GlobalPost - Home http://www.globalpost.com/feed/dispatch/fullbn/26364/18797 C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en Germany goes for World Cup history. No pressure. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/140712/germany-world-cup-history-argentina <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Second-best just won't cut it for Germany anymore. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">Germany</a> — Across Berlin this week, German flags droop from apartment balconies, flutter from the windows of passing cars and festoon the fronts of driving schools, kebab shops, party stores and bars.</p> <p>It's a rare release for Germany's pent-up patriotism following their 7-1 drubbing of <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/brazil">Brazil</a> and going into Sunday's World Cup final against <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/argentina">Argentina</a>.</p> <p>But the uncharacteristic expressions of national pride have put even more pressure on the German side to make history.</p> <p>In every World Cup since 2002, Germany has at least made it to the semifinals, but has yet to bring home the trophy.</p> <p>“When a team comes so close to the title so many times, the desire for a victory gets stronger and stronger,” said Rafael Wieczorek, director of Coerver Coaching in Germany and Austria.</p> <p>“At the same time, this team is considered by fans and experts to be the best German team since 1990, perhaps since 1972. So the expectations are very high.”</p> <p>A favorite to win the tournament from the beginning, by trouncing Brazil, Germany convinced virtually everyone that the final is in the bag.</p> <p>Yet as press reports this week revealed that the German team had made a <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup-2014/germany-went-easy-brazil-second-3834359" target="_blank">halftime pact not to embarrass Brazil</a> too badly after going up 5-0, German coach Joachim Löw and company have strived to emphasize “focus” and “concentration” — perhaps fearing that the blowout may already have <a href="http://www.dw.de/germany-ready-for-final-step-at-world-cup/a-17780417?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf" target="_blank">turned high expectations into hubris</a>.</p> <p>Symbolism only heightens those expectations further. Though the former West Germany has won the tournament three times, most recently in 1990, a win by Löw's side would mark the first victory for unified Germany in history.</p> <p>With immigrant stars like Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira, among others, the team represents an unified, multicultural Germany where the foreign-born are no longer considered outsiders. Five prominent players on the national squad were either born abroad or would be eligible to play for another nation — mirroring Germany's broader effort to attract, rather than exclude, immigrants with measures like a liberal <a href="http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/on-and-off-the-football-pitch-germany-is-at-ease-with-itself" target="_blank">dual citizenship policy</a>.</p> <p>Moreover, in a country where hanging the flag would normally get you labeled a “right winger,” if not worse, the match comes as the nation finally seems ready to slough off the memory of World War II and demand to be treated as a “normal country” — with political might and military responsibilities to match its economic importance.</p> <p>In recent months, Germany's president and defense minister have each pushed for a greater German military role in foreign conflicts, even as Germany's role in the Ukraine crisis cements Chancellor Angela Merkel's position as the de facto leader of Europe.</p> <p>At “Zur Traube,” a neighborhood bar in the heart of Berlin, confidence is running particularly high. Ordinarily, the joint supports one of the Bundesliga teams, with free shots of liquor for every goal. But like every other bar in the city, this week it is draped with the black, red and yellow of the national flag.</p> <p>“If Germany wins, this place will explode with joy,” says bartender Gerd Hettenhausen. “Everybody drinks more when Germany wins.”</p> <p>In that case, there will be a victory parade in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, where the so-called <a href="http://www.visitberlin.de/en/event/07-13-2014/public-screening-2014-fifa-world-cup-brazil" target="_blank">&ldquo;Fan Mile&rdquo; is already draped</a> with symbols of national pride.</p> <p>But if the team loses — making it five losses out of eight trips to the finals — there won't be a reception at all, according to off-field manager <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/jul/11/view-from-germany-world-cup-ambassadors" target="_blank">Oliver Bierhoff</a>.</p> <p>In other words, second-best won't cut it for Germany anymore — and that pressure could make winning just a wee bit harder.</p> Argentina Entertainment Want to Know Germany Culture & Lifestyle Sat, 12 Jul 2014 17:03:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6203288 at http://www.globalpost.com Bombs make ghost towns out of southern Israel http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140712/ashkelon-ashdod-gaza-conflict-hamas-bombs <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ashkelon, an Israeli seaside town, became the focus of Gazan attacks on Sunday after a relatively quiet weekend. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Noga Tarnopolsky </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ASHKELON, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/israel-and-palestine">Israel</a> — Sunday, the first day of the work week, started with a boom in this quiet seaside town. Not a boom, actually, more like: Boom! Boom! Boom! BOOM!</p> <p>The first three were the heart-stopping but by now familiar and comforting sounds of Israel's anti-missile system, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/121119/iron-dome-israel-gaza-missile-defense-elections-death-toll">Iron Dome</a>, intercepting rockets launched from Gaza high up in the sky.</p> <p>The last, more like a small earthquake, was a rocket the system missed, hitting ground in the middle of town. According to Radio of the South, 16-year-old Yariv Levy was critically injured, with several others wounded. A few hours later, another rocket hit ground. Then, another hit a home.</p> <p>In Gaza, Saturday night was one of the bloodiest in the now six day-long conflict between Hamas, the Islamic governing organization, and Israel.</p> <p>An Israeli air force strike against the home Gaza police chief Tayseer Al-Batsh left 21 people dead and 35 wounded. The gravely injured Al-Batsh survived and underwent seven hours of surgery. </p> <p>Ashkelon, after a relatively quiet weekend, on Sunday turned into the focus of Gazan attacks.</p> <p>"Nonstop sirens," mused Ido Ozeri, 27, before adding, suddenly, "Oh, man, I think that fell right near here. That wasn't Iron Dome." </p> <p>For six months, Ozeri and his three partners worked to turn an old gym into a sparkling new restaurant/bar on Ashkelon's Delilah Beach. Thanks to Israel's economic boom, this pretty Mediterranean seaside town has begun to emerge from decades of sleepiness, and Ozeri was sure his chic tasteful pub, <a href="http://www.facebook.com/archiepub" target="_blank">Archie</a>, would be a success.</p> <p>But that was before. On Friday, Ozeri, an intense 27-year-old, looked around at his sparsely filled bar with the eyes of a worried parent.</p> <p>"We're down 90 percent I'd say," he said. "Marin, what do you say?" he asked his No. 1 waitress, carrying a tray full of beers. "At least 70 percent down," she replied.</p> <p>Israel has been under a <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/war/140711/gaza-crisis-airstrikes-live-blog">barrage of hundreds of missiles</a> in the past week, since the beginning of Israel's Operation Protective Edge — an air force operation aimed at disabling Hamas or possibly eradicating it, as suggested by Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.</p> <p>Israel has hit more than <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140713/gaza-toll-hits-165-israel-campaign-enters-6th-day">1,320 targets in Gaza</a> as part of the offensive.</p> <p>In past month of tensions leading up to violence, the US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace process has collapsed, a Palestinian unity government formed between Hamas and the governing faction, Fatah, and finally, four teenage boys were kidnapped and murdered.</p> <p>Ozeri found out Ashkelon was in trouble last Tuesday, when just as happy hour was getting started a plain-clothes police officer burst into Archie and shut the place down. That was the first time Islamic terrorists from Gaza tried to infiltrate Israel from the sea, and an informal state of siege was imposed on southern communities while the manhunt was on.</p> <p>Ashkelon, Israel's southernmost beach before you get to Gaza, is, like Ashdod a few miles north, now something of a ghost town.</p> <p>At the Greg's coffee shop in Ashdod, a couple enjoyed what appeared to be a first date. A few TV crews filled up on coffee. </p> <p>At the vacant lobby of the Holiday Inn in Ashkelon, Mauro Gandolfi, 51, looked at towards the pool. "This is so weird. Two weeks ago it was so full, you couldn't hear anything. And now there is no one."</p> <p>It was 93 degrees Farenheit on a bright, sunny Saturday. For some reason, at 3 p.m., Ashkelon remained the only southern Israeli city not echoing with the sounds of sirens. </p> <p>But with constant glances at siren apps (red pulsing apps that confirm the siren you hear anyway) everyone was ready for the next mad rush to a shelter.</p> <p>That discipline is credited with saving the lives of the public at an Ashdod gas station Friday, with CCTV video showing people quickly filing into an underground shelter as sirens wailed, seconds before a tanker burst into flames. </p> <p>For the few hours before it was hauled away, the hulking black carcass of the tanker attracted media attention from around the world. A thin but constant stream of locals filled the empty, broad boulevards dotted with date trees out to the sea.</p> <p>The only person wounded in the attack was Ilan Solomon, a 61-year-old Israeli disabled war veteran, who was unable to move quickly enough. </p> <p>The area around Ashdod and Ashkelon still holds the aura of danger. </p> <p>Dan and Karen Evans, a couple from Portland, Oregon, hauled a 12-pack of liter-and-a-half bottles of mineral water into their hotel room. </p> <p>It is not their first time in Israel, or under missiles. The Evanses lived here between 2009 and 2012, the last time Dan directed a team of architects and engineers building one of Intel's facilities. Now, another one is going up, and they are back.</p> <p>"My team is meeting up for the first time tonight, right here," Dan said. "We're starting work. It's fine. People here in Ashkelon know how to handle themselves. By now we all know that these things spike and go down quite quickly."</p> <p>That may or may not be the case. Israeli analysts compete in their attempts to predict when Israel will commence a ground invasion into Gaza.</p> <p>George Hazout, 53, an Ashkelon cabbie, reported seeing "columns of tanks heading south like I have never seen in my life."</p> <p>"They're not waiting for anything," he said. "It's gonna happen tomorrow." An Israeli official, overhearing, said "I heard it would be next week."</p> <p>Ozeri, the bar owner, once served as a combat soldier in Gaza. Late Friday he recalled an "awful incident" in which a commander all but ordered him to shoot at the legs of two young boys playing with a kite. The commander thought the boys were a signal of a planned attack.</p> <p>"I just saw two kids with a kite, no clear threat," Ozeri said. "But what do I know, maybe it is a signal?"</p> <p>Ozeri told his commander he missed. "I just couldn't see myself leaving these kids with busted kneecaps for the rest of their lives. ... I shot at the sand, to scare them away. But you never know. That's the ugly part of war."  </p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Military Israel and Palestine Sat, 12 Jul 2014 14:12:00 +0000 Noga Tarnopolsky 6203202 at http://www.globalpost.com Indonesian voters are worried that fraud will pick their next president http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politics/elections/140711/indonesian-voters-worry-fraud-will-pick-their-next-president <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Supporters of both candidates claim that pollsters have taken sides. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence-France Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p class="ng-scope">With both presidential candidates declaring victory in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/indonesia">Indonesia</a>'s knife-edge election this week, anxiety is growing that fraud and dirty tactics could twist official results due to be announced later this month.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Jakarta governor Joko Widodo and his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto, used different unofficial tallies Wednesday to claim victory in the world's third-biggest democracy.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Now more than 130 million ballot papers from the vast archipelago that sprawls the distance of London to New York are being counted and collected, and then sent on to the capital Jakarta. The official result will be announced by July 22.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Both camps have sent hundreds of thousands of monitors to watch the ballots' each and every move in a country where vote-buying and the bribing of government officials is rampant.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"The most vulnerable part of the Indonesian election is the counting process," Jakarta-based independent analyst Paul Rowland told AFP.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Analysts believe that Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi and seen as a break from the autocratic Suharto era, has the more credible claim to victory, and as such is the most vulnerable to being targeted by such fraud.</p> <p class="ng-scope">At least eight polling agencies said he was leading Prabowo by between two and seven percentage points.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Most of these survey institutes have accurately predicted the results of Indonesian national elections since 2004, including April's parliamentary polls.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Prabowo, a top military figure in Suharto's time who has admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists before the strongman's downfall, relied on data from four less well-known polling agencies.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Widodo has urged his supporters across the country to closely monitor the vote-counting process and ensure it is "honest and clean without intervention by any parties."</p> <p class="ng-scope">Rowland said that Widodo was "challenging the local election officials to make sure they don't accept money to change the numbers."</p> <p class="ng-scope">There has been no suggestion that his opponents have tried to carry out any fraud.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Prabowo's enormously wealthy brother who has helped bankroll his campaign, insisted that the ex-general also felt his campaign was under threat from Widodo's team.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"Frankly we are quite worried ... our votes are being threatened," he said.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"We are not the only ones with money."</p> <p class="ng-scope"><strong>Call for calm</strong></p> <p class="ng-scope">For transparency, votes are counted in public at polling stations, sometimes in front of large crowds and party witnesses.</p> <p class="ng-scope">The votes are tallied on a form visible to onlookers, then handed to village chiefs before being collected at a higher administrative level and eventually making their way to Jakarta.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Even after the result is announced by the election commission, the loser can challenge it, and analysts say both candidates will likely do so if they do not emerge the victor.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Any challenge will go to the Constitutional Court, which must declare a winner by Aug. 24, ahead of the inauguration of a new president in October.</p> <p class="ng-scope">The worst-case scenario following a decision by the commission or court is violence breaking out. The country was plagued by unrest during its transition to democracy in the late 1990s, but has enjoyed more than a decade of peace and stability.</p> <p class="ng-scope">President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called both candidates to his residence outside the capital late Wednesday following their declarations of victory, and urged them to restrain their supporters from staging celebratory parades.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Both camps claim that polling agencies have taken sides.</p> <p class="ng-scope">The four main pollsters used by the Prabowo camp are little known and are coming under increased scrutiny, with the body that oversees pollsters in Indonesia reportedly raising concerns about their results.</p> <p class="ng-scope">But more reputable agencies too have vocally sided with Widodo. Rizal Sukma, executive director of Jakarta-based think-tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has advised his campaign.</p> <p class="ng-scope">However, Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy, said: "I think we can say pretty clearly the results used by Prabowo are not from respected polling firms.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"They are not particularly well established and they don't have track records of accuracy like others do."</p> Indonesia Need to Know Elections Politics Fri, 11 Jul 2014 16:49:40 +0000 Agence-France Presse 6202610 at http://www.globalpost.com Chatter: Hamas targets Ben Gurion airport http://www.globalpost.com/node/5942065 <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> More than 100 Palestinians have been killed, Ukraine forces take a hit and John Kerry rushes to Afghanistan. Also the world's saddest penguin lives in Norway. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5942065 at http://www.globalpost.com Here's what Australia can learn from Uganda about handling refugees http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140710/australia-can-learn-uganda-refugees <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A leading refugee expert debunks Tony Abbott’s refugee myths. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lyn Eyb </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BORDEAUX &mdash; The world is sitting by and watching in a state of disbelief at the &ldquo;abhorrent&rdquo; asylum policies of the Australian government, according to one of the world&rsquo;s leading refugee and migration experts.<a href="http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/people/academics/alexander-betts"></a></p> <p> Alexander Betts, professor in refugee and forced migration studies at the UK&#39;s University of Oxford, says it&rsquo;s time for the United Nations and Australia&rsquo;s &ldquo;silent majority&rdquo; to speak out against human rights abuses under Prime Minister Tony Abbott.</p> <p> &ldquo;At the moment I think there&rsquo;s almost a sense that because Australia is an otherwise liberal democratic state, somehow there&rsquo;s a disbelief that its asylum policies can be quite as abhorrent as they are,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p> Betts contends that despite Tony Abbott&rsquo;s anti-asylum seeker propaganda, refugees could actually be good for Australia, because their skills and entrepreneurial spirit could help create jobs and strengthen the economy.</p> <p> Remarkably, he points to the refugee policy of Uganda &mdash; a country whose people on average <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD">earn less in a year</a> than Australians do in a week &mdash; as a model for what Abbott should do.</p> <p> The prime minister&rsquo;s current strategy is one of rejecting and demonizing foreigners in need of shelter. His ongoing campaign to &ldquo;<a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140117/australia-sorry-indonesia-intrusion-vows-stop-boats">stop the boats</a>,&rdquo; however, reached new lows this month with confirmation that Australia had handed asylum seekers <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28189316">back to Sri Lanka</a> &mdash; the country from which they had sought refuge and one with a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbl-Elax9uo">questionable human rights record</a> of its own.</p> <p> The UN described the move as &ldquo;<a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48216#.U70xTFaQcUo">deeply disturbing</a>,&rdquo; while refugee advocacy groups issued a <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140707/high-court-blocks-australia-handing-back-153-asylum-seeker">High Court challenge</a> to try to prevent a second boatload from suffering the same fate.</p> <p> Despite his own unpopularity, a <a href="http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/07/08/essential-approval-rises-for-asylum-seeker-policy/">recent poll</a> suggests Abbott&rsquo;s hardline stance on asylum <a href="http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/07/08/essential-approval-rises-for-asylum-seeker-policy/">remains popular</a> among some Australians, with 36 percent approving of the government&rsquo;s asylum policy.</p> <p> <strong>The role model: Uganda</strong></p> <p> In contrast to Australia, Uganda gives refugees the right to work and freedom of movement. They have access to public services, including health centers and schools. And the government employs health workers and teachers to assist in settlement.</p> <p>Betts is the lead author of a new report on Uganda that challenges the myth &mdash; perpetuated by Abbott and commonly accepted in Australia &mdash; that refugees are an economic burden.</p> <p> The study, <a href="http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/refugeeeconomies">&quot;Refugee Economics: Rethinking Popular Assumptions</a>,&quot; found that refugees in Uganda are using economic freedom and social support to become self-sufficient. Rather than taking the jobs of locals, they are actually acting as job creators.</p> <p> &ldquo;Over 20 percent of the refugees we spoke to in Kampala were entrepreneurs employing other people, and of those that employed other people, 40 percent of their employees were Ugandan nationals,&rdquo; says Betts.</p> <p> &ldquo;If we give them freedom and opportunities, refugees can make a positive contribution. If we restrict their ability to contribute, then we are likely to create a notion that they are a drain socially, politically, and economically.&rdquo;</p> <p>Uganda faces a far greater influx of refugees than Australia; in <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e483c06.html">July 2013 alone</a>, Uganda accepted more than 66,000 refugees fleeing civil unrest in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. &nbsp;</p> <p> By comparison, <a href="http://unhcr.org.au/unhcr/images/Asylum%2520Trends%25202013.pdf">UN figures show</a> that throughout all of 2013, Australia received just 24,300 applications for asylum.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politics/140423/11-ways-prime-minister-tony-abbott-ruining-australia-and-threatening-the-planet" target="_blank">11 ways Tony Abbott is ruining Australia and threatening the whole world</a></strong></p> <p>&ldquo;We need to get things in perspective and recognize that the overwhelming majority of refugees &mdash; over 80 percent &mdash; are in the developing world,&rdquo; says Betts.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;It is often the countries with the least capacity that actually take on the greatest degree of responsibility to protect and assist refugees. The ability of the Ugandan government to contribute in terms of its economic situation is far lower than Australia&rsquo;s, but they&rsquo;ve taken pioneering steps with regard to refugee policy.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="http://www.asrc.org.au">Australian Asylum Seeker Resource Centre</a> CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis agrees.</p> <p>&ldquo;We believe that asylum seekers and refugees are among the most resilient, entrepreneurial people on the planet,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p> Australia needs to create an infrastructure that allows refugees to overcome barriers to employment and self-reliance so they can thrive, he adds.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> &ldquo;The focus shouldn&rsquo;t be on charity, but on supporting asylum seekers to use their skills, experiences, resilience and ingenuity,&rdquo; says Karapanagiotidis.</p> <p> He says the current Australian system is unfair and discriminates against so-called &quot;boat people.&quot;</p> <p> &ldquo;While asylum seekers who arrive by plane are able to work while they await the outcome of their refugee application, many asylum seekers living in the community who have come to Australia by boat are not afforded work rights,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p> &ldquo;Asylum seekers in general are not eligible to access Centrelink [employment benefits], and those who are permitted to work can&rsquo;t access <a href="https://employment.gov.au/job-services-australia-jsa">Job Services Australia</a> support to help them find employment, nor can they access apprenticeship and traineeship schemes.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Betts says the deprivation of the right to work is intended as a deterrent, &ldquo;but it doesn&rsquo;t work &mdash; it doesn&rsquo;t stop people arriving.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Given how many of these people arriving by boat are refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention definition, the sooner we can enable them to be self-reliant and make contributions through their work and their taxes, the earlier we can enable them to become part of the community.&rdquo;</p> <p>He says more research is needed to make an economic case for refugees.</p> <p>&ldquo;The kind of data we now have for Uganda just doesn&rsquo;t exist in the Australian context,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very rare that economists have done research on refugees and asylum seekers, but it&rsquo;s very important [because] if we want to challenge the rhetoric of governments, we can show these assumptions and claims to be false with that data and evidence.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fixing Australia</strong></p> <p> Betts insists that Australians should reject Abbott&rsquo;s policies. &ldquo;Politics needs to give voice to the country&rsquo;s silent majority, and that takes political courage and leadership by elected politicians to ... mobilize that set of people who recognize that it&rsquo;s not acceptable to have refugees under international law in danger at sea and not having access to the territory of another state when they&rsquo;re seeking international protection.</p> <p>&ldquo;Organizations like UNHCR [the UN&rsquo;s refugee agency] and international NGOs [need to] make it clear that the policies being adopted by the Abbott government are a violation of human rights and international refugee law.&rdquo;</p> <p> He said it was also the responsibility of the country&rsquo;s allies &mdash; including the United States and the United Kingdom &mdash;&nbsp;to quietly condemn via diplomatic channels Australia&rsquo;s &ldquo;clear violation of the minimum standards of human rights we expect of a civilized country.&rdquo;</p> Want to Know Asia-Pacific Aid Indonesia Political Risk Fri, 11 Jul 2014 04:33:05 +0000 Lyn Eyb 6201232 at http://www.globalpost.com Q&A with UN adviser Amina Mohammed: MDGs 'not deep enough' http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/global-pulse/amina-mohammed-mdgs <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals nears, the special adviser to the United Nations' Secretary-General reflects on the 'unfinished business' left to tackle </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tracy Jarrett </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>With the United Nations Millennium Development Goals—the eight international development goals established to promote global health, eradicate poverty, and achieve universal education—set to expire in 2015, questions remain on how successful implementation of the goals have been on the ground. Earlier this week, in an annual <a href="http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2014%20MDG%20report/MDG%202014%20English%20web.pdf">report</a> published on the MDGs, the UN concluded that “substantial progress has been made in most areas, but much more effort is needed to reach the set targets.” </p> <p>Reporter Tracy Jarrett sat down with Amina Mohammed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning, at last week's Partnership for Maternal, Newborn &amp; Child Health <a href="http://www.who.int/pmnch/about/governance/partnersforum/pf2014/en/index1.html">conference</a> held in Johannesburg to learn more about the successes and failures of the MDGs and how these goals will be sustained beyond 2015.</p> <p><strong>GlobalPost:</strong> What has been learned from the Millennium Development Goals that were set in 2000?</p> <p><strong>Amina Mohammed:</strong> The good thing the MDGs did was really bring the development agenda together as one.</p> <p>We learned lots of lessons. For instance, trying to resolve the issue of maternal mortality was more than just having primary health care centers equipped. You needed much more infrastructure, you needed access for the poor, they needed good midwives, we needed analysis of what was happening, we needed money on a regular basis – not just one off – and we needed to do this at scale. We were not talking about a few thousand people, we were talking about millions.</p> <p>The MDGs were not deep enough for us to really deal with the scale of the issues, and that’s why you see mixed blessings today. Some goals we’ve been able to achieve and others are still unfinished business, and I think that for us, the lessons of the MDGs is what is possible and that’s been a wonderful lesson.</p> <p><strong>GP: </strong>Where are we today in terms of the MDGs?</p> <p><strong>AM: </strong>We have seen countries grow and improve, but it’s insufficient. The difference between the “haves” and the “have nots” has grown larger, and we have to do something about that.</p> <p><strong>GP: </strong>What are the global goals past 2015?</p> <p><strong>AM:</strong> I think first and foremost, the starting block is the unfinished business of the MDGs. We want to use sustainable development conceptually, to tackle these goals. To say we’ve got to have social inclusion, economic development has to be with people – and with young people – in making sure we have transformation for all. If you see the articulation of the 17 <a href="http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/focussdgs.html">Sustainable Millennium Goals</a> so far, the first six or seven are MDGs and that is really a response by member states to the clarion call to the huge outreach that we’ve had with the MDGs. <span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">When you ask young people, and for the first time we have done that, the top three or four issues are: health, education, jobs, and responsive government.</span></p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> How do countries turn the MDGs and the new post 2015 goals into tangible programs that work on the country level?</p> <p><strong>AM: </strong>Because a sustainable form of governance is a different way of tackling poverty eradication, it won’t be business as usual. I think in making these goals real, they should be an integral part of what we see in a country, and they should be seen as a set of goals, a set of targets, that lift the ambition of countries and motivate them to be part of a global partnership.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> What role does government accountability play in sustaining the MDGs and post 2015 goals?</p> <p><strong>AM:</strong> Let’s remember this is a universal agenda. There are externalities for governments with the best will in the world that make it [hard for them] to prioritize these goals. For example, some can’t make the revenues they need because of trade barriers.</p> <p>In terms of accountability, we also need to find different mechanisms beyond monitoring and evaluation. We need to make sure we have the baseline data that is credible, that has integrity, to tell us where we are missing things or people are not being reached. It will tell us if we are doing well or not doing so well.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> What is the role of private sector post 2015? How might that role be different than what it is currently?</p> <p>This has been a very difficult discussion because the first reality check was that we speak different languages. The development agenda has always been between governments and donors—and business is something else, somewhere else.</p> <p>If the economic transformations are going to be real, and there is a serious attempt to deal with inequalities, then we have to look at what roles will business play in all of this. I think opening up our markets – [for example], looking at the full cycle of the agricultural chain so that business is not just dealing with production, but with storage, how products get to market, where women are included, how to link the markets internally and externally—business has a role to play in that.</p> <p>[Businesses] also have a big role to play in looking at their [environmental] footprint. How do we deal with sustainable consumption production? How do we use technologies to green our economies in a way that makes them more sustainable? </p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> In what area are private businesses making the biggest difference?</p> <p><strong>AM: </strong>The greatest difference will be in health at the moment, but I think that’s because the partnerships the Secretary-General put in place during the course of the MDGs have really brought together business and health and the technologies as well, as we’ve seen with mobile technology. It’s not to say other sectors are excluded. In agriculture there’s certainly been those who have helped, or interventions that have helped. For example the WASH, water and sanitation program, has had an incredible impact.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> How can you encourage people to care about the MDGs and their lasting effect when some of these goals seem so far out of reach?</p> <p> <strong>AM: </strong>The implications of not caring are not acceptable. It is unacceptable that we continue to beat up women. It’s not acceptable that girls can’t go to school. It’s not acceptable you should live with a fistula and not have any hope. It’s not acceptable that you can walk into a hospital not knowing if your going to end up in the morgue or not, It’s absolutely not acceptable that we see children that were born with such a bright future have their lives cut short because there’s a disease we can prevent—malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea.</p> <p>The implications of not addressing these issues are that you will have insecurity across countries. You will not have civil societies. That’s the imperative for everyone to care and for the impossible to become possible.</p> <p><em>This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Tracy Jarrett reported from <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/south-africa">South Africa</a> and Mozambique as a press fellow with the International Center for Journalists and the UN Foundation. </em></p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/global-pulse/progress-toward-mdgs-uneven-across-regions-says-new-report">UN: Millennium Development Goals leaving some regions behind</a></strong></p> <p>  </p> <p class='u'>http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/global-pulse/amina-mohammed-mdgs</p> United Nations Health Global Pulse Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:37:21 +0000 Tracy Jarrett 6200995 at http://www.globalpost.com Although they live freely in Japan, these Koreans still support Kim Jong Un http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/140703/north-korea-japan-chongryon-racism <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Why do they swear allegiance to an abusive regime? </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>TOKYO, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/japan">Japan</a> — Few outsiders will ever get to witness Japan’s surreal state within a state, a network of businesses and schools that have sworn allegiance to North Korea.</p> <p>It’s a surprising sight: Some 10,000 children at schools all over Japan have been known to goose-step in the presence of portraits of the former dictators Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, marching patriotically to revolutionary music. School field trips typically include excursions to Pyongyang to learn about North Korean history and ideology.</p> <p>Alongside a regular curriculum of math, literature and science, these “Chongryon schools,” as they’re called, teach North Korean ideologies of nationalism and socialism.