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The Way We Are

US Supreme Court to Consider Same-Sex Marriage

December 10th 2012

Gay Marriage

The ability of same-sex U.S. couples to legally marry and whether the federal government must recognize those unions could be decided now that the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear two landmark cases on gay marriage.

One case concerns the constitutionality of a voter referendum banning homosexual marriage in California; the other concerns the constitutionality of a federal law that excludes same-sex couples from receiving government benefits.

Same-sex couples are getting marriage licenses in Washington state, where voters approved gay marriage in November. June, 1969: Gays in New York City riot to protest police raids of the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village. Event is considered the birth of the gay rights movement in America. December, 1973: The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Read more ..

Tibet on Edge

Teenage Tibetan Girl Dies from Self-Immolation

December 10th 2012

Tibetan Self Immolations

Tibetan sources say a 17-year-old girl set herself on fire Sunday to protest Chinese rule in ethnic Tibetan areas. Witnesses say Wanchen Kyi shouted slogans in support of the Dalai Lama and a free Tibet as she was engulfed in flames.  She died at the scene. More than 3,000 Tibetans and monks later gathered at the site of the self-immolation protest and recited prayers. A day earlier, two young monks also died after setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule.

Ninety-five Tibetans have now self-immolated in western China since 2009, with 28 cases reported in November alone.  The acceleration of self-immolations has coincided with Tibetans staging several anti-China rallies, despite a heavy Chinese security presence.

On Sunday, Chinese state media quoted police in Sichuan province as saying a detained Tibetan monk and his nephew had confessed they incited eight people to set themselves on fire in anti-Chinese protests.  Read more ..

Ethiopia on Edge

Despite Fast Growth, Ethiopia Still Plagued by Poverty

December 9th 2012

African school kids

Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but remains one of the poorest countries at the same time.  It might take years before the majority of people benefit from the growth. Ethiopia's economy has grown at an annual rate of nearly 10 percent for the last seven years.  But a third of the population still lives below the poverty line.

Samuel Bwalya is the economic advisor for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Ethiopia.  Bwalya says that the country has to be patient while waiting for a trickle-down effect to lift more people from poverty:

"Ethiopia is starting from a very low base in terms of development, so it should actually take much longer for this impact to take root," Bwalya noted.  "So I think we are too much in a hurry to see seven-year growth to start asking questions about how many people are out of poverty.  Ethiopia is still very poor.  But if you look where Ethiopia is coming from, it has made significant progress in reducing poverty." Read more ..

Argentina on Edge

Argentina’s Clarin Wins Extension on Monopoly Deadline

December 9th 2012

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Argentine media group Clarin has won an extension on the time it has to sell off assets in line with an anti-monopoly media law, in a victory for the company and defeat for the Kirchner government. The company had been given until December 7 to hand in a plan to reduce its holdings, including many of its cable assets, in order to comply with a 2009 law. Hours before the deadline, the Civil and Commercial Appeals Court ruled that the company did not have to act until a review of the media law was complete, reports Reuters.

In May, Clarin obtained an injunction against the media law, which was due to expire today. It has now been extended until a lower court rules on whether the law is constitutional. The Financial Times called the ruling an “11th hour reprieve.” Government allies reacted angrily, criticizing the appeals court for holding up implementation of the media law, and said they would appeal to the Supreme Court. Martin Sabbatella, head of the AFSCA, the body in charge of implementing the law, threatening to have the appeal court judges disqualified, accusing them of being biased and accepting a Clarin-paid trip to Miami, reports the Financial Times. He said that the ruling was a disgrace, and hurt democracy. Read more ..

The Way We Are

'Decorate a Vet' Helps Military Families on the Holidays

December 8th 2012

Christmas Decorations

The holiday season is typically a time for giving.  A small, non-profit group in northern Virginia, called Decorate a Vet, is doing its part by helping local U.S. military veterans and their families.  Groups of volunteers spruce up the homes of veterans and disabled soldiers, and then decorate them for Christmas.

The volunteers do everything from fixing patios, to clearing out tree branches, to mulching garden beds.  Then they put up Christmas decorations.  

Today, they're working at the Spraul family's house. Angela Spraul and her husband are both in the military, but he is disabled.  It means a lot to her to have the volunteers helping her family. "The girls love the holidays," said Spraul.  "They're young.  It's really nice to be able to do something fun for them and have the help.  Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to do this." Read more ..

