Enter your email address

TFI Daily News

World News for World Changers

Sep 17

Headlines

China, India to Sign $6.8 Billion Deal to Establish Industrial Parks
(Reuters) China and India will sign a $6.8 billion (4.1 billion pounds) deal to establish two industrial parks aimed at reducing trade imbalances, Wang Hejun, economic and commercial counsellor of the Chinese embassy in India said on Wednesday.

Angry Pakistani Passengers Throw Politician Off Plane
(Reuters) Fed up with constant delays and flight cancellations, disgruntled Pakistani passengers prevented a senior politician from boarding an airplane after he turned up at least two hours late for the flight.

Pretoria Says 300 South Africans at Collapsed Nigerian Church
(Reuters) As many as 300 South Africans were visiting a Pentecostal church in Nigeria last week when a building in the compound collapsed, killing more than 60 people, and an unknown number are still unaccounted for, the government said on Wednesday.

No Damage Reported as 7.1 Quake Strikes Northwest of Guam
(Reuters) A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck 25 miles (40 km) northwest of the Pacific island Guam on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, with no immediate reports of serious damage.

South Korea’s Park Says Door Open for Talks With North
(Reuters) South Korean President Park Geun-hye, thwarted so far in ambitious plans to begin the process of reunifying the Korean peninsula, said the door is open for talks with the North during the upcoming U.N. General Assembly.

Fijians Head to Polls for First Post-Coup General Election
(Reuters) Voters in Fiji headed to the polls on Wednesday for the first time in eight years, following a decision by the South Pacific island nation’s military junta that the time was right for a transition back to democratic rule.

Guatemala Government Responds to News Story Before It Is Published
(Reuters) Guatemala’s government posted an online response to a newspaper article about the country’s vice president before it was published, provoking criticism the government was spying on the country’s media.

U.S. Leaders Call for ‘War’ on Ebola Outbreak, Pledge Troops
(Reuters) U.S. lawmakers called for a government-funded “war” to contain West Africa’s deadly Ebola epidemic before it threatens more countries, building on an American pledge to send 3,000 military engineers and medical personnel to combat the virus.

Brazil’s Rousseff Slips in Poll Ahead of October Election
(Reuters) President Dilma Rousseff has lost ground to her main challenger, Marina Silva, less than three weeks before Brazil’s presidential election, which will likely be decided in a close second-round runoff, a poll showed on Tuesday.

Tropical Storm Polo to Strengthen to Hurricane Off Mexico’s Pacific Coast
(Reuters) Tropical Storm Polo is forecast to become a hurricane off Mexico’s Pacific Coast on Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, just days after a severe storm battered the Baja California peninsula.

Airstrikes on central Syrian city kill some 50
BEIRUT (AP)—Syrian government airstrikes killed some 50 people in an opposition-held city this week in bombing that apparently sought to target a rebel commander, activists said Wednesday.

Wary lawmakers ready to OK arms for Syrian rebels
WASHINGTON (AP)—Wary House lawmakers are on track to give President Barack Obama authority to order U.S. military training and arms for moderate rebels confronting the growing danger of Islamic State militants.


Thought of the Day

“When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it, always.”—Mohandas Gandhi


Word of the Day

pell-mell \pel-MEL\ adverb
1 : in mingled confusion or disorder
2 : in confused haste

Example: After the final bell of the day rang, the pupils bolted from their desks and ran pell-mell out the door into the schoolyard.

The word pell-mell was probably formed through a process called reduplication. The process—which involves the repetition of a word or part of a word, often including a slight change in its pronunciation—also generated such terms as bowwow, helter-skelter, flip-flop, and chitchat. Yet another product of reduplication is shilly-shally, which started out as a single-word compression of the question “Shall I?” For pell-mell, the process is believed to have occurred long ago: our word traces to a Middle French word of the same meaning, pelemele, which was likely a product of reduplication from Old French mesle, a form of mesler, meaning “to mix.”


Beating Back the Risk of Diabetes

By Jane E. Brody, NY Times, September 15, 2014

This year, nearly two million American adults and more than 5,000 children and adolescents will learn they have a potentially devastating, life-shortening, yet largely preventable disease: Type 2 diabetes. They will join 29.1 million Americans who already have diabetes.

Diabetes and its complications are responsible for nearly 200,000 deaths a year; the fatality rate among affected adults is 50 percent higher than among similar people without diabetes. Alarmingly, recent studies even have linked diabetes to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Even people with above-average blood glucose levels, but not diabetes, have an elevated risk.

Type 2 diabetes runs in families, largely because its primary risk factor—excess weight—runs in families. But you can keep it at bay by losing weight and becoming more active.

Unfortunately, as numerous studies have shown, intensive efforts to get people to lose weight, eat healthier and become moderately active fail more often than not even among those who already have diabetes. It is easier (and more effective) to avoid becoming overweight in the first place.

But it is by no means impossible to lose weight, and at some point, your physical and mental well-being may depend on it. Here are some diet and exercise tips that can help.

Avoid drastic measures. Crash diets and kooky eating plans are doomed to fail. It’s better to make gradual changes in what and how much you eat to give your body a chance to adjust.

