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The Edge of Health

Hotspots of Human-Animal Infectious Diseases and Disease Outbreaks

July 3rd 2012

Nigerian farmers

A new global study mapping human-animal diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever finds that an "unlucky" 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. The vast majority occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The report, which was conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, maps poverty, livestock-keeping and the diseases humans get from animals, and presents a "top 20" list of geographical hotspots.

"From cyst-causing tapeworms to avian flu, zoonoses present a major threat to human and animal health," said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI in Kenya and lead author of the study. "Targeting the diseases in the hardest hit countries is crucial to protecting global health as well as to reducing severe levels of poverty and illness among the world's one billion poor livestock keepers." "Exploding global demand for livestock products is likely to fuel the spread of a wide range of human-animal infectious diseases," Grace added. Read more ..

The Mineral Edge

Less than 15% of Silver and Gold in e-Waste is Recovered Worldwide

July 2nd 2012

China and toxic recycling

'Urban mining' deposits are 40 to 50 times richer than mined ore, experts tell 1st GeSI and StEP e-Waste Academy in Africa; New PCs, cell phones, tablets, other e-products now use 320 tons of gold, 7,500 tons of silver per year, and rising

A staggering 320 tons of gold and more than 7,500 tons of silver are now used annually to make PCs, cell phones, tablet computers and other new electronic and electrical products worldwide, adding more than $21 billion in value each year to the rich fortunes in metals eventually available through "urban mining" of e-waste, experts say.

Manufacturing these high-tech products requires more than $16 billion in gold and $5 billion in silver: a total of $21 billion -- equal to the GDP of El Salvador -- locked away annually in e-products. Most of those valuable metals will be squandered, however; just 15% or less is recovered from e-waste today in developed and developing countries alike. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

Earliest Hunting Bow found in Europe

July 1st 2012

Neolithic bow

Archaeological research carried out at the Neolithic site of La Draga, near Lake Banyoles in Catalonia, has yielded the discovery of an item which is unique in the western Mediterranean and Europe. The item is a bow which appeared in a context dating from the period between 5400-5200 BCE, corresponding to the earliest period of human settlement. It is a unique item given that it is the first bow to be found intact at the site.

Because of its date, it can be considered chronologically the most ancient bow of the Neolithic period found in Europe. The study will permit the analysis of aspects of the technology, survival strategies and social organisation of the first farming communities which settled in the Iberian Peninsula. The bow is 108 cm long and presents a plano-convex section. Worth mentioning is the fact that it is made out of yew wood (Taxus baccata) as were the majority of Neolithic bows in Europe. Read more ..

Society on Edge

'Ambient' Bullying Gives Employees Urge to Quit

June 29th 2012


Merely showing up to work in an environment where bullying goes on is enough to make many of us think about quitting, a new study suggests. Canadian researchers have found that nurses not bullied directly, but who worked in an environment where workplace bullying occurred, felt a stronger urge to quit than those actually being bullied. These findings on 'ambient' bullying have significant implications for organizations, as well as contributing a new statistical approach to the field.

To understand whether bullying in the work unit environment can have a negative impact on a worker's desire to remain in their organization, independent of their personal or direct experiences of workplace bullying, organizational behaviour and human resources experts from the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada surveyed 357 nurses in 41 hospital units.

Their analysis of the survey results showed that targets of bullying were more likely to be thinking of leaving. They also showed a statistically significant link between working somewhere where bullying was going on and a wish to leave. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Unemployed Americans Face Greater Risk of Mortality

June 28th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

Employment policy is also health policy according to a University of British Columbia study that found that workers experienced higher mortality rates if they didn't have access to social protections like employment insurance and unemployment benefits.

Researchers with the Human Early Learning Partnership and the School of Population and Public Health at UBC found that low and medium-skilled workers in the United States are at a greater risk of death if they lose their job than their German counterparts, who have access to more robust employment protections and insurance.

"Employment insurance makes a difference to the health of the most vulnerable populations, low-wage and poorly educated workers," said Chris McLeod, the lead researcher on the paper and a post-doctoral fellow with the Human Early Learning Partnership. "For low-wage and poorly educated workers, it's not just about losing your job but losing your job and being at the bottom of the labour market." Read more ..

Eege of Anthropology

Ancient Hominids were Free-Range Locovores

June 28th 2012

Artist's Reconstruction of Fossil

You are what you eat, and that seems to have been true even 2 million years ago, when a group of pre-human relatives was swinging through the trees and racing across the savannas of South Africa.

A study published in the journal Nature reveals that Australopithecus sediba, an ape-like creature with human features living in a region about 50 miles northwest of today's Johannesburg, exclusively consumed fruits, leaves and other forest-based foods, even though its habitat was near grassy savanna with its rich variety of savory sedges, tasty tubers and even juicy animals. "This astonished us," explains Benjamin Passey, a Johns Hopkins University geochemist on the international team that conducted the study. "Most hominin species appear to have been pretty good at eating what was around them and available, but sediba seems to have been unusual in that, like present-day chimpanzees, it ignored available savanna foods." Watch a video about the discovery here.

