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Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en These Peruvian circus lions could be headed to a new life in Colorado (PHOTOS) <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Andean nation is the latest to join the global crackdown on performing wild animals. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simeon Tegel </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LIMA, <a href="">Peru</a> — Seeing the big cats at the circus used to be one of the biggest thrills of childhood.</p> <p>Not anymore, as humans increasingly become aware of the misery that the spectacle inflicts on the lions, tigers, and other performing animals, not to mention the squalid conditions they are often kept in.</p> <p>Peru has become the latest nation to crack down on wild circus animals, with authorities seizing six lions from the Monaco Circus, based in the Andean city of Cuzco, in two raids this month.</p> <p>The rescue operation came just days after one of the cats, named “Smith,” attacked a visiting teacher in front of her students when a lion act went horrifically wrong. The teacher, mercifully, was able to walk away after Smith released her.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="377" src="//" width="670"></iframe></p> <p>“They’re not in great shape and weren’t being looked after properly,” said Jose Rafael Vilar, a consultant to Animal Defenders International (ADI), the nonprofit that coordinated the raid with Peruvian authorities.</p> <p>“Their cages were tiny, they haven’t been fed properly or given the veterinary care they need, and there’s also obviously been an issue with safety.”</p> <p>Several of the lions were seriously malnourished, while two were actually fat due to the lack of exercise in their cramped cages. One had no teeth and several had open wounds.</p> <p>Looking after the animals is no joke. Male lions can weigh 600 pounds and need an average of around <a href="" target="_blank">20 pounds of meat a day</a>.</p> <p>The animals are now being assessed at a temporary refuge in the capital, Lima, along with another six lions seized previously.</p> <p>The government is deciding what to do with them, but they are likely heading to Colorado’s <a href="" target="_blank">Wild Animal Sanctuary</a>, the only place in the world equipped to allow rescued big cats to roam free in natural conditions over extensive terrain.</p> <p>The sanctuary took 29 lions rescued by ADI from Bolivian circuses back in 2011. It now has 160 of its 720 acres set aside for the Peruvian cats, which are thought to have been bred in captivity in <a href="">Latin America</a>.</p> <p>“We’ll need to keep them separated from the other animals at first, but as time goes by we should be able to merge them into the existing prides,” says sanctuary Executive Director Pat Craig.</p> <p>“This is their best option. They can’t be released into the wild; they don’t know how to hunt and are too used to being around humans. And there’s no space for the ones already in the wild anyway [thanks to humans encroaching on their habitat].”</p> <p>According to ADI, 29 countries around the world, from Taiwan to several Latin American nations, including Bolivia, Colombia, <a href="">Costa Rica</a>, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru, now have blanket bans on performing wild animals.</p> <p>Many more are now debating the issue, including the <a href="">United States</a>, where Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) has <a href="" target="_blank">introduced</a> the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, which would ban circus animals.</p> <p>ADI estimates there are around 35 big cats still performing in Peruvian circuses, and plans to continue working with Peru’s Forest and Wildlife Service to rescue them.</p> <p>As for parents wanting their kids to see these alpha predators in the flesh, that will still be possible, in Colorado. Visitors to the sanctuary can view the lions from the safety of walkways high overhead, as the animals roam across their new home.</p> big cats Peru Want to Know Wildlife News United States Sun, 31 Aug 2014 21:30:00 +0000 Simeon Tegel 6244313 at Dozens of minority Iraqi women 'sold into marriage' by IS militants <!--paging_filter--><p>Several dozen Yazidi women kidnapped by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq have been taken to <a href="">Syria</a>, forced to convert and sold into marriage to militants, a monitoring group said Saturday.</p> <p>The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a <a href="">Britain</a>-based NGO, said it had confirmed that at least 27 Yazidi women had been sold for around $1,000 each to IS fighters.</p> <p>The group said it was aware that some 300 Yazidi women had been kidnapped and transported to Syria by the jihadists, but it had so far documented the sale into marriage of 27.</p> <p>"In recent weeks, some 300 women and girls of the Yazidi faith who were abducted in Iraq have been distributed as spoils of war to fighters from the Islamic State," a statement said.</p> <p>The group said it had documented several cases in which the fighters then sold the women as brides for $1,000 each to other IS members after forcing them to convert to Islam.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">'If it wasn&rsquo;t for the Kurdish fighters, we would have died up there'</a></strong></p> <p>"The Observatory documented at least 27 cases of those being sold into marriage by Islamic State members in the northeast of Aleppo province, and parts of Raqa and Hassakeh province," the NGO said.</p> <p>It added that some Syrian Arabs and Kurds had tried to buy some of the women in a bid to set them free, but they were only being sold to IS members.</p> <p>The Observatory said it was unclear what had happened to the rest of the 300 women, and strongly denounced the "sale of these women who are being treated as though they are objects to buy and sell."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">On Location Video: The Yazidis who survived the assault on Sinjar</a></strong></p> <p>Both UN officials and Yazidis fleeing IS advances in Iraq have said fighters kidnapped women to be sold into forced marriages.</p> <p>UN religious right monitor Heiner Beilefeldt warned earlier this month of reports of women being executed and kidnapped by IS militants.</p> <p>"We have reports of women being executed and unverified reports that strongly suggest that hundreds of women and children have been kidnapped — many of the teenagers have been sexually assaulted, and women have been assigned or sold to 'IS' fighters," she said.</p> <p>Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority who follow an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism, are dubbed "devil worshippers" by IS militants because of their unorthodox blend of beliefs and practices.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This 84-year-old woman crawled on her knees to safety to escape the Islamic State</a></strong></p> <p>The IS emerged from the one-time Iraqi affiliate of Al-Qaeda but has since broken with that group and espouses an interpretation of Islam that has been widely rejected.</p> <p>It has pressed a campaign of terror in the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, which it deems an Islamic "caliphate," carrying out decapitations, crucifixions and public stonings.</p> <p>In June, the group launched a lightning offensive in Iraq, overrunning parts of five provinces.</p> <p>In August, it captured Yazidi villages in the area of Mount Sinjar, prompting an enormous outpouring of the minority amid reports of executions and the abduction of women.</p> <p>sah/hkb</p> Need to Know Iraq Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:28:51 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6245717 at Pro-Russian separatists hit Ukrainian vessel in the first naval attack of war <!--paging_filter--><p>Separatist rebels attacked a Ukrainian naval vessel in the Azov Sea on Sunday by firing artillery from the shore, and a Ukrainian military spokesman said a rescue operation was under way.</p> <p>Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the vessel was a naval cutter. There was no information on the number of people on board.</p> <p>The pro-<a href="">Russian</a> rebels claimed responsibility for the attack.</p> <p>The separatists have been fighting government forces since April in a conflict that has killed some 2,600 people, but this was the first naval attack of the war.</p> <p>It came after rebel forces opened a new front in the fighting last week, breaking through to the Azov Sea in Ukraine's southeast.</p> <p>"The militia have dealt the enemy their first naval defeat," Igor Strelkov, a former separatist military commander, said on the social media network VKontakte.</p> <p>(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Aleksandar Vasovic; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)</p> Need to Know Europe Sun, 31 Aug 2014 18:08:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6245610 at Bahrain jails photojournalist, detains rights activist <!--paging_filter--><p>Sunni-ruled Bahrain upheld a 10-year jail term for a photojournalist on Sunday and detained a human rights activist, as it presses a crackdown on Shias over a 2011 uprising.</p> <p>The tiny but strategic kingdom, just across the Gulf from <a href="">Iran</a> and home base for the US Fifth Fleet, remains deeply divided three years since authorities crushed the rebellion with <a href="">Saudi</a>-led military backing.</p> <p>But persistent protests still spark clashes with police and dozens of Shias have faced trial over their role in the uprising, while authorities have increased penalties for those convicted of violence.</p> <p>Bahrain's appeals court decided Sunday to uphold a jail term handed down to award-winning photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan despite appeals by rights group for his release.</p> <p>Rights watchdogs say Humaidan was merely covering the Arab Spring-inspired pro-democracy protests that erupted among the Shia majority in the Sunni minority-ruled kingdom.</p> <p>"Throwing photographers in jail isn't going to keep either the protests or the accounts of what happens in Bahrain out of the world's sight," Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said in June.</p> <p>Humaidan, 25, was put on trial in February along with 29 other Shias and accused of attacking a police station with Molotov cocktails and improvised explosives.</p> <p>Authorities, meanwhile, have arrested Maryam al-Khawaja after she flew into Bahrain to visit her jailed father, leading activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, his lawyer said.</p> <p>Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, jailed for life for plotting to overthrow the monarchy, staged a 110-day hunger strike in 2012 in protest against his imprisonment and is now on hunger strike again, lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi told AFP.</p> <p>Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch describe Khawaja, 54, as a "prisoner of conscience."</p> <p>He is among seven defendants who have been handed down lengthy jail sentences for their role in the 2011 protests.</p> <p>Khawaja's daughter is co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, which has offices in Copenhagen and <a href="">Beirut</a>, and she had been hoping to visit him in jail when she was arrested and "stripped of her Bahraini nationality," Jishi said.</p> <p>Maryam, like her father, also holds Danish citizenship.</p> <p>Authorities finally granted Maryam a visa but accused her of "attacking policewomen" at the airport and ordered her held for seven days pending an investigation, Jishi said.</p> <p>He said that Khawaja began his hunger strike on August 25 but that he was "stable even though he suffered from hypotension two days ago."</p> <p>Khawaja has been seen by a doctor "17 times" in five days, the official BNA news agency said, quoting the interior ministry's Ombudsman Office.</p> <p>BNA said Khawaja vowed to pursue his hunger strike until his release, in a letter to prison authorities.</p> <p>Also on Sunday, an appeals court upheld the death sentence against a Shia man convicted of murdering a policeman during protests last year and life terms for six co-defendants.</p> <p>In another case, five-year jail terms for five others accused of plotting attacks during last year's Formula One race were also upheld.</p> <p>The International Federation for Human Rights says at least 89 people have been killed in Bahrain since the uprising began in February 2011.</p> <p>tm/lyn/hkb/srm</p> Need to Know Middle East Sun, 31 Aug 2014 17:01:51 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6245590 at Hong Kong democracy activists promise 'era of civil disobedience' campaign <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Hong Kong</a> democracy activists vowed Sunday to embark on an "era of civil disobedience" including mass sit-ins after China announced rules giving it control over candidates in the city's next leadership election.</p> <p>The standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's rubber-stamp parliament, decided that the next chief executive will be elected by popular vote in 2017, but candidates must each be backed by more than half the members of a 1,200-strong "broadly representative nominating committee."</p> <p>Democracy advocates in the semi-autonomous Chinese city say this means Beijing will be able to ensure a sympathetic slate of candidates and exclude opponents.</p> <p>"This is one person, one vote, but there is no choice. They have that in North Korea but you can't call it democracy," Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau told AFP.</p> <p>The pro-democracy group Occupy Central said it would go ahead with its threat to take over the city's Central financial district in protest, at an unspecified date.</p> <p>Hundreds rallied in a park outside the city's legislature late Sunday chanting "No to fake democracy!" and blowing vuvuzelas.</p> <p>"A new chapter is unfolding in Hong Kong. It is an era of civil disobedience," Benny Tai, a co-founder of Occupy, told supporters in front of a stage decked with two large Chinese characters that spelt the word "Disobedience".</p> <p>"I am very sad," Henry Chung, a 37-year-old scriptwriter, said. "We have waited so many years. But now we have nothing."</p> <p><strong>'Love the Party' </strong></p> <p>Public discontent in the former <a href="">British</a> colony handed back to China in 1997 is at its highest for years over perceived interference by Beijing, with the election method for the chief executive a touchstone issue.</p> <p>The text of the NPC decision, released by the official news agency Xinhua, said universal suffrage must have "institutional safeguards" to take into account "the actual need to maintain long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong."</p> <p>The nominating committee will pick two to three candidates, it added.</p> <p>NPC official Li Fei dismissed the activists' demands, adding that Hong Kong's leader must be loyal to China's ruling Communist Party.</p> <p>"The Hong Kong leader must be a person who loves the country and the Party," he said.</p> <p>Leung Chun-ying, the city's current chief executive who was picked by a pro-Beijing committee, hailed the NPC's decision as a "major step forward in the development of Hong Kong's society."</p> <p>"If we are willing, the majority of Hong Kong people, and that is some five million people eligible to vote, will no longer be bystanders in the next election," he told reporters.</p> <p>But Beijing's plan to vet candidates caused dismay among democracy advocates, who said it could not be considered genuine universal suffrage.</p> <p>"There is no genuine choice. They (Beijing) will just give us one or two or three people they have chosen," Lau told AFP.</p> <p>In a statement, Occupy Central said: "All chances of dialogue have been exhausted and the occupation of Central will definitely happen."</p> <p>Activist leaders have said they intend to start with small acts of civil disobedience before launching wider direct action such as the mass sit-in to block Central's roads.</p> <p>Student leader Joshua Wong said preparations would be made for class boycotts among secondary students within the next two months. Some university students have also vowed to go on strike.</p> <p><strong>'Darkest day' </strong></p> <p>A pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker broke down on live television after the NPC announcement, saying there was "no way out for Hong Kong."</p> <p>"This is the darkest and most painful day for Hong Kong's democracy movement," said a sobbing Ronny Tong of the Civic Party.</p> <p>His colleague Claudia Mo told AFP: "They're turning Hong Kong into a bunker and they can do whatever they want, basically."</p> <p>Britain handed Hong Kong back to China on July 1, 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement, which allows residents civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.</p> <p>Since then the city's leader has been chosen by a 1,200 pro-Beijing committee. China promised a popular vote in 2017 but with strict curbs on candidates.</p> <p>Pro-democracy protesters staged a mass march in July demanding a greater say over the choice of leader. The next month tens of thousands rallied against the Occupy Central campaign, in an event organized by the pro-government Alliance for Peace and Democracy.</p> <p>The pro-democracy movement has been strongly criticized by Beijing and city officials as illegal, radical and potentially violent.</p> <p>State-run media on the Chinese mainland stepped up a campaign against the "extreme pan-democrats" in the run-up to Sunday's announcement, alleging interference by foreign countries.</p> <p>nc/slb/jta/sm</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Sun, 31 Aug 2014 15:03:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6245562 at Putin urges talks on 'political organization and statehood' in eastern Ukraine <!--paging_filter--><p>President Vladimir Putin called on Sunday for meaningful talks between pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and the Kyiv government on issues including "political organization and statehood" to protect people living there.</p> <p>Asked about Putin's remarks quoted by Tass news agency, a Kremlin spokesman said the president was not calling for a separate state in the region, adding it should remain part of Ukraine and calling the crisis there a domestic conflict.</p> <p>"Substantive, meaningful talks should begin immediately ... related to the issues of society's political organization and statehood in southeastern Ukraine to protect legitimate interests of people living there," Tass quoted Putin as saying.</p> <p>Asked later about Putin's remarks, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk: "This is not a conflict between <a href="">Russia</a> and Ukraine, this is a domestic Ukrainian conflict."</p> <p>Pressed on whether Moscow felt that "Novorossiya" — the name the rebels give to the widely Russian-speaking region in dispute — should remain part of Ukraine, Peskov said: "Of course."</p> <p>"Only Ukraine can reach an agreement with Novorossiya, taking into account the interests of Novorossiya, and this is the only way to reach political settlement," Peskov said.</p> <p>Kyiv and its allies in <a href="">Europe</a> and the <a href="">United States</a> — who have imposed sanctions against Russia over its role in Ukraine — say a new separatist offensive in its east has been backed by armored columns of more than 1,000 Russian troops.</p> <p>Putin told Russia's state TV Channel 1: "It must be borne in mind that Russia cannot stand aside when people are being shot at almost at point blank," but he did not acknowledge direct Russian intervention in the conflict.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Ukraine's other battle: Helping its thousands of displaced citizens</a></strong></p> <p>He has repeatedly denied Russian troops are involved and accused Kyiv of using excessive force against Russian speakers.</p> <p>Asked if it was possible to predict the end of the crisis in Ukraine, RIA news agency quoted Putin as telling the TV channel: "No. It largely depends on the political will of current Ukrainian authorities."</p> <p>Putin added that his meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk last week was "good," calling Poroshenko a "partner with whom it is possible to have a dialogue."</p> <p>On Saturday, Poroshenko said he was hoping for a political solution, but warned that Ukraine — like Russia a former Soviet republic — was on the brink of full-scale war.</p> <p>(Reporting by Katya Golubkova and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Mark Heinrich)</p> Need to Know Europe Sun, 31 Aug 2014 13:48:41 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6245481 at Iraqi forces reportedly break Islamic State's 2-month siege of Amerli <!--paging_filter--><p>Iraqi security forces backed by Shia militias on Sunday broke the two-month siege of Amerli by Islamic State militants and entered the northern town, officials said.</p> <p>The mayor of Amerli and army officers said troops backed by militias defeated fighters from the Islamic State to the east of the town. Fighting continued to the north of Amerli.</p> <p>"Security forces and militia fighters are inside Amerli now after breaking the siege and that will definitely relieve the suffering of residents," said Adel al-Bayati, mayor of Amerli.</p> <p>The advance of the Iraqi forces comes after the US military carried out air strikes overnight on IS militant positions near the town and air dropped humanitarian supplies to the trapped residents there. More aid was dropped from <a href="">British</a>, <a href="">French</a> and Australian planes.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">'If it wasn&rsquo;t for the Kurdish fighters, we would have died up there'</a></strong></p> <p>"I can see the tanks of the Iraqi army patrolling Amerli's street now. I'm very happy we got rid of the Islamic State terrorists who were threatening to slaughter us," said Amir Ismael, an Amerli resident, by phone.</p> <p>Armed residents had managed to fend off attacks by IS fighters, who encircled the town and regarded its majority Shia Turkmen population as apostates. More than 15,000 people had remained trapped inside Amerli.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">On Location Video: The Yazidis who survived the assault on Sinjar</a></strong></p> <p>IS has captured large swathes of northern Iraq since June. Earlier this month, the radical group dealt a bruising defeat to Kurdish forces and threatened to enter their self-rule region, prompting air strikes by the <a href="">United States</a>.</p> <p>(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Editing by Ned Parker and Stephen Powell)</p> Need to Know Iraq Sun, 31 Aug 2014 13:01:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6245445 at At least 50 injured as police clash with protesters in Pakistan <!--paging_filter--><p>Update: </p> <p><em>At least 50 people were injured in clashes between police and opposition protesters in <a href="">Pakistan</a>'s capital Islamabad Saturday, officials said, with the toll expected to rise as fighting continues.</em></p> <p><em>"We have received more than 50 injured, most of them have rubber bullet injuries. Seventeen among them are women," said Wasim Khawaja, a spokesman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital.</em></p> <p><em>A second doctor said seven police officials were among were the wounded.</em></p> <hr><p>Police in Pakistan's capital Islamabad fired tear gas on anti-government protesters attempting to storm Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's official residence late Saturday in a bid to force his resignation.</p> <p>The tear gas shelling began when the protestors tried to remove some barricades located in front of the residences of the prime minister and president.</p> <p>"The police are continuing to fire teargas to disperse them," an AFP journalist at the scene said.</p> <p>A spokesman for the government-run Pakistan Institute for Medical Sciences, Islamabad's main government hospital, said: "We have not yet received any casualties, but we are on high alert."</p> <p>Around 25,000 supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri were involved in the clashes with thousands of police officials.</p> <p>Paramilitary troops and soldiers standing guard to protect the PM's house as well as other sensitive installations have not yet been called into action.</p> <p>The state-owned Pakistan Television quoted defense minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif as saying: "No one would be allowed to enter inside the sensitive buildings."</p> <p>The protesters have been camped outside parliament since August 15 demanding Sharif quit, claiming the election which swept him to power last year was rigged.</p> <p>They began their march on the prime minister's house late Saturday.</p> <p>sjd/ia/st</p> Need to Know Pakistan Sat, 30 Aug 2014 19:00:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6245001 at Nearly three dozen trapped UN peacekeepers safely rescued in Golan Heights <!--paging_filter--><p>Nearly three dozen UN peacekeepers from the <a href="">Philippines</a> who had been surrounded for days by Islamist militants on the <a href="">Syrian</a> side of the Golan Heights were rescued during a firefight on Saturday, UN officials said.</p> <p>"They were safely extracted, nearly three dozen of them," a UN official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Other UN officials confirmed it.</p> <p>Officials in the Philippines have said all 72 of the trapped Filipino peacekeepers were safe.</p> <p>The UN officials said the other Philippine peacekeepers remained trapped by the militants, who have been battling the Syrian army on the Golan Heights.</p> <p>Another 44 Fijian peacekeepers have been detained by militants nearby since Thursday.</p> <p>(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)</p> Need to Know Middle East Sat, 30 Aug 2014 18:13:21 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6244897 at Jewish community 'forced out' of Guatemalan village <!--paging_filter--><p>A community of 230 Orthodox Jews from several countries Thursday began leaving the Guatemalan <a href="">Indian</a> village where they have lived for six years after claims and counterclaims of discrimination and threats.</p> <p>Their exit from San Juan La Laguna, on the banks of Lake Atitlan and 125 miles from the capital Guatemala City, follows a meeting Wednesday in which Jewish and indigenous representatives failed to reach an agreement.</p> <p>"We are a people of peace and in order to avoid an incident we've already begun to leave the village," Misael Santos, a representative from the Jewish community, told AFP.</p> <p>They had received threats, Santos said.</p> <p>"We have a right to be there, but they threatened us with lynching if we don't leave the village," he added.</p> <p>Most members of the small Jewish community are from the <a href="">United States</a>, <a href="">Israel</a>, Britain and <a href="">Russia</a>, and around 40 are Guatemalan. Approximately half are children.