GlobalPost - Home C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en How UK politicians messed up making the case for the union <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will the Yes side win independence in Scotland? Maybe. Did they have the better campaign? For sure. </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>GLASGOW, <a href="">UK</a> — “I’m English, to start with, and I don’t want to live in a foreign country,” said Jimmy Hearne, 61, as he waited for the pro-union rally to start.</p> <p>The part-time carpet fitter has lived in Glasgow for 40 years. His Scottish wife won’t tell him which way she’s voting.</p> <p>He seemed baffled that support for a 307-year-old union — one a solid majority of Scots said they favored barely two months ago — had fallen to a margin so slim that no one can say which way Thursday’s vote will go.</p> <p>“I don’t know how it got to this point,” he said. “Their campaign’s been better than ours. They’ve made a lot more noise.”</p> <p>The question of whether Scotland should be independent will be answered in the polling stations today.</p> <p>But the question of who ran the better campaign was answered long ago.</p> <p>“The Better Together campaign has been hopeless,” Peter Kellner, president of the polling firm YouGov said last week. “It’s badly constructed. It lost the ground war.”</p> <p>In less than two years, the Yes Scotland campaign has harnessed what it claims to be the largest grassroots movement in Scottish history.</p> <p>Blue Yes placards, banners and Scottish saltires can be found on lampposts, windows, construction sites and <a href="">even farm fields</a> across Scotland.</p> <p>Unionists grumble that’s because Yes supporters are also more willing to abuse or intimidate those who disagree with them, forcing many No voters to stay silent.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>But they also acknowledge that Better Together has been beset by poor leadership and lack of focus.</p> <p>Yes has Alex Salmond, the feisty, wily Scottish first minister whom Kellner called “the one British politician who could be seen making a good fist of a Senate race in Illinois.”</p> <p>Better Together was led for most of the campaign by Alistair Darling. The bespectacled, stern-voiced former chancellor of the exchequer bears an uncanny resemblance to <a href="">the Muppets&rsquo; Sam the Eagle</a> and has the ability to sound like he’s scolding even when addressing supporters. </p> <p>Westminster’s political leaders seemed to be on cruise control when it came to the referendum — until <a href="">a poll two weeks ago</a> suddenly showed the Yes side ahead.</p> <p>The whole experience has been a deeply humbling one for the UK’s governing elite.</p> <p>The Better Together campaign has warned that a Yes vote could lead to a loss of jobs. One of the first to go could be Prime Minister David Cameron’s.</p> <p>The prime minister could face a rebellion after Thursday’s vote, regardless of the outcome — either from MPs furious that he managed to lose the union, or from those appalled at the promises for greater powers and funding for Scotland he’s been authorizing over the last two weeks.</p> <p>Though Cameron insists he won’t resign in the event of a Yes vote, the campaign has forced him to make some uncomfortable public concessions to his unpopularity north of the border.</p> <p>Last week he prevailed upon Scots not to vote Yes as a flip-off to the “effing Tories.”   </p> <p>“If you don’t like me, I won’t be here forever,” he told an Aberdeen audience Monday with a rueful smile. “If you don’t like this government, it won’t last forever. But if you leave the UK — that will be forever.”</p> <p>Cameron’s Conservatives may be anathema in Scotland, but the Labour Party hasn’t fared much better.</p> <p>The opposition party has a lot to lose if Scotland leaves and a reliable base of Labour support goes with it. Nonetheless, they too seem to have been playing catch-up in the last two weeks, with equally embarrassing results.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Labour leader Ed Miliband hit the streets of Edinburgh in an effort to mingle with common folks. Instead of the conversations with undecided voters he was hoping for, he was besieged by reporters and heckling Yes supporters.</p> <p>He managed to have face-to-face conversations with two people — one a confused tourist, the other a Yes voter — before cutting the whole visit short in less than 15 minutes.</p> <p>"I think we have seen in parts of this campaign an ugly side to it from the Yes campaign,” he told the BBC afterward.</p> <p>On Wednesday, with less than 24 hours to go before polls opened, the Better Together team was taking no such risks. A 90-year-old Glasgow auditorium was filled exclusively with guests handpicked from the rolls of local supporters and volunteers.</p> <p>After an introduction by the English comedian and aspiring politician Eddie Izzard, a bagpipe player led the speakers through a sea of waving placards reading “Love Scotland: Vote No.” </p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>The crowd cheered passionately for all of them. There are not many rooms in Britain where people spontaneously shout “We love you!” at Alistair Darling, but this was one of them.</p> <p>The event closed with a fiery exhortation from Gordon Brown, the former UK prime minister, who has stormed the country in recent days making a series of very expensive promises to Scotland that some <a href="">Conservative MPs are already refusing</a> to keep.</p> <p>“This is not their flag, their country, their culture, their streets,” he said of the Scottish National Party, or SNP. “We have no answers. They do not know what they are doing. They are leading us into a trap.”</p> <p>Within the hour, some commentators were calling it the finest speech of Brown’s political career. He left to thunderous applause.</p> <p>The enthusiasm made it as far as the street.</p> <p>“I’m voting yes, 100 percent,” said Ian Anderson, 27, an employee of the printing shop next door. “If the working class people of Scotland were in there, it’d be a different reaction.”</p> Scottish independence Want to Know Politics United Kingdom Thu, 18 Sep 2014 04:54:00 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6260938 at Want to fight Ebola? Don't do it like Sierra Leone <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Excessive quarantine isn’t the answer, health workers say. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Erin Conway-Smith </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>PRETORIA, <a href="">South Africa</a> — Desperate to stop the unchecked spread of Ebola, the Sierra Leone government has an aggressive plan: lock down its citizens. All of them.</p> <p>In one of the toughest measures planned so far against the world’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak, the entire 6 million people of Sierra Leone have been ordered to stay home for three days starting Friday, with the military enforcing the directive.</p> <p>This has been the typical response to a disease universally feared and little understood: quarantine and isolate. But with the number of cases skyrocketing, and President Barack Obama warning this week that the crisis is “spiraling out of control,” there is growing debate about the ethical considerations of these measures.</p> <p>Frans Viljoen, director of the University of Pretoria’s Center for Human Rights, said a critical question is whether the response to the Ebola outbreak is a rational one, informed by evidence instead of fear.</p> <p>In West <a href="">Africa</a>, quarantine measures have led to riots and been largely ineffective. Internationally, canceling flights and banning travel to the most affected countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — has harmed economies and made it difficult to bring in aid. </p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">18 images that show just how hard it is to treat Ebola</a></strong></p> <p>It takes between two and 21 days for Ebola symptoms to appear after infection, making screening difficult.</p> <p>"All [basic personal rights like the right to accept or decline treatment] may be limited but only if there is a justifiable motivation that substantiates the limitation,” Viljoen said at a discussion on ethics and Ebola.</p> <p>“You must think about what these measures mean for the population as a whole, for the economies of these countries. If you can take less restrictive means of achieving the objective, you should.”</p> <p>Human Rights Watch this week said that protecting individual human rights is “a crucial element” in controlling the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Of particular concern, the New York-based group said, are the rights of health workers — who are being insufficiently protected from infection — and the overuse of quarantines that are proving ineffective.</p> <p>“Adopting overly-broad quarantines and other rights-abusive measures can undermine efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic,” Joseph Amon, health and human rights director for the group, said in a statement.</p> <p>“The better approach is to ensure that people have access to health information and care, and to restrict liberty or movement only if and when absolutely needed and with the protections outlined under international human rights law."</p> <p>In August an enforced quarantine in the West Point neighborhood of Liberia’s capital Monrovia led to violent clashes. Quarantine measures have also led to issues such as food hoarding and rioting.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This unsettling video shows health workers chasing and forcibly detaining a suspected Ebola patient</a></strong></p> <p>Dr. Andrew Medina-Marino, an epidemiologist who recently spent a month in Liberia with Doctors Without Borders (known by its <a href="">French</a> acronym MSF), said there is a sense of frustration and “palpable” fear at the center of the epidemic.</p> <p>He said he found gaps at every level of the response to the outbreak, from a lack of beds and ambulances to difficulties in tracing the contacts of infected people and delays in lab testing.</p> <p>It is these factors — along with the availability of treatment centers, community education and training of health care staff — that will either help bring the crisis under control or usher in greater chaos.</p> <p>Medina-Marino praised the US government’s pledge to send 3,000 troops to help fight Ebola, noting that “militaries as institutions typically are the ones that have the capacity for rapid field deployment of clinical centers.”</p> <p>But it’s the kind of support health workers in West Africa have been seeking, to little avail, for months.</p> <p>“For a long time there’s been a sense of frustration that the cavalry isn’t coming,” he said.</p> Africa Ebola Need to Know South Africa Health Wed, 17 Sep 2014 23:43:59 +0000 Erin Conway-Smith 6260903 at Venezuela’s president is bullying a Harvard professor <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nicolas Maduro is fuming over a Kennedy School economist’s suggestion that his policies favor Wall Street over his own country. </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> — Expressing intense differences of opinion at Ivy League universities is not exactly new. It is actually the schools’ lifeblood.</p> <p>But it’s not every day that you hear an eminent Harvard professor accused of being a “bandit” and “financial hit man.”</p> <p>That’s how Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s beleaguered and increasingly thin-skinned president, reacted last week to an <a href="" target="_blank">opinion piece</a> co-authored by economist Ricardo Hausmann about whether the nation should default on its debts.</p> <p>The article reportedly even <a href=" " target="_blank">contributed</a> to a drop in Venezuela’s bond prices.</p> <p>Maduro, political heir to Hugo Chavez, instructed Venezuela’s attorney general to take unspecified “actions” against Hausmann, who heads Harvard’s Center for International Development and is a former Venezuelan planning minister.</p> <p>Hausmann, you might think, has good reason to worry about the Venezuelan economy. Inflation is at 60 percent. The official fixed bolivar-to-dollar exchange rate is less than a tenth of the black market rate. And the country is plagued by shortages of a lengthy laundry list of basic necessities, from bread to cancer drugs.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Venezuela has one of the world’s highest murder rates, with rich and poor fearing to leave their homes even in broad daylight.</p> <p>The governments of Maduro and his late mentor Chavez have managed all that despite Venezuela having the world’s largest oil reserves.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Things must be bad in Venezuela if the government plans to actually charge money for gas</a></strong></p> <p>The Harvard prof has history with the Chavistas. Hausmann’s brief time in office was in the elected but deeply unpopular government that Chavez sought to overthrow by force in 1992.</p> <p>That coup failed and the brash young army colonel was jailed — but not before he gave a televised speech that rocketed him to fame and effectively launched his successful 1998 presidential run.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src"> (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>Since taking office last year, Maduro has ramped up Chavez’s intolerance for criticism, rights groups say, jailing several opposition leaders and overseeing the closure of critical TV and radio stations.</p> <p>But what may really have hit a nerve with the president is Hausmann’s suggestion that the government’s insistence on honoring its debts to wealthy bondholders is hurting ordinary citizens.</p> <p>“The fact that his administration has chosen to default on 30 million Venezuelans, rather than on Wall Street, is not a sign of its moral rectitude,” wrote Hausmann and co-author Miguel Angel Santos. “It is a signal of its moral bankruptcy.”</p> <p>That’s a blow to Chavismo — which claims to rule on behalf of Venezuela’s long-neglected poor majority.</p> <p>Maduro’s rant brought a predictable rallying around Hausmann. Harvard accused the president of intimidation.</p> <p>“It is in the open exchange of opinions and ideas that people and nations can learn and prosper,” the dean and provost of the Kennedy School, where the professor is based, <a href="" target="_blank">said in a statement</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, academics and other supporters penned a sharp <a href="" target="_blank">open letter</a> backing Hausmann and accusing the Maduro administration of confusing “dissent with treason.” Signatories included <a href="">Mexico</a>’s last president, Felipe Calderon, a Harvard fellow himself.</p> <p>Hausmann was on a plane as GlobalPost worked on this story. But in earlier <a href="" target="_blank">comments</a> to Bloomberg News, he slammed Maduro’s scare tactics.</p> <p>“This is Exhibit A in how Venezuela is not a democracy,” Hausmann said. “He [Maduro] uses his position as head of state to intimidate people who think differently.”</p> <p>Maduro’s televised fury will do nothing to fix his country’s sinking economy. Many economists say Venezuela’s desperate situation appears set to get worse before it gets better.</p> <p>In a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, Maduro even ousted his oil minister, Rafael Ramirez, viewed as a pragmatist who favored reforming the “Bolivarian” socialist economic policies that have driven the country to ruin.</p> <p>“He was the one person in the government that had at least been floating balloons about reforming the exchange rate or raising gas prices,” said Harold Trinkunas, a Venezuela expert at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC foreign policy think tank.</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets United States Venezuela Wed, 17 Sep 2014 21:05:52 +0000 Simeon Tegel 6260763 at #IndyRef: ‘Scotland will never, ever be the same’ <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Scotland finally has its chance to seize independence. Will it take it? Nobody here feckin knows. </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>LOCHGELLY, UK — A gray drizzle slicked the pavement outside as Gavin Loudon dropped into a chair at the public library in this Fife, Scotland town.</p> <p>He wore a crossing-guard-style blue vest emblazoned with the Yes logo of Scotland’s pro-independence campaign. He also had a Yes messenger bag, Yes bracelets ringing both wrists and a stack of Yes pamphlets under one arm.</p> <p>The former boxer looked tired but dogged, having knocked on 1,000 doors that day with fellow volunteers. In the last two years, Loudon estimated, the local Yes branch has distributed some 400,000 leaflets extolling the virtues of a sovereign Scotland.</p> <p>He’s dedicated to this movement nearly four years of his life, some $3,000 of his own money and a $1,600 bet on Yes with the local bookie.</p> <p>And on Thursday, it will all be over.</p> <p>“It’s exciting, and butterflies,” said Loudon, 34. “Everywhere you go, the buzz, the atmosphere, the energy — the whole country’s alive.”</p> <p>The pits closed 50 years ago in Lochgelly, a former coal and iron mining town 13 miles as the crow flies across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh.</p> <p>The half-century since has been one long, slow decline. There are so many abandoned shopfronts and shuttered businesses on Main Street that it looks like the occupants were spirited away by the Rapture.</p> <p>The town of 6,800 is in the parliamentary constituency of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.</p> <p>While Loudon and his compatriots were papering towns with the Yes campaign’s cheerful placards, Brown was criss-crossing Scotland in an attempt to convince voters that the UK government will offer the Scottish government more powers if people vote No.</p> <p>“Tell them this is our Scotland,” Brown exhorted a cheering unionist crowd in the working-class Glasgow neighborhood of Maryhill on Wednesday. “Scotland does not belong to the SNP,” he said, using the initials for the pro-independence Scottish National Party. “Scotland does not belong to the Yes campaign. Scotland belongs to all of us.”</p> <p>For Yes voters, it is all too little, too late.</p> <p>Supporters like Loudon frame their argument for an independent Scotland as one of social justice. It’s a chance for Scotland to address for itself the festering problems of modern British society: the proliferation of food banks in a wealthy country, diminishing public services.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">These tiny islands may hold the key to Scotland's independence (VIDEO)</a></strong></p> <p>Two years ago, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Westminster establishment were so certain that a referendum would fail that they dismissed the Scottish National Party’s request for such powers — known as “devo max” here — and demanded an in-or-out vote instead.</p> <p>Two months ago, polls showed the No side in a comfortable 22-point lead, a place they held for virtually the entire campaign.</p> <p>Two weeks ago, the polls showed for the first time that a majority of Scots favored ending their country’s 307-year-old union with England.</p> <p>The polls since then have shown the two sides in a dead heat statistically.</p> <p>The referendum has galvanized voters here like nothing in anyone’s memory. It is the subject of virtually every overheard conversation in Scotland’s buses, pubs, markets and street corners.</p> <p>Nearly every eligible Scot — 97 percent — has registered to vote. More than 80 percent are expected to cast a ballot in Thursday’s election.</p> <p>No one knows what Great Britain will look like when it wakes up to the results in the early morning hours Friday. Only one thing is certain, Loudon said.</p> <p>“Regardless of which way the vote goes, Scotland will never, ever be the same.”</p> <p><strong>Uncertainty or scaremongering?</strong></p> <p>In Edinburgh, the UK’s second biggest financial center, a retired lawyer in a red silk tie smoothed out his copy of the conservative-leaning Telegraph newspaper at a cafe table. A waitress brought him coffee and he thanked her by name.</p> <p>His three children live in England. If Thursday’s vote swings Yes, he said, he and his wife might join them. Over the last two years, the couple has been selling their properties in Scotland as an insurance policy against the uncertain business climate of a newly independent country.</p> <p>“To quote Warren Buffet: always have a margin of safety,” he said.</p> <p>He’s not the only one considering a move if Scotland votes for independence.</p> <p>Scotland-based institutions Standard Life, Lloyds Banking Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland have all said they would follow the UK’s corporate-friendly tax laws to England in the event of a Yes vote. Several insurance companies have already quietly redomiciled south of the border, the lawyer said.</p> <p>It’s not clear what impact such moves would have on Scotland’s jobs or tax base.</p> <p>For unionists, this uncertainty is one of the chief arguments against disintegration. Dismantling the <a href="">United Kingdom</a> would be an enormous undertaking. Some of the most serious details <span style="font-size: 12.7272720336914px; line-height: 20px;">—</span> the currency that Scotland will use, whether or when it can join the <a href="">European</a> Union — can’t be known until after the vote is cast.</p> <p>The Scottish National Party’s plan for economic independence centers on North Sea oil and gas revenues. But no one knows just how much North Sea oil is left — estimates range from 10 billion to 33 billion barrels — or what the price of any future barrel will be.</p> <p>The independence side tends to dismiss such concerns as “scaremongering.” That doesn’t change the fact that they’ve staked a lot on a commodity of vastly fluctuating price and unknown quantity.</p> <p>Earlier this month, former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars warned that anti-independence companies would face “a day of reckoning” in an sovereign Scotland not “as soft as we have been forced to be.”</p> <p>The lawyer, who asked that his name not be used for this story, found this “chilling.” Like many unionists, he feels Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, has done little to rein in his camp’s excesses.</p> <p>To him, Salmond is a Hugo Chavez-like figure whose brand of populism relies on class tensions and resentment.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This map shows all the countries that have declared independence from the British</a></strong></p> <p>“People are genuinely divided,” he says, his brow furrowing above rimless glasses. “They are really, really divided. And do you ever put the division back again? I’m not sure if you do.”</p> <p><strong>‘Bully boy tactics’</strong></p> <p>Despite the passion on both sides, there have been very few instances of referendum-related violence. It’s a campaign of words, some of which have become very heated in recent months.</p> <p>“Problem is most Yes voters have not a brain to think with, if they did they would be voting No,” a No supporter wrote in a typical exchange on Better Together Edinburgh’s <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook page</a>.</p> <p>“I am a yea voter and I do have a brain,” came the reply. “I take it your a torrie [sic] arse kisser cheeky cunt.”</p> <p>Both sides tell stories of aggressive and verbally abusive detractors from the opposite camp. Margaret Pollock, the diminutive 75-year-old Yes campaign head in the unionist stronghold of Helensburgh, said she had objects thrown at her while canvassing.</p> <p>But the impression anecdotally and in the national press has been that most of the “bully boy tactics,” as one Edinburgh unionist called them, have come from the nationalists.</p> <p>Salmond is a polarizing figure in British politics, a tenacious and shrewd tactician whose detractors even describe as a brilliant politician. But the chief driver of the independence campaign isn’t above a little aggression himself.</p> <p>In one publicized instance, the head of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation wrote to Salmond earlier this year questioning SNP fishing policies. Salmond fired back with a letter to chief executive Bertie Armstrong calling his interpretation “ridiculous.”</p> <p>When Armstrong confronted Salmond at a public meeting earlier this month on what he saw as a personal and intimidating attack, Salmond doubled down.</p> <p>“Maybe there has been a change in the types of leader that this industry has. But I can’t think of anybody over the past quarter of a century who would have felt intimidated by a letter,” he told Armstrong in front of a crowded room.</p> <p>Donald Low, the harbormaster in the east coast fishing town of Pittenweem, is not a man easily intimidated. Wearing yellow rain boots and a tie reaching just halfway down his barrel chest, Low was blunt about what he saw as the difference between No and Yes voters.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>“It’s the educated versus what we call the numpties. They’re the lot that don’t normally vote because they’re too thick to work it out for themselves,” he said. “Many people are too scared to speak up [for the union] because they’re afraid to get a brick through their window.”</p> <p>This “silent No” phenomenon is one of the reasons some people think the union will prevail on Thursday.</p> <p>Others say the momentum is on the Yes campaign’s side.</p> <p>“The atmosphere the last few weeks has been absolutely electric,” said Yes volunteer Morwen Boyd, 28, at a booth sponsored by the Green Party in Edinburgh. Supportive motorists tapped their horns while Boyd and fellow volunteers cheered, danced and handed out literature to passersby.</p> <p>The Yes side is exciting. It’s young and passionate and fun. One of Salmond’s many coups in this campaign was to get the ballot question worded so that his side could have the affirmative answer.</p> <p>Supporting the status quo doesn’t have the same cachet.</p> <p>MP Rory Stewart, a passionate unionist whose constituency spans the Scottish border, said his efforts to recruit celebrities went largely rebuffed. Those who have spoken out have been pilloried on social media.</p> <p>Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was called a “traitor,” “whore,” “Union cow bag” and “specky bastard” (a particularly Scottish insult for a bespectacled person) on Twitter after donating $1.6 million to the union campaign.</p> <p>After David Bowie implored Scots to stay in the union during an acceptance speech at an awards show, “cybernats” took to his Facebook page to tell him to “fuck off back to Mars.”</p> <p>“Scotland is a bunch of tribes. Clans. We can’t agree on nuthin,’” said Andrew Christie, 43, a trawlerman from St. Monans. “I think Scotland is a country that has to be governed. We can’t govern ourselves. Too wild. It’s in our genetics.”</p> <p><strong>Healing afterward</strong></p> <p>The polls open at 7 a.m. Thursday. The results will trickle in overnight, with a final verdict expected between 4 and 6 Friday morning. A lot of people are planning to stay up all night. Not much work is getting done in Scotland on Friday.</p> <p>Whatever happens, Scots are going to have to live with each other and with their neighbors south of the border afterward. The campaign has made both sides confident that a better Scotland is possible. The challenge will be to channel that energy into positive change after the vote.</p> <p>“Life is not gonna end on Friday one way or another,” said Rev. Iain May, a former banker turned minister in the working-class parish of South Leith. “What will upset the people of Leith and Scotland is if promises are not kept.”</p> <p>His working-class congregation on Edinburgh’s outskirts is split down the middle on independence.</p> <p>They are no strangers to internecine conflict, May joked — the parish is also divided between Hibs and Hearts, the nicknames for supporters of rival Edinburgh soccer teams Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian.</p> <p>For better or for worse, it will still be the same Scotland come Friday, May said. Every Sunday after services, there are 50 or 60 people waiting outside his church’s door for a hot breakfast. A similar number visits the parish food bank.</p> <p>“They’ll still be there next week,” May said.</p> <p> </p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--><p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">The word on the street in Scotland, an Instagram tour</a></strong></p> Need to Know Business Elections Europe Politics Global Economy United Kingdom Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:29:00 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6260728 at As migrants flee eastern Cuba, a town mourns those lost at sea <!--paging_filter--><p>Eighteen-year-old Miguel Lopez Maldonado boarded a homemade boat last month with 31 others, leaving behind this sleepy fishing town on <a href="">Cuba</a>'s southeast coast to seek a new life in the <a href="">United States</a>.</p> <p>The motor broke down after a couple days, and the craft drifted for three weeks. One by one, the passengers died of thirst, the survivors left with no option but to throw the bodies overboard.</p> <p>By the time the Mexican navy spotted them 150 miles off the Yucatan peninsula, 15 had died, including Lopez Maldonado. Of the 17 rescued, two died in a Mexican hospital.</p> <p>Lopez Maldonado's parents say they don't understand why their son left. But others here say many young Cubans see no future in a state-run economy, under US sanctions for 50 years, with few opportunities for private enterprise.</p> <p>"Young people today do not think like my generation did. They are looking for something more that they can’t find here," the dead teen's father, Miguel Lopez Vega, said, sobbing, in the living room of the family's home as neighbors stopped by to offer comfort.</p> <p>"My son wanted to leave Cuba since he was 15. He didn’t want to live in this country."</p> <p>The tragedy, the worst Cuban migrant boat disaster in two decades, is part of a growing illegal exodus from eastern Cuba — a region famous as the launching pad of the 1959 revolution in the nearby Sierra Maestra mountains.</p> <p>US authorities say 14,000 Cubans arrived without visas at the border with <a href="">Mexico</a> in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.</p> <p>In Manzanillo, a run-down colonial city of 130,000 in eastern Granma province, residents say as many as five boats, with up to 30 passengers, depart in weeks with favorable weather.</p> <p>Passengers in last month's voyage, who were aged 16 to 36, each paid the equivalent of $400 to $600 for the 675-mile trip.</p> <p>The situation threatens to further strain relations between Cuba and the United States. Cuba argues that US policy foments illegal and dangerous departures by granting Cubans a special right of entry not offered to other nationalities.</p> <p>The wave of migration also exposes the fragility of President Raul Castro's market-oriented reforms, in which independent farming and small businesses have been legalized in an attempt rebuild a private sector wiped out in 1959.</p> <p><strong>Tears and prayers</strong></p> <p>Joaquin de La Paz, who works at a rice mill, lost a daughter, a son and two grandsons in last month's tragedy. He said economic hardship and a lack of jobs in Manzanillo, once a busy port handling sugar from nearby cane fields, had made people desperate.</p> <p>De La Paz, 62, said that even though his daughter was a teacher and his son worked for the health ministry, neither earned enough to satisfy their needs.</p> <p>"The kids see people leave Cuba who never even had a bicycle, and then by the time they return within a year their family situation is improved," he said.</p> <p>"Look at me. After 43 years of work, I haven't been able to acquire anything, except sadness and sorrow for my family."</p> <p>One granddaughter decided at the last minute not to join her mother and brother, but De la Paz frets that she will be next. The girl’s 16-year-old brother, Hector, was rescued, but he died on the way to a hospital.</p> <p>De la Paz's wife, Xiomara <a href="">Milan</a>, sobbed alongside him as she recounted how they raised pigs to feed the family. She said all she had left was the hope her grandson would be returned for burial, adding the family did not have the money to repatriate his body.