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Broken Healthcare

Physicians Who Use Electronic Records May lose Money

March 13th 2013

Click to select Image

Physician offices that move to electronic health record systems, but don't make additional changes in the practice to enhance revenue and cut costs for services no longer needed, stand to lose money, a University of Michigan researcher says. And a $44,000 federal incentive to encourage conversion to EHRs may not be enough to prevent losses, particularly for small practices.

In an article published in the March issue of Health Affairs, Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor at the U-M School of Information and School of Public Health, and colleagues report on a study of 49 community practices in a large EHR pilot program. They found that the average physician lost $43,743 over five years, and only 27 percent of practices showed a positive return on investment.

Doctors have expressed reluctance to adopt electronic systems out of concern about the impact on their bottom line, the researchers say. "What our research shows is that a substantial fraction of physicians who adopt these systems don't make the additional changes in the practice that they need to recoup the cost of adoption," Adler-Milstein said.

The largest difference between those that lost money and those with a positive return on investment was whether or not they used the new system to increase revenue, she says. Offices that experienced a positive return saw more patients or improved billing to achieve fewer rejected claims and higher reimbursement from insurance companies.

Adler-Milstein and colleagues from the University of Rochester and Brigham and Women's Hospital collected survey data from practices participating in the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative in order to project five-year returns on investment from EHRs. Read more ..

Military Justice on Edge

Graham See Problems Changing How Military Handles Court Martials

March 13th 2013

Pentagon aerial shot

Removing the ability for military commanders to alter verdicts in military court-martial cases is “very problematic,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill on Wednesday. A recent Air Force case in which a convening authority tossed out a guilty sexual assault verdict has riled many lawmakers and prompted new legislation to remove the ability of commanders to dismiss verdicts.

“Immediate steps must be taken to prevent senior commanders from having the ability to unilaterally overturn the decision or a sentence by a military court,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said in testimony before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee Wednesday.

But Graham said that changing the nature of the convening authority, a commander who sets up a court martial and has the ability to reduce verdicts, would change a system that’s been a bedrock of the military's Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). “We’re talking about a universal concept in our military that the commander who has the power to order you in battle also has the power to discipline and make individual decisions for what’s best in the unit,” Graham said. “And the convening authority in the general court martial is several steps removed from the unit itself." Read more ..

The Edge of Farming

Farmers Who Sell Locally Can Make a Profit

March 12th 2013


Farmers can make a profit selling their produce directly to local businesses, but they must not let possible new costs weaken their commitment to the new venture, according to an international team of researchers.

"We found that the farmers who really made a conscious decision to sell local and who made more of a commitment tended to do better than those who are just testing the waters with local direct selling," said Amit Sharma, associate professor of hospitality management, Penn State.

Sharma added that farmers who were only testing the idea of selling to local restaurants tend to either never try to reach the local market, or quickly opt out of local selling. The researchers, said that farmers face a number of higher costs when they sell to local restaurants and shops, especially locally owned businesses that are not associated with national chains. The added costs include money for additional marketing and transportation and delivery costs. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Egyptian Security Apparatus in a Crisis Struggle for Change

March 11th 2013

Jump at Cops

The fall-out of last year's death of 72 soccer fans in a politically-loaded stadium brawl has brought the need for reform of Egypt's Mubarak-era law enforcement and judiciary to a head with football supporters in Egyptian cities protesting the verdict in the trial of those accused of responsibility for the incident and security officials striking against being made a scapegoat in the country's political crisis.

Protests sparked by this weekend's confirmation of the death sentences of 21 Port Said soccer supporters, conviction of only two out of nine police officers accused of responsibility for the worst incident in Egyptian sport history, and acquittal of 28 of the in total 73 defendants reflect intensified public anger rooted in widespread distrust of the security forces as well as the judiciary's failure to hold accountable officers and officials responsible for the death of more than 900 protesters since former president Hosni Mubarak was toppled two years ago. Read more ..

Islam's War Against Christianity

Police Arrest Dozens in Pakistan Christian Attack

March 10th 2013

Pakistani Fire Sept 2012

Police in central Pakistan have arrested dozens of men a day after a mob burned a Christian area in Punjab province over alleged blasphemy. The incident has outraged Christians and civil society activists, who took to the streets on Sunday to demand effective protection of minorities and reforms in the controversial blasphemy laws of majority-Muslim Pakistan. 

