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The South African Edge

South Africa Welcomes Chinese Language, Influence in Schools

March 11th 2014

African school kids

South Africa's education minister says the nation of 11 official languages will introduce Mandarin into its school curriculum. The move is part of a greater effort to get closer to major trading partner China, and has been criticized and welcomed. 

If you want to say hello in South Africa, you have no shortage of options in this nation of 11 official languages.  It’s "sawubona" in Zulu, "hallo" in Afrikaans and "dumelang" [in the plural form] in Setswana. And, of course, there is always, "hello." 

But now, South Africa’s education ministry hopes to add another language to this polyglot nation, by saying "ni hao" to Mandarin Chinese. An agreement this month between the two nations focuses on five areas of cooperation: curriculum development, math and science, teacher training, vocational education, and research and development in basic education. Read more ..


The Edge of Poverty

One Billion at Risk of Extreme Poverty

March 10th 2014

Kenya Poverty

Climbing out of extreme poverty -- and staying there – can be very difficult. A new report warns up to one billion people are at risk of extreme poverty by 2030 unless more is done to support them in hard times.

Unemployment, poor health, high food prices, conflict and natural disasters – these are some of the things that can drive people below the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

The Overseas Development Institute and the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network have released the Third Chronic Poverty Report.  Network Director Andrew Shepard -- the lead author -- warns of poverty’s “revolving door.”

“People fall into poverty as well as escape it. And once they’ve escaped it they can fall back in again.” He said there are three legs of poverty that must be addressed.

“You can be poor the whole of your life, chronically poor. And policies, generally speaking, don’t deal very well with that. You can become poor. You can be impoverished. Policies are beginning to address that a little bit better than they did 10 years ago, but there’s still a long way to go on that, especially in Africa, and actually also in Asia. And then once you escape poverty, you need to keep on in an upward trajectory. You need to keep on moving away from poverty because you can easily fall back in again,” he said.

It’s estimated there were 1.2 billion people in extreme poverty in 2010. That’s a decline of 700 million since 1990. Shepard says that’s good news, but the trend may not continue. “People who are chronically poor, they’re poor over their lifetimes for reasons and those reasons can be quite hard to tackle. For example, they might be discriminated against. And some countries now have good policies against discrimination, buy many countries don’t yet or they don’t implement them.” Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

A Jewish Voice from the Crimea: "Living in Readiness"

March 9th 2014

Defaced Synagogue-Simferopol

Two weeks after the fall of the regime in the Ukraine, and as the flow of reports on Russian military advancement in the Crimea intensifies, the situation in the region continues to remain unstable and flammable.

The interim government in the Ukraine has issued new laws, many of them with a nationalistic orientation, creating unrest in the Russian speaking regions in the country. Many of these ethnic Russians in the east of the Ukraine fear the new regime and aspire to be annexed by Russia. These citizens go to sleep every night not knowing in which country they will wake up in the next morning. Russian President Vladimir Putin has effectively invaded the Crimea under the pretence that he is doing so to protect the ethnic Russian there from Ukrainian nationalism, and now the world's attention is focused on the key peninsula.

The residents of the Crimea don't know what to expect from the government in Kiev, and these latest developments have not left the Jewish community in the Crimea untouched. As always in history, when a region experiences strife and instability the first to come under threat are the Jews there, as the lack of a central government enables the violent expressions of anti-Semitism. Tazpit News Agency has interviewed two of the leaders of the Jewish community in the Crimea, and has learned of their precarious state. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iran's Dervishes On Hunger Strike Inside, Outside Prison

March 8th 2014

Iran protest

It started on March 1 when one jailed dervish -- blogger and rights activist Kasra Nouri -- went on hunger strike to protest what he described as the mistreatment of his fellow prisoners. Nouri was angered that two jailed members of the Nematollahi Gonabadi order of Sufis were not receiving proper health care. He then was joined by others.

Sources close to the dervishes now say that 10 of them in prison are refusing to eat. They have been reportedly joined by more than 2,000 other Sufis outside of prison -- in Iran and elsewhere in Europe, India, and other countries -- who have also gone on hunger strike. A number of them have said they will protest on March 8 in front of the prosecutor-general's office in Tehran.
The protest is not just about the mistreatment of jailed dervishes. But it focuses on state pressure on the Nematollahi Gonabadi dervishes who make the largest Sufi group in Iran. The group is believed to have more than 2 million members across Iran. Read more ..


