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The Way We Are

Stories On The Skin: The Life and Times of Tattoos, Piercings, and Modifications

November 18th 2011

Social Topics - Singapore Tattoo Con 2009

Not one great country can be named, from the polar regions in the north to New Zealand in the south, in which the aborigines do not tattoo themselves.
– Charles Darwin

On a spectacularly sunny, end of March Sunday I attended a "tattoofest" in a Tampa hotel. Outside a group of bikers and other attendees sat soaking up the sun. I entered tentatively, not knowing what to expect.

I picked up a magazine at the check-in tables called "Prick", filled with ads for conventions and tattoo artists’ studios. A columnist, Chuck B, wrote, "Even the meanest looking heavily tattooed characters out there are longing to be coddled, not hurt. Believe me, I know. So let’s all get together and have a big love fest."

I was surprised by what I saw. This was not just displays and sales pitches. People getting their tattoos applied and those doing the applications occupied the majority of booths. Read more ..


Inside Russia

Tajik Migrant Workers Fearful in Russia

November 17th 2011

Russian Topics - tajik worker 2

Zulfiya Bobojonova and her two teenage sons haven't left their rented Moscow apartment for nearly a week. "There are rumors about Russian police detaining Tajiks in the streets and deporting them back to Tajikistan," says the shopkeeper, who hails from a small city in northern Tajikistan but has worked legally in the Russian capital for the past nine years. "Russian television channels talk about Tajik-migrant issues every night, and it's just adding to our fears."

In fact, the reports of migrant sweeps in Russia targeting Tajik nationals are more than rumors. In the week since a Tajik court sentenced a Russian and an Estonian pilot to prison sentences for their unauthorized refueling stops en route from Kabul, Russian officials have rounded up hundreds of Tajik immigrants for possible expulsion.

"Tajiks don't dare go outside or freely walk in streets right now," Bobojonova tells RFE/RL. "Everybody is in hiding inside their homes. I didn't even allow my 13-year-old son to go to school. What if the police detain him, find us too, and deport all of us? People are afraid. Nobody's going to work."

The pilots, working for a Russian air-transport company, were handed jail sentences on November 8 of 10 1/2 years each for arms trafficking, among other charges. Their aircraft were also seized. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Smile, Happy People Live Longer

November 15th 2011

Art Topics - Jerry Williams swamp dogg

Happy people may not only enjoy life more, but new research suggests they also have more life to enjoy.

Almost 4,000 people, enrolled in a long-term aging study in Britain, were asked to score how they were feeling on a particular day.

"We used quite simple measures," says Andrew Steptoe of University College London. "So the 'positive affect' measure was a combination of how happy people were feeling, how excited they were feeling, how content they were. And these were all rated on a simple scale, a five-point scale, from 'not at all' to 'extremely.' Read more ..


China on Edge

Executioners' Work in China is Easy: Just pull the Trigger

November 15th 2011

China Topics - Chinese death row
Chinese convicts take cigarette break before execution

“The work is not as difficult as it seems from the outside. We point, squeeze the trigger and that is that,” reportedly said one of China’s executioners in reference to his deathly work. He added, “We all use rifles and stand about 15 feet away from the condemned prisoner from whom we are separated by 3 foot tall barrier.” Chinese media recorded an interview with an executioner named Hu Xiao, who has participated in the official killings for some two decades. In the Beijing Evening News it was also recorded that prisoners, kneeling before their executioners, frequently collapse in fright before sentence is carried out.

Executioner Hu recalled that in one case, a soldier who had been convicted of murder rose up and ran towards the firing squad and afforded them the opportunity to kill a moving target. China is one of 23 countries, including the United States, where capital punishment is still observed. Ninety-six countries have officially abolished the death penalty. China executes more people than any other country in the world. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Rural Greeks, Forgotten Victims of Economic Meltdown

November 15th 2011

Europe Topics - Greek farmers and tractors

Images of the riots and strikes in Athens have been broadcast around the world as Europe fights to save Greece from bankruptcy. But Greeks in rural areas of the country say that the meltdown is hitting them even harder - and claim they are being ignored by the government.

West Macedonia in the mountainous north of Greece. Here the cold winds of economic hardship are blowing hard.

The town of Ptolemaida owes its existence to one industry - electricity. Power station chimneys loom on the hillsides. In between, the landscape is scarred with mines which supply the factories with lignite or "brown coal." The electricity company is state-owned. It faces falling revenues and government cutbacks. For the workers, that spells disaster. In the nearby town of Kozani, Lefteris Ionnadis helps run a local activist group, the "Independent Kozani Movement." Read more ..


