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Significant Lives

Robert Wolfe--History's Gain and Loss

December 21st 2014

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Robert Wolfe, RIP

My most distinct memory of Robert Wolfe was that day in October of 1999 when he stood in the dreary, grey rain outside a heretofore unknown archive in Sindelfingen, Germany, a suburb of Stuttgart. He was attempting to gain entry when the archive unexpectedly shuttered its doors and refused him. With the chilled drizzle running rivulets down his cheeks, Wolfe summoned an intense inner anger, born of decades of devotion to documenting Nazi history. He shook with disbelief and demanded they open the door. They would not. No matter. Despite that refusal, Wolfe persevered, and the information was revealed.

Who was Robert Wolfe? Wolfe was the irreplaceable chief archivist for captured Nazi documents at their main repository, the National Archives and Record Administration in Washington, D.C. He died just before dawn December 10, 2014, at the age of 93.

Wolfe, who lived in Alexandria, VA, left behind his gentle German-born wife, Ingeborg. They met when she was an office manager in Occupied Germany where Wolfe was stationed. During Wolfe’s archival career, Ingeborg traveled with him extensively. Two sons also survive Wolfe, one in Virginia and the other in Florida. The pragmatic Wolfe ruled out any funeral in his final instructions. His wish for interment at Arlington Cemetery will be granted in spring 2015.

With Wolfe’s death, a legacy also dies.

Wolfe set the standard, hammered together the ethical strictures, and single-handedly galvanized a generation of Holocaust and Nazi-era historians and authors — including me. Read more ..

The Way We Are

When Criticized for Their Weight, Women Tend to Put on Pounds

December 20th 2014

Women whose loved ones are critical of their weight tend to put on even more pounds, says a new study on the way people's comments affect our health.

Professor Christine Logel from Renison University College at the University of Waterloo led the study, which appears in the journal Personal Relationships.

"When we feel bad about our bodies, we often turn to loved ones--families, friends and romantic partners--for support and advice. How they respond can have a bigger effect than we might think," said Professor Logel, who teaches social development studies.

The study found that women who received a higher number of what the researchers called acceptance messages about their weight saw better weight maintenance and even weight loss than their counterparts who did not receive this positive messaging from their loved ones. Read more ..

The Edge of Justice

Noted Attorney Benjamin Brafman Receives AAJLJ Pursuit of Justice Award

December 18th 2014

Supreme Court Lady Justice

The American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (AAJLJ) presented its 2014 Pursuit of Justice award on December 15, 2014, to renowned criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Shearith Israel, in New York City. Attorney Brafman joined a lengthy list of distinguished lawyers and judges who previously received the AAJLJ’s award including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Aharon Barak (of the Supreme Court of Israel), Chief Judge of the State of New York Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the State of New York Judith Kaye, and former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman.  The award is presented by the AAJLJ to an attorney, judge, or law professor, who shares and epitomizes the Association's commitment to justice and advocacy for human rights. Read more ..

Modern Eugenics

When Should Disabled Infants be Euthanized?

December 15th 2014

Two of the leading voices in bioethics have a fascinating head-to-head confrontation on the euthanasia of severely disabled infants in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Udo Schuklenk, of Queen's University, in Canada, the co-editor of the journal Bioethics, and Gilbert Meilaender, of Valparaiso University, in Indiana, discuss the ethics of, in Schuklenk’s words, “what would amount to postnatal abortion”.

The arguments of both men are familiar, but succinct and quotable.

Arguing from a quality-of-life standpoint, Schuklenk writes that “Once we have concluded that death is what is in the best interest of the infant, it is unreasonable not to bring about this death as painlessly and as much controlled in terms of timing by the parents as is feasible.” Read more ..

The Hill

A Dialogue on Race and Racism at MIT

December 13th 2014

Reif said the ongoing pursuit of racial equality and social justice “is one of the world’s great challenges. … Recent events have shown us, again, that terrible fault lines of race are still a major issue in our society. It would be naïve to think that we at MIT are somehow immune to these problems: MIT is a microcosm of our broader society. It shares many of its flaws, as well as its virtues.”

Reif noted that the protesters “are asking us to listen, to collaborate, and to act.”

