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France in Mali

Malians in France Hold Hope, Keep Eye on Mail

January 17th 2013

French-troops Mali

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

Through Writing, Afghan Women Find Freedom

January 16th 2013

Afgan Women in Burka

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

Training Paramedics from Jordan and Israel

January 16th 2013

Training Paramedics

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

Climate, Brain Infection Linked in Uganda

January 15th 2013

Caesar Achellam

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

Study says Video Games Intensify Anti-Arab Prejudice

January 15th 2013

Arab Vendor

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

Russia's Muddled Policy Driving Migrant Workers Into Shadows

January 14th 2013

Tajik migrant worker

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 ..


Islam on Edge

Indonesian Muslim Law Ban Women Straddling Motorcycles

January 13th 2013

Indonesia motorcycle mosque

In Indonesia’s province of Aceh, where Islamic law governs, adultery, gambling, tight jeans and Mohawk haircuts are outlawed by religious police. Now, women passengers have been banned from straddling motorbikes. The new bylaw has sparked strong criticism with activists saying that discriminatory regulations, seemingly justified by Islam, are undermining Indonesia’s pluralist reputation.

In the Aceh town of Lhokseumawe, the moral crusade continues. Town Mayor Suaidi Yahya says local morals are slipping - and it’s ‘impolite’ for women to straddle motorbikes. Religious leaders have expressed support for the new regulation, but women’s groups say it is ridiculous and unfair. They say local laws enacted in the name of religion and morality have disproportionately affected women. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Eurozone Unemployment Soars to New High

January 12th 2013

French Economic protest

The 17-nation eurozone has started 2013 on a grim note, with new statistics showing November unemployment at an all-time high. There is optimism the worst of the eurozone crisis is over, but the latest figures published by the European Union's statistical service offers a dose of reality.

​Eurostat's November figures show unemployment in the eurozone currency union climbing to a record 11.8 percent - up 0.1 percent from October, and more than a percentage point from a year ago. Deputy director Guntram Wolff, of Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel, predicts 2013 will be another tough year for the eurozone.

"I think it sends a clear message that the economic crisis is still there and certainly we still have a major problem with our structural unemployment, with the business cycle situation, with the general economic outlook," he said.

Roughly 19 million people living in the currency union are out of work, two million more than a year ago. Unemployment is highest in two of Europe's most indebted economies, Spain and Greece, with more than a quarter of their populations out of work. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Lebanon Wants Help Dealing With Syrian Refugees

January 12th 2013

Syrian Refugees

The Lebanese government plans to keep its border with Syria open to refugees, but it wants more aid from other Arab states and the international community. To that end, the Lebanese government has called for an urgent meeting of the Arab League in Egypt. ​​With some 200,000 Syrian refugees, Lebanon has the most people fleeing the continuing violence of any of Syria's neighbors. And with the flow over the Lebanese-Syrian border unceasing, the Lebanese government has called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo set for Sunday.

"Lebanon right now, a bit late, but … is recognizing the size of the problem, recognizing that this refugee issue may last longer than it was expected to last and therefore will seek assistance and support from donors and groups or countries providing support to the refugees," said Imad Salamey, a political science professor at Lebanese American University. 
Lebanese have two main concerns about the influx of refugees.
Read more ..


China on Edge

The Effects Of China's One Child Policy On Its Children

January 11th 2013

Soldiers

New research shows China's controversial One Child Policy (OCP) has not only dramatically re-shaped the population, but has produced individuals lacking characteristics important for economic and social attainment. In research published today in Science, Professors Lisa Cameron and Lata Gangadharan from Monash University, Professor Xin Meng from the Australian National University (ANU) and Associate Professor Nisvan Erkal from the University of Melbourne examined cohorts of children born just before and after the OCP was introduced. They assessed social and competitive behavioural attributes such as trust and risk-taking.

The researchers conducted a series of economic games on more than 400 subjects. The imposition of the OCP allowed them to identify individuals who grew up as an only child because of the policy and who would have grown up with siblings in the absence of the OCP. Read more ..


Islam in France

The Islamization of France in 2012

January 11th 2013

French muslim woman

Muslim immigrants and their supporters have been using a combination of lawsuits, verbal and physical harassment -- and even murder -- to silence debate about the rise of Islam.

