Blogs from the underground: jail time and beatings for computer nerds in Egypt

Most of the countries on Reporters Without Borders' annual "enemies of the internet" blacklist -- China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba -- are nations that have long been identified as human rights abusers by human rights groups, so it's no surprise to hear that they're suppressing freedom of expression on the internet, as well. But the inclusion of Egypt on this year's list, released today, highlights new problems in a nation supposedly moving towards democracy. Among several hundred activists arrested and beaten in recent crackdowns are a handful of bloggers, targeted for speaking out in favor of reform online.

Other internet baddies include:

  • Belarus, thanks to its regime's control of the national communications system and a nasty penchant for blocking access to opposition websites around election time.
  • In Burma, the cost of home computers is so prohibitive that users must frequent internet cafes, where common email programs like Yahoo and Gmail are blocked, and government-installed spyware takes screenshots every five minutes to snoop at what customers are doing online.
  • In 2005, an Iranian blogger was given a two-year sentence in June for supposedly insulting the country's Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • No surprise to find North Korea among the offenders -- only a few thousand privileged folk have access to an extremely censored version of the internet, which includes just a few hundred websites, thirty or so of which are like this one. (Click on "English" to read it. Hilarious!)
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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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