GlobalPost - Home C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en Al Shabaab Islamists execute 28 non-Muslims on Kenya bus <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Some 60 passengers on board were ordered off the vehicle, and the gunmen separated the travelers into Muslims and non-Muslims. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Somalia&#39;s Al Shabaab Islamists on Saturday ambushed a bus in Kenya and executed 28 non-Muslim passengers in what they said was revenge for police raids on mosques in the troubled port of Mombasa.</p> <p>&quot;I can confirm... that 28 innocent travellers were brutally executed by the Shabaab,&quot; regional police chief Noah Mwavinda told AFP.</p> <p>The bus, which was headed for the capital Nairobi, was ambushed shortly after departing from Mandera, a town lying on the border with Somalia in Kenya&#39;s northeasternmost corner.</p> <p>Some 60 passengers on board were ordered off the vehicle, and the gunmen separated the travelers into Muslims and non-Muslims.</p> <p>The militants then had the non-Muslims reboard the bus and tried to drive off with them, but the vehicle got stuck.</p> <p>&quot;So they executed their prisoners&quot; before escaping back into Somalia, Mwavinda said.</p> <p>Kenya&#39;s Red Cross confirmed the death toll in a tweet after its team arrived at the scene.</p> <p>An Al Shabaab spokesman said the deadly attack was in revenge for raids this week on four Mombasa mosques that hiked simmering tensions in the city.</p> <p>&quot;The Mujahedeen successfully carried out an operation near Mandera early this morning, which resulted in the perishing of 28 crusaders, as a revenge for the crimes committed by the Kenyan crusaders against our Muslim brethren in Mombasa,&quot; Ali Mohamud Rage said in a statement sent to AFP.</p> <p>Police closed the four mosques in Mombasa, a largely Muslim city unlike much of Kenya where Christians make up 80 percent of the population, on the grounds they had come under the influence of hardliners.</p> <p><strong>Al Shabaab a threat despite strikes</strong></p> <p>A 25-year-old passenger on the bus, who asked to be identified only as Ibrahim, told AFP that the vehicle came under fire several times after leaving Mandera, leaving one passenger dead.</p> <p>The driver tried to escape but was finally forced to stop by the group of around 70 assailants, he said.</p> <p>&quot;When the bus came to a stop ... the passengers were divided into two groups, one made up of people they believed were Muslim, and those they believed who weren&#39;t,&quot; the eyewitness said.</p> <p>The attackers, who identified themselves as members of Al Shabaab, read verses from the Quran to the Muslims, urging them to combat the Kenyan authorities.</p> <p>Ibrahim said they were then ordered to walk to a nearby village.</p> <p>He said he witnessed the execution of two non-Muslim passengers, who were shot in the head.</p> <p>Mandera&#39;s police chief said the hostages were first put aboard the bus but that when it bogged down &quot;they executed their prisoners.&quot;</p> <p>Kenya has suffered a series of attacks since invading Somalia in 2011 to attack Al Shabaab, later joining an African Union force battling the Islamists.</p> <p>Al Shabaab carried out the September 2013 attack on Nairobi&#39;s Westgate shopping mall, killing at least 67 people, as a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of southern Somalia.</p> <p>During the Westgate attack, some of the victims were killed after the gunmen weeded out non-Muslims for execution by demanding they recite the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith.</p> <p>Al Shabaab has lost a series of key towns and ports to the AU force and Somalian government army, heralded as advances that would stem the militants&#39; multi-million dollar business trading charcoal to Gulf countries.</p> <p>But in a recent report, UN investigators warned that the air and drone strikes on the militia have done little to damage it in the long term and that the insurgents continue to pose a serious regional threat.</p> <p>Indeed, pressure on the fighters has forced them to &quot;become more operationally audacious by placing greater emphasis on exporting its violence beyond the borders of Somalia&quot; and across the Horn of Africa, said an October report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Somalia Kenya World Religion Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:29:26 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6322543 at West wants Russian regime change over Ukraine, says Kremlin <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke out against Western sanctions on Russia after US VP Joe Biden hinted Friday at possible further measures. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Russia on Saturday accused the West of seeking regime change in Moscow, raising tensions over the conflict in Ukraine in the worst crisis in relations since the end of the Cold War.</p> <p>Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke out against Western sanctions on Russia after US Vice President Joe Biden hinted Friday at possible further measures over its &quot;unacceptable&quot; role in the former Soviet state.</p> <p>Kyiv&#39;s defense minister charged Saturday that there were 7,500 Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, although Russia denies claims that it provides military support to pro-Moscow separatists locked in conflict with government forces.</p> <p>&quot;The West is showing unambiguously that they do not want to force (Russia) to change policy, they want to achieve a change of regime,&quot; Lavrov told a forum of political analysts in Moscow.</p> <p>&quot;Now public figures in Western countries are saying that it&#39;s necessary to introduce sanctions that would destroy the economy and rouse public protests,&quot; he added in comments cited by TASS news agency.</p> <p>The United States and European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine targeting the key energy, defense and finance sectors. These have sent the ruble into freefall and inflation soaring.</p> <p>On a visit to Kyiv on Friday, Biden accused Russia of failing to honour a peace agreement signed in September, which includes a tattered ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>&quot;So long as that continues, Russia will face rising costs, greater isolation,&quot; Biden added.</p> <p>Some 4,300 people have been killed in the conflict in seven months, according to the United Nations. Nearly 1,000 have died since the ceasefire came into effect.</p> <p><strong>NATO membership &#39;science fiction&#39;</strong></p> <p>Lavrov&#39;s comments came after Ukraine&#39;s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak claimed Russia had thousands of troops in the east and vowed to boost Kyiv&#39;s military capacity.</p> <p>&quot;Unfortunately, the stabilisation of the situation in the east of Ukraine does not depend only on us,&quot; Poltorak said. &quot;The presence of 7,500 representatives of Russian armed forces in Ukraine destabilises the situation and prevents us from stabilising it.&quot;</p> <p>Cash-strapped Ukraine also plans to &quot;increase the strength of the armed forces&quot; and boost levels of arms and equipment, he added, pledging that this would take place &quot;in the nearest time&quot; but not giving a specific timeframe.</p> <p>The minister&#39;s comments came after Ukraine&#39;s new coalition declared that joining NATO was a priority, stipulating that a law be passed by the end of the year confirming the intention to push for membership.</p> <p>The five-party coalition, agreed on Friday following October elections, features the groupings of President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former premier Yulia Tymoshenko.</p> <p>But experts play down Ukraine&#39;s chances of joining NATO anytime soon.</p> <p>&quot;The idea of the alliance accepting a country in armed conflict with Russia is science fiction,&quot; said Vasyl Filipchuk, a former senior Ukrainian official who is chairman of the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv.</p> <p>NATO, a military alliance of 28 nations including the United States, this week warned of a &quot;very serious build-up&quot; of Russian troops, artillery and air defense systems inside Ukraine and on the Russian side of the border.</p> <p>In the latest batch of US assistance to Ukraine, three radars designed to detect incoming mortar fire were delivered Friday following Biden&#39;s visit, with a total of 20 arriving in the next few weeks.</p> <p>The United States has so far ruled out providing weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, approving only &quot;non-lethal&quot; assistance such as radars, night vision goggles and body armor.</p> <p><strong>More unrest in east</strong></p> <p>Ukraine&#39;s head of security operations in the east said that 20 units of Russian &quot;military hardware&quot; had crossed the border Saturday.</p> <p>In the past 24 hours, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one civilian have been killed in eastern Ukraine, officials said.</p> <p>Ukraine&#39;s military on Friday accused Russia of shelling its territory for the first time since the ceasefire was signed.</p> <p>Also on Friday, Kyiv marked a year since the start of protests on the city&#39;s Independence Square which led to the ousting of the previous pro-Moscow regime, Russia&#39;s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the east.</p> <p>On Saturday, Ukraine marks the 10th anniversary of the Orange Revolution and holds a day of mourning for millions of victims of the Soviet-era famine in the 1930s.</p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Diplomacy Europe Russia Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:11:17 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6322536 at Obama signs order expanding US Afghanistan role: NYT <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The decision ensures a direct role for American troops in fighting in Afghanistan for at least another year. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; US President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing a broader military mission in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, the New York Times reported on Saturday.</p> <p>The decision ensures a direct role for American troops in fighting in Afghanistan for at least another year, it said, adding Obama&rsquo;s decision was made during a White House meeting with national security advisers in recent weeks.</p> <p>In May, Obama said the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Missions for the remaining 9,800 troops would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the &quot;remnants of Al Qaeda,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Obama&rsquo;s new order lets American forces execute missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening US troops or the Afghan government.</p> <p>The new authorization also allows US air strikes to support Afghan forces on combat missions and US troops occasionally to accompany Afghan troops on operations against the Taliban.</p> <p>The Times did not mention if the change would affect the number of American troops deployed to Afghanistan.</p> <p>The change emerged from debate over two imperatives: Obama&#39;s promise to end the war in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon demand to let American troops fulfill their remaining missions there, the Times reported.</p> <p>Some civilian aides have argued against risking American lives next year in operations against the Taliban, saying there should only be a narrow mission against Al Qaeda, it said.</p> <p>But generals urged Obama to define the mission more broadly if intelligence showed extremists threatening American forces.</p> <p>Two issues shifted the debate, the Times said.</p> <p>Obama&#39;s Afghanistan strategy faces stiffer criticism after the advance of Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, it said, while Afghanistan&#39;s new president has been more accepting of a broader American military mission than his predecessor.</p> <p>Asked about the report, a senior administration official said the US combat mission in Afghanistan would be over by year-end, as Obama had announced in May.</p> <p>&quot;Safety of our personnel is the president&rsquo;s first priority and our armed forces will continue to engage in operations in self-defense and in support of Afghan security forces,&quot; the official said.</p> <p>&quot;While we will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban, to the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to Al Qaeda, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe.&quot;</p> <p><em>(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Steve Holland; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jeremy Laurence)</em></p> Afghanistan Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Military United States Sat, 22 Nov 2014 15:34:10 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6322515 at After Obama's immigration speech, a gringo abroad suddenly feels popular <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Opinion: Can the United States win hearts and minds by simply not deporting them? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will Carless </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay &mdash; As an American expat, one gets used to abuse.</p> <p>Not long ago I found myself outside a shabby corner bar in Montevideo being shouted at by a couple of bearded communists, to whom I&rsquo;d dared suggest that the United States occasionally does things right.</p> <p>Dear Americans, please understand, the US government is widely reviled. I&rsquo;ve found seething hatred against the stars and stripes in many corners of the world, from dugout canoes in the Solomon Islands, to Calcutta traffic jams, to remote Patagonian steppes.</p> <p>Much of the world doesn&rsquo;t like us, and it loathes our government.</p> <p>What a glorious moment, then, Friday morning in the checkout line at my local supermarket, Devoto on Avenida Italia in the Carrasco neighborhood of Montevideo.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Will Carless/GlobalPost"> Devoto supermarket in Uruguay&#39;s capital.</div> <p>I live right across the street. I&rsquo;m the neighborhood &ldquo;gringo&rdquo; (though there are a few others), and I&rsquo;m in there just about every day. The checkout ladies always say hi.</p> <p>It was Friday morning, hours after President Barack Obama had announced an executive action to shield millions of immigrants from deportation. That move is winning <a href="" target="_blank">applause especially in places like Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras</a> &mdash; but also, apparently, at this Uruguayan supermarket.</p> <p>This time, cashier engaged me in a conversation that began something like this:</p> <blockquote><p>Cashier: &ldquo;You&rsquo;re from the United States, aren&rsquo;t you?&rdquo;</p> <p>Me (cautiously): &ldquo;Yes.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cashier: &ldquo;This law that Obama wants to pass &ndash; this immigration thing &ndash; can you tell me how it works?&rdquo;</p> <p>Me (caught off guard): &ldquo;Well, the president wants to give amnesty to certain immigrants living illegally in the United States.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cashier (grinning with joy): &ldquo;How wonderful!&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>We spoke a little more and I stumbled to explain the policy. (It was early). It turns out the cashier&rsquo;s brother lives in the United States. She said he&rsquo;s a resident, so Obama&rsquo;s move won&rsquo;t impact him, but she said this law was great news for her other friends and family all over the US.</p> <p>&ldquo;My family are everywhere, all over North America!&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>As I paid for my groceries, she thanked me. Not just for the transaction, but also for the actions of my president, thousands of miles away in Washington, who had done a courageous thing, she said.</p> <p>I left the store with a curious feeling.</p> <p>What was this? Could it be? Pride in being from the United States? A feeling of being part of an empire that&rsquo;s capable of both policies that make people smile, as well as carpet-bombing <a href="" target="_blank">weddings</a>?</p> <p>It was a nice feeling. Nice enough for me to write a quick <a href="" target="_blank">tweet</a> about the experience.</p> <p>I just wish it happened more often.</p> <p><em>Will Carless is GlobalPost&#39;s Americas correspondent.</em></p> immigration World Leaders Americas Want to Know United States Sat, 22 Nov 2014 15:03:00 +0000 Will Carless 6322429 at Romanians choose change <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A surprise new president offers renewed hope for reform in central Europe. </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; The surprise victory of a political outsider in Romania&#39;s presidential election last week has offered a boost to the country&#39;s nascent battle against corruption as well as a renewed commitment to its Western allies.</p> <p>But Klaus Iohannis&rsquo;s promise to shake things up also introduces new elements of uncertainty.</p> <p><a href="">Tipped </a>as an <a href="" target="_blank">also-ran</a> from the beginning, the center-right National Liberal Party&#39;s candidate overcame a ten-point deficit in the first round vote to come away with a ten-point margin of victory in the runoff last weekend, defeating sitting Prime Minister Victor Ponta with a 54 percent majority.</p> <p>The win put to rest fears that Ponta&#39;s Social Democratic (PSD) party would stymie the fight against political corruption by gaining control of presidential powers to appoint the head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate, the NAD, as well as other key posts in the judiciary.</p> <p>The vote also signaled a renewed optimism in Romanian politics that &mdash; along with recent anti-corruption protests in Hungary &mdash; may herald winds of change across central Europe, observers say.</p> <p>The vote for Iohannis was a clear affirmation of Romania&#39;s pro-Western stance amid worries that the region is drifting toward Russia, says Paul Ivan of the Brussels-based European Policy Center.</p> <p>&ldquo;It was clear during the campaign that he had a very clear, pro-Western message,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>In contrast, Ponta&#39;s controversial efforts to consolidate power at home and focus foreign policy toward China rather than Europe had prompted comparisons to Hungary&#39;s President Viktor Orban, whose<a href=""> open declaration</a> that he&rsquo;s seeking to create an &ldquo;illiberal&rdquo; state is now helping motivate tens of thousands of anti-corruption protesters in Budapest and other Hungarian cities.</p> <p>Iohannis is a member of Romania&#39;s German minority and observers have also hailed his win as an important rejection of the ethnic nationalism on the rise throughout the region.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a very good message of tolerance,&rdquo; Ivan says.</p> <p>Corina Rebegea of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis agrees early indicators for reform are promising.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a good sign for the fight against corruption,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>In his first speech as president-elect, Iohannis called on the legislature to scrap a controversial proposal to offer amnesty to political leaders jailed for corruption and lift immunities for others that had been shielded from investigation by parliament.</p> <p>The Social Democrat-led parliament responded within a week even though <a href="">rejecting amnesty</a> will threaten several prominent leaders from Ponta&#39;s party, including former PSD Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who was jailed for a second time in January.</p> <p>It was a strong signal that Iohannis&rsquo;s popular mandate offers him a window of opportunity.</p> <p>&ldquo;I wouldn&#39;t go so far as saying this is a new commitment and things will be different from now on,&rdquo; Rebegea says, adding that nevertheless &ldquo;he seized the legitimacy he gained through this vote. This gives him the weight and the leverage to demand that from the political class.&rdquo;</p> <p>In other ways, the election results make Romania&#39;s future path more uncertain, however.</p> <p>The swing against Ponta, who was aiming to gain control of the executive as well as the legislative branch of the government, could presage the breakup of his center-left coalition before parliamentary elections scheduled for 2016, says Otilia Dhand of the political risk consultancy firm Teneo.</p> <p>Moreover, Iohannis&rsquo;s political future still hangs on an unanswered legal issue despite his having won the presidency.</p> <p>As mayor of Sibiu, a Transylvanian town located 130 miles northwest of Bucharest, he allegedly violated the law by simultaneously serving on the board of directors of a local public utility, a violation that could still make him ineligible to hold the presidency.</p> <p>A lower court acquitted him of wrongdoing and the parliament has since passed a law allowing mayors to serve on such boards to represent voters&rsquo; interests. Nevertheless, Romania&#39;s top court is set to review the law and Iohannis&#39; so-called &ldquo;incompatability&rdquo; case later this month.</p> <p>Although not even the country&#39;s constitutional lawyers can predict the outcome, Iohannis&#39;s commitment to judicial independence probably gives him an advantage in the proceedings.</p> <p>However, if the judges rule against him before he officially takes office &mdash; and gains presidential immunity &mdash; on December 22, a protracted court battle could well determine the country&#39;s next president.</p> <p>Assuming Iohannis overcomes that hurdle, as most observers do, he could still struggle to deliver on some of the broader reforms he promised during his campaign after the early sheen of victory fades.</p> <p>Opposition legislators have already begun criticizing the president-elect for &ldquo;issuing orders&rdquo; &mdash; a veiled reference to the historical prominence of ethnic Germans in Romanian society, says Laura Stefan, a former official in the Justice Ministry.</p> <p>&ldquo;In Romania, miracles only last for three days, so I expect we&#39;ll recover quite soon and go back to the old ways of doing business,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>On corruption, he will need to distance himself from controversial members of his own party and build on a marriage of convenience with civil society that emerged as a de facto anti-Ponta coalition rallied behind him in the election runoff.</p> <p>A first step could be using the bully pulpit to expand the public&#39;s focus from prosecutions to prevention &mdash; comparatively boring work on <a href="">transparency and accuracy</a> in reporting on the use of public resources, Rebegea says.</p> <p>Still, specific measures to reform economic policy and the political process lie outside the reach of presidential powers, which are limited to foreign policy and judicial appointments.</p> <p>&ldquo;When it comes to economic policy, his input is relatively limited,&rdquo; Dhand says.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Why Ukrainians still care about Lenin</a></strong></p> <p>But with a far-reaching national security policy &mdash; one of the president&#39;s most powerful tools for influencing the country&#39;s direction &mdash; Iohannis also has an opportunity to emphasize Romania&#39;s ties with the EU and US in ways that could encourage Western investment.</p> <p>With some deft maneuvers, he could step into a vacuum of pro-Western leadership created by Hungary&#39;s Orban in the region.</p> <p>&ldquo;His new strategy needs to really substantiate what he means by pro-NATO, pro-EU and so on,&rdquo; Rebegea says. &ldquo;He needs to look at defense modernization and concrete projects by which Romania can really take on a leadership role in Southeast Europe.&rdquo;</p> Romania Elections Want to Know Europe Sat, 22 Nov 2014 05:30:12 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6322037 at Thai orphanage girl wouldn’t live with Kim Kardashian 'even for tons of money' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 13-year-old Pink — whom the reality star wanted to adopt — is 'indifferent' to Kardashian’s riches. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Patrick Winn </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BANGKOK &mdash; From obscurity in a coastal Thai orphanage, a 13-year-old girl named Pink has become an internet hero.</p> <p>All she had to do was say &ldquo;no&rdquo; to a life with tabloid queen Kim Kardashian.</p> <p>Kardashian grew infatuated with the teenage girl while visiting an orphanage called Home and Life on a TV shoot in Thailand.</p> <p>But the kids had no clue who she was, the manager Bhudit Maneejak tells GlobalPost.</p> <p>That made Kardashian&rsquo;s offer to adopt Pink &mdash; one of 14 girls living at the group home &mdash; all the more jarring.</p> <p>&ldquo;When Kim Kardashian came, she bluntly asked, &ldquo;Pink, you want to come live with me?&rdquo; Bhudit says. Kim gushed on camera for her show Keeping Up with the Kardashians: &ldquo;I literally cannot stop thinking about her.&rdquo;</p> <script height="500px" width="100%" src=""></script><p>So goes the story of Pink, the impoverished Southeast Asian girl who rejected a new life of wealth and fame under Kardashian&rsquo;s maternal wing. As the <a href=";ns_mchannel=rss&amp;ns_campaign=1490">Daily Mail reported</a> it, Pink prefers to stay in her orphanage in lieu of becoming the daughter of Kardashian and eccentric rapper Kanye West.</p> <p>The full story is a bit more complicated.</p> <p>Pink is not an abandoned urchin desperate for a rich family to spirit her away to America.</p> <p>For Pink, Kardashian&rsquo;s proposal was not so hard to turn down. Imagine a billionaire sheikh (who can&rsquo;t speak English) dropping by a US group home, selecting his favorite teen and offering to become the child&#39;s dad. He might not find so many takers.</p> <p>Kardashian&rsquo;s adoption offer was never taken all that seriously by the orphanage or by Pink herself, Bhudit says.</p> <p>For starters, Pink is not an orphan per se. Pink&rsquo;s mother placed her at Home and Life after her father left the family, nudging them into poverty. But Pink&rsquo;s mom lives nearby and visits frequently.</p> <p>Even if her mother was absent, Bhudit says, Pink simply isn&rsquo;t up for adoption. He also notes that outsiders like Kardashian aren&rsquo;t allowed to spend time with children unsupervised.</p> <p>&ldquo;Say adoption was an option. She still wouldn&rsquo;t live with Kim even for tons of money. Because her happiness will be greater here,&rdquo; Bhudit says. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think she&rsquo;d do well. A young kid going from Asia to America, that&rsquo;s too big of a change.&rdquo;</p> <p>While filming their TV show, Kardashian and her family seemed to regard the group home&rsquo;s conditions as impoverished. (They were also staying at an $18,000-per-night resort at the time.)</p> <p>But Pink&rsquo;s foster group home, established in the aftermath of a devastating 2004 tsunami, is not at all bleak. Housing 25 kids, it offers a quality of life common for kids across Thailand. They study and play by day. They sleep on mats under whirring fans at night. There&rsquo;s even an in-house coffee shop where Pink is training as a barista.</p> <p>&ldquo;The concept of our orphanage is, it&rsquo;s like a home,&rdquo; Bhudit says. &ldquo;They grow up like kids in a normal family: studying, activities around the house, learning to be good people in the Thai way.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;When Kim came, it&rsquo;s not like she announced she&rsquo;s from a family of millionaires. The kids found out later,&rdquo; Bhudit says. &ldquo;Later, when Pink realized Kim&rsquo;s a millionaire, she was indifferent. She was just happy to have met someone who&rsquo;s famous around the world.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">7 important news stories you might have missed thanks to Kim Kardashian and the comet</a></strong></p> Entertainment Want to Know United States Thailand Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:24:36 +0000 Patrick Winn 6321895 at Egypt closes schools in Sinai towns as area inches toward open war <!--paging_filter--><p>Egypt has indefinitely shut schools in two border towns in northern Sinai as the army prepares to intensify a battle with Islamist militants that turned the daily trip to lessons into a &quot;journey of death.&quot;</p> <p>Local people say children&#39;s education has fallen victim while the military stages air strikes against jihadists, who are targeting soldiers and police, and have started beheading army informers.</p> <p>&quot;We are putting our lives at risk on a daily basis,&quot; said Mohamed, a teacher who lives in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. &quot;Sometimes there is fire between gunmen and the armed forces and sometimes stray bullets hit some of us.&quot;</p> <p>Militancy has surged in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal, since the army ousted an elected Islamist president last summer. At least 33 security personnel were killed last month and one Sinai-based group has pledged its loyalty to Islamic State, which has overrun large areas of Syria and Iraq.</p> <p>Army checkpoints dot the main roads in northern Sinai which residents fear is turning into an all-out war zone. This made the daily school run arduous, and dangerous if militants targeted the troops manning them. &quot;We&#39;ve started calling the trip to and from school the journey of death,&quot; said another teacher, declining to be named.</p> <p>Since the militant attacks on Oct. 24, Egypt has imposed emergency rule in parts of Sinai, evicted hundreds of families and demolished their homes to create a buffer zone along the Gaza border about 220 miles northeast of Cairo.</p> <p>The government hopes that by clearing the 1 km-deep area of residents, buildings and trees, it can stem the flow of arms via tunnels from Gaza to the Sinai-based jihadists.</p> <p>&quot;The buffer zone is a principal part of the solution,&quot; President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in an interview with France 24 television on Thursday. &quot;This should have been done years ago ... There was an understanding with the residents about the need for Egypt&rsquo;s security.&quot;</p> <p>Not everyone agrees with him, and the heavy-handed approach is breeding resentment among local residents who have long complained of neglect by Cairo.</p> <p><strong>Near standstill</strong></p> <p>A night time curfew has brought life to a near standstill while extended internet and phone disruptions aimed at breaking the militant&#39;s communications also cause problems. Local people say they cannot even call an ambulance to pick up casualties or inform police if they spot militants nearby.</p> <p>Ten civilians were killed in their home this week during clashes between the army and militants. Security sources said insurgent mortars hit the house but had earlier raised the possibility of an army air strike gone wrong.</p> <p>Egyptian officials say extraordinary measures such as the school shutdown are necessary for both national security and residents&#39; safety.</p> <p>Schools in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, both on the border with Gaza, would remain closed while the army secured the surrounding areas, North Sinai governor, General Abdel Fattah Harhour, told state news agency MENA on Thursday.</p> <p>An army spokesman declined to comment on the military&#39;s plans or whether they were related to the school closures. However, security sources said the army was planning major operations in the coming days and did not want children caught in the crossfire.