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Crimea on Edge

Crimea's Methadone Ban Hitting Rehab Patients Hard

June 22nd 2014

Cocaine intercepted in Europe in rice sacks from Africa

As many as 20 people who were being treated for heroin addiction in the Ukrainian region of Crimea have died since the Black Sea peninsula was annexed by Russia in March.

Dozens more have left the region for other parts of Ukraine in a bid to continue methodone treatment. The heroin-replacement therapy, which is widely used in the West, is considered ineffective by Russian health specialists and is banned in that country.

Crimea's de facto authorities claim heroin addicts have been taken care of since Moscow took over."Nearly 700 people have been taken off replacement therapy and about 60 are being treated in health-care facilities," says Sergei Donich, a former regional health minister and currently deputy prime minister in the region's de facto government, says. Read more ..

The Battle for Ukraine

Ukraine's Refugee Crisis

June 19th 2014

Ukraine homeless

Lyudmila Denisenko endured weeks of deadly shootouts between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian insurgents in her home city of Slovyansk, the epicenter of the separatist conflict ravaging eastern Ukraine. But when a children's hospital was shelled two weeks ago, her patience finally snapped.

She and her family fled for the relative safety of Izyum, a small town 50 kilometers northwest of Slovyansk. "We came here with nothing," she recently said in Izyum's City Hall, where she was applying for temporary accommodation and basic supplies. "We could no longer stay. The children's hospital was bombed, the train station was bombed, the bus station was bombed. We hitchhiked all the way here."

Like Denisenko, thousands of people have fled eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. Amid the chaos, however, the scope of the refugee crisis remains unclear. UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, estimates that there are currently more than 17,500 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Ukraine. Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Will New Afghan Government Roll Back Women's Rights?

June 17th 2014

Afghanistan tortured girl

As Afghan women await the results of the second round of presidential elections which took place over the weekend, they are watching to see that the rights they have won and the advances they have made in the last decade are not compromised.

In the political landscape of Afghanistan today—and in stark contrast to its strongly conservative culture—women vote. They are members of Parliament. They serve in the Cabinet.  They hold positions in provincial councils.

Although the 2006 Afghan Constitution guaranteed women certain rights—including the right to vote, to be educated, and to hold public office—the women of Afghanistan have suffered some setbacks in the last seven years. The administration of President Hamid Karzai has paved the way for millions of girls to go to school and for women to work and has enshrined equal rights for the citizens. Read more ..

Crimes against Humanity

Guatemala, Genocide, and the Politics of Forgetfulness

June 16th 2014

When Judge Yasminn Barrios announced a guilty verdict that condemned the man who played a vital role in the state-led violence in Guatemala that torched over 400 villages, murdered more than 100 thousand people, and displaced an excess of 1 million citizens, indigenous communities present at judicial proceedings erupted into jubilee. The once untouchable General José Enfraín Ríos Montt had been sentenced to face the rest of his life in jail.

One week later, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Guatemala annulled the lower court’s guilty verdict. Shortly thereafter, Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, who had successfully prosecuted General Ríos Montt, was fired. Read more ..

Broken Borders

National Political Developments Delay Immigration Reform

June 14th 2014

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In new signs that prospects for immigration reform legislation are all but dead for now, developments in both state and national arenas have pushed a solution to the issue farther down the political tracks.

For starters, Texas Republicans readopted a tough stance at the party’s convention in Fort Worth last weekend. Drawing more than 7,000 delegates, the Lone Star GOP convention voted to remove a 2012 position statement known as the “Texas Solution” which backed a guest worker system for undocumented persons.

The party delegates came out against a guest worker program but held out the possibility of granting visas to workers in industries facing labor shortages, as long as “really secure borders” and a universal E-Verify employee eligibility system were in place. The new state party platform includes opposition to in-state college tuition for undocumented students, and supports prohibiting municipalities from taking measures against enforcing federal immigration law. Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

Jews of Marseille ‘Bunkerize’ after Brussels Museum Shootings

June 12th 2014

Place Charles de Gaulle

French police are guarding ninety synagogues and Jewish schools in Marseille after the shooting attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels killed four people last month, the UK Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Michèle Teboul, the leader of a regional Jewish organisation, was quoted as saying that Marseilles’s 80,000-member Jewish community had no alternative other than to “bunkerize.” The city has 850,000 people, a quarter of whom are Muslim.

