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Inside Latin America

Jaguars Endure as Living Symbol of Native America

January 24th 2011

Animals - Jaguar

An enduring symbol of indigenous cultures in the Americas, the jaguar continues to hang on despite illegal hunting, habitat pressures and delays in implementing conservation plans. A new study that reveals the existence of more than 100 jaguars in the Mexican state of Jalisco is the latest report to document the ongoing presence of the wild cat. Contracted by the Jalisco Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable Development (SEMADES) the study identified jaguars in four mountainous and coastal areas of Jalisco, including Minantlan, Chamela-Cuixmala, Cabo Corrientes and the Sierra de Cuale. Headed by biologist Rodrigo Nunez Perez, who counts 14 years researching the jaguar, the study also noted the presence of pumas, ocelots, jaguarandis and other species.

"The jaguar performs a fundamental role in the our ecosystems," the SEMADES study stated. "It is considered a landmark species, which means where there is the reproduction of jaguars under good conditions, there is also the same happening with lesser species, above all with smaller felines still of great importance." Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

The Rise and Fall of Civilization Measured by Mathematical Models

January 24th 2011

Archaeology Topics - Roman ruins in Libya

The instability of large, complex societies is a predictable phenomenon, according to a new mathematical model that explores the emergence of early human societies via warfare. Capturing hundreds of years of human history, the model reveals the dynamical nature of societies, which can be difficult to uncover in archaeological data.

The research, led Sergey Gavrilets, associate director for scientific activities at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and a professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, is published in the first issue of the new journal Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History, the first academic journal dedicated to research from the emerging science of theoretical history and mathematics.

The numerical model focuses on both size and complexity of emerging "polities" or states as well as their longevity and settlement patterns as a result of warfare. A number of factors were measured, but unexpectedly, the largest effect on the results was due to just two factors – the scaling of a state's power to the probability of winning a conflict and a leader's average time in power. According to the model, the stability of large, complex polities is strongly promoted if the outcomes of conflicts are mostly determined by the polities' wealth or power, if there exist well-defined and accepted means of succession, and if control mechanisms within polities are internally specialized. The results also showed that polities experience what the authors call "chiefly cycles" or rapid cycles of growth and collapse due to warfare. Read more ..


The Digital Divide

Will Digital Technology Reduce Gap in Health Between Rich and Poor?

January 18th 2011

Health/Medicine - StethoscopeAndKeyboard

Two years ago, the Ethio American Health Center opened its doors in the nation’s capital, promising the country’s largest community of Ethiopian immigrants a place where doctors spoke their language and understood their culture.

Many of the community’s poorest quickly flocked to the center. But for all the specialized services the center offers patients, there’s one area where it’s fallen short: moving from paper files to electronic health records. They don’t even have a website. “It would be great, but we can’t afford it,” said Dawit Gizaw, the center’s administrator.

The center is not alone. Although the federal government is directing billions of dollars in economic stimulus money to get electronic health record technology into hospitals and clinics nationwide, some doctors and small clinics indicate they’re unlikely to meet the Obama administration’s goal of going digital in the next five years. Read more ..


Inside Family Life

Study Shows Stress and Substance Abuse Among Fathers Associated with Spanking of Children

January 18th 2011

Social Topics - Angry Child

Biological fathers are more likely to spank their children when they are unable to cope with stress from parenting or they use abuse alcohol and drugs, a new study indicates.

The study also finds that fathers used corporal punishment—which involves physical force to a child to correct a behavior—more often on boys than girls.

The research is among the first studies to shed light on paternal stress, drug/alcohol use and corporal punishment, while accounting for the father's mental health and involvement with the child. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Christian Pastor and Family Flee Islamic Wrath in Denmark

January 18th 2011

Islamic Topics - Little Burka Mermaid

The Iranian-born head of the Church of Love, Massoud Fouroozandeh, fled with his family from the Vollsmose area of Odense—Denmark's third-largest city—to a secret location in a small town, after two of the family's cars were smashed. Each of them had a Christian cross hanging inside, according to local media reports.

"I was told by young people in Vollsmose that I shouldn't drive around the area with the cross hanging in the car. Afterwards our car was completely smashed up and burned and the seats slashed. Since then the side-windows of our new car were smashed three times," he says.

After the vandalism, Massoud Fouroozandeh and his wife don't want their children to play at the playground in Vollsmose.