Edge on Art

May One Thousand Chinese Papercuts Bloom

November 14th 2011

China Topics - Chinese cut out

Scholarly gems are often found by sifting through dusty archives in foreign lands thousands of miles away. But sometimes they're discovered just by doing some office cleaning on campus.

That's what happened recently at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. Staffers who were tidying up a storage room in Ann Arbor found a stunning collection of rare propaganda papercut images from the Cultural Revolution---a period of massive political upheaval in China that began in 1966 and lasted about a decade.

"Long live the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution!" says the slogan on the flag that features the profile of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong. The image is one of 15 papercuts recently discovered in a storage area for the Center for Chinese Studies, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

With incredible detail, the long-forgotten papercuts portray the euphoria and zeal of the era as well as the violence and destruction that left the Chinese economy in shambles. The beautifully preserved poster-size images are painstakingly cut out of red paper in the tradition of the age-old Chinese handicraft, more commonly used to make decorations for weddings, Lunar New Year celebrations and other festivities. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Here's How Human Skin begins Tanning in Seconds

November 13th 2011

Social Topics - Suntan and the big guy

We all know that human skin tans after days spent in the sun. That relatively slow process has known links to ultraviolet (and specifically UVB) exposure, which leads to tanning only after it damages the DNA of skin cells. Now, researchers have uncovered a much speedier path to pigmentation.

The newly discovered response is likely to provide rapid protection against UV damage, the researchers say, and understanding how it works might impact the design of sunscreens in the future.

"Our work shows that a dedicated UV receptor allows skin cells to immediately detect and respond to UV light," said Elena Oancea of Brown University. "We found that human skin detects light using a mechanism similar to that used by the retina, on a timescale significantly faster than was previously known."

"Our findings show that both the eye and skin—the only two organs constantly exposed to solar radiation—use similar molecular mechanisms to decode light," Oancea said.

The studies show that melanin production can be measured in human skin cells within an hour of UV exposure. That's key because melanin doesn't just make the skin darker. It also protects the skin by absorbing ultraviolet radiation and converting it to a less harmful energy in the form of heat. Read more ..


Among the Druze

Daliat el-Carmel, the epicenter of Druze culture

November 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Daliat el-Carmel
A View of the Streets in Daliat el-Carmel

Most people go to the Galilee Druze village of Daliat el-Carmel to sample ethnic cuisine or bring home bargains from the bazaar. But the town, located between the bucolic wine country in Zichron Yaakov and the high-tech hub of Haifa, is also rich in history that Ragaa Mansour is eager to share.

"This is the southernmost Druze town in the world and the largest in Israel," says Mansour, a member of the Druze sect that is based mainly in Lebanon and Syria.

Two years ago, Mansour opened the Carmel Center for Druze Heritage, a hands-on living museum dedicated to educating visitors about the Druze people, religion and culture through exhibits on dress, foods, crafts and industries. Read more ..


Edge of Terrorism

Christian pastor Murdered by Nigeria's Boko Haram Muslim Terrorists

November 8th 2011

Nigeria - Nigerian church burnt out by Boko Haram

The Boko Haram Islamic sect launched a series of deadly attacks in northeastern Nigeria on November 4, destroying several Christian churches as well as law enforcement installations. Six churches were destryed in the city of Damataru, the capital of Yobe State, while in nearby Maiduri another four attacks were reported. On November 4, in Damataru, a series of coordinated attacks with the use of explosives targeted the police headquarters, police stations and six different churches in the Christian neighbourhood called Jerusalem.

According to provisional official estimates, the attacks yielded at least 60 dead, as well as numerous wounded. In Maiduguri, there were three suicide bombings against army barracks, government installations, and Christian churches. In Maiduguri, among the victims was Rev. David Usman, the pastor of a Church of Christ congregation, as well as his assistant secretary. A Catholic church was utterly destroyed in the attack. Yet another church was attacked in Kaduna, a town in central Nigeria. Read more ..


Islam Against Christianity

Catholics and Orthodox Churches Agree that the Arab Spring was 'Devastating' for Christians

November 8th 2011

Egypt - Egyptian Coptic women weeping
Egyptian Coptic Christians mourning

Following an annual meeting on October 27-28, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation released a statement after having received reports on events in the lives of Catholic and Orthodox Churches worldwide. Chaired by Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans at St. Paul’s College in Washington D.C., the Consultation's Orthodox co-chairman since 1987, Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, has retired and a successor has not yet been named.

