The Edge of Nature
|Phil Mercer||February 9th 2013|
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
|Anjana Pasricha||February 8th 2013|
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 ..
The Digital Edge
|Julien Happich||February 7th 2013|
A new study from IMS Research projects that just 10 per cent of the smart home nodes that will be deployed during the period 2010 to 2017 will include proprietary wireless technologies.
Yet annual shipments of these technologies are projected to grow from less than 3 million nodes in 2012 to 6 million in 2017, as some high-end automation suppliers maintain closed systems, and some other smart home start-ups deploy with proprietary systems to keep certification costs down. Despite annual shipments doubling, the proportion of smart home nodes that use proprietary wireless technologies is set to halve in the coming years, to just over 7 percent in 2017. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Jared Wadley||February 7th 2013|
Hunger, thirst, stress and drugs can create a change in the brain that transforms a repulsive feeling into a strong positive "wanting," a new University of Michigan study indicates.
The research used salt appetite to show how powerful natural mechanisms of brain desires can instantly transform a cue that always predicted a repulsive Dead Sea Salt solution into an eagerly wanted beacon or motivational magnet.
Mike Robinson, a research fellow in the U-M Department of Psychology and the study's lead author, said the findings help explain how related brain activations in people could cause them to avidly want something that has been always disliked.
This instant transformation of motivation, he said, lies in the ability of events to activate particular brain circuitry—a structure called the nucleus accumbens, which sits near the base of the front of the brain and is also activated by addictive drugs. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Nina de Vries||February 6th 2013|
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 10 percent of people in Sierra Leone are living with a disability. But for the first time in the country's history, people living with disabilities are now working in the police force. The newly hired officers are hoping to inspire others. Sheka Conteh is one of four disabled officers working at the communications center of the Sierra Leone police force. He answers calls from the public, similar to a 911 service in North America.
Conteh has a background in information technology and says when he saw the police were hiring disabled people, he jumped at the opportunity to apply. He says it has been a challenging journey to find employment as a disabled person. He contracted polio at the age of seven. "I've faced a lot discrimination in any community I find myself, but I've started to see positive changes, because it is now minimizing, especially in areas of employment," he said. Read more ..
|Diane Swanson||February 5th 2013|
Young adults in Generation X are as likely to connect with friends, family and co-workers online as they are in person, according to a University of Michigan study.
In a typical month, adults in their late 30s report that they engaged in about 75 face-to-face contacts or conversations, compared to about 74 electronic contracts through personal emails or social media.
"Given the speed of emerging technologies, it is likely that electronic contacts will continue to grow in the years ahead, eventually exceeding face-to-face interactions," said Jon D. Miller, author of the latest issue of The Generation X Report. "But the young adults in Generation X are currently maintaining a healthy balance between personal and electronic social networking."
Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The study has been funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, and the current report includes responses from 3,027 Gen Xers interviewed in 2011. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Steve Baragona||February 3rd 2013|
Severely malnourished children are more likely to survive if they receive antibiotics in addition to therapeutic feeding, according to a new study. In the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a week’s worth of common antibiotics reduced the death rate among severely malnourished children by 35 percent or more.
About 20 million children worldwide are severely malnourished, and malnutrition is a factor in the death of about 1 million every year. So the results are a big deal, says lead author Indi Trehan, a pediatrician at Washington University.
“If you can cut the death rate by 35 percent for any disease, that’s a huge finding," said Trehan. "And if you can do it with a $3 antibiotic, that’s an even bigger finding. And if you can do it with a $3 antibiotic and a disease that kills a million kids a year, 35 percent less deaths - that’s why we’re having this conversation today.”
Malnutrition stunts a child’s physical and mental development. It also affects their defense against diseases of all kinds, from pneumonia to malaria to measles. Trehan says that can be the difference between life and death. “You can easily go into a village in the middle of a measles outbreak and hand-pick which ones are going to die," he said. "You can tell what’s going to happen based on how scrawny they are.” Until a few years ago, those scrawny kids would have needed to be hospitalized to treat their malnutrition. And still, as many as half of them would die. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Charles Recknagel||February 2nd 2013|
Activists and dissidents worried about government surveillance learned long ago not to talk too freely on their home phone or mobile. Landline and mobile systems offer repressive governments myriad ways to listen in, particularly when the systems are operated by state or state-linked companies.