The lead suspect in the Brussels attack, Mehdi Nemmouche, was arrested on May 30 at the Marseille bus station, but fear pervades the city, with the adjacent Saint-Charles train station evacuated during rush-hour last Friday after the discovery of a suspicious package. Read more ..

The Way We Are

How to Give Advice as Well as We Receive Advice

June 10th 2014

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Most of us find it easier to be wise about other people's problems than our own. But a new study identifies a simple way to close this gap.

The research, conducted by social psychologists Igor Grossmann at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and Ethan Kross at U-M, shows the solution is self-distancing — considering your problems from the perspective of an observer. The study appears in the current issue of Psychological Science.

Grossmann and Kross, an associate professor of psychology and a faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research, asked participants to reflect on a relationship conflict of their own or someone else's, such as a spouse's infidelity with a close friend. Participants were asked to think about this problem in the first-person and in the third-person, and offer advice on how to address the problem. According to Grossmann, the results clearly show that when people think about problems in the first-person, people are wiser when reasoning about others' problems than their own, a bias that the researchers term "Solomon's Paradox," after the Old Testament king who was known for his wisdom but who still failed at making personal decisions Read more ..

Hamas-PA Unity

Hamas Violence over Receipt of US-Funded Salaries

June 5th 2014

Hamas Terrorists

On Thursday, violent clashes broke out between Hamas and Palestinian Authority employees at ATM machines in Gaza. Unlike their PA colleagues, disappointed Hamas employees had discovered that they were not paid salaries from the new unity administration, which was officially inaugurated on Monday, according to a Reuters report.

Hamas public employees, who have not been paid in weeks, were hoping that the unity government under the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation pact would reinstate their incomes. A spokesman for the unity government stated that a committee had yet to vet the Hamas employees before they could be added to the payroll of the new leadership.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has been paying some 70,000 public employees in the Gaza Strip since the Hamas terror organization violently overtook the coastal enclave in 2007, forcing Fatah out. Hamas has 40,000 civil servants and security personnel on its payroll. Read more ..

The Edge of Murder

Why Is It So Hard To Stop 'Honor Killings'?

May 30th 2014

Pakistani honor victims

In some societies, it is common for men to think of wives and daughters as both assets and liabilities. So long as they are obedient to their fathers and husbands, they are a source of pride. But if they disobey and show independence, they become a source of shame and may even be murdered to protect the family's "honor."

Here are five things to know about "honor killings" and why they are so hard to stop.

How frequent are honor crimes?
According to UN statistics available, some 5,000 honor killings a year are reported worldwide. But many experts believe the real number is much higher because many honor crimes are often hidden from the police.

The hiding of honor crimes is possible because they often take place within a family. Leading members, including females, decide that the woman or girl who has compromised the family's honor must be put to death. The crime is kept secret through a code of silence.

Jacqueline Thibault, whose Swiss-based association Surgir protects potential victims of honor killings in the Middle East, says murders are often reported as suicides. In some cases, there is no "need" for a murder because the family pressure is so great that the victim commits suicide herself.

Are honor crimes unique to the Muslim world?
No, honor crimes are found in many parts of the globe and are not tied to any single religion. Countries where they take place are as diverse as Brazil and India, Pakistan and Albania.  However, they occur with the greatest frequency in the Middle East and South Asia and only sparingly in South America and Central Asia, as well as among some immigrant populations in Europe. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Pakistani Beats Wife to Death for Cooking the Wrong Meal

May 29th 2014

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A judge in Brooklyn NY found an elderly Pakistani immigrant guilty for the murder of his wife. Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Matthew D’Emic said he had considered a verdict of manslaughter in the gruesome case, but found that Noor Hussain, 75, had intended his wife’s death.

Hussain killed his wife, Nazar Hussain, 66, on April 2, 2001, by beating her to death because she cooked lentils even though he had “demanded that she make goat for dinner.” Defense attorney Julie Clark said in her closing argument on May 29, “He demanded that she make goat for dinner. She said, ‘No, I made gram,’ a traditional savoury dish. She continued, “He had told her he wanted a particular type of meat for dinner, goat meat, and she refused. So he took up a stick to discipline her for not making the meal he wanted.” Read more ..

