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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 ..

Argentina on the Edge

Argentina is 200 Years Older and Some Say Not a Bit Wiser

June 14th 2010

Latin American Topics - Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner bicentenario
President Cristina Fernández

Since its independence from Spain, Argentina has experienced two British invasions, a series of illegitimate governments, the Peronist movement, a dictatorship that cost 30,000 lives, the Falklands War and a neo-liberal economy during the 1990s followed by a major economic default. Today, as Argentina celebrates its bicentennial anniversary, the political debates in the country are not very different from those faced by its founding fathers. The country still suffers from conflicts between the oligarchy and the poor (many near starvation) which have thwarted President Cristina Fernández’s left-wing political project. It will be interesting to see if Cristina Fernández’s increased popularity following the incredible bicentennial celebrations will help her husband, former president Néstor Kirchner, win a second term in the presidential election next year. Read more ..

Africa on the Edge

High Court in Namibia to Investigate Allegations of Forced Sterilizations

June 7th 2010

Africa Topics - Namibia HIV Sterilazation

A court case, alleging that HIV-positive women were forcibly sterilized in Namibian State Hospitals will begin in Windhoek's High Court this June. Human rights groups claim the practice has continued long after the authorities were notified.

The Windhoek-based Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) is litigating 15 alleged cases of forced sterilization. Three women's cases will be heard initially. Each woman is demanding the equivalent of $132,000 in damages. The sterilizations were first uncovered by the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW). The first cases emerged during community meetings in early 2008.

"In the months that followed, we interviewed 230 women, 40 of whom were sterilized against their will," says the ICW's Veronica Kalambi. Kalambi also said, "In August 2008 we formally alerted the ministry during a meeting with the deputy minister.”

Although the Namibian government argues that consent forms were signed in all three cases, the women's lawyers maintain the process necessary for “informed consent” was not followed and the women were coerced, or did not understand the procedure. Read more ..

Child Rearing on the Edge

Spare the Rod, and Spare your Child the Aggression

May 31st 2010

Social Topics - Angry Child

Discipline—whether it's spanking, yelling or giving time-outs—may sometimes do little to reduce children's behavior problems, a new study indicates.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and five other universities looked at practices and perceptions of discipline in six countries. They found that spanking leads to more child aggression and anxiety, regardless of the country.

So what should parents do to teach children right from wrong?

"It may be that the long-term investments that we make in children, like spending time with them, showing that we love them and listening to them, have a more powerful positive effect on behavior than any form of discipline," said Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, U-M associate professor of social work.

The study examined the associations of mothers' discipline techniques with children's aggressive and anxious behaviors in China, India, Italy, Kenya, Thailand and the Philippines. Read more ..

Turkey on the Edge

Islam, Alcohol, and Government-Engineered Social Change in Turkey

May 24th 2010

Turkish Topics - Raki

Since the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, rose to power in Turkey in 2002, special taxes on alcohol have increased dramatically, making a glass of wine or beer one of the most expensive in Europe, and, for that matter, anywhere in the world. The AKP leadership is known for their aversion to alcohol. Yet, the Turkish people are divided on this issue, with some who believe that drinking alcohol is a sin according to Islam, while some believe it is not. While the debate continues, the AKP is implementing policies to make alcohol exorbitantly expensive and therefore out of reach for many Turks.

The issue at stake in Turkey is not whether the government promotes or condemns drinking, nor is it defending one’s ability to get drunk, as would be the case in non-Muslim societies. Rather, given the split religious and cultural attitudes towards drinking in Muslim Turkey, which is also a democracy, the issue at stake is maintaining the notion that citizens in a liberal democracy are free to choose for themselves. Drinking might, therefore, be seen as one of the litmus tests of the AKP’s commitment to liberal democratic values within the context of the Turkey’s majority faith, Islam. Research shows that after eight years of rule by the AKP, drinking has become an expensive luxury in Turkey due to large tax hikes.

