GlobalPost - Home C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en This YouTube channel shows what it’s like to be an 'untouchable' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India’s scorned caste tells of relentless rapes, beatings and humiliations — all committed with impunity. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mandakini Gahlot </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">NEW DELHI</a>, India — One talks about being beaten up. Another describes how people humiliate her. Many more speak about rape — a common danger facing women of India's lowest caste.</p> <p>Meet the dalits, better known in the West as “untouchables” — an Indian caste so denigrated that they suffer explicit discrimination and abuse.</p> <p>Now, they’re fighting back, taking to the internet to tell their stories.</p> <p>Welcome to <a href="" target="_blank">DalitCamera</a>, the YouTube channel for untouchables. It’s one man's initiative to give a voice to the very bottom of Indian society, and to lift them up.</p> <p>Bathan Ravichandran, 31, founded the project. He was the first dalit from his home region in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu to go to college.</p> <p>He says a milestone in his life was being beaten by 20 fellow students because of his caste.</p> <p>He realized how ignored the problems facing his caste-members were, and decided to change that by recording their stories. Starting in 2011, he set off with a camera, and created a channel on YouTube to host the videos.</p> <p>These days, the initiative has a team of 23 members, most of them volunteers, and four cameras. Working on a shoestring budget, Ravichandran’s crew of journalist-activists travels in buses tracking down stories that are neglected.</p> <p>They often buy their own tickets, although sometimes a well-wisher offers to sponsor a story. The channel has steadily gained a dedicated audience. Encouraged by the response, Ravichandran hopes to expand the project into a live web channel.</p> <p>Today, it boasts more than 75,000 videos, some of which have been viewed more than 100,000 times. Most videos are of low production and technical quality, but for Ravichandran, content is king.</p> <p>“I was frustrated by the mainstream media’s coverage, or the lack of it, on dalit issues. Most commentators invited to television debates were high caste elites, and if at all a dalit was ever invited, he would get shouted down,” he says. “I started DalitCamera to record their views, as well as the views of oppressed dalit minorities.”</p> <p>Dalits account for over 16.2 percent of India’s population, and have traditionally been associated with menial jobs like "manual scavenging" when workers remove human waste from toilets that don't have a flushing system. Despite affirmative action that sets aside slots for dalits at universities and in the government, they continue to face discrimination at the hands of upper-caste Indians, particularly in rural India.</p> <p>In May, the rape and <a href="">lynching of two teenage dalit girls</a> in Uttar Pradesh underscored the issue of caste-based sexual violence in India yet again. They were found hanging — symbolic of their less-than-nothing status in society.</p> <p>“If you look at it objectively, there is a sea of difference in the way Indian society reacts to the rape of a low caste woman compared to the rape of an upper caste woman," says Bojja Takaram, a dalit lawyer, in a 9-minute video posted on DalitCamera. "In the case of a dalit-class woman, rape is not seen as rape, it’s a usual event, a dalit woman’s body is there for the taking.”</p> <p>This focus on sexual violence began after the brutal <a href="">gang rape and murder of a 23-year old student in New Delhi</a> in December 2012. In the months that followed, DalitCamera conducted a host of interviews with dalits across India about the routine sexual violence against low-caste women in India.</p> <p>The entire country was up in arms against what was being described as “rape culture” but community activists felt the debate did not include dalit voices even when they are often the victims.</p> <p>In 2012, more than 1,500 dalit women filed official rape complaints, a number that vastly underestimates the true amount because most don't get reported. Regardless, most went ignored by Indian media and the authorities, say activists.</p> <p>“I don’t want to undermine that movement [against rape] but to start with, it did overlook the dalit experience," said Ravichandran. "At the same time, it was a historic opportunity for debate, and so we started talking to activists and victims from the dalit community, creating a parallel narrative of sexual violence in India which is so intricately linked to caste.”</p> <p>Here's a sampling of videos from DalitCamera.</p> <p>A dalit woman speaks about what drove her to become an activist:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>A lawyer speaks about the difference in response to the rape of a dalit woman compared to the rape of an upper-caste Hindu woman:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Short documentary "The Untouchable Country":</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Video about rape in Haryana:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Caste issues on university campuses:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>See more <a href=";view=0&amp;flow=grid" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> Want to Know Politics Culture & Lifestyle India Fri, 25 Jul 2014 05:00:36 +0000 Mandakini Gahlot 6195339 at With the world’s attention fixed on MH17, Putin continues cracking down at home <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia sentences another opposition leader. