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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 ..

Inside Latin America

Peruvian Independence Redefined

August 6th 2010

Latin American Topics - Machu Picchu Peru

On July 28th, the 189th anniversary of Peru’s independence from Spain, Peruvians both at home and abroad could not help but feel a heightened sense of pride over their country’s prosperity. Peru has been identified as possessing the fastest-growing Latin American economy in 2010 and has achieved a commendable reduction in poverty and inequality, with its income per capita Gini coefficient decreasing from 0.54 in 1997 to 0.49 in 2006. Despite the global economic meltdown and domestic social and political instability affecting the country, these improvements in poverty and inequality signal a promising future. However, as the country continues to implement neo-liberal policies that have contributed to a 9.8 percent GDP increase in 2008, Peru must continue to guarantee its independence against economic opportunism through effective use of existing bilateral free trade agreements. These agreements should be seen not so much as ends in themselves, but rather as tools for promoting economic prosperity and higher living standards. Read more ..

A Toxic Edge

India’s Wide Use of Asbestos Brings Dire Warnings

August 2nd 2010

Health/Medicine - Asbestos - Bangladesh

Every day, the swirling waters of the Arabian Sea bring misery to Alang, the world’s largest ship-breaking yard in western India’s Gujarat state. An estimated 55,000 workers, unmindful of the lethal effects of asbestos-laden material in the vessels, slave for long hours and, in the process, are exposed to deadly fibers. The Indian government is aware of the risks but loath to interfere: The men need jobs, and the Indian economy, among the world’s fastest-growing, needs secondary steel from the beached vessels. “Reclamation and recycling,” says Pravin Nagarsheth, president of the Iron Steel Scrap and Ship Breakers Association of India (ISSAI), “is a highly lucrative business.”

One hundred-twenty miles (two hundred kilometers) north of Alang, workers at hundreds of dusty asbestos factories in the city of Ahmedabad face similar hazards in the name of economic development: lung cancer, asbestosis, and a rapacious malignancy, usually found in the chest cavity, called mesothelioma. In this case the end product is asbestos sheet, widely used in construction. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

Despite Allegations, No Prosecutions for War Zone Sex Trafficking

July 26th 2010

Social Topics - Prostitute

Eight years ago, President George W. Bush issued a stern policy on sex trafficking in war zones—a policy that remains on the books to this day. With government contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan sometimes exceeding the number of U.S. troops, Bush vowed to prosecute employees and suspend or disqualify companies engaging in the trafficking of women.

But officials say these cases have proven difficult to pursue. The State Department reported recently that allegations of contractor employees procuring commercial sex acts were “well publicized,” but no contractors have been prosecuted and no contracts terminated.

lawmakers believe law enforcement is not doing enough. “Zero prosecutions,” said attorney Martina Vandenberg, a former Human Rights Watch investigator, “suggests zero effort to enforce the law.” Read more ..

Edge on Disability

Patrick Kennedy, Edwin Black, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Greg Babe, and Lowell Weicker receive “Justice for All Award"

July 26th 2010

Contributors / Staff - Edwin at AAPD Awards w/Imparato
Edwin Black and Andrew J. Imparato, AAPD President & CEO

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), on July 21, 2010, bestowed its coveted Justice for All Awards last week on five Americans who have distinguished themselves for their efforts on behalf of the disabled. The five were Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI); Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA); former Senator and Governor of Connecticut and American with Disabilities Act author Lowell Weicker; President and CEO of Bayer Corporation and Bayer Material Science Greg Babe; and best-selling author Edwin Black, for his investigative book War Against the Weak, now a major documentary film.

The presentation of the award statuettes was made in a Congressional Cannon House Caucus Room packed with senators and members of Congress, as well as corporate executives and the leaders of dozens of associations active in the extended disabled community. Also honored were an enthusiastic group of disabled youthful interns, each of which was servicing a national agency or organization with distinction. Certificates of merit were handed to each in a celebrated call to the podium. United States Attorney General Eric Holder gave the keynote address for the invitation-only event.

