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The Human Family

Redeeming the Darkness in the World through Love

November 20th 2014

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I want this morning to begin our conversation by one way of telling the story of the most beautiful idea in the history of civilization: the idea of the love that brings new life into the world. There are of course many ways of telling the story, and this is just one. But to me it is a story of seven key moments, each of them surprising and unexpected. The first, according to a report in the press on 20th October of this year, took place in a lake in Scotland 385 million years ago.

It was then, according to this new discovery, that two fish came together to perform the first instance of sexual reproduction known to science. Until then all life had propagated itself asexually, by cell division, budding, fragmentation or parthenogenesis, all of which are far simpler and more economical than the division of life into male and female, each with a different role in creating and sustaining life. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

'Let's Encrypt' is Effective Tool for Internet Security

November 20th 2014

In an effort to reinvent and dramatically improve Internet security, University of Michigan researchers have joined with Mozilla and other industry and nonprofit partners to soon offer free, automated and open website HTTPS encryption.

They're establishing a new certificate authority called Let's Encrypt, which will begin operating in summer 2015.

Certificate authorities are organizations that ensure the identities of websites. A certified site is then protected from a host of potential cyber attacks. Users can tell they're on one if the Web address begins with HTTPS, rather than the more common HTTP. Read more ..


The Way We Were

Tenth Century AD Viking Castle Discovered in Denmark

November 19th 2014

In September 2014, archaeologists from the Danish Castle Centre and Aarhus University announced the discovery of a Viking fortress in a field belonging to Vallø Manor, located west of Køge on the east coast of Sealand. This was the first discovery of its kind in Denmark in over 60 years. Since then, archaeologists have been waiting impatiently for the results of the dating of the fortress. Now the first results are available, and they will be presented at a seminar at Aarhus University on November 18 .

“When the discovery was published back in September, we were certain that we had found a Viking ring fortress, but since then there have been intense discussions online and amongst archaeologists about whether we were right. Now we know without doubt that we have found a fortress from the 10th century,” says archaeologist Nanna Holm, curator of the Danish Castle Centre. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Political Power and the Power of Wolves in Michigan

November 12th 2014

With both wolf proposals shot down by Michigan voters on election day, the debate over managing and hunting wolves is far from over.

A Michigan State University study, appearing in a recent issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management, identifies the themes shaping the issue and offers some potential solutions as the debate moves forward.

The research explored how different sides of the debate view power imbalances among different groups and the role that scientific knowledge plays in making decisions about hunting wolves. These two dimensions of wildlife management can result in conflict and stagnate wildlife management.

The results indicate that tension between public attitudes about local knowledge, and politics and science can drive conflict among Michiganders’ stance regarding wolf hunting, said Meredith Gore, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife and co-lead author of the study. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Two Scientists are Among Winners of Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 11th 2014

Professors Mildred Dresselhaus and Robert Solow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among 19 new winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations highest civilian honor.

The honors were announced today by President Barack Obama. Dresselhaus and Solow, both of whom are Institute Professors Emeritus, will receive the awards at a White House ceremony on Nov. 24.

"I look forward to presenting these 19 bold, inspiring Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor," Obama said in a White House announcement.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States; to world peace; or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Science Proves that a Woman's Nose Knows

November 6th 2014

Individuals show great diversity in their ability to identify scents and odors. More importantly, males and females greatly differ in their perceptual evaluation of odors, with women outperforming men on many kinds of smell tests.

Sex differences in olfactory detection may play a role in differentiated social behaviors and may be connected to one's perception of smell, which is naturally linked to associated experiences and emotions. Thus, women's olfactory superiority has been suggested to be cognitive or emotional, rather than perceptual.

Previous studies investigating the biological roots of greater olfactory sensitivity in women have used imaging methods that allow gross measures of brain structures. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Who Permits Sexploitation in the Philippines?

