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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 ..

Africa and China

Demand for Ivory Increases Elephant Poaching

June 7th 2012

Young Republicans

 An International Fund for Animal Welfare report has linked the increasing number of elephants being killed in Africa with the rising demand for ivory in China. According to the report,  in 2011 poachers gathered more than 5,200 elephant tusks,  (23 tons) resulting in the deaths of more than 2,500 elephants. It says the majority of that ivory went to China.

“The growing demand for ivory products in China is actually driving elephant poaching across Africa," explained Elizabeth Wamba, communications manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Eastern Africa. "It has just been too high. It has escalated by, in some places, in hundreds of percentages.” The report quotes an auction newsletter describing the 2011 sale of more than 11,000 ivory pieces in mainland China for a total of $95.4 million, an increase of 107 percent from the previous year. Read more ..

The Edge of Poverty

Sens. Sessions and Paul Seek Big Cuts to Food Stamps Program in Farm Bill

June 7th 2012

American poverty

Conservative Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have offered amendments to the farm bill that would greatly cut federal spending on food stamps.

At the same time, liberal Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is attempting to restore the $4.3 billion in food stamp cuts already in the bill and the White House is saying that the farm bill's current cut is too much.

Paul’s amendment would cut the most, by block-granting the entire food stamp program. The House-passed GOP budget backs this approach.

Sessions has four amendments to limit eligibility and trim spending more modestly. “We are confident that modest and thoughtful reforms to the food stamp program can achieve substantial budgetary savings for taxpayers, while ensuring that fewer dollars are wasted and improperly spent – targeting resources to intended recipients,” Sessions spokesman Stephen Miller said. One would restore an asset test for eligibility, saving $12 billion.

“Through a system known as categorical eligibility, states can provide benefits to those whose assets exceed the statutory asset limit as long as they receive some other federal benefit. One state went so far as to determine individuals as food-stamp eligible solely because they received a brochure for another benefit in the mail,” said Session’s office. Read more ..

America on Edge

Adolescents and Young Adults with Mental Health Disorders at Risk of Long-Term Opioid Use

June 7th 2012

Boy in pain

Long-term use and abuse of opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, has markedly increased in the United States in the last two decades. Of note, prescription opioids constitute 86.9 percent of prescription drug misuse among high school students. And last week in a two-day U.S. Food and Drug Administration public meeting, officials questioned the use of long-term opioids for chronic pain due to a lack of evidence for the effectiveness and concerns about the potential risk for addiction. While previous studies have shown that depression and substance abuse peaks during adolescence and young adulthood, studies assessing the link between mental health issues and opioid use in this population were lacking.

Laura Richardson, MD, and a team at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington conducted a longitudinal study to examine the association between mental health disorders and subsequent risk for long-term opioid use among adolescents and young adults ages 13 to 24. They found that those with mental health disorders were not only more likely to be prescribed opioids for chronic pain but also 2.4 times more likely to become long-term opioid users than those who didn’t have a mental health disorder. The study also found that long-term opioid use was more common among males, older youth and youth who lived in communities that were poorer, had more white residents, and had fewer residents who had attended college. Read more ..

Society on Edge

Religious Control of Women's Sexuality promotes Certainty about Paternity

June 6th 2012

Dancer of the Dogon people
Dogon male dancer.

Religious practices that strongly control female sexuality are more successful at promoting certainty about paternity, according to a study published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study analyzed genetic data on 1,706 father-son pairs in a traditional African population—the Dogon people of Mali, West Africa—in which Islam, two types of Christianity, and an indigenous, monotheistic religion are practiced in the same families and villages. "We found that the indigenous religion allows males to achieve a significantly lower probability of cuckoldry—1.3 percent versus 2.9 percent," said Beverly Strassmann, lead author of the article and a biological anthropologist at the University of Michigan.