</p> <p>Since October, the local indigenous population has accused the Orthodox Jews of discriminating against them and of violating Mayan customs.</p> <p>The Council of Indigenous Elders said the Jewish community "wanted to impose their religion" and was undermining the Catholic faith that is predominant in the village.</p> <p>"We act in self-defense and to respect our rights as indigenous people. The (Guatemalan) constitution protects us because we need to conserve and preserve our culture," council spokesman Miguel Vasquez told AFP.</p> <p>ec/bfm/pst</p> Need to Know Americas Sat, 30 Aug 2014 16:02:53 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6244893 at Indian defense minister calls Pakistan border clashes 'extremely serious' <!--paging_filter--><p>A series of clashes along <a href="">India</a>'s border with <a href="">Pakistan</a> are extremely serious, provocative and not conclusive to talks, Defense Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday.</p> <p>The nuclear-armed arch rivals recently called off top level diplomatic talks after Pakistan held talks with separatists from the disputed region of Kashmir.</p> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said he was disappointed that Pakistan had made a "spectacle" of the peace efforts.</p> <p>Several people including soldiers have been killed in the clashes along the Line of Control and international border between the two countries in recent weeks.</p> <p>(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:36:19 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6244885 at Taliban suicide bombers hit Afghan intelligence agency, killing 6 people <!--paging_filter--><p>Taliban suicide bombs hit an office of the Afghan intelligence agency in an eastern city on Saturday, killing six people, and insurgents shot dead another 11 in the west, in an upsurge of violence as foreign combat troops prepare to withdraw from the country.</p> <p>Seven militants were also killed during several hours of heavy fighting with Afghan security forces at the Jalalabad headquarters of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said Ahmad Zeya Abdulzai, a spokesman for the governor of eastern Nangarhar province near the border with <a href="">Pakistan</a>.</p> <p>Abdulzai said four NDS agents and two civilians were killed when a truck and a smaller car, both loaded with explosives, were driven into the compound and a gunfight broke out between Afghan forces and the insurgents.</p> <p>Reuters was not able to reach the NDS immediately for comment. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, in which dozens were wounded.</p> <p>A pattern of bold offensives by militants has emerged across <a href="">Afghanistan</a> in recent weeks during the summer "fighting season."</p> <p>It coincides with political deadlock in the capital, Kabul, where rival presidential candidates have failed to resolve months-long disputes over an election meant to mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghan history.</p> <p>Most foreign combat troops are due to leave by the end of 2014 but the election dispute has meant a prolonged delay in signing a security pact with the <a href="">United States</a> governing how many troops would remain.</p> <p>On Saturday, the insurgents struck in the western province of Farah, stopping a truck carrying workers to a construction site near the <a href="">Iranian</a> border and killing 11 of them. Authorities were trying to find out why the workers were targeted.</p> <p>“They were innocent Afghan workers. They did not have any connection to the government, so we don’t know the reason for the attack," said Jawad Afghan, a spokesman for the provincial governor.</p> <p><strong>New trend</strong></p> <p>As the political impasse drags on, the Taliban-led insurgency has focused on important tactical and symbolic targets as a challenge to the Afghan security forces who are taking over from their NATO-led counterparts.</p> <p>Afghan forces have struggled to fight off large numbers of insurgent fighters in provinces to the east, north and south of Kabul.</p> <p>"This is part of an alarming trend across the country," said Graeme Smith, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group in Kabul. Taliban offensives "are longer in duration, bigger in size and against more ambitious targets than we've seen previously."</p> <p>In northern Kunduz province, security forces were in a stand-off with insurgents in a weeks-long battle for control over the province that was the last Taliban stronghold before they were driven out by the US-backed Northern Alliance in 2001.</p> <p>"The insurgents are better armed than us," said Kunduz police chief Mustafa Mohseni. "They use heavy machine guns, RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and 82mm rockets against our forces."</p> <p>A Kunduz police spokesman said security forces were concentrated on a district just next to the provincial capital. Many Kunduz residents have fled to nearby provinces to escape the violence and some who remained show little enthusiasm for the government's effort to hold back the insurgents.</p> <p>"There is no job, no security, no life," said Kunduz shopkeeper Sayed Malek. "We don't care if the Taliban come back and take over the whole country. We want a peaceful life."</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; writing by Krista Mahr and Sanjeev Miglani; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)</p> Afghanistan Need to Know Sat, 30 Aug 2014 14:03:58 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6244816 at Lesotho's PM accuses army of mounting a coup but military denies it <!--paging_filter--><p>Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on Saturday accused his country's army of mounting a coup against him and said he had fled to <a href="">South Africa</a>, but the military denied seeking to oust him and said its soldiers had returned to barracks.</p> <p>Gunfire was heard in Maseru, capital of the small mountainous Southern African kingdom encircled by South <a href="">Africa</a>, and army units occupied police headquarters and surrounded the prime minister's residence, residents and diplomats said.</p> <p>"It is a military coup because it is led by the military. And the military are outside the instructions of the commander in chief, who is myself," Thabane told South Africa's ENCA TV by telephone.</p> <p>Thabane told the BBC he had fled to neighboring South Africa. "I will return as soon as my life is not in danger," he said. His precise location was not immediately known.</p> <p>Thabane said he would meet South African leaders, representing the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) later on Saturday to discuss the crisis in Lesotho, which followed tensions between rival factions of the two-year-old governing coalition.</p> <p>Residents and diplomats said that heavily-armed soldiers had surrounded State House and also occupied the main headquarters of the police force, which is loyal to Prime Minister Thabane.</p> <p>The diplomats said that the army was mostly loyal to Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who had vowed to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane, who in June suspended parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote.</p> <p>Giving its version of events, the Lesotho Defense Force denied attempting a coup against Thabane, saying it had moved against police elements suspected of planning to arm a political faction, an army spokesman said.</p> <p>"There is nothing like that, the situation has returned to normalcy ... the military has returned to their barracks," Major Ntlele Ntoi told Reuters. He added the military "supports the democratically-elected government of the day."</p> <p>Ntoi said one soldier and four police had been injured during the army action.</p> <p>Diplomatic sources said the army made its move after the prime minister had fired the army commander, Lt.-Gen. Kennedy Tlali Kamoli. The army spokesman said Kamoli was still in charge of the military.</p> <p>Residents said the streets of the capital were calm, although some shops remained closed.</p> <p>South Africa and regional grouping SADC were expected to issue a call for calm and warn the Lesotho political rivals that no unconstitutional change of government would be tolerated.</p> <p>Since independence in 1966, Lesotho has undergone a number of military coups. In 1998 at least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died and large parts of Maseru were damaged during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting.</p> <p>Besides textile exports and a slice of regional customs receipts, Lesotho's other big earner is hydropower exported to South Africa from the massive mountain ranges that have made it a favorite of trivia fans as "the world's highest country" — its lowest point is 1,380 meters (4,528 feet) above sea level.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Peroshni Govender, Joe Brock, Helen Nyambura and Pascal Fletcher,; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Joe Brock)</p> Africa Need to Know Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:43:46 +0000 Marafaele Mohloboli, Thomson Reuters 6244769 at EU says it could send more than 1 billion euros in aid to Ukraine <!--paging_filter--><p>The European Union may disburse more than one billion euros in loans to Ukraine over the coming months and could consider further aid beyond that, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Saturday.</p> <p>In March, the EU offered an 11 billion euro ($14.45 billion) package of loans and grants to Ukraine over the next several years to help get the shattered economy back on its feet.</p> <p>Ukraine has been caught in a geopolitical tug of war between the EU and <a href="">Russia</a>. Its eastern region is torn by fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.</p> <p>"More than half a billion euros in loans and 250 million euros in grants have already been mobilized by the European Commission as part of this package," he said.</p> <p>"Over one billion (euros) more in loans could be released in the coming months and we are ready to consider further financial assistance should additional needs be identified by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) during its next review mission."</p> <p>It was unclear if the funds Barroso was referring to would be over and above the 11 billion euro package set out in March.</p> <p><strong>Tougher sanctions</strong></p> <p>Barroso also said the EU was prepared to toughen sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis but also that it wanted a political deal to end the confrontation.</p> <p>At a news conference in <a href="">Brussels</a> with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Barroso said: "We are ready to take very strong and clear measures but we are keeping our doors open to a political solution."</p> <p>He described any tightening of sanctions as intended not to escalate the crisis but to push Moscow to negotiate and he stressed that the EU did not want confrontation — "it makes no sense to have ... a new Cold War" — and said that would be "detrimental to all of <a href="">Europe</a>."</p> <p>Poroshenko, echoing comments by EU officials, said he expected a summit of EU leaders later on Saturday to make a formal request to the EU's executive Commission to draw up new sanctions measures that could be implemented if necessary.</p> <p>Barroso noted that his staff already had a broad range of options to propose to member states.</p> Need to Know Europe Sat, 30 Aug 2014 12:48:20 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6244764 at Is it cool to visit North Korea as a tourist? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kim Jong Un’s brutal regime increasingly appeals to foreigners’ sense of fun. If you take the bait, are you abetting rights abuses? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nathan A. Thompson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON, <a href="">UK</a> — Wealthy tourists are increasingly being wooed by the cash-strapped North Korean dictatorship. Pyongyang has recently announced the country’s first <a href="">surf tour,</a> which follows the opening of a <a href="">ski resort</a> earlier this year.</p> <p> And their tactics are working. Although modest, overall tourist numbers are up, and there has also been a <a href="">hike</a> in visits from Westerners.</p> <p> But given that the United Nations Human Rights Council found “systematic and gross human rights violations” happening on a daily basis, some have called into question the ethics of visiting North Korea.</p> <p> “I don’t think people should simply go to North Korea as tourists,” says Lord David Alton, the chair of the UK government’s committee on North Korea. “Their visit provides the regime with foreign currency and aids and abets a regime which the United Nations Commission of Inquiry report says is responsible for human rights violations ‘without parallel.'”</p> <p> Not everyone agrees. The presence of tourists could help end the regime, argues Andrei Lankov, associate professor at <a href="">Seoul</a>'s Kookmin University, in the Asia Times. “The North Korean dictator and his elite might see [the tours] as an easy way to earn money … but in the long term, they will make breaches in the once monolith wall of the information blockade. Sooner or later, those breaches will become decisive.”</p> <p> Here’s a summary of what to consider before deciding to visit.</p> <p> <strong>Do tourist dollars help locals, or do they go to building nuclear weapons?</strong></p> <p> <img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src">(AFP/Getty Images) </span></p> <p>The North Korean government doesn’t publish economic data so it’s unclear how much, if any, tourist money goes to help ordinary citizens.</p> <p> But it is true that a nascent economy provides foreign visitors with souvenirs and familiar groceries. If it wasn’t for the tourist industry some people wouldn’t have anything, says Stephen Price, a trustee of Pyongyang University and longtime visitor to the country. “There were street artists selling their art and people selling flowers and little souvenirs; those people are definitely getting the direct benefit of the tourist’s money.”</p> <p> Even if the state took all the tourist cash, would it make any difference? Would it enable the regime’s hardline tactics, or its nuclear ambitions? “There are less than 5,000 Western tourists who visit North Korea each year which means the amount of money the government raises is minuscule,” says Dylan Harris, director of Lupine Travel, which run tours to North Korea.</p> <p> The money raised might be small now, but the tourist industry is growing, says Casey Lartigue, director for international relations at the for-profit Seoul think tank Freedom Factory. “Is there a financial tipping point that advocates would think it inappropriate to visit resorts and take golfing trips as North Koreans are being tortured and executed for minor offenses?”</p> <p> <strong>Do tourists help the regime’s propaganda efforts?</strong></p> <p> <img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">North Korean tour guides. </span> <span class="inline_image-src"> (AFP/Getty Images) </span></p> <p>Most tours include a trip to the Mansudae Grand Monument in Pyongyang, where a 75-foot statue of Kim Jong Il was recently erected next to his father, Kim Il Sung. Tourists are encouraged to bow to the statues and leave gifts of flowers. Footage of their bows is often shown on national TV.</p> <p> “These foreigners are bad examples of freedom,” says Park Yeon Mi, a North Korean defector who also works at the Freedom Factory. “They aid the regime’s propaganda by allowing themselves to be portrayed as if they too love and obey the leader.”</p> <p> “North Korean propagandists constantly remind their population that the Kims are admired throughout the world,” explains Paul Beaudry, a <a href="">Canadian</a> lawyer who visited the country and then wrote this <a href="">article</a> about how he regrets going. “Having tourists bow before statues of the Kims contributes to that myth, and enhances the regime’s legitimacy.”</p> <p> <strong>How do tourists affect the lives of ordinary people?</strong></p> <p> <img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">The North Korean delegation at the 2014 Olympics. </span> <span class="inline_image-src">(AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>Tourists who visit North Korea are subject to strict controls. But for citizens the controls are worse. “I saw lots of tourists when I lived in Pyongyang,” says Park, the Seoul-based defector. “Whenever [tourists] came [the regime] gave us electricity, made us paint our apartments, clean everything and wear nice clothes. They made anyone who was handicapped or in a wheelchair get off the streets. Tourists aren’t seeing the real North Korea, they are seeing a farce.”</p> <p> Still, staying away will not improve matters, argues the pro-tourism group. “Decades of sanctions have had no effect other than make life more difficult for the general public,” says Lupine Travel's Harris. “Exposure to tourists is the only window ordinary North Koreans have to the outside world. It doesn't mean you have to agree with their policies, you can be vehemently against them, but to see a friendly foreign face and well-dressed tourists helps alter their perception of the outside world.”</p> <p> Friendly foreign faces notwithstanding, tourists are not the only <a href="">window</a> North Koreans have on the outside world. And Yeonmi and her fellow defectors at the Freedom Factory question the true power of that contact. “The rulers of North Korea aren’t stupid, if there was a chance tourists could change people’s attitudes, do you think they would let them come?”</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">North Korean army veterans.</span> <span class="inline_image-src">(AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> Travel/Tourism Want to Know North Korea South Korea Sat, 30 Aug 2014 05:03:16 +0000 Nathan A. Thompson 6241284 at Brazil’s newfound recession: 4 numbers that explain what’s happening <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Families are doing fine, but industries aren't. What will that mean for the country's political future? </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; Latin America&rsquo;s largest economy is officially in recession, according to <a href="" target="_blank">data released Friday</a> by the Brazilian government.</p> <p>Far from boosting Brazil&rsquo;s economic output, the World Cup earlier this year is now being blamed for slowing the country&rsquo;s economy and helping it slip into negative territory. Too many extra vacation days, slowed production at factories, and cities brought to a standstill by World Cup traffic evidently did more damage to Brazil&rsquo;s economy than the influx of foreign visitors could repair.</p> <p>The slump hits at a critical time in the country&rsquo;s presidential race, which was shaken up earlier this month when the third-place candidate <a href="">died in a private jet crash</a>.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a complex moment, but let&rsquo;s keep understanding it simple. Here are the four key numbers that explain what&rsquo;s going on with Brazil&rsquo;s economy, and what it means for the country&rsquo;s political future.</p> <p><strong><font size="14">2 quarters</font></strong></p> <p>According to <a href="">data</a> from Brazil&rsquo;s national statistics agency, IGBE, the country&rsquo;s gross domestic product contracted in the first two quarters of 2014. Two straight quarters of shrinking GDP is technically considered a recession by economists.</p> <p>In the first three months of this year, Brazil&rsquo;s GDP shrunk 0.2 percent. From April to June, it contracted even more &mdash; 0.6 percent, exceeding most Brazilian economists&rsquo; expectations, <a href="">according to Bloomberg</a>.</p> <p>Paulo Roberto Feldmann, a professor of economics at the University of Sao Paulo, said Brazil&rsquo;s situation is quite unusual, since the recession isn&rsquo;t being driven by unemployment. Brazil still has very low unemployment, he said, and consumer confidence and spending remains high.</p> <p>&ldquo;Families are still doing well in Brazil,&rdquo; Feldmann said.</p> <p>But industries aren&rsquo;t. Which brings us to&hellip;</p> <p><strong><font size="14">5.5 percent</font></strong></p> <p>Along with the slowdown caused by the World Cup, chief among the culprits for the weak GDP figures was a sizeable drop in investment.</p> <p>Rebeca de la Roque, an official at IGBE, <a href="">told Brazil&rsquo;s G1 news</a> that a 5.5 percent fall in investment is the main reason for the slump.</p> <p>That&#39;s not hugely surprising, given Roussef&#39;s <a href=",Authorised=false.html?;siteedition=intl&amp;">record of intervention</a> in Brazil&#39;s economy with policies that favor workers over investors.</p> <p>According to the IGBE data, manufacturing output also fell 5.5 percent overall, with drops registered in Brazil&rsquo;s large automotive industry and in the manufacturing of furniture and machinery.</p> <p>Construction was also hard hit, falling 8.7 percent, according to IGBE figures.</p> <p><strong><font size="14">5 years</font></strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s been more than five years since Brazil last saw a recession. &nbsp;</p> <p>Brazil has brought tens of millions of residents out of poverty using a plethora of government programs, most notably the monthly &ldquo;bolsa familia&rdquo; (&ldquo;family allowance&rdquo;) payments made to the country&rsquo;s poorest families.</p> <p>Brazil also successfully rode a rise in commodities prices, which fueled its economy for about a decade from the early 2000s. But in recent years, the country has been struggling to find an economic boost.</p> <p>In 2013, the Economist <a href="">declared Brazil&rsquo;s economy &ldquo;grounded</a>&rdquo; &mdash; as in, stuck, and not in a good place. A combination of a lack of infrastructure investments, stubborn inflation and inequality continued to drag the Latin American giant down, the magazine said.</p> <p>Little seems to have changed since then. Friday&rsquo;s numbers reflect an overall economic decline in Brazil underpinned by a stalling population rate and a reluctance by young people to enter the workforce, said Feldman, who expects Brazil&rsquo;s economy to contract by 1 percent overall this year.</p> <p>&ldquo;The truth is few people are looking for jobs because they can survive inside their family,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Especially young people are not looking for jobs.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong><font size="14">45 percent</font></strong></p> <p>Politically, Friday&rsquo;s dire numbers are bad news for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was already having a rough month.</p> <p>Rousseff is fighting for her political survival, which will be decided in national elections in October.</p> <p>On Aug. 13, Eduardo Campos, who was polling in third place in the presidential race, was <a href="">killed in a private jet crash</a> in the coastal city of Santos. Campos was replaced by his running mate Marina Silva, a wildly popular environmentalist.</p> <p>According to the <a href=",marina-abre-10-pontos-sobre-aecio-e-venceria-dilma-no-2-turno,1549932">most recent numbers</a> from Brazilian pollsters Ibope, Silva has surged in the polls and is now a strong challenger to Roussef, though she still trails the incumbent by a few points in the first of two rounds of voting.</p> <p>If the vote continues to a runoff without the third candidate, Aecio Neves, Silva would beat Rousseff, according to the Ibope poll. 45 percent of respondents said they would vote for Silva in a runoff, compared to 36 percent who said they would vote for Rousseff.</p> <p>Since that poll, Silva has <a href="">performed excellently</a> in a televised debate &mdash;&nbsp;while Rousseff will be left to explain Friday&rsquo;s poor economic numbers.</p> Emerging Markets Need to Know Business Brazil Politics Sat, 30 Aug 2014 05:03:00 +0000 WIll Carless 6244510 at Brazil's economy tumbles into recession weeks before presidential election <!--paging_filter--><p>Brazil fell into a recession in the first half of the year as investment fell sharply and the country's hosting of the World Cup suffocated economic activity, a major blow to President Dilma Rousseff's already fading hopes for re-election in October.</p> <p><a href="">Latin America</a>'s largest economy has suffered stagnant growth for more than three years under the economic policies of the left-leaning Rousseff, which have dented consumer and business confidence and caused heavy losses for financial investors.</p> <p>The economy took an even bigger downturn in the second quarter, with gross domestic product contracting 0.6 percent from the first quarter, government statistics agency IBGE said on Friday. It also revised lower its estimate for first-quarter activity to a 0.2 percent contraction, meaning the economy entered a recession.</p> <p>The data that confirmed the recession, Brazil's first since the global financial crisis of 2008-09, gives a powerful weapon to Rousseff's opponents in the Oct. 5 election at precisely the moment that her candidacy is at its most vulnerable.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Here's how Brazil's new presidential candidate could help save the planet</a></strong></p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Polls over the last week have shown Rousseff falling behind centrist candidate Marina Silva in the event of a second-round runoff, which appears likely.</span></p> <p>Silva and the other main opposition candidate, Senator Aecio Neves, have strongly criticized Rousseff for being weak on inflation and ruining the economic momentum that made Brazil a Wall Street darling last decade.</p> <p>"This is the last thing that the government would have wanted or needed. But I think it's too late to turn [the economy] around" before the election, said Neil Shearing, an economist at Capital Economics in London.</p> <p>Brazil's economy grew an average 4 percent under Rousseff's predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from 2003 to 2010. Growth under Rousseff's watch is set to average less than 2 percent.</p> <p>Brazil's stock market rose slightly, as investors focused less on the bad economic report and more on the increasing possibility that Rousseff might not be re-elected. One equities investor on Wall Street e-mailed simply: "Hallelujah."</p> <p>Despite Rousseff's recent drive to win back business confidence, investment slid 5.3 percent in the second quarter, its worst performance since early 2009. Manufacturing suffered its fourth straight quarterly decline, down 1.5 percent.</p> <p>Business activity also slowed as Brazil hosted the World Cup soccer tournament in June and July. Many cities declared public holidays on game days to prevent traffic problems and other logistical issues. Some factories began ramping down production before the tournament started in anticipation of disruptions.</p> <p>Rousseff and her economic team have blamed the slowdown on continued problems abroad, such as in southern <a href="">Europe</a>.</p> <p>"I want to emphasize that even really organized countries are having problems getting better growth," Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters.</p> <p>He said gross domestic product data suffered because of unique, seasonally related statistical effects, and stressed the unemployment rate has been low and stable. As a result, he said he believed Brazil's situation did not really constitute a recession.</p> <p><strong>COMMODITIES DEMAND SLACKENS</strong></p> <p>Global demand for Brazil's major commodities such as iron ore, sugar and corn also slackened, compared to the glory days of last decade, when the economy often grew more than 5 percent a year, lifting some 35 million people out of poverty.</p> <p>However, economists and business leaders said Brazil's recent problems are mostly home grown, and are far deeper than any short-term considerations such as the World Cup.</p> <p>They have repeatedly complained of what they describe as Rousseff's heavy-handed management of the economy - such as alternately raising and lowering certain taxes. They said her policies have relied too much on stimulating domestic demand at the expense of investment.</p> <p>Other Latin American countries such as <a href="">Chile</a> or <a href="">Colombia</a>, where trade accounts for a bigger percentage of the economy and the business climate is perceived as better, have enjoyed much stronger growth in recent years.</p> <p>Economists said Brazil's next president - whoever it may be - would need to undertake deep reforms.</p> <p>"We need a new economic program," said Eduardo Velho, chief economist at INVX Global, an investment fund in Sao Paulo.</p> <p>Following the data, some economists said they would revise down their forecasts for full-year economic growth to zero.</p> <p>Brazil's central bank raised interest rates earlier this year to counter a spurt in inflation, which contributed to the slowdown in the second quarter.</p> <p>The second-quarter GDP drop was worse than expectations of a 0.4 percent contraction, according to the median forecast of 47 analysts polled by Reuters.</p> <p>Other data released on Friday showed Brazil posted a primary budget deficit in July for a third straight month. Brazil's faltering growth has hurt tax revenues, making it harder for Rousseff's government to pay down debt.</p> Need to Know Brazil Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:55:12 +0000 Reuters 6244261 at As Ukraine seeks to join NATO, a defiant Putin compares Kyiv to Nazis <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine called on Friday for full membership in NATO, its strongest plea yet for Western military help after accusing Russia of sending in armored columns that have driven back its forces on behalf of pro-Moscow rebels.</p> <p>Russian President Vladimir Putin, defiant as ever, compared Kyiv's drive to regain control of its rebellious eastern cities to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II. He announced that rebels had succeeded in halting it, and proposed that they now permit surrounded Ukrainian troops to retreat.</p> <p>Speaking to young people at a summer camp, Putin told his countrymen they must be "ready to repel any aggression towards Russia". He described Ukrainians and Russians as "practically one people", language that Ukrainians say dismisses the very existence of their thousand-year-old nation.</p> <p>The past 72 hours have seen pro-Russian rebels suddenly open a new front and push Ukrainian troops out of a key town in strategic coastal territory along the Sea of Azov. Kyiv and Western countries say the reversal was the result of the arrival of armored columns of Russian troops, sent by Putin to prop up a rebellion that would otherwise have been near collapse.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">The conflict in Ukraine just got worse</a></strong></p> <p>Rebels said they would accept Putin's proposal to allow Kyiv forces, who they say are surrounded, to retreat, provided the government forces turn over weapons and armor. Kyiv said that only proved that the fighters were doing Moscow's bidding.</p> <p>Full Ukrainian membership of NATO, complete with the protection of a mutual defense pact with the <a href="">United States</a>, is still an unlikely prospect. But by announcing it is now seeking to join the alliance, Kyiv has put more pressure on the West to find ways to protect it. NATO holds a summit next week in Wales.</p> <p>NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he respected Ukraine's right to seek alliances.</p> <p>"Despite Moscow’s hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and south-eastern Ukraine," Rasmussen said. "This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilize Ukraine as a sovereign nation."</p> <p>Kyiv said it was rallying to defend the port of Mariupol, the next big city in the path of the pro-Russian advance in the south-east.</p> <p>"Fortifications are being built. Local people are coming out to help our troops, to stop the city being taken. We are ready to repel any offensive on Mariupol," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.</p> <p>So far, the West had made clear it is not prepared to fight to protect Ukraine but is instead relying on economic sanctions, first imposed after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March and tightened several times since.</p> <p>But those sanctions seem to have done little to deter Putin, leaving Western politicians to seek tougher measures without crippling their own economies, particularly in Europe which relies on Russian energy exports.</p> <p>European foreign ministers met in <a href="">Milan</a> on Friday ahead of a weekend EU summit. They made clear the bloc will discuss further economic sanctions against Moscow. Some said that was no longer sufficient, and other measures to help Kyiv should be discussed.</p> <p>Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said countries that had tried so far to mediate now needed to explain "what their ideas (are) to stop President Putin and save Ukraine as she is." Sweden's Carl Bildt said: "Sanctions alone are not enough: [Putin] is prepared to sacrifice his own people."</p> <p><a href="">Poland</a> denied permission for Russia's defense minister to fly over its air space after a trip to Slovakia, forcing him to return to Bratislava. Warsaw said he could fly if he reported the status of his plane as civilian rather than military.</p> <p><strong>"BEST NOT TO MESS WITH US"</strong></p> <p>Moscow still publicly denies its forces are fighting to support pro-Russian rebels who have declared independence in two provinces of eastern Ukraine. But the rebels themselves have all but confirmed it, saying thousands of Russian troops have fought on their behalf while "on leave."</p> <p>NATO has issued satellite photos of what it says is artillery fielded by more than 1,000 Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. Kyiv has released interviews with captured Russian troops. Reuters has seen an armored column of Russian troops on the Russian side of the frontier, showing signs of having recently returned from battle with no insignia on their uniforms. Members of an official Russian human rights body say as many as 100 Russian soldiers died in a single battle in Ukraine in August.</p> <p>Encouraged by state media, Russians have so far strongly backed Putin's hard line, despite Western sanctions that have hurt the economy, the Kremlin's own ban on imports of most Western food, and now reports of Russian troops dying in battle.</p> <p>Putin's lengthy public appearance on Friday and his overnight statement on the conflict appear to be an acknowledgment that the war has reached a turning point, potentially requiring greater Russian sacrifice.</p> <p>Putin answered questions from young supporters, some of whom waved banners bearing his face, at a pro-Kremlin youth camp on the shores of a lake. Wearing a grey sweater and light blue jeans, he looked relaxed, but his tone grew intense while he spoke about Russia's military might, reminding the crowd that Russia was a strong nuclear power.</p> <p>"Russia's partners ... should understand it's best not to mess with us," Putin said.</p> <p>Putin compared Kyiv's assault on the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk to the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad in which 1 million civilians died, perhaps the most powerful historical analogy it is possible to invoke in Russia.</p> <p>"Small villages and large cities surrounded by the Ukrainian army which is directly hitting residential areas with the aim of destroying the infrastructure," he said. "It sadly reminds me the events of the second world war, when <a href="">German</a> fascist ... occupiers surrounded our cities."</p> <p>He said the only solution to the conflict was for Kyiv to negotiate directly with the rebels. Kyiv has long refused to do so, arguing that the rebels are not a legitimate force on their own but proxies for Moscow, which must agree to rein them in.</p> <p>Earlier, in a statement released by the Kremlin overnight, Putin pointed to the rebels' gains of recent days on the battlefield: "It is clear that the rebellion has achieved some serious successes in stopping the armed operation by Kyiv."</p> <p>"I call on the militia forces to open a humanitarian corridor for encircled Ukraine servicemen in order to avoid pointless victims, to allow them to leave the fighting area without impediment [and] join their families," he said.</p> <p><strong>RADICALLY DETERIORATING</strong></p> <p>Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the main rebel group, told a Russian television station his forces were ready to let the encircled Ukrainian troops pull out, provided they leave behind their heavy armored vehicles and ammunition.</p> <p>In Kyiv, President Petro Poroshenko held an urgent meeting with security advisers overnight, after cancelling a trip to Turkey due to the "radically deteriorating situation." Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told a government meeting on Friday the cabinet would "bring before parliament a law to scrap the non-aligned status of the Ukrainian state and establish a course towards membership of NATO."</p> <p>Were NATO to extend its mutual defense pact to Ukraine, it would be the biggest change in the security architecture of Europe since the 1990s. After the Cold War, NATO defied Russian objections and granted its security guarantee to ex-Communist countries like Poland, Hungary and Romania. But it largely stopped at the border of the former Soviet Union, admitting only the three tiny Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.</p> <p>In 2008, NATO denied Ukraine and Georgia a fast track towards membership. Russia invaded Georgia a few months later.</p> <p>This year, after Putin annexed Crimea, NATO countries including the United States have repeatedly said they would be prepared to go to war to protect any member, but not to defend non-member Ukraine.</p> <p>Kyiv hopes to get its message across to Russians that their government is waging war without telling them. Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Heletey said many Russian soldiers had been captured and killed: "Unfortunately, they have been buried simply under building rubble. We are trying to find their bodies to return them to their mothers for burial."</p> <p>Russia's defense ministry again denied the presence of its soldiers in Ukraine: "We have noticed the launch of this informational 'canard' and are obliged to disappoint its overseas authors and their few apologists in Russia," a ministry official told Interfax news agency.<br>  </p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Russia Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:20:25 +0000 Reuters 6244178 at Turkey has stepped in to help Gazans where Arab countries didn't <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nael Salamah lost his entire family, except for his sister, in an airstrike. Now, his sister is being treated in Turkey. Egypt almost didn't let him in on his way through to meet her. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dalia Mortada </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ANKARA, <a href="">Turkey</a> — Even before Nael Salamah introduces himself, he hurriedly whispers in Arabic, “Don’t tell her anything about what has happened, she doesn’t know our mom and brothers are dead.” He’s talking about his 14-year-old sister, Ahid, who has been in a hospital in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, for two weeks.</p> <p>As a symbol of good will toward Palestinians, Turkey has so far taken in 79 injured Gazans for treatment — among them Ahid, who was comatose on arrival. Before Ankara, the teen had spent some time in a Jerusalem hospital being treated for a bad shrapnel wound to her head. “There were 16 shells dropped on our home or within 250 meters,” her brother recalls. The Israeli airstrike about five weeks ago left him, his father and one brother with less severe injuries than Ahid, while his mother and two brothers were killed.</p> <p>We walk into Ahid’s hospital room together. Her limbs are long and her cheeks are full, displaying her youth. She wears a soft, close-lipped smile, and a small red dot — burst blood vessels — swims near the iris of her right eye, which lingers slightly to the right. “Marhaba,” — hello, in Arabic — she says very slowly. “I’m so thankful for Turkey’s help,” she gladly offers up, again, speaking sluggishly. “That is from her brain injury,” the doctor says, referring to the lagging speech.</p> <p>Turkey still hopes to bring another 150 injured Palestinians like Ahid to its hospitals, but the obstacles have been many, says the Ministry of Health. “We have to get approval from the hospital [where they’re originally treated], Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and then from the Israeli Department of Defense,” Ali Uzun, a spokesperson for Turkey’s Health Ministry, explains in an email. Earlier this month, only 18 of 39 planned evacuees made it onto Turkish planes after Israel denied permission to exit for 21 of the selected injured Gazans.</p> <p>Still, the country provides assistance in other ways: before Wednesday’s ceasefire, the Turkish disaster relief agency had spent $1.5 million on aid to Gaza in the form of packaged meals, blankets, beds and other supplies. By Thursday, aid was pouring into the strip from Turkey, as well as <a href="">Saudi Arabia</a> and Oman.</p> <p>But the late aid from the Arab countries doesn’t make up for their silence as Palestinians suffered in the Gaza Strip, says Nael Salamah. “They’re just Arab countries by name,” he says, as he rolls his eyes and chokes back tears. “I’m most disappointed by <a href="">Egypt</a>[‘s behavior].” The 30-year-old dentist struggled to get into neighboring Egypt when he found out Ahid was in Turkey. He had to go through Egypt to get a visa from the Turkish Embassy in Cairo. Egypt has <a href="">refused entry to refugees at the Rafah border crossing</a>, only letting in a small number of injured Gazans.</p> <p>“They wouldn’t let me in at the Egyptian border,” he recalls, frustrated. “They said, ‘You’re a young Palestinian guy, we can’t let you through.’” Eventually, he did get through — for 72 hours. “In five minutes [at the embassy] I get my ticket, I get my visa, I get my everything. Thank you, Turkey.”</p> <p>That thanks isn’t just for the visa or the medical help for his baby sister. Salamah and many others like him are grateful for Turkey’s outspoken support for Palestinians.</p> <p>Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who until this month was prime minister, accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in July, when Israel first started its military operations in Gaza. Erdogan likened Israel to Hitler in one public speech. “They always curse [Adolf] Hitler, but they [Israel] now even exceed him in barbarism,” the leader declared. After the airstrikes began and the death toll leapt, Turkey declared three days of mourning for Gaza.</p> <p>It isn’t the first time Turkey’s relationship with Israel has been strained over the treatment of Palestinians. Relations have been icy between the two countries ever since eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American were killed at the hands of Israeli naval commandos in 2009 after a Turkish aid flotilla attempted to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza.</p> <p>With such a strong public stance on Gaza, it only makes sense that Turkey would back it up with substantive help, says Mehmet Ali Tugtan, assistant professor in political science at Istanbul’s Bilgi University. By using Turkey’s strained aid resources — which are already coping with violence and humanitarian crises along its borders with both <a href="">Syria</a> and <a href="">Iraq</a>, and over 1 million Syrian refugees within its borders — to bring a few hundred injured Palestinians for medical treatment, Turkey gains credibility on its position on Gaza.</p> <p>“But can they do something really substantial? No,” he explains. “What Turkey really wants is to be able to get into Gaza to treat patients there, provide medical, economic and other support.” As long as Israel continues its blockade on the densely populated strip, that won’t happen, says Tugtan. For now, “it’s better that they do something [to provide aid] than nothing,” he adds.</p> <p>But even this limited aid raises further questions: “What happens after they get treated? What if they want to stay? Do you just send them back to get killed or hurt again?” asks Tugtan.</p> <p>Salamah wonders the same thing. His visa in Turkey only lasts 30 days, and after that, he has no idea where he’ll go. “No home, no clinic, nothing,” he whispers through tears. A greater challenge than coming home to nothing, perhaps, are the actual logistics of getting back, Salamah says. “I can’t go through Israel and I can’t go through Egypt. I honestly have no idea how I’ll get back.”</p> <p>Uzun, from Turkey’s Ministry of Health, says there is a plan. “After the patients have fully recovered and have had a chance to rest, we will fly them, escorted, to Ben Gurion Airport in <a href="">Tel Aviv</a>. From there a Turkish diplomatic escort will accompany them home, to Gaza.”</p> <p>For now, all Salamah cares about is his sister’s well-being. “When I came she handed me something and said, ‘This is a gift for my brother,’" whom she doesn't know has died. "He just graduated from high school,” Salamah says. Feeling helpless, he sobs, “He’s gone.” He says he’s trying to muster the energy to break the news to Ahid.</p> Want to Know Middle East Turkey Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:14:00 +0000 Dalia Mortada 6244045 at This weird funeral expo in Japan offers people the chance to 'try before you die' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It's all about planning the perfect goodbye. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>There’s nothing unusual about planning for death. Lots of people write a will and some even set aside money to cover their funeral costs.</p> <p>That’s sensible.</p> <p>But in <a href="">Japan</a>, preparing for one’s end has turned into a macabre craze.</p> <p>They even have a word for it: <a href="" target="_blank">shukatsu,</a> which is a play on the word for “job hunting.”</p> <p>More and more people in Japan — young and old — are planning for death like they'd plan for a wedding, to the point of selecting the coffin and the outfit they'll wear for the final send-off.</p> <p>Death is a growing business in Japan, which has an <a href="" target="_blank">aging population</a> and plunging birthrate, and funeral parlors are cashing in on the demographic trend by encouraging the cultural trend of planning the perfect goodbye.</p> <p>Last weekend, the try-before-you-die funeral expo, <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;Shukatsu Festa&rdquo;</a> in Tokyo, reportedly attracted 50 funeral and aging companies and 5,000 visitors.</p> <p>People lay in coffins, tried on “last journey after death” outfits, got death-appropriate makeovers, and posed for funeral portraits.</p> <p>Here's what the show looked like.</p> <p><strong>Does my corpse look good in this?</strong></p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <p><strong>The final look</strong></p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <p><strong>Frills or no frills?</strong></p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <p><strong>Does this make me look fat?</strong></p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <p><strong>There's nothing at all strange going on here</strong></p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images</span></p> Strange But True Japan Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:42:41 +0000 Allison Jackson 6243318 at Kim Jong Un's money manager reportedly defects in Russia <!--paging_filter--><p>A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in <a href="">Russia</a> and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper reported on Friday, citing an unidentified source.</p> <p>Yun Tae Hyong, a senior representative of North Korea's Korea Daesong Bank, disappeared last week in Nakhodka, in the Russian Far East, with $5 million, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported.</p> <p>The Daesong Bank is suspected by the U.S. government of being under the control of the North Korean government's Office 39, which is widely believed to finance illicit activities, including the procurement of luxury goods which are banned under U.N. sanctions.</p> <p>The bank was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2010.</p> <p>The newspaper said North Korea had asked Russian authorities for cooperation in efforts to capture Yun.</p> <p>It was not clear how Yun traveled to Russia or what he was doing before he defected. Russia and North Korea share a 10.5-mile land border.</p> <p><a href="">South Korea</a>'s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said it had no knowledge of the matter.</p> <p>Kim Jong Un, in his early 30s, came to power in December 2011 when his father, Kim Jong Il, died of a heart attack, leaving him little time to consolidate his powerbase and prepare for succession.</p> <p>Experts are divided as to whether Kim has managed to exert full control over a country in which he sits at the center of a leadership cult devoted to his father and grandfather.</p> <p>Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was also involved in the operation of Office 39, was purged in December last year, along with an unknown number of officials connected to him and his business interests.</p> <p>If Yun had indeed defected, he would not necessarily have extensive information on the regime given the compartmentalized way that North Korea functions, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea leadership expert at Dongguk University in Seoul.</p> <p>Officials "are only able to know about their work and commitments. It is hard to know something big beyond that in North Korea," he said.</p> <p>Korea Daesong Bank is focused on foreign exchange transactions and was set up in 1978 to handle payments by North Korean trading firms, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry's website.</p> <p>In 2005, $25 million of North Korea's cash was frozen at Macau-based Banco Delta <a href="">Asia</a>, which the U.S. Treasury said North Korea used for illicit activities.</p> <p>That case stands as practically the only public success in seizing funds from the isolated country.</p> Need to Know North Korea Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:12:08 +0000 Reuters 6244102 at Chatter: What is Russia up to? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> For starters it appears to be invading Ukraine, it was the Kurds coming in from Syria and Turkey who saved the Yazidis and you can tell koalas apart. By their noses. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:08:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5942065 at Eating three large onions will not cure Ebola (and dispelling other myths) <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Some West Africans believe Ebola strikes for spiritual reasons, rather than a medical ones. Here are the most popular false cures. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Indrani Basu </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>While the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has triggered panic among Americans on its spread, it is hardly surprising that the people actually dying from the disease have their own set of misplaced ideas of its spread and cure. And its not just confined to an &ldquo;ignorant few&rdquo;.</p> <p>At least 1,552 people have died in this outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. The latest WHO estimates, <a href="">released on Thursday</a>, show that over 40 percent of the cases took place just in the last three weeks,&nbsp;suggesting an accelaration in the outbreak. Most of these new cases have been concentrated within a few localities.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p><strong>How Ebola originated</strong></p> <p>The most commonly reported myth about Ebola, according to a survey conducted in June, was in Sierra Leone, said Fabio Friscia, UN children&rsquo;s fund (UNICEF) coordinator for the Ebola awareness campaign in Africa. According to the story doing the rounds, a husband opened a box that his wife had entrusted to him with explicit instructions to not peek inside. A snake sprung out of this box and announced it was going to kill everyone in the community &ndash; resulting in the present Ebola outbreak.</p> <p>While this may be the most popular misconception about the disease&rsquo;s spread, a second belief that it is a punishment for sexual promiscuity may be much more harmful. This rumor, possibly due to a comparison with HIV AIDS, has led to a strong stigma against Ebola survivors, said Friscia.</p> <p><strong>Ebola, what?</strong></p> <p>Even though 624 people have <a href="">succumbed to Ebola</a> in Liberia, some residents still believe that the virus is a government conspiracy. A local from one of the worst-hit areas in the country <a href="">recently told journalists</a> that the disease was just a rumor and that he had &ldquo;never seen anybody die of Ebola.&rdquo;</p> <p>But this kind of blatant denial of the disease is not just restricted to ignorant locals. Ken Isaacs, the vice president of global aid group Samaritan&rsquo;s Purse recently said in a US congressional hearing on the Ebola outbreak how even trained physicians and nurses in West Africa denied that the disease was real.</p> <p>&ldquo;We were told by the staff of one prominent doctor that he openly mocked the existence of the virus to his coworkers,&rdquo; he said, describing how this doctor and his friend examined Ebola patients and died within a week. &ldquo;These men were highly educated, credentialed and respected professionals, yet they did not believe in the existence or the seriousness of the disease.&rdquo;</p> <p>He warned that university students in Monrovia, Liberia today &ldquo;continue to mock and deny the existence of Ebola.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Here&rsquo;s how you (don&rsquo;t) treat it</strong></p> <p>One solution for avoiding the Ebola infection that is circulating is to eat three large onions, said Daniel Epstein, a WHO spokesperson. Another is to drink a mixture of coffee and cocoa powder &ldquo;and something else&rdquo; to prevent being infected, he said.