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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 ..

South Africa on Edge

South Africa’s 'Strike Season' Underway

September 4th 2013

Striking mine workers Sep 2012

South Africans call it the strike season. It happens every two years when wage negotiations take place in different economic sectors and cripple them with labor walkouts. This year, strike season is affecting the mining, construction and automobile sectors. The only thing out of the ordinary this time is the exceptionally high pay demands from competing unions, at a time when companies are struggling in a tough international environment.  

The confederation of South African trade unions, COSATU, has long been a key player in national politics. It is now going through a difficult transition, however, with increased infighting. At the top, its longtime secretary-general and president are at loggerheads, while some of its member unions are losing ground in several sectors, from mines to transportation. Vic Van Vuuren, the director of the International Labor Organization in South Africa, explained.

“There is a move at the shop floor level, where workers are disillusioned about what is happening within COSATU, and are starting to form their own breakaways. That in itself is leading to a shop floor debate where the unions are trying to get better deals with their members and leading to very high demands,” said Van Vuuren. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Killing Mosquitoes Early On

September 3rd 2013

mosquito bites knuckle

Targeting mosquitoes in their early stages of life has the potential to greatly boost malaria control efforts and prevent thousands of new infections every year. A new study looks at the effectiveness of – what’s called -- larval source management or LSM. It’s estimated malaria causes 660,000 deaths every year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Currently, the main malaria preventive measures are long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets and the indoor spraying of homes. But mosquitoes are building up resistance to the chemicals. That’s one reason why researchers reviewed 13 studies of LSM from Eritrea, Kenya, The Gambia, Mali, Tanzania, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Greece.

Lucy Tusting -- an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine -- is the lead author of what’s called The Cochrane review. “This research was important because a number of malaria endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere are currently using larval source management. But there’s a real lack of consensus on how effective the method can be and in which settings it’s appropriate. And few studies have so far been conducted to rigorously evaluate the intervention,” she said. Read more ..

Violent America

Violence Against Teenage Girls Leads to Less Education and Fewer Earnings

September 2nd 2013

Dating violence in adolescence not only takes a physical and emotional toll on young women, it also leads to less education and lower earnings later in life, according to a first-of-its-kind study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

A young woman’s educational performance may be hindered by her partner’s actions, such as destroying books or homework or causing injuries that prevent her from going to school.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, reinforce the need for programs and efforts to support victims’ education and career development throughout their lives, said Adrienne Adams, lead researcher on the study and MSU assistant professor of psychology.

Adams previously worked in a domestic violence shelter and saw first-hand the economic barriers faced by abuse victims.

“It was woman after woman coming into the shelter trying to find a job and a house she could afford – trying to reestablish life on her own,” Adams said. “Many women would end up going back to their abusive relationship because they couldn’t make it on their own financially.” Read more ..

Tanzania on Edge

Child Gold Miners Work in Hazardous Conditions in Tanzania

September 2nd 2013

India child labor

The international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, HRW, warned children as young as eight years old are working in small-scale gold mines in Tanzania, a job that is putting their health and even their lives at risk.

The dangers faced by the children were highlighted in a report recently released by HRW after an extensive investigation into the lives of children who work in small-scale and informal mines.

“We found that there are thousands of children working in these small-scale gold mines and they do work in very hazardous conditions.  They risk  injury, for example, when working in very deep unstable pits which sometimes collapse.  And we interviewed some children who were actually themselves involved in accidents,” explained Juliane Kippenberg, a senior researcher for HRW. She also pointed out that the children carry loads that are far too heavy for their young age, causing damage to their spines, and the children are exposed to the toxic metal mercury when separating the gold from the ore. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

World Bank Approves Loan To Sugar Plantation Amid Concerns About Kidney Disease

September 1st 2013


A mysterious kidney disease that is afflicting Central American agricultural workers has been raising growing alarms among governments, and in April the region’s health ministers jointly declared that the ailment was among their top public health priorities.

Yet only weeks after the health ministers issued their declaration, the World Bank approved a new loan to expand a sugar plantation in Nicaragua, renewing its support for an industry whose workers have been devastated by the disease. The $15 million loan to the Montelimar plantation in Nicaragua is estimated to create 1,300 new rural jobs, according to World Bank documents.

