The Catholic Church on Edge
|Zach Pontz||February 12th 2013|
Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement Monday that he is planning to retire on February 28th, the first time a sitting pope will have stepped aside since the 14th century, has elicited reaction from several Jewish leaders around the world.
Monday, Israeli chief rabbi Yona Metzger praised his inter-religious outreach and current relations between Israel and the Vatican.
“During his period (as pope) there were the best relations ever between the church and the chief rabbinate and we hope that this trend will continue,” a spokesman quoted Metzger as saying after the pope announced he would resign. “I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing inter-religious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks also responded to Monday’s announcement, praising the pope’s character and recalling a meeting they had in 2011. “I was honored to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Britain on behalf of non-Christian faiths in 2010 and spend time with him during a visit to the Vatican in 2011,” he said. Read more ..
The Edge of Trafficking
|Jim Kouri||February 11th 2013|
The serious threats of international organized crime, corruption, trafficking in narcotics and dangerous drugs, and human trafficking are overwhelming and too enormous for any one country to tackle alone, according to officials serving on the United Nation's Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs.
The U.N. committee’s general discussion on crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control, revealed the challenges posed by illicit drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism are part of the United Nations' development and security agenda.
“All these issues are connected, so we cannot address them in isolation. They are also transnational -- and they are too big for countries to confront on their own,” said Yury Fedotov, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “Development needs security to succeed,” he said in a statement. “It needs solid, functioning institutions, grounded in the rule of law.” Read more ..
America's Darkest Edge
|Jordy Yager||February 10th 2013|
The largest gun show in the D.C. area has raised its admission fee to help bankroll its fight against President Obama’s push for tighter firearm restrictions.
Thousands of gun enthusiasts are descending upon the “Nation’s Gun Show” at the Dulles Expo Center this weekend and, for the first time in five years, are being greeted with a higher cost of entry as the gun rights community wages a tough, and costly, campaign to stop Obama and Congress from stiffening certain gun laws.
“Admission has gone up because we are using the money to fight so you can keep and bear your guns,” read the sign on the front doors to the gun show. “We have already spent $25,000 this year to stop impending legislation by hiring lawyers, lobbyists, and writing bills.”
Entry lines stretching around the giant exhibition center resulted in waits of up to 30 minutes on opening day Friday afternoon as parked cars spilled over into the neighboring shopping plaza less than 15 miles from the resort where House Democrats at their annual retreat just a day earlier unveiled proposals for an assault weapons ban, a limit on magazine capacity, and universal background checks for gun buyers. Read more ..
The Economy on Edge
|Steve Baragona||February 9th 2013|
After nearly four decades of fishing, this season might be David Goethel's last. The New England Fisheries Management Council has cut the amount of cod fishermen like Goethel can catch in the Gulf of Maine by 77 percent. “For us, it basically means we’re all done," Goethel says.
Under the new limits, he says he'd reach his quota of cod in just a few days of fishing. And other fish are effectively off limits, or out of reach, for his kind of boat and equipment. While today’s catch, and the number of fishermen chasing it, are a fraction of what they were a half-century ago, the council’s decision is devastating for those like Goethel who have hung on. “I’m 59 years old. This is all I’ve ever done," he says. "How you’re going to pay for things? I have no idea. Basically, if we don’t work, we don’t eat. Pretty simple.” Read more ..
The Indian Edge
|Aru Pande||February 8th 2013|
Despite more people turning to e-books in the digitized world, the printed word is still a first choice for the majority in India. Foreign publishers are increasingly tapping into the South Asian country to take advantage of the world's third largest English-language book market, which, unlike others, is seeing double-digit growth.
Forget e-readers. For many Indians, like Shema Kallimel, there is no comparison to turning the pages of a hardback. "My dad says as a kid, when I didn’t know how to read and write, I would take his big fat books and just start flipping," she said.
