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Campus Jihad

Students for Justice in Palestine at Loyola Univ. Chicago Temporarily Suspended

September 29th 2014

boycott Israel t-shirt

The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at Loyola University was temporarily suspended by the university administration for verbally assaulting a student group tabling for Birthright Israel according to the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

The Brandeis Center, which seeks “to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and to promote justice for all,” noted in a press release that the university presented SJP “with a letter indicating that SJP is temporarily prevented from hosting any on-campus activities or events until their leadership meets with Loyola University Chicago representatives and the group complies with stated policies and procedures that apply to all student organizations.” 

"By all reports, this appears to have been a serious incident, and we are glad that Loyola University Chicago is taking it seriously. More work must still be done, and we hope that Loyola University Chicago will follow-up and take appropriate further action,” Brandeis Center President Kenneth L. Marcus stated in a letter to university President Michael J. Garazini. “Sadly, we have seen a pattern of incidents in which SJP has violated the rights of other students and the rules of other universities. We are glad that Loyola University Chicago is upholding its standards and values." Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Arab Boy Flees Death Threats Following Pro-Israel Remarks

September 28th 2014

An Israeli Arab youth from northern Israel who spoke out against the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June has been forced to leave the country due to death threats, Israel Hayom reported.

The youth had posted a video on Facebook in which he called the kidnappers and their supporters cowards, and called for the return of the abducted teens, who at the time were believed to possibly be alive.

One of the youth’s videos, in which he says he is a Muslim but also a loyal citizen of the state of Israel and its democratic values, went viral. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

Anti-Met Opera Movement Gathers Steam Protesting Hate Music

September 22nd 2014

Death of Klinghoffer

A coalition of organizations will protest at Lincoln Center on Monday evening, Sept. 22, at 4:30 PM, across the street from the Lincoln Center Plaza at Broadway & 65th Street to protest the Metropolitan Opera House’s decision to air the “The Death of Klinghoffer.”  Thousands are expected to gather on the first night of the gala opening of the Metropolitan opera season.  Dignitaries and elected officials will raise a voice of outrage  against this opera which promotes terrorism and anti-Semitism.

Confirmed participants include George Pataki, New York’s former Governor, Michael Mukasey, the former Attorney General of the United States, Dr. Bill Donahue, President, Catholic League, criminal defense attorney Ben Brafman, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, Member of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Nissim Ze’ev, Actor Tony LoBianco, Debra Burlingame (the sister of Charles "Chic" Burlingame III, the pilot of the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that was flown into the Pentagon on 9/11), and others. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Insomnia and Irritable Bowels Associated with Domestic Violence

September 17th 2014

One in five men in the U.S. reports violence towards their spouse or significant other, says a new nationally-representative study by the University of Michigan.

The analysis also found that male aggression toward a partner is associated with warning signs that could come up during routine health care visits, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and insomnia, in addition to better known risks like substance abuse and a history of either experiencing or witnessing violence as a child.

The findings appear in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine and are based on the most recent data available from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication from 2001-2003. The survey, entitled "Characteristics of men who perpetrate intimate partner violence,” assesses intimate partner violence and characteristics among male perpetrators. Read more ..


The Way We Are

HRW Says Disabled Children In Russia Face Violence, Isolation, Neglect

September 15th 2014

Russian orphans

When Anastasia Daunis of Moscow gave birth in 1999 to Dasha, a baby with Down syndrome, she says her doctors delivered a bleak prognosis.

"They said, 'Usually, kids like that never develop. They are just like vegetables in the garden," Daunis, who is in her early 30s, recalls. "They told me she would die in my arms, that her illness was so severe that she would need constant care. They compared her to a broken toy that you can return to the store." Daunis said she was convinced that she would never be able to provide Dasha with the proper care she needed. "And Dasha was left in the hospital," Daunis sighs.

Lyudmila Kirillova, 38, lives in Mytishi, a Moscow suburb. She says that when her daughter Nika was born in 2006, she felt "wonderful." "And then we were told she had a chromosomal abnormality," says Kirillova, referring to Down syndrome. "They implied that in the best-case scenario, she would be able to say 'mama' by the time she was 36." Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Jihadist Women Use Twitter to Promote IS Militant Cause

September 12th 2014

Burka cellphone

Pictures of kittens and designer footwear are tweeted out alongside extremist rhetoric, descriptions of the “good life” in Syria, and pictures of battlefield gore.

