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America on Edge

See America on $2 Per Day, Like 2.8 Million American Kids Do

March 2nd 2012

Homeless Black Teenager

One in five households with children in poverty are surviving on the cash equivalent of a half gallon of milk per person per day in a given month. The National Poverty Center has released a new report that examines poverty trends between 1996 and 2011. The number of households with children who are in extreme poverty in a given month—living at $2 or less in income per person per day—in 2011 totaled roughly 1.46 million households, including 2.8 million kids. This number is up from 636,000 households in 1996, nearly a 130 percent increase.

The study finds that in-kind public programs are having an effect, though. The number of children living in extreme poverty is cut in half to 1.4 million in 2011 when the statistics take into account benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program). Read more ..


Edge of Health

New Influenza Virus May not be Harmful to Humans, Maybe

February 28th 2012

Cough

A new influenza A virus discovered in fruit bats in Guatemala does not appear to present a current threat to humans, but should be studied as a potential source for human influenza, according to scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who worked with Universidad del Valle in Guatemala City, Guatemala. “This is the first time an influenza virus has been identified in bats, but in its current form the virus is not a human health issue,” said Dr. Suxiang Tong, team lead of the Pathogen Discovery Program in CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases and lead author of the study.  “The study is important because the research has identified a new animal species that may act as a source of flu viruses.” 

For the bat influenza virus to infect humans, it would need to obtain some genetic properties of human influenza viruses. This can occur in nature through a process called reassortment. Reassortment occurs when two or more influenza viruses infect a single host cell, which allows the viruses to swap genetic information. Reassortment is a complicated chain of events that can sometimes lead to the emergence of new influenza viruses in humans. Preliminary CDC research on the new virus suggests that its genes are compatible with human influenza viruses. Read more ..


Inside Spain

92 Percent of Spanish Families With Adopted Children Are Satisfied With Their Decision

February 26th 2012

Premature Baby

Two separate surveys six years apart have been used to analyse the level of satisfaction with adoptions in Andalucía. The study shows that 77.7 percent of families are happier after the process and variables that make it more difficult have been identified, such as the age of the children when arriving, multiple adoption and previous experiences of abuse. There is a significant link between the parents' assessment and that of the children.

"We wanted to know to what extent adoptions in Spain are providing children who need it with a healthy family environment that promotes their development" Yolanda Sánchez-Sandoval, a researcher from the University of Cádiz (UCA) states. In order to assess that, a comprehensive questionnaire was sent to families with adopted children in Andalucía, which was employed, amongst other uses, to assess family's satisfaction with the decision as a measurement of success. Read more ..


India on Edge

India's Surging Vehicle Count Creates Public Health Hazards

February 24th 2012

India Highway congestion

India's economy is growing at a blistering pace, and while that is increasing welfare for millions, it's also raising some alarming public health red flags. Respiratory pediatrician S.K. Kabra has busy Saturdays. His outpatient waiting area at this New Delhi hospital teems with parents whose children complain of breathing difficulties. Kabra says poor air quality is a key component in a grim U.N. statistic: 13 percent of Indian children under five years of age, who are hospitalized for respiratory infections, die. "Pollution increases the morbidity, increases the frequency, increases the severity. If a mother and a baby are exposed to some pollutant, that will increase respective morbidity," noted Kabra.

A recent U.S. study using satellite data gave India the lowest air quality rating in the world, citing concentrations of particulates five times higher than those deemed safe for human health. For poor and rural Indians, a significant danger comes from cooking with wood and other biomass. But the fastest-growing source of dangerous pollution is actually related to India's increasing wealth. Anumita Roychowdhury is an executive director at the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment. She speaks of a "toxic spiral" with the growing number of vehicles on India's streets. "Imagine a city with more than 5.6 million vehicles, adding nearly 1,200 to 1,300 vehicles a day," said Roychowdhury. "The pace of the problem is growing faster than our ability to deal with it." Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

No Refuge From Misery For Afghanistan's Displaced

February 24th 2012

Afghani Taliban

To the casual observer the thousands of caves that dot the sandstone cliffs of the ancient Afghan city of Bamiyan hearken to another era, when monks visiting the region's famous Buddha statues took residence there. But for hundreds of Afghans, the caves represent their current reality. The new residents have been forced to seek refuge in the caves, unable to return to areas they originally fled due to insecurity and the destruction of their former homes and villages. Upon their return to their native lands they have found it a struggle to survive, with basic essentials such as food, shelter, and health care in short supply. One is Gulsom, a 34-year-old mother of seven who has lived in the Bamiyan caves for over five years. Gulsom, who only has one name, returned to Bamiyan after she and her children were deported from Iran. After travelling to her former village and finding it deserted and completely destroyed, Gulsom followed the footsteps of hundreds of other returnees and displaced families in the region and moved into a cave. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

How The Kremlin Is Using Sex To Sell Putin

February 23rd 2012

Putin Ad

I'm scared," the girl says, "I want my choice to be based on love." The doctor, his glasses perched on his nose, looks down at her reclined on a leather chair. "I understand you, it's always scary the first time." The doctor then points to a copy of "Time" magazine with Putin on the cover and says, "Trust is love." Sweeping panpipes kick in, reminiscent of the "Titanic" theme tune, and the girl happily trots off to the polling station. The campaign ad from the youth group Nashi is the latest in a series of pro-Kremlin campaign videos that use sex to sell Putin's candidacy ahead of the March 4 election. Last year, Putin's Army of scantily clad women ripped off their clothes and lovingly unboxed Apple products. One time, the girls got together to make a chocolate cake for Putin. Or, with aesthetics borrowed from the car-washing scene in "Cool Hand Luke," Putin's girls strip off and get soapy.

