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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

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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

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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

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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

Click to select Image

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 ..

The Way We Are

Young People Choose Education Based on Parent's Background

September 14th 2013

university students and laptops

Even though Danish students have equal access to education, their choice of studies is still influenced by social class. Young people from working class backgrounds are motivated by studies with a clear job profile and high income, while prestige and studies with a strong identity appeal to young people of parents with university degrees when choosing which studies to pursue. This is what researchers from the University of Copenhagen conclude in a new study.

Students who have chosen to study medicine, architecture, economy and sociology often come from homes where the parents have completed higher education, whereas business studies and pharmacy often appeals to young people with a working class background. This is documented by a research team from the University of Copenhagen and Aalborg University in a new study. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

World Bank Issues Regional Health Reports

September 13th 2013

Nigera Mid-wives

The World Bank has released new reports outlining the health challenges facing six major regions. Those challenges include not only many types of disease, but road accidents as well. The bank says the reports will help policymakers develop evidence-based health programs after the Millennium Development Goals expire.

The World Bank has released the reports in conjunction with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Timothy Evans is the bank’s director of Health, Nutrition and Population.

“What we see when we look beyond the global picture is that there’s a lot of regional specificity to trends in the burden of disease. And so the regional focus just allows us more detail and attention to what’s happening in different regions of the world.” He said the world is too diverse to have a one-size-fits-all health plan. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Heart Patients More Likely to Take Medication When in Single Pill

September 12th 2013

Lots of Pills

Many patients who have heart disease or who have suffered a stroke don’t take their medications as regularly as prescribed. One study shows that a number of stroke patients stop taking their pills within three months after having a stroke. A new study in Britain finds that if patients with heart disease can take a single pill instead of several pills, they are more likely to stay on their medication.

Patients at risk for heart attack or stroke may be taking a lot of pills. Some could reduce blood pressure. Other pills could control cholesterol. Still others might be prescribed to prevent a heart attack.

Henryk Pycz, who has both high blood pressure and diabetes, participated in a study to see if he could do better in managing his health by reducing the number of pills he had to take. "When I was taking the medication consisting of a variety of tablets, I'd have either five, six or seven tablets to take," he said. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Daughter of Auschwitz Kommandant Modeled for Balenciaga, Worked at Jewish-owned Shop for 35 Years

September 11th 2013

Rudolf Hoess at Nuremburg

One of the daughters of Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss once capitalized on her beauty to walk the runway as a model for dress maker Balenciaga, then, in the U.S., worked for a Jewish shop owner in Washington, D.C. for 35 years, The Washington Post reports.

Brigitte Höss, 80, who refused to allow her married name to be published, has spent much of her life trying to forget her family history. “It was a long time ago,” she told the Post. “I didn’t do what was done. I never talk about it—it is something within me. It stays with me.”

Rudolf Höss, her father, designed and presided over Auschwitz, where 1.1 million Jews were killed, along with 20,000 gypsies and tens of thousands of Polish and Russian political prisoners. He was later captured and handed over to the Polish, who executed him.

Brigitte managed to leave Germany and make a new life for herself in Spain in the years following the war, working for Balenciaga for three years. There she met an Irish-American engineer working for a Washington-based communications company.

In 1972 they moved to Washington. While working for a small boutique she was approached by a Jewish lady, who, enamored with her style, asked her to come and work in her fashion salon.

Soon after she was hired, Brigitte got drunk with her manager and confessed that her father was Rudolf Höss. The manager told the store’s owner, but the owner told Brigitte that she could stay, as she had not committed any crime herself—despite the fact that the store owner and her husband were Jewish and had fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Brigitte worked at the store for 35 years. The son of the owners of the store told the Post that his parents had employed Brigitte out of a sense of “humanity.” Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Deliberate Muslim Brotherhood Violence in Cairo Fostering the "Victimization and Martyrdom" Narrative

September 11th 2013

Muslim Brotherhood bus burning 10 2012

One of the main contributions of the Brotherhood to the political-social Islamic revival of these last generations was the development of the concept of the western "crusader" cultural threat to the Muslim world. According to this concept, the Muslim world is under siege and is facing an existential threat which can only be solved with the reestablishment of the greater Islamic state founded on the principles of exclusively Sharia rule. The Muslim Brotherhood developed an integrated approach, where the strategic conflict for the reestablishment of the Islamic state in all or most of the territory that was under Islamic rule over the course of history, is combined with self-defense in face of the war waged against Islam by the western culture and its champions.

This self-defense is an uncompromising Jihad against the enemy, a war for all intents and purposes and by any means. It starts by introducing the centrality of Islam in Muslim society through advocacy, education and culture, and moves to the Jihad - either organized as a war, or as what Western political culture define as terrorism. Read more ..

