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Education on Edge

The Military Children Left Behind

July 5th 2011

Military - Military Dependent
Catie Hunter (credit: Emma Schwartz, iWatch)

While parents make sacrifices, sons and daughters endure overcrowding, disrepair, and budgetary neglect at school.

Catie Hunter is only 11 years old. Her father, an Army platoon sergeant, has spent five of those years away from her, serving his country in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. At her elementary school on an Oklahoma military post, ceiling tiles are removed so that when a Great Plains storm rumbles in, rain can cascade from the rotting roof into large trash cans underneath. To get to class, Catie must dodge what she calls “Niagara Falls.” Read more ..

Inside Judaism

The Benei Menashe of India and Burma--A Unique Jewish Community

July 5th 2011

Jewish Topics - Aizawal Synagogue
Aizawal Synagogue

The Benei Menashe are a community from northeast India and northern Burma who have adopted Judaism, believing they are descendants of the biblical tribe of Manasseh.

In March 2005, Israeli chief rabbi Shlomo Amar accepted their claim to Jewish ancestry, calling for their formal conversion and reintegration with the Jewish people. The Benei Menashe have emerged from the culturally and linguistically linked Chin-Kuki-Mizo tribes, found predominantly in the hill districts of the Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram and Chin State in Burma. Read more ..

Edge on Iran

A Detailed Analysis of Iran’s Constitution

July 5th 2011

Iran - The 12th Imam

On February 16, 1979, fifteen days after the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from France after the fall of the Shah, Richard Falk, currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights on Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967, published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times entitled “Trusting Khomeni.” Falk noted that President Carter and National Security Advisor Brzezinski “have very recently associated him [Khomeni] with religious fanaticism” and claimed that “the news media have defamed him in many ways, associating him with efforts to turn the clock back 1,300 years, with virulent anti-Semitism, and with a new political disorder, ‘theocratic fascism,’ about to be set loose on the world.” Read more ..

Edge of Neuroscience

False Memories--How Easy Are They?

July 5th 2011

Social Topics - Praying to a purple sky

How easy is it to falsify memory? New research from the Weizmann Institute of Science shows that a bit of social pressure may be all that is needed. The study, which appears in the July 1, 2011 issue of Science, reveals a unique pattern of brain activity when false memories are formed—one that hints at a surprising connection between our social selves and memory.

The experiment, conducted by Prof. Yadin Dudai and research student Micah Edelson of the Institute’s Department of Neurobiology, along with Prof. Raymond Dolan and Dr. Tali Sharot of University College London, took place in four stages. In the first, volunteers watched a documentary film in small groups. Three days later, they returned to the lab individually to take a memory test, answering questions about the film. They were also asked how confident they were in their answers. Read more ..

America on Edge

Forty Years and Counting in the Policy Flop that is The War on Drugs

July 4th 2011

Crime Topics - Cocaine guns and dollars

June 17, 2011 marked a little-known, yet significant, anniversary in U.S. history – the U.S.’s war on drugs turned an infelicitous 40. Four decades, one trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives later, we must pause and reevaluate not only whether this war’s costly means justify its ends, but if its methods actually work.

The Ill-Fated Origins of the War on Drugs

President Richard Nixon initiated the “war on drugs” in June 1971, when he denounced drug abuse as “public enemy No. 1.”  With this pronouncement, he catapulted the country into a decades-long stalemate founded largely on fallacious data, virulent prejudices and ill-calibrated policies. Despite personally appointing the members of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, President Nixon refused to read the 1972 report in which the authors advocated decriminalizing marijuana for personal use. Read more ..

Senegal on Edge

Protests in Senegal Disrupt President Wade’s Plans for Succession

June 29th 2011

Africa Topics - Abdoulaye Wade and Karim Wade
Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade and son Karim Wade

Violent protests and opposition from his own party late in June forced Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to give up changes that would have made it easier for him to win re-election. The reversal also disrupts Wade’s plans for a vice presidency, which could have benefitted his son.

