GlobalPost - Home C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en 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 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<br> 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 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 hit 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 Malaysian 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>Even 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, was 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 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 17:00:42 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6212138 at Chatter: Israel's US ambassador says Israel deserves Nobel for 'unimaginable restraint' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestinian death toll tops 600, there's more talk about EU sanctions on Russia and watch the video that's making North Korea reeeeally mad. </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 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5942065 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 UN reports 21.8 million infants weren't vaccinated in 2013 <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Reducing this figure will require improving vaccine transportation and storage and rethinking aid, health experts say. </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>Nearly 22 million infants around the world were not vaccinated last year that should have been, according to a <a href="">report</a> released last week by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The startling number underscores the need for innovations in vaccination storage and a critical re-think of existing vaccine aid programs, health advocates said.</p> <p>Though more than 111 million infants were vaccinated last year, WHO estimates that figure accounts for only 84 percent of the world&rsquo;s children &ndash; and in fact, some experts say the proportion could be even lower.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>Most of the children who don&rsquo;t receive vaccines are from countries in Africa and South East Asia, even though international aid has been directed there for years. India alone accounted for <a href="">6.9 million unvaccinated infants</a>. Loopholes in economic support and governmental policies make it difficult for vaccines to reach these countries, but they could be rectified, say advocacy and humanitarian aid groups.</p> <p>&ldquo;We need to critically see how we are supporting the vaccine process,&rdquo; said Kate Elder, the vaccines policy advisor for the M&eacute;decins Sans Fronti&egrave;res (MSF) Access Campaign. &ldquo;We need the tools to take vaccines to some of the places that are off the electrical grid &ndash; such as more heat stable vaccines &ndash; but these are yet not available to health workers.&rdquo;</p> <p>The vaccination numbers in 2013 fall short of the goal set by the Global Vaccine Action Plan, a campaign endorsed by the global health community in 2012. That plan, according to WHO, has a target of achieving 90 percent coverage for all vaccines by 2020 in order to save millions of lives.</p> <p>&ldquo;We face a challenge in closing the gap between 84 percent and 90 percent,&rdquo; said Michel Zaffran, coordinator of WHO&rsquo;s Expanded Programme on Immunization, in a press release last week. &ldquo;It is hard for [countries] to reach all children including those in remote areas or in urban slums.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, the &lsquo;84 percent&rsquo; figure does not even give the true picture of the status of immunization in the world, said Eric Starbuck, advisor for Save The Children&rsquo;s department for Health &amp; Nutrition. Rather, it is a proxy measurement that uses coverage of one trivalent vaccine &ndash; the third dose of a vaccine called DTP that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis &ndash; as an estimate of immunization coverage.</p> <p>&ldquo;That is a summary kind of estimate that&rsquo;s been used for a long time,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It only tells part of the story.&rdquo;</p> <p>If the WHO tracked coverage for all 11 vaccines now recommended for all infants, the percentage &ldquo;would be a much, much lower figure,&rdquo; Starbuck said.</p> <p><strong><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Why aren&rsquo;t children getting vaccines?&nbsp;</span></strong></p> <p>Experts say the reasons why children miss critical vaccines are multi-layered.</p> <p>While weak health systems are the primary reason for low vaccine coverage in developing countries, a major factor is the difficulty in reaching these children &ndash; many areas aren&rsquo;t accessible due to poor roads, are mired in political conflict, or simply have no source for electricity, creating logistical challenges in carrying and storing vaccines, said Tamara Kummer, spokesperson for UNICEF&rsquo;s Immunization department.</p> <p>Currently, vaccines need to be stored at cold temperatures up until the dose is actually administered to a child. This becomes especially hard in countries with no transport facilities or electricity. UNICEF has introduced solar powered refrigerators in some countries, but it is still a challenge to transport the vaccines in cold temperatures in tropical areas, said Kummer. However,&nbsp;<a href="">recent research</a> indicates that some vaccines could be stored outside these cold temperatures, and experts are urging manufacturers to study this approach.</p> <p>Aid can help improve the supply chain for vaccines, but even how aid is decided for some of these countries, is a problem, said MSF&rsquo;s Elder.</p> <p>For instance, the <a href="">GAVI Alliance</a>&nbsp;&ndash; a public-private partnership that funds vaccines for over 70 of the world&#39;s poorest countries &ndash; will be phasing out Nigeria from its vaccination aid program because the country has reached a higher economic level. This is despite the fact only 58 percent of Nigerian children received the third dose of the DTP vaccination in 2013, according to WHO figures.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is not enough to say that since a country has hit a critical economic threshold they no longer need this aid&hellip; GAVI needs to more critically think of the parameters used to make this decision,&rdquo; said Elder. &ldquo;Many of these countries are only wealthy on paper but their programmatic development hasn&#39;t been at the same pace, nor do they have the adequate resources to absorb the high price of new vaccines.&rdquo;</p> <p>Another concern is that WHO immunization recommendations are not always implemented, such as completing a child&#39;s vaccination series even if they are over one year of age. Many times, it could be because the recommendations aren&rsquo;t communicated to the country&rsquo;s leaders in charge of immunization, she said.</p> <p>Even the kind of aid made available to these countries could be a reason, said Elder. <span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">For instance, GAVI only purchases vaccines recommended by WHO for children up to one year of age, she said.</span></p> <p>The expense of some of these vaccines is also a hurdle, especially for middle-income countries that don&#39;t receive much aid. UNICEF purchases vaccines for one-third of the world&rsquo;s children but newer vaccines for viruses like rotavirus, which can cause severe diarrhea, and pneumococcal disease, which can cause pneumonia, are more costly, said the agency&rsquo;s spokesperson Kummer. Diarrhea and pneumonia are the top causes of death among children in the world.</p> <p>Cultural barriers too pose a challenge. For instance in Yemen, female vaccinators have easier access to mothers who are primary caregivers, said Kummer. In remote areas of some countries like Congo, lack of information can create vaccine-hesitancy, she said.</p> <p>A <a href="">report</a> released by WHO earlier this year, estimates that approximately 1.5 million children died last year from diseases preventable by vaccines currently recommended by WHO.</p> <p>&ldquo;Keeping immunization at the top of global health concerns is essential. Currently most governments do not identify funding immunization programs as a priority area,&rdquo; said Kummer.</p> <p>&ldquo;Sustainability and predictability of funding is crucial,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;One in five kids is not getting vaccinated and that&rsquo;s not acceptable.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More on GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">Pakistan: Where conspiracy theories can cost a child&#39;s life</a></strong></p> <p class='u'></p> Vaccines Health Global Pulse Mon, 21 Jul 2014 15:53:00 +0000 Indrani Basu 6209565 at Bodies of MH17 flight crash victims leave Ukraine for the Netherlands <!--paging_filter--><p>UPDATE:</p> <p>Reuters — A train carrying the remains of most of the almost 300 victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane downed over Ukraine left the site on Monday, after the Malaysian Prime Minister reached a deal with the leader of pro-Russian separatists controlling the area.</p> <p>The aircraft's black boxes, which could hold information about the crash in rebel-held eastern Ukraine but will not pinpoint who did it, would be given to the Malaysian authorities, Prime Minister Najib Razak said, indicating he had bypassed Kyiv, which has lost control of much of the east.</p> <p>The expected handover of the bodies and the black boxes, and reports by international investigators of improved access to the wreckage of the airliner four days after it was shot down, takes place against calls for broader sanctions against <a href="">Russia</a> for its support for the rebellion, though Western leaders are struggling to agree a united response.</p> <p>Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference that a train carrying around 200 body bags was on its way to rebel-held Donetsk and then to Kharkiv, which is in Ukrainian government hands, from where the bodies would be taken back to <a href="">the Netherlands</a> to be identified.</p> <hr><p>UPDATE: </p> <p>Reuters — Russia's Defense Ministry on Monday challenged Western and Ukrainian accusations that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting down a Malaysian airliner and said Ukrainian warplanes had flown close to the aircraft.</p> <p>The ministry also rejected accusations that Russia had supplied the separatist rebels in east Ukraine with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems, known as "Gadfly" in NATO, "or any other weapons."</p> <hr><p>The Dutch public prosecutor's office said Monday it had opened a preliminary criminal probe into the downing of flight MH17 over rebel-held Ukraine, which left 298 people dead, most of them Dutch.</p> <p>"An officer from the prosecutor's office, Thijs Berger, is in Kyiv at the moment," spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP.</p> <p>Under Dutch law, the Netherlands can prosecute war crimes suspects, even for alleged crimes committed abroad, if one or more victims is Dutch.</p> <p>There were 193 Dutch citizens on the doomed plane, which is believed to have been brought down by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists.</p> <p>Rebels have been accused of hindering access to the crash site and bodies since the plane came down on Thursday.</p> <p>The prosecutor's office could not say what Berger would do in Ukraine as part of the probe.</p> <p>Britain warned Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin on Monday that the Russian economy would face sectoral sanctions unless Moscow granted full access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site and stopped stoking instability in Ukraine.</p> <p>Britain says a Russian missile fired from Ukrainian territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels probably shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with the loss of 298 lives including 10 <a href="">British</a> nationals.</p> <p>"We should be discussing going further, sectoral measures, tier three," a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.</p> <p>"If Russia does not, in the coming period, take steps both in terms of the immediate response to the crash but also the very directly related issues around instability in eastern Ukraine, then we will be arguing that we have to go further."</p> <p>Britain will argue hard at a <a href="">European</a> Union meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday for further action on sanctions against Russia, the British premier's spokesman said.</p> <p>The spokesman said Britain was also pushing for the immediate implementation of sanctions on Russian individuals and entities agreed by the EU last week.</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:19:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters and Agence France-Presse 6210836 at In Cambodia, fake orphanages soak up donations by duping tourists <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Most of these ‘orphans’ still have living parents. The squalor they endure is often for show. </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>SIEM REAP, Cambodia — Just before the sun sets over the enchanting Angkor temples in northern Cambodia, a group of children gets ready for their big show. Every day, according to fliers at restaurants and hotels around town, the children perform an hour-long “charity show” for tourists visiting the ACODO orphanage.

</p> <p>The spectacle makes ACODO, which stands for Assisting Cambodian Orphans and Disabled Organization, one of the most visited orphanages around Siem Reap, where more than 2 million tourists arrive annually to see the ancient temples.</p> <p>

Onstage the children, aged between 7 and 14, dance and sing. The girls are adorned like dolls, with heavy jewelry and fake eyelashes. The boys wear traditional costumes and face masks resembling monkeys.</p> <p> The show, the fliers say, is “the children's life.”</p> <p> But none of them look happy. 

Instead, the children do what they were trained to do: generate profits for the orphanage’s owner.
</p> <p>“We are solely funded by kind donations from passionate foreigners ... of course, the show is very good for that. The foreigners donate after the show, or more when they get home via bank transfer,” said Long Veasna, a manager at ACODO.</p> <p>

What he usually doesn't tell tourists is that the vast majority of the children aren’t really orphans. “Most of them are from poor or divorced families. Orphanages here are different, the children don't have to be orphans.”</p> <p> In fact, the orphanage business is booming, and for curious reasons. Despite economic growth and slow but steady alleviation of poverty and disease, more and more children are living in these surrogate homes.</p> <p>

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of orphanages in Cambodia increased by 75 percent, according to a study by the UN children's fund (UNICEF) and the Cambodian government. More than 270 are now registered. 

What's even more startling is that nationwide, only about 23 percent of the children advertised as orphans are, in fact, orphans.</p> <p>More than 9,000 children living in orphanages have at least one remaining parent.

 By advertising them as orphans and showcasing their plight, however, good money is to be made. In Cambodia, orphanages can be lucrative, multi-million dollar businesses, according to major rights group Licadho and other Cambodian rights watchdogs.</p> <p>The UNICEF study quoted foreign volunteers as being somewhat mystified regarding orphanage finances. “We got thousands of dollars ... but I don’t know where the money went,” a former residential care staff member told UNICEF.</p> <p>Another said, “We had a falling out when I asked a question about where the donors' money went. This resulted in the entire orphanage being called into a two-and-a-half-hour denunciation of me.” 

Money flows in from tourists who feel compelled to help after seeing the squalor the children live in.</p> <p>
In the belief that they are doing a good deed, foreign visitors donate anywhere from $10 to several thousand dollars after touring the institutions. Some even set up charity events to collect donations upon their return home.</p> <p>

And while disadvantaged children certainly deserve attention and donations, aid workers doubt that the orphanages benefit them. Several child protection NGOs, including UNICEF, have launched campaigns to end orphanage tourism, and to better inform unwitting tourists of the harm they could cause by visiting them.</p> <p>

Children brought up in orphanages, they say, are more likely to suffer from personality disorders, growth and speech delays, and impaired ability to become part of society in their adult life.

 Experts also say that children are often kept in poor conditions to attract more donations, and are generally more at risk of physical and sexual abuse.</p> <p>

That's not the impression you get at ACODO's entrance, where a list of rules states how seriously the safety of children is being taken.</p> <p>

Tourists, it says, must bring their passports and register at the front desk, where they are handed a visitor's pass and put under the watch of one of ACODO's staff members “at all times,” and “under no circumstances” will visitors be left alone with children.
</p> <p>Reality, it turns out, doesn’t always obey these rules.</p> <p>
During a recent visit, no staff or any adults were to be found. GlobalPost was greeted by a group of children directly, and we were able to roam the premises freely. Asked where their supervisors were, the children shrugged their shoulders.</p> <p>

Toward the end of the charity show, the orphanage's cook showed up to applaud.</p> <p>
Contacted by phone, Veasna said that the staff was often too busy to take care of the children.</p> <p>“But it's no problem, the cook is always there,” he said.</p> <p>Documents indicate that the orphanage, which houses 30 children, takes in about $250,000 in donations annually. That’s a tidy sum in a country where the per capita income is less than $1,000 a year. 

UNICEF and other NGOs contend that the children are being exploited, and advocate for them to be reintegrated with their families.</p> <p>

In the <a href="">United States</a> and <a href="">Europe</a>, orphanages are a relic of the past. Cases of double orphans, children who lost both parents, are rare, and it is even rarer that no other family member, godparent or family friend will become the child's guardian.</p> <p>
That's also the case for Cambodia. Here, in one of the world's poorest countries — where 80 percent of the population lives without electricity — many orphanages serve as an odd form of boarding school, said Savourn
 Morn, the founder of Children and Development Organization (CDO).

</p> <p>She admits that only a minority of children under her care have lost a parent, and says almost all were from a remote village about three hours from Siem Reap city.</p> <p>

“I opened this to help the poor children because if they stay with their families, they have no education and health care,” Morn said. For the children, visiting home is difficult, via a two-hour ride from Siem Reap, on an unpaved dirt road littered with potholes, before a one-hour hike through the jungle. In the rainy season the path becomes flooded and impassable.</p> <p>
In the UNICEF study, 99 percent of parents said that they agreed to place their child in an orphanage because they would receive better education — or any education — while 47 percent cited general poverty.

</p> <p>Even if the families had the means to pay for their children's education, the closest elementary school is often a several-hour hike.

