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Scientists from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, say the findings could help predict whether or not a paedophile might go on to offend (pictured is a stock image). | 10/27/16
At least 11 schools in eastern Germany received threatening emails on Monday prompting police to deploy officers, but there was no indication of actual danger. "We found out from some schools in Leipzig this morning that they had received an email with threatening content. At least nine schools in Leipzig and two in the city of Magdeburg received the emails. | 10/17/16
Police say that schools in several parts of Germany have received emailed threats of violence and authorities are working to figure out who and what is behind them. | 10/17/16

At the center of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign is the proposal to build a “great, great wall” along the United States’ border with Mexico ― and to make Mexico pay for it.

And as Americans debate the legitimacy of this immigration policy, several European countries are working hard to build walls with the same purpose as the one Trump has suggested: keeping migrants and refugees out.

Border walls have been around for thousands of years ― think of the Great Wall of China, which was built to fend off invasions, or the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Germany until 1989. The irony is that much of the European Union has for years been defined by unrestricted movement between countries.

Until last year.

“In 2015, borders and walls seemed to burst onto the global agenda in the context of migration and halting spontaneous movement,” Reece Jones, associate professor of geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote earlier this month for the Migration Policy Institute. 

Some European countries within the free-movement Schengen zone are “reverting back to their enforcement of national borders,” Susan Fratzke, policy analyst at the MPI, told The Huffington Post.

Other countries are introducing border checks where they previously did not exist. Guards between countries like France and Belgium, for example, now check travelers’ documentation.

And some countries, like Hungary, have decided to build physical walls. 

“Those barriers have been the most dramatic,” Fratzke added.

This is happening for several reasons.

It’s important to keep track of the high number of refugees and migrants arriving to some countries, Fratzke said. This became evident in many countries last year, when so many refugees applied for asylum that systems were completely backlogged.   

On the other hand, she said, there are the countries where “border control has been a populist measure to try to respond to inflamed public reaction to people who are arriving.” Hungary, for instance, recently held a referendum in which 90 percent of voters chose to reject EU-mandated refugee resettlement quotas (that decision is moot, however, because less than half of the total population voted).

People still try to cross the border. They just do in a different place or through a different method.
Reece Jones, associate professor of geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Experts agree that physically blocking people from entering the country is not an effective way to prevent migration.

“People still try to cross the border,” Jones told HuffPost. “They just do in a different place or through a different method.” 

Border walls might slightly deter refugees in places like Greece, Fratzke added, “but if you look at the central Mediterranean [between Libya and Italy], there’s been an increase in flows and we actually saw more deaths.”

Check out what the new, fortified Europe looks like:


British officials announced last month that they would finance the construction of a wall to keep out the migrants and refugees living in the “Jungle,” a camp in Calais, France, where about 7,000 people live.

The steel structure, already nicknamed the “Great Wall of Calais,” is expected to be 13 feet high.

Although less than a mile long, the “get out” symbolism that the wall creates is unmistakable. The U.K. border actually extends into Calais, meaning that the Brits are literally stretching across the English Channel and putting up additional fortifications to prevent migrants and refugees from reaching their shores. 

Many of the people living in Calais and Grande-Synthe, a nearby refugee camp also housing thousands, had attempted to leave France by jumping onto moving trucks bound for the English Channel. 


Turkey, too, has started building a concrete wall along its entire border with Syria ― that’s a 560-mile wall ― to try to stem the flow of refugees pouring in from the war-torn country. Officially, the Turkish government claims to welcome Syrians with open arms. 

Once completed, the wall is expected to stand 10 feet high tall and almost 7 feet wide. Construction is projected to be completed by February, Reuters reported.

Almost 3 million Syrian refugees currently live in Turkey, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.


Norway announced in August that it would begin constructing a wall ― 660 feet long and 11 feet high ― on its Arctic border with Russia.

Once walls in the Balkans started going up, migrants and refugees were required to find new routes westward. Some traveled north all the way through Russia and into Norway, prompting a crackdown in a country once known as a haven for migrants.

A total of 31,145 people applied for asylum in Norway last year, according to the country’s Directorate of Immigration statistics ― almost 20,000 more than the year before.

The country already unsuccessfully tried sending people riding bicycles from Russia back across the border.


Hungary has been one of the fiercest anti-refugee campaigners since the crisis came to a head last year, and Prime Minister Victor Orbán has announced a second barbed-wire fence to stem the flow of people into the country. 

The first, which is 310 miles long, was built in the fall of 2015.

Some 4,992 migrants and refugees were stranded along the border with Serbia as of Oct. 5, according to the International Organization for Migration. This represents a 348 percent increase since early July, when Hungary passed a law allowing some people to be sent back to Serbia.

Orbán also eferred to migration as “poison” over the summer.

Some migrants and refugees have been severely abused along the border, Human Rights Watch reports. 


Austria finalized plans in July to erect a barrier along its entire border with Hungary. For many, Austria represented the final frontier on a journey from Greece to Germany or Sweden.

The number of migrants entering Germany from Austria had fallen more than sevenfold between November 2015 and March 2016, according to Reuters.


Slovenia constructed a 78-mile fence last year along part of its border with Croatia to try to close off a portion of the so-called Balkan migration route.


There are currently about 60,000 refugees languishing in Greece, per the latest U.N. Human Rights Council data. A few hundred have been sent back to Turkey, and, as was outlined in a March deal between the EU and Turkey, 4,140 have been resettled in other European countries, according to the IOM said.

The fate of the rest remains murky, but what is abundantly clear is that they won’t be making it further into Europe since borders are all shut.


There’s a similar situation in Bulgaria. A fence went up last year to keep people from flowing in from Turkey and was extended this past summer.

It hasn’t managed to keep everyone out. The country recorded about a 717 percent increase in illegal arrivals, from 863 to 7,070, between March and September of this year, the IOM said.

What’s Left?

Any and all routes leading out of Greece have been cut off, pushing people toward the most dangerous voyage of them all: southern Italy via Libya.

The danger doesn’t seem to be deterring people. Search and rescue crews are busier than ever. More than 10,000 people were rescued in a 36-hour period recently. 

Although arrivals across all of Europe are down compared to last year ― 316,331 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through Oct. 9 compared to 520,000 in all of 2016 ― more have died, according to the IOM. And arrivals to Italy are up by 6 percent compared to last year.

“Rather than endangering migrant lives and filling the coffers of the smugglers, the EU should focus on increasing resettlement quotas and creating corridors that allow safe passage,” Jones, the geography professor, said. “If they don’t, we will continue to see more and more migrant deaths in the years to come.”

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This summer, the United Nations International Resource Panel (IRP), published “Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity,” a report that admits what ecologists have been saying for decades: Resources are limited, human consumption trends are unsustainable, and the resource depletion diminishes human health, quality of life, and future development.

The report shows that consumption of Earth's primary resources (metals, fuels, timber, cereals, and so forth) has tripled in the last 40 years, driven by population growth (increasing at about 1.1% per year), economic growth (averaging about 3% per year over the same period), and consumption per person, worldwide.

Economic growth has helped lift some regions from poverty and created more middle-class consumers, while enriching the wealthiest nations the most. The UN report acknowledges, however, that advances in human well-being have been achieved through consumption patterns that are “not sustainable” and that will “ultimately deplete the resources − causing shortages [and] conflict.”

In 1970 - when ecologists in Canada founded Greenpeace and Club of Rome scholars prepared the original Limits to Growth study — a human population of 3.7 billion, used 22 billion tons of primary materials per year. Forty years later, in 2010, with a population of 6.7 billion, humans used 70 billion tons. Now, in 2016, we require about 86 billion tons, and the UN Resource Panel estimates that by 2050 we will require annually some 180 billion tons of raw materials, which Earth’s ecosystems may not be able to provide.

Furthermore, modern technology has not made our economies more efficient, as promised. As technology has advanced, material consumption accelerated. Fossil fuel consumption has grown annually by 2.9%, metal ores by 3.5%, and non-metalic minerals by 5.3%. Since 2000, even as economic growth and population growth slowed, material demand accelerated. Frivolous consumption has increased among the rich, and we now spend increasing amounts of energy to extract lower grade resources, reducing productivity.

According to Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, co-chair of the panel, “The alarming rate at which materials are now being extracted … shows that the prevailing patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable. …  We urgently need to address this problem before we have irreversibly depleted the resources that power our economies and lift people out of poverty. This deeply complex problem … calls for a rethink of the governance of natural resource extraction.”

Economic justice 

Meanwhile, large economic gaps remain between rich and poor nations, between North America and Europe on one hand, and all other world regions. To achieve economic justice and UN development goals, low income nations will require increasing quantities of materials. 

Today, the average citizen in Africa consumes about three tonnes of material resources each year, including infrastructure. In Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, the average citizen consumes about 3-times as much, 8-10 tonnes of materials each year. In Europe and North America, average citizens consume about 20-30 tonnes of materials each year, 7-10-times the average African. The super-rich, elite, with multiple homes, airplanes, and exotic holidays, consume much more, in the range of 100-times the average African citizen, ten-times the middle-class citizen in Asia. The US, with less than five percent of world population, consumes about 30 % of global materials. 

Social justice goals and ecological goals sometimes appear in conflict, but the real conflict arises between the extravagant consumption of the wealthy and the subsistence consumption of the rest of the world. 

In 2008, the Global Footprint Network prepared the following chart that shows how nations measure up to the UN Human Development Index (vertical scale) and the Global Footprint Index (horizontal scale). Those nations above the horizontal red line meet the UN Human Development goals, those below fall short. Nations to the left of vertical red line live within the budget for a per-capita fair-share of Earth’s resources. Those to the right use more than their fair share per person. The average person in the US uses about five-times their fair share of Earth’s resources. The average person in Sierra Leone uses about half of a fair share. Several Asian and South American nations come close to achieving both — meeting UN Human Development goals with a fair per-capita share of resources — but the only nation that does achieve both goals is Cuba.  


Nations ranked by social development and material consumption: Nations that meet the UN Human Development goals, do so with unsustainable consumption. Those with sustainable levels of resource use are not meeting the UN development goals. Only Cuba achieves both. The challenge of our age is to learn to live sustainably while meeting basic human needs. To achieve this, extravagant consumption doesn’t work, and modest living is the measure of social responsibility. Graphic by Global Footprint Network. 

A vast proportion of consumption in rich nations is wasteful, products designed to be wasteful and grow obsolete. According to industrial ecologist Robert Ayres, 99% of human-produced goods are consumed or become waste within 6 months.

The UN panel warns that “rapid economic growth occurring simultaneously in many parts of the world will place much higher demands on supply infrastructure and the environment’s ability to continue supplying materials.” If Earth cannot provide the material increases expected, then total human resource consumption will have to stabilize. How is this to be achieved?

Economy and materials

The imperative of industrial economy is growth, but the ecological data tells us to slow down. The conflict may be the supreme challenge of our age, almost entirely ignored by status quo politicians. The UN Resource Panel avoids the challenge by proposing twin strategies of “efficiency” and “decoupling” to allow global economic growth to continue.

Efficiency is the long-sought holy grail of technology, the belief that machines will produce the goods we want with less demand on resources. Decoupling describes the theory that more efficient machines, and wise strategies can create economic growth without consuming resources. Let’s examine these beliefs. 

Efficiency: In 1865, William Jevons published The Coal Question, showing that technological efficiencies did not reduce coal consumption but increased consumption. Historically, when we become more efficient with a resource, we use more of it. The “Jevons paradox” applied to resource use in general. Efficiency often increases consumption. 

Energy efficient automobiles increased leisure driving, vehicle size, and suburban sprawl. Refrigeration efficiency led to larger refrigerators and more electricity consumption. In North America, according research by William Rees, as modern heating systems improved efficiency by 10-30% , living and working space per person increase on the scale of 100 to 300%, ten times faster, increasing total energy consumption for heating. According to a 1994 study by Mario Giampietro, the so-called “Green Revolution,” increasing food production with hydrocarbons and fertilizers, led to increased population growth, degraded land, a trail of toxins, and more starving people.

Computer technology was going to solve this, making modern life more efficient, but in 1990, at the dawn of the personal computer revolution, global productivity stopped improving, and since 2000, productivity — economic production per unit of resource use or labour — declined. Computers sped up global economy, and we now use more fossil fuels, paper, and other materials than we did when personal computers became available.  

Decoupling: The UN panel’s other theory proposes: “to decouple economic growth and human well-being from ever-increasing consumption of natural resources.” The panel claims, “many countries have initiated policies to facilitate decoupling,” but cannot offer any evidence of success. 

The global economy now needs more materials per unit of GDP, than required twenty years ago. Meanwhile, lower net energy; higher energy costs for resources, and growing environmental destruction per unit of economic activity undermine the hypothesis of decoupling. The UN appears to realize this since they project that annual resource extraction will increase to 180-billion tons by 2050.

Similarly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposes “mitigation technologies” such as carbon capture, even though these technologies have not even slowed the growth of carbon emissions. Germany, the world leader in solar installations has seen no drop in emissions since 2009, while coal and LNG plants remain open. The UN agencies mean well, but cling to delusions. “They bombard us with adverts, cajoling us to insulate our homes, turn down our thermostats, drive a little less,” says Tim Jackson, with the UK Sustainable Development Commission, “The one piece of advice you will not see on a government list is ‘buy less stuff!’” 


