Tag Archives: Crossing

Taliban claims capturing key Afghan border crossing with Pakistan

Group says it has captured the strategic border crossing of Spin Boldak along the frontier with Pakistan, continuing its sweeping gains.

The Taliban says it has captured the strategic border crossing of Spin Boldak along the frontier with Pakistan, continuing sweeping gains made since foreign forces stepped up their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Afghan interior ministry on Wednesday, however, insisted the armed group’s attack had been repelled and government forces had control.

But Pakistani authorities confirmed to Al Jazeera that they have sealed their side of the country’s border crossing with Afghanistan at the Chaman-Spin Boldak frontier.

“The Taliban presence can be seen at Afghan border along with Pakistan in Chaman and no Afghan [government] forces are there at the Afghan border side,” local administration official Arif Kakar told Al Jazeera.

Taliban claims capturing key Afghan borderPeople cross the Pakistan-Afghan border in Chaman, Pakistan [File: Akhter Gulfam/EPA]

Kakar confirmed that Pakistan was not currently allowing any goods or people to cross the border at Chaman-Spin Boldak, which is one of the two main border crossings between the South Asian countries.

A video shot by a local witness and seen by Al Jazeera showed the Afghan government flag on the Spin Boldak side of the crossing had been replaced by the white flag of the Taliban, which refers to Afghanistan as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The social media was also abuzz with pictures of Taliban fighters looking relaxed in what appeared to be the frontier town.

The taking of Spin Boldak would be the latest in a string of border crossings and dry ports seized by the Taliban in recent weeks, with the group looking to choke off much-needed revenue from the government in Kabul while also filling their own coffers.

Its seizure follows days of heavy fighting across Kandahar province, where the government was forced to deploy commandos to prevent the fall of the provincial capital even as the group inched closer to taking the frontier crossing.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid assured traders and residents there that their “security is guaranteed”.

But Afghan officials insisted they still had control.

“The terrorist Taliban had some movements near the border area … The security forces have repelled the attack,” interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told the AFP news agency.

Residents disputed the government’s claims.

“I went to my shop this morning and saw that the Taliban are everywhere. They are in the bazaar, in police headquarters and custom areas. I can also hear the sound of fighting nearby,” said Raz Mohammad, a shopkeeper who works near the border.

Trucks carrying goods destined to Afghanistan wait for clearance at the Pakistani side of the Pakistan-Afghan border in Chaman, Pakistan [File: Akhter Gulfam/EPA]

With the United States just weeks away from wrapping up its final withdrawal from Afghanistan, the group has swept through much of the country, and the government now holds little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that must largely be resupplied by air.

The Spin Boldak border crossing is one of the most strategically valuable for the Taliban. It provides direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where the group’s top leadership has been based for decades, along with an unknown number of reserve fighters who regularly enter Afghanistan to help bolster their ranks.

Hours after the crossing fell, an AFP reporter on the Pakistani side saw about 150 Taliban fighters riding on motorcycles, waving their flags, as they demanded to be allowed to cross into Afghanistan.

Balochistan is a favoured destination for fighters regularly heading for medical treatment and hosts many of their families.

An important highway leading from the border connects to Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi and its sprawling port on the Arabian Sea.

Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta, Pakistan

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This post originally posted here Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

Antihypertensives Crossing Blood-Brain Barrier Improves Memory

Antihypertensive medications that cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) may be linked with less memory decline, compared with other drugs for high blood pressure, suggest the findings of a meta-analysis.

Over a 3-year period, cognitively normal older adults taking BBB-crossing antihypertensives demonstrated superior verbal memory, compared with similar individuals receiving non–BBB-crossing antihypertensives, reported lead author Jean K. Ho, PhD, of the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues.

According to the investigators, the findings add color to a known link between hypertension and neurologic degeneration, and may aid the search for new therapeutic targets.

“Hypertension is a well-established risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia, possibly through its effects on both cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” Ho and colleagues wrote in Hypertension. “Studies of antihypertensive treatments have reported possible salutary effects on cognition and cerebrovascular disease, as well as Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology.”

In a previous study, individuals younger than 75 years exposed to antihypertensives had an 8% decreased risk of dementia per year of use, while another trial showed that intensive blood pressure–lowering therapy reduced mild cognitive impairment by 19%.

