Islam on Edge
|Kate Lamb||January 13th 2013|
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
|Lisa Bryant||January 12th 2013|
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
|Paige Kollock||January 12th 2013|
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
|Emily Walker||January 11th 2013|
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
|Soeren Kern||January 11th 2013|
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
|Mehdi Khalaji||January 10th 2013|
The Washington Institute
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
|Solenn Honorine||January 9th 2013|
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
|William Gallo||January 8th 2013|
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
|Michael Lipin||January 7th 2013|
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 ..
|M.B. Reilly||January 7th 2013|
University of Cincinnati
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
|Bernard Banks||January 7th 2013|
from VOA and agencies
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
|Susan St. Claire||January 6th 2013|
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
|Yori Yalon||January 5th 2013|
Read more ..
A trove of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan is providing the first physical evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago. On Thursday, Israel's National Library unveiled the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and financial records.
Researchers say the "Afghan Genizah" marks the greatest such archive found since the "Cairo Genizah" was discovered in an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable collections of historical documents ever found.
Genizah, a Hebrew term that loosely translates as "storage," refers to a storeroom adjacent to a synagogue or Jewish cemetery where Hebrew-language books and papers are kept. Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to throw away writings containing the formal names of God, so they are either buried or stashed away. The Afghan collection gives an unprecedented look into the lives of Jews in ancient Persia in the 11th century.
Islam's War Against Christianity
|John Campbell||January 4th 2013|
Council on Foreign Relations
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
|Greta Guest||January 4th 2013|
University of Michigan
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
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
|Aryeh Savir||January 3rd 2013|
Tazpit News Agency
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
|Terrence Sterling||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
|Zoran Glavonjic and Andy Heil||January 1st 2013|
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
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
|Dan Levin||January 1st 2013|
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
|Dan Levin||December 31st 2012|
from VOA and agencies
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
|Terry Lynam||December 30th 2012|
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
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
|Sabine Guinsbourg||December 30th 2012|
from VOA and agencies
|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
|Anjana Pasricha||December 29th 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
|Susan St. Claire||December 29th 2012|
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
|Sasha Chavkin||December 28th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
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
|Richard Solash ||December 28th 2012|
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
|Peter Dizikes||December 27th 2012|
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
|Anav Silverman||December 25th 2012|
Tazpit News Agency
“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
|David Schenker||December 24th 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
|Ray Kouguell||December 24th 2012|
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
|Laura Bailey||December 23rd 2012|
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 ..
|Yanzhong Huang||December 23rd 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
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
|Hannah Johnson||December 22nd 2012|
University of Bristol
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 ..
The Edge of Health
|Amy Molnar||December 21st 2012|
A new analysis has found that loading up on snack foods may increase cancer risk in individuals with an inborn susceptibility to colorectal and other cancers. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study suggests that an eating pattern low in snack foods could help these individuals—who have a condition called Lynch syndrome—lower their risk.
Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition characterized by a high risk of developing colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, and other cancers at an early age. The syndrome is caused by mutations in genes involved with repairing DNA within cells.
Numerous studies have investigated associations between certain foods and colorectal cancer, and now there is general agreement that red and processed meats and alcohol consumption can increase individuals' risk. Only a few studies have evaluated lifestyle factors and colorectal cancer in patients with Lynch syndrome, though. To investigate, Akke Botma, PhD, MSc, of the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and her colleagues collected dietary information from 486 individuals with Lynch syndrome. During an average follow-up of 20 months, colorectal polyps (precancerous lesions) were detected in 58 people in the study. Read more ..
Jewry on Edge
|Zach Ponce||December 20th 2012|
|Museum of Turkish Jews (Cr. Dr. Arnold Plotnick)|
The relationship between the 30,000 or so Jews living in Turkey and the rest of the Turkish population has become tense ever since the relationship between Israel and Turkey began to deteriorate shortly after the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010. Anti-Israel sentiment is high in the country, and anti-Semitism has also been on the rise at the encouragement of Turkey’s Islamist government. A report in Al-Monitor quotes several Jews who fear a backlash against their community.
“As a Jew, I can attest to you there is a difference between being a Turk and an Israeli,” Ediz said. “But whenever there is fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, the atmosphere in Turkey turns against us, and people start acting as if we committed a crime.”
Leri, another Turkish Jew, told Al-Monitor that the media is also to blame. “The media is painting such an image that many won’t even consider us human.” Read more ..
|Susan Ferriss||December 19th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
Read more ..
After a three-year investigation, authorities in Shelby County, Tenn. signed an agreement Monday with the U.S. Department of Justice to revamp a juvenile-justice system federal officials said was unduly harsh to black youth, including those accused of minor infractions. The agreement will require Shelby, which includes the city of Memphis, to initiate sweeping staff training and changes to improve minors’ defense options, alter court proceedings to guarantee the rights of accused offenders and eliminate detention practices federal officials found dangerous.
In April, federal investigators published a litany of accusations about the Shelby County juvenile-justice system. Investigators alleged that local officials were routinely violating the constitutional rights of youths put into court proceedings and detention. Among the accusations: “cursory” decisions to transfer youths to adult court, inadequate counsel and an adult-court transfer rate for black wards twice that of white wards.
The Darkest Edge
|Joe Eaton||December 19th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
The National Rifle Association is keeping silent in response to calls for gun control measures in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Yet the massive trail of political money spent by the group shows the potent force any proposals for new restrictions will likely face when the anger and dismay over Sandy Hook recedes.
Since President Barack Obama took office, the NRA has spent millions to lobby Congress on gun legislation and bankroll the campaigns of supportive candidates. From 2009 through the first three quarters of 2012, the NRA spent more than $8.5 million to lobby on gun bills, according to mandated federal lobby disclosure records, most often to block proposed limits on weapons and ammunition access or support efforts to expand the right to carry concealed weapons in public. Read more ..
The Darkest Edge
|Jessica Stahl||December 18th 2012|
“Shootings in high schools and colleges are unfortunately very ‘American’ things in my mind,” Nareg once wrote on this site. “Maybe it’s because of the media coverage, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard of such tragic incidents with such regularity in other parts of the world.”
Nareg was reacting to a 2010 incident in which a student at the University of Louisville was arrested after pulling a gun at a meeting with faculty. Luckily no one was hurt in that incident, but it certainly wasn’t the first gun-related incident at an educational institution – universities are still reeling from the 2007 shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, when student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people – and, as we found out last week, it’s far from the last. On Friday, December 14, the U.S. and the world were shocked by news that 20-year-old Adam Lanza had opened fire at a Connecticut elementary school, killing 20 young children and six women. Read more ..
The Darkest Edge
|Rick Schwartz||December 17th 2012|
Center for Public Integrity
The horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn. has rekindled the always volatile debate in Washington over gun control policy. It appears unlikely that any of the oft-discussed proposals for change would have altered the tragic outcome in Connecticut. But outrage over the shooting is nevertheless engendering fresh discussion of steps that might curb gun violence or limit access to firearms.
The New York Times reported Sunday that the Justice Department last year considered changes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that grew out of the landmark Brady Act. Specifically, federal officials considered steps to increase the system's access to information on persons who should be prohibited from buying guns. Read more ..
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