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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

cane_worker

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.

Read more ..

The Edge of Health

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

August 31st 2013

Click to select Image

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

Click to select Image

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

Click to select Image

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

Telephone-Users

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 ..


The Battle for Egypt

Morsi Supporters Fail to Muster on Cairo Streets, Reuters Reports

August 23rd 2013

Wounded Egyptian Protester

Reueters reported: "Mass protests called by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood mostly failed to materialize on Friday as the movement reeled from a bloody army crackdown on followers of ousted President Mohamed Mursi. Troops and police had taken relatively low-key security measures before the "Friday of Martyrs" processions that were to have begun from 28 mosques in the capital after weekly prayers."

The news service also reported, "But midday prayers were canceled at some mosques and there were few signs of major demonstrations unfolding in Cairo.

"We are not afraid; it's victory or death," said Mohamed Abdel Azim, a retired oil engineer who was among about 100 people marching slowly from a mosque near Cairo University. They intend to strike at Muslims," the grey-bearded Azim said. "We'd rather die in dignity than live in oppression. We'll keep coming out until there's no one left."

"Some marchers carried posters of Mursi, who was toppled by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3 after huge demonstrations against his rule. "No to the coup," they chanted."

Read more ..

The Way We Are

U.S. Journalist Kicked Off Russian TV For Discussing Antigay Laws

August 22nd 2013

Gay Pride

The Kremlin-funded network RT abruptly pulled an American journalist off the air for talking about the Russian government's antigay laws instead of the topic at hand.

The drama unfolded as James Kirchick, a gay journalist who has written for "The New Republic" and "The Washington Post," among other publications (including RFE/RL), was being interviewed from Stockholm by the Moscow-based television station for a panel discussion about U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning.

When the host turned to Kirchick for his thoughts, he pulled on a pair of rainbow-colored suspenders and quoted the American playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein as saying, "Being silent in the face of evil is something we can't do."

"You know, being here on a Kremlin-funded propaganda network, I'm going to wear my gay-pride suspenders and I'm going to speak out against the horrific antigay legislation that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin has signed into law, that was passed unanimously by the Russian Duma, that criminalizes homosexual propaganda, that effectively makes it illegal for people to talk about homosexuality in public," Kirchick says. The puzzled RT host responds, "Yes..?" and Kirchick continues, saying, "We've seen a spate of violent attacks on gay people..." before the host jumps in again to suggest they get back to the discussion about Manning. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Disease Caused by Repeat Brain Trauma in Athletes May Affect Memory, Mood, Behavior

August 21st 2013

MRI Machine

New research suggests that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease associated with repeat brain trauma including concussions in athletes, may affect people in two major ways: initially affecting behavior or mood or initially affecting memory and thinking abilities. CTE has been found in amateur and professional athletes, members of the military and others who experienced repeated head injuries, including concussions and subconcussive trauma.

"This is the largest study to date of the clinical presentation and course of CTE in autopsy-confirmed cases of the disease," said study author Robert A. Stern, PhD, "However, the overall number of cases in the study is still small and there may be more variations in CTE than described here."

For the study, scientists examined the brains of 36 male athletes, ages 17 to 98, diagnosed with CTE after death, and who had no other brain disease, such as Alzheimer's. The majority of the athletes had played amateur or professional football, with the rest participating in hockey, wrestling or boxing. Read more ..


The Battle for Egypt

Islamist Mob Parades Nuns in Cairo as Prisoners of War After Looting Church

August 20th 2013

Islamist Protest PostMorsi

A mob marched nuns through the battle-torn streets of Cairo ‘like prisoners of war’ in the latest outrage against Egypt’s Christian minority. Sister Manal, principal of a Franciscan school in suburban Cairo, watched for six hours as a mob looted the building, knocked the cross off the gate and replaced it with a black banner resembling the flag of Al Qaeda. The classrooms were then burned to the ground and the women taken away, attracting a crowd of abusive onlookers.

