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The Battle for Ukraine

For Displaced Ukrainians, A Troubled Return To School

August 31st 2014

Ukraine homeless

Eduard Leontiyev is gearing up for the first day of school in Ulyanovsk, his new home city.

The teenager moved to this Russian industrial city, 700 kilometers east of Moscow, last month after fleeing the fighting in eastern Ukraine with his parents and four siblings.

The conflict has turned his life upside down, but Eduard is putting on a brave face. He says he's looking forward to starting school in Ulyanovsk. "It's a great school, I like it a lot," he says. "It has new plastic windows, spacious corridors, and two gyms."

For most families forced out of their homes by the violent clashes pitting the Ukrainian government against pro-Russian separatist rebels, the new school year is fraught with uncertainty. As they scramble to rebuild their lives, many parents still don't know whether their children will be able to start school on September 1.

"I want my children to go to school, but I don't have any answer from schools yet," says Marina Kononova, who recently arrived in the Siberian city of Tomsk and lives in a packed dormitory with other Ukrainian refugees. "This uncertainty is really frightening." Read more ..


Holland on Edge

Does Fear of Nursing Homes Drive the Dutch to Euthanasia?

August 30th 2014

walking-cane

A Dutch euthanasia clinic is being investigated for helping an elderly woman to die because she did not want to live in a nursing home. This is the second time in four months that the Levenseindekliniek (End of Life Clinic) in The Hague has been reprimanded.

Even in the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, the clinic is controversial. It was set up to cater for patients whose own doctors refused to perform euthanasia and is financed by private health insurance. In the two years after it opened in March 2013, 322 people were killed there.

The official euthanasia monitoring committee says that the clinic had not observed the formal guidelines for euthanasia. In the latest case, a woman in her 80s had been partially paralysed after a stroke. Twenty years ago she declared that she did not want to live in a nursing home, a position she reaffirmed 18 months ago.

However, in order to qualify for euthanasia in the Netherlands, a patient must be ‘suffering unbearably’. The clinic’s doctors decided that this was the case, based on some of her gestures and her repeated use of the words ‘kan niet’ (a common Dutch expression meaning more or less ‘no way’) which they interpreted as ‘I can’t go on any longer like this’. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Cellphone Addiction Is An Increasingly Realistic Possibility

August 29th 2014

Walking-Cell phone

Women college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cellphones and men college students spend nearly eight, with excessive use posing potential risks for academic performance, according to a Baylor University study on cellphone activity published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

“That’s astounding,” said researcher James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. “As cellphone functions increase, addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility.”

The study notes that approximately 60 percent of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone, and some indicated they get agitated when it is not in sight, said Roberts, lead author of the article “The Invisible Addiction: Cellphone Activities and Addiction among Male and Female College Students.”  Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Connected Cars

August 28th 2014

Traffic Jam

The 'Connected Car' is one of the most hyped terms in the automotive industry. But is it real in terms of value creation and market impact? A study from consulting companies strategy& and PwC says yes - but is yet completely unclear who will be the winners.

Between 2015 and 2020, the total available market of networked mobility will almost quadruple - from 31.9 billion to 115 billion, says a market report jointly generated from PwC and strategy& (this is no typo - the consulting company formerly known as Booz & Company really chose this somewhat unusual name). The main drivers in this huge market are safety and autonomous driving.

While the segment safety in 2015 will amount to a mere 12.2 billion, products related to safety in the connected car context will be worth 47.4 billion. Likewise, autonomous driving - or better, its preparing efforts and technologies - will represent a value of 7.5 billion in 2015 with growth expectations to 35.7 billion by 2020. Other strong contributing sectors are infotainment (13.2 billion), comfort (7.1 billion and vehicle management (6.7 billion). And these are only the figures for the passenger car market; commercial vehicles were not subject of the study. This market analysis got granular on mobility management, vehicle management, infotainment, well-being, autonomous driving, safety as well as home integration, a field that is relatively new and refers to functions that connect the vehicle with the home and the office, thus creating holistic solutions. Read more ..


Medicine on Edge

Cystic-Fibrosis Patients Relieved As Russia Lifts Ban On Lifesaving Product

August 26th 2014

Lots of Pills

Natalya Dyomina is in a celebratory mood. Following loud protests by advocacy groups, Russia has agreed to lift its ban on Western nutritional supplements vital to patients suffering from a range of chronic diseases.

