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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 ..


The Digital Edge

Proprietary Wireless Technologies in Home Automation

February 7th 2013

Tablet Use

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

Hunger, Stress and Drugs Turn Repulsion into Desires

February 7th 2013

Click to select Image

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

Sierra Leone Police Hire Disabled Officers for First Time

February 6th 2013

Sierra Leone men

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 ..


Electronic Edge

Generation X Connects Electronically as Much as They Do in Real Life

February 5th 2013

Click to select Image

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

Antibiotics Help Fight Severe Malnutrition

February 3rd 2013

Kenya Poverty

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

How Secure Is Skype?

February 2nd 2013

Smart phone

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

Millions Around the World to Watch Superbowl Sunday

February 1st 2013

Super Bowl

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

Teenagers with Good Family Life Have Good Marital Outcomes

January 31st 2013

family with teenagers

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 ..


Ancient America

Early Americans Were No Slouches as Builders

January 31st 2013

Poverty Point Mounds

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

Mali's Star Musicians Unite Against Islamists

January 30th 2013

Mopti market

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

The Heart Ache of Infertility in Ghana

January 29th 2013

Nigerian baby with cap

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

Pakistan Women Decry Lack of Safe Public Transport

January 29th 2013

Bus decorated

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

New Mexico Hosts Conferences on New Farming

January 29th 2013

New Mexico irrigation
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

Singapore Cemetery Demolition Angers Residents

January 28th 2013

Graveyard

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 ..


Broken Immigration

Immigrants Learn a Trade and English through Baking

January 27th 2013

immigrant baking apprentice

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 apprentices

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

Dengue Fever Vaccine Trials Clear First Hurdle

January 27th 2013

Victims of LRA

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

Climate Change Beliefs of Independent Voters Shift With the Weather

January 26th 2013

Rain

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

Gold Imports Strain India's Finances and Social Fabric

January 26th 2013

gold jewelry India

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.

Adjustments

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

Britain's Brewing Row over Immigration

January 24th 2013

British bus

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

Telehealth To Reach 1.8 Million Patients By 2017

January 23rd 2013

walking-cane

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

California Group Helps Young Muslims, Jews Find Common Ground

January 22nd 2013

New-Ground la

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

Eugenics History and Awareness Taught Online

January 22nd 2013

Twins-Height-Verschuer

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

The Safety Federal Immunization Guidelines for Children

January 22nd 2013

blood test

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

More Land Devoted to Organic Farming Worldwide

January 21st 2013

onions peppers parsley radish

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

Iran's Parliament Mulls New Restrictions on Women's Travel

January 21st 2013

Iranian women with mobile

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

Soaring Population, Climate Change Stress Resources

January 20th 2013

American poverty

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

Gun Violence Makes Pakistani-Americans Wary of Future

January 20th 2013

Ammo

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

Fatah's Armed Gangs Are Back

January 19th 2013

Palestinian Authority police

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

Campaigning in High Gear for Israeli Elections

January 18th 2013

Bibi

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

Cricket Makes Comeback in Sierra Leone

January 18th 2013

Boys Plauying Cricket

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

The Return of Egypt's Old Jihadists

January 18th 2013

Shouting Muslims in Cairo

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

The Origins of America's Gun Culture

January 17th 2013

Ivory gripped Colt Navy revolvers

"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 ..



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