Police told Sister Manal that the nuns had been targeted by hardline Islamists, convinced that they had given Muslim children an inappropriate education.

‘We are nuns. We rely on God and the angels to protect us,’ she said. ‘At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling us where they were taking us.’ Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

Year After South African Mine Shooting, Residents See No Change

August 19th 2013

Striking mine workers Sep 2012

In South Africa, August 16, 2012, will be remembered as the date of one of the country's most violent police confrontations since the apartheid era.  Police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.  The miners were striking to demand a significant pay raise and improved conditions.  Officials say that since then, progress has been made: a commission is investigating the incident and the miners have been granted some raises.  A year later, residents believe things have changed for the worse, not better.

Many South Africans said this scene reminded them of the apartheid days.  Not since those dark days, they say, have they seen police shooting wildly into a crowd of black workers.

But this happened in 2012, when miners held an illegal strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana.  They were led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which challenged the powerful National Union of Mineworkers. Read more ..


Montenegro on Edge

Bankruptcy, Layoffs, And Lawsuits Plague Montenegrin Aluminum Plant

August 19th 2013

Euro Bills

The no-holds-barred conflict over a key piece of Montenegro's economy has just taken a billion-euro turn for the worse. That much became clear in a video press conference from Moscow for journalists in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica.

Yury Moiseyev, the former director of the Podgorica Aluminum Plant (KAP), said the plant's Russian shareholder that he represents was preparing an enormous lawsuit against the Montenegrin government, seeking compensation for alleged unfulfilled promises and lost profits.

"The government of Montenegro did not give us the chance to realize our plans for developing the plant and we, of course, are applying to arbitration courts. We have hired several law firms," Moiseyev said.

"We at present have submitted a lawsuit [in Podgorica] for 93 million euros ($123 million) and we will be filing with [an arbitration court in] Frankfurt a complaint on the falsification during the privatization of KAP, of the lack of fulfillment of the civil agreement. So far, preliminarily, we set the sum of damages at 1 billion euros." Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Computer Exposure Leads To Fears Of 'Digital Dementia'

August 18th 2013

Teenager texting

In South Korea, doctors call it "digital dementia." The Asian country is one of the world's most wired societies, with 95 percent of the population connected to the Internet. There, young people in their late 20s and early 30s regularly show up at clinics exhibiting many of the symptoms usually associated with mental disorders in the elderly. Those symptoms include memory problems, an inability to concentrate, and sleeplessness.

The young patients' difficulties, the doctors say, come from high exposure levels to digital screen media, ranging from televisions to computers to game consoles to smart phones. And while no one has yet calculated how many young Koreans are affected, the phenomenon is adding fuel to the already contentious debate between neuroscientists over the health risks of using digital media. Manfred Spitzer, the head of the Psychiatry Department at Ulm University in Germany, is among those who believe the overuse of computers damages the development of children's brains. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

The Beginning Of A Journey: The Straights Fighting For Russia's Gays

August 17th 2013

Gay Pride

As a heterosexual former army medic in the tough tank-producing town of Nizhny Tagil, Valentin Degteryov never imagined he'd be risking his life to champion gay rights.

But that all changed this year after he saw a series of videos, made by a local nationalist gang, showing gay men being bullied and tormented.

Degteryov, 43, launched an online campaign to shame the group that made the videos. He appealed repeatedly for the police to arrest them. He sent images of the abuse to international gay rights groups to rally support abroad. His outspoken stance earned him threatening phone calls and nationalists have offered to pay a bounty to anyone who beats him up. But Degteryov wasn’t deterred. If anything, he became more vocal. "In reality, strength lies with the people who don't fear the fascists and the scum in this country -- with people who will fight for the rights of any person," he says. "Homosexuals are people too, just like me." Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Community-based Innovation Thrives in Hackerspaces

August 16th 2013

Computers/Nerd Silhouette

Community workshops dubbed "hackerspaces" originated in Germany more than a decade ago. After a slow start, they're now appearing in cities around the world, including United States.