Inside Saudi Arabia

The Making of Kings in Saudi Arabia

December 7th 2012

Saudi Royal Burial

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah recently underwent relatively minor back surgery and his hospitalization triggered a host of increasingly dire rumors about the state of his health.  Though the 88-year-old monarch has since recovered and appeared in public, the episode has raised new questions about royal succession, an issue that has loomed over Saudi Arabia for years.

As they advance in age, one Saudi leader after another faces the same tough decision: should the crown continue to be passed from brother to brother – the sons of the Kingdom’s founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud? Or has the time come for a new generation of leaders?

After the sudden death of Saudi Crown Prince Nayef last June, his brother Salman, 76, was named Crown Prince and is likely to become the next king in spite of his poor health.  But who should succeed him?  Only a handful of his brothers are still living and in reasonable health, and some even ask whether they would be up to the task of leading the Kingdom.   Read more ..

The Race for Lighting

Goodbye to Flourescent Light Bulbs and Hello to New Office Lighting

December 7th 2012

Interior office and flourescent lights

Say goodbye to that annoying buzz created by overhead fluorescent light bulbs in your office. Scientists at Wake Forest University have developed a flicker-free, shatterproof alternative for large-scale lighting. The lighting, based on field-induced polymer electroluminescent (FIPEL) technology, also gives off soft, white light – not the yellowish glint from fluorescents or bluish tinge from LEDs.

"People often complain that fluorescent lights bother their eyes, and the hum from the fluorescent tubes irritates anyone sitting at a desk underneath them," said David Carroll, the scientist leading the development of this technology at Wake Forest. "The new lights we have created can cure both of those problems and more." Read more ..

The Edge of Trafficking

MTV Takes on Human Trafficking

December 6th 2012


The American-based cable and satellite channel MTV is training young people in Southeast Asia to use social media to raise awareness about human trafficking.  It is part of a global campaign to end the practice and event organizers and participants say social media amplifies the message. But critics of such campaigns say they have their limitations.

Raising Awareness
MTV has been working to raise awareness about human trafficking for nearly a decade through concerts, television documentaries and music videos. Now, it is through a campaign known as MTVExit, it is putting on awareness-raising concerts around the world and training youths how to use Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms to spread the fight against human trafficking.

Last week, 25 young people from around Southeast Asia participated in a four-day workshop where they learned how to link their offline activism to the Internet, increase their number of followers and craft messages about human trafficking to appeal to new audiences. Read more ..

The Edge of Corruption

Corruption: It's Easier Than You Think

December 6th 2012

money changing hands

When I lived in Cambodia, I got into a lot of fights. I’d protest the fruit seller who was overcharging me for mangoes because I was American. I’d wave my hands at the police officer who fined me for driving on the correct side of the road. I’d get angry with doctors at the “free” clinic for charging poor patients for drugs.

My Cambodian boyfriend usually just watched and shook his head. But when we went to the Justice Ministry to get papers for his U.S. visa application, he told me not to fight. Not this time. Just go with it, he said, as he handed money to the clerk to get his papers the same day.

It made me wonder, why do people accept corruption that’s exploiting them? Why defend a government that runs off bribes or nepotism?

“We rationalize the status quo because it reassures us that things are under control and we’re going to be able to have a predictable life,” says Justin Friesen, a doctoral candidate at Ontario’s University of Waterloo and co-author of “Why Do People Defend Unjust, Inept and Corrupt Systems,” published in Current Directions in Psychological Science. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt's Theocratic Future: The Constitutional Crisis and U.S. Policy

December 5th 2012

Cairo Protest Dec 2012

Egypt's newly drafted constitution, which will be put to a referendum on December 15, represents a tremendous step backward for the country's democratic prospects. President Muhammad Morsi's decision to rush the document through a constitution-writing assembly that non-Islamists abandoned, coupled with the many articles that Islamists in power can easily exploit, virtually ensures a theocratic Egyptian future. The charter also cements the Muslim Brotherhood's deal with the military, granting the generals relative autonomy in exchange for accommodating the Brotherhood's political ambitions.

Egypt's Constituent Assembly has faced two key challenges since the Brotherhood-controlled parliament appointed it to draft the new constitution in June. First, its domination by Islamists upset its non-Islamist members, and by mid-November almost all of the latter had abandoned the assembly in protest. Second, following the Supreme Constitutional Court's mid-June ruling that parliament had been elected unconstitutionally, the assembly became a target for litigation. After multiple postponements, a ruling on its legality was expected this week. Read more ..

