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The Way We Are

Study Reveals Deal-Makers and Deal-Breakers in On-Line Dating

February 15th 2015

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About a third of all people who were single at some point in the last 10 years have used dating websites, and a quarter of those have married or entered long-term relationships.

University of Michigan research breaks new ground on how people make romantic choices by analyzing troves of data from a major online dating site.

Perhaps it's fitting that the first step to unraveling how people screen options, think and act when looking for romance online comes from a marriage of sorts between marketing and sociology.

Fred Feinberg, U-M professor of marketing and statistics, joined Elizabeth Bruch, U-M professor of sociology and complex systems, and Kee Yeun Lee of Hong Kong Polytechnic University to dig through user data from a dating website to reveal what people actually do—not what they say they do—when it comes to romance. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Smart Home Sensors Could Help Aging Population Stay Independent

February 15th 2015



Early adopters of technology are usually assumed to be the young and eager. But an increasing number of gadgets are designed not for the stereotypical technophile but for the elderly person. And why not? Between 2010 and 2050 the U.S. population of people aged 65 and up will more than double, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts.

Smart, networked sensors and monitors—part of what is known as the Internet of Things—could help make seniors more independent by letting doctors or relatives keep tabs from afar. “We have received significant interest from elder care providers who are seeking to keep the elderly in their homes rather than moving them to assisted-living centers,” says technologist Jason Johnson, chair of the Internet of Things Consortium. The market for remote patient monitoring is expected to grow from $10.6 billion in 2012 to $21.2 billion in 2017, according to research firm Kalorama Information.

Among the new systems to enter the market is a set of sensors called Lively. The sensors can be placed on cabinets, drawers or appliances to track activity patterns and send data to loved ones.

Other technologies have a slightly different aim—to help those who live in senior communities remain in the most independent setting possible. The eNeighbor remote-monitoring system, marketed by Healthsense, uses sensors throughout the residence to detect motion (including falls) and to chart bed rest. eNeighbor can also provide reminders for medication or make distress calls in case of an emergency.


The Way We Are

Murder of Three Muslim Students by Atheist is Labelled 'Hate Crime'

February 12th 2015

A candlelight vigil was held on the evening of February 11 night on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for three Muslim students shot to death in what friends and family insist was a hate crime. Thousands of students gathered on the grounds of the university to pay tribute to newlyweds Deah Shaddy Barakat and his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and Yusor's sister, 19-year-old Razan Abu-Salha, who were murdered on February 10 at an apartment complex outside the campus.

A neighbor, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with first-degree murder in the connection with the killings. Police assert that a long-simmering dispute over parking space at the complex sparked the shootings, but Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the slain women, said on February 11 he believes the shootings to be a hate crime. He said Hicks had confronted his daughter and her husband a few times while carrying a gun on his belt. Hicks had declared himself an atheist in several Facebook postings and had also depicted firearms. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Germany Emerges

February 11th 2015

Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by French President Francois Hollande, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 6. Then she met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 9. The primary subject was Ukraine, but the first issue discussed at the news conference following the meeting with Obama was Greece. Greece and Ukraine are not linked in the American mind. They are linked in the German mind, because both are indicators of Germany's new role in the world and of Germany's discomfort with it.

It is interesting to consider how far Germany has come in a rather short time. When Merkel took office in 2005, she became chancellor of a Germany that was at peace, in a European Union that was united. Germany had put its demands behind it, embedding itself in a Europe where it could be both prosperous and free of the geopolitical burdens that had led it into such dark places. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

When Big Data Marketing Becomes Stalking

February 7th 2015

Teenager texting

Many of us now expect our online activities to be recorded and analyzed, but we assume the physical spaces we inhabit are different. The data broker industry doesn’t see it that way. To them, even the act of walking down the street is a legitimate data set to be captured, catalogued and exploited. This slippage between the digital and physical matters not only because of privacy concerns—it also raises serious questions about ethics and power.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal published an article about Turnstyle, a company that has placed hundreds of sensors throughout businesses in Toronto to gather signals from smartphones as they search for open wi-fi networks. The signals are used to uniquely identify phones as they move from street to street, café to cinema, work to home. The owner of the phone need not connect to any wi-fi network to be tracked; the whole process occurs without the knowledge of most phone users.


