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Afghanistan on Edge

Afghanistan's Only Olympic Medalist Boycotts Taekwondo Championships

July 17th 2013

Rohullash Nekpa

Afghanistan's first and only Olympic medal winner, Rohullah Nekpa, united a country in celebration and pride after his sporting heroics at the Beijing and London Games. But now the taekwondo icon is boycotting the sport's world championships to protest discrimination within the sport in his homeland.

Nekpa was part of a seven-member Afghanistan team that is due to take part in the World Taekwondo Championships (WTF) in Mexico, which begins on July 15.

But the 26-year-old, who belongs to the Hazara minority, says he is willing to forfeit the opportunity in order to highlight the ethnic and sectarian bias that is rife within Afghanistan's Taekwondo Federation (ATF). Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Oldest Use of Flowers in Grave Lining

July 16th 2013

Grave lined with flowers
Field photo of grave lined with plants and flowers (credit: E. Gerstein)

When did people first begin to express their feelings with flowers? It turns out that in prehistoric times, Mount Carmel residents in what today is northern Israel buried their dead on a literal bed of fragrant wild flowers, such as Judean sage, as well as blooming plants of the mint and figwort families. Assuming they had the same positive associations with flowers that we do today, these ancient humans must have sought to ensure for the deceased a pleasant passage from the world of the living.

This discovery is the oldest known use of flowers in grave lining. According to radiocarbon dating performed by Dr. Elisabetta Boaretto at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the graves are 11,700 to 13,700 years old. Dr. Boaretto was part of an international team, headed by archaeologist Prof. Dani Nadel of the University of Haifa, that performed excavations in the Raqefet Cave overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It had been inhabited by the Natufians, prehistoric hunter-gatherers who were widespread in the Near East. The findings were reported recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Dr. Boaretto and her group at the Weizmann Institute are currently exploring additional fascinating questions from the distant past, among them: When exactly did modern humans leave Africa, ultimately replacing the Neanderthals in the Near East and Europe? Is it possible to use the tiny mineral remains of plants to date ancient sites? Did the collapse of empires in the Early Bronze Age occur earlier than previously thought? Read more ..


Inside Togo

Togolese Academics Battle for Linguistic Heritage

July 15th 2013

Student at Blackboard-Togo

Experts estimate that nearly half of the world's 6,000 languages will disappear by the end of the century, casualties of urbanization, economic development and globalization.

In Togo, home to 39 distinct tongues — some 2,000 languages are spoken across the continent — Professor N'bueke Adovi Goeh-Akue of the University of Lome is just one of several academic trying to preserve a rich local heritage.

Now focused on making documentaries of the cultural customs of the Gen, one of the myriad ethnic groups that contribute to the diversity of this tiny West African country, Goeh-Akue says he ultimately plans to launch a graduate research program on different aspects of Togo's culture. Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Women's Rights Activists Tell Rohani What They Want

July 14th 2013

Women's Rights Activists

A group of prominent Iranian women’s rights activists and intellectuals have outlined some of their main demands for Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rohani, who spoke against gender discrimination during his campaign and said women and men should enjoy the same rights and opportunities.

The group is among many Iranians who will be closely watching the new president -- who has promised to establish a Ministry for Women's Affairs -- to see whether he can deliver on his campaign promise of moderation.

The activists expressed their demands and concerns in a July 10 meeting in Tehran at which two of Rohani’s representatives were present, according to a report by the Focus on Iranian Women website. The group included several well-known figures who have come under state pressure for advocating change. Participants said the situation of Iranian women deteriorated under outgoing President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and some of their modest gains were rolled back. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Mayor Shot Dead Over Cosmetic Row

July 14th 2013

Woman-Makeup

Nothing in Afghanistan stokes uproar like a controversy involving women -- be it their role in government, access to education, or even their right to buy makeup.

That may explain a growing row over cosmetic shops for women that has now claimed the life of a local mayor in Afghanistan.

Abdul Rassoul, district mayor of Deh Salah in the northern province of Baghlan, was gunned down by a shopkeeper during a raid late on July 6. The district's police commander, Abdul Ahad, said Rassoul was shot three times and later pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital. Ahad said police launched a manhunt to capture the suspected killer, who fled the scene and has not been seen since the incident. The police commander stressed that Rassoul acted on his own. Read more ..


Inside Russia

Orthodox Patriarch Says Russians Should Spend More Time in Contemplation

July 13th 2013

Russian Orthodox patriarch Kirill

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has urged Russians to have less fun and spend more of their free time in seclusion. On July 11, Kirill said there was "more fun than needed" in the life of Russians.

