Home Blog

increasingly courted – and thwarted


Dashing out of the rain to grab an iced coffee at the University of New Hampshire, new student Mariah Gonzalez says she plans to vote in the upcoming midterm elections because “it’s going to make a difference.”

The 18-year-old even registered already, by filling out a form in a high school class.

There’s just one hitch. That was in New York State – but Ms. Gonzalez wants to vote in New Hampshire, since being on the basketball team will keep her here pretty much year-round. 

Recommended: Teen activists’ power play: Unite on gun control, then get out the vote

In coming weeks, plenty of advocacy groups will be on campus in Durham helping students like her figure out how to vote locally. This is a swing state, after all, and the case can be made to college students like Gonzalez that their vote might be more significant here than in their home state.

Democrats, in particular, tend to benefit when more young people vote. But many are worried that rumors about two new Republican-backed laws related to proof of residency in New Hampshire – one partially on hold during a court case and another poised to take effect next year – might make students just confused enough to skip the whole process. 

“A lot of students we talk to actually think they can’t vote [here] in this coming election,” says Brian Rogers, a 2015 graduate of Keene State and now a New Hampshire campus organizer with NextGen America, which promotes progressive causes.

Since the birth of American democracy, arguments about who is allowed to vote – and how many hoops they should jump through – have constantly played out in legislatures, courthouses, and polling stations. In the battles over voter ID laws in recent years, Republicans have emphasized concerns about voter fraud, while Democrats have focused on the negative impact tighter rules tend to have on minority or low-income voters. Increasingly, youth voters are joining the list of those who feel targeted.

A lot of young people “don’t even know how to start voting,” so seemingly small barriers can add up to lower turnout, says Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of CIRCLE, a civic-engagement research center at Tufts University. If they don’t have the right ID or paperwork, “being challenged by someone 50 years older when they show up at the poll can be a really negative experience.”

Young people do appear to be registering in larger numbers this cycle – thanks in part to the Parkland student activists and some prominent primary races – but there’s still a big question as to whether their presence at the polls in November will be a trickle or a tidal wave.

Even so, it’s likely to be a stronger current than in the 2014 midterms, which saw the lowest rates of 18- to 29-year-olds registering (46.7 percent) and voting (19.9 percent) in 40 years of tracking.

Motivating people to vote can require pushing past apathy or disillusionment. “A lot of people ‘do something’ about the issues by complaining,” says Shaman Kirkland, a politically active junior at the University of Southern Maine (USM) in Portland. “[That] negativity makes it hard for the people that are trying to get something done.” 

Of course, until the early 1970s, citizens under 21 weren’t allowed to vote in many states. And some of the disengagement among young people comes simply from the hectic transition to adulthood.

“I haven’t had time to watch the news,” says Shayne Downey an equine student at the University of New Hampshire who recently arrived from Massachusetts and has such a packed schedule that she can’t change out of her riding boots before her next class. “My grandmother’s already pushing me to do it, so I’m going to try to get back home and register.”


But specific policies can make it harder or easier for young people to vote.

Six out of 15 strict voter ID states do not accept college IDs: Arizona, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, according to the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project.

In Michigan, an in-person appearance in their hometown – either when registering or voting – is required for first-time voters. That often catches students off guard who register by mail and then move away for college. Michigan college Democrats filed a federal lawsuit in August.

It’s easier in states that offer online voting, simple absentee-ballot rules, or automatic registration such as a check box to register when applying for a driver’s license.


Maine allows mail-in and same-day registration. It’s also one of 16 states that lets younger teens pre-register so they are automatically registered when they turn 18.

At USM’s Husky Fest activities fair in early September, all it took for students to register was a few minutes filling in a green card at one of two tables run by liberal advocacy groups. In the first hour, as a live DJ churned out tunes on the lawn, more than a dozen students either registered for the first time or changed their address.

In 2014, Maine had one of the highest rates of youth voter turnout in the nation: 32 percent. This year, it’s among the top 10 states where young people are expected to have a strong impact – including on a competitive governor’s race, CIRCLE reports

But even here, apparent attempts to suppress the student vote have occurred. Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, fliers circulated on several Maine campuses telling students that if they voted locally they would have to pay to re-register their cars, or that it might jeopardize financial aid.