"I'm very happy," says the 33-year-old Muscovite, who has been battling cystic fibrosis since childhood and relies on special high-calorie mixes to stay healthy. "I'm happy we were given the possibility to continue receiving these products. Thankfully, the situation was resolved relatively quickly and didn't result in any more tragedies. We lose patients often enough as it is."

Russia banned so-called medical foods earlier this month as part of sweeping sanctions on Western foodstuffs. Because the supplements contain milk powder, these products initially fell under the restrictions slapped in response to U.S. and EU sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine.

The move had sparked fear among cystic-fibrosis sufferers, most of whom require dietary supplements to prevent weight loss and fight off infections. "These products are life-saving, they should not be subjected to any sanctions," Dyomina says. "Such a ban has deadly consequences for us." Read more ..


The Caliphate

Beheaded American Journalist Volunteered to Die to Save Fellow Hostages

August 23rd 2014

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The family of James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State terror group, believes he may have volunteered to be killed to spare the lives of his fellow hostages. Foley's brother Michael says he has no doubt that James would have sacrificed himself. "He has always been that way," Michael reportedly said of his deceased brother.

The Foley family was attempting to raise ransom money for the journalist's release, but had nowhere near the $130 million the terrorists had demanded. While European nations have paid multi-million dollar ransoms for their kidnapped citizens, the United States does not make ransom payments. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Thousands Attend Iranian Poet Behbahani's Funeral

August 23rd 2014

Iranian women with mobile

Thousands of Iranians, including prominent intellectuals, artists, and rights activists, have attended a funeral ceremony held in Tehran for celebrated poet and women’s rights advocate Simin Behbahani.

Behbahani, known as Iran’s lady of "ghazal" for her use of a traditional genre that employs a series of couplets, died on August 19 in a hospital in the Iranian capital of heart failure and respiratory problem.

The two-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in literature was 87.

Iran’s most famous classical singer, Mohammad Reza Shajarian, said Behbahani had made history: “Simin [Behbahani] will always remain alive in our history and live on in us,” Shajarian was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies.

“Simin Behbahani, the crown of Iran’s women,” some chanted, according to a participant. Behbahani was laid to rest at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra cemetery, where her father is buried, Iranian media reported.

Her burial location has led to some controversy amid reports that Iranian authorities had prevented the family to lay Behbahani to rest at Imamzadeh Taher cemetery, where many prominent literary figures and dissidents have been buried. Ahead of the ceremony, Fariborz Raisdana, a friend and colleague of Behbahani's in the Iranian Writers Association, wrote on his Facebook page about official pressure and said that in protest he would not attend the funeral. Read more ..


Ebola Outbreak

Ebola-Related Precautions Prove Onerous for the People of Liberia

August 22nd 2014

Some residents of Liberia’s West Point say Ebola-related restrictions are becoming unbearable. And they say if the situation continues for another week, the already angry residents could become even angrier.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says nearly 2,500 people have been infected by the Ebola virus in four West African countries, with more than 1,350 people dead.

The WHO says 90 percent of new Ebola deaths have occurred in Liberia.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Wednesday announced the quarantine of West Point, a densely populated borough of the capital, to control the spread of the virus. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Israeli Device Combines Segway into A Wheelchair

August 20th 2014

walking-cane

The robotic ReWalk exoskeleton from Israel’s Argo Medical Technologies, featured on primetime’s Glee, Time magazine’s list of greatest inventions of 2013 and at the London Marathon, will be a hard act to follow.

But the ReWalk’s inventor, Amit Goffer, is hoping to score another hit with a new innovative wheelchair, UPnRIDE, designed for people like himself who cannot benefit from the ReWalk because they are quadriplegic and don’t have full functionality in their arms. (The ReWalk is only by those who are paraplegic, paralyzed below the waist.).

UPnRIDE will enable many wheelchair users to be fully mobile in standing position anywhere, including in an urban environment, says Oren Tamari, CEO of RehaMed Technologies.

“After seven years at Argo, and after bringing the ReWalk to where it is now, I am currently working with Amit Goffer on a new product that will improve the quality of life and health of all wheelchair users,” Tamari tells ISRAEL21c.

“This is very meaningful, because we know that not every wheelchair user can use the ReWalk. This new solution can fit almost everyone who uses a wheelchair.”

