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Dangerous Routes to a Better Life

The unfolding migrant crisis in North Africa spurs thousands to risk their lives in search of new ones.

Migrants arrive at the Italian Island of Lampedusa. Image by Sara Prestianni / noborder network via Flickr

Earlier this month, Maltese boats approaching rickety rafts of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe started reporting a strange phenomenon: the distressed migrants were waving them away, refusing assistance. Given the publicity of recent tragedies befalling migrants in the region, like the death of 800 in the capsizing of an oversized smugglers’ craft, this resistance to aid seems perplexing from the outside. As human traffickers cram more and more migrants onto their boats, migrants themselves report that they’re aware of how dangerous the trip to Europe has become—at 1,710 have died en route to date this year—and are trying to dissuade others from following in their footsteps. The migrants refusing Malta’s assistance in this climate just reflect the desperation of the quest and the shortcomings of Europe’s efforts to address the crisis, which focus upon rescue, but also on policing maritime borders and disabling smuggler networks to cut off transit routes and prevent migration.

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Greece: Europe’s Wildcard

The popularity of Greece’s anti-austerity, Russia-friendly, casual wear-embracing Syriza party could make the E.U. very interesting in coming months.

Alexis Tsipras. Photo by Lorenzo Gaudenzi via Wikimedia Commons

Ever since their election at the end of January, Greece’s new government, a coalition of the left-wing Syriza and right-wing Independent Greeks parties, led by Syriza Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has been making waves in the European press. Most of this coverage concerns the new government’s stringent resistance to austerity measures imposed on them by lenders who bailed them out of the European Union’s worst financial crisis and floated them through six years of recession. The Tsipras regime’s hardline anti-austerity and novel financial plans have painted his cabinet as wildcards, threatening to upend Europe’s financial order and re-stoking fears of a Greek exit from the eurozone. Tsipras and his coalition abandoning the Euro and leaving the union would likely have detrimental, extremely stressful effects on the E.U., both economically and politically, and leaders like Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, have been aggressive about keeping Greece in the fold (on E.U. terms). Yet while it’s true that this new regime will shake things up on the European markets, what’s flown under the radar is the fact that this new government is stacked with mavericks and mavens in every sense, economic and beyond, and their intense popularity at home and abroad may alter the whole of European political culture and E.U. norms.

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To Fight World Hunger, the Secret Ingredient Could Be Bugs

The EU hopes to “exploit the potential of insects as alternative sources of protein” and feel out “their potential incorporation into food."


What would convince you to eat bugs for dinner? What if the global food chain collapsed under the weight of a soaring human population, severe climate change, and diminishing pasture space? The European Union is working on a potential solution for that scenario: It’s spending 3 million Euros to look at bugs’ potential to supplement the continent’s food supply. With the research, the EU hopes to “exploit the potential of insects as alternative sources of protein” and feel out “their potential incorporation into feed and/or food products.”

Insects are a natural food source: They are packed with protein and calcium, low in fat, and offer a cheaper option to farming livestock. Compared to most animals used for food, these cold-blooded creatures spend less energy and nutrients, reproduce faster and in higher quantities, and—if farmed—would emit fewer greenhouse gasses. But bugs also conjure up the image of revolting roach patties and creepy-crawly mealworm larvae. The EU hasn't discussed which particular critters it's looking to fry up, and food producers who take up the cause will probably stay cagey on the secret ingredient—according to the Daily Mail, experts believe that insects will likely be used in food additives under the guise of “animal-based proteins.”

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Feast Your Eyes: The Atlas of Genetically Modified Crops

Where in the world are genetically modified crops grown?


Yesterday, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a nonprofit organization funded in large part by the biotech industry, issued a new report on the status of genetically modified crops around the world.

The Economist has used ISAAA's data to make a map showing where in the world GM crops are grown. As you can see, the United States is by far the leader in the field, with 165 million acres (66.8 million hectares) of GM crops under cultivation, an increase of nearly 7 million acres on 2009 levels.

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EU Bans Penis-Shrinking Chemical; America Does Not

The European Union today banned a variety of dangerous chemicals that the United States is still using freely. Time to catch up, America.


Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, better known as DEHP, is a cheap plasticizer used in the production of PVC. It's also toxic and, in a 2008 study from the University of Rochester, was associated with "smaller penis size, incomplete descent of testes, and a shorter, less typically masculine distance between the anus and genitals in baby boys" whose mothers showed increased levels of the stuff. In other words, it's not safe, and today the European Union banned it from all household plastics. Why won't America do that?

In 2008, America banned DEHP from toys and child care products, but it's still allowed to flourish in a variety of housewares. And because DEHP has been known to leach into liquids with which it comes in contact—and because liquids that are then consumed—it's actually quite easy for people to ingest far too much of it (especially considering that any may be too much).

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