Over the last two years, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has examined how a rare type of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is killing thousands of agricultural workers along Central America’s Pacific Coast, as well as in Sri Lanka and India. Scientists have yet to definitively uncover the cause of the parallel epidemics, which have caused tens of thousands of deaths worldwide and are suspected to be linked to dehydration and toxic exposure.

ICIJ’s initial report, Island of the Widows, focused on a leading Nicaraguan sugar plantation that received substantial loans in 2006 from the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation. Sick former workers from the plantation filed a complaint to the IFC’s ombudsman alleging that the loan violated the Bank’s guidelines by failing to consider the epidemic. The complaint resulted in a recently concluded study of the epidemic’s causes by a team from Boston University, which found that there was still not enough evidence to get to the bottom of the mystery.


The Edge of Health

Access to Fresh Produce and Good Nutrition Reduces Diabetes Risk for African-Americans

August 31st 2013

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Trying to find a produce store or a large grocer in an economically depressed neighborhood is about as easy as finding an apple in a candy store. Lack of access to good nutrition impacts racial and ethnic minorities and recent immigrants disproportionately. Poor nutrition combined with higher stress can contribute to other health problems, including type 2 diabetes.

But a new University of Michigan study may help explain how to cope with this stress and perhaps curb some of these health problems.

Rebecca Hasson, assistant professor at the U-M schools of Kinesiology and Public Health, found that overweight and obese African-American children and teens who successfully adapt to mainstream American culture—while maintaining strong ties with their own—could reduce stress and stress eating. In turn, this could reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

Black Oakland Youth Arrested, But Not Charged, In Stunning Numbers

August 31st 2013

Southside of Chicago

African-American youth in Oakland, Calif. are arrested — but then not charged — at “vastly disproportionate” rates compared to others, which raises troubling questions about police interactions with some of the city’s most vulnerable young people, according to a report released this week by civil rights advocates.

During a five-year period between 2008 and 2012, black children represented 29 percent of Oakland’s school-age population but 78 percent of the more than 13,680 juveniles arrested — mostly by city police — and referred to the Alameda County Probation Department, according to the study, “From Report Card to Criminal Record.”

“Shockingly,” the report also says, more than half of those arrests did not lead to charges or further involvement by probation officials. Black kids represented 78 percent of the youths whose arrests were not “sustained” in the end, according to an analysis of information obtained by the report’s authors. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Suicide Rate for Veterans Far Exceeds That of Civilian Population

August 30th 2013

Soldier Crying

Veterans are killing themselves at more than double the rate of the civilian population with about 49,000 taking their own lives between 2005 and 2011, according to data collected over eight months by News21.

Records from 48 states show the annual suicide rate among veterans is about 30 for every 100,000 of the population, compared to a civilian rate of about 14 per 100,000. The suicide rate among veterans increased an average 2.6 percent a year from 2005 to 2011, or more than double that of the 1.1 percent civilian rate, according to News21’s analysis of states’ mortality data. Nearly one in every five suicides nationally is a veteran — 18 to 20 percent annually — compared with Census data that shows veterans make up about 10 percent of the U.S. adult population. Read more ..

American History

Martin Luther King's Dream Still Eludes America

August 29th 2013

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A quarter of a million people rallied “For Jobs and Freedom” at the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, and tens if not hundreds of thousands will do so again at this year’s fifty-year commemorations of the event.

The March for Jobs and Freedom came one hundred years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Recognizing the unfulfilled promises facing African Americans, King wanted President John F. Kennedy to issue a second proclamation to open the way to full civil and voting rights. But he demanded more than that: King and March organizers could not separate civil rights from people’s economic needs, and we should not do so today.

At the time of the 1963 march, most Southern states prohibited African Americans from voting. Segregation laws and practices in many parts of the country prohibited African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans from using restaurants, parks, libraries, and even cemeteries reserved for so-called “white” Americans. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Palestinian Girl Given a Lease on Life from Israeli Hospital and Doctors

August 28th 2013

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Facing life-long paralysis, a 13-year-old Palestinian girl from the Gaza Strip regained her ability to breathe on her own following a successful surgery at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Suffern NY. A Jewish surgeon, Dr. Mark Ginsburg – a staff physician at the Catholic hospital – was assisted by Israeli surgeons at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem to implant a phrenic nerve pacemaker for Maria Amman. The girl had been paralyzed from the neck down, unable to breathe without a ventilator since 2006.