Opinion surveys show that to voters in France -- home to an estimated 6.5 million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in the European Union -- Islam and the question of Muslim immigration have emerged in 2012 as a top-ranked public concern. The French, it seems, are increasingly worried about the establishment of a parallel Muslim society there. But government efforts this year to push back against the Islamization of France were halting and half-hearted and could be described as "one step forward, two steps back." A chronological review of some of the main stories involving the rise of Islam in France during 2012 includes: Read more ..


Egypt and Iran

The Enduring Egypt-Iran Divide

January 10th 2013

Hijab and flag

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may look besieged at home, but by brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November, he enhanced his diplomatic stature mightily across the entire Middle East. Indeed, as 2012 comes to a close, Egypt's centrality to regional diplomacy has been restored. The big question for 2013 is whether Morsi will follow his achievement in Gaza by tackling another major diplomatic challenge: rebuilding relations with Iran after more than three decades of animosity.

Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood's ascent to power in the aftermath of the massive popular protests that toppled Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, inspired hope of renewed diplomatic ties with Iran. But, despite shared ideological principles, significant political obstacles continue to inhibit bilateral cooperation.

Relations between the two countries collapsed in 1980, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in Iran's Islamic Revolution and severed ties in response to Egypt's formal recognition of Israel the previous year. Egypt's then-president, Anwar El Sadat, granted the exiled Shah of Iran permission to live in Egypt, and supported Iraq in its eight-year war with the Islamic Republic. The Shah was ultimately buried in a mosque in Cairo.

After Mubarak's ouster last year, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei welcomed the prospect of Islamist rule, with delegations from both countries exchanging visits. For Khamenei, the "Arab Spring" was in fact an "Islamic Awakening." Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

Lack of Civility Hampers S. Africa's Sanitation Efforts

January 9th 2013

South African town

In South Africa, two million people living in informal settlements still have restricted access to basic services such as running water, electricity or sanitation. The problem is so acute that so-called “service delivery protests” are regularly staged throughout the country. In Diepsloot, a poor township on the northern fringes of Johannesburg, residents have to share one toilet per 30 people. But as one small community-based organization has discovered, government is not the only actor to blame for poor services. A lack of civility within the township is also undermining efforts to improve the lives of the people.

Lucky Manyisi inspects his “jurisdiction,” as he calls it. Diepsloot, section 1: its laughing school children enjoying their summer break, its makeshift shacks, its unpaved roads where pointy rocks protrude. But his focus - the core of his job and his duty to his community - are the brightly colored boxes that dot its streets: the toilets. Read more ..


China on Edge

Chinese Paper Has Long History of Challenging Authorities

January 8th 2013

Soldiers

The influential Chinese newspaper at the center of a rare protest against government censorship has a long history of progressive and controversial reporting that has tested the limits of free speech in China's strictly controlled media environment. The Southern Weekly is part of the larger Nanfang Media Group, which is known for its in-depth and aggressive reports on sensitive topics, such as the 2003 SARS outbreak or China's massive network of illegal detentions centers. The controversial coverage has often landed the media group in the bad graces of Chinese propaganda officials, who have tried - with limited success - to get it to conform to their standards. Rachel Lu, editor of Tea Leaf Nation, a website that monitors Chinese media,says the paper has undergone several purges in recent years, where staff have been fired, presumably for their reports. Read more ..

China on Edge

Chinese Labor Camps May be Scrapped this Year

January 7th 2013

Chinese soldier at Tienamen Square

Chinese state media have quoted a senior official as saying Beijing has decided to scrap its decades-old system of detaining people in forced labor camps - a practice long criticized by rights groups.  

In a brief report Monday, television network CCTV's microblog quoted Politburo member Meng Jianzhu as saying China will stop using the "re-education through labor" system this year, after the nation's rubber-stamp parliament approves the decision.  It said Meng made the comment earlier in the day at a meeting of the political and legal department that he heads.

China's official Xinhua news agency re-published the CCTV report before it was removed from both the Xinhua and CCTV websites several hours later without explanation.  Chinese authorities often order the removal of Internet content that they fear could encourage dissent against the government. 

Read more ..

Inside Islam

UC Research Unveils How Some Medieval Cultures Adapted to Rise of Islam

January 7th 2013

Coins

Medieval Afghanistan, Iran and the one-time Soviet Central Asian states were frontiers in flux as the Islamic Caliphate spread beyond the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh through 10th centuries.

