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Broken Banking

Post-Soviet Billionaires Invade UK ... Via British Virgin Islands

May 26th 2013

Big Ben

Questions arise as mega-rich from Russia and former Soviet republics descend on London.

Britain’s friendly regime of offshore secrecy has tempted an extraordinary array of post-Soviet billionaires to descend on London, sometimes to the sound of gunfire.

Vladimir Antonov fled permanently to Britain after his father, Alexander, was gunned down in a Moscow street in 2009. Another associate, German Gorbuntsov, narrowly survived a volley of shots in London last March.

When Antonov bought a luxury yacht in Antibes, the Sea D, he was careful to register its ownership to an anonymous British Virgin Islands (BVI) entity, Danforth Ventures Inc. He also got his hands on enough cash to try to take over the ailing Swedish car manufacturer Saab, though he did not take control. He did succeed for a while in owning Portsmouth FC, the even more ailing British football club. Antonov is currently on bail in Britain. Lithuanian authorities are trying to extradite him for allegedly looting their collapsed bank Snoras, which he denies. Read more ..


The Way We Are

US Soldiers Place Flags at Arlington Cemetery for Memorial Day

May 25th 2013

Bunch of American flags

On Memorial Day - Monday, May 27 this year - Americans remember those in the military who died while serving their country. Ahead of that day, soldiers place American flags in front of the more than 360,000 gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery, outside Washington.

Army Colonel James Markert placed a flag at the tombstone of Christopher Henderson, who was killed in Iraq almost six years ago.  Henderson’s widow, Jennifer, and their daughter came to the cemetery as they have every year since he died.

“Being here with him, it’s a closer connection and it’s a way to honor what he did,” explained Jennifer Henderson. The 3rd US infantry, known as the Old Guard, is a ceremonial unit. It has been placing flags at the graves for about 60 years. Colonel Markert is the commander. “It's a way of sustaining that promise to our service members that if something should happen to them, we’ll make sure their families in there are taken care of and remembered,” said Markert. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Golan Druze Preparing for War

May 24th 2013

Druze assembly

The mounting tension between Israel and Syria in the past number of days has prompted the Druze residents of the Golan Heights out of their complacency. While the Jewish residents of the Golan have continued to show restraint and relative calm in light of statements made by senior Israeli and Syrian officials, which have served to fan the flames of tension, the level of anxiety among Druze families on the Golan-which up until now had been mainly worried about their relatives who live in Syria-has spiked. Druze families on the Golan have begun to stockpile food in anticipation that war might erupt between Israel and Syria. In addition to the security preparations, which are to reach a peak level tomorrow in a large-scale exercise that is to be held tomorrow in Majdal Shams and the emergency storerooms that were recently established there, it has become evident that an increasing number of Druze families in the area have begun to stockpile rice, sugar, flour, oil, breadcrumbs, labane and canned goods, and have amassed enough food to last for two months and even longer. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Svoboda Fuels Ukraine's Growing Anti-Semitism

May 24th 2013

Svoboda

The rise of anti-Semitism in Ukraine is barely noticed in State Department's recent International Religious Freedom Report for 2012. This is especially alarming, because even in the best of times, anti-Semitism is as prevalent in Ukraine as coal in Newcastle.The collapse of the Soviet Union gave rise to nationalist far-right organizations as well radical Muslim groups with anti-Semitism as their common denominator. Europe's current financial woes have also led to the rise of new neo-fascist groups such as Hungary's Jobbik party, known for its vile anti-Semitic propaganda, and the far right extremist Greece's Golden Dawn, with its swastika-like flag and symbols, and aspiration "to become...like Hezbollah in Lebanon."

In Ukraine, the noisiest anti-Semitic group is the Svoboda ("Freedom") party. Established in 1991 as the "Social-National Party of Ukraine" under the SS-era symbol of the Wolfsangel. In 2004, with new leader Oleh Tyahnybok, the party renamed itself and adopted innocuous symbols. Read more ..


Ageing America

Retirement Years are No Picnic for Older Americans

May 23rd 2013

Click to select Image

For growing numbers of Americans, the new retirement may really mean no retirement. That's the conclusion of an article in the current issue of the ISR Sampler, the annual magazine of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

"For most of the 20th century we saw retirement ages fall while life expectancy rose," said David Weir, an ISR research professor and director of the ISR Health and Retirement Study. "About 20 years ago, the trend in retirement age reversed and it has been inching up slowly ever since."