Automatic balancing, Segway-like appearance

As a category, the standing wheelchair is not a new product. These devices have been shown to improve circulation, elimination and bone density, and could also improve overall quality of life and independence among wheelchair users.

What’s different about the UPnRIDE?

“The twist we bring here is the stabilization,” says Tamari. Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

Tracking Vaccination Compliance with Fingerprint Scans

August 20th 2014

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Each year 2.5 million children die worldwide because they do not receive life-saving vaccinations at the appropriate time.
Anil Jain, Michigan State University professor, is developing a fingerprint-based recognition method to track vaccination schedules for infants and toddlers, which will increase immunization coverage and save lives.

To increase coverage, the vaccines must be recorded and tracked. The traditional tracking method is for parents to keep a paper document. But in developing countries, keeping track of a baby’s vaccine schedule on paper is largely ineffective, Jain said.

"Paper documents are easily lost or destroyed,” he said. "Our initial study has shown that fingerprints of infants and toddlers have great potential to accurately record immunizations. You can lose a paper document, but not your fingerprints.”

Jain and his team traveled to rural health facilities in Benin, West Africa, to test the new fingerprint recognition system. They used an optical fingerprint reader to scan the thumbs and index fingers of babies and toddlers. From this scanned data, a schedule will be created and become a part of the vaccine registry system.

Once the electronic registry is in place, health care workers simply re-scan the child’s fingers to view the vaccination schedule. They know who has been vaccinated, for what diseases and when additional booster shots are needed. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Yazidis Show Promise of a Modern Middle Eastern Society

August 18th 2014

Yazidis flee in Iraq

The city of Lalish, as many refer to the holy center of the Yazidi faith, is a bit of a misnomer. Wedged into the side of a small hill several hours' drive north of Irbil in Kurdistan, the hamlet is remote and modest and has only one entry point, a partially paved strip that was guarded, at the time of my visit, by Kurdish pesh merga troops. The small group looked and acted more like parking attendants than hardened fighters. In the small valley between the hills, gas flares dotted an otherwise tranquil landscape seemingly undisturbed by modernity.

Days after the last U.S. troops left Iraq in late 2011, I found myself cradling a cup of tea in the Yazidi temple compound in Lalish, a place whose name sounds like something out of a Gene Roddenberry creation. As U.S. airpower returns to Iraq, at least partly to protect thousands of Yazidis from possible massacre, that afternoon at the Yazidi mecca has been on my mind. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iranian Math Genius's Photos Too Racy For Media Back Home

August 16th 2014

Iranian women with mobile

"No hair, no ears, no neck." That's how one journalist described a front-page portrait of Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani that an Iranian newspaper digitally doctored to obscure her hair and skin to placate censors in the Islamic republic.

The altered picture of Mirzakhani, who this week became the first woman awarded the Fields Medal, mathematics' equivalent of the Nobel Prize, was published in the Iranian reformist daily "Sharq," whose journalist tweeted the snarky quip about the manipulation of the image.

Mirzakhani's achievement appears to have created a challenge for Iranian newspapers forced to follow stringent written and unwritten censorship guidelines concerning images exposed female skin and hair.

Women in Iran are required to wear the Islamic hijab to cover their hair and body, and newspapers and websites often digitally alter pictures of women to make them acceptable to censors and hard-liners.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton are among women whose photographs have been doctored by the Iranian media in recent years. Other images of Mirzakhani, a professor at Stanford, also appear to have undergone digital editing in order to be published by Iranian newspapers. Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

High Rate of Opiod Use Uncovered Among Social Security Disability Recipients

August 15th 2014

Consistent with reports of an "opioid epidemic" in the United States, the results showed high and rising prevalence of opioid use by SSDI recipients. The percentage of beneficiaries taking opioids increased from 2007 through 2010. In 2011, the most recent year with available data, prevalence dipped slightly to 43.7 percent.

The percentage of these beneficiaries with chronic opioid use rose steadily, from 21.4 percent in 2007 to 23.1 percent in 2011. Chronic opioid users received numerous opioid prescriptions—at least six and generally 13 per year—typically prescribed by multiple doctors. Women were at greater risk of becoming chronic opioid users than men.

Among chronic opioid users, the average "morphine equivalent dose" (MED) also dipped in 2011. Still, nearly 20 percent of chronic users were taking a dose of at least 100 milligrams MED, while ten percent were taking 200 milligrams. Read more ..