In North America, the word "hacker" most commonly refers to someone who illegally breaks into computer networks. But hackerspaces are social clubs for activities that include tinkering, machine tooling, and 3-D printing. Some hackerspaces market themselves under the more benign-sounding label of "maker space," which are now drawing attention as private incubators for entrepreneurship. 

"Our original name had the word 'hack' in it," said Justin Burns, who co-founded a hackerspace now called OlyMEGA, short for Olympia Makers, Engineers, Geeks and Artists. "Those of us in the know knew what it meant, felt like it was a positive term, but it was not perceived that way on the outside." Read more ..


The Way We Are

Obesity Kills More Americans Than Previously Thought

August 15th 2013

Obese man

Obesity is a lot more deadly than previously thought. Across recent decades, obesity accounted for 18 percent of deaths among Black and White Americans between the ages of 40 and 85, according to a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This finding challenges the prevailing wisdom among scientists, which puts that portion at around 5 percent.

"Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe," says first author Ryan Masters, PhD. "We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in U.S. life expectancy."

While there have been signs that obesity is in decline for some groups of young people, rates continue to be near historic highs. For the bulk of children and adults who are already obese, the condition will likely persist, wreaking damage over the course of their lives. Read more ..


France on Edge

Muslims In France Warn Of Rising 'Islamophobia'

August 14th 2013

Muslims at prayer

Muslim leaders and groups are warning against a rising climate of "Islamophobia" in France as the government vows to stamp out extremism in any form.

The statements follow the arrest on August 11 of a military serviceman suspected of planning an attack on a mosque outside the city of Lyon. The 23-year-old suspect, stationed at a local air force base, reportedly planned a gun attack on the mosque to coincide with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Described by the Interior Ministry as "close to the extreme right," the suspect has also been accused of carrying out an earlier mosque attack. Reacting to the arrest, Kamel Kabtane, rector of the Grand Mosque of Lyon, called for government action to counter the fear of Muslims. Read more ..


The Way We Are

A Serbian Engineer's Two-Wheeled Message Of Peace

August 13th 2013

Serbian Church

In a sense, Rasko Tanasijevic's entire life has been about roads and bridges.

Every summer for the past 10 years the retired automotive engineer has led a group of cyclists through heat, rain, and punishing hills for 470 kilometers from his hometown of Kragujevac in central Serbia to Mostar in southwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Tanasijevic's purpose is simple enough -- to resurrect the good will and comradeship that he remembers from the Yugoslavia of his youth, from a time before the Balkan wars plunged the region into a mire of ethnic and religious animosity. Ten cyclists, mostly from the Junior Paralympic Club in Kragujevac, left home on July 24. Kragujevic Deputy Mayor Bojadzic Pavlovic was on hand to give them a warm send-off.

"Kragujevac, as a [United Nations] Messenger of Peace City, sends in this way a message of peace to the whole world," the official told RFE/RL. "That message is gathering more and more support from those in favor of cooperation between the citizens of Serbia and those of Bosnia. The reactions are phenomenal, and our citizens greet these athletes with great joy. You cannot imagine the popularity this marathon has on the Bosnian side. It is something unreal." Read more ..


The Edge of Sport

Pakistan's 'Little Brazil' Lives For The Love Of Soccer

August 12th 2013

Soccer Ball

Residents of one of Pakistan's most dangerous urban neighborhoods live for the love of soccer.

The sprawling Karachi slum of Lyari has earned itself the nickname "Little Brazil," a nod to its reputation as a soccer center in a cricket-crazed country.

Lyari, home to Pakistan's indigenous African community, the Sheedis, has provided some of the most distinguished soccer players in Pakistan's history. But the neighborhood is increasingly gaining fame for its deadly gang violence, religious extremism, and poverty.