Objections to creating a vice president for Senegal focus chiefly on concerns, both within the ruling party and within the opposition, that President Wade would use that post to put his son, Karim, in place to succeed him.

Karim Wade is already a powerful member of his father’s Cabinet. As minister of state for international cooperation, regional development, and infrastructure, he controls more than one-quarter of Senegal’s federal budget, including the energy portfolio. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Forever Changed: A Belarus Shtetl 70 Years After the Nazis

June 29th 2011

Russian Topics - Senno, Belarus
Senno, Belarus (credit: D. Markosian, VOA)

On a recent afternoon, Rosa Faitelson was sitting at her kitchen table eating cucumbers—a typical lunch on just another ordinary day. She didn’t seem at all surprised that strangers walked unannounced into her wooden cottage in northern Belarus bringing her oranges, a rare treat on a hot day. Maybe that composure was to be expected from a woman who, at age 91, had lived through extermination of her people and had decided to stay on when nearly everyone else was gone.

Seventy years ago last week, on June 22, Nazi forces rampaged through this part of Belarus. In three years, they wiped out 80 percent of the country’s 980,000 Jews. Mobile death units rounded up entire shtetls, or towns, of Jews, confined them to cramped ghettos, and then marched them off to pits where they were shot dead. That’s what happened in Faitelson’s village, Senno. Read more ..

Cuna on Edge

Cuba Faces a New Revolution to Throw Off Crippling Racism

June 22nd 2011

Caribbean - Cuba talking

Cuba’s economy has struggled during the fifteen years since the fall of the Soviet Union, bringing economic disparity of an increasingly racial nature. Cuba’s population is split primarily between whites, mestizos and Afro‑Cubans (blacks and mulattos), with the percentage of Afro-Cubans varying between 62 percent and 33 percent depending on the source. Like most former colonies, Cuba’s history of racism originated with the arrival of colonial Spanish settlers and their subordinated African slaves. Cuba was the last Latin American country to abolish slavery, by means of a royal decree issued by the Spanish King in 1886.

In his 1891 essay “Nuestra América,” Cuban author and independence fighter José Martí stated that there is no racism in Cuba because there are no races. He argued that Cuban unity and identity depended on all Cubans identifying as Cubans, instead of racially. White Cubans have often cited Martí’s position subsuming race to national unity as an argument that racism is not an issue in Cuba because “we are all Cubans.” Read more ..

After Chernobyl

Chernobyl's Survivors Still Paying the Price 25 Years Later

June 19th 2011

Environment Topics - chernobyl memorial

The nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan has focused attention on a small and often heroic group of people: those who risk their lives by going inside the facility to contain the damage.

Perhaps no one knows this better than those involved in the 1986 cleanup effort at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine, scene of what is still considered the world’s worst nuclear accident. On April 26, 1986 a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl plant caught fire and exploded, sending radioactive debris high into the sky. Aleksey Breus was an engineer at Chernobyl at the time of the explosion. He worked four straight days inside the plant after the explosion. He wore protective equipment, but still received a large dose of radiation.

According to Breus, all “lucheviki” – the Russian word surviving cleanup workers use for describing one another – have been left with one thing in common: illness and a lack of money to pay for medications. He says virtually all of them live in poverty. Read more ..

Mexico's Wars

Drug Cartels Enlist Teenaged Girls as Trained Assassins

June 18th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexican girl and Zeta graffiti

In Mexico, young girls and women work as look-outs and even soldiers for criminal syndicates. This week, security officials in the western state of Jalisco presented to the media three alleged female spies and hit women who were tied to the Zetas organization. The young women were arrested following a pair of shootouts June 14 with Jalisco state and municipal police that left six suspected Zetas dead and 10 others arrested, almost all of them between 16 and 21 years of age.

Maria Celeste, a 16-year-old from Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, was reportedly fresh out of boot camp. The teen told reporters she had received a two-month training course conducted by former military personnel in the handling of AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, but had not yet been instructed in the use of grenades. “I was invited by some friends who were going to work for the Zetas,” she said. Read more ..