The Way We Are

A Moral Minefield for Journalists Dealing with Graphic Content

August 14th 2014

Even for a world accustomed to news reports of conflict and disaster, the past three months seem to be unprecedented for the frequency of horrific events. From the continuing tragedies in Syria, to the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram, to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Very recently, we’ve seen the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza and now there are the terrible accounts of atrocities committed by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

These events have once again demonstrated that the maxim “man’s inhumanity to man” continues to apply in what seems to be an enduringly violent world. And our news media offers us graphic evidence of this inhumanity. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Depression Alone Rarely Causes Suicide

August 13th 2014

woman headache head bowed

In his stand-up and best-loved comedies, including Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams was known for his rapid-fire impersonations and intensely playful energy. His most critically acclaimed work, however, including his Oscar-winning turn in Good Will Hunting, married humor with sharp introspection and appreciation for melancholy.
 
Reports of his death from apparent suicide on August 11 at the age of 63 prompted much speculation about the actor’s personality and mental health. Williams had been seeking treatment for severe depression, and many commenters have labeled that as the reason for his death. Whereas the majority of people who commit suicide have depression, less than four percent of people with depression eventually take their lives. Clearly, more factors are at work as causes of suicide than depression alone. The severity of mood disorders, past suicide attempts and substance abuse are all thought to increase the risk. Recent evidence also suggests that the mixed depressive state of bipolar disorder can be a particularly dangerous time that can often go undetected or masquerade as depression and irritability. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Energy

American Southerners Have a Different Take on Energy's Environmental Impact

August 13th 2014

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Southerners are less likely than Americans in other parts of the country to believe that energy affects the environment by at least a fair amount, according to the latest findings of the University of Michigan Energy Survey.

A joint effort of the U-M Energy Institute and Institute for Social Research, the quarterly survey gauges consumer perceptions and beliefs about key energy-related concerns including affordability, reliability and impact on the environment.

When asked if energy affects the environment, "not at all," "a little," "a fair amount" or "a lot," 69 percent of Southerners chose the latter two answers. The choices of "a fair amount" or "a lot" were given by 77 percent of consumers in the Midwest, 79 percent in the West and 82 percent in the Northeast. Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

Good Family Values Lessen Risk of Addiction

August 13th 2014

Urban teens whose parents provide high levels of emotional support are more likely to avoid binge drinking and marijuana use, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Researchers examined the family dynamics and parental support among 850 high school students identified as at-risk for dropout, based on a grade point average of 3.0 or lower at the end of 8th grade. Data were collected at four stages every 12 months over four years.

Students responded to statements such as "family members criticize each other" and "we fight in our family," as well as "my mother/father enjoys hearing about what I think" and "I rely on my mother/father for moral support." Read more ..


The Way We Are

Central American Immigrants are Both Pulled and Pushed to the United States

August 12th 2014

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Central American immigrants head north atop a Mexican train

The tens of thousands of Central Americans who have crossed over the border in south Texas seeking asylum over the past year left their homelands to escape poverty and violence. But they also have been drawn to the United States by the idea that they would be allowed to stay. Even though many of them, in fact, face deportation after their expensive, difficult and dangerous journey, they say they had no choice but to try.

A man, who calls himself Eddy, fled his hometown in Guatemala with his three-year-old daughter in fear for their lives. “There is a lot of crime, drug trafficking and kidnapping of children. The drug traffickers have a lot of power,” he said.

The same fear drove Alma Ciro and her two children from their home in crime-plagued Honduras. “It is an ugly situation. There is crime, a lot of unemployment because there are few employers, and there are men who chase the girls leaving school. This happened to my daughter,” she said. Read more ..


Africa on Edge

Eritrea Faces Youth Drain

August 11th 2014

African immigrants at Lampedusa island italy

A new report said a lot of young people are leaving Eritrea due to authoritarian rule, growing dissatisfaction and long-term national service. The International Crisis Group has called for both domestic and international action to reduce the youth drain.

Many young Africans are leaving the continent hoping to find jobs and opportunities elsewhere. But the International Crisis Group said the youth exodus from Eritrea is acute.

It said the Eritrean government’s demand to “sacrifice individual ambition for the greater good of the nation” is causing people to leave.

