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Russia on Edge

Russia's Heroin Habit

October 21st 2013

Afgan Drug Seizure

With his glassy pale-blue stare, missing teeth, and emaciated frame, Igor knows all too well the damage heroin can do. But after a decade of using the drug, the 27-year-old Muscovite can't imagine himself quitting.

The descent into addiction began before Igor was even a teenager. His mother died when he was 12 and he found himself on the streets. Within a year, he was drinking up to two liters of vodka a day; within two, he was shooting up heroin.

"Everyone starts out saying 'I can manage,' 'I know what I’m like,' 'I trust myself,'" Igor says. "And so I tried it in 2001, and here we are in 2013. Twelve years. To this day I tell myself the same: 'I can manage,' 'I know what I’m like,' 'I trust myself.'" Read more ..

Healthy Edge

Human Brain Releases Natural Opiod that Relieves Social Rejection

October 20th 2013

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” goes the playground rhyme that’s supposed to help children endure taunts from classmates. But a new study suggests that there’s more going on inside our brains when someone snubs us – and that the brain may have its own way of easing social pain. The findings, recently published in Molecular Psychiatry by a University of Michigan Medical School team, show that the brain’s natural painkiller system responds to social rejection – not just physical injury.

What’s more, people who score high on a personality trait called resilience – the ability to adjust to environmental change – had the highest amount of natural painkiller activation. The team, based at the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute of the University of Michigan, used an innovative approach to make its findings. They combined advanced brain scanning that can track chemical release in the brain with a model of social rejection based on online dating. The work was funded by the U-M Depression Center, the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the Phil F. Jenkins Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. Read more ..

Tajikistan on Edge

Road Wreck Prompts Rage Against The Tajik Machine

October 18th 2013


It's nothing new for the well-connected to raise hell on the streets of Dushanbe, racing through the capital in expensive luxury cars. But now there is blood on the streets, a young driver with connections to the first family, and it's an election year.

That combination is causing problems for President Emomali Rahmon as he campaigns for Tajikistan's November 6 presidential election.

On October 9, a 16-year-old youth was driving his brand-new BMW above the speed limit in the wee hours of the morning when he struck another vehicle, killing its driver and two passengers. Three others were gravely injured. Sources from Tajikistan's Interior Ministry confirmed that the son of a high ranking state official was behind the wheel during the incident, which took place at 2.30 am on October 9. Read more ..

The Edge of Disasters

Natural Disasters Worsen Poverty

October 17th 2013

Pakistan flooding

A new report says hundreds of millions of extremely poor people could be at the mercy of natural disasters in the coming years. It says unless they are better prepared to face droughts and floods, extreme poverty cannot be eliminated.

Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than one dollar and 25 cents a day – and there are growing calls to eliminate it by 2030. It could become one of the new goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015.

However, Britain’s Overseas Development Institute, ODI, says ending extreme poverty is unlikely until governments “come to terms with the increased risk of natural disasters in some of the poorest parts of the world.” It’s released a new report called: The Geography of Poverty, Disasters and Climate Extremes in 2030. Read more ..

The Edge of Fear

25 Percent of EU Jews Afraid to Identify as Jewish in Public

October 16th 2013

European Anti-Semitism

According to a survey set to be released by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, a quarter of Jews living in nine European Union countries polled are afraid to identify as Jewish in public, Israeli daily Maariv reported.

The survey, the full findings of which are to be made public in November, covered Sweden, Romania, Belgium, France, Hungary, Britain, Germany, Latvia, and Italy– chosen, according to the FRA, “based on the estimated size of their Jewish populations and/or to ensure coverage of various regions of the EU.”

Taken independently, the percentage in some countries is far greater than 25 percent; 50 percent of Swedish Jews, 40 percent of French Jews, and 36 percent of Belgian Jews are afraid to identify openly as Jewish.

A considerable amount of Jews also say they have experienced anti-Semitism firsthand in the past year— 37 percent of Romanian Jews, 35 percent of Hungarian Jews, and 31 percent of Belgian Jews. In Britain and Sweden, the number is considerably lower, with 21 percent saying they have experienced anti-Semitism in the past year. Read more ..

The Healthy Edge

The Dalai Lama to Discuss 'Cravings' Research with Academics

October 15th 2013

At his exile home in India, the Dalai Lama of Tibet this month will pick University of Michigan researcher Kent Berridge's brain about cravings. Berridge, the James Olds Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, says he's honored to discuss his findings on how the brain's large "wanting" systems cause intense craving.