The statement, On the Plight of Churches in the Middle East, declared “We are concerned for our fellow Christians who, in the face of daunting challenges, struggle to maintain a necessary witness to Christ in their homelands,” they wrote. “United with them in prayer and solidarity, we ask our fellow Christians living in the West to take time to develop a more realistic appreciation of their predicament. We ask our political leaders to exert more pressure where it can protect these Churches, many of which have survived centuries of hardship but now stand on the verge of disappearing completely.” Read more ..


Israel and Africa

Israel Shows former Nigerian Fighters how to Beat Swords into Plowshares

November 2nd 2011

Africa Topics - African Rebels and Guns
Rebels inspecting their guns

Ex-freedom fighters from Nigeria are being sent to an Israeli institute to learn vital skills for self-sufficiency.

After fighting big oil, ex-rebels from the Niger Delta of Nigeria have chosen to put down their weapons. Some 20,000 of them, men and women, have been granted amnesty by their government along with free land for developing agriculture.

But people who have long known only conflict and guns don't remember how to till the soil, raise chickens or milk cows. This is where an Israel management non-profit has stepped in. Read more ..


Domestic Violence

Girls Tend to Blame Themselves for Violence in their Homes

November 1st 2011

Social Topics - Little girl upset

Preschoolers are aware and understand threats when they see their mother harmed by violent conflicts at home, a new University of Michigan study finds.

The study explored what factors influence children's comprehension and response when violence occurs.

Researchers evaluated intimate partner violence—conflicts that can be physical or sexual—in the past year for 116 mother-child groups with known violence in the homes. The children were 4 to 6 years old.

Few studies have looked at children's observations of violence as young as age 5, and the new U-M findings are one of the first to assess outcomes for kids as young as age 4, said Laura Miller, a psychology graduate student and the study's lead author.

Mothers and children were interviewed to assess the level of violence at home and their mental health. Children also discussed violent conflict between their mother and another adult.

Results suggest that preschool-aged children are able to meaningfully respond to statements about their parents' conflicts. Girls, more than boys, tend to blame themselves for violence in the home. Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

Smart Grid research collaboration aims to develop a Renewable Ireland

October 31st 2011

Science - superconducting fibers

Leading European energy and ICT companies, R&D centers and universities, including ESB, Intune Networks and the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) are teaming up as part of a €5million for EU Collaboration to develop innovative “smart grid” energy solutions and services for homes, buildings, industry and the transport infrastructure.

The project aims to identify the requirements of a “smart grid” ICT system. Smart grids provide a balance between the supply of energy generated and demand. They can integrate advanced information and communication technology (ICT) into the energy distribution network so that electricity delivery is remotely controlled and automatically optimized. Read more ..


Honduras on Edge

No End of Impunity for Assassins of the Journalists of Honduras

October 31st 2011

Latin American Topics - Dead Journalists Society

As always, but with an unusual quota of aggression since 2010, freedom of speech and the personal security of Honduran journalists are under permanent attack from groups, gangs, and individuals who launch their strikes under a cloak of anonymity. The journalist Medardo Flores, a relentless supporter of former President Manuel Zelaya, is the latest victim of the wave of violence directed toward members of the Honduran working press. With all the disrespect attributable to the government of Porfirio Lobo, as demonstrated here, it is not unreasonable to presume that the perpetrators, along with their underlying political motives, want to silence such journalists at any cost.

“President Lobo, who is killing the journalists?” is the question that is being raised by various national and international bodies, though they are only answered with silence and impunity. This prolonged state of deeply disturbing uncertainty has all but eliminated freedom of expression and investigative journalism in the country, two concepts that Hondurans badly need to protect their fragile, budding democracy and extremely delicate human rights situation. The dark forces behind this wave of menacing injustice comprise a broad collection of foreboding tactics ranging from common violence to political violence to the activities of drug cartels, which have silenced journalists reporting on the subject of corruption and other crimes related to narco-trafficking out of fear of losing their lives. Read more ..


Significant Events

Investigative Author Edwin Black Headlined Conference, Received First 'Moral Courage' Award

October 30th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

An extraordinary conference designed to recognize and promote “moral courage” convened in San Diego late in October. The Initiative for Moral Courage held its first annual conference on the campuses of San Diego State University and California State University at San Marcos. The conference topics of the inaugural session focused on various twentieth century genocides, authors who have exposed them, and individuals who stood up to them against the odds. Hence, the salute to moral courage, and the awards given to carefully selected recipients.