The neighborhood's reputations collided on August 7 when a bombing at a local soccer match killed at least 11, including several young players, and wounded more than 20. The bomb hit just after a local politician from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) presented trophies to the winning team. Lyari was once a bustling fishing village, but the arrival of big industry and immigrants after the creation of Pakistan in 1947 changed its landscape and economic prospects. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Muslims Across US Mark End of Ramadan

August 11th 2013

Muslim American girl with flag

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan drew to a close, Muslim-Americans of diverse backgrounds and national origins gathered in mosques and Islamic centers across the United States to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, or "fast breaking" holiday.

While prayers mark the beginning of the celebration, Eid breakfast is an important meal for practicing Muslims, who had been fasting from sunrise to sunset for an entire month.

During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims around the world celebrate by performing special prayers, paying social visits and seeking to strengthen family and community bonds.

Eid prayers in the U.S. are usually held either in local mosques or in public facilities designed to accommodate large gatherings. Esam Omeish led the prayers at a ballroom at a hotel in the northern part of the U.S. state of Virginia. “Eid prayers here are attended by Muslims from more than 40 different backgrounds and national origins. That much diversity does not exist elsewhere except during the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca,” said Omeish. Read more ..


Switzerland on Edge

Swiss Town Bans Asylum Seekers from Public Spaces

August 10th 2013

Switzerland railway

A small town in Switzerland says it will ban asylum-seekers from certain public places, including the local swimming pool and library. The move has caused outrage, especially among human rights groups who say it's "racist" and warn the policy could spread to other parts of the country. But analysts say even as politicians across economically stagnant Europe are using anti-immigration rhetoric as a way to gain popular support, national and international laws should protect immigrants’ rights.

The town of Bremgarten is banning asylum seekers from a total of 32 “exclusion zones,” including libraries, playing fields and swimming pools. The head of Switzerland's Federal Office of Immigration, Mario Gattiker, has said the town wanted to avoid “friction and resentment” between locals and asylum seekers. But human rights groups said it’s an infringement of the asylum seekers' human rights. Read more ..


Islam's War Against Judaism

Acid Attack on Two Jewish Teachers in Zanzibar

August 9th 2013

Jakaya Kikwete
Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete

Two girls who were the victims of a devastating acid attack on the island of Zanzibar Wednesday may have been targeted because they were Jewish, friends of the pair told police, the UK’s The Daily Mail reported. The British teenagers suffered painful burns when acid was thrown in their faces as they walked to a restaurant on the mostly Muslim island. The pair are now back in England receiving treatment and recovering from their wounds.

Witnesses described seeing two men on a moped throw acid at the girls. Police said that five suspects were detained on Thursday in the capital’s historic Stone Town district, where Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, both 18, were attacked, Britain’s Telegraph reported. Police have also issued a warrant for the arrest of Islamist preacher Sheikh Issa Ponda Issa, amid suggestions his teaching could have influenced the attackers. Read more ..


The Way We Are

South Africa Marks National Women’s Day

August 9th 2013

Clinton South Africa

Friday, August 9th, is National Women’s Day in South Africa. It commemorates the 1956 march by 20-thousand women against the country’s apartheid era pass laws. The laws severely restricted travel by non-whites and segregated society. The only surviving leader of that march remembers the struggle for equality not only for people of color, but for women.

Sophie Williams-de Bruyn was 19 years old when efforts to stage the march began. “Well, South Africa in 1956 was a very polarized country and a very oppressive place to live in. And as you know the laws didn’t allow race groups to live together. We had all sorts of laws keeping us apart. We were all grouped into our own places of abode,” she said. Whites, blacks, coloreds – these were official government designations to classify South Africa’s population. She was classified as colored. Read more ..


Mali on Edge

Malians Call for Criminalization of Slavery

August 8th 2013

Mopti market

Slavery is still practiced among some groups in Mali. Activists had made some gains in their fight to outlaw the custom until early 2012, when a Tuareg rebellion and subsequent military coup plunged the country into chaos. Now, as Mali prepares to elect its next president, activists say the time is right to push for a law banning the centuries-old practice.