These new findings add detail to the emerging picture of our various pre-human relatives, and why some thrived and continued to evolve, while others became extinct.

"We know that if you are a hominin, in order to get to the rest of the world, at some point you must leave the forests, and our ancestors apparently did so," said Passey. "The fates of those that did not leave are well-known: They are extinct or, like the chimpanzee and gorilla today, are in enormous peril. So the closing chapter in the story of hominin evolution is the story of these 'dids' and 'did nots.'" Read more ..

Gays on Edge

Parenthood Affects Gay Couples' Health and HIV Risk, Study Says

June 27th 2012

Holding Hands

Gay parents face many of the same challenges as straight parents when it comes to sex and intimacy after having children, according to a new study of gay fathers. The findings suggest that gay male couples who are raising children may experience lifestyle changes that could reduce their HIV risk.

"When gay couples become parents, they become very focused on the kids, they are tired, there is less time for communication and less desire for sex," said Colleen Hoff, professor of sexuality studies at San Francisco State University. "They go through a lot of the same changes as heterosexual couples who have kids."

Nationwide, approximately one in five gay male couples is raising children. Hoff and colleagues studied whether becoming a parent causes gay dads to change their lifestyle in ways that protect them from risky sexual behavior, or if the stress of parenting leads to increased health risks such as infidelity and unprotected sex with outside partners. The researchers interviewed 48 gay male couples who are raising children together. Read more ..

The Health Edge

After Child Dies, Mom's Risk of Early Death Skyrockets

June 27th 2012


In the first two years following the death of a child, there is a 133% increase in the risk of the mother dying, a new study from the University of Notre Dame shows.

Researchers William Evans, a health and labor economist at Notre Dame, and Javier Espinosa of the Rochester Institute of Technology, studied 69,224 mothers aged 20 to 50 for nine years, tracking the mortality of children even after they had left the household. It is the first study of its kind using a large, nationally representative U.S. data source.

According to the study, this heightened mortality is concentrated within the first two years following the death of a child, regardless of the age of the child at the time of death. There also appeared to be no difference in results based on household income, mother's education, family size, the child's sex or the child's cause of death.

The sample was composed of women who are married (84 percent), white (87 percent) and non-Hispanic (91 percent). Slightly more than half the mothers were between the ages of 20 and 34. Read more ..

The Economic Edge

Denser Development is Good for Single-Family Home Values

June 26th 2012

Flint Michigan

How do denser neighborhoods affect property values? And what's the economic value of walkable neighborhoods?

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington College of Built Environments and a South Korean university shows that, contrary to popular belief, there's a positive association between higher neighborhood density and the value of single-family residential properties.

Researchers modeled the values of single-family homes, multifamily rental buildings, commercial spaces and offices in King County, Wash., which includes Seattle. They used property values as a measure of economic value, analyzing them in relation to neighborhood characteristics that correlate with walking, including access to open space and public transportation, mixed-use zoning and pedestrian infrastructure such as sidewalks. They learned that pedestrian aids, such as sidewalks and shorter street blocks, as well as a mix of retail, commercial and residential properties significantly contributed to increases in multifamily rental property values. Read more ..

Greece on Edge

Soup Kitchens now Daily Fare for Impoverished Greece

June 25th 2012

Homeless in Athens

As Greece approaches five years of recession, the number of its citizens unable to provide food for themselves is increasing. Soup kitchens in Athens used to be the preserve of undocumented immigrants and the homeless, but now more people from the general population use them too.

It's just before lunchtime. Bowls of hot pasta are being made up for more than a hundred children. But this is not a school. It's a facility run by the municipality of Athens to feed those who can no longer afford to feed themselves. More and more Athenians are coming here - especially pensioners, and families with children.

It's run by George Apostolopolos and a team of volunteers. And though money from the city government has been sufficient so far, he's not sure how long that will continue.

"We are afraid about the future because we don't know about the next day - that is the biggest problem we have, it is a little unknown the future, we try to do the best," Apostolopolos said.

Earlier, before the television cameras showed up, the courtyard was full of adults of all ages lining up for food. But filming the event was not allowed. Many people don't want their families to know they are here. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

Google Project Aims To Preserve Dying Languages

June 24th 2012

Lost Language

Type the term "endangered languages" into Google and click on a few of the links. It won't take long to come upon some cold, hard facts: There are between 6,000 and 7,000 languages in use around the world today, but half of them could be gone by the year 2100 -- victims of globalization and the dominance of languages like English, Chinese, and Spanish.