The Ukraine on Edge

Fear Rife Among Crimea's Minority Tatar Population

March 7th 2014

Ukraine protest

Nurie -- a 48-year-old Tatar woman in the central Crimean town of Bakhchysaray -- was sitting in her home this week when a group of Russian-speaking Crimean men came walking down her street with truncheons.

One of the men had a list that appeared to contain the names and addresses of Tatars in the area -- a neighborhood called Aqchuqraq where most residents are either Crimean Tatars or ethnic Kazakhs. Next door, Nurie's Tatar neighbor Ava had just returned from picking up her 7-year-old son from school.

Ava could see the men checking their list and marking the gates of houses where Crimean Tatar families live. As the men approached her, brandishing their truncheons, Ava ran inside with her son to hide. Read more ..


The Way We Are

WHO Issues New Contraception Guidelines

March 6th 2014

Nigerian baby with cap

The World Health Organization says human rights must be respected and protected when women seek contraception services. The WHO has issued new guidelines for policymakers and healthcare providers in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8th.

The WHO estimates over 220-million women are not able to meet their needs for modern contraception. It says many are among the most vulnerable, including the poor, those living with HIV and women displaced by conflict or other causes. Dr. Marleen Temmerman is an obstetrician and director of the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research.

“It’s the first time that there is a guidance from the WHO where human rights is actually in the title – and not only in the title, but also in the content of the guidelines. We have guidelines for contraceptive use from the medical perspective looking at what is safe – what are the medical eligibility criteria – what [are] the contraindications and so on. But now we have worked towards ensuring human rights in the contraceptive guidelines,” she said. Read more ..


The Way We Are

US Gay Rights Supporters Applaud Recent Victories

March 5th 2014

LGBT Youth

U.S. Gay rights activists are celebrating a series of recent legislative and legal victories for same-sex marriage. The advancement of gay rights in the United States comes as other countries adopt tougher anti-gay laws.

Cheers erupted outside Arizona's state capitol building after Governor Jan Brewer vetoed of a bill that would allow business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to deny service to gays and lesbians.

Since the bill's passage by state lawmakers there was growing opposition from major corporations and civil rights groups. Proponents say it was designed, however, to protect businesses like bakeries, flower shops and wedding photographers who may have objections to same-sex marriage.

Arizona State Senator Steve Yarbrough said the measure was about protecting people's right to exercise religion freely. "I have to give credit to the opponents who have turned this into a discrimination bill against gays. It could not be further from that," he said. Read more ..


Saudi Arabia on Edge

The Saudi Dilemma

March 4th 2014

Saudi princes

These are perilous times for the desert kingdom, which sees itself as the very center of Sunni Islam, which for Sunnis is the only true Islam. It is facing a highly complex and dangerous confluence of circumstances that would have seemed most unlikely even a short time ago.

 

Internally, the regime is facing growing demands for emancipation by women and modernization by the Saudi youth, as well as resistance from Asian and African "guest workers" who are being sent back to their home countries.  In addition, within the Saudi royal clan open fissures have developed between those actively scornful of the United States, the Saudis' traditional allies and protectors, and those who prefer a softer approach hoping for a change in the American attitude.

Read more ..

Thailand on Edge

Bangkok Protests Splitting Thai Families

March 3rd 2014

Puea Thai

As protests in Bangkok continue, the growing political polarization in Thailand is splitting families throughout the country.  And there are growing fears the deepening political divide could lead to widespread violence.

Despite the carnival-like atmosphere of some anti-government protests in Bangkok, animosity between government supporters and opponents appears to be growing.

The underlying anger, fueled by public displays of hate mongering, has some observers worried that widespread violence could erupt within the country.

The conflict is attributed by some to a split between the "rural poor and elite urbanites," but some analysts say it is cutting much deeper into Thailand's social fabric. Human Rights Watch senior researcher Sunnai Pasuk warned that a deep-rooted hatred was spreading through communities across the country. Read more ..


Edge on Computing

Offices Make Space for Co-Working Freelancers and Consultants

March 2nd 2014

Cloud technology and wider use of freelancers has more people working from home, remotely or even from coffee houses. Being away from the rigid hierarchy of office cubes suits many, but some miss collaborating with colleagues. Enter co-working spaces: locations where freelancers and remote workers can do their jobs, share ideas or just talk during breaks.

