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The Drug Wars

U.S. and Mexican Media Fearful of Covering Border Violence

March 22nd 2013

Mexico militia

Southwest border violence has reached such a dangerous boiling point that both Mexican and American journalists forsaken their reporting about the heinous crimes due to their legitimate fear that the drug cartels will retaliate against them and their families, according to a public-interest, watchdog group on Wednesday.

This fear of retaliation by reporters is leading to a situation in which Americans will be kept in the dark about the crisis along the porous and increasingly dangerous Mexican border since the Obama administration is telling Americans the border with Mexico is becoming more peaceful, according to narco-terrorism expert and drug enforcement official Donald Kubisty.

Upon receiving the latest homicide statistics that revealed over 70,000 Mexicans were killed since 2006, Mexico's new leader, President Enrique Pena Nieto, announced on Mexican television that a brand new national police agency will be fully deployed by December 2013 and will be comprised of at least 10,000 officers when they kickoff law enforcement operations. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Women Soldiers Pay Price on Front Lines

March 21st 2013

Afghanistan us army dustoff

The Pentagon's recent decision to eliminate rules that exclude women from direct combat roles was merely symbolic for many women  soldiers - who have already been in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When it comes to fighting on the front lines, Army Staff Sergeant Cassandra Partee has been there and done that.  Her first deployment was to Iraq as part of an artillery unit eight years ago.

"We would go out on patrols and just conduct raids and things of that nature," she said. On her second deployment to Iraq, she was wounded in action.

"I [in] one incident was hit by improvised explosive device that was attached to a guard rail," she explained. Partee suffered shrapnel wounds to her face and back. Since her last deployment, she has survived cancer and given birth to two babies. Read more ..

The Edge of Medicine

Surgery Without Scars or Scalpels

March 20th 2013

Baby Boomer

Surgery without scalpels and scars? It’s not science fiction. Israel’s InSightec is in the midst of transforming the operating room with its ExAblate MRI-guided high-intensity ultrasound---a new ultrasound technology that enables surgeons to destroy tumors and cysts without incisions.

The ExAblate O.R. system uses interchangeable “cradles” set on a regular MRI treatment table. The tool allows doctors to destroy targets, such as tumors and uterine fibroid cysts, deep inside the body without incisions. The alert patient is monitored in real time, and changes in treatment parameters can be made instantly. While the ExAblate system garners kudos – The Wall Street Journal’s Technology Innovation Award, the European Union’s Information Society Technologies grand prize, TIME magazine’s list of 50 best inventions of 2011 – InSightec has been gaining regulatory approvals, moving ahead with clinical trials and closing a $30.9 million financing round. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Jerusalem Passport Issued Debated in Court as Obama Arrives in Israel

March 20th 2013

Western Wall - Wailing Wall Jerusalem

On Tuesday the law firm of Lewin & Lewin presented oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on behalf of its 10-year-old client, Menachem Zivotofsky, in the high profile case of Menachem Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State (No. 07-5347). At issue in the case is the right of a Jerusalem-born American citizen to self-identify as born in “Israel” on his or her U.S. passport and birth certificate. 


In 2002, Congress passed a law that directed the Secretary of State to record the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem as “Israel” on the U.S. passport and birth certificate of those who so request. Since the bill’s enactment, the Executive Branch has refused to enforce the law, claiming that to do so would infringe on the President’s authority to “recognize foreign sovereigns.” Zivotofsky was born in October 2002 in Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. His parents requested that, pursuant to the statute, his place of birth be listed as “Israel.” The State Department refused and listed his place of birth as “Jerusalem.”  Zivotofsky sued in September 2003 to compel the State Department to comply with the law.


Tuesday marked the third time in the case’s 10-year history that Lewin presented arguments in the case before the Court of Appeals.  Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the D.C. Circuit was obliged to review the case on the merits, rejecting the government’s argument that the case raised a “political question” that the courts were not authorized to address. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

A New Reality in U.S.-Israeli Relations

March 19th 2013

Obama pointing finger at Netanyahu

U.S. President Barack Obama is making his first visit to Israel as president. The visit comes in the wake of his re-election and inauguration to a second term and the formation of a new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Normally, summits between Israel and the United States are filled with foreign policy issues on both sides, and there will be many discussed at this meeting, including Iran, Syria and Egypt. But this summit takes place in an interesting climate, because both the Americans and Israelis are less interested in foreign and security matters than they are in their respective domestic issues.