For the poorer nations, economic growth remains important, but the blind spot of international politics remains the taboo against recognizing the limits to aggregate global economic growth. We have now reached those limits, and wealthy countries must embrace this ecological reality. 

“Civilization has a metabolism, about 7.1 milliwatts per dollar of GDP (2005 US$),” explains ecologist Nate Hagens at the University of Minnesota. “Currently, 80% of nitrogen in our bodies and 50% of the protein comes indirectly from natural gas.”  A study published in Bioscience, by J.H. Brown and colleagues points out that “energy imposes fundamental constraints on economic growth and development [similar to] scaling of metabolic rate with body mass in animals. … Additional economic growth and development will require some combination of (a) increased energy supply, (b) decreased per capita energy use, and (c) decreased human population. … The ruins of Mohenjo Daro, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, the Maya, Angkor, Easter Island, and many other complex civilizations provide incontrovertible evidence that innovation does not always prevent socioeconomic collapse.” 

During the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, Global material use actually slowed. Historically, economic recessions provide the only examples of reduced consumption, and here we may recognize the genuine solutions to resource consumption: allow and encourage wealthy economies to stabilize and contract.  The UN report recognizes that “the level of well-being achieved in wealthy industrial countries cannot be generalized globally based on the same system of production and consumption.”

This part, they get right. Humanity needs a new economic model that does not require the delusion of endless growth in a finite global habitat.



UNEP Report, PDF: Global Material Flows, Resource Productivity, 2016; limits, overshoot

Energy Skeptic: Limits to Growth? 2016 United Nations report provides best evidence yet

Huffington Post: Consumption Of Earth's Resources > Tripled In 40 Years, UNEP

Climate News: Plunder of Resources 

Grassroots Recycling Network: Waste, Recycling and Climate Change

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: Albert Bartlett video lecture on exponential growth

The Way Forward: Survival 2100, William Rees, Solutions Journal, human overshoot and genuine solutions. 

(Soddy 1926, Odum 1971, Georgescu-Roegen 1977, Ruth 1993, Schneider and Kay 1995, Hall et al. 2001, Chen 2005, Smil 2008). 

Energy efficient automobiles increase leisure driving, vehicle size, and suburban sprawl (Jeremy Cherfas, 1991)

Refrigeration efficiency led to larger refrigerators and more electricity consumption (Daniel Khazzoom, 1987). 

Mario Giampietro:

J.H. Brown, et. al., Bioscience:


Researchers at Mainz University in Germany have found a link between intelligence and shortsightedness, saying those who wear glasses may often be smarter than those who don't. | 10/10/16
China has signed agreements on the mutual recognition of higher education degrees with 19 EU member states, including France, Germany and Italy, according to the Ministry of Education. | 10/9/16

The first biography of Adolf Hitler which presented him as "Germany's saviour" and compared him to Jesus may have been written by the future dictator himself, a Scottish historian has claimed. "Adolf Hitler: Sein Leben und seine Reden (Adolf Hitler: His Life and his Speeches)" was the first major profile of Hitler and appeared in 1923, authored by Victor von Koerber. Historian Thomas Weber, from Aberdeen University, has unearthed documents in a South African archive which indicates the book was "almost certainly" written by Hitler himself as a "shameless but clever act of self-promotion". | 10/8/16

Much of the responsibility in caring for refugees arriving in Germany has fallen to local authorities. This has brought challenges, but also successful innovations that must be widely shared – and quickly, says Brookings Institution scholar Bruce Katz.

Between January 2015 and July 2016, 1.3 million migrants and refugees fleeing poverty and economic deprivation arrived in Germany. The arrival of so many people, most of them in need of a home, food and healthcare, posed immense humanitarian challenges for the country’s leaders and communities as a whole.

A new study by the Brookings Institution found that much of the responsibilities for accommodating refugees in the country fell to those working at a local level. The lessons learned on the front lines of Germany’s response to the crisis could have lasting implications for cities around the world, the study says.

The report, called “Cities and Refugees – The German Experience,” was released last week during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. Its authors, Bruce Katz, Luise Noring and Natnke Garrelts, examined how refugees have been distributed in Germany in the past 18 months and how cities across the country responded to that challenge.

They concluded that successful handling of the crisis will depend on whether European cities are given a greater voice in international decision making and receive greater financial and political support.

Refugees Deeply spoke with Bruce Katz, Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution, about the research.

Refugees Deeply: Nearly 60 percent of refugees today live in urban areas, placing huge responsibilities on local authorities. Yet these cities don’t always have the funding or authority to respond adequately. How did that disconnect play out in Germany?

Bruce Katz: Germany is a federal republic with a federal government, 16 states and hundreds of cities and municipalities. Three of the states – Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin – are city-states and combine the functions of a city and a state. Responsibility for substantial domestic activities in Germany, like housing, schools and many of the labor market efforts are locally and state based.

Germany is a highly devolved federal republic and that has meant that cities do have power and agency. Responding to the refugee crisis, Germany’s national government has used its powers to open the border, and to reset the rules around citizenship and integration. However, a lot of the responsibility for the response, not just in the delivery of services but also the actual design and financing of them, has fallen to local and state governments, and to a burgeoning network of nonprofits that has emerged in the aftermath of the crisis.

As this crisis goes forward and the focus shifts from short-term response to longer-term integration, there does need to be more of a federal role in investment and finance, and more support so that when one city cracks the code on a particular set of issues or comes up with an innovative response, other cities know about it in rapid fashion.

Refugees Deeply: How did the cities you studied handle the influx of refugees? What were the successes and what were the challenges?

Katz: The challenges were pretty substantial. The federal government distributed refugees according to a formula that was previously used to distribute research money to different states in the federal republic. That led to higher density in the city-states, particularly in Berlin and Hamburg, and affordability issues with housing.

The biggest challenge initially was finding accommodation for refugees that didn’t just provide basic, humane shelter but were a platform for moving forward. We’ve learned, including from the aftermath of natural disasters in the U.S., that it’s really critical to bring normalcy to people’s lives as quickly as you can. That means running facilities for refugees in places with access to services and a guarantee that families have privacy and children can go to school as quickly as possible. That’s what brings back routine to people’s lives.

All of these challenges – housing, education, access to services – were magnified in states like Hamburg and Berlin because, as city-states, they have a limited amount of land. To their credit, they moved as quickly as possible to find accommodation and innovative ways to locate facilities. The old American notion that crisis begets innovation is very much apparent when you go to Germany and compare what the crisis looks like today and what it looked like last September.

Refugees Deeply: Could you describe one of the innovations that struck you the most?

Katz: I was struck by an effort in Hamburg called Finding Places, which is a collaboration betweenMIT, Hamburg City University, the city government and the residents of Hamburg. It’s an open access data system allowing citizens to look at available land and buildings and verify whether they’re really there. Citizens also help think about how their communities can begin to get past nimbyism and how to communally decide how to use assets so refugees aren’t concentrated in particular parts of the city, but instead land and buildings are used smartly to distribute refugees and give them a good start.

In Berlin, I saw the use of shipping containers for housing in a very sensitive way. The community was well-landscaped, and it really felt like housing that a family could live in for a substantial amount of time. What we’re always looking for when we’re seeing the response to refugees is whether some of these lessons and innovations could be used for other issues: for example, the big homelessness problem in the U.S.

Refugees Deeply: David Miliband, president of the IRC(International Rescue Committee), argued at Brookings last week that it makes economic sense to invest in the resettlement of refugees. Have you found that to be the case in your research in Germany?

Katz: Europe definitely faces broader labor market and demographic issues because of the aging of society, but the response to refugees has been for humanitarian reasons first and foremost. I believe Germany really had a moral conviction to open up its borders and help people fleeing conflict. That requires a short-term response and a long-term response, and there are questions about how efficient and effective that response can be when you’re faced with the arrival of tens of thousands of people in a very short period of time.

Integrating large numbers of people into your economic system, let alone your social system, requires an intense focus on education and skills. Going forward, the question of schools and skills is both imperative and incredibly challenging. Germany has a highly sophisticated economy with very rigid credentials, and that’s a challenging labor market to integrate refugees in. You need to speak in German and you need to have a serious level of skill to access many of the jobs in the productive sector of the German economy.

Refugees Deeply: Many refugees prefer to resettle in areas where fellow nationals have settled. On the other hand, the potential formation of parallel societies with increasingly segregated urban neighborhoods is a major concern for policymakers. What policies could help refugees benefit from the support of a community and network, while at the same time avoiding patterns of segregation?

Katz: This is one of the most serious questions countries like Germany, France, Belgium and Sweden face – already from prior waves of immigration. It’s not surprising refugees want to move to an area where there’s more comfort and cultural familiarity when they first arrive in a place, particularly when they don’t speak the language. The U.S., with its different migration waves, has seen this pattern repeat itself again and again.

One of the challenges is how this relates to the housing markets. We’ve seen that housing prices in certain parts of Germany are not just forcing people to specific parts of the cities, but are forcing people outside of the city. You’ll find large numbers of migrants and refugees, not only in the core cities but in many small municipalities outside the city. Because housing and labor markets are metropolitan it will require a broader metropolitan response. We’re undertaking research right now to thinking about multi-municipal responses, particularly in places like Germany where so much power is devolved down.

Where enclaves do exist, we need to think how we can ensure that they’re as open and networked as they can possibly be. In the U.S., we’ve always talked about building neighborhoods of choice and connection. You want people to choose where they want to live, but those communities need to be connected into the broader city and the broader metropolis through labor markets, housing markets and other kinds of services and activities. I’m not saying the U.S. is a shining example, but once we start talking about city innovations, what happens in Houston matters in Hamburg and vice versa. Going forward, in responding to these kinds of humanitarian crises, we’re going to see a lot more sharing across cities rather than just beyond national borders.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

“Cities and Refugees – The German Experience” was released at a Brookings Institute event last week. Speakers included U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, President of the IRC David Miliband and former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. You can read a summary of the discussion paper here and watch footage of the event below.

This article originally appeared on Refugees Deeply. For weekly updates and analysis about refugee issues, you can sign up to the Refugees Deeply email list.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

The oldest known person was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at age 122. However, the new findings don't mean that researchers know for sure that humans will never live longer than 122 years, said Steven Austad, a professor of biology and aging at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not involved in the study. In the new study, the researchers looked at the Human Mortality Database, an international database with detailed mortality data that's maintained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the Max Plank Institutes in Germany. | 10/5/16

The oldest known person was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at age 122. However, the new findings don't mean that researchers know for sure that humans will never live longer than 122 years, said Steven Austad, a professor of biology and aging at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not involved in the study. In the new study, the researchers looked at the Human Mortality Database, an international database with detailed mortality data that's maintained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the Max Plank Institutes in Germany. | 10/5/16

If you’re worried about holiday weight gain this year, you might have cause for concern: It seems weight gain surrounding festivities is a nearly universal truth, according to a new study conducted in Germany, the U.S. and Japan. 

Researchers found that citizens of these three countries put on weight at different times of year, each time corresponding to specific holiday celebrations in each country. This may come as a surprise to those who believe that weight gain in the holidays is a unique phenomenon in the U.S., or even only in the West.

The common denominator in all three countries was the Christmas-New Year holiday. The first 10 days after Christmas led to the highest average weight increase for all three groups: Americans gained an average 1.3lbs, 1.8lbs for Germans and 1.1lbs for the Japanese.

But the study also found that Americans gain weight during Thanksgiving, too, while for Germans the equivalent is the period around Easter. And for the Japanese, the bump happens surrounding a holiday period in the beginning of May called the “Golden Week.”

Researchers chose the three countries because they represent different continents, said co-author Elina Helander, a postdoctoral researcher at Tampere University of Technology, Finland. 

Her study included 3,000 participants in all three countries who were given wireless digital scales to monitor their weight every day for a full year, starting from August 1, 2012. The researchers then assessed changes in the participants’ weight compared to their initial weight.

The most interesting discovery the researchers made was that, while people would shed around half of the weight they gained during the holiday season almost immediately, the other half would remain intact well into summer and even longer.

Of course, seasonal variations in weight could also be at play: Studies show that most people exercise less and eat more during the winter. But the researchers said that holidays specifically accounted for at least some of the weight gain in the study.  

“Holidays are sharper peaks, whereas seasonal (gain) is associated with slowly varying trends,” Helander told HuffPost. In other words, we gain weight more abruptly during a holiday period, while weight changes over a season tend to fluctuate more slowly.

Overall, the study confirms what people suspected for a long time: gaining weight over the holidays is real almost everywhere. But instead of frustrating us, this fact might actually help us get more savvy with our food next time we get into festive mood.

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In the second installment of Syria Deeply’s Experts to Watch series, meet seven doctors and researchers doing incredible work on public health in Syria. 

More than five years into the war, the public health sector in many parts of Syria is on the brink.

Medical infrastructure, particularly in opposition-held areas of the country, has been crippled by frequent, targeted attacks. Medicines and critical provisions are in short supply. Few medical workers are left. In the city of Aleppo, World Health Organization representative Elizabeth Hoff told Syria Deeply, roughly 95 percent of doctors have either fled or been detained or killed since the beginning of the crisis.