The Diabetes Prevention Program study, conducted among about 3,800 people who had pre-diabetes, found that moderate weight loss—an average of 12 pounds—reduced the odds of progression to diabetes by nearly 50 percent.

Although total calories must be reduced, you don’t have to count them. Rather, concentrate on your food choices and gradually reduce portion sizes. Some people find it helpful to write down everything they eat and drink each day for a week or two.

An excellent discussion of what is known about the effect on diabetes of various foods and supplements appeared recently in Nutrition Action Healthletter at cspinet.org/iceberg.pdf. Some highlights:

Carbohydrates—breads, grains, cereals, sugary drinks and sweets of all kinds—are most problematic for people with diabetes or at risk of developing it. Carbohydrates are eventually metabolized to glucose, which raises the body’s demand for insulin. Consume less of them in general, and choose whole-grain versions whenever possible.

If you must have sweet drinks, select artificially sweetened ones. In two huge studies of nurses and other health professionals who were followed for 22 years, those who drank one or more sugary soft drinks a day had about a 30 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who rarely drank them, even after their weight was taken into account.

Fruit juice is not necessarily safer than soda. All drinks with fructose (table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey or agave) may increase body weight, insulin resistance and belly fat, all of which can promote diabetes.

But there’s good news about coffee. Two or three cups of coffee (but not tea) a day, with or without caffeine, have been consistently linked to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. Consider having coffee (unsweetened or artificially sweetened) in place of soft drinks. Keep in mind that specialty coffee drinks can be loaded with sugar and calories.

For protein, limit consumption of red meat, especially processed meats like sausages, hot dogs and luncheon meats, which are linked to a higher diabetes risk. Instead, choose fish, lean poultry (skinless and not fried), beans and nuts.

Low-fat dairy products, including yogurt, and even fatty ones may lower the risk of diabetes; the reason is unclear.

Most protective are green, leafy vegetables—spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard greens and even lettuce—as well as cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. But all vegetables are good and should fill at least two-thirds of your dinner plate.

Consider dining several times a week on a big salad, adding beans, fish or chicken for protein. Use dressing sparingly.

The nutrients magnesium and vitamin D are also potentially protective. In fact, the preventive value of leafy greens, whole grains, beans and nuts may lie in their high magnesium content. In a well-designed clinical trial of 32 overweight people with insulin resistance, the prelude to diabetes, blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity improved in those who took a daily magnesium supplement for six months.

Don’t go overboard: More than 350 milligrams of magnesium daily can cause diarrhea.

Vitamin D, long known to be crucial to healthy bones, may also be helpful. In one study of 92 overweight or obese adults with prediabetes, those who took a supplement of 2,000 international units of vitamin D daily had better function of the pancreatic cells that produce insulin.

Of course, how much you weigh and what you eat are not the only concerns. Regular, preferably daily, physical exercise is a vital component of any prevention and treatment program for Type 2 diabetes, or most any chronic ailment. Weight loss can reduce diabetes risk by about 50 percent, but adding exercise to that can lower the odds by 70 percent, compared with people who remain overweight and inactive, according to a study that followed nearly 85,000 female nurses for 16 years. Women who were active for seven or more hours weekly had half the risk of developing diabetes as did women who exercised only a half-hour a week.

It helps to live in a community where walking, the nation’s most popular form of exercise, is feasible and safe. A Canadian study of recent immigrants found a significantly higher incidence of diabetes among those living in areas where it was a challenge to walk.

When communities are retrofitted, or new living and working environments are developed, creating areas conducive to exercise should always be part of the plan.


When You Can’t Afford Sleep

By Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, Sept. 15, 2014

NEW YORK—If it’s a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, Sam McCalman wakes up in his tiny one-bedroom apartment in Flatbush well before the nearest Starbucks opens for business. He catches the 5 a.m. bus to the John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens. From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., he works there as a wheelchair attendant, gently rolling disabled and elderly travelers from gate to gate. Between clients, he is not permitted to sit down.

After a 30-minute break, he starts his second job wrangling luggage carts for Smart Carte. At 10 p.m., his shift is over, and he takes the B15 or B35 back to Brooklyn. He often falls asleep on the bus—so much so he frequently misses his stop and has to walk the last few blocks back home. By the time he crawls into bed, it’s nearly midnight. Four and a half hours later, it’s time to do it all over again.

McCalman immigrated from Guyana, a small country that borders Venezuela and Brazil, in 2010. His mother was already here, and he describes himself as the kind of guy who always wanted to come to America. It presented “a better opportunity to do something,” he said.

He got the wheelchair job a few months later, and picked up the second in 2013 when he realized he needed some extra cash. A series of exes bore him four children—two of whom still live in Guyana—and he sends them a total of $400 each month. He also owes $900 a month for the packed, non-airconditioned apartment, which is decked out with religious iconography and vinyl-covered white furniture.

We met on a Monday, his only day off. By Tuesday afternoon, he can hardly wait for Wednesday, when he only works one job. Between the two jobs, he brings home $500 a week.

