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Islam on Edge

Yemeni Girl Escapes Early Marriage, Raises Awareness

July 27th 2013

Pakistani honor victims

Nada al-Ahdal, the 11-year-old Yemeni girl who says in a viral YouTube video that she ran away from home to escape a forced marriage, told Radio Sawa that money is the main motive behind her parents' intentions.

In the interview, she talked about the details of her ordeal. “I thought a lot about escaping my parent’s house during the night,  so at six a.m. I ran away by myself and I was not afraid,”  she said, and added that she is now under the protection of Yemeni Women Union, a nonprofit that empowers women and promotes their rights.

Nada has succeeded in attracting worldwide attention through her video in which she says “I would rather die than get married.”

She also asks in the three-minute clip, “What happened to childhood innocence? What have the children done wrong to get married off like that?”

Ahdal’s uncle, Abdul Salam al-Ahdal, told Radio Sawa his niece refuses to return to her parents because of their determination to marry her off.

He said attempts to persuade her parents to change their decision, especially the argument that she is too young to get married, have not succeeded despite the intervention of officials and humanitarian organizations. He added that “radical Islamic parties” have threatened him and Nada because they want her and the whole case “to disappear” unless she submits to her parents’ will. Nada Ahdal told Radio Sawa she is not planning to go back to her parents, whom she has not forgiven. She said she will solve her problem on her own, though she is not sure how. 

She said that her parents want her to marry a 22-year-old for financial purposes, the fundamental reason behind child forced marriage in Yemen. “After I solve my own problem, I will try to help any other young girl going through the same situation as mine,” she said. Read more ..


Education Edge

Teacher Turnover Hurts Students' Academic Performance

July 26th 2013

Teacher turnover negatively affects student learning in math and English, a researcher from the University of Michigan School of Education and colleagues found.

The impact is particularly strong in low-performing schools and among black students, they say.

Matthew Ronfeldt, U-M assistant professor of educational studies, and colleagues Susanna Loeb of Stanford University and James Wyckoff of the University of Virginia studied data over an eight-year period beginning with the 2001-02 academic year that included 850,000 observations of New York City public school fourth- and fifth-grade students. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Electronic Health Records May Reduce Outpatient Costs

July 25th 2013

Click to select Image

Use of electronic health records can reduce the costs of outpatient care by roughly 3 percent, compared to relying on traditional paper records. That's according to a new study from the University of Michigan that examined more than four years of healthcare cost data in nine communities. The "outpatient care" category in the study included the costs of doctor's visits as well as services typically ordered during those visits in laboratory, pharmacy and radiology.

The study is groundbreaking in its breadth. It compares the healthcare costs of 179,000 patients in three Massachusetts communities that widely adopted electronic health records and six control communities that did not. The findings support the prevailing but sometimes criticized assumption that computerizing medical histories can lead to lower healthcare expenses. Read more ..


Broken Borders

US Farmers Keep Eye on Immigration Reform

July 24th 2013

wheat fields

American farmers are experiencing a shortage of people to work their fields.  The workers they do have are largely from Latin America and in the United States with false documents.  Farmers say without immigration reform, both problems will continue.

Imperial Valley farmers call this the dead season.  Summer temperatures consistently stay above 38 degrees Celsius.  Not much is growing in the fields at the moment, but in the winter there will be lettuce and celery on the ground and in the spring, cantaloupes and watermelons. 

But even in the summer dead season, there is work for Francisco Saucedo.  He drives a tractor, tilling the field to prepare the land for planting in the autumn.  He lives in Mexico and wakes up at two in the morning everyday to beat the long lines at the border crossing, so he can start work at 6:00 am. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Central Asian Children Keep Ramadan Caroling Alive

July 23rd 2013

Koran and prayer beads

Ramadan fasting in Tashkent was nearly over on the evening of July 10 when Lola Yunusova heard a loud knock on her front door. Opening it, she was met by three children practicing a tradition found mostly only in Central Asia -- Ramadan caroling.

Much like Christmas caroling in the West, during Ramadan Central Asian children go door-to-door to sing for their neighbors. As with Halloween's "Trick or Treat" tradition in some Western countries, Central Asian carolers ask for a treat -- usually receiving money or candy.

But unlike Christmas and Halloween, Central Asian Ramadan caroling can last an entire month and that's why Yunusova sometimes finds the tradition tedious.

