The Healthy Edge
|Diego DiGhero||January 7th 2014|
According to a release from the University of Michigan, the use of synthetic marijuana by American teenagers dropped substantially in 2013, while a sharply increasing proportion of them see great risk in using so-called “bath salts.” Both of these drugs are synthetics sold over the counter in many outlets such as gas stations and convenience stores, as well as on the Internet. They have been the subject of great concern because of their serious and unpredictable consequences for the user’s health.
These and other findings come from Monitoring the Future study conducted by the Ann Arbor-based institution, which is funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. National samples of 40,000 to 50,000 students in three grades (eight, 10 and 12) have been surveyed every year since 1991. Read more ..
Healthcare on Edge
|Moki Edwin Kindzeka||January 6th 2014|
Cameroon has started a crackdown on medical institutions, including Chinese traditional medical practitioners, who are practicing illegally in the country. The health ministry says thousands of hospitals operating without authorization are responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of patients.
Twenty-seven-year-old Mirabel Ndi watches helplessly as her two-month-old baby cries in pain. She says that for the entire night, she had been at the private clinic in Yaounde with no medical staff on duty. “I came to the hospital and there is nobody to help," she said. "Nobody to help.”
Since the government of Cameroon started a crackdown on what it calls illegal hospitals, staff members have gone into hiding. The secretary-general of Cameroon's National Medical Council, Bijoko Atangana says the Council will continue to pursue order in the sector. Read more ..
Israelis and Palestinians
|Anav Silverman||January 5th 2014|
Tazpit News Agency
On a day where snow still covers the Judean hills, a Jewish doctor from Efrat drives into the neighboring Palestinian village called Wadi Nis. He is greeted by the local Palestinian villagers with smiles and warm hellos. “There’s the doctor,” says one Palestinian woman to another as Dr. Yitzchak Glick lowers his car window to say hello.
To the villagers of Wadi Nis and six other Palestinian villages in the Gush Etzion region, the kippah-wearing Dr. Glick is a familiar and welcome face. The U.S.-born doctor, who made aliyah with his parents in 1974, makes personal house calls every week, providing medical treatment to ailing Palestinians free of charge.
When Dr. Glick sees Mohammed, a construction worker who he treated for injuries from a fall from a building a couple of years ago, he stops to get out of the car. With his red keffiyeh, Mohammed greets Dr. Glick with a hug and the two converse as old-time buddies. “The people here don’t forget what I and other doctors from Efrat have done – from treating expectant mothers and providing free medicine to saving lives, you become part of their families.” Read more ..
Egypt After Morsi
|Eric Trager||January 4th 2014|
Nearly six months after the mass uprising-cum-coup that toppled Mohammed Morsi, the key cleavages of Egypt’s domestic political conflict are not only unresolved, but unresolvable. The generals who removed Morsi are engaged in an existential struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood: They believe they must destroy the Brotherhood -- by, for instance, designating it a terrorist organization -- or else the Brotherhood will return to power and destroy them.
Meanwhile, Sinai-based jihadists have used Morsi’s removal as a pretext for intensifying their violence, and have increasingly hit targets west of the Suez Canal. Even the Brotherhood’s fiercest opponents are fighting among themselves: the coalition of entrenched state institutions and leftist political parties that rebelled against Morsi is fraying, and the youth activists who backed Morsi’s ouster in July are now protesting against the military-backed government, which has responded by arresting their leaders. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Steve Baragona||January 4th 2014|
Genetically modified ingredients have been eliminated from one of the best-known breakfast cereals in the United States after a year-long campaign from environmental groups.
Food industry giant General Mills says it took genetically modified organisms (GMOs) out of its Cheerios brand not out of safety concerns, but in response to consumer demands.
Starting a little over a year ago, The “GMO Inside” environmental coalition rallied tens of thousands of consumers to flood the Cheerios Facebook page and call and email the company telling them to take GMOs out of the cereal.
“We just wanted to encourage General Mills to offer non-GMO Cheerios to consumers here in the United States just like they do in Europe,” said Todd Larsen, a coalition member with Green America. “And apparently tens of thousands of people agreed with us.” Read more ..