</p> <p>Family members and neighbors said the government and state-run media have been silent about the tragedy. Only the Catholic Church has offered solace, they said.</p> <p>A Mass for the victims was held in the town's main Catholic church on Friday, and prayers were offered "for those who feel the need to find another country to live." One speaker urged people to think hard about the decision and "look for safer paths."</p> <p>There were also prayers that Cuban authorities "achieve the necessary material and spiritual progress" of the country.</p> <p>Relatives of the victims said their only information has come from survivors detained by immigration authorities in Mexico, who have been allowed to call home twice a week.</p> <p>They are pleading with Mexican authorities not to deport the survivors back to Cuba, and to allow them to continue their journey to the US border.</p> <p>Niurka Aguilar, the mother of one survivor, Maylin Perez, said it was her daughter's fifth attempt to leave. Perez, 30, was hoping to join her husband, who made the trip nine months ago and now lives in Texas.</p> <p>"If they send her back, she will just try again," said Aguilar.</p> <p>(Editing by David Adams, Marc Frank and Douglas Royalty)</p> Need to Know Cuba Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:57:52 +0000 Rosa Tania Valdés, Thomson Reuters 6260486 at First volunteer gets experimental GSK Ebola shot in UK trial <!--paging_filter--><p>The first volunteer in a fast-tracked British safety trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline received the injection on Wednesday, trial organizers said.</p> <p>The candidate Ebola vaccine, which GSK co-developed with the <a href="">United States</a> National Institutes of Health, has also been given to 10 volunteers taking part in a separate trial in the United States, and so far there were no signs of any serious adverse reactions, doctors said.</p> <p>The vaccine is designed to specifically target the Zaire strain of Ebola, the one circulating in the West <a href="">Africa</a> epidemic, the worst Ebola outbreak recorded.</p> <p>Since the vaccine contains no infectious Ebola virus material, only one of its genes, experts say there are no concerns that any of the subjects will contract the deadly disease.</p> <p>Latest data from the World Health Organization show about 2,500 people have died of Ebola in an outbreak that started in March and has infected almost 5,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and <a href="">Nigeria</a>.</p> <p>The British trial is being run by a team at Oxford University.</p> <p>A spokeswoman for the Oxford team said the first volunteer in the <a href="">UK</a> trial was vaccinated early on Wednesday, but gave no further information. She said more details would be given later.</p> <p>Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told a US Senate panel on Tuesday that "no red flags" indicating serious adverse reactions have been found in the 10 healthy volunteers vaccinated there so far.</p> <p>The trials are seeking to determine not only whether the vaccine is safe, or causes adverse side effects, but also whether it triggers the production of antibodies against the Ebola virus.</p> <p>The aim is to complete the tests by the end of 2014, after which vaccines could be deployed on an emergency basis.</p> <p>GSK says it plans to begin making up to about 10,000 doses of the vaccine at the same time as the initial clinical trials, so that if they are successful, the vaccine could be made available immediately for an emergency immunization program.</p> <p>Ben Neuman, a virologist at the University of Reading who is not involved in the vaccine studies, said it was important not to get ahead of the results.</p> <p>"There is clearly a need for this vaccine, but what is not clear is whether it will work well enough to protect someone from Ebola," he said.</p> <p>He said the experimental shot "uses some of the best available technology to give the immune system a good long look at its target, a small but vitally important part of the virus," but added: "We won't really be able to tell whether the vaccine works until it is tested on the ground in West Africa."</p> <p>Study data from an animal trial of an Ebola vaccine similar to this GSK one showed that it was effective for at least five weeks in lab monkeys but required boosting with an additional vaccine to extend its protection to 10 months.</p> <p>(Editing by Janet Lawrence)</p> Need to Know United Kingdom Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:25:02 +0000 Kate Kelland, Thomson Reuters 6260456 at Chatter: The case for a ground war in Iraq is already building <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Top military adviser to US president says he'd be open to the idea. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Peter Gelling </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Peter Gelling 5942065 at Nearly 50 people were killed in Syrian airstrikes on Homs, monitoring group says <!--paging_filter--><p>At least 48 people including rebel fighters have been killed in Syrian government air bombardments around a town in the central province of Homs, a monitoring group said on Wednesday.</p> <p>Two days of airstrikes left women and children among the dead, including a mother who was killed along with five of her children, said the <a href="">Britain</a>-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in <a href="">Syria</a> through a network of sources.</p> <p>Around a dozen fighters and multiple rebel commanders were also confirmed killed in the bombardment, which targeted Talbiseh, a town north of the city of Homs on the country's main north-south highway.</p> <p>In May, Syrian rebels had abandoned their last stronghold in the heart of Homs city, which had been an epicenter of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.</p> <p>The death toll from the bombardment on Talbiseh — which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday — is expected to rise because dozens of people including children were in critical condition, the Observatory said.</p> <p>More than 190,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict and millions more displaced, according to the United Nations. The conflict began more than three years ago as a peaceful protest movement and turned into civil war after a government crackdown.</p> <p>(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Toby Chopra)</p> Need to Know Syria Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:59:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6260402 at As oil and terror intertwine, Somalis want more from their government <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Oil dispute could inflame a new conflict in fragmented Somalia. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yusuf M. Hassan </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MELBOURNE, Australia &mdash; On September 5, the <a href="">US military confirmed</a> that it killed Ahmed Godane in an airstrike south of Mogadishu. The Pentagon called it a &ldquo;major symbolic and operational loss to Al Shabaab&rdquo; insurgents.</p> <p>A military offensive against Al Shabaab was underway in south-central Somalia, and Godane&rsquo;s death was a necessary if transient victory. Al Shabaab quickly announced its new leader. Shortly, a suicide car bomber struck a convoy outside Mogadishu as &ldquo;retaliation.&rdquo; The convoy was operated by AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia, a regional peacekeeping mission.</p> <p>So, Godane was killed, but an uninterrupted war continues in Somalia.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>The underlying struggle over control of natural resources sits at the heart of a protracted political conflict in Somalia.</p> <p>In June, Petroleum Minister Daud Mohamed Omar of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) was invited to The Hague to meet with representatives of Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil.</p> <p>A <a href="">joint press release</a> noted that the FGS &ldquo;recognizes the rights of existing concession holders&rdquo; &mdash; referring to Western oil companies that signed agreements in the 1980s but declared circumstances beyond its control after the Somali central government collapsed in 1990.</p> <p> Recently, the FGS issued a <a href="">public statement</a> detailing the petroleum minister&rsquo;s meetings with US officials and oil company representatives in Washington. The statement contains inaccurate legal statements, misinterpretation of the meeting&rsquo;s outcomes and unsubstantiated claims of implied US support.</p> <p> The statement asserts that US officials &ldquo;acknowledged the primacy&rdquo; of FGS in the management of hydrocarbons and minerals. With its legitimacy eroding among the Somali public, the question emerges whether the FGS has resorted to seeking an endorsement of its governmental authority by external powers and interests.</p> <p> The statement blames &ldquo;small hunting oil companies&rdquo; currently operating in Somalia for a host of ills: &ldquo;overlapping concessions, illegal contracts, environmental degradation, clan hostilities and undermining the sovereignty of the country.&rdquo;</p> <p> Ironically, it is the federal government&rsquo;s polarizing policies that provoked instability in the regions of Jubaland, Lower Shabelle, Baidoa and Hiran. In July, a <a href="">UN Monitoring Group report</a> accused the Somali president of &ldquo;exploitation of public authority for private interests&rdquo; in a controversy involving the recovery of Somali national assets overseas. Further bankrupting the government&rsquo;s credibility, <a href="">Human Rights Watch</a> issued a new report raising &ldquo;serious concerns about abuses by AMISOM soldiers against Somali women and girls.&rdquo;</p> <p> The FGS signed a contract with Soma Oil and Gas, a UK company that never worked in the hydrocarbons sector before and lacked the <a href="">requisite capital</a> to satisfy its obligations. Among its founders was a defendant in a New York court case involving fraudulent activities.</p> <p>The lobby group, <a href="">East Africa Energy Forum</a>, condemned the deal, saying it went &ldquo;against the very principle of transparency and anti-corruption.&rdquo;</p> <p>While questions of transparency and capacity are valid, the fact remains that Somalia is a socio-politically complex domain, with a divided nation in arms, vast technical and infrastructural challenges, and a dangerous operational environment for any foreign oil company.</p> <p> &ldquo;The danger is that the race for oil will feed a destabilizing rivalry between Mogadishu and other regions,&rdquo; the Financial Times <a href=",Authorised=false.html?;siteedition=uk&amp;_i_referer=#axzz35brONypS">warned</a> last year.</p> <p> Puntland region in northern Somalia is relatively stable and holds peaceful elections. In 2012, Canadian and Australian oil firms commenced onshore oil drilling in Puntland &mdash; effectively dismantling claims of force majeure.</p> <p>Puntland-Mogadishu relations remain strained in a long-running dispute over federalism. On September 8, Puntland Petroleum Director Issa Farah told a press conference in Bossaso that the federal government &ldquo;is violating the Federal Constitution&rdquo; and declared the state government is &ldquo;constitutionally responsible for the political and economic development&rdquo; of Puntland.&rdquo;</p> <p> The separatist Somaliland region also challenges Mogadishu&rsquo;s rule over resources. Somaliland signed an oil deal with Norwegian company DNO International, which Mogadishu accuses of &ldquo;planning to introduce armed militiamen in areas already in conflict.&rdquo; While Somaliland has not responded to Mogadishu&rsquo;s latest provocation, <a href="">UN experts</a> have warned of &quot;commercial activity triggering conflict&rdquo; in northern Somalia.</p> <p> Dr. Dominik Balthasar, in a report published by a<a href=""> Mogadishu-based think tank</a>, makes a profound argument for caution: &ldquo;There is a real risk that hurried hydrocarbon production that precedes the forging of a political settlement between federal members states and the federal government will spark violent conflict.&rdquo;</p> <p> The FGS has a national mandate and international recognition, but due to its failed policies of confrontation and coercion, remains a de jure state incapable of projecting power beyond Mogadishu.</p> <p>Daud Mohamed Omar, Mogadishu&rsquo;s oil minister, formerly served as a Puntland minister as recently as 2013, consequently illustrating the opportunistic character of Somali politicians, the country&rsquo;s extensive and complex divisions, and the very fluidity and exploitative nature of its political institutions.</p> <p> The Somali people want a federal government that can build peace, support functioning institutions and drive economic growth. The international community expects a responsible partner government in Somalia. Mogadishu should enter into constructive political dialogue with the de facto and emerging state governments to achieve a negotiated settlement within the federal framework that builds national cohesion and cooperation, and which is antithetical to Al Shabaab&rsquo;s extremist agenda.</p> <p> <em>Yusuf M. Hassan, a Somali-American journalist, is a political and media analyst on Somalia affairs. He formerly served as Puntland government adviser. Twitter: @yhassan_</em><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> Oil Somalia Commentary Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:14:20 +0000 Yusuf M. Hassan 6258343 at Why deflation is so terrifying for Europe <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Fear of a downward price spiral is reviving the specter of Europe's dark times. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal — From Putin's hordes massing over the eastern borders of Ukraine to the army of home-grown Islamic State fanatics threatening a murderous return from the <a href="">Middle East</a>, Europe has a lot be frightened of right now.</p> <p>Yet there's another nightmare haunting Europe's economic policy makers: a monster called deflation that's already clawing at the continent's financial fundaments.</p> <p>"We are meeting here at the time when Europe is facing a great threat," Polish Finance Minister Mateusz Szczurek warned in a recent speech.</p> <p>"We are on the verge of deflation," he told a Sept. 4 conference in Brussels. "As Europeans we should never forget that it was depression and deflation ... that brought to power the totalitarian regime that devastated our continent through the world war and unspeakable atrocities 75 years ago."</p> <p>At first glance deflation doesn't sound so bad.</p> <p>Prices go down, what's not to like?</p> <p>Yet the cold economic reality means that when prices fall people stop spending, hoping things will get even cheaper. In response, businesses cut production and lay off workers. That means even less demand, and prices drop further.</p> <p>By then, your economy’s in a vicious downward spiral.</p> <p>Making things worse, those falling prices bring declining wages and worsening debt burdens.</p> <p>Anybody who doubts how bad it could get should look back to the last time the <a href="">United States</a> caught a serious dose of deflation, from 1929-33. They called that the Great Depression.</p> <p>Japan has languished in a deflationary cycle pretty much since the late 1990s, its once-booming economy reduced to "lost decades" of stagnation. The country now lays claim to the world's highest debt — over 1 quadrillion yen ($9 trillion) — more than twice the size of its total economic output.</p> <p>Europe is now teetering on the edge.</p> <p>Seventy-four percent of global investors expressed fears the euro zone was slipping into deflation, according to a recent Bloomberg poll.</p> <p>In August, Italy registered negative inflation for the first time in over 50 years. It joined fellow euro zone strugglers Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia in the deflation club. France's inflation stands at 0.4 percen and Germany's at 0.8 percent, all well below the European Central Bank's 2 percent inflation target. </p> <p>If the trend continues, some economists are predicting a lurch into a long-term stagnation, making the near-catastrophic <a href="">euro zone debt crisis</a> just the start. Growth has ground to a halt in France. Italy is mired in recession. Even Germany saw its economy contract in the second quarter.</p> <p>"The European economy is in an exceptional situation," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the National Assembly in Paris on Tuesday. "It's marked by weak growth and a disturbing threat from deflation that's calling into question all our most reasonable forecasts."</p> <p>Nobel Prize -winning economist Paul Krugman says Europe's economy is performing worse now than in the 1930s.</p> <p>It's not just the economics that are starting to resemble those dark times, he warned, looking to the rise of a new nationalism that threatens to undermine the post-WWII order — when Europe's former enemies came together in what became the European Union.</p> <p>"The European project — peace guaranteed by democracy and prosperity — is in deep trouble," Krugman <a href="">wrote</a> in a New York Times column. "The Continent still has peace, but it’s falling short on prosperity and, in a subtler way, democracy. And, if Europe stumbles, it will be a very bad thing not just for Europe itself but for the world as a whole."</p> <p>Parties seeking to break up the EU, or at least radically roll back its powers, have emerged as major electoral players in Britain, France, Italy, Greece, <a href="">the Netherlands</a>, Denmark and other countries in recent years. Many share strong anti-immigration views. Some stand accused of racism or xenophobia.</p> <p>In Sweden's general elections on Sunday, the far-right Sweden Democrats doubled their vote to 13 percent, and now hold a balance of power in parliament.</p> <p>The Alternative for Germany party has made an electoral breakthrough in recent weeks, capturing seats in three state legislatures on a ticket of scrapping the euro currency and bolstering law and order.</p> <p>"The European project is under threat from all sides," said Valls ahead of a parliamentary confidence vote that his government survived with a much reduced majority. Earlier this month, he warned that far-right political parties stood at the "gates of power."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">France is a mess, and Europe is worried</a></strong></p> <p>With the risk of a prolonged, deflation-fueled downturn threatening to further radicalize voters, there are mounting voices for Europe to act.</p> <p>Krugman and other critics of the austerity policies imposed since the euro zone debt crisis blew up in 2009 welcomed this month's decision by the European Central Bank to cut interest rates and intervene in corporate bond markets to stimulate the economy.</p> <p>However, they say the ECB has to go further by pumping new money into the economy through so-called quantitative easing, which has been deployed as a weapon against deflation by the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and, since last year, the Japanese central bank.</p> <p>Valls and other left-of-center leaders are also pushing for the EU to relax rules limiting tax cuts and government spending, to give them more wiggle room to push through reforms that inject much-needed competitiveness into their economies.</p> <p>France last week announced it would renege on a pledge to meet euro zone budget deficit targets by next year.</p> <p>Such moves worry Germany, where fear of inflation is branded into the country's economic psyche.</p> <p>Germany's influential central bank opposed even the ECB's limited stimulus moves, and the government in Berlin is wary of easing Europe's austerity targets.</p> <p>Many there view the slowdown in inflation as temporary and beneficial. They dismiss fears of a deflationary vortex, blaming the current downturn on temporary factors such as uncertainty over Ukraine.</p> <p>"Price pressure will gradually recover over the next few years," says Robert Wood, senior economist with Germany's oldest bank, Barenberg. "The euro-zone may have some negative inflation for a couple of months ... but we don't see a risk of broad-based deflationary pressure."</p> <p>Others are less sanguine.</p> <p>US Treasury officials told Reuters last week that Washington will be pushing Germany and other European nations to take aggressive action to boost growth and head off the risk of deflation in the run-up to a November summit of G20 nations in Australia.</p> <p>Fears of contagion from a renewed European recession are likely to ensure other <a href="">world leaders</a> add to that pressure.</p> Debt Crisis Want to Know Europe Wed, 17 Sep 2014 04:33:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6259765 at Reacting to IS atrocities, Indonesia claims to be a model of Islamic tolerance <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yet religious minorities in the country complain that violence and abuse is getting worse. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Marie Dhumieres </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JAKARTA, <a href="">Indonesia</a> — This country, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, holds itself up as an example for followers of Islam everywhere. Largely peaceful, increasingly prosperous and democratic, Indonesia’s government and religious leaders have issued swift condemnations of the Islamic State terror group.</p> <p> Some Muslims have “lost their identity” and “need role models to follow,” said Indonesia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dino Patti Djalal. “Muslims in Indonesia can become the reference,” he suggested in early September.</p> <p> President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called IS militants’ actions in <a href="">Syria</a> and <a href="">Iraq</a> “embarrassing” to Islam. He banned IS support in Indonesia, and said the authorities had taken decisive steps to stop its spread in the country.</p> <p> “Indonesia is not an Islamic state. We respect all religions,” Yudhoyono stated during an interview with The Australian in August. “No one should be persecuted because of personal belief.”</p> <p> Yet not everyone agrees with this idyllic assessment of tolerance in this sprawling country of 250 million.  </p> <p> Consider Emilia Az, a Shia activist in Jakarta. She says she receives regular threats, her house has been stoned on several occasions, and her dog was killed — all because she advocates for the rights of Shia Muslims and other religious minorities. (Most Indonesian Muslims are Sunni.)</p> <p> “Many Shia hide their beliefs, so they are safe. But I’m used to being threatened by [conservative Sunni] Wahabis in many ways because of my work.”</p> <p> To her, Yudhoyono and his government are “weak,” and “have done nothing for us.”  </p> <p> The president’s statement also left Indonesian human rights activists in dismay.</p> <p> “It is not true,” said Andreas Harsono, Human Rights Watch’s researcher in Jakarta.</p> <p> He says it’s easy for officials to condemn what happens in the <a href="">Middle East</a>, but much harder to admit that the situation in Indonesia is worrying. The truth is that Yudhoyono “has turned a blind eye to religious violence inside his own country,” Harsono adds, arguing that attacks against Shia, Ahmadiyah and Christian minorities have increased during the outgoing president’s 10-year term.</p> <p> “His government institutionalized so many discriminations against minorities,” Harsono says. One example: a 2008 decree that prohibited the “deviant” Muslim Ahmadiyah sect from spreading their beliefs. He also points to a decree restraining construction of churches, which has led to assaults on Christian leaders.</p> <p> Religious violence has been treated lightly in Indonesia in recent years. In 2011, a group of some 1,500 Islamic hardliners attacked a Ahmadiyah community in West Java. Three men were beaten to death. The brutal assault, captured on video, shocked the country.</p> <p> Still, the perpetrators were only sentenced with three to six months in jail.</p> <p> Rights activists say militant Islamic movements in Indonesia target minority groups with total impunity. “The government almost never takes action. When they do, the punishment is insignificant,” says Harsono.</p> <p> The Islam practiced here is overwhelmingly moderate, however, and experts point out that religious violence is limited to certain areas. Nonetheless, it remains a top human rights priority.</p> <p> Bonar Tigor Naipospos, the deputy director of Setara, an Indonesian institute that monitors religious violence, says officials were quick to condemn IS actions because they knew the country’s highly influential mainstream Muslim organizations agreed. Politicians “are very careful when it comes to religious issues,” he says. “The government will act quickly if they can count on the Islamic organizations’ backup. If not, they’ll stay silent.”</p> <p> Still, he contends that the Shia community in Indonesia “is suffering from the conflict in the Middle East.”</p> <p> Last April, a group known as the Anti-Shia Alliance organized a gathering attended by thousands to call for “preventive and anticipative” action against the “Shia threat.”</p> <p> “It’s time that we declared jihad against [the Shia],” one of the speakers said. A call by Shia representatives to cancel the event was left unanswered.</p> <p> President-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who’ll take power in October, has promised to focus on human rights. Harsono urges that the new leader should distance himself from Yudhoyono’s “bad and dangerous legacy.”</p> <p>“Jokowi has to undo what Yudhoyono has done during the past 10 years.”</p> <p> Setara's Bonar says it’s time religious minorities stop facing persecution, intimidation, hate speech, discrimination, and attacks on their places of worships. “The duty of the state is to protect all citizens, no matter what their religion or beliefs are.” </p> Want to Know World Religion Indonesia Wed, 17 Sep 2014 04:33:00 +0000 Marie Dhumieres 6256149 at After 47 years, the US is still pretending Israel doesn't have nuclear weapons <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A growing number of US experts say that feigning ignorance about Israel’s nuclear arsenal creates more trouble than it averts. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith, Center for Public Integrity </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>This story was&nbsp;published&nbsp;by&nbsp;The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, DC.</em></p> <p>Israel has a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons.</p> <p>Former CIA director Robert Gates&nbsp;<a href="">said</a>&nbsp;so during his 2006 Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of defense, when he noted &mdash; while serving as a university president &mdash; that Iran is surrounded by &ldquo;powers with nuclear weapons,&rdquo; including &ldquo;the Israelis to the west.&rdquo; Former president Jimmy Carter said so in 2008 and again this year, in interviews and speeches in which he pegged the number of Israel&rsquo;s nuclear warheads at 150 to around 300.</p> <p>But due to a quirk of federal secrecy rules, such remarks generally cannot be made even now by those who work for the US government and hold active security clearances. In fact, US officials, even those on Capitol Hill, are routinely admonished not to mention the existence of an Israeli nuclear arsenal and occasionally punished when they do so.</p> <p>The policy of never publicly confirming what a scholar once called one of the world&rsquo;s &ldquo;worst-kept secrets&rdquo; dates from a political deal between Washington and Israel in the late 1960s. Its consequence has been to help Israel maintain a distinctive military posture in the Middle East while avoiding the scrutiny &mdash; and occasional disapprobation &mdash; applied to the world&rsquo;s eight acknowledged nuclear powers.</p> <p>But the US policy of shielding the Israeli program has recently provoked new controversy, partly because of allegations that it played a role in&nbsp;<a href="">the censure</a>&nbsp;of a well-known national laboratory arms researcher in July, after he published an article in which he acknowledged that Israel has nuclear arms. Some scholars and experts are also complaining that the government&rsquo;s lack of candor is complicating its high-profile campaign to block the development of nuclear arms in Iran, as well as US-led&nbsp;planning for a potential treaty prohibiting nuclear arms anywhere in the region.</p> <p>The US silence is largely unwavering, however. &ldquo;We would never say flatly that Israel has nuclear weapons,&rdquo; explained a former senior State Department official who dealt with nuclear issues during the Bush administration. &ldquo;We would have to couch it in other language, we would have to say &lsquo;we assume&rsquo; or &lsquo;we presume that Israel has nuclear weapons,&rsquo; or &lsquo;it&rsquo;s reported&rsquo; that they have them,&rdquo; the former official said, requesting that his name not be used due to the political sensitivity surrounding the topic.</p> <p>President Barack Obama made clear that this four-decade-old US policy would persist at his first&nbsp;<a href="">White House press conference</a>&nbsp;in 2009, when journalist Helen Thomas asked if he knew of any nations in the Middle East with nuclear arms. &ldquo;With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don&rsquo;t want to speculate,&rdquo; Obama said, as though Israel&rsquo;s established status as a nuclear weapons state was only a matter of rumor and conjecture.</p> <p>So wary is Paul Pillar, a former US national intelligence officer for the Middle East, of making any direct, public reference to Israel&rsquo;s nuclear arsenal that when he wrote an <a href="">article</a>&nbsp;this month in The National Interest, entitled&nbsp;<a href="">&ldquo;Israel&rsquo;s Widely Suspected Unmentionables,&rdquo;</a>&nbsp;he referred to warheads as &ldquo;kumquats&rdquo; throughout his manuscript.</p> <p>Even Congress has been coy on the subject. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee published a 2008 report titled&nbsp;<a href="">&ldquo;Chain Reaction: Avoiding a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East,&rdquo;</a>&nbsp;it included chapters on Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey &mdash; but not Israel. The 61-page report relegated Israel&rsquo;s nuclear arms to a footnote that suggested that Israel&rsquo;s arsenal was a &ldquo;perception.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;This report does not take a position on the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons,&rdquo; the report said. &ldquo;Although Israel has not officially acknowledged it possesses nuclear weapons, a widespread consensus exists in the region and among experts in the United States that Israel possesses a number of nuclear weapons. For Israel&rsquo;s neighbors, this perception is more important than reality.&rdquo;</p> <p>While former White House or cabinet-level officers &mdash; such as Gates &mdash; have gotten away with more candor, the bureaucracy does not take honesty by junior officials lightly. James Doyle, a veteran nuclear analyst at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was recently censured, evidently left himself open to punishment by straying minutely from US policy in a February 2013&nbsp;<a href="">article</a>&nbsp;published by the British journal Survival.</p> <p>&ldquo;Nuclear weapons did not deter Egypt and Syria from attacking Israel in 1973, Argentina from attacking British territory in the 1982 Falklands War or Iraq from attacking Israel during the 1991 Gulf War,&rdquo; Doyle said in a bitingly critical appraisal of Western&nbsp;nuclear policy, which angered his superiors at the nuclear weapons lab as well as a Republican staff member of the House Armed Services committee.</p> <p>Even though three secrecy specialists at the lab concluded the article contained no secrets, more senior officials overruled them and cited an unspecified breach as justification for censuring Doyle and declaring it classified, after its publication. They docked his pay, searched his home computer and, eventually,&nbsp;<a href="">fired him</a>&nbsp;this summer. The lab has said his firing &mdash; as opposed to the censure and search &mdash; was not related to the article&rsquo;s content, but Doyle and his lawyer have said they are convinced it was pure punishment for his skepticism about the tenets of nuclear deterrence.