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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 ..

The Digital Edge

New MOOC Makes Computer Programmer Teachers out of Students

April 21st 2014

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The student becomes the teacher.

That's the concept of a new mass open online course (MOOC) on computer programming led by a University of Michigan professor.

Programming for Everybody is an introductory class offered on Coursera and taught by Charles (Chuck) Severance, an associate professor in the U-M School of Information. It's designed to allow its participants to turn around and teach the material in their own communities. All course materials, including Severance's textbook "Python for Informatics," the syllabus, videos and software, are open source via Creative Commons licenses and available for students to reuse. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Pilgrims Flock to Jerusalem to Celebrate Easter

April 20th 2014


Christians around the world are celebrating Easter, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Easter dawned in Jerusalem with a sunrise service at the Garden Tomb. The holy place is said to resemble biblical accounts of the place where Jesus was buried. Facing an ancient, empty tomb carved into a rock, the faithful sang hymns and proclaimed that “Jesus is risen.”

Pilgrims came from all over the world, including Jay Rackson from the U.S. state of Iowa. “Well there’s nothing really quite like it, to celebrate Easter Sunday morning at the Garden Tomb," he said. "The tomb is empty,  He’s no longer in the grave, he’s risen from the dead and he lives forever.”

A few hours later, Easter Mass was celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Priests and monks in festive robes chanted the Easter liturgy as a fragrant cloud of incense rose above ancient stone tomb, which Christians believe is the very place where Jesus rose from the dead. Read more ..

The Edge of Medicine

Treating Depression in Parkinson Patients

April 19th 2014


A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's disease (PD).

Published in the journal Psychiatry Research, the study, which assessed cognitive function in depressed and non-depressed patients with PD, found that the dopamine replacement therapy commonly used to treat motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease was associated with a decline in cognitive performance among depressed Parkinson patients.

In contrast, non-depressed Parkinson patients' cognitive function improved on dopamine replacement therapy.
The study also found that mood in depressed Parkinson's patients was actually worse while on dopaminergic medications.

"This was a surprise," said Lee Blonder, Ph.D., the study's principal investigator. "It is the opposite of our original hypothesis that both groups of PD patients would improve in cognitive performance on dopaminergic medications, and that mood in the depressed PD group would also improve."

A cohort of 28 patients with PD -- 18 nondepressed and 10 depressed -- were given a baseline series of tests to assess cognitive function and the incidence and severity of depression. They were then re-tested with and without their dopamine replacement therapy. Read more ..

The Way We Are

To the Bone: Anthropologists Discover the Tragedy of the Cherokee Nation

April 17th 2014

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Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee have found that environmental stressors – from the Trail of Tears to the Civil War – led to significant changes in the shape of skulls in the eastern and western bands of the Cherokee people. The findings highlight the role of environmental factors in shaping our physical characteristics.

“We wanted to look at these historically important events and further our understanding of the tangible human impacts they had on the Cherokee people,” says Dr. Ann Ross, a professor of anthropology at North Caroline State University and co-author of a paper describing the work. “This work also adds to the body of literature on environmental effects on skull growth.” Read more ..

Gaza on Edge

Egypt Has Created "Buffer Zone" Around Gaza Border

April 17th 2014

Rafah crossing

As part of new campaign to create buffer zone around Gaza, Egypt military forces have launched Sinai operation, destroying tunnels, homes, and raiding villages serving terrorists, Palestinian news agency report. Egyptian border forces destroyed tunnels leading into Gaza from Sinai as part of new campaign to create a buffer zone along the border with the Gaza Strip, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported. 

According to the report, 10 tunnels and seven homes were destroyed on Saturday as part of the new plan to create the buffer zone, which would extend 500 meters in some places, the report claimed. According to Ma'an report which cited an Egyptian security source, the campaign began with a military operation in the border town of Rafah, where tunnels leading into Gaza were targeted. Read more ..