Pakistani authorities say that Saturday’s mob attack in the provincial capital, Lahore, was prompted by allegations that a resident of the Christian colony made offensive comments about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Under pressure from local Muslim clerics, police registered a case and took the alleged blasphemer into custody on Friday for investigation. But those actions did not forestall the attack on the Christian area the next day. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

The Decline of Iran in Muslim Eyes

March 9th 2013

Tarjish bazar Teheran

Iran, once admired by many many in the Middle East for resisting U.S. influence in the region, is rapidly losing support among the Arab and Muslim public, according to a new public poll.

The survey was conducted by the Zogby Research Service of Washington D.C., for the Arab American Institute. It measured public attitudes about Iran and its nuclear program in 20 Arab and Muslim countries.

According to the data, there was a collapse of support for Iran in most Arab countries in 2012 compared to 2006. In previous polls, Iran was admired by the “Arab street” for its opposition to the United States and Israel. In only six countries — Yemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria and Libya — did a majority view Iran favorably.

The most negative views of Iran were held in Saudi Arabia (84 percent), Qatar (79 percent), Turkey (77 percent), Azerbaijan (75 percent), Jordan (74 percent) and Pakistan (71percent) as well as Palestinians (70 percent), according to the poll. Read more ..

China on Edge

China’s South a Window on Economy, Reform

March 9th 2013

Shinkansen bullet train

China recently began service on the world's longest high-speed rail line, which stretches from its political nerve center in the north to Guangzhou - one of country’s key economic centers in the south. Both the high-speed rail and Guangdong’s massive city of Guangzhou are windows into the tremendous economic challenges China’s new leadership is facing.

A trip on China’s high-speed rail is a front row seat to the many faces of the Chinese economy: the country’s heavy reliance on construction to fuel growth, the disparity between regions, environmental challenges and overcapacity.

Xu Xianxiang, an economics professor at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-Sen University, says there are many inequalities in China and that, although people in richer places are in good shape, there are also poorer places where people cannot even afford to go to school or to the hospital.  He says that, if you look at Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, it is all very good.  But if you drive two hours away from cities it is all very different. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkey Rising?

March 8th 2013

Turk flags

If Turkey can avoid the authoritarianism of single-party dominance or the chaos of coalition governments, it will have a chance to rise as a regional or even global power.

Turkey has come a long way in the past decade, but it still has a long way to go. Over the short term, the country's destiny will be contingent on two interrelated dynamics: the Syrian conflict, and Turkey's economic momentum.

Phenomenal economic growth has elevated Turkey to the ranks of the G-20, and the country has set its sights on becoming one of the ten largest global economies by the time the republic celebrates its centennial in 2023. Turkey is now the largest and wealthiest Muslim country in the world, and for the first time since the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks have incomes on a par with European incomes. In addition, Turkey has amassed significant soft power in the past decade in its Muslim neighborhood. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

With Sequester, Social Services Brace for Cuts

March 8th 2013

American poverty

No one in New York City knows exactly how much local social services will be cut back due to the federal budget sequester which went into effect March 1. However, as the federal cuts take effect over the coming months, budgets for many state, city and private social service agencies that help vulnerable populations will be impacted.     

The sequester was designed by Congress to cut spending across nearly every area of the federal budget. When it began to take effect last Friday, it sent state and city governments, which depend in part on federal funding, and private sector social service agencies that receive federal grants, scrambling for ways to make up a projected shortfall.

“It ain’t going to be good. That we know for sure,” says David Rivel of the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services, which serves 30,000 New Yorkers every year with addiction counseling, homeless services, transportation for the developmentally disabled, mental health care and violence prevention education. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Palestinian Students Attack British Diplomat

March 7th 2013

Bethelem Protestors

Palestinian students angry at century-old British policies attacked a senior British diplomat at Birzeit University near Ramallah.

The students swarmed the vehicle of British consul-general, Sir Vincent Fean, as he attempted to leave the university following a meeting with the school’s dean. Some leapt over his vehicle and tried to attack him, while others reportedly threw rocks, Israel Hayom reported.

While Fean was unhurt, a photographer from the Associated Press said that he saw a student kicking him. 

The violent outburst forced Fean to cancel a speech at the school.

