September 24, 2008

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 38

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


QUOTED:

“The carbon numbers just don’t add up and we need to be looking at other options.”

— Brian Launder, an engineer in the U.K., says large-scale geo-engineering can help fight climate change (see below).

*THIS WEEK*

– Women on top in Rwandan Parliament

– Can ‘geo-engineering’ save the Earth?

– Veteran PTSD on the rise as new therapies emerge

– Heavy spin cycle on Iran reporting


THIS WEEK ON NEWSDESK.org

* Women on Top in Rwandan Parliament

Women will form the majority in Rwanda’s national parliament, making it the first country in the world to have more female legislators than men.

According to the Independent, women have won around 56 percent of the seats in parliament after four days of peaceful elections.

Women will have at least 44 of the 80 total seats.

“The problems of women are understood much better, much better by women themselves,” one female voter said.

President Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front secured a majority in the elections — only the second since the 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 people there.

The Rwandan constitution provides a quota 24 seats to women, as well as three seats for representatives of youth and disabled people — but the Independent noted that additional seats won may reflect “disenchantment with the country’s male, genocide-era politicians.”

–Julia Hengst/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Women MP’s to the fore in healing of Rwanda”
The Independent, September 17, 2008

* Can ‘Geo-Engineering’ Save the Earth?

Perhaps recycling and compact fluorescent lights aren’t exciting anymore — but media have recently latched onto the concept of geo-engineering as a means of combatting climate change.

For now, geo-engineering remains theoretical, and imagines large- scale projects such as man-made volcanic eruptions and giant algae farms.

Shell Oil is already exploring the field, according to the environmental Web site Mongabay, by investing in a project that adds lime to seawater as a means of increasing carbon dioxide absorbtion by the world’s oceans.

At least some climate scientists are apparently excited about the field, too.

British science group the Royal Society this month published a special collection of papers on geo-engineering, and the Economist magazine published a run-down of some of the most elaborate ideas.

One of the better received plans appears to be that of Jonathan Latham of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, who proposes a fleet of unmanned ships that would pump seawater vapor into the atmosphere in order to make that clouds reflect sunlight back into space.

Still, the scientists coming up with geo-engineering plans are quick to point out that theirs are not cure-all solutions, but instruments of last resort.

“The carbon numbers just don’t add up and we need to be looking at other options, namely geo-engineering, to give us time to let the world come to its senses,” Brian Launder, a mechanical engineer at the University of Manchester, told the Guardian newspaper.

Others expressed skepticism about geo-engineering, citing the risk of disastrous unforeseen side effects.

Still Scientific American blogger David Biello wrote, “we’re already unwittingly running such a global scale experiment. It’s known as climate change.”

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“A changing climate of opinion?”
The Economist, September 4, 2008

“Extreme and risky action the only way to tackle global warming, say scientists”
The Guardian, September 1, 2008

“Geoengineering may be tech’s answer to global warming”
ZDNet, August 18, 2008

“Geoengineering solution No. 9: The Flying Dutchman solves global warming”
Sci-Am.com, September 8, 2008

“Shell Oil funds ‘open source’ geoengineering project to fight global warming
mongabay.com”

Mongaybay.com, July 21, 2008

* Veteran PTSD on the Rise as New Therapies Emerge

Iraq war veterans are seeking out new forms of therapy to help heal psychologically as reports of post-traumatic stress disorder and army suicides have increased dramatically.

United Press International reported that the suicide rate of soldiers in 2008 would likely surpass that of the nation’s suicide rate, while an article in the Washington Post noted that reports of post-traumatic stress disorder remain high for both wounded and uninjured soldiers.

New solutions to the problem may be emerging, however.

At the University of Southern California, psychologist Albert “Skip” Rizzo anticipated the return of thousands of soldiers with PTSD and developed a “Virtual Iraq” program that he says has been successful in treating the troops.

Rizzo told NPR that one of the best treatments for PTSD is for the person to relive their trauma using their imagination – something most soldiers want to avoid.

The virtual-reality program, with its sophisticated technology, puts vets back into “the sights, sounds, smells, feelings of the scene.”

Rizzo thinks repeated exposure to traumatic memories can desensitize people, helping them become calm enough to reprocess the experience and eventually heal.