A dozen neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, addiction clinicians, philosophers and theologians have been invited by the Dalai Lama for a week-long dialog Oct. 28-Nov. 1 about craving, desire and addiction. Each person will give a half-day presentation; Berridge is scheduled for Oct. 29.

"I'm a little nervous but also excited," Berridge said. "It's a unique mix of people and approaches, and the chance of a lifetime to meet the Dalai Lama and have a long conversation with him. This will be an entirely different sort of discussion on the topic of craving, which has been a major interest during my nearly 30 years at Michigan." Read more ..

Broken Government

Refugees Waiting Overseas Are in Limbo as U.S. Shutdown Continues

October 14th 2013

Chinese-American kids

The U.S. government shutdown has temporarily frozen resettlement of refugees in some parts of the United States. Dozens from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East who hoped to arrive in the Midwest state of Missouri in October are in limbo abroad. Family members anxiously awaiting their arrival fear the longer the shutdown goes on, the less likely they will reach their destination.

When Man Subba arrived in St. Louis last year, it was the final stop on his flight from Bhutan that began more than a decade earlier. “It was a hard life,” said Subba.

A life spent mostly in a refugee camp in Nepal, where he lived with his parents and siblings. They belong to an ethnic minority that was politically persecuted in Bhutan. Now, his family has resettled in the United States - all except his parents. They are currently in a transition center in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. Read more ..

Iranian Boy Emulates Public Execution and Hangs Himself

October 13th 2013

When 12-year-old Mehran placed a noose around his neck and hanged himself with the help of his younger brother, suicide was the furthest thing from his mind. Instead, the boy was playing a game. And his fatal inspiration was a public execution of the sort often seen in his home province of Kermanshah in western Iran.

Mokhtar Khandani, a journalist working for the Mokrian News Agency, remembers the details well. Immediately after the boy died on August 31, Khandani traveled to the little village of Kelashlulem to talk to a family unable to understand what had just happened. "I talked to the family members, with his mother, his father, and his uncles," Khandani says. "They told me the younger brother prepared it, and the 12-year-old brother, Mehran, hanged himself. The younger brother thought Mehran was joking. After some time the younger brother became scared and let the grownups know. Unfortunately when they arrived they saw the child had already passed away." Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Adobe's Subscription Model And the End of Owning Your Software

October 13th 2013

Frustrated computer user

You can't please all the people all the time, and nobody knows it better than tech companies. Any little change will infuriate some subset of your customers: change the layout, change how a feature works, change the system requirements. Even if the overall outcome is a step forward, a bit of customer disgruntlement is just a cost of doing business.

Apparently, however, it's also possible to enrage just about your entire customer base at once. That's what Adobe managed to do this spring when it announced that it would no longer sell Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and its other professional design programs. Instead this software is now available only for rent, for a perpetual monthly or yearly fee.

This idea—software as a subscription—is catching on. Earlier this year Microsoft began offering its Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) for a $100-a-year subscription, although you can still buy the programs the old way if you prefer. Big-corporation software, supplied by companies such as IBM and Oracle, has been subscription-only for years. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Forbidden Love And Execution Leaves Afghan Mullah Crying Foul

October 12th 2013

Afgan Women in Burka

It's a young woman's story of true love blocked by forced engagement, prompting a romantic nighttime escape with her beloved.

This is the tale that played out in the Afghan village of Kookchail, in the northern Badghis Province. And like many such cases in deeply conservative areas of the country, this one had a tragic ending.

On the eve of her forced wedding, Halima escaped with her boyfriend only to be tracked down days later and shot dead in a public execution. The case led to a 17-year prison sentence against a local mullah seen in a video ordering Halima's execution.

But now the mullah, 35-year-old Mawlavi Abdul-Qayum, is preparing an appeal, arguing he has been left holding the bag while the real perpetrators of the crime run free. Halima had been secretly dating a young man from her neighborhood, but the girl's parents agreed that she would be married to another man against her wishes. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Some Conservatives See US Shutdown of Early Education Programs as Opportunity

October 11th 2013

Special Ed Teacher

At the heart of the U.S. government shutdown there is a philosophical debate over whether government programs for the poor help pull people out of poverty or make people more dependent on government handouts. Some conservatives see the curtailing of a pre-school program for low income families, though, not as a crisis, but as an opportunity.