For starters, the AKP’s tax hikes against alcoholic beverages do not appear to be connected to a drinking problem in Turkey. In fact, Turkey has traditionally low alcohol consumption rates. According to data provided by the World Health Organization, at the time when the AKP came to power in 2003, Turkey's per capita alcohol consumption rate was 1.4 liters (L) per year. For that same year, this amount was 10.9L in Belgium; and 11.5L and 9.0L in neighboring Cyprus and Greece respectively. Even, Qatar, which implements a rigid version of the Shariat under the Wahhabi school, had higher per capita alcohol consumption rates than Turkey, at 4.4L per capita. Read more ..

The Determined Edge

Afghanistan’s Last Jew

May 17th 2010

Afghan Topics - Zablon (Zebulon) Simontov
Zebulon Simontov Credit: Emilio Morenatti, AP

Until January 2005, Afghanistan’s “Odd Couple” of Yitzhak Levy and Zebulon Simintov lived separately but together in Kabul—in opposite ends of the same synagogue. Consistently at each other’s throats, their Muslim neighbors testified to their ongoing volatile screaming battles, alternately accusing each other of heinous crimes including that of stealing Afghanistan’s only Torah. Both men laid claim to the scroll, which they described as having been written by hand on deerskin and wrapped in silk, some 500 years old and worth $2 million. Each brought charges against the other and the Taliban jailed and tortured them with cables because of this unbending dispute, confiscating the Torah for added measure. Levy’s death has made Zebulon Simintov Afghanistan’s last Jew—a man who refuses to leave the country. Read more ..

Latin American on the Edge

Migradollars and Economic Development-- Remittances are Big Business in Latin America

May 10th 2010

Latin American Topics - Casa de Cambio

Remittances, the funds sent by foreign-based Latin American workers to their families back home (also called migradollars in Mexico, where they constitute the third highest source of income after oil exports and tourism), represent one of the major economic trends shaping Latin America’s recent development. They are considerably more important than official development assistance (ODA) and equal the foreign direct investment (FDI) volume for the region. In some of the poorest countries of the hemisphere (Haiti, Guyana and Honduras, to name a few) they account for more than 10 percent of the GDP, and, in several Latin American countries, remittances per capita readings are higher than the GDP per capita of the poorest 40 percent of the population.

Despite their prevalence and assumed transcendent importance, the transfer of these funds back to the motherland have not been extensively studied. Indeed, remittances signify a relatively new economic phenomena; they are hard to track and only have been registered by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) for the past 10 years. The current economic and financial crisis has resulted in the first drop in remittances since those transfers were first tracked and gives us further insight into their impact on the region. It is therefore a felicitous occasion to examine remittances and to see what impact they have on economic development in Latin America. Read more ..

Religious Freedom

More than a Clash of Religions Stirs the African Continent

May 3rd 2010

Islamic Topics - Somalian women praying

The growth of religious adherence in sub-Saharan Africa from 1900 to the present day is impressive by any standards, and probably makes for the world record. In this huge expanse, between the Sahara and the Cape, and from Somalia to Senegal there were some 11 million Muslims in 1900; now they number 234 million: a more than 20-fold increase. Christians were then 7 million, and now, at 470 million, have grown by almost 70 times. 21 per cent of all Christians world-wide are to be found in this part of Africa, and 15 per cent of all Muslims. The total population of sub-Saharan Africa is presently around 820 million.

But isn’t this the religious fault-line where Christians are under mounting pressure from Muslims to convert, and al-Qaeda finds it easy to penetrate? Aren’t the troubles in northern Nigeria and southern Sudan spats over contrasting beliefs? Do Africans lack tolerance for each other’s religion? Is religion a source of conflict in the huge swathe of central and southern Africa, or a reason for hope? Isn’t it rather a meeting place for Christians and Muslims, and perhaps could even provide a lesson for other parts of the world?

The growth of religious adherence in sub-Saharan Africa from 1900 to the present day is impressive by any standards, and probably makes for the world record. In this huge expanse, between the Sahara and the Cape, and from Somalia to Senegal there were some 11 million Muslims in 1900; now they number 234 million: a more than 20-fold increase. Christians were then 7 million, and now, at 470 million, have grown by almost 70 times. 21 per cent of all Christians world-wide are to be found in this part of Africa, and 15 per cent of all Muslims. The total population of sub-Saharan Africa is presently around 820 million. Read more ..