</p> <p>Neither Doyle nor his colleagues revealed if the sentence in his article about Israel&rsquo;s arsenal was the one that provoked officials to nitpick about a security violation, but several independent experts have surmised it was.</p> <p><a href="">Steven Aftergood</a>, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said the clues lie in the Energy Department&rsquo;s citation &mdash; in a <a href="">document</a>&nbsp;summarizing the facts behind Doyle&rsquo;s unsuccessful appeal of his ill treatment &mdash; of a classification bulletin numbered &ldquo;WPN-136.&rdquo;</p> <p>The full, correct title of that&nbsp;<a href="">bulletin</a>, according to an Energy Department circular, is &ldquo;WNP-136, Foreign Nuclear Capabilities.&rdquo; The classification bulletin itself is not public. But Aftergood said Doyle&rsquo;s only reference to a sensitive foreign nuclear program was his mention of Israel&rsquo;s, making it highly probable this was the cudgel the lab used against him. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m certain that that&rsquo;s what it is,&rdquo; Aftergood said in an interview.</p> <p>The circumstances surrounding Doyle&rsquo;s censure are among several cases now being examined by DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman, as part of a broader examination of inconsistent classification practices within the department and the national laboratories, several officials said.</p> <p>Doyle&rsquo;s reference to the existence of Israel&rsquo;s nuclear&nbsp;arsenal reflects the consensus intelligence judgment within DOE nuclear weapons-related laboratories, former officials say. But some said they find it so hard to avoid any public reference to the weapons that classification officers periodically held special briefings about avoiding the issue.</p> <p>&ldquo;It was one of those things that was not obvious,&rdquo; a former laboratory official said, asking not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the topic. &ldquo;Especially when there&rsquo;s so much about it in the open domain.&rdquo;</p> <p>Israel&rsquo;s nuclear weapons program began in the 1950s, and the country is widely believed to have assembled its first three weapons during the crisis leading to the Six-Day War in 1967,&nbsp;<a href="">according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative</a>, a nonprofit group in Washington that tracks nuclear weapons developments.</p> <p>For decades, however, Israel itself has wrapped its nuclear program in a policy it calls &ldquo;amimut,&rdquo; meaning opacity or ambiguity. By hinting at but not confirming that it has these weapons, Israel has sought to deter its enemies from a major attack without provoking a concerted effort by others to develop a matching arsenal.</p> <p>Israeli-American historian Avner Cohen has written that US adherence to this policy evidently grew out of a&nbsp;<a href=";pg=PA23">September 1969 meeting</a>&nbsp;between President Richard Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. No transcript of the meeting has surfaced, but Cohen said it is clear the two leaders struck a deal: Israel would not test its nuclear weapons or announce it possessed them, while the United States wouldn&rsquo;t press Israel to give them up or to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and would halt its annual inspections of Dimona, site of Israel&rsquo;s Negev Nuclear Research Center.</p> <p>As an outgrowth of the deal, Washington, moreover, would adopt Israel&rsquo;s secret as its own, eventually acquiescing to a public formulation of Israeli policy that was initially strenuously opposed by top US officials.</p> <p>&ldquo;Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East,&rdquo; the boilerplate Israeli account&nbsp;<a href="">has long stated</a>. &ldquo;Israel supports a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction following the attainment of peace.&rdquo; When Nixon&rsquo;s aides sought assurances this pledge meant Israel would not actually build any bombs, Israeli officials said the word &ldquo;introduce&rdquo; would have a different meaning: It meant the country would not publicly test bombs or admit to possessing them, leaving ample room for its unacknowledged arsenal.</p> <p>&ldquo;While we might ideally like to halt actual Israeli possession,&rdquo; then-National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger wrote in a&nbsp;<a href="">July 1969 memo</a>&nbsp;to Nixon that summarized Washington&rsquo;s enduring policy, &ldquo;what we really want at a minimum may be just to keep Israeli possession from becoming an established international fact.&rdquo;</p> <p>Even when Mordechai Vanunu, a technician at Dimona, provided the first detasiled, public account of the program in 1986 and released&nbsp;<a href="">photos</a>&nbsp;he had snapped there of nuclear weapons components, both countries refused to shift gears. After being snatched from Italy, Vanunu was imprisoned by Israel for 18 years, mostly in solitary confinement, and subsequently forbidden to travel abroad or deal substantively with foreign journalists. In an email exchange with the Center for Public Integrity, Vanunu indicated that he still faces restrictions but did not elaborate. &ldquo;You can write me again when I am free, out of Israel,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>A former US intelligence official said he recalled being flabbergasted in the 1990&rsquo;s by the absence of any mention of Israel in a particular, top-secret, codeword-restricted document purporting to describe all foreign nuclear weapons programs. He said he complained to colleagues at the time that &ldquo;we&rsquo;ve really got a problem if we can&rsquo;t acknowledge the truth even in classified documents,&rdquo; and finally won a grudging but spare mention of the country&rsquo;s weaponry.</p> <p><a href="">Gary Samore</a>, who was President Obama&rsquo;s top advisor on nuclear nonproliferation from 2009 to 2013, said the United States has long preferred that Israel hold to its policy of amimut, out of concern that other Middle Eastern nations would feel threatened by Israel&rsquo;s coming out of the nuclear closet.</p> <p>&ldquo;For the Israelis to acknowledge and declare it, that would be seen as provocative,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It could spur some of the Arab states and Iran to produce weapons. So we like calculated ambiguity.&rdquo; But when asked point-blank if the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons is classified, Samore &mdash; who is now at Harvard University &mdash; answered: &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t sound very classified to me &mdash; that Israel has nuclear weapons?&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;The US government&rsquo;s official silence was broken only by accident, when in 1979, the CIA released a&nbsp;<a href="">four-page summary</a>&nbsp;of an intelligence memorandum titled &ldquo;Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,&rdquo; in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental group.</p> <p>&ldquo;We believe that Israel already has produced nuclear weapons,&rdquo; the 1974 report said, citing Israel&rsquo;s stockpiling of large quantities of uranium, its uranium enrichment program, and its investment in a costly missile system capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Release of the report triggered a spate of headlines. &ldquo;CIA said in 1974 Israel had A-Bombs,&rdquo; a New York Times headline declared. &ldquo;Israel a Nuclear Club Member Since 1974, CIA Study Indicates,&rdquo; announced The Washington Star.</p> <p>But it stemmed from a goof.</p> <p>John Despres, who was the CIA&rsquo;s national intelligence officer for nuclear proliferation at the time, said he was in charge of censoring or &ldquo;redacting&rdquo; the secret material from the report prior to its release. But portions he wanted withheld were released, he said in an interview, while sections that were supposed to be released were withheld.</p> <p>&ldquo;This was a sort of classic case of a bureaucratic screw-up,&rdquo; said Despres, now retired. &ldquo;People misinterpreted my instructions.&rdquo; He said that as far as he knows, no one was disciplined for the mix-up. Moreover, in 2008, when the National Security Archive obtained&nbsp;<a href="">a copy</a>&nbsp;of the document under the Freedom of Information Act, that judgment remained unexcised.</p> <p>But Washington&rsquo;s refusal to confirm the obvious in any other way has produced some weird trips down the rabbit hole for those seeking official data about the Israeli arsenal. Bryan Siebert, who was the most senior career executive in charge of guarding DOE&rsquo;s nuclear weapons secrets from 1992 to 2002, said he recalls seeing a two-cubic-foot stack at one point of CIA, FBI, Justice and Energy department documents about Israel&rsquo;s nuclear program.</p> <p>But when Siebert&nbsp;<a href="">filed a FOIA request</a>&nbsp;to DOE for information about the program after his retirement in April 2004,&nbsp;<a href="">DOE&rsquo;s official reply</a>&nbsp;&mdash; written by David Osias, a former CIA official who was then deputy director for Intelligence and Analysis at DOE &mdash; was that the department &ldquo;can neither confirm nor deny the existence of information on the requested subject. Such confirmation or denial of the records at issue, would pose a threat to national security.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="">John Fitzpatrick</a>, who since 2011 has served as director of the federal Information Security Oversight Office, confirmed that &ldquo;aspects&rdquo; of Israel&rsquo;s nuclear status are considered secret by the United States. &ldquo;We know this from classifying authorities at agencies who handle that material,&rdquo; said Fitzpatrick, who declined to provide more details.</p> <p>Kerry Brodie, director of communications for the Israeli embassy in Washington, similarly said no one there would discuss the subject of the country&rsquo;s nuclear status. &ldquo;Unfortunately, we do not have any comment we can share at this point,&rdquo; she wrote in an email. A former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg, was less discrete during a December 2013 conference in Haifa, where&nbsp;<a href="">he said</a>&nbsp;&ldquo;Israel has nuclear and chemical weapons&rdquo; and called the policy of ambiguity &ldquo;outdated and childish.&rdquo;</p> <p>Through a spokesman, Robert Gates declined to discuss the issue. But a growing number of US experts agree with Burg.</p> <p>Pillar, for example,&nbsp;<a href="">wrote</a>&nbsp;in his article this month that the 45-year old US policy of shielding Israel&rsquo;s program is seen around the world &ldquo;as not just a double standard but living a lie. Whatever the United States says about nuclear weapons will always be taken with a grain of salt or with some measure of disdain as long as the United States says nothing about kumquats.&rdquo;</p> <p>Victor Gilinsky, a physicist and former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who has written about the history of the Israeli program, complained in a recent&nbsp;<a href="">book</a> that &ldquo;the pretense of ignorance about Israeli bombs does not wash anymore. &hellip; The evident double standard undermines efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons worldwide.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="">J. William Leonard</a>, who ran a government-wide declassification effort as President Bush&rsquo;s director of the Information Security Oversight Office from 2002 to 2008, commented that &ldquo;in some regards, it undermines the integrity of the classification system when you&rsquo;re using classification to officially protect a known secret. It can get exceedingly awkward, obviously.&rdquo;</p> <p>Aftergood said the secrecy surrounding Israel&rsquo;s nuclear weapons is &ldquo;obsolete and fraying around the edges. &hellip; It takes an effort to preserve the fiction that this is a secret,&rdquo; he said. Meanwhile, he added, it can still be abused as an instrument for punishing federal employees such as Doyle for unrelated or politically-inspired reasons. &ldquo;Managers have broad discretion to overlook or forgive a particular infraction,&rdquo; Aftergood said. &ldquo;The problem is that discretion can be abused. And some employees get punished severely while others do not.&rdquo;</p> <p>Dana H. Allin, the editor of Doyle&rsquo;s article in Survival magazine, said in a recent <a href="">commentary</a>&nbsp;published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London that &ldquo;anyone with a passing knowledge of international affairs knows about these weapons.&rdquo; He called the government&rsquo;s claim that the article contained secrets &ldquo;ludicrous&rdquo; and said Doyle&rsquo;s ordeal at the hands of the classification authorities was nothing short of Kafkaesque.</p> <p><strong>Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity</strong></p> <!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. --><!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. --><script type="text/javascript" async="async"> //<![CDATA[ (function() {document.getElementById('cpi_widget').innerHTML = '<iframe src=\"//" width=\"0\" height=\"0\" frameBorder=\"0\" style=\"border: none; background: transparent; width: 0px; height: 0px;\">'})(); //]]> </![cdata[></script><!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> nuclear weapons Want to Know War Israel and Palestine Middle East Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:17:14 +0000 Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith, Center for Public Integrity 6258754 at US could send advisers into combat against Islamic State: Dempsey <!--paging_filter--><p>The US military's top officer on Tuesday raised the possibility that American troops serving as advisers to <a href="">Iraqi</a> forces could eventually be sent on combat missions against Islamic State extremists.</p> <p>"To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL (IS group) targets, I will recommend that to the president," General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.</p> <p>Dempsey's remarks contrasted with President Barack Obama's repeated statements ruling out sending in combat forces to battle the IS group, promising there would be no "boots on the ground."</p> <p>Nearly 300 US military advisers are currently working with Iraqi government forces in their fight against the extremist IS group with roughly another 300 advisers due to deploy in coming days.</p> <p>Asked to elaborate on his remarks, Dempsey said the advisers are "very much in a combat advisory role" and that there is "no intention" at the moment for them to enter into combat.</p> <p>"I don't see it to be necessary right now," the four-star general said.</p> <p>But he said if circumstances changed, and if there were an "extraordinarily complex" operation planned by Iraqi forces, then it could be necessary "to provide close combat advising" with advisers heading to the front with their Iraqi counterparts.</p> <p>He cited as an example if Iraqi government forces were planning to take back control of a city such as Mosul.</p> <p>Obama's strategy to fight the IS organization calls for American air power coupled with training and arming Iraqi government troops and <a href="">Syrian</a> rebel forces.</p> <p>ddl-gde/wat</p> Need to Know Iraq Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:55:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6259592 at Obama to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as Ebola crisis worsens <!--paging_filter--><p>The <a href="">United States</a> announced on Tuesday it will send 3,000 troops to help tackle the Ebola outbreak as part of a ramped-up plan, including a major deployment in Liberia, the country where the epidemic is spiraling fastest out of control.</p> <p>The US response to the crisis, to be formally unveiled later by President Barack Obama, includes plans to build 17 treatment centers, train thousands of healthcare workers and establish a military control center for coordination, US officials told reporters.</p> <p>"The goal here is to search American expertise, including our military, logistics and command and control expertise, to try and control this outbreak at its source in west <a href="">Africa</a>," Lisa Monaco, Obama's White House counter-terrorism adviser, told MSNBC television on Tuesday ahead of the announcement.</p> <p>The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it needs foreign medical teams with 500-600 experts as well as at least 10,000 local health workers. The figures may rise if the number of cases increases, as is widely expected.</p> <p>So far <a href="">Cuba</a> and <a href="">China</a> have said they will send medical staff to Sierra Leone. Cuba will deploy 165 people in October while China is sending a mobile laboratory with 59 staff to speed up testing for the disease. It already has 115 staff and a Chinese-funded hospital there.</p> <p>But Liberia is where the disease appears to be running amok. The WHO has not issued any estimate of cases or deaths in the country since Sept. 5 and its director-general, Margaret Chan, has said there was not a single bed available for Ebola patients there.</p> <p>Liberia, a nation founded by descendants of freed American slaves, appealed for US help last week.</p> <p>One UN official in the country has said her colleagues had resorted to telling locals to use plastic bags to fend off the killer virus, due to a lack of other protective equipment.</p> <p>Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the charity that has been leading the fight against Ebola, said it was overwhelmed and repeated its call for an immediate and massive deployment.</p> <p>"We are honestly at a loss as to how a single, private NGO is providing the bulk of isolation units and beds," MSF's international president, Joanne Liu, said in a speech to the United Nations in Geneva, adding that the charity was having to turn away sick people in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.</p> <p>"Highly infectious people are forced to return home, only to infect others and continue the spread of this deadly virus. All for a lack of international response," she said.</p> <p>Obama, who has called the epidemic a national security crisis, has faced criticism for not doing more to stem the outbreak. The WHO said last week Ebola had killed more than 2,400 people out of 4,784 cases in west Africa.</p> <p>U.S. officials stressed it was very unlikely the Ebola crisis could come to the United States. Measures were being taken to screen passengers flying out of the region, they said, and protocols were in place to isolate and treat anyone who arrived in the United States showing symptoms of the disease.</p> <p><strong>'More effective'</strong></p> <p>The president will visit the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Tuesday to show his commitment. The stepped-up effort he will announce includes 3,000 military troops and a joint forces command center in Monrovia to coordinate efforts with the US government and other international partners.</p> <p>The plan will "ensure that the entire international response effort is more effective and helps to ... turn the tide in this crisis," a senior administration official told reporters on Monday, ahead of the president's trip.</p> <p>"The significant expansion that the president will detail ... really represents ... areas where the US military will bring unique capabilities that we believe will improve the effectiveness of the entire global response," he said.</p> <p>The treatment centers will have 100 beds each and be built as soon as possible, another official said.</p> <p>The US plan also focuses on training. A site will be established where military medical personnel will teach some 500 healthcare workers per week for six months or longer how to provide care to Ebola patients, officials said.</p> <p>The Obama administration has requested an additional $88 million from Congress to fight Ebola, including $58 million to speed production of Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc's experimental antiviral drug ZMapp and two Ebola vaccine candidates.</p> <p>Officials said the US Department of Defense had sought to reallocate $500 million in funds from fiscal 2014 to help cover the costs of the humanitarian mission.</p> <p>The US Agency for International Development will also support a program to distribute protection kits with sanitizers and medical supplies to 400,000 vulnerable households in Liberia.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva, Sharon Begley in New York and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Sophie Walker and Jeffrey Benkoe)</p> Africa Need to Know Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:48:42 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6259445 at Islamic State militants shoot down Syrian war plane, monitoring group says <!--paging_filter--><p>Islamic State fighters shot down a Syrian war plane using anti-aircraft guns on Tuesday, the first time the group has downed a military jet since declaring its cross-border caliphate in June, a group monitoring the civil war said.</p> <p>The plane came down outside Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa city, 250 miles northeast of Damascus, during air strikes on territory controlled by the group, a resident said.</p> <p>The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground, reported five air raids on Raqqa on Tuesday. Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the organization, cited sources close to Islamic State as saying the plane had been shot down.</p> <p>US President Barack Obama last week authorized air strikes against Islamic State in <a href="">Syria</a>, potentially widening action against a group already being targeted by US air strikes in <a href="">Iraq</a>.</p> <p>The Syrian air force has been bombing Islamic State-controlled territory in the provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor on a near-daily basis since the group seized the Iraqi city of Mosul in June.</p> <p>Syria has offered to join a coalition the <a href="">United States</a> is assembling to fight Islamic State, but Western governments see President Bashar al-Assad as part of the problem and have ruled out the idea of such cooperation.</p> <p><strong>US expands air strikes</strong></p> <p>The US military struck an Islamic State target southwest of Baghdad, US Central Command said on Monday, in an expansion of the Obama administration's campaign against the militant group that has seized large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria.</p> <p>"The air strike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit (Islamic State) targets as Iraqi forces go on offense," Central Command said in a statement.</p> <p>The United States is stepping up its military response to the hardline group, which has beheaded several Western hostages and seeks to expand the territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.</p> Need to Know Middle East Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:21:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6259389 at Ukraine ratifies landmark EU pact and grants 'special status' to separatists <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday ratified a landmark agreement on political association and trade with the <a href="">European</a> Union, the rejection of which last November by then President Viktor Yanukovych led to his downfall.</p> <p>The agreement, whose ratification was synchronized with that of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, won unanimous support from the 355 deputies who took part in the vote.</p> <p>Referring to the deaths of anti-government protesters who came out against Yanukovych's rejection of the pact with the EU and of soldiers killed in fighting separatists since, President Petro Poroshenko said: "No nation has ever paid such a high price to become Europeans."</p> <p>Yanukovych's retreat from an avowed course of European integration in favor a closer ties with Ukraine's ex-Soviet master, <a href="">Russia</a>, triggered months of street protests in which about 100 people were shot dead in the capital Kyiv.</p> <p>After he fled to Russia in February, Moscow denounced the pro-Western "coup" against him and went on to annex Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and subsequently backed armed pro-Russian separatists in their drive for autonomy from Kyiv.</p> <p>The chain of events has provoked the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War, with the <a href="">United States</a> and its Western allies imposing sanctions against Moscow, and led to a conflict in eastern Ukraine in which more than 3,000 have been killed.</p> <p>Despite the sanctions against Moscow, the European Union and Ukraine agreed last Friday to delay implementation of the free-trade part of the EU deal until the end of next year in a concession to Russia.</p> <p>Russia, which says its economy could be badly hurt by a sudden flood of duty-free EU goods onto its market via Ukraine, had threatened to slap import tariffs on Ukrainian goods from Nov. 1, arguing that the pact would squeeze it out of the Ukrainian market.</p> <p>Under the ambitious agreement, Ukraine will continue to enjoy privileged access to the EU market until January 1, 2016, but, in a concession by <a href="">Brussels</a>, it will not have to cut duties on imports from the EU in return.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Ukraine's parliament passed a law on Tuesday that will give "special status" to the separatist-minded eastern regions including a degree of self-governance for a three-year period, parliamentary deputies, who attended the closed session, said.</p> <p>A second law that was passed would grant an amnesty to separatists who were involved in recent fighting with government forces, the deputies told Reuters.</p> <p>(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing By Richard Balmforth; editing by Ralph Boulton)</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:36:38 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6259357 at In South Korea, real business gets done in brothels and karaoke joints <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Now, the country’s tax office is cracking down on this sleazy billion-dollar corporate write-off. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SEOUL, <a href="">South Korea</a> — “It’s not fair!” complained a South Korean sex industry aficionado, a former “consultant” for a large call girl website. “The tax men are hurting business! Cracking down on company cards!”</p> <p>The consultant, a 32-year-old, chiseled and rakish figure who, as a youngster, mingled in gambling dens and street gangs, is outraged over mounting government scrutiny into South Korea’s executive sleaze.</p> <p>You see, just as companies stateside pick up the tab for employees’ lunch meetings, in Korea they subsidize business entertainment — which tends more toward hard core boozing and even the country’s sex trade (never mind that prostitution is illegal).</p> <p>Not far from glitzy office towers of Seoul are the frenzied hangouts where business is really done: a cacophony of karaoke joints, shady neon-lit parlors, and cluttered barbecue restaurants full of drunken managers ordering their junior staff to pound shots.</p> <p>To Koreans, the business districts of American cities appear staid, orderly and a bit dull. A shop-worn joke here has it that <a href="">North America</a> is a “boring heaven” while their country is an “exciting hell.”</p> <p>No salesman (and the majority are men) gets far here unless he can sing mean, inebriated karaoke and then slug through negotiations the next morning with a thumping headache. South Koreans slam the world’s largest quantity of hard liquor, imbibing 11.2 shots of soju per week, <a href="" target="_blank">more than twice</a> the average <a href="">Russian</a>’s vodka consumption (although soju isn’t always as strong).</p> <p>What happens when this macho after-hours culture goes too far, littering the company tab with payments to prostitutes and hostess clubs? “That’s the business model we depend on. When the Korean men are doing business together, they hang out at these places,” explained the sex industry consultant.</p> <p>There’s a dark logic to the debauchery.</p> <p>“When you’re a man and you do something dirty and sinful with your business partner around, you share your secrets, you share trust like brothers. You can always trust your new business partner.”</p> <p>“At the highest end, people in this industry used to offer up failed celebrities, really sexy ones with killer bodies, as hostess girls for Korea’s richest men,” the consultant reminisced. (He spoke to GlobalPost on condition of anonymity, which is customary in South Korea.) “You know, the powerful men you read about in the news. Top tier. Only the wealthiest executives could afford it. But it’s getting harder to sell with the tax police all over it!”</p> <p>South Korean civic groups and a few lawmakers have long pushed to clean up business and make it friendlier to women and immigrants. Last month, the government tax body finally put a number on the excess, reporting through a conservative lawmaker that <a href="" target="_blank">$1 billion was spent</a> on corporate credit cards on sleazy nighttime entertainment in 2013.</p> <p>That’s a significant slice of the estimated $8.7 billion companies spent on all entertainment services last year, according to the National Tax Service. Entertainment expenses are tax-deductible up to a limit.</p> <p>It’s a number that makes women’s groups uncomfortable, not only because of the ethical issues of tapping into prostitution for business deals, but because the glass ceiling stays abysmally low. "There is definitely a discriminatory and exclusionary element at play in that kind of sexual corporate entertainment culture,” said Shin Sang-ah, a consultant at the Seoul Women’s Workers Association, a nonprofit.</p> <p>"Wining and dining clients or other forms of similar corporate entertainment generally involve male higher-ups in the corporate hierarchy,” she said. “And this goes hand in hand with the fact that Korean women are generally confined to less important roles within social organizations."</p> <p>Although prostitution is illegal, some 500,000 women continue to work in the sex industry in South Korea, reports the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the body charged with protecting women’s rights. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the corporate entertainment report.</p> <p>Of the total, businesses spent about $733 million on “room salons” — essentially premium hostess bars where young women flirt, drink, and sometimes leave the premises with their clients. In second place at $204 million were “danlanjujeom,” which in an oddity translates to “healthy family saloon.” Those are slightly lower-level establishments that contract out work to entertainers, explained the consultant. Finally, there’s the $100 million spent at “yojeong,” old-style saloons where women serve you in traditional garb.</p> <p>Paid sex in Korea is a complicated, compartmentalized business, the consultant explained. There are, for instance, four strata of the fabled room salon.</p> <p>“Ten-pro” salons hold the most prestige as essentially the private dens of aspiring celebrities, who sometimes linger in Seoul’s finest hotels and bars, seeking a wealthy patron with the help of a trendy club. There are the “15% bars” where the establishment takes a 15 percent cut of the hostess’s earnings, followed by “full salons” where customers dish out for all services up front. The cheapest in the hierarchy, the “hardcore room salons,” can get you a lap dance, body shots, and maybe some action, he said.</p> <p>Not all clients can dish out loads of cash, in which case they turn to an array of lower-priced hangouts you can <a href="" target="_blank">read about it here</a>, if you’re really curious.</p> <p>Higher-end haunts can be exclusive, turning away people without invitations and foreigners, who tend to find their niche in US Army districts.</p> <p>The government report added that the amount spent on sexual services has been declining over the past five years. But that doesn’t stop South Korea’s highly educated female professionals from crying foul.