Maddy Smith, who’s staffing the table of Maine Student Action, is taking a year off from Bates College in Lewiston to do political advocacy and encourage students’ involvement.

She hails from Illinois, but Maine “is somewhere where I could see myself staying, and it’s the place where my rights and my ability to move through the world will be most affected,” Ms. Smith says.


Next door in New Hampshire, the debate about new residency requirements is largely driven by partisan politics, but it has surfaced another sort of divide – in how people define “home.”

For this election cycle, students and other mobile people like military personnel can claim their New Hampshire address as their “domicile” for voting purposes without transferring their driver’s license or registering vehicles.

But HB1264, which takes effect next summer, will require all who vote to fulfill those residency requirements. Another law, known as SB3, is embroiled in a court battle because of legal penalties it sets up for voters who fail to document residency properly.

“Someone that … has no roots here, has no intention of staying here, should not be deciding [on] the elected officials that represent that community,” says New Hampshire State Rep. Sherman Packard (R), the primary sponsor of HB1264. “All they have to do is get an absentee ballot from their state. Nobody’s denying them the right to vote.”

Opponents of the recent laws say that attitude is counterproductive in a state with an aging population.

For students and young workers, “home is where they currently are … [but it] could end up being the place where they spend the rest of their lives,” says Liz Wester, New Hampshire director of America Votes, a progressive network. “If the state is not allowing students … to participate in electing their officials, then it’s going to be harder for New Hampshire to keep those students.”

College-town turnout in New Hampshire’s Sept. 11 primary suggests that the fight over these laws may have galvanized more local participation. Statewide turnout was up 38 percent over turnout in 2014, but in college towns, it was up 60 to 130 percent, NextGen reports.


Wherever students want to vote, just raising their civic engagement is a goal for a growing number of college campuses.

Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., has become a model by training peer counselors to greet every incoming student with information about voting locally or in their hometown – often helping them register on the spot. Nearly half of new students last year were registered when they arrived, but after the welcome sessions, that figure rose to 96 percent. A whopping sixty-four percent of Northwestern students voted in 2016.

Maya Patel, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, works with student groups to train voluntary registrars. “It’s a hustle,” she says, to help peers who want to vote in Texas meet an Oct. 9 registration deadline.

As one of nearly 800 campuses participating in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, UT Austin saw its voting rate climb to 56.5 percent in 2016, from 41.7 percent in 2012. They now hope to raise their midterm voting rate to 30 percent, from 18 percent in 2014.

Ms. Patel has been motivated by watching her immigrant parents become citizens. “Seeing [my dad] be able to vote for the first time was really powerful to me,” she says. “I just believe that democracy only functions when everyone can have their vote and have their say.”

Her next project: helping to write a bill that would require polling places on the state’s large university campuses.

Related stories

Read this story at csmonitor.com

Become a part of the Monitor community

Google promises Chrome changes after privacy complaints


Chrome changes after privacy

Google’s Chrome browser.


Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google, on the defensive from concerns raised about how Chrome tracks its users, has promised changes to its web browser.

Two complaints in recent days involve how Google stores data about browsing activity in files called cookies and how it syncs personal data across different devices. Google representatives said Monday and Tuesday there’s nothing to be worried about but that they’ll be changing Chrome nevertheless.

“We’ve heard — and appreciate — your feedback from the last few days, and we’ll be making some product changes,” tweeted Parisa Tabriz, a security team leader at Google.

Google added in a blog post Tuesday evening that it will add new options and explanations for its interface and reverse one Chrome cookie-hoarding policy that undermined people’s attempts to clear those cookies.

The situation shows the difficulties Google faces offering both the most widely used browser and one of the most powerful online advertising empires. Chrome is a powerful tool that lets websites gather the kind of personal information that makes it possible for advertisers to target ads for a particular audience. But Google operates some of the biggest online sites out there, and Chrome itself, if unfettered, has a view into our most private online activity.


