GlobalPost - Home C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en Massive gas pipeline explosion in Taiwan kills 15 people, injures 233 <!--paging_filter--><p>Multiple gas pipeline explosions ripped through the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, leaving at least five people feared dead and injuring around 230, officials said Friday.</p> <p>The explosions, believed to have been caused by a gas leak, triggered a massive inferno with eyewitnesses reporting several bodies littered on the streets.</p> <p>At least 15 people were confirmed dead in a series of gas explosions in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, the mayor said Friday.</p> <p>&quot;The gas explosions on Thursday night killed 15 people and injured 233 others,&quot; Kaohsiung&#39;s mayor Chen Chu told reporters.</p> <p>The authorities received calls from residents in Kaohsiung&#39;s Cianjhen district about suspected gas leaks late Thursday, which triggered a series of explosions that were powerful enough to rip open roads and overturn cars.</p> <p>&quot;The local fire department received calls of gas leaks late Thursday and then there was a series of blasts around midnight affecting a area of two to three square kilometres,&quot; the fire agency said in a statement.</p> <p>Emergency workers rushed to the scene and were removing bodies from the area.</p> <p>Local media reported that emergency rooms in Kaohsiung city hospitals were packed with casualties.</p> <p>Officials urged people to stay out of the affected areas and local schools were reopened for people to take shelter.</p> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:66.666667% 0 0 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="396" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=mbF5V9ozbHrEcSzMw847hto-9n43c6Rd-2y2pDSt6lE=" 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:0 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#452979548</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <div style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;min-width:300px;"> <div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:65.824916% 0 0 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="391" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=58US-5LUT-rRw6-qL5wnUW4MBzgoA1eb4gI_YYz_Bpk=" 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:0 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#452979392</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:12:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6220270 at EU adopts toughest Russian sanctions yet, targets five Russian banks <!--paging_filter--><p>The European Union has published a law that will curb arms sales to <a href="">Russia</a> and to cut off financing for five major Russian banks over Moscow's support for rebels in Ukraine.</p> <p>Russia has denounced the measures, agreed by the 28 EU member states on Tuesday, as "destructive and short-sighted," while fighting has intensified in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv forces and the pro-Russian separatists.</p> <p>EU officials say the sanctions aim to inflict maximum pain on Russia and minimum pain on the EU. "We will for sure have an effect and a very substantial and concrete effect on Russia," one EU official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.</p> <p>The toughest measures aim to prevent Russian banks from raising money on Western capital markets, while others limit defence sales and the export of hi-tech equipment for the oil sector.</p> <p>Published on Thursday in the Official Journal of the European Union, the law takes effect from Friday, Aug. 1.</p> <p>Marking a fundamental shift in how <a href="">Europe</a> deals with Russia, the sanctions will mean EU nationals and companies can no longer buy or sell new bonds, equity or other financial instruments with a maturity of more than 90 days issued by major state-owned Russian banks or those acting on their behalf.</p> <p>The law lists five targeted banks — Russia's largest lender Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank (VEB) and Russian Agriculture Bank (Rosselkhozbank).</p> <p>In addition, there is a ban on any future imports and exports of arms from Russia, and authorisation will be required for member states that want to export energy-related equipment.</p> <p>Export licences will be denied if products are destined for deepwater oil exploration and production, Arctic oil exploration or production and shale oil projects in Russia.</p> <p>Europe, which has deep trade links with Russia, was far more reluctant to act than the <a href="">United States</a> over Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March and its support for the rebels.</p> <p>However, the mood shifted radically after the downing over eastern Ukraine of a civilian flight from <a href="">the Netherlands</a> to Malaysia earlier this month. Western countries say a Russian-supplied missile fired from rebel-held territory caused the disaster. Moscow blames the Ukrainian military for the crash, in which 298 people were killed.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Ukraine's parliament rejected Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk's resignation on Thursday and finally passed legislation he said was needed to finance an army offensive against a separatist rebellion in the east and avert a national default on its debts.</p> <p>The assembly's about-turn on laws it refused to back a week earlier offers relief to Kyiv's Western backers, who had feared Ukraine was sliding deeper into political chaos and might renege on an international bailout as it heads into an election period.</p> <p>"There are two pieces of news today. The first is that <a href="">Argentina</a> has defaulted, and the second is that Ukraine has not defaulted and never will," Yatsenyuk told the chamber, making clear he would stay in office.</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:32:12 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6220250 at Chatter: Israel calls up 16,000 more reservists <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Netanyahu says Israel won't stop until the tunnels are gone, the Kremlin isn't likely to budge despite sanctions and camel milk. It's the new superfood. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:30:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5942065 at As world watches in horror, many Israelis still say this is a necessary war <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The few residents left in Israel's borderlands say that though the deaths in Gaza are shocking, the threat they themselves face is still real. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Noga Tarnopolsky </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JERUSALEM, Israel &mdash; At about 5:30 a.m., just before dawn on Wednesday, three or four artillery shells crashed into a UN-run school in the Jebaliya refugee camp in Gaza.</p> <p>Some 3,500 Palestinians had taken refuge there, after receiving warnings from the Israeli army that their own neighborhoods were targets in the conflict now in its fourth week and counting more than<a href=""> 1,300 deaths</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Entire families lay together asleep.</p> <p>At least twenty people were killed before even waking.</p> <p>Chris Gunness, the spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the organization running the schools, immediately tweeted, &quot;UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces,&quot; and, &quot;Precise location of Jabalia Elementary Girls School #Gaza &amp; that it housed 3,000 displaced was communicated to Israeli army 17 times.&rdquo;</p> <p>Representatives for the Israel Defense Forces said they were operating in the vicinity of the school, responding to fire against IDF soldiers.</p> <p>Hours later, 16 Gazans were <a href=";articleid=26692627&amp;m=d">killed</a> in the bombing of a market.&nbsp;</p> <p>The school bombing came only six days after a similar incident, in which another UN-run Gazan school being operated as a shelter was <a href="">hit by heavy fire</a>, killing at least fifteen people and causing outrage around the world.</p> <p>In this most recent iteration of the decades-old conflict, Israel&rsquo;s image is taking a beating like never before. Even longtime supporters are taking to the <a href="">op-ed pages</a> to condemn the asymmetrical death counts.&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet to the mystification of the world, a vast majority of Israelis, including those on the left, still support this war, feeling Israel is in an impossible position. &quot;The settlements surrounding Gaza are all kibbutzim [settlers living communally] &mdash; kibbutzim who have traditionally been supporters of the Israeli left,&quot; says Marc Schulman in the &quot;<a href="">Tel Aviv Diary</a>&quot; he is writing for Newsweek, &quot; &hellip; in this war when kibbutz residents make up only 2 percent of the population, 13 percent of the casualties have been from kibbutzim. &quot;</p> <p>Stand at kibbutz Nahal Oz, across the divide from Shujaiyah, where some of the worst battles have taken place, and you&#39;ll hear the constant background noise of open combat. Rat-tat-tat-boom! Like many other communities on the Israeli side of the border, Nahal Oz has become a ghost town, with only a few families left on-site and a coterie of older men guarding the fences. All families with children have been dispatched to the center of Israel.&nbsp;</p> <p>Those remaining insist Israel can&rsquo;t be blamed for defending itself.</p> <p>Missiles have been raining on their communities for 14 years, mostly far away from the eye of the media. Yesterday, Hamas, the militant Islamic group ruling Gaza, released a video proudly showing its fighters emerging from a tunnel just outside the kibbutz carrying heavy weaponry, and rushing to a military watchtower.&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Five Israeli soldiers died in the raid, one of Hamas&#39;s most audacious and successful of this round of fighting.</p> <p>The fears felt by Nahal Oz residents when faced with the reality of tunnels burrowed deep under their community, intentded to be used for kidnapping them and sowing terror, are not theoretical. This community has been the <a href="">target</a> of lethal cross-border raids since 1956.</p> <p>&quot;The problem is that there are two sides to every coin, and it is very difficult to be objective and show both sides,&rdquo; says Dov Hartuv, a 76-year-old retiree and one of a hundred people out of 400 remaining at the kibbutz. &ldquo;We are not the only ones who are good and just. It&rsquo;s the same on the Gazans&#39; side.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;When Israelis see those awful pictures on TV, of a Gazan child dying in his father&#39;s arms, something unbearable, we feel terrible pain,&rdquo; says Danny Rachamim, 60, the kibbutz manager for the irrigation of field crops. But he rejects placing the blame on the IDF: &ldquo;Together with that, we know that the people bringing this upon these people is Hamas.&quot;</p> <p>Rachamim was referring to Hamas&#39;s use of civilian buildings and installations to launch rockets and missiles at Israel &mdash; to which the IDF then responds, the result being high civilian casualties. The UNRWA has criticized this practice along with the Israeli strikes. On Tuesday, UNRWA <a href="">announced</a> that Gazan militants&rsquo; missiles have been found at a third of its sites.</p> <p>&quot;We condemn the group or groups who endangered civilians by placing these munitions in our school,&quot; Gunness, the spokesman, said. &quot;This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises.&quot;</p> <p>Rachamim is a long-time peace activist, and says he &quot;still believes we will some day live together in peace.&quot;</p> <p>But he also defends Israel from criticisms regarding the difference in death counts. &quot;I don&#39;t feel the need to apologize that we as country have invested so much in Iron Dome [Israel&rsquo;s missile defense system] that protects our own population. If we hadn&#39;t, there would be many, many more deaths.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;It is hard to see this, with all the terrible pictures,&quot; he says, &quot;but we are fighting for our lives. We are not attacking them on purpose. We never aim at civilian populations. We aim to kill terrorists who are using innocent citizens as shields. In wars, mistakes happen.&quot;</p> <p>Many Israelis feel that their case is misunderstood by a world public appalled by civilian deaths in Gaza.</p> <p>Hartuv says he is &quot;afraid that neither Israel nor the West understands Hamas: it is a fundamentalist, radical, extremist, religious organization. You can&#39;t play by the same rules you would with France of the UK.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;It is almost impossible to transmit this message to the world,&quot; says Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul in New York. &quot;When there is an asymmetry of force and power, and a missile defense shield on one side but not on the other, the images create an indelible impression that cannot be changed by virtue of spokespeople or PR. There&#39;s just no way around that.&quot;</p> <p>As a nation, he says, Israel has to decide on its priorities.</p> <p>&quot;You can&#39;t massively bomb Gaza and look good in the eyes of the world. You just can&#39;t.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;You have to chose which of those two goals is the more important for you, and you just have to live with it.&quot;</p> <p>As of Wednesday afternoon, the death tolls in the conflict stood at 1,328 Palestinian deaths, 59 Israeli.</p> Want to Know Israel and Palestine Middle East Thu, 31 Jul 2014 04:47:26 +0000 Noga Tarnopolsky 6219378 at Bali’s government is on an unrepentant dog-killing spree <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Here’s why. </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="">BANGKOK</a> — Minute by minute, the pile of dead canines grows.</p> <p>The first to die is a husky with swirling monochrome fur. Then comes a blue-eyed puppy and a puffball pomeranian. Later, a fat pug.</p> <p>All are pulled from cages and held down as government workers sink syringes into their bellies. They die squealing and struggling. One puppy blindly claws at a government aide and rips his rubber gloves. In just 15 minutes, the pile has grown to include at least two dozen dead dogs.</p> <p>This grisly scene plays out in a YouTube video titled <a href="">&ldquo;BRUTAL CULLING OF SMUGGLED DOGS IN BALI.&rdquo;</a> Filmed at an outdoor euthanasia center, it reveals how far <a href="">Indonesia</a>’s touristed island of Bali will go to confront its stray dog problem.</p> <p><em>Warning: This video content is graphic and may disturb some viewers.</em></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>Yes, Bali — the tropical isle of surfers, volcanoes and enchanting temples — is overrun with stray dogs. They’re everywhere: nibbling roadside trash, wandering along the picturesque beaches and prowling through villages.</p> <p>Some are rabid. In the last six years, according to government figures, nearly 150 people on Bali have died from rabies.</p> <p>No tourists have died from rabies. But Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika — seeking to protect the island’s $5.5-billion tourism industry from a rabies scare — has indicated that the disease must be eradicated at all costs.</p> <p>Even if that means eradicating all dogs caught wandering the streets.</p> <p>“If any stray dogs are found, feel free to eliminate them,” the governor told his staff, according to the <a href="">Jakarta Post</a>. He’s also told subordinates that “there is no need to catch them. Put them in a shelter or something. Just cull them.”</p> <p>Dog catchers are instructed to catch and kill pathetic mutts and special breeds alike. Well-fed canines who appear to have owners are shown little clemency. “If any dog owners protest ... it is their fault,” Pastika said. “They should keep their dogs at home.”</p> <p>This policy may explain why that now-viral culling video is so shocking. These dogs don’t bear the typical signs of street life: exposed ribs, flesh eaten by insects and disease. Their fur appears silky. The breeds are pedigree. They look fresh out of the pet shop.</p> <p>The mass culling amounts to “inhumane slaughter,” according to People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (or PETA). The animal rights group also predicted that “many compassionate people worldwide will avoid traveling to Bali” because of the practice.</p> <p>Loose dogs caught by the state, of course, face euthanasia all over the world — including in the US. But the scale of Bali’s extermination campaign is remarkable.</p> <p>Bali’s population is roughly 4 million. That’s comparable to the population of <a href="">Los Angeles</a>, a city that kills roughly 8,000 dogs per year. Bali, during heavy euthanasia campaigns, has killed an estimated 100,000 dogs in the span of 12 months.</p> <p>As in much of Southeast <a href="">Asia</a>, Bali’s dogs blur the lines between pet and stray. Many are not owned outright but tolerated by villagers who feed them scraps. As Hindus, the Balinese are much more accepting of dogs than the rest of Muslim-majority Indonesia, where Islamic traditions dictate dogs are impure and that canine saliva must never touch human skin.</p> <p>There is good news behind the heartbreaking accounts of mass dog killings. Local animal rights groups, such as the Bali Animal Welfare Association, have overseen rabies vaccination drives targeting hundreds of thousands of dogs. Authorities have joined in too. Rabies deaths have fallen dramatically to fewer than 10 casualties per year.</p> <p>But as Bali’s animal husbandry chief told the <a href="">Jakarta Globe</a>, horrified reactions to the culling campaign will not shame the government into ending the dog killings. The rabies threat, he said, “requires firm action.”</p> Want to Know Indonesia Japan South Korea Thu, 31 Jul 2014 04:47:24 +0000 Patrick Winn 6219161 at Putin doesn't look like he's about to give in <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> New US and EU sanctions may hurt Russia, but experts believe they probably won’t work. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, <a href="">Russia</a> — They’re the farthest-reaching sanctions the <a href="">United States</a> and its European allies have slapped against Russia over its role stoking the separatist crisis in Ukraine, but that may not matter much.</p> <p>Although the new measures may deal a significant blow to Russian business, many analysts say they’re unlikely to make Vladimir Putin budge.</p> <p>“The West is placing strict terms in front of Putin: to stop supporting the rebels,” said Pavel Salin, a political analyst at the government’s Financial University, about the Russian president. “But it’s impossible for him to do this for internal political reasons.”</p> <p>After months of apparent disagreement over how to punish Russia, Washington and <a href="">Brussels</a> appear to have finally at least somewhat united by jointly offering up a series of potentially crippling sanctions.</p> <p>Earlier restrictions mostly targeted selected individuals. But the new measures reach into key areas such as the finance, energy and defense sectors, and for the first time are aimed at fairly broad swaths of the Russian economy.</p> <p>Besides affecting several large Russian banks — including state-run VTB, the country’s second-largest — they block the export of technology to the energy sector.</p> <p>That means Russia will lose out on the crucial Western hardware it needs to explore its deposits of shale gas and Arctic oil, commodities that have been essential to Russian growth under Putin.</p> <p>The measures also largely freeze up the arms trade between Moscow and the EU.</p> <p>While denying the measures amount to a “new cold war,” US President Barack Obama struck a firm tone during his announcement of the American sanctions on Tuesday.</p> <p>“It doesn’t have to be this way,” he said in a televised statement. “This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made.”</p> <p>Economists say the EU sanctions are likely to hit Russia harder because the two entities share much closer trade and financial ties. Several European countries may even take a significant hit themselves, particularly Britain, since London serves as a major destination for Russian cash.</p> <p>But Russian banks will suffer over their inability to raise capital in European markets, which in turn may lead to a rise in borrowing costs and a further economic downturn.</p> <p>While Brussels says it may reconsider the issue in three months, the Kremlin seems unlikely to give into pressure, prompting analysts to believe the sanctions could indeed become long-term.</p> <p>“There’s no visibility in this area for the moment,” says Natalia Orlova, chief economist at Alfa Bank in Moscow.</p> <p>That’s ominous for an already sluggish Russian economy, which has been crippled by significant capital flight since the first round of sanctions over its annexation of Crimea in March.</p> <p>Various international organizations, including the International Monetary Fund, predict close to neutral, if not negative, GDP growth this year.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the reactions in Moscow have been relatively tame.</p> <p>VTB claimed the new round of sanctions is politically motivated, suggesting it would have no problem borrowing in other markets. Russia’s central bank, meanwhile, said it would help support any lenders that suffer from the restrictions.</p> <p>The Foreign Ministry slammed the new restrictions on Wednesday, alleging EU policy is “written under dictation from Washington,” the state news agency RIA Novosti reported.</p> <p>But earlier this week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brushed off the potential impact of further sanctions, suggesting Moscow would take the high road by not retaliating.</p> <p>“I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength,” he told reporters at a Monday news conference.</p> <p>“We can't ignore it,” he added. “But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country.”</p> <p>Many Russians apparently think so, too.</p> <p>A recent poll by the independent Levada Center think-tank in Moscow found that only 36 percent believe sanctions will negatively affect them. Roughly the same number is worried about Russia’s potential international isolation over its support of the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, the same survey found.</p> <p>Critics blame widespread Kremlin control over the airwaves for the apparent apathy, which they concede is pervasive.</p> <p>Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition politician and former deputy prime minister, said Russians will one day “realize that [Putin] has driven Russia into a dead end and poverty.”</p> <p>“But that will not happen immediately,” he wrote for the Echo of Moscow radio station on Wednesday.</p> <p>Although dissent has been muted so far, not everyone has kept quiet.</p> <p>Alexei Kudrin, a former longtime finance minister partly credited with boosting the economy under Putin, warned earlier this week of the increasing “anti-Western rhetoric” that’s quietly stoking fears among the Russian business class.</p> <p>“Businessmen want to work, to invest, build factories and develop trade,” he said in an interview with state news agency ITAR-TASS. “And businessmen are very concerned about what they hear on radio and TV.”</p> <p>Still, many political experts say the Kremlin is unlikely to give any ground.</p> <p>US officials say Moscow has only boosted its support for Ukraine’s pro-Russian insurgents since the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 17, which Washington believes was brought down by Ukrainian separatists earlier this month.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">The Obama administration is spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons</a></strong></p> <p>State media has been vehement in blaming Kyiv for the crash and regularly dismisses any suggestions the rebels are to blame despite the overwhelming evidence.</p> <p>Thanks to the fierce information war here that’s cast Russia as a resurgent superpower — winning most Russians’ hearts and minds in the process while earning Putin sky-high ratings — cutting support for the embattled rebels is not an option, says Salin, of the government’s Financial University.</p> <p>That’s why he believes the fresh round of sanctions threatens to further escalate a standoff in which neither side is prepared to cede ground.</p> <p>“In today’s situation, there’s either a step forward, toward the heightening of stakes, or a step backward,” he said. “That step forward is a precursor to a full-on war in <a href="">Europe</a>.” </p> Crisis in Ukraine Need to Know Conflict Zones Global Economy Russia United States Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:52:41 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6219267 at Two advances may pave new ways for combating malaria <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> GlaxoSmithKline has applied to license the world’s first malaria vaccine and researchers in Tanzania have developed a new model for testing malaria drugs in Africa. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Indrani Basu </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The UK-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline <a href="">made waves last week</a> with the announcement that it was seeking regulatory approval for the world&rsquo;s first-ever malaria vaccine. GSK hopes that its vaccine, called &lsquo;RTS,S,&rsquo; will prevent millions of malaria cases each year.</p> <p>Meanwhile, researchers in Tanzania said this week they have made strides in developing an important research tool that they hope will significantly contribute to developing anti-malarial drugs and vaccines suited to the African population.</p> <p>Both recent advents in the field of malarial research hold promise in tackling one of the world&rsquo;s deadliest diseases. But there&rsquo;s still a long way to go before eradicating malaria, experts say.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>Tests have shown that the GSK vaccine is not as effective as the public health community would like it to be, said William Moss, a pediatrician and professor at the John Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. &ldquo;It is not the magic bullet that people have hoped for,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>And researchers consider the Tanzanian advancement as just a means to increase the capacity for finding a malaria vaccine or drug. &ldquo;It is important for candidate vaccines in Tanzania but by itself it doesn&rsquo;t help science, but scientific pursuit,&rdquo; said Regina Rabinovich, resident malaria scholar at Harvard School of Public Health&rsquo;s Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.</p> <p>Moss called it &ldquo;a small step forward,&rdquo; but certainly not &ldquo;a game-changer.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>The need for a vaccine</strong></p> <p>There are an estimated 207 million malaria cases annually all over the world, and according to the <a href="">latest WHO estimates</a> 90 percent of all deaths from the disease occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of them are children under five years old. In Africa, a child dies of malaria every minute.</p> <p>Researchers have been working for decades to find a vaccine for malaria, which is the world&rsquo;s <a href="">second biggest</a> killer communicable disease, but without success so far. GSK&rsquo;s work, spanning over 50 years, has been the most advanced.</p> <p>The pharmaceutical giant has filed an application for regulatory approval to the European Medicines Agency, and anticipates distributing the vaccine within the next year, said Moncef Slaoui, GSK&rsquo;s global head of research &amp; development and vaccines.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s frankly a scientific breakthrough as much as it&#39;s a public-health breakthrough,&rdquo; Slaoui said. &ldquo;It&#39;s the first ever human vaccine against the parasite.&rdquo;</p> <p>The RTS,S vaccine targets the malarial strain responsible for all the deaths in Africa. The vaccine, to be administered in three doses to infants and children between five and 17 months, helps generate antibodies to fight the malarial parasite transmitted by mosquito bites.</p> <p>Once vaccinated with RTS,S, the person is &ldquo;either fully protected against malaria or protected against a case of severe malaria,&rdquo; Slaoui said.</p> <p>GSK is applying for regulatory approval after testing the vaccine in both infants and adults. Even though the success rate in preventing malarial infection has been found significantly higher in adults, at 60 to 70 percent, it will be targeted for children under the age of two years, he said, &ldquo;because that&rsquo;s where the disease is most severe and most of the deaths occur.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Rating the success of the vaccine</strong></p> <p>Some malarial researchers are more cautious about the vaccine&rsquo;s degree of protection. Its success rate in preventing malaria in infants and toddlers is less than 50 percent &ndash; and the effects of the vaccine aren&rsquo;t very long-lasting.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s lower than we had hoped, particularly in younger children and younger children at higher risk of disease,&rdquo; said Moss, who has an ongoing study on malaria control in Zambia and Zimbabwe. &ldquo;The protective immunity decreases over time so you get lower protection that declines faster than hoped for.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, GSK&rsquo;s Slaoui emphasized that the success rate amongst infants was not a low figure, saying that the vaccine could potentially prevent half a million to 600,000 cases of severe malaria and 30 million cases of malaria annually in sub-Saharan Africa.</p> <p>&ldquo;That is an enormous impact on public health &ndash; on hospital and infrastructure,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re very excited about it.&rdquo;</p> <p>While Moss believes the vaccine had the potential to be a &ldquo;useful&rdquo; tool in addition to other prevention methods such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying, he stresses that a new vaccine with better efficacy rates than the RTS,S is still needed.</p> <p>Slaoui agreed.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s enough to introduce the vaccine,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But should we sit on our laurels and not try to improve? Absolutely not.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Africa&rsquo;s first controlled malaria clinical trial</strong></p> <p>Malarial researchers in Tanzania are hopeful that a new tool they developed might hold the key to future vaccines and drugs.</p> <p>A <a href="">new study</a> published Monday in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine &amp; Hygiene reported results from the first-ever clinical trial in Africa for malaria. Researchers in Tanzania found that they could induce the infection with the use of frozen malarial parasites, instead of exposing subjects to live mosquito bites.</p> <p>The results, which were obtained by injecting the parasite into 30 Tanzanian men &ndash; are significant because they could allow researchers to develop and test malaria drugs in Africa without relying on expensive mosquito-breeding laboratory facilities available only in a handful of places in US and Europe, according to a <a href="">press statement</a> from the Tanzanian team.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;[This] opens up unprecedented opportunity for evaluation of new malaria drugs and vaccines in Africa,&rdquo; said Salim Abdullah, principal investigator of the study and Chief Executive Director of the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) Bagamoyo Research and Training Centre in Tanzania, in the statement.</p> <p>In a telephone interview, Abdullah said that he expected this innovation to help other researchers evaluate new malarial vaccine candidates and that it was important to develop this tool in Africa so as to save precious time wasted in adapting European drugs for African communities.</p> <p>&ldquo;Each ethnic group responds differently to vaccines,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Most of the new medicines are tested in Europe, and it takes several years before we can be certain that the product will be suitable for Africans.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, other researchers said that it was too early to start celebrating. The malaria parasite is extremely diverse in malaria-endemic areas, as opposed to the laboratory strain of the parasite used in this study, said Moss.</p> <p>Moreover, the Tanzanian study relied on injecting the human subjects with a relatively high dosage of the parasite when compared to a mosquito bite, and could potentially give a lopsided result of the actual efficacy of the drug being tested, he said.</p> <p><strong>The way forward</strong></p> <p>Recognizing that both recent developments have their own unique limitations, the scientists leading each effort are committed to improving their work moving forward.&nbsp;</p> <p>GSK is already working on a second-generation vaccine, though that&rsquo;s still a few years away, said Slaoui.</p> <p>Meanwhile the Tanzanian team is looking to collaborate with other groups to test new malarial drugs in development.</p> <p>&ldquo;With our research, we want to be able to test the suitability of malaria drugs on the African population early on,&rdquo; Abdullah said.</p> <p> <strong>More on GlobalPost: <a href="">Climate change expected to put millions more at risk for malaria</a></strong></p> <p class='u'></p> Malaria Health Global Pulse Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:05:00 +0000 Indrani Basu 6218221 at Turkey may have problems. But it also has plenty to teach the rest of a very troubled neighborhood <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Commentary: The view from Istanbul. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Philip S. Balboni </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ISTANBUL, Turkey &ndash; As violence and despair spread once again across the Middle East, this great city could be the poster child for all that is right in the Islamic world.</p> <p>Turkey&rsquo;s success as a mostly well-functioning democracy with a vibrant economy and tolerant multidimensional society represents a model of stability in this rough and tumble neighborhood, particularly as we watch so much of the Middle East and North Africa confront violence, repression and ruthless sectarianism.</p> <p>This is a sprawling city of 15 million people sitting confidently astride the point where the European and Asian continents converge, and the historic capital of three empires &ndash; the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman.</p> <p>A predominantly Muslim nation, Turkey has made enormous progress in recent decades building credibility on the world stage, while forging an economy that has roughly tripled in size over the past dozen years.