“Black Lives Matter”

Less than two hours later, inside Building E51, some 400 members of the MIT community — including about 100 who overflowed Wong Auditorium — participated in a dialogue on race at MIT that featured a panel discussion, as well as smaller group sessions. Read more ..

The Caliphate

Western Powers Abandon Mideast Christians who Represent No Economic Interests

December 7th 2014

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The leader of the Syriac Catholic Church has lashed out at Western governments, charging that they ignore the plight of displaced Christians in Iraq because they represent no economic stakes.

In an interview in the French capital with international charity Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Joseph III Younan of Antioch and All the East said that the Western world had been largely silent about the situation facing Christians in northern Iraq.

He said: “The international policy-makers, when it comes to minorities, have no policies to help those who have neither the numbers, nor the riches to make them attractive. And we have no oil—that is to say, we do not offer any economic advantages.”

The prelate that he come to “France and Europe to bring the voice of these communities who were persecuted, forced into exile and deprived of everything because of their Christian faith.” “Unfortunately the supposedly ‘civilized’ Western world is rather silent,” he added. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Dark Secrets of Peru's Sterilization Program

December 6th 2014

The Quipu Project is an interactive documentary about women and men who were sterilised in Peru in the mid-1990s by population controllers, often without informed consent. Using VOIP telephone lines and a web interface, researchers are gathering testimony from women in isolated communities high in the Andes. Many are illiterate and speak only Quechua, the principal indigenous language.

In the video, Francisca Quispe Pontenciano recalls the circumstances which led to her sterilisation. It makes painful listening.

This horrific story is hardly known outside of Peru. “I was working for Amnesty International in Peru in the 1990s and nobody knew this was going on,” Matthew Brown, of the University of Bristol, in the UK, told Prospect. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Americans in Senior Housing Communities Likely to Have Unmet Needs

December 2nd 2014

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Older adults who live in retirement or senior housing communities are more likely to have unmet needs for help than are older adults who live in traditional housing, according to a new study.

About 2.5 million older adults live in these settings, nearly as many as the 3 million who live in residential care settings, including nursing homes.

"Unmet needs are common among older adults with limitations across all kinds of settings," said Vicki Freedman, research professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. "But some needs, like those related to grocery shopping, laundry and making hot meals, are more likely to go unmet for those in retirement or senior housing communities.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, appears in a special issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences that highlights research findings from the National Health and Aging Trends Study, based on data from more than 8,000 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older. The NHATS is designed to provide a deeper understanding of national trends in late-life functioning, and the consequences of late-life disability for individuals, families, and society. Read more ..

Edge of Tolerance

Pope Francis Visits Turkey to Discuss Reconciliation with Orthodox Christians

November 29th 2014

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Pope Francis is in Istanbul on his three-day visit to Turkey. The Pontiff visited important religious sites ahead of talks with head of the Orthodox Christian church as part of reunification efforts.

The pope started his two-day visit to Istanbul visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque. He was guided by Istanbul’s chief Mufti who recited Koranic verses about the Virgin Mary.

Turkish media reports the pontiff asked for permission to pray. The act was interpreted as a gesture of reconciliation between the faiths, a key part of the pope’s visit. But Vatican officials chose to describe the act as a “silent moment of adoration of God.”

Pope Francis then visited the Hagia Sofia, for a thousand years, Christianity's most important church that later came under the Ottomans for 500 years as a mosque. The building has been a museum since the formation of the Turkish secular republic. Read more ..

The Way We Were

Thanksgiving and the Geopolitics of Colonial America

November 27th 2014

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The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation's small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England's successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England's place in it unsure. Read more ..

Media on Edge

NYT Correspondent Jodi Rudoren Assails Critics as 'Noisy Group of Advocates'

November 26th 2014

Jodi Rudoren, the New York Times bureau chief in Israel, has launched an unprecedented attack on pro-Israeli critics of her journalism, declaring that there “is a very active and very noisy group of advocates who has decided that tearing apart coverage of the conflict is a good tool of advocacy.”

Rudoren was speaking at a conference held at Israel’s Bar Ilan University last weekend which focused on media coverage of Operation Protective Edge, launched against the Hamas regime in Gaza by the IDF over the summer in response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli population centers. Read more ..

Environment and Society

Is South American Grass-Fed Beef Really Green?

