Main

December 8, 2007

Magna Carta worth $20 Million to $30 Million

One of 17 copies of the Magna Cart will go up for sale December 18 at Sotheby's, CNN reported.

This copy is signed by Kind Edward I in 1297 and is expected to fetch &20 million to $30 million when sold, Dave Redden, the Vice Chairman of Sotheby's said.

The Magna Carta was the document given to King John by English barons in 1215 that changed the relationship of the monarchy with the colonies.

The document is also a declaration of human rights that affects the human rights principles today.

The 1297 version of the Magna Carta became the operative version of the document, Redden said.

Today, its impact is felt by perhaps a third of the world's people, including all of North America, India, Pakistan, much of Africa, Australia and other areas that made up the British Commonwealth.he said in CNN online.

Only two copies exist of the Magna Carta outside of Britain and include the one that Sotheby's is selling and one in Australia.

One copy was lent to the United States by Britain in 1976 for the bicentennial celebration, but was not offered as a permanent gift.

The document was written in medieval Latin on sheepskin and is still legible after 710 years.

November 30, 2007

Change in Australian Local Policies

In Australia after a recent election, the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, of the labor party, announced Thursday that he will make a formal apology to the Aboriginal Australians after he is sworn into office.

A decade ago an inquiry found that the removal of indigenous children from the families was genocide, which is what Rudd is apologizing for.

Among other topics Rudd will cover after being sworn in, is investigating old education policies and supporting the repeal of WorkChoices.

Indigenous leaders welcome the formal apology, the Age said, but said the statement should include a commitment to improve health and living standards of the Aborigines.

The apology is important, the new co-chairman of Reconciliation Australia, Mick Dodson, said, but it is only part of the reconciliation process.

Dodson plans to propose a national plan that would address health, education, housing, and employment concerns.

The Department of the Prime MInister said there is a plan to buy computers for every student 9 to 12 years as part of Rudd's plan to fund education.

Rudd said he planned to have his administration play a larger role in indigenous affairs.

November 12, 2007

Bird Flu Outbreak in England

Around 6,500 birds are being slaughtered after avian flu was found in turkeys on a farm in Suffolk, England.

All birds on the farm, including ducks and geese are to be slaughtered after the H5 strain was found in the turkeys.

A 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone have been set up, the BBC said.

Vehicles entering the farm are being sprayed, said police officers in order to contain any potential danger.

It is not yet known if the strain is the H5N1 that has killed some 200 people worldwide, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said.

The birds will be gassed and put in sealed containers, officials said.

"All poultry keepers on the British poultry register will be notified and EU officials have been informed," the BBC said.

All birds have been moved indoors to help control the outbreak.

Acting Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg said that the risk of bird flu spreading was increased during the autumn months because of wild bird migration.

More than 160,000 birds were killed after an outbreak of the virulent H5N1 strain of the disease on the farm in February in a farm in Suffolk.


November 5, 2007

Breast-feeding linked to IQ

The BBC reported on Tuesday that there is one gene that can be linked to increasing the IQ of a baby if it is breast-fed.

London researchers said there is a single gene, the FADS2 gene, that can increase a child's IQ.

Children with this gene were said to score seven points higher on IQ tests if they were breast-fed, than other children.

The National Academy of Sciences found that children without this gene had no improvement if they were breast-fed.

Researches said that the seven points could put the child in the top third of the class and around 90% of people have this gene.

There is debate about the accuracy, since mothers who were more educated and well off were said to be more likely to breast-feed, thereby skewing the results, the BBC said.

The gene is said to help break down fatty acids, which are linked with brain development.

Formula milk manufacturers have since the time of the studies begun adding fatty acids to their formula, but the studies on the effects of this are inconsistent.

Catherine Collins, a dietician at St Georges Hospital in London, said the study did not specify how long babies were breastfed for and it may be that even breastfeeding for a short period may be beneficial for intelligence, reported the BBC.

I could only find one source for this study and results.

