your health

As deadly skin cancer rates keep climbing, surgeon general says to stop tanning and wear sunscreen

July 30, 2014
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The acting U.S. surgeon general delivered sobering information in a report on skin cancer released Tuesday. Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak warned that melanoma cases have gone up 200 percent since 1973, and one of the ways to combat that scary statistic is to stop tanning.

"We need more states and institutions on board with these policies that discourage or restrict indoor tanning by our youth," he said. "Tanned skin is damaged skin." Lushniak is calling for state and local officials to ensure that parks have enough shade, and for schools to plan outdoor activities when the sun is lower and to teach children the importance of wearing hats and sunscreen, The Associated Press reports.

Lushniak's goal is to raise awareness of skin cancer, which is seen as a public health problem. More than $8 billion is spent every year to treat skin cancer, and the Department of Health and Human Services says that five million people are treated every year.

The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma kills 9,000 people a year, but is mostly preventable. The Melanoma Research Foundation says that by using a tanning bed before turning 30, a person's risk of getting melanoma increases by 75 percent. "We need to change the social norm with respect to tanning and shatter the myth that tanned skin is somehow a sign of health," Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services, said.

needs more Hingle McCringleberry

Key & Peele return with a timely spoof of football player names

2:36am ET

Key & Peele are back with yet another East-West Bowl sketch featuring fictional football players with outrageous names, and they are as over-the-top as ever (Stumptavian Roboclick, Swordless Mimeclown, and Triple Parakeet-Shoes are among the tamer ones). For this third installment, however, we're also treated to cameos from actual players with unique monikers — hey there, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and D'Brickashaw Ferguson — showing that they're pretty good sports off the field, too. —Catherine Garcia

Beauty and the beasts

Watch the latest beauty craze: Live snail facials

2:16am ET

For just $30 (plus airfare to Thailand) you can partake in the future of beauty regimens, now. The treatment features live snails making slime trails across your face — and according to The Associated Press' Denis D. Gray, it's actually pretty relaxing. The live-snail facial started in Tokyo in 2013, and has spread to London and spas in China, but helix aspera muller glycoconjugates — snail mucus — has been used for skin treatments since ancient Greece, Gray says.

The duo who run the spa in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that Gray visited are from France. "We take care of the snails as if they were our family, our babies," says one partner, Luc Champeyroux. "You can see they look very good." And if the thought of having snails crawl on your face, spreading their mucus and grazing with their 14,000 microscopic teeth sounds unpleasant, Gray offers this verdict: "If truth be told, I sort of missed my harmless, sensuous sextet when they were dislodged." To see the snails in action, watch the AP video below. —Peter Weber

on trial

In court, heroin dealer explains what it was like to sell on Silk Road

2:03am ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Wednesday, a heroin dealer shared with jurors in a Manhattan federal court what his experience was like selling on Silk Road, the anonymous online marketplace.

Michael Duch, 40, was a witness at the criminal trial of Ross Ulbricht, who allegedly ran Silk Road using the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts. Duch said he first started selling in April 2013 because he needed money for his own $2,000 to $3,000 a week heroin addiction, USA Today reports. He signed up using the name Deezletime, and was soon shipping heroin across the United States.

Duch said he would buy his supply from a street dealer in New Jersey, then double the price and sell it online as "East Coast style heroin," making $345.69 for each brick, or 50 small bags. Because so many customers wanted their packages quickly to avoid becoming "dopesick," he offered same-day shipping, following Silk Road instructions to wrap the product in moisture-barrier packets inside of plain mailing containers. 
Duch was paid in Bitcoin, the electronic currency used on Silk Road, and most of his money was going to his addiction or back into the business.

While trying to ship 25 packages of heroin at a post office in October 2013, Duch was arrested, the same month Ulbricht was nabbed in San Francisco. He agreed to cooperate with authorities right away, and said during his testimony that the whole thing seemed like a surefire way to make money and keep up his drug habit. "I saw the relative ease that came with it," he said. "There was a perceived level of safety and anonymity. I felt I could get away with it."

Negotiations not love songs

Raul Castro demands the U.S. return Guantanamo Bay before ties restored

1:23am ET
Diego Azubel - Pool/Getty Images

Well, this could complicate the U.S.-Cuban diplomatic thaw: On Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro publicly issued some new demands before the two countries normalize bilateral relations. Among them: Ending the U.S. trade embargo, agreeing to "give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base," and paying Cuba hundreds of millions of dollars as "just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they're suffered" from the embargo.

Castro's demands, made in a speech at a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Costa Rica, aren't likely to be met — especially the "just compensation" one and the return of Gitmo, which the U.S. has leased from Cuba since 1903.

But that doesn't mean the high-level talks to restore diplomatic and economic ties is doomed, recent U.S. Interests Section chief in Havana John Caulfield tells The Associated Press. In fact, it may signal that Castro is feeling the heat. Cubans have a "huge expectation of change" since Castro and President Obama announced their historic rapprochement plan in December, he said. And "the more the Cubans feel obligated to defend the status quo and to say that's nothing going to change, the more pressure it indicates to me is on them to make these changes."

nature

Extremely rare red fox makes an appearance at Yosemite

12:45am ET

For the first time in a century, the Sierra Nevada red fox was spotted in Yosemite National Park.