In the United States, the political crisis over the federal budget and the struggle to grow the economy and reduce unemployment has dominated the president's and the country's attention. The Israeli elections turned on domestic issues, ranging from whether the ultra-Orthodox would be required to serve in Israel Defense Forces, as other citizens are, to a growing controversy over economic inequality in Israel. Read more ..

The Musical Edge

Women Kept Guitars Strumming During WWII

March 19th 2013

Itamar Erez

 As American men went off to war during World War II, women stepped in to fill the jobs they left behind, keeping the factories and shipyards running, and the economy humming.

While most were praised for their patriotism, one unheralded group of women worked in the shadows building Gibson guitars. The maker of the famous instrument never confirmed that women crafted its guitars during the war, and in an official company history, even reported it stopped producing instruments for those years.

Almost 70 years later, author and guitar aficionado John Thomas is finally telling their story. He was intrigued by a wartime photo taken at the Gibson guitar factory in Michigan.  The 75 people in the black-and-white staff portrait are nearly all women. Irene Stearns, now age 90, spent several of the war years working at the factory.
Women Kept Gibson Guitar Playing During WWII

The Edge of Sport

Elite Atheletes Also Excel at Some Cognitive Tasks

March 18th 2013

female sprinter

New research suggests that elite athletes – Olympic medalists in volleyball, for example – perform better than the rest of us in yet another way. These athletes excel not only in their sport of choice but also in how fast their brains take in and respond to new information – cognitive abilities that are important on and off the court.

The study, of 87 top-ranked Brazilian volleyball players (some of them medalists in the Beijing and London Olympics) and 67 of their nonathletic contemporaries, also found that being an athlete minimizes the performance differences that normally occur between women and men. Female athletes, the researchers found, were more like their male peers in the speed of their mental calculations and reaction times, while nonathletic females performed the same tasks more slowly than their male counterparts.

“I think we have learned that athletes are different from us in some ways,” said University of Illinois psychology professor and Beckman Institute director Arthur Kramer, who led the study with graduate student Heloisa Alves.

“We found that athletes were generally able to inhibit behavior, to stop quickly when they had to, which is very important in sport and in daily life, “ Kramer said. “They were also able to activate, to pick up information from a glance and to switch between tasks more quickly than nonathletes. I would say these were modest differences, but they were interesting differences nonetheless.” Read more ..

The Toxic Edge

Red Tide Blooms Threaten Gulf of Oman, Shut Down Kalba Desalinization Plants

March 17th 2013

Red Tide-Dead-Fish

The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Environment and Water indicates that red tide may be present in the waters of the Gulf  of Oman. As a precautionary measure, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) shut down some desalinization plants in Kalba.

Red tide is caused by a population explosion in certain species of plankton. The poison these microorganisms produce is usually reddish or brown in color and is toxic to the nervous system of fish and many other vertebrates. Red tide outbreaks can cause large fish die-offs and impact other animals. A red tide in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico recently killed at least 174 endangered Florida Manatees by weakening their muscles so they could no longer lift their heads to breath. Red tide does not necessarily kill shrimp and other shellfish, but its toxin is concentrated in these animals and can be passed on to humans who consume them. Read more ..

China Rising

Chinese Charisma to the Rescue?

March 15th 2013

Xi Jinping

In a troubled world, the obstacles to continued growth and stability in Communist China are staggering compared to the crises of the Euro and Sequestration. Most foreign observers are either willfully blind to the growing evidence or facing a possible period of worldwide economic decline, they still hope growth in China (and perhaps India) will be the salvation. It won't.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, Hong Kong -- and Taiwan -- there is a theory the new Fifth Generation of leadership just formally taking the helm will steer China toward reform and continued spectacular growth. It revolves around what many view as the charismatic personality of Pres. Xi Jinping, the new No. 1 in Beijing.
Xi went on something close to the baby-kissing tour of an American politician leading up to the November meeting of the National People's Congress and his formal installation March 5. It's tapered off a bit now. But the media are still full of stories about how he has a jocular, down-to-earth style that fascinates, and there are official photographs to prove it with adoring, smiling faces surrounding him.

Inside the Catholic Church

Did Pope Francis Collaborate with Argentine Junta

March 15th 2013

Pope Francis1 March 2013

James P. Brennan, a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside who is currently working on on a research project about the "Dirty War," cautioned against rushing to judgments about the new pope's record with the military junta. "[Journalist Horacio Verbitsky] is the sole source of [the] accusation [about concealing prisoners from human rights officials], which has yet to be verified by other credible sources such as human rights organizations in Argentina."

