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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


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.

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


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


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


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

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

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

American Life

Even Non-Resident Fathers Can Keep Sons Out of Trouble

June 26th 2013

father and son

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

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

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

Israel on Edge

IDF Captain Breaks the Silence on Smear Campaign

June 25th 2013

Cap Barak Raz2

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

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

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

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

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

Italy on Edge

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

June 24th 2013

Silvio Berlusconi

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

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

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

El Salvador on Edge

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

June 23rd 2013


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

Israel on Edge

Muslim IDF Recruits Hold Koran for Allegiance Oath

June 22nd 2013


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

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

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

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

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

The Edge of Health

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

June 21st 2013

Flint Michigan human sacrifices house

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

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

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

The Way We Are

New York Speaks Your Language, No Matter What It Is

June 20th 2013

Times Square-Crowd

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

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

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

The Way We Are

Inmates Fight Fires, Gain Skills for Life After Prison

June 19th 2013


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

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

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

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

Healthcare on Edge

Sexual Minority Youth Need Specialized Treatment from Therapists

June 18th 2013

Gay Pride

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

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

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

Jewry on Edge

After Firebombing Montreal Jewish Business, Answers Demanded from Police

June 17th 2013

Montreal skyline

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

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

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

The Way We Are

Small Illinois Town Gets Boost From New Superman Movie

June 16th 2013


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

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

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

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

The Water's Edge

Students Invent Water Purification Disc

June 15th 2013

Children gather water

Students at the University of Virginia have developed a new way of purifying water that they say could bring improved water quality for millions in the developing world.  It's called a Madi Drop. Field testing begins this month in South Africa.

The lab operates like a kitchen. They add several ingredients. Then they mix, weigh, press and bake them. What's created is called a MadiDrop - a ceramic disc infused with silver. When dropped in water, silver ions, which are atoms that have an electrical charge,, are released to purify the water.  And, testing here at the University of Virginia shows clean, safe water.

“It's not just about making a really great technology that effectively removes or kills bacteria and pathogens.  It's about making a low cost, simple to use one, tailored to people in developing countries who don't have many resources,” said Beeta Ehdaie, a doctoral candidate at UVA. Read more ..

Sweden and the Jews

Twilight for the Jews of Sweden?

June 14th 2013

Rabbi Namdar-Chabad-Sweden

On Sunday June, 2, 2013 several pro-Israel rallies, parades and other events took place around the world. But the celebration in Stockholm, Sweden organized by the Zionist Federation of Sweden (ZF), The World Zionist Organization of Israel (WZO), and local activists took a different turn with a specific message: “Enough is enough.” Not only did this demonstration show support for Israel, it also was a stand against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism which are rampant in modern day Sweden.

We have seen an increase in reported anti-Semitic attacks but no charges, arrests or convictions. Nor have any leading politicians shown any concern. Angry anti-Israel demonstrators can shout their message of hate freely, while peaceful pro-Israel rallies are surrounded by police. Jews routinely hide their Magen David necklace’s under their shirts and remove kippahs as soon as they exit shul. This is the reality of Sweden in 2013.  Exlemplary of the dangers posed to Jews, one report said that  “the Jewish communities spend at least 25 per cent of their funds on security  measures.” Read more ..

Broken Education

Civil Rights Groups Seek Justice Department Intervention in Dallas-Area School Discipline

June 13th 2013

Kid behind bars

Dallas-area students who are tardy or accused of unexcused absences are allegedly being handcuffed at school, forced into court and saddled with fines of up to $500 – in violation of their constitutional and civil rights, according to a complaint three civil rights groups filed Wednesday with the U.S. Justice Department. The complaint was filed against four Texas school districts in the Dallas region and against Dallas County truancy courts, where children accused of excessive absences must appear before judges.

The complaint, which asks federal officials to intervene, alleges that students’ rights are violated because they appear in court for prosecution on misdemeanor charges with no appointed counsel; are inappropriately restrained; and are not adequately advised of their rights. The rights of children and parents who speak limited English and of disabled children have also been violated, the rights groups allege. Read more ..