As such, different groups, such as the new Arab ruling class, the native landed gentry and local farmers, jockeyed for power, position and economic advantage over an approximately 300-year period as the Sasanian Empire collapsed and the Caliphate took its place.

University of Cincinnati historian Robert Haug, assistant professor, will present his research on how social, cultural and political changes were manifested in these border areas that serve almost as a “perpetual frontier.” He does so Jan. 3, 2013, at the American Historical Association, in a presentation titled “Between the Limits and the Gaps: Conceptualizing Frontiers in Medieval Arabic and Persian Geographies.” Read more ..


The New Egypt

Morsi Expands Brotherhood Influence in Egyptian Cabinet

January 7th 2013

Mohamed Morsi Speaks at Press Conference

Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi has expanded the number of Muslim Brotherhood ministers in his Cabinet as part of a reshuffle aimed at improving the government's handling of an economic crisis. Ten Egyptian ministers were sworn in on Sunday, three of them members of  Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement. A Brotherhood spokesman said the reshuffle increases the number of Brotherhood Cabinet ministers from five to eight.
 
Morsi also appointed a Brotherhood-allied expert in Islamic finance as the new finance minister. El-Morsi Hegazy replaces former finance minister Mumtaz el-Said, whom the Brotherhood had accused of being too close to the Egyptian military, which ruled the country for more than a year before handing power to Morsi in June.
Read more ..

India's Darkest Edge

New Delhi Police Refute India Gang-Rape Account

January 6th 2013

India Rape Protest Dec 2012

Police in New Delhi have refuted comments made by the male companion of an Indian gang-rape victim that police officers debated jurisdiction for 30 minutes before taking the victim and her friend to a hospital. At a news conference on Saturday, Joint Commissioner of Delhi Police Vivek Gogia said police vans had reached the spot where the rape victim and her friend were dumped within three minutes of receiving the alert.

The victim's male companion said in an interview broadcast on Friday on Indian TV station Zee News that police delayed taking her to a hospital, after passers-by neglected to help her even though she was naked and bleeding. Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Ancient Manuscripts Reveal Thriving Jewish Community in Afghanistan

January 5th 2013

Afghan Jewish Document

Read more ..

Islam's War Against Christianity

Nigeria's anti-Christian Violence on Christmas

January 4th 2013

Helpless Nigerian man

Boko Haram-associated violence appears to spike around the major Christian holidays, especially Christmas. The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) documents this trend in 2011. This year, according to the Nigerian press, the security presence was beefed-up in the North and holiday leaves were cancelled. This may have had a positive impact, as no large-scale terrorist incidents were reported.

Nevertheless, the media reports numerous small scale attacks, especially in Borno and Yobe states. For example, the press reports two suicide bomber attacks in Kano, but with few casualties. A pastor and five members of his congregation were murdered on Christmas Eve, and alleged Boko Haram operatives slit the throats of some fifteen men, women, and children in a settlement outside of Maiduguri on December 29. Though details are scarce, these killings may have been of Christians. Ansaru, possibly a Boko Haram splinter group, killed two Nigerian security officers and kidnaped a French engineer the week before Christmas. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Beliefs about Dieting and Exercise Play into Weight Loss

January 4th 2013

Click to select Image

People setting a goal to lose weight in 2013 may want to first ask themselves if diet or exercise is more important to success. Whether a person believes obesity is caused by overeating or by a lack of exercise can predict whether he or she will gain or lose weight, according to University of Michigan research to be published in the journal Psychological Science. With two-thirds of the adult U.S. population classified as overweight or obese and similar numbers in many developed nations, obesity has become an important health concern.

In a series of studies across five countries on three continents, the research showed that people mainly believe either that obesity is caused by a lack of exercise or by a poor diet. "The greater the extent to which you believe it is diet, the thinner you are on average," said Brent McFerran, a marketing professor at the Ross School of Business. Read more ..


Education on Edge

Generational Changes Cause Drop In US Support For School Prayer

January 3rd 2013

Education - Child at Blackboard

There's a saying that goes, "as long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools." At one time, that likely reflected a fairly uniform view about school prayer: that despite what federal law said about the practice, religious Americans by and large approved of it. A new study, however, paints a more complicated picture of attitudes toward school prayer over the last four decades, finding sharp differences in school-prayer support between different generations and their religious denominations.