The Hamas-PLO Union

The Devil in the Details of Palestinian Reconciliation

May 29th 2014

How -- and if -- Hamas and Fatah overcome formidable security, institutional, and political roadblocks should dictate the international response to their unity deal and joint government.

As rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah prepare to announce the names of ministers for a joint technocratic government as soon as this week, it remains unclear how the various provisions of last month's tentative reconciliation deal will be implemented in practice. On a wide array of issues -- security, public employees in the Gaza Strip, the dormant legislature, future elections, and the composition of the Palestine Liberation Organization -- uncertainty still reigns. How these issues are resolved -- assuming they are resolved at all -- should dictate U.S. and international policy toward Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Teenagers Live Extraordinary Lives to Make a Difference

May 28th 2014

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While most teenagers in the United States spend their time juggling school, home and friends, there are a few who are choosing a different life. They are charting their own path to make a difference in the world. They recently gathered in Los Angeles to discuss their work and what makes each of them unique.

Fifteen-year-old Winter Vinecki has accomplished more than most people have in a lifetime. “I recently completed a marathon on all seven continents and became the youngest person in the world to do so. I really was doing this for my dad,” she said.

Vinecki’s father was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer when she was nine. He died 10 months later. ”When he was first diagnosed, I immediately knew I had to do something to help him. That’s when I formed Team Winter for prostate cancer research and awareness," said Vinecki. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Refugees in Jordan, Syria Denied Cancer Treatment for Lack of Funds

May 27th 2014

Syrian refugees

The U.N. refugee agency says hundreds of refugees in Jordan and Syria are being denied cancer treatment because of lack of funds.

UNHCR’s top medical expert, Paul Spiegel, told VOA that decisions on who gets treatment and who does not are made on the basis of cost. He said helping the largest number of people with the limited amount of money on hand is usually the determining factor.  

“For the colleagues themselves that have to deal with this, it is extremely difficult and we sometimes try to help them, to give them counseling," said Spiegel. "We have a standard operating procedure that can be shared with both the doctors and the refugees to say this is what happens, and we do this in order to help the most amount of people. But no matter which way you look at it, it is a horrible experience.”   Read more ..

Islam on Edge

The Fatwa: From the Middle East to South Asia

May 26th 2014

Koran and prayer beads

In early February 2014 Egypt's shadowy Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (the ABM, or Partisans of Jerusalem) were continuing their attack on government forces and institutions.  The Sinai-based Islamist intransigents, whose leadership appears tied to Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, first emerged in 2011.  In its opposition to Israel it has carried out attacks on the Sinai gas pipeline, and a series of explosions have in effect put an end to the sale of natural gas to Israel (and given a constant interruption in service to Jordan).  More recently, its assaults on Egypt's military forces have created widespread insecurity the length of the Sinai Peninsula.  Finally, in the last few weeks the ABM has begun to attack targets in the heart of Egypt. 

Egyptian experts claim the ABM is a mix of Sinai bedouin, former members of the terrorist Egypt Islamic Jihad and Gamaat al-Islamiya, and rebels who broke out of prison or were released following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.  They support a Morsy presidency and are determined to oust the de facto government of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.  Given that unlikely scenario, they plan to destabilize the Egyptian polity and make it as difficult as possible for Sisi to rule, should he win the upcoming election to the presidency. Read more ..

The South African Edge

Entrepreneurship Seen as Solution to S. Africa’s Unemployment Crisis

May 25th 2014

Somali storekeeper

Unemployment remains stubbornly high in South Africa and is one of the greatest socio-economic problems currently facing the country’s youth.

Many are turning to entrepreneurship to make ends meet. But some have found it easier than others.

Job-creation was a leading goal of government policy during the first decade of democracy in South Africa following the end of apartheid in 1994. However, little success has been achieved in the struggle to create sufficient jobs.

South Africa’s unemployment rate stands at 25.2 percent, creeping up by 1.1 percent from last year. There are now more than five million people without work. However, the expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have stopped looking for work, is at 35.1 percent. 'I can't wait' Read more ..

The Fashion Edge

Disgraced Fashion Designer Makes Unlikely Comeback In Russia

May 24th 2014

fashion show

After shunning the spotlight since an anti-Semitic outburst put an abrupt end to this career three years ago, British fashion designer John Galliano is making an unlikely comeback.

