5 stories that have (almost) nothing to do with politics

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Members of the South Asian community and others attend a peace vigil for Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the 32-year-old Indian engineer killed at a bar Olathe, Kansas, in Bellevue, Washington on March 5, 2017. Photo by AFP PHOTO/Jason Redmond.

Last week, Republicans unveiled a new health bill (and it’s going great, President Donald Trump says), women and Native Americans marched on Washington and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s fashion faux pas lit Twitter on fire.

But there’s a great big world out there beyond the House, the Senate and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here are five stories you may have missed that have (almost) nothing to do with the president.

1. Attacks on Indian tech workers in the U.S. are causing concern in India

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer, was shot and killed in Kansas in late February. A white gunman reportedly shouted “go back to your country” before opening fire inside a bar, killing Kuchibhotla and injuring his friend and a bystander who tried to intercede.

Nearly two weeks later, witnesses reported a different gunman shouting a similar threat before he shot and wounded Deep Rai, a Sikh man, in Kent, Washington. Both incidents are being investigated as hate crimes.

Around the same time, Harnish Patel was shot and killed in front of his home in Lancaster, South Carolina. Authorities are still trying to determine the motive for the attack. An attorney for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office told Buzzfeed News that there currently weren’t enough facts that pointed to Patel being “killed for a racial reason.”

These attacks have dominated headlines in India, where media coverage is questioning why there’s been a muted response among U.S. authorities and the public to the shootings targeting South Asians. Others have criticized President Donald Trump, arguing that his anti-immigration rhetoric and policies are fueling the incidents, deepening the fear felt by South Asian and immigrant communities. At Kuchibhotla’s funeral, friends and family members held up “Down With Trump” signs.

Why it’s important

A week after Kuchibhotla’s death, his widow Sunayana Dumala wrote on Facebook, “the question that is in every immigrant’s mind, DO WE BELONG HERE?”

Indian Americans are among the most highly skilled immigrant groups in the U.S. Years ago, Kuchibhotla was issued an H-1B visa, a special immigration status that allows foreigners to work for American companies in specialized technology jobs. About 70 percent of 85,000 H-1Bs issued in 2015 were given to workers from India, CNBC reported. However, there have been several proposals to roll back the number of H-1B visas issued every year, to combat what some argue amounts to foreign outsourcing inside the U.S., CNN reported.

The gunman had asked about Kuchibhotla’s visa moments before opening fire, said Alok Madasani, his friend and colleague who was also wounded in the attack.

Following the Kansas shooting, a video produced by the anti-immigrant website SaveAmericanITJobs.org and posted online last August is getting renewed attention, raising concerns about rising hate directed against foreign technology workers. The video, shot at a park in Columbus, Ohio playground, showed Indian children at play and included narration arguing that foreign workers on visas to the U.S. are a threat to technology jobs in the country. “It is proof on the ground how guest workers are not only taking over jobs, but also taking away the real estate and parks. The USA Ohio IT Workers have disappeared to oblivion,” the description originally read.

Before asking “Do we belong?” in her post, Dumala described how she and her husband came to the U.S. and their hopes of building a life in America.

Now, after her husband’s death, “It’s so unfortunate that this dream of ours is now shattered.”

2. Lawsuit says NFL teams violated federal law in how it handled painkillers

Head trainer Pepper Burruss (L) and two other medical staff of the Green Bay Packer assist injured Packer defensive tackle Grady Jackson #75 during a 2004 game against the Carolina Panthers. Burruss was one fo the trainers and coaches whose memos were obtained in a court filing reported by the Washington Post. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

The National Football League is no stranger to scandals — about how it deals with domestic violence, its treatment of concussions … or, of course, Spygate.

Now, the league is accused of violating federal law for handling and distributing prescription painkillers. A series of investigations by the Washington Post shows a long history of teams giving players painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications “in numbers far beyond anything previously acknowledged or made public.”

The news came from the Post’s analysis of court documents from more than 1,800 former football players, who are claiming in a lawsuit against NFL teams that they suffered “long-term organ and joint damage, among other maladies, as a result of improper and deceptive drug distribution practices.”

One of the more shocking revelations from the 127 page filing analyzed by the Post: The average NFL team doled out thousands of doses of painkillers on or before game day — about six or seven injections or pills per player per week, the Post says.