The students were apparently upset over Great Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration, which supported the creation of a Jewish homeland in the then British-ruled Mandate of Palestine. Israel eventually declared its independence in 1948 amidst Arab attacks, and largely without the support of the British. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Ethnic Tatar Miss Russia Winner Targeted By Ethnic Slurs On Internet

March 6th 2013

Miss Russia

Officially Russia prides itself on being a diverse, multicultural country. So it seemed appropriate when 18-year-old Elmira Abdrazakova -- the daughter of a Russian mother and a Tatar father from frigid Kemerovo Oblast -- was crowned Miss Russia 2013 on March 2.

But the online reaction was enough to wipe the smile off Abdrazakova’s face. Within hours of her victory, an avalanche of thousands of hate messages filled with ethnic slurs came in from people espousing Russian nationalist views, forcing Abdrazakova to shut down her social-media pages.

One person wrote that there should be a law barring "Tatar women and also highland and lowland ethnic Shors" from participating in beauty contests. Another wrote that "a gypsy woman cannot be the face of Russia." Read more ..

Inside Burma

Burma Bakehouse Helps Disadvantaged Women

March 5th 2013

Burma Baker

A group of bakers in Burma's former capital, Rangoon, is seeking to help disadvantaged women with training that goes beyond making bread and pastries. The Yangon Bakehouse also provides life-skills classes to place Burmese women in the growing hospitality industry.

Thirty-nine-year-old Ma Moe Nge is learning to bake and said that when her nine-month apprenticeship is over she wants to start her own bakery. "Before, I only saw this kind of food, but I didn’t know how to make it. Now, I've even surprised myself that I can make this kind of food. I am interested in it and I also feel proud of myself," she said. She is one of several Burmese women training with Yangon Bakehouse, a social enterprise started by four female friends, three foreigners and one Burma national, to help other women in need. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Cell Phone Use Increasing Pedestrian Danger

March 3rd 2013


Teenagers are often warned against texting on their cell phones while they are behind the wheel of a car, since distracted driving can lead to serious automobile accidents. Many teens, however, are not aware that distracted walking can be just as dangerous. Safe Kids Worldwide encourages teens to watch where they walk.

Tessa Youngner, 16, sees walking to school as a chance to do what she likes best: listen to music. “There is a lot of work to be done, especially in high school," she says. "When you take harder classes, there is not always a lot of time to listen to music or watch TV or be with friends.”

Andrew Summers, 15, is also used to multi-tasking on the go. “I usually text or go on the Internet while I’m walking, doing stuff like that, but I don’t have music in.” High school senior Nailah Philips admits she’s never totally focused on the road while walking. “My phone can do everything, and it’s just how it’s like for teenagers. I will listen to music, like if my Mom texts or calls, I’m talking to her.” Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Researchers Develop Simple Test for River Blindness

March 2nd 2013


Diagnosing the tropical parasitic illness Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, might soon be as easy as testing a urine sample. Such a simple test would permit more effective diagnosis and treatment of a disease that now afflicts nearly 18 million people around the world.

People call Onchocerciasis "river blindness" because it’s caused by the bite of a parasitic-worm-infected black fly that lives near rivers. The illness is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, although it also exists in parts of Yemen and in Central and South America.

The river blindness parasite has an active and inactive phase, making it difficult to treat the disease.  During its active phase, the female worm produces millions of microscopic eggs that migrate to different tissues throughout the body. Infection of the eyes can lead to blindness. The disease is usually treated with the antiparasitic agent Ivermectin, which lowers the number of eggs produced by the worm, and an antibiotic, doxycycline, which sterilizes it.  Read more ..

Bosnia on Edge

Radical Islamists Seek To Exploit Frustration In Bosnia

March 1st 2013


Nearly 20 years after the guns fell silent in Bosnia-Herzegovnia, a growing number of the country's Muslims have become frustrated with the democratic path their country has taken. And that frustration is being exploited by Islamists.

Unlike ethnic Croats and Serbs in Bosnia, Muslim Bosniaks receive no economic, political, or moral support from neighboring countries.

Many Bosniaks feel alone in their effort to forge and maintain their own identity and political institutions. And increasingly, the argument that Shari'a law -- and not democracy -- is the answer for Bosnia is getting a broader hearing.