Immigration on Edge

Media Coverage and Attitudes about Hispanics Drives Immigration Muddle

December 5th 2012

Stop the Raids immigration protest

The debate about immigration policies is shaped primarily by how one group feels about another—not solely based on economic concerns, according to a new University of Michigan study.

White Americans' feelings about Latinos, but not other groups, powerfully drive their support or opposition to immigration policies. Previous explanations based on threats all immigrants pose to the U.S. economy or due to general ethnocentrism—the preference for one's own group over all others—don't fare as well.

"When whites think of immigration, they think of Latinos," said Nicholas Valentino, U-M professor of political science. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

HIV/AIDS Afflicts Migrants Living in Wealthy Countries

December 4th 2012

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is calling on governments to provide migrants with preventive care and treatment for HIV/AIDS.  To mark this year's World AIDS Day, IOM is focusing on the plight of migrants who, it says, are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS in high-income countries. This year's UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic finds a sharp decline in HIV infections in low- and middle-income countries.  For the first time in the history of AIDS, the report indicates that an end to the epidemic may be in sight. 

But while the number of HIV infections is going down in the traditionally poor, less developed countries, it is rising in many of the more affluent nations.  Data shows the total number of people living with HIV has increased in the last 10 years in high-income countries in North America and Europe. The International Organization for Migration says migrants are particularly badly affected by AIDS in high-income countries.  IOM spokesman Chris Lom says this is widely overlooked. Read more ..

Afganistan on Edge

Afghan Businesswoman Breaks Boundaries, Taboos

December 3rd 2012

Roya Mahboob

Roya Mahboob is a rarity -- an Afghan woman in a position of power and influence.  The 25-year-old tech entrepreneur is the CEO of Afghan Citadel Services, an IT firm she founded in the western city of Herat. Her staff of 20 software programmers -- more than half of them women -- develops computer software for government ministries, universities, and international organizations in Afghanistan.

But in this deeply traditional country, success for women also comes fraught with danger. Mahboob says she has received abusive phone calls and e-mails warning her to stop working and threatening to target her family.

"Women face many challenges. Even when they have great ideas they cannot start up their own businesses. Women also face insecurity," Mahboob says. "They can't go and work in the districts or villages. Women have traditional and cultural [challenges]. When you're working, people want to stop you so you can't continue your work."  Read more ..

The Genetic Edge

Origin of Intelligence and Mental Illness Liked to Ancient Accident

December 2nd 2012

Baby Boomer

Scientists have discovered for the first time how humans – and other mammals – have evolved to have intelligence. Researchers have identified the moment in history when the genes that enabled us to think and reason evolved. This point 500 million years ago provided our ability to learn complex skills, analyse situations and have flexibility in the way in which we think.

Professor Seth Grant, of the University of Edinburgh, who led the research, said: "One of the greatest scientific problems is to explain how intelligence and complex behaviours arose during evolution." The research shows a direct link between the evolution of behaviour and the origins of brain diseases. Scientists believe that the same genes that improved our mental capacity are also responsible for a number of brain disorders. Read more ..

The Netherlands on Edge

Dutch Parliament To Revoke Blasphemy Law

December 1st 2012

Pakistan antiblasphemy rally

Insulting God will no longer be a crime in the Netherlands after the Dutch parliament decided to revoke a decades-old blasphemy law from the statute books. The law, which was drafted in the 1930s, had not been used for half a century, leading legislators to decide there was no longer a need for it. Discussions over whether to formally abolish blasphemy restrictions in the Netherlands began a decade ago as part of a debate about the limits of freedom of expression. But Marc Veldt, a media-law lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht, says the decision was made possible by national elections in September, in which two liberal parties emerged victorious. Far-right and conservative parties, which had opposed lifting the blasphemy ban, took heavy losses in the poll. Veldt says the move to lift the ban on blasphemy was also an indirect result of the legal case involving anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders. In June 2011, a Dutch court ruled that Wilders had the right to criticize Islam, even though his opinions insulted many Muslims. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

Somali Refugees Struggle in South Africa

November 30th 2012

Somali storekeeper

South Africa attracts more asylum seekers than any other country in the world.  There are 58,000 refugees in the country and more than 200,000 pending cases for asylum seekers. Somalis are among the most visible of the refugee communities as they usually are traders who operate in the most destitute places. But this leaves them vulnerable to very high levels of crime.