She is not alone. While a technology boom has meant the closing of bookstores in many parts of the world, here in India the market for books is thriving. The boom is evident in the more than 1.4 million people who will visit the annual New Delhi World Book Fair, where 1,100 exhibitors from India and around the world display their latest books. Read more ..
|Bennie Becker||February 8th 2013|
Stephen Colbert told House Democrats on Friday that people liked colonoscopies more than Congress, that he's "best frenemies" with Nancy Pelosi, and sang a dramatic rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner." It's all in a morning’s work when you invite the late-night comedian over for a visit.
The comedian sat down with House Democrats at their annual retreat on Friday for a wide-ranging conversation in which Colbert slipped in and out of the conservative character he plays on his talk show.
Colbert, according to a person in the room, discussed his “best frenemies” relationship with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and his own sister’s congressional race in South Carolina. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Tom Banse||February 7th 2013|
Mia MacCollin doesn't contain her excitement when her dog, a black Labrador mix named Boston, finds the buried treasure he's been looking for: the native Oregon white truffle. These unique mushrooms, which grow underground near the roots of trees, can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogram at retail.
Mia and Boston are finishing up a two-day course in truffle foraging at a Douglas fir plantation south of Salem. MacCollin and 15 other dog owners have each paid nearly $600 to attend. In France, truffle hunters historically relied on the keen noses of pigs, while Italy is home to a special breed of truffle dog. In the United States, a small cadre of dog trainers and truffle lovers promotes the use of all sorts of breeds. Read more ..
|Robert Coalson||February 6th 2013|
It was something of a wake-up call for many in Russia. In December 2011, a pair of pretty, articulate, 20-year-old twins from Vladimir Oblast were asked on a television game show, "What is the Holocaust?"
The two consulted together for a few awkward moments. One of them admitted frankly that the term "says nothing to them." Finally, with time running short, Yevgenia Karatygina turns to the camera and says, "We think that the Holocaust is wallpaper paste."
Video of the shocking scene was viewed hundreds of thousands of times online, and it provoked a serious discussion about how the Holocaust is taught in the schools of the country whose troops (along with those of other former Soviet republics) liberated the Nazis' largest concentration and death camp at Auschwitz in Poland. The sisters -- Yevgenia and Ksenia -- appeared on RFE/RL's Russian Service in March 2012 with Holocaust Fund Chairwoman Alla Gerber. At the time, Yevgenia explained that they were taught a bit about the Holocaust in their school but that the sisters were more interested in other things. Read more ..
Smoking on Edge
|Tom Balmforth||February 5th 2013|
MOSCOW -- Denis Svidorov takes a drag on his cigarette, looks at the scene around him, and wonders whether it will soon be a thing of the past. It's lunchtime at a dingy cafe near Moscow's Belarussky train station and there are smokers at nearly every table. Even the no-smoking room is cloaked in thick tobacco haze as weary waitresses load up trays of beer and "chebureki," the meat-and-cheese pastries popular in Russia.
Svidorov, a 35-year-old salesman, has smoked a pack a day for the last two decades and has no intention of quitting. But he may soon have to forget about lighting up indoors, thanks to a stringent antismoking bill expected to pass its final parliamentary reading in parliament's lower house this month. Read more ..
America on Edge
|Terrence Sterling||February 3rd 2013|
The rate of drug overdose from prescription opioids increased seven-fold in New York City over a 16-year period and was concentrated especially among white residents of the city, according to latest research at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. The study is one of the earliest and most comprehensive analyses of how the opioid epidemic has affected an urban area.
There are two classes of prescription opioids: analgesics, or painkillers like Oxycontin (oxycodone), and methadone, which is used to treat heroin addiction but which carries a risk of overdose. Using data from the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the period 1990-2006, the researchers examined the factors associated with death from prescription opioids versus heroin, which historically has been the most common type of opioid fatality in urban areas. Read more ..