Edge on the Environment

Prenatal Exposure to Vehicle Exhaust Linked to Anxiety, Depression and Attention Deficit in Children

June 15th 2011

Environment Topics - Exhaust fumes and baby

Mothers’ exposure during pregnancy to pollutants created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and other organic material may lead to behavioral problems in their children, according to a new study. Researchers found that within a sample of 215 children monitored from birth, those children with high levels of a pollution exposure marker in their cord blood had more symptoms of attention problems and anxiety/depression at ages 5 and 7 than did children with lower exposure.

The study by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) and the Institute of Cancer Research in England is the first to examine the behavioral effects of prenatal exposure to these air pollutants in children using a biologic marker. Read more ..

The Race for Bikes

Electric Bicycles and e-bikes to Light Up a $210 Billion Market in Ten Years

June 15th 2011

Transportation Topics - Electric bicycle

According to a recent report “Light Electric Vehicle (LEV) Industry Worldwide 2011-2021” from IDTechEx on the various types of electric vehicle - hybrid and pure electric, electric vehicles by land, water and air will be a market of over $210 billion within ten years from now. The segments of this market are very different in certain respects yet they increasingly share some technical challenges and vehicle and component suppliers.

This report concerns electric bicycles, ebikes and other Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs) that constitute an important part of the overall EV business. Other reports in the series cover aircraft, marine, buses/taxis, military/police/security and cars. Read more ..

The Road's Edge

Women Drivers More Prone to Certain Kinds of Vehicle Crashes

June 15th 2011

Transportation Topics - Woman driver

While men and women often disagree about which gender has better driving skills, a new study by the University of Michigan may shed some light on the debate. Using data from a nationally representative sample of police-reported crashes from 1988 to 2007, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-Michigan Transportation Research Institute studied the gender effects in six different crash scenarios (based on crash angles, direction of approach and speed). These two-vehicle crash scenarios included various maneuvers in which one vehicle turned in front of the other, one vehicle side-swiped the other or both vehicles collided head-on.

"The likelihood that a given driver will be involved in a two-vehicle crash depends on a variety of driver, vehicular and environmental factors," said Sivak, research professor at UMTRI. "There are three dominant driver-related factors, including the probability of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, one's own driving skills and the driving skills of the other driver involved." Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Anger Plays Pivotal Role in Electioneering

June 10th 2011

Social Topics - Baby Boomer

Though pundits and candidates suggest there is too much anger in politics, the emotion does have a potential benefit—it significantly motivates citizens to vote, according to a University of Michigan study.

"Anger in politics can play a particularly vital role, motivating some people to participate in ways they might ordinarily not," said Nicholas Valentino, the study's lead author and a professor of communication studies and political science. "We normally think people with a lot of resources and political skills are the ones who participate, but many citizens in this category regularly abstain from politics. Furthermore, many citizens with few resources can be mobilized if they experience strong anger. Read more ..

South Korea Gets Edgy

More South Koreans Break Away From Tattoo Taboo

June 9th 2011

Korea Topics - S Korean Tattoo Artist
Tattoing during Ink Bomb (credit: S. Herman, VOA)

Tattoos have been a part of Asian culture for hundreds of years. But body ink in Asia traditionally has been the mark of an unsavory character. Thus, until recently, Asians in the mainstream rarely got tattoos. But, that is changing.

More people in South Korea these days are not ashamed to show a little skin—and ink.

The country now has its own annual tattoo convention—Ink Bomb, which attracts artists from neighboring Japan and the United States.

But anyone using needles to penetrate the skin is supposed to be a licensed medical doctor—credentials in short supply at this event and in the thousands of tattoo parlors across the country. Read more ..