</p> <p>“As long as this kind of executive-level sexual corporate entertainment culture is seen as the norm,” said a programmer at a multinational electronics company who asked not to be named, citing the ire of her employer, “it's obviously assumed that women won't be willing to participate, and that can definitely exclude them from certain opportunities."</p> <p><em>Max Kim contributed reporting.</em></p> Business Entertainment Want to Know Food & Drink South Korea Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:50:00 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6254294 at Mexicans tweet 'WeAreAllApes' after a politician's racist rant against Ronaldinho <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A Mexican politician called the Brazilian soccer superstar an 'ape.' He must know '#TodosSomosSimios' by now. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ioan Grillo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MEXICO CITY &mdash; White pop stars aren&#39;t the only ones who embarrass themselves with inane racist ramblings on social media.</p> <p>Carlos Trevino has proved that Mexican politicians can do it, too.</p> <p>Trevino, a former development secretary in the state of Queretaro, has caused outrage by calling Brazilian soccer superstar Ronaldinho an &ldquo;ape.&rdquo;</p> <p>Trevino&rsquo;s moment of bigoted madness came Friday when he was apparently held up in traffic due to Ronaldinho&rsquo;s arrival to play for the local Queretaro soccer team.</p> <p>After two hours in traffic, Trevino angrily thumbed this outrage onto his Facebook <a href="" target="_blank">page</a>.</p> <blockquote><p>&ldquo;Seriously I try to be tolerant, but I HATE FOOTBALL, and the stupid phenomenon it produces&hellip;I hate it even more because people get in the way and flood streets making me take two hours to get home&hellip;And all to see an APE&hellip;Brazilian but still an ape. This is a ridiculous circus.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Once one of the world&rsquo;s most prolific players, Ronaldinho is of black African descent although like many Brazilians he has a mixed heritage.</p> <p>Trevino is a member of Mexico&rsquo;s conservative National Action Party or PAN, of former presidents Felipe Calderon and Vicente Fox.</p> <p>The comment quickly brought the wrath it deserves here in Mexico.</p> <p>Soccer club Queretaro, known as the &ldquo;White Roosters,&rdquo; demanded Trevino be punished under Mexico&rsquo;s discrimination laws.</p> <p>&ldquo;Racial discrimination is a grave social expression that hurts people&rsquo;s dignity,&rdquo; it <a href=" " target="_blank">said</a> in a statement.</p> <p>The team also launched a Twitter campaign under <a href="" target="_blank">#TodosSomosSimios</a> (We are all apes). The hashtag led Mexico&#39;s trending terms on the social media site for much of Monday. (At times it lost out to another one that translates to &quot;<a href="" target="_blank">How to be a good Mexican</a>&quot; &mdash; it was the country&#39;s independence day after all.)</p> <p>Queretaro&rsquo;s PAN leadership also condemned the comment and said it supported legal action against Trevino.</p> <p>In face of the threat, Trevino apparently removed the comment and issued apologies on his Twitter account.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Una sincera disculpa al <a href="">@Club_Queretaro</a> a su afici&oacute;n por mi lamentable expresi&oacute;n. Como persona y jugador <a href="">@10Ronaldinho</a> tiene todo mi respeto</p> <p> &mdash; carlos trevino (@carlostrevino7) <a href="">September 15, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>That translates to: &ldquo;A sincere apology to Club Queretaro and its fans for my unfortunate statement. As a person and player, Ronaldinho has all my respect.&rdquo;</p> <p>Racism has been a problem in world soccer for many decades, and associations have emitted hefty fines and punishments to clamp down on it.</p> <p>In April, Barcelona players including Brazilian Neymar posted photos eating bananas in an <a href="" target="_blank">anti-racism campaign</a>.</p> <p>Mexico has a very small population of people of African descent. Most Mexicans characterize themselves as &ldquo;mestizo,&rdquo; a mix of indigenous and European ancestry, and they often shun talking about diversity, anti-discrimination activists <a href="" target="_blank">told GlobalPost</a>. But &ldquo;whiteness&rdquo; still connotes power and money here and across the Americas.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">In Mexico, social gaps go viral on YouTube</a> </strong></p> <p>While most Mexicans condemn racism, some stereotypical references to black people have provoked controversy in recent years.</p> <p>President Fox made a notorious <a href="" target="_blank">gaffe</a> when he told a reporter that Mexican migrants do the jobs &ldquo;that not even blacks want to do.&rdquo;</p> <p>Anti-racist campaigners have also complained about Mexican comic character &ldquo;<a href="" target="_blank">Memin Pinguin</a>&rdquo; for showing images of a black child portrayed like a monkey.</p> Stupid is as stupid does Want to Know Brazil Culture & Lifestyle Mexico Mon, 15 Sep 2014 20:30:00 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6258683 at Egypt sentences Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie to life in jail <!--paging_filter--><p>Mohamed Badie, top leader of <a href="">Egypt</a>'s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was sentenced to life in jail along with 14 others on Monday on charges of murder and inciting violence during clashes near Cairo last year.</p> <p>The session had been summoned for witness statements but the judge surprised journalists and others present by issuing a verdict. Badie, 71, is among hundreds of Brotherhood members already sentenced to death in mass trials that have drawn criticism from Western governments and human rights groups.</p> <p>The death sentences are subject to appeal.</p> <p>In what is known as the Bahr al-Azam case, Badie and the other defendants were convicted of the murder of five people and the attempted murder of 100 others during violence that broke out in Giza on July 15, 2013.</p> <p>Then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood on July 3, 2013 after protests against his rule.</p> <p>Egyptian authorities have since arrested thousands of Brotherhood supporters, sentencing hundreds to death or long prison sentences, while Egypt's oldest Islamist movement has been banned and designated a terrorist organization.</p> <p>Sisi, who went on to win a presidential election, vowed in his campaign that the Brotherhood, once among Egypt's most formidable political movements, would cease to exist under him.</p> <p>Morsi, freely elected in 2012, is also on trial on a variety of charges including inciting violence and conspiring with a foreign power, and could face the death penalty if convicted.</p> <p>Egypt's Brotherhood renounced violence as a means of political change decades ago and argues that it has been robbed of political power won fairly at the ballot box.</p> <p>Badie and 182 Muslim brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death in a mass trial last June over violence that erupted in Minya governorate which led to the killing of a police officer.</p> <p>A court sentenced Badie to life in prison in a separate case in July for inciting violence and blocking a major road north of Cairo during protests that followed Mursi's ouster. He received another life sentence last month, on separate counts of inciting violence in clashes near a mosque in Giza.</p> <p>(Reporting by Lin Noueihed, editing by John Stonestreet)</p> Egypt Need to Know Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:49:47 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6258506 at Powerful hurricane Odile slams Mexico's Baja California resorts <!--paging_filter--><p>Hurricane Odile whipped through the popular beach resorts of <a href="">Mexico</a>'s Baja California peninsula early on Monday, uprooting trees, dumping heavy rain and forcing thousands of tourists to take cover in emergency shelters.</p> <p>Winds of up to 110 miles per hour buffeted shelters as one of the worst storms on record hit the luxury retreats of Los Cabos, battering Mexico's northwest coast.</p> <p>The US National Hurricane Center said Odile had eased to a category 2 hurricane, but would likely cause life-threatening flooding and mud slides in the next few days.</p> <p>The weather service said Odile was expected to slow as it pushed north-northwest along the desert peninsula and forecast the storm would steadily weaken over the next two days.</p> <p>Winds eased slightly as the storm moved over land. But because it struck in the middle of the night, details were scarce on the extent of any damage early Monday.</p> <p>Tourists in shelters or hiding in the bathtubs of their rooms posted photos on social media showing windows, barricaded with furniture, after they were blown out by the strong winds.</p> <p>"This is really bad. My ears are about to explode by the pressure and I have an inch of water in my kitchen/living room," said Sarah McKinney on her Twitter account.</p> <p>Another woman posted a video online showing workmen erecting sheets of chipboard and boarded-up windows shaking. Dozens of people sat huddled with pillows in the middle of a large room.</p> <p>"I'm sweating like hell. Scary sound of howling wind," Alba Mora Roca said on her Twitter feed. "The windows of the shelter broke. More than 200 people moved to the basement but there's no space. Many are sitting on the stairs."</p> <p>Reuters was not immediately able to contact either woman.</p> <p><strong>Evacuations</strong></p> <p>At least 26,000 foreign tourists and 4,000 Mexicans were in the region, Mexican officials said. Emergency workers and military personal evacuated thousands of people from areas at risk of flooding.</p> <p>Some experts said it was the strongest hurricane to hit the tip of the peninsula since the advent of satellite data.</p> <p>"We haven't seen one get so close and with the possibility of impact, and of such a nature," said Wenceslao Petit, head of emergency services in Los Cabos. "There aren't words for this."</p> <p>Ahead of the storm's approach, people in Cabo San Lucas had rushed to board up windows, clear beach furniture and remove fishing boats and yachts from the water into dry docks.</p> <p>While other beaches in Mexico were packed with tourists during the long weekend leading to Tuesday's Independence Day holiday, the resorts of Los Cabos are mostly visited by <a href="">Americans</a> and are in low season.</p> <p>Luis Puente, the head of Mexico's civil protection agency, said that 164 shelters had been readied with a capacity for 30,000 people. There are no major oil installations in the area.</p> <p>(Reporting by Michael O'Boyle, Tomas Sarmiento, Simon Gardner and Dave Graham; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)</p> Need to Know Americas Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:00:13 +0000 Gerardo Esquerre, Thomson Reuters 6258394 at France opens conference on Iraq, urges 'global' fight on Islamic State <!--paging_filter--><p>French President Francois Hollande called on Monday for united international action to tackle the threat from Islamic State militants as he opened a conference on Iraq bringing together members of a US-led coalition.</p> <p>The <a href="">United States</a> this week unveiled an outline plan to fight the Islamist militants simultaneously in Iraq and <a href="">Syria</a>. It believes it can forge a solid alliance despite hesitancy among some partners and questions over the legality of action, notably in Syria where the militant group has a power base.</p> <p>"What is the threat?" the French leader said as he opened the one-day meeting of officials from some 30 states in Paris.</p> <p>"It is global so the response must be global ... Iraq's fight against the terrorists is also our fight. We must commit ourselves together — that is the purpose of this conference," said Hollande, who last week traveled to Baghdad to meet members of Iraq's new government.</p> <p>Iraqi President Fuad Masum said he hoped the Paris meeting would bring a "quick response" to jihadists who have declared a caliphate or Islamic state ruled under Sharia law in the heart of the <a href="">Middle East</a>.</p> <p>"Islamic State's doctrine is either you support us or kill us‎. It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic purification," he told delegates.</p> <p>Foreign ministers from the main European states, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Iraq’s neighbors and Gulf Arab states Qatar, <a href="">Saudi Arabia</a>, Kuwait and the UAE, gathered to discuss political, security and humanitarian aspects of tackling Islamic State.</p> <p><a href="">Iran</a>, which is highly influential in its neighbor Iraq, is not attending the conference.</p> <p>"We wanted a consensus among countries over Iran's attendance, but in the end it was more important to have certain Arab states than Iran," a French diplomat said, signaling that Saudi Arabia had not been keen on Tehran coming.</p> <p>French officials say the coalition plan must go beyond military and humanitarian action, arguing there must also be a political plan for once Islamic State has been weakened in Iraq.</p> <p>They argue that the 2003 US-led intervention in Iraq, in which Paris did not participate, ultimately contributed to the current crisis because it lacked a long-term vision for the different strands of Iraqi society.</p> <p><strong>'No free pass'</strong></p> <p>France has said it is ready to join US air strikes in Iraq but says legal and military limitations make it more difficult in Syria, where Islamic State's main power base lies.</p> <p>Earlier, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said French aircraft would begin reconnaissance flights over Iraq on Monday.</p> <p>"We told the Iraqis we were available and asked them for authorization (to fly over Iraq)," Fabius told France Inter radio, confirming that the first flights from a French base in Abu Dhabi would begin on Monday.</p> <p>"The cost of inaction would be to say to these butchers 'go ahead, you have a free pass'. We won't accept that," he said.</p> <p>A French official confirmed two Rafale fighter jets and a refueling aircraft had taken off on Monday for Iraq.</p> <p>The idea of a coalition has been accepted in Western capitals and 10 Arab states, including regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday it was too early to say what tasks individual partners would take.</p> <p>US officials said several Arab countries have offered to join the United States in air strikes against Islamic State targets, but declined to say which countries made the offers.</p> <p>Norwegian daily VG quoted Foreign Minister Boerge Brende as saying Oslo, which is at the Paris conference, was considering a military presence in Iraq.</p> <p>"First and foremost we have said that there would an additional contribution to humanitarian work. But we are also considering whether we will, separately to the humanitarian help, also contribute with military capacity building," he said.</p> <p>"This could be training of personnel, but it will depend on the demand we get," he added.</p> <p>(Writing by Mark John; editing by Janet McBride)</p> Need to Know France Mon, 15 Sep 2014 14:10:00 +0000 John Irish and Jason Szep, Thomson Reuters 6258320 at Al Qaeda hopes to exploit the plight of Myanmar’s embattled Muslims <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> But the terror group is bound to worsen their woes. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Patrick Winn </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BANGKOK, <a href="">Thailand</a> — Myanmar’s Rohingya people have been hacked to death, driven from their homes and quarantined in grubby camps. Many are shrunken from malnutrition and disease.</p> <p>But while most see their condition as a tragedy, Al Qaeda sees opportunity.</p> <p>From obscurity, the Rohingya plight has in recent years exploded into an international scandal. No country will claim them as their own. Though about 800,000 Rohingya inhabit the western shores of Myanmar, the Buddhist-led government there labels them foreign invaders from Bangladesh. Vigilantes have purged them from cities using arson and murder. Human Rights Watch calls this bloody exodus “ethnic cleansing.”</p> <p>The Rohingya also happen to be Muslim.</p> <p>For Al Qaeda, their suffering is a convenient call to arms, especially now that the terror consortium — losing global attention to the Islamic State — is struggling to develop a new offensive in South Asia.</p> <p>This new scheme will seek to “erase the border drawn by the <a href="">British</a> to divide the Muslims of South Asia,” said Ayman al-Zawahiri, the successor to Osama bin Laden, in a <a href="" target="_blank">video announcement</a> released in early September.</p> <p>The bearded commander wants Muslims in <a href="">Pakistan</a>, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to unite and form a Muslim <a href="" target="_blank">caliphate</a>. He also sprinkled in a Sunni prophecy about Muslims one day conquering India as a precursor to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who appears as a prophet in the Quran.</p> <p>Among the countries mentioned by Al Qaeda’s commander, one sticks out: Myanmar, formerly titled Burma, a Buddhist land of golden temples and barefoot monks.</p> <p>Al Qaeda has long had deep roots in Pakistan. It can already claim weak affiliates in Bangladesh, a 90 percent Muslim country, and far-flung parts of India, home to the world’s second-largest Muslim population.</p> <p>But Al Qaeda has no known allies encamped in Myanmar, a nation that seldom received overtures from the terror group (or its partners) prior to the Rohingya crisis.</p> <p>A range of extremist groups have since offered their help. The strongest statements come from the Pakistani Taliban, an Al Qaeda ally. They promise that “we haven’t forgotten you” and “we will take revenge of your blood.”</p> <p>Al-Zawahiri insists the Al Qaeda expansion will offer a “cool breeze for the hapless and weak.” But the mere suggestion of Al Qaeda infiltration among Rohingya could justify even harsher treatment against the beleaguered Muslim group.</p> <p>“The worst thing that could happen to the Rohingya is they’re suspected of having a wing affiliated to Al Qaeda,” said Sidney Jones, director of the <a href="">Indonesia</a>-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict. “It’s doing Muslims in Myanmar no courtesy to make this announcement.”</p> <p>Myanmar is already rife with strange anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Among them: They’re flush with <a href="">Middle Eastern</a> oil money, they get cash rewards for seducing Buddhist maidens, and they plot to overrun the country.</p> <p>The theories are as groundless as they are dangerous. As these rumors have gained steam, attacks on Muslim quarters in a dozen-odd cities across Myanmar have killed hundreds in recent years.</p> <p>Myanmar’s largest Islamic advocacy group wasted no time in condemning al-Zawahiri’s offer. The Burmese Muslim Association called Al Qaeda <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;morally repugnant&rdquo;</a> and vowed loyalty to the nation of Myanmar.</p> <p>The Rohingya families herded into squalid camps aren’t compelled by the convoluted politics of global jihad. They are simply trying to survive.</p> <p>But for global jihadis, Rohingya communities look like fertile ground for expansion.</p> <p>Those seeking to paint Rohingya society as a tinderbox of radicalism can point to various Rohingya armed factions that have come and gone in recent decades. But they have always been pathetically small, according to most accounts. And they’ve always been subservient to larger militant groups in Bangladesh, namely an Al Qaeda-linked outfit called Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami.</p> <p>Even their jihadi friends have treated the small pool of Rohingya militants like cannon fodder. Those funneled to the <a href="">Afghanistan</a> front via Bangladesh “were given the <a href="" target="_blank">most dangerous tasks in the battlefield</a>: clearing mines and portering,” according to a report by Myanmar expert Bertil Lintner.</p> <p>The number of Rohingya militants is currently “so small you can count the number of people in their ranks on your fingers,” said Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy, an analyst with the independent Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in <a href="">New Delhi</a>.</p> <p>Still, she worries that Al Qaeda may finally manage to seed radicalism among bitter young Rohingya men. “They don’t care about global jihad,” she said. “But if Al Qaeda were to offer their support, they’d take it lock, stock and barrel.”</p> <p>That potential support — if it ever actually materialized — would come from a terror network in decline. Al Qaeda now appears weaker in comparison to the Islamic State, which began as a mere Al Qaeda branch. It has since swelled into a well-financed force controlling large parts of <a href="">Syria</a> and Iraq.</p> <p>This turn of events has Al Qaeda struggling to defend its title as the world’s most fearsome terror group. Their attempted expansion into South Asia looks like an effort to play catch up. “That’s got to be the factor driving this announcement,” Jones said. “It’s so clear Al Qaeda has lost ground.”</p> <p>The potential for extremists to enact a massive caliphate over South Asia is hard to take seriously. The scattered Al Qaeda allies in India and Bangladesh are currently held in check by vigilant armies.</p> <p>As for the Rohingya, they are well under the thumb of Myanmar’s army. And though rumors of Rohingya militants have swirled for years, it is telling that none emerge to defend them in their darkest hours, when families are violently purged from their homes.</p> Qaeda calling Conflict Zones Want to Know Myanmar Political Risk Mon, 15 Sep 2014 04:15:46 +0000 Patrick Winn 6254265 at In Baghdad, defending minorities charged with 'terrorism' is great business <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A corrupt legal system and sectarian strife has left young Sunnis imprisoned, with huge bribes required to get them out. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Susannah George </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BAGHDAD, <a href="">Iraq</a> — It had been more than a year after her son was arrested when she took her friends’ and neighbors’ advice and called a lawyer.</p> <p>Um Ahmed, as she asked to be called in this piece, said the man, specializing in counterterrorism law, promised that for a few hundred dollars he would be able to have the charges dropped and her son free within weeks.</p> <p>It’s now been six months and the legal fees have ballooned to $4,000, wiping out the family’s savings. </p> <p>Not only has the lawyer, whose name Um Ahmed declined to give for fear it would jeopardize her son’s ongoing case, been unable to arrange for her son’s release, but she says he hasn’t even been able to tell her where he is being held. </p> <p>“We have no idea, no idea,” she explained, her voice both frantic and exhausted.</p> <p>Sitting in the living room of her small home in the poor Baghdad suburb of Baya, she says she hardly hears from the lawyer. “He hasn’t told us anything except that my son has been charged with being with Al Qaeda.” </p> <p>Um Ahmed’s son is just one of thousands of young men, mostly from Sunni neighborhoods, who have been rounded up and imprisoned on charges of terrorism since the implementation of Iraq’s counterterrorism law in 2005.</p> <p>According to human rights organizations, many of the arrests are arbitrary. The men are almost all tortured, forced to confess to being “terrorists,” and charged based on those confessions.</p> <p>Under Iraq’s purely confessionary-based legal system in which hard evidence plays little to no role, one such confession or witness testimony is all that is needed to secure a conviction. </p> <p>The arrests, which often included prominent Sunni politicians, were just one component of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s rule that many Iraqis viewed as sectarian and divisive, eventually leading to his ouster.</p> <p>Maliki’s opponents claim such policies were part of the Shia leader’s wider effort to squash potential political and military rivals.</p> <p>During the US occupation of Iraq, thousands of men from the country’s Sunni communities were trained and armed as part of the so-called “awakening,” in which local Sunni groups fought against Al Qaeda and eventually helped deliver the country from years of bloody civil war.</p> <p>But the Shia-led Iraqi government has since alienated Sunnis. Maliki’s <a href="">crackdown on protests in Ramadi</a> were even credited with sowing the seeds of the current Sunni militant takeover in the country’s north.</p> <p>So far under the leadership of Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, residents and human rights groups report an ebb in alleged arbitrary detentions, but analysts suggest that could have more to do with general delays surrounding the changing of the guard in Baghdad than any lasting change in policy.</p> <p>In Baghdad, the surge in incarcerations following the withdrawal of US forces created an opportunity for a small subset of Iraq’s legal establishment: terrorism lawyers.  </p> <p>One such Baghdad lawyer agreed to speak, but only by phone and on condition that he was simply referred to as Mr. Ali. </p> <p>“It’s not up to me to get them out, it's up to the cases, to the evidence,” he explained, referring to the confessions that he admitted were often extracted under torture, a practice Mr. Ali described as physical and psychological “pressures.”</p> <p>Mr. Ali explained that before Iraq’s counterterrorism law was implemented, he handled all kinds of cases: divorce, property disputes, criminal cases, but since 2005, almost all of his work has been related to terrorism. </p> <p>Dodging a question about how often he’s able to get his clients out of prison, he explained: “If a person is guilty, not me, not even the one who writes the law can get them out.”</p> <p>Mr. Ali admitted that he does take on the cases of people he believes to be guilty, “but it’s not by choice,” he said defending the practice: “the families, they insist.” </p> <p>Even with these so-called “lost cases” as he calls them, he believes he’s doing the right thing by charging families money for his services, despite the fact that he believes his efforts are ultimately futile. “Whatever the person, they deserve a lawyer.”</p> <p>Not everyone, however, sees the terrorism lawyers’ actions as ethical.</p> <p>“These men, we don’t even consider them lawyers,” explained another Baghdad lawyer familiar with terrorism law specialists. “They don’t even practice law, they just rely on their connections.”</p> <p>The Baghdad lawyer, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that speaking out against this aspect of the Iraqi legal establishment could hurt his own practice, estimated that most lawyers who specialize in terrorism law are only able to get ten percent of their clients out of prison — yet charge $10,000 to $40,000 per case regardless of the outcome, fees much greater than what the average Iraqi family makes in a year. </p> <p>“Most of these families, they don’t know much about the law,” he said referring to the relatives of those detained. “They believe that once a relative is in prison, he will be gone forever, so they’re willing to do anything.”</p> <p>Since the fall of Mosul and Iraq’s ensuing political and security crisis, human rights groups and Sunni communities report the number of detentions have soared while court dates and other forms of due processes have been put on hold. </p> <p>While a variety of factors have allowed for corruption to flourish in Iraq’s legal and law enforcement systems, including the lack of checks and balances, questionable standards for the requirements to practice law, and public ignorance, analysts and researchers say in this particular case, the root of the problem is in the way the country’s counterterrorism law was written. </p> <p>“The problem is it’s extremely vague,” explains Zaid Al-Ali, an Iraqi legal scholar and former legal consultant to the UN in Baghdad. “Anyone can be arrested under the terrorism law and there is nothing in the law itself that guards against abuse.”</p> <p>Al-Ali explains that despite other aspects of the Iraqi constitution that clearly call for due process for detainees and explicitly deem torture illegal, violations of these principles are frequent. The legal system, he says, is “decrepit and inefficient.” </p> <p>Daniel Smith, a political and human rights researcher based in Iraq, agrees.</p> <p>He says that while there are undoubtedly some lawyers taking advantage of a broken system to reap large personal profits, Iraq’s legal and law enforcement systems are both so rotten that if you go to prison, regardless of whether or not the lawyer working on your behalf is corrupt or honest, you will have to pay bribes to be released. </p> <p>“There is no other way to get people out,” Smith explains. After spending years interviewing dozens of former detainees, he says as soon as families learn that a loved one has been arrested, their first course of action is to begin to raise as much cash as possible, as quickly as possible.</p> <p>This money is then used to begin to pay bribes to find out where their loved one is being held, improve the terms of his or her detention, and then work on having the charges dropped. “The quicker you get money into the system, the better,” he says.  </p> <p>These lawyers, he explains, are a product of that system and some of them are merely helping families get the right bribes to the right people to move the process along. </p> <p>But due to the arbitrary nature of Iraq’s courts, even large amounts of cash, personal connections and an effective lawyer can’t ensure that you’ll be able to get your loved one out of prison. </p> <p>Um Ali, who’s continuing to pay legal fees despite no word of progress on her son’s case, says she doesn’t know if the thousands of dollars she’s already paid are helping or not, but she’s willing to take the chance. </p> <p>“Sometimes I think the lawyer is a liar, and sometimes I think maybe he’s telling the truth,” she says. “He’s a very good lawyer, he must be, he knows many powerful people.”</p> Want to Know Middle East Mon, 15 Sep 2014 04:15:00 +0000 Susannah George 6255250 at Cuba's Ebola aid is the latest example of its 'medical diplomacy' <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Cuba</a>'s pledge to deploy a 165-strong army of doctors and nurses to help fight the Ebola outbreak is the latest example of the Communist country's decades-old tradition of "medical diplomacy."</p> <p>Since 1960, when Cuba dispatched a team of doctors to help with the aftermath of an earthquake in Chile, the Caribbean island has sent more than 135,000 medical staff to all corners of the globe.</p> <p>The latest batch being sent to help in west Africa's Ebola crisis are part of a 50,000-strong foreign legion of Cuban doctors and healthcare workers spread across 66 countries in <a href="">Latin America</a>, Asia and Africa, according to Cuba's Health Ministry.</p> <p>Cuban Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda told reporters in Geneva on Friday some 62 doctors and 103 nurses were being sent to Sierra Leone to tackle the outbreak.</p> <p>World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan welcomed the Cuban aid, the largest offer of a foreign medical team from a single country during the outbreak.</p> <p>"Money and materials are important, but those two things alone cannot stop Ebola virus transmission," said Chan. "Human resources are clearly our most important need."</p> <p>Morales said members of the team had "previously participated in post-catastrophe situations" and had all volunteered for the six-month mission, which begins in early October.</p> <p><strong>'Foreign policy cornerstone'</strong></p> <p>"Medical diplomacy, the collaboration between countries to simultaneously produce health bene?ts and improve relations, has been a cornerstone of Cuban foreign policy since the outset of the revolution ?fty years ago," said US researcher Julie Feinsilver in a study for Georgetown University.</p> <p>"It has helped Cuba garner symbolic capital — goodwill, influence, and prestige —well beyond what would have been possible for a small, developing country, and it has contributed to making Cuba a player on the world stage," Feinsilver wrote in her study "Fifty Years of Cuba's Medical Diplomacy: From Idealism to Pragmatism."