You'll also find stories of the linguists who are struggling to respond. They face an uphill battle to document and preserve these dying languages -- and the unique cultures they encode -- before silence sets in. That Google search, however, will also likely lead you to the Endangered Languages Project, an initiative launched on June 21 by the U.S.-based Internet giant itself. It's an effort that linguists say shines a much-needed spotlight on a subject that gets little attention from the wider world. Read more ..

The Edge of Food

Global Foods Vie for US Market

June 24th 2012

supermarket produce

Many international food vendors are trying to make an impact in the U.S. market. The National Association for Specialty Foods says the fastest emerging cuisine is Latin, followed by Indian and Eastern European. The recent Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington is the largest of its kind in North America.

Mame Diene remembers the ancient baobab tree in the courtyard of her family home. As a child, she was not allowed to climb it or cut its branches.  Now, she honors these trees of Senegal by selling their powder as a natural dietary supplement.  "It’s wonderful for the heart. You have twice as more anti-oxidants in this fruit than goji berries, six times more than in blueberries,” she said.

It is one of 180,000 items at the Fancy Food Show where food producers sell their trendiest goods to specialty shops and markets.  Countries here sponsor a complete row of booths.  The Korean Pavilion, featured spice noodles and beef. The Indonesian Pavilion -- healthy dried noodles and coconut products. And, the Chilean Pavilion with its own food truck.  Trade commissioner Alejandro Buvinic says Chile has plenty to offer the American market. Read more ..

Australia on Edge

Immigrants Change Australia's Cultural Identity

June 23rd 2012

Australia Mines

A census is revealing how immigration from Asia and the boom in mining are reshaping modern Australia.  The census data indicates the country is becoming increasingly multicultural. According to census data compiled last year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, nearly 22 million people now reside in Australia.  But behind the population statistics lies a portrait of a growing multicultural society influenced by a rise in immigration and the development of new economic centers.

The census shows how Australia’s mining bonanza is reshaping the way the nation lives. More people are moving to the boom states of Western Australia and Queensland in search of work in the resources industry, which is powered by exports of iron ore and coal, mostly to Asia.

The sector has helped Australians become richer, own more cars and live in larger homes during a period of global financial crises. The data also highlights Asia's growing influence. More migrants are coming from India and China, which is Australia's biggest trading partner.  The census reflects the shift in those economic and social ties. After English, Mandarin Chinese has replaced Italian as the most common language spoken in Australian homes. Read more ..

The Archaeological Edge

Ancient Jugs Hold the Secret to Practical Mathematics in Biblical Times

June 22nd 2012

Spherical jugs ancient Mediterranean

Archaeologists in the eastern Mediterranean region have been unearthing spherical jugs, used by the ancients for storing and trading oil, wine, and other valuable commodities. Because we’re used to the metric system, which defines units of volume based on the cube, modern archaeologists believed that the merchants of antiquity could only approximately assess the capacity of these round jugs, says Prof. Itzhak Benenson of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geography.

Now an interdisciplinary collaboration between Prof. Benenson and Prof. Israel Finkelstein of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures has revealed that, far from relying on approximations, merchants would have had precise measurements of their wares—and therefore known exactly what to charge their clients.

The researchers discovered that the ancients devised convenient mathematical systems in order to determine the volume of each jug. They theorize that the original owners and users of the jugs measured their contents through a system that linked units of length to units of volume, possibly by using a string to measure the circumference of the spherical container to determine the precise quantity of liquid within. Read more ..

The Edge of Sport

Paralympian Hopes to Lift Gold for Ghana

June 21st 2012

Wheelchair athletes

The Paralympic Games will be staged in London less than three weeks after the 2012 Summer Olympics end.

Charles Teye is a disabled Ghanaian powerlifter who is headed to London in late August to show off his skills and try to win a medal.

Teye has great hopes of winning a medal in the bench press in the 67.5 kilogram weight class.  He says he was just an infant when he lost both his legs because of an infection.

"In the twinkle of an eye they realized that the whole legs had become black and spotted.  And so they quickly rushed me to the hospital.  I was here for three days and then the legs started flowing water.  It looked like when you pour hot oil on you, you know it swells and it starts flowing water.  And so, in like two to three weeks they realized the legs were coming off," Teye recalled. Charles credits a radio broadcast with helping to develop his interest in powerlifting.  He says he heard an announcement about sports opportunities for disabled athletes. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

'Identity Politics' Play a Role in US Elections

June 21st 2012

us voters

It is human nature to identify with others who look and act like us, and share our values.  The political process in the United States - and nearly everywhere else on Earth - taps into that self-identification as a means of motivating voters.

While many voters would say they cast their ballots on the basis of where the candidates stand on key issues, some of them are swayed by a candidate’s color…or ethnicity…or other factors.  And that's called "Identity Politics."