People are retiring later for a lot of reasons, but a key one is economic. Employer health insurance benefits for retirees are eroding, spurring many employees to hold out until they qualify for Medicare at age 65. Changes to Social Security, such as the increase in the age at which people can receive full benefits from 65 to 67, also may be playing a role. And people are living longer, requiring additional savings to support those extra years.

Some 40 percent of older Americans delayed retirement in the years after the Great Recession, according to an analysis of data from ISR's Health and Retirement Study and its Cognitive Economics Study.

"The typical household lost about 5 percent of its total wealth between the summers of 2008 and 2009," said ISR economist Brooke Helppie McFall. Read more ..


Edge of Health

More Spending Doesn't Necessarily Mean Better Healthcare

May 23rd 2013

Click to select Image

Healthcare spending for older Americans than for younger adults and children, on average, and analysts have said that increasing spending leads to longer life expectancy.

But new research from the University of Michigan indicates that aging populations could view things differently.

Conducted by Dr. Matthew Davis, associate professor at U-M's Ford School of Public Policy and Medical School, and Adam Swinburn, who earned his master's degree from the Ford School in 2011, the study is the first in the U.S. to estimate health status-adjusted life expectancy—that is, to measure the remaining years of life for different age groups in terms of quality as well as quantity.

The researchers found that, overall, older Americans have markedly worse health compared with younger adults and children. Additional years of life for older people are perceived as less valuable by the individuals living them, compared to years of life experienced by younger people. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Israeli College Students Fortify Troubled Towns by Moving In

May 22nd 2013

College-Students-building

In return for free tuition and low rent, members of Ayalim student villages volunteer their time to transform Negev and Galilee communities. “There was lots of crime here, and lots of children with no after-school activities,” says Ziv Shalev, as he parks on a gritty street in the Old City of Acre (Acco), a Muslim neighborhood on Israel’s northern Mediterranean shore.

Shalev is taking us to see the newest student village started by the Ayalim Association, a grassroots movement to build up the Negev and the Galilee by establishing communities of university student volunteers. He is the organization’s vice president for partnership development. Read more ..


Broken Government

The Origins of the IRS' Investigatory Powers

May 21st 2013

Mobster Frank Costello at Kevaufer Commission

The IRS "scandal" involving the “targeting” of conservative Tea Party groups is metastasizing. Congressional Republicans are seeking to open a broader investigation into the agency, with which, according to the New York Times, they "hope to ensare the White House."

But an understanding of the true history of IRS scandals -- as documented in the mid-1970s Church Committee reports -- might better inform our understanding of this contemporary story.

An early foreshadowing of problems to come came in 1942. Morris Ernst -- a lawyer, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, and political ally of FDR -- suggested that the attorney general conduct “aggressive action” in the form of tax return audits to go after anti-interventionist groups. To his consternation, no one in the Roosevelt administration was interested in the idea. Even J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, an organization heavily involved in monitoring and attempting to discredit President Roosevelt’s foreign policy critics, avoided it because using tax records was too public and, hence, too risky. Read more ..


Mongolia on Edge

Disclosure of Secret Offshore Documents May Force Top Mongolian Lawmaker to Resign

May 21st 2013

Mongolian-Lawmaker

Deputy speaker of Mongolia’s Parliament admits he had $1 million Swiss account. One of Mongolia’s most senior politicians says he is considering resigning from office after being confronted with evidence that he has an offshore company and a secret Swiss bank account.

“I shouldn’t have opened that account,” Bayartsogt Sangajav, Mongolia’s deputy speaker of Parliament, told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

“I don’t worry about my reputation. I worry about my family,” he said after ICIJ asked him about records revealing his offshore holdings. “I probably should consider resigning from my position.” Bayartsogt, who says his Swiss account at one point contained more than $1 million, became his country’s finance minister in September 2008, a position he held until a cabinet reshuffle in August 2012. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Has The U.S. Green Card Lottery Run Out Of Luck?

May 19th 2013

Statue of Liberty

Each year around this time, millions of would-be immigrants to the United States from around the world hold their breath. Early May is when the U.S. State Department releases its shortlist of applicants to the annual green-card lottery. About half of them -- 55,000 people -- will receive permanent-residence visas, the tickets to eventual citizenship.

