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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

The best mobile games of 2017

Whether you’re a seasoned gamer who’s traditionally stuck to consoles, or someone who’s never been interested much in gaming before, now might just be the perfect time to plunge into the world of mobile gaming and a good way to start is with these – the best mobile games of 2017…

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Mobile gaming has never been more popular. It’s estimated that mobile gaming will have been worth approximately $40 billion to the economy this year, and this is a figure that is only set to rise as mobile devices become more sophisticated and more capable of offering a fulfilling gaming experience. It’s also likely to soar as mobile games become ever more sophisticated, too.

Whether you’re a seasoned gamer who’s traditionally stuck to consoles, or someone who’s never been interested much in gaming before, now might just be the perfect time to plunge into the world of mobile gaming and a good way to start is with these – the best mobile games of 2017…

Planescape: Torment

Juste recently released, Planescape: Torment is a fantastic RPG game, which is set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, which would pretty much guarantee it a market even if it was poor, but it isn’t! It’s actually a really great game with a complex story, compelling and often odd characters and lots of fun. It’s undoubtedly one of the most stunning games made for mobile to date.

Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire

Basically, Final Fantasy meets real time strategy, fans of the long-lived Nintendo franchise will love this recent offering from the much beloved Japanese company, especially if they’re also fans of real-time strategy games because the title melds the two seamlessly. When you play this title, you get lost in the world it conjures – a world on the brink of chaos where magic and monsters are very real, and you must do battle to survive. The real-time aspects of the game work well and enable you to make like-minded friends all over the world.

Zip–Zap

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Definitely, one for the science nerds and puzzle fans, this very minimalistic, physics-based puzzle game is a whole lot of fun. It has lots of small levels, which means you can dip in and out and think on each and every puzzle for as long as you need, which prolongs the fun. What is the game about? Basically, you must manipulate various objects, so that they stay on the screen and you do this by solving puzzles and manipulating your device correctly. It can be infuriatingly difficult at times, but that just makes it all the sweeter when you get it right.

Arkanoid vs Space Invaders

If you’re a fan of retro games like Asteroids, Arkanoids and yes, Space Invaders, you’ll love this simple game that combines the alien killing shoot ‘em up that is Space Invades with the simply joy of bouncing a ball to break bricks that is Arkanoids into one very enjoyable experience.

Layton’s Mystery Journey

This latest foray into the world of Professor Layton focuses on his daughter Katrielle, who follows in her father’s footsteps by starting her very own detective agency, aided by a very cute talking dog and a helpful assistant. If you love games that keep your mind active, force you to see out clues and complete puzzles with a view to solving a bigger mystery, then you should seriously enjoy this one.

Monument Valley 2

If you like puzzles, then you’ll love Monument Valley 2, which like its predecessor, the original Monument Valley is one of the most beautiful and unique mobile games out there. Some would argue it isn’t quite as magical as the first foray, but if you want to solve puzzles and be enchanted at the same time, this is the one for you.

Pigeon Wings

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Pigeon Wings really surprised us by being a fantastic little scroller game. Basically, this game if full of pigeons who also happen to be great pilots and they, aka you, are tasked with saving the city in which they reside. You need to work very hard to maintain your altitude and move through the cityscape at speed, which means a lot of moving your device around frantically. If you liked flappy bird, it’s kind of like that, but way more complex.

Age of Rivals

Age of Rivals is a good little title for those of you who like your games to be quick-fire. Designed to be done and dusted within around 10 minutes, this game, which is based on real-world card games like magic, is all about fighting your opponent to conquer cities and build up a stronger civilization. Although it’s quick, it is still pretty complex, and it does have some good characterization, which makes it stand out from some of the lesser offerings.

If you download any of these games, you will not be disappointed.

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

It’s 2020, time to teach teens ‘safe’ sexting

This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex. It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.