Dr. Cedric Barnes, ICG’s Horn of Africa Project Director, said, “The primary driver at the moment seems to be because people are fed-up with the national service, where people are required to either join the army or work for the government in various capacities for very little money and with no prospect of being released. We are seeing people voting with their feet, as it were, to avoid these demands.” Many risk their lives doing so. Read more ..


Inside Kenya

'Green Loans' Help Kenya's Farmers

August 10th 2014

African subsistence farming

A quarter of Kenya's population are farmers. Few of these 10 million have ever received training on how to improve their production or how to expand their businesses with financing. Most of these farmers shun the idea of a loan after seeing neighbors lose livestock or whole farms when they can't keep up with repayments to loan sharks. 

Now a new company is offering cash for conservation measures, though, in the hope that so-called "green loans" will help farmers with better borrowing terms, while teaching them how to protect Kenya's most fertile soils and ensure that the country can keep feeding itself.
 
Fifty-year-old Samuel Karioki has been farming since he left school, harvesting the same vegetable crop each season. But this year, Karioki's neat rows of cabbages are bursting into one another, and he is expecting a bumper crop of potatoes. After years of struggle, his success is thanks to a $90 loan that he used to buy top quality seeds and fertilizer for the first time. Read more ..


The Battle for Baghdad

Who are the Yazidi People of Iraq?

August 9th 2014

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Islamic militants this week encircled thousands of members of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, prompting the Obama administration to carry out humanitarian air drops to the refugees who fled their homes to Mount Sinjar. Here are answers to six questions about the Yazidi people, religion, and history.

Who Are The Yazidis?

The Yazidis are socio-religious group that is traditionally rural -- namely farmers or shepherds -- and whose members are primarily native Kurdish speakers. Their numbers worldwide likely do not exceed 1 million.

The traditional community leader, who carries the title “mir,” or “prince,” resides in the town of Ain Sifni, east of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The main Yazidi temple is nearby in the valley of Lalish, considered a holy site among the Yazidis. The famous British mystery writer Agatha Christie once described the temple as one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Latino Students Most Segregated in California

August 8th 2014

Latino kids in school

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos.

Immigrants from Latin America believe that coming to the United States means a better life for their children. But many find themselves living in dangerous places and with a bleak future, said Gary Orfield, co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project.

“They are the places where the gangs are concentrated, the crime is concentrated, there is no real job market and the schools are what we call 'dropout factories,'” said Orfield. In the United States, the public school a student attends depends on where the child lives. Those in more affluent neighborhoods usually attend better public schools. Read more ..


The Islamic State

Iraqi Christians and Yazidis Flee Genocide at the Hands of the Islamic State

August 7th 2014

Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in northern Iraq's Nineveh province, was assaulted by the military forces of the so-called Islamic State on August 6. The entire population of the town, amounting to between 50,000 to 60,000 souls, have now fled to neighboring Kurdistan and settled around the city of Erbil. In June of this year, the people of Qaraqosh had fled in terror when the city of Mosul was overwhelmed by the army of the Islamic State, but approximately 80 percent of them had since returned.

The most recent flight of Christians came when the Sunni Muslim jihadis of the Islamic State fired mortars into Qaraqosh and killed two children and a 30-year-old woman. The flight of Assyrians was precipitated also by the retreat of Kurdish forces from the Nineveh Plain. With no one left to defend them, the Assyrians followed the retreating Kurdish forces. The situation of the Assyrian refugees is critical. There are thousands who fled on foot and are stranded on the roads without food or water. Many are elderly, handicapped or otherwise disabled people.

Read more ..


The Islamic State

The Islamic State Beheads Christians in Iraq while Advancing towards Baghdad

August 7th 2014

Syriac Orthodox Bishop George Saliba of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli denounced Muslims as enemies of Jesus, while accusing them of a long history of violence and persecution of Christians. "What is happening in Iraq is a strange thing, but it is normal for Muslims, because they have never treated Christians well, and they have always held an offensive and defaming stand against Christians," said Bishop Saliba according to Elnashra.com "We are not calling for armament and war; we don't have the capacities," Saliba said. "We used to live and coexist with Muslims, but then they revealed their canines [teeth]."