This year, like any other, Internet forums on U.S. immigration, such as the Russian-language "Govorim Pro Ameriku" (Talking About America), are abuzz with posts from lottery hopefuls. The program has received well over 10 million applicants from the former Soviet Union since its inception. Some express joy at making the first cut, while others consider trying their luck next year. This time, however, there may not be a next year. The forums are abuzz about that possibility, too. Read more ..


India on Edge

India Leads World in First-Day Newborn Deaths

May 18th 2013

Premature Baby

A new report by Save the Children finds that India leads the world in the highest number of babies dying within the first 24 hours of their birth, more than 300,000 a year.

Afsana Begum lost her second son to jaundice, just a month after he was born in a neighboring slum. Now pregnant again, she is determined that her baby enter the world in a safer environment. “If you have a baby in the house, they only get a tetanus shot. If you have a child in a hospital, they will get all the necessary immunizations. That’s why I think it’s better to go to the hospital,” she explained.

It’s a message that Save the Children wants more expectant mothers to hear. The international non-governmental organization sounded the alarm this week with its annual State of the World’s Mothers report, which says India accounts for 29 percent of all global first-day deaths. Read more ..


The New Iraq

Yes, Iraq Is Unraveling

May 16th 2013

Iraqi Forces

As American troops were pulling out of Iraq in 2010, the U.S. effort to stabilize the country resembled the task of an exhausted man who had just pushed a huge boulder up a steep hill. Momentum had been painstakingly built up and the crest approached. Was it safe to stop pushing and hope that the momentum would take the boulder over the top? Or would the boulder grind to a halt and then slowly, frighteningly roll back toward us?

Now we know -- and to be honest, the answer is hardly a surprise. Iraq is a basket case these days, and none of its problems came out of the blue. In the latest bout of sectarian and ethnic bloodletting, coordinated bomb attacks ripped through Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad and also northern Iraq, killing more than 30 people. The spasm of violence followed clashes between the Iraqi army and Sunni protesters and insurgents last month, where the federal government temporarily lost control of some town centers and urban neighborhoods in Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Diyala provinces.

Negative indicators abound: Armed civilian militias are reactivating, tit-for-tat bombings are targeting Sunni and Shiite mosques, and some Iraqi military forces are breaking down into ethnic-sectarian components or suffering from chronic absenteeism. Numerous segments of Iraq's body politic -- Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia -- are exasperated over the government's inability to address political or economic inequities, and are talking seriously about partition. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Taxmen Have Little Clue of Offshore Companies Owned by Greeks

May 15th 2013

Mykonos harbor

Greek citizens who own or direct offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens rarely declare them to Greek tax officials, an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' review of more than 100 companies shows. Just four out of 107 offshore companies investigated by ICIJ are registered with tax authorities as the law usually requires, particularly when the firms hold assets or conduct business in Greece.

Officials apparently have no record of the other 103 firms — or whether the owners declared any assets held by these entities or paid taxes on them. After learning about ICIJ's findings, the Greek Finance Ministry said it would examine the data and determine whether there's any evidence of improper or illegal conduct by owners of offshore companies. The companies’ owners are a surprising cross-section of Greek society, from the richest districts in Athens to remote northern villages. They include retail executives, shipping magnates and middle-class families. What these people have in common is that they are connected to offshore companies that appear to operate under the radar of tax authorities at a time when endemic tax evasion is fueling a financial crisis that has devastated Greece’s economy and threatened the future of the Euro. Read more ..


Gaza on Edge

No Jihadist Left Behind

May 14th 2013

Hamas Rocket

Muslim Brotherhood's ideologue and chairman of the International Federation of Muslim Clerics, Youssef Qaradawi, was surely proud to see that his decades-long virulent preaching for Muslims to "carry out Jihad to death," has been taken seriously by HAMAS. 

Tens of thousands of teenage boys in the Gaza Strip have been receiving weekly jihadist/terrorist training in school, as part of the mandatory "Al-Futuwwa" (Youth Courage) program. Videos of the program have been posted on YouTube to further the radicalization of Arabic-speaking Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center* exposé should leave no illusions regarding "peace" in the region anytime soon. "Hamas has introduced a program in Gaza Strip schools called Al-Futuwwa, which provides military training for tens of thousands of adolescent boys." Read more ..


