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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 ..

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


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 ..

The Way We Are

Afghan Men Speak Up About Domestic Violence

January 31st 2014

Kabul Shelter

Sabur has moved out of his marital home on the outskirts of Mazar-e Sharif. It was the only way to escape the domestic abuse he suffered at the hands of his wife.

"We've been constantly having arguments, and sometimes my wife loses her cool and gets violent," Sabur says, pointing to a bruise and cut on his forehead. In an almost apologetic tone, he cites his money problems and the lack of employment opportunities in the northern Afghan city as the root causes of his suffering.

"I can't find work and can't provide for my family," he says. "Obviously, when I come home empty-handed, it annoys my wife. Once she hit my forehead with the heel of her shoe. But I don't want people to know about my situation because I live in Afghan society, and it could ruin my honor and reputation if people hear about it." Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

The Limits of Turkey's Interest Rate Hike

January 30th 2014

Money Money Money

Turkey has been desperately trying to stem the plunge of the lira, which has declined about 10 percent against the U.S. dollar over the past year. Like several other once-celebrated emerging economies, Turkey has seen a rapid outflow of short-term portfolio investment that Ankara had been heavily relying on to help cover its burgeoning current account deficit, totaling $60.8 billion, or roughly 7 percent of gross domestic product, for January to November 2013.

The capital flight has been driven in part by the U.S. Federal Reserve's withdrawal of stimulus measures, which has limited Turkey's access to cheap liquidity. With the Federal Reserve's Jan. 29 announcement that it would again reduce its monetary stimulus, Turkey is now applying all of its tools to stabilize the lira, even with the knowledge that the move is unlikely to have a lasting impact. This is because Turkey's financial troubles have been greatly exacerbated by a deep-rooted power struggle that is only going to intensify in the lead-up to local elections in March, presidential elections in August and parliamentary elections in 2015. Read more ..

America on Edge

The Number of Americans Without a Vehicle Has Increased Since 2007

January 29th 2014


American households without a vehicle have increased nearly every year since 2007—providing further evidence that motorization may have peaked in the United States, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Following up his research from last year showing that Americans own fewer light-duty vehicles per household, drive them less and consume less fuel than in the past, Michael Sivak of the U-M Transportation Research Institute examined recent trends (2005-12) in the proportion of U.S. households without a car, pickup truck, SUV or minivan. He also studied variations in this proportion for the 30 largest U.S. cities for 2007 and 2012.

Sivak found that 9.2 percent of U.S. households were without a vehicle in 2012, up from 8.7 percent in 2007. Further, the proportion of such households increased in 21 of the 30 largest cities, with the 13 cities with the largest proportions showing an increase during that time. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

Anti-Polio Drive in Peshawar, Pakistan Falters

January 29th 2014

Polio Vaccination Clinc

The war on polio is in danger of being lost in Pakistan, and in a dramatic development a new strain of polio has been identified in a part of the country where eradication efforts against the crippling disease are most at risk because of attacks against vaccinators. 

Pakistan is one of only three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria where polio remains endemic and while eradication efforts are making progress in Afghanistan and Nigeria they are faltering in Pakistan, the only country in the world where polio case rose from 2012 to 2013.

Dr. Sarfraz Khan Afridi, a WHO official based in Peshawar, the capital city of Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhaw province in the northwest of the country,  told VOA’s Deewa Radio that 91 cases of polio were reported in 2013, up from 58 in 2012. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Combating Islamism in South Asia: Keeping Bangladesh on the Democratic Path

January 28th 2014

Bangladeshi Islamic militants

Bangladesh has experienced significant political tumult in the past year and there is concern that as the parliamentary election (scheduled for January 5, 2014) approaches, street violence will escalate, jeopardizing the country’s nascent democratic system. While the threat from terrorism had diminished to some extent under the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the recent execution of an Islamist politician and the sentencing to death of other opposition leaders accused of war crimes during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971 have unleashed furor among Islamists. The war crimes verdicts led to violent protests earlier this year that left over 150 dead. Following the December 12 execution of Islamist leader Abdul Qader Mollah, rioting broke out, killing at least five Bangladeshis in a 24-hour period. The international community urged the Bangladeshi Prime Minister to stay Mollah’s execution, but to no avail. Read more ..

