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Nearly three years ago, a weekly podcast became a smash-hit and the precursor to media justice series – like the Netflix series Making A Murderer. They had the same case, a man jailed for murder, but there would always be more than meets the eye.

Serial, released by Sarah Koenig and a bunch of producers from the team at This American Life heralded a new age of podcasting and the second ‘podcasting’ boom kicked off – we’re still enjoying the golden age of podcasts right now. Serial ran for two seasons, and while there is talk of a third, it is the first season that will likely live long in the memory.

The very first season of Serial depicted the incarceration of Adnan Syed after the death of Hae Min Lee. In 1999, Hae Min Lee, a high school student, disappeared in Maryland. After a month, her corpse was found in a park, having been strangled to death. A suspect was identified in 17-year-old Adnan Syed, Hae Min Lee’s ex-boyfriend. Syed was arrested, and within a year, Syed was sentenced to life in prison. Syed was damned by the testimony of his best friend, Jay. Jay described, in vivid detail how he had helped Syed bury Hae Min Lee in the Park. Adnan was jailed, and Serial follows this case and Adnan’s plea that he had nothing to do with Hae Min Lee’s death.

Sarah Koenig, during the production of Serial, interviewed Adnan Syed for the podcast and the tale is slowly unraveled. Syed’s first trial was put to bed as a mistrial, but the following court case saw Syed imprisoned for life. Koenig took an impartial view to the trial and found a lot of worrying information, despite refusing to take Adnan’s side.

One of the biggest worries to Koenig was the racial side of the trial. The prosecution made the case that Adnan was going to be smuggled to Pakistan and after a dispute with Hae Min Lee, he performed an ‘honor’ killing. This view could have easily stirred up an anti-Islamic sentiment in the court and within the jury. Certain aspects of the case only seem to arise because of Syed’s religion and race. A criminal defense attorney would have struggled to fight back against such a case put forward and would have found it hard to defend Adnan because of this. Add Jay’s testimony and a bunch of erratic witness accounts and you’ve got an entire case built to setup Adnan Syed.

Serial doesn’t argue for Syed to be released, but for a fair trial to take place. A man was jailed based on circumstantial evidence and a number of biased witness accounts. Thanks to the success of Serial, Adnan Syed has been granted a new trial, meaning the previous trial will not stand. Adnan Syed – right now – is still in jail, but cannot be declared a murderer until his new trial takes place later this year. Justice? It doesn’t always have to be a verdict, but a chance to do a court case once again, but by the book of the law.

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Student @ Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Singapore. Travelled to 30+ countries, passion for basketball.

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What Fuels Addiction?

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Millions of people suffer from an addiction of some kind. For many, it’s illegal drugs and narcotics which are incredibly powerful. Others, however, are addicted to substances which are available to buy over the counter. From cigarettes to alcohol, the numbers of people who abuse legal drugs are astounding. Even coffee is exploited with an estimated 90% of Americans consuming caffeine on a daily basis. Everyone’s path is different, yet the result is always the same. So, what causes people from varying backgrounds and cultures develop a craving that is too strong to shake? Here’s what the experts believe.

The Dopamine Effect

Dopamine is the chemical in the brain which is released when people take drugs. What’s dangerous about this substance is how it relates to feelings of happiness and pleasure. In simple terms, it makes a person experience emotions which they have never been familiar with before. And, it’s as if they are heightened and timed by ten. This goes for every substance from heroin to cigarettes. Although certain drugs are further up the pleasure scale, they all encourage the brain to release dopamine. Yes, that goes for sex and food, too.

Susceptibility

In short, chemicals are what cause the addiction to take hold in the first place. However, everyone has a threshold, just like pain. Some people can stand a small shot of dopamine without the neurobiological changes impacting the brain. They are the individuals that can use drugs recreationally without developing a severe addiction. Others aren’t as lucky and one hit can be enough for the brain to adapt to the point where it needs a shot of dopamine. The men and women that have a low threshold are more likely to be victims of addiction, and that is a genetic lottery.

Lack Of Consequences

No one can click their fingers and recover within a matter of seconds. Addiction takes a lifetime to overcome. Still, some people don’t have the means to quit because there are zero consequences. At least, they aren’t powerful enough to make an individual want to stop. Smoking is a prime example. Employers don’t issue a probation drug test on a Monday morning, so consuming nicotine isn’t a life wrecker. Sure, smoking can be deadly and cause cancer, yet smokers can’t see the changes so don’t care. Food and alcohol are two other addictions which lack consequences.

Peer Pressure

It’s cliché but it’s one that is true. Friends can be a bad influence on a person, especially if the individual wants to be liked. Not taking a hit can highlight people as not cool and square, and guys and girls take it to heart. As a result, they experiment with a range of drugs and get hooked in the process. Peer pressure is also a factor in gateway addiction. First, it’s beer, cigarettes or marijuana, and next, it’s cocaine or ecstasy. Before long, it’s something incredibly powerful and potent.