The Way We Are

New Yorkers Share Mom’s Wisdom

May 13th 2013

family with teenagers

Sunday, May 12 is Mother's Day in America. It's traditionally a day for appreciating the ways our moms have nurtured us and tried to give us a good start on life’s path.

Every day, New York subway commuters are treated to the soulful sounds of Christopher Campbell singing and playing his battery-powered organ for spare change and a smile. Campbell himself says he is a happy fellow, thanks largely to his mom.  

“My mother is long gone, long passed, but one thing that my mother really gave me was grounding me in spirituality by taking me to church and just understanding about love and be strong and to have faith, whatever comes,” Campbell said. It was the faith and trust she placed in him that has meant the most to Dulinda Munasinghe, a Sri Lankan-American working in a photocopy shop. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

South Africa’s Black Middle Class on the Rise

May 12th 2013

South Africa shopping

The size of South Africa’s black middle class has more than doubled in less than a decade, according to a new study from the University of Cape Town.  This emerging class is a boon to the growing economy, but members of this up-and-coming group say many challenges remain.

The Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing says the black middle class is now 4.2 million people strong, up from 1.7 million in 2004. And many say their status is hard-won.

"I just started to work hard, you know, basically to have the sort of values that will see you putting your nose to the grindstone, giving your best, that sort of thing," Abdeel said. Spending by Abdeel and other members of the black middle class is estimated at more than $44 billion a year -- eclipsing white middle class spending, which is stagnating. Read more ..


Broken Banking

Elites Undermine Putin Rail Against Tax Havens

May 11th 2013

putin

The deputy prime minister’s wife, as well as top managers of major Russian military contractors and of giant government-controlled companies, are among an array of Russian figures with secretive offshore investments revealed in documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The disclosure puts President Vladimir Putin’s persistent call for curbing offshore investments in a new and ironic light: he is well acquainted with at least one of the offshore investors the documents identify.

Even before the 2012 election returned him to the presidency, Putin was calling for curbs. In February, he introduced a draft law to bar senior Russian officials from holding bank accounts or stocks outside Russia, which has now passed the first stage of adoption in the Russian Parliament. And in his state-of-the-nation address, Putin said Russia’s economy is hurt because so much of it operates through offshore tax havens. Read more ..


Mali on Edge

'Village Banking' Empowers Poor Malawi Women

May 10th 2013

Mopti market

A Malawian women empowerment NGO known as the Center for Alternatives for Victimized Women and Children has been working to help poor, widowed and abused women become economically independent through village savings and loans programs.

According to NGO officials, under the initiative, known as village banking, the women are encouraged to form groups of between 15 and 25 people to contribute an agreed upon amount of money weekly to buy shares.

 “We encourage each member in that group to borrow the money [to start a business of her choice]. There is no collateral because they know each other and we even don’t impose interest on them," explained Hlazulani Malumbo Ziba, the NGO facilitator in the southern district of Chiradzulu, one of the areas where the project is being implemented. "They decide themselves what type of interest percentage each member should be giving after borrowing the money," he added. Read more ..


The Food Edge

How State and Local Governments Can Address the Obesity Epidemic

May 9th 2013

Childhood Obesity

With simple and innovative measures, public agencies at state and local levels can play a significant role in promoting healthier eating habits—steps that could make a difference in curbing the nation's obesity epidemic. One effective option, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is requiring restaurants to include calorie counts on menus, along with the physical activity equivalents required to burn off a meal. The researchers, who examined studies on calorie labeling and regulatory options available to local governments, offer several recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of menu labeling. The suggestions are especially applicable to chain restaurants with fewer than 20 locations, a category that represents more than half of the restaurants in the U.S. These eateries are not subject to the federal Affordable Care Act's menu- labeling provision. It requires chain restaurants with more than 20 locations to provide calorie information on their menus and menu boards, as well as a statement addressing daily recommended caloric intake. Read more ..


Society and Food

Food Commercials excite Adolescent Brains

May 8th 2013

teen hamburger

Watching TV commercials of people munching on hot, crispy French fries or sugar-laden cereal resonates more with teens than advertisements about cell phone plans or the latest car. A new University of Michigan study found that regardless of body weight, teens had high brain activity during food commercials compared to nonfood commercials.

"It appears that food advertising is better at getting into the mind and memory of kids," said Ashley Gearhardt, U-M assistant professor of psychology and the study's lead author. "This makes sense because our brains are hard-wired to get excited in response to delicious foods."

