Browsing articles from "September, 2015"

Iran’s President Says His Country Will Stick To Nuclear Deal

Sep 28, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Iran’s President Says His Country Will Stick To Nuclear Deal

In an interview with Steve Inskeep, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says his country will abide by the recent nuclear deal, but he acknowledges there are opponents of the agreement in his country.

Pope Strikes A Chord With Catholics And Non-Catholics Alike

Sep 28, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Pope Strikes A Chord With Catholics And Non-Catholics Alike

From The White House to a lunch with homeless people, from the halls of Congress to a Philadelphia prison, Pope Francis made waves during six-day US visit among U.S. Catholics and the public at large.

Iraq Says It Will Share Anti-ISIS Intelligence With Iran, Russia

Sep 27, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Iraq Says It Will Share Anti-ISIS Intelligence With Iran, Russia

Iraq says it has reached a deal to share intelligence with Russia and Iran as part of an effort to defeat the Islamic State group, which controls large parts of the region.

French warplanes also carried out their first airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, hitting targets identified during reconnaissance missions over the past two weeks, according to the BBC.

A statement from Iraq’s joint operations command on Saturday said the intelligence sharing had come as a result of “increased Russian concern about the presence of thousands of terrorists from Russia undertaking criminal acts with Daesh (Islamic State).”

It follows last week’s Russia’s forward deployment of warplanes at Latakia, in western Syria.

Reuters writes: “The move could give Moscow more sway in the Middle East. It has stepped up its military involvement in Syria in recent weeks while pressing for Damascus to be included in international efforts to fight Islamic State, a demand Washington rejects.”

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande said with his nation’s first airstrikes it “struck in Syria this morning an Islamic State training camp which threatened the security of our country.”

“What we want is to know what is being prepared against us and what is being done against the Syrian population,” Hollande said.

Pruning Back Prescriptions For Better Health

Sep 27, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Pruning Back Prescriptions For Better Health

Katherine Streeter for NPRi

Katherine Streeter for NPR

If you follow health news, by now you may have heard about a federally funded study that was stopped early because of impressive evidence that aggressively lowering blood pressure saves lives.

For more than half a century we’ve known that controlling blood pressure (getting the numbers below 140/90) is important in preventing heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. The so-called SPRINT study that was just stopped tells us that lowering the systolic blood pressure (the top number) to 120 or lower is even better in preventing complications and death from cardiovascular causes.

While we wait for the study details to be published in a medical journal, the news about the study has given me pause. How low should we go and for how long?

I think about a patient of mine in his 80s. For decades, he’s taken a combination pill (two medicines in one) to keep his blood pressure below 140/90. Six months ago, he told me that he’d been having episodes of lightheadedness once or twice a week. That’s a common side effect among older people taking blood pressure medicine.

“It’s as though I’m just going to pass out,” he told me. “My vision fades and I get wobbly legs.”

Fortunately, his episodes had passed without him actually falling.

He and I agreed that it would make sense to try stopping his blood pressure medicine for a month and see what happened. The pause would be something we doctors call a drug holiday. My patient agreed to buy a home blood pressure cuff and use it two or three times a week, then share the results with me.

A month went by, and he sent me the promised letter with his results. His blood pressure, over multiple readings, was fine. And no more lightheadedness!

I wrote him back: “Stay off the medication — it’s clear from your readings that you no longer need it.” He was thrilled to pare down his list of daily medicines. The decision saved him money and meant he could forget about one of his many daily pills.

I’m satisfied the decision to stop this man’s blood pressure medicine was a good one. Since the medicine was something he no longer needed, I helped him avoid a drug-related problem like a fall, and, with it, maybe a hip fracture — one of the banes of our aging population.

What’s more, he and I pushed back against medical inertia, the tendency to keep things the way they are because it’s easier than making a change. Inertia is especially strong when a medical treatment conforms to accepted guidelines.

