Julianne McShane

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Texas students working on the skeleton of a donated corpse
eyes on the U.S.

At A Texas Body Farm, Studying The Decay Of Donated Corpses

American forensics researchers place human corpses in so-called "body farms" to study their decomposition for a variety of sometimes surprising reasons.

HUNTSVILLE — In the shadows of pine trees, a woman in a white overalls leans over the dead body of a fat, naked man. She brushes his cheek with a cotton swab, as eight scientists look on. "Can you apply a bit more pressure, to get some DNA?" one scientist asks. Adds another, "but not too much, don't harm the skin."

It's been a week since the body was placed here. Two tattoos and a scar are reminiscent of the life he must have lived. But the scientists don't care about the past. They're interested in what happens to the body after death, when bacteria, protozoans and fungus will entirely decompose the body over the next couple of weeks. They eat through the skin that once felt, the heart that once beat, the nerve cells that recorded all kinds of memories. For nature, the corpse is a source of nutrients — nitrogen, potassium, sulfate and other elements, dissipated bit by bit. Dust to dust.

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Restaurant Muna Muna's
food / travel

In Argentina, "Social Fridges" Curb Food Waste And Feed The Hungry

TUCUMÁN Pope Francis declared war on waste months ago. Now, three of his kinsmen in northern Argentina have developed an idea to keep perfectly good food from being tossed and to help the hungry at the same time: "social fridges" where people can leave "neat portions" of leftover food.

The initiative was launched in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán and social fridges have also been installed in Salta and Jujuy, following an idea by restaurant owners Fernando Ríos Kissner, Luis Ponda and Daniela Viñas.

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In Oncupinar, Syria, trying to enter Turkey.
Migrant Lives

Refugees: Escaping Syria Is More Dangerous Than Entering Europe

The dangerous sea and land crossings that Syrian refugees are making to Europe have been well-documented. Less well known are the equally perilous journeys people take to leave Syria itself.

Amal, a 28-year-old Syrian-Palestinian refugee, who managed to make it safely to Germany with her family, says making it from Damascus to the border with Turkey, "was the hardest of all" the chapters of her migrant journey to Europe.

Syria remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Nearly half of the population has been internally displaced or has fled to other countries, and the war has claimed the lives of close to half a million people. Over the past five years, Syrians have devised countless ways to escape the killing and violence.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets delegates attending the 10th general congress of the Red Cross Society of China in Beijing.
China 2.0

In China, Why Even Some NGOs Are Counterfeit

BEIJING — China's copycat culture is so deeply ingrained that along with the mock mobile phones, counterfeit clothing and faux food packaging, there is also an abundance of supposedly civic minded NGOs that are also effectively counterfeit knock-offs.

Last week, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs published a list of 203 illegitimate civil society organizations. Most of these so-called associations use the words "China," "Chinese" or "National" in their title. They exist in various sectors, including medicine, education and food services. And some even duplicate letter-by-letter the names of legal organizations that have been properly registered.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on March 16
Germany

With Merkel Isolated, Europe Must Share Burden And Blame

The German Chancellor has made many mistakes: She has isolated Germany, inside Europe. But it is hardly her fault alone in a continent unable to see the stakes at hand.

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has earned a reputation for approaching politics with the mind of the physics student she originally was. She has a way of considering problems in reverse, and generally makes sure everyone in the classroom has put on protective glasses before activating the Bunsen burner. Always minimize the risk of injury.

What's interesting about this analogy is that it has endured, even if she has shown over time to occasionally have some truly ill-considered ideas. But it has only been within the context of the migrant crisis that doubts about the Chancellor's otherwise infallible logic have finally emerged.

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A mural on the wall of Halden prison in Norway
Sources

Norway's Alternative Prisons, Part Of Global Push To Innovate On Inmates

A new light is shining on the Norwegian penal system as terrorist Anders Behring Breivik demands (even) better treatment.

A three-room suite with sun-drenched windows, a treadmill and state-of-the-art electronics — no, this isn't some prized real estate for sale or an Airbnb listing, but rather a description of the prison cell of Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.

The conditions may sound soft for a cold-blooded killer, and there is even more public outrage this week as Breivik has been granted a hearing after charging the state with inhumane treatment for keeping him in solitary confinement as he serves a 21-year sentence in Skien in southern Norway.