The Way We Are

Latino Parents Spank Children Less Often than Other Parents

February 5th 2015

Immigrant Hispanic parents spank their young children less often than U.S.-born Hispanic parents, a new University of Michigan study found.

The findings show that cultural values may help Hispanic immigrants maintain positive parenting practices and parent-child relationships, despite, on average, greater financial pressures and other factors often associated with greater use of spanking.

Prior studies reported that Hispanics, when compared with whites and African-Americans, were generally less likely to use physical or psychological aggression against young children. However, other studies have not analyzed the link between culture and spanking when it involves Hispanic immigrants to the United States.

In this new U-M study published in the February issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, researchers found that immigrant parents are more likely to endorse traditional gender roles and attend religious services more frequently than their U.S.-born counterparts. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Wearables to May Decide if You are Worth Insuring?

February 2nd 2015

Baby Boomer

At Cicor's first Innovation Insights Symposium held in Zurich end of January, the focus was very much on smart wearables for health monitoring. According to recent market figures from Soreon Research, the smart wearables market for healthcare alone could grow from USD 2 billion today to over USD 40 billion by 2020, that is at a vertiginous 65% compounded annual growth rate. In these figures are included not only the wearable devices (from sensor-laden bracelets to shoe-soles or hearing aids) but also the software and associated services. And listening to the panel of speakers present during the event, big data is where the true value is.

According to Christian Stammel, Founder and CEO of business accelerator company Wearable Technologies AG, the hardware is going to be commoditized so much that over the next 10 years, it could probably represent only 20% of the actual wearable value, while the other 80% would be in the data analysis. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Consumers Equally Concerned about Energy Impacts and Affordability

February 1st 2015

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Americans are just as concerned about energy's impact on the environment as they are about its affordability, according to first-year results of the University of Michigan Energy Survey.

Consumers also express much greater sensitivity to higher gasoline prices than they do to higher home energy bills.

Conducted quarterly, the U-M Energy Survey takes an academically rigorous look at consumers' individual concerns about energy, what it costs their households and their beliefs about its affordability, reliability and environmental impact. The survey is fielded in conjunction with the U-M Surveys of Consumers, the same longstanding survey that generates the widely reported index of consumer sentiment.

"This new survey is unique in how it examines personal concerns about energy as consumers view it in their everyday lives," said survey director John DeCicco, research professor at the U-M Energy Institute. "This careful approach differs from surveys that prompt consumers for their responses on the often politically driven energy debates of the day." Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Holocaust as an Outflow of Modernity

January 29th 2015

Today, January 27, is Holocaust Memorial Day, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Russian troops. Lieut. Ivan Martynushkin, of the Red Army, was one of the first to enter the camp. The guards had fled and only about 7,500 prisoners remained, peering fearfully through the barbed wire. They spoke a Babel of languages.

"We saw emaciated people -- very thin, tired, with blackened skin," Martynushkin, now 90, told Radio Free Europe. "They were dressed in all sorts of different ways -- someone in just a robe, someone else with a coat or a blanket draped over their robe. You could see happiness in their eyes. They understood that their liberation had come, that they were free."

The handful of survivors were the lucky ones. About 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, about one million of them Jews. The Nazi extermination machine transported them from all over Europe by train. Upon arrival most of them were marched to gas chambers and their bodies were incinerated.

There is something peculiarly terrible about Auschwitz. It has become a place of pilgrimage but I doubt if most people could say what draws them there. No doubt some are just curious. Others must be drawn by a desire to make atonement in a small way for the evil done there. Read more ..

The Way We Are

For Sports Fans, Cheating on the Field is Worse than Cheating on a Spouse

January 25th 2015

Why did fans and sponsors such as Nike drop Lance Armstrong but stay loyal to Tiger Woods? Probably because Armstrong's doping scandal took place on the field, unlike Wood's off-the-field extramarital affairs, according to new studies.

A series of studies conducted by University of Michigan doctoral student Joon Sung Lee suggests that when fans and consumers can separate an athlete's immoral behavior from their athletic performance, they're much more forgiving than if the bad behavior could impact athletic performance or the outcome of the game.