There are dozens of guidelines in the world of cardiovascular medicine. Many of them have lifestyle changes as their primary recommendation. All too often, though, people, including doctors, have a hard time improving their diets, losing weight and getting enough exercise. So we resort to medications, often several of them, to treat or prevent illness.

Now that the early results from the SPRINT trial suggest that lower blood pressure is protective, the inertia to keep people on blood pressure pills — or to add more of them — will be even stronger.

My patient’s experience, and stories like his, have led me to believe me that there comes a point in aging when, for many of us, our physiology changes. No doubt there are many factors, such as our senior brains, stiffening blood vessels and changes in the ratios of our hormones. Sometimes the changes bring more illness, but in other cases the problems that afflict patients seem to diminish with advanced age.

In other cases, the preventive measures that I recommend as a doctor no longer matter as much. There’s not much sense in treating an 80-year-old for high cholesterol who hasn’t had a heart attack or stroke already. It’s a debatable point, to be sure, and ultimately decisions like these depend on the values of individual patients and an estimate of how long they’ll live.

So how do we pinpoint this time of change for individuals and what do we do when we get there?

An obvious but often overlooked choice we can make is something that is called deprescribing, which means discontinuing medications in older people who take a lot of them. A recent article in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine examined this idea, reviewing more than two dozen other studies in which medications were discontinued while tracking the effects (or lack of them) on patients.

People in the study did surprisingly well having their medications stopped (among them blood pressure drugs and sedatives known as benzodiazepines, such as Valium). Adverse symptoms abated, and patients’ health generally improved.

As a doctor looking first to do no harm, I draw the following conclusion: Though I’m ready to believe the better low blood pressure outcomes promised by the SPRINT trial, I’m also going to be looking for opportunities to minimize the overuse of drugs in older patients by discontinuing prescriptions whenever possible.

For many of us, less medicine means more health.

John Henning Schumann is a writer and doctor in Tulsa, Okla. He is president of the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa, and hosts Public Radio Tulsa’s Medical Matters. He’s on Twitter: @GlassHospital

Imagine It’s The Year 2045. Will The Syrian Refugee Crisis Be Resolved?

Sep 27, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Imagine It’s The Year 2045. Will The Syrian Refugee Crisis Be Resolved?

A Syrian refugee mother comforts her daughter after they spent the night in a parking lot on the Austrian side of the Hungarian-Austrian border. More than 4 million Syrians have fled the civil war in their devastated homeland, and such crises can take decades to resolve.i

A Syrian refugee mother comforts her daughter after they spent the night in a parking lot on the Austrian side of the Hungarian-Austrian border. More than 4 million Syrians have fled the civil war in their devastated homeland, and such crises can take decades to resolve.

Muhammed Muheisen/AP


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Muhammed Muheisen/AP

A Syrian refugee mother comforts her daughter after they spent the night in a parking lot on the Austrian side of the Hungarian-Austrian border. More than 4 million Syrians have fled the civil war in their devastated homeland, and such crises can take decades to resolve.

A Syrian refugee mother comforts her daughter after they spent the night in a parking lot on the Austrian side of the Hungarian-Austrian border. More than 4 million Syrians have fled the civil war in their devastated homeland, and such crises can take decades to resolve.

Muhammed Muheisen/AP

It’s a distinction no country wants. In its most recent report on global trends, the U.N.’s refugee agency reported that Syria last year “had become the world’s top source country of refugees, overtaking Afghanistan, which has held this position for more than three decades.”

A man and a child stand in the doorway of a bus provided by Hungarian authorities for migrants and refugees stranded at the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, on Saturday. The migrants boarded buses provided by Hungary's government and headed to Austria, which allowed them in.

Since 1979, Afghans have been fleeing their country due to war, political repression, food shortages and lack of opportunity. It’s the “largest protracted refugee situation” in the world, the U.N. says, with no end in sight.

It prompts an uncomfortable question: Could the world still be grappling with a Syrian refugee crisis decades from now?