Forthcoming in the journal Sociological Forum, the study maps a general decline in advocacy for school prayer starting in the mid-1970s and accelerating as skeptical Baby Boomers became ascendant through the 1980s. According to the study's findings, school-prayer support remains markedly lower today among Catholics and mainline Protestants yet unwaveringly high among their evangelical counterparts.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist Philip Schwadel modeled data from the General Social Survey from 1974-2010 and created a measure for Americans' support for prayer and reading of religious scripture in public schools over the decades. The results tracked the impact of religious affiliation and generational differences on the role of religion in public education, he said. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Orthodox Christian Priest Excommunicated for Support of Israel

January 3rd 2013

church in israel

Last weekend, Father Gabriel Nadaf (39), a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, challenged a boycott against him and attempted to enter the church there to recite a prayer and light a candle. He was accompanied by Israeli Border Police officers and supporters, who came to ensure his safe passage into the church.

Nadaf was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church Council after he expressed his belief that Christian youth in Israel should fully integrate into Israeli society, serving in the IDF or in the National Service. Since then, he and others, like Father André Alamiya, have been the target of virulent attacks from the opponents to this idea. For example, Father Alamiya's tires were slashed last weekend, and a rag saturated with blood was placed at his doorstep in Nazareth.

Father Nadaf believes Israel serves as an anchor for its Christian minority and cares for its security, and from this he derives his commitment towards Israel. Since his excommunication from the Council, which is headed by Dr. Azmi Hakim, a member of the Israeli Communist party, he has been forced to move around with bodyguards. Read more ..


Ethiopia on Edge

In Ethiopia, HIV Disclosure is Low

January 2nd 2013

In Ethiopia, where more than 1.2 million people are infected with HIV, disclosure of infection by patients is important in the fight against the disease. A new study led by a Brown sociology researcher investigates HIV-positive status disclosure rates among men and women in Africa's second most populous country. In the December 17 issue of AIDS Care, Ayalu Reda, a sociology graduate student, and colleagues from Jimma University in Ethiopia found that among a sample of 1,540 patients receiving antiretroviral treatment in eastern Ethiopia, a majority (66 percent) disclosed their HIV-positive status to their spouse, while fewer disclosed to siblings (17 percent) and other relatives (16.8 percent). A small number of patients (11.6 percent) did not disclose their infection status at all. None of the patients had disclosed to all of their family members. Unmarried and illiterate patients had higher levels of nondisclosure. Reda said he was prompted to conduct the study after working in Ethiopian hospitals and seeing many patients refuse to use local medical centers, opting to be treated farther from home.
Read more ..

Serbia on Edge

Serbia Tries To Scrap Its Gun Habit

January 1st 2013

 Belgrade metal recycling center

Belgrade and its international partners are hailing a decade of achievement in a long-running effort to rid Serbia of the postwar legacy of rampant gun possession.

News of the reductions comes with most eyes fixed on a raging gun-control debate in the United States following the horrific killings in Newtown, Connecticut.

But Serbia had one of the world's highest per capita gun ownership rates in the world -- right behind the United States -- after the former Yugoslavia's bloody wars of independence in the 1990s, and gun ownership was still alarmingly high early last decade.

So officials regard progress there to reduce the number of weapons in private hands as a good and stabilizing thing. Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic was joined by EU and other international officials on December 20 for the ceremonial destruction of some of the 17,000 rifles and handguns seized or otherwise collected most recently under a joint program with the United Nations and European Union. Read more ..


China on Edge

Reporter 'Forced Out' of China Following Visa Issue

January 1st 2013

Chinese soldier at Tienamen Square

China has forced the departure of a New York Times journalist after failing to renew his visa, prompting fresh accusations that Beijing is retaliating against foreign media because of coverage critical of the Communist Party. The Times says correspondent Chris Buckley "was forced to leave mainland China" Monday after authorities declined to issue him a visa for 2013 by year's end, despite "numerous requests" by the U.S. paper.

The paper also says its new Beijing bureau chief Philip P. Pan, who applied for a visa in March, has yet to be accredited. It said the visa and credential process normally takes only weeks or a couple months.

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson said in a statement she hopes Beijing will approve the visas as soon as possible so the journalists can continue their work. Read more ..


