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Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en Following James Foley's killing, US presses on with air strikes against Islamic State <!--paging_filter--><p>US special forces were sent into <a href="">Syria</a> this year to try to rescue American hostages held by Islamist militants, US officials said, as international revulsion mounted Thursday over the beheading of journalist James Foley.</p> <p>President Barack Obama demanded that the world take action against the "cancer" of jihadist extremism after the execution of the American journalist by Islamic State militants who have seized swathes of Syria and Iraq.</p> <p>Outraged US allies have pledged to help in the battle against the Islamic State, sending in weapons and other aid to Kurdish forces fighting the extremists in northern Iraq, while Washington pressed on with air strikes.</p> <p>US government officials confirmed Wednesday that special forces had been sent to Syria over the summer to try to rescue people held hostage by the IS militants, reportedly including Foley.</p> <p>"This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL (IS)," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement, without confirming if Foley was among the captives.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Why is the Islamic State still so strong?</a></strong></p> <p>"Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location."</p> <p>The White House said Obama had "authorized action at this time because it was the national security team's assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL (IS) custody."</p> <p>In the execution video, a black-clad militant said that Foley, a 40-year-old freelance journalist, was killed to avenge US air strikes against IS.</p> <p>The man, speaking with a British accident, then paraded a second US reporter, Steven Sotloff, before the camera and said he, too, would die unless Obama changed course.</p> <p>In the five-minute video, Foley is seen kneeling on the ground, dressed in an orange outfit that resembles those worn by prisoners held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.</p> <p><strong>'Justice must be done' </strong></p> <p>Foley was kidnapped in northern Syria in November 2012 and his grisly murder has provoked revulsion and condemnation across the globe.</p> <p>"When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done," Obama said Wednesday as US jets continued to strike IS targets in Iraq despite the threat hanging over Sotloff.</p> <p>The State Department has asked for 300 more US troops to be sent to Iraq to protect US facilities.</p> <p>"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless... From governments and peoples across the <a href="">Middle East</a>, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread," Obama said.</p> <p>British Prime Minister David Cameron broke off his holiday to convene urgent meetings of the threat posed by IS, with rising concerns about how many jihadists are walking Britain's streets.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Foley execution boosts European support for intervention in Iraq</a></strong></p> <p>"We have not identified the individual responsible, but from what we have seen, it looks increasingly likely that it is a British citizen," Cameron told reporters. "This is deeply shocking."</p> <p>Richard Barrett, former head of counterterrorism at foreign intelligence service MI6, said he believed the suspected killer would be brought to justice "sooner or later."</p> <p>Interpol has called for a global response to the Islamist militant threat, with monitors covering the conflict in Syria saying the Islamic State has more than 50,000 fighters in that country alone, including about 20,000 foreigners.</p> <p>Interpol chief Ronald Noble said there should be a "multilateral response against the terror threat posed by radicalized transnational fighters traveling to conflict zones in the Middle East."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Britain searching for Foley killer</a></strong></p> <p>The European Union joined international condemnation of Foley's "outrageous" beheading.</p> <p>"Such forms of terrorism constitute one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and the EU is more committed than ever to support international efforts to fight terrorism," said a spokesman for foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.</p> <p>Last week, EU foreign ministers held a rare summer meeting to coordinate the bloc's response to the jihadist onslaught and gave unanimous approval to the arming of Iraqi Kurd forces by individual member states.</p> <p>French President Francois Hollande has called for an international conference on tackling the Islamic State.</p> <p>"If the world doesn't organize regarding this group there will be other equally appalling images, which won't only concern journalists, they've crucified people," he said.</p> <p>The president of the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, described the beheading as a "new wake-up call" to the world, saying IS actions were not only "embarrassing" to Islam but "humiliating".</p> <p><strong>'Jim wouldn't want us to hate'</strong></p> <p>Foley's parents, John and Diane, paid tribute to their son and called for other hostages to be released.</p> <p>"Jim would never want us to hate or be bitter. We cannot do that and we are just so very proud of Jimmy and we are praying for the strength to love like he did," Diane said.</p> <p>The scale of the threat from the Islamic State became clear in June when the group, then known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, declared the dawn of a Muslim caliphate and seized control of large parts of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.</p> <p>Obama reacted this month by ordering US warplanes to counter threats to US personnel in the Kurdish regional capital Arbil and to civilian refugees from Iraqi religious minority groups.</p> <p>He has insisted the scope of the strikes would remain limited, but Iraqi officials and observers have argued that only foreign intervention can turn the tide on jihadist expansion in Iraq.</p> <p>Shia militias, federal soldiers, Kurdish troops and Sunni Arab tribes have been battling IS for weeks in some areas but have been unable to clinch a decisive victory.</p> <p>burs-dw/txw/mkh</p> Need to Know Iraq Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:53:09 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6237399 at Chatter: Israel assassinated 3 top Hamas leaders <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The fuller story of Foley takes shape, Israel took out two on its most wanted list, and there's a little Neanderthal in each of us. Who knew. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:29:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5942065 at Israeli air strike kills 3 Hamas commanders in Gaza <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Israel</a> killed three senior Hamas commanders in an air strike on the Gaza Strip on Thursday, the clearest signal yet that Israel is intent on eliminating the group's military leadership after a failed attempt on the life of its top commander this week.</p> <p>Hamas, which dominates Gaza, named the men as Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum and said they were killed in the bombing of a house in the southern town of Rafah. All three were described as senior Hamas military figures.</p> <p>The Israeli military and Shin Bet, the internal security service, confirmed that two of the men were targeted, in what would constitute the killing of the most senior Hamas leaders since Israel launched its offensive in Gaza on July 8.</p> <p>Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the "outstanding intelligence" and said in a statement the Hamas leaders "planned deadly attacks against Israeli civilians."</p> <p>After six weeks of conflict in which more than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians, Israeli air strikes since a 10-day ceasefire collapsed on Tuesday appear to have been focused more intently on Hamas's armed wing.</p> <p>Late on Tuesday, the Israeli air force bombed a house in northern Gaza, an attempt, Hamas said, to assassinate Mohammed Deif, its top military commander. Deif's wife and seven-month-old son were killed but Deif escaped, Hamas said.</p> <p>After Thursday's air strike, hundreds of Palestinians rushed to the site in southern Gaza calling for revenge.</p> <p>"The assassinations of the three Qassam leaders is a grave crime," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. "But it will not break our people and Israel will pay the price for it."</p> <p>Shin Bet said Abu Shammala was head of Hamas's southern command and described al-Attar as a brigade commander. It said both had been leading and coordinating fighting against Israel in the south of Gaza, where some of the most intense combat has occurred. Israel has lost 64 soldiers in the conflict, while three civilians in Israel have also been killed.</p> <p>At a news conference on Wednesday, Netanyahu declined to say whether Deif had been targeted, but said militant leaders were legitimate targets and that "none are immune" from attack.</p> <p><strong>No end in sight</strong></p> <p>Israel launched its offensive last month with the declared aim of curbing Palestinian rocket fire into its territory.</p> <p>After nearly four weeks of conflict, including ground operations by Israeli forces, Egyptian mediators succeeded in brokering a truce. But after 10 days of relative calm, that ceasefire was shattered on Tuesday, when Hamas launched more than 200 rockets into Israel, leading to Israeli air strikes.</p> <p>Rocket fire from Gaza continued on Thursday, with several landing in a kibbutz close to the border. Shrapnel from the blast seriously injured one Israeli and narrowly missed a kindergarten, Israel's ambulance service said.</p> <p><a href="">Egypt</a> said it would continue contacts with both sides, whose delegates left Cairo after hostilities resumed. Yet there appears to be little chance in the current circumstances of putting an end to fighting and making progress on peace talks.</p> <p>Netanyahu said fighting could go on for a long while.</p> <p>"This will be a continuous campaign," he told reporters.</p> <p>When it launched its initial assault, Israel said the aim was to put an end to Hamas rocket fire. Ten days later it sent ground forces in to destroy cross-border tunnels used by Hamas militants to launch surprise attacks on Israelis.</p> <p>More than 30 of those tunnels have been destroyed and no tunnel-based attacks have taken place in the past 10 days. Israel pulled its ground troops out of Gaza on Aug. 5.</p> <p>As well as the Hamas commanders killed, Palestinian medics reported 19 other deaths on Thursday, including three children.</p> <p>Hamas's military wing has threatened to target Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport and warned airlines to stay away on Thursday morning. Hamas said it had fired a rocket towards the airport, but an Israeli airport spokesman said there were no disruptions reported to Thursday's flight schedules.</p> <p>Israel says its main gateway is protected against Hamas's inaccurate rockets, many of which have been shot down by the Iron Dome missile interceptor.</p> <p>Hamas has said it will keep up its fight against Israel until the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted. Both countries view Hamas as a security threat and are reluctant to make sweeping concessions without Hamas downing its arms.</p> <p>The Egyptian-led peace talks had looked to be making some progress towards a relaxation of the blockade, but Israel wanted guarantees no weapons would enter the territory.</p> <p>Israel says it has killed hundreds of frontline Gaza militants in its campaign. The commanders targeted on Thursday were the most senior Hamas men killed since November 2012, when the assassination of military chief Ahmed al-Jaabari triggered an eight-day cross-border war.</p> <p>According to Shin Bet, Abu Shammala and al-Attar, were among those who planned and led the 2006 capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held in Gaza for five years until his release in return for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.</p> <p>(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Luke Baker)</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:45:14 +0000 Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell, Thomson Reuters 6237348 at Kremlin to Russians: No food? No problem <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Officials in Moscow are trying hard to reassure their compatriots that life will go on after many Western food imports have been banned. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, <a href="">Russia</a> — From fielding complaints online to harvesting wild reindeer, Russian officials are still trying to find ways to reassure consumers here that the Kremlin’s recent embargo on a wide array of Western food won’t hurt.</p> <p>President Vladimir Putin’s decree earlier this month banning agricultural, meat and dairy products for one year from countries that sanctioned Russia over its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine prompted at least some Russians to worry about price hikes, food deficits and an impending sense of international isolation.</p> <p>But the resounding message from on high has rung loud and clear: It’ll be okay.</p> <p>Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was among those who have moved to repeatedly assuage potential fears, claiming the ban won’t infringe on the domestic food market or hurt average consumers.</p> <p>“I would like to reiterate that, naturally, Russia had to take these reciprocal measures,” he said at a meeting with his deputies on Monday, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported.</p> <p>“I hope they will not last long.”</p> <p>Other top officials and public leaders have fallen in line. Anatoly Chubais, a onetime leading liberal reformer and now head of the state-owned nanotechnology company Rusnano, boasted on Tuesday he could “very well survive on buckwheat porridge,” the RBK Daily newspaper reported.</p> <p>Such sentiments have been accompanied by various efforts aimed at minimizing the negative impact of the embargo, which many observers paint as a heavy-handed retaliatory gesture that further isolates Russia from the global community.</p> <p>Officials in Russia’s far eastern Chukotka region said they would breed local reindeer to replace that region's usual imports of American meat, according to The Moscow Times.</p> <p>Medvedev on Wednesday also signed a decree that excludes from the banned items list salmon and trout hatchlings, as well as sweet corn and peas for planting, a move observers said is aimed at reducing pressure on local farmers. The measure also excludes lactose-free dairy products and a number of supplements.</p> <p>Officials in the world's fifth-largest recipient of agricultural imports have also taken measures to dampen potential discontent with the ban. The Federal Antimonopoly Service has even launched an internet hotline through which consumers can file complaints over what they believe might be unjustified price hikes.</p> <p>Those measures apparently couldn’t come soon enough.</p> <p>Officials in various Russian cities have already reported rising food costs, from 6 percent for processed meat in Moscow to a whopping 60 percent increase for chicken on the far eastern Sakhalin Island, the Kommersant daily newspaper reported.</p> <p>Critics at home and abroad have railed against the Kremlin’s knee-jerk response to sweeping Western sanctions, which have targeted Russian banks as well as the country’s defense and energy industries.</p> <p>Reactions on social networks — the virtual meeting place for much of Russia’s liberal intelligentsia — have so far been colored mostly with dark humor. One popular joke that’s made rounds online holds that “Russia imposed sanctions on itself.”</p> <p>But many others have argued the move is part of a broader trend of elite manipulation that harks back to the moral decay of the Soviet Union.</p> <p>“In strict hierarchical fashion, Communist Party bosses, celebrated actors, prominent artists, engineers and scientists would get their food in special distribution centers,” Maxim Trudolyubov, a liberal Russian newspaper editor, wrote in a New York Times op-ed last weekend.</p> <p>“Top officials lived in palazzos while the rank and file had to wait for years to get access to cramped spaces in prefabricated apartment blocs.”</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>Still, there are also plenty of signs the Kremlin embargo will indeed hit its intended target, at least in part.</p> <p><a href="">Dutch</a> officials said Tuesday that their country stands to lose an estimated $400 million in agricultural exports compared to last year, Reuters reported.</p> <p>Other <a href="">European</a> farmers and businesses, some of which also send a fair chunk of their produce to Russia, fear the negative effects of oversupply on their domestic markets. The European Union has announced it would spend more than $160 million to help them weather the apparently crippling ban.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Russian officials appear at least outwardly calm about the future prospects for their country's own food market, even trumpeting the ban as a way to stimulate domestic food production.</p> <p>Alexei Nemeryuk, head of the Department of Trade and Services for the city of Moscow, says food prices in the capital will probably continue to rise through the end of the year.</p> <p>But he dismissed suggestions that ordinary Russians will suffer from a deficit of food on the domestic market, claiming that “more than 100 companies in <a href="">Latin America</a> are prepared to supply us with meat and fish,” local news agencies reported him as saying.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Britain searching for Foley killer</a></strong></p> <p>Other officials have appealed to Russians’ most cherished culinary traditions in a bid to soothe potential concerns.</p> <p>Ilya Shestakov, head of the Federal Fishery Agency, said herring and red caviar — longtime favorites for feasts and other special occasions — would not disappear from the table during New Year's, the most popular holiday in Russia.</p> <p>“Of course, the assortment on store shelves will change a bit, but there’s no need to be afraid,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “On the contrary, it should be welcomed.”</p> Russian food ban Want to Know Global Economy Russia Thu, 21 Aug 2014 05:01:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6236624 at Clashes between Ukrainian forces and separatists kill 43 civilians <!--paging_filter--><p>Fierce fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels left dozens of civilians dead on Wednesday as Ukrainian troops pushed on with a bloody offensive to break the insurgency in the east of the country.</p> <p>Deadly battles to crush the ailing rebellion appeared to intensify ahead of a fresh round of diplomatic haggling that will see the presidents of <a href="">Russia</a> and Ukraine sit down next week for their first meeting in months.</p> <p>Clashes near Donetsk, one of the two separatist-held areas in eastern Ukraine, have killed 43 civilians since Tuesday, regional authorities said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Ukraine cobbles together an army as fears of a Russian invasion grow</a></strong></p> <p>In the city of Makiyivka, adjoining the main rebel bastion Donetsk, residents were woken up by shelling in the early hours of Wednesday.</p> <p>"What bastards," said local 81-year-old Maria Semyonovna, who said she was planning to go out in the morning but was stopped by sounds of explosions.</p> <p>"We are at home here and they are bombing us," she told AFP. "When is it going to stop? Where can one go?"</p> <p>The clashes also killed nine servicemen overnight, said security spokesman Andriy Lysenko.</p> <p>The renewed offensive comes as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gears up for talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin next week over how to end the conflict, which has killed about 2,200 people over the past four months.</p> <p>Poroshenko this week said the army was regrouping to continue its push on the separatist hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk and to fragment the rebel-held territory to stop the flow of weapons from Russia.</p> <p>"Both (Kyiv and Moscow) are trying to improve their starting positions," said political analyst Oleksiy Golubutskyi. "If Ukraine manages to gain control over Lugansk or even Donetsk before these talks, then the issue of demilitarizing them disappears."</p> <p><strong>'Russian' convoy</strong></p> <p>Ukraine's National Guard said it had wrested back control over on the town of Ilovaysk, a key railway hub some 30 miles east of Donetsk.</p> <p>In besieged Donetsk, authorities said water supplies had been restored after fighting cut power to a filtering station over the weekend.</p> <p>Kyiv claims Moscow is ratcheting up arms flows to help the separatists as Ukrainian forces have pushed deeper into dwindling rebel territory.</p> <p>Western powers also fear Putin could be preparing to send in the 20,000 troops NATO says he has massed on the border as a last role of the dice.</p> <p>A Ukrainian military spokesman could not confirm claims from a commander in the field Tuesday that a massive convoy of Russian armor entered the second-largest insurgent city of Lugansk.</p> <p>Ukrainian forces have said they have pushed deep into Lugansk over the past few days in what could be a major breakthrough if confirmed.</p> <p>The head of Kyiv's military operations around the city told local television that tanks, Grad rocket launchers, artillery and armoured vehicles were seen entering the city after crossing over from Russia.</p> <p>"It had about 1,200 people, wearing Russian uniforms," commander Igor Voronchenko told channel.</p> <p>Security officials in Kyiv, however, said they had no information about the convoy in Lugansk, a city where residents have endured over two weeks without water and food and authorities have warned of possible infectuous epidemics.</p> <p>Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko at the weekend boasted his troops had received 1,200 fighters trained in Russia along with heavy equipment, but Moscow has flatly denied it has sent any support across the frontier.</p> <p><strong>Aid still stuck</strong></p> <p>The West has accused Moscow of helping out the rebels and NATO leadership on Monday said Russia was "resorting to a hybrid war," which included "secret commandos and smuggled missiles."</p> <p>Nearly 300 Russian lorries with humanitarian aid have remained parked up for almost a week not far from the border with Ukraine's war-torn Lugansk region as haggling continues over letting them cross.</p> <p>Kyiv fears that the convoy may be attacked on rebel territory and further destabilize the situation giving Moscow a pretext for invasion.</p> <p>The Russian foreign ministry said Wednesday that Moscow agreed with the Red Cross that the sides were ready for the convoy to "begin movement" and that a group of Red Cross officials had already departed "to move along its supposed route."</p> <p>A Red Cross representative at the border crossing Galina Balzamova however told AFP that she has "no information on the advance team going to Ukraine."</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:52:43 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6236687 at Foley execution boosts European support for intervention in Iraq <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A video of the American journalist’s beheading by Islamist militants appears to be having the opposite of its intended effect. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, Germany &mdash; European leaders reacted to the execution of an American journalist with shock and horror Wednesday.</p> <p>A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel <a href="">said</a> she was &ldquo;horrified&rdquo; by the video depicting James Foley&#39;s beheading by members of the militant group Islamic State, or IS, released on YouTube on Tuesday.</p> <p>Foley was freelancing for GlobalPost and other outlets in Syria when he disappeared nearly two years ago.</p> <p>The German government extended its &ldquo;deepest sympathies&rdquo; to the Foley family, spokesman Steffen Seibert said Wednesday.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a barbaric act that plays on fear,&rdquo; spokesman for the French government Stephane Le Foll <a href="">told</a> reporters.</p> <p>Far from intimidating European leaders, however, Foley&#39;s beheading appears to be galvanizing support for military intervention in Iraq, with France, Germany and Italy deepening their commitment to supporting Kurdish rebels fighting IS.</p> <p>&quot;I think we are in the most serious international situation since 2001. ... I will therefore propose an initiative on security in Iraq and the fight against Islamic State, from September,&quot; French President Francois Hollande <a href="">told</a> Le Monde.</p> <p>German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier <a href="">said</a> Germany can now &ldquo;imagine providing further equipment, including weapons&rdquo; to Kurdish forces &mdash; doubling down on a commitment to provide non-lethal military supplies that was already seen as a departure from Germany&#39;s usual reluctance to engage in foreign conflicts.</p> <p>A similar commitment came from Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who made a one-day visit to Iraq on Wednesday.</p> <p>&quot;Europe must be in places like Iraq where democracy is endangered,&quot; he said in Baghdad.</p> <p>Italy is prepared to provide light arms and ammunition for self-defense, as well as logistical support for weapons supplies, Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said.</p> <p>However, Germany&rsquo;s reaction is perhaps the most significant.</p> <p>Although Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen have been <a href="">pushing</a> for greater involvement in the fight against IS for the past week, a recent poll conducted by the Forsa Institute before Foley&#39;s execution suggested that only one in three Germans favored weapons deliveries.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">Britain searching for Foley killer</a></strong></p> <p>Judging from the emotions expressed by ordinary Germans and in the German media, however, that could be set to change.</p> <p>&ldquo;At the moment Germans see ISIS as a barbaric, terroristic warrior tribe, in a way, shedding blood everywhere,&rdquo; said Alexander Buehler, a German reporter who has covered the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria. He was referring to IS by one of its previous names.</p> <p>In an uncharacteristic editorial for the German press, the deputy editor of Die Welt <a href=" ">called</a> Foley&#39;s execution &ldquo;a declaration of war on Western civilization,&rdquo; and called not only for Germany to aid in the fight against IS but also for the institution of sanctions against countries that allegedly provide them with financial support, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.</p> james foley Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:24:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6236584 at Britain searching for Foley killer <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Identifying the American journalist’s executioner will be difficult, but even the tiniest clues may prove helpful. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Corinne Purtill </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON, <a href="">UK</a> — Who is the man standing next to James Foley in the video that shows the final moments of his life?</p> <p>UK security and intelligence agencies have been working feverishly to unravel that question since video emerged of a masked man with a distinctly British accent beheading the 40-year-old American journalist. He was freelancing in <a href="">Syria</a> for GlobalPost and other publications when he disappeared nearly two years ago.</p> <p>“We're very concerned by the apparent fact that the murderer in question is British and we are urgently investigating,” Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC.</p> <p>“Agencies on both sides of the Atlantic are first of all looking to authenticate the video to make sure that it is genuine — and sadly it appears to be — and then to see if we can identify the individual in question."</p> <p>National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden <a href="">announced</a> on Wednesday morning that intelligence officials had "reached the judgment that this video is authentic."</p> <p>In remarks delivered shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday, <a href="" target="_blank">President Barack Obama said</a> the "entire world is appalled by the beheading of journalist James Foley" and said the <a href="">United States</a> will do whatever is needed to pursue "justice."</p> <p>Linguistic experts have tied the accent of the man who appeared to have killed Foley to London or southern England. However, experts say he may have picked it up from an English teacher or international school and not necessarily be British born or bred.</p> <p>Nevertheless, British foreign fighters in Syria supporting the Islamic State, or IS, the group that executed Foley, were eager to claim him as their own.</p> <p>“Beheaded by a British brother! What an honour!” wrote a foreign fighter from Manchester who tweets under the handle Qaqa Biritani. “What a beautiful message to America!”</p> <p>An estimated 400 Britons have traveled to Syria to take part in the conflict there. While authorities may learn more about the group or circumstances behind Foley’s death, identifying the masked man who appeared next to him will be a difficult task, experts say.</p> <p>Although the video has probably been scrubbed of much of the geotagging and metadata that could help investigators, even the smallest clues can prove vital in investigations such as these.</p> <p>US intelligence officials identified Khalid Sheikh Muhammed as the killer of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl partly because of a distinctive Y-shaped vein on his right hand visible in the video of Pearl’s decapitation.