“The filing likens painkillers to performance-enhancing drugs and says while players often felt compelled to use them to contribute to their teams, medical staffs felt pressured to administer them to remain competitive,” the Post reports.

Read the full investigation, and see the Post’s full series on the NFL’s medical standards.

Why it’s important

A pharmacist counts out pills of Vicodin at a pharmacy. Vicodin is one of the drugs a lawsuit claims was over-distributed to NFL players. Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images.

The issue of painkillers in the NFL had been documented years before the Post’s investigation.

In 2011, a study of 644 retired NFL players from ESPN and the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed 52 percent used prescription painkillers while on contract with the NFL. “71 percent said they misused the drugs then … and those who misused prescription painkillers while playing were three times more likely to misuse the drugs after their careers,” the study says.

“Federal law lays out strict guidelines for how teams can handle and dispense prescription drugs,” the Post points out. The court filings, as reported by the newspaper, go on to show that coaches and trainers largely disregarded those guidelines.

“It makes you think, are the physicians looking out for the health of the players, or are they just trying to keep them on the field?” Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told the Post.

The case has gotten farther than many experts anticipated. The Post obtained the court filing because it went to discovery — many cases against the NFL are dismissed before that point. One reason for the early success of this case could be that the lawsuit goes after each of the NFL’s 32 teams instead of the league itself.

The case is the latest in a series of concerns about what happens to football players after they retire. It could raise questions about what constitutes performance-enhancing drugs, and also about how far some teams will go to keep stars in the game. As with other sports scandals, a lot of what matters here is how the league will respond to it.

For now: A spokesman told the Post that “NFL clubs and their medical staffs are all in compliance with the Controlled Substances Act.” The allegations “are meritless and the league and its clubs will continue to vigorously defend these claims,” he added.

3. Pope Francis says he’d be open to considering married priests

Pope Francis waves after delivering his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message Dec. 25, 2016 from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo by REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo.

For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has reserved the priesthood for unmarried men, who pledge to act “in persona Christi” — which, in this case, means committing your life to God rather than a spouse and taking a vow of celibacy.

Last week, Pope Francis told Germany’s Die Zeit that he was open to exploring whether “viri probati” — or married men of proven faith — could be ordained in remote communities to help fight a growing shortage of priests.

That doesn’t mean practicing priests would suddenly have the option to marry, he said. But “in the Church, it is always important to recognise the right moment, to recognise when the Holy Spirit demands something. That is why I say that we will continue to reflect about the viri probati.”

Why it’s important
For years, leaders have worried about the dwindling number of Catholic priests, in America and beyond. In 1972, there were 851 Catholics per priest, according to the New York Times, citing data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. Today, that number has grown to 2,500 Catholics per priest.

That ratio is as many as 8,000 Catholics per priest in Brazil, which is one of the most sparsely-served regions of the Catholic church — along with Latin America, Asia and Africa. These regions have been asking for help as they face major shortages of priests.

The church allows priests in eastern sects of the Catholic Church to be married. In 2009, the church also began to allow Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism to be married. But the subject of allowing marriage more broadly hasn’t been discussed on an open platform — until now.

“This is now an open topic in the church today,” Father Thomas Reese told the New York Times, “whereas under John Paul II or Benedict, you could not talk about this.”

This is just the latest statement by Pope Francis — who assumed leadership of the church in 2013 — to rock the church’s more conservative core.

Though he’s yet to indicate he’d be open to women priests — one of the church’s more divisive debates — Francis has encouraged priests to be more open to gay and lesbian members, taken a softer stance on divorce, supported taking action on climate change and given priests permission to forgive the sin of abortion during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy, a celebration of forgiveness that occurs every 50 years.

A boy takes selfies with Pope Francis during a visit Feb. 19 at the parish of St. Mary Josefa of the Heart of Jesus in Rome. Photo by REUTERS/Remo Casilli.

Pope Francis, who as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio focused on the poor in his native Argentina, has also waded into global discussions on poverty and what to do about migrants and refugees. In his first papal exhortation, he blasted capitalism and inequality and global leaders’ failure to do much about it.