The Afganistan War
|Douglas Birch||February 3rd 2013|
Center for Public Integrity
When U.S. defense department auditors arrived at the large new Imam Sahib Border Police Company headquarters in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province last fall, they discovered just a dozen men, only half of them in uniform, and two-thirds of the compound’s green masonry buildings unoccupied and apparently empty.
The facility, completed two months earlier at a cost to the United States of $7.3 million, was designed to provide a base for 175 border police to help provide security along Afghanistan’s rugged frontier with Tajikistan, an infiltration route for militants and perhaps the most important transit corridor for Afghan heroin headed to Russia.
But according to the latest report by John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, inspectors found a nearly deserted compound. All but three of the 12 buildings were locked, and no one had keys. The inspectors wrote that they were forced to judge construction quality by peering through the windows. Read more ..
The Media on Edge
|Nancy Palus||February 2nd 2013|
Media advocacy groups say the offensive by French and Malian troops against Islamist militants in northern Mali has taken place largely out of view, as journalists’ access has been severely limited. Little by little local and international reporters are getting into the north, but some say access remains difficult.
Many journalists covering the situation in Mali - especially foreign reporters - have spent a good bit of time trying to get beyond Sévaré, the central town that was the dividing line between the government-controlled south and rebel-held north.
Reporters who were in Mali when fighting broke out in January said the military blocked journalists from entering two of the first towns to see combat - Konna and Diabaly - for several days. When journalists finally arrived the towns were full of soldiers and residents appeared afraid to recount what they saw. The press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern about what it calls "a grave obstruction," urging the Malian and French authorities to allow reporters to move about freely. Read more ..
Edge of Terrorism
|Martin Barillas||February 1st 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
On February 1, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in front of the U.S. embassy in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. The detonation killed the bomber and a Turkish guard in an attack that government sources are blaming on local Leftist factions.
Both Turkey and the U.S. condemned the attack. U.S. State Department officials warned U.S. citizens to stay clear of all U.S. diplomatic installations in Turkey.
Besides the two fatalities, a woman was seriously injured in the bombing, while two Turkish guards sustained less serious injuries in the blast that occured at approximately 1:15 pm local time.
Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler told reporters that there has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but Guler said "preliminary information" gives indications that domestic left-wing militants are responsible. According to the AP wire service, the bomber is most likely a suspected member of the outlawed Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C. Read more ..
Nairobi on Edge
|Jill Craig||January 31st 2013|
The Nairobi slum of Mathare is home to more than half a million people, but it has only three government schools. Low-cost community schools attempt to fill the gap. But most of these educators are inadequately trained -- so one organization is now teaching the teachers.
More than 18,000 children attend one of the 75 schools in Nairobi’s Mathare Valley slum -- operating without government support, trained teachers, or funding -- according to an organization called Dignitas Project. To help, Dignitas provides professional development training to teachers and school administrators.
Charles Mutibo, Head Teacher at Hope Compassion Center, says the program has helped him deal with the many challenges his students face. “One is the resources for learning. Resources in most of the schools in Mathare are not there," he said. "And also the security aspect is a concern. We also have a problem with water, food.” Read more ..
China on Edge
|Matthew Hilburn||January 30th 2013|
The stifling pollution currently plaguing much of northeastern China has reached levels so high it is beyond the measurements used in the U.S. to chart air quality.
“What Beijing is experiencing–and even worse in the provinces–is off the charts from anything we experience in the United States, and likely more than anything we’ve experienced in our country’s history,” said John Walke, the director of the Climate & Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group. Read more ..
Pakistan on Edge
|Sharon Behn||January 29th 2013|
Barely one-fifth of Pakistan's women work in paid jobs, according to the International Labor Organization. The group says a lack of safe, secure public transportation is one of the reasons even skilled and educated women are unable to break out of a cycle of grinding poverty.
Covered in the traditional headscarf as she waits in Islamabad's crowded Abpara market, nurse Farzana Liaqat says women don't feel safe using public local buses, and often have to wait hours for a seat. In Pakistan, typically the two front seats next to the driver are reserved for women. The rest of the bus is for the men.