The tight schedule lends McCalman a heightened awareness of how seemingly minor changes—a missed stop here, a traffic jam there—shave precious minutes off his sleep. “If the buses are messed up, I’m not getting that four hours,” he said. “If I had my own transportation, I might only need an hour to get to work.”

By 2 p.m. each day, McCalman finds himself “literally falling asleep. I’m with a chair, and I’m waiting at the checkpoint, and because I’m waiting, my eyes start closing.”

McCalman’s life reveals a particularly sorry side of America’s sleep-deprived culture. Though we often praise white-collar “superwomen” who “never sleep” and juggle legendary careers with busy families, it’s actually people who have the least money who get the least sleep.

Though Americans across the economic spectrum are sleeping less these days, people in the lowest income quintile, and people who never finished high school, are far more likely to get less than seven hours of shut-eye per night. About half of people in households making less than $30,000 sleep six or fewer hours per night, while only a third of those making $75,000 or more do.

“We all have sleep problems,” McCalman says, speaking of his fellow airport workers. “Everyone who is doing two jobs has a sleep problem.”

For most of the 1800s, a 12 to 16-hour workday was common. “Coal heavers” in Philadelphia protested in 1835 for the right to work just 10 hours per day. The labor movement, along with paternalistic industrialists like Henry Ford, were essential in normalizing the idea that people should work only eight hours. The chorus of one of the most popular labor songs from the 19th century went like this:

We want to feel the sunshine and we want to smell the flowers
We are sure that God has willed it and we mean to have eight hours;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest,
Eight hours for what we will.

But many low-income workers don’t even get an hour for “what they will,” and the eight hours of rest are increasingly hard to come by, too. Working minimum wage for eight hours per day would earn a worker $1,386 per month, less than half of the current median average rent in Brooklyn.

Night workers tend to be disproportionately affected, getting about two to four hours less sleep than normal. Our bodily rhythms are set by sunlight. Exposure to bright light when it’s time to sleep makes it harder for the body to produce melatonin, a sleep hormone. Over time, this sleep deprivation translates to an increased risk for heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and reproductive issues.

In one study, researchers had mice imitate the schedules of shift workers: The rodents’ brain cells began dying off after just days, and the loss was permanent. A later study on 147 adult humans found that the sleep deprived among them had actively shrinking brains. This suggests that no amount of “catch up” sleep can ever reverse the effects of sleep loss on the body.

When people take on two jobs with only a few hours between shifts, they start to feel sluggish immediately, and that’s only the start. For the sleep-deprived, “it’s harder to move from activity to activity,” said Florence Comite, an endocrinologist in New York. “You’re irritable. A threshold that didn’t bother you before may bother you more. Your brain can’t compensate as much. Your reflexes are slower.”

Emotional regulation also suffers: The tired get cranky with less provocation.

Sleep-deprived workers know all of this. But “there are real facts of life when you need money for survival,” Comite said. “It’s risk-benefit. Do you feed your children by working a second job?”

As McCalman plays Tetris with his time, the only wiggle room he has is in his home life. But even then, it’s not much.

“I’m not having enough family time. Sometimes my wife complains,” he says. “Sometimes my wife has a wedding invitation, or a party. She always has to go by herself. Sometimes she gets so mad: ‘Why can’t you just ask for a day?’”

He also attends church regularly, and in his free time he tries to take online classes.

“You have to find this energy,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not easy. I have to do it.”

The demands on low-income parents can cut into sleep in insidious ways, even if they don’t work nights. Jeanne Geiger-Brown, a professor of nursing at the University of Maryland who treats low-income patients at an insomnia clinic, says there are two general reasons the poor don’t sleep enough: They either don’t spend enough time in bed, or the quality of their sleep is not very good.

“Waiting on public transportation takes additional time away from sleep,” she said. “A lot of them will have to get up for the bus stop at 5:30 even if their shift doesn’t start till 7, and an ordinary person would be getting in their car at 6:30.”

Crowded, hot, and noisy apartments can make it harder to fall and stay asleep. Poor women in particular are more likely to be obese, a condition that can lead to sleep apnea.

For Santa Santiago, a mother of three who lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the sleep interruptions come not only from the strains of her housecleaning job, but also from the rhythms of her family. She wakes up before 6 each morning and leaves the house at 7 to drop her infant son off at a babysitter’s house. She returns home 12 hours later, and then it’s a race to get dinner on the table, the baby fed, and her own house cleaned.

“I don’t exercise, I don’t watch TV,” she said. “Sometimes I can’t even watch the news. I arrive at 7, the time flies, I wash the bottles, play with the child.”

She goes to bed at 10:30, but that’s not the end of her workday. The baby wakes up three times a night and wants to be breastfed. Santiago wakes up again at 3:50, when her partner gets ready to leave for his construction job. She goes to the kitchen to make his breakfast and lunch. Twenty minutes later, she goes back to sleep for a final hour or two before her own day begins.

She said she suffers from backaches and feels exhausted, upset, and irritable much of the time. She depends on pain medications from a nearby Latin market.

“Sometimes my body hurts,” she said. “I feel like it’s heavy.”