In other developments, Sam Ferguson, a visiting fellow at the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, has an article in The New Republic in which he summarizes the 2010 testimony of then-Cardinal Bergoglio over the allegations he collaborated with the Argentine military junta. Ferguson does not draw any conclusions, noting both that some of Bergoglio's answers under examination were inconsistent (he claimed Yorio never blamed him for his incarceration, but Yorio had been on the record as holding Bergoglio responsible for years) but that Nobel Peace Prize winner and victim of the regime Adolfo Perez Esquivel told the BBC Bergoglio "was not an accomplice of the dictatorship" and Robert Cox, former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald who was forced into exile in 1979 for reporting on disappeared persons,  said that "as much as he could, behind the scenes." Read more ..

After 911

New World Trade Center Rises From The Ashes

March 14th 2013

Twin Towers 9/11

The day the Twin Towers fell, then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared that they would rise again. "We will rebuild," Giuliani proclaimed after the terrorist attacks that toppled the iconic World Trade Center skyscrapers on September 11, 2001. "We're going to come out of this stronger than before -- politically stronger, economically stronger. The skyline will be made whole again."

More than a decade later, the new One World Trade Center, or Freedom Tower, is nearly complete. The colossal building already dwarfs the massive skyscrapers that make up Manhattan's skyline, and will soon be crowned with a spire that will make it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

The final pieces of the 124-meter spire are about to be shipped to the World Trade Center site. There they will sit until the weather is good enough -- with little to no wind -- for them to be lifted into place. Upon completion the One World Trade Center will stand at a symbolic 1,776 feet (541 meters) -- a nod to the year the United States of America declared independence from England. Read more ..

Business Edge

Corporate CEOs Who are Close to Executives are Prone to Fraud

March 13th 2013

Click to select Image

Corporate fraud dominates financial news, yet few studies have looked at whether chief executive officers who appoint their own top lieutenants are more inclined to act illegally, according to University of Michigan researchers.

U-M business professor E. Han Kim and law school professor Vikramaditya Khanna found that the more top executives the CEO appointed, the higher the probability of fraud. Also, that fraud has a lower likelihood of detection.

"CEOs who commit fraud don't act alone," said Kim, the Everett E. Berg Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School. "We wanted to focus on white collar crime and the soft influence CEOs have over their top executives. We found the more closely connected they are, the easier it is to bypass controls." Read more ..

The Way We Are

Ice Quakes, Fur Hats, And Black Toenails: Running Across Lake Baikal

March 13th 2013

Olympic Runners

It’s 9 a.m. on a winter’s morning in the resort village of Listvyanka and about 140 runners clad in balaclavas, leggings, gaiters, sunglasses, and grip-shod trainers are huddled in buses waiting to run, skid, and hobble a marathon across Siberia’s frozen Lake Baikal. Over 100 are running the full distance -- 42.2 kilometers across the deepest lake on the planet from the western shore in Irkutsk Oblast to the Buddhist Republic of Buryatia on the far side. Half marathoners stop after 21 kilometers about 1.5 kilometers above the lakebed.

At first runners get out to take photos, but hop back into the warmth of the bus to shelter from the minus 11 degree Celsius cold. The bus is a bit too hot as well and everyone is keen to get started. We’re being held longer than expected before the race: organizers are apparently checking the volatility of kilometer-long cracks that periodically erupt through the icy surface due to underwater currents, the changing seasons, and intense seismic activity. The lake itself is situated on a geological rift and was created by earthquakes millions of years ago. It is one of the most ancient lakes in the world, protected by UNESCO, and holds about one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. Read more ..

Inside Washington

Donald Ritchie--The Senate's Expert on the Senate

March 12th 2013

capitol building night #2

Shortly after the Watergate scandal that shook the nation between 1972 and 1974, a letter was written that reminded majority and minority leaders in Congress of the importance of preserving the records of the legislative branch.

The power behind Arthur M. Schlesinger’s words inspired the creation of a new office. Working together, Democratic and Republican leaders established the Senate Historical Office in 1975.  The Historical Office is currently headed by Dr. Donald Ritchie.