India's Dark Edge

India Taking a Hard Look at Itself in Wake of Monstrous Gang Rape

December 31st 2012

Typical Indian Child Bride

India remains in mourning Monday, two days after the death of a 23-year-old woman who died of severe organ failure after suffering internal injuries and brain damage in a brutal gang rape. Six men have been arrested and charged with murder in the December 16 attack in New Delhi.  Police say the men could face the death penalty, if convicted. Candlelight vigils have been held in the capital and may cities across India since the attack. Out of respect for the unidentified victim, India's military has canceled its New Year's celebrations, as did Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party. The woman's death has set off a debate about what India needs to do to protect women.

Issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide rarely enter mainstream political discourse in India. Protesters and politicians have called for tougher rape laws, major police reforms and a transformation in the way the nation treats women. Read more ..


The Edge of Aging

Alzheimer's Disease Often Preceded by Early Cognitive Problems

December 30th 2012

walking-cane

People who study or treat Alzheimer's disease and its earliest clinical stage, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), have focused attention on the obvious short-term memory problems. But a new study suggests that people on the road to Alzheimer's may actually have problems early on in processing semantic or knowledge-based information, which could have much broader implications for how patients function in their lives.

Terry Goldberg, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and director of neurocognition at the Litwin Zucker Center for Research in Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, said that clinicians have observed other types of cognitive problems in MCI patients but no one had ever studied it in a systematic way. Many experts had noted individuals who seemed perplexed by even the simplest task. In this latest study, published in this month's issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, investigators used a clever series of tests to measure a person's ability to process semantic information.

Do people with MCI have trouble accessing different types of knowledge? Are there obvious semantic impairments that have not been picked up before? The answer was "yes." Read more ..


Lebanon on Edge

Americans Help Re-Establish the Cedars of Lebanon

December 30th 2012

Lebanon forest reserve road sign
VOA photo by V. Undritz.

The fragrant cedar forests of Lebanon were first recorded in the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, about 4,500 years ago. But Lebanon’s once mighty cedar forests survive today only as pockets of scraggly trees on mountain sides.

Now, there's a project to replant the ancient cedar forests. Lebanon’s government has set an ambitious goal of increasing the country’s forest cover by 50 percent by the year 2020. Up in the Shouf mountains east of Beirut, some ancient trees were saplings 2,000 years ago, during the life of Jesus. Now, new seedlings are part of a plan to replant the legendary cedars of Lebanon.

Hisham Salman runs Lebanon's Association for Forests, Development and Conservation. He said the government’s “Green Lebanon” slogan wins support across religious and sectarian lines in this fractured land. “People who are living in the cities, they like this idea that Lebanon is a green country,” he said in an interview at a nursery in the Shouf Mountains. “They want to see it again green, so they like this idea - the planting of trees,” said Salman. Read more ..


India on Edge

India Mourns 23-Year-Old Gang Rape Victim

December 29th 2012

India Rape Protest Dec 2012

The young Indian victim of a brutal gang rape has died in Singapore, where she had been taken for treatment. Thousands of people staged peaceful protests in the Indian capital -- where the incident took place -- despite tight security to prevent mass demonstrations. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the incident has sparked widespread calls for social change.
From people on the street, to the country's top leaders, messages of grief and vows to prevent similar crimes poured in as news spread of the death of the 23-year-old rape victim.
 
The young woman died early Saturday morning in Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore of severe organ failure, 13 days after she was brutally beaten and raped by a group of men in a moving bus in New Delhi. She had undergone multiple surgeries in the capital before being flown to Singapore Thursday for special treatment.
Read more ..

The Edge of Food

Which Fish Do Spanish Consumers Buy?

December 29th 2012

Tuna at Market

What is most important when buying fish: the price, the country of origin, whether it is fresh or frozen or whether it is wild or farm-raised? The average Spanish consumer prefers above all that their fish comes from Spain, according to a study published in the 'Food Quality and Preference' journal. Spain is the largest producer of fish in the European Union but in recent years its population has consumed less fish, especially seafood.

A team of scientists brought together nearly 900 consumers from nine Autonomous Communities (Andalusia, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, Catalonia, Galicia, Madrid and Murcia) to analyse their preferences when buying fish. Evaluated factors included the country of origin (Spain, Morocco and Norway), whether they were fished or farm-raised, their conservation method (fresh or frozen) and the price (6€/kg, 12€/kg and18€/kg). Read more ..


Sri Lanka on Edge

In Sri Lanka, New Steps Target Mysterious Kidney Disease

December 28th 2012

Bangladeshi organ victim

The Sri Lankan government is vowing to impose tighter controls on pesticides and fertilizers amid growing concern the chemicals are helping fuel a mysterious epidemic of chronic kidney disease devastating its north central region.