The latter happened with Lance Armstrong's doping scandal, which fans viewed as performance-related, a reasoning strategy called moral coupling, said Dae Hee Kwak, co-investigator of the study and assistant professor in the School of Kinesiology.

Armstrong's career suffered tremendously, and Nike eventually dropped him. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

European 'No-Go' Zones for Non-Muslims Advancing to Reality

January 24th 2015

Sharia Controlled Zones

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

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

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

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

Edge of Tolerance

Terrorism Proves France is a "Seething Volcano" say Faith Leaders

January 24th 2015

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For the first time since the Second World War, the Grande Synagogue of Paris - the most prominent synagogue in the French capital - Paris was shuttered when Jews would otherwise be attending Friday Sabbath services. On January 9, a Muslim terrorists seized hostages at a Jewish market in the Vincennes neighborhood of the French capital, prompting Jewish shops throughout the city to close their doors as a precaution. According to Dr. Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano.” The rise of anti-Semitism in recent years has prompted French Jews to leave the country, while many have emigrated to Israel.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Samuels said “Hostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victims… The scenes are out of a war movie.”

“But the war is undeclared as long as the sickness is not publicly named as a state of emergency. A culture of excuse exonerates the perpetrators as ‘disaffected, alienated, frustrated, unemployed.’ No other group of frustrated unemployed has resorted to such behavior.” Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Europe Rediscovers Nationalism

January 15th 2015

euro flags

In his latest novel, French writer Michel Houellebecq presents a controversial situation: The year is 2022, and France has become an Islamicized country where universities have to teach the Koran, women have to wear the veil and polygamy is legal. The book, which created a stir in France, went on sale Jan. 7. That day, a group of terrorists killed 12 people at the headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Also on Jan. 7, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met British Prime Minister David Cameron in London. Although the formal reason for the meeting was to discuss the upcoming G-7 summit, the two leaders also discussed Cameron's proposals to limit migration in Europe. Finally, a much less publicized event took place in Germany that day: A group of politicians from the Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party met with members of Pegida, the anti-Islam protest group that has staged large protests in Dresden and minor protests in other German cities. Read more ..

The Edge of Tolerance

Christians United for Israel Reaches Two Million Members

January 8th 2015

Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization, announced Thursday that the group had surpassed the two million member mark. This news comes just over two-and-a-half years after the group reached one million members. 

"We've come a long way since we began CUFI with 400 Christian leaders back in 2006. And I can say without hesitation that while reaching two million members is no small accomplishment, we've only just begun. We will continue to grow and to speak out with an ever-louder voice for Zion's sake," said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee.  Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Holographic Smartphone Created in China

January 6th 2015

Laser burst

Created in China, the takee1 holographic smartphone, the brainchild of Estar Technology Group Co., Ltd., has won the 2015 CES Innovations Award. The honor reflects the international recognition of the world's first "holographic smartphone" and is a testament to Chinese innovation capabilities in the smartphone market.

The CES innovation award review process is a very strict one, with the products that are submitted judged by a preeminent panel of independent industrial designers, independent engineers and members of the trade media who seek to identify outstanding design and engineering in cutting edge consumer electronics products.

With the holographic display, air touch and eye-tracking technologies, the takee1 smartphone claims to be the world's first mobile device to integrate smart holographic technology. Read more ..

The Way We Are

New Test Measures Physician's Delivery of Patient-Centered Care

January 3rd 2015

When health care providers take patients' perspectives into consideration, patients are more likely to be actively engaged in their treatment and more satisfied with their care. This is called patient-centered care, and it has been the central focus of the curriculum at the University of Missouri School of Medicine since 2005. Recently, MU researchers have developed a credible tool to assess whether medical students have learned and are applying specific behaviors that characterize patient-centered care.

The researchers first worked with real patients to identify a list of specific behaviors that demonstrated physicians were providing patient-centered care. By defining these detailed, specific patient-centered behaviors, the researchers have been able to tailor the educational experience at the MU School of Medicine to help students gain these skills. Read more ..

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 ..

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