To salute brave survivors and chroniclers, this year’s conference featured presentations by award-winning author and investigative journalist Edwin Black on the connection between American and Nazi eugenics and Richard G. Hovannisian on the Armenian genocide orchestrated by the Turks. It also covered a host of other mass murders, from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Rwanda to Cambodia.

The first major event was on October 29 and included a graphic presentation of panels titled “The Rescuers.” This was an exhibition of photographs and extraordinary stories from the Holocaust, and the genocides that occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, and Cambodia. Remarkable stories emerged of ordinary heroes who resisted overwhelming tides of prejudice and violence and risked their lives saving people from enemy groups. It helps to understand the presence of rescue behavior during genocide or mass violence. The exhibition’s rationale was to design ways to build in protective measures against this type of violence

Then, on October 30, an afternoon series explored “Genocides Past and Present.” Opening the day was award-winning investigative author Edwin Black, whose book War Against the Weak has changed the face and course of society’s understanding of the dark links between American and Nazi eugenics. Based on selective breeding of humans, eugenics began in laboratories in the U.S. but ended in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. War Against the Weak is described by the program as “the gripping chronicle documenting how American corporate philanthropies launched a national campaign of ethnic cleansing in the United States, and helped found and fund the Nazi eugenics of Hitler and Mengele. Winner of the Best Book of the Year, International Human Rights.” Black demonstrated moral courage in standing up to the power of the Carnegie Institution and Rockefeller Foundation, which funded, orchestrated, and inflicted both American and Nazi eugenics.

Author Black commented, “In an era of increasing focus on political expediency, the effort to revive and foster the notion of moral courage is sorely needed.” He credited the vision of organizer Jackie Gmach in bringing the effort to national attention. Read more ..


Edge on Human Population

Human Development outweighs Sheer Numbers in Overpopulation Debate

October 29th 2011

Social Topics - Wimbleton crowd

As the global media speculate on the number of people likely to inhabit the planet on Oct. 31, an international team of population and development experts argue that it is not simply the number of people that matters but more so their distribution by age, education, health status and location that is most relevant to local and global sustainability.

Any realistic attempt to achieve sustainable development must focus primarily on the human wellbeing and be founded on an understanding of the inherent differences in people in terms of their differential impact on the environment and their vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are often closely associated with age, gender, lack of education, and poverty.

These are some of the messages formulated by twenty of the world's leading experts in population, development and environment who met at IIASA in Austria in September 2011, with the objective of defining the critical elements of the interactions between the human population and sustainable development. The Laxenburg Read more ..


Inside America

Students Play the Money Game

October 27th 2011

America Themes - nest eggs

In today’s uncertain economic times, understanding money matters is more important than ever. But America’s education system is not doing a good job of teaching financial literacy. Past surveys show high school seniors answer only around half of basic questions about stocks, bonds and credit cards correctly.

The inventors of a board game called Ne$t Egg hope their approach can get high school students off on the right financial foot.

Most of the 13 New York City high school kids who recently gathered around a table to play Ne$t Egg had never thought about personal finance before. They were in an office at the City’s Department of Youth and Community Development, dice at the ready. Read more ..


Inside America

Generation X is Ready to Take on Leadership in a New Century

October 27th 2011

Social Topics - Lighting a candle against the darkness

They've been stereotyped as a bunch of insecure, angst-ridden, underachievers. But most members of Generation X are leading active, balanced and happy lives, according to a long-term University of Michigan survey.

"They are not bowling alone," said political scientist Jon Miller, author of The Generation X Report. "They are active in their communities, mainly satisfied with their jobs, and able to balance work, family, and leisure."

Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, now includes responses from approximately 4,000 Gen Xers—those born between 1961 and 1981.

"The 84 million Americans in this generation between the ages of 30 and 50 are the parents of today's school-aged children," Miller said. "And over the next two or three decades, members of Generation X will lead the nation in the White House and Congress. So it's important to understand their values, history, current challenges and future goals." Read more ..


Denmark on Edge

Sharia Law Grows with Impunity in Denmark and elswhere in Europe

October 25th 2011

Islamic Topics - Little Burka Mermaid

A Muslim group in Denmark has launched a campaign to turn parts of Copenhagen and other Danish cities into "Sharia Law Zones" that would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic law. The Danish Islamist group Kaldet til Islam (Call to Islam) says the Tingbjerg suburb of Copenhagen will be the first part of Denmark to be subject to Sharia law, followed by the Nørrebro district of the capital and then other parts of the country, the center-right Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported on October 17.

