• Blind female Ethiopian rights lawyer shares 'alternative Nobel Prize'

    "I started my fight, not by telling people, but showing people that I'm able to contribute. I have one disability but I have 99 abilities"

    By Lin Taylor

    LONDON, Sept 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - At just five years old, Yetnebersh Nigussie's world went dark.

    After contracting a fever as a child, no amount of "holy water" or traditional medicine in rural Ethiopia was enough to stop Nigussie from losing her sight - and community acceptance.

    As far as her village was concerned, the girl was "cursed" and no longer had value as a daughter to bring in a sizeable marriage dowry. Her father eventually left.

    "It was not easy to accept for my family. Blind people are assumed to be unfit, invalid in the community. It is considered to be a result of a curse," said Nigussie, who believes her blindness was preventable and likely due to meningitis.

    "So everybody told my mum, 'Oh my god, it would be better if she dies,'" she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London.

    Instead, Nigussie was sent to a Catholic boarding school for girls with disabilities in the capital Addis Ababa.

    There, her life changed.

    "I was lucky to be educated. Education was a turning point that changed my blindness into an opportunity," she said,

    Now 35 - and a human rights lawyer - Nigussie is among the winners of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as Sweden's alternative Nobel prize.

    "I started my fight, not by telling people, but showing people that I'm able to contribute. I have one disability but I have 99 abilities," she said, adding that she was one of just three women studying law at Addis Ababa University in 2002.

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  • One In 12 Deaths Globally Could Be Prevented By Exercising 30 Minutes Per Day

    Completing just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week could help you live longer and potentially prevent one in 12 deaths worldwide.

    That’s according to a new global study published in The Lancet journal, which shows physical activity is associated with a lower risk of premature mortality and heart disease.

    The researchers tracked 130,000 people in 17 countries in order to assess the affects of exercise on health.

    Reflecting on the research, experts have said that completing the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week could provide a cost-effective way of improving health globally.

    The researchers, from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, wanted to track the health and fitness of people from different income background, so split participants into different bands.

    The study included participants from three high-income countries (Canada, Sweden, United Arab Emirates), seven upper-middle-income countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa), three lower-
    middle-income countries (China, Colombia, Iran), and four low-income-countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe).

    At the start of the experiment, participants were asked to record their level of physical activity via a questionnaire, including the type of physical activity they do and how often they do it.

    During follow ups that occurred after six and nine years, the researchers recorded rates of mortality among the group, with close analysis of deaths relating to heart disease and stroke.

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  • 39 New Peace Corps Volunteers Sworn in at U.S. Embassy

    Addis Ababa, September 15, 2017 – Charge d’Affaires Troy Fitrell administered the oath of service to 39 new Peace Corps Volunteers at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa today. These Volunteers will be working as English Teachers in the four administrative regions of Amhara, Tigray, Oromiya, and SNNP. With this new group there are now 130 Peace Corps Volunteers in Ethiopia working in the three sectors of Health, Agriculture and Education.

    Volunteers sworn in today are the fourth group to serve under the Promoting English Language Learning in Ethiopia (PELLE) project. Each of these Volunteers will begin teaching at least 3 sections of English class in local high schools to grade 9 or 11 students. English language skills are increasingly a baseline requirement for competitiveness in international education as well as in business. It can open vast opportunities and helps Ethiopian young people to connect with the world.

    Peace Corps Volunteers live and work within small communities around Ethiopia. They often become members of those communities and collaborate closely with local counterparts including teachers, administrators, and advocates to implement various projects in a way that fits each community’s needs. This joint approach to program development ensures broad support and investment from community members, resulting in better and more sustainable results. Projects cover a wide range of issues, including promoting gender equality, literacy, youth leadership, and technology use among youth.

    All 39 of these new Volunteers are heading to their communities having completed 3 months of training before taking the oath of service today. The training covers teaching methods, pedagogy, and a special practicum English classroom teaching of over 1,000 local students. Volunteers also received 125 hours of training in Amharic, Afan Oromo, or Tigrigna so that they can engage with their communities in their own languages. This inauguration brings the total number of Peace Corps Volunteers who have worked in Ethiopia to over 3,600 since its inception

    About the Peace Corps: As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to contribute towards solutions for the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps Volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development.


    Remarks by Troy Fitrell, Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy at Peace Corps Ethiopia Swearing-In Ceremony U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa September 15, 2017 (As prepared for delivery)

    Selam nau and indemen walachihu! Aqam Aqam! Kemey Wu’elkum! Good afternoon!