</p> <p>But what beats these word-of-mouth pieces of misinformation is the large-scale dissemination of a &ldquo;preventive cure&rdquo; that a Nigerian king suggested. Reports <a href="">emerged</a> that the king of Agala announced salt-water baths as a &ldquo;magical vaccine&rdquo; against Ebola. The prescription promptly went viral all over Nigeria after local radio and television broadcasted the statement, forcing the Nigerian government to issue a statement refuting the medical basis of such a &ldquo;solution&rdquo;.</p> <p>A student volunteer from New Jersey, who was evacuated from Monrovia following the Ebola outbreak, <a href="">described</a> &ldquo;bola buckets&rdquo; with a solution of drinking water and chlorine that were being sold as locals believed it would cure Ebola.</p> <p>Other supposed &ldquo;cures&rdquo; for the disease <a href="">include</a> condensed milk and holy water.</p> <p><strong>Backfiring</strong></p> <p>These myths aren&rsquo;t just leading to pointless adoption of fake cures, but leading to extremely damaging situations, resulting even in death. Friscia said that rumors included beliefs that doctors were the ones actually killing Ebola patients once they were taken to the hospital, resulting in patients unwilling to be treated.</p> <p>Last month, a former nurse is believed to have told people in a fish market in Kenema in Sierra Leone that Ebola was a pretense for &ldquo;carrying out cannibalistic rituals&rdquo;. This resulted in a protest at the main Ebola hospital, with thousands threatening to burn it down, according to <a href="">reports</a>.</p> <p>After a Catholic priest also asked followers in Nigeria to perform religious rituals like drinking salt water, which is a major ingredient for Holy Water regularly used by Catholics for various spiritual and physical purposes, at least two people in the country <a href="">died</a> drinking excessive amounts of salt water.</p> <p>While international aid organizations and local governments continue to try remedy these gross misconceptions surrounding Ebola, more lives are being lost every day to ignorance and old wives&rsquo; tales in West Africa.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Let these 20 nervous animals teach you the reality of the Ebola &lsquo;threat&rsquo;</a><br /> &nbsp;</strong></p> <p class='u'></p> Health Global Pulse Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:21:52 +0000 Indrani Basu 6243472 at Australia’s cuddly koalas are rapidly dying out <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> But a new technique — involving nose prints — may help conservationists save them. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lyn Eyb </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BORDEAUX, <a href="">France</a> — When Janine Duffy first saw Clancy, he was nothing more than an arm poking out of his mother’s pouch.</p> <p> The tiny marsupial was cute and cuddly, and he was already clued in about life on the outside.</p> <p> “He would have been listening to us in his mother’s pouch, because she has known us since she was a baby,” says Duffy.</p> <p> “I firmly believe that he’s grown up thinking we’re a normal part of the forest and that our voices and our smells are 100 percent natural out there. He’s never shown much fear of us and his mother doesn’t either, so I suspect he’s picked it up from her.”  </p> <p> It’s been five years since Clancy first poked his arm out into the bush in southeastern Australia. In that time he’s played a starring role in one of the most comprehensive citizen science projects ever undertaken — and one that may very well help save the beleaguered koala from extinction.</p> <p> Duffy believes Clancy is the first wild male koala to ever be monitored from pouch to independence without a collar — an accomplishment that could have huge ramifications for conserving a species on the brink of the endangered list.</p> <p> The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that fewer than 80,000 koalas remain in the wild, though this number could be as low as 43,000.</p> <p> The koala — a cultural icon Down Under — is in serious decline, suffering from the effects of habitat destruction, wildfires, and a chlamydia epidemic that has decimated the population.</p> <p> Until now, researchers have tracked koalas in the wild using radio or GPS collars, an intrusive method that involves capturing and releasing animals.</p> <p> But Duffy has pioneered a technique that could revolutionize koala research, recognizing for the first time that koalas have the equivalent of human fingerprints — on their noses.<br>  <br> The revelation that each koala’s nose pigmentation is unique was a light bulb moment for Duffy.</p> <p> “Yes, I remember it perfectly,” she said. “I was out in the bush, it was cold and it was very early in the morning. I was looking up at one koala thinking, ‘Gee, I wish I could tell you guys apart’ and I just looked at the nose.</p> <p> “I ran back to the other koala I’d been with before and I looked through my binoculars and I thought ‘Oh my god! They’re all different.’ It’s amazing now because it’s so obvious, but nothing’s obvious until you find it. I knew this could be important because I’d found a way of learning about koalas without having to touch them.</p> <p> “Koalas are animals that get stressed easily, and wild ones like to keep their distance from humans. Catching and dragging them out of a tree to do research can be very harsh.”</p> <p> That was 16 years ago. Since then Duffy, who runs <a href="">Echidna Walkabout</a>, her own wildlife-based research and tourism company, has been photographing and sketching the noses of some 98 koalas in the forests where she works.</p> <p> In that time, she’s watched generations of koalas pass through her forests — some, like Clancy and his mother, surviving; others not being so lucky.</p> <p> “I was starting to see family lines and whole generations of koalas living in the same area of the Brisbane Ranges National Park, but then we had a bush fire and it killed 90 percent of the koalas in our area,” says Duffy.</p> <p> “It was absolutely devastating. We did follow the 10 percent that had remained but we had to relocate to the You Yangs Regional Park because we’re also a tour operator and the business is funding all our research — we just had to keep operating.</p> <p> “All I needed was someone who was willing to go out on a limb to check the research to see whether it was worthwhile. Scientists are busy people and I totally forgive the Aussie scientists who haven’t jumped on this because, you know, they must get requests from all sorts of crazies — how did they know that I wasn’t one of them?”</p> <p> Instead, her 16 years of data caught the attention of two American academics: Jeffrey Skibins, assistant professor in the Recreation, Sport and Tourism Management Department at the University of St. Francis Illinois, and Peg Shaw-McBee, assistant professor of Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management at Kansas State University, who are in the process of validating the research and preparing it for peer review.</p> <p> Duffy will present the research at an international wildlife management conference in Colorado in October.</p> <p> Skibins is confident the research is solid. So far, Duffy’s 19,000 photographs and sketches, verified using computer-generated imagery, indicate that her nose identification method is accurate 93 percent of the time.</p> <p> He says the technique could transform koala tourism in Australia, creating “an excitement around viewing wild koalas similar to whale-watching.”</p> <p> Duffy envisions a national online koala database, with tourists and locals contributing photographs to help identify koalas and track their movements and behaviors.</p> <p> “It’s part of my grand dream that every koala in Australia would be known,” she says. “You’d get good data out of that — for instance, evidence of them moving long distances. It’d take the research out of the You Yangs and Brisbane Ranges and across the country.</p> <p> “But just as importantly, the people who sent these photos in would be invested in that particular koala and that kind of investment in an animal is what moves conservation outcomes.</p> <p> “Koalas breed well in captivity, so it’s not that that we’re worried about. It’s the in the wild populations that have barely been studied. What we’re looking at now could end up being one of the last stable populations of koalas in Australia. I hope not but that’s what it’s looking like at the moment," Duffy says.</p> <p> “The thing that drives me," she continues, "is that if we can still show people koalas in the You Yangs in 20 years, then we will have done something amazing. The chances are that’s not going to happen — numbers there are as low as 200 — so we really need to get our butts into gear.<br>  <br> “But you know what? When Australians realize the situation is so dire, they will throw everything behind saving this animal. Australia really needs to get behind this little guy before it’s too late.”</p> Travel/Tourism Want to Know Asia-Pacific Fri, 29 Aug 2014 04:31:22 +0000 Lyn Eyb 6241279 at West Africa Ebola outbreak could infect 20,000 people, WHO warns <!--paging_filter--><p>The Ebola epidemic in West <a href="">Africa</a> could infect more than 20,000 people, the UN health agency said on Thursday, warning that an international effort costing almost half a billion dollars is needed to overcome the outbreak.</p> <p>As the World Health Organization (WHO) announced its strategic plan for combating the virus, GlaxoSmithKline said an experimental Ebola vaccine is being fast-tracked into human studies and it plans to produce up to 10,000 doses for emergency deployment if the results are good.</p> <p>The WHO estimates it will take six to nine months to halt the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, while <a href="">Nigeria</a> said on Thursday that a doctor involved in treating the Liberian-American who brought the disease to the country had died in Port Harcourt, Africa's largest energy hub, although the cause had yet to be confirmed.</p> <p>So far 3,069 cases have been reported in the outbreak but the WHO said the actual number in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria could already be two to four times higher.</p> <p>"This is not a West Africa issue. This is a global health security issue," Bruce Aylward, the WHO's Assistant Director-General for Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration, told reporters in Geneva.</p> <p>With a fatality rate of 52 percent, the death toll stood at 1,552 as of Aug. 26. That is nearly as high as the total from all recorded outbreaks since Ebola was discovered in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976.</p> <p>The figures do not include deaths from a separate Ebola outbreak announced at the weekend in Congo, which has been identified as a different strain of the virus.</p> <p>Aylward said tackling the epidemic would cost an estimated $490 million, involving thousands of local staff and 750 international experts. "It is a big operation. We are talking (about) well over 12,000 people operating over multiple geographies and high-risk circumstances. It is an expensive operation," he said.</p> <p>The operation marks a major ramping up of the response by the WHO, which had been accused by some aid agencies of reacting too slowly to the outbreak.</p> <p>A wider United Nations -led plan being launched by the end of September is expected to provide support for the secondary effects of the outbreak on food security, water, sanitation, primary and secondary healthcare and education, the WHO said.</p> <p><strong>Experimental drugs</strong></p> <p>Early this month, the WHO called the current Ebola outbreak an "international health emergency." Concerns that the disease could spread beyond West Africa have led to the use of drugs still under development for the treatment of a handful of cases.</p> <p>Two American health workers, who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Liberia, received an experimental therapy called ZMapp, a cocktail of antibodies made by tiny California biotech Mapp Biopharmaceutical. They recovered and were released from hospital last week.</p> <p>The virus has already killed an unprecedented number of health workers and is still being spread in a many places, the agency said. About 40 percent of the cases have occurred within the past 21 days, WHO statistics showed.</p> <p>Previous Ebola outbreaks have mainly occurred in isolated areas of Central Africa. However the current epidemic has spread to three West African capitals and Lagos, Africa's biggest city. The WHO said special attention would need to be given to stopping transmission in capital cities and major ports.</p> <p>Authorities in Nigeria announced the death in Port Harcourt, the oil industry hub of Africa's largest crude exporter, of one of the doctors who treated Patrick Sawyer, a US citizen who died in Lagos after flying in from Liberia last month.</p> <p>Health Ministry spokesman Dan Nwomeh wrote in his Twitter feed that 70 people who had been in contact with Sawyer were now under observation in the town. Aylward said the deceased doctor had not yet been confirmed as being infected with Ebola.</p> <p>According to new figures released on Thursday, Nigeria has recorded 17 cases, including six deaths, from Ebola, since Sawyer collapsed upon arrival at Lagos airport in late July.</p> <p><strong>Aid effort choked off</strong></p> <p>The Lagos case contributed to the decision by a number of airlines to halt services to Ebola-affected countries. Air <a href="">France</a> said on Wednesday it had suspended flights to Sierra Leone on the advice of the French government.</p> <p>The WHO has advised against travel bans and border closures, which some countries in the region have also implemented, saying they risked creating food and supply shortages.</p> <p>"We assume current airline limitations will stop within the next couple of weeks. This is absolutely vital," Aylward said. "Right now the aid effort risks being choked off."</p> <p>West African health ministers meeting in <a href="">Ghana</a> on Thursday echoed the WHO's concerns and called for the reopening of borders and an end to flight bans.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Kwasi Kpodo in Accra, Ben Hirschler in London and Sharon Begley in New York; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Daniel Flynn and David Stamp)</p> Africa Need to Know Thu, 28 Aug 2014 19:35:12 +0000 Stephanie Nebehay and Tim Cocks, Thomson Reuters 6243375 at UN says 43 peacekeepers have been seized by militants in Golan Heights <!--paging_filter--><p>A group of 43 UN peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights have been detained by militants fighting the Syrian army, and the world body is working to secure their release, the United Nations said on Thursday.</p> <p>The detained peacekeepers are from the <a href="">Philippines</a> and Fiji, a UN official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.</p> <p>"During a period of increased fighting beginning yesterday between armed elements and Syrian Arab Armed Forces within the area of separation in the Golan Heights, 43 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning by an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah," the UN press office said in a statement.</p> <p>It added that another 81 UNDOF peacekeepers were being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah.</p> <p>"The United Nations is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers, and to restore the full freedom of movement of the force throughout its area of operation."</p> <p>Israel captured the Golan Heights from <a href="">Syria</a> in a 1967 war, and the countries technically remain at war. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation under a 1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974.</p> <p>UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running 45 miles (70 km) from Mount Hermon on the <a href="">Lebanese</a> border to the Yarmouk River frontier with <a href="">Jordan</a>. There are 1,223 UNDOF peacekeepers from six countries.</p> <p>The force's personnel come from Fiji, <a href="">India</a>, <a href="">Ireland</a>, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines. The United Nations said this week that the Philippines has decided to pull out of UNDOF, and from a UN force in Liberia, which is struggling with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.</p> <p>Blue-helmeted UN troops have been seized by militants several times during the <a href="">Syrian civil war</a>, now in its fourth year. In all those cases they were released safely.</p> <p>(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)</p> Need to Know Middle East Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:53:18 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6243184 at Should the US team up with Assad against the Islamic State in Syria? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The pros and cons of an intervention that would likely benefit a president the US has sworn to bring down. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jean MacKenzie </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The beginning of US surveillance flights over Syria along with continued airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq signal a march toward war.</p> <p>Now President Barack Obama is again trying to <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSum&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">build a coalition</a> of the willing to support broader US military action in the region.</p> <p>But wading into Syria would get extremely complicated. The rise of IS is turning the region upside down, making a mockery of long-standing enmities and alliances.</p> <p>For starters, IS (also known as ISIS and ISIL) is the dominant force fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It&#39;s been gaining ground: On Sunday, IS seized the Tabqa air base, another success that, the <a href="" target="_blank">Washington Post reports,</a> has resulted in an entire province out of Assad&rsquo;s reach for the first time in Syria&rsquo;s 3-year-old civil war.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s why some analysts argue that US attacks on IS targets in Syria may have the unintended consequence of shoring up Assad, whose removal from office has been a mainstay of US policy for years.</p> <p>But Obama appears to be gradually jettisoning his previous reservations about direct US involvement in Syria&rsquo;s war.</p> <p>The videotaped beheading of US journalist James Foley and IS threats against other American hostages in Syria are cranking up pressure on Obama to respond forcefully.</p> <p>The White House insists it will not coordinate with Assad.</p> <p>But should the US risk empowering one enemy by taking on another?</p> <p>Here are some of the pros and cons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> PROS</h2> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 1. Common enemy: two against one</h2> <p>With the murder of Foley last week, IS has launched itself into the American mainstream as a major threat.</p> <p>Secretary of State John Kerry <a href="" target="_blank">called</a> IS &ldquo;ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic, and valueless evil,&rdquo; and insisted that the group &ldquo;must be destroyed.&rdquo;</p> <p>Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> the militant group is &ldquo;beyond anything that we&rsquo;ve seen,&rdquo; and warned that the US &ldquo;must prepare for everything.&rdquo;</p> <p>Now, in addition to continuing airstrikes in Iraq, officials are acknowledging the possible need to hit targets in Syria.</p> <p>&ldquo;Can [IS] be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria?&rdquo; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey <a href="" target="_blank">said to reporters</a> last week. &ldquo;The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border.&rdquo;</p> <p>But going into Syria without the agreement of its government raises all sorts of prickly questions.</p> <p>&ldquo;Any breach of Syrian sovereignty by any side constitutes an act of aggression,&rdquo; Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> Monday.</p> <p>But, he added, Syria is willing to cooperate in defeating IS.</p> <p>Policymakers calling themselves &quot;<a href="" target="_blank">realists</a>&rdquo; advocate that America should just hold its nose and team up with the Syrian government.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to have to make a choice. If we want to eliminate this ISIS, we&rsquo;re going to have to deal with people we don&rsquo;t like. You know, the president said we wanted Assad out. Well, we&rsquo;re going to have to say something to the Syrian government if we&rsquo;re going to start bombing in Syria,&rdquo; Richard Clarke, an expert in counterterrorism, <a href=";singlePage=true" target="_blank">said on ABC&rsquo;s &ldquo;This Week&rdquo;</a> on Sunday.</p> <p>Assad has long insisted that the alternative to his rule would be the rise of Islamist extremism. His major backers, Russia and Iran, agree.</p> <p>So, will Washington make common cause with some of its toughest adversaries?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 2. IS is the bigger threat</h2> <p>The Assad regime, while noxious, abhorrent and undeniably deadly to its own citizens, does not target the US. Assad is not a direct threat, which is one reason the Obama administration has struggled to justify getting more deeply involved in the Syrian conflict.</p> <p>IS has proved it can brutally target US citizens abroad. It&rsquo;s threatened to kill its next US journalist hostage, Steven Sotloff, if America doesn&rsquo;t stop its air campaign in Iraq. Now officials are weighing whether the militants could become a real <a href="" target="_blank">danger to the homeland</a>.</p> <p>Bombing IS in Syria would help Assad; this is undeniable. But can the US fight them both at once?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 3. There is little alternative</h2> <p>The administration and some military pundits hold out hope that both Assad and IS can be defeated by training and arming the moderate rebels, the Free Syrian Army (FSA).</p> <p>&ldquo;There is, in fact, a way that the United States could get what it wants in Syria &mdash; and, ultimately, in Iraq as well &mdash; without sending in US forces: by building a new Syrian opposition army capable of defeating both President Bashar al-Assad and the more militant Islamists,&rdquo; Middle East expert Kenneth Pollack <a href="" target="_blank">wrote in Foreign Affairs</a>.</p> <p>But in order for this to happen, an awful lot of obstacles would have to magically fade away. For one thing, as Pollack points out, the US would have to properly vet recruits in order to weed out extremists.</p> <p>Marc Lynch, director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, dismisses such talk as unrealistic.</p> <p>&ldquo;The FSA was always more fiction than reality,&rdquo; he <a href="" target="_blank">wrote recently in The Washington Post</a>. &ldquo;Syria&rsquo;s civil war has long been a dizzying array of local battles, with loose and rapidly shifting alliances driven more by self-interest and the desires of their external patrons than ideology &hellip; The idea that these rebel groups could be vetted for moderation and entrusted with advanced weaponry made absolutely no sense given the realities of the conflict in Syria.&rdquo;</p> <p>Obama put it plainly, <a href="" target="_blank">speaking</a> with The New York Times&#39; Thomas Friedman:</p> <blockquote><p>It&rsquo;s always been a fantasy this idea that we could provide some light arms or even sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah &mdash; that was never in the cards.</p> </blockquote> <p>So, if the FSA is a non-starter, maybe we&rsquo;re stuck with Assad?</p> <p>On the other hand &hellip;</p> <p><img src="" width="100%" /><br /> <span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial,<br /> Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">Members of the Free Syrian Army. (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <h2> &nbsp;</h2> <h2> CONS:</h2> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 1. It would enrage Sunnis</h2> <p>As Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes <a href=";emc=rss&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">told The New York Times</a>, &ldquo;Joining forces with Assad would essentially permanently alienate the Sunni population in both Syria and Iraq, who are necessary to dislodging ISIL.&rdquo;</p> <p>Assad, a member of the Alawite sect of Shia Islam, has been brutal in his repression of Sunnis in Syria. The Iraqi regime has also kept Sunnis out of the halls of power.</p> <p>But the fallout could well go beyond those two countries, says Thomas Hegghammer, director of terrorism research at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment in Oslo.</p> <p>&ldquo;A deal so unsavory would have long-term consequences for American credibility,&rdquo; he told GlobalPost of the idea of Washington joining forces with Demascus. &ldquo;No American would ever be able to look a Sunni Muslim in the eye again.&rdquo;</p> <p>Given that close to <a href="" target="_blank">90 percent</a> of the world&rsquo;s 1.6 billion Muslims are Sunni, that could be a very bad bargain indeed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 2. It wouldn&rsquo;t work</h2> <p>Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, has been outspoken in his condemnation of any deal with Assad.</p> <p>As Al Jazeera&rsquo;s Inside Story <a href="" target="_blank">quoted</a> him as saying Monday:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>.<a href="">@ShadiHamid</a> &quot;i worry about growing course in Washington to support Assad in his fight against ISIS - means acting as Assad&#39;s air force&quot;</p> <p> &mdash; Inside Story (@AJInsideStoryAM) <a href="">August 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Later that evening, Hamid <a href="" target="_blank">told CNN</a> that any move to help Assad would be counterproductive, since Assad is &ldquo;one of the root causes&rdquo; of IS.</p> <p>&ldquo;We have to avoid any kind of cooperation, tacit or direct,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It would be kind of odd if we ally ourselves with the root cause to address the symptom.&rdquo; This kind of short-term thinking would be a mistake, he added.</p> <p>Media and officials have blamed Assad not only for the brutality that engendered the rage that fuels groups like IS, but for failing to confront the extremist group when it was fighting the rebels of the Western-backed FSA.</p> <p>Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, <a href="" target="_blank">explained to the Wall Street Journal</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>&ldquo;When these groups clashed, the Syrian government benefited. When you have so many enemies and they clash with each other, you must take advantage of it. You step back, see who is left and finish them off.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 3. There&rsquo;s no future in it</h2> <p>Once IS is defeated, rebuilding Syria will be a long and tortuous process. Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to both Iraq and Afghanistan, is calling for a major military intervention, followed by a long and intensive stabilization phase.</p> <p>&ldquo;The defeat of IS will require a stronger military response than the United States has fielded to date,&rdquo; Khalilzad <a href="" target="_blank">wrote in the National Interest</a>. &ldquo;The model should be based on the successful effort to topple the Taliban government after 9/11, which involved US special forces and air power working in combination with local forces. However, it should be more robust than the Afghan campaign in terms of security assistance and follow-on stabilization efforts.&rdquo;</p> <p>Given the trillion-dollar mess that Afghanistan has become, the US public may be less than enthused at an even &ldquo;more robust&rdquo; campaign in Syria.</p> <p>Also, as anyone who has studied the war in Afghanistan can attest, a stable and reliable government is a must for any post-conflict reconstruction. It&rsquo;s doubtful that voices in the West would seriously advocate rebuilding Syria with Assad at the helm.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">On Location Video: The Yazidis who survived the assault on Sinjar</a></strong></p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--><div class="field field-type-nodereference field-field-pollnode"> <div class="field-label">Poll Asset:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/poll/you-decide-what-should-obama-do-syria">You decide: What should Obama do with Syria?</a> </div> </div> </div> Islamic State Syria Want to Know War United States Thu, 28 Aug 2014 04:31:16 +0000 Jean MacKenzie 6242352 at Short on space, Germany is housing refugees in hotels, forests and stadiums <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Cities have started rejecting asylum claims as growing violence in Iraq and Syria threatens to make a refugee housing crisis even worse. </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; High atop a Berlin hostel, an unknown asylum seeker believed to be African grips tightly to a steel railing with one hand. Every few minutes, he grins broadly and capers a bit as he calls down to a knot of television journalists on the street &mdash; gathered here because of earlier reports that refugees facing expulsion from the capital were threatening to jump.</p> <p>&ldquo;Ich bin Berliner!&rdquo; he shouts, channeling John F. Kennedy. &ldquo;I want to stay in Berlin!&rdquo;</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> &nbsp;</div> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:75.084175% 0 0 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="446" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=ptedDr3MRPBgWznoNuTeWFF7U0jdf_2xwRC2CTBMfH4=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"><br /> </iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;">&nbsp;</p> <div style="padding:0;margin:0 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">African refugees in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin hold up a document they claim is an official notice requiring them to leave Germany.</a><br /> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p>The 28 Guertelstrasse hostel was converted into housing for refugees in April as part of a deal to convince asylum seekers to abandon a tented camp in Berlin&rsquo;s Oranienplatz. They had been living illegally there, in protest against the German government&#39;s policies, for more than a year.</p> <p>But since city authorities ordered 108 mostly African asylum seekers who had claims pending in other German states to vacate their accomodations here, the building has morphed into the latest flashpoint for Germany&#39;s refugee problem &mdash; with a handful of diehards refusing to leave the rooftop overnight Tuesday.</p> <p>Historically committed to providing humanitarian relief to the victims of foreign conflicts, Germany has absorbed more refugees from strife in Africa and the Middle East than any other nation in Europe.</p> <p>But as violence within Iraq and Syria heat up, a housing shortage has prompted new debate over just how many asylum seekers the country can take in, says Claudia Beck, Germany spokeswoman for the Christian aid organization Caritas.</p> <p>&ldquo;The situation is already very, very hard for the people, and now there will be much more people trying to come to Europe, and then to Germany,&rdquo; says Beck, who believes her country must rise to the challenge.</p> <p>But louder voices are beginning to disagree.</p> <p>In 2013, Germany was surprised by an unexpected wave of 110,000 requests for asylum &mdash;&nbsp;more than five times the number it received in 2006, the low point since the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees now predicting 2014 requests may rise as high as 200,000, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere this week proposed a strict limit on the refugees the country agrees to accept.</p> <p>&ldquo;Whoever is not politically persecuted and needs no protection should not be granted asylum and must leave the country,&rdquo; de Maiziere <a href="" target="_blank">said in an interview</a> with a German newspaper published Saturday.</p> <p>Followed closely by this week&rsquo;s rejection of asylum claims, the statement has sparked fears a deportation wave is coming for refugees like Haki, from Chad, who lived in a tent in Oranienplatz for more than a year.</p> <p>&ldquo;They start to deport people house by house, one by one,&rdquo; says Haki, who declines to give his last name because his asylum application is still pending.</p> <p>Some of those who arrive in Germany are automatically considered refugees based on the circumstances they have fled. Others aren&#39;t officially recognized as refugees until they&#39;ve been granted asylum.</p> <p>Public and government support remains strong for those fleeing conflict or political persecution. But the financial burden of the influx has already pushed some Germans to question whether policies should distinguish war refugees from economic migrants, says Said, an asylum seeker from Ghana.</p> <p>Germans are more than prepared to welcome refugees from Iraq and Syria, he says, declining to give his surname. But they have less sympathy for Africans who flee places like Libya if they hold passports from peaceful, if poverty-stricken, countries.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&#39;ve tried Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;This is my last stop.&rdquo;</p> <p>Expulsion of those deemed to be economic migrants may be the only answer, argues de Maiziere, though doing so could prove very difficult.</p> <p>Already, cash-strapped cities across Germany have been forced to adopt extreme measures to accommodate the stream of refugees making their way here from Italy &mdash; where since the beginning of the year the Italian navy has rescued nearly <a href="" target="_blank">100,000 people fleeing violence and poverty</a> in countries like Eritrea, Somalia and Syria.</p> <p>In Hamburg, legislators have already proposed <a href="" target="_blank">billeting refugees on decommissioned cruise ships</a> moored in the Elbe River and building makeshift villages out of shipping containers, for example.</p> <p>The city houses about 10,000 refugees in more than 60 locations, and spent around 300 million euros ($396 million) for accommodation and counseling in 2014. But it&#39;s struggling to find space for more, says Marcel Schweitzer, spokesman for the Hamburg Department of Labor, Welfare and Integration.</p> <p>&ldquo;We believe the refugee policy is a national duty. It&rsquo;s unbelievable that Hamburg and other cities have to house refugees in containers or tents, while houses are pulled down because of a lack of tenants in other German states,&rdquo; Schweitzer wrote in an email.</p> <p>The city of Cologne recently purchased a <a href=",2856,27354076.html" target="_blank">four-star hotel to convert into semi-permanent housing</a> for its asylum seekers, after being forced to rent rooms for an overflow of some 800 people in 2013.</p> <p>Other cities like Duisburg, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, have been forced to <a href="" target="_blank">erect tented camps in forests</a>, stadiums and tennis courts that have drawn criticism for poor conditions.</p> <p>As of Wednesday afternoon, police were <a href="" target="_blank">still negotiating</a> with exhausted Berlin rooftop refugees after a 24-hour vigil.</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story said asylum seekers in Berlin were threatened with expulsion from Germany. New information on Thursday indicated they were instead threatened with expulsion from the capital &mdash; back to the German states where they had originally applied for asylum.</em></p> Africa Need to Know refugees War Germany Politics Middle East Thu, 28 Aug 2014 04:31:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6242481 at Ukraine's PM says Russia plans to block gas flows to Europe this winter <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said on Wednesday that Kyiv knew of plans by <a href="">Russia</a> to halt gas flows this winter to <a href="">Europe</a>, in comments which are likely to escalate the standoff between Moscow and the West.</p> <p>Russia halted gas supplies to Ukraine in June over a gas pricing dispute, but it has continued supplies to Europe, its largest market.</p> <p>"The situation in (Ukraine's) energy sector is difficult. We know of Russia's plans to block (gas) transit even to European Union countries this winter," he told a government meeting.</p> <p>Yatsenyuk did not say how he knew about the Russian plans.</p> <p>Last year, half of Russian gas exports to the EU were shipped via Ukraine. Russian gas exporter Gazprom declined immediate comment and the Energy Ministry was not immediately available to comment.</p> <p>Russian gas supplies via Ukraine to Europe were disrupted in the winters of 2006 and 2009 because of pricing disagreements between Russia and Ukraine.</p> <p>The latest gas pricing dispute is closely intertwined with a bigger standoff between Moscow and Kyiv.</p> <p>Ukraine's Moscow-leaning president Viktor Yanukovych fled his country following weeks of street clashes by people angry that he had rejected an association agreement with the European Union.</p> <p>Moscow subsequently annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March, while pro-Moscow separatists have staged an insurgency in the east of the country.</p> <p>The area where the fighting is concentrated, known as the Donbass, is a major source of coal for Ukraine.</p> <p>Yatsenyuk said the government has been trying to diversify coal supplies as "Russia and their mercenaries are bombing and destroying mines." Russia has denied any involvement in the conflict.</p> <p>(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Louise Heavens)</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:52:23 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6242126 at French magistrates place IMF chief Christine Lagarde under investigation in fraud case <!--paging_filter--><p>IMF chief Christine Lagarde has been put under formal investigation by French magistrates for negligence in a political fraud affair dating from 2008 when she was finance minister.</p> <p>Lagarde, who this week was questioned by magistrates in Paris for a fourth time under her existing status as a witness in the long-running saga, said she would contest the decision.</p> <p>"I have asked my lawyer to use all recourse against this decision which I consider to be completely unfounded," she said on BFMTV. "I am returning to work in Washington this afternoon."</p> <p>Under French law, magistrates place someone under formal investigation when they believe there are indications of wrongdoing, but that does not always lead to a trial.</p> <p>Lagarde's lawyer, Yves Repiquet, told Reuters he would appeal the appeal the magistrates' decision and so the matter would not prevent Lagarde from doing her job at the head of the International Monetary Fund in the meantime.</p> <p>"She is now on her way back to Washington and will, of course, brief the (IMF) Board as soon as possible," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said. "Until then, we have no further comment."</p> <p>The inquiry relates to allegations tycoon Bernard Tapie, a supporter of conservative ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, was improperly awarded 403 million euros ($531 million) in an arbitration to settle a dispute with now defunct, state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais.</p> <p>The inquiry has already embroiled several of Sarkozy's cabinet members and <a href="">France</a> Telecom CEO Stephane Richard, who was an aide to Lagarde when she was Sarkozy's finance minister.</p> <p>In previous rounds of questioning, Lagarde has not recognized as her own the pre-printed signature to sign off on a document facilitating the payment, Repiquet told Reuters by telephone. However Richard has stated that Lagarde was fully briefed on the matter.</p> <p>The offence of negligence by a person charged with public responsibility in France carries a maximum penalty of one year's imprisonment and a 15,000-euro fine.</p> <p>Lagarde was a star in Sarkozy's cabinet and well-respected by peers, pushing through many of the high-profile initiatives in France's presidency of the G20 group of nations.</p> <p>She has been managing director of the IMF since 2011 after her predecessor at the IMF, Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, resigned over sexual assault charges that were later dropped.</p> <p>A spokesman said last year the global lender's board had discussed possible consequences of the Tapie case and determined that she would still be able to lead the fund.</p> <p>Tapie, a colorful and often controversial character in the French business and sports world, sued the state for compensation after selling his stake in sports company Adidas to Credit Lyonnais in 1993.</p> <p>He claimed the bank had defrauded him after it later resold his stake for a much higher sum. Credit Lyonnais, now part of Credit Agricole, has denied wrongdoing.</p> <p>Investigators are trying to determine whether Tapie's political connections played a role in the government's decision to resort to arbitration that won him a huge pay-out. He has denied any wrongdoing.</p> <p>(1 US dollar = 0.7587 euro)</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov in Washington; Writing Mark John; editing by Andrew Callus/Jeremy Gaunt)</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:33:29 +0000 Chine Labbe, Thomson Reuters 6242093 at UN accuses Islamic State and Syrian government of committing war crimes <!--paging_filter--><p>The Syrian government and Islamic State insurgents are both committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in their increasingly brutal fight against each other, UN investigators said on Wednesday.</p> <p>Islamic State forces in northern <a href="">Syria</a> are waging a campaign to instill fear, including amputations, public executions and whippings, they said.</p> <p>Government forces have dropped barrel bombs on civilian areas, including some believed to contain the chemical agent chlorine in eight incidents in April, and have committed killings, torture and other war crimes that should be prosecuted, they said in a report issued in Geneva.</p> <p>"Violence has bled over the borders of the Syrian Arab Republic, with extremism fuelling the conflict's heightened brutality," said the 45-page report.</p> <p>Deaths in custody in Syrian jails are on the rise and forensic analysis of 26,948 photographs allegedly taken from 2011-2013 in government detention centers back its "longstanding findings of systematic torture and deaths of detainees."</p> <p>"Forced truces, a mark of the government's strategy of siege and bombardment, are often followed by mass arrests of men of fighting age, many of whom disappear," it said.</p> <p>The UN report, the commission of inquiry's eighth since being set up three years ago, is based on 480 interviews and documentary evidence gathered by its team, which is trying to build a case for future criminal prosecution.</p> <p>Islamic forces, which are also sweeping through neighboring <a href="">Iraq</a> in their bid to establish a cross-border caliphate, have drawn more experienced and ideologically motivated foreign fighters and established control over large areas in northern and eastern Syria, particularly oil-rich Deir al-Zor, it said.</p> <p>"Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle on Fridays in al Raqqa and ISIS-controlled areas of Aleppo governorate (province)," the report said.</p> <p>"Children have been present at the executions, which take the form of beheading or shooting in the head at close range... Bodies are placed on public display, often on crucifixes, for up to three days, serving as a warning to local residents."</p> <p><strong>US calculations</strong></p> <p>Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN panel, said he was also concerned about the fate of boys forced to join Islamic State training camps, telling reporters the <a href="">United States</a> should take their presence into account before launching any air strikes.</p> <p>"Among the most disturbing findings in this report are accounts of large training camps where children, mostly boys from the age of 14, are recruited and trained to fight in the ranks of ISIS along with adults," he told a news briefing.</p> <p>Islamic State is variously referred to as IS, ISIS or ISIL.</p> <p>The US air force has already hit the same group across the border in Iraq and President Barack Obama has called for surveillance flights to gather intelligence on Islamic State units in Syria should he decide to order airstrikes there.</p> <p>"We are aware ... of the presence of children in training camps, I think that this decision by the United States must respect the laws of war and we are concerned about the presence of these children," Pinheiro said.</p> <p>His panel's report said Islamic State forces had committed torture, murder, acts tantamount to enforced disappearance and forced displacement as part of attacks on civilians in Aleppo and al-Raqqa provinces, amounting to crimes against humanity.</p> <p>"ISIS poses a clear and present danger to civilians, and particularly minorities, under its control in Syria and in the region," Pinheiro said in a statement.</p> <p>The investigators, who include former UN crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, have drawn up four confidential lists of suspects whom they believe should face international justice.</p> <p>In the report, they reiterated their call for the UN Security Council to refer violations in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).</p> <p>"Accountability must be part of any future settlement if it is to result in an enduring peace. Too many lives have been lost and shattered," Pinheiro said.</p> <p>(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Crispian Balmer)</p> Need to Know Syria Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:11:23 +0000 Stephanie Nebehay, Thomson Reuters 6242041 at Edinburgh’s feminist revolution <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A steep rise in the number of women comedians at this year’s Fringe Festival reflects changing social mores. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Peter Geoghegan </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>EDINBURGH, <a href="">UK</a> — If there’s one place where print media is still very much alive and well, it’s here, in August.</p> <p>To walk along the Scottish capital’s cobbled streets is to run a gauntlet of kids with angular haircuts thrusting flyers and free magazines. Every wall seems to be plastered with posters advertising shows at the Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.</p> <p>But there’s something different about the faces being advertised this year: There are more women than ever before.</p> <p>One of the main developments at this Fringe is the dramatic increase in the number of female comedians, up more than 60 percent from last year to almost 200 — even though that means women still front fewer than one in five shows.</p> <p>Britain’s comedy scene, with its workingmen’s clubs and ribald gags, hasn’t traditionally been very open to women. That’s no longer the case, says Sara Pascoe, whose show about history’s epic romances has won rave reviews at the Fringe this year.</p> <p>“Comedy has become a nicer environment,” she says. “It used to be a very sexist, fatist, misogynistic place. They were uninviting places and the jokes were nasty.”</p> <p>Now society is changing, she adds. “Audiences don’t want that any more.”</p> <p>The increase in female comedians is part of a wider social change in Britain that’s seen a spike in interest in feminist issues, including the banning of topless photographs in tabloid newspapers — spreads known as Page Three — and addressing the gender gap in pay.</p> <p>“What’s happening at the Edinburgh festival is a reflection of what’s happening on Twitter and blogs and lots of books being published,” Pascoe says. “It’s a cultural thing that’s happening in Britain right now.”</p> <p>It’s helped that female comics have finally started to receive critical recognition at the Fringe. Last year, Brigit Christie won the main comedy prize — only the third woman to do so in the award’s 33-year existence — and Adrienne Truscott landed the coveted panel prize for “Asking For It,” a show that tackled rape culture and rape jokes. She famously performed naked from the waist down.</p> <p>Christie accepted the award on behalf of all female comics, saying, “You had better watch out, we’re taking over!”</p> <p>Among those taking over is English comedian Zoe Lyons. A lively, inventive comic with a caustic wit, she’s spent a decade on the comedy circuit. One of the leading female lights at the Edinburgh Fringe, she says gender doesn’t play a large role in her performances.</p> <p>“When I started, it didn’t dawn on me that being a woman would make any difference. My main job is to make people laugh,” she says. “I talk about stuff I’m interested in, but that can be anything between the price of lobster and panpipe players.”</p> <p>One of the main reasons that’s changing, Lyons says, is a new emphasis on narrative and storytelling.</p> <p>“When you’re paid by a club to do 20 minutes on a Saturday night, you are employed to do it bang, bang, bang, make them laugh,” she says.</p> <p>In Edinburgh, however, sets are an hour long. “You can be a bit more indulgent,” she says. “Enjoy the time. Don’t worry if there hasn’t been a laugh for 30 seconds.”</p> <p>Comedy abhors anything that resembles a cozy consensus, however. There are already signs of a backlash against any signs of a feminist orthodoxy.</p> <p>In her show “Help the Frigid,” <a href="">Irish</a> comedian Eleanor Tiernan explores the conflict that comes from wanting to make jokes that don’t necessarily always support other women.</p> <p>“When you start saying to comedians, ‘We’re all on board, No More Page Three,’ people invariably kick off against it,” says comic critic Jay Richardson. “Comedians want to kick against the status quo.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Kremlin to Russians: No food? No problem</a></strong></p> <p>The number of female comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe will doubtless continue to rise. Pascoe expects a first Fringe evenly divided among the genders will take place soon.</p> <p>However, genuine equality won’t come through numbers, she says, but through an acceptance that gender isn’t an arbiter of funniness.</p> <p>“If a woman is bad, it’s not because she’s a woman,” she says. “It’s because she’s really bad.”</p> <p>“If you have a bad night, it’s because you made some mistakes. It’s not ‘Oh, if only had a [penis], it would have been OK.’” </p> Arts Entertainment Want to Know United Kingdom Wed, 27 Aug 2014 04:32:27 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 6238488 at Myanmar struggles to kick a deadly addiction <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The world’s fourth most common psychoactive habit delivers a potent buzz and lots of red saliva. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sebastian Strangio </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>YANGON — When Myo Min Tun smiles he shows red-stained teeth, the mark of the long-time betel user. “If you chew three continuously, it’s equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes,” the 36-year-old says, picking up his daily fix of betel quids — small parcels of areca nuts and tobacco, wrapped in betel leaves coated with slaked lime.</p> <p> Tun says he started chewing betel as a teenager, and now goes through about 40 parcels per day, which keep him going through long days at the tea shop where he works in downtown Yangon. “When I eat a lot, my heart beats faster,” he says. “I can’t stop.”</p> <p> Betel nut — or "kun," as it is known locally — is a popular pick-me-up in Myanmar, a mild stimulant which gives users a burst of energy similar to that from a cup of tea or coffee. In the streets of this crumbling former capital, betel sellers sit on nearly every corner. The pavement is covered in splotches of red betel juice spat out by chewers.</p> <p> Use of betel nut (so-called for its combination of betel leaves and areca nuts) is common throughout Asia, but few countries chew their way through as much as Myanmar, which <a href="">accounts for</a> more than half of Southeast Asia's betel consumption, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Recent figures <a href="">show</a> that approximately one in four people in the cities chomp down regularly on betel quids, whose combination of areca nut, betel leaf and tobacco produce a potent buzz and a lot of excess red saliva.</p> <p> But Myanmar’s kun aficionados could be getting a lot more than a stained smile. Extensive research has shown that chewing betel quids has dire health consequences, including cancer. Professor Ying-chin Ko, a researcher at <a href="">China</a> Medical University in Taiwan, who has studied the health effects of betel quids since the 1990s, says betel chewing is closely correlated with various forms of oral cancer, whether or not tobacco is included in the packages. The habit has also been linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. “Betel nut is an addictive substance, and it’s not easy to give up,” Ko says.</p> <p> Betel has deep cultural and historical roots in South and Southeast Asia. It is mentioned in ancient Sanskrit texts, and has turned up on teeth excavated from Bronze Age sites in modern-day <a href="">Vietnam</a>. Throughout the region it plays a role in marriage ceremonies and is prized as a folk cure for everything from acne and indigestion to bad breath. In some places it acts as a social lubricant and a prelude to courtship. In Cambodia, a traditional saying <a href="">instructs</a>, “a quid of betel nut is the prelude to all conversation.”