“Despite these encouraging findings…larger meta-analytic studies have been hampered by the fact that pharmacokinetic properties are typically not considered in existing studies or routine clinical practice,” wrote Ho and colleagues. “The present study sought to fill this gap [in that it was] a large and longitudinal meta-analytic study of existing data recoded to assess the effects of BBB-crossing potential in renin-angiotensin system [RAS] treatments among hypertensive adults.”

Methods and Results

The meta-analysis included randomized clinical trials, prospective cohort studies, and retrospective observational studies. The researchers assessed data on 12,849 individuals from 14 cohorts that received either BBB-crossing or non–BBB-crossing antihypertensives. Cognition was assessed via the following seven domains: executive function, attention, verbal memory learning, language, mental status, recall, and processing speed.

Compared with individuals taking non–BBB-crossing antihypertensives, those taking BBB-crossing agents had significantly superior verbal memory (recall), with a maximum effect size of 0.07 (P = .03).

According to the investigators, this finding was particularly noteworthy, as the BBB-crossing group had relatively higher vascular risk burden and lower mean education level.

“These differences make it all the more remarkable that the BBB-crossing group displayed better memory ability over time despite these cognitive disadvantages,” the investigators wrote.

Still, not all the findings favored BBB-crossing agents. Individuals in the BBB-crossing group had relatively inferior attention ability, with a minimum effect size of –0.17 (P = .02).

The other cognitive measures were not significantly different between groups.

Clinicians May Consider Findings After Accounting for Other Factors

Principal investigator Daniel A. Nation, PhD, associate professor of psychological science and a faculty member of the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine, suggested that the small difference in verbal memory between groups could be clinically significant over a longer period of time.

“Although the overall effect size was pretty small, if you look at how long it would take for someone [with dementia] to progress over many years of decline, it would actually end up being a pretty big effect,” Nation said in an interview. “Small effect sizes could actually end up preventing a lot of cases of dementia,” he added.

The conflicting results in the BBB-crossing group — better verbal memory but worse attention ability — were “surprising,” he noted.

“I sort of didn’t believe it at first,” Nation said, “because the memory finding is sort of replication — we’d observed the same exact effect on memory in a smaller sample in another study…The attention [finding], going another way, was a new thing.”

Nation suggested that the intergroup differences in attention ability may stem from idiosyncrasies of the tests used to measure that domain, which can be impacted by cardiovascular or brain vascular disease. Or it could be caused by something else entirely, he said, noting that further investigation is needed.

He added that the improvements in verbal memory within the BBB-crossing group could be caused by direct effects on the brain. He pointed out that certain ACE polymorphisms have been linked with Alzheimer’s disease risk, and those same polymorphisms, in animal models, lead to neurodegeneration, with reversal possible through administration of ACE inhibitors.

“It could be that what we’re observing has nothing really to do with blood pressure,” Nation explained. “This could be a neuronal effect on learning memory systems.”

He went on to suggest that clinicians may consider these findings when selecting antihypertensive agents for their patients, with the caveat that all other prescribing factors have already been taking to account.

“In the event that you’re going to give an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker anyway, and it ends up being a somewhat arbitrary decision in terms of which specific drug you’re going to give, then perhaps this is a piece of information you would take into account – that one gets in the brain and one doesn’t – in somebody at risk for cognitive decline,” Nation said.

Exact Mechanisms of Action Unknown

Hélène Girouard, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology at the University of Montreal, said in an interview that the findings are “of considerable importance, knowing that brain alterations could begin as much as 30 years before manifestation of dementia.”

Since 2003, Girouard has been studying the cognitive effects of antihypertensive medications. She noted that previous studies involving rodents “have shown beneficial effects [of BBB-crossing antihypertensive drugs] on cognition independent of their effects on blood pressure.”

The drugs’ exact mechanisms of action, however, remain elusive, according to Girouard, who offered several possible explanations, including amelioration of BBB disruption, brain inflammation, cerebral blood flow dysregulation, cholinergic dysfunction, and neurologic deficits. “Whether these mechanisms may explain Ho and colleagues’ observations remains to be established,” she added.

Andrea L. Schneider, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, applauded the study, but ultimately suggested that more research is needed to impact clinical decision-making.