Syed Saad Gilani, who has studied the question of decent public transport for women for the ILO, says women complain of being inappropriately touched, pushed and humiliated on buses. Farzana Liaqat says there's not much women can do about getting harassed. Read more ..
|Megan R. Wilson||January 29th 2013|
More than one-third of federal regulations move through the early stages without input from the public, according to a government watchdog. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), an investigative arm of Congress, conducted a study of federal rules and found that 35 percent of “major” regulations — those with an economic impact of $100 million or more — are issued without a public comment period.
“This is a missed opportunity, because GAO found that when agencies did respond to public comments they often made changes to improve the rules,” the report says. From 2003 to 2010, federal agencies and departments published 568 major rules and 30,000 non-major rules, according to the GAO. Officials failed to offer a notice of proposed rulemaking on 35 percent of the major rules and 41 percent of the non-major rules, the study found. From 2008 to 2009, the percentage of major rules without an notice increased from 26 percent to 40 percent. Read more ..
The Arab Winter of Rage
|Rachel Ehrenfeld & Ken Jensen||January 28th 2013|
News reports on the surge of violence in countries afflicted by the Arab Spring are bewildering, averting the Western readers' attention from the economic hardship it has generated.
While the U.S. and its Western allies were mostly cheering on the sidelines and their media supported the revolution, little, if any attention was paid to the economic ruin it caused. Instead of more freedom and economic reform, these countries are now ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, who care more about imposing Shari'a than the welfare and rights of their populaces. Two years into this "Spring attack," reality is setting in and the U.S. and international lending organizations are sweating to convince the new regimes to accept billions of dollars to shore up their economies. The prevailing wisdom is that a) if we give them money to prop up the economy, they will have to abide by the conditions of the loans, and b) that they'll use the funds accordingly. However, money is fungible and the Muslim Brothers' agenda to spread political Islam by all means has greater similarities the Bolsheviks economic agenda, than Western style individual and economic freedoms. Read more ..
Iran on Edge
|Martin Barillas||January 27th 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Iran’s official ISNA news service published photographs of the public amputation of a man’s finger that took place on January 23 in the Islamic Republic. The photos released by ISNA show a bearded, blind-folded man being led to a machine that appears to resemble an industrial device or rotary saw. Reportedly, one of his digits was severed by the executioners in the city of Shiraz, who were wearing black hoods to conceal their identity. Shiraz’s prosecutor, Ali Alghasi, vowed that punishment for crimes will become increasingly severe, even while he did not explain why.
The news agency alleged that he had been charged with robbery and adultery in the city located in Fars, a province in Iran’s southwest. He was also an alleged ringleader of a criminal organization. Besides the amputation, the man was sentenced to receive 99 lashes, a common punishment in Iran, as well as three years in prison. The photographs of the convicted criminal do not reveal any emotion or suffering on his part. Even so, say some observers, he may have been drugged. Read more ..
The Battle for Syria
|Sam Orez||January 27th 2013|
Read more ..
Jordian Albawaba news site is reporting: "Syria had planned to explode a bomb during the Haj (pilgrimage) season last year, a former military officer has said. Imad Al Haraki, a Syrian officer who worked for the Syrian consulate in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah, told the London-based Al Hayat daily that he had been selected by the Syrian government to carry out the act of terrorism on the ninth day of Dhul Hijja when around three million people gathered at the Arafat Mount, the peak of the pilgrimage rituals. The former deputy General Consul, Shawqi Shamat, conveyed the mission orders to him, he said.