The Future Edge
|Daisy Sindelar||January 3rd 2014|
In 1964, Isaac Asimov -- the author of such science fiction classics as "I, Robot" and "The End of Eternity" -- attended the World's Fair in New York.
The fair featured a display dedicated to advances in electrical appliances since the start of the 20th century. And it left Asimov asking himself a question: what further advances would the world see 50 years on?
His resulting essay, "Visit To The World's Fair Of 2014," was in many ways prescient. Asimov, among other things, predicted a world of 3D movies, cordless home appliances, driverless cars, and screens that allow you to make video phone calls, read books, or study documents.
Other forecasts, meanwhile, have yet to be realized. Asimov predicted that by 2014, much of humanity would be living underground or underwater to maximize the use of the Earth's surface for agricultural production. He imagined robots that would tend gardens, and cars that would hover over roads rather than driving directly on them. Read more ..
Egypt After Morsi
|Sebastian Meyer||January 2nd 2014|
A law recently passed in Egypt makes it illegal for groups of more than 10 people to gather. However, every Friday a group of young men meets on the outskirts of Cairo, not to protest, but to practice a sport called Parkour that is sweeping the country.
It’s Friday morning in the suburbs of Cairo. A dozen young men meet to practice Parkour, the urban gymnastics craze that’s swept the world.
Come rain or shine, the group called PKE - or Parkour Egypt - meets every week to work on moves.
The few onlookers seem impressed, although Ahmed Nasser Saif says they're not always appreciated. “They call me crazy man or they don’t know what I do. So I’m strange for that life. Why I run? Why I climb some buildings?” – said Nasser Saif. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Nina de Vries||January 1st 2014|
After decades of work, the first translation of the Bible into the Sierra Leone dialect of Krio was published less than a year ago. The translation is gaining widespread use, and is helping to increase church attendance in the capital, Freetown.
The Warren Memorial Church in Freetown has chosen to use the newly created Krio Bible at its services. People sing in Krio and there is also preaching in Krio.
This version of the Bible has actually taken decades to create explains Ruby Pearce, who helps run the services at the church. She said the Bible Society of Sierra Leone had the idea for the creation of the first ever Krio Bible in the 1970's.
Pearce said bible translators came to Sierra Leone in 1974, but were only working part time. The translation of the New Testament was finished in the 1980's. Translation of the Old Testament stretched well into the new century, until the Krio Bible was finally completed in the spring of 2013. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Antoine Blua||December 31st 2013|
From the fight against HIV/AIDS and polio to the spread of new deadly viruses, from the development of artificial-limb technology to new regulations allowing better access to pain killers in Ukraine -- 2013 had its share of highs and lows when it came to health and medicine.
2013 saw advances in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Scientists from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research announced in January that they had discovered how to modify a protein in HIV to protect against common infections. Associate Professor David Harrich said that if clinical trials prove successful, the treatment could be an effective way of disarming AIDS.
"This therapy is potentially a cure for AIDS. So it's not a cure for HIV infection, but it potentially could end the disease. This protein present in immune cells would help to maintain a healthy immune system so that patients would be able to handle normal infections," Harrich said.
In another potential breakthrough, scientists announced in March that a baby born with HIV appears to have been cured after very early treatment with standard drug therapy. More tests need to be carried out to determine if the treatment could have the same effect on other children, but the Mississippi child had no signs of infection after about a year off HIV drugs.
On the polio front, outbreaks in Pakistan and Syria threatened to derail efforts to eradicate the highly infectious disease. In Pakistan, one of the three countries where polio remains endemic, opposition from Islamic militants has hampered efforts to immunize children, with vaccination teams kidnapped or murdered in some cases. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|Soner Cagaptay and James F. Jeffrey||December 30th 2013|
The news last week about a corruption scandal in Turkey seems on the surface a traditional case of prosecutors ferreting out wrongdoers in high places. But the turmoil that threatens Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been a long time coming and is the most public manifestation of a struggle between Turkey's two main Islamic-conservative factions hitherto united under the governing party: the prime minister's Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, and the influential, popular Gulen movement.