"They don't go with a headscarf, and 99 percent of the other children do that, so they attracted a lot of attention, and it wasn't safe to send them out to play. Therefore we moved far away from Vollsmose," he says. Read more ..


Great American Conferences

Historic Scholars Conference in Miami Explores US-Israel Relationship over Past Half Century

January 10th 2011

Event Logos - SPME Fl Meet logo

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a non-profit organization formed by leading academics seeking to dispel violent racism and anti-Semitism, is planning a historic interdisciplinary academic conference on the diplomatic and strategic relationship between the US and Israel over the last half century, and to explore directions and possibilities for the future of that relationship. The conference is entitled “Fifty Years of the Special US-Israel Relationship--1962-2012. The SPME conference will be held on January 16-18 at the Conrad Miami Hotel in Miami FL.

Keynote speakers will include Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, former US Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis, and Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler. Other scholars and researchers, such as award-winning journalist Edwin Black, Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University, Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, and Luis Fleischman of Florida Atlantic University will appear in panel discussions delving into the many issues facing faculty and students on college campuses. These include such topics as the de-legitimization of Israel, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, and the binary of anti-Israel agitation and anti-Semitism. Read more ..


America's Farms on Edge

American Farm Workers and Families in Crisis

January 10th 2011

Farming - wheat fields

Innovation, and job outsourcing have eliminated or changed thousands of jobs in farming of crops such as cotton, pecans, chile peppers, onions, and other products and foodstuffs.

At the same time, many of the long-time conditions of farm work-temporary or seasonal employment, minimum wage violations, sub-contracting, reduced or no benefits, wage theft, and lack of union representation now characterize broader sections of the job market. To borrow a Spanish phrase, the “campesinizacion” of the working-class is arguably underway. Read more ..


Inside Africa

Everyone is Welcome to Pray in Sub-Saharan Africa

January 10th 2011

Africa Topics - Liberian women praying

The news event of a British air-stewardess dismissed for wearing a Christian cross around her neck while on duty bewilders most Africans; if this is an offense, why, they might rightly ask, are male rock stars, some with dubious personal lives, allowed to perform in cities of the West wearing large gold crucifixes? Why do Africans find all this hard to reason out? Didn’t Christianity come from Europe; doesn’t its message encourage moral goodness, and isn’t it something to be openly proud of?

As if to prove the point, many African Catholic men wear rosaries round their neck, at all times, except when telling their beads; many car drivers and mini-bus drivers hang a rosary, or set of Muslim prayer-beads, from the driver’s mirror, as a reminder of Who is in charge. And they are not considered sissies or “holy Joe’s”, but very normal people.

A preacher arraigned in a Scottish court for making a personal comment in the street about homosexual behaviour equally baffles people, in countries where what is deemed immoral is spoken about, and spoken against, spiritedly and openly. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Love Me, Love My Car--and Guns Too

January 3rd 2011

Automotive - Subaru hood

The way people treat their possessions looks like love, according to a new study. "Is it possible for consumers to be in love with their possessions?" ask authors John L. Lastovicka of Arizona State University and Nancy J. Sirianni of Texas Christian University. When it comes to cars, computers, bicycles, and firearms, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

The researchers visited five car shows in Arizona and conducted in-depth interviews with car enthusiasts (males and females, aged 19-68). They found that love-smitten consumers were more likely to use pet names than brand names when describing their cars and that some people seemed to use their attachment to cars to remedy pain and disappointment in their romantic lives. "Material possession relationships may reduce the negative consequences of social isolation and loneliness, and can contribute to consumer well-being, especially when considered relative to less-desirable alternative responses like substance abuse, delinquency, and the side-effects of anti-depressant medications," the authors write. Read more ..


The Urban Edge

Racial Segregation Causes Higher Cancer Rates in Some Neighborhoods

January 3rd 2011

Social Topics - Southside of Chicago

Older people who live in racially segregated neighborhoods with high crime rates have a much higher chance of developing cancer than do older people with similar health histories and income levels who live in safer, less segregated neighborhoods.

That is one of the key findings of a new study conducted by Vicki Freedman, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and colleagues at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

One of a growing number of studies documenting the connection between neighborhood characteristics and chronic health conditions, it is the first to show that living in more highly segregated areas with higher crime rates is linked with an increased risk of developing cancers of all kinds—for whites as well as Blacks.

The chance of developing cancer is 31 percent higher for older men living in these kinds of neighborhoods, and 25 percent higher for older women. Read more ..