The federally-funded Head Start program provides meals, medical screenings and preschool training for more than one million children from low-income families. Because of the government shutdown, though, some of those programs have have been cut or closed.

Child care advocate Helen Blank, with the National Women’s Law Center, said the shutdown is hurting a program that strives to help those most in need. “We know that research is clear that these experiences make a tremendous difference in low-income children’s ability to do well in school and to succeed in life. So it absolutely makes no sense to take our poorest four-year-olds and put them on the curb,” said Blank. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran Official Slams Ahmadinejad-Era Censorship

October 10th 2013

Ahmadinejad pointing

Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati has said that book censorship was too strict under the country's former government.

In comments quoted by Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency on October 8, Jannati said censors would have rejected the Koran, which Muslims believe is a revelation by God.

"If the Koran hadn't been sent by God and we had handed it to book censors, they wouldn't have issued permission to publish it and would have argued that some of the words in it are against public virtue," he said.

Jannati said he had reviewed some of the titles that the administration of former Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad censored and concluded that in many cases, censors had objected to "irrelevant" issues. He also said in many instances censors had based their decisions on personal opinions, and added that the reviewers lacked the necessary expertise. Read more ..

Broken Government

Immigration Reform Advocates Clamor for Attention during Budget Impasse

October 9th 2013

Click to select Image

Jessica Rodriguez led an enthusiastic crowd in a chant that resonated October 5 in the downtown streets of Albuquerque. “What do we want?” shouted the MC for the National Day of Action for Dignity and Respect demonstration. “Reform! When do we want it? Now!”

Set below the stage holding the activist leader from the Albuquerque-based El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, a big banner emblazoned with the words “Let Our Dreams Soar!” expanded on the theme of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which kicked off this past weekend. Large drawings depicted hot air balloons bearing messages like “Respect” and “Path to Citizenship.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

Thailand’s Health Ministry Battles Big Tobacco Over Graphic Health Warnings

October 8th 2013

Phillipines Cigarettes

Major international tobacco companies are mounting a legal challenge to Thai health ministry plans to increase graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging. The court battle has wide implications for Thai health policy measures seeking to reduce smoking and combat cancer.

In Thailand lung cancer rates are rising for both sexes and becoming a leading cause of death in men.  In a policy backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) Thailand's Ministry of Public Health is planning to increase the size of anti-smoking advertisements on cigarette packaging from 55 percent of the package, to 85 percent. The WHO believes the large graphic pictures of sick people suffering from the effects of smoking are one of the most effective measures to reduce smoking. Read more ..

Tragic Death of Migrants Near Italy Signals Need for Dialogue on Immigration

October 7th 2013

The deaths of at least 133 African migrants off the coast of Italy last week spurred some international leaders to call for changes in global migrant policies. The tragedy occurred after a ship carrying Eritrean, Ghanaian and Somali migrants caught fire, capsized and sank October 2 near the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Possibly hundreds of passengers from the ill-fated ship are still unaccounted for in Mediterranean waters that have claimed the lives of migrants in previous maritime accidents.

Pope Francis condemned the calamity, calling the mass deaths a “shame” and linking it to an “inhuman” world economic crisis that is symptomatic of the “great lack of respect for man.” In calling for prayers for the victims, the pontiff urged united action to stave off similar tragedies. “Only a decisive collaboration of all can help to prevent them,” he said.

Calling attention to Lampedusa, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development meeting October 3-4 in New York City. Ban offered his “condolences,” adding that he hoped the disaster would spur the international community to action. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

The 'De-Barking' of an Autistic Boy

October 6th 2013

Click to select Image

Controversy has arisen around a procedure performed on an American autistic boy to stop him screaming. At the request of his parents Kade Hanegraaf had his vocal cords separated so as to greatly reduce his ability to scream. The family chose the operation after three years of enduring the boy's uncontrollable screaming - a high pitched cry louder than a lawn mower that he would make more than 1000 times a day.

According to the boy's mother, Vicki Hanegraaf, the behavioural problem was destroying the family. They were unable to take the boy anywhere, and his brother, also autistic, was highly sensitive to the loud cries.