In the traditional religion, menstrual taboos are strictly enforced, with women exiled for five nights to uncomfortable menstrual huts. According to Strassmann, the religion uses the ideology of pollution to ensure that women honestly signal their fertility status to men in their husband's family. "When a woman resumes going to the menstrual hut following her last birth, the husband's patrilineage is informed of the imminency of conception and cuckoldry risk," Strassmann said. "Precautions include postmenstrual copulation initiated by the husband and enhanced vigilance by his family."

Across all four of the religions practiced by the Dogon people, Strassmann and colleagues detected father-son Y DNA mismatches in only 1.8 percent of father-son pairs, a finding that contradicts the prevailing view that traditional populations have high rates of cuckoldry. A similar rate of cuckoldry has been found in several modern populations, but a key difference is that the Dogon do not use contraception.

The study, which was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, is part of Strassmann's ongoing, 26-year study of the Dogon people.

"The major world religions sprang from patriarchal societies in which the resources critical to reproduction, whether in the form of land or livestock, were inherited from father to son down the male line," Strassmann and colleagues write. "Consistent with patrilineal inheritance, the sacred texts set forth harsh penalties for adultery and other behaviors that lower the husband's probability of paternity. The scriptures also place greater emphasis on female than on male chastity, including the requirement of modest attire for women and the idealization of virginity for unmarried females." Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Air Pollution Linked to Chronic Heart Disease

June 6th 2012

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Air pollution, a serious danger to the environment, is also a major health risk, associated with respiratory infections, lung cancer and heart disease. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher has concluded that not only does air pollution impact cardiac events such as heart attack and stroke, but it also causes repeated episodes over the long term.

Cardiac patients living in high pollution areas were found to be over 40 percent more likely to have a second heart attack when compared to patients living in low pollution areas, according to Dr. Yariv Gerber of TAU's School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine. "We know that like smoking cigarettes, pollution itself provokes the inflammatory system. If you are talking about long-term exposure and an inflammatory system that is irritated chronically, pollution may well be involved in the progression of atrial sclerosis that manifests in cardiac events," explains Dr. Gerber. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

The Obamas And the New Politics of Race

June 6th 2012

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With the 2012 US presidential election campaign in full swing, the meaning and significance of Barack Obama and his presidency are once again in the spotlight. Has the election of Barack Obama served as the watershed moment for American politics and race relations that many predicted? A number of experts in the field of critical race theory attempt to answer this question in a special issue of Qualitative Sociology: The Obamas and the New Politics of Race,¹ published by Springer and available to the general public. This series of six articles showcases the most recent critical sociological work on race, racism, and politics through the lens of Barack Obama's presidency.

One article provides a timely examination of how the concept of "family" has been used to both address and mask social inequalities generally, and racial inequalities in particular. In her article entitled "Just another American story? The first Black First Family," former American Sociological Association president Patricia Hill Collins shows – by highlighting their own 'family stories' during the 2008 campaign and in the post-election years – how the Obamas have been able to reintroduce race, gender, labor and equality into public policy discussions in a time when such debates are often deemed risky. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Higher Taxes, Smoke-free Policies are Reducing Smoking in Pregnant Moms

June 5th 2012

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It's estimated that almost 23% of women enter pregnancy as smokers and more than half continue to smoke during pregnancy, leading to excess healthcare costs at delivery and beyond. In one of the first studies to assess smoking bans and taxes on cigarettes, along with the level of tobacco control spending, researchers have found that state tobacco control policies can be effective in curbing smoking during pregnancy, and in preventing a return to smoking within four months on average, after delivery. The results were published online today in advance of the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"This is one of the first studies of pregnant women's smoking in the new era of more restrictive state tobacco control policies," says lead investigator E. Kathleen Adams, PhD, Department of Health Policy and Management, Emory University. "We found that a $1.00 increase in cigarette taxes increases the quit rate among pregnant women from 44.1% to 48.9%, a sizable effect. Moreover, tax policies appear to be effective in keeping these women from relapsing in the first few months postpartum, and the implementation of a full workplace smoke-free policy also increases quits."