"When people vote, they like to vote for people [who are] like them. Someone who has the same race, someone who has the same sex, someone who has the same religion, or someone who has the same political views," says Mark Rom of Georgetown University. Rom and other analysts say that before the 2008 South Carolina primary, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had some support from African American voters.  Then, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, compared then-Senator Barack Obama’s bid to that of another, earlier black candidate. Read more ..

America’s Leading Edge

Independent Pharmacy Thrives with Personal Service

June 20th 2012

Morgan's Pharmacy DC

One hundred years ago, Morgan Pharmacy opened its doors in Washington. Despite economic ups and downs, the small, family-owned pharmacy has thrived. But how is it staying in business today with a larger drugstore just down the street?

Morgan Pharmacy has an old-fashioned feel, with its display of old prescription bottles and the original shelves from when the store opened in 1912. Pharmacist Barry Deutschman bought the store 20 years ago. “During the time period between then, and the time we stopped carrying tobacco, you can see people would rest their cigarettes on counter here,” he said.

The pharmacy is located in a residential neighborhood of Washington and most people hear about it word of mouth. “Once somebody comes in here who’s never been here they love the place,” said Deutschman. “And they want to come back.”

Sandra Sugar has been coming to Morgan’s for years. “This has nostalgia just coming in here,” she said. Toni Stephens feels a special bond. “The people who work here are helpful and more like family,” he stated. Read more ..

The Health Edge

How Food Packaging Affects Food Purchases

June 20th 2012

supermarket produce

Long before deciding on “paper or plastic” at the checkout, shoppers make a plethora of choices at the grocery store, especially in the produce aisle.

Packaging influences the way fruits and vegetables are chosen by consumers, according to a Michigan State University study.

The study found that shoppers prefer to purchase produce that come in a rigid, bio-based plastic container with a long shelf life and a low price. So much so that consumers will opt for sweet cherries in these kinds of containers rather than the loose ones in a bag.

“Consumers believe the type of packaging material could affect the quality of the food product, and the rigid container may provide better protection compared to the flexible bag,” said Georgios Koutsimanis, MSU packaging researcher. “The preference for bio-based versus petroleum-based plastics shows an increased awareness of the environmental aspects of packaging materials.” Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Tajik Mullahs Warn Of New Threat In Temporary Marriages

June 18th 2012

Tajik wedding

Mosque sermons in Tajikistan tend to focus on issues that affect people's everyday lives. These days, the hot-button topic of many sermons in Dushanbe has been temporary marriages -- a phenomenon that was almost unheard of in Tajik society until recently.

Recently, at a gathering following Friday Prayers on June 8, prominent Dushanbe Imam Eshon Abdul-Basir Saidov warned women against entering into temporary marriages, which religious leaders say have become a trend in Dushanbe over the past two or three years.

Echoing concerns voiced by his fellow imams, Saidov says dozens of Tajik women have fallen victim to "Iranian-style temporary marriage," known as mut'a. Fairly widespread, and legally approved in predominantly Shia Iran, mut'a is a fixed-term marriage in Shi'a Islam which automatically dissolves upon the completion of a term agreed upon by both parties prior to the marriage. Read more ..

Society on Edge

Many Poor, Pregnant Women with HIV not Screened for Depression

June 18th 2012

Pregnant and alone

It seems logical that programs to screen and manage depression in pregnant, HIV-positive Medicaid patients should already be in place, but they aren't.

It's the kind of glaring oversight that Rajesh Balkrishnan, associate professor at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, said he finds all the time in his research on health disparities. Balkrishnan also has an appointment in the School of Public Health.

"We find that many of these things are such common sense that they should already be in place and being done," said Balkrishnan. "Yet, time and again, we find nothing is being done, though these problems exist."

In a recent paper, Balkrishnan and co-authors found that roughly 28 percent of the low-income, HIV-positive pregnant women reported depression. The numbers could be much higher because the study only captured the women who were being treated for depression. Read more ..

The Way We Are

More to Facial Perception Than Meets The Eye

June 17th 2012

Wimbleton crowd

People make complex judgements about a person from looking at their face that are based on a range of factors beyond simply their race and gender, according to findings of new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The findings question a long-held belief that people immediately put a person they meet into a limited number of social categories such as: female or male; Asian, Black, Latino or White; and young or old.

Dr Kimberly Quinn at the University of Birmingham found that people 'see' faces in a multiple of ways. This could have wider importance in understanding stereotyping and discrimination because it has implications on whether and how people categorise others.

Categorisation is not done purely on the physical features of the face in front of us, but depends on other information as well, including whether the person is already known and whether the person is believed to share other important identities with us. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Protests Or Concerts? On Russia Day, Muscovites Get To Choose

June 16th 2012

Russian Protest

With the opposition and the Kremlin vying for their attention, Muscovites were spoilt for choices this year over how to celebrate June 12, Russia's national holiday. 

Opposition forces on June 12 held a march in downtown Moscow, the first mass protest since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin last month for a third presidential term.

