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Open Sesame: Science centre unveiled in Jordan
16 May 2017 - In a rare show of unity in the Middle East, an advanced research centre to be shared by the troubled region has opened in Jordan. Despite political tensions and rows, countries usually hostile to each other are jointly supporting the venture. Its name is SESAME -- Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East. The facility hosts a synchrotron, a particle accelerator that acts as a powerful microscope. Sesame is a play on the famous phrase 'Open Sesame' and is meant to signal a new era of collaborative science. There are some 60 synchrotrons in use around the world but SESAME will be the first in the Middle East. (more)

Nature conservation as a bridge to peace in the Middle East
27 March 2017 - Loss of biodiversity is a major challenge in today's world as is the quest for peace in regions engaged in conflict. But scientists writing in a Review published 22 March in Trends in Ecology and Evolution say that efforts to conserve natural resources present an opportunity to find common ground between communities at odds, building trust and renewed hope for peace. (more)

Former Burundi street child helps heal civil war divisions
20 March 2017 - In northern Burundi a group of 90 young people are harvesting their first crops --beans, maize, and potatoes -- but this is no ordinary smallholding. The farmers come from both sides of the country's ethnically charged civil war; some were orphaned by the conflict, while others are the children of those who were the killers. Forty percent of the farmers at the project in Gasorwe in Muyinga province are Hutu, 40 percent Tutsi, and 20 percent Batwa pygmies, Burundi's most marginalised people. (more)

Roman citizens help migrants
10 March 2017 - Volunteers served macaroni in marinara sauce to dozens of migrants outside one of Rome's biggest train stations this week, offering help to travelers largely ignored by institutions on the frontline of Europe's migrant crisis. . . . volunteers cook meals at home and bring them to a bare plaza outside Tiburtina station where tents are set up at 9 p.m. and taken down in the early morning. The Baobab Experience group of volunteers...saw between 500 and 1,000 migrants per day last summer, and volunteers have helped almost 63,000 migrants over the past two years with no state funding -- only donations. (more)

Q and A: Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, the vegan Saudi prince investing his millions in sustainable solutions
24 February 2017 - Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed is the son of one of the wealthiest men in the world and comes from a country of billionaire elites who have amassed great fortune from oil reserves. But the 38-year-old businessman, an avowed vegan and animal lover, is determined to leave a cleaner, greener mark on this earth than other members of the Saudi royal family. (more)

Morocco rejoins African Union after more than 30 years
2 February 2017 - Morocco has been readmitted to the African Union more than three decades after it left when the continental body recognised the independence of the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Hopes that the move could pave the way for peace-building were bolstered after Western Sahara - regarded by Morocco as part of its historic territory - welcomed the readmission. Morocco's King Mohammed VI, who had been campaigning since last year to join the bloc, told African leaders at the AU summit in Addis Ababa: 'Africa is my home, and I am coming back home.' (more)

Israeli minister advances plan to take in Syrian war orphans
26 January 2017 - Israel's interior minister has approved a plan to take in 100 Syrian children orphaned by the civil war. If carried out, it would be the first time Israel absorbs refugees from the ongoing war. According to the plan, first reported by Israel's Channel 10, Israel would initially house the orphans in boarding schools, and would seek Arab families in Israel to adopt them. The orphans would eventually receive permanent citizenship, and first-degree relatives would be allowed to join them in Israel. (more)

Colombia ELN rebels agree to free captive, start peace talks
18 January 2017 - Colombia's second-largest rebel group has agreed to free a prominent politician held captive for almost a year, clearing the way for repeatedly postponed peace talks to begin next month. The agreement worked out during months of backchannel talks with the National Liberation Army was announced at a news conference Wednesday in Quito, Ecuador. The two sides have been holding exploratory peace talks for more than three years. President Juan Manuel Santos praised the breakthrough from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (more)

The Canadian who spent C$1.5m to rescue more than 200 Syrian refugees
6 January 2017 - Appliance firm CEO Jim Estill is behind an ambitious scheme to resettle 58 families in Guelph, Ontario, and galvanised hundreds of residents to help. ... The result is a full-scale operation -- staffed by volunteers and bolstered by a deluge of donations -- that offers the refugees everything from job training to English-language classes. (more)