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Preaching sexual abstinence to youth was popular for a number of decades, but research repeatedly found that such educational messages fell short in their intended goals. Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Since the advent of photo- and video-sharing via phones, children have received similar fear-based messages to discourage sexting – the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images (photos or video) usually via mobile devices. Unfortunately, messages of sexting abstinence don’t seem to be reducing the prevalence of adolescents sharing nudes.

Consequently, in a new paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, say that it is time to teach youth “safe” sexting.

“The truth is that adolescents have always experimented with their sexuality, and some are now doing so via sexting,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., co-author and a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We need to move beyond abstinence-only, fear-based sexting education or, worse yet, no education at all. Instead, we should give students the knowledge they need to make informed decisions when being intimate with others, something even they acknowledge is needed.”

Hinduja and co-author Justin Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, acknowledge that although participating in sexting is never 100 percent “safe” (just like engaging in sex), empowering youth with strategies to reduce possible resultant harm seems prudent.

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Hinduja and Patchin collected (unpublished) data in April 2019 from a national sample of nearly 5,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and found that 14 percent had sent and 23 percent had received sexually explicit images. These figures represent an increase of 13 percent for sending and 22 percent for receiving from what they previously found in 2016.

The authors do want youth to understand that those who sext open themselves up to possible significant and long-term consequences, such as humiliation, extortion, victimization, school sanction, reputational damage, and even criminal charges. But they also want youth who are going to do it anyway to exercise wisdom and discretion to prevent avoidable fallout.

“This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex,” said Hinduja. “It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.”

Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Photo by Jack Sharp from Unsplash.com

Hinduja and Patchin provide suggested themes encapsulated in 10 specific, actionable messages that adults can share with adolescents in certain formal or informal contexts after weighing their developmental and sexual maturity.

  1. If someone sends you a sext, do not send it to — or show — anyone else. This could be considered nonconsensual sharing of pornography, and there are laws prohibiting it and which outline serious penalties (especially if the image portrays a minor).
  2. If you send someone a sext, make sure you know and fully trust them. “Catfishing”– where someone sets up a fictitious profile or pretends to be someone else to lure you into a fraudulent romantic relationship (and, often, to send sexts) — happens more often than you think. You can, of course, never really know if they will share it with others or post it online, but do not send photos or video to people you do not know well.
  3. Do not send images to someone who you are not certain would like to see it (make sure you receive textual consent that they are interested). Sending unsolicited explicit images to others could also lead to criminal charges.
  4. Consider boudoir pictures. Boudoir is a genre of photography that involves suggestion rather than explicitness. Instead of nudes, send photos that strategically cover the most private of private parts. They can still be intimate and flirty but lack the obvious nudity that could get you in trouble.
  5. Never include your face. Of course, this is so that images are not immediately identifiable as yours but also because certain social media sites have sophisticated facial recognition algorithms that automatically tag you in any pictures you would want to stay private.
  6. Make sure the images do not include tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or other features that could connect them to you. In addition, remove all jewelry before sharing. Also, consider your surroundings. Bedroom pictures could, for example, include wall art or furniture that others recognize.
  7. Turn your device’s location services off for all of your social media apps, make sure your photos are not automatically tagged with your location or username, and delete any meta-data digitally attached to the image.
  8. If you are being pressured or threatened to send nude photos, collect evidence when possible. Having digital evidence (such as screenshots of text messages) of any maliciousness or threats of sextortion will help law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution (if necessary) and social media sites in their flagging and deletion of accounts.
  9. Use apps that provide the capability for sent images to be automatically and securely deleted after a certain amount of time. You can never guarantee that a screenshot was not taken, nor that another device was not used to capture the image without you being notified, but using specialized apps can decrease the chance of distribution.
  10. Be sure to promptly delete any explicit photos or videos from your device. This applies to images you take of yourself and images received from someone else. Having images stored on your device increases the likelihood that someone — a parent, the police, a hacker — will find them. Possessing nude images of minors may have criminal implications. In 2015, for example, a North Carolina teen was charged with possessing child pornography, although the image on his phone was of himself.
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Health & Wellness

Having less sex linked to earlier menopause

Women who reported engaging in sexual activity weekly were 28% less likely to have experienced menopause at any given age than women who engaged in sexual activity less than monthly.