The similarities between the Syrian and Afghan situations are noteworthy.

Afghan refugees arrived this week on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea in an inflatable dinghy from Turkey. Afghans are the second-largest group of refugees in Europe, after Syrians, and have been fleeing their country for more than 30 years.i

Afghan refugees arrived this week on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea in an inflatable dinghy from Turkey. Afghans are the second-largest group of refugees in Europe, after Syrians, and have been fleeing their country for more than 30 years.

Petros Giannakouris/AP


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Petros Giannakouris/AP

Afghan refugees arrived this week on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea in an inflatable dinghy from Turkey. Afghans are the second-largest group of refugees in Europe, after Syrians, and have been fleeing their country for more than 30 years.

Afghan refugees arrived this week on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea in an inflatable dinghy from Turkey. Afghans are the second-largest group of refugees in Europe, after Syrians, and have been fleeing their country for more than 30 years.

Petros Giannakouris/AP

Since 2011, 4.1 million people have fled Syria. In the first two years after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, some 3.7 million Afghans fled to neighboring countries, accounting for more than half the total number of Afghan refugees fleeing in the past 36 years.

Afghans are still on the move today. After Syrians, Afghans make up the highest number of migrants landing in Europe now, with 40,000 arriving this year alone.

But the European refugee numbers are a small fraction of those closer to home. In the cases of both Afghanistan and Syria, neighboring countries have borne a disproportionate share of the refugee burden. In Syria’s case, 95 percent of refugees have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. All three countries are feeling the strain.

For Afghans, the main destinations have been Iran and Pakistan. These neighbors, despite their hospitality, have had limited resources to assist the huge numbers of Afghans.

Afghan families break their homeward journey from Pakistan at the border town of Torkham in 1992, a year when many refugees began to return to Afghanistan. Civil war broke out soon thereafter, causing more to flee the country again.i

Afghan families break their homeward journey from Pakistan at the border town of Torkham in 1992, a year when many refugees began to return to Afghanistan. Civil war broke out soon thereafter, causing more to flee the country again.

Mir Wais/AP


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Mir Wais/AP

Afghan families break their homeward journey from Pakistan at the border town of Torkham in 1992, a year when many refugees began to return to Afghanistan. Civil war broke out soon thereafter, causing more to flee the country again.

Afghan families break their homeward journey from Pakistan at the border town of Torkham in 1992, a year when many refugees began to return to Afghanistan. Civil war broke out soon thereafter, causing more to flee the country again.

Mir Wais/AP

Iran still hosts about 950,000 Afghans, and Pakistan hosts about 1.5 million. And those are just the officially registered Afghan refugees. There are an estimated 2 million additional Afghans in those two countries who are unregistered, which would put the actual number at somewhere around 4.5 million.

Many Afghans have gone home since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban in 2001. Nearly 6 million have returned from Pakistan alone since 2002.

Many more would prefer to go home, if conditions were better. And over the years, neither Pakistan nor Iran has been shy in expressing the wish that they would. Afghan refugees in both countries, despite being there in some cases for generations, are frequently harassed, persecuted or forced to leave.

Pakistani border guards stopped Afghan refugees from entering in late 2000. Authorities closed the border to stop the influx of refugees into Pakistan, which was already hosting millions of displaced Afghans.i

Pakistani border guards stopped Afghan refugees from entering in late 2000. Authorities closed the border to stop the influx of refugees into Pakistan, which was already hosting millions of displaced Afghans.

HAIDER SHAH/AP


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HAIDER SHAH/AP

Pakistani border guards stopped Afghan refugees from entering in late 2000. Authorities closed the border to stop the influx of refugees into Pakistan, which was already hosting millions of displaced Afghans.

Pakistani border guards stopped Afghan refugees from entering in late 2000. Authorities closed the border to stop the influx of refugees into Pakistan, which was already hosting millions of displaced Afghans.