Edge on Religion

If You are Angry at God, You are Not Alone

January 3rd 2011

Social Topics - Praying to a purple sky

The notion of being angry with God goes back to ancient days. Such personal struggles are not new, but Case Western Reserve University psychologist Julie Exline began looking at "anger at God" in a new way.

"Many people experience anger toward God," Exline explains. "Even people who deeply love and respect God can become angry. Just as people become upset or angry with others, including loved ones, they can also become angry with God." Exline, an associate professor in Case Western Reserve's College of Arts and Sciences, has researched anger toward God over the past decade, conducting studies with hundreds of people, including college students, cancer survivors and grief-stricken family members. Read more ..


Religious Tolerance

Americans are Increasingly Tolerant But Divided Over Religion

December 27th 2010

Social Topics - Lighting a candle against the darkness

A recently published study on religion in America found that the country is becoming increasingly divided between those who are fervently religious on the one hand, and those who are not so religious or even hostile to religion on the other. But at the same time, the study’s authors say Americans have never been more tolerant of one another.

Harvard University Professor Robert Putnam is a highly influential academic. In 1995, he published an essay that transformed thinking about civic life in America. Together with University of Notre Dame Professor David Campbell, Putnam has now published what he describes as an in-depth study of the role of religion in American life in the last half century. Based on a random sampling of 3,000 people from all faiths and walks of life, they found that a “God gap” has formed. Very religious Americans tend to be Republican and conservative, while more secular people tend to be progressive or vote for the Democratic party. Read more ..


America on Edge

New Study shows Illegal Drug Use among Teens is Growing, while Alcohol Abuse Abates

December 21st 2010

Social Topics - Teen Drug sales

Several important findings come out of this year's Monitoring the Future study, the 36th annual, national survey of American teens in a series that launched in 1975.

Among the findings for this year were that the use of marijuana, which had been rising among teens for the past two years, continues to rise again this year—a sharp contrast to the considerable decline of the preceding decade. As for ecstasy —which fell out of favor in the early 2000s as concerns about its dangers grew—appears to be making a comeback this year, following a considerable recent decline in the belief that its use is dangerous. Finally, alcohol —and, specifically, occasions of heavy drinking—continues its long-term decline among teens into 2010, reaching historically low levels.

These and other findings came as a result of research by a team of social scientists at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, has been funded since its inception under a series of research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2010, more than 46,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, enrolled in nearly 400 secondary public and private schools, participated in the study. Read more ..


Great American Meetings

Historic Miami Conference to Focus on Fifty Years of the US-Israel Relationship

December 21st 2010

Israel Topics - Eisenhower/Ben-Gurion

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a nonprofit organization formed by scholars seeking to dispel violent racism and anti-Semitism, is planning an unprecedented interdisciplinary academic conference to be held in Miami FL in January 2011.

The focus of the coming conference will be on the diplomatic and strategic relationship between the US and Israel over the last 50 years, and to explore directions and possibilities for the future of that relationship. The conference is entitled “Fifty Years of the Special US-Israel Relationship (1962-2012): Walt-Mearsheimer in Perspective.”

The SPME conference will be held on January 16-18 at the Conrad Miami Hotel at 1395 Brickell Avenue, Miami FL.

Keynote speakers will include Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, former US Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis, and Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler. They, and other scholars and researchers, such as Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University, Mitchell Bard of American-Israel Cooperative Enterprise, Luis Fleischman of Florida Atlantic University, and award-winning journalist Edwin Black, will be on hand to discuss the many issues facing faculty on college campuses such as the delegitimization of Israel, boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism as it has manifested in recent years. Read more ..


Haiti on Edge

Haiti’s Election Debacle

December 13th 2010

Caribbean - Haiti election 2010

Expectations heading into Haiti’s elections on November 28 were modest at best. The country’s notoriously opaque Conseil Électoral Provisoire (CEP) once again excluded the country’s most influential political party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in elections, as well as a number of other parties and individual candidates. Procedurally, the devastation from January’s earthquake and the ongoing cholera epidemic seriously complicated efforts to register voters and establish an adequate number of polling stations. While many in Haiti and abroad had held out hope that it would still be possible for the election to proceed in an orderly and peaceful manner, such expectations were unfortunately dashed by widespread reports of voter confusion, violence, and fraud.

Reactions to the elections varied: some groups claimed that the balloting was valid despite reports of irregularities, while others decried the entire process as fraudulent and illegitimate. International observation groups were faced with several undesirable alternatives as they assessed the elections, and their official conclusion turned out to be a highly controversial compromise between practical and ethical concerns. Read more ..