The ads just get more and more bizarre. Before shaking hands with Putin, one Russian man decided that he would somehow transfer good vibes by fondling the breasts of 1,000 girls on the street. Many accepted the offer, many didn't. And in what might be a metaphor for the end of innocence, in this video a teddy bear is ripped up and then -- with pornographic predictability -- all the ladies start catfighting and ripping off each other's clothes. But the one that really takes the cake is the "Girls for Putin" music video, where at one point the singer pines for Putin while nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels. For some reason she also wants to be Putin's dog, Connie, so she paints her face (as a dog). Then she drinks more whisky, plays air guitar with a baseball bat, strips, and spits on a smashed pumpkin. Read more ..


Edge of Hunger

Action Needed to Address Perennial Problem of Hungry School Kids

February 23rd 2012

Homeless Black Teenager

Hunger is on the rise in America. The Conference of Mayors recently reported that 86 percent of surveyed cities have seen increases in the need for emergency food aid. These findings coincide with a Feeding America reportthat 20 percent of children in the United States are hungry. To turn the tide, we need to rekindle the passion and innovation of those who started the fight to end hunger in America more than a century ago.

In 1908 a Cincinnati school teacher, Ella Walsh, saw that her students were struggling. They looked pale. The students were not getting enough to eat. This obviously had serious health as well as educational repercussions. They could not learn on an empty stomach. Walsh could see malnutrition before her eyes. But she did not just “file it and forget it.” She took action. She got some cooking materials together, found a room, arranged a table, and started serving what came to be known as the “penny lunch.” Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iran's National Internet Gets Late Spring Launch Date

February 22nd 2012

Shadowy Computer User

Iran’s so-called "national Internet" will be launched in either in late May or June, according to an announcement by Iranian Telecommunications Minister Reza Taghipour. Speaking on February 20 at a cyber-defense forum in Tehran, Taghipour said the national Internet is one of the steps Iran is taking toward creating infrastructures aimed at boosting its cyber-defense capabilities. Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Taghipour as saying, "Supporting local software and creating secure communication infrastructure are among the most important strategic decisions in the field of cyber defense, and in this regard the first phase of this network will become operational in the month of Khordad" -- the third month of the Iranian civil calendar, which begins in May and ends in June. Iranian officials have been promising to launch a national Internet since at least 2006. But they have provided little details about its scope, which has stoked fears that it could cut off citizen’s access to the World Wide Web. Iran already has one of the world’s toughest Internet censorship regimes, routinely blocking thousands of websites deemed immoral or threatening to the country’s national security.

  Read more ..


The Edge Of Justice

Social Workers Better Prepared to Address Juvenile Delinquencies than Law Enforcement Personnel

February 21st 2012

Juvenile Law

In the pioneering days of the juvenile corrections system, social workers often served as the primary probation officers who rehabilitated young offenders. As the field of corrections became dominated by law enforcement officers, the role of social workers was marginalized. A University of Missouri expert on juvenile justice and child welfare says social workers should return to the juvenile corrections system and reclaim their role as rehabilitators. Less than 2 percent of trained social workers are employed in the corrections system, according to the National Association of Social Workers.

Clark Peters, an assistant professor in the MU School of Social Work and a policy research scholar at the Institute of Public Policy in the Truman School of Public Affairs, says social workers’ specialized qualifications as counselors and facilitators better prepare them than law enforcement personnel to address youth offenders’ psychological and social needs. Compared to those trained in criminal justice, social workers are more likely to advocate for offenders’ access to needed services, such as mental health or substance abuse counseling, education or vocational training, or increased support from their family and friends, Peters said. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

New Afghan Textbooks Sidestep History

February 21st 2012

Afghan School

Afghanistan's recent history is comparable to a war epic -- a story encompassing four decades of foreign invasions, civil war, and political turmoil.  How that story is told, however, has proved highly controversial, with the country's rival ethnic and political groups writing their own accounts of history, shaped by their own ideologies, and with their own villains and heroes. Now Afghan officials think they have found a way to teach the country's contentious history that is acceptable to all Afghans regardless of their politics, ethnicity, or religion. The answer, they say, is to omit the past four decades from the history books. As of the next school year, which begins this spring, the Afghan government plans to distribute textbooks to high school students that do not mention the Soviet invasion, the country's devastating civil war, the reign of the extremist Taliban regime, the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, and the international presence that continues today. The Afghan Education Ministry says the textbook, the only one to be officially approved by the government, is part of a new nonpolitical curriculum. It is part of an initiative launched three years ago that has seen the government distribute books which avoid contentious recent history to some elementary and secondary schools around the country. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