In September, in Mystery in the Fields, an article explored how a rare form of chronic kidney disease is killing agricultural workers in Sri Lanka, India and Central America. Scientists in each region are struggling to identify the cause of these parallel epidemics, which have led to tens of thousands of deaths worldwide and are suspected to be linked to a toxic exposure. In a November 2012 speech laying out a national budget proposal, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa pledged to take action to crack down on contaminated agrochemicals.

“There is a theory that pesticides and chemical fertilizer contribute to increase non-communicable diseases,” Rajapaksa said, referring in oblique terms to the politically controversial kidney epidemic. “Therefore, regulations will be formulated to require suppliers and distributors of all agrochemicals to comply with quality standards.”

A committee of government ministers is meeting with scientific experts and interest groups and will submit a report to the cabinet with recommendations for the regulations, said Sri Lanka’s Registrar of Pesticides, Dr. Anura Wijesekera. Wijesekara, whose office oversees imports and permitting of agrochemicals, said Sri Lanka had already taken a significant step earlier this year: establishing limits of detection for nine toxins including cadmium and arsenic. Pesticides and fertilizers containing more than the permitted amounts of these chemicals are prohibited from distribution. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Heartbreaking Anti-Adoption Bill to be Signed by Russian President Putin

December 28th 2012

Russian orphans

Jan Wondra says she saw her adoptive daughter, and loved her, before she knew her. "I kept having a dream that kept waking me up at night," she says. "There was always a little girl running toward me calling for Mama. [She had] a sad little face, her arms were outstretched, and she always disappeared in the dream before she reached my arms. When we started the adoption process they put a big book in my lap of waiting children all over the world. I randomly opened that book and looked at the page and I saw the face of the little girl in my dream. I almost fell off my chair."

The face that Wondra recognized was Yelena Lomonova's. The child had been born with congenital hip defects and given up at birth by her unwed mother. In 1994, Wondra traveled to Russia's Pskov region to pick up her daughter. The girl, she says, came to her with open arms, just like in the dream. Yelena is now Katie, who, after two hip surgeries, is a thriving college senior in Colorado. Read more ..


The Automotive Edge

Easily Readable Dashboards Make Driving Safer

December 27th 2012

driving dashboard simulator

Typeface aficionados perceive major differences among fonts that look broadly similar to the rest of us. Now an MIT study suggests that when it comes to the typefaces used on auto dashboards, such differences might not be just an aesthetic matter, but a vital safety matter.

In recent tests, researchers with MIT’s AgeLab have found that dashboard displays using the more open and differentiated lettering found in the “humanist” family of typefaces are easier for people to read quickly than displays using the more uniform and tightly spaced letters of the “square grotesque” style. Male drivers, in particular, can process messages in humanist lettering about 10 percent faster, on average. That might not sound like a lot, but under highway conditions automobiles will cover about 50 feet in the time it takes drivers to process the less user-friendly messages. In some circumstances, that could be the difference between an accident and a near miss on the road. Read more ..


Israel and Egypt

Egyptian Blogger Breaks Taboos About Israel

December 25th 2012

Maikel Sanad-blogger

“I’m breaking a taboo coming to Israel, but I’m not the first Egyptian to do so,” said Maikel Nabil Sanad, a political activist and blogger who was jailed and tortured for 302 days for criticizing the Egyptian army post-Mubarak. He was pardoned by the Egyptian military in January 2012 following international pressure and efforts of several different human rights organizations including UN Watch. During his first visit to Israel organized by the Geneva-based NGO, UN Watch, Maikel Sanad was warmly received by Hebrew University’s Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace on Sunday, December 23. Described as a peace-building mission, Sanad’s visit to the Holy Land sparked a myriad of responses.

Speaking to the Israeli and Arabic press in English and Arabic, before the open lecture to Hebrew University students, Sanad stated that he would like to see Israel exist in the Middle East but that Israel had to build initiatives and approach peace activists like himself. “I would like to see Israel coexist in the Middle East,” said the self-described pro-Israel dissident who was the first political prisoner in post-revolution Egypt. “The majority of my people don’t want war with Israel.” But he was sharply critical of settlement building and Palestinian rights.

