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A mental health crisis on Lesbos is worsening

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A mental health crisis on Lesbos is worsening
April 18, 2021
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: This story contains descriptions of sexual violence and self-harm.
Soleha, who lives in a refugee camp on Lesbos, often has trouble sleeping. It's crowded, she said, and there's no privacy, nowhere to go to clear her mind. Sometimes, it's hard to keep back suicidal thoughts.
The woman, now 21, requested to go by a pseudonym because she was sharing personal details about her experience. Less than two months after she arrived at the Moria refugee camp from Afghanistan in 2019, she said, she was raped.
"I didn't have anyone to help me and I broke like a glass ... I didn't want to be alive anymore," she said.

China's plastic straw ban faces backlash from bubble-tea fans

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China's plastic straw ban faces backlash from bubble-tea fans
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When the Chinese government banned the use of disposable plastic in restaurants this year as part of its newest five-year plan, it unwittingly attracted criticism from a very vocal group — bubble-tea drinkers.
That's because when drinking bubble tea, the straw is essential. How else can you suck up all those chewy tapioca balls?
Most restaurants and cafes in China were using conventional polypropylene straws before the ban, and they made the switch to paper straws en masse. But customers were having none of it.

Turkey's ancient practice of pigeon raising sees new life in quarantine

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Turkey's ancient practice of pigeon raising sees new life in quarantine
March 14, 2021
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In most Turkish towns, it's not unusual to see older men climbing up to their pigeon coops after the evening commute.
Most roosts are nestled into the eaves of an apartment building, or tucked in the back behind a family home. These bird enthusiasts like to open the coop doors at the end of the day and let their charges stretch their wings, flying together in a wide arc over the rooftops as the sun sets behind them.
"You need to see them as a piece of yourself," said Yalçın Karcı, who raises a brood of 150 pigeons in a quiet Istanbul suburb alongside his 7-year-old son, Kaman. "Especially during quarantine, we weren't able to go anywhere ... It's therapeutic."

French Polynesia's pearl farmers combat climate change with sustainable practices

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French Polynesia's pearl farmers combat climate change with sustainable practices
February 13, 2021
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Pearls cultured in the lagoons of the many islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia are world-renowned for their unique and illustrious colors.
Tahitian pearls, as they are commonly known, are found in many different colors: black, pink, green, blue, and brown, with shades in between. Before the coronavirus pandemic set in, the gems accounted for a majority of the French Pacific island territory's exports — making pearls the second-biggest driver there, after tourism.
But some pearl producers in French Polynesia are contributing in another major way: by implementing innovative sustainable farming practices that help ensure the oceans in which they work stay healthy and thriving.

Armenian winemakers work toward recovery after war

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Armenian winemakers work toward recovery after war
January 2, 2021
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Conveyor belts rattle at the Stepanakert Brandy Factory while technicians in white coats peer into flasks and workers
pack bottles into cases. It's the first day of business in Nagorno-Karabakh's de-facto capital since war erupted on Sept. 27, and operations director Vladik Alibabayan is seeing what can be salvaged.
"We managed to collect 1,700 tons of grapes before the war and then everything shut down," Alibabayan explained. "Some of our fields near the frontlines where we grew grapes and pomegranates are now under the control of Azerbaijani forces, so we don't know what will happen next. The loss for the industry will be significant."

Is the polyglot brain different? MIT researchers are trying to find out.

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Is the polyglot brain different? MIT researchers are trying to find out.
February 22, 2020
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There are more theories than facts about polyglots. Because internet lists of polyglots identify mainly men, there's the belief that the male brain is more predisposed to multilingualism. Others believe that polyglots are disproportionately gay and/or left-handed.
These unfounded theories infuriate Ev Fedorenko, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her lab is conducting a study seeking to dispel them and establish a basic understanding of how the polyglot brain works.
As far as the researchers are aware, this is the first modern-day study of the polyglot brain. Zaraysky is the study's 23rd participant, and she's different from many other polyglots. She learns mainly through conversation and singing. She says many of the male polyglots she knows approach new languages differently.

Young people in Poland are rediscovering their Jewish roots

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Young people in Poland are rediscovering their Jewish roots
February 17, 2020
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Kasia Leonardi was 21 when she discovered her Jewish roots.
Marta Leonardi, her sister, had begun researching the family history and realized their grandparents on both sides were Jewish. The sisters were raised in a mainly atheist household in Krakow, Poland.
Kasia initially greeted the news with some ambivalence, while Marta enthusiastically explored her newfound religion.
The Leonardis are far from exceptional in Poland. Young people discover they are Jewish all the time, says Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich. The legacy of the Holocaust hangs heavily over the Jewish community — about 90 percent of Poland's Jewish population was killed during World War II. For the remaining community of a little over 380,000 Jews, hiding their religion became a survival tactic.

Meet the consultant helping business go zero waste

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Meet the consultant helping business go zero waste
February 15, 2020
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"Most of us are here because we want to save the world," Catherine Conway tells the group of about a dozen women assembled in a co-working space in East London. "But how many of you actually have retail experience?"
A few women raise their hands. Others look around sheepishly.
"OK, so a couple," Conway says. "Here's the reality check — if you don't have a long-term, financially stable business, you can't help anyone."
The participants — who all happen to be women — have traveled from all over the world to attend this one-day workshop with Conway. One participant flew in from the United Arab Emirates and another from Northern Ireland. They are experiencing a dose of Conway's tough love, but more importantly, they are here to learn about running a zero waste business.