The Edge of Aging

Age-old customs in China Confront New Realities of Aging

April 26th 2010

Asia Topics - Aged China

Deborah Lowry has always liked older people.

“They tend to be more comfortable with themselves than younger people are,” she said, “and I’ve always enjoyed hearing about history from someone who’s lived through it.”

A postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research’s Population Studies Center, Lowry’s other long-time interest is China, where a grey tide is now sweeping the land. More than 100 million Chinese people are 65 and older, and the proportion is expected to increase rapidly, reaching 20 percent of the population by 2025 and more than 30 percent by 2050.

In the future, experts predict with foreboding, one Chinese child may have to care for two parents and four grandparents. Read more ..

Religious Freedom

Acting Against Anti-Semitism on American University Campuses

April 19th 2010

Islamic Topics - Irv Malik

 “We ask young people to carry on our struggle against Nazi ideology,” declared President Obama on June 5, 2009 at Buchenwald.  He continued advocating  “…for a just, peaceful and tolerant world; a world that has no place for anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and right-wing extremism."  On March 16, 2010, thirteen American Jewish communal organizations wrote a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan seeking to ensure that struggle continues, through protection for Jewish students on American University campuses under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Under Section 2000d of the Act, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”  These groups contend that Jews are entitled to protection under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights policy mandate of 2004 prohibiting discrimination against Jewish students at educational institutions receiving federal funds. 

Secretary Duncan’s Education Department however, views the issue as providing protection to adherents of a religion, therefore making it essentially permissible for discrimination to take place against Jewish students.  While perhaps not their intention, their refusal thus far to act to protect Jewish students is for all intents and purposes legalizing anti-Semitic discrimination against Jewish students on American campuses.  This failure to act runs counter to President Obama’s stated intent at Buchenwald, the public good, common sense, and simple decency. Read more ..

Latin America on the Edge

Brutal War Against Women Rages in Central America as Narcotics Reign

April 12th 2010

Latin American Topics - Woman in Guatemala

In 2009, some 847 women were murdered in the Central American republic of Guatemala. Over the last 10 years, some 5,000 have been similarly killed. So far in 2010, the death toll for women now stands at 160. These are not cases of domestic violence: the victims are women who were tortured and killed in public places. In nearly all the cases, no perpetrators have been identified. 


Since 2008, Guatemala has “feminicide” on its law books: the murder of women simply because of their sex or out of hatred for their sex. According to Walda Barrios-Klee, a Guatemalan activist, “We consider feminicides to be impersonal crimes. Those who kill a woman have no relationship to her. It is an anonymous crime. The one who kills does not know the victim and kills her because of the fact that she is a woman. This is what is new about the phenomenon,” said Barrios-Klee.


Another distinction of these murders is in the brutality employed before and after the death of the victims. “There is not only a killing; there is a ritual to the murder: torture, mutilation, and rape. There is always rape, accompanied by overwhelming sadism,” said the activist. Bodies are frequently dismembered; fingernails are torn out and faces disfigured.   Read more ..

Fighting Obesity

School Lunches May Make for Obese Children

April 5th 2010

Social Topics - Childhood Obesity

Findings by University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center show need for initiatives such as Project Healthy Schools, which teaches sixth-graders heart-healthy lifestyles. Children who eat school lunches more likely to be overweight  Middle school children who regularly eat school lunches are more likely to be overweight or obese, develop poorer eating habits, and have high levels of “bad” cholesterol compared to those who bring lunches from home, according to new University of Michigan Health System research presented at the recent American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session.

Although previous studies have looked at the nutritional content of school lunches, this is the first study to assess the impact of school lunches on children’s eating behaviors and overall health—a critical issue amid skyrocketing rates of childhood overweight and obesity, which can set the stage for future heart disease and premature death.