</p> <p>To be sure, Turkey is not without its problems.</p> <p>Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan demonstrates authoritarian tendencies and has been accused of corruption. Moreover, Turkey jails more journalists than any country in the world, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the Committee to Protect Journalists</a>.</p> <p>And Tuesday, Erdogan&rsquo;s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc <a href="" target="_blank">sparked an outcry</a> when he said women should not laugh loudly in public (he also lambasted their use of mobile phones, accusing them of &ldquo;spending hours on the phone to swap recipes&rdquo;).</p> <p>Yet as powerful as it may be, Erdogan&rsquo;s government does not always get its way, as demonstrated by a recent walk around Gezi Park.</p> <p>Situated in the very heart of the European side of Istanbul, Gezi Park was the scene of massive violent protests last summer over the government&rsquo;s plan to bulldoze the park, one of the few remaining in Istanbul, in order to build yet another shopping mall.</p> <p>On this July day all was peaceful with families and couples enjoying the breeze in the shade of the park&rsquo;s many trees. The people won the battle over Gezi Park, forcing the prime minister to back down.</p> <p>But in nearby Taksim Square, Erdogan campaign posters are on prominent display, as they are throughout the city, as he makes a run to be president of the republic. Erdogan is not eligible to serve a fourth term as prime minister. The presidential election will be held Aug. 10 with a second round, if needed, on Aug. 24.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s hard to find much overt enthusiasm for Erdogan in this cosmopolitan city, but most experts believe he will win the presidency. It&rsquo;s also widely expected that the Turkish parliament, which is controlled by his Justice and Development Party (AKP), will approve changes that will give the president-elect enhanced powers.</p> <p>Although there is historic discrimination in Turkey, particularly against Armenians, Kurds and Greeks, there is a decided air of tolerance in Istanbul. Many women wear the headscarf and the muezzin&rsquo;s call to prayer is heard throughout the city from its scores of mosques. But the dress and lifestyles are as diverse as any you would find in Berlin or London.</p> <p>At night the kaleidoscope of lights on both sides of the Bosphorus Strait &mdash; the busy waterway that divides the city into its European and Asian halves &mdash; frames one of the most beautiful panoramas in the world and the city&rsquo;s many prosperous neighborhoods pulse with life in their waterfront cafes and nightclubs. During this visit, families poured forth after sunset to take the evening meal, or iftar, after fasting since sunrise during the holy month of Ramadan.</p> <p>Turkey is also deeply engaged in the region&rsquo;s many problems, most notably in the civil war in neighboring Syria. Syrian refugees have flooded into Istanbul, with mothers and small children begging for money on many of the city&rsquo;s streets &mdash; an inescapable reminder of the devastation that civil war has imposed on Syria with millions of displaced people.</p> <p>Turkey alone has taken in nearly 670,000 Syrian refugees, according to the Migration Policy Centre. That is more than a quarter of the total two and half million Syrians the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates have fled to neighboring countries over the past three years of the war. That&rsquo;s a considerable burden for Turkey, with an estimated cost for refugee relief of $1.5 billion through May 2013.</p> <p>As <a href="" target="_blank">war rages in Gaza</a>, as Libyan militias <a href="" target="_blank">battle for control</a> in Tripoli, and as the so-called Islamic State continues to <a href="" target="_blank">impose its brutal and bloody form of Islam</a> on large parts of Syria and Iraq, it&rsquo;s well worth remembering that this region has produced a better way.</p> <p>Time spent in Istanbul can lift the spirit in a very dark period.</p> <p><em>Philip S. Balboni is the CEO, co-founder and editor-at-large of GlobalPost and writes an occasional column on international affairs.<br /> &nbsp;</em></p> <p class='u'></p> Istanbul Middle East Commentary Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:03:00 +0000 Philip S. Balboni 6218288 at The Obama administration is spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The White House rejected a confidential proposal to accelerate work getting rid of nuclear security dangers, choosing to spend more money on weapons, instead. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> By Douglas Birch, Center for Public Integrity </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>This story was&nbsp;published&nbsp;by&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The Center for Public Integrity</a>, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.</em></p> <p>Since the start of his presidency, Barack Obama has been clear that one of his major goals was to secure nuclear weapons and materials, and as recently as March, at the Nuclear Security Summit in Holland, the president declared that &ldquo;it is important for us not to relax but rather accelerate our efforts over the next two years.&rdquo;</p> <p>Instead, to little notice, the administration has decided to spend money at an even greater rate than before to refurbish and modernize nuclear weapons while slashing the amount it is spending to prevent terrorists from making their own.</p> <p>According to a new analysis of nuclear security spending by a bipartisan group at Harvard&rsquo;s Kennedy School of Government, the administration in its proposed 2015 budget&nbsp;chose to cut nuclear nonproliferation programs in the Energy Department by $399 million while increasing spending on nuclear weapons by $534 million.</p> <p>In addition, despite missing a self-imposed deadline of April 2013 for ensuring that nuclear materials were safe from terrorists across the globe, the White House at about the same time rejected a confidential Energy Department-sponsored&nbsp;plan to accelerate those efforts by 2016, the year Obama is slated to convene a fourth international summit on the issue.</p> <p>The proposal, which appears in a May 2013 report obtained recently by the Center for Public Integrity, was intended to address the huge amount of unfinished work in the Obama administration&rsquo;s nonproliferation plan.It said that more than two tons of portable, easily-weaponized uranium were still being held in scores of nuclear research reactors,&nbsp;while the world&rsquo;s supply of another nuclear explosive, plutonium, was growing at a rate of about 740 bombs&rsquo; worth a year.</p> <p>Despite progress, there remained enough nuclear explosive material in the hands of civilians to cobble together 40,000 atomic bombs.</p> <p>The 12-page May 2013 report called for an acceleration of efforts to lock down or eliminate more of these dangerous materials &mdash; as well as radioactive isotopes that could be used in bombs that could contaminate large urban areas. But the White House, after an interagency struggle that climaxed at a Cabinet-level meeting in January, produced a <a href="">2015 budget proposal</a>&nbsp;that slighted many of the report&rsquo;s key recommendations and reduced spending on nonproliferation programs. It did so, officials and experts say, to ensure the government could devote more funds to refurbishing and modernizing the US nuclear arsenal.</p> <p>&ldquo;As they were putting the administration&rsquo;s budget together, there were debates,&rdquo; said <a href="">Matthew Bunn</a>, a former White House official and professor at Harvard&rsquo;s Kennedy School of Government. &ldquo;Should they provide more money for nonproliferation, or more money for weapons? It&rsquo;s clear that weapons won that debate.&rdquo;</p> <p>Laura Holgate, the White House senior director for weapons-of-mass-destruction terrorism, did not dispute the budget analysis, but said the reductions in nonproliferation spending reflected the achievement of many of President Obama&rsquo;s goals.</p> <p>&quot;The President&#39;s nonproliferation and nuclear security priorities were protected,&rdquo; she wrote in an email. &ldquo;The decreased budget reflects natural and predictable declines based on project completion. The US commitment and capacity to support global nuclear security activities remains strong and unparalleled.&rdquo;</p> <p>The report describing urgent unfinished business in nuclear security was prepared by the staff of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, part of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-independent arm of the Energy Department. The NNSA also oversees the production of nuclear warheads, so internal budget skirmishes between those who favor nonproliferation and those who seek more spending on the nuclear arsenal are frequent.</p> <p>For the current year, fiscal 2014, Congress authorized $1.95 billion in spending by the NNSA on nonproliferation programs. The White House budget for 2015 proposes $1.56 billion &mdash; a 20 percent reduction.</p> <p>In fiscal 2010, NNSA spending on nuclear weapons was about three times as high as for nonproliferation. Under the proposed White House budget, weapons spending would outstrip nonproliferation spending by over five-to-one.</p> <p>The NNSA report found that because of the administration&rsquo;s four-year effort, &ldquo;the world today is unquestionably more secure from the threat of nuclear terrorism than it was four years ago.&rdquo; But the report added that there were &ldquo;still serious threats that require urgent attention.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Experts continue to believe that terrorists are seeking a nuclear or radiological weapon &mdash; either by making one or stealing one,&rdquo; the NNSA report says. &ldquo;A handful of highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium the size of a grapefruit is all that is needed to make a nuclear bomb with the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people. A small capsule of cesium the size of a pencil is enough for a radiological &lsquo;dirty bomb&rsquo; that could contaminate an entire city and result in billions of dollars in economic devastation.&rdquo;</p> <p>To blunt these threats, the NNSA report &mdash; marked &ldquo;For Official Use Only&rdquo; &mdash; sought to set the following ambitious, new goals, to be achieved by December 2016:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It called for removing or eliminating 1.1 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium and 400 kilograms &mdash; over 880 pounds &mdash; of plutonium from sites around the world.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It urged the removal of all highly-enriched uranium &mdash; that is, uranium that could be fashioned into a bomb &mdash; in eight more foreign countries by the same date.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It proposed that the administration make a better accounting of existing plutonium stocks, decide on ways to dispose of it, and persuade other countries to balance production with consumption so that the net global stockpile will finally begin to shrink. This would be a major accomplishment, since the world&rsquo;s total accumulation has instead been rising steadily, by 100 metric tons since 1998.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It proposed accelerating US efforts to convert research reactors that use weapons-grade uranium to burn a form of uranium that cannot easily be used to fuel weapons &mdash; calling for 13 more such reactor conversions by the end of 2016.</p> <p>None of these proposals was adopted.</p> <p>Instead, according to a new analysis of nuclear security spending by a bipartisan group at Harvard&rsquo;s Kennedy School of Government, the administration chose to cut nuclear nonproliferation programs in the Energy Department by $399 million while increasing spending on nuclear weapons by $534 million.</p> <p><strong>National security investigations in your inbox:&nbsp;</strong><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Sign up for the Center for Public Integrity&#39;s&nbsp;<em>Watchdog</em>&nbsp;email</strong></a></p> <p><strong>Postponing goals</strong></p> <p>Besides these reductions, their report anticipates reduced spending on nonproliferation programs in the State and Defense departments, based on congressional reports and briefing notes, discussions with agency officials, and internal documents, including a copy the NNSA report &mdash; which the Center obtained separately.</p> <p>&ldquo;Despite President Obama&rsquo;s well-deserved reputation as an advocate for nuclear security, the Obama administration has been cutting nuclear security programs year after year for most of its term in office,&rdquo; wrote Bunn, a former Clinton White House official; William Tobey, deputy administrator for the NNSA&rsquo;s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation office during the Bush administration; and Harvard researcher Nikolas Roth, in their&nbsp;<a href="">32-page report</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>The 2015 budget proposal would leave enough money to upgrade security for just 105 buildings where dirty bomb materials are stored &mdash; 53 in the United States and 52 abroad &mdash; by September 2015, the end of the fiscal year, according to the Harvard study&rsquo;s analysis.</p> <p>That would leave about 12,800 buildings worldwide in need of such upgrades, and delay completion of the work from 2025 to at least 2044.</p> <p>The proposed 2015 budget would also cut $40 million from the reactor conversion program, instead of boosting its funding as the program managers sought. As a result, the Harvard study says, the conversion program would not be wrapped up until 2035, instead of 2020. &ldquo;That is 15 more years that weapons-usable nuclear material will continue to be used &mdash; often in inadequately protected facilities,&rdquo; it stated.</p> <p>The 2015 budget provides enough funds only to eliminate or secure about 1,540 pounds of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium abroad by 2016, about half the goal that the program managers sought.</p> <p>While the NNSA proposal&nbsp;called for securing radiological materials at 450 foreign and domestic sites by the end of 2016 that could be used to make a so-called dirty bomb, a conventional explosive device designed to spread dangerous radioactive material over a wide area, the budget provided funds for only 410 such sites. While that gap may seem small, the proposal noted that just a pencil-sized capsule of one such isotope -- cesium chloride, widely used to sterilize blood -- could contaminate an area covering 90 square miles, requiring a huge and expensive cleanup effort.</p> <p>Budget documents submitted to Congress by the administration also contain no mention of the proposed goals of removing weapons-grade uranium from eight additional countries, eliminating plutonium on three continents, and halting the net growth of foreign civilian stocks of plutonium, according to Bunn.</p> <p>Bunn said some administration officials concluded that the more ambitious agenda was impractical, because countries with remaining stocks of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium have resisted giving up those materials. But he said the government will have a hard time locating needed funds if those countries&rsquo; policies shift.</p> <p>The cuts followed a bruising debate within the administration over a bid by newly-appointed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to get an extra billion dollars from the Office of Management and Budget so he could expand both nuclear weapons and nonproliferation spending at the same time. The extra funds would have had to come from the Pentagon&rsquo;s allotment, in a budget transfer.</p> <p>But the Defense Department opposed the idea, having provided $4.5 billion to DOE over the past four years to keep the weapons programs moving along, albeit at a slower pace than the Pentagon wanted.</p> <p>And so, during a Cabinet-level meeting to resolve the dispute in January, a former White House official said, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, nonproliferation coordinator on the National Security Council, agreed with Sylvia Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, that nonproliferation spending would be reduced while weapons programs were protected. Sherwood-Randall was subsequently nominated by Obama to be the deputy energy secretary.</p> <p>The former official, who spoke on condition he not be named in order to characterize the internal deliberations, said that there was a consensus that the administration&rsquo;s four-year nuclear security effort had already accomplished the easier, high-payoff projects. &ldquo;They had basically achieved their goals,&rdquo; said the official. &ldquo;The stuff that was left was the stuff that was hard to do.&rdquo;</p> <p>When asked at the Aspen Institute&rsquo;s security forum July 25 why President Obama&rsquo;s 2009 goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years had not been met,&nbsp;<a href="">Laura Holgate said</a>&nbsp;the White House effort had aimed to &ldquo;make a big dent&rdquo; in the world&rsquo;s civilian stockpiles of nuclear materials.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think &hellip; we can say it was not met,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;What he was talking about is a global effort over that four-year time, like a sprint in the middle of a marathon. Nuclear security is perpetual. As long as you have materials, you have to have security. The point of the speech was to say let&rsquo;s work as hard as we can, over the next four years, to make a big dent in the amount of material that is vulnerable. And we&rsquo;ve succeeded.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;In that time 12 countries eliminated all fissile material on their territories that could be used in a weapon, including Ukraine,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Think how differently we would be thinking about the Ukraine situation now if the 50 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium &mdash; that&#39;s a couple of bombs worth &mdash; were still at that Kharkiv Institute, which the rebels have taken over. That&rsquo;s a very different situation than what we would have today.&rdquo;</p> <p>Derrick Robinson, deputy press spokesman for the NNSA, added that some of the ideas in the internal proposal that were not funded might still be put into &ldquo;out-year budget projections.&rdquo; He also said they may wind up being &ldquo;funded by countries other than the United States or through international organizations,&rdquo; such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN group.</p> <p><strong>A popular policy among Republicans</strong></p> <p>According to a study by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, the Obama administration will spend at least $179 billion from 2010 through 2018 to maintain the United States&rsquo; nuclear stockpile.</p> <p>Because of plans to replace the &ldquo;triad&rdquo; of land-based missiles, nuclear-armed subs and nuclear bombers,&nbsp;<a href="">the Center reported</a>&nbsp;last September, the costs are expected to grow to $500 billion over the next 20 years.</p> <p>Those costs include billions to repair, replace and modernize components to extend the shelf life of the roughly 7,400 warheads and bombs in the nation&rsquo;s aging nuclear arsenal. Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, at a March 5 Senate&nbsp;<a href="">Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing</a>, called the White House&rsquo;s proposed nuclear weapons budget &ldquo;pretty close to where we need to go &hellip; It seems like we have had a move that recognizes the triad&rsquo;s importance and the need to modernize nuclear weapons.&rdquo; In the same hearing, he later tempered his praise with criticism of what he said were delays in the modernization effort.</p> <p>As the program was getting underway in 2010, Vice President Joseph Biden defended it by saying it was part of the path toward the administration&rsquo;s goal of a nuclear weapons-free future.</p> <p>&ldquo;This investment is not only consistent with our nonproliferation agenda; it is essential to it,&rdquo; Biden said in a&nbsp;<a href="">speech at National Defense University</a>&nbsp;in Washington.&nbsp;&ldquo;Guaranteeing our stockpile, coupled with broader research and development efforts, allows us to pursue deep nuclear reductions without compromising our security.&nbsp; As our conventional capabilities improve, we will continue to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons.&rdquo;</p> <p>The White House&rsquo;s decision to favor new bomb-building over nonproliferation angered arms control advocates and some Democratic lawmakers, but was welcomed by Republicans, who have found themselves in close agreement with Obama&rsquo;s White House and Defense Department appointees.</p> <p>&ldquo;The administration is actually [the] first to come to our assistance in fighting back reductions&rdquo; to nuclear weapons-related spending, a Republican congressional staff member commented.</p> <p>But arms control advocates say the more ambitious NNSA plan was consistent with President Obama&rsquo;s repeated calls to ensure nuclear weapons fuels don&rsquo;t fall into the hands of terrorists and to prevent a history-altering atomic attack.</p> <p>&ldquo;Two decades after the end of the Cold War, we face a cruel irony of history &mdash; the risk of a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of nuclear attack has gone up,&rdquo;&nbsp;<a href="">President Obama said</a>&nbsp;on April 13, 2010, in Washington.</p> <p>Critics of the administration say its budgeting reflects excessive zeal to implement Obama&rsquo;s pledge, made during Senate debate over ratification of a 2010 nuclear arms treaty with Russia, that he would spend many billions of dollars to refurbish and modernize the nuclear weapons that remained after agreed reductions.</p> <p>That pledge was never popular among Democrats, and even Republican appropriators have cut some nuclear weapons spending to reduce the overall federal deficit, forcing deferrals of some modernization efforts.</p> <p><a href="">Daryl Kimball</a>, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said, &ldquo;There is a mismatch between the administration&rsquo;s budget request and their statements about the urgent need to accelerate efforts to work globally to secure weapons-usable nuclear materials. We think this mismatch needs to be corrected. The administration needs to put its money where its mouth is.&rdquo;</p> <p>At a Senate Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee hearing April 9, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., pressed Moniz on the issue of reducing nonproliferation spending. &ldquo;What I see are additional cuts to well-managed programs that have made this country safer from nuclear terrorism, at the expense of increased funding for poorly-managed nuclear weapons programs,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>Moniz responded that the administration had made a commitment to &ldquo;sustain the fundamental [nuclear weapons] stockpile posture,&rdquo; and that &ldquo;regrettably &mdash; and I say that quite honestly, quite regrettably &mdash; within our relatively small part of the [defense] budget we must support weapons, nonproliferation, naval reactors, environmental cleanup and intelligence programs.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="">Tobey</a>, one of the Harvard study authors, said he was &ldquo;perplexed&rdquo; by the administration&rsquo;s decision to cut the proliferation budget.</p> <p>&ldquo;If you listened to the president&rsquo;s rhetoric at the nuclear security summit in the Netherlands [in March], he talks about stepping up our game and not coasting to the finish&rdquo; of his administration&rsquo;s nonproliferation drive, Tobey said.</p> <p><em>Copyright 2014, The Center for Public Integrity.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="0" src="//" style="border: none; background: transparent; width: 0px; height: 0px;" width="0"></iframe></p> --><!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="0" src="//" style="border: none; background: transparent; width: 0px; height: 0px;" width="0"></iframe></p> --><!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Need to Know nuclear power Conflict Zones Politics United States Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:03:49 +0000 By Douglas Birch, Center for Public Integrity 6218316 at How an unholy Portuguese banking mess spooked European markets and took down a financial dynasty <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Debt, scandal, and losses look set to topple the powerful Espirito Santo empire — and threaten Europe's recovery from the euro zone crisis. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal — The rise and ongoing fall of Portugal's most powerful banking family reads like the script of a particularly breathless telenovela.</p> <p>Local lore has it that the saga began with an unidentified baby abandoned in a Lisbon church and named in honor of the Holy Spirit by the nuns who raised him.</p> <p>Over the next century and a half, his descendants, the Espirito Santo family, built a global financial empire that survived revolution and exile to exert an oversized influence over the economic and political life of their homeland.</p> <p>Now the dynasty is tottering amid a financial scandal that’s threatened to re-ignite Europe's financial crisis, sending shockwaves from <a href="">Luxembourg</a> to Luanda, Berlin to Brasilia.</p> <p>No less a figure than <a href="">German</a> Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned the Espirito Santo family's debt woes have revealed the "fragility" of the euro zone's recovery after revelations of the Portuguese banking group's problems sent markets tumbling across Europe earlier this month.</p> <p>Although international markets have since calmed, the Espirito Santo soap opera rumbles on.</p> <p>Last week, family patriarch Ricardo Espirito Santo Silva Salgado was arrested on suspicion of fraud, money-laundering and document falsification.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Banco Espirito Santo again dragged down the Lisbon stock market amid reports the bank was poised to announce half-year losses of around $4 billion. An emergency shareholders' meeting scheduled for Thursday was canceled after the authorities in Luxembourg put two of the group's holding companies under administration.</p> <p>Salgado was released after paying bail of $4 million. He underwent hours of questioning in connection with an alleged tax scam that reportedly involved suitcases packed with banknotes being driven to Switzerland at an estimated cost to the state of $269 million.</p> <p>With such sums being thrown about, it's easy to see why there's fascination — and a degree of schadenfreude — with Espirito Santo's sudden fall from grace among the citizens of Western Europe's poorest country. Portugal's annual minimum wage is just $9,125 and years of recession have pushed unemployment to 14 percent.</p> <p>Salgado, 70, was one of the country's most powerful men.</p> <p>Until last month, he headed Banco Espirito Santo (BES), Portugal's second largest bank and the hub of a multinational empire that included interests in oil, construction, tourism, healthcare, insurance, power generation and agriculture, as well as global network of banks from Macao to Miami.</p> <p>In business circles, Salgado's nickname was DDT, standing for "dono disto tudo" — "owner of all this."</p> <p>The arrest followed Salgado's resignation as BES executive chairman last month amid a spate of revelations, starting with news of accounting irregularities at the Luxembourg-based holding company Espirito Santo International.</p> <p>His departure after three decades in charge marked the end of the family's control over the financial group set up almost 150 years ago by Salgado's great-grandfather, the abandoned orphan Jose Maria do Espirito Santo e Silva.</p> <p>"The implosion of the Espirito Santo Group is the end of an era," commentator Luis Marques wrote Saturday in the weekly Expresso newspaper. "The detention of Ricardo Salgado is the moment that underscores that, it's a date that will go down in history."</p> <p>Repercussions were swift as it became clear that the complex web of companies surrounding the family had been used to hide billions of dollars in debts that could no longer be paid.</p> <p>Three family companies have been forced to seek bankruptcy protection. The authorities in Luxembourg, Panama and Portugal are investigating suspicions of further irregularities.</p> <p>A planned $17-billion merger between Portugal Telecom and <a href="">Brazil</a>'s biggest phone operator Oi had to be revised to the Portuguese company's disadvantage after an Espirito Santo sub-holding called Rioforte defaulted on a loan to PT worth more than $1 billion.</p> <p>Doubts about BES's local unit in Angola led the government there to issue a state guarantee of $5.7 billion to cover 70 percent of loans issued by Banco Espirito Santo Angola, a major player in the oil-rich African state.</p> <p>In Europe, initial revelations of BES's troubles led to market panic. The bank's own shares have tumbled more than 70 percent since April. Fears a BES collapse could have a systemic impact on the euro zone hit markets in <a href="">Spain</a>, <a href="">Italy</a> and beyond.</p> <p>However, the swift appointment of a new management team that’s not linked to the Espirito Santo family has calmed concerns. Reassurance has also come from the news that Goldman Sachs and New York-based hedge fund D.E. Shaw bought into the bank last week. On Friday, the ratings agency Moody's upgraded Portugal, saying the BES scandal would not add to the country's credit risk.</p> <p>"The new management has calmed markets," says financial journalist Maria Joao Gago, co-author of a book on the BES story that’s topping best-seller lists. "BES has a long way to go to get back in shape, but there's a feeling that the damage will be limited to BES."</p> <p>In the old days, the Espirito Santos might have used their extensive political connections to wriggle out of their hole.</p> <p>This time, scandal erupted as Portugal's crisis-hit economy was under scrutiny by European Union and International Monetary Fund officials. The Bank of Portugal was anxious to show its adherence to new EU rules on bank supervision at a time that fresh technocratic government ministers aren’t part of the family's old-boy network.</p> <p>More revelations are expected.</p> <p>There are reports of ongoing investigations into alleged insider trading relating to recent sales of Portuguese utilities to <a href="">Chinese</a> buyers — deals in which a BES unit served as financial advisor. Another investigation concerns suspicions of bribery in the 2004 sale of German submarines to the Portuguese navy.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">8 things you should know about Igor Girkin, the Ukraine separatist leader</a></strong></p> <p>Whatever happens, it looks like the end for a banking dynasty that mingled with kings and presidents, courted showbiz stars and shocked opinion in recession-hit Portugal last year when one member told a magazine how much the clan enjoyed "playing at being poor people" while slumming it at their rustic-chic beach retreat south of Lisbon.</p> <p>The Espirito Santos were one of a handful of families that ran the Portuguese economy under the long dictatorship of Antonio Salazar. They suffered imprisonment, nationalization and exile in 1975 after a leftist revolution toppled the regime, then deployed influence with the White House, <a href="">French</a> presidents and European royals to secure the release, return and eventual repurchase of their nationalized bank.</p> <p>This time, it appears any comeback would be even harder.</p> <p>"It will be difficult for them to recover," Gago says. "It's like the nationalization in '75, but back then, the family hadn't lost the credibility of their name. Now, as well as being on the edge of losing the bank, they've lost the credibility of the Espirito Santo name. That will be very hard to get back." </p> Portugal Business Want to Know Europe Wed, 30 Jul 2014 04:33:25 +0000 Paul Ames 6218182 at How an Indian entrepreneur is helping to resist executions in the US <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> When Navneet Verma got an order for sodium thiopental, he says he had no idea it would be used to execute people. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mandakini Gahlot </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">NEW DELHI</a>, India — In 2010, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services sent an email to a small, unknown, Indian pharmaceutical company in Mumbai, Kayem Pharmaceuticals. Navneet Verma, 54, the company's owner, was overjoyed: “I was happy to have the opportunity to do business with the <a href="">United States</a>,” he recalls.</p> <p>The department in Nebraska was looking for sodium thiopental — an anesthetic — considered one of the world's "essential drugs" by the World Health Organization.</p> <p>At the time Verma’s company was already supplying sodium thiopental to Angola, and the offer from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) was an opportunity to boost revenue.</p> <p>“I offered the drug to the Nebraska prison at approximately $2 a vial," he says. "It was profitable for me as I was spending less than a dollar to manufacture it. I knew it was going to a prison but I did not know why.”</p> <p>What Verma was unaware of was that sodium thiopental was the top choice among three drugs commonly used in lethal injections for death row prisoners in the United States. The NDCS commissioned 500 vials of the drug from Verma's company.</p> <p>Death penalty experts in the US say Nebraska corrections purchased enough sodium thiopental to execute 166 prisoners.</p> <p>Lethal injections have become the execution method of choice since 1977, when the Oklahoma legislature first adopted this approach, according to an article in the Georgetown Law Journal by Deborah W. Denno, an expert on the death penalty and a law professor at Fordham University in New York.</p> <p>Currently, of the 32 states with the death penalty on their books in mid-2014, 21 use lethal injection as their sole method of execution. (The number of states that actually deploy the death penalty is lower, having decreased from 20 to six in the past 15 years.)</p> <p>States have discretion on how they execute, and where they source the drugs. US drug manufacturers have stopped making sodium thiopental, and the EU has banned its export to the US to prevent its use in executions.</p> <p>That’s how orders began arriving in India.  </p> <p>Verma says he was shocked to learn how his company's drug was being used. In early 2011, the director of a <a href="">British</a>-based anti-capital punishment group called Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith, wrote him and accused him of being “an accessory to the death of prisoners in the US.”