The Water's Edge

Israeli Tech Brings Water to a thirsty Africa

April 15th 2014

African ancestry

Ask any African who lives off the land, and they’ll tell you that water is life. But when the wells and rivers dry up, or become so polluted or full of disease that it kills their children and livestock, water can also be a great cause of sorrow.

Finding her mission in water, former Israeli diplomat Ornit Avidar is taking Israel’s “soft” water technology solutions — decentralized, simple to use and maintain, consuming little energy — and applying them all around Africa. Letters of intent are signed, companies have been chosen and projects are just beginning to roll out.

Avidar built connections and experience as a diplomat for Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, and in high-tech when she was the CEO at Delta Three Israel, the first Internet telephony company later traded on NASDAQ. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russians Rally for Press Freedom, Truth

April 14th 2014

Vladimir Putin sunglasses

Russian opposition supporters took to Moscow’s streets on Sunday to defend press freedom they allege is being replaced by government propaganda. It's a direct connection, they say, to the worsening situation in eastern Ukraine.

The air was alternately sad, angry and jubilant as activists turned out to “Rally for Truth.” In a concert-like setting, activists condemned the shutdown of Russian independent media outlets, and decried their Kremlin-linked colleagues whom they hold directly responsible for manipulating the population into supporting what they consider to be contemptible military action in Ukraine.

Muscovite Ekaterina, dressed in Ukrainian attire, who recently returned from Kyiv’s Maidan square, had strong words about the mainstream press in Russia. She said the nation is being turned into zombies by lies in the press.

Yeman on Edge

Presidential Panel Calls for Six State Plan in Yemen

April 13th 2014

Yemen Crisis

Yemen's President Abd Rabbou Mansour Haddi endorsed a plan on Monday to turn Yemen into a six region federation. The recommendation, from a special body established to help end tribal and sectarian unrest in the country, rejected an alternative plan for one northern and one southern Yemeni province.

The proposal outlines new regional boundaries where the more populous north of the country will be divided into four parts and the south will be split into two provinces; the capital of Sanaa would remain a special administrative area. Yemen's leaders hope the plan creates a mechanism for dealing with tribal difference and paves the way for the drafting a new constitution. A vote on the borders and the new constitution will be held within the next year, according to government sources. Read more ..

The Prehistoric Edge

Neanderthal Humans Loved their Kids Too

April 13th 2014

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Archaeologists at the University of York in the UK are challenging the traditional view that Neanderthal childhood was difficult, short and dangerous.

A research team from PALAEO (Centre for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins) and the Department of Archaeology at York offer a new and distinctive perspective which suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, used play to develop skills and played a significant role in their society.

The traditional perception of the toughness of Neanderthal childhood is based largely on biological evidence, but the archaeologists, led by Dr Penny Spikins, also studied cultural and social evidence to explore the experience of Neanderthal children. Read more ..

The Edge of Sport

Republicans Oppose College Athletes' Unionization

April 12th 2014

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Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) said collective bargaining rights for college players would stop universities from fielding sports teams.

The two lawmakers, who are both former college athletes, discussed the issue at length on the Senate floor Friday.

"While there may be some issues with intercollegiate athletics, the unionization of intercollegiate athletics is not the solution to the problem," said Alexander, a former track team member at Vanderbilt University.

A regional director with the National Labor Relation Board ruled last month that scholarship football players at Northwestern University are permitted to unionize because they meet the definition of college employees. The players are seeking medical coverage for sports-related care, compensation for sponsorships and a boost in financial help for student athletes. They will decide whether to form a union by secret ballot on April 25. Northwestern has appealed the decision. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Uncovering a New Angle on Mental Distance

April 10th 2014


Why does the second hour of a journey seem shorter than the first? According to research from University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and the Rotman School of Management, the answer lies in how we’re physically oriented in space.