Syrian band brings music of Aleppo to Berlin
2 January 2017 - Instead of bombs there were beats. Guitars took over for guns. And there were cheers, not screams. But Aleppo was never far from the minds of the band Musiqana and the crowd at its record release concert in Berlin. 'I didn't know if I should cry or be happy,' said Samaa Hijazi, a 20-year-old medical student has been in Germany about five years but grew up in Syria. 'I was thinking about the times my father sang these songs. I sang them together with my brother. And they are all still in Syria.' Lead singer Abdallah Rahhal, 28, is an Aleppo native, and the band's music is the city's version of Arab Tarab, a traditional Arab music often referred to as 'musical euphoria,' with emotional and poetic lyrics. (more)

Success of Maharishi's Programmes
10 Short Summaries of Top Stories

A mother's greatest gift
14 May 2017 - Author Linda Egenes tells the beautiful story of her parents' lives and how her mother found happiness in any situation. When both parents developed dementia, Linda took on major responsibility for managing their home and their care. 'At this point', she says, 'I was incredibly grateful for my daily practice of Transcendental Meditation. . . . as I sank into the soft, blissful state of my own pure awareness each morning and evening, my body let go of the stresses of the day and my mind let go of the worries. When I came out of meditation, I felt fresh, rested. Suddenly solutions would appear.' She also enjoyed meditating with her mother. As circumstances progressed, Linda realized that her mother was making the choice to be happy every single day. 'Through her joy and gratitude, she turned darkness into light. Ever my teacher, she also became my hero.' (more)

Maharishi Vastu Architecture: Celebrating the stages of building
26 April 2017 - The current Maharishi Vastu Architecture newsletter explains that the familiar ribbon-cutting ceremonies, ground-breaking by officials, and house-warming parties to mark significant steps in the building process are reflections of the traditions of many ancient cultures. In the construction of a Maharishi Vastu building, three significant points - ground-breaking, laying the foundation stone, and inaugurating the new home - are celebrated, as in a new Vastu home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This 'stunning' home also showcases principles of Maharishi Vastu design, including 'abundance of natural materials, natural light and airflow, and a refinement of decorative elements that result in a coherent, exquisitely beautiful wholeness while remaining comfortable.' Since moving in, the owner says, 'I sleep better. I feel more at home. . . . I am more creative and fulfilled being there.' (more)

Nepal: Army schools implement Transcendental Meditation technique
5 April 2017 - Nepal's army schools are finishing their first stage implementation of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. The army school in Bhaktapur, Nepal was the first military school to implement the practice. Three hundred of its teaching staff and 2,700 students there have greatly benefited from practising TM for the past three years. Teachers have noticed many positive changes in the students, who are the schoolchildren of military personnel. Many students improved their academic performance. 'It has been the best tool to maintain discipline and a healthy environment in the premises of the army school,' said the school's former Principal. (more)

Followup study suggests group Transcendental Meditation practice reduced murder rates in large US cities
30 March 2017 - Following up on a 2016 study on group meditation that found a 21.2% reduction in the US national homicide rate during the period 2007-2010 - a new study focusing on 206 large US urban areas found an even greater decrease of 28.4% in the murder rate in the same period, compared to the baseline period 2002-2006. The study, published in the Journal of Health and Environmental Research, is the fourth in a series evaluating the impact of large groups practising an advanced Transcendental Meditation programme on US quality of life and public health. During 2007-2010, the size of the group located at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, was above or near 1,725 participants, the square root of 1% of the US population at that time - the threshold predicted to create a positive effect in society, leading to reduced societal stress, reflected in reduced rates of murder and violence. (more)

Group practice of Transcendental Meditation reduces drug-related deaths in general population
14 March 2017 - The rate of US drug-related fatalities fell 30.4 per cent nationwide from 2007 to 2010 due to the reductions in societal stress and increased alertness in the individuals in society created by a large group practising the Transcendental Meditation technique and its advanced programme, the TM-Sidhi programme, a new study shows. During 2007 to 2010, the size of the TM-Sidhi group located at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, was above or near 1,725 participants, the size predicted to have a positive influence on the US quality of life. 'It's a bold claim,' said lead author Dr Michael Dillbeck, 'but there are now 14 peer-reviewed published studies that suggest that one's individual consciousness is directly connected to an underlying, universal field of consciousness, and that by collectively tapping into that universal field through Transcendental Meditation, we can have a positive effect on the environment.' This analysis of stress-related public health indicators also found that during the same period the rate of infant mortality was reduced by 12.5 per cent. (more)