The phrenic nerve pacemaking device sends electrical signals to Maria’s diaphragm, thus enabling her to respire on her own. Dr. Ginsburg (58) has performed the procedure at least 100 times in a number of different countries, including Brazil and Israel, and at Good Samarian Hospital in the United States. Only 50 of these life-saving procedures are performed each year. Since 2007, Dr. Ginsburg has operated about a half dozen times at Hadassah Medical Center on patients from Alyn Hospital and other Israeli hospitals. He met Maria in 2011 during one of his visits. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Perception of Marijuana as a 'Safe Drug' is Scientifically Inaccurate

August 27th 2013


The nature of the teenage brain makes users of cannabis amongst this population particularly at risk of developing addictive behaviors and suffering other long-term negative effects, according to researchers at the University of Montreal and New York's Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Of the illicit drugs, cannabis is most used by teenagers since it is perceived by many to be of little harm. This perception has led to a growing number of states approving its legalization and increased accessibility. Most of the debates and ensuing policies regarding cannabis were done without consideration of its impact on one of the most vulnerable population, namely teens, or without consideration of scientific data. While it is clear that more systematic scientific studies are needed to understand the long-term impact of adolescent cannabis exposure on brain and behavior, the current evidence suggests that it has a far-reaching influence on adult addictive behaviors particularly for certain subsets of vulnerable individuals. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Treated Bed Nets Critical to Eradicating Debilitating Tropical Disease

August 26th 2013

mosquito biting

Inexpensive bed nets treated with insecticide may hold the key to eradicating a debilitating disease that threatens one-fifth of the world's population - mainly those living in Southeast Asia and Africa.

Scientists say they have been able to demonstrate that the most common cause of the tropical disease elephantiasis can be virtually eradicated - even in lieu of medication - if those at risk sleep under nets treated with chemicals that kill mosquitoes.

Lisa Reimer, a lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, was part of the team in Papua New Guinea studying progress over several years in eliminating the disease, caused by tiny worms most frequently injected into people by mosquitoes. Reimer states that she was surprised at how effective anti-malaria bed nets laced with insecticide could be at combating lymphatic filariasis - whose most horrifying symptom, elephantiasis, is the massive swelling of skin and tissue. Read more ..

Islam's War Against Jewry

Anti-Semitism in Sweden Forces Jews to Question their Future

August 25th 2013

Rabbi Namdar-Chabad-Sweden

Attacks against Jews in Malmoe, Sweden's third largest city, have left members of the community questioning their future in a place known for its "multiculturalism." Jewish people have lived in Malmoe for over two centuries, often arriving in the south Swedish port city - a safe haven for generations - after fleeing persecution and intolerance in other parts of Europe.

But though waves of immigration over the past two decades have made the area more diverse, hate crimes appear to be on the rise and many people -
paradoxically - say they feel less secure. Highlighting a problem many Swedes had thought long relegated to history, the US special envoy for anti-Semitism even visited Malmoe last year. Read more ..

Broken Bookselling

Authors, Readers Band Together to Stop Goodreads “Bullying” and Even Rape Claims

August 24th 2013

Shadowy Computer User

Who knew the book industry was filled with such venom, such mayhem, such…death threats?

Book discovery and discussion site Goodreads has been the battlefield recently for a game that is causing concern among both authors and readers alike. According to some reports from actual users, there are roving bands of “bullies” on the site, some of them actual moderators approved by Goodreads, who seek out titles to destroy with artificially low rankings and ratings. How is it artificial? Because some of the books haven’t even been published yet, and ARCs were not sent out. (Goodreads terms of service allows this pre-release ranking to demonstrate a reader’s interest level based on a blurb about the book.)

After author Lauren Howard made the decision recently to pull her debut novel from publication after a firestorm of hatred–including what she claims to have been rape and death threats–more information on this level of behavior surfaced from other sources. Read more ..

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