Internet Edge

You're So Vain: How Social Media Amplify Narcissism

June 12th 2013

Facebook is a mirror and Twitter is a megaphone, according to a new University of Michigan study exploring how social media reflect and amplify the culture's growing levels of narcissism.

The study, published online in Computers in Human Behavior, was conducted by U-M researchers Elliot Panek, Yioryos Nardis and Sara Konrath.

"Among young adult college students, we found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter," said Panek, who recently received his doctorate in communication studies from U-M and will join Drexel University this fall as a visiting fellow.

"But among middle-aged adults from the general population, narcissists posted more frequent status updates on Facebook." According to Panek, Facebook serves narcissistic adults as a mirror. Read more ..

The Healthy Edge

Maternal Obesity Increases Risk of Early Childbirth

June 12th 2013


Being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases the chance of an early delivery—and the more extra weight mom is carrying, the greater the chance for an extremely preterm delivery, according to a study co-authored by a University of Michigan School of Public Health researcher.

The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and looked at data from 1.6 million deliveries in Sweden from 1992 to 2010.

Preterm delivery increases infant mortality, neonatal morbidity and long-term disability, and the earlier the delivery, the more the risk to infants increases, said Eduardo Villamor, U-M associate professor of epidemiology. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence Not Getting Adequate Mental Health Services

June 10th 2013

Abused woman

Although many abused women suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or depression, they are not receiving needed mental health services, a University of Missouri researcher found.

“More than half of the women participating in our study suffered from depression, PTSD or both illnesses,” said Mansoo Yu, an assistant professor of social work in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. “However, most of the survivors had not used mental health services in the past year, even though they reported having access to the services. Social stigmas, shame, privacy concerns, health care costs and lack of information may prevent survivors from getting the help they need.”

Yu studied the rates of PTSD, depression and substance abuse among 50 female intimate partner violence (IPV) survivors and the types of services the women used. The majority of IPV survivors had not used any mental health services, but they reported regularly seeing their primary care physicians. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Marxist Muslims of Turkey Take to the Streets

June 9th 2013

Turkish protester

A bagpipe squeals over Taksim Square as a ring of demonstrators dances merrily around. The circle largely represents the grab-bag of disparate groups that has come together in their anger at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They say he is becoming increasingly authoritarian and many claim that he has tried to force Islamism -- through laws like restrictions on alcohol sales -- on a segment of the population that cherishes its secularism.

It is a cause that Zeynep Agbayir, a devout Muslim who proudly dons her head scarf as she joins her husband in the ring, says she strongly supports. People like Agbayir, 27, and a member of the "Muslim Anticapitalists" movement, are a rarity in this square. Read more ..

Broken Borders

US Evangelicals Call on Congress to Pass Immigration Reform

June 8th 2013


A broad range of religious groups is calling on Congress to pass immigration reform - among them conservatives who in the past have opposed reform plans. Many evangelical Christians see it as an opportunity to expand their congregations.

Among the groups supportive of immigration reform are “Nuns on the Bus,” currently on a nation-wide tour. They drew a lot of attention last year campaigning against a Republican budget plan. Sister Simone Campbell says now they want millions of undocumented immigrants in America to be allowed to stay.

“We must step back from fear. A democracy cannot work on fear. What we have to do is look with clear eyes at what our past is. Our past is beautiful because of immigration.” Campbell says many of the people her Catholic sisters minister to are undocumented foreigners who work in America’s service sector. Read more ..

Ethiopia on Edge

Political Opposition Has New Energy in Ethiopia

June 7th 2013


Ethiopian opposition supporters carried out their first peaceful protest against the government in eight years last week.  The demonstration has raised hopes the ruling coalition will give political opponents more room to operate.  Three opposition leaders from the past said that no matter what happens, the opposition faces major challenges. 