Research from Gretchen Spreitzer and Lyndon Garrett of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business shows co-working helps isolated workers thrive and be more productive.

Co-working spaces are open and designed to enhance both productivity and encounters, either social or professional, they say. The lack of collaboration was cited as a reason Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer called remote workers back to the office. "If you give people freedom but not a mechanism to interact with each other, they'll just be in their own little world doing their own task," said Spreitzer, a professor of management and organizations and an expert on how organizations can help people thrive at work. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Colorado's Marijuana Regulations Strive to Balance Freedom, Responsibility

March 1st 2014

Teenager smoking marijuana

When the U.S. state of Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational purposes this year, it also imposed tighter restrictions and regulations on the drug, compared to those it has on tobacco and alcohol.

Amendment 64, the Colorado law that legalized the sale and possession of marijuana for personal use, is groundbreaking.

It creates for the first time an overarching regulatory structure on the industry and imposes strict limits on usage.

The regulations are based on three guiding principles, says Barbara Brohl, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue. “We want to keep it out of the hands of kids.  We want to keep it out of the hands of criminals and we want to keep it out of the hands of people who are not supposed to have it, so people from other states.  So we don't want it leaving our state," said Brohl. Read more ..


Islam and Europe

The Taste of Muslim Integration in the UK

February 28th 2014

In the city of Bradford UK, the local Reform synagogue was about to close its doors when members of a nearby mosque and some Muslim businessmen stepped in with money and advice -- and the synagogue has been saved. The two sides have started what they hope will become a tradition.

Although immigration can be of great benefit to societies, when it goes wrong -- such as illegal immigration, or when incomers cannot find work, or when new citizens refuse to adapt to the societies they enter -- the benefits are eroded and the native population starts to resent the people it had originally invited to join them.

The United States seems to have done a good job on integrating its immigrants, to the point where its many groups have made such wonderful contributions to life in their new country that it is hard to see what America would be without them. Although, as Moynihan and Glazer revealed in Beyond the Melting Pot, the pot never completely melts, the Poles have learned to speak English; they pledge allegiance to the flag and they serve -- and die -- in the military. But they still eat pierogi, attend Mass in a Polish church, play Polish music (however corrupted) and preserve memories of their grandmothers and grandfathers. To them, the future is American, and tastes of pierogi, kiełbasa, and hamburgers. Read more ..


Environmental Edge

Ecological Disaster Looms over Lake Erie

February 28th 2014

Reducing the size of the Lake Erie "dead zone" to acceptable levels will require cutting nutrient pollution nearly in half in coming decades, at a time when climate change is expected to make such reductions more difficult. That's one of the main conclusions of a comprehensive new study that documents recent trends in Lake Erie's health. It offers science-based guidance to policymakers seeking to reduce the size of toxic algae blooms and oxygen-starved regions called hypoxic zones, or dead zones—two related water-quality problems that have seen a resurgence in the lake since the mid-1990s.

The report from the multi-institution EcoFore-Lake Erie project states that a 46 percent reduction in the amount, or load, of phosphorus pollution would be needed to shrink Lake Erie's Central Basin hypoxic zone to a size last seen in the mid-1990s—a time that coincided with the recovery of several recreational and commercial fisheries in the lake's west and central basins. Read more ..


The Ukraine on Edge

Uprising Opens Doors for Ukrainian Women

February 27th 2014

Ukraine protest

Ukraine's protest movement, that led to the ouster of the government last week, involved many women in both traditional and non-traditional roles, and some of them hope it marked the start of a revolution in women's status.

Independence Square has been crowded with protesters and their supporters for months.  The men who guard the barricades against police assault are hailed as heroes, and those who were killed are honored as martyrs.

Women joined the effort, mostly in support roles - preparing food, passing bricks, and delivering sandwiches and tea to the men on the barricades. "The guys are just sitting there and pretending they are very important, very cool.  And the women are really working," said Nina, a security volunteer, who hides her face to stay safe. She broke out of the old stereotypes to stand guard with the young men. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Japanese Authorities, Jewish Scholars Condemn Desecration of Anne Frank’s Diaries

February 26th 2014

Holocaust Tattoo

Japanese authorities are looking for suspects responsible for defacing almost 300 copies of books by and about Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who’s famous Diary is considered one of the best-known testimonies about the Holocaust.

News of pages being torn from the books in 31 public libraries in Tokyo has left Jewish scholars shocked.   