But are Internet phone services -- which many regard as a safer alternative -- more ssecure? Gregoire Pouget, an expert on digital security and privacy at Reporters Without Borders in Paris, says that might have been true once.
But today, he says, rights groups increasingly hear of people being imprisoned or sued based in part upon evidence from their online phone conversations. "In Belarus and in Russia," Pouget says, "journalists told us that they have been caught with their Skype conversations."
Skype is by far the world's biggest Internet phone service provider, with an estimated 600 million users worldwide. Pouget says one reason Internet phone services may be more vulnerable is the increasing availability of malevolent software programs -- called malware -- that target them. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Mike Richman||February 1st 2013|
The championship game of the U.S. National Football League -- the Super Bowl -- is the biggest sporting event in the United States. And it's a spectacle that has a growing international audience.
More than 100 million people in the U.S. and around the world are expected to tune on Sunday when the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers meet in Super Bowl XLVII at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The game features two physical, bruising teams with stingy defenses and top-notch quarterbacks. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who has been to the playoffs in each of his five NFL seasons, has taken his game to another level. He has posted stellar statistics in Baltimore's three playoff wins this year, including eight touchdown passes and no interceptions. He also has completed a series of clutch throws. An excellent performance on Sunday will validate the claim he made before this season that he is an "elite quarterback." Read more ..
Edge of Society
|Anna Mikulak||January 31st 2013|
Experiencing a positive family climate as a teenager may be connected to your relationships later in life, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
While research has demonstrated long-term effects of aggression and divorce across generations, the impact of a positive family climate has received less attention. Psychological scientist Robert Ackerman of the University of Texas at Dallas and colleagues wanted to examine whether positive interpersonal behaviors in families might also have long-lasting associations with future relationships.
The researchers examined longitudinal data from individuals participating in the Iowa Youth and Families Project. Family interactions were assessed when the participants were in 7th grade. The interactions were coded for five indicators of positive engagement: listener responsiveness, assertiveness, prosocial behavior, effective communication, and warmth-support. Read more ..
|Gerry Everding ||January 31st 2013|
Nominated early this year for recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which includes such famous cultural sites as the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and Stonehenge, the earthen works at Poverty Point, Louisiana, have been described as one of the world’s greatest feats of construction by an archaic civilization of hunters and gatherers.
Now, new research in the current issue of the journal Geoarchaeology, offers compelling evidence that one of the massive earthen mounds at Poverty Point was constructed in less than 90 days, and perhaps as quickly as 30 days — an incredible accomplishment for what was thought to be a loosely organized society consisting of small, widely scattered bands of foragers. Read more ..
Mali on Edge
|Henry Ridgwell||January 30th 2013|
Sheltering from the rain in his London hotel room, Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate is a long way from his Bamako home. Casually plucking the strings of his ngoni – a West African ancestor of the banjo – his thoughts turn to his desert homeland.
"When you put on a concert now in Mali, al Qaida could plant bombs among lots of people... they could plant bombs there to cause an explosion," he says, explaining why Malian authorities subsequently banned all such events for three months.
Determined to offer the world a glimpse of the place beyond daily headlines of atrocity and unrest, though, Kouyate and his band, Ngoni Ba, recently held two performances in Britain as part of a broader European tour. Entitled "Sahara Soul," the shows saw Ngoni Ba perform alongside fellow Malian Touareg band "Tamikrest," from the country's Islamist-held north, and Sidi Toure, who hails from the recently, militarily liberated city of Gao. Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|Joana Mantey||January 29th 2013|
In Ghana, infertility is rarely discussed nor is treatment sought, despite a high priority placed on having a family. The issue causes heartbreak in most Ghanaian homes, where children are seen as a means of preserving family names and traditions. They also serve as economic support for aging parents. Unfortunately, women are mostly blamed for childlessness in marriages, irrespective of the underlying causes.
“In our communities, a woman who does not have a child of her own is treated as an outcast," says Jonathan Adabre, a policy analyst at the Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC). "They are treated with scorn, they are insulted, and they can’t speak their mind in public.” Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Sharon Behn||January 29th 2013|
Barely one-fifth of Pakistan's women work in paid jobs, according to the International Labor Organization. The group says a lack of safe, secure public transportation is one of the reasons even skilled and educated women are unable to break out of a cycle of grinding poverty.
Covered in the traditional headscarf as she waits in Islamabad's crowded Abpara market, nurse Farzana Liaqat says women don't feel safe using public local buses, and often have to wait hours for a seat. In Pakistan, typically the two front seats next to the driver are reserved for women. The rest of the bus is for the men.