According to a case report in the Journal of Voice, the boy can now only produce a scream half as loud, and his “episodes” have been reduced by 90%. The operation, called a thyroplasty, is said to be reversible. The boy's family are happy with the outcome, but others in the autistic community have criticised their decision. Some have described it as torture and compared it to debarking a dog. Read more ..

The Prehistoric Edge

High Altitude Europeans Utilized Alpine Environments 8,000 Years Ago

October 6th 2013

Click to select Image

An international team of archaeologists led by experts from the University of York has uncovered evidence of human activity in the high slopes of the French Alps dating back over 8000 years. The 14-year study in the Parc National des Écrins in the southern Alps is one of the most detailed archaeological investigations carried out at high altitudes. It reveals a story of human occupation and activity in one of the world’s most challenging environments from the Mesolithic to the Post-Medieval period.

The work included the excavation of a series of stone animal enclosures and human dwellings considered some of most complex high altitude Bronze Age structures found anywhere in the Alps. The research, published in Quaternary International, was led by Dr Kevin Walsh, landscape archaeologist at the University of York in partnership with Florence Mocci of the Centre Camille Julian, CNRS, Aix-en-Provence. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

'Education Under Attack' in Northern Nigeria

October 5th 2013

African school kids

Amnesty International says "education is under attack'" in northern Nigeria with as many as 70 teachers and more than 100 students killed since the beginning of 2012.

In the past, when schools were attacked in northern Nigeria, they were attacked at night, burnt to the ground while students and teachers were in their homes.

But nowadays, when insurgents attack schools, they often do it in broad daylight, slaughtering teachers and students before destroying buildings, says Amnesty International’s Makmid Kamara. “It has become more brutal because teachers are being specifically targeted and students -- school children and students - are also being targeted and killed,” said Kamara. Read more ..

American Jewry on Edge

A Pew Study Suggests Jewish Community May be Dwindling and a Show that Suggests It Still Lives

October 4th 2013

Soul Doctor - Carlebach

Even as The New York Times reported on a new survey showing once again that American Jews are disassociating from Judaism at a rapid pace, a Broadway musical was celebrating the life of a man who knew how to reach out to the unaffiliated and help them find their way back. The performance ended with an audience of about 900 people all singing Am Yisrael Chai with great glee.

The NYTimes article was based on a new Pew Research Center survey, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” that sought to understand everything of consequence about American Jewish life, from birthrate trends, to core beliefs, to religious affiliations, to cultural identity. The survey’s results were alarming, but by no means surprising. Its principal finding — that there is a disquietingly large rate of Jews who are growing up in America more assimilated and less affiliated, with many professing no belief at all — merely confirms trends we have been seeing for over three decades. There are few exceptions to the trend, and every stream of Judaism appears to share its impact. Read more ..

China Rising

China's Ambitions in Xinjiang and Central Asia

October 3rd 2013


In mid-September Chinese President Xi Jinping rounded out a 10-day tour of Central Asia that included state visits to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek. At each stop, the new president made hearty pledges of financial support and calls for further diplomatic, security and energy cooperation. In Turkmenistan, Xi inaugurated a natural gas field. In Kazakhstan, he agreed to invest $30 billion in energy and transportation projects. In Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, he made similar promises to increase investment and cooperation in the coming years.

Xi's tour can be examined as part of China's struggle to reduce its exposure to security risks and supply disruptions off its coast by developing new overland transport routes for goods, energy and other natural resources. China's eastern seaboard, and the maritime realm beyond it, have dominated Chinese political, economic and military planning in recent decades, and in many ways it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The coast will remain central to China's role in the global economy, facilitating the flow of Chinese goods to overseas markets, as well as the imports of seaborne energy and raw materials relied upon heavily by coastal provinces to feed their oversized manufacturing bases. Read more ..

Palestinians on Edge

Palestinian Honor Killings Increase in 2013

October 2nd 2013

Palestinian Women

According to the Palestinian NGO, Women’s Center for Legal Aid Counseling, a total of 25 Palestinian women have been murdered in 2013 in honor crimes, compared to 13 women killed in 2012.

The latest honor killings took place in September, leaving two Palestinian women dead. A 33-year-old mother from Deir al-Ghusun village in the Tulkarem district was found strangled on September 21, according to a report in Maan News Agency.  Her father allegedly admitted to killing his daughter, Thamar Zeidan.

