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Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan Prisons' Mother-and-Infant Program

September 20th 2012

Kid behind bars

Female prison inmates in Pakistan who have small children are allowed to have their children with them behind  bars - sometimes for years. Experts say this practice can protect the children, but it can also scar them. Mohib, aged five, has spent half his life in jail. His mother, a convicted murderer, brought her sons into prison with her two-and-a-half years ago.

Sehar Bibi says her boys would rather be free, but there was no one else to care for them. “It’s not good only because it’s a prison," she says. "Children want to roam around, they want to go to parks, they want to study outside.” Often, imprisoned mothers do not trust the child-protection programs offered by the state. Read more ..

Georgia on Edge

Georgian Prisons Minister Steps Down In Wake Of Abuse Videos

September 19th 2012

Georgia's former Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Khatuna Kalmakhelidze

Georgian Minister of Corrections, Probation, and Legal Assistance Khatuna Kalmakhelidze has resigned, one day after television channels controlled by political interests opposed to President Mikheil Saakashvili aired videos purportedly showing the abuse of prisoners at a jail in Tbilisi.

At a demonstration against prison abuse in the capital on September 18, Shorena Shaverdashvili, editor in chief of Liberali magazine, noted that such abuse is endemic in the Georgian prison system.

"This is not the first incident of torture in prisons," she said. "Year after year, there are documented cases in the ombudsmen's report about tortured prisoners. In last year's report alone, there are 140 different identified cases of torture or mishandling prisoners. So this is really a continuation of a tendency and a really horrendous continuation of that tendency." Shaverdashivili called on the ministers of interior and justice to resign. Read more ..

Inside Afghanistan

Afghan School Prepares Blind For A Brighter Future

September 18th 2012

Blind School

Scores of children descend from a creaky, old bus and pour through the doors of the Kabul Blind School, the only school exclusively for blind children in Afghanistan. Afghans suffering from blindness or other disabilities often face rejection in society, as evidenced by the blind who are forced to beg on the streets of the capital to make a living. But here young students are given a chance to learn job skills to prepare themselves for success in the uncertain future that awaits many upon graduation.

Some 120 children are currently enrolled in the modest school, beginning as early as first grade. There they spend a half-day learning basic lessons in math, science, literature, and other subjects using tactile methods. The other half of the day is dedicated to vocational training aimed at preparing blind students for future employment. The students choose their own path by taking art lessons, training on blind-friendly computer applications, or learning crafts such as knitting and broom-making. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Life Returns to Somali Coastal Town after Al-Shabab Exit

September 17th 2012

Al-Shabbab in Somalia


The Ancient Edge

Oldest Roman Fortification in Germany Found

September 17th 2012

Romans and Picts

In the vicinity of Hermeskeil, a small town some 30 kilometers southeast of the city of Trier in the Hunsrueck region in the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, archaeologists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have confirmed the location of the oldest Roman military fortification known in Germany to date. These findings shed new light on the Roman conquest of Gaul. The camp was presumably built during Julius Caesars’ Gallic War in the late 50s B.C.

Nearby lies a late Celtic settlement with monumental fortifications known as the “Hunnenring” or "Circle of the Huns," which functioned as one of the major centers of the local Celtic tribe called Treveri. Their territory is situated in the mountainous regions between the Rhine and Maas rivers. "The remnants of this military camp are the first pieces of archaeological evidence of this important episode of world history," comments Dr. Sabine Hornung of the Institute of Pre- and Protohistory at JGU. "It is quite possible that Treveran resistance to the Roman conquerors was crushed in a campaign that was launched from this military fortress." Read more ..

The Edge of Sport

Sports Create Positive Learning Environment for Kids

September 14th 2012

Kids sports

If high school administrators want to create a positive environment, they should encourage students to participate in sports.

When high schools have strong interscholastic sports participation rates, they report lower levels of major crime and fewer suspensions, according to a new University of Michigan study.

The research includes violent behavior and attempted rape among major crimes, and suspensions involving five or more days out of school.

"Sport participation opportunities within a school might operate to slow down or stop more major forms of delinquency within a school environment from occurring," said Philip Veliz, a postdoctoral fellow at the U-M Substance Abuse Research Center and the study's lead author. He co-wrote the research with Sohaila Shakib, an associate professor of sociology at California State University-Dominguez Hills. The suspension rates also were reduced in schools with more sports participation opportunities, but this could be related to violent crimes being more likely to result in a long-term suspension, Veliz said. Read more ..

Destination Arizona

Southwest Focuses on Innovation in Food, Agriculture and Land Use

September 12th 2012


In the waning days of summer, southern Arizona will become the hot spot for food. Convened by the Southwest Marketing Network, the upcoming Border Food Summit is meant to attract people from across the region for three days of farm tours, presentations, workshops, discussions and, of course, traditional foods sampling.