He said people spent a lot of their energy working and should occupy their time in isolated, quiet places instead of celebrating during their vacations. The patriarch cited the rugged archipelago of Valaam, close to the border with Finland, as a suitable holiday destination. Valaam is home to a 14th-century monastery and has a population of roughly 600.

The ultraconservative patriarch, who is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has not hesitated to speak his mind on a number of other issues in the past.

Earlier this year, he sparked controversy by describing feminism as a "very dangerous" phenomenon. Read more ..


Peru on Edge

Corporate Conquistadores: Peru’s Mineral Extraction Industry Boosts Economy While Rural Poor Suffer

July 13th 2013

Machu Picchu Peru

Peru has showcased remarkable economic growth in the past decade, shedding its troubled financial history and significantly emerging in the international market. Many attribute the recent economic successes of Peru to a booming commodities market that has provided Peruvian mines with an influx of foreign investment and, consequently, a surge in mining exports.

However, Peru’s reliance on the mining sector to sustain economic performance and modernize the country has failed to generate mass economic improvements for the rural poor, many of whom are further marginalized by the focus now being fixed on the increase in mining exports and the failure to address widespread inequality. Although the environmental consequences of mining in Peru and the local protests that have followed are concerns of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, these issues will not be addressed in this report (though this crucial topic certainly deserves further in-depth analysis). Instead, this article addresses the socioeconomic isolation that constrains rural peoples largely due to their proximity to mining projects and the failure of public and private initiatives to address the root of this disparity. Ultimately, the neoliberal economic model adopted by the Peruvian government, which relies on mineral exports, prevents the rural contingency of the population access to economic prosperity. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Obesity Trait Passed on From Fathers to Offspring

July 13th 2013

Click to select Image

If you are obese and hope to be a father, here's another reason to lose weight: your children and grandchildren may inherit your waistline or metabolic disorders. That's because scientists have discovered in mice that obese fathers, even those who did not show any signs of diabetes, passed this negative trait on most frequently to their daughters. Sons don't entirely dodge this genetic bullet either—both sons and daughters of obese fathers have increased risks of developing metabolic diseases, such as diabetes.

"If these findings hold true in humans, then a father's diet and body composition at the time of conception is likely to affect his future child's health and risk of lifelong disease," said Tod Fullston, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Robinson Institute, Research Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Adelaide in South Australia. "Fathers should aim to be as healthy as possible at the time of conception to give future generations the best possible chance of good health." Read more ..


Latin Amerca on Edge

Teachers Unions: Corrupt Institutions or Necessary Protectors?

July 12th 2013

Union Protest

Across Latin America, several countries have witnessed a growing number of strikes and marches organized by students and teachers who are protesting the current state of their national education systems. While student protests, such as the ongoing movement in Chile, tend to call for better quality and greater access to education, teachers are more inclined to demand increased pay and improved tenure. In the past month, teachers unions in a number of Latin American countries, including Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, and Mexico, have organized national strikes that often put children out of school for days. Particularly in Mexico, these strikes have been extremely disruptive and violent, resulting in widespread destruction and unrest. Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christianity

Bedouin Arabs Run Torture Camps in Sinai

July 11th 2013

Camel-safari-sinai

An absolutely horrific story out of the Sinai peninsula: Bedouin Arabs are kidnapping Christians from Africa and then ransoming them for exorbitant sums. When destitute families cannot pay the ransoms, the victims are tortured to death.

The Christian Broadcasting Network reports many of these Christians flee their African homeland seeking a better life in Israel. They are abducted from refugee camps by Bedouins and then smuggled to Sinai. It is there that the torture begins.

CBN reports:
"Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago -- even a bit more -- it started also to be a place of human torture," Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, said. Shoham has documented more than 1,300 cases of torture in the Sinai. Those survivors ... made it to Israel. But most of the cases of torture are not documented. Read more ..


UK on Edge

British Ban on Addictive Khat Draws Dire Threats from Kenyans

July 10th 2013

Khat courtesy of DEA

Some Kenyans, especially farmers, are calling for the African nation to usher British troops out ofthe east African nation following a controversial regulation imposed by the United Kingdom. This followed a ban a stimulant known as khat that was announced by Home Secretary Theresa May last week. The leaves and stems of Catha edulis are chewed for a mild stimulant effect. Its trade involves millions of dollars each year.

Khat, which is known in Kenya as miraa, is sold as loose leaves that when chewed produce euphoria and loss of appetite. The amphetamine-like stimulant has been classified by the World Health Organization as drug of abuse that can cause mild to moderate psychological dependence among its users. Read more ..