</p> <p>This network owes its existence to a Tokyo-based umbrella organization called Chongryon, which has been likened to the de facto North Korean shadow government in Japan. Tokyo, like its ally Washington, has no formal diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.</p> <p>Since its founding in the 1950s, Chongryon has sponsored everything from credit unions to newspapers to pachinko parlors, once even raising funds for the Kim regime through criminal enterprises in the 1980s. At its apex, the group claimed allegiance from about two-thirds of Japan’s “zainichi” Koreans — the hundreds of thousands of Koreans whose ancestors lived here primarily as laborers under Japanese colonial rule before 1945. (After Japan and <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/south-korea">South Korea</a> restored diplomatic ties in 1965, ethnic Koreans who did not voluntarily take South Korean passports essentially became de facto North Koreans.)</p> <p>Chongryon today is a shred of its former self, struggling with a decade of debt that has culminated in a foreclosure at its Tokyo headquarters. Japanese universities and employers generally disfavor Chongryon schools, which typically feed graduates into the group’s shrinking network of businesses and institutions. In April, North Korean generalissimo Kim Jong Un reportedly injected a lifeline worth $2 million into the organization.</p> <p>Part of the problem is North Korea’s reputation in Japan. It’s not just the abysmal poverty or the abuse that it inflicts on its own citizens. In 2002, the previous North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il, personally admitted that his government abducted 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. The Japanese, most of whom were in their twenties, were kidnapped to help train North Korean spies.</p> <p>The revelation — long suspected in Japan, but also passed off as a conspiracy theory by leftist intellectuals and writers — fueled the ire of Japan’s hard right, underpinning racist assaults against Koreans.</p> <p>So why, despite all of this, do some ethnic Koreans in prosperous and liberal Japan continue to side with the dwindling Chongryon empire?</p> <p>One Kim Jong Un loyalist, who asked not to be named citing a fear of harassment from an anti-Korean group, said that a long tradition of family and community makes it hard to part ways with Chongryon. “Our family is too closely tied to [Chongryon] now,” the middle-aged Chongryon member in Tokyo explained. “Whatever the [anti-Korean] hate groups say, as a child they gave my family a community, for our nation.”</p> <p>“The press in Japan and the West don’t understand that we see ourselves as Koreans first, and [that] we want our nation unified as one Korea. We do not see ourselves as only North Koreans and we are not crazy or brainwashed,” she said. “We make our own decisions to send our children to these schools.”</p> <p>She added that many Chongryon loyalists hold South Korean passports anyway. Seoul isn’t that concerned, since it treats North Koreans as citizens of South Korea, claiming sovereignty over the entire peninsula.</p> <p>In a separate interview, another woman who attended a Chongryon school as a child in the 1980s, but who no longer identifies with the group, said that a history of discrimination in Japan quickly pushed her family into the arms of North Korean sympathizers decades ago. (She also asked to remain anonymous, citing a streak of anti-Korean protests in Tokyo and Osaka last year.)</p> <p>“Growing up, North Korea was really the best option for Koreans here, even though it might sound odd today,” she said. “They gave us this belonging. They took care of us and showed us that we as Koreans could stand up on our own. South Korea [which was a poor nation back then] just didn’t have as much of a footprint and we felt more connected to North Korean self-reliance.”</p> <p>“Nowadays we are not as dependent on North Korea. The South is wealthier and more powerful, but I can understand why very old Koreans would feel something with North Korea after they suffered so much under Japan,” she added.</p> <p>She was referring to the period from 1910 until the end of World War II, when Japan embarked on what was supposedly a nation-building project over the barren Korean peninsula. The Japanese ended up committing a raft of wartime atrocities, and after the war ended, Koreans in Japan continued to be treated as outsiders.</p> <p>Chongryon prospered as North Korea’s link into Japan for decades, but the Japanese government went full-throttle against the group after the kidnappings were confirmed in 2002.</p> <p>Kim Jong Il’s admission was a rare act of honesty that backfired. And this incident is still fresh in the minds of some ethnic Koreans, who fear that a recent restart of negotiations between Japan and North Korea over the abductions could spark a similar episode.</p> <p>During tense negotiations in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/china">Beijing</a> on July 2, Tokyo said that it would relax some sanctions in return for progress on a North Korean investigation into the abductions.</p> <p>But if North Korea “has nothing to offer to please the Japanese, harassment against Koreans will be more serious,” warned Soo-im Lee, an ethnic Korean and researcher at Ryukoku University in Kyoto.</p> <p>“The social problem of hate speech and hate crimes against Koreans is becoming serious,” Lee said. “Right wingers … hurt Koreans living here, but since Japan has no laws to ban racial discrimination, Koreans and humanitarian Japanese are fighting back against this profound racism.”</p> <p> Lee based her concerns on a pattern of fringe anti-Korean demonstrations over the past year. Even the US State Department rebuked the hate speech, which most Japanese similarly condemn, in its annual human rights report in January.</p> <p>“Koreans are cockroaches,” a sampling of protest signs would say from anti-Korean groups like Zaitokukai. “Go back to Korea!” “Kick them out of Japan,” other anti-Korean activists shouted at demonstrations. Protesters even approached ethnic Korean schools, calling students “North Korean spies.”</p> Want to Know Military Japan North Korea South Korea Thu, 10 Jul 2014 04:32:57 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6195497 at http://www.globalpost.com Here's why many in Massachusetts are mourning Brazil's World Cup defeat http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/140709/framingham-massachusetts-brazil-germany-world-cup <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hint: It has a lot to do with a little town called Framingham. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Liz Mineo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Brazilian fans held their heads in their hands, threw up their arms in despair, pulled their hair in anguish, and stood in shock and disbelief as they watched <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">Germany</a> crush their beloved soccer team in a <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politics/diplomacy/140708/germany-slaughtering-brazil-the-world-cup-semifinals-right-n" target="_blank">humiliating 7-1 defeat</a> during Tuesday’s World Cup semifinals.</p> <p>The scene took place nearly 5,000 miles away from Brazil, in the eastern Massachusetts town of Framingham, home to one of the world’s biggest Brazilian communities outside the homeland.</p> <p>With its vibrant “Little Brazil” boasting bakeries, restaurants, jewelry shops and clothing stores, Framingham is known to throw a heck of a World Cup celebration.</p> <p>That’s why friends Vilson Branco and Romulo Sousa, both from Worcester, Massachusetts, came here to watch Brazil take on Germany and join the revelers who have packed Tropical Cafe since the tournament began in mid-June.</p> <p>“We were hoping to celebrate after the game,” said a dejected Branco, who was wearing Brazil’s bright yellow jersey. “It was supposed to be a party.”</p> <style type="text/css"> .photocontain{width: 425px;padding-right:20px;padding-bottom:10px;float:left;} .photo{height: 283px;width: 425px;} .photocaption{width: 425px;font: 90% Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;line-height:1.5;text-align:left;}</style><div class="photocontain"> <img alt="" class="photo" src="http://www.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/use-with-caution_original/brazil_fans_framingham_2014_07_09_0.jpg"><div class="photocaption"> (Liz Mineo/GlobalPost)</div> </div> <p>“It feels like a funeral,” Sousa quipped, outside the restaurant decorated with balloons and Brazilian flags.</p> <p>It felt that way for about 1,500 fans Framingham police expected to take part in street celebrations, as they have after previous Brazil victories in the tournament. Twenty-five police officers and up to eight state police troopers were designated to manage the crowds and traffic, Deputy Police Chief Steven Trask said before the game.</p> <p>In the late 1990s, when Brazilian immigrants took to the streets to celebrate their team’s wins, police thought it was a riot. Now they know better, and every four years, make plans for how to handle the crowds.</p> <style type="text/css"> .photocontain{width: 425px;padding-right:20px;padding-bottom:10px;float:left;} .photo{height: 254px;width: 425px;} .photocaption{width: 425px;font: 90% Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;line-height:1.5;text-align:left;}</style><div class="photocontain"> <img alt="" class="photo" src="http://www.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/use-with-caution_original/brazil_fans_framingham_cafe.jpg"><div class="photocaption"> (Liz Mineo/GlobalPost)</div> </div> <p>“It’s a happy, joyous crowd,” Trask said. “We’d let them celebrate one hour or so and then we’d ask them to disperse. Our job is to make sure that everybody is safe and the town continues to function.”</p> <p>But alas, all the preparation this time wasn’t necessary. Barriers to contain revelers on sidewalks and prevent them from spilling over the roads sat unused. Fans who in past celebrations crowded the streets cheering on their team while cars flying Brazilian flags and honking horns circled around downtown, as in a Brazilian carnival, were nowhere to be seen. The streets were empty, traffic snarled as usual, and the atmosphere was gloomy.</p> <p>It was a dark contrast to previous celebrations, where thousands of Brazilians fans from all over Massachusetts came to join in the street party, halting traffic for hours and covering downtown with a sea of yellow jerseys.</p> <p>This is a town of just 68,000 people. Boston researcher Alvaro <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/peru">Lima</a> puts the number of Brazilian residents in Framingham at 10,000, although official counts are lower. They began coming here in the 1980s, mostly from the city of Governador Valadares, escaping their country’s economic upheaval. Now they’re Framingham’s largest ethnic group.</p> <p>The researcher counts as many as 250,000 Brazilians in all of Massachusetts — the largest concentration in the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/united-states">United States</a> and bigger than the Brazilian emigre communities in any <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/americas">Latin American</a>, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">European</a> or <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/asia">Asian</a> country.</p> <p>This time many fans here walked out during the game — just as some spectators did at Brazil’s Mineirao stadium where the match was held, in disgust at what sports commentators are calling the country’s worst World Cup defeat.</p> <p>Those who stayed at the Brazilian cafe until the end went home dejected. Amanda Santos was among them. “I’m going home to cry,” she said. “I have no words. Soccer is everything for Brazilians.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politics/diplomacy/140708/germany-slaughtering-brazil-the-world-cup-semifinals-right-n" target="_blank">Germany just slaughtered Brazil in the World Cup semifinals</a></strong></p> <p>Mara Rubio, who wore a Brazilian jersey, green and yellow earrings and a matching bracelet, felt the same way. “I came to celebrate,” she said. “But this was a humiliation, an embarrassment.”</p> <p>Antonio Daldon, who has lived in Framingham for the past 15 years, was too shocked to talk. “The only happy ones are the police in Framingham,” he said.</p> <p>Not really. Before the game, Trask was asked whether he’d rather Brazil lose to Germany to avoid the extra work. He hesitated.</p> <p>“My son is watching the game, and he’s rooting for Brazil,” he said. “We’d be happy if Brazil wins.”</p> <p>But it wasn’t meant to be. Friends Branco and Sousa, who came to Framingham hoping to join in the street celebrations, walked down the desolated sidewalks, feeling sad and sharing the pain of Brazilians back home.</p> <p>Summing up the sentiment of Brazilian fans in Framingham, Brazil and elsewhere, Sousa said, “My heart is broken.”</p> Want to Know Brazil Germany Culture & Lifestyle United States Wed, 09 Jul 2014 17:31:00 +0000 Liz Mineo 6200546 at http://www.globalpost.com The bodies of 50 executed civilians turn up south of Baghdad http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/war/140709/bodies-50-executed-civilians-found-south-baghdad <!--paging_filter--><p>BAGHDAD — Iraqi security forces found the bodies of 50 unidentified civilians who were executed in Babylon province, located 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Baghdad, police said Wednesday.</p> <p>The bodies of the victims, who had been blindfolded and were shot in the head and chest, were discovered in a field in Al Hamza and taken to the coroner's office to be identified, police said in a statement.</p> <p>The reason for the executions and the date the civilians were killed have not been determined.</p> <p>The Iraqi army and Sunni insurgents from the Islamic State of <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/iraq">Iraq</a> and the Levant, or ISIL, have been fighting in Babylon province.</p> <p>At least 22 security forces members were killed and 25 others wounded in clashes with Islamic extremists in the area on June 28.</p> <p>ISIL, which controls large swaths of land in the north and west of Iraq, proclaimed an Islamic caliphate on June 29 extending from the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/syria">Syrian</a> province of Aleppo to Diyala in Iraq.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140611/how-us-helped-turn-iraq-into-al-qaeda-haven-53-steps-isis-isil-syria-bush-obama" target="_blank">A comprehensive 53-step guide to how the US ruined Iraq</a></strong></p> Al Qaeda in Iraq Need to Know Syria War Iraq Middle East Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:15:00 +0000 Agencia EFE 6200490 at http://www.globalpost.com This year, on its birthday, South Sudan would like to take stock of its estimated 9,000 child soldiers http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/140701/south-sudan-child-soldiers <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The national army has recommitted to the cause of sparing children from fighting, but it's not totally up to them. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Amanda Sperber </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JUBA, South Sudan — Birthdays are a time to reflect, even for countries. South Sudan turns 3 years old today and this year it has decided to take stock of its estimated 9,000 child soldiers.</p> <p>It's a staggering figure and one that has motivated the world's youngest nation — also one of its <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/sudan/140618/south-sudan-famine-malnutrition">most troubled</a> — to try to change its image amid brutal war.</p> <p>Last month, South Sudan's national army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), recommitted to eliminating children from its ranks as part of the UN children's fund's star-studded <a href="http://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/children-not-soldiers/" target="_blank">&ldquo;Children Not Soldiers&rdquo;</a> campaign. <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/afghanistan">Afghanistan</a>, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are also working with the UN to stop the use of children by government security forces before 2016.</p> <p>That's a tall order for South Sudan. Out of the estimated 9,000 child soldiers, the UN has verified only 298 (296 boys and two girls). Out of those, about half have been directly connected to the SPLA since war erupted in December. Opposition forces are believed to have significantly greater numbers of children in their ranks.</p> <p>And former SPLA soldiers say the number of child soldiers is growing. </p> <p>Former SPLA who are ethnically Nuer accuse the government of recruiting child soldiers from the same tribe as President Salva Kiir to build a stronghold before fighting broke out in December 2013.</p> <p>The war has pitted two ethnic groups, Dinka and Nuer, against each other. Nuer soldiers were driven from the army when fighting started.</p> <p>In 2013, President Kiir traveled to Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states, ordering governors there to assemble fresh infantry. Young people from these remote, majority Dinka states were specifically targeted because they are generally less educated and easier to mobilize along ethnic lines. Kiir is from Warrap state.</p> <p>"After the trip two battalions were created, each made up of 750 Dinka soldiers between the ages of 14 and 20," a former Nuer SPLA soldier said on the sidelines of a press conference in Juba last month. The soldier declined to give his name.</p> <p>They were trained in the capital and replaced the Nuer troops who were driven out in December 2013.</p> <p>One battalion is at Luri Mountain, the other at the president’s house. Both bases are impenetrable without top SPLA approval.</p> <p>Since the president’s trip, Paul Malong Awan, the former governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, has been promoted to army general chief of staff.</p> <p><strong>Roots of the problem</strong></p> <p>In one of the poorest nations on Earth with a 20 percent literacy rate, employment with the national army is one of the only steadily paying jobs available.</p> <p>South Sudan has not yet achieved universal birth registration. This makes it difficult to determine if an individual is over 18. Many people from rural areas don’t know their exact age. One of the anonymous Nuer soldiers added, “They don’t have knowledge of international laws.”</p> <p>Before South Sudan gained autonomy and the SPLA became a national army, the force had thousands of children in its ranks fighting against Sudan in a war that claimed more than a million lives. In the mid-1980s and early '90s, as many as 20,000 children lived in Panyandong camp in Ethiopia where they were given military training and attended schools in the camp.</p> <p>Majur Mayor, deputy chair of the <a href="http://www.ssddrc.org/about-ssddrc.html" target="_blank">National DDR Commission</a>, which focuses on disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating ex-combatants, claimed that children have never fought for the SPLA. “You train them and you give them guns but only for protection,” he said.</p> <p>Mayor said during the war with the north, before the secession, children needed the arms and training for their own protection. Now, he says, there is enough protection for them. Children are no longer armed and trained.</p> <p>Mayor allowed that today some may linger in the army barracks for security, food or to perhaps make a bit of money watching the soldiers' things or cooking. If they are sighted, it is expected that they will be reported to the DDR’s Child Soldiers Unit.</p> <p>Other SPLA admitted that children have fought with the army in the past, and said there may still be children serving as combatants.</p> <p>Brig. Gen. Chaplain Khamis Edward, head of the SPLA Child Protection Unit, said it is difficult to monitor the current situation in parts of the north where much of the fighting is taking place. Right now, it is almost impossible to reach most of these areas by car. The child protection unit relies on reports from the UN, after which they work to remove the under-aged fighters.</p> <p>Then children who are removed from the ranks are often from conflict areas, where their homes are destroyed or abandoned. So, they return to war.</p> <p>Representatives admit the current conflict cannot help but contaminate any progress that has been made in stopping the use of child soldiers.</p> <p>When asked if there are currently children serving with the national army SPLA spokesman Col. Philip Aguer replied: “I cannot say ‘no,’ and I cannot say ‘yes.’” </p> Africa Conflict Zones Want to Know Military Sudan Aid Culture & Lifestyle Education Wed, 09 Jul 2014 04:37:32 +0000 Amanda Sperber 6193170 at http://www.globalpost.com Those 'rescued' Thai elephants tourists ride are actually trafficked http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/myanmar/140708/thailand-elephant-rides-trafficked-myanmar <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A new investigation blames tourism for the decline of the Asian elephant. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bridget Di Certo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>YANGON, Myanmar and CHIANG MAI, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/thailand">Thailand</a> — The selfies show smiles, victory signs and slightly sunburnt skin.</p> <p>Seated atop a rollicking elephant on a rudimentary platform strapped to the animal’s back, tourists in Thailand take happy snaps as a mahout edges one of <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/asia">Asia</a>’s largest land mammals along with a stick.</p> <p>But at the end of this stick glints the curve of a blade. Underneath the platform, the elephant’s back is blistered and raw — apt metaphors for the dark underbelly of Thailand’s elephant rides.</p> <p>The Asian elephant is endangered, and demand by tourists for elephant rides in Thailand is fueling a system of abuse that compounds the threat to its survival, according to a new report from TRAFFIC, a leading international wildlife trade monitoring network.</p> <p>Tourists often feel good about the elephant rides, having been told that the beasts have been “rescued” for “conservation,” and that the fees they pay will help the animals. Yet watchdogs say young elephants from neighboring Myanmar are being illegally captured and trafficked to Thailand under the protection of legal loopholes for sale into the tourist trade there.</p> <p>The once-prolific population of wild elephants in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has dwindled to between 4,000 and 5,000 in recent years. Development and deforestation are partly to blame, but capturing wild elephants, previously for logging but now increasingly for tourism, has played a key role in population declines and is now considered a major threat to wild elephants, the report argues.</p> <p>“In Myanmar, domesticated elephants are used to corral wild animals into pit-traps where older protective members of herds are often killed and the higher value, younger animals taken,” the report reads. “The young are then transported to Thai-Myanmar border areas and then mentally broken and prepared for training before being sold into the tourism industry in Thailand where they are put to work at tourist camps or hotels.”</p> <p>Thailand has no legislation that specifically addresses this type of animal trafficking, although some efforts have been made in the past to authenticate the origin of tourism elephants. One of the Thai legislation loopholes is the requirement that tourism elephants be registered only after they reach eight years of age, leaving young elephants from Myanmar highly vulnerable to being laundered into the Thai tourist trade.</p> <p>TRAFFIC’s report recommends urgent reforms so wild and domesticated animals are governed under one law, clarifying responsibilities for management, enforcement and ownership of the animals, including mandatory DNA registration and use of microchips for tracking.</p> <p>This week CITES, the international body concerned with protection of animals, meets to discuss the progress Thailand has made for protection of elephants.</p> <p>“The Asian Elephant is the forgotten elephant; it needs government support now more than ever. If the capture and smuggling of calves is not stopped, some of the last great wild populations of the species are at risk of extinction," said Joanna Cary-Elwes, campaigns manager for wildlife NGO Elephant Family.</p> <p>Travel for Wildlife zoologist Cristina Garcia said that the demand to ride elephants by tourists visiting Thailand underlies systematic abuse of the animals. The price of a young elephant has risen fivefold in recent years to $33,000. Mistreatment of the animals continues once they enter the tourist trade, Garcia said.</p> <p>“Elephants used in the trekking industry suffer physical effects as they spend their lives carrying people on their backs. Their spines were never designed to carry people, and the weight of the chairs leads to long-term damage,” Garcia said. “Furthermore, the trekking platforms rub on their backs all day long, causing blisters and infection. Not to mention broken legs and foot damage.”</p> <p>Despite this, wildlife experts say boycotting elephant tourism altogether is unnecessary. Instead they recommend tourists in Thailand and Myanmar wishing to interact with elephants do so through programs that offer ethical opportunities to feed, bathe or walk with the elephants instead of using the animals as a ride.</p> <p>“If you still want to ride an elephant, you can look out for signs of mistreatment. If the elephants are chained and the mahouts use bull hooks, this is a sign of serious abuse,” Garcia said. “The bottom line is, taking a wild animal and using it for human entertainment is inherently not caring for it appropriately.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/130713/elephant-ivory-africa-kenya-somalia-obama-al-shabaab-lra-uganda" target="_blank">Elephant tusks are the new blood diamonds</a></strong></p> Want to Know Myanmar Thailand Tue, 08 Jul 2014 22:39:00 +0000 Bridget Di Certo 6198886 at http://www.globalpost.com Germany is angry with the US but can’t do much about it — for now at least http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/140708/germany-us-espionage-scandal-nsa-snowden <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> However, the latest spy scandal rocking relations between the two countries may affect longer-term attitudes toward Washington. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">Germany</a> — Although allegations that the CIA actively worked to recruit a double agent in Germany's top spy agency is prompting renewed outrage from German officials on Tuesday, experts say the government has little scope for much more than issuing strong words.</p> <p>“There will be a lot of castigation but the two governments will continue to cooperate on the wide range of issues where their interests overlap,” says James Davis of the University of St. Gallen.</p> <p>Still, the latest espionage scandal to hit relations between the two countries is strengthening calls for Germany to offer support, possibly even asylum, to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and prompting new demands for the government to launch its own espionage program directed against the US.</p> <p>However, the largest casualty may be a major EU-US free trade agreement that’s enjoyed the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel.</p> <p>“That the Chancellor will have to be seen as representing the interests of a sovereign country seems clear, both from a foreign policy and domestic politics perspective,” Davis says of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).</p> <p>“[Therefore] the episode will strengthen the hand of those who are against TTIP.”</p> <p>When not stoking new anger against the US, the case has fascinated German observers because of the curious way it’s unfolded.</p> <p>Unnamed US officials <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/07/us-germany-usa-spying-cia-idUSKBN0FC21920140707">confirmed</a> Monday that the CIA had indeed recruited an agent of Germany's foreign intelligence service, who was arrested by the German authorities last week on suspicion of being a double agent.</p> <p>However, the authorities initially said they had detained the man in connection with an alleged offer to sell information to <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/russia">Russia</a>. While in custody, he purportedly confessed to working with US agents as well, selling as many as 218 classified documents over a two-year period for a total of around $35,000, reports <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.de/2014/07/07/viele-fragen-bnd-spionage-skandal_n_5563247.html">said</a>.</p> <p>His lawyer stopped short of confirming those details on Monday, but he told German television that “there are things in the media which are true.” Earlier reports by Der Spiegel and the Suddeutschezeitung suggested that the double agent had been tasked with gathering inside information about a German parliamentary committee's inquiry into the NSA's activities in Germany — including the tapping of the chancellor's mobile phone.</p> <p>Alghough Merkel’s cellphone may have made the biggest headlines, ordinary Germans have been mainly concerned about Snowden's revelations about the NSA's massive data collection program. The latest revelations about US agents allegedly working to subvert the inquiry into that case adds a new layer of betrayal, says Jan Techau, director of Carnegie <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">Europe</a>.</p> <p>“The goal was to spy on this [parliamentary investigative] committee and get secret documents on this committee's work,” he says. “This is what people have taken really hard.”</p> <p>The public outrage has forced politicians to take stronger stances against the US, Techau adds. And while the new revelations may not result in any immediate consequences for US-German relations, he adds, growing popular disgust with Washington may have long-term implications.</p> <p>Already, nearly two-thirds of Germans think their officials should act more independently from the US, according to a poll conducted by TNS Research for Der Spiegel. Some 69 percent said their confidence in America had fallen recently.</p> <p>Visiting <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/china">China</a> with a trade delegation when the story broke, Merkel issued what some view as her strongest statement yet on the allegations of US spying, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/140707/german-chancellor-angela-merkel-says-us-spying-allegatio">saying</a> the case represents a “clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners.”</p> <p>President Joachim Gauck exploded on German TV, saying “enough is enough,” and Bild newspaper reported that Home Minister Thomas de Maiziere <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/07/germany-counter-espionage-escalate-bnd-arrest-maziere-policy">is pushing</a> to step up spying on the US.</p> <p>Although that actually taking place is unlikely, those comments and others like them reflect the growing pressure on policymakers from media and public opinion to take some kind of action, says Volker Perthes, director of the Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).</p> <p>“Germany should and will probably improve its counter-intelligence activities, also with an eye on what our American allies are doing,” he says.</p> <p>Intelligence cooperation between German intelligence agencies and their US counterparts could also be reduced, he adds. And German policymakers could add their voices to those in the European parliament calling for canceling the SWIFT agreement on exchanging banking data.</p> <p>The growing public disenchantment with the US could have farther-reaching implications over the upcoming months and years.</p> <p>Germany's orientation has increasingly tilted toward US foreign policy goals and economic ideals in recent years, illustrated by Merkel's toughening stance toward Russia. But growing skepticism about US intentions could slow or skew that tilt, especially if it begins to influence voters' attitudes toward American values.</p> <p>Davis says the spying scandals are especially affecting the attitudes of younger Germans under 25.</p> <p> “These revelations continue a long series of similar episodes that together leave the impression for many in Germany that the USA has lost its anchor.”</p> Espionage World Leaders Want to Know Diplomacy Germany Tue, 08 Jul 2014 17:10:05 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6199411 at http://www.globalpost.com Mexico’s cartel-fighting vigilantes get closer to the Texas border http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/mexico/140707/mexican-vigilantes-cartels-texas <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Armed residents are taking on the feared Zetas cartel in Tamaulipas state. One desperate town’s mayor applauds them. </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>HIDALGO, Mexico &mdash; The gunmen nabbed watermelon farmer Jesus Manuel Guerrero as he drove from his ranch to buy supplies and held him for five painful days in the trunk of a car.</p> <p>When family members finally paid a $120,000 ransom and they released him, he was urinating blood.</p> <p>He&rsquo;s just one of hundreds of victims of a wave of kidnapping that&rsquo;s swept this once peaceful farming town, about 130 miles south of Texas.</p> <p>But almost three years after his brutal abduction, Guerrero, who is now the mayor, says his town has become safer, the kidnappers scared to enter.</p> <p>This change is not due to the police, he says, but to a clandestine vigilante group known as the Pedro Mendez Column, named after a local general who fought the French in the 19th century.</p> <p>The column hands out leaflets declaring it operates night patrols to defend the community from the feared Zetas cartel, which is behind most of the kidnapping. The vigilantes have also claimed responsibility for several murders of alleged Zeta members, including two men shot dead in January.</p> <p>&ldquo;The column only kills kidnappers and drug traffickers. They don&rsquo;t allow extortion or threaten honest people,&rdquo; Guerrero told GlobalPost, speaking in his town hall, which is decorated with paintings of Mexico&rsquo;s independence and revolutionary heroes.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is much safer with them.&rdquo;</p> <p>This is the latest expression of a vigilante movement in Mexico that&rsquo;s expanding from the southern mountains to areas near the United States border like Hidalgo, in Tamaulipas state.</p> <p>The vigilantes are rising after the Mexican government failed to stop the country from becoming a world kidnap capital, with more than 1,600 reported abductions in 2013, the worst year on record. There have been more than 70,000 cartel-related killings since 2006.</p> <p>But human rights groups warn that vigilantes may only add to Mexico&rsquo;s cycle of violence &mdash; a severe problem in border states like Tamaulipas, which suffers shoot-outs that have caused temporary shutdowns of crossings into Texas.</p> <style type="text/css"> .photocontain{width: 384px;padding-left:20px;padding-bottom:10px;float:right;} .photo{height: 248px;width: 384px;} .photocaption{width: 484px;font: 90% Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;line-height:1.5;text-align:left;}</style><div class="photocontain"> <img alt="some_alt" class="photo" src="http://www.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/use-with-caution_original/hidalgo_mayor.jpg" /> <div class="photocaption"> Mayor Guerrero of Hidalgo. (Tamaulipas government <a href="http://tamaulipas.gob.mx/2014/06/evaluan-estrategia-de-seguridad-en-hidalgo/" target="_blank">website</a>)</div> </div> <p>Bordering the Rio Grande valley and the cities of Brownsville and Laredo, Tamaulipas lies along a major US-Mexico trade route, with tens of thousands of trucks of goods crossing daily, as well as many undocumented migrants and drug loads.</p> <p>Farther south in the Pacific states of Michoacan and Guerrero, a vigilante movement mushroomed until thousands openly took up arms to fight cartels.</p> <p>Some of those vigilantes were deputized as rural state police in May, but others have carried on operating outside the law. Last month, police and soldiers <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-28069086" target="_blank">arrested</a> Michoacan vigilante leader Jose Mireles and more than 70 of his supporters for carrying illegal guns.</p> <p>Gun permits are difficult to get in Mexico, but the country is awash in illegal arms, many smuggled in from the US. The vigilantes favor the same Kalashnikovs and AR-15 rifles as the cartels, which sell on the black market here for several thousand dollars apiece.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/mexico/140219/michoacan-vigilante-militias-apatzingan-templar" target="_blank">How Mexico&rsquo;s west was won. It took a village, and plenty of AK-47s</a> </strong></p> <p>The vigilantes in Tamaulipas are more secretive than those of the south, working in hidden cells from towns and ranches.</p> <p>They conceal their identities because they not only fear arrest but also revenge attacks from the gangsters.</p> <p>In May, alleged cartel gunmen shot and burned nine people at a ranch here in Hidalgo, accusing them of being linked to the vigilantes. Among the victims were two children.</p> <p>&ldquo;People of Hidalgo, don&rsquo;t be involved with the column,&rdquo; a note left by the bodies read. &ldquo;The monster has woken up. This is the first test. Attentively: The Zetas.