Ritchie, a native of Queens, N.Y., was educated at the City College of New York and the University of Maryland. While working towards his graduate degree at Maryland, the U.S. government dropped graduate education as a deferment to serve in Vietnam.  As a result, he was drafted and inducted into the Marine Corps in June 1969 and was stationed at Pearl Harbor. While at Hawaii, Ritchie continued his education, taking courses at the University of Hawaii.  Two years later he was able to return to Maryland and finish his graduate studies.  He received his doctorate in 1975. Read more ..

Iraq on Edge

Iraq's Budget Threat Against the Kurds

March 12th 2013

Iraqi Forces

On March 7, the Iraqi parliament passed its annual budget law by a wafer-thin majority of 168 votes, just five seats over the threshold needed to pass legislation in the 325-seat Council of Representatives. After months of delay, the budget was finally rammed through the ratification process by a fleeting alignment of the main Shiite political blocs and defectors from the predominantly Sunni Arab and secular Iraqiyah list. Kurdish parties were sidelined, resulting in the passage of post-Saddam Iraq's most anti-Kurdish budget. The episode has shown that majority rule in today's fragile Iraq has the potential to be ugly and dangerous.

Since 2003, successive Iraqi governments have (with U.S. backing) paid at least lip service to the idea of a unity government and national consensus. Although the country's political system allows for clear winners and losers, conventional wisdom holds that Iraq is too fragile to risk excluding any sizeable sectarian, ethnic, or political faction from government. Initially, such exclusions were exceptional and generally voluntary, such as cabinet boycotts and resignations by ministers from Iraqiyah and Muqtada al-Sadr's blocs. Since 2010, Baghdad has gradually inched toward a government within a government, with all key institutions controlled by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But there was still one area where the government generally needed to foster a modicum of national consensus: the annual budget ratification vote in parliament. Read more ..

Inside Washington

Matthew Wasniewski's Front Row Seat to History

March 11th 2013


Most historians, if asked to describe their dream job, would list among its main perks plenty of time for research, the ability to work closely with other historians in the field, and, depending on their level of extroversion, the chance to interact directly with the public. Fortunately for any historians with an interest in American political history, that job does exist, under the title of Historian for the United States House of Representatives. Unfortunately, it has already been filled by Dr. Matthew Wasniewski, and he has no plans of leaving it any time soon.

Wasniewski was appointed to the position in 2010, in a rare show of cooperation between then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader John Boehner. Previously, he had served as the historian for the Office of History and Preservation, which fell under the domain of the House Clerk, and these two positions were combined upon his appointment to House Historian. Read more ..

Arab Spring Brewing

Jordanians Demand Reform

March 11th 2013

Jordanian Protestor

Around a thousand Islamists demonstrated in Jordan's capital on Friday marking the first protest since the January 23 elections. Protesters at the Muslim Brotherhood-organized rally, recited anti-government slogans and called for the government to step down.

"Reform is what is required. Justice and freedom and not these sham elections and deputies," chanted the demonstrators as they walked from the Husseini mosque to downtown Amman. With many angered by corruption, most called for reforms and limits on the king's power, not for the U.S.-backed monarch to be overthrown. The Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, demanded changes to the electoral law saying it results in unfair parliamentary representation. Although two-thirds of Jordanians live in cities where the Muslim Brotherhood has a strong presence, the urban areas are allocated less than a third of the seats in Parliament. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Secretary Kerry Brings His Own Style to the State Department

March 11th 2013

John Kerry

John Kerry has now wrapped up his first trip abroad as Secretary of State. Already, his diplomatic style and approach seem to differ from those of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton. From the start, John Kerry said he knew he had "big heels to fill" replacing Hillary Clinton. She said his service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made him the right choice.
"He has a view of the world that he has acted on, first as that young returning veteran from Vietnam who appeared before this committee, through the time that he served with such distinction as its chairman."

On his first trip as secretary of state, this son of a foreign service family made clear his commitment to the men and women who carry out U.S. policy abroad. "I have to tell you that the job you are engaged in is one of the greatest jobs in the world, and I am now privileged to share that journey with you."

So how will John Kerry's time as Washington's top diplomat differ from Hillary Clinton's? Read more ..

Ancient Days

Ancient Egyptian Royal Officials Died Young

March 10th 2013

Click to select Image

The ancient Egyptians did not live in such good conditions and were not surrounded by such opulence as was thought up to now, but, rather, suffered from hunger and malnutrition, a whole range of infectious diseases and an extremely high infant mortality rate. Furthermore, the governors of Aswan, on the border with Sudan, as well as their families, interbred with the black peoples of the neighbouring country.