</p> <p>He says the group threatened to destroy Kayem Pharmaceuticals.</p> <p>And so he began questioning doing business with the US.</p> <p>When the Department of Correctional Services in South Dakota got in touch with him in January 2012, he upped the drug's price, thinking that the department would simply decline.</p> <p>“I told them they can have it at $20 a vial to dissuade them from buying the drug, so they would find another supplier,” said Verma.  Surprisingly, they accepted his offer, and wired the payment right away.</p> <p>Confronted with a huge profit opportunity and not wanting to reverse his offer, he relented, sending 500 vials to South Dakota. (It turns out that the state was later barred from using the 2012 shipment, due to an unrelated US court decision pertaining to imported pharmaceuticals. It could potentially import the drug again, with FDA approval.)</p> <p>After that, he decided to stop sending the drug to the US — a move that has made it more difficult to carry out executions.</p> <p>States have been forced to change their protocols, and are turning to "compounders" — pharmacies that create "cocktails" of drugs, made to order, that experts say pose risks of extreme suffering to prisoners being executed. Compounders are only lightly regulated by the FDA. In Arizona this month, death row inmate Josh Wood gasped more than 600 times in an execution that lasted nearly two hours, according to his lawyers — violating protections against cruel and unusual punishment, <a href="">they alleged</a>.  </p> <p> “For the last four or five years, departments of corrections have had trouble getting lethal injection drugs and it has forced them to change their lethal injection protocols," says Denno. "It has caused a lot of problems because many [alternative] lethal injections protocols are based simply on using drugs that are available. They try to use new kinds of drugs and experiment with them — it greatly increases the risk that they could harm someone.”</p> <p>In October 2012, South Dakota carried out its first two executions in five years, using single-drug protocol with pentobarbital it obtained from a compound pharmacy — as it was unable to get sodium thiopental from Verma or other suppliers.</p> <p>Verma accuses corrections authorities of hiding how they used his drug. “Obviously I don’t want to be an accessory to state sponsored killing," he says. "I am a staunch Hindu and as such believe in the philosophy of karma — what goes around comes around.”</p> <p> Maya Foa, strategic director of the death penalty team at Reprieve in London, says that in many cases, departments of corrections lie to Indian companies about the use of these drugs. Others agree.</p> <p> “Secrecy has prevailed so far,” says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, DC.  “Payments are in cash rather than anything that could be traced like a check or credit card — who’s buying the drugs, it is not exactly clear or traceable.”  </p> <p>The secrecy has to stop, says Verma, who adds that the experience has taught him to look more carefully at whom he is supplying and what they are doing with his product.</p> <p>“I was excited by the idea of being the sole supplier of the drug to the US, and did not realize how disastrous my actions were,” Verma says. "Anyway, it's not like the process of making sodium thiopental is rocket science — it’s the easiest drug to make. But I realized later that US companies had stopped manufacturing it because it was being used in lethal injections."</p> <p>“I had to make a choice between losing business or losing my conscience," he adds. "I chose the former.”</p> <p><em>Luigi Serenelli contributed to this report.</em></p> Want to Know India United States Wed, 30 Jul 2014 04:33:24 +0000 Mandakini Gahlot 6201687 at Cultural differences complicate Ebola treatment in West Africa <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Distrust of Western medicine is fast becoming one of the biggest problems in dealing with the recent Ebola outbreak. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Indrani Basu </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Since the <a href="">deadliest Ebola outbreak to date</a> began in West Africa earlier this year, more than 670 people have died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). <a href=";contentCollection=Africa&amp;module=RelatedCoverage&amp;region=Marginalia&amp;pgtype=article">Two Americans</a> are among those who have been infected with the deadly infectious virus.</p> <p>Ebola, which <a href="">spreads through blood, sweat or other bodily fluids,</a> can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. But aid workers say that in the countries hardest hit by Ebola &mdash; Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia &mdash; <a href=";feedName=health&amp;;utm_medium=twitter&amp;dlvrit=309303">hostility toward Western medical treatment</a> is pushing the outbreak to escalate dramatically.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>&ldquo;What is actually creating the greatest problem is the behavior of the population,&rdquo; said Fabio Friscia, UN children&#39;s fund (UNICEF) coordinator for the Ebola awareness campaign in the three countries.</p> <p>Many West Africans see Ebola as a &ldquo;curse&rdquo; rather than a medical illness, Friscia said. As a result, health workers have to fight to get Ebola patients to come forward for treatment &mdash; a challenge for controlling the disease in a region already struggling with scant medical resources.</p> <p>&ldquo;Medical personnel are being driven out in some of these places,&rdquo; said Daniel Epstein, a spokesman for the WHO. &ldquo;Some of these have become no-go areas.&rdquo;</p> <p>In Guinea and Liberia, locals have attacked disease isolation centers as well as doctors. On at least one occasion, aid workers from Medicins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders (MSF), were forced to evacuate a health center in Guinea because of the threat of violent attacks.</p> <p>&ldquo;Health staff actually get [stones thrown at them] and it can become very violent,&rdquo; Friscia said.</p> <p>Even so, the response to the disease is not necessarily surprising to those on the ground. &ldquo;It is absolutely something we could expect,&rdquo; Friscia said. &ldquo;The population is being attacked by an absolutely new disease no one [in Western Africa] has ever seen before.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Countering misinformation requires a &#39;broader approach&#39;</strong></p> <p>The relative newness of Ebola, coupled with its rapid death toll in recent months, has created an enabling environment for rumors and misinformation to spread among West Africans.</p> <p>As many of the locals believe that Ebola is spiritual, there is widespread skepticism about Western-trained medical professionals. Many locals from these West African countries, for instance, fear that the doctors treating them will harvest the bodies of those dying from Ebola for organs, said Epstein.</p> <p>Others believe that doctors are killing Ebola patients once they are taken to the hospital or that Ebola is a punishment for sexual promiscuity. This particular rumor, possibly due to a comparison between Ebola and HIV, has led to a strong stigma against Ebola survivors, said Friscia.</p> <p>Meanwhile due to the high fatality rate of Ebola, many people don&rsquo;t see the point of seeking medical treatment, according to Lisa Denney, a researcher with the UK think tank Overseas Development Institute. She and her colleague Richard Mallet recently traveled to Sierra Leone as part of their <a href="">ongoing study on malnutrition</a>, only to find the Ebola outbreak just starting around them. Through interactions with locals there, the researchers found that the stigma associated with Ebola &ndash; a community tends to shun those with the disease because of its highly contagious nature &ndash; is also a key factor in locals&rsquo; hesitancy to come forward.</p> <p>The only way to counteract this distrust and increase collaboration is to work with traditional healers and religious leaders in the region, said Mallett.</p> <p>Current efforts in Sierra Leone are concentrated on formal channels such as government-run clinics, he said. &ldquo;Our research is suggesting that the government needs to engage with those more traditional, and less formal local actors.&rdquo;</p> <p>It is critical to ensure that all those who are shaping health care prevention and treatment &mdash; whether the local chief or the community health worker &ndash;&mdash;deliver the same message, the researchers said. The government&rsquo;s outreach &ldquo;needs to be a broader approach where you capture all those people who are influencing people&rsquo;s behavior,&rdquo; Denney said.</p> <p>Local traditional funeral customs also present a challenge to containing Ebola, as many involve washing and cleaning the dead before burial and traveling far to be with family.</p> <p>&ldquo;The cultural practices are very strong,&rdquo; Mallett said. &ldquo;It is very hard to convince them to give up something that has been in their family for generations.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Aid groups build awareness through campaigns</strong></p> <p>UNICEF has turned to broadcasting radio programs with local leaders and Ebola survivors to spread awareness about the virus and how to prevent its transmission. MSF recently produced an explanatory video about what happens in the health centers and isolation wards to reduce fear of the unknown.</p> <p>Various groups are also working together to organize a concerted grassroots campaign to ease concerns. Around 150 aid workers from Red Cross, MSF and different UN wings have fanned out across the region to help counteract the outbreak. Workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross also have been asked to address locals at the central squares of different villages.</p> <p>Each of these international organizations are working in close conjunction with each other.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">&ldquo;We are trying to have a more dialogical communication than a top-down approach,&rdquo; said UNICEF&#39;s Friscia.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>But this collective effort, while important, still falls short of what is needed to counter resistance to Western medicine in West Africa &ndash; and ultimately, to stop the spread of Ebola.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re far from being funded,&rdquo; said Friscia. &ldquo;The faster we react, the cheaper it&rsquo;s going to be.&rdquo;</p> <p>Muslims make up more than <a href="">70 percent of the population</a> in Sierra Leone and Guinea. With the end of Ramadan approaching, many members of the international health community fear that the disease will spread further due to large-scale movement of families visiting each other.</p> <p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s still a long way to go,&rdquo; said Epstein. &ldquo;We are expecting this disease to go on for several more months.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Your guide to the West African Ebola outbreak</a></strong><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> Africa epidemic Health Global Pulse Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:10:00 +0000 Indrani Basu 6217453 at Clashes kill 30 in Benghazi as violence escalates in Libya <!--paging_filter--><p>Libyan forces on Tuesday battled Islamist militants with rockets and warplanes for control of an army base in the eastern city of Benghazi after at least 30 people were killed in overnight fighting.</p> <p>Intense fighting in Benghazi, Libya's second city, and battles between rival militias in the capital Tripoli have pushed Libya deeper into chaos after two weeks of the fiercest violence since the 2011 civil war ousted Muammar Gaddafi.</p> <p>Foreign states followed the <a href="">United States</a> and the United Nations in pulling diplomats out of the North African oil-producing state after clashes between two rival brigades of former anti-Gaddafi fighters closed Tripoli's international airport.</p> <p>A rocket hit a fuel depot near Tripoli airport two days ago, igniting a huge blaze that Libyan fire-fighters on Tuesday were fighting to put out. <a href="">Italy</a>'s government and Italian oil group ENI had agreed to help them, the government said.</p> <p>Three years after Gaddafi's fall, the OPEC nation has failed to control ex-rebel militias who refuse to disband and who are threatening the unity of the country. The extent of recent hostilities has increased Western worries that Libya is sliding towards becoming a failed state and may once again go to war.</p> <p>In Benghazi, battles have intensified since special forces and regular air force units joined ranks with a renegade army general, Khalifa Haftar, who launched a campaign against Islamist militants entrenched in the city, the home of the revolution against Gaddafi's more than 40-year rule.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">The man at the center of the chaos in Libya: Khalifa Haftar</a></strong></p> <p>"Groups of terrorists calling themselves al-Shoura Council Forces are attacking the government's main military base," Colonel Wanis Bukhamada, a special forces spokesman in Benghazi, told Reuters. "We have received 30 corpses so far," a medical source told Reuters at Benghazi's main hospital.</p> <p>Islamist fighters from one of those groups, Ansar al Sharia, classified as a foreign terrorist organization by Washington, have been blamed by authorities for carrying out the attack on the US Benghazi consulate in 2012 in which the US ambassador was killed.</p> <p><strong>Militias fight for upper hand</strong></p> <p>A government MiG warplane crashed during Tuesday's fighting in Benghazi. A Reuters reporter saw the pilot parachuting to ground after hearing an explosion. A spokesman for Haftar's forces said it was due to a technical problem.</p> <p>Tripoli was quieter on Tuesday than over the last fortnight during which the two brigades of former rebels, mainly from the towns of Zintan and Misrata, have pounded each other's positions with Grad rockets, artillery fire and cannons, turning the south of the capital into a battlefield.</p> <p>At least 160 people have died in Tripoli and Benghazi during the clashes in the two cities, according to the health ministry.</p> <p>A spokesman for the National Oil Corporation said on Tuesday the armed factions in Tripoli had agreed to a brief cease-fire to allow emergency services to fight the blazing fuel storage tanks containing millions of litres of fuel.</p> <p>Black smoke was billowing from one of the tanks hit by a rocket on Sunday near the airport road. The highway and surrounding areas were empty after homes in the area were evacuated, except for occasional militia roadblocks.</p> <p>Italy, the former colonial power, and Italy's Eni have agreed to help Libya to counter the blaze, Libya's government said in a statement without giving further details.</p> <p>Libya formally requested aid from <a href="">France</a> to fight the blaze, the French foreign ministry said. France, which has told its citizens to leave the country, has yet to ask its embassy staff to leave.</p> <p>The United States, whose embassy is near to the contested airport, evacuated its embassy staff in Tripoli on Saturday, driving diplomats across the border into Tunisia under heavy military guard including air support from warplanes.</p> <p>Britain, other European governments, Turkey and the Philippines have also pulled out diplomatic staff or left just a few representatives behind in Tripoli, where the violence is also causing fuel and power shortages.</p> <p>France and <a href="">Spain</a> on Tuesday were evacuating more nationals and some diplomats from Tripoli, according to LANA state news agency. <a href="">Canada</a> is temporarily pulling its diplomats due to fears about their safety, Foreign Minister John Baird said on Tuesday.</p> <p>(Reporting By Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi, Patrick Markey and Aziz El Yaakoubi in Tripoli; editing by Peter Millership)</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Middle East Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:34:56 +0000 Ayman al-Warfalli, Thomson Reuters 6218164 at EU governments agree to impose economic sanctions on Russia <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">European</a> Union governments reached a deal on Tuesday to impose economic sanctions against <a href="">Russia</a>, targeting its oil industry, defense, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies, diplomats said.</p> <p>The sanctions will be reviewed after three months, one diplomat said.</p> <p>(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Tom Koerkemeier; editing by Barbara Lewis)</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:39:43 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6218115 at US says Russia violated nuclear treaty, urges immediate talks <!--paging_filter--><p>In another sign of deteriorating relations between the <a href="">United States</a> and <a href="">Russia</a>, the US government said on Monday that Moscow had violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty, and urged immediate bilateral talks on the issue.</p> <p>The Cold War treaty, ratified in 1988, was designed to eliminate ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,400 miles.</p> <p>"This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now," an administration official said in a statement.</p> <p>"We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner," the official said.</p> <p>The official did not describe how Russia violated the treaty. But the New York Times had reported in January that Washington informed its NATO partners that Russia had tested a ground-launched cruise missile.</p> <p>State Department officials had hinted that a formal determination that Russia had violated the treaty could be forthcoming, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based research and advocacy group.</p> <p>He said the violation would not represent a new military threat to the United States and its <a href="">European</a> allies, given Russia's existing missile arsenal.</p> <p>But in an interview, Kimball called the infraction "disturbing."</p> <p>"It suggests that Russia is moving away from a long US-Russia tradition of restraining the most dangerous weapons even as they have serious disagreements on all sorts of issues," he said.</p> <p>The United States notified Russia of its determination and called for senior-level talks "with the aim of assuring the United States that Russia will come back into compliance" with the treaty.</p> <p>"The United States will, of course, consult with allies on this matter to take into account the impact of this Russian violation on our collective security if Russia does not return to compliance," the official said.</p> <p>(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney)</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:30:53 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6217984 at Cambodians are increasingly being executed for sorcery <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poverty and inflation are to blame, economists say. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Denise Hruby </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — It was like a scene from a medieval witch hunt: a victim, accused of a crime that has never been committed, is surrounded by a mob. Terror ensues, before an inevitable death.</p> <p>On a balmy afternoon, Pov Sovann was sitting outside his house in a tiny town in rural Cambodia, chatting with his relative. Like on most days, there wasn't much to do besides occasionally tending livestock and watching villagers pass by.</p> <p>Then, without warning, a group of about 200 people approached him. Armed with wooden sticks and stones, they yelled at him, accusing the 36-year-old of black magic.</p> <p>With sorcery, the increasingly agitated mob shouted, Sovann had brought death upon six families in the village — each of which had relatives pass away without prior history of disease over the past two years, local newspapers reported.</p> <p>Sovann was driven into his bedroom upstairs, where a dozen men bludgeoned him.</p> <p>For years, Sovann had been a renowned traditional healer, a well-respected man in his community who mixed potions from herbs and roots.</p> <p>Two days before the attack, the relatives of a recently deceased woman allegedly saw centipedes around a corpse’s head — proof enough for the villagers that the 54-year-old woman had been cursed.</p> <p>Between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., the crowd swelled from 200 to 600 villagers.</p> <p>“My police could not do anything because there were many people who carried stones and clubs and were very violent,” the district's penal police chief, Khut Lo, told <a href="" target="_blank">The Cambodia Daily</a>.</p> <p>Eventually, after countless stones, fists and clubs had hailed down on Sovann, he was pushed down the stairs of his house and died.</p> <p>The case of Pov Sovann is particularly grisly, yet it isn't the first, nor will it be the last.</p> <p>Human rights group Licadho said they recorded one case of a person being killed for sorcery in 2012, and a total of three in 2013. In the first half of this year, the media has already reported four.</p> <p>In January, six people set upon an alleged sorcerer and decapitated him. Two days later, another practitioner was hacked to death with a machete. In May, a sorcerer was killed by his own nephew, armed with a scythe.</p> <p>Experts are struggling to come up with a reason for the brutal killings.</p> <p>Ryun Patterson, an independent journalist who has spent several months researching magic and sorcery in Cambodia for an e-book, said that “mystics” enjoy a high level of respect among their communities.</p> <p>“In many cases we saw evidence of that, as people would line up outside the mystics' working areas while we conducted our interviews,” he said.</p> <p>Perhaps, he said, it's simply a strong belief in magic — good and bad — that makes people so afraid of potential harm that they would turn against their neighbors.</p> <p>“I think these killings have more to do with Cambodians' perceived lack of agency in their own lives than with increased sentiment against people who claim supernatural abilities. And mob-think can be very powerful, especially in a country with so little effective governance,” he said.</p> <p>Most perpetrators are never arrested.</p> <p>In a 2003 paper, "Economic Determinants of Witch-Hunting," two <a href="">German</a> economists argue that economic hardships play an important role in the increase of witch hunts.</p> <p>Why, the paper asks, would people in 16th-century <a href="">Europe</a> accuse their neighbors of a crime that would most likely lead to execution? Natural disasters, droughts, diseases and other social and cultural factors had to be taken into account. But even in contemporary times, the economists wrote, “The regions facing the most serious deterioration of economic and health conditions are the ones with the highest persecution rates.”</p> <p>Using a complex econometric model, economists Joerg Baten of the University of Tuebingen and Ulrich Woitek of the University of Munich connect grain prices with the fluctuating number of accusations of witchcraft.</p> <p>The result: “[A] 30 percent decline [of real wages] implied a 60 percent increase in accusations,” Baten said.</p> <p>“An econometric analysis of data from these regions demonstrates that in fact, there is a significant relationship between economic pressure and witch hunting activity,” the paper reads.</p> <p>In Cambodia, inflation is generally higher than 4 percent, compared to around 2 percent in the US. Without a national minimum wage, low-skilled laborers, such as construction workers, make as little as $2 a day.</p> <p>“Witchcraft is born in the time of misery,” said Ang Choulean, a historical anthropologist with the Royal University of Phnom Penh, citing an 1862 book that was published in English under the title “Satanism and Witchcraft: A Study in Medieval Superstition.”</p> <p>“If one understands that, one can understand anything,” Choulean said, adding that although massacres had happened throughout the world, they still happen in Southeast <a href="">Asia</a> in times of insecurity or war.</p> <p>Economic pressure could be a reason, said Sotheara Vong, an expert on Cambodian culture and history, but he pointed out that sorcerer killings have deep roots in Cambodian society.</p> <p>And while today's killings appear to reflect a sudden outburst of fear, distrust and retribution, they used to be state-sanctioned.</p> <p>Practitioners of black magic, the laws of the 16th and 17th centuries stipulated, had to be killed once their guilt had been proven, Vong said.</p> <p>“The suspect's hands were tied and they were put in a bag before being thrown into deep water,” he said.</p> <p>Like during witch hunts in America or Europe, there was no way to survive the accusation of practicing black magic.</p> <p>If a witch or wizard stayed afloat and survived for more than 15 minutes, they had done so through black magic and were to be killed. Only by drowning could the accused prove their innocence.</p> <p>“When [killings of sorcerers] still happen, I feel that Khmer [Cambodian] people are still living the way of life of the 17th century,” Sotheara said.</p> Want to Know Cambodia World Religion Tue, 29 Jul 2014 05:08:56 +0000 Denise Hruby 6194065 at US and Europe to escalate Russia sanctions <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Western countries agree to sharply ratchet up economic sanctions as Ukrainian forces drive against rebels. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Gabriela Baczynska and Aleksandar Vasovic, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>KIEV/DONETSK, Ukraine — US and European leaders agreed on Monday to impose wider sanctions on Russia's financial, defense and energy sectors as Ukraine said its forces advanced toward the crash site of Malaysian flight MH17.</p> <p>The new sanctions, which US President Barack Obama and leaders of <a href="">Germany</a>, Britain, <a href="">France</a> and <a href="">Italy</a> discussed in a conference call, are aimed at increasing the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Malaysian airliner was shot down over territory held by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>"It's precisely because we've not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it's absolutely essential to take additional measures and that's what the Europeans and the <a href="">United States</a> intend to do this week," said Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Obama.</p> <p>The crash earlier this month has led to calls for much tougher action against Russia from Western countries who had previously imposed sanctions but only on small numbers of individuals and firms. EU member states were expected to try to reach a final deal on Tuesday on stronger measures that would include closing the bloc's capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo on future arms sales and restrictions on energy technology and technology that could be used for defense.</p> <p>In Brussels, EU sources said diplomats had reached preliminary agreement on a new list of companies and people, including associates of Putin, to be targeted by asset freezes.</p> <p>Western states believe that the rebels brought down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, with the loss of 298 lives, using a missile supplied by Russia.</p> <p>"The latest information from the region suggests that even since MH17 was shot down, Russia continues to transfer weapons across the border and to provide practical support to the separatists," said a statement issued by <a href="">British</a> Prime Minister David Cameron after the leaders' call.</p> <p>"Leaders agreed that the international community should therefore impose further costs on Russia and specifically that ambassadors from across the EU should agree a strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible."</p> <p>Russia has blamed the Ukrainian military for the tragedy, which deepened a crisis that erupted when a pro-Moscow Ukrainian president was forced from power and Russia annexed Crimea in March.</p> <p>Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU on officials and companies would not achieve their goal.</p> <p>"We will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength," he told a news conference.</p> <p>The Ukrainian government said on Monday its troops had wrested more territory from the rebels and were moving towards the crash site which international investigators said they could not reach because of the fighting.</p> <p>Troops recaptured two rebel-held towns near the site and were trying to take the village of Snezhnoye, near where Kyiv and Washington say rebels fired the surface-to-air missile that shot down the airliner, Ukrainian officials said.</p> <p>One pro-government militia said 23 of its men had been killed in fighting in the past 24 hours, while a rebel commander said he had lost 30 soldiers.</p> <p>Analysis of black box flight recorders from the airliner showed it was destroyed by shrapnel from a missile blast which caused a "massive explosive decompression," a Ukrainian official said on Monday.</p> <p>Investigators in Britain, who downloaded the data, had no comment. They said they had passed information to the international crash investigation led by <a href="">the Netherlands</a>, whose nationals accounted for two-thirds of the victims.</p> <p>In a report on three months of fighting between government forces and separatist rebels who have set up pro-Russian "republics" in the east, the United Nations said more than 1,100 people had been killed.</p> <p>UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said increasingly intense fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions was extremely alarming and the shooting down of the airliner on July 17 may amount to a war crime.</p> <p>The separatists are still in control of the area where the plane was shot down but fighting in the surrounding countryside has been heavy as government forces try to drive them out.</p> <p>On Monday at least three civilians were reported killed in overnight fighting, and Kyiv said its troops recaptured Savur Mogila, a strategic piece of high ground about 20 miles from where the Boeing hit the ground, and other areas under rebel control. Rebels denied Savur Mogila had been lost, saying fighting was continuing.</p> <p>The crash site has yet to be secured or thoroughly investigated, more than 10 days after the crash. After days in which bodies lay untended in the sun, rebels gathered the human remains and shipped the bodies out, and turned over the flight recorders to a Malaysian delegation.</p> <p>But the wreckage itself is still largely unguarded, and much of it has been moved or dismantled in what the rebels say was part of the operation to recover the bodies. No full forensic sweep has been conducted to ensure all human remains have been collected. Both side accuse the other of using fighting to prevent the investigation.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Russia to US: Evidence? What evidence?</a></strong></p> <p>The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said its observers attempting to reach the crash site with investigators from Australia and the Netherlands were forced to return to Donetsk for "security reasons."</p> <p>A rebel leader, Vladimir Antyufeyev, told reporters in Donetsk that separatist fighters escorting the international experts to the site encountered fighting and turned back.</p> <p>Antyufeyev, who like most of the senior rebel leadership is an outsider from Russia, also blamed the "senseless" Ukrainian army for trying to destroy evidence at the crash site under cover of fighting.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland in Washington, Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Justyna Pawlak, Barbara Lewis and Tom Koerkemeier in Brussels, Jane Wardell in Sydney, Alexei Anishchuk and Thomas Grove in Moscow, William James in London, and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Writing by Giles Elgood and David Stamp; Editing by Peter Graff)</p> Crisis in Ukraine Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Europe Germany United Kingdom United States Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:40:04 +0000 Gabriela Baczynska and Aleksandar Vasovic, Thomson Reuters 6217492 at Reports: The Vatican fires a priest in Paraguay accused of molesting US seminarians <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A church has reportedly dismissed Carlos Urrutigoity, following a recent GlobalPost investigation into accusations that the priest sexually abused young men in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will Carless and Alex Leff </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The Vatican has ordered a diocese in eastern Paraguay to dismiss a priest accused of sexually abusing young men in the <a href="">United States</a> and has restricted the powers of the bishop who hired him, according to local news reports.</p> <p>The Ciudad del Este diocese’s <a href="" target="_blank">reported firing</a> of Argentine priest Carlos Urrutigoity followed a recent <a href="" target="_blank">investigative report by GlobalPost</a> into his rise to a powerful position in the <a href="">South American</a> city, despite a string of molestation allegations against him.</p> <p>The reporting, and local media coverage that followed, unleashed a flood of controversy over the priest’s continued work in the church — where he’d been promoted to the No. 2 post of vicar general.</p> <p>According to legal documents reviewed by GlobalPost, seminarians in Minnesota and Pennsylvania made allegations against Urrutigoity that included his touching one young man’s genitals and asking another to insert anal suppositories in front of him. Clergy members from Switzerland to Scranton have issued warnings that the Argentine priest is “dangerous” and “a serious threat to young people.”</p> <p>Urrutigoity has denied the allegations and was never criminally charged. But US activists have campaigned for him to be punished. That movement has gained fierce voices in Paraguay — and it appears to have gotten an answer from the pope.</p> <p>Ciudad del Este Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano said Urrutigoity had been <a href="" target="_blank">dismissed</a> as vicar general in early July by request of the Vatican’s representative, Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Ariotti, Paraguay’s Vanguardia newspaper reported Saturday.</p> <p>In mid-July, <a href="" target="_blank">Pope Francis sent a delegation</a> to check up on the Ciudad del Este church, a visit that the city’s bishop said was unrelated to the scandal. Bishop Livieres has publicly defended Urrutigoity from what he claims is slanderous persecution.</p> <p>But Francis’ delegates took action against the bishop, too.</p> <p>“At the seminary of Ciudad del Este [the bishop] is going to be suspended for a time from ordaining priests or deacons,” Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello told a news conference Saturday, <a href=",f439cb0ede377410VgnCLD200000b2bf46d0RCRD.html" target="_blank">according to Agence France-Presse</a>.