The desperate shortages have not only affected the care for victims of war, but also affect millions of patients suffering from chronic diseases, like diabetes, asthma, cancer and kidney and heart diseases. The Syrian American Medical Society estimated in 2014 that at least 200,000 Syrians had died from chronic diseases since 2011.

Meet seven experts working on the complicated and multifaceted health crises Syrians face.

Annie Sparrow

Dr. Annie Sparrow, an associate professor and deputy director of the human rights program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, currently focuses on the Syrian conflict. Sparrow spends much time on the Turkey-Syrian border, documenting the health crisis and training Syrian medical workers. She has written extensively on the polio epidemic in the country, as well as the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and its attacks on the Syrian healthcare system. She has also been extremely critical of the approach of some U.N. agencies to relief work during the crisis. Sparrow has been working on the intersection of medicine and human rights for more than a decade. She turned her attention to refugee health after practicing as a pediatrician in London and Perth and spending years in Africa working on topics like HIV, sexual violence in conflict, malaria and tuberculosis. Sparrow’s on Twitter at @annie_sparrow.

Fouad M. Fouad

Fouad M. Fouad, a general surgeon in Aleppo, was the coordinator of the Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies and the director of a primary healthcare department in his hometown before the start of the war. Since leaving the country in 2012, he’s been working at the American University of Beirut, focusing on health crises related to the conflict. Fouad painted a grim image of the state of Syria’s health sector in a 2015 interview with Syria Deeply, explaining that thousands of doctors have left the country, infrastructure has largely been destroyed, medicine is in short supply and chronic illnesses are left untreated.

David Scales

In the summer of 2012, between the end of a postdoc in biomedical informatics at and the start of his residency in internal medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, David Scales traveled to Jordan to meet some of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who had crossed the border into the neighboring country. He spent two months with the Syrian American Medical Society and the National Arab American Medical Association, working with Syrian refugees in the Zaatari camp and at a spinal cord injury center in Jordan. Since then, Scales has written frequently about his work and the refugees he encountered. His academic writing has focused on infectious diseases and the structures and policies that complicate their handling. He tweets at @davidascales.

Elise Baker

Elise Baker is a researcher at Physicians for Human Rights and leads the Syria mapping project, which documents attacks on medical facilities and personnel in the country. She’s the author of a July report on the dire conditions in in Madaya, a small, besieged town an hour’s drive from Damascus where more than 80 people died of starvation. “The cost of political impasse is death and destruction in Syria,” Baker told Syria Deeply in May after fighting intensified in Aleppo. “If Syria’s leaders and the international community cannot reach a peace accord, there’s no doubt attacks on healthcare will continue and the consequences will be deadly for everyday Syrians.” Before joining Physicians for Human Rights, Baker studied the effects of post-conflict restoration and reconciliation in Burundi and Rwanda. Baker is on Twitter at @elise__baker.

Maher Aboumayaleh

Maher Aboumayaleh coordinates the health response of the Aga Khan Development Network to the Syria crisis. Previously, he was a member of the World Bank Civil Society Consultative Group on Health, Nutrition and Population and a director of Primary Healthcare in Latakia, Syria.

Zaidoun al-Zoabi

Dr. Zaidoun al-Zoabi heads the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, a coalition of humanitarian, nongovernmental and medical organizations providing relief and medical care to victims of the war. The organization was founded by Syrian health workers and is known for its impartiality. It runs several hospitals and medical centers in Syria, trains medical workers and funds medical supplies. Several of the organization’s hospitals have been damaged or destroyed in the war. Originally from Daraa, Zoabi now lives in Germany but frequently travels to the region. He made an impassioned plea on CNN last year for the violence in his country to come to an end. “What wrong have we done to endure such a bloody, stupid war?! It is enough for us, for God’s sake,” he said.

Mahmoud Mustafa

Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa is a field ophthalmologist and the director of Independent Doctors Association (IDA), a Syrian nonprofit organization of Syrian medics providing healthcare services to the population of Aleppo province. A native of Aleppo, Mustafa and his colleagues work to reactivate and rehabilitate health facilities in the opposition-held parts of the region in an effort to cover the health needs of people living in one of Syria’s most war-torn regions. Faced with the persistent attacks on health workers in the region, Mahmoud and IDA are strong advocates for the protection of medical workers and facilities in Syria.

This article originally appeared on Syria Deeply. For weekly updates about the war in Syria, you can sign up to the Syria Deeply email list.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Mr. Mannheimer visited hundreds of schools and other institutions, advocating democracy and helping ensure that Germany’s World War II horrors were never repeated. | 9/28/16
The new university year is about to begin in Germany, and with it, university towns are flooded with anxious students hunting for affordable housing. In some cities, that can be a veritable nightmare. | 9/26/16

Films from the American Film Institute, USC, the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University were the gold-medal winners at the Student Academy Awards, which were handed out on Thursday night at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

The 17 winning films were revealed in August, but the Academy does not announce whether each film has won the gold, silver or bronze medal until the awards ceremony, which caps a week-long series of industry events for the student filmmakers.

David Henry Gerson won the gold medal in the alternative category for “All These Voices,” a short about an SS officer encountering an acting troupe, which he made at AFI. Silver and bronze awards went to Yvonne Ng for “Cloud Kumo” and Johnny Coffeen for “The Swan Girl,” respectively.

Also Read: Academy Targets 12 Different Areas for Sci-Tech Oscars

Alicja Jacina from USC won the animation gold for “Once Upon a Line” — which, as the title suggests, consists of simple line drawings. Echo Wu won the animation silver for “The Wishgranter,” while Carter Boyce took bronze for “Die Flucht.”

The narrative gold medal went to “Nocturne in Black,” a film about a musician in a Middle Eastern conflict zone by Jimmy Keyrouz from Columbia University. “Art is a mighty tool that helps us fight extremism and terrorism,” said Keyroux in his acceptance speech. Silver and bronze in the category went to two films from Chapman University, Brian Robau’s “It’s Just a Gun” and Brenna Malloy’s “Rocket.”

In the documentary category, the top prize was won by Berkeley student Daphne Matziaraki for a film about refugees in the Mediterranean, “4.1 Miles.” Rongfei Guo won silver for “Fairy Tales” and Elise Conklin won bronze for “From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City.”

Also Read: The Inspiring Story of Maimouna Doucoure - TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Jury Winner

Gold medals in the foreign-film categories went to the University of Television and Film Munich (Alex Schaad’s “Invention of Trust”), the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Ahmad Saleh’s “Ayny”) and Tel Aviv University (Maya Sarfaty’s “The Most Beautiful Woman”).

The 17 winners consisted of nine women and eight men and made up a distinctly international group: Many of the students from U.S. film schools came from other countries.

Joel Edgerton, Lucy Liu, Daisy Ridley and Parker Sawyers served as presenters at the ceremony. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs began the program by pointing out that a record 385 Academy members served as judges for the competition, while Student Academy Awards Chairman Gregg Helvey, a past winner himself, said that the Academy received a record 1,749 entries from 381 different film schools.

Winners received cash awards of $5,000 for gold, $3,000 for silver and $2,000 for bronze. In addition, all winners qualified for the 2016 Academy Award in either the live-action short, animated short or documentary short category.

In recent years, a number of Student Oscar winners have gone on to receive Oscar nominations, including Luke Matheny’s “God of Love” and Tanel Toom’s “The Confession” in 2010, Max Zahle’s “Raju” in 2011, Talkhon Hamzavi’s “Parvaneh” in 2013 and Patrick Vollrath’s “Everything Will Be Okay” last year.

Also Read: 'Slingshot,' 'Maman(s)' and 'Thunder Road' Take Prizes at TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Film Festival

Past Student Academy Award winners include Spike Lee, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Robert Zemeckis, Trey Parker and Bob Saget.

For the first time, the foreign area also included separate awards for foreign animated and documentary films, with only gold medals handed out in those two categories.

The winners and medal placement:

Gold: “All These Voices,” David Henry Gerson, American Film Institute
Silver: “Cloud Kumo,” Yvonne Ng, City College of New York
Bronze: “The Swan Girl,” Johnny Coffeen, Maharishi University of Management

Gold: “Once Upon a Line,” Alicja Jasina, USC
Silver: “The Wishgranter,” Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design
Bronze: “Die Flucht,” Carter Boyce, DePaul University

Gold: “4.1 Miles,” Daphne Matziaraki, University of California, Berkeley
Silver: “Fairy Tales,” Rongfei Guo, New York University
Bronze: “From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City,” Elise Conklin, Michigan State University

Gold: “Nocturne in Black,” Jimmy Keyrouz, Columbia University
Silver: “It’s Just a Gun,” Brian Robau, Chapman University
Bronze: “Rocket,” Brenna Malloy, Chapman University

Foreign Narrative
Gold: “Invention of Trust,” Alex Schaad, University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)
Silver: “Where the Woods End,” Felix Ahrens, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Germany)
Bronze: “Tenants,” Klara Kochanska, The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School (Poland)

Foreign Animation
Gold: “Ayny,” Ahmad Saleh, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany)

Foreign Documentary
Gold: “The Most Beautiful Woman,” Maya Sarfaty, Tel Aviv University (Israel)

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Inspiring Story of Maimouna Doucoure – TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Jury Winner

'Slingshot,' 'Maman(s)' and 'Thunder Road' Take Prizes at TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Film Festival

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Harvard Professor Karl Deutsch, the late nestor of political science, described world history as the "history of side effects". Political actions, according to his theory, always have side effects which go out of control and constitute new history.

The history of the Internet is full of side effects. But this time, we could have special unproductive side effects. A failure of the IANA transition could trigger a process towards a re-nationalization of the borderless cyberspace and Ted Cruz would go into the Internet history books as the "Father of the Internet Fragmentation".

The IANA History

The battle around the IANA transition meanwhile has a history of its own going back more than 30 years. IANA emerged as a one-man-institution of Jon Postel in the 1980s. IANA was never the "controller" of the Internet. It was an "enabler". The IANA database is just like a "phone book" which enables users to find addresses. Postel operated IANA with the help of one assistant under a contract of his Information Science Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California (USC) with DARPA, the advanced research agency of the US Department of Defense. Under this contract the US government authorized the publication of zone files for top level domains in the Internet root server system. This contract expired in 1997 and was extended until 2000.

In the early 1990s, after the invention of the world wide web, it became clear that the six gTLDs (.com, .net, .org, .gov, .edu and .mil), which were established in the 1980s, would not be enough. In the middle of the 1990s Postel had its own ideas how to extend the gTLD namespace. He flirted with the ITU and WIPO, two intergovernmental organizations of the UN system, to launch additional seven new gTLDs via an Interim Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC).

The Clinton administration was not amused; saw the risk of a fragmentation of the Internet and proposed an alternative route. A private non-for profit corporation with an international board, incorporated under Californian law was seen as the better alternative. In this model the decision making power would remain in the hands of the non-governmental provider and users of Internet servicers from the private sector, the technical community and the civil society. Governments were put into a "Governmental Advisory Committee" (GAC). ICANN was established in 1998.

This model — today known as the multistakeholder model — was a political innovation. The plan to give the management of a critical global virtual resource in the hands of qualified non-governmental stakeholders, rocked the traditional mechanisms of international relations. But not everybody was excited. Skeptical voices raised issues of legitimacy and accountability for the new ICANN. And many governments were not happy with the "advisory role" in the GAC.

Indeed, when ICANN was established, it was unclear whether this innovation would work. To reduce the risk of a failure, the US government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the new ICANN which included the duty for ICANN to report on a regular basis to the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) of the US Department of Commerce. Furthermore, the US government transferred the contract with the USC, into a contract with ICANN to continue its stewardship role with regard to the IANA service.

ICANN was still untested. The original plan was to give ICANN full independence after two years. But even in the high speed Internet world, this was an unrealistic plan. To establish a multistakeholder mechanism is an extreme complex challenge. ICANN made progress from its very first day. But it was progress based on trial and error. And it took much more time than expected. Bill Clinton did describe the whole process in a speech in San Francisco in 2010 as "stumbling forward".

Insofar it was not a surprise that the contractual relationship between ICANN and the US government was extended with a view that this relationship can terminate as soon as ICANN is mature enough to produce the expected sustainable outcomes, to guarantee stability of the Internet and enhance competition in the domain name market without governmental oversight.

The WSIS Battle

But as mentioned above, a substantial number of governments would have preferred an intergovernmental oversight for ICANN. In January 1999, during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, ITU Secretary General Pekka Tarjane from Finland attacked Bill Clinton's Internet Adviser Ira Magaziner by arguing that the US approach is insincere. While the US government rejects a role for governments, it keeps its own role via special contracts. Magaziner replied that the role of the US government is not really oversight, it is more stewardship. And he added that the mid-term plan is to terminate this role as soon as ICANN is a stable organization which can stand on its own feet.

However, in 2002, when the United Nations started its World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), more and more governments were pushing for an intergovernmental Internet Council. The WSIS became the space where the pro and con of ICANN oversight and the IANA contract was discussed in bitter battles.

