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The Battle for the Ukraine

Muslims in Ukraine: A Small Problem Amid a Larger One

March 27th 2014

Burka cellphone

In a long and detailed article on recent events in the Ukraine the Washington Post provided a tantalizing snippet, noted above, and then provided no further comment on an incident pitting Ukraine's Muslim and ethnic Russian communities.

With the exit of President Viktor Yanukovych, observers are left to speculate what will become of the Ukraine. In that nation there exists a plethora of political parties, and thus the election for President and to the 450-member unicameral legislature (the Verkhovna Rada) has in the past been subject to much horse-trading. Still, if simplification is demanded, it can be said that as of this moment the Ukraine is divided between the Russophiles found east of the Dneiper River and in the Crimea, and the Russophobes to the west.

A second question should be, what will happen in the Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula? If the Russophobes in Kiev retain the power they have won, will the emerging Russophobia lead Russia's President Vladimir Putin to seize the Crimea where ethnic Russians comprise about sixty percent of that region's population? Most importantly, as Sevastapol serves as a singularly important Russian naval base and is home to Russia's Black Sea fleet, the possibility that Russia will move against Kiev to protect its interest is all too real. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Police Shooting of Homeless Man Sparks Outrage in New Mexico

March 26th 2014

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In one of the most emotional demonstrations of its kind in recent New Mexico history, hundreds of people surged through the streets of downtown Albuquerque the evening of March 25 shouting for justice for homeless camper James Boyd and other men shot to death by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).

To the loud beat of drums, a fired-up crowd chanted “We are all James Boyd” and “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Killer Cops Have Got to Go.” A mock coffin bearing the names of men killed by APD, as well as the 11 women and girls found murdered on Albuquerque’s West Mesa in 2009, accompanied the procession. Read more ..

The Edge of Womens Rights

It's Time to End Rape Culture Hysteria

March 25th 2014

Prison bars

“Rape is as American as apple pie,” says blogger Jessica Valenti. She and her sisters-in-arms describe our society as a “rape culture” where violence against women is so normal, it’s almost invisible. Films, magazines, fashion, books, music, humor, even Barbie — according to the activists — cooperate in conveying the message that women are there to be used, abused, and exploited. Recently, rape culture theory has migrated from the lonely corners of the feminist blogosphere into the mainstream. In January, the White House asserted that we need to combat campus rape by “[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist.”

Tolerance for rape? Rape is a horrific crime and rapists are despised. We have strict laws that Americans want to see enforced. Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there’s no evidence that it’s considered a cultural norm. Twenty-first century America does not have a rape culture; what we have is an out-of-control lobby leading the public and our educational and political leaders down the wrong path. Rape culture theory is doing little to help victims, but its power to poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males is immense. Read more ..

Environmental Edge

Trapping Phosphorus with Magnets Captures Valuable Materials in Waste Water

March 24th 2014

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Phosphorus can be found in fertilizers, drinks and detergents. It accumulates in waterways and pollutes them. For this reason the German Phosphorus Platform has the goal to recover this valuable, but at the same time, harmful element from water. How this can be done will be shown by researchers at the Hannover Trade Fair / IndustrialGreenTec from April 7 – 11 in Hannover where visitors can try out the method for themselves.

Using magnets the superparamagnetic particles in the water can be removed along with their phosphorus load. Not only plants, but also humans and animals need phosphorus, which is a building block of DNA. Many biological processes in our body can only take place if phosphorus atoms are also present. But farmers and industrial enterprises use so much of this element that soil is over-fertilized and waterways are contaminated. Read more ..

Islam in Europe

Austria: Muslims Outnumber Catholics in Viennese Schools

March 21st 2014

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Austria is also in the process of introducing new taxpayer-funded textbooks for the formal teaching if Islam in all public elementary schools across the country.... This is the first time Islam is being taught to Austrian students in the German language.

"What remains, then, is to conquer Rome. This means Islam will come back to Europe for a third time, after it was expelled from it twice. We will conquer Europe! We will conquer America! Not through the sword but through our Dawa [proselytizing]." — Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Muslim Brotherhood

Muslim students, according to new statistics, now outnumber Roman Catholic students at middle and secondary schools in Vienna, the capital and largest city of Austria. Read more ..

Ancient Days

Ancient Maori New Zealanders May Have Killed Off the Giant Moa Bird

March 20th 2014

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Giant Haast eagle attacks Moas

A study by Curtin University researchers and colleagues from Denmark and New Zealand strengthens the case for human involvement in the disappearance of New Zealand’s iconic megaherbivore, the moa – a distant relative of the Australian Emu.

All nine species of New Zealand moa, the largest weighing up to 250 kilograms, became extinct shortly after Polynesians arrived in the country in the late 13th century.