Religious Freedom

Rabbi Sues for Equal Treatment as Jewish Chaplain in the U.S. Army

December 13th 2010

Jewish Topics - Rabbi Menachem Stern

An Orthodox rabbi who was excluded from service as a Jewish chaplain in the United States Army because he wears a beard brought a federal-court lawsuit on December 8 in the District of Columbia federal court to declare the “no-beard” restriction illegal under the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The complaint filed by the famed Washington, D.C., law firm of Lewin & Lewin LLP, on behalf of Rabbi Menachem M. Stern, alleged that the Army had waived the restriction for the wearing of beards by Sikhs and Muslims while notifying Rabbi Stern that it was rescinding his appointment “because of the military regulation prohibiting the wearing of beards.”

Rabbi Stern advised the Army in his initial application for the chaplaincy that, as a matter of religious observance, he would not trim his beard. He repeated his conscientious position when he was told that he satisfied all the Army’s qualifications but that his application would be accepted only if he shaved his beard. Read more ..


Romania on Edge

Romania: On a Voyage between Hope and Oblivion

December 6th 2010

Eurasian Topics - Romania elderly lady

As a Romanian with the perspective of someone who emigrated 18 years ago, I can also say that I remain confused each time I depart from my native land. It is a feeling that, frequently, I manage to hide when I return from there because it is difficult to share with my colleagues in Spain, where I now make my home.

Ten years ago, I wrote a doctoral dissertation on Romania’s transition and march toward integration into European and Atlantic structures. In the conclusions of my dissertation, I expressed my hope about the future of that country nestled in the Carpathian Mountains. I imagined a prosperous and free country, aligned with NATO and the European Union.  During the first decade of the second millennium, I viewed Romania with horror since, despite its integration into NATO and the EU, it has managed to slip into the past rather than advancing toward the future.

I love my country dearly, but at a distance. It is difficult to return and find it in ruins: a Romania from which its people continue to flee because of its paucity of opportunities, fair wages, and employment. If we cast a glance back at the events of 20 years ago, we will be reminded that Romania was an exception within the concert of Eastern European nations for the cruelty of the regime that lasted 25 years, as well as the regime that replaced it when it shot to death the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife without a semblance of a trial. All of these peculiarities have been closely studied, as well as the events of that bloody Christmas of 1989 that was broadcast around the world. Read more ..


American Education on Edge

Public School Tries Single Sex Classes

December 6th 2010

History American - Boonsboro MD
Main Street, Boonsboro, Md.

In public high schools across America, large classes containing a mix of both boys and girls are the norm. However, in a move that’s drawing high marks from students, one public school in Maryland has decided to buck that tradition.

Class experiment

At Boonsboro High School in the small, rural town of the same name, an experiment in education is under way. Although most classes have a mix of boys and girls at varied academic levels, high-achieving students in 9th and 10th grades are placed in single sex classes for their core subjects of English, math, science, and social studies. Read more ..


American Education on Edge

Some Students Still Struggle with the “Nerd Penalty”

December 6th 2010

Social Topics - School kids

African American and Native American teens who do well in school suffer from a higher “nerd penalty” than white, Asian, and Hispanic youth, according to new analysis.

“The negative social consequences of getting good grades were particularly pronounced for black and Native American students in high-achieving schools with small proportions of students similar to themselves,” said University of Michigan developmental psychologist Thomas Fuller-Rowell, the lead author of a groundbreaking study. The analysis examined a nationally representative sample of more than 13,000 U.S. adolescents from more than 100 schools across the nation. Fuller-Rowell and co-author Stacey Doan of Boston University, controlled for differences in family and school socioeconomic status, family structure, school-level achievement, and school safety, type, and size. Read more ..


Haiti on Edge

Fraud, Violence, and Cholera Mark Haiti’s Chaotic Presidential Election

November 29th 2010

Caribbean - Haiti election 2010

About 4.7 million eligible voters had the right to decide on a successor to Haitian president René Préval along with 11 senators. Violence and charges of fraud marked Election Sunday on November 28, while 12 of the 18 presidential candidates are calling for the annulment of the election. Famed singer Wyclef Jean, who had to stand down his presidential bid since he had not resided long enough in the Caribbean nation before the election, is currently in Haiti but has not endorsed any of the candidates. The situation is unstable. Read more ..