In the dry heat of the austral summer, 103th Street in Johannesburg recalls images from the other side of the continent. A veiled woman listens to Quran readings in her shop and Amin Salat, chairman of the Somali Association of South Africa, stops every two steps to shake hands with tall, lean men with the unmistakable bearing of people from the Horn of Africa. “We are in... we call it here “Mogadishio”, the street of Mogadishio and the suburb of Mogadishio, but in fact it's Mayfair, in Johannesburg," said Salat. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria Poised to Become A 'Failed State'

November 30th 2012


U.N.-Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi warned Friday that if a negotiated political settlement is not found for Syria, it could become a "failed state" with all the repercussions that entails. Veteran diplomat Brahimi told the U.N. General Assembly that he is "convinced" that there are only two alternatives in Syria.

The first is the formation of a political process that leads to the creation of a new Syria that ends the bloodshed and satisfies the aspirations of the people.  The second option is that Syria descends into the chaos of a failed state, with all the domestic, regional and international implications that entails. "Naturally, nobody wishes to see a failed state in Syria," Brahimi said. "Nobody wants to see the state and its institutions withering away, lawlessness spreading, warlordism, banditry, narcotics, arms smuggling, and worst of all, the ugly face of communal and sectarian strife take hold of Syria." Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Daghestani Brothers Struggle To Bridge Religious, Political Divides

November 28th 2012

Rustam Shaplyev

An uneasy peace holds between Ruslan and Rustam Shapiyev in the Daghestani village of Komsomolskoye. Younger brother Rustam, who has taken the name Abubakar, says he loves and respects his older brother, who has adopted the name Magomed.

"Of course, a brother is a brother. We are obligated to maintain kinship ties," Abubakar says. "Magomed is my older brother. When he enters the room, I stand. I serve him food. I respect him and seek his advice. We help one another."

But when it comes to religion, things are not so harmonious. "When he tells me, for instance, that I shouldn't celebrate the Prophet's birthday, I answer: 'Stop. This is where this conversation must end,'" Abubakar says. Twenty-eight-year-old Abubakar is a Sufi Muslim, a branch of Islam that is officially recognized in Daghestan. Magomed, 31, is a devotee of Salafism, a confession that is banned under the republic's 1999 law on Wahhabism and other perceived forms of extremism. Four of the brothers' cousins have also adopted Salafism. Read more ..

Africa on Edge

Diabetes Explodes in sub-Saharan Africa

November 28th 2012

Diabetes, a life-long disease that increases sugar levels in the blood, affects over 366 million people worldwide. The NGO, Project Hope, based in the U-S state of Virginia, said in sub-Saharan Africa that diabetes, once a rarity for Africans, is now affecting over 12-million people. The organization said there is an urgent need to expand education about the disease in developing countries, and they recently opened a center in Johannesburg in partnership with the pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, that addresses the needs of patients at risk of developing diabetes, and those living with it.

Paul Madden, Project Hope’s senior advisor for non-communicable diseases, explained that diabetes is rapidly spreading throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and even other developing countries around the world, largely due to lifestyle changes.   People generally are not as active as previous generations, and they are in jobs that require them to sit or stand for long periods of time.  Another reason for the increase in the rate of diabetes is eating processed food.

“The way things are packaged, they’re often in bigger portion sizes than the body needs.  So it’s the portion sizes, lack of activity.  In some of the villages and towns and cities in Africa, it’s people are living longer, and as you live longer and get less active, and also taking in a few too many calories on some days, and if you do that over many years, you gain weight,” explained Madden. 

Islam on Edge

Militant Muslims Cutting Out Tongues

November 27th 2012

Behead those who say islam is violent

Recently on Egyptian TV, Dr. Abdullah Badr, an Al Azhar graduate and professor of Islamic exegesis, proclaimed that a new day has arrived, when there will be absolutely no more toleration for anyone who speaks against Islam—including people who speak against the implementation of Sharia law and its draconian punishments.