Researchers have previously suggested, from limited genetic evidence, that huge populations of moa had collapsed before people arrived and hence influences other than people were responsible for the extinction.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, the researchers analysed the gene pools of four moa species in the 5000 years preceding their sudden extinction using ancient DNA from more than 250 radiocarbon-dated moa. Read more ..

Internet Edge

Serious Global Approach Needed to Attack Data Thieves

March 19th 2014

Stopping massive data breaches like the one that hit Target will require a more sophisticated, collaborative approach by law enforcement agencies around the world, a Michigan State University cyber security expert argues.

In a new research report for the National Institute of Justice, Thomas Holt found many hackers and data thieves are operating in Russia or on websites where users communicate in Russian, making it easier to hide from U.S. and European authorities. All countries need to better work together to fight hacking and data theft campaigns, he said, and use undercover stings in which officers pose as administrators of the Internet forums where stolen data is advertised.

The Target breach, which comprised 40 million credit- and debit-card accounts during the 2013 holiday shopping season, may have originated in Russia, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. “This is a truly global problem, one that we cannot solve domestically and that has to involve multiple nations and rigorous investigation through various channels,” said Holt, associate professor of criminal justice. Holt authored the 155-page report with Olga Smirnova from Eastern Carolina University. Read more ..

The Healthy Edge

New Genetic Analysis Tools Pinpoint Disease Factors

March 18th 2014

Ancestral background has much to do with our likelihood of developing or staving off disease. But separating the associations between who we are and where we come from, and genetic variations that cause disease, can be difficult and often result in false genetic study leads.

A new statistical method, developed by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, can help those who study the human genome better identify ancestry as they go about isolating the genes that cause disease.

The LASER (Locating Ancestry from SEquence Reads) software can establish ancestry using very small amounts of sequence data, scattered across 1-10 percent of the genome and adding only a few dollars to the cost of a genetic analysis.

"You can use our method to describe the ancestry of an individual very precisely, even separating individuals from different parts of Finland," said Goncalo Abecasis, the Felix E. Moore Collegiate Professor of Biostatistics at U-M. "In studies of genetic diseases, this information helps separate changes that cause disease from more numerous changes that specify ancestry." Read more ..

The Way We Are

Mexican-Americans Show High Incidence of Post-Stroke Damage

March 18th 2014

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Mexican-Americans suffer more damage from stroke than non-Hispanic whites but they survive longer. New University of Michigan research shows that Mexican-Americans had worse neurologic, functional and cognitive outcomes 90 days after stroke compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Although this population has increased risk of stroke, they have a lower chance of dying from one, suggesting that prolonged survival is at the expense of increased disability.

"What we found most notable was the difference in functional outcome," said Lynda Lisabeth, the study's lead author and interim chair and associate professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health. "Mexican-Americans did worse on all the measures of daily living activities compared to non-Hispanic whites." Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Polish MEP Sponsors “Never Again” Event in Krakow

March 17th 2014

Concentration Camp

Every year in March, Jews from the city of Krakow, Poland commemorate the anniversary of the liquidation of the German Nazi Ghetto in their city. Using this opportunity MEP Michal Kaminski organized a photo exhibition in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, followed by a concert by Cantor Itzchak Horovitz with The Saints Klezmer band from Krakow city. Cantor Horovitz is an Israeli citizen who for 7 years has lived in Poland and is part of the Krakow Jewish Community. The audience heard songs in Hebrew known from the Shabbat table but also those in Yiddish. Joël Rubinfeld Vice-President of the European Jewish Parliament said: “It was especially moving to hear, yesterday evening, the song “A Yiddishe Mame” from the speakers of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.”

The sponsor of the exhibition is MEP Michal Kaminski: Read more ..

Africa on Edge

Ending Hunger and Undernutrition

March 16th 2014

Kenya Poverty

A new report says ending persistent hunger and undernutrition should be top development priorities. The International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI, has released its annual Global Food Policy Report.

IFPRI has set a goal of 2025 for ending hunger and undernutrition. The U.N. estimates more than 840-million people still go hungry every day, while over two-billion have a deficiency of essential micronutrients, such as iron, Vitamin A and zinc.

Although very high, those figures actually represent an improvement in recent years. But the progress has not been uniform. The report said there are still major hunger challenges in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan, said, “We have made tremendous progress in the last several decades. So poverty has come down – undernutrition has come down. However, we’re still facing some tremendous challenges.” Fan said that solving hunger and undernutrition is a “moral issue.”

“We’ve got to work together to solve that problem. Secondly, it is also [an] economic issue. It makes a lot of economic sense by reducing hunger and malnutrition.”

He said there is a very large return for every dollar invested in reducing hunger. The IFPRI report listed Brazil, China, Thailand and Vietnam as having made dramatic progress --  with policies that emphasize improving agriculture, providing social safety nets and targeting nutrition programs at those most in need. Fan said it requires cooperation among governments, the private sector, civil society, farmers and others. Read more ..