The Edge of Litigation

Banks, Investors, and Hedge Funds Seek Lucrative Opportunities in Lawsuit Lending

November 29th 2010

Investigation - Lawyer Jared Woodfill
Attorney Jared Woodfill

Large banks, hedge funds and private investors hungry for new and lucrative opportunities are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into medical malpractice claims, divorce battles and class actions against corporations — all in the hope of sharing in the potential winnings.

The loans are propelling large and prominent cases. Lenders including Counsel Financial, a Buffalo company financed by Citigroup, provided $35 million for the lawsuits brought by ground zero workers that were settled tentatively in June for $712.5 million. The lenders earned about $11 million. Read more ..


Inside Islam

UK Muslim School Children Taught to Chop Off the Hands of Thieves

November 22nd 2010

Islamic Topics - Islamic school in Britain

Children attending Islamic schools in the United Kingdom are being taught how to chop off an offending criminal’s hand, in addition to the theory that Jews are plotting to take over the world. According to a BBC report, some 5,000 students between the ages of six and 18 are being taught the punishments prescribed by Islamic religious law known as sharia, while their textbooks claim that those who do not accept Islam will be subjected to hell after death.

According to a textbook for 15 year-old students, “For thieves their hands will be cut off for a first offense, and their foot for a subsequent offense,” while it said “The specified punishment of the thief is cutting off his right hand at the wrist. Then it is cauterized to prevent him from bleeding to death.” Read more ..


The Transportation Edge

Pilot Shortage May Develop as Job Loses Luster

November 15th 2010

Transportation Topics - commercial pilot wings

When Kevin Sullivan was 10 years old, he knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up.

The wide-eyed third-grader got to sit in the cockpit on his first-ever plane ride and reveled in the chance to rub elbows with the crisp professionals of United Airlines.

“It was a 707—you know, a rickety old airplane,” the 54-year-old Sullivan said with a laugh. “At the time it was state-of-the-art. I got to sit on the observer seat, and I got a chance to talk to the co-pilot and the flight engineer and it was just, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do.’” Read more ..


Significant Lives

Why I Still Miss Yitzhak Rabin

November 8th 2010

Israel Topics - Yitzhak Rabin memorial

As a journalist, I covered Yitzhak Rabin for the better part of eight years, from 1987 to 1995. During that period, I interviewed him when he was defense minister and in the political opposition, and I covered him when he was prime minister of Israel, during the zenith of the peace process.

Fifteen years ago, on Nov. 4, 1995, Rabin was gunned down by Yigal Amir, a right-wing extremist Jew, as he was leaving a mass rally in Tel Aviv in support of the Oslo Accords. I will never forget where I was when I heard the news of his assassination. While every Israeli was glued to their television and engulfed by grief, I drove through the Israel's deserted streets, from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, in the middle of the night to the Defense Ministry as the cabinet convened an emergency session to secure the transition of power.

Rabin had extraordinary faith in the people of Israel, even when it led to a fatal misjudgment. I remember attending a tiny cabinet briefing the Sunday before the assassination. It would be Rabin's last. One cabinet minister and Rabin confidant, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who had recently been the target of an assault by right-wing extremists himself, begged the prime minister to wear a bullet proof vest while attending the upcoming peace rally. Read more ..


The Miami-Havana Connection

Seeds of Change Emerge in the Havana/Miami/Washington Triangle

November 1st 2010

Latin American Topics - Cuban Republican

The Cuban exile community in the United States constitutes one aspect of a three-way relationship between Miami, Havana, and Washington. Since the revolution in 1959, the Cuban diaspora has been politically (and geographically) on the frontier of relations between Cuba and the U.S. Due to significant financial might and lobbying prowess, in addition to being primarily located in the crucial swing state of Florida, Cuban-Americans have obtained a considerable amount of political power. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Is It Islamic or Islamist?

October 27th 2010

Turkish Topics - Turkish Flags

Now that even the tolerant, liberal Swedes have elected an anti-Islam party to their Parliament, it's pretty clear that such controversies are mounting because both the left and the right are confused over the politics of Islam. The left is wrongly defending Islamism—an extremist and at times violent ideology—which it confuses with the common person’s Islam, while the right is often wrongly attacking the Muslim faith, which it confuses with Islamism. Western thinkers must begin to recognize the difference between Islamism and Islam, or we are headed toward an ideologically defined battle with one quarter of humanity. Read more ..