 Like most orphanage directors, Morn portrays herself as a humanitarian, who, confronted with the destitution in the village, decided to help.</p> <p>
Donations, she said, make up more than expenses, but are saved to establish a school and a health care center closer to the children's families.
</p> <p>“This is all to help the children and their families — nothing here is for myself,” she said.</p> Travel/Tourism Want to Know Cambodia Mon, 21 Jul 2014 05:01:31 +0000 Denise Hruby 6191969 at 40 Palestinians killed in Israeli attack on Gaza district <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Making Sunday the bloodiest day since Israel launched its ground offensive. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>GAZA/JERUSALEM — At least 40 Palestinians were killed on Sunday by Israeli shelling in a Gaza neighborhood, where bodies were strewn in the street and thousands fled toward a hospital packed with wounded, witnesses and health officials said.</p> <p>The mass casualties in the Shejaia district in northeast Gaza were the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive on the Palestinian territory on July 8 after cross-border rocket strikes by militants intensified.</p> <p>Anguished cries of "Did you see Ahmed?" "Did you see my wife?" echoed through the courtyard of Gaza's Shifa hospital, where panicked residents of Shejaia gathered in family groups, while inside bodies and wounded lay on blood-stained floors.</p> <p>Video given to Reuters by a local showed at least a dozen mangled corpses, including three children, lying in the rubble-filled streets.</p> <p>At the hospital, about 2 miles away, elderly men said the Israeli attack was the fiercest they had seen since the 1967 <a href="">Middle East</a> war, when Israel captured Gaza.</p> <p>"Forty martyrs have been counted so far ... medics are searching for possibly more casualties," Naser Tattar, Shifa hospital's director, told Reuters. He said some 400 people were wounded in the Israeli attack.</p> <p>Thousands fled Shejaia, some by foot and others piling into the backs of trucks and sitting on the hoods of cars filled with families trying to get away.</p> <p>Asked about the attack, an Israeli military spokeswoman said: "Two days ago, residents of Shejaia received recorded messages to evacuate the area in order to protect their lives."</p> <p>There were no signs of a diplomatic breakthrough toward a ceasefire, and militants kept up their rocket fire on Israel. Sirens sounded in southern Israeli towns and in the <a href="">Tel Aviv</a> metropolitan area. There were no reports of casualties.</p> <p>Hamas, the dominant armed group in the Gaza Strip, had urged people across the territory not to heed the Israeli warnings and abandon their homes.</p> <p>As the tank shells began to land, Shejaia residents called radio stations pleading for evacuation. An air strike on the Shejaia home of Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, killed his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, hospital officials said.</p> <p>Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned "the new massacre committed by the Israeli government in Shejaia," a spokesman for the Western-backed leader said.</p> <p>Israel, which has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields by launching rockets from residential areas, sent ground forces into the Gaza Strip on Thursday after 10 days of air, naval and artillery barrages failed to stop the salvoes.</p> <p>The military said it beefed up its presence on Sunday, with a focus on destroying missile stockpiles and a vast tunnel system Hamas built along the frontier that crosses into Israel.</p> <p>Gaza's Health Ministry officials said at least 370 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the 13-day conflict and about 2,600 have been wounded. On Israel's side, two civilians were killed by cross-border fire and five soldiers died as fighting occurred at close quarters.</p> <p>The United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) said more than 63,000 people have now sought sanctuary in 55 of its shelters, mostly schools, in Gaza.</p> <p>The army said that since the start of the ground offensive three days ago, it had killed more than 70 militants and that troops had discovered five tunnels running under the border. It said that since July 8, it had attacked 2,570 targets, describing them as "terror sites."</p> <p><strong>Truce efforts</strong></p> <p>Diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire involving, among others, <a href="">Egypt</a>, Qatar, <a href="">France</a> and the United Nations, have failed to make headway.</p> <p>Qatar was due to host a meeting between Abbas and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday, a senior Qatari source told Reuters. Ban was due during the week to travel to Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and <a href="">Jordan</a>, a UN statement said. The Qatari source said Abbas was also due to meet Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.</p> <p>Western-backed Abbas in April struck a deal with Islamist Hamas that led to the formation of a Palestinian unity government, seven years after the group seized control of Gaza from Abbas's Fatah party in a brief civil war.</p> <p>Hamas has rejected Egyptian efforts to end fighting, saying any deal must include an end to a blockade of the coastal area and a recommitment to a ceasefire reached after an eight-day war in Gaza in 2012.</p> <p>Egypt said on Saturday it had no plans to revise its ceasefire proposal. A Hamas source in Doha said the group has no plans to change its conditions for a ceasefire.</p> <p>Hostilities between the two sides escalated following the killing last month of three Jewish students that Israel blames on Hamas. Hamas neither confirmed nor denied involvement.</p> <p>The apparent revenge murder of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, for which Israel has charged three Israelis, further fueled tension.</p> <p>Israel says more than 1,700 rockets have been fired out of Gaza during this month's fighting, and between 3,000 and 4,000 destroyed in military strikes — together almost half of the militants' original estimated arsenal.</p> <p>Hamas says it is continuously replenishing its stock of weapons and is ready for a prolonged conflict.</p> <p>The Israeli death toll has been kept low due to the rockets' relative inaccuracy, a network of air-raid sirens and shelters and the Iron Dome rocket interceptor's 90 percent success rate.</p> <p>The Israeli military urged Palestinians to flee a growing area of Gaza ahead of further military action in the Mediterranean enclave. Residents say about half of the territory's 1.8 million population have been told to move.</p> <p>With the Israeli and Egyptian borders sealed off, Gazans say they have few places to escape to.</p> <p>The largest UN agency in Gaza, UNRWA, said about 61,500 people had sought refuge in its buildings, mainly schools — more than in any previous conflict there between Israel and Islamist militants.</p> <p><em>(Additional reporting by Noah Browing in Gaza and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Dale Hudson) </em></p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Military Aid Israel and Palestine Sun, 20 Jul 2014 12:58:26 +0000 Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller, Thomson Reuters 6209955 at Delhi’s 30,000 unruly monkeys steal stuff, terrorize people and even kill <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> So residents have concocted creative (and sometimes nasty) ways to combat them. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> James Tapper </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NEW DELHI, India &mdash; Madi is a bully. He has three-inch canines that glisten when he snarls.</p> <p>And that&rsquo;s a good thing, says his owner, Niraj.</p> <p>Madi is a langur &mdash; a large, grey monkey with a black face and ears, endemic to South Asia.</p> <p>Big and menacing, he&rsquo;s able to scare off this city&rsquo;s 30,000 smaller, red-faced rhesus monkeys, to protect the local human population from their naughty and dangerous antics.</p> <p>Niraj earns his living hauling Madi around India&rsquo;s capital on his bicycle to scare away monkeys that hang around parks, rob offices (really) and terrorize people.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s hard to over-emphasize this point: India&rsquo;s rhesus monkeys are derelicts. They regularly steal <a href="">food</a>, <a href="">alcohol</a>, <a href="">glasses</a>, <a href="">medical equipment</a>, and <a href="">clothes</a>. They even <a href="">break into cars</a>.</p> <p>To combat them, the langur men used to be a common sight around Delhi&rsquo;s political and diplomatic areas, especially during visits by high-ranking foreign officials.</p> <p>The problem is, it&rsquo;s illegal to keep langurs. They are a protected species, and in November 2012, the environment ministry <a href="">cracked down</a>. The ministry told government departments and agencies that langurs are covered by India&rsquo;s Wildlife Protection Act, and that people who own, trade or hire out langurs face up to three years in jail.</p> <p>The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) duly canceled its contracts with around 30 langur men, who were paid about 10,000 rupees (about $165) a month to patrol the city.</p> <p><img src="" width="100%" /><br /> <span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;"> A langur rides on an NDMC truck in 2010, when the Delhi authorities deployed a contingent of the large monkeys to chase smaller simians from venues for the Commonwealth Games. (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>Yet Niraj and the other langur men haven&#39;t gone away. They still operate, in secret, relying on a black market wildlife trade.</p> <p>Business is booming.</p> <p>Many people feed monkeys on Tuesday and Saturdays &mdash; days associated with the monkey-faced Hindu god Hanuman. This practice means that people carrying food at other times risk being bitten. Around 90 percent of the monkeys carry <a href="">tuberculosis</a>.</p> <p>Children are often more vulnerable to attack, and people have even died as a result. In 2007, New Delhi&rsquo;s deputy mayor, Surinder Singh Bajwa, <a href="">perished</a> after being attacked by monkeys at his home. He fell from his terrace, causing a serious head injury.</p> <p>Since the ban on langurs, government officials have <a href="">complained</a> that monkeys have wrought havoc by getting into their offices.</p> <p>So Delhi continues to rely, unofficially, on its langur patrols.</p> <p>When I met Niraj, he was cycling to a school in Chanakyapuri &mdash; the heart of Delhi&rsquo;s diplomatic district &mdash; with his assistant Suraj and his langur, Madi, who was perched on the back of the bike, a rope around his neck.</p> <p>&ldquo;They slap the red-face monkeys and scare them away,&rdquo; Niraj said. &ldquo;We work for politicians, at their bungalows, everyone. But if you need one on private property, you can.&rdquo;</p> <p>When challenged about the langur ban, Niraj claimed there was nothing illegal about owning a langur. He insisted on performing a parody of a traditional Indian greeting, by touching Madi&rsquo;s feet as a mark of respect. In response, the langur touched his head. Niraj&rsquo;s assistant held the leash warily.</p> <p>&ldquo;The government makes sure we take care of the monkeys so they have injections and medicine and proper care,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Not anyone can keep a monkey, only with permission of the NDMC.&rdquo;</p> <p>Anil Kumar, deputy director of NDMC enforcement, was surprised at this claim.</p> <p>&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have any langurs. We have monkey catchers. [The monkeys] are taken to a sanctuary in south Delhi. The catchers have a rope in a loop and put it round the monkeys.</p> <p>&ldquo;About six months ago we were doing it. Now we do not keep any langurs, nor do we have any private companies working for us.&rdquo;</p> <p>When a Hindi-speaking colleague called Niraj back, posing as someone who wanted to buy a langur, Niraj told a different story.</p> <p>He admitted that he knew the trade was illegal and said that the langurs were kept in secret, often taken undercover in cars to prevent them being spotted by police.</p> <p>He repeated his claim that Indian politicians flout the ban by hiring him, and he hopes that Narendra Modi&rsquo;s newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party government might relax the rules and allow langurs to be used again.</p> <p>Until then, Niraj doesn&#39;t advertise his services. Instead he relies on an unofficial network of domestic servants and gardeners employed by Delhi&rsquo;s richest residents.</p> <p>Although monkeys are most visible in central Delhi, they are also common in the so-called &ldquo;farmhouse&rdquo; areas of south Delhi where expats, politicians and high-ranking Indian executives live.</p> <p>One executive who lives in a farmhouse spoke to GlobalPost on condition of anonymity.</p> <p>&ldquo;We had lots of problems with monkeys,&rdquo; the executive said. &ldquo;We had to take steps after my maid&rsquo;s young daughter was bitten by a monkey. People said to get a langur. But the monkeys mobbed the langur and beat it up. They&rsquo;re not stupid &mdash; they outnumber the langur. We tried all sorts of things and the only thing that really works is a man with a big stick.&rdquo;</p> <p><img src="" width="100%" /><br /> <span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;"> Langurs may be the &quot;good&quot; monkeys, but they still beg. (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>The NDMC and the Delhi government are taking other measures too. The handful of monkey catchers employed by the council round up about 500 a year with their lassos.</p> <p>India&rsquo;s Central Zoo Authority has been <a href="">working with</a> the National Primate Center in California to reduce the monkey population by using contraceptives left in food and sterilization of captured monkeys. A pilot program is taking place in the northern state of Uttarakhand.</p> <p>And the NDMC has been negotiating with an Indian company to supply electric shock tape for government buildings. The makers of <a href="">Avi-Simian Shock Tape</a>, which runs off a simple main socket, claim monkeys and birds receive a small electric shock when touching the aluminum wires in the tape.</p> <p>But for now the monkey population remains in complacent control of New Delhi.</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets India Innovation Sun, 20 Jul 2014 10:19:53 +0000 James Tapper 6196263 at MH17: How can the US respond? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> News analysis: All agree that the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight is a tragedy and an outrage. What is less clear is what to do about it. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jean MacKenzie </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The strain of the past 24 hours was clearly visible in Barack Obama&rsquo;s face Friday morning as he addressed the press on the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.</p> <p>&ldquo;This was a global tragedy,&rdquo; the president said. &ldquo;There has to be a credible international investigation into what happened. The UN Security Council has endorsed this investigation, and we will hold all its members, including Russia, to their word.&rdquo;</p> <p>Obama called for an immediate cease-fire in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine to facilitate the recovery of the victims and the inspection of evidence.</p> <p>But inspecting the area has been difficult. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said they <a href="" target="_blank">could not gain secure access</a> to the crash site Friday and will try again Saturday.</p> <p>Obama said one American citizen, Quinn Lucas Schansman, has been confirmed dead. The Netherlands lost 189 citizens, while Canada, Germany, the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and others all <a href="" target="_blank">had citizens aboard</a> the flight.</p> <p>The president called for patience as the investigation goes forward.</p> <p>&ldquo;We have to be sure that we don&rsquo;t get out ahead of the facts,&rdquo; he said in an answer to a reporter&rsquo;s question. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t know exactly what happened.&rdquo;</p> <p>But Obama did stress that Russia has to answer in some way for what happened.</p> <script id='metamorph-46-start' type='text/x-placeholder'></script><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="500" scrolling="no" src="" width="635"></iframe></p> <script id='metamorph-46-end' type='text/x-placeholder'></script> <p>The plane was brought down by a missile that originated in a disputed territory in eastern Ukraine now held by pro-Russian separatists, he said.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is not possible to function the way [the separatists] are functioning without sophisticated equipment and training,&rdquo; the president said. &ldquo;That is coming from Russia.&rdquo;</p> <p>Russia blames Ukraine. Ukraine&rsquo;s government <a href="" target="_blank">claims</a> it was an &ldquo;act of international terrorism&rdquo; and &ldquo;Russian aggression.&rdquo; The pro-Russian rebels say they lack the capability to down an aircraft flying as high as MH17 &mdash; around 33,000 feet.</p> <p>Yet much of the world appears to have concluded that Russia is to blame. Now the question is what to do about it.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s a game-changer in that it drags in the outside world, but it&#39;s hard to see what the consequences of this could be,&rdquo; Julia Ioffe <a href="" target="_blank">writes</a> in The New Republic. &ldquo;Even if and when the evidence is marshalled to point to the rebels, what can the West do to punish them? What can it do to punish Russia for giving them these capabilities? What can it do to end the conflict?&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">You&rsquo;d hate to be Putin right now</a></strong></p> <p>Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has a suggestion: Give the Ukrainian government the weapons it&rsquo;s been asking for.</p> <p>&ldquo;Changing President Putin&#39;s calculations will &hellip; require a long-term effort to support Ukraine in rebuilding and reforming its armed forces,&rdquo; he <a href="" target="_blank">said in a statement</a> Thursday. &ldquo;That effort needs to start immediately with the provision of weapons, including anti-tank and anti-air capabilities, which Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly requested. It is shameful that the Administration continues to refuse to provide our Ukrainian partners with the military capabilities they both want and need.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" width="100%" /></a><br /> <span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial,<br /> Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">These radar maps show how airlines feel about Ukrainian airspace right now. <a href="" target="_blank">See the story</a>. (Screengrab/Flightradar24)</span></p> <p>According to McCain, it makes no difference whether the missile that downed the plane was fired from Russia itself or by the separatists.</p> <p>&ldquo;They are one and the same,&rdquo; he <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> MSNBC&rsquo;s Andrea Mitchell.</p> <p>Hillary Clinton echoed this conclusion in her interview with Charlie Rose, broadcast Thursday evening. The formers secretary of state assigned responsibility for the disaster to &ldquo;Russian insurgents.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Putin has gone too far,&rdquo; Clinton <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Russia isn&rsquo;t an immutable force</a></strong></p> <blockquote class="pullquote"><p><strong><span em="" style="font-size:20px">&ldquo;Whenever something happens that we don&rsquo;t like, we blame Putin. But there are a lot of different forces in eastern Ukraine who are not taking their orders from Putin.&rdquo;</span></strong></p> </blockquote> <p>But it&rsquo;s a mistake to hold Putin accountable for everything happening in eastern Ukraine, said Thomas Graham, a senior fellow at Yale&rsquo;s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, and a managing partner at Kissinger Associates.</p> <p>&ldquo;We have persuaded ourselves that nothing happens in eastern Ukraine that Putin does not control,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So whenever something happens that we don&rsquo;t like, we blame Putin. But there are a lot of different forces in eastern Ukraine who are not taking their orders from Putin.&rdquo;</p> <p>That will most likely not stop US officials from trying to punish the Russian president, particularly now that there is a confirmed American victim.</p> <p>&ldquo;The shooting down &hellip; of a passenger airliner is an act of terror,&rdquo; Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told <a href="" target="_blank">The Daily Beast</a>.</p> <p>Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) called it &ldquo;an act of war,&rdquo; and called for a firm response.</p> <p>&ldquo;Whoever did it should pay a full price,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>This reaction corresponds poorly to the administration&rsquo;s more measured response.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is no time for propaganda, no time for games,&rdquo; Obama said Friday. &ldquo;I made clear to President Putin that our preferred path is to resolve this diplomatically.&rdquo;</p> <p>But the hysteria may be getting ahead of the facts.</p> <p>Forbes magazine on Friday published a piece it originally called &ldquo;Now that it&rsquo;s clear that Putin is a mass murderer it&rsquo;s time for the Western press to stop protecting him.&rdquo;</p> <p>Perhaps fearing that the title was too provocative, it has now been <a href="" target="_blank">toned down</a> a bit. In it, contributor Greg Satell, a journalist who worked in Kyiv, argues that Putin must be held accountable.</p> <p>&ldquo;So far, all of the evidence points to what most Ukrainians have long known ... Russia has become a state sponsor of terror.&rdquo;</p> <p>This type of rhetoric is not helpful, according to Graham.</p> <p>&ldquo;The problem is that there have been a lot of accusations with almost no information,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;This reflects our prejudices more than a desire to find out what really happened.&rdquo;</p> <p>It is still far from clear whose finger pushed the button that brought down the Malaysian airliner. But evidence is pointing to a tragic mistake.</p> <p>&ldquo;I feel the overwhelming odds are that MH17 was shot down by a Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile fired by the rebels [but supplied by the Russians],&rdquo; <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a> Mark Galeotti, a professor at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University and an expert on Russian security affairs.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Buk is a radar-guided missile, so it could quite possibly have been launched without any eyeballing of the target. Furthermore, while the rebels may have the Buk&rsquo;s radar targeting system, they lack the extensive radar network and, above all, the skilled sensor operators who might have been able to tell a passenger airliner from a government troop plane.&rdquo;</p> <p>The US is no stranger to such incidents: In 1988 a US Navy ship shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing all 290 people on board. US operators thought they were targeting an Iranian fighter jet.</p> <p>The US ultimately <a href="" target="_blank">paid compensation</a> to the victims&rsquo; families, but never admitted culpability.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">The US has shot down a commercial airliner before too</a></strong></p> <p>But it does not matter whether this was intentional or not, says McCain.</p> <p>&quot;If [the crash] is the result of either separatist or Russian actions mistakenly believing that this is a Ukrainian warplane, I think there&#39;s going to be hell to pay and there should be.&quot;</p> <p>The question is, who&rsquo;s paying?</p> MH17 crash Want to Know Asia-Pacific War Politics Russia United States Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:10:00 +0000 Jean MacKenzie 6208885 at Russia isn’t an immutable force <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> News analysis: Will the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 prompt Western countries to confront the actions of one man? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Gregory Feifer </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>If there’s a positive development after the possible murder of almost 300 people by pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine — if it’s verified they shot down a Malaysian Airline flight MH17 en route to Kuala Lumpur from <a href="">Amsterdam</a> on Thursday — it would be that the disaster finally jolts Western countries into finally confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin over his fanning of civil conflict in <a href="">Russia</a>’s southern neighbor.</p> <p>Despite the enacting of several waves of sanctions against some Russian officials and companies, none have been nearly comprehensive enough to inflict any serious damage to the Russian economy. Tougher American sanctions have largely symbolic value because the US engages in far less trade with Russia. But Europeans have been loath to make sacrifices by endangering their business in Russia, a logic that’s been reinforced by the general acceptance of the idea that Ukraine belongs to the Kremlin’s sphere of influence, where Western countries have no business to preach or otherwise poke their noses.</p> <p>The venerable Brookings scholars Clifford Gaddy and Barry Ickes <a href="">recently wrote</a> that the crisis in Ukraine is the indirect result of NATO expansion in the 1990s, which threatened Moscow at a time it couldn’t counter that move. It’s inevitable, they argue, that Russia, the traditional great power, would seek to defend its interests by opposing such threats to its influence. Now Western countries would do best to help solve the Ukraine crisis by doing what it takes to assure Russia its power isn’t at risk.</p> <p>Such reasoning assumes that Putin is indeed acting in Russia’s best interests instead of strengthening his own grip on power at home by merely appearing to do so. In fact, many of Putin’s actions have harmed Russians’ interests, from the ending of democratic reform to stifling economic competition, overseeing a massive rise in corruption and provoking conflict with the West and war with their neighbors.</p> <p>In the debate about what to do about Russia, it’s important to remember that Moscow isn’t an immutable force whose will shouldn’t be crossed, but a state manipulated largely by a single very shrewd, cynical, selfish criminal. History is often dictated by contingencies: the path of Russia’s retreat after a decade of westernization under Boris Yeltsin wasn’t inevitable, but more than anything the result of Putin’s leadership.</p> <p>So, too, the debate about American motives over Ukraine shouldn’t be couched solely in terms of US interests. Washington certainly pursues its interests in foreign policy, but it’s also pushing democracy, free speech and transparency, which directly benefit Ukrainians.</p> <p>Regarding Russia as an untouchable power echoes Cold War thinking — not the sense that Moscow must be seen as an enemy, but that it’s too dangerous to be opposed, something Putin has spent more than a decade trying to prove. Judging by the Western failure to adequately respond to his actions in Ukraine — not to mention <a href="">Syria</a> and elsewhere — it looks like he’s succeeded.</p> <p>That’s not to say that Russia doesn’t have the right to defend its interests — of course it does. But that’s not the main issue here. The question is whether a sovereign people have a right to determine their own future by building a society that strives to provide universal rights, democracy and openness. Surely Ukrainians deserve that every bit as much as <a href="">Americans</a> do.</p> <p>Instead, Putin is shoring up his power at home by using trickery and force to try to drag the world back into a 19th-century order of great powers. Americans and others in the western hemisphere shouldn’t accept a divided global order for yet another generation, its terms increasingly dictated by the will of a man who publicly lionizes the Soviet empire that built the <a href="">Berlin</a> Wall.</p> <p>At home, Russia is becoming increasingly repressive and chauvinistic while the authorities are aiding in the killing of hundreds of Ukrainians, a campaign that is sowing enmity and instability there that will have serious repercussions for decades at least. Now Ukraine’s Kremlin-backed rebels appear to have shot down an airplane carrying hundreds of people from around the world.</p> <p>Moscow will be pushed to aid a thorough international investigation into what happened. But that will be far from enough. The West now has a responsibility to do everything it reasonably can to stop Putin in the only way he understands: a show of strength.</p> <p>That means seriously training and arming the Ukrainian military, enacting broad sanctions against the Russian economy and holding out the threat of even more. If Russians really want to be cut off from the international community, they must be shown what that means, not just threatened with it — something that’s so far only emboldened Putin to escalate the conflict.</p> <p>The Soviet Union collapsed under a huge economic strain. Putin’s regime will, too, if we help make it happen. That will require not accepting history’s inevitability but understanding that the actions of individuals can be influenced, and displaying some willingness to make sacrifices for the wellbeing of people who want to live honest, prosperous lives in other parts of the world.</p> <p><em>Gregory Feifer is <a href="">Europe</a> editor at GlobalPost. His book “<a href="">Russians</a>” was published this year.</em></p> MH17 Conflict Zones Want to Know Russia Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:35:00 +0000 Gregory Feifer 6208788 at Shock and grief in Europe as names and stories of the dead roll in <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Many of the dead were holidaymakers, like Cor Schilder, a musician, and his girlfriend, florist Neeltje Tol. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Corinne Purtill </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON, UK &mdash; Leaders across Europe expressed shock and sadness Friday as the names of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17&rsquo;s dead came rolling in and witnesses reported horrific scenes from the wreckage.</p> <p>Yet they stopped short of openly blaming the disaster on Russia, which denies funding the separatist, pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine whose missiles may have shot down the plane.</p> <p>Rebels say Ukrainian forces were responsible for the crash. Ukraine points the finger back at the separatist fighters, the leader of whom announced on social media just before the MH17 news broke that his forces &ldquo;just downed a plane, an AN-26 ... We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ukraine&rsquo;s security forces released an audio transcript of telephone conversations alleged to have taken place between rebels and a Russian intelligence officer after the plane was shot down.</p> <p>In the tape &mdash; which has not been verified &mdash; a reported separatist curses upon realizing that the plane was a civilian aircraft and not a military one.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>The UN Security Council emerged from an emergency meeting Friday afternoon with a call for a &ldquo;full, thorough and independent international&nbsp;investigation&rdquo; into the downing of MH17 Thursday en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.</p> <p>&ldquo;If, as seems possible, the plane was brought down then those responsible must be held to account and we must lose no time in doing that,&rdquo; Prime Minister David Cameron said, calling the crash of the passenger plane with 298 people aboard an &ldquo;absolutely shocking incident.&rdquo;</p> <p>The UK sent police and air accident experts to eastern Ukraine to repatriate victims and assist with the investigation. On Thursday night, pro-Ukrainian pressure group London Euromaidan laid flowers at the Dutch and Malaysian embassies before marching to Russia&rsquo;s embassy in Notting Hill for a protest.&nbsp;</p> <p>Britons killed on the plane included Glenn Thomas, a press officer for the World Health Organization and a former BBC journalist; Richard Mayne, a 20-year-old Leeds University graduate beginning his gap year; and John Alder and Liam Sweeney, two ardent Newcastle United fans traveling to the soccer team&rsquo;s exhibition games in New Zealand.</p> <p>&ldquo;Both men were dedicated supporters of our Club and were known to thousands of fans and staff alike,&rdquo; Newcastle United said in a condolence statement. The team will wear black armbands during the games in New Zealand in honor of the pair.</p> <p>Flags across the Netherlands were lowered in tribute to nearly 200 Dutch citizens killed on the plane &mdash; as the news site <a href="" target="_blank">Vox pointed out</a>, a greater percentage of the Netherlands&rsquo; population than the US lost on 9/11.</p> <p>Several high-profile Dutch were among the victims, including Senator Willem Witteveen and Joep Lange, an internationally recognized HIV researcher who was on his way to an AIDS conference in Australia.</p> <p>A battered Lonely Planet guide to Bali was photographed among the wreckage, scattered across miles of wheat fields in eastern Ukraine.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Horrible. Dead passengers on <a href="">#MH17</a> were looking forward to going on holiday to Bali. <a href="">#MalaysiaAirlines</a> - <a href="">@AP</a> photo <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) <a href="">July 18, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Many of the dead were holidaymakers, like Cor Schilder, a musician, and his girlfriend, florist Neeltje Tol. As a joke, Schilder <a href="" target="_blank">snapped a photograph</a> of the plane at the airport and posted it to his Facebook wall, with the words, &ldquo;Should it disappear, this is what it looks like.&rdquo;</p> <p><img alt="" class="imagecache-gp3_full_article" src="" title="" /></p> <p>In Australia, Kaylene Mann of Brisbane lost her stepdaughter and her stepdaughter&rsquo;s husband on the flight &mdash; after her brother and sister-in-law vanished on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March, <a href="" target="_blank">the Times reported</a>.</p> <p>There were also close calls.</p> <p>A couple and their infant son were booked on MH17 but were bumped to a KLM flight at the last minute for lack of seats.</p> <p>Speaking to reporters at Amsterdam&rsquo;s Schiphol Airport, Barry Sim of Scotland was circumspect about his family&rsquo;s near-miss.</p> <p>&quot;In my mind, lightning never strikes twice in the same place so I am still philosophical that you get on the flight and you go about your life,&rdquo; he said.</p> MH17 crash Want to Know Asia-Pacific Europe Russia Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:23:00 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6208743 at You’d hate to be Putin right now <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Details surrounding the Malaysia Airlines crash remain murky, but the world is already fuming at Russia. </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> — Circumstances surrounding the apparent downing on Thursday of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet over the skies of war-torn eastern Ukraine remain murky, but however inconclusive the evidence, much of the world appears to have arrived at one point: blame Russia.</p> <p>Fallout from the crash of flight MH17 — which killed all 298 passengers — is consolidating international anger at Moscow over its alleged support of the separatist rebels in Ukraine, and appears to mark a watershed moment in a months-long crisis that had earlier left much of the West stumped over how to respond.</p> <p>While the war of words is bound to intensify, with Russia and Ukraine trading accusations of responsibility for the disaster, many observers say the Kremlin should be prepared to pay for the incident.</p> <p>“Because it is Moscow, despite the numerous denials from its representatives, which is perceived by the entire world to be [the separatists’] main protector and sponsor,” Konstantin von Eggert, a Russian international affairs commentator, said in a Friday broadcast on Kommersant FM radio.</p> <p>Tensions between Russia and Ukraine reached a fever pitch this week after a series of mysterious air strikes and artillery attacks fueled a diplomatic row between the two countries and hurled them closer to the brink of open conflict.</p> <p>But Thursday’s crash — which killed 189 <a href="">Dutch</a> nationals and a number of other foreign citizens — marked the first time international actors became directly involved in the crisis, raising the stakes in a geopolitical conflict that seems likely to only worsen.</p> <p>It also arrived a day after Washington leveled its toughest sanctions yet against Russia, which were mirrored by less stringent <a href="">European</a> Union sanctions that were approved despite a split in the EU over how to react to Russia’s alleged interference in Ukraine.</p> <p>There’s still little hard evidence available from the separatist-controlled crash site, where rebels say they’ve agreed to allow a team of international investigators to the area.