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What the world is reading


New scientific breakthroughs have put the spotlight on DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, the most important of that fashionable class of dietary chemicals, the omega-3 fatty acids. It is found most famously in fatty fish and its health benefits include better memory, delay in mental decline and better heart health. 'Fish and no chips', published in last week's print edition of the The Economist reported a supposed link between diets lacking DHA and increase in the incidence of mind disorders. "DHA's displacement in modern diets by the omega-6 acids in cooking oils such as soya, maize and rapeseeds is a cause of worry. Many researchers think this shift - and the change in brain chemistry that it causes - explains the growth in recent times of depression, manic-depression, memory loss, schizophrenia and attention-deficit disorder.

There is also a body of data linking omega-3 deficiencies to violent behaviour. Countries whose citizens eat more fish (which is rich in DHA) are less prone to depression, suicide and murder. And new research by Dr Joseph Hibbeln, a researcher at America's National Institutes of Health, shows that low levels of DHA are a risk factor for suicide among American servicemen and women. America's department of defence has taken note. It will soon unveil a programme to supplement the diets of soldiers with omega-3 s. The US Food and Drug Administration may change one of its policies, too.

Meanwhile, eating more fish is not the only way out. The oceans are under enough pressure as it is. Hybrid crops with higher levels of DHA could help, too. Till then the best advice is probably : "Nothing in excess".


Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics, his article 'The truth about drones' highlights the link between the drone attacks in Pakistan and the rising incidence of home-grown terror in the US. "So why isn't the Obama administration listening ? It has so far been unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge the link between the drone attacks and the rising incidence of homegrown terror. Instead, the administration has accused the Pakistani Taliban of directing and probably financing the Times Square plot, even though Shahzad has said he went to the Taliban for help, not the other way around. Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, dismissed the reports that Shahzad was motivated by the drone strikes."

According to Gerges the Obama team has its rationale for drone attacks. It stresses that the drone attacks have degraded the capabilities of the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, without putting US troops in harm's way on Pakistani soil. What this calculus ignores is the damage drone attacks inflict on America's reputation in the Muslim world and the "possibilities of blowback," about which the CIA, which leads the drone war, has rightly warned.

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