</p> <p>Javier Miranda, a former volunteer at the diocese who has led a campaign against Urrutigoity and Livieres, said he was delighted with the news that Urrutigoity has been removed.</p> <p>He said he was waiting to see if the Vatican will take more action against the bishop.</p> <p>“He has to go,” Miranda said of Livieres in a phone interview from Ciudad del Este. “He has lost his ministry … the church needs to find a way to solve all of these scandals.”</p> <p>Some activists want to see tougher measures by the Vatican.</p> <p>“Any time a predator is exposed or suspended, it’s positive,” said David Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. “But, the real issue is always the enablers. We think the pope needs to punish every high-ranking church official who had anything to do with father Carlos’ continued access to kids.”</p> <p>That goes for the Ciudad del Este bishop, too, Clohessy added.</p> <p>“Bishops who endanger kids should be fired, plain and simple,” he said.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Read GlobalPost’s exclusive: <a href="" target="_blank">After US sex abuse scandals, an accused priest rises again in Paraguay</a></strong></p> Americas Want to Know World Religion Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:31:00 +0000 Will Carless and Alex Leff 6217401 at Russia to US: Evidence? What evidence? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Moscow says allegations that the Russian military shelled targets across the border in Ukraine are fake — because the evidence was posted on Twitter. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, <a href="">Russia</a> — The Defense Ministry lashed out on Monday against what Washington says is photographic evidence that Russian artillery shelled Ukrainian territory, a claim that’s boosted tensions in one of <a href="">Europe</a>’s most serious geopolitical crises since the Cold War.</p> <p>Why? It was posted on Twitter.</p> <p>Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov rejected the alleged evidence — released on Sunday by the State Department and shared on the Twitter accounts of the US Embassy in Moscow and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt — as “fake.”</p> <p>“Such materials weren't posted on Twitter coincidentally,” he told reporters, “since it's impossible to establish their authenticity due to the lack of exact reference to the location and the extremely low resolution.”</p> <p>The materials consist of several satellite images American officials say reveal fresh launch sites in Russia and resulting impact craters just across the Ukrainian border.</p> <p>Said to have been taken between July 21 and July 26, the photos purport to show both artillery and rocket strikes in Ukraine that appeared to have come from the general direction of the Russian border.</p> <p>Konashenkov said Ukrainian officials had used similar images — which he called “photo collages” — days before to prove their own longstanding suspicions that Russian forces were shelling Ukraine.</p> <p>He also suggested that American agents are working in collusion with Ukrainian security services.</p> <p>“It’s no secret to anyone that all these ‘fakes’ are prepared by a group of US advisors registered in the Kyiv building of the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] and led by General Randy Kee,” he added, referring to a senior officer with the <a href="">United States</a> European Command.</p> <p>Russia has consistently pushed back against claims that it’s playing a direct role in the separatist crisis raging in eastern Ukraine, as Kyiv and its Western allies allege.</p> <p>As the war has intensified and the body count mounted, both sides have accused one another of fueling the violence.</p> <p>Russia, for its part, says Ukrainian military forces are targeting civilians.</p> <p>Kyiv and its international supporters say the Kremlin has been steadily supplying the rebels with heavy arms — including the kind that shot down Malaysian Airlines flight 17 earlier this month, killing all 298 on board — through Ukraine’s porous eastern border.</p> <p>Although Moscow has waged a fierce information campaign aimed at absolving itself from responsibility and shielding insurgents from any blame in the crash, anecdotal evidence implicating the rebels has steadily mounted.</p> <p>Senior Russian military officials have offered what they say is hard evidence to back up Moscow’s version that Kyiv is to blame for the crash, claims that have been replayed in blanket coverage by the state-run media here.</p> <p>That evidence, revealed last week, also came partly in the form of satellite photos: Officials said they revealed that Ukrainian surface-to-air missile systems capable of downing MH17 were within operational range at the time.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Ukraine claims more territory from pro-Russian rebels near MH17 crash site</a></strong></p> <p>Moscow also says a Ukrainian fighter jet armed with air-to-air missiles was spotted trailing the Malaysian airliner shortly before its crash.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Kremlin supporters and various top officials have scoffed at the overwhelming evidence on social media networks that has implicated the rebels, particularly video clips that showed the same rocket system being transported through a town near the crash site.</p> <p>Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s position on Monday, suggesting to reporters that such evidence is flimsy.</p> <p>“We don’t understand why the Americans, who say they have some kind of irrefutable proof of their version, don’t provide this evidence.”</p> Crisis in Ukraine Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Russia United States Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:37:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6217323 at Here are the world's cat countries and the world's dog countries <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Which is more popular — cats or dogs — in your country? </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>You know about cat people. And you know about dog people. (You <em>know</em> about dog people.)</p> <p>But has it ever occurred to you that there are also cat countries and dog countries?</p> <p>Well, there are. Whole countries. And thanks to <a href="" target="_blank">data on pet ownership in 54 countries</a> from market research firm Euromonitor, we now know which ones they are.</p> <p>In brief, <a href="">South America</a> and <a href="">much of Asia</a> are all about dogs. Meanwhile, cats have captured the hearts of Western Europeans — except for those in Spain, Portugal and Ireland.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">Washington Post has a nice map</a> that lays it all out.</p> <p>"Some regions, like the <a href="">Middle East</a> and part of Africa, have an especially long-standing appreciation of cats," Jared Koerten, a pet industry analyst at Euromonitor, told the Washington Post. "In <a href="">Latin America</a> it's the complete opposite. Dogs are part of family life there."</p> <p>Here are some more site-specific stats: Cats outnumber dogs 3-to-1 in Switzerland, Austria and Turkey.</p> <p>In India, pet dogs outnumber pet cats 10-to-1. Pet dogs also dominate in China, though to a lesser extent (2.5-to-1). And yes, even counting the ones <a href="">dyed to look like pandas</a>.</p> Africa Argentina Americas Want to Know Asia-Pacific Wildlife News Europe Germany China Culture & Lifestyle Global Economy Ireland Middle East India Spain Turkey United States Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:29:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 6217243 at Huge blaze at a fuel depot in Tripoli is 'out of control' as Libya slides to chaos <!--paging_filter--><p>A huge fuel depot in Libya's capital burned out of control on Monday, set ablaze in fighting between rival militias that has driven the country to chaos three years after the NATO-backed revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.</p> <p>Combat over control of the nearby airport forced firefighters to withdraw, abandoning their attempts to extinguish the blaze ignited by a missile strike that hit millions of liters of fuel.</p> <p>Foreign governments have looked on powerless as anarchy sweeps across the North African oil producer. Western countries have urged their nationals to leave, shut their embassies and pulled diplomats out, after two weeks of clashes among rival factions of former rebels killed nearly 160 people in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.</p> <p><a href="">The Netherlands</a>, the Philippines and Austria on Monday prepared to evacuate diplomatic staff. The <a href="">United States</a>, United Nations and <a href="">Turkish</a> embassies have already shut operations after the worst violence since the 2011 uprising.</p> <p>Two rival brigades of former rebels fighting for control of Tripoli International Airport have pounded each other's positions with Grad rockets, artillery fire and cannons for two weeks, turning the south of the capital into a battlefield.</p> <p>"It is out of control. The second tank has been hit and the firefighters have withdrawn from the site as the fighting has resumed in the area," said Mohamed Al-Harrai, a spokesman for the national oil company said of the blaze, which choked the sky above the city with black smoke.</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="//;sig=Y2B0SOE6L9-_pkdMY3K6Gjj_oYAqwFicLTgI7mjmX0Q=" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" width="594"></iframe></div> <p style="margin:0;"> </p> <div style="padding:0;margin:4px 0 0 10px;text-align:left;"> <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank">#452844800</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">A picture taken on July 28, 2014 shows flames and smoke billowing from an oil depot where a huge blaze started following clashes around Tripoli airport, in southern Tripoli.</span></p> <p>In the three messy years since the fall of Gaddafi, Libya's fragile government and fledging army have been unable to control heavily armed former anti-Gaddafi fighters, who refuse to hand over weapons and continue to rule the streets.</p> <p>Libya has appealed for international help to stop the country from becoming a failed state. Western partners fear chaos spilling across borders with arms smugglers and militants already profiting from the turmoil.</p> <p>After the US evacuation, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the "free-wheeling militia violence" had been a real risk for American diplomats on the ground, and called for an end to the violence. US ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by militants along with three others in Benghazi in September 2012. In neighboring Egypt, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly warned about militants capitalizing on Libya's chaos to set up bases along their mutual frontier.</p> <p><strong>Pall of smoke over Tripoli</strong></p> <p>Libya's government has asked for international help to try to contain the disaster at the fuel depot on the airport road, close to other tanks holding gas and diesel.</p> <p>The conflict has forced Tripoli International Airport to shut down. Airliners were reduced to smouldering hulks on the tarmac and the aviation control centre was knocked out.</p> <p>"This crisis is causing lots of confusion, lots of foreigners are leaving and diplomats are also departing through here," said Salah Qahdrah, security controller at Mitiga air base, now a secondary airport operating limited flights.</p> <p>Monday was the start of Eid el-Fitr festivities to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and fighting had eased in the morning. But fuel supplies were growing scarce in the capital with power cuts increasingly frequent.</p> <p>The health ministry said on Sunday nearly 160 people had been killed in fighting in Tripoli and in Benghazi where regular forces and militias have clashed in open street battles with Islamist militants entrenched there.</p> <p><strong>Warplanes, attempted hijacking</strong></p> <p>With Libyan security deteriorating, the United States evacuated its embassy in Tripoli on Saturday, spiriting diplomats across the border into Tunisia under heavy military guard including warplanes and a Marine escort.</p> <p>A <a href="">British</a> embassy convoy leaving by road for Tunisia came under gunfire in an apparent attempted hijacking on Sunday outside Tripoli as it headed to the border. There were no injuries, but one of its armored vehicles was damaged.</p> <p>The <a href="">Italian</a> embassy has helped 100 citizens and other nationals leave by road or by military aircraft, foreign ministry officials said, while the Dutch embassy was preparing to temporarily close with the departure of its last citizens.</p> <p>Austria and the Philippines were also down to basic staffing on Monday, with Manila urging its nationals to evacuate "before all routes and options become extremely difficult."</p> <p>Libya's government and special envoys from the United States, the United Nations and European countries on Saturday pushed for a cease-fire and a political deal within the newly elected parliament due to begin sessions in August.</p> <p>"We have been working to try and improve the situation in Libya through the work of our special envoy alongside the US special envoy, to try and get more of a dialogue going," British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said.</p> <p>Since Gaddafi's demise, Libya has struggled to keep its transition to democracy on track, with its parliament deadlocked by infighting among factions and militias often using threats of force against political rivals.</p> Africa Need to Know Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:42:11 +0000 Patrick Markey, Thomson Reuters 6217198 at Ukraine claims more territory from pro-Russian rebels near MH17 crash site <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine said its troops had taken more territory from pro-Russian rebels near the site where Malaysian flight MH17 was brought down, as international investigators said fighting was preventing them reaching the crash location.</p> <p>Ukrainian officials said two rebel-held towns had been recaptured and attempts were being made to take a village Kyiv says was near the launch site of the surface-to-air missile that shot down the airliner with loss of all 298 on board.</p> <p>Analysis of black box flight recorders from the airliner showed it was destroyed by shrapnel from a missile blast which caused a "massive explosive decompression," a Ukrainian official said on Monday.</p> <p>Investigators in <a href="">Britain</a>, who downloaded the data, had no comment. They said they had passed information to the international crash investigation led by <a href="">the Netherlands</a>, whose nationals accounted for two-thirds of the victims.</p> <p>In a report on three months of fighting between government forces and separatist rebels who have set up pro-Russian "republics" in the east, the United Nations said more than 1,100 people had been killed.</p> <p>UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said increasingly intense fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions was extremely alarming and the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner on July 17 may amount to a war crime.</p> <p>Western leaders say rebels almost certainly shot the airliner down by mistake with a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile. <a href="">Russia</a> accuses Kyiv of responsibility.</p> <p>The separatists are still in control of the area where the plane was shot down but fighting in the surrounding countryside has been heavy as government forces try to drive them out.</p> <p>On Monday at least three civilians were reported killed in overnight fighting, and Kyiv said its troops recaptured Savur Mogila, a strategic piece of high ground about 20 miles from where the Malaysia Airlines Boeing hit the ground, and other areas under rebel control.</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:53:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6217071 at Good news! One of the world’s richest women is getting a raise <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As wages lag for ordinary workers, the British queen’s salary is going up. Not everyone’s amused. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Corinne Purtill </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON, <a href="">UK</a> — These are tough times for British workers — unless you happen to be part of a particular family business headquartered in central London.</p> <p>In exchange for official duties such as opening parliament, meeting regularly with the prime minister and rubber-stamping legislation, the queen’s state paycheck for 2014-15 will amount to nearly $65 million dollars, the palace has announced.</p> <p>That’s a 5 percent increase over the previous year’s payout, more than three times the 1.6 percent rate of inflation.</p> <p>The Sovereign Support Grant, as the Treasury’s annual payment to the monarchy is known, covers the costs of royal business: garden parties and official palace functions, travel costs for the royal family’s 3,000 public engagements each year, and salaries for the household’s 500 employees.</p> <p>Think of it as an annual lump-sum reimbursement for a really big expense account.</p> <p>The payout comes amid hard times for British workers whose jobs don’t involve knighting people.</p> <p>Average weekly pay rose a scant 0.7 percent annually from March to May this year, the slowest rate since the government started measuring it in 2001.</p> <p>Save for a brief period in April and a two-month spell in 2010, wages have lagged behind inflation for the last six years.</p> <p>With many average Brits facing austerity-driven reductions in public services and budget-driven cuts in personal spending, news of the Sovereign Grant is stirring up resentment among those who would like to see the funds put to different use.</p> <p>“The amount of money we give them just goes up according to property prices rather than any sense of need or budgeting analysis ... which is completely mad,” says Graham Smith, executive director of Republic, a group campaigning for the abolition of the monarchy.</p> <p>The grant is a percentage of annual revenues of the Crown Estate, a portfolio of properties and investments owned by the crown — not the royal family members themselves — and managed independently.</p> <p>Valued at more than $15 billion, the portfolio’s lucrative holdings include the entire freehold to Regent Street — a central London shopping district comparable to New York’s Fifth Avenue — and all of the ocean floor 12 nautical miles beyond Britain’s coastline.</p> <p>All revenues from the estate are paid into the treasury, which cuts the royal family a check each year in the amount of 15 percent of revenues from the year two years’ prior (meaning this year’s grant is calculated from the 2012-13 profits).</p> <p>Lest you worry about how the 88-year-old monarch is scraping by on that amount, rest assured.</p> <p>“Her Majesty has her own personal income too,” a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said.</p> <p>The queen’s personal expenses (extra hats? Corgi food?) are met by revenues from her private investments and two privately owned estates, Sandringham Estate in Norfolk and Balmoral Castle in Scotland.</p> <p>Money can be an uncomfortable point in any relationship, and the one between the monarch and her subjects is no different.</p> <p>“We try to get the best value possible from the public funds entrusted to us,” Keeper of the Privy Purse Sir Alan Reid told the Evening Standard magazine.</p> <p>The monarchy spent $61 million on official business last year, a cost of $0.96 per Briton, Reid said.</p> <p>Republic argues that the figure fails to take into account public expenses such as policing and security for the family’s appearances. The monarchy’s real annual cost is closer to $500 million, the organization claims.</p> <p>Some of the expenses would probably not be considered a bargain in the non-royal world, like the $5.8 million to fix up Kensington Palace as a private residence for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge or Prince Charles’s $435,500 trip to <a href="">South Africa</a> for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Was Brazil 2014 the greatest World Cup ever?</a></strong></p> <p>Not all Brits believe that’s money poorly spent, however.</p> <p>“It’s quite easy to say, well, is she just having a lot of whoopee parties?” says Victor Morgan, a history professor at the University of East Anglia who believes that those who dismiss the monarchy’s value often fail to understand history.</p> <p>“We tried a bit of revolution in the middle of the 17th century and had a go at a republic and didn’t like it,” he says. “It didn’t work. We don’t fully appreciate the stability of our own society. The monarchy is part of that stability.” </p> Royal family Business Want to Know United Kingdom Mon, 28 Jul 2014 05:20:29 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6213429 at Buddhist vigilantes in Myanmar are sparking riots with wild rumors of Muslim sex predators <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The specter of rapacious Muslim men, plotting a slow genocide of Buddhists through sexual conquest, is actually quite old in Myanmar. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Patrick Winn </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BANGKOK, <a href="">Thailand</a> — In the minds of Myanmar’s Buddhist extremists, Muslim men are constantly scheming for their women.</p> <p>There are plots to systematically seduce naive Buddhist girls into converting to Islam. There are plots to infiltrate the military by marrying daughters of high-ranking officers. And there is the ultimate plot: to overthrow the government and transform Myanmar — the land of shimmering Buddhist pagodas — into an Islamic state.</p> <p>No evidence suggests these plots actually exist. Yet vigilante extremists — whose views on racial and religious purity evoke the Ku Klux Klan — are successfully exploiting these fears to spark deadly anti-Muslim riots. Rape allegations have proven particularly effective in whipping up a mob rampage through anti-Muslim neighborhoods.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">latest riot</a>, in the sun-baked city of Mandalay, broke out after a Buddhist maid accused two Muslim tea shop owners of rape. Soon afterward, according to accounts provided to GlobalPost, men on motorbikes zoomed into Muslim neighborhoods and began smashing windows.</p> <p>Some Muslims fled. Others weren’t so lucky. The riots ended with 20 injuries and the deaths of two men — one Buddhist, one Muslim.</p> <p>The Buddhists who fought to avenge the woman’s honor, however, were misled. Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed the woman was paid $1,000 to report a made-up rape. She’s now in prison along with the men accused of paying her off.</p> <p>This isn’t the first string of violence set off by rape allegations. At least three other anti-Muslim mob attacks — two in coastal Rakhine State, another in the dusty plains of Sagaing State — were waged by angry Buddhists seeking revenge following rape accusations. Some rapes appear to be genuine; other cases still await trial.</p> <p>In total, a dozen-odd villages and cities in Myanmar have suffered through riots in recent years. The attacks have left hundreds dead and — in some areas — reduced Muslim districts to rubble and forced families into squalid refugee camps. Muslims are a minority in Myanmar, which is overwhelmingly Buddhist, and they are simply outnumbered when their communities clash with Buddhist mobs.</p> <p>“They think Muslims are taking their ladies. They think we’re taking their money. It’s all propaganda,” said Myo Win, a senior member of the Burmese Muslim Association. (The title Burma, Myanmar’s name under colonial <a href="">British</a> rule, is still widely used.)</p> <p>“People easily accept these rumors," Myo Win said. “When you have a lack of education, it’s easy for people to accept hate speech — especially when it’s preached by influential monks.”</p> <p>Myanmar is plagued with a long list of troubles. It is still emerging from five decades of military dictatorship. Its hills are patrolled by guerrillas allegiant to armed ethnic groups that resist the central government. Child labor, malnutrition and corruption are rife. In recent years, a new wave of leaders — in a parliament under the army’s sway — have vowed to transform Myanmar into a freer and more harmonious society.</p> <p>But that dream has been stained by persistent anti-Muslim riots. A monk-led movement known as 969, a reference to Buddhist numerology, has sown bizarre rumors of imminent Muslim takeover financed by <a href="">Middle East</a> oil money. Many of these conspiracy theories involve Muslim men plotting to seduce, convert and impregnate Buddhist women.</p> <p>The specter of rapacious Muslim men, plotting a slow genocide of Buddhists through sexual conquest, is actually quite old in Myanmar.</p> <p>A 1938 newspaper article, translated by The Journal of Burma Studies, offers a stern warning to Buddhist ladies who marry Muslims brought over by British colonizers: “You Burmese women who fail to safeguard your own race ... are responsible for the ruination of the race.”</p> <p>Another book, written by a retired veteran of the Myanmar government’s foreign service named Maung Tha La, alleges these Muslim plots began decades ago. Young Muslim men, he writes, are led by a global Islamic conspiracy to “emigrate into the Union of Burma, the land of abundant food and pretty damsels, to marry the native maidens ... to spread Islam ... and ultimately overthrow the government.”</p> <p>There are many books like this in Myanmar. A more recent tract is titled “If You Marry a Man of a Different Race and Religion.” It’s described by a <a href="" target="_blank">local news outlet</a> as containing “11 stories about Buddhist women who were sexually abused, raped or forced to marry members of another ‘evil’ religion.”</p> <p>Buddhist extremists are operating under a “demographics siege mentality,” said Kyaw San Wai, a senior analyst of Myanmar’s politics at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.</p> <p>“With views of Muslim men poorly treating their spouses, and of supposed plots to systematically marry and convert Buddhist women,” he said, “it becomes a potent and volatile mindset that just needs an accusation of rape or murder to spark off violence.”</p> <p>These rumors aren’t new, he said. Kyaw San Wai recalls dubious gossip from the 1990s that oil-rich Arabs were rewarding Myanmar’s Muslim men with cash if they could marry Buddhist women. The men get bonus pay — so the rumor goes — if they marry and convert a woman of high status such as a lawyer or doctor.</p> <p>But that rhetoric is lightweight compared to other calls to arms. Articles in a magazine published by a political party, the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, can be downright chilling.</p> <p>The Buddhist-led party is popular in a coastal region that has witnessed wave after wave of bloody anti-Muslim purges in the last two years. Local Buddhist mobs have explicitly targeted an ethnically Bengali and highly persecuted Muslim sect called the Rohingya.</p> <p>“Hitler and Eichmann were the enemy of the Jews. But they were probably heroes to the Germans,” the party magazine stated in 2012, according to a translation by the <a href="" target="_blank">Los Angeles Review of Books</a>. “Inhuman acts may justifiably be committed. ... We will go down in history as cowards if we pass on these [Muslim Rohingya] issues to the next generation without getting it over and done with.”</p> <p>The average Buddhist in Myanmar is kindly toward Muslims and doesn’t harbor such extreme ideas, Myo Win said. But the revival of old stereotypes — particularly about scheming Muslim men — has many Muslim neighborhoods tense with fear.</p> <p>“These rumors are tactics. They’re tools to mobilize people,” he said. “But if you look more closely, you see they don’t make any sense.”</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Myanmar World Religion Mon, 28 Jul 2014 05:20:27 +0000 Patrick Winn 6214306 at Ebola terror spreads with new victims <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> An American doctor contracted the disease in Liberia and the first victim died from it in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown. </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>Alarm soared in west <a href="">Africa</a> on Sunday over the deadliest ever Ebola virus outbreak, with an American doctor contracting the disease in Liberia and the death of the first victim from Sierra Leone's capital Freetown.</p> <p>Samaritan's Purse, a Christian charity, said Dr. Kent Brantly was quarantined at the group's Ebola treatment centre at the ELWA hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia after falling ill while treating sufferers of the disease, which is deadly in up to 90 percent of cases.</p> <p>"We remain optimistic for his recovery, but certainly he is not out of the woods," said spokeswoman Melissa Strickland.</p> <p>His symptoms include intermittent fever and body aches.</p> <p>In a statement announcing the Ebola case on Saturday, the organization said that Brantly was married with two children.</p> <p>"Samaritan's Purse is committed to doing everything possible to help Dr. Brantly during this time of crisis. We ask everyone to please pray for him and his family," it added.</p> <p>The US State Department said it was aware of an Ebola case but could not provide information about a private individual.</p> <p>An Ebola epidemic has killed at least 660 people in four west African countries since the start of the year, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.</p> <p>On Saturday, a woman suffering from the first confirmed case of Ebola in Sierra Leone's capital died after her parents forcibly took her from hospital, the health ministry in Freetown said.</p> <p>Saudatu Koroma, a 32-year-old trainee hairdresser, was admitted to a clinic on July 23 and tested positive for the disease, which has already killed more than 200 people in the west African country.</p> <p>"Her father and mother forcefully took her away from the hospital" two days later, health ministry spokesperson Sidi Yahya Tunis told AFP.</p> <p><strong>'Barely able to speak'</strong></p> <p>Koroma's disappearance prompted Freetown authorities to broadcast a nationwide radio and television campaign, which eventually persuaded her to return for treatment, Tunis said.</p> <p>Koroma died on Saturday while on her way to an Ebola treatment center in the country's east.</p> <p>"She was severely dehydrated and weak and could hardly speak," Tunis said. "Blood samples taken from both the father and mother are now being tested."</p> <p>The house where the dead woman had lived in the east of Freetown has been quarantined with the other residents for 21 days.</p> <p>Koroma was the first confirmed case of Ebola to reach Freetown in what has become the deadliest ever outbreak of the virus.</p> <p>Sierra Leone's health ministry said an Ebola treatment centre has been established at Lakka Hospital and health staff have been trained to handle the disease. Surveillance has been increased and people have been asked to report all suspected cases to health authorities, it added.</p> <p>An AFP journalist in Freetown said people were calm and going about their normal business on Sunday.</p> <p>Freetown's first Ebola case comes after the incurable disease was confirmed to have reached Lagos in <a href="">Nigeria</a>, Africa's biggest city.</p> <p>The health ministry said on Friday that a 40-year-old Liberian man died at a private hospital from the disease, after collapsing at Lagos international airport.</p> <p>Nigerian carrier Arik said on Sunday it was halting direct flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone, which have seen close to 350 deaths from Ebola between them.</p> <p>"As a result of the first Ebola virus death officially confirmed in Lagos... Arik Air will be suspending operations into Monrovia and Freetown effective July 28, 2014," an airline statement said. "This decision is a precautionary measure aimed at safeguarding the precious lives of Nigerians."</p> <p>Ebola can fell victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.</p> <p>The highly contagious and often fatal disease spreads among humans via bodily fluids, including sweat, meaning one can get sick from touching an infected person.</p> <p>With no vaccine, patients believed to have caught the virus must be isolated to prevent further contagion.</p> Africa Need to Know Travel/Tourism Nigeria Health United States Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:59:24 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6216674 at More than 50 killed overnight in Libya <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The US, the UN and Turkey have all pulled their diplomats out of the North African country. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Feras Bosalum and Ayman al-Warfalli, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BENGHAZI, Libya — At least 36 people were killed in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, many of them civilian, where Libyan Special Forces and Islamist militants clashed on Saturday night and Sunday morning, medical and security sources said.</p> <p>The government said more than 150 people have died in the capital Tripoli and Benghazi in two weeks of fighting as clashes forced US and foreign diplomats to pull out of the country.</p> <p>In Tripoli, 23 people, all Egyptian workers, were killed when a rocket hit their home on Saturday during fighting between rival militias battling over the city's main airport, the Egyptian state news agency reported.</p> <p>Since the clashes erupted a fortnight ago, 94 people have died in the capital, and more than 400 have been injured as militias exchanged rocket and artillery fire across southern Tripoli, the health ministry said.</p> <p>Another 55 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Benghazi since the clashes have intensified over the last week between regular forces and Islamist militants who are entrenched in the city.</p> <p>"Most of the victims we have noticed are civilians as the fighters have their own hospitals on the battlefield," a Benghazi medical source told Reuters.</p> <p>In the last two weeks, Libya has descended into its deadliest violence since the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with the central government unable to impose order.</p> <p>The <a href="">United States</a>, the United Nations and Turkey have pulled their diplomats out of the North <a href="">African</a> country.</p> <p>The US evacuated its embassy on Saturday, driving diplomats across the border into Tunisia under heavy military protection because of Tripoli clashes near the embassy compound.</p> <p>A <a href="">British</a> embassy convoy was hit by gunfire during an attempted hijacking outside the capital Tripoli on the way to the Tunisian border, but no-one was injured in the incident, an embassy official said on Sunday.