Syed Saad Gilani, who has studied the question of decent public transport for women for the ILO, says women complain of being inappropriately touched, pushed and humiliated on buses. Farzana Liaqat says there's not much women can do about getting harassed. Read more ..
The Agricultural Edge
|Kent Paterson||January 29th 2013|
|Irrigation in New Mexico|
As tough growing conditions confront farmers and ranchers across the U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico, some rural producers and their allies are looking to innovative, sustainable practices to cope with climate change and grow healthy, local economies. In the coming weeks, New Mexico will host a series of events dedicated to fostering vibrant farming in a challenging time.
For starters, hundreds are expected to attend the annual New Mexico Organic Farming Conference scheduled February 15-16 for the Albuquerque Pyramid North Hotel.
The 2013 edition of the long-running, popular gathering will feature two intensive days of workshops and presentations on topics including pollination and organic farming, pest control, herbal product production, farm management in drought times, nut growing, goats and land restoration, acequias, holistic orchard management, marketing, and much more. At least 37 exhibitors ranging from book sellers to agricultural organizations are listed for the event. Read more ..
Singapore on Edge
|Kate Lamb||January 28th 2013|
The ultra-modern city state Singapore has become a model that other Asian nations aspire to - organized, immaculate and efficient - but at what cost? Some residents say that plans to plow through one the country’s most important heritage sites show that Singapore’s rapid urbanization has reached a crucial tipping point.
The sprawling overgrown rainforest of Bukit Brown is less than a 10-minute cab ride from the heart of Singapore. A haven for nature lovers and joggers, the lush 23 hectares is also a cultural treasure.
Dotted amongst the large moss-covered banyan trees and ferns are some 100,000 traditional Chinese graves dating back to the 1800s. The ornate tombstones of many famous Singaporeans, some who are now immortalized in the city’s street names, reside at Bukit Brown Cemetery. But they might not rest in peace for too much longer. Read more ..
|Dave Grunebaum||January 27th 2013|
As the oven doors open and close at the Hot Bread Kitchen bakery in East Harlem, the aroma of fresh breads fill the air: walnut raisin, grindstone rye, and sourdough.
Throughout the day, Fatiha Outabount and about a dozen other women pat, shape and bake dough to create artisanal bread for upscale markets and some of New York City’s finest restaurants.
The Morocco native, 27, is one of 13 trainees at the bakery. Most of them are immigrant women who used to be unemployed or had minimum wage jobs. Outabount is four months into a year-long apprenticeship which pays $9 an hour, a little more than minimum wage. Read more ..
Africa on Edge
|Jessica Berman||January 27th 2013|
Human trials of an experimental dengue fever vaccine have just concluded, and the experimental compound looks promising in offering protection against the complex mosquito-borne illness that afflicts millions of people living in tropical and sub-tropical regions.
Dengue fever, spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, is caused by four different but related viruses, making the development of a vaccine difficult, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“The problem with a dengue vaccine is that unlike other viruses where if you get infected with one or vaccinated with one you’re protected, period, after you recover. Whereas with dengue since there are four types, a vaccine needs to protect you against all four, because if you are only protected against one or two, you are still susceptible to one or the other of the three or four viruses,” Fauci said. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Lori Wright||January 26th 2013|
University of New Hampshire
There's a well-known saying in New England that if you don't like the weather here, wait a minute. When it comes to independent voters, those weather changes can just as quickly shift beliefs about climate change.
New research from the University of New Hampshire finds that the climate change beliefs of independent voters are dramatically swayed by short-term weather conditions. "We find that over 10 surveys, Republicans and Democrats remain far apart and firm in their beliefs about climate change. Independents fall in between these extremes, but their beliefs appear weakly held — literally blowing in the wind. Interviewed on unseasonably warm days, independents tend to agree with the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. On unseasonably cool days, they tend not to," Hamilton and Stampone say. Read more ..
India on Edge
|Anjana Pasricha||January 26th 2013|
India has raised taxes on gold imports to dampen the country’s huge appetite for the yellow metal. The country’s massive imports of gold - the highest in the world - are straining India’s finances.
Shobha Dhir will marginally cut back on the gold jewelry she plans to make for her daughter’s wedding later this year. Prices of the precious metal jumped by 13 percent last year, and a recent hike in taxes on imported gold will make the earrings, bangles and necklaces she plans to buy even more expensive.