The past year has already been challenging for Mr. Erdogan. Demonstrations that began in May grew out of anger over plans to develop Istanbul's Gezi Park and were a liberal affair, challenging the prime minister's increasingly autocratic rule. The Gezi Park occupants would seem to have little in common with the Gulen movement, an opaque, Sufi-inspired group known for its Islamic piety and, until recently, its support for Mr. Erdogan. But the Gezi and Gulen movements are now de facto, if not actual, partners with similar aims: resisting Mr. Erdogan's near-total power. Read more ..
|Avi Jorisch||December 30th 2013|
Cutting Edge contributor
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees. The films, pictures, slides and prints the organization has collected on the refugees' plight will now be displayed in Jerusalem's Old City in an exhibit entitled "The Long Journey," which will then tour Europe and North America. The images, available online, are heartbreakingly powerful and emotive.
Like all refugee stories, Palestinian stories of displacement and loss needs to be told. The question is what lessons one takes out of it. For Israel, as many prominent Israeli intellectuals, historians and politicians have argued for decades, the Palestinian plight is one that must be confronted and acknowledged with honesty. Read more ..
|David Schenker||December 29th 2013|
Middle Easterners fear the White House will return to bad habits by dropping its demands on Syria in order to appease Iran.
Back in 2006, during a particularly low point in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group issued a report in which the central contentious proposition was that "all key issues in the region are inextricably linked." Accordingly, to stem the deterioration in Iraq and "achieve its goals" in the Middle East, the report posited the U.S. would have to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Seven years on, while the conceit linking Iraq to the Arab-Israeli peace process is no longer relevant, the concept of linkage appears to be making a comeback -- this time in the context of Iran and war in Syria. During a recent trip to Lebanon, a concern I heard repeatedly voiced was that if Tehran played ball and signed onto a nuclear deal, the Obama administration might be prepared to acknowledge Iranian interests in Syria and drop its demand that President Bashar al-Assad step down.
The prospect of somehow tying Iran's nuclear file to ceasefire talks in Syria was of great concern to many of the Middle Easterners I spoke to. And for good reason -- linking international efforts to roll back Iran's nuclear program in order to achieve a ceasefire in Syria would be ill advised.
To be sure, Iran and Syria are inexorably connected. For more than three decades, the Shiite theocracy in Tehran and the Alawite regime in Damascus have been strategic partners. And today, Iran is the leading supporter of the Assad regime, providing the weapons, technical assistance, and troops that have enabled Assad to combat the insurgency.
But Iran cannot serve as a productive interlocutor in Syria. Regardless of whether the "first step" nuclear framework agreement with Iran progresses to a full-scale deal, Tehran views the survival of a friendly regime in Damascus to be a priority. Syria is the gateway of Iranian influence in the Levant. If Assad was toppled, he would likely be replaced with a Sunni regime hostile to Iran that would sever the key supply line between Tehran and its Lebanese Shiite militia proxy, Hezbollah. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
|Alaem Rahmanyar||December 29th 2013|
Authorities in the Afghan province of Jowzjan have annulled the marriage of a seven-year-old girl, whose father admits giving her away in return for $2,000.
Authorities in the northern Afghan province of Jowzjan have launched a probe against a father, who has acknowledged forcing his seven-year-old daughter to marry a man five times her age. Ramadan, who like many Afghans goes by one name, blamed his action on poverty that has plagued his family.
"We didn't have a place to live, we were hungry, we had debts," he said. "I regretted doing this the day I did it. I regret it now." He acknowledged marrying off his underage daughter in return of some $2,000, and foodstuffs, including rice and wheat. Read more ..
Saudi Arabia on Edge
|Lori Plotkin Boghardt||December 28th 2013|
The Saudi government views Twitter as a national security threat.
Two studies released in November show once again Saudi Arabia's extraordinary appetite for Twitter compared to that in other countries. This has renewed interest in the potential for social media to facilitate political mobilization in the kingdom. Indeed, the Saudi Twittersphere reveals significant public discontent with the government's performance on addressing domestic problems like unemployment and corruption. However, persistent efforts by a relatively small number of Saudis using Twitter and other social media to mobilize their fellow citizens for reform have generally failed to translate into large-scale action. The fact that some of the kingdom's most popular Twitterati are clerics underscores the conservative nature of Saudi society, including the Twitter-happy youth. Read more ..
|Bennett Muraskin||December 28th 2013|
Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.