Germany on Edge

Germany's Chancellor Merkel Declares Multiculturalism a Failure

October 21st 2010

Europe Topics - Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared at an October 16 meeting of young members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, that multiculturalism, or Multikulti, as the Germans put it, “has failed totally.” Horst Seehofer, minister-president of Bavaria and the chairman of a sister party to the Christian Democrats, said at the same meeting that the two parties were “committed to a dominant German culture and opposed to a multicultural one.” Merkel also said that the flood of immigrants is holding back the German economy, although Germany does need more highly trained specialists, as opposed to the laborers who have sought economic advantages in Germany. Read more ..


Mexico on the Edge

Sex-Trafficking is Mexico's Other Major War

October 18th 2010

Mexican Topics - La muerta

The “War on Drugs” as viewed in Mexico and the U.S. is changing. No longer are President Felipe Calderón, the police, and Mexican military forces fighting just drug trafficking; now they must do battle against the rising trafficking of sex. Over the past decade there has been a dramatic rise in violence linked to the drug trade within Mexico. Even though Calderón has met with some success in reducing the amount of drugs trafficked across the border through drug seizures, his promise of a country free from cartel violence seems increasingly unlikely. His administration’s inability to effectively control the cartels is increasingly rooted in the fact that the war Calderón thinks he is fighting has expanded.

Mexico’s drug cartels have been at least a step ahead of the Mexican government since Calderón launched his campaign against them. Although some of the top drug lords have been captured and jailed, they can be—and often are—effectively replaced. Read more ..


Chile on the Edge

As Chile Hails Miners' Rescue, the Mapuche People Go on a Hunger-Strike

October 18th 2010

Latin American Topics - Mapuche protest Chile

Most of the news out of Chile recently has been coming from a dark hole 2200 feet below ground in Copiapó, where 33 trapped miners became an international media sensation. Last week, the news from Copiapó is particularly joyful, as the long-awaited rescue mission is finally complete, 70 days after the miners’ ordeal began. For Chile and President Sebastián Piñera, the rescue is a triumph on all accounts—a triumph for human courage, modern engineering, and technical coordination on an unprecedented scale. The men’s story of survival is truly inspirational, and the images of their rescue and subsequent reunion with loved ones are most certainly newsworthy.

Some Chileans, however, may have difficulty reconciling the amount of media attention the miners have received over these past two months with the lack of attention afforded to Chile’s 38 Mapuche hunger strikers during the same time period. As Luis Campos, Director of the School of Anthropology at Chile’s Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano, pointed out, “more buried than the miners themselves, the demands and the rights of the indigenous population continue to be flouted and unrecognized in our country.” Read more ..


Turkey on the Edge

Implications for America in Turkey’s Constitutional Referendum

October 11th 2010

Turkish Topics - Turkish Flags

On September 12, Turkey went to the polls to vote on constitutional amendments proposed by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). Nearly 38.3 million people turned out, with 21.8 million voting in favor of a variety of changes to the Turkish political system, from establishing constitutional guarantees of gender equality to giving the AKP de facto power over a majority of the country’s high court judicial appointments. Of the twenty-six amendments weighed by voters, several stipulate significant changes on key issues. Read more ..


America's Eugenic Nightmares

U.S. Made Guatemala the Ideal Place to Conduct Inhuman Medical Experiments

October 4th 2010

Health/Medicine - Professor Reverby
Susan M. Reverby

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius issued a joint statement on October 1 apologizing for medical experiments conducted by US government researchers in the 1940s in which they deliberately infected unwitting prison inmates, soldiers, and the mentally ill with syphilis. The two top officials said that the study was “clearly unethical.” “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health,” they said in a statement. “We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

President Obama apologized to Guatemala’s president on October 1, while Secretary Clinton apologized also via telephone on September 30. An official at the embassy in Washington DC thanked the US government for its transparency in dealing with the issue. The US government will conduct two separate investigations of the now-repudiated study and a review of experimental practices. The results of the Guatemala study were never published and there is not yet any recorded effect on medical knowledge.

Edwin Black, author of the prize-winning War Against the Weak, which documents eugenic testing, commented, "This is exactly the kind of derivative nightmare spawned by the eugenics movement in the United States. Not only did American eugenics lead directly to Mengele's horrific experiments in Auschwitz, the same mindset was fertile ground for horrible experiments in many places. Once eugenics devalues human life, those who think they control the genetic tree feel they can commit horrors in the name of science." Read more ..