Women's History Month through the lens of feminine values
7 March 2017 - 'The contribution of women throughout history is not necessarily marked by a specific achievement in time and space. It is marked by a progressive society in which integrity, compassion and creativity are displayed by its citizens,' said Dr Candace Badgett, International Trustee, Transcendental Meditation for Women, about the celebration of Women's History Month. 'Our greatest accomplishment has been, and will always be, our ability to most fully reflect the more tender, more merciful impulses of our own nature and to infuse those values into the world around us. . . . Ultimately, every one of us must take the journey to our innermost Self,' she said, and TM for Women offers every woman 'the opportunity to experience the innate strength and happiness that forms the bedrock of our self-sufficiency, which in turn is the foundation from which we give and nourish and heal ourselves and the world around us - a world that needs us now more than ever.' (more)

New study published: Group practice of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program reduced US accidental fatalities
28 February 2017 - Can group practice of meditation help reduce the rate of accidental fatalities? A new study published in the February 2017 issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies found that group practice of Transcendental Meditation and its advanced programmes by participants at Maharishi University of Management (MUM) was associated with a 20.6% reduction of US motor vehicle fatalities over the four-year period 2007-2010. The rate of all other accidental deaths was also reduced by a total of 13.5% over the same period. During that time the size of the group was above or near 1,725 participants, the threshold (representing the square root of 1% of the US population) predicted to have a positive influence on the US quality of life. Authors Dr Kenneth Cavanaugh and Dr Michael Dillbeck note that 12 peer-reviewed articles have now been published validating the prediction by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Founder of MUM, that an advanced TM group of this size would lead to reduced societal stress, as reflected in reduced crime, violence, and accidents, and increased positive trends in society. (more)

World media on Transcendental Meditation
20 February 2017 - A selection of recent news media reports about Transcendental Meditation includes the Danish magazine IN interviewing Dr Charlotte Bech, a medical doctor who has been teaching the technique in Denmark for over 20 years; Bridgewater Associates hedge fund founder Ray Dalio's comments to Business Insider about introducing TM to 735 employees; and New York Times articles about Saturday Night Live actress Vanessa Bayer, and George Stephanopoulos of ABC's Good Morning America, who starts his day with an early morning TM session. Forbes magazine reported, 'TM has been having a renaissance in recent years: Celebrities, businesspeople, and regular folk are practicing it in record numbers.' (more)

Transcendental Meditation helps get rid of stress: Seacoast Online reports
19 February 2017 - People worldwide are turning to Transcendental Meditation to alleviate stress, writes Anne M. Mozingo in, reporting on an introduction to TM given by teachers Bill and Joan Rist in New Hampshire, USA. Doctors routinely recommend the technique to patients, based on hundreds of scientific studies showing it reduces stress, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association conducted its own research on the effects of various forms of meditation and concluded that Transcendental Meditation is the only technique that works to reduce high blood pressure. While many learn for health reasons, said Bill Rist, 'some people learn TM because they want to realize more of who they are deep inside, they want to reach their full potential.' (more)

Transcendental Meditation wasn't what I expected
28 January 2017 - A contributor to a women's blog wasn't sure what to expect when she signed up for a course to learn Transcendental Meditation some years ago. 'And would I even be able to meditate successfully?' writes Janet Hoffman, now executive director of the TM programme for women professionals, USA. 'Within minutes during my instruction, I felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders. I felt relaxation so deep that I was almost immobile. After, I was so refreshed that it was as if my life and the world were all new and shiny.' Noting the extensive, peer-reviewed research on Transcendental Meditation, Ms Hoffman says that the benefits of the effortless technique 'are tangible and are both immediate and cumulative. . . . you'll become your friends' best friend when you recommend it to them.' (more)

10 Short Summaries of Top Stories

Conflict forces more people to flee homes in Congo than in Syria
22 May 2017 - Conflict has forced at least 1.5 million people to flee their homes within the Democratic Republic of Congo this year -- more than triple the number uprooted within Syria and five times the number within Iraq, an aid group said on Monday, 22 May. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that ethnic violence was escalating in the central African country, which saw the world's highest level of new displacement last year. (more)

Chicago police department struggles with officer suicide
4 May 2017 - The Chicago Police Department's suicide rate ... stands 60 percent higher than the national average according to a recent U.S. Department of Justice report. The pressure on Chicago's police officers has intensified as the city has dealt with a surge in murders and increased scrutiny around tactics . . . In 2016, the number of murders in the city jumped nearly 60 percent to over 760, more than New York and Los Angeles combined. There were more than 4,300 shooting victims in the city last year, according to police. ... 'Chicago is a war zone,' said Alexa James, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Chicago. 'They (officers) are seeing the worst day of everybody's life every day.' (more)