Children see thousands of commercials each year designed to increase their desire for foods high in sugar, fat and salt. Researchers from U-M, the Oregon Research Institute and Yale University analyzed how the advertising onslaught affects the brain. Read more ..


Edge of Education

Generation X Seeks Higher Education

May 8th 2013

More than one in every 10 members of Generation X are enrolled in classes to continue their formal educations, according to a new University of Michigan study. In addition, 48 percent of the 80 million GenXers take continuing education courses, in-service training and workshops required for professional licenses and certifications. "This is an impressive level of engagement in lifelong learning," said Jon D. Miller, author of the latest issue of The Generation X Report. "It reflects the changing realities of a global economy, driven by science and technology."

The findings show that 1.8 million young adults are studying to earn associate degrees, 1.7 million are seeking bachelor degrees and nearly 2 million are taking courses to earn advanced degrees at the master's, doctoral or professional level. Read more ..


The Evironmental Edge

Unhappy Ending for 'Erin Brockovich' Town

May 7th 2013

Toxic Waste barrels

The first and second graders at the Hinkley School gather in pairs to practice their vocabulary words. It seems business as usual for now, but with so many families leaving town, the school is scheduled to close forever in June.

“We’re learning every day different areas the kids are moving to now and we’ve had many, many tears," said Sonja Pellerin, a teacher at the school. "Some people have lived here for generations, and it is turning families upside down.”

Hinkley is the California town made famous by the movie, Erin Brockovich. Twenty years ago, the California-based energy company Pacific Gas & Electric paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle legal claims by residents that PG&E had poisoned their well water by improperly dumping industrial waste into the ground. But that landmark legal victory, which was recounted in the Julia Roberts movie, was not the end of the story. Read more ..


Mental Health Edge

The Risk of Depression and the Quality of Human Relationships

May 6th 2013

The mantra that quality is more important than quantity is true when considering how social relationships influence depression, say University of Michigan researchers in a new study. After analyzing data from nearly 5,000 American adults, the researchers found that the quality of a person’s relationships with a spouse, family and friends predicted the likelihood of major depression disorder in the future, regardless of how frequently their social interactions took place.

Individuals with strained and unsupportive spouses were significantly more likely to develop depression, whereas those without a spouse were at no increased risk. And those with the lowest quality relationships had more than double the risk of depression than those with the best relationships.

The study, which was published in PLOS ONE, assessed the quality of social relationships on depression over a 10-year period, and is one of the first to examine the issue in a large, broad population over such a long time period.

Nearly 16 percent of Americans experience major depression disorder at some point in their lives, and the condition can increase the risk for and worsen conditions like coronary artery disease, stroke and cancer. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

Survey On Afghan Suicide Attacks Hits Raw Nerve

May 5th 2013

Bomb Victims

Most Afghans say suicide attacks can never be justified. But a new public opinion poll reports more support in Afghanistan for suicide bombers than ever before.

Conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, the survey says four out of 10 Afghans believe suicide bombing is justified "in order to defend Islam against its enemies." Out of 39 countries in the study, only Palestinians showed the same level of support for the idea that suicide attacks are sometimes justified.

The findings have touched a raw nerve in a country where suicide bombings were once rare but are now commonplace. With Afghan civilians increasingly caught up as victims of suicide attacks, activists and religious scholars in Kabul question whether the Pew survey reflects a real trend. Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

American Farmers Respond Positively to Local Food Enthusiasts

May 4th 2013

Fruit

Many institutions are eager to put more local food on their menus, and area farmers are interested in supplying it, say surveys by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems. A recent CRFS survey revealed interest in the expansion of such purchasing by Michigan’s producers as well as buyers at local schools, early childcare programs and hospitals. This continues a trend shown from prior farm-to-institution surveys.

“We have seen steady growth in local purchasing by food service directors across institutions since 2004,” said Michael Hamm, CRFS director. “This points to increasing potential for farmers to generate new business in these markets and for institutions to provide the fresher local foods valued by their customers.”

Local food purchasing by K-12 schools has been the most extensively studied. Results show that the number of schools and districts purchasing local food has been growing, and more than half of schools now purchase local food. Of these, about 90 percent of schools and districts are interested in purchasing local food in the future, whether currently doing so or not. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Baltimore's Empty Lots Bloom With Healthy Greens

May 4th 2013

onions peppers parsley radish

On a patch of asphalt on the edge of Baltimore, a row of greenhouses lay like giant white caterpillars across the blacktop.