Tens of thousands joined the march despite rainy skies and fears of a police crackdown. The rally came one day after the homes of key opposition figures were raided and just over a month after riot police violently disbanded a similar protest in the Russian capital. While the march has proceeded peacefully so far, authorities appeared intent on disrupting it. They summoned opposition leaders for interrogation, forcing them to miss much of the rally, and organized an unprecedented host of events that critics say were designed to draw people away from the protest. Read more ..

After Fukushima

Despite Risks, US Woman Teaches Near Japan Nuclear Meltdown

June 15th 2012


Few people would voluntarily move to a place where residents routinely scan their groceries with a Geiger counter and automated radiation monitors stand guard outside parks and schools. That place is Minamisoma, Japan, a city 25 kilometers away from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactors which melted down last year.

But for Kate O'Berg, 23-year-old art instructor from Pendleton, Oregon, working in this shaken city has been the realization of a dream. The young American is helping people in her hometown's sister city to rebuild their lives. In one district of Minamisoma, which was just recently removed from the nuclear no-go zone, signs of the earthquake and tsunami are still very apparent.​​​ Horses were the original connection that drew Minamisoma and Pendleton together as sister cities: samurai horsemanship in the coastal Japanese town and a famous rodeo - the Pendleton Round-Up - in northeast Oregon. Read more ..

The Edge of Fashion

African Fashion Finds a Home in Dakar

June 15th 2012

fashion show

Dakar Fashion Week celebrates its 10th year with the biggest lineup yet. The organizers of the international event aim to reach the heights of fashion weeks in Paris and New York, while remaining distinctly African.

High fashion is nothing new in Africa. And Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye says it has its own special quality.

"We do one piece, one by one. We're not sending it to the factory because we don't have a big factory," Ndiaye said. "It's something we've been doing forever." But the industry, like many on the continent, is developing.

To help it along, Ndiaye started Dakar Fashion Week.  Ten years on, the event is drawing the attention of industry notables from all over Africa and the world. Originally from Cameroon, Marcial Tapolo came from Paris to participate for the second time. "It's like a high-class show that she's trying to do. Very sophisticated, which is rare in Africa, as a fashion show," he said. Despite the international presence, most of the talent is local, in a deliberate effort to showcase Senegalese designers and models. Arame Sarr has been to fashion weeks in New York and Paris, but she says Dakar is special. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Obesity, Depression Found to be Root Causes of Daytime Sleepiness

June 14th 2012

Click to select Image

Wake up, America, and lose some weight–it's keeping you tired and prone to accidents. Three studies being presented today at sleep 2012 conclude that obesity and depression are the two main culprits making us excessively sleepy while awake.

Researchers at Penn State examined a random population sample of 1,741 adults and determined that obesity and emotional stress are the main causes of the current "epidemic" of sleepiness and fatigue plaguing the country. Insufficient sleep and obstructive sleep apnea also play a role; both have been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes, obesity and accidents.

"The 'epidemic' of sleepiness parallels an 'epidemic' of obesity and psychosocial stress," said Alexandros Vgontzas, MD, the principal investigator for the three studies. "Weight loss, depression and sleep disorders should be our priorities in terms of preventing the medical complications and public safety hazards associated with this excessive sleepiness." Read more ..

The Edge of Learning

Early Learning About Spatial Relationships Boosts Understanding of Numbers

June 13th 2012

boy and math

Children who are skilled in understanding how shapes fit together to make recognizable objects also have an advantage when it comes to learning the number line and solving math problems, research at the University of Chicago shows.

The work is further evidence of the value of providing young children with early opportunities in spatial learning, which contributes to their ability to mentally manipulate objects and understand spatial relationships, which are important in a wide range of tasks, including reading maps and graphs and understanding diagrams showing how to put things together. Those skills also have been shown to be important in Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

Scholars at UChicago have shown, for instance, that working with puzzles and learning to identify shapes are connected to improved spatial understanding and better achievement, particularly in geometry. A new paper, however, is the first to connect robust spatial learning with better comprehension of other aspects of mathematics, such as arithmetic.

"We found that children's spatial skills at the beginning of first and second grades predicted improvements in linear number line knowledge over the course of the school year," said Elizabeth Gunderson, a UChicago postdoctoral scholar.

In addition to finding the importance of spatial learning to improving understanding of the number line, the team also showed that better understanding of the number line boosted mathematics performance on a calculation task.