</p> <p>The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London has done extensive work analyzing the videos, social media posts and other internet droppings of foreign fighters in Syria.</p> <p>Almost always, there are tiny clues that investigators can seize upon to tease out an identity — eye color, a codename, a few careless tweets.</p> <p>“In this video there’s none of that,” said Joseph Carter, a research fellow at the ICSR.</p> <p>Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his holiday on the English coast on Wednesday to return to Westminster for emergency meetings on the IS threat.</p> <p>Police counterterrorism investigators are working on the case now, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.</p> <p>Police are also looking for people sharing the video or images from it online. Simply viewing or possessing extremist propaganda is a criminal offense under British law.</p> <p>The video of Foley’s death appeared carefully calibrated to send a specific message to the US, terror experts said.</p> <p>“In the video, they don’t claim that he’s a spy, they don’t claim he fought against Islam, they just say: we are sending a message to you,” Carter said. “It’s a very symbolic act, which is what terrorism is really about.”</p> <p>The apparent killer’s British accent is no accident. It’s a political jab at the West that the Islamic State is recruiting its own, said Raffaello Pantucci, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.</p> <p>And the choice to film the beheading on a sweeping desert landscape sends a definitive signal to its intended US audience in the wake of their involvement in <a href="">Iraq</a> — that this land belongs to us, says Patrick Skinner, a former CIA officer who is director of special projects at the Soufan Group, a consulting firm in New York.</p> <p>“That was the first thing I noticed: Wow, they are doing this in the daytime, in the open. They are not afraid,” he said.</p> <p>It’s impossible to know how many of Foley’s 635 days in captivity were spent in IS’ control, Skinner added.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Foley beheading video followed prior threat</a></strong></p> <p>Militants have been trading, purchasing and abducting Western hostages from other groups. Some hostages, particularly Europeans, are held for ransom. Others, like Foley, are kidnapped for their strategic or symbolic value.</p> <p>In the end, Foley had the terrible luck to be an American in IS hands just at a moment when the group wanted to send a message to the US.</p> <p>“This was not about revenue,” Skinner says. “They needed this statement more than they needed any amount of money. It’s tragic, but there is nothing that could have saved him.” </p> james foley Need to Know Conflict Zones United Kingdom Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:59:00 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6236551 at Aid airlift to northern Iraq has started, UN says <!--paging_filter--><p>A humanitarian airlift to northern <a href="">Iraq</a> began on Wednesday, kicking off a 10-day operation to provide tents and other aid to half a million displaced people who are struggling for survival, the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR said.</p> <p>A cargo plane from <a href="">Jordan</a> touched down in Arbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, carrying 100 tonnes of emergency supplies including plastic sheeting for shelter, kitchen sets and jerry cans, the agency said in a statement.</p> <p>Three more flights are planned in coming days and aid is also on its way by road and sea, with 175 trucks scheduled to arrive via <a href="">Turkey</a>, Jordan and <a href="">Iran</a>, it said. Some 2,410 tonnes of supplies are to be delivered between now and the start of September.</p> <p>"This is a massive logistics operation ... to help the hundreds of thousands of desperate people who have fled suddenly with nothing but their lives and are now struggling to survive in harsh conditions," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.</p> <p>Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since the militant Islamic State group swept through much of the north and west of Iraq in June, threatening to break up the country.</p> <p>Iraq's escalating crisis means that the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq is now hosting more than 600,000 internally displaced civilians, including more than 200,000 people who fled the Sinjar area since early August, the UNHCR said. Many are living in unfinished buildings, parks or by the roadside.</p> <p>In all, an estimated 1.2 million people have been uprooted in Iraq so far this year, including half a million in the western Anbar region, it said.</p> <p>(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Gareth Jones) </p> Need to Know Iraq Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:34:56 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6236461 at Gaza war rages on, Hamas says Israel tried to kill its military chief <!--paging_filter--><p>An Israeli air strike in Gaza killed the wife and infant son of Hamas's military leader, Mohammed Deif, the group said, calling it an attempt to assassinate him after a ceasefire collapsed.</p> <p>Palestinians launched more than 100 rockets, mainly at southern Israel, with some intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the military said. No casualties were reported on the Israeli side.</p> <p><a href="">Egypt</a>, which has been trying to broker a long-term ceasefire in indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks, said it would continue contacts with both sides, whose delegates left Cairo after hostilities resumed on Tuesday.</p> <p>But there appeared to be no end in sight to violence that shattered a 10-day period of calm, the longest break from fighting since Israel launched its Gaza offensive on July 8 with the declared aim of ending rocket fire into its territory.</p> <p>Israeli aircraft have carried out 80 strikes in the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, "targeting terror sites," the military said.</p> <p>Hamas and medical officials said 19 people died in the latest Israeli raids, including Deif's wife and seven-month-old son. Deif is widely believed to be masterminding the Islamist group's military campaign from underground bunkers.</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:64.478114% 0 0 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="383" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=VtfbK875Oo28EGTNKO7pk1CAAJ0k4QGy-PjXCTwj3_4=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;"> </p> <div style="padding:0;margin:0 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#453844484</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <p>A Hamas official said Deif had not used the targeted house, where the bodies of three members of the family that lived there were also pulled out of the rubble.</p> <p>Accusing Israel of opening a "gateway to hell," Hamas fired rockets at <a href="">Tel Aviv</a> and Jerusalem late on Tuesday, demonstrating the Islamist movement could still reach Israel's heartland despite heavy Israeli bombardments in the five-week-old conflict.</p> <p>There was no official confirmation from Israel that it had tried to kill Deif, who has been targeted in air strikes at least four times since the mid-1990s. Israel holds him responsible for the deaths of dozens of its citizens in suicide bombings.</p> <p>"I am convinced that if there was intelligence that Mohammed Deif was not inside the home, then we would not have bombed it," Yaakov Perry, Israel's science minister and former security chief, told Army Radio.</p> <p>Israeli police minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, due to convene later on Wednesday, told reporters: "We will continue to hit the heads of Hamas."</p> <p>Five children were killed in separate air strikes, according to Gaza health officials, and the Israeli military said it targeted two gunmen in northern Gaza.</p> <p>The Palestinian Health Ministry says 2,036 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza. Israel says it has killed hundreds of Palestinian militants in fighting that the United Nations says has displaced about 425,000 people.</p> <p>Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have also been killed in the most deadly and destructive war Hamas and Israel have fought since Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, before Hamas seized the territory in 2007.</p> <p><strong>Talks end</strong></p> <p>Accusing Hamas of breaking the truce with rocket fire eight hours before it was to have expired, Israel recalled its negotiators from truce talks in Cairo on Tuesday, leaving the fate of the Egyptian-brokered efforts hanging in the balance.</p> <p>Palestinian negotiators walked out of the talks later, blaming Israel for their failure. "Israel thwarted the contacts that could have brought peace," chief Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said.</p> <p>Rejecting the charge, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Gaza rocket fire "made continuation of talks impossible".</p> <p>"The Cairo process was built on a total and complete cessation of all hostilities and so when rockets were fired from Gaza, not only was it a clear violation of the ceasefire but it also destroyed the premise upon which the talks were based," Regev told Reuters.</p> <p>Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party took part in the Cairo talks, was due to meet the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha on Wednesday, diplomatic sources said.</p> <p>Israel instructed its civilians to open bomb shelters as far as 80 km (50 miles) from Gaza, or beyond the Tel Aviv area, and the military called up 2,000 reservists.</p> <div> <p>United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the breach of the ceasefire, saying in a statement he was "gravely disappointed by the return to hostilities" and urging the sides not to allow matters to escalate.</p> <p>Egyptian mediators have been struggling to end the Gaza conflict and seal a deal that would open the way for reconstruction aid to flow into the territory of 1.8 million people, where thousands of homes have been destroyed.</p> <p>The Palestinians want Egypt and Israel to lift their blockades of the economically crippled Gaza Strip that predated the Israeli offensive.</p> <p>Israel, like Egypt, views Hamas as a security threat and wants guarantees that any removal of border restrictions will not result in militant groups obtaining weapons.</p> <p>A senior Palestinian official in Gaza said sticking points to an agreement have been Hamas's demands to build a seaport and an airport, which Israel wants to discuss only at a later stage.</p> <p>Israel has called for the disarming of militant groups in the enclave. Hamas has said that laying down its weapons is not an option, saying it will pursue its armed struggle until Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands ends.</p> <p>Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1967. The Palestinians want Gaza and the West Bank for an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Maggie Fick and Stephen Kalin in Cairo; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Heavens)</p> </div> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:33:00 +0000 Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell, Thomson Reuters 6236359 at How China’s spin doctors botched the Yunnan quake response <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It turns out eating muddy noodles isn’t very macho — or smart. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Robert Foyle Hunwick </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BEIJING &mdash; What do a 23-year-old socialite and a bowl of muddy noodles have to do with China&rsquo;s worst natural disaster this year?</p> <p>Nothing, usually. Even so, the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that shook the remote southern Yunnan town of Ludian (population: 429,000) on Aug. 4, killing 615 and injuring 3,143, inadvertently exposed fault lines beneath the official narrative of national tragedy.</p> <p>The narrative starts back in 2011 when a tin-eared drama student, calling herself &quot;Guo Meimei&quot; &mdash; translation: &quot;Guo Pretty Pretty&quot; &mdash; was propelled to web infamy by flaunting her posh lifestyle on Weibo, China&rsquo;s version of Twitter.</p> <p>But profile pictures of Guo, draped next to a Maserati, boasting the title &ldquo;General Commercial Manager&rdquo; of a Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) affiliate, lit a fire that has never ceased to smolder.</p> <p>Unlike in other countries, China&rsquo;s Red Cross exists under the aegis of its central government, rather than the International Red Cross. The young woman&rsquo;s error of judgment thus metastasized into a national outcry over distribution of public funds.</p> <p>In truth, no link was ever proved between RCSC and Guo, though that hardly mattered: The socialite remained a cancer on the country&rsquo;s largest charity. In 2012, the RCSC saw donations drop to 10 percent of levels in 2008, when the 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Ya&rsquo;an city, Sichuan, had stirred global sympathy.</p> <p>It was among these charitable doldrums on Aug. 4, when the 6.5 hit the mountainous area south of Sichuan, that emergency services were mobilized to the breaking story &mdash; along with the Communist Party&rsquo;s image crafters.</p> <p>Official mouthpieces such as China Central Television, Xinhua and People&rsquo;s Daily dropped coordinated footage, commentary, verse and scripture about Guo Meimei, in either a bungling attempt to absolve the Red Cross for emergency donations or simply a case of terrible timing.</p> <p>The law&rsquo;s capricious gaze had swiveled at an unusually stately gait &mdash; it took three years, in Guo&rsquo;s case. <a href="">Arrested amid mild fanfare</a> in July for gambling, citizens learned that the inexplicably wealthy Guo, now a familiar sight in furs who&rsquo;d somehow survived the RCSC disaster and <a href="">even prospered</a>, was now in prison orange and <a href="">confessing</a> to a growing litany of transgression: from gambling on World Cup games and online poker to fabricating gossip and accepting ludicrous sums for sex (&ldquo;never less than 100,000 yuan ($17,400)&rdquo;).</p> <p>On air, and prior to any criminal trial, Guo also admitted having &ldquo;seriously destroyed the reputation of the RCSC.&rdquo; That might be routine work for a National Enquirer or Daily Mail columnist, but in China it&rsquo;s illegal. That day&rsquo;s late-night CCTV newscast dedicated nearly 20 minutes to the tale, after giving Ludian its due 10-minute lead.&nbsp;</p> <p>The <a href="">details were </a>unbeatable; the timing unconscionable.</p> <p>The onslaught, coordinated by three major state outlets to deliver 144-character-sized revelations over several hours, appeared to have been so meticulously planned that stopping it would seem to demand a presidential order. In the end, it took a <a href="">propagandist one</a>.</p> <p>Some were <a href="">swift to acknowledge</a> what transpired as a rare goof in the PR machine at a time of national tragedy. The majority seemed either non-swayed or merely dismayed: &ldquo;No matter what the Red Cross says, I will never donate money to them,&rdquo; one Weibo commentator said. &nbsp;</p> <p>Yet the apathy may have bled into a blunder involving a far more sensitive organization: the People&rsquo;s Liberation Army (PLA).</p> <p>Catastrophic damage to lives and livelihoods can be irreparable after a quake. Traditionally in natural crises, the PLA has swung into action, as rescuer, unifier and public relations ambassador.</p> <p>The mobilization in Yunnan this month evoked their hardscrabble response.</p> <p>With roads and routes devastated by the quake, the closest troops responded almost immediately, converging on the scene by foot. Many infantry units marched for 22 hours straight. No one asked why an earthquake-prone mountainous region like Yunnan wasn&rsquo;t battle-ready for helicopter search and rescue teams, food drops, airlifts and evacuations.</p> <p>&ldquo;Chinese media don&#39;t care so much about the victims,&rdquo; says Zhao Chu, an independent Shanghai-based military commentator. &ldquo;They pay a lot of attention to setting up promotable propaganda images. &hellip; Except they screwed it up this time.&rdquo;</p> <p>Acts of civic commemoration would be marginalized, even quashed. Organizers of one candlelit vigil, planned for Ludian&rsquo;s central Bayi Square four days after the tragedy, were ordered to disperse or risk arrest. &ldquo;The pressure on security maintenance is high,&rdquo; one official was overheard explaining, according to a Jiangxi TV station. The country was in the midst of a &ldquo;sensitive period.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="">Official photos</a> told a tale that could have been lifted from the fictional diaries of mythical recruit Lei Feng: Wholesome troops, hungry from the long march to the crisis zone, gratefully chowed instant noodles cooked in muddy local water &mdash; &ldquo;since fresh water was rationed only to the injured.&rdquo;</p> <p>Displays of brick-bashing machismo have, <a href="">until recently</a>, been a staple of PLA showmanship. But it turns out that contemporary Chinese don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s particularly smart for their soldiers to eat mud.</p> <p>China National Radio (CNR) and Global Times (GT) faced a barrage: Why did the country&rsquo;s soldiers not have the necessary filtration equipment or provisions? What were their health risks? Where was the vast military budget being spent?</p> <p>Sensing blood, the tabloid GT disavowed the report in a fresh article affecting outrage at the &ldquo;harming of soldiers&#39; spirits.&rdquo; &ldquo;They&rsquo;ll always try to use water that is clean,&rdquo; the paper quoted an unnamed army officer as saying.</p> <p>For its part, CNR&rsquo;s footage showed <a href="">its own reporters</a> had supped from the muddy meal. &ldquo;It becomes a game for the government: either choose to admit it&rsquo;s a fake story, or allow the public to dig deeper,&rdquo; Zhao said.</p> <p>Senior GT online editor Hao Junshi chose the former, apologizing on Weibo, albeit explaining that <em>both</em> stories were, in fact, partly fictional. The soldiers had eschewed their own fresh, filtered supply of water in order to show solidarity with quake victims, or so <a href="">Hao suggested</a>.</p> <p>In times of crisis, the truth can end up like that water story: never simple, and rarely pure.</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets China Wed, 20 Aug 2014 04:51:35 +0000 Robert Foyle Hunwick 6232830 at Statement by the family of James Foley on his reported killing <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 'We have never been prouder of our son and brother Jim.' </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lizzy Tomei </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p style="">BOSTON, Mass. — The family of journalist James Foley, whom the <a href="" target="_blank">Islamic State claimed on Tuesday to have executed</a>, released a statement on Tuesday evening about his apparent death.</p> <p style="">The family said they wanted to send a message to the thousands of people around the world who have reached out to them in sympathy and support since video purporting to show Jim's execution surfaced on social media.</p> <p style="">"We have never been prouder of our son and brother Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in <a href="">Iraq</a>, <a href="">Syria</a> or anywhere in the world," the family wrote.</p> <p style="">"We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim."</p> <p style="">The Foley family has not received confirmation of Jim's death from the US government, and acknowledged that there is still a small chance the video of his apparent killing will prove to have been fake.</p> Need to Know Syria War Wed, 20 Aug 2014 02:58:00 +0000 Lizzy Tomei 6235875 at Foley beheading video followed prior threat <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The American intelligence community says the video is authentic. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lizzy Tomei </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em><span class="message_content">This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.</span></em></p> <p>BOSTON, Mass. &mdash; The extremist Islamic State claims to have executed journalist James Foley, who has been missing since November 2012 when he was kidnapped while reporting in Syria.</p> <p>Video of Foley depicting his beheading was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday afternoon and later removed. The FBI on Wednesday morning told the Foley family they believed the video was authentic, but were&nbsp;continuing a longer process of official authentication.</p> <p>Shortly thereafter,&nbsp;National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden <a href="">announced</a> that&nbsp;&ldquo;the US Intelligence Community&quot; had &quot;reached the judgment that this video is authentic.&quot;</p> <p>In remarks delivered shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday, <a href="" target="_blank">President Barack Obama said</a> the world is &quot;appalled by the beheading of journalist James Foley&quot; and said the United States will do whatever is needed to pursue &quot;justice.&quot;</p> <p>The video appeared following a threat made last week, GlobalPost CEO Phil Balboni <a href="" target="_blank">told NBC</a> on Wednesday.</p> <p>The video asserts that the killing of Foley is in retaliation for recent airstrikes by the United States against IS militants in northern Iraq. In it, Foley, kneeling next to an apparent IS militant, makes comments against the US for its actions. The militant also shows on camera journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, who went missing in Syria a year ago, and issues a direct challenge to President Obama that Sotloff&#39;s fate will depend on the president&#39;s &quot;next move.&quot;</p> <p>As of 7 a.m. local time on Wednesday, Foley&#39;s family in New Hampshire had no confirmation from the US government of Jim&#39;s death. Late on Tuesday evening the family acknowledged there was a small chance the video may still prove to be fake, but nonetheless released the following statement:</p> <p>&quot;We have never been prouder of our son and brother Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.</p> <p> &quot;We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.&quot;</p> <p>Earlier Tuesday, Philip Balboni, GlobalPost CEO and co-founder, made the following statement: &quot;On behalf of John and Diane Foley, and also GlobalPost, we deeply appreciate all of the messages of sympathy and support that have poured in since the news of Jim&rsquo;s possible execution first broke. We have been informed that the FBI is in the process of evaluating the video posted by the Islamic State to determine if it is authentic. ... We ask for your prayers for Jim and his family.&quot;</p> <p>In the video purporting to show Foley&#39;s beheading, the militant next to him speaks with a British accent. The press office for UK Prime Minister David Cameron issued the following statement early Wednesday: &quot;If true, the brutal murder of James Foley is shocking and depraved. The Prime Minister is returning to Downing Street this morning. He will meet with the Foreign Secretary and senior officials from the Home Office, Foreign Office and the agencies to discuss the situation in Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) terrorists.&quot;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Britain is searching for Foley killer</a></strong></p> <p>GlobalPost, for whom Foley had reported in Syria, mounted an extensive international investigation from November 2012 to determine who kidnapped Foley and where he was being held. Significant research was undertaken throughout the Middle East, including along the Syria-Turkish border, in Lebanon, in Jordan and in other locations.</p> <p>&ldquo;Although GlobalPost&rsquo;s investigation at one point led us to believe that James was being held by the Syrian government, we later were given strong reason to believe he was being held by Islamic militants in Syria,&quot; Balboni said. &quot;We withheld this information at the request of the family and on the advice of authorities cooperating in the effort to protect Jim. GlobalPost, working with a private security company, has amassed an enormous amount of information that has not been made public.&rdquo;</p> <p>Foley was on a freelance assignment for GlobalPost when he was abducted in northern Syria on Nov. 22, 2012. He was on his way to the Turkish border when he was stopped by a group of armed men. Foley reported for GlobalPost from <a href="" target="_blank">Libya</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Afghanistan</a> before traveling to <a href="" target="_blank">Syria</a> in the early days of the now long-running civil war that has taken the lives of more than 170,000.</p> <p>Foley&rsquo;s <a href="" target="_blank">last article</a> for GlobalPost detailed the growing frustration with the war among civilians in Aleppo.</p> <p>The fact of Foley&rsquo;s kidnapping was revealed publicly for the first time by his parents, John and Diane Foley of Rochester, New Hampshire, on Jan. 1, 2012, two months after his abduction. The only other American whose identity has been publicly revealed is Austin Tice, a freelance reporter for the McClatchy News Service and the Washington Post, who was kidnapped in August 2012.</p> <p>While covering the Libyan civil war in 2011, Foley and two other journalists, American Claire Gillis and Spaniard Manu Brabo, endured a <a href="" target="_blank">44-day captivity</a> in April and May of that year at the hands of then Libyan strongman Col. Muammar Gaddafi. A fourth journalist, South African Anton Hammerl, was killed when the journalists were captured by Gaddafi fighters near Benghazi in eastern Libya. Foley later returned to Libya to cover <a href="" target="_blank">Gaddafi&rsquo;s fall and eventual death</a>. Foley and GlobalPost correspondent Tracey Shelton were at the scene of Gaddafi&rsquo;s capture in October 2011.</p> Need to Know Syria War Tue, 19 Aug 2014 22:17:00 +0000 Lizzy Tomei 6235645 at If you're a chocolate-loving science nerd, Cambridge University wants to hire you <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Best. Job. Ever. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Good news for science nerds and chocolate lovers: the University of Cambridge in Britain wants to hire a doctoral student to study the science of chocolate, according to a new&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">job posting.</a></p> <p>Yes, you read that correctly.&nbsp;One of the most highly-esteemed universities in the UK wants to PAY someone to spend three and a half years studying one of the most delicious substances on the planet.</p> <p>This is the life recipe you&#39;ve been dreaming of and it&#39;s got four ingredients. Chocolate. Science. Money. Cambridge.</p> <p>The purpose of the project is to find a way to keep chocolate from melting by studying the &ldquo;fundamentals of heat-stable chocolate.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;The project will investigate the factors which allow chocolate, which has a melting point close to that of the human body, to remain solid and retain qualities sought by consumers when it is stored and sold in warm climates,&rdquo; the advertisement said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Wait, nobody&#39;s figured this out yet?</p> <p>Right? It does seem kind of nuts that 167 years after British company&nbsp;<a href="">Fry&rsquo;s</a>&nbsp;produced the first chocolate bar, scientists still haven&rsquo;t figured out a good way to stop chocolate from melting, except by keeping it in the fridge.&nbsp;Japanese designer&nbsp;<a href="">Akihiro Mizuuchi</a>&nbsp;can turn it into LEGO blocks and Hershey&rsquo;s is working on a&nbsp;<a href="">3D chocolate printer,</a>&nbsp;but we can&rsquo;t stop a slab of Cadbury Dairy Milk from turning soft and gooey on a supermarket shelf in Thailand.</p> <p>Well, scientists are finally on it. Finally.</p> <p>Chocohalics are probably already submitting their applications and picturing a work space that looks something like this.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Look out, chocolate lovers! Prices are going upppp... <a href=""></a> via <a href="">@washingtonpost</a></p> <p> &mdash; Morgan Oliveira (@morganoliveira1) <a href="">July 20, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <p>But given that the position will be based in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, and the applicant is expected to have experience in &ldquo;experimental investigations&rdquo; and a degree in &quot;physics, chemistry, materials science or engineering,&rdquo; your work space is going to look more like this.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Nyssa working in a laboratory on the <a href="">#TARDIS</a>. <a href="">#Terminus</a> <a href="">#DoctorWho</a> <a href="">#science</a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Verity (@HeartofTARDIS) <a href="">July 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And while the ad doesn&#39;t say that eating vast amounts of chocolate is part of the job &mdash; it doesn&#39;t say that it&#39;s NOT part of the job, either.&nbsp;</p> Strange But True United Kingdom Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:36:45 +0000 Allison Jackson 6235383 at Sri Lanka's president is adamant about barring UN war crimes investigators <!--paging_filter--><p>Sri Lanka will deny visas to United Nations' investigators probing accusations of war crimes as it strengthens a domestic panel looking into allegations related to its 26-year war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Tuesday.</p> <p>Rajapaksa's first direct comments on the topic come a week after UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay said that even though Colombo had refused to cooperate, the UN probe could still go ahead as there was a wealth of information outside the country.</p> <p>"We will not allow them into the country," Rajapaksa told the Foreign Correspondents' Association, adding that any cases of people missing, or allegations of misdeeds, had to be investigated through the local panel.</p> <p>Sri Lankan government forces have been accused of widespread human rights violations in the final stages of the war, which ended in May 2009.