Tymoshenko's Daughter Says She Fears For Her Mother's Life

February 20th 2012

Yulia Tymoshenko

The daughter of Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says she's afraid her mother may die because of what she describes as abusive prison conditions. Yevhenia Tymoshenko -- who this month accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych of seeking to "get rid of" her mother -- said the former prime minister has been subjected to poor medical care and abusive conditions since she was initially jailed in August. The 31-year-old Tymoshenko, speaking to RFE/RL in Prague, said her worries about her mother have grown ever since an alleged incident in January where prison officials took 20 minutes to respond after her mother lost consciousness in her cell. "Of course, we understand that she's there for political reasons. And the whole democratic world states the same, that it's a politically motivated repression," she said. "But at the moment, we are actually worried just for her life. I'm not worried whether she's going to be back in politics or not, I'm just worried that she'll be alive."

Yulia Tymoshenko, who twice served as prime minister under the presidency of her Orange Revolution cohort Viktor Yushchenko, was handed a seven-year sentence late last year on charges of abuse of office. In late December, she was moved to a remote women's prison in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. Since then, her family members and lawyers have complained of harsh conditions in her jail cell, including too-bright lighting and around-the-clock video surveillance. Read more ..


The Edge of Psychology

Babies Know What’s Fair

February 18th 2012

Angry Child

“That’s not fair!” It’s a common playground complaint. But how early do children acquire this sense of fairness? Before they’re 2, says a new study. “We found that 19- and 21-month-old infants have a general expectation of fairness, and they can apply it appropriately to different situations,” says University of Illinois psychology graduate student Stephanie Sloane, who conducted the study with UI’s Renée Baillargeon and David Premack of the University of Pennsylvania.

In each of two experiments, babies watched live scenarios unfold. In the first, 19-month-olds saw two giraffe puppets dance around at the back of a stage. An experimenter arrived with two toys on a tray and said, “I have toys!” “Yay!” said the giraffes. Then the experimenter gave one toy to each giraffe or both to one of them. The infants were timed gazing at the scene until they lost interest. Longer looking times indicated that something was odd—unexpected—to the baby. In this experiment, three-quarters of the infants looked longer when one giraffe got both toys. Read more ..


American History

African Slave Rebellion Lives On

February 18th 2012

America Themes - Amistad Ship

In 1839, African slaves bound for a Cuban sugar plantation escaped their shackles. They killed the captain and cook aboard the schooner Amistad and ordered their two slavemasters to sail to Africa.

Instead, the slavers steered the ship into U.S. waters. The slaves were recaptured off Long Island and tried for murder in the northeastern state of Connecticut - one of the few northern states that still permitted slavery. Now, the Custom House Maritime Museum in New London, Connecticut, offers a permanent exhibition on the saga. It tells the story of the criminal and appellate trials of the mutinous slaves, including their leader, Cinque, a 26-year-old Mende tribesman from what is now Sierra Leone. The trials became the rallying cry for abolitionists as various courts decided whether they were pirates, murderers or simply property. If property, how could they be guilty of crimes?  Read more ..


Inside Great Britain

United Kingdom is for True Life Partners

February 18th 2012

Holding Hands

Partners provide a vital source of positive emotional support for the vast majority of people in the UK. Nine out of ten people who were married or cohabiting talk to their partner about their worries, according to data from Understanding Society, the world’s largest longitudinal household study of 40,000 UK households. Ninety four per cent of those surveyed rely on their partner for support when a problem crops up.

As part of the Understanding Society study of 40,000 UK households, researchers asked people how much personal and emotional support they felt they received from not only their spouse/partner, but also other family members and friends. Respondents were also asked to rate negative support from their partner, other family members and friends including how much they felt criticised and let down by those people. Read more ..


Kenya on Edge

In Slums of Nairobi, Sex for Sanitation

February 17th 2012

Kenya Sanitary

Roughly half of all girls in slums of Kenya have sex with older men in exchange for sanitary napkins. In response to these estimates, healthcare advocates are distributing napkins to girls as part of a nationwide campaign. Health educator Lydiah Njoroge, a field officer for the Freedom for Girls Program, an initiative of HEART (Health Education Africa Resource Team), distributes towels to girls in Mathare, a collection of Nairobi ghettos where poverty is so severe that girls are unable to purchase even the most affordable brands. "The least [expensive] in the market is 40 shillings ... a packet that has eight pieces in it," says Njoroge. "So, because this girl cannot afford 40 shillings -- their mother, their parents are poor, they have other things to provide food and shelter - sanitary towels are not a priority. So the girl just goes [and] has sex with an older man, most of the time not the same man -- they would have one this month, another one next month, so they are very, very at risk of having HIV." In other words, for 40 shillings - about 50 cents - girls and young women repeatedly put their lives at risk. Read more ..


The Frontiers of Language

What Causes Language Switching in Bilinguals?