Scheduled for September 16-18 in Rio Rico, Arizona, a community located south of Tucson, the summit will address soil and land conservation, sustainable farming in an arid environment, community food systems, alternative food financing models, food justice and more. Gary Paul Nabhan, endowed chair for sustainable agriculture at the University of Arizona in Tucscon, set the tone for the meet in an article for the Southwest Marketing Network newsletter: “This is a region where tremendous innovations are occurring at the grassroots level-from La Semilla Food Center’s work between Las Cruces and El Paso, and the Why Hunger/Somos La Semilla initiative in border counties of Arizona, to innovations found in Mexico’s border towns, farms and ranch communities. Read more ..

Iraq on the Edge

Raid On Nightclubs Raises Fears Of Islamic State

September 12th 2012

Iraqi Liquor Cafe

Customers playing bingo in a restaurant and intellectuals in a cinema club don't usually expect to be beaten up by Baghdad's security forces. But because alcohol was served in the establishments that is exactly what happened to them.

On September 4, security forces raided 10 venues ranging from alcohol stores to bars to clubs. Behind them, they left smashed bottles, bruised bodies, and new fears Iraq could be heading toward an Islamic state. The raids, some of the most violent in recent years, targeted places the soldiers claimed were selling liquor illegally. But the owners say they have licenses and, in some cases, the establishments were well-known meeting places for Iraqi intellectuals. One is the Cinema Club, affiliated with the official Iraqi Union of Writers. There, security forces burst in at 8 p.m. local time, shouting curses and giving the 300 people inside to the count of 10 to get to the door. Read more ..

The Edge of Aging

Ageism Presents Dilemmas for Policymakers Worldwide

September 11th 2012

Elderly couple

The negative consequences of age discrimination in many countries are more widespread than discrimination due to race or gender, yet differential treatment based on a person’s age is often seen as more acceptable and even desirable, according to the newest edition of the Public Policy & Aging Report (PP&AR). This publication, which features cross-national perspectives, was jointly produced by The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and AGE UK. 

The PP&AR explores how discriminatory behaviors manifest themselves, steps that are being taken to address those behaviors, and the challenges associated with asserting elders’ individual rights while acknowledging vulnerabilities that are inevitably — although variably — associated with advanced chronological age.

Five separate articles illuminate the issues and options that face policymakers as they seek to eliminate negative discriminatory behaviors. Yet, the authors wrestle as well with how to identify and preserve age-biased provisions and practices that bring legitimate and needed benefits to older people. In particular, they ask if age discrimination is ever acceptable and whom might such discrimination advantage. Read more ..

Spain on Edge

Unemployment in Spain Spurs Widespread Pessimism

September 11th 2012

Spanish unemployed

The Spanish government says the number of Spaniards who are out of work rose in August for the first time in five months. The government says the pace of growth for unemployment appears to have slowed, but that is little comfort to the more than 4.6 million people without jobs.

At the provincial employment and state benefits office in downtown Seville, workers who have lost their jobs stream in to get help. Young, middle-aged, blue collar workers, well-dressed professionals - there is no typical profile, though unemployment is highest for those under 25-years old - at about 50 percent. In the sitting room, 28-year old Juan Rodriguez and his 20-year old girlfriend Sarah Dagnall wait their turn for help. He has a background in computer science and website design. He has worked odd jobs here and there as an electrician, plumber, and elevator installer, but he has not had steady employment in six years. Read more ..

The Edge of Food

World Food Prices Remain Steady But High

September 10th 2012

Corn stalk

Global food prices were unchanged in the August U.N. index, following a sharp rise in the previous month. A summer of drought in the United States and the Russian Federation has reduced anticipated global corn and wheat supplies. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s index of globally-traded food commodities rose six percent in July as a result.

But the worst appears to be over, says FAO economist Concepcion Calpe. “We’re not in a bad situation, or as bad situation as we were last month because the prospects are not worsening further. And that is already good news.” It is also relatively good news that the index remains about 10 percent below its February 2011 peak, Calpe says, but food prices are still double what they were a decade ago. “They’re high; they are not low," Calpe says. "But they are not as high as they were last year.” Read more ..

Iraq on Edge

Baghdad Neighborhood Imposes Strict Dress Code On Women

September 9th 2012

Bagdad Women

There used to be two dress codes for women in Baghdad's predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood of Kadhimiya. On the street, women were free to wear what they wanted in the busy market square -- a market that attracts people from all across the capital.

