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Mexico on Edge

Mexicans Outraged by Crime Take Security Matters into Their Own Hands

November 5th 2012

Protester Michoacan Mexico

In the final days of the Calderon presidency, anti-crime uprisings are spreading in parts of rural Mexico. Similar to the “citizen uprisings” in the Michoacan indigenous communities of Cheran and Urapicho, residents in a section of neighboring Guerrero state have now taken security matters into their own hands.

The most recent flashpoint is an indigenous zone known as La Cañada, where hundreds of armed residents responded to the ringing of a church bell, women disarmed the local police and locals set up barricades at the entrances to the town of Olinala on October 27. Classes were suspended, and an evening curfew ordered. Infuriated residents also set fire to a home and vehicles belonging to suspected criminals.

Only days later, on October 30, residents of the town of Cualac reportedly took similar action, while inhabitants of Temalacatzingo were also assuming security duties. Read more ..

Kenya on Edge

Kenyan Minibus Driver Seeks to Unionize to Stop Road Rage

November 4th 2012


Known for their erratic driving and frequent flouting of traffic laws, Kenyan public minibus drivers are either loved or hated. One driver wants to form a union in order to improve the quality of life for his colleagues, while helping to contribute to safer roads.

Called “matatus,” Kenya’s 14-seat minibuses account for roughly 11 percent of the more than one-million registered vehicles in the country, according to the World Health Organization. Trying to pick up as many passengers as possible during the day, matatu drivers are known for cutting off other motorists, overlapping long lines of waiting vehicles, driving at unsafe speeds, and showing general disregard for traffic laws.

Having worked as a matatu driver for 10 years, James Kariuki argues life is not easy for himself and his colleagues. He said he must pay the matatu owner about $53 per day for the use of the vehicle; he also needs to make enough money for fuel, police bribes, gang protection, and incidentals like tire-puncture repairs. Additionally, he hires a “conductor” who solicits passengers from the side door. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Kazakh Women Describe Slavery Ordeal In Moscow

November 3rd 2012

Abused woman

Two Kazakh women have said they were lured into slavery in Moscow on the promise of a job and held in captivity in a supermarket for 10 years where they were beaten and forced to work. Leila Ashirova, 26, and Bakiya Kasymova said they were among 14 migrants from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, including three children, rescued from slavery by a pair of Russian civic activists in the capital on October 29. 

"I personally worked there 10 years and I never left the shop once. I tried a couple of times and they beat me," Kasymova said. The
alleged captives were freed by civic activists Oleg Melnikov and Danil Medvedev who went to the shop accompanied by several local Russian TV crews after they received a tip-off from Leila’s mother Tazhinar Ashirova. 

Pakistan on Edge

Malala's Schoolmate Says Taliban Bullet Has Only Strengthened Her Resolve

November 3rd 2012

Kainat Ahmad
Kainat Ahmad

Recovered after being struck by a Taliban bullet, 16-year-old Kainat Ahmad is now focused on two things -- continuing her education and seeing her best friend again. Ahmad was wounded during the attempted murder last month of teen peace activist Malala Yousafzai, targeted by the Pakistani Taliban for her criticism of the hard-line group's influence in the restive Swat Valley.

On November 1, Ahmad returned to the girls' school she and Malala attend in Mingora, the capital of the Swat district. Ahmad spent nearly a week in a hospital in Mingora after being struck by a bullet in her right arm when Taliban gunman fired on the vehicle she and Malala were riding in. Malala is slowly recovering in a British hospital from a serious bullet wound to her head. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russia's Internet 'Blacklist' Law Sparks Free-Speech Fears

November 2nd 2012

Russian computer user

Russian authorities have been given the green light to shut down websites carrying information deemed harmful to children. A controversial new law came into effect on November 1 under which authorities can now close down sites promoting child pornography, suicide, or substance abuse, without the need for a court decision. The law also targets sites that a court has ruled extremist.

The legislation, formally intended to protect children from offensive Internet content, has prompted fears it could be co-opted to stifle the lively political debate taking place on the Russian Internet.

"This law can be seen as one of the elements that can, if the need arises, curb freedom of speech," information rights expert Ilya Rassolov says. The law is the latest in a raft of restrictive bills pushed through parliament in recent months, including legislation that dramatically hiked fines on protesters, made libel a criminal offense, and forced foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations to register as "foreign agents." Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

The Latest Word On The Afghan Street

November 1st 2012

Afghan street

In the latest twist in the controversy over naming Afghan streets after national heroes, the governor of Afghanistan's western Herat Province, Daud Shah Saba, has said that Afghan law stipulates that streets can only be named after people who died at least 50 years ago.