Nepal on Edge

Nepal’s Youth Turn to Social Media in Constitution Campaign

June 9th 2011

Nepal - Nepali pro-democracy protests 2011

In Nepal, thousands of young Nepalese have launched a campaign, using social networking sites, to pressure political parties to draw up a new constitution for the country.

For four straight Saturdays, hundreds of young Nepalese men and women have demonstrated in the capital, Kathmandu, demanding that lawmakers should forego their salaries if they cannot give the country its long overdue democratic constitution.

They are being mobilized through social network sites like Facebook. The campaign, “Nepal Unites,” has been triggered by deep anger with political parties, which have failed to reach a consensus and produce a new constitution. Read more ..

Family on Edge

Victims of Head Injures Report Violent Behavior

June 8th 2011

Health/Medicine - head injury

Young people who have sustained a head injury during their lifetime are more likely to engage in violent behavior, according to an eight-year study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Further, the research found that young people who suffered a recent head injury (within a year of being questioned for the study) were even more likely to report violent behavior.

The report, which appears in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics, is one of the few studies to examine long-term effects of head injuries in a general population of young adults. Most other similar studies were conducted in prison populations.

There's been a recent blitz of media and research attention regarding youth, college and professional athletes who suffer head injuries and concussions while playing. This study is broader, but confirms previous findings about the connection between violence and head injuries, says lead author Sarah Stoddard, a research assistant professor at the School of Public Health. Read more ..

Edge on Politics

Obama's Election Boosted Opposition to Race-Related Policies--Says Study

June 4th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama in deep thought

Many Americans changed their perceptions of discrimination and racism after Barack Obama became the nation's first black president. This belief that racial biases had softened, however, did not translate to positive feelings about policies that address racial disparities, according to a new University of Michigan study. In fact, opposition to affirmative action and immigration may have increased since 2008.

"When racial progress is made, and perceived, by many Americans from a variety of racial backgrounds, it may seem counterintuitive that opposition to affirmative action would increase," said Nicholas Valentino, an associate professor of communication studies and political science. Read more ..

Inside the Brain

Brain Training Increases I.Q. and Short-Term Memory

June 3rd 2011

Science - glowing neuron

Forget about working crossword puzzles and listening to Mozart. If you want to improve your ability to reason and solve new problems, just take a few minutes every day to do a maddening little exercise called n-back training.

In an award address at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C., University of Michigan psychologist John Jonides presented new findings showing that practicing this kind of task for about 20 minutes each day for 20 days significantly improves performance on a standard test of fluid intelligence—the ability to reason and solve new problems, which is a crucial element of general intelligence. And this improvement lasted for up to three months. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

New Mexico offers a new Vision for Land Development

June 1st 2011

Architecture - Picacho Mt site model
Picacho Mountain site model

Every spring, the British flag flutters over the old Mexican village of Mesilla in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. Ringing the historic plaza, classic and antique British cars attract hobbyists, sight-seers and tourists who gather around models such as a 1949 Roadster, a 1968 MGB-GT and a 1958 Jaguar with a fluffy leopard doll hanging out the passenger’s window. In addition to locals, the annual spring-time show of the British Motor Car Club of Southern New Mexico draws a sprinkling of out-of-towners who give a small boost to New Mexico’s $5 billion tourism industry. “Last year, we had one guy who drove all the way from Washington state,” says car club member Ed Townley. Read more ..

Media Freedom

Journalists Intimidated with Impunity by Salvadoran Death Squads

May 31st 2011

Latin American Topics - Protest against killing of journalists

Death threats targeting journalists were distressingly common during the tumultuous Salvadoran Civil War that took place in the late seventies and eighties. Over the course of the war, a total of twenty-five to thirty journalists fell victim to the various death squads operating in the country. Alarmingly, today in El Salvador, journalists are once again the objects of threats aimed at silencing human rights advocates working within its borders. On May 5th, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) posted an urgent notice stating that death threats have been issued against Radio Victoria journalists.