HAIDER SHAH/AP

Fifteen years ago, Pakistan shut its border in an attempt to stop the flow of Afghans coming across. Around the same time, Iran deported thousands of Afghans. This was at the height of Taliban rule, a period when Afghanistan was an international pariah, cut off from the world, unwilling to educate girls and overwhelmingly dependent on international aid.

There are other examples of large-scale, long-term refugee populations, notably the Palestinians. The Palestinian refugees now officially number more than 5 million and were displaced starting in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Their needs are not handled by the main U.N. refugee agency, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, but by a separate U.N. body dedicated solely to Palestinians, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.

The most common figure experts cite for the average length of displacement caused by conflict is 17 years, apparently originating from a 2004 U.N. report referring to an estimate made for refugee populations in 2003.

It’s impossible to predict how long the Syrian war will last or how long millions of Syrians will remain displaced. But the Afghan experience and others suggest it could be many years, if not decades. In the meantime, what lessons can be drawn from Afghanistan’s experience?

The obvious remedies are political and must embrace a long-term perspective, says Sharon Waxman, a former State Department official who served for the past three years as the International Rescue Committee’s vice president of public policy and advocacy.

“Solutions to internal displacement and refugees require a political decision coupled with a development strategy — ending a conflict, absorbing them into a community or allowing them to resettle in another country,” she told NPR. “That takes a long time. It requires leadership and political will and good governance and development dollars.”

And while development dollars may sound straightforward enough, this is actually at the heart of the challenge: Policymakers do not treat refugee crises as a development issue requiring long-term strategies and support. They approach them as short-term humanitarian emergencies.

But it’s the wrong approach, Waxman says.

“Humanitarian budgets are smaller than international development budgets,” Waxman says. “There is never any long-term development strategy. They should go hand-in-hand. The challenge is when governments can’t or won’t meet the needs of their own people and displaced populations.”

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, broad development priorities for the next 15 years that follow up on the Millennium Development Goals covering the past 15-year period, are “conspicuously silent about human displacement, even though it inarguably poses insurmountable challenges to governments’ ability to implement the goals,” Waxman noted this week in the Huffington Post.

“People live in camps forever and are never integrated into a host country’s long-term development. Countries don’t want to officially absorb them,” she adds.

Integrating refugees into new countries is politically challenging, and resettlement in a third country is rarely an option. Less than 1 percent of the world’s refugees are resettled.

“When we draw up development plans,” Waxman says, “we should focus on areas where people need and want to return. Otherwise, they live in perpetual limbo.”

Congressman Steals Pope Francis’ Water, Brags About It

Sep 27, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Congressman Steals Pope Francis’ Water, Brags About It

In his congressional office, Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., drinks from the glass of water Pope Francis used during his speech to Congress.i

In his congressional office, Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., drinks from the glass of water Pope Francis used during his speech to Congress.

Stan White/U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s office via AP


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Stan White/U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s office via AP

In his congressional office, Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., drinks from the glass of water Pope Francis used during his speech to Congress.

In his congressional office, Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., drinks from the glass of water Pope Francis used during his speech to Congress.

Stan White/U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s office via AP

Some people do drink holy water, hoping for a little extra help from above.

But no one steals the pope’s.

That is, no one, except Rep. Bob Brady. The Pennsylvania Democrat, a Roman Catholic, apparently eyed the glass atop the lectern next to Pope Francis during his address to Congress. Once Francis was done, Brady nabbed it, sneaked it back to his office — and drank it.

“How many people do you know that drank out of the same glass as the pope?” Brady said, per the Philadelphia Daily News.

This is not the first time Brady has pulled off this kind of heist. He did the same thing after President Obama’s first inaugural address.

Brady may have broken at least two of the 10 commandments — Nos. 8 and 10. Per Exodus 20:1-17:

“You shall not steal.”