Eugenic America

Report Reveals California Duped Women into Sterilization since 1990s

July 9th 2013

Click to select Image

Nearly 250 women have been sterilized in California prisons since the 1990s, according to a new investigative report. As recently as 2010, women were pressured into having tubal ligation surgery at the behest of the California prison system in a process that has been likened to the racist past of the Golden State.

It was in California, as in a number of other states of the union, that thousands of Americans were compelled under law to undergo sterilization. As documented his book War Against the Weak, author Edwin Black chronicles the emergence in the United States of the racist pseudo-science known as eugenics that provided the basis for forced sterilizations of classes of people deemed “unfit” for reproduction. The discredited practice, which National Socialist Germany aped, was thought to have been largely eliminated by the early 1960s.

According to the report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, however, female inmates in California prisons were often told – while in labor – that they should have the surgery even while they were not told why the procedure was necessary. The report showed that between 1997 and 2010, the state government of California paid more than $147,000 for tubal ligations for 148 women that were conducted without proper state approval or oversight.

For example, Kimberly Jeffrey, 43, said she was pressured on a number of occasions, even while strapped on an operating table, to have the sterilization procedure after giving birth to her son who is now three years of age. Christina Cordero, 34, who gave birth in Valley State prison in 2006, says she felt like she was coerced into having the sterilization surgery after giving birth. “As soon as he found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done. The closer I got to my due date, the more he talked about it,” said Cordero, who served a two year prison sentence. “Today, I wish I would have never had it done.” Read more ..


Inside Australia

Iraqi Refugee to Boost Cricket in Multicultural Australia

July 9th 2013

Cricket-Player

An Iraqi refugee has been chosen to help boost the profile of cricket in Australia.  Sam Almaliki, who’s 24, has been appointed to a senior community development role at Cricket Australia, the sports powerful governing body.  He first encountered cricket watching fellow refugees play at Sydney’s Villawood Detention Center where his family was held for eight months after fleeing Iraq.

Cricket is Australia’s national game but lacks the diversity found in the other major sports, including rugby football. The job of widening cricket’s appeal has fallen to an Iraqi refugee from Basra. Sam Almaliki says he knew nothing about the sport until he was eight years old.

“My first exposure to cricket was while being detained in the Villawood Detention Center as my family and I were seeking asylum, and I saw Tamil detainees playing the game,” he said. Unlike other sports in Australia, cricket has not mirrored the nation’s multicultural make-up.  About 40 percent of Australians were either born overseas or have at least one migrant parent.

Large numbers of new settlers from India and China could eventually change the face of the national cricket team. "It is going to start to become a really multicultural team, whereas as before it was, you know, mostly Australian, but now that we have multiculturalism in Australia then the team is going to start looking that way as well,” says Dev, 13, who come from an Indian background and is very familiar with the game. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

Botched Circumcisions Kill 30 South African Boys

July 8th 2013

Xhosa-Boys-Circumcision

South Africa’s ruling party has said enough is enough after 30 boys died over the weekend because of botched ritual circumcisions.  The latest wave of deaths has doubled this year’s toll, making 2013 one of the deadliest years on record.

South Africa's ruling ANC party says it is “distressed” by reports of the deaths of some 30 boys and the hospitalization of 300 more from ritual circumcisions in rural Eastern Cape province.

To that end, the ANC is calling for modernization of this ancient, secret ritual.  Each year, tens of thousands of boys leave their homes for the ritual that is said to include physical challenges, deprivation and isolation. Most boys go through the ritual as teenagers; officials have said 30,000 boys have signed up this year. Read more ..


The Environmental Edge

Priorities Cited for Improving Global Conservation Funding

July 7th 2013

Papuan children
Children from Papua (Photo credit: Daniel Miller)

A University of Michigan researcher and colleagues at the University of Georgia and elsewhere have identified the most underfunded countries in the world for biodiversity conservation. They found that 40 of the most poorly funded countries harbor 32 percent of all threatened mammalian biodiversity.

Most—though not all—of the countries in greatest need of more funding are developing nations, so important gains could be made at relatively low cost, the researchers concluded.

"Knowing where the need is greatest could help aid donors to direct their funding for immediate impact," said study co-author Daniel Miller, a doctoral fellow at the U-M Graham Sustainability Institute and a doctoral candidate in the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Read more ..


Indigenous Peoples on Edge

Indigenous Peoples Stand Up to Exploitation

July 6th 2013

Indigenous Peoples

This month (6-10/12), 600 indigenous leaders gathered in the far north of Norway. They produced a document that called for an end to discrimination and exploitation of their people. The Alta Declaration will be used as the basis for the U.N. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September 2014.