“We know that there are scores of libraries and at least hundreds and maybe more copies of the diary of Anne Frank and other books that deal with Anne Frank, that have been vandalized, ripped apart, desecrated,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Frank ’s Diary of a Young Girl  was written in World War Two by the Jewish teenager as she lived in hiding with her family in Amsterdam, then occupied by Nazi Germany. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Nothing to Show for Defense Department Psychological Health Programs

February 25th 2014

Despite numerous resilience and prevention programs to address the psychological health of military veterans and their families, no evidence exists to prove their effectiveness, according to a new report issued by the Institute of Medicine.

Kenneth Warner, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and chair of the committee that wrote the report for the U.S. Department of Defense, said the military should develop, track and evaluate programs based on scientific evidence to ensure their effectiveness. In addition, more frequent evaluations of programs are needed.

"Increasing rates of mental health problems among service members and the related psychological toll on families point to an urgent need to prevent and mitigate these conditions," said Warner, the Avedis Donabedian Distinguished University Professor of Public Health at U-M. "DOD should rigorously evaluate any new programs that are developed to do so, because we remain uncertain about which approaches work and which ones are ineffective." Read more ..


Education on Edge

Schoolchildren Design Cities of the Future

February 25th 2014

St Louis Cathedral, New Orleans at night

What will the cities of the future look like?

That was the challenge addressed by 40,000 middle school students from 1,350 schools across the U.S. in an annual competition to design the urban landscape of tomorrow. Thirty-seven teams made the finals and traveled to Washington, D.C., to defend their ideas before the judges at the Future City competition.

The annual contest aims to direct young people toward careers in science and technology. It is sponsored by a consortium of professional and technical societies and some major U.S. corporations.

The students built tabletop scale models of their designs using recycled materials, costing no more than $100. The teams also had to write essays about their solutions, explain their ideas to the crowd and answer the questions asked by a six-member expert panel. Read more ..


Gaza on Edge

Hamas Denounces UN Textbooks: “Contaminates The Minds of Our Students”

February 24th 2014

Students-Guns

“There is a tremendous focus on the peaceful resistance as the only tool to achieve freedom and independence,” Motesem al-Minawi, spokesman of the Hamas Education Ministry, complained about the latest UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) textbooks for high school students in Gaza. Earlier this month, Hamas called on Gaza’s teachers not to use the UN’s materials in their classrooms, saying they “do not fit the culture of the Palestinian society and are meant to brainwash Palestinian students and convince them to accept the Zionist enemy”, this according to IDF sources.

The terrorist group views the United Nations’ materials as an affront to Palestinian society, saying they ignore “Palestinian cultural mores.” Al-Minawi further said that the textbooks are “completely detached from the reality of an Arab Muslim Palestinian student.” Hamas especially objected to the inclusion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in UN textbooks, characterizing parts of the document as a violation of Islamic Law. Read more ..


The Way We Are

US Group Urges Nations to Block Efforts to End Discrimination Against Gays

February 23rd 2014

LGBT Youth

Leaders of a new U.S. organization say the group will combat what they call a global lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender agenda. Scott Lively of Defend the Family International and Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality unveiled the Coalition for Family Values at the National Press Club in Washington.

Lively said the Coalition for Family Values wants what it calls "family friendly nations" to block efforts to end discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. “The LGBT agenda has already gone too far, but it’s still advancing,” he said.

Among those nations he applauded is Russia. “As the 2014 winter Olympics come to a close in Sochi, Russia, we want to praise the Russian Federation for providing much-needed leadership in restoring family values in public policy, and to encourage the governments of the world to follow the excellent example of what the Russian government has said in 2013 and 2014 by banning LGBT propaganda to children and limiting the adoption of children to natural families only,” said Lively. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Court: Notre Dame Must Adhere to ObamaCare Birth Control Mandate

February 22nd 2014

Birth Control

The University of Notre Dame must provide birth control to employees and students after a federal appeals court ruled Friday, a move the school says will force it to violate its religious beliefs.

In a blow to religious colleges and universities across the country, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago denied Notre Dame's request for an injunction to the ObamaCare birth control mandate that requires the school to provide coverage for contraception.

The injunction would have given Notre Dame a temporary reprieve from the birth control mandate, as the Roman Catholic school challenges the rule in court. But the appeals court ruled 2-1 that the school will have to comply with the rule, even before it hears the court's final decision. The court found Notre Dame "has not yet shown that there is a substantial burden" in complying with the birth control mandate.

