.

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Health & Wellness

Drugs used to enhance sexual experiences, according to study

While people of all genders and sexual orientations reported engaging in substance-linked sex, gay and bisexual men were more likely to have done so; homosexual men were 1.6 times as likely as heterosexual men to have used drugs with the specific intent of enhancing the sexual experience in the last year.

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Photo by Marc Schäfer from Unsplash.com

Combining drugs with sex is common regardless of gender or sexual orientation. This is according to new research by UCL and the Global Drug Survey, which looked into global trends of substance-linked sex.

The findings, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, revealed that alcohol, cannabis, MDMA and cocaine are the drugs most commonly combined with sex.

Respondents from the UK were the most likely to combine drugs with sex, compared with the US, other European countries, Australia and Canada.

“While using drugs in combination with and to specifically enhance the sexual experience tends to be associated with gay and bisexual men, we found that in our sample, men and women of all sexual orientations engaged in this behavior. However, differences between groups did emerge,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Will Lawn (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences). “Harm reduction messages relating to substance-linked sex in general should therefore not only be targeted towards gay and bisexual men, as they are relevant to all groups.”

As part of the Global Drug Survey, roughly 22,000 people responded to online questions about which drugs they used in combination with sex, in addition to questions about whether they used drugs to specifically enhance their sexual experience, and how these drugs affect the sexual experience.

Alcohol, cannabis, MDMA and cocaine were most commonly used, while GHB/GBL and MDMA were rated most favorably. For instance, MDMA increased ’emotionality/intimacy’ the most, while GHB/GBL increased ‘sexual desire’ the most.

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While people of all genders and sexual orientations reported engaging in substance-linked sex, gay and bisexual men were more likely to have done so; homosexual men were 1.6 times as likely as heterosexual men to have used drugs with the specific intent of enhancing the sexual experience in the last year.

Alcohol, cannabis, MDMA and cocaine were most commonly used, while GHB/GBL and MDMA were rated most favorably.
Photo by Roberto Roman from Unsplash.com

Drugs typically considered as ‘chemsex’ drugs – methamphetamine, mephedrone and GHB/GBL – were more commonly used by gay and bisexual men in combination with sex, which the researchers say highlights the continued need for certain targeted harm reduction messages.

As the survey respondents were self-selecting rather than a representative sample, the researchers say their estimates of prevalence will be substantially larger than the general population. However, relative differences between groups are expected to be reliable.

While country of residence was not asked specifically, currency was used as a proxy. This revealed that those from the UK were more likely to have combined all drugs, except for cannabis, with sex; this trend was particularly strong for mephedrone.

The researchers say that understanding how and why people use drugs is essential if we are to deliver harm reduction messages that are in touch with peoples’ lived experience.

“By engaging with your audience and accepting that drugs provide pleasure as well as harms, you can deliver harm reduction messages in a more trustworthy and nuanced manner,” said Lawn.

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Senior author Professor Adam Winstock, founder and director of the Global Drug Survey, added: “By appreciating how different drugs affect sex we can tailor our harm reduction messages. These pragmatic messages can save lives.”

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NEWSMAKERS

Gay, lesbian, bi people more likely to perpetrate or become victims of ‘revenge porn’

The rainbow community is tarnished, with gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents more than twice as likely to admit to taking and threatening to distribute sexual images of another person without their consent. They were also 2.5 times more likely to actually distribute them.

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Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are more likely to perpetrate or become victims of “revenge porn” and other forms of abuse involving sexual photos or videos.

This is according to a study done by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and first reported by Perth Now.

The researchers polled more than 4,200 people aged 16 to 49, asking them if they’d secretly taken photos or videos of someone, distributed the images, or threatened to do so. Eleven percent (11%) admitted to engaging in some form of image-based sexual abuse over their lifetime.

Behaviors included here are: receiving a consensually-shared nude or sexual selfie and sending it onto others without the subject’s consent; covertly filming or photographing someone without their knowledge; and threatening to share or sharing explicit images of another person — including past sexual partners — in an attempt to embarrass or humiliate others.