Read more ..
In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted, and educated (in that order of importance). For centuries, Jewish communal leaders were responsible for collecting taxes from the Jewish population on behalf of the government, and in some cases were responsible for filling draft quotas. Education was traditionally an internal Jewish affair.
Until this period, Jewish names generally changed with every generation. For example, if Moses son of Mendel (Moyshe ben Mendel) married Sarah daughter of Rebecca (Sora bas Rifke), had a boy and named it Samuel (Shmuel), the child would be called Shmuel ben Moyshe. If they had a girl and named her Feygele, she would be called Feygele bas Sora.
The Toxic Edge
|David Heath||December 28th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
At a memorial service held in November in her favorite classroom, Patricia Buffler was hailed as a champion of children.
While dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, Buffler started the nation’s largest program researching the causes of childhood leukemia. She expanded her study of this rare disease after stepping down as dean in 1998, continuing the work until she died unexpectedly in late September at the age of 75.
Buffler’s research, backed by more than $35 million in federal grants, could save lives. Her team concluded that sending your child to daycare might reduce the risk of getting leukemia, perhaps by bolstering the immune system. It found strong evidence suggesting that preschoolers should stay away from wet paint. One of her graduate students at the memorial was struck by something Buffler once said: “Children are fragile, so it is our role to protect them.” Read more ..
The Toxic Edge
|Jim Morris||December 27th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Ray Kline, it’s said, bled Goodyear blue.
Compact and laconic, Kline signed on as an operator at the Goodyear chemical plant here in 1960 and logged just short of 40 years. He routinely worked six days a week, 12 hours a day, retiring in 1999 as head of maintenance. “I made a good living,” Kline said in the dining room of his comfortable home in Lewiston, N.Y., two blocks from the Niagara River -- betraying little bitterness over the price his family paid for economic stability. Kline, 75, has endured two bouts of bladder cancer. Strong evidence suggests the disease was work-related.
In a yet-to-be published study, federal health investigators have confirmed 50 cases of bladder cancer among plant employees through 2007, nearly three times the number that would have been expected in the general population of New York State. The unofficial tally to date, compiled by a lawyer for some of the cancer victims, is 58 cases. Read more ..
Singapore on Edge
|Lien Hoang||December 27th 2013|
In a place that restricts everything from chewing gum to pungent durian fruit. Singaporean authorities pride themselves in having a high bar for strict laws and a low crime rate to match. So they’ve been none too pleased by reports that tax dodgers, corrupt officials, and money launderers might be closing their Swiss bank accounts and moving funds to Singapore.
In response, the government is ramping up measures to battle this reputation as a tax haven. It is now negotiating a deal with the United States that requires banks in Singapore to share details of Americans’ offshore assets with the Internal Revenue Service. The United States just signed the so-called FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) with six other governments this month. “There is no basis for the allegation that wealthy individuals can hide money and avoid taxes in Singapore,” a Ministry of Finance spokesperson told said. Read more ..
China on Edge
|Julian Pecquet||December 26th 2013|
The recent flare-up in tensions in the Pacific has raised new doubts about America and China’s ability to peacefully coexist as both set their sights on Asia’s booming potential. On a range of issues — from territorial claims to business practices, economic policies to the environment — the two countries’ struggle to find common ground is all but certain to dominate the headlines for years to come.
Julian Pecquet visited China for 10 days in October at the invitation of the China-United States Exchange Foundation, a Hong Kong-based nonprofit that funds visits by lawmakers, journalists and others. He found that Beijing’s suspicions about the great power across the Pacific mirrored those in Washington, DC.
Congress is taking a hard line against China in the showdown over a handful of tiny Pacific islands, complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to manage the issue.
Senators of both parties are demanding that China rescind its new air defense zone over Japanese-held islands, going beyond the White House's own admonishments. And several Republicans have taken issue with the administration's recommendation that U.S. air carriers abide by China's request to be informed of all flights through the zone.
Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Rabia Akram||December 25th 2013|
In the remote village of Tedi Bazaar, in Pakistan's volatile northwestern tribal areas, one woman's unusual name makes her stand out from the crowd: America Bibi.