Researchers from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined cigarette smoking among 225,445 women with live births from 2000-2005 in 29 states plus New York City. Data on smoking status (pre-pregnancy smoking; quitting during pregnancy; and remaining quit 4 months after delivery) were merged with cigarette price data, including federal, state, and local cigarette excise taxes, data on state tobacco control spending for the period, and the existence of full or partial bans of worksite or restaurant smoking. Read more ..

The Media on Edge

Magazine Trends Study Finds Increase in Advertisements Using Sex

June 5th 2012

popular magazines

Sex sells, or at least that is what advertisers hope. A recent study from the University of Georgia looked at sexual ads appearing in magazines over 30 years and found that the numbers are up.

"Advertisers use sex because it can be very effective," said researcher Tom Reichert, professor and head of the department of advertising and public relations in the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. "Sex sells because it attracts attention. People are hard wired to notice sexually relevant information so ads with sexual content get noticed."

People also succumb to the ‘buy this, get this' imagery used in ads, he said.

"Some young men actually think Axe body spray will drive women crazy," he said. "But, brand impressions are shaped by images in advertising, too. Arguable, Calvin Klein and Victoria's Secret are not much different than Hanes or Vassarette, but perception studies show those brands are perceived as ‘sexy,' and some customers want that." Read more ..

America on Edge

American Teenagers More Likely to Use Drugs than European Peers

June 5th 2012

Teen Drug sales

The U.S. had the second-lowest proportion of students who used tobacco and alcohol compared to their counterparts in 36 European countries, a new report indicates.

The results originate from coordinated school surveys about substance use from more than 100,000 students in some of the largest countries in Europe like Germany, France and Italy, as well as many smaller ones from both Eastern and Western Europe.

Because the methods and measures are largely modeled after the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future surveys in this country, comparisons are possible between the U.S. and European results. The 15- and 16-year-old students, who were drawn in nationally representative samples in almost all of the 36 countries, were surveyed last spring. American 10th graders in the 2011 Monitoring the Future studies are of the same age, so comparisons are possible.

The differences found between adolescent behaviors in the U.S. and Europe are dramatic, according to Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the American surveys.

About 27 percent of American students drank alcohol during the 30 days prior to the survey. Only Iceland was lower at 17 percent, and the average rate in the 36 European countries was 57 percent, more than twice the rate in the U.S. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Majority of Families in Urban Areas Have Access to Internet

June 5th 2012

Intel ultrabook

In a study of mostly minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged families, 99 percent of participants reported having access to the Internet. More than half of the families were interested in receiving health information electronically, an important finding in the quest to improve access to health information. The study, conducted in the Emergency Department at Children's National Medical Center, is published in the June issue of Pediatric Emergency Care.

Of the 509 families in the study, 503 reported access to the Internet, either at home, work, or via their mobile device. More than half expressed an interest in receiving electronic health information from the emergency department, with email being the preferred method of delivery. This represents a novel opportunity to engage a larger proportion of urban families in efforts to help improve their health through better education. "This study demonstrates the high prevalence of Internet access in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, a change from previous studies," said Mohsen Saidinejad, MD, the study author and an emergency medicine physician at Children's National. "It's an important first step as we try to improve health education and patient communication. Our ultimate goal is to improve compliance and health outcomes." Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Family Advocates Worry as Facebook Looks to Allow Access for Children

June 4th 2012


Consumer advocacy groups and lawmakers expressed concern on Monday about Facebook's plans to open up its social networking site to children younger than 13.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the social media giant is testing features that would allow young children to access the site. The children's accounts may be linked to their parents, so that the parents can control whom their children friend and which applications they use. Expanding Facebook's user base could open up a new revenue source after a disappointing initial public offering, but the company would have to navigate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law that restricts the ability of websites to collect information from children younger than 13. James Steyer, the CEO of the nonprofit Common Sense Media, accused Facebook of putting profits above the interests of children.