</p> <p>But international condemnation has nevertheless been swift.</p> <p>Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot had perhaps the toughest words for Moscow on Friday, claiming Russia’s response is “deeply, deeply unsatisfactory,” the Associated Press reported him as saying.</p> <p>Meanwhile, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in televised remarks late Thursday that there has been “growing awareness” that the apparent strike “probably had to be Russian insurgents.”</p> <p>“How we determine that will require some forensics, but then if there is evidence pointing in that direction, the equipment had to have come from Russia,” she said in an interview on the Charlie Rose Show.</p> <p>For its part, Moscow has shot back, using its state-run media arsenal to level claims against Kyiv.</p> <p>Since the crash, state television here — the main source of news for a majority of Russians — has aired reports suggesting a variety of possible causes, although seemingly tiptoeing around any implication of the rebels.</p> <p>Some reports hinted that the Ukrainians had mistakenly shot down the airliner by highlighting a similar case from 2001, when Kyiv admitted it had unintentionally downed a civilian plane.</p> <p>There were also suggestions the alleged Ukrainian missile had actually been aimed at the Russian presidential plane as it flew back from <a href="">Brazil</a>, a claim based on a single anonymous source in a wire report but cited widely on state television.</p> <p>In a video posted to the Kremlin’s website, President Vladimir Putin laid the blame squarely on Ukrainian authorities, although he stopped short of accusing the military of shooting down the jet.</p> <p>“I want to note that this tragedy wouldn’t have occurred if there had been peace on this land and hostilities hadn’t been renewed in Ukraine’s southeast,” he said at a government meeting.</p> <p>“And of course the government on whose territory this occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy.”</p> <p>Regardless, the incident has shifted even more scrutiny onto the armed rebels — cast by Moscow as righteous “anti-government protesters” — that have laid siege on Ukraine’s two rebellious, easternmost regions.</p> <p>They’ve been beaten back in recent weeks by Ukrainian military forces but continue to control a large swath of land, including the two regional capitals, and have boasted of downing numerous Ukrainian military aircraft.</p> <p>Ukrainian officials and their Western allies have long asserted that Ukraine’s porous border with Russia has served as a crucial transit corridor for armaments of all kinds as well as volunteer fighters that filter in from Russian territory.</p> <p>So far, only YouTube clips and other unconfirmed social media reports attest to the movement of tanks and other heavy weaponry across the border, with independent confirmation nearly impossible since rebels still control considerable territory.</p> <p>Still, experts now believe Russia will be forced into backing away from its alleged support of the rebels, rendering what Mark Galeotti, a security expert at New York University, says may be the beginning of the end for the insurgency.</p> <p>“Especially given the presence of <a href="">Americans</a> and other Westerners on MH17, the Kremlin will, for all its immediate and instinctive bluster and spin, have to definitively and overtly withdraw from arming and protecting the rebels,” he wrote on Thursday.</p> <p>But that may further inflame tensions between Moscow and the rebel leadership, which has openly maligned Putin’s refusal to offer greater support for their cause since the uprising began.</p> <p>The Kremlin declined to recognize their independence referenda in May and stopped short of repeating the scenario in Crimea, which Russia annexed earlier this year, something the insurgents had hoped would also happen in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>But those moves appear only to have strengthened their resolve in the fight against Ukrainian forces, amounting to what some believe to be an increasingly uncontrollable Frankenstein monster that has thrust Russia — intentionally or not — into a tight spot.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Officials believe MH17 was shot down over Ukraine. But by whom? (LIVE BLOG)</a></strong></p> <p>In Kyiv, meanwhile, Ukraine’s post-revolutionary authorities are likely to receive a renewed boost in support from their Western allies, the result of a disaster experts say may have played into their hands.</p> <p>Vadim Karasyov, a Kyiv-based political analyst, says Poroshenko had been stuck in a “dead end,” torn between a mounting military death toll and the perceived impossibility of negotiating with the separatists.</p> <p>But the Malaysian Airlines disaster presented a “Rubicon” in what seemed like a stalemate, he added.</p> <p>“It will bump the sequence of events toward a settlement of the conflict in Ukraine’s interests.” </p> MH17 Need to Know Conflict Zones Russia Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:42:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6208732 at Someone stole 300,000 liters of beer in Germany <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> That's the equivalent of 140,891 six-packs in the US. </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>How does one even go about stealing so much of something? </p> <p>The answer is actually very simple: First you take some, then you come back for more.  </p> <p>Sometime after last Thursday, a group of <a href="" target="_blank">thieves broke into a warehouse</a> in the German city of Krefeld and took some pallets of beer. They loaded those onto a tractor trailer and then came back for more.</p> <p>They apparently did this 10 times, since the amount of beer (300,000 liters) is enough to fill 10 trucks. At the bar in <a href="">Germany</a>, that amount of beer would sell for about 2.1 million euros ($3 million). </p> <p>Where the theives went with it all is anyone's guess at this stage. Someone thought they spotted the robbers speeding east on the the A40 Autobahn toward the city of Duisburg. </p> <p>The police are stumped and asking the same endearingly earnest questions as everyone else: "Has anyone noticed a large amount of beer?" police wrote in a press release. "Can anyone provide information on a possible storage area?"</p> <p>According to the <a href="" target="_blank">Wall Street Journal</a>, police are even speculating as to motives. I mean, come on, who would even want to steal that much beer? Really.</p> Food & Drink Strange But True Germany Offbeat Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:30:58 +0000 Emily Lodish 6206740 at To guard against fraud, Indonesians are now crowd-sourcing the vote count for their presidential election <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In Indonesia, a contentious presidential campaign has led to accusations of voter fraud and manipulation. So Indonesians are downloading ballots and counting them themselves. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Colarusso </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>As Indonesians <a href="">anxiously await</a> the vote tally from their contentious July 9 presidential election, allegations of fraud and voter manipulation have already begun to surface. But, the citizens of the world’s third largest democracy have found a new tool to keep things honest: a crowdsourcing platform called Kawal Suara.</p> <p>Roughly translated, Kawal Suara means “guard the voice.” The website allows Indonesians to <a href="">review and verify</a> a randomly-selected C1 form that shows official tallies for the number of votes cast at a particular polling station. By allowing people to flag irregularities, the hope is that greater transparency will both catch honest mistakes and stop corrupt officials from manipulating the count.</p> <p>The official tally of the more than 130 million ballots cast is conducted by the General Elections Commission (KPU), which does make some of this information available. Citizens can find the results from close of 500,000 voting booths across the country. But for those who want to monitor the results, the system requires that they download the documents and manually count each vote – a process many observers say is too complex and inefficient to inject any sense of accountability into the electoral process.</p> <p>This year, transparency will be key to keeping the country calm after a bruising campaign that was notable for a few key reasons. The election <a href="">pitted</a> Joko Widodo, a young reformer and the populist governor of Jakarta, against Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general whom many see as a representative of <a href="">Indonesia</a>’s autocratic past. It was the <a href="">first race</a> to have just two candidates, a development that divided the country across socio-economic lines. It was the first in which pollsters declared different winners after the first quick vote counts. Once the winner is announced, it will also be the first time power is handed from one democratically-elected president to another.</p> <p>After 10 years in power, outgoing President <a href="">Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono</a> is stepping down because of term limits. In the lead up to the voting, the race had turned ugly. Joko was accused of being an ethnic <a href="">Chinese</a> and a Christian — two false claims that undermined his strong lead in the polls — in a country that is predominately Muslim and sometimes dsitrustful of the often wealthy Chinese. Prabowo faced allegations of mass human rights abuses because of his tenure in the army. In recent weeks, as it became clear that the election would be close, independent observers — and even Yudhoyono himself — began warning that political unrest could follow if one of the two candidates didn’t garner enough votes to hold off a challenge to his legitimacy.</p> <p>Those concerns opened up an opportunity for Reza Lesmana, founder of Kawal Suara. Billing it as a social experiment, Lesmana said he wants to see how accurate the crowdsourced counting could be. His other idea — using optical character recognition to scan the documents — was too time-consuming to develop.</p> <p>“If KPU opened its data to the public, then the crowdsourcing system like this is not needed,” Lesmana told TechInAsia. “Ideally besides just giving access to data, KPU could also provide [an] online reporting system in case there’s a data entry error. And [it could] also show the follow-up steps that KPU has done.”</p> <p>Kawal Suara isn’t the only social media tool Indonesians are using to keep track of the vote totals. A handful of other websites are urging people to scan their ballots and tweet about any voting irregularities that they see.</p> <p>The official vote tally won’t be completed until July 22, giving Indonesians plenty of time to sit in limbo as they wait to see who will be their leader for the next five years. It also gives them plenty of time to make sure government officials get the vote tally right.</p> Need to Know Elections Indonesia Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:20:48 +0000 Laura Colarusso 6205669 at It turns out rape is also really bad for India's economy <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The aftermath of the Delhi gang rape has been particularly hard for tourism and working women. </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 — Every morning, Swati Gupta leaves home at 8:00 a.m. and takes the bus from New Delhi to Gurgaon to work a 10-hour shift at a swank mall in Delhi's satellite city — a neighborhood that provides economic opportunities for millions of Indians.</p> <p> But after the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus in December 2012, Swati’s family started objecting.</p> <p> “My brother was very worried," she says. "My shift usually gets over at 8:00 p.m. and I would invariably get a call at around that time from my mother or brother to check if I had left. They wanted me to leave the job and find something with better hours.”</p> <p> Eventually, Swati, 26, struck a compromise with her employers to pacify her family. She began leaving an hour earlier even if that meant a pay cut.  </p> <p> “It was worth it," she says. "Frankly, I was scared to travel so late by bus and I didn’t mind being paid a little less to be able to leave early and get home in good time.”  </p> <p> She wasn’t the only one concerned. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India (ASSOCHAM), one of the country’s leading trade bodies, conducted a survey in January 2013 that confirmed that productivity of female workers dipped more than 40 percent in the weeks following the Delhi Gang rape, as it's known locally.</p> <p> About 82 percent of the women surveyed had started leaving their offices before sunset, mainly because they feared traveling by bus or other public transportation in the evening hours.</p> <p> While the industry body is yet to conduct a follow-up survey to see where things stand today, or what the net economic loss is as a result of fear, Ranjana Kumari, a leading Indian feminist believes the economic impact of India’s rape culture is huge.  </p> <p> Her organization, the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi, has been tracking rape survivors in Delhi since January 2013.</p> <p> “While I can’t tell you exact figures, what we have observed is that the economic capacity of working women takes a hit due to these incidents," she said. "A survivor almost always has to give up her job to deal with the psychological trauma of rape. Often the survivor migrates to get away from the place where it happened, and has to dole out cash to follow a case through the police and the courts as bribes.”</p> <p> “Of course, it’s impossible to put a number on how this impacts the overall economy in India," she added. "We haven’t seen this kind of research so far.”  </p> <p> The one industry that has felt the impact in a big way is India’s tourism sector.</p> <p> In the first three months after the December 2012 incident, foreign female tourist arrivals dropped in India by 35 percent. It hasn't helped that since then, there have been a spate of sexual assault cases involving attacks on Western female tourists, including women from the <a href="">United States</a>, Switzerland, Denmark and <a href="">Britain</a>.  Recently, Great Britain joined a long list of countries to issue travel advisories cautioning their citizens about visiting India.</p> <p>  “We witnessed a dip in foreign tourist arrivals due to these incidents," says Randhir Brar, executive director of Le Passage to India, a tour operator in India. "People were wary of traveling to India, and foreign tour operators were not even willing to take bookings from women who wanted to travel alone.”</p> <p>As a result, industry experts estimate that the average annual drop in foreign female tourists now stands at 10 percent.</p> <p> This is a huge economic loss for India where tourism accounts for nearly 6 percent of the gross domestic product. Foreign tourism accounts for 10 percent of organized employment in the country, or some 20 million jobs, and contributes about $18 billion annually to the country’s economy.</p> <p>The tourism industry is concerned.</p> <p>“We began talking to the government about these issues and they have responded by taking certain safety measures, and starting campaigns to improve India’s image abroad,” said Brar.</p> <p>These measures include a specially created tourism police that will patrol major tourist spots, and a multilingual toll free helpline that will be answered by women. The helpline will provide a number of services to tourists including giving them details on the closest police stations and how to register complaints.</p> <p>“The important thing is to remember that safety issues are not unique to India. You are as likely to be attacked in Harlem as in New Delhi,” argues Subhash Goel, the president of Indian Tour operators in defense of the country’s tourism industry.</p> <p>He concedes that the high number of incidents have led to an adverse impact but maintains that tourists will be safe in India if they take certain precautionary measures.</p> <p>“My advice would be that tourists should travel through government approved tour operators," he says. "But so many people want to travel alone these days, at least they should not go to lonely places or venture out late at night.”</p> <p>Many tour operators have taken it upon themselves to provide greater security to women. “We have seen an increase in the number of exclusive tours for women,” says Brar. Hotels are even designating women-only floors.</p> <p>The Imperial, a luxury hotel in New Delhi, has created a “single lady corridor” of 12 rooms, each with a security camera on the door, with an all-female staff. Some agencies like Secura Security in New Delhi have begun offering personal security guards to foreign tourists at a cost of $100 for 8 hours.</p> <p>“Following the December 2012 incident we began getting a lot of calls from tourists and so we introduced this service," says Anuraag Sinha, the COO of Secura Security. "The numbers go up every time there is an incident reported but on an average we provide guards to 3-5 tourists every month.”</p> <p>Over the last two years, various taxi operators in India have invested in GPS technology to upgrade their services, also to track tourists using their cabs.</p> <p> For instance, operators like Meru Cabs in Delhi have phased out old cars that were not equipped with GPS technology. This is equally useful for Indian citizens as it is for tourists. At the Delhi International airport, Delhi Police official note down the cab number and passenger that leaves from the airport.</p> <p> “The Indian government really needs to consider how it wants to be viewed," said Kumari. "As long as violence against women persists, naturally tourists will want to stay away. In order to change its image abroad, the government will have to provide safer conditions for its own female citizens — that will send out the right message.”</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets India Fri, 18 Jul 2014 04:20:01 +0000 Mandakini Gahlot 6196343 at EU summit fails to pick top leaders <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> But does move to enact tougher sanctions against Russia. </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 — There's some irony that a European Union summit derailed largely by divisions over how to handle Russia ended up clearing the way for what are likely to be the EU's hardest-hitting sanctions on Moscow.</p> <p>Disputes among the 28 EU presidents and prime ministers over how tough candidates for new leadership posts should be toward Russia prevented agreement on a team to coordinate the union's foreign and summit policies for the next five years.</p> <p>But the meeting, which broke up early Thursday at EU headquarters in Brussels, did agree to suspend financing for Russia from the EU's investment arm and draw up a wider list of individuals and companies to be hit with sanctions by the end of this month.</p> <p>Although unlikely to go as far as American measures against Russian businesses announced Wednesday by President Barack Obama, the EU sanctions represent a significant hardening of the European position.</p> <p>The EU said it will take aim at "individuals or entities who actively provide material or financial support to the Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilization of Eastern-Ukraine." That suggests figures and firms close to the Kremlin.</p> <p>"There has been no progress regarding Russia's attitude to this crisis," <a href="">French</a> President Francois Hollande told a post-summit press conference. "We are stepping up the level of sanctions."</p> <p>The EU will stop loans to Russia from the European Investment Bank that last year totaled $1.35 billion.</p> <p>EU nations will also use their votes to cut funding for Russia from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development — which has averaged more than $2.7 billion annually over the past three years.</p> <p>Cutting such lending could have a significant local impact around Russia. Last year, the EIB said its loans ranged from modernizing power generation in the far eastern city of Vladivostok to preserving 7,300 jobs at a paper mill in Russian's remote north.</p> <p>Despite the sanctions agreement, the EU summit ended with failure to agree on names to fill the posts of EU foreign policy representative and president of the European Council, which are among a number of key positions falling vacant in the autumn.</p> <p>The summit had been touted as an event that would forge a leadership team to finally guide the bloc out of economic crisis and win back the support of disgruntled voters who are increasingly turning to euro-sceptic parties.</p> <p>However, discussions ended in anti-climatic stalemate after Eastern European countries rejected an Italian bid to place Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini in the foreign policy post.</p> <p>They claim Mogherini — who became a minister in February — lacks experience and is too soft on Russia.</p> <p>"We would like to see a person at least not pro-Kremlin," said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite when asked about Mogherini's candidature.</p> <p>Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi refused to countenance an alternative, suggesting that would lack "respect" for <a href="">Italy</a>.</p> <p><a href="">Poland</a>'s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski had earlier been ruled out by several countries as too hawkish on Russia.</p> <p>Faced with deadlock, the summit broke up shortly after midnight and leaders agreed to resume talks on August 30.</p> <p>Behind the scenes, Renzi came in for criticism for failing to compromise, especially since an Italian already holds what is arguably the most powerful position in the EU. Mario Draghi was appointed in 2011 for an eight-year term as European Central Bank president.</p> <p>Mogherini could still end up with the EU foreign policy job as leaders strive for gender and political balance. She is one of the few female candidates for senior positions and is also from the center-left.</p> <p>Her appointment would balance the nomination of the center-right former <a href="">Luxembourg</a> Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who was confirmed as the new president of the European Commission on Wednesday.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Europe is struggling to find its soul</a></strong></p> <p>Hollande gave Mogherini his backing and <a href="">German</a> Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed the foreign policy job post should go to the center-left.</p> <p>To appease Eastern Europe, Merkel sought to persuade Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to take the other vacant top job — the EU's summit chairman. However, Tusk is reluctant to leave Poland.</p> <p>EU leaders will now have to reflect over the summer holidays. Other names bandied about for the foreign policy job include Kristalina Georgieva, a Bulgarian who heads the EU's humanitarian aid department and Slovak Foreign Minster Miroslav Lajcak.</p> <p>Possible alternatives for the summit chairperson's job include Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and <a href="">Irish</a> Prime Minister Enda Kenny. </p> European Union Need to Know Europe Politics Thu, 17 Jul 2014 16:05:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6207633 at This German program offers some of the world's best paid job training. So why is it struggling to attract workers? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Despite its great success, the country’s apprenticeship system is battling to keep young people interested. </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 — When Hermann Oplanic failed to get into college three years ago, he was devastated.</p> <p>Like a growing number of young people, the 25-year-old Berliner saw a university education as an essential pre-requisite for joining his country’s modern middle class.</p> <p>But all was not lost. Thanks to an apprenticeship program that’s the envy of American manufacturers, he now believes circumstances forced him into making the right choice for his future.</p> <p>“A friend of mine completed his studies first and then took an apprenticeship,” says Oplanic, a blond machinist dressed in blue overalls and a polo shirt who works for a company that produces gear-grinding equipment in the capital. “Now he thinks it would have been better to get some practical experience first.”</p> <p>Run by companies mostly at their own expense, Germany's apprenticeship program is widely credited with producing the most highly skilled, hardest-working labor force in the world. But even as US President Barack Obama <a href="">unveils</a> a $100-million program aimed at emulating it, the German scheme is struggling to attract young people.</p> <p>Officially integrated into the education system in 1969, Germany’s apprentice placements range from banking to butcher shops, administered by hundreds of chambers of commerce that set training standards and monitor how trainees are treated.</p> <p>During apprenticeships that typically last three to three-and-a-half years, trainees spend four days a week working and one day at an academic “Berufschule,” or “career school,” earning salaries or hourly wages that match their level of experience.</p> <p>For employers, the system provides a wellspring of employees trained to use the latest technologies, while state-run technical schools typically operate using factory and laboratory equipment as much as two decades out of date.</p> <p>Being taught and evaluated by experienced workers who are possible future peers and colleagues helps instill a craftman's sense of pride that's harder to cultivate at community colleges and trade schools, say German executives like Martin Kapp, head of the German Machine Tool Builders' Assocation (VDW).</p> <p>“Trained people will always find work in Germany,” says Kapp, who also owns the <a href="">Kapp Group</a>, which makes grinding machines and precision tools for the automobile, aerospace, and power generation industries. The company, where almost all top executives got their start as apprentices, employs around 50 apprentices at its headquarters in the central town of Coburg.</p> <p>Although apprentice programs aren't unknown in the <a href="">United States</a>, they've traditionally remained the purview of the building trades and other union-dominated industries, and have mostly been eclipsed by community colleges and technical schools that students pay to attend. Only around 375,000 Americans were enrolled in apprenticeship programs at the beginning of this year, compared with 1.4 million in much smaller Germany.</p> <p>But even as the Obama administration announces that its own drive to expand on-the-job training has resulted in the <a href="">creation</a> of 10,000 new apprenticeship programs in the US since January, trouble is brewing in the manufacturers' paradise.</p> <p>A record low number of young Germans signed on as apprentices in 2013, due to demographic and social changes that mean ever fewer young people are joining the workforce as more are opting for university degrees, according to a <a href="">new report</a> from the Federal Statistics Office.</p> <p>Even though Germany faces a looming shortage of skilled workers in key occupations, the government has until recently been trying to push more students into higher education, according to one of Germany's workers' guilds.</p> <p>Oplanic, the machinist apprentice, says three quarters of his friends are studying at universities.</p> <p>“The German system is very good,” he says. “But they want someone who can build a rocket for a job cleaning toilets.”</p> <p>Where policymakers once promoted higher education in a bid to improve social mobility, the apprenticeship system is now credited with helping Germany achieve the EU's lowest rate of youth unemployment during the economic crisis, Kapp says.</p> <p>“There was a time when everybody just looked at the statistics and saw that Germany had a lower number of people going to university,” he says.</p> <p>That blinkered view ignored strengths of the German system that have been built up over decades and may prove more difficult than expected for the US to duplicate, Kapp says.</p> <p>At his company's US manufacturing facility in Colorado, he tried again and again to set up an apprenticeship program based on the German model. But he found that American workers weren't willing to make long-term commitments to training programs — at least with machinists in hot demand. Moreover, American engineering graduates had no interest in getting their hands dirty on the shop floor — an essential component of Germany's reputation for excellence.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Europe is struggling to find its soul</a></strong></p> <p>A similar effort to build an apprenticeship system in the UK has run into trouble because Britain lacks the management infrastructure of powerful trade bodies that control standards in Germany. Many of the new programs are too short to be much use and the range of programs is too diverse for the qualifications to have value, the Economist recently <a href="">complained</a>.</p> <p>Whatever the benefits for society at large, the German model means that companies, not the government or the students themselves, absorb most of the cost of job training.</p> <p>Kapp says his total investment easily adds up to more than $1 million over five years. That’s something businesses in other countries may not be willing to sacrifice. </p> Companies Job training Want to Know Germany Thu, 17 Jul 2014 05:30:11 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6206733 at Here’s why Punjab state has India’s worst cancer crisis <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the economy grows, so does the suffering. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ankita Rao and Bibek Bhandari </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>PUNJAB, India — Three days after her mother died, Rajinder Kaur sat quietly on the edge of a rope cot, staring at her sandaled feet as the buzz of her friends and family filled the courtyard of her village home in Sher Singh Wala in rural Punjab.</p> <p> The 20-year-old nursing student, with a girlish frame and long black braid, listlessly recounted the details of her mother’s last 40 days — from a sudden diagnosis of blood cancer to the unaffordable treatment that left Kaur with few options but to watch the pillar of the family suffer in the hospital until she passed away.</p> <p> Kaur’s mother, who died in May, is among the latest casualties in India’s northern state of Punjab, home to the highest rate of cancer in India. Here, in the country’s breadbasket, 18 people succumb to the disease every day, according to a recent report published by the state government. There are ninety cancer patients per 100,000 people compared to the national average of eighty. And the Malwa region, where Kaur’s family lives, has been dubbed "the cancer belt" of the state because of its particularly high incidence of the disease.</p> <p> In villages like Sher Singh Wala, working class, agricultural communities are bearing the heaviest burden of this complex crisis — one that involves limited resources, lack of political will and a toxic environmental problem that could foreshadow what many other Indian communities will experience as they follow the state’s economic model.</p> <p> “We need to strike at the root,” said J.S. Thakur, professor and researcher at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, who has conducted extensive studies on cancer in Punjab.</p> <p> While the causes of cancer are complicated and still unknown, Thakur and his team found that contaminated water from rapid industrialization and excessive use of chemical fertilizers for high-yielding crops are contributing to the steep rates in the state. Just miles away from the Kaur family’s home are colossal industrial plants that have polluted the irrigation system in the area.</p> <p> Malkit Singh, a member of the panchayat, or village council, in Sher Singh Wala, said cancer deaths affect almost every other home in his 2,000-person village. Including his: Singh lost his brother and two cousins to cancer in the past decade.</p> <p> But Singh, a broad man who wears a traditional turban, said that the government’s inability to regulate toxic chemicals is not their only downfall. There is also public outcry that the state has done little to expand the limited healthcare resources available for families who can’t pay to travel to a private, specialized clinic.</p> <p> “The overall responsibility goes to the government, and the people are also responsible because they have not made an issue of it,” he said.</p> <p> The region’s only government cancer ward was established just six years ago in the town of Faridkot, an hour’s drive from Sher Singh Wala. On a morning in May, frail women and men slept along the hallways and on the floor of the waiting room as they anticipated the next available doctor, or further tests.</p> <p> Every day the hospital — staffed with just four oncologists and nine residents in training — receives about 20 new cases and 150 regular cancer patients, said Dr. H.P. Yadav, head of department at the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital. Since the service started in 2008, there has been an influx of patients from the region, who previously traveled to nearby states like Rajasthan or <a href="">New Delhi</a> for treatment.</p> <p> “There is a scheme for people from Punjab: They’ll get a financial assistance of 1.5 lakh rupees [about $2,500],” Yadav said. “We are trying to give more assistance from our side but the treatment cost is high.”</p> <p> Meanwhile, a senior official at the hospital who asked that his name not be used said the state has done little to support the center. Most of the initial funding, instead, came from the national government, universities and donors.</p> <p> Costly treatment is an undeniable burden for most people in this agriculturally rich but poverty stricken region. For them, the government assistance under the Chief Minister’s Cancer Relief Fund scheme is only a temporary solution. When medicines cost almost 20,000 rupees ($400) per month, families are often left to make difficult decisions.</p> <p> Part of that price tag comes from lack of regulation and oversight. Some pharmacies in the region were charging more than ten times the original price for certain cancer-related drugs, according to a private investigation by the Bhai Ghaniya Cancer Roko Sewa Society, a local nongovernmental organization.</p> <p> “We focus on poor patients,” said Kultar Singh, vice president of the group. “We started this NGO because people were being overcharged and we were fed up with the politics.”</p> <p> Their efforts have proven fruitful. Last year the team wrote a letter to the chief justice of Punjab’s high court, prompting them to hold the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority accountable for 46 anti-cancer drugs that are supposed to be affordable. In May, the Punjab government rolled out a plan to provide subsidized medicines to cancer patients at public hospitals.</p> <p> Without that support, money can prove a harsh limitation.</p> <p> Heeding a relative’s suggestion, Kaur said her family first visited a private hospital in Ludhiana, where they were quoted approximately $20,000 for her mother’s blood cancer treatment — a large amount for the middle class farming family.</p> <p> “My mom said she didn’t want such an expensive treatment,” Kaur said of her mother’s decision. “They told us there was a 35 percent chance she would stay alive.”</p> <p> The family then consulted a homeopathic doctor, who prescribed a range of natural medicines. But Kaur said her mother’s health quickly deteriorated and they were forced to admit her to a government-subsidized local hospital without regular cancer specialists. Within a matter of days she caught an infection and passed away before she could receive further treatment — leaving Kaur and her younger brother, 15-year-old Manjinder, without one parent.</p> <p> Kultar Singh said many families who are fighting cancer also lack the education and awareness they need to protect themselves. His NGO is trying to educate communities at the grassroots level.</p> <p> “People fear the word cancer and it’s like a taboo,” he said. “There’s a myth in the village that with this disease you’re bound to die. At first, instead of going to doctors, they go to shamans and traditional healers.”</p> <p> Meanwhile, Thakur, the lead researcher, said any real solution to the problem with require accessible clean water and a change in industrial practices, rather than simply treating the symptoms of what has become a toxic environment.</p> <p> Until then, families like Kaur’s will be left to wonder if there was any way to prevent what happened to a loving wife and mother.</p> <p> “She was really good. She sewed her own clothes, she was always thinking about her children,” Kaur said, remembering her mother as tears escaped from her eyes. “She never got tired.”</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets India Pakistan Thu, 17 Jul 2014 05:30:00 +0000 Ankita Rao and Bibek Bhandari 6198804 at Meet the journalist who accuses Mexican presidents of links to drug cartels <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Anabel Hernandez talks to GlobalPost about why she thinks Mexico’s government is more dangerous than its gangsters. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ioan Grillo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">MEXICO</a> CITY — It is not easy for any reporter to cover drug trafficking in Mexico, a country where more than 80 journalists have been shot, stabbed, bludgeoned to death or decapitated since 2006.