The 65-year-old Pashtun grandmother says her name honors the unfulfilled American dream of her father, Akhtar Munir. Shortly after World War II, Munir left his village in pursuit of a better life in the United States. The journey, however, didn't go as planned.
"My father was a young man, eager to go to America," Bibi explains. "He went to India and boarded a ship there to sail to America. He was a handsome man with blue eyes, but he was illiterate. While sitting inside the ship, he was holding a newspaper upside-down and this led to his arrest. He was sent to Mumbai, and spent three years in prison there." Read more ..
Egypt's Second Revolution
|Jim Kouri||December 24th 2013|
Following the political upheaval in Egypt and the lack of a cohesive government authority, a survey reveals that as far as women's rights and women's security, "post-Arab Spring" Egypt is the worst country in the Arab world, according to the pollsters in a report released on Tuesday.
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, sex crimes against women, high rates of female genital mutilation, so-called "honor killings," and the increasing violence and Islamist unrest following the Arab Spring uprisings are responsible for making Egypt the worst country in which to be a woman in the Arab world.
Laws that single-out women and the increase in human trafficking and sex-slavery are additions to the list of social pathologies that have placed Egypt at the bottom of a ranking of 22 Arab states, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation's Crina Boros. Read more ..
The Environmental Edge
|Yekaterina Lushnikova||December 23rd 2013|
Seventy-seven-year-old Klavdia and her husband Mikhail, 84, are struggling to put on a gas mask.
Mikhail: "So, I undid the zipper. Now, I'm looking at these straps. I loosened them. I'm loosening and loosening."
Klavdia: "We should have thrown these things out ages ago."
Mikhail: "I've unfastened this thing."
Klavdia: "That thing is supposed to reach over to here and that's it."
All the residents of the village of Mirny, in Russia's central Kirov Oblast, have gas masks tucked away somewhere, in cupboards or under beds. Klavdia explains how she was required to pick up the masks from local authorities about five years ago. She signed a receipt, tucked them away, and hasn't needed to think about them since.
But in Mirny, you never know. The village is located just across the railroad tracks from the Maradykovsky chemical-weapons facility -- one of eight sites in Russia where massive stockpiles of Soviet-era chemical weapons are being destroyed. Over the last seven years, nearly 7,000 tons of nerve agents like sarin, blister agents like Lewisite, and other deadly chemicals have been neutralized at Maradykovsky. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Eileen Scahill||December 22nd 2013|
Prescribing both a stimulant and an antipsychotic drug to children with physical aggression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), along with teaching parents to use behavior management techniques, reduces aggressive and serious behavioral problems in the children, according to a study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The study was conducted in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, Stony Brook University in New York and Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. The findings published online this week ahead of publication in the January issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“Combination pharmacotherapy is becoming common in child and adolescent psychiatry, but there has been little research evaluating it,” said first author Michael Aman, director of clinical trials at Ohio State’s Nisonger Center and emeritus professor of psychology. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Chris Simkins||December 21st 2013|
South Africa is a country that loves its beer. It's a product that has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry for commercial beverage companies. But now there's a growing popularity for craft beers made by smaller microbreweries which are opening across the country.
There's a new offering for South Africa's growing thirst for good beer. It’s called Soweto Gold, and it’s the creation of master brewer and businessman Ndumiso Madlala. He's making history by opening South Africa's first black-owned and locally brewed beer in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto.
"A lot of people were very surprised that a black person can brew beer," he said. "So I am very proud that I have been able to demonstrate to other African people that it is possible to venture into brewing as an African person, and I so hope that a lot of people are going to follow suit in the brewing field." Read more ..
|Ken McGuffen||December 21st 2013|
Those looking for honest companies to invest in might want to check out businesses based in more religious communities, suggests a new paper from the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. The study found that businesses with head offices in places with high levels of "religiosity" were less likely to experience stock price crashes as a result of not disclosing bad financial news.
And it didn't matter whether those at the top were religious or not. Just being in a town where social norms are influenced by religious codes of behaviour was enough to rub off on the companies operating there.
