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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 ..


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 ..



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