Thousands of Ethiopians took to the streets last week in the capital, Addis Ababa, in a demonstration against Ethiopia’s government.  It was the first time authorities had allowed such a protest since the disputed 2005 elections and was organized by the Blue Party, a relatively new party with many young active members. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Egyptian Court Sentences Employees of Western NGOs

June 6th 2013


A Cairo court convicted 43 non-governmental organization (NGO) employees of inciting unrest in Egypt. Government prosecutors brought charges against sixteen Americans, along with a number of Europeans and Egyptians, with 27 of the activists being charged in absentia. Ten months after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Egyptian police raided several NGOs as part of an investigation into their finances. Authorities accused the pro-democracy groups of working unlawfully within Egypt and receiving illegal funding from abroad. Well respected Freedom House, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), were forced to close in what is being called "a war against Egypt's growing civil society." The court sentenced 27 of the defendants to five years in prison with another five defendants receiving two-year terms. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

A Guide to the Perplexed in an Age of Data Overload

June 4th 2013

Click to select Image

In the 1840s, in his Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote:

A man .... steps out into the world’s multiplicity, like one that comes from the country into the great noisy city, into the multiplicity where men engrossed in affairs hurry past one another, where each looks out for what belongs to him in the vast "back and forth," where everything is in passing ... For here one can experience everything possible, or that everything is possible. ... So this man stands there. He has in himself a susceptibility for the disease of double-mindedness. ... Swiftly, alas, swiftly he is infected -- one more victim. This is nothing new, but an old story. As it has happened to him, so it has happened with the double-minded ones who have gone before him.

Reading these sentences led me to reflect on our current double-mindedness, for example among women who want to rise to the top of their professions and still be great mothers (see here and here for more on this). More broadly, Kierkegaard’s words (and more to follow) seem pertinent to the whole problem of making choices in today’s world, a world in which more of them than ever are available. Read more ..

The Population Edge

Women Bear Brunt of Population Growth

June 3rd 2013

Hungry African Widow/Children

The global population is expected to rise to nine billion by 2050. Most of that growth will be in developing countries. However, many are asking whether such growth is sustainable, considering the amount of resources that would be consumed. The issues of population growth and sustainability were addressed on the closing day of the Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur.

The economies of many developing countries are growing fast. And consumers there are acting more and more like consumers in developed nations. For example, diets are changing, with higher fat, salt and sugar content and there’s a rising demand for cars and bigger homes.

But participants at the Women Deliver conference are asking whether those should be among the aspirations of the developing world? And if so, at what cost to the planet? And what cost to women, who may lack health care and reproductive rights? Read more ..

The Edge of Sport

Israeli Wrestler Attacked by Egyptian Rival

June 2nd 2013

Israeli Wrestler

Israeli wrestler Ilana Kartysh won a gold medal Saturday in the Golden Grand Prix tournament in Italy, but her historical achievement was marred by a very unpleasant incident, when she was attacked by her Egyptian rival during the semi-final. Kartysh, 22, who competed in the 67-kilogram weight category, made it to the semi-final after beating opponents from Hungary and Kazakhstan. There, she experienced a violent incident she won't be able forget for quite a long time.
In the semi-final, Kartysh met the African champion, Anas Mostafa of Egypt. At the beginning of the match, Mostafa refused to shake hands with her. During the fight, she broke two of the Israeli's fingers and bit her in the back – causing her to bleed. At the end of the match, unsurprisingly, she refused to shake hands with her again. " I can't remember such dirty behavior in sports," Kartysh told Ynet after the fight. Read more ..

The Healthy Edge

Children of Long-Lived Parents are Less Likley to Contract Cancer

June 1st 2013

The offspring of parents who live to a ripe old age are more likely to live longer and are less prone to cancer and other common diseases associated with aging, a study that involved a University of Michigan researcher has revealed.

Experts at the University of Exeter Medical School, supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in the South West Peninsula, led an international collaboration that discovered that people who had a long-lived mother or father were 24 percent less likely to get cancer. The scientists compared the children of long-lived parents to children whose parents survived to average ages for their generation.

University of Michigan researcher and co-author Dr. Kenneth Langa is associate director for the U-M-based Health and Retirement Study, which provided the data used for the study. Read more ..

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