Palestinians on Edge

Hamas Continues Military Training in Schools

January 27th 2014

Training Schools

On January 7, 2014, the ministry of the education of the Hamas administration in Gaza, in collaboration with the ministry of the interior, announced the opening of the training camps of the second round of the Al-Futuwa military training program. Al-Futuwa is a Sufi term that has some similarities to chivalry and virtue or young-manliness. The camps, which last for about a week, were held last year for the first time. Al-Futuwa includes theoretical military topics and practical military training. According to the organizers, this year the program was expanded to 49 high schools throughout the Gaza Strip, with 13,000 students participating, as opposed to 5,000 who participated last year.

Osama al-Muzeini, Hamas minister of education, held a press conference at one of the high schools, where he said that the ministry of education had decided to expand the program in light of its great success the previous year. He called it a "national project" which objective was to raise a generation of Palestinian youths capable of "liberating and defending their country." He added that the program would train the students in combat skills and make them familiar with weapons so that they would be able to "'resist the occupation." He condemned those who criticized the camps by claiming they were educating for violence and terrorism, saying that "the program instills good social values". Fathi Hamad, Hamas minister of the interior, said that the students participating in the camps will have "the main role in liberating Al-Aqsa mosque from the pollution of the occupation." He said that it was worth their while to train and prepare to participate in "the liberation of Ashdod, Yavne, Jaffa, Acre, Lod, Ramla and all the villages in Palestine." Read more ..

China on Edge

China Anti-Corruption Activist Gets 4-Year Sentence

January 26th 2014

China democracy demonstration

A court in China has sentenced a prominent anti-corruption activist to four years in prison for allegedly "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order."

The activist, Xu Zhiyong is the founder of the New Citizens' Movement. The group advocates for rule of law and other issues, including the rights of the children of migrant workers and for the public disclosure of the assets of high-ranking officials. ​

Shortly after the verdict was read, Xu's lawyer, Zhang Qingfang, came out of Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court and tried to speak with reporters. But he was quickly surrounded by plain-clothes and uniformed police and forcibly escorted off. Authorities say they were trying to protect his safety and maintain order outside the court. Zhang adamantly disagreed and protested as police carted him away. "I am perfectly safe," he told police. "It is not the journalists who are infringing on my rights." Read more ..

The Way We Are

Home Birth Movement in the US Challenges Norms

January 25th 2014

Newborn baby

In the United States since the 1940s, most births have taken place in the hospital, attended by obstetricians employing the full armament of modern drugs and technology.

In the last two decades, the rate of Caesarean surgical deliveries has shot up dramatically, to more than one in three births today. Partly in response, a home birth movement that began in the 1960s has sprung up again.

New York medical student Emilie Jacobs and her husband, Rowan Finnegan, parents of 22-month-old Elias, are planning another home birth for their second child. “If it’s a healthy pregnancy, and there’s no reason you would need more stringent medical care, more advanced procedures, then why not?” asked Jacobs.

The same licensed nurse-midwife will attend her, bringing along the emergency equipment of a paramedic, just in case. Although most problems in labor are detected in plenty of time, several top hospitals are only a few minutes away, Jacobs noted. Ten percent of planned home births do end up in the hospital, usually because labor has failed to progress. But if all goes well, Jacobs will have a peaceful, unmedicated birth - with no high-tech monitoring, surgery or drug-induced labor. Read more ..

Inside Abu Dhabi

Brestfeeding by Law, in Abu Dhabi

January 24th 2014

Woman Breastfeeding Abu Dhabi

According to Islam, being breastfed is a right for all children. Now Abu Dhabi has passed a clause in their Child Rights law that requires all women to breastfeed their children – up to the age of two.

Islam has some pretty interesting points of view when it comes to breastfeeding, where it is recommended that a child nurse at least until the age of two.