The bishop accused Muslims of centuries of violence against Christians, while he condemned the attacks on the Christians of Iraqi Mosul. "[They don't] have the right to storm houses, steal and attack the honor of Christians," Saliba said. "Most Muslims do this, the Ottomans killed us and after that the ruling nation-states understood the circumstances but always gave advantage to the Muslims." Saliba also said Muslims are raised to have bad feelings about Christians, saying "Islam has never changed, and Muslims have been educated on the bad treatment of Christians."

"We are not surprised by these behaviors, but we [put hopes] on some Muslims brothers who do not support such behaviors, despite them being a minority." Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Stagnating Wages Weigh upon Americans' Economic Mood

August 7th 2014

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Stagnating wages are weighing on Americans' optimism as the economy regains its footing after years of gradually expanding.

Economists say that even though the labor market is improving, along with other areas of the economy, the main source of consumers unease is the lack of real wage growth.

"Most people have a job, and their perspective on the economy is determined by whether they got a raise, and if so, how big,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics.

“Unfortunately, wages have been growing at no more than the rate of inflation since the recession. In other words, living standards are going nowhere.” Read more ..


Sudan on Edge

South Sudan Food Insecurity Deepens

August 6th 2014

Hungry African Widow/Children

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says it has less than half the funding it needs to help ensure food security in parts of South Sudan. The agency wants to send emergency livelihood kits to farmers, fishers and pastoralists as the risk of famine grows.

The FAO has appealed for $108-million for its revised Crisis Response Plan. But so far it’s received just $42-million. Jeff Tschirley, who’s in charge of the agency’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, said conflict is complicating the humanitarian crisis.

“The situation started off badly in December when the violence started. But in the last six weeks we’ve seen a very sharp deterioration in the food security situation. More than a third of the population is at level four or level five in the index that we use to measure food security. And there’s a significant risk of an impending food crisis.” The conflict has taken a severe toll on South Sudan. Read more ..


China Rising

The End of Consensus Politics in China

August 5th 2014

New hires to Chinese military

Chinese President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign is the broadest and deepest effort to purge, reorganize and rectify the Communist Party leadership since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and the rise of Deng Xiaoping two years later. It has already probed more than 182,000 officials across numerous regions and at all levels of government. It has ensnared low-level cadres, mid-level functionaries and chiefs of major state-owned enterprises and ministries. It has deposed top military officials and even a former member of the hitherto immune Politburo Standing Committee, China's highest governing body. More than a year after its formal commencement and more than two years since its unofficial start with the downfall of Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, the campaign shows no sign of relenting.

It is becoming clear that this campaign is unlike anything seen under Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Both carried out anti-corruption drives during their first year in office and periodically throughout their tenures as a means to strengthen their position within the Party and bureaucracy and to remind the public, however impotently, that Beijing still cared about its well being. But that was housekeeping. This appears to be different: longer, stronger, more comprehensive and more effective. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Identity and Loyalty in Islam and the Middle East

August 4th 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

Westerners strive to solve problems. When people appear obstinate, we often indignantly say, "Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?" This is alien to Middle Eastern and Islamic culture. Middle Easterners cope with problems for which they know there are no solutions-akin to living with a chronic illness. 

Islam, for example, does not recognize the equality of all people. Muslims are the rightful rulers of the Muslim world. Non-Muslims who believe in God and who have a revelation from God before Islam do have the right to live in Muslim societies. They are called "dhimmis" which means, "protected people," who can live in the Muslim world, albeit in positions of political and social inferiority. To be sure, they might become important. There have been Christian Foreign Ministers in Egypt (Butros Ghali) and Jordan (Marwan Mu'ashar), but Christians know they cannot hope to rule their countries. This is most clear in Egypt, where the Copts, native Christians descended from the ancient Egyptians, cannot aspire to become Egypt's president because that position is reserved for a Muslim.  Read more ..


The Edge of Medicine

Traditional Burial Practices Hamper Fight with Deadly Ebola Virus

August 3rd 2014

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World Health Organization officials say traditional burial practices are among the obstacles that are making it difficult to control the worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa's history.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said health and relief workers have been trying to educate families in the affected region about how to bury their loved ones without exposing themselves to the virus.

He said people who touch the dead could be putting themselves at risk.

"At the moment when a person died from Ebola, this is the moment when the person is the most infectious and when the viral load is the highest," he said.

Dangerous practice

Jasarevic has been working with local officials in Guinea and Sierra Leone. In many cultures, he said, families wash the bodies of their loved ones before burial, but this practice is dangerous for Ebola victims because of the presence of bodily fluids.