Only if they decided to enter the shrine complex behind the market, did stricter codes apply. Then they were required to wear hijab -- full Islamic dress including the shoulder-to-toe gown known as the "abaya" along with the hijab, or head scarf, itself. Now, things have changed. Vigilantes patrol the major avenues outside the shrine to demand that any women in the area are in full compliance.

Nawf al-Falahi, a women's activist, says one of her acquaintances living in the neighborhood was recently stopped by the self-appointed morality police. "She and her husband were stopped at a checkpoint at the edge of Kadhimiya. The men around the checkpoint refused to let her pass. They ordered her to go back home and get a shawl to put over her head and shoulders," al-Falahi says. "Now she keeps a shawl in her handbag and wears it to go in and out of her own neighborhood safely." Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Christian on Charges of Islamic Blasphemy Granted Bail in Pakistan

September 7th 2012

rimsha mashi
Rimsha Masih

A Pakistani court has granted bail to a Christian girl accused of blasphemy, in a case that has sparked an international outcry. Judge Muhammad Azam Khan ordered the release of Rimsha Masih, who was arrested in a poor Islamabad suburb on August 16 accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran.

Khan told a packed courtroom on September 7 that he had accepted Masih's application for bail. He said bail had been set at around $10,500. However, it was unclear whether the girl's poor family would be able to afford bail. Robinson Asghar, an aide to the minister for national harmony, said if bail payment was met, Masih, who is believed to be 14, would be reunited with her family at a location that is being kept secret for security reasons. He told Reuters there were no plans to send the girl abroad Read more ..

America on Edge

The End of the American Dream

September 7th 2012

Flag and ladder

The rhetoric is relentless: America is a place of unparalleled opportunity, where hard work and determination can propel a child out of humble beginnings into the White House, or at least a mansion on a hill.

But the reality is very different, according to a University of Michigan researcher who is studying inequality across generations around the world.

"Especially in the United States, people underestimate the extent to which your destiny is linked to your background. Research shows that it's really a myth that the U.S. is a land of exceptional social mobility," said Fabian Pfeffer, a sociologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research and the organizer of an international conference on inequality across multiple generations being held Sept. 13-14 in Ann Arbor. Pfeffer's own research illustrates this point based on data on two generations of families in the U.S. and a comparison of his findings to similar data from Germany and Sweden. The U.S. data come from the ISR Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a survey of a nationally representative sample that started with 5,000 U.S. families in 1968. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Who Is Chopping Down Russia's Crosses?

September 6th 2012

Russian Cross

Topuchaya's 220 inhabitants never thought their tiny Siberian village would one day make headlines. Yet this week, news that a Russian Orthodox cross had been vandalized in this far-flung village in the mountainous Altai region spread through Russian media like wildfire.

The incident, in which the free-standing wooden cross was toppled and hacked with what appears to have been an ax, is the fifth of its kind to hit Russia in less than two weeks. The Moscow Patriarchate has been quick to link the attacks to what it describes as a campaign unleashed against the church by the opposition.

Vsevolod Chaplin, an influential priest who often acts as the church's spokesman, told RFE/RL that "it's hard to talk about isolated incidents when such acts take place in different regions and follow roughly the same scenario." "It's no coincidence that certain people in Ukraine and in Russia said such acts would be organized. So a campaign is clearly under way," Chaplin said.

Clerics blame Ukraine's feminist group Femen for triggering the acts of vandalism after a topless activist with the group used a chainsaw to topple a cross in Kyiv in mid-August. The stunt was intended to show solidarity with three members of the all-female Russian punk group Pussy Riot sentenced to two years in prison last month over an anti-Kremlin performance in Moscow's largest cathedral. Femen, famous for its provocative topless protests, has pledged to target more crosses in neighboring Russia. Read more ..

Africa on Edge

South Sudan's Lost Generations Determined to Catch up on Education

September 6th 2012

Girls School in Sudan

In newly-independent South Sudan, students whose education was lost to five decades of civil war are coming back to their ABCs in the hope of building a better future for their new country.  World Literacy Day is September 8.

At Lomuku Primary School in Yei, South Sudan, students perched on thin planks of wood for benches recite English words from a blackboard.

The gloomy, dirt-floor hut is packed, not with children, but with adults who are determined to catch up with the education that civil war took away. The director of fire brigades in Yei, Joseph Laku Henry, says he was in primary school when war broke out.  He joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army when he was 15 years old, a year after the second civil war began in 1983.  A 2005 peace declaration ended the fighting and paved the way for South Sudan’s independence last year. Read more ..