Zeidan had been married before she turned 15 and had gotten divorced four years ago, with two children according to Palestinian media reports. Prior to her murder, extended family members had signed a public statement hung on the door of the mosque and on village homes condemning Thamar of “disgraceful and outrageous acts.” According to the Middle East news source, Al-Monitor, the statement also accused her father of failing to uphold family honor, stating that the Zeiden family had disowned him, “absolving itself of any tribal or legal obligations regarding him.” Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt's Muslim Sisterhood

October 1st 2013

Egyptian hijabi

The perdurability of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimun) is explained by more than a half-century's effort to penetrate and control the professions (doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, etc.); the influence of Muslim clerics and their control of thousands of mosques; and finally, but of no lesser importance, the Muslim Sisterhood and its widespread involvement in and supervision of charitable institutions (health, education, welfare).

The woman usually said to have had the greatest impact on the Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was Zaynab al-Ghazali, the activist daughter of a wealthy cotton merchant and Al Azhar-educated father. An active member of Egyptian Feminist Movement (founded in 1923), in 1936 at the age of eighteen she founded the Muslim Women's Association (Jama'at al-Sayyidat al-Muslimat).  Read more ..

Liberia on Edge

UN Leaving Liberia: What's Next?

September 29th 2013

UNMIL Liberia

The United Nations military mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is no small endeavor. It is one of longest UN missions in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the largest, and one of the most widely supported—with 42 countries contributing military forces and 35 contributing police personnel.

After ten years, though, the need for armed troops has decreased, and the number of foreign soldiers has shrunk to around 5,000. By 2015, the end of the current drawdown phase, there will still be about 3,700 military personnel. In contrast, while the current police presence holds at 1000, there are plans to increase the number of officers to 1700. The questions to be asked are: why, after ten years with no significant outbreaks of violence, do so many troops need to remain? And,why is the number of international police increasing? Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

'Donkey Ambulance' Rides To The Rescue Of Afghan Women In Labor

September 28th 2013

Donkey Ambulance Afghan

Afghanistan has some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world, and a high concentration of donkeys.

Enter the maternity saddle -- a new invention that promises to carry women in labor across Afghanistan's difficult terrain so they can get the medical care they need.

The British charity HealthProm and designer Peter Muckle developed the inflatable donkey saddle to ease the burden on women about to give birth in remote areas of Afghanistan.

The lack of suitable transport in mountainous areas leads many pregnant women to opt against heading to health centers in favor of giving birth at home, raising the risks should complications arise. According to Muckle, his invention provides a light-weight and comfortable way for women in labor to get the medical attention they need. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Despite Advances, S. Africa Still Lags in Internet Usage

September 27th 2013

Computer-User Kenya

South Africa is one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa, yet two-thirds of its adults have never used the Internet.

Described by some as Africa’s most sophisticated economy, South Africa has some of the best rail, road and communication facilities on the continent. The World Economic Forum’s most recent competitive index ranked South Africa as number two in Africa, behind Mauritius. South Africa boasts of having the only commercial nuclear energy station in Africa. In 2024, it will be home to the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere. However, the country's Internet usage stands in stark contrast.

A recent study by the South African Network Society survey - a research organization looking at the social impact of new telecommunications networks and technologies in Africa - found that only 34% of South African adults use the Internet. That’s about 12 million people. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Al-Shabab Recruitment an Enduring Concern for Minnesota Somalis

September 26th 2013

Al-Shabbab in Somalia

Somali-Americans in Minnesota expressed anger and frustration Wednesday after unconfirmed reports that people from their local community may have been involved in the attack on a Kenyan shopping mall that killed at least 67 people. The ability of a Somalia-based Islamic militant group to recruit young Americans has been a long-standing concern.

Ka Joog, a Somali-American youth group, called a news conference in Minneapolis to condemn the al-Shabab terrorist group for its attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall and the killing of innocent civilians.

Reports that some of the attackers were from Minnesota have not been confirmed. But since 2007, between 20 and 40 ethnic Somali-Americans have joined al-Shabab in Somalia, some of them dying there, according to U.S. authorities. Ka Joog leader Mohamed Farah said the vast majority of Somalis in Minnesota and around the world do not support terrorism. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Colorado Dude Ranch Provides Many Fun Activities

September 25th 2013


Dude ranches allow vacationers to experience the feel of the Old West...as they ride horses, and take part in other fun activities while enjoying beautiful scenery. One popular dude ranch in the US western state of Colorado is tucked in a stunning mountain location 2400 meters-high.

