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The 2012 Vote

Opinion Survey shows Wide Margin of Disparity Between Muslims and Others on Obama

August 30th 2011

Islamic Topics - Muslim American girl with flag

In a wide-ranging opinion survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, Muslims living in the U.S. show little apprehension as the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches. Completed this year, the comprehensive public opinion survey found no indication of increased alienation or anger among Muslim Americans in response to concerns about home-grown Islamic terrorists, controversies about the building of mosques, according to Pew. In a summary of the survey, the Pew website declared “Muslims in the United States continue to reject extremism by much larger margins than most other Muslim publics, and a higher percentage views U.S. efforts to combat terrorism as sincere than did so in 2007. At the same time, majorities of Muslim Americans express concerns about Islamic extremism here and abroad - worries that coexist with the view that life in post-9/11 America is more difficult for U.S Muslims.” The study was released on August 30. Read more ..

Edge on Education

Professors Reach out to Students' Cellphones and Laptops through LectureTools

August 26th 2011

Computer Topics - Google tablet HOneycomb

This fall, more than 4,000 University of Michigan students in nearly 20 classes will be utilizing LectureTools, an interactive presentation tool that harnesses the potential of laptops and cell phones to serve as learning aids rather than distracting devices.

Perry Samson, an atmospheric science professor who has taught courses with hundreds of students in them, designed LectureTools as a way to improve student interaction and retention in large lectures.

"The key is to engage students through their laptops or cellphones, so they don't drift off onto social networking sites," said Samson, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. "We've shown we can do that." Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Bolivia's Indigenous Peoples Divided over Controversial Cross-Amazon Highway

August 26th 2011

Latin American Topics - Bolivia protests

Several indigenous groups in Bolivia are protesting against the construction of a highway that will cross the Indigenous Territory and Isiboro Secure National Park (ITISNP) area, their homeland. The reserve is in fact threatened by the construction of this road which will connect the traffic of goods from the Pacific to the Atlantic. About a year ago, indigenous people managed to obtain the suspension of the project for one year. Now that the first stretch of road and the beginning of the works have been approved, indigenous groups, including the Moxeño, Yuracaré and Chimánare nations, are protesting publicly.

This is the biggest series of demonstrations in Bolivia since the violent convulsions of 2008, when scores of people were killed in confrontations with security forces over the nationalization of Bolivia's rich natural gas resources.

The first demonstration, which reached the capital, La Paz, began on August 2 and brought together three different indigenous nations, which are opposed to the route that will pass through the territories they call "the big house." The new road will stretch from the municipality of Villa Tunari, in the Department of Cochabamba in Bolivia's highlands, to Bolivia's capital city of La Paz. This would ultimately be connected to a highway stretching across Brazil to Bolivia's Amazonian lowlands. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Evidence Grows that Resistant HIV/AIDS is Spread by Those Receiving Therapy

August 25th 2011

Science - HIV AIDS virus

Since HIV infection rates began to rise again around 2000, researchers have been grasping for answers on what could be causing this change, especially in the homosexual community. The rising numbers are a stark contrast to the 1990's, when infection rates dropped due to increased awareness of the virus. A new study in Israel reveals that the number of new HIV cases diagnosed each year in the last decade saw a startling increase of almost 500 percent compared to the previous decade, and similar trends have been reported in a number of other developed nations, including the U.S.

According to Prof. Zehava Grossman of Tel Aviv University's School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Central Virology Laboratory of the Ministry of Health, a new approach to studying HIV transmission within a community has yielded a disturbing result. By cross-referencing several databases and performing a molecular analysis of the virus found in patients, an astonishingly high number of newly-diagnosed men with male sexual partners were found to have contracted the virus from infected, medicated partners who are already aware of their HIV-positive status. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Growth of Islamistan in Europe means No-Go Zones for Non-Muslims

August 23rd 2011

Islamic Topics - Muslims at prayer in Spain
Muslims at prayer in Italy

Islamic extremists are stepping up the creation of "no-go" areas in European cities that are off-limits to non-Muslims.

Many of the "no-go" zones function as microstates governed by Islamic Sharia law. Host-country authorities effectively have lost control in these areas and in many instances are unable to provide even basic public aid such as police, fire fighting and ambulance services.

The "no-go" areas are the by-product of decades of multicultural policies that have encouraged Muslim immigrants to create parallel societies and remain segregated rather than become integrated into their European host nations.