The disgraced designer has chosen to reenter the public eye in Russia, a country itself under intense Western fire over its actions in Ukraine, swelling the ranks of prominent scandal-hit foreigners seeking a new lease of life in Moscow.

Galliano was formally consecrated as the new creative director of L'Etoile, a Russian cosmetics chain, during a lavish show held on May 22 in one of Moscow's most exclusive suburbs. L'Etoile announced Galliano's new job in a press release entitled "John is back."

The retailer said he would be responsible for developing its house cosmetics brand. Galliano's appointment has sparked mixed reactions. Some commentators have noted the irony of someone with an anti-Semitic record relocating to Russia, which has cast itself as a bulwark against an alleged resurgence of fascism in Ukraine and the west. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

NEul and BT Set Up Citywide IoT Network

May 22nd 2014

Minneapolis skyline

An open network for the Internet of Things is being built in Milton Keynes in the UK using the Weightless communications protocol.

The project will demonstrate the ability of a city-wide M2M infrastructure to cope with a large number of static and mobile sensors. Some of these will support use cases for Milton Keynes council, but the mission for the project is to attract many other innovators to use the infrastructure as a test bed for commercial applications, new products and services which need not be specific to Milton Keynes. The city is not one of the 10 where a rival IoT network will roll out later this year using technology from Sigfox in France and run by network provider Arquiva.

The Milton Keynes consortium includes the Connected Digital Economy Catapult, the Future Cities Catapult, the local council and The Open University. BT and Cambridge startup Neul will install a network of Weightless base stations to provide coverage across the city for low power, connected sensors. Read more ..

Healthcare on Edge

Millions of Newborn Deaths Reported

May 21st 2014

Newborn baby

Despite five-and-a-half million newborn and stillborn baby deaths each year, investment in newborn health remains very low. That’s one of the findings in a series of papers published in the medical journal The Lancet. The research also shows the vast majority of those deaths could be prevented.

Lead researcher Joy Lawn said the research is the most accurate estimate yet on the number of deaths of newborns and stillbirths.

“Every year there are two-point-nine-million babies who die in the first month of life -- and most shockingly a million who die on their birthday, the first day. And there are two-point-six-million stillbirths -- most shockingly, one-point-two-million who die while the woman is in labor. So together this is five-and-a-half-million babies,” she said. Read more ..

Destination the Holy Land

Pope Francis to Visit Holy Land

May 20th 2014

Pope Francis thumbs up

Pope Francis visits the Holy Land beginning this Saturday, May 24, on his second trip since becoming the head of the Roman Catholic Church last year. His first stop is in Jordan where he will visit the place -  at the Jordan River - many Catholics believe Jesus was baptized   and began his ministry. Pilgrims come from both sides of the river to renew their vows of faith.

This is an important stop during the pope’s upcoming visit to Jordan, according to local guide Baker al-Ziadat. “This is holy land. And the people come here to [be] baptized in the river and to visit the churches,” said al-Ziadat.

Lew and Leanne Kenah, from New Zealand, are on a weeklong trip to Jordan. “It’s something very special for us, very special. It’s a lot of historical and religious history. And we’re very surprised. I couldn’t believe that it was so small, the river.” Archeologists have uncovered 1,500-year-old foundations of ancient churches. They believe this to be the actual site of Jesus’ baptism before time changed the river’s course. Read more ..

The South African Edge

S. Africa's Black Hair Businesses Thriving

May 18th 2014

fashion show

In a continent of dramatically contrasting poverty and wealth, hair is a rare common denominator that cuts across class and culture groups in Africa. The black hair business is worth billions worldwide, and the Africa market is slowly picking up as consumers look for the best products.

Good Hair, the 2009 documentary by comedian Chris Rock, spotlighted the business of black hair, particularly the use of relaxers, weaves and hair extensions. Elements of his documentary ring true in South Africa, the dominant market on the continent for hair care products. According to researchers, black women are willing to spend at least double the amount on hair and beauty products that white women do.

According to estimates from Euromonitor International, the Middle East and Africa hair care market alone was valued at $4.2 billion in 2013. Zeenat Ebrahim, a senior analyst at Euromonitor, sees huge potential for the hair care market in Africa. Read more ..