These are some of the conclusions drawn from the Qubbet el-Hawa research project, carried out by the University of Jaen, in which anthropologists from the University of Granada have participated, as well as the Supreme Council of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

It involves excavating tomb no. 33 of the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis, right opposite the modern-day city of Aswan, about 1000 km. south of Cairo. The tomb was constructed during the 12th Dynasty (1939-1760 BC), to house the corpse of one of the region of Aswan’s leading dignitaries, whose identity is still unknown. Read more ..

The Edge of Climate Change

Earth's Northern Hemisphere Shows Temperature Drop and Change in Seasonality

March 10th 2013


An international team of 21 authors from 17 institutions in seven countries has just published a study in the journal Natural Climate Change showing that, as the cover of snow and ice in the northern latitudes has diminished in recent years, the temperature over the northern land mass has increased at different rates during the four seasons, causing a reduction in temperature and vegetation seasonality in this area.

In other words, the temperature and vegetation at northern latitudes increasingly resembles those found several degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 30 years ago. The study, titled "Temperature and vegetation seasonality diminishment over northern lands" (DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1836), can be downloaded here: http://dx.doi.org/.

The NASA-funded study, based on newly improved ground and satellite data sets, examines critically the relationship between changes in temperature and vegetation productivity in northern latitudes. Read more ..

Iran on Edge

Iran Looks To Car Exports To Power It Through Sanctions

March 10th 2013

Ahmadinejad with car

Western sanctions may be sapping Iran's economic strength, but Tehran believes it still has an ace to play: its automotive industry, the country's second-biggest export earner after oil and gas. As Iran starts its new fiscal year this month, it views automotive and other industrial exports as its best hope for making up some of the billions of dollars Tehran loses from sanctions that target its international oil sales.

Edward Bell, an Iran expert at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, says finding alternative income is a priority for Tehran. "This year's budget shows that even the Iranian authorities themselves are realizing the impact that U.S. and EU sanctions have had on the oil and gas sector, so the Iranian economy can't rely on that as its bread and butter in terms of export capacity," Bell says. "So the government would be interested in prioritizing the export capacity of a lot of the other sectors in Iran." Read more ..

America on Edge

Partner Abuse Counseling for Women Insufficient

March 9th 2013

Abused woman

Only about one in five central Pennsylvania women who have experienced intimate partner violence is asked or counseled by a health care provider about abuse, according to Penn State medicine and public health science researchers. Overall, approximately only one in nine women has received preventive counseling about violence and safety.

"Our research shows that we (as a healthcare community) haven't been doing a good job of identifying and counseling about intimate partner violence," said Jennifer S. McCall-Hosenfeld, primary care physician. Of those women who participated in the Central Pennsylvania Women's Health Study, she said, "Only 20 percent who had been exposed to intimate partner violence received safety and violence counseling in the two years following the abuse, and only 11 percent of all women had discussed violence and safety at home with a health care provider." Read more ..

The Edge of Sports

Texas Rodeo Seeks to Minimize Injuries in Dangerous Sport

March 8th 2013


Rodeo, which features bull riding, steer wrestling and bucking bronco rides, is considered one of the world's most dangerous sports. The bigger, better organized events, though,  tend to have fewer casualties among humans and animals.

At the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the biggest event of its kind in the world, safety is a chief concern. During the three-week rodeo, both riders and animals can count on expert medical teams. The humans find care at this clinic inside the stadium. The medical team includes several doctors as well as licensed medical therapists, massage therapists, athletic trainers and radiology technicians - all under the direction of Dr. Kelly Larkin. Read more ..

Mideast on Edge

Invasion of the Locusts

March 7th 2013


A locust swarm of biblical proportions has descended on southern Israel just weeks before the Passover holiday.

Israeli officials used pesticide in the early morning hours Wednesday in an attempt to kill millions of locusts that had landed in southern Israel Tuesday night.

Ministry of Agriculture planes sprayed a four-mile area in the hopes of killing the flying insects before the morning sun warmed their bodies enough to fly once again.

“It’s like an insect cemetery down here,” Omri Eytana, a farmer from Moshav Kmehin the Nitzana area, told Army Radio a little after 10. “There are [only] hundreds of locusts in the air, and they’re still spraying.” He said his tomato crops were unharmed, because they are protected under nylons covers. Potato crops in the area were badly damaged, however, he said. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Congress Hears Testimony on Growing Threat of Anti-Semitism

March 6th 2013

Congressman christopher Smith

“When we fight anti-Semitism it is not only a matter of justice for Jewish fellow-citizens, but also of standing up for Christianity, and for Islam, and for the possibility of decent living itself,” said U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.) at a recent hearing he convened in Washington D.C. in which witnesses warned about resurgent anti-Semitism across the world and the dangers it poses for all democratic societies and people of faith.