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Women who engage in sexual activity weekly or monthly have a lower risk of entering menopause early relative to those who report having some form of sex less than monthly, according to a new UCL study.

The researchers observed that women, who reported engaging in sexual activity weekly, were 28% less likely to have experienced menopause at any given age than women who engaged in sexual activity less than monthly. Sexual activity includes sexual intercourse, oral sex, sexual touching and caressing or self-stimulation.

The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, is based on data from the USA’s Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). It’s the largest, most diverse and most representative longitudinal cohort study available to research aspects of the menopause transition.

First author on the study, PhD candidate Megan Arnot (UCL Anthropology), said: “The findings of our study suggest that if a woman is not having sex, and there is no chance of pregnancy, then the body ‘chooses’ not to invest in ovulation, as it would be pointless. There may be a biological energetic trade-off between investing energy into ovulation and investing elsewhere, such as keeping active by looking after grandchildren.

“The idea that women cease fertility in order to invest more time in their family is known as the Grandmother Hypothesis, which predicts that the menopause originally evolved in humans to reduce reproductive conflict between different generations of females, and allow women to increase their inclusive fitness through investing in their grandchildren.”

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During ovulation, the woman’s immune function is impaired, making the body more susceptible to disease. Given a pregnancy is unlikely due to a lack of sexual activity, then it would not be beneficial to allocate energy to a costly process, especially if there is the option to invest resources into existing kin.

The research is based on data collected from 2,936 women, recruited as the baseline cohort for the SWAN study in 1996/1997.

The mean age at first interview was 45 years old. Non-Hispanic Caucasian women were most represented in the sample (48%), and the majority of women were educated to above a high school level. On average they had two children, were mostly married or in a relationship (78%), and living with their partner (68%).

The women were asked to respond to several questions, including whether they had engaged in sex with their partner in the past six months, the frequency of sex including whether they engaged in sexual intercourse, oral sex, sexual touching or caressing in the last six months and whether they had engaged in self-stimulation in the past six months. The most frequent pattern of sexual activity was weekly (64%).

None of the women had yet entered menopause, but 46% were in early peri-menopause (starting to experience menopause symptoms, such as changes in period cycle and hot flashes) and 54% were pre-menopausal (having regular cycles and showing no symptoms of peri-menopause or menopause).

Interviews were carried out over a ten-year follow-up period, during which 1,324 (45%) of the 2,936 women experienced a natural menopause at an average age of 52.

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By modelling the relationship between sexual frequency and the age of natural menopause, women of any age who had sex weekly had a hazard ratio of 0.72, whereas women of any age who had sex monthly had a hazard ratio of 0.81.

This provided a likelihood whereby women of any age who had sex weekly were 28% less likely to experience the menopause compared to those who had sex less than monthly. Likewise, those who had sex monthly were 19% less likely to experience menopause at any given age compared to those who had sex less than monthly.

The researchers controlled for characteristics including oestrogen level, education, BMI, race, smoking habits, age at first occurrence of menstruation, age at first interview and overall health.

The study also tested whether living with a male partner affected menopause as a proxy to test whether exposure to male pheromones delayed menopause. The researchers found no correlation, regardless of whether the male was present in the household or not. Last author, Professor Ruth Mace (UCL Anthropology), added: “The menopause is, of course, an inevitability for women, and there is no behavioural intervention that will prevent reproductive cessation. Nonetheless, these results are an initial indication that menopause timing may be adaptive in response to the likelihood of becoming pregnant.”

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Health & Wellness

Transgender students face higher levels of substance abuse

This misuse of drugs by transgender individuals is thought not to be anything to do with their non-gender conformity but with the discrimination that they, as transgender individuals, face on a daily basis.

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A study by The Journal of School Health has found transgender students to be 2.5 times more likely to try and use drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine than their non-transgender peers. Transgender students were also found to be twice as likely to misuse prescription medication than other students their age. 