But municipal officials in Herat say the city is unlikely to change the names of two major thoroughfares in the city, which are named after mujahedin commander Ahmad Shah Masud and Mirwais Sadiq, a former civil aviation minister and son of Herati strongman Ismail Khan. Masud was killed in 2001, Sadiq in 2004.

Afghan officials, as well as the public, are sharply divided over the issue of naming streets and institutions after former anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban leaders or their allies. Supporters see such steps as honoring the service and sacrifice of these figures. Opponents consider the bestowing of such honors as inciting further hatred and division among Afghans, some of whom see these jihadi figures as symbols of the suffering that Afghans endured during the civil war in the 1990s. Read more ..

China on Edge

China Prepares for Leadership Transition

November 1st 2012

Chinese swearing in

Senior Chinese Communist leaders have gathered amid heavy security for a closed-door meeting in Beijing, where they will put the finishing touches on a once-a-decade leadership handover that officially begins next week.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency said the final gathering of the Communist Party's 17th Central Committee opened Thursday. The short memo said that changes to the party's constitution and other proposals are being discussed.

Expected to last for about a week, the meeting will likely result in the formal expulsion of disgraced politician and former Politburo member Bo Xilai, who is expected to stand trial soon for corruption and other charges. It also represents one of the last chances for Communist leaders to haggle over party leadership positions to be unveiled at the 18th Party Congress beginning next Thursday. Read more ..

American History

Fifty Years after the Port Huron Statement: a Radical Transformation?

November 1st 2012

SDS at University of Michigan 1968


This year, as The Port Huron Statement turns 50, we look back at what changed when this manifesto was written, calling for a nation of activists to rise up and revolutionize society. Sixty-thousand copies of the statement were distributed in the 1960s. Today, scholars and alumni weigh in on whether the writing had an impact—or whether it was dust in the wind.

In June 1962, 59 activists, mostly students, were holed up in a United Auto Workers (UAW) camp in Port Huron, Michigan. They were debating the contents of a manifesto that, they hoped, would be a clarion call to build a movement of college students to challenge the state of American society: the hypocrisy of racial segregation, the overblown rhetoric of the Cold War, the pervasiveness of poverty in the world’s richest nation, and the apathy of its citizenry. Read more ..

America on Edge

Woman Moves Into Commonly Male Domain

October 31st 2012

Volvo truck

Almost one-third of small businesses in the United States is owned by women. That number is on the rise, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, especially in fields which were once dominated by men.

Chances are, a few decades ago, a moving company, with all of its trucks and heavy duty equipment, would have been owned by a man. But Apple Transfer, a company located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, belongs to Barbara Ayers.

She is president and CEO of the company, which helps move households and businesses all across the U.S., and overseas. Ayers started the company with her brother Joe Garlick, in 1988. When they started out, it was just the two of them.

“We actually had one small truck, on trade," she says. "He did the moving and I took care of the office." Today, she oversees a fleet of trucks and a large storage facility, employing up to 100 people during peak moving season. Read more ..

Islam's War Against Christianity

Muslim Persecution of Christians Continues

October 31st 2012

Coptic Girl

The aftermath of collective punishment for Pakistan's Christians—the inevitable byproduct of the notorious Rimsha Masih blasphemy case, concerning a possibly mentally challenged, 14-year-old Christian girl falsely accused of desecrating a Quran—was more dramatic than the blasphemy case itself. Indeed, knowing what was in store for them, some Christians even held a symbolic funeral procession, carrying a Christian leader in a coffin and digging a grave for the "deceased."

Their apprehension proved too true—especially after another pretext for Muslims to riot emerged: the YouTube Muhammad video. After Friday prayers, Muslims attacked, killed, and robbed the Christians in their midst, who account for a miniscule 1.5% of Pakistan's population. St. Paul's Church in Mardan was attacked by hundreds of Muslims armed with clubs and sticks. After looting and desecrating the church, they set it on fire (see picture here). Next, Muslims raided a nearby church-run school; they looted and torched it, as well, and burned down a library containing more than 3,000 Christian books. Although the library also contained thousands of books on Islam—making the Muslim mobs' actions blasphemous under Pakistan's law—"the attack continued for more than three hours, with minimal efforts by the authorities to stop it." Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkish Government Allows Kurdish Language Classes

October 30th 2012

Kurdish Newspaper

Years of Turkish state policies of assimilation have put the Kurdish language under threat. But now the government is allowing Kurdish classes as part of the government's policy to ease restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language.