"These results suggest that improving children's spatial thinking at a young age may not only help foster skills specific to spatial reasoning but also improve symbolic numerical representations," said co-author Susan Levine, a leading authority on spatial and mathematical learning. "This is important since spatial learning is malleable and can be positively influenced by early spatial experiences," added Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology at UChicago. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan Spate of Fatwas Against Women

June 13th 2012

Click to select Image

Fatwas against women's rights are being issued on an almost daily basis in Pakistan now. One of the most outspoken misogynist clerics, Maulana Abdul Haleem, a former Islamist legislator, recently issued a fatwa against formal education for women and another fatwa calling for the abduction of non-married female NGO workers. In May, Maulana Abdul Haleem also justified to the media killing women in the name of "honor" as a "local custom and a religious practice." In a similar tone, a Pakistani cleric issued a fatwa justifying acid attacks on women who use cell phones. A list of recent fatwas issued in Pakistan includes:

Fatwa: Women Using a Cell Phone Will Have Acid Thrown in Her Face

In an article published in the Pakistani media outlet The Express Tribune, Pakistani feminist writer Faouzia Saeed reported that in Noshki, a town in the region of Balochistan, a fatwa was announced in a mosque on May 11, stating that any woman using a cell phone will have acid thrown in her face. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Woman Says Husband Shot Her For Not Having Children

June 13th 2012

Afghan Woman Shot by husband

Gulsika was 13-years-old when she was forced into an arranged marriage. The first 10 days or so, she says, were pleasant -- but then the abuse started. Today, seven years later, she lives in a safe house in Kabul, recovering from gunshot wounds. Her husband is in prison awaiting trial for allegedly shooting her in May at their home in the northern province of Takhar.

Gulsika, a native of Kandahar who is now 20, described the trauma she experienced after her husband shot her, apparently because she could not have children with him. "My intestines were out of my belly, lying on the ground," she said. "My mother-in-law put them back and tied my belly with a piece of cloth. She was telling me 'don't cry.' I couldn't breathe. It was difficult to push the air down my throat." Read more ..

The Edge of Health

HIV Superinfections Appear Common

June 13th 2012

blood test

They’re called HIV “superinfections” and a study indicates they’re much more common than first thought. Researchers say this raises concerns about possible resistance to treatment and may require new approaches to AIDS vaccine research. Dr. Andrew Redd said there are HIV infections and then there are superinfections.

“A superinfection occurs when an individual is initially infected with a strain or strains of HIV. And then at some point later on – after that person has developed an initial immune response to their first infecting strain – at that later time point they come into contact through risky behavior with a second viral strain and then are superinfected with that second strain,” he said. Redd is the lead author of the study and a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He said prior to the research done in Uganda it was thought that superinfections were rare, occurring in intravenous drug users or men who have sex with men. Not so. “What we found in our study was that when we looked at a general population of heterosexual individuals in Uganda we found that it actually isn’t as rare as what we thought. And that it is occurring at a significant rate even in the general population,” he said. Read more ..

Broken Borders

Immigrant Students Lobby for a US Dream

June 12th 2012


Millions of illegal immigrants have been drawn to the United States by employers looking for cheap labor.  Those who came with their parents as young children grow up culturally indistinguishable from their American-born peers.  But they are bluntly reminded of their status as undocumented outsiders when they apply for college financial assistance. A group of such students is trying to remedy the situation in New York State.

Undocumented students from Lehman College in New York City don academic robes for a protest in the office of State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. They are almost immediately ushered out, their protest being deemed illegal.  It came at the end of a day of lobbying for passage of the New York DREAM Act, legislation that would make undocumented students eligible for college loans.  

The day began with a chartered bus ride to the state capital in Albany.  Melissa Garcia says dire economic circumstances in her native Colombia forced her mother to come to the United States 11 years ago.  “There are many undocumented youths who are brought here as early as six months.  They are babies.  They were not aware they were being brought, so going back is not a solution.  They do not know the language, they do not know their country.  This is what they call home," she said. “People want to know who we are," she said while leading a chant.

The sponsor of New York's DREAM Act, State Senator Bill Perkins, said the measure would lead to enactment of the federal DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to undocumented students. “I think it will sort of light the movement, the flame of support, that I think will trigger similar DREAM Acts throughout the country and alert the national legislature, the government, congresspeople and the president that it’s time to pass the DREAM Act on the federal level," he said. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Black Soccer Fans Address Euro 2012 Racism Claims

June 12th 2012

Soccer Ball

A coach who once derided African soccer players in Europe as "some Zumba-Bumba" to be paid in bananas. Racist violence and Nazi salutes at a Ukrainian club match. And a former England player who warned fans not to go unless they wanted to come back "in a coffin." So, how dangerous is it to be a nonwhite soccer fan in Ukraine? Foreign fans traveling to Ukraine -- and Poland -- for the Euro 2012 championship that kicked off on June 8 thought they had plenty of reasons to be wary.

But in Kyiv at least, the picture so far has been mixed -- some foreign fans suggest the concerns about racist abuse have been exaggerated, while longer-term black residents tell of sporadic incidents of abuse or assault. The racism fears were heightened ahead of the tournament primarily by a BBC documentary that included footage of soccer hooligans from Ukraine assaulting a group of Asian students and making Nazi salutes at a recent match in Kharkiv. Former England defender Sol Campbell, reacting to the footage, said not to go to Ukraine and Poland or risk "coming back in a coffin." Read more ..