Currently on trial for libel and defamation of female Egyptian artist Elham Shahin—whom, among many other derogatory statements, he called a “whore”—an unrepentant Badr, appeared again on TV, and made the following oath:

I have sworn to Allah, that any dog—for that is how Allah described them, for they are like dogs that are constantly panting—that any dog who mocks the Sharia, or mocks Islam, or blames it, we will cut his tongue out, I’m saying it here: We will cut his tongue out! That’s it. The time of transgressing against Islam, and speaking insolence, has passed—it’s over. Today, the People of Lies [code for secular people] defend their falsehoods with great zeal; so shall we will defend Islam with all our might—no matter what it costs, no matter what it costs! I'm saying it here and now: Let the whole world burn, but Islam not be mocked. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russian PM Proposes Life Bans For Soccer Hooligans

November 26th 2012

Soccer Fans Flares

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is calling for the most notorious soccer hooligans to be banned for life from matches.

During a meeting with deputy prime ministers on November 26, Medvedev said punishments should be "extremely harsh against those who come to the stadium to misbehave rather than watch the match."

A Russian league game between Dynamo Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg was called off last week after the Dynamo goalkeeper was injured by a firecracker thrown from the Zenit stands. More than 90 people were briefly detained after the match, but no one has been charged. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Bound By Magic, Nigerian Women Enslaved

November 25th 2012

NGO-girl power

Tens of thousands of Nigerian women are bonded to sexual servitude in Europe through the use of local magic called juju.  Lured out of Nigeria with promises of lucrative jobs, women find themselves forced to work grueling hours as prostitutes.  Most of the victims are from Edo State. Here in Benin City, it seems that everyone knows a girl who was or is in Europe.

Many have been away for a long time.  Others are back with harrowing tales.  They talk about deadly travels through the desert, forced prostitution, arrest, imprisonment and ultimately deportation, penniless, back to the extreme poverty they fled with such high hopes. Last year, 22-year-old Amaka was approached by a woman who said she would take her to America and Europe.  If she worked hard and was good, she would come home rich. Read more ..

Egypt's Second Revolution

Egypt Ousted Prosecutor General Makes Public Brotherhood ‘Secrets’

November 25th 2012

Former Egyptian Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud
Former Egyptian Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud

In a highly controversial statement that followed his ouster at the hands of President Mohammed Mursi, former Egyptian Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud opened fire on the Muslim Brotherhood and unveiled long-hidden information he claimed to have known about the group throughout his career.

“Since I had started working as deputy prosecutor general, I noticed that members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s small cells were always the target of arrests while this was not the case with the group’s senior leaders,” Mahmoud said Saturday in a speech he delivered at the Cairo Judges Club where more than 10,000 judges met to condemn a new constitutional declaration issued by Mursi that undermines the independence of the judiciary. In reference to the collaboration between the Muslim Brotherhood and the former regime, Mahmoud called upon the new prosecutor general, appointed by Mursi, to present a detailed account of all the cases against the Muslim Brotherhood stating which of them actually reached court and which were shelved.


Israel on Edge

Birth Under Fire

November 24th 2012

Birth 2 women

Throughout the country, thousands of reservists have been called to the border with Gaza. These men left behind wives, mothers, children and friends. Some have had to say good-bye to their pregnant wives; whether in the first stages of their pregnancy or approaching their due-dates.

For some, the constant threat of rocket fire doesn’t matter. For the doulas of the Israel, there is work to be done. A doula is a certified to assist at natural births. The doula, unlike a midwife, begins working with the expecting mother long before the birth, and accompanies her during and after the birth, offering both physical and emotional support.

Israeli doulas have formed a group of volunteers who are offering their services free of charge to the residents of the south, women whose husbands have been called to the reserves and any pregnant woman feeling distressed due to the current situation. The doulas are divided into smaller groups based on their residence, offering immediate support to expecting mothers all over the south. These services include meetings in which the doula visits her client’s home and performs services such as reflexology, massages a shiatsu. In addition, women who wish to consult a doula can do so via their Facebook group called ‘Women Supporting Women- Operation Pillar of Defense.’ Read more ..

The Way We Are

Rate Of Suicide By Hanging/Suffocation Doubles In Middle-Aged Men And Women

November 24th 2012

Praying to a purple sky

A new report from researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy finds the majority of the previously reported increase in suicide in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010 is attributable to an increase in hanging/suffocation, which increased from 19 percent of all suicides in 2000 to 26 percent of all suicides in 2010. The largest increase in hanging/suffocation occurred among those aged 45-59 years (104 percent increase). The results are published in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Suicide recently exceeded motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the U.S.; this report is the first to examine changes in the method of suicide, particularly by demographics such as age," said lead study author Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with and founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "While suicide by firearm remains the predominant method in the U.S., the increase in hanging and suffocation particularly in middle-aged adults warrants immediate attention." Read more ..