Details leak of Google’s censored search engine

Two Chrome complaints

The first complaint came on Saturday from Johns Hopkins University professor and cryptography expert Matthew Green, who objected to a change in the newest Chrome version showing when you’re logged into a Google website instead of the previous behavior, showing when you’re logged into Chrome’s service to sync passwords, browser history and other settings.

“I’m done with Chrome,” Green said, moving to Mozilla’s Firefox instead.

Google security team member Adrienne Porter Felt responded on Monday that Green’s worst fears — that logging into a Chrome website also engaged Chrome sync, sharing new data with Google — didn’t occur. The change, she said, was made so that people wouldn’t inadvertently leak private data when sharing a computer, a situation she said is common.

“Chrome desktop now tells you that you’re ‘signed in’ whenever you’re signed in to a Google website,” Porter Felt tweeted. “This does NOT mean that Chrome is automatically sending your browsing history to your Google account!”

Although Chrome doesn’t sync data unless you take another step, signing into a Google website does sign you into Chrome. But Google will let people reverse that practice.

“For users that disable this feature, signing into a Google website will not sign them into Chrome, Zach Koch, a Chrome product manager, said in Google’s blog post.

Cookie hoarding

The second complaint came from Christoph Tavan, chief technology officer at ContentPass, a startup trying to let people pay for online content instead of yielding their privacy to advertisers. “‘Clear all Cookies except Google Cookies’, thanks Chrome,” Tavan tweeted when he discovered that Chrome keeps some Google cookies even if you try to clear all your browser’s cookies.

Tavan’s findings drew criticisms from employees working on rival browsers Firefox and Brave who saw Google’s cookies persist. Chrome’s cookie-clearing interface warns under some circumstances that “you won’t be signed out of your Google account” or that it “signs you out of most sites.” CNET reproduced the Chrome cookie-keeping behavior.

“If you’re signed in to Chrome, Chrome creates / restores Google auth cookies,” Tabriz tweeted Tuesday. “To stop that behavior, you can sign out.”

But that behavior won’t continue, Koch said.

“In the current version of Chrome, we keep the Google auth cookies to allow you to stay signed in after cookies are cleared,” he said. “We will change this behavior that so all cookies are deleted and you will be signed out.”

Security:  Stay up-to-date on the latest in breaches, hacks, fixes and all those cybersecurity issues that keep you up at night.

Infowars and Silicon Valley: Everything you need to know about the tech industry’s free speech debate.

Thomas Ravenel Accused of Naked Assault on Ex-Nanny


Accused of Naked Assault

We have an update on Tuesday’s arrest of former Southern Charm lead Thomas Ravenel.

And it’s a very ugly update.

Thomas Ravenel Picture


The ex-Bravo star was taken into custody this morning on charges of second degree assault and battery.

At the time of the arrest, we were uncertain just why Ravenel had been booked by Charleston police, but we’ve now learned the a warrant had been issued regarding an alleged incident in 2015.

We’ve actually reported on this incident previously.

Back in May, a former nanny named Dawn accused Ravenel of attempted rape, outlining for People Magazine the way in which Ravenel forced himself on her in his bedroom… while his infant daughter slept just feet away next door.

According to the official arrest affidavit, the attack took place inside Ravenel’s home on Charlotte Street in Charleston.

“While inside the location, the defendant undressed and made sexual advances on the victim,” this legal document reads.

It continues:

“The defendant grabbed the victim’s hand and placed it on his penis before attempting to removed the victim’s clothing.

“While attempting to remove the victim’s clothing, the victim’s underwire bra cut into her skin and her shirt wrapped around her neck, which caused the victim to struggle to breathe.”

Thomas Ravenel Mug Shot


The affadavit goes on, in lurid detail, stating that Ravenel then “pulled down the victim’s pants and said ‘Show me your pussy.'”

He then “began grabbing the victim’s vagina.”

As a result, the nanny “crouched down to the ground to try and prevent further assault [and] the defendant then put his penis in her face and asked, ‘Do you like big dicks?’”

For the record, before we go any further, the victim is NOT named in the document.

We are just making an assumption that she is the same nanny who, as cited above, reported a very similar crime had taken place at her expense.