The Environmental Edge

Heaping Urban Trash May be More Serious than Climate Change

June 11th 2012

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Heaping urban trash may be an even more daunting global phenomenon than climate change, the World Bank warned in a recent report. What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management reveals that by 2025, city dwellers could produce as much as 2.2 billion tons of solid waste a year, up 70% than the 1.3 billion tons currently generated.

More waste is generated in cities than rural areas because more packaging is used and less is recycled, and because people living in rural areas are less likely to have a consumption-driven lifestyle. But getting a handle on the problem, particularly in developing countries, requires a strong social contract between the municipality and community, according to the report–a serious challenge in parts of the Middle East and North Africa. City dwellers will produce 1.42 kg of trash per day by 2025

By 2025, 4.3 billion living in cities throughout the planet will generate about 1.42 kg/capita/day of municipal solid waste, which will create a huge environmental and financial burden for the local governments tasked with managing it. Untreated solid waste emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and chemicals from plastic and other packaging leach into waterways. The World Bank sites untreated waste as one of the major causes of pollution in developing countries that are ill-equipped to handle mounting waste. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Top Risk of Stroke for Normal-Weight Adults: Getting Under 6 Hours of Sleep

June 11th 2012

ER Entrance

Habitually sleeping less than six hours a night significantly increases the risk of stroke symptoms among middle-age to older adults who are of normal weight and at low risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a study of 5,666 people followed for up to three years. The participants had no history of stroke, transient ischemic attack, stroke symptoms or high risk for OSA at the start of the study, being presented today at SLEEP 2012.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham recorded the first stroke symptoms, along with demographic information, stroke risk factors, depression symptoms and various health behaviors. After adjusting for body-mass index (BMI), they found a strong association with daily sleep periods of less than six hours and a greater incidence of stroke symptoms for middle-age to older adults, even beyond other risk factors. The study found no association between short sleep periods and stroke symptoms among overweight and obese participants. Read more ..

Sudan's Leading Edge

Manute Bol's Legacy Honored in S. Sudan

June 10th 2012

Girls School in Sudan

  A U.S.-based organization is carrying on the legacy of the late basketball star Manute Bol by continuing to build schools and work for reconciliation in South Sudan. The recent work comes despite South Sudan’s many struggles during its first of year of existence as a country. Immediately as he enters the Washington offices of the U.S. aid group Sudan Sunrise, executive director Tom Prichard points to a series of pictures high up on the wall.

“We were visiting an elementary school to talk about the needs for schools in southern Sudan," he explained. "Manute was in terrible pain. He was in so much pain he had to use a wheelchair. Manute spoke seated the whole time, but when it was all over he said, ‘I want them to see how tall I am.’” The last picture shows Prichard holding up Bol so the American schoolchildren could see the full physical range of the 2.31-meter-tall basketball defensive specialist, who played for a decade in the National Basketball Association.

An Internet video by Sudan Sunrise shows construction of a school in Bol’s hometown of Turalei in South Sudan's Warrap state. Bol, whose first name Manute means “special blessing,” also appears, explaining the humanitarian ideas that drove the last years of his life. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Sleep Deprivation May Lead to Higher Anxiety Levels

June 10th 2012

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New research shows that sleep loss markedly exaggerates the degree to which we anticipate impending emotional events, particularly among highly anxious people, who are especially vulnerable.

Two common features of anxiety disorders are sleep loss and an amplification of emotional response. Results from the new study suggest that these features may not be independent of one another but may interact instead.

Researchers from the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, used brain scanning on 18 healthy adults in two separate sessions, one after a normal night's sleep and a second after a night of sleep deprivation. During both sessions, participants were exposed to an emotional task that involved a period of anticipating a potentially negative experience (an unpleasant visual image) or a potentially benign experience (a neutral visual image). Read more ..

The Edge of Health

High Levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Breast Milk of Amerindian Women

June 9th 2012

infant formula

Working with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, anthropologists at UC Santa Barbara have found high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in the breast milk of economically impoverished Amerindian woman as compared to women in the United States. The study compared breast milk fatty acid composition in U.S. and Tsimane women. The Tsimane live in Amazonian Bolivia, and eat a diet consisting primarily of locally grown staple crops, wild game, and freshwater fish. Samples of Tsimane mothers' milk contained significantly higher percentages of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is crucial for infant cognitive and visual development.

Additionally, the percentages of DHA in breast milk did not significantly decrease across the first two years postpartum, the period during which infant brains experience peak growth and maximal uptake of DHA. This was also true for the U.S. women, and the study suggests that extended breastfeeding by both U.S. and Tsimane mothers may provide infants with a constant source of DHA during the critical period of brain development.

