Russia Pressures Former Soviet Republics To Join His Economic Union.

The Kremlins zero-sum aim is to block those countries from completing association agreements with the European Union and compel them to join a Moscow-led customs union that would be an E.U. rival and a means of realizing Mr. Putins dream of recreating something like the Soviet Union. Mr. Putin scored a victory earlier this month when Armenia, a small country that is dependent on Russia for both energy and security, capitulated and said it would join the would-be Eurasian Union, which so far includes only dictatorships Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. But Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have been holding firm, saying they will proceed with their E.U. agreements, which fall well short of E.U. membership, at a regional summit scheduled for November. The choice is a courageous one for all three governments. To qualify for E.U. association, and the free-trade benefits that come with it, the countries have to enact far-reaching reforms, not just in economic regulation, but also on matters such as independence of the judiciary and the penal code.

Two cases involving the drug that surfaced at the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix arealarming anti-drug advocates and medical personnel who fear use of krokodil might spread. When the facility warned other poison centers around the country about krokodil, some revealed they also had patients suffering from its apparent use, according to Dr. Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director at Banner Poison, Drug and Information Center. This is up there as one of the craziest new trends Ive seen, he said. Weve known about it in Russia, and weve known what it has done there. Its really decimated whole cities there. Krokodil is made up of several ingredients easily accessed at home improvement stores and pharmacies. The base of the drug is usually codeine. Pure codeine is extracted from its pill form and adulterated with chemicals to create a liquid substance that is later injected into the veins. The types of chemicals used by manufacturers vary. Some of the chemicals theyve used are very dangerous, LoVecchio said. Theyve used things like hydrochloric acid. Some have used paint thinners, gasoline and other stuff that includes phosphorous. The acidity of the chemicals causes the bodys fat and skin to burn off and die, LoVecchio said. The presence of chemicals also makes the body more prone to infection. Immediate effects include visible scarring on the skin. Long-term effects are much worse.

Russia missing at UN meeting on LGBT rights

(Photo credit should read Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images) Still under fire for a series of newly enacted anti-gay laws, Russia on Thursday missed what could have been viewed as an opportunity to mend fences with the LGBT community and its international allies. In an unprecedented ministerial-level meeting at the United Nations, representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, El Salvador, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway, joined Secretary of State John Kerry, the U.N. high commissioner of human rights, gay rights advocates, and other high level representatives of the European Union to discuss violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals. Cognizant of the urgent need to take action, we therefore call on all United Nations Member States to repeal discriminatory laws, improve responses to hate-motivated violence, and ensure adequate and appropriate legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, participating members of the group said in its declaration. Organized by and for this cross regional groupknown as the LGBT Core Group at the U.N.Russia was not explicitly invited. Neither the Russian Embassy, nor the Russian Mission to the U.N. claimed to have known about the meeting. While it was limited to this core group, however, the meeting was announced, said Charles Radcliffe, head of the global issues section at the UN human rights office in New York. The fact that it was happening was not secret, he said. Any country could have requested to join. Russias absence underscores a wave of criticism engulfing the country for its anti-gay policies, the most contentious of which bans propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors. That law, along with two othersone banning the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples and to individuals in countries that allow gays to marry, and another classifying homosexual propaganda as pornographyhave sparked worldwide protests, as well as calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Over the summer, President Obama criticized Russias anti-gay posture, saying such discrimination violated basic morality. But on Thursday, the International Olympic Committee declared the propaganda law was not in violation of the Olympic charters anti-discrimination clause. Participants at Thursdays ministerial meeting adopted a declaration stating their countries strong and determined commitment to eliminating violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Many countries have embarked on historic reformsstrengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crimes against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion, said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in her remarks Thursday.