November 24th 2014

Paraguayan gaucho and cattle

In the Americas, three nations prevail as leading consumers and producers of beef: the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. From burgers to filet mignon, beef is often considered a staple food, even a delicacy. Its consumption is deeply ingrained in some cultures, but only a few understand the impact of industrial demand of cattle products. Most people are not aware that beef production is directly responsible for producing vast levels of greenhouse gases and expanding deforestation, especially in the Amazon forest region. In fact, in the past 25 years forests with an area the size of India have been cleared in Central and South America.

Although demand for beef has stagnated in the U.S. and certain Latin American countries, worldwide consumption continues to expand, and producers in the Western hemisphere are eager to supply. Read more ..

The Human Family

Redeeming the Darkness in the World through Love

November 20th 2014

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I want this morning to begin our conversation by one way of telling the story of the most beautiful idea in the history of civilization: the idea of the love that brings new life into the world. There are of course many ways of telling the story, and this is just one. But to me it is a story of seven key moments, each of them surprising and unexpected. The first, according to a report in the press on 20th October of this year, took place in a lake in Scotland 385 million years ago.

It was then, according to this new discovery, that two fish came together to perform the first instance of sexual reproduction known to science. Until then all life had propagated itself asexually, by cell division, budding, fragmentation or parthenogenesis, all of which are far simpler and more economical than the division of life into male and female, each with a different role in creating and sustaining life. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

'Let's Encrypt' is Effective Tool for Internet Security

November 20th 2014

In an effort to reinvent and dramatically improve Internet security, University of Michigan researchers have joined with Mozilla and other industry and nonprofit partners to soon offer free, automated and open website HTTPS encryption.

They're establishing a new certificate authority called Let's Encrypt, which will begin operating in summer 2015.

Certificate authorities are organizations that ensure the identities of websites. A certified site is then protected from a host of potential cyber attacks. Users can tell they're on one if the Web address begins with HTTPS, rather than the more common HTTP. Read more ..

The Way We Were

Tenth Century AD Viking Castle Discovered in Denmark

November 19th 2014

In September 2014, archaeologists from the Danish Castle Centre and Aarhus University announced the discovery of a Viking fortress in a field belonging to Vallø Manor, located west of Køge on the east coast of Sealand. This was the first discovery of its kind in Denmark in over 60 years. Since then, archaeologists have been waiting impatiently for the results of the dating of the fortress. Now the first results are available, and they will be presented at a seminar at Aarhus University on November 18 .

“When the discovery was published back in September, we were certain that we had found a Viking ring fortress, but since then there have been intense discussions online and amongst archaeologists about whether we were right. Now we know without doubt that we have found a fortress from the 10th century,” says archaeologist Nanna Holm, curator of the Danish Castle Centre. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Political Power and the Power of Wolves in Michigan

November 12th 2014

With both wolf proposals shot down by Michigan voters on election day, the debate over managing and hunting wolves is far from over.

A Michigan State University study, appearing in a recent issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management, identifies the themes shaping the issue and offers some potential solutions as the debate moves forward.

The research explored how different sides of the debate view power imbalances among different groups and the role that scientific knowledge plays in making decisions about hunting wolves. These two dimensions of wildlife management can result in conflict and stagnate wildlife management.

The results indicate that tension between public attitudes about local knowledge, and politics and science can drive conflict among Michiganders’ stance regarding wolf hunting, said Meredith Gore, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife and co-lead author of the study. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Two Scientists are Among Winners of Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 11th 2014

Professors Mildred Dresselhaus and Robert Solow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among 19 new winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations highest civilian honor.

The honors were announced today by President Barack Obama. Dresselhaus and Solow, both of whom are Institute Professors Emeritus, will receive the awards at a White House ceremony on Nov. 24.

"I look forward to presenting these 19 bold, inspiring Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor," Obama said in a White House announcement.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States; to world peace; or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Science Proves that a Woman's Nose Knows

November 6th 2014

Individuals show great diversity in their ability to identify scents and odors. More importantly, males and females greatly differ in their perceptual evaluation of odors, with women outperforming men on many kinds of smell tests.

Sex differences in olfactory detection may play a role in differentiated social behaviors and may be connected to one's perception of smell, which is naturally linked to associated experiences and emotions. Thus, women's olfactory superiority has been suggested to be cognitive or emotional, rather than perceptual.