Halil Cecem is giving an elementary lesson in Kurdish to university medical students at Diyarbakir's Dicle University. Until the late 1980s, the Kurdish language did not officially exist and speaking it was a serious offense. But Kurdish classes are part of the government's policy to ease restrictions on its use. Cecem welcomes the move. He says it is a beautiful feeling because the people had so many expectations, and the government responded. He says unfortunately it has taken many years - 50 to 60 - and it is only just being implemented. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

South Africa’s Census Reflects Progress

October 30th 2012

Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s census shows the nation is fifth in African population, with 51.7 million people. President Jacob Zuma said the census shows progress in the African economic powerhouse.  President Jacob Zuma said the 2011 census shows South Africa is young, and on the rise.

The 2011 census, released Tuesday, shows the nation has 51.7 million people, an increase from 44.8 million in 2001. That puts South Africa well behind Nigeria, the African population leader with 166 million people, according to U.N. estimates.  Ethiopia, Egypt and Congo come next.

Two South African provinces led in growth: Gauteng province, home of the Johannesburg-Pretroia metroplex was up 33 percent. And the Western Cape, home of Cape Town, saw its population increase 28.7 percent.

The census lists 79.2 percent of the population as black, a small increase from the last census, and 8.9 percent of the counted population is listed as white, a slight decrease. In a speech to ministers, Mr. Zuma said nine out of 10 households have access to water, and 73 percent use electricity as a main source of cooking.  But he said almost 13 percent of the population lives in shack settlements. Read more ..

Inside America

Greater Effort Needed to Move Local and Fresh Foods beyond 'Privileged' Consumers

October 29th 2012

Delucas Market boston ma by electric porcupine

An Indiana University study that looked at consumers who buy locally grown and produced foods through farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture programs found the venues largely attract a "privileged" class of shoppers. "Our findings present a need for broadening local food opportunities beyond the privileged, higher-income consumer, through alternative payment plans and strategic efforts that make fresh foods accessible to a diversity of people," said James Farmer, assistant professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

The study focused on farmer's markets and CSAs in Indiana, which has more than 130 farmer's markets and more than 50 CSAs. In a CSA, individuals pay an upfront fee, usually $250 to $700, in exchange for a routine allotment of a farm's bounty. This can include fruits and vegetables, along with eggs, meat, dairy products and other goods. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Mammoth Storm Impacts US Political Campaigning

October 29th 2012

Mitt Romney


Israel on Edge

Israel's Reality: Government Approves Construction of Bomb-Proof Homes

October 28th 2012

Samage in Ashkelon

srael's government Sunday approved a plan to spend NIS 270 million to fortify homes within rocket range of the Gaza Strip.

The plan will include building "safe" rooms for 26 Israeli towns within 4 to 7 kilometers of the Gaza Strip. Some 1,700 homes in those areas will be provided with "safe" rooms that withstand rocket attacks. Schools within 15 kilometers of the strip will also be fortified. Since the pullout of Israeli troops and communities from the Gaza Strip in 2005, terrorists in the Hamas-governed territory have fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians.

The government authorized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to find a funding source for the plan within 30 days. “We are doing this because attacks by rockets and missiles at shorter distances are much greater in the area around the Gaza Strip than at other distances,” the prime minister said. “I think that this is what residents of the south have been hoping for; they have been calling for it for a long time.” Read more ..

Russia on Edge

It's All About Image: Russia's New National Pride Agency

October 27th 2012

Russian girl

The Kremlin is hoping to restore national pride in Russia with the creation of a new agency in charge of promoting patriotism. The agency will be part of the presidential administration and, according to the Kremlin's website, will be tasked with strengthening "the spiritual and moral foundations of Russian society" and improving "government policies in the field of patriotic upbringing." President Vladimir Putin formally ordered the creation of the new structure, the Directorate for Social Projects, on October 20. The initiative has drawn mixed reactions, with critics dismissing it as a Soviet-style scheme aimed at consolidating the Kremlin's power base and curbing an unprecedented youth-driven protest movement against Putin's 12-year rule. Read more ..