"There is nothing quicker to losing your good name in a religious milieu than doing something like withholding bad news and not being upfront. There's a real cost," said Jeffrey Callen, a Rotman professor of accounting who co-wrote the paper with former graduate student Xiaohua Fang, now an assistant business professor at Georgia State University. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Golnaz Esfandiari||December 20th 2013|
One flower does not make Spring. More children, a happier life." That's the message being sent to Iranians in an effort to encourage them to produce more offspring.
Colorful billboards bearing the slogan and depicting a happy-looking family have cropped up along major highways in Tehran. The idyllic family of six is shown pedaling together on a tandem bicycle under a blue sky, leaving a family of two far behind. But a key component to any family is noticeably missing -- mothers.
Critics say the message and imagery are irresponsible, sexist, and far from the grim realities of daily life in the Islamic republic. The billboards appear after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech last year that Iran should double its population to 150 million, or even more. Khamenei argued that a baby boom was needed to boost an aging population and to sustain development. Read more ..
|James Devitt||December 19th 2013|
Neanderthals, forerunners to modern humans, buried their dead, an international team of archaeologists has concluded after a 13-year study of remains discovered in southwestern France.
Their findings, which appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirm that burials took place in western Europe prior to the arrival of modern humans.
"This discovery not only confirms the existence of Neanderthal burials in Western Europe, but also reveals a relatively sophisticated cognitive capacity to produce them," explains William Rendu, the study's lead author and a researcher at the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS) in New York City.
CIRHUS is a collaborative arrangement between France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and New York University. Read more ..
Health on Edge
|Elizabeth Lee||December 18th 2013|
The international spotlight is increasingly focused on the alleged practice by China of harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience and members of religious and ethnic minority groups. The European Parliament called on China on December 12 to halt the practice and the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a similar resolution.
In front of the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles, Falun Gong practitioners protest with banners and speeches. They accuse the Chinese government of forcibly harvesting the organs of imprisoned Falun Gong followers. Speaking to journalists, Zeng Zheng recalled her experience after her arrest.
“On the day that we were transferred from the detention center to the labor camp, the person we saw, to our surprise, was not the police guard but a doctor. We were taken to an unknown place where a doctor was waiting for us and to interrogate us about our medical history," said Zheng. Read more ..
Egypt’s Second Revolution
|J. Millard Burr||December 17th 2013|
J. Millard Burr
Egypt’s Al-Ahram reported on 13 December that Al-Azhar’s Supreme Clerical Committee, the paramount advisory body of one of Islam’s most influential religious and academic institutions, had just voted to accept the resignation of the noted Muslim intellectual Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
An octogenarian, Qaradawi is an active lecturer on theology at the University of Qatar, and periodically addresses the Muslim World through Al Jazeera radio and television. His name is known throughout the Dar al-Islam; and his program, “Shariah and Life,” has been heard by tens of millions of Muslims.
While his lectures directed to Western audiences may be snooze-inducing, his pronouncements issued through Islamonline, his internet outlet, and his recent fatwas (religious pronouncements issued by a respected Muslim) are often news-making. Indeed, recent fatwas have been quite controversial—especially those made in the wake of 9/11/2001. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|GregFlakus||December 16th 2013|
In Texas, Christmas and New Year's celebrations are similar to those in the rest of the United States, but Mexican culture and the state's cowboy heritage both contribute a special flavor.
A lone star, the symbol of Texas, sits atop a tall tree in front of the Alamo, a Spanish mission where Texas rebels fought to the death against the Mexican army in 1836.
But the people who gather here on cold December evenings, leading up to Christmas, seek peace and harmony. And regardless of their ethnic background, they favor Mexican food for the holiday.
"We make our own food like tamales and menudo," said one man. "We traditionally have tamales on Christmas eve with other kind of hors d'ouerves kind of stuff. It is really not the turkey meal that you see in the movies or maybe that is what they do up north," a woman said. Read more ..
Aging in America
|Diane Swanbrow||December 15th 2013|
Only about a third of Americans ages 65 and older are fully able to take care of themselves and go about their daily lives completely independently, according to a new study published online in the American Journal of Public Health.