Previous studies investigating the biological roots of greater olfactory sensitivity in women have used imaging methods that allow gross measures of brain structures. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Who Permits Sexploitation in the Philippines?

November 5th 2014

The brutal murder of Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude, 26, a transgender person in a hotel near the Subic Bay Freeport Zone last October 11, 2014 allegedly by US serviceman Pvt. 1st Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps, who has been charged by Philippine police, highlights the ever growing presence of the government-approved and protected sex tourism in the Philippines. While the fate of "Jennifer" is deplored by all who respect the dignity and right to life of everyone, we must not think this is an isolated crime. We must not forget the estimated 100,000 under-age children who are abused, trafficked, sold and sexually exploited in the sex clubs, bars, brothels and beach resorts all over the country. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Warring Amazonian Bands of Brothers-in-Law Lend Clues to the Nature of Violence

November 2nd 2014

When Yanomamö men in the Amazon raided villages and killed decades ago, they formed alliances with men in other villages rather than just with close kin like chimpanzees do. And the spoils of war came from marrying their allies' sisters and daughters, rather than taking their victims' land and women.

Those findings – which suggest how violence and cooperation can go hand-in-hand and how culture may modify any innate tendencies toward violence – come from a new study of the so-called "fierce people" led by provocative anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and written by his protégé, University of Utah anthropologist Shane Macfarlan. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The How and Why of the Changing American Family

November 1st 2014

Most young Americans plan to get married someday, but more than 40 percent of births now occur outside marriage, and the American family itself has become far more diverse and varied.

"I wouldn't say the Ozzie and Harriet family is headed towards extinction, but it's really a much much smaller slice of American life," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution and researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, who adds that the nation is still catching up to the new reality.

The new American family is not nearly as white as it used to be. In fact, white babies may already be in the minority. Read more ..

Lebanon on Edge

Hezbollah Society is Battered

October 31st 2014


Just as any war of attrition taxes a military force, large or small, Syria's war has taken a toll on Hezbollah. Unlike Bashar al-Assad or Iran's Ali Khamenei, who can mute dissent, Hezbollah's ability to project power relies on the support of Lebanon's Shiites.

No public surveys are available that capture the sentiment of these Shiites. Hezbollah keeps a lid on the numbers of its fighters and casualties. Yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that Lebanon's Shiite population is thinning out. Families are searching for better lives away from the "society of resistance" and its perpetual war. In the extended Shiite family I hail from, only one of 11 men and five of 16 women, between the ages of 18 and 50, live in Lebanon today.

Hezbollah is a formidable military force. Its social, media and financial institutions are impressive. Yet the party realizes that, to maintain its edge, it has to nurture its supporters and their needs. After the 2006 July War against Israel, the party's leadership was so embarrassed by the destruction that had befallen the areas of its supporters that it had to deflect Shiite anger toward Lebanon's Sunnis and Druze, accusing them of conspiring against the Shiites to "force them to go back to the days when they worked as shoeshine boys."


Argentina on Edge

Catholic Bishops Urge Argentines to Release Information on Children Abducted by Dictators

October 29th 2014

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After decades of silence, the Catholic bishops of Argentina have publicly asked for an accounting of children who went missing during military dictatorship of the 1970s and early 1980s. The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Argentina, Archbishop José María Arancedo of Santa Fe, has recorded a television/radio spot in concert with the "Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo" (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo), in which he asks for information about the whereabouts of minors who were arrested by Argentina’s security apparatus. He is flanked by Estela de Carlotto and Rosa Roisinblit who president and vice-president, respectively, of the Grandmothers. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Adolescent Drinking Binges Lead to Brain Death

October 29th 2014

Heavy drinking during adolescence may lead to structural changes in the brain and memory deficits that persist into adulthood, according to an animal study published October 29 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The study found that, even as adults, rats given daily access to alcohol during adolescence had reduced levels of myelin — the fatty coating on nerve fibers that accelerates the transmission of electrical signals between neurons.

These changes were observed in a brain region important in reasoning and decision-making. Animals that were the heaviest drinkers also performed worse on a memory test later in adulthood. The findings suggest that high doses of alcohol during adolescence may continue to affect the brain even after drinking stops. Further research is required to determine the applicability of these findings to humans. Read more ..