</p> <p> Today there are about 600 million betel users worldwide — most of them in Asia. The WHO ranks it as the fourth most commonly used psychoactive substance after alcohol, tobacco, and caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea. “You get dizzy the first time, but you get used to it. It’s kind of like smoking,” says betel seller Maung Oo, 50, sitting behind a table covered with stacked betel leaves and rusty tobacco tins from <a href="">India</a>, some bearing grim health warnings.</p> <p> As his customers line up for their morning quid, Maung Oo works quickly, arranging the betel leaves in rows and dabbing each with sour-smelling lime solution. He adds chunks of areca nut and a sprinkle of dried tobacco to each. Sweeteners are sometimes added to taste, as are spices like aniseed or cardamom. He then wraps the quids in small plastic bags sealed with toothpicks. Who are his best customers? “Burmese, Indians, Muslims — all kinds of people,” he says, flashing his own red-stained smile. “You can see from their mouths.”</p> <p> In 2006 Myanmar passed a tobacco control law banning smoking and betel-chewing in public places such as schools and hospitals. But health experts say the sale of kun remains, and the ban goes virtually unenforced. “It’s very cheap. For 300 kyats [about US$0.35] you can get four packages,” says Dr. Tint Tint Kyi, a senior consultant physician at Insein General Hospital in Yangon. Treating betel addicts, she has seen first-hand how hard it is to kick the habit. Even when users are aware of the dangers, many continue to chew. “Addiction is very dangerous. Highly addicted people don’t want to listen at all,” she says. “It’s a social disease.”</p> <p> Some Asian countries have instituted more stringent controls on betel nut. Last year the government of Papua New Guinea <a href="">banned</a> the practice of chewing it in the capital Port Moresby, but this was more to eradicate the red stains on the sidewalks than to promote public health.</p> <p> Another problem is that many anti-tobacco laws focus on smoking rather than smokeless forms of tobacco consumption like betel quids. “This habit really undermines our efforts,” says Dr. Nyo Nyo Kyaing, a regional advisor for the World Health Organization’s Tobacco-Free Initiative. “People are still not fully aware of the hazards, enforcement is weak and the taxes are low so it is easily affordable.” In addition to educating people about the health effects of kun, she says the laws need to be updated to include betel quid in anti-smoking campaigns and regulations.</p> <p> U Soe Thu, 23, is aware of the health problems, but chews kun anyway. He says a quid every few hours helps him stay alert during long shifts at a hotel in central Yangon. “I’m a bit addicted now. I can only stop for one or two days,” Thu admits, taking a small bag of green betel quids from a vendor.</p> <p> “It feels like something’s missing. And then the sourness in the mouth makes me want to chew it again.”</p> Want to Know Asia-Pacific Emerging Markets Myanmar Wed, 27 Aug 2014 04:32:24 +0000 Sebastian Strangio 6234793 at French President Francois Hollande unveils new cabinet <!--paging_filter--><p>President Francois Hollande replaced his maverick leftist economy minister with a former Rothschild partner on Tuesday in a reshuffle intended to reconcile his efforts to revive the stagnant French economy with deficit-cutting orthodoxy.</p> <p>The shake-up is the latest episode in the wrangling across <a href="">Europe</a> about how much budgetary rigor the region's economies can bear as they recover from financial crises. For Hollande, who is revamping his government for a second time in two years, it could be his last chance to make a success of his presidency.</p> <p>Arnaud Montebourg, ejected from the key economy ministry post on Monday after his latest tirade against German-enforced "austerity" in the euro zone, was replaced by Emmanuel Macron.</p> <p>Macron, a 36-year-old former merchant banker, acted as Hollande's top economic adviser until June and was widely known in French business circles as their "ear" at Hollande's presidential palace, otherwise largely packed with technocrats.</p> <p>The new cabinet makes its debut just a few weeks ahead of tough negotiations at home and with EU peers on a 2015 budget widely expected to break promises to <a href="">Brussels</a> over deficit cuts.</p> <p>Sources close to Hollande said the new cabinet, whose names were read out on the steps of his Elysee Palace, would carry out his plan of reconciling pro-business measures to boost growth — including 40 billion euros in corporate tax cuts — with promises to adhere to EU budget rules.</p> <p>"We need it to act in such a way as to ensure solidarity, respect and consistency," one source said of Hollande's bid to draw a line under two years of confused leadership that has seen his popularity ratings spiral to record lows.</p> <p>Hollande's former coalition partners, the left-wing Greens, will field no ministers in the new cabinet. Senior Green Jean-Vincent Place said "the conditions were not met" for them to have a role in government.</p> <p><strong>'Overdue'</strong></p> <p>Finance Minister Michel Sapin kept the role in which he has tried to reassure EU partners that <a href="">France</a> will finally mend its public finances despite repeatedly failing to bring its deficit below an EU-endorsed limit of three percent of output. Sapin was undermined by Montebourg's public questioning of the EU rules.</p> <p>"After the unacceptable comments from the ejected economy minister, this step was overdue," <a href="">Germany</a>'s EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said earlier of the French reshuffle.</p> <p>"This move clearly shows that the right wing of the Socialist party is also able to speak louder," wrote ING's Julien Manceaux in a note to clients, calling the choice of Macron "a very good signal to France's European partners".</p> <p>Two other rebels, culture minister Aurelie Filippetti and education minister Benoit Hamon, were replaced by existing ministers solidly loyal to the increasingly centrist line that Hollande has set for his Socialist government since January.</p> <p>Valls handed in his government's resignation on Monday after Hollande judged that the outspoken Montebourg had gone too far by attacking his economic recovery plan and crucial euro zone partner Germany's "obsession" with austerity.</p> <p>While Montebourg's appeals for fiscal loosening aimed at boosting growth have started to gain traction in some quarters outside France, others insist that trimming welfare systems and state spending are needed to make economies more competitive.</p> <p>At stake is the slender majority of Hollande's Socialists in the lower house of parliament which is due to examine the budget bill and other reforms, including a liberalization of France's highly regulated services sector, in the coming weeks.</p> <p>If around 40 leftist Socialist deputies feel under-represented by the new cabinet, they could abstain or oppose the forthcoming reforms. The downside for them is that, given the unpopularity of the ruling majority, they would likely lose their seats if a rebellion triggered new elections.</p> <p>Filippetti earlier played down speculation that the existing ministers would seek to lure away leftist deputies from the government camp and so undermine Hollande's fragile majority.</p> <p>"It's not our aim to provoke a government crisis. I will support the new government," the ex-culture minister told BFM-TV, saying she planned to focus her work on the depressed region of northeastern France where she is a Socialist deputy.</p> <p>The European debate about how to kickstart growth while not undermining public finances is not just felt in France.</p> <p>Austria's Finance Minister Michael Spindelegger resigned on Tuesday after drawing fire for his refusal to cut taxes unless they can be financed without new levies.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Paris,; Michelle Martin in Berlin and the Vienna bureau; editing by Gareth Jones)</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 26 Aug 2014 20:05:38 +0000 Mark John and Julien Ponthusm, Thomson Reuters 6241387 at Will the #RubbleBucketChallenge help raise awareness for Gaza? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Ice Bucket Challenge has done wonders for ALS. Now Palestinians have a new challenge for you. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Colarusso </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>By now, most of us have seen videos of our friends, family members, and colleagues dumping buckets of ice water on their heads in support of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, research. The gambit has <a href="">raised</a> about $80 million, but perhaps more importantly, it's become a viral marketing tool, raising awareness for a devastating neurological affliction that affects a smaller number of people — and therefore gets less media attention and funding — than cancer or heart disease.</p> <p>Which leads us to Gaza, where one journalist is hoping his version of the "ice bucket challenge" will get people thinking about the struggles of the Palestinian people. In his video, which has been dubbed the "<a href="">rubble bucket challenge</a>," Ayman al Aloul implores the international community to help end the suffering. Over the past seven weeks, much of <a href="">Gaza</a> has been destroyed and more than 2,000 Gazans (along with several dozen Israelis) have died in the latest go-round of fighting between Hamas and <a href="">Israel</a>. </p> <p>"This challenge is not for specific people but for all people who sympathize with the Palestinian people," says Aloul, according to the subtitles. "We do not ask for material aid. Anybody who wants to help Gaza should invent his own idea."</p> <p>Standing amid the wreckage of a demolished building, Aloul looks into the camera and notes that water is tough to come by in Gaza. So, he has a mixture of rocks, sand and construction debris poured over his head.</p> <p>As of Tuesday morning, the rubble bucket challenge had roughly 4,000 likes on its <a href="">Facebook Page</a>. And, the hashtags #dustbucketchallenge and #remainsbucketchallenge were trending on social media sites.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="510" src="//" width="100%"></iframe></p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Israel and Palestine Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:46:00 +0000 Laura Colarusso 6241266 at UN cargo helicopter crashes in South Sudan warzone <!--paging_filter--><p>A UN cargo helicopter crashed Tuesday in South Sudan's warzone region of Unity state, the UN peacekeeping mission said, adding it was "deeply concerned about the fate of the crew."</p> <p>The UN mission said it had "dispatched a search and rescue team" to the area, near the northern oil town of Bentiu, one of the hardest fought over areas in the country's more than eight-month-long civil war.</p> <p>The Mi-8 helicopter, which generally carries between three and five crew members, crashed about six miles south of Bentiu.</p> <p>"The mission lost contact with the helicopter, which was on a routine cargo flight from Wau to Bentiu," around 1130 GMT, the United Nations mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a statement.</p> <p>"Investigations regarding the cause of the incident will begin as soon as possible."</p> <p>The area has seen recent heavy battles between government and rebel forces, with the town of Bentiu badly damaged in the months of fighting.</p> <p>There was no indication given as to what had caused the crash.</p> <p>There have been previous crashes. Last year a UN helicopter crash landed on its way from South Sudan to Ethiopia, injuring four crew members.</p> <p>In 2012, South Sudan gunmen shot down a UN helicopter, killing all four <a href="">Russian</a> crew onboard.</p> <p>UN cargo helicopters are vital to supplying peacekeeping bases across the impoverished nation, as well as providing food aid for civilians, with aid agencies warning of the risk of famine should fighting continue.</p> <p>Thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.8 million have fled civil war sparked by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar.</p> <p>Over 40,000 civilians are sheltering in the UN camp in Bentiu alone, some of the almost 100,000 civilians in UN bases who fled there to escape killings and massacres.</p> <p>Rebel forces in Unity are led by warlord Peter Gadet, who has been slapped with sanctions by both the <a href="">United States</a> and <a href="">European</a> Union for atrocities.</p> <p>Gadet on Saturday seized a UN helicopter that landed near Bentiu carrying ceasefire monitors.</p> <p>One ceasefire monitor died during the incident and the others were released.</p> Africa Need to Know Tue, 26 Aug 2014 15:02:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6241199 at Social media users censored how they TRULY felt about Snowden's NSA leaks <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> New Pew Research study finds people don't share as much as we think they do on social media. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Studies have long shown that people tend to keep their opinions to themselves when they believe the majority of those around them don't share their views.</p> <p>There's even a name for this phenomenon. It's called the "spiral of silence."</p> <p>The theory was first proposed by <a href="">German</a> political scientist <a href="">Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann</a> in 1974, but it's a human trait that has probably existed since we were clubbing each other back in the Stone Age.</p> <p>Then along came the Internet and the explosion of social media networks, and suddenly people had places where they could share their views without fear of being physically attacked.</p> <p>It was widely believed that websites such as Facebook and Twitter would spawn a new age of political discourse by giving people the courage to freely express their opinions on issues even when their views were not shared by the majority.</p> <p>Well, guess what? A <a href="">new study</a>, just published today by Pew Research Center, says it didn’t happen.</p> <p>It turns out people are actually <em>less</em> likely to share their opinions on social media than they are in face-to-face settings such as family dinners and water-cooler conversations with colleagues.</p> <p>And if people think their social media friends and followers disagree with their view, they are less likely to discuss the issue at all — not in cyberspace or in the physical presence of other humans. (Unless your name is <a href="">Richard Dawkins</a>, of course.)</p> <p>The report entitled "Social Media and the 'Spiral of Silence'" examined the willingness of 1,801 <a href="">Americans</a> to share their opinions on and offline about a divisive news story and political issue that broke in 2013 and remains a huge deal: former NSA contractor <a href="">Edward Snowden&rsquo;s</a> revelations of widespread US government surveillance of phone and email records. </p> <p>How did people handle Snowden and the NSA on social media? Here's a snapshot of Pew's findings. </p> <p><strong>86 percent of respondents said they were willing to discuss Snowden’s explosive revelations in person, while only 42 percent of Facebook and Twitter users were willing to post their opinion about the same issue. </strong></p> <p><img src="" width="670"></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <p><strong>Of the 14 percent who were reluctant to discuss the NSA surveillance program in face-to-face conversations, almost none were willing to post their views on social media either.</strong></p> <p><img src="" width="670"></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">Matt Cardy/Getty Images</span></p> <p>That pours a big bucket of icy cold water on the notion that the emergence of social media networks would encourage people to share views they would not otherwise express.</p> <p>While the researchers didn't explore the reasons why the respondents self-censored, previous studies on the spiral of silence have found people don't speak out for fear of isolation and ostracism. There's also a fear that a prospective employer might find the posts and not like what they read. </p> <p><strong>Even allowing for age differences, Facebook and Twitter users were less likely to express their opinions in many face-to-face settings, particularly if they believed their social media friends and followers didn't share their view.</strong></p> <p><img src="" width="670"></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <p>The researchers are not entirely sure why that's the case, but one possible reason could be related to social media users' greater awareness of the opinions of others in their network; i.e. they know lots of people don't agree with them so why go and provoke an argument at dinner. </p> <p>They may also have "witnessed those with minority opinions experiencing ostracism, ridicule or bullying online, and that this might increase the perceived risk of opinion sharing in other settings," they said.</p> <p><strong>People were more willing to share their opinions about the Snowden leaks on and offline if they believed their audience agreed with them.</strong></p> <p><img src="" width="670"></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <p>In other words, we don't like to cause confrontation. That was particularly the case at work, where people were nearly three times more likely to enter into a conversation about the NSA surveillance program if they believed their colleagues agreed with them. On Facebook, people were twice as likely to discuss the issue if they felt their network of friends and followers shared the same opinion.</p> <p>But not everyone with an unpopular opinion about Snowden's revelations or the government's surveillance program self-censors.</p> <p>Those who felt they knew a lot about the topic, had very strong opinions and/or a high-level of interest were more likely to discuss the subject, whether it was on social media or in person.</p> Want to Know United States Tue, 26 Aug 2014 14:01:00 +0000 Allison Jackson 6240598 at Ukraine detains Russian paratroopers who crossed into its territory on a 'special mission' <!--paging_filter--><p>Update:</p> <p>Ukraine said on Tuesday its forces had captured a group of Russian paratroopers who had crossed into Ukrainian territory on a "special mission" — but Moscow said they had ended up there by mistake.</p> <p>The Ukrainian military meanwhile reported pro-Russian separatist forces were shelling the town of Novoazovsk and buildings there, including a hospital, were ablaze.</p> <hr><p>Ukrainian security services on Monday released video footage purporting to show Russian servicemen who were captured by Ukrainian government forces while fighting alongside pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine.</p> <p>The footage, which is likely to fuel allegations from Kyiv and its Western allies of Russian involvement in the war, appeared on the day the Russian and Ukrainian leaders are to meet for talks in the Belarussian capital to try to end the conflict.</p> <p><a href="">Russia</a> denies giving military help to the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>Ukraine's state security service said on Monday it had detained 10 Russian paratroopers who had crossed into Ukrainian territory from Russia in a column of several dozen armed infantry vehicles.</p> <p>In footage posted on the official Facebook page of the Ukrainian government's "anti-terrorist operation," the men were shown dressed in camouflage fatigues.</p> <p>One of them, who identified himself as Ivan Milchakov, listed his personal details, including the name of the paratroop regiment he said is based in the Russian town of Kostroma.</p> <p>"I did not see where we crossed the border. They just told us we were going on a 70-kilometer march over three days," he said.</p> <p>"Everything is different here, not like they show it on television. We've come as cannon fodder," he said in the video.</p> <p>Another man in the footage, who gave his name as Sergeant Aleksei Generalov, said: "Stop sending in our boys. Why? This is not our war. And if we weren't here, none of this would have happened. They would have sorted things out with the government themselves."</p> <p>The Russian servicemen were detained with their personal documents and weapons, near the small town of Amvrosiyivka in Donetsk region, the Ukrainian state security service said.</p> <p>"Officially they are on military exercises in various corners of Russia. In reality they are involved in military aggression against Ukraine," Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said in a Facebook post.</p> <p>Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday dismissed reports of a Russian incursion into Ukraine, saying it was "disinformation" by the authorities in Kyiv.</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:58:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6241068 at Did the Khmer Rouge really commit genocide? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Whether the regime’s hideous brand of cruelty actually qualifies as ‘genocide’ will soon go on trial in Cambodia. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Denise Hruby </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Like many elderly people, Halamas believes everything was better back in the day.</p> <p> In her case, it’s easy to imagine why.</p> <p> The gaunt but well-dressed 73-year-old, who wears her gold jewelery at home on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, lost everything in the brutal Khmer Rouge revolution of the mid-1970s.</p> <p> Her house, a wooden structure on stilts, is in the exact same spot as it used to be, four decades ago. “But it was much bigger and way more beautiful than now. Then the Khmer Rouge came, and we had to leave everything behind,” she said.</p> <p> For more than four years Halamas and her husband Muhammad Sat witnessed torture and starvation. They lived in constant fear of execution. Then they returned to the place where they had fallen in love and started to raise a family.</p> <p> “Nothing was left, it was all gone. We lived in shacks and tried to make money, so that little by little, we could rebuild our house,” she said, as she scooped rice out of a green tub. Halamas' eyes glistened with tears. Her husband nodded quietly.</p> <p> At least one out of every six Cambodians perished under the fanatic Maoist regime, which used force to create a society led by uneducated farmers. The wealthy, educated and urbanites were labeled class enemies and driven to the countryside to live in settlements akin to concentration camps.</p> <p> As members of the ethnic Cham minority, the ordeal was particularly risky for Halamas and Muhammad. Yale historian Ben Kiernan calculates that 36 percent of the Cham — a Muslim community that has lived in Cambodia for centuries — perished under the regime.</p> <p> Now, the Cham's plight is central to a trial that will soon be making news from Phnom Penh — which will address the question of whether the regime was actually genocidal.</p> <p> No one seriously disputes that the Khmer Rouge were among the most heinous killers of the bloody and war-ravaged 20th century.</p> <p> Yet while the regime’s is commonly labeled “genocidal,” in fact no Khmer Rouge official has yet been convicted of that particular crime. And 35 years after the Khmer Rouge were ousted, well-intentioned experts debate whether or not the term legitimately applies.</p> <p> The most widely accepted definition of the crime — from the United Nations’ 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted after the Holocaust — specificies that genocide involves intentional killing of a specific national, ethnic, racial or religious group.</p> <p> Historians differ over whether the Khmer Rouge had the requisite intentions to eliminate particular groups, or whether their brand of killing — perpetrated through violence, disease, hunger and gross negligence — was essentially more democratic.</p> <p> Kiernan, director of the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University and an expert on the Khmer Rouge, is among those who argue that genocide was committed.</p> <p> “Their religion, language and culture, large villages and autonomous networks threatened the atomized, closely supervised society that the Pol Pot leadership planned,” Kiernan wrote in <a href="">"Centuries of Genocide</a>." The 36 percent death rate for the Cham “was double the death rate suffered by the country’s ethnic Khmer majority,” he wrote, repeatedly using the word “genocide” to describe the atrocities.</p> <p> In contrast, another foremost scholar on modern Cambodia’s history, David P. Chandler, recommends caution with the Cambodia context.</p> <p> “Keep the quote marks or add the word ‘alleged,’” Chandler said. Under the UN definition, a genocide of the Muslim Cham will be “almost impossible to prove” as the intent to eradicate them was missing.</p> <p> “To support charges of genocide against the Cham, some … have pointed to their being made to eat pork, stop saying prayers and cut their hair. This is extreme harassment, rather than genocide,” he said.</p> <p> As he spoke to GlobalPost, Muhammad Sat’s recollections tended to support Chandler’s point of view. He said the best chance to stay alive — whether for the Cham or for the majority Khmer — was to assimilate as much as possible.</p> <p> “Anyone who was caught praying would be executed immediately, I think that was the case for us and also for Buddhists,” who make up the majority religion in Cambodia, said Muhammad Sat.</p> <p> As he talked, he kept returning to the topic of food. He described how large the pots in the camp’s kitchen were, and the handful of rice that would be used to make porridge for dozens.</p> <p> He doesn’t believe that he was targeted any more than others who came from the city. “They didn’t care who you are. If you prayed, you were executed, no matter if you were Buddhist or Muslim.”</p> <p> In October, the Khmer Rouge tribunal is scheduled to hear testimony from Cham survivors like Muhammad Sat, as well as members of the <a href="">Vietnamese</a> community, to determine whether co-defendants Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea are guilty of genocide — and if the term so widely used to describe the Khmer Rouge’s frenzy is suitable.</p> <p> In a previous trial, the two were already found guilty of crimes against humanity. For that, they were sentenced to life in prison.</p> <p> “The convictions earlier this month in case 002 only really covered a very small fraction of the crimes that Khieu Samphan and Noun Chea are alleged to have committed, and it’s critical that the wider issue of genocide be addressed by the next phase of the trial,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s <a href="">Asia</a> division.</p> <p> William Schabas, an expert on human rights law and genocide who currently heads a team investigating war crimes allegedly committed by <a href="">Israel</a>, said the new trial in Cambodia “has been driven by a desire to salvage the word 'genocide' so that it can be applied to at least some small part of the Khmer Rouge activities.”</p> <p> Public and political enthusiasm for the trial, however, remains low.</p> <p> “I have difficulty understanding the wisdom behind concluding a trial of two very old people with a conviction for crimes against humanity, sentencing them to life imprisonment, and then starting all over with another trial for genocide,” Schabas wrote in an email.