</p> <p>"It was an attempted hijack as the convoy was on its way to the Tunisian border," the official said. "No one was injured but vehicles were damaged."</p> <p>On Sunday, shelling continued in Tripoli around the international airport that is controlled by militias from the western city of Zintan. More Islamist-leaning rival brigades are trying to force them from the airport, which Zintanis have controlled since the fall of Tripoli.</p> <p>But clashes were far heavier in Benghazi overnight, where regular army and air force units have joined with a renegade ex-army general who has launched a self-declared campaign to oust Islamist militants from the city.</p> <p>A source from the Special forces fighting Islamist militants in Benghazi told Reuters clashes involved warplanes hitting militant positions belonging to Ansar al Sharia and another group in the city.</p> <p>Libya's Western allies worry the OPEC country is becoming polarized between the two main factions of competing militia brigades and their political allies, whose battle is shaping the country's transition.</p> <p>Special envoys for Libya from the Arab League, the United States and <a href="">European</a> countries expressed their concerns about the situation in Libya, saying it had reached a "critical stage" and called for an immediate ceasefire.</p> <p>"The UN should play a leading role in reaching a ceasefire in conjunction with the Libyan government and other internal partners, with the full support of the international envoys," a statement issued after a meeting in <a href="">Brussels</a> said.</p> <p>A new Libyan parliament was elected in June and Western governments hope warring parties may be able to reach a political agreement when the lawmakers meet in August for the first session.</p> <p>But three years after Gaddafi's demise, Libya's transition to democracy has been delayed by political infighting and militia violence. Armed groups have also targeted the oil industry to pressure the state.</p> <p><em>(Additional reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Benghazi; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Patrick Markey, Angus MacSwan and David Evans)</em></p> Africa Need to Know Conflict Zones Military Politics Middle East Sun, 27 Jul 2014 17:15:43 +0000 Feras Bosalum and Ayman al-Warfalli, Thomson Reuters 6216527 at Fierce fighting around MH17 site blocks international police <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International observers had to ditch their plans after clashes shattered a supposed truce between government forces and insurgents in the area around the site. </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>Heavy shelling around the crash site of downed Malaysian flight MH17 forced Dutch and Australian police to scrap a planned trip on Sunday, as 13 people including two children were killed during clashes in insurgent-held east Ukraine.</p> <p>The unarmed contingent of law enforcement officers were due to head to the location 10 days after the disaster following a deal with rebels aimed at allowing a long-delayed probe to go ahead.</p> <p>But international observers overseeing the trip had to abruptly ditch their plans after clashes shattered a supposed truce between government forces and insurgents in the area around the site, where some remains of the 298 victims still lie decomposing under the summer sun.</p> <p>"There is fighting going on. We can't take the risk," said Alexander Hug, deputy chief monitor of the <a href="">European</a> security body OSCE's special mission in Ukraine.</p> <p>"The security situation on the way to the site and on the site itself is unacceptable for our unarmed observer mission," he told reporters in the insurgent stronghold Donetsk, the biggest city in the region.</p> <p>An AFP photographer heard artillery bombardments just half a mile from the rebel-held town of Grabove next to the crash site and saw black smoke billowing into the sky.</p> <p>Terrified local residents were fleeing and checkpoints controlled by separatist fighters were abandoned.</p> <p>The Dutch justice ministry confirmed that security advisers had also halted a trip by a team of forensic experts.</p> <p>"Because of fighting in the area, the situation is still too unstable to work at the crash site," the ministry said in a statement.</p> <p><strong>"It's the insurgents"</strong></p> <p>Earlier Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said 49 officers from <a href="">the Netherlands</a> and Australia — which together lost some 221 citizens in the crash — were due at the scene Sunday and that there would be "considerably more on site in coming days."</p> <p>That came after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had reached an agreement with the pro-Russian insurgents controlling the site to allow the police deployment.</p> <p>"I hope that this agreement ... will ensure security on the ground, so the international investigators can conduct their work," Razak said, adding that 68 Malaysian police personnel would leave Kuala Lumpur for the crash site on Wednesday.</p> <p>So far investigators have been able to visit the site only sporadically because of security concerns, even though a truce had been called in the immediate area around the site by both the Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists.</p> <p>Fighting was raging elsewhere as the Ukrainian army pushes on with its offensive to retake the vital industrial east.</p> <p>Local authorities said 13 people including two children aged one and five were killed on Sunday in heavy fighting in rebel holdout Gorlivka, about 30 miles north of Donetsk, and which has a population of about a quarter of a million.</p> <p>Mining hub Donetsk itself was also subject to heavy bombardment throughout the night, some of it apparently unguided Grad rocket fire.</p> <p>The city of one million has been serving as a base for international monitors and journalists who are travelling daily to the crash site.</p> <p>Ignoring safety warnings, an Australian couple had travelled to the scene without any escort Saturday, saying they were fulfilling a promise to their only child that they would be there.</p> <p>"She was full of life," said Angela Rudhart-Dyczynski of their 25-year-old daughter Fatima, an aerospace engineering student.</p> <p>Dutch authorities, who are leading the probe into the downing of the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur plane, have identified the first victim, after 227 coffins were flown to the Netherlands for identification.</p> <p>The insurgents have also handed over a sealed train carriage filled with victims' belongings to the Dutch.</p> <p><strong>Brussels mulls more sanctions</strong></p> <p>In Brussels, the European Union is drafting tougher sanctions against <a href="">Russia</a> — which it accuses of abetting the insurgency by arming the rebels who allegedly shot down the aircraft.</p> <p>Sanctions targeting economic sectors including an arms embargo are being considered, while on Tuesday the bloc is expected to unveil more names of individuals and entities sanctioned.</p> <p>Moscow has blasted the move as "irresponsible," and warned that it jeopardised cooperation on security issues.</p> <p>Meanwhile in Kiev, lawmakers are to meet next week to discuss Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's future, after the premier quit in fury over the collapse of his coalition.</p> <p>About 1,000 people — including the victims of the Malaysian plane crash — have been killed in the deadly insurgency, and the United Nations estimates that some 230,000 have fled their homes.</p> <p>The Red Cross has said the country is now in civil war — a classification that would make parties in the conflict liable to prosecution for war crimes.</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Diplomacy Military Europe Russia Sun, 27 Jul 2014 16:48:28 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6216504 at The New York Times calls for the legalization of marijuana <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The publication compared the federal ban on cannabis to Prohibition. </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>The New York Times called for the legalization of marijuana on Saturday, comparing the federal ban on cannabis to Prohibition.</p> <p>In an <a href="" target="_blank">editorial</a>, the prestige publication said marijuana laws disproportionately impact young black men and that addiction and dependence are "relatively minor problems" especially compared with alcohol and tobacco.</p> <p>"It took 13 years for the <a href="">United States</a> to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished," the newspaper said.</p> <p>"It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana."</p> <p>Noting that the editorial board reached its conclusion after much discussion, The Times described the social costs of marijuana laws as "vast."</p> <p>Citing FBI figures showing there were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012 — far higher than for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives — it said "the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals."</p> <p>While advocating for a ban on marijuana sales to those under 21, the paper also said the "moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults."</p> <p>The editorial, titled "Repeal Prohibition, Again," kicks off a series of stories about the issue and invites readers to weigh in.</p> <p>The call comes just weeks after recreational pot sales began in Washington, making the western US state just the second after Colorado to allow people to buy marijuana with no medical requirement.</p> <p>Also earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill making New York the 23rd state to legalize marijuana for medical use.</p> Want to Know Food & Drink Politics United States Sun, 27 Jul 2014 03:27:48 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6216193 at US evacuates embassy in Libya amid heavy clashes <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> F-16 fighters and Osprey aircraft provided security during the five-hour drive to Tunisia and there were no incidents. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> News Desk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The <a href="">United States</a> evacuated all its staff from its embassy in Libya on Saturday due to the fierce fighting in the capital, US officials said.</p> <p>Although the embassy had already been operating on limited staffing, the remaining team drove overland under heavy military guard to Tunisia hours after the Libyan government warned the country could be torn apart by clashes between rival militias for control of Tripoli airport.</p> <p>"Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the US Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.</p> <p>"We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves."</p> <p>Harf added that in the meantime "staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region."</p> <p>The State Department also issued an updated travel warning cautioning Americans against traveling to Libya, and urging all those in the country to "depart immediately."</p> <p>Fresh clashes broke out Friday between rival Libyan militias battling for control of Tripoli airport, the target of 13 days of shelling that have disrupted air links to the outside world.</p> <p>"Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions," Harf said.</p> <p>She confirmed that the embassy staff had "traveled overland" and had arrived in Tunisia early Saturday and were "traveling onward from there."</p> <p>"We are grateful to the government of Tunisia for its cooperation and support."</p> <p>F-16 fighters and Osprey aircraft provided security during the five-hour drive to Tunisia and there were no incidents.</p> <p>The United Nations has already pulled its staff out of the North <a href="">African</a> state, and <a href="">Turkey</a> has suspended its embassy operations because of the violence in Tripoli. Turkey has removed about 700 personnel from the country.</p> <p>Memories are still raw for many Americans of the 2012 militant attack on the US mission in eastern Benghazi when the ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel were killed.</p> <p>The attack roiled the US political landscape, and Republicans still accuse the US administration of seeking to cover-up the true events of the assault by dozens of armed Islamic militants.</p> <p>Libya's main international airport has been shut since fighting erupted on July 13, in violence that has killed at least 47 people and wounded 120, according to the Libyan health ministry.</p> <p>The clashes, the most violent since the overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, started with an assault on the airport by a coalition of groups, mainly Islamists, which has since been backed by fighters from third city Misrata.</p> <p><em>Agence <a href="">France</a>-Presse and Thomson Reuters contributed to this report.</em></p> Africa Need to Know Conflict Zones Diplomacy Military Middle East Sat, 26 Jul 2014 15:35:53 +0000 News Desk 6215934 at Has Kerry's push for ceasefire come too late? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Following the shelling of a UN school and fatalities during demonstrations in the West Bank, it's not clear whether there's will for compromise either in the halls of power or on the street. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Noga Tarnopolsky </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JERUSALEM — On a day of some of the worst violence in the current flare-up of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Secretary of State John Kerry <a href="">proposed</a> a temporary ceasefire that could halt fighting this weekend. </p> <p>But even if the Israeli government and Hamas, the Islamist faction that rules Gaza, accept his plan, it remains unclear whether a break in combat will be enough to quell the protests that have broken out in Jerusalem and in the West Bank in the past 24 hours. Palestinian sources <a href="">claimed</a> that both Israeli military and settler fire killed five protestors on Friday.</p> <p>The diplomatic moves come on the heels of one of the bloodiest and most controversial incidents of the conflict, in which a UN-run school that was operating as a shelter for displaced Gazans was shelled on Thursday, killing an estimated 17 people. The spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which runs the school, accused <a href="">Israel</a> of the shelling, while Israeli army representatives, emphasizing that the incident is under investigation, have suggested the school could have instead been hit by Hamas’s rockets.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>BREAKING NEWS: UNRWA school sheltering displaced in <a href="">#Gaza</a> takes a direct hit from Israeli fire, 5 injured RT</p> <p> — Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) <a href="">July 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki <a href="">said</a> the school incident "underscores the need to end the violence and to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and enduring resolution of the crisis in Gaza as soon as possible."</p> <p>Speaking to GlobalPost, Israeli army spokesman Capt. Eytan Buchman said, "It is a tragic loss of life. Any case where civilians are killed is a tragedy. Civilian casualties is something that the IDF are trying to avoid at every possible junction."</p> <p>"We are very carefully reviewing this particular incident," he continued. "During the course of the afternoon there was ongoing fire with terrorist operatives in Gaza that included RPG [rocket-propelled grenades], anti-tank missiles and light fire we have definitive indications that there were rocket launches from Gaza that landed in the vicinity of the school at that time.'"</p> <p>As night fell on Thursday, crowds of Palestinians gathered in the West Bank, spurred in part by the carnage at the school.</p> <p>Palestinian sources claimed that three protesters were killed in clashes with Israeli authorities on Thursday night. The Israeli army confirmed two dead. </p> <p>IDF spokesman Col. Peter Lerner said that one of those killed at the Qalandia checkpoint was "hit by live fire after soldiers were fired upon from behind the rioters." He characterized the bullets coming from the crowd as "an imminent threat."</p> <p>Violence in the West Bank appeared to be escalating Friday as the US pushed for a ceasefire. Sources in Nablus, near the largest of Friday's disturbances, told GobalPost that one of those dead in the clashes was killed by a shot fired by a Jewish settler, and not by military police.</p> <p>Israel Border Police spokesman Shai Hakimian said that one of the casualties at Hawara junction, near Nablus, was the result of an 18-year-old suspect shooting fireworks at soldiers from a short distance, to which the soldiers responded with live fire.</p> <p>As demonstrations continued into the early evening Friday, Israel Army Radio reported two instances of settler shooting. In one, a settler driving his car was pelted by rocks thrown by protesters and responded by shooting in what he claimed was "self-defense." In a separate event reported widely, a female settler was seen shooting into the air.</p> <p>Kerry's two-stage proposal includes a weeklong truce starting Sunday. It would be immediately followed by negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders, with the participation of other national representatives, and would address long-term political, military, and economic problems in Gaza. </p> <p>As the Israeli cabinet met to vote on Kerry's plan, four right-wing cabinet members, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, announced they would vote against it.</p> <p>Hamas has not yet made its intentions known.</p> Want to Know Israel and Palestine Middle East Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:09:00 +0000 Noga Tarnopolsky 6215286 at EU edges toward new sanctions against Russia's economy <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Interconnected economies give European countries strong weapons against Moscow — if they dare to use them. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal — The European Union appears to be finally moving toward imposing meaningful sanctions against the Russian economy.</p> <p>Proposals that could be adopted Tuesday include a ban on credit for Russian banks, an arms embargo and the prohibition of high-tech exports to Russia's oil industry.</p> <p>Although watered down from a previous proposal to exclude exports to Russia's key gas sector, the punitive measures would go far beyond what has been adopted so far by the EU or the <a href="">United States</a> and could have a serious impact on a Russian economy already languishing in recession.</p> <p>According to leaked extracts from the sanctions plan, big Russian state-owned banks now in the EU's sights raised almost half their $21.3 billion capital needs on EU markets last year.</p> <p>Such moves would show the EU can muster powerful weapons against a Russian economy that’s closely intertwined with that of the 28-member EU.</p> <p>But until the killing of 298 people in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 last week, that economic interconnection has been a source of weakness rather than strength, as EU countries sought to protect their national interests against any boomerang effect from sanctions against Russia.</p> <p>EU nations remained divided even after the crash.</p> <p><a href="">France</a> and Britain bickered publicly this week when Prime Minister David Cameron denounced Paris’s decision to press ahead with plans to sell a state-of-the-art warship to Russia. French diplomats retorted that Cameron would do better to curtail London's role as Russian oligarchs' preferred financial center.</p> <p>Business leaders in <a href="">Germany</a> warned 300,000 jobs there could be threatened if sanctions hawks launch a trade war with Russia.</p> <p>Although such concerns have helped make the German government among the most wary of antagonizing Moscow, Chancellor Angela Merkel has signaled a change of heart in recent days.</p> <p>Her spokesman said the EU's most powerful leader now wanted the "swift" application of economic sanctions in response to the Kremlin's refusal to reign in its fighters in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>Dutch attitudes also reflect how the mood has changed.</p> <p>"This is not about economics or trade, it’s about security in Europe," said Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans as he went into sanctions talks with EU colleagues on Tuesday.</p> <p>His impassioned speech to the UN Security Council this week has come to represent the sorrow and anger in <a href="">the Netherlands</a>, which lost 193 citizens in the destruction of MH17.</p> <p>Until the missile strike, however, the Dutch had been among the most reluctant to allow Russia's destabilization of Ukraine to interfere with business relations.</p> <p>Timmermans's government twice dispatched King Willem-Alexander to Russia in recent months in an effort to cultivate friendly relations.</p> <p>In February, when many Western leaders boycotted the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Willem-Alexander was photographed at the games joking with Russian President Vladimir Putin as they knocked back glasses of Heineken.</p> <p>Those pictures came to haunt the Dutch this week as Willem-Alexander solemnly welcomed home bodies of MH17 victims.</p> <p>"There was a lot of criticism at the time of the decision to send the highest possible delegation," says Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament from the opposition D66 party. "In retrospect, that looks ever more painful now."</p> <p>A poll in the best-selling daily De Telegraaf showed 78 percent of Dutch citizens support economic sanctions against Russia even it if means pain for the their economy.</p> <p>"For who were not convinced yet that there was a real need to change relations with Russia, this cannot be anything but the rudest of wake up calls," Schaake said in a telephone interview from the EU parliament in Brussels.</p> <p>The extent to which the Dutch economy is linked to Russia illustrates Europe's potential to hurt Putin's regime as well as why the EU has been reluctant to do so.</p> <p>The Netherlands is the single biggest destination for Russian exports, $70 billion worth last year. Much of that is oil, coal and other minerals that are processed at the giant port of Rotterdam and sold on to other markets.</p> <p>Royal Dutch Shell is developing gas plants with Gazprom, Philips lights up the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg and Heineken sells more than one in 10 of the beers quaffed by Russians. Russia is the third biggest destination for Dutch exports outside Europe, after the United States and <a href="">China</a>.</p> <p>Russians are also among the most enthusiastic participants in schemes that enable international companies to avoid taxes by recycling money through the Netherlands.</p> <p>Tax loopholes helped attract $36 billion in Russian investment to the Netherlands over the past seven years, according to Russian central bank figures, a level bettered only by Cyprus and the <a href="">British</a> Virgin Islands.</p> <p>Much of that money is recycled back home by Russian conglomerates and their oligarch owners.</p> <p>"It's a huge tax dodge and all the multi-nationals are using it," says Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel at Citizens for Tax Justice, a think-tank in Washington.</p> <p>"The Netherlands objects to us calling them a tax haven, but we stand by it," she says. "Billions and billions of dollars are moving through there every year."</p> <p>Russian companies are far from alone in using the Netherlands to avoid taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that almost half the US companies on the Fortune 500 list have subsidiaries there for tax purposes.</p> <p>However, reports this week that the Russian company that exports anti-aircraft missiles of the type used to destroy MH17 also has an Amsterdam office to help avoid taxes have intensified calls for the Netherlands to clean up its fiscal act.</p> <p>The Netherlands isn’t the only EU country offering tax breaks to Russian companies and business leaders: Cyprus, <a href="">Ireland</a> and Luxembourg are also favorite bolt holes. Britain has been accused of turning a blind eye to tax dodges by Russian oligarchs in London and British overseas territories.</p> <p>Collectively, EU countries are Russia's main trading partner.</p> <p>Russia’s role as the vital supplier of oil and gas to many of the bloc's members is another key reason for the reluctance to enter an economic showdown. There's fear of energy shortages and price hikes that could undermine the EU's fragile recovery from a five-year euro zone crisis.</p> <p>Germany relies on Russia for 40 percent of the natural gas it needs to power industry and heat homes. <a href="">Italy</a> gets half its gas from Russia and EU countries such as Finland, Bulgaria and Lithuanian get all their gas from Russia. EU nations meeting Friday struck out a proposal to ban high tech exports to the Russian gas industry due to fears that could hurt European supplies.</p> <p>In the financial sector, French banks have more than $50 billion worth of outstanding loans in Russia. Italian banks' exposure stands at over $28 billion, Germans' at $24 billion and British banks at $19 billion.</p> <p>Despite the risks, public sentiment has hardened. German and Dutch newspapers carried comments on Friday by business leaders accepting that sanctions are now needed. British media are denouncing public figures with links to Russian business. German tabloids are calling for soccer’s 2018 World Cup to be taken from Russia.</p> <p>EU officials say new economic sanctions are inevitable unless Putin quickly ends his support for the fighters in eastern Ukraine. That seems unlikely given US assertions that Russian regular forces are now openly shelling Ukrainian positions across the border.</p> <p>EU experts drew up legal texts for the package of economic sanctions on Friday. They are expected to be adopted at a meeting of representatives from the 28 member countries Tuesday in Brussels.</p> <p>"The direction of travel is clear, but we are still traveling," EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said Friday in Brussels. "The urgency of this is immense."</p> <p>Among the expected measures, the restrictions on bank loans could have the biggest impact.</p> <p>Even the modest international sanctions already in place are already having an effect. On Friday, the Bank of Russia was forced to raise its key interest rate to 8 percent, warning of shocks to the economy from the "aggravation of geopolitical tension."</p> <p>The arms embargo won't include existing contracts, so France's $1.6 billion warship sale will be excluded.</p> <p>Restrictions of sales of sensitive "dual use" technologies such as electronics and machine tools are also in the package, but are expected to be limited to those with military end users. A trade and investment boycott of Russian-occupied Crimea is also on the cards.</p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">The EU early Saturday announced the names of 33 individuals and entities added to a sanctions blacklist. Their assets are frozen and they are banned from traveling ot EU nations. Among them are the ruler of Russia's Chechnya republic Ramzan Kadyrov and several leading security and intelligence officials, including Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB spy agency. The list now totals 107 and more are expected to be added Tuesday.</span></p> <p>Two European lending agencies that last year financed projects worth over $4 billion in Russia have been ordered to stop.</p> <p>Russia, which has so far laughed off the European response, may find that about to become harder to do.</p> MH17 Need to Know Europe Global Economy Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:17:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6215251 at This YouTube channel shows what it’s like to be an 'untouchable' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India’s scorned caste tells of relentless rapes, beatings and humiliations — all committed with impunity. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mandakini Gahlot </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">NEW DELHI</a>, India — One talks about being beaten up. Another describes how people humiliate her. Many more speak about rape — a common danger facing women of India's lowest caste.</p> <p>Meet the dalits, better known in the West as “untouchables” — an Indian caste so denigrated that they suffer explicit discrimination and abuse.</p> <p>Now, they’re fighting back, taking to the internet to tell their stories.</p> <p>Welcome to <a href="" target="_blank">DalitCamera</a>, the YouTube channel for untouchables. It’s one man's initiative to give a voice to the very bottom of Indian society, and to lift them up.</p> <p>Bathan Ravichandran, 31, founded the project. He was the first dalit from his home region in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu to go to college.</p> <p>He says a milestone in his life was being beaten by 20 fellow students because of his caste.</p> <p>He realized how ignored the problems facing his caste-members were, and decided to change that by recording their stories. Starting in 2011, he set off with a camera, and created a channel on YouTube to host the videos.</p> <p>These days, the initiative has a team of 23 members, most of them volunteers, and four cameras. Working on a shoestring budget, Ravichandran’s crew of journalist-activists travels in buses tracking down stories that are neglected.</p> <p>They often buy their own tickets, although sometimes a well-wisher offers to sponsor a story. The channel has steadily gained a dedicated audience. Encouraged by the response, Ravichandran hopes to expand the project into a live web channel.</p> <p>Today, it boasts more than 75,000 videos, some of which have been viewed more than 100,000 times. Most videos are of low production and technical quality, but for Ravichandran, content is king.</p> <p>“I was frustrated by the mainstream media’s coverage, or the lack of it, on dalit issues. Most commentators invited to television debates were high caste elites, and if at all a dalit was ever invited, he would get shouted down,” he says. “I started DalitCamera to record their views, as well as the views of oppressed dalit minorities.”</p> <p>Dalits account for over 16.2 percent of India’s population, and have traditionally been associated with menial jobs like "manual scavenging" when workers remove human waste from toilets that don't have a flushing system. Despite affirmative action that sets aside slots for dalits at universities and in the government, they continue to face discrimination at the hands of upper-caste Indians, particularly in rural India.</p> <p>In May, the rape and <a href="">lynching of two teenage dalit girls</a> in Uttar Pradesh underscored the issue of caste-based sexual violence in India yet again. They were found hanging — symbolic of their less-than-nothing status in society.</p> <p>“If you look at it objectively, there is a sea of difference in the way Indian society reacts to the rape of a low caste woman compared to the rape of an upper caste woman," says Bojja Takaram, a dalit lawyer, in a 9-minute video posted on DalitCamera. "In the case of a dalit-class woman, rape is not seen as rape, it’s a usual event, a dalit woman’s body is there for the taking.”</p> <p>This focus on sexual violence began after the brutal <a href="">gang rape and murder of a 23-year old student in New Delhi</a> in December 2012. In the months that followed, DalitCamera conducted a host of interviews with dalits across India about the routine sexual violence against low-caste women in India.</p> <p>The entire country was up in arms against what was being described as “rape culture” but community activists felt the debate did not include dalit voices even when they are often the victims.</p> <p>In 2012, more than 1,500 dalit women filed official rape complaints, a number that vastly underestimates the true amount because most don't get reported. Regardless, most went ignored by Indian media and the authorities, say activists.</p> <p>“I don’t want to undermine that movement [against rape] but to start with, it did overlook the dalit experience," said Ravichandran. "At the same time, it was a historic opportunity for debate, and so we started talking to activists and victims from the dalit community, creating a parallel narrative of sexual violence in India which is so intricately linked to caste.”</p> <p>Here's a sampling of videos from DalitCamera.</p> <p>A dalit woman speaks about what drove her to become an activist:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>A lawyer speaks about the difference in response to the rape of a dalit woman compared to the rape of an upper-caste Hindu woman:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Short documentary "The Untouchable Country":</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Video about rape in Haryana:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Caste issues on university campuses:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>See more <a href=";view=0&amp;flow=grid" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> Want to Know Politics Culture & Lifestyle India Fri, 25 Jul 2014 05:00:36 +0000 Mandakini Gahlot 6195339 at With the world’s attention fixed on MH17, Putin continues cracking down at home <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia sentences another opposition leader. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, <a href="">Russia</a> — If anyone had hoped Vladimir Putin’s promise earlier this week not to crack down on civil society was genuine, it was surely Sergei Udaltsov.</p> <p>But any such expectation faded into the stuffy courtroom air on Thursday, when a judge sentenced the firebrand leftist — one of the most colorful leaders of a once-bustling anti-Kremlin movement — to four and a half years in a penal colony for allegedly inciting mass riots.</p> <p>While the world’s attention remains focused on Russia’s standoff with the West over Ukraine and the downed flight MH17, the Kremlin is quietly but steadily continuing its onslaught against what it perceives to be its enemies at home.</p> <p>Udaltsov’s prosecution was part of a two-year campaign dubbed the “Bolotnaya Affair” against the participants of a May 2012 mass protest that turned violent, marking the beginning of the end of the protest movement here. Some Kremlin critics believe riot police provoked the violence.</p> <p>Since then, a dozen participants have been convicted and sentenced to various terms.</p> <p>Named after the square in which the demonstration took place, the trials have represented the heart of Putin’s latest drive against the political opposition and cultural dissent since his return to the presidency that year.</p> <p>But Udaltsov’s conviction represents only the starkest contradiction to Putin’s recent pledge that there would be no more “tightening of the screws.”</p> <p>On Monday, the Justice Ministry beefed up its list of “foreign agents” — the official term used to denote political NGOs that receive funding from abroad — to include some of Russia’s best-known human rights organizations.