Inuit, Maasai, Maya, Nasa, Tao, Komi, Berber -- these are just a small fraction of the world’s indigenous peoples. Their leaders met in Alta, Norway, the traditional territories and lands of the Sami people. The declaration they wrote there calls for a binding commitment to indigenous rights and the appointment of a U.N. envoy to help defend those rights.

“Generally, we can still say that the majority of indigenous peoples are still in very poor condition. You know, indigenous peoples compose five-percent of the world’s population, but they compose 15 percent of the world’s poor. They are still suffering from discrimination and also from a lot of human rights violations,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines, who chaired the meeting. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Woman Explains How She Outsmarted Her Muggers With Sting Operation

July 5th 2013

I-phone

The  story of a 24-year-old Jewish woman being robbed in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y.  got a lot of attention on The Algemeiner website earlier this week, not in small part because of the unique method by which the assailants were eventually captured.

In an interview with The Algemeiner  “Sarah”—as we’ll refer to her,  said from the outset that the two girls, only 16 and 15, appeared to be up to no good. “About halfway down the block from my house I saw two girls behind me and I was suspicious but I just kept walking. I started to feel really uncomfortable so I decided to pop over to the other side of the street. As I was crossing the street they grabbed my ponytail and shoved me to the ground. I fell on my hands and knees and they grabbed my cell phone, which was in my hand, and ran,” she relayed. Read more ..


Inside America

More Americans Want Government to Stay Out of International Affairs

July 5th 2013

romney buttons

The number of Americans wanting their government to stay out of international affairs is higher than it has been since the Vietnam War, according to a new analysis. In an article published this week in Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs, Oregon State University historian Christopher McKnight Nichols notes that doubts about American involvement abroad are on the rise, up 10 percent in a decade.

He connects current reluctance on the part of many Americans to get involved militarily and politically with foreign nations to a long-standing tradition in U.S. politics. “Virtually all isolationists in the history of the United States have subscribed to some form of international engagement, whether that is economic, cultural, political or intellectual,” he said. Read more ..


America on Edge

Subconcious Racial Prejudice Doesn't Effect White Americans' Attitude Towards Obama

July 4th 2013

Obama pensive with flag

A subconscious prejudice against blacks may not have an effect on how whites feel about President Barack Obama or policies intended to benefit blacks, a new study indicates. "These findings differ from previous research, which suggested that subconscious negative attitudes toward blacks—also referred to as "implicit prejudice"—eroded the white vote for Obama during the 2008 presidential elections.

Researchers reinterpreted and extended the statistical analyses of previous studies, analyzing data from three national election studies that looked at voting behavior, candidate evaluations and racial policy attitudes in 2008 and 2009. Across the three datasets, implicit prejudice was not associated with either views of Obama or policy opinion after taking "explicit" prejudice, also known as conscious prejudice, into account.
Read more ..


Egypt’s Second Revolution

The Next Phase of the Arab Spring

July 3rd 2013

Cairo Skyline

The Arab Spring was an exercise in irony, nowhere more so than in Egypt. On the surface, it appeared to be the Arab equivalent of 1989 in Eastern Europe. There, the Soviet occupation suppressed a broad, if not universal desire for constitutional democracy modeled on Western Europe. The year 1989 shaped a generation’s thinking in the West, and when they saw the crowds in the Arab streets, they assumed that they were seeing Eastern Europe once again.

There were certainly constitutional democrats in the Arab streets in 2011, but they were not the main thrust. Looking back on the Arab Spring, it is striking how few personalities were replaced, how few regimes fell, and how much chaos was left in its wake. The uprising in Libya resulted in a Western military intervention that deposed former leader Moammar Gadhafi and replaced him with massive uncertainty.

The uprising in Syria has not replaced Syrian President Bashar al Assad but instead sparked a war between him and an Islamist-dominated opposition. Elsewhere, revolts have been contained with relative ease. The irony of the Arab Spring was that in opening the door for popular discontent, it demonstrated that while the discontent was real, it was neither decisive nor clearly inclined toward constitutional democracy. Read more ..


Egypt's Second Revolution

Nearly 100 Rapes in 4 Days at Tahrir Square

July 3rd 2013

Egypt Riots #2

Egyptian officials and political leaders across the spectrum should condemn and take immediate steps to address the horrific levels of sexual violence against women in Tahrir Square. Egyptian anti-sexual harassment groups confirmed that mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at least 91 women in Tahrir Square, over four days of protests beginning on June 30, 2013, amid a climate of impunity.

“The rampant sexual attacks during the Tahrir Square protests highlight the failure of the government and all political parties to face up to the violence that women in Egypt experience on a daily basis in public spaces,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “These are serious crimes that are holding women back from participating fully in the public life of Egypt at a critical point in the country’s development.” Read more ..