</p> <p> All that and the $200 million that were spent to find justice for the victims matters little to Muhammad Sat.</p> <p> “I feel indifferent about the tribunal, and I don’t really follow it,” he said.</p> <p> He does, however, acknowledge that the proceedings might matter more to those who lost family members during the Khmer Rouge.</p> <p> Muhammad Sat worked as a chef in the cantina, a position that allowed him to steal food and thus helped his wife and two children survive.</p> <p> “We are Cham, but we were luckier than others,” he said.</p> Want to Know Cambodia Vietnam Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:16:54 +0000 Denise Hruby 6240375 at Turkey's emergency room doctors are tired of getting beaten up <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The past 10 to 15 years have seen increasing numbers of attacks on health workers in Turkey. Most of the time, it’s because patients are tired of waiting in line. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dalia Mortada </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ISTANBUL, <a href="">Turkey</a> — Imagine you’re in the ER, waiting to be seen by the attending physician. It’s been an hour. You ask how much longer. You’re told to check the list. Then, the guy next to you stabs the doctor.</p> <p>In Turkey, this actually happens.</p> <p>“Two of my colleagues got their arms broken, one was stabbed with a pair of surgical scissors,” says Caner Celik, recalling a day last spring. “Two others were bruised up.” Celik is an emergency room doctor. In this country, that means he’s a target.</p> <p>The past 10 to 15 years have seen increasing numbers of attacks on health workers in Turkey. Most of the time, it’s because patients are tired of waiting in line.</p> <p>The hospital where Celik works has one of the highest rates of violence in Istanbul, he says, but abuse can be found anywhere — and it's dissuading medical students from certain specialties.</p> <p>Professor Emin Adas, a sociologist who has studied the growing phenomenon of health worker abuse, says that 70 percent of all physicians in Turkey, at least one time in their career, have been the targets of a physical attack. “There are some specializations that have a higher risk for confrontation,” he explains, like emergency medicine or surgery. “Fewer students are specializing in those branches,” he says.</p> <p>In Celik’s experience, that’s true. “We had vacancies for 10 ER residencies,” which last about four years in Turkey. “Not one person applied for the openings this year,” Celik says.</p> <p>While there isn’t one obvious reason for the increase in violence, there are a few theories.</p> <p>One possible contributing factor is the sharp divide between the perceived quality of private hospitals and those of public hospitals, which has stoked resentment in Turkey.</p> <p>But beyond the usual issues that plague extensive public health systems, such as overcrowded waiting rooms and long waits, Adas points to the demonization of doctors in the debate surrounding healthcare reform in the early 2000s.</p> <p>“Doctors didn’t like the provision that banned them from working in private practices outside of their public hospital work hours,” he says. Physicians argued that the extra income helped supplement their public salaries — today averaging $1,500 a month for an ER doctor — and allowed them to give more specialized care. “The government framed that [argument] as, ‘Doctors who are against these reforms are working against the people and they are basically looking after their own shallow narrow interests.’” To the general public, who overwhelmingly welcomed the reforms, doctors appeared greedy, Adas says, which makes them targets for attack when patients or their relatives believe they’re not getting proper care.</p> <p>Casting doctors as villains was easy in a society already skeptical of medical professionals’ priorities, where private medical care is a booming business. “When I took my mom to the hospital 20 years ago the doctor barely looked at her and handed his business card,” says Ramazan Ercan, a snowy-haired man of about 50, waiting for treatment at a public hospital in central Istanbul. Ercan, like many others who had similar experiences, was put off. “He told us, ‘Come see me at my private clinic, this is my fee.’ That was wrong, it was not ethical.” Ercan says he’s grateful for the reforms. He doesn’t mind waiting for his migraine treatment. “At least I can afford it.”</p> <p>He chalks up increased attacks to long lines and anxious patients. “You have to understand that it’s added stress when someone is sick and you don’t know why,” he says.</p> <p>While medical students do seem to be avoiding the ER, the violence isn’t dissuading people from becoming doctors altogether. “In the past 10 years we have seen about a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in medical students,” Adas says. But with patient visits jumping three to four times in the same period, demand for physicians far outstrips supply.</p> <p>Sinem, Celik’s wife who is also an ER doctor, says if she had a chance to do it all again she wouldn’t join the profession. One incident helped her reach that conclusion: “A patient’s relative slapped me across the face after I tried to explain to him we had to change shifts with the next doctors,” she described. When other doctors stepped in, the fight grew out of control, and doctors ended up with black eyes and dislocated shoulders. “They went to court and the guys who attacked us got probation.”  </p> <p>“I’ve given a huge part of my life to medical practice … only to end up in a place where I’m afraid of being threatened or hurt or even being killed,” Sinem laments. That fear can be debilitating.</p> <p>“Once, when I was training outside of Van [in eastern Turkey], an 80-year-old patient arrived to the hospital already dead,” she begins, laughing uncomfortably at what she calls a “tragic comedy.” “The patient’s relatives told the doctor, ‘You need to save her, or else consider yourself dead.’” The doctor called the main hospital in a nearby city, who advised him to have the patient transported there. If the doctors said the patient died in the ambulance, Sinem Celik explained, no doctor could get blamed. Amazingly, it worked.</p> <p>If the fear of being killed seems exaggerated, it’s not. In 2012, a cancer patient’s grandson killed 26-year-old physician Ersin Arslan after the elderly man passed away. “Since Ersin Arslan was killed, the fear of being murdered by a patient’s relatives has become more prevalent,” Celik says.</p> <p>New services were quickly implemented after Arslan’s murder launched the issue of doctor abuse onto the national stage. Among the new provisions are an emergency hotline to report violence as it is happening, free legal assistance to help doctors prosecute attackers and more than a 10-fold jump in security personnel (usually contracted out to private companies), according to the government. A special parliamentary health commission now exists to push provisions like these through. Still, doctors criticize the government for doing too little too late, and they say they don’t trust the judicial system to rule fairly.</p> <p>“At most, when someone has been found guilty of attacking me, they get off on probation and will have to pay a fine if they commit the same crime within a few years,” Celik shrugs.</p> <p>As a result, Celik says, it has become tough to do his job properly. “Unfortunately, the first thing we feel is fear.”</p> Want to Know Europe Middle East Turkey Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:16:00 +0000 Dalia Mortada 6240640 at Boko Haram says it is ruling the Nigerian town of Gwoza by Islamic law <!--paging_filter--><p>The leader of <a href="">Nigeria</a>'s Islamist group Boko Haram said his fighters were now ruling the captured northeastern town of Gwoza "by Islamic law," in the first video to state a territorial claim in more than five years of violent insurrection.</p> <p>The Nigerian military was quoted in local press as denying that Boko Haram was in control of the town, although security sources and some witnesses said police and military there had been pushed out.</p> <p>Abubakar Shekau's videoed speeches, often as chilling for a rambling incoherence as for any message they contain, have become a regular feature of the militant leader's bid to project himself as public enemy number one in <a href="">Africa</a>'s biggest economy.</p> <p>His forces have killed thousands since launching an uprising in 2009, and are seen as the biggest security threat to the continent's leading energy producer.</p> <p>In the latest one released through his network late on Sunday, the militant who says he is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, said his forces were now in control of the hilly border town of Gwoza, near the frontier with Cameroon, after more than a week of fighting there.</p> <p>"Allah has granted us success in Gwoza because we have risen to do Allah's work," Shekau says, reading out a statement off a notebook, with two masked gunmen on each side of him and three four wheel drive vehicles behind him in thinly forested bush.</p> <p>"Allah commands us to rule Gwoza by Islamic law. In fact, he commands us to rule the rest of the world, not only Nigeria, and now we have started."</p> <p>Nigerian authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Local newspaper ThisDay quoted Major-General Chris Olukolade as saying the claim Boko Haram controls Gwoza was "false and empty."</p> <p>The video includes footage of the attack on Gwoza, which appears to show hundreds of jihadists mounting what is alleged to be an attack on Gwoza, backed by armored personal carriers and pick-up trucks with mounted machine guns.</p> <p>They unload salvos of gunfire all over the town from trucks and on foot. The fighters are all armed with AK-47s or rocket propelled grenades, some in military uniform, others in civilian clothes. Many of them walk casually as they take over the town.</p> <p>They also fire into the hills at what appear to be fleeing security forces and civilians, and they help themselves to weapons and ammunition seized from security forces. It ends with scenes of executing captives in pre-dug mass graves, some of them beaten to death with spades.</p> <p>Ever since Sunni jihadists in <a href="">Syria</a> and <a href="">Iraq</a> declared the area they control "Islamic state" in June, the appeal of making territorial claims by Islamist groups has been enhanced.</p> <p>Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said on Sunday that 35 policemen were missing after an attack on a mobile police training camp in Gwoza.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Isaac Abrak; Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Ralph Boulton)</p> Need to Know Nigeria Mon, 25 Aug 2014 20:34:42 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6240432 at Everyone from Tibetan monks to Iran's Supreme Leader is watching Ferguson. Here's how they're reacting <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The killing of Michael Brown matters to folks around the globe. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>We know recent events in Ferguson, Missouri resonate with the rest of the world.</p> <p>We have proof. Check out this <a href="" target="_blank">time-lapse map</a> that shows how quickly tweets mentioning Ferguson spread around the globe. (Full map at the bottom.)</p> <p>The question, then, isn&#39;t whether people outside America are paying attention to the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and its aftermath. The question is, what do they think about it? What has the world learned about the United States from what&#39;s been happening in Ferguson?</p> <p>That&#39;s a deeper query, and counting tweets won&#39;t answer it. So let&#39;s take a closer look at how people in other countries have reacted so far.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Hands across the internet</strong></p> <p>The tweets that spread like wildfire around the globe weren&#39;t just disseminating news. Some of those tweets consisted of folks in other crisis-ridden countries trying to help their counterparts in Ferguson cope.</p> <p>A&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Telegraph</a> article, which Zach Goldhammer cited in the <a href="" target="_blank">Atlantic</a>, chronicled Palestinian tweets aimed at Ferguson, offering advice on how to handle tear gas.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Always make sure to run against the wind /to keep calm when you&#39;re teargassed, the pain will pass, don&#39;t rub your eyes! <a href="">#Ferguson</a> Solidarity</p> <p> &mdash; مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) <a href="">August 14, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Don&#39;t Keep much distance from the Police, if you&#39;re close to them they can&#39;t tear Gas. To <a href="">#Ferguson</a> from <a href="">#Palestine</a></p> <p> &mdash; Rajai abuKhalilرجائي (@Rajaiabukhalil) <a href="">August 14, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Why would someone in Gaza care about protesters in Ferguson? One argument is that the resurgence of popular uprisings around the world &mdash; the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, for example &mdash; has created a kind of global protest culture, one that unites people against oppression across nations. As&nbsp;Goldhammer puts it, there&#39;s now a &quot;certain transnational homogeneity to scenes of riot police clashing with demonstrators.&quot;</p> <p>Or, as you might say, &quot;<a href="">tear gas unites us all</a>.&quot;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Around the world in Buddhist robes</strong></p> <p>The internet is great for connecting people in faraway places, but some people saw what was happening in Ferguson and decided to hop on an airplane.</p> <p>Some, like the Tibetan monks who came all the way from India, traveled great distances to take part in the demonstrations in a St. Louis suburb.&nbsp;</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Huffington Post</a> collated some great pictures of the monks interacting with folks in Missouri.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>These men have come to <a href="">#Ferguson</a>, MO all the way from India, where they live in exile, to bring a message of PEACE.✌️ <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) <a href="">August 17, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Finger waggin&#39;</strong></p> <p>The gestures of compassionate individuals aside, several countries have barely been able to conceal their delight to see the US struggling over human rights.</p> <p>An editorial in <a href="">China&#39;s state-run Xinhua</a> media outlet ended with the pithy:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&quot;Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others.&quot;</span></p> </blockquote> <p>Iran&#39;s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei <a href="" target="_blank">let loose on Twitter</a>, criticizing the US for its human rights hypocrisy.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Based on global statistics,US govt is the biggest violator of <a href="">#HumanRights</a>. Besides int&rsquo;l crimes,it commits crimes against its ppl.<a href="">#Ferguson</a></p> <p> &mdash; (@khamenei_ir) <a href="">August 17, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Germany was quick to say <a href="" target="_blank">nothing of the sort could happen</a> at home, and Russia &mdash; well. &quot;Ferguson has been a gift to Russia&rsquo;s propagandists,&quot; writes <a href="" target="_blank">Max Seddon in Buzzfeed</a>. They&#39;re all over it.</p> <p>Even&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Amnesty International</a> put its seal of disapproval on the situation, sending a 13-person delegation to Ferguson &mdash; the first time they had ever sent observers to a community inside the US that was in mid-crisis.</p> <p>&quot;Amnesty saw a human rights crisis in Ferguson and it&#39;s a human rights crisis that is escalating,&quot; said Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA.</p> <p>So, what has the world learned about America from Ferguson?</p> <p>Well, for starters it has learned that the US is a deeply flawed nation in need of as much oversight as anyone else.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="520" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" src="" style="font-size: 13px;" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="100%"></iframe></p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Asia-Pacific Politics Culture & Lifestyle Israel and Palestine United States Mon, 25 Aug 2014 20:25:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 6238969 at Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signs decree to dissolve parliament <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree on Monday to dissolve parliament, he said on a Twitter post, paving the way for a new election.</p> <p>&quot;I have decided to prematurely end the authority of parliament,&quot; he wrote.</p> <p>Under the law, the election must be held within 60 days of the decree being published, which could mean an election being held at the end of October.</p> <p>Ukraine will hold a parliamentary election on Oct. 26 following the dissolution of the current assembly by President Petro Poroshenko, his spokesman said on Monday.</p> <p>&quot;The next election is on Oct. 26,&quot; Sviatoslav Tseholko said on a Twitter post.</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:36:31 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6240369 at Gaza gravediggers unwittingly dig their own graves <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Israeli military has targeted both major burial grounds in Gaza a collective six times over the last week. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ashley Gallagher </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>GAZA CITY — Cemeteries are becoming the most dangerous places in Gaza.</p> <p>The Israeli military has targeted both of Gaza’s primary burial grounds on six occasions over the past week, alleging that they'd received intelligence that rockets were being launched from the areas.</p> <p>On Saturday, local residents say the cemetery north of Gaza City was targeted, though no injuries were reported.</p> <p>On Thursday, four people were killed at the Shekh Radwan Cemetery in the middle of the city around 10 a.m. At least two of the victims were gravediggers who were preparing graves for people killed the night before during Israeli air strikes.</p> <p>One of those victims was Awsam Ta’Fesh, 43, who had been working as a gravedigger for five years at Shekh Radwan. His wife An'am said he had been regularly digging graves for victims of the most recent violence between <a href="">Israel</a> and Hamas.</p> <p>Ta'Fesh was buried in the very grave he had been preparing for another man.</p> <p>More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in the most recent <a href="">fighting between Israel and Hamas</a>, which is now in its seventh week. Most victims have been civilians. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians in Israel have been killed.</p> <p>Ta'Fesh's wife An'am said she heard an explosion Thursday, as her home is near the cemetery. She rushed outside to ask neighbors what happened and learned her husband had been hit. “He was just digging graves. Before the siege, he was a builder,” she said. </p> <p>But when jobs became scarce, digging graves suddenly became more attractive. The cost to bury a family member is about $200.</p> <p>An’am said her husband, when he did have time off, spent most of it with their four children.</p> <p>Ta’Fesh’s father said he was listening to the radio when he learned of his son's death. “May he rest in peace, I release him to God,” he said. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the family of 23-year-old Salem Abu Ghadayen mourned their own loss.</p> <p>Ghadayen didn't normally dig graves but would often help Ta’Fesh for some extra money. When two of Ghadayen's friends were killed in Gaza blasts, he went to the graveyard to help prepare for their burial.</p> <p>His sister, Entesar Abu Ghadayen, said her brother was a good kid, "popular and loved by everyone.” She said an Israeli drone targeted them without reason.</p> <p><span style="font-size: 12.727272033691406px;">Salem's brother </span>Fadel Abu Ghadayen says he was at the cemetery when the explosion happened. He rushed over to his brother, who had been hit, calling out for help.</p> <p>"He was badly injured and I started to ask for help. I tried to pull him out of the cemetery. When a second missile targeted another man, I went out into street to ask for help. It was 30 minutes before the ambulances came,” said Fadel.</p> <p>Salem Abu Ghadayen died two hours later during surgery at the local hospital.</p> <p>Ghadayen's father was distraught on Saturday, standing outside the family home, wiping tears from his eyes with weathered hands. He said his son would often drive the donkey carts stocked with produce to sell in the community and would do odd jobs. He was well liked. “God gives and God takes away,” he said, adding that he hopes for peace “for all Muslims.”</p> <p>Salem's sister Entesar was more impassioned. She said she hoped <a href="">Egypt</a> and Israel go to war so they would know how the Palestinians feel. She said both had the power to help them but did not. “What weapons do we have?,” she asked, “We don’t have nuclear weapons.”</p> <p>Entesar said her family is now staying at a friend's because their home is too close to the cemetery and they fear for their lives. </p> <p>At the cemetery in northern Gaza on Saturday, children crowded around a hole in the ground. They said that's where the Israeli bomb hit. It came from an F16 aircraft, they said. Trash and glass were strewn about. </p> <p>The Israeli military said they received intelligence last week that “rockets were being launched” from Shekh Radwan Cemetery, according to a spokesperson. They could not confirm the bombing on Saturday.</p> <p>Israeli military spokesperson Lt. Libby Weiss said the military attempts to warn residents of their activities in order “minimize strikes on civilian people.” Leaflets were dropped from the air on Saturday. Groups of people on the street picked up the fliers and were also seen dropping them in the street.</p> <p>The flyer was written in Arabic and warned Palestinians “any military building or civilian building that is involved in terrorism operations against Israel” would be targeted. It asked residents to leave their homes. The military spokesperson said they hope to “shed light” on what they are doing and prevent further casualties.</p> <p>Since the blasts, the cemeteries have been eerily quiet.</p> <p>Palestinians normally investigate a site after a bombing, but now everyone is too frightened to enter the cemetery, where blasts can be louder than in other parts of the city.</p> <p>Funerals over the last few days have been scarce. Even the gravediggers are wary.</p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Military Aid Culture & Lifestyle Israel and Palestine Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:16:00 +0000 Ashley Gallagher 6239622 at Britain’s foreign fighters aren’t just in Syria <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The UK’s stance on Brits battling overseas depends on who they’re fighting for. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Corinne Purtill </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON, <a href="">UK</a> — As UK special forces seek the British Islamic State militant suspected of murdering US journalist James Foley, the government is redoubling efforts to stop Brits from going to <a href="">Syria</a> and to prosecute those who return.</p> <p>Government advisers have called for the return of “control orders,” controversial Blair-era legislation that allows terror suspects to be electronically tagged and placed under house arrest.</p> <p>Home Secretary Theresa May has publicly reiterated her office’s ability to strip certain Brits abroad of their citizenship.</p> <p>London Mayor Boris Johnson, often discussed as a future Conservative party leader, on Monday suggested a law that would assume anyone visiting a war zone without first notifying authorities is doing so for terrorist purposes.</p> <p>About 500 British citizens are believed to have traveled to Syria to join the myriad militant groups fighting in that country’s civil war.</p> <p>But Syria is not the only overseas battleground where Brits have voluntarily taken up arms. Nor is the phenomenon of Brits joining conflicts abroad new. In the 1930s, thousands of Brits went to <a href="">Spain</a> to volunteer with the leftist republicans fighting General Francisco Franco's fascists.</p> <p> More recently, Brits have joined fights in Israel, Lebanon and Iraq.</p> <p>The dozens of British citizens currently fighting with the Israel Defense Forces have not encountered legal obstacles to their service. Neither did Brits who traveled to Libya in 2011 to join the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi.</p> <p>The UK has no consistent policy on who can and can’t travel abroad to fight. Most volunteer soldiers travel to their destinations on commercial flights, making it difficult for authorities to gauge their motives on departure.</p> <p>Instead, decisions on whether to pursue charges when they return home are made on a “case by case basis,” a Home Office spokeswoman said.</p> <p>The experiences of British volunteers in Israel and Libya show how differently UK law treats foreign fighters, depending on whom they’re fighting with.</p> <p>The IDF allows non-Israeli Jewish men under 24 and women under 21 with at least one Jewish grandparent to enlist. A support group for families of British IDF enlistees called Mahal Mums has its own Facebook page.</p> <p>In July, the IDF told UK’s Channel 4 that there were about 100 British citizens currently serving in their ranks. An IDF spokeswoman was unable to provide an updated number on Monday.</p> <p>"I believe that it is important to take responsibility and defend my country like the majority of the rest of the society has done there,” IDF enlistee Darren Cohen, 23, told the Huffington Post UK. The King’s College London graduate has family in Israel and is planning to immigrate there.</p> <p>UK law makes exceptions for people joining another country’s official army, a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.</p> <p>“If the military of any country operate outside of the law, they [Britons fighting abroad] can of course be investigated appropriately, but that would generally be for war crimes or domestic criminal offenses,” the office said.</p> <p>In 2011, dozens of UK nationals — more than 100, by the estimate of the London-based advocacy group <a href="" target="_blank">Cage</a> — went to Libya to join the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi. Most were Muslims of Libyan descent.</p> <p>Many had previously been on the UK’s terror watchlist as members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which then-Prime Minister Tony Blair had banned as a terror organization in 2005. Shortly after UN sanctions against Libya ended in 2003, Gaddafi pledged to dismantle the country’s weapons program, and Western companies were granted access to Libya’s oil in 2004.