"If the government is entitled to require that female contraceptives be provided to women free of charge, we have trouble understanding how signing the form that declares Notre Dame's authorized refusal to pay for contraceptives for its students or staff, and mailing the authorization document to those (insurance) companies, which under federal law are obligated to pick up the tab, could be thought to 'trigger' the provision of female contraceptives," Judge Richard Posner wrote in the majority opinion of the court. But Judge Joel Flaum sided with Notre Dame in his dissenting opinion. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Women Campaign for Peace

February 21st 2014

Afgan Women in Burka

War-weary women in Afghanistan have unleashed an unprecedented campaign to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities and defend the freedom they have gained over the past decade in the mostly conservative and male-dominated Afghan society. The move comes amid intensifying fears the Islamist Taliban would try to regain power after NATO combat troops withdraw from the country in December.

Afghanistan’s nearly four-year long peace effort, made through a High Peace Council of prominent Afghan personalities, has so far failed to persuade the Taliban to end its insurgency and join a political reconciliation process. The lack of progress has prompted the women's wing of the panel to undertake a rare peace initiative of its own, providing a glimmer of hope for traditionally and socially oppressed Afghan women.  Read more ..


The Way We Are

Despite Increased Competition, Independent Bookstores Thrive in US

February 20th 2014

Stacks of old books

For generations, Americans visited local, independently operated bookstores to buy something to read.

However, in the past two decades, these stores have faced growing competition from national chains as well as from the discounted digital titles that have become available online.

It looked as if independent bookstores would be driven out of business. However, recent industry figures show these bookshops are not only surviving, they are thriving.

There’s a simple reason three-year-old Oliver Kalm likes going to the bookstore with his mother. He loves to read. “Every night before he goes to sleep, he reads at least five books,” said Patigul Kalm. “It’s his favorite thing to do.” Read more ..


The Way We Are

Harlem Non-Profit Serves African Diaspora and Homeland

February 19th 2014

African Arts

New York City is home to hundreds of ethnic and immigrant groups from around the world, including Africans. But until recently, the African diaspora lacked a center dedicated to their needs, especially regarding HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling and treatment.

Now, the Harlem-based African Services Committee offers testing and referral services for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and various sexually transmitted diseases, along with other immigrant support services specifically geared to New York's African community.

More than 12,000 clients took advantage of the non-profit organization's free or low cost services last year. The group was founded by Ethiopian refugee Asfaha Hadera in 1981, when there were no services geared to New York’s African diaspora. Read more ..


The Edge of Islam

Tajik Mullahs Set To Learn Marketable Skills

February 18th 2014

Koran and prayer beads

Tajik authorities have a message for mullahs: learn marketable skills, and get regular jobs.

The northern Sughd Province is expected to serve as the testing ground for a new effort to expand madrasah curriculums well beyond religious education.

The goal is to produce multi-skilled mullahs, ones who will not only depend on their followers or state funding to make a living.

All of the province's major madrasahs have been closed since July 2013, when they were shuttered by authorities for failing to abide by state education regulations.

When they reopen they are expected to have a more well-rounded, secular-minded, educational offering.

"We might even turn madrasahs to religious colleges, where students would learn both Islamic subjects and professional skills," says Abdulhakim Sharifov, who oversees the Sughd provincial government's Religious Affairs Department. According to Sharifov, education and religious officials are considering several different options for new madrassa curriculums, but haven't yet come to a final decision. "The main point is that mullahs should get regular jobs," Sharifov told journalists last week. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Zimbabwe Urges Male Circumcision to Reduce HIV/AIDS

February 17th 2014

blood test

Zimbabwe's government is encouraging more men to get circumcised in an effort to fight AIDS. Scientists say male circumcision may reduce the transmission of the HIV virus by up to 60 percent.

That is Mukudzei Mukombe - better known as Jah Prayzah - singing minutes after undergoing a voluntary circumcision. He is showing that he can still sing after going under the knife.

The deputy head of Population Services International [PSI] Zimbabwe, Dr. Karin Hatzold, said her organization is using the 25-year-old singer and other entertainers to persuade young men to get circumcised.