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, <a href="">Russia</a> — If anyone had hoped Vladimir Putin’s promise earlier this week not to crack down on civil society was genuine, it was surely Sergei Udaltsov.</p> <p>But any such expectation faded into the stuffy courtroom air on Thursday, when a judge sentenced the firebrand leftist — one of the most colorful leaders of a once-bustling anti-Kremlin movement — to four and a half years in a penal colony for allegedly inciting mass riots.</p> <p>While the world’s attention remains focused on Russia’s standoff with the West over Ukraine and the downed flight MH17, the Kremlin is quietly but steadily continuing its onslaught against what it perceives to be its enemies at home.</p> <p>Udaltsov’s prosecution was part of a two-year campaign dubbed the “Bolotnaya Affair” against the participants of a May 2012 mass protest that turned violent, marking the beginning of the end of the protest movement here. Some Kremlin critics believe riot police provoked the violence.</p> <p>Since then, a dozen participants have been convicted and sentenced to various terms.</p> <p>Named after the square in which the demonstration took place, the trials have represented the heart of Putin’s latest drive against the political opposition and cultural dissent since his return to the presidency that year.</p> <p>But Udaltsov’s conviction represents only the starkest contradiction to Putin’s recent pledge that there would be no more “tightening of the screws.”</p> <p>On Monday, the Justice Ministry beefed up its list of “foreign agents” — the official term used to denote political NGOs that receive funding from abroad — to include some of Russia’s best-known human rights organizations.</p> <p>Topping the list is Memorial, a venerated civic rights group whose main aim has been to document Soviet-era repression. It also tracks current abuses.</p> <p>Critics say the moves represent a bad omen.</p> <p>“The circle is closing in and we’re moving from an authoritarian regime toward a totalitarian one,” said political analyst and veteran dissident Andrei Piontkovsky.</p> <p>The authorities’ focus is extending to the internet, which has remained relatively free and traditionally served as the virtual meeting place for the opposition-minded.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Putin signed a law that requires websites to store personal data from their Russian users on local servers, which experts say could pave that way for official control over access to popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.</p> <p>There’s been little meaningful resistance.</p> <p>Thanks in large part to the Bolotnaya prosecutions, the latest crackdown appears to have deterred many activists and frightened the casual protesters who helped swell the anti-Kremlin movement in December 2011.</p> <p>Today, there are few mass protests as the authorities persist in their prosecution of the movement’s poster child, Alexei Navalny, a charismatic lawyer and anti-corruption blogger.</p> <p>He was handed a five-year suspended sentence for embezzlement last year, but faces a litany of other criminal charges that supporters say are politically motivated.</p> <p>“[Putin] is pursuing a clever policy by arresting the leaders,” said Nadir Fatov, a local human rights campaigner, outside the court on Thursday. “It’s a real talent to be a leader.”</p> <p>The Kremlin’s campaign has accompanied a rising great-power nationalism as Russia’s new state ideology, bolstered by the seizure of Crimea in March and continuing moral — and some say material — support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>Polls show more Russians approve of Putin’s policies now than almost any other time during his 15-year rule, something observers ascribe to Moscow’s defiance of Western pressure over its actions in Ukraine.</p> <p>That’s why the Ukraine crisis has overshadowed any grumbling at home, says political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.</p> <p>“The issue of human rights doesn’t occupy people’s minds at all,” he said.</p> <p>“Udaltsov took a stand against the state, received his sentence, and that’s what he deserved,” added Oreshkin, a former member of the Kremlin’s human rights council, about the views of most ordinary Russians.</p> <p>An overarching theme has connected the Udalstov case to the ongoing geopolitical spat over Ukraine, rooted in the Kremlin’s longstanding distrust of foreign powers it accuses of interfering in its own affairs and those of its neighbors.</p> <p>In Udaltsov’s case, prosecutors made much of a videotaped meeting with a Georgian politician, who they alleged was helping fund an attempted coup through the opposition leader.</p> <p>The allegation played off Putin’s longstanding distaste for the so-called color revolutions that swept old administrations from power in Georgia and Ukraine last decade, something he railed against during a Security Council meeting on Tuesday, warning “outside forces” of meddling in Russia’s sovereign affairs.