In addition to the award recipients and Attorney General Holder, a gamut of Washington luminaries were also in attendance. Former U.S. House Majority Whip and current AAPD board chair Tony Coelho and Dick Thornburgh, former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General when the ADA was passed, were on hand to help celebrate the landmark legislation’s 20th anniversary. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) was scheduled to attend but was delayed. Read more ..

Inside Africa

Senegalese Sports Legend is Teaching Girls on and off the Basketball Court

July 19th 2010

Africa Topics - Senegal schoolkids

Senegalese basketball legend Anne Marie Dioh is helping to train the next generation of women basketball players in her country.  Dioh is making a difference through her after-school program that also encourages young people to stay in school.

Anne Marie Dioh captained Senegal's women's basketball team to two African championships in the early 1990s.  The retired shooting guard now helps girls learn the game she loves in a country where women's athletics are overshadowed by men's teams.

Dioh says that everything she knows about sports and basketball she must pass on to young people.  And that is what pushed her to create this school.

Players from across Dakar come to Dioh's after-school program three times a week for basketball and the structure of organized athletics. Dioh says that helps her draw in the children, so they can stay in school, learn and play basketball.

Renata Maniaci is a Fulbright scholar from the United States who has spent the last year studying women's basketball in Senegal. Read more ..

Edge on Education

Basketball Star says Sports and Studies take Energy and Perserverance

July 19th 2010

Social Topics - Brian Taylor
Brian Taylor

Former sports star Brian Taylor has taken a message of hard work that he learned on the basketball court to the inner city classroom.  In this week's installment of Making a Difference we introduce you to Taylor, who was a top basketball player at Princeton University, and he later played professionally.  He is now an administrator with a group of rigorous schools for minority students in Los Angeles.

Brian Taylor tells his students that athletics and study are two sides of the same coin.  He says he learned playing basketball at Princeton University that both take hard work and perseverance.

Taylor was Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1971 and Rookie of the Year for the American Basketball Association two years later.  He helped lead the ABA's New York Nets to two league championships, and later played for the San Diego Clippers and the Kansas City Kings, and the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association.

After 10 years in professional sports, he returned to Princeton to finish his degree, a move, he says, that later influenced a career decision. Read more ..

Deaf on the Edge

One Deaf Person’s Story

July 12th 2010

Deaf issues - ASL spoken here

My name is Aidan Mack, and I survived harmful advice given by an audiologist. Since I am not a California citizen, I know that I do not have a direct say in the matter of AB 2072, but I feel it is important for you to be know about the horrible price that many Deaf people like me have had to pay due to an audiologist’s bad advice in early childhood—advice which harmed our potential for becoming fully successful and productive human beings. Many of us are still struggling in adulthood with the consequences of an overemphasis on speech training and of being prohibited from using visual language as children. It was visual language that we needed the most, in order to have full and equal access to the information needed for an effective education, yet we were barred from having access to it.

When my mom found out that I was deaf, she took me to an audiologist who was referred to her by a physician. My mom told the audiologist that she remembered as a little girl how her uncle was Deaf and used sign language. The audiologist immediately told my mom, “No, it is bad idea for Aidan to learn to sign. She needs to learn to listen and to speak or she will not function in the world.” Read more ..

China on the Edge

China's Xinjiang Province Thrown into Tension over Ethnic Unrest

July 5th 2010

China Topics - China Security

Police officers patrol a street in Kashgar, in western China's Xinjiang region, . Teams of police patrolled streets in the western region of Xinjiang as stringent security was imposed for the one-year anniversary of China's worst ethnic violence in decade, 3 Jul 2010

Teams of paramilitary police are on full alert in the western region of Xinjiang for the one-year anniversary of China's worst ethnic violence in decades. Security was also tightened in other Chinese cities.

Paramilitary police carrying riot shields and machine guns are patrolling the cities in China's restive Xinjiang province Monday. Read more ..

Mendoza Against the Deaf

Mendoza AB2072 Supporters Taunt and Insult the Deaf on Blogs

June 28th 2010

History-Genocide - Verschuer-Twins-Height

Deaf advocates celebrated a qualified victory last week when they succeeded in amending controversial California legislation AB2072 proposed by that state’s Assemblyman Tony Mendoza. The legislation has been dubbed “Mendoza Eugenics” by critics who accuse it of seeking to subtract the generation-to-generation deaf community by steering parents of deaf newborns to controversial cochlear implants, and nudge the state back to its dark eugenic legacy. The deaf have openly charged Mendoza’s office with exhibiting a denigrating attitude toward them.