Just because these workers’ bodies are hit hardest, though, doesn’t mean they’re the only ones affected. Working more than 40 hours per week increases the number of errors workers make. People who sleep less than seven hours per night say they have trouble concentrating, remembering, driving, and working. When performing “surgery” on a virtual patient, the well-rested surgeons had smoother hand motions and made fewer errors than those who were sleep-deprived.

A phone survey conducted in 2010 found that two in five U.S. drivers have “fallen asleep or nodded off” while driving. Most had been driving for less than an hour before they dozed off. The American Automobile Association estimates that one out of every six deadly car accidents results from drowsy driving. Kevin Roper, the Walmart truck driver who slammed into a limo bus carrying the comedian Tracy Morgan in June, had allegedly not slept for 24 hours before the crash.

Geiger-Brown said that while there’s not much that shift workers can do, taking a nap instead of a coffee break might help, since sleep is often more restorative than caffeine.

McCalman doesn’t regret moving to America, but he says it’s not quite what he expected. He was surprised that it took him four months to find a job. He was surprised he only gets paid minimum wage. He was surprised that one minimum wage salary didn’t cover his rent and bills.

“Back in my country, you don’t have to do two jobs,” he said. “Why do I have to pay a lady $1,000 for a little apartment? In my country, I’d be having a mansion with a swimming pool.”

For a while, McCalman was taking classes to try to get his GED. But the GED class was in the mornings, and he couldn’t afford to quit the wheelchair job. Now he’s slogging through the online coursework necessary for a commercial driver’s license—a Hail Mary attempt to become a truck driver, a job he hopes would come with a better schedule. The time he spends learning how to back up big rigs comes out of the roughly 80 total weekly hours he’s not at work or on a bus. And that means it comes out of his sleep.

He’s optimistic, but his speech is punctuated with aspirations about a time when things will be different.

“I’m hoping that one day I can get some more sleep,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can get at least five hours or six hours.”

“I have some hope that someday I’m going to be removed from this situation.”


Busy moms discover how God uses everyday life for ministry

By Adam Miller, Baptist Press, Sep 15, 2014

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)—Stephanie Copenhaver is not entirely sure why they keep coming back or why they showed up in the first place. Apart from an invitation through her kids and their friends, there didn’t appear to be anything else that drew six students two years ago—midsummer, no less—to “learn about Jesus” in a four-week study in July.

The second week, 12 students showed up, and, by the end of the study, more than 30 students had been introduced to the Good Samaritan, the Armor of God, biblical values and Jesus, about whom most knew little to nothing.

“These weren’t churched kids, and yet most of them totally hung on every word,” said Copenhaver, a member of Northside Baptist Church in Roswell, Ga.

This all started the summer before her youngest son John’s fifth-grade year. Copenhaver said she had been considering how privileged her kids were to know about the Bible and about Jesus. She wanted other kids to experience the life God intended for them.

“I called two other mothers and asked if they wanted to get kids together to study the Bible,” she said. “They said ‘sure’ and we told our kids to invite their friends.”

After a few planning meetings over lunch, the mothers had developed a few short lessons that would introduce unchurched, soon-to-be middle schoolers to the Bible, God and God’s plan for the people He created.

Last year the same kids returned, this time bringing some of their friends to learn about Jesus’ miracles in the Gospel of John.

As a result of the study, one student—Phillip Bruce—became a Christian and was baptized. “We got a cool-looking cross made for him. He wears it all the time,” Copenhaver said.

Two years into being with the group, Bruce says he is noticing a change in the way he thinks about life.

“I think twice about things now,” Bruce said. “I forgive more quickly, and now I go back and change my mind when I think about doing something foolish.”

Copenhaver’s evaluation of these experiences: “I stand at these meetings and I think, ‘I can’t believe He chose me to be a part of this.’”

Copenhaver is quick to point out that she and the two other moms involved in this ministry—Pam Troutman and Jiska Van Ede—aren’t doing anything special, other than simply remaining open to God’s leading.

“I think if you’re open to God, He will give you opportunities,” she said. “A lot of people say they don’t feel like they know enough. Well, I don’t either. I’m not a pastor. I’ve never read through the entire Bible. But I think that if you love God and make yourself available then that’s all it takes. And honestly I’d be blown away if just five unchurched kids showed up.”

Troutman said observing what God is doing through the kids has surprised her.

“What strikes me most is how these kids, many who go to different schools, actually are praying and caring for each other,” Troutman said.

“I don’t think any of us ever could have expected it to go like this.”

“I feel like these kids are still open and unjaded, but I also know they are exposed to so much at a very young age that will shape how they see the world,” Copenhaver said. “I feel like if we get them at a young age we can help shape future generations. And while I may not know all of them really well, I have a personal interest in where they spend eternity.”


Pope to Focus on Grandparents After Newlyweds

AP, Sept. 16, 2014

VATICAN CITY—First, Pope Francis married 20 couples to highlight the role of families as the heart of the Catholic Church. Next up is a special Mass for grandparents.

Francis and 100 elderly priests will celebrate a Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 28 in honor of the elderly, part of his long-standing belief that old people shouldn’t be shut away in retirement homes but should be cherished for their wisdom and experience.