Call to Islam says it will dispatch 24-hour Islamic 'morals police' to enforce Sharia law in those enclaves. The patrols will confront anyone caught drinking alcohol, gambling, going to discothèques or engaging in other activities the group views as running contrary to Islam.

Integration Minister Karen Haekkerup told Jyllands-Posten "I consider this to be very serious. Anything that attempts to undermine our democracy, we must crack down on it and consistently so." Read more ..


Vietnam on Edge

Effort to Turn Hanoi Bridge into Museum Sparks Controversy

October 24th 2011

Vietnam Topics - Long Bien Bridge

A heated debate surrounds the future of a landmark prized as a symbol of stoicism during the Vietnam War. A plan to turn one of Hanoi’s most iconic landmarks, the Long Bien Bridge, into the world’s longest contemporary art museum has sparked controversy in Vietnam.

Just five minutes from the center of Hanoi, lines of motorbikes and bicycles cross the rickety tracks of Long Bien Bridge.

Built by the French in 1903 and repeatedly bombed by the United States during the Vietnam War, the railway bridge is integral to the city’s character. Its image as a patched-up war veteran is described throughout popular culture and is seen as a symbol of Vietnamese resolve in the face of war.

A plan to turn the bridge into the world’s longest contemporary art gallery, however, has triggered fierce debate between architects, journalists and Hanoi locals. Read more ..


The Saudi Succession Question

The Allegiance Council

October 24th 2011

Arab Topics - King Abdullah2

Editor’s note: This series was originally written in 2009; we re-publish it now in light of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s recent death.

Since the Saudi announcement of the formation of an Allegiance Council in October 2006, most observers have assumed that it would have a major role in the appointment of a new crown prince and even a new king, but such a conclusion is increasingly far from certain.

The declared role of the council is to help appoint a crown prince after Abdullah dies and Sultan becomes king. As such, it was probably an idea that surprised Sultan, who most likely had assumed that he could choose his own crown prince. Under the new system, his choice would need to be approved by the wider family. And if Sultan’s choice were voted down, he would have to accept a compromise pick selected by the other members of the council.

The creation of an Allegiance Council showed the limits of Abdullah’s power. Since it would not come into operation until Sultan became king, theoretically, as king, he could simply change the rules of the council or abolish it completely. A further indication of the constraints on Abdullah’s authority, or perhaps just another case of slow Saudi administration, was the December 2007 announcement of the council’s members more than a year after its creation.

The setting up of the council seems to indicate Abdullah’s belief that the arrangement from the time of Fahd’s first stoke in 1995 until his death in 2005 was most unsatisfactory. The core aspects of the new council’s articles deal with the possibility of either the king or crown prince—or both—being ill, or both dying. In the event that neither the king nor the crown prince is deemed fit to rule, a five-member transitory council would run state affairs for a week at most, choosing a new king and crown prince. But the articles did not truly grasp the challenge of an increasingly aged and decrepit leadership passing power to the next generation. Read more ..


American Songbook

The Spirit of Orchestral Mastermind Charles Stepney Lives on in Chicago

October 24th 2011

Art Topics - charles stepney

There is still a vibrancy and creativity of American music of the 1960s and 70s that has much to offer those who remember those days, as well as those inheriting the unique American penchant for syncretism in music styles. Certainly, the merging of jazz, gospel, funk, and rock is what distinguishes the 1970s as the U.S. emerged from days of the Civil Rights movement and the war in Vietnam. Definitions of what qualified as ‘Black’ music and ‘White’ music appeared to become fuzzier as young people breathed easier (without the Draft dangling over their heads) and could go to the dance floor and groove to tunes by Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder (imported from Saginaw, Michigan), Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament and Funkadelic.

But who was one of the masterminds? Who was it that helped shape the behind the microphone? The tunes are there to be heard on your MP3 player, YouTube, Songza, or even on an LP as God Himself intended those tunes to be heard. His name is Charles Stepney. You won’t hear his voice on those recordings, but you can feel his spirit. It lives. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Jerusalem Invests Millions in Arab Schools

October 22nd 2011

Israel Topics - school in Ras al-Amud
A school in Ras al-Amud, an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

With new classrooms and technology tools, Mayor Nir Barkat has declared an education revolution in the eastern sector of the capital city.

When the 2011-2012 school year began in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, millions of shekels in sparkling new or renewed classrooms, computers and sports facilities greeted 42,153 students and their teachers.