November 5th 2014

The brutal murder of Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude, 26, a transgender person in a hotel near the Subic Bay Freeport Zone last October 11, 2014 allegedly by US serviceman Pvt. 1st Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps, who has been charged by Philippine police, highlights the ever growing presence of the government-approved and protected sex tourism in the Philippines. While the fate of "Jennifer" is deplored by all who respect the dignity and right to life of everyone, we must not think this is an isolated crime. We must not forget the estimated 100,000 under-age children who are abused, trafficked, sold and sexually exploited in the sex clubs, bars, brothels and beach resorts all over the country. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Warring Amazonian Bands of Brothers-in-Law Lend Clues to the Nature of Violence

November 2nd 2014

When Yanomamö men in the Amazon raided villages and killed decades ago, they formed alliances with men in other villages rather than just with close kin like chimpanzees do. And the spoils of war came from marrying their allies' sisters and daughters, rather than taking their victims' land and women.

Those findings – which suggest how violence and cooperation can go hand-in-hand and how culture may modify any innate tendencies toward violence – come from a new study of the so-called "fierce people" led by provocative anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and written by his protégé, University of Utah anthropologist Shane Macfarlan. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The How and Why of the Changing American Family

November 1st 2014

Most young Americans plan to get married someday, but more than 40 percent of births now occur outside marriage, and the American family itself has become far more diverse and varied.

"I wouldn't say the Ozzie and Harriet family is headed towards extinction, but it's really a much much smaller slice of American life," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution and researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, who adds that the nation is still catching up to the new reality.

The new American family is not nearly as white as it used to be. In fact, white babies may already be in the minority. Read more ..


Lebanon on Edge

Hezbollah Society is Battered

October 31st 2014

Hezbollah

Just as any war of attrition taxes a military force, large or small, Syria's war has taken a toll on Hezbollah. Unlike Bashar al-Assad or Iran's Ali Khamenei, who can mute dissent, Hezbollah's ability to project power relies on the support of Lebanon's Shiites.

No public surveys are available that capture the sentiment of these Shiites. Hezbollah keeps a lid on the numbers of its fighters and casualties. Yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that Lebanon's Shiite population is thinning out. Families are searching for better lives away from the "society of resistance" and its perpetual war. In the extended Shiite family I hail from, only one of 11 men and five of 16 women, between the ages of 18 and 50, live in Lebanon today.

Hezbollah is a formidable military force. Its social, media and financial institutions are impressive. Yet the party realizes that, to maintain its edge, it has to nurture its supporters and their needs. After the 2006 July War against Israel, the party's leadership was so embarrassed by the destruction that had befallen the areas of its supporters that it had to deflect Shiite anger toward Lebanon's Sunnis and Druze, accusing them of conspiring against the Shiites to "force them to go back to the days when they worked as shoeshine boys."

Read more ..

Argentina on Edge

Catholic Bishops Urge Argentines to Release Information on Children Abducted by Dictators

October 29th 2014

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After decades of silence, the Catholic bishops of Argentina have publicly asked for an accounting of children who went missing during military dictatorship of the 1970s and early 1980s. The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Argentina, Archbishop José María Arancedo of Santa Fe, has recorded a television/radio spot in concert with the "Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo" (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo), in which he asks for information about the whereabouts of minors who were arrested by Argentina’s security apparatus. He is flanked by Estela de Carlotto and Rosa Roisinblit who president and vice-president, respectively, of the Grandmothers. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Adolescent Drinking Binges Lead to Brain Death

October 29th 2014

Heavy drinking during adolescence may lead to structural changes in the brain and memory deficits that persist into adulthood, according to an animal study published October 29 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The study found that, even as adults, rats given daily access to alcohol during adolescence had reduced levels of myelin — the fatty coating on nerve fibers that accelerates the transmission of electrical signals between neurons.

These changes were observed in a brain region important in reasoning and decision-making. Animals that were the heaviest drinkers also performed worse on a memory test later in adulthood. The findings suggest that high doses of alcohol during adolescence may continue to affect the brain even after drinking stops. Further research is required to determine the applicability of these findings to humans. Read more ..