Ecuador on Edge

Limits to Information Access and Press Freedom in Ecuador

October 26th 2012

Human Rights press

Access to information and the freedom of the press are internationally recognized human rights.  These rights are essential for the public’s participation in government decision-making, the maintenance of government accountability, and the defense of basic guarantees. These two rights have roots in the world’s first freedom of information act adopted by the Swedish parliament in 1766, better known as the Swedish Freedom of Press Act. In a testament to the linguistic implications behind the act, the rights of press freedom and information access were officially identified as “civil liberties” in 1982, when some of the first Freedom of Information (FOI) laws were enacted. The right of access to information and the freedom of the press became interdependent because one’s access to information depends on another’s ability to exercise their freedom of expression. Read more ..

Afganistan on Edge

British Ministers: Women's Rights Key to Stable Afghanistan

October 26th 2012

Afgan Women in Burka

British ministers say the development program in Afghanistan is failing to protect the rights of Afghan women. A new government report says Britain should reconsider its ambition of building Afghan government institutions and instead focus on more traditional aid targets, especially women's rights.

British parliamentarian Malcolm Bruce chaired a new study advising Britain's Department for International Development on its program in Afghanistan. Bruce says Britain is not doing enough to make sure women's rights are protected.

"They have benefited a lot from the end of the Taliban and from the period if you like of international engagement," said Bruce.  "Many of them are really concerned that the gains could be lost and there is certainly evidence that it is being pushed back."

Of nearly 100 projects funded by Britain in Afghanistan, Bruce says only two of those are directly or explicitly focused on women. In some regions of Afghanistan women's rights have improved since the Taliban fell over a decade ago. 3.2 million girls are now studying, that's a concrete improvement following the ban on female education under Taliban rule in the 1990s. Read more ..

Cambodia on Edge

Illegal Fishing Threatens Tonle Sap Lake Villagers' Livelihood

October 25th 2012

Tonie Sap Lake

Villagers on Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, who depend on fishing for subsistence, say their livelihoods are threatened by illegal commercial fishing, which continues after a government ban.  And they say authorities in charge of enforcing the ban are being bribed to look the other way.

Despite a government ban on commercial fishing across Tonle Sap Lake - the largest lake in Southeast Asia -- fishing communities say bribery of corrupt local officials has meant the illegal practice is actually increasing. The ban was meant to decrease the rapid overfishing of the lake, a major source of food for much of the country.

Mao Penh, the head of one local fishing community, says law enforcement officials are “colluding” with illegal fishing operations. “One side took the money and closed their eyes while the other went for the illegal fishing.  The law enforcement officials are colluding with offenders; that's 50-50. This is what's happening in my village these days,” he said. Read more ..

Inside Ethiopia

Ethiopia to Introduce Mobile Banking

October 25th 2012

Mobile Banking

Ethiopia is one of the few remaining African countries to introduce mobile banking. With the booming economy and a population of 80 million this country could be the next gold mine for mobile banking companies.

Mobile banking has proved to be a lucrative venture in the developing world, where large parts of the population belong to the so-called "unbanked."  In Africa, only Ethiopia and Zimbabwe do not provide mobile money services.  That will change soon for Ethiopia.

BelCash and M-Birr are mobile banking technology providers that have been in Ethiopia for the last three years to set up mobile banking and mobile money services. Dutch company BelCash is focused on mobile banking, working in partnership with banks to provide easier access to finance through bank accounts. Ireland-based M-Birr is a mobile money service that works with micro finance institutions where no registration at a bank is needed. Read more ..

Inside Cuba

From Persecution To Acceptance? The History Of LGBT Rights In Cuba

October 24th 2012


Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the island nation has received low scores in many human rights indices for reported assaults on freedom of speech, expression, religion, and basic due process. Outside of these violations, historians regard the 1960s as an even more repressive decade for one Cuban community in particular: the country’s homosexual population. Indeed this group has only recently witnessed an opening of civil liberties for them. While the record of their treatment today is certainly not perfect, there are clear signs of a gradual but serious shift from Cuba’s previously anti-LGBT policies to a modern tendency of equal treatment and respect for all sexual orientations.

Even in pre-Revolutionary Cuba, the island’s society relegated the homosexual community to the few LGBT-friendly bars in Cuban cities. Moreover, strict laws criminalized homosexuality and targeted gay men in particular for harassment. In the 1930s, Cuba enacted the Public Ostentation Law, which encouraged the harassment of LGBTs who refused to hide their orientation. At this time, Cuba’s legislation toward the LGBT community was essentially no different from what was being done in the rest of Latin America, nor the continent’s colonial ancestors, Spain and Portugal.