Boredom Can Be a Catalyst for Creativity

HBR, September 15, 2014

We’ve all been bored at work. In fact, you may be bored right now. But, according to multiple studies, the boredom we feel from time to time could be a benefit to us. In one study, researchers found that participants who were asked to copy numbers from a phone book—a rote and boring task if there ever were one—performed much better on a creativity test than those in a control group who skipped the drudgery. Why? It turns out that boredom leads to daydreaming, and daydreaming allows us to warm up our creative muscles. So make sure to leverage all those pointless staff meetings, conference calls, and administrative tasks by immediately jumping into more creative things.

SOURCE: The Creative Benefits of Boredom by David Burkus


Airlines now are barely spending any money on food for passengers

Catherine Garcia, The Week, Sept. 15, 2014

U.S. airlines are spending much less on passenger food than they did before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that pre-9/11, airlines were spending $4.79 per passenger, compared with $3.62 in 2013. That average encompasses all the money spent on food sold to travelers in economy and meals that are served for free in first and business class.

Tough economic times are behind the decrease, and experts say that passengers are paying the price: Free meals served in coach are but a distant memory, and the quality of meals in premium cabins has plummeted. “Most U.S. airlines offer food on par with Grade B diners,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group, told the Los Angeles Times. “You’ll have a better meal at Denny’s than you’ll have at most airlines.”


With Tech Taking Over in Schools, Worries Rise

By Natasha Singer, NY Times, Sept. 14, 2014

At a New York state elementary school, teachers can use a behavior-monitoring app to compile information on which children have positive attitudes and which act out. In Georgia, some high school cafeterias are using a biometric identification system to let students pay for lunch by scanning the palms of their hands at the checkout line. And across the country, school sports teams are using social media sites for athletes to exchange contact information and game locations.

Technology companies are collecting a vast amount of data about students, touching every corner of their educational lives—with few controls on how those details are used.

Now California is poised to become the first state to comprehensively restrict how such information is exploited by the growing education technology industry.

Legislators in the state passed a law last month prohibiting educational sites, apps and cloud services used by schools from selling or disclosing personal information about students from kindergarten through high school; from using the children’s data to market to them; and from compiling dossiers on them. The law is a response to growing parental concern that sensitive information about children—like data about learning disabilities, disciplinary problems or family trauma—might be disseminated and disclosed, potentially hampering college or career prospects. Although other states have enacted limited restrictions on such data, California’s law is the most wide-ranging.

“It’s a landmark bill in that it’s the first of its kind in the country to put the onus on Internet companies to do the right thing,” said Senator Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who wrote the bill.

James P. Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a children’s advocacy and media ratings group in San Francisco, said the bills were ultimately intended to shore up parents’ trust in online learning.

“You can’t have an education technology revolution without strong privacy protections for students,” said Mr. Steyer, whose group spearheaded the passage of Mr. Steinberg’s bill.

The California effort comes at a pivotal time for the industry. Schools nationwide have been rushing to introduce everything from sophisticated online portals, which allow students to see course assignments and send messages to teachers, to reading apps that can record and assess a child’s every click. These data-driven products are designed to adapt to the abilities and pace of each child, holding out the promise of improved academic achievement.

Last year, sales of education technology software for prekindergarten through 12th grade reached an estimated $7.9 billion, according to the Software and Information Industry Association.

As schools embrace these personalized learning tools, however, parents across the country have started challenging the industry’s information privacy and security practices.

“Different websites collect different kinds of information that could be aggregated to create a profile of a student, starting in elementary school,” said Tony Porterfield, a software engineer and father of two pre-teenage sons in Los Altos, Calif. “Can you imagine a college-admissions officer being able to access behavioral tracking information about a student, or how they did on a math app, all the way back to grade school?”

Mr. Steinberg said he thought his current effort had implications beyond education. The California student privacy measure would essentially advance a fundamental principle of data rights for everyone: that a person who agrees to let a company collect personal details about them for a specific purpose has the right to decide whether that company may subsequently use that same information for unrelated activities.

“The bill sets a standard that is applicable to the larger privacy debate,” Mr. Steinberg said. “Personal information should only be used for other purposes with the permission of the individual.”


Scotland took long road to independence vote

By Jill Lawless, AP, Sep 16, 2014

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP)—On Calton Hill, overlooking Edinburgh, stands Scotland’s National Monument. A colonnade of classical stone pillars modeled on the Parthenon in Athens, it’s grand, inspiring—and unfinished, ever since the money to build it ran out two centuries ago.

It’s a fitting image for the country as seen by independence campaigners, who hope voters will finish Scotland’s incomplete journey to statehood by backing separation from Britain in a referendum on Thursday.

Polls suggest the outcome will be close. For many people south of the Scottish-English border, the idea that Scotland might leave the United Kingdom has come as a recent shock. But it has been decades, even centuries, in the making.

“I’ve always felt we could run ourselves. We used to, years ago,” said David Hall, whose job is winding the clocks on some of Edinburgh’s most famous structures, including the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill.

He adds an often-heard sentiment: “We’ve always been treated as second-rate up here, by down south.”