The Automotive Edge

Talking Traffic Lights, Environment-Aware Vehicles

May 15th 2014


If traffic lights could speak, which language would the use to make sure that vehicles could understand them? An industry consortium of 31 companies, with automotive supplier Continental and aerospace research centre Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) among them is currently trying to find a solution. The project UR:BAN, designed to develop solutions for safe and efficient urban traffic, provided first insights into demonstration vehicles, simulators, and demo objects at the opportunity of the project's half-time event.

The goal of the project is developing solutions that provide context-sensitive, predictive and individual support to drivers of passenger cars and commercial vehicles in city traffic. Within this context, DLR is working on a specific aspect of car2x communications. The goal is to devise an instruction format that enables traffic lights to communicate with the cars regardless of make, type or manufacturer. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Pareidolia: There is Help for Those Who See Elvis in a Piece of Toast

May 13th 2014

People who claim to see “Jesus in toast” may no longer be mocked in the future thanks to a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto and partner institutions in China.

Researchers have found that the phenomenon of “face pareidolia”– where onlookers report seeing images of Jesus, Virgin Mary, or Elvis in objects such as toasts, shrouds, and clouds — is normal and based on physical causes.

“Most people think you have to be mentally abnormal to see these types of images, so individuals reporting this phenomenon are often ridiculed”, says lead researcher Prof. Kang Lee of the University of Toronto’s Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study. “But our findings suggest that it’s common for people to see non-existent features because human brains are uniquely wired to recognize faces, so that even when there’s only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face,” said Lee. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Parolees and Former Prisoners Resort to Emergency Rooms for Medical Care

May 13th 2014

Being released from prison or jail is a difficult time for the millions of Americans returning to their communities from correctional facilities. Add to the list of challenges a high risk of winding up in the emergency department or the hospital. That's according to a new study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, provides support for efforts to improve access to insurance and readily available health care for this vulnerable group.

"This study comes at a time when the Affordable Care Act is improving access to health insurance for the large population leaving the nation's prisons and jails," said study author Joseph Frank, MD, MPH, assistant professor at the CU School of Medicine. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Global Wi-Fi Deployments Proliferate by the Millions

May 12th 2014

LectureTools student user

Worldwide Wi-Fi deployments reached a total of 4.2 million hotspots in 2013, and will continue to grow at a CAGR of 15.0% between 2013 and 2018, to exceed 10.5 million. Among the global Wi-Fi hotspots, 68.6% of Wi-Fi is in Asia-Pacific, followed by 12.3% in Latin America, 9.0% in Europe, 8.7% in North America, and 1.4% in Middle East and Africa. The number includes Wi-Fi hotspots deployed by mobile and fixed-line carriers as well as third party operators.

“The mobile data growth has boosted the build-out of Wi-Fi hotspots, as it is expected that the global mobile data traffic will grow to 190,000 petabytes in 2018, from 23,000 petabytes in 2013,” comments Marina Lu, Research Analyst at ABI Research. “Wi-Fi helps to offload 3G/4G mobile Internet users to Wi-Fi networks, which is a more cost-effective method for both mobile carriers and mobile users.” Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Stealthy Unveiled Iranian Muslim Women Snap Photos for Facebook

May 10th 2014

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An unveiled young woman stands in front of a sign that reads: "Sisters, observe your hijab." Another with red hair and dark glasses stands next to the ruins of Persepolis, while two others, also sans hijab, dance happily on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

They are among dozens of Iranian women inside the country who have posted their hijab-less photos on a newly launched Facebook page (here) to share their "stealthy" moments of freedom from the veil.

The administrators of the page, titled "Iranian Women's Freedoms Stealthy," say they do not belong to any political group and that the initiative reflects the concerns of Iranian women who face legal and social restrictions.

The page is the brainchild of exiled Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who says she's receiving scores of unveiled photos of young and old Iranian women who want to share their brief moments of freedom from the hijab with others Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

New Light Shed on Health in the Dark Ages

May 9th 2014

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A new study suggests that people who survived the medieval mass-killing plague known as the Black Death lived significantly longer and were healthier than people who lived before the epidemic struck in 1347. Caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, the Black Death wiped out 30 percent of Europeans and nearly half of Londoners during its initial four-year wave from 1347 – 1351.