The Edge of Sport

For U.S. Athlete And Georgian Birth Family, A Past And Present Revealed

November 23rd 2012

Paralympic simmer Elizabeth Stone

DIKHASHKHO, Georgia -- "Liana, stop shaking! Don't be so scared. She is fine in the United States. Someone has helped her!"

Liana Khurtsidze, 73, her back curved from years of plowing the small plot of land on which she now sits, hears her neighbor's words of comfort but struggles to contain her emotions. Her voice quivers, as does her wrinkled hand, as it grips her walking stick. Thin wisps of gray hair peek out from beneath the blue kerchief around her head, framing sunken eyes and hollowed cheeks.

Holding back tears, she speaks the name "Ketevan" -- a name that has taken on prayer-like status for Liana, her family, and even her neighbors in the rural Georgian village of Dikhashkho. Ketevan is the daughter she gave up at birth, the daughter born without the lower half of her right leg, and the daughter she has just learned is not only alive and well but is excelling as a Paralympic athlete on the other side of the world. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center Dedicates Gallery to House Boxcar

November 22nd 2012

Holocaust-era Boxcar

A crowd of 315 people were in attendance for the public ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Center The Henrietta and Alvin Weisberg Gallery, dedicating a new addition that will house an authentic World War II-era boxcar. The Nazis used boxcars to transport millions of European Jews and other victims to concentration camps and their deaths during the Holocaust.

A generous gift from local philanthropists Henrietta and Alvin Weisberg funded construction of this new gallery, which was built in memory of Henrietta’s family murdered in the Holocaust, her parents, Sara and Israel Gastfrajnd, and brothers, Rubin and Hershel Gastfrajnd.  This gift also is being used toward an education endowment. 

The Weisbergs, who will be honored at the Holocaust Memorial Center’s Anniversary Dinner on Sunday, November 11 at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, are longtime benefactors to the Holocaust Memorial Center, as well as to Congregation Shaarey Zedek, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and Beaumont Hospital, among others. The Weisbergs’ daughter-in-law, Lori, is a docent at the Holocaust Memorial Center. Read more ..

Education on Edge

Stereotypes Deter Women From Becoming Scientists

November 21st 2012

Science students

Across the globe, fewer women are enrolling in college science programs or working in the science and technology sectors and education experts are blaming the problem on stereotypes about what a scientist looks like. In some scientific fields, women represent less than 30 percent of student enrollments and about the same percentage of the workforce, according to a global study of the issue.

That study, the Gender Equality and the Knowledge Society Scoreboard, was in part carried out by the Women in Global Science and Technology, a non-profit policy and research group. The study described the percentage of women in the sciences as “alarmingly low.”   

“Women are severely underrepresented in degree programs in science and technology,” said Sophia Huyer, executive director of Women in Global Science and Technology. Huyer said women in the countries surveyed, including the United States and the European Union, represented less than 30 percent of physics and engineering enrollments and around 30 percent or less of the science and technology workforce. The only exception is in biosciences and life sciences where women hover around 50 percent. Read more ..

Japan on Edge

A Referendum for Japan

November 21st 2012

Japanese businessmen

Japan’s politicians have been released from legislative deliberations, and are rushing to prepare for the next Lower House election, scheduled for December 16. The media is in hot pursuit as politicians change allegiances and new parties emerge and join forces against Japan’s old legislative guard. There is a palpable frenzy of criticism against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his much maligned ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). But to think this election is just a referendum against the DPJ misses the point. This election will shape Japan’s choices for years to come.

Ever since the DPJ came into power, the effort to force it back into an election has driven opposition parties, most notably the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Several rounds of no-confidence votes were put forward in the Diet, one purportedly a deal between the DPJ’s Ichiro Ozawa and then LDP president Sadakazu Tanigaki. Efforts to forge a policy consensus between the DPJ and the LDP seemed destined to fail, as electoral ambitions colored the policy deliberations more thoroughly than the pros and cons of policy options. Read more ..

