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In the nervous aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing 70 years ago, citizens spent decades on alert for a nuclear war that would wipe out billions in a radioactive firestorm and render Earth uninhabitable.

Yet the apocalypse never came.

Instead an unprecedented period of peace took hold between nuclear-armed global powers aware that a wrong move could wipe out the human race.

Nukes could never stop smaller wars and proxy conflicts -- and look increasingly impotent against modern non-state threats such as jihadist groups or cyber-attacks -- but "they are still a necessary tool", said Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear security expert at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"It is pretty clear that mutually assured destruction has contributed to the absence of global war for the last 70 years," he said.

Nonetheless, as the atomic generation gives way to one that did not grow up building fallout shelters, some experts say nuclear weapons are no longer the ultimate guarantor of global peace.

Growing instability around the world -- the renewed rift between Russia and the West, simmering tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, a drive by China to modernise its nuclear forces and an ever-more bellicose North Korea -- have undermined efforts to reduce the global stockpile of nuclear weapons and keep doomsday at bay.

 

- Nuclear winter -

 

With ties between Moscow and the West at Cold War lows, Russia has fallen back on its nuclear threat, boosting its arsenal and increasing flights by strategic bombers, in what NATO has described as "dangerous nuclear sabre-rattling".

 

 

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry has got a helping hand from the Kennedy family since breaking his leg in a low-speed bike accident in May.

The 71-year-old, who is attending a regional security summit in Kuala Lumpur, has been getting around with the help of a polished black walking stick used by two generations of the Kennedy dynasty.

"This cane has a history," Kerry told delegates at a meeting held on the sidelines of an annual security forum hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The walking stick, he explained, was originally owned by Joseph P. Kennedy when he was Washington's ambassador to the United Kingdom during the early stages of the Second World War.

His son John F. Kennedy later used the cane before he became president, as did JFK's youngest brother Teddy who spent much of his life suffering from chronic back pain after he was pulled from the wreckage of a fatal air crash in 1964.

"So when Vicki Kennedy, (Teddy's) widow, heard that I had broken my leg, she knew I was going to need the cane," Kerry told delegates in the Malaysian capital.

Washington's top envoy, who looked to Teddy Kennedy as his political mentor, broke his right femur while riding a bike in the French Alps on May 31 during crunch negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.

After flying back to Boston for surgery, performed by a physician who had previously replaced both of his hips, secure phone lines were set up in his hospital room so that he could keep working on the Iran deal, he later told the Boston Globe.

 

 

Sitting on a cold concrete slab, Sunita Devi reapplies her red lipstick as she prepares for customers at a dingy brothel along the Indian capital's infamous GB road.

"We don't go to men, they come to us. We want to earn a living with dignity just as in any other profession," Devi, dressed in a traditional cream and green salwar-kameez, told AFP, in the bustling red light district.

Like millions of other sex workers, Devi, 35, is anxiously waiting for the country's highest court to hand down a ruling which they hope will finally clarify the age-old profession's legal status.

Soliciting is illegal in India along with running a brothel and pimping, but the law, an archaic throw back to British colonial times, is vague on prostitution itself.

Sex workers are hoping the Supreme Court's ruling will force the government to decriminalise the industry. They say they are tired of being randomly targeted by police and sent to correction homes where they say conditions are worse than jails.

Some 2,800 women and 4,800 men were arrested in 2013, the latest government figures show but with a conviction rate less than 35 percent, cases continue to languish in courts for years.

"Don't look at us as if we are criminals and please don't arrest our clients," said Devi, who was sold by the boyfriend she eloped with for 50,000 rupees (around $800) to a man who in turn struck a deal with a brothel pimp.

 

Devi opted to stay on at the brothel, where clients buy a token and select a woman of their choice, once she realised she could earn "a good 500 rupees ($8) a day or more" without having to "work too hard".

On average, she sees two men a night, up to five in busier times, in windowless cubicles with single beds.