    My duties as Charge d’Affaires require me to perform many functions, but this is my first opportunity to swear in a new group of Peace Corps Volunteers. As I do so, I am keenly aware of the remarkable commitment the Volunteers are making with the next two years of their lives.

    I am aware of the profound partnership their service represents with the people and Government of Ethiopia. And, I am aware of the historical weight of the event, as you join a long and proud tradition of Peace Corps service in Ethiopia, dating back to the first group in 1962.

    In fact, Ethiopia was among the first countries to invite the Peace Corps to establish a program, and the first group of almost 300 Education Volunteers landed in Addis Ababa in September of that year.

    With all of these things on my mind, I can assure you that I am both humbled and honored to be administering the oath of service to our new Peace Corps Volunteers sitting here this afternoon.

    Undoubtedly, after their past 12 weeks of training in communities around Butajira and Mekele, they are more than prepared, and more than eager, to begin the service they chose to undertake. I know the communities that they will soon call home are anxious to have them join their schools and become their neighbors.

    I am likewise newly arrived to Ethiopia, and I know you will experience Ethiopia in a very unique and intimate way. As I travel the country, I look forward to visiting some of the areas where you teach and live, where you engage in English camps and the Girls Leading Our World camps that prioritize leadership and empowerment for girls and young women. I want to meet those community members you will soon call friends and colleagues, and see whether you have mastered the art of hosting a coffee ceremony or making dorowat. Your next two years in Ethiopia will shape who you are and how you understand the world, while your contribution to your community will last long beyond your time here. And years from now, I hope that the spirit of volunteerism will continue to drive you to improve opportunities for others whether in the U.S. or elsewhere.

    Though I have the privilege of being Chief of Mission, the 130 Peace Corps Volunteers and Trainees currently serving in Ethiopia are also our country’s ambassadors. Your mission of promoting world peace and friendship is straightforward and powerful with its three goals that have guided the Peace Corps since 1961: For further information, call 011-130-7033

    1) To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained Volunteers.
    2) To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
    3) To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

    You spread goodwill and build enduring relationships with Ethiopians at a grassroots level and in areas that those of us at the Embassy can’t get to very often. I can’t tell you how many times people of many countries have enthusiastically shared with me their stories about how Peace Corps Volunteers have influenced their lives for the better and encouraged them to reach potentials they often had not imagined were possible. Over the years, more than 3,600 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Ethiopia. In addition to education, they have worked in agriculture, health, tourism, economic development, conservation and natural resource management.

    The 39 of you who will swear-in today represent the 17th group of Volunteers since the reestablishment of the post in 2007, and will be working in communities of Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray. With the active support of the Ministry of Education, Education volunteers will work as classroom teachers in Secondary schools as you teach English as a foreign language. You will offer training opportunities for teachers, support English language camps and clubs, and participate in a variety of other community based activities to increase the skill sets of students and families in their host towns and villages. I think we can all agree these activities are highly worthy of support by our Peace Corps Volunteers.

    I share Brannon’s strong commitment to supporting the education sector as key to the comprehensive development efforts that are ongoing in Ethiopia. I am likewise very grateful to the Ministry of Education for welcoming this Peace Corps program as a development partner in

    Before I swear you in, let me take a moment to recognize those already in service and those who have served in the past. Would the Volunteers currently in service please stand up and be recognized for your work on behalf of the United States and Ethiopia?

    Now I’d also like to ask our former Peace Corps Volunteers to stand up. Though not all are able to be here today, there are many of you among us at the Embassy. I can say from personal experience that those of you who have gone on to Foreign Service careers have made tremendous contributions. I can say from experience that those FSOs who were PCVs bring with them the curiosity, conviction and courage that we need to be good diplomats and representatives of the United States abroad.

    And one more group I’d like to recognize is the Peace Corps Ethiopia staff. Would you please stand up? Finding good, safe sites for all of these Volunteers, preparing them for the service they will experience and providing them support on all days, and at all hours, is definitely not an easy job. We greatly appreciate your commitment to the program and to the Volunteers who depend on you. Amaseganehlu!

    I am also very grateful for the support the Volunteers receive from the Ethiopian communities in which they live. Far more than simply facilitating the Volunteers’ work, community support is the  basis for the friendships that have bound Volunteers to their countries of service for more than five decades.

    Trainees, you are the guests of honor today. On behalf of the U.S. Government and the people of the United States, I thank you for that hard work and for the commitment you are about to make. In volunteering for this duty, you have left behind your families, friends and homes – everything that is familiar -- in order to work side-by-side with the people of Ethiopia, thereby rising to President  Kennedy’s challenge of so many years ago. You represent American goodwill and compassion at its best, and all of us here today are proud of you for the commitment you are about to make.