In a series of six studies, Sam Maglio, an assistant professor in UTSC’s Department of Management, demonstrated that a person’s orientation — the direction they are headed — changed how they thought of an object or event. The research is forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Feeling close to or distant from something impacts our behavior and judgment,” says Maglio. “We feel more socially connected, more emotionally engaged, and more attuned to the present when something is perceived as close.” What we don’t know is what leads to a feeling of closeness, he says. Previous studies have focused on changing objective measures, such as distance or time, to make something feel subjectively close or far. Read more ..

Africa on Edge

Fear Drives African Gays to Seek Asylum in US

April 9th 2014

LGBT Youth

Homosexuality is a crime in 38 African countries and new laws in Nigeria and Uganda have increased potential punishments for engaging in gay sex. These strictures have driven some gay and transgender Ugandans to seek asylum in the United States.

"I can tell you that it’s so bad in Uganda. People just don’t know what is happening in Uganda," said Niki Mawanda, who recently fled his African homeland. "I’m worried about what is happening to my people. But I’m also scared that when I go back, I don’t know what will happen to me."

 Mawanda is one of more than 60 Ugandans who have applied for asylum in the U.S. so far this year. "They staged a big prayer next to my mom’s house praying for me to leave the village, saying that I’m bringing homosexuality on the village," he said. "I don’t want to leave my people, but this time around, I became so scared, so I left." Read more ..

The Way We Are

Archaeologists Recount Human Evolution from Athletes to Couch Potatoes

April 8th 2014

Human bones are remarkably plastic and respond surprisingly quickly to change. Put under stress through physical exertion – such as long-distance walking or running – they gain in strength as the fibres are added or redistributed according to where strains are highest. The ability of bone to adapt to loading is shown by analysis of the skeletons of modern athletes, whose bones show remarkably rapid adaptation to both the intensity and direction of strains.

Because the structure of human bones can inform us about the lifestyles of the individuals they belong to, they can provide valuable clues for biological anthropologists looking at past cultures. Research by Alison Macintosh, a PhD candidate in Cambridge University's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, shows that after the emergence of agriculture in Central Europe from around 5300 BC, the bones of those living in the fertile soils of the Danube river valley became progressively less strong, pointing to a decline in mobility and loading. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Over 76 Million Older People Lack Vital Care

April 7th 2014

Elderly man

Monday, April 7th, is World Health Day. An NGO is using the occasion to warn that 76-million older people around the world are being excluded from vital health care. HelpAge International is trying to raise awareness through its Age Demands Action campaign.

Amleset Tewodros, the group’s Country Director for Tanzania, said, “Age Demands Action is a campaign that empowers older people to directly engage with their leaders – in this particular case with the Ministry of Health officials – to demand the access to services, the health services, to be appropriate, age friendly, accessible to older people. So it gives older people an opportunity to present their demands and their requests to their relative policy and decision makers.”

She said millions of older people around the world are not getting the care they need for diseases and chronic conditions. “There are a number of noncommunicable diseases that are showing steady growth among older population groups -- for example, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, prostate cancer and respiratory diseases.” Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistan Redux

April 6th 2014

Red Minaret, Hyderabad

With all the attention being paid to the Turkish election, the continuing "negotiations" between the six powers and Iran and the ins and outs of the talks that at some point may or may not take place between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, little attention is directed towards very concrete and significant events in a country that is not only strategically located but already has nuclear weapons--Pakistan.

The government of Nawaz Sharif, which is the first in Pakistan's history as an independent country to succeed another elected government with no period of military dictatorship in between, has been trying to reach an accommodation with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), ensconced in its mountain lair in North Waziristan, which borders on Afghanistan and which has been in constant violent conflict with the Pakistani government for years.  Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Women Await Poll Results With Hope

April 5th 2014


Hopes are high that Afghanistan's election Saturday may result in the country's first peaceful transition of power in more than a century.  Militant attacks and electoral fraud are the main threats to the vote for a new president, who will take over after President Hamid Karzai ends his second term.  Afghan women, whose freedom has often been curtailed, also worry about their future under a new government.