Released in the journal PLOS ONE, the study by anthropologist Sharon DeWitte, of the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of South Carolina, provides the first look at how the plague, called bubonic plague today, shaped population demographics and health for generations. The findings have important implications for understanding emerging diseases and how they impact the health of individuals and populations of people. "Knowing how strongly diseases can actually shape human biology can give us tools to work with in the future to understand disease and how it might affect us," DeWitte says. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Links between Nature and Child Spirituality Revealed

May 8th 2014

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Children who spend significant time outdoors could have a stronger sense of self-fulfillment and purpose than those who don’t, according to new Michigan State University research linking children’s experiences in nature with how they define spirituality.

In the study, published recently in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who played outside five to 10 hours per week said they felt a spiritual connection with the earth, and felt their role is to protect it.

“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being,” said Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious studies. “We were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, ‘Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?’ But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways.”

For example, the children in her study expressed feelings of peacefulness and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them. They also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature’s power, such as storms, while also feeling happy and a sense of belonging in the world.

The Business Edge

Student Entrepreneurs Learn How to Avoid Start-Up Business Disasters

May 6th 2014

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Zach Hwang knows first-hand how hot it can get riding motorcycles under a summer sun—try it wearing a helmet and a leather jacket. The 24-year-old from New Jersey wanted to do something about it. After earning his bachelor's in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, he enrolled in the Master of Entrepreneurship program to develop FrostGear. The company is developing active cooling systems in helmets to prevent heat exhaustion and stroke.

The program, in its second year and offered jointly between U-M's Ross School of Business and College of Engineering, helped Hwang lay a strong foundation as he launches the startup with two other students. Read more ..

America on Edge

Victims of Bullying Carry Weapons to School with Increasing Frequency

May 5th 2014

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An estimated 200,000 high school students who are bullied bring weapons to school, according to research that was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on May 4.

Researchers also found that youths who have been victimized in multiple ways are up to 31 times more likely to carry a weapon to school than those who have not been bullied.

"Victims of bullying who have been threatened, engaged in a fight, injured, or had property stolen or damaged are much more likely to carry a gun or knife to school," said senior investigator Andrew Adesman, MD, FAAP, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.

Dr. Adesman and principal investigator Lana Schapiro, MD, FAAP, analyzed data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. The system includes a nationally representative survey of more than 15,000 U.S. high school students conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Students were asked if they had ever been bullied on school property in the past year and on how many days in the past month they carried a weapon on school grounds. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Ebola Victims Face Stigma in West Africa

May 4th 2014

West Africa Domestic Violence

As medical experts work to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, survivors and their families say they are being stigmatized.  While some people are welcomed back into their communities after they recover, many are shunned due to fear of contagion.  Health workers say education is key.

Family and friends gathered in Lofa County, Liberia, last week to welcome home 48-year-old Joseph Taylor, who was falsely suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus.  Taylor’s wife died earlier this month after contracting the disease from her sister.

“People wanted to stone me, but I said I will fight this and I will make it.  So today, I am happy that I am among you again.  You can be around me.  You are my friends.  I forgive everybody,” said Taylor.

Liberia’s Ministry of Health presented Taylor and his family with a medical certificate at a community ceremony, confirming that he is Ebola-free so he will not be shunned by the community.

There have been at least 34 suspected cases of Ebola in Liberia.  More than 135 people have died in neighboring Guinea, where the virus first broke out in February.

Liberia’s chief medical officer, Dr. Bernice Dahn, said discrimination of Ebola survivors has been a serious challenge. “What happened to him [Mr. Taylor] has happened to many others, in other communities.  Today we can know, we can all know, that people who come in contact with infected people can actually be safe.  They can live in the community again and go about their normal duty,” she said. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

The Dilemma for On-Line Publications

May 2nd 2014

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It's an ongoing debate for online publications: How much content should be free and how much should go behind a paywall? Make the price for content too high and watch customers disappear and ad revenue decline. Give away too much and you could miss out on subscriber revenue.

New research from University of Michigan finds that online media sites could boost online revenue with the right balance. The industry norm is to follow a static rule regarding free content. Our results show that companies should flexibly adjust the amount of paid content they offer.