Congressman Smith, who has co-chaired the House Bi-Partisan Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism for a number of years, has previously authored legislation to create a State Department office to fight anti-Semitism specifically. At the February 27 meeting, Congressman Smith and colleagues heard testimony from rabbis and human rights experts from various parts of the globe. Read more ..

Animals on Edge

Widespread Trafficking of Great Apes

March 6th 2013


It’s estimated at least three-thousand great apes are illegally seized and sold every year. For every ape that is captured alive, many others are slaughtered. A new report Tuesday says law enforcement is undermanned and too poorly equipped to stop it

The report – Stolen Apes – was released in Thailand at the 16th meeting of CITES -- formally known as the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Doug Cress, coordinator of the Great Apes Survival Partnership, or GRASP, said the report is, what’s called, a rapid response assessment.

“We were aware that there were a great number of chimpanzees, for instance, going out of Guinea into China --that there were a great number of orangutans moving out of Indonesia into Thailand. And yet we had no baseline data to really tell us how bad this problem was. And everybody who works in conservation of great apes had this sense of something terrible was happening, but we didn’t have any numbers to tell the story.” Read more ..

Afghanistan on Edge

Afghan Region Makes Name For Drug Mules, Tragedy

March 5th 2013

Afgan Drug Seizure

Residents of this remote district of northeast Afghanistan are finding that desperate times call for desperate measures.

With few options to make an honest living, many locals in the Kalafgan district of Takhar Province are taking jobs as drug mules for local drug cartels. As couriers, locals smuggle packages of illicit narcotics to neighboring Tajikistan and Iran. The work is high-risk and often rewarded with prison or even death.

Those dangers hit home recently as locals buried the bodies of 10 men from Kalafgan who were hanged in Iran, reportedly for drug smuggling. Residents say that in the past six months they have buried 80 villagers who were executed in Iran. As many as 400 other residents, locals say, are serving lengthy jail sentences in the Islamic republic. Read more ..

A Legacy of Warfare

Cluster Munitions Have Prolonged Impact

March 4th 2013

Cluster Bomb

Cluster munitions have been a part of warfare since their invention more than 60 years ago. Activists blame them for the deaths of thousands of civilians in nearly 40 countries or territories.

Mohamed is 13 years old.  Two years ago, he played with a shiny metal object he found outside his home in Benghazi, Libya.  He didn't know it was a cluster munition until it exploded.

Cluster munitions release smaller explosives across a wide area. The bomblets can linger, causing death or injury long after a conflict ends. "Children are really, really often affected," said Antony Duttine. He is a rehabilitation adviser with Handicap International, an independent organization aiding the disabled in more than 60 countries. Read more ..

The Edge of Healthcare

Hearing Loss For Millions Can Be Prevented

March 3rd 2013

Hearing Test

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports about half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented.  To mark International Ear Care Day, which falls on March 3, WHO says there is hope of improvement for many of the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who suffer from hearing loss.

New global WHO estimates indicate more than 360 million people, or more than five percent of the world's population have disabling hearing loss. The report says more people face losing their hearing as they age. It notes one in three people over the age of 65 years - a total of 165 million people worldwide - is hard of hearing. But this disability is not restricted to the old. Dr. Shelly Chadha of WHO’s Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness, says around 32 million children under age 15 are affected by hearing loss. Read more ..

The Edge of Archaeology

New Dinosaur Species Was Crocodile Snack

March 2nd 2013

Nyasasaurus Parringtoni

Scientists in Utah have uncovered evidence of a new species of plant-eating dinosaur that used to be a popular snack for prehistoric crocodiles.

Clint Boyd, of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, discovered evidence of the new species in a collection of small bits of fossil bones found in the western state.

While examining the tiny bones for skull fragments with teeth in them, he found a bone with what looked like enamel in it, only it wasn't a piece of a skull; it was the end of a femur. “A thigh bone, which actually has a crocodile tooth stuck in it and broken off," Boyd says. "And then, as we started looking on the other bones, we started finding marks that are known to be diagnostic for crocodilian feeding traits.” Read more ..