October 29, 2007

Biofuel called a 'Crime Against Humanity'

Using food crops for fuel instead of food was called "a crime against humanity" by a U.N. expert on Friday Live Science reported.

Price jumps and food shortages will cause millions of people to go hungry he said, calling it a growing "catastrophe" for the poor.

"Scientific research is progressing very quickly, he said, ''and in five years it will be possible to make biofuel and biodiesel from agricultural waste'' rather than wheat, corn, sugar cane and other food crops," Live Science quoted him as saying.

Some scientists believe that the the production of biofuel offsets the gains made by using them in cars.

"The world price of wheat doubled in one year and the price of corn quadrupled, leaving poor countries, especially in Africa, unable to pay for the imported food needed to feed their people," Jean Ziegler, who is the United Nations' independent expert on the right to food, was credited as saying in Live Science.

The BBC reported on the topic that Ziegler called for a five-year ban on burning crops for fuel.

The switch to biofuel usage has been being made in attempts to reduce reliance on oil the BBC said.

October 23, 2007

The Original Mona Lisa

The BBC reported that restoration efforts may have changed the appearance of the Mona Lisa.

A French inventor, Pascal Cotte, said after digitally scanning the painting that Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa originally had eyebrows and eyelashes. Cotte said that the scan revealed traces of hair that had been removed from restoration. Cotte released his findings in San Francisco.

Cotte also found that orignially the Mona Lisa's face was wider and the smile more expressive and the left hand had a different position.

He spent 3,000 hours analyzing what he scanned three years ago in the Louvre's laboratory.

He also said that originally there was a blanket being held and the colors were light blues and whites.

The BBC said that Cotte made similar scans of more than 500 paintings by artists like Van Gogh, Brueghel, Courbet, among others.

CNN reported that the high-definition camera used was of Cotte's own design. The camera scanned a 240-million pixel image and uses "13 light spectrums, including ultra-violet and infrared," CNN said.

Cotte found one hair above the left brow after magnifying the painting.

CNN quoted Cotte as saying, "that may be explained that one day a curator or restorer cleaned the eye, and cleaning the eye, removed, probably removed the eyelashes and eyebrow," explaining how the features disappeared.

Cotte also said that he learned the reason the wrist is in that position was to hold the blanket that had been lost over the years.

October 17, 2007

Tightened Immigration Rules

Across Europe new laws are being introduced to deal with migrant populations, reported The Christian Science Monitor . Despite typical tolerance and respect for multiple cultures, expert said that restrictions are expected that are targeted at Africans and Arab Muslims.

Paris has a new immigration law that will go to the French assembly, which will require language tests and behavior guarantees by parents for children. The law includes a DNA test for mothers and children as well and is expected to pass according to a Le Figaro poll.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been criticized for not supporting immigrants.

Sorbonne historian Patrick Weil said, "In the polarized politics here, we have an anti-Muslim, antiblack feeling that is playing out through the policies of Sarkozy."

In Belgium, there is an agreement between the Flemish and Wallonians to limit migration and asylum and make deportations of illegal workers easier.

Sarkozy said he intends to deport 25,000 illegal migrants from France.

These type of discussions exist in Holland, Denmark, and Switzerland as well. In Switzerland that conservative party is growing.

"Most of the fights are no longer over whether to proceed with new laws and policies," Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch in Milan, Italy said. "Immigration is seen as a crisis for both the left and the right."

October 13, 2007

U.S. to Rehab Religious Extremists

The Christian Science Monitor reported that the U.S. tried to rehab religious extremists in Singapore and Singapore has reduced the number of extremists with Islamic reeducation. The number of detainees with extremist views has decreased over the last four years in Singapore. A counseling program is used to employ Muslim clerics who rebut extremist views of their detainees. The idea is that this may be an alternative to indefinite detention used by the United States.

In Iraq U.S. military commanders have begun religious-education programs modeled on the Singapore program and a larger program in Saudi Arabia.

