- Al-Qaeda’s media wing has come up with a new way to spread their message to Muslim women: Al-Shamikha, a 31-page glossy magazine for women. (Al-Shamikha translates from Arabic as “The Majestic Woman.”) The publication—whose debut cover features a woman in a traditional niqab, posing with a machine gun, mixes beauty tips with lessons in jihad. The aim of the magazine is to market global jihad in the same dexterous way Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire pushes Western culture to young women, and recruit followers among a wider Muslim world.Source: The Independent (UK)
Supreme Court Justice Alito strongly and singularly disagreed with the 8-1 ruling on free speech principles regarding the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church’s offensive antigay protests at military funerals. The case, Snyder v. Phelps, disputed whether members of the church were within their constitutional rights when they positioned themselves outside a 2006 funeral of US Marine Matthew Snyder displaying signs stating: “You’re going to Hell” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The Supreme Court ruled that although the protest was offensive, it was done on public property, in compliance with local officials—and that their views are entitled to “special protection” under the First Amendment. In Justice Alito’s dissent he stated: “Mr. Snyder wanted what is surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss: to bury his son in peace.” Alito went on to say, “The court now holds that the First Amendment protected [Westboro’s] right to brutalize Mr. Snyder. I cannot agree.”
Source: Christian Science Monitor
State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley visited MIT to speak with a small group of students in early March. When asked about Bradley Manning’s treatment—the Army private being held in solitary confinement (often stripped down to his boxers, or forced to sleep naked with no blankets or pillows) at Quantico,Virginia, on suspicion of leaking classified State Department documents to WikiLeaks— Crowley answered by saying that what is being done to Manning is “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Crowley abruptly resigned the following Sunday, March 13. Some White House insiders say the switch from Crowley to deputy Mike Hammer (who replaced him) was in the works for some time. Others close to Crowley say his comments might have stemmed from personal feelings, as his father was a prisoner of war during World War II.
The public outcry over what are perceived as too-high retirement benefits for state and government workers may in fact be somewhat unfounded. While many claim that state and local pension plans are busting budgets; according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, they amount to a mere 2.9 percent of state spending. (The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the number slightly higher at 3.8 percent.) Boston College researchers also estimate that if state and local pension funds were frozen tomorrow there’d still be enough money in most state plans to pay benefits for years to come, many years. Kentucky could cover 4.7 years of benefits, North Carolina 19 years, Florida 17 years, and California about 15 years. In Wisconsin, where Republican Scott Walker is trying to weaken public-sector employee pension benefits—if cut off tomorrow, would have enough money to cover benefits for the next 18 years.
Source: McClatchy Newspapers
A bipartisan group set up to analyze the unprecedented use of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan has concluded that the US has wasted tens of billions of dollars on these contracts since 2002. The commission’s co-chairs stated that quick reforms are crucial for easing the strain on the federal budget, as well as improving the effectiveness of US operations. The commission even went as far as to say their report may have understated the problem because it doesn’t take into full account ill-planned projects, oversight by the US government, criminal behavior, and blatant corruption by both government and contractor employees.
Source: Talking Points Memo
New research shows that people who focus on living with a sense of purpose are more likely to remain cognitively intact—and even live longer, healthier lives than those who focus on short-term, or “hedonic,” happiness. Researchers point out that the pleasure that comes from acquiring money and status are fleeting, whereas endeavors like volunteering or raising a family provide long-term fulfillment. In an analysis of American college students from 1938 to 2007, researchers at San Diego State University found increased symptoms of depression, paranoia, and psychopathology. The researchers suggested an increasing cultural emphasis in the US on materialism and status (hedonic happiness), and decreasing attention to community and the meaning of life, as possible explanations. And young people aren’t the only proof. Another study, involving 950 individuals over a seven-year period, found that those reporting a lesser sense of purpose in life were over twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those reporting a greater purpose in life.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Mexico is one of the fattest countries in the world. And according to the Mexican government, it starts early: One in three children is overweight or obese. To make matters worse, Dr. José Angel Córdova, Mexico’s health minister, estimates that one-third of Mexico’s health care spending goes toward fighting diseases related to obesity. That’s why as of January 1, Mexico put its schoolchildren on a diet. Although Mexican schools do not provide lunch, snack food companies sell foods like fried pork rinds, potato chips, sweets, and soft drinks in abundance during recess. Schools aim to replace these with healthier, smaller-portioned options. Under the new set of rules, Mexico has pulled 90 percent of fried foods from schools, which Education Minister Alonso Lujambio says is “a very aggressive change.” Many school administrators report having seen changes in students choices already.
Source: New York Times
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 100 Americans is now born through assisted reproductive technology yet there are virtually no laws governing the process. Due to the activism of now-grown children of donors, steps are being taken to reform the billion-dollar fertility industry, which goes largely unregulated in the US and overseas. Olivia Pratten, a Toronto journalist and outspoken donor-born activist, is awaiting a ruling from the Canadian Supreme Court on disclosing donor records. Typically, donor-conceived individuals rarely have access to their donor’s information; in fact, records are often destroyed to maintain anonymity. Donor-conceived people argue that they have a basic human right to know their heritage.
Twenty-nine countries currently operate 442 nuclear reactors, and 65 plants are under construction worldwide. Now that climate change is perceived as the most significant threat to mankind, nuclear technology is gaining ground again. Two plants are in the works for the US, China already has 27, and Russia is building 11 new reactors. IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said he estimates between 10 and 25 new countries to bring their first nuclear power plant online by 2030. The seemingly rapid construction of plants is a result of a rapidly growing world population, especially in China, India, South Korea, and the US. According to the IAEA, the world will see an increase in global energy consumption by over 50 percent by 2030. Local organization Riverkeeper has called for a temporary shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant just south of Peekskill until it can be proven that the plant can withstand a 7.0 earthquake.
Sources: Der Spiegel, Riverkeeper