In Britain, for example, a Muslim group called Muslims Against the Crusades has launched a campaign to turn twelve British cities – including what it calls "Londonistan" – into independent Islamic states. The so-called Islamic Emirates would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic Sharia law and operate entirely outside British jurisprudence. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Weight-Shocks of Marriage and Divorce Differ for Men and Women

August 23rd 2011

Social Topics - Obese man

Both marriage and divorce can act as “weight shocks,” leading people to add a few extra pounds – especially among those over age 30 - according to a new study. But when it cites to large weight gains, the effects of marital transitions are quite different for men than they are for women. For men, the risk of a large weight gain increased most prominently after a divorce. But for women, the risk of a large weight gain was most likely after marriage.

“Clearly, the effect of marital transitions on weight changes differs by gender,” said Dmitry Tumin, lead author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University. “Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk.” The probability of large weight gains following marital transitions increased the most for people past age 30.

“For someone in their mid-20s, there is not much of a difference in the probability of gaining weight between someone who just got married and someone who never married. But later in life, there is much more of a difference,” he said. Read more ..

Medical Edge

Low Vitamin-D Puts Women at Risk

August 23rd 2011

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

A study links low vitamin D in young girls with early menstruation, which is a risk factor for a host of health problems for teen girls as well as women later in life.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health measured the blood vitamin D levels in 242 girls ages 5-12 from Bogota, Colombia, and followed them for 30 months. Girls low on vitamin D were twice as likely to start menstruation during the study than those with sufficient vitamin D, said epidemiologist Eduardo Villamor, associate professor in the U-Michigan SPH.

This is important for several reasons, Villamor said. Worldwide, there has been a slow decline in the age of the first menstruation, or menarche, for years, which Villamor says suggests an environmental cause, since the genetics that trigger puberty haven't changed. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Pakistan: Impunity for Involuntary Servitude and Conversion to Islam

August 22nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Pakistani Christians protest

A Christian family consisting of 26 persons, including women and children, were enslaved in Pakistan for over 30 years. Forced to work on a farm in the Punjab region belonging to a wealthy Muslim landowner, the extended family only recently managed to regain freedom. Reduced to servitude for three decades, the family members escaped their captor through the intervention of the Catholic bishop of Bahawalpur. Meanwhile the rape and abduction of Christian girls, forced to marry Muslim men and forcibly converted to Islam, continues. The latest incident took place at Quetta: a young girl, after two years of captivity, managed to escape and is now safe at an undisclosed location but faces death threats. Read more ..

The Sub-Sahara on Edge

New Opportunities Give Sub-Saharan Women Room for Change

August 22nd 2011

Africa Topics - women in kigali - rwanda
Scene in Kigali, Rwanda (Credit: F. Schertzer)

Sub-Saharan Africa often evokes images of conflict, famine, and disease. In many cases, women bear the brunt of the region’s misfortunes. But new opportunities and constitutions advancing gender parity have opened up the political space for women.

In Rwanda, Chad, and other countries, women are allocated up to 30 percent of parliamentary seats. In fact, Rwanda is now the world’s first country where women Members of parliament (MPs) outnumber men.

“These kinds of changes need to be encouraged because without women fully engaged in both civil society as well as formal political office, it will be as if trying to carry forward with only half the sky,” said Emira Woods, Co-Director of Foreign Policy in Focus and Associate at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. Read more ..

Inside Pakistan

Finding a Bride the Old-Fashioned Way: Kidnap Her

August 11th 2011

PakistanTopics - Lahore's Cathedral

Farah Hatim, 24, a resident of Rahim Yar Khan in South Punjab was abducted on May 8, 2011 by Zeehan Ilyas and his brothers Imran and Gulfam. She forced to convert to Islam and marry Zeeshan Ilyas. Human rights organizations and the Catholic Church had condemned the act and demanded action in response to this violation of human rights.

Justice and Peace Commission was leading the case. They took the case to the session court under the FIR, Case No. 150/11 US/ 365-B CR.PC. The police had been threatening the family since then. Session Judge Khawaja Mir transfered the case to the High Court for hearing due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The appeal at the high court was presented by the Justice and Peace Commission and APMA (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance). Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman from the High Court, Bahawalpur bench instructed the district police of Rahim Yar Khan and the families to appear before the court on July 20th. Read more ..