&rdquo;</p> <p>The murders took place in a hamlet away from the town center, which is harder for the vigilantes to defend, Mayor Guerrero says.</p> <p>&ldquo;It was a terrible, brutal scene. They killed the parents, the children. These are the kind of criminals we are dealing with,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p>The Pedro Mendez group first formed in 2010, but the mayor said it has grown substantially this year and now has hundreds of gun-owning affiliates.</p> <p>&ldquo;The criminals submit to blood and fire,&rdquo; the Pedro Mendez declares in a leaflet it released in May. &ldquo;The defense of our people has been long and gory, in permanent struggle and sustained combat against kidnappers.&rdquo;</p> <p>The column accuses some police officers of being in league with cartel members but says it supports the Mexican army and marines.</p> <p>&ldquo;Insecurity, violence and criminality are only solved by honest soldiers and an armed people,&rdquo; the group says in the leaflet.</p> <p>Web users claiming to be local vigilantes also participate on social media sites set up to discuss drug violence. In one January post, in which the vigilantes claim the killing of a Zetas cartel kidnapper, a user <a href="http://www.valorxtamaulipas.com/2014/01/fusilan-en-villamainero-el-guero-trejo.html" target="_blank">writes</a>, &ldquo;Excellent. That is the only way to finish the Z.&rdquo;</p> <p>There are also signs of these vigilantes spreading to other towns near the US border.</p> <p>In the Tamaulipas state capital Ciudad Victoria, a leaflet recently appeared from a vigilante group calling itself the Alberto Carrera Torres brigade promising to fight the Zetas.</p> <p>Federal prosecutors have accused some vigilantes across Mexico of being backed by drug cartels to fight rival gangs.</p> <p>The Pedro Mendez may be receiving weapons to fight the Zetas from that gang&rsquo;s enemies in the Gulf Cartel, Guerrero says. But the mayor insists the vigilantes are authentic in defending their community.</p> <p>While Guerrero says the vigilantes have reduced crime, he says he is not himself a militia member.</p> <p>The government of President Enrique Pe&ntilde;a Nieto has led a shifting and seemingly confused policy on Mexico&rsquo;s vigilante movement. At times it has ignored them, at others attacked them, and sometimes actively <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/mexico/140310/mexican-craziest-nazario-moreno-drug-war" target="_blank">worked with them</a>.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/mexico/140313/michoacan-vigilante-militia-hipolito-mora-arrest" target="_blank">With friends like these, can Mexico find justice?</a><br /> </strong></p> <p>Pe&ntilde;a Nieto repeatedly condemned people taking justice into their own hands &mdash; but then in May he made a speech in Michoacan recognizing the work of vigilantes there.</p> <p>The administration is currently waging an offensive by soldiers and federal police in Tamaulipas to quell cartel violence plaguing the state. In the last two months, troops have arrested ranking gangsters from both the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are working in a good coordinated way and with good results to win back the tranquility of Tamaulipas,&rdquo; Mexico&rsquo;s Interior Secretary Miguel Osorio Chong <a href="http://www.milenio.com/policia/delincuentes_y_criminales-Tamaulipas-Michoacan-Zetas-cartel_del_golfo-templarios_0_322768042.html" target="_blank">told</a> the government&rsquo;s news agency. &ldquo;All the criminals who have hurt the Mexicans&rsquo; tranquility will have to fall.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, many residents in the embattled state are concerned that the federal offensive won&rsquo;t do enough to protect them from ruthless gangsters.</p> <p>In June, thousands of marchers dressed in white took to the streets of the Tamaulipas cities of Victoria and Tampico, calling for better security.</p> <p>While some of these residents sympathize with vigilante efforts like those of the Pedro Mendez Column, others want to pressure the government to police them better.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think the self-defense groups [vigilantes] are dangerous,&rdquo; said Raul Villarreal, a furniture store owner in Victoria who marched against crime. &ldquo;A shoemaker makes shoes. A businessman does business. You need trained police officers to fight crime, not just anybody with a gun.&rdquo;</p> Vigilante Justice Conflict Zones Want to Know Mexico Tue, 08 Jul 2014 04:32:35 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6198256 at http://www.globalpost.com Seoul's eccentric mayor is building hotels for insects. Yes, bugs http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/south-korea/140704/seouls-eccentric-mayor-building-hotels-insects <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It's part of his plan to improve life in the Korean capital. </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="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/south-korea">South Korea</a> — This sprawling East <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/asia">Asian</a> capital is renowned for its epic commutes, hard-charging work force and money-making ethos.</p> <p> But Seoul’s beloved mayor, Park Won-soon, is determined to soften the city’s aesthetic and transform it into a greener, cooler, more creative and livable place.</p> <p> Park has a lot of ideas about how to achieve this noble goal. One of the quirkier ones: protecting an odd, crawling constituency that will never be able to vote. The city's bugs.</p> <p> Yes, bugs. Insects. Creepy crawlies.</p> <p> The 58-year-old progressive — who in early June elections glided to a second five-year term — is himself an unusual species. He rose to prominence without any political experience, distancing himself from the nation's two scandal-ridden political parties.</p> <p>Park has consolidated his popularity by improving the quality of life for overworked city-dwellers. His administration abandoned earlier initiatives for explosive commercial growth in favor of happiness and urban beauty.</p> <p> Seoul has long been a city of bland, cookie-cutter apartment blocks, with a surfeit of overpriced Starbucks knock-offs. In certain neighborhoods, navigating without GPS was a befuddling task. Not all of these problems have been solved.</p> <p> As part of its greening efforts, Seoul is embarking on a campaign to establish 27 “insect hotels” in parks and public areas, offering the bug population a refuge in this gray, cyberpunk Asian mega-city, protecting them against the spread of insecticide.</p> <p> City officials are enthusiastic. “Seoul was developed very fast, and it wasn't regulated. We don't have a diverse species of bugs,” explained Yang Gyoung-gyu, a city environmental advisor. “The effect of the insect hotel is to expand the diversity of species.”</p> <p> Made from scrap wood, the miniature hostels are designed to accommodate dragonflies, honeybees, ladybugs, and earwigs, along with other insects. Each type of critter has a designated floor, packed with materials for each species such as oak logs, plant lice, and dried grass.</p> <p> Bugs with swagger can take a spot on the top floor, a “penthouse” for all species that combines a potpourri of materials.</p> <p> Why the push to protect slimy little critters?</p> <p> Yang explains that, like all other species, they're a part of the ecosystem, and that preserving them along with various types of birds and mammals is the only way for Seoul to stay green.</p> <p> “This insect hotel is new to Koreans,” he said. “When it was first announced and broadcasted, people had negative ideas because of the term hotel. But now we're finding that the experts are happy with Seoul.” Insect hotels, which are necessary for preserving pollinators and pest controllers, have also been set up in parks and trails in the US.</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets South Korea Tue, 08 Jul 2014 04:32:00 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6196118 at http://www.globalpost.com Public-private partnerships: A 'win-win' for global health? http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/can-PPPs-improve-global-health <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Forged partnerships between the public and private sectors are gaining prominence, raising questions about their transparency and precise impact in the world. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Marissa Miley </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">WASHINGTON &mdash; When USAID administrator Rajiv Shah announced more than $600 million in new partnerships with private organizations last month, including giant multinationals Coca-Cola and Johnson &amp; Johnson, the news was heralded in Washington as another stride in the agency&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/special-reports/step-by-step-path-ending-child-mortality#slide-1">path</a> to ending preventable child and maternal mortality. &nbsp;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Shah&#39;s June 25 announcement&nbsp;was another dramatic example of the administration&rsquo;s signature embrace of private enterprise&nbsp;to help solve some of the most pressing&nbsp;global health&nbsp;crises. As Shah put it in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.usaid.gov/news-information/speeches/june-25-2014-rajiv-shah-acting-on-the-call-conference">remarks</a>&nbsp;published on the agency&#39;s website, &quot;We&nbsp;cannot go at it alone.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;These partnerships do more than mobilize more resources,&rdquo; wrote Shah, 41, a Wharton School of Business graduate who has been a rising star in the White House. &ldquo;They guarantee that American tax dollars are delivering extraordinary outcomes in challenging places.&quot;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">As government cuts have threatened foreign aid budgets, Shah&rsquo;s more than four-year tenure at USAID, the US Agency for International Development, has been sharply defined by such collaboration with the private sector through arrangements known as public-private partnerships, or PPPs. As he said in a <a href="http://www.usaid.gov/news-information/speeches/nov-21-2013-administrator-rajiv-shah-brookings-institution-ending-extreme-poverty">speech</a> last fall, PPPs &quot;form the foundation of a more strategic and smarter approach to development.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The definition of a PPP differs greatly across sectors, countries, and even US government agencies. Broadly speaking, such a partnership involves financial and in-kind commitments from private players such as corporations or foundations to enhance public projects. Ideally, the partners share common goals. And while PPPs have existed for decades, Shah has sought to leverage the private sector perhaps more than any other administrator of the sprawling agency.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Between 2012 and 2013 alone, USAID increased its investment in PPPs by almost 40 percent, allowing it to leverage more than $380 million from private sources.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">And there&rsquo;s reason to believe PPPs have been effective. Child mortality, for example, has fallen to 6.6 million deaths in 2012 from more than 10 million in 2001,&nbsp;when USAID first formalized such partnerships. But in dozens of interviews conducted over the last several months with experts, questions emerge about whether there are enough precise data to justify the level of confidence that Shah and the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgow4G9EZDo">Obama administration have placed in PPPs</a>.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The reality is that quantifying the impact of PPPs on health is difficult. Many who have studied partnerships and aid effectiveness say that though the private sector can play an important role in development, to date, comprehensive and transparent metrics justifying increased investments in PPPs do not yet exist. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;What&rsquo;s new is the nomenclature and the romanticism of partnerships,&rdquo; said Marc Mitchell, a professor at Harvard School of Public Health who has studied health-related PPPs for over 20 years and participated in several through D-Tree International, a nonprofit he founded. &ldquo;Rather than looking at what do we do to address real problems with real tools that are available, we make up this world: If only we let the private sector do things, the problems will take care of themselves.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;In the past there&rsquo;s been some relatively magical thinking about how to bring the private sector to the table,&rdquo; said Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America. &ldquo;One of the most important things that USAID can do is bring some discipline to public-private partnerships and ensure that there&rsquo;s some accountability to private sector delivering on their commitment.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Beginning this summer, a team of global health correspondents will produce a Special Report for GlobalPost that examines how US-backed PPPs are impacting global health and how they became a premier strategy for USAID and other government agencies.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The reporters are poring over publicly available evaluations, documents, and audits, along with internal records from the US government, in order to gauge the transparency and accountability of recent global health PPPs. The review, which is ongoing, has found that such public information is limited, and often difficult to track down.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">A public <a href="http://gda.usaid.gov/alliances/index.asp?s=SVHTWWJYBVBXBPDSHGDMHRBQYLYTQYNT">online database</a> of USAID PPPs has not been updated since 2009, for instance. A Freedom of Information Act request filed to USAID two months ago for more comprehensive information about PPPs &mdash; including the locations of, and planned and actual financial commitments to such projects &mdash; has been only partially answered more than a month past the date it was due. &nbsp;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"><strong style="font-size: 20px;">The rise of the private sector and PPPs in global health</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Work with the private sector on health and development issues, even through PPPs, certainly is not new. A widely praised partnership between the World Bank, World Health Organization, and the pharmaceutical giant Merck &amp; Co. to address river blindness began in 1974, for instance.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Over the last several decades, however, the landscape for aid to health and development has changed dramatically. In 1970, over 70 percent of financial flows from the US to the developing world came from donor aid, said Chris Jurgens, the division chief for global partnerships in the Global Development Lab&#39;s Center for Transformational Partnerships at USAID. The remainder came from the private sector.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;Today, that&rsquo;s completely switched,&rdquo; he said, explaining that now over 90 percent comes from private sources. Globally, the shift from public to private flows is similar. As World Bank president Jim Yong Kim <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/en/blogs/13-10-28-private-sector-investment-critical-end-extreme-poverty">pointed out</a> last fall, whereas official development assistance from donor countries and multilateral institutions now totals $125 billion a year, private investment flows dwarf that amount at roughly $1 trillion.</p> <p>This broad shift reflects several factors, said Robert Calderisi, a former World Bank economist who wrote a critique of aid in his 2006 book, &quot;The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn&rsquo;t Working.&quot; Private companies and organizations are increasingly willing to invest in developing countries as they have grown and matured and become less risky.</p> <p>&ldquo;Foreign aid has been the tail trying to wag the dog for at least 20 years now,&rdquo; Calderisi wrote in an email.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">USAID has worked with the private sector for decades, starting with contract relationships dating back to the 1960s. In the mid-1970s, according to a 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) <a href="http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41880.pdf">report</a> on foreign assistance and PPPs, USAID began working with nonprofit NGOs to implement programs as an alternative to government staffing. And in 1989, USAID began investing in small and medium-sized private businesses as well as pursuing microenterprise initiatives.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">George Ingram, a former deputy assistant administrator at USAID under President Bill Clinton, said that in 2000, senior staff at the agency introduced a new concept of working collaboratively with the private sector through a formal structure called the Global Development Alliance, whose partnerships adhere to at least a 1:1 leverage of USAID cash and in-kind resources, among other criteria.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;The Obama administration has built on that Bush legacy and more aggressively integrated public-private partnerships into the normal A-I-D process,&rdquo; said Ingram, now a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at The Brookings Institution and co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a coalition that seeks more accountability and efficacy for US foreign assistance. USAID has been the US government leader on PPPs for development ever since, according to the 2013 CRS report.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Non-governmental organizations, too, are increasingly relying on private sources for funding. InterAction, a coalition of more than 180 such groups, estimates that US government contributions account for fewer than 25 percent of resources to NGOs. The rest comes from private sources, with a significant percentage from corporations, said InterAction&rsquo;s chief executive officer Sam Worthington.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">In a poll of its members conducted in early 2009, InterAction found that more than 80 percent were involved in some way with the private sector.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;A critical dimension of effective development assistance is now the role of the private sector as it works with traditional aid donors and the NGO community,&rdquo; Worthington said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s been a significant change over the last 15 years from NGOs and civil society largely critiquing the role the private sector plays to one of both critiquing but also looking where to partner and ultimately, to where there may be some shared value projects that might also benefit the private sector.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Within a year after taking over the reins of USAID, Shah announced in late 2010 a bold plan to reform US foreign aid and dramatically transform the way the world&rsquo;s premier health and development agency operates. Fundamental to the changes put forth by the new administrator was to increase partnerships with private businesses and organizations.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Nearly four years into Shah&rsquo;s reform, USAID boasts of more than 1,500 partnerships with over 3,500 private partners that have collectively leveraged more than $20 billion of government dollars and private funds since 2001. The agency estimates that up to one quarter of these partnerships are in global health, with the remainder in other areas in which the agency works such as agriculture and food security and water and sanitation.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"><strong style="font-size: 20px;">Is the PPP model improving global health?</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">As part of the more than $600 million commitment to partnerships USAID <a href="http://www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/june-25-2014-usaid-and-partners-unveil-new-efforts-save-millions-women-children-preventable-deaths">announced</a> last month around child and maternal health, the agency trumpeted a $21 million expanded partnership with Coca-Cola to provide medicines and medical supplies in the most hard-to-reach places in Africa, a $30 million arrangement with Johnson &amp; Johnson to promote newborn survival, and an overall commitment to &ldquo;partnering with engines of innovation,&rdquo;&nbsp;listing corporations at the top of the list.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&quot;If a child has access to Coca-Cola,&quot; they should also have access to amoxicillin, oral rehydration solutions, vaccinations, and insecticide-treated bed nets, Shah said in a live speech on June 25 that at times varied from the remarks published on USAID&#39;s website. &quot;Thankfully the leadership at Coca-Cola is willing to lead this fight.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The partnerships, which also include those with universities and NGOs, come on top of $2.9 billion the agency said it was &ldquo;realigning&rdquo; from its budget to save the millions of children and mothers who die each year from preventable causes. The resources give teeth to an unprecedented <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/130830/end-preventable-child-deaths-promise-renewed">global campaign</a> on the issue USAID spearheaded in 2012.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">For USAID, the PPP model affords a more sustainable&nbsp;alternative to &ldquo;the paradigm where we fund a program for three years and it ends,&rdquo; said Chris Jurgens. Achieving the agency&rsquo;s vision of ending extreme poverty by 2030, he explained, requires partnerships&mdash; including those with the private sector where USAID can leverage not only its financial resources, but also its core capabilities and expertise. Such partners can keep efforts going even after USAID&rsquo;s involvement comes to a close.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The agency is not alone, with the State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also partnering with corporations to improve health. More broadly, there is consensus from proponents that PPPs provide enhanced efficiency, efficacy, and innovation through work with the private sector.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Robert Calderisi, the economist and author, noted that &ldquo;proper&rdquo; PPPs &ldquo;introduce discipline and incentives for efficiency which no all-public initiative can match.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">But that does not mean that PPPs are necessarily the ideal solution.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;The public system is failing grotesquely in delivering health care to the poor,&rdquo; said Thomas Pogge, a professor of philosophy and international affairs at Yale University. Pogge has proposed a <a href="http://healthimpactfund.org">model</a> for incentivizing drug companies to provide new medicines at lower costs, but sees PPPs as &ldquo;a kind of Band-Aid&rdquo; to help overcome the shortcomings of social injustices and unfairnesses wrought by the wide economic gulfs between countries that impact their ability to provide fair health care to all.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">But private organizations may come to this work with their own commercial interests and public relations efforts in mind, and because they tend to focus on specific diseases or groups of people, certain groups in need could fall through the cracks, Pogge said. Private players also might not pay attention the negative impact of their work, such as hiring away employees from the public system. Key to a successful public-private partnership, he said, was that the non-commercial partner &ldquo;has to be in charge of the targeting of how the money is spent.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Apart from the PPP model itself, there are concerns about the design, implementation and accountability of PPPs, particularly compared to other approaches. In interviews with researchers and representatives from nonprofits and aid and health organizations, little has come up in the way of rigorous independent evaluations of PPPs.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The most recent USAID-commissioned <a href="http://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1880/Understanding%20Private%20Sector%20Value_Assessment%20Report_Final.pdf">report</a> on its partnerships across sectors was published in 2011.&nbsp;That report, which analyzed 70 partnerships, concluded that &ldquo;the metrics captured for each alliance in the sample were varied, difficult to find, and rarely outcomes-based.&rdquo; It was only through &ldquo;extensive stakeholder interviews and review of program documents&rdquo; that the research team could find the &ldquo;value&rdquo; that the private sector added to USAID&rsquo;s programs.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">To Ingram, who has been a strong proponent of enhanced aid transparency, and others, the transparency of this work has been limited, and that impacts decision-making for both public and private players.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;The best way to ensure accountability is to make information public,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Allow other people to have access to it, analyze it, evaluate it, and learn from it. And we don&rsquo;t have that today.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">This is true not just for the specific PPPs, but for USAID&rsquo;s work more broadly. Ingram points to other US government arms, like the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which he said has been forthcoming about its work from the get-go.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Ingram will turn to researching USAID public-private partnerships under the Global Development Alliance this fall, because, he said, there&rsquo;s been no &ldquo;serious analysis&rdquo; of them to date. It&rsquo;s not that he thinks that USAID is hiding information&mdash;the agency has told him it is in the process of pulling together the data&mdash;it&rsquo;s that he believes USAID never prioritized such transparency when it first launched public-private partnerships nearly 15 years ago.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Transparency is also hindered more broadly by the fact that there is no single or standard comprehensive measure of global PPP contributions. The Hudson Institute&rsquo;s Center for Global Prosperity produces an annual report documenting global philanthropy and remittances to the developing world with data that take into account public-private partnerships. But even the most recent edition concedes that measuring private giving around the world &ldquo;still has its challenges.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The <a href="http://dev.hudson.org/content/researchattachments/attachment/1229/2013_indexof_global_philanthropyand_remittances.pdf">2013 report</a>, which found that philanthropy from US corporations to developing countries totaled $7.6 billion and US private capital flows another $108.4 billion, does not explicitly tease out the amount going toward public-private partnerships.&nbsp;The Center said that its estimates for US corporate giving are &ldquo;conservative,&rdquo; and that because of difficulty separating private flows around the world it does not publish a global total for corporate giving.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">In order to conduct a 2011 analysis of private sector support from major companies to global health, including that to health PPPs, the international development website Devex had to cobble together annual company and sustainability reports, along with information obtained during interviews with company officials, the authors said.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;On the whole, there isn&rsquo;t a lot of transparency that is mandated or built into the PPP model,&rdquo; Yale&rsquo;s Pogge said. If a PPP isn&rsquo;t particularly transparent, there&rsquo;s no body forcing it to be. A possible explanation for this, he said, could be that people feel hesitant to come down hard on work that purportedly does good. It was the same way with charities, until relatively recently. &ldquo;I think this will develop [for PPPs], but we are at the early stages,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">USAID&rsquo;s Chris Jurgens takes such observations seriously.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re working on getting better data out there on who we&rsquo;re partnering with and why and what some of the preliminary results have been,&rdquo; he said, noting that the agency plans to update the currently outdated online database of PPPs later this year. &ldquo;We at USAID as well as other players working in the partnership space acknowledge the need for better evidence on the business case for partnerships.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The present limited public accountability around US government-backed PPPs may be, at best, a missed opportunity to share and scale-up effective work initiated by coordinated teams of public and private partners. But at worst, the opaqueness of this work may create inefficiencies, corporate profiteering, or corruption &ndash; ultimately, with a heavy cost to the health of the most poor and vulnerable populations around the globe. Our reporting this summer and fall will seek to explore the spectrum of reality.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;One of the challenges with anything new is it either gets sold as a panacea for everything or a new way to find resources,&rdquo; said InterAction&rsquo;s Worthington, adding that partnerships with the private sector introduce funding but also complexity. &ldquo;What is the overlap between global business and development? There clearly is an overlap, but let&rsquo;s not overstate that overlap.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">To Marc Mitchell, such partnerships sound good but can be more window dressing than substance.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;My biggest concern is that they are being held up as a way to privatize the delivery of health care in poor countries and used as an excuse by government, and by some extent donors, to not commit to long-term funding,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Then there are the concerns about the potential conflicts of interest that arise when profit-minded businesses enter the public health arena.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Speaking at a global conference on health promotion last year, World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan <a href="http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2013/health_promotion_20130610/en/">said</a> it was &ldquo;dangerous&rdquo; when industry gets &ldquo;involved in policy-making.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">In her speech, Chan pointed a finger at corporate groups such as Big Food and Big Soda that are contributing to the rise of non-communicable diseases around the world, but her message was a direct shot at businesses of all kinds.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;In the view of WHO, the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"><em style="font-size: 13px;">Katia Savchuk, a <a href="http://thegroundtruthproject.org">GroundTruth</a>-Kaiser global health reporting fellow, contributed reporting for this article, which is part of a Special Report for GlobalPost on the role of the private sector in global health in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation.&nbsp;</em></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/special-reports/step-by-step-path-ending-child-mortality#slide-1">Step by Step: The path to ending child mortality</a></strong></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"><a href="http://www.globalpost.com/special-reports/step-by-step-path-ending-child-mortality#slide-1"><img alt="" class="imagecache-use-with-caution_original" src="http://editor247vpn.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/use-with-caution_original/675x300_1.jpg" title="" /></a></p> <div> &nbsp;</div> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--><div style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"> <div style="font-size: 13px;"> &nbsp;</div> </div> Want to Know Health Tue, 08 Jul 2014 04:32:00 +0000 Marissa Miley 6198490 at http://www.globalpost.com German Chancellor Angela Merkel says US spying allegations are serious http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/140707/german-chancellor-angela-merkel-says-us-spying-allegatio <!--paging_filter--><p>German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday allegations that a German man had worked as a double agent for US intelligence were serious and, if true, were a clear contradiction of what cooperation between partners is supposed to be about.</p> <p>The case risks further straining ties with Washington, which have been sorely tested by revelations last year of large-scale snooping on <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">Germany</a> by the US National Security Agency (NSA).</p> <p>"If the reports are correct it would be a serious case," Merkel told a news conference in Beijing, standing next to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.</p> <p>"If the allegations are true, it would be for me a clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners."</p> <p>The White House and State Department have so far declined to comment on the arrest of a 31-year-old employee of Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency.</p> <p>According to intelligence and political sources, the man admits passing documents to a US contact.</p> <p>Those include information about a parliamentary committee looking into allegations by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that Washington carried out major surveillance in Germany, including monitoring Merkel's phone.</p> <p><strong>Suspicions</strong></p> <p>German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was on a trip to Mongolia while Merkel was in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/china">China</a>, said the spying case would have consequences if the circumstances are confirmed.</p> <p>"We haven't finished clearing this up yet. But if suspicions are confirmed that American secret services were involved, it will become a political issue and we can't just get back to business as usual," he told reporters in Ulan Bator.</p> <p>Surveillance is a sensitive issue in a country where memories of the Nazi's Gestapo secret police and communist East Germany's Stasi ensure the right to privacy is treasured.</p> <p>Speaking in Berlin, Snowden's lawyer in Germany, Wolfgang Kaleck, said he hoped the latest allegations might eventually help change Germany's stance towards his client, noting that <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">European</a> states had profited from his information but were not prepared to protect him.</p> <p>As Merkel visited China, where she oversaw the signing of agreements involving Airbus Group NV's helicopter division selling 100 aircraft to Chinese companies, a German intelligence chief warned that some firms in China faced a growing threat from industrial espionage by Chinese government agencies with huge resources.</p> <p>"Germany is against that — regardless of where it comes from," Merkel said, in reference to industrial espionage.</p> <p>"We have a duty as the state to protect our economy ... We are for the protection of intellectual property."</p> <p>China's premier repeated his government's denial that it was involved in such activities.</p> <p>"China and Germany, it can be said, are both victims of hacking attacks. The Chinese government resolutely opposes hacking attacks as well as the use of the internet to steal commercial secrets or intellectual property," Li said. "China will engage in dialogue and consultation to protect the security of the Internet."</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in Beijing and Stephen Brown in Berlin; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gareth Jones)</p> Need to Know Germany Mon, 07 Jul 2014 18:55:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6198409 at http://www.globalpost.com Three Israelis admit to murder of Palestinian teenager as Gaza death toll hits 8 http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140707/three-israelis-admit-murder-teenager-g <!--paging_filter--><p>Three Jewish extremists arrested for the killing of a Palestinian teenager have confessed to the attack, an Israeli official said Monday, as shock waves from the brutal murder continued to spread.</p> <p>As police struggled to contain five days of violent clashes in annexed east Jerusalem and in Arab towns across <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/israel-and-palestine">Israel</a>, tensions were further raised by a series of Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which killed several Palestinian militants.</p> <p>It was the worst bloodshed since the start of the current round of violence in and around Gaza, raising fears of a fresh confrontation between Israel and Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave.</p> <p>The latest violence in Gaza began after June 12 as Israel pressed a vast West Bank arrest campaign to find militants behind the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found on June 30.</p> <p>Two days later, a 16-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem was kidnapped and killed in a suspected revenge attack, with police arresting six Jewish extremists, three of them minors.</p> <p>During their investigation, three of the suspects admitted to the murder in which the victim was burned alive, an official close to the investigation told AFP.</p> <p>"Three out of six suspects in custody have confessed to the murder and burning of Mohammed Abu Khder, and performed a re-enactment of the crime," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.</p> <p>The murder has sparked shock and outrage, and no small measure of shame in Israel.</p> <p>"To take a young boy, to kill him, to burn him — what for?" asked outgoing President Shimon Peres.</p> <p>Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Peres called the teenager's father to convey condolences and express outrage over the murder.</p> <p>"I am ashamed on behalf of my nation and grieve with you," Peres said, according to a statement, with Netanyahu condemning the murder as "abhorrent."</p> <p><strong>8 Gaza militants dead </strong></p> <p>Meanwhile, medics retrieved a body from a tunnel near the southern city of Rafah, saying it brought the death toll from overnight Israeli air strikes to eight.</p> <p>But although Israel's army announced carrying out a number of strikes, it denied responsibility for the collapsed tunnel, saying militants had blown themselves up with their own explosives.</p> <p>Two of the militants were from the Popular Resistance Committees, while the other six from the armed wing of Hamas, which Israel blames for the murder of the three teenagers.</p> <p>The army confirmed hitting 14 targets overnight, and said militants had fired an anti-tank missile at an army patrol by the border fence, causing no injuries.</p> <p>Rocket fire continued into Monday evening, with some 50 projectiles hitting southern Israel since midnight, and warplanes carried out more strikes on Gaza, causing no casualties.</p> <p>Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said the military mobilised several hundred reserve troops near the border with Gaza in case of a "deterioration" after the militants' deaths.</p> <p>The army has stressed its reinforcements are purely a defensive move, but Lerner said that two combat brigades were on stand by if needed.</p> <p><strong>Lieberman bolts </strong></p> <p>So far, Israel's response to the rocket fire has been relatively measured, with Netanyahu resisting calls from cabinet hardliners for a major operation in Gaza.</p> <p>The premier was convening a security cabinet meeting Monday evening.</p> <p>Meanwhile Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the rightwing nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, said he was ending his party's 20-month alliance with Netanyahu's Likud over its handling of the Gaza crisis.</p> <p>Lieberman's faction is to remain in the governing coalition but his party's divorce from the Likud was expected to give it greater freedom of action in parliament.</p> <p>Overnight, the angry protests which have gripped east Jerusalem and Arab Israeli towns continued to spread, with police arresting 110 people for throwing stones, damaging property and interfering with police work.</p> <p>Much of the violence began in the Triangle, a concentration of Arab towns and villages close to the border with the northern West Bank, but has since spread to the Galilee region as well as to the southern Negev desert.</p> <p>bur/jad/hkb</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Mon, 07 Jul 2014 18:16:55 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6198381 at http://www.globalpost.com BBC tells reporters to stop giving climate change deniers equal say http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/global-warming/140707/bbc-stop-giving-climate-change-deniers-equal-air-time <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 'False and balanced' no more. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Journalists are supposed to be impartial. Often that means interviewing sources who represent a range of views on an issue.</p> <p>But what about when some of those sources hold views that have been widely dismissed by, like, science?</p> <p>That&#39;s when you stop interviewing them, says BBC.</p> <p>In an effort to improve its environmental reporting, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/07/06/bbc_staff_ordered_to_stop_giving_equal_air_time_to_climate_deniers/?utm_source=facebook&amp;utm_medium=socialflow" target="_blank">BBC has ordered</a> its journalists to stop giving climate change deniers equal air time.</p> <p>Their climate change <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-26845103" target="_blank">coverage was previously criticized</a> for &quot;putting up lobbyists against top scientists as though their arguments on the science carry equal weight,&quot; and a progress report published last week found there was still an &quot;over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality.&quot;</p> <p>&ldquo;The [BBC] Trust wishes to emphasize the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10944629/BBC-staff-told-to-stop-inviting-cranks-on-to-science-programmes.html" target="_blank">wrote the report authors</a>.</p> <p>As a result, some 200 staff have already attended courses where they are being instructed to stop giving &quot;undue attention to marginal opinion.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/140630/el-nino-weather">Floods, drought, war? It must be El Ni&ntilde;o again</a></strong></p> <p>Critics of the BBC decision say it&#39;s unjust to flat out silence a portion of the debate.</p> <p>But that&#39;s just the problem. BBC (and others, mind you) that lend equal air time to climate change deniers give the impression that a point of view held by 3 percent of experts is in fact held by 50 percent of experts, which in turn propagates that distortion among the masses.</p> <p>For good measure, here&#39;s John Oliver with Bill Nye on the matter:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/cjuGCJJUGsg" width="640"></iframe></p> Global Warming Entertainment Want to Know Education United Kingdom Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:49:23 +0000 Emily Lodish 6198174 at http://www.globalpost.com High Court halts Australia's plan to hand back 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140707/high-court-blocks-australia-handing-back-153-asylum-seeker <!--paging_filter--><p>A High Court on Monday barred Australia from handing back a boat carrying 153 asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka, a day after Canberra returned another vessel to Colombo following a week of secrecy.</p> <p>The interim injunction from a late-night sitting applies at least until a hearing resumes on Tuesday afternoon and was granted after lawyers argued the transfer was illegal.</p> <p>Refugee advocates claim the asylum-seekers have been deprived of the ability to have their claims for refugee status properly assessed, with their screening reportedly being carried out at sea via video link.</p> <p>Lawyer George Newhouse said they were "entitled to have their claims for protection processed in accordance with Australian law."</p> <p>"The asylum-seekers claim that they are fleeing persecution and that they're at risk of death, torture or significant harm by Sri Lankan authorities," he told Australian Associated Press.</p> <p>"The minister cannot simply intercept their vessel in the middle of the night and disappear them."</p> <p>Concern had been mounting over the fate of two boats reportedly intercepted by the Australian navy in Australian waters late last month.</p> <p>There were claims that Australia could be breaking international law in the way it screened the passengers and by returning them involuntarily to a country in which they had a fear of persecution.</p> <p>The UN refugee agency UNHCR expressed "profound concern" about the situation.</p> <p>After a week of stonewalling, Canberra confirmed earlier Monday that one boatload of 41 Sri Lankans who attempted to reach Australia were handed back to Colombo on Sunday.</p> <p>Under its policy of not commenting on "operational matters," Canberra has yet to confirm whether the second vessel, carrying 153 people, even exists.</p> <p>Newhouse told the ABC reports that Sri Lankan authorities would press criminal charges against the group which has already returned were "shocking."</p> <p>"That strengthens the urgency of the court application, because if this government is putting those people at risk of criminal charges, imprisonment and torture — because that's what happens in Sri Lankan prisons — then these people need assistance urgently," he said.</p> <p>Sri Lankan police confirmed that the adults among the group of 41 — 28 men and four women — would be charged with attempting to leave the country illegally, a crime punishable by up to two years in jail.</p> <p>They were being held in the notorious high-security Boossa prison on Monday and would appear before a magistrate Tuesday.</p> <p>Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has yet to comment on the injunction, but the government has said it was abiding by international law.</p> <p>He said earlier Monday that the 41 people sent back were "subjected to an enhanced screening process... to ensure compliance by Australia with our international obligations under relevant conventions."</p> <p>Only one person, a Sinhalese Sri Lankan, may have had a case for asylum but he opted to return voluntarily with the rest of the passengers, Morrison added.</p> <p>His other option was being sent to Papua New Guinea or Nauru for offshore processing, with Australia no longer processing boatpeople on its territory.</p> <p>Of those returned at sea to Sri Lankan authorities just outside the port of Batticaloa, 37 were Sinhalese and only four were Tamil, according to the minister.</p> <p>"At no stage was the vessel in distress and all persons aboard the SIEV (suspected illegal entry vessel) were safe and accounted for," he said.</p> <p>The asylum-seekers on the second boat reportedly fled Sri Lanka to a refugee camp in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/india">India</a> before heading to Australia.</p> <p>The Tamil Refugee Council has claimed at least 11 of those on board have been tortured by Sri Lanka's intelligence services.</p> <p>Labor opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles slammed the government's operation.</p> <p>"Australia's international obligations are reliant upon a credible processing system and we have deep concerns about how that could have been performed by video link at sea in a way which gave an individual assessment, when all the time the boat was steaming towards Sri Lanka," he said.</p> <p>The injunction comes ahead of a visit to Colombo this week by Morrison for talks on illegal immigration. He is due to meet top officials from President Mahinda Rajapakse's government.</p> <p>mp/sm</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Mon, 07 Jul 2014 13:49:24 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6198042 at http://www.globalpost.com Coming soon: Flights from New York to Beijing in just 2 hours! http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140701/sub-orbital-flights-new-york-beijing <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Disclaimer: This offer is currently limited to intrepid billionaires. </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><a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/thailand">BANGKOK</a> — Members of the 0.1 percent have long used their vast wealth to obtain yachts, armies of servants and even laws of their choosing. But the ability to bend space and time to their will has proven elusive.</p> <p> Until now.</p> <p> In the not-so-distant future, the global elite will be able to zip between practically any major city — London to Sydney, New York to Beijing — in a mere two hours or less.</p> <p> While common travelers bump knees in economy class, chugging along at a sluggish 500 miles per hour, the extremely wealthy will travel at eight times that speed. They will blast up through the thermosphere — an atmospheric layer where gravity is far weaker — and then plummet smoothly toward their far-flung destinations.</p> <p> Called sub-orbital flight, this method of travel is poised to radically alter life for, well, an extremely tiny sliver of humanity.</p> <p> A feature article gushing about sub-orbital flight appears in the latest "<a href="http://www.thewealthreport.net">Wealth Report</a>,” an annual analysis by the London consultancy Knight Frank, which monitors trends for “ultra-high net worth individuals.”</p> <p> By their estimate: sub-orbital commuter flights will be tested by 2017 and on sale by 2020.</p> <p> The upshot: Sub-orbital flight could revolutionize the way (very, very wealthy) people live. A banker could start off his Saturday with a bagel in Manhattan, blast off to China and have dumplings for lunch in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/china">Hong Kong</a>. Silicon Valley tech billionaires might start buying up Tuscan villas or remote Pacific islands en masse. The flight time would be cut from 15 hours to roughly two.</p> <p> Flying into the thermosphere won’t melt your brain and pop your lungs. You wouldn’t even have to be in great shape, said Stephen Collicott, a professor at Purdue University’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.</p> <p> “You definitely won’t have to be a Navy test pilot or Olympic athlete. The [gravity loads] aren’t enough to make you black out,” he said. “With liquid-fueled rockets, it’ll be pretty smooth. It’s still by no means the amount of power needed to get into orbit. So you won’t have the massive rumblings and thundering noises of a space shuttle launch.”</p> <p> Commercial sub-orbital flights are already on sale. But the current iteration of flights will only launch passengers up and down — into the thermosphere and back down to the same launch site — and not from one location to another.</p> <p> There are two major players: X-Cor, which charges $95,000 for single-passenger flights, and Virgin Galactic, which will charge $250,000 per person on a six-passenger aircraft. Both are expected to launch within the next two years.</p> <p> That may seem like a prohibitively pricey airfare, until you consider that anyone with a billion dollars can earn a more than $30 million in interest each year just by stashing that money in safe, boring US government bonds.</p> <p> Though there are no explicit plans for these aircraft to begin traveling “point-to-point” — launching on one continent, landing on another — this development is almost inevitable, Collicott said. Richard Branson, the aeronautics-obsessed <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/united-kingdom">British</a> billionaire behind Virgin Galactic, has spoken of a “future version of our current spaceship which will make transcontinental travel clean and fast — London to Sydney in a couple of hours.”</p> <p> “Going up and down is one thing,” Collicott said. “Going from LA to <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/japan">Tokyo</a>, or Chicago to <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">Frankfurt</a>, you’d need to ascend higher and have much more horizontal speed.”</p> <p> “You need more materials, more technology, and therefore more money,” he said. “But there is no terribly physical boundary we can’t cross. It’s an economics problem. Not a physics problem.”</p> <p> The ultra-wealthy are already drooling over the possibilities. The “Wealth Report” notes that elite Arabs, Africans and Russians buy up London property simply because it’s closer to their homelands than, say, New York or Los Angeles.</p> <p> But sub-orbital flight erases these rules. Anyone with gobs of cash could conceivably fly anywhere they please in just two hours — and nearly one in ten Americans <a href="http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/pdf/acs_20_out_of_state_and_long_commutes_report.pdf">spend two hours</a> just getting back and forth to work each day.</p> <p> Like today’s commuter jets, sub-orbital aircraft will take off and land from runways. But they’ll likely require dedicated “space ports” to avoid disrupting the constant flow of commuter jets into major airports.</p> <p> Sub-orbital flight’s impact on humanity will be limited, the report said, if this is “technology for billionaires only.” But if the ticket price “drops to allow the merely wealthy to access sub-orbital flights, then we have to reconsider everything.”</p> <p> Collicott notes that sub-orbital flights are already within the reach of the merely wealthy open to a one-time splurge. “X-Cor charges $95,000,” he said. “Compare that to a pack or two of cigarettes per day and you’ll see it’s a number a lot of people can afford.” He’s optimistic that ticket prices will eventually drop to levels the upper-middle class can pay for.</p> Want to Know Asia-Pacific Emerging Markets Innovation Technology United States Mon, 07 Jul 2014 07:34:54 +0000 Patrick Winn 6192927 at http://www.globalpost.com Welcome to Silicon Allee http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/140703/germany-berlin-google-factory-silicon-allee-startups <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> You read it right. Berlin may finally be living up to its hopes of becoming Europe’s startup hub. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">Germany</a> — The low thrum of ambient electronica music pulses through a four-floor walkup in the hip central neighborhood of Prenzlauerberg as dozens of young programmers stick on nametags and swap stories.</p> <p>Welcome to what locals are calling Germany’s Silicon Alley, where the code junkies have come for a Startup Grind event.</p> <p>It's a pretty typical meet-and-geek. Software code is the primary topic of conversation. One young man with a ponytail shouts on his cell phone as another in a hoodie furtively dives into a spread of canapes before the buffet table is officially open. There are only a handful of women.</p> <p>The big news is that this kind of event is taking place in the German capital almost every night.</p> <p>Despite cheap rents and a reputation as one of the world's coolest cities, Berlin has so far failed to live up to its goal of becoming <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">Europe</a>'s startup hub. But that may finally be changing thanks to a rapid growth in funding, a new drive to attract foreign talent and a burst of interest from industry giants like Google, say insiders like Marco Brenner, who moved here a year ago to found a startup.</p> <p>“We need to grow some meaningful businesses in Berlin,” he says confidently, looking more like a PR executive dressed in his blazer instead of the usual hoodies or T-shirts. “Then the money will follow.”</p> <p>Berlin's startup scene could create as many as 100,000 jobs by 2020, according to a recent report by the global consultancy McKinsey &amp; Co.</p> <p>Although the city still lags behind competitors like London when it comes to infrastructure — partly because Germany's conservative investors have long made it difficult to raise capital — the city has some of the right ingredients, including a low cost base and a hip image that helps attract top talent.</p> <p>Earlier this month, Google <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/06/12/google-launches-berlin-startup-incubator-the-factory/">unveiled</a> a mammoth new startup incubator known as “Factory,” where veterans from Google for Entrepreneurs and Twitter will mentor company founders.</p> <p>A 16,000 square foot space carved out of an abandoned brewery that will eventually employ around 500 people, it represents a big vote of confidence from the world's most successful internet company.</p> <p>And while German venture capitalists <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/business/21587209-vigorous-start-up-scene-has-yet-produce-its-first-big-breakthrough-slow-climb">remain more conservative</a> than their counterparts in Silicon Valley, <span style="font-size: 13px;">the amount of money available for startups has increased dramatically.</span></p> <p>Over the past year, Berlin-based tech startups have raised over $650 million, more than three times the amount generated the previous year and more than six times the amount raised the year before that, <a href="http://www.cbinsights.com/blog/berlin-funding-growth">according</a> to venture capital database CB Insights.</p> <p>Founders of some of the city's more promising startups — such as the audiofile sharing service SoundCloud, the academic social networking company ResearchGate and collaborative video-editing software maker FlavourSys — say Berlin's shortcomings can sometimes be advantages.</p> <p>The city’s hip reputation attracts software engineers interested in the intersection of technology and creative projects at the heart of companies like SoundCloud. The lower level of activity here also makes it easier to afford and retain talented people than it would be in more advanced startup hubs.</p> <p>Starting out here allowed FlavourSys to fly under the radar as the company developed collaborative software that enables television company video editors to work on files simultaneously from different locations.</p> <p>Even though the company’s target market was always the US — which now accounts for 80 percent of its business — FlavourSys booked the National Geographic channel as its first customer before anyone in the software world had an inkling of what it was doing.</p> <p>That happened at an industry convention in Las Vegas.</p> <p>“It was amazing,” said FlavourSys co-founder Marco Stahl on the rooftop of the company's converted-apartment headquarters. “There were crowds of people, 20, 30, 40 people standing there watching demos. Then National Geographic came along and said, 'We want to buy this!'”</p> <p>For a company that two weeks earlier had no website or printed business cards, that was a big deal.</p> <p>ResearchGate co-founder and CEO Ijad Madisch has a similar story.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/benelux/140612/belgium-soccer-red-devils-world-cup-brazil">Belgium could be headed for World Cup fame</a></strong></p> <p>Billed somewhat dismissively as “Facebook for scientists,” the company aims to break traditional boundaries that often keep academic research cloistered in ivory towers and exclude scientists from the developing world. When Madisch first came up with the idea six years ago, he found the world-weary capital of academia Boston too jaded to bite.</p> <p>Berlin was different. When Madisch moved ResearchGate here in 2010, fifteen years after Jeff Bezos had launched Amazon, copycats had attracted programmers and created a nascent ecosystem for e-commerce startups, but little else. However, Madisch says it created a hunger to do something more interesting.</p> <p>As a result, it was comparatively easy for ResearchGate to attract top developers, doctors and scientists.</p> <p>“Everyone here is hungry to work on something big,” Madisch says. “That puts Berlin at an advantage to Silicon Valley.”</p> startups Want to Know Germany Innovation Technology Mon, 07 Jul 2014 07:34:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6195560 at http://www.globalpost.com In Cambodia, toxic air threatens timeless ruins http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/cambodia/140630/cambodia-toxic-air-threatens-timeless-ruins <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It’s Angkor Wat versus ancient tour buses. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Denise Hruby </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SIAM REAP, Cambodia — A thousand years ago, they were temples so sacred only high priests were allowed to enter — the spiritual epicenter of a powerful empire that dominated Southeast <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/asia">Asia</a>.</p> <p>Now, millions of tourists climb among the elaborate, enchanting ruins. In this poor, struggling nation, they arrive at Angkor Archaeological Park's ticket counter via decades-old tour buses that belch dark, toxic fumes.</p> <p>Here, air pollution is at its worst.</p> <p>At the 18 ticket counters, visitors — led by <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/china">Chinese</a> and Koreans — take refuge from the exhaust clouds by covering their noses with scarves.</p> <p>The aging tour buses are resuscitated from back when <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/japan">Japan</a> or Korea themselves were struggling, unable to afford clean modern technology. The tired vehicles can no longer be sold there, so they end up here.</p> <p>Also contributing to the noxious ambiance are tuk-tuks — Cambodia's answer to rickshaws, pulled by rickety motorbikes.</p> <p>No one bothers to turn off the engine while waiting for clients at the ticket counters.</p> <p>It’s not just bad air that’s assaulting this world-class archeological site. The sheer weight of millions of tourists has long taken its toll. Wooden stairs have been installed to protect the original ones underneath. Some areas are limited to 2,000 tourists per day.</p> <p>Just 2,000.</p> <p><img src="http://www.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/gp3_slideshow_large/photos/2014-July/cambodia_angkor_tourists.jpg" width="100%"><br><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;"> (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>But for the air pollution that worries scientists, no quick fix is in sight.</p> <p>Research suggests that a decade ago, air pollution here in Siem Reap, a city of about 250,000 inhabitants that accommodates temple tourists, was worse than in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/thailand">Thailand</a>'s capital Bangkok, a city of more than 8 million.</p> <p>“[T]he pollution of the Angkor Park has been getting worse during [the past] ten years” and will continue to deteriorate, says Dr. Shinji Tsukawaki, a professor at Japan's Kanazawa University who researches air pollution in the Angkor Archaeological Park, the official name for the UNESCO World Heritage site that contains several capitals of the mighty Khmer Empire, built between the 9th and 15th centuries.</p> <p>More than ten years ago, when the annual visitor numbers were around 300,000, UNESCO warned of the expected surge in tourists. Not only were the ancient stones crumbling under the steady beat of the millions that were expected, but mounting air pollution had caused acid rain that darkens the stone, and eventually leads to its decay.</p> <p>“It is obvious that pollution and acid rain will affect the stone,” says Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO country director.</p> <p>Acid rain — basically pollutants trapped inside water droplets in clouds that rain down — causes erosion that will forever erase the ancient carvings of lions and female dancers that adorn the crumbling temples. Furthermore, the discoloration is noticeable.</p> <p><img src="http://www.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/gp3_slideshow_large/photos/2014-July/apsara_dancer_angkor.jpg" width="100%"><br><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;"> (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>“And this is not just for the stone, but what about the local population?” Lemaistre says, pointing to the thousands of people who have called the World Heritage Site their home for decades.</p> <p>In a shack of thatched hay, suspended by wooden sticks and covered with a corrugated metal roof, Veng Ken, 53, lives with her children and grandchildren, about 500 yards from the vast Angkor Wat.</p> <p>She remembers her childhood, when the Angkor temples were her playground, empty ruins overrun with weeds that her family's cows and buffalo would graze on.</p> <p>“It was beautiful. It was quiet and clean, and it was empty. I can't remember seeing many tourists, and I think the foreigners who came were researchers,” she says.</p> <p>Like most of the 200 families in her village, she lives off selling fruit and noodles to tourists, and collecting the garbage left behind.</p> <p>“That's what I like about the tourists. But it has also destroyed the nature, and the air is getting worse and worse. Before, nobody here was coughing. Now, everybody coughs, our grandchildren and us, too,” she says.</p> <p><strong>Electric vehicles</strong></p> <p>UNESCO has long advocated for a sustainable, long-term solution for the park's ever-increasing traffic and air pollution issues, a means of transportation that is self-reliant but does not produce toxic fumes.</p> <p>7Makara, a Cambodian-Korean company, has achieved at least one of two ideals by operating about 20 electric, golf-cart-style vehicles.</p> <p>They have, however, major disadvantages that make them unfit as a long-term means of mass transportation. The battery that powers the carts can be charged around 1,000 times before it has to be replaced. And the carts run on conventional electricity, which is already scarce in the ever-expanding city.</p> <p>Limited availability isn't the only issue. In one of the world's poorest countries, electricity costs around 25 cents per KwH, higher than the US average.</p> <p>Enter <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/france">France</a>'s solar-powered Blue Solutions electric vehicles, already successfully introduced as a car-sharing project in Paris, with cities such as Indianapolis next in line.</p> <p>Last year, Blue Solutions set up Siem Reap's first solar-panel farm next to a new ticket center that will be able to accommodate the growing number of tourists. Two electric buses as well as electric cars are already standing under a wooden bus station.</p> <p>They are prototypes from other cities that were used to showcase the functionality of electric vehicles during the park's International Coordinating Committee (ICC) meeting last year.</p> <p>“Here we have so much sun and are so close to the equator, it would be stupid not to use [solar power],” Blue Solutions Cambodia CEO, Vincent Calzaroni, says.</p> <p>Currently, an expert commission of the ICC is working on a master plan for a large-scale introduction of electric vehicles in the park that will be announced late this year.</p> <p>“If air pollution is already a problem now, and the condition of the temples is getting worse, imagine in a few years when there'll be 5 million tourists,” Calzaroni says.</p> Want to Know Cambodia Tourism China South Korea Thailand Vietnam Sun, 06 Jul 2014 22:34:36 +0000 Denise Hruby 6191930 at http://www.globalpost.com Kyiv's big win against rebels dims hopes for a truce http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140706/kyivs-big-win-against-rebels-dims-hopes-truce <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The conflict is far from over as rebels regroup near Donetsk and Poroshenko vows to 'flush out' the terrorists. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Resurgent Ukrainian forces on Sunday pursued retreating pro-Russian rebels after seizing their symbolic bastion in a morale-boosting win that appeared to dim hopes for a ceasefire in the bloody separatist insurgency.</p> <p>Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko called the moment when his troops hoisted the Ukrainian flag over the militias' seat of power in Slavyansk "a turning point" in a campaign that has killed nearly 500 people and inflamed East-West ties.</p> <p>The rebels admitted suffering heavy losses while abandoning the strategic city nearly three months to the day after its capture marked the onset of a new and even more bloody chapter in Ukraine's worst crisis since independence in 1991.</p> <p>Most analysts think Poroshenko desperately needed a battlefield success one month into his presidency to secure the trust of Ukrainians frustrated by their underfunded army's inability to stand up to what they see as Russian aggression.</p> <p>"This is not a full victory and no time for fireworks," the 48-year-old chocolate baron cautioned in a national television address.</p> <p>He noted the insurgents were now regrouping around the million-strong eastern industrial hub of Donetsk and vowed to flush out "terrorists who are entrenching themselves in large cities."</p> <p>A top commander in the Ukrainian irregular forces' Donbass battalion on Sunday reported recapturing the cities of Druzhkivka and Kostiantynivka just south of Slavyansk.</p> <p>"We left Druzhkivka and Kostiantynivka overnight," top Donetsk rebel leader Denis Pushilin confirmed in a tweet.</p> <p>"Yes, we are losing a lot, but I am sure that our defense of Donetsk will mark a turning point," he added. "We will win."</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/russia">Russia</a> pushes truce</strong></p> <p>The surge of optimism in Kyiv has only added to already strong pressure on Poroshenko not to agree to bow to pressure from his Western allies and sign another truce with the insurgents.</p> <p>Saturday's triumph in Slavyansk "justifies the position of those who favor a stepped-up military campaign over endless negotiations that turn this into a frozen conflict," said Volodymyr Gorbach of the Institute of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation.</p> <p>Poroshenko tore up a 10-day ceasefire last Monday because of unceasing rebel attacks that killed more than 20 soldiers and — according to both Washington and Kyiv — allowed the separatists to stock up on new supplies of heavy Russian arms.</p> <p>Uneasy EU leaders are hoping that a new truce and a Kremlin promise not to meddle can take pressure off the bloc to adopt sweeping sanctions that could damage their own strong energy and financial ties with Russia.</p> <p>Poroshenko hesitantly invited separatist leaders and a Russian envoy to attend <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">European</a>-brokered discussions about a new ceasefire on Saturday.</p> <p>The call had gone unanswered by Moscow and the rebel command. But Russia appeared ready to talk again after the fall of Slavyansk.</p> <p>Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed to his <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/france">French</a> and <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">German</a> counterpart late on Saturday the importance of "reaching an agreement between Kyiv and the southeast of Ukraine on an unconditional and lasting ceasefire."</p> <p>Lavrov specifically cited the "rapid escalation of the situation that comes amid an intensified military operation by the Ukrainian authorities."</p> <p><strong>Rebels regroup</strong></p> <p>The withdrawal from Slavyansk was led by senior militia commander Igor Strelkov —alleged by Kyiv to be a colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence unit.</p> <p>Kyiv believes this supports Western claims that Moscow is covertly backing the uprising to both punish the new leaders for the February ouster of a Kremlin-backed administration and keep control over Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine.</p> <p>Strelkov on Saturday lashed out at Vladimir Putin on Twitter for seemingly going back on his promise to use "all available means" to protect his compatriots in Ukraine — a neighbor the Kremlin chief referred to as "New Russia."</p> <p>But the 43-year-old rebel commander later told Moscow-backed television that he was busy plotting a counter-offensive that he himself would lead.</p> <p>"I intend to issue an order [on Monday] creating a central military council that will include all the major field commanders," Strelkov told the LifeNews channel.</p> <p>"This agency will help coordinate how we intend to defend the Donetsk People's Republic and, possibly, a part of the Lugansk People's Republic," he said in reference to the other separatist region of eastern Ukraine.</p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Diplomacy Europe Politics Russia Sun, 06 Jul 2014 16:48:24 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6197281 at http://www.globalpost.com Jewish extremists arrested over Palestinian teen's death http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140706/jewish-extremists-arrested-palestinian-teen-death <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In a related development, a Jerusalem court freed Tariq Abu Khder, the Palestinian American cousin of the murdered teen, to house arrest for nine days. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Israeli police have arrested a group of Jewish extremists in connection with the kidnap and murder of a Palestinian teenager who was burned to death in a suspected revenge killing.</p> <p>The brutal killing on July 2 has triggered four days of violent clashes which began in east Jerusalem and have since spread to more than half a dozen Arab towns in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/israel-and-palestine">Israel</a>, with hordes of angry protesters hurling stones at Israeli riot police.</p> <p>"Apparently the people arrested in relation to the case belong to an extremist Jewish group," an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.</p> <p>The website of Haaretz newspaper said six people had been arrested, but details of the case have been subjected to a strict gag order.</p> <p>Earlier, police acknowledged for the first time "indications that the background to the killing was nationalistic."</p> <p>It followed days of growing suspicion that Wednesday's murder was carried out by extremist Jews in revenge for last month's abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank.</p> <p>Tensions continued to rise in the south with Gaza militants firing another nine rockets over the border, despite a night of 10 air strikes.