Although slavery was prohibited by the Malian constitution of 1960, it was never formally criminalized in law. Soumaguel Oyahit, secretary-general of the human rights association, Temedt, and himself a member of Mali’s slave caste, said the practice continues in conservative religious communities and among ethnic groups, including the Tuareg.  

“We are trying to prioritize the eradication of a tradition that we call descent-based slavery,” said Oyahit. “What this means is that across northern Mali and the Sahel, a child born to a woman who is a member of the slave caste, living in a family that has traditionally kept slaves, is itself condemned to being a slave. There is no law criminalizing this practice.” Read more ..


The Way We Are

During Ramadan, A Long Wait For Dusk In The Land Of The Midnight Sun

August 7th 2013

Muslims at prayer

On August 8, many Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast.

Ramadan, which is based on lunar cycles rather than the international calendar, can occur at any time of the year.

This year, the Islamic holy month coincided with the longest days of summer in the Northern Hemisphere for the first time since the 1980s. For fasting Muslims that has meant especially long, hot days with no food or water between dawn and dusk.

The holiday presents a particular challenge in the northern countries of Scandinavia, where summertime means nearly full-time daylight. The Finnish capital, Helsinki, at 60 degrees latitude, is one of the world's northernmost cities, with the summertime sun setting as late as 10:30 p.m. and rising just a few hours later. Read more ..


The Way We Are

In Ukraine, A New Way Of Looking At Pain – And Death

August 6th 2013

walking-cane

It's been a hard year for Antonina Lubyana.

First, the pensioner fell from bed, breaking a hip and the bones in her hand. When the fractures failed to heal, doctors discovered she had advanced bone cancer. Lubyana now suffers from debilitating pain and is barely able to sit, even in a wheelchair.

"It's hard to sit for very long. I have to walk a little every once in awhile, but then I lie down again," she says. "The pain can be very intense, and then you either have to get a shot or take some kind of pills. But the pain never goes away entirely. [The medicine] helps many people, but not me."

To fight the aches that shudder through her spine and limbs, Lubyana receives shots of Olfen, a relatively mild painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug. 

She is one of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients across the former Soviet Union who advocates say are enduring unnecessary suffering due to a shortage of effective, affordable drugs and a legacy of medical ignorance about how to treat severe pain.

Still, despite her bad fortune, Lubyana is one of the lucky ones. She receives full-time care in a Kyiv hospice, a service that is still a rarity in the former Soviet Union. And her country, Ukraine, this year became the first in the region to legalize better access to strong pain medication for patients dying from cancer, AIDS, and other incurable illnesses. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Pakistani Activists Take Aim At Toy Guns

August 5th 2013

Taliban in Pakistan

Toy guns don't kill people, people kill people. Nevertheless, campaigners in Pakistan are aiming to get imitation Kalashnikovs and Glocks off the streets, saying they help breed a culture of violence among children.

The campaigners have targeted Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of Ramadan (August 7-9) to launch their effort, knowing that children will be eager to buy new toys with the pocket money they traditionally receive during the festivities.

Nongovernmental organizations, poets, singers, and peace activists plan to fight back by staging walks, petitioning the authorities, and talking to parents and shopkeepers in the hope they minimize interest in the toy weapons that traders stock up on during Eid al-Fitr. Sana Ijaz, a peace activist in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, explains why toy guns pose a threat in the restive northwestern province.

"If we expose our children to these things from a tender age," Ijaz says, "it will not be difficult for them to fall into the hands of extremists when they are teenagers. The extremists can easily trap them into conducting a suicide bombing or being trained for other similar violent acts. Childhood exposure to toy guns can make them easily adapt to using weapons [when they grow up]." Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Tomb of The Patriarchs Desecrated by Muslims Three Times During Ramadan

August 4th 2013

Tomb of Patriarchs vandalism Ramadan 2013
Doorpost from which the Mezuzahs were stolen.
(credit: Tomb of Patriarchs Administration)

For the third time this month, Muslims frequenting the Tomb of Patriarchs desecrated Jewish religious objects at the site, tearing the Mezuzahs off the doorposts again and stealing them. They took advantage of the special visiting privileges the Muslims receive during the month of Ramadan, during which the Tomb of Patriarchs is opened only for Muslims and closed for Jews on Fridays of the month and the special dates. Local police announced they have arrested two Palestinians in connection with the vandalism, but that they were still searching for the thieves. The act was recorded by surveillance cameras. A member of the Waqf was nearby during the act of sabotage.