</p> <p>"In recent years, medical diplomacy has been instrumental in providing considerable material capital — aid, credit, and trade — to keep the revolution afloat."</p> <p>Cuba's medical diplomacy accelerated after the devastation wrought by Hurricanes George and Mitch across the Caribbean in 1998. In the aftermath of the disaster, Cuba sent some 25,000 doctors and health workers to 32 nations in the region.</p> <p>In 2004, former President Fidel Castro and late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched "Mission Miracle," a program offering free eye surgery that has benefited some 2.8 million people across 35 countries, according to Cuban official sources.</p> <p><strong>Earthquake assistance </strong></p> <p>At the same time, Cuba's "medical brigades" have helped victims from devastating earthquakes in numerous countries including Algeria, <a href="">Mexico</a>, Armenia and <a href="">Pakistan</a>.</p> <p>Cuba has also trained several thousand doctors and nurses from no fewer than 121 developing nations.</p> <p>The biggest deployment has seen 30,000 Cuban health professionals sent to oil-rich Venezuela, a key regional ally.</p> <p>In Brazil, meanwhile, some 11,456 Cubans are working in hard-hit areas suffering from staffing shortages.</p> <p>Together with educational and sporting services, the export of medical professionals is worth around $10 billion annually to Cuba, making it the most important source of income for the island, outstripping money earned from foreign remittances and exports of nickel.</p> <p>Yet while the qualifications and dedication of Cuba's foreign legion are regularly lauded by countries benefiting from their services and organizations such as the WHO, they are not always viewed so positively by local health workers.</p> <p>Trade unions and some politicians in <a href="">Peru</a>, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Honduras have criticized the "army in white coats" sent by Cuba.</p> <p>At the same time, Havana has also been criticized for withholding too big a chunk of the salaries of workers employed overseas.</p> <p>Despite the thousands of health workers abroad, Cuba's domestic healthcare remains one of the best staffed networks in the world, with 82,065 doctors, one for every 137 people, according to the National Statistics Office.</p> <p>rd-ag/hdz/rcw/nss</p> Need to Know Cuba Sun, 14 Sep 2014 19:15:15 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6257609 at Ukraine accuses pro-Russian separatists of threatening peace as fighting flares <!--paging_filter--><p>The Ukrainian government accused pro-Russian separatists on Sunday of threatening a tenuous push for peace as booming rounds of heavy artillery fire echoed across the insurgent stronghold of Donetsk.</p> <p>It said the rebels had been intensifying their attacks on government positions in eastern Ukraine despite a ceasefire backed by Kyiv and Moscow nine days ago.</p> <p>"The terrorist actions are threatening the realisation of the Ukrainian president's (Petro Poroshenko) peace plan," said National Security and Defence Council spokesman Volodymyr Polyovy.</p> <p>He also took aim at comments by two rebel leaders who both signed the 12-point truce deal in Minsk on September 5, but who declared on Sunday they were mere "observers" at the talks.</p> <p>AFP journalists reported the sound of explosions and incessant mortar fire near Donetsk airport where the Ukrainian military said it had driven back a major assault by insurgent fighters on Friday.</p> <p>The ceasefire deal has helped calm five months of fighting that killed more than 2,700 people and set off the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War.</p> <p>Rebels and government forces have since swapped dozens of captives and had conditionally agreed to exchange 65 more prisoners from each side later on Sunday.</p> <p><strong>'Frozen conflict' </strong></p> <p>But the simmering crisis has exposed layers of mistrust between both the West and Moscow and between the largely Russian-speaking populations in the east of Ukraine and the pro-Western leaders in Kyiv that may take years to mend.</p> <p>Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday of deliberately keeping Ukraine in a state of war to create a "frozen conflict" in <a href="">Russia</a>'s backyard.</p> <p>"He wants to eliminate Ukraine as an independent country," Yatsenyuk told an international forum in Kyiv. "He wants to restore the Soviet Union."</p> <p>The West has been acting to isolate Putin, now acting in a much less predictable and more aggressive manner than at any point since his domestic domination began 15 years ago, and in turn pledged greater support for the pro-Western leadership in Kyiv.</p> <p>Poroshenko heads to Washington this week to meet President Barack Obama, seeking to secure a "special status" alliance with the <a href="">United States</a> as he steers Ukraine further out of Russia's orbit.</p> <p>Obama has rejected direct military involvement but instead unveiled increasingly painful economic sanctions on Moscow that -- together with similar EU measures -- effectively lock Russia out of Western capital markets and hamstring its crucial oil industry.</p> <p>Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took particular exception to the measures, accusing Washington Saturday of "trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to break economic ties between the EU and Russia and force <a href="">Europe</a> to buy US gas at much higher prices."</p> <p>The punitive measures and an accompanying East-West trade war have left Russia's economy facing an increasingly gloomy future and a possible recession this year.</p> <p>But they have seemingly failed to alter Putin's thinking or erode his monumental popularity — or his standing among oligarchs, whose importance can outweigh that of the government.</p> <p><strong>Poroshenko under pressure </strong></p> <p>The truce halted a rebel counter-surge mounted across the southeast last month with the alleged support of hundreds of Russian paratroopers, although Putin has repeatedly denied any direct involvement in the conflict.</p> <p>But insurgents continue to stage periodic strikes on Donetsk airport and areas in the neighbouring separatist region of Lugansk, government officials said.</p> <p>Russia on Saturday sent a 220-truck convoy it said was carrying aid to the residents of rebel-held Lugansk, who have been struggling without basic supplies, water and power for weeks.</p> <p>Ukraine — which did not give permission for the convoy to cross — had expressed fears the trucks may be carrying supplies for insurgent and bitterly protested a similar delivery last month.</p> <p>The peace deal, however, has failed to provide respite for Poroshenko, a veteran politician and business baron who won a May election on a promise to crush the rebellion and keep the ex-Soviet nation whole.</p> <p>Cracks in his government emerged Sunday when Deputy Foreign Ministry Danylo Lubkivsky resigned over a delay in the implementation of a historic EU trade deal, apparently under Russian pressure.</p> <p>The postponement of the deal until the end of 2015 "sends the wrong signal to everyone: the aggressor (Russia), our allies and — most importantly — Ukrainian citizens," Lubkivsky wrote on Facebook.</p> <p>The deal was meant to revive Ukraine's economy by lifting EU trade barriers, but Russia feared it would see its own market flooded with cheaper EU goods.</p> <p>zak/txw/cah</p> Need to Know Europe Sun, 14 Sep 2014 17:41:31 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6257567 at North Korea sentences US citizen Matthew Todd Miller to 6 years hard labor <!--paging_filter--><p>North Korea sentenced US citizen Matthew Todd Miller to six years hard labor for committing "hostile acts" as a tourist to the country, a statement carried by state media said on Sunday.</p> <p>Matthew Miller joins Kenneth Bae to become the second American currently serving a hard labor sentence in North Korea. A third, Jeffrey Fowle, is currently awaiting trial.</p> <p>"He committed acts hostile to the DPRK while entering the territory of the DPRK under the guise of a tourist last April," the short statement said, without elaborating. The Korean version of the statement described Miller's punishment as a "labor reeducation" sentence.</p> <p>Miller, from Bakersfield, California and in his mid-20s, entered North Korea in April this year whereupon he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. He was traveling on a private trip without foreign guides, according to Uri Tours, the company that organized his trip.</p> <p>North Korea has not elaborated on Miller's charges, but photos of the trial released by state media showed some of Miller's personal possessions, including his passport, phone, notebook and North Korean visa — which appeared to be ripped. Miller was also shown sitting in a witness box, flanked by North Korean soldiers.</p> <p>North Korea has yet to announce a trial date for a third US citizen Jeffrey Fowle, 56, from Miamisburg, Ohio, who was arrested in May this year for leaving a bible under a bin in the toilet of a sailor's club in the eastern port city of Chongjin.</p> <p>A source familiar with the case told Reuters it was unclear why Fowle left the bible behind, but said the 56-year old did not seem to be overtly religious.</p> <p>US missionary Kenneth Bae has been held by the country since December 2012 and is currently serving a sentence of 15 years hard labor for crimes North Korea said amounted to a plot to overthrow the state.</p> <p>Earlier this month, international media was granted rare access to the three detained Americans, who in separate interviews all called on the <a href="">United States</a> to secure their early release.</p> <p><strong>'Citizens as pawns'</strong></p> <p>North Korea, which is under heavy United Nations sanctions related to its nuclear and missile programs, is believed to be using the detained US citizens to extract a high-profile visit from Washington, with whom it has no formal diplomatic relations.</p> <p>The US State Department has repeatedly called on North Korea to release Miller, Bae and Fowle. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, the senior US diplomat for East <a href="">Asia</a>, said on Friday that the three Americans were being used as "pawns" and their detention was "objectionable."</p> <p>Pyongyang has in the past released detained US citizens to delegations led by former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, but North Korea has twice canceled visits by Robert King, the US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to discuss Kenneth Bae's case.</p> <p>Tourism to North Korea has increased markedly in the past few years, despite the recent string of arrests, with some operators estimating a tenfold increase in western visitors over the last ten years.</p> <p>"Although we ask a series of tailored questions on our application form designed to get to know a traveler and his/her interests, it's not always possible for us to foresee how a tourist may behave during a DPRK tour," said Andrea Lee, CEO of Uri Tours, the US-based company that organized Miller's tour to the country, also known by its official 'DPRK' acronym.</p> <p>"Unfortunately, there was nothing specific in Mr. Miller's tour application that would have helped us anticipate this unfortunate outcome," Lee said in a statement emailed to Reuters.</p> <p>(Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Kim Coghill and Jane Merriman)</p> Need to Know North Korea Sun, 14 Sep 2014 16:59:00 +0000 James Pearson, Thomson Reuters 6257548 at Uganda arrests 19 people tied to suspected attack plot <!--paging_filter--><p>Ugandan police have arrested 19 people in connection with a foiled attack in central Kampala that the <a href="">United States</a> has said was hatched by Somali militants Al Shabaab.</p> <p>Fred Enanga, a spokesman for Ugandan police, declined to provide additional details about the individuals.</p> <p>"The attack was foiled at a stage where it was imminent," he said.</p> <p>The discovery of the alleged cell came as <a href="">Kenya</a> prepares to mark the first anniversary since Al Shabaab gunmen killed 67 people in an attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall. The militant Islamists have threatened more attacks since the killing of its leader in a US strike earlier this month.</p> <p>Ugandan authorities say they have increased security at hotels and other key sites including Entebbe International Airport since making the arrests. They have declined to say if Al Shabaab was behind the alleged plot, although the US embassy in Uganda had on Saturday said the cell was run by militant group.</p> <p>Uganda, as one of the countries that contribute forces to an <a href="">African</a> Union peacekeeping mission battling Al Shabaab in Somalia, has suffered militant attacks in recent years. In 2010, Al Shabaab bombed sports bars in Uganda where people were watching the soccer World Cup on television.</p> <p>The group has been reasserting itself in recent days following the death of leader Ahmed Godane and the appointment of his successor, little-known Ahmad Umar.</p> <p>Last week, the group targeted two military convoys near the capital Mogadishu and on Saturday the group gunned down a senior Somali national security officer in his car, according to local police and an al Shabaab spokesman.</p> <p>In comments last Monday, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf Shongole, a senior al Shabaab official, said he would target Americans in New York and Washington, and "capture Kenya and Uganda."</p> <p>(Writing by Edith Honan; Editing by Michael Urquhart)</p> Africa Need to Know Sun, 14 Sep 2014 16:16:14 +0000 Elias Biryabarema, Thomson Reuters 6257480 at Australia answers US call to join coalition fighting Islamic State <!--paging_filter--><p>Australia became the first country to detail troop numbers and aircraft for a US-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq, as Washington drums up support for global action to counter the terrorist threat.</p> <p>Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sunday a 600-strong force comprising some 400 airforce personnel and 200 special forces soldiers would be deployed to a US military base in the United Arab Emirates.</p> <p>A number of countries have responded to US President Barack Obama's call to join a coalition against Islamic State, but Australia is the first to publicly provide specific troop numbers and military hardware for the mission.</p> <p>Obama is leading an effort to form a coalition of Western allies and Gulf Arab states to take on the extremist group, whose savage methods have included beheading two American journalists and a <a href="">British</a> aid worker.</p> <p>Abbott said along with the troops, Australia would send eight super hornet fighter jets, an early warning and control aircraft and an aerial refueling aircraft. He said they would be deployed in the coming days.</p> <p>A task group of military advisers to assist Iraqi and other security forces fighting the militants would form part of the deployment but Abbott said he had not yet made the decision to commit troops to combat action.</p> <p>"I have to warn the Australian people that should this preparation and deployment extend into combat operations, that this could go on for quite some time," he told reporters in the northern city of Darwin.</p> <p>Abbott said Australia did not intend to operate in <a href="">Syria</a>.</p> <p><strong>Kerry drums up support</strong></p> <p>Obama announced his plans in a prime time address on Wednesday to build an alliance to root out Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, plunging the <a href="">United States</a> into two conflicts in which nearly every country in the <a href="">Middle East</a> has a stake.</p> <p>US Secretary of State John Kerry is touring the Middle East to try to secure backing for the plan, and on Thursday won the backing for a "coordinated military campaign" from 10 Arab countries — Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states including rich rivals <a href="">Saudi Arabia</a> and Qatar.</p> <p>However, a lack of detail on commitments from NATO allies and <a href="">Turkey</a>'s reluctance to play a frontline role have highlighted the difficulty of building a willing coalition for a complex military campaign.</p> <p>Britain has said it supports US air strikes and Prime Minister David Cameron has said repeatedly that Britain itself has ruled nothing out except combat troops on the ground.</p> <p>Like Australia, Britain has delivered humanitarian aid, carried out surveillance, given weapons to Kurds and promised training in Iraq.</p> <p><a href="">France</a> has confirmed its commitment to use military force in Iraq, but it was unclear whether France would join strikes in Syria. <a href="">Germany</a> has said it won't take part in air strikes.</p> <p>US officials say Kerry is also seeking permission to make more use of bases in the region and fly more warplanes overhead.</p> <p>The region has been galvanized since June when Islamic State fighters, already in control of much of Syria, swept through northern Iraq, seizing cities, slaughtering prisoners, and proclaiming a "caliphate" that would rule over all Muslims.</p> <p>The White House says the group is a threat to the West as well, attracting fighters from around the world who could return to carry out attacks at home.</p> Need to Know Middle East Sun, 14 Sep 2014 14:49:46 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6257460 at Thousands of pro-democracy activists stage 'black cloth' march in Hong Kong <!--paging_filter--><p>Thousands of pro-democracy activists clad in black marched silently through <a href="">Hong Kong</a> on Sunday, holding banners saying they felt betrayed and angry at Beijing's refusal to allow fully-democratic elections for the city's next chief executive in 2017.</p> <p>The protesters, who carried enormous black cloth ribbons through the streets, also held up signs calling for further civil disobedience and cheering on students planning to boycott classes.</p> <p>"Occupy Central with Love and Peace!" and "Support students boycotting classes!" read some of the signs. "Beijing has breached our trust! Universal suffrage is hopeless!" read another.</p> <p>Dozens of pro-establishment protesters gathered nearby waving banners and cursing the democracy activists and students.</p> <p>"Students should focus on studying!" shouted Pok Chun-chung, an organizer of the pro-establishment "Protect Hong Kong" movement. "If you adults have guts then you should occupy Central yourself, not use children as cannon fodder!"</p> <p>The protest remained peaceful and police stood by. Organizers estimated there were around 4,000 marchers at the height of the protest. Police estimated 1,860.</p> <p>Sunday's march was the latest in a series of confrontations between pro-democracy activists and pro-establishment forces over the extent to which Hong Kong may go ahead with democratic reforms.</p> <p>A former <a href="">British</a> colony, Hong Kong was returned to Communist Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" form of government. It was given wide-ranging autonomy, including an undated promise of "universal suffrage."</p> <p>Beijing this summer has made it clear it will not allow fully-democratic elections. Pro-democracy activists say China's decision to tightly control who can be nominated for the 2017 vote means Hong Kong risks ending up with a "fake" democracy.</p> <p>Earlier on Sunday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying published an open letter to residents of the special administrative region of China, urging them to be "pragmatic" and to form an "accurate and complete understanding of the constitutional and political context in which we find ourselves."</p> <p>He said constitutional reform should move forward whatever the pace, and that there could be additional reforms in the future.</p> <p>Amid escalating tensions, pro-democracy activists have held an unofficial referendum, mass marches and rallies and an overnight sit-in that lead to hundreds of arrests. A student boycott of classes is expected later this month, followed by another sit-in in the city's central business district.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Tyrone Siu and Venus Wu; Writing by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Kim Coghill and Rosalind Russell)</p> Need to Know China Sun, 14 Sep 2014 14:23:53 +0000 Donny Kwok and Diana Chan, Thomson Reuters 6257434 at Britain's PM Cameron says UK will 'hunt down' Islamic State militants <!--paging_filter--><p>Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the government's emergency response committee on Sunday under growing pressure to sanction airstrikes after an Islamic State video showed the beheading of a <a href="">British</a> hostage.</p> <p>Footage of the murder of David Haines by IS militants fighting in <a href="">Iraq</a> and <a href="">Syria</a> means Cameron, who is also trying to persuade Scotland to reject independence in a referendum on Thursday, is under pressure to get much tougher with IS.</p> <p>He has said he isn't ruling out any options to degrade IS, with the exception of putting boots on the ground, but is facing increasingly loud calls from some of his own Conservative lawmakers and from former military chiefs to join the <a href="">United States</a> in launching airstrikes.</p> <p>Cameron's last attempt to get the British parliament to back such airstrikes, against Syria last year, ended in failure when lawmakers voted against such action.</p> <p>With Scotland his domestic priority, he is aware that many Scots have traditionally been more skeptical of British military action overseas and that proposing airstrikes now could risk alienating them before Thursday's independence vote.</p> <p>Cameron, who returned to London ahead of schedule on Saturday night to chair the emergency meeting, has called the murder of Haines, a 44 year-old Scottish aid worker, an act of pure evil and vowed to bring his killers to justice.</p> <p>"This is a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker," he said in a statement on Saturday.</p> <p>"We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes."</p> <p>Britain's Foreign Office said the video showed "all signs" of being genuine. Reuters could not immediately verify the footage, but the images were consistent with those of the filmed executions of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, in the past month.</p> <p>Haines's executioner appears to be the same man who featured in videos with Foley and Sotloff. The man, nicknamed "Jihadi John" by Western media, seems to have a British accent. At the end of the same video, another hostage is shown and threatened.</p> <p>Security services in Britain have been trying to identify the executioner. A British security source speaking on condition of anonymity said an investigation was underway into the killings and that senior intelligence officials had attended the meeting of the COBR emergency committee that Cameron chaired.</p> <p>The source declined to go into detail about what, if any, progress the investigation had made.</p> <p><strong>Airstrikes</strong></p> <p>Faced with the rise of IS, Britain has so far confined itself to delivering humanitarian aid, carrying out surveillance, arming Kurdish forces who are fighting IS militants and promising training in Iraq.</p> <p>On military action, London supports US airstrikes while keeping its own options open.</p> <p>Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army, said on Sunday IS executions should not deter the government from taking military action against the militants.</p> <p>"If we don't confront and destroy these Islamic State Jihadi fighters then their influence will grow, their confidence will grow and the problem will get bigger," he told Sky News.</p> <p>Mike Haines, brother of the slain aid worker, said on Sunday that David had chosen humanitarian work but had been murdered in cold blood.</p> <p>"He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly," Mike Haines said in a statement released through the British Foreign Office. He said his brother left behind two daughters from two marriages.</p> <p>Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, told BBC TV Haines's murder was an "unspeakable act of barbarism."</p> <p>Asked in a BBC interview if an independent Scotland would be prepared to take military action against IS, he said any response must be done under United Nations auspices, underlining Scottish anxiety about the prospect of unilateral military action.</p> <p>"You can't have a strategy where you bow to terrorism. There's an urgent requirement to get back to collective (action) under the United Nations," he said.</p> <p>Salmond has called the 2003 Iraq invasion illegal because it was not launched with UN approval.</p> <p>Haines was remembered in prayers at the morning service in Edinburgh's St. Mary's Cathedral, where provost Graham Forbes praised him for his dedication to humanitarian work.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by David Holmes/Ruth Pitchford)</p> Need to Know United Kingdom Sun, 14 Sep 2014 12:57:00 +0000 Andrew Osborn and Guy Faulconbridge, Thomson Reuters 6257390 at Islamic State claims beheading of British hostage David Haines <!--paging_filter--><p>WASHINGTON — The Islamic State extremist group claimed Saturday it beheaded <a href="">British</a> aid worker David Haines, in what would be the third such execution in recent weeks, after two US journalists were shown murdered.</p> <p>The Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS or ISIL) released a video, available on the website of private terrorism monitoring group SITE, purportedly showing a masked militant beheading Haines.</p> <p>The 2-minute-27-second video titled "A Message to the Allies of America" blames British Prime Minister David Cameron for joining forces with the <a href="">United States</a>, which has said it is at "war" with the jihadists and launched air strikes against them in <a href="">Iraq</a>.</p> <p>"You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State, just as your predecessor Tony Blair did, following a trend amongst our British prime ministers who can't find the courage to say no to the Americans," the executioner says in the video.</p> <p>The militant, who may be the same man as in the previous videos, told Britain the alliance will "accelerate your destruction" and will drag the British people into "another bloody and unwinnable war."</p> <p>He also threatens to execute another British hostage.</p> <p>Cameron responded to the news late Saturday calling the murder an "act of pure evil" and vowed Britain would do all in its power to bring the killers to justice.</p> <p>"This is a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker. It is an act of pure evil," he said in a statement released by his Downing Street office.</p> <p>"We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes."</p> <p>Scottish-born Haines, 44, was taken hostage in <a href="">Syria</a> in March 2013 and was threatened in a video released this month depicting the beheading by an IS militant of the US journalist Steven Sotloff.</p> <p>Haines had been working for the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), an international relief charity, and was previously involved in humanitarian work in the Balkans, parts of <a href="">Africa</a> and elsewhere in the <a href="">Middle East</a>.</p> <p>Sotloff and fellow murdered US journalist James Foley had also been kidnapped in Syria. IS released a video claiming Foley's execution on Aug. 19, and Sotloff's two weeks later on Sept. 2.</p> Islamic State Need to Know Syria United Kingdom United States Sat, 13 Sep 2014 22:30:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6257159 at Uganda foils 'imminent' Al Shabaab attack, US says <!--paging_filter--><p>KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan security forces stopped a cell of Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab insurgents apparently "planning for an imminent attack," the US embassy said Saturday.</p> <p>Arrests were made, police said, in raids two weeks after Ugandan troops, fighting in Somalia, reportedly provided intelligence that helped US special forces kill the Shabaab's chief in a devastating airstrike.</p> <p>"Ugandan authorities reported the discovery of an Al Shabaab terrorist cell in Kampala," the US embassy said in a statement, adding that forces were working to see "whether there are members of the cell still at large."</p> <p>Citizens were urged to stay at home on Saturday.</p> <p>"We remain in close contact with our Ugandan counterparts as investigations continue into what appears to have been planning for an imminent attack," the US added.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Targeted strikes have worked in Somalia. But are they a lesson for Syria?</a></strong></p> <p>Police spokesman Fred Enanga said forces had "made arrests" but gave no details of how many people had been detained.</p> <p>"Joint security agencies in Uganda have foiled a terrorist attempt at one of its installations," Enanga told AFP, without giving any further information.</p> <p>Security forces have boosted patrols around major sites, the US said, in a warning statement to its citizens in the east <a href="">African</a> nation.</p> <p>"At this point we are not aware of specific targets, and the Ugandan authorities have increased security at key sites, including Entebbe International Airport," the embassy said.</p> <p><strong>'Retaliatory attacks'</strong></p> <p>Last Monday the US embassy warned that Shabaab insurgents may try to exact revenge for a US airstrike that killed the militant group's commander.</p> <p>"Stay alert to the ongoing potential for terrorist attacks in Uganda," it said.</p> <p>"We also caution US citizens of the possibility of retaliatory attacks in Uganda by Al Shabaab in response to the US and Ugandan military actions in Somalia last week which killed Al Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane."</p> <p>Uganda's government said the country — a major contributor to AMISOM, the African Union (AU) force fighting the Shabaab — was "happy" about the death of Godane, and had provided the US with key intelligence on his whereabouts.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">The US killed Al Shabaab's No. 1. That may mean more violence, not less</a></strong></p> <p>Uganda's Ministry of Internal Affairs said immigration officers had carried out an "operation on illegal immigrant workers in different parts of Kampala" on Saturday morning, with 69 people arrested.</p> <p>It was not clear if the raids were connected.</p> <p>The Shabaab insurgents have claimed recent attacks in <a href="">Kenya</a> and Djibouti, and at home in Somalia.</p> <p>During the World Cup final four years ago, Shabaab insurgents killed at least 76 people after setting off explosions that ripped through two restaurants in Kampala.</p> <p>In July, the US embassy warned of a "specific threat" by an unknown group to attack Entebbe international airport, which serves the capital Kampala.</p> <p>It also warned its citizens of a general threat of attacks which could target hotels, restaurants, clubs, malls, diplomatic missions, government buildings and transport.</p> <p>The Shabaab claimed responsibility for the assault on the Westgate shopping center that killed at least 67 people in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in September last year as well as for attacks on coastal regions.</p> <p>The strike against Godane came days after AU troops and Somali government forces launched "Operation <a href="">Indian</a> Ocean," a major offensive aimed at seizing key ports from the Shabaab and cutting off multimillion-dollar exports of charcoal, one of their key revenue sources.</p> <p>AU troops in Somalia said Saturday in a statement they had attacked a Shabaab base in the south of the war-torn country, inflicting "heavy losses" on the extremists, including killing several foreign fighters. It was not possible to independently verify the report.</p> Africa Al Shabaab Need to Know Conflict Zones Somalia United States Sat, 13 Sep 2014 15:53:00 +0000 Amy Fallon, Agence France-Presse 6256967 at Brazil's environmentalist presidential candidate is now courting big agriculture <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Longtime green activist Marina Silva has even come out in favor of genetically modified crops, sending a message that conservation and agribusiness can thrive together. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Reese Ewing, Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SAO PAULO, <a href="">Brazil</a> — Brazilian presidential candidate Marina Silva, an icon of the green movement, is cozying up to old adversaries in the sugar and ethanol industry as she seeks to win over the powerful farm lobby ahead of next month's election.</p> <p>Since entering the race in mid-August, Silva has picked a pro-agriculture congressman as her running mate, met repeatedly with agribusiness leaders and campaigned in the farm belt, eager to make allies in an industry that accounts for a quarter of Brazil's economy.</p> <p>Her message: conservation and big agriculture would thrive side-by-side in a Silva government and she would roll back the gasoline subsidies that President Dilma Rousseff has used to contain inflation. The fuel price controls have gutted Brazil's once-booming sugar cane ethanol industry.</p> <p>Silva, who polls show is slightly ahead of Rousseff in an expected runoff, has also pleased crowds in the farm belt by reminding voters that she has dropped her opposition to genetically modified crops, which have been crucial to Brazil's rise in recent years as an agricultural power.</p> <p>"There's this legend out there that I'm against genetically modified crops. That's not true. I support a model in which GMO and GMO-free crops co-exist," she said in a recent TV interview.</p> <p>A few days later, on a campaign stop in the grains-rich state of Rio Grande do Sul, she said: "I will support agriculture on all levels" — a relief for producers who worry she would favor smaller family farms over the large-scale plantations that have come to dominate Brazil's countryside.</p> <p>Silva's apparent embrace of big agriculture marks an about-face for a lifelong environmentalist who ran for president in 2010 on the Green Party ticket, and she runs the risk of alienating some voters and allies in the green movement.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Here's how Brazil's new presidential candidate could help save the planet</a></strong></p> <p>A former rubber-tapper and maid who grew up poor in the Amazon state of Acre, Silva became a symbol of the global green movement by devoting her life to environmental issues after the murder of her mentor, union leader Chico Mendes, in 1988.</p> <p>As environment minister between 2003 and 2008, she fought to contain the expansion of Brazil's grain belt and cattle ranching, helping to reduce the pace of Amazon deforestation by more than half but also angering farmers, ranchers and loggers in the region.</p> <p>But to win the October election and form the political alliances needed to steer Brazil out of its economic rut, the center-left Silva needs agribusiness leaders and their influential friends in Congress on her side.</p> <p>So far, the strategy appears to be working. Though not everyone in the farm belt is rallying around Silva, several big names in agribusiness have spoken out in her favor.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">4 numbers that explain Brazil's recession</a></strong></p> <p>Polls show her gaining support in the farm belt, giving her a good chance of beating Rousseff in a runoff between the two.</p> <p>"She seems to get the importance of bringing value to agribusiness," said Plinio Nastari, a leading consultant in the sugar and ethanol sector who hosted a recent dinner for Silva with 47 agribusiness leaders.</p> <p><strong>Overcoming rejection</strong></p> <p>The sugar and ethanol industry, which has watched biofuels lose market share under Rousseff's gasoline subsidies, was a logical starting point for Silva. Her defense of sustainable development is an easy fit with the renewable energy credentials of the cane industry.</p> <p>But her environmental advocacy often put her at odds over the years with farm leaders, especially as Brazil aggressively expanded its farmland and asserted itself as a major producer of everything from soybeans and beef to sugar and coffee.</p> <p>Her highest voter rejection rates still reside in the agribusiness community, although that also means she stands to gain votes if she can convince farmers that she's not their enemy.</p> <p>Roberto Rodrigues, a prominent farm leader who clashed with Silva when he was agriculture minister under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has spoken more favorably of his former adversary than Rousseff, Lula's hand-picked successor.</p> <p>"Agribusiness is wary of her [Silva], but not me," Rodrigues said recently.</p> <p>Marcos Jank, an executive at Brazil's biggest poultry exporter BRF who previously headed the country's association of sugarcane producers, wrote in an op-ed piece: "There is more common ground than divergence between the agendas of modern agriculture and sustainable use of resources as proposed by Marina Silva."</p> <p>A growing number of local agricultural leaders now embrace the tough conservation laws that Silva helped shape earlier in her career, arguing that they help boost the appeal of Brazilian exports in some foreign markets.</p> <p>"Social and environmental concerns over Brazilian agriculture go beyond mere luxury goods providers but has become a concern for those segments that add value to raw materials," said Roberto Smeraldi, director at Amigos da Terra, a non-profit group focused on sustainable development in the Amazon.</p> <p><strong>Polling the farm</strong></p> <p>A poll this week showed Silva's efforts have given her a 5-point lead over Rousseff in the grain- and cattle-rich states in central Brazil. Silva, who now represents the Brazilian Socialist Party, also has a commanding lead in the southeast, home to Brazil's sugar cane belt.</p> <p>Her charm offensive, though, may not be enough to win over everyone in agribusiness. Some in the grain belt question whether Silva has truly evolved from her days as a hard-line environmentalist.</p> <p>Senator Blairo Maggi, whose family is one of the biggest producers of soybeans in Brazil, said recently that Silva "will be a disaster for our sector" if she is elected, and called her "stubborn and deceptive."</p> <p>Maggi is a former governor of Mato Grosso, a grain state on the southern rim of the Amazon, where some of the highest rates of deforestation occurred when Silva was environment minister.</p> <p>To be sure, Rousseff still enjoys solid support in the farm belt, especially in her adopted home state of Rio Grande do Sul. She has given the farm sector the hope of better infrastructure by auctioning off contracts to expand and pave key roads that will improve farmers' access to sea ports and local markets.</p> <p>But Silva hopes <a href="" target="_blank">her promise of a free floating currency</a>, in contrast to Rousseff's policy of propping up the real to help contain inflation, will attract votes from agricultural exporters who benefit from a weaker exchange rate.</p> <p>Silva's rapprochement with agriculture has generated some unease among her environmentalist support base, though no one is accusing her of selling out just yet.</p> <p>She remains immensely popular back in home in Acre, a state that has managed to preserve about 90 percent of its rainforest in part thanks to Silva's efforts. But some cracks in that support are starting to surface.</p> <p>One former supporter, a daughter of Silva's late mentor Chico Mendes, has declared her vote for Rousseff instead, saying she doesn't think Silva would be able to "form the utopian government" she is touting on the campaign trail.</p> <p><em>Editing by Todd Benson and Kieran Murray.</em></p> Brazilian election Elections Want to Know Emerging Markets Brazil Sat, 13 Sep 2014 14:03:00 +0000 Reese Ewing, Reuters 6256851 at This map shows where same-sex couples can marry across Latin America <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Coahuila, a Mexican state near Texas, is the newest place in the region to legalize gay marriage. But there are still some countries that ban homosexuality. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ioan Grillo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">MEXICO</a> CITY — <a href="">Latin America</a> is a staunchly conservative Catholic region with a deeply entrenched culture of machismo and homophobic attitudes. Right?</p> <p>Not quite.</p> <p>After sweeping reforms in the last five years, the region possesses some of the most gay-friendly legislation on the planet.</p> <p>In the latest move, lawmakers in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila on Sept. 1 voted to legalize same-sex marriage.</p> <p>This change in a state known for cowboy hats, cattle farmers and coal mines means gay marriages will be able to be celebrated right up to the Rio Grande. </p> <p>Like the <a href="">United States</a>, Mexico's been making these moves locally, rather than federally. But other Latin countries have passed reforms on a national level.</p> <p>In fact, Latin America is home to three of the more than a dozen nations that have legalized gay marriage worldwide. Same-sex couples can even marry as far south as Argentina — a remarkable feat in the pope’s homeland.</p> <p>The region's reforms are largely passed by leftist governments, but that’s not always the case. Coahuila’s bill was backed by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), while leftist stalwarts such as Venezuela are falling behind on gay rights.</p> <p>There are still some strongholds bucking the trend. Take Belize, where even <a href=" Many of the" target="_blank">being homosexual remains illegal</a>. Caribbean islands also maintain a ban, with Jamaica punishing male homosexual acts by seven years' hard labor (but allowing sex between females).</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Homophobic violence</a> also persists, even in some countries with progressive legislation.</p> <p>However, overall the map has transformed markedly in favor of gay and lesbian rights, and it looks set to keep changing. Take a tour:</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="800" src="//" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p><em>Map by <a href="" target="_blank">Alex Leff</a>.</em></p> Argentina marriage equality Americas Want to Know Brazil Culture & Lifestyle Mexico Sat, 13 Sep 2014 04:17:00 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6256388 at As Ebola grows out of control, WHO pleads for more health workers <!--paging_filter--><p>The number of new Ebola cases in West <a href="">Africa</a> is growing faster than authorities can manage them, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, renewing a call for health workers from around the world to go to the region to help.</p> <p>As the death toll rose to more than 2,400 people out of 4,784 cases, WHO director general Margaret Chan told a news conference in Geneva the vast nature of the outbreak — particularly in the three hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — required a massive emergency response.</p> <p>Sarah Crowe, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, said the UN children's agency was using innovative ways to tackle the epidemic, including telling people to "use whatever means they have, such as plastic bags, to cover themselves if they have to deal with sick members of their family."</p> <p>"The Ebola treatment centers are full, there are only three in the country. Families need help in finding new ways to deal with this and deal with their loved ones and give them care without exposing themselves to this infection," she said via phone from Monrovia.</p> <p>"It is quite surreal and everywhere there is a sense of this virus taking over the whole country," Crowe said. "We do not have enough partners on the ground. Many Liberians say they feel abandoned."</p> <p>Survivors of the disease, who are immune to reinfection, were being used to look after thousands of children of people with suspected Ebola. About 2,000 children have lost one or both parents in Liberia alone, she said.</p> <p>The key to beating the disease, said the WHO's Chan, was people power. Pledges of equipment and money are coming in, but 500-600 foreign experts and at least 1,000 local health workers are needed on the ground.</p> <p>"The number of new patients is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them. We need to surge at least three to four times to catch up with the outbreaks," Chan said.</p> <p><strong><a href="">Cuba</a> helps</strong></p> <p>Cuban Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda, sitting alongside Chan, said his country would send 165 healthcare workers to help in the fight — the largest contingent of foreign doctors and nurses to be committed so far. However, they will arrive in October and will go to Sierra Leone, while thousands of new patients are expected in Liberia within weeks.</p> <p>Chan said the real death toll is probably far higher than the latest number of 2,400.</p> <p>"We are very cognizant of the fact that any number of cases and deaths that we are reporting is an underestimate." she said.</p> <p>The Ebola infection rate and death toll have been particularly high among health workers, who are exposed to hundreds of highly infectious patients who can pass the virus on through body fluids such as blood and excrement.</p> <p>Almost half of the 301 healthcare workers who have developed the disease have died.</p> <p>Some foreign healthcare workers in West Africa, including several <a href="">Americans</a> and at least one Briton, have also been infected. Two <a href="">Dutch</a> doctors who may have been exposed to the disease in Sierra Leone are set to be evacuated.</p> <p>Chan’s call chimed with pleas from leading Ebola specialists, including Peter Piot, one of the scientists who first identified the Ebola virus in 1976.</p> <p>Writing in the online scientific journal Eurosurveillance with his colleague Adam Kucharski, Piot, now director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it was hard to track an outbreak with exponential growth in case numbers.</p> <p>"There are currently hundreds of new Ebola virus disease cases reported each week; with the number of infections increasing exponentially, it could soon be thousands,” they said, adding that case numbers could double every fortnight.</p> <p>“Fear and mistrust of health authorities has contributed to this problem, but increasingly it is also because isolation centers have reached capacity. As well as creating potential for further transmission, large numbers of untreated – and therefore unreported – cases make it difficult to measure the true spread of infection, and hence to plan and allocate resources.”</p> <p>The UN health agency has previously warned there could be as many as 20,000 cases in the region before the outbreak is brought under control.</p> <p>In a glimmer of good news, the WHO said eight districts with previous Ebola cases - four in Guinea, three in Sierra Leone and one in Liberia — had reported no new cases for three weeks.</p> <p>And 67 people who had contact with a person who had taken the disease to <a href="">Senegal</a> on Aug 20 had been traced, and none had so far tested positive for the disease.</p> <p>The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that economic growth in Liberia and Sierra Leone could decline by as much as 3.5 percentage points due to the outbreak, which it said has crippled their mining, agriculture and services sectors.</p> <p>(Writing by Tom Miles and Kate Kelland; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)</p> Africa Need to Know Fri, 12 Sep 2014 18:03:42 +0000 Kate Kelland and Tom Miles, Thomson Reuters 6256184 at US steps up sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, targets oil and defense industries <!--paging_filter--><p>The <a href="">United States</a> announced more sanctions against <a href="">Russia</a> on Friday, affecting oil and defense industries and further limiting the access of major Russian banks to US debt and equity markets to punish Russia for its intervention in Ukraine.</p> <p>The sanctions, which for the first time targeted Russia's Sberbank, were timed to coincide with new <a href="">European</a> Union economic penalties that included restrictions on financing for some Russian state-owned companies and asset freezes on leading Russian politicians.</p> <p>The US Treasury Department said the sanctions include a ban on US individuals or companies dealing with Rostec, a major Russian technology and defense conglomerate, in debt transactions of more than 30 days maturity.</p> <p>Assets also were blocked for five state-owned defense technology firms — OAO Dolgoprudny Research Production Enterprise, Mytishchinski Mashinostroitelny Zavod OAO, Kalinin Machine Plant JSC, Almaz-Antey GSKB, and JSC NIIP.</p> <p>Oil industry sanctions will affect exploration and production of Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore and shale projects by five Russian energy companies — Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas and Rosneft, the Treasury said.</p> <p>The new US sanctions tighten the financial noose on six Russian banks, including Sberbank, Russia's largest by assets, by barring US individuals and companies from dealing in any debt they issue of longer than 30 days maturity.</p> <p>The five banks previously covered had only faced a restriction on debt maturities of more than 90 days. Like those five, Sberbank now also faces a ban on US equity financing.</p> <p>The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions prohibiting US individuals and companies from dealing in new debt of greater than 90 days maturity issued by Russian energy companies Gazprom Neft and Transneft.</p> <p>"These steps underscore the continued resolve of the international community against Russia’s aggression," US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement. "Russia’s economic and diplomatic isolation will continue to grow as long as its actions do not live up to its words."</p> <p>Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the European Union was disrupting peace efforts in eastern Ukraine by tightening sanctions on Moscow, Interfax news agency reported on Friday.</p> <p>"Taking such a decision at the very moment when the peace process is gaining stability ... it means choosing the path of disrupting the peace process," Lavrov was quoted as telling state television channel Russia 1.</p> <p>He said Russia would respond to sanctions "calmly, adequately and most of all from the need to protect our interests."</p> Need to Know Europe Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:09:26 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6256121 at Will Indonesia’s new president end one of Asia’s oldest conflicts? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jokowi has promised a softer approach, but the country’s powerful generals may have other ideas. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Marie Dhumieres </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JAKARTA, <a href="">Indonesia</a> — “It’s safe here in Papua. There is nothing to hide.”</p> <p>That’s what Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo said when asked on the campaign trail whether foreign journalists would be allowed into West Papua.</p> <p>“Why not?” he said.  </p> <p>It was as if foreign journalists and activists hadn’t essentially been banned for decades from Indonesia’s easternmost province, a rugged jungle outpost replete with oppression, rag-tag insurgents and wildly destructive mineral exploitation.</p> <p>If Jokowi, as the future president is known, honors his promise to allow scrutiny of Papua after he assumes office in October, it will be a sharp departure from the preferences of Indonesia’s entrenched security apparatus.</p> <p>Currently, the authorities say they restrict access to the province for safety reasons, due to ongoing conflict with the Free Papua Movement, a lightly armed separatist movement. The Indonesian military has a strong presence in the region, and the few foreign journalists granted permission to visit are constantly shadowed by local officials.</p> <p>Jokowi, a populist political neophyte with a man-of-the-people image, is one of very few Indonesian leaders not hailing from the military.</p> <p>Already, the security forces appear to have called his bluff.</p> <p>Weeks after he was elected, they arrested two <a href="">French</a> TV journalists, Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois, for illegally working on a tourist visa. The pair were researching a documentary for Arte on Western Papua’s separatist movement.</p> <p>While unauthorized journalists are usually deported immediately, the pair have now been in police custody since early August. The local authorities have said they were present at an exchange of ammunition by a separatist group. They face possible criminal charges and five years in jail.</p> <p>To Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia’s Papua censorship obsession” aims to cover recurrent human rights abuses. “Over the last three years alone,” says Phelim Kline, deputy <a href="">Asia</a> director at Human Rights Watch, his organization has documented “dozens of cases in which police, military, intelligence officers, and prison guards have used excessive force when dealing with Papuans exercising their right to peaceful assembly and association.”</p> <p>Western Papua was annexed by Indonesia in the late 1960s, after a lengthy independence struggle. Papuans campaigning for self-determination are still at serious risk.</p> <p>Two weeks ago, the body of Marthinus Yohame, a 27-year-old Papuan activist with a local non-violent committee, was found floating in the sea, tied up in a sack. Human rights organizations report “a litany of violence and abuses,” police firing into crowds, torture, unlawful detention and the killing of activists.</p> <p>“Democracy in Western Papua is very superficial, Human rights are very weak,” says Jim Elmslie, co-convener of the University of Sydney’s West Papua Project.</p> <p>With Jokowi’s election though, some hope change is coming. Elmslie says Jokowi, who “has expressed a desire for a more open and democratic Indonesia,” and his non-military background is grounds for optimism.</p> <p>Jokowi visited the province twice during the electoral campaign. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been there only three times during his 10-year term. In Papua, Jokowi insisted he wasn’t just fishing for electoral support. “This is not about votes. It’s about giving attention to Papua,” he said in June.</p> <p>Last month, he met with political and religious Papuan leaders and unveiled a plan to build a presidential palace in West Papua. He says he wants to hold regular meetings with Papuan leaders.</p> <p>Damien Kingsbury, a political analyst who has written extensively about Indonesia and Papua, says that if Jokowi really goes down the path of dialogue with the Papuans, his task will be “extraordinarily difficult.”</p> <p>Papuans “definitely want more autonomy, most of them want independence,” he says. “Assuming that’s not possible, they will want proper negotiations around an alternative. That can only happen if the president is prepared to go into these negotiations, and if he has the power to do it.”</p> <p>He says Jokowi will have to face opposition from both the parliament, where he lacks a majority, and the military, which “has much more influence in national politics than it’s actually given credit for.”</p> <p>Leonie Tanggahma, a Papuan activist who lives in <a href="">the Netherlands</a>, says she feels Jokowi does want dialogue. “The question is whether he can do it. He’s not going to have to fight us, he’s going to have to fight his own people.”</p> Jokowi Want to Know Emerging Markets Politics Indonesia Fri, 12 Sep 2014 04:22:22 +0000 Marie Dhumieres 6254172 at Why the Oscar Pistorius saga is the 'trial of the century' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The case and its universal themes of love, death and celebrity have gripped people across the globe. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Erin Conway-Smith </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>PRETORIA, <a href="">South Africa</a> — The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius began on an unusually rainy day in March, drenching the journalists who came from around the world to cover the story of a fallen hero.</p> <p>The journalist hordes — your GlobalPost correspondent among them — scurried like drowning rats through flooded streets around Pretoria’s High Court, desperate to safeguard a seat at the "trial of the century."</p> <p style="">On Friday a judge found Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide, a lesser charge roughly equivalent to manslaughter. Sentencing is still to come. There is no minimum punishment for the crime, which could carry jail time of up to 15 years — or <a href="" target="_blank">as little as a suspended sentence</a>.</p> <p>It is easy to be cynical about the Pistorius trial. The Twitter echo chamber can be irritating indeed — a courtroom full of journalists sharing their every trivial observation. Some of my esteemed colleagues have smugly — and to a large degree, correctly — remarked on how little attention is paid to other worthy stories while news outlets have spent lavishly to send their journalists to this courthouse.</p> <p>But there is a good reason the trial has gripped so many people in South Africa and around the world. This is a human story so unusual, so sad and so inherently fascinating that if fiction would seem contrived: A famous athlete, the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games, shoots and kills his beautiful model girlfriend on Valentine's Day. He claims he mistook her for an intruder. How could this happen?</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Judge throws out murder charge in Oscar Pistorius trial, riling legal experts</a></strong></p> <p>The case encompasses universal themes of love, death and celebrity, as well as issues of race, crime and justice in post-apartheid South Africa. There is no shortage of salacious details. Nearly all of it has been broadcast on live television.</p> <p>Simply, it is the trial that everyone is talking about. Here in South Africa, and equally on my travels to far-flung countries — from <a href="">Canada</a> to <a href="">Nigeria</a> to Myanmar to the <a href="">UK</a> — I have been deluged with questions and theories from people of all backgrounds.</p> <p>On the ground, the attention is intense. Throughout the trial, ardent fans of Pistorius — and on occasion, lunatics — have been drawn to the courthouse, bearing gifts of everything from white balloons to fake trophies to bouquets of flowers.</p> <p>Amateur rap artists have performed dubious trial-related songs on the sidewalk out front. Bikers on pink motorcycles, dressed all in pink, have roared up to support the deceased, Reeva Steenkamp. One day I sat next to visiting American tourists who halted their South African safari to sit in the courtroom, so fascinated were they by the trial.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">Seen outside the Pistorius trial.</span> <span class="inline_image-src"> Gianluigi Guercia (AFP/Getty Images) </span></p> <p>Now, as we hear Judge Thokozile Masipa <a href="" target="_blank">deliver her judgment</a>, the courtroom’s gallery is packed with the most diehard of Pistorius trial observers, who arrive hours early in order to land a spot on the single public bench.</p> <p>Among them is Rea du Plessis, a 73-year-old woman from Boksburg near Johannesburg, dressed to the nines with a feathery black fascinator atop her head. Du Plessis says she didn't even know who Pistorius was before he was arrested for killing his girlfriend, but after hearing the news, immediately felt sympathy for the athlete.</p> <p>"I know that the man is going through hell," Du Plessis says. "I just want him to know that I support him. I will vibe it."</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">Members of the ANC Women’s League protest outside the courthouse.</span> <span class="inline_image-src">(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>Members of the African National Congress women's league have appeared throughout the trial to support Steenkamp by protesting violence against women. Outside the courthouse on the two days of judgment this week, there they are, holding signboards up high to send a message while shading their faces from the strong sun: "If you kill a woman, you are killing a nation."</p> <p>The ANC women in their green uniforms stand among hundreds of other South Africans — schoolchildren, law students, homeless men, retirees — who have come to learn Pistorius’s fate. And, yes, to gawk at the circus.</p> <div class="storify"> <iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//" width="100%"></iframe> <script src="//"></script><p></p><noscript>[<a href="//" target="_blank">View the story "Verdict in the Oscar Pistorius trial" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div> Oscar Pistorius trial Want to Know South Africa Fri, 12 Sep 2014 04:22:00 +0000 Erin Conway-Smith 6255274 at Judge throws out murder charge in Oscar Pistorius trial, riling legal experts <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Judge Thokozile Masipa on Friday found Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Erin Conway-Smith </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>PRETORIA, <a href="">South Africa</a> — Oscar Pistorius is not guilty of murder. This much we know.</p> <p>But in a cliffhanger at Pretoria’s High Court on Thursday, Judge Thokozile Masipa adjourned for the day just as it seemed she might rule on whether the Olympic double amputee sprinter is guilty of culpable homicide, a charge roughly equivalent to manslaughter.</p> <p>On Friday she found Pistorius guilty of that lesser charge, which could lead to as many as 15 years in jail or as little as a suspended sentence.</p> <p>Legal experts are already grumbling about Masipa’s decision to toss out the murder charge, and about her legal reasoning presented in court.</p> <p>Pistorius was charged with murder after shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013. He claimed he fired four bullets through a bathroom door at his home because he mistook her for an intruder.</p> <p>Masipa, reading out her verdict in court on Thursday, rejected a charge of premeditated murder, dismissing the notion that Pistorius had a direct intention to kill Steenkamp — known as “dolus directus,” in Latin legal jargon.</p> <p>She went on to dispense with the charge of murder, dismissing that Pistorius could have subjectively foreseen the consequences of his actions — known as “dolus eventualis.” In other words, the court had reasonable doubt as to whether Pistorius foresaw that firing through the toilet door would kill Steenkamp.</p> <p>The confusing thing is what happened next. In discussing the charge of culpable homicide, Masipa said that Pistorius “acted too hastily,” “used excessive force” and was “negligent” when he fired through the door against a perceived burglar.</p> <p>Masipa acknowledged Pistorius’ fear of crime — a theme throughout the defense’s case — but said that in South <a href="">Africa</a> many people are victims of violence, yet they do not sleep with a gun next to them. Instead of grabbing his firearm, he could have shouted for help or called police or private security at his estate, she said.</p> <p>“I am not persuaded that a reasonable person in his circumstances would have fired four shots into that small toilet cubicle,” Masipa said.</p> <p>In describing Pistorius as negligent, Masipa appears to be saying that he foresaw the consequences of firing shots through the door at a suspected intruder. This seems to contradict her earlier dismissal of “dolus eventualis.”</p> <p>Masipa then adjourned court for the day — unexpectedly early. She finished delivering her verdict Friday, and will also rule on separate firearms-related charges faced by Pistorius.</p> <p>Legal experts in South Africa immediately took to Twitter and local TV and radio stations to debate Masipa’s judgment thus far, many of them critical of her reasoning.</p> <p>James Grant, a criminal law professor at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, <a href="" target="_blank">tweeted</a>: “State can appeal legal errors. Arguably a legal error to restrict dolus eventualis to Reeva when it's irrelevant who was behind the door.”</p> <p>Pierre de Vos, a South African constitutional law expert, wrote in an analysis that Pistorius’ murder charge acquittal “has puzzled some lawyers.”</p> <p>“To my mind the judge did not engage with this issue in sufficient detail to explain convincingly why she found that Pistorius did not have the dolus eventualis to kill an unknown person behind the toilet door,” he wrote on his blog.