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Women pilgrims at Mount Abu
India

Barred From Worship Sites, Indian Women Fight Back

A woman's movement challenging a centuries-old practice of denying women entry into the most sacred areas of worship in Hindu temples and Muslim shrines is generating a heated debate across India.

NEW DELHI — At Hazrat Nizamuddin shrine in this Indian city, a group of musicians is performing a Qawwali, or a Sufi devotional song. Hundreds of men and women, including many foreigners, are seated in a circle around the musicians listening attentively to the Urdu and Persian lyrics.

The song is in praise of the 14th century Sufi saint Nizamuddin Aulia, who lies buried in the shrine. It is one of the world's most famous Sufi shrines, and equally popular among Muslims and non-Muslims.

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Francis and Macri - a bit tense at Saturday's encounter at the Vatican
CLARIN

Pope Francis v. President Macri: A Simmering Argentine Beef

A combination of political differences, bungling of protocol and lack of sensitivity seem to have further gnarled relations between Argentine President Mauricio Macri and fellow countryman Pope Francis.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Words are only one way we communicate. So much can be said with silence. There are gestures, glances, the time we give someone and the posture we strike when we do. No words were necessary to see that Pope Francis and his kinsman, conservative Argentine President Mauricio Macri, didn't see eye to eye in their recent meeting that some described as "frosty."

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On the campus of Princeton University in New Jersey
blog

Why So Many Chinese Students Are Getting Axed From U.S. Schools

The case of Hanxiang Ni, a University of Iowa student who was expelled last month for posting a photo of himself holding a gun and threatening to kill his professors, has turned new attention to the growing number of Chinese students enrolled in — and kicked out of — U.S. academic institutions.

Attendance is up, but so too are cases of expulsion, mainly due to poor academic performance, but also because of cheating and other ethical issues, the Qianjiang Evening News reports.

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Trump in the eye of his supporters
eyes on the U.S.

Donald Trump, The Snowballing Strangelove Effect

WASHINGTON — As the sun rose on Super Tuesday, the D.C. in-crowd still didn't fully grasp the power of Donald Trump's message. Elites bemoan The Donald at cocktail parties and take comfort in calling Trump supporters uneducated. But while the Republican Party plunges into civil war, Trump keeps expanding his base. (He won seven of the 11 states with primaries on Tuesday.)

Many readers would probably be stunned by some of the people who are secretly supporting Trump but don't want to admit it on the record. His coalition includes not just rock-ribbed conservatives and God-fearing evangelicals, but also Ivy League-educated professionals. Some realize he's not actually that authentically conservative and look the other way. Some, who fancy themselves moderates, admire the businessman's malleability. On Monday, as an example of someone in that vein, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert (who lost to Ted Cruz in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary in Texas) endorsed Trump. Others just like to jump on bandwagons and back winners.

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A Trump rally last month in Iowa
eyes on the U.S.

Confused And Angry, How U.S. Voters Look In Latin America

BOGOTA — The U.S. presidential elections have left the two main parties stunned. Amid acrid debates filled with harsh words and the insolence of one billionaire candidate, raw emotions have turned out to be more potent than any substantial solutions proposed by the candidates for their country.

Faced with the populism of the tycoon Donald Trump, the aggressive tactics of the two candidates with Cuban roots (Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz) or the option of returning to the embrace of either the Bush or Clinton dynasties, voters appear to react with a mix of bewilderment and outright revulsion.

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His reach is long
eyes on the U.S.

The Importance Of Obama, For Both Bernie And Hillary

As Republicans mercilessly attack the sitting president, Democratic hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton should remember that ambivalence never wins elections.

WASHINGTON —— There is an imbalance in the argument at the heart of the 2016 presidential campaign that threatens to undercut the Democrats' chances of holding the White House.

You might think otherwise. The divisions among Republicans are as sharp as they have been since 1964. Donald Trump may be building on the politics of resentment the GOP has pursued throughout President Obama's term. But Trump's mix of nationalism, xenophobia, a dash of economic populism and a searing critique of George W. Bush's foreign policy offers a philosophical smorgasbord that leaves the party's traditional ideology behind.

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