“With the growing concerns and pressure around Facebook’s business model, the company appears to be doing whatever it takes to identify new revenue streams and short-term corporate profits to impress spooked shareholders. But here's the most important issue: there is absolutely no proof of any meaningful social or educational value of Facebook for children under 13," Steyer said. "Indeed, there are very legitimate concerns about privacy as well as the impact on the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children."  Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

The U.S. Navy Left Vieques Island behind, but Also Left a Mess

June 4th 2012

Vieques Island toxic dump

The island of Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, has long been known for its beauty and its distinct culture, which are unique to the island. The name of the island itself means “rich port” in Spanish, indicating that for years Puerto Rico has served as an economic asset for Spain and the U.S. and, more recently, as a tourist paradise in the Caribbean. The commonwealth of Puerto Rico historically has been subjected to abuse by foreign powers intent on exploiting its rich resources, including a small stretch of land off the island’s east coast called Vieques.

The U.S. Navy made extensive use of Vieques for weapons testing up until 2003, when it abandoned the island without cleaning up the traces of years of gunnery practice and test bombings, which were capriciously left behind. The consequences of these bombings continue to surface as cancer rates and incidents of ecological damage begin to mount. U.S. Congressman Steve Rothman has said that, “The injustice toward the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico must end. The time for the U.S. government to right this wrong is long overdue.” This is a sentiment shared by thousands of Puerto Ricans who today seek to rectify the past wrongs. Read more ..

The Edge of Archaeology

Spanish Archaeologists Find Oldest Remains of Twins

June 3rd 2012

Bones of twin girls 2nd C BC

The remains of newborn twin girls were discovered at the archaeological site of Olèrdola in Barcelona, Spain's second-largest city. They date back to between the middle of the 4th century B.C. to the beginning of the 2nd century B.C. The findings are the first bone remains of twins to be recorded.

"This is the first documented case in the Iberian Peninsula. There has been much talk of possible twins but never has sufficient data been gathered in the field to determine whether findings belong to the same chronological moment in time, nor has data ever been found on the same stratigraphic level to guarantee with such certainty like in this instance," as explained Eulalia Subira, researcher at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and coauthor of the study published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

The remains were found in the archaeological site of Sant Miquel d'Olèrdola in Catalonia and it is expected that they belong to two girls between 38 and 40 weeks of gestation who were buried at the same time in the same grave with their legs entwined. Read more ..

Edge of Anthropology

Inequities Among Human Beings is Prehistoric

June 3rd 2012

Neanderthal child mannequin

Hereditary inequality began over 7,000 years ago in the early Neolithic era, with new evidence showing that farmers buried with tools had access to better land than those buried without. The research, carried out by archaeologists from the Universities of Bristol, Cardiff and Oxford, is published in PNAS.

By studying more than 300 human skeletons from sites across central Europe, Professor Alex Bentley and an international team of colleagues funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council uncovered evidence of differential land access among the first Neolithic farmers – the earliest such evidence yet found.

Strontium isotope analysis of the skeletons, which provides indications of place of origin, indicated that men buried with distinctive Neolithic stone adzes (tools used for smoothing or carving wood) had less variable isotope signatures than men buried without adzes. This suggests those buried with adzes had access to closer – and probably better – land than those buried without.

Professor Bentley, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, said: "The men buried with adzes appear to have lived on food grown in areas of loess, the fertile and productive soil favoured by early farmers. This indicates they had consistent access to preferred farming areas." The strontium isotope analysis also revealed that early Neolithic women were more likely than men to have originated from areas outside those where their bodies were found. This is a strong indication of patrilocality, a male-centred kinship system where females move to reside in the location of the males when they marry. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan's Goat-Grown Hashish

June 3rd 2012

Pakistan Hashis Seller

For Noor Muhammad Afridi, dealing in "Awal Namber Garda" is more than just his life's work. By providing the black, sticky hashish that keeps his customers very happy, he's keeping up a long, family tradition. Just like his forefathers in the Afridi clan, the 32-year-old from Pakistan's tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghan border has become a connoisseur of the local delicacy, aged to perfection with a centuries-old technique.

"If you put [freshly prepared] hash resin into a goatskin or a sheepskin, it matures into something very good," he says. "It is well-preserved inside the skin, which also adds oil to it." The technique is believed to greatly enhance the hashish's quality and, more importantly for its users, its effect. If the end product makes the cut, it earns the right to join the prize sheep skins hanging from the rafters of Afridi's hash shop in Jamrud, gateway to the Khyber Pass. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Khamenei Permits Facebook?