This one stretch of land is blooming in the midst of a post-industrial wasteland that has lost about one-third of its population since its post-World War II peak, leaving hollowed-out neighborhoods of boarded-up buildings and abandoned lots.

“It was a high-crime area. This vacant lot was a haven for drug activity. But not anymore,” says William Long, a farm manager who works for Big City Farms.

The company was the first to sign a lease to grow food on abandoned land owned by the city. “We can really create jobs in the city, in an industry that doesn’t exist," said Alex Persful, president of Big City Farms. "That’s the whole meaning behind here. One, having good food. Two, having good jobs. And, all these lots that are just trash heaps right now.” Turning trash heaps into fresh-food treasure troves makes a lot of sense for a city with 17,000 empty lots and 10 percent unemployment. Baltimore hopes to lease about eight hectares of vacant land to urban farmers in the next five years. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Health Services for Syrian Refugees Overstretched

May 3rd 2013

Syrian Refugees

A new report by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says health services for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are increasingly overstretched. The UNHCR says limited funds are limiting the health care refugees are receiving.

The report is the first assessment of the health situation of Syrian refugees in neighboring Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.  The report says the Syria refugee crisis is putting an enormous strain on the health systems and refugees are having difficulty getting the care they need.

The report, which covers the first three months of this year, shows refugees need treatment for injuries, psychological illnesses and communicable diseases, as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. The U.N. refugee agency estimates more than one million refugees are in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. Read more ..


The New Egypt

Egyptian Newspaper Features Two Blood Libel Articles in a Single Day

May 2nd 2013

Jewish Blood Ritual

An Egyptian newspaper featured two articles on Tuesday that promote the libel that Jews drink Christian – and Muslim – blood on Passover. Anonymous blogger Elder of Ziyon spotted the articles in Egypt’s Misrelgdida (“New Egypt”) newspaper.

The first is an article by a Palestinian Arab, Mennat al-Sayed, in which he gives a “history” of Passover blood rituals that, he claims, continues, at least in some form, to this day against Arabs.

According to Elder of Ziyon, “In the past, al-Sayed says says (sic), Christian neighbors of Jews were  scared of the holiday because they were worried if they would travel they would be abducted and ritually slaughtered for their blood…Today, the writer goes on, the Jews are keeping this tradition by killing every single Palestinian in cold blood.”

The second article is written by Amr Abdel Rahman, the managing editor of the paper, and it is entitled “When the Jews drank the blood of Egyptians on Passover.”

Rahman writes: “For our part, we can not overlook the fact that the famous ritual for Jews, especially in their holiday of “Purim,” which is followed by “Passover,” they would gather to celebrate and they required human blood in order to do their rituals.” Read more ..


Society on Edge

The World's Changing Views towards Domestic Violence

May 1st 2013

Global attitudes about domestic violence have changed dramatically since 2000, according to a new University of Michigan study that analyzes data from 26 low- and middle-income countries. Nigeria had the largest change, with 65 percent of men and 52 percent of women rejecting domestic violence in 2008, compared with 48 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in 2003.

In the study published in the current issue of the American Sociological Review, U-M researcher Rachael Pierotti examined data on hundreds of thousands of people collected in Demographic and Health Surveys funded by USAID. Half of the countries surveyed are in sub-Saharan Africa. "In many countries, men were even more likely to reject violence than women were," said Pierotti, a graduate student in sociology.

Data on male attitudes was available in 15 of the countries Pierotti studied. Men were more likely than women to reject domestic violence in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Read more ..


Edge of the Workplace

Reining in Bad Behavior Takes More than Guts

May 1st 2013

Our work environments play a bigger role than previously thought when it comes to reporting unethical behavior, according to a University of Michigan researcher. "Our findings contradict conventional wisdom that the personal characteristics of an employee drive his or her decision to speak up," said David Mayer, assistant professor of management and organizations at U-M's Ross School of Business.

The research found that the social environment—namely, one's supervisor and co-workers—plays a critical role in an employee's decision to speak up about wrongdoing. In the past decade, we have witnessed many ethical failures from leaders of companies such as Enron, Qualcomm and Fannie Mae. The harsh reality is that those who speak up about unethical conduct are often ignored, or worse, retaliated against, Mayer said.