Many of the 59 public schools approved and budgeted under the Jerusalem Education Authority of the Ministry of Education have been neglected, undersupplied or overcrowded for decades. Since taking office in November 2008, Mayor Nir Barkat has been implementing improvements to get these facilities on par with schools in the western sector of the city, says Stephan Miller, advisor to Jerusalem's mayor. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Costs Up at India's R&D Centers

October 15th 2011

India Topics - Indian Tech

Operational costs are on the rise at global technology companies' Indian R&D centers as the focus shifts from cost cutting to innovation and value creation, a recent study found.

Zinnov Management Consulting reported that R&D operational costs  are on course for a 9 percent year-on-year increase—13 percent in U.S. dollar terms—in 2011, following two years of stringent cost reductions.

Operational costs next year are expected to rise between 8 and 12 percent, the consultancy projects. Attrition among employees at the country's 700 R&D centers has been as high as 20 percent this year, companies told Zinnov analysts, while salaries have increased between 10 and 15 percent.

Read more ..


The Disability Edge

Model Special-Needs Park Sparks Overseas Interest

October 12th 2011

Social Topics - Park For Disables

Ecuador relies on Israeli expertise to plan 200 accessible, inclusive playgrounds based on Friendship Park in Ra'anana.

Anybody can install a few playground swings adapted for children with physical disabilities. But that is not Israel's vision of accessible play areas. Though they have only started taking off in the past six years, Israeli parks for children with special needs combine carefully planned physical layout with just as carefully planned companion programs geared to educating the community about acceptance and integration.

So remarkable is this formula that it has inspired the vice president of Ecuador, himself a paraplegic, to seek guidance from Israel in building 200 similar parks in his home country. Uruguay also is following Israel's lead in this area.

"The physical and social part of the park go together strongly," says occupational therapist Michele Shapiro, a specialist in sensory therapy at Beit Issie Shapiro (BIS), an organization providing services to children with special needs, promoting research and training and changing attitudes toward people with disabilities.
Read more ..


Disability Edge

Bike-Riding Kids with Down Syndrome are Fitter and More Active

October 12th 2011

Social Topics - Bridgett rides a bike

Children with Down syndrome who learned to ride a two-wheel bike were less sedentary overall and had less body fat one year after learning to ride compared to those who did not participate, a University of Michigan study shows.

The first results from a two-year study of the feasibility and benefits of teaching children with Down syndrome to ride bikes appear in the October issue of the Physical Therapy Journal.

Results showed that 56 percent of the 61 study participants in the U-M School of Kinesiology Down syndrome bike training study learned to ride a two-wheel bike unassisted after 75 minutes a day of individualized training for five consecutive days, said Dale Ulrich, professor of movement science and study author. After a few tweaks, subsequent bike camps showed even more success, with 65 percent learning to ride. Read more ..


Egypt after Mubarak

Partial Victims List of Egypt's Bloody Sunday Released

October 10th 2011

Christian Topics - Egyptian Coptic Persecution

On October 9, 2011, a march by Coptic Christians in Cairo to demand an end to the ongoing persecution and discrimination ended with the death of up to 48 Coptic Christian protestors who were beaten, gunned down and run-over by military armoured vehicles in a rampage directed by Egyptian Army personnel, with the assistance of local Islamic extremists.

Official Egyptian spokespersons claim that the Copts opened fire on police and military personnel who then responded with gunfire. There were also groups of civilians, wielding bludgeons and swords, who attacked the unarmed Coptic protesters and non-Christian allies.

Estimates of the number of protesters killed have varied, ranging from 23 to almost 50. One source cites a figure of 35 dead, 274 wounded. Most of those killed were the victims of gunshot wounds, while an as yet to be determined number were crushed under the wheels of Egyptian Army armoured vehicles. Read more ..


Mexico on Edge

Mexico's 'Indignados' Taking Democracy to the Streets

October 8th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexico - Nayarit protest 2011

Like young people the world over, Mexican youth taking to the streets in demand of jobs, education and a new economic order. This past week, thousands of Mexican students staged demonstrations for a better future in the Pacific coast states of Nayarit, Colima and Guerrero. The actions took place in the days surrounding the traditional anniversary commemorations of the October 2, 1968 Mexico City massacre of pro-democracy students by Mexican soldiers and paramilitaries.

In Nayarit, a Mexican state ravaged by violence between warring organized crime organizations, public safety also emerged as a principal demand of 5,000 students who protested in the state capital of Tepic under the slogans “No More Deaths” and “No More Ninis.” The latter demand referred to the legions of Mexican young people- more than 7.2 million strong- according to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, who neither work nor study. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Steve Jobs: the Stanford Commencement Address—Love and Loss, Triumph and Death

October 6th 2011

Technology - Steve Jobs speaking

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005 at Stanford University. See video here.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Read more ..