Scots have always felt different to their southern neighbor, whose population today is 10 times Scotland’s 5.3 million. The Romans never managed to conquer Scotland, and remnants of Hadrian’s Wall still stand along the northern limit of their empire.

Scotland and England fought skirmishes and wars throughout the Middle Ages, and the exploits of Scottish heroes William “Braveheart” Wallace and Robert the Bruce form part of the national mythology.

Britain—the country uniting England, Scotland and Wales—is a relatively recent development. England and Scotland have shared the same monarch since 1603. Political union came a century later, in 1707—to the dismay of some Scots.

“Many felt it had been imposed upon them by a bullying England and that Scottish politicians had been bribed into submission,” said Christopher Whatley, professor of Scottish history at Dundee University.

“That narrative … has pulsed through the Scottish body politic through the centuries.”

But for a long time, in the eyes of most Scots, the Union worked. For almost three centuries, Britain was a global success story, carving out a vast empire. Scots were among the leading players, as colonists, soldiers, administrators, engineers and intellectuals. The 18th-century “Scottish Enlightenment” produced thinkers including economist Adam Smith, philosopher David Hume and poet Robert Burns.

In the 19th century, Glasgow and other Scottish cities thrived on shipbuilding and manufacturing that powered the empire.

In recent decades, however, the bonds holding the United Kingdom together have frayed. In the decades after World War II, Britain lost its empire. The economic upheavals of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s era in the 1980s—which saw the collapse of industry, widespread privatization and mass unemployment—alienated many Scots and weakened a shared sense of Britishness.

Edinburgh University historian Tom Devine says the surging sense of Scottish identity that has led the country to the cusp of statehood “is partly based on myth and history” stretching back to Bruce and Wallace and the medieval wars with England.

“But that is only one thread in a much more complex tapestry of identity formation,” said Devine, who supports independence. “The key triggers now are more political and social.”

Scottish writers and artists have helped fuel a new confidence, which has coincided with increasing political autonomy. In 1997 Scots voted to set up a parliament in Edinburgh with substantial powers over health, education and other sectors.

Since then the Scottish National Party under leader Alex Salmond has abandoned tartan-and-haggis cultural cliches to make a political and civic case for separation.

Salmond argues that independent Scotland will be a “Northern Light,” a beacon of progressive social policies and economic dynamism.

In 2011 Salmond’s SNP won a majority in the Scottish assembly, with the promise of a referendum on full independence.

Ever since, the No side has argued that Salmond’s sunny vision of the future is based on unrealistic assumptions, but has struggled to present a positive alternative.

While anti-independence campaigners express affection for Scotland and the Union—the equivalent of a spouse shouting “Don’t leave!”—much of their argument has centered on the economic risks of separation.

This is not the first time in Scottish history that dreams of statehood have run up against cold economic reality.

In the 1690s, the Kingdom of Scotland tried to secure its world status and economic future by setting up a trading colony in Panama.

The venture was a disaster. Most of the 2,500 colonists died of starvation and disease, thousands of Scots who had invested lost their life savings, and the country was left so indebted that it turned to England for financial aid, and political union.

The result was the Kingdom of Great Britain—the country that will end if the Yes camp prevails this week.

Whatever Scottish voters decide, Whatley—who says he’ll be voting No—thinks there is one positive parallel to that time three centuries ago.

“The Scottish people are more engaged with politics than at any time in Scotland’s history,” he said. “You saw that before the Union in 1707. I think we are seeing exactly the same engagement and passions on both sides now.”


Never mind those freedom fries. The French are Europe’s new war hawks.

By Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, September 15, 2014

In March 2003, a gung-ho U.S. House of Representatives opted to rebrand french fries and french toast in the chamber’s cafeteria as “Freedom fries” and “Freedom toast.” The previous October, a rubber-stamp Congress had approved President George W. Bush’s plans to invade Iraq. Among the United States’ Western allies, France was the most outspoken in opposition.

French diplomats wanted more time for U.N. weapons inspectors to evaluate whether Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed the “weapons of mass destruction” that the Bush administration was convinced it had. In hindsight, they, alongside many others opposed to the invasion, were right.

Nevertheless, American ire at France’s refusal to go along with Bush’s war was pronounced. And it led to the churlish renaming of fried foods. “This action today is a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally France,” said Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), then the chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

The move marked a nadir in U.S.-French relations—a moment that feels light years away from the present. Today, France played host to American, European and Arab delegations that convened to further develop a coordinated plan to roll back the advance of Islamic State militants in Iraq. It has issued some of the strongest statements on the need to crack down on the powerful terrorist organization. The French, you see, have become Europe’s new hawks.

In recent years, French governments of differing ideological stripes have led calls for intervention in a range of conflicts. In 2011, conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy authorized airstrikes in the Ivory Coast to avert a crisis that some observers feared could lead to ethnic cleansing. He also rallied NATO allies in 2011 to join in a bombing campaign that would help destroy the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. In the years since, NATO countries have watched on the sidelines as post-Gaddafi Libya imploded; just this past week, France called for a new intervention.