Understanding that there are different ways older adults adapt to disability is a big step in developing public health policies that maximize the quality of life for all older Americans, said the study's lead author, Vicki Freedman, a research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
Freedman and colleagues analyzed data on a nationally representative sample of 8,077 older men and women, part of the National Health and Aging Trends Study. The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the research. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Claire Bigg||December 15th 2013|
When pharmacies ran out of the free pain medication he was entitled to under Russia's public health system, dying cancer patient Viktor Sechin turned to Aleftina Khorinyak, a doctor and longtime friend, for help.
For about a month in early 2009, Khorinyak prescribed him a nonsubsidized version of the opioid painkiller Tramadol to help ease the suffering caused by his terminal cancer.
"They didn't give him any Tramadol for 52 days. I could no longer bear watching him suffer," Khorinyak recalls. "He moaned and thrashed about on his bed, he was in such excruciating pain." Sechin, who was also severely disabled, succumbed to cancer two years later at his home in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, aged 57. What Khorinyak intended as gesture of compassion, however, has landed her in court on charges of drug trafficking and document forgery. Both are criminal offenses that carry a total of up to eight years in jail. Read more ..
Our Darkest Hour
|Alexander Bolton||December 14th 2013|
President Obama marked the anniversary of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, and called for a nationwide grassroots push for gun control in his weekly radio address.
The president’s statement came a day after a gunman shot at least one student and then committed suicide at a suburban high school in Colorado, a few miles from Columbine High School, the site of a mass shooting in 1999.
“We haven’t yet done enough to make our communities and our country safer. We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds,” Obama said in remarks made public Saturday morning.
Gun-control legislation has stalled in the Senate, despite Democratic control of the upper chamber and widespread public support for strengthening background checks for gun buyers. Read more ..
Islam on Edge
|Lisa Bryant||December 13th 2013|
Two years after becoming law in France, a ban on face-covering Muslim veils is facing a pair of high-profile legal challenges. The cases in French and European courts may force Paris to roll back the legislation and have ramifications elsewhere in Europe.
In 2011, France became the first European country to ban face-covering Muslim veils in public places. The legislation was generally to include items like ski masks as well as veils, but many felt it singled out France's 5 million strong Muslim community, the largest in Europe. The debate also spread across the region. Belgium followed France in adopting the ban. In September, so did a canton in southern Switzerland.
France argues the ban is needed for security reasons and to protect its secular traditions. But today, France's ban faces legal challenges - one at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and another at a trial that opened this week in the Paris suburb of Versailles. Read more ..
Living in the City of Peace
|Anav Silverman||December 12th 2013|
Jerusalem became a white city on Thursday as heavy snows blanketed the city throughout the day and into the night. Considered a rare snowstorm, over 10 centimeters of snow fell on the city during the day, setting a December record.
Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat described the snowfall as a festive occasion for Jerusalem residents. “Snow in Jerusalem is a cause for celebration for Jerusalemites and the many visitors who come to see the worlds’ most beautiful city painted white,” the mayor stated. “We hope the snow does not disappoint – especially the children of Jerusalem who are waiting and excited.”
Schools as well as courses at Hebrew University were cancelled throughout the capital - much to the joy of students, teachers and faculty alike.
Schools in Judea and Samaria were cancelled for both Thursday and Friday, including in the more mountainous areas of Kiryat Arba, Gush Etzion, Shvut Rachel, Shilo, Tel Tziyon, Maale Levona, Psagot, Beit El, Eli and Ofra. The first snowflakes of the winter had already reached Hebron on Wednesday night. Read more ..
The South African Edge
|Anita Powell||December 12th 2013|
South Africans say anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has left his country a legacy of freedom, hope and promise. But for some young South Africans, he left an even more indelible mark. Countless baby boys were named after Mandela in the 1990s.
Greita Mahlangu was pregnant during Nelson Mandela’s first year as president of South Africa. The year before, she was one of millions of South Africans who lined up for hours to vote in the nation’s first democratic election.
She voted for Mandela, and then watched her country change seemingly overnight: from a nation riven by racial divisions to what Mandela, known here by his clan name, Madiba, called the “Rainbow Nation.”
When she was blessed with a baby boy on December 30, 1995, she named him Nelson. “I am very proud of my son because he’s very clever. I named him Nelson because I love Madiba very much, because he [fought] for us. He [fought] for freedom, for many years, he was in prison for 27 years just for us," Mahlangu explained.