</p> <p>He has added two experts, one each from <a href="">India</a> and <a href="">Pakistan</a>, to advise the local panel, besides three international experts appointed last month. He has also extended the commission's term to probe possible war crimes.</p> <p>"This advisory panel is not to replicate an international investigation panel," Rajapaksa said. "We can get the international expertise from these highly reputed people."</p> <p>The local commission had received around 20,000 complaints so far, and was about to begin the "tedious process" of looking into the missing persons on the list, he added.</p> <p>Asked about Pillay's comments, Rajapaksa said, "I don't think anybody will take it (the UN investigation) seriously, other than the people who want it."</p> <p>He said the government was trying to locate the missing, perhaps in other countries, where some Sri Lankans have won refugee status, but many diplomats had refused to reveal any details about these people.</p> <p>About 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final weeks of the war, mostly by the army, the United Nations estimated in a 2011 report. Sri Lanka has rejected the accusation, and said it was conducting its own investigation.</p> <p>But in March, the UN Human Rights Council voted to investigate the deaths of some 100,000 people, saying Rajapaksa had failed to do so properly.</p> <p>Sri Lanka's external affairs minister G.L. Peiris, who was accompanying Rajapaksa, called the UN investigations biased, saying they went against natural justice as the UN had said it would not reveal witnesses' identities.</p> <p>"So how can you ascertain the truth?" he added. "They are judges in their own courts. We don't recognize their jurisdiction and their authority."</p> <p>(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:34:00 +0000 Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal, Thomson Reuters 6235470 at Ukraine says renewed fighting has halted recovery of refugees' bodies <!--paging_filter--><p>Fifteen bodies have been recovered from the site of an artillery strike on a refugee bus convoy in east Ukraine, but further operations have been suspended due to renewed fighting in the area, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Tuesday.</p> <p>The Kyiv military has said pro-Russian separatists attacked the convoy on Monday, killing dozens of people including women and children, but it has yet to provide visual evidence. The separatists denied responsibility, and at least one of their leaders suggested no attack had occurred.</p> <p>Ukrainian forces are tightening their squeeze on the rebels as they try to end a four-month conflict that has killed more than 2,000 people and raised Western fears of Russian military intervention, despite denials from Moscow.</p> <p>Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the 15 bodies had been recovered on Monday night from the charred wreckage of the convoy which included buses and cars, and operations had continued into Tuesday.</p> <p>But he later said that further fighting in the area had brought this to a halt. "Work has now been suspended because military activity has begun again in the area," Lysenko told a news briefing.</p> <p>Ukraine says the attack occurred near the city of Luhansk, close to the border with <a href="">Russia</a>, in an area where there were intense artillery exchanges between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.</p> <p>The military said on Monday that many of those killed had been burned beyond recognition. Many bodies had been blown apart by the blast.</p> <p>The US State Department condemned the attack but said it could not confirm who was responsible.</p> <p>"We strongly condemn the shelling and rocketing of a convoy that was bearing internally displaced persons in Luhansk ... Sadly, they were trying to get away from the fighting and instead became victims of it," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a news briefing in Washington.</p> <p><strong>Fight for Luhansk</strong></p> <p>Government forces, after faltering in their campaign early on, have been progressively encroaching into rebel-held territory and now say they encircle Donetsk as well as Luhansk, the two main cities controlled by the separatists.</p> <p>With victory potentially within reach, a ceasefire which Russia is pressing for does not seem to be to Kyiv's advantage.</p> <p>Lysenko reported further progress on Tuesday, saying that government forces were now engaged with the rebels in the center of Luhansk. "One district of the town has been liberated. Fighting is going on in the central part of the town," he said.</p> <p>The industrial city has been largely cut off for weeks and is now in its 17th day without water and regular supplies of electricity, hitting mobile and landline phone connections.</p> <p>A statement issued by the press service of the Luhansk municipality painted a picture of misery and fear for inhabitants.</p> <p>"Overnight there was fresh shelling. The center of the town has seriously suffered, particularly near the central market ... As a result of the armed clashes, civilians have been wounded and killed. There is further destruction," it said.</p> <p>Fires had broken out in several places after shelling. Only vital foodstuffs were on sale. "Bread is being sold from vehicles, with big queues forming ... Interrupted supplies of food, medicines and fuel to Luhansk is a particularly acute problem," the statement said.</p> <p>(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:41:58 +0000 Natalia Zinets and Richard Balmforth, Thomson Reuters 6235384 at Hundreds of Taliban fighters battle Afghan forces near Kabul <!--paging_filter--><p>As many as 700 heavily armed Taliban insurgents are battling Afghan security forces in Logar, a key province near the capital Kabul, local officials said on Tuesday, in a test of the Afghan military's strength as foreign forces pull out of the country.</p> <p>Militants have this summer mounted increasingly intensive assaults across several provinces, often involving hundreds of fighters, as the country braces to stand on it own feet militarily for the first time in nearly 13 years.</p> <p>"There are some 700 of them and they are fighting Afghan forces for territorial control and they have also brought with them makeshift mobile (health) clinics," Niaz Mohammad Amiri, the provincial governor of Logar province, told Reuters by telephone.</p> <p>The Taliban have dug-in in Logar, which lies about an hour's drive south of Kabul, and nearby Wardak province to the west, in recent years. They have used the provinces — gateways to the capital — as launchpads for hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings on Kabul.</p> <p>The main roads into the capital are all tightly controlled, but the militants have still been able to breach the checkpoints and staged dozens of attacks, killing scores of civilians and soldiers in the city of about five million this year.</p> <p>Abdul Hakim Esaaqzai, the police chief of Logar province, said the insurgents, armed with heavy machine guns, were fighting Afghan forces from residential areas in Charkh district.</p> <p>"We are being extra careful not to cause any civilian casualties. We have enough forces to deal with it," Esaaqzai said.</p> <p>Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the militants were battling Afghan forces from all sides to overrun the district. "The area is under siege and we have already taken over many security outposts and killed many Afghan forces," he told Reuters by telephone.</p> <p>The fighting in Logar is a grim reminder of the insecurity plaguing <a href="">Afghanistan</a> as the foreign combat troops wind down their military operations ahead a deadline to leave the country by the end of the year.</p> <p>Afghanistan's security arrangements beyond 2014 are unclear, as Kabul and Washington have yet to sign a bilateral security agreement designed to keep a small force of American soldiers in Afghanistan next year and into 2016.</p> <p>Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the agreement, although the two men vying to replace him have vowed to implement it immediately upon taking office. However, four months after going to the polls, a winner in the presidential poll is still not clear.</p> <p><strong>Taliban challenge</strong></p> <p>The International Crisis Group said in a report earlier this year that the number of Islamist insurgent attacks had increased by 15-20 percent in 2013 from a year earlier.</p> <p>The insurgents' success, however, has been limited. They have yet to capture an entire province, and the government says strategic assets remain broadly under its control.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the mounting intensity of the Taliban's assaults poses an increasingly serious challenge to local security forces that have long relied on NATO support from the air.</p> <p>With less and less US air cover, Taliban fighters have changed tactics and now attack Afghan military posts in larger numbers with the aim of taking and holding ground, a shift from the hit-and-run strikes with posses of gunmen, explosives and suicide bombers.</p> <p>"The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have the lead for security of the nation. They are trained, capable, and prepared to face any challenge," said Major Paul Greenberg, a public affairs officer at ISAF Joint Command.</p> <p>"ISAF will continue to back up the ANSF and provide support, to include aviation assets upon request of the ANSF," he added.</p> <p>In this year's summer offensive, the Taliban appears to have mostly focused on gaining ground in strategic parts of the country, like border crossings or highways that facilitate the export of opium, the financial lifeblood of their insurgency.</p> <p>Afghan officials say uncertainty in Kabul over the outcome of this year's presidential election to choose Karzai's successor has added to the vulnerability of the security forces.</p> <p>Two months have passed since the run-off round of the election was held, but a winner has yet to emerge due to accusations of mass fraud and rivals Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have both claimed victory.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Krista Mahr in Kabul; Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:22:55 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6235289 at UN launches 'significant aid push' for half a million people fleeing violence in Iraq <!--paging_filter--><p>The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday it was launching a major aid operation to get supplies to more than half a million people displaced by fighting in northern Iraq.</p> <p>Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since fighters led by the militant Islamic State group swept through much of the north and west of Iraq in June, threatening to break up the country.</p> <p>A four-day airlift of tents and other goods will begin on Wednesday to Erbil, Iraq from Aqaba in Jordan, followed by road convoys from Turkey and Jordan and sea shipments from Dubai via <a href="">Iran</a> over the next 10 days, said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.</p> <p>"This is a very, very significant aid push and certainly one of the largest I can recall in quite a while," he told a news briefing in Geneva.</p> <p>"This is a major humanitarian crisis and disaster."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This man has lost 63 relatives to the Islamic State</a></strong></p> <p>The UNHCR estimates that a total of 1.2 million have fled their homes across Iraq this year.</p> <p>About 200,000 of them have settled in Iraq's Kurdistan region since August when the city of Sinjar and neighbouring areas were seized by Islamic State, according to UNHCR.</p> <p>At least 11,000 people from the Yazidi minority have taken shelter inside Iraq's war-torn neighbor <a href="">Syria</a>, and about 300 more are crossing the Peshkabour border every day, it said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This 84-year-old woman crawled on her knees to safety to escape the Islamic State</a></strong></p> <p>"The fact that you see people fleeing via Syria to safety speaks very much to how desperate the situation is, particularly in Sinjar in the last few days," Edwards said.</p> <p>The initial aid shipments will contain 3,300 tents and 20,000 plastic sheets for shelter, 18,500 kitchen sets and 16,500 jerry cans, he added. They were being supported by <a href="">Saudi Arabia</a>, Britain, the <a href="">United States</a> and other donors.</p> <p>(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)</p> Need to Know Iraq Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:35:04 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6235211 at World Humanitarian Day: Remembering brave people and invisible victims <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> When almost a billion people go to bed hungry every night, being a humanitarian is not a choice, says Unni Krishnan, head of disaster preparedness and response for Plan International. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Unni Krishnan </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>On World Humanitarian Day, I am reminded that close to a <a href="">billion people go to bed hungry every night</a>, making humanitarian work crucial.</p> <p>Consider this – 24 hours from when you are reading this piece, approximately 24,000 more children will have died worldwide from preventable diseases. This is an everyday reality, but these deaths can be stopped with access to clean water, health care, immunisation, safety and education. </p> <p>When I am asked what inspired me to get involved in humanitarian work, I ask myself if there is any choice when faced with this reality. </p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>Our news headlines are currently dominated by humanitarian crises – the Ebola outbreak; the conflict in Iraq; the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel; the lingering war and food crisis in South Sudan that is threatening the lives of over four million people. In such a world, “ordinary” humanitarian workers are putting their lives on the line for the sake of others, refusing to give up, providing a source of everyday inspiration amid the crises. </p> <p><strong>Brave people, selfless volunteers</strong></p> <p>The bravest people in the world are not those who climb Mount Everest, Formula 1 drivers or the armed guards protecting presidential palaces. I believe that the bravest people today are the frontline workers, providing life-saving humanitarian assistance. Take, for instance, the health workers and the undertakers battling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. They know the huge risk of contracting the deadly disease, which kills up to 90 percent of its victims. The current outbreak has claimed 1,145 lives, though reports indicate these numbers could be higher. </p> <p>It’s not just the threat of the highly infectious virus they have to battle. Health workers and undertakers have all come under attack. The fact that dead bodies are a source of infection has put a stop to burials in usual places. More than 160 health workers are reported to have been infected, half of who have died. Yet, there has been an armed attack on the patient unit care in Liberia. The outbreak is taking a heavy toll on the frontline workers – both physically and emotionally.</p> <p><strong>Getting our priorities right</strong></p> <p>In a world characterised by violence and human suffering, humanitarian work can only be built on the strong foundations of humanitarian values and principles. We talk in our reports, proposals and budgets of the millions in need, but these are not just statistics – these are real people like you and I, with names, relations and emotions. It is vital to recognise the rights of the people humanitarian agencies serve, as expressed in the <a href="">Humanitarian Charter</a>.</p> <p>There are 51 million displaced people in the world right now. But this does not necessarily mean that public engagement with these issues is higher than before. Last year, the global arms expenditure was $1.75 trillion (i.e. $1,750 billion). A small portion of this money is sufficient to provide clean water, health care, education and shelter for all people on earth, and provide humanitarian assistance in all disasters and conflicts. </p> <p>Earlier this year, during a visit to a Plan <a href="">Child-Friendly Space</a> in South Sudan in the peak of the armed conflict, two children caught my attention – a case in point demonstrating why humanitarian work is so crucial and the difference it makes. In a group of 100 children, <a href="">Madiha, 9, and Lina, 4,</a> stood out. It was not their unusual silence that caught my attention, but the way they frequently hugged each other, seemingly involuntarily.</p> <p>A few days earlier they both witnessed the execution of their parents in Jonglei before fleeing to relative safety. Madiha's first instinct was to protect Lina. As they made their escape, this 9-year-old child was transformed into a parent to her 4-year-old sister, leaving her childhood behind. </p> <p>The last few months have been exceptionally busy for the humanitarian aid workers. We were already stretched thin with our ongoing work responding to the conflict and food crisis in South Sudan, violence and displacement in Central African Republic, humanitarian fallout of the crisis in <a href="">Syria</a> and the unfinished recovery work in the Philippines' typhoon-impacted areas and Darfur.</p> <p>For every major disaster reported, there are several unreported crises. Add to this the flare-up of Ebola, the fallout of the conflict in Gaza and Israel and the displacement in Iraq – all unfolding simultaneously. This means, at work, you move from one crisis to the other during the day. In such circumstances a normal day could be 24/7 – especially if you are doing media interviews and coordinating with aid workers on ground.</p> <p>It also means reserving a good portion of this time to listen to colleagues who are on the frontline — their anxieties, concerns and aspirations.</p> <p>But humanitarian work often produces instant results – and that makes you get back to work 10 minutes early the next day.<br>  </p> <p class='u'></p> Humanitarian Aid Health Rights Global Pulse Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:09:17 +0000 Unni Krishnan 6234714 at Why these young Nigerians aren't waiting for their government to help them <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nigeria is now Africa's largest economy but government corruption and incompetence make life 'impossible' for millions. Young people like Mr. Jobs are working to create possibilities. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lauren E. Bohn and Chika Oduah </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: This story is part of a Special Report on the global youth unemployment crisis, &ldquo;<a href="">Generation TBD</a>.&rdquo; It&#39;s the result of a GroundTruth reporting fellowship featuring 21 correspondents reporting in 11 countries, <a href="">part of a year-long effort </a>that brings together media, technology, education and humanitarian partners for an authoritative exploration of the problem and possible solutions. Fellows Chika Oduah and Lauren Bohn traveled across Nigeria to produce a five-part series. This is Part One.</em></p> <p>LAGOS, Nigeria &mdash;&nbsp;Tayo Olufuwa remembers the day he realized he could do anything.</p> <p>He was a shy and studious 14-year-old, struggling with growing up in one of Lagos&rsquo;s <a href="">poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods</a> without a father. A natural &ldquo;computer geek,&rdquo; Olufuwa, now 23, dreamt of &ldquo;doing big things with technology.&rdquo; But he instead spent his childhood frustrated, dodging gang violence and averting recruiters who wanted him to create more of Nigeria&rsquo;s notorious <a href="">419 email scams</a>.</p> <p>His older sister sensed his restlessness and gave him a copy of &ldquo;Gifted Hands&rdquo; by Ben Carson. The book charts Carson&rsquo;s heroic journey from a poor childhood in inner-city Detroit to his rise as the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at just 33.</p> <p>&ldquo;I just realized I could do something with my life,&rdquo; he says, adjusting his black-rimmed glasses. &ldquo;I could create solutions.&rdquo;</p> <p>Since then, he&rsquo;s been jogging almost every morning at 6 a.m., inspired by the words of his idol, the late Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs: &ldquo;If you live every day like your last, someday you&rsquo;ll most certainly be right.&rdquo;</p> <p>Two years ago, fed up with the country&rsquo;s woeful youth unemployment rate, Olufuwa started <a href="">Jobs in Nigeria</a>, an online jobs listing service for unemployed professionals. The site now has over 200,000 users seeking any advantage they can find in a country where an estimated 54 percent of people ages 15-35 are unemployed, according to the National Bureau for Statistics. The Central Bank of Nigeria reports the number at 80 percent. From pharmacies and fast-food joints to hotels and law firms, Olufuwa fields calls from employers looking to fill positions. His website also helps applicants craft cover letters and resumes.</p> <p>These days, Olufuwa is known as &ldquo;Mr. Jobs.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;I was tired of young people like me and my friends not having a way out,&rdquo; Olufuwa says, noting the nickname comes from his profession, not his idol. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much talent out there that needs to be discovered. We can&rsquo;t wait any longer.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A fragile core </strong></p> <p>In April, the world&rsquo;s media turned their lens on Nigeria, sparked by the kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls. Four months have passed, and the girls are still missing. The lens is no longer there. But frustration has grown like a cancer.</p> <p><iframe align="left" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="//" width="300"></iframe></p> <p>The militant Islamist group known as Boko Haram has taken responsibility for the abductions, and the insurgent group&rsquo;s leader shook Nigeria and shocked the world in threatening to sell the girls into slavery. The abductions catalyzed a global online call to action through the social media campaign&nbsp;<a href="">#BringBackOurGirls</a>, which has since fizzled as the prospect of a rescue grows increasingly dim.</p> <p>Many have criticized Nigeria&rsquo;s government for not doing enough. Police attempted to ban daily protests in the capital calling for a return of the schoolgirls, claiming the rallies were posing a serious security threat. Meanwhile, the militant group remains undeterred, <a href="">orchestrating bombings in cities and taking over towns</a>.</p> <p>But for many, the tragic abductions are more of a red herring than the main plot.</p> <p>&ldquo;The abductions are only the tip of the iceberg,&rdquo; said Olufuwa.</p> <p>Last March, far from the buzz of social media, another horrific event in Nigeria went largely unnoticed, though it exposed Nigeria&rsquo;s fragile core. A half-million people flocked to recruitment centers across the country to apply for fewer than 5,000 government positions. Pandemonium ensued and at least 16 Nigerians were killed in stampedes. Hundreds were injured.</p> <p>The interior minister, whose office oversaw the recruitment, dismissed the fatal scramble and said the job seekers simply &ldquo;lost their lives through their impatience.&rdquo;</p> <p>But for many observers, the incident marked a disturbing turning point. That is, that the unemployment situation in Nigeria &mdash; a bitter irony in a country with&nbsp;<a href="">such vast oil wealth</a>&nbsp;&mdash; seems to have literally turned deadly, with the government largely watching from the stands.</p> <p>&ldquo;The base is rotting, and people don&rsquo;t have a chance,&rdquo; said Kole A. Shettima, Director of the MacArthur Foundation&rsquo;s Africa office in Abuja. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not sure the government really handles anything, so it&rsquo;s not a surprise they can&rsquo;t handle youth unemployment.&rdquo;</p> <p>The stakes are high for Africa&rsquo;s most populous country, one lodged between two fates: a nation mired in corruption, under attack by an Islamist insurgency and one brimming with potential and touted as an economic engine for the African continent.&nbsp;</p> <p>With an estimated 170 million people, Nigeria is Africa&rsquo;s largest oil producer. In April, its economy surpassed South Africa&rsquo;s in size, making it the largest on the continent. But other numbers dictate a grimmer future.</p> <p>More Nigerians are poor today than at independence in 1960, with over 60 percent below the poverty line. The literacy rate is around 60.8 percent and life expectancy hovers at 50. Nigeria scored 144 out of 177 on&nbsp;Transparency International&rsquo;s 2013 Corruption Index&nbsp;and ranked 153 out of 187 countries in the&nbsp;UN Development Index. According to Nigeria&rsquo;s National Bureau of Statistics,&nbsp;<a href="http://Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, 54 percent">54 percent of Nigerian youths were unemployed&nbsp;in 2012</a>.</p> <p>&ldquo;In Nigeria, you have incompetence coupled with corruption,&rdquo; says Shettima. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the most dangerous mix you can possibly have.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Silicon Valley in Nigeria</strong></p> <p>When Olufuwa had the idea to start Jobs in Nigeria, he worried it would evaporate into Lagos&rsquo; dense streets, as good intentions so often do here. He had no connections to the start-up world. He had no idea how to even begin.</p> <p><iframe align="right" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="//" width="300"></iframe></p> <p>&ldquo;People like me with big ideas and a certain skill-set can change the country,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We just need to be incubated in the right environment.&rdquo;</p> <p>When he found out about <a href="">Co-Creation Hub</a> (CcHub), a rare space of innovation in Lagos, he knew he had a chance. CcHub is an early stage incubator, dedicated to accelerating start-up ideas like Jobs in Nigeria.</p> <p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a paradox in Nigeria,&rdquo; explains Femi Longe, director of programs at CcHub. &ldquo;On the one hand, there&rsquo;s huge youth unemployment. But on the other, there&rsquo;s a supply of jobs you can&rsquo;t fill because of a vast skills gap. We&rsquo;re sitting on a time bomb.&rdquo;</p> <p>CcHub helps social entrepreneurial start-ups like Olufuwa&rsquo;s find funding and mentoring. Other start-ups on their docket include BudgIt, an initiative to get citizens involved in public finance and <a href="">WeCyclers</a>, dedicated to incentive-based recycling in low-income neighborhoods.</p> <p>&ldquo;In Nigeria, entrepreneurship is often not a choice,&rdquo; says Longe. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sometimes what you have to do.&rdquo;</p> <p>In journalist Dayo Olopade&rsquo;s new book &ldquo;<a href="">The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa</a>,&rdquo; she argues that progress in Africa lies in innovative solutions Africans are constructing for themselves, often due to the failure of western development communities and government institutions. She writes about this specific creativity &mdash; born from difficulty &mdash; a characteristic she calls &ldquo;Kanju,&rdquo; which makes people like Olufuwa natural entrepreneurs.</p> <p>&ldquo;If necessity is the mother of invention, Africa&rsquo;s adversities are the mother of necessity,&rdquo; she writes. &ldquo;All that is a fancy way of saying that a general history of colonialism, dictatorship, and poverty has left Africans with a pretty good recipe for lemonade.&rdquo;</p> <p>In the last few years, the Nigerian government has tried to tap into their country&rsquo;s &ldquo;Kanju&rdquo; lemonade and the Silicon Valley-fueled buzz of entrepreneurship, creating programs like <a href="">YouWin</a>, a business plan competition for young entrepreneurs. But in an environment rife with bureaucracy and corruption, few are banking on the government to meaningfully cultivate the ecosystem.</p> <p>&ldquo;Entrepreneurship is a process, not a sound-bite,&rdquo; says Elmira Bayrasli, author of the upcoming book &ldquo;Steve Jobs Lives in Pakistan: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs in the Developing World.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;The Nigerian government has to do more than merely champion entrepreneurship on paper or at a ribbon cutting ceremony,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It must strengthen the rule of law, improve infrastructure, clamp down on corruption, increase transparency, and pour resources into education.&rdquo;</p> <p>Godbless Otubure, 26, is head of the internship program at <a href="">Ignite Lagos</a>, a governmental initiative that offers leadership training to recent college graduates. The program has trained 900 youth since 2012. The demand is overwhelming: they receive around 1,800 applications each cycle for 100 slots.</p> <p>Making unemployed college graduates more marketable is an uphill battle, Otubure says, blaming a deplorable public school system as the neglected root of the problem. Recent statistics from UNICEF reveal that Nigeria has an estimated 10.3 million out-of-school children, the highest rate in the world.</p> <p>&ldquo;We lack maintenance control in Nigeria,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;At some point, you have to fix the root.&rdquo;</p> <p>Hamzat Lawal, a 24-year-old Abuja-based social entrepreneur who has led campaigns like <a href="">Follow the Money</a>, an initiative that works to expose corruption of the government, says government programs like Ignite and YouWin are mere window dressings for a rusty pipeline.</p> <p>&ldquo;Seventy percent of the time I blame unemployment on the government,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But we also have to blame ourselves, because we&rsquo;re the ones empowering these politicians through our votes, through accepting the status quo.