February 16th 2012

Social Topics - International Flags

The proficiency that a bilingual person has of both languages, the context in which he speaks them or unconscious changes in their use are the factors that make people who speak Spanish and Catalan switch from one language to another. The group of Cognition and Brain Plasticity at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), led by Antoni Rodríguez-Fornells, has designed a questionnaire that allows understanding individual differences among bilinguals when they change the language (switching).

The study was conducted on a sample of 566 college students Spanish-Catalan bilingual and has been published in the latest issue of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russian Court Reviews Baby Mix-Up Involving Muslim, Christian Parents

February 16th 2012

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

A Russian court has begun to review the case of a hospital baby mix-up that led to a Russian Orthodox girl being raised by a Tajik Muslim family, and a Russian family raising a Tajik girl. The girls were switched in a maternity ward in the town of Kopeisk in the Ural region, where they were born at the same time in December 1998. The two families have been raising the daughters since then. In the court case, the Russian mother, Yulia Belyaeva, is demanding full access to her biological daughter, saying she is concerned the girl is being raised according to Muslim traditions.

The Tajik father, Nemat Iskandarov, says the two families' different customs and values have become a source of disagreements. "We don't frequently go to cinema, our children don't [excessively] spend time on the Internet, we don't approve of short skirts, or girls playing with boys," he says. "[Belyaeva] sees it as a problem that our girl doesn’t go to discos, and goes to an aqua park instead, and that she doesn't have a boyfriend at this age." Both Iskandarov and Belyaeva have told media that the girls would want to remain with the families who have been raising them. Read more ..


Edge of Environment

US/Mexico Cross-Border Battery Pollution Investigated

February 15th 2012

batteries
Mexican lead recycling facility

Across the Rio Grande and over numerous desert land crossings, the golden scraps of U.S. throwaway society head south. Used clothes, appliances, cars and other commodities are shipped to the huge, second-hand Mexican market where low wages guarantee steady sales. And during the last five years or so, a new market has opened up for used lead-acid batteries.

Now an international environmental agency headquartered in Canada is investigating the business amid reports from citizen advocacy groups and the media that have raised red flags. In a landmark 2011 report, the U.S.-based group Occupational Knowledge International and its Mexican partner Fronteras Comunes (Common Borders) explored the ecological and public health risks of lead-acid batteries sent from the U.S. to Mexico, where at least 21 plants extract lead for recycling purposes. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Wireless Will Redifine the Home Audio Market as We Know It

February 14th 2012

Technology - bluetooth connecting devices

Over the next five years, wireless connectivity to mobile devices and the Internet will redefine the mainstream products within the home audio market. Despite differences in capabilities, form factors, and usage scenarios, a variety of home audio products will all increasingly incorporate wireless functionality in order to play audio streamed from mobile devices, home networks, and the Internet.

In recent years the home audio industry has been challenged to adapt to changing trends in consumers’ media consumption habits and the proliferation of Internet-based streaming audio services. As a result, consumer home audio is rapidly evolving by integrating wireless connectivity into devices such as A/V receivers, soundbars, standalone speaker docks, and home theater in a box (HTIB) systems. Read more ..


Edge of Health

Spice up Your Life and Reduce Cancer Risk with a Good Indian Curry

February 13th 2012

Food - Spices

Curcumin, an active component of the Indian curry spice turmeric, may help slow down tumor growth in castration-resistant prostate cancer patients on androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), a study from researchers at Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center suggests.

Reporting in a recent issue of Cancer Research, Karen Knudsen, Ph.D., a Professor of Cancer Biology, Urology and Radiation Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, and colleagues observed in a pre-clinical study that curcumin suppresses two known nuclear receptor activators, p300 and CPB (or CREB1-binding protein), which have been shown to work against ADT.

ADT aims to inhibit the androgen receptor—an important male hormone in the development and progression of prostate cancer—in patients. But a major mechanism of therapeutic failure and progression to advanced disease is inappropriate reactivation of this receptor. Sophisticated tumor cells, with the help of p300 and CPB, sometimes bypass the therapy. Thus, development of novel targets that act in concert with the therapy would be of benefit to patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer. Read more ..


America on Edge

California Makes History by Closing its Juvenile Prisons

February 12th 2012

Social Topics - prison cell northern ireland flickr

California, often a trendsetter, could make history if it approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close all state-run youth prisons and eliminate its state Division of Juvenile Justice. Much depends, though, on whether the state’s politically influential prison guards, probation officers and district attorneys can be convinced — or forced by legislators — to agree to Brown’s proposal. That won’t be an easy sell, due to both public-safety arguments and sure-to-surface haggling over just who pays to house juvenile offenders. owing to restructure government more efficiently, Brown, a Democrat, wants to close the last three of 11 youth prisons that have long been attacked by critics as “expensive failures.” If the state phases out the last three of its aging detention centers, all future young offenders would be held, schooled and treated by California’s 58 counties.

This is the second time since taking office last year that Brown has proposed closing the state juvenile division, which is part of its corrections system. The division’s responsibility has already been slashed dramatically from 10,000 wards in the mid-1990s to about 1,100 in state custody today. Their numbers may be few, but the cost for keeping those youth in state custody runs about $200,000-a-year for every ward. Read more ..