June 2nd 2012

Facebook egypt

Michael Rubin: The Islamic Republic has always had a love-hate approach to the internet. In the 1990s internet cafes sprung up across Tehran and in other major cities. Authorities were initially uncertain how to react. In early internet cafes, for example, the Intelligence Ministry simply paid managers and informants to look over shoulders and check browsing histories. The regime believed it could harness the power of the internet for its own purposes. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, for example, maintained his own internet site to disseminate his speeches, writings, and fatwas, not only in Persian, Arabic, and Urdu, but also in Japanese, Bahasa Indonesian, Swahili, Hausa, and various European languages. Security services traditionally worried more about cell phones than social networking.

Ordinary Iranians, however, soon embraced the internet to reach out both to each other and the outside world. For a short time Persian became the third largest blogging language after English and French, and it still places in the top ten. While President Mohammad Khatami preached “dialogue of civilizations,” regime hardliners increasingly worried about the mechanisms of that dialogue. "Rejection of Facebook became a regime loyalty test, with some political leaders forced to deny ever having an account." Read more ..

Inside Nigeria

Concern grows in Oil-Rich Nigeria over Political Support for Boko Haram terrorists

June 2nd 2012

Nigeria joint military task force

Northern leaders in Nigeria may indeed be sponsoring the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram for political reasons. Recently the national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur a prominent northern leader, said that “Boko Haram is fighting for justice” in a meeting with the Governor and party officials from Gombe State.

The statement has already enraged the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) prompting CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritesejafor to call for the ruling party’s national chairman to explain himself. Some say that Tukur may have indeed been referring to the youth in the north of the country that have been recruited by the group and not the group or its leaders, but his soft stance against the sect echoes many northern leaders who have been making calls for dialogue and negotiations between the group and the government to address the group’s “grievances”.

What is clear from the exchange between Christian Leaders and their northern Muslim counterparts is that there is a wide difference of opinion on the group and how it should be handled. The claims that the group is fighting injustice is problematic since many of the same injustices are prevalent throughout the country. Further, prominently among the list of past corrupt officials are Muslim political elite from the nations north Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Oil-Rich Nigeria Soon to Become Africa's Leading Economy

May 31st 2012

Nigeria Oil

Nigeria is currently on record as Africa’s second-largest economy, and one of the fastest growing economies on the continent and in the world. However, it is only a matter of a year or two before Nigeria becomes Africa’s largest economy. Presently it is roughly equal to South Africa.

Nigeria is expected to rebase its economy in 2012 in order to provide an accurate measure of its actual size. When neighbouring Ghana rebased its economy in 2010 it was found to be 60% larger than had previously estimated jumping from USD 18 to USD 31 billion. Nigeria is expected to have a similar jump once the rebase is completed this year. Rebasing adds different weighting on sectors that have changed over the last 30 years.

In Nigeria the telecommunications industry, banking industry, and real estate and infrastructure sectors will receive different weights due to the growth in these sectors over the last few decades. According to Renaissance Capital, Nigeria could eclipse South Africa by 2014 and is presently likely to be roughly equal in size already at over USD 400 billion.

According to projections by Price Waterhouse Coopers, Nigeria not only will be the largest African Economy in the next few years but will also eclipse major European Economies like Italy and Spain by 2050 and become one of the top 20 largest economies in the world. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

One Size Does Not Fit All Diabetics with High Blood Pressure

May 31st 2012

nurse w/stethoscope

Aggressive efforts to lower blood pressure in people with diabetes are paying off – perhaps too well, according to a new study.

The research shows that there have been dramatic improvements in blood pressure control among patients with diabetes in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with as many as 82 percent of patients having blood pressure controlled and 94 percent getting appropriate BP treatment.

However, given the dramatic rise in control, as many people now may be getting over-treated with blood pressure medications as are being under-treated.