America and Cuba

U.S.-Cuba Mail and Migration Talks: Mutual Interest Cooperation

July 3rd 2013

American and Cuban flags

On June 18-19, Cuban and U.S. diplomats met with their postal service counterparts in Washington to discuss the possibility of ending the 50-year ban on direct mail service between the two nations, which has been in effect since 1963. On June 18, “knowledgeable sources” reported to El Nuevo Herald that the State Department and Cuban Foreign Ministry officials will hold talks to discuss migration policy starting July 17.

While these bilateral talks are an important step forward for both countries, on their own they do not signify a transformation of U.S.-Cuban relations or portend the emergence of a relationship of “mutual respect” between Washington and Havana. In the best-case scenario, these talks will lead to further discussions of specific issues of mutual interest, such as environmental and counterterrorism cooperation. However, until Washington can show that it has the political will to achieve durable results in its dealings with Cuba—as opposed to mere self-interest in resolving short-term issues—such negotiations will likely not amount to anything more than a transient, and ultimately meaningless, convergence of low-value interests. Read more ..


Inside Tanzania

US First Ladies Promote Investment in Women in Tanzania

July 2nd 2013

First Ladies

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama joined forces with her predecessor Laura Bush at a summit Tuesday in Tanzania to promote investment in women.  The conversation soon turned to talk about the unique power and challenges that come with being the wife of the president.

The two leading women came together at the African First Ladies Summit to talk about initiatives to empower women, as part of a project run by Laura Bush, through the George W. Bush Institute, established by her husband after he left office. In her opening address in Dar es Salaam Tuesday, Bush said promoting the roles of women helps countries to become more prosperous and stable. “We’re highlighting support for women at this summit because at all levels and in all parts of society, women play a critical role,” Laura Bush said. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egyptian President Morsi Given an Ultimatum: Leave Now!

July 1st 2013

Muslim Brotherhood bus burning 10 2012

Opponents of embattled Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi raised the stakes on July 1, telling the Islamist president that he must step down by 5pm local time.

If he does not, the opposition said, chaos will likely follow, as the entire country descends into mass civil disobediance.

It is almost guaranteed that Morsi will not resign as a result of the ultimatum. He is convinced of his legitimacy as a democratic leader, and sees his opponents as part of a secular conspiracy that has long persecuted the Muslim Brotherhood to which he belongs.

There is the possibility, however, that the opposition is attempting to force not Morsi's hand but the army's. The army is the ultimate power in Egyptian society, and should they choose to remove their support from Morsi, his fall would be inevitable. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Community-Based Lifestyle Changes Improve Diet and Health during Pregnancy

July 1st 2013

supermarket produce

A healthy lifestyle intervention program tailored to Spanish-speaking pregnant Latinas significantly increased their daily consumption of vegetables and fiber. The program also led to a decreased intake of added sugar, total and saturated fat, and the percentage of calories from solid fats and sugars compared to a control group, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of Healthy Mothers on the Move (MOMs), a Detroit-based intervention program designed to reduce risk factors for type 2 diabetes in pregnant and postpartum Latinas. The Healthy MOMs program structure and content was based on community-based participatory research conducted with pregnant and postpartum women from Detroit, and Detroit community organizations. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Thieving Lemurs Teach Us About Evolution of Intelligence

June 30th 2013

Lemurs

As animals go, humans are very smart. After all, we discovered calculus, general relativity, and fire. Out of all the brains in nature, there is clearly something special about ours. But how did we get this way? As Dr. Evan MacLean, a senior researcher a Duke University, says, “What were the problems that nature posed for us that we needed these brains to solve?”

Scientists like MacLean think that being very social - living in large groups and communicating, like humans do - might have led to the development of a bigger, more powerful brain. “When we’re in a social environment there are all kinds of dynamic things that we have to keep track of, like who’s friends with who, who’s enemies with who, and who knows what,” he said. “This kind of information processing is really hard for the brain to do.” Read more ..


The Way We Are

Restoring Sight to the Cataract-Blinded Poor

June 28th 2013

Eye

In China or Ethiopia, Rwanda or Nepal, the scenes are the same: crowds of patients waiting in the open air, bandages over their eyes. Each has been blind for months, years, decades, because of cataracts, the hardened, clouded lens tissue that causes most of the world’s blindness. Each underwent a ten-minute microsurgery barely 24 hours earlier, in temporary field hospitals where medical teams worked with assembly-line efficiency: making tiny slits in eyeballs, delicately removing cataracts, and inserting artificial lenses.

