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Dutch Day Of Mourning, As Remains Of Some MH17 Victims Come Home

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 23, 2014

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When the two military planes land at the Eindhoven airport, The Netherlands will come to a standstill.

King Willem Alexander, Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte will be waiting at the airport along with relatives of the 193 Dutch residents who died after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine.

Almost a week after the tragedy and after a protracted international scramble to remove bodies and evidence from a war-zone in Ukraine, there will be some closure today.

DutchNews.nl reports that for the first time since the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962, the country has declared a day of mourning.

"Flags will be at half mast on government buildings and church bells will be rung for five minutes prior to the landing of the first plane bringing back the first bodies of the dead," the website reports.

Bloomberg reports that once the planes lands, the country will observe one minute of silence.

After that, begins the grim task of identifying the remains, which Prime Minister Rutte said "may take months."

The plane is scheduled to land at 10 a.m. ET. We'll update this post once that has happened.

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Without Conflict There Is No Growth

by Marcelo Gleiser
Jul 23, 2014

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Where do values come from? Culture? Life experience? Family traditions? Upbringing? Religion? How do we decide what is right and what is wrong, given that, in most situations, there are arguments for and against opposing viewpoints? Often, what is right for one person is wrong for another, and from these tensions conflict arises. We see this in our families, in our workplace, in religious conflicts, in political disputes. If, on the one hand, diversity of opinion is what enriches us as humans, on the other, it is what feeds the worse that we have to offer.

Given this familiar framework, how can we choose a path that leads to a better life, with more personal and social harmony?

It would be quite na´ve to expect a life without conflict, na´ve and boring. After all, as we struggle to find solutions, conflict leads to new ways of thinking. Nothing ever changes in a world without discord. We see this in our lives; we see this in science. In fact, in science crises are essential: without them there is no innovation. A life lived in harmony can't be a life without conflict. It must be a life where conflict leads to growth. Harmony is not the absence of conflict. It is the state in which conflict leads to positive change. Harmony is dynamic, not static.

Innovation and growth challenge the status quo, shaking the very foundations where most base their values. Change only comes when we are ready to embrace it; change needs open minds. It's much easier to plant our feet in the traditional, the convenient, in what doesn't force us to reexamine our views. No one likes to be wrong. This is why great innovation comes with revolution, often bloody. The blood that is spilled is not always the one coursing through our veins: it is the blood of conviction, of prejudices, of deep-seated ideas that are abandoned by the inexorable force of reason.

We live in a world of rapid change. It's not just the Internet revolution, with its easy access to information and the democratization of opinion. It's how the Internet promotes conflict, good and bad. It's amusing how brave people become on the Internet as they hide behind a pseudonym; they attack with impunity, self-defined authorities in all topics, presenting their opinion as the only reasonable or plausible, even when part of an open discussion forum. (No doubt this will happen here, as it does in any open Internet forum.) As my son, who works for Google, once told me, the Internet shows the best and worse of humankind. The challenge is to make it into a force for constructive conflict. Perhaps the 13.7 community could set the example?

The Enlightenment used values from classical science to forge a new worldview, based on universal equality. As I wrote last week, we need a new Enlightenment for the 21st century. A good start would be to leave cynicism aside, as it goes nowhere. Discord is necessary, but it can't be purely destructive.

So, here we go: What are the values that would forge a new worldview? For one thing, they must be secular. The protection of all life forms and of the planet is a good start.

If we are rare molecular machines capable of self-reflection, we should act in enlightened ways. We are far from this goal. But, since the first step toward change is the awareness of the need for change, there is hope. What do you suggest?


Marcelo Gleiser's latest book is The Island Of Knowledge: The Limits Of Science And The Search For Meaning. You can keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

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Many Kids Who Are Obese And Overweight Don't Know It

by Katherine Hobson
Jul 23, 2014

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Kids can be cruel, especially about weight. So you might think overweight or obese children know all too well that they're heavy — thanks to playground politics. But that's not necessarily so, according to government data covering about 6,100 kids and teens ages 8-15.