Dhir says she will have to make some adjustments in the quantity of gold she buys, but has no option for gifting jewelry to her daughter.
The government has raised import taxes on gold three times in the last year, to curb gold purchases in a country where the yellow metal has long been a customary gift at weddings and festivals. Read more ..
Britain on Edge
|Soeren Kern||January 24th 2013|
Britons' view immigration as the biggest problem facing their society, according to a flurry of new surveys and research reports about the current state of affairs in Britain. Taken together, the data highlights the widening gulf between the views of British voters, who are increasingly skeptical about uncontrolled immigration and the dangerous divisions it is creating in their society, and those of the governing elite who run the country, many of whom remain committed to the idea of building a multicultural society.
A new report, "State of the Nation: Where is Bittersweet Britain Heading?," shows that one in three Britons believes that tension between immigrants and people born in Britain is the primary cause of conflict in the country, and well over half regard it as one of the top three causes. The survey, conducted by the Ipsos MORI research firm and published by the London-based think tank British Future on January 14, also shows that respect for the law, for the freedom of speech of others, and an ability to speak English are viewed as the three most essential traits of being a Briton. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Jean-Pierre Joosting||January 23rd 2013|
In 2012 there was estimated to be 308,000 patients remotely monitored by their healthcare provider for congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, hypertension and mental health conditions worldwide. The majority of these were post-acute patients who have been hospitalised and discharged. As healthcare providers seek to reduce readmission rates and track disease progression, telehealth is projected to reach 1.8 million patients worldwide by 2017, according to The World Market for Telehealth – An Analysis of Demand Dynamics – 2012, a new report from InMedica, part of IHS.
In addition to post-acute patients, telehealth is also used to monitor ambulatory patients – those who have been diagnosed with a disease at an ambulatory care facility but have not been hospitalised. However, telehealth has a much larger penetration in post-acute care as compared to ambulatory care patients as the majority of patients are only considered for home monitoring following hospital discharge to prevent readmission. In the U.S., for example, 140,000 post-acute patients were estimated to have been monitored by telehealth in 2012, as compared to 80,000 ambulatory patients.
“A major challenge for telehealth, is for it to reach the wider population of ambulatory care patients. However, the clinical and economic outcomes for telehealth are more established for post-acute care patients. Indeed, even for post-acute care patients, telehealth is usually prescribed only in the most severe cases, and where patients have been hospitalised more than once in a year,“ commented Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at InMedica. Read more ..
America on Edge
|Mike O'Sullivan||January 22nd 2013|
Young Muslims and Jews are making friendships through an organization that builds one-on-one relationships within the two communities. The group is called NewGround, and it is building bridges, partly through the sharing of personal stories. A young Muslim neurosurgeon explains he was orphaned as a child and was raised by a Jewish family, who insisted he be reared in the Islamic faith. A Jewish woman spoke of her childhood memories of her grandparents, Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe.
They are on stage for a storytelling event sponsored by the group NewGround. Off stage, an art installation helps people of both faiths view each other in a new way as they gaze at one another through holes cut in darkened boxes, seeing just a human face on the other side. A wall map of Los Angeles invites conversation, as people point out and describe their neighborhoods.A Muslim whose family comes from Bangladesh, Tanzila Ahmed, says the storytelling event celebrates the diversity of the city. Read more ..
The Edge of Eugenics
|Sam Orez||January 22nd 2013|
A new online Course on eugenics has rolled out at the University of Minnesota. From Eugenics (via Public Health) to Deadly Medicine and Back is being offered by Kirk Allison, PhD, MS, Director of the University of Minnesota Program in Human Rights and Health. The course is in memory of the late Stephen Feinstein, founding Director of the U of M Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The course explores four dimensions: The first explores eugenics from antiquity to post modernity, which in short concerns the attempt to improve the human race according through social manipulation of the biological substrate (breeding or engineering the better human), or elimination of those traits or populations considered inferior. The second concern is the capacity of health professionals and professions to participate in such projects including coercive or lethal actions marshaling health-related structures and discourses (public health rationales, institutions, health or insurance records, institutional reporting). To what degree do health professional actors express justifications in language and concepts derived from health disciplines and from power held institutionally whether under authoritarian or under liberal democratic conditions?