Finally, there are the circumstances of the individual. Lots of addicts have a similar background because homelessness or poverty can force their hand.

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How To Deal With A Family Crisis

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It’s something that we don’t like to talk about – and understandably so. But if disaster and tragedy strike your family, the sense of shock and unreality can threaten to derail everything in your life. From bankruptcy to wrongful death and from natural disaster to serious injury or illness – of course we don’t want to talk about them. If your worst nightmare does actually come true- who do you turn to? How do you process it? And what do you do to begin some kind of recovery?

Acknowledge That The Worst Happened

It’s perfectly normal to struggle to process your feelings after something unimaginable happens. And many of us want to bury our heads in the sand- but that’s one of the worst things we can do. If we don’t acknowledge we’re under incredible stress, we can’t begin to practise stress management techniques, which can be seriously harmful to our mental and physical health.

Talk About It

Approaching a tragic or difficult topic can be hard, especially if you want to speak to someone who hasn’t had experience of anything similar themselves. There are no hard and fast rules about this, but talking about it will help you process what’s happening. Support groups can offer a lifeline in connecting you with other individuals in similar situations.

Take Care Of Yourself

Self-care can feel trivial, irreverent and even too self-indulgent in the wake of a huge impactful event. However, it’s important to still take care of the basics – exercise, a reasonably healthy diet and not falling into the traps of drugs and alcohol as a false escape to your problems. Try to limit nicotine and caffeine, which can exacerbate stress. Your health may be fragile so taking time to take care of yourself is warding off further problems at a difficult time.

Access The Right Support

If you need legal counsel, make sure you do your homework. Don’t be pressured to rush into a decision, but find a firm with a track record in the kind of specialist representation you need, such as GJEL who are experienced in wrongful death suits. Choosing the wrong people to work with can mean further stress at exactly the wrong time.

Do Something Positive

At a time when the world appears to have been unspeakably cruel to you, you have two choices. Either react with hate and bitterness, and you get sucked into a negative cycle which can quite literally destroy you. Or make the choice to give out something positive, no matter how small. Taking positive steps can restore a feeling of control for you and make you feel that the world isn’t such a hostile place. Look at volunteering opportunities, or do something such as giving blood. Little things can make a big difference to your mindset.

Ask For Help

Don’t feel it’s wrong or shameful to ask for help when you need it- it’s actually a sign of great strength. Find a mental health professional if you feel that you need support to move on from devastating events. Friends, relatives or spiritual leaders can also be very important at this time – remember that you don’t have to cope alone.

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Lawyer Up

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In life nothing is assured, and it’s never going to be all sunshine and lollipops. You might find that there are times in your life where you have found yourself in a situation where you need a lawyer or solicitor. These situations could be because of something you have done, or something that has been do to you, but either way, it would be very real, and nerve wracking to say the least. Whether it’s a criminal offence, a divorce or something equally as horrible, you will need some sort of legal help. However, not everyone knows the ins and outs of the legal world and each different type of lawyer available. So here are some of the more common ones that you might need.

Divorce

Nobody in their right mind gets married with the plan to get divorced, so a divorce lawyer isn’t really a person you have on speed dial. However, with over 40% of marriages ending in divorce these days, it might be a number you find yourself dialing. If this happens then a divorce lawyer will be able to unravel the joint ownership of property between a married couple, negotiate on your behalf on monetary matters, and even help with custody agreements.

Criminal Defense

‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is a fact, and it’s the way that the law operates. It’s not up to you to prove that you’re innocent, but for the prosecutor to prove that you’re guilty, so a good defence lawyer will convince the jury that the evidence against you is inconsequential. If, touch wood, you ever find yourself standing accused of a crime, no matter how small, then you’re going to need a good defence.

Family

When separating from your partner you might need advice, or someone to negotiate on your behalf when it comes to custody agreements. A divorce lawyer will be able to do these things too; however, if you’re not married, or are already divorced, then they might not be your top choice during this tricky time.

Business

If you have a business, then you need a business lawyer. You might not need them every day of your life, but they can easily handle all your affairs, give you advice, and stop you from doing anything stupid. A business lawyer can negotiate sales and mergers on your behalf, and defend you in court if need be.

Medical

Medical malpractice lawyer – the person who is going to get you justice for any mishandling during your time in hospital. If you have been neglected, have been misdiagnosed, if you have suffered from bad side effects from a prescription drug that you weren’t warned about, this lawyer is for you. This is probably the most common type of attorney that you see advertising on TV, park benches, bus stops, and everywhere else.

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