"Usually there is the point just before the death, there is bleeding," he said.

Jasarevic also said their could be vomit or diarrhea.

Peter Schleicher, a Red Cross operations manager in Liberia, said another obstacle for relief workers in affected communities is fear, explaining that people in some communities have prevented trained health professionals from safely burying Ebola victims.

"We got a report back from one of our teams in the field that they have now been blocked by the angry community and they have been denied access," he said. Schleicher said the team members were told to turn back to keep from putting themselves at risk. Read more ..


Anti-Semitism in Europe

UK Retail Chain Tesco Bans Israeli Products

August 2nd 2014

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Tesco, the UK’s largest food retailer, has strongly rejected claims that the Gaza crisis is forcing it to stop selling Israeli produce and products, saying that in the case of Israeli dates packaged under its own label it had decided to stop selling them in September “for commercial reasons.”

According to the grocery chain, the dates are grown in Israel but packaged in the West Bank.

“It is clearly marked as “West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)” so customers are fully aware of what they are buying,” a spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. “As part of our regular review of our range, we will not be selling this product for much longer.”

The spokesman said that in line with the recent request from the British government on “origin of food” labeling, the dates have to be marked and sold as such, and as Tesco customers have been asking for such information, the company has to supply it. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Pro-Palestine Marchers Expected in Washington DC

August 1st 2014

Various Muslim organizations and other groups in solidarity with the Palestinian cause are calling for a mass demonstration to be held on August 2 in Washington DC. The so-called ‘National March in D.C. to Stop the Killing in Gaza’ will assemble at the White House at 1 PM local time. According to the AnswerCoalition.org, transportation from around the country is being arranged. A social media campaign has also emerged, with a Facebook page and Twitter hashtags.

A number of different groups are co-sponsoring the march. Among them are:

- ANSWER Coalition

- American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)

- Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

- American Muslim Alliance (AMA)

- Al-Awda: Palestine Right to Return Coalition

- CODEPINK Read more ..


Broken Government

Public Trust in Affordable Care Act is at its Lowest Ebb

August 1st 2014

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Negative views of ObamaCare abruptly hit an all-time high this month, erasing six months of gradual increases in the law's popularity.

Fifty-three percent now see the Affordable Care Act in a negative light compared with 45 percent last month, according to a monthly tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The marked change appears to be among people who previously did not have an opinion of ObamaCare or refused to express it who now see the law unfavorably.

The reform has struggled since its inception to gain traction with the public, with negative views outpacing positive ones since late 2012. Supporters note that some people who oppose the law feel it did not go far enough. Read more ..


Broken Government

Border Detention Facility Workers Exposed to Contagion

August 1st 2014

Some Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees have become sick after exposure to contagious diseases at detention facilities housing child immigrants, according to an inspector general report.

The report found “many” of the children detained after crossing the border needed treatment for communicable diseases, including tuberculosis, chicken pox and scabies.

The report was issued Thursday by DHS Inspector General John Roth. It highlighted one instance at a Del Rio facility in Texas in which Customs and Border Patrol employees reported contracting scabies, lice and chicken pox. At other facilities in Santa Teresa, N.M., and Clint, Texas, employees said they could have been exposed to tuberculosis. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Energy

High-Temperature Superconductivity Discovery Paves Way For Energy Superhighways

July 30th 2014

Traffic Jam

Physicists at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) working with Cornell University and Brookhaven National Laboratory claim to have identified the 'quantum glue' that underlies a promising type of superconductivity. The discovery is a step towards the creation of energy superhighways that conduct electricity without current loss. The research, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a collaboration between theoretical physicists led by Dirk Morr, professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and experimentalists led by Seamus J.C. Davis of Cornell University and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The earliest superconducting materials required operating temperatures near absolute zero, or 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. Unconventional 'High-temperature' superconductors function at slightly elevated temperatures and seemed to work differently from the first materials. Scientists hoped this difference hinted at the possibility of superconductors that could work at room temperature and be used to create energy superhighways. Read more ..


Aging with Grace

Elderly African-Americans Fall Less Often Than Others

July 30th 2014

walking-cane

A University of Michigan study examining how race and ethnicity predicts the frequency of falls by older people shows that African Americans are less likely to fall than others.