</p> <p><strong>Ghost town and garrison</strong></p> <p>With neighboring Libya in chaos and Islamic State trying to establish a cross border &quot;caliphate&quot; in Iraq and Syria, Egypt is determined to regain full control of Sinai. But its battle is growing more complicated.</p> <p>Last week, five navy seamen were wounded and eight declared missing after what the army called a &quot;terrorist incident&quot; at sea. This was about 30 miles from Port Said, the Mediterranean entrance to the Suez Canal which is a major international shipping route and revenue earner for Egypt.</p> <p>A bomb in a Cairo suburb wounded six people around a police checkpoint on Thursday, security sources said. This was the latest in a string of attacks in the capital whose targets included the supreme court, foreign ministry and Cairo University.</p> <p>Militants from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt&#39;s most active jihadist group, have claimed responsibility for beheading a number of Egyptians in recent months they accused of being informants for Israeli intelligence. The group now may be able to boost its funding, recruiting and fighting abilities by vowing loyalty to Islamic State.</p> <p>Ansar released a slickly-produced video resembling those of Islamic State, appearing to claim responsibility for the Oct. 24 suicide attacks that provoked the Sinai crackdown. This has left rubble where some homes in Rafah once stood.</p> <p>&quot;Rafah has become a ghost town by night and military garrison by day,&quot; said Salem al-Araishi, a resident. &quot;All our memories are gone with our houses.&quot;</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy and Shadi Bushra; Writing by Shadi Bushra, Editing by Lin Noueihed and David Stamp)</p> Egypt Need to Know Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:44:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6321896 at Western leaders step away from nuclear talks with Iran as deadline nears <!--paging_filter--><p>With three days to go to the deadline for a deal to defuse stand-off with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, Western power foreign ministers stepped away for consultations on Friday while Tehran&#39;s chief envoy canceled plans to leave the negotiations.</p> <p>The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China began the final round of talks with Iran on Tuesday, looking to clinch a pact under which Tehran would curb its nuclear work to help ensure it cannot be diverted to bomb-making in exchange for a lifting of economically crippling sanctions.</p> <p>But officials close to the negotiations in Vienna said at mid-week the two sides remained deadlocked on key issues, were unlikely to secure a definitive accord by Nov. 24, and might need to extend the deadline.</p> <p>Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry agreed &quot;additional efforts&quot; were needed to reach a deal by the self-imposed deadline, Russia&#39;s Foreign Ministry said.</p> <p>&quot;The sides did not rule out the possibility of holding a ministerial meeting of the parties to the talks on Iran&#39;s nuclear program, if the prospect for progress appears,&quot; the ministry said in a statement.</p> <p>British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said after separate meetings on Friday with big power peers in Vienna: &quot;These are complex issues and there are still significant gaps between the parties. We&#39;re all going away to have technical discussions with our experts and we&#39;ll resume again over the ... weekend.&quot;</p> <p>Western powers suspect Iran has aimed to covertly acquire a nuclear bomb capability from its enrichment of uranium. Iran says the program is for producing civilian energy only. The decade-long dispute has raised fears of a wider Middle East war.</p> <p>Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif canceled announced plans to return to Tehran for top-level discussions with the deadline looming, Iranian media reported. The reason for his reversal of course was not immediately known.</p> <p>&quot;The talks have not reached a stage that necessitates Zarif to go to Tehran,&quot; an unnamed senior member of the Iranian delegation told the IRNA and ISNA news agencies. &quot;Therefore he is not going to Tehran and the talks will continue.&quot;</p> <p>US and French officials said earlier that US Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius would return to Paris later in the day for consultations.</p> <p>Kerry spoke on the telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday and the two men agreed that &quot;additional efforts&quot; were needed to secure a deal by Monday, Moscow&#39;s Foreign Ministry said.</p> <p>A source close to the talks told Reuters that Zarif had received a document from the powers that outlining the main principles of a possible agreement on removing sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.</p> <p><strong>Sticking points</strong></p> <p>Western diplomats told Reuters earlier this week that a US-drafted proposal shown to Iran at preparatory talks in Oman earlier this month called for the Islamic Republic to reduce the number of its uranium enrichment centrifuges to 4,500, well below the current 19,000 Tehran now has in operation.</p> <p>Iran has about 10,000 of those machines in operation. Iranian officials have refused to reduce the volume of uranium they are capable of enriching, a stand Western officials say is unacceptable as this would potentially allow Tehran to amass enough fissile material for an atomic bomb in little time.</p> <p>This is a major sticking point in the talks.</p> <p>Another sticking point is the pace and sequencing of sanctions relief. Iran wants them terminated swiftly, not suspended and gradually scrapped, depending on the degree of Iranian compliance with the deal terms, as the West wants.</p> <p>Another dispute is over the deal&#39;s duration &mdash; the powers want it to be up to 20 years, Iran wants this much shorter.</p> <p>It was not clear when Kerry would be back in Vienna. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said he was leaving &quot;for consultations with his European counterparts about the ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations.&quot;</p> <p>Aides said Fabius would return to Vienna over the weekend.</p> <p>&quot;We have to get more flexibility from the Iranians,&quot; Britain&#39;s Hammond told reporters upon arrival. &quot;In return we are prepared to show some flexibility on our side. But time is short, we are up against a deadline here.&quot;</p> <p>An interim accord struck on Nov. 24 last year yielded steps by Iran to curb some sensitive nuclear activity, such as higher-grade enrichment, in return for some sanctions relief. That pact will expire on Monday.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Louis Charbonneau and Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Mark Heinrich)</p> Need to Know Iran Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:55:29 +0000 Jonathan Allen and John Irish, Thomson Reuters 6321817 at Japanese PM Shinzo Abe dissolves parliament for 'Abenomics' snap election <!--paging_filter--><p>Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved parliament&#39;s lower house on Friday for a snap election on Dec. 14, seeking a fresh mandate for his struggling &quot;Abenomics&quot; revival strategy just two years after he returned to power promising that &quot;Japan is Back.&quot;</p> <p>Abe had vowed to revive the economy with a mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and reforms, while moving ahead with plans to rein in Japan&#39;s massive public debt.</p> <p>But doubts have grown about his strategy, especially after data showed this week that the economy had surprisingly slipped into recession in the third quarter after an initial rise in the sales tax to 8 percent from April.</p> <p>&quot;This is an &#39;Abenomics&#39; snap election. Will &#39;Abenomics&#39; go forward, or stop in its tracks? That is the question in this election,&quot; Abe told a news conference. &quot;Are our economic policies a mistake, or are they correct? Is there really any other way? This is what we want to ask all the people.&quot;</p> <p>Abe has said he would delay for 18 months a second tax hike to 10 percent that had been slated for October 2015. He pledged that the second increase, which advocates say is needed to fund the bulging social security costs of a fast-ageing population, would go ahead in April 2017.</p> <p>No general election needed to be held until late 2016, and surveys show around two-thirds of voters are wondering why Abe is taking the plunge now. &quot;The whole reason is a bit unclear, or a bit trivial,&quot; said Yutaka Watanabe, a middle-aged tourist snapping a photo of the parliament building on Friday morning.</p> <p>But the prime minister hopes to cement his grip on power before his support ratings slip too far. Next year, he plans to tackle unpopular policies such as restarting reactors that went off-line after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.</p> <p><strong>Trickle down or bottom up?</strong></p> <p>An Asahi newspaper poll published on Friday showed Abe&#39;s support fell to 39 percent &mdash; the lowest since he took office in December 2012 &mdash; and just a bit more than the 40 percent who do not back him.</p> <p>Still, 37 percent said they would vote for Abe&#39;s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in proportional representation districts, compared with 13 percent who planned to vote for the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).</p> <p>Thirty percent were undecided.</p> <p>&quot;Unfortunately, the DPJ has not recovered to a point where we can say to voters, &#39;Entrust the government to us&#39;,&quot; DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano told a news conference. The Democrats were trounced in 2012 after three years in power.</p> <p>Edano said the DPJ wanted to give voters a choice between Abe&#39;s &quot;trickle down&quot; policies that critics say favour the rich and big firms, and the Democrats&#39; &quot;bottom up&quot; strategy that focuses on the middle class.</p> <p>Faced with a weak and divided opposition, the LDP and its junior partner, the Komeito party, are not expected to lose their majority in the lower house, where they held two-thirds of the 480 seats. There will be 475 seats up for grabs this time after reforms to rebalance between sparsely populated rural districts and dense urban areas.</p> <p>Abe said he would resign if his coalition failed to win a majority, an outcome experts dismissed as almost impossible, though he could end up weakened if the LDP loses too many seats.</p> <p>(Editing by Edmund Klamann, Dean Yates and Alex Richardson)</p> Need to Know Japan Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:28:21 +0000 Linda Sieg and Elaine Lies, Thomson Reuters 6321801 at Violence in eastern Ukraine seems endless now — here's how we got there <!--paging_filter--><p>It&#39;s been a tough year for Ukraine. The country has been shaken to the core, with every sector taking a hit from the geopolitical quagmire it&#39;s been mired in for the past 12 months. Thrust into the spotlight last November following protests over its decision to forgo a trade deal with the European Union, Ukraine has been forced to face its national struggles on the global stage. In the course of a year, the country overhauled its leaders, lost Crimea to Russia and created the conditions for a second Cold War.&nbsp;</p> <p>More than 4,300 people have been killed in the conflict, and more than 430,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes, per the latest UN figures. Many continue to languish in war-torn regions.&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout the revolution&#39;s tumultuous year, GlobalPost has reported from Ukraine&#39;s east, west and center &mdash; starting at Kyiv&#39;s Maidan, the movement&#39;s nucleus of protest. This timeline featuring our best reporting and analysis from correspondents and editors breaks down the sweeping changes the country has undergone in the past year.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> Rumblings of revolution &mdash; November 2013</h2> <p>The Ukrainian government bows out of a trade pact with the European Union, angering pro-EU opposition leaders who call for protests.&nbsp;GlobalPost senior correspondent&nbsp;Dan Peleschuk <a href="" target="_blank">reports from Moscow</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Protesters in Ukraine are hoping to stage a nationwide campaign to denounce the government&rsquo;s suspension on Thursday of plans to sign landmark agreements with the European Union, a move they say marks the abandonment of the country&rsquo;s European aspirations.&nbsp;Calls to protest from opposition leaders, civic activists and ordinary Ukrainians flooded social networks on Friday, a day after the cabinet announced it would forgo sweeping political and trade agreements with the EU in favor of renewing relations with Russia, its Soviet-era ruler.&nbsp;</em></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images"> Deputies of the pro-European opposition hold EU and Ukrainian flags prior to the parliament session in Kyiv on Nov. 22, 2013.<br /> &nbsp;</div> <h2> Goodbye, Lenin! &mdash; December 2013</h2> <p>As anti-government protests continue to swell at the Maidan, Kyiv&#39;s central Independence Square, <a href="" target="_blank">demonstrators topple a statue of Vladimir Lenin</a> on Dec. 8, 2013.&nbsp;Peleschuk explains the significance of the moment:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Those who greeted the statue&rsquo;s destruction say it represents a symbolic moment in a wave of demonstrations aimed at establishing Ukraine&rsquo;s European identity and wresting the former Soviet republic once and for all from Moscow&rsquo;s grasp.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>They blame President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov for capitulating to Russian pressure and engineering a violent, Soviet-style crackdown on protesters last week.</em></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="BRENDAN HOFFMAN/AFP/Getty Images"> A man tries to stop anti-government protesters from destroying a statue of Russian communist revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin on Dec. 8, 2013 in Kyiv, Ukraine.</div> <p>Russian President Vladimir Putin offers Ukraine a $15 billion aid package.</p> <p>&quot;Putin&#39;s intervention raised the stakes in the battle over Ukraine&#39;s future,&quot; <a href="" target="_blank">The Guardian&#39;s Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker notes</a>.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images"> Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Dec. 17, 2013.<br /> &nbsp;</div> <h2> Protests turn deadly &mdash; January 2014</h2> <p>Ukrainian parliament passes a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">controversial anti-demonstration legislation on Jan. 16</a> and repeals it a few weeks later.&nbsp;The protests continue to rage on, and three people are killed in clashes between security forces and demonstrators.&nbsp;</p> <p>Peleschuk sends in<a href="" target="_blank">&nbsp;video</a> from the epicenter of the clashes in Kyiv, which resembles a war zone:</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <h2> Yanukovych flees &mdash; February 2014</h2> <p>Ukraine&#39;s parliament votes President Viktor Yanukovych out of office, and he flees Kyiv. His archrival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is freed from prison. What does this mean for Russia?&nbsp;</p> <p>GlobalPost Europe editor Gregory Feifer <a href="" target="_blank">weighs in</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Even after Yanukovych was sent packing the first time during Ukraine&rsquo;s Orange Revolution after winning a fixed presidential election in 2003, Putin eventually found common language with Yanukovych&rsquo;s great rival, Orange Revolution heroine and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The two managed to sign a natural gas deal in 2009 that looked set to finally begin setting Ukraine free from Russian influence exerted through its wrangling over gas prices.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>After he eventually won the presidency in 2010, Yanukovych immediately set about undoing the deal by agreeing to new Russian subsidies in exchange for extending Moscow a long lease on the port of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>But Putin is playing a long game. He&rsquo;s shown in the past that he can lie low and rely on energy deals and propaganda to try to influence events. Surely that will continue in Ukraine, which will remain Russia&rsquo;s southern neighbor, an important trading partner where many people speak the Russian language and have relatives and other close ties to the old Soviet master.</em></p> <p>GlobalPost news editor Ambika Kandasamy <a href="" target="_blank">talks to</a> Christopher Miller, a former editor at Kyiv Post, about the violence on the ground and the radicalization of some protesters:</p> <div class="ab-player" data-boourl=""> <a href="">listen to &lsquo;Radical protesters&rsquo; on Audioboo</a></div> <script type="text/javascript">(function() { var po = document.createElement("script"); po.type = "text/javascript"; po.async = true; po.src = ""; var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })();</script><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kyiv protesters <a href="" target="_blank">hold a memorial</a> for their&nbsp;comrades who were killed in clashes with Ukrainian forces.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>Ukrainians get a glimpse of Yanukovych&#39;s decadence after protesters storm his deserted mansion. This short video produced by GlobalPost contributors Ben C. Solomon and Nadia Parfan shows the reaction of one babushka upon seeing his home.</p> <p>&quot;My heart can&#39;t take everything that&#39;s happened here,&quot; she says.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <div gp-vimeo-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <h2> <br /> Crimea secedes from Ukraine &mdash; March 2014</h2> <p>Crimea holds a referendum to decide whether it should join Russia, on March 6, 2014. Here&#39;s what <a href="" target="_blank">one voter</a> &mdash; a pensioner &mdash; tells<a href="" target="_blank">&nbsp;</a>Peleschuk:</p> <div gp-pullquote="" gp-pullquote-position="NOTHING" gp-pullquote-source="65-year-old Aleksandr Naboichenko"> I was born in Soviet Russia, in Crimea, but they handed me off to Ukraine like a sack of potatoes, along with my native land.</div> <p>Crimea votes to join Russia.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>The US and EU enact <a href="" target="_blank">sanctions against Russia</a> &mdash; GlobalPost&#39;s Jason Overdorf gives the details:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The European Union and United States have enacted visa bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials after Crimea applied to join Russia on Monday.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Ukraine&rsquo;s Black Sea peninsula on Sunday held a referendum in which local officials say almost 97 percent of voters supported seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The US and EU say the referendum as well as Russia&rsquo;s military invasion of Crimea are illegal.</em></p> <p>Reports emerge of curious &quot;little green men&quot; in Crimea.&nbsp;</p> <p>From <a href="" target="_blank">the BBC</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1">Another phrase used by reporters in Russia and Ukraine alike is &quot;little green men,&quot; which refers both to the colour of their uniforms and their unconfirmed origin.&nbsp;Their involvement in Crimea is a &quot;tragicomic masquerade,&quot; says Russian liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which argues that &quot;the little green men will turn into Russian troops very soon.&quot;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> Protesters seize government buildings &mdash; April 2014</h2> <p>Eastern Ukraine is thrown into tumult as separatists seize government buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv. Mass pro-Ukraine rallies are held in Donetsk:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Happening now. RT <a href="">@PaulSonne</a>: Pro <a href=";src=hash">#Ukraine</a> rally in Donetsk <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) <a href="">April 17, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <p>Yet fears of the new regime in Kyiv persist in eastern Ukraine, as this video by GlobalPost contributor Greg Brosnan reveals:</p> <div gp-vimeo-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p>Meanwhile, Putin finds&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">allies in Europe</a>. GlobalPost&#39;s Paul Ames writes:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Many on Europe&#39;s radical right admire Putin&#39;s strongman image. Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, last week said Putin was the world leader he most admired. &quot;Compared with the kids who run foreign policy in this country, I&#39;ve more respect for him than our lot.&quot;</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Russian media have widely reported his comment that the EU has &quot;blood on its hands&quot; by meddling in Ukraine.</em><br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> Poroshenko becomes president &mdash; May 2014</h2> <p>Chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko is elected as Ukraine&#39;s president. Peleschuk describes <a href="" target="_blank">the hurdles that are in store</a> for him:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Before Petro Poroshenko, who won Ukraine&rsquo;s presidency in the election on Sunday, had even detailed his priorities in a post-election press conference Monday, he was slapped with a fresh raft of reminders of just how tough his job will be.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>By dawn, armed pro-Russian rebels had seized the central airport in Donetsk, the regional capital of the industrialized eastern heartland and the hotbed of Ukraine&rsquo;s separatist movement. Flights were suspended , and clashes with pro-government forces erupted shortly after.</em></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>There&#39;s the Chocolate Man himself, claiming victory in <a href=";src=hash">#Ukraine</a> president elex <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Dan Peleschuk (@dpeleschuk) <a href="">May 25, 2014</a><br /> &nbsp;</p></blockquote> <h2> Ukraine-EU sign landmark association agreement &mdash; June 2014</h2> <p>Poroshenko signs a free-trade agreement with the EU in Brussels, promptly drawing the wrath of Russia.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Reuters reports</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1">Russia&#39;s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin immediately said the signing would have &quot;grave consequences&quot; for Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported.</p> <p>Poroshenko announces a ceasefire with separatists in eastern Ukraine which lasts less than two weeks.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> MH17 is shot down &mdash; July 2014</h2> <p>Malaysia Airlines&nbsp;Flight 17 is shot down in eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people, including three infants.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Brendan Hoffman/AFP/Getty Images"> Men search the wreckage of a commercial passenger plane that was shot by a missile on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.</div> <p>Peleschuk <a href="" target="_blank">reports from Soledar, Ukraine</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Once buzzing with activity, this sleepy compound in the rolling hills of eastern Ukraine emptied quickly on Thursday as the last of a team of international experts left, their mission to identify the remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 indefinitely suspended.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The development comes as fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels rages on despite pledges from both sides not to interfere with the work of identifying the remains of around 80 bodies still believed to be scattered throughout the sprawling site.</em><br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> Controversial aid convoy enters Ukraine &mdash; August 2014</h2> <p>Russian invasion? Nope.</p> <p>Peleschuk <a href="" target="_blank">explains</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Ukraine&#39;s Western allies had likewise warned Moscow against unilaterally deploying the caravan of white tractor-trailers, suggesting the move was aimed at resupplying rebels and thereby infringed on Ukraine&rsquo;s territorial integrity.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>But Saturday&rsquo;s delivery to the besieged city of Luhansk &mdash; currently in the throws of what Moscow has cast as a &quot;humanitarian crisis&quot; amid heavy shelling &mdash; seemingly ended as quickly as it began, without any of the provocations critics feared would serve as a pretext for Russian military involvement.</em><br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> The Minsk deal &mdash; September 2014</h2> <p>Another ceasefire between Ukraine and separatists goes into effect. The BBC takes a <a href="" target="_blank">comprehensive look at the 12-point ceasefire</a>.</p> <p>And NATO gives a stern warning to Putin. Ames has <a href="" target="_blank">the story</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>On paper, at least, NATO&#39;s conventional forces still outgun Russia&#39;s despite Putin&#39;s massive investment in defense in recent years and the steady decline in military spending by European members of NATO since the end of the Cold War. ...&nbsp;However, NATO&rsquo;s weakness lies less in the number and quality of forces at its disposal than on whether its member nations have the political will to use them. Many allies will be hoping against hope that Friday&#39;s ceasefire could mark the start of a genuine de-escalation that ensure their will won&#39;t be put to the test.</em></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="PETER MACDIARMID/GETTY IMAGES"> Obama: NATO and international support for Ukraine is &quot;a testimony to how seriously people take to the principle that big countries can&#39;t just stomp on little countries.&quot;<br /> &nbsp;</div> <h2> Fears of a &#39;gas war&#39; subside&mdash; October 2014</h2> <p>Ukraine and Russia agree to a natural gas supply deal. Reuters <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1">Ukraine, Russia and the European Union signed a deal on Thursday that will see Moscow resume vital supplies of gas to its ex-Soviet neighbor over the winter in return for payments funded in part by Kyiv&#39;s Western creditors.</p> <p class="rteindent1">After several failed rounds of talks in recent weeks as conflict rumbles on despite a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, the accord also eases concerns that a new &quot;gas war&quot; could disrupt winter supplies if energy to EU states, notably through pipelines shut down across Ukraine since June.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> The truce frays &mdash; November 2014</h2> <p>Another truce between Ukraine and separatists fails. The UN says at least 1,000 people were killed during the ceasefire.</p> <p>Peleschuk writes that Ukrainian &quot;officials and ordinary people are still figuring out how to patch together a traumatized and divided society.&quot;</p> <p class="rteindent1">&nbsp;</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="SERGEY BOBOK/AFP/Getty Images"> A statue of Vladimir Lenin is toppled in Ukraine on Sept 28, 2014.</div> <p>From Peleschuk&#39;s piece:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>There&#39;s a war with Moscow-backed separatists in the east, a tanking economy and a hugely corrupt state bureaucracy desperately in need of reform. There&#39;s also Vladimir Lenin, whose toppling in Kyiv became an early symbol of the protests against the ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. Lenin&#39;s legacy &mdash; or rather, how it&#39;s being handled &mdash; has become a barometer for how quickly Ukraine can heal its post-revolutionary wounds. &quot;On one hand, it&rsquo;s a symbol of separating from the totalitarian past,&quot; says Volodymyr Paniotto, a leading sociologist in Kyiv. &quot;But on the other, it&rsquo;s a characteristic of a radicalized society using uncivilized methods instead of civilized ones.&quot; </em></p> <p>Ukraine continues to fight its other battle:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Helping its thousands of displaced citizens.</a></p> Need to Know Europe Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:27:00 +0000 Ambika Kandasamy 6320614 at Women in Singapore are embracing pole dancing (PHOTOS) <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> This seductive and demanding art is not just for strippers anymore. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Rob O&#039;Brien </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SINGAPORE &mdash; This tiny island nation of 5.4m people is known for being meticulously managed. On a continent of charmingly chaotic megacities, Singapore is a polished showpiece of tidy office towers, sleek shopping malls and infrastructure that actually works.</p> <p>The government tends to keep a tight rein on anything that might disrupt its finely kept veneer. Earlier this year it tried to <a href="">ban three children&#39;s books</a> perceived to promote homosexuality, but backed down after an online uproar. A local <a href="">film</a> called &ldquo;To Singapore, With Love,&rdquo; about political exiles, was labeled a threat to national security and banned in September. Earlier this month the city-state <a href="">banned</a> shisha tobacco.</p> <p>In this context the quiet rise of exotic dance would seem to be ground-breaking. But across the city dance studios are starting to install 38mm brass spinning poles. Pole dancing, it turns out, is taking off in the conservative capital of Southeast Asia.</p> <p>In a shop-house near Singapore&rsquo;s business district, a group has gathered to see a routine from the renowned Australian pole dancer Michelle Shimmy, who is in town to launch a local franchise of her Sydney-based Pole Dance Academy (PDA).</p> <p>One of the Singapore dance instructors, Salmah, steps up to introduce her &ldquo;Ghetto and Sass&rdquo; class. &ldquo;I do the booty work around here,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I know people say we&rsquo;re conservative, but this is sexy, it involves gyrating and a lot of hip and thigh work. &hellip; It&rsquo;s like twerking, although I&#39;d rather not call it that.&rdquo;</p> <p>Four new pole dancing studios have opened up recently &mdash; among them an Italian franchise, Milan Studio &mdash; all looking to cash in on the growing interest in pole dancing. Many gyms in Singapore are now offering pole dance fitness classes as an alternative to yoga and pilates.</p> <p><strong>Hoop Tricks at Milan Pole Studio</strong></p> <div gp-youtube-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p><strong>Exotic Dance at Milan Pole Studio</strong></p> <div gp-youtube-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p>&quot;Pole [dancing] has increasingly become a norm among women here in Singapore,&rdquo; says Sueann Tan, co-owner of the new PDA studio. &ldquo;I don&#39;t think it&#39;s because we are getting less conservative as Singaporeans, but rather, that people are starting to understand that pole dancing is moving further away from its &lsquo;stripper&rsquo; roots.