 

- Forced underground -

 

India has nearly three million sex workers, according to Havocscope, which focuses on black market industries worldwide.

Activists argue many are selling sex by choice, neither having been trafficked nor held against their will, and should have the same rights as other workers.

"The law is very ambiguous. Who is exploiting whom? The woman who gets paid or the one seeking pleasure?" asked Tripti Tandon of the Lawyers Collective advocacy group.

"The law assumes that all sex workers are victims and fails to recognise their right to a livelihood. The sex workers don't consider themselves as victims so why impose it (the law) on them?"

 

 

 

Public health workers want decriminalisation, saying women and clients are forced underground for fear of arrest, making it difficult to limit the spread of HIV and other diseases.

But anti-trafficking campaigners argue any kind of legitimacy would fuel the industry, leading to a jump in smuggling of mainly poor and uneducated women from rural areas as well as children into brothels, a major problem in India.

Just over 14 million adults and children are trapped in modern slavery in India, the most in any country in the world, according to the Walk Free Foundation's 2014 Global Slavery Index.

Acting on a public interest petition four years ago, the Supreme Court formed a panel to investigate the industry and look at amendments to the law.

It also asked the state governments to conduct an ongoing survey to determine how many sex workers, given a choice, wanted to be rehabilitated and retrained in other professions and how many wanted to stay put.

 

 

 

Liraglutide, an injectable diabetes drug that US regulators approved last year for weight loss, helped obese people lose an average of 18 pounds (eight kilograms), a yearlong study said.

Most patients were able to keep the weight off for the duration of the 56-week study on the drug marketed as Saxenda by Novo Nordisk, according to the findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The randomized, controlled trial was conducted at 191 sites in 27 countries in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Patients in the study were 18 and older and each had a body mass index of 30 or higher.

BMI is calculated by weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters. The healthy range for most people is 19-25 BMI.

Of the 3,731 people in the study, about two thirds were given the drug plus training to improve their lifestyle habits, and the rest followed the same lifestyle intervention but were given a placebo.

The trial was double-blind, meaning that neither patients or doctors knew if they were dealing with the real drug or the placebo.

Those who received the drug were given a higher dose (three milligrams) than is prescribed for diabetes patients (1.8 milligrams), and were injected with the drug under the skin daily.

People in the placebo group lost an average of six pounds. Those who were given the drug averaged about three times more weight loss.

A total of 63 percent of those in the liraglutide group lost at least five percent of their body weight, compared to 27 percent in the placebo group.

Kevin Williams, chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Temple University Health, described the weight loss in the liraglutide group as "significant."

Williams was not involved in the study.

 

 

 

A giant gorilla with brooding good looks and rippling muscles is causing a stir at a Japanese zoo, with women flocking to check out the hunky pin-up.

Shabani, an 18-year-old silverback who tips the scales at around 180 kilograms (400 pounds), has become the star attraction at Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Nagoya, striking smouldering poses the movie model in "Zoolander" would be proud of.

"He often rests his chin on his hands and looks intently at you," zoo spokesman Takayuki Ishikawa told AFP on Friday.

"He is more buff than most gorillas and he's at his peak physically. We've seen a rise in the number of female visitors -- women say he's very good-looking."

Shabani, who has been at the zoo since 2007, shot to fame after being made the campaign model for the zoo's spring festival earlier this year, Ishikawa said, adding that the ape's paternal skills are also a big hit with women.

 

 

 

 

The Internet of Things -- connecting everyday items with sensors -- is hitting the beach in time for the northern hemisphere's summer with a bikini that says when it's time to apply more sun screen.

The made-to-measure invention comes from France -- the country that invented the bikini -- but with a price tag that might make even the well-tanned beach amazon blanch: 149 euros ($167).

For that price, though, the wearer will get a two-piece swimsuit with a small detachable ultraviolet sensor that, through a smartphone or tablet, sends a "sun screen alert" when the user's skin needs more protective sunblock cream.