This misuse of drugs by transgender individuals is thought not to be anything to do with their non-gender conformity but with the discrimination that they, as transgender individuals, face on a daily basis, with stigma being one of the primary drivers of transgender mental health issues across the world. 

In the US more than 50% of transgender individuals report suffering from depression or anxiety and LGBTQ individuals are also 7 times more likely to consider death by suicide than heterosexual gender-conforming individuals. 

At home, 19% of transgender individuals have experienced domestic violence as a result of their gender nonconformity and at work, more than 50% of transgender individuals have experienced discrimination. 

With so much stigma at home, on the street and in the workplace it’s no wonder that some transgender individuals are turning to narcotics as a way to numb the pain and escape their realities. 

Dr. Pedro, a scientist who helped conduct the drug use study has said “When it comes to transgender teens, it’s the transphobia that impacts [their use of drugs], not being transgender. In order to reduce the likelihood of a kid to resort to drugs as a means to cope, there has to be some sort of social support mechanism,” 

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Evidence from initiatives in the US supports the idea that better support systems and less stigmatizing communities can have a positive impact on the mental health of transgender individuals. Simply providing transgender individuals with appropriate toilet facilities was found to reduce the likelihood of transgender teens committing suicide by a staggering 45% and the introduction of same-sex marriage saw a huge drop in suicide attempts by 134,000.

So what else can be done to help support transgender individuals and reduce their need to rely on narcotics?

The evidence provided by initiatives in the US proves that removing the stigma surrounding being transgender is key to reducing suicide rates and improving transgender mental health but this won’t happen overnight. We need to see an introduction of more support systems for transgender people in the form of support groups and access to counseling and we need to provide transgender people with access to inpatient drug rehab centers if they have already fallen too far. 

To remove stigma in the community, schools and governors need to focus on transgender awareness and education, helping friends, families, and co-workers to understand what it means to be transgender and how they can help to ease the weight that their loved one, friend or colleague is carrying. Education also needs to start far earlier and be taught in schools to help students grow up into compassionate individuals with a wider understanding of the LGBTQ community and the challenges it faces. 

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Health & Wellness

Hidden sexual-arousal disorder can compromise mental health

It’s important that people know of this medical condition and that it is primarily a neurological problem, not a psychiatric one.

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Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD)–which is almost exclusively experienced by females and characterized by spontaneous and unwanted sexual arousal unrelated to desire–can compromise individuals’ mental health and well-being and severely damage relationships with partners. Results from a new study by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) indicate that PGAD can be caused by altered firing of nerves that carry sensations from the genitalia or by damage to the lowest parts of the spinal cord. The study also found that neurological treatments benefit many patients.

“It’s important that people know of this medical condition and that it is primarily a neurological problem, not a psychiatric one,” said senior author Bruce Price, MD, an MGH Department of Neurology investigator who is also chief of Neurology at McLean Hospital. “Many affected women are silent and undercover–it’s in no way a fun condition, and it is difficult for patients to address their symptoms with their doctors, who have typically never heard of PGAD.” The problem can be especially troubling for adolescents, causing confusion, shame, and fear.

The study, published in PAIN Reports, included 10 females whose PGAD symptoms began between ages 11 to 70 years. Although the study involved only a small number of patients, it’s still one of the first to carefully examine PGAD in a thorough and scientific manner.

Spinal nerve-root cysts were detected in four patients and generalized sensory nerve damage (neuropathy) in two. One patient with symptoms since childhood was born with a small defect in her lowest spinal cord, one had a lumbosacral herniated disc in the lower back, and another developed short-lived PGAD when she abruptly stopped a prescribed antidepressant medication.

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All psychiatric and gynecological treatments were ineffective, and injecting local anesthetics had no lasting benefit. In contrast, neurological treatments–such as cyst removal and treating nerve damage–were effective in 80% of patients.

