Today's News Round-up

By the Web Editors 09-28-2011

RMS_Titanic_sea_trials_April_2,_1912Aide: Obama faces 'titanic struggle' in 2012

President Obama and aides are bracing for a tough re-election bid in 2012, thanks to a tough economy.David Axelrod, a top adviser to Obama, told a group of New Hampshire politicians and business people yesterday, "We have the wind in our face because the American people have the wind in their faces."

"So this is going to be a titanic struggle," Axelrod said. "But I firmly believe we're on the right side of the struggle."

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U.N.: Clashes, bombings on rise in Afghanistan

In its quarterly report on Afghanistan released Wednesday, the U.N. says that as of the end of August, the average monthly number of incidents was 2,108. That's up 39% compared with the same period last year.

The U.N. report also says that while the number of suicide attacks remained steady, insurgents are conducting more complex suicide operations, involving multiple bombers and gunmen.

It says that on average, three complex attacks have been carried out each month this year - a 50% increase compared with the same period last year.

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500px-Smiley_head_happy.svgThe Reason Some Of Us Are Happier: Genetics

A new study by UCLA life scientists found that the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is a strong predictor of optimism and self-esteem. Apparently, if you're missing certain nucleotides at a specific location on that gene, you're much more likely to see the glass as half full. If you have 'em, the researchers say, you're likely to have "substantially lower levels of optimism, self-esteem and mastery, and significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms" than your more fortunate brethren.

This survey has been hailed as a breakthrough, but its basic message -- that humans are born with a tendency toward a "happiness quotient" -- comes as no great surprise. Google the phrase "happy gene" and you'll get various older citations pointing to the conclusion that about half of our sense of well-being is inherited. Other scientists claim that a different gene (5-HTTLPR) regulates the neurotransmitter serotonin, aka the "happy hormone."

And then there's the "happy hour gene," which may explain why some of your friends can drink you under the table and still wake up on the right side of the bed the next morning.

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Rosh Hashanah: Shofar Blast As A Call To Conscience About People With Disabilities

As the executive director of an organization that works with families of children with special needs, I am only too aware that the excitement and hubbub created by the Jewish holidays are often overwhelming for children with special needs... unless they are prepared ahead of time.

With its evocative, ancient sound, the Shofar can terrify such a child unless an adult -- a parent or educator -- first introduces the concept. This year, for the first time, our organization, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, prepared a set of specialized downloadable High Holiday Resources to maximize the experience of the holiday and all of its rituals, One of these resources is designed specifically to help children "make friends" with the Shofar.

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Kenya: Nun Recommends Human Rights Lessons for Children

A Catholic nun has recommended that human rights issues be taught in schools. By this way, she says, children will grow knowing their rights and how defend them.

Sister Mary Francis Wangari, Programme Officer for Good Governance programme of the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) was addressing this year's International Peace Day (September 24) at St Teresa's Girls' High School, Nairobi said it was unfortunate that we have left this in the hands of the media.

"Our children are learning lot on the human rights issue through the media. It is time the issue was introduced and taught in schools," she said.