&rdquo;</p> <p>Most of the new pole dancing additions have been founded by students of <a href="">Bobbi&rsquo;s Pole Studio</a>, Singapore&rsquo;s original pole dancing destination, located next to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Pole dancing has grown and its image has improved a lot over the years,&rdquo; says Singapore&rsquo;s pole dancing matriarch, Linna Tan, founder of Bobbi&rsquo;s. &ldquo;But this growth is good, it expands the market. The more studios we have here in Singapore the more it brings the sport up.&rdquo;</p> <p>Tan trained in the UK and Australia and partnered with the Australian-owned Bobbi&rsquo;s to bring pole dancing to Singapore in 2006. Bobbi&rsquo;s has a database of 4,000 dancers, more than 700 of them &ldquo;active.&rdquo; Until recently its oldest member was 74. It also reserves pole space for a group of cancer survivors called the Pink Spartans.</p> <p>Tan says the new popularity is mainly because of the fitness benefits of pole dancing as well as a desire to &ldquo;feel sexy&rdquo; among Singaporean women. Those who are taking it up are mostly working professionals, students and expat moms.</p> <p>But Singapore is not known as a shining beacon of self-expression, even among its neighbors. The island&rsquo;s young men and women are so career-oriented that for years the government has run campaigns urging them to <a href="">date, have sex, and reproduce</a>.</p> <p>Pole dancing hasn&rsquo;t been caught in the government&rsquo;s crosshairs to date, although setting up shop wasn&rsquo;t easy for Bobbi&rsquo;s.</p> <p>&ldquo;We had difficulty renting this place. The church almost got us evicted, but we stood our ground and told them &lsquo;we are not a strip club,&rsquo;&rdquo; Tan says. &ldquo;In the beginning I tried to keep it within the fitness theme, but the truth is that pole dancing is very sexy &hellip; not &lsquo;dirty&rsquo; sexy, but it can be naughty and sensual.&rdquo;</p> <p>Even today, Bobbi&rsquo;s has to keep its blinds down at all time. But &ldquo;now it&rsquo;s much better [than before]. The girls come here and have a good time, then they leave,&rdquo; she added.</p> <p>Although a few extra pole dancing studios don&rsquo;t necessarily mean things are loosening up in the city-state, dancers say that young Singaporeans are more confident, vocal and less inhibited than previous generations.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s always been there,&rdquo; says Penny Pun, a student of Bobbi&#39;s. &quot;It&rsquo;s just not very mainstream. In America you get encouraged to be very independent and to express yourself freely, but that&rsquo;s not so much the case here.&rdquo;</p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Asia-Pacific China Innovation Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:15:18 +0000 Rob O&#039;Brien 6297594 at These charts show Miss Honduras is now a data point in her nation’s horrific homicide statistics <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The fatal shooting of the beauty queen and her sister highlights how the ultra-violent Central American nation has the highest murder rate in the world. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simeon Tegel and Simran Khosla </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LIMA, Peru &mdash; Why do some homicides attract more attention than others?</p> <p>That deceptively simple question raises all kinds of complex issues about our own prejudices &mdash; regarding culture, race, class, and even our notions of sexual attractiveness.</p> <p>So, when a teenage beauty queen is shot dead just days before she was due to travel to London for the Miss World pageant, it&rsquo;s a story.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s what happened this week to 19-year-old Maria Jose Alvarado, aka Miss Honduras. On Wednesday, police discovered her body, and that of her older sister Sofia, buried beside a river.</p> <p>Violent death is hardly unusual in Honduras. In fact, the country has a truly unwanted claim to fame &mdash; it is the world&rsquo;s most homicidal nation, at least for those not at war.</p> <p>According to this <a href="" target="_blank">2013 United Nations study</a>, Honduras&rsquo; 2012 homicide rate was a just-plain-scary 90.4 per 100,000 residents.</p> <p><img src="" width="100%" /></p> <p>In other words, your chances of being murdered in Honduras that year were nearly 20 times higher than in the United States.</p> <p>To put things further into perspective, Honduras&rsquo; rate were going on twice that of the world&rsquo;s second most murderous country, Venezuela, which had just under 54 slayings per 100,000 residents, according to the UN.</p> <p>Most of Western Europe hovered around a single murder per 100,000 people per year.</p> <p>Although Honduras&rsquo; killing spree is extreme even compared to its neighbors, Latin America is by some counts the world&rsquo;s deadliest region, with 24.5 homicides per 100,000 residents annually.</p> <p><img src="" width="100%" /></p> <p><em>Note: This chart does not include statistics for the Middle East and North Africa. 2012 data weren&#39;t available for those regions.</em></p> <p>Experts point to a gamut of reasons: from the US-backed drug war to income inequality, a history of armed conflict, corrupt police and courts, bad public education, and, in some countries like Honduras, easy access to guns.</p> <p>The UN also has noted a rising tide of violence against women. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of females killed in Honduras <a href=";LangID=E" target="_blank">more than tripled</a>.</p> <p>The authorities say Alvarado actually had no known links to the drug cartels and ultra-violent &ldquo;mara&rdquo; street gangs that are blamed for most of the country&rsquo;s bloodshed. Police on Wednesday arrested the boyfriend of the elder Alvarado sister.</p> <p>No doubt most readers will silently count their blessings they don&rsquo;t live in Honduras.</p> <p>But, for those in the United States, it might also be worth asking why America has the highest murder rate of any industrialized Western nation.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Murder of Miss Venezuela shocks the mecca of beauty queens </a></strong></p> Americas Conflict Zones Want to Know Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:15:08 +0000 Simeon Tegel and Simran Khosla 6320744 at Why Ukrainians still care about Lenin <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A year after the start of its pro-European revolution, Ukraine is still battling the communist leader’s ghost. </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>POLTAVA, Ukraine &mdash; Before he resigned as governor of this central region last week, Viktor Buhaychuk gave a simple order: get rid of every last remaining Vladimir Lenin statue in the region.</p> <p>It was part of a controversial wave of so-called &quot;Leninfalls&quot; &mdash; the toppling of Lenin statues by protesters and activists &mdash; that&rsquo;s washed over Ukraine throughout the past year. Hundreds have been removed or violently demolished across the country, where they had remained standing two decades after the end of communism.</p> <p>Few realized that Buhaychuk also ordered an accompanying information campaign to help shed light on Lenin&rsquo;s legacy.</p> <p>&ldquo;Just to destroy and not explain anything isn&rsquo;t right,&rdquo; he said in a recent interview.</p> <p>As Ukrainians this week mark one year since their pro-European revolution broke out, officials and ordinary people are still figuring out how to patch together a traumatized and divided society.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s a war with Moscow-backed separatists in the east, a tanking economy and a hugely corrupt state bureaucracy desperately in need of reform.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s also Vladimir Lenin, whose toppling in Kyiv became an early symbol of the protests against the ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. Lenin&rsquo;s legacy &mdash; or rather, how it&rsquo;s being handled &mdash; has become a barometer for how quickly Ukraine can heal its post-revolutionary wounds.</p> <p>&ldquo;On one hand, it&rsquo;s a symbol of separating from the totalitarian past,&rdquo; says Volodymyr Paniotto, a leading sociologist in Kyiv. &ldquo;But on the other, it&rsquo;s a characteristic of a radicalized society using uncivilized methods instead of civilized ones.&rdquo;</p> <p>The first casualty in the flood of Leninfalls came when protesters <a href="">toppled and destroyed</a> central Kyiv&rsquo;s main Lenin statue early last December, just as the anti-government protests there were heating up.</p> <p>A handful of regional cities took the cue and demolished their own statues before the nationwide campaign kicked into high gear in February, in the days following Yanukovych&rsquo;s ouster amid bloody street battles.</p> <p>Despite criticism from certain corners, the trend has steadily continued since then.</p> <p>In the past two weeks alone, more than a dozen statues have been destroyed, toppled or removed, according to local media reports and an online database tracking the status of Lenin statues nationwide.</p> <p>In one sense, there&rsquo;s never been a better moment for dumping Lenin: Last month, the Communist Party failed to enter parliament after landmark elections for the first time ever.</p> <p>Although one moderately pro-Russian party managed to gain some seats, the legislature is now overwhelmingly pro-European.</p> <p>The Kremlin&rsquo;s aggressive policies against Ukraine have been key for consolidating anti-Russian anger, even outside the traditionally patriotic western and central regions.</p> <p>For many Ukrainians, Lenin symbolizes Moscow&rsquo;s centuries-long dominion over their country as much as communism.</p> <p>Still, messing with the first Soviet ruler remains a sensitive affair.</p> <p>For one, it could further alienate the largely pro-Russian population in rebel-held eastern Ukraine that the Kyiv authorities hope to wrest away from separatist rule. Even local officials appear to understand that.</p> <p>Oleksandr Kikhtenko, the pro-Ukraine governor of the war-torn Donetsk region, stepped out against the removal of Lenin statues earlier this week, arguing that the authorities &ldquo;need to find other ways&rdquo; of coming to terms with the past.</p> <p>&ldquo;I am not a supporter of fighting with monuments,&rdquo; he said on Monday during a meeting with local students.</p> <p>Toppling Lenin also plays into the hands of the Kremlin&rsquo;s potent state propaganda machine, which casts Ukraine as a &ldquo;fascist&rdquo; basketcase in a vicious information war being waged between the two countries.</p> <p>Russian state media capitalized on the toppling in late September of the main Lenin statue in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine&rsquo;s second-largest city, which experienced its own brief but bloody pro-Russia uprising.</p> <p>Paniotto, general director of the Kyiv International Institute for Sociology, points to a recent poll by his organization that found that 90 percent of the population in eastern Ukraine trusts Russian television.</p> <p>&ldquo;This high rate of trust in Russian TV shows that the Ukrainian state, at least for its own citizens, is not winning this information war,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s probably why officials like Buhaychuk feel the need to take a civilized approach.</p> <p>Although he describes socialism as a &ldquo;primitive understanding of honesty and fairness,&rdquo; he wants everyone else &mdash; especially older Ukrainians who look back fondly on the Soviet Union &mdash; to understand why.</p> <p>He has recommended film showings, special training for teachers in local schools and roundtable discussions in his region to help hammer home the evils of communism &mdash; chief among them, the great famine engineered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the 1930s that killed millions in Ukraine.</p> <p>&ldquo;A large portion of people is poorly equipped or unable to recognize their mistakes,&rdquo; Buhaychuk said. &ldquo;Only a smart person can analyze for himself, look back into history and say, &lsquo;This wasn&rsquo;t right, I made a mistake.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p> <p>Although he resigned last week citing his political party&rsquo;s poor performance in last month&rsquo;s parliamentary elections, an aide said his order would most likely remain in place.</p> <p>Buhaychuk isn&rsquo;t the only politician who senses the controversy.</p> <p>In Zaporizhya, the capital city of a southeastern region bordering Donetsk, the local authorities hosted a meeting last week of a working group dedicated to &ldquo;urban toponymy,&rdquo; according to a statement on the city&rsquo;s website, focused on settling the issue once and for all.</p> <p>The officials, historians and civic leaders present agreed on the need to dismantle statues of both Lenin and Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police.</p> <p>&ldquo;In this case, Zaporizhya can become an example of how to do this in a civilized way, having taken decisions within the framework of the law,&rdquo; the statement read.</p> <p>It may have helped that local activists gave the authorities a deadline to deal with the issue or apparently risk the forced toppling of the city&rsquo;s main Lenin statue.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">If you build an innovation hub in Siberia, will they come?</a></strong></p> <p>In any case, historical memory will continue to haunt Ukraine as it&rsquo;s buffeted by post-revolutionary uncertainty &mdash; and Russia as it seeks to exploit its neighbor&rsquo;s instability.</p> <p>Lenin is only part of the picture. The increasingly visible role nationalism has played in the protest and politics is also contentious.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s still no full consensus on World War II-era nationalist groups such as the guerilla Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), venerated by many but criticized by some older generations and Kremlin supporters for their fleeting alliance with the Nazis.</p> <p>Paniotto suggests that officials and activists look for other ways to consolidate society.</p> <p>&ldquo;All these historical topics &mdash; Lenin, UPA, and others &mdash; only further divide people,&rdquo; he says.</p> Crisis in Ukraine Conflict Zones Want to Know Europe Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:15:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6319767 at An Egyptian court just dealt a blow to the fight against female genital mutilation <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The acquittal of a doctor in the country's first prosecution against female genital mutilation may encourage the practice. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Dean </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CAIRO, Egypt &mdash; The first attempt to prosecute someone for carrying out female genital mutilation in Egypt failed on Thursday when a doctor accused of performing the procedure on a young girl was acquitted.</p> <p>The girl at the center of the case, 13-year-old Sohair al-Bata&#39;a, died during the procedure in 2013.&nbsp;</p> <p>A judge in the Nile Delta province of Mansoura threw out the case against Dr. Raslan Fadl Halawa, and acquitted him of manslaughter.</p> <p>The girl&#39;s father, Mohamed al-Bata&rsquo;a, who brought her to the clinic was also absolved of responsibility.&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite police and health officials testifying that Sohair&#39;s relatives had taken her to the clinic for the operation, the doctor claimed that he had been treating Sohair for something unrelated and that she had died as a result of an allergy to penicillin, which he had not administered.</p> <p> The prosecutor, Atef Aboueleinein, a lawyer with the Women&rsquo;s Center for Counsel and Legal Defense, says there is &ldquo;little hope for an appeal&rdquo; because the girl&rsquo;s family accepted a financial settlement from the doctor.</p> <p> The truth is that Sohair&rsquo;s case is just the tip of the iceberg.</p> <p> <strong>A staggering number of women have undergone the procedure&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Over 90 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone the procedure <a href="">according to UNICEF</a>, the vast majority of the operations having been performed by a doctor. In the past, traditional midwives, barbers or sometimes mothers themselves would perform the procedure, often stopping the bleeding by putting dust or salt on the wound.</p> <p>FGM can encompass a number of procedures, including the partial or total removal of the clitoris, the removal of the clitoris and labia minora, and infibulation, which involves cutting and sewing up the outer labia.</p> <p>In Egypt the most widely practiced version is the removal of the clitoris and labia minora.&nbsp;Most girls undergo the procedure between the ages of 9 and 13 but victims can be as young as 9-months-old.</p> <p><strong>Not everyone is against it&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Though support for the practice is decreasing, 54 percent of women and 57 percent of men in Egypt <a href="">support FGM</a>.</p> <p>It is practiced all over the country but support for the practice is influenced by socioeconomic situation and education: the same report found that 71.8 &nbsp;percent of people with no education said they would have FGM performed on their daughters, compared to 43.7 percent of those who had finished secondary school or had some higher education.</p> <p>Even after Sohair&rsquo;s death, residents in her village say they will have FGM performed on their girls. Soheir&#39;s relatives <a href="">told the BBC</a> her death was &ldquo;God&#39;s will.&rdquo; Her uncle added, &ldquo;without circumcision girls are full of lust.&rdquo;</p> <p>Many believe it curbs women&rsquo;s sexual appetites and makes them less likely to commit adultery. Others say &nbsp;say that if a woman has not undergone FGM it limits her prospects for marriage.</p> <p><strong>It&#39;s illegal, but authorities do nothing to stop it&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Although it was technically outlawed in 2008, no one is being prosecuted for it. Activists were hoping jail time for the perpetrators in this case could have served as a warning to others who carry out the operation and seek to have it performed on their daughters. But now they fear that other doctors will see it as a green light to continue the practice.</p> <p>&ldquo;Of course after this verdict there will be no fear among doctors and they will perform FGM as though it&rsquo;s normal. They won&rsquo;t be afraid,&rdquo; said Aboueleinein, the prosecutor.</p> <p>Though Egypt&rsquo;s Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in the land, ruled against it in 2006, many see the practice as a religious duty. In Egypt, both Muslims and Christians perform the practice.</p> <p><strong>FGM is symbolic of the poor state of women&#39;s rights in Egypt</strong></p> <p>Egypt has become notorious worldwide for sexual harassment and hundreds of women have been victims of mob sexual assaults over the last three years.</p> <p>In fact, 99.3 percent of women in Egypt <a href="">report experiencing some sort of sexual harassment</a>. And while a new constitution enshrines women&rsquo;s rights to work, education and hold political office, criminalizes violence against women and discrimination on the basis of gender, many activists have little hope that such rights will be upheld anytime soon.</p> <p>The main legal process of divorce for women requires her to relinquish her financial rights. Over 60 percent of working women are in the informal sector, vulnerable to abuses and men retain control over the majority of the economic decision-making.</p> <p> <strong>It&#39;s not just an Egyptian problem</strong></p> <p> The practice takes place in 29 countries across East and West Africa as well as a few others in the Middle East, including Yemen,&nbsp;<a href="">according to the WHO</a>.</p> <p>In Djibouti, Guinea , Somalia and Sudan more than 90 percent of women undergo the procedure. In Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Niger, more than a quarter of cases involve infibulation &mdash; sewing the vagina closed &mdash;which is a particularly invasive and dangerous form.</p> <p>Somalia is the worst-affected country, with 97.9 of women undergoing the most dangerous method of FGM.</p> Egypt Need to Know Middle East Thu, 20 Nov 2014 23:31:00 +0000 Laura Dean 6320813 at US transfers 5 more Guantanamo detainees to Slovakia and Georgia <!--paging_filter--><p>GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba &mdash; After a decade at the US Naval base, five Guantanamo Bay detainees left their jail cells on Thursday to board a C-17 Air Force plane bound for new soil.</p> <p>The men are being transferred to Slovakia and Georgia, reducing the count of detainees in Guantanamo Bay to 143. One is a Tunisian national and four are from Yemen. All had affiliations with Al Qaeda, but the United States has now deemed they do not pose a significant threat.</p> <p>Only one of the detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay is convicted of a crime. Within the first few days of his presidency in 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the detention facility, following a campaign promise that he has yet to make good on. During his administration 95 detainees have been transferred to other countries while the military prison in Cuba has remained open.</p> <p>Since 2002 the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station has held detainees for alleged war crimes against the US, but more than half of them are no longer considered significant threats, according to an executive order task force made up of representatives from six government agencies and departments. Members of that low-risk group are eligible for transfer.</p> <p>The challenge is finding countries that will take them. While Obama originally suggested a detention facility in Illinois for all the detainees, the National Defense Authorization Act prevents the Defense Department from spending money on transferring detainees to US soil.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">5 things you didn&#39;t know about Guantanamo Bay</a></strong></p> <p>&ldquo;His hands are kind of tied,&rdquo; said Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, the Pentagon&rsquo;s spokesman for detainee policy.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s up to the countries that accept transfers to decide whether a Guantanamo detainee will remain in detention or be released. Destination-country representatives interview the detainees before they are transferred, and the foreign governments decide whether to transition them into the work force. Some have been set up with jobs and language classes while still at Guantanamo Bay to help with resettlement.</p> <p>Last week Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and six other senators visited Guantanamo Bay calling for its closure.</p> <p>&ldquo;The detention center at Guantanamo Bay does not make us safer, and it is wildly expensive,&rdquo; Manchin said in a statement. &ldquo;The status quo is not an acceptable solution, and I am confident we can find a solution that protects Americans and responsibly manages our tax dollars.&rdquo;</p> <p>Caggins said that it&rsquo;s a slow process for the Defense Department to make good on Obama&rsquo;s executive order.</p> <p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no magic key, get a plane and throw somebody on it,&rdquo; Caggins said.</p> <p>In total, 47 countries have taken Guantanamo Bay detainees. Slovakia and Georgia, which received the new transfers on Thursday, have previously accepted detainees from the facility, according to <a href="" target="_blank">data maintained by The New York Times and NPR</a>.</p> <p>The men transferred on Thursday were Hashim Bin Ali Bin Amor Sliti of Tunisia and Yemenis Husayn Salim Muhammad Al-Mutari Yafai, Salah Mohammed Salih Al-Dhabi, Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim, and Abdul Khaled Al-Baydani.</p> <p>Congress was notified of the transfers.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Forever Gitmo: How Obama will try, and likely fail, to close Guantanamo</a></strong></p> <p><em>Hayat Norimine is a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism based in Washington, DC.</em></p> Guantanamo Bay Need to Know War Middle East Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:51:00 +0000 Hayat Norimine 6320859 at A Polish town council rejected Winnie the Pooh as its playground mascot because he's a 'hermaphrodite' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Not the Onion, folks. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BREAKING: Winnie the Pooh is a hermaphrodite, exposes himself in public, and has no business being around children.</p> <p>Officials in the Polish town of Tuszyn (around 87&nbsp;miles southwest of Warsaw) were deciding on a mascot for its town playground, when the classic children&#39;s character was suggested as a candidate. They decided to rule Winnie out, because he&#39;s&nbsp;an &quot;inappropriately dressed&quot; bear of &quot;dubious sexuality.&quot;</p> <p>Sure, Winnie is a honey junkie who spends most of his time with a chronically depressed donkey and a suspiciously energetic tiger, and if you don&#39;t want your kids hanging with that sort of crew, then fine. But if you don&#39;t want Winnie at playgrounds because he doesn&#39;t wear pants and has no external genitalia, you&#39;re living in the past, my friend.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="">According to the Croatian Times</a>, members of the Tuszyn town council were having this totally reasonable conversation about Winnie&#39;s biological sex and choice of outerwear when one of them decided it was worth recording and leaking to media. We all owe this person a debt of gratitude. Because now we know the following things about the members of the Tuszyn town council.</p> <p>Resident and councillor Ryszard Cichy apparently believes this about Winnie: &quot;The problem with that bear is it doesn&rsquo;t have a complete wardrobe. It is half naked which is wholly inappropriate for children.&quot;</p> <p>An unnamed official apparently knows why: &quot;It doesn&rsquo;t wear underpants because it doesn&rsquo;t have a sex. It&rsquo;s a hermaphrodite.&quot;</p> <p>And another resident, councillor, and human who lives on this Earth, Hanna Jachimska, apparently blames Winnie&#39;s creator, Alan Alexander Milne: &quot;This is very disturbing but can you imagine! The author was over 60 and cut his [Pooh&#39;s] testicles off with a razor blade because he had a problem with his identity.&quot;</p> <p>We also learned that some members of the Tuszyn town council are biased against intersex individuals. So there&#39;s that.</p> <p>Winnie&#39;s out of the running for playground mascot, but as the councillors move forward with the decision-making process, they should consider that their no-pants rule excludes nearly every cartoon character ever invented, except for Goofy, who rocks an orange turtleneck sweater, charcoal vest, blue slacks, and laceless brown shoes. Classy.</p> <p><a href="">h/t the Independent</a></p> <p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story was also reported on <a href=",32,m/spor-o-misia-rozgrzal-radnych-w-tuszynie,489592.html" target="_blank">Polish-language</a> television stations. Here&#39;s one of the reports:</em></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="//" width="100%"></iframe></p> Want to Know Poland Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:02:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6320673 at Mexico's embattled President Enrique Pena Nieto reveals $3 million in assets <!--paging_filter--><p>Facing conflict of interest accusations over a luxury home, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto disclosed late on Wednesday ownership of nine properties among assets worth at least 45.2 million pesos ($3.3 million).</p> <p>The assets also included investments, jewelry and works of art, a document posted on the president&#39;s website showed.</p> <p>Owned by a government contractor that was bidding for a lucrative rail contract, the nearly $4 million house at the center of the scandal was being acquired by Pena Nieto&#39;s wife.</p> <p>First Lady Angelica Rivera, a former leading actress, said she was paying for the property with her own earnings, but on Tuesday said she would give it up.</p> <p>The contractor, Mexican company Grupo Higa, was part of a Chinese-led consortium that won the $3.75-billion high-speed rail contract. That deal was abruptly canceled earlier this month.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Angry protests mushroom in Mexico over the forced disappearance of 43 students</a></strong></p> <p>Rivera was one of Mexico&#39;s most popular soap actresses before marrying Pena Nieto in 2010. Also on Tuesday, she said that in that year she was paid severance of 102.8 million pesos by broadcaster Televisa.</p> <p>Televisa reported to the US Securities and Exchange commission that it paid 98.4 million pesos in 2010 for &quot;retirement and termination benefits&quot; for the entire company.</p> <p>Reuters could not immediately ascertain if Rivera had been paid from the same pool of cash, and analysts said she could have been paid from a non-consolidated subsidiary.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Mexican mass graves: A survivor&rsquo;s story</a></strong></p> <p>Televisa and the president&#39;s office did not immediately respond to questions about the difference.</p> <p>Rivera&#39;s explanation and details of the payout spurred ridicule across social media on Wednesday.</p> <p>Many users plastered jokes over her image, some suggesting&nbsp;the payout was way out of line with industry standards. Ana de la Reguera, a former Mexican soap star now working in Hollywood, joked on her Twitter account that she never should have left Mexico.</p> <p>Rivera said her salary proved she could afford the home, but other social media users said this glossed over whether Pena Nieto had questions to answer.</p> <p>&quot;The problem was never Angelica Rivera&#39;s patrimony, but the conflict of interest. Her husband is the one who should be facing up to this,&quot; wrote political columnist Jesus Silva-Herzog.</p> <p>The government canceled the rail contract days before a local news outlet published an investigation into the house.</p> <p>(Reporting by David Alire Garcia, Noe Torres, Elinor Comlay and Michael O&#39;Boyle; Editing by Simon Gardner and John Stonestreet)</p> Need to Know Mexico Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:57:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6320576 at Chatter: It's been quite a year for Ukraine <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> One year ago today, Ukrainian students launched a revolution. Was it worth it? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Peter Gelling </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:20:00 +0000 Peter Gelling 5942065 at Russia calls UN resolution on North Korea human rights record 'counter-productive' <!--paging_filter--><p>Update:</p> <p><em>Agence France-Presse: Russia on Thursday slammed as &quot;counter-productive&quot; a landmark UN resolution on North Korea&#39;s rights record that lays the groundwork for putting the Stalinist regime in the dock for crimes against humanity.</em></p> <p><em>&quot;In my opinion, it is counter-productive to try to make some loud statements through confrontational resolutions at the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council,&quot; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.</em></p> <p><em>&quot;We are convinced that UN structures dedicated to human rights should not turn into judicial or prosecution bodies,&quot; said Russia&#39;s top diplomat, adding that such resolutions were aimed at &quot;publicly punishing&quot; countries instead of achieving a solution.