Colombia on Edge

Colombian Death Squads Continue to Kill with Impunity

September 5th 2012

Armed Police

On June 12, the Nasa tribe, an indigenous community from the southwestern highlands of Colombia, released a video of members of the Colombian army standing around the naked corpse of 30-year-old Luis Alberto Cunda. The Army insisted that Cunda belonged to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and had engaged in a firefight before they shot him dead. The Nasa tribe, however, disputed the army’s version of events, maintaining that Cunda was falsely accused of being a FARC guerilla, was forced from his home, beaten and finally murdered. According to human rights leader Francisco Isaias Cifuentes, as well as the Nasa community, Cunda’s body bore signs of physical abuse. Both the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) reported this was by no means an isolated incident but rather just one of thousands of extrajudicial killings carried out by the Colombian military since the early 2000s. Extrajudicial killings have become an increasingly troubling subject in Colombia since the first charges were filed against Colombian military officers in 2008. Read more ..

The Edge of Aging

Israel Children's Museum Busts Sterotypes on Aging

September 5th 2012


Adding to its world-renowned interactive exhibitions on blindness and deafness, the unique museum tackles the topic of growing old.

Visitors to the exhibition often choose pictures of happy elderly couples when they want to depict how they will look in 30 years. You have to sit for a “passport photo” before entering Dialogue with Time, the new multimedia educational exhibition on aging at the Israel Children’s Museum in Holon. Later, the picture will be projected onto a large screen, and doctored to show how you might look in 30 years.

That’s just one of the surprises awaiting visitors to the museum, whose designers spent six years imagining ways to educate and entertain while encouraging discussion facilitated by guides aged 70 and over. Opened in August, Dialogue with Time has already gotten teens thinking and talking about the golden years. Gil Omer, director general of the museum, says that one group of youngsters ran after their guide at the end of the 90-minute tour, persuading him to talk for another 45 minutes. “When is the last time you ever saw teenagers pursuing an older person when it wasn’t in a violent context?” he asks with a smile. Read more ..

Ethopia on Edge

Ethiopia Looks to a Future Without Meles Zenawi

September 5th 2012

Click to select Image
Meles Zenawi

Ethiopia is starting to look to the future, following the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was buried after a state funeral on Sunday.
Life is returning to normal in Ethiopia's capital after more than two weeks of mourning for longtime ruler, Meles Zenawi.
Abi Hailemichael works in a barbershop in the Bole neighborhood of Addis Ababa.  Like many Ethiopians, he says Meles' work for the country must not be forgotten. “While we reflect on the diligent and tireless work he did for the nation, we have a responsibility to carry out his good plans," he said. Meles sparked rapid economic development during more than 20 years in power. Many wonder what will become of the country now that he's gone.
Meles' deputy Hailemariam Desalegn is due to replace the prime minister, but has yet to take the oath of office. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Dina Mufti says Hailemariam is officially in control. “The council has already decided that the deputy prime minister will take charge immediately because this is provided in the constitution.  In the absence of the prime minister, he is the acting prime minister.  He is now in charge of all national affairs," he said. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Veiled Female News Anchor May Signal Waning of Secular Egypt

September 4th 2012

Fatma Nabil Veiled Egyptian News Reader
Fatma Nabil

A long-standing ban against veiled women newscasters on Egyptian state TV was lifted over the weekend, following a decision by the new Islamist-dominated government's top media official. It was a decision that drew applause from women who wear the veil, and condemnation from others who adhere to a more secular society. Fatma Nabil, the new veiled TV anchor, was shown delivering the afternoon newscast with a male anchor on Egypt's Channel One station.

Egyptian Information Minister Salah Abdel Maksoud, who belongs to the politically influential Muslim Brotherhood, told the press Saturday that more veiled women announcers were being recruited by state TV, after secular-leaning regimes banned them for decades. A majority of Egyptian women wear some form of a veil during daily life. That trend has become much more marked since the late 1970s, according to analyst Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris. He says the Islamic trend in society began in the 1970s under former President Anwar Sadat and is rising now that the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power. He says that Egypt is giving more place to Islam, unlike the more liberal Egypt of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

'Magic Carpet' Can Save Elders from Falls

September 3rd 2012

Old guy muscles

Plastic optical fibres, laid on the underlay of a carpet, can bend when anyone treads on it and map, in real-time, their walking patterns. Tiny electronics at the edges act as sensors and relay signals to a computer. These signals can then be analysed to show the image of the footprint and identify gradual changes in walking behaviour or a sudden incident such as a fall or trip. They can also show a steady deterioration or change in walking habits, possibly predicting a dramatic episode such as a fall.

As many as 30%-40% of community dwelling older people fall each year. This is the most serious and frequent accident in the home and accounts for 50% of hospital admissions in the over 65 age group.