The Automotive Edge

Why Japan Leads in Electromobility - and Why This Could Change

October 26th 2014

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Is electromobility a strategic issue for Europe's automotive industry or just a propaganda slogan? A study from management consulting service Roland Berger shows where the real technology leaders are. If one sees the supporting role (at best) electromobility plays at the Geneva International Motor Show, one cannot escape the conclusion that despite frenzied design efforts and eye-catching announcements, the European carmakers are only half-heartedly committed to electric driving. Instead, they continue to push the conventional combustion engine technology to the limits.

The 'Electromobility Index' compiled by Roland Berger and the Aachen-based Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen (Research society for Automotive Issues) compares the competitive position of seven leading automotive economies - China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and the U.S. - under the aspect of electromobility. The index ascribes the clear leadership in this mobility segment to Japan. The country leads in terms of technology as well as in terms of electric vehicle sales. Read more ..

Yemen on Edge

Iranian Cultural Centers Suddenly Being Opened Across Yemen in Shia Revolt

October 24th 2014

Yemeni Protestor

Houthi fighters continued to advance across Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday, storming a government building in the capital Sana’a amid fears of sectarian violence and a breakdown of the fragile truce between President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government and the Shi’ite militia.

Houthi militants stormed Yemen’s Interior Ministry in Sana’a on Wednesday, expelling staff working in the office of the deputy minister for financial affairs, a source in the Ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The Houthis forcibly ejected two employees who were dismissed over allegations of corruption and selling information during the time when Abdul Qader Qahtan was interior minister.”

The source added that Interior Minister Abdo Hussein Al-Tarb has not attended the Ministry since Yemen’s Houthis took over the capital of Sana’a in September, rejecting a call from President Hadi to remain as interior minister in any new government. Read more ..

Significant Lives

The Great Ben Bradlee Dies at 93

October 22nd 2014

Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee, the legendary editor who led The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, died Tuesday, according to the newspaper. He was 93. Bradlee’s 23-year tenure as the Post’s executive editor will forever be associated with the events that brought down President Nixon.

The story was revealed by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with the vigorous support of Bradlee, and concluded with Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, 26 months after the Post had published its first story about a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. 

At the beginning, Nixon’s White House press secretary, Ron Ziegler, played down the matter as a “third-rate burglary attempt.” In the end, it resulted in guilty verdicts against 48 people. Many of them — including Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman and White House aide John Ehrlichman — served prison terms. Read more ..

The Way We Are

All are Welcome in the New American Family

October 22nd 2014

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Picture a hypothetical parents’ night at Average Elementary School: A young couple, not married, looks at their kids’ art projects. A pair in their 50s, old enough to be grandparents, frets about their only child. A single mother jots down information about an after-school program. Two men approach a teacher to ask about their adopted son. The people in the room are white, Hispanic, Black, and Asian, and several of the couples are interracial.

This is the new American family. In ways large and small, the fundamental societal building block has morphed from the cookie-cutter norms of the last century to a vivid array of possibilities. Read more ..

The Edge of Hate

NYC Mayor De Blasio Slams Protest Against Controversial 'Death of Klinghoffer' Opera

October 20th 2014

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday criticized his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani for objecting to the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of The Death of Klinghoffer and defended the Met’s right to stage the controversial performance that has been labeled anti-Semitic, the New York Daily News reported on Monday, hours before the play was set to open.

“The former mayor had a history of challenging cultural institutions when he disagreed with their content. I don’t think that’s the American way. The American way is to respect freedom of speech. Simple as that,” de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference.

Giuliani plans to lead the latest protest against the opera outside the Met on Monday, as the show opens. Critics have labeled the performance anti-Semitic for glorifying the murder of Jewish-American cruise ship passenger Leon Klinghoffer, 69. Wheel chair-bound, Klinghoffer was shot in the head by Palestinian hijackers on the Achille Lauro cruise ship 29 years ago. The terrorists threw his body, along with his wheelchair, overboard into the Mediterranean Sea and his corpse washed up on the Syrian shoreline a few days later. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Addictive Gambling Associated with Altered Opiods in the Human Brain

October 19th 2014

All human beings have a natural opioid system in the brain. Now new research, presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Berlin, has found that the opioid system of pathological gamblers responds differently to those of normal healthy volunteers. The work was carried out by a group of British researchers from London and Cambridge, and was presented at the congress in Berlin.