Kenya on Edge

Crowd Sourcing Project Aims to Keep Kenyan Polls Credible

March 1st 2013

Computer-User Kenya

Ushahidi is a crowd sourcing company that originated during Kenya’s 2007 and 2008 post-election violence. Its platform allows users to submit information to a central processing point in crisis situations.  It could also help citizens protect their votes in Kenya’s elections on Monday.  Ushahidi has launched the Uchaguzi elections project. 

In 2008, as post-election violence was raging in Kenya, a group of volunteers came up with an idea to map incidents of violence across the country.  Citizen journalists could use any mobile device to send information to a volunteer technical team responsible for mapping those data.  Ushahidi was born.

Ushahidi’s program director Daudi Were explains. “At that time, we noticed a lot of the things we were seeing around us were either under-reported or completely unreported by mainstream media and other official reporting agencies.  So we thought that we’d build a tool that would allow anybody with whatever technology they had available to them to get that information to us," he said. "And we would curate it and visualize it on a map so we could see what was happening and where it was happening.” Read more ..

The New Egypt

Cairo Court Rejects Request to Nullify Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty

February 28th 2013

Egypt-Israel Border

The Cairo Administrative Court ruled Tuesday that it has no jurisdiction over a lawsuit demanding the cancellation of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. According to the Egypt Independent, the court said the issue involves state sovereignty, which is under the president’s purview.

The plaintiffs had argued that Egypt should void its peace deal over alleged ongoing destruction of Islamic holy sites and the country’s refusal to stop settlement building in disputed territories, which they said is a violation of United Nations conventions and the treaty itself. The court handed out the same ruling in a similar case last October.

The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed in 1979 between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. It was maintained during President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, but since the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood it has been repeatedly called into question. Read more ..

Inside Catholicism

Pope Gives Final Audience

February 27th 2013

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI bid his public farewell in front of tens of thousands of people on St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, the day before his resignation takes effect. The first pope to resign in nearly 600 years said goodbye.

The faithful and the curious pressed forward for a look and a wave, as the 85-year-old pope rode through the square in his open vehicle for the final time. Later, he told the crowd, and a worldwide television audience, he has been through some “not easy” moments.

Apparently referring to his decision to resign, Pope Benedict said “to love the Church also means having the courage to take difficult decisions.” He urged all Catholics to always put the good of the Church before their own desires. The pope has struggled to deal with the scandal of sexual abuse by priests, the leak of thousands of embarrassing documents and a decline of the faith in Europe - all issues his successor will have to address.

​​One person at the audience with a particular interest in the Church's future was Rev. Thomas Rosica, the director of a Catholic television network in Canada. "Pope John Paul II taught us the profound lesson of his papacy, especially in the final years, about suffering and dying. Pope Benedict has taught us another lesson. He's taught us about surrender. We don't cling to power and authority and office and privilege, when our energies are no longer there," said Rosica.

Other Catholics in the large crowd also were sympathetic to the pope's decision, and were joining the speculation about whether his successor might for the first time come from outside Europe. Rosica said the cardinals who will elect the next pope are aware of all that, but are not as focused on the headlines as many observers are. Read more ..

The Edge of Space

Russian Meteor Fireball Largest Ever Detected

February 27th 2013

Meteor Russia

Infrasonic waves from the meteor that broke up over Russia’s Ural mountains last week were the largest ever recorded by the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System. Infrasound is low frequency sound with a range of less than 10 Hz. The blast was detected by 17 infrasound stations in the CTBTO’s network, which tracks atomic blasts across the planet.  The furthest station to record the sub-audible sound was 15,000km away in Antarctica.

The origin of the low frequency sound waves from the blast was estimated at 03:22 GMT on 15 February 2013.  People cannot hear the low frequency waves that were emitted but they were recorded by the CTBTO’s network of sensors as they travelled across continents. “We saw straight away that the event would be huge, in the same order as the Sulawesi event from 2009. The observations are some of the largest that CTBTO’s infrasound stations have detected,” CTBTO acoustic scientist, Pierrick Mialle said. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Hizbullah and the Assassination of the Iranian General in Syria

February 26th 2013

Hezbollah rally

Amid growing distress in both its domestic and foreign spheres, in mid-February 2003, Hizbullah marked the fifth anniversary of the death of its former military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, as part of “Martyrs Day,” which is devoted to memory of the movement’s fighters who were killed in battle with Israel. This year the event was crowned with the slogan: “On the way to Palestine.” The emphasis was on Hizbullah’s, and particularly Mughniyeh’s, contribution to boosting the military capabilities of the Palestinian resistance, and on Palestinian achievements in the struggle against Israel. This year, too, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered the main address from his hiding place, which was broadcast on television. Read more ..