</p> <p>But despite the risks, journalist and author Anabel Hernandez not only covers the issue, but also levels accusations of narco corruption in the country’s most powerful institution: the presidency.</p> <p>In articles and books, she has alleged links between kingpins such as Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman and a series of Mexican presidents, including Vicente Fox, who ruled from 2000 to 2006, and Felipe Calderon, in power from 2006 to 2012.</p> <p>According to Hernandez, these leaders’ war on drugs was a farce in which they used soldiers and police to help out Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel.</p> <p>And despite <a href="" target="_blank">Guzman&rsquo;s dramatic arrest</a> in February by Mexican marines, Hernandez suspects the Sinaloa Cartel is only growing in power under current President Enrique Peña Nieto.</p> <p>These accusations have major implications for Mexico, where more than 70,000 have died in cartel-related violence since 2006. But they also impact the <a href="">United States</a>, which has supported Mexico’s fight against drug gangs with billions of dollars, while the US Drug Enforcement Administration and others have worked closely with the Mexican security forces under the command of these presidents.</p> <p>Such controversial investigations have come at a high personal cost. Hernandez, a mother of two, has faced relentless threats and intimidation, including Kalashnikov-wielding <a href="" target="_blank">thugs breaking into her home</a>.</p> <p>Hernandez has been particularly concerned about her country’s federal police, drawing alleged links between them and the drug cartels.</p> <p>In contrast, Mexico City’s police have provided her with protection against gunmen who might want her dead.</p> <p>But while sacrificing so much of her personal freedom, Hernandez has made a huge impact on coverage of drug trafficking. Her book “Los Señores del Narco,” translated into English as “<a href="" target="_blank">Narcoland</a>,” has sold more than 200,000 copies, making it one of Mexico’s best-selling nonfiction works in recent years.</p> <p>While the former presidents and other officials have denied Hernandez’s accusations, they have not sued her over them. Hernandez says this is because they cannot disprove her assertions, or in many cases show where their mysterious wealth came from.</p> <p>As she launched a new edition of her book this summer, GlobalPost spoke with Hernandez about her investigations and what drives her on.</p> <p><strong>GlobalPost: How did you make the journey to find yourself investigating drug cartels?</strong></p> <p>Hernandez: I really started investigative journalism after the death of my father. My father was kidnapped and murdered in December 2000. … It is difficult for me to say this, but my father was abducted, beaten, put in a car trunk, and tied up in such a way that he suffocated. The case was never solved. The authorities asked for money to continue the investigation, which we refused to pay. It is very frustrating. What are you as an individual going to do against a corrupt system? This issue of my father made me change my outlook on life. For me, investigative journalism was a refuge.</p> <p><strong>Are you sure corruption in Mexico reaches the highest levels and it's not just lower-ranking officials who work for drug cartels?</strong></p> <p>Since President Luis Echeverria (1970-1976) the links with drug trafficking have been at a presidential level. Corruption in Mexico is pyramidal and from the presidency it permeates other institutions. … The principal public officials and politicians that have been part of this system are still in power. They are deputies, senators, governors and others.</p> <div> <div getty-height="381" getty-image-embed="//;sig=bS04YuMpTRAmiLOqnoyT78pMu8Yh04F7osYpC1qNt4U=" getty-position="right" getty-width="594"> President Vicente Fox.</div> </div> <p><strong>Chapo Guzman escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001. How can you be sure that then-President Fox was complicit in this? </strong></p> <p>The escape happened under his government, and it involved public officials that worked under his orders. There is no doubt … Fox started his administration with just $1,000 in the bank. His companies were all bankrupt. … Chapo Guzman escaped on Jan. 19, 2001. In February, Fox started to spend money, to buy property and remodel his ranch. Where did he get this money? It is completely inexplicable. … He has never been able to sue me because he cannot justify this wealth.</p> <p><strong>Do you believe that President Felipe Calderon would personally meet with drug traffickers?</strong></p> <p>“La Barbie” [arrested trafficker Edgar Villarreal] wrote me a letter in 2012 revealing that Calderon headed meetings [with drug traffickers] … I have firmly documented that people of Ismael Mayo Zambada [a wanted drug trafficker] went into Los Pinos [Mexico’s presidential palace].</p> <p>I am convinced that this war on drug trafficking was never real. Its only intention was to protect the Sinaloa cartel and attack others.</p> <div> <div getty-height="402" getty-image-embed="//;sig=YquFLIrLEAe8yQ9fmFt-gLlmDhV4owRiOlUTeP4cgL8=" getty-position="left" getty-width="594"> President Enrique Peña Nieto.</div> </div> <p><strong>What is current President Peña Nieto’s policy toward drug trafficking?</strong></p> <p>I believe that Enrique Peña Nieto is trying to make an old-style pact with drug traffickers. The issue is that he won’t be able to because organized crime is so pulverized and there are so many loose criminal cells that don’t take orders from anybody. What I can say is that the Sinaloa cartel is achieving under this administration what it didn’t achieve in its best years under Fox and Calderon.</p> <p><strong>What do you think about legalizing drugs to stop billions of dollars that fund corruption?</strong></p> <p>I don’t believe in legalization. I don’t believe that everybody should have access to drugs and this is the solution the problem. … I believe that there has to be for the first time in the world a true war on drugs. To have a true war on drugs we need to investigate the big world banks, put all the money launderers in prison. The war on drugs is not with a pistol or an AK-47. The war on drugs has to be financial.</p> <p><strong>What do you hope to achieve with your investigations? What should Mexico do, put former presidents in prison?</strong></p> <p>What I have learned in nine years of investigation into drug trafficking is that a general, a public security secretary or a governor is more dangerous than Chapo Guzman himself. They are the ones that betray the country, that sell the state to organized crime and they should face exemplary punishments. … If there are no exemplary punishments against the Mexican political and business class who permit people like Chapo Guzman to exist, then nothing is going to change and we are just going to be repeating this story of death, sometimes with more violence, sometimes with less, but always with the Mexican state under control of drug traffickers. We have to break this cycle.</p> Mexican Drug War World Leaders Conflict Zones Want to Know Military Mexico Thu, 17 Jul 2014 05:30:00 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6206562 at Mexico rescues 458 children from squalid shelter amid sexual abuse allegations <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Mexico</a> said on Tuesday it had rescued 458 children from a vermin-infested refuge for abandoned boys and girls, some of whom it believes were sexually abused.</p> <p>The attorney general's office said police and army troops raided a home known as "La Gran Familia" (The Big Family) in the western city of Zamora on Tuesday, following at least 50 complaints about its operators.</p> <p>Infested by rats, bedbugs and fleas, the refuge was run by Rosa Verduzco, who is now being questioned by authorities, the government said.</p> <p>The refuge was home to 278 boys, 174 girls and six infants as well as 138 adults aged up to 40, the government said.</p> <p>"We found that there were around 500 children in truly terrible conditions," Attorney General Jesus Murillo said.</p> <p>Five complaints by parents that the home would not return their children to them prompted authorities to act, he added.</p> <p>The children in the refuge had to beg for money on the streets, eat unsanitary food and sleep on the floor among vermin, officials said. Some suffered sexual abuse, they added.</p> <p>Babies born in the refuge were registered as children of Verduzco and their parents were given no say in their upbringing, said Tomas Zeron, director of the attorney general's criminal investigation unit.</p> <p>One desperate parent even offered Verduzco 10,000 pesos ($770) to return her young daughters, Zeron said.</p> <p>La Gran Familia was founded in 1947 and looks after children abandoned by troubled parents, the refuge says on its Facebook page. It also provides schooling for the children.</p> <p>Its funding came from charitable donations, as well as companies and the government, it said. No one could be reached at the refuge via a telephone number on the Facebook page.</p> <p>Authorities are treating the children for psychological and sexual abuse as well as seeking out suitable homes for the victims, the government said.</p> <p>(Reporting by Anahi Rama and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Kieran Murray and Clarence Fernandez)</p> Need to Know Mexico Wed, 16 Jul 2014 19:28:49 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6206712 at Netherlands is liable for 300 deaths in 1995 Srebrenica massacre, court rules <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">The Netherlands</a> is liable for about 300 of the more than 8,000 deaths in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, a Dutch court ruled on Wednesday, pinning some of the blame for <a href="">Europe</a>'s worst massacre since World War II on the Dutch state.</p> <p>A district court in The Hague said Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica, a Bosnian Muslim enclave in Bosnian Serb-held territory, could have known that the 300 men who had sought refuge in their base in the village of Potocari would be murdered if deported from the Dutch compound.</p> <p>The court said the Netherlands was not liable for the deaths of those who had fled into the forests surrounding Srebrenica, where many of the men and boys were later buried in mass graves.</p> <p>The ruling could set a precedent with implications for future peacekeeping deployments by the Netherlands or other countries.</p> <p>During the Bosnian war, the Dutch battalion Dutchbat had been deployed to protect Srebrenica, which had been designated a safe haven by the United Nations, but surrendered to the much larger Bosnian Serb army commanded by Ratko Mladic, who is on trial for war crimes at an international court in The Hague.</p> <p>The case was brought by the Mothers of Srebrenica, a group representing surviving relatives of the victims. They had failed in their bid to have a court find the United Nations responsible for the massacre.</p> <p>"At the moment that the men were sent away, Dutchbat knew or should have known that the genocide was taking place and therefore there was a serious risk that those men would be killed," said judge Peter Blok.</p> <p>The failure of Dutch soldiers to protect the Muslim men and boys of Srebrenica has left a deep scar in Dutch politics, contributing to the resignation of the Dutch government in 2002.</p> <p>The three-year Bosnian war, in which at least 100,000 people were killed, was the bloodiest of a series of conflicts that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.</p> <p>(Reporting By Svebor Kranjc; writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Janet Lawrence)</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:11:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6206662 at Mother's helper? Text messages deliver health advice to South African women <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A US-backed mobile health program signs up young mothers at their local health clinic. Global health reporting fellow Sara Jerving reports from South Africa. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sara Jerving </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JOHANNESBURG, <a href="">South Africa</a> – I walked into the Esselen clinic in Hillbrow, Johannesburg on a recent morning to find around 40 women and their newborn babies crowded together on rows of wooden chairs. They were waiting for a health worker to call them into another room where a chorus of cries could be heard — the sound of babies being stuck with vaccination needles.</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Some of the women had arrived at the health clinic as early as 6:30 in the morning, standing in line outside in the winter cold, aiming to be the first to enter when the doors opened at 8 a.m. Those women lucky enough to get in sat patiently for hours, rocking their babies and playing with their cell phones.</span></p> <p>Mandla Goshwa, a 24-year-old health worker, interrupted their chatter in the noisy space as he stood at the front of the room and told the women about a free health text messaging service called the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). Mothers who elect to subscribe to the service, he said, receive text messages twice a week that deliver advice on how to care for their child. If the women are pregnant, they receive tips on prenatal care. </p> <p>Goshwa spoke in both English and Zulu, and has been coming to this clinic every day for two months since he began working with Wits Reproductive Health &amp; HIV Institute (WRHI), an academic research institute that is collaborating with several clinics in the area to provide the SMS messages. WRHI is part of the global public-private partnership behind the MAMA program, which is the brainchild behind it all.</p> <p>Relebogile Motlhabi, a 25-year-old new mother, has been receiving the text message for months. She signed up when she was pregnant, and her son is now seven weeks old. She says she already knew much of the information she receives in the texts, but has picked up new tips as well.</p> <p>“I didn’t know that when you are pregnant you should still be using a condom with your partner,” she told me. “You must continue using a condom when you’re pregnant to prevent the child from getting any kinds of infections while giving birth.” </p> <p>Hillbrow is a densely populated, low-income residential neighborhood. Just a decade ago, because of high levels of crime, this area of was considered a no-go zone, sometimes even by police. While its conditions have improved significantly, some of the apartment complexes still house people in squalor conditions with as many as 12 families living in a two-bedroom apartment, said Jesse Coleman, program manager for mHealth at WRHI. Many of the area inhabitants are from neighboring countries — migrants who came to South <a href="">Africa</a> to look for work. This means that for many women, support networks for pregnancy and child rearing are back home, in other African nations.</p> <p>Many of the women I met at the clinic were, like Motlhabi, in their twenties. Some were domestic workers, others students. Many of the women came from <a href="">Zimbabwe</a>; for some, their lives placed on hold for when they can save enough money to head back home. About 88 percent of those who register for the MAMA program live in a household that makes less than $460 per month. Goshwa’s job is to inform the women about the project and sign them up for the service.</p> <p>“Most of the women are interested in signing up for the service. We see very few that aren’t,” he told me. </p> <p>The text messages provide the women advice on health topics such as nutrition and HIV transmission to newborns, and relay the importance of talking and singing to their babies. A text geared for a woman early on in her pregnancy reads: “Your baby is just the size of your thumb. Keep her safe by not smoking or drinking alcohol, as they can make her weaker and less healthy.” Another for HIV-positive women: “You can help stop your baby getting HIV. Go to all clinic check ups, take the right medicines, and feed breastmilk ONLY for the first 6 months.” </p> <p>Many of the women at the clinic have heard Goshwa’s speech before. He has already signed up over 90 percent of the pregnant women at Esselen. Health workers like Goshwa keep coming back to scoop up women he might have missed in previous visits, or newly pregnant mothers that are on one of their first antenatal visits to the clinic. </p> <p>Getting pregnant women into Esselen as early as possible in their pregnancy is a priority so that the clinic can begin testing for HIV. The earlier in a pregnancy the clinic is able to identify an HIV-positive woman, the easier it is to take steps to reduce the likelihood that the child will contract the disease. About 40 percent of the women at Esselen who sign up for the service opt to receive messaging on HIV. Not all of these women are HIV positive, some just are interested having the information, either for their own knowledge or to share with friends. </p> <p>With dozens of women waiting in lines for their antenatal and postnatal visits, it was easy for me to see how the health workers can’t provide each woman with extensive or individualized health information. The MAMA program aims to fill this gap in health care and hopes the messages will reduce maternal and child mortality in the nation — a goal this country has made little progress with over the years. </p> <p>And it seems to be reaching the women at Esselen. I spoke with Mthandazo Ntini, another new and young mother, and later watched as she pulled out her phone and flipped through her messages -- including a text from MAMA.</p> <p>“I didn’t know anything about babies...I’m the last born,” she told me. The texts "have been helpful." </p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">How is a US-backed mobile health program helping mothers in South Africa?</a></strong></p> <p>  </p> <p class='u'></p> Maternal Health Health Global Pulse Wed, 16 Jul 2014 10:34:25 +0000 Sara Jerving 6200410 at Here’s why so many elderly Chinese are collecting trash <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Life is rough for retirees in the world’s second largest economy. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> James Griffiths </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SHANGHAI, <a href="">China</a> — How do you picture your retirement? Spending time with your family? Traveling? Enjoying your hobbies?</p> <p>Or maybe rummaging through the trash looking for bottles to sell for a little extra cash?</p> <p>According to the World Bank, some 2.5 million people work in the “informal waste management sector” in China, picking through trash for recyclable materials to sell. As any visitor to a major Chinese city will soon notice, many of these trash pickers are elderly people, unable to support themselves on meager government pensions.</p> <p> China has the fastest growing aging population in the world. By 2050, 437 million people — a third of the population — will be more than 60 years old.</p> <p> Millions more under-60 are already pensioners, due to China’s low retirement age. Currently, men working in the public sector finish work at 60, while female white collar workers retire at 55, and blue collar women stop work at the comparatively sprightly age of 50. A 2007 United Nations study estimated that in 2005 there were 16 retirees for every 100 workers in China. By 2025, the ratio will be 64 to 100.</p> <p> China’s pension system is already showing the strain. Almost 50 percent of provinces are unable to pay retiree costs and rely on financial assistance from Beijing. A report by Deutsche Bank and Bank of China found a $2.9 trillion hole in the country’s social security fund, which could widen to a staggering $10.9 trillion by 2033.</p> <p> Traditionally, elderly Chinese would rely on their children for support. Filial piety is one of the country’s most important core values. However, the one child policy has upended this, as more and more families end up with one or two working adults supporting multiple retirees. If a pensioner’s child dies, or is unable to work, there is usually no one else to help with the burden.</p> <p> That has left many retirees dependent on the basic pension provided by the government — and “basic” is a painfully accurate description. In Shanghai, one of the richest (and most expensive) areas of the country, residents are paid 500 yuan ($82) per month. In Shaanxi province, in central China, retirees only receive about a fifth of that. In comparison, the average monthly wage was 4,692 yuan ($750) in 2012, according to the municipal bureau of human resources and social security.</p> <p> Medical expenses, an unavoidable cost of aging, can suck this income dry. State insurance plans don’t cover much beyond the most basic procedures.</p> <p> “I’ve spent more than $10,000 out of my own pocket for dozens of visits to the neurologist over the past two years,” one elderly patient said.</p> <p> “For many people, the pension is not enough to support them, and their children can’t support them, so they have to work,” said Chen Liwen, a researcher at Nature University, an environmental NGO in Beijing. That work is usually trash picking, sifting through bins for scrap to sell, usually Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) drinking bottles.</p> <p> “I met one woman, about 80 years old, she pushed a trolly and picked for recyclables every day because her husband had died from cancer and they had a lot of debt,” Chen said.</p> <p> A 94 year old Beijing woman made news in 2012 when it was reported that she had ben collecting bottles and paper for more than a decade to support herself and her 74 year old disabled daughter.</p> <p> The work is demanding and unrewarding. “It’s about four PET bottles for one yuan [$0.16],” Chen said.</p> <p> Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion Dollar Trash Trade, echoes that assessment: “Somebody with a bag looking for bottles on the subway isn’t going to make more than a few yuan per day, [though] somebody with a cart is capable of making several hundred if he or she gets lucky.”</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets China Political Risk Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:36:35 +0000 James Griffiths 6196152 at Europe is struggling to find its soul <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU leaders are meeting this week to figure out how to save the 'United States of Europe.' </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 — "If Europe today were to take a selfie, what would be the picture?"</p> <p>That’s what <a href="">Italy</a>'s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi recently asked the European Parliament before going on to provide his answer.</p> <p>"What we would see is a face that's tired, resigned,” he said. “Europe's selfie would be bored."</p> <p>Now the social-media-savvy Italian leader has set himself the task of helping Europe "find its soul again."</p> <p>His drive comes in reaction to elections in May that gave more than a quarter of seats in the European Union's parliament to parties that want to break up the EU or at least roll back its influence and halt further integration among the union’s 28 member countries.</p> <p>Those results — particularly gains by the extreme right and far left — came as a shock to Europe's political establishment.</p> <p>The bloc's presidents and prime ministers will hold their second summit today since the elections in an effort to build a response.</p> <p>As usual, however, there’s little agreement on the way ahead.</p> <p><strong>Horsetrading and ultimatums</strong></p> <p>Renzi wants to tie nations closer together, saying he still dreams of a "<a href="">United States</a> of Europe."</p> <p>That's anathema to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who's demanding power be repatriated from EU headquarters in Brussels. He warns Britain could vote to pull out of the union in a 2017 referendum if that doesn't happen.</p> <p>Britain's new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond — appointed by Cameron on Tuesday — is a euro-sceptic who says he'll vote to leave the EU unless other members grant the <a href="">UK</a> better terms.</p> <p><a href="">French</a> President Francois Hollande wants a stronger emphasis on growth and employment rather than austerity. Renzi's with him on that, but they face an uphill struggle convincing <a href="">German</a> Chancellor Angela Merkel to accept anything that deviates from rigorous budget discipline.</p> <p>Today's meeting will also focus on appointing new names to two key leadership positions in the EU hierarchy.</p> <p>There, too, governments are divided as they seek to defend national interests and find a balance between geography, gender and political affiliation among top jobs.</p> <p>Until recently, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski looked to be a shoo-in to become the EU's foreign policy chief. But his hard line against Russia's antics in Ukraine has spooked more conciliatory countries such as Italy and <a href="">the Netherlands</a>.</p> <p>As an alternative, Renzi has put forward his plucky but inexperienced Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.</p> <p>She has support from southern European countries and would counter complaints of too few women in Europe's high places. Unsurprisingly, however, there's resistance from the east — <a href="">Poland</a> and the Baltic states say Mogherini's too soft on Moscow.</p> <p>A possible compromise has emerged in recent days in the shape of Kristalina Georgieva, a Bulgarian who has won respect for her hands-on running of the EU's humanitarian aid department.</p> <p>The other top job up for grabs is president of the European Council, who chairs and sets the agenda for EU summits. Denmark's Socialist Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is in pole position.</p> <p>She faces French opposition because Denmark sits outside the euro currency zone. But insiders say Paris could be won over if French former Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici is appointed as the EU's economics commissioner.</p> <p>Such horsetrading does little to overcome voter perceptions that the union has become a murky, remote organization where decisions are made behind closed doors by vaguely known officials they didn’t elect and can’t kick out.</p> <p>To counter such views, rules governing the appointment of the EU's other top job were changed to give a greater role to the recently elected European Parliament.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the assembly voted 422-250 to approve the appointment of former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission.</p> <p>"I want to work for a union that is committed to democracy and reform, that is not meddlesome but works for its citizens rather than against them,” Juncker pledged ahead of his confirmation vote. “I want to work for a union that delivers."</p> <p>He promised to put forward a new "jobs, growth and investment package" within the first three months of his mandate to generate over $400 billion in investment over three years.</p> <p>"My number-one priority and the connecting thread running through each and every proposal will be getting Europe growing again and getting people back to work," he said.</p> <p>Although Juncker was the lead candidate of the center-right, which won the most seats in May's European Parliament election, his appointment was bitterly opposed by Britain's Conservative-led government.</p> <p>Cameron warned that the nomination of such a pro-Europe political insider to manage the EU's head office runs counter to public opinion and risks hastening Britain’s exit from the union.</p> <p>Juncker now has to put together his team. Each EU government will send him its nomination to serve on the European Commission — a 28-strong body that acts as the union's executive, proposing laws and policies and ensuring they’re implemented. Juncker will decide who gets which job.</p> <p>Most countries are sending high-profile figures in an effort to secure important portfolios — like economics, trade and justice.</p> <p>In something of a snub to Juncker, Cameron on Tuesday appointed Lord Jonathan Hill, an obscure member of Britain's unelected House of Lords, as Britain's commissioner. Asked recently if he wanted the job, Hill resorted to French. "Non, non, non," he told a Conservative website. "I quite like it at home, in the British Isles."</p> <p><strong>One big unhappy family</strong></p> <p>Whoever ends up running the EU alongside Juncker will have to confront the fundamental problems highlighted in Renzi's speech.</p> <p>Once lauded as the guarantor of peace and prosperity among countries torn apart by two world wars, the EU is now deeply unpopular.</p> <p>Southern Europeans accuse the organization of imposing German-inspired austerity they blame for generating poverty and record unemployment. Northerners gripe that Brussels takes their money to subsidize the spendthrift south.</p> <p>Among the Brits, French and Dutch, there are complaints that the EU's treasured free labor movement rules let in migrants from eastern countries who steal jobs and overburden welfare systems. Hardworking easterners are deeply resentful.</p> <p>Just 31 percent of EU citizens have a positive view of the union, according to a poll published last year — in Britain the figure was 22 percent, and in Greece, just 16 percent.</p> <p>Renzi told parliament in Rome last month that the EU has become a "boring old aunt who tells you what to do." He has said Europe needs to go beyond financial spreadsheets to conjure up the spirits of Homer, Dante and Leonardo da Vinci.</p> <p>However, critics point out that the Italian leader has few concrete proposals to match his soaring rhetoric — beyond easing the pressure on Italy and other southern countries to cut their debts.</p> <p>Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive at the European Policy Center, a Brussels think-tank, agrees with Renzi that Europe needs to spur economic growth to win back public support, but doubts there’s unity among governments for concerted action.</p> <p>"It's easy to say that Europe should be doing more, but the key question is: What is it we want Europe to do?” he said. “And are member states willing to give Europe the competences, the means, to actually do it? At the moment, I don't see the political will to do something substantive."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Standing up for Scottish independence</a></strong></p> <p>Failure to unite on internal issues risks leaving Europe vulnerable to a raft of issues that will press hard on the officials appointed this week.</p> <p>Among them, Europe needs a credible position on Ukraine and must redefine its relations with Russia.</p> <p>Europe’s economy also risks falling further behind the United States and the new emerging powers thanks to the slow economic recovery from the euro crisis.</p> <p>Carnage in the <a href="">Middle East</a> is generating new flows of refugees around the Mediterranean and intensifying terrorism fears, while planned independence referendums in Scotland and <a href="">Spain</a>’s Catalonia region may force the EU to deal with new secessionist states in its midst.</p> <p>Dealing with all that may leave the EU's new leadership little time to rediscover Europe's soul. </p> European Union Want to Know Europe Politics Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:36:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6205681 at Three missing, thousands flee as typhoon hits eastern Philippines <!--paging_filter--><p>Tens of thousands of people in the Philippines hunkered down in evacuation centers while three people were reported missing Tuesday as a typhoon pounded its eastern coast amid warnings of giant storm surges and heavy floods.</p> <p>The eye of Typhoon Rammasun struck Legazpi city in the eastern Bicol region in the early evening, with Manila and other heavily populated regions expecting to be hit on Wednesday afternoon, the state weather service said.</p> <p>"Roofing sheets are flying off the tops of houses here... the wind is whistling," Joey Salceda, the governor of Albay province in Bicol said over ABS-CBN television.</p> <p>He said there had been no reports of deaths while damage to the region — an impoverished farming and fishing region of 5.4 million people — was expected to be "moderate."</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:67.340067% 0 49px 0;width:100%;"> <iframe frameborder="0" height="449" scrolling="no" src="//;sig=YiAoCE1j0GFkAWU0HPzGIvsE1PtlRLuzf1PHcnOMrjE=" 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">#452177084</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <p>However, Bicol police said three local men were listed as missing off the island of Catanduanes on Tuesday, a day after they pushed out to sea to fish and failed to return.</p> <p>The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms a year, many of them deadly. The Southeast Asian archipelago is often the first major landmass to be struck after storm build above the warm Pacific Ocean waters.</p> <p>In November Super Typhoon Haiyan unleashed giant seven-meter (23-foot) high storm surges that devastated the coasts of the eastern islands of Samar and Leyte, killing up to 7,300 people in one of the nation's worst ever natural disasters.</p> <p>More than 96,000 families were moved to evacuation centers Tuesday as a precaution, Social Welfare Minister Corazon Soliman said.</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=I73_3bgL5p0PNmOZXTV26k6j2dvaX4VJJwC1hOIrcH0=" 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">#452171266</a> / <a href="" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;" target="_blank"></a></div> </div> <p>The government declared a school holiday for areas in the typhoon's path, while ferry services were also shut down and dozens of flights cancelled.</p> <p>"People on the coastal areas are evacuating because of the threat of storm surges," National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokeswoman Romina Marasigan told AFP.</p> <p>State weather forecaster Alvin Pura said Rammasun, which is <a href="">Thai</a> for "God of Thunder," struck Legazpi, a city of about 185,000 people, with 81 miles per hour winds.</p> <p>It was then forecast to sweep across around about 215 miles to the northwest and hit Manila and its 12 million people on Wednesday afternoon.</p> Need to Know Philippines Tue, 15 Jul 2014 16:06:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6205469 at Car bomb attack kills at least 89 people in Afghanistan <!--paging_filter--><p>A car packed with explosives exploded on Tuesday as it sped through a crowded market in <a href="">Afghanistan</a>'s eastern province of Paktika, killing at least 89 people, officials said, one of the most violent attacks in the country in a year.</p> <p>The huge explosion took place not far from the porous border with <a href="">Pakistan</a>'s North Waziristan region, where the military has been attacking hideouts of the Pakistani Taliban in the past few weeks, prompting militants to retreat towards Afghanistan.</p> <p>"The number of victims may increase," said General Zahir Azimi, a defense ministry spokesman.</p> <p>The attack comes at an uneasy time in Afghanistan as the country recounts votes from a disputed presidential election which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt.</p> <p>But the Taliban distanced themselves from Tuesday's attack. The movement's leader have ordered militants not to target civilians.</p> <p>"The truth behind this attack will become clear after an investigation, but we clearly announce that it was not done by the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement.</p> <p>"The Mujahedeen do not conduct such attacks and such attacks do not bring any benefit to them."</p> <p>A local deputy police chief, Nissar Ahmad Abdulrahimzai, told Reuters that police had been tipped about the car and were chasing it when it exploded.</p> <p>"The explosion was so big it destroyed many shops. Dozens of people are trapped under the roofs," Mohammad Raza Kharoti, the district governor, told Reuters.</p> <p>"The number of wounded will rise to more than 100 and the number of those martyred will also increase."</p> <p>In Kabul, a remote control bomb concealed by a roadside killed two employees of President Hamid Karzai's media office and wounded five, police said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.</p> <p>The attacks took place as foreign troops are gradually withdrawing from the country. The United Nations said last week civilian casualties jumped by almost a quarter in the first half of this year as hostilities escalate.</p> <p>(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni in Kabul, Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Ron Popeski)</p> Afghanistan Need to Know Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:23:30 +0000 Samihullah Paiwand, Thomson Reuters 6205346 at Subway derailment in Moscow kills 20 and injures up to 120 people <!--paging_filter--><p>UPDATE: </p> <p><em>Agence <a href="">France</a>-Presse — Twenty people died and scores more were hurt after a train derailed in Moscow's packed metro during rush hour on Tuesday in the worst accident to hit one of the world's busiest subways.</em></p> <hr><p>Nineteen people were killed on Tuesday and up to 120 injured when a Moscow underground train derailed between two stations during the morning rush hour, the Emergencies Ministry said.</p> <p><a href="">Russia</a>'s investigative committee said it was looking into the causes of the accident. It said, however, there was no suspicion of a militant attack, the cause for scores of deaths in Moscow's underground in years past.