In this beauty parlor in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, the presidential election is the main topic of conversation.  Owner Balqis Azizi says it is not clear what the future will bring regardless of who is elected. "We hope it will be good.  It is a concern for all of us.  What will happen?  Nobody knows what programs the candidates have for the future.  People are concerned about who is going to be elected," she said. Read more ..

Russia and Estonia

Russians Of Narva Not Seeking 'Liberation' From Moscow

April 4th 2014

Russia military symbol

Aleksandr Brokk calls himself an "Estonian patriot." His family has lived in the country for generations and he makes his living running a successful tech park.

Like the vast majority in the sleepy eastern Estonian border city of Narva, Brokk is an ethnic Russian. And while he's proud of his language and heritage, all he needs to do is look across the river at the dilapidated Russian fortress city of Ivangorod to know which side of the border he wants to live on.

"People come and go. When you cross into Ivangorod, straight away you can see the atmosphere there," Brokk says. "Who is going to want to join that?" Brokk's opinions are not an anomaly here. In Narva, Russian is the lingua franca, Russian media is the main source of news, and orange-and-black St. George ribbons symbolizing military victory adorn cars.

But the Russians of Narva, who make up 88 percent of the city's population, call the European Union and NATO their home. And while they may feel the emotional tug of Moscow and certainly have their grievances with the Estonian government in Tallinn, few say they want to follow the example of Crimea and join Russia. Most  here have become accustomed to their stable and predictable lives on the EU's eastern frontier. Read more ..

Cambodia on Edge

Half a Million Cambodians Affected by Land Disputes

April 3rd 2014

Vietnamese hat in mud

A leading Cambodian human rights group says more than half a million people have been affected by land disputes in the country over the last 14 years.

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for Licadho, said Thursday that a “wave” of land grabs has continued this year, impacting families in nearly all provinces, including disputes between villagers and development companies or loggers.

“Before releasing the report, we conducted detailed research.  The main point is that starting from early this year, land disputes have occurred again. That’s the reason why we are concerned and issued this report; to remind the government to put extra mechanisms in place to find solutions for the people," said Ath.

The government has rejected those figures.  Sar Sovann, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, told reporters Thursday the report “does not reflect reality.”  There are only 3,000 to 4,000 sites that “have problems,” he said. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Critically Ill Patients at Risk for Developing Mental Illness

April 2nd 2014

Boy in pain

A new study shows that people with critical illnesses are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric illnesses than people who haven't experienced a life-threatening disease.

Studies show that people with diabetes and heart disease have greater than normal chances of suffering from depression, a mental illness that can interfere with daily life and any enjoyment of it. But what about illnesses so severe that those who have them end up in hospital intensive care units? 

Dr. Derek Angus of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center led a study that examined the relationship between critical illness and mental illness. Researchers reviewed the medical records of all patients admitted to intensive care units in Denmark over a three-year period.

“Denmark is important because for many years now they have been collecting national data on essentially the health and wellness of every person living in Denmark," said Angus.

“We were interested in people who got a new or sudden critical illness such as pneumonia or an episode of sepsis," said Angus. For example, patients on ventilators admitted the intensive care unit, or ICU,  were compared to similar patients in other wards of the hospital and in the general population.    Read more ..

The Way We Are

Jimmy Carter Calls for Stop in Abuse Against Women

March 31st 2014

Jimmy Carter

The World Health Organization reports one in three women around the world will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter calls abuse of women the most serious human rights issue facing the world today. In an interview with VOA, and in his new book A Call to Action, he outlines the seriousness of the abuse — both globally and in the United States. Human rights organizations and activists hope his attention to the issue will give them a boost in fighting the problem.

Former President Carter learned about these abuses through the global work of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, where abuse of women was the focus of a 2013 human rights conference.

"The most serious problem is murder of baby girls by their parents. And the abortion of the girl fetus if the parents find out she's going to be female," Carter said.