It's time for another hearty meal at the Majestic Dude Ranch. Robert Bucksbaum bought the ranch in the San Juan Mountains 3 years ago. He’s a hands-on owner, who not only cooks for his guests, but also gets involved in the dirty work. 

"I love being around horses. When I came here I knew this is the right place for me," said Bucksbaum. Brandon Sanderson manages the riding program.  He says a dude ranch horse has certain characteristics. “You kind of look for a horse that has more of a herd instinct, that doesn’t want to be a loner, wants to be a group horse," said Sanderson. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Communication Among Vehicles Can Reduce Traffic Accidents

September 24th 2013

Traffic Jam

Pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers can benefit from methods to acquire and utilize environment data in cooperative ways amongst cars. This is the result of the Ko-FAS research project, which aimed at improving traffic safety through cooperative approaches.

The Ko-FAS project (Kooperative Fahrzeug-Sicherheit, Cooperative vehicle safety) was divided into three sub-projects - Ko-TAG, Ko-PER and Ko-KOMP. The approach of Ko-Tag was to tap transponder technologies for reliable identification and localization of traffic participants. In the project, pedestrians and cyclists were equipped with miniaturized transponder units. Upon receiving an interrogation signal transmitted from the test vehicle's onboard locating system, these transponders sent back information indicating the type of traffic participant wearing the transponder and his the position relative to the vehicle. Read more ..

The Healthy Edge

Latino Family Values Help to Avoid Substance Abuse

September 24th 2013

People with physical disabilities often turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with their condition, but many disabled Latinos rely heavily on cultural ties with family and friends to help them steer clear of substance abuse, say University of Michigan researchers.

Unlike previous research that only looked at negative factors, a new U-M study indicates that identifying as Latino and being associated with Latino cultural values might shape intrapersonal risk and protection factors, said David Córdova, an assistant professor of social work.

"Understanding intrapersonal processes is essential to improving the health and mental health of this population," said Córdova, the study's lead author.

Researchers used data from five Los Angeles community organizations serving Latinos and persons with disabilities who reported alcohol and drug use within the past year. Respondents were between the ages of 18 and 35. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan's Christian Minority Face Life On Increasingly Dangerous Margins

September 23rd 2013

Pakistani Christians protest

The ancestors of most Pakistani Christians were oppressed, low-caste Hindus who converted to Christianity in the 1800s when European evangelists spread the Christian gospel on the subcontinent under British colonial rule. 

In the 21st century, Pakistani Christians face discrimination from the law of the land as well as threats of violence in a country where 97 percent of the population is Muslim.

Romana Bashir, the head of Peace and Development Foundation -- a minority rights organization in the northern city of Rawalpindi -- says Christians have become marginalized during the past four decades as the spread of Shari'a law has resulted in discriminatory legislation and slowly excluded non-Muslims from general society. Bashir says Pakistan's blasphemy laws make it dangerous for non-Muslim religious minorities to express themselves freely or engage openly in religious activities. Read more ..

Health on Edge

Health Risks Fail to Deter Ethiopians from Eating Raw Meat

September 22nd 2013


Ethiopians continue to eat raw meat at family and festive occasions despite health risks that include exposure to tapeworms, salmonella and E-coli.

While most people are taught that eating raw meat is not good for you, the tradition persists in Ethiopia.  Whenever there is something to celebrate -- like a wedding, or the end of one of the many fasting weeks for the large Orthodox community -- raw meat is eaten in large quantities.

The story goes that eating raw meat started during times of war.  Fighters hiding in the mountains would have exposed themselves by making fire, and so ate their meat raw. Temesgen Yilma is the owner of Yilma Restaurant, one of the most famous raw meat restaurants in Addis Ababa.  He eats raw meat almost every day and claims that neither he nor his customers have gotten sick from eating it. Read more ..