And:

“You shall not covet … anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Any good Catholic might feel a measure of guilt for pulling this off. If the Philadelphia congressman does wind up feeling pangs of guilt — and there’s no indication he does — the pope happens to be in town.

Maybe he would take Brady’s confession. After all, Francis has declared this the year of mercy.

Thai Police: Two Already In Custody Carried Out Deadly Bombing

Sep 26, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Thai Police: Two Already In Custody Carried Out Deadly Bombing

Bombing suspect identified by Thai police as Adem Karadag wearing yellow shirt is escorted by Thai police during the crime reenactment at the bomb blast scene at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, on Saturday.i

Bombing suspect identified by Thai police as Adem Karadag wearing yellow shirt is escorted by Thai police during the crime reenactment at the bomb blast scene at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, on Saturday.

Rungroj Yongrit/EPA/Landov


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Bombing suspect identified by Thai police as Adem Karadag wearing yellow shirt is escorted by Thai police during the crime reenactment at the bomb blast scene at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, on Saturday.

Bombing suspect identified by Thai police as Adem Karadag wearing yellow shirt is escorted by Thai police during the crime reenactment at the bomb blast scene at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, on Saturday.

Rungroj Yongrit/EPA/Landov

Police in Thailand say they are ready to prosecute two suspects in connection with the August bombing of a prominent religious shrine in central Bangkok that killed 20 people and wounded 120 others.

Authorities say that one of the two suspects is “yellow-shirt man” seen in a closed circuit video leaving a backpack behind moments before the deadly blast. The second man is said to have been an accomplice.

Earlier this month, police had said that neither of the men were “main suspects” after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha initially said that one of them was the bomber.

At least 15 other people are still being sought in connection with the bombing that police say was motivated by people smugglers whose operation was broken up by Thai authorities. A warrant for at least one other suspect, a woman, is still outstanding.

“Today, police are confident Adem [Karadag] and Yusufu [Mieraili] are the real attackers,” National Police Chief Somyot Poomphanmuang told reporters. “Adem is the yellow-shirted man who planted the bomb. Yusufu is the one who exploded the bomb.”

Somyot declared the investigation complete despite the numerous suspects who remain at large.

As is customary in the Thai justice system, authorities on Saturday brought the men to the scene of the explosion to reenact their alleged crime before the media. The Bangkok Post has a series of photos of the reenactment here.

According to the Post:

“The two suspects had confessed they had met at Hua Lamphong railway station before separating. Mr Karadag went to the Ratchaprasong intersection to place a bomb-filled rucksack at the Erawan [shrine] on Aug 17. He then went to a toilet at Lumpini park to change his yellow shirt to a grey one before returning to his accommodation in Nong Chok district of Bangkok.

“Mr Karadag, also known as Bilal Turk, was identified by police as the yellow-shirted man based on CCTV footage that captured him planting the deadly bomb at the shrine.”

From the beginning, the investigation into the bombing has been fraught with missteps and misstatements that left about the competence of Thai authorities. As The Associated Press notes: “many questions remain unanswered about the case. Police have not detailed what action triggered the alleged violent revenge, and Somyot suggested Saturday that the people smugglers ‘might have hired’ another group of people to carry out the attack. The names and nationalities of some of the others being sought are still unknown.

“Even the two arrested men’s true identities remain uncertain. Adem Karadag was arrested when police raided an apartment in Bangkok on Aug. 29, where they also found bomb-making materials and a large quantity of fake passports, including a bogus Turkish passport carrying the photo of the suspect and the name Adem Karadag.”

Excited About The Pope’s Visit? Read ‘Laudato Si’

Sep 26, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Excited About The Pope’s Visit? Read ‘Laudato Si’

Pope Francis waves from inside his car after arriving at Philadelphia International Airport on Sept. 26.i

Pope Francis waves from inside his car after arriving at Philadelphia International Airport on Sept. 26.

Pope Francis is visiting the United States. To welcome him, you should read the letter he wrote to all of us — it is addressed to “every person living on this planet” — last May, if you haven’t already: Laudato Si, the papal encyclical on the environment.