Other veterans find healing through art.

Art therapist Bob Ault of Kansas told the Washington Post “art therapy is a non-threatening way to help people with PTSD experience their feelings.”

Although it is recognized as helpful in treating post-combat mental health problems, the Post reports that few veteran and military hospitals have robust art therapy programs or employ art therapists due to a lack of funding or a focus on other treatments.

Meanwhile, some veterans have taken their healing into their own hands.

The Combat Paper Project, started in 2007 by 26-year old veteran Drew Cameron, helps veterans reconcile their combat experiences by transforming their old uniforms into works of art.

Julia Rappaport, writing for the Vineyard Gazzette, said the uniforms are cut up, beaten into pulp and formed into sheets of paper — what Cameron calls “combat paper.”

From there, the paper can be made into books, painted, covered with photography – anything the soldiers are inspired to do that helps them reclaim their uniform as art.

Veterans of several different wars have participated.

–Julia Hengst/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“U.S. Army reports hike in troop suicides”
United Press International, September 10, 2008

“War in Pieces: Combat Paper Project Sees Veterans Use Uniforms to Heal”
Vineyard Gazzette Online, July 25, 2008

“‘Virtual Iraq’ Game Aims to Help Vets with PTSD”
National Public Radio, May 20, 2008

“War’s Pain, Softened With a Brush Stroke”
Washington Post, April 15, 2007

* Heavy Spin Cycle on Iran Reporting

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s annual visit to the United Nations General Assembly has brought the usual round of troubling stories about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel views.

But a glance at the world’s press offers some less-expected — and sometimes less credible — angles.

Hong Kong’s Asia Times newspaper gives a new image for the country, that of Iran the diplomatic power.

According to contributor Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Iran has recently helped to reduce tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in post-war Georgia and Russia.

This is not entirely selfless, however.

According to the Asia Times article, Iran is trying to head off an alliance between Turkey, the United States, Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

First proposed by Turkey, the alliance has been stalled by tensions with Russia, at least for the time being.

“For now it looks like a football match with the U.S. and Turkey on one side and Iran and Russia on the other, and that is why Moscow needs Iran more than ever before and cannot risk taking any action that would alienate [it],” an unnamed Iranian official said, according to Afrasiabi.

And speaking of alienation, Iran may be softening up its anti-Israel rhetoric — or is it?

According to the BBC, the chief tourism minister of Iran was quoted this summer as saying that his country is “friends with the American and Israeli people.”

This kind of statement by a tourism minister might be completely innocuous coming from any other nation — but in Iran, it set off a scramble among government officials.

The BBC notes that at a recent news conference last week, Ahmadinejad supported drawing a distinction between the ordinary people of Israel and the “Zionists” who lead them.

This did not please Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who told a Friday prayer service that “a Muslim nation cannot remain indifferent to such people who are stooges at the service of the arch-enemies of the Muslim world.”

Journalist Ali Pahlavan told the BBC that the comments may have been Ahmadinejad’s way of testing the waters for a rapprochement with Israel and the United States.

If an Iranian press report is to be believed, Ahmadinejad may have already won over new allies among a group of Jewish rabbis in the United States.

According to Iran’s government-funded Press TV, a group called Neturei Karta International (Jews United Against Zionism) was preparing to welcome Ahmadinejad.

The Anti-Defamation League describes Neturei Karta as a “miniscule group on the farthest fringes of Judaism” that receives its funding from Arab governments. A Wikipedia entry asserts that the group opposes Zionism because it believes that Jews cannot rule in Jerusalem until the coming of the Talmudic messiah.

Press TV quoted a statement from the group’s Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss which read, “It is sad that so few have actually attempted to speak to the Iranian president or seek the true opinion of Iranian Jewry who live in peace and practice their faith throughout that nation.”

–Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Iran plays the mediator”
Asia Times, September 20, 2008

“Iranian row on Zionism breaks out”
BBC, September 22, 2008

“Rabbis hail Ahmadinejad’s NY visit”
Press TV (Iran), September 22, 2008

“Neturei Karta — What is it?”
Anti-Defamation League, December 14, 2006

“Neturei Karta”
Wikipedia


Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

Intern: Julia Hengst

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