"Unlike secularism and democracy, we say there is only one truth -- law of Allah and Shari'a," Nusret Imamovic, the leader of Bosnia’s radical Wahhabi community, told a standing-room-only crowd of some 500 people -- almost all of them young Muslim men -- at a posh hotel in the city of Tuzla earlier this week. "And it wants the people to accept that truth and surrender to that truth. Does Allah have right to request that? Well, He is the holder and the owner of everything." Read more ..

Bahrain on Edge

Bahrain Bans Import of Protest Masks

February 28th 2013


The Kingdom of Bahrain has taken the unusual step of banning the importation of stylized Guy Fawkes masks, which were made popular in the 2005 movie V for Vendetta. In the movie, the main character, who seeks to overthrow the British government, wears the mask.

Bahrain’s minister of industry and commerce, Hassan Fakhro, announced the ban saying anyone who is caught importing the mask faces arrest.

The masks have become a global symbol of protest, and the de facto symbols of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement and the Anonymous online activist group. The mask also was frequently seen in many protests during the so-called Arab Spring as well as in the London riots of 2011.

Abbas Al Omran, a member of the British-based Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said he didn't think the ban would have much effect, as there are already many of the masks already in Bahrain, and the masks can still be sneaked in or even made at home. Read more ..

Russia and America

Lawyer For Family Says Bruises On Adopted Russian Child 'Self-Inflicted'

February 27th 2013

Adopted Russian Child

The lawyer for the parents of Max Shatto, the Russian adoptee whose death last month in the U.S. state of Texas provoked outrage in Moscow, says bruises found on the child's body were "self-inflicted." "It's complicated. The child himself was subject to self-inflicted bruising," criminal defense attorney Michael J. Brown stated.

"There is a very long story with respect to bruising which does not fit in [the Russians'] little formula. When they go and find the bruising on the child, they immediately say, 'Well, the parent caused it,' [but] there's a lengthy story with respect to the entire Russian adoption process and the child himself." Asked if he was suggesting that an emotional disturbance was behind the child's alleged actions, Brown said, "Yes." He did not elaborate. Read more ..

Juvenile Justice

Report Reveals Dramatic Decline In Youth Incarceration

February 27th 2013

Kid behind bars

The United States still leads the industrialized world in incarcerating young people, and ethnic-minority kids are still locked up more than whites.

But there is good news: Since 1995, the rate at which states confine young people has been steadily dropping for all ethnic groups, reaching the lowest rate in 35 years in 2010, according to a report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

In 1975, the child welfare and research group found, the number of youth aged 20 or younger placed in lockup began climbing, reaching a peak in 1995 of 381 kids locked up for every 100,000 nationwide.   That same year, though, the rate began declining, dropping by an impressive 41 percent between 1995 and 2010 to 225 per 100,000.


Israel and Palestine

Israeli Police and Security Forces Prepare for New Intifada

February 26th 2013

IDF Border Guard

Israel's National Police (INP) and Defense Force (IDF) this past weekend prepared for a new wave of Palestinian violence following several clashes with Palestinian activists in Jerusalem and throughout the Palestinian National Authority territory on Saturday and Sunday, according to an Israeli police counterterrorism source.

Israeli's Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz held a brainstorming session with top brass on Saturday night in order to make necessary preparations for confrontations that might ignite a third intifada, according to Levi Berens, an expert in police counterinsurgency operations.

Intifada is Arabic meaning "uprising," but a literal translation is "shaking off." The brainstorming session at Israeli IDF headquarters followed an incident in which about 20 Israeli settlers were attacked by more than 150 Palestinians near the village of Qusra, according to Yediot Ahronot. The clash was the result of a farming disagreement between Jewish settlers and Palestinian Islamists. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

The Rise of a New Nigerian Militant Group

February 25th 2013

Helpless Nigerian man

In the past week, 14 foreigners have been kidnapped in northern Nigeria and Cameroon in two separate attacks. No group has claimed responsibility for the second attack, which occurred Feb. 19 in Cameroon, but the location is adjacent to Boko Haram's core territory in northeast Nigeria. Ansaru, a splinter group of Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the first attack and could be responsible for the second since, unlike Boko Haram, it has a history of kidnapping foreign nationals. If Boko Haram conducted the second attack, it would signal a significant shift in the group's targets and tactics.