Thomas Ravenel on Southern Charm


After escaping the assault, the woman called her ex-husband and sister and told them of the inciden…  fled the scene … and notified several family members of the incident,” the affidavit states.

“Photographs were then taken immediately of the injures to her neck and chest.”

Earlier that month, another woman named Ashley Perkins alleged that Ravenel sexually assaulted her mother, Debbie Holloway Perkins, after the two went on a date and then ended up back at Ravenel’s home.

The star’s lawyer denied the allegations made by Perkins at the time.

Thomas Ravenel


The Charleston police department has said that Ravenel surrendered himself to authorities just after 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Bravo, meanwhile, confirmed to the press that the former politician, who has been featured on Southern Charm since season 1 in 2014, would not return for season 6.

Ravenel previously announced he was done with the show in August, claiming he was a victim of editing and and actually writing:

In the contract they have the right to fictionalize your story. They took advantage of me. I decided I’ve got too much to lose and informed them I’m not coming back.

This guy sucks.

All the best food events October 2018 Worldwide


Best food events

Autumn is a delicious season with a whole spread of tempting food events unfolding across the globe as well as of the arrival of equally enticing seasonal produce, like the white truffle from Alba.

There are plenty of culinary highlights taking place as the season kicks off, from the announcement of the new Best Restaurant in Latin America to hard hitting chef discussions in the picturesque Galway setting of Food on the Edge and truffle celebrations, this is the month to watch.

Find out more about these events, plus many more, below:

What’s on in October 2018

Las Vegas Food and Wine Festival, US, 4 to 7 October 2018

Sin city steps up to four days of food celebration with guests enjoying a wide selection of dishes and spirits from over 50 of the finest local chefs all set against the iconic Vegas backdrop.

Alba White Truffle Season, Italy, 6 October to 25 November 2018

The biggest celebration of the prized White Truffle opens in Alba in northern Italy. The season centres around the white truffle market with spin off events like folklore activities, show cooking and food art all related to the exclusive tuber as part of the 88th edition festivities of the International White Truffle Fair of Alba.

“Journeys East: An Evening of Culinary Stars”, Hong Kong, 5 and 6 October 2018

Join Chef Guillaume Galliot and four award-winning chefs during two days of culinary decadence when Chef Guillaume Galliot and four incredibly talented chefs join forces in Hong Kong for “Journeys East: An Evening of Culinary Stars”.

Joining Galliot in the kitchen at Four Seasons Hong Kong will be Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, the same twin brothers who mentored Galliot early in his career when they helmed the three Michelin Le Jardin Des Sens in Montpellier.

A second pair of talented twins, Chefs Thomas and Mathias Sühring, whose eponymous restaurant in Bangkok has been recognised for bringing innovative German cuisine to adventurous diners in Asia.

Gastronomika, San Sebastian, Spain, 8 to 10 October 2018

The San Sebastian chef symposium celebrates 20 years in style with an incredible line-up of chefs taking to the stage from 8 to 10 October. Three days of talks and classes and workshops will be led by a top chef line-up from Andoni Luis Aduriz to Yoshihiro Narisawa.

International Chefs Summit Asia 2018, Taipei, 15 to 18 October 2018

A host of top chefs will be descending on Taipei this October to celebrate this year’s International Chefs Summit Asia 2018 in partnership with Acqua Panna and S.Pellegrino. A total of 18 celebrity chefs, from 8 major cities across Asia will be in the city to cook 4 gourmet feasts, 2 summits and culinary performances, from 15 to 18 October at the Taipei Marriott Hotel.

Food on the Edge, Galway, Ireland, 22 and 23 October 2018

Food on the Edge sponsored by S.Pellegrino returns on 22 and 23 October, with some of the biggest names in food heading to Galway on Ireland’s rugged West Coast for the two day symposium. Over 50 top chefs and food leaders will be speaking at the event, which this year takes ‘Conversations’ as one if its central themes, alongside the ‘Future of Food.’

Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant Ceremony, Bogota, Colombia 30 October 2018

Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna returns on the 30 October 2018. For the second year in a row, the event will be held in Bogotá, with the region’s brightest culinary stars descending on the Colombian capital for a night of gastronomical celebration and one hell of a party at the city’s Ágora events space. All eyes will be on Mitsuharu Tsumura and the Maido team to see if the Lima restaurant can retain the crown it wrestled from Central for the first time in 2017. Or will we see a brand new Latin America’s Best Restaurant for 2018?

Nationals RHP Scherzer reaches 300 strikeouts for the season


Nationals RHP Scherzer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer has become the 17th major league pitcher since 1900 to strike out at least 300 batters in a season.

Scherzer reached the milestone by getting Austin Dean of the Miami Marlins to whiff on an 85 mph slider for the second out of the seventh inning Tuesday night. That was Scherzer’s 10th K of the game.

He has 10 strikeouts or more in a majors-high 18 of his 33 starts in 2018.

Scherzer entered Tuesday 17-7 with a 2.57 ERA as he tries to earn a third consecutive NL Cy Young Award with Washington. He also won the AL honor in 2013 for the Detroit Tigers.

Total Gym Southampton Sweat Event Recap


Gym Southampton Sweat Event

Gym Southampton Sweat Event was alive with a fitness vibe on Sunday, August 5th at the Southampton Arts Center. This year the event was hosted by the stunning Christie Brinkley and her beautiful daughter Sailor Brinkley-Cook. They rocked the show by showing their love and enthusiasm for health, fitness, and wellness by bringing together an energetic crowed to sweat together and experience what full body health is all about.


People of all ages and fitness levels filled the event to learn, experience, and of course sweat. The energy was contagious as the music beats led participants through various trending workouts on the art lawn. The classes were taught by various trainers of a particular expertise so that participants could experience various types of workout. The sun’s heat was strong, but it didn’t stop those in motion. In fact, it made the Sweat Fitness event hold to its name… sweaty!


In addition to the incredible workouts, many local and New York City vendors participated to showcase their studios, programs, products, new fitness modalities, and sample trending equipment. The Total Gym FIT model was part of the show and was a huge hit to demonstrate the versatility and effectiveness of the equipment.

This was the first appearance for the Total Gym FIT model to appear in a fitness expo setting. Typically, it’s showcased online, on TV, or via the famous infomercials. Total Gym is making the shift to bring this model to more people in today’s modern world. It’s apparent that it’s a special piece of fitness equipment for the home user and also for apartment complexes, boutique studios, and work settings. The ease of the exercises along with the quick transitions into multiple movements make the Total Gym award-winning to accomplish an effective workout in minimal time to reach specific goals.


The set up started bright and early with the sun’s rays beaming down. Mark and I were the proud Total Gym trainers representing at the event. We set up and arranged two FIT units while we jammed to the bumpin’ beats pumping from the sound stage. The Sweat event was titled right- because it was one hot sweaty mess for all!

The energy was contagious as fitness was in the air! Attendees arrived at 9 AM to either take part in the first class held on the lawn or to browse through the participating vendors. Mark and I demonstrated, educated, explained, and led non-stop sessions for attendees to experience the magic on the equipment.

The Total Gym FIT units caught the eyes of many. There was a high demand to experience a mini workout and understand how it worked. Attendees lined up to give it a go and wanted to keep going! I knew once someone experienced a few exercises on the FIT unit, they would absolutely love it and want more of it!

The event wouldn’t have been the same without the special appearance of Christie and her daughter Sailor. They arrived to the event around 11AM looking stellar and fit as ever. Everyone was thrilled to witness their radiance and ongoing support for promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Christie and Sailor spent time with us at the Total Gym booth by sharing their love for the equipment to others. Christie mentioned how she loves the versatility, comfort, ease, and effectiveness that the Total Gym provides. Sailor is a follower of her mother’s footsteps and is also sporty, fit, and full of energy. It’s clear that exercise along with a healthy lifestyle work towards the longevity of a healthy life. These dynamic stars are living proof!

Mark and I were proud to share our expertise and love for such a diverse piece of fitness equipment. This event opened the eyes to many people who had never seen or had the chance to experience what the Total Gym is all about. It was wonderful to see the enjoyment in first time users on the equipment and hear the positive feedback in how they loved the feel of the movements.