Presenting their research to the Photon 12 conference, the scientists believe the technology could be used to fit smart carpets in care homes or hospital wards, as well as being fitted in people's homes if necessary. Physiotherapists could also use the carpet to map changes and improvements in a person's gait. The imaging technology is so versatile it could even be developed to detect the presence of chemical spillages or fire as an early-warning system. The interdisciplinary team, from three academic Schools and the Photon Science Institute at The University of Manchester, used a novel tomographic technique similar to hospital scanners. It maps 2D images by using light propagating under the surface of the smart carpet. Read more ..

Gaza and Israel

‘Hate’ Hebrew Class to be Taught to Gaza Children

September 3rd 2012

School Children

As the school year begins across the world, a new course will be taught in some of Gaza’s schools, called Know Your Enemy. The class is a Hebrew course which Hamas officials decided to include back in March as part of the Gaza education curriculum this year.

According to a New York Times article in May, the director general of Hamas’ Ministry of Education, Mahmoud Matar, stated that “through the Hebrew language we can understand the structure of Israeli society, the way they think.”

It will be the first time the Hebrew language will be taught in Gaza schools in almost 20 years. If successful, Hamas will have all 180 schools in Gaza teach the Hebrew language in the future. “We look at Israel as an enemy. We teach our students the language of the enemy,” said Matar in the Times article. According to Dr. Eldad Pardo, a senior researcher at IMPACT-SE, (Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education) and a teacher at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Matar’s hateful language against Israel is characteristic of the themes taught in Palestinian Authority school textbooks. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Karachi Crippled by Violence

September 3rd 2012

Pakistani military brass

Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi is the country’s economic engine and home to some 20 million people. It is also the country’s most violent city, where gangs aligned with local political parties settle scores with shoot-outs. The violence is taking a toll on the country's commercial hub. Political killings, honor killings, kidnappings and gang warfare are not uncommon in this city.

Violence taking a toll
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more than 1,450 people including children were killed in Karachi in the first six months of this year. That’s an average of about 6 people a day. Karachi produces more than 50 percent of Pakistan’s revenue. Businessmen like Naeem Ahmed, a member of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, say the daily violence is impacting the country’s economy. “If Karachi is not working well, it does not just mean that Karachi is not working, it means Pakistan is not working,” he explained. Police say they don’t have the manpower to secure such a large city, where there is high unemployment and poverty-driven crime.

The Edge of Climate Change

UN Launches Climate Change Resilience Project In Western Balkans, Turkey

September 2nd 2012

Flash Flood n Turkey

A two-year project to improve the disaster response capacities of Turkey and the Western Balkans has just been launched, reports the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). Co-sponsored by UNISDR and the World Meteorological Organization, the project will receive 2.2 million Euros ($2.8 million) from the European Commission.

Preparing for the worst

Turkey and its Balkan neighbors are already hit often by natural disasters — earthquakesfloods, flash frosts and heat waves, droughts, and forest fires. Increased climate variability, as well as new land-use and settlement patterns, “may compound such problems,” according to the UNISDR press release about the project. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Can Public Speakers Provoke Aggressive Public Response

September 2nd 2012

Clenched Fists

Leaders often use rousing speeches to evoke powerful emotions, and those emotions may predict when a group will commit an act of violence or terrorism, according to new research published in the journal Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression. Analysis of speeches delivered by government, activist and terrorist leaders found that leaders' expressions of anger, contempt and disgust spiked immediately before their group committed an act of violence. "When leaders express a combination of anger, contempt and disgust in their speeches, it seems to be instrumental in inciting a group to act violently," said David Matsumoto, professor of psychology at San Francisco State University.

As part of a five-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva Initiative, Matsumoto and colleagues studied the transcripts of speeches delivered by the leaders of ideologically motivated groups over the past 100 years. The analysis included such speeches as Osama bin Laden's remarks leading up to the bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The researchers analyzed the pattern of emotions conveyed when leaders spoke about their rival group and examined speeches given at three points in time before a specific act of aggression. They compared the results with the content of speeches delivered by leaders whose groups engaged in nonviolent acts of resistance such as rallies and protests. Among leaders of groups that committed aggressive acts, there was a significant increase in expressions of anger, contempt and disgust from 3 to 6 months prior to the group committing an act of violence. For nonviolent groups, expressions of anger, contempt and disgust decreased from 3 to 6 months prior to the group staging an act of peaceful resistance. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Do Affluent People Reach Out To Others In Times Of Chaos?