One group wanted to have intergovernmental oversight for ICANN issues, at least "on the level of principle". They argued, based on the principle of sovereign equality of states, laid down in the UN Charter, that each government should have the same rights. If the US government has the right (from the IANA contract) to authorize the publication of zone files of TLDs in the root, then all governments should be equally involved.

The other group used Vint Cerf's argument: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it". They warned that if the management of technical resources becomes the subject of political battles, Internet development will lose its dynamism. The Internet development is based on open, transparent and bottom up processes and the principle of innovation without permission. Imagine what would happen if the re-delegation of a ccTLD zone file in the Internet root would need the consensus by a UN Internet Security Council.

However, WSIS saw three years of wrestling about a reasonable way forward. And the continuation of the IANA contract, which has little substance but is full of symbolism, played a crucial role.

The WSIS outcome (Tunis 2005) was what one could call a "dynamic compromise". On a general level, the 193 UN member states agreed on the principle of equality. Paragraph 68 of the Tunis Agenda states: "We recognize that all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the Internet". Based on this, the Tunis Agenda accepted — for an interim period - the status quo but launched a process of an unspecified "enhanced cooperation," where different parties had different expectation of what the end result of this process could and should be. One group expected that the process will lead to a "status quo minus" the termination of the IANA contract. The other group expected that enhanced cooperation will lead to a "status quo plus" the launch of an intergovernmental Internet council.

Status Quo Minus vs. Status Quo Plus

After 2005 the Internet continued to grow and ICANN matured. In 2009, the Obama Administration terminated ICANNs reporting duties and gave ICANN basic independence by entering into an "Affirmation of Commitment" (AoC). The AoC introduced an interesting and innovation oversight mechanism via a decentralized review process by multistakeholder groups which was a good step towards enhanced accountability. However, the IANA contract was renewed until 2015 with an option for extension until 2019.

For many governments, which welcomed the AoC, the continuation of the IANA contract remained a problem. They wanted to see progress in the implementation of paragraph 68 of the Tunis Agenda. In 2010, India proposed a "Council for Internet Related Policies" (CIRP) in the UN General Assembly. In 2012, Russia and China wanted to use the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) in Dubai, to extend the mandate of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) to the management of Internet names and numbers. In 2013, UN member states pushed for the establishment of an UNCSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) where Saud Arabia was calling for governmental control of ICANN.

All those efforts to move towards a status quo plus, did not succeed. One reason was that ICANN made tremendous progress and signaled that a status quo minus is possible. It introduced internationalized domain names (IDN), the security protocol DNSSEC and the new gTLD program. None of the results were perfect. But ICANN demonstrated that it can learn lessons. The ICANN policy development processes (PDP) with its bottom up, open and transparent procedures which included all stakeholders in their respective roles on equal footing, demonstrated that the multistakeholder mechanism works and produces sustainable result.

This was more and more recognized also in the higher political level. The world leaders of the G8 nations recognized at the meeting in 2011 in Deauville, that the multistakeholder model is the best approach to Internet Governance. At the eve of the WCIT in Dubai, both houses and both parties of the US Congress put their authority behind ICANN and the multistakeholder model which was echoed by many governments around the globe, including the European Commission.

When the US government announced in March 2014 to let the IANA contract expire, it was seen by the overwhelming majority of the Internet community as the long awaited last step on this long march towards the privatization and internationalization of the management of Internet core resources.

It was remarkable to see the side effects of this announcement. The "Dubai Desaster" in December 2012, where ITU member states wanted to extend governmental control over the Internet, was turned into the "Busan Peace" in November 2014 and the ITU recognized that ICANN is the better place for the management of names and numbers.

When the US government announced its intention for the IANA stewardship transition, it defined a number of conditions: security and stability, enhancement of the multistakeholder model, no intergovernmental oversight and stronger accountability mechanisms.

ICANN's multistakeholder community accepted the challenge. It was not an easy one and it became also clear that a multi-stakeholder process is more complex than a one-stakeholder process. It took more time than expected. However, quality of the outcome was seen as more important than meeting datelines.

After an endless chain of emails, telcos, face to face meetings, public comment periods, consultations and hearings, the 55th ICANN meeting in March 2016 could agree on the whole package. The "Marrakesh Consensus" is a triumph of the multistakeholder model. The door for the anticipated status quo minus is now open. Paragraph 68 of the Tunis Commitment is implemented. Every government has the same equal rights and responsibilities as member of ICANN's GAC. In the GAC, each government has a veto. But if governments can't agree, this does not block the ICANN community and its board to move forward with the delegation and re-delegation of Top-Level Domains.

The NTIA confirmed in August 2016 that the package with the "Marrakesh Consensus" meets its criteria. The IANA contract expires in September 30, 2016. But it is not yet a done deal. Ted Cruz and his friends still want to stop the transition before the expiration of the contract.

What happen if the IANA transition fails?

When Jörg Schweiger, DENIC's CEO, was asked during the Internet Governance Forum Germany (September 2016) what will happen if the IANA transition fails, he gave a short answer: Only little. DENIC manages the .de domain with more than 16 million registered domain names but, Schweiger added, he fears that a failure of the transition could trigger uncontrollable processes towards a fragmentation of the Internet.

As we know, the IANA contract has only little substance but a lot of symbolism. A failed IANA transition would become another symbol. The irony of life is that a failed IANA transition would exactly produce what Ted Cruz want to avoid: More governmental control over the Internet by authoritarian regimes. A failed IANA transition would be an invitation for governments to come back with calls for governmental oversight. The 2nd UNCSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation starts its series of meetings on September 30, 2016 and has to report to the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72) in 2017. The ITU has its next Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai in 2018.

It would not be a surprise if the old proposals for a status quo plus will reappear on the negotiation table in the UN and the ITU. And even if there will be only little chance in the years ahead to reach a global intergovernmental consensus for an intergovernmental Internet body, the damage for the multistakeholder model and the trust into the strength and ability of the community to manage the underlying technical resources to the benefit of all would be substantial. Göran Marby, ICANN's new CEO, was right when he argued in the recent hearing in the US Senate that he fears more negative impacts on the voluntary collaboration upon which the whole Internet is based.

And one should not forget that in the 2005 Tunis Agenda, the US government under a republican president, accepted also paragraph 63, which says that "countries should not be involved in decisions regarding another country's country-code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)". This paragraph makes very clear that governments can do with its own ccTLD whatever they want, with or without the transition of the IANA stewardship. However, while a successful IANA transition would strengthen the global approaches and the multistakeholder model, a failed IANA transition would strengthen national approaches and the concept of cyber-sovereignty.

In other words, the unintended side effects of a failed IANA transition, could be the emergence of new borders in the global cyberspace with national Internet segments, and alternative Internet roots. If the Senator from Texas succeeds, he has a good chance to go into the Internet history books as the "Father of the Internet Fragmentation".

Written by Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Professor Emeritus at the University of Aarhus | 9/21/16

In the latest high-profile blow to the Olympics, Rome is set to withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Summer Games.

Mayor Virginia Raggi’s said on Wednesday that the capital of debt-crippled Italy could not afford the huge costs of staging the event.

“It is irresponsible to say yes to these Olympics,” Raggi said at a press conference that followed meetings with Italian Olympic officials.

Rome’s city council was due to vote on whether to continue the bid on Wednesday afternoon, but this was expected to be a formality.

Raggi highlighted problems that have plagued past Olympics in announcing her rejection in an online blog post Wednesday, including abandoned infrastructure in Athens, Greece, after the 2004 Summer Games. She also cited cost increases in previous hosts London, Sydney and Atlanta. And she pointed to anti-Olympic protests in Rio de Janeiro, the host of the 2016 Games, which questioned why a city facing deep economic problems spent billions of dollars on the games. 

Rome’s initial bid proposed spending roughly $6 billion to host the games, but Raggi cited a 2012 University of Oxford study that found the Olympics have exceeded their projected costs “with 100 percent consistency.” 

The International Olympic Committee has attempted to reform its bidding process in to promote more cost-effective and sustainable events. But Rome, which also pulled out of the bidding process for the 2020 Olympics, is the latest city to turn its back on the event amid concerns about bloated and potentially crippling costs. Italy has a public debt of more than 131 percent of gross domestic product.

Hamburg, Germany, canceled its bid for the 2024 Olympics after a public referendum found widespread opposition to the Games. Boston, the United States Olympic Committee’s initial choice to bid for the Olympics, backed out last summer amid low public polling numbers and opposition to the use of public money to stage the games.

Five European cities ― Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Krakow, Poland; St. Moritz, Switzerland; and Munich, Germany ― previously dropped formal or preliminary bids to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, amid similar opposition from voters and governing parties. The IOC eventually awarded those games to Beijing. 

Without Rome, the IOC would have three candidates to host the 2024 Olympics: Los Angeles, Paris, France, and Budapest, Hungary. It will choose the winner in September 2017.

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At last, some good news about the environment.

A recent analysis of core samples taken from Greenland’s ice sheet shows that levels of a common form of air pollution have dropped almost to preindustrial levels. Just take a look at the graph below:

“We can see that the acid pollution in the atmosphere from industry has fallen dramatically since manmade acid pollution took off in the 1930s and peaked in the 1960s and 70s,” Dr. Helle Astrid Kjaer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Ice and Climate at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute, said in a written statement.

But some say it’s a bit early to break out the champagne.

“The conclusion that acid deposition to the Greenland ice sheet has returned to preindustrial levels is surprising,” Dr. William R. Stockwell, a professor of chemistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C., told The Huffington Post in an email. “However, I would not conclude that atmospheric acid production has returned to preindustrial levels everywhere.”

Stockwell said it would be “a stretch” to conclude that acid deposition over the United Staes has returned to preindustrial levels. 

Of course, a decline in any form of air pollution is good news. As Kjaer told The Huffington Post in an email, “It is great to see that international agreements actually do work in limiting harmful substances in the environment.”

Kjaer attributed the welcome decline in atmospheric acid to the pollution-control measures mandated in the U.S. by the 1970 Clean Air Act and by similar legislation enacted in Europe.

The measures limited emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants, automobile tailpipes and other industrial sources. These pollutants are known to combine with water and other substances in the atmosphere to form sulfuric and nitric acids, which can fall to Earth as acid rain.

Acid rain causes a range of environmental ills, including soil depletion, lower crop yields and fish kills. It can also make trees more vulnerable to disease and hasten the deterioration of buildings and vehicles.

The finding reveals little about other air pollutants, such as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels. Atmospheric levels of CO2 have risen relentlessly in recent years (see graph below).

Given the carbon dioxide problem, Kjaer said it was “even more important to start limiting the CO2 in the atmosphere if we want to limit global climate change.”

For the new research, published Sept. 1 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Kjaer and her collaborators at the institute and the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, used a new technique to measure the pH (level of acidity) of melted ice from core samples drilled in 2012 in the upper layers of the ice sheet.

The samples, which contained ice that was laid down in the form of snow from the years 1900 to 2004, showed the acid levels rising at first and then falling sharply.

“We can directly see the fluctuations from year to year,” Kjaer said in the release.

How about a toast to no more fluctuations?

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UNITED NATIONS ― President Barack Obama had more than words for desperate refugees during a Leaders’ Summit that he hosted at the United Nations on Tuesday.

He announced that more than 50 nations and organizations have agreed to provide a combined $4.5 billion in financial assistance to groups helping refugees find work and education. That includes $1 billion from the U.S.

“I called this summit because this crisis is one of the more urgent tests of our time, a test of collective action,” said Obama, speaking just hours after he delivered his final General Assembly speech as president.

The Leaders’ Summit followed the first U.N.-wide summit on refugees and migrants, held Monday.

Around the world, some 65 million people are displaced from their homes due to violence and persecution, more than at any time since World War II. Over 20 million of them are refugees, the vast majority of whom are now living in just 10 countries.

“It’s a test of our international system where all nations ought to share in the responsibility,” Obama said. “It’s a crisis of our shared security, not because refugees are our threat but because refugees are often fleeing war and terrorism. They are victims.”

Obama emphasized the need not to demonize refugees, implicitly hitting back against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposals to ban Muslim immigrants (including refugees) from entering the U.S. and to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

“If we were to turn refugees back, we would be reinforcing terrorist propaganda that nations like my own are somehow opposed to Islam. It’s an ugly lie that must be rejected,” the president said. “It’s a test of our common humanity, whether we give into suspicion and fear and build walls.”

.@RT_Erdogan: we need to allow refugees to live in our cities and to work. This involves permits and eventual citizenship.

— Melissa Fleming (@melissarfleming) September 20, 2016

The co-hosts for the Leaders’ Summit included the U.N. General Secretary, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden. Several of those countries have been struggling under the burden of hosting refugees. Germany, for instance, took in 1 million in 2015 alone.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose country has seen 2.5 million Syrian refugees pass through since 2011 and is currently hosting 1.5 million, stressed the need to work on a macro level in order to make progress on a micro level.

“We need to work as a team,” Abdullah said at the summit. “Jordan’s burden is skyrocketing.”

Jordan has already handed out 28,000 work permits to Syrians this year and expects to offer more.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven pledged to donate more funds and to increase refugee resettlement in his country. Sweden has already offered $625 million in humanitarian aid this year, he said.