That’s because Sarkozy’s Socialist successor, François Hollande, has been equally hawkish about fighting insurgencies and stabilizing war zones. Under Hollande, France deployed troops in Mali to combat al-Qaeda-linked rebel fighters in 2013. The French have also been far more suspicious of the nuclear negotiations taking place between the West and Iran, and it dubbed an agreement hatched in November as “a fool’s game.” A year ago, when the United States failed to win Western support for airstrikes on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hollande’s government stoutly backed the Obama administration’s plans, even as the British Parliament voted against intervention, and was ready to launch its own strikes.

Sarkozy had branded himself an “Atlanticist,” a gesture to an earlier moment of cooperation with the United States that Hollande has also embraced. Ahead of Hollande’s state visit to Washington earlier this year, Time magazine’s London bureau chief, Catherine Mayer, summed up the new spirit of Gallic-American bonhomie:

Gone are the days when the U.S. dismissed the French as cheese-eating surrender monkeys for their refusal to get involved in the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Hollande looks like Obama’s most reliable ally, especially as the French leader has signalled his magnanimity on the issue that could have thrown cold water on the burgeoning bromance: the NSA’s spying on French citizens. As Hollande told TIME in an exclusive Jan. 24 interview, he intends to forgive if not to forget, looking instead for “a new cooperation in the field of intelligence.”

What has motivated this change? A strong streak of moralism has come to the fore in French foreign policy, peddled by a coterie of internationalist public intellectuals. The most visible, Bernard Henri-Lévy, was a confidant of Sarkozy and is even credited with stirring up action against Gaddafi in Libya. But there is a clear pragmatism underlying French actions, as well.

First, both Sarkozy—toward the end of his tenure—and Hollande—for pretty much most of it, so far—faced low popularity ratings in polls. As domestic concerns mount, the prospect of decisive, robust action abroad has its allures. France’s political system allows the executive greater license to launch such interventions.

Money also talks. In 2013, orders for French weapons rose 43 percent from the previous year, reaching almost $9 billion, according to the French Defense Ministry. France is one of the world’s biggest arms exporters, and its interests in the Middle East, including Paris’s hawkishness on Iran, appear more and more closely aligned with those of valued customer Saudi Arabia. The French, in conjunction with the Saudis, are trying to finalize a $3 billion arms deal that would strengthen the Lebanese military—an initiative that, the Saudis hope, would help counter the influence of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which many see as an Iranian proxy and whose fighters have aided the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war.

The proposed coalition of Arab states that the United States hopes will join in the effort against the Islamic State includes many authoritarian states with terrible human rights records. It makes the bluster and naivety of the age of Freedom fries look all the more distant.


Smugglers Rammed Migrants’ Boat, Sinking It, Group Says

By Nick Cumming-Bruce, NY Times, Sept. 15, 2014

GENEVA—Human traffickers rammed a boat filled with migrants they were smuggling from North Africa to Europe, making it sink in the open sea and “deliberately drowning” hundreds of the migrants, the International Organization for Migration said Monday.

Christiane Berthiaume, a spokeswoman for the migration organization, said the traffickers rammed the boat with another vessel off the coast of Malta on Wednesday after an argument broke out between the traffickers and the migrant passengers. Ms. Berthiaume cited accounts by two Palestinians who had survived the sinking and had been rescued. Only nine people are known to have survived the disaster, the group said, out of as many as 500 who were said to have been on the boat.

“If the survivors’ reports are confirmed, this will be the worst shipwreck of migrants in years,” Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the organization, said in a statement. He said the sinking was “not an accidental tragedy, but the deliberate drowning of helpless migrants by the criminal smugglers who extort money from them for their desperate journeys.”

Another boat of Europe-bound migrants sank in recent days, off the coast of Libya, with as many as 250 passengers aboard, most of them feared dead, said the migration organization, based in Geneva. In all, as many as 700 people may have died in the past week, adding to what was already the worst year on record for the hazardous route. By the group’s tally, more than 2,900 are feared dead so far in 2014, compared with about 600 in all of 2013.

The United Nations refugee agency is investigating reports of additional sinkings in recent days that may push the death toll higher. “Alarmingly, these two incidents look as if they are among four or five that have occurred in the last few days,” said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The precise details of the confrontation and the sinking near Malta were not immediately clear. The boat that was reportedly rammed set out last week from an Egyptian port, Damietta, the migration organization said. Citing the accounts of the two Palestinian survivors, who were interviewed over the weekend, the organization said the smugglers ordered their human cargo to transfer to a smaller boat they were towing.

The migrants refused to comply because of the dangerously small size of the second boat. The traffickers then rammed the boat carrying the migrants “in order to sink it,” Ms. Berthiaume said.

The migrants on the boat were reportedly Palestinians, Sudanese and Egyptians. One of the Palestinian survivors recounted how he spent hours in the water with an Egyptian teenager who said he was trying to reach Europe to earn money to help pay for heart treatment for his father, Ms. Berthiaume reported, but the survivor said the boy succumbed to exhaustion and drowned.

The recent war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that dominates Gaza, appears to have prompted a wave of attempts by Palestinians to reach Europe with the aid of Egyptian smugglers.