"The fatty acid composition of breast milk varies with the fatty acid composition of a mother's diet and fat stores. Ancestral humans likely consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in equal proportions," said Melanie Martin, a doctoral student in UCSB's Department of Anthropology, and the study's lead researcher. "Tsimane mothers' omega-6 to omega-3 ratios were four to one, much closer to the ancestral estimates than observed in U.S. women." Read more ..

The Edge of Charity

Underprivileged Kids Get Free Prom Clothes

June 9th 2012


In the United States, when students graduate from high school, many celebrate that achievement by going to prom. It is a dance party where students dress up in formal gowns and tuxedos. But not every student who wants to go can afford to dress for the occasion. Organizations across the United States provide free dresses and suits so students can go to prom. A program called The Cinderella and Prince Charming Project allows teens from some of the roughest neighborhoods in the country to celebrate a milestone.

From sequins to lace, in reds, blues and blacks, gowns and tuxedos fill the courtyard of the "A Place Called Home" youth center. It is located in a Los Angeles neighborhood with a strong gang presence. The center provides mentoring, year-round education programs, and free dresses once a year for graduating high school students, like Leslie Pine, who otherwise could not afford to buy a dress for the celebration called prom. Read more ..

The Way We Are

What Does It Mean To Be Cool? It May Not Be What You Think

June 8th 2012

being cool

Do rebelliousness, emotional control, toughness and thrill-seeking still make up the essence of coolness? Can performers James Dean and Miles Davis still be considered the models of cool?

Research led by a University of Rochester Medical Center psychologist and published by the Journal of Individual Differences has found the characteristics associated with coolness today are markedly different than those that generated the concept of cool.

“When I set out to find what people mean by coolness, I wanted to find corroboration of what I thought coolness was,” said Ilan Dar-Nimrod, Ph.D., lead author of “Coolness: An Empirical Investigation.” “I was not prepared to find that coolness has lost so much of its historical origins and meaning—the very heavy countercultural, somewhat individualistic pose I associated with cool.

“James Dean is no longer the epitome of cool,” Dar-Nimrod said. “The much darker version of what coolness is still there, but it is not the main focus. The main thing is: Do I like this person? Is this person nice to people, attractive, confident and successful? That’s cool today, at least among young mainstream individuals.”

In research that has developed over several years, Dar-Nimrod, currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, and his colleagues recruited almost 1,000 people in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area, who completed an extensive questionnaire on the attributes, behaviors and individuals they associated with the word cool.

In the journal article, the research is described as the first systematic, quantitative examination of what characteristics recur in popular understandings of the cool personality.

The researchers conducted three separate studies. In Study 1, participants generated characteristics that they perceived to be cool. In Study 2, two samples of participants rated dozens of these characteristics on two dimensions: coolness and social desirability. In Study 3, participants rated friends both on their coolness and on a variety of personality descriptors that were identified as relevant in the other studies. Read more ..

The Edge of Corruption

Cities Mobilize Against Urban Corruption

June 8th 2012

Minneapolis skyline

More than half of the world’s people now live in urban areas and the United Nations expects two-thirds of humanity will be city dwellers by mid-century. Representatives of nearly 30 cities of the world are participating in a two-day conference in New York City to examine ways of combating corruption that is accompanying such rapid urbanization.

If taxpayers fund a kilometer of city sidewalks but only get 800 meters, they are robbed by corrupt officials who steal one fifth of the money. The mayor of Caracas, Venezuela, Antonio Ledezma, shared that observation with officials from 26 cities of the world, from the national government of South Africa and regional governments of Catalonia and Quebec. Ledezma warned persistent corruption can be lethal for democracy. Ledezma says this is because corruption generates mistrust in democracy itself. He says there are those who naively come to the conclusion or believe that authoritarian dictatorships or governments can efficiently control corruption. Read more ..

America on Edge

DC Community Activists Work to Curb Youth Violence

June 7th 2012

Kids Jail

 A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says youth violence is the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 24. Researchers suggests the violent behavior can start early in a child's life and continue into young adulthood. The problem is particularly widespread in urban, African-American communities.

From street corner fights to school yard assaults, violence among young African-Americans is on the rise. While youth violence has decreased nationally since 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says black children represent an overwhelming majority of crime victims and crime perpetrators. "I literally have seen my friends die. My friends got shot in front of me. I have held my friends while they die," said Tony Lewis Jr., who knows the tragic consequences of youth violence in Washington. He grew up on this crime-ridden neighborhood block known as Hanover Place. When he was just nine, his father was given a life prison sentence for his role in a large cocaine distribution network. 

"In these type of [poor] neighborhoods a lot of people went towards crime because that is what poverty does, and when crime comes violence comes," he said. Lewis says youth violence among African-Americans also stems from a lack of educational opportunities. He says there's a need for adult mentors to get young people to change their harmful behavior. Read more ..

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