</p> <p>“She found that Pistorius did not foresee the killing. The question is whether the facts support such a finding.”</p> <p>Steenkamp’s family showed little outward emotion as they sat through the first day of the verdict. However, some of her friends in court appeared upset over the dismissal of the murder charge, and confused by the sudden adjournment for the day.</p> <p>“Just realized that I must have been sitting in the wrong courtroom on the wrong planet on days 1-41 as judgement day makes no sense!” tweeted Desi Myers, the mother of Steenkamp’s best friend.</p> <p>Pistorius, meanwhile, still seemed stressed and distraught, sobbing almost uncontrollably through some parts of the judgment. As he prepared to leave court Thursday, he sat for a long time in the courtroom with sister Aimee, wiping away his tears and saying prayers.</p> <p>There is no minimum sentence for culpable homicide, but a guilty verdict could carry jail time of up to 15 years — or as little as a suspended sentence. If Pistorius is found guilty, sentencing will take place at a later date.</p> Need to Know South Africa Thu, 11 Sep 2014 20:45:00 +0000 Erin Conway-Smith 6255272 at What Obama said vs. what the Islamic State heard <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> President Barack Obama laid out a four-point plan to 'destroy' the Islamic State. The extremists are likely hearing he has zero points. Here's a closer look. </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>It was a bravura performance. In a mere 14 minutes, President Barack Obama outlined a four-point &ldquo;comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy&rdquo; to &ldquo;degrade, and ultimately destroy&rdquo; a Sunni extremist force that&rsquo;s been plaguing the world for a decade.</p> <p>In general, it was a success, if the goal was to reassure an American public outraged by the beheadings of two US journalists, and constantly bombarded by dire warnings of another 9/11 &mdash; or worse.</p> <p>But how will the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) evaluate the strategy? Unlike most Americans, they know the facts on the ground, and are unlikely to be swayed by rhetoric.</p> <p>In 2009, when unveiling his new strategy for Afghanistan, Obama made what was arguably his greatest miscalculation of that war: He announced a surge and a withdrawal in virtually the same breath. Geared toward the president&#39;s domestic audience, news of the coming drawdown inadvertently cheered the Taliban as it undermined local Afghan confidence.</p> <p>So it makes sense to consider this latest speech from the point of view of Obama&#39;s target: the Islamic State. How will its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or his British-accented, black-masked henchmen interpret Obama&rsquo;s strategy?</p> <p>The strategy itself is unlikely to have the terrorists quaking in their boots just yet. They have persevered through worse &mdash; 150,000 US troops and the Sunni Awakening, for starters.</p> <p>As the Taliban was fond of saying: &ldquo;You have the watches, we have the time.&rdquo;</p> <p>Although, judging by the <a href="" target="_blank">Rolex he sports</a>, IS head al-Baghdadi seems to have both.</p> <p>Here&#39;s how the militant group may be making sense of the framework of the new anti-IS campaign, explored through key quotes from the president&#39;s Wednesday night speech.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption">The Pentagon has said F-18 jets are among the aircraft used to carry out its strikes in Iraq.</span> <span class="inline_image-src">Paula Bronstein/Getty Images</span></p> <h2> 1. &ldquo;First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists.&rdquo;</h2> <p>In addition to ramping up the US bombings already underway in Iraq, Obama made clear that he reserved the right to extend the raids to Syria, to &ldquo;hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.&rdquo;</p> <p>With America&rsquo;s overwhelming air power, this sounds like a safe bet.</p> <p>It will probably make IS angry &mdash; their <a href="" target="_blank">brutal video executions</a> were billed as reprisal for previous airstrikes. But they are unlikely to perceive the assaults as an existential threat.</p> <p>Many experts would agree with that assessment, saying <a href="" target="_blank">airstrikes alone cannot turn the tide</a>. The strategy may have worked up to a point <a href="" target="_blank">in Somalia</a>, but the lack of a viable local partner in Syria would be crippling.</p> <p>To make real progress, you need ground troops to hold areas cleared by bombs.</p> <p>Which brings us to the next point.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption">An Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighter fires at Islamic State militant positions.</span> <span class="inline_image-src">JM Lopez/AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <h2> 2. &ldquo;Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground.&rdquo;</h2> <p>Obama is sending another 475 servicemembers to Iraq, for a total of 1,600. They won&rsquo;t be combat troops, the president emphasized, but rather advisers and trainers to local forces. He insists that the US &ldquo;will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,&rdquo; but the slope is looking very slippery.</p> <p>The forces will come from the Kurdish militias and the Iraqi army &mdash; &ldquo;now that Iraq has formed a government,&rdquo; Obama said. But IS knows that Baghdad has been <a href="http://" target="_blank">unable to reach agreement</a> on the two most important security positions in that government &mdash; defense and interior &mdash; because of the sectarian squabbling that&rsquo;s plagued the country since 2006.</p> <p>IS fighters also know well how to exploit these tensions to their advantage &mdash; they&rsquo;ve been doing it for years.</p> <p>And it was the Iraqi army, let&rsquo;s not forget, that melted away like butter in the sun under an IS assault in June, despite an overwhelming numerical advantage. The Kurdish peshmerga put up a game effort, but could not prevent IS from taking big expanses of territory.</p> <p>To fight IS in Syria, Obama is asking for additional resources to train and equip &ldquo;the Syrian opposition.&rdquo; But in a country fractured by civil war, there&rsquo;s almost no hope of adequately vetting the mosaic of forces arrayed against IS. In addition, as experts warn, the various groups battling the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have fluid allegiances and rapidly shifting alliances. In this context, the US may end up arming the very extremist militants it&rsquo;s trying to defeat. A <a href="" target="_blank">new report</a> looking at seized IS weapons says that&rsquo;s already happening.</p> <p>So IS is almost certainly relishing the prospect of additional aid to Syria&rsquo;s rebels, who may be fighting them today, and aligned with them tomorrow. They could be forced to hand over their fancy weapons either way.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption">Syrian fighters from a group calling themselves &quot;The Right Bomb Squad.&quot;</span> <span class="inline_image-src">Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <h2> 3. &ldquo;Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks.&rdquo;</h2> <p>But counterterrorism will require deep cooperation from regional partners &mdash; some of them staunch enemies &mdash; which so far has been slow in coming. The US will have to light a fire under Turkey to encourage it to stem the flow of fighters into Syria through its territory. Turkey is also assisting in the flow of <a href="" target="_blank">contraband oil</a>, which contributes to IS&rsquo; rich coffers.</p> <p>IS is well organized and well funded. It speaks the language and knows the territory.</p> <p>The US will be trying to lead without getting too involved, which has not been a winning combination so far.</p> <p>Without resources on the ground, what can the US really do to disrupt the well-oiled mechanism that IS has already set up?</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption">Iraqis take water from a humanitarian aid convoy in Amerli on Sept. 1.</span> <span class="inline_image-src">JM Lopez/AFP/Getty Images</span></p> <h2> 4. &ldquo;Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who&rsquo;ve been displaced by this terrorist organization.&rdquo;</h2> <p>This is a winner at home &mdash; especially since many of the displaced are &ldquo;Christians and other religious minorities&rdquo; who command a lot of sympathy in the US.</p> <p>But IS is not going to be routed by refugee camps or MREs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> To conclude</h2> <p>Strategy aside, the IS trump card is the American public&rsquo;s reluctance to re-engage in a region that has proved so costly. Sentiment is running high in the wake of the killings of freelancers James Foley, who worked for GlobalPost, and Stephen Sotloff. But once US casualties start to mount, enthusiasm could fade very quickly.</p> <p>As CNN showed in a colorful, wonky <a href="" target="_blank">chart reflecting the audience response</a> to Obama&rsquo;s speech using &rdquo;Bing Pulse&rdquo; technology, the announcement of an additional 475 military personnel to be dispatched to Iraq sent the approval lines sharply south.</p> <p>The only thing that displeased viewers more was Obama&rsquo;s attempt to convince them that America was better off, safer, and stronger than at any time since 9/11.</p> <p>&ldquo;America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead,&rdquo; said the president in closing.</p> <p>His audience was not impressed.</p> <p>Many Americans support hitting the Islamic State &mdash; 71 percent said they supported airstrikes against Sunni insurgents and 65 percent backed expanding the strikes into Syria in a <a href="" target="_blank">Washington Post-ABC News poll</a>. Still, the country has little appetite for all-out war. Congress has a very limited ability to work with this president. And the commander in chief has a pretty big credibility problem in his own backyard.</p> <p>This may be keeping the leader of the free world up at night, but IS terrorists are most likely sleeping just fine.</p> Islamic State World Leaders Syria Want to Know War Iraq United States Thu, 11 Sep 2014 20:18:00 +0000 Jean MacKenzie 6255102 at New EU economic sanctions against Russia to take effect tomorrow <!--paging_filter--><p>European Union governments agreed on Thursday that new economic sanctions on Russia will take effect on Friday but held out the prospect of cancelling some or all of them next month if they believe a peace plan is working.</p> <p>EU ambassadors agreed in principle to the new sanctions last Friday but implementation was held up by a dispute over whether they should take effect now or whether the EU should give more time for a ceasefire in Ukraine to take hold.</p> <p>The ambassadors agreed at a meeting in <a href="">Brussels</a> that the new sanctions should take effect on Friday, when they will be published in the EU's Official Journal.</p> <p>"The ambassadors reserve the right to revise their decision at any time in response to events, on the basis of the opinions of relevant institutions," one EU diplomat said.</p> <p>European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said EU officials would conduct a review before the end of September of how a peace plan was working in Ukraine and, if Russia was complying, some or all sanctions could be lifted.</p> <p>"If the situation on the ground so warrants," he said, officials may submit to EU leaders "proposals to amend, suspend or repeal the set of sanctions in force, in all or in part."</p> <p>That enticement to Moscow to cooperate, while immediately imposing new measures, reflects impatience on the part of some leaders not to pull punches after less than a week of a truce but also concern among others, especially those most heavily dependent on Russian trade, not to provoke Moscow's retaliation.</p> <p>The breakthrough followed a phone call on Thursday involving Van Rompuy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, <a href="">French</a> President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Cameron's spokesman told reporters in London.</p> <p>"(They spoke) to discuss the subject of sanctions against Russia in the context of Ukraine and agreement to proceed with the implementation of the sanction package that was agreed earlier in the week," he said.</p> <p>"If Russia genuinely reverses course then of course the European Union and others will return to the subject but there unfortunately has been very little evidence so far and that is why you have the European Union going ahead."</p> <p><strong>Polish gas supplies down</strong></p> <p>Moscow would take comparable measures in response to new EU sanctions, Russian news agencies quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.</p> <p>That response could include caps on used car imports and other consumer goods, Kremlin economic aide Andrei Belousov was quoted by state-run RIA news agency as saying. But he added: "I hope common sense will prevail and we will not have to introduce those measures."</p> <p>The Ukraine conflict has provoked the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War and deepened fears over possible disruption to Russian gas supplies to Europe.</p> <p><a href="">Poland</a>'s state-controlled gas importer PGNiG said on Thursday it had received 45 percent less natural gas than it requested from Russia's Gazprom on Wednesday. A Gazprom spokesman said Russian gas flows to Poland were unchanged from the previous week.</p> <p>A spokeswoman for the European Commission said the EU was looking into the details and the possible cause of disruption. She said Ukrainian, Russian and EU officials would meet in Berlin on Sept. 20 to discuss gas supplies.</p> <p>Ukraine imports around half of its gas needs from Russia, and the EU meets a third of its demand through imports from Russia, with 40 percent of that gas flowing through Ukraine.</p> <p>The new EU sanctions are expected to put Russia's top oil producers and pipeline operators Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft on a list of Russian state-owned firms that will not be allowed to raise capital or borrow on European markets, an EU diplomat said.</p> <p>EU sanctions, however, do not include the gas sector and in particular state-owned Gazprom, the world's biggest gas producer and the biggest gas supplier to Europe.</p> <p>Battle-tank maker Uralvagonzavod, aerospace company Oboronprom and state-controlled United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) are also expected to face sanctions, according to a draft obtained by Reuters.</p> <p>The EU sanctions would prohibit the companies from raising capital in Europe via "financial instruments with a maturity exceeding 30 days," the draft document said.</p> <p>A further 24 people will be added to a list of those barred from entry to the bloc and whose assets in the EU are frozen.</p> <p>While <a href="">Germany</a> had been pushing to have the new sanctions implemented, several other EU countries had wanted to hold off because a ceasefire in Ukraine had been holding for some days.</p> <p>EU diplomats said countries with close ties to Russia such as <a href="">Italy</a>, Austria and Finland are reluctant to implement the new sanctions.</p> <p>Merkel said sanctions could always be suspended later if there was progress towards a peace plan for Ukraine.</p> <p>Ukraine's president said on Wednesday Russia had removed the bulk of its forces from his country, raising hopes for a peace drive now underway after five months of conflict in which more than 3,000 people have been killed.</p> <p>However, a NATO military officer said there were still around 1,000 Russian troops inside Ukraine and 20,000 near the border.</p> <p>The rouble hit a record low against the dollar on news of the new sanctions.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke in Berlin, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Writing by Adrian Croft; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Janet Lawrence)</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:10:21 +0000 Adrian Croft and Kylie MacLellan, Thomson Reuters 6254987 at The UK is panicking over next week’s Scottish independence vote <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As a 307-year-old marriage teeters on divorce, unionists resort to desperate measures. </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> — There once was a kingdom whose people lived together peacefully for more than 300 years, united by a common language, a shared monarch and a mutual love of tea and room-temperature ale.</p> <p>Then the northern lands grew restive. They wanted to govern themselves. A referendum was set for Sept. 18 on a simple question: Should Scotland be an independent country?</p> <p>For two years, the kingdom’s political leaders had treated their countrymen’s threats to leave as an amusing sideshow, as poll after poll showed the status quo in a comfortable lead.</p> <p>And then one day — this past Sunday, actually — they woke to realize that it had all gone a bit tatties o’wer the side.</p> <p>The most printable translation of that Scottish term is: we’re screwed.</p> <p>In one week, Britain faces arguably the greatest constitutional question in its history, and the polls are too close to call.</p> <p>For the first time since the referendum date was set in March 2013, a poll this past weekend showed the Yes (meaning, pro-independence) campaign with a 51 percent lead.</p> <p>On Wednesday night, the union side was back in front with 53 percent, said Peter Kellner, president of the polling firm YouGov.</p> <p>Next week’s vote really could go either way.</p> <p>“At this stage, because I’ve been so startled over the events of the last four weeks, I’m really unable to say,” Kellner said.</p> <p>For the scrappy, grassroots Yes camp, this sudden switch from underdog to frontrunner is a moment of elation.</p> <p>“The amount of people who have actually gone from no to yes is incredible,” said Darren Carnegie, 25, a Glasgow salesman and Yes campaigner known for canvassing solely in a tartan G-string.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@DaftLimmy</a> break the chains scotland - vote yes 18th sept. Scotland nuclear &amp; Tory free. At nato protest <a href="">#VoteYes</a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> — Darren Carnegie (@DarrenCarnegie) <a href="">September 4, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>For the Better Together side — the pro-union network that includes the country’s main political parties — it’s time to panic.</p> <p>Despite holding a 20-point lead as recently as a month ago, London’s political brahmins have bungled their case for solidarity to the point where a 307-year-old union could actually collapse on their watch.</p> <p>If Scotland votes yes, the UK loses one-third of its land mass and 10 percent of its GDP in one go.</p> <p>It is not an exaggeration to say that they are freaking out.</p> <p>The government has promised Scotland more powers of self-governance if they stay in the union — but admit they won’t have time to iron out the details until November.</p> <p>Despite pleas from the government, the Queen has refused to weigh in, with Buckingham Palace saying she’s “above politics.”</p> <p>The leaders of the UK’s three main political parties deployed this week to Scotland to argue that Scots are better off in the union — without undermining their usual claims that life in the UK is intolerable under any party but their own. </p> <p>Even an attempt to hoist the Scottish saltire up the flag pole at 10 Downing Street went <a href="">embarrassingly badly</a>.</p> <p>Using the most emotional terms that British politicians will allow themselves, and acknowledging his and his Conservative party’s enormous unpopularity north of the border, Prime Minister David Cameron urged a hand-picked audience in Edinburgh not to vote yes just because “you’re fed up with the effing Tories.”</p> <p>“I would be heartbroken if this family of nations was torn apart,” he said.</p> <p>In a last-ditch attempt to save the union, the government has offered a home rule package known here as “devo max” — control of virtually all affairs but defense and foreign policy.</p> <p>Ironically, this is exactly what most Scots originally wanted.</p> <p>After the Scottish National Party’s victory in the 2011 regional election, First Minister Alex Salmond — along with a majority of his compatriots — argued that his homeland should be granted greater control of its taxes, oil and other affairs.</p> <p>But Cameron wouldn’t allow a second question, about greater devolution, on the ballot.</p> <p>At the time he may have thought he was calling Salmond’s bluff. He may come to regret that approach.</p> <p>“Clearly they’re in a state of high panic and desperation,” Alex Salmond said Wednesday, relishing his rivals’ visible sweat.</p> <p>“But the difficulty for them is that so many people in Scotland will see this effort by Ed Miliband and David Cameron as too little too late.”</p> <p>The Yes campaign is rapturous. Its energy, grassroots support and even its website evokes the electricity surrounding US President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.</p> <p>Yes voters say the referendum is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give Scotland the chance to elect governments that reflect the values of its voters, who tend to be more left-wing than the UK as a whole. </p> <p>An independent Scotland would no longer have to send billions of pounds in oil money to government coffers in London, and could make its own decisions about how that money should be spent.</p> <p>The unionists counter that what they lack in novelty, they make up for in practicality.</p> <p>Scotland’s plan for economic independence is heavily dependent on North Sea oil, a commodity of vastly fluctuating price, and whose remaining supply no one is sure of.</p> <p>Though Salmond has insisted that an independent Scotland could keep the pound, the Bank of England disagrees. Many economists have warned of the dangers of maintaining a fiscal union without a political one, citing the euro zone crisis as proof.</p> <p>“I find it mind-boggling that Scotland would consider going down this path,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times Monday.</p> <p>Others find it mind-boggling that the unionists blew such a big lead.</p> <p>“The Better Together campaign has been hopeless,” Kellner told an audience at London’s Foreign Press Association Thursday.</p> <p>Rory Stewart, a half-Scottish, half-English MP for the border region, expressed his dismay as well.</p> <p>“I have been absolutely convinced for the last three years that this was the biggest question in the last three, if not 300 years,” he said.</p> <p>“The reality has been that until a week ago, the political culture in Britain didn’t have focus.”</p> World Leaders Want to Know United Kingdom Thu, 11 Sep 2014 14:45:21 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6254908 at Germany, Britain say they won't take part in airstrikes against IS in Syria <!--paging_filter--><p>The foreign ministers of <a href="">Germany</a> and Britain said on Thursday they would not be taking part in air strikes in <a href="">Syria</a> against the Islamic State militant group.</p> <p>German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told a news conference in Berlin that Germany has not been asked to take part in the air strikes and would not be participating. "To be quite clear, we have not been asked to do so and neither will we do so," Steinmeier said.</p> <p>His <a href="">British</a> counterpart Philip Hammond said Britain "supports entirely the US approach of developing an international coalition" against the Islamic State, whom he described as "barbaric," and said that in terms of how to help such a coalition "we have ruled nothing out."</p> <p>But, asked by Reuters after his meeting with Steinmeier about President Barrack Obama's proposal for air strikes against IS in Syria, Hammond replied: "Let me be clear: Britain will not be taking part in any air strikes in Syria. We have already had that discussion in our parliament last year and we won't be revisiting that position."</p> <p>He said the legal environment and "military permissiveness" in Syria and <a href="">Iraq</a> were very different.</p> <p>Meanwhile, any foreign intervention in Syria would be an act of aggression unless it is approved by Damascus, a Syrian government minister said on Thursday, after the <a href="">United States</a> said it was prepared to strike against Islamic State militants in the country.</p> <p>"Any action of any type without the approval of Syrian government is an aggression against Syria," Ali Haidar, Minister of National Reconciliation Affairs, told reporters in Damascus.</p> <p>"There must be cooperation with Syria and coordination with Syria and there must be a Syrian approval of any action whether it is military or not," he said.</p> Need to Know Middle East Thu, 11 Sep 2014 13:51:57 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6254885 at Targeted strikes have worked in Somalia. But are they a lesson for Syria? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> President Obama says US strategy against terrorism in Somalia offers a model for taking on the Islamic State. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tristan McConnell </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NAIROBI, Kenya &mdash; US President Barack Obama on Wednesday night announced an expanded campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, declaring the US &ldquo;won&rsquo;t hesitate&rdquo; to extend airstrikes against the group inside Syrian borders.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,&rdquo; Obama <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>.</p> <p>Obama also announced increased support for moderate Syrian rebels fighting the terror group inside Syria, in the form of weapons and training.</p> <p>The president <a href="">says</a> his plan to &ldquo;eradicate&rdquo; the Islamic State will be modeled on what the US has been doing for years in Somalia and Yemen. In his words, the &ldquo;strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines&rdquo; has been successful in breaking down the groups and limiting violent attacks.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s take a look at how the campaign in Somalia has worked, and what lessons it might hold for Syria and Iraq.</p> <p><strong>Obama on IS strategy: &ldquo;It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>This is technically true in Somalia, where deployed US forces aren&rsquo;t filling combat roles. But the reality of their work means they&rsquo;re intimately involved in ground campaigns against Al Shabaab terror targets. US Special Forces <a href="">are deployed in Somalia</a> and have been for years. In <a href="">recent </a><a href="">offensives</a> they have traveled with African Union and Somali troops providing advice and support on the ground in battles against Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda&rsquo;s Somali affiliate.</p> <p><strong><strong>Obama on IS strategy:</strong> &ldquo;This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL [the Islamic State] wherever they exist, using our air power&hellip;&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>Targeted assassinations of Islamic extremists have worked in Somalia, killing Al Qaeda fighters with a far smaller number of civilian casualties and drone misfires than have been reported in Yemen or Pakistan.</p> <p><a href="">The Bureau of Investigative Journalism</a> tracks <a href="">US covert war in Somalia</a>, Yemen and Pakistan and reckons there have been as many as 20 US <a href="">military strikes in Somalia</a> since 2001 killing up to 173 people, among them perhaps 50 civilians.</p> <p>Until 2007 most US operations in Somalia were surveillance and kidnapping in partnership with warlords on the US payroll.</p> <p>Targeted US airstrikes began after that, initially in support of an Ethiopian invasion to oust an Islamic administration that had taken charge in Mogadishu, and then to assassinate individuals identified as threats to the US or to have been involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.</p> <p>American missiles killed Shabaab leader <a href="">Ahmed Godane</a> on Sept. 1, and his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro in 2008. Other senior commanders have also been targeted and killed, including al Qaeda operative <a href="">Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan</a> in 2009, British foreign fighter <a href="">Bilal Berjawi</a> in 2012 and bomb-maker <a href="">Ibrahim Ali Abdi</a>.</p> <p>Not every raid is successful: US airstrikes missed Godane numerous times over the years, and in the wake of the 2013 <a href="">Westgate mall attack</a> in Nairobi a US Special Forces snatch operation failed to capture <a href="">Ikrima</a>, an al Qaeda plotter.</p> <p><strong><strong>Obama on IS strategy</strong>, continued: &ldquo;&hellip;</strong><strong>and our support for partner forces on the ground.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>Alongside the assassinations and airstrikes, the US has long funded and trained proxies and allies in Somalia. The US switched its support from mercenary Somali clan warlords to foreign armies after the Islamic Courts Union &mdash; and its armed wing, Al Shabaab &mdash;&nbsp;swept to power in 2006. US officials say that <a href="">around $700 million</a> has been spent on training and equipping the now 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia as well as parts of the <a href="">Somali National Army</a>.</p> <p>Troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Ethiopia are all involved in the fight against Al Shabaab and all benefit from the support of US and European paymasters and trainers.</p> <p><strong>The upshot</strong></p> <p>Al Shabaab is far from defeated. But the US strategy of targeted attacks on specific individuals, combined with financial and logistical support to allies sharing a common interest in defeating the group, has been an effective model. It&rsquo;s little wonder Obama is seeking to replicate it in the fight against the Islamic State.</p> <p>The big question will be whether a counterterror model based on close cooperation with a local government &mdash;&nbsp;as in Somalia and now in Iraq &mdash;&nbsp;can succeed inside Syria, where the Assad regime is terrorizing its own people and according to Obama &ldquo;will never regain the legitimacy it has lost.&rdquo;</p> Africa Counterterrorism Need to Know Syria War Middle East Thu, 11 Sep 2014 13:01:00 +0000 Tristan McConnell 6254790 at 'Comfort women' who serviced US soldiers demand justice <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> They are suing the South Korean government for allegedly encouraging the prostitution that ruined their lives. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p align="left">UIJEONGBU, <a href="">South Korea</a> — Growing up in hardship in this once-poor Cold War outpost, the young Kim Kyeong-sun decades ago met a job recruiter who promised her housing and a paycheck to support her family.</p> <p align="left">Her real job? A sex worker for American GIs.</p> <p align="left">In a former neon-lit shantytown right outside an army base entrance, the hostess eked out a living flirting and trysting with soldiers who rotated in and out of South Korea. Descending into a life of hard drugs and debt, she sought a way out through marriage with a customer. Nuptials with American servicemen were a common escape from indentured sex servitude, she recalled.</p> <p align="left">But her man later abandoned her and their child.</p> <p align="left">This "keejichon" — the Korean term for a gray and grubby “army base town” — has closed shop. But the prostitutes who once lingered here continue to be treated as untouchables, derided as “Yankee whores” and “UN ladies.”</p> <p align="left">“I have so many regrets. Life was so hard,” Kim said.</p> <p align="left">Who’s to blame?</p> <p align="left">It’s not entirely the fault of US soldiers, she argues, many of whom were young, fun-loving and surprisingly innocent men. Rather, Kim points the finger at another alleged culprit: the South Korean government, which she argues backhandedly encouraged this largely illegal trade.</p> <p align="left">She joins 121 other “comfort women” in a $1.2 million lawsuit that’s expected to go to trial soon.