As the bandages come off, some people exclaim in joy, or do a little dance. Others have a wondering look, as they see the landscape, or the faces of family members again.

The two surgeons responsible for these scenes met in the Himalayas. Geoffrey Tabin, an American doctor educated at Yale and Harvard, was a passionate mountain climber when he met Sanduk Ruit, who had grown up in a poor Nepalese village, a ten-day walk from the nearest school. Ruit had studied medicine in India before returning to Nepal and embarking on a one-man effort to restore sight to Nepalese suffering from cataracts. In the developed world, cataracts are usually removed before they cause serious visual impairment. But in poorer nations, people often lose all sight, as the cataract hardens and covers the eyeball with a white veil. Even children may be afflicted, especially high in the Himalayas, where UV radiation from the sun damages the eye. Read more ..


Inside Qatar

Qatar's New Leader Replaces Long-Serving Prime Minister

June 28th 2013

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani

The new ruler of the strategically important Gulf state of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has moved swiftly to replace the prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (a.k.a. HBJ), a longtime interlocutor with Washington. The change, which follows yesterday's abdication by Emir Tamim's father, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, will be watched closely to see whether it affects Qatar's activist policy toward Syria, its backing of Hamas in Gaza, its financial support for the Morsi government in Egypt, and its high-profile international investments. Washington will also be concerned about retaining access to the giant al-Udeid Air Base outside the capital, which is extensively used by the U.S. Air Force.

Speaking on national television today, Tamim stated that he would follow in the path of his father, and that his country would not "take direction" in foreign affairs. He also noted that Qatar would respect "the sovereignty and integrity of all Arab lands" while remaining committed to the Palestinians in their struggle with Israel. He made no mention of the conflict in Syria. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Knesset Review Reveals: Israel Does Not Exist in PA Textbooks

June 27th 2013

Farfur

The textbooks used in UNRWA-funded schools never acknowledge any Jewish rights in “Palestine”, nor any Jewish past in the Land of Israel, said Dr. Arnon Groiss, a respected expert in the promotion of Tolerance in Education at a briefing in the Knesset reviewing the Palestinian Authority Textbooks used in UNWRA schools.

Israel is almost never shown on any map and no city is ever identified as a Jewish city, he said, reiterating the extensive history of Anti-Israel propaganda in Arab textbooks.

The funding for the schools are provided by Western countries, led by the US, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Australia and others. "Israel is delegitimized, and demonized in these texts and no peaceful solution to Arab-Israel conflict is ever discussed', Groiss noted, adding, "The rights of 4.5 million Palestinians around the world is heavily promoted." The event was chaired by David Bedein, Director of the Near East Policy Research Center. Read more ..


American Life

Even Non-Resident Fathers Can Keep Sons Out of Trouble

June 26th 2013

father and son

Fathers who don't live with their sons still can influence them away from risky behaviors, even if they reside in communities of high crime and poverty. New research from the University of Michigan School of Public Health measured the impact of a federally funded program called Fathers and Sons, which strives to improve the parenting confidence and skills of nonresident fathers and prevent youth violent behaviors.

The program involved African American fathers and their 8-12 year old sons.

"The Fathers and Sons program improved nonresident African American fathers' ability to talk with their sons about avoiding risky behaviors, such as early sexual initiation and violent behaviors during late childhood and preadolescence," said Cleopatra Howard Caldwell, associate professor of health behavior and health education, who led the study that is featured in the July/August issue of Child Development. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

IDF Captain Breaks the Silence on Smear Campaign

June 25th 2013

Cap Barak Raz2

An Israeli IDF spokesperson recently blasted Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO that claims to expose alleged wrong-doings of the IDF, in a Facebook post this past Friday, June 21.

IDF Captain Barak Raz, the spokesman for the Judea and Samaria Division, wrote that Breaking the Silence, which receives significant funding from several European government agencies and foundations such as the Norwegian embassy and Christian Aid, "engages in nothing, but NOTHING, other than a smear campaign targeting the IDF."

In an exclusive interview Raz explained that he had had "enough with the nonsense that this organization [Breaking the Silence] represents." "Breaking the Silence is an immature and unprofessional organization," he stated. "At the IDF we deal with many organizations that hold counter views, but they communicate with us - there is an open e-mail and phone exchange, and verification of issues that come up. Breaking the Silence does not engage in any of that and prevents the IDF from properly addressing any of their claims.”

Founded in 2004, Breaking the Silence collects and publishes testimonies by former Israeli soldiers who served in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem while also conducting monthly tours of Hebron and the South Hebron Hills. Many of the participants who join the tours are university students visiting from abroad including a number of Europeans.