Edgy Times

Instantly Detect Date-Rape Drugs Hidden in Cocktails

August 10th 2011

Social Topics - Cocktail hour

Women know it's wise to beware when out at a bar or club where there could be more than just alcohol in that cocktail given to them. Psychoactive substances classified as "date rape" drugs can be dropped into an unsuspecting victim's drink, rendering her barely conscious and susceptible to sexual assault.

Now Prof. Fernando Patolsky and Dr. Michael Ioffe of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences have developed an easy-to-use sensor that, when dipped into a cocktail, will instantly detect the presence of a date rape drug. When ready for commercial purchase in just a few years, the sensor will be lightweight and discreet, easily transportable in a pocket or purse. Read more ..

Inside Mexico

Mexican Government Entices Mexican Migrants to Invest in Mexico

August 9th 2011

Economy - Remittance 2

In a stepped-up bid to attract migrant dollars, the Mexican government announced late last week that it will financially back a planned investment pool of more than $40 million. The Calderon administration’s objective, said Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari, is to realize “the potential of production capacities and take advantage of our compatriots’ skills through business formation.”

Ferrari made the announcement together with other senior Mexican officials who also took the opportunity to promote a business gathering slated for Los Angeles this month and that is intended to increase migrant investments back home.

Miguel Maron, the Economy Ministry’s deputy minister for small and medium business, said migrant remittances are currently under-utilized for productive purposes. Only three percent of migrant dollars go toward economic development, with the vast bulk of the money spent on routine expenses, according to numerous reports.

In the first six months of 2011, migrant remittances fetched just over $11 billion for Mexico, slightly outpacing the comparable period for 2010 but still lagging behind the dollar flow prior to the 2008 world economic melt-down. Remittances account for an estimated two percent equivalent of Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product. Read more ..

Inside Morocco

Snake "Charming"-- Banned in India, yet Thriving in Morocco

August 9th 2011

Morroco Topics - Morrocan Snake Charmer

Although I care about the snakes, I hoped to goodness, when my face was within mere inches of the cobra, that its fangs had been removed.

Most nights, Mohammed El Rachidi takes his cobras and vipers to La place Jemâa el Fna in Marrakech, a throbbing tourist attraction in Morocco’s most colorful city. The story goes that the snakes rise from their baskets to the sound of the charmer’s flute, and mesmerized by the music, begin to “swoon.”

So far, the Green Prophet Moroccan experience has included Karin’s rocking two nights at the Kasbah du Toubkal, a stunning eco-resort in the Atlas Mountains, and my ungraceful summit of the highest point in North Africa. A must see on every Lonely Planet reader’s list, I’ve resisted looking too closely at the so called snake charmers, mostly because the ancient “art” has such a long and romantic history that I’m reluctant to give a negative glow. Alas, the pursuit of truth prevails. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Luxury Cars Don't Necessarily Make Us Feel Better

July 27th 2011

Automotive - BMW M1

If you think driving a luxury car like a BMW, Lexus or Cadillac makes you feel better—think again, says a University of Michigan researcher.

"Almost everyone assumes that driving a luxury car is more enjoyable than driving an economy car, but the reality is more complicated," said Norbert Schwarz, professor of marketing at Michigan's Ross School of Business. "When drivers focus on their car while driving, a luxury car is indeed more fun than an economy car. But most of the time, the driver's mind is preoccupied with the mundane issues of daily life and the car makes little difference."

In a new study published in the current issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Schwarz and colleague Jing Xu of Peking University explore why it is difficult for consumers to learn from their own consumption experiences. Why is it that drivers of luxury cars believe that their car is a major source of joy even though most of the time they would feel just as well in an economy car? Read more ..

Ancient Americans

War: What is It Good For?

July 26th 2011

Latin American Topics - Inca woman

Warfare, triggered by political conflict between the fifth century B.C. and the first century A.D., likely shaped the development of the first settlement that would classify as a civilization in the Titicaca basin of southern Peru, a new UCLA study suggests.

Charles Stanish, director of UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, and Abigail Levine, a UCLA graduate student in anthropology, used archaeological evidence from the basin, home to a number of thriving and complex early societies during the first millennium B.C., to trace the evolution of two larger, dominant states in the region: Taraco, along the Ramis River, and Pukara, in the grassland pampas.