Gambling is a widespread behaviour with about 70% of the British population gambling occasionally. However, in some individuals, gambling spirals out of control and takes on the features of an addiction − pathological gambling, also known as problem gambling. The 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Survey1 estimated that 0.6% of UK adults have a problem with gambling, equivalent to approximately 300,000 people, which is around the total population of a town like Swansea. This condition has an estimated prevalence of 0.5−3% in Europe. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Pre-Schoolers Showing Low Empathy are at Risk for Problems Later

October 15th 2014

A toddler who doesn't feel guilty after misbehaving or who is less affectionate or less responsive to affection from others might not raise a red flag to parents, but these behaviors may result in later behavior problems in 1st grade.

The findings come from a new University of Michigan study that identifies different types of early child problems.

Early preschool behavior problems often improve over time. When that doesn't happen through grade school, children are more likely to become aggressive and violent as teens and adults. Previous research on these different types of behavior problems has focused on older children and teens. Read more ..

Campus Jihad

BDS Accused of Supressing Academic Freedom by Nearly 1200 in Petition

October 9th 2014

boycott Israel t-shirt

Academic freedom is under systematic attack, according, to an article in the Times of Israel with the help of the JTA that reports on the growing backlash against the Boycott Divestment and Sanction movement. The backlash manifesting across campuses accuses the BDS movement of broadly infringing on academic freedom. The Times of Israel article states:

The petition was posted October 5 on the Faculty for Academic Freedom website and had been endorsed by 1,185 signatories at time of writing. “We, the undersigned academics… vigorously support free speech and free debate but we oppose faculty or student boycotts of Israel’s academic institutions, scholars and students,” the petition states. The statement accused BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) supporters of discriminating against Israeli institutions, professors, and students “for no other reason than their nationality and the policies of their government,” and added that such a practice violated “the very principle of academic freedom.” Read more ..

The Prehistoric Edge

New Light Emerges on Mankind's African Origins

October 5th 2014

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What can DNA from the skeleton of a man who lived 2,330 years ago in the southernmost tip of Africa tell us about ourselves as humans? A great deal when his DNA profile is one of the 'earliest diverged' – oldest in genetic terms – found to-date in a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago.

The man's maternal DNA, or 'mitochondrial DNA,' was sequenced to provide clues to early modern human prehistory and evolution. Mitochondrial DNA provided the first evidence that we all come from Africa, and helps us map a figurative genetic tree, all branches deriving from a common 'Mitochondrial Eve'.

When archaeologist Professor Andrew Smith from the University of Cape Town discovered the skeleton at St. Helena Bay in 2010, very close to the site where 117,000 year old human footprints had been found – dubbed "Eve's footprints" – he contacted Professor Vanessa Hayes, a world-renowned expert in African genomes. Read more ..

Palestinians on Edge

Palestinians Flee Their Leaders in Unseaworthy Boats

October 3rd 2014

Palestinian Women

As the past few weeks have, shown hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians would rather risk their lives at sea than live under Palestinian governments and leaders whose only goal is to enrich their bank accounts.

Instead of creating job opportunities for young men and women, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority [PA] have spent the past 7 years fighting over money and power. They are now busy planning how to lay their hands on the millions of dollars that are supposed to go to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Hamas wants to use the PA as a tool through which the international community channels funds to he Gaza Strip -- a move that would ultimately empower Hamas to tighten its grip over the Palestinian population there. Read more ..

Campus Jihad

Students for Justice in Palestine at Loyola Univ. Chicago Temporarily Suspended

September 29th 2014

boycott Israel t-shirt

The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at Loyola University was temporarily suspended by the university administration for verbally assaulting a student group tabling for Birthright Israel according to the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

The Brandeis Center, which seeks “to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and to promote justice for all,” noted in a press release that the university presented SJP “with a letter indicating that SJP is temporarily prevented from hosting any on-campus activities or events until their leadership meets with Loyola University Chicago representatives and the group complies with stated policies and procedures that apply to all student organizations.” 