Homosexuality in Cuba Under Castro
The Cuban Revolution seemed to present hope for improved living conditions for the many afflicted members of the community, and hope for a new outlook on old social mores quickly spread across the island. Many gay men were in favor of the Revolution and even supported longtime Cuban President Fidel Castro. However, despite professed egalitarianism, Castro’s government in reality was no kinder to the LGBT community than the pre-revolutionary governments. Castro and the other leading revolutionaries considered homosexuality a devious product of capitalism, which had to be rooted out entirely from society. For example, Che Guevara’s definition of the socialist “New Man” in part necessitated a strong and unambiguously heterosexual male. This view was not unique to the Castro regime, and could be found in the ideologies of many leaders from other communist countries. For example, the USSR and China routinely persecuted the LGBT community. As ironic as it may seem, communist thinking at the time consistently ignored the LGBT community. Read more ..

The Human Edge

Grandmas Made Humans Live Longer

October 24th 2012

Mother child Ethiopa

Computer simulations provide new mathematical support for the "grandmother hypothesis" – a famous theory that humans evolved longer adult lifespans than apes because grandmothers helped feed their grandchildren.

"Grandmothering was the initial step toward making us who we are," says Kristen Hawkes, a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Utah and senior author of the new study published Oct. 24 by the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The simulations indicate that with only a little bit of grandmothering – and without any assumptions about human brain size – animals with chimpanzee lifespans evolve in less than 60,000 years so they have a human lifespan. Female chimps rarely live past child-bearing years, usually into their 30s and sometimes their 40s. Human females often live decades past their child-bearing years.

The findings showed that from the time adulthood is reached, the simulated creatures lived another 25 years like chimps, yet after 24,000 to 60,000 years of grandmothers caring for grandchildren, the creatures who reached adulthood lived another 49 years – as do human hunter-gatherers. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Putin Creates Agency To Restore Russia's National Pride

October 24th 2012


The Kremlin is hoping to restore national pride in Russia with the creation of a new agency in charge of promoting patriotism. The agency will be part of the presidential administration and, according to the Kremlin's website, will be tasked with strengthening "the spiritual and moral foundations of Russian society" and improving "government policies in the field of patriotic upbringing."

President Vladimir Putin formally ordered the creation of the new structure, the Directorate for Social Projects, on October 20.

The initiative has drawn mixed reactions, with critics dismissing it as a Soviet-style scheme aimed at consolidating the Kremlin's power base and curbing an unprecedented youth-driven protest movement against Putin's 12-year rule.

Nikolai Petrov is a political analyst at the Carnegie Center in Moscow: "As an antidote to political protests, the Kremlin is using ideology and counting on the quiet, archaic masses who don't want change," says Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Center in Moscow. "This is why this newly created body will deal primarily with ideological issues."'

'Spiritual And Moral Values'
The idea behind the Directorate for Social Projects was first formulated by Putin last month during his visit to the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, where he toured a presidential cadet school and held a roundtable discussion on patriotism with top government officials and cultural luminaries.

Indonesia on Edge

Sunni Sectarianism and the Re-emergence of Jihadism in Indonesia

October 24th 2012

Indonesian Sunnis
Indonesian Sunnis

Events in Indonesia during September 2012 raised concerns that the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation may be taking a turn toward hardline Islamism. A major government official openly called for the elimination of Shiite Islam from Indonesia, and the Buddhist minority was the target of a foiled bombing. These developments may cause the future of Indonesia’s tolerant Islam to be reassessed.

Indonesia experienced two events in September 2012 which may signal a turning point in the campaign run by Indonesia’s Sunni Islamists to install Sharia as the law of the state. The first is the religious affairs minister’s inflammatory statements against Shiite Islam, which may indicate that Sunni Islamists have accelerated their plans to damage the diversity within Indonesian Islam. The second is the discovery of a suicide bombing plot against Indonesia’s Buddhist minority, which could signal that dormant jihadists may be newly emboldened. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russia Marks Tenth Anniversary of the Siege of the Moscow Theatre

October 23rd 2012

Russian memorial to Moscow victims

Time has not eased Dmitry Milovidov's grief over the death of his 14-year old daughter, Nina, in the Moscow theater siege. Milovidov stills struggles to contain his anger as he recounts Nina's 57-hour ordeal at the hands of Chechen rebels and the botched rescue operation that took her life 10 years ago.