</em></p> <p><em>His comments came as Pyongyang threatened Thursday a fresh nuclear test in response to UN condemnation of its rights record, as new satellite imagery suggested North Korea may be firing up a facility for processing weapons-grade plutonium.</em></p> <hr /> <p>Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Wednesday for deeper ties with North Korea to improve regional security, a day after holding talks with a personal envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.</p> <p>Senior North Korean officials visit Moscow infrequently but the isolated country is trying to counter a UN resolution urging Pyongyang&#39;s referral to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.</p> <p>Russia is also one of five countries involved in talks with North Korea on its nuclear program. The others are South Korea, China, the United States and Japan.</p> <p>The Kremlin gave no details of Putin&#39;s meeting on Tuesday with Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to Kim and a senior official from the ruling Workers&#39; Party who is a seven-day trip to Russia.</p> <p>But receiving the credentials of North Korea&#39;s new ambassador to Russia, Putin said during a televised Kremlin ceremony: &quot;We maintain friendly relations with one of our neighbors, the Democratic People&#39;s Republic of Korea.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;A further deepening of political ties and trade and economic cooperation is definitely in the interests of the peoples of both countries and ensuring regional stability and security,&quot; he said.</p> <p>A Russian Foreign Ministry source told Interfax this week that the visit would include discussion of bilateral ties, economic developments and North Korea&#39;s nuclear program but made no mention of the UN resolution.</p> <p>&quot;The subject of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is constantly present on the agenda of our dialogue with North Korea,&quot; the source said. &quot;Moreover, progress in this field is a mandatory condition of lifting the sanctions against the country which naturally impose big limits on our bilateral relations.&quot;</p> <p>On Tuesday, a UN Assembly committee dealing with human rights passed a resolution calling for the UN Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.</p> <p>The vote followed a UN Commission of Inquiry report published in February detailing wide-ranging abuses in North Korea, including prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.</p> <p>North Korea has dismissed the UN move as part of a US-led plot to destroy its political system.</p> <p>Diplomats say North Korea ally China would be likely to use its Security Council veto to knock down an ICC referral and that Russia would probably support Beijing&#39;s stance.</p> <p>(Editing by Timothy Heritage/Mark Heinrich)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:15:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse and Thomson Reuters 6320494 at Britain is heading for defeat in its challenge to EU's bankers' bonus cap <!--paging_filter--><p>Britain&#39;s relations with the European Union took another knock on Thursday when its legal challenge to a limit on bankers&#39; bonuses was rejected by an adviser to the bloc&#39;s top court.</p> <p>The EU law aims to curb the kind of risk-taking that led to the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis by limiting bonuses awarded from next year to a sum no more than a banker&#39;s fixed pay, or twice that level with shareholder approval.</p> <p>Britain, home to the City of London where most of the bankers hit by the cap are based, said the law would push up fixed pay and goes beyond the EU&#39;s powers, a sensitive subject at a time of rising British anti-EU sentiment.</p> <p>The adviser, whose opinions are non-binding but are generally followed at least in part by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, supported the limit on banker bonuses and said it did not restrict the total amount of pay.</p> <p>&quot;Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen suggests that all the UK&rsquo;s pleas should be rejected and that the Court of Justice dismiss the action,&quot; the ECJ said in a statement.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The head of the world&#39;s biggest economic bloc is facing calls to resign over &lsquo;magical fairyland&rsquo; tax deals</a></strong></p> <p>&quot;Fixing the ratio of variable remuneration to basic salaries does not equate to a &#39;cap on bankers bonuses&#39;, or fixing the level of pay, because there is no limit imposed on the basic salaries that the bonuses are pegged against.&quot;</p> <p>Jaaskinen said that bonuses were an internal market matter as they relate to risk taking at banks that could affect financial stability in Europe.</p> <p>Britain&#39;s finance ministry said it was considering the opinion and its implications. The full court is expect to issue its ruling on the UK challenge in early 2015.</p> <p>&quot;It doesn&#39;t give the UK much hope of success when the Court hands down its decision early next year,&quot; said Rob Moulton, a regulatory partner at Ashurst lawfirm.</p> <p>&quot;Some may even say it&rsquo;s a clear indication of the likely winner in the power struggle between the EU and the UK.&quot;</p> <p>The opinion is a setback for Britain and gives ammunition to anti-EU campaigners who object to having decisions imposed by Brussels. The UK Independence Party, which rejects the EU&#39;s influence over Britain, is hoping to win a vote on Thursday that would give it a second seat in the British parliament.</p> <p>Steven Woolfe, a UKIP member of the European Parliament, said the opinion showed UK Prime Minister David Cameron&#39;s attempts to reform the EU before a promised referendum on Britain&#39;s EU membership &quot;were dead in the water.&quot;</p> <p>Britain, the only EU state to oppose the bonus law, had said that giving the EU&#39;s European Banking Authority powers to set the cap was illegal but the opinion said the EBA had flexibility to interpret the law.</p> <p>Barclays and Standard Chartered have raised allowances to compensate for the impact of the bonus limit. The EBA has said most of these allowances are illegal.</p> <p>Bank of England governor Mark Carney and others have said that bankers&#39; fixed salaries may also need regulating.</p> <p>&ldquo;The bonus cap alone is too blunt an instrument to curb risk taking in the banking industry,&quot; said Tom Gosling, head of PwC&#39;s reward practice.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s unlikely that the bonus cap itself causes existing business to up sticks and move away from London. However, it does make London somewhat less attractive as a place to build new capability.&quot;</p> <p>The British Bankers&#39; Association said shareholders and not politicians should have the powers to determine pay.</p> <p>(editing by Adrian Croft and Anna Willard)</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:53:26 +0000 Philip Blenkinsop and Huw Jones, Thomson Reuters 6320414 at Can traditional Chinese doctors really tell if you’re pregnant by touching your wrists? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A top Beijing surgeon challenges the multibillion-dollar industry to prove itself. </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; &ldquo;Stick out your tongue. Now give me your wrist.&rdquo;</p> <p>That&rsquo;s how &quot;Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)&quot; practitioners begin to diagnose what ails you. It&rsquo;s often followed by a prescription of foul-tasting herbs, to be taken daily, along with exhortations to consume or avoid certain &ldquo;hot&rdquo; or &ldquo;cold&rdquo; foods.</p> <p>But after more than 2,000 years of practice, the question remains: Is there scientific evidence that traditional Chinese medicine actually works? A doctor at one of Beijing&rsquo;s top hospitals is challenging these time-honored methods with a modern proposal: cash prizes for proof.</p> <p>Dr. Ning Fanggang <a href="">is offering</a> 100,000 <span class="st">renminbi </span>($16,300) to anyone who resolves the common claim that traditional practitioners can tell if a woman is pregnant just by taking her pulse. &ldquo;If [someone is] successful, I will never state that Traditional Chinese Medicine is a fake science,&rdquo; Ning promised. The 38-year-old is chief surgeon at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, which specializes in burn victims, and is also one of the best-known doctors on Weibo, China&rsquo;s version of Twitter.</p> <p>His challenge calls for readings of 80-percent accuracy, using the pulse method alone. Critics complain that isolating the wrist from the rest of the system undermines the validity of a diagnosis, and thus the challenge.</p> <p>So far, only one person has taken Ning up &mdash; but he appears to be backing out.</p> <p>Another doctor from Chengdu, Lu Jilai, author of the <em>&quot;</em>Chinese Encyclopedia of Losing Weight and Body Building&quot; and <a href="">&quot;Traditional Medicine Trinity Theories</a>,&quot; boasted that he could even determine the date of his patients&rsquo; next menstrual cycle. Liu flunked his own blindfold test, complaining he needed &ldquo;the use of all senses.&rdquo;</p> <p>On Weibo, where he&rsquo;s known as Ah Bao (&ldquo;Baby&rdquo;), Ning posts criticism of medical practices, including TCM, to his 140,000 or so followers. Such is their enthusiasm that Ning&rsquo;s original reward, a mere 50,000 <span class="st">renminbi </span>($8,150), was quickly doubled by supporters.</p> <p>But to thousands of practitioners and millions of adherents, Chinese medicine is not a spectator sport. It is a tradition dating back thousands of years, incorporating a vast corpus of literature, pharmacopeia and philosophy, along with a broad range of practices, including acupuncture and reflexology. It&rsquo;s also a business worth around $80 billion a year.</p> <p>The State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine &mdash; more a Big Herbal-style lobbying group than an industry watchdog &mdash; has <a href="">responded</a> to Ning&#39;s challenge solemnly, noting that Chinese and Western medicine are different but equal, complementing each other to provide &ldquo;the best possible benefit.&rdquo; The spokesperson labeled the contest meaningless, with anyone accepting it &ldquo;lacking comprehension.&rdquo;</p> <p>Beijing University of Chinese Medicine&rsquo;s Yang Zhen had been the first to condemn the challenge, telling China Daily that Ning had harmed TCM&rsquo;s reputation as a science.</p> <p>Chinese medicine can be a minefield for officials, where &ldquo;science&rdquo; is wielded as a progressive term. To the students and intellectuals of the 1910s progressive New Culture Movement, China&rsquo;s backward culture was typified by values placed on its traditional medicine. In his preface to &quot;Call to Arms,&quot; Lu Xun wrote that it was &ldquo;simply a lie, purposely or not.&rdquo; But even today, Lu &mdash; a brilliant satirist who studied medicine in Japan &mdash; is considered controversial.</p> <p>As educated liberals began celebrating Western science, the old methods survived both the Republic of China (1911-49) and the iconoclastic Cultural Revolution. This was partly due to medicine&rsquo;s entrenched role within society. Practitioners were inheritors of secrets handed down through generations; while Mao waged civil war, &ldquo;barefoot doctors&rdquo; provided comfort and assistance when no alternative existed.</p> <p>During imperial times, traditional medicine had come to include astrology, divination and incantation. In the post-Mao era, nationalists celebrated TCM as a unique Chinese philosophy, stripped of feudal practices, and a bulwark against foreign imperialist thinking.</p> <p>Ironically, it was this logic that allowed many of these egregious elements to creep back in, fueled by lingering superstition and wholesale greed. &ldquo;The government policies in recent years have mostly treated TCM as placebo,&rdquo; says Xu Yunyun, a gynecologist with 227,000 followers on Weibo. &ldquo;While the public craze has exaggerated its effects but made it less scientific.&rdquo;</p> <p>This has, in turn, fostered a minor industry debunking TCM fraud.</p> <p><strong>Traditional medicine fraud</strong></p> <p>One practitioner, Zhang Wuben, was infamous for his cure-all diet of mung beans. He hawked DVDs, books and $45-a-minute consultations. When bean prices shot up in 2010, Zhang&rsquo;s medical qualifications were exposed as fake.</p> <p>Celebrity Taoist &ldquo;master&rdquo; <a href="">Wang Lin told</a> clients &mdash; such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li and China&rsquo;s richest man Jack Man &mdash; he had cured cancer and could <a href="">produce</a> &ldquo;snakes from thin air&rdquo; using qigong, a spiritualist practice with TCM techniques including breathing exercises and meditation. Amid accusations of medical fraud, tax evasion and consorting with gangsters and corrupt officials, Wang fled to Hong Kong in 2013.</p> <p>Yang Zhen &mdash; the first to sign up for Ning&rsquo;s pregnancy challenge &mdash; was also the first to begin throwing shade. The sample size of 32 women, Yang claimed, meant the results would &ldquo;lack persuasiveness.&rdquo; Just as persuasive was Yang&rsquo;s excuse that hospital regulations might forbid him from &ldquo;practicing&rdquo; outside.&nbsp;</p> <p>Xu, the gynecologist, who describes himself as a supporter of TCM&rsquo;s physiotherapy benefits, says the best way to test its effectiveness is &ldquo;random double-blind tests, which is the same for any medical theories.&rdquo;</p> <p>Unfortunately, most TCM doctors prefer using &quot;scientific&quot; methods to confirm bias, rather than prove or challenge their assumptions. As a review of 72 such trials <a href="">by the Cochrane Collaboration</a> concluded in 2009, there was simply &ldquo;not enough good quality trial evidence to make any conclusion about the efficacy of the evaluated treatment[s] &hellip; due specifically to the poor methodology and heterogeneity of the studies reviewed.&rdquo;</p> <p>Currently, organizers say Yang has pulled out of the challenge &mdash; he&rsquo;s denied this &mdash; and they are waiting for other qualified TCM practitioners to take his place. If none do by the end of next week, the contest will be canceled.</p> <p>The debate on TCM&rsquo;s limitations, however, will go on. &ldquo;The fact is, legitimate doctors prefer &mdash; and rely on &mdash; modern scientific examination methods,&rdquo; says Xu. &ldquo;Only &lsquo;legends&rsquo; and television would try to make the pulse diagnosis seem magical.&rdquo;</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets China Thu, 20 Nov 2014 05:30:24 +0000 Robert Foyle Hunwick 6314977 at The head of the world's biggest economic bloc is facing calls to resign over ‘magical fairyland’ tax deals <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Just days into his tenure as president of the European Commission, document leaks put Jean-Claude Juncker in the hot seat. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal &mdash; No one who follows Europe&#39;s economy was surprised to hear that Luxembourg helps multinational companies dodge taxes any more than celebrity gossip fans were surprised to see Kim Kardashian has a shapely backside.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the sudden, very public revelation of the shape and size of it &mdash; we&#39;re talking about Luxembourg&#39;s tax-break scheme, here &mdash; has sent shockwaves across Europe&#39;s financial and political establishment.</p> <p>Leaked documents published this month have laid bare the complex accounting mechanisms used by more than 300 companies to funnel profits through the tiny country in order to shave billions off their tax bills.</p> <p>Pepsi, IKEA, Deutsche Bank and FedEx were just some of the corporate colossuses named in the &quot;LuxLeaks&quot; reports.</p> <p>Many were clients of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a leading international accounting firm that has said the leaked information was &quot;stolen&quot; and &quot;outdated.&quot;</p> <p>Nothing the multinationals were doing was illegal. Everything was in accordance with the laws of Luxembourg.</p> <p>The country&#39;s financial authorities helped corporations create networks for shifting profits from country to country until they vanished from the view of tax collectors outside the diminutive nation.</p> <p>In some cases, companies were paying less than 1 percent tax on their profits, the arrangements sealed with so-called &quot;comfort letters&quot; from the authorities.</p> <p>The landlocked nation wedged between France, Germany and Belgium is a &quot;magical fairyland&quot; for corporations seeking to slash bills, Harvard tax expert Stephen E. Shay told the <a href="" target="_blank">International Consortium of Investigative Journalists</a>, which broke the story.</p> <p>The spotlight LuxLeaks has thrown on the secretive setup is prompting demands at the highest level for an overhaul of international taxation rules. It&#39;s also making life very uncomfortable for the man just appointed to head the world&#39;s biggest economic bloc.</p> <p>Jean-Claude Juncker took over this month as president of the European Commission, the body that runs the 28-member European Union. His previous employ: 24 unbroken years as finance minister, then prime minister, of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.</p> <p>&quot;There is nothing in my past indicating that my ambition was to organize tax evasion in Europe,&quot; Juncker told reporters at EU headquarters in Brussels last week. &quot;I&#39;m not the architect of what you might call the Luxembourg model.&quot;</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> Three monkeys symbolizing &quot;hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil&quot; sit behind a euro symbol on a desk at the entrance of Luxembourg&#39;s prime minister&#39;s residence, Hotel de Bourgogne, in Luxembourg on July 14, 2011.</div> <p><strong>How quickly things change</strong></p> <p>The LuxLeaks storm broke just five days after Juncker took office, providing an immediate distraction from his avowed priority, raising $375 billion to boost Europe&#39;s stagnant growth.</p> <p>The revelations will almost certainly harm his plans to rebuild faith in the EU, whose support among voters has been sapped by years of economic crisis.</p> <p>Juncker says he won&#39;t interfere as the EU&rsquo;s antitrust authorities press ahead with investigations into the tax practices of Luxembourg and other EU countries.</p> <p>Claiming the problem lies not with Luxembourg but rather discrepancies in the international tax system, Juncker has tasked the EU staff to draft new rules to ensure fiscal authorities across Europe automatically share information about their tax-break rulings.</p> <p>Prompted by a public outcry over the LuxLeaks revelations, G-20 leaders committed to share tax information at their summit in Australia last weekend, although not until 2018.</p> <p>&quot;Real pressure is building for some kind of new global framework of rules for taxing multinational companies,&quot; says John Christensen, director of the pressure group Tax Justice Network.</p> <p>&quot;Within Europe, there is a lot of pressure across the system, public pressure especially from the small business community which is saying this is anti-competitive, and demanding change,&quot; he said by phone from his base in England.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Putin&#39;s awkward weekend at the G-20, as explained by &#39;Mean Girls&#39; GIFs</a></strong></p> <p>The LuxLeaks revelations have been a boon to Juncker opponents.</p> <p>Far-right and euro-sceptic members in the European Parliament teamed up on Tuesday to secure the 10 percent of votes needed to introduce a motion of no confidence calling for Juncker&#39;s dismissal.</p> <p>He is expected to survive. The mainstream center-right and Socialist parties that voted him into office are likely to stand by him during the vote, expected next week.</p> <p>Parties in government across Europe are aware that the sudden removal of the EU&#39;s top official would seriously undermine the bloc&#39;s credibility.</p> <p>But there is growing pressure for Juncker to recuse himself from the EU head office&#39;s efforts to reign in tax avoidance. Having him in charge is like putting &quot;Dracula in charge of a blood bank,&quot; one Australian campaigner said during the G-20.</p> <p>Even mainstream political parties that supported Juncker&rsquo;s appointment are critical.</p> <p>&quot;It is indeed a shame, with regard to austerity, that Greece and other member states have been asked to implement very harsh measures on social expenditures while at the same time multinational enterprises are eluding taxes thanks to the cooperation of European national governments,&quot; Gianni Pittella, who heads the Socialist faction in the European Parliament, said in a statement.</p> <p>&quot;Juncker has to demonstrate his willingness to become the trigger for a genuine revolution against fiscal dumping,&quot; he added.</p> <p>Of course, not all the outrage expressed by European politicians rings true.</p> <p>Although the LuxLeaks reports have uncovered details relating to specific companies, Luxembourg&#39;s role as a tax hideaway was well known when Juncker was voted into the EU job.</p> <p>Moreover, Luxembourg is far from alone in using fiscal loopholes to attract investors.</p> <p> Juncker has pointed out that most EU countries have schemes similar to Luxembourg&#39;s even if others don&#39;t go so far.</p> <p>EU antitrust investigators are already looking into tax deals between the Netherlands and Starbucks and Ireland and Apple, as well as Luxembourg&#39;s arrangements with Amazon and Fiat. More probes are expected to follow.</p> <p>Dutch tax rules in particular are facing scrutiny, and not just as a bolthole for American multinationals.</p> <p>The Netherlands received almost a quarter of all Russian foreign direct investment in the first three months of this year, around $4 billion, according to Russian central bank figures. Dutch-based investors are also the second-biggest group of foreign stockholders in Russia, behind those from fellow EU member Cyprus.</p> <p>Much of the investment is believed to be recycled Russian money.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Europe looks left</a></strong></p> <p>British euro-skeptics howling for Juncker&#39;s skin are silent about corporate tax breaks in mainland Britain, not to mention the fiscal practices of UK offshore territories such as the Cayman Islands, Jersey and Bermuda.</p> <p>Little Luxembourg, however, gets a lot of attention. The authorities there were hugely successful transforming the country into a financial center in the 1980s, when the iron and steel industry that had long been its economic mainstay was in deep decline.</p> <p>Today, the country&#39;s 550,000 inhabitants rival those of Qatar and Kuwait as the world&#39;s richest, with income per head more than double that of neighboring Germany&rsquo;s.</p> <p>Now the country is facing intense pressure to revise its tax policies and Juncker will have to play poacher-turned-gamekeeper if he&#39;s to have any hope of restoring his moral authority among the many people who have seen their own tax bills soar during the economic crisis.</p> BeNeLux Tax dodges Want to Know Politics Global Economy Thu, 20 Nov 2014 05:30:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6319754 at Brazil's rich and powerful may no longer be above the law <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The country's first trial for insider trading and a major investigation at Petrobras oil company could change Latin America's powerhouse forever. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will Carless </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay &mdash; Some of today&rsquo;s headlines in Brazil would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.</p> <p>Years after South America&rsquo;s largest and most populous country transitioned to democracy in the mid-1980s, Brazil&rsquo;s rich and powerful enjoyed near-absolute impunity. Corruption wasn&rsquo;t just rampant, it was also almost never investigated or acted upon.</p> <p>Looks like the times, they are a-changin&rsquo;.</p> <p>In recent months, a string of high-profile public prosecutions have targeted the elites, leaving some Brazil observers hopeful that the country&rsquo;s finally getting serious about targeting graft in the higher echelons of society.</p> <p>Here&#39;s a look at three cases and the trending hashtags <span dir="ltr" id=":26x">Brazilians are using to talk about them on Twitter</span>. Each relays a pointed message to Brazil&rsquo;s ruling class.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> #Petrobras</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="(Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)"> The headquarters of the Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras in Rio de Janeiro.</div> <p>An enormous scandal is unfolding at Brazilian energy company Petrobras. It&rsquo;s notable not just because of the vast amounts of money thought to be involved &mdash; billions of dollars, the authorities allege &mdash; but also because the accusations implicate some of the country&#39;s most powerful business executives and the governing party. To date, the case has netted some 27 arrests.</p> <p>Allegations of money laundering and profit-skimming at Brazil&rsquo;s semi-public oil company have ensnared a former top official at Petrobras, as well as leading execs at some of Brazil&rsquo;s biggest construction companies.</p> <p>And there are signs that the charges could go even further.</p> <p>Prosecutors allege that some of the money embezzled from Petrobras found its way into political campaigns, including that of President Dilma Rousseff&rsquo;s Workers Party. Rousseff and others at the party have steadfastly denied the accusations.</p> <p>But the recently re-elected leader did acknowledge the case&rsquo;s significance.</p> <p>&ldquo;This may change the country forever,&rdquo; Rousseff said in Australia during the G20 summit, <a href="" target="_blank">Reuters reported</a>. &ldquo;How? By ending impunity.&rdquo;</p> <p>Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, said the Petrobras case echoes another big corruption case known as the &ldquo;mensalao&rdquo; (a big monthly stipend) scandal, which went to trial in 2012. That case led to the arrest of 18 congressmen on charges of vote-buying. Then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva&rsquo;s chief of staff was brought down by the affair.</p> <p>&ldquo;Everybody thought that case would end in the proverbial Brazilian pizza &mdash; where everybody discusses it, then they all go and get pizza together,&rdquo; Sotero said. &ldquo;But 25 people were found guilty and some of them went to jail. Mensalao buried the idea that actions against powerful people inevitably end in pizza and impunity.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Petrobras case could well be the next mensalao, Sotero said, and as such, it&rsquo;s a sign that Brazil&rsquo;s prosecutorial and judicial systems are maturing.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s one more building block in the affirmation of the rule of law in Brazil,&rdquo; Sotero said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> #EikeBatistaClasseMedia (Translation: #EikeBatistaMiddleClass)</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="(Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)"> Eike Batista on Tuesday sitting between lawyers during the first day of his trial for alleged insider trading.</div> <p>A couple of years ago, Eike Batista was Brazil&rsquo;s richest man. He made a fortune on a succession of companies that specialized in gold and silver mining and oil and gas. But last year, his empire fell apart when it was revealed that his offshore exploration projects were largely failing.</p> <p>Batista lost most of his fortune as the stocks in his companies plummeted. In September, he <a href="" target="_blank">told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo</a> that he had landed back into the middle class with a &ldquo;gigantic thud,&rdquo; a quote that garnered him ridicule across social media sites as Brazilians competed to shame the once flamboyant playboy.</p> <p>But Batista has bigger problems than public ridicule. He&rsquo;s currently being investigated for insider trading and has been accused of selling off millions of dollars in stock in his companies early to avoid bigger financial losses. Batista has denied the claim, pointing out that he lost billions in the downfall of his stocks.</p> <p>Insider trading cases might be run-of-the mill these days on Wall Street, but in Brazil, the Batista case could be a game-changer. Nobody has ever gone to jail for insider trading in Brazil, <a href="" target="_blank">The New York Times</a> reported.</p> <p>Jamie Cooper, a law professor at California Western School of Law in San Diego and an expert on South American legal systems, said the Batista case, just like the Petrobras scandal, shows that Brazil is rising to the democratic challenge of holding its most powerful citizens accountable.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think we can make grand statements yet, but these are hopeful signs,&rdquo; Cooper said. &ldquo;I hope we can look back one day and say these were incredibly important as Brazil opened up.&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> #Juiznaoedeus (Translation: #JudgeIsNotGod)</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="(Pedro Ladeira/AFP/Getty Images)"> The Justice Statue in front of the Supreme Court Building in Brasilia.</div> <p>The furor over the actions of a circuit judge in Rio is building into a scandal that shows it&rsquo;s not just Brazil&rsquo;s most famous elites who are feeling a backlash against their perceived impunity.</p> <p>The scandal, which judging by social media is making Brazilians&rsquo; blood boil, concerns news reports that Judge Joao Carlos de Souza Correa was pulled over in a routine stop checking for drunk drivers in Rio de Janeiro. He wasn&rsquo;t over the limit but was reportedly driving without a license, registration or plates. When traffic inspector Luciana Tamburini issued him a fine, Souza Correa responded angrily and told her he was a judge.</p> <p>&ldquo;You may be a judge, but you&rsquo;re not God,&rdquo; Tamburini responded, according to media accounts of the interaction.</p> <p>Tamburini was later convicted of &ldquo;offending the honor&rdquo; of the judge and was fined $2,000, a punishment that was upheld on appeal. The media caught on to the story and a legal fund raised more than $27,000 for Tamburini, according to Brazilian news site O Globo.</p> <p>Currently, calls are growing on Brazilian social media for justice against Souza Correa. Online petitions have been set up to demand his ouster and the Brazilian Bar Association&rsquo;s Rio de Janeiro chapter has <a href="" target="_blank">called for his immediate suspension</a>.</p> <p>Souza Correa is still hanging in there, but the response from the public, the media and the bar association indicate that he&rsquo;s in deep trouble.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This lawyer helped topple a crooked president. Now he&rsquo;s taking on corruption worldwide</a></strong></p> scandals Want to Know Emerging Markets Brazil Political Risk Thu, 20 Nov 2014 05:30:00 +0000 Will Carless 6318485 at Suicide attackers target foreign compound in Kabul <!--paging_filter--><p>Taliban militants launched a car bomb and suicide attack Wednesday on a compound in Kabul that houses many international contractors, but only the attackers died in the assault, Afghan officials said.</p> <p>One insurgent was killed as he detonated a car packed with explosives at the gate of the &quot;Green Village&quot; compound, while three other attackers were shot dead as they tried to get inside, said deputy interior minister Ayub Salangi.