The Battle for Jordan

The Gaza Conflict Reverberates in the West Bank and Jordan

November 19th 2012

Muslim Brotherhood Jordan

The effects of the Arab Spring have not really manifested themselves in Jordan, but the kingdom has not been stable either. Since the outbreak of the regional unrest in early 2011, King Abdullah II has replaced three prime ministers in response to low-level but steady protests. The dilemma that the Hashemites face is that unrest has spread into the ranks of the tribal forces (aka East Bankers), who until recently have served as the bedrock of the monarchy's stability. At the same time, in urban areas, the country's largest political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has departed from its traditional role as the loyal opposition and begun demanding that the palace share power with parliament. Read more ..

The Gender Edge

Over 115,000 Women Lose Health Insurance through Divorce

November 19th 2012

woman headache head bowed

About 115,000 women lose their private health insurance every year in the wake of divorce, according to a University of Michigan study. And this loss is not temporary: women's overall rates of health insurance coverage remain depressed for more than two years after divorce.

"Given that approximately one million divorces occur each year in the U.S., and that many women get health coverage through their husbands, the impact is quite substantial," said Bridget Lavelle, a U-M doctoral candidate in public policy and sociology, and lead author of the study, which appears in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Lavelle conducted the study, which analyzes nationally representative longitudinal data from 1996 through 2007 on women ages 26-64, with U-M sociologist Pamela Smock. Their research was supported by the U-M National Poverty Center. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

A Pleasant Personality and Placebo Effect Make for Mental Health

November 18th 2012

Baby Boomer

Are you good at coping when life gets tough? Do people call you a straight-shooter? Will you help others without expecting anything in return?

Those personality traits might do more than help you win a popularity contest. According to new University of Michigan-led neuroscience research, those qualities also might make you more likely to get pain relief from a placebo – a fake medicine.

And, the researchers show, it’s not just your mind telling you the sham drug is working or not. Your brain’s own natural painkiller chemicals may actually respond to the pain differently depending on your personality.

If you’re more of an angry, hostile type, they find, a placebo won’t do much for you.

For the first time, the new findings link specific, established personality traits with an individual’s susceptibility to the placebo effect from a sham medicine for pain. The researchers showed a significant link between certain personality traits and how much relief people said they felt when given the placebo – as well as the level of a specific chemical that their brains released.

The work, published online today in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, was done by a team of U-M Medical School researchers and their colleagues at the University of North Carolina and University of Maryland. Read more ..

Edge of Justice

Kids in Solitary Confinement Hallucinate and Harm Themselves

November 17th 2012

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A new report on solitary confinement of minors includes harrowing descriptions of the psychological and physical impact ‘solitary’ has on young people, as well as surprising revelations about why some authorities resort to isolating juveniles.

In “Growing Up Locked Down,” the groups Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union report that a substantial number of detained juveniles minors are placed in solitary confinement as punishment, or as part of their rehabilitation plans – or even for their own protection. Some custodians, researchers found, say they put juveniles who are in adult lockups into solitary confinement as a way to protect them from attacks by adult inmates.

Some minors interviewed said they were segregated in juvenile facilities for the same reason – to protect them from threats – and let out only for a couple of hours a day. Read more ..

Israeli and Arabs

Arab and Jewish Teens are Friends Forever

November 17th 2012

Arab-Israeli teens

A Rotary Club program puts groups of Muslim and Jewish Israeli high school students together for 16 days of bonding in New England. Daniel Mordechai’s parents talked him into spending two weeks of his summer vacation at a New England house with four classmates from the Leo Baeck Educational Center in Haifa and five peers from the nearby Arab-Israeli Ein Mahel school.

“They said it would be a very unusual opportunity to meet the Arab population, because in everyday life there is a distance between us,” the 10th-grader said. “It sounds surprising, but after a meeting or two, I realized they are just like us and I felt very comfortable with them.” Read more ..

Uganda on Edge

Britain Halts Uganda Aid over Corruption

November 17th 2012

Kenya Kids

Britain has suspended all financial aid to Uganda over a corruption scandal in which millions in donor funds were allegedly embezzled in the office of the prime minister, Amama Mbabazi.

Britain's international development department, or DFID, said in a statement on Friday that it was suspending development assistance immediately "as a result of initial evidence" from an ongoing audit.

Britain planned to give £27m (about $42m) to the East African country this year. Justine Greening, international development minister, said payments worth £11.1m ($17.6m) that were due before
the end of the financial year had been halted. "Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers' money is going towards helping the poorest people lift themselves out of poverty, this aid will remain frozen," the international development ministry said. "We will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions." Read more ..