</p> <p>Topping the list is Memorial, a venerated civic rights group whose main aim has been to document Soviet-era repression. It also tracks current abuses.</p> <p>Critics say the moves represent a bad omen.</p> <p>“The circle is closing in and we’re moving from an authoritarian regime toward a totalitarian one,” said political analyst and veteran dissident Andrei Piontkovsky.</p> <p>The authorities’ focus is extending to the internet, which has remained relatively free and traditionally served as the virtual meeting place for the opposition-minded.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Putin signed a law that requires websites to store personal data from their Russian users on local servers, which experts say could pave that way for official control over access to popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.</p> <p>There’s been little meaningful resistance.</p> <p>Thanks in large part to the Bolotnaya prosecutions, the latest crackdown appears to have deterred many activists and frightened the casual protesters who helped swell the anti-Kremlin movement in December 2011.</p> <p>Today, there are few mass protests as the authorities persist in their prosecution of the movement’s poster child, Alexei Navalny, a charismatic lawyer and anti-corruption blogger.</p> <p>He was handed a five-year suspended sentence for embezzlement last year, but faces a litany of other criminal charges that supporters say are politically motivated.</p> <p>“[Putin] is pursuing a clever policy by arresting the leaders,” said Nadir Fatov, a local human rights campaigner, outside the court on Thursday. “It’s a real talent to be a leader.”</p> <p>The Kremlin’s campaign has accompanied a rising great-power nationalism as Russia’s new state ideology, bolstered by the seizure of Crimea in March and continuing moral — and some say material — support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>Polls show more Russians approve of Putin’s policies now than almost any other time during his 15-year rule, something observers ascribe to Moscow’s defiance of Western pressure over its actions in Ukraine.</p> <p>That’s why the Ukraine crisis has overshadowed any grumbling at home, says political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.</p> <p>“The issue of human rights doesn’t occupy people’s minds at all,” he said.</p> <p>“Udaltsov took a stand against the state, received his sentence, and that’s what he deserved,” added Oreshkin, a former member of the Kremlin’s human rights council, about the views of most ordinary Russians.</p> <p>An overarching theme has connected the Udalstov case to the ongoing geopolitical spat over Ukraine, rooted in the Kremlin’s longstanding distrust of foreign powers it accuses of interfering in its own affairs and those of its neighbors.</p> <p>In Udaltsov’s case, prosecutors made much of a videotaped meeting with a Georgian politician, who they alleged was helping fund an attempted coup through the opposition leader.</p> <p>The allegation played off Putin’s longstanding distaste for the so-called color revolutions that swept old administrations from power in Georgia and Ukraine last decade, something he railed against during a Security Council meeting on Tuesday, warning “outside forces” of meddling in Russia’s sovereign affairs.</p> <p>“Our people, our citizens, the people of Russia will not allow it,” local media reported him as saying. “And they will never accept it.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigns over coalition break up</a></strong></p> <p>Outside the Moscow City Court where Udaltsov was awaiting his verdict on Thursday, two dozen activists gathered to stage a paltry protest.</p> <p>It was a marked change from the high-profile trial in 2012 against the punk group Pussy Riot, and even last summer’s prosecution of Navalny, which brought thousands onto Moscow’s streets.</p> <p>Fatov, the human rights campaigner, was among the few who stood opposite the building holding a banner in support of Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev, his associate who received the same sentence.</p> <p>Acknowledging the fading support for the protest movement, he struggled to remain positive.</p> <p>“Temporarily, of course, we’ve lost,” he said. “But the battle for freedom and fairness continues.” </p> Putin's Russia World Leaders Want to Know Russia Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:20:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6214548 at Arrested Japanese artist: 'My vagina is not obscene' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Since when did any old vagina become verboten in the land of kinky fetishes? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SEOUL, <a href="">South Korea</a> — Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, who goes by the alias “Good For Nothing Child,” finds herself in an unusual bind in a country known for its blunt eroticism: fighting obscenity charges for a crowd-sourcing effort to build a kayak modeled after her own vagina.</p> <p>After she sent out computer data on her vagina to more than 30 people, the 42-year-old artist was <a href="">arrested on June 12</a> and accused of distributing “obscene” files. She was released this week but could still face criminal charges, which could carry up to two years in prison.</p> <p>“I had no idea why I had to be arrested and detained because I don’t believe my vagina is anything obscene,” she said in a press conference. “I was determined I would never yield to police power.”</p> <p>At a gathering at the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents’ Club this week, Igarashi joked that she’ll enter politics in her very own “pussy party,” but only after consulting her lawyers.</p> <p>Since when did any old vagina become verboten in the land of kinky fetishes?</p> <p>In Tokyo, you can indulge in weird, perverse pastimes without worry. Wanna sniff a schoolgirl’s used panties? A number of sex shops claim to sell them. Ever wanted to play out your fantasy of being molested on the subway, or just love watching a woman urinate? Look no further than Tokyo’s entertainment district of Ikebukuro.</p> <p>Despite the debauchery, <a href="">Japan</a>’s pornography laws are surprisingly strict, although there has been a relaxation in recent years. Until the 1990s, pubic hair was off limits in porn films, and pornographers pixelated actors’ private parts to ensure no line was crossed. This week, police arrested a pornographic actress and an advertising executive in the southern city of Fukuoka for broadcasting <a href="" target="_blank">live sex streams that went uncensored</a>.</p> <p>Yet a handful of clever Japanese artists always seem to get around the bans, putting out some twisted porn that far outstrips the “obscenity” of Igarashi’s vagina. Here are four Japanese genres that the police don’t seem to care about, thanks to weird loopholes in the law:</p> <p><strong>1) Tentacle rape</strong></p> <p>Japan invented a dark brand of porn in which phallus-shaped tentacles squirm, slip and force their way into a helpless woman’s you-know-what.</p> <p>It may look like a weird obsession for depraved adolescent boys. But tentacle rape art has a long and strange history that pre-dates modern censorship, starting with woodblock carvings in the early 1800s.</p> <p>Still, this style of porn didn’t become a trademark until the past three decades, and it was ironically censorship that contributed to its preeminence.</p> <p>In the 1980s, Japanese artists wanted to circumvent a law that essentially banned the depiction of penises, but not the depiction of penetration by other objects. The solution? Make cartoons about robotic phalluses and giant octopi that fondle girls who look like pre-teens.</p> <p>Since these monsters are genderless, their nether organs can’t be considered penises, and hence no need for censorship.</p> <p>Talk about unintended consequences. Nice job, Japanese censors.</p> <p><strong>2) Bukkake</strong></p> <p>Tentacle rape isn’t the only genre to catch on thanks to censorship. Decades ago, Japanese filmmakers similarly wanted a way to push the envelope while averting the eyes of law enforcement.</p> <p>So they indulged in bukkake, which focuses on a woman’s face and chest rather than the surrounding male appendages.</p> <p>Originally from Japan but also a niche in the West, this famed act features a circle of men who splash their semen all over a demure schoolgirl or secretary or — for viewers who enjoy it — another helpless young man.</p> <p>In Japan, the porn star on the receiving end acts humiliated and shamed, which apparently turns some people on. Their Western counterparts, on the other hand, pretend to take pride in their role.</p> <p>Interestingly, the word “bukkake” roughly means to “splash” or “dash” and doesn’t always imply sexual weirdness. If you order a bukkake udon or bukkake soba, you’ll receive noodles with hot broth.</p> <p><strong>3) Most child pornography is now illegal, but kiddie porn comics are still OK</strong></p> <p>Yes, the possession of child porn, of all things, was completely legal in Japan until just last month. Its production and distribution was the outlawed part.</p> <p>On June 16, Japan finally passed a law that bans the ownership of child porn. People found with explicit images of children could face up to a year in prison or be fined $10,000, giving them a year-long grace period to dispose of their goods.</p> <p>The catch? Draw a cartoon of a child being raped or fondled, and you’re in OK territory.</p> <p>That’s because the manga industry vehemently opposed any prohibition on depictions of child sexual abuse, including rape. The result is a torrent of criticism over the artist Igarashi’s arrest. If the child-sex manga at your local comic book shop isn’t so lewd that it should be illegal, why go nuts over a grown woman’s vagina?</p> <p><strong>4) Wearing a diaper and wetting your pants does it for some people</strong></p> <p>Speaking of child porn, Japan is home to an, erm, unique pant-wetting fetish called Omorashi.</p> <p>Practitioners of one variation of this act, called Yagai, wet themselves in public and get aroused from not getting caught. </p> <p>The other way to practice Oromashi is to wear a diaper and urinate in it. So intense are its fans that they even watch game-show videos in which contestants must hold their urine for as long as possible before releasing it. Others live out their fetish through computer games and by purchasing collectibles such as specialized toilet paper and figurines.</p> <p>So there you have it. If the Japanese government doesn’t consider these “obscene,” then what is?</p> Entertainment Strange But True Japan Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:43:00 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6214333 at Violence and anti-Semitism are shifting the Middle East debate in Europe <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> With more protests against Israel’s Gaza campaign expected on Friday, Palestinian supporters are worried their message is being drowned out. </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; Mention Israel&rsquo;s military campaign in Gaza to the Arab customers and stylists at Salon Balbaak in the predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Neukoelln and the response is sighs of disgust.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s not just us Palestinians,&rdquo; says Mustafa, a young man with wavy hair. &ldquo;Every free-thinking person in Berlin is angry. You only have to see the children being killed.&rdquo;</p> <p>He may be exaggerating, but not by much.</p> <p>Even as the United States continues its staunch support of Israeli policy, opposition to Israel&rsquo;s actions is <a href="">growing</a> across Europe as the death toll mounts in Gaza.</p> <p>However, demonstrations against the military offensive have been marred by racist slogans and violence that is shifting the focus of the debate here from the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza toward the extent of anti-Semitism in Europe.</p> <p>A court in France jailed three men on Thursday for rioting after a pro-Palestinian rally in a Paris suburb turned into anti-Semitic violence.</p> <p>In several German cities, protestors have attacked pro-Israeli counter-demonstrators and chanted anti-Semitic slogans.</p> <p>Mustafa, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, decries the damage such actions is inflicting on the protest effort.</p> <p>&ldquo;The protests have nothing to do with anti-Semitism,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We are not against the Jews. We are against the Israeli government.&rdquo;</p> <p>More than half of Germans believe Israel and Hamas bear equal responsibility for the fighting and 86 percent say Germany shouldn&rsquo;t publicly support Israel, according to a <a href="">recent survey</a>.</p> <p>However, Jewish groups argue that the racial slurs and anti-Semitic slogans suggest the protests are rooted in ethnic hatred rather than politics.</p> <p>&quot;We are experiencing an explosion of evil and violent hatred of Jews,&rdquo; said Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, in an official statement.</p> <p>&ldquo;All of us are shocked and dismayed that anti-Semitic slogans of the nastiest and most primitive type can be chanted openly on German streets.&rdquo;</p> <p>In Berlin last week, protesters chanted &ldquo;Jew, Jew, cowardly bastard, come out and fight alone!&rdquo; at a downtown rally against the military action in Gaza.</p> <p>Earlier this month, police in the western German city of Essen <a href="">arrested</a> 14 people suspected of planning to attack an area synagogue.</p> <p>Among other countries, protests have been particularly violent in France. In Paris, dozens looted shops and set a kosher grocery store on fire in a Jewish-dominated suburb over the weekend when a pro-Palestinian demonstration held in defiance of a French ban erupted into violence.</p> <p>In Austria, pro-Palestinian protesters <a href="">stormed</a> onto the field at a soccer match, attacking players from Israel&#39;s Maccabi Haifa in town during a scrimmage against a French club.</p> <p>In Berlin on Monday, 13 protesters were detained at a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy for throwing stones at the police, who have prohibited specific slogans as a threat to public order after facing criticism for failing to silence earlier anti-Semitic chants.</p> <p>&ldquo;Especially in Germany, anti-Semitic protests have a very strong impact because of our history, and there always should be resistance to make clear that this is not what the public thinks,&rdquo; Berlin police spokesman Stefan Redlich Redlich said.</p> <p>&ldquo;But for the police, we can only stop people from shouting slogans if the law says they are not allowed.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, the American Jewish Committee and other Jewish groups say they were disappointed by the initial police response. Diedre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin, said it&#39;s difficult to understand how officers at the scene could have doubted that what they were hearing was hate speech.</p> <p>&ldquo;Free speech has nothing to do with threatening people and creating an atmosphere of physical violence,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>In a joint statement <a href="'">issued</a> Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Germany,&nbsp;France and Italy vowed to fight anti-Semitism, giving the issue equal prominence to remarks from the UN high commissioner for human rights suggesting that Israel&#39;s actions in Gaza may be classified as war crimes.</p> <p>More demonstrations are expected on Friday, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.</p> <p>Opponents of the Israeli offensive worry that more violence will further mute their message.</p> <p>&ldquo;The protests are against the war, but of course there are some ignorant people who shout slogans against the Jews,&rdquo; said Mohammed Barkat, editor of a magazine for Arabic speakers in Germany. &ldquo;The problem is that the media in Europe is always on Israel&#39;s side &mdash; whether they&#39;re right or wrong.&rdquo;</p> <p>Online debates suggest some believe the shift is part of a deliberate Israeli public relations strategy.</p> <p>Israel is &ldquo;again hiding behind the anti-Semitism flag,&rdquo; said a comment under an <a href="">article</a> in the Huffington Post.</p> <p>&ldquo;The greatest weapon of the Zionists is the term anti-Semitism,&rdquo; added another.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">The Grand Budapest Hotel is actually a department store in Germany</a></strong></p> <p>That perception may have been boosted by some ill-considered remarks by Israel&#39;s ambassador to Germany, whom the Daily Mail quoted as saying, &ldquo;They pursue the Jews in the streets of Berlin&hellip; as if we were in 1938.</p> <p>However, the American Jewish Committee&rsquo;s Berger says the focus on anti-Semitism by the press here is natural given Germany&#39;s history and the recent advances made by far-right parties across Europe.</p> <p>&ldquo;The notion that concerns about anti-Semitism are raised to squash criticism of Israel is a pretty shocking assertion,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a good way to deflect attention from very serious incidents of anti-Semitism.&rdquo;</p> Israel-Gaza Conflict Need to Know Conflict Zones Germany Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:20:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6214364 at Honduran special forces are struggling to keep children from fleeing to the US <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Honduras is a top sender of the historic flow of unaccompanied child migrants to the US. Can this elite security force come to the rescue? </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>CORINTO, Honduras — Clad in flak jackets and bearing automatic rifles and side arms, elite forces are scouring the ragged countryside that straddles this border between Honduras and Guatemala.</p> <p>The officers are used to fighting heavily armed drug cartels and murderous “mara” street gangs. But now they have a new mission: trying to stop the flow of children who are fleeing the country for the <a href="">United States</a> by the thousands.</p> <p>“Honduras is not a prison. This is not an arrest operation. It is more a mission of rescue and information,” says Capt. Miguel Martinez, of the Honduran national police’s version of a SWAT unit, which is leading the campaign.</p> <p>To stress its humanitarian function, officials dubbed the mobilization Operation Rescue Angels.</p> <p>“We are not going to handcuff a child, or a person that is crossing. We identify coyotes [human smugglers], rescue children, give children medical help, give them food and take them to the city to child support facilities.”</p> <p>Also backed by militarized units of the Honduran police known as Cobras and Tigers, the operation comes amid rising heat over the migrant issue.</p> <blockquote class="pullquote"><p><em><span em="" style="font-size: 16px"><strong><u>By the numbers</u></strong><br> -Over 57,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended crossing into the US from Oct. 1 to June 30.<br> -In 2015, officials predict, 145,000 children will be detained.<a href="" target="_blank"><br>More here</a>.<br></span></em></p> </blockquote> <p>US officers have detained more than 57,000 unaccompanied child migrants — from infants to 17-year-olds, mostly from <a href="">Central America</a> — so far this fiscal year. Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday he’s sending out the National Guard to strengthen border security.</p> <p>The presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador will meet with President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss solutions, which could include new aid packages to help Central America keep its children at home.</p> <p><a href="">Mexico</a> has also mobilized federal police and soldiers to round up undocumented Central Americans passing through its territory.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">These are the women helping child migrants make their way to the US (VIDEO)</a></strong></p> <p>But while Honduran migrants are used to dodging Mexican and US forces, it is a new obstacle having to avoid their own police.</p> <p>“Why are they trying to stop us?” asks Osman, a 16-year-old migrant who was recently caught in Mexico and bused back to the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. “I am just trying to survive. There is nothing for me here. My mom is in Miami and I haven’t seen her for four years.”</p> <p>Like many Honduran minors, Osman cites violence, poverty and a separated family as his motives to head to “El Norte,” the north. He says he’d like to go to school there and perhaps join the US Army when he is old enough.</p> <p>However, Capt. Martinez said children are only allowed to leave the country if they have a passport and are accompanied by both parents — or one parent with the signed authorization of the other.</p> <p>That effectively counts out the vast majority heading northward. Some like Osman are traveling unaccompanied, with their parents already in the US. Others are traveling with their mothers but have little contact with their fathers.</p> <p>In other cases, children are traveling with an uncle, cousin or with a family friend. Martinez said this is illegal and those taking minors who aren’t their direct children out of the country could face up to three years in prison.</p> <p><img src="" width="100%"><br><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial,&lt;br /&gt; Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">The Honduran city of San Pedro Sula was the top sender of unaccompanied child migrants caught in the US from January to May. (Screengrab of Homeland Security report via Adam Isacson. <a href="" target="_blank">PDF here</a>.)</span></p> <p>Some parents even entrust young children directly to the coyotes, paying them between $5,000 and $7,000 to deliver them from Honduras to the US.</p> <p>“This is the worst thing that a parent could do,” Martinez says. “We all know the problems that Honduras has — poverty, lack of jobs, crime. But this is not an excuse to send your child with somebody unknown to the United States, a journey that could last from one to five months. People come to me and say they gave their little girl to some coyote called Mario and after five months she hasn’t arrived and he doesn’t answer his phone. What could have happened? She could be a sex slave or in child prostitution. I wouldn’t rule out organ trafficking, or she could be buried in the desert in Mexico.”</p> <p>Martinez said his officers found an 8-month-old whom the smugglers abandoned on a path when the authorities approached.</p> <p>In total, officers have picked up 103 minors since Rescue Angels launched in late June, Martinez says. The main roads and much of the countryside around them have now been secured, he says.</p> <p>US officials said this week that daily detentions of minors at the border have recently reduced. That could indicate Honduras’ effort and others like it in Central American countries and Mexico are having an impact, but it’s difficult to tell.</p> <p>However, the Honduran captain concedes that in the cat-and-mouse game of border security, smugglers and migrants will simply look for new routes. One way is on boats through the Gulf of Honduras, another through mountainous jungles in more remote areas.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Meet the journalist who accuses Mexican presidents of drug cartel links</a></strong></p> <p>Hector Espinal, the Honduras spokesman for the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, says the government is within its rights to enforce its laws on the movement of children. However, he said that it is only a Band-Aid that could temporarily reduce the flow but won't address root causes of the emigration wave.</p> <p>“The governments in Central America need to wake up now to this crisis,” Espinal said. “They need to work harder to reduce the violence here. If they don’t, then more children will be going north, however many police and soldiers are in their path.”</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="800" src="//" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">(Christen Simeral, Medill News Service)</span></p> Americas Want to Know United States Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:22:00 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6214116 at Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigns over coalition break up <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Thursday resigned in a shock move in protest at the disbanding of the ruling parliamentary coalition, plunging the strife-torn nation into political uncertainty.</p> <p>"I announce my resignation in connection with the dissolution of the parliamentary coalition and the blocking of government initiatives," a furious Yatsenyuk told parliament.</p> <p>Yatsenyuk said the "government and the prime minister must resign" after the withdrawal of several parties triggered the break up of the <a href="">European</a> Choice parliamentary majority in a move that paved the way for long-awaited early legislative elections.</p> <p>Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov called on deputies to put forward immediately a candidate for a temporary premier "until parliamentary elections are held."</p> <p>Early parliamentary elections in Ukraine have been expected since the February ouster of Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych following months of deadly protests.</p> <p>The formal dissolution of the majority coalition in Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada gives President Petro Poroshenko the right over the next month to announce a fresh parliamentary poll.</p> <p>Poroshenko had pledged though that the possibility of upcoming elections would not paralyse the work of parliament at a time when Kyiv is struggling to end a bloody separatist insurrection tearing apart the east of the country.</p> <p>del/yad</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:52:34 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6214286 at Mali's president says wreckage of Air Algerie flight has been spotted in the north <!--paging_filter--><p>UPDATE:</p> <p>Reuters — Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said on Thursday that the wreckage of a missing Air Algerie flight had been spotted in his country's desert north.</p> <p>"I have just been informed that the wreckage has been found between Aguelhoc and Kidal," Keita said during a meeting of political, religious and civil society leaders in Bamako. He did not give any more details.</p> <hr><p>Spanish private airline company Swiftair on Thursday said it had lost contact with one of its airplane operated by Air Algerie with 110 passengers and six crew members on board.</p> <p>The company said in a notice posted on its website that the aircraft took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 local time and was supposed to land in Algiers at 0510 local time but never reached its destination.</p> <p>Its six-member crew were all Spanish, said <a href="">Spain</a>'s airline pilots' union Sepla, while Swiftair confirmed the aircraft had gone missing less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou.</p> <p>Many French nationals were thought to be on board the plane, <a href="">France</a>'s Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said in Paris.</p> <p>He said after a government meeting that top civil aviation officials were holding an emergency meeting and a crisis cell had been set up.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Flight path of missing Air Algerie Flight <a href="">#AH5017</a> <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> — BBC News Graphics (@BBCNewsGraphics) <a href="">July 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <p>"The plane disappeared at Gao (in Mali), 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the Algerian border. Several nationalities are among the victims," Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was cited as saying by Algerian radio.</p> <p>Despite international military intervention still under way, the situation remains unstable in northern Mali, which was seized by jihadist groups for several months in 2012.</p> <p>On July 17, the Bamako government and armed groups from northern Mali launched tough talks in Algiers aimed at securing an elusive peace deal, and with parts of the country still mired in conflict.</p> Africa Need to Know Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:31:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse and Thomson Reuters 6213969 at The US has invested tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to try to get Afghans to eat soybeans <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It hasn't worked. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Alexander Cohen and James Arkin, Center for Public Integrity </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>This story was published by <a href="" target="_blank">The Center for Public Integrity</a>, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.</em></p> <p>Afghanistan has a rich culinary tradition, but soybeans have not been a part of it. American agricultural experts who consider soybeans a superfood find this dismaying, and so over the past four years, they have invested tens of millions of US taxpayer dollars to try to change the way Afghans eat.</p> <p>The effort, aimed at making soy a dietary staple, has largely been a flop, marked by mismanagement, poor government oversight and financial waste, according to interviews and government audit documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.</p> <p>Warnings by agronomists that the effort was unwise were ignored. They said the country’s climate is not appropriate for soy cultivation and that its farming culture is ill-prepared for large-scale soybean production. Soybeans are now no more a viable commercial crop in Afghanistan than they were in 2010, when the $34 million program got started, according to a government-funded evaluation of the effort this year.</p> <p>These are the bureaucratic explanations. The ambitious effort also appears to have been undone by a simple fact, which might have been foreseen but was evidently ignored: Afghans don’t like the taste of the soy processed foods. This view survived even the US government’s use of what it called “food technologists” to teach families how soybean products can be used to make tasty meals.</p> <p>As one of the project’s managers said, it was a “risky but honorable endeavor,” meant to improve the nutrition of malnourished Afghans by raising the level of protein in their diets. As such, the project’s problems model the larger shortcomings of the estimated $120 billion US reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, including what many experts depict as ignorance of Afghan traditions, mismanagement and poor spending controls.</p> <p>No one has calculated precisely how much the <a href="">United States</a> wasted or misspent in Afghanistan, but a special congressionally-chartered group known as the Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated in 2011 that it could be nearly a third of the total. A special auditor appointed by President Obama the following year said he discovered nearly $7 billion worth of Afghanistan-related waste in just his first year on the job.</p> <p>“We didn't have a reconstruction effort, we just spent a lot of money,” mostly to get the Afghan military working and keep its government afloat, commented Anthony H. Cordesman, a <a href="">Middle East</a> specialist and former defense intelligence analyst who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonprofit group in Washington. The funds allocated to rebuild the country mostly went to “short-term aid projects, without an assessment of the overall economy, with reliance on contractors. And for most of the time you didn't have effective auditing procedures,” Cordesman said.</p> <p>The Afghan diet reform effort, formally known as the Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal in Afghanistan Initiative, was overseen by the Agriculture Department (USDA) and implemented by the main trade association for the industry, the American Soybean Association. It encountered problems from the start.</p> <p>The first crop failed, and subsequent harvests didn’t produce enough soybeans to operate a special factory in Mazar-e-Sharif — constructed and managed by a nonprofit organization based in Iowa at a cost of at least $1.5 million — that was meant to create a local soybean economy. Afghan farmers participating in the project, discouraged by crop failures, largely abandoned their growing efforts.</p> <p>As a result, the factory has instead been forced to use at least 4,000 metric tons of soybeans imported from America at a cost of more than $2 million. But its operation has been so hobbled by shortages that those involved in the project worry that its equipment could soon be dismantled and sold by its local owner.</p> <p>In March, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko met with project and government employees in the country who told him there is no "significant demand for soybean products in Afghanistan,” as he wrote in a letter the following month to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This should have been expected, since Afghans apparently have never grown or eaten soybeans before,” Sopko wrote.</p> <p>Moreover, those running the program told him that “Afghans don’t like the taste of bread made with soybean flour,” Sopko wrote. He requested that the department turn over all of its internal documents on the program.</p> <p>Then, after reviewing the documents, Sopko wrote Vilsack again in June, expressing alarm that a feasibility study was not performed before the department started spending tens of millions of dollars on the idea, and that it was not halted when problems were flagged in a USDA-financed review this February.</p> <p>“What is troubling about this particular project is that it appears that many of these problems could have been foreseen and, therefore, possibly avoided,” Sopko said.</p> <p>Asked for comment, the Agriculture Department called Sopko’s criticisms “premature.” Spokeswoman Gwen Sparks said, “The project has produced positive results in the direct distribution of soybean products, renovation of irrigation systems and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads.” She also said the effort, slated to end in five months, was modified after the special expert review and would be reexamined before it is extended.</p> <p>But Food for Progress, the USDA program financing the soybean project, has a broader history of mismanagement and oversight failings, according to a March 2014 report by USDA Assistant Inspector General for Audit Gil H. Harden.</p> <p>The program has “significant…management control weaknesses,” Harden said about Food for Progress. His audit did not encompass the soybean project. But 10 of 11 food aid projects it did examine lacked required status reports, and so they could not be properly assessed by those in charge, it said.