</p> <p>“Our people, our citizens, the people of Russia will not allow it,” local media reported him as saying. “And they will never accept it.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigns over coalition break up</a></strong></p> <p>Outside the Moscow City Court where Udaltsov was awaiting his verdict on Thursday, two dozen activists gathered to stage a paltry protest.</p> <p>It was a marked change from the high-profile trial in 2012 against the punk group Pussy Riot, and even last summer’s prosecution of Navalny, which brought thousands onto Moscow’s streets.</p> <p>Fatov, the human rights campaigner, was among the few who stood opposite the building holding a banner in support of Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev, his associate who received the same sentence.</p> <p>Acknowledging the fading support for the protest movement, he struggled to remain positive.</p> <p>“Temporarily, of course, we’ve lost,” he said. “But the battle for freedom and fairness continues.” </p> Putin's Russia World Leaders Want to Know Russia Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:20:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6214548 at Arrested Japanese artist: 'My vagina is not obscene' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Since when did any old vagina become verboten in the land of kinky fetishes? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SEOUL, <a href="">South Korea</a> — Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, who goes by the alias “Good For Nothing Child,” finds herself in an unusual bind in a country known for its blunt eroticism: fighting obscenity charges for a crowd-sourcing effort to build a kayak modeled after her own vagina.</p> <p>After she sent out computer data on her vagina to more than 30 people, the 42-year-old artist was arrested on June 12 and accused of distributing “obscene” files. She was released this week but could still face criminal charges, which could carry up to two years in prison.</p> <p>“I had no idea why I had to be arrested and detained because I don’t believe my vagina is anything obscene,” she said in a press conference. “I was determined I would never yield to police power.”</p> <p>At a gathering at the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents’ Club this week, Igarashi joked that she’ll enter politics in her very own “pussy party,” but only after consulting her lawyers.</p> <p>Since when did any old vagina become verboten in the land of kinky fetishes?</p> <p>In Tokyo, you can indulge in weird, perverse pastimes without worry. Wanna sniff a schoolgirl’s used panties? A number of sex shops claim to sell them. Ever wanted to play out your fantasy of being molested on the subway, or just love watching a woman urinate? Look no further than Tokyo’s red light district of Kabukicho.</p> <p>Despite the debauchery, <a href="">Japan</a>’s pornography laws are surprisingly strict, although there has been a relaxation in recent years. Until the 1990s, pubic hair was off limits in porn films, and pornographers pixelated actors’ private parts to ensure no line was crossed. This week, police arrested a pornographic actress and an advertising executive in the southern city of Fukuoka for broadcasting <a href="" target="_blank">live sex streams that went uncensored</a>.</p> <p>Yet a handful of clever Japanese artists always seem to get around the bans, putting out some twisted porn that far outstrips the “obscenity” of Igarashi’s vagina. Here are four Japanese genres that the police don’t seem to care about, thanks to weird loopholes in the law:</p> <p><strong>1) Tentacle rape</strong></p> <p>Japan invented a dark brand of porn in which phallus-shaped tentacles squirm, slip and force their way into a helpless woman’s you-know-what.</p> <p>It may look like a weird obsession for depraved adolescent boys. But tentacle rape art has a long and strange history that pre-dates modern censorship, starting with woodblock carvings in the early 1800s.</p> <p>Still, this style of porn didn’t become a trademark until the past three decades, and it was ironically censorship that contributed to its preeminence.</p> <p>In the 1980s, Japanese artists wanted to circumvent a law that essentially banned the depiction of penises, but not the depiction of penetration by other objects. The solution? Make cartoons about robotic phalluses and giant octopi that fondle girls who look like pre-teens.</p> <p>Since these monsters are genderless, their nether organs can’t be considered penises, and hence no need for censorship.</p> <p>Talk about unintended consequences. Nice job, Japanese censors.</p> <p><strong>2) Bukkake</strong></p> <p>Tentacle rape isn’t the only genre to catch on thanks to censorship. Decades ago, Japanese filmmakers similarly wanted a way to push the envelope while averting the eyes of law enforcement.</p> <p>So they indulged in bukkake, which focuses on a woman’s face and chest rather than the surrounding male appendages.</p> <p>Originally from Japan but also a niche in the West, this famed act features a circle of men who splash their semen all over a demure schoolgirl or secretary or — for viewers who enjoy it — another helpless young man.</p> <p>In Japan, the porn star on the receiving end acts humiliated and shamed, which apparently turns some people on. Their Western counterparts, on the other hand, pretend to take pride in their role.