</p> <p>Injured passengers were carried on stretchers, bloodied and bandaged, out of metro stations and helicopters ferried the most seriously hurt to hospital. Passengers looked stunned or were crying after being helped to the surface by emergency services.</p> <p>"There is no one alive left," Moscow's deputy mayor Peter Biryukov said. "The cause is not known, the work continues."</p> <p>Biryukov said three bodies were recovered from the wreckage, but that some bodies remained underground.</p> <p>Russia's Itar-Tass news agency cited the Emergencies Ministry as saying 19 had died in the accident.</p> <p>Investigators said earlier a power surge caused the train to stall and several cars to come off the rails between the Slaviansky Boulevard and Park Pobedy stations.</p> <p>"It braked very hard. The lights went off and there was lots of smoke," a man, his nose bloodied, told Rossiya-24 television.</p> <p>"We were trapped and only got out by some miracle. I thought it was the end. Many people were hurt, mostly in the first rail car because the cars ran into each other."</p> <p>A city transport services spokesman told news agency Interfax that all passengers had been evacuated from the affected stations by midday, dismissing reports that some passengers were still trapped in the underground tunnel.</p> <p>The Moscow metro is the world's busiest, with as many as 9 million people on week days riding a system that is widely recognised for its reliability.</p> <p>Famed for its high-vaulted halls adorned with Soviet socialist realist art, the underground network has expanded from 13 stations opened in 1935 to 194 stations across the megalopolis today.</p> <p>Islamist militants have previously carried out deadly attacks in Moscow, including twin suicide bombings that killed 40 people on the subway in 2010.</p> <p>(Reporting by Andrey Kuzmin and Tatiana Ustinova, Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Lidia Kelly, Editing by Ralph Boulton)</p> Need to Know Russia Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:25:00 +0000 Andrey Kuzmin, Thomson Reuters 6205318 at Making agriculture 'sexy and sustainable' in Mali: Q&A with Salif Niang <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A Malian entrepreneur attempts to reduce farmer losses in his country by helping privatize the rice industry. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sarika Bansal </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ASPEN, Colo. &mdash; At last year&rsquo;s <a href="">World Food Prize</a>, Nigeria&rsquo;s Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, presented on the state of the African agriculture industry. He repeatedly said, &ldquo;We need to see agriculture in Africa as a business. That is the only way it will grow.&rdquo;</p> <p>Seeing agriculture as a charitable activity to alleviate poverty, he claimed, has not worked. In some African countries, up to 80 percent of the <a href="">population</a> works in food production. Despite this, under-nutrition is still responsible for an annual 3.5 million <a href="">child deaths</a> across the continent.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>Adesina&rsquo;s sentiment is making its way around Africa, with entrepreneurs in all corners working to change the face of agriculture. Four years ago, Malian Salif Niang co-founded <a href="">Malo SARL</a>, to bring the private sector into the country&rsquo;s rice industry, which has historically been run by the government. Rice is a staple crop in the western African nation, but up to 50 percent of its harvest is lost before reaching consumers, due to poor post-harvest options. Niang works with 30,000 cooperative farmers to capture this loss: Malo pays farmers a fair price for their harvest, which they then process, store, fortify, and sell.</p> <p>While at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where Niang presented his work as a <a href="">New Voices Fellow</a>, he spoke with GlobalPost on the role the private sector is playing in improving food security in Africa.</p> <p><strong>GlobalPost:</strong> What are your thoughts on the food security situation in Mali?</p> <p><strong>Salif Niang:</strong> Mali has had chronic food security issues since the 1970s. It&rsquo;s almost always due to drought, to climate forces. Seventy to 80 percent of the population works in the agriculture space, and they also tend to be some of the poorest people in the country.</p> <p>It&#39;s also very difficult for farmers to farm where they don&#39;t feel safe. In northern Mali, there are hundreds of thousands of people who were displaced, and a lot of them need help to be productive again.</p> <p>A global trend that&#39;s beginning to emerge is understanding that more food is not sufficient. You need nutritious food, including protein and vegetables. Those are much more difficult to grow when you don&#39;t have access to seeds, to proper financing, to methods of resisting extreme weather. A lot of developing countries &ndash; Mali included &ndash; are net importers of food. Which is ironic, because most of their labor force is supposedly in the food production business.</p> <p>The challenge is this: is there a way to produce these things locally in a sustainable manner, and at the same time create jobs and income? You want to break that vicious cycle of poverty, food security, and malnutrition.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> What&#39;s the role of the private sector in all of this?</p> <p><strong>SN:</strong> When I think of the private sector, I think of businesses that are registered, have a formal location, have staff and salaries, and are actually trying to grow more food or purchase food from farmers. In a country like Mali, we really don&#39;t have that. It&#39;s pretty disorganized. You have NGOs and governments that do a lot of work to provide seeds to farmers at harvest, but then it breaks down post-harvest when it comes to storage, packaging, and adding value &ndash; taking tomatoes and making tomato sauce, for example. Instead, you have tomatoes rotting because there are no businesses that might turn those tomatoes into sauce, or cold rooms to increase shelf life.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> I&#39;m surprised that there&#39;s no large player to do rice production, or at least sell it, since it&#39;s a staple crop.</p> <p><strong>SN:</strong> For the most part, people see the Malian market as too small. It&#39;s 16 million people. You have 2 billion people in Southeast Asia. Where would you go, if you were a big multinational? What some private companies &ndash; I&#39;m talking about foreign companies &ndash; have done is lease land to potentially use to grow food in the future. There&#39;s recognition that of all the geographic regions in the world, sub-Saharan Africa is where you can boost production enormously. McKinsey did a study where they found that 60 percent of the arable land that hasn&#39;t been exploited yet is in sub-Saharan Africa. Now, the question is, how do you bring that under development?</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> Let&rsquo;s imagine that the private sector develops all of that under-developed land. Who would be left behind in this scenario?</p> <p><strong>SN:</strong> If farmers have property rights, and many of them do in Mali, I don&#39;t think anyone necessarily needs to be left behind. If anything, agriculture has been underdeveloped and underexploited, so there&#39;s enough room for everyone to grow if it&#39;s done properly. What we don&#39;t want to see is smallholder farmers getting kicked off the land.</p> <p>I&rsquo;d like to see farmers treating farms as businesses and not just a means of survival. Farmers should not be hungry. It&#39;s their job to feed the country. If a farmer can&#39;t feed himself and his family, that&#39;s a problem.</p> <p>There are people who are right now farming because they have nothing else to do. We need to look at farming and agriculture holistically, and not just as planting, harvesting, and maintaining yield. It&#39;s the truck driver who needs to pick up the harvest from the farm. It&#39;s the tractor operator, and the mechanic that fixes the tractor. It&#39;s the marketing guy that designs the packaging. Some of those folks right now that may be doing basic subsistence farming may find opportunities across the value chain.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> How does your company factor into this environment?</p> <p><strong>SN:</strong> My thinking is this: how can we make agriculture sexy and sustainable? Farmers should grow food and make enough money to cover their basics.</p> <p>When we decided to start the company, about four years ago, we saw a huge opportunity to have an impact post-harvest. From the studies that we read, up to 50 percent of rice grown by smallholder farmers is wasted. We saw that as a business opportunity, and also an opportunity to have an impact on farmers by paying them a fairer price. In addition to that, it was a no-brainer to include fortification.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> What role does foreign aid play in supporting food security?</p> <p><strong>SN:</strong> In the past, a lot of food aid was excess grains from the US being dumped in local markets, and that was disastrous. That totally distorted local market prices. Often, you&#39;d see bags that said &lsquo;NOT FOR SALE&rsquo; being sold. It dis-incentivized people to invest, because you know some government or NGO is going to bring in tons of cheap food.</p> <p>What the World Food Program has been doing a lot lately, which I think is great, is instead of bringing in more food, they give folks vouchers &ndash; especially in areas that already have food and where people can afford to plant the food. In a lot of cases, and especially really remote areas, that kind of assistance can be the start of creating a free market. There are cases where you have to airlift food, because it&#39;s a humanitarian or environmental disaster. But wherever possible, source locally.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> What do you see as the future of food security in Mali over the next 10 years?</p> <p><strong>SN: </strong>There&#39;s definitely a recognition at the policy level that we have to get our agriculture sector in shape. It&#39;s been neglected for decades. With rapid population growth and rapid urbanization, governments &ndash; especially democratically elected ones like Mali &ndash; are worried that if food prices are too high, it&#39;s going to lead to political instability.</p> <p>I want to see this in terms of an opportunity to generate wealth and jobs, if done well. My idea of nutritional security is governments having a coherent policy around subsidies, tariffs, and how they provide inputs for farmers. I also see the government doing basic research around extension programs, providing weather and crop advice, and helping smallholder farmers secure land rights.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> What about the private sector?</p> <p><strong>SN:</strong> If the government does that, the private sector will come in. The demand is there. If there&#39;s an enabling environment, you will have an entrepreneur saying, &quot;Hey, I want to be able to feed a million people a year with poultry, or dairy products.&quot; For the private sector to be able to function, there has to be the right policies in place, or else they will not invest. If you have that, I&#39;m convinced that if you look at the numbers and if you&#39;re smart, you will invest in food production. It&#39;s to me an amazing business opportunity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Sarika Bansal is a journalist who focuses on social innovation and health. She is based in New York.</em></p> <p> <strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Malawi&#39;s paradox: Filled with both corn and hunger</a></strong><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> Africa economy Mali Health Global Pulse Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:23:53 +0000 Sarika Bansal 6204594 at Standing up for Scottish independence <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A Sikh comedian who matches kilts with turbans has become a spokesman for Scotland’s bid to exit the UK. </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>EDINBURGH, Scotland — Hardeep Singh Kohli may have been born in London, the son of immigrants from <a href="">India</a>. But it would be hard to find a more passionate Scot.</p> <p>"I'd rather die hungry and free than be part of something that has no f***ing interest in my future and my people," he told a recent Scottish nationalist gathering here. "Because you are my f***ing people whether you like it or not."</p> <p>A well-known face on British television, the comedian and writer has emerged as a leading spokesman for the "Yes" campaign ahead of Scotland's September referendum on independence from the <a href="">United Kingdom</a>.</p> <p>In an interview, Kohli explained why politics, economics, history and a better sense of rhythm mean his homeland can’t miss the opportunity to break from British rule.</p> <p>"Scotland has had a right-wing government imposed on what is fundamentally a left-wing country," he says of Britain’s Conservative government in London. "Plus I believe in the self determination of people, and our ability to dance really ought [to] get us independence if nothing else."</p> <p>Taking a break from touring his current show, "Hardeep is your Love," Kohli spoke in an Edinburgh pub before addressing a campaign dinner with local pro-independence activists.</p> <p>The 45-year-old Sikh delivered an expletive-laden talk — part standup routine, part political broadside — wearing a shockingly pink turban and a T-shirt asking "What does a Scotsman have under his kilt?" The answer was provided on the back: an image of the mythical creature from Loch Ness, with the caption, "a monster."</p> <p>Despite the jokes, Kohli is deadly serious about independence. Successive governments in London have neglected Scotland, he says, imposing unwanted policies from austerity economics to stationing nuclear-armed submarines in Scottish ports.</p> <p>He says Scots must overcome any fear of standing alone and build an independent state based on a proud history that's allowed their country of 5 million to preserve its distinct cultural identity under 307 years of British rule.</p> <p>"I refuse to accept that those who vote against me in the referendum feel any difference from me about their love of Scotland," he says in a distinct Glasgow accent. "I understand the trepidation in the minds of certain people, but my job is to convey to them the optimism, the positivity, the excitement of being a small, northern European country that has the most astonishing history and even more astonishing future because it will be in our own hands."</p> <p>Kohli likens the Scottish vote to India’s securing independence from British rule in 1947.</p> <p>His parents moved to London from India's Punjab state in the mid-1960s. When Kohli was born soon after, the family looked set to form part of London's growing Indian community until his father headed north to train as a teacher in the Scottish city of Dundee.</p> <p>"He tells a lovely story about taking what was then a 12-hour train journey to Dundee and being bowled over," Kohli recalls. "He was a vegetarian and a non-drinker until he got on the train with Scots and they offered him a ham sandwich and can of super-lager and he fell in love."</p> <p>The family moved north of the border in 1972, when Kohli was four years old.</p> <p>Back then, non-white faces were rare in Scotland. Today, they make up 8 percent of the population in Edinburgh, the capital, and 12 percent in the largest city Glasgow.</p> <p>Across the country, however, non-whites represent just 4 percent of the population, compared to 18 percent in the UK as a whole.</p> <p>That presents Scotland with different issues from the rest of the UK, Kohli believes. Although the country is “diverse and cosmopolitan,” he says, "we are depopulating, we require a different level of immigration, we can't afford not to be welcoming to all those around us."</p> <p>He acknowledges Scotland has bigotry issues, like other countries. His home city of Glasgow is notorious for ugly sectarian tensions between Catholics and Protestants.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">700 years later, Scotland's still debating independence from England</a></strong></p> <p>As a boy, Kohli was targeted by racist bullies, and it's not hard to find disgruntled voices on Edinburgh’s streets hoping an independent Scotland will send immigrants packing across the border to England.</p> <p>However, the Scottish National Party — which currently runs the government — is reaching out to minorities, which sets it apart from other burgeoning nationalist groups in <a href="">Europe</a> that tout an anti-immigration agenda, Kohli says.</p> <p>"As the child of an immigrant who grew up in Scotland, I'm at the heart of the Scottish nationalist campaign,” he says. “It's a different sort of nationalism. If you live in Scotland, you are Scottish, end of story." </p> Scotland referendum Want to Know Politics United Kingdom Tue, 15 Jul 2014 04:35:15 +0000 Paul Ames 6199466 at This Indian meal service is so efficient it’s the envy of FedEx <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In a country not exactly known for promptness, 6 million meals each day get delivered through Mumbai traffic with flawless precision. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sumi Somaskanda and Mandakini Gahlot </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MUMBAI — In Lower Manhattan, a busy banker stuffs herself with overly rich restaurant fare ordered off In <a href="">Frankfurt</a>, a manager slops generous portions of the canteen’s stew onto his lunch plate.</p> <p> In Mumbai, an insurance analyst sits down to a healthy home-cooked meal, still warm from the stove where it was prepared by his wife or mother.</p> <p> <a href="">India</a>’s commercial capital is a teeming metropolis of nearly 20 million, boasting a sparkling international air terminal and a sleek new metro system, swanky furniture stores and Bollywood starlets. It's a city constantly striving, yearning for the future.</p> <p> Remarkably, its age-old tradition of home-cooked meals — delivered on wheels — has resisted the momentum of change.</p> <p> The dabbawalas, as they’re known, are the men who make it possible.</p> <p> They have cemented their place in Mumbai’s colorful tapestry. They deliver lunch from home to the office or school every day, monsoon or shine.</p> <p> “We take great pride in ensuring delivery even against great odds: We worked through the floods in 2005 and the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 when most of the city had come to a standstill,” said Vitthal Sawant, a 34-year-old dabbawala who has delivered lunches for more than 15 years.  </p> <p> The dabbawalas are a common sight in Mumbai: men clad in white kurtas, weaving their bikes through impossible traffic and swarming throngs, juggling multiple tiffins — circular silver tins with four to five compartments, each packed with food — that are destined for office buildings and school courtyards.</p> <p> Transporting lunches may sound simple but what the dabbawalas do every day is a remarkable feat — one so impressive, in fact, that professors from Harvard Business School have traveled to India to study it.<br>  <br> Some 5,000 men dole out over 200,000 meals a day, picking up the tiffins in the morning from women, typically, who have packed steaming, spicy dishes into each compartment: a curry, vegetables, dal (lentils), and flatbread (with some variations).</p> <p> For many Mumbai residents, this is the only way to lunch — on a feast, made with the love of a mother or wife.</p> <p> "It's expensive to eat outside every day, besides it's not healthy,” said 36-year-old Naina Bhonsle in Mumbai’s Versova neighborhood. “I know what my husband likes eating, and so I prefer to send him a tiffin every day.”</p> <p> The dabbawalas sort the various lunches according to where they came from, and where they are intended to go, labeling each tiffin with an alpha numeric code. The tins are then loaded onto city trains, transported through the city’s maze and handed off to local dabbawalas who complete the last leg of the route.</p> <p> At lunchtime, the sharp aromas of turmeric, cumin and chili fill the office as workers deftly mop up their curries with bread. After the food is eaten and the tiffins packed back in their bags, the dabbawalas return the boxes to their respective homes, their loads a bit lighter.</p> <p><img src="" width="100%"></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">(AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>“It’s hard work, no doubt about it,” said Pawan Agarwal, who heads an association called The Mumbai Dabbawala, noting that the crates of tiffins often weigh 100 lbs or more. “But they feel that serving food is serving God so they feel happy to do this business.”</p> <p> Adding to the physical demands and challenge of precision, the large majority of the dabbawalas are semi-literate or illiterate, mostly hailing from small villages near the city of Pune in Maharashtra state. Their trade first started 125 years ago, in much simpler times. But as Mumbai has grown and transformed rapidly, adding new districts and train lines, the dabbawalas have adapted.</p> <p> “Even though many of us are only semi-literate, we have learned to read the code,” said Vitthal Sawant. “We don’t have any need for computers — the code is imprinted in our minds.”</p> <p> So deeply imprinted that the dabbawalas rarely, if ever, make a mistake. Their delivery system has been awarded a six sigma level of efficiency. That means they make around one mistake in every six million deliveries.</p> <p> “A hundred things can go wrong along the way — tiffins delivered to the wrong destination, tiffins lost, tiffins broken — but they rarely do,” said Sawant. “Our motto is ‘error is horror.’”</p> <p> Their delivery system has garnered international fame as a highly specialized trade, attracting Prince Charles and Richard Branson and warranting a case-study at Harvard Business School, visits from global delivery giant FedEx, and a <a href="">series of documentaries</a>.</p> <p> The dabbawalas' lore even spawned a critically-acclaimed movie last year. In "The Lunchbox," a mistaken dabbawala delivery sparks an unlikely romance between a young housewife and an office worker nearing retirement.</p> <p> “My dabba went to someone else, someone else liked it and finished it,” the astonished housewife tells her neighbor as the mistake dawns on her.</p> <p> “But they never deliver it wrong, that’s impossible!” goes the response.</p> <p> Still, the dabbawalas are facing unprecedented hurdles in a rapidly changing Mumbai. The brand new Navi Mumbai Metro, a much-anticipated rapid transit system, went online in early June, but the dabbawalas will not be allowed to use the new infrastructure.  </p> <p> But with only 12 stations covering around 7 kilometers of the city right now, the metro has little use at the moment for the dabbawalas, and its wagons are too small, says Gangaram Talekar, general secretary of the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association.</p> <p> “It will not be possible to carry hundreds of tiffins into those compartments, I imagine it will be a huge inconvenience to other passengers as well,” said Talekar. “Of course, we too would like to travel in greater comfort but we are not going to appeal this decision right now because for the moment, it’s impractical.”</p> <p> The biggest challenges, says Pawan Agarwal, are cultural ones, like changing family roles. As women shed their aprons and head to their own workplaces, nobody is left behind to cook lunch at home. His solution is to have the dabbawalas’ wives take over the cooking, closing the catering circle.</p> <p> “The customers will take cooked food also if husband and wife are working,” he said.</p> <p> Others have lamented the growing taste for Western standards, for business lunches and quick fast food fixes. Yet the dabbawalas say nothing, not even McDonald's, has managed to put a dent in their business.</p> <p> “Many people in this city prefer their lunch fresh, prepared lovingly by their wives or mothers,” said Vitthal Sawant. “This is why despite so many restaurants cropping up all over the city, our business still sees a 5-10 percent growth each year.”</p> <p><img src="" width="100%"></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">(AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>What’s more, the dabbawalas are part of the city’s identity, says Agarwal.</p> <p> “Mumbai is recognized, identified by the dabbawalas — all over India, all over the world they feel proud,” he said. “They are learning from this business, the values, the culture.”</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets India Innovation Tue, 15 Jul 2014 04:35:12 +0000 Sumi Somaskanda and Mandakini Gahlot 6191967 at Kurdish teenager's 'honor killing' fades to memory as Iraq violence swells <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As Iraq stands on the brink of a civil war, honor killing cases fade quietly into the background. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tracey Shelton </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Editor’s note: This story is part of a new GlobalPost Special Report titled "Laws of Men: Legal systems that fail women." This year-long series looks at the breakdown in legal systems created to protect women’s rights around the world.</em></p> <p>DOHUK, Iraq — The child’s body was found lying beneath the trees on the outskirts of Shekhan village. Her young, once beautiful face was missing its right eye; her left breast was cut open.</p> <p>Dunya, just 15 years old, had been shot nine times with an AK-47 assault rifle. Blades of grass were matted in her blonde ponytail. Dunya’s crime? Her 45-year-old husband suspected she was in love with a boy her own age.</p> <p>“Dunya was very timid. She wasn’t very social and she didn’t care about fashion,” said her mother Sahom Hassan when asked to describe her daughter, found dead on May 24. “On the day she was killed she called me and said, ‘This is the last time you will hear my voice.’”</p> <p>In many parts of the world, such a brutal and premeditated slaying is not called murder, but “honor killing.” The perpetrators can be husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles or sons. The ‘crime’ can range from sexual relations outside of marriage, to inappropriate dress or having any kind of contact with a man outside the family.</p> <p>The term “honor killing” stems from the belief that a family’s honor is dependent on the sexual purity of its female members, exempting such crimes from being classified as murder. And in many countries across the <a href="">Middle East</a>, North Africa and West Asia, the law agrees. While murder is punishable by life imprisonment or execution, there is no minimum charge for honor crimes in some penal codes and the maximum can be as low as six months.</p> <p>The United Nations estimates around 5,000 such killings are committed each year worldwide, but data is scarce and women’s rights workers believe the real number to be around four times higher.</p> <p>“In our societies they look at women as just sex and children. We are not equal in law or in society. We are number two,” said Bahar Muzir, coordinator of Zhyan (meaning ‘Life’ in Kurdish) a group that was formed to lobby the government and the public to end honor killing in Iraqi Kurdistan and press for justice for victims like Dunya.</p> <table align="left" border="0" cellpadding="10" cellspacing="0" style="width: 300px;margin-right:10px"><tbody><tr><td> <img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src=""></td> </tr><tr><td> <p><span style="color: rgb(127, 127, 127);"><span style="font-size: 12px;">Dunya’s mother sits with her other children in her family home. </span></span><br><span style="color: rgb(127, 127, 127);"><span style="font-size: 10px;">(Tracey Shelton/GlobalPost)</span></span></p> </td> </tr></tbody></table><p>Dunya's case became a household topic in Northern Iraq in the weeks following her murder. But as Iraq stands on the brink of a <a href="">civil war</a>, cases like Dunya’s have faded into the background. In June, a Sunni extremist group now known as the Islamic State seized control of a large chunk of Iraq stretching from the Kurdish borders in the north to the outskirts of Baghdad. Dunya’s case, once prominent, has become buried in the onslaught of violence, as the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq vies for independence.</p> <p>“Everyone is silent now,” Hassan said in regard to her daughter’s death.</p> <p>On June 8, two weeks after Dunya’s death, her husband released a video message unashamedly confessing to her murder, saying it was necessary to protect his honor and adding that anyone in his position would have done the same.</p> <p>Lawyers for Dunya’s case told GlobalPost they believe three of Yunis’ brothers and his father were also involved in her brutal murder.</p> <p><strong>Failures of justice</strong></p> <p>Dunya’s husband, Sleman Zyab Yunis, 45, already had a wife and nine children. His marriage to Dunya, which took place just after Dunya’s 14th birthday, was the result of a family deal.</p> <p>Relatives and friends of Dunya said that throughout her nine-month marriage she had endured physical and verbal abuse from Yunis, his wife and his children, most of whom were much older than she was.</p> <p>Her mother said Dunya had once run away from her husband, but after he implored the family to send her back promising things would be different she returned to her deplorable marriage.</p> <p>“The underlying issue is a lack of equality,” said Muzir as the Zhyan group convened to discuss Dunya’s case last month. “In our society, a woman is seen as the property of her family and then her husband. They are under the control of the males of the household – to give or sell in marriage, to control their conduct and movements. While progressive families may allow more freedom within the home, society does not tolerate women who make their own choices.”</p> <p>Laws in the Middle East frequently lay down a separate system of justice for men and women. In cases of murder, exemptions are often issued based on the gender of the perpetrator.</p> <p>For example, Article 418 of the <a href="">Moroccan</a> Penal Code states that in cases of adultery, "murder, injury and beating are excusable if they are committed by a husband on his wife as well as the accomplice." Under the same legal system, a wife who kills her husband after catching him with a mistress can face charges of first-degree murder.</p> <p>In <a href="">Syria</a>, Article 548 states that “he who catches his wife or one of his ascendants, descendants or sister committing adultery or illegitimate sexual acts with another and he killed or injured one or both of them benefits from an exemption of penalty.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Seeking justice for victims of rape in Minova, DRC</a></strong></p> <p>Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these laws do not stem from Islamic Sharia law but rather date back to the Napoleonic Code, which included an exemption for what is frequently termed in the west as a “crime of passion.”</p> <p>Influence of Napoleonic laws spread throughout the world via colonization.</p> <p>“These laws come from the perception — that was only recently overcome in our society — that a woman belongs to her family or to her husband,” said academic and national security scholar of the Middle East and Islamic world Sherifa Zuhur.</p> <p>Some similar exemptions also derive from the Ottoman Code, which has its base in Sharia law. Although sexual crimes such as adultery are punishable by death, according to Islamic law the perpetrator must be tried, accused by four witnesses and the execution carried out by the state.</p> <p>While legal exemptions to murder were intended for crimes committed in the heat of the moment — much like a crime of passion — cultural beliefs have led to their usage to absolve families in cases of premeditated honor killing.</p> <p>In 1990, Saddam Hussein brought this notion directly into the Iraqi penal code by introducing Article 128 that states that murder charges are commutative if committed to “clear the family name or as a response to serious and unjustifiable provocation by the victim."</p> <p>In 2008, the Kurdish region of Iraq rejected Article 128 along with several other articles used to exonerate men who kill women with Law 14, which states that these articles can no longer be referred to “as a pretext for the clearance of one’s family honor through act of murder.”</p> <p>For Dunya, this means that her killers should legally face murder charges. But in reality, the new laws have proved difficult to implement.</p> <p>“Sometimes customs and tribal laws are stronger than national laws,” said Falah Muradkan-Shaker, a lawyer and project coordinator for women’s rights group WADI. ”In this society it is very very difficult. There is not enough awareness, enough knowledge, enough capacity. These traditions have been practiced for hundreds of years and now overnight it becomes a crime.”</p> <p>Shaker, who also works as a lawyer representing victims of honor crime, said obstacles include a lack of investigation by police, judges who still have a tendency to acquit perpetrators and an unwillingness of witnesses and family members to testify against a perpetrator in honor crimes.</p> <p>Even with a successful conviction, most are released by pardon decrees within months of their sentencing.</p> <p>Shaker — who previously spent five years investigating the Iraqi prison system publishing three books on prison conditions and prison reform — said no man has ever served more than a year in Iraq for femicide.</p> <p>“During my prison research, all the prisoners told me the easiest crime you can commit and get away with is killing a woman,” he said.</p> <p>While the introduction of these laws is a step in the right direction, Shaker said, due to lack of implementation they are not being taken seriously.</p> <p><strong>Redefining honor</strong></p> <p>In Jordan, recent efforts to change laws pertaining to honor crimes have done little to change public attitudes toward the practice. A survey conducted among teenagers in Amman last year revealed almost half of the boys and one fifth of the girls believed honor killing is justified under certain circumstances.</p> <p>Other nations including Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon have also either amended laws pertaining to honor crime or established specific laws that criminalize honor killing. However, in all of these countries honor killings continue at an alarming rate. According to Turkey's Human Rights Directorate, there is one honor killing every week in Istanbul and an average of 200 honor killing cases reported throughout Turkey annually, accounting for half of the country’s homicides.</p> <p>“Honor crimes are increasing not decreasing all over the world. Are they being reported more diligently? We don’t know because no one is cross checking with morgues, or investigating disappearances. But clearly the legislation that is in place is ineffective,” Zuhur said during a Skype interview from Cairo.</p> <p>As women’s rights have increased worldwide, so have honor killings. Zuhur explained that widening educational opportunities for women globally have increased interaction between the sexes. Social media has provided a further avenue for contact outside the family.</p> <p>“Families are not able to isolate their daughters in the way they used to,” she said. “This means that women are able to escape the total family control they were subject to years before, but it also means that the families trust them less.”</p> <p>Greater suspicion has led to accusations and cases of women being killed simply for having a mobile phone or chatting on Facebook. Zuhur referred to an incident in Gaza where a woman was bludgeoned to death by her father because she secretly purchased a cellphone, which he suspected she was using to talk to a man. The official number of honor killings in Palestinian territories more than doubled last year to 27 despite numerous protests and public awareness campaigns on the rights of women.</p> <p>In some countries, the criminalization of honor killing has simply changed the methods. Zuhur said honor killings are often staged as accidents or suicide. In some families the task is assigned to minors who will likely serve a minimum sentence if convicted.</p> <p>In Egypt, families usually act in large groups, Zuhur said, citing one case where 10 male relatives killed a woman and her two daughters for alleged relations outside of marriage and threw their bodies into the Nile. These group murders make a case harder to prosecute, she said, while involving the extended family in the murder reduces the chance of anyone testifying against the perpetrators.</p> <p>In Iraqi Kurdistan, suicide by self-immolation has replaced honor killing in many cases. Most often the decision is made by a woman herself either to escape a life of misery or shame, or due to pressure from her family members. The majority of these are reported as accidents. Dunya’s sister-in-law died three years ago in one such incident.</p> <p><a href="">WADI estimates</a> around 10,000 women have burned to death since the Kurdish region gained autonomy in 1991. Just how many of these were suicides is unknown as such cases are never investigated, Shaker said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:<a href="">&nbsp; Bureaucracy, corruption and fear thwart justice for trafficked women in Thailand</a></strong></p> <p>But changes in law are also slowly beginning to wield their influence in the courtroom.