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>&#39;Afraid to dream&#39;</strong></p> <p>At the University of Abuja, the city&rsquo;s largest federal university, students stand around listlessly, many bereft of plans for life after graduation. On most days, Peter Maidoki, the director of the university&rsquo;s entrepreneurship program, sits in his dark office grading papers for his Entrepreneurship 101 course.</p> <p><iframe align="left" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="//" width="300"></iframe></p> <p>The first question on a recent exam read &ldquo;What is entrepreneurship?&rdquo; One student simply responded, &ldquo;having a dream.&rdquo;</p> <p>But that might not be enough in Nigeria, Maidoki concedes.</p> <p>&ldquo;There needs to be an enlightenment,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Corruption and vast wealth have messed up people&rsquo;s perceptions of success. It&rsquo;s given them illusions. They don&rsquo;t want to build their own lives&hellip; in Nigerian youth, there&rsquo;s entitlement mixed with a sense of failure before they start.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, Maidoki says, it&rsquo;s difficult providing a cushion for students when the center doesn&rsquo;t have any money or connections to the private sector. For the past six years, he says he&rsquo;s been appealing to the school and government for more funding for the center, but to no avail.</p> <p>&ldquo;These young students are afraid to dream,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But who can blame them when this country is so impossible?&rdquo;</p> <p>For students like 23-year-old Victor Adanu, entrepreneurship is too risky of a concept &mdash; and dreaming is a luxury he can&rsquo;t afford. Adanu graduated in May, a year behind schedule due to a nearly six-month halt in studies during nationwide teacher strikes.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m just trying to find a place,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s difficult&hellip; I don&rsquo;t have much guidance, just passion.&rdquo;</p> <p>From a young age, Adanu says he liked taking things apart and putting them back together. He wanted to study mechanical engineering, but there wasn&rsquo;t enough room for him in University of Abuja&rsquo;s program, so he settled on physics. He hopes to find a job as an electrician at a &ldquo;big company&rdquo; but he&rsquo;s become apathetic, resigned that he&rsquo;ll probably end up working at a call center to make ends meet.</p> <p>&ldquo;Nigerians are always hustling&hellip;we always find a way to make things work,&rdquo; Adanu says, walking around the university&rsquo;s brown lackluster campus. &ldquo;But we don&rsquo;t always know where to start.&rdquo;</p> <p>Back down in Lagos, Olufuwa taps away at CcHub, hoping students like Adanu can get a chance through his website &mdash; a shot at a life they deserve.</p> <p>&ldquo;Being Nigerian means you&rsquo;re a fighter,&rdquo; says Olufuwa, ending a 12-hour workday before heading back to the rough neighborhood that made him one.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a country where you have chaos, corruption, and electricity only six hours a day&hellip;but if you can make it in these conditions, you can make it anywhere.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Need to Know youth unemployment Nigeria Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:18:00 +0000 Lauren E. Bohn and Chika Oduah 6234914 at Why the Koreas matter to the pope <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Vatican sends a message to an embattled East Asian outpost. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SEOUL, <a href="">South Korea</a> — North and South Korea have been divided for more than six decades, but on Monday Pope Francis moved his followers with a final prayer during Mass: It's time to find a path to peace on the Korean peninsula, and to reject the "mindset of confrontation and suspicion" that plagues both sides.</p> <p>His words reverberated across this Asian nation where nearly one-third of the population subscribes to Christianity. Evangelical mega-churches, Gothic cathedrals, and street-side missionaries — blaring messages of salvation through loudspeakers — stick out amid the concrete jungle of Seoul.</p> <p>It's a far cry from North Korea, where unsanctioned religious gatherings are outlawed, and the consequences of getting caught are dire. On Sunday, the pontiff expressed hope for better ties with <a href="">China</a> and North Korea, two nations that have no formal relations with the Holy See.</p> <p>On paper, North Korea's constitution grants freedom of belief. In global religious freedom rankings, the garrison kingdom typically sits near the bottom. According to official propaganda, the founding father of the nation, Kim Il Sung (grandfather to current dictator Kim Jong Un), is the only figure worthy of true worship, ruling his people from the grave.</p> <p>The pope's visit "has helped to raise international awareness on the situation facing North Koreans," said Benedict Rogers, East <a href="">Asia</a> team leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a <a href="">UK</a>-based nonprofit. "To what extent the message will be known in North Korea is unclear, but it will be heard by the regime."</p> <p>Charity groups in China, not far from the North Korean border, risk prison time, torture and deportation for helping refugees escape. In recent weeks, Beijing has been stepping up the pressure with a crackdown on alleged underground churches, forcing many to flee.</p> <p>When alleged missionaries land in North Korea — usually on tourist or business visas — the government has a habit of detaining them, even if it means hurting chances at rapprochement with powerful archenemies, the US and South Korea.</p> <p>Currently, three American visitors are in North Korean hands, two of them on religious charges.</p> <p>One of them, Korean American Protestant pastor Kenneth Bae, is serving a 15-year hard labor sentence on charges of attempting to overthrow the state through "Operation Jericho," a Christian plot allegedly run out of his church in China.</p> <p>Another, Jeffrey Fowle, was arrested in May at the Pyongyang airport after visiting the country with a tour group. Authorities accused the American tourist of intentionally leaving a Bible in a bathroom wastebasket, Reuters first reported.</p> <p>The number of fervent American churchgoers entering North Korea is small compared to the believers already inside. In a 2002 report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, North Korea tallied 12,000 Protestants and 800 Catholics, the most recent self-reported figure in a country now home to 25 million people.</p> <p>Some South Korean church groups balk at the estimate, claiming the number to be closer to 100,000 Christians.</p> <p>Whichever report is more accurate, it's surprising there aren't more frequent reports of crackdowns against underground churches, said one church leader who assists defectors in northeast China but who asked not to be named.</p> <p>Since the regime runs a system of near-total control, it's likely that North Korean security agents occasionally tolerate the presence of underground churches, eavesdropping on them for incriminating intelligence and then rounding up suspects when the timing is right, he said.</p> <p>This anti-religious authoritarianism is a huge change from a century ago, when Pyongyang was called the "<a href="">Jerusalem</a> of the East" for its evangelical fervor.</p> <p>After North and South Korea were divided in the 1940s, many Christians in the newly communist North fled to the American-supported South, escaping arrest, imprisonment or certain death. Today, South Korea sends the second largest number of missionaries around the world — behind the US.</p> <p>While unsanctioned Christian gatherings may be outlawed, the regime tolerates some activity. Pyongyang is home to four state-approved churches. A small population of foreign diplomats, aid workers and businesspeople attend them. A handful of North Korean worshippers, too, can be seen at the services, say erstwhile attendees.</p> <p>"Generally speaking, North Korean churches, even within their status as a form of propaganda, nonetheless have a small population of old-timer, pre-Korean War Christians," said Hae Kwon Kim, a theology professor at Soongsil University in Seoul who attended North Korean services.</p> <p>He believes the government exploits the presence of North Korean Christians for political purposes. "North Korea's sanctioned Christians also help coax a lot of material aid from the South," he said. "Churches in the South continuously provide financial assistance to their counterparts in the North. In this sense churches perform a kind of civil diplomacy."</p> <p><em>Max Kim contributed reporting. </em></p> World Leaders Want to Know Diplomacy World Religion Italy North Korea South Korea Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:52:00 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6234566 at Ukraine, rebels accuse each other of attacking refugee bus convoy <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels on Monday of hitting a refugee convoy of buses with rocket fire near the eastern city of Luhansk, killing people trapped in the burning vehicles, but the separatists denied responsibility.</p> <p>Ukrainian military spokesmen said the bus convoy had been in an area of fierce fighting between government forces and the separatists. It had come under fire from rebel Grad and mortar launchers, they said, causing an unknown number of casualties.</p> <p>"A powerful artillery strike hit a refugee convoy near the area of Khryashchuvatye and Novosvitlivka. The force of the blow on the convoy was so strong that people were burned alive in the vehicles — they weren't able to get themselves out," military spokesman Anatoly Proshin told Ukrainian news channel</p> <p>Describing the attack as a "bloody crime," another military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said: "A lot of people have been killed including women and children. The number of the dead is being established."</p> <p>A rebel leader denied his forces had the military capability to conduct such an attack, and accused Kyiv forces of regularly attacking the area and also using Russian-made Grad missiles.</p> <p>"The Ukrainians themselves have bombed the road constantly with airplanes and Grads. It seems they've now killed more civilians like they've been doing for months now. We don't have the ability to send Grads into that territory," said Andrei Purgin, deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.</p> <p>Another rebel spokesman denied any civilian convoy had been struck, challenging the Kyiv authorities to produce evidence.</p> <p><strong>Rebels under pressure</strong></p> <p>The Kyiv military reported new successes overnight, building on a weekend breakthrough when troops raised the national flag in Luhansk, a city held by pro-Russian separatists since fighting began in April.</p> <p>Troops blockaded or recaptured rebel-held positions after international talks in Berlin failed to reach agreement on a ceasefire. Nine soldiers were killed.</p> <p>Western sanctions against Moscow have failed to stem what NATO says is a steady supply of military equipment and men sent from <a href="">Russia</a> to help the rebels. Russia denies sending support, saying the rebels have seized equipment from the Ukrainians.</p> <p>Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all issues around a humanitarian convoy sent by Moscow to relieve needy areas of eastern Ukraine had been resolved but no progress had been made in his talks in Berlin on Sunday with the Ukrainian, <a href="">German</a> and <a href="">French</a> foreign ministers on a ceasefire or a political solution.</p> <p>Russia says it would like a ceasefire to allow aid to get to people trapped by the fighting. A 280-truck convoy sent by Russia and carrying tonnes of humanitarian aid has been stalled at the Ukrainian border since last week, as Kyiv has insisted on formalities so it can be properly distributed by the Red Cross.</p> <p>Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who was at the Berlin talks, said: "Russia must close the border and stop shelling. If you have mercenaries and weaponry coming through the border from the Russian federation how can you reach a ceasefire?</p> <p>"It's not about terminology or conditions. It's about substance. If you want peace, you have to use peaceful means not the means of war," Klimkin said, according to a ministry Twitter post.</p> <p><strong>Heavy death toll</strong></p> <p>The separatist conflict erupted after Russia seized the Crimean peninsula in March following the ousting of a Moscow-backed Ukrainian president. Separatists occupied key buildings in towns across the Russian-speaking east, declaring "people's republics" and saying they wanted to join Russia.</p> <p>The United Nations said this month that an estimated 2,086 people, including civilians and combatants, had been killed in the conflict. The death toll has nearly doubled since the end of July, when Ukrainian forces stepped up their offensive as they gained more ground against the rebels.</p> <p>A military spokesman in Kyiv said government forces had pressed the separatists in overnight fighting, encircling the rebel-held town of Horlivka between Luhansk and Donetsk, and taking control of smaller settlements in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>The military said it suspected the rebels had fired back with a powerful Russian-made Uragan missile system southeast of Donetsk near the village of Novokaterinivka, their first use of the weapon. "The Russian mercenaries are in panic trying to get out of these places," it said. The rebels made no immediate comment.</p> <p>The separatist news outlet Novorossiya said Ukrainian forces had shelled the village of Khryashchevatoe overnight with mortars to tighten the circle round Luhansk.</p> <p>Moscow says the Ukrainian government, with backing from its Western allies, is subjecting thousands of Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine who reject Kyiv's rule to artillery bombardments and shortages of water and power.</p> <p>In Donetsk, some people said their water had been shut off as of 9 p.m. local time (1800 GMT) the night before, and early on Monday local shops had already sold out of large bottles of water. "There's been no water since last night," said Maria, 23, but others in the city said water was still flowing.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets and Alessandra Prentice in Kyiv, Thomas Grove in Donetsk and Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow; Writing by Richard Balmforth; editing by David Stamp and Philippa Fletcher)</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:29:49 +0000 Richard Balmforth and Stephen Brown, Thomson Reuters 6234590 at Gaza peace talks are nearing the end with no real signs of progress <!--paging_filter--><p>Talks in Cairo on ending the Gaza war showed no signs of a breakthrough on Monday, with <a href="">Israel</a> and the Palestinians entrenched in their demands hours before the expiration of a five-day ceasefire.</p> <p>The truce is due to run out at 2100 GMT (5:00 p.m. EDT). A Palestinian source quoted by <a href="">Egypt</a>'s state news agency MENA said Egyptian mediators were making "a big effort to reach an agreement in the coming hours."</p> <p>Both sides said gaps remain in reaching a long-term deal that would keep the peace between Israel and militant groups in the Gaza Strip, dominated by Hamas Islamists, and allow reconstruction aid to flow in after five weeks of fighting.</p> <p>Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni addressed the prospect of renewed hostilities, while signaling that Israel would continue to hold its fire as long as Palestinians did the same.</p> <p>"If they shoot at us, we will respond," Livni, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Israel Radio.</p> <p>The Palestinian Health Ministry put the Gaza death toll at 2,016 and said most were civilians in the small, densely populated coastal territory. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed.</p> <p>Late on Sunday, a Palestinian official said Israel's position in the talks, as presented to them by Egyptian mediators, was a "retreat from what had already been achieved and discussions had returned to square one."</p> <p>The official, who was not named, told MENA that Israel had toughened its stance and had presented "impossible" demands, particularly on security issues. He said the Palestinians would review the situation and offer their response on Monday.</p> <p>"We are determined to achieve the demands of our people and foremost is ending the aggression and launching the rebuilding process and lifting the Israeli-imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip," MENA quoted the official as saying.</p> <p><strong>Security</strong></p> <p>Netanyahu said on Sunday that any deal on the territory's future had to meet Israel's security needs. He warned Hamas it faced "harsh strikes" if it resumed its attacks.</p> <p>Hamas also seeks the construction of a Gaza sea port and the reopening of an airport destroyed in previous conflicts, as part of any enduring halt to violence. Livni said such issues should be dealt with at a later stage.</p> <p>Israel, which launched its offensive on July 8 after a surge in Hamas rocket fire across the border, has shown scant interest in making sweeping concessions, and has called for the disarming of militant groups in the enclave of 1.8 million people.</p> <p>Hamas has said that laying down its weapons is not an option.</p> <p>The Gaza offensive has had broad public support in Israel, where militants' rockets, many of them intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, have disrupted everyday life but caused little damage and few casualties. By contrast, Israeli bombardment of Gaza has wrought widespread destruction.</p> <p>The United Nations said 425,000 people in the Gaza Strip have been displaced by the conflict.</p> <p>Israel and Hamas have not met face-to-face in Cairo, where the talks are being held in a branch of the intelligence agency, with Egyptian mediators shuttling between the parties in separate rooms. Israel regards Hamas, which advocates its destruction, as a terrorist group.</p> <p>In Gaza, Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said he hoped ceasefire talks would lead to substantial change on the ground.</p> <p>"There has to be a message of hope for the people of Gaza, there has to be a message for something different, there has to be a message of freedom for the people, freedom to move, freedom to trade," Krahenbuhl told reporters.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Maggie Fick in Cairo; Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:50:00 +0000 Nidal al-Mughrabi and Stephen Kalin, Thomson Reuters 6234445 at Hungary may be in the EU, but its leader believes his country should be more like Putin’s Russia <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Viktor Orban steps up his attacks on liberal democracy. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BUDAPEST, Hungary &mdash; At a beer garden on the campus of Eotvos Lorand University during a lovely summer evening, a group of young graduates grows passionate when the conversation turns to Viktor Orban.</p> <p>Locked in conflict with the European Union since he took office in 2010, the country&#39;s populist right-wing prime minister openly believes Hungary should no longer model itself on the liberal democracies of Western Europe.</p> <p>It should emulate &ldquo;illiberal&rdquo; countries such as Singapore, China and Russia instead, he said late last month. Last week, he condemned EU sanctions against Moscow over its stoking of military conflict in Ukraine.</p> <p>Such criticism has horrified educated, urban Hungarians like Marcsi, a young blond woman who, like her companions, asked that her surname not be published.</p> <p>&ldquo;Now we&#39;re mentioned in the same breath with Belarus and Russia,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;If this government did nothing else, it&rsquo;s ruined our reputation in the rest of the world.&rdquo;</p> <p>Orban has capitalized on his Fidesz Party&#39;s two-thirds majority in parliament to centralize control over democratic institutions since his first term began in 2010. But some believe his open declaration of war on liberal democracy presages a new level in what they say is a drive to embed cronyism in government and quash dissent.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a programmatic declaration that the government would like to further weaken the system of checks and balances,&rdquo; says Peter Kreko of the Budapest-based think tank Political Capital.</p> <p>Orban came under fire during his first term for weakening the independence of the judiciary. Critics alleged he used punitive taxes and other questionable legal measures to target businesses owned by foreign companies and his political opponents.</p> <p>He also faced international censure for <a href="">amending the constitution</a> to make it easier for his party to win a second two-thirds majority in April 2014.</p> <p>He&#39;s since continued to move in the same direction.</p> <p>In June, Orban <a href="">enacted a tax</a> on advertising revenue &mdash; not profit, as is more typical &mdash; that the EU criticized as an attack on the free press.</p> <p>He also launched an investigation into foreign-funded nonprofit organizations. The probe&rsquo;s targets say it&rsquo;s designed to threaten their autonomy.</p> <p>Viktor Szigetvari, a politician who campaigned for the opposition alliance in the recent election, is unequivocal about Orban&#39;s inspiration.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s Putinism at its best,&rdquo; he says, referring to Russia&rsquo;s authoritarian President Vladimir Putin.</p> <p>The government denies the accusations, saying none of its measures is malicious.</p> <p>Officials argue that the constitutional changes were needed to eliminate political gridlock. They say the advertising tax and similar measures are required for filling the country&#39;s depleted coffers and protect people from predatory pricing.</p> <p>And they say the probe of nonprofits stems from allegations that funds were improperly diverted into campaign financing for a small Fidesz rival called &ldquo;Politics Can Be Different.&rdquo;</p> <p>Zoltan Kovacs, Orban&#39;s international spokesman, denies there are grounds for comparisons between Orban and Putin, let alone Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a political game,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&#39;s very cheap and easy to use terms like these. We never crossed the democratic boundaries with any measure.&rdquo;</p> <p>But critics point to what they say is growing evidence to the contrary.</p> <p>Veronika Mora, who heads the Okotars Foundation, responsible for distributing grants from Norway, says the government office that launched the original probe into NGOs has no jurisdiction over the administration of funds under a bipartisan agreement between Hungary and Norway.</p> <p>A secondary embezzlement investigation <a href="">launched</a> by the Orban-controlled public prosecutor&#39;s office is little more than harassment, she says.</p> <p>&ldquo;If we lived in a country of law and order, we&#39;d have no reason to fear because we&#39;ve done nothing wrong,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>The anti-corruption advocacy group Transparency International draws a direct line between the removal of checks on government power and an increase in crony capitalism.</p> <p>Although the extent of corruption may not have grown &mdash; preceding governments were no angels, either &mdash; tailor-made laws have entrenched and legalized it, says Miklos Ligeti, Transparency&rsquo;s head of legal affairs in Hungary.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s an exaggeration when it&#39;s perceived as a dictatorship,&rdquo; he says of the state. &ldquo;But the tendencies and trends are very worrying.&rdquo;</p> <p>Hungary raised no objections from the EU when it <a href="">nationalized</a> retail sales of tobacco following a model used in Austria.</p> <p>A year later, however, franchise licenses were <a href="">distributed</a> to Fidesz Party loyalists.</p> <p>In 2013, the government nationalized the country&#39;s largest cooperative savings bank only to <a href="">reprivatize</a> it again a year later through a single-bidder sale to a consortium of investors that included the man appointed to run the nationalization process in the first place.</p> <p>The system uses punishments as well as rewards, says a Western businessman based in Hungary.</p> <p>The tax on advertising revenue, for instance, was structured so that only a single media company was <a href="">hit</a> with a whopping 40 percent tax bill &mdash; a channel called RTL Klub owned by the German conglomerate Bertelsmann.</p> <p>Similarly, a special retail tax on companies with revenues of more than $2.2 million <a href="">bypassed</a> Hungarian-owned CBA &mdash; a grocery chain that competes with companies like Britain&rsquo;s Tesco &mdash; because its stores were run as individual franchises.</p> <p>Sources of persecution can run the gamut from the taxman to the health inspector, according to the businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from officials.</p> <p>&ldquo;At one point, a client company had 65 different government investigations going on at one time,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">Amid fears of a Russian invasion, Ukrainians keep pushing for political reform</a></strong></p> <p>None of that may be evident to visitors in swish, stylish Budapest, where tequila bars, luxury boutiques and elegant cafes stand among majestic bridges and cathedrals.</p> <p>But back at the campus beer garden, dismay pervades the jokes about state-owned TV broadcasts, a new degree program for shepherds, rules requiring college graduates to stay in Hungary and other echoes of the order that existed here before communism fell in 1990.</p> <p>Most here expect Orban&rsquo;s centralization to continue for the foreseeable future.</p> <p>Fruzsina, a young woman in a pink, sleeveless blouse who works for a foreign firm, says that gives educated Hungarians a special responsibility: &ldquo;We can&#39;t give up on the idea that we still live in a liberal state.&rdquo;</p> Hungary World Leaders Want to Know Europe Mon, 18 Aug 2014 04:33:04 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6232698 at Can kimchi cure Ebola? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Some Koreans are convinced it could. Either way, the stuff is so good for you that you may as well indulge. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p align="left">SEOUL, South Korea &mdash; It&rsquo;ll smack you in the face the instant you walk into any decent Korean restaurant: the pungent smell of kimchi &mdash; the piquant pickled cabbage whose bold tanginess is increasingly exalted by Western foodies.</p> <p align="left">For newbies, kimchi is a masochistic pleasure &mdash; like that first whack of wasabi from a heavy-handed sushi chef. You taste it. It hurts, bad. And you just keep going back for more.</p> <p align="left">But few souls outside Korea know that kimchi is actually incredibly nutritious and packed with health benefits. It&rsquo;s one of those rare things in life that&rsquo;s both sinfully good and good for you &mdash; <a href="" target="_blank">sex (<em>not</em> NSFW)</a> being another.</p> <p align="left">No joke.</p> <p align="left">Actual scientists have demonstrated that kimchi is good for you &mdash; really, <em>really </em>good for you.</p> <p align="left">Here&rsquo;s the verdict, from a 2014 <a href="" target="_blank">abstract in the Journal of Medicinal Food</a>:</p> <blockquote><p align="left">Health functionality of kimchi, based upon our research and that of other, includes anticancer, antiobesity, anticonstipation, colorectal health promotion, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, fibrolytic effect, antioxidative and antiaging properties, brain health promotion, immune promotion, and skin health promotion.</p> </blockquote> <p align="left">(Translation: this stuff is like Drano for what ails you.)</p> <p align="left">Yup, all that, from a spicy side dish &mdash; a treat that&rsquo;s effectively the Korean equivalent of potato chips. Compare that to the impact of Salt and Vinegar Lays. &nbsp;</p> <p align="left">Better yet, it&rsquo;s served for free in restaurants.</p> <p align="left">These days, Koreans, like the rest of us, are scared witless by the Ebola outbreak. On Aug. 5, a South Korean university even <a href="" target="_blank">withdrew a conference invitation</a> from three Nigerian students, sparking controversy in Seoul.</p> <p align="left">People here spend a lot of time talking about (and eating) their national super food. And as with past exotic disease outbreaks, they can be expected to <a href="" target="_blank">boost their consumption </a>of the spicy side dish.</p> <p align="left">Inevitably, a few Koreans are asking: Might kimchi be a hazmat suit disguised as a side dish? Might it effectively protect people against Ebola? So far, a number of claims have been scrutinized and roundly dismissed in the Korean media, which urge citizens to simply wash their hands.</p> <p align="left">Science be damned, some have brought up claims that kimchi has <a href="" target="_blank">curative powers against an assortment of nasty infections </a>such as SARS. During the 2005 bird flu outbreak, some of Korea&rsquo;s most eminent scientists tried feeding kimchi to infected chickens. Within a week, <a href="" target="_blank">most were getting better</a>.</p> <p align="left">By now, you&rsquo;re probably scratching your head. Little slices of fermented cabbage, fighting off a horrific, blood-soaked death from Ebola?</p> <p align="left">Yeah, that&rsquo;s a stretch. If that were true, health authorities may want to consider adding it to the water supply.</p> <p align="left">Kimchi derives its magic from the wonders of fermentation, coupled with ingredients like garlic, capsaicin (the chemical that delivers the salivary jolt from hot peppers) and ginger, a tricolon that works together to boost physiological functions, helping prevent diabetes and heart disease, said Kim Hae Young, a food sciences professor at Yong In University in Gyeonggi province.