“I promise you, we will all be better for it,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of welcoming refugees.

In his remarks, Obama also referred to the White House call for the private sector to step up. In total, 51 companies ― including Accenture, Airbnb, Citigroup, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google and IKEA ― have pledged to invest, donate or raise $650 million to go toward refugee education and employment.

Although the United States has long considered itself a humanitarian leader, it has been slow to welcome the latest flood of displaced people. 

In September 2015, Obama pledged to increase the total number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. to 85,000 ― up from 70,000 in the last three fiscal years ― and to reserve 10,000 of these spots for Syrians. Secretary of State John Kerry announced last week that the administration plans to set a goal of welcoming up to 110,000 refugees in fiscal 2017.

These increases are welcomed by refugee advocates, but the numbers represent only a drop in the bucket compared to what many other smaller countries are grappling with.

And there are some who feel that the back-to-back U.N. summits are just plain late.

Amnesty International “called for a meeting of world leaders two years ago,” Sahil Shetty, secretary general of the human rights group, told The Huffington Post. “There are some credibility issues. We’ve got to be a bit more serious than this.” 

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Unlike most other European countries, Germany still has a large number of part-time primary and secondary schools. But a study finds that German parents are actually happier with all-day schools. | 9/19/16
The OECD report shows that Germany's education system is in on an upswing, but there's still room for improvement. Also, the much maligned teaching profession in Germany should be treated better, writes DW's Jens Thurau. | 9/16/16
A new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows Germany goes further while less spending. More and more students in Germany are attending university, the group added. | 9/15/16
Chemists at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) in Germany and the University of Vienna have succeeded in producing “perfect” defect-free, high-quality graphene directly from graphite (“pencil lead”) for the first time. This new low-cost method may make it possible for the semiconductor industry to scale up use of graphene in pioneering technologies such as transparent [...] | 9/15/16
Scientists at the University of Bonn, Germany, have developed a technique that can restart a heart using gentle pulses of light inside the body instead of painful electric shocks.

MUNICH ― An election night celebration in Munich for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party turned violent last week as right-wing extremists attacked protesters and journalists outside the event.

The attacks were the latest example of a surge in extremist violence in Germany that has coincided with a nationalist backlash to the country’s admission of more than a million refugees since 2015 — and an electoral boost for the AfD. There were 1,408 acts of far-right violence and 1,608 far-left attacks in Germany in 2015, up from around 990 and 995 respectively the previous year, according to a government report released in late June. There were also 75 recorded far-right arson attacks on asylum centers in 2015, and 918 politically motivated attacks on foreigners ― the highest number since the government started tracking them under their current definition in 2001.

Left-wing activists ― who have a larger presence in metropolitan areas ― have caused chaotic scenes in some of Germany’s major cities in the past year. Last March, an anti-capitalist “Blockupy” protest at the new European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt turned violent, leading to flaming police cars and hundreds of arrests.

But as political violence has increased, it’s the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam AfD, not anti-capitalist parties, that has benefited at the polls. Although AfD officials deny any connection to Sunday’s attack or promoting incident, the party has capitalized on the nationalist sentiment that’s fueling much of the violence.

AfD-Wahlparty München: Angriff auf Pressefotografen durch Chris A. (Rapper "Deutscher Patriot") #AfD #NoAfD @BJVde

— Anne Wild (@annewild_muc) September 4, 2016

Well-known right-wing figure Chris Ares, in the blue shirt, is pictured here kicking at photographers. 

Violence Erupts Outside AfD Celebration This Week

The most recent example of right-wing violence occurred shortly before 6 p.m. on Sunday, when a small group of leftist protesters gathered along with journalists and photographers near a Munich restaurant where AfD members were celebrating wins they achieved in state elections in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s home state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The AfD had made huge gains, dealing Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party a humiliating defeat and placing second behind the center-left Social Democrats in polls.

Three men attacked demonstrators and press outside the restaurant where AfD supporters celebrated, witnesses told HuffPost Germany. One, a rapper in Munich’s right-wing scene who goes by the pseudonym “Chris Ares,” can be seen kicking at photographers and protesters in images shared on social media Sunday night.

Violence Erupts at AfD Election Party after Spontanous Antifa Demonstraion

— 24mmjournalism (@24mmjournalism) September 4, 2016

Chris Ares pictured ripping at a protest poster while Rick Wegner, far right, looks on. 

Ares charged the group of protesters and journalists, shouting insults including “I fuck your mother!” and “Piss off, you faggots!” according to one witness who spoke with HuffPost Germany.

Photojournalist Michael T., whose last name we are withholding at his request, told HuffPost Germany that Ares kicked and spat at photographers and struck one in the face.

The photojournalist says he suffered a blow to the head during the incident. Another journalist, who spoke to HuffPost Germany on the condition of anonymity, also sustained injuries, including bruised ribs. Bavarian state police are investigating the incident.

Ares has been a prominent figure in Munich’s growing right-wing scene. The rapper’s lyrics are regularly infused with nationalist sentiment, and his hoodies are typically printed with Germany’s eagle. The rapper also has connections with multiple nationalist organizations, among them the Bündnis Deutscher Patrioten, or Union of German Patriots, which regularly shares nationalist, anti-immigrant posts on Facebook. In January, Ares’s music video “Deutscher Patriot” (”German Patriot”) was screened at a rally hosted by Pegida, a far-right group.

Teilnehmer der AFD-Wahlparty in München tritt Pressefotografen #afd #noafd

— Anne Wild (@annewild_muc) September 4, 2016

Despite the initial attacks from the right-wing extremists, Antifa (Anti-Fascist Movement of Munich) protesters marched on, distributing fliers with such slogans as “Racism kills” and “Sexism is not an alternative.” This seemingly only encouraged Ares, who, appearing with his shirt off in pictures later shared on social media, continued his alleged assault together with Rick Wegner and Lukas Bals, two other prominent activists.

Like Ares, Wegner is affiliated with the anti-immigrant BDP.

Bals has ties to Die Rechte, a neo-Nazi party. In May 2014, he was one of 20 neo-Nazis to storm Dortmund’s city hall with banners that read “Germany for the Germans ― foreigners out,” German website Zeit Online reported. During the protest, Bals allegedly struck a member of Germany’s Pirate Party in the face with his fist. He was later charged with assault and battery

Bals has since relocated to Munich, where Bavaria’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution is closely monitoring the far right.

Petr Bystron, the head of AfD’s Bavarian chapter and who was not in attendance at the election party on Sunday night, denies that the party had any contact with the alleged attackers. But stills collected by German website 24mmjournalism from a video taken inside the restaurant and posted to the party’s YouTube channel tell a different story: Ares and Bals can be seen at different times throughout the AfD election celebration in Munich.

Despite repeated statements to the contrary, this is not the first time Bystron has been associated with Bals and Wegner. In June, they appeared together in front of the Eine-Welt-Haus building in Munich, where Robert Andreasch, an expert on right-wing extremism, was delivering a lecture on the AfD. Bystron, Bals, and Wegner were not allowed into the event: They were later pictured seated together at a nearby beer garden.

In a now-deleted Facebook post, Ares stated that he was attacked by the Antifa protesters first, he was defending himself, and reporters on the scene lied about what happened. “You know where to find us,” he boasted to his left-wing opponents on Facebook before deactivating his account on Monday. Ares, Bals and Wegner did not respond to HuffPost Germany’s multiple requests for comment. On Wednesday, Ares uploaded a video to YouTube in which he criticized German media’s coverage of the incident.

The AfD “had nothing to do” with the violence on Sunday, Kreisverband München Ost, the party’s chairman, maintained in a press release issued Tuesday night, after a version of this story first appeared in HuffPost Germany. Ares, Wegner and Bals were not invited to the party’s victory celebration, and will be banned from future events in Munich, the party said.

Merkel’s Troubles and AfD’s Continued Success

Sunday’s election results in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania were widely viewed as a victory for the populist-upstart AfD. Merkel’s CDU earned only 19 percent of the state’s vote, behind both the center-left Social Democrats, which came out ahead with roughly 30 percent of the vote, and the AfD, which earned a surprising 21 percent.  

Founded in 2013 as a eurosceptic party, the AfD has quickly transformed itself into a nationalist platform positioned against further immigration and the growth of Islam specifically. Its rapid transformation from a platform of economists challenging the efficacy of the euro to one focused almost solely on nationalism and identity politics, resulted in its first leader, Bernd Lucke, to leave the group. Many original members soon followed Lucke, clearing the way for new, more extreme members, most notably the party’s current leader, Frauke Petry.

The party owes much of its rapid growth and success in recent elections to Merkel’s unpopular decision to take in more than a million refugees and migrants in the past two years.

Borrowing a page from extreme right-wing group Pegida’s playbook, AfD leaders have used increasingly violent language when discussing the country’s migrant and refugee crisis and have repeatedly challenged the presence of Islam in Germany.

Professor Werner J. Patzelt, an expert in right-wing extremism at Dresden University of Technology, says the AfD and extreme anti-Islam platforms like Pegida are two sides of the same coin. “They’re flesh from the same flesh, blood from the same blood,” Patzelt told The Huffington Post. “Pegida is the AfD on the street in the form of demonstrations, and the AfD is Pegida as a political party and in the voting booths. …. The run of the AfD towards electoral success is unbroken and will go on.”

On Tuesday, still reeling from her party’s defeat in her home state, Merkel addressed the German parliament and spoke sharply about the AfD and its right-wing counterparts. The party’s rise, she said, is “a challenge for us all in this building.”  

This post was adapted from a piece published on HuffPost Germany earlier this week. To read HuffPost Germany’s story, click here.

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For me, caller ID is one of the best inventions of all time. Before it became mainstream, I dreaded picking up the phone. A lot of times, I couldn’t recognize the person on the other side by just hearing his or her voice, and so I was often subjected to a slew of jokes and mockery and puzzle-solving.

It turns out I was hardly alone in my misery. An inability to identify people by their voices is a poorly understood deficit called phonagnosia ― a term coming from “phone,” meaning “voice” in Ancient Greek, and “agnosia,” meaning a “loss of knowledge.”

And the condition might be much more prevalent than we thought, according to a new study published in the August issue of Brain and Language.

“There are some people, our survey showed about 3.2 percent, who have great difficulty in recognizing others by their voices,” said Irving Biederman, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California.

Biederman and his colleague Bryan Shilowich tested 730 people’s ability to correctly identify voices of celebrities who they were familiar with. Assuming that people are on a spectrum in their ability to recognize voices, researchers expected the scores to have a normal distribution and fall on a bell-shape curve. But the results showed an unusual bump at the very low end of the spectrum. 

In other words, more people than researchers expected were really bad at recognizing voices.

“We would have expected eight people to score that low. But there were 23,” Biederman said. This suggests that there’s a group of people whose low performance in voice-recognition falls outside of what is considered normal.

Realizing Everyone Recognizes Voices ... And You Don’t

A few years ago, one of Biederman’s students approached him to talk about her problem with voice recognition. The woman, identified as AN, had discovered only at age 18 that other people could recognize their friends or familiar actors and singers by just hearing them. To AN, this was news.

“I never really noticed a deficit when I was younger because I never really thought about people being ABLE to easily recognize voices without seeing the person with which they were conversing. When I could tell who was on the phone, it would be from inference,” she told the researchers. 

Biederman and his colleagues ran a couple of tests on AN. Her case, a well-documented report of phonagnosia in an otherwise healthy person, was published last year.

The study suggested that AN didn’t have a perceptual problem with voices. She could hear them just fine and grasp the differences, but she couldn’t put a face on them. In one of the experiments, for example, the researchers asked AN and 21 control participants to identify the voices of celebrities, including actors and politicians that AN had heard speaking. She did much worse at identifying the voices than the controls.

The Mind’s Ear

People with phonagnosia also can’t imagine familiar voices. When they are asked to think of someone’s voice, their mind’s ear remains essentially silent.

In the new survey, 18 of the 23 people who scored the lowest on the voice recognition test said they couldn’t imagine the voices of celebrities they knew.

Biederman did a little demo test on me:

“Are you familiar with Morgan Freeman?” he asked me.


“Can you imagine his voice?”

“No. But I can think of facts about his voice. I know he has a deep voice.”

I was clearly seeing a Morgan Freeman in my mind’s eye, with silver curly hair and short beard, earrings and freckles. But his voice wasn’t coming to me.

“Can you imagine the sound of breaking glass?”


“The sounds of rushing water?”


“What we found was that people with phonagnosia have no difficulty in imagining the sounds made by objects or animal sounds like a bird singing. But they can’t imagine the voice of people they know.”

I was still able to imagine the sound of people extremely close to me, like my parents and some of my friends. Many of those with phonagnosia that Biederman has seen can’t even do that.

When examining AN, the researchers looked at brain activity (with fMRI brain scans) as AN and people without the condition tried to imagine voices of celebrities.

“People without the condition showed high activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex when they were imagining voices, but she showed nothing,” Biederman said.

Blank Faces

Phonagnosia is similar to another odd condition known as prosopagnosia, or face blindness. People with that condition have no difficulty in seeing a face, perceiving its differences from other faces, noticing peculiar features or judging the attractiveness of a face. But they are unable to recognize or imagine the faces of familiar people.