The newspaper adds, “I was vacationing in Thailand with my family when I received a phone call from the deputy Consul telling men that I was to carry out an operation in the sacred city of Makkah, but without specifying the location” he told the daily. “I was told that I would return home to Syria following the bombing and lead a lavish life.” However, Al Haraki chose on October 23 to alert the Saudi authorities about the plot and three diplomats in the consulate were deported two days later, according to the article published by Al Hayat on Saturday. Haj started on October 24 and the Arafat Mount gathering was on October 25.
|Craig Macaulay||January 27th 2013|
Ice cores drilled in the Greenland ice sheet, recounting the history of the last great warming period more than 120,000 years ago, are giving scientists their clearest insight to a world that was warmer than today. In a paper published in the journal Nature, scientists have used a 2,540 metre long Greenland ice core to reach back to the Eemian period 115-130 thousand years ago and reconstruct the Greenland temperature and ice sheet extent back through the last interglacial. This period is likely to be comparable in several ways to climatic conditions in the future, especially the mean global surface temperature, but without anthropogenic or human influence on the atmospheric composition.
The Eemian period is referred to as the last interglacial, when warm temperatures continued for several thousand years due mainly to the earth's orbit allowing more energy to be received from the sun. The world today is considered to be in an interglacial period and that has lasted 11,000 years, and called the Holocene. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
|J. Millard Burr & Rachel Ehrenfeld||January 26th 2013|
Years of growing presence and illegal activities of Iranian linked Shiite, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC's Qods Force and the Lebanese Hezbollah members in Latin America were underestimated by US authorities and mostly ignored. But over the past seven years Iran established 11 embassies and 17 Islamic centers in Latin America, all serve to advance Iran's influence in the region. Recently Hezbollah's involvement with drug gangs in Mexico and elsewhere could no longer be ignored. To counter these activities, President Obama signed "Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act" into law on December 28, 2012. Read more ..
China on Edge
|William Ide||January 25th 2013|
When chemicals recently contaminated a river in China’s northern Shanxi province, it took authorities five days to report the incident. While the mayor offered an apology and chemical plant officials were dismissed, the spill ended up affecting drinking water in several cities downstream. It also dealt another blow to public confidence in the government.
Official statistics indicate China has around 1,700 water pollution accidents each year, and up to 40 percent of the country’s rivers are seriously polluted. Not only are natural water sources polluted, but they are becoming scarce as well. Beijing is one place where the debate over water quality and quantity is coming to a head.
“Of the more than 100 rivers that there are now in Beijing, only two or three can be used for tap water – and those are the ones that the government in Beijing is protecting," says Zhao Feihong, a water researcher at the Beijing Healthcare Association. "Those are the ones that we can use water from, the rest of the rivers if they have not dried up, then they are polluted by discharge.” Read more ..
Inside the Middle East
|Tafline Laylin||January 25th 2013|
The Egyptian government announced earlier this week that a plan to bridge the distance between Egypt and Saudi Arabia across the Gulf of Aqaba is going to become reality in the very near future. A longstanding proposal previously rejected by former President Hosni Mubarak, a bridge linking the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia is expected to cement ties between those two countries while alienating just about everyone else. And don’t even get us started on the environmental damage that will be caused. This news comes despite the work of Egyptian activists who have been trying to convince the government that the $3 billion bridge slated to cross Ras Mohamed National Park, which currently protects coral reefs, dive sites and a slew of endangered species, would cause irreparable environmental damage. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Jim Erickson||January 24th 2013|
Gangs now occupy two spaces: the streets and the Internet. A new University of Michigan study reports that, in addition to carrying guns, gang members have armed themselves with social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to incite dares, trade insults or make threats that may result in homicide or other crimes.
Researchers have described this new interaction as "Internet banging." They examine several factors, including the role of hip-hop music in this phenomenon and urban masculinity's influence on social media behavior. Desmond Patton, assistant professor of social work, said it's unclear if Internet banging only involves males or one ethnic group. However, gang-related violence disseminated over social media appears to be a male-dominated behavior that is shaped by fewer employment opportunities for minorities. Read more ..