Another 9% of the respondents said that they had taken nude or sexual photos or videos of someone without their consent, and 6% admitted to distributing such images. This includes instances where people covertly filmed up women’s skirts or down their blouses.

Interestingly, self-identified victims of these abuses were also more likely to be abusers. And these abusers were also more likely to share images of people they knew, including partners, ex-partners, friends and even relatives, rather than images of strangers.

Men were twice as likely as women to admit to perpetrating revenge porn.

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The rainbow community is tarnished, with gay, lesbian and bisexual respondents more than twice as likely to admit to taking and threatening to distribute sexual images of another person without their consent. They were also 2.5 times more likely to actually distribute them.

Additionally, gay and bisexual men were more likely to engage in such behavior than lesbian or bisexual women.

Governments all over the world are actually already developing/implementing laws pertaining “revenge porn:, even if the success of cases still largely depend on the willingness of victims to go after the perpetrators.

In the Philippines, for instance, there is an existing Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009 (Republic Act 9995) that eyes to prevent the publication, copying and distribution of similar materials that would damage the honor of a person on media platforms.

However, violations to this law continue to increase. Data from the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) Cybercrime division show that in the first three months of 2019 alone, there were already 142 reported cases of violations of RA 9995, a figure surpassing the total 94 cases filed in all of 2018.

For its part, the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) recorded 106 cases in the first two months of the year: 49 in January and 57 in February.

Members of the local LGBTQIA community also make the news for this, including – and more recently – the Vic Fabe scandal.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Top 10 US cities LGBT travelers are booking for Pride this year

With 2019 marking the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots, what are the best places in the US to go to for Pride?

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Heading to the US to experience (the largely commercial) Pride?

There are over 150 cities in the US that celebrate Pride, with events that can be political or… plainly commercial/for partying. This ought not be a surprise, considering that the country is now largely credited for starting the modern LGBTQIA movement, thanks to the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in Manhattan, New York, where members of the community stood up against police forces to fight for their rights.

And with 2019 marking the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots, what are the best places in the US to go to for Pride?

Travel booking site Orbitz did an online survey to determine where LGBTQIA travelers were booking this year for Pride. And here are the top 10 cities LGBTQIA travelers are looking to book this year based on data compiled, along with the dates for each city’s respective Pride events.

  1. Provincetown, Massachusetts, May 31 – June 3
  2. St. Petersburg, Florida, June 21-23
  3. Atlanta, October 11-13
  4. Long Beach, California, May 18-19
  5. New York City, June 1-30
  6. Minneapolis, June 22-23
  7. Columbus, Ohio, June 14-16
  8. Miami, April 1-7
  9. Houston, June 22
  10. San Francisco, June 29-30

Other key findings:

  • 79% of LGBTQIA travelers plan to attend this year’s Pride events with a group
  • 57% of the travelers prefer staying in a hotel during Pride
  • 54% of the travelers are looking at car-sharing to attend a Pride event
  • 80% of the travelers are willing to sacrifice their cell phone and break the “pics or it didn’t happen” rule of Instagram during Pride celebrations in exchange for free parade tickets, meals and hotel accommodations
  • 30% are looking to spend less than $100 on Pride travel and accommodations
  • 67% claim experience is the most important consideration when traveling for Pride
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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

These 10 foods can make your gut happier

A healthy diet is one of the most effective ways to keep gut health in tiptop condition. The following foods will not only improve your gut health, but the overall functionalities of your body as well.

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When it comes to achieving optimal health, most people don’t immediately think of improving their gut health. The gut being the largest intestine in the stomach plays a huge role in the overall functions of your body. Every role in the gut needs to be nourished by the foods you put into your body. Improper digestion can lead to inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, some cancers and even encourage autism to occur.

A healthy diet is one of the most effective ways to keep gut health in tiptop condition. The following foods will not only improve your gut health, but the overall functionalities of your body as well.

Mimosa

Mimosa Pudica has recently been linked to being one of the best natural herbs to combatting parasites. Intestinal parasites are a major concern you should never take lightly, as the damage it can create is terrible. Native to South East Asia, this plant consists of anti-venom properties that can offer effective anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasite, and anti-fungal relief. The water extract of the roots in this plant is what creates the enzymes that fight negative bacteria in the gut. This plant is best consumed in tea form, as it will calm the stomach tremendously well.