Mandela died last week at the age of 95 after an extraordinary life in which he helped bring down South Africa's apartheid system and usher in peace and democracy. He was actually given his first name by a teacher, who said his actual given name, Rohlihlahla, which translates roughly to “troublemaker,” was too hard to say. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Susan Ferriss||December 11th 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
Responding to demand for reforms, the nation’s largest school police force — in Los Angeles — will stop issuing tickets to students 12-years-old or younger for minor infractions allegedly committed on or near campuses during school hours.
A memo this month to officers from Los Angeles Unified School Police Department Chief Steven Zipperman outlined the new policy, which goes into effect in December. The announcement comes in the wake of community demands for the school district to “decriminalize” minor school disciplinary matters and use more discretion when involving law enforcement personnel.
The post-Newtown push to place more police in schools nationwide makes it more urgent to set standards for officers’ roles, some juvenile court judges and others have warned.
In 2012, in a series of reports, the Center for Public Integrity and KPCC radio documented the citations of thousands of kids in middle school and even some elementary schools for disturbing the peace, graffiti, marijuana and cigarette possession, truancy, trespassing, jaywalking and other allegations. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Jim Kouri||December 11th 2013|
With incidents of mass shootings taking center stage in the news media, a group of researchers released a study on the subject of youths being exposed to gun violence in their choice of motion picture entertainment which they call the "weapons effect."
The journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that violence in motion pictures that are rated PG-13 has more than tripled, especially violent scenes involving guns in a study titled, "Gun Violence Trends in Movies," which was released on Veterans Day.
According to the team of researchers -- Brad J. Bushman, Patrick E. Jamieson, Ilana Weitz and Daniel Romer -- several academic studies have suggested that just the presence of "guns can increase aggression, an effect they dubbed the 'weapons effect.'" Read more ..
The Thirsty Planet
|David L. Chandler||December 10th 2013|
Pure Home Water has reached more than 100,000 poor rural women, children, and families with safe drinking water via ceramic pot filters produced at a factory in Tamale, Ghana. “It’s been a long, hard slog,” says Susan Murcott, a senior lecturer in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, describing her efforts to disseminate water-filtration systems to some three million people in northern Ghana. About half of these people presently lack access to a reliable supply of clean drinking water. But after nine years of efforts by Murcott and her students, the project has begun to make a difference.
Factories that produce these locally sourced, clay-pot filters — originally invented by Fernando Mazariengas of Guatemala and since improved and widely disseminated by Murcott and others — have already been built at 52 locations in 31 countries, she says, with the newest of these factories in Guatemala, Uganda, South Africa, and China. So far, the Ghana factory, built in 2011 and reaching full production last year, has provided sustainable, safe drinking water to more than 100,000 people in that country’s impoverished, rural northern sector. In January, 10 MIT students will work there to help expand production and monitor outcomes. Read more ..
|Luther Spoehr||December 9th 2013|
Inside the Black Box of Classroom Practice: Change Without Reform in American Education. Larry Cuban. Harvard Education Press. 2013.
Larry Cuban has been a voice of reason during the past thirty years of stormy debates over school reform. A former high school teacher, district superintendent, and now professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, he takes quantitative data into account without being hypnotized by it, doesn’t tie himself into knots with pedagogical ideology, and never confuses with policy with practice.
The titles of his books over the years tell you where his research has taken him. When the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report sounded its alarm and inspired yet another round of reform-through-technology panaceas, Cuban added a cautionary note with Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920 (1986)—and when the drumbeat for computers in the classroom continued, he added Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom in 2003. My own favorites include How Teachers Taught: Constancy and Change in American Classrooms, 1890-1990 (1993), The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can’t Be Businesses (2007), and (with historian David Tyack) Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform (1997), a remarkably precise, concise, and evenhanded overview of what the efforts to improve K-12 education have and haven’t changed. Today, in the age of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, and now the Common Core, advocates of top-down reform (I’m looking at you, Arne Duncan, and you, too, Bill Gates) could still benefit enormously just from reading the chapter in Tinkering called “How Schools Change Reform.” Read more ..
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