"Small kids come every day singing," she says. "We give them money. But when the same children come every day, we say, 'That's enough. Don't come again.' Because every day, the same children are coming. Many parents do not allow their children to go out singing for Ramadan -- and neither do we. Why should we? They are like beggars. Nobody likes them. They pound on your door and keep ringing the doorbell. Personally, I don't like it. When you come out, there are usually three or four of them practically shouting, 'Blah, blah, blah, blah...give us some money.'" Read more ..


Inside Brazil

Pope Francis Embraced Upon Arrival in Brazil

July 23rd 2013

Pope Francis1 March 2013

Tens of thousands of cheering faithful greeted Pope Francis Monday on his arrival in Brazil, mobbing a motorcade carrying the pontiff into central Rio de Janeiro at the start of a weeklong visit. Video showed security officers struggling at several points to push back the joyous crowds, while the pope rolled down the window of his car to touch those who reached inside.  One woman handed the 76-year-old pope an infant, whom he kissed before handing back.
 
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and a host of dignitaries met the Argentine-born Francis - the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio - as he stepped off a commercial airliner to begin his visit. Later, anti-government protesters clashed with police outside the palace holding the official papal welcoming ceremony.  Reports from the scene said crowd anger appeared directed at Brazilian leaders, not at the pontiff.
Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Religious Leader Approves Of Restrictive Edict On Women

July 22nd 2013

Afgan Women in Burka

One of Afghanistan's top religious figures has defended a series of religious decrees that observers warn could further erode women's rights in the country.

The eight-article fatwa was issued by a local ulema, or religious council, in the district of Deh Salah in the northern province of Baghlan last month. Among the edicts was a ban on women leaving their homes without a male companion and another that banned the sale of cosmetics on the basis that they are "un-Islamic" and promote adultery.

The fatwa, reminiscent of the strict edicts imposed by the Taliban during its rule of Afghanistan, prompted condemnation from rights activists and many of the district's residents. But while only senior clerics have the right to issue such edicts, the country's top religious figures have stayed silent on the issue up to now.

That changed when Mawlawi Enayatullah Baligh, a presidential adviser who serves on Afghanistan's top religious panel, the Ulema Council, staunchly defended the edicts while discussing the closure of cosmetics shops. "There is no way these shops could have stayed open," he told the Reuters news agency on July 20. "Shops are for business, not adultery." Read more ..


The Way We Are

US Survivors of Military Sexual Assaults Seek Better Treatment

July 21st 2013

Abused woman

Four U.S. military veterans who are survivors of military sexual assaults testified Friday before a House of Representatives Veterans' Affairs subcommittee. They asked for better care and treatment for their trauma from the U.S. Veterans Administration.

The U.S. Defense Department released a study in May estimating that as many as 26,000 military members were victims of sexual assault in the military last year. 

The Republican Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Dan Benishek, broke that number down. "Last fiscal year there were roughly 71 incidents of sexual assault every single day among those who wear our uniform," said Benishek.

Four veterans who were victims of sexual assault traveled to Washington, D.C., to tell lawmakers their story and to ask for changes in the way survivors are treated. Victoria Sanders is a U.S. Army veteran who was raped by a fellow soldier when she was 20 years old. Read more ..


The Way We Are

A Constitutional Right to Health Care

July 20th 2013

Obamacare Protest

Uruguay has it. So does Latvia, and Senegal. In fact, more than half of the world's countries have some degree of a guaranteed, specific right to public health and medical care for their citizens written into their national constitutions.

The United States is one of 86 countries whose constitutions do not guarantee their citizens any kind of health protection. That's the finding of a new study from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health that examined the level and scope of constitutional protection of specific rights to public health and medical care, as well as the broad right to health.

The study examined the constitutions of all United Nations member states and found the results to be mixed, despite the fact that all U.N. members have universally recognized the right to health, which is written into the original foundational document establishing the international body in 1948.The researchers reviewed the constitutions of all the member states as amended to two points in time: August 2007 and June 2011. Read more ..


Heatwave Crisis

Israeli Forgotten Baby Syndrome Campaign

July 19th 2013

Daliat el-Carmel

Forgotten Baby Syndrome is something we, as a society, is having trouble coming to terms with. We do everything we can to protect our young. We recycle our trash to conserve the planet for the future of our children and even donate old cars to Kars for Kids because we know they are responsible stewards for the environment that belongs not only to us but to our grandchildren. We teach our children not to cross on red lights and not to talk to strangers. We strap our babies into sturdy car seats and then forget about them—for hours—in the heat!