About 30 percent "misperceived" their weight status (underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese), according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. (The CDC bases those categories on body mass index, adjusted for gender and age.)

Among children and teens who were actually designated by the CDC as overweight - or between the 85th and 95th percentiles on the CDC's growth chart - 76 percent thought they were "about right;" about 23 percent said they were overweight. Among obese kids and teens (those in the 95th percentile and higher on the CDC's charts), roughly 42 percent thought they were OK, weight-wise, while 57 percent thought they were in the "overweight" category. Boys, younger kids and children from poorer families were more likely to misperceive their status.

So is it a bad thing if a kid doesn't know he's overweight? The report notes that research has linked knowing your weight status to trying to change behaviors.

"Children who don't have a correct perception of their weight don't take steps to lose weight," such as increasing physical activity or changing eating habits, Neda Sarafrazi, a nutritional epidemiologist with NCHS and an author of the report, tells Shots.

Other studies have suggested that parents are in the dark about their kids, too, with about half underestimating their obese or overweight child's weight. Sarafrazi says it's key for parents to know the truth.

But kids and teens already worry a lot about their weight, as an NPR parenting panel discussed recently.

Marlene Schwartz, a psychologist and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, tells Shots that while she's a big proponent of keeping tabs on kids' BMIs in the aggregate, she's not sure it's helpful to label kids as overweight. More helpful, she says, is giving kids feedback about their physical fitness and what they eat - noting ways to improve.

And if children are obese, or are having weight-related medical problems, Schwartz says, it's better to encourage them to get healthier by cutting out snacking in front of the television, or cutting out sugary drinks, than to tell them they need to lose 20 pounds to be considered "just right."

"Shame is a terrible motivator," she says.

The disconnect occured mostly — but not exclusively — among kids who were heavier than average. Of the children who were normal weight, most knew it, while less than four percent thought they were overweight and less than nine percent thought they were too thin. And about 49 percent of underweight kids thought they were about right; the rest knew they were too thin.

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Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City on Tuesday. Israeli airstrikes pummeled a wide range of locations along the coastal area as diplomatic efforts intensified to end the two-week war. (AP)

Gaza Conflict Day 16: Here's What You Need To Know

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 23, 2014

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Amid another day of fighting, Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and began a whirlwind session of shuttle diplomacy.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen, who is traveling with Kerry, tells our Newscast unit, Kerry is "trying to talk to everybody" to see if he can broker a cease-fire and perhaps lay the groundwork for longer-term negotiations over the future of Gaza.

The Israeli offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip is now entering its 16th day. Here's what you need to know:

— Kerry has already met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is also in Jerusalem on a parallel mission for peace.

"Kerry spoke briefly and mentioned that 30,000 people came to Max Steinberg's funeral," Michele reports, referring to the Israeli-American who died fighting for the Israel Defense Forces.

Kerry is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The AP reports that U.S. officials have already begun to downplay expectations for the diplomatic mission, saying at the least Kerry's mission can "define the limits of what each side would accept in a potential cease-fire."

— The U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights said Israel's targeting of civilian installations could amount to war crimes.

"The disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life was shockingly evident for all to see in the apparent targeting on 16 July of seven children playing on a Gaza beach," Navi Pillay said. "Credible reports gathered by my office in Gaza indicate that the children were hit first by an Israeli airstrike, and then by naval shelling. All seven were hit. Four of them — aged between 9 and 11, from the same Bakr family — were killed. These children were clearly civilians taking no part in hostilities."

NPR's Emily Harris, who is reporting from Gaza, tells our Newscast unit that Israel has said that schools, mosques and private homes can be legitimate targets if militants use them to stash weapons.

She sent this report:

"Yesterday for the second time in this conflict, U.N. staff found a stash of rockets in a school.