We’re advocating this not as Bible-thumpers, political agents, or environmental activists. We’re anthropologists. We love to ponder why people believe what they believe — from communities in the Amazon to Papua New Guinea, from theologians in the Vatican to scientists in the academy.

We find Laudato Si important because it defies the United States’ political imagination at every turn. In some moments, the pope reads like an archconservative, in other moments an archliberal. Sometimes he defers to scientists, other times he quotes scripture and, still other times, he criticizes the very foundations of economics. Mixing together ideas many see as incompatible, he forces us to think.

The Bishop of Rome has become a formidable public intellectual. The sharp rise of his New Papal Diplomacy has been impressive. News media have responded by covering Laudato Si’s points about poverty, climate change and capitalism. And pundits from the left and the right have plucked ideas from it to forward their causes.

But we worry that encountering Laudato Si only through these secondhand sources has left many out of touch with its most profound philosophical, spiritual and ethical nuances. The papal letter is, for one, about far more than just consumerism and the environment. Here are other timely questions it raises:

  1. How Can We Envision Brighter Tomorrows? The pope worries that “people no longer seem to believe in a happy future.” We live in societies that “demean contemplative rest as something unproductive and unnecessary.” Deluges of new consumer goods “baffle the heart.” Stress and frenzied schedules rule lives. Can we — in an America where younger generations might not be better off than previous ones — recover hope for the future through a “renewal of humanity itself?” Must we self-transform our hearts?
  2. What Are the Ethics of Private Property? Pope Francis says God “rejects every claim to absolute ownership.” He quotes John Paul II discussing the “social mortgage on all private property” and Portuguese bishops discussing how our planet is only “on loan to each generation.” America’s subprime mortgage crisis and the global financial crisis that followed it have drawn millions to reconsider our obsessions with owning things. Could Laudato Si inspire a deeper reflection on property and prosperity?
  3. Why Do We Let Technology Run Our Lives? The pope worries that we’ve surrendered to technology. We increasingly lack “genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal.” Many Americans get excited about new innovations. But many also feel anxious that new technologies, from NSA surveillance software to our own iPhones, increasingly control us. Must we be resigned to this? Should we, following Laudato Si, pause more often to “wonder the purpose and meaning of everything?”

These are crucial questions. That’s why we’ve invited a select group of legal scholars, anthropologists, theologians, businesspeople, political scientists, futurists, architects, literature scholars, geographers, bureaucrats and other thinkers from around the world to read and discuss Laudato Si together via the internet.

We’re doing this through Cornell Law School’s virtual think tank Meridian 180: a members-only online community bringing together 700 top minds, mostly from the United States and East Asia, to discuss economic, political and environmental challenges facing countries around the Pacific. Participants take turns leading forums — kicking off conversations by posing challenging questions. Within the privacy of this group, these thinkers are free to speak frankly and explore risky opinions they might not be able to voice in their public lives.

So far, thinkers ranging from Yale Law Professor Douglas Kysar to longtime Toyota innovator and futurologist Tetsuya Kaida to Peking University philosopher Huaihong He have weighed in on Laudato Si. We expect dozens more challenging responses in the weeks to come.

Public summaries of the conversations are posted here. Though Meridian 180 forums sometimes produce policy recommendations, our broadest ambition is to enrich bold transpacific thinking and to inspire fresh intellectual collaborations between East and West.

The pope has challenged Meridian 180 to think. While some of our Laudato Si forum participants are Catholics, many are irreligious or hail from Asian countries with less prominent Christian faith traditions. But what unites us is this: We receive the pope not as some celebrity or pop star, but as a thinker and diplomat. And we believe that scrutinizing the encyclical’s fine print is essential during today’s great political divisions, climate crises and uncertain futures.