</p> <p>&quot;There are no casualties to our foreign friends or to Afghans, they are all fine,&quot; Salangi said on Twitter.</p> <p>The attack on the Green Village &mdash; a large fortified complex where many foreign employees live and work &mdash; was the latest in a series of suicide blasts in Kabul as US-led NATO troops end their 13-year war against the Taliban.</p> <p>All NATO combat operations will finish at the end of this year, though 12,500 troops will remain into 2015 to support the Afghan army and police who are now responsible for security nationwide.</p> <p>An AFP photographer said gunfire erupted shortly after the blast on Wednesday evening as security forces rushed to the scene in the east of the city.</p> <p>The attack was claimed by the Taliban via a recognized Twitter account that said: &quot;A car bomb targeted Green Village, one of the most secure areas of foreigners.&quot;</p> <p><strong>Kabul targeted&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, a Taliban suicide truck bomb struck at the entrance of a foreign security compound in Kabul, killing two Afghan guards.</p> <p>And on Sunday, Afghan lawmaker Shukria Barakzai escaped a suicide blast in the city as she drove in a convoy near parliament. Three civilians died in that attack.</p> <p>Kabul has been hit by regular attacks in recent years, often against US-led military forces, foreign workers or government officials.</p> <p>The Green Village was attacked last year when a Taliban suicide bomber detonated another explosives-laden car near the compound entrance.</p> <p>It was also hit in 2012 when seven people were killed after attackers dressed in burqas detonated a similar car bomb.</p> <p>Afghan stability could be at risk as US-led troops pull out, leaving national soldiers and police to take on the lead role in thwarting the Taliban.</p> <p>This year alone more than 4,600 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed in fighting, according to recent US figures.</p> <p>The Taliban launched several offensives this summer during a prolonged political deadlock in Kabul as Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah both claimed to have won the fraud-mired presidential election.</p> <p>The two men eventually signed a power-sharing agreement, with Ghani inaugurated as president and Abdullah appointed to the new position of &quot;chief executive,&quot; a role similar to that of prime minister.</p> <p>Efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban collapsed acrimoniously last year, though the new administration may make fresh moves to open negotiations and bring the conflict to an end.</p> <p>emh/bgs/erf</p> Afghanistan Need to Know Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:20:33 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6319679 at Here's why a wave of discontent is sweeping through Italy <!--paging_filter--><p>Italy&#39;s social fabric is fraying. People worn down by years of economic stagnation and austerity are suddenly giving vent to their frustrations with a spate of strikes and spontaneous protests which have taken politicians by surprise.</p> <p>Scarcely a day goes by without Italy&#39;s main cities being disrupted by workers, students or angry citizens&#39; groups.</p> <p>Center-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been wrong-footed by the souring mood and his approval ratings are falling.</p> <p>The CIGL and UIL union confederations on Wednesday called a nationwide strike against Renzi&#39;s policies for Dec. 12. The third big confederation, the CISL, will join them in a separate strike for public sector workers on a date to be announced.</p> <p>The strikes promise to be the largest show of union muscle since 2011, when Mario Monti pushed through tough austerity measures to try to drag the country out of a debt crisis.</p> <p>Yet there is something deeper going on: a mood of public anger which is often not channeled through unions that mainly represent pensioners and a shrinking pool of workers on regular contracts in large companies.</p> <p>In Tor Sapienza, a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome, residents have been protesting for days against a local center for immigrants, throwing rocks and setting bins alight.</p> <p>&quot;We are surrounded. There are the prostitutes over there, the gypsies down there, here the immigrants. It&#39;s just too much,&quot; said pensioner Milena Pecci.</p> <p>Most locals claim they are not racist, just exasperated by rising crime, squalor and lack of basic services like street lighting. Visiting politicians of all colors, including the center-left mayor, have been greeted with boos and derision.</p> <p>&quot;After the candy they are offering us now, since we are under the spotlight, everything will go back like before and the politicians will keep thinking just about their pockets,&quot; said 38-year-old widow Francesca Ribaudo.</p> <p>Italian economic output has shrunk by 9 percent since 2008 with youth unemployment reaching 43 percent and more than 80,000 businesses lost in the course of three recessions.</p> <p>And while other countries hit by the euro zone debt crisis, such as Ireland, Spain and even Greece are showing signs of recovery, Italy&#39;s economy is again contracting.</p> <p>&quot;People&#39;s patience has finally run out. I expected this to happen but I didn&#39;t expect it to happen so soon,&quot; said Luca Ricolfi, sociology professor at Turin University and one of Italy&#39;s foremost political commentators.</p> <p><strong>Marginal</strong></p> <p>The three union confederations, which together have more than 8 million members, are angered by public pay freezes and Renzi&#39;s plans to ease firing restrictions for large companies.</p> <p>Renzi says his Jobs Act, which comes two years after a labor shake-up under Monti, will simplify the rules and help attract investment. Yet most economists say the changes proposed are marginal.</p> <p>Michele Tiraboschi, Professor of Labour law at Modena University said the Jobs Act was &quot;nebulous,&quot; and contained &quot;very little of substance.&quot; Precisely for this reason, it did not justify the mounting popular revolt.</p> <p>Anger among the unemployed, the young and people living in deprived areas &mdash; who Ricolfi calls the &quot;outsiders&quot; &mdash; is taking the form of &quot;do-it-yourself&quot; protests among people who had previously been desperate but apathetic.</p> <p>It is targeted at politicians of all stripes and has seen a surge in support for the anti-immigrant Northern League party.</p> <p>Corcolle, another eastern suburb of Rome, was the scene in September of similar violence to Tor Sapienza, and in Milan this week left wing students and squatters have clashed with police.</p> <p>Citizens in Genoa and other cities hit by floods in recent weeks have also protested about a lack of government help.</p> <p>The 39-year-old Renzi, renowned for presenting an image of optimism, has been criticized for not visiting flood victims.</p> <p>Renzi&#39;s Democratic Party (PD) remains by far Italy&#39;s largest, helped by the weakness of the divided center-right. But according to the Demos agency, Renzi&#39;s personal approval rating fell 10 points between October and November, to 52 percent.</p> <p>Ricolfi says Italians used to clear political divisions are disoriented by Renzi, who is often more popular among conservative voters than left-wingers, contributing to the unstructured stream of protests.</p> <p>&quot;Nobody knows if this is a left-wing government or a right-wing government and this creates enormous confusion and uncertainty,&quot; Ricolfi said.</p> <p>Center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, reviled on the left, publicly supports many of Renzi&#39;s policies, while they are resented by large sections of the PD.</p> <p>Renzi also has a confrontational style and seems to foster enemies as a way of bolstering support. Targets have ranged from the trade unions to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Brussels &quot;bureaucrats.&quot;</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Francesca Piscioneri, Gabriele Pileri, Steve Scherer; Editing by Catherine Evans)</p> Need to Know Italy Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:52:00 +0000 Gavin Jones, Thomson Reuters 6319657 at Burkina Faso names army Colonel Isaac Zida as prime minister <!--paging_filter--><p>Burkina Faso named Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida as prime minister on Wednesday, four days after he restored the country&#39;s constitution under pressure from the African Union and the West.</p> <p>Zida declared himself head of state on Nov. 1 after mass protests toppled President Blaise Compaore who then fled the West African country. The African Union had given Zida two weeks to restore civilian rule or face economic sanctions.</p> <p>As prime minister, Zida, a large, bespectacled man with a trademark red beret, said he will work with Burkina Faso&#39;s newly appointed interim president, Michel Kafando, to appoint a 25-member government &quot;within 72 hours&quot; to rule until 2015 elections.</p> <p>&quot;This government of 25 will have the huge task of creating the basis for an inclusive transition with the primary task of organising free, fair and transparent elections as well as important reforms for the future of our country,&quot; Zida told a press conference in the capital, dressed in army uniform.</p> <p>Neither Kafando, a former foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations, nor Zida, deputy head of the presidential guard, will be allowed to stand in next year&#39;s presidential election, according to the terms of a transitional charter adopted last week.</p> <p><strong>More form GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The revolution in Burkina Faso is a huge deal. Here&#39;s what you need to know about it</a></strong></p> <p>Western diplomats had advised against Zida&#39;s nomination, hoping Kafando would instead name a civilian figure to head the government.</p> <p>In an apparent response to such critics, Zida asked for the support of international partners &quot;without preconceptions&quot; during the interim period.</p> <p>Among members of Burkina Faso&#39;s political class, the choice was generally welcomed.</p> <p>&quot;We have seen that he is a capable man. He has vision and he knows what he wants for the country,&quot; said Ablasse Ouedraogo, president of the Le Faso Autrement political party.</p> <p>Others were pragmatic. &quot;Zida&#39;s nomination was a useful compromise that allowed us to advance. We need the cohesion of the army to move forward with the transition,&quot; Benewende Stanislas Sankara, head of the opposition UNIR/PS movement, told Reuters.</p> <p>Compaore triggered protests against his rule last month when he tried to push changes to the constitution through parliament in order to extend his 27-year grip on power.</p> <p>Compaore was a regional power broker and a key Western ally against Islamist militants. France has a special forces unit based in Burkina Faso as part of a regional counter-terrorism operation. The country has long been one of Africa&#39;s cotton producers and is now also mining gold.</p> <p>(Writing by Emma Farge and Joe Bavier; Editing by David Lewis and Ralph Boulton)</p> Africa Need to Know Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:27:26 +0000 Mathieu Bonkoungou and Nadoun Coulibaly, Thomson Reuters 6319622 at Cuban doctor in Sierra Leone tests positive for Ebola <!--paging_filter--><p>A Cuban doctor treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone has tested positive for the disease and was being sent to Geneva for treatment, officials said, the first Cuban known to have contracted the potentially deadly hemorrhagic fever.</p> <p>The doctor, identified by Cuba&#39;s official website Cubadebate on Tuesday as Felix Baez, is one of 165 Cuban doctors and nurses treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. They have been there since early October.</p> <p>They are part of a Cuban team of 256 medical professionals sent to West Africa to treat patients in the worst Ebola outbreak on record that has killed more than 5,000 people.</p> <p>Baez, a specialist in internal medicine, had a fever on Sunday and tested positive on Monday after being taken to the capital Freetown, Cubadebate reported, citing a Health Ministry statement. He has not shown complications and is &quot;hemodynamically stable,&quot; the statement said.</p> <p>&quot;Our collaborator is being tended to by a team of British professionals with experience in treating patients who have displayed the disease and they have maintained constant communication with our brigade,&quot; the statement said.</p> <p>At the urging of the World Health Organization (WHO) it was decided to send him to a university hospital in Geneva, where he would be treated by experts in infectious diseases, the ministry statement said. His whereabouts in Sierra Leone early on Wednesday were unclear.</p> <p>The Cuban commitment to treating Ebola patients in West Africa has won international praise as more substantial than contributions from many wealthy countries. Among those recognizing Cuba has been the United States, its political adversary for the past 55 years.</p> <p>Some Cuban 165 doctors and nurses have gone to Sierra Leone for a six-month mission, with another 53 in Liberia and 38 in Guinea.</p> <p>Another 205 have undergone three weeks of training, with extensive practice in using protective full-body suits, and are ready to receive an Ebola assignment.</p> <p>The Communist-run island has practiced medical diplomacy since Fidel Castro came to power in a 1959 revolution.</p> <p>While Cuba provides disaster relief around the world free of charge, it also exchanges doctors for cash or goods on more routine missions. The island receives an estimated 100,000 barrels of oil per day from Venezuela, where some 30,000 Cuban medical professionals are posted.</p> <p>In all, there are more than 50,000 health workers in 67 countries.</p> <p>The latest WHO tally on Nov. 14 reported 5,177 Ebola deaths out of 14,133 cases, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.</p> <p>(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Paul Tait)</p> Need to Know Cuba Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:14:12 +0000 Daniel Trotta, Thomson Reuters 6319595 at The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine: Marxists with a history of global ties <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The PFLP became known in the '60s and '70s for pioneering plane hijackings to garner attention for their cause. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Dean </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CAIRO, Egypt &mdash;&nbsp;Five Israelis were killed on Tuesday in the worst attack to take place in Jerusalem in years. Two Palestinian men, cousins identified as Ghassan and Odai Abu Jamal, attacked worshippers in a synagogue with knives and a gun before being shot themselves.&nbsp;</p> <p>The assailants were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a leftist group whose militant wing, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, issued a statement in the aftermath of the attack calling it a &ldquo;heroic operation&rdquo; and describing the perpetrators as &ldquo;martyrs.&rdquo;</p> <p><span dir="ltr" id=":1gw">The statement stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack, but Hani Thawbta, a PFLP leader in Gaza, told reporters on Tuesday: &quot;We declare full responsibility of the PFLP for the execution of this heroic operation conducted by our heroes this morning in Jerusalem.&quot;</span></p> <p>Regardless, the attackers&#39; affiliation with the group is not contested. So, who makes up the PFLP, and what does the group stand for?</p> <p> <strong>Founded by a Christian</strong></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> PFLP founder George Habash in Damascus, April 2000.</div> <p>While today much of the world associates Palestinian resistance with the Islamist group Hamas, this wasn&#39;t always the case. In the early days of the occupation, secular groups tended to hold sway. The PFLP was one of them. Founded by a Palestinian Christian, George Habash, in 1967, the group espouses a blend of Marxist-Leninist principles, coupled with Arab nationalism.</p> <p>Islamist groups gained ground later in part as a result of the Israeli government allowing them to flourish in order to counter the influence of more powerful secular groups.</p> <p>Over the past few decades the PFLP has fought for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has historically been skeptical of peace process negotiations.</p> <p>The group changed its position in 2000 to back a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.&nbsp;Then in 2010, it reverted to its original stance of calling for a one-state solution and arguing against peace talks with Israel.</p> <p>The US, the EU and Canada have declared it a terrorist organization.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Friends around the world&nbsp;</b></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> Japanese terrorist Kozo Okamoto, a member of the Japanese Red Army guerrilla group, with Palestinian former jail mates after being freed in a prisoner swap between the PFLP and Israel.</div> <p>As its name suggests, the PFLP is concerned primarily with the liberation of Palestine. But its Marxist politics have meant it made friends with a wide variety of militant groups from across the world over the years. One of those was the left-wing German Baader Meinhof organization.</p> <p>Historically it has had good relations with the former Soviet Union and China, and at different points with Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Its relationship with Iran has ebbed and flowed depending on regional politics.</p> <p>The group also had ties to the communist militant organization the Japanese Red Army, and carried out several violent operations with them.</p> <p> <strong>Pioneers of plane hijackings </strong></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> Mural of Leila Khaled on the Apartheid Wall at Bethlehem on June 16, 2013 in central West Bank.</div> <p>The PFLP became known in the &#39;60s and &#39;70s for pioneering plane hijackings to garner attention for their cause.</p> <p>One of the group&rsquo;s most famous members was the female hijacker Leila Khaled. She participated in a number of hijackings, including of a TWA flight from Rome to Athens in 1969, which saw the group take two Israeli hostages. They were later released in exchange for Syrian and Egyptian soldiers held by Israel.</p> <p>Khaled had cosmetic surgery operations on her nose and chin to change her appearance so that she could take part in her second hijacking the following year. An iconic photograph of her in 1969 helped make her an international symbol of Palestinian liberation.</p> <p>The PFLP would regularly attack civilian targets in and outside of Israel. In one of their worst attacks &mdash; in cooperation with Japanese Red Army guerillas &mdash; they murdered two dozen passengers at Israel&rsquo;s international airport in Lod in 1972.</p> <p>They carried out further attacks in Munich, Brussels and Greece.</p> <p> <strong>A decline</strong></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> Masked Palestinian militants of the PFLP hold up their rifles and flash the sign of victory on Sept. 2, 2014. The rally in Gaza City celebrated the Egypt-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.</div> <p>The PFLP is not what it once was. The decline of the Soviet Union in the 1980s meant the loss of its most powerful backer. The rise of Islamist groups such as Hamas, as well as a leadership that was seen as old and out of touch, saw much of its support ebb away.</p> <p>Many of the group&rsquo;s leaders have either been locked up or assassinated by Israel. One of those killed was Abu Ali Mustafa, who replaced Habash as leader in 2000. In retaliation, the PFLP shot and killed the Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. The PFLP&rsquo;s current leader, Ahmed Saadat, is in an Israeli prison.</p> <p>In recent years, the group has continued to engage in armed resistance, firing rockets from Gaza and attacking Israeli troops patrolling the border.</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Middle East Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:19:00 +0000 Laura Dean 6318692 at Pakistani family sentenced to death over 'honor killing' in spite of executions moratorium <!--paging_filter--><p>Four relatives of a pregnant woman who bludgeoned her to death outside one of Pakistan&#39;s top courts were sentenced to death on Wednesday for the crime, their defense lawyer said.</p> <p>The 25-year-old&#39;s family attacked her because they objected to her marriage. Farzana Iqbal&#39;s murder in May this year briefly focused attention on Pakistan&#39;s epidemic of violence against women.</p> <p>Her father, brother, cousin, and another relative were all sentenced to death and a $1,000 fine, said defense lawyer Mansoor Afridi. Another cousin was sentenced to 10 years in prison and also fined $1,000.</p> <p>Pakistan currently has a moratorium on executions, meaning death row prisoners are effectively sentenced to life imprisonment. But Afridi said the family planned to appeal. He said the verdict was &quot;a decision based on sensationalism.&quot;</p> <p>The state prosecutor was not immediately available for comment.</p> <p>Women are murdered every day in Pakistan for perceived slights against conservative social traditions. The crime is so common it rarely rates more than a paragraph in newspapers.</p> <p>But Farzana&#39;s case attracted attention because it took place on a busy street outside the provincial High Court where she had gone to seek protection. Her family beat her to death with bricks while her husband, Muhammed Iqbal, begged nearby police for help. They did not intervene.</p> <p>Iqbal later admitted that he had murdered his first wife to marry Farzana. He escaped punishment because his son forgave him. According to Pakistani law, a woman&#39;s next of kin can forgive her murderers.</p> <p>Since Pakistani women are often killed by their close relations, the loophole allows thousands of murderers to escape without punishment.</p> <p>In 2013, 869 cases of so-called &quot;honor killings&quot; were reported in the media, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The true figure is probably higher since many cases go unreported.</p> <p>(Reporting By Katharine Houreld; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)</p> Need to Know Pakistan Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:29:00 +0000 Mubasher Bukhari, Thomson Reuters 6319398 at In India, public kissing is becoming a national movement <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Protesters who gather to kiss have been arrested, tear-gassed and assaulted with rods. Still, they keep kissing. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Maddy Crowell </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NEW DELHI, India &mdash; In India, to kiss openly is considered a public disgrace that can mean jail time.</p> <p>This appeared to be the message conveyed on Oct. 23 by Jai Hind News<em>, </em>a popular local news channel in India&rsquo;s southern state of Kerala, when it broadcast footage of a couple kissing in an upscale terrace cafe in Calicut.</p> <p>Within an hour of the broadcast, a group of right-wing Hindu fundamentalists entered the cafe with iron rods, smashing windows and upturning furniture. They claimed the cafe endorsed &ldquo;un-Indian&rdquo; behavior.</p> <p>Less than a day later, the incident ignited a nationwide movement, city-hopping from Kochi to Hyderabad to Calcutta to Mumbai to Delhi. Known popularly as the &ldquo;<a href="">Kiss of Love</a>&rdquo; campaign, the movement&rsquo;s message is straightforward: Let&rsquo;s kiss in public.</p> <p>&ldquo;We wanted to show how humans express their love. A kiss is a short and sweet expression,&rdquo; explained Rahul Pasupalar, co-creator of the movement&rsquo;s <a href="">Facebook page </a>along with Farmis Hashim. &ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t think the page would get more than 200 likes.&rdquo; By the time Pasupalar woke up the next morning, the Kiss of Love Facebook page had over 1,000 likes. Within two days, that number had increased ten-fold.</p> <p>In early November, more than 10,000 people gathered on Marine Drive in Kochi, but according to Pasupalar, about 80 percent of the crowd was there to watch. &ldquo;Kissing and protesting has never happened in India. People had big imaginations; they were climbing up on trees to snap photos.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, the Kerala protests gained enough clout to raise national eyebrows. A photo of Pasupalan and his wife Resmi Nair, <a href="">kissing in the back of a police van </a>after being detained, went viral. Following the protests, 52 Kiss of Love protestors were detained, and roughly 25 hospitalized for minor injuries inflicted by right-wing opposition protesters, who&rsquo;d arrived equipped with tear gas and iron rods.</p> <p>The Indian Penal Code states that anyone who &ldquo;does any obscene act in any public place&rdquo; may be subject to arrest. Police are granted moral authority to intervene. Kissing in public violates this act.</p> <p>According to Kiss of Love activists, the rule is &ldquo;completely arbitrary.&rdquo;</p> <p>But according to an official statement released by Kiss of Love&rsquo;s counter-group <a href=";fref=ts">Ban Kiss of Love</a>, &ldquo;There is no ambiguity in IPC/Constitution regarding the public indecency. It&rsquo;s like, &lsquo;When you are in Rome dress like Romans.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p> <p>The debate has morphed into a philosophical one over how to define Indian culture. Hindu nationalists claim kissing in public is a thing exclusively for &ldquo;Western culture.&rdquo; (Or as one Facebook commenter <a href="">wrote</a>: &ldquo;Filthy western people, where shame exists only in the dictionary.&rdquo;)</p> <p>Other critics of the movement believe the message is right, but the medium wrong: &ldquo;It turns full-on PDA into some kind of lodestone of liberation,&rdquo; <a href="">wrote</a> journalist Sandip Roy. According to Pankhuri Zaheer, a co-organizer of Kiss of Love&rsquo;s Delhi chapter, &ldquo;Indian culture is so many things; making it a monolith is a ridiculous thing in itself.&rdquo;</p> <p>In its brief existence, the movement made national headlines. Protests in Calcutta, Hyderabad and Mumbai, though weaker in numbers than Kochi, were met with strong, often hostile aggression from right-wing activists.</p> <p>In Hyderabad, 21-year-old Arundhati Naluketi, a Kiss of Life organizer, received so many threatening calls she had to change her phone number. Photos of her kissing at the protest were Photoshopped onto nude bodies and spread on WhatsApp.</p> <p>Others have faced similar threats.</p> <p>&ldquo;The death threats began before the movement,&rdquo; explains Pankhuri Zaheer, a co-founder of Kiss of Love&rsquo;s Delhi chapter. &ldquo;My phone has not stopped ringing. They say abusive things about my mother, my father, about what they&rsquo;re going to do to me, how they&rsquo;re going to fuck me, rape me in the streets.&rdquo;</p> <p>When the movement reached New Delhi on Nov. 7, it came to a (perhaps inevitable) political head. A handful of Kiss of Love activists, primarily University students, shouted slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and directly targeted the right-wing headquarters of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as their intended grounds for protest. RSS protesters charged at Kiss of Love protesters, chanting, &ldquo;Western culture is degrading Indian culture, Western civilization shall not work!&rdquo; The crowd moved from outside the Metro station to the streets, blocking traffic for hours as nighttime crept in, and police struggled to contain the movement, detaining 70 Kiss of Love protesters.&nbsp;</p> <p>The number of likes on the Kiss of Love Facebook page is now exceeding 138,000. There are plans to protest in <a href=";theater">Calicut Dec. 7</a><sup>. </sup>India&rsquo;s right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi has yet to comment, but an affiliate of Modi&rsquo;s party gave a <a href="">statement</a> on its behalf: &ldquo;Our Indian culture does not permit us displaying such kinds of affection in public spaces.&rdquo;</p> <p>The kiss is becoming part of a growing trend for activists in conservative countries itching to liberate the public sphere. In 2013, a kiss protest was staged inside a Turkish metro station where Islamist extremists stabbed a protestor. In Morocco, a &ldquo;kiss-in&rdquo; was held in Rabat; in Tunisia, activists called for a &ldquo;national kissing day,&rdquo; and in Saudi Arabia a &ldquo;free hug&rdquo; campaign was immediately shut down.</p> <p>&ldquo;When I saw photographs from Turkey I thought, okay something like this could happen in Delhi. And I&rsquo;m hoping that the Delhi photographs will give strength to others,&rdquo; Zaheer said, adding, &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to enlarge the vocabulary of protests.&rdquo;</p> Entertainment Want to Know World Religion India Pakistan Wed, 19 Nov 2014 05:30:21 +0000 Maddy Crowell 6317590 at Inside the troubled history of Britain's fight against extremism <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Where does free speech end and incitement begin? </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, UK &mdash; You can say at least this for Britain&rsquo;s ideological extremists: Their reach is global.</p> <p>British men are among the executioners in a graphic Islamic State (IS) video released this weekend showing beheadings of Syrian soldiers.</p> <p>A former National Health Service doctor has just appeared in a recruiting video for a Taliban splinter group in Pakistan.</p> <p>In announcing the murder of US aid worker Peter Kassig, a London-accented IS militant dubbed &ldquo;Jihadi John&rdquo; issued a warning to Western leaders that the group would soon &ldquo;slaughter your people on your streets.&rdquo; UK security officials said this month that the likelihood of another domestic terror attack is so great as to be all but inevitable.</p> <p>These cases represent failures in the government&rsquo;s decade-long effort to thwart the kind of radicalization that leads to such violence.</p> <p>The policy &mdash; known officially as Preventing Violent Extremism, or Prevent &mdash; has sometimes struggled to identify effective strategies. Some critics see it mainly as a surveillance program that curtails civil liberties and freedom of expression for British Muslims.</p> <p>It has alternately embraced and abandoned community organizations that have the knowledge and credibility to reach at-risk individuals, but whose ideologies have clashed with what Prime Minister David Cameron calls &ldquo;British values.&rdquo;</p> <p>The latest version of Prevent is expected sometime next year. The Home Office won&#39;t provide details, but it may have a hard time selling it to the public no matter what.</p> <p>The program is so unpopular among many British Muslims today that groups that accept government funding prefer to keep their affiliation as quiet as possible to avoid clouding their standing in the communities they&rsquo;re trying to serve.</p> <p>Prevent is part of Contest, a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy unveiled in 2003 and revised several times since.</p> <p>The scheme consists of four parts: Pursue (find and prosecute those planning to commit crimes), Protect (beef up border security and infrastructure), Prepare (ready disaster plans) and Prevent.</p> <p>The first three built on existing responsibilities. Prevent was a new kind of policy, a constantly recalibrating plan to tackle an amorphous and evolving problem.</p> <p>In its early days, the initiative funded a grab-bag of programs, not all of which were effective in their reach or design.