September 1st 2012

Homeless in Cheap Motels

Crises are said to bring people closer together. But a new study suggests that while the have-nots reach out to one another in times of trouble, the wealthy are more apt to find comfort in material possessions. While chaos drives some to seek comfort in friends and family, others gravitate toward money and material possessions, new study finds

“In times of uncertainty, we see a dramatic polarization, with the rich more focused on holding onto and attaining wealth and the poor spending more time with friends and loved ones,” said Paul Piff, a post-doctoral scholar in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the paper published online this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. These new findings add to a growing body of scholarship at UC Berkeley on socio-economic class — defined by both household income and education –- and social behavior. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Super-Small Wireless Cardiac Devices Needs no Batteries

September 1st 2012


A team of engineers at Stanford has demonstrated the feasibility of a super-small, implantable cardiac device that gets its power not from batteries, but from radio waves transmitted from outside the body. The implanted device is contained in a cube just eight-tenths of a millimeter in radius. It could fit on the head of pin. Tthe researchers have demonstrated wireless power transfer to a millimeter-sized device implanted five centimeters inside the chest on the surface of the heart—a depth once thought out of reach for wireless power transmission. The engineers say the research is a major step toward a day when all implants are driven wirelessly. Beyond the heart, they believe such devices might include swallowable endoscopes—so-called "pillcams" that travel the digestive tract—permanent pacemakers and precision brain stimulators; virtually any medical applications where device size and power matter.

A revolution in the body

Implantable medical devices in the human body have revolutionized medicine. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of pacemakers, cochlear implants and drug pumps are today helping people live relatively normal lives, but these devices are not without engineering challenges.

First off, they require power, which means batteries, and batteries are bulky. In a device like a pacemaker, the battery alone accounts for as much as half the volume of the device it drives. Second, batteries have finite lives. New surgery is needed when they wane. "Wireless power solves both challenges," said Poon. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

Adolescent Smoking Prevention Progams Still Critical

August 31st 2012

cigarette burning

While many might see the case for programs to prevent adolescent cigarette smoking as already made, a pair of Wayne State University researchers believes that due to increasingly challenging economic times, policymakers need to be reminded to continue allocating funding for such programs. Xinguang Chen and Feng Lin have found a way to provide policymakers with some hard evidence.

Most adult smokers in the United States report trying their first cigarette before age 18, according to government statistics, with more than 80 percent of established smokers starting before high school graduation. Earlier initiation has been shown to be associated with greater smoking frequency and number of cigarettes smoked per day.

Only about 5 percent of established smokers ever quit completely, Chen said, making prevention in adolescence a critical and strategic priority for tobacco control. "The number of smokers year to year at any given time is an accumulation of past experience," he said. "Our methodology has the power to glean that information from one cross-sectional survey, overcoming the limit to track people over time."

School-, community- and family-based prevention programs have been effective, he said, but evaluating their success at the national level has been a challenge because of the high cost associated with longitudinal data collection and blank groups for comparison. Read more ..

Daghestan on Edge

Assassination Of Daghestan's Sufi Spiritual Leader Raises Specter Of New Violence

August 31st 2012

Said Efendi Chirkeisky,

As Daghestan's Sufis buried their spiritual leader on August 28, the sea of almost entirely male faces seemed to stretch to the horizon around his grave in the small town of Chirkeisk.

Observers put the number of mourners at more than 100,000 -- an almost unheard of crowd for a public figure in this small North Caucasus republic.

But Said Efendi Chirkeisky, born 74 years ago as Said Atsayev, was no ordinary mortal to his followers. He was the spiritual leader of Daghestan's official brand of Islam, Sufism, and regarded by his admirers as inspired by God. Now, his death at the hands of a suicide bomber threatens to add new fuel to the cycle of insurgent violence and security crackdowns that is gripping this corner of the Russian Federation. The suicide bomber who killed Chirkeisky and at least five of his followers on August 28 has been identified as Aminat Saprykina. Russian media quoted security officials as saying she was the wife of a fundamentalist Islamic militant who has long been on the police wanted list. Read more ..

Destination Tibet

Tibet Theme Park

August 30th 2012

Potala Lhasa Tibet

Just outside Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, the Chinese government is building a $4.7 billion theme park that critics describe as a fairy tale universe that trivializes Tibetan culture and glosses over the nation’s troubles. The construction gets into high gear as Tibetans continue to demonstrate and set themselves on fire to protests Chinese policies in the nation Beijing invaded 63 years ago. The 50th such self-immolation took place this week.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington refuses to comment on the theme park project, or the self-immolations. But Beijing’s official news agency, Xinhua, quoted the deputy mayor of Lhasa, Ma Xingming, as saying the project “is designed to improve Tibet’s tourism credentials and be a landmark of the cultural industry.”

Xinhua said the park, scheduled for completion in three to five years, will be centered on the theme of a Chinese princess who marries a Tibetan king. It said the park will include displays of Tibetan handicrafts, medicine and folklore. Read more ..