Kanishka Misra, an assistant marketing professor at Michigan's Ross School of Business, and co-author Anja Lambrecht of the London Business School analyzed the amount of paid and free articles on ESPN.com. They found that a flexible approach could improve revenue for news and sports websites and still make customers happy. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Mysteries of Thalidomide Drug Disaster Revealed

May 1st 2014

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In the 1950s and 1960s, pregnant women with morning sickness were often prescribed the new drug thalidomide. Shortly after the medicine was released on the market, a reported 10,000 infants were born with an extreme form of the rare congenital phocomelia syndrome, which caused death in 50 percent of cases and severe physical and mental disabilities in others. Although various factors are now known to cause phocomelia, the prominent roots of the disease can be found in the use of the drug thalidomide.

Now, half a century later, new research by Dr. Noam Shomron, Prof Arkady Torchinsky, and doctoral student Eyal Mor at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, published in Archives of Toxicology, identifies a regulator responsible for the malformation of limbs in phocomelia, pinpointing a specific target for possible future intervention.

"We were reading old textbooks from the 1950s and '60s, trying to understand the studies carried out then on this intriguing topic, and we saw that we could undertake an in-depth examination of the disorder's processes using careful planning and execution of experiments on mouse and rat models," said Dr. Shomron. "We hoped to gain a much better understanding of embryo malformation."

Prof. Torchinsky worked together with Mor to carry out an experiment on animal models in the laboratory. They injected mice and rats with an embryo malformation factor or "teratogen" (called 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidin) with effects similar to thalidomide. The chemical is also used in chemotherapeutics. With the factor, the researchers induced phocomelia in either the forelimbs or hind limbs of the animals. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Girls Get Better Grades than Boys, Even in Math and Science

April 30th 2014

Science students

Think boys get better grades in math and science than their female counterparts? Think again.

A new study of academic performance in more than 30 countries and spanning nearly a century shows girls do better than boys in math and science as well as other subjects.

“Although gender differences follow essentially stereotypical patterns on achievement tests in which boys typically score higher on math and science, females have the advantage on school grades regardless of the material,” said lead study author Daniel Voyer, PhD, of the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada in a statement.

“School marks reflect learning in the larger social context of the classroom and require effort and persistence over long periods of time, whereas standardized tests assess basic or specialized academic abilities and aptitudes at one point in time without social influences,” he added. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

Witnesses Back Israel Activist in Dispute With J-Street Leader at Brandeis

April 29th 2014

Witnesses came forward on Monday to confirm reports that a J Street U student board member insulted a pro-Israel student on the Brandeis campus at the weekend, contradicting a formal statement denying the incident made by J Street.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, Talia Lepson called Daniel Mael a “s*** bag” and angrily told the Brandeis junior that “Jews hate you” at 12:45 AM on Friday night.

Moshe Yaghoubian, via Facebook on Sunday, confirmed Mael’s version of events: “I was with Daniel Mael on the Friday night when the incident occurred and I can verify that his account is 100% accurate.”

Student Elad Ohayon said, ”In all honestly, I’ve never heard a lie come out of either Moshe Yaghoubian or Daniel Mael mouths, not even as a joke. I could never imagine either one of them lying about something as serious as the incident that took place.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

New York Sherpas Grieve for Everest Victims

April 28th 2014

Continental Crust

New York is home to the largest number of Sherpas anywhere outside Nepal, and that community has been plunged into mourning for 16 mountain guides killed by an avalanche on Mount Everest.

The Sherpas had been moving across an icefield, preparing a route for a group of Western climbers who were to ascend the world's tallest peak in the days and weeks to come.
Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest.

Late Friday afternoon, many of the estimated 3,500 Sherpa residents of Elmhurst, Queens, were still at work. In the colorful Buddhist temple at the United Sherpa Association headquarters, a monk was busy washing ritual brass lamps to prepare for a community-wide memorial service on Sunday. Read more ..

The Edge of Disaster

S. Korea President Accepts PM's Resignation

April 27th 2014

SI Ferry wreck

South Korean President Geun-hye's office says she will accept her prime minister's resignation, but not until the Sewol ferry disaster has been brought under control.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won offered his resignation earlier Sunday, following a public uproar over his government's response to the April 16 ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

A somber-looking Chung announced his resignation in a brief televised address Sunday morning, saying "keeping my post is too great a burden on the administration."  The prime minister's position in South Korea is largely ceremonial, with the president wielding most of the power. A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol is consoled by a Buddhist nun, as she waits for news on her missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Almost Half of Homeless Men Had Traumatic Brain Injury in their Life

April 26th 2014

American poverty

Almost half of all homeless men who took part in a study by St. Michael's Hospital had suffered at least one traumatic brain injury in their life and 87 per cent of those injuries occurred before the men lost their homes.