</p> <p><strong>A large program sprouts from a small taste test</strong></p> <p><img alt="" class="imagecache-gp3_full_article" src="" title=""></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">Soybeans. They weren't made for Afghanistan. (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>By all accounts, the idea for the soybeans-in-Afghanistan endeavor came from Dr. Steven Kwon, a food biochemist who first visited the country eleven years ago, while he was a nutritionist in California with the Nestlé food company, to give a lecture at Balkh University in Mazar-e-Sharif. He became convinced that Afghans needed more protein in their diets, according to Sonia Kwon, his daughter, who handles public relations for the effort.</p> <p>During a subsequent visit to Mazar-e-Sharif, Kwon held a blind taste test between two beverages — one a soy-based product, the other milk-based — with about 20 participants, including university faculty and students, local government officials and community leaders, according to Sonia Kwon. She said that every member of the panel preferred the soy-based product.</p> <p>This tiny, unscientific survey formed the foundation of the US government’s four-year effort to change the Afghan diet, according to multiple sources.</p> <p>To promote his vision of a soybean-filled Afghan future, Kwon formed a nonprofit company called <a href="">Nutrition and Education International</a>, retired from Nestle, and started trying to teach Afghans the wonders of the bean. His funding came solely from private donors, and by 2009 his budget of $752,000 funded small-scale soybean projects in 26 provinces.</p> <p>Eventually, Kwon reached out to Jim Hershey, who runs the American Soybean Association’s longstanding effort to promote the use of soybeans in food aid. They were at a 2008 soybean trade conference in St. Louis when Kwon approached Hershey and said, “Let’s do a project together,” Hershey told the Center in an interview.</p> <p>Kwon said that after Hershey accompanied him on a trip to Afghanistan, Hershey suggested they obtain federal funding for the effort. The trade group was a logical partner. Hershey’s operation, known as the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health, had overseen several dozen food aid projects since its creation in 2000, mostly in <a href="">Central America</a> and Africa — albeit at a comparatively low annual budget of around $2 million. The association has repeatedly touted how such projects create new soy markets.</p> <p>A 2009 project with food processors in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua noted, for example, that “this type of technical assistance … opens the door for increased sales of US soy ingredients.” The program’s chairman, David Iverson, wrote in a 2010 annual report that “three powerful sources influence our compass: More people. More demand for soy protein. More buying power in developing countries.”</p> <p>The association previously had little experience with teaching large-scale soy cultivation, or overseeing the construction of soy protein factories, Hershey acknowledged. But he said the association’s board had approved a strategic plan for 2009-2010 that called for expanding its development work. “We saw it as an opportunity to put our shoulder to the wheel,” Hershey said, distinguishing this aim from “building the demand side of the value chain.”</p> <p>The association had, moreover, forged close ties to officials in Washington.</p> <p>Its annual conference in Washington, typically held at a hotel on Capitol Hill and co-hosted with agriculture giants such as Cargill, Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland, regularly attracts foreign aid officials from USDA and other agencies, as well as lawmakers such as Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, D-Ill., providing its co-sponsors with coveted access to key decision-makers.</p> <p>The USDA did not ask for a feasibility study, Hershey said. So he and Kwon jointly submitted a proposal to USDA in the summer of 2009, where it eventually wound up on the desk of Janet Nuzum, the assistant administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, who signed it. She’s an Obama political appointee and former registered lobbyist for the International Dairy Foods Association, where she was general counsel and vice president for international affairs from 1997 to 2002. In 1999, she and <a href="">Steve Censky</a>, the soy association’s top official, were both members of the same USDA advisory committee on foreign trade agreements.</p> <p>Censky said he did not recall meeting Nuzum there, and Nuzum did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the reasons she signed off on the funding. But Ron Croushorn, director of the Food Assistance Division at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, said in an interview that the department was mostly impressed by what Kwon had accomplished.</p> <p>He said the USDA staff-level evaluator for the proposal noted the absence of any prior feasibility analysis for a major program but hailed the fact that “there had been a lot of work in the soybean sector” in Afghanistan by Kwon’s group.</p> <p>Nuzum and Censky agreed in September 2010 on the scope, duration and funding for the project, making it the second-most costly such grant approved by USDA that year. The contract specified that the project managers would use existing soybean association affiliates as subcontractors. So an Iowa-based nonprofit, SALT International, whose president had done previous work for the association, was brought on board to build and manage the soybean processing factory and train its workers.</p> <p>In December, the first of the project’s three country directors was hired, and Nuzum went to Portsmouth, Virginia, to celebrate the first shipment of 80 tons of American-made soy flour — provided by Cargill — for Mazar-e-Sharif. The program, <a href="">Nuzum wrote</a> on the USDA blog after her visit, would ultimately benefit 400,000 Afghans, and help transform Afghanistan from a “food insecure nation — unable to produce or procure enough food to feed its people.”</p> <p>“It’s more than soy flour,” Nuzum wrote. “For many Afghans, it’s a hope.”</p> <p>A few months later, however, Kwon and his organization — which had played a key role in winning the contract — withdrew from the effort altogether, following a dispute with the trade association over the project’s goals. They couldn’t agree on “strategy and vision,” a program participant said. They “would not have been good partners.”</p> <p>Steven Kwon told the Center in an interview that he disagreed with the soybean association’s demand that farmers sell soybeans to the processing factory, instead of using the product to feed their families at home. “They used us to get the grant and then, when they received the grant, they started dictating, overriding our core value,” Kwon said.</p> <p>Jim Hershey told the Center that Kwon’s group’s insistence on teaching the farmers how to cook soybeans for home use was “a dealbreaker.”</p> <p>“That's their philosophy, but it wasn't the philosophy of this development project,” Hershey said. “The farm is just the first step in the value chain. If the farm is consuming the soybeans, that runs counter to the project."</p> <p>Kwon’s departure in the spring of 2011 — two months before the first planting took place in June — initially left the association without a partner to manage soy production, as well as the cooking and nutrition seminars and soy distribution. Those tasks were subsequently picked up by a nonprofit Minnesota company originally hired to construct and repair roads and irrigation systems, known as Shelter for Life.</p> <p>But “the loss of NEI as the production partner in the first few months of implementation … has had a negative impact on the possibilities for success,” according to the February 2014 independent evaluation of the program financed by USDA, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.</p> <p><strong>Sowing but not reaping</strong></p> <p><img alt="" class="imagecache-gp3_full_article" src="" title=""></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">A farmer harvests wheat, a traditional crop in Afghanistan, on the outskirts of Mazar-e-Sharif. (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>The program ran into early trouble when its new planting managers, who had prior experience in the northern Afghan province of Takhar, decided to plant a soybean seed variety there that required four months to reach maturity. A major snowfall occurred in late September, before the harvest, and most of the crop was lost.</p> <p>“The season in Takhar,” the independent evaluation noted, “is just too short.”</p> <p>As it turns out, a feasibility study conducted three years earlier by a British group, Joint Development Associates International, for the principal British foreign aid organization highlighted the special challenges posed by Afghanistan’s weather patterns. It concluded that “the crop production cycle and available water means that soybeans do not fit profitably into the Afghan farming system.”</p> <p>The group’s report, obtained by the Center, said it “strongly advise[d] against any further encouragement of farmers growing soybeans in Afghanistan.” It bluntly noted that while many government agencies “have been approached by people wanting to promote soybean production,” agreeing to do so would result in “the waste of development funding.”</p> <p>Hershey said he was unfamiliar with the British report until 2013, and that ”had we known about the report, we might have approached things a little bit differently.”</p> <p>According to the independent evaluation for USDA, the Afghans recruited into the US-led effort were predominantly illiterate, small subsistence farmers, who resisted planting soybean seeds as densely as they should have, sharply reducing crop yields. They also had no crop insurance, so the early crop failure due to weather killed their family income.</p> <p>It “put the program in total jeopardy because farmers are told this is going to work, we’ve got your market, and then the crops fail because you don’t have the varieties right,” said Don Dwyer, a private agricultural consultant who has worked on crop substitution in Afghanistan with the US Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense.</p> <p>The independent evaluation, conducted by EnCompass LLC, based in Rockville, Maryland, said that while thousands of farmers received training and planted soybeans in 2011 and 2012, less than 100 of those farmers replanted in 2013.</p> <p>The project’s first country director left in November 2012, and the second left the project on Oct. 15, 2013. The third was the association’s former regional office director in Istanbul; he was teamed with an Afghan spokesperson to serve as a liason to the Afghan government, part of what Hershey called the “Afghanization” of the project.</p> <p>The program also cycled through five chief agronomists over a three-year period, according to the EnCompass report. “It was a revolving door,” one of the project’s members told EnCompass, which concluded that staffing gaps “seem to have undermined implementation.” The report added that those with a stake in the project’s success concluded that “leadership in-country did not have the requisite experience in agriculture or rural development to oversee the project.”</p> <p>The program also ran into a host of troubles that have afflicted other US-led Afghanistan aid programs:</p> <p>·       Shelter for Life staff members were unable to reach some soybean “production areas” due to security risks, which included three kidnapping threats and farmers who responded with guns in hand when the staff attempted to verify that seeds had been received and planted, according to the EnCompass report.</p> <p>·       One of the agronomists quit when Takhar was hit by riots, Hershey said. Bombings there made clear that “we were dealing with a place with all kinds of risks I hadn’t dealt with before,” he said.</p> <p>·       The soybean processing factory was initially supposed to be constructed at an industrial park in Kabul, the capital, but “security issues” there forced its construction instead in Mazar-e-Sharif, roughly 100 miles from where the soybeans were planted, the report said. It said this drove up costs.</p> <p>·       Traditional discrimination made it hard for women to pick up soy shipments and attend sessions meant to train them on using soy flour.</p> <p>Due to these and other problems, indigenous farmers in 2013 produced less than 3 percent of the 4,500 metric tons per year needed for the factory to operate at full capacity.</p> <p>The soybean association responded to the evaluators’ blunt critique that success would take more time — at least five to seven years “to introduce a new crop,” according to the report.</p> <p>But the signs are not good. As of this spring, the report said, the program’s managers still had not figured out a “mechanical” planting method and the best cultivation techniques to increase yields. And data show that soy is not “more profitable than alternative crops,” giving farmers in the program little incentive to keep going.</p> <p>The largest challenge, however, may be the most fundamental one — namely, how to make Afghans appreciate the product’s taste and want to buy it.</p> <p>The soybean association, in its formal response to the evaluation, said it was “in the process of conducting a baking study to determine the optimum amount of low fat soy flour that can be incorporated into Afghan naan [bread] while maintaining total acceptability to local Afghan people.”</p> <p>In the interview, Hershey said that “most of our acceptability work” suggests that making naan with four to five percent soy flour will extend its shelf life without greatly changing its traditional flavor. But many Afghanis, he added, still “aren't ready to pay a little more” for what’s being sold under the label “Strong Naan.”</p> <p><em>Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity.</em></p> <!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. --><!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. --><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="0" src="//" style="border: none; background: transparent; width: 0px; height: 0px;" width="0"></iframe></p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Afghanistan Business Want to Know War Politics United States Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:23:27 +0000 Alexander Cohen and James Arkin, Center for Public Integrity 6213084 at A chain of Thai restaurants is storming the West. But it's no McPadThai <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Does bad Thai food depress you? There’s an upscale Mango Tree coming to a city near you. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ehrlich </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BANGKOK, <a href="">Thailand</a> — Move over, Big Mac. Tom yam kung is storming in.</p> <p> A Thai restaurant that started with one Bangkok outlet has become a global brand in spite of the international fame of Thai cuisine and the fierce competition from family-owned restaurants.</p> <p> “There’s an international boom for Thai food and we aim to be at the vanguard of that boom,” says Pitaya Phanphenonsophon, CEO of Bangkok-based Mango Tree, already considered one of the world’s biggest Thai restaurant brands.</p> <p> What 57-year-old Pitaya started in 1994 has grown into 70 locations in 16 countries worldwide. The company expects to double its annual turnover to $100 million by 2015, growing to 100 restaurants. Pitaya plans further expansion throughout Asia, <a href="">China</a>, the <a href="">Middle East</a>, and Australia. </p> <p>He’s opening his first US location in Washington, DC in October in partnership with celebrity chef Richard Sandoval. Other US locations could include Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami and New York, says Pitaya.</p> <p> “Our success is down to expanding carefully, choosing great partners, having a unique concept, a sound strategy and, above all, a team which believes it itself,” he says, over a flavorful salad of large, juicy grilled prawns mixed with fragrant lemongrass, yam sauce and fresh greens at Mango Tree’s original restaurant — a former colonial mansion built during the reign of King Rama IV almost 100 years ago in Silom, a vibrant district in the Thai capital. The restaurant was named for a mango tree, still here, planted out front.</p> <p> Although Pitaya grew up in a restaurant-running family in Bangkok, the business didn’t interest him at first. Enjoying himself as a university student studying economics in Vancouver, he was in no rush to return. But the distance never ended his “love affair” with Thai food.</p> <p> “Myself and my fellow Asian students missed rice from Thailand. So it all started with a small rice cooker, soy sauce and sweet Chinese sausage. Later, I’d add mushrooms and chicken before moving on to more elaborate recipes,” he says.</p> <p> During his studies his father passed away and Pitaya was called home to take over the restaurant Coca, which serves Chinese-Thai cuisine. At about the same time, the mansion across the lane became available. Pitaya saw an opportunity to branch out.</p> <p> “The first goal was to come up with a new concept so we wouldn’t compete with Coca," he says. "My idea was to make it more home-style cooking with contemporary twists.”</p> <p>Dishes included tom yam scampi, Maine lobster in a rich yellow curry and char-grilled rib eye with chili dipping sauces typical of northeastern Thailand.</p> <p>“Who wants just to copy and paste an idea? We aren’t looking to have hundreds of restaurants everywhere like some chains, just for the sake of numbers. My vision is to plant a Mango Tree in every major city in the world.”</p> <p> But not every planting brought financial fruit. He attributes an initial failure in Shanghai to going in too quickly, without lining up the partners.</p> <p> Opening in London also proved challenging. “We hired a <a href="">British</a> chef who had top credentials running a restaurant," he recalls. "Soon after, I came into the kitchen one morning and saw him eating one of those British breakfasts of sausages, eggs and beans. I asked, 'Why are you eating that?' And he told me he doesn’t like Thai food. He had to go. You can’t work in a restaurant where you don’t enjoy the food you’re cooking.”</p> <p> Adding Trevor MacKenzie to the team, another accidental restaurateur, has benefited the business. MacKenzie is managing director, responsible for marketing and expansion, but his previous skills included being a cowboy in <a href="">Canada</a>’s Rocky Mountains and bartending at night in his native Vancouver.</p> <p> “I bought into the vision right away,” MacKenzie says. “Nobody gets a franchise very easily. When it comes to partner selection it can take up to two years. What I tell them is this is like a second marriage, so please tell your wife that you’re having an affair — because we're very hands on. I also say if you are looking for glamor, forget it. If you're looking for quick money, also forget it.”</p> <p> Hitching up with Sandoval in Washington, DC was "a perfect marriage,” MacKenzie notes. Sandoval, with over 30 Latin restaurants across the <a href="">United States</a>, Europe, <a href="">Mexico</a> and the Middle East, “shares the same philosophies, passions and vision when it comes to creating brands and continuing to push the envelope with innovation,” Pitaya adds.</p> <p>“These are indeed exciting times. I don't know what happens when you mix tom yum kung and tequila, but it's bound to get hot, spicy and a little crazy.”</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets Thailand Thu, 24 Jul 2014 05:10:51 +0000 Paul Ehrlich 6196198 at The Grand Budapest Hotel is actually a department store in Germany, and it’s about to become much grander <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A German entrepreneur aims to revitalize a moribund town in the former East by renovating an Art Nouveau icon. </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>GOERLITZ, Germany &mdash; Standing on a ladder, workman Roland Freund dips his trowel into a bucket of mortar and carefully smoothes a wall under a molding. The work is painstaking and the air choked with dust, but he&rsquo;s happy to be here.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s because he&rsquo;s taking part in a project locals hope will herald the revival of their town in the former East Germany, which industrial decline and an exodus of people has left depopulated and depressed since German reunification in 1990.</p> <p>Expectations are high because this is no ordinary construction project.</p> <p>Recently made famous as the setting for Wes Anderson&#39;s film &ldquo;<a href="">The Grand Budapest Hotel</a>,&rdquo;&nbsp;the Goerlitz department store is a majestic, airy structure with a beautiful leaded glass dome over the atrium, striking brass chandeliers and a grand staircase leading to the balconied terraces of the upper floors. When it opened in 1913, the Art Nouveau establishment <a href="">rivaled</a> London&#39;s Selfridges and Berlin&#39;s Kaufhaus Des Westens (KaDeWe).</p> <p>Recently facing a battle for survival, however, the store is now in the midst of a $30-million facelift financed by entrepreneur Winfried Stoecker, the founder of a multimillion-dollar medical technology company based in nearby Luebeck.</p> <p>He wants to leverage Goerlitz&#39;s growing reputation as a movie-shooting location to help rejuvenate the town, which is among the poorest in Germany.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is crucial for the revitalization of the downtown. But it is also a beacon of hope for the entire city of Goerlitz,&rdquo; says Rainer Mueller, chairman of an earlier citizens&#39; initiative to attract a buyer for the site. &ldquo;With the planned for October 2015 re-opening of the store, the dead heart of the city will begin to beat again.&rdquo;</p> <p>After escaping World War II unscathed, the Goerlitz department store had been closed for years when Anderson chose it for &ldquo;The Grand Budapest Hotel.&rdquo;</p> <p>Even though Goerlitz had managed to <a href="">attract</a> a steady flow of film crews from Hollywood and Germany&#39;s Babelsberg over the years, featuring in &ldquo;The Reader,&rdquo; &ldquo;The Book Thief,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Inglourious Basterds,&rdquo; among other films, the town itself was slowly dying.</p> <p>Like others in former East Germany, it lost many of its young people to the more vibrant West in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Although Siemens and the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier still operate facilities here, unemployment ranges around 12 percent.</p> <p>The elderly outnumber the young and the town ranks dead last among German cities in purchasing power, according to a <a href="">recent study</a> by Germany&#39;s Association for Consumer Research.</p> <p>Many are optimistic the renovation will change that, says Corinna Schneider, the area manager for the German Parfumerie Thiemann, the last company to operate a boutique in the department store.</p> <p>&ldquo;Many people came to Goerlitz especially to see the Kaufhaus,&rdquo; she said, seated at a nearby cafe. &ldquo;They all said they&#39;d be back when it opens.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, it&#39;s hard to make the potential foot traffic numbers add up for retailers, even though locals like Mueller say the time of outward migration is over and tourism figures are up, thanks to the so-called <a href="">Goerliwood</a> phenomenon.</p> <p>On a sunny summer day at least, tables are packed at the swish outdoor restaurants near the Hotel Boerse, where Anderson and actors Jude Law and Ralph Fiennes stayed during the filming of &ldquo;Grand Budapest.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Everyone says this is a pensioners&#39; town, but suddenly stores and kindergartens are opening, so something is definitely happening,&rdquo; says Stefanie Eggers, spokeswoman for the renovation project who notes that 4,000 people turned up for the project&#39;s recent open house.</p> <p>As Stoecker&#39;s team works to attract international brands and smaller boutiques to fill the store&#39;s 70,000-square-foot space, new trends emerging at the end of the European economic crisis present some advantages, says project manager Juergen Friedel.</p> <p>Across the Neisse River from Poland, Goerlitz&#39;s local boutiques are already attracting Czech and Polish shoppers, whose purchasing power and thirst for Western products is growing faster than their hometowns can satisfy. Moreover, the picturesque town lies directly on the route from Poland to the larger city of Dresden, the current shopping Mecca for wealthy Poles.</p> <p>&ldquo;On the motorway, the first exit across the German border from Poland is Goerlitz,&rdquo; Friedel says. &ldquo;We&#39;d like to make sure the Polish people take that exit and don&#39;t go to Dresden.&rdquo;</p> <p> The key to success, however, will be turning the Kaufhaus into a &ldquo;destination store&rdquo; that customers are willing to make the centerpiece of a day trip. In the US, that has mostly worked for megamalls or specialty stores such as Cabela&#39;s outfitters, which incorporates attractions like a simulated trout stream where anglers can test-drive fly rods.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">Here&#39;s the evidence (so far) that pro-Russian separatists shot down MH17</a></strong></p> <p>Friedel says <a href="">Garhammer</a> &mdash; a 65,000-square-foot, family-owned fashion boutique located 60 miles from Munich &mdash; proves that the right package of top products and personalized service can work in Germany, too.</p> <p>Gourmet restaurants, espresso and Prosecco bars and other signature features are planned for every floor, and the team has sketched out ideas for festivals and events to recapture the sense of the department store as a center of sophistication and culture &mdash; as dramatized in the popular ITV series &ldquo;Mr. Selfridge.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, it&rsquo;s a battle to get potential vendors to come look at the place, Friedel says. But if he can get them into town, he adds, most of them bite.</p> <p>&ldquo;Once they see the building and the town,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;they can imagine how nice it will be.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> Kaufhaus Goerlitz Travel/Tourism Business Want to Know Germany Thu, 24 Jul 2014 05:10:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6213321 at Israel is really not happy about those suspended flights <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Authorities say Hamas wins when international carriers stop flying to Ben Gurion. </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><em style="font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 20px;">This post has been updated following the lifting of the FAA ban.</em></p> <p>JERUSALEM, Israel &mdash;&nbsp;The US Federal Aviation Administration&#39;s <a href="">suspension</a> of all US carriers arrivals and departures from Tel Aviv&#39;s Ben Gurion Airport lasted only 36 hours, but hit Israelis like a punch to the gut. &nbsp;</p> <p>Transport Ministry Director General Uzi Itzhaki called it an &quot;unfortunate, miserable decision&quot; and said he hoped it would be reversed quickly.</p> <p>On Wednesday night, when the FAA renewed its directive for a further 24 hours, only 27 out of the hundred carriers that normally serve the bustling airport were active, and the transportation reporter for Israel&#39;s Channel2 news referred to the impasse perhaps hyperbolically as &quot;a national crisis, with tens of thousands of Israelis stuck abroad.&rdquo;</p> <p>By Thursday morning, having &quot;carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,&quot; the FAA <a href=";cid=TW237">announced</a> the ban had been lifted. &nbsp;</p> <p>The FAA&#39;s original decision came after a rocket, it claims &mdash; or merely the shard of one intercepted and shot down by Israel&#39;s anti-missile system Iron Dome, claim Israeli authorities &mdash; fell in the town of <a href="">Yehud</a>, about a mile from the airport.</p> <p>Leisure travel may sound like a luxury during wartime, but for Israelis, the summer season is a sacred thing.</p> <p>So hallowed is the tradition of vacationing during the hot months of summer that some 4,000 Israelis found themselves trapped in Turkey, unable to come home, when European carriers followed suit &mdash; and Israeli airlines, still flying, could not land in Turkey due to a two-month-old travel advisory.</p> <p>The trapped tourists? They had simply ignored the advisory.</p> <p>Late Wednesday night, Israel was organizing an elaborate air and ship convoy using neighboring countries to bring its citizens stuck in Turkey home. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Israelis&#39; sense of their society as open and accessible was dealt a heavy blow by what authorities in Jerusalem universally referred to as an attempt to curtail freedom of movement.</p> <p>&quot;We won&#39;t give Hamas a prize for affecting normal life in Israel,&quot; Itzhaki asserted.</p> <p>Yitzhak Ahaonovich, the minister of internal security, echoed him in an interview with Israel Army Radio, saying, &quot;It&rsquo;s a miserable decision. There was never any danger to the airport. I was there and I know exactly where [the rocket] fell. It is far from the airport.&quot;</p> <p>Many observers assumed the FAA was particularly jumpy only days after a Malaysia Airlines flight was downed over eastern Ukraine, but Giora Romm, the director general of Israel&#39;s Civil Aviation Authority, dismissed the comparisons in frustration.</p> <p>Speaking to Reuters, he <a href="">rejected</a> any association between the relatively primitive ballistic rockets launched out of Gaza and the high-tech missile believed to have downed MH17.</p> <p>&quot;I am a little upset by the hysteria from that rocket [from Gaza],&quot; he said. &quot;One of the most unbelievable arguments is that there is a connection with rockets and the ground-to-air missile that shot down the Malaysian aircraft in Ukraine.&quot;</p> <p>Some observers, such as American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, saw in the FAA decision a victory for the Israeli right, which has long claimed West Bank settlements can never be abandoned because of the danger of an armed Palestinian state mere yards from Israel&#39;s only international airport.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Hamas&#39; victory over Ben-Gurion Airport may very well mean that Israel holds the West Bank forever. Congratulations, everyone.</p> <p> &mdash; Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) <a href="">July 22, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From the opposite perspective, elsewhere in the US, far-right critics of the Obama administration argued that the FAA move was the action of a generally anti-Israel administration, using the FAA to force Israel to a premature ceasefire that would end the Gaza conflict.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Meanwhile, defying the ban, US Secretary of State John Kerry <a href="">landed</a> in Tel Aviv for another leg of his determined pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace.</p> <p>And former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg flew in, too. Earlier he <a href="">declared:</a> &quot;This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel. Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>But the last word of the long night was had by Khaled Meshaal, Hamas&#39;s leader in exile, <a href="">speaking</a> in Doha. It appeared to confirm the opinion of those who believe that Hamas, frustrated by the lack of casualties caused by its constant barrage of rockets &mdash; 80 were launched into Israel on Wednesday, according to the IDF &mdash; and stymied by Israel&#39;s ground assault on its network of tunnels, is trying to hit Israel where it hurts: at its cosmopolitan port.</p> <p>&quot;What is happening in Ben Gurion today is a taste of what we suffer from. Continue to surround us and we will surround you.&quot;</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Middle East Thu, 24 Jul 2014 01:23:00 +0000 Noga Tarnopolsky 6213481 at TransAsia Airways plane crashes in typhoon-hit Taiwan, killing 47 people <!--paging_filter--><p>A domestic TransAsia Airways plane crashed on landing on an island off the west coast of typhoon-hit Taiwan on Wednesday, killing 47 people, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said.</p> <p>The plane, a 70-seat turboprop ATR 72, crashed near the runway with 54 passengers and four crew on board, it said.</p> <p>"It’s chaotic on the scene," director Jean Shen told Reuters.</p> <p>Eleven injured people had been taken to hospital, the government said.</p> <p>The accident happened on one of the Penghu islands, also known as the Pescadores. No more details were immediately available.</p> <p>Typhoon Matmo slammed into Taiwan on Wednesday with heavy rains and strong winds, shutting financial markets and schools.</p> <p>TransAsia Airways is a Taiwan-based airline with a fleet of around 23 Airbus and ATR aircraft, flying chiefly on domestic routes, but with some flights to <a href="">Japan</a>, <a href="">Thailand</a> and Cambodia among its <a href="">Asian</a> destinations.</p> <p>Apart from Wednesday's event, Taiwan's aviation safety council says Transasia has had a total of 8 incidents since 2002, including 6 involving the ATR 72.</p> <p>(Reporting by Faith Hung and Michael Gold; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:17:37 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6213113 at Red Cross worker in Gaza: 'The psychological wounds are many' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Q&amp;A: Maria Cecilia Goin describes the mounting difficulties in providing aid to civilians in Gaza. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Indrani Basu </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>More than <a href="">600 people have died in Gaza</a> since a wave of new violence between Palestinians and Israelis erupted two weeks ago. The United Nations estimates that over three quarters of those dead in Gaza are civilians, with at least a hundred of them children. A hospital that was hit by <a href="">Israeli</a> shells on Monday, Al-Aqsa Hospital, claimed five more lives, and injured over 70 people.</p> <p>The fighting in the region during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan has robbed people of basic utilities like water and electricity, and made many others homeless. Aid workers in Gaza told GlobalPost that more than 90,000 people are currently without any water supply, and 18-hour power cuts have become the norm. The bombing intensifies during night, according to one aid worker, terrifying locals who can barely sleep until there is a relative lull after sunrise. And hundreds of people have taken shelter in basements, schools and hospitals.</p> <p>The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been working in Gaza since the recent fighting began, providing medical and infrastructural support to local aid workers. GlobalPost spoke with ICRC’s spokesperson Maria Cecilia Goin, who is in Gaza, to learn more about the organization’s efforts.