"This study is part of a larger, worldwide comparative research effort to define the factors that gave rise to the first societies that developed public buildings, widespread religions and regional political systems — or basically characteristics associated with ancient states or what is colloquially known as 'civilization,'" said Stanish, who is also a professor of anthropology at UCLA. "War, regional trade and specialized labor are the three factors that keep coming up as predecessors to civilization."

The findings appear online in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russia’s Perfect Storm … of Human Error

July 25th 2011

Russian Topics - volga rescue crew

The rain was light. The winds were moderate, And the waves were only one meter high.

Russia’s mid-July shipping tragedy was a perfect storm—of human error.

The Volga riverboat Bulgaria was designed to carry 140 people, but it was loaded with 208. Most of the 59 children seem to have been waved on board without tickets. Almost two thirds had the same birth date: Dec. 30, 1999.

Launched shortly after Stalin died and last overhauled in 1980, the 56-year-old Bulgaria was no longer licensed to carry passengers. But, oddly, on June 15, a Russian river inspector signed off on its seaworthiness. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Australian Muslim Convert insists Islam is Beautiful Despite 40 Lashes for Drinking Alcohol

July 20th 2011

Islamic Topics - Australian victim of shariah
Chris Martinez displays wounds from lashing

An Australian who had recently converted to Islam was allegedly punished with lashings by four fellow Muslim believers who broke into his home during pre-dawn hours because he had been drinking alcohol. Chris Martinez of Sydney said, nonetheless, that the Australian Muslim community has been supportive since the July 17 assault. Martinez confessed to a drinking problem and that he had been imbibing before the lashing. Two men have been charged in the incident. Non-Muslims raised concerns about the application of Islamic religious law known as Shariah in Australia.

Martinez was held down on his bed and whipped up to 40 times by the four bearded strangers who awakened him at approximately 1 am at his apartment on Sydney’s west side. Three of the men restrained him as the fourth applied the canonical 40 lashes with a cable. The assault lasted approximately 30 minutes and left Martinez (31) covered with welts. Martinez said, nonetheless, that Islam is a “beautiful religion.” Read more ..

Guyana on Edge

Guyana Sails into Uncharted Waters as Legislative Elections Loom

July 16th 2011

Latin American Topics - Guyanase politicians

As Guyana prepares for its upcoming parliamentary elections, tensions between its two major political parties ride high.  The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the People’s National Congress (PNC), bitter adversaries since their inception in the 1950s, are the main contenders for the presidency, with the majority party’s presidential candidate assuming office.

Guyana, a small nation of fewer than 800,000 people, is a former British colony and South America’s lone English-speaking country. Read more ..

The Way We Are

African-American Men Prioritize Family and Community over Their Own Health

July 13th 2011

Social Topics - Father and son reading

Black men place a higher priority on fulfilling social roles such as family provider, father, husband and community member than they do on physical activity—and their health suffers because they don't often find time for both. A new study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health looks at why many African-American men aren't more physically active.

"This is our most important paper to date, because the findings underpin all of our other research on African American men's health behaviors. It also flies in the face of the way African American men are often portrayed in health literature," said Derek Griffith, assistant professor in the U-M SPH and study author. "The men in our study are interested in being healthy, but they put their job and family responsibilities before their own health." Read more ..

Edge of Mental Health

Children Who Seldom Smile are At Risk for Depression

July 13th 2011

Social Topics - Child alone and sad

A new study from the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh shows that even if a child isn't crying, frowning or displaying other negative emotions on a consistent basis, another warning sign is when a child shows fewer positive displays, like hugging a parent or smiling and laughing.

"Surprisingly, it seems that it is low levels of happiness, as opposed to high levels of sadness, what may help explain why these kids too often develop depressive disorders," said Nestor Lopez-Duran, an assistant professor of psychology at U-Michigan and one of the study's authors. Read more ..

Inside Russia

Buddhism Rebounds in Russia Despite Opposition

July 12th 2011

Russian Topics - Ivolga Buddhist Monastery
Ivolga Buddhist monastery

For four generations, the Soviets waged war on Buddhists, sometimes branding them “Japanese spies.” Now, 20 years after the collapse of communism, Buddhism is experiencing a massive revival in its historic areas. Yes, there are Russian Buddhists.

The drums, the bells and the chants are redolent of Asia. But the language spoken between the monks here near the shores of Lake Baikal is Russian.