</p> <p align="left">Each former sex worker seeks close to $10,000 in damages, an apology, and an investigation into the government’s alleged encouragement of the activity. The compensation may be minimal, but more meaningful is the message that victory would send, potentially amounting to an admission of government responsibility for coerced prostitution that served the US military.</p> <p align="left">No one is claiming that government agents literally pimped out young women to horny American soldiers. South Korea formally banned the sex trade in the early 1960s, but permitted activities in designated red-light districts at certain times, say scholars and activists.</p> <p align="left">It wasn’t until 2004 that South Korea passed a law doling out harsher punishments for the procurement of prostitution, falling in line with international standards.</p> <p align="left">The lawsuit alleges that, since 1957, poor and undereducated South Korean women were pressured into prostitution in those government-designated zones around American military bases. Authorities should be legally held responsible because they turned a blind eye and therefore promoted the trade, according to the filing.</p> <p align="left">Former prostitutes say that the government rounded up bar workers — some of whom were girls in their mid-teens — and mandated that they undergo forced STD testing. The ones who tested positive for diseases were held against their will in quarantine and treatment centers, say the plaintiffs. “It was terrible. And we believe that the government was responsible for its negligence,” said Kim, the former sex worker, who was tested multiple times.</p> <p align="left">The government also sponsored etiquette and English-language classes for these hostesses, where they were praised for contributing to economic development and national security.</p> <p align="left">Scholars say the South Korean government, run by three dictators from the 1960s to 1980s, sought to please the US military out of fear that it would depart, while bringing in US dollars to buttress this struggling economy. In the past, the South Korean government has denied encouraging prostitution. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family would not comment on the litigation.</p> <p align="left"><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">The Sewol ferry disaster and South Korea's culture of shame</a></strong></p> <p align="left">In the early 1970s, the White House ordered a reduction of the American military presence in South Korea, pushing the sex trade into decline.</p> <p align="left">So why bring a controversial and scorching lawsuit forward now, decades after these women left the sex industry?</p> <p align="left">Previously, a history of stigma stopped them from going public, and the nation’s once-fledgling democracy movement didn’t pay attention to their plight until the late 1980s, say lawyers representing the case. “Only recently could they openly come out and talk about their experiences,” said Ha Ju-hee, a lawyer at the Justice and Peace Law Group, the nonprofit that represents the former prostitutes in court.</p> <p align="left">“Women who were involved in prostitution around US military bases have largely been ignored by our society until now,” she said. Planning for the litigation, and getting the victims on board, has taken a few years.</p> <p align="left">At first, many former “comfort women” were uneasy about coming forward, the attorney added. Later, “they realized that this issue isn't strictly a personal problem, but rather a structural one that stemmed from a lack of governmental support for their basic rights.”</p> <p align="left">But experts raise questions over the use of the term “comfort women” to describe these former sex workers, which they say is a way of raising public attention.</p> <p align="left">The label “comfort women” usually refers to sex slaves exploited by Japanese soldiers during World War II, a heated and sensitive topic because those elderly women, too, seek compensation from the Japanese government.</p> <p align="left"><a href="">Japan</a> committed a number of crimes against humanity during its occupation of the Korean peninsula before and during World War II, including the enslavement of Korean women to entertain its soldiers.</p> <p align="left">“My guess is that they chose to frame the US military prostitution issue to ride the coattails of the Japanese ‘comfort women’ or 'jeongsindae' movement,” said Katharine Moon, the Korea studies chair at the Brookings Institution, and the author of "<a href="">Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in Korea-US Relations</a>."</p> <p align="left">“They could have assumed — I have no proof — that there might be public sympathy or understanding, since the Japanese ‘comfort women’ issue is well-known nationally and internationally,” she said. "But I think it was a mistake to choose that term. It undercuts the jeongsindae case and confuses the public.”</p> <p align="left">In 1953, Korean War hostilities were halted, but military prostitution continues to rattle this nation, home to 28,500 American servicemen. Some left-wing South Korean lawmakers have found a cause celebre calling for a tougher stance on alleged crimes by US servicemen, and by accusing American bases of environmental degradation since the mid 1990s.</p> <p align="left">The movement reached its zenith a decade ago, when South Korea was home to a series of passionate, widespread protests calling on the American military to clean up its act — fueled in part by a 2002 tragedy in which an armored vehicle ran over two schoolgirls. Even today, a handful of nightlife hangouts bar American soldiers from their premises.</p> <p align="left">Over the past few years, the US Forces Korea, the official name of the military presence, has countered with an about-face, enforcing stronger curfews, the occasional alcohol ban, and harsher punishments for servicemen caught indulging in the sex trade.</p> <p align="left">Filipina and occasionally <a href="">Russian</a> women now populate the majority of the hostess bars of Dongducheon, Uijeongbu and Pyeongtaek, three cities that are home to notorious red-light districts for American personnel. Upon arrival to their new jobs, a few of these grungy saloons seize the women's passports — which according to some experts makes them trafficked.</p> <p align="left"><em>Max Kim contributed reporting.</em></p> Want to Know South Korea United States Thu, 11 Sep 2014 04:19:38 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6249692 at Spain is Africa's animal-trafficking gateway to Europe <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> One of the largest global illegal trades is 'less risky than smuggling drugs or women.' </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Koren Helbig </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>VILLENA, <a href="">Spain</a> — One terrified little monkey was found inside a tourist’s handbag during a routine airline carry-on luggage search, concealed with her tiny arms and legs strapped to her body with plastic.</p> <p>Another two chimpanzees lived locked in a dingy basement for more than 10 years.</p> <p>Today, these victims of Europe’s illegal wild animal trade amble happily around the shady enclosures of the <a href="">Primadomus Spain</a> primate rescue center, nestled in a small valley protected by low mountains that create a natural oasis of green in Spain’s hot and dusty southeast.</p> <p>The unassuming 450-acre complex, built six years ago near the small city of Villena and home to more than 60 primates rescued from abuse and neglect, has become a key player in the fight to halt illegal animal trading through the Iberian Peninsula.</p> <p>Separated from <a href="">Morocco</a> by only a narrow band of sea, Spain has emerged as the animal trafficking gateway to Europe from Africa, particularly through its busy southern port of Algeciras, near Gibraltar.</p> <p>Primadomus Spain communication and education spokeswoman Berta Alzaga says there are two main reasons for animal trafficking.</p> <p>“Tourists see an animal in the markets, especially in Morocco, and feel pity for it, they want to save it,” she says. “Or perhaps they are African immigrants living in Europe and they want an exotic pet from home. So they smuggle it into Europe, often on the ferry to Spain. The second is Mafia types, who have realized that smuggling animals is easier and less risky than smuggling drugs or women.”</p> <p>The illegal wildlife trade is booming globally. A 2012 <a href="">World Wildlife Fund report</a> estimates its worth at between $7.8 billion and $10 billion each year.</p> <p>Combined with illegal fisheries and timber trades, illicit wildlife trafficking comprises the fourth largest global illegal trade, after narcotics, humans and counterfeit products.</p> <p>While the buying and selling of wildlife across borders has been regulated since 1973 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the WWF found the current global approach is failing, “threatening the existence of some illegally traded species.”</p> <p>That’s only too evident for the small, furry and soft-eyed Barbary macaque, Africa’s only surviving primate north of the Sahara. The monkey was added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s <a href="">red list</a> in 2008 after its population plunged by more than half over 30 years, amid widespread habitat destruction and illegal poaching.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">A Barbary macaque and baby at a primate park in Algiers. (</span><span class="inline_image-src">Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>An estimated 300 babies are stolen from their wild mothers each year and illegally sold in markets across Morocco and Algeria, often openly.</p> <p>Many end up in Europe, caged in awful conditions. “Primates are not like dogs and cats,” Alzaga says. “They have the intelligence of a four- or five-year-old human child but they are five to eight times stronger than an adult human. They can break a bone with a bite.”</p> <p>“They cannot cope in a domesticated environment,” she adds. “As they get older, they start to show their natural instincts to be strong and dominant to establish themselves in the group hierarchy, and they attack their ‘human group.’ The owner doesn’t know how to handle them, so they lock them into a small cage and leave them.”</p> <p>Primadomus Spain, a branch of the esteemed Netherlands-based <a href="">AAP primate rescue center</a>, last year signed an agreement with Spain’s animal welfare arm Seprona to house primates confiscated by authorities.</p> <p>Previously, a lack of facilities meant seized animals often stayed with their owners in appalling conditions, even as prosecution was underway. Spanish police are also training dogs to detect animals illegally trafficked into the Iberian Peninsula via ferry in a bid to stem the tide.</p> <p>Primadomus Spain acts as a kind of halfway house, where abused and traumatized animals are slowly rehabilitated and re-socialized before being adopted, often by reputable zoos or wildlife parks.</p> <p>Although animal care team leader Olga Bellon hopes to one day help boost dwindling Barbary macaque numbers by releasing rescued animals back into the wild, she admits much work is first needed from the Moroccan and Algerian governments to protect the endangered monkeys from poachers and habitat destruction.</p> <p>“These animals often come from the wild, so if we can start the socialization process early, it could be possible [to release them],” she says, “but only if the governments are willing to work for the conservation of the species.”</p> <p>Prevention is Primadomus Spain’s ultimate aim.</p> <p>This summer, the organization blanketed the bustling port of Algeciras with warnings about plummeting Barbary macaque populations in hopes of dissuading tourists tempted in Africa’s markets.</p> <p>But the center knows success is a long way off.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Animal traffickers use same routes from LatAm as drug smugglers</a></strong></p> <p>Director Pilar Jornet believes thousands of primates live bleak existences in properties across Spain and wider Europe, often illegally and undetected.</p> <p>But watching as the center’s many chimps, apes and monkeys contentedly forage for fresh vegetables stashed each day around their spacious enclosures, she finds some comfort knowing that at least some illegal trafficking victims get the chance of a better life.</p> <p>“Imagine you have been living for 10 years in a dark, smelly, humid and lonely place and suddenly you have company, trees, sunshine and you are free to walk around a large enclosure,” she says. “It’s not complete freedom but we’re glad to give them a good life in the end.”</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">Primadomus Spain director Pilar Jornet. (</span><span class="inline_image-src">Koren Helbig/GlobalPost)</span></p> crime Want to Know Wildlife News Spain Thu, 11 Sep 2014 04:19:36 +0000 Koren Helbig 6249657 at US teen admits plotting to help Islamic State militants <!--paging_filter--><p>LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A US teenager pleaded guilty Wednesday to trying to help IS, in a deal with prosecutors requiring her to tell all she knows about the jihadist network in <a href="">Syria</a> and <a href="">Iraq</a>.</p> <p>Shannon Maureen Conley, 19, was arrested in April as she prepared to fly to Turkey to join a jihadist whom she had agreed to marry, and who was fighting in Syria.</p> <p>She was charged in July, but on Wednesday prosecutors announced a plea deal in which she admitted conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.</p> <p>In exchange prosecutors agree not to charge her with any other criminal activity, according to the plea deal.</p> <p>She also agreed to "cooperate and debrief (investigators) completely and truthfully... concerning her knowledge of other individuals involved in providing or attempting to provide material support... to any terrorist organization," it said.</p> <p>Conley was described as a quiet girl, but changed markedly in the six months before her arrest, after meeting the fighter, a 32-year-old Tunisian identified only as "Y.M.," according to court documents.</p> <p>A certified nurse aide, she allegedly agreed to get engaged to him and join him in Syria, where she offered to provide any help she could, whether as a nurse or otherwise.</p> <p>"Y.M." was with the Islamic State, which is backed by thousands of fighters and has captured swathes of Iraq in its drive to create an "Islamic caliphate."</p> <p>In preparation for her mission, Conley joined the US Army Explorers (USAE) last September to be trained in US military tactics and firearms, it is alleged.</p> <p>She was arrested at Denver airport on April 8 as she prepared to board a flight for <a href="">Istanbul</a>, via <a href="">Frankfurt</a>.</p> <p>Conley was initially charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, she had faced up to five years in jail or a $250,000 fine, or both.</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Syria Middle East Wed, 10 Sep 2014 20:59:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6254266 at Two Ebola vaccines for health care workers expected as soon as November <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A WHO expert group said on Friday that if proven safe, two Ebola vaccines could be made available to health care workers as early as November this year. </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>An expert group of technicians working on developing Ebola interventions suggested last Friday that two of the most advanced vaccines could be made available to health workers in November this year, provided they are proven safe.</p> <p>Safety studies for these vaccines – based on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV-EBO) and chimpanzee adenovirus (ChAd-EBO) – are currently being conducted in the <a href="">United States</a> and will be started in Africa and Europe by mid-September.</p> <p>“WHO will work with all the relevant stakeholders to accelerate their development and safe use,” announced a spokesperson to the media on Friday evening at the Geneva headquarters.</p> <p>The announcement followed a two-day consultation with more than 150 participants from fields of research and clinical investigation, ethics, legal, regulatory, financing, and data collection. The consensus was that as existing supplies of all the experimental medicines are limited – and there wouldn’t be sufficient supplies for at least several more months – the prospects of having vaccines available “look slightly better.” Among other possible measures, use of <a href="">survivors' blood</a> was also suggested as an alternative treatment plan.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p><strong>The vaccines</strong></p> <p>According to a background document prepared by the WHO ahead of the consultation, more than 1,300 people in parts of Africa have received the chAd3 vaccine for other diseases safely, but it hasn’t been tested for Ebola on humans yet. It is possible to obtain about 15,000 doses of the vaccine later this year.</p> <p>The vaccine comes from a chimpanzee adenovirus, and a single dose has protected animals from a lethal dose of the Ebola virus in the past, according to the WHO. Human trials will be conducted in the US this month, followed by <a href="">UK</a> and some African countries.</p> <p>Meanwhile the rVSV vaccine has been found to protect animals from the Ebola virus, after it was injected directly into their brains. The vaccine “aims to induce Ebola virus disease-specific immune responses,” according to the WHO memo, and is yet to be assessed to be safe for humans.</p> <p>This vaccine was successfully given to one laboratory worker several years ago, according to the WHO, after exposure to the Ebola virus. However this “does not prove the vaccine will be safe or protective,” and an early trial will be conducted in the US now to check its effectiveness on humans. Around 800 doses of this vaccine are already available.</p> <p><strong>The challenges</strong></p> <p>While efforts to evaluate and produce the vaccines are in full speed, safety of these two vaccines in humans is unknown, and a possibility of adverse side effects cannot be ruled out, besides questions on their actual efficacy. For this, WHO has identified several precautions that will need careful monitoring. These include creating a platform for transparent, real-time collection and sharing of data as well as the establishment of a safety monitoring board to evaluate the data from all interventions.</p> <p>Meanwhile, if found safe, these vaccines would also need proper infrastructure such as safely storing and transporting them in controlled temperatures before injecting them, which is already a challenge in some parts of Africa. They also need intravenous administration, which would mean adequate expertise in personnel who will be doing the vaccinations.</p> <p>Lack of funding is a major source of worry for the much-needed infrastructural support in combating the outbreak. The United Nations <a href="">recently announced</a> that at least $600 million in funding is required for getting medical supplies to the affected West African countries. Meanwhile, the White House <a href="">has requested</a> for $88 million to fight Ebola.</p> <p>The WHO’s <a href="">Ebola response roadmap</a> identifies at least $490 million needed immediately – an estimate that could change as the outbreak and response evolve. At present it covers the cost of deploying field personnel, diagnosis and creating more Ebola treatment centers to meet the needs of treating up to 20,000 infections over the course of the outbreak, said Paul Garwood, a WHO spokesperson.</p> <p>Within this, the estimated resource requirements for WHO’s coordination and crisis management work is $60 million from now till February 2015, said Garwood. “WHO has firm pledges of $4 million,” he said, but the global agency “currently faces a gap of nearly $56 million.”</p> <p>At least 750 additional international staff and 12,000 more national health workers are presently required for effective action against the spiraling epidemic, as per the WHO. Latest estimates suggest that at least 980 Ebola treatment center beds are required – 760 in Monrovia alone.</p> <p>In the last few weeks, fatality rate of the Ebola outbreak has risen to 53 percent. While more than 100 new cases were reported in Guinea in the past week, Liberia remains the most affected country, where more than 200 cases have been reported every week for the past three weeks. Incidents have also risen in Sierra Leone in the last couple of weeks, with more than 300 new patients registered there.</p> <p><strong>Huge toll on health workers</strong></p> <p>While the disease spreads rapidly and resources are limited, health workers have been <a href="">the most affected</a> by this Ebola outbreak. Till August 25, the disease has affected around 240 health workers, killing exactly half of them. These include prominent doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia.</p> <p>Lack of personal protective equipment has been one reason for this huge toll, and equally worrying is the few doctors available for treating patients. The three hardest-hit countries have only one or two doctors per 100,000 people as per WHO estimates, and the continuous spread of the disease among health workers has made it even harder to recruit medical support for the affected region, said WHO.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">This is the drug that may have cured two American Ebola patients</a></strong></p> <p class='u'></p> Health Global Pulse Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:28:00 +0000 Indrani Basu 6254015 at Ukraine says Russia is withdrawing forces from the east <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine's president said on Wednesday <a href="">Russia</a> had removed the bulk of its forces from his country, raising hopes for a peace drive now underway after five months of conflict in which more than 3,000 people have been killed.</p> <p>Moscow denies sending troops into eastern Ukraine to support pro-Russian rebels battling Ukrainian forces, despite what Kyiv and its Western backers say is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Moscow also denies arming the separatists.</p> <p>President Petro Poroshenko told a televised cabinet meeting Ukraine would remain a sovereign, united country under the terms of a peace roadmap approved last Friday, but said parts of the east under rebel control would get special status.</p> <p>"According to the latest information I have received from our intelligence, 70 percent of Russian troops have been moved back across the border," he said. "This further strengthens our hope that the peace initiatives have good prospects."</p> <p>However, Poroshenko said the ceasefire was not proving easy to maintain because "terrorists" were constantly trying to provoke Kyiv's forces.</p> <p>Ukraine's military recorded at least six violations of the ceasefire overnight but said there were no casualties. Five servicemen have been killed during the ceasefire, Ukraine says. A civilian was also killed at the weekend during shelling of the eastern port of Mariupol.</p> <p>Poroshenko said Ukraine was regrouping its forces in eastern Ukraine, not in preparation for a new offensive against the rebels, as the separatists themselves have suggested, but in order to defend territory from possible attack.</p> <p>The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin and Poroshenko were broadly satisfied with how the ceasefire, in place for nearly five days, was holding in Ukraine. The two leaders spoke by phone on Tuesday for the second time this week.</p> <p><strong>Olive branch</strong></p> <p>In his televised remarks, Poroshenko offered the rebels an olive branch by saying he would propose a bill next week offering "special status" to parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine they now control.</p> <p>But he was adamant in rejecting the separatists' demands for full independence for their regions and the kind of radical "federalization" favored by Russia.</p> <p>"The Minsk protocol envisages the restoration and preservation of Ukrainian sovereignty on all the territory of the Donbass (in eastern Ukraine), including that controlled by the fighters," Poroshenko said.</p> <p>"There is no question of federalization or separation of any Ukrainian territory."</p> <p>The conflict in Ukraine has plunged relations between Russia and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.</p> <p>Putin accused NATO on Wednesday of using the Ukraine crisis to "resuscitate itself." He also signed a decree taking direct charge of a commission that oversees Russia's defense industry as Moscow tries to reduce reliance on Western equipment.</p> <p>At a summit last week in Wales, NATO pledged support for non-member Ukraine in its efforts to tackle the separatist rebellion and announced plans to beef up the defense of alliance members in eastern <a href="">Europe</a>, including the Baltic republics.</p> <p>The European Union and <a href="">United States</a> have imposed economic sanctions against Russia over its role in Ukraine, prompting Moscow to retaliate by banning most Western food imports.</p> <p>The EU has prepared another wave of sanctions targeting Russia's banking and energy sectors but has held off implementing them to see whether the ceasefire holds.</p> <p>German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU's most powerful leader, said in Berlin that the 28-nation bloc should go ahead with the new sanctions, adding it could always suspend them later if there was progress towards a durable peace in Ukraine.</p> <p>Poroshenko signed a law on Wednesday allowing Ukraine to impose its own sanctions against Russian firms and individuals deemed to be backing the separatists in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>In <a href="">Prague</a>, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is monitoring the ceasefire, said it would be reasonable to allow more time for the peace process before imposing more sanctions against Russia.</p> <p>Didier Burkhalter, who is president of Switzerland, said the OSCE would soon deploy drones to monitor the ceasefire.</p> <p>In a speech in Berlin marking the 75th anniversary of the start of World War Two, <a href="">Polish</a> President Bronislaw Komorowski compared Russia's actions in Ukraine — which also include the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March — with 1930s-style nationalism and he urged the West to stand firm against Moscow.</p> <p>"We are witnessing the rebirth of nationalist ideology which violates human rights and international law under the cover of humanitarian slogans about protecting minorities," Komorowski told the Bundestag, <a href="">Germany</a>'s lower house of parliament.</p> <p>Human rights group Amnesty International said in Moscow it had documented evidence of war crimes by both sides and also repeated criticism of Russia's role in the conflict. </p> <p>(Additional reporting by Tom Grove and Timothy Heritage in Moscow, Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka in Prague, Stephen Brown and Noah Barkin in Berlin; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Janet Lawrence)</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:06:52 +0000 Pavel Polityuk and Gareth Jones, Thomson Reuters 6254085 at Obama announces his plan to 'degrade and ultimately destroy' Islamic State (LIVE VIDEO) <!--paging_filter--><p>President Barack Obama on Wednesday will announce his plan to defeat Islamic State militants in <a href="">Iraq</a> and <a href="">Syria</a> in a speech to Americans that the White House said will discuss direct US military action as well as support for forces fighting the group in both countries.</p> <p>The White House, in a statement ahead of the speech, said the <a href="">United States</a> "will pursue a comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic organization. The speech will be carefully watched for indications of how much Obama is prepared to intervene directly into Syria, riven by civil war and whose leader Washington has sought to dislodge.</p> <p>Obama is scheduled to speak at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT Thursday). Watch a live stream here:</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="500" scrolling="no" src="" width="635"></iframe></p> <p>He also will discuss his administration's effort to build international support for the US plan among allies and others in the region and work with Congress, the statement said.</p> <p>The White House has said Obama has the authority he needs to take action against the Sunni Muslim group, which is seeking to establish an Islamic state and has taken over huge swathes of land in Iraq and Syria. US officials have said there is no imminent threat of attack against the United States but the group has beheaded two US captives in the region in recent weeks.</p> <p>So far, the United States has carried out limited airstrikes in parts of Iraq aimed at destabilizing the organization and Obama has ruled out sending in US combat forces.</p> <p>Obama could order airstrikes on an expanded list of targets within Iraq and has been considering strikes in Syria as well, on condition that moderate rebels there be in a position to hold territory cleared of Islamic State fighters by the strikes.</p> <p>Obama came close to direct military action a year ago in Syria to support what Washington considers more moderate rebel forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad, but held off given strong opposition in Congress. After disgust in America over the videotaped beheading of two American journalists by Islamic State in the past month, resistance in Congress has diminished.</p> <p>But Washington’s failure since then to support the moderate groups has left them weakened and it is unclear how the United States can build up such forces quickly enough to create a useful military ally on the ground.</p> <p>Obama has shown a willingness to intrude militarily into Syrian space with an unsuccessful operation in July to try to rescue Americans held hostage by Islamic State, and he said in an interview that aired on Sunday that Washington was prepared to hit the group’s leaders wherever it could.</p> <p>Iraq's formation of a relatively inclusive government on Monday has cleared the way for wider US action in support of Iraqi armed forces and Kurdish forces in a country where the United States was engaged in a bitter military struggle for nine years after overthrowing President Saddam Hussein. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday to meet with Iraqi leaders and discuss efforts to combat Islamic State.</p> <p>Polls this week show the majority of Americans support action against the militants.</p> <p>More than 70 percent of Americans support airstrikes in Iraq and 65 percent support using them in Syria, a Washington Post-ABC News opinion poll found. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll showed 61 percent said military action against the group was in the interest of the United States.</p> <p>Still, Obama, who was elected in 2008 on a promise to get US troops out of Iraq and did so by the end of 2011, must make his case to the public and build support from Congress.</p> <p>Obama met with key lawmakers on Tuesday and administration officials are expected to give wider briefings on Thursday. US lawmakers have been mixed on whether Congress must authorize any wider US military action in the region.</p> <p>Representative Mike Rogers, the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN that Obama's speech was critical and called it "a good start" to combating a serious threat, saying the president needs to leave room for other possible action, such as sending in special US forces.</p> <p>Senator Angus King, a Maine independent and member of the Senate intelligence and armed service committees, cautioned it will be impossible to oust the militants with air power alone.</p> <p>"There are going to be boots on the ground. The only question is whether they're American or Iraqi or Kurdish," he told CNN. "The real question we have to face is: is the safe haven argument sufficient to justify significant American engagement."</p> <p>(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Trott)</p> Need to Know United States Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:53:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6253975 at