A team of U-M Cardiovascular Center researchers collected and analyzed health behavior questionnaires completed by 1,297 sixth graders at Michigan public schools over a period of almost three years. They discovered that children who consume school lunches were more likely to be overweight or obese (38.8 percent vs. 24.4 percent) than those who ate lunches brought from home. Children who ate school meals were more than twice as likely to consume fatty meats (25.8 percent vs. 11.4 percent) and sugary drinks (36 percent vs. 14.5 percent), while also eating fewer fruits and vegetables (16.3 percent vs. 91.2 percent). Read more ..

Religious Freedom

Pakistani Christians Burned and Raped for not Converting to Islam

March 29th 2010

Asia Topics - Arsed Masih burned
Christian Burned Alive for not Converting to Islam

Arshed Masih, a Pakistani Christian of Rawalpindi, died in a Pakistani hospital on March 22 at approximately 7:55 PM local time. He had been assaulted on March 19 in front of a police station in Rawalpindi and set alight by Muslim assailants after he had refused to convert to Islam. His wife Martha was then jailed by police and reportedly raped by officials during her imprisonment. Both were taken later to the Holy Family Hospital of Rawalpindi. Their three children, who range in age from 7 to 12, were forced to watch their parents’ torture. The wife of Arshed Masih continues to be hospitalized. A funeral for Masih is expected on March 24.

The couple’s assailants remain at large even while police say that they are launching an investigation. Christian churches and human rights groups have condemned the assault and have protested outside of the police station where the couple met their fate. Local officials have declared that they are aware of the attacks. No arrests have been made. There are fears that local political authorities will prevent any effective investigation of the murder or any consequences for the culprits.

The incident stems from a dispute between the Masih family and their employer, the prominent Muslim Sheikh Mohammad Sultan. Masih had worked for the Sultan as a driver, while wife Martha was a domestic servant. In January 2010, the Sultan demanded that Masih and his family convert to Mohammadism, threatening them with “dire consequences” should they refuse. When Masih asked to leave, he was threatened with death by the Sultan – a threat that was carried out last week. Read more ..

Uganda on the Edge

Uganda Faces the Loss of a Cultural Treasure and the Prospect of Renewed Violence

March 22nd 2010

Africa Topics - Uganda tombs

Barely six months after the riots that ensued after the Kabaka (King) of Uganda’s largest ethnic group, the Baganda, was prevented by government forces from visiting Kayunga, a corner of his kingdom—for fear of public unrest, which ironically erupted in Kampala itself, leaving 17 dead, instead of Kayunga—another stand-off threatens.

On the night of March 16, the massive grass-thatched huts that house the remains of the four past Kabakas in Kasubi, a Kampala suburb, caught fire and burned to the ground.

The Royal Tombs of Kasubi, an international tourism site recognized by UNESCO and placed on the heritage list in 2001, was one of the “must-see” sites for visitors to Uganda, together with the source of the Nile and the magnificent Mountains of the Moon (Ruwenzoris). It was a major spiritual centre for Ugandans. Read more ..

Chile on the Edge

Chile Dusts Itself Off and Shines following Devastating Earthquake

March 15th 2010

Disaster - Chile earthquake

In Latin American terms, it couldn't have happened to a better country. Chile is struggling with the aftermath of the February 27 early morning earthquake. It was estimated to be the fifth strongest in the last 100 years, with a magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale. So far the death toll in Chile has reached 800. The devastation affected the whole country, but especially the central and southern regions.

Half of the victims died in a tsunami that swept across 500 kilometres of the coast shortly after the earthquake. More than 350 died in the coastal town of Constitución. Between the tremors and the tsunami, more than 500,000 houses collapsed. Two million people have been affected, bridges have collapsed, roads have cracked, hospitals have been destroyed. According to Eqecat, an American company specialising in risk estimates, the cost of the damage could be between US$15 and 30 billion, which represents about 10–15 percent of Chile’s GDP.

But this was a calamity with which the most developed Latin American country, with a strong democracy and with solid institutions, can cope with. Despite some looting and violence in cities like Concepción—which was worst hit—Chile will survive. Read more ..

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