As noted, Boko Haram's capabilities in 2012 were limited to soft targets near the group's base of operations in northeastern Nigeria. Ansaru has emerged over the past year and appears to have surpassed Boko Haram in its range of tactics and targets. Ansaru has relied on armed attacks for kidnappings rather than suicide bombings. Ansaru's targets have included foreigners and those involved with the intervention in Mali, while Boko Haram's targets have been Nigerian. Read more ..

Edge of Society

Kick Out the Blues with Retail Therapy

February 25th 2013

young couple shopping

Retail therapy is often lamented as wasteful and irresponsible, but new research from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business indicates that it can help alleviate certain negative emotions.

No prior research has experimentally examined whether retail therapy can bring emotional benefits. Research from marketing professors Scott Rick and Katherine Burson and doctoral candidate Beatriz Pereira suggests that one component of retail therapy—making buying decisions—can help to restore a sense of control and reduce sadness.

In one study of 45 female undergraduates, 44 percent chose to buy a snack after viewing a movie clip that portrays a bullying incident. Participants rated their emotions at the beginning and end of the experiment. At the end of the study, the sadness scores of buyers were significantly lower than those of nonbuyers. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Same-Sex Couples Seek Equal Immigration Rights, with Powerful Support

February 24th 2013

Gay Marriage

Heather Morgan, an American, and Maria del Mar Verdugo, a citizen of Spain, were close friends for 10 years before they fell in love.

“Always in the beginning, we realized we wanted to be together forever,” said Verdugo.  She and Morgan got married in New York city two years ago with their friends and families in attendance.  “We knew our commitment to each other, but we wanted to make that commitment public, something that even in society’s eyes is a binding commitment to each other,” Morgan said.

They hope to begin a family soon, but Verdugo can’t receive a spousal visa, because she and Morgan are a same-sex couple.  She may remain in the U.S. only as long as her work visa is valid. “Just beyond the challenges any couple has, we have that complete uncertainty and the idea that at a moment’s notice, Mar could be forced to leave,” Morgan said. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

A Mexican Showdown over Education Reform

February 23rd 2013

students in Mexican school

Recently approved by the Mexican Congress and ratified by a majority of state legislatures, the country’s new education law is touted as a centerpiece of the Pact for Mexico agreed to by the nation’s major political parties. Currently, an intense media campaign is underway to promote a law that reforms articles 3 and 73 of the Mexican Constitution. In deference to educators’ concerns, the reform “recognizes, respects and promotes the rights of all teachers,” claimed a Pact for Mexico ad published in an Acapulco newspaper.

But Mexico’s teachers aren’t buying the sales pitch. The law, contended Julian Bello, representative for Section 14 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) in Acapulco, was passed by “legislators who don’t know anything about education.”

This month, Bello and tens of thousands of teachers in Acapulco, Zihuatanejo and other cities in the southern state of Guerrero have joined their colleagues across the Mexican Republic in repeated street protests and work stoppages against the reform. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

Many South Africans Live in Constant Fear of Crime

February 22nd 2013

South African town

South Africa is a very violent country with a murder rate four times the global average. The current murder case against Olympian Oscar Pistorius has touched a nerve. His claims that he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, when he mistook her for a burglar does not sound far fetched to some middle class South Africans. In a highly economically unequal country - robberies can quickly turn violent, leading to extreme measures by people wanting to secure their homes. 

At noon on a Saturday in Muldersdrift - a rural community outside Johannesburg - which has been hit by a wave of violence in the past few months, two dozen residents from Clinic Road, a quiet place in the gentle hills east of Johannesburg, have gathered at the Frog & Toad, the local pub. The occasion? A neighborly braai as South Africans call a barbecue. Read more ..

American Lives

Eddie Kahn: Neurosurgeon and American Original

February 21st 2013

University of Michigan 1924 Hockey
Eddie Kahn (center) was captain of the 1924 Michigan hockey team.

In the Michigan hockey program's 90-year history, some 600 players have scored more than 10,000 total goals. But the man who scored the team's very first goal in January 1923 might still be the most impressive one of the bunch.

He was the son of legendary American architect Albert Kahn, who built the most recognizable buildings in Detroit and Ann Arbor, almost all of which still stand. He pioneered the new discipline of neurosurgery, serving 22 years as chief of the department at the University of Michigan Medical Center. In his free time, he liked to fly planes, speak half a dozen languages, and hang out with folks like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Lindbergh.