Significant Lives

Apple's Steve Jobs Passes into History and so does an Era

October 6th 2011

Computer Topics - Steve Jobs 2

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and the holder of more than 300 technology patents, died on October 5. The eccentric entrepreneur who built Apple into the world’s leading technological company started in a prosaic garage in Silicon Valley. Having built one of the first personal computers marketed, Jobs led Apple to create wildly popular devices such as the iPhone. He was 56.

Sometimes accused of egocentricity, Jobs pioneered the concept of the personal computer and of navigating them by clicking onscreen images with a mouse, which he also developed. In more recent years, Jobs introduced the iPod portable music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet, which changed how content is accessed and consume in the digital age. "Steve Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera said in August. "His intuition has been phenomenal over the years." Read more ..


American History

In Search of Thomas Edison

October 5th 2011

History American - Israel Paul
Paul Israel - in the Edison library. Photography by Nick Romanenko

For more than 30 years, Paul Israel has been researching and cataloging the life of the famous inventor—a gargantuan task that has yielded millions of pages of documents that shed light on Edison the man, Edison the innovator, and Edison the marketing genius. Thanks to Israel and his team, the world can get a rare glimpse of Edison’s many achievements and just how he managed to do it.

It’s dark here, in the back of the old Livingston Theater in Piscataway, within the cramped second-floor office of Paul Israel, the director and general editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers. I’m here to talk with Israel about the three decades he has spent trying to understand the guy who invented the lightbulb. But in some kind of cosmic irony, I arrived in the middle of a power failure. So we sit, in the dark.

Israel (GSNB’89) can only laugh. He’s a native of California, lanky, with a salt-and-pepper beard and a Samuel Beckett haircut, and he’s not prone to lose his cool over an electrical system gone kaput. Besides, as the world’s preeminent expert on the man widely considered the world’s preeminent inventor, Israel has much to expound on regarding the subject of Thomas Alva Edison, the darkness be damned. Read more ..


Pakistan on Edge

Pakistani Girl Accused of Blasphemy—for a Spelling Mistake

October 5th 2011

PakistanTopics - Naat vs Lanaat (Urdu)

A misplaced dot on an exam has led to accusations of Blasphemy against a Christian eighth grade student in Havelian near Abbotabad, Pakistan.

Faryal Bhatti, daughter of Sarafeen Bhatti, a nurse, was a student at the POF (Pakistan Ordnance Factories) High School located in POF Havelian colony. According to school authorities, during an exam, Faryal Bhatti misspelled a word in Urdu by wrongly placing a dot in a poem written in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. The word was “Naat” (poem of praise), it was misspelled by a the incorrect placement of a dot as “Laanat” (a curse). This is a common error for a child this age as the written forms of the words are quite similar. Read more ..


Internal Combustion on Edge

Jerusalem’s Bus Station: A Pollution Death Trap for Workers and Shoppers

October 4th 2011

Israel Topics - Jerusalem Bus Terminal

Working in a congested bus station, especially one like Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station is not conducive to one’s health. The toxic fumes created by the hundreds of buses that go in and out of this station, and all the free radicals in this air pollution is almost as bad as “black cloud” infested Cairo, or Tehran, where as many as 27 people die each day from air pollution.

A recent study was made by Israel’s Environment Ministry, and was reported afterwards in the Jerusalem Post. Findings? Pollution at this bus station, including high levels of ozone, sulfur dioxides, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter, made the level of pollution in the air four or five times greater than acceptable levels. Read more ..


America's Economy on Edge

New Jersey Businesses get Creative while Scrambling to Survive

October 3rd 2011

Food - Butterflake bakery, teaneck nj
Butterflake kosher bakery, Teaneck NJ

Many small businesses in the United States are struggling these days because of the economic downturn, changes in technology, and competition from large national chains.

In the small town of Teaneck, New Jersey - not far from New York City - business owners are feeling this crunch. They are finding creative ways to cope with the situation.

Fourth-generation baker Richard Heisler is the owner of this 80-year-old kosher bakery in Teaneck New Jersey. Butterflake Bakery is one of the best-known bakeries in the New York metropolitan area. But Heisler said bakeries are a dying business.