Africa on Edge

Rwanda: Is Justice Served by Anti-Western Narratives treating Tutsis as 'Unworthy Victims'

September 27th 2010

Africa Topics - Rwanda child victim

Political wars around the history of genocide are most evident in controversies over the Holocaust. But they are also sharpening around Rwanda, where in 1994 the “Hutu Power” regime killed hundreds of thousands of Tutsis as well as moderate Hutus.

The political context of this development is that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government headed by Paul Kagame - which ended the genocide when it seized power - is both determined to use the west's guilt at failing to stop the 1994 genocide to entrench its own impunity, and trade on the victims of the Rwanda genocide in order to deflect criticism of its domestic authoritarianism and external aggression.

This strategy is diminishing in effect. A real momentum is growing behind the recognition of the RPF's own responsibility for massacres of civilians, mainly Hutus, leading to accusations that it too has committed genocide. Until now most attention has focused on massacres inside Rwanda, during the RPF's invasion in 1994 and subsequent consolidation of power, most notoriously at Kibeho in 1995.

These events led some Hutu propagandists to propound the theory of the “double genocide.” This is a simplistic and distorting idea because RPF massacres were localized, with neither the national scope nor the consistent targeting of the huge Hutu Power murder-campaign. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the RPF committed genocidal massacres of Hutu civilians. Read more ..


Edge on Human Trafficking

American Women and Girls are not Exempt from Global Sex Trafficking

September 20th 2010

Social Topics - Mother of Child victim

Child trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world - an underground business, often conducted on the internet, and driven by enormous profits. According to UNICEF, an estimated 2.5 million children, the majority of them girls, are sexually exploited in the multibillion-dollar commercial sex industry.

While the problem is usually associated with countries with unstable economic and political systems, today it is the biggest in Europe, the United States, Russia and Africa. 

"Last year we identified 56 cases of young people who have experienced sexual exploitation just in the Washington D.C. area," Andrea Powell, executive director of FAIR Fund stated. Powell co-founded the organization eight years ago to stop the trafficking of youth worldwide. It has assisted thousands of teen-aged girls and boys so far in the United States, Bosnia, Serbia, Russia and Uganda.

Child trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world - an underground business, often conducted on the internet, and driven by enormous profits. According to UNICEF, an estimated 2.5 million children, the majority of them girls, are sexually exploited in the multibillion-dollar commercial sex industry. Read more ..


The November Elections

Discussing Islam Appears Off-Limits for U.S. Politicians

September 20th 2010

Islamic Topics - Ground Zero mosque protest

After a scorching summer consumed with controversy over issues centering on Islam spilling into the political arena, the topic has quickly turned to political dynamite and threatens to derail midterm campaigns if politicians dare touch it.

The debate has focused around a Manhattan Islamic center – including a mosque – located two blocks from Ground Zero and numerous threats -- some carried out -- to burn or rip pages out of copies of the Muslim holy book the Koran. The political nature of the storm escalated to such heights that nearly every public figure weighed in on one side or another.

But a Congress that was vehemently involved in posturing on the issue as it left for summer recess remained deafeningly quiet on the issue when it came back in session last week. President Obama switched gears as well, choosing to focus on the economy this week after putting the White House at the center of the debate again last weekend while defending Islam in his Pentagon address on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Read more ..


Toxic Edge

China's Ravenous Appetite for Asbestos May Lead to an Epidemic of Cancer

September 13th 2010

Health/Medicine - asbestos hazard

For China, it seems, the worst is yet to come.

Asbestos wasn’t used extensively in the country until Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in the late 1970s triggered a surge of development. Given the lag time between exposure to asbestos fibers and the onset of disease, health experts say, the country’s prodigious appetite for the mineral will have lethal consequences into the middle of this century.

Jukka Takala, director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, says that the annual death toll from mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases in China may reach 15,000 by 2035. It’s the price the nation will pay for being the world’s top asbestos consumer and for failing until recently to address health risks associated with asbestos mining and manufacture. Read more ..


Pakistan on the Edge

Pakistani Religious Minorities Demand Investigation of Devastating Flood Diversion Schemes

September 6th 2010

Environment Topics - Pakistan flooding
Pakistan flooding

Some 20 million people have been affected by the worst flood in Pakistan’s recent history, while at least 2,000 people have died and 600,000 are completely cut off from outside help. Approximately one-fifth if the country’s roads, bridges, and other infrastructure appear to be nearly collapsed in the areas affected by the flood while Taliban insurgents have further hampered relief efforts by killing relief workers and disturbing supply lines to the stricken. The Taliban conducted a suicide bomb attack in the city of Quetta, killing at least 65 innocent people, and have also demanded that Pakistan should refuse any aid from the United States. Read more ..