Operation Pillar of Defense

Escalating Hamas Attacks a Result of the Arab Spring

November 16th 2012

Egypt Riots #1

The latest escalation along the Israel-Gaza border - which saw Palestinians fire more than 250 rockets at Israel since Wednesday after Israel, responding to days of only slightly less intensive rocket fire, assassinated a senior Hamas terrorist and destroyed most of Hamas's long-range missiles on Wednesday - may yet be interrupted by another temporary cease-fire, of which there have been many in recent years. But that's unlikely to change the trajectory: Israel and Hamas appear to be heading for another full-scale war, one more devastating than the one they fought in January 2009. In large part, this is thanks to the "Arab Spring," which eroded the deterrent effect of that earlier war by strengthening Hamas' position and weakening Israel's. Read more ..

The Edge of Medicine

Employing Nurse Practioners May Relieve Shortage of Physicians

November 16th 2012

innoculation of child

Reports indicate that Michigan faces a physician shortage much larger than the national average, and it will grow as millions of Americans qualify for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Yet Michigan law prevents the medical professionals who could best mitigate this shortage from doing so, because it prohibits advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) from using the full scope of their training and education to treat patients.

"Current regulations make it more difficult to provide much needed care," said Joanne Pohl, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Pohl, former director of the U-M's Adult Nurse Practitioner Program, testified before Michigan's Senate Health Policy Committee on behalf of Senate Bill 481, which would allow nurse practitioners to practice under their own license, independently of physicians. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Turkey Tails and Polynesian Dietary Tales

November 16th 2012

turkey on a platter

While most Americans look forward to eating turkey on Thanksgiving, Pacific Islanders in the U.S. and on the islands are most likely to eat a part of the bird few other Americans are familiar with: its tail.

"Turkey tail is marketed selectively to Pacific Island communities throughout the U.S. and in Pacific Island territories, as well as independent nations," said University of Michigan researcher Sela Panapasa. "Actually it's not the tail but a gland that attaches the tail to the turkey's body. It's filled with oil that the turkey uses to preen its feathers."

Many islanders think turkey tail is delicious. It's also cheap but far from nutritious.

"It's full of fat and cholesterol, and contributes to one of the major health problems facing Pacific Islanders—obesity," said Panapasa, a Pacific Islander originally from Fiji. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

In Europe, Angry Workers Protest Austerity

November 15th 2012

French Economic protest

Workers in several European countries went on strike Wednesday to protest austerity measures designed to help their governments get out of debt, but which cut their salaries, pensions and benefits.

Angry workers chanted "strike, strike" inside Madrid’s main train station as they scuffled with police.  Outside, workers blew whistles and set off firecrackers, as commuters rode by, many on bicycles for the day.

Commuter and inter-city trains were canceled in several countries, along with flights and other forms of transport, while government services and some businesses also went idle. “They are taking all our rights away," complained a Spanish union member who spoke for many of his co-workers.  "The banks and other business people are bringing us onto the streets, they are stealing our salaries.  We do not have any rights anymore.” Read more ..

Africa on Edge

African Food Supply to Benefit From $7.8 million Grant

November 15th 2012

Kenya Poverty

A 7.8 million dollar grant offered through the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation will help an American university work with eight African countries to improve their farming techniques.

Michigan State University, through funding from the Gates Foundation Global Development Program, says the research aims to intensify farming methods that meet the agricultural needs of Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Tom Jayne, professor of international development at Michigan State University, has been living in Lusaka, Zambia for the last two years, and has been involved in long-term projects to improve the sustainability of African farmland.  He said one of the main goals of this project is capacity, and its relationship to previous work done by MSU.  An example is Zambia.

“It’s been increasingly well known that African policymakers are I think more likely to get good policy advice, or wish to get good policy advice, from local African institutes. So we’ve been working to develop this agricultural policy institute here and I am pleased to report that as of February 9 of this year, that was the official launch of the Indaba Agricultural policy research institute, an independent, Zambian managed institute much like the Brookings Institute in the United States,” said Jayne.

Jayne emphasized the importance of capacity-building in Africa. He said he and his colleagues at the Gates Foundation lament that each year 15-20 good African PHD analysts in agriculture and economics graduate from programs around the world, but most do not return to their home countries to integrate their knowledge back into the African communities. Read more ..

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