The third dimension concerns the social valuation of human beings more generally, in particular human beings who are vulnerable or deviate from a norm, including such who are, borrowing an expression from Gregor Wolbring, non-species typical. The further dimension confronts currently developing technology, social values, attitudes and forces, including economic forces, which inform current and predicted practices. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Jim Erickson||January 22nd 2013|
A review of the available evidence underscores the safety of the federal childhood immunization schedule, according to a report released by the Institute of Medicine. University of Michigan population ecologist Pejman Rohani served on the 13-person committee that wrote the report.
Roughly 90 percent of American children receive most childhood vaccines advised by the federal immunization schedule by the time they enter kindergarten, the committee noted. However, some parents choose to spread out their children's immunizations over a different time frame than recommended by the schedule, and a small fraction object to having their children immunized at all.
Their concerns arise in part from the number of doses that children receive. The schedule entails 24 immunizations by age 2, given in amounts ranging from one to five injections during a pediatric visit. "We reviewed the available data and concur with studies that have repeatedly shown the health benefits associated with the recommended schedule, including fewer illnesses, deaths and hospital stays," said Rohani, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, a professor of complex systems and a professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health. Read more ..
Edge on Agriculture
|Joseph De Capua||January 21st 2013|
More land around the world is being dedicated to organic farming. The Worldwatch Institute says since 1999 there’s been a more than three-fold increase to 37 million hectares. “Organic farming is farming without chemical inputs, like pesticides and fertilizers. Instead of using those inputs it uses a variety of natural techniques, like rotating crops and applying compost to fields – and growing crops that will return nutrients to the soil naturally instead of via chemicals,” said Worldwatch researcher Laura Reynolds, who co-authored a new report on the growth of organic agriculture.
She said it has a range of public health and environmental benefits. “It delivers fewer pesticides and chemicals to what we eat and to the farmers growing the food. It also delivers a range of economic benefits to farmers growing organically because they found they can get a much higher price if their food is certified organic,” she said. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Golnaz Esfandiari||January 21st 2013|
The national security committee of the Iranian parliament is considering a bill that could place further limits on the already restricted right of Iranian women to travel. Under current law, all Iranians under 18 years of age -- both male and female -- must receive paternal permission before receiving travel documents.
Women over the age of 18 need the written consent of their father or guardian to obtain a passport. Married women must receive their husband's approval to receive the documents. According to the new passport bill -- which has to go before the 290-seat, conservative-dominated parliament -- a woman’s passport may be confiscated if her guardian changes his mind and opposes her travels abroad.
Prominent U.S.-based Iranian lawyer Mehrangiz Kar says that the bill is another step in limiting women’s right to travel freely.
“Before that, when the husband would change his mind, he would send an official letter [about his decision] to authorities [and] the woman would go to the airport and find out that she is banned from traveling because of her husband’s opposition," Kar says. "No one would, however, confiscate her passport; she would keep her passport but wouldn’t be able to leave the country. Now the [potential] confiscation of women’s passports is a new limitation.” Read more ..
The Earth on Edge
|Rosanne Skirble||January 20th 2013|
Population growth threatens to strain Earth’s water and food resources. By 2050, nine billion people will be living on the planet, up from six billion today. The problem facing the world community is how to meet those needs while reining in the global greenhouse gases warming the earth.
Progress has been made. Since world leaders met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the first Earth Summit on Sustainable Development 20 years ago, global poverty has fallen by half, per capita income has doubled and life expectancy has increased by four years.
Yet those advances have come at a very high cost to the global environment, says Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute. “We’ve had 3.3 million deaths every year over the last 20 years from pollution. We’ve been losing forests, 13 million hectares every year. That’s the size of England every single year. We’ve had a 50 percent increase in carbon dioxide and we’re now heading towards a world in which average temperatures will be four degrees Celsius above what they were historically.” Read more ..
America' Darkest Edge
|Azhar Fateh||January 20th 2013|
Events of mass-murder like December's school killings in the state of Connecticut have horrified people throughout the Unites States. But they are especially distressing to immigrants who came here to escape violence - hoping for peace and a better future.
Gul-Afshan Haque is a Pakistani-American, who moved to the US in 2006 to live with her parents. For her, the events have cast a pall on her American dream. "When I was in Pakistan and I came here, I had a dream of a peaceful living but, nowadays, because of these incidents, though the dream is still there, but it is not at the same level as it is, was before," she said. The violence directed at others has made her fearful for her own future. "We're not the victim now. But we might be the victim in the future. We might be the next one," she said. Read more ..