“The results of this important and well-done study suggest that further investigation into targeted mechanism-based approaches to selecting hypertension treatment agents, with a specific focus on cognitive outcomes, is warranted,” Schneider said in an interview. “Before changing clinical practice, further work is necessary to disentangle contributions of medication mechanism, comorbid vascular risk factors, and achieved blood pressure reduction, among others.”

The investigators disclosed support from the National Institutes of Health, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Waksman Foundation of Japan, and others. The interviewees reported no relevant conflicts of interest.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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This post originally appeared on Medscape Medical News Headlines

K.K. Slider Joins The Animal Crossing Build-A-Bear Collection

KK Slider plush

We’ll admit, we were a bit disappointed with the Build-A-Bear offerings back in April, when only Isabelle and Tom Nook were available. But things are starting to look up as everyone’s favourite dog musician finally makes his way to the collection: K.K. Slider is about to become real.

KK Slider PlushBuild-A-Bear

Along with his trusty (plush) guitar, the K.K. Slider plushie will, like his counterparts, include sounds when you press his lil hand. He doesn’t have phrases, because he’s a musician, not a talk…sician, so his sounds include either the opening theme song to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, or K.K. Disco.

Let’s take a wee break to listen to the majesty of K.K. Disco, shall we?

What a great song.

The K.K. Slider Build-A-Bear plush will be available only in the US starting at 10:00am Central Time (that’s 4pm UK time, or 11am Eastern), and the queues will open at 9:30am CT (3:30pm UK, 10:30 ET). Just head to the Build-A-Bear website at the queue start time (or follow the link in your email, if you’re signed up to the mailing list) and you’ll be directed to the waiting room. K.K. will be coming to the UK “soon”, and you can sign up for updates here.

Let’s just hope the waiting room is a little less chaotic this time, eh?

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This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Latest News

Random: Live Out Your Anime Dreams On The Animal Crossing Fruits Basket Island

Animal Crossing X Fruits Basket

Step aside, Disneyworld — there’s a new most magical place on Earth, and it’s the Fruits Basket island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Themed entirely around the mega-successful anime and manga series in which the Sohma family lives under a terrible curse, the island is home to protagonist Tohru Honda, and Sohma family members, Yuki, Akito, Kyo, Shigure, Hatori, Ayame, and Kureno.

Animal Crossing X Fruits Basket

The island is an official creation from the Fruits Basket team, as announced in a weekend tweet, and was made by illustrator Manamoko. Anyone who wants to visit can use the Dream Address of DA-8458-4531-4562.

There are also recreations of various areas from the series on the island, from Shigure’s house to the Sohma Dojo, and you can even download some of the patterns displayed in the photos with the design code MA-0019-7722-5775.

Animal Crossing X Fruits Basket

Unfortunately, Animal Crossing — despite its name — does not allow people to transform into animals, so you’ll just have to imagine that part for yourself. Also, no Momiji?! Everyone knows he’s the best one.

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This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Latest News

There's An Animal Crossing Glitch That Lets You Sit In The Hot Tub

YOU CAN NOW SIT IN THE WATER IN ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS. This is not a drill, folks — though it is a glitch, and we can’t promise that it won’t break your game, so be careful if you want to try it out.

New Horizons players have figured out a new glitch in the game that lets you clip inside objects, including the paddling pool, the cotton candy machine, the rocket, the vending machine, and the hot tub. And, if you manage the glitch just right, you can even get into the water, although you might just fall through the world if you do it wrong.

Some players report that the glitch has been around since last summer — and we did cover one that let you run in the sea, for example — but now that players have the ability to sit down, the photo opportunities are better than ever.

If you want to figure out how to do it yourself, there’s a video (in Chinese) that details the steps, or you can follow the instructions laid out by Reddit user alien_urbano.

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This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Latest News

Nintendo Has Updated Its Official Island In Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal CrossingNintendo

Think back to last year when the Dream Suite arrived in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and you might remember how Nintendo actually released the Dream Address code for its own official island in the game.

Now, in an update on Twitter – it’s announced the same island has had a facelift, with what appears to be some items from the Sanrio collection. The code you’ll need to make the return trip is: DA-6382-1459-4417

Nintendo’s European Twitter account has also shared some images (as can be seen above) of the island, if you don’t perhaps feel like visiting right away. Will you be heading back? Do you make use of the Dream Suite feature very often? Leave a comment down below.