</p> <p align="left">Koreans are uber-achievers, as demonstrated by their meteoric rise from sad poverty to Gangnam Style consumerism in recent decades. And history shows that kimchi has long been an integral part of Korean life, a dish as beloved as Ketchup is for Americans. While you may know kimchi as that red-colored fermenting cabbage smothered in pepper sauce and garlic, there are actually more than 100 varieties &mdash; take <em>that </em>Heinz.</p> <p align="left">Kimchi even drives the country&rsquo;s international policy.</p> <p align="left">The South Korean government has embarked on an <a href="" target="_blank">ostentatious food promotion campaign around the world</a>, despite criticism from the budget office that the project has been ineffective and a waste of taxpayers&rsquo; money. There&rsquo;s also an ongoing <a href="" target="_blank">kimchi trade dispute with China</a>, which supplies hundreds of thousands of tons of the stuff to this barren peninsula.</p> <p align="left">In anticipation of its first astronaut, the Korean government spent several years and millions of dollars developing a laboratory recipe it called &ldquo;<a href=";_r=0" target="_blank">space kimchi</a>.&rdquo;</p> <p align="left">The motto: If Korea goes to space, kimchi must go too!</p> <p align="left">Middle-aged women gather for mass kimchi-making events that occasionally <a href="" target="_blank">stink up the center of Seoul</a>. The smell is worth bearing for a good cause. The vegetables are sometimes donated to supply poor households through the winter.</p> <p align="left">The soggy cabbage is also wielded here as a weapon of domestic disputes: The famed kimchi slap, a move recently popularized by a Korean television drama. Someone turning you blue with frustration? Smack them with a wet, dripping bulb of fermented cabbage. That&rsquo;ll ensure they go home reeking up the subway, covered in a splash of red slimy stuff.</p> <p align="left"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560"></iframe></p> <p align="left">With kimchi so integral to Korean life, it&rsquo;s no mistake that officials and even researchers have touted (and perhaps exaggerated) the benefits. In one stunt in 2010, at the height of the H1N1 outbreak, a giddy Korean advertiser handed out face masks in New York with a photograph of kimchi and the phrase &ldquo;<a href="" target="_blank">kimchi prevents swine flu</a>.&rdquo;</p> <p align="left">True or unproven nonsense? After all, kimchi failed to protect <a href="" target="_blank">these 10,000 Koreans from swine flu</a>. So while it&rsquo;s certainly healthy, trust these claims at your own risk.</p> <p align="left"><em>Max Kim contributed reporting.</em></p> Want to Know Japan North Korea South Korea United States Mon, 18 Aug 2014 04:33:00 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6231892 at Kurds retake Iraq's main dam from Islamic State <!--paging_filter--><p>AL-QOSH, <a href="">Iraq</a> — Iraqi Kurdish fighters backed by US warplanes retook the country's largest dam from jihadists on Sunday, as Sunni Arab tribesmen and security forces fought the militants west of Baghdad.</p> <p>The recapture of Mosul dam marks the biggest prize yet clawed back from Islamic State (IS) jihadists since they launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in early June, sweeping Iraqi security forces aside.</p> <p>IS militants, who have declared a "caliphate" straddling vast areas of Iraq and <a href="">Syria</a>, also came under air attack in their Syrian stronghold of Raqa on Sunday, a monitoring group said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This 84-year-old woman crawled on her knees to safety to escape the Islamic State</a></strong></p> <p>Two months of violence have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, and world powers relieved by the exit of divisive premier Nuri al-Maliki are sending aid to the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes as well as arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces.</p> <p>Buoyed by the airstrikes US President Barack Obama ordered last week, Kurdish forces are fighting to win back ground they had lost since the start of August, when the jihadists went back on the offensive north, east and west of the city of Mosul, capturing the dam on Aug. 7.</p> <p>"Mosul Dam was liberated completely," Ali Awni, an official from Iraq's main Kurdish party, told AFP, a statement also confirmed by another party official and a Kurdish security forces officer.</p> <p>A senior Iraqi army officer told AFP that while the fighting had ended, some areas around the dam were still inaccessible due to bombs planted by the militants.</p> <p>The dam breakthrough came after US warplanes and drones pummeled the militants fighting against the Kurdish advance on Saturday and again on Sunday.</p> <p>The US Central Command reported that the military had carried out 14 airstrikes Sunday near the dam, which, located on the Tigris river, provides electricity and irrigation water for farming to much of the region.</p> <p>CENTCOM said the strikes destroyed 10 IS armed vehicles, seven IS Humvees, two armored personnel carriers and one IS checkpoint.</p> <p>In Syria's Raqa, the Syrian air force carried out 16 raids on the city of Raqa and several more on the town of Tabqa in Raqa province, killing at least 31 jihadists and eight civilians, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.</p> <p>The air strikes were the "most intensive" against the IS since the jihadists joined the anti-regime revolt in that country in spring 2013, the Observatory said.</p> <p>"The regime wants to show the <a href="">Americans</a> that it is also capable of striking the IS," said the <a href="">Britain</a>-based group's director, Rami Abdel Rahman.</p> <p><strong>Anbar fightback</strong></p> <p>On another battlefront, security forces backed by Sunni Arab tribal militia made gains against the jihadists in Iraq's Anbar province, west of the provincial capital Ramadi, police said.</p> <p>Fighting was also taking place near the strategic Euphrates Valley town of Haditha, located near another important dam, police Staff Maj. Gen. Ahmed Sadag said.</p> <p>The rallying of more than two dozen Sunni tribes to the government side on Friday marked a potential turning point in the fightback against the jihadists and their allies.</p> <p>The militants were able to sweep through the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in June, encountering little effective resistance, and Iraqi federal security forces have yet to make significant headway in regaining ground.</p> <p>Anbar was the birthplace of the Sahwa, or Awakening, movement of Sunni tribes that from late 2006 sided with US forces against their co-religionists in Al Qaeda, helping turn the tide against that insurgency.</p> <p><strong>Minorities targeted</strong></p> <p>In the north, members of minority groups including the Yazidis, Christians, Shabak and Turkmen, remain under threat of kidnapping or death at the hands of the jihadists.</p> <p>On Friday, IS fighters killed around 80 Yazidi Kurds in the village of Kocho near the northwestern town of Sinjar, Kurdish officials said.</p> <p>The jihadist' storming of Sinjar on August 3 sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing onto Mount Sinjar, prompting an international aid operation and helping to trigger the launch of US airstrikes.</p> <p>The Yazidis' non-Muslim faith is anathema to the Sunni extremists of IS.</p> <p>Human rights groups and residents say IS fighters have been demanding that religious minorities in the Mosul region either convert or leave, unleashing violent reprisals on any who refuse.</p> <p>Amnesty International, which has been documenting mass abductions in the Sinjar area, says IS kidnapped thousands of Yazidis in this month's offensive.</p> <p>Tens of thousands have fled, most of them seeking refuge in areas of northern Iraq under Kurdish control, or in neighboring Syria.</p> <p>bur-wd/jmm/bpz</p> Islamic State Need to Know War Iraq Sun, 17 Aug 2014 17:37:00 +0000 Serene Assir, Agence France-Presse 6233840 at UK must use its 'military prowess' to help stop the Islamic State: prime minister <!--paging_filter--><p>Britain should use its military prowess to tackle Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday, saying they had to be stopped from creating "a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean."</p> <p>In his toughest comments yet on IS, an Al Qaeda splinter group, Cameron said Britain needed to adopt a more robust stance against Islamic State to prevent it from one day launching an attack on British soil, a warning he first issued in June.</p> <p>Britain has so far limited its role in Iraq to aid drops, surveillance and agreeing to transport military re-supplies to Kurdish forces. In addition, Britain's trade envoy to Iraq has said SAS special forces are gathering intelligence there.</p> <p>"If we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain. We already know that it has the murderous intent," Cameron wrote in <a href="" target="_blank">an article for Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper</a>.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This 84-year-old woman crawled on her knees to safety to escape the Islamic State</a></strong></p> <p>As part of its expanded role, he said he wanted Britain to lead diplomatic talks that include regional powers, possibly even <a href="">Iran</a>, to try to tackle the threat from IS.</p> <p>In recent weeks the group has seized swathes of territory in <a href="">Syria</a> and Iraq, in a swift and brutal push to the borders of Iraq's autonomous ethnic Kurdish region and towards Baghdad, sparking the first U.S. air strikes in Iraq since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011.</p> <p>Cameron said his government should also go further: "True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess," he wrote.</p> <p>"We need a firm security response, whether that is military action to go after the terrorists, international co-operation on intelligence and counter-terrorism or uncompromising action against terrorists at home."</p> <p>Following an agreement with European Union partners last week, he said Britain would supply equipment directly to the Kurdish forces, adding that this could be anything from body armor to specialist counter-explosive equipment.</p> <p>Cameron precluded a full-scale military intervention in the region however, saying he did not think that "sending armies to fight or occupy" was the right approach. He said he recognized that Britain's past involvement in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had made people wary of over-committing.</p> <p><strong>'Terrorist state threat'</strong></p> <p>Cameron has come under pressure at home from some lawmakers and former military commanders to follow the lead of the <a href="">United States</a> and take tougher action against the militants.</p> <p>On Sunday, a cleric, Nicholas Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, added his voice to the debate saying the government lacked "a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism."</p> <p>He complained about what he said was the government's silence on the fate of tens of thousands of Christians in the <a href="">Middle East</a> who had been driven from their homes.</p> <p>The last time Cameron tried to sign Britain up to potential military strikes in the Middle East, against Syria in August 2013, he lost a parliamentary vote. Cameron last week ruled out an immediate recall of parliament, which is in summer recess.</p> <p>Cameron on Sunday also announced tougher action against anyone in Britain propagating IS ideology.</p> <p>The Islamist movement's black flag was briefly raised over one east London housing estate in recent weeks and leaflets urging Britons to join its struggle were handed out in London.</p> <p>"If people are walking around with ISIL [IS] flags or trying to recruit people to their terrorist cause, they will be arrested and their materials will be seized," he said.</p> <p>The authorities had taken down 28,000 pieces of "terrorist-related" material from the Internet, he added, including 46 videos directly linked to IS.</p> <p>Cameron predicted the struggle against IS and its ideology would last the rest of his political lifetime.</p> <p>"It [IS] makes no secret of its expansionist aims. Even today it has the ancient city of Aleppo firmly within its sights. And it boasts of its designs on Jordan and Lebanon, and right up to the Turkish border. If it succeeds, we would be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean."</p> iraq rebooted Need to Know War Iraq United Kingdom Sun, 17 Aug 2014 16:46:00 +0000 Andrew Osborn, Reuters 6233814 at Kurdish troops battle to retake Iraq's largest dam <!--paging_filter--><p>Kurdish troops backed by US warplanes launched a bid Saturday to recapture Mosul dam, <a href="">Iraq</a>'s largest, from jihadists, a senior Kurdish military official said.</p> <p>"Kurdish peshmerga, with US air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam" complex, Major General Abdelrahman Korini told AFP.</p> <p>"We killed several members of Daash. We are still advancing and in the coming hours should announce welcome news," he said, using the old Arabic acronym for the Islamic State jihadist group.</p> <p>Witnesses said the air strikes started early in the morning and reported that fighting was ongoing in the afternoon.</p> <p>Peshmerga forces lost control of the dam on August 7 as IS fighters were sweeping the region, conquering one village after another and seizing other key infrastructure such as oil wells.</p> <p>The dam on the Tigris river, on the southern shores of Mosul lake about 30 miles north of the city, provides electricity to much of the region and is crucial to irrigation in vast farming areas in Nineveh province.</p> <p>A 2007 letter to the premier, Nouri al-Maliki, sent by then US ambassador Ryan Crocker and the former commander of US forces in Iraq, David Petraeus, warned of the consequences of a disaster at the dam, which was assessed to have serious structural weaknesses.</p> <p>"A catastrophic failure of Mosul dam would result in flooding along the Tigris river all the way to Baghdad," the letter read.</p> <p>"Assuming a worst case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20 metres deep at the city of Mosul," it said.</p> <p>The Islamic State has already resorted to the weaponisation of dams, as was the case earlier this year when it flooded large areas around the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad.</p> <p>However Mosul is the main stronghold of the Iraqi part of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed "caliphate," and the dam would be an important part of its own economy and state-building efforts.</p> Need to Know Turkey Sat, 16 Aug 2014 19:13:31 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6233390 at Landslides, floods kill 109 people, displace thousands in Nepal and India <!--paging_filter--><p>The death toll from landslides and flooding triggered by torrential monsoon rains in Nepal and northern <a href="">India</a> climbed to at least 109 Saturday as tides of water, mud and rocks swept away houses, officials said.</p> <p>The downpours also displaced thousands of people in the scenic Himalayan region and revived memories of a deadly deluge last year that killed more than 5,000 people in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.</p> <p>The rains in Nepal over the past three days have killed 85 people and left more than 100 others unaccounted for, said national disaster management chief Yadav Prasad Koirala.</p> <p>"We have recovered 85 bodies so far, 54 people have suffered injuries due to landslides and flooding over the last three days and 113 are still missing," Koirala told AFP.</p> <p>The rains have damaged roads across the country's western plains bordering India, with poor visibility hindering helicopter rescue efforts to evacuate some 1,500 people stranded in waterlogged homes, said home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal.</p> <p>"Because of the damage to roads in the area, we can only deliver relief supplies like tents and medicines by helicopter," Dhakal told AFP.</p> <p>Army officials rescued some 300 people Saturday, while hundreds more awaited help in the worst-hit districts of Surkhet and Bardiya, where electricity lines snapped, leaving thousands without power.</p> <p>"We have had no power all day and we are struggling to reach affected people," said Bardiya district official Tej Prasad Paudel.</p> <p>In neighboring Banke district, flooding caused by heavy rain washed away homes, district official Jeevan Oli said.</p> <p>"We've recovered four bodies, including two children. We've looking for four more people whose hut was swept away last night," Oli told AFP.</p> <p>The deaths come two weeks after the worst landslide in over a decade smashed into hamlets in northeastern Nepal, killing 156 people.</p> <p>Monsoon rains have also forced officials to close a major bridge along the country's longest highway after it developed cracks and caved in.</p> <p><strong>Evacuations in India </strong></p> <p>Meanwhile, heavy downpours in neighboring India triggered landslides and flooding that have claimed at least 24 lives since Friday, according to government officials.</p> <p>In Uttarakhand state, seven people were killed in their sleep by a landslide as monsoon rains pounded the hilly region this week.</p> <p>"Seven people were killed while one woman was pulled alive by rescue workers from the debris of a house which collapsed due to overnight rain," district magistrate Chandresh Yadav told AFP, adding the total death toll was now 24.</p> <p>According to officials in Pauri district, at least 50 families were stranded and the army was being deployed to evacuate them.</p> <p>With more rain predicted in the next 24 hours, state authorities have sought reinforcements from the army and the air force, said Indian government spokesman Surendra Kumar.</p> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief on Twitter over the loss of lives in the state.</p> <p>Hundreds of people die every year in floods and landslides during the monsoon season in South <a href="">Asia</a>.</p> <p>While annual rains are a lifeline for the region's farmers, flooding, landslides and building collapses are frequent during the monsoon season, which lasts from June to September.</p> <p>Earlier this month, at least 151 people were killed in western Indian city of Pune by a massive landslide caused by rains.</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Sat, 16 Aug 2014 16:50:20 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6233356 at Red Cross says 5 of its workers have been seized in western Afghanistan <!--paging_filter--><p>The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Saturday that five of its Afghan staff were kidnapped by a local armed group two days ago in the western province of Herat.</p> <p>"The incident happened when the team was traveling by road in Herat province on August 14," said Marek Resich, an ICRC spokesman in Kabul.</p> <p>He said the organization was working on multiple levels "to secure their safe return."</p> <p>In a separate incident, the Taliban abducted 13 people on Friday who had been working to clear mines in central Ghazni province and were traveling to the capital, according to a local official.</p> <p>"We have already spoken to elders in the area to use their influence and speak to the Taliban to release them," Shafiq Nang Safi, a spokesman for provincial governor, said on Saturday.</p> <p>The latest spate of kidnappings underscores the ongoing dangers faced by both Afghans and foreigners working for development and aid groups across the country.</p> <p>Last year, there were more than 230 attacks on the humanitarian sector in <a href="">Afghanistan</a>, according to the United Nations.</p> <p>The Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), which rescued three <a href="">Indian</a> citizens this week who had been kidnapped by the Taliban in Logar province, asked all foreigners to report to police before traveling in the country.</p> <p>(Reporting by Krista Mahr and Mirwais Harooni in Kabul and Mustafa Andalib in Ghazni; Editing by Sophie Hares)</p> Afghanistan Need to Know Sat, 16 Aug 2014 15:53:21 +0000 Krista Mahr, Thomson Reuters 6233325 at Islamic State kills dozens in northern Iraq 'massacre' <!--paging_filter--><p>Jihadists carried out a "massacre" in the northern Iraqi village of Kocho, killing dozens of people, most of them members of the Yazidi religious minority, officials said on Saturday.</p> <p>Jihadists from the Islamic State group are carrying out attacks against minorities in <a href="">Iraq</a>'s Nineveh province, prompting tens of thousands of people to flee.</p> <p>"We have information from multiple sources, in the region and through intelligence, that (on Friday) afternoon, a convoy of (IS) armed men entered this village," senior Iraqi official Hoshyar Zebari told AFP.</p> <p>"They took their revenge on its inhabitants, who happened to be mostly Yazidis who did not flee their homes," Zebari said, referring to a religious community regarded as heretics by jihadists.</p> <p>"They committed a massacre against the people," he said. "Around 80 of them have been killed."</p> <p>Harim Kamal Agha, a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party in Dohuk province, which borders Nineveh, put the death toll at 81 and said the militants had taken women to prisons they control.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This man has lost 63 relatives to the Islamic State</a></strong></p> <p>And Mohsen Tawwal, a Yazidi fighter, told AFP by telephone that he saw a large number of bodies in the village.</p> <p>"We made it into a part of Kocho village, where residents were under siege, but we were too late," he said.</p> <p>"There were corpses everywhere. We only managed to get two people out alive. The rest had all been killed."</p> <p>Jihadist-led insurgents launched a major offensive in June that began in Nineveh and swept security forces aside, overrunning large areas of five provinces.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Iraq's Christians feel the US and the church have abandoned them</a></strong></p> <p>In one of the most dramatic chapters of the conflict, the militants stormed the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq earlier this month prompting tens of thousands of people, many of them Yazidis, to take refugee in the mountains.</p> <p>Kurdish fighters on the ground and US air strikes eventually helped most of those trapped to escape after more than 10 days under siege, but some remain in the mountains.</p> Need to Know Iraq Sat, 16 Aug 2014 14:29:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6233233 at Skirmishes continue in eastern Ukraine but no signs of a widening conflict <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists fought skirmishes near the Russian border on Saturday but there was no sign of the conflict widening after Kyiv said it partially destroyed an armored column that had crossed the border from <a href="">Russia</a>.</p> <p>The report of the attack on the armored column on Friday triggered a sell-off in the US dollar and European stocks, with markets fearful it could change the Ukraine conflict into an open confrontation between Moscow and Western-backed Kyiv.</p> <p>But Moscow made no threat of retaliation, instead saying it was a "fantasy" that its armored vehicles entered Ukraine, while in Washington the White House said it could not confirm that Russian vehicles had been attacked on Ukrainian soil.</p> <p>On the ground, the conflict in eastern Ukraine returned on Saturday to the pattern it has been following for several weeks. Kyiv said military equipment was entering from Russia, and the rebels said they had attacked Ukrainian troops.</p> <p>A Reuters reporter in Donetsk, one of two rebel strongholds in the east, said the sound of explosions was audible in the city center.</p> <p>The Finnish President, Sauli Niinisto, was to arrive in Kyiv later on Saturday for talks with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko aimed at finding a negotiated solution.</p> <p>Niinisto had met Putin in southern Russia on Friday and afterwards spoke of the possibility of a truce, although it was not immediately clear how that would happen.</p> <p><strong>Counter-claims</strong></p> <p>The conflict in Ukraine has dragged relations between Russia and the West to their worst since the Cold War and set off a round of trade restrictions that are hurting struggling economies both in Russia and <a href="">Europe</a>.</p> <p>The United Nations said this week that an estimated 2,086 people had died in the Ukraine conflict, with nearly 5,000 wounded.</p> <p>A rebel Internet news outlet said on Saturday that separatist fighters had killed 30 members of a Ukrainian government battalion in fighting in Luhansk province, a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine adjacent to the Russian border.</p> <p>Rebels said two villages south of Donetsk, the other separatist stronghold, were bombed overnight with mortars. Rebel news outlet Novorossiya also said two neighborhoods of the city itself had been hit with artillery.</p> <p>A Ukrainian defense ministry spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, contradicted the rebel assertions. He said three Ukrainian servicemen had been killed over the past 24 hours, and denied Kyiv's forces were firing artillery on Donetsk.</p> <p>In the past few hours Ukrainian security forces had spotted Russian drones and a helicopter crossing illegally into Ukraine's airspace, Lysenko told a news briefing.</p> <p>He declined to give further details on the incident on Friday in which Kyiv said it attacked armored vehicles that arrived from Russia. Ukraine has not made clear if the vehicles were manned by Russian soldiers or separatist irregulars.</p> Need to Know Europe Sat, 16 Aug 2014 12:48:00 +0000 Thomas Grove, Thomson Reuters 6233180 at Hamas says it has deported foreign journalists for reporting on missile launches <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The group that runs Gaza says foreign media coverage of this latest conflict with Israel was skewed against the Palestinians. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Noga Tarnopolsky </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JERUSALEM &mdash;&nbsp;Did Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, intimidate, harass or even deport journalists trying their damnedest to cover a dangerous war with Israel?</p> <p>If you take Hamas&#39; word for it, the answer appears to be yes.</p> <p>In an interview with the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen TV, Hamas spokeswoman Isra Almodallal said that foreign journalists have been deported from Gaza for filming Hamas rocket launches.</p> <p>Why? According to Almodallal, they &quot;were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative. So when they were conducting interviews or when they went on location to report they would focus on filming the places from where the missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.&quot;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="404" src="//" width="670"></iframe></p> <p>Hamas is not an organization that takes perceived support for the occupation lightly. Last month, <a href="" target="_blank">30 Gazans accused of collaboration</a> with Israel were executed without trial.&nbsp;</p> <p>Up until now, many have considered claims by Israel and the nonprofit <a href="" target="_blank">Foreign News Association</a> that Hamas was harassing journalists to be exaggerated.<strong> </strong>But the question has been hotly contested in conversations among journalists here since the start of the conflict on July 8.</p> <p>Almodallal may have been referring specifically to the audacious <a href="" target="_blank">Shreenivasan Jain</a>, correspondent for India&#39;s NDTV, who with his crew <a href="" target="_blank">broadcast an exclusive view</a> of Hamas building and launching rockets &quot;right next to our hotel&quot; earlier this month.</p> <p>&quot;These journalists were deported from the Gaza Strip. The security agencies would go and have a chat with these people. They would give them some time to change their message, one way or the other,&quot; said Almodallal, who is identified as a spokesperson for the Palestinian Information Ministry.</p> <p>Almodallal was a spokeswoman for the Hamas government until the establishment of the unity government in June. At that point, appointees of Fatah, the majority party of the Palestinian government in Ramallah, took over all official positions. Almodallal now <a href="" target="_blank">identifies herself on Twitter</a> as an &quot;independent journalist and a Palestinian activist.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;Some of the journalists who entered the Gaza Strip were under security surveillance,&quot; she explained in a video uploaded to YouTube. &quot;Even under these difficult circumstances we managed to reach them and tell them that what they were doing was anything but professional journalism and was immoral.&quot;</p> <p>On Tuesday, the Foreign News Association, an independent body that represents all of the almost 800 foreign journalists based in Israel and Palestine, <a href="" target="_blank">issued a rare and scathing statement</a> protesting &quot;in the strongest terms the blatant, incessant, forceful and unorthodox methods employed by the Hamas authorities and their representatives against visiting international journalists in Gaza over the past month.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>A public brouhaha ensued, displaying journalistic antagonism and ideological discord usually kept under the wrap of polite conversation.</p> <p>New York Times chief correspondent Jodi Rudoren, tweeting from Gaza but basing her information on reports from others who had been there during the heavy weeks of fighting, declared the FPA statement &quot;nonsense.&quot;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@joshmitnick</a> Every reporter I&#39;ve met who was in Gaza during war says this Israeli/now FPA narrative of Hamas harassment is nonsense</p> <p> &mdash; Jodi Rudoren (@rudoren) <a href="">August 11, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Similarly, Lisa Goldman, the New York-based director of the Israel-Palestine Initiative at the New America Foundation, said that there were &quot;no reports&quot; of journalists impeded in reporting the Gaza story.