There are loads of environmental and health benefits to breastfeeding, basically cutting out an entire industry of formula, cow-made or soya products; breastfeeding makes sure your baby gets all the vitamins and micronutrients, some not even known to science. It also helps a woman get make in shape and good spirits after giving birth. Some say it’s worth more than oil, like the author of this book. But to make it law? What does this do for women’s rights?

The Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi, according to The National, told law makers that men would then be able to sue their women if their wives didn’t breastfeed. But Salem Al Ameri from Abu Dhabi said that being breastfed was a right of all children. Another lawmaker agreed that the required age should be two. That it should be seen as a duty and not an option for women.  Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Night-Time Smartphone Use Disrupts Sleep and Saps Human Energy

January 23rd 2014

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Using a smartphone to cram in more work at night results in less work the next day, indicates new research co-authored by a Michigan State University business scholar. In a pair of studies surveying a broad spectrum of U.S. workers, Russell Johnson and colleagues found that people who monitored their smart phones for business purposes after 9 p.m. were more tired and were less engaged the following day on the job.

“Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep,” said Johnson, MSU assistant professor of management who acknowledges keeping his smartphone at his bedside at night. “Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep.”

More than half of U.S. adults own a smartphone. Many consider the devices to be among the most important tools ever invented when it comes to increasing productivity of knowledge-based work, Johnson said.

Yet at the same time, the National Sleep Foundation says only 40 percent of Americans get enough sleep on most nights and a commonly cited reason is smartphone usage for work. Read more ..

Israelis and Palestinians

Gush Etzion Doctor Brings Hope and Care to Ailing Palestinians

January 22nd 2014

Dr. Yitz Glick at the Efrat Emergency Medical Center
Dr. Yitz Glick at the Efrat Emergency Medical Center

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 ..

Indigenous Peoples on Edge

Taiwan MPs Give Aborigines Greater Autonomy

January 21st 2014

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples’ push for legal autonomy in Taiwan reached a milestone this month when parliament changed a local governance law to give Austronesian aboriginal populations more power. The amended law removes a barricade to deeper tribal self-rule, a longstanding hope among aborigines, and may grab the attention of indigenous people elsewhere.

Taiwan’s parliament amended a law to extend self-governing rights to majority indigenous towns throughout the island. Under the law, townspeople will elect their own local representatives, rather than falling under non-aboriginal mayors of larger surrounding cities. Local leaders can also rename local government departments and decide how to spend money rather than following the budgets of higher officials. That could mean, for example, the council could decide to pave a road to an otherwise isolated group of mountain homes instead of resurfacing the town’s main highway. Read more ..

The Refugee Problem

Education for Syrian Refugees in Turkey – Beyond Camps

January 20th 2014

Syrian refugees

An estimated 700,000 Syrian refugees have poured into Turkey since the start of the Syrian war.  Many refugees have benefited from Turkey’s “temporary protection” policy and have received services ranging from food and shelter to education in camps along the border.  However, as the conflict has intensified, far greater numbers of Syrians populate makeshift camps or reside in host communities.  This has important ramifications for education: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that of the one million Syrians that will reside in Turkey in 2014, 795,000 will be children, half-a-million of whom will be of school-going age. Read more ..

The Education Edge

Researchers Evaluate Peer-Led Team Learning in Cyberspace

January 19th 2014

video chat

Peer-Led Team Learning in undergraduate education is growing in popularity in universities across the country in courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known collectively as the STEM disciplines. New research by faculty and students from the School of Science and the Center for Teaching and Learning at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis evaluates peer-led team learning for STEM focusing on its newest iteration – cyber peer-led team learning.

Peer-Led Team Learning, known as PLTL, is an innovative model of undergraduate instruction that augments the traditional lecture with a weekly two-hour workshop in which six to eight students work together to solve challenging problems under the guidance of a peer leader. The peer leader is a fellow undergraduate who has mastered the material and is a good communicator. In addition to course content instruction, he or she receives training in teaching methods such as how to work with students who attempt to dominate sessions and how to provide a boost to students who have difficulty participating. In addition to face-to-face PLTL, IUPUI has developed an online version know as cPLTL. Read more ..

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