North Korea on Edge

North Korean Accordionists are Smash Hit on Internet, and Didn't Even Know it

February 12th 2012

Korea Topics - trio in north korea
Moreton Traavik in Panmunjon, North Korea

Norwegian synthpop and North Korea are an unlikely combination. But that’s exactly the mix that has spawned the Internet’s latest viral hit. A video of five North Korean accordionists playing the 1980’s song “Take On Me” by a-ha has nearly one million views on YouTube. And that’s only in its first week online. Norwegian artist and director Morten Traavik shot the video in Pyongyang last December in preparation for the Barents Spektakel, an international arts festival currently underway in Kirkenes, Norway.  It was the culmination of multiple trips to North Korea over several years.

“I wanted them to play, since they would be playing in Norway, to include some Norwegian tunes in their repertoire,” Traavik said in a telephone interview with VOA. “I brought them three Norwegian songs that are more of a classical nature, and also the “Take On Me” by our only world-famous pop group a-ha on a CD.” Traavik says he was impressed by how quickly the young North Koreans, who attend Pyongyang’s Kum Song Music School, mastered the tune.

“I gave them the CD with no notes, no annotations, nothing whatsoever, only the song on a CD on a Monday evening, and the clip that you see was filmed on Wednesday morning,” he said. In the video, three men and two women sway to the beat of the music, their arms wrapped around the accordions. “I think this has been a revelation to quite some people around the world, you can actually have a good time in North Korea as well,” said Traavik, who is known for his sensational projects, including the Miss Landmine pageants in Angola and Cambodia Read more ..


Sudan on Edge

Northern Sudan may be on the Verge of its own Arab Spring

February 11th 2012

Sudan - sudanese and syrian protest khartoum
Protests at Syrian embassy in Sudan

Mounting economic hardships plaguing northern Sudan have given political activist group "Change Now" a reason to believe that the Arab-African state is on the verge of its own revolution. Protests, largely concentrated in Sudan's capital and other cities with universities, lack large numbers and longevity, but their increasing frequency and underlying denouncement of the government is beginning to reflect the 1985 ousting of President Gaafar Nimeiri's regime.

Last December a protest sparked by villagers displaced by a hydro-electric dam inspired a week of student demonstrations when authorities responded by closing the University of Khartoum. Similar to in Tunisia and other "Arab Spring" affected states, a participant in the demonstration explained, "It turned into a protest not just against the dam but against poverty, inflation and the bad situation for students." Read more ..


America on Edge

Companies Fail to Exhibit Social Responsibility

February 10th 2012

Social Topics - Hands holding plant

Whether eliminating child labor, creating environmentally friendly technology or working against all forms of corruption, many corporations fail to become socially responsible despite promises to change, a new University of Michigan study found. In an article recently published in the American Sociological Review, U-M sociologists Alwyn Lim and Kiyoteru Tsutsui say that corporations in developed countries "are more likely to make shallow commitments without substance" in response to external pressures from government and citizens to take socially responsible actions. 

They say, however, that some corporations in developing countries make more substantive commitments to corporate social responsibility when they face the same external pressures. In the age of cutthroat economic competition that mandates corporations to maximize profit and shareholder returns, a surprisingly large number of corporations commit to social responsibility that often does not generate immediate or tangible benefits, say Lim, a doctoral student in sociology, and Tsutsui, an assistant professor of sociology. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

Companies with their Own Social Networks can Earn Lots of Social Dollars

February 9th 2012

Computer Topics - Internet

Using Facebook and Twitter may be good for a company's bottom line, but firms can rake in even bigger profits if they have their own virtual brand community, says a University of Michigan marketing professor. "Americans now spend more of their online time at social network and blog sites than in any other activity—and firms are following the consumer," said Puneet Manchanda, the Isadore and Leon Winkelman Professor of Marketing at the Michigan Ross School of Business. "Over the next five years, social media marketing is expected to represent nearly 20 percent of marketing budgets.
 
“While the major share of firm and media attention has focused on third-party online social networks such as Facebook, many firms have made the choice to build their own such networks.” said Machanda. New research from Manchanda and Ross School colleagues Grant Packard and Adithya Pattabhiramaiah suggests a significant payoff for companies that set up their own online communities. Using data from an unnamed retailer of books, CDs and DVDs, they found a 19 percent bump in incremental revenue from customers after they joined the online community. Manchanda calls this revenue "social dollars." Read more ..


Edge of Eastern Europe

Ukraine's Cold Snap Reveals a Lack of Human Warmth

February 7th 2012

Ukraine - Ukraine homeless

Ivan Brilyuk is 45, but he looks much older. With his white beard and swollen, chapped face and fingers, Brilyuk is one of the hundreds of thousands of homeless people that Ukrainian social workers say are suffering the worst of the recent cold weather. Brilyuk is relatively lucky. He has made his way to one of the hundreds of heated tents set up by the authorities in response to a cold wave that's seen temperatures dip to minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Brilyuk, who's been homeless since being thrown out by his wife several years ago, insists he's grateful for even the most basic of comforts. "Like in the Gulag, give us at least a hut," he says. "Give us warmth, some comfort, a place to wash, to shave, to clean ourselves up. I don't have any money, I don't have anything. You can see the kind of shape I'm in. If we're needed by this state, then we want to work." But the tent where Brilyuk is trying to warm up has only a few plastic chairs. After an hour or so, he'll be back out on the street, returning to the unheated Kyiv basement where he sometimes sleeps. Read more ..