On their website, Breaking the Silence states that the soldiers’ testimonies are intended to show a "much more grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of Israel's security." These testimonies and reports are directed to and often carried by international media. Read more ..


Italy on Edge

Silvio Berlusconi Sentenced to 7 years in Prison in Sex-for-Hire

June 24th 2013

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi was handed a seven-year jail sentence on Monday for abuse of office and paying for sex with a minor, adding to the complications facing Italy’s fragile left-right government.

The former Italian prime minister will not have to serve any jail time before he has exhausted an appeals process that could take years, but the conviction angered members of his centre-right party who questioned whether he should continue to support the coalition.

The 76-year-old media tycoon expressed outrage at the verdict, which he said was politically motivated. “An incredible sentence has been issued of a violence never seen or heard of before, to try to eliminate me from the political life of this country,” Berlusconi said in a statement. “Yet again I intend to resist against this persecution because I am absolutely innocent and I don’t want in any way to abandon my battle to make Italy a country that is truly free and just.” Read more ..


El Salvador on Edge

Catholicism’s Heavy Hand: “Beatriz” and Abortion in El Salvador

June 23rd 2013

Pregnant

On May 29, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of El Salvador ruled to deny a 22-year old pregnant woman afflicted with lupus and kidney disease and known by the pseudonym “Beatriz,” a potentially life-saving abortion. This ruling came in spite of medical assessments determining that it was highly unlikely that either she or her unborn child would survive the pregnancy.  Yielding to public and international pressures, most notably an order from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and immense outrage from international advocacy groups, the Salvadoran court agreed the next day to “privilege the mother” and allow Beatriz to undergo an early C-section, or “induced pregnancy” procedure. On this rare occasion, El Salvador, one of seven Latin American countries with an absolute ban on abortion, showed a willingness to respect the life of a woman, allowing Beatriz to undergo a procedure that medical experts say was, for all intents and purposes, an abortion. Yet Salvadoran officials insisted that the procedure was in no way a form of abortion, revealing that there had been a need to use a term that would be politically acceptable according to norms set by the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the case of Beatriz is one more instance of the Catholic Church-dictated political apparatus that continues to limit the exercise of women’s rights in El Salvador. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Muslim IDF Recruits Hold Koran for Allegiance Oath

June 22nd 2013

Muslim-IDF

Religion can often take a backseat in Israel when it comes to security, as brothers Muhammad and Milad Atrash, two Muslim member’s of the Israel Defense Force’s Golani Brigade, can attest to.

“While still in high school I asked my family, ‘Why don’t we, the Muslims, enlist?’” Milad, 19, told the IDF blog. “‘Why do the Jews, the Druze and the Bedouins enlist, while we don’t?’ They explained to me that Jews serve because it’s their country, that the Druze [community] had signed agreements with the IDF and that we have a lot of Islamic movements that oppose military service in the IDF.”

Milad’s response? “I told them I don’t care about that. I want to join the army to protect my village, my country.”

Five months later, Milad started his military service and arrived at basic training. “Because I didn’t know anything about the army, I packed a bag for 4 months!” he says with a smile. “After four days my commander told me I was going back home for the weekend.”

When Muhammad graduated high school a year later, he considered immediately pursuing his academic studies – until his older brother convinced him that the army was the best solution for him. “After a few conversations with Milad, I understood that this was what I wanted: to enlist, to contribute to my country,” he explained to the IDF blog. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

'Windshield Tours' of America's Most Violent City Opens Physicians' Eyes

June 21st 2013

Flint Michigan human sacrifices house

An improvement in the African-American infant mortality rate in Genesee County, Michigan, can be attributed in part to a program that opened the eyes of many in the community to the challenges faced by African-American mothers, according the University of Michigan. It cited research led by a faculty member of the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

African-American infant mortality declined to a historic level in 2005 and has remained lower, following a series of tours designed to increase understanding of obstacles for expectant mothers in some of the most impoverished areas of Flint, Michigan, which was recently named one of the most violent cities in the United States.

The Genesee County Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program's "windshield" tours exposed some 1,000 physicians, hospital administrators and staff, faculty members, medical center residents, community partners and residents to the conditions that have contributed to poor maternal care. Read more ..


The Way We Are

New York Speaks Your Language, No Matter What It Is

June 20th 2013

Times Square-Crowd

In the Big Apple, home to more than 8 million people, you can find nearly every kind of food, music, art and people. And nearly every kind of language - some linguistic experts say it may be the most diverse city in the world, with as many as 800 spoken languages.

With hundreds of languages and dialects spoken from around the world, few cities are as diverse as New York. "New York is the capital of the world, where we live together in peace," said Ernesto Arias.