</p> <p>Last month, WADI’s Shaker served as prosecutor in the trial of Osman Ali Mohammed who killed his wife in front of their children. Decades before, when Mohammed himself was still a child, his own mother had been killed in a slaying orchestrated by her brothers.</p> <p>On May 20, he was convicted to 15 years imprisonment for the crime, a breakthrough for women’s rights in Kurdistan.</p> <p>As Mohammed was removed from the court, he turned toward a small gathering of women, among them Bahar Muzir and other members of Zhyan. He spat threats and abhorrent insults at the women vowing he would not serve his time, and would exact revenge against each of them.</p> <p>His words were a harsh reminder that despite this successful sentencing, women’s rights in the Middle East have a long road ahead, and for the brave women of Zhyan, it is a life-threatening struggle.</p> <p>“Every time after these cases we receive calls. We don’t know who these people are but we get threatened many many times. They say they will kill us, rape us, everything,” Muzir said.</p> <p>Within two hours of a recent television interview Muzir gave on women’s rights, she said around 1,000 posts were made on social media of her picture condemning and threatening her. But despite the danger, the women say the work they do is crucial.</p> <p>“Sometimes it is scary, but we are a big group and I think if we stand together we can protect each other,” said Shanga Rahim Karim, a courageous young member of Zhyan, who continues to lobby for justice in Dunya's case.</p> <p>“If I am killed, then I will die for an important cause, and I know this group will make a big noise and make awareness for all women on my behalf.”</p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Need to Know Violence against women Iraq Middle East Rights Tue, 15 Jul 2014 04:35:00 +0000 Tracey Shelton 6202516 at Will Afghanistan be the new Iraq? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Not likely, but don’t get too excited just yet. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jean MacKenzie </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>It&rsquo;s now been more than a month since Islamic State extremists swept through northern Iraq, gaining large swaths of territory, a huge <a href="" target="_blank">chunk of cash</a>, and the dangerous mystique of an unstoppable force.</p> <p>The United States has watched the spectacle with horror as a country that claimed 4,500 American lives and more than <a href="" target="_blank">$2 trillion</a> all but collapsed.</p> <p>Meanwhile in Afghanistan, a bitterly contested presidential election had precipitated a major political crisis. Until Secretary of State John Kerry <a href="" target="_blank">rushed in</a> to save the day over the weekend, the specter of civil war loomed in the background.</p> <p>This, <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> President Barack Obama in May, &ldquo;is how wars end in the 21st century.&rdquo;</p> <p>But these &ldquo;ends&rdquo; look an awful lot like beginnings.</p> <p>Now that Obama has made clear that all troops will leave Afghanistan by the time he leaves office &mdash; at the end of 2016 &mdash; the pundits are busy predicting the consequences. It&rsquo;s too soon, they say; it&rsquo;s too rash. Abandoning Afghanistan will bring disaster in its wake, they say. Look what&rsquo;s happening with the Islamic State in Iraq.</p> <p>One question keeps surfacing: Will Afghanistan go the way of Iraq?</p> <p>The pessimists &mdash; and those who want to put the blame for the mess squarely on Obama &mdash; have no doubt that it will.</p> <p>&ldquo;Before Sept. 11, our enemies controlled one nation. Now they will control two &mdash; one Islamic caliphate in Iraq controlled by ISIS, and another in Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban and core Al Qaeda,&rdquo; Marc Thiessen, political commentator and former speechwriter for Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, <a href="" target="_blank">wrote in The Washington Post</a>.</p> <p>ISIS and ISIL are acronyms for the Islamic State extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria. Al Qaeda disavowed ties to them in February.</p> <p>There are certainly grounds for concern about Afghanistan&rsquo;s future. But the danger of &ldquo;core Al Qaeda&rdquo; forming a caliphate, a la the Islamic State, is not one of them.</p> <p>To paraphrase Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, &ldquo;All happy countries are alike, while each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way.&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> Afghanistan is deep in our rear-view mirror</h2> <p><img src="" width="100%" /><br /> <span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial,<br /> Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">The wreckage of a deadly rickshaw bomb explosion in Jalalabad last week. (Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>While Iraq&rsquo;s crisis has all the elements to push it front and center &mdash; radical Islamists bent on taking over <a href="" target="_blank">large swaths of territory</a>, mass executions, the threat of regional involvement, and dark hints of <a href="" target="_blank">retribution against the West</a> &mdash; the conflict in Afghanistan is all too depressingly familiar.</p> <p>Election fraud is hardly a headline-grabber, and the back-and-forth with the Taliban has been going on for so long that it barely registers in the public consciousness.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been the same conversations going on for years,&rdquo; said Alex Strick van Linschoten, co-author of several books on Afghanistan and the Taliban. &ldquo;The West has given up on Afghanistan.&rdquo;</p> <p>Even when something significant does happen it receives scant attention. The Taliban recently took large <a href="" target="_blank">chunks of northern Helmand</a>, a key southern province and the center of Afghanistan&rsquo;s thriving poppy industry.</p> <p>Still, the word out of Washington, and even from US forces in the field, is relentlessly upbeat.</p> <p>&ldquo;Everything I see, sir, is good news,&rdquo; <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> Army Gen. John F. Campbell, whom the president nominated this month to be the new commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He was speaking to a skeptical Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearings Thursday. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m looking forward to getting over there, and I think we&rsquo;re on a positive path right now.&rdquo;</p> <p>Officials can try all they like to paint a rosy picture, but they cannot change the reality on the ground, says Frank Ledwidge, a former British military intelligence officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who&rsquo;s authored two books on his government&rsquo;s engagement in both countries.</p> <p>&ldquo;The US is lying about the capabilities of the security forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The truth is that the ANA [Afghan National Army] is not capable of holding on without NATO assistance. This is a defeat of such a nature that it cannot be spun; it can only be hidden.&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> Afghanistan is more a danger to itself than to the rest of the world</h2> <p><img src="" width="100%" /><br /> <span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial,<br /> Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">(Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>But even if the Afghan security forces are as bad as Ledwidge says they are, does it matter?</p> <p>&ldquo;In Afghanistan there is not the same problem with spillover; there are fewer repercussions for US national security,&rdquo; said Shadi Hamid, fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of &ldquo;Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;This cannot be said of Iraq and Syria, which undermine stability on a regional level,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p>The Taliban, despite Thiessen&rsquo;s dire warnings, is not Al Qaeda.</p> <p>Taliban leader Mullah Omar did provide refuge for Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, but Omar and his movement lived to regret that act of hospitality. News reports from 2001 make clear that the Talban was searching for a face-saving way of handing over Osama, but the George W. Bush administration was having none of it.</p> <p>&ldquo;We know he&rsquo;s guilty. Turn him over,&rdquo; was the <a href="" target="_blank">response</a> to Taliban pleas for evidence.</p> <p>This lack of flexibility got the US bogged down in a seemingly endless war with a fairly murky mission.</p> <p>In 2009, a newly inaugurated President Obama addressed the issue in a policy speech.</p> <p>&ldquo;I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>By 2010 CIA Director Leon Panetta estimated that there were no more than 50 to 100 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan &mdash; at a time when the US had close to 100,000 troops on the ground.</p> <p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s what you call asymmetric warfare,&rdquo; laughed Ledwidge.</p> <p>Four years later, the likely new NATO commander, General &ldquo;Good news&rdquo; Campbell, is still pursuing the same strategic objective.</p> <p>&ldquo;The US presence in Afghanistan aims to defeat Al Qaeda and its affiliates,&rdquo; he <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a> in response to advance questions from the Senate.</p> <p>But the Taliban has never really been an Al Qaeda affiliate, Strick van Linschoten argues. In his book &ldquo;An Enemy We Created,&rdquo; written with co-author Felix Kuehn, he posits that &ldquo;the issue of international terrorism from within Afghanistan&rsquo;s borders may not necessarily be as big a potential problem as is currently believed.&rdquo;</p> <p>This is because the Taliban and Al Qaeda have never really seen eye to eye. The Afghan Taliban has a much narrower focus, van Linschoten says, and is not bent on global jihad.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Taliban just want their Islamic Emirate of the 1990s back,&rdquo; says Anand Gopal, journalist and author of a new book on the war in Afghanistan, &ldquo;No Good Men Among the Living,&rdquo; which largely supports van Linschoten&rsquo;s thesis.</p> <p>Core Al Qaeda is not in Afghanistan, Gopal argues. &ldquo;If you want to join Al Qaeda there is Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Why go to Afghanistan?&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> But there&rsquo;s that common denominator: US ineptitude</h2> <p><img src="" width="100%" /><br /> <span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial,<br /> Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">(Getty Images)</span></p> <p>There are many surface similarities between Afghanistan and Iraq. Both countries have been put back together after US-led invasions toppled their retrograde regimes, replacing them with administrations more to the West&rsquo;s liking. This has not worked out uniformly well.</p> <p>In Iraq, the Shia government has vented decades&rsquo; worth of anger and frustration on the Sunnis, who had traditionally led the country.</p> <p>The US-mandated process of de-Baathification and the dissolution of the Iraqi army, now seen as among the biggest mistakes of the war, created large pools of disaffected armed men who provided fertile ground for extremist Islamic State recruitment.</p> <p>In Afghanistan, the US-installed government of President Hamid Karzai has unleashed such a flood of corruption that it has largely lost the people&rsquo;s trust.</p> <p>The billions in assistance money is routinely pillaged, <a href="" target="_blank">ending up in Dubai</a> or other financial capitals, and the judiciary is so compromised that many people prefer to <a href="" target="_blank">take their chances with tribal</a> or even Taliban courts.</p> <p>The US has been unable to do much about it, despite years of anti-corruption projects that have been deemed largely ineffectual even by the US&rsquo; own <a href="" target="_blank">watchdog on Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p>Some observers wonder whether the results have been worth the cost.</p> <p>If van Linschoten and Gopal are correct, the insurgency in Afghanistan is largely a product of American missteps. Heavy-handed counter-terrorism operations, often directed at the wrong targets, or involving civilians, have contributed to radicalizing some segments of the population.</p> <p>&ldquo;If the Taliban are now a little bit like Al Qaeda it&rsquo;s because we have made them that way,&rdquo; van Linschoten said.</p> <p>In Iraq the irony is even starker. The US began its &ldquo;shock and awe&rdquo; campaign in 2003 to keep Saddam Hussein&rsquo;s mythical weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of equally spurious Al Qaeda-linked terrorists.</p> <p>Last week, the press reported that the Islamic State group had seized nuclear materials from university science facilities near Mosul. <a href="" target="_blank">United Nations</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">US officials</a> say the grade and quantity of the materials taken is not sufficient to build a bomb.</p> <p>Still, it is cause for concern.</p> <p>&ldquo;Such materials can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction,&rdquo; Iraq&rsquo;s ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a> in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.</p> <p>&ldquo;Ten years ago we invaded Iraq to keep WMD out of the hands of terrorists,&rdquo; said Paul Fishstein, independent consultant and the former head of Kabul&rsquo;s Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit. &ldquo;In the process we so destabilized the country that we may have actually brought about the very thing we were trying to combat.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>Jean MacKenzie spent seven years in Afghanistan, where she worked as a journalist trainer at the Institute of War &amp; Peace Reporting and served as senior correspondent for GlobalPost.</em></p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--><p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Is Iraq&#39;s Maliki taking a page out of Assad&#39;s playbook?</a></strong></p> Afghanistan Want to Know War Iraq Politics United States Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:50:52 +0000 Jean MacKenzie 6204528 at Thai junta's pledge to send back 100,000 Myanmar refugees sparks concern <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Thailand</a>'s military government said on Monday it would send home 100,000 refugees who have been living in camps for two decades and more along the border with Myanmar, a move rights groups say would create chaos at a tense time for both nations.</p> <p>Thailand's military overthrew the remnants of an elected government in May after months of sometimes violent street protests. Its National Council for Peace and Order has rolled out a raft of tough measures it says are needed to restore order and has promised a return to democracy next year.</p> <p>Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is emerging from nearly five decades of isolation under repressive military rule.</p> <p>Its nominally civilian government has talked about repatriating the refugees, but non-governmental organizations say they are concerned by a lack of infrastructure to help returnees rebuild their lives.</p> <p>"We are not at the stage where we will deport people because we must first verify the nationality of those in the camps," army deputy spokesman Veerachon Sukhontapatipak told Reuters.</p> <p>"Once that is done we will find ways to send them back. There are around 100,000 people who have been living in the camps for many years without freedom. Thailand and Myanmar will help facilitate their smooth return."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Will Myanmar's war refugees be forced home against their will?</a></strong></p> <p>Last month, comments made by a junta spokeswoman threatening to arrest and deport undocumented migrant workers sparked the departure of more than 200,000 Cambodians, a key component of the workforce in fishing, construction and other sectors.</p> <p>Thailand scrambled to reverse that exodus by opening service centers to help migrant workers secure work permits. There are also an estimated 2 million Burmese migrant workers, the largest contingent of such laborers in the country.</p> <p>But without any legal status or marketable skills, the refugees have long been seen as a burden by the Thai state.</p> <p>An estimated 120,000 Burmese refugees live in 10 camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border, according to The Border Consortium, which coordinates NGO activity in the camps.</p> <p>Many fled persecution and ethnic wars as well as poverty and have lived in the camps with no legal means of making an income.</p> <p><strong>Military pressing for repatriation</strong></p> <p>An aid worker who has been helping the refugees said the Thai army appeared serious about its repatriation push.</p> <p>"The authorities said this time they are going to be very strict. It seems like they're really pushing for repatriation," said the aid worker, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the issue.</p> <p>"The situation in the camps is very tense because people don't know what's going to happen."</p> <p>The refugees fear economic and logistical difficulties in returning as well as sporadic fighting in parts of north and northeast Myanmar.</p> <p>In his weekly televised speech last Friday, junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha said Myanmar and Thailand would oversee a smooth return home of refugees.</p> <p>"Thailand and Myanmar will facilitate the safe return to their homeland in accordance with human rights principles," he said.</p> <p>But rights groups say a lack of transparency surrounds any plan to send refugees back.</p> <p>"When Prayuth spoke on Friday he left out what the conditions for the return would be," Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch told Reuters.</p> <p>"The National Council for Peace and Order can only do this under the conditions expected by the international community."</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat and Thin Lei Win; Editing by Ron Popeski)</p> Need to Know Thailand Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:03:26 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6204540 at How Germany’s World Cup victory symbolizes its leading role in Europe <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As Germans fight off hangovers after a night of extravagant partying, their team’s history-making win represents a decade of reforms in economics as well as soccer. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, <a href="">Germany</a> — When the scoreless World Cup soccer final went into extra time late Sunday night, Berlin’s streets and subways were deserted.</p> <p>With the match commentary blaring from open windows and doors, however, you could walk from the neighborhoods of central Mitte to nearby Kreuzberg without losing track of the game. On every corner, fans spilled out of bars, cafes and restaurants, jostling for a glimpse of the action on television screens.</p> <p>When substitute Mario Goetze chested a clean pass onto his left foot and volleyed the ball past Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero to finally give Germany the lead with 113 minutes gone, a roar of exhilaration <a href="">erupted</a> across the city.</p> <p>Crowds outside the Turkish cafes of the immigrant-dominated neighborhoods Kreuzberg and Neukoelln burst firecrackers and beat drums.</p> <p>When the final whistle blew minutes later, the denizens of the hard-core German dives known as “local smokers” <a href="">broke out</a> into choruses of “Olé, olé, olé, all Germans, sing Olé!” — an announcement that the all-night party had begun.</p> <p>“We're the World Champions!” shouted a group of men draped in German flags as the celebration moved to the street.</p> <p>Unlike in <a href="">Argentina</a>, where at least 70 people were injured as disappointed fans <a href="">smashed</a> shop windows and vandalized cars, across Germany, virtually the only casualties were brain cells as the drinking continued into the early morning.</p> <p>Nearly a quarter million people watched the match on the so-called “fan mile” created around Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate, which police had to close off before the game started to prevent overcrowding.</p> <p>Police estimated that another 15,000 took to the famous Kurfuerstendamm shopping avenue in former West Berlin after the final whistle.</p> <p>As the sun rose this morning, thousands were still at it, judging from the occasional blare of car horns and the sound of drunken singing.</p> <p>German astronaut Alexander Gerst <a href="">congratulated</a> the team from space.</p> <p>Chancellor Angela Merkel <a href="">posed</a> for a selfie with striker Lukas Podolski.</p> <p>US coach Juergen Klinsmann — who helped Germany win the cup as a player in 1990 but failed as coach for the national side in 2006 — echoed widespread opinion, saying, “The best team won the 2014 World Cup.”</p> <p>For coach Joachim Loew and the German players — a dream team of veterans who had largely stayed together since winning the Under-21 UEFA championships in 2009 — the victory was a major vindication. Perennial bridesmaids, “Der Mannschaft” had been to the semifinals or finals in every World Cup since 2002 without bringing home the hardware.</p> <p>After a dismal performance in the 2004 European Championships, the team launched a decade of reform under then-coach Klinsmann. For Low, who continued the regime after he took over two years later, another loss may have meant losing his last World Cup chance.</p> <p>For the country at large, the win also represents a historic and symbolic victory — and the peaceful jubilation made for a fitting end to a dream performance.</p> <p>Although the former West Germany won the World Cup three times, most recently in 1990, Sunday's match marked the first victory for the unified country.</p> <p>Germany’s World Cup victories have also represented the country’s economic fortunes. Stunning the world in 1954, the first win symbolized Germans’ emergence from devastation in World War II.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Retaking Ukraine&rsquo;s east won't be easy</a></strong></p> <p>Sunday’s win now marks Germany’s position as Europe’s economic and political powerhouse, after a decade of reforms enabled it to drop its image as the sick man of Europe.</p> <p>With five prominent players who were born abroad or eligible to play for other countries, the team also represents a new, increasingly immigrant-friendly country confident in its role in the world.</p> <p>Goetze, the player who pounded in the winning goal, hadn’t even been born when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 — perhaps the last time this city saw a party of this magnitude.</p> World Cup 2014 Want to Know Germany Culture & Lifestyle Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:03:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6204539 at Ukrainian forces claim fresh gains in separatist stronghold in Luhansk region <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukrainian troops claimed fresh gains Monday around one of the main remaining separatist strongholds as Moscow reportedly weighed up "targeted" cross-border strikes following the alleged deadly shelling of a Russian town.</p> <p>Ukraine's Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko said government forces had managed to break through a blockade by pro-Moscow rebels to reach soldiers camped out at the strategic airport in the insurgent-held bastion of Luhansk.</p> <p>The industrial hub of some 425,000 people is the capital of one of the rebels' two self-declared "People's Republics" and — along with million-strong Donetsk — now finds itself in the crosshairs of Kyiv's reinvigorated military push to quash the three-month insurgency tearing apart the ex-Soviet state.</p> <p>The defense ministry said Monday that Ukrainian jets carried out five air strikes against separatist positions close to Luhansk but there was no confirmation of rebel claims that Kyiv had massed tanks in the outskirts ahead of a major push into the city.</p> <p>Local authorities said three people were killed and 14 wounded in various incidents around the city over the last 24 hours, adding to a bloody weekend that saw one of the highest two-day civilian tolls so far in the conflict that has now claimed some 550 lives.</p> <p><strong>Moscow 'considering targeted strikes'? </strong></p> <p>Ukraine's army has also seen its losses spike in recent days after militias that the West and Kyiv allege are being armed by the Kremlin killed 19 soldiers and wounded 100 more in a multiple-rocket attack late Friday.</p> <p>The military losses have profoundly dented emerging hopes in Kyiv that its recent string of battlefield successes had finally convinced the rebels to sue for peace.</p> <p>And the conflict risked spiralling even further amid reports that Moscow was considering strikes against Ukrainian positions after a shell allegedly crossed the border and killed a Russian civilian on Sunday.</p> <p>Well-connected Russian daily Kommersant cited a source close to the Kremlin as saying that Moscow was weighing up "targeted retaliatory strikes" but was not planning any large-scale action.</p> <p>"Our patience is not limitless," the source said, adding that <a href="">Russia</a> "knows exactly where they (Ukrainians) are firing from."</p> <p>Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of shelling across the border but Sunday's incident saw the first claim of a fatality and the Russian foreign ministry warned the incident risked "irreversible consequences."</p> <p>Kyiv has denied that its forces were behind the shelling and Poroshenko called Sunday on the West to condemn "attacks by Russian soldiers of positions held by Ukrainian servicemen" in a phone conversation with EU Council President Herman van Rompuy.</p> <p><strong>Diplomacy stalling</strong></p> <p>Poroshenko has previously vowed to kill "hundreds" of gunmen for every lost soldier and ordered an airtight military blockade of Luhansk and Donetsk.</p> <p><a href="">European</a> leaders responded by joining forces with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to persuade Poroshenko to put the brakes on violence first sparked by the February ouster of a Kremlin-backed president and fanned by Russia's subsequent seizure of Crimea.</p> <p>Hopes of a truce rested on a meeting between Putin and Poroshenko — the second since the Ukrainian president's May election — that seemed on the cards on the sidelines of the World Cup final in <a href="">Rio de Janeiro</a>.</p> <p>But the Ukrainian presidency said Sunday that Poroshenko was forced to cancel his attendance "considering the situation currently happening in Ukraine."</p> <p>Putin instead met <a href="">German</a> Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks the Kremlin said ended with a call on the warring sides to issue "a statement as soon as possible concerning a ceasefire, a prisoner swap, and the return of (international) monitors" to eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>A German government spokesman said Putin and Merkel suggested that Kyiv and the separatists could launch their discussions by video conference.</p> <p>del/txw</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 14 Jul 2014 14:24:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6204455 at Why China fears the Falun Gong <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Explainer: Is the group really a dangerous cult? Does it believe in snake spirits and ghosts? And do authorities really harvest members’ organs? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> James Griffiths </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>HONG KONG &mdash; Following the recent <a href="">brutal murder</a> of a young woman at a McDonald&rsquo;s in Shandong province by alleged members of the &ldquo;Almighty God&rdquo; sect, Chinese state media released <a href="">a list</a> of the 11 &ldquo;most active cults&rdquo; in China today.</p> <p> Listed first was the Falun Gong, a group with no history of violence or terrorist activities. Contrast that with other groups on the list such as &ldquo;Almighty God&rdquo; or &ldquo;Three Grades of Servants,&rdquo; members of which have been blamed by authorities for at least 20 murders.</p> <p> The presence of Falun Gong alongside such dangerous sects shows that Beijing&rsquo;s propaganda campaign against the group &mdash; banned outright in China in 1999 but still active in Hong Kong and Taiwan &mdash; is still going strong.</p> <p> Is Beijing&rsquo;s fear of the Falun Gong justified? Or is this merely an example of the Communist Party&rsquo;s urge to stamp out any organizations that may pose a threat, however remote, to the existing order?</p> <p> Allow us to explain.</p> <p> <strong> Wait! What is Falun Gong anyway?</strong></p> <p> Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa) arose out of the so-called &ldquo;qigong boom&rdquo; of the late &#39;80s. Qigong is an umbrella term for a number of practices involving meditation, slow-moving exercises and regulated breathing. Qigong groups exploded during this time, attracting tens of millions of mostly urban and elderly Chinese. At one point, more than 2,000 different groups existed.</p> <p> <a href="">Falun Gong</a> differed from most qigong groups in that it combined exercises with moral and spiritual teachings. Adherents aim to cultivate &ldquo;truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance&rdquo; and refine their &ldquo;xining,&rdquo; or moral character.</p> <p> A person&rsquo;s xining is affected by their ratio of virtue (positive energy) to karma (negative energy). Virtue is generated through doing good deeds and suffering, while karma accumulates by doing bad deeds.</p> <p> Falun Gong&rsquo;s spiritual leader is Li Hongzhi.</p> <p> <strong> Who is Li Hongzhi and how did he become Falun Gong&rsquo;s leader?</strong></p> <p> Li Hongzhi founded the movement and penned its key texts. According to Li, who has lived in the US since 1996, he came up with the central Falun Gong tenets after studying with Buddhist and Taoist masters from the age of eight. Li claims his teachings are part of a &ldquo;centuries-old tradition&rdquo; and distinct from other teachings of the qigong boom. According to Chinese state media, however, Li only began practicing qigong a year before he started his movement.</p> <p> After a series of embarrassing interviews, including one with Time in which he talked of apocalyptic visions and warned of ghostly aliens infiltrating humankind, Li pulled back from public exposure. (He <a href="">later claimed</a> that talk of aliens and the apocalypse were meant &ldquo;as metaphors of ancient Buddhist thought.&rdquo;)</p> <p> <strong> What kind of authority does Li exercise?</strong></p> <p> Falun Gong is unusual among spiritual movements in that it has little to no hierarchal structure. The movement has no administrators or officials, no system of membership, and no churches or physical places of worship. Spiritual and ideological authority is completely centralized in Li Hongzhi, but most practitioners have no contact with Li other than through his writings.</p> <p> Though Li does not intervene in his followers&rsquo; personal lives (in stark contrast to, for example, Scientology or the Unification Church), his teachings contain injunctions against alcohol and smoking, and all sex outside of marriage is regarded as immoral. While gays and lesbians are permitted to practice Falun Gong, &ldquo;homosexual conduct&rdquo; generates karma and is encouraged to be avoided.</p> <p> <strong> So is Falun Gong a cult, a religion, or what?</strong></p> <p> Prior to the crackdown, Falun Gong was just one of many qigong offshoots, none of which were regarded as particularly religious in nature. Speaking to GlobalPost, David Ownby, author of <a href="">&quot;Falun Fong and the Future of China</a>,&quot; said &ldquo;religion&rdquo; in China &ldquo;generally means the &lsquo;big five&rsquo; religions [Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam] and conjures images of big churches, clergy and formal scriptures.&rdquo;</p> <p> While many Westerners may see parallels between Falun Gong &mdash;&nbsp;with its charismatic leader, foundational texts and focus on bodily health &mdash; and &ldquo;new religious movements&rdquo; which sprang up in the US in the 1960s, Ownby argues that the label &ldquo;makes no sense&rdquo; in the Chinese context.</p> <p> Nor, says Ownby, is Falun Gong a cult. &ldquo;I found that the group generally passed the smell test,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Yes, they accord a high degree of veneration to [Li Hongzhi] but he&rsquo;s not around very much so the possibilities of abuse are much reduced. Yes, members are asked to contribute materially to the organization of events, but in my experience that is completely voluntary. Members keep their jobs and remain in society.&rdquo;</p> <p> In <a href="">&quot;Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China</a>,&quot; Ian Johnson writes that the &ldquo;cult&rdquo; label was designed to &ldquo;[cloak] the government&rsquo;s crackdown with the legitimacy of the West&rsquo;s anti-cult movement.&rdquo; Johnson argues that Falun Gong does not satisfy common definitions of a cult: &ldquo;Its members marry outside the group, have outside friends, hold normal jobs, do not live isolated from society, do not believe that the world&#39;s end is imminent and do not give significant amounts of money to the organization.&rdquo;</p> <p> Heather Kavan, a researcher at Massey University in New Zealand, disagrees. In an otherwise sympathetic <a href="">ethnographic study</a> of the movement, she argues that Falun Gong &ldquo;could be described as a cult.&rdquo;</p> <p> Kavan draws a comparison between Falun Gong and Maoism, writing that &ldquo;like Mao, Li has activated millions of people with his rhetoric. His ideology is similarly characterized by moral superiority, defining others as absolute evil, dehumanizing enemies by labeling them snake spirits and possessed by ghosts, extolling the virtues of selflessness and sacrifice, emphasizing the necessity of enduring physical hardship, harassing critics, and denigrating science in favor of his purportedly infallible truths.&rdquo;</p> <p> <strong> You keep mentioning a crackdown, what happened?</strong></p> <p> Falun Gong was founded in <a href="">May 1992</a>. Though the government initially praised Li for &ldquo;promoting rectitude in society,&rdquo; the tide was turning against the qigong movements, some of which had attracted tens of millions of followers. In the mid-&#39;90s state media published a raft of articles attacking qigong, including Falun Gong, as dangerous &ldquo;<a href=";pg=PA168&amp;lpg=PA168&amp;dq=falun+gong+%2522feudal+superstition%2522&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=5p5WEwORy1&amp;sig=5OBNpeHtSTSZtahIHSsG-FhASZI&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=2qu7U_2EOYXq8AXL-oG4DQ&amp;ved=0CEMQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&amp;q=falun%2520gong%2520%2522feudal%252">feudal superstition</a>.&rdquo;</p> <p> Falun Gong practitioners were incensed by the criticism and began staging protests and writing to newspapers to complain. When a Beijing TV talk show guest attacked Falun Gong on air, the group <a href=";pg=PP1&amp;dq=Governance+in+China+~+Jude+Howell#v=onepage&amp;q=">was successful</a> in getting the station to sack the producer responsible for the segment and air a pro-Falun Gong film several days later.</p> <p> This relative tolerance did not last long, however. When Falun Gong practitioners protested outside the offices of a Tianjin newspaper in April 1999, 300 riot police arrived to break up the demonstration and 45 people <a href=";printsec=frontcover&amp;dq=Danny+Schechter,+Falun+Gong%2527s+Challenge+to+China&amp;lr=&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;cd=1#v=onepage&amp;q=&amp;f=false">were arrested</a>.</p> <p> It was at this point that the group made perhaps the most ill-judged move in the history of peaceful protest.</p> <p> On April 25, more than 10,000 practitioners gathered near the Zhongnanhai government compound in Beijing to demand an end to official harassment.</p> <p> Then-party general secretary Jiang Zemin was reportedly enraged by the audacity and scale of the protest &mdash;&nbsp;the largest since the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989 &mdash; and demanded the movement be &ldquo;defeated.&rdquo;</p> <p> <strong> So how exactly did Beijing approach defeating Falun Gong?</strong></p> <p> On July 20, 1999, security forces swooped, detaining several thousand leading Falun Gong practitioners. Days later the group was <a href="">made illegal</a> for &ldquo;advocating superstition, spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability.&rdquo;</p> <p> Since the crackdown began, hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been arrested and detained. Researcher Ethan Gutmann <a href="">estimated</a> that at least 15 percent of the population incarcerated in labor camps for the purpose of &ldquo;re-education&rdquo; is made up of Falun Gong practitioners. These findings are supported by the US State Department. <a href="">According</a> to human rights groups, detainees have been subjected to forced labor, torture, arbitrary execution and organ harvesting. In 2009, The <a href="">New York Times reported</a> that &ldquo;at least 2,000&rdquo; people had been killed since the crackdown began.</p> <p> A concerted propaganda campaign was also launched to cast the movement as an &ldquo;evil cult.