After vigorous protests by a coalition of deaf academics and activists, members of the Health Committee backed off the original bill. Safeguard amendments were added to allow the deaf community to have decisive input into the “informational brochures” and other methods by which the state will approach the parents of deaf newborns with alternatives. The drawback in the minds of the deaf community is that the fractured process is still in the hands of audiologists who are "medical equipment technicians," not qualified to make surgical recommendations and are antithetical to American Sign Language which is the culture incarnation that identifies the generation-to-generation deaf.

As part of their sense of qualified victory was the necessity of enduring public taunts, insults and cruel slurs about their deafness from bloggers who support Mendoza’s AB2072. In today’s society, bloggers can publish venomous remarks against any ethnic or cultural group and generally do so with anonymity, hiding behind fake names and pseudonyms. Among the most virulent of taunts appeared on an Orange County California political blog operated by local political observer Art Pedroza. His blog created a special section with a picture of a passive Adolf Hitler intently listening to a household radio. Pedroza headlined the thread by referring to the American Sign Language deaf opponents to AB2072 as “ASL cultists” and “ASL loons.” The thread went on to cruelly portray the deaf with epithets and as “crazy.” Read more ..

Bolivia on the Edge

Bolivia Celebrates its First Indigenous President

June 28th 2010

Latin American Topics - Evo Morales in mufti
Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma

Evo Morales Ayma, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, has many promises and expectations to fulfill as viewed by his fellow indigenous. During his two terms in office, he has created many new opportunities for Bolivia’s native people, by enforcing the government’s new constitution and promoting social and political equality. One of his most momentous undertakings has been his stance on climate change and environmental responsibility. Morales’ ascent to power is historically significant to Bolivia, a country with an explosive history of social and ethnic inequality. His party, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) represents a myriad of social groups and interests and has enjoyed a strong support group among poor, rural, indigenous Bolivians. Morales has offered hope to indigenous communities in his nation, but some skepticism exists over whether he has been true to his roots or if his newfound political power has worn away at his connection to his people. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Australia Considers Burqa Ban

June 28th 2010

Islamic Topics - Burqa-o-rama

A legislator in Australia is calling for new laws banning the burqa in public places in the country's most populous state, New South Wales. Reverend Fred Nile has introduced a private members bill to state parliament that would make it an offense to wear a full-face veil in shopping centers and on buses. 

Reverend Fred Nile, a Christian Democratic Party MP in the New South Wales upper of house of parliament, insists the burqa does not fit Australian values.

Only a small number of Muslims in Australia wear the loose garment that covers a woman from head to foot, including the face.

But Reverend Nile believes Australia should follow the example of European governments, including France, that have outlawed the burqa.

The controversial bill has been introduced to the New South Wales state parliament and while Reverend Nile denies his planned legislation is racist, he says it will help oppressed Muslim women and increase national security. Read more ..

Edge on Latrin America

Latin American Struggles Between Aboriginal Rights and National Priorities

June 21st 2010

Latin American Topics - Kayapo Brazilans
Kayapo Tribesmen in Brazil

Over the last twenty years, almost all applicable Latin American countries have been moving toward full recognition of their multiethnic citizenship. Peru codified indigenous rights in 1993, Ecuador legalized them in 1998, and Bolivia passed a new constitution including embedded indigenous rights in 2009. However, despite a favorable movement in the direction of increased equality for indigenous peoples, an opposing trend of violence and discrimination has persisted between the state and indigenous populations in these three countries.

Last year in Bagua, Peru, for example, a violent clash occurred between indigenous protesters and the national police, resulting in thirty-four deaths and one hundred wounded. In Ecuador, an indigenous group recently prosecuted a man for murder, punishing him with public humiliation and beatings, a sentence many Europeanized Ecuadorians saw as barbaric. Read more ..

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