Given the risks associated with blowing the whistle, when an employee witnesses unethical behavior will he or she report it? Read more ..


India on Edge

Makeshift Schools Help Mumbai Slum Children Beat the Odds

April 30th 2013

India child labor

The Indian government in recent years has made free primary education a right for all children. But millions remain outside the educational system. To reach some of the neediest students, one group is now taking classrooms to the streets of Mumbai.

Behind the greenery at this Mumbai public park, a mother of two is spending her morning teaching the basics of English spelling. Aparna Kanda understands how crucial these few hours are for these young learners, many of whom often have to study by streetlamp.

“Here are a group of children who are on the verge of dropping out of school because they do not have that support at home, because both parents are working hard to meet ends [make ends meet]. And these guys just go home and feel very dejected usually because they are not doing too well in school,” said Kanda. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Russians, Americans Build Musical Bridges

April 29th 2013

Nashville Symphony

In the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, the Yale Russian Chorus came to Moscow to break the ice between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Fast forward 50 years and Americans and Russians are once again using music to defrost the chill between their two countries. The turn to culture comes as relations between the two nations have hit their low point since the end of the Soviet Union.

Mikhail Prokhorov is a leading Russian businessman and opposition politician. He owns the New York basketball team, the Brooklyn Nets. In late April, he brought the rap group IllStyle and Peace Productions from Philadelphia to Moscow.

“It is very difficult to maintain stable political relations,” Prokhorov said at a press conference. “That’s why I believe that culture, art and sport are the areas on which we should concentrate deeply, and do everything so that mutual trust and good relations between our people continue to develop.” Read more ..


Healthcare on Edge

Program Launched to Counter Drug-Resistant Malaria

April 28th 2013

mosquito biting

On World Malaria Day, the World Health Organization has launched an emergency program in Phnom Penh to tackle a worrying regional trend - a strain of malaria that is proving resistant to the most important anti-malarial drug.

Six years ago, health researchers were worried after a strain of malaria in western Cambodia began to show resistance to the world’s key malaria treatment - Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy, known as ACT.

In response, the Cambodian government and its health partners, including the World Health Organization, put in place a program to prevent the resistant strain (falciparum malaria) from spreading within Cambodia and beyond its borders. That program appears to have contained the resistant strain.  But Thailand, Burma and Vietnam have reported pockets of artemisinin-resistant malaria strains. The WHO malaria specialist in Phnom Penh, Stephen Bjorge, said it is likely the strains in those countries arose independently of Cambodia’s - which means the containment efforts have worked. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Spurred by Google Glass, IHS Forecasts Millions of Smart Glasses

April 26th 2013

Google Glass

Initiated by the arrival of Google Glass and magnified by Google's efforts to promote application development for the product, the global market for smart glasses could amount to almost 10 million units from 2012 through 2016, according to IMS Research.

Shipments of smart glasses may rise to as high 6.6 million units in 2016, up from just 50,000 in 2012, for a total of 9.4 million units for the five-year period, according to an upside forecast from the market research firm. Growth this year will climb 150 percent to 124,000 shipments, mostly driven by sales to developers, as presented in the high-end outlook in the attached figure. Expansion will really begin to accelerate in 2014 with the initial public availability of Google Glass, as shipment growth powers up to 250 percent, based on the optimistic forecast. Read more ..


The Edge of Mental Health

Cook County Sparks National Changes in Mental Health Care for Delinquent Youth

April 24th 2013

Kid behind bars

In the late 1990s, Northwestern University scholar Linda Teplin launched a groundbreaking study to examine the mental health status of young people in Cook County’s juvenile lock up. The study began a century after the county became the first jurisdiction in the world to create a separate court system for juveniles accused of delinquency.

The results, however, were not those expected of a mature juvenile justice system, they were not full of positive outcomes and they did not suggest the Cook County system as a model for others.

They were, instead, alarming. Among a random sample of 1,829 young people taken into custody in Cook County from 1995 to 1998, 66 percent of boys and 74 percent of girls were diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder, and most of these youth had two or more disorders. Half had a clinically significant substance abuse problem. Depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder were all widespread. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

South America Embraces Chavez Successor, Nicolas Maduro

April 23rd 2013

Nicolas Maduro was sworn in as president of Venezuela on April 19 in the presence of a number of Latin American presidents including, Rouseff of Brazil, Kirchner of Argentina, Ortega of Nicaragua, Morales of Bolivia, and even Santos of Colombia. A place of honor was given to the Cuban dictator, Raul Castro along with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who as a regular visitor to Venezuela was also present for the ceremony.