Like most of the 130 hostages who died in the siege, Nina was killed by the knockout gas pumped into the Dubrovka theater to subdue the militants. "The chemical affected her respiratory system and halted her breathing," Milovidov says. "How long can a person live without breathing? Then her heart stopped beating. That's what was done to our children." Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

The Tragedy of Human Bondage and Trafficking South of the Border

October 23rd 2012

Mexican women protesters
Mexican women protesting against feminicide.

“Each year, thousands of people are trafficked within and across our borders to serve as sex slaves or un-free labor in U.S. homes, fields and factories. Many enter via our southern border with Mexico, after having been trafficked within or across Mexico from other parts of the Americas and beyond…enslaved migrant laborers are often seen simply as undocumented workers who are in the country illegally, while sex trafficking victims are merely prostitutes plying an illegal trade..”

The above passages were from a program backgrounder to a timely conference held this past week at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque: “Borderline Slavery: Contemporary Issues in Border Security and the Human Trade.”

Sponsored by UNM’s Latin American and Iberian Institute and in cooperation with colleagues from New Mexico State, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and other academic institutions, the event drew borderlands scholars, journalists, legal professionals and students. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

The Exact Spot of Julius Caesar's Murder Discovered

October 23rd 2012

Torre Argentina Rome

Archaeologists from Spain's National Science Council (CSIC) have found the exact spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by Brutus and conspirators in Rome, approximately 45 years before the birth of Christ. They have found a structure that Caesar's adoptive son built in honor of the fallen conqueror of Gaul.

Located in what is known as the Curia of Pompey, the concrete structure measures three meters wide and over two meters high, and was erected by order of Augustus (adoptive son and successor of Julius Caesar) to condemn the assassination of his father. The location of the structure provided the key the researchers needed to find the spot of the murder immortalized by Classical chroniclers and William Shakespeare. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkey is Leading Jailer of Journalists

October 23rd 2012

Turk flags

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists says Turkey -- long seen as a model of democracy in the Middle East -- is the world's leading jailer of journalists. A report released Monday says Turkey currently has 76 journalists behind bars. CPJ says it has confirmed that at least 61 of them are detained in direct connection with their work. Turkey's total puts it ahead of Iran, Eritrea, and China -- three countries more well known for curbing media freedom.

“Turkey has a legal problem,” said Nina Ognianova, an analyst with CPJ. “According to local groups, at the end of last year, 2011, there had been between 3,000 and 5,000 pending cases - criminal cases - against journalists on a variety of charges that stretch from insulting ‘Turkishness’ to trying to influence the outcome of a trial.” Ognianova said the prosecutions, as well as imprisonment of journalists, are possible because of vaguely written Turkish laws against terrorism that can be misused by authorities. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Euro Crisis Fuels Pro-Independence Movements

October 22nd 2012

Spanish protesters

Pro-independence parties have won a series of elections across Europe in recent days, many of them campaigning on anti-austerity platforms. Despite EU calls for closer integration to overcome the euro crisis, the popular movement appears to be in the opposite direction.

Scotland already has its own parliament in Edinburgh. The ruling Scottish National Party wants to break away entirely from the United Kingdom. First Minister Alex Salmond has secured a referendum on Scotland’s future - to be held in 2014. “I believe we’ll win it by setting out a positive vision for a better future for our country, both economically and crucially also socially,” said Salmond. Salmond said an independent Scotland would rely on an energy economy, becoming the "Saudi Arabia of renewable energy." Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Embattled Indigenous Communities of Mexico

October 22nd 2012

Protester Michoacan Mexico

For the second time in less than two years, an indigenous community in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan has erected barricades and seized control of security matters. Located in the Purepecha highlands of the Pacific coast state, the small community of Urapicho in the municipality of Paracho has been under the self-declared control of the people for about a month now.

The news was publicized this week with the posting of a video on YouTube that shows armed and masked men, some clothed in military-style camouflage clothing, attending a sand-bagged checkpoint, where motorists are searched. Two anonymous, masked spokespersons explain the reasons behind the uprising and the goals of their movement. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Israel to Aid Bone-Dry Syria with Life-Giving Water Purification

October 21st 2012

A deal was brokered over the October 13-14  weekend that will allow a subsidiary of Israel Chemicals to sell water purification tablets that will be used to purify dirty water in Syria. Already a near-dry state, Syria’s drinking water supply has deteriorated sharply since the onset of a bloody war that has displaced and killed thousands of people. Special permission was required to broker the sale since the AquaTabs will be used in an enemy state, although the goods will not be sold directly from Israel to Syria.