Radio Victoria, based in the department of Cabañas, provides a critical source of news and information concerning the social, environmental, and controversial labor impacts of The Pacific Rim Mining Company. Radio Victoria’s forthright journalistic style and its tenacious anti-mining stance, as well as its vigorous investigative journalism, may have prompted these threats, which were issued undoubtedly in an effort to stifle freedom of expression. Despite national police security officers posted to stand guard outside the station, the anonymous “extermination group” has successfully delivered a series of threats both to the Cabañas office of the radio station and to the journalists’ personal phones via text message. Read more ..

Edge of Human Rights

Latin America's Advances Towards Gay Rights

May 30th 2011

Latin American Topics - Gay Guevara

The Brazilian Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex unions in early May marks the latest victory for gay rights in Latin America. The Court’s ruling grants equal legal rights to same-sex civil unions as those enjoyed by married heterosexuals, including retirement benefits, joint tax declarations, inheritance rights, and child adoption. While the Supreme Court did not go so far as to legalize gay marriage, gay rights groups such as Rio de Janeiro’s Rainbow Group have nevertheless praised the decision as an “historic achievement.” The decision passed 10-0 with one abstention, but the justice who abstained had previously spoken in favor of same-sex unions.

An Unlikely Victory

As the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, Brazil was an unlikely venue for such a promising gay rights victory. The Roman Catholic Church has actively fought proposals for same-sex unions in Brazil, arguing that the Brazilian Constitution defines a “family entity” as “a stable union between a man and a woman.” Read more ..

Ancient Edge

Research Uncovers Decline of Inca Population under Spanish Rule 440 Years Ago

May 29th 2011

Latin American Topics - Inca woman

Analysis of a 440-year-old document reveals new details about native population decline in the heartland of the Inca Empire following Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

According to the analysis, the native Andean population in the Yucay Valley of Peru showed a remarkable ability to bounce back in the short term from the disease, warfare, and famine that accompanied the initial Spanish invasion. However, it was the repetition of such disasters generation after generation, along with overly rigid colonial administration, that dramatically reduced the population over the long term.

The research, by R. Alan Covey (Southern Methodist University), Geoff Childs (Washington University in St. Louis), and Rebecca Kippen (University of Melbourne), is published in the June issue of the journal Current Anthropology. Read more ..

Edge on Aging

Protein Drinks After Exercise Maintain Aging Muscles

May 29th 2011

Social Topics - Old guy muscles

A new research report shows that what someone drinks after exercise plays a critical role in maximizing the effects of exercise. Specifically, the report shows that protein drinks after aerobic activity increases the training effect after six weeks, when compared to carbohydrate drinks. Additionally, this study suggests that this effect can be seen using as little as 20 grams of protein.

"It is not a mystery that exercise and nutrition help slow the aging process," said Benjamin F. Miller, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. "Studies such as ours help to explain how exercise and nutrition work so that we can better take advantage of those pathways to slow the aging process." The study was published online by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

To make this discovery, scientists recruited 16 participants age 37 and older and instructed them to exercise on treadmills for 45 minutes three times a week for six weeks. After each bout of exercise, one group was given a protein drink and another group was given a carbohydrate drink. To measure the making of new structures in the muscle, metabolic pathways were measured using heavy water labeling. Subjects consumed heavy water, which becomes incorporated into many synthetic processes allowing measurement of the rates at which different components of the muscle are being made. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Cell Phones Bridge Digital Divide for Low Income Teens

May 25th 2011

Social Topics - Teenager texting

Without Internet access at home, teens from low income households are more likely than their wealthier counterparts to use their cell phones to go online.

But those teens with the least money who are using their phones for Internet access are likely paying the most to get online, according to a new study by University of Michigan researchers.

U-M researchers Katie Brown, Scott Campbell and Rich Ling wrote the findings in an article recently published in a special issue of the journal Future Internet. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Way We Talk May ... Uh ... Sway our Listeners

May 19th 2011

Social Topics - Talking girls

Want to convince someone to do something? A new University of Michigan study has some intriguing insights drawn from how we speak. The study, presented May 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, examines how various speech characteristics influence people's decisions to participate in telephone surveys. But its findings have implications for many other situations, from closing sales to swaying voters and getting stubborn spouses to see things your way.