Welcome to the so-called “Umm network” of well over 100 people who claim to be foreign female jihadists on Twitter. “Umm” is an honorific name in Arabic, used to address women as a mother figure.

As with the Islamic State (IS) militant group, Twitter is apparently a favorite social media tool of the Umm network, according to analysts who monitor jihadist social media activity. It is used in a variety of ways, including recruitment of women and men, dissemination of pictures and videos for would-be jihadists, and promoting IS messaging.

One of the best known members of the Umm network is @UmmLayth -  a.k.a. Aqsa Mahmood, who identifies herself as a Scottish teen of Muslim descent who left home for Syria where she is believed to have married a militant. She no longer tweets, but authorities think she was likely lured to Syria through online networking. Read more ..


America on Edge

National Guard Deployments for Civil Unrest Uncommon in US

September 11th 2014

Paramilitary police Ferguson Missouri

With violent protests continuing in Ferguson, Missouri, nine days after an unarmed black man was shot by a white police officer, the state’s governor on Monday called in the National Guard.

Governor Jay Nixon’s decision came as an unofficial autopsy report released by the family of Michael Brown found that Brown, 18, had at least six bullet wounds from the August 9 incident.

That shooting resulted in days of riots, looting and clashes with law enforcement, violence that prompted two nights of curfews over the weekend and widespread criticism of the police response. Police officials have said the officer, Darrell Wilson, shot Brown during a nighttime scuffle.

While Nixon’s decision indicated concern that violence was spiraling out of hand, National Guard deployments for civil unrest in the U.S. are uncommon. It wasn’t immediately clear how many troops would be sent, nor what their exact duties would be, though Nixon did say that some would be protecting a police command center. Read more ..


The Way We Were

RIP: Terence Todman, a Worthy Adversary

September 9th 2014

Veteran U.S. diplomat Terence Todman passed away on August 13 at the age of 88, three years older than my own inestimable father, Larry Birns, who recently celebrated his 85th birthday. For most of their lives, they did not seem to be known to nurse aspirations to seek housing in each other’s pantheon. Todman served as an ambassador to several African nations, as well as Argentina and Costa Rica. Todman was held in high esteem within conservative circle of the State Department, but was somewhat of a contentious figure at the time among a number of more liberal Latin Americanists.

Todman held the distinction of being named “Career Ambassador” by State in 1990. In his most prominent Washington appointment, from 1977 to 1978, he had served as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. Read more ..


The Way We Are

African and Middle Eastern Countries Remain Dependent for Food

September 8th 2014

As the world population continues to grow, by about 1 billion people every 12 to 14 years since the 1960s, the global food supply may not meet escalating demand – particularly for agriculturally poor countries in arid to semi-arid regions, such as Africa's Sahel, that already depend on imports for much of their food supply.

A new University of Virginia study, published online in the American Geophysical Union journal, Earth's Future, examines global food security and the patterns of food trade that – until this analysis – have been minimally studied.

Using production and trade data for agricultural food commodities collected by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, the study reconstructs the global food trade network in terms of food calories traded among countries. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Chinese Publisher Profits From Growth of Houston’s Asian Population

September 7th 2014

Chinese Students

The rapid growth of the Asian population in and around Houston, Texas, has helped make the fourth largest city in the United States one of the country’s most diverse cities. Many Asians come to Houston to fill high-paying jobs in the city’s energy and medical sectors. Many also come to start businesses, though, in a relatively inexpensive city. The Asian influx has helped one Chinese immigrant build an empire.

Chinese culture is now woven into Houston’s urban fabric. And young Chinese residents also are proud to be Texans. One of them is China-born entrepreneur Wea Lee, who founded Southern News Group here 35 years ago.

“Our friends get together here and also celebrate the 35th anniversary of Southern News Group,” he said. Lee’s business success started with a printing press and a newspaper for what what was then a small Chinese community in Houston. He now has huge, modern presses, and he publishes community papers in several languages in 10 U.S. cities. “Every hour I can print 28,000 copies,” he said.  Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

California's Double-Standard for State Employees' 'Medically Necessary' Abortions

September 6th 2014

The Cardinal Newman Society has discovered that California’s own health plans for state employees cover only “medically necessary” abortions, even though Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has called such language “discriminatory” and a violation of state law for Catholic and other employers who oppose elective abortion coverage as an infringement upon their religious and moral beliefs.

In addition, the Newman Society has collected evidence showing that California has not always considered elective abortion to be a mandatory, “medically necessary” insurance benefit, contrary to the public claims of a top California health official. Read more ..