"By all reports, this appears to have been a serious incident, and we are glad that Loyola University Chicago is taking it seriously. More work must still be done, and we hope that Loyola University Chicago will follow-up and take appropriate further action,” Brandeis Center President Kenneth L. Marcus stated in a letter to university President Michael J. Garazini. “Sadly, we have seen a pattern of incidents in which SJP has violated the rights of other students and the rules of other universities. We are glad that Loyola University Chicago is upholding its standards and values." Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Arab Boy Flees Death Threats Following Pro-Israel Remarks

September 28th 2014

An Israeli Arab youth from northern Israel who spoke out against the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June has been forced to leave the country due to death threats, Israel Hayom reported.

The youth had posted a video on Facebook in which he called the kidnappers and their supporters cowards, and called for the return of the abducted teens, who at the time were believed to possibly be alive.

One of the youth’s videos, in which he says he is a Muslim but also a loyal citizen of the state of Israel and its democratic values, went viral. Read more ..

The Edge of Hate

Anti-Met Opera Movement Gathers Steam Protesting Hate Music

September 22nd 2014

Death of Klinghoffer

A coalition of organizations will protest at Lincoln Center on Monday evening, Sept. 22, at 4:30 PM, across the street from the Lincoln Center Plaza at Broadway & 65th Street to protest the Metropolitan Opera House’s decision to air the “The Death of Klinghoffer.”  Thousands are expected to gather on the first night of the gala opening of the Metropolitan opera season.  Dignitaries and elected officials will raise a voice of outrage  against this opera which promotes terrorism and anti-Semitism.

Confirmed participants include George Pataki, New York’s former Governor, Michael Mukasey, the former Attorney General of the United States, Dr. Bill Donahue, President, Catholic League, criminal defense attorney Ben Brafman, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, Member of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Nissim Ze’ev, Actor Tony LoBianco, Debra Burlingame (the sister of Charles "Chic" Burlingame III, the pilot of the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that was flown into the Pentagon on 9/11), and others. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Insomnia and Irritable Bowels Associated with Domestic Violence

September 17th 2014

One in five men in the U.S. reports violence towards their spouse or significant other, says a new nationally-representative study by the University of Michigan.

The analysis also found that male aggression toward a partner is associated with warning signs that could come up during routine health care visits, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and insomnia, in addition to better known risks like substance abuse and a history of either experiencing or witnessing violence as a child.

The findings appear in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine and are based on the most recent data available from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication from 2001-2003. The survey, entitled "Characteristics of men who perpetrate intimate partner violence,” assesses intimate partner violence and characteristics among male perpetrators. Read more ..

The Way We Are

HRW Says Disabled Children In Russia Face Violence, Isolation, Neglect

September 15th 2014

Russian orphans

When Anastasia Daunis of Moscow gave birth in 1999 to Dasha, a baby with Down syndrome, she says her doctors delivered a bleak prognosis.

"They said, 'Usually, kids like that never develop. They are just like vegetables in the garden," Daunis, who is in her early 30s, recalls. "They told me she would die in my arms, that her illness was so severe that she would need constant care. They compared her to a broken toy that you can return to the store." Daunis said she was convinced that she would never be able to provide Dasha with the proper care she needed. "And Dasha was left in the hospital," Daunis sighs.

Lyudmila Kirillova, 38, lives in Mytishi, a Moscow suburb. She says that when her daughter Nika was born in 2006, she felt "wonderful." "And then we were told she had a chromosomal abnormality," says Kirillova, referring to Down syndrome. "They implied that in the best-case scenario, she would be able to say 'mama' by the time she was 36." Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Jihadist Women Use Twitter to Promote IS Militant Cause

September 12th 2014

Burka cellphone

Pictures of kittens and designer footwear are tweeted out alongside extremist rhetoric, descriptions of the “good life” in Syria, and pictures of battlefield gore.

Welcome to the so-called “Umm network” of well over 100 people who claim to be foreign female jihadists on Twitter. “Umm” is an honorific name in Arabic, used to address women as a mother figure.

As with the Islamic State (IS) militant group, Twitter is apparently a favorite social media tool of the Umm network, according to analysts who monitor jihadist social media activity. It is used in a variety of ways, including recruitment of women and men, dissemination of pictures and videos for would-be jihadists, and promoting IS messaging.

One of the best known members of the Umm network is @UmmLayth -  a.k.a. Aqsa Mahmood, who identifies herself as a Scottish teen of Muslim descent who left home for Syria where she is believed to have married a militant. She no longer tweets, but authorities think she was likely lured to Syria through online networking. Read more ..

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