Face blindness can occur if the part of the brain in charge of processing faces, known as the Fusiform Face Area, is damaged due to injury or stroke. But people can also be born face blind. It’s estimated that 2 percent of people have the condition.

Similarly, phonagnosia has been reported in both people with a history of neurological brain injury and people without it, such as the case of AN.

Interestingly, the two conditions don’t seem to overlap. People with phonagnosia show no problem in face recognition and vice-versa. AN, for example, tested even better than average when she had to identify familiar faces, Biederman said.

Scientists have studied other people with phonagnosia. In one case report published in 2014, researchers in Germany described two healthy academics, a man and a woman, both 32, who performed significantly worse than their peers in learning new voices, judging the familiarity of famous voices and discriminating pitch differences between voices. Both had normal hearing and showed no brain abnormalities. They were normal in any other test, from face recognition to musical abilities. 

As cases like these show up more often scientific literature, it becomes more and more likely that developmental phonagnosia (as opposed to phonagnosia caused by brain injury) does indeed exist.

The next step is for researchers to find out where in the brain a voice connects to an identity. Biederman hopes future studies with a mix of brain imaging and direct recording of neurons may be able to answer that question. In the meantime, you can test your own voice recognition performance using this test

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Cooperation with the Turkish-German Islamic association DITIB is on the brink of collapse. Germany's most populous state is considering not signing the planned contract with DITIB over religious education. | 9/6/16

By Paul Carrel and Andrea Shalal BERLIN/COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - Ercan Karakoyun has long played a prominent role in Berlin's Turkish community, promoting education and dialogue among Muslims and Germans of other faiths. Now, however, whenever he can, Karakoyun avoids the bustling streets where many Turks live in the German capital. Karakoyun heads the Foundation for Dialogue and Education in Germany, a movement that supports Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric Turkey blames for July's attempted coup. | 9/2/16
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - Side effects from taking tamoxifen for breast cancer may be worse if a patient expects they will be bad before therapy even begins, according to a study from Germany. Over a two-year period, women who expected more serious side effects before treatment started experienced almost twice as many symptoms as women who thought the therapy wouldn’t be too terrible. Since side effects can lead some women to stop taking their medication, patient expectations are an important factor for doctors to consider and possibly modify to improve treatment success, Yvonne Nestoriuc of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and her coauthors write in Annals of Oncology, August 22. | 9/1/16

The Academy revealed the 17 winners of its 43rd Student Academy Awards Tuesday, and unlike last year, when California schools accounted for eight of the 11 U.S. winners, this year’s crop is much more geographically diverse.

California still led with five winners — two from Chapman University and one each from USC, UC Berkeley and the American Film Institute — but Illinois’ DePaul University, Michigan State University and Iowa’s Maharishi University of Management were also represented for the first time.

Germany dominated the foreign film categories, taking three of the five honoree slots, with the Polish National Film, Television and Theater School also making its debut. Israel’s Tel Aviv University was home to the remaining winner.

Also Read: Top Student Academy Awards Go to USC, AFI, Chapman and Academy of Art University

Monday’s announcement named the winners but did not indicate which award — gold, silver or bronze — each filmmaker received. That will be revealed at the awards ceremony on Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, which comes at the end of an activity-filled week for the filmmakers.

The Academy received a record number of entries for this year’s awards, which included 1,749 films from 286 domestic and 95 international colleges and universities.

All 17 winners are now eligible for the short-film categories at next year’s Academy Awards. Past winners have gone on to receive 49 Oscar nominations.

See the full list below.

“All These Voices,” David Henry Gerson, American Film Institute
“Cloud Kumo,” Yvonne Ng, City College of New York
“The Swan Girl,” Johnny Coffeen, Maharishi University of Management

“Die Flucht,” Carter Boyce, DePaul University
“Once upon a Line,” Alicja Jasina, USC
“The Wishgranter,” Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design

“Fairy Tales,” Rongfei Guo, New York University
“4.1 Miles,” Daphne Matziaraki, University of California, Berkeley
“From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City,” Elise Conklin, Michigan State University

“It’s Just a Gun,” Brian Robau, Chapman University
“Nocturne in Black,” Jimmy Keyrouz, Columbia University
“Rocket,” Brenna Malloy, Chapman University

Foreign Narrative
“Invention of Trust,” Alex Schaad, University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)
“Tenants,” Klara Kochanska, The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School (Poland)
“Where the Woods End,” Felix Ahrens, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Germany)

Foreign Animation
“Ayny,” Ahmad Saleh, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany)

Foreign Documentary
“The Most Beautiful Woman,” Maya Sarfaty, Tel Aviv University (Israel)

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Top Student Academy Awards Go to USC, AFI, Chapman and Academy of Art University

Student Academy Award Winners Dominated by California Schools

New York University, Stanford Lead Student Academy Award Winners | 8/30/16

BERLIN — Saudi Arabia is closing a government-sponsored school in Germany that has been the subject of tension in the past.

The kingdom's embassy says the King Fahd Academy in Bonn, Germany's former capital, will be closed in early 2017.

It said in a statement Monday that the decision was taken as part of Saudi Arabia's effort to provide the best education for its citizens.

The embassy says "Germany is known to have one of the best educational systems in the world ... therefore our country sees no need to have its academy in Germany."

Images of police officers appearing to force a Muslim woman to remove her clothing on a beach in Nice have brought renewed scrutiny to France’s so-called burkini ban this week. At least 26 towns across the country have passed bylaws to restrict women from wearing the full-body swimsuits, prompting legal challenges as well as accusations of Islamophobia and sexism.

While judges in France have so far upheld the bans, the case reached the nation’s highest administrative court for review on Thursday. The body will have 48 hours to deliver a ruling on the bans, as the rights groups that brought the challenge hope it will overturn lower court rulings.

French bylaws setting parameters on what women can wear on the beach don’t specifically use the word “burkini” in their language. The prohibitions instead often outlaw clothing not “respectful of good morals and of secularism” and outline restrictions on clothing that covers certain areas of the body. The result is a loosely defined set of laws that critics allege authorities are using solely to target Muslim women. 

One woman on a beach in Cannes, a 34-year-old who gave her name as Siam to local media, said she was not wearing a burkini but clothes and a headscarf when authorities confronted her. Her case suggests that what’s being worn is less important to authorities than the person wearing it.

Many opponents have also asked whether these bans, which are ostensibly about enforcing France’s strict form of secularism, would be extended to groups like Catholic nuns who wear similarly concealing clothing. Others have compared it to the religious policing of women’s bodies that occurs in theocratic societies such as Saudi Arabia. These questions highlight that the broad bans have thus far seemingly only targeted Muslim women.

“The broader ban is problematic from a religious freedom perspective, but to say there’s a further and very discriminatory intent targeting only one type of religious believer is far worse,” Asma T. Uddin, director of strategy at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom in Washington, told The WorldPost.

But despite the numerous inconsistencies, vague wording and broad mandate that these bylaws give authorities, prominent politicians and much of the French public support the bans. France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the burkini a “symbol of enslavement” and said the country was locked in a “battle of cultures,” while an Ifop poll conducted this week found 64 percent of French in favor of the ban.

Supporters of the bans have put forth a wide range of dubious rationales to justify the bans. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy argued that the full-body swimwear was a “provocation” in support of radical Islam, while one town’s ban cited “hygiene” as a reason. 

The argument that carries the most weight in courts, according to Uddin, is that the swimsuit is a threat to public order. In an excellent editorial on the bans for The New York Times, Uddin outlines how European courts have often affirmed lower courts’ use of this rationale.

“The way that it’s argued tends to rest less on actual evidence and more on fears and stereotypes,” Uddin says.

This is also despite the fact that these bans have led to protests, legal challenges and discrimination that is a far greater threat to public order than the one they seek to prevent.

“You see this in a number of diverse legal contexts, where courts are trying to clamp down on rights in the name of public order and what ends up happening is that it leads to greater public disorder,” Uddin says.

What may end up killing the bans, according to Uddin, is that such a broad prohibition on swimwear would be hard to enforce. Authorities would have to address questions of whether someone is allowed to wear full-body swimsuits if they are doing so for secular reasons, or if they are doing so for religious reasons that aren’t specifically Islamic.

The swimsuit bans are part of a recent resurgence in the debate over clothing bans in a number of western countries. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative coalition is proposing making face veils illegal in schools, universities and while driving. In Canada, a major campaign issue last year was whether to stop women from wearing niqabs during citizenship ceremonies. The Conservative Party proposal was dropped after the Liberal party won elections. Since taking power, the government has shifted tack and now permits hijabs as part of the country’s iconic “Mountie” uniform. Many European nations, however, have growing far-right, anti-Islam sentiments that politicians have sought to appease.

The latest round of bans follow a spate of ISIS-inspired or directed terror attacks across western Europe in the last year, but also come as countries including France and Germany prepare for national elections in 2017. In both countries, far-right parties such as France’s National Front have capitalized on ethno-nationalist sentiments and fear of Islam.

While France will have a judgment in the next 48 hours on whether its so-called burkini bans are legal, the prominence of the sentiment that led to the laws being passed in the first place means this issue is far from being settled for good. 

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A heated debate over the public dress of Muslim women has engulfed much of Europe’s consciousness after Cannes, the famous French Riviera beach town, first announced its ban on the “burkini” on July 28.

Twenty-five towns in France have followed the resort city’s lead, and public officials from Prime Minister Manuel Valls to National Front leader Marine Le Pen have further stoked the flames by lending their support to the controversial ban. A majority of the French public agrees, according to a recent survey conducted by Ifop that found 64 percent of respondents opposed the use of the swimwear. 

While France may be the center of this debate, it is far from the only country in Europe that has taken a hostile position toward traditional Islamic covering, such as the hijab, which politicians often cite as an obstacle to assimilation and social cohesion. In Germany, where there has been rising public disquiet over the integration of the more than 1 million migrants that arrived in the country last year, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing conservative bloc is now eyeing a ban on full veils.

Members of Merkel’s coalition view full veils as incompatible with German society, but other politicians maintain that a sweeping ban would in fact inhibit integration.

At an August conference on combatting terrorism and bolstering security measures in Germany following a wave of attacks over the past year, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière proposed a partial ban on veils covering women’s faces.

“It doesn’t fit in with our open society. To show one’s face is crucial for communicating, for living together in our society and keeping it together,” de Maizière said at the conference.

The ban would be applied in courtrooms, administrative buildings, schools and universities, as well as behind the wheel of a car or at protests.

“In the areas where it serves a function to show one’s face, we want to make it a rule … and this means whoever breaks it must feel the consequences,” de Maizière added.

Days after the interior minister’s comments, an administrative court in the town of Osnabrück told an 18-year-old student that she could not wear an Islamic covering that leaves only her eyes exposed.

“The ruling’s outcome is right and welcome,” Christian Social Union member Stephan Mayer told HuffPost Germany.

Mayer said that legal processes would be necessary to regulate certain areas of public life. 

“The idea that in the future girls will walk around German schools covered head-to-toe is absurd,” he said.

Burkhard Lischka, a member of the Social Democrats, disagrees. He tells HuffPost Germany that while he regards full veils as “a marker of exclusion,” he rejects the idea of a general ban on the garment.

“It’s in the interest of our children’s cosmopolitan, tolerant education for schools to be able to decide for themselves whether they’ll tolerate students wearing a full covering or not,” he said.

Germany’s Left Party is also speaking out in favor of letting schools make their own decisions about banning the burqa or niqab.

“Just as Christian schools get to decide if they’ll prohibit young ladies from wearing clothes that show their belly button, it’s within the realm of reason to let the leadership of private schools decide to reject the wearing of full-body covering,” Ulla Jelpke, the Left Party’s speaker for internal affairs, told HuffPost Germany.

“In the case of public schools, education and integration must remain the primary imperatives. I reject the idea of a unilateral legislative ban,” Jelpke said.

Green Party deputy Konstantin von Notz says that a burqa ban at schools will hinder, not help, integration.

“The way to integration beyond the burqa lies through education and emancipation, and sweeping bans inhibit that process,” von Notz stated.

“It doesn’t matter how big the veil is; people need access to education and success,” he said.

This piece originally appeared on HuffPost Germany and has been translated into English and edited for clarity. 

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Restrictions on face and full-body veils are back in the spotlight in parts of Europe after some French cities banned the burkini swimsuit, saying the garment, which leaves only the face, hands and feet exposed, defies laws on secularism.

A spate of attacks against civilians claimed by militant group Islamic State, notably in Belgium, France and Germany, has sharpened the debate, with a large influx of mainly Muslim migrants to the continent also giving rise to resentment among some Europeans.

Here are details on where the full-body burqa and burkini, and the niqab face veil, are banned and where bans are under discussion.



Austrian conservative politicians have called for a ban on full body veils, saying they prevent women who wear them from integrating given it is a mainly Catholic country. Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has said he would expect a full ban to be problematic in terms of constitutional law.

A spokesman for Austria’s Supreme Court of Justice said there was no law banning face-coverings.