Edgy Entertainment

Madonna: Marketing and Public Relations Genius!

February 5th 2012

Entertainment - Super Bowl XLVI

In what was clearly a great Super Bowl half-time show, Madonna did a great job of entertaining the millions watching the game – and in doing so scored a Public Relations coup in reaching a new generation of fans. The guest appearances by today’s pop stars including LMFAO, Cee Lo Green, Nicki Minaj and M.I.A, all enhanced the brand that Madonna has succcessfully built since launching her fantastic career with her first hit song, "Like a Virgin" in 1984. Madonna has always proved to be be not just a megastar,  but a true marketing genius.  As a lightening rod for controversy, her songs through the years, including her first, then "Papa Don't Preach", "Like a Prayer", "Vogue", and others, have attracted acclaim, but also outrage and anger, which all helped draw more attention to her.

Clearly this Super Bowl performance continued that upward trend, showing that her genius continues well into her third decade as a performer.  Only a rare group of people can make a similar claim.
Read more ..


Israel and Iran

The End of Days in Palestine

February 1st 2012

Book Covers - Palestine the Book
Palestine the Book, by Jonathan Bloomfield

What would we do if we lived in a flood plain with no egress at all, or along a hurricane evacuation zone that just prolonged the inevitable without taking you out of the path? It is probably something few really consider until the storm is bearing down on them and reality is about hit hard. Living in the New York metropolitan area, having experienced hurricanes, nor'easters and blizzards that destroyed property, wiped out beaches, killed people and devastated lives and families, many of us can imagine the sense of urgency when an emergency is near.

Most recently, last April and May we watched the 24 hour news channels as large regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi were hit by the largest storms since the early 1900s, and the Morganza Spillway was intentionally opened, destroying nearly 5000 square miles of inhabited land to spare total destruction of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, on the heels of the 2005 hurricane that nearly wiped out the whole Gulf region. What if the people who lived there or were visiting the area then had no way to escape?

The prospect is frightening and for just about all of us, unimaginable. Now imagine the threat is not a tidal wave, rushing floodwaters, a violent tornado or some other natural disaster, and something that can wipe out life as we know it for years to come, destroying not just property, but everyone and everything in its wake. Imagine the threat is a nuclear explosion, the mushroom cloud in the distance, the flash of light and the torrent effect of the ripple that tears through everything in its path, leaving death and darkness then nothingness.

This is a fear that we face living in a nuclear world, but one that we here in the United States feel is either so remote or could hit elsewhere, but not in my backyard. However, in Israel, the fear is real. With the entire country being just 8,019 square miles; extending about 200 mi north to south and just 70 miles east to west; with its narrowest point being only 12 miles across, there is nowhere to go to outrun a nuclear attack, nowhere to hide and nothing to do but watch the end of the world take hold. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

TV Video Chat is Predicted to Surpass 16 Million Users in 2015

February 1st 2012

Computer Topics - video chat

The video calling market can be divided into three sub-markets, depending on the device which is being used to make the call: PCs, Mobile, and living room (digital home) devices. Living room video calling is a nascent market and currently has a relatively small user base. New NPD In-Stat research forecasts that total users will increase from 1.5 million in 2011 to 16.4 million in 2015. Asia Pacific will be the largest market for living room video calling by a significant margin, due to this being the region with the highest video calling enabled device shipments.

 

Video calling originated on the PC and these services are significantly more mature than on other device types. While PC video calling solutions have been available for several years, these services continue to evolve in functionality. The most notable change to PC video calling is the association with social networking and the unification of these solutions with social networks. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Divorce Hurts Even more at a Younger Age

February 1st 2012

Social Topics - Child alone and sad

Divorce at a younger age hurts people’s health more than divorce later in life, according to a new study by a Michigan State University sociologist. Hui Liu said the findings, which appear in the research journal Social Science & Medicine, suggest older people have more coping skills to deal with the stress of divorce.
 
“It’s clear to me that we need more social and family support for the younger divorced groups,” said Liu, assistant professor of sociology. “This could include divorce counseling to help people handle the stress, or offering marital therapy or prevention programs to maintain marital satisfaction.” Liu analyzed the self-reported health of 1,282 participants in Americans’ Changing Lives, a long-term national survey. She measured the gap in health status between those who remained married during the 15-year study period and those who transitioned from marriage to divorce, at certain ages and among different birth cohorts, or generations.