The Total Gym is truly one of the best fitness tools for home users, apartment gyms, and even the work environment to effectively train hard in minimal time. Once you learn how to accommodate the exercises for your goals, it becomes the one stop tool you can integrate into all fitness modalities. In today’s modern world of busy lives, it’s about convenience and effectiveness to get the job done.


There’s no doubt this one day Sweat Fitness event was a hot hit to open the gateway to promoting fitness and wellness. Special thanks to Christie and Sailor for hosting such a successful event and having Total Gym be a part of the magic. We look forward to attending other events so that more people can experience the effectiveness of the Total Gym and spread the word that it can be in your home too!


Development of ICT Innovation Expected to Help in Fight Against Banana Disease in Rwanda — Global Issues

  • by Aimable Twahirwa (kigali)
  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018
  • Inter Press Service

In Rwanda the banana disease BXW is detrimental to a crop and has far-reaching consequences not only for farmers but for the food and nutritional security of their families and those dependent on the crop as a source of food. Credit: Alejandro Arigón/IPS

“I was thinking that it was the unusually dry weather causing damage to my crop,” Ruzigamanzi, who lives in Rwimishinya, a remote village in Kayonza district in Eastern Rwanda, tells IPS.

But in fact, it was a bacterial disease.

Ruzigamanzi’s crop was infected with Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a bacterial disease that affects all types of bananas and is known locally as Kirabiranya. 

Here, in this East African nation, BXW is detrimental to a crop and has far-reaching consequences not only for farmers but for the food and nutritional security of their families and those dependent on the crop as a source of food.

Banana is an important crop in East and Central Africa, with a number of countries in the region being among the world’s top-10 producers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database.

According to a household survey of districts in Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, banana accounts for about 50 percent of the household diet in a third of Rwanda’s homes.

But the top factor affecting banana production in all three countries, according to the survey, was BXW.

Researchers have indicated that BXW can result in 100 percent loss of banana stands, if not properly controlled.

Complacency and lack of information contribute to spread of the disease

The BXW disease is not new to the country. It was first reported in 2002. Since then, there have been numerous, rigorous educational campaigns by agricultural authorities and other stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations.

Farmers in Ruzigamanzi’s region have been trained by a team of researchers from the Rwanda Agriculture Board and local agronomists about BXW. But Ruzigamanzi, a father of six, was one of the farmers missed by the awareness campaign and therefore lacked the knowledge to diagnose the disease.

Had he known what the disease was, and depending on its state of progress on the plant, Ruzigamanzi would have had to remove the symptomatic plants, cutting them at soil level immediately after first observation of the symptoms. If the infection is uncontrolled for a long time, he would have had to remove the entire plant from the root.

And it is what he ended up doing two weeks later when a visiting local agronomist came to look at the plant.

By then it was too late to save the banana stands and Ruzigamanzi had to uproot all the affected mats, including the rhizome and all its attached stems, the parent plant and its suckers.

Ruzigamanzi’s story is not unique. In fact, a great number of smallholder farmers in remote rural regions have been ignoring or are unaware of the symptoms of this bacterial banana infection. And it has increased the risk of spreading of the disease to new regions and of resurgence in areas where it had previously been under control. Several districts in eastern Rwanda have been affected by the disease in recent years.

An enumerator for the ICT4BXW project conducting a baseline assessment of Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a bacterial disease, status in Muhanga district, Rwanda. Courtesy: Julius Adewopo/ International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

Using technology to strengthen rural farmers and control spread of BXW

Early 2018, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in partnership with Bioversity International, the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies and the Rwanda Agriculture Board, commenced a collaborative effort to tackle the disease through the use of digital technology. IITA scientists are exploring alternative ways of engaging farmers in monitoring and collecting data about the disease. The institute is renowned for transforming African agriculture through science and innovations, and was recently announced as the Africa Food Prize winner for 2018.

The new three-year project (named ICT4BXW), which launched with a total investment of 1.2 million Euros from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, seeks to explore the use of mobile phones as tools to generate and exchange up-to-date knowledge and information about BXW.