The international aid organization UNICEF, which has stepped up its emergency response in Syria in advance of winter, will purchase the tablets from Medentech, a branch of the Israeli-owned company that is based in Ireland, according to Ynet. The chlorine tablets are considered a better alternative to boiling water to remove contaminants since the latter method requires fuel that is not only scarce but also emits pollution into the atmosphere.

Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz approved the contract because of the grave humanitarian situation that has been unfolding in Syria since May, 2011, although it was politically palatable to do so given that UNICEF is paying for and distributing the AquaTabs as a neutral third party. Read more ..

Nigeria on Edge

Bakassi People Bitter Over Loss Of Homeland in Nigeria

October 21st 2012

Bakassi People

Nigeria’s Bakassi people are mourning the loss of their homeland after the Nigerian government declined to appeal 10-year-old ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ceding the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon. An appeal was the last glimmer of hope for the Bakassi people, who strongly opposed to the transfer of their ancestral home to Cameroon. Nigeria had 10 years to appeal the ICJ ruling but did not do so by the October 10, deadline. The nation’s minister of justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, summed up the decision by saying “An application for a review is virtually bound to fail.” Many, like Prince Edem Nsa, say they will not soon forget October 10. “I felt so bad. It was like the ground should open for me to go in and forget about this world,” he said.  “It was the saddest day of my life.” Read more ..

The Battle for Bahrain

The Shadow of Iran over Bahrain's Problems

October 20th 2012

Bahrain enraged protesters

Tension has increased again in the Persian Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain, the home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, after one policeman was killed and a second seriously injured by a homemade bomb during a clash with Shiite demonstrators in a village outside the capital, Manama.

These latest casualties in Bahrain, in the troubles that started in early 2011, occurred just three days after the Bahraini Foreign Ministry had summoned Iran's top diplomat on the island to complain about Tehran's interference in Bahrain's internal affairs. Specifically, and without mentioning by name Bahrain's majority Shiite community, the Bahrainis accused Iran of inciting sedition and sectarianism "via its mass media; and through ties and contacts with specific groups in the Bahraini community." Tehran was also accused of falsely claiming that Bahrain had requested Iranian mediation to help resolve the island's problems. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Woman's Beheading Latest In Alarming Trend

October 20th 2012

Afgan Women in Burka

A disturbing spate of violent attacks against women has gripped western Afghanistan, where over a dozen women have been killed this year. In the latest incident, an 18-year-old identified only as Najibullah was arrested on October 13 in connection with the gruesome torture and beheading two days earlier of a woman in the western city of Herat, near the border with Iran.

Mahgul, a 25-year-old newlywed, was found dead outside her home by her family, who then carried her mutilated body to the local Department for Women's Affairs to raise awareness of her killing. Najibullah, who gave a confession in front of journalists and television cameras on October 15, said he was forced to carry out the act by his aunt, Mahgul's mother-in-law, Parigul. He said Parigul restrained Mahgul, while he took a sharp knife and beheaded her. Read more ..

America on Edge

Dallas Suburbs Lead in Efforts To Deny Public Information Requests

October 19th 2012

Paper Stack

Among the state’s biggest cities, several sprawling Dallas-area suburbs tallied the highest rate of requests to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott last year to keep government information secret.

The probe examined the number of attempts by the 20 largest Texas cities to block public requests for information in 2011, then looked at how those numbers stacked up for each city, according to the rate of requests per 100,000 population. The “winners” were not the state’s biggest cities. McKinney had the highest rate of requests asking that Abbott allow the withholding of documents sought by citizens under the Texas Public Information Act. Next up were McAllen, Garland, Mesquite, Plano and Arlington. Fort Worth was ranked eighth and Dallas ninth, giving the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex seven of the top 10 in the rankings.

The investigation also looked at the cities’ batting averages in getting their requests approved by Abbott’s office. McKinney won full or partial approval to withhold information in 95 percent of its cases; most of those requests were partially approved, meaning some information did have to be released. Read more ..

Gaza on Edge

Both Israelis and Hamas fear Salafist takeover of Gaza

October 19th 2012

Burka cellphone

A growing number of Islamists from the Egyptian-based Salafist network, who embrace global jihad, are multiplying and taking root in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas, which governs that portion of the Palestinian population, has done nothing to stop the extremist "invaders," Israeli police sources have declared. "We hope that Hamas will be more determined to deal with this threat. So far, Hamas's attitude has shown a double standard: they say that they are taking steps on the ground, but the results are very poor," Yossi Kuperwasser, director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters in Jerusalem.