But to his teammates, back in 1923, Edgar "Eddie" Kahn, MD '24, was simply an exceptional college hockey player. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Egyptian Cleric Arrested for Advocating Rape of Female Protesters

February 20th 2013

Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah Salafist Cleric

An Egyptian court magistrate had issued an arrest warrant on Sunday, and on Monday police officials arrested a Salafist cleric who told his Islamist followers that it is permissible to sexually molest or rape female protesters.  Lyle Moshe, an Israeli police official who monitors radical Islam in the Middle East and North Africa said that the preacher, Ahmad Mahmoud Abdullah, was charged with religious defamation for that declaration.

Abdullah, who is also known as Abu Islam, is the owner of a television channel al-Ummah, furthered his hateful diatribe when he attacked women and Egyptian Christians, known as Coptics.

The radical Salafist leader is currently being prosecuted for defacing and ripping up a Holy Bible in the midst of an explosive protest outside the American embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012, as a result of a YouTube video made in the United States that denigrated the Prophet Mohammed, according to Moshe. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Superfood for Babies

February 19th 2013

Newborn baby

A new report says more than 800,000 babies’ lives could be saved every year, if all women began breastfeeding within the first hour of giving birth. Save the Children calls breastfeeding one of the best ways to prevent malnutrition, a major killer of children under age five. Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles says it’s vital to begin breastfeeding soon after a child is born.

“It’s extremely critical because to get mothers to actually start breastfeeding can sometimes be the hardest part. And that first milk from mothers, that contains something called colostrum, is an incredibly nutritious form of breast milk and it actually has a lot of immunity powers, as well. And it really only happens in those first couple of hours,” she said. The report describes colostrum as a child’s “first immunization.” But in some cultures, such as parts of Niger, there’s a myth that colostrum is dangerous. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Innovative MyDesk SmartPhone Application Suite Boosts Elementary Education

February 18th 2013

Click to select Image

The hair-raising roar of elephants, unexpectedly embedded in a Singapore third grader's science report, heralds the early success of a University of Michigan-developed learning applications program for smartphones. Called MyDesk, the application suite is developed by Elliot Soloway and his Learning Apps for Primary Education undergraduate class.

The program meets goals of providing easy access to learning tools that spark self-directed, creative, effective learning.

This past semester, 352 Nan Chiau Primary School third grade science students used the app to research and complete assignments — and to surprise their teachers, Soloway and the U-M students.

"They ended up turning in all this stuff teachers didn't expect," says project manager and graduate assistant Cody Bird — namely, elephant and monkey sounds to augment a report on animal diversity. The third graders did this by repurposing a voice recorder note-taking application.

"How could we predict the recorder would be used that way?" says Soloway, smiling. But he says this is exactly the sort of ingenuity he hoped the applications suite would spark. "The kids learn by doing," says the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering, professor of education, School of Education, and professor of information, School of Information. Read more ..

Ancient Days

Ancient Intruders Brought Agriculture and New Diet to Europe

February 18th 2013

Neolithic Romanian circle fortress
Neolithic Romanian settlement

For decades, archaeologists have debated how farming spread to Stone Age Europe, setting the stage for the rise of Western civilization.

Now, new data gleaned from the teeth of prehistoric farmers and the hunter-gatherers with whom they briefly overlapped shows that agriculture was introduced to Central Europe from the Near East by colonizers who brought farming technology with them.

"One of the big questions in European archaeology has been whether farming was brought or borrowed from the Near East," says T. Douglas Price, a University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologist who, with Cardiff University's Dusan Boric, measured strontium isotopes in the teeth of 153 humans from Neolithic burials in an area known as the Danube Gorges in modern Romania and Serbia. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Arab 'Price Tag' in Samaria: 2.5 Acres of Vineyards Destroyed

February 18th 2013

Vineyards Destroyed

Some 3,000 vines, situated near Shiloh in Samaria, were destroyed over the past few days. The vineyards are visited every few days during this season, so the vandalism was discovered only this morning. The damage is estimated at 200,000 NIS.

Footprints leading to the Arab village of Kutzrah were discovered by IDF trackers during their initial investigation. About a year ago, a 1/4 of an acre was destroyed in the same vineyard.