In Yemen such a program was also attempted but stopped in 2005 because of doubts of the approach based on high rates of participants returning to criminal activity.

Critiques say that the program needs to combat indoctrination, especially that which happens behind bars.

"Deprogramming is not 100-percent successful. Among suspects that you rehabilitate, some will go back (to militancy). But it's the only intelligent thing to do," said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert and a consultant on the Singaporean program.

The Religious Rehabilitation Group in Singapore was launched in 2003 and has 21 volunteers, "who lead weekly one-on-one counseling sessions with detainees to correct their misinterpretations of Islam," said Mohammend bin Ali, one of the clerics who works in the group. Part of the idea Ali said is that no one is born a terrorist, and the program workers believe in rehabilitation.

October 3, 2007

Global Warming effects Greenland

Land in Greenland is becoming greener and better for farming with the rise in temperatures. In Qassiarsuk, a town in southern Greenland, the change in climate has opened new farming venues The Christian Science Monitor said.

"Spring is coming many weeks earlier now, and the last five winters have been very short and rainy," says Tommy Maro, mayor of Qaqortaq, the region's principal town, in the Christian Science Monitor. "It will be exciting to see how the land will change in the next 20 years. Maybe we will have more sheep farmers, more green areas, more things we can grow."

Farming is beginning to replace the traditional ice fishing and dog sledding with the warming temperatures.

Erik Rode Frederiksen, an octogenarian said that the climate in Greenland is becoming closer to that of Northern Europe.

The towns in Greenland have not been connected by roads, because of the terrain. In Northern Greenland people typically traveled by dog sled, however, with the same frozen climate, even this is changing.

The farmers that relied on hunting seals and polar bears are losing their livelihoods with the change in climate.

The Christian Science Monitor said, "Two years ago, the government had to airlift food for sled dogs whose owners, lacking scraps from seal hunting, were unable to feed them. "

The culture of Greenland is being affected as well, since dog sledding has been a traditional way of life.

"In Qaqortoq, for example, the average temperature increased from 0.63°C to 1.93°C in the last 30 years." Der Spiegel said. They continued to say that the growing season now was two extra weeks, which with 20 hours of daylight on those days, the growing season makes a different.

Greenland may be able to achieve economic independence with the new found farming capabilities, but the traditional way of life in Greenland is changing.

September 24, 2007

Temporary Marriages in Egypt

Millions of Egyptians, mainly college students, are choosing to enter into a secret urfi, or a temporary marriage, something basically unheard of 200 years ago The Christian Scienve Monitor. Young couples view a urfi marriage as a contract that allows them to be alone together, unchaperoned, and engage in sexual activity, which their culture has strict barriers against before marriage.

A report from the Cairo University of 2004 said that most urfi marriages end within two years. The growing frequency of urfi marriages has the government and religious officials concerned, primarily about the effect on women. The marriage has no legal status.

A main factor to the rise, is said to be young men postponing marriage until they can afford to support a wife and children. The unemployment market is around 10 percent, making it hard to get a job for the new graduates. The man is expected to provide a place to live, clothing, gold jewelry, and gifts for the brides family before he gets married. The urfi marriage is said to be an easier temporary solution.

Urfi is basically a common law marriage, and has no set end date. Although not official, urfi officially involves a witness, the consent of a male guardian of the bride, or a public declaration. Around 3 million urfi marriages are registered, though three times that are expected to have taken place unofficially.

Heba Loza, an expert on women's issues and writer with semi-official newspaper Al-Ahram, said that urfi is basically a way to have legitimate premarital sex, partly because they can not afford to get married. Loza also said, that there is danger for the unofficial urfi's to later be refuted by one side, since there are no witnesses.

There is a danger for women in urfi marriages, as they may be ostracized from the community, especially if pregnancy occurs. Trials have now been occuring to establish if some urfi marriages had taken place and if the male must not be responsible for the child. There is success reported though in a Cairo court that forced a husband in an urfi marriage to take responsibility for the child.