The Healthy Edge

Emergency Rooms Prescribe Increasing Amounts of Opioid Painkillers

March 15th 2014

George Washington University (GW) researchers report dramatic increases in prescriptions of opioid analgesics, such as Percocet, Vicodin, oxycodone and Dilaudid, during U.S. emergency department visits from 2001 to 2010. These findings were not explained by higher visit rates for painful conditions, which only increased modestly during the time period. This report was published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine.

“This trend is especially concerning given dramatic increases in opioid-related overdoses and fatalities in recent years,” said Maryann Mazer-Amirshahi, M.D., co-author of the study and adjunct instructor of emergency medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). “Using prescription opioids to treat acute painful conditions in emergency departments and hospitals might do more harm than good, as they can potentially lead to misuse and addiction. More needs to be done to monitor opioid prescriptions in emergency departments — having recommended standard approaches may be a good starting point.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

Natural Selection Altered Europeans' Appearance over 5,000 Years' Evolution

March 15th 2014

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There has been much research into the factors that have influenced the human genome since the end of the last Ice Age. Anthropologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and geneticists at University College London (UCL), working in collaboration with archaeologists from Berlin and Kiev, have analyzed ancient DNA from skeletons and found that selection has had a significant effect on the human genome even in the past 5,000 years, resulting in sustained changes to the appearance of people. The results of this current research project (Click here) have been published this week in an article entitled "Direct evidence for positive selection of skin, hair, and eye pigmentation in Europeans during the last 5,000 years" in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Read more ..

The Way We Are

The GOP Is Making Progress with Millennials; with Minorities, Not Yet

March 14th 2014

Starbucks Wireless

One year ago, on March 18, the Republican National Committee issued its post-mortem on the 2012 election.  Its Growth and Opportunity Project report argued that the party was “marginalizing” itself, making it increasingly difficult for it to win future presidential elections. The candid 97-page report looked at some particular weaknesses including GOP deficits among millennials, minorities, and women. How is the party doing a year later?

We assume the GOP is doing a lot of things below our radar screen such as hiring field and communications directors who know how to reach these key groups and honing messages to improve performance. Our focus is on public opinion.  Is the needle moving?

Let’s look first on millennials, the generation born after 1980. There is some good news for the GOP in this age cohort, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.  Half of Millennials now declare themselves independents.  This high level of non-affiliation gives the GOP an opportunity to make its case to younger voters. Many Millennials are dissatisfied with President Obama, whom they supported by large margins in 2008 and 2012. Read more ..

The Way We Are

'Free to Be' Boys and Girls: 40 Years After the Failed Gender Revolution

March 13th 2014

Student Backpack

This week marks the 40th anniversary of an event close to the hearts of gender activists everywhere. On March 11, 1974, ABC aired Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be…You and Me” — a musical program celebrating gender-free children. Thomas and her fellow co-neutralists envisioned a world where the sex distinction would melt away. Instead of “males” and “females,” there would be mutually respectful, non-gendered human persons. The project resulted in a platinum LP, a best-selling book, and an Emmy. More than that, the idea of gender liberation entered the national zeitgeist. Parents everywhere began giving their daughters trucks and sons baby dolls. Like so many dream boats floating on the utopian sea, this one crashed and sank when it hit the rocks of reality.

In one “Free to Be” song, two babies discuss their life goals: the female wants to be a fireman; the male, a cocktail waitress. Another tells about a girl who liked to say, “Ladies First” — only to wind up being the first to be eaten by tigers. The songs drive home the idea that we are all androgynous beings unfairly constrained by social stereotypes. “William‘s Doll” is memorable. “A doll, said William, is what I need. To wash and clean and dress and feed.” In the end his kindly grandmother buys him the coveted toy. Read more ..

Society on Edge

Americans Still Don't Spare the Rod When it Comes to Disciplining Children

March 12th 2014

The same hands that parents use to lovingly feed, clothe and bathe their babies are also commonly used to spank their bundles of joy.

A new University of Michigan study found that 30 percent of 1-year-old children were spanked at least once in the past month by their mother, father or both parents.

A long-time topic of debate, many parents in the U.S. spank their children. Previous research has focused on disciplining children as young as age 3, in part, because spanking is common among children of this age. Studies have shown that spanking is related to children's greater aggression, depression and other negative behavior.

But the latest findings show that spanking is used on children who are so young that, in some cases, they haven't even taken their first step.

Researchers examined 2,788 families who participated in a longitudinal study of new births in urban areas. The study indicated that spanking by the child's mother, father or mother's current partner when the child was a year old was linked to child protective services' involvement between ages 1 and 5. During that time, 10 percent of the families received at least one visit by CPS.

U-M social work professors Shawna Lee and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor say that spanking babies is particularly misguided and potentially harmful, and may set off a cascade of inappropriate parental behavior. Their research is a snapshot of a larger problem: many people lack parenting skills that include alternatives to spanking. Read more ..

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.


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


“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 ..

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