"Interviewers who spoke moderately fast, at a rate of about 3.5 words per second, were much more successful at getting people to agree than either interviewers who talked very fast or very slowly," said Jose Benki, a research investigator at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). Read more ..

The Way We Are

Scientists Show How Adversity Dulls—Not Sharpens—Our Perceptions

May 18th 2011

Social Topics - Boy in pain

Adversity, we are told, heightens our senses, imprinting sights and sounds precisely in our memories. But new Weizmann Institute research, which appeared in Nature Neuroscience, suggests the exact opposite may be the case: Perceptions learned in an aversive context are not as sharp as those learned in other circumstances. The findings, which hint that this tendency is rooted in our species’s evolution, may help to explain how post-traumatic stress syndrome and other anxiety disorders develop in some people.

To investigate learning in unfavorable situations, Dr. Rony Paz of the Institute’s Department of Neurobiology, together with his student Jennifer Resnik, had volunteers learn that some tones lead to an offensive outcome (e.g., a very bad odor), whereas other tones are followed by a pleasant outcome, or else by nothing. The volunteers were later tested for their perceptual thresholds—that is, how well they were able to distinguish either the “bad” or “good” tones from other similar tones. Read more ..

Economic Recovery on Edge

FICO Has Key Role in Every American’s Access to Credit

May 18th 2011

Economy - credit report request form

Like Kleenex or Xerox, the word “FICO” has become shorthand for an entire industry, in this case the credit scores that determine every American’s access to loans, credit cards, apartment rentals and insurance.

Despite a name that vaguely sounds like it must be federal something-or-other, FICO actually stands for Fair Isaac Corp., a Minneapolis company that creates proprietary mathematical algorithms used to calculate consumer credit scores. But FICO, which had $605 million in revenue last year, is not directly regulated by any government agency and its credit rating formulas are secret.

Credit scores boil down consumer payment histories on short and long-term debts ranging from a home improvement loan to phone bills into a three-digit number between 300 and 850. A score over 650, for example, is generally considered to be pretty good, while a score of 580 is not. Read more ..

Inside China

China Bans Smoking in Restaurants, Hotels, Rail Stations, Airports

May 8th 2011

China Topics - Chinese man smoking

A ban on smoking in most public places in China went into effect May 1, a move that health experts say will help raise awareness of the dangers of smoking in a country where tobacco use is deeply ingrained.

There is a lack of public awareness of the health risks of smoking in China. The World Health Organization says seven out of ten non-smoking adults in the East Asian nation are exposed to second-hand smoke each week. Smokers light up in elevators and offices, and even in hospital waiting rooms.

Starting that Sunday, though, the country’s estimated 300 million smokers will no longer be allowed to puff their cigarettes in what the Chinese government is calling "enclosed public places." These include hotels, restaurants, theaters and public transport waiting rooms. The ban does not cover offices or factories. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Spirituality, But not Religion, Thought to Induce Scientific Discovery

May 8th 2011

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

More than 20 percent of atheist scientists are spiritual, according to new research from Rice University. Though the general public marries spirituality and religion, the study found that spirituality is a separate idea – one that more closely aligns with scientific discovery – for "spiritual atheist" scientists.

Through in-depth interviews with 275 natural and social scientists at elite universities, the Rice researchers found that 72 of the scientists said they have a spirituality that is consistent with science, although they are not formally religious.

"Our results show that scientists hold religion and spirituality as being qualitatively different kinds of constructs," said Elaine Howard Ecklund, assistant professor of sociology at Rice and lead author of the study. "These spiritual atheist scientists are seeking a core sense of truth through spirituality -- one that is generated by and consistent with the work they do as scientists." Read more ..

Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking Allegations Test Diplomatic Immunity

May 2nd 2011

Qatar Topics - Qatar Embassy DC
Qatar Embassy, Washington, D.C.

Four women claim in a civil lawsuit that a high-ranking Qatari diplomat in the United States, and his family, forced them to work around the clock for little pay while enduring emotional abuse and—according to one woman—sexual assault.

The human trafficking lawsuit was filed March 25 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., against Essa Mohamed Al Mannai, Qatar’s second-highest ranking diplomat in the United States. The case has reopened debate over a problem that has vexed U.S. government agencies charged with making sure foreign officials, who enjoy the cover of diplomatic immunity, still obey U.S. laws and labor standards. Read more ..

The Edge of Computing

E-readers to Decimate Traditional Book Publishing--Experts Predict

May 2nd 2011

Technology - Amazon Kindle

Marking a major inflection point, the book publishing industry has entered a period of long-term decline because of the rising sales of e-book readers, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.

Book revenue for U.S. publishers, including both e-books and paper books, will decrease at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to IHS. This marks a shift from the previous period of 2005 to 2010, when revenue grew slightly, the firm said.

The overall weakening will be spurred by a 5 percent decrease in the CAGR of physical book sales from 2010 to 2014, according to IHS. While e-book sales will soar by 40 percent during the same period, such an increase won’t be sufficient to compensate for the contraction of the larger physical book market, the firm said. Read more ..

The War on Malaria

In Kenya, One Community’s Fight against Malaria

April 27th 2011

Health/Medicine - Kenyan Mosquito Scout
Kenyan Mosquito Scout (credit: Michael Onyiego)

As World Malaria Day was observed worldwide April 25, Malindi, a city on Kenya’s coast that is fighting malaria through community action, came to the forefront.

As the world works to eliminate malaria deaths by 2015, sub-Saharan Africa is still struggling to confront the continent’s number-one killer of children under the age of five years old. In Malindi, the fight against malaria is a community affair. The city of about 150,000 is on Kenya’s coast, in one of the country’s two hotspots for the disease. For residents of Malindi, malaria not only is a threat to their lives and their children, it is a threat to their livelihoods. Read more ..

The Arab Spring

Palestinian Billionaire Airs His Vision of an Independent Palestinian State

April 25th 2011

Palestine Topics - Palestinian millionaire
Palestinian billionaire Munib Al Masri

It is a sight one would not expect in the Israeli-occupied West Bank: An Italian villa complete with ancient Greek statues, Picassos, and manicured gardens reminiscent of Versailles. Palestinian billionaire Munib Al Masri, whose personal wealth represents about a third of the Palestinian economy, has turned his extravagant dream into reality. Al Masri spoke at his lavish home near Nablus about his vision for a Palestinian state.

A palace on a hill overlooking Nablus, complete with authentic works of art from Europe.

"When I was 19, I was in Chicago and I saw a Palladian style house and I said to myself at that time when I go back to my home, Palestine, I would like to build a similar house," said Palestinian billionaire Munib Al Masri. Read more ..

Inside Asia

Psychologists Warn that Therapies Based on Positive Emotions May Not Work for Asians

April 25th 2011

Japan - Japanese girl

Psychologists warn that therapies based on positive emotions may not work for Asians

Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health. But a new study by University of Washington psychologists reveals that pursuing happiness may not be beneficial across all cultures.

In a survey of college students, Asian respondents showed no relationship between positive emotions and levels of stress and depression. For European-American participants, however, the more stress and depression they felt, the fewer positive emotions they reported.

The study indicates that psychotherapies emphasizing positive emotions, which can relieve stress and depression in white populations, may not work for Asians, who make up 60 percent of the world population. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Chernobyl's Cleanup Crew Pay a Steep Price, 25 Years On

April 25th 2011

Energy / Environment - Energy/Environment
Chernobyl aftermath

On April 26, 1986 a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl plant caught fire and exploded, sending radioactive debris high into the sky. Aleksey Breus was an engineer at Chernobyl at the time of the explosion. He worked four straight days inside the plant after the explosion. He wore protective equipment, but still received a large dose of radiation.