Sweden’s ‘cuddly capitalism’ hits a bump? Three takeaways from election

By Sara Miller Llana, CS Monitor, September 15, 2014

PARIS—A surge in the far right, the ruling party ousted, a hung parliament. Sweden’s weekend elections proved an upset for one of Europe’s most robust—and envied—societies.

The center-right coalition of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt lost to the left-leaning Social Democratic bloc, by 39 percent to 44 percent. But amid a surge by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, the bloc failed to secure an overall majority, injecting a rare dose of uncertainty into Swedish politics.

Here are three reasons why.

Worries over welfare. The Economist called the Nordic countries the “next supermodel” in February 2013 for their ability to adapt the classic welfare state to current economic realities. In Sweden, Mr. Reinfeldt deftly steered the biggest of the Nordic nations through the worst of the financial crisis. But privatization and tax-cutting over his eight years in office went too far for some Swedes, who worry about a growing gap between rich and poor.

To be sure, Sweden remains one of the world’s most egalitarian societies, with enviable gender equality and a functional democracy, as well as a state that protects as it prioritizes entrepreneurship.

But the left was able to tap into popular fears over the implications of following Reinfeldt’s reform path. As Stefan Löfven, the Social Democrat poised to become Sweden’s next premier, put it before the race: “There are cracks in the welfare in such a way that people no longer feel safe.”

Falling education. Sweden is used to coming out on top when international rankings are released. In 2006 the country ranked above average for reading and math in the PISAs, which measure teenage competence in key subjects. Six years later it fell well below the OECD average for both, according to data released last December.

This drop, along with youth unemployment, weighed heavily on voters’ mind, especially among the young, says Toivo Sjörén, from the polling firm Sifo. Swedish youth unemployment of 22.1 percent, roughly the EU average, compares poorly with Germany (7.8 percent) and Norway (7.9 percent).

There is no single reason for Sweden’s fall. Teacher salaries have gone down and with it the quality of teaching, which the government has sought to remedy through reforms that include better training. Sweden has also pioneered the use of school vouchers for private schools, which some criticize as inequitable. The country remains a role model, especially in terms of access—the system is affordable at preschool and free through university.

Immigration woes. A recent survey by the German Marshall Fund of the US found that Sweden was the only country in Europe that showed a clear majority (60 percent) in favor of their government’s immigration policies. Yet the country’s anti-immigration Sweden Democrats is gaining ground: Its 13 percent tally, double its last electoral showing, is one reason why the leftist bloc has no overall majority.

Sweden has one of the most generous policies for refugees in the world. And while most in Sweden support the global role the country plays, there is growing discontent. The Sweden Democrats made inroads after street riots last year in Husby, a northern suburb of Stockholm, when mostly immigrant youths torched cars and pelted police officers. Still, until now, the party, which advocates a near-total curb in immigration, has been marginalized by the mainstream. After Sunday’s election, it may be able to shape the agenda.


Ukrainian president offers rebels major concessions to end uprising

By Anthony Faiola, Washington Post, September 15, 2014

KIEV, UKRAINE—President Petro Poroshenko on Monday proposed a series of major concessions to end the uprising by pro-Russian rebels in restive eastern Ukraine, offering the separatists a broad amnesty and special self-governance status for territories they occupy.

The proposal also includes protections for the Russian language and would allow the separatist-controlled regions to elect their own judges, create their own police forces and cultivate deeper ties to Russia—while remaining part of Ukraine.

It would effectively formalize a concession of power to the rebels after sweeping military setbacks in August and September forced Poroshenko to sue for peace. Although Ukraine appeared on the verge of ending the rebel uprising weeks ago, a reinvigorated separatist campaign—which Ukraine and NATO claim has been backed by Russian arms and troops—left the Ukrainians facing devastating losses. Russia denies aiding the rebels.

Contained in a draft bill that Poroshenko has submitted to parliament, the proposal fleshed out a cease-fire deal reached with the rebels earlier this month and provided the most complete view yet of just how far Kiev may be willing to go to end an uprising that has cost almost 3,000 lives since April.

Poroshenko’s offer came as the truce, which entered its 10th day Monday, was already fraying, with intense fighting in pockets of the east now threatening to destroy the cease-fire. On Monday, mortar rounds continued to strike residential neighborhoods in the city of Donetsk a day after two vehicles carrying international observers were struck by shrapnel.

Some of the elements of Poroshenko’s plan resembled the so-called frozen conflicts in which Russian-backed partisans have seized control of territories in Georgia and Moldova, thus giving Moscow leverage over those countries and complicating their efforts to join NATO. But Poroshenko defended his proposal, insisting that despite the broad concessions, it would succeed in maintaining the rebel-held territories within the boundaries of Ukraine and prevent their independence.

“There is nothing more important for us than peace,” Poroshenko told Ukrainian political leaders Monday. “These are the key positions that will ensure it.”

But the proposal also put Poroshenko on a likely collision course with pro-Western activists and politicians in Kiev who believe he may be conceding far too much to the Russian-backed rebels.


Page 1 of 1783