[source twitter.com, via mynintendonews.com]

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This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Latest News

Review: Castaway Paradise – “Like Animal Crossing” Indeed, Minus The Good Bits

If you told someone that you were a huge fan of gourmet homecooked meals, you’d be well within your rights to boot them off the nearest cliff if they came to your next party with a lasagne dish full of wet cat food. Likewise, if a game bills itself with the actual tagline “It’s Like Animal Crossing!” and then attempts to meet your lofty expectations with a Facebook game from 2014 retooled as a $ 20 eShop purchase that combines the joys of ‘Doing Chores’ with the excitement of ‘Doing More Chores’, we wouldn’t blame you for throwing it so deeply into the bin that it re-emerges somewhere on the other side of the planet.

Castaway Paradise is that game. Once an in-app-purchase-riddled browser game, it migrated over to smartphones in 2015, consoles in 2018, and now (presumably because it’s performed well enough on other platforms) it’s on Switch, too.

The island upon which Castaway Paradise takes place is far from the paradise it claims to be. Littered with trash, broken-down buildings, and gigantic-headed villagers that seem to do little in life other than waving at you every single time you break their eyeline, the island is in desperate need of a facelift. It’s up to you to restore it to its former glory, although the villagers seem pretty content to live in this trashpile, continuing to assert that it is, in fact, a utopia, even as broken umbrellas keep washing up on the shores.

On the island, you’ll find a museum, a bank, a shop, and a house that belongs to you, all of which need a fix-up. There’s a distinct lack of narrative reasoning given for these buildings existing but not being in use — to use Castaway Paradise’s own comparison, Animal Crossing: New Horizons at least explains that the island was deserted before you got there, and you have to install a museum and shops yourself. In Castaway Paradise, apparently the villagers are fine with an empty museum, and a bank that they never use.

It may seem like low-hanging fruit to criticise the narrative flimsiness of a gentle life simulator, but Castaway Paradise is full of design decisions that beg the question “but why?”. An early example is the house that your character can build for themselves, and decorate if they see fit. In Animal Crossing, your tiny starter house can be added to, with new rooms, a basement, and a second story. In Castaway Paradise, your house is huge from the start, but most of the rooms have been literally roped off, and you have to earn access to the rooms that you already own.

Likewise, the island itself is partitioned by gateways that have been placed very deliberately in the way, and you have to remove the obstacles before you can gain access into new areas. It feels less like progress, and more like someone snatching away new content for you so you don’t eat it too quickly and realise how little substance there is to the game. Indeed, when the entire island is unlocked, you’ll notice that it’s very, very small, and you’ll hardly earn anything new for your efforts beyond a couple of new characters and buildings, which don’t do much anyway.

Speaking of characters, Castaway Paradise is full of wide-eyed anthropomorphic townsfolk who dole out chores and fetch quests with the gusto of a parent trying to make their hyper toddler leave them alone for a few hours. They have little to say, but they’ll take five minutes to say it all the same, and they’ll wave at you every time you walk past, even if you literally just spoke to them. There’s an unnerving feeling that you’re living in a simulation, accompanied by robots who’ve accidentally had their Perkiness Meter turned all the way up to eleven.

Outside of decorating your house and avoiding the cheery villagers, you can tend to plants in Castaway Paradise, which is one of the areas where its freemium origins are still poking out like leg hair through tights. Every plant, from trees to flowers, is on a timer — sometimes an hour, sometimes longer — which limits your play significantly. You’ll have to water the plants (even the trees) to ensure that they keep growing, and although it rains roughly every 15 minutes, the rain apparently doesn’t water the plants for you. What’s more, there’s not much to do with the plants beyond selling them, and using the money to buy outfits for your cube-headed character, who lumbers around the world like a drunken teen wearing treacle-filled trousers.

The other freemium hangover is the shop system, which is disorganised in the way a bomb site is disorganised. Categories for furniture and clothing range from “Equipment” and “Seats” to “Stripy Stuff” and “Your Style?”, which is just a load of fruits, for some reason. The category “VIP Only!” implies that there’s some kind of ranking system in this single-player game, but it’s clearly just been left in from a version of the game that has real currency, which you would use to buy these items. There is both a ‘physical’ shop with daily items, and a full in-menu shop of all the items in the game, the latter of which almost completely defeats the point of the former.

There’s also a daily reward system, which will give you a special type of currency that you can only spend on badges — which are a nearly-useless item that can be displayed in another part of the museum, showing off your ability to, erm… buy badges.