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@zeevs</a> I spoke to colleagues off the record. No reports of being unable to report story at all. <a href="">@NTarnopolsky</a> <a href="">@paulhirschson</a> <a href="">@liel</a> <a href="">@alonbd</a></p> <p> &mdash; Lisa Goldman (@lisang) <a href="">August 11, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>In her interview, Almodallal was almost certainly not referring to The New York Times&#39; Pulitzer Prize-winning&nbsp; photographer Tyler Hicks, who was questioned about the lack of images of Hamas militants or weaponry in his coverage of the war. In a response, <a href=";_type=blogs&amp;_r=0#" target="_blank">he wrote</a>, &quot;This is a war fought largely behind the scenes. Hamas fighters are not able to expose themselves. If they were even to step a foot on the street they would be spotted by an Israeli drone and immediately blown up. We don&#39;t see those fighters.&quot;</p> <p>Then, seemingly confirming the Israeli contention that Hamas uses residential areas to shield themselves from Israeli retaliation, he added, &quot;They are operating out of buildings and homes and at night. They are moving around very carefully. You don&#39;t see any signs of authority on the streets.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>The few members of the foreign media willing to speak openly on the matter <a href="" target="_blank">are divided</a>.</p> <p>But in a tweet subsequently deleted, Wall Street Journal correspondent Nick Casey posted the image of a Hamas spokesman setting up for an interview and commented, &quot;You have to wonder w the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media.&rdquo;</p> <p>FPA chairman Samer Shalabi, who is a longtime producer and cameraman for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was nonplussed by the Almodallal assertions. Saying he had no real comment on the matter, he concluded &quot;she&#39;s exactly proven everything we are saying.&quot;</p> Israel and its neighbors Want to Know War Israel and Palestine Fri, 15 Aug 2014 21:04:26 +0000 Noga Tarnopolsky 6232829 at Tony Abbott's top business adviser says 'global cooling' is the climate threat we should be worried about <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Global warming is a hoax. According to this guy, we're headed to another ice age. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott does not care about the environment. Full stop.</p> <p>Since taking power almost a year ago,&nbsp;<a href="">Abbott&#39;s administration</a> has done some really terrible things when it comes to climate change and environmental protection. He&#39;s axed a <a href="">carbon tax,</a> slashed funding to <a href="">green initiatives,</a> authorized <a href="">dredging</a> near the Great Barrier Reef, overseen a <a href="">shark cull</a> off the coast of Western Australia and asked <a href="">UNESCO</a> to remove 74,000 hectares of forest in Tasmania from its list of world heritage sites. (Fortunately, he failed on this last one.)</p> <p>These things are insane. And you&#39;ve got to wonder: Who&#39;s giving Abbott his policy advice?</p> <p>A lot of evidence points to this guy: Maurice Newman.</p> <p>Newman, a known climate denier and&nbsp; chair of Abbott&#39;s Business Advisory Council,&nbsp;raised eyebrows this week with an opinion piece in the Rupert Murdoch-owned <a href="">The Australian</a> newspaper in which he warned of the threat posed by&nbsp;&quot;global cooling.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp;What&#39;s worse, he argued, is that all the time and effort people have spent worrying about global warming has left Australia unprepared&nbsp;to deal with falling temperatures caused by a sharp drop in&nbsp;solar activity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Yep, that&rsquo;s right, folks. Scientists and other reasonable, Earth-dwelling humans aren&#39;t just wrong about climate change &mdash; they&#39;ve got the whole thing backward. As for all the&nbsp;<a href="">scientific evidence</a>&nbsp;that the planet is heating up as a result of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity? Nope. It&#39;s the sun, dammit!</p> <p>Before we go any further, check out the Guardian&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">&quot;fact check&quot;</a>&nbsp;of Newman&#39;s claims.&nbsp;</p> <p>Newman argued <a href="">in the piece</a> that we&#39;re heading toward a period of cooling that could threaten global peace, food and energy supply. It&#39;s out of our hands. And current&nbsp;government measures tackling climate change, such as the now defunct carbon tax, are like &ldquo;primitive civilizations offering up sacrifices to appease the gods.&rdquo; The sun does what the sun does.</p> <p>&ldquo;What if the warmth the world has enjoyed for the past 50 years is the result of solar activity, not man-made CO2?&rdquo; Newman said. &ldquo;The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its acolytes pay scant attention to any science, however strong the empirical evidence, that may relegate human causes to a lesser status.&rdquo;</p> <p>Newman, who is not a scientist, said the &ldquo;political establishment&rdquo; was ignoring the risk of global cooling because &ldquo;having put all our eggs in one basket and having made science a religion, it bravely persists with its global warming narrative, ignoring at its peril and ours, the clear warnings being given by mother nature.</p> <p>His conclusion? &ldquo;If the world does indeed move into a cooling period, its citizens are ill-prepared.&rdquo;</p> <p>Mic drop.</p> <p>The piece was, not surprisingly, ridiculed on social media and by actual climate scientists. Many people began calling for Abbott to dump Newman as chief business adviser.</p> <p>&ldquo;Maurice Newman&#39;s latest statements are channelling the flat earth commentary of a lunatic fringe,&rdquo; said <a href="">Adam Brandt</a>, who represents the Greens party in parliament.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This is clearly global cooling. Maurice Newman must be onto something <a href="">#climate</a> <a href="">#auspol</a> <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Marc Allen (@Marc_A_76) <a href="">August 14, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s nothing credible to what he says,&quot; Professor&nbsp;<a href="">Matthew England</a>&nbsp;of the University of NSW Climate Change Research Center in Sydney told the Guardian.&nbsp;&quot;I can&rsquo;t believe this stuff about <a href="" target="_blank">cosmic rays</a> is being raised again after it has been discredited so often...&nbsp;Saying we aren&rsquo;t prepared for global cooling is like saying we aren&rsquo;t prepared for an alien invasion. There is no credible scientist saying this is on the horizon.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>It&#39;s hard to know much influence Newman has on Abbott&#39;s environmental policy. But given Newman&#39;s senior advisory position and Abbott&#39;s disregard for climate change &mdash; he once described the&nbsp;science behind climate change as <a href="" target="_blank">&quot;absolute crap&quot;</a>&nbsp;&mdash; it seems like they&#39;re on the same page when it comes to destroying the environment for financial gain.</p> Want to Know Asia-Pacific Fri, 15 Aug 2014 18:51:00 +0000 Allison Jackson 6231904 at 400,000 children in Gaza need psychological care, UN says <!--paging_filter--><p>In a ward at Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital, child therapist Rabeea Hamouda is trying to elicit a response from two small brothers, Omar and Mohammed, aged three and 18 months, hoping for some words or perhaps a smile.</p> <p>For seven straight minutes the children, peppered with burns and shrapnel wounds sustained in Israeli shelling that hit their home in north Gaza, stare at him blankly, emotionless.</p> <p>Eventually, as Hamouda gently teases them, pretending to mix up their names and holding out a present while another counselor sings quietly, a smile creeps across Mohammed's face and the older one, Omar, cries out his name.</p> <p>"At the beginning, Omar was not responding to us at all, he was not even willing to say his name," explains Hamouda, who heads a team of 150 psychotherapists working for the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution in Gaza.</p> <p>"Big progress has been made with these children," he says with a sense of relief and quiet accomplishment. "At the beginning they did not talk, they refused to communicate. But now, with the sixth session, we are witnessing good progress."</p> <p>Omar and Mohammed are just two of the 400,000 Gazan children the United Nations estimates are in need of psychological care as a result of not just the latest war in the territory but the three previous conflicts fought with <a href="">Israel</a> since 2006.</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:66.666667% 0 0 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="396" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=eWAfJSFD1daxBqh9Il03OwNGO4liIoAad6ky9kUyk4E=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;"> </p> <div style="padding:0;margin:0 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#453611828</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <p>The most recent conflagration has been the deadliest, with 1,945 Palestinians killed, many of them civilians and including an estimated 457 children. On the other side of the border, some 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed.</p> <p>Whether the result of Israeli air strikes, having parents or relatives killed before their eyes, hearing militants firing rockets from their own towns or themselves being wounded, the psychological trauma for Gaza's young is profound.</p> <p>The symptoms range from nightmares, bed-wetting and behavioral regression to more debilitating mental anxiety, including an inability to process or verbalize experiences.</p> <p>There is also deep trauma on the other side of the border, with tens of thousands of Israeli children mentally disturbed by the regular rocket fire from militants during the month-long war and over the seven years since Hamas seized control of Gaza.</p> <p>While the conflict's destruction of buildings and livelihoods is clear to see and documented daily in television footage, the damage to minds is mostly invisible, yet can have far more damaging and longer-lasting consequences.</p> <p>"The first time a child goes through a traumatic event like a war it's just deeply terrifying," said Chris Gunness, the spokesman of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which has 200 psychotherapists working in up to 90 clinics in Gaza.</p> <p>"The second time is terrifying-plus-one because the child remembers the worst parts of the last war as well as the impact of the current one. Then the third time is plus-plus as the compounded memories of conflict build up.</p> <p>"This time, for an eight- or nine-year-old child in Gaza, it's very, very intense indeed because there is this cumulative toll of trauma from repeated conflicts since 2006."</p> <p><strong>Small steps</strong></p> <p>Hamouda and his team, like other psychotherapy units working across the small territory — home to an estimated 1.8 million people, more than half of whom are aged under 18 — can barely cope with the number of patients requiring help.</p> <p>The treatment is by necessity basic — an effort to draw children out, to have them paint pictures of their experiences or emotions, to get them to verbalize their circumstances.</p> <p>While a lot can be achieved with such simple techniques, many more require longer-term, personalized psychological care because of the enormity of the mental damage suffered.</p> <p>"First we provide wounded and traumatized children with immediate pyscho-social support and we give parents some guidance on how to deal with them," says Hamouda. Then there is home care and follow up for the more severe cases.</p> <p>"Houses can be rebuilt and some physical wounds can be healed, but the people's psychological condition needs more than money and time," he says. "It needs a big effort and persuasion, and overall it needs calm and stability."</p> <p>One of Gaza's most successful trauma assistance projects is the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, launched in 1990.</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:66.666667% 0 0 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="396" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=SFAOv-7FCSywvxx_FyQ6yhVI-nu5z8Bx_FX7Js8eS_c=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;"> </p> <div style="padding:0;margin:0 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#452418108</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <p>Hassan Zyada, a psychologist with the project, describes the latest conflict as easily the worst since 2006, with scores of Palestinians having lost multiple family members.</p> <p>"Our expectation is that more than 30 percent of the people here in Gaza will develop a psychiatric disorder," he said.</p> <p>Even health professionals are not immune. Six members of Zyada's own family were killed during the war: his mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a nephew. He is now receiving counseling from the clinic's chief therapist.</p> <p>"It is a really traumatic loss and it is not easy for me to deal with," he said, adding that several others on the team had suffered similar experiences.</p> <p>So widespread has the psychological damage become that UNRWA, which runs schools throughout the Gaza Strip, has now made psychotherapy a regular part of the curriculum.</p> <p>"We are rolling out a pretty massive program of parental and child therapy," said Gunness. "We're having to integrate this kind of therapy into our schools."</p> <p>(Additional reporting and editing by Luke Baker and Crispian Balmer)</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Fri, 15 Aug 2014 18:50:00 +0000 Nidal al-Mughrabi, Thomson Reuters 6232699 at The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is like 'wartime,' experts warn <!--paging_filter--><p>It will take about six months to bring under control the Ebola epidemic, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Friday, saying the outbreak in West <a href="">Africa</a> felt like "wartime, is moving, advancing."</p> <p>Joanne Liu, international president of MSF (Doctors Without Borders), speaking after a 10-day trip to West Africa, said more experts were needed on the ground and was critical of the World Health Organization (WHO) for declaring Ebola a "public health emergency of international concern" only on Aug 8.</p> <p>"We need people with a hands-on operational mindset," to combat the outbreak, Liu told a news briefing in Geneva.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Here's how researchers in Boston spotted the Ebola outbreak before the World Health Organization</a></strong></p> <p>Liu said she had conveyed those messages to the WHO and "that I think the wake-up call was too late in calling it a public health emergency of international concern."</p> <p>"I think we have a common understanding on it now," Liu said. "Now we have to find out how that is translated into concrete action in the field ... a statement will save lives only if followed up on the ground."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">How the Ebola outbreak turned into a racism and responsibility debate</a></strong></p> <p>On Thursday, the WHO said staff in West Africa had seen evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the scale of the Ebola outbreak and said it would coordinate "a massive scaling up of the international response."</p> <p>The death toll from the world's worst outbreak of Ebola stood on Wednesday at 1,069 from 1,975 confirmed, probable and suspected cases. The majority were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, while four people have died in <a href="">Nigeria</a>.</p> <p>"If we don't stabilize Liberia, we will never stabilize the region. Over the next six months we should get the upper hand on the epidemic, this is my gut feeling," Liu said.</p> <p>(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Janet Lawrence)</p> Africa Need to Know Fri, 15 Aug 2014 15:04:00 +0000 Stephanie Nebehay, Thomson Reuters 6232504 at Ukraine begins inspecting Russia's shady aid convoy <!--paging_filter--><p>Update:</p> <p>Ukrainian artillery destroyed a "significant" part of a Russian armored column that crossed into Ukraine during the night, President Petro Poroshenko told British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday, according to the presidential website.</p> <hr><p>Ukrainian border guards and customs officials on Friday began inspecting a Russian humanitarian aid cargo for eastern Ukraine at a border point inside <a href="">Russia</a>, a Ukrainian military statement said.</p> <p>A convoy of 280 Russian trucks brought the aid to the border in an operation which aroused Kyiv's suspicions that it might be used as a cover for a military operation in Ukraine. The aid is destined for eastern Ukraine, where a war between government forces and separatists has produced a humanitarian crisis.</p> <p>Meanwhile, NATO accused the Kremlin on Friday of escalating the conflict in Ukraine.</p> <p>The Russian government denied its troops had entered Ukraine, but the media reports risked further inflaming tensions between Moscow and the West, which have already imposed costly economic restrictions on each other.</p> <p>"If confirmed, they are further evidence that Russia is doing the very opposite of what it's saying. Russia has been escalating the conflict, even as it calls for de-escalation," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.</p> <p>At a meeting of <a href="">European</a> Union foreign ministers in <a href="">Brussels</a>, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was alarmed that Russian forces might have crossed the border.</p> <p>"If there are any Russian military personnel or vehicles in eastern Ukraine, they need to be withdrawn immediately or the consequences could be very serious," he told reporters. Lithuania's foreign minister also voiced concern.</p> Need to Know Europe Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6232384 at Amid fears of a Russian invasion, Ukrainians keep pushing for political reform <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The revolutionary spirit is still alive in Kyiv, but economic crisis and an ongoing rebellion in the east are complicating demands to overhaul a corrupt system. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>KYIV, Ukraine — The authorities have almost completely dismantled the sprawling tent encampment around Independence Square, the center of protests that forced former President Viktor Yanukovych to flee earlier this year.</p> <p>But the revolutionary spirit is being kept alive just up the street.</p> <p>In recent days, groups of protesters have gathered outside the parliament — with slogan, flags, chants and all — demanding the passage of a law aimed at weeding out corrupt officials.</p> <p>After critics slammed lawmakers for delaying the vote, protesters finally celebrated victory on Thursday afternoon when deputies approved the bill in its first reading.</p> <p>The vote proved that while the Maidan — as the square is universally known — is now empty, few Ukrainians have forgotten its demands.</p> <p>Although most observers agree that revolutionary passion hasn’t yet dissipated, they say tough work lies ahead for a government confronted with economic crisis, a rebellion in the east and the threat of invasion from <a href="">Russia</a>.</p> <p>“The energy is undoubtedly there, but the challenge is to create institutions that can channel this energy,” says Serhiy Taran, a Kyiv-based political activist.</p> <p>Last week, the city authorities finally fulfilled their pledge to clear the square, a proposal they had floated since shortly after the presidential election in May.</p> <p>It wasn’t without incident. Scuffles broke out between the few remaining demonstrators — who have been slammed by their peers for allegedly “discrediting” the movement — and security forces.</p> <p> Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority supported the move. Some had even taken to facetiously calling the area “Alco-Maidan” (as in, "alcohol"), in reference to the dubious and often shaggy characters that still populated the square, sometimes drunk.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>Now the focus is shifting to the halls of parliament, where lawmakers have been charged with pushing through legislation that would dismantle much of the notoriously corrupt political system.</p> <p>The task is proving especially difficult because of the ongoing anti-insurgent campaign in the east, with its <a href="" target="_blank">body count rising by the day</a>, and an old parliament still dogged by political intrigue and popular distrust.</p> <p>Observers hope that will be at least partially remedied by fresh parliamentary elections that will probably take place in October.</p> <p>Reformers have already won some minor victories.</p> <p>In April, lawmakers pushed through legislation aimed at cleaning up the public procurement process while another law granted the country’s public universities more autonomy from the state.</p> <p>But those piecemeal changes don’t represent a broader, more meaningful trend. While lawmakers passed the so-called <a href="" target="_blank">lustration</a> draft law targeting corrupt officials — which may still be altered in a subsequent reading — they again failed to put a crucial electoral reform law to vote.</p> <p>Oleksiy Haran, a university professor and prominent political commentator, says the most important task is pressuring politicians into greater accountability and forcing them to pass reform legislation consistently.</p> <p>“The main problem now concerns how to lobby for these laws,” he says, echoing the opinion of many others who say the months-long protests have left a lasting impression on society.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Ukraine's revolution isn't over yet</a></strong></p> <p>That assignment has now largely fallen to activists like Taran, a Kyiv-based political scientist who recently helped launch a political party called “Will.”</p> <p>Based on the ideals of the Maidan, the party advocates a multi-point platform that includes eliminating corruption, mandatory military conscription and the de-monopolization of the economy from oligarchs.</p> <p>But Taran concedes it’s not easy for new political forces these days in a system that appears rigged against them.</p> <p>He estimates that political parties need at least $10 million for campaign advertising in order to stand a chance at the polls, for instance. That’s why he and fellow party members support banning political advertisement.</p> <p>“On one hand, there’s a demand for new political forces, but on the other the old political elites are blocking any new political forces through conditions that make them very difficult to make it into parliament,” he says.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>Despite the demands for political change, politicians are also preoccupied with the military campaign against pro-Russian separatist rebels in the east, where both military and civilian casualties are piling up quickly.</p> <p>Although Ukrainian forces have successfully hammered away at rebel positions, they now face a daunting task chasing out the separatists from their stronghold of Donetsk, a densely populated city still home to hundreds of thousands.</p> <p>The conflict has radicalized at least part of Ukrainian society, evidenced by a major boost in support for the populist firebrand lawmaker Oleh Lyashko, who’s built a following by staging vigilante safaris during which he captures and abuses suspected rebels and sympathetic officials on film.</p> <p>But mainstream public opinion is less clear.</p> <p>Ievgen Vorobiov, an analyst at the <a href="">Polish</a> Institute of International Affairs, points to a “paradox” in how many view the ongoing war.</p> <p>“Ukrainians are weary and quite tired, but also too stubborn to [support a pullout] after going through so many casualties and so much time spent there.”</p> <p>Then there’s an economy that has sputtered along with some Western aid but whose currency has depreciated significantly since late last month, having <a href="" target="_blank">hit a new low this week</a>.</p> <p>Some analysts predict deeper economic trouble head. Vorobiov says Ukrainian exporters may take a significant hit thanks to trade with Russia drying up and <a href="">Europe</a>’s preoccupation with its own economic woes.</p> <p>“I think we’ll be seeing more depreciation at the end of the year,” he says.</p> <p>Despite the wide array of immediate problems, however, many social leaders are continuing to crusade for sweeping reform.</p> <p>Lubomyr Husar, the former head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and long considered a moral authority here, wrote this week of the importance to fundamentally change the country’s political culture.</p> <p>“Individuals who feel a calling to political service should consider very seriously what they’re being chosen for by the community,” he wrote Tuesday in Ukrayinska Pravda, a leading independent news outlet.</p> <p>“We would like to see in our Ukrainian state exactly these kinds of exemplary politicians.”</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Arming the Kurds could be a huge mistake for the US. Here's why</a></strong></p> Crisis in Ukraine Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Politics Russia Fri, 15 Aug 2014 04:19:21 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6231836 at The Vietnam War might seem like ancient history, but thousands still risk arrest and torture for helping the US <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 4 decades later, Hmong who helped the US ‘fight communism’ are still persecuted and on the run. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kamala Kelkar </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BANGKOK, <a href="">Thailand</a> — For 24-year-old Pa Kou Vang, home is a shared room in the heaving alleys of Bangkok where she shields herself with silence so locals don’t hear her accent and call the police.</p> <p>Selling fried chicken on the streets for about $4 a day, she does her best to care for and protect her 5-year-old daughter.</p> <p>A Hmong immigrant from Laos, Vang learned to hide from vengeful authorities as a child, because decades ago her ancestors were armed by the US to fight against communists during the <a href="">Vietnam</a> War.</p> <p>Since the war ended, the US had resettled more than 253,000 persecuted Hmong refugees like Vang, who typically sought asylum through camps set up in Thailand. Some Laotian authorities persist at seeing Hmong as conspirators for the US, harassing and tormenting them.</p> <p>“The Lao government continues to view the Hmong with suspicion and in some cases outright hostility, and are inclined to believe the worst about them,” Deputy Director Phil Robertson for Human Rights Watch in Bangkok wrote in an email.</p> <p>Representatives of the Laotian government did not respond to GlobalPost’s requests for comment.</p> <p>In 2009, the Thai government stopped hosting the refugees in an effort to improve diplomatic relations with Laos. Authorities destroyed the remaining camps and deported about 4,500 Hmong, including Vang and her 1-month-old daughter.</p> <p>Vang is among the thousands of forgotten Lao Hmong who have lived in this grim limbo since, either ducking attention in their homeland because of the danger there, or living in the shadows in Thailand, in fear of deportation.</p> <p>When she was deported from Thailand in 2009, Vang was already an experienced migrant.</p> <p>She first fled Laos around 2005, as a pre-adolescent with her adoptive mother after her father died from illness. She was arrested soon after and returned with 26 other children. Upon crossing the border, Laotian police singled her out, she said, because she shared the surname of a general who commanded the secret Hmong army in the 70s. She says she was nearly interrogated to death.</p> <p>“They kept telling me I was a spy for the US, but I wasn’t,” said Vang in broken Thai. Crying, she recounted waking up naked in an isolated room after being starved and beaten for several days. “I was sure they were going to kill me.”</p> <p>After about two months of incarceration she and the other children were released. Vang had lost contact with her mom, so in fear of the Laotian police she made another dash across the Mekong River to Thailand, where she remains today, scraping by, worried her daughter will not be able to go to school.</p> <p>A refugee director at the US Department of State says there are two avenues into the country for people like Vang. One is to trudge to America on her own and apply for asylum once she’s there. The other would be to acquire a reference from the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) based in Bangkok. However, that’s the same agency that Vang says has ignored her case and many others’ since the 2009 deportations.</p> <p>Between January of 2010 and July of 2012, the US had only granted Laotians asylum in 77 cases, a total of 268 people. The country has not taken another Laotian Hmong case since then.</p> <p>“What’s happened in the last couple years is that the UNHCR has not referred any cases,” said US State Department Deputy Director of Refugee Admissions Kelly Gauger.</p> <p>But human rights lawyers in Bangkok say cases like Vang’s continue to accumulate, on top of an emerging list of Vietnamese Hmong ones, and they are all being dismissed. They claim that the UNHCR since the 2009 cutoff has enabled Thailand to be selective about who can stay in the country by denying Hmong requests while accommodating others’.</p> <p>The UNHCR, however, denies those claims.</p> <p>“There is no formal agreement (with the Thai government), but in recent years newly-arriving Lao Hmong have not approached UNHCR’s office in Bangkok to seek asylum,” spokeswoman Vivian Tan wrote in an email.</p> <p>GlobalPost asked Tan about Vang’s case and that of Xiong Mai Ka Yang, a mother of six whose husband was arrested in Thailand on his way to his construction job despite her family already being granted refugee status.</p> <p>Both have files with UNHCR, but Tan said that UNHCR does not comment on individual cases for confidentiality reasons.</p> <p>Vang and Yang, 35, were nervous to meet GlobalPost because they said other Hmong neighbors grow suspicious and worry for their safety. When people within this hidden community leave the premises, they might draw unwanted attention back to them.