The project builds on the increasing accessibility of mobile phones in Rwanda. According to data from the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, this country’s mobile telephone penetration is currently estimated at 79 percent in a country of about 12 million people, with a large majority of the rural population currently owning mobile phones.

“Our ongoing effort to develop, test, and deploy smart or normal mobile applications is a critical step towards cost-effective monitoring and control of the disease spread,” says Julius Adewopo, who is leading the BXW project at IITA. He further explained that, “Banana farmers in Rwanda could be supported with innovations that leverages on the existing IT infrastructure and the rapidly increasing mobile phone penetration in the country.”

Central to the project is the citizen science approach, which means that local stakeholders, such as banana farmers and farmer extensionists (also called farmer promoters), play leading roles in collecting and submitting data on BXW presence, severity, and transmission. Moreover, stakeholders will participate in the development of the mobile application and platform, through which data and information will be exchanged.

About 70 farmer promoters from eight different districts in Northern, Western, Southern, and Eastern province will be trained to use the mobile phone application. They will participate in collecting and submitting data for the project—about incidence and severity of BXW in their village—via the platform. The project expects to reach up to 5,000 farmers through engagement with farmer promoters and mobile phones.

Further, data from the project will be translated into information for researchers, NGOs and policy makers to develop effective and efficient support systems. Similarly, data generated will feed into an early warning system that should inform farmers about disease outbreaks and the best management options available to them.

A real-time reporting system on the disease

While the existing National Banana Research Programme in Rwanda has long focused on five key areas of interventions with strategies used in the control or management of plant diseases, the proposed mobile-based solution is described as an innovative tool that it is easily scalable and flexible for application or integration with other information and communications technology (ICT) platforms or application interfaces.

“We observe limitations in the availability of reliable and up-to-date data and information about disease transmission patterns, severity of outbreaks, and effect of control measures,” Mariette McCampbell, a research fellow who studies ICT-enabled innovation and scaling on the ICT4BXW project, tells IPS. “We also have lack good socio-economic and socio-cultural data that could feed into farmer decision-making tools and an early warning system.”

The new reporting system intends to develop into an early warning system that will allow the Rwandan government to target efforts to mitigate the spread of BXW, it also aims to serve as a catalyst for partnerships among stakeholders to strengthen Banana production systems in the country.

“This innovation could enable real-time assessment of the severity of the disease and support interventions for targeted control,” explains Adewopo.

The project team is currently working hard to co-develop the ICT platform, with farmer promoters and consultants. By the second quarter of 2019, tests with a pilot version of the platform will start in the eight districts where the project is active.

The project team have already identified a variety of scaling opportunities for a successful platform.”Problems with Banana Xanthomonas Wilt are not limited to Rwanda, neither is it the only crop disease that challenges farmers. Therefore, our long-term goal is to adapt the platform such that it can be scaled and used in other countries or for other diseases or other crops,” McCampbell explains.

According to Adewopo, “the vision of success is to co-develop and deploy a fully functional tool and platform, in alignment with the needs of target users and with keen focus on strengthening relevant institutions, such as the Rwanda Agricultural Board, to efficiently allocate resources for BXW control and prevention through democratised ICT-based extension targeting and delivery.”

There is increasing need for smarter and faster management of risks that have limited production in agricultural systems.

In recognition of BXW’s terminal threat to banana crops, there is no doubt that the use of ICT tools brings a new hope for banana farmers, and can equitably  empower them through improved extension/advisory access, irrespective of gender, age, or social status – as long as they have access to a mobile phone.

*Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg

© Inter Press Service (2018) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Where next?





By Dr. Laura Wilhelm



Atelier du Miel


Atelier du Miel

One of the things that have changed between the Lebanon of my childhood and today’s Lebanon is that the Lebanese market scene is now filled to the brim with dynamic talent.  A perfect example is this honey producing company,  Atelier du Miel (tr. Honey Lab). From my vantage point, they ace every parameter. They are young and driven, creative, eco-conscious and filled with business-savvy; every so often, they come-up with fantastic ideas to promote their brand, such as workshops (making cool things using honey) or field trips to observe their beekeeping operation live.