Sauerkraut

The probiotic content of sauerkraut is impeccable to say the least. Consuming this fermented food can help to balance out any bacteria levels in your gut and cleanse out all bad toxins from its lining. Sauerkraut also contains a decent amount of iron and vitamin C which help to contribute to stronger overall immune systems. This food is best eaten fresh not on an empty stomach. Implementing this herb to your daily diet regime will effectively help with any gut problems you may have. Paired with a balance diet, you can replenish your stomach of all negative ailments.

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Kimchi

Kimchi also being a fermented food, can also greatly help promote stronger gut health. Being a probiotic lactic acid bacteria, kimchi can also help to regulate the metabolism and overall bowel movements. To many it is among the superfoods of Asia, as it really does wonders for the body. Along with improved gut health, eating kimchi regularly can also promote anti-aging, improve intestinal flora, and stimulate the immune system.

Garlic

Garlic is a natural prebiotic that has been shown to help burn off the bad bacteria the body creates when exposed to unhealthy food. The digestive tract becomes more fluid when its given an active prebiotic, which is why it’s always wise to add a good amount of garlic in your dishes. Garlic can also help to better breakdown fats in the body and combat further negative bacteria from building up.

Miso Soup

Miso soup, a staple in almost every Japanese restaurant is actually served for good reason. Packed with almost all essential minerals like vitamin E, B, and K, as well as folic acid, consuming this soup before a meal can promote faster digestion. This works by the bacteria of the miso coating the gut with additives that will fight unwanted bacteria from attaching. Drinking a bit of the soup before every big meal can also prevent stomach ache and fatigue.

Avocado

One of the purest and healthiest forms of fats that can be found, avocado is an essential food group that your body will thank you for. Avocados also contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals along with phytonutrients that help clean up your gut lining efficiently. The insoluble fiber content also promotes regular bowel activity.

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Oatmeal

Along with being very heart healthy, oatmeal also has various positive properties for promoting good gut health. Being another natural source of prebiotic fiber, when paired with a decent amount of probiotics, the body will naturally be able to break down foods with ease. A couple other great natural prebiotic fiber rich foods include bananas, asparagus, and artichoke. The good bacteria of these foods are also the only bacteria the gut needs to stay healthy.

Chickpeas

Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, chickpeas should definitely be on the top of everyone’s grocery list. Along with improving your overall digestion, eating chickpeas can also help to curb any cravings, level hormone levels, and decrease the risk of serious diseases. The high protein content of chickpeas also makes it an excellent vegetarian and vegan option to receive this vital macronutrient.

Broccoli

Broccoli offering various health benefits are among one of the most beneficial leafy greens you can eat. Veggies, in general, are a fantastic way to get quality fiber in your system along with vitamins and minerals, however broccoli simply contains such a pure amount of all those things. Broccoli helps to protect the gut with a research discovery of a molecular mechanism found in the vegetable. Incorporating a decent amount of broccoli to your diet can not only promote adequate bowel movements but will also help to speed up your metabolism as well. You will also find that your appetite will not be as hefty as normal.

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Chia Seeds

Chia seeds will probably have to be one of the best seeds to add to any diet. This seed delivers a great amount of nutrients for very low calorie content. The antioxidants in chia seeds can also help fight bad toxins from developing. This seed is mostly pure fiber making it a carb that your body actually needs and craves to sustain itself. The protein content and omega-3 fatty acids of chia seeds can also help to suppress the appetite as well. The quality of nutrients in these seeds is best to consume fresh or through overnight oats. Definitely a must-have item for all you health enthusiasts.

Being health conscious for the benefit of your gut should never be something you are ashamed of. Awareness is power, especially when it comes to improving your overall body’s function capabilities. The more your research on how to take care of your gut and health, the better actions you can take to reach your goals. By adding these food items to your life, not only will you notice a positive physical change, but you will also feel tremendously better as well.

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