Ernesto Arias, from Bolivia, says this is all possible without loss of tradition or the mother language. He speaks in his native Spanish. “There are people from every background, so you’ll hear a variety of languages and dialects.  For example, in my country, they speak Aymara and Quechua.  Of course, here we’re starting to lose that.  But we are making an effort to maintain our community in some form so that we don’t lose it," he said. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Inmates Fight Fires, Gain Skills for Life After Prison

June 19th 2013

Wildfire

The western state of California is known for wildfires that can quickly burn out of control, and this year the fire season has been extremely busy. Because of the fire risk, the state has some of the most experienced firefighters in the industry. It also enlists the help of prisoners to stop the fires.

Every morning, a select group of inmates in orange jumpsuits heads to work as firefighters. If there is no fire to fight, they painstakingly clean all the tools necessary to create the fire breaks that can stop a blaze from spreading.  

In California, physically fit inmates with no history of violent crimes have the option of training and working as firefighters while serving their time. Many get their sentences reduced in return. But that was not the program's only appeal for convicted robber Louie Orozco.

“It’s pretty exciting. It’s an adrenaline rush, it’s fun at the same time. You’re expected to go out there and fight fires. Climb thousands of feet up hills, rocky terrain, sometimes sandy terrain, with tools you got anywhere between 30 and 50 pounds [13 and 22 kilograms] of gear on your back,” said Orozco. Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Sexual Minority Youth Need Specialized Treatment from Therapists

June 18th 2013

Gay Pride

President Obama officially declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. However, despite advances in civil rights, sexual minority youth are still at greater risk for suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

“Psychologists sometimes face a particular dilemma when treating sexual minority youth, many of whom are still in the process of developing their sexual identity,” said Alex Dopp. “Serious mental strain can result if a core piece of a young person’s emerging identity is unacceptable to his or her family. Parents may observe this anguish and want to know what is troubling their children. However, when therapists share that information with parents, they may reveal a youth’s sexual identity, which may exacerbate the problem.”

For example, parents may bring a depressed and suicidal adolescent in for therapy, Dopp explained. The youth may then confide in the psychologist that they are suicidal because they fear their family won’t accept their identity as a sexual minority. The therapist faces an ethical dilemma: on the one hand, bringing the youth and parents closer together is critical to the youth’s adjustment, but on the other hand, opening up to the parents  could exacerbate the youth’s suffering and suicide risk (if revealing their sexual minority status leads to increased conflict in the home, parental rejection, etc.). Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

After Firebombing Montreal Jewish Business, Answers Demanded from Police

June 17th 2013

Montreal skyline

Following the latest in a string of firebombing attacks on Jewish targets in Montreal, Canada, a Jewish community group is demanding answers from the police.

The B’nai Brith Canada is “calling on the Montreal Police to get to the bottom of the attacks before people are seriously injured,” wrote the group in an email to reporters. “The Police must explore every avenue of investigation and put an end to these attacks,” said Steven Slimovitch, the organization’s National Legal Council.

The B’nai Brith expressed concern on behalf of Montreal’s Jewish community over the frequency of the attacks and how they have been able to continue unabated. “This is the 3rd Jewish-owned business that has been fire-bombed in less than 2 weeks and our concern for the safety and welfare of the community is high. The Police must take concrete steps to reassure the community that their safety is not in jeopardy,” Slimovitch demanded. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Small Illinois Town Gets Boost From New Superman Movie

June 16th 2013

Superman

Since 1938, a red-caped superhero impervious to most earthly pitfalls has captivated the imagination of comic book, television, and movie fans around the world.  Superman has become a cultural icon of the United States, and the merchandising and promotion of the character is a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide. The release of the newest Superman movie, Man of Steel, is helping one small Illinois town cash in on its connection to one of the most beloved comic book heroes of all time.

Plano, Illinois, has a population just under 11,000, and is as American as the flags flying throughout the downtown streets. Plano Mayor Bob Hausler said, “I would say a great Midwestern small town, and we epitomize that.”

Hausler was in charge of the city's government in 2011 when a Hollywood production company came to town. “There was a lot of secrecy about what the storyline, and even who the main character was.”

But in a town as small as this, it’s hard to keep a secret. Once the trucks, lights, and movie cameras moved onto Main Street, news quickly spread it was not just any Hollywood movie, but the big budget Man of Steel, a new version of the beloved and iconic comic book hero Superman. “It was very exciting that our town would be picked for a major motion picture. I used to watch him on a black-and-white TV, and it was one of my favorite shows growing up,” said Hausler. Read more ..



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