Environment on Edge
|Kent Paterson||January 23rd 2013|
In the U.S.-Mexico border town of Sunland Park, New Mexico, lead and arsenic contamination is a legacy that’s been passed down through the generations. Federal and state environmental authorities have long identified the shut-down Asarco smelter in neighboring El Paso, Texas, which operated for more than a century, as the likely source of much of the pollution, as well as the remains of an old gas refinery that sits on the banks of the Rio Grande.
A report by the New Mexico Office of the Natural Resources Trustee (NMONRT) stated that Asarco’s smelting operations in close proximity to what later became the city of Sunland Park triggered “environmental concerns” of impacts on crops and human health from excessive smoke as far back as the 1920s. Read more ..
Mali on Edge
|Martin Barillas||January 22nd 2013|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Reports are circulating in France that Qatar, the wealth petroleum-state on the Arabian peninsula, may have sided with the Islamist insurgents currently wreaking havoc in the central African republic of Mali. Last week, two members of the French parliament accused Qatar of providing material support to Malian Muslim terrorists, thus throwing gasoline onto the flames of speculation over the raging conflict that now involves the French military.
The odd-couple accusers, rightist Marine Le Pen and leftist Michelle Demessine, are demanding answers from Qatar, small in size but huge In terms of oil reserves. “If Qatar is objecting to France’s engagement in Mali it’s because intervention risks destroying Doha’s most fundamentalist allies,” Le Pen said in a statement on her party’s website, following Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani’s demand for dialogue with the Islamists. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Sam Orez||January 22nd 2013|
The chairman of Russia's Consumer Rights Defense Society has been charged with slander for comments he made about Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Gazeta.ru reported that Mikhail Anshakov was summoned to the Moscow police department, where he was informed of the charges and travel restrictions were imposed.
The plaintiff is Vasily Poddevalin, the director of the Christ the Savior Cathedral Fund. Poddevalin filed the slander charges over Anshakov's comments to the "Novaya gazeta" newspaper in September.
Anshakov is accused of saying that cathedral has turned into a business center "accommodating 15 commercial firms, a car wash, a car maintenance center," and other enterprises. Read more ..
Africa on Edge
|Michael Bishop||January 21st 2013|
Insitute of Physics
The dwindling reserves of fuelwood in Africa have been illuminated in a new study published today, which shows a bleak outlook for supplies across savannas in South Africa. Researchers have found that at current consumption levels in the communal areas of Lowveld, South Africa, reserves of fuelwood could be totally exhausted within 13 years.
The consequences are significant, with around half of the 2.4 million rural households in the country using wood as their primary fuel source, burning between four and seven million tonnes per year. Consumption of fuelwood is greater across the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, which includes countries significantly less developed than South Africa – around 80 per cent of households rely on fuelwood as their primary energy source. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Paul Seagrove||January 21st 2013|
Radiocarbon dates of tiny fossilised marine animals found in Antarctica's seabed sediments offer new clues about the recent rapid ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and help scientists make better predictions about future sea-level rise. This region of the icy continent is thought to be vulnerable to regional climate warming and changes in ocean circulation.
Reporting this month in the journal Geology a team of researchers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and the University of Tromsø presents a timeline for ice loss and glacier retreat in the Amundsen Sea region of West Antarctica. The team concludes that the rapid changes observed by satellites over the last 20 years at Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers may well be exceptional and are unlikely to have happened more than three or four times in the last 10,000 years. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Yasmeen Sands||January 20th 2013|
USDA Forest Service
Longer, warmer growing seasons associated with a changing climate are altering growing conditions in temperate rain forests, but not all plant species will be negatively affected, according to research conducted by the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station. "Although the overall potential for growth increases as the climate warms, we found that plant species differ in their ability to adapt to these changing conditions," said Tara Barrett, a research forester with the station who led the study.