Liu found the gap was wider at younger ages. For example, among people born in the 1950s, those who got divorced between the ages of 35 and 41 reported more health problems in relation to their continuously married counterparts than those who got divorced in the 44 to 50 age range. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Blogging May Help some with Social Distress

February 1st 2012

Social Topics - victim

Blogging may have psychological benefits for teens suffering from social anxiety, improving their self-esteem and helping them relate better to their friends, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. “Research has shown that writing a personal diary and other forms of expressive writing are a great way to release emotional distress and just feel better,” said the study’s lead author, Meyran Boniel-Nissim, PhD, of the University of Haifa, Israel. “Teens are online anyway, so blogging enables free expression and easy communication with others.”

Maintaining a blog had a stronger positive effect on troubled students’ well-being than merely expressing their social anxieties and concerns in a private diary, according to the article published online in the APA journal Psychological Services. Opening the blog up to comments from the online community intensified those effects. “Although cyberbullying and online abuse are extensive and broad, we noted that almost all responses to our participants’ blog messages were supportive and positive in nature,” said the study’s co-author, Azy Barak, PhD. “We weren’t surprised, as we frequently see positive social expressions online in terms of generosity, support and advice.” Read more ..


Inside India

Hindu Radicals Revoke Tolerance for Minority Religions

January 31st 2012

India Topics - Hindu nationalist

It was a day of terror for Christians at St Joseph University Institute in Anekal, near Bangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka. More than 100 members of radical anti-Christian Hindu groups, assailed the campus on January 30, using as a pretext their belief that India's national flag had not been on display in observance of Republic Day. Members of India's radical Hindu nationalist groups, "Vishwa Hindu Parishad", "Bajrang Dal", "Sakthi Rashtra Sene", and  "Karnataka Rakshana Vedike" were represented among the members of the mob that broke into the university campus and interrupted lessons.

The dean of the institute, Rev. Melwin Mendonca, SJ, reported that students and faculty lived through hours of apprehension during the seige, which showed signs of complicity on the part of local authorities. According to Father Melwin, there were some municipal councilors who joined the mob. In addition, when school administrators called for police protection, it was observed that "the inspector and police officers were spectators of the violence, they even allowed that the unrest on the campus lasted for two hours", according to the dean. Read more ..


Edge of Education

Disparities in Treating Kids of Different Ethnicities in Trouble at School

January 31st 2012

Crime Topics - sonia vivas
Sonia Vivas

A good student with no disciplinary record, Sonia Vivas was on track to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer when an encounter with two other teens sent her life into a tailspin. Accused of stealing a cell phone and pulling a knife on a student, the 14-year-old eighth grader was tossed out of school in 2007 with little more than a cursory hearing after the mother of one of the girls, both white, complained her daughter felt threatened.

For six months, Vivas, who denies the accusations, says she languished at home, banished from classes at her Somerville, Mass., middle school where she was the only Hispanic student in the eighth grade. “It was pretty traumatizing,” she says today, reflecting on the incident she now believes was sparked by jealousy over her friendship with one of the girl's ex-boyfriend. “It made me feel pretty horrible. It changed my life.” With no due process rights to a hearing under Massachusetts law, Vivas was expelled from school after only a brief interview with the school principal to explain her side of the story. Today, nearly five years later, school officials declined comment on Vivas's dismissal but said where student safety is an issue, the expulsion process remains unchanged. Read more ..


The Gender Edge

New Study Explains Differences in Prejudices Among Males & Females

January 29th 2012

Social Topics - Couple

Prejudice against people from groups different than their own is linked to aggression for men and fear for women, suggests new research led by Michigan State University scholars. The researchers report that, throughout history, men have been the primary aggressors against different groups, as well as the primary victims of group-based aggression and discrimination.

“There is evidence going back thousands of years of bands of men getting together and attacking other bands of men, eliminating them and keeping the women as the spoils of war,” said Carlos David Navarrete, evolutionary psychologist at MSU. As modern examples, Navarrete noted the wars in Central Africa and the Balkans that were marred by rape and genocide.

Navarrete co-authored the study with MSU researcher Melissa McDonald and Mark Van Vugt of the University of Amsterdam and the University of Oxford. The researchers analyzed current academic literature on war and conflict and found that the standard social science theory did not explain the sex differences in aggressive or discriminatory behavior between groups. A novel theory, integrating psychology with ecology and evolutionary biology, has been introduced by the researchers. Their “male warrior hypothesis” explains how a deep evolutionary history of group conflict may have provided the backdrop for natural selection to shape the social psychologies and behaviors of men and women in fundamentally distinct ways. Read more ..


The Edge of Gadgets

Eureka! Kitchen Gadget Inspires Scientist to Make More Effective Plastic Electronics

January 28th 2012

Food - vacuum food sealer

One day in 2010, Rutgers physicist Vitaly Podzorov watched a store employee showcase a kitchen gadget that vacuum-seals food in plastic. The demo stuck with him. The simple concept – an airtight seal around pieces of food – just might apply to his research: developing flexible electronics using lightweight organic semiconductors for products such as video displays or solar cells.

“Organic transistors, which switch or amplify electronic signals, hold promise for making video displays that bend like book pages or roll and unroll like posters,” said Podzorov. But traditional methods of fabricating a part of the transistor known as the gate insulator often end up damaging the transistor’s delicate semiconductor crystals. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Are the Rights of Palestinian Women Protected by the PA?