According to Breus, all “lucheviki” – the Russian word surviving cleanup workers use for describing one another – have been left with one thing in common: illness and a lack of money to pay for medications.  He says virtually all of them live in poverty.

Another Chernobyl worker, Aleksander Kramer, says he was one of the first to go into the plant after the explosion.  Kramer, who now lives in Germany, remains angry at how he was treated by authorities in what was then the Soviet Union.  From the very beginning, he says, the authorities doubted those claiming they were part of the clean-up effort.

And the suspicions have lingered. In 1993, Kramer says former rescue workers had to prove to Ukranian authorities “that their documents were not a sham and that their health problems were real.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

Happiness and Suicide Rates

April 25th 2011

Social Topics - Boy in pain

The happiest countries and happiest U.S. states tend to have the highest suicide rates, according to research from the UK’s University of Warwick, Hamilton College in New York and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

The new research paper titled Dark Contrasts: The Paradox of High Rates of Suicide in Happy Places has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. It uses U.S. and international data, which included first-time comparisons of a newly available random sample of 1.3 million Americans, and another on suicide decisions among an independent random sample of approximately 1 million Americans.

The research confirmed a little known and seemingly puzzling fact: many happy countries have unusually high rates of suicide. This observation has been made from time to time about individual nations, especially in the case of Denmark. This new research found that a range of nations - including: Canada, the United States, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland, display relatively high happiness levels and yet also have high suicide rates. Nevertheless the researchers note that, because of variation in cultures and suicide-reporting conventions, such cross-country scatter plots are only suggestive. To confirm the relationship between levels of happiness and rates of suicide within a geographical area, the researchers turned to two very large data sets covering a single country, the United States. Read more ..

America on Edge

U.S. Wealth Gap Widens Between Black and White Households with Children

April 20th 2011

Social Topics - School kids

The wealth gap in the United States between white and black households with children nearly doubled to $47,000 between 1994 and 2007, according to a new report.

"Diverging Pathways: How Wealth Shapes Opportunity for Children," written by University of Michigan researcher Trina Shanks released by the Insight Center for Economic Development, found that the percentage of black households with no net worth or living in debt is on the rise.

In 2007, about 70 percent of Latino and black households with young children were poor and 40 percent had no financial assets—more than twice the respective rates for white households. Read more ..

Japan after the Quake

Some Japanese Evacuees Brave Radiation Fears to Briefly Return Home

April 18th 2011

Japan - Rad monitor Japan

Some residents forced to flee their homes a month ago, when radiation began spewing from a damaged Japanese nuclear power plant, are making furtive trips back into the so-called hot zone.

In Namie—about 15 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant—a dog crossing the main intersection is initially the only sign of life. The traffic lights still cycle between red and green. But, within the space of an hour, only a few cars pass through the intersection, paying no heed to the signal.

The virtual silence is only broken when a powerful aftershock rattles the already damaged downtown buildings and the pavement rumbles. Elsewhere in Fukushima prefecture, the tremor knocks out power to thousands of homes and temporarily forces a halt to repair work at the damaged reactors. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Texas Man Wins Award for Standing up to Oil Companies

April 18th 2011

Environment Topics - Hilton Kelley
Hilton Kelley

Hilton Kelley won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for his work confronting refineries on pollution in the town of Port Arthur, Texas

A resident of Texas has won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award for his work confronting refineries on pollution in the town of Port Arthur.  The city has a population of 60,000 and one of the highest levels of air pollution in the United States.  Hilton Kelley has spent a decade fighting to lower Port Arthur's air pollution through protests and legal action against major oil and chemical companies. The Goldman award is funded by the family of Richard Goldman, a San Francisco philanthropist who died last year.

Hilton Kelley grew up in a poor, African-American neighborhood. 

"I was born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas, right next to the refineries," said Kelley. Read more ..

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