The irony is that even as Maduro was sworn in as president, the Electoral National Council (CNE), the body in charge of supervising elections, approved a recount of a portion of the votes (not all the votes as the opposition demanded). Due to the closeness of the vote and amid claims that there were about 3,000 irregularities on Election Day, the CNE agreed to recount 12,000 ballot boxes. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Einstein's Newly Re-Discovered Israel Independence Day Speech

April 22nd 2013

A newly published document from the Israel State Archive and the Albert Einstein Archive at Hebrew University offers insight into famed physicist Albert Einstein ‘s view of Israel and the Middle East.

The document is of a speech Einstein was to give on Israel’s Independence Day, 1955. Written in conjunction with the Israeli consulate and Ambassador Abba Eban, its contents never reached the ears of Einstein’s intended audience: the American people. He died only days before it was to be delivered on ABC, NBC and CBS.

“This is the seventh anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel,” Einstein opened. “The establishment of this State was internationally approved and recognised largely for the purpose of rescuing the remnant of the Jewish people from unspeakable horrors of persecution and oppression.”

“Thus, the establishment of Israel is an event which actively engages the conscience of this generation,” he continued. “It is, therefore, a bitter paradox to find that a State which was destined to be a shelter for a martyred people is itself threatened by grave dangers to its own security. The universal conscience cannot be indifferent to such peril.”

Einstein was critical, too, of those who would place a disproportionate amount of blame on Israel for tensions in the region. And he didn’t mince words when he said, “It is anomalous that world opinion should only criticize Israel’s response to hostility and should not actively seek to bring an end to the Arab hostility which is the root cause of the tension.” Read more ..


Tibet on Edge

First Tibetan Women’s Soccer Team Blazes a Trail

April 21st 2013

Potala Lhasa Tibet

Last year, an American teacher and 27 high school students from across the Tibetan Diaspora formed the first Tibetan national women’s football (soccer) team. Since then, they have overcome local critics who opposed the formation of the all-female team and become an inspiration for others.

News that a team of Tibetan women would enter a men’s soccer tournament last May sent ripples of excitement through this sleepy hill station at the foot of the Himalayas. There was also some disapproval.

Even Tibetans who have long lived in exile retain some conservative cultural views, says José Cabezón, Dalai Lama chair professor of Tibetan Buddhism and cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Tibetan women have always had a considerable and powerful role within the family, but less so in society," said Cabezón. "The patterns that existed tend to be preserved and change is not easily won in society.” Read more ..


India on Edge

Renewed Anger in India After Reported Rape of 5-year-old

April 20th 2013

India Gang Rape Protest Placard

Protesters have taken to the streets in the Indian capital following the reported brutal rape of a five-year-old girl, who remains hospitalized with severe internal injuries. India's prime minister and president have expressed shock and anguish at the crime, which comes just four months after a similar incident rocked the country.

Indian police on Saturday say they have arrested 22-year-old Manoj Kumar who had fled to the neighboring state of Bihar after allegedly kidnapping, raping and torturing the young girl.

The five-year-old was reported missing from her New Delhi home on April 15 and found three days later. The accused is reportedly her neighbor. The deputy commissioner of police for the city’s East District, Prabhakar, told reporters police are still getting information and are not sure if anyone else was involved. Read more ..


The New Nigeria

Train Connects North, South of ‘Africa’s Giant’ Nigeria

April 19th 2013

Nigeria train

For the first time in a decade, Nigeria is operating a train line that links the north and south of the country, which is Africa’s most populous nation. The 1,100-kilometer trip from Lagos in the south to the northern city of Kano is an adventure that provides a window into the nation.

The train departs from Lagos - Nigeria’s largest city - every Friday at noon, or thereabouts. When we arrive at the station at 9 a.m., the ticket lines already are thick. When the journey begins, passengers sitting everywhere from the economy class to the private cabins appear eager about seeing Nigeria by train. Tickets cost between $12 and $30, and passenger Aisha Muhammad Shuaib said it’s cheaper than the bus and much safer than the roads. Read more ..



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