The Automotive Edge

Why Japan Leads in Electromobility - and Why This Could Change

October 26th 2014

sunset in japan

Is electromobility a strategic issue for Europe's automotive industry or just a propaganda slogan? A study from management consulting service Roland Berger shows where the real technology leaders are. If one sees the supporting role (at best) electromobility plays at the Geneva International Motor Show, one cannot escape the conclusion that despite frenzied design efforts and eye-catching announcements, the European carmakers are only half-heartedly committed to electric driving. Instead, they continue to push the conventional combustion engine technology to the limits.

The 'Electromobility Index' compiled by Roland Berger and the Aachen-based Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen (Research society for Automotive Issues) compares the competitive position of seven leading automotive economies - China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and the U.S. - under the aspect of electromobility. The index ascribes the clear leadership in this mobility segment to Japan. The country leads in terms of technology as well as in terms of electric vehicle sales. Read more ..


Yemen on Edge

Iranian Cultural Centers Suddenly Being Opened Across Yemen in Shia Revolt

October 24th 2014

Yemeni Protestor

Houthi fighters continued to advance across Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday, storming a government building in the capital Sana’a amid fears of sectarian violence and a breakdown of the fragile truce between President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government and the Shi’ite militia.

Houthi militants stormed Yemen’s Interior Ministry in Sana’a on Wednesday, expelling staff working in the office of the deputy minister for financial affairs, a source in the Ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The Houthis forcibly ejected two employees who were dismissed over allegations of corruption and selling information during the time when Abdul Qader Qahtan was interior minister.”

The source added that Interior Minister Abdo Hussein Al-Tarb has not attended the Ministry since Yemen’s Houthis took over the capital of Sana’a in September, rejecting a call from President Hadi to remain as interior minister in any new government. Read more ..


Significant Lives

The Great Ben Bradlee Dies at 93

October 22nd 2014

Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee, the legendary editor who led The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, died Tuesday, according to the newspaper. He was 93. Bradlee’s 23-year tenure as the Post’s executive editor will forever be associated with the events that brought down President Nixon.

The story was revealed by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with the vigorous support of Bradlee, and concluded with Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, 26 months after the Post had published its first story about a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. 

At the beginning, Nixon’s White House press secretary, Ron Ziegler, played down the matter as a “third-rate burglary attempt.” In the end, it resulted in guilty verdicts against 48 people. Many of them — including Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman and White House aide John Ehrlichman — served prison terms. Read more ..


The Way We Are

All are Welcome in the New American Family

October 22nd 2014

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Picture a hypothetical parents’ night at Average Elementary School: A young couple, not married, looks at their kids’ art projects. A pair in their 50s, old enough to be grandparents, frets about their only child. A single mother jots down information about an after-school program. Two men approach a teacher to ask about their adopted son. The people in the room are white, Hispanic, Black, and Asian, and several of the couples are interracial.

This is the new American family. In ways large and small, the fundamental societal building block has morphed from the cookie-cutter norms of the last century to a vivid array of possibilities. Read more ..


The Edge of Hate

NYC Mayor De Blasio Slams Protest Against Controversial 'Death of Klinghoffer' Opera

October 20th 2014

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday criticized his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani for objecting to the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of The Death of Klinghoffer and defended the Met’s right to stage the controversial performance that has been labeled anti-Semitic, the New York Daily News reported on Monday, hours before the play was set to open.

“The former mayor had a history of challenging cultural institutions when he disagreed with their content. I don’t think that’s the American way. The American way is to respect freedom of speech. Simple as that,” de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference.