The Human Edge

Biggest Paralympic Games Opens in London

August 29th 2012


The Paralympic Games are opening in London, where the afterglow from the Olympic Games will shine on disabled athletes from around the world. The Paralympic flame was lit amid much fanfare Tuesday at the place where concept of sports for disabled people originated, the town of Stoke-Mandeville, about 75 kilometers from this year's Olympic Park. From humble beginnings in a hospital courtyard in the 1940s, the Paralympics has grown to involve nearly 4,300 athletes from 166 countries.

The athletes will compete in some of the same events as Olympians, including running, swimming and cycling. And the Paralympians have some of their own events, like wheelchair basketball, and football for the visually impaired, in which competitors use a ball fitted with a bell and wear blindfolds to ensure none of them can see at all during the game. British Paralympic team official Penny Briscoe is in charge of making sure her athletes perform at the highest level. But she says they will achieve something more. Read more ..

Inside China

Chinese Credit Card Usage Growing Quickly

August 29th 2012

Chinese Credit Card

In the past two decades, the Chinese economy has undergone many drastic reforms in an effort to compete more effectively on the international market. These reforms included allowing foreign banks to offer credit cards to Chinese citizens. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found about 30 percent of Chinese urban households now own at least one credit card and the growth rate of credit card adoption has been an average of 40 percent per year between 2004 and 2009.

Rui Yao, an assistant professor of personal financial planning in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at MU, says that this large growth in such a small amount of time has positive and negative implications for the Chinese economy. Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

The Beat Goes On in the Brain

August 29th 2012

Baby Boomer

Like a melody that keeps playing in your head even after the music stops, researchers at the Beckman Institute have shown that the beat goes on when it comes to the human visual system.

In an experiment designed to test their theory about a brain mechanism involved in visual processing, the researchers used periodic visual stimuli and electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings and found, one, that they could precisely time the brain’s natural oscillations to future repetitions of the event, and, two, that the effect occurred even after the prompting stimuli was discontinued. These rhythmic oscillations lead to a heightened visual awareness of the next event, meaning controlling them could lead to better visual processing when it matters most, such as in environments like air traffic control towers. The research was reported by Beckman faculty members Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton, Diane Beck, Alejandro Lleras, first author and Beckman Fellow Kyle Mathewson, and undergraduate psychology student Christopher Prudhomme.

The researchers wrote that this entrainment of brain oscillators can be used to lock the timing of repetitive brain activity and, therefore, enhance, “processing of subsequently predictable stimuli.” Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Thousands of Syrian Refugees Strain Neighboring Countries

August 28th 2012

Syrian Refugees

The United Nations refugee agency says the number of Syrians fleeing to neighboring countries is swelling, signaling what could be an impending mass movement and a regional crisis. In Jordan, 10,200 refugees arrived during the past week, twice as many as the week before.  Jordan was already providing shelter to an estimated 150,000 Syrians.

Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says the new arrivals at the Za'atri camp in northern Jordan are mainly from Syria's southern flashpoint area of Daraa.  She says refugees reported "being bombed as they were trying to cross" the border. "We do believe that this could be the start of a much larger influx into Jordan," she said. "People coming across, disturbingly, especially last Friday, are reported being bombed as they were trying to cross." Read more ..

Kenya on Edge

Kenyans Protest Killing of Radical Muslim Cleric

August 28th 2012

Click to select Image

Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a Kenyan radical Islamic cleric, was killed Monday morning in a drive-by shooting in Mombasa. His death sparked protests and riots, spurring many businesses to close and pedestrians to stay away.  At least one person died as a result of the violence, and several churches have been vandalized.  As of Tuesday, pockets of Mombasa are still experiencing violence as riots continue.

Rogo's wife suffered a leg wound in the attack, while his five-year old daughter, his father, and another relative, who were also in the car, were uninjured. Riots quickly ensued, by hundreds of rampaging Muslim youths in the streets, as Rogo’s body was taken for burial. Devia de Souza, who works in Majengo, one of the areas hit hardest by the rioting,  has been barricaded inside her office since about 9:30 am (local time) Tuesday. She kept the shades down, to protect the 18 employees from attracting attention from the protesters outside.

“I can’t see anything right now but earlier, there were lots of people running around and shouting, that they should kill all the kafirs, which is, I guess, non-Muslims," she said.  "They were getting people off the streets, and beating them up and taking their mobiles and money and whatever they had on them.” One of these victims, Jackson Katana, a Mombasa driver and courier, suffered skin burns. Read more ..

Ukraine on Edge

Discovery of Smugglers' Tunnel Brings Ukraine's Transparency into Question

August 27th 2012

ukraine smuggle tunnel

Ukrainian authorities have launched an investigation into a tunnel network running from its border into neighboring Slovakia, a member of the European Union. There has been mounting international concern that organized crime groups from the former Soviet Union smuggle people, weapons, drugs, cigarettes and other goods into the European Union.