"Earlier this week a different U.N. school providing shelter to 300 Gazans was hit with explosives the U.N. believes were fired by Israeli forces. The next day the school was hit again when U.N. staff were there inspecting damage. The main U.N. agency in Gaza did not accuse Israel of deliberately targeting the school, but made it clear in a statement that the Israeli military OK'd the U.N. staff to visit at the time the school was hit. The girls school is in a densely built-up area in Gaza's east, where fighting has been fierce."

— As the fighting continues, the death toll keeps rising: Ashraf al-Kidra, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry in Gaza, says 649 Palestinians have been killed and 4,120 have been injured. The New York Times puts the Israeli death toll at 29.

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Rocket Girl promo image ( )

'Rocket Girl' Is A Jetpack-Powered 21st Century Angel

by Etelka Lehoczky
Jul 23, 2014

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One word: Jetpack. You perked up, right? When most of us dream of the future, jetpacks are one of the first things we dream about. And yet, even now that the future is indisputably here, we continue to be denied the ultimate sci-fi accessory. With all the 21st-century tech we've got these days — maps that talk, handheld videophones — why aren't we all flying through the air with the greatest of renewable-energy-fueled ease? Maybe jetpacks need a special kind of power, an explosive force the average adult just can't muster. Maybe they need a teenager instead — say, a teen girl. A Rocket Girl.

It's 15-year-old DaYoung Johansson who steps up, freckles blazing and pugnacity on high, to don the 'pack in Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare's effervescent comic. Collected here in a 5-issue volume, Rocket Girl chronicles DaYoung's adventures after she time-travels from an alternate, futuristic 2013 back to 1986. Why does she need a jetpack to travel through time? Why does it only seem to be adolescents who have them? These are reasonable questions, and the fact is that Montclare doesn't answer them. What he does, though, is send the reader on a high-spirited, often funny ride — no special transportation needed.

It seems DaYoung wasn't any ordinary teenager in her version of 2013. She was a member of the New York Teen Police Department. Now back in 1986, armed only with her flight gear and some awesome fighting moves, she beats down baddies of all stripes while pursuing her mission to stop the evil mega-corporation Quintum Mechanics.

There are all kinds of wonderful plot and character points in Rocket Girl, not to mention the sound effects: Apparently hovercraft from the future go "Boota Boota." It's a shame that they're overshadowed a bit by Reeder's fantastic artwork. True, this story isn't going to get you pondering the eternal paradoxes of time travel in any deep way. But it's got the key elements of a fun comic: It's jokey, light and unpredictable. The concept of a teenage police force, ludicrous at first glance, gains life from the energetic, endlessly idealistic DaYoung. (That 1960s line about not trusting anyone over 30? She takes it seriously.) The "flying juvenile," as the TV news dubs her, has a steely determination that's evident whether she's busting bad guys or flipping pancakes. Her white suit and helmet lend an angelic touch.

Eisner Award-nominated Reeder is the ideal artist to draw a teen girl. DaYoung is strong and graceful without any pneumatic body parts thrusting off the page. The one area where Reeder's got real problems, oddly enough, is in capturing motion. That's quite a weakness when your protagonist spends most of her time airborne. Reeder does OK with the effortless aspects of flight — gliding, spinning, tumbling. When DaYoung soars, so does the book. But when she hauls off and hits somebody, we hit the ground.

But as in Halloween Eve, her previous comic with Montclare, Reeder lavishes her panels with beautiful light. Bouncing reflections, jellybean colors and lens flares combine to create a fizzy, kinetic atmosphere, offering a reminder of just how gloomy many comics are these days. Reeder's rocket world is suffused with radiance, particularly from DaYoung's pristine suit and trail of magic flame. Even grungy locales like a dank subway platform get lit. The tiles may be cracking, but they're snowy white, and each fluorescent overhead is haloed in a fuzzy pastel glow.

In a story about a 21st-century angel, it's only fitting that every light source has an aura. Even if that angel is just an ordinary teenage girl.


Etelka Lehoczky has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com.

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