Armed attacks on ships in West African waters rise: report
2 May 2017 - Armed attacks on ships in West African waters nearly doubled in 2016, with pirates increasingly focused on kidnapping their crew for ransom off Nigeria's coast, a report said on Tuesday (2 May). A recent spate of attacks off Somalia, meanwhile, may also indicate a resurgence of piracy in East Africa as a result of less vigilance, the Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) project said. OBP . . . recorded 95 attacks in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea in 2016, up from 54 the previous year. Cargo theft, once the main focus of piracy in the region, has given way to an increase in kidnappings, with 96 crew members taken hostage compared to 44 in 2015. (more)

Yemen at 'point of no return' as conflict leaves almost 7 million close to famine
16 March 2017 - Aid agencies have warned that Yemen is 'at the point of no return' after new figures released by the UN indicated 17 million people are facing severe food insecurity and will fall prey to famine without urgent humanitarian assistance. Taiz and Hodeidah governorates, home to almost 25 per cent of Yemen's 28 million-strong population and the scene of intense conflict since the outbreak of civil war in 2015, are at particularly heightened risk of famine. (more)

Weapons buildup, anger fuel threat of renewal of Somali piracy
15 March 2017 - A volatile buildup of weapons and resentment along the northern Somali coast culminated in the hijack of an oil freighter this week, the first such seizure by Somali pirates since 2012, experts and locals told Reuters on Wednesday, 15 March. Now shipping companies are scrambling to find out whether the attack is a one-off, or whether pirates could once again threaten one of the world's most important shipping lanes and cost the industry billions of dollars annually. (more)

Chile battles devastating wildfires as international help pours in
25 January 2017 - The worst wildfires in Chile's modern history are ravaging wide swaths of the country's central-south regions . . . Forest fires are a regular feature of Chile's hot, arid summers, but a nearly decade-long drought combined with historically high temperatures have created tinder-dry conditions. The country last week declared a state of emergency. (more)

U.N. warns of famine risk in Somalia amid worsening drought
17 January 2017 - Somalia risks slipping back into famine, the United Nations, said on Tuesday, as worsening drought has left millions without food, water, or healthcare in a country crippled by decades of war. ... Famine last struck pockets of Somalia in 2011, killing 260,000 people. It was caused by drought, conflict, and a ban on food aid in territory held by [the Islamist militant group] al Shabaab . (more)

Turkey's tourism takes big hit after extremist attacks
7 January 2017 - The once bustling Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is astonishingly quiet. The shops and restaurants in the city's trendy Istiklal Street are all but empty of foreign customers and the hotels in the upscale Nisantasi district are nearly deserted. Turkey's economy is suffering in the face of a string of extremist attacks -- including the nightclub massacre of New Year's revelers, most of them foreigners -- and uncertainty following the failed coup in July against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that saw more than 270 people killed. There was a time when tourism in Turkey was red hot, climbing from 10.5 million visitors in 2000 to 36.2 million people in 2015, making it the sixth-most visited destination in the world. Istanbul, the country's most popular tourist destination for foreigners, has been the biggest target for extremists. (more)

Turkey faces more turmoil as violence continues
2 January 2017 - The deadly New Year's attack on a ritzy Istanbul nightclub has brought more turmoil to Turkey and shown how the conflict in neighboring Syria easily can spill over to threaten Europe's stability. The assault that happened in the second hour of 2017 bookended another holiday season terror in Europe -- the December 19 attack at a Christmas market in Berlin. Both IS-linked assaults were carried out with the simple, low-tech approach that seems to be gaining favor with extremists. This is the reality facing Europe as the Islamic State group loses territory in Syria and Iraq, but maintains followers, returning fighters and sleeper cells in the West eager to launch attacks. Turkey, which shares a large, porous border with Syria, is an appealing target because it is a NATO ally of the United States that has attacked IS positions in both Syria and Iraq. And it is relatively easy for IS sympathizers to infiltrate Turkey and to move around in densely populated urban areas. (more)

Russia, Pakistan, China warn of increased Islamic State threat in Afghanistan
27 December 2016 - Russia, China, and Pakistan warned on Tuesday that the influence of Islamic State (IS) was growing in Afghanistan and that the security situation there was deteriorating. . . . Officials in Kabul and Washington have said that Russia is deepening its ties with Taliban militants fighting the government, though Moscow has denied providing aid to the insurgents. (more)

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