But that court recently heard a case in which an employer in a notary office fired his Muslim employee for wearing a face veil, saying it inhibited her interaction with clients. She sued on equality grounds but the court agreed with the employer, saying a face veil impacted her ability to do her job.

A Sports Ministry spokesman said he was not aware of any countrywide rule regarding burkinis in public swimming pools and pools had the right to make their own decisions.



Belgium banned the niqab - which covers the hair and face except for the eyes - and the burqa in 2011 and 60 women have since been prosecuted for wearing them.

It is forbidden to wear the burkini in many municipal swimming pools, but not at the beach.

The N-VA, the Flemish center-right party, is calling for a general ban on the burkini. The MR, the French-speaking Liberal Party, says it is ready to start debating that too.

“If you allow (the wearing of burkinis), you’ll put these women on the sidelines of society,” N-VA deputy Nadia Sminate told newspaper De Standaard.



There is no general ban on burqas or the burkini in the Czech Republic.

In 2013 a school in Prague banned two girls from wearing the hijab. This year one of the two students filed a court complaint against the school, demanding an apology. There has been no verdict yet.

Also in 2013, some parents protested against a teacher wearing the hijab in a kindergarten in a town in the south of the country. She was not forced to step down because other parents and local authorities supported her. 



In 2010 France became the first European country to ban the burqa and niqab in public. In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban but said the law could appear excessive and encourage stereotyping.

The burkini has been banned by more than a dozen municipal authorities, primarily in the south east between Nice and Marseille where there is a strong Muslim population.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the Marseille-based La Provence newspaper on Aug. 17 that beaches and other public spaces needed to be protected from religious expression, saying the burkini was a sign of the subjugation of woman.

“There is an idea that women, by nature ... are impure and should be covered up. That is not compatible with the values of France and the Republic. Confronted by such provocations, the Republic must defend itself,” he was quoted as saying.

On Aug 25 the country’s highest administrative court will begin hearing a request by the French campaign group League of Human Rights for the burkini ban in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet to be overturned.

The campaign group’s appeal had previously been dismissed at a lower court. In its ruling, that court said that the burkini ban was “necessary and measured” in the context of the Nice Bastille Day attack and the murder of a Catholic priest by Islamist militants.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives want a partial ban on the face veil but their junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), opposes that idea.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said that the face veil has no place in Germany but suggested it would be hard to ban it nationally.

Conservative regional interior ministers want women to be forced to show their face while driving, when registering with authorities, at passport controls and at demonstrations. They also want the full veil banned at schools, universities, in the civil service and at court for judges and witnesses.

Merkel has said that women wearing a complete veil have “hardly any chance of integrating”.

A German court ruled on Aug. 22 that a Muslim woman could not wear a niqab to evening school.



The region of Lombardy in northern Italy banned the burqa at hospitals and public offices belonging to the regional government as of Jan 1, 2016.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has that Italy will not follow the example of some French towns in banning burkinis, saying such a curb could be counter-productive.



A ban on burqas has been debated in the Netherlands for a decade but always foundered on practical or constitutional objections.

In 2015 a ban eschewing religious language was imposed on “face-covering clothing” in certain situations. These include at school and in places where it is deemed necessary to see somebody’s face or identify them for safety reasons: at airports, in courtrooms, on public transport and at entrances to public buildings.

Those situations do not include the street or beach. The ban also applies to other face-covering clothing, such as motorcycle helmets.


In 2010 the council of the northeastern city of Lleida banned the use of the burqa and other face-coverings that “make identification and communication difficult” in municipal buildings.

Other Spanish cities, mostly in the northeastern region of Catalonia, imposed similar bans.

The bans were overturned in 2013 by Spain’s Supreme Court, which said town halls did not have the authority to impose them.

There has been little public discussion about a possible nationwide ban in Spain, where very few women wear the full veil.



In Switzerland, a group that spearheaded a successful initiative to block construction of new minarets in Switzerland 2009 is pressing ahead on a measure to put a burqa ban before national voters.

One canton, Italian-speaking Tessin in the south, passed a burqa ban in 2013 that went into effect earlier this summer. Those who violate the ban could face fines.

A politician from the left-leaning Social Democrats in Zurich, Mario Fehr, said this month he also favored a law banning the burqa as people in a liberal society should be required to show their faces.

Fehr has been criticized by members of his own party for his comments, according to Swiss media.


(Reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin, Richard Lough in France, Maria Haase Coelho in Brussels, Shadia Nasralla in Vienna, Sonya Dowsett in Madrid, Philip Pullella in Rome, Stephen Jewkes in Milan, John Miller in Zurich, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Robert Muller in Prague)

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Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing conservative bloc has raised the possibility of a ban on face veils in schools and universities and while driving. | 8/19/16
Researchers at the University Hospital of Bonn in Germany had been looking into the origins of MERS when they made the discovery.
The Technical University of Dortmund, Germany, says the answer may lie in gender conditioning. Females are expected to be emotional and males are taught to be competitive.

Rumor has it, a Nazi train loaded with looted gems and treasure vanished en-route to Berlin in southwestern Poland at the end of the Second World War, though many experts dispute its existence. In the midst of international speculation and intrigue, two explorers are literally digging their way to the truth.

Piotr Koper of Poland and Andreas Richter of Germany believe the mysterious train was hidden from the Soviet Red Army in a secret tunnel constructed by Nazis near the Polish city of Walbrzych. Soil anomalies detected in the area with radar equipment last year indicate its presence, they claim.

Geological experts from Krakow’s AGH University of Science and Technology found no evidence of the train when searching with magnetic equipment, the Associated Press reports, but their findings did conclude that there may in fact be a tunnel located at the site of Koper and Richter’s privately-funded excavation.

The pair began the treasure hunt on Tuesday with a team of researchers and volunteers, despite warnings that it could be a pointless mission. 

“There may be a tunnel. There is no train,” said Prof. Janusz Madej of the university in Krakow, who was involved in the study.

In contrast to Madej’s assertion, search committee spokesperson Andrzej Gaik said Tuesday that if the tunnel exists, “there should be a train there.”

“The train is not a needle in the haystack; if there is one, we will find it,” he added. “It’s so exciting and we count on success.”

While skeptics believe the latest search efforts are a waste of time, Polish media have reported that up to 300 tons of gold could be aboard the train, the Washington Post notes.

Koper and Richter believe the dig will take less than two weeks, meaning an end to the decades-long mystery could be in sight.

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Egyptian judo athlete Islam El Shehaby was sent packing from the Rio Olympics after refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent, Ori Sasson, following their match on Friday, the International Olympic Committee said.

The IOC told the Associated Press Monday that El Shehaby received a “severe reprimand.”

Sasson defeated El Shehaby with two throws for an automatic victory. But instead of standing up and bowing per the sport’s custom, El Shehaby seemed to linger. When he finally did get up, he refused Sasson’s offer to shake hands — a big no-no in judo.

Also Read: Olympics: Egyptian Judoka Under Investigation After Snubbing Israeli Opponent (Video)

The crowd was clearly not pleased with El Shehaby’s apparent lack of sportsmanship, loudly jeering the Egyptian athlete.

El Shehaby’s refusal to abide by the rules of the sport made headlines around the world, underscoring the fragile peace treaty between the two countries, which was signed in 1979.

According to the International Judo Federation’s website, “Of the many rituals that are a part of judo, perhaps none is clearer and poignant than the bow.” The IJF site goes on to explain that bowing is “a signal of respect. Judo students bow when entering and leaving the dojo.”

Also Read: Daily Beast Pulls Grindr-Baiting Reporter From Rio, Olympic Committee Says

The incident inevitably made headlines in Israel. Mako, one the country’s leading news sites, reported that El Shehaby has decided to retire from judo following his loss.

El Shehaby had been under intense pressure from Islamists in Egypt to drop out of the Rio Summer Olympics altogether. The day before the fight, a TV host in the country’s Islamist network, Al-Sharq, called on El Shehaby to withdraw from the Rio Games or be branded a traitor.

“My son watch out, don’t be fooled, or fool yourself thinking you will play with the Israeli athlete to defeat him and make Egypt happy,” he said. “Egypt will cry; Egypt will be sad and you will be seen as a traitor and a normalizer in the eyes of your people.”

Also Read: Ryan Lochte, 3 Other US Swimmers Robbed at Gunpoint in Rio

This isn’t the first time that an incident like this has happened.

In 2012, Egyptian judoka Ramadan Darwish refused to shake hands with Arik Zeevi, his Israeli rival, after the Judo Grand Prix in Dusseldorf quarterfinals in Germany. An Egyptian website called him a “national hero.”

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace accord with Israel after five wars in three decades.

You can watch El Shehaby’s actions in the video below.

Olympics 2016: Team USA Gold Medal Tracker (Videos)
  • Team USA is once again expected to contend for the top spot in the medal count at this year's Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Here are the athletes that have claimed the gold medal so far.
  • Virginia Thrasher, Women's 10m Air Rifle -- The 19-year-old engineering major at West Virginia University dreamed of being a figure skater, but found her path to Olympic gold through a rifle instead. She surprised everyone by beating out Chinese shooters Du Li and Yi Siling, who have won the gold in this event in past Olympics.
  • Katie Ledecky, Women's 400m Freestyle -- Ledecky's quest to go four-for-four in her swimming events got off to a flying start on Sunday, when she smashed her own world record time and beat the rest of the field by five seconds.
  • Caeleb Dressel, Michael Phelps, Ryan Held and Nathan Adrian, Men's 4x100 Freestyle Relay -- For all his success, Michael Phelps regretted coming second in the freestyle relay to France at the London Olympics in 2012. This time was different, as Phelps used his powerful kick to give Team USA a lead that they would never give up.
  • Ryan Murphy, Men's 100m Backstroke -- With Murphy's record-setting victory at 51.97 seconds, Team USA has won the gold in this event in six consecutive Olympics. Murphy was joined on the podium by teammate David Plummer, who took bronze.
  • Lilly King, Women's 100m Breaststroke -- King made headlines when she called out Russian rival Yulia Efimova, who was initially among those banned from competing during the Russian doping scandal but was later cleared to compete by the International Olympic Committee. King backed up her words by setting a new Olympic record in the event with a time of 1:04.93. Efimova took silver and American Katie Meili took bronze.
  • Katie Ledecky, Women's 200m Freestyle -- Swedish sprint swimmer Sarah Sjostrom was neck and neck with Ledecky through the entire race, but Ledecky managed to stave her off and win gold #2 by 0.35 seconds.
  • Michael Phelps, Men's 200m Butterfly -- Much was made by the media about the rivalry between Phelps and South Africa's Chad Le Clos, who beat Phelps in London. But the biggest threat was Japan's Masato Sakai, whom Phelps edged out by just four hundredths of a second to win his 20th Olympic gold.
  • Conor Dwyer, Townley Haas, Ryan Lochte, and Michael Phelps, Men's 4x200 Freestyle Relay -- Team USA has now won the gold in this event in the last four Olympics, with Lochte and Phelps as members of every winning team.
  • Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian; Women's Team Gymnastics -- In London, there was the Fierce Five. In Rio, there was the Final Five, named in honor of being the last team coached by legendary gymnastics guru Marta Karolyi. Indeed, the U.S. women gave their coach a sendoff for the ages, winning the gold by a whopping 8.2 points.
  • Kristin Armstrong -- Women's Cycling Time Trial -- Though the roads of Rio were slick with rainwater, Armstrong prevailed in the "Race of Truth" to become the oldest American woman to win an individual gold medal with a victory a day prior to her 43rd birthday.
  • Allison Schmidt, Leah Smith, Maya DiRado, and Katie Ledecky; Women's 4x200 Freestyle Relay -- Team USA was just under a second out of the lead when Ledecky entered the pool as the team's anchor, but once she was in, Ledecky pulled out to a firm lead to win USA Swimming's eighth gold of these Olympics.
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Here’s every American victory at the Rio Olympics

Team USA is once again expected to contend for the top spot in the medal count at this year's Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Here are the athletes that have claimed the gold medal so far.
Related stories from TheWrap:

Leslie Jones Makes Her On-Air Rio Olympics Debut Tonight

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Russia's Only Track and Field Athlete Suspended From Rio Olympics | 8/16/16

Curious George is one of the most recognizable characters in literary history. Children far and wide grew up getting to know the playful monkey, perpetually embroiled in mischief. But those same kids who enjoyed the never-ending antics of a banana-loving protagonist were probably less familiar with the other name emblazoned on the Curious George books: H. A. Rey.

The initials stand for Hans Augusto. But they represent only one half of the duo that actually brought George to life. Margret Rey, Hans’ wife, was equally responsible for the seven books that make up the original Curious George series. Hans was in charge of illustrations, Margret the writing; both helped generate the many ideas and plot points that amounted to stories like Curious George Takes a Job and Curious George Flies a Kite.

A new documentary raising funds on Kickstarter aims to bring the details of Hans and Margret’s relationship to light. “Monkey Business: The Curious Adventures of George’s Creators” hopes fans of George will be fans of the late Hans and Margret, too. And a brief dive into their lives proves the wife-husband team has a history well worth learning about. 