Inside Judaism

Reflections on Rosh Hashanah 5771

September 3rd 2010

Jewish Topics - Women at The Wall

The start of the New Year offers a chance to reflect on the events of the past year and contemplate what lies ahead for the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the world.

Anti-Semitism knows no borders and persistently rears its head in countries around the globe, particularly in Latin America and Europe.

In Chile, Jewish community leaders and institutions were targeted with death threats, anti-Jewish vandalism and other anti-Semitic incidents. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez continues to foster an atmosphere of intimidation and fear for the Venezuelan Jewish community. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Decyphering Michigan English

August 30th 2010

Travel - Michigan Welcome

Michiganders know that 'pasty' does not rhyme with 'hasty.' Last month we reflected on the word terroir. (It's a shortening of the phrase gout de terroir, "taste of the earth." It refers to the mysterious flavor that helps us to taste the difference between strawberries that come from Michigan and those that are imported from elsewhere.) Linguistic terroir is the stuff that lets us know where we are.

Now Michigan English is not all one thing, but there are surprising differences between the English used here and what you encounter in Ft. Wayne or London, Ontario, or Green Bay. We need to talk about probabilities. So if you say dennist for "dentist" or pellow for "pillow," you are likely to be from here. If Trevor's City and Traverse City sound pretty much the same, you're probably a Michigander (and probably young and female too). If you say mango for "green pepper" or "bell pepper," you're probably from Ft. Wayne. If you say pickerel for "walleye," you're probably from Ontario. If you think a really big bottle of beer is a "picnic", you're probably from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Read more ..


The Toxic Edge

Mexico's Asbestos Casualties Mount Amid Weak Enforcement and a Powerful Lobby

August 23rd 2010

Health/Medicine - Bilingual Asbestos Warning Sign

Situated among homes and schools in Barrio de San Lucas, a working-class neighborhood in the Mexico City suburb of Iztapalapa, the fortress-like brick building emits a pungent, scorched-rubber odor that makes the eyes water and the head throb. It’s impossible to see inside. A maker of asbestos brake linings, American Roll SA de CV has been at odds with its neighbors since 2001. Anxious residents say that their complaints about pollution from the factory go unanswered and suspect that the company has co-opted environmental regulators. They worry that they will meet the same fate as Jaime Carbajal.

Residents of the Mexico City suburb of Iztapalapa have complained repeatedly about emissions from the plant but say they've gotten little help from regulators. Born and raised in the neighborhood, Carbajal lived a mere 150 meters from the factory. On March 4, 2008, he arrived at the emergency room in Hospital General de Iztapalapa with sharp back pain and breathing difficulties. The doctor speculated that Carbajal had been exposed to asbestos, even though he had never worked with the material, and noted the proximity of his house to the factory. Read more ..


Guatemala on the Edge

Outspoken Guatemalan Churchman says He Will Continue to Be a Voice for the Voiceless Poor

August 16th 2010

Christian Topics - Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno and Alvaro Colom

President Alvaro Colom and Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño

Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, who serves as archbishop of Guatemala City and head of the Central American country’s prelates, said during a Sunday homily on August 15 “I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless.” This came on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the spiritual patroness of Guatemala City. Cardinal Quezada also spoke of the legacy left by his predecessor, Bishop Francisco Marroquín, who defended the “voiceless” aboriginal Mayan Guatemalans who suffered the depredations of the Spanish conquistadores as of the mid-1500s.

The outspoken Quezada was recently criticized on the PorMiFamiliayPorGuate.org (For My Family and Guatemala) website, which said he is “imprudent” for criticizing government dealings that would favor companies such as Canada’s Goldcorp – a mining concern whose operations met with opposition from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights out of concern for possible environmental degradation that would come from further mining of gold and silver. While PorMiFamiliayPorGuate.org argues that exploiting natural resources would improve the lot of all Guatemalans, the archbishop has remained critical. Among the collaborators of the website is Rodolfo “Fito” Paiz Andrade, a Harvard-educated businessman who led a commission on economic development during the administration of President Oscar Berger Perdomo. Read more ..



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