Global Scan

'Magic' mushrooms to treat depression? Some researchers think so

Millions of people around the world are affected by depression and scientists are constantly looking for new and more effective treatments to help them. The Independent recently reported on two, shall we say, unusual lines of research: hip-hop music and magic mushrooms.

Magic mushrooms are the popular name for fungi that contain the hallucinogen psilocybin. Researchers believe the ingredient could reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. The study is not complete, but early tests seem to show it can relieve the anxiety faced by cancer patients.

Meanwhile, researchers at Cambridge University are testing hip hop, whose lyrics often paint a bleak picture of the world, as a way to reach people who feel equally hopeless. They point out that many hip hop songs, after focusing on problems, provide images of the world that rappers would like to live in — and function like positive visual imagery therapy. The Cambridge researchers have even identified three especially helpful songs, including Juicy by Notorious B.I.G.

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Even Vladimir Putin doesn't have this much control over the media

During a chilly evening event at this week's APEC summit in Beijing, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped a shawl around the shoulders of Peng Liyuan, the wife of his host, Chinese President Xi Jinping. Her husband was busy chatting with US President Barack Obama.

She gave an appreciative nod and the gesture was recorded and aired on state television. But Chinese authorities had second thoughts about the video. Apparently, they felt the moment of kindness by Putin reflected poorly on Chinese President Xi Jinping, who seemed inattentive by contrast. And jokes started circulating that the divorced Russian president had designs on Peng Liyuan, who is famous in her own right as a popular folk singer.  

So, according to The Guardian, state media censors quickly scrubbed the video from television and the Internet. We've got to think that Putin must have admired their control over media.

In Lebanon, an NGO supports dreams over education

Ahmad, a 10-year-old boy in Lebanon, wants to be a pro basketball player. That's not unlike countless other kids around the world. But Ahmad has an NGO supporting his efforts.

The group, Nawaya, helps disadvantaged kids to pursue their dreams. It bought Ahmad his basketball and shoes and even arranged for free basketball lessons. Ahmad loves the sport; so does his dad. He looks forward to his basketball lessons more than almost anything. But not everyone is convinced this is such a good idea.

While Ahmad loves basketball, he's not doing so well in school. His mom is worried that if basketball doesn't pan out, he'll have nothing to fall back on. Nawaya says its job is not to educate, but to help these kids dream. PRI's The World went to Lebanon to profile the country's youth, like Ahmad, for its series, "Young Lebanon."

Pakistani schools hold an anti-Malala day

Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been hailed around the world for standing up for the right of girls to an education in her native Pakistan. But at home, she's not universally admired, even by schools.

A group of Pakistani private schools decided to hold “I am not Malala" Day on Monday. The group condemns the young human rights activist for her "support for controversial novelist Salman Rushdie," The Hindu reports. The schools held walks, seminars and press conferences as part of "I am not Malala" Day festivities. 

The criticism centers on the young woman's book, which the group All Pakistan Private Schools Federation banned last year — claiming it contains “anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam content.” Malala is viewed by some Pakistanis as being an agent of the West, introduced to discredit and shame her country.

That pretty grass in your garden is now choking a crucial Oregon river

The Metolius River in Oregon is home to a thriving population of bull trout, as well as some recovering sockeye salmon runs. But that's not all. It has also become home to an invasive plant species called ribbon grass — an ornamental grass that is choking out native grasses and disrupting the ecosystem.

The ribbon grass arrived in the river in a not-at-all nefarious way. It was planted in someone's yard. But over time, the grass, which is particularly well-suited to that area of Oregon, expanded, taking root in the Metolius River.

PRI's Living on Earth reports that environmentalists have tried digging it up, cutting it back and even burning it. Their latest strategy involves applying herbicides to the grass by hand, with a sponge — a process that is working, but awfully time-consuming. 

What we're seeing on social

Weather around the world

Heavy rains in northern Italy on Tuesday led to flooding and a landslide. An elderly couple is missing, thought to be buried inside their home. Another woman, trapped by the rising waters, died of a heart attack. More than 8 inches (20 cm) of rain fell in 12 hours on some towns in the province of Liguria. Buildings were evacuated in several places, including Genoa, the largest city in the province, after three rivers overflowed their banks, according to the BBC.

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