Palestinian on Edge
|Khaled Abu Toameh||January 19th 2013|
After keeping a low profile for the past few years, Fatah's armed gangs have resurfaced in the West Bank. The reappearance of the masked gunmen could only mean one of two things: either the Palestinian Authority is really losing control, or that it is using the gunmen as a means of intimidating donor countries, especially the US and EU, into resuming financial aid to the Palestinian government in the West Bank.
Either way, the sudden reappearance of the masked gunmen, who are believed to be members of Fatah's armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, could pave the way for a new round of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. The gunmen first took to the streets of the Balata refugee camp, near Nablus, carrying assault rifles and firing into the air. The gunmen then held a "press conference" in which they denounced the Palestinian Authority security forces for arresting some of their friends and confiscating their weapons. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Scott Bobb||January 18th 2013|
As Israel prepares for national elections Tuesday, public opinion surveys indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's center-right Likud Party and its partner, the right-wing Israel Our Home party, are likely to win enough votes to form the next government. Opinion polls also show recent gains by center-left and far-right parties, however, could affect the outcome.
In the final days of the nation's election campaign, candidates criss-crossed the country appealing for votes. The incumbent, Netanyahu, campaigned on the stability of his previous government, his influence among world leaders and his opposition to Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program. He said Israel has invested billions of dollars in getting stronger in order to ensure security for its citizens. Read more ..
Inside Sierra Leone
|Nina de Vries||January 18th 2013|
The game of cricket is making a comeback in Sierra Leone and is inspiring young men in particular. Many young people who play are also being encouraged to stay in school by the local cricket association. The temperature is 28 C in the afternoon as a coach shouts out commands to his cricket players at Sierra Leone's only cricket ground in the country's capital Freetown.
The players look intense, concentrating on their game. But this is not any random cricket game, this is different. Several of these cricket players are playing not only for fun, but also to enhance their education and improve their lives. Osman Koroma, 18, is currently is homeless. "I am living around with my friends, so when I want to go to sleep, I say to my friends, 'Man, I am coming over' and I go and lay my head," he explained. Read more ..
The New Egypt
|Aaron Y. Zelin||January 18th 2013|
Jihadist groups are emerging as a major threat in Egypt because of three developments: the permissive atmosphere for Islamist mobilization in general since Hosni Mubarak's February 2011 ouster, the ruling Muslim Brotherhood's tolerance toward its fellow Islamists, and the weakness of the Egyptian state. To help inhibit violence by such groups, Washington should approach Cairo with a mix of economic inducements, diplomatic pressure, and intelligence sharing.
KEY JIHADIST GROUPS AND FIGURES
Following the 2011 revolution, the military junta that replaced Mubarak granted amnesty to many Islamists, including individuals with blood on their hands. Many of these figures renounced violence, and some established political parties, but others remain completely unreformed. These latter jihadists are radicalizing Egypt's domestic political scene and threatening U.S. interests.
Two Egyptian "Ansar al-Sharia" groups, whose names echo those of other regional jihadist organizations, are particularly worth noting. Gamaat Ansar al-Sharia in Egypt (ASE), which was founded in mid-October 2012, focuses on internal "reform," including application of sharia, compensation for the martyrs of the revolution, purging the judiciary and media, allowing bearded officers, and not relying on riba (usury) in financial transactions. Similar to the Ansar outfits in Tunisia and Benghazi, Libya, ASE runs local community services such as distributing sheep for ritual slaughter during the Eid al-Adha holiday and providing food for the needy. Read more ..
America on Edge
|Carole Emberton||January 17th 2013|
"I'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!,” radio host Alex Jones warned British television journalist Piers Morgan on January 7. Leading the charge to have Morgan deported for voicing his opposition to America’s lax gun control laws, which many believe led to the shooting deaths of twenty children and six adults last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Jones attempted to cast Morgan as a modern-day Tory ready to reclaim the United States as Great Britain’s colonial possession.
Although Morgan’s Britishness proved an effective prop to Jones’s revolutionary rhetoric, the current debate over gun control owes more to the Civil War Era than the American Revolution. Read more ..
France in Mali
|Lisa Bryant||January 17th 2013|
About 100,000 Malians live in France and they are closely watching events in their homeland, where the French military launched its first ground assault against an Islamist insurgency Wednesday. One of the biggest Malian communities is located in the Paris suburb of Montreuil - earning it the nickname of "Little Bamako."