The Edge of Health

Majority of Missouri Tan Salons Allow Pre-Teens

February 25th 2013


A survey of tanning salon operators in Missouri shows that 65 percent would allow children as young as 10 to 12 years old to use tanning beds. That's despite evidence that any tanning bed use increases the risk of all skin cancers, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, later in life.

The survey, part of a study led by dermatologists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, also found that many tanning salon employees across the state said indoor tanning had no associated risks or would prevent future sunburns – both false claims, according to the study's authors.

Missouri is one of 17 states that has no minimum age restrictions on tanning bed use and does not require parental consent.

"This should serve as a wake-up call for parents in Missouri and other states that don't regulate tanning beds," says study co-author Lynn Cornelius, MD, chief of the Division of Dermatology and the Winfred A. and Emma R. Showman Professor in Dermatology at Washington University. "With the absence of logical age restrictions, we are failing to protect our children, who are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer when exposed to the high-intensity levels of ultraviolet light that can be received in a tanning bed." The findings appear online Feb. 25 in Pediatrics. Read more ..

The Coal Problem

As EPA Delays New Coal Ash Rules, Residents Turn to the Courts

February 25th 2013

Coal ash

Sabrina Mislevy is tired of the odors, the way they “hit” her as she drives by the blue-tinted lake, the way they burn her nose. Like many of her neighbors, Mislevy has grown weary of living near the nation’s largest coal ash pond, Little Blue Run, which straddles the Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio state lines.

In Little Blue Run and beyond, coal ash, waste from the production of electricity, has fouled water supplies and endangered public health. “We want action,” said Mislevy, of Georgetown, Pa., explaining why she has joined some 200 other area residents in launching legal challenges against FirstEnergy Corp., the owner of Little Blue Run.

Her community is just one across the country pursuing legal challenges against coal-ash ponds, landfills and pits — a grassroots onslaught stoked, in part, by slow regulatory action by the Environmental Protection Agency. Read more ..

The Congo on Edge

African Leaders Sign DRC Peace Deal

February 24th 2013

Congo M23 Rebels

Eleven African countries have signed a peace deal aimed at ending decades of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The agreement was signed on Sunday at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The 11 signing countries are from the Great Lakes region and Southern Africa.

The Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region will likely lead to deploying an intervention brigade in the DRC. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says the agreement is composed of two mechanisms:

“First of all, commitment by the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo to implement all what we expect the DRC government and people would do, including security sector reform as well as capacity building and closely working with the leaders of the neighboring countries," said Ban. "And another responsibility is to be ensured by the signing parties of the neighboring countries together with the regional organization.” Read more ..

Broken Government

Obama Falters in Public Relations Push on Budget Sequester

February 23rd 2013

Obama serious

Congressional Republicans are struggling to overcome President Obama’s bully pulpit advantage in the public relations battle over the sequester. Some Republicans say the party was in a weak position as Obama repeatedly blamed the GOP this week for the spending cuts while their members were scattered around the country.

“It is very clear that the president is winning the message war on the sequester,” said Ron Bonjean, a onetime spokesman for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). “When House Republicans return from recess they will have a chance to counteract the message.” Obama, feeling he has the upper hand, is looking to press his case further before the $85 billion in automatic cuts take effect on Friday. He is scheduled to head on Tuesday to Hampton Roads, an area of Virginia filled with defense installations, to rail against the cuts and the 800,000 civilian furloughs that they would bring to the Pentagon. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Social Media for Social Good: Emily Giffin's Pay It Forward Program

February 22nd 2013

Facebook page

It all started with one simple post. Last August, New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin offered to give away two copies of her new book, Where We Belong, on Facebook to people who could not afford the $15 cost. "I've been there!" she said, recalling her "$5 ATM withdrawals during law school." So she asked fans to share their stories so she could decide who deserved to get a copy.

But before Giffin could pick the winners, a Facebook fan messaged her saying that she would also like to buy a book for someone. "Blown away by the message," Emily shared it with her Facebook community and nearly thirty more fans instantly emailed her, offering to buy books for someone who couldn't afford a copy.

Fast-forward just a few short hours and the Pay It Forward (PIF) program was born. "Sad to have dollars come between you and a good read!" said Emily. Read more ..

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