"We have campaigns that are specifically targeting adolescents, people in schools, so during school holidays we doing massive mobilizations on mass media... 'So get smart, get circumcised. Male circumcision is not only HIV prevention intervention, but it is improving hygiene, you are cleaner, you are smarter.'"

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the part of the world most affected by HIV and AIDS. Zimbabwe was hit hard in the early years of the pandemic, but has made progress in reducing AIDS-related deaths and the HIV prevalence rate. Read more ..


Justice on Edge

Closing a Troubled Symbol of Texas Juvenile Justice

February 16th 2014

Kid behind bars

When the Texas Juvenile Justice Department released a report in June 2013 recommending the closure of the Corsicana Residential Treatment Facility, the authors presented an arresting image. The campus in Corsicana, Texas, they wrote, “continues to pose a risk to the vulnerable youth population it serves as hazardous debris and glass are continually unearthed after rain or strong winds.” The roughly 90 youths at the facility, most of whom had been diagnosed with severe mental illnesses and who had committed crimes, were using the glass and debris to "harm themselves." Many of the buildings, the authors noted, "warrant complete replacement." Read more ..


The Way We Are

HIP (High Investment Parenting) Marriages Are the Future

February 15th 2014

Father and son reading

The marriage gap by social class is a source of anxiety, since it contributes to inequality – and to inequality of opportunity, too. Kids raised by married parents do better on all fronts. But it’s hard to tease out cause and effect. It seems unlikely that the act of getting married, or even the fact of being married, triggers big changes in parenting or employment.

Rather than focusing on where marriage is dying, it makes more sense to look at where it is surviving. As I argue in a piece for The Atlantic (“How To Save Marriage in America”), the marriages of the elite are not like the marriages of their parents, or the ones their parents rejected. In these new marriages, husband and wife are both earners, and both parents – and expect to be.

These marriages are not based on sex, or money. They are based on parenting; and not just feed-the-kids parenting, but parenting in the form huge commitments of time, energy, money and attention to the educational, social and personal development of their offspring. These are High Investment Parenting (HIP) marriages. Read more ..


The Refugee Problem

Victims Of Soviet-Afghan War Live Forgotten In Pakistan Refugee Camp

February 14th 2014

Palestinian Refugee Camp

Gathered with friends outside a tiny shop that sells little more than bags of sugar, tea, and simple candies, Sultan Gul says he would like to return someday to his native Afghanistan.

But for Gul, what was supposed to be a temporary spell as a refugee escaping the Soviet-Afghan war has taken on all the trappings of a permanent existence in neighboring Pakistan.

Gul was among the millions of Afghans who fled to escape the 1979-89 war. Now in his 50s -- and 25 years after the last of the Soviets left Afghanistan on February 15, 1989 -- he remains among those who never returned home.

For him, the Akora Khattak camp located halfway between Islamabad and Peshawar has become home. "Everyone loves his country. We love our country very much and we are sons of the soil," Gul says. "But we don't see it as the right time to live there now. Whenever we see it, we will go there, otherwise, we shall continue living here because [Pakistan] is also a brother Muslim country." Read more ..


Edge of Sports

Crash Test Dummies Help to Predict Football Head Injuries

February 13th 2014

Click to select Image

The head of a crash-test dummy wore a football helmet as it hung upside-down on a laboratory drop tower. James Eckner, M.D., stood on a ladder next to it holding its tether. He counted to five and let go.

The bust smacked into another just like it three feet below – with about the force of two linemen colliding at the start of a play.

How hard was the hit? Where was it centered? And what reactions did it cause in the defensive dummy head? Sensors sent answers to a laptop across the room.

It’ll take weeks for the University of Michigan-based researchers to fully analyze the data from several days of drops – part of an effort in Michigan Engineering’s Biomechanics Research Lab to help improve understanding of how the head and brain react to impacts. It’s a ripe field, as the sports and science communities are becoming aware of the devastating long-term effects that decades’ worth of concussions and head hits can have on players. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Under Threat in Russia, Some Russian Gays Look To Europe For Asylum

February 12th 2014

LGBT Youth

Pavel had been openly gay for 10 years before he left his native Novosibirsk last year.

But when the 27-year-old Russian doctor, who now goes by Pavel instead of his given name to protect his family's privacy, arrived in Germany to ask for asylum last April, he knew he needed to get back in the closet. Among conservative Afghans and Chechens in the asylum dormitory in the northern city of Kiel, Pavel was certain he was the only one whose request to stay in Europe was based on sexual orientation.

