Scientists find darknet drug markets have little influence on global trafficking

The darknet, cyberspace’s filthy flea-market for forbidden goods, isn’t the global drug network it’s been made out to be. According to Oxford’s new darknet drug map it’s more like your local pusher’s Etsy page than Amazon’s marketplace. The researchers used darknet web crawlers to scrape the marketplaces of several top underground markets including Alphabay, Hansa, Traderoute, and Valhalla. Data gleaned from the search was then organized geographically to provide insights into what effect darknet markets have on the global illicit drug-trade. According to their white paper, the team tracked and classified data pertaining to nearly 1.5 million trades occurring on…

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Immunotherapy Drug Proven Remarkably Successful Against Serious Stem Cell Transplant Complication

Breakthrough Immunotherapy

Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) is a condition that can develop in response to an allogeneic stem cell transplant or a reduced-intensity allogeneic transplant. It can be both acute and severe, and has the potential to be life-threatening. This condition has been a major stumbling block in advancing stem cell research, as life-threatening consequences of transplants are not exactly ideal. But this all could change with a phase-2 clinical trial, presented by Seattle Children’s Research Institute at the 59th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting, that shows how an immunotherapy drug can almost entirely eliminate severe acute GvHD.

Dr. Leslie Kean, the trial’s principal investigator and associate director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s, said that “Given the serious threat of graft-versus-host disease, new approaches to make stem cell transplants safer for patients remain a critical unmet need. To see such striking results in patients at extremely high risk for graft-versus-disease is incredibly encouraging.”

This trial tested the drug abatacept (orencia) in patients who developed GvHD from hematopoietic stem cell transplants. When the drug was used in addition to standard GvHD treatment, it reduced the occurrence of acute, grade III-IV GvHD from 32 to 3 percent. These incredible results were for both adults and children. The group who received abatacept alongside their normal treatment experienced increased survival and recovery.

Advancing Stem Cell Research

Kean stated that “As a transplant physician, it’s beyond heartbreaking to witness a patient develop severe acute graft-versus-host disease after having their leukemia cured through bone marrow transplant. To have a therapy at our disposal that safely targets just the T cells causing graft-versus-host disease would represent a major step forward in stem cell transplantation. It not only offers new hope that we can prevent graft-versus-host disease upfront, but that we can also significantly improve outcomes for patients requiring high-risk transplants.”

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After these successful results, the second cohort finished enrollment in November, with 140 total patients. Data from this next step in this study will likely be available within the next six months.

This continuing study will not only provide necessary improved treatment for those battling life-threatening complications through this condition — it will also advance stem cell research. Blindness, non-healing wounds, HIV, and even aging are among the seemingly countless conditions that stem cell treatments could alleviate. But, among the many roadblocks in this type of research is this very serious disease. Until now, it was something that was a clear and life-threatening reality of stem cell transplants. But thanks to this study, there is better treatment and there could be better prevention of this heartbreaking disease.

This could allow research to push forward without patients having to risk their lives. So, while it could save lives through treatment with the immunotherapy drug, it could also save lives by allowing advanced medical research using stem cells to move forward. This development is a win-win for the future of medicine, the future of stem cell research and its life-saving potential.

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Apple Removes Violent Games from App Store Amid Philippine Drug War

An open letter which was sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook on behalf of The Asian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ANPUD) has resulted in the iPhone maker removing “a number of games” whose storylines appeared to glorify the ongoing Philippine drug wars from the App Store.

ANPUD, which is described as an organization who represents “victims of illegal drugs,” cited in its letter that the call to remove the titles from its App Store was supported by over “100 organizations who felt that they were normalizing murder,” according to Patently Apple.

“Numerous apps currently available through Apple are actively promoting the war on people who use drugs in the Philippines,” the letter states, noting how it’s “a war that has resulted in the state-endorsed murders of more than 13,000 people – many of them children – ostensibly suspected of using or selling drugs since June 2016.”

The ‘War on Poor’

Back in June, 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte initiated what some on the international stage have referred to as the ‘War on Poor’ — a highly-controversial “war on people,” in the Philippines, who are suspected of using or selling drugs.

Duterte has not only been accused of instating a so-called ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy for Filipino Police, but he’s even extended a ‘license-to-kill’ unto private Filipino citizens, granting them freedom from prosecution if they’re charged for killing those suspected of being involved in drug trade.

According to ANPUD, the war “has brought destruction of millions of lives of people who use drugs, including thousands who are imprisoned under inhumane conditions, their families and children who were already the most marginalized in and vulnerable to the Philippines system.”

A number of the games in question were reportedly based on storylines featuring Duterte, with or without Philippine National Police director general, Ronald dela Rosa, shooting people amid a typical point of view of first-person shooter interface.

While Apple has not publicly acknowledged receiving ANPUD’s letter, the organization claims that, since sending it, most of the “games in question” have been removed.

“We did not receive a direct response from Mr. Cook or Apple Inc. however, most of the apps (games) no longer appear in the search result of app store,” ANPUD said, noting that the titles in question included ‘Duterte knows Kung Fu: Pinoy Crime Fighter’, ‘Duterte Running Man Challenge Game’, ‘Fighting Crime 2’, ‘Tsip Bato: Ang Bumangga Giba!’ — all of which featured Duterte or De La Rosa shooting down criminals.

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Apple seemingly culls games hyping Philippines drug war from App Store

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Apple appears to have pulled from its App Store a number of games depicting the extrajudicial killing of drug users by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and national police chief Ronaldo "Bato" dela Rosa after activists demanded the company remove the titles for breaching App Store guidelines.
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