</p> <p>But by the time of Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011, the UK was supporting the rebels. Brits wishing to fight with them met no resistance upon leaving the UK, or legal problems when they returned.</p> <p>“I explained that I had been out there working to remove Qaddafi and stop him oppressing our people,” a Brit stopped at Heathrow Airport <a href="" target="_blank">told Cage</a>.</p> <p> “They [security officials] seemed to be happy with this response and permitted me to return to my home. This was near the end of 2011 and I have never been hassled since, despite having returned to Libya on many occasions.”</p> <p>Days after Foley’s murder, Home Secretary May said that any British citizen returning from Syria or Iraq would be investigated and could face prosecution for terror offenses. Sixty-nine people have been arrested on such charges this year, compared to 24 in all of 2013. </p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Why is the Islamic State still so strong?</a></strong></p> <p>In May, Portsmouth man Mashudur Choudhury, 31, became the first Briton convicted on terror charges related to his trip to Syria.</p> <p> As scrutiny of those returning from Syria intensified in the last year, some have argued that security measures should apply to all Brits volunteering for foreign conflicts. </p> <p> “If we’re talking about stopping people, Muslims, stopping them from going over to other countries and fighting, why are we not doing that as a blanket for stopping anyone that goes over abroad to fight in other countries?” said Farooq Siddiqui, a former manager for Prevent, the UK government’s anti-radicalization program, on a news talk show in July.</p> <p>Britons fighting abroad weren’t considered a big problem in the years before Islamic terrorism threatened domestic security in the UK.</p> <p>“At first it was, ‘Who cares?’” said Royal United Services Institute research fellow Raffaello Pantucci, summing up authorities’ attitudes toward self-styled soldiers fighting abroad.</p> <p> That changed after 2004’s Operation Crevice, which intercepted an Al Qaeda-backed terror plot in the UK, and the London public transit bombings of 2005.</p> <p> Both involved Brits who had traveled abroad for training. That fact drove home for authorities that experiences and connections made abroad could have serious security implications back in the UK.</p> <p>Security officials have been worried about this in Syria since early in the conflict. Returning British fighters could be foot soldiers in a terror network, or they could be lone rogues determined to carry out their own crimes — a much more difficult threat to stop.</p> <p> “From a security service perspective, a network is easier to penetrate. They communicate with each other, and if they’re communicating, you can listen in,” Pantucci said.</p> <p> “But if you’ve got individuals who are basically going out there and fighting, and coming back and deciding they want to do something without telling anyone what they’re doing, how are you going to stop that?”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Foley execution boosts European support for intervention in Iraq</a></strong></p> Need to Know terrorism War United Kingdom Mon, 25 Aug 2014 15:27:00 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6240235 at Kyiv accuses Russian forces of opening a new front in separatist war in eastern Ukraine <!--paging_filter--><p>A Ukrainian military spokesman said on Monday that Russian forces "in the guise of" separatist rebels had crossed into south-east Ukraine with ten tanks and two armored infantry vehicles, aiming to open a new front in the separatist war.</p> <p>"This morning there was an attempt by the Russian military in the guise of Donbass fighters to open a new area of military confrontation in the southern Donetsk region," spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists.</p> <p>Earlier, a separate military statement said Ukrainian border guards had engaged an armored column near the town of Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea in south-east Ukraine.</p> <p>Meanwhile, <a href="">Russia</a> wants to send a second humanitarian aid convoy to eastern Ukraine in the near future, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday after Kyiv and the West criticized Moscow for sending the first cargo without official permission.</p> <p>"The humanitarian situation is not improving but deteriorating," Lavrov told a news conference. "We want to reach an agreement on all conditions for delivering a second convoy by the same route... in the coming days."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">So much for the Russian &lsquo;invasion&rsquo;?</a></strong></p> <p>Lavrov also said damage to civilian infrastructure in east Ukraine, where Kiev is fighting a pro-Russian rebellion, cannot all be put down to errors or chance.</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:36:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6240202 at Egypt presses on with truce efforts in deadly and relentless Israel-Gaza war <!--paging_filter--><p>Israeli air strikes killed at least five Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and militants kept up their rocket fire on southern <a href="">Israel</a> on Monday, witnesses and officials said, as <a href="">Egypt</a> pressed on with efforts to broker a durable truce.</p> <p>Gazans said they received new recorded messages on mobile phones and landlines saying Israel would target any house used to launch "terror attacks" and telling civilians to leave areas used my militants.</p> <p>Israeli aircraft attacked four homes in the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, near the Israeli border, killing two women and a girl, witnesses and health officials said.</p> <p>Locals told Reuters a member of the Hamas militant group that dominates Gaza lived in one of the dwellings. Separate attacks elsewhere in the Gaza Strip killed two other Palestinians, said officials.</p> <p>Militants launched about 40 rockets at southern Israel on Monday, causing no casualties, the army said.</p> <p>Palestinian health officials say 2,119 people, most of them civilians including more than 400 children, have been killed in Gaza since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive with the declared aim of ending rocket fire into its territory.</p> <p>Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians in Israel have been killed.</p> <p>Gazans said they had received messages on their phones for several days, with a new recording on Monday ending with the words: "To Hamas leaders and to the residents of Gaza: The battle is open and you have been warned."</p> <p><strong>Indefinite ceasefire proposed      </strong></p> <p>Qais Abu Leila, a senior Palestinian official involved in Egyptian-mediated talks to reach a truce in seven weeks of fighting, said Cairo had proposed an indefinite ceasefire.</p> <p>Cairo's latest initiative calls for the immediate opening of Gaza's crossings with Israel and Egypt to aid reconstruction efforts in the battered coastal strip to be followed by talks on a longer-term easing of the blockade.</p> <p>"Egyptian efforts are continuing. The ball is in the Israeli court, and they have not responded to this proposal 36 hours after it was referred to them," Abu Leila told Reuters.</p> <p>Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the enclave of 1.8 million people is lifted.</p> <p>Both Israel and Egypt view Hamas as a security threat and are demanding guarantees that weapons will not enter the economically-crippled territory. Israel recalled its negotiators from Cairo on Tuesday after a ceasefire collapsed.</p> <p>In Gaza City on Sunday, an Israeli strike on a car killed Mohammed al-Ghoul, described by the Israeli military as a Hamas official responsible for "terror fund transactions." US dollars were found in the wrecked vehicle, witnesses said.</p> <p>Israel later bombed and destroyed Ghoul's house. He was targeted three days after Israel assassinated three top Hamas commanders in the southern Gaza Strip.</p> <p>Thousands of homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged in the conflict. Nearly 500,000 people have been displaced in the territory where Palestinians, citing Israeli attacks that have hit schools and mosques, say no place is safe.</p> <p>Israel has said Hamas bears responsibility for civilian casualties because it operates among non-combatants. The group, it said, uses schools and mosques to store weapons and as launching sites for cross-border rocket attacks.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning in Ramallah; Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Andrew Heavens)</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:59:39 +0000 Nidal al-Mughrabim, Thomson Reuters 6240092 at Political strife grips France as prime minister hands in his government's resignation <!--paging_filter--><p>French President Francois Hollande asked his prime minister on Monday to form a new government, looking to impose his will on the cabinet after rebel leftist ministers had called for an economic policy U-turn.</p> <p>The surprise move came the day after outspoken Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg had condemned what he called fiscal "austerity" and attacked euro zone powerhouse <a href="">Germany</a>'s "obsession" with budgetary rigor.</p> <p>In a terse statement, Hollande's office said Prime Minister Manuel Valls had handed in his government's resignation, opening the way for a reshuffle just four months after it took office.</p> <p>"The head of state asked him to form a team that supports the objectives he has set out for the country," the statement said, suggesting Valls would continue trying to revive the euro zone's second largest economy with tax cuts for businesses while slowly reining in its public deficit by trimming spending.</p> <p><a href="">France</a> has lagged other euro zone economies in emerging from a recent slowdown, fuelling frustration over Hollande's leadership, both within his Socialist party and further afield.</p> <p>The new cabinet will be announced on Tuesday and there was no immediate word on who would stay and who would go.</p> <p>If Hollande decided to sack Montebourg, who is viewed as a potential presidential rival, he would risk seeing the ousted minister take with him a band of rebel lawmakers and deprive him of the parliamentary majority he needs to push through reforms.</p> <p>Opposition conservatives, who for weeks have been embroiled in their own leadership rows, called for an outright dissolution of parliament, as did the far-right National Front.</p> <p>"With half of the presidential mandate already gone, it doesn't bode well for the ability of the president, or whatever government he chooses, to take key decisions," said former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, one of handful of hopefuls for the conservative ticket in the 2017 presidential election.</p> <p><strong>'Alternative motor'</strong></p> <p>A new survey released at the weekend showed Hollande's poll ratings stuck at 17 percent, the lowest for any leader of France since its Fifth Republic was formed in 1958. Valls, a once-popular interior minister, saw his own popularity eroded by his failure to tackle unemployment, which is stuck above 10 percent.</p> <p>Despite being promoted within the cabinet to economy minister, Montebourg has emerged as the most visible leader of the left since Hollande in January adopted a more pro-business line to try and boost the economy with corporate tax breaks.</p> <p>Hollande has also sought to repair ties with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives that have been strained by France's repeated failures to meet budgetary targets agreed with the <a href="">Brussels</a>-based <a href="">European</a> Commission.</p> <p>Speaking at a meeting of Socialists in eastern France on Sunday, Montebourg said deficit-reduction measures carried out since the 2008 financial crisis had crippled euro zone economies and urged governments to change course swiftly or lose their voters to populist and extremist parties.</p> <p>"The time has come for us to take on an alternative leadership, to set up an alternative motor," he told the gathering, where Education Minister Benoit Hamon also took Hollande's policies to task.</p> <p>The irony of the timing of Montebourg's comments is that EU policymakers have in recent weeks acknowledged the bloc's rules on budget consolidation should be followed with flexibility, while France this month conceded that stagnant growth meant it would miss its 2014 budget target.</p> <p>Analysts said the showdown suggested the 51-year-old Montebourg — who this year forced General Electric to sweeten its offer for French industrial icon Alstrom's turbine business — was looking to disassociate himself from Hollande and rally the country's splintered left behind a rival presidential bid.</p> <p>"Montebourg's exit resonates like real ambition for 2017, that's clear. It's a real political coup," said Martial Foucault, director of the Cevipof think tank.</p> <p>Foucault forecast that the government to be named by Valls on Tuesday would be more centrist in tone but noted: "You need ministers who are capable of speaking with unions, employers and Germany and, I admit, there are not a lot of alternatives."</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Maya Nikolaeva and Julien Ponthus; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Crispian Balmer)</p> Need to Know France Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:37:31 +0000 John Irish and Alexandria Sage, Thomson Reuters 6240075 at In Georgia, echoes of Ukraine <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Charges against former President Mikheil Saakashvili are raising concerns in the West. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nicholas Clayton </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ISTANBUL, <a href="">Turkey</a> — As armed conflict rages in Ukraine over that country’s Western orientation, Georgia has announced that the architect of its own pro-Western shift a decade ago is wanted on charges of abuse of office.</p> <p>Former President Mikheil Saakashvili has been feted in the West as a visionary reformer who enacted a wave of successful anti-corruption reforms and set the small post-Soviet state on a path to membership in the <a href="">European</a> Union and NATO.</p> <p>But since his party lost power in 2012, the new Georgian government has charged him and several former cabinet members and advisors with malfeasance, alleging that his government engaged in brutal authoritarian tactics and crony capitalism during its eight-year reign.</p> <p>Saakashvili, who is living abroad, has denied wrongdoing. His supporters criticize the charges against him as politically motivated.</p> <p>However, polls show the prosecutions are generally popular among the Georgian public, provoking concern in Western capitals.</p> <p>After the announcement of the charges against Saakashvili last week, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt <a href="">tweeted</a> that by charging Saakashvili, the new authorities “deviate from [the] European path in using [the] justice system for revenge” and “damage” the country.</p> <p>Four US senators also released a statement saying they were “extremely disappointed and concerned” with the charges, saying that they impose “unnecessary challenges in moving our relationship forward.”</p> <p>The wide range of reactions to the charges mirror the polarizing nature of Saakashvili’s legacy in the former Soviet Union.</p> <p>Koba Turmanidze, president of pollster CRRC Georgia, says that although Saakashvili’s allies have “exaggerated” the effectiveness of his reforms, he did succeed in turning Georgia into a functioning state after more than a decade of internal conflict, stagnation and misrule.</p> <p>That made Georgia an outlier in the South Caucasus region, a neighborhood that continues to struggle with single-party governments and entrenched, corrupt elites, Turmanidze adds.</p> <p>Next door in Armenia, many look at Saakashvili’s accomplishments with admiration and met the news of his prosecution “suspicion,” says Stepan Grigoryan, chairman of the Yerevan-based Analytical Center on Globalisation and Regional Cooperation.</p> <p>While Georgia was tied for 124th out of 133 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2003, it soared to 55th place by 2013. During the same period, Armenia dropped from 77th to 94th.</p> <p>“Armenians know the success story of fighting corruption in Georgia, including the police, but that does not happen in Armenia,” Grigoryan says. “This is the main reason why you can’t persuade people that Saakashvili was corrupt or that he did things which were not in the best interest of the Georgian nation.”</p> <p>Saakashvili isn’t without critics elsewhere in the region, <a href="">Russia</a> chief among them. After he took power in 2004 with the stated goal of pursuing Euro-Atlantic integration, relations with the Kremlin quickly soured.</p> <p>Following an espionage dispute in 2006, Russia banned Georgian goods and fought a brief war in 2008 over Georgia’s pro-Moscow breakaway region South Ossetia. After Russia temporarily invaded parts of Georgia, some of the Kremlin’s allies recognized South Ossetia and another Georgian separatist region, Abkhazia, as independent.</p> <p>Many say they see echoes of Georgia’s struggle with Russia in the current standoff between the West and Russia over Ukraine.</p> <p>Dmitri Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, says Russians still largely see Saakashvili as “anti-Russian, pro-American, and basically a fraud domestically.” He says most believe Saakashvili used cosmetic reforms to fool the West into giving Georgia generous political and financial support while he ruled the country as a ruthless autocrat.</p> <p>Lincoln Mitchell, who has authored two books on Saakashvili’s regime and worked as an informal advisor to his chief opponent in the 2012 parliamentary elections, says some of those criticisms are valid.</p> <p>In particular, the abuse of power charges leveled against Saakashvili stem from a political crisis in November 2007, when peaceful opposition protests were violently <a href="">dispersed</a> and an opposition TV station was shut down at gunpoint as riot police stormed its studios.</p> <p>The channel, Imedi TV, was owned by Saakashvili’s rival in those elections, and had been the most prominent source of dissent in Georgia’s media landscape. Shortly after the channel was shut down by force, it was reopened under government management and operated with coverage that was notably favorable toward Saakashvili’s party.</p> <p>Since a political coalition called the Georgian Dream defeated Saakashvili’s party in the 2012 elections, Georgia’s courts have been flooded with thousands of claims of abuse and unfair expropriation of property under the previous regime. Many believe the election’s outcome was heavily influenced by leaked videos showing inmates being tortured in state prisons.</p> <p>Although many of the claims lack sufficient evidence, Mitchell says the current leadership has a popular mandate to investigate wrongdoing, and also an imperative to break the culture of unaccountability at the top.</p> <p>However, going after Saakashvili personally means “rubbing the West’s nose” in the sensitive affair shortly after Georgia signed an EU Association Agreement in June, Mitchell said.</p> <p>Turmanidze says the greater issue for Georgia isn’t whether wrongdoing was committed, but whether a “weak democracy” can resist creating a precedent for perpetually investigating political rivals.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Here's some of James Foley's finest reporting for GlobalPost</a></strong></p> <p>“It’s a serious dilemma because every government that defeats another will find something that is not exactly right compared to the laws, which are not the best laws in the first place,” he says.</p> <p>Regardless of the outcome in the court process against Saakashvili, Mitchell says his legacy in the region will be one of both teachable examples and pitfalls to avoid.</p> <p>“If we look at Ukraine, part of the problem is that no one [there] ever did what Saakashvili did,” he says. “He built and maintained a pro-West consensus and sent a message that Georgia could be different.”</p> South Caucasus World Leaders Want to Know Europe Mon, 25 Aug 2014 06:01:12 +0000 Nicholas Clayton 6237758 at China is increasingly arresting celebrities for drug use <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The latest is actor Jackie Chan’s son, allegedly busted with more than 3.5 ounces of pot. </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, China &mdash; In the past, stars like Jackie Chan would be featured in cheesy 80s-style &ldquo;Just Say No&rdquo; videos. But now Beijing is co-opting celebrities into their latest anti-drug campaign, whether they like it or not.</p> <p>This week saw Jaycee Chan, son of &quot;Rush Hour&quot; actor Jackie, become the latest &ldquo;celebrity&rdquo; <a href="" target="_blank">paraded on TV screens</a>, after police raided his house in Beijing&rsquo;s Dongcheng district following a supposed tip-off. They arrested several men.</p> <p>More than 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of marijuana was found in a safe in the home of Jaycee, who now faces the serious charge of &ldquo;accommodating drug users,&rdquo; which carries a three-year penalty, after admitting to having smoked since 2006.</p> <p>In response, both Chans have gone on the offensive: <a href="" target="_blank">Jackie has flown to Beijing</a> to assist with his son&rsquo;s case, his publicist confirmed, and publicly tweeted an apology, saying, &ldquo;I feel very angry and very shocked. As a public figure, I&rsquo;m very ashamed.&rdquo; Meanwhile, in a bid to reduce his sentence, Jaycee has offered up the names of up to 120 fellow celebrity drugs users, Taiwanese newspaper <a href="" target="_blank">Liberty Times reported</a>.</p> <p>Chan, the star of numerous flop films like &quot;Double Trouble&quot; (which garnered a UK box office of just under $10,000, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the Telegraph</a>), remains best known for his father &mdash; unlike his smoking partner, Taiwanese actor Ko Chen-tung, aka Kai Ko, whose hits include &quot;You Are The Apple of My Eye.&quot; Ko, like Chan, also tested positive but will be detained on the lesser charge of marijuana use for up to 30 days.</p> <p>The case has come under more public scrutiny than usual because of its uneasy mixture of celebrity glamour, the vagaries of fame in China, and the Party&rsquo;s declaration of a zero-tolerance &ldquo;people&rsquo;s war&rdquo; on drugs, in which the most talked-about casualties are prominent public figures.</p> <p>These include recent meth arrests for &quot;If You Are The One&quot; guest <a href="" target="_blank">Chen Wan-ning</a>, 39, Mama director Zhang Yuan, reality star Li Daimo and &quot;The Bullet Vanishes&quot; actor <a href="" target="_blank">Gao Hu</a>.</p> <p>In each case, state media has dutifully reported the apparent incredulity of fans, detailed the accused&rsquo;s penitence and pointed the finger at an <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;avant garde&rdquo; lifestyle</a>, which &ldquo;can breed spiritual emptiness, which makes them susceptible to temptations&rdquo; as China Daily noted. The implication is that such celebrities are outliers, and their misbehavior an aberration in society to be made an example of.</p> <p>But the public is proving increasingly cynical of such narratives &mdash; and not just the stars&rsquo; relentless crocodile tears, but the entire tone of this campaign.</p> <p>The use of televised confessions, which has re-emerged as a feature of modern Chinese policing since the arrest of internet celebrity Charles Xue for solicitation, and continued with high-profile cases against the likes of GSK investigator Peter Humphrey and alleged high-class hooker Guo Meimei, has come under particular fire.</p> <p>The video, with faces pixelated, showed the bust seemingly in action (&ldquo;Who gave you this?&rdquo; the police ask. Jaycee replies, &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had it for a long time.&rdquo; &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a lot of marijuana,&rdquo; an officer observes). The footage of Ko was a &ldquo;vio-lation of human rights&rdquo; said Chiu Hsien-chih, a former president of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, and opposition politicians in Taiwan have expressed concern about the judicial process.</p> <p>Yu Guoming, a journalism professor at China&rsquo;s Renmin University, said such confessions should only be &ldquo;after a verdict has been delivered&rdquo; (although with a 99.8 percent conviction rate, an arrest in China is tantamount to the same).</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s against the law,&rdquo; Zhang Ming, a politics professor at the same university, <a href="" target="_blank">argued on Weibo</a>. &ldquo;Even if it&rsquo;s a star I really don&rsquo;t like &hellip; it&rsquo;s no different from public shaming.&rdquo;</p> <p>The police have been forced to deny the existence of a special unit targeting celebrities for PR takedowns, while speculation has been rife as to motive &mdash; particularly as Chan Sr. was not only made a goodwill ambassador for the National Narcotics Control Commission in 2009, but is a member of the Chinese People&rsquo;s Political Consultative Conference (which advises the National Political Congress, commonly referred to as China&rsquo;s &ldquo;rubber stamp parlia-ment&rdquo;) and has been a controversial advocate of authoritarian rule on the mainland.</p> <p>It makes political sense to &ldquo;go after the conspicuously wealthy&rdquo; as a sop to China&rsquo;s increasingly disenfranchised, non-wealthy majority, the <a href="" target="_blank">American Interest concluded</a>, adding that the arrests were further evidence of President Xi Jinping &ldquo;consolidating power&hellip; by thinning out the top ranks.&rdquo;</p> <p>But this seems rather stodgy (and Jaycee Chan is hardly anyone&rsquo;s political op-ponent).</p> <p>The most credible explanation might be one offered Friday in Securities Daily newspaper <a href="" target="_blank">by entertainment venture capitalist Cao Haitiao</a>. Mergers and acquisitions in the sector have become increasingly cutthroat, meaning companies &ldquo;may be weeded out through competitive selection.&rdquo; Ko, who runs a production company, has lost endorsements and was due to appear in the Tiny Times 4, a lucrative Chinese franchise.</p> <p>Competing companies can attempt to nobble each other with rumors and anonymous tip-offs (this week, a bemused-looking Sohu CEO Charles Zhang&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">refuted claims</a> that he, too, had been detained for drugs). And who led the cops to Jaycee and Ko&rsquo;s private house party? Police say it was an anonymous tip-off.</p> Entertainment Want to Know China Culture & Lifestyle Mon, 25 Aug 2014 06:01:00 +0000 Robert Foyle Hunwick 6239667 at