Giuliani plans to lead the latest protest against the opera outside the Met on Monday, as the show opens. Critics have labeled the performance anti-Semitic for glorifying the murder of Jewish-American cruise ship passenger Leon Klinghoffer, 69. Wheel chair-bound, Klinghoffer was shot in the head by Palestinian hijackers on the Achille Lauro cruise ship 29 years ago. The terrorists threw his body, along with his wheelchair, overboard into the Mediterranean Sea and his corpse washed up on the Syrian shoreline a few days later. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Addictive Gambling Associated with Altered Opiods in the Human Brain

October 19th 2014

All human beings have a natural opioid system in the brain. Now new research, presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Berlin, has found that the opioid system of pathological gamblers responds differently to those of normal healthy volunteers. The work was carried out by a group of British researchers from London and Cambridge, and was presented at the congress in Berlin.

Gambling is a widespread behaviour with about 70% of the British population gambling occasionally. However, in some individuals, gambling spirals out of control and takes on the features of an addiction − pathological gambling, also known as problem gambling. The 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Survey1 estimated that 0.6% of UK adults have a problem with gambling, equivalent to approximately 300,000 people, which is around the total population of a town like Swansea. This condition has an estimated prevalence of 0.5−3% in Europe. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Pre-Schoolers Showing Low Empathy are at Risk for Problems Later

October 15th 2014

A toddler who doesn't feel guilty after misbehaving or who is less affectionate or less responsive to affection from others might not raise a red flag to parents, but these behaviors may result in later behavior problems in 1st grade.

The findings come from a new University of Michigan study that identifies different types of early child problems.

Early preschool behavior problems often improve over time. When that doesn't happen through grade school, children are more likely to become aggressive and violent as teens and adults. Previous research on these different types of behavior problems has focused on older children and teens. Read more ..


Campus Jihad

BDS Accused of Supressing Academic Freedom by Nearly 1200 in Petition

October 9th 2014

boycott Israel t-shirt

Academic freedom is under systematic attack, according, to an article in the Times of Israel with the help of the JTA that reports on the growing backlash against the Boycott Divestment and Sanction movement. The backlash manifesting across campuses accuses the BDS movement of broadly infringing on academic freedom. The Times of Israel article states:

The petition was posted October 5 on the Faculty for Academic Freedom website and had been endorsed by 1,185 signatories at time of writing. “We, the undersigned academics… vigorously support free speech and free debate but we oppose faculty or student boycotts of Israel’s academic institutions, scholars and students,” the petition states. The statement accused BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) supporters of discriminating against Israeli institutions, professors, and students “for no other reason than their nationality and the policies of their government,” and added that such a practice violated “the very principle of academic freedom.” Read more ..


The Prehistoric Edge

New Light Emerges on Mankind's African Origins

October 5th 2014

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What can DNA from the skeleton of a man who lived 2,330 years ago in the southernmost tip of Africa tell us about ourselves as humans? A great deal when his DNA profile is one of the 'earliest diverged' – oldest in genetic terms – found to-date in a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago.

The man's maternal DNA, or 'mitochondrial DNA,' was sequenced to provide clues to early modern human prehistory and evolution. Mitochondrial DNA provided the first evidence that we all come from Africa, and helps us map a figurative genetic tree, all branches deriving from a common 'Mitochondrial Eve'.

When archaeologist Professor Andrew Smith from the University of Cape Town discovered the skeleton at St. Helena Bay in 2010, very close to the site where 117,000 year old human footprints had been found – dubbed "Eve's footprints" – he contacted Professor Vanessa Hayes, a world-renowned expert in African genomes. Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

Palestinians Flee Their Leaders in Unseaworthy Boats

October 3rd 2014

Palestinian Women

As the past few weeks have, shown hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians would rather risk their lives at sea than live under Palestinian governments and leaders whose only goal is to enrich their bank accounts.

Instead of creating job opportunities for young men and women, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority [PA] have spent the past 7 years fighting over money and power. They are now busy planning how to lay their hands on the millions of dollars that are supposed to go to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Hamas wants to use the PA as a tool through which the international community channels funds to he Gaza Strip -- a move that would ultimately empower Hamas to tighten its grip over the Palestinian population there. Read more ..


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

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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 ..



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