Ten Other Independence Movements You Should Know About This Fourth of July

Americans are lucky enough to celebrate independence with beer and fireworks, but people around the world are still fighting for their freedom.

This Saturday, countless Americans will flock to parks with burgers and beers to celebrate our nation’s independence. It’s easy for us to celebrate our struggle for freedom in a cheery, light manner today, given how far in the past the Revolutionary War is for us. But that distance also means that it’s easy for us to forget about the many valid, ongoing struggles for freedom around the world. Some of these struggles resonate with our own history, or even greatly surpass the slights Americans suffered under the British. Yet even on independence-sensitive days like the fourth, many of these struggles often go overlooked.

Granted, ever since Scotland’s independence referendum last September, there’s been a renewed interest in separatist movements. Despite Edinburgh’s failure to break away from London, the publicity and success of their campaign had the English quaking and scrambling. And beyond the U.K., the Scottish wave seems to have inspired a number of other separatist movements, from Catalonia in Spain to the Kurds in the heart of the Middle East, to make their own new ripples in the pool of global politics.

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Could Tribal Cannibalism Offer the Key to Treating Deadly Diseases?

Papua New Guinea’s Fore people ate human brains for centuries. Their DNA may now help treat conditions like Parkinson’s and Mad Cow?

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

Back in the 1950s, colonial officials and European scientists working in the vast, underexplored interior highlands of Papua New Guinea noted the spread of a strange disease amongst the southern Fore people. Locals called it kuru, the shaking death, as it usually started off as uncontrollable tremors, progressing into dementia and mood swings, and finally over the course of six to 12 months developing into an always-lethal coma. At its height, from 1957 to 1968, kuru killed over 1,100 people, or up to two percent of the population per year, and seemed to hit women, children, and the elderly especially hard. At first, the disease perplexed observers and the Fore alike, leading people to attribute it to anything from a slow-moving virus to a psychosomatic illness to black magic. But eventually, even if the mechanics of the disease remained obscure, the cause revealed itself: Kuru was the result of cannibalizing human brains.

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From School Science Fairs to Designing a Smartphone App That Diagnoses Malaria

These grad students designed Lifelens, an app that lets you snap picture of a blood sample to determine if it's infected with malaria.

What if you could take a picture of a blood sample with your smartphone and have an app tell you if someone has malaria. That's exactly what Lifelens, a breakthrough technology project designed by five young recent college grads and graduate students is able to do. Given the mortality rates of malaria across the developing world, the technology has the potential to save millions of lives.

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