The government statistics said that around 14,000 paternity cases are pending trial, but Loza said the number is closer to a million.

September 17, 2007

MTV Trafficking Documentary

MTV has produced a documentary aimed at educating the youth in Asia about the dangers of human trafficking and it will premier on MTV Thailand Tuesday, September 18th. The US Agency for International Development is funding the MTV campaign, The Christian Science Monitor said. Richard Whelden, the deputy director said the am was to put a "spotlight on the problem...so you can see what it is: slavery." Some countries have fully outlawed the practice, however, security can be lax as well as prosecution, leading to the movement of trafficking to countries that have no laws yet inplace. The documentary follows three people The CSM said: "One is sold overseas into commercial sex work, another is beaten and abused as a domestic servant, and the third is forced to work around the clock in a factory." 12.3 million people worldwide are estimated to be in forced or bonded work, including child labor according to the International Labor Organization. The State Department said 800,000 people are sold illegally across national borders, and 80 percent of those are women and children. In the global market the trafficking trade is second in profit only to illegal drug trade, at $7 billion to $10 billion yearly. The MTV campaign includes public service spots and a multilingual website: www.mtvexit.org. EXIT or End Exploitation and Trafficking, the name of the documentary will be rebroadcast on free-to-air channels according to Simon Goff, campaign director for MTV. MTV said it can reach 380 million viewers in Asia. The issue is complicated, but MTV hopes to spread the message and warn people of the dangers of traffic.

EXIT will include safe migration advice and help for young people that are at risk of trafficking, as well as messages to educate consumers, who may encourage trafficking or exploitation through the products they buy said Human Trafficking.org. The documentary will address three major forms of trafficking: sex trafficking and forced prostitution, labour trafficking, and forced domestic servitude. The campaign has two regions of focus Asia-Pacific and South Asia, due to differences in trafficking. Major Asian and international artists are lending a hand in the project as well, presenting different language versions.

September 8, 2007

Right Wing Extremists Still a Problem in Germany

Police in the German city of Kaiserstuhl were able to end the group of right wing extremists that were behind the defiling of a jewish cemetery in Ihringen, a town in south west Germany this week. http://www.badische-zeitung.de/bahlingen-polizei-stoppt-rechte-kameradschaftThe cemetery was vandalized on August 12 and four suspects were arrested, two of which belonged to an extremist group from Bahlingen, a region in southwest Germany. The group called themselves the "Kameradschaft Bahlingen" or the Comradeship of Bahlingen and wore combat boots, black clothes, and had hair cuts similar to other radical groups. The police reported that activity in the neo-Nazi scene was reduced with this investigation, but neo-Nazi activity is continuing.

A few weeks prior to the successes in southern Germany 8 Indian men were beaten in the town of Muegeln, located in eastern Germany. ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=3528253 reports that drunken German youth were shouting "Foreigners out" and "foreigners go back where you belong", leading investigators to believe right extremists were behind the attacks. This is just the latest, however, of right extremism in Germany. And although Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, condemned the attacks, the extreme right in Germany has continued political presence in political group the NPD. The party has failed to be banned in Germany.

This week it was reported by Spiegel, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/0,1518,504323,00.htmla German news magazine, that in the eastern state of Sachsen according to a survey from the Forsa Institute, the NPD holds more popularity then the SPD for the first time.

The concern over the NPD is not going unnoticed. "Die Zeit" http://www.zeit.de/2007/36/LS-Jenareported this week that Albrecht Schroeter, the mayor of Jena, a city in Thueringen in central Germany, is prohbiting a demonstration of the NPD. Schroeter said that neo-Nazis are active in his city providing the example that Rudolf Hess' death is observed with a memorial cross by extremists. Schroeter intends to continue to act against the extremist right, but he can only verbally stand against the demonstration, and not literally prohibit it. Despite efforts by Schroeter and other politicians the underlying problem of extremists continues in Germany.