&rdquo; In the first month, almost 400 articles were published in state media attacking Falun Gong. This campaign reached another level when five alleged Falun Gong practitioners set themselves on fire at Tiananmen Square on Jan. 23, 2001. Two of them died.</p> <p> The self-immolation event saw the propaganda campaign gain serious traction with the general public, which had previously been largely ambivalent and even sympathetic toward Falun Gong. However, Western media, including CNN and the Washington Post, raised doubts about the state&rsquo;s account of the incident. The Falun Dafa Information Center claimed that the self immolation was &ldquo;a cruel (but clever) piece of stunt work,&rdquo; pointing out that suicide was against the movement&rsquo;s teachings and that the meditation stances the protesters adopted before they set themselves on fire were performed incorrectly.</p> <p> <strong> So the government won?</strong></p> <p> Kind of. Falun Gong does not exist as an organized movement in mainland China, and the numbers of people practicing it there (underground) have dropped massively.</p> <p> However, in a piece of dark irony, the government&rsquo;s campaign against Falun Gong &mdash; likened by social scientist Steven Mosher, in a letter to the Wall Street Journal, to a counter-terrorism operation against &ldquo;exercising grannies&rdquo; &mdash; has created exactly what it feared.</p> <p> The early Falun Gong <a href="">protests</a> were &ldquo;arguably the most sustained challenge to authority in 50 years of communist rule.&rdquo; Since then, the group has emerged as one of the most strident critics and opponents of the Chinese government.</p> <p> Based overseas, Falun Gong-linked media such as the Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty TV regularly publish anti-communist reports. Falun Gong in Hong Kong have built strong links with pro-democracy groups, and hold regular demonstrations outside the Chinese liaison office (the CCP&rsquo;s base in the semi-autonomous city) as well as taking part in the Tiananmen Square massacre memorials and the city&rsquo;s regular July 1 pro-democracy march.</p> <p> The group also has a significant presence in Taiwan, where it campaigns against integration with the mainland. Freegate, Falun Gong software partly funded by the US government, is one of the most popular tools for circumventing internet censorship in China. In late 2009, courts in Spain and Argentina indicted Jiang Zemin and other former Chinese officials on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity based on lawsuits and decades of campaigning by Falun Gong practitioners.</p> <p> &ldquo;Because of the campaign of suppression [Falun Gong] wound up becoming explicitly political,&rdquo; said Ownby. &ldquo;Continued [People&#39;s Republic of China] efforts to suppress serve only to spur Falun Gong to continue their own efforts. To my mind, a wiser strategy for the PRC would be to ignore Falun Gong, but the regime has never been able to adopt a tolerant attitude toward dissent of any kind.&rdquo;</p> Want to Know World Religion China Japan Mon, 14 Jul 2014 06:00:32 +0000 James Griffiths 6198831 at Germany goes for World Cup history. No pressure. <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Second-best just won't cut it for Germany anymore. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, <a href="">Germany</a> — Across Berlin this week, German flags droop from apartment balconies, flutter from the windows of passing cars and festoon the fronts of driving schools, kebab shops, party stores and bars.</p> <p>It's a rare release for Germany's pent-up patriotism following their 7-1 drubbing of <a href="">Brazil</a> and going into Sunday's World Cup final against <a href="">Argentina</a>.</p> <p>But the uncharacteristic expressions of national pride have put even more pressure on the German side to make history.</p> <p>In every World Cup since 2002, Germany has at least made it to the semifinals, but has yet to bring home the trophy.</p> <p>“When a team comes so close to the title so many times, the desire for a victory gets stronger and stronger,” said Rafael Wieczorek, director of Coerver Coaching in Germany and Austria.</p> <p>“At the same time, this team is considered by fans and experts to be the best German team since 1990, perhaps since 1972. So the expectations are very high.”</p> <p>A favorite to win the tournament from the beginning, by trouncing Brazil, Germany convinced virtually everyone that the final is in the bag.</p> <p>Yet as press reports this week revealed that the German team had made a <a href="" target="_blank">halftime pact not to embarrass Brazil</a> too badly after going up 5-0, German coach Joachim Löw and company have strived to emphasize “focus” and “concentration” — perhaps fearing that the blowout may already have <a href="" target="_blank">turned high expectations into hubris</a>.</p> <p>Symbolism only heightens those expectations further. Though the former West Germany has won the tournament three times, most recently in 1990, a win by Löw's side would mark the first victory for unified Germany in history.</p> <p>With immigrant stars like Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira, among others, the team represents an unified, multicultural Germany where the foreign-born are no longer considered outsiders. Five prominent players on the national squad were either born abroad or would be eligible to play for another nation — mirroring Germany's broader effort to attract, rather than exclude, immigrants with measures like a liberal <a href="" target="_blank">dual citizenship policy</a>.</p> <p>Moreover, in a country where hanging the flag would normally get you labeled a “right winger,” if not worse, the match comes as the nation finally seems ready to slough off the memory of World War II and demand to be treated as a “normal country” — with political might and military responsibilities to match its economic importance.</p> <p>In recent months, Germany's president and defense minister have each pushed for a greater German military role in foreign conflicts, even as Germany's role in the Ukraine crisis cements Chancellor Angela Merkel's position as the de facto leader of Europe.</p> <p>At “Zur Traube,” a neighborhood bar in the heart of Berlin, confidence is running particularly high. Ordinarily, the joint supports one of the Bundesliga teams, with free shots of liquor for every goal. But like every other bar in the city, this week it is draped with the black, red and yellow of the national flag.</p> <p>“If Germany wins, this place will explode with joy,” says bartender Gerd Hettenhausen. “Everybody drinks more when Germany wins.”</p> <p>In that case, there will be a victory parade in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, where the so-called <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;Fan Mile&rdquo; is already draped</a> with symbols of national pride.</p> <p>But if the team loses — making it five losses out of eight trips to the finals — there won't be a reception at all, according to off-field manager <a href="" target="_blank">Oliver Bierhoff</a>.</p> <p>In other words, second-best won't cut it for Germany anymore — and that pressure could make winning just a wee bit harder.</p> Argentina Entertainment Want to Know Germany Culture & Lifestyle Sat, 12 Jul 2014 17:03:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6203288 at Bombs make ghost towns out of southern Israel <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ashkelon, an Israeli seaside town, became the focus of Gazan attacks on Sunday after a relatively quiet weekend. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Noga Tarnopolsky </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ASHKELON, <a href="">Israel</a> — Sunday, the first day of the work week, started with a boom in this quiet seaside town. Not a boom, actually, more like: Boom! Boom! Boom! BOOM!</p> <p>The first three were the heart-stopping but by now familiar and comforting sounds of Israel's anti-missile system, <a href="">Iron Dome</a>, intercepting rockets launched from Gaza high up in the sky.</p> <p>The last, more like a small earthquake, was a rocket the system missed, hitting ground in the middle of town. According to Radio of the South, 16-year-old Yariv Levy was critically injured, with several others wounded. A few hours later, another rocket hit ground. Then, another hit a home.</p> <p>In Gaza, Saturday night was one of the bloodiest in the now six day-long conflict between Hamas, the Islamic governing organization, and Israel.</p> <p>An Israeli air force strike against the home Gaza police chief Tayseer Al-Batsh left 21 people dead and 35 wounded. The gravely injured Al-Batsh survived and underwent seven hours of surgery. </p> <p>Ashkelon, after a relatively quiet weekend, on Sunday turned into the focus of Gazan attacks.</p> <p>"Nonstop sirens," mused Ido Ozeri, 27, before adding, suddenly, "Oh, man, I think that fell right near here. That wasn't Iron Dome." </p> <p>For six months, Ozeri and his three partners worked to turn an old gym into a sparkling new restaurant/bar on Ashkelon's Delilah Beach. Thanks to Israel's economic boom, this pretty Mediterranean seaside town has begun to emerge from decades of sleepiness, and Ozeri was sure his chic tasteful pub, <a href="" target="_blank">Archie</a>, would be a success.</p> <p>But that was before. On Friday, Ozeri, an intense 27-year-old, looked around at his sparsely filled bar with the eyes of a worried parent.</p> <p>"We're down 90 percent I'd say," he said. "Marin, what do you say?" he asked his No. 1 waitress, carrying a tray full of beers. "At least 70 percent down," she replied.</p> <p>Israel has been under a <a href="">barrage of hundreds of missiles</a> in the past week, since the beginning of Israel's Operation Protective Edge — an air force operation aimed at disabling Hamas or possibly eradicating it, as suggested by Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.</p> <p>Israel has hit more than <a href="">1,320 targets in Gaza</a> as part of the offensive.</p> <p>In past month of tensions leading up to violence, the US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace process has collapsed, a Palestinian unity government formed between Hamas and the governing faction, Fatah, and finally, four teenage boys were kidnapped and murdered.</p> <p>Ozeri found out Ashkelon was in trouble last Tuesday, when just as happy hour was getting started a plain-clothes police officer burst into Archie and shut the place down. That was the first time Islamic terrorists from Gaza tried to infiltrate Israel from the sea, and an informal state of siege was imposed on southern communities while the manhunt was on.</p> <p>Ashkelon, Israel's southernmost beach before you get to Gaza, is, like Ashdod a few miles north, now something of a ghost town.</p> <p>At the Greg's coffee shop in Ashdod, a couple enjoyed what appeared to be a first date. A few TV crews filled up on coffee. </p> <p>At the vacant lobby of the Holiday Inn in Ashkelon, Mauro Gandolfi, 51, looked at towards the pool. "This is so weird. Two weeks ago it was so full, you couldn't hear anything. And now there is no one."</p> <p>It was 93 degrees Farenheit on a bright, sunny Saturday. For some reason, at 3 p.m., Ashkelon remained the only southern Israeli city not echoing with the sounds of sirens. </p> <p>But with constant glances at siren apps (red pulsing apps that confirm the siren you hear anyway) everyone was ready for the next mad rush to a shelter.</p> <p>That discipline is credited with saving the lives of the public at an Ashdod gas station Friday, with CCTV video showing people quickly filing into an underground shelter as sirens wailed, seconds before a tanker burst into flames. </p> <p>For the few hours before it was hauled away, the hulking black carcass of the tanker attracted media attention from around the world. A thin but constant stream of locals filled the empty, broad boulevards dotted with date trees out to the sea.</p> <p>The only person wounded in the attack was Ilan Solomon, a 61-year-old Israeli disabled war veteran, who was unable to move quickly enough. </p> <p>The area around Ashdod and Ashkelon still holds the aura of danger. </p> <p>Dan and Karen Evans, a couple from Portland, Oregon, hauled a 12-pack of liter-and-a-half bottles of mineral water into their hotel room. </p> <p>It is not their first time in Israel, or under missiles. The Evanses lived here between 2009 and 2012, the last time Dan directed a team of architects and engineers building one of Intel's facilities. Now, another one is going up, and they are back.</p> <p>"My team is meeting up for the first time tonight, right here," Dan said. "We're starting work. It's fine. People here in Ashkelon know how to handle themselves. By now we all know that these things spike and go down quite quickly."</p> <p>That may or may not be the case. Israeli analysts compete in their attempts to predict when Israel will commence a ground invasion into Gaza.</p> <p>George Hazout, 53, an Ashkelon cabbie, reported seeing "columns of tanks heading south like I have never seen in my life."</p> <p>"They're not waiting for anything," he said. "It's gonna happen tomorrow." An Israeli official, overhearing, said "I heard it would be next week."</p> <p>Ozeri, the bar owner, once served as a combat soldier in Gaza. Late Friday he recalled an "awful incident" in which a commander all but ordered him to shoot at the legs of two young boys playing with a kite. The commander thought the boys were a signal of a planned attack.</p> <p>"I just saw two kids with a kite, no clear threat," Ozeri said. "But what do I know, maybe it is a signal?"</p> <p>Ozeri told his commander he missed. "I just couldn't see myself leaving these kids with busted kneecaps for the rest of their lives. ... I shot at the sand, to scare them away. But you never know. That's the ugly part of war."  </p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Military Israel and Palestine Sat, 12 Jul 2014 14:12:00 +0000 Noga Tarnopolsky 6203202 at Indonesian voters are worried that fraud will pick their next president <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Supporters of both candidates claim that pollsters have taken sides. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence-France Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p class="ng-scope">With both presidential candidates declaring victory in <a href="">Indonesia</a>'s knife-edge election this week, anxiety is growing that fraud and dirty tactics could twist official results due to be announced later this month.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Jakarta governor Joko Widodo and his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto, used different unofficial tallies Wednesday to claim victory in the world's third-biggest democracy.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Now more than 130 million ballot papers from the vast archipelago that sprawls the distance of London to New York are being counted and collected, and then sent on to the capital Jakarta. The official result will be announced by July 22.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Both camps have sent hundreds of thousands of monitors to watch the ballots' each and every move in a country where vote-buying and the bribing of government officials is rampant.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"The most vulnerable part of the Indonesian election is the counting process," Jakarta-based independent analyst Paul Rowland told AFP.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Analysts believe that Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi and seen as a break from the autocratic Suharto era, has the more credible claim to victory, and as such is the most vulnerable to being targeted by such fraud.</p> <p class="ng-scope">At least eight polling agencies said he was leading Prabowo by between two and seven percentage points.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Most of these survey institutes have accurately predicted the results of Indonesian national elections since 2004, including April's parliamentary polls.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Prabowo, a top military figure in Suharto's time who has admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists before the strongman's downfall, relied on data from four less well-known polling agencies.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Widodo has urged his supporters across the country to closely monitor the vote-counting process and ensure it is "honest and clean without intervention by any parties."</p> <p class="ng-scope">Rowland said that Widodo was "challenging the local election officials to make sure they don't accept money to change the numbers."</p> <p class="ng-scope">There has been no suggestion that his opponents have tried to carry out any fraud.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Prabowo's enormously wealthy brother who has helped bankroll his campaign, insisted that the ex-general also felt his campaign was under threat from Widodo's team.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"Frankly we are quite worried ... our votes are being threatened," he said.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"We are not the only ones with money."</p> <p class="ng-scope"><strong>Call for calm</strong></p> <p class="ng-scope">For transparency, votes are counted in public at polling stations, sometimes in front of large crowds and party witnesses.</p> <p class="ng-scope">The votes are tallied on a form visible to onlookers, then handed to village chiefs before being collected at a higher administrative level and eventually making their way to Jakarta.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Even after the result is announced by the election commission, the loser can challenge it, and analysts say both candidates will likely do so if they do not emerge the victor.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Any challenge will go to the Constitutional Court, which must declare a winner by Aug. 24, ahead of the inauguration of a new president in October.</p> <p class="ng-scope">The worst-case scenario following a decision by the commission or court is violence breaking out. The country was plagued by unrest during its transition to democracy in the late 1990s, but has enjoyed more than a decade of peace and stability.</p> <p class="ng-scope">President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called both candidates to his residence outside the capital late Wednesday following their declarations of victory, and urged them to restrain their supporters from staging celebratory parades.</p> <p class="ng-scope">Both camps claim that polling agencies have taken sides.</p> <p class="ng-scope">The four main pollsters used by the Prabowo camp are little known and are coming under increased scrutiny, with the body that oversees pollsters in Indonesia reportedly raising concerns about their results.</p> <p class="ng-scope">But more reputable agencies too have vocally sided with Widodo. Rizal Sukma, executive director of Jakarta-based think-tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has advised his campaign.</p> <p class="ng-scope">However, Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy, said: "I think we can say pretty clearly the results used by Prabowo are not from respected polling firms.</p> <p class="ng-scope">"They are not particularly well established and they don't have track records of accuracy like others do."</p> Indonesia Need to Know Elections Politics Fri, 11 Jul 2014 16:49:40 +0000 Agence-France Presse 6202610 at Here's what Australia can learn from Uganda about handling refugees <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A leading refugee expert debunks Tony Abbott’s refugee myths. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lyn Eyb </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BORDEAUX &mdash; The world is sitting by and watching in a state of disbelief at the &ldquo;abhorrent&rdquo; asylum policies of the Australian government, according to one of the world&rsquo;s leading refugee and migration experts.<a href=""></a></p> <p> Alexander Betts, professor in refugee and forced migration studies at the UK&#39;s University of Oxford, says it&rsquo;s time for the United Nations and Australia&rsquo;s &ldquo;silent majority&rdquo; to speak out against human rights abuses under Prime Minister Tony Abbott.</p> <p> &ldquo;At the moment I think there&rsquo;s almost a sense that because Australia is an otherwise liberal democratic state, somehow there&rsquo;s a disbelief that its asylum policies can be quite as abhorrent as they are,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p> Betts contends that despite Tony Abbott&rsquo;s anti-asylum seeker propaganda, refugees could actually be good for Australia, because their skills and entrepreneurial spirit could help create jobs and strengthen the economy.</p> <p> Remarkably, he points to the refugee policy of Uganda &mdash; a country whose people on average <a href="">earn less in a year</a> than Australians do in a week &mdash; as a model for what Abbott should do.</p> <p> The prime minister&rsquo;s current strategy is one of rejecting and demonizing foreigners in need of shelter. His ongoing campaign to &ldquo;<a href="">stop the boats</a>,&rdquo; however, reached new lows this month with confirmation that Australia had handed asylum seekers <a href="">back to Sri Lanka</a> &mdash; the country from which they had sought refuge and one with a <a href="">questionable human rights record</a> of its own.</p> <p> The UN described the move as &ldquo;<a href="">deeply disturbing</a>,&rdquo; while refugee advocacy groups issued a <a href="">High Court challenge</a> to try to prevent a second boatload from suffering the same fate.</p> <p> Despite his own unpopularity, a <a href="">recent poll</a> suggests Abbott&rsquo;s hardline stance on asylum <a href="">remains popular</a> among some Australians, with 36 percent approving of the government&rsquo;s asylum policy.</p> <p> <strong>The role model: Uganda</strong></p> <p> In contrast to Australia, Uganda gives refugees the right to work and freedom of movement. They have access to public services, including health centers and schools. And the government employs health workers and teachers to assist in settlement.</p> <p>Betts is the lead author of a new report on Uganda that challenges the myth &mdash; perpetuated by Abbott and commonly accepted in Australia &mdash; that refugees are an economic burden.</p> <p> The study, <a href="">&quot;Refugee Economics: Rethinking Popular Assumptions</a>,&quot; found that refugees in Uganda are using economic freedom and social support to become self-sufficient. Rather than taking the jobs of locals, they are actually acting as job creators.</p> <p> &ldquo;Over 20 percent of the refugees we spoke to in Kampala were entrepreneurs employing other people, and of those that employed other people, 40 percent of their employees were Ugandan nationals,&rdquo; says Betts.</p> <p> &ldquo;If we give them freedom and opportunities, refugees can make a positive contribution. If we restrict their ability to contribute, then we are likely to create a notion that they are a drain socially, politically, and economically.&rdquo;</p> <p>Uganda faces a far greater influx of refugees than Australia; in <a href="">July 2013 alone</a>, Uganda accepted more than 66,000 refugees fleeing civil unrest in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. &nbsp;</p> <p> By comparison, <a href="">UN figures show</a> that throughout all of 2013, Australia received just 24,300 applications for asylum.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">11 ways Tony Abbott is ruining Australia and threatening the whole world</a></strong></p> <p>&ldquo;We need to get things in perspective and recognize that the overwhelming majority of refugees &mdash; over 80 percent &mdash; are in the developing world,&rdquo; says Betts.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;It is often the countries with the least capacity that actually take on the greatest degree of responsibility to protect and assist refugees. The ability of the Ugandan government to contribute in terms of its economic situation is far lower than Australia&rsquo;s, but they&rsquo;ve taken pioneering steps with regard to refugee policy.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="">Australian Asylum Seeker Resource Centre</a> CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis agrees.</p> <p>&ldquo;We believe that asylum seekers and refugees are among the most resilient, entrepreneurial people on the planet,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p> Australia needs to create an infrastructure that allows refugees to overcome barriers to employment and self-reliance so they can thrive, he adds.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> &ldquo;The focus shouldn&rsquo;t be on charity, but on supporting asylum seekers to use their skills, experiences, resilience and ingenuity,&rdquo; says Karapanagiotidis.</p> <p> He says the current Australian system is unfair and discriminates against so-called &quot;boat people.&quot;</p> <p> &ldquo;While asylum seekers who arrive by plane are able to work while they await the outcome of their refugee application, many asylum seekers living in the community who have come to Australia by boat are not afforded work rights,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p> &ldquo;Asylum seekers in general are not eligible to access Centrelink [employment benefits], and those who are permitted to work can&rsquo;t access <a href="">Job Services Australia</a> support to help them find employment, nor can they access apprenticeship and traineeship schemes.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Betts says the deprivation of the right to work is intended as a deterrent, &ldquo;but it doesn&rsquo;t work &mdash; it doesn&rsquo;t stop people arriving.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Given how many of these people arriving by boat are refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention definition, the sooner we can enable them to be self-reliant and make contributions through their work and their taxes, the earlier we can enable them to become part of the community.&rdquo;</p> <p>He says more research is needed to make an economic case for refugees.</p> <p>&ldquo;The kind of data we now have for Uganda just doesn&rsquo;t exist in the Australian context,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very rare that economists have done research on refugees and asylum seekers, but it&rsquo;s very important [because] if we want to challenge the rhetoric of governments, we can show these assumptions and claims to be false with that data and evidence.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fixing Australia</strong></p> <p> Betts insists that Australians should reject Abbott&rsquo;s policies. &ldquo;Politics needs to give voice to the country&rsquo;s silent majority, and that takes political courage and leadership by elected politicians to ... mobilize that set of people who recognize that it&rsquo;s not acceptable to have refugees under international law in danger at sea and not having access to the territory of another state when they&rsquo;re seeking international protection.</p> <p>&ldquo;Organizations like UNHCR [the UN&rsquo;s refugee agency] and international NGOs [need to] make it clear that the policies being adopted by the Abbott government are a violation of human rights and international refugee law.&rdquo;</p> <p> He said it was also the responsibility of the country&rsquo;s allies &mdash; including the United States and the United Kingdom &mdash;&nbsp;to quietly condemn via diplomatic channels Australia&rsquo;s &ldquo;clear violation of the minimum standards of human rights we expect of a civilized country.&rdquo;</p> Want to Know Asia-Pacific Aid Indonesia Political Risk Fri, 11 Jul 2014 04:33:05 +0000 Lyn Eyb 6201232 at Q&A with UN adviser Amina Mohammed: MDGs 'not deep enough' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals nears, the special adviser to the United Nations' Secretary-General reflects on the 'unfinished business' left to tackle </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tracy Jarrett </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>With the United Nations Millennium Development Goals—the eight international development goals established to promote global health, eradicate poverty, and achieve universal education—set to expire in 2015, questions remain on how successful implementation of the goals have been on the ground. Earlier this week, in an annual <a href="">report</a> published on the MDGs, the UN concluded that “substantial progress has been made in most areas, but much more effort is needed to reach the set targets.” </p> <p>Reporter Tracy Jarrett sat down with Amina Mohammed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning, at last week's Partnership for Maternal, Newborn &amp; Child Health <a href="">conference</a> held in Johannesburg to learn more about the successes and failures of the MDGs and how these goals will be sustained beyond 2015.</p> <p><strong>GlobalPost:</strong> What has been learned from the Millennium Development Goals that were set in 2000?</p> <p><strong>Amina Mohammed:</strong> The good thing the MDGs did was really bring the development agenda together as one.</p> <p>We learned lots of lessons. For instance, trying to resolve the issue of maternal mortality was more than just having primary health care centers equipped. You needed much more infrastructure, you needed access for the poor, they needed good midwives, we needed analysis of what was happening, we needed money on a regular basis – not just one off – and we needed to do this at scale. We were not talking about a few thousand people, we were talking about millions.</p> <p>The MDGs were not deep enough for us to really deal with the scale of the issues, and that’s why you see mixed blessings today. Some goals we’ve been able to achieve and others are still unfinished business, and I think that for us, the lessons of the MDGs is what is possible and that’s been a wonderful lesson.</p> <p><strong>GP: </strong>Where are we today in terms of the MDGs?</p> <p><strong>AM: </strong>We have seen countries grow and improve, but it’s insufficient. The difference between the “haves” and the “have nots” has grown larger, and we have to do something about that.</p> <p><strong>GP: </strong>What are the global goals past 2015?</p> <p><strong>AM:</strong> I think first and foremost, the starting block is the unfinished business of the MDGs. We want to use sustainable development conceptually, to tackle these goals. To say we’ve got to have social inclusion, economic development has to be with people – and with young people – in making sure we have transformation for all. If you see the articulation of the 17 <a href="">Sustainable Millennium Goals</a> so far, the first six or seven are MDGs and that is really a response by member states to the clarion call to the huge outreach that we’ve had with the MDGs. <span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">When you ask young people, and for the first time we have done that, the top three or four issues are: health, education, jobs, and responsive government.</span></p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> How do countries turn the MDGs and the new post 2015 goals into tangible programs that work on the country level?</p> <p><strong>AM: </strong>Because a sustainable form of governance is a different way of tackling poverty eradication, it won’t be business as usual. I think in making these goals real, they should be an integral part of what we see in a country, and they should be seen as a set of goals, a set of targets, that lift the ambition of countries and motivate them to be part of a global partnership.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> What role does government accountability play in sustaining the MDGs and post 2015 goals?</p> <p><strong>AM:</strong> Let’s remember this is a universal agenda. There are externalities for governments with the best will in the world that make it [hard for them] to prioritize these goals. For example, some can’t make the revenues they need because of trade barriers.</p> <p>In terms of accountability, we also need to find different mechanisms beyond monitoring and evaluation. We need to make sure we have the baseline data that is credible, that has integrity, to tell us where we are missing things or people are not being reached. It will tell us if we are doing well or not doing so well.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> What is the role of private sector post 2015? How might that role be different than what it is currently?</p> <p>This has been a very difficult discussion because the first reality check was that we speak different languages. The development agenda has always been between governments and donors—and business is something else, somewhere else.</p> <p>If the economic transformations are going to be real, and there is a serious attempt to deal with inequalities, then we have to look at what roles will business play in all of this. I think opening up our markets – [for example], looking at the full cycle of the agricultural chain so that business is not just dealing with production, but with storage, how products get to market, where women are included, how to link the markets internally and externally—business has a role to play in that.</p> <p>[Businesses] also have a big role to play in looking at their [environmental] footprint. How do we deal with sustainable consumption production? How do we use technologies to green our economies in a way that makes them more sustainable? </p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> In what area are private businesses making the biggest difference?</p> <p><strong>AM: </strong>The greatest difference will be in health at the moment, but I think that’s because the partnerships the Secretary-General put in place during the course of the MDGs have really brought together business and health and the technologies as well, as we’ve seen with mobile technology. It’s not to say other sectors are excluded. In agriculture there’s certainly been those who have helped, or interventions that have helped. For example the WASH, water and sanitation program, has had an incredible impact.</p> <p><strong>GP:</strong> How can you encourage people to care about the MDGs and their lasting effect when some of these goals seem so far out of reach?</p> <p> <strong>AM: </strong>The implications of not caring are not acceptable. It is unacceptable that we continue to beat up women. It’s not acceptable that girls can’t go to school. It’s not acceptable you should live with a fistula and not have any hope. It’s not acceptable that you can walk into a hospital not knowing if your going to end up in the morgue or not, It’s absolutely not acceptable that we see children that were born with such a bright future have their lives cut short because there’s a disease we can prevent—malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea.</p> <p>The implications of not addressing these issues are that you will have insecurity across countries. You will not have civil societies. That’s the imperative for everyone to care and for the impossible to become possible.</p> <p><em>This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Tracy Jarrett reported from <a href="">South Africa</a> and Mozambique as a press fellow with the International Center for Journalists and the UN Foundation. </em></p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">UN: Millennium Development Goals leaving some regions behind</a></strong></p> <p>  </p> <p class='u'></p> United Nations Health Global Pulse Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:37:21 +0000 Tracy Jarrett 6200995 at Although they live freely in Japan, these Koreans still support Kim Jong Un <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Why do they swear allegiance to an abusive regime? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>TOKYO, <a href="">Japan</a> — Few outsiders will ever get to witness Japan’s surreal state within a state, a network of businesses and schools that have sworn allegiance to North Korea.</p> <p>It’s a surprising sight: Some 10,000 children at schools all over Japan have been known to goose-step in the presence of portraits of the former dictators Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, marching patriotically to revolutionary music. School field trips typically include excursions to Pyongyang to learn about North Korean history and ideology.</p> <p>Alongside a regular curriculum of math, literature and science, these “Chongryon schools,” as they’re called, teach North Korean ideologies of nationalism and socialism.</p> <p>This network owes its existence to a Tokyo-based umbrella organization called Chongryon, which has been likened to the de facto North Korean shadow government in Japan. Tokyo, like its ally Washington, has no formal diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.</p> <p>Since its founding in the 1950s, Chongryon has sponsored everything from credit unions to newspapers to pachinko parlors, once even raising funds for the Kim regime through criminal enterprises in the 1980s. At its apex, the group claimed allegiance from about two-thirds of Japan’s “zainichi” Koreans — the hundreds of thousands of Koreans whose ancestors lived here primarily as laborers under Japanese colonial rule before 1945. (After Japan and <a href="">South Korea</a> restored diplomatic ties in 1965, ethnic Koreans who did not voluntarily take South Korean passports essentially became de facto North Koreans.)