The rare animal — there are less than 50 in North America — was photographed by motion-sensitive cameras on Dec. 13 and Jan. 4, and Yosemite officials are now trying to figure out if the same fox was spotted twice. "The chance of running into them is very unusual," park spokeswoman Kari Cobb told the Los Angeles Times.

The red fox is one of 14 mammals protected by the state of California, and since sightings are so rare, not much is known about the animal beyond the fact that it's shy and burrows in soil and logs at 6,000 feet elevation. This is the first time one has been seen at the park since 1915, and Cobb is taking that as a good sign, thinking it might mean they will be able to "make a comeback."

Things that make you go hmmm

Rachel Maddow questions America's 'creepy, totally dependent relationship' with Saudi Arabia

12:17am ET

The roster of American officials, from President Obama on down, who went to Saudi King Abdullah's funeral is astounding, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow told David Letterman on Wednesday night's Late Show. Letterman, wading into foreign policy, noted that America's relationship with Saudi Arabia is confusing: "They know we don't like them, and we know they don't like us, but we pretend we're best buddies."

"It's a very awkward thing," Maddow agreed, citing a public beheading the day before Obama arrived and the fact that Saudi women aren't allowed to drive. "And we never bring up these things, because we've got this creepy, totally dependent relationship with them, that we just agree to not discuss." Next up on Letterman, how to best handle post-Soviet Russia? —Peter Weber

vandals ruin everything

Access restricted at famous New Orleans cemetery due to vandalism

January 28, 2015
Facebook.com/StLouisCemetery1

Want to get into St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans? Unless you're with an official escort, have ties to someone buried there, or are a member of the spirit world, the oldest cemetery in the city is off limits.

Vandals have long targeted the above-ground plots at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which dates back to the 1700s and is owned by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. But lately, more and more people have been defacing the cemetery's most famous attraction, the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Last year, someone came after hours and painted the tomb pink, and while it's been a longstanding tradition to mark Xs on the grave for good luck, over the past few months the practice has picked up dramatically.

"It became apparent that we needed to take some action to protect the sanctity of the space, as well as the historic nature of the cemetery," Sarah McDonald, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, told Reuters. Starting in March, tour operators will have to register with the archdiocese and pay $40 for one visit or $4,500 for an annual pass, and visitors will have to go through them to get past the gates. The money brought in will go toward paying for more security.

unbelievable

Jewish community leader arrested, interrogated at Auschwitz

January 28, 2015
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The head of Rome's Jewish community found himself arrested Tuesday night at Auschwitz, the same concentration camp where his grandparents were murdered during the Holocaust.

Riccardo Pacifici was at Auschwitz for the 70th anniversary of its liberation, and while filming a live segment with the Italian show Matrix found that the gates to the camp had been closed. Pacifici, Jewish community spokesman Fabio Perugia, Matrix host David Parenzo, and two technicians spent an hour in the freezing cold, shouting for help and trying to get the attention of guards on security cameras, Haaretz reports. Finally, they decided to escape through an open window in the box office, which triggered an alarm.

Guards and Polish police officers quickly arrived and detained the group, questioning them onsite until 2:30 a.m. They were then moved to a station for further questioning, made difficult by language barriers, and finally released hours later once the Italian foreign ministry became involved. Pacifici told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that he was "astounded" by how they were treated. "They interrogated us until 6 in the morning — two Jews who had been locked inside the Auschwitz camp, where I lost some of my family," he said. "It's a shock. Our only crime was that we tried to get out through the window."

inquests

Woman killed during Sydney siege hit by police bullet ricochet

January 28, 2015
Don Arnold/Getty Images

A woman taken hostage during the siege at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney on Dec. 16 was killed by fragments from a police bullet or bullets, a coroner's representative said during an inquest into the event.

Jeremy Gormly said that 38-year-old lawyer Katrina Dawson was struck by six fragments and one hit a major blood vessel, Reuters reports. "She lost consciousness quickly and died shortly afterwards," he said. Police stormed into the cafe after gunman Man Haron Monis shot the cafe's manager, 34-year-old Tori Johnson; Gormly said that a police marksman saw Monis execute Johnson, and that Monis was then was killed instantly by several police bullets and bullet fragments to the body and head.

The inquest is taking place at the same time as a government inquiry into how Monis was able to get a gun and why he was granted bail while facing charges as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

down to the wire

New ISIS audio gives Jordan until sunset Thursday for prisoner swap

January 28, 2015

In a new audio message posted Wednesday, a person purported to be ISIS hostage and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto says that if Jordan does not bring a failed suicide bomber to the Turkish border by sunset Thursday, a Jordanian fighter pilot held by the group will be executed.

ISIS had previously said it would kill Goto and the pilot, Mu'ath al-Kasaesbeh, unless Jordan releases Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman who was put in prison for her involvement in a 2005 botched suicide attack that targeted a hotel in Amman, NBC News reports. The latest message only mentions al-Kasaesbeh's fate, and not Goto's.

Al-Kasaesbeh was captured in December when his jet crashed near Raqqa, Syria, and Jordan's information minister said earlier on Wednesday that the country is willing to swap al-Rishawi for its pilot. Although NBC News says it cannot verify the authenticity of the new recording, posted on an ISIS internet forum, it said it does sound similar to previous messages.

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