</p> <p>Some projects accomplished little besides alienating communities, such as an aborted attempt to install secret cameras in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in Birmingham.</p> <p>Such missteps outraged many British Muslims and left the impression that Prevent was little more than a Trojan horse for government surveillance.</p> <p>&ldquo;Taking Prevent money within the Muslim community became very, very taboo,&rdquo; says Usman Nawaz, 25, who was a member of the Prevent-funded Young Muslims Advisory Group, a government consulting board.</p> <p>&ldquo;Ultimately I concur with the aims of Prevent, [but] I think perception is everything, and if the perception in the public is that some projects funded by Prevent money were surveillance or spying projects, it taints the program in general.&rdquo;</p> <p>When funding did reach groups working directly with those susceptible to extremist Islamist ideology, that proved controversial as well.</p> <p>One of the episodes involved Abdul Haqq Baker, a British-born Muslim convert who headed the Brixton Mosque in South London from 1994 to 2009.</p> <p>Richard Reid, the British &ldquo;shoe bomber,&rdquo; and Zacharias Moussaoui, a French citizen currently serving life in prison for his role in the 9/11 attacks, both attended the mosque, whose worshippers follow the fundamentalist version of Islam known as Salafism. Both were expelled after falling in with violence-espousing Islamist ideologues in London.</p> <p>In 2006, Baker founded Street, a South London-based mentoring organization that worked to keep young Muslims away from crime, gangs and violent extremism.</p> <p>The fact that many of Street&rsquo;s staff were themselves Salafi Muslims bolstered their credibility among youths attracted to more hard-line versions of their religion.</p> <p>Staff scoured the internet for violence-glorifying materials making the rounds and then watched them together with their young charges, breaking down scriptural and moral flaws in the arguments.</p> <p>After stipulating that the organization wouldn&rsquo;t share intelligence about clients unless they were a clear public safety threat, Street accepted Prevent funding, Baker says. He spoke from his home in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, where he moved his family in 2002 partly because of threats.</p> <p>In the beginning, he says, Street was hailed as &ldquo;poster boys&rdquo; for the government&rsquo;s anti-radicalization efforts. Baker counseled officials in Europe, Canada and Australia about starting similar programs.</p> <p>But he says critics called him and his associates &ldquo;informers&rdquo; and worse for their involvement with the government.</p> <p>Others said the government&rsquo;s support for groups with Islamist underpinnings was misguided, akin to feeding a snake that would eventually turn around and bite.</p> <p>The political landscape changed in 2010, when an election ushered in a Conservative-led coalition government. The following year, Cameron gave a <a href="">speech </a>in Munich that heralded a new era in Britain&rsquo;s anti-terror efforts.</p> <p>&ldquo;We need to think much harder about who it&rsquo;s in the public interest to work with,&rdquo; he said, adding that the government would cut funding to groups that didn&rsquo;t align with &ldquo;Western values&rdquo; such as democracy and equality.</p> <p>&ldquo;To those who say these non-violent extremists are helping to keep young, vulnerable men away from violence, I say nonsense,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Would you allow the far-right groups a share of public funds if they promise to lure young white men away from fascist terrorism?&rdquo;</p> <p>Street lost its government funding soon after. Although the official reason was budget cuts, Baker says it was made clear to him through other channels that his Salafist beliefs were the problem.</p> <p>&ldquo;No one has said to me what British values I do not espouse,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Anyone who knows me knows I am a proud Brit. I don&rsquo;t agree with everything the UK says, [but I didn&rsquo;t] before I was a Muslim, and this is the right and laws of Britain not to subscribe to everything.&rdquo;</p> <p>Some security officials were dismayed at the government&rsquo;s change of tack.</p> <p>&ldquo;When individuals I have seen playing a very effective part in tackling the Al Qaeda type narratives, when they are described as part of the problem, [or as] extremists &mdash; that, from my own analysis, is also problematic,&rdquo; says Robert Lambert, a former undercover police officer and chief of the London Metropolitan Police&rsquo;s Muslim Contact Unit, who worked with Baker and others.</p> <p>Britons are continuing to debate the best way to counter radicalization and where the line should be drawn between free speech and dangerous incitement.</p> <p>But Prevent&rsquo;s critics and supporters alike say the program&rsquo;s reputation is too tarnished to remain effective.</p> <p>&ldquo;The government does not have the cachet, the capability or the trust in the community to deal with counter-radicalization,&rdquo; says Douglas Weeks, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of St. Andrews studying terrorism and political violence.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">If you build an innovation hub in Siberia, will they come?</a></strong></p> <p>Prevent&rsquo;s efficacy is difficult to measure. Roughly half of the 600 Brits who have joined the fight in Syria were previously unknown to the security forces, a sign that radical messages are still reaching people here.</p> <p>But it&rsquo;s impossible to know how many have been dissuaded from violence as a result of the government-backed effort.</p> <p>&ldquo;When the problem is street crime or gang crime, there is never any expectation that this work is going to eradicate it,&rdquo; Lambert says. But in the public&rsquo;s eyes, terrorism is different.</p> <p>&ldquo;One attack means that if people in Prevent had what they thought was a good week&rsquo;s work where they helped nine young people move away from violent extremism, that good work would count for nothing when they open the newspaper.&rdquo;</p> Counter-terrorism Conflict Zones Want to Know World Religion United Kingdom Wed, 19 Nov 2014 05:30:00 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6317516 at A giant pair of sunglasses is being called an insult to the memory of Nelson Mandela <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> One writer called the project 'a pathetic appropriation of commemoration as cover for a commercial promotion.' </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; A giant pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses has become the most controversial artwork in South Africa.</p> <p>Yes, sunglasses &mdash; a hulking, steel-gray pair of Wayfarers, perched on a patch of grass along Cape Town&#39;s Sea Point promenade and angled in the direction of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were once held.</p> <p>Capetonians awoke Tuesday morning to find the sculpture defaced with a generous helping of spraypaint: &ldquo;WE BROKE YOUR HEARTS&rdquo; was written on the frames, and &ldquo;<a href="">REMEMBER MARIKANA</a>&rdquo; stenciled on the lenses, referring to the 2012 police shooting of striking mineworkers at the Marikana platinum mine.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Sea Point Ray Ban corporate `art&#39; that co-opts Mandela &amp; the struggle transformed into real art.</p> <p> &mdash; Zubair Sayed (@ZubairSay) <a href="">November 10, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>A group of politically minded street artists called <a href="">Tokolos Stencils</a> has claimed responsibility via their website, explaining that &ldquo;myopic art leads to and is a reflection of a myopic society.&rdquo;</p> <p>So why the fuss over an oversized pair of Wayfarers?</p> <p>The sculpture by South African artist Michael Elion, titled &ldquo;Perceiving Freedom,&rdquo; is part of a public art initiative in Cape Town, the 2014 World Design Capital. The project was reportedly co-financed by Ray-Ban, which has made a lot of people very angry.</p> <p>Next to the sunglasses is a plaque with a picture of Mandela wearing Ray-Ban-like dark shades. These were necessary protection for the former president&#39;s eyes, badly damaged during forced labor in Robben Island&#39;s blindingly bright limestone quarry.</p> <p>It hasn&#39;t yet been a year since Mandela &mdash;&nbsp;affectionately known here by his Xhosa clan name, &ldquo;Madiba&rdquo; &mdash; died. Many South Africans view the Ray-Ban sculpture as a crass advertisement occupying a public space while capitalizing on their late national icon&#39;s image.</p> <p>Duane Jethro, writing for <a href="">Africa is a Country</a>, describes &ldquo;Perceiving Freedom&rdquo; as &ldquo;a pathetic appropriation of commemoration as cover for a commercial promotion.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Really, it&rsquo;s a stunning emetic trigger that suggests that Nelson Mandela is beckoning us from the afterlife to buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, to do our duty for reconciliation and nation-building by consuming this luxury product,&rdquo; he writes.</p> <p>Mahala, a South African culture website, <a href="">decried the sculpture as &ldquo;kak,</a>&rdquo; meaning &quot;crap&quot;: &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no debate about this one &hellip; when brands and local government collude with an &lsquo;artist&rsquo; to create a massive sculpture of an overpriced (imported) accessory; then plant it on an affluent, touristy waterfront (Sea Point Promenade, Cape Town), point it at Robben Island and use the gracious Madiba, father of our nation, to market their bullshit &hellip; it is kak.&rdquo;</p> <p>Perhaps the best quip came from local comedian Deep Fried Man:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Details of Nelson Mandela&#39;s love for Ray Bans were to be revealed in his second book, The Long Walk To Free Market Capitalism.</p> <p> &mdash; Deep Fried Man (@DeepFriedMan) <a href="">November 10, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Elion, the sculptor, has also been roundly criticized by fellow South African artists on social media. On Tuesday afternoon he laid criminal charges against three of them, claiming they had threatened him with violence.</p> Africa Strange But True South Africa Tue, 18 Nov 2014 22:01:00 +0000 Erin Conway-Smith 6318408 at Militant attack deaths soar to all-time high, according to new IEP report <!--paging_filter--><p>The number of people killed in militant attacks worldwide jumped more than 60 percent last year to a record high of nearly 18,000 and the figure could rise further in 2014 due to an escalation of conflict in the Middle East and Nigeria, a report showed on Tuesday.</p> <p>Four Islamist groups operating in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria were responsible for two thirds of the 2013 attacks and the vast majority of the deaths occurred in those countries, the Australia and US-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) said in its Global Terrorism Index.</p> <p>However, militant attacks are on the rise more broadly, with two dozen countries seeing more than 50 deaths in 2013, it said.</p> <p>The four most active militant groupings are Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (now renamed Islamic State), Nigeria&#39;s Boko Haram, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and transnational al Qaeda-affiliated networks.</p> <p>&quot;There is no doubt it is a growing problem. The causes are complex but the four groups responsible for most of the deaths all have their roots in fundamentalist Islam,&quot; said IEP founder Steve Killelea.</p> <p>&quot;They are particularly angry about the spread of Western education. That makes any attempt at the kind of social mobilizing you need to stop them particularly difficult - it can just antagonize them more,&quot; he said. The number of attacks themselves rose 44 percent in 2013 from the previous year to almost 10,000.</p> <p>Deaths in such attacks are now five times higher than in 2000, the report showed, citing analysis of data in the University of Maryland&#39;s Global Terrorism Database. Most but not all militant attacks were religiously motivated. Attacks in India &mdash; the sixth most affected country &mdash; rose 70 percent in 2013 largely due to attacks by communist insurgents. The majority remained non-lethal.</p> <p>Increased targeting of police by the militant groups makes managing the problem even harder, Killelea said, sometimes fuelling rights abuses that compound existing grievances.</p> <p>The report showed 60 percent of attacks involved explosives, 20 percent firearms and 10 percent other actions such as arson, knives or attacks with motor vehicles. Only five percent of all incidents since 2000 have involved suicide bombings.</p> <p>The report showed some 80 percent of the militant groups which had ceased their activity since 2000 did so following negotiations. Only 10 percent achieved their goals, while seven percent were eliminated by military action.</p> <p>(Editing by Gareth Jones)</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Tue, 18 Nov 2014 21:22:00 +0000 Peter Apps, Thomson Reuters 6318608 at Israeli and Palestinian leaders can't control the new wave of violence in Jerusalem <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The killing of four worshippers at a synagogue on Tuesday was the latest in a series of attacks carried out by individuals acting without orders from an organized group. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Gregg Carlstrom </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JERUSALEM &mdash; Two Palestinian men stormed into a synagogue in Jerusalem on Tuesday, where they killed four rabbis and <a href="" target="_blank">injured eight</a> with knives, axes and guns in the city&rsquo;s deadliest attack in years. A policeman died later of his wounds.&nbsp;</p> <p>Witnesses described a chaotic scene during the 7 a.m. attack as the two gunmen first opened fire outside, then entered the building and began attacking worshippers. The attackers were shot dead minutes later by police.</p> <p>Emergency workers said the slain victims lay outside in pools of blood, still wrapped in their prayer shawls.</p> <p>&ldquo;This will force all of us to wake up. This will shake the country, the Israeli people,&rdquo; said David Laniado, who was across the street when the shooting started.</p> <p>It was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks in Jerusalem over the past month, which both Israeli and Palestinian leaders seem largely powerless to control. The attackers have mostly been individuals, acting without the direction of any organized group. And their motives have been increasingly religious &mdash; driven by concerns over the status of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, a site sacred to both Jews and Muslims.</p> <p>The attackers were identified as two cousins, Oday Abu Jamal, 22, and Ghassan Abu Jamal, 32, from the Jabal al-Mukaber neighborhood in East Jerusalem.</p> <p>The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular group that is well past its heyday, praised the attack and said the two men were its members. Hani Thawbta, a PFLP leader in Gaza, told Reuters: &ldquo;We declare full responsibility of the PFLP for the execution of this heroic operation conducted by our heroes this morning in Jerusalem.&quot;</p> <p>Hamas also praised the attack, and urged Palestinians to commit more of them.</p> <p>Relatives said the cousins did not receive direction from any group, but were simply &ldquo;fed up&rdquo; with the situation in Jerusalem. &ldquo;They weren&rsquo;t terrorists &hellip; they just couldn&rsquo;t take it anymore,&rdquo; said an uncle, who called himself Abu Saleh.</p> <div gp-pullquote="" gp-pullquote-position="NOTHING" gp-pullquote-source="Abu Saleh, an uncle of the two attackers"> They weren&rsquo;t terrorists &hellip; they just couldn&rsquo;t take it anymore.</div> <p>The city&rsquo;s occupied east has been convulsed by unrest since July, when a Palestinian teenager was burned alive in revenge for the killing of three Jewish Israelis in the occupied West Bank. Riots have continued almost nightly since then, with local youth attacking police and passing vehicles.</p> <p>Over the past month the violence has spread, with two hit-and-run attacks and the attempted assassination of a right-wing Jewish activist. There were also stabbings in Tel Aviv and the West Bank, and several days of riots in the north after the police shooting of a Palestinian man. Ten people have been killed since Oct. 22, including Tuesday&rsquo;s attack.</p> <p>A key cause of the unrest has been a series of visits by right-wing activists to the mount. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he does not plan to change the status quo there, which allows Jews to visit the site but forbids them from praying.</p> <p>But Palestinians fear those promises will be short-lived. The makeup of the Israeli government is becoming increasingly religious and right-wing, and activists fear it will cave to pressure to change the status quo and limit Muslim access to the site.</p> <p>The activist targeted for assassination last month was Yehuda Glick, an American-born Jew who lobbies for the construction of a third Jewish temple on the site, a step often described as requiring the destruction of the Muslim sites there.</p> <p>The families of several Jerusalem attackers have said their relatives were driven by the unrest at the compound. Israeli politicians, meanwhile, implied that Tuesday&rsquo;s attack would make them redouble their efforts to pray on the mount.</p> <p>&ldquo;If Jews cannot pray safely at the Temple Mount, they cannot pray safely anywhere in the world,&rdquo; said Moshe Feiglin, a deputy Knesset speaker and member of Netanyahu&rsquo;s Likud party who has made numerous visits to the site.</p> <p>The synagogue attack drew a sharp reaction from Netanyahu, who vowed to &ldquo;respond harshly.&rdquo; Authorities have already deployed a thousand additional police to Jerusalem since late October, and arrested more than 1,300 since early July, so far with little effect.</p> <p>Netanyahu has also reinstated the practice of punitive home demolitions, which was discontinued in 2005 after the army concluded it had no deterrent value. On Tuesday he ordered the homes of the synagogue attackers destroyed, and several other families are facing similar orders.</p> <p>He was quick to blame Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, calling the attack &ldquo;a direct result of Abbas&rsquo; incitement.&rdquo;</p> <p>Abbas, though, has relatively little influence over East Jerusalem, a territory he cannot even visit without Israeli permission. In interviews over the past month, Jerusalemites expressed nothing but disdain for the Palestinian Authority leader.</p> <p>&ldquo;He has his capital in Ramallah already. He doesn&rsquo;t care about us here in Jerusalem,&rdquo; said Mahmoud Abdel Qader, a resident of Silwan, south of the Old City.</p> <p>This may be the largest concern for both sides. The Palestinian leadership has no control over events in Jerusalem, and elsewhere in Israel. The Israeli government, meanwhile, has little to offer; talks with the Palestinians are stalled, and an ever-widening crackdown in East Jerusalem has done little to stem the unrest.</p> <p>&ldquo;The government, I don&rsquo;t know what they can do,&rdquo; Laniado said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no way to resolve this.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Middle East Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:25:00 +0000 Gregg Carlstrom 6318483 at Our love for things that cause climate change could mean the end of life with chocolate <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The wake-up call we probably needed. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sara Yasin </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Humans are to blame for <a href="">90 percent</a> of the greenhouse gases driving global warming.&nbsp;The polar bear population in the southern Beaufort Sea <a href="">has dropped</a> by 40 percent. The pacific bluefish tuna &mdash; one you sushi enthusiasts are likely to miss &mdash; <a href="">is headed</a> toward extinction. Droughts <a href="">are turning</a> California into one huge desert.</p> <p>All signs point to a pretty <a href="">terrifying future</a> for the world if scientists&#39; warnings about climate change continue to fall on deaf ears.&nbsp;</p> <p>But now, it looks like our inability to address climate change adequately might cost us one of the world&#39;s most pure, innocent, and wonderful pleasures:&nbsp;<a href="">chocolate</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to&nbsp;Barry Callebaut Group, the world&#39;s largest chocolate manufacturing company,&nbsp;our growing love for chocolate might mean &quot;a potential cocoa shortage by 2020.&quot;</p> <p>The numbers prove it: last year, chocolate consumption&nbsp;<a href="">exceeded production</a>&nbsp;by 70,000 metric tons, and that deficit is predicted to increase to more than 14 times that amount by 2020. The demand has meant a soar in cocoa prices &mdash; which have shot up by 60 percent since 2012. The Switzerland-based company is one of a growing list of chocolate makers warning about the possible end of cocoa confections.</p> <p>But the shortage isn&#39;t just about the world going crazy for chocolate &mdash; it also has a lot to do with climate change.&nbsp;A&nbsp;decrease in cocoa supplies can be pinned on West Africa&#39;s dry weather, which is only getting worse. In Ghana and Cote d&#39;Ivoire &mdash; responsible for more than 70 percent of global cocoa supply &mdash; <a href="">a study</a> released by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture predicts a 2 degree Celsius (3.6 F) increase in temperatures by 2050. Higher temperatures mean that more water evaporates into the air from leaves and earth, leaving less behind for cocoa trees &mdash; a process called &quot;evapotranspiration.&quot;</p> <p>There&#39;s also a fungal disease called &quot;frosty pod,&quot; which has ravaged between 30 and 40 percent of the world&#39;s cocoa production. Brazil, once the world&#39;s second largest exporter of chocolate, is now its biggest importer, after <a href="">being hit</a> with &quot;witch&#39;s broom,&quot; another fungal disease that devastated the Brazilian state of Bahia in 1989.</p> <p>Increased difficulties in growing cocoa will only mean that farmers turn to different, more profitable crops.</p> <p>Just last week, China (which has seen a <a href="">huge jump</a> in chocolate consumption) and the US signed a deal agreeing to <a href="">bring down</a> carbon emissions, and President Barack Obama <a href="">stressed</a> the urgency of addressing climate change during the weekend&#39;s G20 summit. Here&#39;s hoping that we can reverse the already worrying impact of climate change &mdash; after all, it would be especially terrifying to live through it without chocolate.</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the Fahnrenheit conversion for the 2-degree Celcius change in temperature.</em></p> Africa Global Warming Want to Know Tue, 18 Nov 2014 19:05:00 +0000 Sara Yasin 6318455 at Ukrainian PM calls for talks with Russia on 'neutral territory' <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine&#39;s prime minister on Tuesday called for fresh talks with Russia on &quot;neutral territory&quot; as deadly fighting rumbled on in the country&#39;s east.</p> <p>&quot;We invite the Russian Federation to hold serious negotiations on a neutral territory. The US and EU are helping us with this,&quot; Arseniy Yatsenyuk was quoted as saying by the Interfax Ukraine news agency.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States wants to subdue Moscow, but will never succeed.</p> <p>&quot;They do not want to humiliate us, they want to subdue us, solve their problems at our expense,&quot; Putin said at the end of a four-hour meeting with his core support group, the People&#39;s Front.</p> <p>&quot;No one in history ever managed to achieve this with Russia, and no one ever will,&quot; he said, triggering a wave of applause.</p> <p>Putin&#39;s tough talk reflected the strain in ties between Moscow and Washington, who are at loggerheads over the crisis in Ukraine, where the West has accused Russia of promoting and arming a separatist rebellion.</p> <p><strong>Military build-up in Russia-Ukraine border</strong></p> <p>Russia has launched a &quot;very serious&quot; military build-up inside Ukraine and on their shared border, deploying troops and sophisticated equipment including air defense systems, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said.</p> <p>Troops, artillery and &quot;very modern&quot; air defense weapons could be seen &quot;both inside of Ukraine and also on the Russian side of the border,&quot; Stoltenberg said as he arrived for a meeting with European Union defense ministers.</p> <p>&quot;It is a very serious build-up,&quot; Stoltenberg said, urging Russia to reverse course and meet its commitments under a September ceasefire and peace plan signed by Kyiv and pro-Kremlin rebels.</p> <p>&quot;Russia has a choice. Russia can either be part of a peaceful negotiated solution or Russia can continue on a path of isolation,&quot; Stoltenberg said.</p> <p>But for the moment &quot;we see that Russia is still destabilizing Ukraine. We see movement of troops, tanks, artillery, air defence systems in violation of the ceasefire,&quot; the former Norwegian premier said.</p> <p>Air defense systems are a particular concern after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July, which Western governments allege was carried out by pro-Kremlin rebels.</p> <p>Stoltenberg took office in October with the Ukraine crisis top of his agenda as the US-led military alliance beefed up its readiness in response to Russia&#39;s actions which spooked newer NATO members such as Poland and the Baltic states once ruled from Moscow.</p> <p>He is visiting the Baltic states later this week.</p> <p>NATO has deployed aircraft and personnel on a rotational basis through its eastern member states in an effort to reassure them and embarked on longer term planning in the face of what it sees as a more assertive Moscow under President Vladimir Putin.</p> <p>Putin insists Russia has no presence in eastern Ukraine where the rebels appear to be consolidating areas under their control.</p> <p>bmm/dk/txw</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 18 Nov 2014 18:57:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters and Agence France-Presse 6318486 at Jerusalem is a tinderbox right now <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 4 Israelis killed in attack on Synagogue in Jerusalem. Witnesses describe a bloodbath. Israeli leader weighs 'tough' response. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Two Palestinians armed with a gun and axes burst into a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday and killed four Israelis before being shot dead in the bloodiest attack in the city in years.</p> <p>It was a rare attack on a place of worship and sent shockwaves through the country.</p> <p>It came as months of unrest gripped the city&#39;s annexed Arab eastern sector which has resulted in a string of deadly attacks by lone Palestinians.</p> <p>But none was as serious as Tuesday&#39;s assault on the synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood on the city&#39;s western outskirts as worshippers gathered for the morning prayers.</p> <p>Six other people were wounded, among them two policemen, before the two assailants were shot dead, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said, identifying them as Palestinians from east Jerusalem.</p> <p>Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas condemned the killings, but the Islamist group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, welcomed them, describing them as a fitting &quot;response&quot; to Israeli actions in annexed east Jerusalem.</p> <p>Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to gather security chiefs later to mull a tough response, said the attack was the result of &quot;incitement&quot; both Abbas and Hamas.</p> <p>The attack began shortly before 7 am local time as worshippers were attending prayers at a synagogue in a yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood.</p> <p>Witnesses spoke of a bloodbath.</p> <p>&quot;There were people running from the synagogue, and a man sitting on the pavement covered in blood, it looked like he has been stabbed,&quot; said local resident Sarah Abrahams, who was walking past when it happened.</p> <p>&quot;Two people came out with their faces half missing, looking like they&#39;d been attacked with knives,&quot; she said as hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews pressed up against the police tape, a few chanting &quot;Death to terrorists.&quot;</p> <p>Fighting back tears, Moshe Eliezer said he had narrowly avoided being at the scene after oversleeping.</p> <p>&quot;This is a yeshiva community. Ninety percent don&#39;t serve in the army. We&#39;re not violent,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Police said six people were wounded, among them two policemen who had engaged in a gunbattle with the assailants.</p> <p>They said the attackers were two cousins from the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber.</p> <p>Speaking to journalists at the scene, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat expressed shock at the scale of the bloodshed.</p> <p>&quot;To slaughter innocent people while they pray... it&#39;s insane,&quot; he said.</p> <p><strong>Netanyahu blames Abbas</strong></p> <p>The prime minister pointed the finger at both Abbas and Hamas over the attack.</p> <p>&quot;This is the direct result of incitement by Hamas and Abu Mazen (Abbas), incitement that the international community ignores in an irresponsible manner,&quot; Netanyahu said in a statement.</p> <p>He has repeatedly accused Abbas of encouraging deadly attacks after the Palestinian leader called for people to take action following tensions at Jerusalem&#39;s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.</p> <p>Months of tensions at the shrine appeared to have abated late last week following talks in Amman between Netanyahu, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan&#39;s King Abdullah II.</p> <p>Kerry condemned Tuesday&#39;s attack on the synagogue as an &quot;act of pure terror and senseless brutality,&quot; and called on the Palestinian leadership to denounce it.</p> <p>&quot;This violence has no place anywhere particularly after the discussion that we had just the other day in Amman,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Arab east Jerusalem has been a tinderbox since early July when Jewish extremists killed a 16-year-old Palestinian in revenge for the murder of three Jewish teenagers, sparking a wave of clashes and rioting which has shown no sign of letting up.</p> <p>But Hamas, which praised the synagogue assault, said it was a response to the death earlier this week of a Palestinian bus driver from east Jerusalem who was found hanged inside his vehicle.</p> <p>&quot;The operation in Jerusalem is a response to the murder of the martyr Yusuf Ramuni and to the series of crimes by the occupier at Al-Aqsa,&quot; Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.</p> <p>&quot;Hamas calls for more operations like it.&quot;</p> <p>Police said there was no evidence of foul play in the driver&#39;s death, which it said was suicide, a finding supported by the post-mortem.</p> <p>But colleagues and family said there were signs of violence on his body, claiming he was murdered.</p> <p>And the Palestinian pathologist who attended the post-mortem also ruled out suicide, suggesting he may have been drugged then strangled, the family&#39;s lawyer said.