Foyer Bara, a hostel for Malian immigrant workers, sits on a small street just a couple of blocks from the subway station. It's a dark, rundown building, but full of activity
The central courtyard has been transformed into an informal street market. There are a couple of barbers. Other Malians sell candies and hot food from makeshift stands. Still others gather on this chilly day to discuss events in their homeland, where French troops are trying to halt an Islamist insurgency. Moussa Doucoure, who helps run the Bara hostel, credited France for getting his country out of what he called a mess. He scoffed at the extremists for calling themselves Islamic.They are only bandits and thugs, he said, who rape women and cut off people's limbs. Read more ..
Afganistan on Edge
|Faiza Elmasry||January 16th 2013|
In the virtual space created by The Afghan Women’s Writing Project ( AWWP), women have the freedom to write about whatever they want and they can receive mentoring by a volunteer team of teachers and authors.
Zahra A., who is in her 20s, is excited about telling her story through the project’s web site. “She’s a daughter of uneducated farmers who place a high value on education for their children in the face of community and extended family disapproval,” says American novelist Naomi Benaron, who is Zahra’s mentor. “She puts despair on the page, but she’s eternally hopeful.”
Zahra teaches English at an orphanage and writes about Afghan girls’ life experiences and aspirations. Masha Hamilton, an American journalist and novelist, founded The Afghan Women’s Writing Project in 2009, ten years after her first visit to Kabul. She was inspired, she says, by all the strong, smart Afghan women she encountered, who are eager to learn and express themselves. Read more ..
Israel and Jordan
|Viva Sarah Press||January 16th 2013|
14 Jordanians and 40 Israelis finish a groundbreaking three-year bachelor’s course in emergency medicine at an Israeli university.
Every graduation ceremony is moving. The recent paramedics commencement at an Israeli university, however, was particularly poignant as the graduating class was an unlikely mix of Jordanian and Israeli students.
Though Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, relations between the countries have been minimal. And this makes the first-ever Jordan-Israel Academic Emergency Medicine Collaboration, at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), all the more notable. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|John DeCapua||January 15th 2013|
Scientists say they have found the first major neurological condition linked to climate. A Ugandan study shows the amount of rainfall can affect the number of infants who develop a deadly brain infection. It’s estimated 100-thousand infants in sub-Saharan Africa get the infection every year.
It’s called Hydrocephalus -- a build-up of fluid that leads to a swelling of the brain and an enlarged head. Dr. Steve Schiff, director of the Center for Neural Engineering at Penn State University, said that without treatment it can cause brain damage or death. “Hydrocephalus is literally a medical word that means water on the brain. It is the most common reason that a child would need to have neurological surgery,” he said. A small amount of fluid surrounding the brain is normal. Read more ..
Society on Edge
|Diane Swanbrow||January 15th 2013|
Playing violent video games about terrorism strengthens negative stereotypes about Arabs, even when Arabs are not portrayed in the games. That is one of the findings of an innovative new study in the January issue of Psychology of Violence, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Psychological Association.
"Our research suggests that parents, educators and others need to consider the harmful impact of stereotype-laden games on a group that has become a major target of prejudice within the United States," said University of Michigan researcher Muniba Saleem, co-author of the study with Iowa State University researcher Craig Anderson.
Saleem and Anderson recruited 204 participants, randomly assigning them to play one of three video games for 30 minutes. Two of the games were versions of "Counter-Strike," one with Arab terrorists and the other with Russian terrorists. The third game was a nonviolent golf game. After playing the games, the researchers assessed participants' levels of prejudice against Arabs using direct measures such as attitude questionnaires as well as indirect measures such as drawings. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Tom Balmforth||January 14th 2013|
Bek Takhirov knows all too well the problems that migrant workers face. The 38-year-old ethnic Uzbek came to Russia in 2004 and worked illegally, stacking cargo in a warehouse for alcoholic beverages. Two years ago, he completed a lengthy application for Russian citizenship in order to step out of the shadows. He now works legally in St. Petersburg as a translator by day and moonlights as a security guard by night. He also uses his experience to help newly arrived migrants from his homeland navigate Russia's increasingly difficult labor market.
"Every year it becomes harder," Takhirov says. "It used to be easy to find work quickly -- you didn't need any documents or anything. But nowadays you fill out all the documents and then they still deceive you and throw you out all the same. There is so much deceit everywhere." Read more ..
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