Francis’ more radical statements have been embraced by members of the church who feel it needs to attract — or woo back — younger, more socially liberal Catholics as it looks toward the future. But it’s angered traditionalists who feel the pope is undoing centuries worth of doctrine.

To those critics, one man told the Boston Globe: “I think God is in heaven, laughing at all the distinctions we make about religion.”

4. The Dark Web dwindles by a third

Illustration about ‘Darknet’, logo of the Tor Browser, which provides access to the Darknet. Binary codes are shown in the background on January 13, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images.

Services under the Dark Web, the encrypted network that exists beyond visible search engines, are dwindling, Forbes reported last week.

The biggest host of Dark Web sites, Freedom Hosting II, was breached and shut down in February by anonymous hackers. Before that, the online provider served roughly 15 to 20 percent of all sites on the Dark Web. The anonymous hacktivists that took down the site claimed child pornography comprised more than half of Freedom Hosting’s data and in 2013, the Dark Web host fell under the radar of law enforcement, resulting in a number of child pornagraphy prosecutions, as reported by The Verge.

Privacy researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis, who’s been tracking the development of Dark Web sites with an investigation tool called OnionScan, found that there are roughly 4,400 active hidden services remaining after the Freedom Hosting breach.

An excerpt from the OnionScan report reveals “at least three of the largest databases in the dump were forums related to sharing and discussing child sexual exploitation.”

The report also highlights the vanishing of SIGAINT, one of the largest Dark Web email providers, as one of the causes for the network’s decline.

“This is a major blow considering many were personal or political blogs and forums,” Lewis said in an interview with The Verge. “In the short term, a lot of diversity has disappeared from the dark web.”

Why it’s important

The Dark Web, also sometimes referred to as “Darknet” or “Deepnet,” serves as the underbelly of the visible Web and is only accessible by using “Tor,” a specific type of anonymous software. The network serves various purposes, such as discreet communication when speaking in public may prove dangerous. The Dark Web also provides an avenue for activists or journalists to facilitate the exchange of information in certain countries — like Syria, China and Egypt — where citizens live under highly censored Internet regulations.

But the Dark Web also houses certain illegal activities, such as the exchange of drugs, black market weapons and pirated entertainment. Notorious examples of the Dark Web include the site “The Silk Road,” a service dedicated to the buying and selling of recreational drugs. And in August 2015, 10GB of user data stolen from Ashley Madison, a site for adulterous encounters, was published on the Dark Web’s servers.

Though a large amount of services have disappeared, The Dark Web has not gone completely radio silent. But this could be a ripple effect, OnionScan reports.

“We believe that the Freedom Hosting II takedown not only removed many thousands of active sites but also may have affected other hosting providers who were hosting some infrastructure on top of Freedom Hosting II.”

5. Archeologists pull huge statue from underneath street of Cairo

Egyptian workers stand as a statue that might be of revered Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt over 3,000 years ago, is raised at the Matariya area in Cairo, Egypt. Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany.

Underneath the busy streets of Cairo, Egypt, lies a previously undiscovered statue of an Egyptian Pharaoh.

Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany uncovered the head and torso of a statute that resembles one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs, Ramses II, Reuters reported. The remnants were found near the ruins of Ramses II’s temple within Heliopolis, an ancient city located in the eastern part of today’s Cairo. The statue, now in fragments, is 3,000 years old and once stood 26-feet tall, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

“We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye,” Khaled al-Anani, an antiquities minister for Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry, told Reuters.

The Antiquities Ministry, Egypt’s department dedicated to the investigation and conservation of the country’s history, has praised the discovery as “one of the most important ever.”

Why it’s important

King Ramses the Second ruled Egypt for 66 years, first taking the throne while in his early twenties around 1279 B.C. Rameses II was known for his architectural ventures, such as the temples of Abu Simbel and the Ramesseum. His architectural influence can still be seen throughout Egypt’s landscape today.

Though some sites are open to the public, Egypt’s political instability since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 and various other attacks in certain parts of the country have kept tourists from visiting historic locations. In 2011, the number of tourists visiting Egypt dwindled to 9.8 million from more than 14.7 million in 2010, according to the Israel-based newspaper The Jerusalem Post.

This might help. Experts are extracting the remaining pieces of the discovery before the restoration process begins, The Jerusalem Post reported.

5 important stories you shouldn’t miss

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