</p> Israel and Palestine Need to Know Israel and Palestine Middle East Tue, 18 Nov 2014 10:23:11 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6317999 at For Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe, Bulgaria isn’t enough <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Many of those stuck in the EU’s poorest country are desperate to get out. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kit Gillet </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SOFIA, Bulgaria &mdash; Sitting on a park bench on this city&rsquo;s outskirts, Aras Mohamad tries to explain why he fled Syria and how he ended up living in a refugee camp in the European Union&rsquo;s poorest country.</p> <p>Fighting was raging around the university dormitory in Homs where he lived, the 25-year-old Kurd says.</p> <p>&ldquo;One day I was taking a bus and IS fighters pulled it over,&rdquo; he says, referring to the radical militant Islamic State. &ldquo;They said they could easily kill me because I&rsquo;m a Kurd, but they let me go after I gave them all my money.&rdquo;</p> <p>Crossing through Turkey, Mohammad arrived in Bulgaria, the EU&rsquo;s easternmost country, where he lives in a communist-era woodwork academy that&rsquo;s been repurposed as a refugee camp.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m just trying to have the best possible life for me and to support my family,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>Reaching the EU alone wasn&rsquo;t enough for that. Now he plans to leave Bulgaria as soon as he obtains all his documentation in order to look for work further west.</p> <p>&ldquo;Bulgaria can&rsquo;t help me with work,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Bulgarians can&rsquo;t find a job here, so how can Syrians?&rdquo;</p> <p>Last year, the Bulgarian government came under strong criticism as it struggled to handle some 11,600 refugees who came flooding into the country, most of them fleeing conflicts in the Middle East. That was five times the normal level and led to overcrowded living conditions, few resources and poor communication with those arriving, many of whom were left to wait months for their refugee status to be processed.</p> <p>But with more prosperous EU members grumbling about taking on refugees during a year of record levels for illegal migrants, prospects for establishing a secure life elsewhere aren&#39;t good.</p> <p>Although new arrivals to Bulgaria are down to around 3,000 this year, thanks in no small part to the construction of a controversial fence along the border with Turkey, Bulgaria continues to struggle with integrating people who for the most part know nothing about the country and don&rsquo;t want to be here.</p> <p>Bulgaria hosts a dozen refugee camps, typically abandoned communist-era buildings now used as temporary shelters. Inside, hundreds of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and others wait for their papers to be processed in the hope that being granted official refugee status will enable them to move elsewhere in the EU.</p> <p>&ldquo;They don&rsquo;t learn the language, and without that they won&rsquo;t find a job or make a life for themselves,&rdquo; says Nadezhda Todorovska, head of social welfare at the Bulgarian Red Cross, which offers language and vocation classes at the camps as well as other physical and psychological assistance.</p> <p>They&rsquo;re not the only ones who want to leave.</p> <p>Bulgaria has been hemorrhaging its own workforce for years as people have gone overseas looking for better-paid opportunities.</p> <p>Two years of political turmoil in the country have contributed to economic stagnation and a growing sense of crisis among many Bulgarians.</p> <p>Refugees arriving in the country often find themselves greeted with suspicion and few work prospects. Earlier this year, residents of one village tried to stop refugee children from attending a local school. Racially motivated attacks have also occurred.</p> <p>A humbling report issued in late September by the State Agency for Refugees showed that in the previous four months, just 19 legal refugees had signed employment contracts.</p> <p>For the lucky who do find work, average wages are the equivalent of just $510 a month. Minimum wages here are around $233, the lowest in the EU.</p> <p>More than 600 refugees live in the Ovcha Kupel camp on Sofia&rsquo;s outskirts, where the paint is peeling and conditions are basic.</p> <p>Occupants receive two meals a day and can choose to take classes in Bulgarian language, hairdressing, sewing and cosmetics in order to have at least some work prospects.</p> <p>Few refugees arrive with documentation that can vouch for their professional training, if they have any.</p> <p>&ldquo;We left because IS is targeting Kurds,&rdquo; says Ari Rasho, 27, a Kurdish furniture maker who fled Syria with his wife and 2-year-old son six weeks ago. &ldquo;Most of my friends and family are also leaving.&rdquo;</p> <p>Rasho had paid traffickers more than $6,000 to take him and his family all the way to Britain. They were dropped off in a park in Sofia instead and left to fend for themselves.</p> <p>&ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t know anything, how to speak Bulgarian or how to do anything,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;so we were caught by the police.&rdquo;</p> <p>Like almost all the refugees GlobalPost interviewed, Rasho plans to leave Bulgaria as soon as he and his family are able to, although many EU countries, notably the UK, have shown a reluctance to take in additional refugees.</p> <p>Seventy percent of EU asylum applications are made in Germany, Sweden, France, Britain and Italy.</p> <p>Most asylum seekers entering Bulgaria try to cross the country without being stopped in order to seek asylum in Western Europe.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Europe looks left</a></strong></p> <p>Although those who gain official refugee status in one EU country can travel to other countries in the bloc for up to three months, they&rsquo;re expected to return to the place they were registered.</p> <p>That means that if they&rsquo;re caught overstaying, they&rsquo;re returned to Bulgaria.</p> <p>&ldquo;We hear that Germany wants to send back 3,000 refugees [to Bulgaria], though so far only 100 returned,&rdquo; the Red Cross&rsquo;s Todorovska days.</p> <p>Not all refugees have given up on making lives for themselves here, however.</p> <p>&ldquo;I knew nothing about Bulgaria before arriving,&rdquo; says Mohamad Ajub, a 22-year-old Afghan who arrived two months ago. &ldquo;I just want to live somewhere safe. If I can find work here, I&#39;ll stay.&rdquo;</p> refugees Conflict Zones Want to Know Europe Tue, 18 Nov 2014 05:30:15 +0000 Kit Gillet 6317551 at Indonesia subjects female police applicants to virginity tests <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Young women are forced to undress in front of others. Fingers are 'inserted.' </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Marie Dhumieres </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JAKARTA &mdash; Indonesia wants more policewomen. Last April, the authorities launched a massive and unprecedented recruitment campaign, and 7,000 women are currently undergoing training.</p> <p> But becoming a policewoman in Indonesia is not easy. Requirements for female candidates include being 17.5 to 22 years old, not being or having been married, and having completed high school.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Other general requirements, head of the policewomen academy Sri Handayani explained to Indonesian magazine Tempo last year, include &ldquo;fearing God&rdquo; (meaning following one of the six officially recognized religions), not needing glasses, and being at least 165 centimeters tall (about 65 inches).<br /> &nbsp;<br /> What she failed to mention at the time is that female applicants are also expected to be virgins.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> This &ldquo;discriminatory and degrading&rdquo; requirement, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls virginity tests in a report published Monday, is actually clearly stated on the national police jobs website. &ldquo;In addition to the medical and physical tests, women who want to be policewomen must also undergo virginity tests,&rdquo; the website says. &ldquo;So all women who want to become policewomen should keep their virginity.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> But several of the female applicants interviewed by HRW said they found out about the test just before it took place.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> One of the women, who applied in 2013, said she was &ldquo;shocked&rdquo; when she was told that the health tests included &ldquo;checking our insides&rdquo; and a virginity test. &ldquo;I felt embarrassed, nervous, but I couldn&rsquo;t refuse,&rdquo; she says, clearly distressed.</p> <p> &ldquo;If I had refused, I couldn&rsquo;t have become a policewoman.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Another woman said the conditions in which the test was conducted were far from ideal. She had to fully undress in front of 20 other candidates, and the virginity test took place in a separate room that had no door, alongside a second applicant.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> &ldquo;Entering the virginity test examination room was really upsetting. I feared that after they performed the test I would not be a virgin anymore. They inserted two fingers. It really hurt. My friend even fainted because ... it really hurt,&rdquo; she said.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> While she understood the point of health checkups, she called virginity tests &ldquo;unnecessary&rdquo; and &ldquo;irrelevant.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> &ldquo;It was painful and humiliating,&rdquo; she said.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> At the police headquarters in Jakarta, the head of the health center, Rusdianto (who like many Indonesians only goes by one name) would rather not talk too much about virginity tests. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not only a virginity test, it&rsquo;s also a genital and urinary examination to check for diseases and infections,&rdquo; he insists. He also says the virginity tests do not eliminate candidates.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Asked why virginity tests are needed, he stays vague. &ldquo;All tests&rdquo; conducted are meant to get &ldquo;the best&rdquo; applicants, he says.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> The tests are a longstanding practice. One retired police officer told HRW her class had to undergo virginity tests in 1965.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an old practice based on belief that a [female] virgin is healthier and morally fitter,&rdquo; HRW Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono says.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> He called for the authorities to immediately abolish the &ldquo;humiliating&rdquo; practice, which he says goes against Indonesia&rsquo;s human rights law. He also notes Indonesia has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and that the national police principles for recruitment need to be &ldquo;nondiscriminatory&rdquo; and &ldquo;humane.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> National Police High Commissioner Sri Rumiati told HRW she had been trying to have virginity tests banned for years.</p> <p> She herself had to undergo the test thirty years ago. Last time she raised the issue, at a human resources meeting in 2010, she says a colleague responded with, &ldquo;Do we want to have prostitutes joining the police?&rdquo;</p> <p>But she says the official in charge of human resources ended up requesting an end to the tests. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know why it&rsquo;s still taking place,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p> Sri Mulyati, a women&rsquo;s rights activist who has long worked on the subject, says the practice is not limited to the police. She says women in the army also have to undergo the test, as well as women willing to &ldquo;marry a member of the police or the army.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Andy Yentriyani, commissioner at the National Commission on Violence Against Women, notes that it&rsquo;s not the first time Indonesia has had this debate.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> In 2013, the education agency in the city of Prabumulih (Sumatra) announced a plan to add virginity tests to high school admission requirements. The agency said it had noticed increasing instances of premarital sex and prostitution. The project faced strong opposition, and has been abandoned for the time being.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Yentriyani laments that for women, virginity is still seen as a &ldquo;symbol of purity&rdquo; in this Muslim-majority country. She says she believes sexual education would be more efficient than what she calls a &ldquo;misogynist&rdquo; practice that goes against &ldquo;basic principles of human dignity and human rights.&rdquo;</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets Indonesia Tue, 18 Nov 2014 01:01:25 +0000 Marie Dhumieres 6317382 at Even with social media boost, big challenges ahead for Rohingya advocates <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Other pressing issues threaten to overtake the fight to return citizenship to the beleaguered Muslim minority. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jessica Mendoza </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>A social media campaign to bring awareness to a heavily persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar, also known as Burma, has borne some fruit: In his official visit to the country last week, President Obama took a cue from the hashtag <a href=";src=tyah">#JustSayTheirName</a> and did exactly that.</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">&ldquo;Discrimination toward the Rohingya or any other religious minority does not express the kind of country, over the long term, that Burma wants to be,&rdquo; Obama <a href=" ">said</a> at a Thursday news conference in Yangon, where he met with Myanmar opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.</span></p> <!--break--><!--break--><p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Human rights activists, for the most part, welcomed Obama&rsquo;s show of support for the Rohingya. &ldquo;It was quite a positive, strong statement,&rdquo; said Mabrur Ahmed, co-director and founder of <a href=" ">Restless Beings</a>, a UK-based international nonprofit that aims to give voice to marginalized people. But a social media campaign is not enough, he said; much still needs to be done before the Rohingya and other religious minorities can regain their place as citizens in Burmese society.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><strong>Oppressed and extorted</strong></p> <p>The Rohingya have faced state-sanctioned discrimination since at least 1962, when dictator Ne Win introduced plans to revoke their rights and began dissolving their social and political organizations, according to the <a href=" ">International Observatory on Statelessness</a>. In 1974 the Rohingya were stripped of Burmese nationality, and by 1978, more than 200,000 Rohingya had fled to Banglasdesh. The Citizenship Law introduced in 1982 officially categorized the group as &ldquo;non national&rdquo; or &ldquo;foreign residents.&rdquo;</p> <p>Today, the state views all 1.3 million Rohingya from the western state of Rakhine as <a href=" ">illegal immigrants</a> from Bangladesh, leaving them out of the census, evicting them from their homes and confiscating their lands.</p> <p>Earlier this year, in a new draft policy called the <a href="http://">Rakhine Action Plan</a>, the government proposed to assess the entire Rohingya population&rsquo;s eligibility as citizens, resettle those who prove qualified and detain the rest. Human rights advocates have condemned the plan, calling it a gross denial of a people&rsquo;s identity that amounts to ethnic cleansing.</p> <p>&ldquo;The plan demands that any Rohingya applying for citizenship must consent to be classified as a &lsquo;Bengali&#39; in accordance with Myanmar&#39;s official view of the group,&rdquo; Emanuel Stoakes, a human rights researcher and journalist,&nbsp;<a href=" ">wrote for GlobalPost</a>. &ldquo;It also states that those &lsquo;without adequate documents&rsquo; will be placed in &lsquo;temporary camps&rsquo; &mdash; a fate that may befall tens of thousands of families, if not more, who do not have government-produced paperwork despite their presence in the country for generations.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Rohingya have also been <a href=" ">subject to violence</a> from both the military and radical Buddhists. Sectarian riots that broke out in 2012 led to hundreds of casualties, most of them Muslim, and dozens of villages burned.</p> <p>Since then, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to move into <a href="http://">crammed displacement camps</a> that lack even basic health services. Tens of thousands more have fled the country, some even <a href=" ">bribing </a>officials&nbsp;to get on overcrowded boats that will take them to Thailand or Malaysia.</p> <p>&ldquo;Not only are the authorities making life so intolerable for Rohingya that they&rsquo;re forced to flee, but they&rsquo;re also profiting from the exodus,&rdquo; Matthew Smith, executive director of Bangkok-based human rights group Fortify Rights, told The Guardian. &ldquo;This is a regional crisis that&rsquo;s worsening while Myanmar authorities are treating it like a perverse payday.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Slow progress</strong></p> <p>Even as humanitarian groups fight for the Rohingya&rsquo;s right to citizenship, a pressing health issue is arising in the displacement camps where hundreds of thousands of Muslims are living in deteriorating conditions. Al Jazeera <a href="">reports</a> that the Rohingya are not allowed to leave the camps without permission, and most of them are unemployed and rely on World Food Program rations.</p> <p>Health care has been almost nonexistent in the displacement camps since February this year, when the government <a href=" ">expelled</a> the medical nonprofit M&eacute;dicins San Fronti&eacute;res &ndash; the largest health services provider in Rakhine &ndash; (MSF) after volunteers with the charity said they had treated people that they believed were victims of sectarian violence. Weeks later, more than 700 aid workers also left the country after Buddhist gangs attacked their homes and offices, <a href="">according to The Washington Post</a>.</p> <p>The result is a health crisis on top of the existing humanitarian one.</p> <p>&ldquo;We need [non-government organizations] back there,&rdquo; said Ahmed, who through Restless Beings has worked to give voice to the Rohingya for almost a decade.</p> <p>The final goal, however, is still recognition of the Rohingya as citizens, he said &ndash; and advocates can&rsquo;t lose sight of that.</p> <p>The viral campaign supporting the Rohingya&rsquo;s cause and the resulting condemnation of the Myanmar government from the international community are proof of some progress. Though social media itself has few tangible effects on a humanitarian issue, Ahmed said, the awareness that a campaign such as #JustSayTheirName generates can result in political pressure in the right places &ndash; pressure that could eventually lead to real change.</p> <p>&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t mean that tomorrow Obama will say, &lsquo;I had a word with the Myanmar president and everyone&rsquo;s going to live happily ever after,&rsquo;&rdquo; Ahmed said. &ldquo;But just mentioning the word is a huge step forward.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> Rohingya Myanmar Rights Mon, 17 Nov 2014 20:21:59 +0000 Jessica Mendoza 6317461 at How Peter Kassig’s friends are choosing to remember him <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> His humanitarian work spoke for itself, but the impact he had on the people who knew him was immeasurable. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Richard Hall </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BEIRUT, Lebanon &mdash; Peter Kassig was curious, kind and brave. His journey from Indianapolis to the refugee camps of Lebanon and Syria would have been impossible were he not.</p> <p>He came to Beirut in 2012 during spring break from Butler University in Indiana to learn more about the region in which he had once served as a soldier.</p> <p>A few years earlier he had fought in Iraq, an experience that changed him dramatically. When he returned to this part of the world two years ago he came with a different mission.</p> <p>&ldquo;I wanted to better understand my role in the conflict in Iraq and its impact on the Middle East in general from a personal perspective and from the perspective of the Arab world,&rdquo; he said in an <a href="">interview with TIME</a> in 2013, explaining his motivations for coming to Beirut.&nbsp;</p> <p>He also wanted to help the many Syrians who had been forced to flee a devastating war across the border. He volunteered at a hospital in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, where he used his medical training to treat Syrian refugees injured in the conflict.</p> <p>Later, he would go even further. At just 24 years old, he co-founded a humanitarian organization called Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or Sera. It was a two-man team, but their reach was ambitious.</p> <p>The organization delivered aid in the form of food and cooking materials, medical supplies, and clothing in Lebanon and Syria.</p> <p>Peter would deliver the aid personally to the far reaches of eastern Syria, at a time when journalists would no longer set foot there. When he was there he treated the injured, no matter what their status or affiliation.</p> <p>He made two trips to Syria before he was taken by the Islamic State, in October 2013, while traveling to Deir Ezzour. He would convert to Islam during his captivity, changing his name to Abdul-Rahman. His family believes the conversion <a href="">was genuine</a>.</p> <p>I recently returned to Beirut after four years away. His time here filled that gap in more ways than one.</p> <p>If it is true that one can judge a man by the effect he has on his friends, then there is no better tribute to Peter. Because to hear the people who knew and loved him talk about and remember him, is to witness something very special indeed.</p> <p>I never met Peter, but the tight-knit nature of Beirut&rsquo;s expat community meant we ended up sharing many friends. Over the past few weeks there has rarely been a moment when he was not on their minds.</p> <p>Whenever they gathered they would share memories, naturally and unprompted. They spoke about his enduring idealism and the crazy places it took him. But most of all his warm nature and kindness.</p> <p>&ldquo;He had this way of making you feel good about yourself, which was totally genuine and unaffected,&rdquo; says Sam Tarling, a photographer and close friend based here in Beirut.</p> <p>&ldquo;Amid all the dark shit that was and still is the conflict in Syria he was a rare spark of hope. He had no illusions of grandeur and wasn&#39;t trying to save the world but was still adamant he&#39;d do as much as he possibly could, which was somehow comforting to know.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Pete was one of those souls you rarely come across in life, but when you do, they stay with you forever,&rdquo; says Olivia Alabaster, another friend.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;He had this enduring positivity about the world and about people that you don&#39;t find very often.&rdquo;</p> <p>Michael Downey became friends with Peter when living with him for a time in 2012.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;The couch in our apartment that Pete would routinely crash on, even after he had his own apartment, was the most decrepit, uncomfortable slab of furniture out there. He affectionately referred to is as &lsquo;the donkey farm,&#39; but he didn&#39;t mind or complain, he loved his friends and being with people, enjoying life was part of what defined him.&rdquo;</p> <p>Josh Wood, who lived in the apartment with the two of them, describes his friend&rsquo;s infectious compassion.</p> <p>&ldquo;It didn&#39;t take long after meeting Pete to know he was special. He was a young, clean-shaved kid from Indiana who showed up in the Middle East because he saw an overwhelming need and wanted to help &mdash;&nbsp;so he did.</p> <p>&ldquo;In the early days, he would use his few words of Arabic to get up to the Syrian border to see the refugee crisis first hand. Peter knew intimately the suffering that war has brought the people of the Middle East and wanted to be there for them.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>There were the little things, too.</p> <p>Friend Naziha Baassiri remembers how he &ldquo;gave the biggest hugs every time you saw him. You could hardly breathe.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Kassig&#39;s family has asked that contributions in honor of their son be made to the <a href="" target="_blank">Syrian American Medical Society</a>, which is working to meet the medical needs of Syrians displaced and injured by war.</em></p> Need to Know Syria Middle East Mon, 17 Nov 2014 20:04:00 +0000 Richard Hall 6317337 at EU is deeply divided on imposing more sanctions on Russia <!--paging_filter--><p>European Union governments moved to put more Ukrainian separatists under asset freezes and travel bans on Monday but took no action to step up economic sanctions on Russia despite voicing alarm about an upsurge of violence in Ukraine.</p> <p>EU foreign ministers in Brussels asked officials to put forward names of an unspecified number of pro-Russian separatists to be added to the EU&#39;s sanctions list by the end of the month.</p> <p>&quot;Sanctions ... are an effective tool in a broader strategy,&quot; the EU&#39;s new foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, told a news conference, adding that she would visit Kyiv as soon as a new government is formed. She said she was open to visiting Moscow &quot;if the conditions are there&quot;.</p> <p>Around 120 Ukrainian and Russian officials are already under EU asset freezes and travel bans.</p> <p>Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine have risen again as a result of a Nov. 2 election by eastern Ukraine separatists, repeated ceasefire violations and NATO&#39;s assertions &mdash; denied by Moscow &mdash; that Russia has sent tanks and troops to eastern Ukraine in recent days.</p> <p>The EU foreign ministers called in a statement for &quot;a halt to the continuous violations of the ceasefire, a withdrawal of all illegal and foreign forces, mercenaries and military equipment.&quot;</p> <p>The ministers called on Ukraine to redouble its economic and political reform efforts and urged Russia, Ukraine and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to intensify talks.</p> <p>Mogherini expressed her own readiness to help resolve the crisis. &quot;Russia is part of the problem but is also for sure part of the solution,&quot; Mogherini said.</p> <p>The former Italian foreign minister also asked ministers to discuss how the EU can re-launch a dialogue with Russia.</p> <p>Germany&#39;s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will travel to Kyiv and Moscow on Tuesday.</p> <p>The EU&#39;s 28 member states are deeply divided about imposing more economic sanctions on Russia, the bloc&#39;s main energy supplier, fearing the measures and possible Russian reprisals could hurt their own economies.</p> <p>Ministers signaled that any discussion of tighter economic sanctions, in addition to measures already taken targeting the finance, energy and defense sectors, would probably have to wait until EU leaders meet in Brussels on Dec. 18 and 19.</p> <p>Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said the EU should start preparations now so leaders could quickly take tough sanctions on Russia if Moscow acted aggressively in Ukraine.</p> <p>EU countries such as the Baltic states, Britain, Poland and Sweden have consistently pushed for tougher sanctions while countries such as Austria, Greece and Cyprus are reluctant.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Robert-Jan Bartunek, Sabine Siebold, Julia Fioretti and Francesco Guarascio; editing by Ralph Boulton/Ruth Pitchford)</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 17 Nov 2014 19:12:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6317471 at After 50 days, rifts emerge among Hong Kong’s protesters <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Mong Kok camp braces for court-ordered destruction, exposing the movement’s angry, working-class underbelly. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tom Grundy </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>HONG KONG &mdash; &ldquo;If they clear here, I think protesters should find an occupy site other than Mong Kok,&rdquo; says Wong Yeung-Tat, the enigmatic, often controversial, leader of the political group Civic Passion. But exhausted as many are, few at the camp have any appetite to leave quietly.</p> <p>For just over 50 days, activists spread across three protest sites have been unified in demanding full universal suffrage from Beijing. Things have remained largely peaceful at the two camps on Hong Kong Island, but demonstrators in Mong Kok have endured violent clashes with masked triads and counter-protesters angry about the disruption.</p> <p>In recent weeks, feces, flammable liquids and even insects have been hurled at them, forcing protesters to erect nets above certain areas of the four-lane road they inhabit. A month ago, thousands descended upon the area after police attempted to shrink the site. Hours of messy street battles ensued until police retreated. A tense stalemate has prevailed ever since with no political compromise in sight.</p> <p>Each night in Mong Kok, speakers on multiple podiums rally protesters, competing with each other for hearts and minds. Occupiers, curious onlookers and foreign tourists wander between hundreds of colorful tents, several supply centers, first aid posts and improvised religious shrines. Weathered posters and countless placards are strewn across each side of Nathan Road, a famous shopping thoroughfare and an essential transport artery for the Kowloon Peninsula.</p> <p>Most businesses remain open along the &ldquo;golden mile&rdquo; as makeshift barricades, assembled from wooden pallets, bamboo scaffolds and the remnants of broken umbrellas, mark the borders of the camp. At least seven cardboard cut-outs of Chinese President Xi Jinping guard the protester cordons. More than a humorous aside, the mere presence of the life-size Xis is said to &ldquo;deter&rdquo; pro-China antagonists, or so it is hoped.</p> <p>Now, after complaints of lost income, a minibus drivers&#39; association has won a court injunction permitting bailiffs to &ldquo;clear obstructions&rdquo; in Mong Kok with police backing. It makes for a jittery atmosphere at what is commonly regarded as the resilient front line of the umbrella movement demonstrations.</p> <p>The camp&rsquo;s more aggressive politics stand in contrast to the ordered, often jovial mood of the meticulously clean and regimented Admiralty site. It is also where Hong Kong&rsquo;s post-colonial identity crisis has come to a head.</p> <p><strong>#HongKong&rsquo;s gritty underbelly</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;We are Hong Kongers, not Chinese,&rdquo; Wong Yeung-Tat insists. He is in good company. A Chinese University poll found last week that just 8.9 percent of respondents identified as &ldquo;Chinese,&rdquo; a record low.