Itamar Weiss, a worker at the vineyards, said. "This morning we discovered the difficult scene of some 3,000 destroyed vines. Unfortunately, this is the not the first time we are experiencing such incidents. We expect these crimes to be treated with the same force that crimes throughput the rest of Israel are treated and investigated. This is the fourth time this vineyard has been targeted in the past years, and that testifies to the fact that such crimes against Jewish owned property are not dealt with properly, even though it is known were the perpetrators come from." Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Using Transportation Data to Predict Pandemics

February 17th 2013

airport crowd

In a world of increasing global connections, predicting the spread of infectious diseases is more complicated than ever. Pandemics no longer follow the patterns they did centuries ago, when diseases swept through populations town by town; instead, they spread quickly and seemingly at random, spurred by the interactions of 3 billion air travelers per year.

A computational model developed by Northwestern University's Dirk Brockmann could provide better insight into how today's diseases might strike. Brockmann, an associate professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, uses transportation data to develop models that better pinpoint the source of an outbreak and help determine how a disease could spread. Read more ..

The Gender Edge

To Feed the World, Give Women Equal Rights

February 16th 2013

Clinton South Africa

Around the world, at least a billion people are hungry or need better diets. To feed a global population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, we will need to increase food production by as much as 70 percent, most analysts believe.

Achieving that goal requires civilization to address overpopulation and overconsumption through a bottom-up movement focused on agricultural, environmental and demographic planning, among other strategies, argues Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Paul Ehrlich (Biology). A crucial first step is to give equal rights to women worldwide, Ehrlich says.

Ehrlich will discuss this roadmap at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Meeting in Boston. The talk will touch on themes from a recent Proceedings of the Royal Society commentary, "Can a Collapse of Global Civilization Be Avoided?" that Ehrlich and his wife Anne Ehrlich, also a Stanford biologist, wrote. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

South African President Tackles Rape in National Address

February 15th 2013

President Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s president handled the usual topics during his State of the Nation Address Thursday night: unemployment, education, and the nation’s struggling economy. But for the first time since he was elected in 2009, President Jacob Zuma tackled an issue that is increasingly coming to define this nation: rape.

Zuma was expected to speak about education, about his government’s plans to tackle the abnormally high unemployment rate, and about an upcoming summit of emerging economies, which he duly did:

"I would lnow like to report on progress made since the last State of the Nation Address and also to discuss our program of action for 2013," he said.  "I will look at five priorities - education, health, the fight against crime, creating decent work as well as rural development and land reform." Read more ..

Inside the Catholic Church

Ghanaian Cardinal: Election of New Pope Not Political

February 14th 2013

Ghanaian Cardinal

Even before Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Monday, there were suggestions that his successor should be non-European. Some observers have said that the Catholic Church is ready to select its first African or Latin American pope. But Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana says that ethnicity and race should have no role in the selection of a pope.

Most Catholics today live in the Americas, and the Church is growing in Africa. Its influence seems to be waning in its heartland of Europe, in the wake of sexual abuse scandals, growing secularism and an unwillingness of the Church leadership to change with the times.

When the pontiff made his historic announcement, becoming the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign, analysts were quick to come up with lists of candidates most likely to replace him. Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, was on many of those lists. But he says such expectations are often unrealistic. Read more ..

Tunisia on Edge

Tunisian Islamists Mobilize 'Neighborhood Committees'

February 13th 2013

Tunisia riots

Following the February 6 assassination of leftist-secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, the risk of security breaking down throughout Tunisia increased sharply. Although the situation has calmed down for now, with many citizens returning to their everyday activities, Islamist faction Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST) took advantage of the unrest by activating its "Neighborhood Committees" for the first time. The group's ability to mobilize forces across the country within a matter of hours illustrates both its organizational strength and its members' obedience to orders from the top.

Originally called "Security Committees," the Neighborhood Committees were established on October 6 as a precautionary measure in case a security vacuum opened within the country -- in other words, AST created a de facto non-state-controlled martial law force. The move was spurred by the looming October 23 anniversary of the 2011 Constituent Assembly election, in which the people had voted on who would write the country's post-revolution constitution. Yet no major security issues developed, and the date passed without the committees taking action. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Global Anti-Biotic Use in Animal Production Fuels Anti-Biotic Resistant Genes

February 12th 2013

Click to select Image

The increasing production and use of antibiotics, about half of which is used in animal production, is mirrored by the growing number of antibiotic resistance genes, or ARGs, effectively reducing antibiotics’ ability to fend off diseases – in animals and humans.