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p> <strong>GlobalPost: What kind of aid work have you been involved in, in the past couple of weeks?</strong></p> <p>Maria Cecilia Goin<strong>:</strong> The intensity of the violence and hostilities has affected the entire population here. For the Red Cross, the priority at the moment is to do immediate evacuation of the sick and wounded so that they can receive medical attention. We are really working hard in the care and treatment of civilians, which is top priority.</p> <p>We are also trying to coordinate the repairs of vital infrastructure on the streets, including water sanitation and electricity. Thousands of people in Gaza right now have no electricity in their houses. We are helping the local authorities to repair the facilities that were damaged by shelling and fighting.</p> <p>We have a Red Cross surgeon in the main hospital – Al-Shifa – to help with people who are wounded. People also call us when there are people wounded in the family. We need to arrange with both the Hamas and Israeli government before going with ambulances and taking the injured people to hospital.</p> <p><strong>Your team went to the Al-Aqsa Hospital yesterday after Israeli shells damaged it. What did you see?</strong></p> <p>As soon as we got the information about yesterday’s shelling of Al-Aqsa we sent a team of experts. This was to do an evaluation of the situation and the extent of the damage and also to check if the hospital authorities needed the Red Cross. By the time we arrived they had managed to evacuate everybody. We spoke to the medical team there and they are concerned that the area around the hospital is becoming dangerous. This hospital is located in the middle of Gaza and is a reference hospital, which is unique in the region. The patients have to go to the hospital but they are too afraid. The capacity of the medical system is also under a lot of stress.</p> <p><strong>What kind of difficulties are you facing while doing the relief work in the area?</strong></p> <p>We work jointly with the Palestinian Red Cross Society in the area in Gaza where fighting is going on. It is difficult to reach people in need while the fighting is taking place. It is easier to go to some of the other places where fighting has subsided. We take ambulances there and transfer the injured to hospitals.</p> <p>It may seem obvious to you that every person who is sick or injured should be able to rush to the hospital. But that is not happening because of the ongoing fighting.</p> <p>We have to inform Hamas and the Israeli authority each time we need to go into the area where fighting is taking place. We have to be ready outside where fighting is happening, informing them how many ambulances and aid workers will be going inside. But the coordination is not easy; it takes a lot of time to get approval from both sides.</p> <p>The staff is working round the clock to help the injured. They are working as much as they can but they are under a lot of pressure. Dozens of the ambulance drivers continue working till night. Last week, two local municipal technicians went to fix a water line and died because of shelling.</p> <p>The hospitals and medical personnel must be respected under international humanitarian law, as well as civilians who should be protected under the law.</p> <p><strong>What is the condition of the civilians that you have seen in the past few days?</strong></p> <p>Hundreds and thousands of the locals are staying in UN schools. Others are living in schools run by the Ministry of Education. While many people have lost their lives, the entire population is in panic. Because Gaza is such a small area, the psychological wounds are many.</p> <p>This is the third war that the Gaza population is facing in the past six years. The inhabitants are quite strong but there is a lot of frustration because they are not allowed to go out into the streets. Several have lost their relatives, their houses.</p> <p>Everyone is tense because they don’t know when the hostilities will finish.</p> <p><em>This interview has been edited for clarity. </em></p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Palestinians seek UN inquiry into Israel assault on Gaza</a></strong></p> <p class='u'></p> The Gaza Strip Israel and Palestine Health Rights Global Pulse Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:20:00 +0000 Indrani Basu 6212350 at Ukraine says pro-Russian separatists have shot down 2 fighter jets <!--paging_filter--><p>Pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets on Wednesday, not far from where a Malaysian airliner was brought down last week in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers on board.</p> <p>A spokesman for Ukraine's military operations said the planes were downed near Savur Mogila, a burial mound in the Shaktersky region where a memorial marks ambushes by the Soviet army on occupying Nazis during World War Two.</p> <p>He said he did not have any information about the pilots.</p> <p>Igor Strelkov, who is now in charge of the rebel ranks in the eastern city of Donetsk, said the separatists had brought down one plane and that the pilot had ejected. He gave no further details.</p> <p>Fierce fighting raged near the rebels' two main centers in Donetsk and nearby Luhansk, where they have been pushed back by Ukrainian government forces, who have taken control of villages and suburbs around the cities.</p> <p>Earlier on Tuesday, Kyiv said the separatists were leaving their positions on the outskirts of Donetsk and retreating towards the city center.</p> <p>Residents said the rebels, who rose up in April demanding independence from Kyiv in the mainly Russian-speaking east, had dug trenches in downtown Donetsk outside the main university, where they have been living in student dormitories.</p> <p>"In Donetsk, rebels abandoned their positions en masse and went towards the central part of the city," the headquarters of what Kyiv calls its "anti-terrorist operation" said in a statement.</p> <p>"It cannot be ruled out that the appearance of such movements could suggest the spread of panic and attempts to leave the place of warfare."</p> <p>Residents said they had heard shelling during the night and a shell struck a chemical plant in the city, causing a fire.</p> <p>Local health officials said 432 people had been killed and 1,015 wounded since hostilities started in the Donetsk region following the removal of a president in Kiev who was sympathetic to Moscow and after <a href="">Russia</a>'s annexation of the Crimea region.</p> <p>(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:37:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6212931 at HIV pill: Progress or setback? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> New WHO recommendation on prevention medicine highlights debate about how to end the virus for good. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jessica Mendoza </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The World Health Organization&rsquo;s new recommendation that men who have sex with men should consider taking preventive medicine to help avoid HIV infection has renewed debate in the global health community about the best way to combat the disease.</p> <p>In <a href=";ua=1 ">a set of guidelines on HIV treatment, care and prevention </a>released this month, the WHO announced for the first time that among men who have sex with men, PrEP &ndash; short for pre-exposure prophylaxis &ndash; &ldquo;is recommended as an additional HIV prevention choice within a comprehensive HIV prevention package.&rdquo; Such a package should include monthly HIV testing, counseling and condom use, according to the report, published just ahead of the 20th&nbsp;<a href=" ">International AIDS Conference</a>, which started July 20 in Melbourne.</p> <p>The announcement met a mixed response, with some AIDS experts and advocates saying that the recommendation is a step forward in HIV prevention strategies. Critics argued, however, that encouraging the use of PrEP could result in a drop in condom use and reverse existing prevention and treatment efforts.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>PrEP involves the regular intake of a pill containing the drugs tenofovir and emtricitabine (TDF/FTC), both already used to treat HIV infection. The pill, marketed as Truvada, acts as a barrier against infection, preventing the virus from taking permanent hold in case of exposure. When taken consistently, it could cut the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent, <a href="http://">according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a>.</p> <p>&ldquo;Anyone at risk for HIV should consider PrEP for additional prevention,&rdquo; said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the international nonprofit AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC).</p> <p>When taken daily and combined with other prevention methods, PrEP is a powerful tool in efforts against HIV, Warren said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Other experts who support the new recommendations also touted the need to inform the public about their prevention options, including PrEP.</p> <p> &ldquo;There needs to be much more aggressive public education about how and why PrEP should be used,&rdquo; said Carl Sciortino, executive director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC), a nonprofit based in Boston. &ldquo;It helps organizations [like ours] to educate the community, and it helps individuals make informed decisions.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still even PrEP proponents have concerns about the preventative medicine.&nbsp;Because the WHO&rsquo;s recommendation is restricted to men who have sex with men, Warren said, it could unintentionally boost the perception that PrEP is only for gay men. That concept could curb PrEP&rsquo;s future impact on other populations, such as heterosexual women in developing regions who remain at high risk for the disease, he added.</p> <p>Then there are those who outright oppose the WHO recommendation.</p> <p>Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based advocacy group AIDS Healthcare Foundation <a href="">told National Public Radio</a>: &quot;If people are taking this medication, they&#39;re definitely not going to use condoms. And if they&#39;re not taking it regularly, they&#39;re not going to be protected when they think they are. We would have many, many more infections in this country &ndash; particularly among men who have sex with men &ndash; if no one was using condoms. And we can do harm by telling people that you can pop this pill.&quot;</p> <p>The medical community doesn&rsquo;t know enough about Truvada to be &ldquo;raving so uncritically and warning so little,&rdquo; wrote Larry Kramer, a gay rights advocate and playwright who is living with HIV, <a href="http://">in a column for The New York Times</a>.</p> <p>The debate surrounding PrEP is an extension of discussions among advocates and the medical community about the best ways to tackle HIV &ndash; and whether the time, resources and cash going into the HIV/AIDS effort should focus on prevention or on treatment.</p> <p>By the end of last year, about 13 million people were on antiretroviral therapy (ART), the most common treatment method for the disease, according to the WHO. AIDS-related deaths around the world dropped by 30 percent between 2005 and 2012, based on the latest&nbsp;<a href=" ">UNAIDS report</a>.</p> <p>But prevention efforts continue to lag especially for what the WHO calls key &ndash; or high-risk &ndash; populations: Men who have sex with men, people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers and transgender individuals. These same populations and their partners make up a big chunk of new HIV infections. For instance, prevalence among people who inject drugs is 22 times higher among non-syringe users, <a href="">according to the Foundation for AIDS Research</a>. In low- and middle-income countries, men who have sex with men are 19 times and female sex workers are almost 14 times more likely to have HIV than the rest of the population.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Yet only 70 percent of countries surveyed for the WHO&rsquo;s new guidelines have programs in place that cater to the needs of men who have sex with men and sex workers. The figure drops to 40 percent for people who inject drugs. Transgender people are almost never mentioned in HIV strategies, according to the health organization.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>More than 2 million people are still newly infected every year, the WHO estimates.</p> <p>Scaling up efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in key populations is an essential issue at the 2014 International AIDS Conference, which has pushed forward with its agenda despite the death of at least six delegates in the fatal crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 late last week.&nbsp;</p> <p>This year&#39;s theme is &ldquo;Stepping Up the Pace.&quot; There needs to be &ldquo;more effective and intensive interventions in &#39;hotspots&#39; where Key Affected Populations (KAPs) are being left behind,&quot; according to the official conference website. &quot;There is the need to involve KAPs and address the stigma and discrimination which they face, including punitive government policies.&quot;</p> <p>Advocates such as AVAC&rsquo;s Warren say that to stem the epidemic, the focus should be on expanding options and combining strategies for both treatment and prevention &ndash; including PrEP.</p> <p>&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t treat our way out. We also can&rsquo;t prevent our way out. No one of those interventions alone is enough,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>&ldquo;Until there is a vaccine or a cure,&rdquo; AAC&rsquo;s Sciortino added, &ldquo;we continue to have a public health obligation to promoting education and access to care, treatment, and prevention, including PrEP.&rdquo;</p> <p>For some, however, the discussion itself is an added benefit of the WHO&rsquo;s announcement: The more people talk about HIV, the better it is for efforts to fight the disease, Renato Barucco, head of the Transgender Family Program at Community Healthcare Network, <a href=" ">wrote for The New York Times</a>. It&rsquo;s a call for action to keep educating the public, he said in the article.</p> <p>&ldquo;PrEP generates debates that allow people to gather information, learn about HIV, consider possibilities and reflect on the complexity of human sexuality,&rdquo; Barucco wrote. &ldquo;I welcome PrEP.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href=" ">The case for taking one pill a day to prevent HIV</a></strong><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> HIV/AIDS Health Global Pulse Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:18:08 +0000 Jessica Mendoza 6211868 at EU holds off announcing new Russia sanctions <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Europe continues an incremental approach toward Moscow despite public outrage over MH17. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal — A meeting of <a href="">European</a> Union foreign ministers on Tuesday produced no immediate new sanctions in response to the killing of 298 people on flight MH17, but the EU says it is moving toward tougher measures that could include restricting defense exports and limiting <a href="">Russia</a>'s access to capital markets.</p> <p>The EU is set to approve an expanded list of individuals, companies and entities to be hit with travel bans and asset freezes on Thursday.</p> <p>At the same time, EU experts will present proposals for wider sanctions, "including on access to capital markets, defense, dual use goods, and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector," said a statement from the 28 ministers after their meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels.</p> <p><a href="">Polish</a> foreign minister Radek Sikorski — among the leading voices calling for strong European action — said the decision "should make President Putin realize that this time we're for real, that this is serious."</p> <p>However, the incremental nature of the European response is a disappointment to those who had hoped for quick action. Britain had appealed for an EU arms embargo while Lithuania asked for the Russian-backed groups who have seized parts of eastern Ukraine to be blacklisted as terrorist organizations.</p> <p>Frans Timmermans, the foreign minister of <a href="">the Netherlands</a> — which lost 193 people in the apparent missile strike over Ukraine — declined to directly answer a journalist's question about whether he was satisfied with the EU decision.</p> <p>"I'm happy with the fact that so many of my colleagues expressed solidarity and support for the victims and their loved ones," he said after the meeting. "I'm also happy that we did take a decision that is, I think, quite forceful and we reached this decision unanimously."</p> <p>Getting unanimity on more direct action proved impossible.</p> <p>On the eve of the meeting, <a href="">French</a> President Francois Hollande made clear he would resist pressure from several EU nations to suspend the planned delivery to Russia of a high-tech warship — designed to carry surface-to-air missiles and attack helicopters — which is currently being constructed in a French shipyard.</p> <p>"The deal was concluded in 2011, the ship is almost finished and it must be delivered in October," Hollande was quoted telling reporters in Paris. "The Russians have paid, we'd have to pay them back 1.1 billion [euros, or $1.5 billion]."</p> <p>Hollande did, however, suggest the delivery of a second Mistral class assault vessel planned for 2016 would depend on "Russia's attitude."</p> <p>Earlier on Monday, <a href="">British</a> Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament in London that it would be "unthinkable" for Britain to consider delivering a warship to Russia under similar circumstances.</p> <p>French officials retorted that Cameron should focus more on cracking down on Russia's use of the City of London's financial markets, BP energy deals and London's role as a playground for Russian oligarchs.</p> <p>Britain’s finance minister, George Osbourne, on Monday said London was now prepared to take an economic hit in order to increase pressure on Putin.</p> <p>The range of areas the EU is looking at could include limiting Russian access to European capital markets, which could further harm the country's recession-hit economy.</p> <p>Restricting so-called dual-use exports that might have military purposes and the sale of high-tech goods to Russia's key energy sector could also have a serious impact.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Here's all the evidence (so far) that pro-Russian separatists shot down MH17</a></strong></p> <p>And there may yet be an EU arms embargo, albeit one that excludes the French warships by covering only new military contracts.</p> <p>Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini — who has been criticized for taking too soft a line due to <a href="">Italy</a>'s close energy ties with Russia — said the imposition of economic sanctions looked "inevitable" unless Putin displays a major turnaround.</p> <p>To avoid sanctions, the EU wants the Kremlin to ensure that Russian-backed fighters in eastern Ukraine cooperate with the international investigation into the missile attack, end the flow of weapons and fighters over the border, and withdraw Russian forces massed close to Ukraine.</p> <p>But there will be no be automatic adoption of economic sanctions. Some officials said a new summit of EU leaders would be needed for that. </p> MH17 Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:20:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6212162 at The Kremlin digs in its heels <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the international community pressures Russia over MH17, attitudes in Moscow appear to be hardening. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, <a href="">Russia</a> — Vladimir Putin didn’t even wait for the conclusions of a meeting of Russia’s Security Council on Tuesday to denounce alleged Western meddling in Ukraine and reassert the need to bolster his country’s military capabilities.</p> <p>That’s because the Russian president’s position on last week’s downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was already clear: Despite receiving major international flak for the incident, the Kremlin is accepting no responsibility.</p> <p>Since the crash — which much of the world has pinned on the Russian-backed separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine — an alternate narrative has played out over the airwaves and through official channels here placing the blame on Ukraine’s doorstep and diminishing Moscow’s alleged support of the rebels.</p> <p>The state-run media — where most Russians get their news — has provided the first line of defense, running reports implicating the Ukrainian military in the crash.</p> <p>Conspiracy theories have been given unusual prominence, with one even suggesting that Putin’s plane was the target.</p> <p>On Monday, a group of dour-faced Russian generals gathered to present what they said was evidence linking Kyiv to the tragedy.</p> <p>Exhibit A, said Lieutenant General Andrei Kartapolov, a senior general staff officer, were data he said indicated that a Ukrainian fighter jet armed with air-to-air missiles was trailing the doomed Malaysia liner shortly before its crash.</p> <p>Kartapolov pointed to satellite imagery he claimed revealed the location of Ukrainian missile systems — the same type allegedly used to down MH17 — within functional range of the plane.</p> <p>In an apparent attempt to soothe international outrage, Putin announced on Tuesday that he would respond to calls urging him to use Moscow’s leverage over the rebels, who still control two key eastern Ukrainian cities.</p> <p>But he also issued a stern reprimand to Western officials over what he calls foreign influence in Ukraine’s crisis.</p> <p>“Russia is being presented with what is almost an ultimatum: ‘Let us destroy this part of the population that is ethnically and historically close to Russia and we will not impose sanctions against you,’” he said at the Security Council meeting, referring to the Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east.</p> <p>“This is a strange and unacceptable logic.”</p> <p>The piling up of evidence in recent days that appears to point to the rebels’ accidental downing of the plane — including alleged phone intercepts between rebel leaders released by Ukraine’s security service — has helped bolster public opinion against the Kremlin.</p> <p>Some Kremlin critics believe the crash has raised the stakes for Moscow in its standoff with Western countries and pushed Putin into an uncomfortable corner. However, Kremlin supporters suggest officials here are less concerned about the heat they’re getting from abroad.</p> <p>“The category of ‘global public opinion’ is a bit broader than those who are convinced that Russia is to blame for this tragedy,” said Alexei Mukhin of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information.</p> <p>Many officials and observers here argue that Ukraine is presenting flawed evidence aimed at maintaining Western support.</p> <p>“You can cast as much doubt as you’d like over the facts and explanatory materials presented by the Ministry of Defense,” said Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Kremlin-linked Institute for the Commonwealth of Independent States, referring to Monday’s meeting of Russia’s military leadership.</p> <p>“But only in the case that other facts and materials contradict them, and not some video clips from the internet or clearly falsified conversations between whoever.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Here's the evidence (so far) that pro-Russian separatists shot down MH117</a></strong></p> <p>Like many others here, Zharikhin suggests at least part of the blame belongs to Ukraine.</p> <p>“In the end, no matter what anyone says, the Malaysian airliner crashed on Ukrainian territory, and the Ukrainian government carries responsibility for that.”</p> <p>As <a href="">European</a> Union officials prepare to announce new sanctions against Russia this week, such words seem to indicate the standoff with Russia will only deepen.</p> MH17 Need to Know Conflict Zones Russia Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:00:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6212138 at MH17 is changing Europe's game on Russia <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Outrage over the downed airliner is pushing the EU toward tougher sanctions, but divisions remain over just how hard to hit Putin. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal — Media reports compounded the anguish in <a href="">the Netherlands</a> on Monday with the information that the Russian company that exports missile systems of the type suspected of downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 operates an Amsterdam office in order to profit from Dutch international tax loopholes.</p> <p>"Supplier of the MH17 rocket sits in Amsterdam's Zuidas," said a headline in the daily De Volkskrant, referring to the Dutch capital's business district.</p> <p>The paper cited a report from an investigative website that says an office in Amsterdam is linked to the Russian conglomerate Rostec, whose complex web of subsidiaries includes the arms exporter that sells BUK anti-aircraft missiles.</p> <p>Russian companies and their oligarch owners are among the most enthusiastic users of Dutch fiscal laws enabling international businesses to recycle profits and avoid national taxes.</p> <p>Tens of billions of Russian dollars flowing through the Netherlands — and other fiscally relaxed European Union countries such as Cyprus, Luxembourg and <a href="">Ireland</a> — go some way toward explaining why the EU is finding it so difficult to impose hard-hitting sanctions against Moscow.</p> <p>EU officials will try again on Tuesday. This time, several leaders are insisting that the outrage over MH17 means they'll finally have to take meaningful action against Vladimir Putin's regime.</p> <p>"It is time to make our power, influence and resources felt," <a href="">British</a> Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.</p> <p>"Russia cannot expect to keep on enjoying access to European markets, European capital, European knowledge and technical expertise while she fuels conflict in one of Europe's neighbors," he told parliament in London. "We must do what is necessary to stand up to Russia."</p> <p>Cameron said French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with him that Tuesday's meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels should set tougher sanctions in place.</p> <p>However, it's not clear that they will back Cameron's specific proposals. They include an arms embargo on Russia, widening asset freezes and travel bans on individuals to include "cronies and oligarchs" close to Putin, and so-called "third-tier" sanctions that would target sensitive sectors of the Russian economy.</p> <p><a href="">France</a> in particular has been reluctant to consider an arms embargo as it prepares to hand over two high-tech Mistral warships to Moscow under a $1.65-billion contract. Around 400 Russian navy operatives arrived in France in June to begin training on the first of the ships.</p> <p>Merkel on Sunday joined voices suggesting France should suspend the contract, and Cameron said it would be "unthinkable" for Britain to consider making such a delivery to Russia under the current circumstances.</p> <p>However, in recognition of French reluctance, it's expected the proposals for an EU arms embargo to be debated Tuesday will exclude existing contracts.</p> <p>Since the downing of the Malaysian airliner with the loss of 298 people, Cameron has emerged as the loudest voice calling for a tougher EU approach toward Russia, joining hawks such as <a href="">Poland</a>, Sweden and the Baltic states.</p> <p>Britain had previously held back, cautious about the $46 billion worth of Russian stock invested in London, British energy investments in Russia's oil and gas fields, and "Londongrad's" role as the playground of choice for big-spending Russian tycoons.</p> <p>Cameron dodged a question about that Monday, saying only that a crackdown on Russians' access to London's financial center was something that should be considered and would not hold back a stronger EU stance. His finance minister, George Osbourne, insisted Britain is prepared to take an economic hit to put pressure on Putin.</p> <p>Among the other backers of a tough line, Lithuania said it wants Tuesday's meeting to blacklist Russian-linked separatists in eastern Ukraine as terrorist organizations, a move that could have serious implications for their backers in the Kremlin.</p> <p>There are doubts, however, over how far others are prepared to go in taking Putin on.</p> <p>Hollande has stressed that decisions should be made only after an international inquiry has ascertained full details of what happened to the plane. The Italian government has limited itself to saying Europe must have a united position.</p> <p><a href="">Germany</a>'s main business lobby had warned the day before the missile strike about the impact of additional sanctions that were already under discussion by the EU. It noted German exports to Russia had already fallen by 14 percent in the first four months of 2014 — to $13.5 billion.</p> <p>However, the mood in Germany has hardened. German media are calling for soccer's governing body FIFA to reverse a decision to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia.</p> <p>Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appears to have joined the hawks after the slaughter of 192 Dutch citizens aboard the flight. "All political, economic and financial options are on the table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible," he said over the weekend.</p> <p>Until last week, the Netherlands had been one of the EU countries most wary of confronting Putin.</p> <p>The Dutch have worked hard to woo Russian business: 2013 was declared Dutch-Russian Friendship Year, harking back four centuries to when Czar Peter the Great took inspiration from the Netherlands to modernize the Russian Empire.</p> <p>Human rights violations were overlooked as Putin was invited to the Netherlands and the Dutch royals headed for a state visit in Moscow.</p> <p>King Willem-Alexander was back in Russia in February. While human rights and Ukraine led many Western leaders to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Dutch monarch knocked back Heineken with Putin and Rutte attended the opening ceremony.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Russia isn&rsquo;t an immutable force</a></strong></p> <p>"There has been a lot of hypocrisy in the Dutch attitude to Russia," says Michiel van Hulten, a Brussels-based consultant on EU affairs and former chairman of the Dutch Labor Party.</p> <p>"They ... refused to take any measures that would damage economic relations," he said in a telephone interview. "Dutch society is now being confronted with those double standards and it's clear which way things are going to go because this is a kind of 9/11 for the Netherlands."</p> <p>Sympathy for the Dutch, van Hulten added, could see <a href="">Italy</a>, Germany and other soft-line EU members joining the Netherlands in toughening their stance on sanctions.</p> MH17 Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:42:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6211200 at The FBI is entrapping Americans and charging them as terrorists, according to a new report <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School have confirmed all your worst fears about how the US government handles terrorism cases. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School have <a href="">just released a damning report</a> in which they accuse the US government of repeated abuses in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases.</p> <p>Duh, right?</p> <p>Well, you might still be surprised by the report's most troubling allegation: that US government agents, by employing methods of investigation that border on entrapment, have actively encouraged ordinary <a href="">Americans</a> to become terrorists.</p> <p>The HRW and HRI focused their investigation on 27 post-9/11 terrorism cases involving 77 defendants. They based their report on information from court documents, publicly available documents, Freedom of Information Act requests, and more than 215 interviews with people involved in terrorism cases, including defendants, lawyers, family members, academics, and government officials.</p> <p>They found a pattern of encouragement, facilitation, and grooming of targets that's worrying if not illegal.</p> <p>“Indeed, in some cases,” the report claims, “the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act... All the high-profile domestic terrorism plots of the last decade, with four exceptions, were actually sting operations, splots conducted with the direct involvement of law enforcement informants or agents, including plots that were proposed or led by informants.”</p> <p>A former FBI agent, Michael <a href="">German</a>, explained it to HRW and the HRI this way:</p> <blockquote><p>Today’s terrorism sting operations reflect a significant departure from past practice. When the FBI undercover agent or informant is the only purported link to a real terrorist group, supplies the motive, designs the plot and provides all the weapons, one has to question whether they are combatting terrorism or creating it. Aggrandizing the terrorist threat with these theatrical productions only spreads public fear and divides communities, which doesn’t make anyone safer."</p> </blockquote> <p>Take the case of Hosam Smadi. The FBI began investigating Smadi in Jan. 2009 because he'd been posting to jihadist discussion boards. FBI agents intiated contact with him online, and during these early conversations, Smadi insisted that he didn’t want to hurt innocent people and was unsure about violent jihad. The FBI placed him in the “first stage of the radicalization process known as pre-radicalization,” but rather than discourage further radicalization, the agents actively pushed him toward violence.</p> <p>After months of encouragement and conversation, Smadi agreed to participate in a terrorist act. He'd plant a bomb in the parking garage below a large Dallas building. When the day arrived, he deposited the explosive, which the FBI agents had made, and then met an undercover agent in a car. There he dialed a number into his cell phone, believing that it would detonate the device. He was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and sentences to 24 years in prison.</p> <p>What would have happened to Smadi if the FBI had just left him alone?</p> <p>The HRW and HRI report finds lots of other reasons to be concerned about the handling of terrorism investigations and prosecutions. Check out <a href="">the report</a> and you'll find plenty of information about the use of "material support" charges, the admission of various types of inappropriate evidence, and the reliance on pre-trial solitary confinement.</p> Counterterrorism Americas Want to Know United States Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:47:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6210943 at