The detector is calibrated to the wearer's skin type and how much of a tan she wants to get.

And there's even a "Valentine" function that sends the message to a boyfriend's smartphone so he knows when to apply the cream to his girlfriend's skin.

"The idea came to me right away, on a day when I saw someone get sunburnt on a beach," the Frenchwoman behind the smart bikinis, Marie Spinali, told AFP.

 

- 'Not a gimmick' -

 

She started her company, Spinali Design, last month in the eastern French town of Mulhouse where she lives, and sells the bikinis through her website.

 

"There are flowerpots that give an alert when plants need watering, so I thought it was time to invent something to warn when the sun is too strong," she said.

 

 

 

Japan is looking at installing toilets in elevators and providing an emergency supply of drinking water for people trapped by the nation's frequent powerful earthquakes, an official said Wednesday.

The move comes after dozens of people were left high and dry, some for over an hour, following a 7.8 magnitude quake on Saturday that stopped lifts.

Most of the elevators automatically halted at the nearest floor and opened their doors, but 14 were stranded between storeys.

A meeting between officials from the infrastructure ministry and elevator industry bodies agreed to look into providing toilets for use in an emergency, an official from the Association of Elevator Makers told AFP.

These might include collapsable cardboard structures with a waterproof bag or absorbant material inside.

Some recently-installed lifts have small seating areas for Japan's growing ranks of elderly people, and installing facilities underneath these seats is one possibility.

Japan has around 620,000 elevators in public or commercial buildings nationwide, about 20 percent of which are in Tokyo.

It also sits at the junction of four tectonic plates and is regularly hit by powerful earthquakes.

 

Drinking the caffeine equivalent of more than four espressos a day is harmful to health, especially for minors and pregnant women, the EU's EFSA food safety agency said on Wednesday.

 

 

Binge drinking is emerging as a major hazard for the young in some countries, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday in its first probe into alcohol abuse.

Over the past 20 years, alcohol consumption in OECD countries has declined by 2.5 percent on average, the 34-nation club of rich economies said.

But this figure masks important national changes and a worrying shift in some countries towards youth boozing and excessive drinking by women, it said.

In 2012, the average per-capita consumption in the OECD was 9.1 litres (16 pints) of pure alcohol per capita, it said.

Estonia, Austria and France had the highest consumption, with 12 litres or more per person per year.

Those countries below the OECD average included South Korea, the United States and Canada, while the lowest on the list were Israel and Turkey.

 

 

 

Within the broad overall decline, "many countries have experienced a significant increase in some risky drinking behaviours," the report said.

It cited binge drinking among young people and alcohol abuse by women.

"These trends are worrying because some of the harms typically associated with heavy drinking in young age, such as traffic accidents and violence, often affect people other than drinkers themselves," said the report.

"Heavy drinking at a young age is associated with an increased risk of acute and chronic conditions.

"It is also associated with problem drinking later on in life, and people who are successful in the labour market may see their long-term career prospects jeopardised."

The biggest surge in youth drinking was seen in Russia, followed by Estonia, and then India and China, which like Russia have partnership status with the OECD and were included in part of the analysis.

 

 

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has agreed to be questioned by Swedish prosecutors in London over rape allegations, his Swedish lawyer Thomas Olsson said on Thursday.

"We sent a confirmation earlier today to the prosecutors that Julian Assange agrees to be questioned in London," Olsson told AFP.

He said Assange made no specific demands about the questioning.

Swedish prosecutors offered in March to question Assange in London, dropping their previous demand that he come to Sweden to answer to the 2010 allegations, making a significant U-turn in the case that has been deadlocked for nearly five years.

 

 

Prosecutors said they had changed their stance because some of the alleged offences will reach their statute of limitations in August.

Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 following allegations from two women in Sweden.

The Australian former hacker, who has always vehemently denied the allegations and insisted the sexual encounters were consensual, has been ensconced in Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.