Yemen on Edge

Yemen's Successful Revolution

September 21st 2013

Yemen Female Protestor

The scheduled conclusion of Yemen's National Dialogue Conference this week brings to an end the latest stage of a unique experiment in political transition in the Middle East. Most of Yemen's stakeholders participated in the six-month dialogue process, intensely discussing the various issues facing their country. The idea of conducting such a dialogue was formally espoused in the 2011 power-sharing agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). That agreement, which facilitated the transfer of power from former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, allowed Yemen to avoid most of the extreme violence that has plagued other countries in the region and enjoy a relatively peaceful Arab Spring. Although many of Yemen's problems will require years if not decades to overcome, a democratic process has begun that augurs well for nonviolent resolution of those challenges. As other countries continue to struggle with their own transitions, it is useful to take stock of how Yemen got to this point and to identify opportunities for further international support. Read more ..

Significant Events

Pivotal Jewish Group Toasts its Fifty Year Existence

September 20th 2013

Malcolm Hoenlein
Malcom Hoenlein

An historic gala will soon unfold in New York, when on October 15, 2013, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations holds its fiftieth anniversary commemoration. The so-called “President’s Conference” is the pivotal Jewish communal organization in the United States. The October 15 gala night will honor past presidents of the pivotal Conference, each of whom has had to juggle a demanding personal and communal identity. The select group includes Melvin Salberg, Amb. Ronald S. Lauder, Alan P. Solow, Richard B. Stone, Harold Tanner, James S. Tisch, June Walker, and Mortimer B. Zuckerman. The body has been led for four decades by executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, who will be honored in a special tribute. Hoenlein has eloquently enunciated the Jewish communal voice like none other in America.

Many people do not know the President’s Conference by name—but it has played a key role in American and world Jewish history. From mass public events to private diplomacy, the Conference has been in the forefront of mobilizing support for Israel and educating the public in times of war and conflict, and in the pursuit of peace.

Today, the Conference of Presidents remains American Jewry’s recognized locus for consensus policy, collective action, and maximizing the resources of the American Jewish community. When events in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere affect the American Jewish community, the Conference of Presidents take the lead to explain and analyze issues, provide a link between American Jewry and the U.S. government, and marshal a coordinated community response.

The pivotal and authoritative advocate for organized American Jewry for more than half a century, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Fund advances the interests of the American Jewish community, sustains broad-based public and diplomatic support for the State of Israel and addresses the critical concerns facing world Jewry. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Private Israeli Citizens Aiding Syrian Refugees in Jordan

September 20th 2013

Syran refugee girl in Jordan

In what UNHCR officials have described as the worst refugee crisis in 20 years, over a million Syrians, half of which are children, have fled the country in the past six months. Since the outbreak of the Syrian war in March 2011, the total number of Syrian refugees is now up to 2 million people. According to Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, Mohammad al-Momani, over one million of those Syrian refugees have flooded into Jordan.

For neighboring Israelis, the tragic developments have not gone by unnoticed. “There are a number of Israeli citizens and organizations involved with aid distribution to Syrian refugees, which have sent hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid to Jordan,” said Dr. Nir Boms from Haifa University in a recent interview.

Dr. Boms himself is involved with aid distribution to Syrian refugees through an Israeli group called Hand in Hand with Syrian Refugees. Made up of concerned Israeli citizens and NGOs, Hand in Hand was initiated in the beginning of 2013 to address the Syrian situation. Read more ..

The Edge of Medicine

Teenagers' Psychopathic Traits May Not be Cast in Stone

September 20th 2013

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Most youths are concerned about other people’s feelings, they feel bad or guilty when they have done something wrong and they adhere to social rules. A small group of youths, however, does not. These youths express psychopathic personality traits that are associated with adult psychopathy, a serious personality disorder that is linked with antisocial behavior and criminality. A study conducted by Selma Salihovic and her research team at Örebro University in Sweden shows that for this small group of youth, psychopathic traits remain quite stable over a period of four years. Their findings are published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment.

While other recent studies have tried to describe the relative stability of adolescent psychopathic traits, Salihovic and her colleagues are the first to examine the long-term and joint development during adolescence of three defining, yet separate, characteristics that are hallmark of psychopathy. These characteristics, which include traits such as lack of remorse or guilt, manipulativeness and irresponsible behavior, are associated with juvenile delinquency, future antisocial behavior and violence. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russia’s Reaction Against Gay Rights Starts in St. Petersburg

September 18th 2013

Gay Pride

Kirill Kalugin, a St. Petersburg gay activist, recently tested Russia’s new ban on gay rallies. He chose national paratroopers’ day, in front of the world famous Hermitage Museum.