That suggests it might be time to reconsider the current one-size-fits-all approach to blood pressure control, and turn to a new model that adjusts the blood pressure goal according to the individual, say a team of researchers from the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System.

Modern healthcare electronic record systems should help make this possible, they say, because blood pressure, prescription and other health data on individual risks such as heart disease or balance problems can all be combined. Read more ..

El Salvador on Edge

Los Angeles Gang Workers Praise El Salvador Truce

May 31st 2012

Cocaine guns and dollars

A gang truce mediated by the Catholic Church in El Salvador has dramatically reduced gang-related killings in the Central American country since it was implemented in March. Those who work with gang members in the United States support the fragile agreement and hope to reduce the lure of gangs in both countries. El Salvador and neighboring Honduras, which are plagued with gangs, have homicide rates 10 times the global average.

The gang truce in El Salvador has reduced the murder rate, and brought concessions from authorities for better treatment of gang leaders in prison. Police suppression and deportations in the 1990s also brought down the murder rate as many immigrant gang members were returned to their home countries. Executive director of the group Homies Unidos, Alex Sanchez, works to get young people out of gangs. The one-time gang member was deported in 1994 and saw the gangs take hold in his native El Salvador. “The common people were really afraid of us. But then you had kids that were troubled attracted to us. So all these kids that were troubled in El Salvador were attracted by this gang thing,” Sanchez said. Read more ..

North Korea on Edge

Disabled N. Korean Defector Finds Hope in Seoul

May 30th 2012

North Korean soldiers

For North Korean refugees, the journey to freedom can be physically grueling. Many swim across a river into China and then travel undercover, avoiding authorities before they reach Southeast Asia and head to South Korea. Imagine making the trip with only one foot and one hand. ​​Every week, Ji Seong-ho holds a silent demonstration against North Korea. He is one of the 23,000 defectors in South Korea who have fled the repressive Pyongyang government. Ji's journey south was more challenging than most. During the famine of the mid-1990s, when Ji was 14, he suffered a terrible accident.

"I was helping my parents make a living by stealing coal off trains and selling it in the market. I got dizzy once and I ended up falling off a moving train. It ran me over," Ji explains. He lost his left hand and foot. Eventually, Ji crossed into China to find food. But on the way back, he was caught by North Korean guards. "The police severely beat me for a week, maybe more than other escapees. They told me that because I am disabled I brought shame to North Korea and that someone with only one leg should stay home," Ji recalls. "That is when I lost my trust in the North Korean government." Read more ..

Palestine and Israel

Middle East Violence and Its Effect on Children

May 30th 2012

Fogel child
Murdered Israeli Fogel child

Wars have obvious victims. The dead, the injured. Those left behind. But there is another class of victims that often goes unnoticed: children. Not kids who are abducted or killed, but those who simply witness acts of ethnic or political violence, and whose lives and behavior are changed forever.

“Violence is really like a contagious disease,” says Rowell Huesmann, director of the Research Center on Group Dynamics at the Institute for Social Research (ISR). “Except in one sense, it’s worse. With contagious diseases, you have to be near the person in order to get it. Violence is contagious even at a distance.”

Huesmann has studied the impact of violence on children in a number of contexts. Most well known is his research showing that kids who watch lots of violent TV programs or movies, or who often play violent video games, become more aggressive. He has also studied how community and peer violence affect kids in inner city neighborhoods. Read more ..

Economy on Edge

Nail Polish Business Booms In Weak Economy

May 30th 2012


While many U.S. businesses are suffering in the weak economy, one industry has been picking up speed. Women are now spending more money on their nails. They are getting more daring - straying from the basic shades of red and painting blues, greens and even animal prints on their nails. Those in the business of nails and nail color are profiting from the trend. In a factory north of Los Angeles, glass bottles are filled, boxed and then shipped to more than 100 countries around the world.