</p> <p>Chongryon today is a shred of its former self, struggling with a decade of debt that has culminated in a foreclosure at its Tokyo headquarters. Japanese universities and employers generally disfavor Chongryon schools, which typically feed graduates into the group’s shrinking network of businesses and institutions. In April, North Korean generalissimo Kim Jong Un reportedly injected a lifeline worth $2 million into the organization.</p> <p>Part of the problem is North Korea’s reputation in Japan. It’s not just the abysmal poverty or the abuse that it inflicts on its own citizens. In 2002, the previous North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il, personally admitted that his government abducted 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. The Japanese, most of whom were in their twenties, were kidnapped to help train North Korean spies.</p> <p>The revelation — long suspected in Japan, but also passed off as a conspiracy theory by leftist intellectuals and writers — fueled the ire of Japan’s hard right, underpinning racist assaults against Koreans.</p> <p>So why, despite all of this, do some ethnic Koreans in prosperous and liberal Japan continue to side with the dwindling Chongryon empire?</p> <p>One Kim Jong Un loyalist, who asked not to be named citing a fear of harassment from an anti-Korean group, said that a long tradition of family and community makes it hard to part ways with Chongryon. “Our family is too closely tied to [Chongryon] now,” the middle-aged Chongryon member in Tokyo explained. “Whatever the [anti-Korean] hate groups say, as a child they gave my family a community, for our nation.”</p> <p>“The press in Japan and the West don’t understand that we see ourselves as Koreans first, and [that] we want our nation unified as one Korea. We do not see ourselves as only North Koreans and we are not crazy or brainwashed,” she said. “We make our own decisions to send our children to these schools.”</p> <p>She added that many Chongryon loyalists hold South Korean passports anyway. Seoul isn’t that concerned, since it treats North Koreans as citizens of South Korea, claiming sovereignty over the entire peninsula.</p> <p>In a separate interview, another woman who attended a Chongryon school as a child in the 1980s, but who no longer identifies with the group, said that a history of discrimination in Japan quickly pushed her family into the arms of North Korean sympathizers decades ago. (She also asked to remain anonymous, citing a streak of anti-Korean protests in Tokyo and Osaka last year.)</p> <p>“Growing up, North Korea was really the best option for Koreans here, even though it might sound odd today,” she said. “They gave us this belonging. They took care of us and showed us that we as Koreans could stand up on our own. South Korea [which was a poor nation back then] just didn’t have as much of a footprint and we felt more connected to North Korean self-reliance.”</p> <p>“Nowadays we are not as dependent on North Korea. The South is wealthier and more powerful, but I can understand why very old Koreans would feel something with North Korea after they suffered so much under Japan,” she added.</p> <p>She was referring to the period from 1910 until the end of World War II, when Japan embarked on what was supposedly a nation-building project over the barren Korean peninsula. The Japanese ended up committing a raft of wartime atrocities, and after the war ended, Koreans in Japan continued to be treated as outsiders.</p> <p>Chongryon prospered as North Korea’s link into Japan for decades, but the Japanese government went full-throttle against the group after the kidnappings were confirmed in 2002.</p> <p>Kim Jong Il’s admission was a rare act of honesty that backfired. And this incident is still fresh in the minds of some ethnic Koreans, who fear that a recent restart of negotiations between Japan and North Korea over the abductions could spark a similar episode.</p> <p>During tense negotiations in <a href="">Beijing</a> on July 2, Tokyo said that it would relax some sanctions in return for progress on a North Korean investigation into the abductions.</p> <p>But if North Korea “has nothing to offer to please the Japanese, harassment against Koreans will be more serious,” warned Soo-im Lee, an ethnic Korean and researcher at Ryukoku University in Kyoto.</p> <p>“The social problem of hate speech and hate crimes against Koreans is becoming serious,” Lee said. “Right wingers … hurt Koreans living here, but since Japan has no laws to ban racial discrimination, Koreans and humanitarian Japanese are fighting back against this profound racism.”</p> <p> Lee based her concerns on a pattern of fringe anti-Korean demonstrations over the past year. Even the US State Department rebuked the hate speech, which most Japanese similarly condemn, in its annual human rights report in January.</p> <p>“Koreans are cockroaches,” a sampling of protest signs would say from anti-Korean groups like Zaitokukai. “Go back to Korea!” “Kick them out of Japan,” other anti-Korean activists shouted at demonstrations. Protesters even approached ethnic Korean schools, calling students “North Korean spies.”</p> Want to Know Military Japan North Korea South Korea Thu, 10 Jul 2014 04:32:57 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6195497 at Here's why many in Massachusetts are mourning Brazil's World Cup defeat <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hint: It has a lot to do with a little town called Framingham. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Liz Mineo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Brazilian fans held their heads in their hands, threw up their arms in despair, pulled their hair in anguish, and stood in shock and disbelief as they watched <a href="">Germany</a> crush their beloved soccer team in a <a href="" target="_blank">humiliating 7-1 defeat</a> during Tuesday’s World Cup semifinals.</p> <p>The scene took place nearly 5,000 miles away from Brazil, in the eastern Massachusetts town of Framingham, home to one of the world’s biggest Brazilian communities outside the homeland.</p> <p>With its vibrant “Little Brazil” boasting bakeries, restaurants, jewelry shops and clothing stores, Framingham is known to throw a heck of a World Cup celebration.</p> <p>That’s why friends Vilson Branco and Romulo Sousa, both from Worcester, Massachusetts, came here to watch Brazil take on Germany and join the revelers who have packed Tropical Cafe since the tournament began in mid-June.</p> <p>“We were hoping to celebrate after the game,” said a dejected Branco, who was wearing Brazil’s bright yellow jersey. “It was supposed to be a party.”</p> <style type="text/css"> .photocontain{width: 425px;padding-right:20px;padding-bottom:10px;float:left;} .photo{height: 283px;width: 425px;} .photocaption{width: 425px;font: 90% Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;line-height:1.5;text-align:left;}</style><div class="photocontain"> <img alt="" class="photo" src=""><div class="photocaption"> (Liz Mineo/GlobalPost)</div> </div> <p>“It feels like a funeral,” Sousa quipped, outside the restaurant decorated with balloons and Brazilian flags.</p> <p>It felt that way for about 1,500 fans Framingham police expected to take part in street celebrations, as they have after previous Brazil victories in the tournament. Twenty-five police officers and up to eight state police troopers were designated to manage the crowds and traffic, Deputy Police Chief Steven Trask said before the game.</p> <p>In the late 1990s, when Brazilian immigrants took to the streets to celebrate their team’s wins, police thought it was a riot. Now they know better, and every four years, make plans for how to handle the crowds.</p> <style type="text/css"> .photocontain{width: 425px;padding-right:20px;padding-bottom:10px;float:left;} .photo{height: 254px;width: 425px;} .photocaption{width: 425px;font: 90% Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;line-height:1.5;text-align:left;}</style><div class="photocontain"> <img alt="" class="photo" src=""><div class="photocaption"> (Liz Mineo/GlobalPost)</div> </div> <p>“It’s a happy, joyous crowd,” Trask said. “We’d let them celebrate one hour or so and then we’d ask them to disperse. Our job is to make sure that everybody is safe and the town continues to function.”</p> <p>But alas, all the preparation this time wasn’t necessary. Barriers to contain revelers on sidewalks and prevent them from spilling over the roads sat unused. Fans who in past celebrations crowded the streets cheering on their team while cars flying Brazilian flags and honking horns circled around downtown, as in a Brazilian carnival, were nowhere to be seen. The streets were empty, traffic snarled as usual, and the atmosphere was gloomy.</p> <p>It was a dark contrast to previous celebrations, where thousands of Brazilians fans from all over Massachusetts came to join in the street party, halting traffic for hours and covering downtown with a sea of yellow jerseys.</p> <p>This is a town of just 68,000 people. Boston researcher Alvaro <a href="">Lima</a> puts the number of Brazilian residents in Framingham at 10,000, although official counts are lower. They began coming here in the 1980s, mostly from the city of Governador Valadares, escaping their country’s economic upheaval. Now they’re Framingham’s largest ethnic group.</p> <p>The researcher counts as many as 250,000 Brazilians in all of Massachusetts — the largest concentration in the <a href="">United States</a> and bigger than the Brazilian emigre communities in any <a href="">Latin American</a>, <a href="">European</a> or <a href="">Asian</a> country.</p> <p>This time many fans here walked out during the game — just as some spectators did at Brazil’s Mineirao stadium where the match was held, in disgust at what sports commentators are calling the country’s worst World Cup defeat.</p> <p>Those who stayed at the Brazilian cafe until the end went home dejected. Amanda Santos was among them. “I’m going home to cry,” she said. “I have no words. Soccer is everything for Brazilians.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Germany just slaughtered Brazil in the World Cup semifinals</a></strong></p> <p>Mara Rubio, who wore a Brazilian jersey, green and yellow earrings and a matching bracelet, felt the same way. “I came to celebrate,” she said. “But this was a humiliation, an embarrassment.”</p> <p>Antonio Daldon, who has lived in Framingham for the past 15 years, was too shocked to talk. “The only happy ones are the police in Framingham,” he said.</p> <p>Not really. Before the game, Trask was asked whether he’d rather Brazil lose to Germany to avoid the extra work. He hesitated.</p> <p>“My son is watching the game, and he’s rooting for Brazil,” he said. “We’d be happy if Brazil wins.”</p> <p>But it wasn’t meant to be. Friends Branco and Sousa, who came to Framingham hoping to join in the street celebrations, walked down the desolated sidewalks, feeling sad and sharing the pain of Brazilians back home.</p> <p>Summing up the sentiment of Brazilian fans in Framingham, Brazil and elsewhere, Sousa said, “My heart is broken.”</p> Want to Know Brazil Germany Culture & Lifestyle United States Wed, 09 Jul 2014 17:31:00 +0000 Liz Mineo 6200546 at The bodies of 50 executed civilians turn up south of Baghdad <!--paging_filter--><p>BAGHDAD — Iraqi security forces found the bodies of 50 unidentified civilians who were executed in Babylon province, located 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Baghdad, police said Wednesday.</p> <p>The bodies of the victims, who had been blindfolded and were shot in the head and chest, were discovered in a field in Al Hamza and taken to the coroner's office to be identified, police said in a statement.</p> <p>The reason for the executions and the date the civilians were killed have not been determined.</p> <p>The Iraqi army and Sunni insurgents from the Islamic State of <a href="">Iraq</a> and the Levant, or ISIL, have been fighting in Babylon province.</p> <p>At least 22 security forces members were killed and 25 others wounded in clashes with Islamic extremists in the area on June 28.</p> <p>ISIL, which controls large swaths of land in the north and west of Iraq, proclaimed an Islamic caliphate on June 29 extending from the <a href="">Syrian</a> province of Aleppo to Diyala in Iraq.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">A comprehensive 53-step guide to how the US ruined Iraq</a></strong></p> Al Qaeda in Iraq Need to Know Syria War Iraq Middle East Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:15:00 +0000 Agencia EFE 6200490 at This year, on its birthday, South Sudan would like to take stock of its estimated 9,000 child soldiers <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The national army has recommitted to the cause of sparing children from fighting, but it's not totally up to them. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Amanda Sperber </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JUBA, South Sudan — Birthdays are a time to reflect, even for countries. South Sudan turns 3 years old today and this year it has decided to take stock of its estimated 9,000 child soldiers.</p> <p>It's a staggering figure and one that has motivated the world's youngest nation — also one of its <a href="">most troubled</a> — to try to change its image amid brutal war.</p> <p>Last month, South Sudan's national army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), recommitted to eliminating children from its ranks as part of the UN children's fund's star-studded <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;Children Not Soldiers&rdquo;</a> campaign. <a href="">Afghanistan</a>, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are also working with the UN to stop the use of children by government security forces before 2016.</p> <p>That's a tall order for South Sudan. Out of the estimated 9,000 child soldiers, the UN has verified only 298 (296 boys and two girls). Out of those, about half have been directly connected to the SPLA since war erupted in December. Opposition forces are believed to have significantly greater numbers of children in their ranks.</p> <p>And former SPLA soldiers say the number of child soldiers is growing. </p> <p>Former SPLA who are ethnically Nuer accuse the government of recruiting child soldiers from the same tribe as President Salva Kiir to build a stronghold before fighting broke out in December 2013.</p> <p>The war has pitted two ethnic groups, Dinka and Nuer, against each other. Nuer soldiers were driven from the army when fighting started.</p> <p>In 2013, President Kiir traveled to Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states, ordering governors there to assemble fresh infantry. Young people from these remote, majority Dinka states were specifically targeted because they are generally less educated and easier to mobilize along ethnic lines. Kiir is from Warrap state.</p> <p>"After the trip two battalions were created, each made up of 750 Dinka soldiers between the ages of 14 and 20," a former Nuer SPLA soldier said on the sidelines of a press conference in Juba last month. The soldier declined to give his name.</p> <p>They were trained in the capital and replaced the Nuer troops who were driven out in December 2013.</p> <p>One battalion is at Luri Mountain, the other at the president’s house. Both bases are impenetrable without top SPLA approval.</p> <p>Since the president’s trip, Paul Malong Awan, the former governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, has been promoted to army general chief of staff.</p> <p><strong>Roots of the problem</strong></p> <p>In one of the poorest nations on Earth with a 20 percent literacy rate, employment with the national army is one of the only steadily paying jobs available.</p> <p>South Sudan has not yet achieved universal birth registration. This makes it difficult to determine if an individual is over 18. Many people from rural areas don’t know their exact age. One of the anonymous Nuer soldiers added, “They don’t have knowledge of international laws.”</p> <p>Before South Sudan gained autonomy and the SPLA became a national army, the force had thousands of children in its ranks fighting against Sudan in a war that claimed more than a million lives. In the mid-1980s and early '90s, as many as 20,000 children lived in Panyandong camp in Ethiopia where they were given military training and attended schools in the camp.</p> <p>Majur Mayor, deputy chair of the <a href="" target="_blank">National DDR Commission</a>, which focuses on disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating ex-combatants, claimed that children have never fought for the SPLA. “You train them and you give them guns but only for protection,” he said.</p> <p>Mayor said during the war with the north, before the secession, children needed the arms and training for their own protection. Now, he says, there is enough protection for them. Children are no longer armed and trained.</p> <p>Mayor allowed that today some may linger in the army barracks for security, food or to perhaps make a bit of money watching the soldiers' things or cooking. If they are sighted, it is expected that they will be reported to the DDR’s Child Soldiers Unit.</p> <p>Other SPLA admitted that children have fought with the army in the past, and said there may still be children serving as combatants.</p> <p>Brig. Gen. Chaplain Khamis Edward, head of the SPLA Child Protection Unit, said it is difficult to monitor the current situation in parts of the north where much of the fighting is taking place. Right now, it is almost impossible to reach most of these areas by car. The child protection unit relies on reports from the UN, after which they work to remove the under-aged fighters.</p> <p>Then children who are removed from the ranks are often from conflict areas, where their homes are destroyed or abandoned. So, they return to war.</p> <p>Representatives admit the current conflict cannot help but contaminate any progress that has been made in stopping the use of child soldiers.</p> <p>When asked if there are currently children serving with the national army SPLA spokesman Col. Philip Aguer replied: “I cannot say ‘no,’ and I cannot say ‘yes.’” </p> Africa Conflict Zones Want to Know Military Sudan Aid Culture & Lifestyle Education Wed, 09 Jul 2014 04:37:32 +0000 Amanda Sperber 6193170 at Those 'rescued' Thai elephants tourists ride are actually trafficked <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A new investigation blames tourism for the decline of the Asian elephant. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bridget Di Certo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>YANGON, Myanmar and CHIANG MAI, <a href="">Thailand</a> — The selfies show smiles, victory signs and slightly sunburnt skin.</p> <p>Seated atop a rollicking elephant on a rudimentary platform strapped to the animal’s back, tourists in Thailand take happy snaps as a mahout edges one of <a href="">Asia</a>’s largest land mammals along with a stick.</p> <p>But at the end of this stick glints the curve of a blade. Underneath the platform, the elephant’s back is blistered and raw — apt metaphors for the dark underbelly of Thailand’s elephant rides.</p> <p>The Asian elephant is endangered, and demand by tourists for elephant rides in Thailand is fueling a system of abuse that compounds the threat to its survival, according to a new report from TRAFFIC, a leading international wildlife trade monitoring network.</p> <p>Tourists often feel good about the elephant rides, having been told that the beasts have been “rescued” for “conservation,” and that the fees they pay will help the animals. Yet watchdogs say young elephants from neighboring Myanmar are being illegally captured and trafficked to Thailand under the protection of legal loopholes for sale into the tourist trade there.</p> <p>The once-prolific population of wild elephants in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has dwindled to between 4,000 and 5,000 in recent years. Development and deforestation are partly to blame, but capturing wild elephants, previously for logging but now increasingly for tourism, has played a key role in population declines and is now considered a major threat to wild elephants, the report argues.</p> <p>“In Myanmar, domesticated elephants are used to corral wild animals into pit-traps where older protective members of herds are often killed and the higher value, younger animals taken,” the report reads. “The young are then transported to Thai-Myanmar border areas and then mentally broken and prepared for training before being sold into the tourism industry in Thailand where they are put to work at tourist camps or hotels.”</p> <p>Thailand has no legislation that specifically addresses this type of animal trafficking, although some efforts have been made in the past to authenticate the origin of tourism elephants. One of the Thai legislation loopholes is the requirement that tourism elephants be registered only after they reach eight years of age, leaving young elephants from Myanmar highly vulnerable to being laundered into the Thai tourist trade.</p> <p>TRAFFIC’s report recommends urgent reforms so wild and domesticated animals are governed under one law, clarifying responsibilities for management, enforcement and ownership of the animals, including mandatory DNA registration and use of microchips for tracking.</p> <p>This week CITES, the international body concerned with protection of animals, meets to discuss the progress Thailand has made for protection of elephants.</p> <p>“The Asian Elephant is the forgotten elephant; it needs government support now more than ever. If the capture and smuggling of calves is not stopped, some of the last great wild populations of the species are at risk of extinction," said Joanna Cary-Elwes, campaigns manager for wildlife NGO Elephant Family.</p> <p>Travel for Wildlife zoologist Cristina Garcia said that the demand to ride elephants by tourists visiting Thailand underlies systematic abuse of the animals. The price of a young elephant has risen fivefold in recent years to $33,000. Mistreatment of the animals continues once they enter the tourist trade, Garcia said.</p> <p>“Elephants used in the trekking industry suffer physical effects as they spend their lives carrying people on their backs. Their spines were never designed to carry people, and the weight of the chairs leads to long-term damage,” Garcia said. “Furthermore, the trekking platforms rub on their backs all day long, causing blisters and infection. Not to mention broken legs and foot damage.”</p> <p>Despite this, wildlife experts say boycotting elephant tourism altogether is unnecessary. Instead they recommend tourists in Thailand and Myanmar wishing to interact with elephants do so through programs that offer ethical opportunities to feed, bathe or walk with the elephants instead of using the animals as a ride.</p> <p>“If you still want to ride an elephant, you can look out for signs of mistreatment. If the elephants are chained and the mahouts use bull hooks, this is a sign of serious abuse,” Garcia said. “The bottom line is, taking a wild animal and using it for human entertainment is inherently not caring for it appropriately.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Elephant tusks are the new blood diamonds</a></strong></p> Want to Know Myanmar Thailand Tue, 08 Jul 2014 22:39:00 +0000 Bridget Di Certo 6198886 at Germany is angry with the US but can’t do much about it — for now at least <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> However, the latest spy scandal rocking relations between the two countries may affect longer-term attitudes toward Washington. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, <a href="">Germany</a> — Although allegations that the CIA actively worked to recruit a double agent in Germany's top spy agency is prompting renewed outrage from German officials on Tuesday, experts say the government has little scope for much more than issuing strong words.</p> <p>“There will be a lot of castigation but the two governments will continue to cooperate on the wide range of issues where their interests overlap,” says James Davis of the University of St. Gallen.</p> <p>Still, the latest espionage scandal to hit relations between the two countries is strengthening calls for Germany to offer support, possibly even asylum, to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and prompting new demands for the government to launch its own espionage program directed against the US.</p> <p>However, the largest casualty may be a major EU-US free trade agreement that’s enjoyed the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel.</p> <p>“That the Chancellor will have to be seen as representing the interests of a sovereign country seems clear, both from a foreign policy and domestic politics perspective,” Davis says of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).</p> <p>“[Therefore] the episode will strengthen the hand of those who are against TTIP.”</p> <p>When not stoking new anger against the US, the case has fascinated German observers because of the curious way it’s unfolded.</p> <p>Unnamed US officials <a href="">confirmed</a> Monday that the CIA had indeed recruited an agent of Germany's foreign intelligence service, who was arrested by the German authorities last week on suspicion of being a double agent.</p> <p>However, the authorities initially said they had detained the man in connection with an alleged offer to sell information to <a href="">Russia</a>. While in custody, he purportedly confessed to working with US agents as well, selling as many as 218 classified documents over a two-year period for a total of around $35,000, reports <a href="">said</a>.</p> <p>His lawyer stopped short of confirming those details on Monday, but he told German television that “there are things in the media which are true.” Earlier reports by Der Spiegel and the Suddeutschezeitung suggested that the double agent had been tasked with gathering inside information about a German parliamentary committee's inquiry into the NSA's activities in Germany — including the tapping of the chancellor's mobile phone.</p> <p>Alghough Merkel’s cellphone may have made the biggest headlines, ordinary Germans have been mainly concerned about Snowden's revelations about the NSA's massive data collection program. The latest revelations about US agents allegedly working to subvert the inquiry into that case adds a new layer of betrayal, says Jan Techau, director of Carnegie <a href="">Europe</a>.</p> <p>“The goal was to spy on this [parliamentary investigative] committee and get secret documents on this committee's work,” he says. “This is what people have taken really hard.”</p> <p>The public outrage has forced politicians to take stronger stances against the US, Techau adds. And while the new revelations may not result in any immediate consequences for US-German relations, he adds, growing popular disgust with Washington may have long-term implications.</p> <p>Already, nearly two-thirds of Germans think their officials should act more independently from the US, according to a poll conducted by TNS Research for Der Spiegel. Some 69 percent said their confidence in America had fallen recently.</p> <p>Visiting <a href="">China</a> with a trade delegation when the story broke, Merkel issued what some view as her strongest statement yet on the allegations of US spying, <a href="">saying</a> the case represents a “clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners.”</p> <p>President Joachim Gauck exploded on German TV, saying “enough is enough,” and Bild newspaper reported that Home Minister Thomas de Maiziere <a href="">is pushing</a> to step up spying on the US.</p> <p>Although that actually taking place is unlikely, those comments and others like them reflect the growing pressure on policymakers from media and public opinion to take some kind of action, says Volker Perthes, director of the Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).</p> <p>“Germany should and will probably improve its counter-intelligence activities, also with an eye on what our American allies are doing,” he says.</p> <p>Intelligence cooperation between German intelligence agencies and their US counterparts could also be reduced, he adds. And German policymakers could add their voices to those in the European parliament calling for canceling the SWIFT agreement on exchanging banking data.</p> <p>The growing public disenchantment with the US could have farther-reaching implications over the upcoming months and years.</p> <p>Germany's orientation has increasingly tilted toward US foreign policy goals and economic ideals in recent years, illustrated by Merkel's toughening stance toward Russia. But growing skepticism about US intentions could slow or skew that tilt, especially if it begins to influence voters' attitudes toward American values.</p> <p>Davis says the spying scandals are especially affecting the attitudes of younger Germans under 25.</p> <p> “These revelations continue a long series of similar episodes that together leave the impression for many in Germany that the USA has lost its anchor.”</p> Espionage World Leaders Want to Know Diplomacy Germany Tue, 08 Jul 2014 17:10:05 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6199411 at Mexico’s cartel-fighting vigilantes get closer to the Texas border <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Armed residents are taking on the feared Zetas cartel in Tamaulipas state. One desperate town’s mayor applauds them. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ioan Grillo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>HIDALGO, Mexico &mdash; The gunmen nabbed watermelon farmer Jesus Manuel Guerrero as he drove from his ranch to buy supplies and held him for five painful days in the trunk of a car.</p> <p>When family members finally paid a $120,000 ransom and they released him, he was urinating blood.</p> <p>He&rsquo;s just one of hundreds of victims of a wave of kidnapping that&rsquo;s swept this once peaceful farming town, about 130 miles south of Texas.</p> <p>But almost three years after his brutal abduction, Guerrero, who is now the mayor, says his town has become safer, the kidnappers scared to enter.</p> <p>This change is not due to the police, he says, but to a clandestine vigilante group known as the Pedro Mendez Column, named after a local general who fought the French in the 19th century.</p> <p>The column hands out leaflets declaring it operates night patrols to defend the community from the feared Zetas cartel, which is behind most of the kidnapping. The vigilantes have also claimed responsibility for several murders of alleged Zeta members, including two men shot dead in January.</p> <p>&ldquo;The column only kills kidnappers and drug traffickers. They don&rsquo;t allow extortion or threaten honest people,&rdquo; Guerrero told GlobalPost, speaking in his town hall, which is decorated with paintings of Mexico&rsquo;s independence and revolutionary heroes.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is much safer with them.&rdquo;</p> <p>This is the latest expression of a vigilante movement in Mexico that&rsquo;s expanding from the southern mountains to areas near the United States border like Hidalgo, in Tamaulipas state.</p> <p>The vigilantes are rising after the Mexican government failed to stop the country from becoming a world kidnap capital, with more than 1,600 reported abductions in 2013, the worst year on record. There have been more than 70,000 cartel-related killings since 2006.</p> <p>But human rights groups warn that vigilantes may only add to Mexico&rsquo;s cycle of violence &mdash; a severe problem in border states like Tamaulipas, which suffers shoot-outs that have caused temporary shutdowns of crossings into Texas.</p> <style type="text/css"> .photocontain{width: 384px;padding-left:20px;padding-bottom:10px;float:right;} .photo{height: 248px;width: 384px;} .photocaption{width: 484px;font: 90% Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;line-height:1.5;text-align:left;}</style><div class="photocontain"> <img alt="some_alt" class="photo" src="" /> <div class="photocaption"> Mayor Guerrero of Hidalgo. (Tamaulipas government <a href="" target="_blank">website</a>)</div> </div> <p>Bordering the Rio Grande valley and the cities of Brownsville and Laredo, Tamaulipas lies along a major US-Mexico trade route, with tens of thousands of trucks of goods crossing daily, as well as many undocumented migrants and drug loads.</p> <p>Farther south in the Pacific states of Michoacan and Guerrero, a vigilante movement mushroomed until thousands openly took up arms to fight cartels.</p> <p>Some of those vigilantes were deputized as rural state police in May, but others have carried on operating outside the law. Last month, police and soldiers <a href="" target="_blank">arrested</a> Michoacan vigilante leader Jose Mireles and more than 70 of his supporters for carrying illegal guns.</p> <p>Gun permits are difficult to get in Mexico, but the country is awash in illegal arms, many smuggled in from the US. The vigilantes favor the same Kalashnikovs and AR-15 rifles as the cartels, which sell on the black market here for several thousand dollars apiece.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">How Mexico&rsquo;s west was won. It took a village, and plenty of AK-47s</a> </strong></p> <p>The vigilantes in Tamaulipas are more secretive than those of the south, working in hidden cells from towns and ranches.</p> <p>They conceal their identities because they not only fear arrest but also revenge attacks from the gangsters.</p> <p>In May, alleged cartel gunmen shot and burned nine people at a ranch here in Hidalgo, accusing them of being linked to the vigilantes. Among the victims were two children.</p> <p>&ldquo;People of Hidalgo, don&rsquo;t be involved with the column,&rdquo; a note left by the bodies read. &ldquo;The monster has woken up. This is the first test. Attentively: The Zetas.&rdquo;</p> <p>The murders took place in a hamlet away from the town center, which is harder for the vigilantes to defend, Mayor Guerrero says.</p> <p>&ldquo;It was a terrible, brutal scene. They killed the parents, the children. These are the kind of criminals we are dealing with,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p>The Pedro Mendez group first formed in 2010, but the mayor said it has grown substantially this year and now has hundreds of gun-owning affiliates.</p> <p>&ldquo;The criminals submit to blood and fire,&rdquo; the Pedro Mendez declares in a leaflet it released in May. &ldquo;The defense of our people has been long and gory, in permanent struggle and sustained combat against kidnappers.&rdquo;</p> <p>The column accuses some police officers of being in league with cartel members but says it supports the Mexican army and marines.</p> <p>&ldquo;Insecurity, violence and criminality are only solved by honest soldiers and an armed people,&rdquo; the group says in the leaflet.</p> <p>Web users claiming to be local vigilantes also participate on social media sites set up to discuss drug violence. In one January post, in which the vigilantes claim the killing of a Zetas cartel kidnapper, a user <a href="" target="_blank">writes</a>, &ldquo;Excellent. That is the only way to finish the Z.&rdquo;</p> <p>There are also signs of these vigilantes spreading to other towns near the US border.</p> <p>In the Tamaulipas state capital Ciudad Victoria, a leaflet recently appeared from a vigilante group calling itself the Alberto Carrera Torres brigade promising to fight the Zetas.</p> <p>Federal prosecutors have accused some vigilantes across Mexico of being backed by drug cartels to fight rival gangs.</p> <p>The Pedro Mendez may be receiving weapons to fight the Zetas from that gang&rsquo;s enemies in the Gulf Cartel, Guerrero says. But the mayor insists the vigilantes are authentic in defending their community.</p> <p>While Guerrero says the vigilantes have reduced crime, he says he is not himself a militia member.</p> <p>The government of President Enrique Pe&ntilde;a Nieto has led a shifting and seemingly confused policy on Mexico&rsquo;s vigilante movement. At times it has ignored them, at others attacked them, and sometimes actively <a href="" target="_blank">worked with them</a>.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">With friends like these, can Mexico find justice?</a><br /> </strong></p> <p>Pe&ntilde;a Nieto repeatedly condemned people taking justice into their own hands &mdash; but then in May he made a speech in Michoacan recognizing the work of vigilantes there.</p> <p>The administration is currently waging an offensive by soldiers and federal police in Tamaulipas to quell cartel violence plaguing the state. In the last two months, troops have arrested ranking gangsters from both the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are working in a good coordinated way and with good results to win back the tranquility of Tamaulipas,&rdquo; Mexico&rsquo;s Interior Secretary Miguel Osorio Chong <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> the government&rsquo;s news agency. &ldquo;All the criminals who have hurt the Mexicans&rsquo; tranquility will have to fall.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, many residents in the embattled state are concerned that the federal offensive won&rsquo;t do enough to protect them from ruthless gangsters.</p> <p>In June, thousands of marchers dressed in white took to the streets of the Tamaulipas cities of Victoria and Tampico, calling for better security.</p> <p>While some of these residents sympathize with vigilante efforts like those of the Pedro Mendez Column, others want to pressure the government to police them better.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think the self-defense groups [vigilantes] are dangerous,&rdquo; said Raul Villarreal, a furniture store owner in Victoria who marched against crime. &ldquo;A shoemaker makes shoes. A businessman does business. You need trained police officers to fight crime, not just anybody with a gun.&rdquo;</p> Vigilante Justice Conflict Zones Want to Know Mexico Tue, 08 Jul 2014 04:32:35 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6198256 at