A study in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that China – the world’s largest producer and consumer of antibiotics – and many other countries don’t monitor the powerful medicine’s usage or impact on the environment.

On Chinese commercial pig farms, researchers found 149 unique ARGs, some at levels 192 to 28,000 times higher than the control samples, said James Tiedje, Michigan State University Distinguished Professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and of plant, soil and microbial sciences, and one of the co-authors.

“Our research took place in China, but it reflects what’s happening in many places around the world,” said Tiedje, part of the research team led by Yong-Guan Zhu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “The World Organization for Animal Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been advocating for improved regulation of veterinary antibiotic use because those genes don’t stay local.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

Some Swear by Chicken Soup to Battle Flu

February 11th 2013

Chicken Soup

During flu season, people often look to the kitchen, rather than the medicine cabinet, for relief. Every culture seems to have its own healing ingredients. Some call for hot spicy sauces, garlic or ginger tea. But, for many, nothing comforts like soup.

Barley and noodle are just two of nine types of soups on the menu at Alborz, a Persian restaurant in Vienna, Virginia. “The noodle soup is a real traditional Iranian dish," says chef Afsaneh Atash. "It’s basically a year-round dish, but you’re going to eat during the winter time though."

She serves her own version of her family’s traditional recipes; the basic ingredients are onions, carrots, cilantro, chicken broth and lemon juice. “It has a lot of nutritious ingredients," she says. "It’s really good to eat it in the winter time because people are always getting cold.” At DGS Delicatessen in Washington, D.C., chef Barry Koslow uses his grandmother's Eastern European recipe for chicken soup with matzo balls. “Matzo ball soup is definitely a very traditional Jewish soup and you see many different variations of it," he says. "We start with a very rich chicken broth and we enhance that with onion, celery, carrots and garlic. We flavor it with a little bit of vinegar to bring a little bit of balance to the soup and salt and pepper.” Read more ..

Transportation Edge

Bicyclists and Walkers: Beware the Big Cities

February 10th 2013

bicyclists and walkers in London

Rapid growth of large cities throughout the world is having enormous impact on traffic safety in urban areas, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. "Recent reports have documented and discussed the ever-increasing urbanization of nations and the resulting increase in the number of megacities—and the potential implications for traffic safety in these megacities (urban areas with 10 million or more people)," said UMTRI researcher Brandon Schoettle.

In a new study, Schoettle and colleague Michael Sivak examined road safety in two European megacities—London and Paris. An earlier study by Sivak and Shan Bao looked at New York and Los Angeles. In all four cities, fatal crashes involving drivers and passengers in vehicles are less prevalent relative to national rates for each country. However, for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, fatality rates are much higher in the urban areas. Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Solomon Islands Assess Tsunami Damage

February 9th 2013

Sumatra village after tsunami

Six thousand people are now thought to have been made homeless by a tsunami that struck the Solomon Islands Wednesday.  The government says at least 13 people were killed.  Charities say food and water is running low in makeshift hillside camps where villagers in the Santa Cruz Islands have sought shelter.  Another huge aftershock has again rattled the South Pacific archipelago.

The damage inflicted by the tsunami is far worse than first thought, according to disaster management officials in the Solomon Islands.  Several people are still missing after a magnitude 8 earthquake triggered a destructive wave that swept through low-lying villages. At least 10 aftershocks were reported Friday, including a powerful tremor that forced villagers to flee to higher ground, although no tsunami alert was issued.  Aftershocks continued Saturday, further unsettling islanders. Read more ..

India on Edge

Kashmiri Girl Band Folds After Muslim Cleric Issues Fatwa

February 8th 2013

Kashmiri Girl Band

In Indian Kashmir, an all-girl rock band has called it quits after a Muslim cleric issued a fatwa calling on them to disband. Assurances of protection from the state government apparently failed to reassure the teenage girls.   

The three high school girls had enthusiastically formed the rock band after winning an annual music contest held in the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar, in December. They called it "Praagaash”, which means from darkness to light. It was the Muslim majority state’s first all-girl music band.

But, it folded up a day after the chief Muslim cleric in Jammu and Kashmir, Bashiruddin Ahmad, said singing is un-Islamic and issued a fatwa calling for them to disband. His edict followed an online campaign of threats and hate messages targeting the teenage girls.   Read more ..

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