This is the home of OPI, a company that produces nail polish for women from the United States to Asia, from the Middle East to Latin America. Suzi Weiss-Fishmann is executive vice-president and artistic director. She says women are getting more adventurous with their nails. “You can really be kind of that conservative professional and wear blues and greens and any color and dark shades year round," she said. Many women in the U.S. are experimenting with nail art. “I was blown away by the nail art that I saw. I couldn’t believe it," said customer Judy Gabor. Judy Gabor plans on getting glitter on her nails at Marie Nails, a salon where many nail artists are trained in Japan. Marie Ueno has salons in Japan and the U.S. She says nail art has been popular in Japan for a decade. It became trendy in the U.S. over the last few years. “American people like impact, impact design," she said. Read more ..

The Health Edge

House to Vote on Bill Penalizing Abortion Based on Sex of Child

May 29th 2012


The House will vote this week on legislation imposing criminal penalties on anyone performing an abortion based on the sex of the child, but the measure runs the risk of failing on the floor because of how the GOP is calling it up.

Republican leaders have scheduled a vote on H.R. 3541, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), under a suspension of House rules, which will require a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Suspension votes are usually reserved for non-controversial bills, but Republican leaders have occasionally used the process for bills that Democrats oppose, and the PRENDA bill appears to be one of those.

Democratic opposition to the bill began with its original name, the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-discrimination Act. Democrats argued in February that while the bill was named after these civil rights heroes, it has nothing to do with protecting civil rights. "It is offensive that the sponsors of this bill would invoke the names of two of our nation's historic civil rights pioneers," House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said. The original name reflected that the bill also sought to ban abortions based on the race of the child, but took out that language in committee. Republicans agreed to strike that language in the Judiciary committee, and also changed the name of the bill.  Read more ..

Edge of Health

Husband-Wife Discussion Key to Healthy Diets and Living

May 29th 2012

Rib dinner tasty

Married men will eat their peas to keep the peace, but many aren't happy about it, and may even binge on unhealthy foods away from home. "The key to married men adopting a healthier diet is for couples to discuss and negotiate the new, healthier menu changes as a team," said Derek Griffith, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

This seems obvious, but most times it doesn't happen, according to a new study called "'She looks out for the meals, period.' African-American men's perceptions of how their wives influence their eating behavior and dietary health."

Researchers conducted focus groups with 83 African-American men. The majority of men said their wives didn't consult them when helping them to adopt a healthier diet. Even though the healthier diet was often ordered by a physician, the husbands often disliked the food changes, but to avoid conflict, they didn't object. Men focused more on maintaining a happy home than having a say in what they ate.

In fact, the only examples found of couples negotiating healthy food choices came about to benefit the children in the home, Griffith said. Read more ..

Libya on Edge

Olive Oil - Libya’s Other Oil Economy

May 29th 2012


As Dr Khaled looked out over the now quiet, olive-tree covered hills of Zintan, he recalled the fighting and destruction that rocked this area just a few short months ago. Zintan is a town of 40,000 people tucked into the Nafusa Moutnains of northwest Libya. Six thousand Zintanis joined the armed opposition to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi, forming one of the country’s most formidable militias. During the eight-month conflict, Zintan’s able-bodied boys and men joined the fighting, its businesses shut down, and electricity and water stopped flowing. Like in the rest of Libya, the economy came to a standstill. In less than one year, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by a staggering 60 percent.

For Khaled, who runs the local media center, nursing the economy of his town and his country back to health is among the most critical challenges facing the country’s transitional government. The focus thus far has been on restoring oil production to pre-war levels. Libya’s oil minister said the country is now producing 1.6 million barrels per day (b/d) of crude oil, just short of the 1.77 million b/d the country was producing before the revolution. Getting the oil sector up and running should indeed be a primary focus, as hydrocarbons have long dominated the Libyan economy; before the war, oil accounted for over 70 percent of GDP, 95 percent of exports, and nearly 90 percent of government revenue, as estimated by the International Monetary Fund. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Less Couch Time Equals Fewer Cookies

May 29th 2012

Childhood Obesity

Simply ejecting your rear from the couch means your hand will spend less time digging into a bag of chocolate chip cookies. That is the simple but profound finding of a new Northwestern Medicine study, which reports simply changing one bad habit has a domino effect on others. Knock down your sedentary leisure time and you'll reduce junk food and saturated fats because you're no longer glued to the TV and noshing. It's a two-for-one benefit because the behaviors are closely related.