So, why not follow suit? Why not pour yourself a drink, curl up on your couch and start reading the encyclical (available here)? Doing so would provide a rich way to delve deeper into points made in the pope’s addresses to Congress, the UN and elsewhere.

And, who knows? It could also change how you live your life.

Vincent Ialenti is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow and a PhD candidate in Cornell University’s Department of Anthropology. Annelise Riles is the Jack G. Clarke Professor of Law in Far East Legal Studies and Professor of Anthropology at Cornell.

Syrian Rebels Trained By U.S. Gave Equipment To Al Nusra Front

Sep 26, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Syrian Rebels Trained By U.S. Gave Equipment To Al Nusra Front

Syrian rebels, armed and trained by U.S. and allied forces, reportedly surrendered equipment to a suspected Al Nusra Front intermediary, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

NPR’s Tom Bowman reports:

“The Defense Department says a commander of the New Syrian Forces, who had been trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies, has surrendered trucks and ammunition to the Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria. U.S. Central Command says the rebel fighters apparently turned over the equipment in return for safe passage in the region. This is the second attempt to use coalition-trained rebels that has gone awry in Syria.”

U.S. Central Command spokesperson Col. Patrick Ryder said that if the report from the New Syrian Forces is accurate, it is “very concerning and a violation of Syria train and equip program guidelines.”

He said the group surrendered about 25 percent of their issued equipment.

Reuters reports that the incident points to problems within the Syrian rebel forces.

“The news was the most recent sign of trouble in a fledgling military effort to train fighters to take on the Islamic State militant group in Syria, where a 4-1/2-year civil war has killed about 250,000 people and caused nearly half of Syria’s prewar population of 23 million to flee.

“A top U.S. general told Congress last week that only a handful of the rebels are still fighting in Syria, though U.S. military officials said this week that dozens more have since joined them.

“U.S. officials have told Reuters that a review is underway that could result in scaling back and reenvisioning the program.”

#MemeOfTheWeek: John Boehner Cries, The Internet Laughs

Sep 26, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on #MemeOfTheWeek: John Boehner Cries, The Internet Laughs

House Speaker John Boehner wipes his eyes as he listens to Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress Thursday.i

House Speaker John Boehner wipes his eyes as he listens to Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress Thursday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


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House Speaker John Boehner wipes his eyes as he listens to Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress Thursday.

House Speaker John Boehner wipes his eyes as he listens to Pope Francis address a joint meeting of Congress Thursday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

There’s getting a little choked up. There’s shedding a few tears. There’s full-on crying. And then, there’s John Boehner, American politics’ crier-in-chief.

This week, (soon to be former) Speaker of the House Boehner’s tear ducts stole the show yet again, definitely upstaging the Pope’s little black Fiat and newly-named baby panda Bei Bei to become our #MemeOfTheWeek.

So, what happened?

Well, Pope Francis made a visit to the U.S. this week, and on Thursday, John Boehner arranged for him to make an address before a joint meeting of Congress. Boehner (a devout Catholic), didn’t disappoint with the tears. And a lot of the Internet thought it was funny.

Even Evita/Madonna got involved (turn the sound on for this one):

The tears even extended through Friday, when the speaker abruptly announced his resignation:

Of course, there’s a history of Boehner crying. According to Politico, he’s done it “during a tribute to golf legend Arnold Palmer, while listening to Irish music on St. Patrick’s Day (Boehner is of German ancestry) and while singing “America the Beautiful,” among other occasions.” Of course he cried when he became Speaker of the House. NBC Philadelphia says Boehner’s choked up at an unveiling of a Rosa Parks statue, during an event honoring the painter Constantino Brumidi.

But not everyone thought mocking Boehner for expressing his emotions was the right thing to do:

But, in the end, even Boehner was kind of in on the joke:

So hats off to you this week, Mr. Speaker. You got the Pope to the Capitol, you’re about to get a lot more time to golf, you won the #MemeOfTheWeek, and you were a good sport about it all.

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