Barrett and her colleagues explored trends in forest composition in southeastern and south-central Alaska, home to the bulk of the world's temperate rain forests. The researchers found an uptick in growth in higher elevations of the region over the 13-year period, with an almost 8-percent increase in live-tree biomass, a measure of tree growth. Individual species within the rain forest, however, differed—western redcedar biomass increased by four percent, while shore pine declined by almost five percent. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Tom Balmforth||January 19th 2013|
Bek Takhirov knows all too well the problems that migrant workers face. The 38-year-old ethnic Uzbek came to Russia in 2004 and worked illegally, stacking cargo in a warehouse for alcoholic beverages. Two years ago, he completed a lengthy application for Russian citizenship in order to step out of the shadows. He now works legally in St. Petersburg as a translator by day and moonlights as a security guard by night.
He also uses his experience to help newly arrived migrants from his homeland navigate Russia's increasingly difficult labor market. "Every year it becomes harder," Takhirov says. "It used to be easy to find work quickly -- you didn't need any documents or anything. But nowadays you fill out all the documents and then they still deceive you and throw you out all the same. There is so much deceit everywhere." Read more ..
Algeria on Edge
|Diego Dighero||January 18th 2013|
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is "deeply concerned" about the ongoing hostage crisis in Algeria, and called on the Algerian government to do everything in its power to save lives. Clinton spoke during a joint appearance with the new Japanese foreign minister on January 18 in Washington as new reports from Algerian state media said at least 12 Algerians and foreigners had died after an assault by the Algerian army. She also said it is absolutely essential for the U.S. to" broaden and deepen" counter-terrorism efforts with Algeria and all countries of the region.
One American, Frederick Buttaccio of Texas, is dead and dozens of foreign hostages were unaccounted for on January 18 after an Algerian military raid in the Sahara desert to retake the Ain Amenas gas compound that was stormed this week by Islamist militants.
The Algerian government said 573 Algerians and nearly 100 of approximately 132 foreign hostages have escaped or had been freed. Much about the military operation, however, remained unclear, leaving officials in other countries frustrated by contradictory versions of what happened at the remote gas field near the Algerian-Libyan border. A Norwegian spokesman expressed frustration that his government had not been warned in advance of the raid. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Amie Parnes||January 18th 2013|
Change is all around President Obama and his family four years after he came to Washington aspiring to be an agent of change in the nation’s capital.
His wife, Michelle, initially reluctant to come to Washington, now enjoys sky-high approval ratings and has become one of the president’s greatest assets — and a fashion icon, gracing the cover of Vogue while lending a luster of political celebrity to mainstream brands like J. Crew. Daughters Malia and Sasha, who moved into the White House at the ages of 10 and 7, respectively, have grown into young women, sprouting as tall as their parents. The president’s mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, left her life in Chicago and moved into the White House residence to help make the family’s Beltway transition a little more seamless. (Sources close to the family say the first granny plans to remain at the White House in the president’s second term.) Read more ..
Inside Sierra Leone
|Nina de Vries||January 18th 2013|
The game of cricket is making a comeback in Sierra Leone and is inspiring young men in particular. Many young people who play are also being encouraged to stay in school by the local cricket association. The temperature is 28 C in the afternoon as a coach shouts out commands to his cricket players at Sierra Leone's only cricket ground in the country's capital Freetown.
The players look intense, concentrating on their game. But this is not any random cricket game, this is different. Several of these cricket players are playing not only for fun, but also to enhance their education and improve their lives. Osman Koroma, 18, is currently is homeless. "I am living around with my friends, so when I want to go to sleep, I say to my friends, 'Man, I am coming over' and I go and lay my head," he explained. Read more ..
|Suzanne Presto ||January 17th 2013|
Nearly every U.S. president has found himself in the position of figuring out life after the presidency. Former presidents have demonstrated there are multiple ways to adapt to life outside of Washington and the Oval Office, and the word "retirement" does not quite apply.