The study also found the most effective way to rehab a delinquent lifestyle requires two key behavior changes: cutting time spent in front of a TV or computer screen and eating more fruits and vegetables. "Just making two lifestyle changes has a big overall effect and people don't get overwhelmed," said Bonnie Spring, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and lead author of the study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. "Americans have all these unhealthy behaviors that put them at high risk for heart disease and cancer, but it is hard for them and their doctors to know where to begin to change those unhealthy habits," Spring said. "This approach simplifies it." Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

Climate Change Led to Collapse of Ancient Indus Civilization

May 28th 2012

desertification New Mexico

A new study combining the latest archaeological evidence with state-of-the-art geoscience technologies provides evidence that climate change was a key ingredient in the collapse of the great Indus or Harappan Civilization almost 4000 years ago. The study also resolves a long-standing debate over the source and fate of the Sarasvati, the sacred river of Hindu mythology.

Once extending more than 1 million square kilometers across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges, over what is now Pakistan, northwest India and eastern Afghanistan, the Indus civilization was the largest—but least known—of the first great urban cultures that also included Egypt and Mesopotamia. Like their contemporaries, the Harappans, named for one of their largest cities, lived next to rivers owing their livelihoods to the fertility of annually watered lands.

"We reconstructed the dynamic landscape of the plain where the Indus civilization developed 5200 years ago, built its cities, and slowly disintegrated between 3900 and 3000 years ago," said Liviu Giosan, a geologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and lead author of the study published the week of May 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Until now, speculations abounded about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers."  Read more ..

India on Edge

India's Agriculture Boom Fuels 'Rural Urbanization'

May 28th 2012

Rural Construction

Forget what you think you know about rural India. Pastoral scenes of oxen carts and bicycles are increasingly being replaced by the symbols of modern prosperity - from motorbikes and home electronics, to hair and skin care products. Life in India's countryside still involves plenty of hard work. But standards of rural living have gone up dramatically in recent years.

Inflated food prices - otherwise a headache for politicians and urban consumers - have put more money in the pockets of farm workers. Generous government subsidies and lenient credit policies have helped fuel investment in tractors and other heavy equipment. It also has created a consumer market that makes many of India's hundreds of thousands of remote villages look a little more like cities. “We have amenities the previous generations could never afford to have. We have motorbikes, mobile phones, a fridge, and other things,” said Sanjay Singh, a rural villager.

The rural appetite for vehicles is especially strong. Shankar Prasad is one businessman cashing in on the trend. “In the case of motorcycles we find that about 50 percent of our buyers are from rural areas and only 50 percent, rest of them are from urban areas. In case of consumer durables when there was no sale about 10 years back of consumer durables. Now, we find that 50 percent of our sales are from the villages. So I will tell you the divide between the urban and rural area is blurring,” said Prasad. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

The Clerics vs. Modernity

May 27th 2012

Iranian clerics

In a speech in 2003 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that "More than Iran's enemies need artillery, guns and so forth, they need to spread cultural values that lead to moral corruption. They have said this many times. I recently read in the news that a senior official in an important American political center, said: 'Instead of bombs, send them miniskirts.'

He is right. If they arouse sexual desires in any given country, if they spread unrestrained mixing of men and women, and if they lead youth to behavior to which they are naturally inclined by instincts, there will no longer be any need for artillery and guns against that nation." It is striking here how the government uses military literature, vocabulary and metaphor to speak about culture. Since Khamenei is the commander in chief of the Armed Forces he also regards himself as the commander in chief of Islamic culture. He is the one who defines it and he is the authority who implements it. What Khamenei considers a cultural invasion should be seen as the broadest war in the history of mankind. In his eyes the enemy's armies are innumerable and include all members of Western society who adhere to modern liberal values and cultural institutions—from art to tourism. Read more ..

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