The remarks came days after Israeli aircraft targeted Hisham Saedni, one of four militants killed in cross-border violence that flared up last week. Saedni headed the Shora Council of the Mujahideen, a group ideologically linked to al-Qaeda, and reportedly trained in Iraq at the outset of the U.S. invasion in 2003. The Israeli police source stated that Saedni and his men were involved in firing rockets into southern Israel and planting explosive devices, one of which killed an Israeli soldier and critically wounded another and were set to launch an attack on the Israel-Egypt border. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

American Presidential Campaigns are a Mirror of American Society

October 19th 2012

Bunch of American flags

American presidential campaigns provide a unique window into our society, according to a University of Michigan anthropologist. "It says a lot about our culture that we pay so much attention to the clothing, gestures and hair styles of presidential candidates and to their performances in highly theatrical situations, like debates," said Michael Lempert, a linguistic anthropologist at the U-M.

Lempert is the co-author with University of Chicago anthropologist Michael Silverstein of "Creatures of Politics: Media, Message, and the American Presidency," just published by Indiana University Press. In the book, they dissect the construction and presentation of a presidential candidate's "message"—revealed through a carefully choreographed persona composed of appearance, style of speech, gesture and publicly packaged biography, which are as influential as what the candidate actually says. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Social Media Transforms Debate Viewership

October 18th 2012

Smart phone running voice recogniton

Computers and mobile devices are transforming the speed and means by which voters get information about candidates. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are steadily replacing traditional sources as the delivery method of choice for a generation of new voters.

As she gears up for this year’s election, Center College student Kelly Bolton, who's on the campus of the vice presidential debate, is getting political updates not from television or traditional news sources, but instantly, through her phone. “You know what’s happening, when it’s happening.  And that’s exciting in a political season because you want to know where the polls are standing, or if Romney said something or Obama said something,” Bolton said.

The information is delivered to her phone through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have grown in popularity as more Americans own mobile devices. uring the first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the Pew Research Center says one in 10 Americans watched the debate while also following news about it on their computers or mobile devices. Read more ..

Afganistan on Edge

Afghanistan Tests Out New Civil-Service Hiring System

October 17th 2012

Civil service applicants

If you were appointed a district governor in Afghanistan, how would you tackle security challenges?

For that matter, how would you provide equal rights for women in a deeply conservative society? And how would you implement government policies in an area where there is not much trust or support for government?

Those are the types of questions currently being posed to hundreds of job candidates as Afghanistan tests out revamped hiring procedures for civil-service positions. The effort is part of the country's larger effort to fight corruption, and is aimed at changing a firmly entrenched culture of favoritism when filling government positions ranging from lofty gubernatorial posts to more modest secretarial roles. Read more ..

The Women's Edge

Initiative Empowers Rural Women

October 16th 2012

West Africa Domestic Violence

October 15th is International Day of Rural Women. The United Nations says rural women play a critical role in development, food security and eradicating poverty.

Four U.N. agencies recently launched a five year initiative to speed economic empowerment and gender equality of rural women. Initially, the program will be implemented in seven countries: Ethiopia, Liberia, Niger, Rwanda, Guatemala, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan.

“When women are empowered, things change, not only for her, but also for the other members of the household and then also for the economy,” said Clare Bishop Sambrook, senior advisor on gender for IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Sambrook described a typical day for a rural woman in East Africa.

“Basically, she’d be getting up in the dark and going to bed in the dark. And she’d start off by cleaning the compound; doing a little bit of cooking of a snack that she and her husband would take to the fields. And then she and her husband would take the agricultural tools, perhaps a hoe, perhaps some draft animals and a plough off to the fields, which might be half an hour away, an hour away. Work there for two or three hours, but then on the way back she’s collecting bits of vegetation and things she could use for adding to the basic diet for lunch,” she said. But that’s only half the day.

“When she gets home then she’d be bathing the children and preparing the food. And then in the afternoon perhaps spending two or three hours going off collecting the water and coming back and collecting firewood on the way. So she’d be carrying the water on her head and the firewood on her back. And perhaps accompanied by one or two little children. Then she gets home and then does more food preparation, which might be by hand, using a local means of crushing the maize. And then cooking the food and then perhaps caring for other household members. And then, eventually, retiring to bed at about nine o’clock,” she said. Read more ..

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