The Glass Ceilling

Women Veterans Face Stereotypes on and Off the Battlefield

September 9th 2013

The Pentagon

The fight to feel like a veteran weighs substantially on female soldiers returning from war, though their numbers have been historic, with more than 280,000 returning from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade.

A News21 demographic analysis shows that 17.4 percent of post-9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are women. More than a quarter of those women are black, almost twice the proportion found in the entire U.S. population.

Yet, these same women are less likely to find a job than male veterans and more likely to be a single parent with children to support, interviews and records show. They return to a nation that historically defines “veteran” as male, which in the post-9/11 era has meant a lack of female-specific resources at VA facilities across the country. A 2013 Institute of Medicine report found that women in combat-support roles, like men, experience intense warfare and constant threats on their lives, but the implications of this trauma for women has been overlooked. Read more ..

Bahrain on Edge

Bahrain's Challenge to U.S. Diplomacy

September 8th 2013

Bahrain enraged protesters

On September 3, Bahrain announced another limitation on its very limited democracy, which allows elections but not political parties. The new rule was clear, at least in Bahrain-speak: the island's political "societies" need to ask for permission to meet with foreign diplomats at least three days in advance and, if permission is granted, accept that a government-nominated observer will also attend. The new regulation was no doubt aimed at Shiite opposition groups, which withdrew from parliament in 2011 after a government clampdown on violent demonstrations led neighboring Saudi Arabia to intervene with tanks and soldiers to bolster the government of the Sunni monarch, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

The restrictions, which also apply to undefined foreign political organizations, appear to be a consequence of a rare joint meeting of the (appointed) upper and (elected) lower houses of parliament held in July. That meeting resulted in twenty-two recommendations that included restricting contacts with foreign diplomats and banning rallies in the capital. Since the Shiite resignations two years ago, the national assembly has been perceived as reflecting hardline views in the royal family, particularly those of the prime minister and king's uncle, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, who is believed to be behind the latest change. Read more ..

Cameroon on Edge

Cameroon Struggles With Universal Education

September 7th 2013

Student at Blackboard-Togo

It has been 13 years since Cameroon instituted free primary education to meet one of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.  But the program has led to a shortage of funds to pay teachers and many are refusing to teach or have abandoned their schools, despite threats of dismissal from the government.

Many teachers at a Catholic school called College de la Retreat in the heart of Yaounde are returning.  Classes began this week in schools around Cameroon for the 2013-2014 school year.

Most schoolgoers like Blandine Mbassi said they are happy to return.  The nine-year-old class-six pupil, whose dream is to become a medical doctor, said they had their first lectures in some subjects. "Mathematics, French, English, science.  I want to be a doctor," Mbassi said. Read more ..

Education on Edge

College Students Spark Creativity in Kids

September 6th 2013

Science students

Children in a Washington neighborhood are excited about building things they designed.

They are participating in a hands-on learning workshop offered by SparkTruck, created by students from Stanford University. Last year, they launched what they call an educational build-mobile and took it on a two-month trip across the country, offering workshops to nearly 3,000 children along the way.

Now, in their second year, they were joined by students from three other California colleges. “We are trying to bring creativity and design workshops to kids all over, and bring them prototype tools and materials," said Bengi Kuroda from the Art Center College of Design, "and show them that all these things are accessible to them even if they don’t have them at school.”

The children start by brainstorming ideas. Then they build a prototype of whatever they've dreamed up. “I made a flying cyclops, just one eye," said Owen Whitman, a workshop participant. "I had a lot of fun making new stuff and learning...how electricity works.” Read more ..

The Edge of Innovation

Philippines Bicycle Company Says Its Products Protect Environment

September 5th 2013

filipino coal miner

Can bicycles help the Philippines reduce poverty and protect the environment at the same time? A social entrepreneur who owns a company called Bambikes says his line of high-end bicycles made of locally grown bamboo can do just that.

Bryan Benitez McClelland is passionate about bicycles. Like many others who head out onto the streets of Makati City, the 29-year old Filipino-American rides a bike. But his is made of bamboo.   

“So bamboo is a pretty incredible material. In the plant kingdom it grows really rapidly and absorbs tons of carbon dioxide. From that perspective, it’s a very renewable resource. And then in the performance level, its got the characteristics of naturally vibration dampening pole structures, which really absorb the road chatter and road buzz and makes for a super smooth ride,” he said.

In 2010, McClelland founded Bambikes, a company that turns locally sourced bamboo into bike frames. The Bambikes workshop is located in the countryside, in the town of Victoria, 130 kilometers from Metro Manila. Out here, the bamboo is harvested from farms and the wild. Bambike’s workers cut, treat and process the material into specialized bike frames. The finished products are not cheap. They start at around $1,200. McClelland said much of the profit, however, goes back into this poor community.   Read more ..

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