“Forty years ago there was no place to go but a bakery to buy a loaf of bread, to get a piece of cake. Today the client has a myriad of choices to shop at,” said Heisler. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Abusive Men Likely to Repeat Violence if Attraction to Women is Merely Superficial

September 30th 2011

Social Topics - Abused woman

Abusive men who select partners mainly based on appearance are likely to be violent again after completing an abuser intervention program, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Fifty-nine percent of those who mentioned at least one physical trait as the reason for their attraction were violent again after the program, compared with 39 percent who did not mention physical traits as a reason.

"This finding is consistent with the notion that offenders who view their partners superficially will be less likely to end their violence," said Daniel Saunders, professor of social work and the study's lead author.

This type of offender was also more likely to mention their own needs as reasons they were attracted to their partners. They had histories of very severe forms for violence—throwing their partners and hitting them with objects. Read more ..


Environmental Justice

The Plight of the Waterless in Detroit

September 28th 2011

Social Topics - Water is Our Right

In Detroit, the business of water is a dirty one. Thousands of residents have their water shut off every year, but the issue reflects more than just unpaid bills. The shutoffs are at the heart of how the Great Lakes are being stewarded. As the world’s supply of fresh water dwindles, the Great Lakes will only continue to become more of a focal point. Who gets the water in these lakes and who goes without? The ways in which water equity issues play out in Detroit may foreshadow what’s on the horizon for other U.S. cities—and even the world.

Detroit resident Keith Bragg wears a faded blue jacket and stands behind a small wooden lectern. He glances down every now and again, but for the most part he keeps his head up. His voice and eyes are clear as he begins to tell the assembled crowd how he found himself without water. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Clowning Around is Serious Business in Israeli Medicine

September 28th 2011

Israel Topics - Medical clowns

Medical clowns from all over the world are heading to Israel for a congress to learn more about the country's unique model of clown therapy.

Israel didn't invent the notion of entertainers cheering hospitalized children. In many countries, volunteers decked out in crazy hats, jumbo shoes and red foam noses regularly bring their bags of tricks to pediatric wards.

But the Israeli program Dream Doctors did blaze the trail for professionalizing "clown therapy" as a standardized, research-backed healthcare discipline. In late October, the organization will host an international congress of medical clowning associations to share the theories and practices of this unusual approach. Read more ..


Hostile Environment

Overfishing in Brazil leads to Piranha Attacks on Swimmers

September 26th 2011

Animals - Piranha

At least one hundred swimmers in northeastern Brazil were bitten by voracious piranhas – toothy Amazonian fish that folklore contends can strip the flesh from living animals and people.

Authorities in the State of Piauí have decided that it is time to somehow reduce the population of the silvery fish found in Brazilian freshwater lakes and rivers that appear in ravenous large schools.

According to local media over the September 24-25 weekend, vacationing swimmers were hospitalized in the town of José de Freitas after suffering bites on their feet and toes. Romildo Mafra, local director of the Brazilian Environmental Affairs in the town said “Since there are no other predators, the piranhas have begun to attack swimmers.” The attacks occurred approximately 30 miles from Terezin, the capital of Piauí. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

The Crisis of Europe and European Nationalism

September 26th 2011

Travel - Germany-castle

A few years ago, the idea that Europe was not going to emerge as one united political entity was regarded as heresy by many leaders. The European enterprise was seen as a work in progress moving inevitably toward unification - a group of nations committed to a common fate. What was a core vision in 2008 is now gone. What was inconceivable, the primacy of the traditional nation-state is now commonly discussed, and steps to devolve Europe in part or in whole (such as ejecting Greece from the eurozone) are being contemplated. This is not a trivial event.

Before 1492, Europe was a backwater of small nationalities struggling over a relatively small piece of cold, rainy land. But one technological change made Europe the center of the international system: deep-water navigation. Read more ..


South Africa on Edge

Afrikaner Farmers Migrating to Georgia

September 23rd 2011

Russian Topics - Afrikaner Farmer Piet Kemp
Afrikaner Emigrant, Farmer Piet Kemp (credit: Y. Weeks, VOA)

Piet Kemp’s family farmed in southern Africa for three centuries. But now at age 66, this Afrikaner farmer has traded South Africa’s Eastern Transvaal for Eastern Georgia. Here, he is reviving wheat and corn production on what was once a Soviet collective farm. Kemp says he has no regrets.

“I have a new life here,” he explained. “I try to make friends with all the people in Georgia, learning their culture. I have been here since 3rd of March, and I have not heard of one murder in Georgia in this time. I didn’t hear about any bank robbery. I didn’t hear about any one hijacking.”

It was not just high crime rates that prompted Kemp to leave South Africa. “There is no security of land, absolutely no security of land in South Africa,” he stressed. Read more ..



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