How this happens no one is quite sure. In fact, most of us are sure it couldn’t happen to us. We’re not those kinds of parents. But we see the parents of the poor lost souls and they look like decent sorts. People like us.

We see that it happens. And it’s beginning to frighten us.

Worldwide Tragedy

Not that it’s any comfort, but it isn’t only happening in America but all over the world. Recently in Israel, for example, three babies lost their lives to Forgotten Baby Syndrome during the space of two weeks. Israel’s equivalent to the Red Cross, the Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency rescue service, immediately kicked into full gear, launching a national campaign to tell parents about this terrible phenomenon in which babies are left forgotten, in parked cars, in the heat. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Afghanistan's Only Olympic Medalist Boycotts Taekwondo Championships

July 17th 2013

Rohullash Nekpa

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

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

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


The Ancient Edge

Oldest Use of Flowers in Grave Lining

July 16th 2013

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

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

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

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


Inside Togo

Togolese Academics Battle for Linguistic Heritage

July 15th 2013

Student at Blackboard-Togo

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

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

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


Iran on Edge

Women's Rights Activists Tell Rohani What They Want

July 14th 2013

Women's Rights Activists

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

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

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


Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Mayor Shot Dead Over Cosmetic Row

July 14th 2013

Woman-Makeup

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

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

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


Inside Russia

Orthodox Patriarch Says Russians Should Spend More Time in Contemplation

July 13th 2013

Russian Orthodox patriarch Kirill

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

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

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

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


Peru on Edge

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

July 13th 2013

Machu Picchu Peru

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

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


The Edge of Health

Obesity Trait Passed on From Fathers to Offspring

July 13th 2013

Click to select Image

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

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


Latin Amerca on Edge

Teachers Unions: Corrupt Institutions or Necessary Protectors?

July 12th 2013

Union Protest

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


Islam's War Against Christianity

Bedouin Arabs Run Torture Camps in Sinai

July 11th 2013

Camel-safari-sinai

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

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

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


UK on Edge

British Ban on Addictive Khat Draws Dire Threats from Kenyans

July 10th 2013

Khat courtesy of DEA

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

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


Eugenic America

Report Reveals California Duped Women into Sterilization since 1990s

July 9th 2013

Click to select Image

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

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

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

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


Inside Australia

Iraqi Refugee to Boost Cricket in Multicultural Australia

July 9th 2013

Cricket-Player

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

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

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

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


South Africa on Edge

Botched Circumcisions Kill 30 South African Boys

July 8th 2013

Xhosa-Boys-Circumcision

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

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

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


The Environmental Edge

Priorities Cited for Improving Global Conservation Funding

July 7th 2013

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

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

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

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


Indigenous Peoples on Edge

Indigenous Peoples Stand Up to Exploitation

July 6th 2013

Indigenous Peoples

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

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

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


The Digital Edge

Woman Explains How She Outsmarted Her Muggers With Sting Operation

July 5th 2013

I-phone

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

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


Inside America

More Americans Want Government to Stay Out of International Affairs

July 5th 2013

romney buttons

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

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


America on Edge

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

July 4th 2013

Obama pensive with flag

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

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


Egypt’s Second Revolution

The Next Phase of the Arab Spring

July 3rd 2013

Cairo Skyline

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

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

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


Egypt's Second Revolution

Nearly 100 Rapes in 4 Days at Tahrir Square

July 3rd 2013

Egypt Riots #2

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

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


America and Cuba

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

July 3rd 2013

American and Cuban flags

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

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


Inside Tanzania

US First Ladies Promote Investment in Women in Tanzania

July 2nd 2013

First Ladies

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

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


The New Egypt

Egyptian President Morsi Given an Ultimatum: Leave Now!

July 1st 2013

Muslim Brotherhood bus burning 10 2012

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

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

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

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


The Edge of Health

Community-Based Lifestyle Changes Improve Diet and Health during Pregnancy

July 1st 2013

supermarket produce

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

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


The Way We Are

Thieving Lemurs Teach Us About Evolution of Intelligence

June 30th 2013

Lemurs

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

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


The Way We Are

Restoring Sight to the Cataract-Blinded Poor

June 28th 2013

Eye

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

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

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


Inside Qatar

Qatar's New Leader Replaces Long-Serving Prime Minister

June 28th 2013

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani

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

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


Israel on Edge

Knesset Review Reveals: Israel Does Not Exist in PA Textbooks

June 27th 2013

Farfur

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

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

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


American Life

Even Non-Resident Fathers Can Keep Sons Out of Trouble

June 26th 2013

father and son

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

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

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



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