“It’s amazing to see that people like Sanad exist,” said Orit Sulitzean, the spokeswoman for Hebrew University to Tazpit News Agency. “There is a thirst and hunger among Israelis to learn more about our southern neighbor,” added Hebrew University Professor Eli Podch. Others were significantly less happy. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Syria's Instability Reaches Lebanon

December 24th 2012

Beirut Bombing Oct19 2012

Recent fighting in Lebanon between pro- and anti-Assad forces raises the specter that spillover from Syria will engulf its neighbor. With Washington focused on the crises in Syria and Egypt, perennially-on-the-brink Lebanon is a second-tier concern for now, but it will not remain so if Islamist militants gain the upper hand politically or, worse, acquire Syrian chemical weapons.

BAABDA PRINCIPLES NOT HOLDING UP WELL

In June, Lebanese president Michel Suleiman convened a meeting of the country's diverse sectarian and political leadership. During this so-called National Dialogue, the first such gathering in nearly two years, he forged a consensus between the pro-Western "March 14" opposition bloc and the Shiite militia Hizballah's "March 8" bloc, which controls the current government. Read more ..


The Edge of Film

'Mr. Cao Goes to Washington' Film Recounts an American Dream

December 24th 2012

Congressman Joseph Cao goes to Washington

One of the key parts of the immigrant experience is the journey itself. For two Asian-American filmmakers, moving to the United States provided them both opportunity - but under very different circumstances. Mingh Nguyen, a 40-year old filmmaker based in Los Angeles, arrived in the US from Vietnam in 1982 when he was nine years old. His travels began a year earlier as one of the Vietnamese boat people. Nguyen’s parents lost their business and home after the fall of Saigon. The decision was made to flee and done in secret. “Somebody would get a boat, and would calculate how many people would be on it, and at night you kind of sneak out and get on that boat,” Nguyen said. “You get out to sea and you try to reach one of the refugee camps in Thailand, the Philippines or Malaysia. We actually got to Thailand.” Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Celebrate the Holidays with Fruit

December 23rd 2012

Fruit

We know high-fat, high-sugar foods cause obesity and promote heart disease, but most people don't realize that sugar and fat also contribute to conditions like osteoporosis by weakening bones. If this trend continues, this overlooked 'silent robber' will begin to cripple large numbers of at-risk baby boomers, say researchers at the University of Michigan and the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute.

While this high-fat, high-sugar diet trend and the subsequent risk of osteoporosis are climbing frighteningly fast, there's hope, says Ron Zernicke, dean of U-M's School of Kinesiology and a professor of orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering. The medical community and the public can reverse this trend by confronting the problem head-on and immediately, through diet, exercise and, in some cases, medication. Read more ..


China Rising

Why Is It in China’s Interest to Promote Health Security in Southeast Asia?

December 23rd 2012

Chinese Chicken Farmer

If there is a buzzword one needs to know to understand U.S. foreign policy toward Asia in 2013, it is “rebalancing,” or in the words of President Obama “pivoting.” Rebalancing is of course not solely about military redeployment. Indeed, a critical element of the U.S. rebalancing strategy in the region is to nurture partnerships with countries and international institutions to address common threats in areas such as regional health security.

Being the epicenter of major endemic and epidemic diseases, Southeast Asia has often been perceived as a major threat to global health security. Last week, Indonesia identified a more virulent strain of bird flu that has killed more than 300,000 ducks on the island of Java since November. That said, China and Southeast Asia share a range of health challenges, from SARS to HIV/AIDS and H5N1. Altogether, China and Southeast Asia account for approximately 90 percent of SARS cases and two thirds of the human cases of avian influenza. Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Cheese Making in Northern Europe in the 6th millennium BCE

December 22nd 2012

Ancient Cheesemaking

The first unequivocal evidence that humans in prehistoric Northern Europe made cheese more than 7,000 years ago is described in research by an international team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, UK, published today in Nature.

By analysing fatty acids extracted from unglazed pottery pierced with small holes excavated from archaeological sites in Poland, the researchers showed that dairy products were processed in these ceramic vessels. Furthermore, the typology of the sieves, close in shape to modern cheese-strainers, provides compelling evidence that these specialised vessels have been used for cheese-making.

Before this study, milk residues had been detected in early sites in Northwestern Anatolia (8,000 years ago) and in Libya (nearly 7,000 years ago). Nevertheless, it had been impossible to detect if the milk was processed to cheese products. Read more ..



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