</p> <p>But Israel appeared bent on containing the situation, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging his cabinet to keep a cool head over how to handle growing tensions in and around Gaza.</p> <p><strong>Burnt alive</strong></p> <p>Overnight, Israel police arrested 35 people as violent protests over the teenager's murder swept more than half a dozen Arab Israeli towns.</p> <p>The violence exploded as a top Palestinian legal official confirmed that initial findings from the post mortem showed there was smoke in the lungs of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder, indicating he was still alive when he was set on fire.</p> <p>The grisly murder has sparked shock, disgust and an outpouring of condemnation from both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.</p> <p>But until Sunday, police said they were unsure of the motive for the killing, contributing to the rising tensions.</p> <p>"Around 35 people were arrested overnight, almost half of them minors," police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP after violence raged into the early hours of Sunday.</p> <p>Of those, 22 were detained in and around the northern city of Nazareth, Israel's most populous Arab town.</p> <p>The rest were arrested in the so-called Triangle, a concentration of Arab towns and villages close to the northwestern sector of the Green Line — Taibe, Tira, Qalansuwa, Jaljulia and Umm el-Fahm.</p> <p>"We are demonstrating against this incitement to hatred by Israelis online, who are saying 'death to Arabs'," one demonstrator in Qalansuwa told army radio.</p> <p><strong>US teen's house arrest</strong></p> <p>In a related development, a Jerusalem court freed a Palestinian American teenager, who was allegedly beaten in police custody, to house arrest for nine days pending an investigation into stone-throwing allegations.</p> <p>Tariq Abu Khder, 15, a cousin of the murdered teen, was arrested on Thursday in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat as clashes raged, and his parents said he was badly beaten in police custody.</p> <p>A day after his arrest, a video surfaced on YouTube showing Israeli border police beating and kicking a handcuffed semi-conscious figure on the ground, before dragging him away.</p> <p>Washington said it was "profoundly troubled" by the report, prompting the Israeli justice ministry's police investigations department to begin an urgent investigation.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Netanyahu demanded that his cabinet keep a cool head about growing tensions in Gaza.</p> <p>Over the past three weeks, militants there have stepped up rocket fire on southern Israel, causing damage but no injuries, prompting demands for a new military operation in the coastal enclave.</p> <p>So far, Israel has responded with air strikes, killing three militants, but Netanyahu has resisted calls for tougher action.</p> <p>"Experience has proved that at moments like this, we have to act responsibly and with a cool head and not with harsh words and impetuousness," he told the weekly cabinet meeting.</p> <p>Ministers are fiercely divided over how to respond to mounting militant rocket fire, with far right Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman pushing for a broad operation against Gaza.</p> <p>Overnight, the air force staged 10 strikes on Gaza after militants fired 15 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, two of which targeted the southern city of Beersheva some 25 miles away.</p> <p>There was another air strike on Sunday afternoon.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the army arrested a Palestinian in the flashpoint southern West Bank city of Hebron, with unconfirmed reports saying he was connected to the murder of the three Israeli teens.</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Diplomacy World Religion Israel and Palestine Sun, 06 Jul 2014 14:21:14 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6197222 at http://www.globalpost.com The Kurdish moment is now http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140705/kurdish-independence-vote-reactions-kurdistan-kurds-referendum <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Many Kurds who have longed dreamt of independence are eager to vote. Others worry a referendum could further destabilize the region. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tracey Shelton </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>KIRKUK, Iraq — As Iraqi Kurdish president Massoud Barzani asked legislators to prepare for an <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/140704/iraqi-kurdish-president-asks-parliament-prepare-independence-vo" target="_blank">independence referendum</a> Thursday, dozens of Kurds in the region's capital Erbil rallied in support, waving flags and chanting slogans of freedom and independence.</p> <p>The reaction internationally has not been so welcoming.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140703/us-opposes-independence-referendum-iraqi-kurds">US urged the Kurds to remain</a> with the central government. Maliki was highly unimpressed, accusing them of “exploiting” Iraq's precarious position as government forces battle with the extremist militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). </p> <p>“This is rejected," he said in a press conference on the semi-autonomous region's push for independence.</p> <p><strong>The case for Kurdish independence </strong></p> <p>Sunni militants seized control of large areas of Iraq last month. The Kurds moved in in the wake of fleeing Iraqi forces, gaining control — for the first time — of the full area they claim as Kurdish land in Iraq. So in effect, not only is Barzani calling for independence, but he plans to take a large chunk of previously government-controlled and oil-rich territory with him.</p> <p>In an interview with the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28103124" target="_blank">BBC</a>, president Barzani reinforced his belief in the right to Kurdish independence.</p> <p>"Iraq is effectively partitioned now," he said. "Are we supposed to stay in this tragic situation the country's living in? It's not me who will decide on independence. It's the people. We'll hold a referendum and it's a matter of months."</p> <p>If the referendum goes through, most Kurds say the answer will be an overwhelming "yes."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/140620/can-iraq-hold-together-should-it">Maybe the world should just let Iraq split apart</a></strong></p> <p>“Independence will be a great thing for Kurdistan, but it should have been done a long time ago,” said Hawer Ismael, a university student studying business management.</p> <p>Tailor Reaz Abdul Wahid agreed. “The sooner the better, but I think it will take some time. We have been trying for many years, so it won’t happen overnight,” he said.</p> <p>Independence has been the ultimate dream for the majority of Kurds since their region was split between Iraq, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/iran">Iran</a>, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/syria">Syria</a> and Turkey in the wake of World War I.</p> <p>With numbers surpassing 25 million, the Kurds are the largest ethnic group without a country of their own. In Turkey, the battle for independence has been long and bloody with few gains. The recent conflict in Syria gave Syrian Kurds their first chance to seize control of their own lands and today, they too stand on the brink of full independence.</p> <p>In Iraq, Kurds gained semi-autonomy with the support of the US in 1991. Talk of full independence has been frequent, but this is the first official move towards a complete split from Iraq. But are they capable of the unity such a move would require?</p> <p>Much of the country remains split between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan who fought a three-year civil war in the 1990s before settling on a power-sharing agreement. Both still operate somewhat independently and hold their own security forces.</p> <p>But most Kurds believe their leaders are capable of uniting under a Kurdish State flag.</p> <p>“It won't be easy as there are different groups and different parties, but if we unite we will be stronger and an example to other Kurdish regions,” said Ismael, the university student.</p> <p><strong>The consequences for Iraq</strong></p> <p>The central Iraqi government is already dealing with the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140630/what-the-worlds-newest-islamic-caliphate-might-look">declaration of an Islamic State</a> along its northern and western borders. Many say a Kurdish break from the already weakened Maliki government will further destabilize the country.</p> <p>“I do not like this call for independence. I reject it!” said Dr. Bassil, a plastic surgeon and Arab resident of Kirkuk, which is now under Kurdish control. “I think it will make even more problems for our country.”</p> <p>Ismael agreed that independence could further destabilize the central government and may even lead to further clashes, but he remains adamant that the time is right.</p> <p>“This may be our only chance for this, so we must take it,” he said.</p> <p>The most significant land gain for the Kurds in this recent crisis is the long disputed city of Kirkuk, whose population is split between Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Christians, all of whom claim historical ties to the oil rich city.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/140701/watch-english-speaking-isil-fighter-blames-violence-iraq-an">An English-speaking ISIL fighter explains how a 98-year-old colonial map created today's conflict</a></strong></p> <p>This new push for independence has been met with mixed reactions in this divided city.</p> <p>Among the Kurds, everyone interviewed for this article welcomed Kurdish rule. Arabs and Turkmen were split with some hopeful Kirkuk could stabilize and progress if united with the prosperous Kurdish region. Others, like Ahmed Mohammed, an Arab store owner, were adamantly opposed.</p> <p>“The Kurds don’t have the right to decide our fate,” he said.</p> <p>Reaz Abdul Wahid, who lives in the Kurdish region of Kirkuk, said while he hoped for a peaceful transfer to Kurdish rule, there is a possibility of violent resistance.</p> <p>“In my opinion, the majority will oppose this. But making Kirkuk a Kurdish area is necessary because the Kurds have suffered so much for so many years from the Saddam region and the policies of the new government,” Wahid said, adding he himself was one of thousands of Kurds arrested and tortured during the reign of Saddam.</p> <p>Harem Sazan, a Kirkuk landowner, said he believed Kurdish rule would bring stability and an economic boom to the city.</p> <p>“Within five years I think Kirkuk could be like Erbil," he said, referring to the rapid economic expansion of the Kurdish capital which stands in stark contrast to the instability and economic stagnation that plagues much of Iraq.</p> <p>"If no one opposes this take over it will be a great thing for all of us — Kurd, Turkmen, Christian and Arab,” he said.</p> <p>But as always, conspiracy theories abound.</p> <p>“Clearly the USA and Israel are behind this,” said an engineer who gave his name as Qutaiba. “How could Bazani make this decision without their support? We know the peshmerga have their deals with Israel.”</p> <p>Dr Bassil says the Kurds will never pull off such a bold move, with or without international support. “It’s all just talk,” he said. </p> <p>As for the Kurdish claim over Kirkuk he added: “They themselves know they are wrong in making this claim. This city does not belong to any one people. It must be shared between all the people who have a heritage here.” </p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Diplomacy Military Iraq World Religion Culture & Lifestyle Sat, 05 Jul 2014 15:30:40 +0000 Tracey Shelton 6196778 at http://www.globalpost.com Palestinian teen was burned alive, says autopsy report http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140705/palestinian-teen-burned-alive-clashes-spread <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Clashes over the incident spread Saturday from east Jerusalem to Arab Israeli towns. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>A Palestinian teenager whose abduction and murder set off violent protests was burned alive, according to initial autopsy reports, as clashes over the incident spread Saturday from east Jerusalem to Arab Israeli towns.</p> <p>Mohammed Abu Khder, 16, was abducted from his Shuafat neighborhood in occupied east Jerusalem early Wednesday and his charred body found not long after in a west Jerusalem forest.</p> <p>Palestinians said it was the deed of Jewish extremists in revenge for the kidnapping and murder in the West Bank last month of three Israeli teenagers</p> <p>Palestinian news agency Maan quoted Attorney General Mohammed Aluweiwi Saturday as saying the initial findings of a post-mortem indicated the presence of smoke in the boy's lungs, meaning he was still alive while he was being burned.</p> <p>Abu Khder also suffered a head wound, but that did not cause his death, Aluweiwi added.</p> <p>Israeli police said Saturday they still could not confirm the motive for Abu Khder's murder.</p> <p>A spokeswoman told AFP police were investigating "all possibilities," and that there was a gag order on all details of the investigation.</p> <p>The teenager's funeral Friday, joined by thousands of mourners, was accompanied by clashes across Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem, the third straight day of violence since the discovery of his body.</p> <p>Disturbances spread to the Arab towns of Taibe in northeastern <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/israel-and-palestine">Israel</a> and Jaljulia and Qalansuwa in the center where one car was torched after its Jewish owner was pulled out of it, police said.</p> <p>More a dozen Arab Israelis were arrested, they added.</p> <p>Police said they remained on high alert Saturday ahead of further possible clashes.</p> <p><strong>Murdered teen's cousin arrested</strong></p> <p>One of those arrested in the east Jerusalem clashes was Tariq Abu Khder, the 15-year-old cousin of the murdered Palestinian youth and an American citizen on vacation in east Jerusalem.</p> <p>Speaking to AFP Saturday, his parents said Tariq was arrested in Shuafat after being beaten by police on Thursday.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDENWwEDGr4" target="_blank">video</a> circulated on social media shows what appears to be Israeli border police beating and kicking a handcuffed semi-conscious figure before dragging him away.</p> <p>The parents, who saw their son in an Israeli hospital, said they were told Tariq was arrested for being masked.</p> <p>Police spokeswoman Luba Samri could not confirm it was Tariq in the video, but said the footage was from the arrest of a group of six Palestinians, of which Tariq was part.</p> <p>Samri said police found a sling on Tariq, who attacked police and resisted arrest, while others were stoning the police force and throwing Molotov cocktails at them.</p> <p>Samri said six police were wounded during that arrest operation.</p> <p>Abu Khder will appear before a Jerusalem court Sunday, his parents said.</p> <p>Meanwhile, militants continued rocket and mortar fire at Israel from Gaza Saturday, amid <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/egypt">Egyptian</a> efforts to broker a renewed truce between Israel and its Islamist foe Hamas following a flare-up of cross-border violence.</p> <p>Ten rockets and mortar rounds were fired at southern Israel, the army said, with one soldier lightly wounded by mortar fire.</p> <p>There has been a surge in militant rocket fire and retaliatory Israeli air raids since the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens prompted a huge Israeli crackdown on Hamas in the occupied West Bank.</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Politics Culture & Lifestyle Israel and Palestine Sat, 05 Jul 2014 14:42:01 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6196757 at http://www.globalpost.com Major win for pro-European Kyiv http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140705/slavyansk-has-fallen-time-the-government <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The rebels largest stronghold in the east, Slavyansk, is no longer. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine's interior minister said on Saturday that most pro-Russian rebels and their top commander had fled their main eastern stronghold in what would be Kyiv's biggest success of the nearly three-month campaign.</p> <p>"This morning, intelligence reported that Girkin (Igor Strelkov) and a substantial part of the rebels had fled Slavyansk," Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in reference to the industrial city of nearly 120,000 the insurgents captured on April 6.</p> <p>Ukraine alleges that Strelkov is a colonel in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/russia">Russia</a>'s military intelligence unit know as the Chief Intelligence Directorate (GRU).</p> <p>Both Strelkov and Moscow deny any GRU link despite Western claims that the Kremlin is covertly funding and arming the uprising to destabilize Kyiv's new pro-European leaders and retain control over over Russia-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine.</p> <p>Avakov said in a Facebook post that the militias were fleeing to Gorlivka — a city of 260,000 about 30 miles southeast of Slavyansk that also remains largely under the militias' control.</p> <p>He wrote in a later post that civilians were taking over roadblocks previously controlled by the insurgents "and carrying weapons and bulletproof vests abandoned by the rebels."</p> <p>A Human Rights Watch observer who said she was in the area confirmed Avakov's claim in a tweet.</p> <p>"Between 8 and 9 this morning saw insurgents leaving #Slavyansk via #Kramatorsk," Tatyana Lokshina said in a post.</p> <p>"They were saying, 'the city's fallen, everyone's getting out'," she wrote.</p> <p><strong>'Massive' offensive</strong></p> <p>Strelkov himself told the pro-Kremlin LifeNews channel on Friday that his units "will be destroyed ... within a week, two weeks at the latest" unless Russia helped secure an immediate truce or moved in its troops.</p> <p>Slavyansk is the symbolic heart of an uprising sparked by the February ouster of a pro-Kremlin administration in Kyiv and fuelled by Russia's subsequent seizure of Crimea.</p> <p>Relentless shelling and sniper fire have since killed more than 470 people and left Western leaders frustrated by repeated mediation failures.</p> <p>Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday agreed to immediate crisis talks with rebel commanders and Russia aimed at stemming bloodshed that has threatened his ex-Soviet country's survival and ruptured East-West ties.</p> <p>Clashes in the economically-vital border regions of Lugansk and Donetsk have picked up with renewed vigor since Poroshenko tore up a 10-day ceasefire agreement earlier this week.</p> <p>His decision was immediately followed by the launch of a "massive" offensive by Kyiv that led President Vladimir Putin to warn that Russia had the right to protect its compatriots in Ukraine.</p> <p>But Poroshenko's call for talks on Saturday have yet to be confirmed by either Moscow or mediators from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">Europe</a> (OSCE) — a Vienna-based body first formed to preserve peace on the continent during the Cold War.</p> <p>Kyiv has balked at the idea of holding round-table talks in Donetsk — a location in which Moscow carries widespread influence and prefers. But the insurgents refuse to travel to Kyiv or EU member countries for fear of their immediate arrest.</p> <p>The number two man in the separatist Donetsk cabinet suggested to Interfax on Friday that the round-table discussion be convened in the Belarus capital Minsk.</p> <p><strong>'Russian colonel'</strong></p> <p>The 43-year-old Strelkov remains one the uprising's most mysterious but also powerful figures who effectively headed the new Kyiv leadership's most-wanted list.</p> <p>He holds the title of "defence minister" of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and is also the chief of the Slavyansk militia.</p> <p>Strelkov was linked to the April capture and detention of seven OSCE monitors in Slavyansk who were eventually released after an eight-day ordeal following intervention from Moscow.</p> <p>Kyiv has published what it says are intercepted conversations between him and Putin's special envoy Vladimir Lukin talking about the OSCE monitors.</p> <p>"We want to liberate Ukraine from the fascists," Strelkov told a Russian tabloid after his units had captured Slavyansk.</p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Diplomacy Military Europe Russia Sat, 05 Jul 2014 14:04:07 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6196734 at http://www.globalpost.com Tensions simmer in riot-hit Myanmar city http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140704/tensions-simmer-riot-hit-myanmar-city-0 <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Police patrolled tense streets on Friday as anger and disbelief rippled through Myanmar's second-largest city. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p class="ng-scope">Police patrolled tense streets in Myanmar's second-largest city on Friday as anger and disbelief rippled through violence-hit communities following deadly Buddhist-Muslim clashes that raised fears of spreading unrest.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Calm returned to Mandalay after the city was placed under curfew Thursday to quell violence that saw mobs wielding airguns, swords, rocks and other weapons go on a rampage, leaving one Buddhist and one Muslim dead.</p> <p class="ng-scope">It was the latest in a string of deadly religious clashes that have plagued the former junta-run nation for two years, prompting warnings that the country's fragile transition to democracy could be imperilled.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Violence broke out on Tuesday after an accusation of a rape of a Buddhist woman by two Muslim men from a local tea shop was spread on the Internet, prompting a crowd of hundreds to gather near the business, hurling stones and damaging property.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"The violence happened because of hate speech and misinformation spread online," an official from the president's office, who asked not to be named, told AFP.</p> <p class="ng-scope">He said the situation was now under control and the government so far had no specific plan to tackle inflammatory remarks posted on the Internet.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Friends and relatives of the Buddhist man killed on Wednesday, a 36-year-old father of three, expressed their shock and outrage as they prepared to hold his funeral.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"He was like a brother to me," said Htwe, who was with the dead man on the night of the attack.</p> <p class="ng-scope">He showed AFP injuries on his hand that he said were slash marks from a "sword" used by a group of Muslims to kill his friend.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"I will hold a grudge for the rest of my life," he said of the attack.</p> <p class="ng-scope">A funeral for the dead Muslim man, a popular local bicycle shop owner, was held Thursday, hours after he was killed while on his way to attend early morning prayers.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Kari Hasan, the head of nearby Shaeshaung mosque, said the Muslim community had become a target of hate speech and had been let down by the authorities.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"If something happens they suddenly say it is because of Islam. With the new government we expected good things but we only get bad things," he said.</p> <p class="ng-scope">- Fears of more riots -</p> <p class="ng-scope">Sectarian clashes have left at least 250 people dead and tens of thousands displaced since fighting first broke out in western Rakhine state in 2012.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Most of the victims of the violence have been Muslim and clashes have often erupted as a result of rumours or individual criminal acts.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Radical monks have been accused of stoking religious tensions, while the security forces have been accused of failing to prevent attacks.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed the authorities for the worsening violence and warned of the dangers of unsubstantiated reports.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"The authorities should properly handle those people who are spreading rumours. Without rule of law, more riots will come," she told Radio Free <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/asia">Asia</a>, according to remarks posted on the broadcaster's website.</p> <p class="ng-scope">In a monthly radio address broadcast this week, Myanmar's reformist President Thein Sein said the country was a "multi-racial and -religious nation" that could only maintain stability if people live "harmoniously".</p> <p class="ng-scope">"For the reform to be successful, I would like to urge all to avoid instigation and behaviour that incite hatred among our fellow citizens," he said, according to an official transcript.</p> Bangladesh Want to Know Myanmar AFP Fri, 04 Jul 2014 10:50:56 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6196080 at http://www.globalpost.com Pope orders envoys to visit problem priest’s Paraguay diocese http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/140703/pope-orders-envoys-visit-problem-priest-Urrutigoity-paraguay <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The trip comes after a GlobalPost investigation into the rise in Paraguay of a priest accused of molestation in the US. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will Carless </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BOULDER, Colorado &mdash; Pope Francis will send a delegation this month to a city in Paraguay that&rsquo;s been rocked by a priest scandal detailed in a recent <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/140602/catholic-priest-molestation-allegation-paraguay" target="_blank">GlobalPost investigative story</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/locales/papa-dispuso-visita-apostolica-para-saber-que-pasa-en-diocesis-del-este-1261950.html" target="_blank">news</a> of the trip comes two weeks after Paraguay&rsquo;s chief prosecutor for youth launched an investigation into Carlos Urrutigoity, the problem priest featured in this site&rsquo;s article.</p> <p>Urrutigoity, who was accused of molesting young men in Pennsylvania in the early 2000s, has risen to a position of significant power since moving to the eastern Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este.</p> <p>GlobalPost&rsquo;s ground reporting there last month unleashed a flood of controversy over the priest&rsquo;s continued work at the Paraguayan diocese and led local activists to <a href="http://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/piden-suspension-de-urrutigoity-1256529.html" target="_blank">call for Urrutigoity&rsquo;s suspension</a>.</p> <p>He has denied ever molesting anyone. He said in a <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/140602/catholic-priest-molestation-allegation-paraguay" target="_blank">face-to-face interview </a>with GlobalPost that he is a victim of a smear campaign.</p> <p>Still, the purpose of the July 21 to 26 papal envoys&#39; visit is not immediately clear.</p> <p>A Vatican diplomat in Paraguay announced the visit during a news conference Wednesday in the South American country&rsquo;s capital of Asuncion, <a href="http://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/visita-a-cde-es-coincidencia-1262214.html" target="_blank">local media reported</a>. News reports quoted him as saying it would be &ldquo;a pastoral visit to find out some things.&rdquo;</p> <p>Paraguay&rsquo;s Ultima Hora newspaper <a href="http://www.ultimahora.com/papa-envia-hombre-fuerte-del-vaticano-la-diocesis-del-este-visita-pastoral-n808790.html" target="_blank">described</a> one of the envoys being sent to Paraguay, Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, as a &ldquo;strong man of the Vatican.&rdquo; It said the other will be Bishop Milton Troccoli, the auxiliary bishop of Montevideo, Uruguay.</p> <p>Paraguay&rsquo;s Catholic Church has <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/140606/time-globalpost-story-caused-schism-paraguay-s-catholic-church" target="_blank">been in quite a tizzy</a> since the revelations against Urrutigoity.</p> <p>The scandal triggered old animosities between the bishop of Ciudad del Este, Rogelio Livieres Plano, and Archbishop of Asuncion Monsignor Pastor Cuquejo.</p> <p>Cuquejo has said that a new <a href="http://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/iglesia-retomaria-investigacion-1251695.html" target="_blank">investigation should be opened</a> into Urrutigoity in Paraguay. That incensed Livieres Plano, who shot back at the archbishop, <a href="http://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/casi-tirado-por-homosexual-1252355.html" target="_blank">accusing him of being gay</a> and &ldquo;a bad person,&rdquo; while virulently defending Urrutigoity.</p> <p>Things haven&rsquo;t calmed down much since then.</p> <p>ABC Color, the country&rsquo;s largest media group, has published more than 20 stories since GlobalPost&rsquo;s investigation broke on June 3, and the feud between the country&rsquo;s top two bishops has been front-page news in Paraguay for weeks.</p> <p>In its latest <a href="http://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/visita-a-cde-es-coincidencia-1262214.html" target="_blank">story</a>, ABC Color quoted Livieres Plano as saying the papal dignitaries&rsquo; visit was a &ldquo;coincidence&rdquo; and was unrelated to the recent scandal. Livieres Plano told the outlet he&rsquo;d requested a visit from the Vatican two years ago.</p> <p>At the news conference Wednesday, <a href="http://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/visita-a-cde-es-coincidencia-1262214.html" target="_blank">local reporters asked</a> a Vatican diplomat if the papal envoys&rsquo; visit was related to the Urrutigoity scandal. Eliseo Arioti, the diplomat who made the announcement, said the visit is &ldquo;to find out not only what has happened lately, but also to see what&rsquo;s going on in the house of Ciudad del Este.&rdquo;</p> <p>On June 10, Paraguay&rsquo;s chief public prosecutor for children and adolescents, Maria Graciela, <a href="http://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/urrutigoity-en-la-mira-de-la-fiscalia-1254031.html" target="_blank">told ABC Color</a> that her office was launching an investigation into whether there are victims of Priest Urrutigoity in Paraguay.</p> <p>The US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP has reacted positively to the news of the delegation&rsquo;s visit to Ciudad del Este.</p> <p>&ldquo;Had everyone stayed silent, this wouldn&rsquo;t be happening,&rdquo; SNAP director David Clohessy told GlobalPost by phone Thursday. &ldquo;This is more proof that only when victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and journalists expose wrongdoing, only then do church officials take action.&rdquo;</p> <p>Urrutigoity has a long history of accusations of molesting young men.</p> <p>The priest, who is Argentine, was asked to leave a seminary in Argentina in the late &rsquo;90s, but was given a &ldquo;second chance&rdquo; at a seminary in Winona, Minnesota, according to a 1999 letter by Urrutigoity&rsquo;s superior at the time.</p> <p>In Minnesota, Urrutigoity was again accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a young seminarian, according to the 1999 letter. The Argentine priest then moved on to the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania.</p> <p>In 2002, he was named in a civil lawsuit, along with another priest. The two men were accused of molesting young men and creating a cult-like atmosphere at a boys&rsquo; school in Pennsylvania. The lawsuit was settled in 2004 for more than $450,000.</p> <p>Urrutigoity, who was never criminally charged, left the United States and reappeared in Paraguay in 2008. After a brief controversy, he rose to become the second in command of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este.</p> <p>Local activists there have been repeatedly calling on the Vatican to investigate the diocese, which one former church volunteer described as &ldquo;a refuge for delinquents.&rdquo;</p> Americas Want to Know World Religion Fri, 04 Jul 2014 09:06:57 +0000 Will Carless 6195651 at http://www.globalpost.com 7 things you need to know about Ahmed Chalabi http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140702/7-things-you-need-know-about-ahmed-chalabi <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> At one point, he was persona non grata at the US Embassy in Iraq. Now, his name is being floated to be the next Iraqi prime minister. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Colarusso </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>As <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140630/kirkuk-gun-market-arms-dealers-video">Iraq</a> descends into chaos at the hands of religious militants who want to establish a <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140630/what-the-hell-caliphate" target="_blank">caliphate</a>, America and its allies are scrambling to find someone &mdash; anyone &mdash; to replace embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The desperation has led to some unlikely candidates, including formerly disgraced US intelligence asset and suspected spy <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140621/ahmed-chalabi">Ahmed Chalabi</a>.</p> <p>Chalabi was one of the main agitators who pushed the United States to war in Iraq in 2003. He not only advocated for the conflict but supplied the Bush administration with much of the flawed intelligence about weapons of mass destruction on which they based their case for the invasion. His stock has risen and fallen among US policymakers and politicians as popularity for the war has waxed and waned. But, desperate times call for desperate measures, and his name is once again being <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/01/world/middleeast/for-iraq-potential-leader-with-a-tarnished-past.html?ref=world&amp;_r=0">floated</a> as a potential Iraqi prime minister. With that in mind, here are seven things you need to know about the man once investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for passing along state secrets.</p> <p><strong>1. Chalabi was convicted of bank fraud in Jordan. </strong><br /> In 1977, Chalabi opened Petra bank in Jordan. Ten years later, it was the second biggest bank in the country, but a financial crisis forced Jordan&rsquo;s central bank to impose strict liquidity rules. Chalabi <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/06/07/040607fa_fact1?currentPage=all">refused to comply</a>, fled the country and claimed he was being politically persecuted. In April of 1992, he was found guilty of 31 charges, including embezzlement, theft and forgery, and sentenced to 22 years of hard labor. He was later pardoned by King Abdullah.</p> <p><strong>2. His father was one of the wealthiest men in Iraq before fleeing the country.</strong><br /> Born in October of 1940, Chalabi had a charmed childhood. His father, who was the president of the Iraqi Senate and even advised King Faisal, was extremely wealthy and carried a tremendous amount of influence within Shia circles. In 1958, when the military staged a coup and deposed the monarchy, the family went into exile, leaving behind its vast real estate holdings. Chalabi vowed to reclaim his family&#39;s lost land, which he described as more than a million square meters in the heart of Baghdad.</p> <p><strong>3. Chalabi is a math whiz.</strong><br /> Educated in the United States, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/05/world/meast/ahmed-chalabi-fast-facts/">Chalabi</a> has a B.S. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He studied knot theory, a type of geometry, as a PhD student at the University of Chicago. He also taught math at the American University of Beirut from 1970 until 1977.</p> <p><strong>4. He founded the Iraqi National Congress, but his colleagues didn&rsquo;t want him to lead it.</strong><br /> The INC, an umbrella group of activists who opposed the Hussein regime, was formed in 1992 following the Gulf War. Its first meeting was in Vienna that June, but Chalabi, who was instrumental in setting the group up and securing US funding, didn&rsquo;t garner enough support to make it onto the board. It&rsquo;s not clear how, but by the end of the symposium, Chalabi&rsquo;s name was added to the 15-member board.</p> <p><strong>5. Chalabi has been accused of everything from espionage to killing Jordanians</strong>.<br /> There is a long list of grievances against Chalabi. In August of 2003, the Jordanians blamed him for a bomb that erupted near their embassy in Iraq, killing 17. In May of 2004, US officials searched his home and offices during an investigation of the INC. They were looking for evidence of fraud, kidnapping, counterfeiting and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57595-2004Sep2.html">spying</a>. In August of 2009, American military intelligence found some evidence that Chalabi had ties to terrorists that attacked a group of Marines.</p> <p><strong>6. Chalabi&rsquo;s brothers have also gotten into trouble for their shady deals.