According to Louise Borden, author of The Journey That Saved Curious George, the Reys were both born in Germany to Jewish families. They began dating while Hans was traveling through Brazil. They married in 1935 and moved to France shortly after. However, they were forced to leave their then-home of Paris in June of 1940, along with five million others fleeing encroaching Nazi forces. So the story goes, Hans and Margret left the city on bicycles they built from spare parts, eventually making their way to a ship that brought them to the United States. Once there, they settled in New York City ― a curious manuscript in tow.

At that point, George was not exactly new. Though his books were first published in the U.S. in 1941 under the enduring title Curious George, the monkey himself is technically French. And originally named Fifi (Zozo in England). Fifi began as a simple cartoon Hans sketched, but ballooned into a full-fledged character when a French publisher suggested he turn it into a children’s book. Margret and Hans based most of George’s adventures on their own lives as children and adults.

Over the next 25 years, the monkey’s ascent to children’s literary fame as “George” would come to represent one of the most inspiring stories of immigrant success. Over 30 million copies of the Curious George books have been sold worldwide since, published in 16 different languages. What many consider to be a staple of American children’s literature is actually an international phenomenon born of migration and survival.

“Monkey Business” filmmaker Ema Ryan Yamazaki ― who grew up reading the Reys’ books in Japan ― is “obsessed” with Curious George. During research for her documentary, she visited the University of Southern Mississippi, making her way through the 300 boxes of archival materials that make up the Rey collection there. From wartime journals, personal photos, unpublished George artwork, and correspondence, she sifted through the preserved items, searching for the real story behind the H.A. Rey name. The real story behind George.

“As someone that was impacted by Curious George during my childhood, I’ve seen that it’s not just me who feels this connection to him, but the world,” Yamazaki explained in an interview with The Creator’s Project. “And not just children ― George has had an impact on multiple generations. He’s been around for 75 years, something about this monkey has transcended cultures and time to mold our childhood.”

Lay Lee Ong, literary executor of the Rey estate, has professed support for Yamazaki’s film, as have a number of other Curious George–related experts. (For the record, so has famed documentarian Alex Gibney.) Yamazaki hopes her Kickstarter campaign will help pay for the intensive animation featured in the film and the work of lead animator Jacob Kafka, among other things.

Check out more of the Reys’ story on Kickstarter. If Yamazaki raises her intended $175,000, fans of Curious George will have a lot to look forward to.

Hit Backspace for a regular dose of pop culture nostalgia.

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While the US, Australia, Canada are the man destinations for Indians, newer ones like Germany, NZ, Ireland, France and China stand to gain.

Despite a recent tourism-motivated decline in joblessness, millions of Spaniards have struggled to find employment in the past few years, with only Greece having more people out of work in the EU. Though the country’s economy is slowly recovering, officials maintain that the unemployment rate will likely stay in the 15 percent range until 2019.

Tens of thousands of Spanish citizens are now heading to countries such as Britain, France, Germany, the United States and Ecuador looking for better work opportunities.

In 2015 alone, close to 100,000 Spaniards left Spain, the highest figure since the crisis started in 2008. According to the National Statistics Institute, the number shows a 23 percent rise from the year before.

The statistics released by the institute also show that there’s an increase in the number of Spaniards returning to the country after stints abroad; 52, 227 people returned to Spain in 2015, which is a 27.5 percent rise from 2014.

HuffPost Spain spoke with five Spaniards who have struggled to find stable jobs over the past few years and who have been forced to tread the tricky and often painful road of emigration.

Ivan Escalante, 30. Works in Slovakia. 

Ivan Escalante, who is from the northwestern city of Valladolid, published a blog post on HuffPost Spain in March 2013 titled “Me Against Six Million Unemployed,” in which he shared the details of his frustrating job search.

He had studied engineering, learnt two languages and completed a few internships ― but his efforts didn’t land him a job.

“Some day it will all come in handy,” he had said hopefully. He mentioned that many of his friends had found work abroad. “I would prefer not knowing which continent I will be living in a month or a week from today, and that a year from now, my life may have completely changed,” he wrote in 2013.

Three years later, Escalante has not changed continents, but he has changed countries. After a series of temporary contracts, he recently landed a full-time position in his field in Kosice, the second most prominent city in Slovakia.

He doesn’t see himself returning to Spain except in the event of “a miracle.” Still, he misses “those little things that you only value when you don’t have them,” he says, such as the conversations he would have with his family after dinner.

“I would like for Spain to be a country in which it would be possible to carve out a future, make plans. ... In short, a place where you could live and not just survive. And I don’t see that happening in the short term,” he says.

For him, the main difference between the labor markets in both countries is that in Slovakia, “it’s normal to have an indefinite contract,” he says. “My colleagues can make long-term plans, buy a house, have children. ...In Spain, that’s impossible.”

Irene Ruperez, 28. Job-searching in Spain.

In October 2012, Irene Ruperez bought a ticket to Berlin. She had graduated with an undergraduate degree in labor relations and journalism and a Master’s in sports journalism and communication, but was finding it really difficult to secure a job in her home country.

“I’m kind of running away from the Spanish reality, from the government, and from the disastrous situation that Spain is going through,” she told HuffPost Spain in 2012.

Her adventure in Germany, which she describes as “marvelous,” lasted seven short months. But “even though the country is a disaster,” Ruperez says, she felt that it was “impossible” not to miss Spain.

In Berlin, she took German language classes, and made some money babysitting for Spanish families. “I also had an interview with eDarling, the dating website, for a position on their office communications team,” she tells HuffPost Spain.  

But Ruperez ended up moving back home for a journalism job in Madrid. After three years with the Asturias TV channel, she briefly joined public television station Telemadrid, but she lost that job.

Despite being unemployed once again, she says she would not resort to emigrating for a second time.

“To people who are thinking about leaving, I would say that it’s not marvelous, that you don’t arrive and live in an apartment like the one in [the TV show] ‘Friends,’ go out every day and pick up the language right away,” she says.

“To go is to have a difficult time, miss your family, your friends, your way of life. It’s a battle to find a house, do hundreds of interviews just to be able to have a room to sleep in.”

Guiomar Duarte, 32. Works in Paris.

In a viral blog post published in 2012, titled “’My Daughter Emigrated Yesterday,” Carlos M. Duarte explained that his daughter, Guiomar, had “emigrated in search of a future that she hasn’t been able to find in her country, and that society, or her parents, have not known how to give her.”

He expressed that it was “extraordinarily frustrating for a father to see his children leave,” but that it was also difficult to support them.

Guiomar Duarte, who studied advertising and public relations, currently works in Paris, where she organizes scientific events and manages web content for the French National Center for Scientific Research.

She says that she originally left Spain for Australia, with a vision to escape the crisis. “I went there because I knew that it would have more, and better, job opportunities. And after a few months, I found work in my area,” she explains.

In 2014, she returned to Spain where, thanks to her experience abroad, she found a job within a few months. A romantic relationship eventually led her to France, and she says that’s where she wants to be for the time being.

“At some point, I would like to return to Spain, but not yet. My impression is that there is starting to be more work and that things are a little better than they were when I left in 2012,” she notes.

Blanca Espigares, 39. Preparing to emigrate from Spain.

Despite declaring in a 2012 blog post that she was ready to emigrate, architecture researcher Blanca Espigares has been living in Spain for the past few years, and like many others, has been struggling to find work.  

“I have tried to survive with shit contracts, few jobs and projects that end up falling through ... until I realized that I’m being foolish,” Espigares tells HuffPost Spain.

She’s been actively looking for job opportunities abroad over the past couple of months, and she expects to take a teaching or research job in the fall.  

“I’m leaving because of my dignity. When another university contacts you, you can tell that they look at your resume with different eyes. Suddenly you feel that you have value,” Espigares says. “There is a radical difference between the way you are treated abroad and the way you’re treated here.”

To her, emigration does not feel that tragic. “I’m living through a lot of drama here, trying to pay rent, asking my parents for 200 euros at the end of each month just to be able to buy food,” she says.

Alberto Perez, 56. Unemployed and living in Spain.

Alberto Perez (who didn’t want his identity to be known and whose name has been changed upon his request), left for London with his wife a few years ago after feeling that he did not have a “present or a future” in Spain.

In the British capital, he worked for a cleaning company as a deliveryman and as a programmer. But when he lost his job, he could not afford to pay rent and stay in London.

Right now, he feels that returning to Spain was a mistake; in one week, he receives as many calls from employers in the U.K. as he has over the past seven months in Spain, he says.

Perez believes that while emigration should be made a “mandatory” experience, it wasn’t easy. His biggest problem, he says, was with the language: “I’m too hopeless or too old to learn English fluently.”

This post originally appeared on HuffPost Spain, and has been translated into English. 

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By Lisa Rapaport (Reuters Health) - The brain makes less dopamine, a chemical involved in both pleasure and addiction, when people smoke but this temporary deficit may be reversed when smokers kick the habit, a small experiment suggests. “It is assumed that the brain adapts to the repeated nicotine-induced release of dopamine by producing less dopamine,” said lead study author Dr. Lena Rademacher of Lubeck University in Germany. It’s still not clear if dopamine production reduced by long-term smoking bounces back in ex-smokers, so the researchers did brain scans of 15 never-smokers and 30 smokers. | 8/10/16
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - People with sleep disorders like sleep apnea, insomnia or restless leg syndrome may have a poorer recovery after a stroke and higher risk of a second stroke, according to a review of existing research. The authors recommend screening for these sleep disorders among people who have had a stroke or mini-stroke. “We have been aware in neurology for a couple of years already that breathing disturbances are a risk factor for stroke,” said coauthor Dr. Dirk M. Hermann of University Hospital Essen in Essen, Germany. | 8/10/16

The responsibility for the German education system lies primarily with the states (Bundesländer) while the federal government plays only a minor role. Optional Kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years of age, after which school attendance is compulsory, in most cases for 11 to 12 years. The system varies throughout Germany because each state (Land) decides its own educational policies. Most children, however, first attend Grundschule from the age of six to ten or 12. German secondary education includes five types of school. The Gymnasium is designed to prepare pupils for university education and finishes with the final examination Abitur, after grade 12 or 13. The Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediate pupils and finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife, after grade 10; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education and finishes with the final examination Hauptschulabschluss, after grade 9 or 10 and the Realschulabschluss after grade 10. There are two types of grade 10: one is the higher level called type 10b and the lower level is called type 10a; only the higher level type 10b can lead to the Realschule and this finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife after grade 10b. This new path of achieving the Realschulabschluss at a vocationally-oriented secondary school was changed by the statutory school regulations in 1981 - with a one-year qualifying period. During the one-year qualifying period of the change to the new regulations, pupils could continue with class 10 to fulfil the statutory period of education. After 1982, the new path was compulsory, as explained above. Other than this, there is the Gesamtschule, which combines the approaches. There are also Förderschulen/Sonderschulen. One in 21 pupils attends a Förderschule. Nevertheless the Förderschulen/Sonderschulen can also lead, in special circumstances, to a Hauptschulabschluss of both type 10a or type 10b, the latter of which is the Realschulabschluss. German children only attend school in the morning. There is no provision for serving lunch. There is a lot more homework, heavy emphasis on the "three R's" and very few extracurricular activities. A very low-cost or free higher education could lie beyond a German Abitur. Many of Germany's hundred or so institutions charge little or no tuition. But, students must prove through examinations that they are qualified. In order to enter university, students are, as a rule, required to have passed the Abitur examination; since 2009, however, those with a Meisterbrief (master craftman's diploma) have also been able to apply. Those wishing to attend a "university of applied sciences" must, as a rule, have Abitur, Fachhochschulreife or a Meisterbrief. Lacking those qualifications, pupils are eligible to enter a university or university of applied sciences if they can present additional proof that they will be able to keep up with their fellow students A special system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung allows pupils on vocational courses to do in-service training in a company as well as at a state school. Recent PISA student assessments demonstrated serious weaknesses in German pupils' performance. In the test of 43 countries in the year 2000, Germany ranked 21st in reading and 20th in both mathematics and the natural sciences, prompting calls for reform. In 2006, German schoolchildren improved their position compared to previous years, being ranked (statistically) significantly above average (rank 13) in science skills and statistically not significantly above or below average in mathematical skills (rank 20) and reading skills (rank 18). The PISA Examination also found big differences in achievement between students attending different types of German schools. According to Jan-Martin-Wiadra: Conservatives prized the success of the Gymnasium, for them the finest school form in the world – indeed, it is by far the number one in the PISA league table. But what they prefer to forget is that this success came at the cost of a catastrophe in the Hauptschulen. Some German teachers' representatives and a number of scientists disputed the PISA findings. Claiming among other things that the questions have been ill-translated, that the samples drawn in some countries were not representative, that Germans (most of whom had never done a multiple choice tests in their lives before) were discriminated against by the multiple choice questions, that the PISA-questions had no curricular validity and that the PISA was "in fact an IQ-test", which according to them showed that dysgenic fertility was taking place in Germany. A 2008 statistic from Nordrhein-Westfalen shows that 6.4 percent of all students did not earn even the Hauptschulabschluss, however not all of them were high school dropouts, as many of them were children with special needs, who received special school leaving certificates. Only 3.3 percent dropped out of school without earning any kind of diploma.

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