</p> <p>Vang translated Hmong to Thai for Yang, who came with her brother to a mall because it was an unlikely place to see and worry other Hmong. Yang did not touch her mocha the entire time she spoke. But all three asked that their actual names be published in hopes of provoking movement with their cases. Yang’s brother said they have family who made it to Wisconsin and Australia through UNHCR, before 2009.</p> <p>“We are still hoping the UN can help us,” Yang said in Hmong.</p> <p>With a face stained from tears, Vang said that the visit to the mall was one of the happiest days she could remember because it was a break from hiding. She said she felt that her only option is to hope for resettlement in “any country.”</p> <p>“I cannot go back to Laos. They will jail me again,” she said.</p> Want to Know Asia-Pacific Cambodia Vietnam Fri, 15 Aug 2014 04:19:00 +0000 Kamala Kelkar 6228989 at South Africans want to boycott penis clamps — because Gaza <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> You read that right. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Erin Conway-Smith </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JOHANNESBURG, South Africa &mdash; The little plastic device seemed ideal for South Africa&#39;s campaign to reduce HIV rates through medical circumcision &mdash; safe, inexpensive, nearly painless, and non-surgical. You put it on, the elastic shuts off the flow of blood to the foreskin, and the foreskin dies on its own, removed after a week. Only problem: it&#39;s made in Israel.</p> <p>Whenever the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flares, it echoes in distant South Africa. And as the warring parties negotiate amid a <a href="">five-day truce</a> <a href=";_r=0">marred early on</a> by rockets and airstrikes, the <a href="">PrePex</a> male circumcision ring is one of many products in South Africa being targeted by growing calls to boycott Israeli-made goods.</p> <p>The issue resonates deeply here, with many South Africans supporting the Palestinians and drawing parallels with their struggle against apartheid. Many also remember that during the years of racist white minority rule, South Africa&rsquo;s government maintained uncomfortably close ties with Israel &mdash; even though Israel formally opposed apartheid. Since the advent of democracy in 1994, the African National Congress-led government has been fiercely critical of Israeli policies.</p> <p>Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel peace laureate who led South Africa&#39;s post-apartheid truth and reconciliation campaign, has been <a href="">one of Israel&rsquo;s sharpest critics</a>. In recent years, he&#39;s championed a cultural boycott, arguing that it would be as inappropriate for artists to perform in Israel as it had been for them to do in apartheid South Africa, &ldquo;a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity.&rdquo;</p> <p>Former president Thabo Mbeki has also joined the boycott calls, declaring that Israel should &ldquo;pay a price for the position that it is taking.&rdquo; A popular target has been Woolworths, an upscale grocery store chain that stocks a small number of products made in Israel.</p> <p>Cosatu, the powerful South African trade union federation allied with the ruling ANC, has been behind the calls for South Africa to boycott the PrePex circumcision device. Spokesman Patrick Craven has explained that &ldquo;we cannot have exceptions&rdquo; in the wholesale boycott of Israeli goods.</p> <p>In some cases the rhetoric has been extreme. <a href="">Tony Ehrenreich</a>, a senior Cosatu official, in a Facebook post this week called for an &ldquo;eye for an eye against Zionist aggression.&rdquo; Ehrenreich also wrote that the <a href="">South African Jewish Board of Deputies</a> &mdash; an umbrella group that leads the country&rsquo;s Jewish community &mdash; was &ldquo;complicit in the murder of the people in Gaza.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Board of Deputies has officially complained to the South African human rights commission, saying, &ldquo;Ehrenreich&rsquo;s inflammatory post incites violence and hatred against the representative body for South African Jewry.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;It also comes at a time of heightened tension over the Israel-Gaza conflict, thereby inflaming an already volatile situation,&rdquo; chairwoman Mary Kluk added.</p> <p>South Africa&#39;s Jewish population numbers about 70,000 people, some of whom played prominent roles in the anti-apartheid struggle. The recent conflict in Gaza has also sparked internal dissent within this community.</p> <p>One controversy within the South African Jewish community has centered around a teenager named Joshua Broomberg, a student leader at a Jewish school in Johannesburg who is currently competing at the World Schools Debating Championships in Thailand.</p> <p>Broomberg, 17, was photographed wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf, with the caption reading: &ldquo;Team South Africa wearing Palestinian badges and keffiyehs to show our opposition to human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine. #WSDC2014.&rdquo;</p> <p>An online furor followed, including a petition that called for the teenager to face disciplinary action at his school, with some arguing that he should be stripped of his school honors.</p> <p>Broomberg <a href="">posted an apology</a> on his Facebook page in response, saying that his position was &ldquo;not designed to offend or upset.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;In fact, I consider it my duty to contribute to the growing worldwide discussion surrounding the desperate need for a quick end and lasting solution to this pernicious conflict,&rdquo; he wrote.</p> <p>&ldquo;In my eyes, this criticism is not a betrayal, but actually the only honest and true way to show my patriotism and commitment to Israel, as well as my belief in human rights and the entitlement of all citizens of all countries to those rights.</p> <p>&ldquo;To improve, we must criticize.&rdquo;</p> Africa Strange But True Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:43:00 +0000 Erin Conway-Smith 6231861 at Kosovo police arrest an imam on suspicion of recruiting Islamist fighters <!--paging_filter--><p>Police in Kosovo arrested an imam on suspicion of recruiting Kosovars to fight in <a href="">Iraq</a> and <a href="">Syria</a> after 40 men were rounded up this week and on Thursday ordered to remain in detention.</p> <p>The 30-year-old imam from the eastern town of Gjilan is accused of recruiting for the purpose of terrorism and organizing and participating in a terrorist group.</p> <p>"He is suspected of being one of the main inspirers of jihad," police said in a statement.</p> <p>The imam's arrest follows that of 40 men on Monday suspected of having fought with Islamist insurgents in Syria and Iraq. They were remanded in custody on Thursday for 30 days.</p> <p>The phenomenon has alarmed many Kosovars, who are mainly Muslim ethnic Albanians but whose lifestyles are largely secular.</p> <p>Police say 16 Kosovars have been killed in Syria and Iraq and intelligence sources believe between 100 and 200 are fighting there.</p> <p>The landlocked and impoverished country, one of the poorest in <a href="">Europe</a>, became independent from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO went to war to halt the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians by Serbian forces under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.</p> <p>Kosovo's parliament is expected to pass legislation soon banning citizens from joining foreign insurgencies, with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on conviction.</p> <p>A number of European countries including <a href="">Britain</a>, <a href="">France</a> and <a href="">the Netherlands</a> have begun cracking down on citizens, mainly of an Islamic immigrant background, going to join radical Islamist insurrections in Syria and Iraq.</p> <p>They are concerned such volunteers could eventually return to Europe battle-hardened, radicalized and posing a security threat.</p> <p>(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; editing by Matt Robinson and Janet Lawrence)</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:41:08 +0000 Fatos Bytyci, Thomson Reuters 6231707 at Canadian cleric and former cricketer raise stakes in Pakistan's political fight <!--paging_filter--><p>Thousands of anti-government protesters began to march on the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Thursday from the eastern city of Lahore, raising fears about political stability and prospects for civilian rule in the nuclear-armed country.</p> <p>Two protest groups — one led by cricketer-turned-opposition politician Imran Khan, and the other by activist cleric Tahir ul-Qadri — are heading to the capital to demand that a government they condemn as corrupt steps down.</p> <p>Both marches were initially banned but late on Wednesday the government said Khan's march could go ahead. On Thursday, police announced that Qadri could also march, despite previous calls for his arrest by the provincial government.</p> <p>Khan and Qadri are not officially allied though both are sworn enemies of the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party swept an election last year in the first transfer of power from one elected government to another in coup-prone Pakistan's history.</p> <p>Qadri, a Muslim preacher turned political activist who usually lives in Canada, says he wants to see the government out by the end of the month. His supporters, many from a network of Islamic schools and charities, have been involved in several deadly clashes with police.</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:72.727273% 0 0 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="432" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=FqeaH8fZ5ixZmY5yPr9eTEnCNxg2KQafVxfBYRV6M6E=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;"> </p> <div style="padding:0;margin:0 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#453565210</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <p>Qadri promises the country much if his movement triumphs.</p> <p>"Every homeless person will be provided housing; every unemployed person will be given a job; low paid people will be provided with daily necessities," Qadri said in a speech on Thursday.</p> <p>One of Qadri's main complaints is that the killing of his supporters by police is not being properly investigated. About 2,000 of his supporters have been arrested, police say.</p> <p>Last week, he called on his supporters to retaliate if attacked by police, raising fears of violence.</p> <p><strong>Election complaints</strong></p> <p>The protests and fears of clashes have fuelled tension in the country of 180-million people, beset by an Islamist militant insurgency, chronic power shortages and a sluggish economy.</p> <p>The political confrontation has revived concern about the central issue in Pakistani politics: competition for power between the military and civilian leaders.</p> <p>Any threat to Pakistan's stability alarms its allies and neighbours, who fear rising religious intolerance and the Islamist militants who find refuge there.</p> <p>Some officials had accused elements within the powerful military of orchestrating the protests to weaken the civilian government. The military has declined to comment but has previously said it does not meddle in politics.</p> <p>Many analysts doubt whether the military wants to seize power, but there is a widespread perception it could use the opportunity to put the civilian government under its thumb.</p> <p>Despite those perceptions, Sharif is relying on the military for security in the face of the challenges. As a result, the government is likely less determined to pursue polices the military objects to, such as the prosecution on treason charges of former military leader Pervez Musharraf, analysts say.</p> <p>Khan said he was cheated in the general election in May last year and wants a proper investigation into his complaints.</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:66.329966% 0 0 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="394" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=ZKAcvYoKr39OWzMdbqHVk9LvIbQvrJavzsJhW6Tka4c=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;"> </p> <div style="padding:0;margin:0 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#453591962</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <p>His supporters were exuberant despite a huge traffic jam as they tried to set off on the 370-km (230-mile) journey to Islamabad on Thursday, an Independence Day holiday in Pakistan.</p> <p>Khan travelled in a modified, bulletproof shipping container with windows. Many of his supporters carried sleeping mats and food, determined to camp on Islamabad streets until their demands were met — including a demand for Sharif to resign.</p> <p>"I was treated at his cancer hospital free of cost," said 50-year-old housewife Aasia Khan, referring to a charitable hospital that Khan set up in memory of his mother. "I owe him a lot and will support him until I die."</p> <p>Khan's political ambitions were for years dismissed but he built up support, in particular among students. The one-time playboy cricket star developed a reputation as a conservative maverick and questioned Pakistan's close ties with the <a href="">United States</a>.</p> <p>He won 34 seats in the 342-seat lower house of parliament in the last election. Sharif's party won 190 seats.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld and Syed Raza Hassan in Islamabad and Asim Tanveer in Multan; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Robert Birsel)</p> Need to Know Pakistan Thu, 14 Aug 2014 14:55:00 +0000 Mubasher Bukhari, Thomson Reuters 6231655 at Shells hit central Donetsk as controversial Russian aid convoy heads toward border <!--paging_filter--><p>Artillery shells hit close to the center of Ukraine's separatist-held city of Donetsk for the first time on Thursday, killing at least one person, as a large Russian aid convoy rumbled toward the border.</p> <p>With Ukrainian government forces tightening the noose on pro-Russian separatists, shelling rocked Donetsk, sending frightened residents rushing for cover, witnesses said.</p> <p>It was not immediately clear if the artillery was fired by government or rebel forces.</p> <p>Two shells landed 200 meters (660 feet) from the Park Inn Radisson, one of the city's main hotels, shattering windows. The blasts opened up a yawning hole on the third floor of an apartment block and left a broad crater on the pavement.</p> <p>Nearby, a body covered by a sheet lay stretched out on the blood-stained ground.</p> <p>A huge Russian convoy carrying 2,000 tons of water, baby food and other humanitarian aid drove through southern <a href="">Russia</a> towards the frontier, while Kyiv repeated it could not enter until Ukrainian authorities had cleared its cargo.</p> <p>The caravan of 280 trucks left the Moscow region on Tuesday, looking to take aid to Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine, where the main city is held by the separatists.</p> <p>The pro-Western Kyiv government says the humanitarian crisis is partly of Moscow's making and has denounced the dispatch of aid as an act of cynicism. It is also fearful that the operation could become a covert military intervention by Moscow to prop up the rebels who appear on the verge of defeat.</p> <p>Moscow, which denies charges — also voiced by the West — of arming the rebels with tanks, missiles and other heavy military equipment, has dismissed as "absurd" suggestions it could use the convoy as a cover for invasion.</p> <p>In Geneva, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which would be responsible for distributing the aid in Ukraine, said: "The question of border crossing procedures and customs clearance (for the convoy) still have to be clarified between the two sides."</p> <p>A senior Ukrainian presidential aide said that the Russian cargo could be taken into the country only under the auspices of the Red Cross and on completion of all border formalities.</p> <p>"Ukraine will not allow onto its territory any accompanying escort for the cargo and any repetition of attempts to send in so-called peacekeepers," said the aide, Valery Chaly.</p> <p><strong>Border doubts</strong></p> <p>Reuters journalists following the convoy said on Thursday it was heading south from the city of Voronezh towards Rostov-on-Don and was no longer seeking entry through Ukraine's Kharkiv region as had first been assumed.</p> <p>Ukrainian authorities had indicated that they did not want the convoy moving through the government-controlled north-east rim, apparently concerned it might provoke trouble.</p> <p>The question now was whether the trucks would head for one of the many parts of the border under rebel control on the Ukrainian side — something which would make checks by Ukrainian border authorities difficult, if not impossible.</p> <p>"If decisions are taken to bring the humanitarian aid in through areas of the border which are temporarily under the control of the terrorists, the cargo will all the same have to be looked at by Ukrainian border guards and transferred to representatives of the Red Cross," said military spokesman Andriy Lysenko on Thursday.</p> <p>It was not immediately clear how this could happen.</p> <p>Relief agencies say people living in Luhansk and in Donetsk, the region's main industrial hub, are facing shortages of water, food and electricity after four-months of conflict in which the United Nations say more than 2,000 people have been killed.</p> <p>In Donetsk, people poured out of their offices into the stairwell of the city's main administration building after loud explosions nearby triggered an evacuation warning.</p> <p>A short while later, the whistling sound of incoming shells were swiftly followed by at least two further blasts.</p> <p>Liliya Chelina, 54, lived in the apartment block whose wall was smashed by a projectile. "It came straight into the apartment. Thank God I was not in the kitchen," she said.</p> <p>"My husband promised me that shells would never hit our house, only large buildings. But look at what has happened."</p> <p>A woman called Tamara, who showed a deputy’s card for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said she believed the separatist fighters had fired the shells. "One of the fighters said they had done it," she said.</p> <p>The separatist Internet news outlet Novorossiya said Ukrainian government forces hit targets in the Leninsky region of Donetsk and have struck regions to the east and southwest of the city in previous days.</p> <p>The news outlet said hardest hit areas were Makiyivka's Hirnitsky neighbourhood as well as areas between Donetsk and Dokuchaevsk which lies south of the city.</p> <p>Ukrainian troops have been slowly encircling Donetsk, the regional hub with a peace-time population of nearly a million.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Maxim Shemetov and Dmitry Madorsky, southern Russia; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Crispian Balmer)</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 14 Aug 2014 13:35:00 +0000 Thomas Grove, Thomson Reuters 6231540 at US says 'far fewer' Yazidis are stranded on Iraq's Mount Sinjar than feared <!--paging_filter--><p>An American assessment team found "far fewer" Yazidis trapped in northern <a href="">Iraq</a> than expected, making an evacuation mission less likely, as the flight of minority groups from advancing jihadists showed no let-up Thursday.</p> <p>The UN refugee agency had said tens of thousands of civilians, many of them from the Yazidi religious minority, were trapped on Mount Sinjar by jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) militant group, which has overrun swathes of Iraq and <a href="">Syria</a>.</p> <p>But the Pentagon said that — based on a firsthand assessment by a small party of US military personnel — the plight of those on the mountain was not as bad as had been feared, and an evacuation mission was therefore "far less likely."</p> <p>A US military official said the special forces personnel had returned safely to Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.</p> <p>Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said the fewer than 20 troops did not engage in any combat.</p> <p>"The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mount Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on (IS) targets, the efforts of the (Kurdish forces) and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days," he said.</p> <p>"The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped."</p> <p>Iraqi helicopters and Kurdish forces have been trying to reach those trapped by jihadists who are targeting Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, and Washington and its allies have been studying ways to bring them out.</p> <p>The Yazidis are a closed Kurdish-speaking community that follows their own non-Muslim faith and are despised by the jihadists as "devil worshippers."</p> <p>Various countries are ramping up their efforts to aid the trapped civilians and Kurdish forces battling the militants, and the US has launched a series of air strikes since Friday.</p> <p>But a US military rescue operation on the mountain would take American involvement to another level.</p> <p><strong>'From hunger to hunger'</strong></p> <p>Thousands of people have poured across a border bridge into camps in Iraq's Kurdish region after trekking through neighboring Syria to find refuge, most with nothing but the clothes on their backs.</p> <p>Some women carried exhausted children, weeping as they reached the relative safety of the camps.</p> <p>But others, including the most vulnerable, remain trapped on Mount Sinjar, said Mahmud Bakr, 45.</p> <p>"My father Khalaf is 70 years old — he cannot make this journey," he told AFP as he crossed back into Iraq.</p> <p>For those who managed to escape the siege, the relief of reaching relative safety was tempered by the spartan conditions of the camps hurriedly erected by the Iraqi Kurdish authorities to accommodate them.</p> <p>"We went from hunger in Sinjar to hunger in this camp," said Khodr Hussein.</p> <p>As the international outcry over the plight of the Yazidis mounted, Western governments pledged to step up help for those still trapped, and the United Nations declared a Level 3 emergency in Iraq, allowing it to speed up its response.</p> <p>The US said Wednesday it had conducted a seventh airdrop of food and water for those remaining on the mountain, bringing the total aid delivered to the stranded Yazidis in coordination with the Iraqi government to more than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of drinking water.</p> <p>And Australia has also carried out an aid airdrop, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Thursday.</p> <p>Washington has already said it will ship weapons to the Kurds to help them fight back against the jihadists, and <a href="">France</a> has followed suit.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Arming the Kurds could be a big mistake for the US. Here's why</a></strong></p> <p><strong>Pressure mounts on Maliki </strong></p> <p>Washington meanwhile urged Iraqi prime minister designate Haidar al-Abadi to move swiftly to form a broad-based government able to unite Iraqis in the fight against the IS insurgents who have overrun large parts of the country.</p> <p>Abadi, whose nomination was accepted by President Fuad Masum on Monday, has 30 days to build a team that will face the daunting task of defusing sectarian tensions and, in the words of US President Barack Obama, convincing the Sunni Arab minority that IS "is not the only game in town."</p> <p>The UN Security Council has expressed backing for Abadi's nomination, calling it "an important step toward the formation of an inclusive government."</p> <p>And the office of top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Wednesday released a July letter in which he called for incumbent premier Nuri al-Maliki to be replaced.</p> <p>Maliki has defied growing international pressure to step aside and insisted it would take a federal court ruling for him to quit.</p> <p>Sistani is revered by millions and has enormous influence among Iraq's Shia Arab majority.</p> <p>But even before the release of the Sistani letter, analysts said Maliki had lost too much backing to stay in power.</p> <p>International support has poured in for Abadi, most importantly from <a href="">Tehran</a> and Washington, the two main foreign powerbrokers in Iraq.</p> Need to Know Iraq Thu, 14 Aug 2014 13:07:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6231459 at Two of America's food giants commit to fighting climate change <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kellogg's and General Mills have made some industry-leading promises to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions. It's a start. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Indrani Basu </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>In a breakthrough in the fight against climate change, two of the biggest global food giants &ndash; Kellogg&#39;s and General Mills &ndash; have announced their commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in their agricultural supply chains. Kellogg&#39;s released their <a href="">new climate policy</a> on Wednesday, specifying their targets to reduce harmful emissions, trailing a <a href="">similar announcement</a> by General Mills on July 28. Both companies made the public statement following public pressure from advocacy group Oxfam America and their <a href="">campaign&rsquo;s</a> over 238,000 supporters.</p> <p>&ldquo;Kellogg&rsquo;s new commitments add momentum to calls on government and the wider food and agriculture industry to recognize that climate change is real, it&rsquo;s happening now, and we need to tackle it,&rdquo; said Monique van Zilji, manager for Oxfam&rsquo;s &lsquo;Behind the Brands&rsquo; campaign, in a press release on Wednesday.</p> <p>Kellogg&#39;s will, for the first time, start reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production, which is where the majority of the company&rsquo;s climate pollution takes place, according to Oxfam. Meanwhile General Mills&rsquo; commitment has &ldquo;leapfrogged the company to the top of the industry in terms of engaging in climate action,&rdquo; said Heather Coleman, Oxfam&rsquo;s climate manager.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>But these are just two of the 10 big food and beverage companies that an <a href="">Oxfam report</a> has identified as both vulnerable to climate change as well as major contributors to this burning international issue.</p> <p><strong>Major contributors to climate change</strong></p> <p>According to Oxfam&rsquo;s report, these 10 companies together emit so much greenhouse gas that they could constitute the 25th most polluting country in the world by themselves. The eight other companies on this list other than Kellogg&#39;s and General Mills are Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever.</p> <p>Bad production practices like deforestation and overuse of dirty fertilizers contribute to these dangerous emissions. If these companies reduce their emissions by 80 million tons by 2020 &ndash; and Oxfam claims they can &ndash; this would &ldquo;be equivalent to taking all of the cars in Los Angeles, Beijing, London and New York off the road.&rdquo; Currently they produce 263.7 million tons of greenhouse gases, more than half coming from the production of agricultural materials from their supply chains.&nbsp;</p> <p>The earlier targets set by these two companies to reduce harmful emissions were neither science-based nor a reflection of their full contribution to the problem, as per Oxfam. Moreover, the advocacy group&rsquo;s investigations revealed that an Indonesian supplier of palm oil to both these companies is &ldquo;allegedly involved in burning forest land to produce palm oil.&rdquo; This contributed to a massive forest fire that has created greenhouse gas emissions &ldquo;equivalent to the annual emission from 10.3 million cars.&rdquo;</p> <p>Both these companies have now joined BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy), which is an advocacy coalition of business that work with policy makers to pass climate and energy legislation. They have also signed on to the group&rsquo;s <a href="">&lsquo;Climate Declaration,&rsquo;</a> joining a list of signatories that include big American businesses like Apple, Nike and Disney.</p> <p><strong>The fight against harmful emissions</strong></p> <p>Greenhouses gases &ndash; carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others &ndash; trap heat to the earth&rsquo;s atmosphere, increasing temperatures across the globe. Of these, carbon dioxide makes up 77 percent of greenhouse emissions, and US is one of the <a href="">top emitters</a>, second only to China.</p> <p>The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said <a href="">earlier in April</a> this year that even if global emissions were lowered by 40 to 70 percent by 2050 and reduced to near-zero by the end of the century, it would still result in an increase of the global average temperature by two degrees Celsius. <a href="">Most of the greenhouse emissions</a> are caused by industries producing oil, gas and coal.</p> <p>However this is just a fraction of this campaign against reducing effects of climate change. The eight other food producing companies have yet to make any bold moves, though Oxfam and its allies have approached them already.</p> <p>&ldquo;Some companies are already doing better than others, so there are some laggards and some stand-out leaders in the pack,&rdquo; said Coleman. &ldquo;We hope that some of the remaining laggards start taking on some of these commitments.&rdquo;</p> <p>Oxfam has been partnering with other advocacy groups and activists as part of the campaign. These include the <a href="">Rainforest Action Network</a>, Greenpeace, and</p> <p>&ldquo;Our approach is really a critical friend approach &ndash; we don&rsquo;t want to demonize these companies,&rdquo; explained Coleman. &ldquo;A lot of actions are most effective in working through allies.&rdquo;</p> <p>While Coleman said that they were surprised at how quickly General Mills made their commitment &ndash; within two months after Oxfam launched their campaign &ndash; she said it just signified how powerful public and consumer pressure can be on a big, public-facing brand like General Mills. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s an empowering message and one that consumers should feel pretty excited about.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">97 percent, 49 billion, and 3 more convincing climate change numbers</a></strong><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> Climate Change Health Global Pulse Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:09:21 +0000 Indrani Basu 6230813 at Why India's 'pro-business' prime minister trashed a key WTO pact <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> And what it says about his supposed economic outlook. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> James Tapper </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NEW DELHI, India &mdash; When Narendra Modi was elected prime minister in May, his business-friendly reputation had global markets salivating in anticipation.</p> <p>So it came as something of a surprise last month when India <a href="">withdrew at the last minute</a> from a World Trade Organization pact that was designed to simplify global customs arrangements.</p> <p>US Secretary of State John Kerry told Modi at a summit &mdash; designed to repair the US&rsquo;s fractured relationship with India &mdash; that the move had <a href="">damaged his pro-business</a> image.</p> <p>The WTO matter grabbed global headlines, but it hasn&rsquo;t been the only letdown.</p> <p>Most prominently, the first budget, announced after governing for 45 days, was widely viewed as a <a href="">missed opportunity</a>.</p> <p>Finance minister Arun Jaitley decided not to change a target set by the previous government to reduce the fiscal deficit to only 4.1 percent by 2015 &mdash; without any significant spending cuts. In fact he introduced <a href="">income tax relief</a> &mdash; although only <a href="">around 2.9 percent</a> of Indians pay any income tax at all &mdash; without indicating how the revenue shortfall might be dealt with.</p> <p>Still, foreign diplomats say there are some signs for optimism.</p> <p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve been told is that the budget is not the only opportunity to introduce fiscal reforms, so there may well be further announcements later on in the year,&rdquo; one Western diplomat told GlobalPost, speaking on condition of anonymity.</p> <p>&ldquo;Things have [gotten] better. It&rsquo;s so much easier to access the government now. They are working seven days a week and Modi is definitely cracking the whip. But there&rsquo;s also some pushback from the bureaucracy. It&rsquo;s hard to tell how much of it is just very entrenched interests in the bureaucracy and how much of it is inexperienced ministers trying to get on top of their briefs.&rdquo;</p> <p>So what can investors expect from Modi&rsquo;s government in the next few months?</p> <p>Last year, GlobalPost <a href="">interviewed Ritika Mankar Mukherjee</a>, an economist with Ambit Capital, one of India&rsquo;s leading financial services companies. She was optimistic about the prospect of Modi as prime minister. She hoped that he might introduce a goods and services tax to increase India&rsquo;s tax base, reform labor laws that she believes stifle business opportunities, and make it easier for companies to clear regulatory hurdles through &ldquo;single window clearance&rdquo; &mdash; allowing companies to deal with only one arm of government instead of getting tied up in red tape.</p> <p>We went back to her to see what she makes of the early stages of the Modi government. (GlobalPost has edited and condensed the interview.)</p> <p><strong>GlobalPost: Modi has been in office for a few months now. What are your first impressions?</strong></p> <p>I have to say that the budget was an opportunity that India did not use optimally, for a series of reasons. The most important one was from the fiscal deficit perspective. Nobody really cared about the FY 15 number [4.1 percent] and everybody knew it was going to be difficult, but everybody did expect the new government to do justice to the sort of mandate that they had been given.</p> <p>The other thing that disappointed me: If you read through the budget it sounds like a combination of multiple micro independent changes, with no overarching economic philosophy tying it all together. It was about pushing through the role of liberalisation, to improving sanitation, to providing tax exemptions, there wasn&rsquo;t any sort of coherent message from the union budget and that did get me worried.</p> <p>My own sense is that he is in the process of trying to put together a stronger middle management team. He has been working on realigning the prime minister&rsquo;s office &mdash; making bureaucrats turn up on time for example. Each ministry is neither headed up by experienced politicians, nor is it headed by someone who is a subject matter expert.</p> <p>Given the strength of the mandate, given that it was the first of a five year term, he could have done so much, he could have curtailed expenditure and nobody would have held it against him. It really really confounds me as to why they didn&rsquo;t make the most of this opportunity.</p> <p><strong>When we spoke before the election, you talked about a Goods and Services Tax, labor reform and single window clearance as the three things you hoped he would introduce. Are there any signs of any of those? </strong></p> <p>I have toned down my expectations since seeing the budget. On [the Goods and Services Tax] &mdash; there were two sentences dedicated to critical indirect tax reform. [Arun Jaitley] said he would look into it this year without giving us any visibility, any timeline or deadline for it.</p> <p>On revenue reforms, what he did was fairly odd in that he has given out massive tax cuts to individual taxpayers. This is going to affect the tax revenue and this isn&rsquo;t something you should be doing, you shouldn&rsquo;t be promoting exemptions. Ideally, you should be minimizing exemptions and expanding the tax base from a medium term reform perspective.</p> <p><strong>And single window clearance? </strong></p> <p>I think I&rsquo;ll have to say it&rsquo;s something that he has moved on. It&rsquo;s not exactly single window clearance, but my checks do suggest that the pace of projects here that government has been giving has been systematically and structurally higher than the previous government.</p> <p>The most explicit indicator of those is the stage two environment clearance for the <a href="">Orissa railway lines</a>. That was granted by the new Government after less than a month of assuming office.</p> <p><strong>So, foreign investors who might be looking at India and thinking &ldquo;should I put some money in now?&rdquo; &mdash; is there enough to persuade them as it stands?</strong></p> <p>While I am fairly convinced that this new government &mdash; as opposed to the twin power structure [of Sonia Gandhi giving unofficial orders to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh] that we were dealing with til this new government came along &mdash; there is responsibility and accountability in a single man, that suggests to me that this next two to three year period should see higher growth and better governance. I&rsquo;m not that worried about the medium term story.</p> <p>But yes, what I am telling clients and investors is &ldquo;until October or November you won&rsquo;t see any fireworks from a policy reform perspective&rdquo; because Modi is focused on winning three critical state elections in October or November: Maharashtra which is a prosperous state &mdash; the crown jewel that has been missing from BJP ownership &mdash; Jharkhand and Haryana. And that&rsquo;s point we&rsquo;re making to clients: Hold on until October or November when these elections are out of the way and the government gets time to basically hire subject matter experts.</p> <p>For instance, ever since Raghuram Rajan left New Delhi to become the Reserve Bank of India governor, we don&rsquo;t have a chief economic advisor. Similarly the prime minister&rsquo;s economic advisory council has been dissolved and no replacement has come through. So I think the union government needs time to get this state election out of the way.</p> <p><strong>Labor reform &mdash; that strikes me as one of the longer term issues that would take a lot of political will to push through. Given that the initial approach by Modi has been quite cautious, do you think he will tackle the larger issues? </strong></p> <p>I think [Modi&rsquo;s] own antenna is very very pro-labor, but we will see as things do unfold. Be it a change of the factories act to enhance safety standards for laborers, or be it a change to the factories act to allow more overtime payments, the focus is likely to be on pro-labor reforms as against some hard decisions that may be resisted by trade unions. So when these state elections get out of the way, especially once they have Maharashtra in the bag &ndash; that&rsquo;s when we&rsquo;ll start seeing movement on genuine labor reform.</p> <p><strong>I suppose people from outside might be surprised that these three state elections are taking up significant amounts of energy for a prime minister who has won the closest thing to a landslide for more than a generation. Why is it important other than from an ego point of view to win these states?</strong></p> <p>My own sense is that he is not just focused on getting the right states, the big populous states into the BJP kitty, he is also fairly focused on being re-elected, to repeat what he did in 2014.&nbsp; At this point in time Maharashtra is taking up a lot of his time. It is a prosperous state. If you want to do something like Goods and Services Tax implementation it really helps to have a state like Maharashtra on your side. So for multiple strategic reasons it does make sense to focus energies on Maharashtra. Once he does that he can focus on his five year agenda at the central level.</p> <p><strong>That would seem to indicate even after these state elections that he would have a relatively cautious approach to policy reform than a more active one. Would that be a fair assessment to make? There&rsquo;s always going to be a state election. </strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s true that this is a country of 29 states and by definition there have to be at least five state elections every year. I think that Maharashtra is tactically exponentially more important than other states. This is the only major state that the BJP has not been able to capture for some time. Once he has that in the bag, he should become bolder and it does change the way he can govern.</p> <p><strong>Some of the diplomats in Delhi seem to be concerned about the recent withdrawal from the Bali deal at the WTO. They are worried this might herald a more protectionist stance. Is that something you think is likely to happen?</strong></p> <p>The big question was food security for the nation, and how serious the new government is going to be about it. The common expectation was that the new government was going to be far more right wing, far more capitalistic in terms of policies and consequently work to scale-down subsidies to farmers.</p> <p>They are really serious about food security, which is why they have been so vehement about not allowing the deal to go through until they get clarity on that front. I wouldn&rsquo;t read it as them wanting to be more protectionist. I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s their point. All it&rsquo;s telling me with respect to food security is that Modi is going to keep that in place.</p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Want to Know Emerging Markets India Thu, 14 Aug 2014 04:48:17 +0000 James Tapper 6223048 at Israel, Palestine, and racism at the beach <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Not even a swimming day is safe from the ugly feelings this conflict has engendered. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Noga Tarnopolsky </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ASHKELON, Israel &mdash; Travelers to the Mediterranean dream of a day like this: salty breezes coming off the sea, gentle waves, wide, sandy beaches, no crowds and 102 degrees.</p> <p>On Monday, some kids jumped around in the surf, protected by a rocky breakwater, while the lifeguards, taking a lunch break, raised a red flag over their tower.</p> <p>Three men in <a href="" target="_blank">dishdashas</a> and one, Taleb Salima, in trousers and a button-down shirt, stood gazing at the sea.</p> <p>Salima, in his late 60s, is a Jerusalem welder. The other three, a few years older, were guests at his son&#39;s wedding on Saturday. On Monday, Salima had some work to do in Kiryat Malachi, a town not far from the sea, and his visitors, all members of the Salima clan who came from landlocked Jordan for the ceremony, decided it was a perfect day to enjoy the sea.</p> <p>For a long time, they stood watching the waves. Abdel Waham Salima said the war in nearby Gaza was &quot;bad, bad,&quot; and hoped the ceasefire would be extended. &quot;Inshallah,&quot; answered Mohammed Salima, to his left. &quot;God willing, it will last longer,&quot; he said &mdash; longer than the 72 hours that had been agreed upon by Israel and Hamas in Cairo.</p> <p>Eventually they sat down on the sand and took off their sandals, their eyes fixed on the sea.</p> <p>A few feet away, three young men were setting up beach chairs. Yehuda Fadlon, Avidan Hanuri and Gilad Hatav, all 24, were not pleased.</p> <p>&quot;Who needs to see them here? If one of these children in the water turns around he&#39;ll just stare at them, and see Arabs here on the beach,&quot; Fadlon said.</p> <p>None of the kids playing in the water appeared interested in anyone on the beach.</p> <p>&quot;I feel threatened having them here,&rdquo; said Hatav. &ldquo;It&#39;s just a feeling, but that&#39;s what I feel. Look at how they can walk around freely here and &mdash; I don&#39;t even know where they&#39;re from. Maybe they&#39;re from Gaza?&quot;</p> <p>He pointed just beyond the beach, at Gaza. Asked if they had ever seen a Gazan in Ashkelon, none of the young men could say he had.</p> <p>None has known life without the constant threat of rockets.</p> <p>Avidan lit a cigarette, sat on one of the chairs, and said that while he served in the military police during his obligatory three years of service, he&#39;d been attacked with Molotov cocktails in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, where, as it happens, Salima, who sat oblivious to the conversation taking place nearby, is from.</p> <p>&quot;I know this sounds like racism,&quot; Fadlon said. &quot;But my feeling is, if they send even one qassam or a <a href="">grad</a>, that can hit us here on the beach, or fall on a kindergarten. From my point of view we should just respond with a four-ton bomb. I don&#39;t care. It can hit anyone. And I could care less what the rest of the world has to say about us. They don&#39;t want Jews to defend themselves, so screw them.&quot;</p> <p>In a few angry words, the three young men encapsulated several phenomena now washing over Israel: a generation familiar with the names of specific rockets and missiles; fear of the <a href="">ongoing threat</a> from Gaza; disgust at a world that <a href="">dismisses</a> Israel&#39;s <a href="">claims of self-defense</a>; and increasingly brazen, indiscriminate <a href="">racism</a> directed at Arabs.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Israeli army figures, 3,488 rockets and missiles have been launched at Israel since July 8. Monday&#39;s ceasefire is scheduled expire Thursday at midnight, an event most Ashkelonis assume will be marked by renewed rocket launches from Gaza.</p> <p>Also on Monday, the UN appointed a commission to examine possible war crimes in Gaza headed by Canadian law prefessor William Schabas, who has been widely <a href="">quoted</a> saying last year that his &quot;favorite&quot; candidate to see &quot;on the dock&quot; at the International Criminal Court in The Hague would be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.</p> <p>The United States, the European Union and Canada decried the appointment, with Canada&#39;s foreign minister John Baird tweeting:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en data-scribe-reduced-action-queue="><p>UN Human Rights Council continues to be a sham for advancing human rights; today&rsquo;s ann&#39;t for members of its Gaza inquiry reveals its agenda.</p> <p> &mdash; John Baird (@HonJohnBaird) <a href="">August 11, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en data-scribe-reduced-action-queue="><p>It&rsquo;s an utter shame, and will do nothing to promote peace and dignity in Gaza for the Palestinian people. 2/</p> <p> &mdash; John Baird (@HonJohnBaird) <a href="">August 11, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And finally on an action-packed Monday, Shai Piron, Israel&#39;s minister of education, <a href="">announced</a> that the first week back to school would be devoted to the in-depth study of &quot;tolerance, acceptance of others and opposition to all forms of racism.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;During Operation Protective Edge,&quot; Piron said, using Israel&#39;s name for the conflict, &quot;we have been exposed to expressions of racism and incitement that cannot be tolerated.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;I cannot accept that Israeli-Arabs, or leftists, or religious people, should feel like second-class citizens.&quot;</p> <p>Gershon Baskin, a prominent peace activist and co-founder of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, pointed out that expressions of racism are part of &ldquo;a process that didn&rsquo;t just explode now.&rdquo; The worst examples he heard from both Israelis and Palestinians were in mid-June, right after three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank, and in early July, when a Palestinian teen from Jerusalem was kidnapped and murdered in a revenge crime. But there are also broader trends, he said. On the Israeli side, &quot;It is part of an enormous amount of fear and frustration and anger.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;You have three million people living under the threat of terror, and even with Iron Dome and with everyone having a place to run and shelter, every time a siren goes off, it is just fear. And that fear is being channeled into hatred.&quot;</p> <p>On the Palestinian side, Baskin said, &quot;it&rsquo;s the occupation, stupid.&quot;</p> <p>Back at the beach, hearing what the younger Israeli men were saying, Sergei Agrest, a 40-year-old aspiring businessman, squinted and frowned in repulsion. &quot;What?&quot; he said. &quot;Come on! Idiots.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;That&#39;s our entire problem here,&quot; Agrest said, his hand also indicating Gaza a short distance away. &quot;Every time I hear a boom, here or there, my heart stops. Every single time. Ours or theirs. They are just normal people. And they have almost 2,000 dead? Who can even comprehend such a thing? This way of thinking is exactly what created our problem in the first place.&quot;&nbsp;</p> Want to Know Middle East Wed, 13 Aug 2014 18:18:41 +0000 Noga Tarnopolsky 6230715 at Brazilian presidential candidate Campos killed in plane crash, GloboNews reports <!--paging_filter--><p>Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos was killed in a plane crash on Wednesday, local television channel GloboNews reported, throwing the country's October election into disarray and knocking local financial markets lower.</p> <p>Campos' private jet crashed in bad weather in the coastal city of Santos, just south of Sao Paulo, as it was preparing to land. Television images showed smoke billowing from the crash site in a residential area.</p> <p>GloboNews said Campos, the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) leader who was running third in opinion polls, died in the crash, without citing a source. A source in the PSB confirmed Campos was on the plane, but Reuters was not able to immediately confirm his death.</p> <p>Five people were rushed to a local hospital from the crash site, but a hospital official could not provide any names or information on their condition. GloboNews said seven people were on board the plane.</p> <p>Campos, 49, had the support of about 10 percent of voters in recent polls. His death, if confirmed, will likely lead the two other leading candidates, President Dilma Rousseff and Senator Aecio Neves, to pause their presidential campaigns for a period of mourning just as the run-up to the Oct. 5 election was starting to capture the public's full attention.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Campos, biz-friendly lefty, said important to recover confidence of market &amp; business community in this profile <a href=""></a></p> <p> — Alex Leff (@alexleff) <a href="">August 13, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Rousseff is leading in polls with about 36 percent of voter support. Neves has enjoyed about 20 percent support and was widely expected to face Rousseff in a second-round runoff.</p> <p>Campos, a former governor of northeastern Pernambuco state, was running as a business-friendly leftist and had strong support from many banks and industrial groups. His death could see Marina Silva, his running mate, become the Brazilian Socialist Party's candidate.</p> <p>Silva was not aboard the plane that crashed, the PSB source told Reuters. She placed a strong third in the 2010 presidential election and enjoys robust support from young voters and evangelical voters, but her pro-environment agenda means that many in <a href="">Brazil</a>'s powerful agribusiness sector distrust her.</p> <p>Brazil's main stock index lost as much as 2 percent following initial reports that Campos was on the crashed plane, but later pared losses to just over 1 percent. The currency also lost ground.</p> <p>A police official in Santos said there were "certainly" fatalities in the crash, but could not say how many or provide any additional information.</p> Need to Know Brazil Wed, 13 Aug 2014 16:04:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6230666 at The death toll in Ukraine conflict has nearly doubled to 2,086 in 2 weeks, UN says <!--paging_filter--><p>The estimated death toll in the Ukraine conflict nearly doubled to at least 2,086 as of Aug. 10 from 1,129 on July 26, the United Nations human rights office said on Wednesday.</p> <p>"This corresponds to a clear escalating trend," UN human rights spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told Reuters in response to a query.</p> <p>On average, more than 60 people a day have been killed or wounded since fighting began in mid-April in eastern Ukraine, rising to at least 70 people a day in the first week of August, she said.</p> <p>Nearly 5,000 have been wounded to date. The figures for casualties include Ukrainian soldiers, armed groups, pro-Russian militants and civilians, but are "very conservative estimates," Pouilly said.</p> <p>"For instance, civilian casualties are likely to be under reported, due to the continuing insecurity which prevents affected people from getting access to medical aid...and because communication channels have been disrupted," she added.</p> <p>It was not clear whether Russian soldiers were included in the UN estimates for casualties which were based on information received from Ukrainian authorities as well as local medical facilities, Pouilly said. "We have no breakdown on nationalities or (civilian or military) status," she said.</p> <p><strong>Violence continues in eastern Ukraine</strong></p> <p>Twelve Ukrainian nationalist fighters, battling a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, were killed early on Wednesday and an unknown number taken captive when rebels ambushed their bus, a spokesman for their group said.</p> <p>The separatists opened fire on the bus, that was taking the men to fight just outside the rebel-held city of Donetsk, at the nearby village of Mandrykino, said a spokesman for Right Sector, extreme nationalists who are supporting government forces.</p> <p>"They were taking part in a military operation early this morning near Donetsk and were ambushed. Twelve Right Sector fighters were killed," spokesman Artem Skoropadsky told Reuters.</p> <p>It was the group's biggest single loss of life since violence erupted in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east in April, he said.</p> <p><strong>Ukraine accuses <a href="">Russia</a> of cynicism over convoy</strong></p> <p>Meanwhile, Ukraine denounced Russia's dispatch of a humanitarian aid convoy now advancing towards the border as an act of unbounded cynicism serving pro-Russian separatists, and the UN said the death toll in fighting had doubled in the last two weeks to over 2,000.</p> <p>Kyiv said the trucks would not be allowed to pass.</p> <p>"First they send tanks, Grad missiles and bandits who fire on Ukrainians and then they send water and salt," Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said at a government meeting on Wednesday.</p> <p>The comments reflected suspicions in Kyiv and Western capitals that passage of the convoy onto Ukrainian soil could turn into a covert military action to help pro-Russian separatists now losing ground to government forces.</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:35:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6230528 at Islamic State militants seize more territory in Syria <!--paging_filter--><p>Islamic State insurgents have seized several towns and villages from rival Islamist groups in the Syrian province of Aleppo, opening the way for further westward advances, an organization monitoring the war in <a href="">Syria</a> said on Wednesday.</p> <p>Already in control of large areas of northern and eastern Syria, Islamic State's latest gains include the towns of Turkmen Bareh and Akhtarin, 50 km (30 miles) northeast of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in <a href="">Britain</a>, reported.</p> <p>Islamic State's advance in Syria has accelerated since the group seized control of the Iraqi city of Mosul in June, declaring a caliphate in areas under its control in a bid to redraw the borders of the <a href="">Middle East</a>.</p> <p>Diplomats and rebels said the Syrian government, which is fighting rebels across the country, launched attacks on towns run by the group only after its militants advanced into neighboring <a href="">Iraq</a> and seized a third of its territories.</p> <p>Islamic State is tightening its grip over areas of Syria under its control, including the city of Raqqa on the Euphrates river. Raqqa has become Islamic State's Syrian power base.</p> <p>The Observatory, which uses a network of monitors, reported battles between Islamic State fighters and Syrian government forces near a Raqqa military airport, the government's last remaining position in the area.</p> <p>The Observatory also reported two more crucifixions by Islamic State in Deir al-Zor overnight, bringing to 27 the number of people executed by the group in recent days as it tightens it grip over the eastern province.</p> <p>The advance in northeast Aleppo province is part of a wider Islamic State offensive to seize a belt of territory near the border with Turkey.</p> <p>A Twitter feed reporting events in Akhtarin said two people had been killed while "resisting" Islamic State's advance, including a 16-year-old boy. There was no way to verify the report.</p> <p>The Observatory said it expected Islamic State's next targets to be the towns of Azaz and Marea to the west.</p> <p>It identified the groups defeated by Islamic State as fighters from Islamist battalions that have been resisting its expansion. The Nusra Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, and other Islamist groups had withdrawn from the area in June.</p> <p>(Addditional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Janet Lawrence)</p> Need to Know Syria Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:13:35 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6230512 at Blast while dismantling Israeli missile kills 6, including foreign journalist, in Gaza <!--paging_filter--><p>Update: An <a href="">Italian</a> cameraman working for international news agency Associated Press was among six people killed in northern Gaza on Wednesday as sappers were dismantling an Israeli missile.</p> <p>A Palestinian translator who also worked part-time for the Gaza bureau of Agence <a href="">France</a>-Presse (AFP) was another of the victims.</p> <p>Gaza's interior ministry initially said five people had been killed in a blast which occurred as explosives experts were trying to dismantle an unexploded Israeli missile in Beit Lahiya.</p> <p>But one later died of his injuries, raising the toll to six, medics said.</p> <hr><p>An Italian cameraman working for international news agency Associated Press was among at least five people killed in northern Gaza on Wednesday as sappers were dismantling an Israeli missile.</p> <p>A spokesman for Gaza's interior ministry said all five had been killed in a blast which occurred as explosives experts were trying to dismantle an Israeli missile in Beit Lahiya.</p> <p>Another six people were seriously wounded, an emergency services spokesman said.</p> <p>The AP confirmed that one of its journalists had been killed, identifying him as Simone Camilli, a 35-year-old Italian who had worked for The Associated Press since 2005.</p> <p>AP photographer Hatem Moussa was also badly wounded in the explosion, the agency said.</p> <p>Camilli is the first foreign journalist to be killed in more than a month of bloodshed between <a href="">Israel</a> and Hamas militants which began on July 8.</p> <p>He was at the scene with the photographer to cover the story of bomb experts dismantling unexploded ordnance, the AP said.</p> <p>In a side room at the Kamal Adwan hospital, male relatives could be seen weeping and praying together, some people too shocked to talk.</p> <p>In Rome, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini issued a statement expressing sorrow at Camilli's death.</p> <p>"Simone Camilli's death is a tragedy for his family and for the country. Once more a reporter pays the price for a war that has lasted too many years," she said.</p> <p>The blast occurred as Israel and Hamas militants were observing a 72-hour truce which expires at midnight local time as negotiators in <a href="">Cairo</a> tried to thrash out a more permanent ceasefire arrangement.</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Wed, 13 Aug 2014 12:42:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6230463 at