January 28th 2012

Palestine Topics - PLO Flags

Discrimination against women is common in Palestinian society and institutionalized by Palestinian authorities in the territories, particularly in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Physical violence, including spousal abuse, employment prejudice and education inequities are just some of the ways that Palestinian women are mistreated on a daily basis. Like the abuse of women throughout the Arab and Muslim world, however, the media, human rights organizations and even women’s rights groups have paid little attention to these violations of human rights.

In January 2012, women employees at the Palestinian Women’s Affairs Ministry began a “hunger strike till death” to protest harassment and mistreatment of women by their own leadership. “The situation is [so] grave,” one striker said, “[that] women have received threats to be shot in their legs … [or] not to let [into] their offices.”

Such abuse, though, is only the tip of the iceberg. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Illuminating Dark Continents with Solar Power

January 28th 2012

Energy Topics - Solar/LED streetlight

How can local governments keep public spaces and roads illuminated at night in places where there’s no electricity, or an unreliable supply? Solar power, obviously.

But there’s a catch.

“The vast majority of solar-powered streetlights and similar fixtures on the market don’t survive for long,” according to Zeev Jakoby, managing director of Israeli startup Globe Light & Water System. “That’s why we’ve devised a sturdy, solar-powered light fixture that needs no infrastructure.”

This could prove a godsend to developing nations where a lack of street lighting results in dangerous driving conditions and far slower economies. “It’s designed with the African market in mind,” explains Jakoby, who spent many years in Nigeria overseeing construction projects. Read more ..


Edge of Psychology

The Eyes are the Windows to the Mind, and Buying Behaviour

January 27th 2012

Social Topics - Eyeball Surveillance

The eyes are the window into the soul—or at least the mind, according to a new paper published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Measuring the diameter of the pupil, the part of the eye that changes size to let in more light, can show what a person is paying attention to. Pupillometry, as it’s called, has been used in social psychology, clinical psychology, humans, animals, children, infants—and it should be used even more, the authors say.
 
The pupil is best known for changing size in reaction to light. In a dark room, your pupils open wide to let in more light; as soon as you step outside into the sunlight, the pupils shrink to pinpricks. This keeps the retina at the back of the eye from being overwhelmed by bright light. Something similar happens in response to psychological stimuli, says Bruno Laeng of the University of Oslo, who cowrote the paper with Sylvain Sirois of Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and Gustaf Gredebäck of Uppsala University in Sweden. When someone sees something they want to pay closer attention to, the pupil enlarges. It’s not clear why this happens, Laeng says. “One idea is that, by essentially enlarging the field of the visual input, it’s beneficial to visual exploration,” he says. Read more ..


Inside Central Asia

Kyrgyz Convicts Sew Their Mouths Shut in Protest against Inhuman Conditions

January 26th 2012

Asia Topics - kyrgyz prisoner

Almost seven thousand prisoners in Kyrgyzstan upped the ante in their hunger strike against prison authorities in the Central Asian republic. To protest what they consider excessive force used by prison guards to put down a riot at a prison facility, 1,319 of the 6,680 prisoners involved in the hunger strike have sewn their mouth shut. According to spokesperson Eleonora Sabatarova of the prison system, 600 prisoners have been transferred to medical facilities within the prison system as a result of malnutrition. Prisoners have sewn their mouths shut in order to prevent forced nutrition.

The hunger strike began on January 17, a day after Kyrgyz security forces shut down rioting at a prison in Bishkek. One prisoner died as a result, while hundreds were injured. Public Defender Tursunbek Akun said on January 24 in a press conference that prisoners have issued a series of demands that must be met so that they will remove the stitches from their mouths and return to eating. Said Akun, “The are complaining about the aggression and the loss of their rights.”  Akun added “Prison authorities claim that the convicts threw boiling water on them on January 16 during an inspection, and the prisoners say the riot police beat them for no reason” according to a local news source. Read more ..


The Race for EV's

London to be European Electromobility Capital

January 25th 2012

Automotive - Ford Focus electric

The British government and a number of private-public initiatives are successfully building the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, says Frost & Sullivan. "London has over 500 public charging stations and is dynamically adding more to it", explains Research Associate Prajyot N. Sathe. “The launch of the Source London scheme is working towards getting 1.300 public charging stations by 2013.” By 2015, about 25.000 charging stations will be available in the greater London area. The North East England region also is pushing ahead electromobility infrastructure - the region recently has installed 300 charging stations; the goal is to get 1300 charging stations already in 2013. North East England has been included in the “Plugged-in places” project, that offers matched funding to business and public sectors to install charging stations. They have also been formulated to integrate residential charging stations with a provision for smart meters.

Nissan's strategic use of its Sunderland plant for developing Electric Vehicles (EVs) across Europe has accelerated the government’s vision to increase sustainable and 'green-collar’ jobs. The ambitious targets set by the government and heavy contracts secured by leading EV infrastructure providers are the major grounds for the impressive deployment of the EV charging stations network at strategic locations such as car parks, residential and commercial locations as well as leisure facilities. Read more ..



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