</strong><br /> In 2000, Chalabi&rsquo;s two brothers, Jawad and Hazam, pleaded no contest to charges of false accounting after the collapse of Socofi, an investment company in Switzerland. (Authorities said the firm made inappropriate loans to Ahmed Chalabi and others in his family.) The pair received suspended six-month prison sentences.</p> <p><strong>7. He headed the de-Baathification committee in Iraq.</strong><br /> In Saddam Hussein&rsquo;s Iraq, membership in the Baath party was a requirement for almost any government job. But the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority decided it wanted to get rid of anyone with ties to the group &mdash; no matter how strong or weak they were. The move fomented pervasive political discontent and helped give rise to the insurgency. Chalabi was in charge of this effort for a spell.</p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Iraq United States Fri, 04 Jul 2014 04:45:52 +0000 Laura Colarusso 6194104 at http://www.globalpost.com A fuming Russia calls it quits http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/140703/russia-smoking-ban-cigarettes-tobacco <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tough new anti-smoking restrictions are rocking the boat in one of the world’s heaviest-smoking countries. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/russia">Russia</a> — People here may be riding high on a wave of patriotic pride thanks to their country’s resurgence on the world stage, but not everything is so hunky-dory at home.</p> <p>Russians have been asked to give up one of their favorite pastimes: smoking. And they’re not happy about it.</p> <p>It’s been just over a month since the government enacted its toughest smoking ban yet — which restricts cigarette sales and prohibits people from lighting up indoors — and it’s sending at least some of the country’s 44 million tobacco addicts into withdrawal.</p> <p>From ordinary smokers and small-time kiosk owners to high-profile restaurateurs, many here in the world’s second-largest tobacco market are still questioning whether the heavy-handed new rules will even work.</p> <p>“If the goal of this law is designed to be humanitarian and noble, then this is not the way to do it,” says Natalia Zorkaya, a researcher at the independent Levada Center think-tank in Moscow, and a smoker.</p> <p>“With these methods, you won’t achieve anything in particular.”</p> <p>The law, which went into effect on June 1, is part of a multi-step effort aimed at breaking up Russia’s longtime romance with the habit, which officials say claims up to 400,000 lives each year.</p> <p>Last year, smoking was banned in hospitals, government buildings and education institutions.</p> <p>Now it’s been extended to the country’s smoke-filled bars and cafes, from neighborhood watering holes to $30-a-dish eateries. It also includes many other public places, including transportation hubs and hotels.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the sale of cigarettes at street kiosks — one of the more common places to buy them — has been banned, and prices, although still dirt cheap at around $1.75 per pack, will probably continue to rise.</p> <p>The ban may have been at least a year and a half in the making, but many smokers say it still comes as somewhat of a shock.</p> <p>“They should find a better way to do it, such as possibly creating alternative spaces for smoking,” said Tatyana, a jewelry store attendant in her 50s, during a recent smoke break.</p> <p>“They just don’t understand that quitting is very, very hard to do.”</p> <p>Still, the ban appears to be already paying off, even if it’s just for the state coffers for now.</p> <p>The Federal Consumer Protection Service says officials have raked in around $500,000 in fines this year from smokers, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported.</p> <p>Nearly half that figure was collected in June, the first month of the ban.</p> <p>But observers say many of Moscow’s dining establishments are enjoying the opposite effect.</p> <p>Igor Bukharov, head of the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers, claims some local bars and eateries have taken revenue hits of up to 20 percent since the ban took effect.</p> <p>In an interview with the Izvestia daily newspaper last week, he said many of his <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">European</a> colleagues reported up to a 30 percent drop in business during the first year of bans in their countries.</p> <p>“Then customers come back, having become used to the ban and adapted to it,” he said. “But by that time, a portion of the establishments will have gone under.”</p> <p>That fear may have prompted some restaurateurs to look for loopholes in the legislation that allow smoking in outdoor verandas and terraces, a fact that even won approval from a top health official who conceded the law applies only to indoor spaces.</p> <p>In a bid for clarification, Russia’s third-largest party in parliament submitted a draft law this week that would allow cafe and bar owners to chose for themselves whether to allow smoking on their outdoor patios.</p> <p>However, Russia’s consumer rights watchdog quickly batted down the idea, and a top parliamentary official said Thursday that the bill stood virtually no chance of passing.</p> <p> Besides irking the average smoker and restaurateur, the stringent new ban is also likely to ruffle Big Tobacco’s feathers.</p> <p>Observers estimate that around 90 percent of Russia’s $20 billion cigarette market is controlled by a handful of foreign companies such as <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/united-kingdom">British</a> American Tobacco and Philip Morris, which are believed to hold considerable sway via the country’s powerful tobacco lobby in parliament.</p> <p>They’re already voicing concerns about what they claim will be a harsh backlash.</p> <p>“What we fear is that all those street vendors — we used to call them ‘babushkas’ in the 1990s, who were selling these products near the metro stations — will reappear,” Alexander Lyuty, communications director at British American Tobacco’s Russia division, told Voice of Russia radio earlier this month.</p> <p>“And these people don’t care what sort of product they sell, whether it is legal or illegal.”</p> <p>Arguments from tobacco industry representatives may seem suspect to some, but in this case there’s more than a grain of truth behind them.</p> <p>Experts say the new ban will probably lead to a variety of new methods aimed at circumventing the law.</p> <p>Zorkaya, the Levada Center researcher, calls it the “creativity and shiftiness of our people.”</p> <p>She pointed to the disastrous partial prohibition of alcohol introduced under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during the late 1980s, which resulted in a budget deficit and a surge in black market production.</p> <p>“Whenever there are prohibitive measures that infringe on any sort of human vices, a person will find a way out, and it will usually involve some sort of gray scheme,” she says.</p> <p>They vary from the basic to the amusingly creative.</p> <p>Visit one of the far-flung men’s bathrooms in Domodedovo International Airport, for example, and you might find the acrid stench of smoke hanging in the air, with mysterious black specks — the remains of a stubbed-out cigarette — scattered in sinks and toilet bowls.</p> <p>Then there’s the kiosk near one of Moscow’s main railway stations that morphs into a “pavilion” overnight.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/energy/140702/russia-south-stream-pipeline-ukraine-european-union">Russia's pipeline politics are dividing the EU</a></strong></p> <p>Since the law bans the sale of cigarettes at kiosks, the owner simply covers up the windows (you can’t openly show cigarettes, either) and swings the door open, thereby rendering it a proper retail space, however tenuously.</p> <p>When approached by a GlobalPost reporter, the vendor confirmed the rearrangement had been done especially to suit the law.</p> <p>Meanwhile, ordinary smokers remain defiant, if still somewhat fatalistic.</p> <p>“Of course I know I should quit, but it’s hard to see how a law could force me,” said Alexei, a 33-year-old Muscovite enjoying a cigarette outside a central cafe on a recent evening.</p> <p>But what about the long winters, when temperatures sometimes plunge to minus 20 degrees?</p> <p>“It’ll be cold, but we’ll figure it out,” he added with a grin. </p> Smoking Want to Know Culture & Lifestyle Russia Fri, 04 Jul 2014 04:45:48 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6195557 at http://www.globalpost.com A bunch of Zimbabwean MPs spent all their money shopping in China and now they can't leave http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/zimbabwe/140703/zimbabwean-mps-broke-guangdong-china <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Because they're broke. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Twenty-seven Zimbabwean legislators made a trip to Beijing to promote their "Look East" campaign.</p> <p>When they got there, a few of them decided to look south instead.</p> <p>A group <a href="https://www.newsday.co.zw/2014/07/01/shopping-spree-27-zimbabwe-mps-stuck-china/" target="_blank">reportedly</a> got overwhelmed in the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/china">Chinese</a> capital and opted to fly south to Guangdong province. They heard the prices were lower there, and they wanted to go shopping.</p> <p>The MPs were reportedly advised against doing so, since Guangdong is relatively far from Beijing and also because they didn't have tons of money. </p> <p>They did not heed this advice, but they should have because once they got there, they spent all their money and now they are stranded in Guangdong.</p> <p>Moreover, the group as a whole missed their flight back home to Harare from Beijing. The next one isn't until July 10.</p> <p>Meanwhile, back in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/zimbabwe">Zimbabwe</a>, parliament resumed this week. With 27 people missing.</p> <p><em>H/T <a href="http://shanghaiist.com/2014/07/03/zimbabwe-shopping-spree-guangdong.php" target="_blank">Shanghaiist</a></em></p> Strange But True Politics Culture & Lifestyle Zimbabwe Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:56:42 +0000 Emily Lodish 6195532 at http://www.globalpost.com This is Argentina’s last month to avoid another default http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/argentina/140702/argentinean-debt-default-holdouts <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Foreign ‘vultures’ and Argentines alike are demanding their money back. But will their quest for compensation push the country to default again? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ed Stocker </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/argentina">BUENOS AIRES</a>, Argentina — Maria Elena Corral worked for 42 years as a secretary in this South American capital city. Her parents, immigrants who fled Franco’s <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/spain">Spain</a>, instilled in her the need to be frugal.</p> <p>But an investment decision over a decade ago has haunted her ever since, and it’s kept the pensioner locked in a lengthy legal battle rather than enjoying retirement.</p> <p>It all goes back to when Argentina defaulted on a record $95 billion of debt at the end of 2001. The economy crashed. The International Monetary Fund pulled its aid. Riots ensued. Several presidents resigned. People saw their dollar bank balances convert to heavily devalued pesos.</p> <p>So Corral, who had $80,000 of life savings in bonds, was left with next to nothing.</p> <p>“They told me at the bank that I was buying sovereign debt bonds and that I’d never have a problem,” says the 77-year-old, who lives alone in Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood. “But just in case, I was told to purchase bonds that fell under foreign legislation.”</p> <p>She’s one of 13 Argentines, almost all retirees, who are fighting to recoup their lost investments in a New York court, where their bonds have jurisdiction.</p> <p>But Corral is also part of a much bigger debt drama, pitting the interests of international hedge fund managers against a nation. The fight could once again plunge Argentina into default. While it may not prove as catastrophic as 2001, failing to resolve this situation could do serious damage to Argentina’s economy — and to its prospects of rejoining international capital markets it’s been locked out of since the crisis.</p> <p>Alongside the 13 Argentines in the case is a group of hedge funds, led by NML Capital, a subsidiary of US billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management. Unlike the individuals, the funds bought bonds after the country had already defaulted — and at a fraction of their original value. They’ve been seeking full repayment in court, setting them up to make a tidy profit.</p> <p>The individual Argentine bondholders and the funds are referred to as “holdouts,” because they held out while most of the other investors agreed to the Argentine government’s exchange deals — of around 35 cents on the dollar — in two restructuring agreements in 2005 and 2010.</p> <p>But for Corral, accepting a compromise would have been “madness.”</p> <p>In 2012, US District Judge Thomas Griesa in New York ruled that if Argentina pays the exchange bondholders, it must also pay holdouts like Corral and NML Capital.</p> <p>Argentina’s government argues it cannot pay what it says would amount to $15 billion — if all the holdouts’ claims were taken into consideration — and appealed against Griesa’s ruling to the US Supreme Court. Last month the high court declined to hear Argentina’s case, seemingly opening the way for Corral to recuperate her loses.</p> <p>“Until I see that money in my hand I won’t believe I’ll get it back,” Corral says. She claims her health suffered while looking after her sick mother, who died in 2009, because she wasn’t able to afford a medical caregiver.</p> <p>The Argentine government has yet to sit down and negotiate a way to pay, although talks between the sides are expected on Monday. Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said last week at the United Nations that the country would be pushed “into a technical default and an economic crisis” if it were made to pay both the holdouts and restructured bondholders.</p> <p>Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has described this situation as “extortion” by “vulture funds” — a term critics use for funds like NML that buy the distressed debt of companies or countries that are struggling with bankruptcy.</p> <p>But the government seems to be flip-flopping — one moment chastising, the other seeking conciliation — making it hard to know where the negotiations will lead.</p> <p>“Argentina argues that the [international] financial system is the problem — and they’re probably right — but they already knew that,” argues Fernando Navajas from the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/americas">Latin American</a> Economic Research Foundation. “They knew the rules. If you want to fight the vultures, you have to have a much stronger fiscal position.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/argentina/121123/vulture-funds-NML-economy" target="_blank">NML Capital&rsquo; profit quest could push Argentina to default</a> </strong></p> <p>But individual Argentine voices are rarely heard.</p> <p>Horacio Vazquez, 57, bought bonds as a mid-term investment a few years after Corrales, at the end of 2000, and says the $70,000 he later lost was the “start of a struggle.”</p> <p>Vazquez claims that the government saved the banks in Argentina’s 2001-02 crisis — paying them the full value of the bonds they had invested in order to stop them from going bankrupt — but ignored the people.</p> <p>“I understand the need to save the banks, but when they start to make money again why not charge them a tax and return the money to us?” he says, sipping espresso in a northern Buenos Aires cafe.</p> <p>Vazquez is one of some 40 claimants in a separate court case initiated in 2003 — also overseen in New York by Judge Griesa — that ended in favor of the holdouts three years later. But he hasn’t received any money, due to Argentina’s refusal to pay, though he hopes the finality of the Supreme Court’s recent decision will lead to a solution.</p> <p>“Argentina is playing for time,” he adds. “The best thing for my country would be to keep its mouth shut and negotiate the best way possible [to pay].”</p> <p>But time appears to be running out. Last week Argentina deposited money in several bank accounts to pay restructured bondholders — part of a scheduled payment due June 30. Judge Griesa was enraged, saying there was no compensation made for holdouts and calling the move “a brazen step in violation of this court’s orders.”</p> <p>Griesa blocked the money, ordering it sent back to Argentina. That means Argentina missed the June 30 deadline. The country has a 30-day grace period to pay — if it doesn’t, it will default on its debt for the second time in 13 years.</p> <p>“The government needs to find a solution for all of the holdouts,” says Buenos Aires-based economist Miguel Kiguel, who has advised the IMF and the World Bank. “If they don’t, this is never going to end.”</p> <p>With ongoing claims in several <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">European</a> countries, Argentina must decide whether it wants to finally close the darkest chapter in its economic history, despite what it sees as an unjust ruling.</p> <p>“I’m tired of all of this,” retiree Corral says. “Sometimes I can’t even talk about it.”</p> Argentina Debt Crisis Want to Know Emerging Markets Political Risk United States Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:42:00 +0000 Ed Stocker 6194129 at http://www.globalpost.com Warplanes and rocket fire are flying between Israel and Gaza after teen killings http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/war/140703/warplanes-and-rockets-are-flying-israel-and-gaza <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/israel-and-palestine">Israel</a> deployed extra forces to its border with Gaza on Thursday after continued Palestinian rocket fire and heightened tensions following the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.</p> <p>"We are moving and we have moved forces in order to serve defense activities and forward preparation, but we have no interest in escalation," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told journalists.</p> <p>The reinforcements were reserve officers at "headquarter level, not in the field," Lerner said, and were a purely defensive measure.</p> <p>Armed forces chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz sent a similar message in comments tweeted by the army.</p> <p>"We are looking for calm, not escalation, but if Hamas chooses to act against us we shall be ready," he said.</p> <p>Israeli warplanes pounded targets inside the Gaza Strip on Thursday and militants hit back with 16 rockets.</p> <p>In east Jerusalem's Shuafat neighborhood, masked Palestinians hurled stones and fireworks at Israeli police and sent burning car tyres rolling along streets in a second day of protest over the kidnap and murder of local 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder.</p> <p>Many believe his was a copycat killing following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140617/israeli-teens-disappeared-naftali-family" target="_blank">Days after 3 Israeli teens disappeared, a family struggles to cope</a></strong></p> <p>Israel police say the motive for the Abu Khder's killing is still unclear, and have not said how he died.</p> <p>But the family's lawyer told AFP the boy's body had been burnt "beyond recognition."</p> <p>It was not known when he would be buried.</p> <p>In clashes on Wednesday, 232 Palestinians were injured, 178 of them in Shuafat alone, said Dr. Amin Abu Ghazali of the Red Crescent in east Jerusalem.</p> <p>Of that number, 187 were wounded by rubber bullets and six by live ammunition, he told AFP.<br>  </p> <p><strong>Gaza rockets, Israeli raids </strong></p> <p>Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Abu Khder's killing as "despicable" and urged both sides "not to take the law into their own hands."</p> <p>One of the families of the three murdered Israeli teens described it as a "horrendous act."</p> <p>Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas demanded that Netanyahu act against revenge attacks and called for Abu Khder's killers to be caught and punished.</p> <p>Four Israeli soldiers who allegedly used social media to call for revenge and to "annihilate terrorists" were jailed for 10 days by the military.</p> <p>But the Islamist Hamas movement, whom Israel has blamed for the kidnap and murder of the three teenagers in June, said it held Netanyahu's government directly responsible for the killing of Abu Khder.</p> <p>"You will pay the price for your crimes," it said.</p> <p>Gaza militants fired 20 rockets at southern Israel on Wednesday, one of which hit a house in Sderot, the army said. No-one was injured.</p> <p>The army said another 16 rockets had hit the Israeli south since midnight, one of which struck a second house in Sderot.</p> <p>Overnight, the Israeli air force staged 15 strikes on "Hamas targets," among them concealed rocket launchers, weapons storage facilities and militant activity sites, a statement said.</p> <p>Palestinian medics said 11 people were wounded, one of them seriously.<br>  </p> <p><strong>Funeral unrest fears</strong></p> <p>In Jerusalem, police threw up a security cordon around Shuafat, fearing more violence after the results of the autopsy on Abu Khder, expected later in the day.</p> <p>Muhannad Jbara, lawyer for his family, said the police had been in touch late on Wednesday to formally confirm that the body found in a west Jerusalem forest was that of their son.</p> <p>Witnesses told AFP the youngster was forced into a black Honda Civic by "two Israelis" with a third in the driving seat. It then drove off at high speed, evading two cars which tried to follow.</p> <p>The killing drew condemnation from around the world, including from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said the abduction and murder of civilians "must stop now."</p> <p>Tensions have soared across the region since June 12 when the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140701/murdered-teens-laid-rest-israel-mulls-response" target="_blank">three Israeli teenagers</a> disappeared in the West Bank, triggering a vast search and arrest operation across the territory.</p> <p>Their bodies were found on Monday, but the hunt for the killers continues, with troops arresting another 13 Palestinians overnight, the army said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140624/teens-kidnapped-palestinians-arrested-killed" target="_blank">In Israel and Palestine, the kids are not alright</a></strong></p> Israel and its neighbors Need to Know War Israel and Palestine Thu, 03 Jul 2014 18:16:00 +0000 Agence-France Presse 6195430 at http://www.globalpost.com Russia's pipeline politics are dividing the EU http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/energy/140702/russia-south-stream-pipeline-ukraine-european-union <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Kremlin is seeking to isolate Ukraine by strengthen Europe's dependence on Russian gas. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, Germany &mdash; As the authorities in Ukraine step up assaults against separatists in the east of the country following the end of a tenuous ceasefire there, Russia is working hard behind the scenes elsewhere to dash their hopes of restoring some measure of stability.</p> <p>Moscow is waging a propaganda campaign against the government in Kyiv in addition to apparently giving support to the pro-Russia rebels. But the Kremlin is showing its greatest depth in its moves to undermine unity among Ukraine&rsquo;s Western supporters over sanctions and other measures that would punish Russia for meddling in the affairs of its southern neighbor.</p> <p>For that, it&rsquo;s relying on its most powerful trump card, a foreign policy tool it&rsquo;s brandished for the last decade to stunning effect: energy.</p> <p>German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Moscow ahead of talks on Ukraine on Wednesday that economic sanctions remain an option if the Kremlin doesn&#39;t back peace efforts.</p> <p>But a plan to build a major new pipeline that would pump Russian natural gas to Europe is helping drive a wedge between European countries that have so far united at least rhetorically against Russia&#39;s adventurism in Ukraine.</p> <p>Moscow is hoping Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and even Italy and France may soften their stances over Ukraine thanks to pressure from their own large energy conglomerates, which have signed very lucrative deals with Russia&rsquo;s Gazprom natural gas monopoly.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s because any plans to reduce dependence on Russian supplies would hit so-called legacy European energy companies, such as Austria&#39;s OMV, Germany&#39;s RWE and Italy&#39;s Eni, as hard as Gazprom, says Andrew McKillop, former policy analyst at the European Commission&#39;s energy directorate.</p> <p>&ldquo;There&#39;s a legacy infrastructure problem for the European common energy market that is very difficult to reconcile,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>Russia&rsquo;s planned South Stream pipeline would have the capacity to pump 63 billion cubic meters of Russian gas a year directly into Southern Europe by way of the Black Sea. The route would enable the company to bypass Ukraine, where price disputes and unmonitored siphoning of gas has prompted two shutoffs that have affected supplies to Europe.</p> <p>The North Stream pipeline, a similar 55-billion cubic meter conduit across the Baltic Sea that opened in 2012, has already <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/emergingeurope/2014/06/27/russia-hopes-to-reduce-ukraines-role-in-gas-transit/?mod=WSJBlog">cut the volume</a> of gas that Russia sends through Ukraine by a quarter.</p> <p>Ukraine has been able to use its role as a transit route for Europe-bound Russian gas to pressure European countries as well as the Kremlin.</p> <p>But the addition of the South Stream would enable Russia to cut off supplies to Ukraine without hurting its own access to crucial European markets.</p> <p>That would mean what happens in Kyiv or Crimea may no longer be of vital importance to countries like Germany that currently rely on Russian supplies for some 40 percent of their gas.</p> <p>Russia&rsquo;s success would <a href="http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=56021">probably embolden</a> Moscow to continue using energy politics to influence events in other former Soviet republics such as Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, which are also seeking closer ties with Europe, says Carnegie Europe&#39;s Judy Dempsey.</p> <p>&ldquo;South Stream and North Stream actually consolidate Europe&#39;s dependence on Russian gas,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;If South Stream goes ahead, that dependence will be set in a pipeline under the Black Sea, so to speak.&rdquo;</p> <p>The pipeline could prove even more important for Kremlin-controlled Gazprom as it races to beat a growing list of of liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers and other competitors to a quickly changing energy market.</p> <p>Mushrooming LNG terminals will soon be able to supply the entire gas demand of countries like France &mdash; which also receives piped gas from Norway and Algeria. Meanwhile, gas consumption is falling across Europe, making a drop in gas prices virtually inevitable.</p> <p>At the same time, plans for a common European energy market that the EU<span dir="ltr" id=":1zc"> hopes will help make diversifying energy sources easier </span> would force Gazprom and other energy conglomerates to allow new competitors to use pipelines and electricity distribution infrastructure they built &mdash; giving the new arrivals an inherent cost advantage.</p> <p>&ldquo;[Gazprom] has to finance its competitors and it&#39;s selling less gas. And the unit price of gas is falling,&rdquo; McKillop says. &ldquo;Can you imagine a worse situation than that?&rdquo;</p> <p>So far, the EU has attempted to use antitrust laws that prevent gas suppliers from owning distribution infrastructure to weaken Gazprom&rsquo;s control over European energy supplies.</p> <p>But South Stream represents the company&#39;s bid to show Europe there&#39;s no compelling reason to diversify its sources after all.</p> <p>With Austria&#39;s OMV, Italy&#39;s Eni, France&#39;s EDF and Germany&#39;s BASF all involved in the project, there&rsquo;s already evidence they&rsquo;re forcing cracks in the European alliance, Dempsey says.</p> <p>Already, Austria, Bulgaria and other countries are demanding exemptions from the antitrust rules, and more trouble looks to be brewing.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Hungary&#39;s Prime Minister Viktor Orban confirmed that Hungary <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/hungary-build-part-south-stream-164853493--finance.html">will go ahead</a> with building the section of South Stream that lies within its borders despite US and European objections.</p> <p>The same day, Italy&#39;s state secretary for European affairs <a href="http://√">told</a> Russia&#39;s state-owned news agency that his country, too, has &ldquo;a strong interest in implementing it.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/140702/russian-dashcam-video-biker-gang-attacking-motorist-insan">This Russian dashcam video of a biker gang attacking a motorist is insane, but not for the usual reasons</a></strong></p> <p>Earlier this week, energy experts <a href="http://√">speculated</a> that rumors prompting a run on Bulgaria&#39;s largest banks and an EU move to shore up those institutions may have been salvos in a tussle over Bulgaria&#39;s section of the pipeline, which European officials <a href="http://en.itar-tass.com/economy/738370 ">ordered</a> put on hold in early June.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Austrian President Heinz Fischer invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Vienna last week to put an official stamp on a deal to land the South Stream pipe at OMV&#39;s Baumgarten gas terminal &mdash; undermining EU warnings about the possibility of escalating sanctions against Russia.</p> <p>&ldquo;There is a basic economic role for Austria, an advantage for Austria, in supporting this project, so the political factors were sidelined,&rdquo; McKillop says.</p> <p>Moscow is surely hoping that logic will prevail in other European countries as the battle over Ukraine plays out in the months and years ahead.&nbsp;</p> Crisis in Ukraine Want to Know Energy Germany Russia Thu, 03 Jul 2014 05:03:32 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6194244 at http://www.globalpost.com Struggling to save Punjab’s next generation http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/140630/Punjab-drug-abuse-unemployment-heroin <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Not long ago Punjab was one of India’s success stories. Now half the state’s youth are addicted to drugs. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ankita Rao and Bibek Bhandari </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>PUNJAB, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/india">India</a> — Here in Khem Karan, a bustling town of 12,000 on the border with <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/pakistan">Pakistan</a>, young men speed down narrow roads on motorbikes, stopping at street corners where they linger in groups, chain-smoking cigarettes for hours.</p> <p> This is Punjab's future — the next generation of husbands and fathers, and three-quarters of the workforce.</p> <p> These young men suffer from two serious and interconnected problems: unemployment and drug abuse — the latter fueled by cheap, synthetic opiates and heroin smuggled over the border.</p> <p> Punjab state now has the second most underemployed workforce in the country. Only 448 of 1,000 people are fully employed, according to the Labor Ministry. And experts believe a lack of jobs is feeding rampant drug use, creating a vicious cycle that renders young men incapable of working if jobs ever materialize.</p> <p> The state government estimates that at least half of its youth are affected by addiction. A study by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies found that 65 percent of the families in the district that includes Khem Karan count at least one drug addict among their members.</p> <p> Rahul, a good-humored 23-year-old Khem Karan resident, represents this demographic.</p> <p> A former athlete, he started using heroin at the age of 20, while toiling at a monotonous job at the nearby wheat processing plant. Rahul, whose last name was withheld for protection, said his co-workers were nervous that he — then the only non-user in the group — would report them and eventually convinced him to try heroin.</p> <p> “I just became happy, I just wanted to sleep,” he said, recalling his first hit.</p> <p> Sitting in his modest home, old sports awards and medals arranged behind him, Rahul said his personal habit soon turned into a profession. Like his friends, he would sell 15 to 20 grams of heroin daily, taking in up to 25,000 rupees (about $415) per day — more than what he earned in a month selling grain. But that didn’t help his financial status. He habitually squandered his earnings on drugs and new clothes.</p> <p> Meanwhile, his goal of getting a government job was sidelined.</p> <p> “I used to think of drugs first thing when I woke up in the morning,” he said.</p> <p> Young people like Rahul are easy prey for major drug dealers, who are sometimes from wealthy or political families, said Satinder Vir Singh, a district officer for secondary education.</p> <p> For generations, families in Punjab sustained themselves through the lucrative agriculture industry. As they grew wealthier and children attended school, communities started to place more value on jobs that require less labor. Parents urged the next generation to work in an office or with the government.</p> <p> But at a town hall meeting in the village of Valtoha, about 8 miles from Khem Karan, the handful of young men present said they couldn’t find a job after graduation. Nineteen-year-old Manpreet Singh said he was asked to give a 500,000-rupee (about $8,300) bribe for a government job. And 22-year-old Lakvinder Singh has been waiting for a response about a Forest Department job for eight months.</p> <p> Singh, the education officer, said most students are searching for “white-collar jobs” but that the current market can’t absorb the influx of graduates with these goals. Being stuck in this limbo, he said, makes them vulnerable.</p> <p> “If you’re idle and don’t have a job, if you’re not going to school and not looking for any future prospects, then frustration will come to mind. Idle mind is a devil’s workshop — so this is when drugs step in.”</p> <p> Many citizens blame the government. There are currently ten government addiction treatment centers in a state of nearly 30 million people, and there’s little education or awareness about the problem.</p> <p> Law enforcement also falls short. Police only take action to recover large amounts of drugs. Avtar Singh, a police inspector in Valtoha, said his staff don’t file paperwork for anyone they catch selling or using less than five grams of heroin. Singh said most of the reported crimes, like theft or violence, are now related to addiction. And a study from Guru Nanak Dev University found that narcotics-related crimes in Punjab are nine times the national average.</p> <p> “Parents come to the police when it’s extreme. Usually they try to protect their children at first and then talk about it after it’s out of control,” Singh said.</p> <p> While communities are pessimistic about the government’s ability to rebuild a faltering generation, some citizens are trying to find solutions.</p> <p> Pawan Sharma, 26, started volunteering for a nonprofit anti-drug organization, Smile for Life, when his older brother became addicted to heroin after a bad breakup with his girlfriend. Sharma’s middle-class family eventually paid 50,000 rupees — about half the per capita annual income of a Punjab resident — to send his brother to a rehabilitation center.</p> <p> Sharma said he recognized that few families in Khem Karan could afford the hefty fees of the remote centers. So in recent years he has worked to organize temporary rehab camps focused on counseling and educating youth.</p> <p> “There is awareness only in cities,” he said. “It should be in villages too.”</p> <p> Brij Bedi, a longtime activist and educator based in the city of Amritsar, said both Punjab’s drug epidemic and unemployment are symptoms of the same, much larger disease — one rooted in poor governance.</p> <p> Grey-haired and gruff, Bedi founded the Citizen Forum Vidya Mandir in 1999, an elementary and middle school in Maqboolpura, a neighborhood called the “locality of widows” because of the number of men lost to drug-related deaths. Political greed, he said, had left dismal schools and poor health care in Punjab.</p> <p> “It’s not drugs that’s affecting the youth,” he said from his office, the noise of children resounding behind him. “It’s lack of infrastructure which is hindering in creating more jobs and opportunities.”