"We've been dealing with 79 different countries, and as I've been in those foreign countries, and also throughout the United States, I've seen the tangible examples of how horribly women and girls are treated, much worse than anyone knows," he added. His research into the scope and seriousness of abuse against women culminated in his 28th book, A Call to Action, which explores the culture and causes of the abuse. He says the United States is not immune to the problem. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syria Tops List Of Asylum Seekers in Industrialized Countries

March 30th 2014

Syrian Refugees

A new report finds that Syria is churning out the largest number of people seeking asylum in industrialized countries. The U.N. refugee agency's just-released report on asylum trends in 2013 shows a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialized countries last year.

The report says nearly 613,000 people lodged claims for asylum in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific last year. This is the highest total for any year since 2001. The UNHCR said this sharp rise in asylum seekers is being driven primarily by the crisis in Syria.

That country now tops the list as the world's main origin for asylum-seekers, bumping Afghanistan into second position, with Russia in third place. The director of UNHCR's Division of International Protection, Volker Turk, called Syria an international game changer. He said the number of Syrian asylum seekers shows how that country is affecting other regions and countries in the industrialized world, although they are far removed from the crisis in the Middle East. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Are Statins Good for Your Love Life?

March 29th 2014

Active Seniors

Statins are associated with a significant improvement in erectile function, a fact researchers hope will encourage men who need statins to reduce their risk of heart attack to take them, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

Erectile dysfunction is common in older men, especially among those with cardiovascular risk factors where cholesterol-lowering statins are frequently prescribed. Previous research has suggested a negative association between statin therapy and testosterone levels, leading to questions about the effects of these widely used medications on the quality of erection.

In the first meta-analysis of previous studies on erectile dysfunction and statins, researchers identified 11 randomized, controlled trials that measured erectile function using the International Inventory of Erectile Function – a self-administered survey with five questions, each scored on a five-point scale and totaled, with lower values representing poorer sexual function. Analysis of all 11 studies combined found a statistically significant effect of statins on erectile function in men who had both high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. Overall, erectile function scores increased by 3.4 points in men who took statins (from 14.0 to 17.4, a 24.3 percent increase). Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Rising Wealth Not Enough to Raise Child Health

March 28th 2014

Childhood Obesity

Getting wealthier does not automatically make a nation healthier, according to new research.

The study questions whether promoting economic growth is the best way to improve child nutrition in low- and middle-income countries.

The conventional wisdom, according to Harvard School of Public Health professor Subu Subramanian, is “‘Let’s just go after economic growth and then everything else will just follow.’”

But Subramanian notes that a booming economy has done little to reduce child undernutrition in India.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the most common measure of the economy, has been growing by more than five percent per year for much of the last two decades. That’s faster than most Western countries. But more than two-fifths of India’s children are underweight and nearly half are stunted. And that has not changed much since the early 1990s. Read more ..

Edge of Hate

California Students Denounce Anti-Semitism at State Assembly Hearing

March 27th 2014

Click to select Image

Last week the new California Assembly Select Committee on Campus Climate held its first hearing. AMCHA Initiative urged members of the committee to examine campus antisemitism and take the proper steps to ensure Jewish students feel safe and welcome at California’s colleges and universities. AMCHA provided a full packet of information to the committee members about incidents of campus antisemitisim throughout California, including incidents from UC Davis, SFSU, UC Riverside and more.

You can see AMCHA’s unabridged remarks to the committee HERE.

Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) announced the creation of the Select Committee in January. March 21 was the first of four public hearings the Committee will hold over the next few months. The Committee was tasked with investigating issues pertaining to student welfare on college campuses. Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), who worked as a San Diego State University professor, chairs the Committee.

With antisemitism at U.S. colleges, and, especially, in California, growing at an alarming rate, campus antisemitism is a concern AMCHA Initiative hears about daily from members of California’s Jewish community, including university alumni, rabbis, professors, religious school principals and, of course, students, parents and grandparents. Read more ..

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