“Physicians need to be aware of PGAD and inquire about it when patients experience other pelvic pain or urological symptoms that often accompany PGAD,” said first author Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Neurology at MGH. “It’s treatable, but the treatment depends on the cause. By identifying some common causes–and localizing them to specific regions of the sacral nervous system–our study provides direction on how to help patients and to guide future research.”

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Travel

4 Ways to get around while vacationing in Washington D.C.

Getting around the city is made easy with an abundance of different options available from public transport to bus tours.

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Washington D.C. is the capital of the U.S and a truly amazing place to visit. With its wealth of museums, exhibits, and history, it is a vacation spot that should not be missed. Getting around the city is made easy with an abundance of different options available from public transport to bus tours.

Here are four ways to get around while visiting this beautiful city. 

Car service

Booking a chauffeured car service is a great alternative to hiring a car. Whether it’s a Dulles car service straight from the airport to your accommodation or a trip from your hotel for a night at the theatre, it is an extremely comfortable and luxurious way to get there.

Metrorail

With 91 stations dotted around the city, the Metrorail is D.C.’s underground service. It is open from 5 am and closes at midnight every weekday making it a great way to travel. Although you can buy individual tickets, purchasing a SmarTrip card is a good idea. It’s a travel money card that credit can be added to at any time. It can also be used on the Metrobus, another means of public transport in D.C. Underground maps are available online and at each station. They are easy to follow so you won’t have any trouble finding your way around.

Metrobus

The Metrobus is Washington’s public bus service. There are around 11,500 bus stops within the districts of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Metrobus carries out around 400,000 trips every day making it extremely easy to get from A to B. Boarding with bicycles is permitted and each bus has wheelchair access. As previously mentioned, you can use your SmarTrip card on this service too. You can also use the card to pay for the parking of cars or bikes. Washington has a fabulous public transport system. Using it could save you time as well as money.

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Bicycle hire

If you enjoy cycling, hiring a bike is a great way to get around the city. Whether it be for a whole day or just a few hours, several companies offer this service. Rates can vary, so make some inquiries when you get there and shop around if needs be. Traditional or electric bikes can be rented and if you have young children trailers are also available. This will allow you to easily get around without little feet becoming tired.  Many companies do bike tours which is a brilliant way to explore and find out a bit more from those in the know. Whilst the city hosts many bus tours which is also a great way to see the sights, a bike tour can allow you to get closer to each attraction. If you prefer the idea of a Segway tour then many companies can arrange those too.

Washington D.C. is an amazing city with a host of different attractions for all ages and interests so, regardless of how you choose to get around, you will not be disappointed. 

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Travel

Marriage equality, trans rights upheld in Costa Rica

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) issued a landmark ruling to recognize marriage equality and transgender rights in Costa Rica. The decision came after the Costa Rican government asked for an advisory opinion on whether it has an obligation to extend property rights to same-sex couples.

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Rainbow celebration in Costa Rica.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) issued a landmark ruling to recognize marriage equality and transgender rights in Costa Rica. The decision came after the Costa Rican government asked for an advisory opinion on whether it has an obligation to extend property rights to same-sex couples.

In the ruling issued by seven judges, it was stated that the government “must recognize and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex.”

Six of the seven judges also ruled that it is necessary for governments “to guarantee access to all existing forms of domestic legal systems, including the right to marriage, in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples without discrimination.”

The Costa Rican government similarly asked for advisory opinion from the courts on the issue of allowing transgender people to change their name and gender marker on identity documents.

On this, the ruling says that the Costa Rican government must allow transgender people to legally change their name and gender marker on official documents.

In the region, Mexico City, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay are among the jurisdictions where transgender people can legally change their name and gender without undergoing surgery. For its part, Cuba has been providing since 2008 for free gender affirmation surgeries through its national health care system.

IACHR’s ruling is legally binding in Costa Rica and 19 other countries throughout the Western Hemisphere that currently recognize the convention. IACHR oversees Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala. It also rules over Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Suriname and Uruguay.

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