The Way We Are

A Lone Voice Challenges Belgium's Euthanasia Law

September 5th 2014

walking-cane

A Belgian man is challenging his country’s euthanasia law in the European Court of Human Rights. Dr Tom Mortier’s mother was put to death by a doctor for “untreatable depression” even though she was not terminally ill. Mortier did not find out what had happened until he received a telephone call the day after her death.

“The government has an obligation to protect life, not assist in promoting death,” said a lawyer working on the case, Robert Clarke, of the Alliance for Defending Freedom. “A person can claim that she should be able to do whatever she pleases, but that does not override the government’s responsibility to protect the weak and vulnerable. We are encouraging the European Court to uphold this principle, which is completely consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Oncologist Wim Distelmans killed Godelieva De Troyer, a Belgium citizen who was not terminally ill, because of “untreatable depression” in April 2012 after receiving consent from three other physicians who had no previous involvement with her care.

De Troyer’s doctor of more than 20 years had denied her request to be euthanased in September 2011, but after a 2,500 Euro donation to Life End Information Forum, an organization co-founded by Distelmans, he carried out her request to die because of the depression. The donation gives rise to an apparent conflict of interest, says the ADF. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Consumer-driven Surveillance Takes Shape

September 4th 2014

Eye biometrics

Although recording a crime does not prevent it from happening, banks, shop owners, city administrators and law enforcement agencies all take for granted that more video surveillance equals more security. And despite the fact that constant surveillance exerts an unwanted bias on society or may even lead to abuses, taking its toll on civil liberties, security is successfully sold all over the world in the shape of HD camera units with video analytics ( see The future of video surveillance is hyperspectral).

Increasingly, the same all-out surveillance SciFi scenarios that would chill most citizens are softly redefined from a consumer's perspective, with more and more companies trying to seduce us with self-inflicted video surveillance, for the sake of feeling more secure or just to keep a tab on everything and everyone at home. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Debilitating Disease Gets Windfall Support through Social Media

September 2nd 2014

Web-TV

A social media stunt sweeping the United States is drawing attention and money to combat the deadly neurological disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. In the U.S. alone, there are roughly 15 new cases of ALS diagnosed each day and the disease is well-known for claiming the life of famed American baseball player, Lou Gehrig, nearly 80 years ago.

To do the Ice Bucket Challenge, one first challenges others to follow suit and the dump ice water on your head. The stunt raises money to research the debilitating disease, Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

“Right now, we are running -- countrywide with both our chapters and the national organization -- at about 15.6 million dollars,” said Barbara Newhouse, president of the ALS Association. With help from this viral video campaign, the association has raised millions in just a few weeks, which means it can fund more research and help more families affected by the disease. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

UN hosts Historic Counter-Anti-Semitism Conference -- RSVPs Close September 1

September 1st 2014

UN HQ NYC

A major counter-anti-Semitism conference will convene at the United Nations will feature speakers who will explain how the rising tide of anti-Semitism will have a catastrophic effect on the safety and security of the world. Attendance to this historic event is free. But, those interested in attending must RSVP to Ms. Ugoji Eze Esq., at ugojieze@gmail.com (917) 444-2305, or Mark Langfan, at mapmun@aol.com (646) 263-4606 before 4PM ET Monday September 1, in order to pass the security checks.

Opening statements will be made by H.E. Dr. Caleb Otto, Amb. UN Perm. Mission of Palau, and H.E. Mr. Ron Prosser, Amb. UN Perm. Mission of Israel. Other noted speakers will be Ms. Brigitte Gabriel, of ACT for America; Mark Langfan, Arutz Sheva UN Correspondent/Security Analyst; and Pastor Mario Bramnick, Chief Liaison for Israel and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Read more ..


The Future Edge

Winged Parcel Delivery: Google v Amazon

September 1st 2014

Click to select Image

While there is still debate about if legislation would ever allow swarms of commercial drones to fly over our heads, Google as just unveiled some details of its own drone-based delivery project, named Project Wing. Only a few months ago, web competitor Amazon had showcased octocopters for its futuristic Amazon Prime Air delivery service with vertical take-off and landing for parcel delivery. Now, Google’s way of implementing a drone-based delivery service would rely on a winged drone.

Under secret development for the last two years at the Google X research lab, the GPS-guided drone can follow programmed routes at altitudes varying from 50 to a hundred meters, very much like the gliding drones from Parrot’s sister company, senseFly Ltd. Read more ..


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

Click to select Image

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

Click to select Image

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

Click to select Image

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 ..



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