"Millions of older adults living in community settings are just one bad fall away from a nursing home," said Emily Nicklett, an assistant professor of social work and the study's lead author. "Identifying risk and protective factors can inform falls prevention interventions and policies."

Nicklett and colleague Robert Joseph Taylor, the Sheila Feld Collegiate Professor of Social Work, and faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research, examined data on falls incidence and frequency from the Health and Retirement Study from 2000 to 2010. The study followed nearly 10,500 African American, Latino and non-Hispanic white older adults.

Functional limitations, including difficulty walking across the room or preparing meals, and health problems such as high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes, also predicted greater odds of experiencing a fall for adults 65 and older, the study showed. Read more ..


The UN on Edge

Planning Post-2015 Development

July 29th 2014

Nigerian baby with cap

The U.N. Millennium Development Goals are due to expire at the end of next year. Debate is underway on what should replace them. One U.N. official says they should be based, in part, on the findings of the 2014 Human Development Report.

The eight Millennium Development Goals were established in 2000. Nearly 190 countries at the time committed to achieving them by 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; promoting gender equality; reducing child mortality and improving maternal health; and fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Much success has been made since the goals were set, but progress is not equal among the MDGs. With their expiration near, the question arises: what next? The Human Development Report – released July 24th in Tokyo -- calls for reducing vulnerabilities in society and building resilience. Read more ..


Africa on Edge

Young African Leaders to Branch Out in US

July 28th 2014

Obama with baseball bat

Hundreds of Africa's emerging leaders are gathered in Washington for a three-day summit that includes a meeting with President Barack Obama. The summit is a highlight of a six-week U.S. fellowship that has given about 500 young Africans a chance to sharpen their skills through coursework and professional development. Some participants plan to remain in the United States to learn more about how they can help their home countries.

Zimbabwe's Rumbidzai Dube, a lawyer and human rights defender, is among those staying. She wants to learn more about how to help victims of human trafficking.

“I have been wanting to work in the field of human trafficking for a very long time. And because a lot of people in Zimbabwe do not see this as an issue, there is very little buy-in, even from international NGO’s [non-governmental organizations]," she said.  Read more ..


The Way We Are

Manhattan’s Catholic Churches Face Consolidation, Possible Closures

July 27th 2014

Church

Some Catholic churches in Manhattan could be closed as the Archdiocese of New York implements a strategic plan to consolidate the churches. Shifting populations, limited resources and fewer priests are among the factors driving the consolidation. At one midtown church facing possible closure, parishioners pray for a miracle.

The Church of the Holy Innocents is the only church in Manhattan offering a high Latin Mass every day of the week. It is such a rarity that many travel across the New York metropolitan region for the daily 6:00 pm service. Edward Hawkings makes the trek every day despite his disabilities, because the Mass inspires his soul.

“The Mass takes us to a different place. We concentrate at the Mass. It requires a great concentration. It lifts us up. It brings us to a different level, removes us from the world,” said Hawkings. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Poll Show Almost 90 Percent of Israelis Oppose Kerry Plan for Hamas

July 27th 2014

Soldiers at desks

Public opinion in Israel is solidly against ending Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip according to a poll released Sunday. The poll was conducted by respected pollster Mina Tzemach among 504 respondents, a representative sample of the Hebrew-speaking Israeli adult population. It was sponsored by strategist Roni Rimon, who once worked with Likud and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but now insists he took it at his own initiative for his own curiosity.

When asking about a potential cease-fire, the poll gave two choices. The first endorsed a cease-fire because "Israel had enough achievements, soldiers have died, and it is time to stop." The second said Israel cannot accept a cease-fire because "Hamas continues firing missiles on Israel, not all the tunnels have been found, and Hamas has not surrendered." Read more ..


Human Rights on Edge

Euthanasia is a Good Option for the Poor, says Lithuanian Health Minister

July 26th 2014

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Euthanasia might be needed for poor people who cannot access palliative care, the new Lithuanian Health Minister has suggested. Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė was sworn earlier this month, but already she has made waves by backing an open discussion of the legalisation of euthanasia.

Without making any specific proposals, she told local media that Lithuania was not a welfare state with palliative care available for all and that euthanasia might be an option for people who did not want to torment relatives with the spectacle of their suffering.

The minister has also raised the idea of euthanasia for children. She noted that this option had been approved for Belgian children after a long public debate. It was an option which might be appropriate in Lithuania as well after public debate. Read more ..



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