"If anyone at the center had found out, I would have gathered my belongings and left," he says. Activists and friends advised Pavel to seek other avenues to leave Russia. Asylum seekers can spend years waiting for a decision, and there were no known cases of gay Russians being granted refugee status in Germany. Last fall, Pavel became the first. Read more ..


Kyrgyzstan on Edge

Kyrgyz Fatwa Against Homosexuality Debated

February 11th 2014

Gay Pride

After a damning report called on police in Kyrgyzstan to stop targeting gay and bisexual men for violence and extortion, the country's highest Islamic authority promptly sent a reminder that homosexuality is strictly forbidden under Islam.

But the message, delivered in a fatwa by acting Grand Mufti Maksat Hajji Toktomushev in late January, sparked fears that it could be taken at its word -- and put sexual minorities at risk of deadly vigilante justice.

The resulting controversy has drawn in two powerful and influential forces in Kyrgyzstan -- advocates of secular government and the Kyrgyz Muslims Spiritual Directorate headed by Toktomushev.

Last week, representatives of the two, along with a prominent human rights lawyer, debated the potential impact of Toktomushev's religious decree during a roundtable discussion organized in Bishkek by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. Kyrgyzstan decriminalized homosexuality in 1998, and is generally regarded to have more liberal attitudes toward homosexuality than many of its neighbors. Sexual minorities have officially registered organizations, night clubs, and cafe-restaurants, and gay and lesbian leaders are well known and speak openly. Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

Poor School Performance is Associated with Vitamin A Deficiency

February 10th 2014

School-age children with vitamin A deficiencies are more likely to get gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, a new study shows. Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Michigan State University followed nearly 2,800 children, ages 5-12, in Bogota, Colombia, over the course of a year. They found that the less vitamin A (retinol) in the children's blood, the more incidence of diarrhea with vomiting and cough with fever.

Previous research on vitamin A deficiency had focused on infants and children under the age of 5, and has been somewhat inconsistent about the impact of vitamin A supplementation on respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.

"Studies of older children have included a range of micronutrients administered together, but no study had estimated the potential role of vitamin A alone in this age group," said Dr. Eduardo Villamor, U-M associate professor of epidemiology and senior author of the study. The study is reported online in the Journal of Nutrition. Read more ..


Family Life

Saving for College is Not a Teenage Priority

February 10th 2014

High school seniors spend most of their earnings on clothes, music, movies, eating out and other personal expenses. Spending on cars and car expenses comes in second, especially for males. And way down the list come saving for college or other long-range goals and helping with family living expenses.

The findings come from a new study of 49,000 high school seniors from the classes of 1981 through 2011, based on the Monitoring the Future study conducted annually by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Authors include Jerald Bachman, Jeremy Staff, Patrick O'Malley and Peter Freedman-Doan.

"By the time they reach the end of high school, most students are also paid employees, working part-time jobs during the school year," Bachman said. Read more ..


The Edge of Shame

Uzbek Girl Grows Up In The Shadow Of HIV

February 9th 2014

HIV/AIDS

Ten-year-old Saida dreams of becoming a doctor, so she can help cure all the sick children in Andijon, her hometown in eastern Uzbekistan. But her mother isn't making many plans for Saida's future.

Saida is HIV-positive, although the girl's family has not yet told her about the potentially fatal condition.

Her mother, Umeda, has learned to keep many secrets since local doctors performed a routine blood test in 2008 and determined that Saida had the human immunodeficiency virus. Despite global advancements in the treatment and understanding of HIV and AIDS, many in Uzbekistan shun patients out of fear that the virus can be spread through general contact.

Fully aware of the social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, Umeda tells her story only on condition that her and her daughter's real names not be disclosed. She says that, upon hearing of the diagnosis, her husband promptly walked out and hasn't contacted Saida or her two siblings since. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Slowdown Reported on Indigenous Rights

February 8th 2014

Indigenous Peoples

Two new reports say there’s been a dramatic slowdown in recognizing the rights of indigenous people to tropical forest land and resources. The Rights and Resources Initiative says it’s happening despite favorable court rulings and statements by corporations and governments.

The Rights and Resources Initiative says the slowdown comes “as the global hunger for food, fuel, water and mineral wealth continues.”