    Your task will not be easy and much will be expected of you. But I am confident that you will make the most of this unique privilege to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers. I have no doubt that it will be one of the most profound and transformative experiences of your life.

    Now, if you’re prepared to commit the next two years of your lives to Peace Corps service and to the Ethiopian communities in which you’ll be working, please stand, raise your right hand, and repeat after me: “I, (state your name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

    So help me God.”
    Volunteers, thank you, and good luck!

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  • Too much sitting linked to shortened lives:study

    (Reuters) - People who spent a lot of time sitting at a desk or in front of a television were more likely to die than those who were only sedentary a few hours a day, according to an Australian study that looked at death rates during a three-year period.

    Researchers, whose results appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that the link between too much time sitting and shortened lives stuck even when they accounted for how much moderate or vigorous exercise people got, as well as their weight and other measures of health.

    That suggests that shifting some time from sitting to light physical activity, such as slow walking or active chores, might have important long-term benefits, they added.

    “When we give people messages about how much physical activity they should be doing, we also need to talk to them about reducing the amount of hours they spend sitting each day,” said Hidde van der Ploeg, the new study’s lead author from the University of Sydney.

    Of more than 200,000 adults age 45 and older, van der Ploeg and her colleagues found that people who reported sitting for at least 11 hours a day were 40 percent more likely to die during the study than those who sat less than four hours daily.

    That doesn‘t, however, prove that sitting itself cuts people’s lives short, she noted, adding that there could be other unmeasured differences between people who spend a lot or a little time sitting each day.

    The team surveyed about 220,000 people from New South Wales, Australia, between 2006 and 2008, including questions about participants’ general health and any medical conditions they had, whether they smoked and how much time they spent both exercising and sitting each day.

    Then the research team tracked responders using Australian mortality records for an average of almost three years, during which 5,400 - between two and three percent - died.

    They found that the extra risk tied to sitting held up regardless of whether people were normal weight or overweight, how much time they spent working out and whether they were healthy or had pre-existing medical conditions.

    Van der Ploeg said too much sitting may affect blood vessels and metabolism by increasing fats in the blood and lowering “good” cholesterol levels.

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  • Texas A&M Professor Invites Single Mom Without a Babysitter to Bring Son to Class

    It takes a village—and the occasional kind professor—to raise a child.

    Meghan Overdeep
    It takes a village—and the occasional kind professor—to raise a child.

    Dr. Henry Musoma, a professor at Texas A&M went viral last week after he encouraged Ashton Robinson, a single mother, to bring her young son to class rather than miss it.

    “So today I emailed my Professor before class saying that something came up and I didn't have a sitter for Emmett and he called me back and said to please bring him!” Robinson wrote on Facebook alongside a photo and a video of Musoma holding little Emmett in his arms while teaching the class.

    In the video Musoma—still holding Emmett—takes a break from lecturing to talk directly to him. “They didn’t read the book!” he joked to the toddler, gesturing at the room.

    “Being a single mom is so challenging but it's people like Dr. Henry Musoma that make life just a tiny bit easier!” she continued. “THIS is why I'm so proud to be an Aggie! Definitely something I'll never forget and can't wait to someday tell Emmett that it's because of people like this that mommy was able to graduate from the best university in the world #gigem #bekind.”

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  • Children 'exercise less as they get older'

    The number of children doing an hour of exercise a day falls by nearly 40% between the ages of five and 12.

    Figures suggest that by the final year of primary school, just 17% of pupils are doing the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

    A spokesman for Public Health England described the drop in activity levels as "concerning".

    More than a third of children in England are overweight by the time they leave primary school.

    A new survey from Public Health England and Disney looked at the effects of physical activity on children's emotional wellbeing.

    More than 1,000 children aged five to 11 were questioned, with their parents acknowledging that being active made their children feel happier (79%), more confident (72%), and more sociable (74%).

    But the survey also found that children's overall happiness declined with age, with 64% of five-and six-year-olds saying they always felt happy, compared with just 48% of 11-year-olds.

    "Children's physical activity levels in England are alarmingly low, and the drop in activity from the ages of five to 12 is concerning," said Public Health England's Eustace de Sousa.

    "Children who get enough physical activity are mentally and physically healthier, and have all-round better development into adulthood - getting into the habit of doing short bursts of activity early can deliver lifelong benefits."

    Currently, just 23% of boys and 20% of girls, between the ages of five and 15, meet the national recommended level of activity, according to an NHS report published last December.

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