I first noticed the actual honey, sold at their flagship boutique, as well as kiosks all over the city’s supermarkets and malls. In Lebanon in the olden days, one got a jar of honey, period! This time around, with L’Atelier du Miel, one gets to pick at least two dozen flavors based on what flower or herb the bees fancied. Each flavor is distinct and is recommended with certain foods or just plain with a piece of bread. I noticed eucalyptus, loquat, orange blossom, honeydew (forest trees such as cedar, oak or fir). In addition, these folks are offering pastries such as madeleine or financiers or the traditional mamouls made in partnership with a local NGO. Their gift packages include artisan honey dippers reflecting Lebanese tradition (glass-blown, brass, or inlaid wood).

Their business operating methods are eco-friendly: They are always on the move with their hives, from one location to the next, following blossoms and wildflowers as they appear throughout the country. After hearing about  dishonest honey producers who feed sugar syrup to their bees it was  heartening to meet folks who care and offer a pure, unadulterated product. Their bees are major travelers! Going North and South, feeding on banana, carob, cedar, Cherry, Clover, Eucalyptus, Fir, Jujube, Loquat, Oak, Cedar, Orange Blossom, Thistle, and Thyme blossoms , as well as wildflowers.

L’Atelier du Miel also opened a stylish restaurant and workshop in the trendy Mar Mikhael neighborhood and I had dinner there to check it out one balmy evening last Summer. The design of the restaurant is contemporary, Scandinavian, with neutral tones and a large outdoor terrace nestled between some crumbling old building. The menu was  bistro food, with an emphasis on fresh salads and every item had one of their honeys in the ingredient list. I loved the apple smoothie and  bulgur salad and my companion  the endive salad with julienned candied orange rind. We also tried a platter of honey samplers matched with various cubed cheeses and fruits. I’d  recommend this if you’d like to refine your honey knowledge, taste-wise.

Muted colors, greys, white and yellows and greens convey a peaceful feeling.

The sampler: A must if you want to learn something about honeys.

This bulgur salad was delightful and I would eat it every week if I could!

The apple dessert was my favorite.

This was a revisited tiramisu. The plating was a bit messy, the contrasts in flavors was just so-so. B+

L’Atelier du Miel also offers housemade confections (made with honey instead of sugar); since I crave sweets on a regular basis, but I am trying very hard to ban refined white sugar from my diet, I was tempted. I tried the mann wsalwa, a type of chewy divinity studded with nuts, and I tried the maamouls, both very good. In addition, they offer workshops at their restaurant location,in case you would like to  learn how to make candied chestnuts  and many other foodie delights, (all with honey, of course).

Medial tibial stress syndrome can be diagnosed reliably using history and physical examination


Medial tibial stress


The majority of sporting injuries are clinically diagnosed using history and physical examination as the cornerstone. There are no studies supporting the reliability of making a clinical diagnosis of medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).


Our aim was to assess if MTSS can be diagnosed reliably, using history and physical examination. We also investigated if clinicians were able to reliably identify concurrent lower leg injuries.


A clinical reliability study was performed at multiple sports medicine sites in The Netherlands. Athletes with non-traumatic lower leg pain were assessed for having MTSS by two clinicians, who were blinded to each others’ diagnoses. We calculated the prevalence, percentage of agreement, observed percentage of positive agreement (Ppos), observed percentage of negative agreement (Pneg) and Kappa-statistic with 95%CI.


Forty-nine athletes participated in this study, of whom 46 completed both assessments. The prevalence of MTSS was 74%. The percentage of agreement was 96%, with Ppos and Pneg of 97% and 92%, respectively. The inter-rater reliability was almost perfect; k=0.89 (95% CI 0.74 to 1.00), p<0.000001. Of the 34 athletes with MTSS, 11 (32%) had a concurrent lower leg injury, which was reliably noted by our clinicians, k=0.73, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.98, p<0.0001.


Our findings show that MTSS can be reliably diagnosed clinically using history and physical examination, in clinical practice and research settings. We also found that concurrent lower leg injuries are common in athletes with MTSS.