How U.K. communities are trying to go plastic-free

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How U.K. communities are trying to go plastic-free
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The quiet path runs through a small forest of lush bamboo. Birds chirp overhead. It's easy to forget that this little garden is right in the middle of Canary Wharf, one of the main financial districts in central London.
Last year, Canary Wharf was labeled the first plastic-free commercial district in the world, an accreditation awarded as part of the Plastic Free Communities program, which was developed by a group of surfers in rural Cornwall. But this shopping center and other communities with this designation actually aren't quite plastic-free — yet.

Greece's first and only crematorium opens despite pushback from the church

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Greece's first and only crematorium opens despite pushback from the church
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Avrilia Kosmaidou browsed through a leaflet with urns for sale. She wore a long, black, heavy coat with a pearl necklace and glasses. Featured urns come in various designs that sell for up to $443.
As a former worker in the funeral business, Kosmaidou is familiar with death. But the reason for her visit to Greece's only crematorium — which opened in September 2019 — is personal: She is planning to cremate her best friend of over 40 years.
"Theodora was my sister; I can't call her just friend," Kosmaidou told

Seoul's subsidized housing gives newlyweds a new lease on the future

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Seoul's subsidized housing gives newlyweds a new lease on the future
Kelly
Kasulis
Seo Ji-hye and Cho Sung-won watch as their two-year-old son, Han-sol, plays with a toy train in his bedroom in Seoul, Korea.  Kelly Kasulis/Courtesy The World
December 29, 2019
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Seo Ji-hye and Cho Sung-won live together in a tall building tucked behind a cafe-dotted street that serves artisan brews. Inside their apartment, 39-year-old Cho shows off the projector he installed onto his living room wall, while his wife Seo, 37, runs next door to her mother's house to pick up their preschool-aged son.

There's a shortage of early childhood educators — immigrant teachers could be the solution

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There's a shortage of early childhood educators — immigrant teachers could be the solution
December 24, 2019
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In a classroom at Mt. Hood Community College in northeast Portland, Oregon, adults sing a children's song in English and Spanish. They're learning how songs can improve communication among young children who come from homes where English is not the primary language.
The adult students — all immigrants — are English learners themselves. They're working to earn the Child Development Associate credential, one of an array of requirements that are increasingly needed to work as a teacher for children under 5 years of age.

A look at Colombia's Indigenous Guard

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A look at Colombia's Indigenous Guard
December 22, 2019
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A flourish of red and green flags and giant multicolored buses marked the arrival of Colombia's Indigenous Guard to Bogotá to take part in a third national strike earlier this month. They were greeted by cheering supporters, surrounded by murals of Che Guevara and other deceased left-wing leaders at Colombia's largest public university, where they were being hosted.
Strikes and protests in the Andean nation have been ongoing since Nov. 21. Although the government has been keen to stall matters until the Christmas period hoping activist fervor will eventually die down, more than three weeks have passed, with protesters seemingly still standing strong.

Bogotá's growing underground punk movement

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Bogotá's growing underground punk movement
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The guitarist stops fiddling with his pedals as the lead singer, wearing long dreadlocks and all-black denim, approaches the edge of the stage.
"This one is dedicated to the police," she tells the crowd, before stepping off and joining them.
The band creates an aggressive wall of noise as lead singer Susana González screams political lyrics criticizing police oppression and brutality.
It's a Saturday night in a lofty new cultural space in a gritty neighborhood in Bogotá, Colombia's capital, and of the eight bands on the line-up, four hail from neighboring Venezuela.

Colombia's growing sustainable farming movement

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Colombia's growing sustainable farming movement
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For over 20 years, Carlos Osorio, 65, was a conventional farmer outside the central Colombian village of El Carmen de Viboral — spraying pesticides every single day.
But after falling gravely ill, he decided to abandon all agricultural chemicals and start using sustainable farming methods.
Today, Osorio has an honorary degree in agroecology from the University of California, Berkeley, and uses his farm to train a new generation of local farmers — and bring city-slicker Colombians and foreign visitors to the farm to tell his story and reconnect them to the land.

Underground poetry readings are fostering hope among Rohingya and Burmese writers

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Underground poetry readings are fostering hope among Rohingya and Burmese writers
November 2, 2019
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This summer, a small group of Myanmar residents crowded around a projector screen in an apartment loft in downtown Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, to listen to poetry read via video call by Rohingya poet and refugee, Mayyu Ali, who was over 600 miles away in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
"Even when I live in the country where I was born/ I can't name it as mine like you do./ Without identity,/ Just like an immigrant," he said, reciting part of his poem, "That's Me, a Rohingya,"

The coffee farmer crisis

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The coffee farmer crisis
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Henry Calvo screamed into a megaphone as he led a protest outside a Bogota Starbucks in September to demand better prices for coffee growers, like himself.
Wearing a straw hat and a T-shirt depicting the famous Starbucks mermaid as a skeleton, Calvo led angry chants against "imperialist" companies that he accuses of ripping off coffee farmers.
With $6 lattes now the norm at places like Starbucks, it may not seem like coffee is getting cheaper. But the price that most farmers around the world get for their coffee beans has dropped by half over the past five years, and is forcing many to switch their crops, migrate to other countries, or continue to produce their beans under belt-tightening circumstances.

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