The site administration has decided to limit access of Palestinians in response to these repetitive attacks. Muslims aged 18–35 will not receive access on the special days allocated to Muslims. They further stated they would not allow such actions to continue without a response and that they were taking further actions to prevent such attacks in the future. Read more ..


Economic Jihad

Landmark Class Action Suit Filed in Australia Against Sydney BDS Advocating Prof

August 2nd 2013

Boycott Israel

A landmark class action suit was filed on Wednesday in an Australian court, for the first time applying the country’s anti-racism laws to protecting Israel from boycott, divestment and sanctions activity, Israeli civil rights group Shurat HaDin said in a statement.

Shurat HaDin said the suit, filed by the organization’s Australian solicitor Alexander Hamilton with the Australian Human Rights Commission, fell under the country’s Racial Discrimination Act of 1975.

The specific complaint was against faculty and students at Sydney University for calling for the severing of links with Israeli institutions, actions that would be deemed racist and in violation of Australian Federal anti-discrimination laws. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Outdoor Activities Aid Healing Process for Traumatized Military Veterans

July 31st 2013

I wanna go home

Veterans participating in extended outdoor group recreation show signs of improved mental health, suggesting a link between the activities and long-term psychological well-being, according to results of a new University of Michigan study. Veterans were surveyed before and after a multi-day wilderness recreation experience, which involved camping and hiking in groups of between six and 12 participants. More than half of participants reported that they frequently experienced physical or mental health problems in everyday life.

One week after the experience, veterans reported a greater than 10 percent improvement in several measures of psychological well-being, a 9 percent increase in social functioning, and a nearly 8 percent gain in positive life outlook. In some cases, the results persisted over the next month. Read more ..


Healthy Edge

Ethical Dilemmas of Accepting Organ Donations from Criminals

July 30th 2013

Surgery

Some people feel so "creeped out" they would decline an organ or blood that came from a murderer or thief, according to a new University of Michigan study.

In addition, study respondents express concern that their personality or behavior may change to become more like that of the donor, as a result of the donation.

Recipients prefer to get an organ or DNA transplant or blood transfusion from a donor whose personality or behavior matches theirs, says Meredith Meyer, the study's lead author and a research fellow in psychology. People tend to think one's behaviors and personalities are partly due to something hidden deep inside their blood or bodily organs, she says.

Meyer and her colleagues were most surprised to learn people felt as strongly about the source of blood transfusions as they did about heart transplants. Read more ..


Nigeria on Edge

Soaring Ramadan Food Prices Take Toll in Northern Nigeria

July 29th 2013

Nigerian farmers

Food prices are soaring in Nigerian cities as Muslims stock up on traditional foods for the evening feasts that follow daily Ramadan fasts.

In a country where most live in abject poverty, many are paying as much as six times the normal price for many food items.

But in the country's predominantly Muslim and already impoverished north, where regional instabilities linked to the presence of the Islamist rebel group Boko Haram are ongoing, soaring costs have left many especially vulnerable.

Outside a market in Kaduna, one shopper says holiday season's increased prices have further impoverished many, as sellers know that customers are willing to pay higher prices in order to make particular preparations for Ramadan feasts. “They feel that people are in need of these products so they inflate the prices," one shopper said. "It is very, very obvious. ... For example, when you want to buy fruit like your pineapples or your oranges and your things for breaking the fast, you see people inflating the prices.” But some sellers say the increased prices reflect inflated costs that farmers charge during the holy month. Read more ..



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