</p> <p> Even so, there are some signs that the government is finally listening: In mid-June, the state government of Punjab announced a plan to offer free medical treatment and to create 22 more detox centers. And within the next year, India will introduce a new education curriculum, the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework, to offer tangible skills training such as retail management and automobile maintenance to anyone enrolled in a public high school.</p> <p> Meanwhile, young men like Rahul will continue to fight a battle between their broken dreams and the reality they see every day on the street corners and alleys of their neighborhood. After receiving treatment at a nearby drug rehabilitation center, he is back at home and sober. But he has yet to re-enter the workforce.</p> <p> “I want to go abroad because there’s no good job here,” he said. “The only jobs available here are drugs-related jobs. That’s where the money is.”</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets Aid India Pakistan Thu, 03 Jul 2014 05:03:00 +0000 Ankita Rao and Bibek Bhandari 6191763 at http://www.globalpost.com Why you should root for Colombia in the World Cup http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/colombia/140702/colombian-world-cup-soccer-team <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Colombians are on high, and not just because of last weekend's gorgeous goal. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> John Otis </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>UPDATE: Colombia’s national soccer team was knocked out of the World Cup on July 4 when it lost 2-1 to Brazil.</em></p> <p>BOGOTA, Colombia — It’s been so long since Colombia last played in the World Cup that today’s national soccer team players barely remember those dispiriting matches.</p> <p>The team’s marquee member, midfielder James Rodriguez, was only 8 when his country’s side, known as “Los Cafeteros” (the Coffee Men), was quickly eliminated from the tournament in France in 1998.</p> <p>That’s why the entire nation is reveling in its winning streak at the World Cup in Brazil. The team handily won its first four games and has, for the first time ever, advanced to the quarterfinals with a showdown with Brazil in Fortaleza on Friday.</p> <p>In addition, Rodriguez, now 22, has emerged as the breakout talent of the tournament. He has notched five goals — more than Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Brazil’s Neymar and Germany’s Thomas Muller — and is credited with one of the World Cup’s most spectacular strikes in Saturday’s game against Uruguay.</p> <p><iframe class="vine-embed" frameborder="0" height="600" src="https://vine.co/v/MPiHblPAqZ9/embed/simple" width="600"></iframe></p> <script async src="//platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>His back to the net, Rodriguez caught a pass with his chest at the top of the penalty area, then shocked the goalkeeper by twisting around and blasting a left-footed shot that banged off the crossbar and in. Uruguay was already reeling from the suspension of star striker Luis Suarez for biting an opposing player and Rodriguez’s no-look stunner seemed to break the team’s spirit.</p> <p>“We are making history,” Rodriguez told reporters after the game.</p> <p>Back in Colombia, his goal set off celebrations. When the ball went in “a chill went through my entire body,” said law student Alvaro Barrero, one of thousands of fans who watched Los Cafeteros’ 2-0 victory over Uruguay on a giant outdoor screen set up in a Bogota park.</p> <p>Rodriguez and his teammates have also found glory on the sidelines in Brazil. After each goal, the team performs choreographed dances to celebrate. Their best moves have been compiled and set to music on YouTube.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="377" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/OkYwWq8LAyA" width="670"></iframe></p> <p>This outpouring of joy contrasts with Colombian soccer’s painful past.</p> <p>In the 1980s and '90s, drug kingpins financed several of the country’s professional teams as a way to launder money — and scratch their soccer itch. They provided a huge monetary boost for some teams, like America de Cali, allowing them to sign top talent from around <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/americas">Latin America</a>. America de Cali, it turns out, was underwritten by Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, the leaders of the now-defunct Cali cartel.</p> <p>“When I was coaching America de Cali, the team had a president. But everyone in the country, everyone in Cali, everyone on the team knew that the guy who ran things was Miguel Rodriguez,” said Francisco Maturana, who went on to coach Colombia’s national team in the 1990s, in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAd2brXDD7Q" target="_blank">documentary film</a> about cocaine traffickers and Colombian soccer.</p> <p>This criminal influence perverted the game. Cartels and gambling syndicates often leaned on players and referees to throw matches. Colombia’s 1989 professional soccer season was canceled following the murder of a referee, while a soccer association president was imprisoned for drug-related crimes.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/140620/ecuador-world-cup-soccer-esmeraldas" target="_blank">Ecuador's World Cup squad brings hope to this poor, Afro-Ecuadorean province</a></strong></p> <p>Then there was the Coffee Men’s infamous performance at the 1994 World Cup in the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/united-states">United States</a>. The star-studded team, which included Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama, Freddy Rincon and Faustino “El Tino” Asprilla, was coming off a 5-0 victory over Argentina in a qualifying play and seemed like a powerhouse. Brazilian legend Pele picked the Colombians to take home the trophy.</p> <p>Instead, Colombia faltered. Several players received death threats from back home, which seemed to affect the team’s performance. In a stunning 2-1 loss to the US, defender Andres Escobar accidentally <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUW8wFOytiY" target="_blank">knocked the ball</a> into Colombia’s net for an own goal. Colombia was eliminated — and a week later, so was Escobar.</p> <p>On July 2, 1994, Escobar got into a shouting match with patrons at a bar in his hometown of Medellin. The drunks taunted the player with shouts of “Own goal! Own goal!” When Escobar protested, he was shot six times.</p> <p>The case remains shrouded in mystery. But the shooter, who confessed and served 11 years in prison, was a bodyguard for a cartel member. Many Colombians believe the killing was ordered by drug lords who had bet heavily on Colombia to advance at the World Cup.</p> <p>Whatever the motive, the Escobar murder was a national disgrace for the sport and for Colombia, which seemed to be unraveling amid drug-fueled violence.</p> <p>But over the past two decades, the country has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis. The big cartels were dismantled, Pablo Escobar was gunned down and the Rodriguez Orejeula brothers were imprisoned. Although drug trafficking continues, it is now carried out by smaller organizations that maintain low profiles and are less threatening. In addition, the Colombian government is negotiating a peace treaty with drug-trafficking rebels that could bring an end to 50 years of guerrilla war. All this has led to a steep drop in kidnappings, murders and other violent crime.</p> <p>Meanwhile, soccer is on the mend. Investigators say that pro teams have largely cut their ties to the criminal underworld. Last year, for example, America de Cali was <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130404/us-lifts-sanctions-colombian-soccer-team" target="_blank">removed</a> from the US Treasury Department’s list of Colombian narco-linked businesses.</p> <p>David S. Cohen, the department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, called the decision on America de Cali “a testament to the enormous efforts made by both the team and the Colombian government to completely break with the criminal influences that have overshadowed the team in the past.”</p> <p>A new generation of talent has also emerged. Colombian coaches guided <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/costa-rica">Costa Rica</a>, Ecuador and Honduras to this year’s World Cup, with Costa Rica advancing to Saturday’s quarterfinals matchup against <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/benelux">The Netherlands</a>.</p> <p>Colombia’s team is back in the World Cup for the first time in 16 years thanks to standouts like Rodriguez, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, and Radamel Falcao, the team’s dynamic striker who’s sitting out the tournament due to an injury. Most of these young guns are in their early 20s, prompting the Bogota newsweekly Semana to declare: “These legs are going to be around for a while.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/default/photos/2014-July/colombia_world_cup_revel_2014_07_02.jpg" width="100%"><br><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial,&lt;br /&gt; Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">Colombian fans go nuts during the June 28 World Cup watch fest in Bogota. (Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>Of course, fans here can still get a little too passionate about the game. After Colombia defeated Greece in its World Cup opener, drunken revelers were involved in 3,000 fights that left nine people dead. That’s prompted authorities to ban alcohol sales in some cities when Colombia plays, and the dry law appears to be working: Recent celebrations have been mostly peaceful.</p> <p>So, how long will the party last? Host-nation Brazil has won the World Cup a record five times and Colombia enters Friday’s game as the underdog. But the team is playing so well that some odds-makers are now <a href="http://www.betshoot.com/93030-Brazil-vs-Colombia-betting-tips" target="_blank">predicting</a> an upset.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/culture-lifestyle/140702/which-world-cup-team-root-for" target="_blank">The US is out. So which World Cup team are we supposed to root for now?</a> </strong></p> World Cup 2014 Want to Know Brazil Culture & Lifestyle Colombia Thu, 03 Jul 2014 05:03:00 +0000 John Otis 6194360 at http://www.globalpost.com Tensions rise following suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140702/tensions-rise-following-suspected-reve <!--paging_filter--><p>The discovery of a body in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday raised suspicions that a missing Palestinian youth had been killed by Israelis avenging the deaths of three abducted Jewish teens.</p> <p>Rock-throwing Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces in Jerusalem after the news, but no serious injuries were reported.</p> <p>Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a statement, urged police to "to swiftly investigate who was behind the loathsome murder and its motive." He called on all sides "not to take the law into their own hands."</p> <p>Palestinian residents in Shuafat, an Arab suburb of Jerusalem, told Reuters they had seen a teenager forced into a vehicle outside a supermarket on Tuesday night. They identified him as Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16.</p> <p>An Israeli security source said <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/israel-and-palestine">Israel</a> suspected the youth had been kidnapped and murdered, possibly in retribution for the killings of the Israeli teens, whose bodies were found on Monday, nearly three weeks after they were abducted in the occupied West Bank.</p> <p>Israel says Palestinian Hamas militants killed them. The Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied the allegation.</p> <p>A senior official of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement told Reuters the missing teenager's family had identified the corpse, found in the wooded outskirts of Jerusalem. The family was not immediately available for comment.</p> <p>"The Israeli government bears responsibility for Jewish terrorism and for the kidnapping and murder in occupied Jerusalem," the Fatah official, Dmitry Diliani, said.</p> <p>Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said it was too early to draw conclusions as to the motive.</p> <p>"We know of a boy who apparently was abducted and we see a link to the discovery of a body. This is still under investigation by the forensic labs and detectives," Aharonovitch told reporters.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the three Jewish seminary students were buried in a funeral attended by tens of thousands of mourners.</p> <p><strong>Revenge</strong></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px; letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">While the teenagers were laid to rest in the city of Modi'in, several hundreds Israeli demonstrators, some chanting "Death to Arabs," blocked the main entrance to Jerusalem.</span></p> <p>Cries for revenge have echoed throughout the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.</p> <p>They can be heard at the emotionally charged funerals of Palestinians killed by Israel, and the phrase "May God avenge his death" is often invoked at the burials of Israelis slain by Palestinians.</p> <p>But deadly Israeli vigilante attacks, in declared retribution for Palestinian assaults, have been rare in recent years.</p> <p>More common are the so-called "Price Tag" incidents in which mosques and Palestinian property are torched or damaged — a reference by ultranationalist Jews to making the government "pay" for any curbs on Jewish settlement on Palestinian land.</p> <p>Before Netanyahu issued his statement, Abbas, who had condemned the abduction of the three Israeli youths, called on the Israeli leader to condemn the killing of the Palestinian teen, the Palestinian state news agency WAFA said.</p> <p>Tensions were also high in the West Bank, where around 40 Palestinians were arrested in raids on Tuesday, the latest in a campaign by Israel to cripple Hamas there.</p> <p>Four people were wounded by live bullets early on Wednesday in an Israeli raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin.</p> <p>Near Hebron, Israeli forces destroyed the home of a Palestinian arrested on charges of shooting dead an off-duty police officer in the West Bank in April.</p> <p>Israel, which suspended the demolition policy in 2005 as a Palestinian uprising waned, says destroying the homes of Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis has a deterrent effect. Rights groups have condemned the practice as collective punishment.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Ammar Awad, Ori Lewis, Maayan Lubell and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem and Noah Browning and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Noah Browning; Editing by Alison Williams)</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Wed, 02 Jul 2014 16:00:15 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6194063 at http://www.globalpost.com Fighting continues in eastern Ukraine as foreign ministers prepare for talks in Berlin http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140702/fighting-continues-eastern-ukraine-foreign-ministers-prepare-tal <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">Germany</a>'s foreign minister said Wednesday that a ceasefire was a condition for resolving the Ukraine crisis, ahead of four-way talks hastily called as the ex-Soviet state pursued its offensive against pro-Kremlin insurgents.</p> <p>Describing the situation in eastern Ukraine as "very dangerous," Frank-Walter Steinmeier said fighting in the region had "dramatically intensified" as he readied to host the talks with his <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/france">French</a>, Russian and Ukrainian counterparts.</p> <p>Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday took the risky step of contradicting his <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">European</a> allies for the first time since his May 25 election by ripping up a 10-day truce.</p> <p>"An explosion of violence can occur at any time that cannot be controlled either politically or militarily," Steinmeier warned.</p> <p>"Only when the guns fall silent, only on the basis of a robust ceasefire, are negotiations on resolving the crisis imaginable."</p> <p>Steinmeier, who has been highly active in trying to ease tensions in Ukraine since the crisis began in February, stressed the need to grasp opportunities to prevent a further escalation.</p> <p>He said <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/russia">Russia</a> and Ukraine's attendance at the Berlin talks later Wednesday was "an important and a good sign" but said that achieving a lasting truce would be "anything other than an easy undertaking."</p> <p>Meanwhile, Ukrainian government forces pressed on with a military drive against pro-Russian separatists. </p> <p>Rebels fired a shoulder-launched missile that struck and damaged a SU-24 attack plane, a military spokesman said, while one Ukrainian border guard was killed in the early hours in a mortar attack on his post on the border with Russia.</p> <p>"The armed forces and the National Guard are continuing the offensive on terrorists and criminals. The actions of our military are effective and are having results," parliament speaker Oleksander Turchynov said.</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 02 Jul 2014 14:38:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse and Thomson Reuters 6193990 at http://www.globalpost.com The United States is among the world's worsening nations, a new report says. Here's why http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/140701/united-states-among-worsening-nations-why <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Congress can't get anything done. And 50 million people are living in poverty. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sarah Wolfe </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Somalia. South Sudan. Afghanistan.</p> <p>It was no surprise to see these countries among the world&#39;s most fragile nations in a new report by the Washington-based nonprofit <a href="http://global.fundforpeace.org/index.php" target="_blank">Fund for Peace</a>.</p> <p>But the United States? The world&#39;s most powerful democracy?</p> <p>It didn&#39;t land anywhere near the top, but America was among 10 countries that have <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/27/world/africa/world-fragile-nations/index.html?sr=tw062714sudanfragile1100astorygallLink" target="_blank">worsened the most </a>over the past year, according to the 2014 <a href="http://ffp.statesindex.org/" target="_blank">Fragile States Index</a>.</p> <p>The index is based on 12 social, economic and political indicators, such as demographic pressures, poverty and economic decline, human rights and political impasse.</p> <p>The United States came in at No. 159 among 178 nations and was rated &quot;very stable,&quot; which was below &quot;very sustainable&quot; and &quot;sustainable&quot; but still much better than the five countries listed on &quot;very high alert.&quot;</p> <p>France was listed as the seventh-worsened country this year. The US<a href="http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/fragile-states-index-us-South-Sudan-Somalia/2014/06/27/id/579632/" target="_blank"> tied</a> with Singapore and Thailand for the eighth spot.</p> <p>&quot;The recent worsening of the United States, France, and Singapore also shows us that instability is not exclusive to developing countries,&quot; Fund for Peace said in a press release.</p> <p>The United States made the list for various reasons. Here are some of the most <a href="http://ffp.statesindex.org/2014-unitedstates" target="_blank">notable</a>:</p> <p><strong>1. Lack of bipartisanship</strong></p> <p>Congress can&#39;t cooperate and can&#39;t get anything done. President Barack Obama has increasingly bypass the country&#39;s lawmakers, resorting to executive actions to deal with key issues like <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-to-sign-order-prohibiting-contractors-from-discriminating-against-lgbt-people/2014/06/16/4a83726c-f573-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html" target="_blank">gay rights</a> and <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/01/us-usa-immigration-idUSKBN0F52GY20140701" target="_blank">immigration reform</a>. The House and Senate passed just 67 bills last year, the <a href="http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2014/may/09/joaquin-castro/congress-propelled-fewer-bills-law-2013-lowest-pro/" target="_blank">fewest</a> since records started being kept in 1947. Congressional approval ratings are also at record lows.</p> <p><strong>2. Partial government shutdown</strong></p> <p>Last year&#39;s partial government shutdown was indicative of just how bad political gridlock has gotten in the United States. Still smarting over the passage of Obamacare, conservative Republicans refused to sign off on funding bills that didn&#39;t contain language delaying or defunding the president&#39;s health care law. The result? Shuttered national parks and monuments, stalled business loans and contracts and as many as 800,000 federal employees <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/politics/government-shutdown-up-to-speed/" target="_blank">furloughed</a> for two weeks. The political standoff ended up <a href="http://swampland.time.com/2013/10/17/heres-what-the-government-shutdown-cost-the-economy/" target="_blank">costing</a> taxpayers $24 billion and actually decreased fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.</p> <p><strong>3. Economic instability</strong></p> <p>While the US economy has finally <a href="http://www.foxbusiness.com/economy-policy/2014/06/06/us-adds-217000-jobs-in-may-unemployment-rate-stays-at-63/" target="_blank">recovered</a> all of the 8.7 million jobs lost during the recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis, many are still <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/07/28/americans-poverty-no-work/2594203/" target="_blank">struggling </a>with unemployment and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. About 50 million Americans <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/7/obamas-rhetoric-on-fighting-poverty-doesnt-match-h/" target="_blank">live below</a> the poverty line and a record 47 million of them receive food stamps &mdash; more than when Obama took office. Through March, the economy actually <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/jobs-and-car-sales-expected-show-us-economy-rebounding-256597" target="_blank">contracted</a> by 2.9 percent &mdash; its sharpest decline in five years.</p> Need to Know Americas United States Wed, 02 Jul 2014 14:04:00 +0000 Sarah Wolfe 6193082 at http://www.globalpost.com Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy faces corruption probe http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/france/140702/sarkozy-placed-under-formal-investigation <!--paging_filter--><p>Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation on Wednesday on suspicions he tried to use his influence to thwart an investigation of his 2007 election campaign, the prosecutor's office said.</p> <p>The step, which often but not always leads to trial, is a major setback to Sarkozy's hopes of a comeback after his 2012 defeat by Socialist rival Francois Hollande. The conservative politician denies all wrongdoing in a string of investigations in which he is either directly or indirectly implicated.</p> <p>Magistrates are looking to see whether Sarkozy used his influence to secure leaked details of an inquiry into alleged irregularities in his victorious 2007 campaign. He is suspected of influence-peddling, corruption and benefiting from "the breach of professional secrets," the prosecutor's office said.</p> <p>Sarkozy, 59, was held in police custody in the Paris suburb of Nanterre for nearly 15 hours before being transferred in the early hours of Wednesday to a court where he met investigating magistrates who will run the inquiry.</p> <p>Sarkozy's attorney and a judge involved in the case were similarly placed under formal investigation on suspicion of influence peddling, their attorneys said.</p> <p>"These events only rely on phone taps ... whose legal basis will be strongly contested," said Paul-Albert Iweins, the attorney for Sarkozy's attorney, Thierry Herzog.</p> <p>Sarkozy's allies cast doubts over one of the investigating magistrate's fairness, accusing the judge of political bias.</p> <p>"I question the impartiality of one of the judges," Christian Estrosi, the mayor of the southern city of Nice told <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/france">France</a> Info radio, accusing Hollande's government of having whipped up "an atmosphere of hate."</p> <p>Prime Minister Manuel Valls dismissed accusations of a plot, saying judges had the right to be politically active.</p> <p>Placing a suspect under formal investigation means there exists "serious or consistent evidence" pointing to probable implication of a suspect in a crime.</p> <p>Influence-peddling can be punished by up to five years in prison and active corruption carries a sentence up to 10 years.</p> <p>It was the second time the ex-president, who lost immunity from legal prosecution a month after he left office in June 2012, has been placed under such a judicial probe. The first was in 2013 but magistrates later dropped the case against him.</p> Need to Know France Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:16:08 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6193862 at http://www.globalpost.com Hong Kong police lift protesters kicking and screaming from pro-democracy rally http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140702/hong-kong-police-lift-protesters-kicking-and-screaming-pro <!--paging_filter--><p>Hundreds of Hong Kong police forcibly removed kicking and screaming protesters from the Central business district on Wednesday, holdouts of a mass rally demanding greater democracy from Communist Party rulers in Beijing.</p> <p>The pro-democracy march on Tuesday, which organizers said attracted more than 510,000 people, and a subsequent sit-in by mainly student groups could be the biggest challenge yet to China which resumed control over the former British colony on July 1, 1997.</p> <p>Many of the more than 1,000 protesters linked arms in a bid to resist efforts to remove them but they were taken away one at a time, in some cases by three or four police, as activists kicked, screamed and punched before being bundled on to buses.</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:66.666667% 0 49px 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="445" scrolling="no" src="//embed.gettyimages.com/embed/451577920?et=bdfYOSxzTrdKtuxFPtct-g&amp;sig=3HA2SwmyDwcEMUgIrDoxGvpfB9Qw7F03n6Y_Du7ZPxA=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;">&nbsp;</p> <div style="padding:0;margin:4px 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/451577920" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#451577920</a> / <a href="http://www.gettyimages.com" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">gettyimages.com</a></div> </div> <p>&quot;I have the right to protest. We don&#39;t need police permission,&quot; the crowd chanted as they sat sweltering in Hong Kong&#39;s summer heat and humidity.</p> <p>Some remained defiant even after their arrest.</p> <p>&quot;Civil disobedience is not a one-time matter. I will come out to protest again, because it is the only way Hong Kong can change,&quot; said To Chun Ho, who was released on Wednesday without charge.</p> <p>Activists who refused to leave were taken in buses to the police training school in Hong Kong. More than 500 people were arrested, with some charged with participating in an unauthorized assembly and obstructing police.</p> <p>It was unclear how long they would be detained. About 50 were released without charge.</p> <p>&quot;Our purpose is first universal suffrage and second to let the government respond to Hong Kong citizens&#39; voice for democracy,&quot; said Frank Chio, a representative of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. &quot;This is only step one. There will be other steps.&quot;</p> <p>While minor scuffles broke out between police and activists, the stand-off ended peacefully despite earlier fears of violence.</p> <p>Retired mainland officials had earlier warned that the local garrison of the People&#39;s Liberation Army might be needed to restore order in an increasingly restive Hong Kong, but there was no suggestion they were needed this week as police threw 4,000 staff at the task.</p> <p><strong>Weapon of last resort</strong></p> <p>In one of the first moves of what is expected to be a hot political summer, the demonstrators were demanding greater democracy in elections for Hong Kong&#39;s leader, or chief executive, in 2017.</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:66.666667% 0 49px 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="445" scrolling="no" src="//embed.gettyimages.com/embed/451577908?et=knE0_RNQTVlGYiM-cXNgYg&amp;sig=57vIqcRiw87rBoyGtLjxTDo2IUCzZtkPu5K9eXLOmLA=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;">&nbsp;</p> <div style="padding:0;margin:4px 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/451577908" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#451577908</a> / <a href="http://www.gettyimages.com" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">gettyimages.com</a></div> </div> <p>They want nominations to be open to everyone. China&#39;s leaders want to ensure only pro-Beijing candidates are on the ballot.</p> <p>Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 with wide-ranging autonomy under an agreed formula of &quot;one country, two systems,&quot; allowing protests such as Tuesday&#39;s march to take place.</p> <p>But China bristles at open dissent, especially over sensitive matters such as demands for universal suffrage and the annual June 4 vigil in Hong Kong to mark the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989.</p> <p>Such protests, even by one or two people, would be met by stern punishment elsewhere in China.</p> <p>Anson Chan, the former head of Hong Kong&#39;s civil service who served both before and after the handover, urged Britain to push China harder to meet its promises to Hong Kong.</p> <p>&quot;I would like Britain to speak up and say hey, we are noticing what is happening, you cannot treat Hong Kong like this, you cannot walk away from your commitments,&quot; she told Reuters on Wednesday.</p> <p>&quot;And if you want to see stability and good governance in Hong Kong, we have to have a chief executive who has legitimacy.&quot;</p> <p>Occupy Central with Love and Peace, the group behind an unofficial referendum on democracy which drew nearly 800,000 votes, has threatened to lock down Central as part of its campaign.</p> <p>&quot;The voice of the Hong Kong people has been loud and so clear. If they (Beijing and the Hong Kong government) choose to ignore it, they will have to pay the price,&quot; said Helena Wong of the Democratic Party.</p> <p>&quot;Occupy Central is the last resort ... We will keep it as our last weapon if we do not have true democracy.&quot;</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:66.498316% 0 49px 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="444" scrolling="no" src="//embed.gettyimages.com/embed/451577882?et=jgKWA0DgSY1qZJ_eOpkc0g&amp;sig=ovpsdQFtia-8J-DFIXG5iRthGU1kPZhNX_c4Q49pG4g=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;">&nbsp;</p> <div style="padding:0;margin:4px 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/451577882" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#451577882</a> / <a href="http://www.gettyimages.com" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">gettyimages.com</a></div> </div> <p>Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday his government would do its &quot;utmost&quot; to move towards universal suffrage and stressed the need for stability. Beijing&#39;s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said China &quot;firmly supported&quot; universal suffrage for Hong Kong, and &quot;its sincerity and determination is unswerving.&quot;</p> <p>The overnight protest threatened to disrupt traffic as people returned to work following a public holiday on Tuesday to mark the 17th anniversary of Hong Kong&#39;s return to China.</p> <p>Some buildings in Central, including HSBC&#39;s headquarters, were ringed by barriers, although these were largely cleared as business resumed.</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Wed, 02 Jul 2014 12:44:53 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6193788 at http://www.globalpost.com The worst massacres and mass graves in Mexico’s drug war http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/mexico/140701/mexican-drug-war-massacres-mass-graves <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timeline: Drug violence has left the front pages here, but grisly discoveries keep adding to Mexico’s map of horror. </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>ALLENDE, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/mexico">Mexico</a> — The ranch houses of cinder blocks and tin roofs look like thousands of others that dot the Mexican countryside.</p> <p>But in February, when police got information that the farmstead hid a dark secret, they dug up the grounds to find a stunning 500 body parts, belonging to an unknown number of corpses that had been partially dissolved in acid.</p> <p>When GlobalPost visited the ranch, just 40 miles south of Texas, it lay abandoned, with no signs or police tape. Cans of battery acid and other chemicals used to dissolve bodies were still scattered around.</p> <p>In most countries, such a ghastly find would dominate national news and trigger panic. But this latest atrocity — allegedly the work of the Zetas cartel — gained only limited attention here. It was just one of a series of massacres and mass graves that have plagued Mexico since 2010.</p> <p>The sites of this terror crisscross the country from close to the Rio Grande to Mexico’s deep south.</p> <p>New graves keep being discovered. In June, dozens of bodies were found in a ranch in Veracruz state on the Gulf of Mexico.</p> <p>In one of the worst atrocities, 100 miles south of McAllen, Texas, 72 migrants were massacred in the Mexican town of San Fernando in 2010. The following year, 193 corpses were discovered at a ranch. Human rights activists suggested putting up a plaque for the victims, but city and local church officials rejected the idea.</p> <p>The San Fernando sites also lie abandoned, with no signs. Many in the town of sorghum farmers are trying to forget this horror that has darkened the name of their community.</p> <p>However, mass grave sites remain important to the families still searching for their loved ones. About 16,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since 2006, the federal government said in June. In the same time, more than 70,000 have been killed in cartel-related violence, according to counts by the Mexican government and newspaper tallies.</p> <p>The following are the worst atrocities. Many other mass graves have been discovered and killings taken place with smaller numbers of victims.</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" src="http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0AuR29I5YohdydGxrR1dONl8yaDN3U1k4WWFPWHZPSXc&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;height=650" width="100%"></iframe></p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Mexico Wed, 02 Jul 2014 04:51:08 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6193184 at http://www.globalpost.com This Singapore mall has real live maids for sale http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140701/singapore-maids-for-sale-indonesia-myanmar-philippines <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> They are on display and marketed as 'sweet-natured and compliant.' </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>When you are in the market to buy a car, you want options. You want details. It&#39;s a big decision, and a lot of money. You&#39;re going to have to live with it for a long time.</p> <p>Same logic applies to buying a maid, no? It does in Singapore.</p> <p>According to a disturbing <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/06/buy-discount-maid-at-singapore-malls-201462495012940207.html" target="_blank">Al Jazeera report</a>, Bukit Timah Shopping Center in Singapore has five levels of galleries selling real live maids.</p> <p>They are from places like Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. And if you act now, you can get one at a &quot;special discount.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>Inside the galleries, maids sit quietly. Some nod. At displays elsewhere in Singapore, they act out tasks, like wheeling wheelchairs or pretending to change a baby doll&#39;s diaper.</p> <p>Some places reportedly market stereotypes as well. Filipinos are &quot;smarter,&quot; while Indonesians are &quot;less bright.&quot; And Burmese maids, why they are &quot;sweet-natured and compliant,&quot; of course. &nbsp;</p> <p>These scenes are upsetting, though reports of <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120112/cambodia-migrant-maids-southeast-asia-malaysia" target="_blank">maids</a> being treated like <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120529/singapore-maid-domestic-servant-labor-rights" target="_blank">slaves</a> in Southeast Asia are nothing new.</p> <p>The Philippines is apparently <a href="http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/06/28/14/pinay-maids-marketed-singapore-mall-report" target="_blank">looking into the issue</a>.