Ulzutuev Yondon, who teaches philosophy at Ivolginsky datsan, Russia’s main Buddhist monastery, says that when he was studying Buddhism in India, people did not believe he was Russian. Read more ..

China on Edge

Chinese Firm Demands CNN Apology for Century Egg Slur

July 11th 2011

Food - Century Egg
Pi dan, or century egg (credit: Kowloonese)

China’s largest egg processing company says it is demanding an apology from a U.S.-based television network for describing a traditional Chinese dish as the world’s most disgusting food.

Chinese broadcast and print media said Wednesday the demand was issued by the chairman of the Hubei Shendan Healthy Food Company on behalf of his 3,000 workers.

The company makes a dish called pi dan, or century eggs, in which eggs are preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and traditional medicines until the yolk turns a dark green or gray and the white becomes a brown, translucent jelly. Read more ..

Edge of History

Maryland and Texas Excavations Reveal the World of 19th Century immigrants

July 11th 2011

History American - Texas historical archaeology

An archaeological team from the University of Maryland is unearthing a unique picture of the Baltimore-area's early Irish immigrants - of city children taught to read and write at home before widespread public education and child labor laws, as well as insular rural residents who resisted assimilation for one hundred years.

The excavation in the city represents the first formal archaeological research to focus on Baltimore's early Irish settlement and labor force.

"Behind the closed doors of their modest Baltimore homes, beyond the view of their bosses, these unskilled railroad workers maintained a rich social, religious and family life," says University of Maryland archaeologist Stephen Brighton, whose students just finished digging in the backyards of 19th century Baltimore immigrants.

Now, Brighton's team has begun work excavating another Baltimore-area site - a small settlement in Texas, Maryland that resisted adopting a more mainstream American lifestyle up to the Eisenhower years. This is the third year Brighton's team has worked there. Read more ..

Edge on Genetics

Population Genetics Reveals Shared Ancestries

July 8th 2011

Social Topics - African ancestry

More than just a tool for predicting health, modern genetics is upending long-held assumptions about who we are. A new study by Harvard researchers casts new light on the intermingling and migration of European, Middle Eastern and African and populations since ancient times.

In a paper titled "The History of African Gene Flow into Southern Europeans, Levantines and Jews," published in PLoS Genetics, HMS Associate Professor of Genetics David Reich and his colleagues investigated the proportion of sub-Saharan African ancestry present in various populations in West Eurasia, defined as the geographic area spanning modern Europe and the Middle East. While previous studies have established that such shared ancestry exists, they have not indicated to what degree or how far back the mixing of populations can be traced. Read more ..

Health Edge

Do-it-Yourself Home Air Purifier for About $25, Researchers Say

July 7th 2011

Science - UM do it yourself air purifier

Avoiding indoor allergens can help ease sinus congestion. Many people with sinus problems have underlying allergies to dust, pollen, mold or animal dander. All of these can build up in the air inside homes.

One of the best ways to get rid of allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens in the first place, says Jeffrey E. Terrell, M.D., director of the University of Michigan Health System’s Michigan Sinus Center. To avoid indoor allergens, many doctors recommend using an air purifier with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter.

The cost of these machines can run from $75 up to $800 for high-end systems. For those who are looking for a cheaper alternative for high-use rooms such as the bedroom, Terrell offers a do-it-yourself solution at a fraction of the cost. “This is a filtration system that you can put together with items from your local hardware store for $25 to $30 and use in your home to cut indoor allergens by about 90 percent,” says Terrell.

Start with a 20-inch by 20-inch box fan, which often retails for about $12. To the front of it, tape a 20-inch by 20-inch by 1-inch furnace filter. Read more ..

Inside America

Urban Farming Continues to Sprout in Metropolitan Areas

July 5th 2011

Social Topics - Urban farming

For 30 years, Charlie Koiner, 90, has continued to farm, even as development springs up around him.

On a warm day, Charlie Koiner tends to the fruits and vegetables growing on his patchwork farm, which is made up of a collection of small plots. A few blocks - and a world - away is downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, an urban area just outside Washington, D.C.

Koiner, 90, has grown a wide variety of produce on the lot next to his home since he bought the land 30 years ago. He calls it the best investment he ever made, but not in terms of money. “I have an acre (4,000 square meters) of ground here and that gives me plenty of room and plenty of ground to work," he says. "So it keeps me busy just raising all this stuff. I enjoy it.” Read more ..

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 ..

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