Ukraine's secret service, SBU, says it has discovered a suspected smuggler tunnel running from the western Ukrainian border village of Mali Selmenci into Slovakia.

In a statement, the SBU says the tunnel's entrance was beneath a retail store, ironically called 'Europa.' The store sold clothing and household merchandise. But the SBU believes the real purpose was to hide a dangerous, four-meter-deep, underground tunnel, to smuggle goods or people into the European Union. Ukraine, which is not an EU member, has come under pressure to crackdown on organized crime. Slovaks found an even more advanced 700-meter tunnel last month, explained Slovakia's Interior Minister Robert Kalinak. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

S. Africa Shooting Exposes Miners' Living Conditions

August 27th 2012

South African Miner Living Conditions

The shock, the mourning, and now the questions 10 days after the shoot-out in a South African platinum mine in which police killed 34 striking miners.  The tragedy laid bare the harsh living conditions of the workers and the growing anger in the mines. The sound of machines at the mine can be heard from the miners' shacks, in the what is called the platinum belt.  It is here, 100 kilometers west of South Africa's capital city Pretoria, that 80 percent of the world's platinum is dug out. Walking back home after eight hours of work, Nicolas is tired.  Since last year, the 26-year-old miner spends his days in the dark, hundreds of meters underground. 

He says accidents can happen very fast. "Down there, there is a lot of injuries," he said. "Even the hanging walls, sometimes, the rocks falling, something like that." Ten-thousand people live in Ikemeneng township.  Miners, like Nicolas, earn around $500 a month working for nearby mining companies, such as AngloAmerican. 


India on Edge

The Limits of Freedom in the Social Media Network--Tested in India

August 26th 2012

Computer User India

Where do you draw the line on free speech when extremists use social media to spread rumors that send thousands of people fleeing their homes in panic? And what about when political activists impersonate the prime minister on social media to put out offensive material to ridicule him?

Those are the questions India has faced in recent weeks as the world's largest democracy finds itself wrestling with what to do with Twitter -- the world's loudest public megaphone. The most urgent issue since mid-July is how to stop extremists in two rival communities stoking a full-scale sectarian conflict. The extremists have been using Twitter to spread rumors that each side is attacking the other across India and supporting the charges with falsified pictures of purported victims.

The two communities are both native to the northeastern state of Assam but have diasporas in cities across the country after a bloody clash in 1993. In that clash, the local Bodo tribe evicted local Muslim Indians from disputed land before thousands of members of both groups sought refuge or migrated to other parts of India, where they live uneasily together. Read more ..

Society on Edge

Pre-School Witnesses of Domestic Violence are at Risk

August 26th 2012

Little girl upset

Preschool children exposed to domestic violence and additional traumatic events are at increased risk for developing traumatic stress disorder, a new University of Michigan study shows.

Researchers sampled 120 children between ages 4-6 who were exposed to domestic violence in the past two years. About 38 percent of the kids were faced with additional traumatic events, such as sexual assaults by family members, physical assaults or life-threatening illnesses. Those children had higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than the other children who were exposed to domestic violence.

The research involved children who lived in low-income households (less than $7,500 annually), where domestic violence incidents happen more often than in families with other economic backgrounds. Through flyers and brochures, women in a Midwest state were recruited and they chose where interviews would be conducted, such as a shelter or a home, if the woman was not living with an abusive partner. Respondents answered questions about the frequency of being abused within the last year and what their child's behavior was after being exposed to domestic violence and any other potentially traumatic events.

Preschool children exposed to domestic violence and additional traumatic events are at increased risk for developing traumatic stress disorder, a new University of Michigan study shows. Researchers sampled 120 children between ages 4-6 who were exposed to domestic violence in the past two years. About 38 percent of the kids were faced with additional traumatic events, such as sexual assaults by family members, physical assaults or life-threatening illnesses. Read more ..

India on Edge

India Defends Itself Against Charges of Internet Censorship

August 25th 2012

Computer User India

In India, the government is defending itself against charges of Internet censorship after asking companies such as Facebook and Twitter to block hundreds of websites. India's efforts to regulate online content and pressure social media companies have attracted criticism.
Following threats to take action against Twitter, Indian officials say the micro-blogging site has agreed to talk to the government. But the government’s face-off with Twitter is far from over.

The government wants Twitter to remove 28 pages containing what it calls “objectionable content,” but officials say Twitter has cited technical difficulties in complying with the request. The government asked social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to block hundreds of websites and pages recently after doctored online images fueled rumors of revenge attacks by Muslims on migrants from the north east, prompting them to flee cities. Communication and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal refutes charges that the government is trying to censor social media. But he says its misuse has to be prevented.

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