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Philippines to probe &#39;budget&#39; maids in Singapore - <a href="http://t.co/Knqfcs8uZ6">http://t.co/Knqfcs8uZ6</a> via <a href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom">@rapplerdotcom</a> <a href="http://t.co/dLqvArp1Nx">pic.twitter.com/dLqvArp1Nx</a></p> <p> &mdash; Maria Ressa (@maria_ressa) <a href="https://twitter.com/maria_ressa/statuses/483653715316850688">June 30, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140626/get-ready-cringe-asia-embraces-blackface-style-ads" target="_blank">Asia embraces blackface-style ads. Get ready to cringe</a></strong></p> Travel/Tourism Want to Know Asia-Pacific Cambodia Myanmar Culture & Lifestyle Global Economy Indonesia Philippines Thailand Vietnam Wed, 02 Jul 2014 04:51:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 6193006 at http://www.globalpost.com The Thai junta is targeting Myanmar migrants http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/thailand/140630/thai-junta-targets-myanmar-migrants <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Despite the army’s denials, workers speak of harassment and arbitrary raids. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dene-Hern Chen </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CHIANG MAI, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/thailand">Thailand</a> — Naw remembers the night of the raid very clearly.</p> <p> In the early hours of June 11, the residents of his neighborhood here in this northern Thai city were abruptly awoken by a police officer’s stern voice.</p> <p> “They told us by the loudspeaker that they were going to all the homes and we have to stand outside with our papers,” said the 24-year-old migrant worker from Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.</p> <p> As the sun rose over the predominantly Burmese neighborhood of Aon Ar Ree, more than 100 Thai police went house-to-house, taking away Burmese migrants whom they said did not have proper documentation.</p> <p> They were ordered to squat in line on the streets while the police canvassed the entire neighborhood — a process that went on until around noon.</p> <p> “After they detained 49 people from here, they took them away. Around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., all the people came back because they actually had passports and work permits,” said Naw, who left Myanmar's Shan State two months ago to work at a Thai guesthouse. “The police had no good reasons for detaining them.”</p> <p> Just four hours from the Thai-Burmese border, Chiang Mai is a major destination for thousands of Burmese nationals who are in search of a better life.</p> <p> It is home to more than 73,000 registered workers from Myanmar — many of them from the northeastern Shan State. Thousands more work temporary jobs. They toil at difficult or unpleasant jobs that Thais typically do not want, like cleaning or construction. Many have been living in Thailand for decades, escaping ethnic conflict or lower wages back home.</p> <p> However, in late May, after months of political turmoil, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/thailand/140524/thail-coup-military-junta-aftermath" target="_blank">Thailand&rsquo;s army declared a coup</a>. While the target was Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration, the military immediately began cracking down on many of the country’s 3 to 4 million migrant workers, most of whom are Burmese. Authorities began conducting raids in Mae Sot, a Thai border town that serves as a checkpoint for Burmese migrants. Within the first week, about 300 were deported after being detained by the Thai authorities, according to local media reports.</p> <p> And, as Naw’s experience shows, others have been rounded up or harassed.</p> <p> The Thai army, however, rejects those claims. Its representatives have repeatedly denied that they have any policy to crack down on migrant workers.</p> <p> “We do not have any cases of deporting Burmese workers from Thailand,” said Colonel Werachon Sukondhadpatipak, a spokesman for the Thai army. “We just have a policy that is clear that those who are undocumented, we will provide them with a channel of being legalized.”</p> <p> Nevertheless, reports of random raids on Burmese neighborhoods, businesses and organizations in Thailand have cemented an environment of fear among the migrant worker community in Chiang Mai.</p> <p> Paul Chambers, a professor and military analyst at Thailand’s Chiang Mai University, called the alleged crackdown economically “counterproductive.” Migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos make up a huge part of the informal sector.</p> <p> “This is all a symptom of martial law and the Burmese, the Shan, the Karen and the Karenni are all going to feel it because they are perceived by the military as perhaps subversive because of their race,” Chambers said.</p> <p> “This all goes back to the military mindset, which is that we have to guard the ‘we-ness’ of the Thai frontier, and keep the ‘other-ness’ of the enemy — Burmese, Shan — at bay. And that would come before thoughts of economic repercussions,” he continued.</p> <p> Naw’s neighborhood — typically bustling during the day — is now quiet. “It is very unfair because we have ID cards and passports and work permits,” Naw said. “Many people are very scared.”</p> <p> <strong>Raiding a women’s NGO</strong></p> <p> For Toe Toe, secretary general for Chiang Mai-based NGO Burmese Women’s Union, the raid on her organization on June 19 was not the first. She was terrified because in 2009, the police forced everyone at her center to spend a night in a jail cell.</p> <p> “It was a horrible experience for our participants,” Toe Toe said. “We already have trauma from living through civil war and from living in the refugee camps, and now they have the trauma of sleeping in a cell for one night.”</p> <p> This time, they were lucky. The raid occurred in the middle of a workshop for about 11 women who were learning about Burmese politics, and a Thai national was present so she brought the police outside to speak with them.</p> <p> While Toe Toe understood the necessity of trying to regulate undocumented workers, she deplored the tactics the Thai security forces have employed.</p> <p> “[The authorities] should not act like this because they know that most migrant workers try to follow regulations,” she said. “They should be finding another way to check for illegal migrant workers apart from coming with a group of police and going into the community where migrant workers live and coming to arrest them like they are criminals.”</p> <p> Despite all these problems, none of the Burmese migrants interviewed reported wanting to return home to Burma, a reaction very different from Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand.</p> <p> Since the coup, roughly 250,000 migrants have returned to Cambodia, fearing violence. In response, the Cambodian government has organized military trucks to take the workers home and provided them with food and emergency medical care.  </p> <p> Yuk, 34, who works as a handy man in a hotel, said that the Burmese migrants don’t have any options except to stay put and wait for the situation in Thailand to calm down.</p> <p> “Even if it is stricter here now, if we go home, there will be no help from the government. They will not provide us with shelter or transportation like the Cambodian government did to their people,” Yuk said. “It is better to stay here even if things are getting tougher.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/thailand/140625/four-absurdly-harmless-acts-now-criminalized-thai" target="_blank">4 absurdly harmless acts now criminalized by Thailand&rsquo;s military rulers</a></strong></p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Military Political Risk Thailand Wed, 02 Jul 2014 04:51:00 +0000 Dene-Hern Chen 6191404 at http://www.globalpost.com Ukrainian forces attack separatist bases in the east http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140701/ukrainian-forces-attack-rebel-separatists-bases-the-east <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukrainian forces struck at pro-Russian separatist bases in eastern regions with air and artillery strikes on Tuesday after President Petro Poroshenko announced he would not renew a ceasefire but go on the offensive to rid Ukraine of "parasites."</p> <p>His decision quickly drew fire from Russian President Vladimir Putin who said Poroshenko had disregarded the advice of himself and <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/germany">German</a> and French leaders. Putin said Poroshenko would now have to bear full responsibility for veering off the road to peace.</p> <p>Repeating a threat he made in March when <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/russia">Russia</a> annexed Crimea, Putin said Moscow would continue to defend the interests of ethnic Russians abroad — up to three million of whom live in the east of Ukraine which has been in separatist ferment since April.</p> <p>Within hours of Poroshenko's early morning announcement, his military went into action against rebel bases and checkpoints, bombarding them from the air and with artillery.</p> <p>"The terrorists' plan to significantly escalate armed confrontation has been disrupted and the threat of losses to the civilian population and service personnel has been liquidated," the defence ministry said.</p> <p>There was no immediate word on casualties.</p> <p>Poroshenko, who accuses Russia of fanning the conflict and allowing fighters and equipment to cross the border to support the rebels, turned his back on another renewal of a 10-day unilateral ceasefire after the phone talks involving Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/france">France</a>'s Francois Hollande.</p> <p>Showing impatience at what he had heard from Putin, Poroshenko said in his early morning statement that Ukraine had not seen "concrete steps for de-escalating the situation, including strengthening controls on the border."</p> <p>Poroshenko, just over three weeks in office, faces a possible popular backlash at home over military losses during the ceasefire and was under pressure to switch to more forceful action against the rebels.</p> <p><strong>'Militants and marauders'</strong></p> <p>Many of his security advisers told him that the rebels had used the June 20 ceasefire, renewed for three days on June 27, to regroup and rearm. A statement tweeted by the Ukrainian foreign ministry on Monday as Poroshenko went into talks with his security chiefs said 27 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed and 69 wounded since the start of the ceasefire.</p> <p>Announcing the military would now act to answer the "terrorists, militants and marauders," Poroshenko accused the rebels of failing to keep to the truce or follow a peace plan he had outlined. Later on his Facebook page, the 48-year-old leader warned the future would be difficult, adding: "we must be united, because we are fighting to free our land from dirt and parasites."</p> <p>Putin bluntly suggested Poroshenko had been isolated in Monday's phone-in with himself, Merkel and Hollande.</p> <p>"Unfortunately President Poroshenko took the decision to restart military operations and we — I mean myself and my <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">European</a> colleagues — could not convince him that the road to stable, strong and long-lasting peace does not lie through war," he said.</p> <p>"Up until now (Poroshenko) was not directly linked to the order to start military operations but now he has taken on this responsibility fully, not only militarily but also politically," he said.</p> <p>It was not immediately known whether Berlin and Paris agreed with this version of Monday's discussions.</p> <p>Earlier in Moscow, before Putin spoke, the Russian foreign ministry hinted that the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/united-states">United States</a> stood behind Poroshenko's decision. "There is an impression that the change in Kyiv's position ... could not have come about without influence from abroad, despite the position of leading EU member states," it said in a statement.</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 01 Jul 2014 15:48:00 +0000 Richard Balmforth and Natalia Zinets, Thomson Reuters 6193005 at http://www.globalpost.com Mitrovica, a city divided http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140630/mitrovica-city-divided-eleventh-hour-world-war-i <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A look at one of the most divided cities in Kosovo and how it is trying to move on 15 years after the Balkan War. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Charles M. Sennott </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MITROVICA, Kosovo — We came to the bridge in search of redemption.</p> <p>Not the religious kind, but the only kind of redemption that can heal a place and its people — especially the young — even when they are divided by ethnic hatred, by the memory of war and by a youth unemployment rate around 60 percent that leaves both sides vying for limited opportunities.</p> <p>That is, we came to see some rock ‘n’ roll.</p> <p>A gritty mining town with a population of about 100,000, Mitrovica long had a reputation for punching above its weight class in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/europe">Europe</a>’s rock venues. There were legendary lead guitarists coming from the brick row houses around the Trepca copper and silver mines.</p> <p>The bands were often a combination of ethnic Albanians, who today make up 85 percent of the population, and Serbs, who make up the other 15 percent. No one paid much attention to the ethnic dividing line until 1991 when the wars in the Balkans first got rolling and inevitably landed here in 1998 and 1999.</p> <p>Having covered the Kosovo war, I wanted to come back and see if that legendary music scene had returned. And so photographer Ron Haviv and I set out to revisit the places and the people we knew to see how Mitrovica was faring.</p> <p>Sadly, what we kept running into was the same old tune: ethnic tension and a smoldering threat of violence. NATO peacekeeping forces police the bridge over the River Ibar — which divides ethnic Albanians on the south side and a Serbian enclave on the north — day and night to prevent the two sides from clashing even now, 15 years after the end of the war in Kosovo.</p> <p>News came last month that the bridge was once again the scene of violent clashes, this time between NATO peacekeeping forces and protesters.</p> <p>In 2004, clashes between Serbs and ethnic Albanians resulted in four deaths, and the bridge has been a front line with razor wire and sandbags ever since.</p> <p>The confrontation this time came after the clearing of a blockade on the bridge that Serbs had erected three years ago to prevent Albanians from crossing over. The Serbs responded to the clearing by marshaling heavy pots of evergreens six rows deep to reestablish the blockade. They dubbed it a “peace park.”</p> <p>The ethnic Albanians gathered in protest on the south side and waved red Albanian flags calling for the NATO forces to clear the blockade. BBC footage of the clashes showed some ethnic Albanians throwing rocks and NATO peacekeeping forces responding with tear gas and rubber bullets. Six vehicles were torched. Twelve policemen and 10 civilians were injured in the clashes, according to the BBC. There were ten arrests, according to local news reports.</p> <p>This scene was definitely not what we came for.</p> <p>In the days just before this resurgence of violence, we were still hopeful in our simple quest to hear some good music.</p> <p>Two community activists and friends, Ardiana Osmani and Milos Golubovic, were confident we would succeed. They come from different sides of the bridge but have worked hard to bring their respective communities together by hosting peace gatherings — including an international conference sponsored by the University of Massachusetts, Boston two years ago — here in Mitrovica. Ardiana is ethnic Albanian and Milos is Serbian.</p> <p>They exuded confidence that the two sides were working hard to come together. They talked about various cross-community enterprises funded by international donors, including a famous music program known as The Mitrovica Rock School. They also cited the new International College of Business, Mitrovica (ICBM) as an example of ethnic Albanians and Serbs working together.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the tensions simmer and the people who work to try to reconcile the two communities are growing weary. Even Ardiana and Milos, who are nothing short of heroic in their efforts, seemed to be despairing at times.</p> <p>Milos wanted to show us the Rock School, and we were excited to see the Serbs and ethnic Albanian students and teachers working together.</p> <p>“Well,” he explained, “actually they have separate campuses and they don’t play together in Kosovo only when they leave the country.”</p> <p>On the north side’s Serb-only campus, a huddle of kids dressed in black smoked cigarettes. The walls were covered with iconic posters of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Jim Morrison of The Doors. Behind the studio doors came the sound of crashing of drums and some students hammering out a lick that sounded like a very rough rendition of “Smoke on the Water.”</p> <p>Inside one studio, Goren, a 35-year-old Serbian guitar teacher, was offering instruction to his Serbian student, Stephan, who is 18. Surrounded by several sets of drums and a wall of vintage 1960s amplifiers, they were working on scales. They took a short break to talk about the Rock School.</p> <p>“It’s about music, not about politics,” said Goren, who asked that his full name not be used as he explained there were still some threats that came for being part of a school that dared to cross the divide, even if it did so tentatively and only outside of Kosovo.</p> <p>“We have to be careful,” he added. “It’s still very hard for everyone here.”</p> <p>Asked if he thought there would be a time when his teenage student might be playing in a band with ethnic Albanian musicians from the other side of town, he said, “Yeah, sure, in about 50 years. Or, maybe, a thousand. Hard to tell.”</p> <p>Our journey to the International Business College was equally disappointing. While the ethnic Albanian and Serb students did join in field trips and some overlapping student councils, there were two separate campuses and very little collegiality between the two sides.</p> <p>A recent graduate, Egzon Fejzullahu, 23, pulled together a group of ethnic Albanian students for us to speak with and he started the conversation, trumpeting the idea behind the school:</p> <p>“Business is the place where even the worst enemies can come together. Business is where success means crossing borders and boundaries.”</p> <p>It sounded like the language of a promotional brochure, and as it turned out he had studied marketing and was working part time for the school. But fairly quickly, he turned the corner toward a reality that he said saddened and frustrated him and just about all the students.</p> <p>He said, “So far there really is no cooperation in business. I don’t know when that will happen. We are all waiting and hoping.”</p> <p>One of the most glaring examples of the failure of the government and the two sides of the business community to work together is the largely shuttered Trepca Mines sitting atop vast reserves of iron, zinc, lead and copper.</p> <p>Throughout history, the mines have been productive and frequently controlled by empires from <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/italy">Rome</a> to the Ottomans.</p> <p>After the country of Yugoslavia was created following the <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/france">Paris</a> Peace Agreement of World War I, British mining interests exerted control. At the height of the Tito era in the 1970s, 22,000 people worked at Trepca. Now there are dozens of employees operating one small section. The vast sprawling complex is rusted and derelict as the new government of Kosovo and private investors from <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/china">China</a>, Greece and beyond vie for control.</p> <p>Meanwhile, youth unemployment is soaring throughout Kosovo and most acutely in Mitrovica, where it is estimated that over 65 percent of youth ages 15 to 24 are neither employed nor in school.</p> <p>On the north side, sullen teenagers from the Serbian community, which these days feels more isolated than ever, sit on a broken concrete wall overgrown with weeds and smoke cigarettes. They eye the other side of the bridge where ethnic Albanian youths skateboard and ride bikes and where families enjoy a small park with kiddy rides and trampolines and vendors selling popcorn.</p> <p>High levels of unemployment exist on both sides, and most of the young people who do have work seem to be employed by NGOs, which have created a kind of false economy built on aid from donor states and an alphabet soup of acronyms for the different agencies.</p> <p>We continued our search for some genuine rock ‘n’ roll and wandered past bars where DJs played rap and some lounge bands that played incredibly loud and bad electronic dance music.</p> <p>Down one of the winding roads on the South side, we came across Naim Mursezi, 34, a well known lead guitarist who Ardiana knew. We stopped to have a coffee as a light rain spattered on the tin roof of an outdoor café.</p> <p>“Mitrovica was a cradle of rock, man, for sure,” he said, measuring three spoonfuls of sugar and stirring it into black coffee.</p> <p>He creaked back in a wooden chair and told the history, “It was a big scene here in the 1980s and early 1990s, but it ended with the wars and the NATO bombing.”</p> <p>He said he started a basement rock club about 10 years ago, but added, “I couldn’t sustain it. “</p> <p>He added, “We used to play together and listen to music together. In any good rock bar, you would find Serbs and Albanians. The war changed us. I wish that was not true, I wish I could take you out and show you we still have it, but it’s not here. The music is over now.”</p> <p>Ardiana and Milos tried their best to help us navigate Mitrovica, but we never did succeed in our quest for music. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there, they both insisted, but it definitely seemed hard to find.</p> <p>Last month, with the news breaking of violent clashes on the bridge, I wanted to get in touch with Ardiana and Milos to make sure they were okay. I reached Ardiana by phone and she was at her favorite night club, House Pub.</p> <p>I asked her about how she felt about the resurgence of violence. She replied, “I’m upset, I’m angry. I have a lot of words for the way I feel. But most of all I just feel terrible. I can’t believe we are going back to that.”</p> <p>While she spoke, I could hear a drum beat kick in over a crackling phone line and a grinding electric guitar and muffled, angry lyrics in Albanian.</p> <p>“You hear that?” Ardiana asked. “I told you there was still music here. It’s just hard to find and you gotta keep looking.”  </p> <p><em>See more of <a href="http://www.ronhaviv.com/#s=0&mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&p=18&a=0&at=0">Ron Haviv's photography</a> from the wars in Yugoslavia</em></p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Want to Know War Europe Tue, 01 Jul 2014 11:08:00 +0000 Charles M. Sennott 6192090 at http://www.globalpost.com Living under ISIL isn't as good as it sounds http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140630/iraqis-under-militant-rule-north-mixed-reviews-ISIL-ISIS-mosul <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Initially, ISIL got a warm welcome in Mosul and elsewhere. But everyone braced for a backlash. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tracey Shelton </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>KIRKUK, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/iraq">Iraq</a> — Shortly after Al Qaeda-inspired militants swept across northern Iraq, civilians in Mosul and its surrounds said they were <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140615/iraqi-refugees-erbil-mosul-ISIL">ready to try their luck</a> under these new, albeit militant, rulers.</p> <p>Residents in the north said conditions had actually improved in the short-term. There were reports in Mosul and elsewhere of restored water and power supplies, and cheap gas for sale. The checkpoints were no longer. </p> <p>But analysts warned of a backlash, saying the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other Sunni militias were likely to enstate strict Shariah law and squander their warm welcome before too long.</p> <p>Now, those who fled northern Iraq say they are getting mixed messages from back home.</p> <p>Sitting in a tent that felt like a sauna in Kalak, Iraqi Kurdistan's largest internally displaced persons camp situated between Mosul and Erbil, a young man repeated the horror stories he was hearing from friends and relatives still in Mosul. He spoke of executions, amputations and floggings under the new Shariah code introduced by ISIL for Nineveh province on June 12.</p> <p>“My relative said that anyone caught smoking has his finger cut off, and they whip people with cables for watching the World Cup,” said Zain Abdeen, 24.</p> <p>A new <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/27/iraq-isis-kidnaps-shia-turkmen-destroys-shrines" target="_blank">Human Rights Watch report</a> released over the weekend documents shocking violence in northern Iraq at the hands of the militants — including the kidnapping of Shia Turkmen, the ransacking of Shia areas and the execution of at least 190 members of the government army and police.</p> <p>But the others in the tent with Abdeen were quick to say they had personally heard no such stories.</p> <p>“I didn’t hear anything about this. I don’t know anyone who has seen these punishments used in Mosul. From what I have seen, they attack only the government buildings and members of the army. The civilians they have left alone,” said Theaa Fadal, who fled government airstrikes in Mosul more than a week ago.</p> <p>“It is a media war. Each side tries to tells more extreme stories about the other,” added Ziad Fazil, also sitting in the tent. “It’s all fueled by inequality in government and finances between Sunni and Shia. It’s a cycle — when the Shia are repressed they rise up and oppress the Sunni. Now the Sunnis want to take back the control.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/140630/kirkuk-gun-market-arms-dealers-video">It's time to buy a gun in Kirkuk (VIDEO)</a></strong></p> <p>A Kurdish family still living in Mosul said the new authorities aren't as bad as they had expected. Nefel, a young mother of two, fled with her family to stay with relatives in Kirkuk as the militants entered the city. She had heard horror stories of what ISIL might do to them if they remained. In <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/syria">Syria</a>, the group is known for arresting Kurdish civilians arbitrarily and executing dozens connected with Kurdish militia groups that oppose ISIL.</p> <p>But everyone she talked to back home said Mosul was safe. She decided to return.</p> <p>“We spoke to our relatives who stayed in Mosul and they said the city was more secure now,” Nefel, who asked to be referred to by first name only, said by phone from Mosul. “No one was stealing and all the checkpoints were gone. The armed men weren’t making problems for the people so we came back to our home.”</p> <p>Under the new Shariah laws in Mosul, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes are banned. Women must “dress decently, wear wide clothes and only go out if necessary,” according to rules ISIL posted online this month. But while such laws may sound intolerable to Western ears, in Mosul they are nothing new.</p> <p>On a visit to the city several years ago, alcohol was not openly sold. Christian women complained that they must wear Islamic dress when they went out or risk being targeted by extremists. For Muslim women, like Nefel, such dress and behavior are a normal part of life. These new laws have had little impact.</p> <p>Chronic shortages in the city, however, are taking a toll. “Now there is no power or water at our house and no fuel in the city, so it’s really hard to live here,” she said.</p> <p>Despite initial reports that the militants had restored services in Mosul, the Iraqi government since ordered the blockage of power, internet and water supplies to militant-held areas. One letter to internet providers — ordering the blockage of internet to all ISIL-held territory and areas with large Sunni populations including Kirkuk — warned that any company not following these orders “will be considered a threat to national security.”</p> <p>The conditions, not to mention government attacks, make life at home impossible. But for displaced families at Kalak, enduring sweltering temperatures of 113 degrees Farenheit without enough food or water is likewise unbearable — especially now that Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, has begun.</p> <p>“We’re blocked on every side. Trapped in the middle. Only people with money have options. The rest of us end up here in this camp,” said 69-year-old Gazala Al Sultan, who arrived in the camp with her five daughters last week. </p> <p>Repeating an old Iraqi saying, she added, “In Iraq, people without luck get eaten by the dogs.”</p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Diplomacy Military Aid Iraq Tue, 01 Jul 2014 04:28:00 +0000 Tracey Shelton 6191923 at http://www.globalpost.com Boko Haram leaders are being attacked by snakes and bees http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/nigeria/140630/boko-haram-leaders-are-being-attacked-snakes-and-bees <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Captured fighters report the critters are reincarnations of the people they killed. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jess Zimmerman </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Even nature is against Boko Haram, the extremist group that in April <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/nigeria/140430/everything-you-need-know-about-the-234-girls-kidnapped-nigeria-boko-haram">kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls</a> in <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/nigeria">Nigeria</a>. The local newspaper Vanguard reports that recently-captured Boko Haram fighters <a href="http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/06/mysterious-snakes-bees-attack-boko-haram-sambisa-forest/">describe</a> “mysterious snakes and bees” that chased them out of their forest hideouts.</p> <p>One of the arrested insurgents, Kolo Mustapha, says the bees and snakes have killed several Boko Haram leaders and sent everyone else on the run. But the details are a little hard to swallow: Mustapha claims that the critters, which disappear after biting, are actually “the aggrieved people who had suffered from our deadly mission, including the ghosts of some of those we killed.” (He also said “I personally have never killed anyone,” soooo…)</p> <p>The other captured Boko Haram member, Umar Abor, says the sect believes “the Chibok people are using juju to pursue us because of their children said to have been taken by our leaders.” Oh, so they’re juju bees.</p> <p>So is Boko Haram being hounded by real snakes and bees, such as one might find in a Nigerian forest? Or are the leaders plagued by a guilty conscience? Or, alternately, are these just your standard-issue ghost bees? No matter what the reason, the Civilian JTF (Nigeria’s anti-Boko Haram militia) <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-28034240">says</a> that more and more fighters have been fleeing the group’s hideouts, and some are offering assistance to security forces. I guess if it takes mystical snakes to make that happen, then that’s what it takes.</p> Africa Boko Haram Strange But True Nigeria Offbeat Mon, 30 Jun 2014 20:28:32 +0000 Jess Zimmerman 6191972 at http://www.globalpost.com Pistorius is back and there is just one question on everyone's mind http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/140630/oscar-pistorius-trial-resumes <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will this trial ever end? </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="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/south-africa">South Africa</a> — Oscar Pistorius returned to court Monday morning to resume what feels like the never-ending trial of the century.</p> <p>The courtroom benches were a little emptier, the journalists grumpier, and the Twitter ennui palpable as feeds were again flooded with descriptions of <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/140313/most-boring-live-tweets-oscar-pistorius-trial" target="_blank">Pistorius family facial expressions</a> and the judge’s new hairdo.</p> <p>But don’t despair — the end may be nigh.</p> <p><strong>Wait — this thing is still going on?</strong></p> <p>Indeed. The trial resumed Monday after a six-week break during which time Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013, was under psychiatric evaluation at a state mental hospital.</p> <p>Pistorius was found not to have any mental illness or defect that would have affected him the night he shot Steenkamp. This means he is capable of being held criminally responsible for his actions, and capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of the act.</p> <p>A little background: While Pistorius admits he shot and killed Steenkamp, he maintains it was an accident and that he mistook her for an intruder. The state argues that he deliberately killed Steenkamp, a law graduate, model and aspiring reality TV star.</p> <p><strong>Why is this trial taking so long?</strong></p> <p>OK, it hasn’t actually been THAT long — it just feels like it.</p> <p>Maybe it’s the intense coverage: the Pistorius trial began March 3 amid international media frenzy. This is the first live-broadcast trial in South African history, being aired on a “pop up” satellite TV channel as well as streamed online.</p> <p>And all that air time has led to an inevitable backlash. Many South Africans are tired of the attention being focused on Pistorius when there is no shortage of important national stories going uncovered. Besides, after four months of constant Pistorius trial "expert analysis," what else is there to say? </p> <p>There have been some unexpected delays, like when one of the judge’s assessors fell ill (there’s no jury system in South <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/internal/section-config/africa">Africa</a>; Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa is advised by two legal experts). The psychiatric assessment slowed things down by a month or so, though legal experts say it was necessary to prevent a future appeal on certain grounds. And don’t forget all those times when Pistorius was testifying, got overly emotional, and had to take breaks.</p> <p>This trial has also seen a large number of expert witnesses called by the defense, which doesn’t exactly make things speedy.</p> <p><strong>Why do you journalists insist on tweeting so much useless stuff about the trial?</strong></p> <p>We’re sorry. And a little embarrassed. But in our defense:</p> <p>1) There are, in fact, people who are riveted by the trial and associated minutiae. No really. We get mail.</p> <p>2) Proceedings can get pretty tedious inside Courtroom GD at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria — and the smallest detail can take on new interest. Like when lawyer Barry Roux launches into a particularly persistent line of questioning with his special turns of phrase (eg. <a href="http://www.citypress.co.za/multimedia/watch-barry-roux-put-song/" target="_blank">"I put it to you"</a>). Or when you’re staring at the back of the Blade Runner’s head in court wondering about his two white patches of hair, while trying not to feel queasy as he retches into a plastic bucket. We feel compelled to share these <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/140313/most-boring-live-tweets-oscar-pistorius-trial">special moments</a> with the world.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/140313/most-boring-live-tweets-oscar-pistorius-trial">The 7 most pointless things live-tweeted from the Pistorius trial (so far)</a></strong></p> <p><strong>When will it end?!</strong></p> <p>Pistorius’ lawyers are now calling their final few witnesses. Currently on the stand is acoustics expert Ivan Lin, who is testifying as to whether the sounds of female and male voices can be distinguished at a certain distance. Starting Tuesday morning, he faces cross-examination by chief prosecutor Gerrie “the Pitbull” Nel.</p> <p>There is at least one more witness to come. After that, the defense and prosecution teams will present their final arguments. There will first be a break for a few weeks, to give the legal teams time to prepare these documents.</p> <p>The trial will then be adjourned for another few weeks to give the judge time to prepare her judgment.</p> <p><strong>And after that?</strong></p> <p>Justice Masipa is expected to deliver her verdict in August or early September, barring unforeseen delays.</p> <p>If Pistorius is found guilty, then there will be sentencing. If he is convicted of premeditated murder, he faces 25 years to life behind bars. If convicted of culpable homicide — the equivalent to manslaughter in South Africa’s judicial system — there is no minimum sentence. A betting man or woman might wager on the latter outcome, with perhaps some jail time applied. But only Judge Masipa really knows.</p> <p>After that, there may be appeals. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves now.</p> Want to Know Culture & Lifestyle South Africa Mon, 30 Jun 2014 18:38:00 +0000 Erin Conway-Smith 6191785 at http://www.globalpost.com