While assaults were a major cause of those traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, (60 per cent) many were caused by potentially non-violent mechanisms such as sports and recreation (44 per cent) and motor vehicle collisions and falls (42 per cent).

The study, led by Dr. Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a clinical researcher in the hospital's Neuroscience Research Program, was published today in the journal CMAJ Open. Dr. Topolovec-Vranic said it's important for health care providers and others who work with homeless people to be aware of any history of TBI because of the links between such injuries and mental health issues, substance abuse, seizures and general poorer physical health. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

20 Years On: Why Did It Take a Prisoner to Bring Down Apartheid?

April 24th 2014

Nelson Mandela 1995

The 20th anniversary of the end of South Africa's despised apartheid regime falls on April 27. It came about in a surprising way: not by violence or revolution, but through compromise and negotiation. Two prominent South Africans who were at the forefront of the discussions -- and on opposite sides of the negotiating table -- say it was the courageous act of one man, Nelson Mandela, that made that possible.

What would lead to the end of apartheid began secretly, with informal talks in the 1980s between Mandela - then a prisoner at Robben Island - and members of South Africa’s intelligence service. Mandela had by then spent more than two decades in prison for fighting white racist rule.

Mandela later wrote that he made a unilateral decision to reach out to the apartheid government he had spent his life fighting. It was possibly the most astute political decision of his life, leading to the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize -- and later, his election as the nation’s first black president. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

NIF Parade Fracas Pushes Outraged Jewish Groups to Define Mainstream

April 23rd 2014

Edwin Black

If a small group of grass-roots Jewish organizations have their way, more than one hundred protestors will assemble in New York City on April 29, 2014, each carrying a shofar. On cue, at 5:30 in the afternoon, rain or shine, all will raise their curved rams' horns, long and short, and wail to the heavens in visceral unison producing a piercing spectacle of protest. The cacophonous alarums will continue their outcry until the shofar blowers feel they have made their point.

What are they protesting? It is their communal leadership.

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The dissident shofar blowers will assemble in front of the 59th Street headquarters of the UJA-Federation of New York. The Federation's beneficiary, the Jewish Community Relations Council, is the chief organizer of the Celebrate Israel Parade scheduled for June 1. The upbeat procession of floats, runners, and marchers is normally a public show of Jewish unity in support of Israel. But this year, the parade has become a maelstrom of disunity over the participation of the controversial New Israel Fund and other groups which recent revelations now link to the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement and the campaign to delegitimize Israel internationally.

The outrage in some American, Jewish, and Israeli circles over the NIF's inclusion in the highly visible parade, formerly known as the Israel Day Parade, may be more than just a passing horn blast. The discontent may be energizing a historic decision among American Jews. Just what constitutes the Jewish mainstream? Is American Jewry about to set limits on its open tent of inclusion, a precept the community wears as a badge of honor?

More than a few American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by such groups as the J Street lobby, the New Israel Fund, and other organizations that constitute a powerful, well-funded minority able to wage war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people. "These groups are anti-Jewish," says Judith Freedman Kadish, special project director of Americans for a Safe Israel, "and they are funding groups that are anti-Semitic. They just veil their actions by saying they are trying to influence public policy and an occupation." The accused organizations and their defenders in the Jewish media and within the Jewish activist community vigorously insist their activities are simply democratic dissent aimed at solving Israel's problems. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran Seeks To Offset Advancement Of Women In Medicine

April 22nd 2014


"Parisa" is among the thousands of young women who have transformed the once male-dominated field of medicine in Iran.

Whereas men made up 70 percent of the country's medical students and physicians about 20 years ago, women have reversed the situation to the point that women like Parisa -- who asks not to use her real name -- now account for 70 percent of Iran's medical students.

"It demonstrates what women can achieve despite all the limitations they face in [Iranian] society," she tells RFE/RL. "It offers them job security and independence."

Under a new plan being discussed by Iranian authorities, however, women's advancements in the field of medicine could be flatlined. Health Ministry officials have indicated that measures would be taken "to balance" the percentage of male doctors by introducing gender quotas at medical schools. Read more ..

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