George W. Bush's quiet service
When former president George W. Bush left the White House in 2009, he largely left the spotlight. But last year he worked alongside volunteers in Zambia to renovate a clinic that specializes in treating cervical cancer. Like other former presidents, Bush uses his fame to draw attention to issues, but says he prefers not to call attention to his own work. "I hope you don't see much of it, because I don't want to be in the news," said Bush as he took a break from painting. "In other words, I believe that quiet service is the best kind of service."
Former presidents have the ability to harness the public's attention and goodwill. President Barack Obama tapped Bush and former president Bill Clinton to lead a fundraising effort in 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti. Read more ..
America's Darkest Edge
|Daniel Fowler||January 17th 2013|
American Sociological Association
Psychiatric disorders are prevalent among current and former inmates of correctional institutions, but what has been less clear is whether incarceration causes these disorders or, alternatively, whether inmates have these problems before they enter prison. A study co-authored by Jason Schnittker, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, shows that many of the most common psychiatric disorders found among former inmates, including impulse control disorders, emerge in childhood and adolescence and, therefore, predate incarceration. Yet, incarceration seems to lead to some mood related psychiatric disorders, such as major depression, which have important implications for what happens to inmates after their release.
Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which took place between 2001 and 2003, the researchers examined the relationship between incarceration and psychiatric disorders after statistically adjusting for influences that might affect both, including an impoverished childhood background. Read more ..
America on Edge
|Rosanne Skirble||January 16th 2013|
Older adults who've spoken two languages since childhood have a distinct cognitive edge over their monolingual peers, according to a new study.
Previous studies have shown bilingualism seems to favor the development of heightened mental skills. The new research, published in Neuroscience, provides evidence of that cognitive advantage among older, bilingual adults.
Subjects were divided into three groups: bilingual seniors, monolingual seniors and younger adults and instructed to sort colors and shapes in a series of simple cognitive exercises. The researchers used a brain imaging technique to compare how well the subjects switched between mental tasks.
Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and lead author of the study, found the results showed different patterns of brain activity in the frontal part of the brain associated with the tasks.
“We found that seniors who are bilingual are able to activate their brain with a magnitude closer to young subjects," Gold says. "So they do not need to expend as much effort, and yet they still out-perform their monolingual peers, suggesting that they use their brain more efficiently.” Read more ..
America's Darkest Edge
|Susan Ferriss||January 16th 2013|
The Center for Public Integrity
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is voicing concern over the push to put armed police or guards into American schools following the Newtown school massacre of 20 first-graders and six staff last December. On Tuesday, the Reno, Nev.-based group posted an excerpt of a letter sent to Vice President Biden, who has been leading a month-long effort to gather ideas for more effective gun restrictions and improved school safety. The White House is reportedly poised to reveal some recommendations Wednesday at a midday press conference. In its letter to Biden, the NCJFCJ expressed strong misgivings about the prospect of communities putting armed guards in schools – which could become even more likely if federal dollars are offered to help schools make that choice.
Published reports indicated Biden’s task force was considering such a plan, which has also been pushed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, a liberal Democrat from California. In addition, the National Rifle Association has been vocal in its backing of armed security in the nation’s schools. Read more ..
Saudi Arabia on Edge
|Simon Henderson||January 15th 2013|
The Eastern Province is the largest of Saudi Arabia's thirteen administrative areas and arguably the most crucial. It contains most of the kingdom's oil reserves -- the largest in the world -- as well as most of its estimated two million Shiites, who form a local majority. Additionally, it is the closest province to Iran (which lies just across the Persian Gulf) and the only one that borders the kingdom's fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member states, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.
The outgoing governor, Prince Muhammad bin Fahd, supposedly resigned "upon his own request," but the immediate speculation is that Riyadh wants a surer pair of hands to manage burgeoning Shiite protests. Local youths have been regularly demonstrating in towns near the kingdom's oil export facilities, resulting in occasional armed clashes with local security forces. Riyadh is no doubt worried about potential contagion from the near-daily Shiite protests in neighboring Bahrain, which is connected to the Saudi mainland by a causeway. Read more ..
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