“In general, being openly gay in Russia isn't very safe, but when you're an activist, you get used to feeling unsafe,” Kalugin, age 22, said in an interview later. Kalugin was protesting Russia’s new law that bans “homosexual propaganda.”

He said, “The government showed the people who's the new 'enemy.' They chose one of the weakest groups in society that can't protect its own rights. And the law actually restricts any objective discussion of the issues.” A few blocks away from the Hermitage, at the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, Vitaly Milonov dismisses Kalugin as a publicity seeker. Milonov wrote Russia’s first gay propaganda ban. Now, this legislator leads Russia’s reaction against gay rights. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

FAO Issues Avian Flu Warning

September 17th 2013


Avian flu continues to pose serious health threats to both human and animal health, especially as the flu season approaches. That’s the warning issued Monday by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

The FAO is calling on the international community to be vigilant for any signs of H5N1 and the new H7N9 avian flu. The former has been around for years, but H7N9 was first reported in China only last April. About 130 human infections were confirmed. Many of those patients had reported contact with poultry. Most had severe respiratory illness. Forty-four people died.

FAO senior animal health officer Ian Douglas saID timing of the warning is important. “We’ve had over a decade of experience with H5N1 avian influenza virus and generally speaking we’ve seen this pattern of increase of incidence of the disease with the coming of cooler weather following summer. The experience with H7N9 version of avian influenza virus is much more limited. But whilst the number of human cases of that infection have declined, there is the possibility that it could reemerge and become a more prevalent infection.” While both strains can jump from poultry to humans, there is a difference between the two. Read more ..

Cameroon on Edge

Voter ID Card Controversy Mars Cameroon Campaign

September 16th 2013

File Folders

Campaigning for parliamentary and local elections is officially underway in Cameroon, amid controversy over the alleged fabrication and buying of fake voter cards ahead of the September 30 poll.

Loudspeakers placed at strategic locations and in populous neighborhoods of Cameroon’s capital blare campaign messages by 35 political parties running in council and parliamentary elections this month.

This message by one opposition party, the National Union for Democracy and Progress, promises to unite the country and keep it out of conflict.

Meanwhile, Denis Kemlemo, a candidate with the main opposition Social Democratic Front, says he will focus on reviving the economy.  “Our economy is failing due to the adoption of unrealistic budgets, absence of true social justice and snail pace development.  It is for this reason that we are begging for your support during these upcoming parliamentary and council elections to help bring the change that we desperately need,” he said. But the campaigns have been overshadowed by a simmering controversy over voter registration.   Read more ..

Ethiopia on Edge

Ethiopia Cuts Child Mortality by Two-Thirds

September 15th 2013

Hungry African Widow/Children

The United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, says Ethiopia has achieved one of the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child mortality by more than two-thirds.

Ethiopia reduced its under-five mortality rate by 67 percent between 1990 and 2012, meeting the target for one of the Millennium Development Goals on child survival.  The announcement came after UNICEF released its latest report on child survival Friday.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu welcomed the positive results, but admitted that despite the improvements Ethiopia is still considered a high-mortality country:

“If you look at the absolute number of children dying in Ethiopia, it is still huge.  We have committed to end all preventive child deaths in a generation by 2035.  And we have developed a roadmap to reach that ambitious target," said Admasu. Read more ..

The Way We Are

NYC's Ground Zero Recovery Museum Comforts, Informs

September 15th 2013

Twin Towers 9/11

Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of September 11, 2001 when two planes slammed into the towers of New York's World Trade Center, killing more than 2,000 people. The National September 11 Memorial Museum is to open next year and will revisit the story of that horrific morning. Images and stories of the recovery effort at Ground Zero, as emergency personnel and volunteers worked to find human remains and artifacts, are less well known.

At less than 93 square meters, the Ground Zero Museum Workshop is smaller than many of Manhattan’s one-bedroom apartments, but its contents hold meaning far larger than its small space.

Gary Marlon Suson created the museum as a way to share photographs and artifacts he collected as Official Ground Zero photographer during the recovery efforts in the months following the attacks. They tell a story of heroism and persistence that contrasts with the violence of 9/11 itself. 

"I decided why not open up my own tiny museum so people could use it as a tool of healing through learning the history of the special stories that happened inside Ground Zero," he explained. Suson said while September 11th looms large in modern American history, the recovery's intimate moments move him the most.  Read more ..

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