</p> <p>Since the occupations began, Wong has attracted hordes of formerly apathetic young people to his populist platform deeply critical of Beijing. Wong&rsquo;s influence stems partly from the success of his social media-savvy publication Passion Times.</p> <p>Though some of its content is sensationalist and even inflammatory toward the movement&rsquo;s original conveners, his team members are continually embedded at the protest sites publishing online multimedia updates in real time. Wong&rsquo;s expletive-ridden speeches and lively talk shows draw large crowds in Mong Kok, where he holds considerable sway.</p> <p>&ldquo;We try to protect Hong Kong culture from mainland Chinese influence. For example, our language, our education [system], our media, our values, our standards. We try to protect &lsquo;one country, two systems,&rsquo;&rdquo; Wong says, referring to the principle that underpinned Britain&rsquo;s handover of its colony to communist China in 1997. &ldquo;We think it is more and more &lsquo;one country&rsquo;&hellip; the &lsquo;two systems&rsquo; is disappearing.&rdquo;</p> <p>On the very spot where Wong laments the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;mainland-ization,&rdquo; four branches of the same jewelry store are within view. Rents have soared in areas popular with mainland shoppers and some businesses have been criticized for converting signs, price lists and menus from traditional to simplified Chinese characters, used on the mainland. According to the Tourism Commission, Hong Kong welcomed almost 41 million tourists from China last year. In Mong Kok&rsquo;s occupied zone alone, no less than 40 watch and jewelry stores cater to the newly affluent influx of visitors.</p> <p>The rapid gentrification of Nathan Road towards wealthy consumers has been noted by Evan Fowler, a local writer who is soon to launch a campaign to document Hong Kong identity issues. He says that the Mong Kok camp is a &ldquo;more local&rdquo; protest where people are expressing concern about visitors &ldquo;coming to Hong Kong and changing the very make up of their home.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;What you&rsquo;re seeing in Mong Kok, and with groups like Civic Passion, is a guttural reaction to how [people&rsquo;s] lives are actually changing,&rdquo; Fowler says. &ldquo;There are a number of shops which are not serving the community at all.&rdquo;</p> <p>Such fears receive less of an airing at the occupy camp near government headquarters in Admiralty. Fowler says the main camp over on Hong Kong Island &ldquo;is probably a bit too hippy-ish for the Mong Kok crowd&rdquo; who, he imagines, are generally &ldquo;less idealistic.&rdquo;</p> <p>Some protesters, such as Lavina Au, a 17-year-old secondary school student, agree. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like that the people in Admiralty treat this movement as entertainment,&rdquo; she says. Compared to the drama and tension of Mong Kok, Au says that Admiralty is a relative fairground. Nevertheless, the movement&rsquo;s two most prominent student leaders are keen to play down any disparities between the protests camps, preferring to present a more united front.</p> <p>&ldquo;We still have the same aim,&rdquo; says Joshua Wong, co-founder of the student group Scholarism. His counterpart at the Hong Kong Federation of Students, Alex Chow, is equally firm. &ldquo;We have been working with people in Mong Kok quite well,&rdquo; he says. But not everyone feels that ordinary people&rsquo;s views are being heard at the main site where the local media are focused.</p> <p>On Oct. 26, a referendum planned by the original Occupy Central organizers was canceled, in part due to a pushback from protesters in Mong Kok. The poll aimed to gather views on the future of the &ldquo;leaderless&rdquo; movement but many saw it as an assertion of authority by Occupy Central convener Benny Tai. The University of Hong Kong law professor proposed the civil disobedience campaign two years ago but, in the run-up to the ill-fated referendum, his image began appearing next to Hitler and Mussolini&rsquo;s on posters around Mong Kok. Deliberations over constitutional reform bore little relevance to dissenters on this side of the harbor.</p> <p>Albert Chan, co-founder of the radical pro-democracy political party People Power, says that &ldquo;Mong Kok is very special &hellip; especially for the grassroots people.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Mong Kok&#39;s brutal reality<br /> </strong></p> <p>Beyond mythic images of the area as a neon-lit hotbed of crime, grime and grit, it is also the heart of working-class Hong Kong and home to many of the city&rsquo;s poor and elderly. It is a focal point for &ldquo;working classes, unskilled labor [and] people living in the public housing estates,&rdquo; says Chan, a veteran legislator with little patience for the mainstream pan-democratic parties.</p> <p>Like others on site, Chan does not believe protesters in Mong Kok will be following Benny Tai&rsquo;s advice to await arrest when &ldquo;clearance day&rdquo; arrives. &ldquo;There will be more physical confrontation and some protesters may move to different areas, different streets. I do believe less people here will be willing to be arrested,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>Some of the &ldquo;real Hong Kongers&rdquo; Chan speaks of have little to lose. The city has one of the widest poverty gaps in the developed world, according to the United Nations. Mong Kok is infamous for its coffin-like &ldquo;cage home&rdquo; dwellings hidden in old subdivided apartments around the district. With little in the way of social welfare, elderly residents and the working poor pay a small fortune for caged beds in sweltering dormitories or slum-like shacks on rooftops.</p> <p>Last year, the government said 1.3 million people, in a city of 7 million, lived under the poverty line. Matters of social inequality, as well as identity issues, have come to the forefront at the protests.</p> <p>Chester Tsang, a 21-year-old part-time student, spent the first 20 days of the protest at the Admiralty site before switching to Mong Kok where he is a volunteer first aider. He says that those on the bottom rungs of society look to Mong Kok where underlying social issues are more often discussed. However, he says the real change will come from the debate in Admiralty and that those in Mong Kok too often see things in &quot;black and white.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;They don&#39;t know too much about politics but they still want to change their own lives, so they&#39;re depending on the students here,&quot; says Tsang, who has spotted homeless people and drug users visiting the site. &quot;It isn&#39;t only about fighting for democracy, we have different social needs. My generation, we care about social justice. My mother&#39;s generation cared about a roof on their heads. My grandmother&#39;s generation, they just wanted warm food on their table.&quot;</p> <p>Tsang is concerned about unrest in Mong Kok and says the camp needs more &ldquo;sensible people.&rdquo; But few know what the coming week has in store.</p> <p><strong>Blaming the Brits</strong></p> <p>One speaker rallying crowds in Mong Kok is already eyeing a new battle ground. Daniel Ma, a 20-year-old student, expects to mobilize at least 50 people to occupy the grounds of the British consulate on Friday, Nov. 21. He says London has a legal obligation to defend the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which gave rise to Hong Kong&rsquo;s high degree of autonomy under China.</p> <p>&ldquo;The promise and the reality is not the same. Therefore we are angry and afraid &mdash; we want to change our future,&rdquo; Ma says. &ldquo;They have kept silent. China has breached the Joint Declaration but the UK has done nothing on the Hong Kong issue.&rdquo;</p> <p>The old British Hong Kong colonial flag has become a common sight around the Mong Kok camp. For most, it is simply a symbol of resistance, a provocative middle-finger intended to enrage Beijing. Ma says a small minority do actually want the British to return. An even smaller minority are calling for complete independence. Both are highly unlikely but, in Mong Kok, an entire spectrum of more radical views are expressed. One academic says that radical ideas are a healthy part of any movement.</p> <p>&ldquo;Mong Kok certainly is more assertive, more individualistic,&rdquo; says Dan Garrett, a PhD candidate studying protest culture at City University of Hong Kong. &ldquo;Much like in the US with the civil rights movement, you had Martin Luther King which represented the moderate aspect of civil disobedience. Then you had the folks like Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and, quite frankly, the white establishment would not have cooperated &hellip; if there was not a more radical, alternative pressure on them.&rdquo;</p> <p>As the umbrella movement stretches into its eighth week of protest, it has inevitably become a platform for a range of grievances and has exposed underlying disputes in a decades-long democracy debate. However, some of the more fanatical views on display in Mong Kok may increase the bargaining power of the student leaders at the main site by making them appear more moderate in contrast.</p> <p>And while the birth pangs of any new movement are messy and unpredictable, Hong Kong&rsquo;s fight for universal suffrage is destined to continue long after the protest camps are cleared.</p> Occupy Want to Know Asia-Pacific China Global Economy Political Risk Mon, 17 Nov 2014 18:09:32 +0000 Tom Grundy 6317216 at Sudan denies UN access to Darfur village to check mass rape accusations <!--paging_filter--><p>Sudan has refused to let UN and African Union peacekeepers visit a village in the western Darfur region to investigate allegations of mass rape for the second time this month, saying it was skeptical about the motives for the visit.</p> <p>The United Nations said Sudanese troops initially denied members of the joint peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, access to Tabit in north Darfur earlier this month.</p> <p>The force was later allowed to visit the area and said in a statement on Nov. 10 that it had found no evidence to substantiate media reports that Sudanese soldiers had raped about 200 women and girls there. UNAMID said it intended to conduct further investigations and patrols in the area.</p> <p>But Sudan&#39;s foreign ministry issued a statement late on Sunday saying it had denied UNAMID entry to the area because the mission had sought to bypass Khartoum and had gone directly to Darfuri authorities for a permit on Saturday.</p> <p>&quot;Sudan is skeptical about the motives behind the mission&#39;s insistence on a second visit to the Tabit area,&quot; the foreign ministry said.</p> <p>A UNAMID spokesman in Sudan was not immediately available for comment on the government decision.</p> <p>Law and order have collapsed in much of Darfur, where mainly non-Arab rebels took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, accusing it of discriminating against them. UNAMID has been deployed in the region since 2007.</p> <p>Last month, an internal UN review found that UNAMID had failed to provide U.N. headquarters in New York with full reports on attacks against civilians and peacekeepers. The review had been ordered in response to media reports alleging that UNAMID intentionally covered up details of deadly attacks.</p> <p>(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Writing by Mahmoud Mourad, Editing by Lin Noueihed and Andrew Heavens)</p> Need to Know Sudan Middle East Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:34:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6317368 at Romanian PM calls for stability after defeat in presidential elections <!--paging_filter--><p>Prime Minister Victor Ponta looked to allay fears of political tensions in Romania after suffering surprise defeat in presidential elections, saying on Monday he was committed to dialogue and stability.</p> <p>Provincial mayor Klaus Iohannis, who was backed by two center-right parties, defied expectations to win Sunday&#39;s run-off ballot &mdash; a result that maintains a potentially destabilizing split between the country&#39;s executive powers.</p> <p>At a subdued press conference, Ponta agreed to a demand by the president-elect to scrap a corruption amnesty bill pending in parliament, helping his opponent make good on a campaign promise and allay EU concerns over graft in the country.</p> <p>&quot;I express our desire for dialogue with the new legitimate president of Romania,&quot; Ponta said. &quot;I am absolutely confident that he will want to cooperate and do good for the Romanian people and the country.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;Secondly, Romania more than ever needs stability and predictability,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Analysts had said a victory for Ponta might have bolstered Romania, with the main levers of power held by one bloc. By contrast, although he distances himself from the outgoing president&#39;s combative style, Iohannis&#39;s win may trigger renewed political tensions in one of Europe&#39;s poorest states.</p> <p>&quot;The relationship between Social Democrat PM Ponta and center-right president-elect Klaus Iohannis will likely be strained,&quot; said Otilia Dhand at Teneo Intelligence.</p> <p>However, the leu currency took the surprise result in its stride, and was flat against the euro at 1410 GMT.</p> <p>&quot;In the near term, the political situation could be volatile, but in the longer term, a president from a different part of the political spectrum than the government ... could foster the fragile independence of the judicial system,&quot; bank UniCredit said in a note on Monday.</p> <p><strong>Safeguarding justice</strong></p> <p>The election result was part of a pattern emerging in ex-Communist eastern Europe for voters to use the ballot box to stop any one group or individual from gaining too much power.</p> <p>In Slovakia&#39;s presidential election in March, Prime Minister and frontrunner Robert Fico was trounced amid fears Fico and his center-left party would amass too much power.</p> <p>The former Communist state of 20 million is emerging from painful budget cuts imposed during the global slowdown. Growth rebounded to more than 3 percent in the third quarter of 2014, but corruption and tax evasion are rife, and progress to implement reforms and overhaul a bloated state sector is mixed.</p> <p>Prime minister since 2012, the 42-year-old Ponta often feuded with his rival, outgoing President Traian Basescu, which stymied policymaking and caused a constitutional crisis.</p> <p>Ponta enjoyed a 10-point lead after the first round ballot, but widespread anger at voting problems overseas appeared to galvanize support for the 55-year-old Iohannis, an ethnic German and former physics teacher.</p> <p>Iohannis promised during the campaign to safeguard both the independence of Romania&#39;s judicial system and progress made in tackling corruption.</p> <p>The European Union has raised concerns about a failure to tackle rampant high-level graft in both Romania and neighboring Bulgaria. Both have been kept outside the passport-free Schengen Zone since entering the EU in 2007.</p> <p>Iohannis also pledged economic, health and education reforms, and to create an attractive business climate for foreign investors.</p> <p>But as president he will face a hostile parliamentary majority that could cause more policy wrangling.</p> <p>An early flashpoint could be the 2015 budget, in which Ponta will have to balance spending promises such as pension hikes made during the election campaign with an EU commitment to fiscal discipline. His government might also cut loose an ongoing IMF aid agreement that is due to expire next year.</p> <p>(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Crispian Balmer)</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:43:26 +0000 Luiza Ilie and Radu-Sorin Marinas, Thomson Reuters 6317325 at Palestinian driver found hanged in Jerusalem bus <!--paging_filter--><p>A Palestinian bus driver was found hanged inside his vehicle on Monday, an incident Israeli police described as a suicide but which the driver&#39;s family said they believed was an attack.</p> <p>The driver, 32-year-old Youssef al-Ramouni, was found dead at the start of the route he was supposed to have driven late on Sunday, in an area of Jerusalem close to Jewish settlements and Palestinian neighborhoods.</p> <p>Israeli police said the evidence suggested al-Ramouni had committed suicide, but rumors quickly spread in the Palestinian media that he had been killed by Jewish assailants, fuelling tension and violence in the divided city.</p> <p>&quot;The bus driver committed suicide, there is no other indication other than it was a suicide case,&quot; police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.</p> <p>However, al-Ramouni&#39;s brother, Louy, told Reuters there was no way his brother, the father of two young children, would have killed himself and said there were marks on his body that suggested he had been killed.</p> <p>&quot;I saw the body last night and I saw bruises and marks that he was beaten up,&quot; he said.</p> <p>&quot;There were marks of fingers on the body and also on his back there was a bruise as if he was hit by a hard object. ... Youssef cannot commit suicide, it is not possible, he is leading a good and happy life with his wife and his family,&quot; he added.</p> <p>Israeli police said an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of death. Al-Ramouni&#39;s family has requested that a Palestinian pathologist be present, but it was not clear if that would be allowed.</p> <p>The death comes at a time of heightened tension across Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, where there have been almost daily clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in the predominantly Arab, eastern side of the city.</p> <p>Over the past month, five Israelis and a foreign visitor have been killed by Palestinians, either run over in vehicle-based attacks or stabbed. About a dozen Palestinians have been killed, including those accused of carrying out the attacks.</p> <p>Residents trace the violence in Jerusalem back to July, when a Palestinian teenager was burned to death by Jewish assailants, a revenge attack for the abduction and killing of three Jewish teenagers by Palestinian militants in the West Bank.</p> <p>Tensions have further been fueled by the seven-week war in Gaza and by a dispute over Jerusalem&#39;s holiest site.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Luke Baker and Andrew Heavens)</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:12:14 +0000 Ali Sawafta, Thomson Reuters 6317254 at Sierra Leone doctor dies of Ebola at Nebraska hospital <!--paging_filter--><p>A surgeon from Sierra Leone has died of Ebola at the Nebraska hospital where he was being treated after arriving from West Africa over the weekend, the hospital said on Monday.</p> <p>Dr. Martin Salia, a permanent US resident, contracted the virus while working in a Freetown hospital, according to his family. He was chief medical officer at United Methodist Church&#39;s Kissy Hospital in Sierra Leone when he was confirmed last Tuesday to have contracted Ebola.</p> <p>He was suffering from advanced symptoms, including kidney and respiratory failure, when he arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center on Saturday, the hospital said in a statement. Hospital officials had earlier said he was seriously ill after being airlifted to the United States from West Africa.</p> <p>&quot;Dr. Salia was extremely critical when he arrived here, and unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we weren&#39;t able to save him,&quot; said Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at Nebraska Medical Center, said in a statement on Monday.</p> <p>Salia, 44, was the third Ebola patient treated by the Nebraska hospital and the 10th known case of the virus in the United States.</p> <p>The current outbreak of Ebola is the worst on record. It has killed at least 5,177 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.</p> <p>(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Susan Heavey)</p> Africa Need to Know Mon, 17 Nov 2014 14:44:49 +0000 Colleen Jenkins, Thomson Reuters 6317217 at FARC rebels say they captured a Colombian army general <!--paging_filter--><p>Update:</p> <p><em>Colombia&#39;s FARC rebels confirmed on Tuesday they are holding a Colombian army General Ruben Dario Alzate and two others, whose capture on Sunday led the government to suspend two-year-old peace talks taking place in Havana.</em></p> <p><em>&quot;The three were captured by our units because it involves enemy military personnel, who were carrying out their duties in a war zone,&quot; the statement said.</em></p> <p><em>The FARC on Tuesday also urged the government to return to peace talks and said the incident once again showed the need for a truce in order to improve the climate for the two-year-old negotiations.</em></p> <hr /> <p>Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos suspended peace talks with Marxist FARC rebels following the kidnapping of an army general, throwing into crisis the nation&#39;s efforts to end 50 years of war.</p> <p>General Ruben Dario Alzate, who heads the Titan task force in the Pacific department of Choco, was captured on Sunday afternoon by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), along with another military official and a civilian.</p> <p>&quot;Tomorrow negotiators were to travel to another round of talks in Havana,&quot; Santos said early on Monday. &quot;I will tell them not to go and that the talks are suspended until these people are released.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;We will be attentive in the next 24 hours to the evolution of these incidents,&quot; Santos said.</p> <p>Alzate was captured after disembarking from a boat on a river near the city of Quibdo, during a visit to an energy project, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said.</p> <p>Another official and a lawyer traveling on the boat were also captured, although a soldier at the wheel of the launch managed to escape and inform the authorities.</p> <p>Santos had publicly warned the FARC, formed in 1964 to fight for rural land reform but now involved in the drug trade, that it risked jeopardizing the peace process after the abduction of two soldiers last week and continued attacks on infrastructure.</p> <p>The rebel group has stopped kidnaps for ransom but maintains that military personnel are fair targets in the absence of a ceasefire.</p> <p>Alzate entered the area in a civilian capacity, breaking security protocol, Santos said. He was not accompanied by bodyguards.</p> <p>Troops will be sent to the area to attempt to rescue the three captives, the president said. The government will also work with the International Committee of the Red Cross for their release.</p> <p>FARC leaders in Havana have occasionally dissociated themselves from violent attacks by lower ranks in Colombia, raising the possibility the high command could defuse tension by securing the general&#39;s release.</p> <p>The halt is not the first time the two-year-old talks have been suspended. The FARC stopped them in August 2013 to review the government&#39;s plan to put any peace deal to a referendum. Negotiations resumed several days later.</p> <p>The FARC and government negotiators have reached partial agreement on three of the five points of the agenda for the talks, including land reform, the drug trade and political participation for the rebels.</p> <p>(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; Additional reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Helen Murphy)</p> Need to Know Colombia Mon, 17 Nov 2014 14:23:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6317196 at Japan slips into surprise recession <!--paging_filter--><p>Japan&#39;s economy unexpectedly slipped into recession in the third quarter, setting the stage for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to delay an unpopular sales tax hike and call a snap election two years before he has to go to the polls.</p> <p>The recession comes nearly two years after Abe returned to power promising to revive the economy with his &quot;Abenomics&quot; mix of massive monetary stimulus, spending and reforms, and is unwelcome news for an already shaky global economy.</p> <p>Gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by an annualized 1.6 percent in July-September, after plunging 7.3 percent in the second quarter following a rise in the national sales tax, which clobbered consumer spending.</p> <p>The world&#39;s third-largest economy had been forecast to rebound by 2.1 percent, but consumption and exports remained weak, saddling companies with huge inventories to work off.</p> <p>Abe had said he would look at the data when deciding whether to press ahead with a second increase in the sales tax to 10 percent in October next year, as part of a plan to curb Japan&#39;s huge public debt, the worst among advanced nations.</p> <p>&quot;GDP figures for July-September turned out not so encouraging,&quot; Abe said at a reception after returning from a weeklong overseas tour. &quot;We are seizing a chance to exit long-lasting deflation and we cannot miss that chance,&quot; adding he wanted to analyse the situation and make a decision on the tax.</p> <p>Media had already said Abe could announce his decision to delay the hike for 18 months as early as Tuesday and state his intention to call an election for parliament&#39;s lower house. Ruling party lawmakers expect the poll to be held on Dec. 14.</p> <p>An adviser to Abe termed the economic slide &quot;shocking,&quot; and urged the government to take steps to support the economy.</p> <p>&quot;This is absolutely not a situation in which we should be debating an increase in the consumption tax,&quot; Etsuro Honda, one of the architects of Abe&#39;s reflationary policies, told Reuters.</p> <p>Economy Minister Akira Amari said some economic stimulus was likely, but added it would be hard to craft an exceptionally big package because of the need for fiscal discipline.</p> <p>No election for the lower house need be held until late 2016, but political insiders say Abe wants to lock in his mandate while his ratings are relatively robust. Next year he is expected to push ahead with unpopular policies such as restarting reactors that went off-line after the Fukushima nuclear crisis and a shift away from Japan&#39;s post-war pacifism.</p> <p>Facing a divided and weak opposition, Abe&#39;s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is expected to keep its majority in the lower house, but it could lose some seats.</p> <p><strong>Consumption stagnant</strong></p> <p>A senior LDP lawmaker said he expected the premier to delay the tax hike and call a snap poll, arguing that his &quot;Abenomics&quot; strategy to re-energise the economy was working but needed more time.</p> <p>&quot;The prime minister feels strongly that he wants to make certain of the economic trend so I think he will put off the sales tax rise from next October,&quot; the lawmaker told Reuters.</p> <p>But he added it was vital to recommit to a firm date for the rise in the levy, or risk upsetting investors worried about Japan&#39;s debt, already more than twice the size of its economy.</p> <p>The yen slipped on the poor GDP reading, with the dollar briefly pushing to a seven-year high above 117 yen. The Nikkei stock average fell 3 percent.</p> <p>Sluggish growth and easing price pressures due to sliding global oil prices prompted the Bank of Japan to unexpectedly expand its massive monetary stimulus last month.</p> <p>Abe inherited the sales tax plan when he took power in December 2012. The LDP, its smaller ally and the then-ruling Democratic Party enacted the legislation requiring the tax to be raised unless economic conditions were judged too weak.</p> <p>The GDP data showed the April hike to 8 percent from 5 percent had made it harder than anticipated for the public to shake off their deflationary mindset, Amari said, although he noted one bright spot in strong corporate profits.</p> <p>On a quarterly basis, the economy shrank 0.4 percent in the third quarter after a revised 1.9 percent decrease in April-June. Economists had expected growth of 0.5 percent.</p> <p>Private consumption, accounting for about 60 percent of the economy, rose 0.4 percent from the previous quarter, half as much as expected. Wage growth has not kept pace with price rises, so a key mechanism of Abenomics is not working yet.</p> <p>Some economists, however, said growth could improve in the October-December quarter.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto, Stanley White and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by William Mallard, Kim Coghill and Simon Cameron-Moore)</p> Need to Know Japan Mon, 17 Nov 2014 14:09:00 +0000 Leika Kihara and Linda Sieg, Thomson Reuters 6317159 at Briton, Frenchman seen in Islamic State video of beheadings <!--paging_filter--><p>A British medical student and a Frenchman who went to Syria last year are believed to have appeared in a video showing a squad of Islamic State militants beheading Syrian soldiers and displaying the severed head of American aid worker Peter Kassig.</p> <p>Ahmed Muthana told Britain&#39;s Daily Mail newspaper his 20-year-old son, Nasser Muthana, appeared to be among the group of 16 jihadists seen in the video.</p> <p>&quot;I cannot be certain, but it looks like my son,&quot; said Ahmed Muthana, who lives in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff.</p> <p>France&#39;s interior minister said analysis by the DGSI security service suggested that one of the men shown herding prisoners to the execution site was Maxime Hauchard, a Frenchman from the northern Eure region who left for Syria in August 2013.</p> <p>&quot;This analysis suggests with a very high probability that a French citizen could have directly participated in carrying out these abject acts,&quot; Bernard Cazeneuve told journalists.</p> <p>French Judges last year opened a preliminary investigation against Hauchard on suspicion that he was conspiring to commit terrorist acts, the charge commonly levied against citizens who have fought with Islamist militants.</p> <p>Hauchard was interviewed by French television in the summer saying that his goal in joining Islamic State was to become a martyr.</p> <p>British Prime Minister David Cameron will chair a meeting of the government&#39;s emergency response committee, Cobra, in the next 36 hours to receive briefing from intelligence and security officials in light of the latest video, his spokesman said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Kassig&#39;s beheading a sign IS killers won&#39;t cease until stopped</a></strong></p> <p>Britain&rsquo;s security threat level was raised to its second-highest in August due to the risks posed by Islamic State fighters returning from Iraq and Syria.</p> <p>The announcement of aid worker Kassig&#39;s death, the fifth such killing of a Western captive by Islamic State, formed part of the video which showed the beheadings of at least 14 men the group said were Syrian military pilots and officers.</p> <p>Islamic State, which is fighting in Iraq and Syria, includes thousands of foreign combatants and has become a magnet for jihadis from Europe and North America.</p> <p>IS has released videos of the beheading of two American and two British men which feature a masked, black-clad militant brandishing a knife and speaking with an English accent, who has been dubbed &quot;Jihadi John&quot; by British media.</p> <p>Sunday&#39;s video showed most of the killers unmasked and the Daily Mail said the man who appeared to be Nasser Muthana was standing alongside Jihadi John. Muthana appeared in a video in June urging Muslims to join IS.</p> <p>(Reporting by Kate Holton and Paul Sandle in London and Nicholas Vinocur in Paris; Editing by Giles Elgood and Peter Graff)</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:43:01 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6317117 at