“Our main concern is that there are indigenous peoples and local communities around the world who have customary rights before us – but often those rights are not recognized legally by governments. And we have seen some progress over time in the legal recognition of those rights, but in fact our most recent research is showing that there’s been a slowdown in the recognition of rights since about 2008,” said Jenny Springer, the group’s director of global programs. Read more ..


The Way We Are

First American Female Muslim Athlete Inspires Girls in Dakar

February 7th 2014

Muslim American girl with flag

Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first-ever female Muslim athlete to compete on behalf of the United States in an international competition. Muhammad spoke to an all-girls school in Dakar Friday about her experiences as a female African-American Muslim fencer.

Growing up black and Muslim in the U.S. state of New Jersey, 28-year-old Ibtihaj Muhammad says she loved sports, but often struggled to find her place.

"Growing up, especially at this age, we all want to be liked by our friends; we all want to fit in with our friends. But as a Muslim woman, because I cover, I always had to change the uniform. So if I played tennis, if I played soccer or if I ran track, and my teammates wore shorts or short sleeves, I would always have to wear long sleeves or long pants, and it was hard for me as a kid, because I didn’t feel like I fit in," said Muhammad. It was her mom who urged her to try fencing - a sport where competitors must wear full body, head and even hand coverings. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Saving Sochi's Dogs From The Olympic 'Cull'

February 6th 2014

US Military Explosives-detecting Dog

Looking at Marusya, a lively 1-year-old mutt with floppy ears, you'd never guess she has just been rescued from the streets.

Marusya was brought to Moscow last month after being found wandering at a train station in Sochi. She has since been adopted by a family in Finland.

Animal-welfare activists are scrambling to save homeless dogs in the southern Russian city, where a pest-control firm hired by the government has been quietly culling strays ahead of the Olympic Games.

In the run-up to the Olympics, Sochi residents have come forward with horrific accounts of dogs being savagely beaten, gunned down, or left to die in agony after being shot with poisoned darts. Igor Airapetyan, the man who rescued Marusya, said: "The Olympics have always been a symbol of peace, wars have been halted for the duration of the Olympics. But in Russia, the Olympics are built on blood." Read more ..


The Future of Sports

Republicans Seek Revenue by Eliminating NFL Tax-Exempt Status

February 4th 2014

Click to select Image

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has proposed legislation that seeks to eliminate the tax-exempt status of the National Football League. Supporters of the the bill, such as Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) consider the status as an effective subsidy of a business. On January 30, Rep. Chaffetz acknowldeged that professional football and hockey leagues are for-profit concerns that have no need of an unfair tax advantage.

Speaking just days before the Superbowl, Chaffetz said "In reality, the NFL and the NHL are for-profit businesses, and they should be taxed as such," he said. "They are not charities nor are they traditional trade organizations like local chambers of commerce." Read more ..


The Cultural Edge

Croatia To Raise Museum Funds For Neighbor That, Seemingly, Cannot

February 3rd 2014

Pre Islam art

Croatia is throwing open the doors to 214 museums and cultural institutions for its annual Night of Museums, a chance for residents to enjoy an evening of free art.

The star attraction, however, is not Croatian, but Bosnian -- a valuable collection of ancient and antique jewelry on loan for one night from Sarajevo's National Museum.

"This is an exhibition of some 60 pieces of selected jewelry that span an extremely long period of time, from the fourth century B.C. to the beginning of the 20th century," says Arijana Koprcina, who's curating the exhibition, which will be held at the Mimara art museum in the Croatian capital, Zagreb. "And it includes the two biggest and most important departments of that very large museum, archaeological and ethnographic."

The exhibit is a rare outing for the Bosnian jewels, which have spent more than a year out of public view after the museum was closed amid a heated debate over who, in multiethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina, should fund a "national" museum. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Study Links Vodka Drinking To Risk Of Early Russian Deaths

February 2nd 2014

redbull vodka cocktail

An extensive study published on January 31 in "The Lancet," a leading British medical journal, has identified vodka consumption as a "major cause of the high risk of premature death in Russian adults."

The study tracked 151,000 Russian adults from 1999 to 2008 – 8,000 of whom died -- and found there was a "much higher" risk of early death among men who drank three or more bottles of vodka a week compared with men who consumed less than one.

According to co-author Richard Peto of the University of Oxford, the research confirms a correlation between government-imposed alcohol restrictions and lower death rates over the last thirty years in Russia. "The main thing driving the wild fluctuations in death was vodka," Peto said in a press release. Read more ..



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