And that’s… sort of it. You spend your days talking to villagers, watering plants, and catching fish and bugs. While that sounds a lot like Animal Crossing, it’s like if you described a painting to someone and then they tried to recreate it with a bunch of chunky, dried-out felt-tips. There’s just not a lot of joy to be had in Castaway Paradise’s budget version of a classic.

If all of that wasn’t damning enough, then perhaps the fact that we spent around five hours playing this game, and in that time, unlocked the entire island and almost all of the in-game achievements should be enough to tell you that you’d be better off spending your cash on a printed-off screenshot of Animal Crossing, because at least then it would look nice.

Conclusion

Castaway Paradise is hardly the first game to take inspiration from Animal Crossing, and it certainly won’t be the last — but its unoriginal adherence to the Animal Crossing formula is bad enough, without the added veneer of in-app purchases, hastily reskinned and demonetised for a full-price release. It began life as a Facebook game back in 2014, and it still feels like one seven years later.

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This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Reviews

Anniversary: The Animal Crossing Series Is Now 20 Years Old

Animal Crossing

While Animal Crossing still feels like a relatively new Nintendo franchise, today actually marks its 20th anniversary.

Yes, the series started out in Japan on 14th April 2001 as a Nintendo 64 title. While Dōbutsu no Mori (otherwise known as Animal Forest) was never released in its original form here in the west, the life simulation eventually got an enhanced local release on the GameCube in 2002 (Dōbutsu no Mori+). The US release followed with a European release in 2004.

To celebrate this milestone, the official game account has today shared some special artwork and the following message:

“It has been 20 years since the “Animal Crossing” series was born. Thank you to everyone who enjoyed it. We look forward to working with you in the future.”

Animal Crossing IMG

Since the original game’s release, Animal Crossing has gone to become one of Nintendo’s major franchises. The characters Isabelle and Villager have even been added to the Super Smash Bros. series. Along with this, there’s been a mobile game, amiibo, an animated film and much more.

The latest entry Animal Crossing: New Horizons has shifted more than 30 million units in less than a year and has also received a stack of free updates. It seems this franchise is now doing better than ever!

What are your own memories of Animal Crossing over the past 20 years? When did you first play this series? Leave a comment down below.

This article originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Latest News

Poll: Are You Still Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons A Year Later?

This week marks a year since Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on the Nintendo Switch. Due to the state of the world in 2020, it became a bit of a cultural phenomenon – keeping many sane during lockdowns around the globe. There were even celebrities declaring their love for the game.

Nintendo’s regularly updated New Horizons with a bunch of major content patches, and even this month it’s released some items, like cake, to celebrate the first anniversary. We’ve also got the return of Bunny Day, gulp. No – to be fair, it’s been patched now, so everything should be fine.

Moving along, all of this has got us wondering how many of you are still playing New Horizons a year after its release? Are there people within the Nintendo Life community who haven’t played this game yet? Vote in our poll and leave a comment down below about your own playing habits when it comes to this game.

Animal Crossing New Horizons – A Year In Pictures

"Harv's Island is my home away from home and one of my favorite features in New Horizons, so I made my #ACNHYear1 photo submission there."
“Harv’s Island is my home away from home and one of my favorite features in New Horizons, so I made my #ACNHYear1 photo submission there.” (Image: @MetManMas)

Whether it seems like yesterday or not is a matter of perspective, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched one year ago today.

And what a year it’s been! Nintendo’s life sim ended up becoming a significant coping mechanism for many people throughout 2020; a social outlet and positive focal point for millions of players that the makers couldn’t possibly have foreseen during development.

Now that we’ve fully cycled through all of the game’s four seasons and a full calendar year, we recently asked you to use the tag #ACNHYear1 and share images with us via Twitter — photos that best sum up your experience with the game over the past 365 days. A huge thank you to everyone who responded! You’ll find below a small selection of our favourites, plus an extra couple from Nintendo Life staff.

So let’s dive in and look at just some of our very favourite memories after the first full year of Animal Crossing: New Horizons…

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – A Year In Pictures

We kick things off and set the mood with stalwart Nintendo Life contributor and resident DJ Shiryu…

Thanks to everyone who shared their memories of the last year. Feel free to post more in the comments below and let us know your favourites from above.