</p> <p>Interestingly, the word “bukkake” roughly means to “splash” or “dash” and doesn’t always imply sexual weirdness. If you order a bukkake udon or bukkake soba, you’ll receive noodles with hot broth.</p> <p><strong>3) Most child pornography is now illegal, but kiddie porn comics are still OK</strong></p> <p>Yes, the possession of child porn, of all things, was completely legal in Japan until just last month. Its production and distribution was the outlawed part.</p> <p>On June 16, Japan finally passed a law that bans the ownership of child porn. People found with explicit images of children could face up to a year in prison or be fined $10,000, giving them a year-long grace period to dispose of their goods.</p> <p>The catch? Draw a cartoon of a child being raped or fondled, and you’re in OK territory.</p> <p>That’s because the manga industry vehemently opposed any prohibition on depictions of child sexual abuse, including rape. The result is a torrent of criticism over the artist Igarashi’s arrest. If the child-sex manga at your local comic book shop isn’t so lewd that it should be illegal, why go nuts over a grown woman’s vagina?</p> <p><strong>4) Wearing a diaper and wetting your pants does it for some people</strong></p> <p>Speaking of child porn, Japan is home to an, erm, unique pant-wetting fetish called Omorashi.</p> <p>Practitioners of one variation of this act, called Yagai, wet themselves in public and get aroused from not getting caught. </p> <p>The other way to practice Oromashi is to wear a diaper and urinate in it. So intense are its fans that they even watch game-show videos in which contestants must hold their urine for as long as possible before releasing it. Others live out their fetish through computer games and by purchasing collectibles such as specialized toilet paper and figurines.</p> <p>So there you have it. If the Japanese government doesn’t consider these “obscene,” then what is?</p> Entertainment Strange But True Japan Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:43:00 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6214333 at Violence and anti-Semitism are shifting the Middle East debate in Europe <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> With more protests against Israel’s Gaza campaign expected on Friday, Palestinian supporters are worried their message is being drowned out. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, Germany &mdash; Mention Israel&rsquo;s military campaign in Gaza to the Arab customers and stylists at Salon Balbaak in the predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Neukoelln and the response is sighs of disgust.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s not just us Palestinians,&rdquo; says Mustafa, a young man with wavy hair. &ldquo;Every free-thinking person in Berlin is angry. You only have to see the children being killed.&rdquo;</p> <p>He may be exaggerating, but not by much.</p> <p>Even as the United States continues its staunch support of Israeli policy, opposition to Israel&rsquo;s actions is <a href="">growing</a> across Europe as the death toll mounts in Gaza.</p> <p>However, demonstrations against the military offensive have been marred by racist slogans and violence that is shifting the focus of the debate here from the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza toward the extent of anti-Semitism in Europe.</p> <p>A court in France jailed three men on Thursday for rioting after a pro-Palestinian rally in a Paris suburb turned into anti-Semitic violence.</p> <p>In several German cities, protestors have attacked pro-Israeli counter-demonstrators and chanted anti-Semitic slogans.</p> <p>Mustafa, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, decries the damage such actions is inflicting on the protest effort.</p> <p>&ldquo;The protests have nothing to do with anti-Semitism,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We are not against the Jews. We are against the Israeli government.&rdquo;</p> <p>More than half of Germans believe Israel and Hamas bear equal responsibility for the fighting and 86 percent say Germany shouldn&rsquo;t publicly support Israel, according to a <a href="">recent survey</a>.</p> <p>However, Jewish groups argue that the racial slurs and anti-Semitic slogans suggest the protests are rooted in ethnic hatred rather than politics.</p> <p>&quot;We are experiencing an explosion of evil and violent hatred of Jews,&rdquo; said Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, in an official statement.</p> <p>&ldquo;All of us are shocked and dismayed that anti-Semitic slogans of the nastiest and most primitive type can be chanted openly on German streets.&rdquo;</p> <p>In Berlin last week, protesters chanted &ldquo;Jew, Jew, cowardly bastard, come out and fight alone!&rdquo; at a downtown rally against the military action in Gaza.</p> <p>Earlier this month, police in the western German city of Essen <a href="">arrested</a> 14 people suspected of planning to attack an area synagogue.</p> <p>Among other countries, protests have been particularly violent in France. In Paris, dozens looted shops and set a kosher grocery store on fire in a Jewish-dominated suburb over the weekend when a pro-Palestinian demonstration held in defiance of a French ban erupted into violence.</p> <p>In Austria, pro-Palestinian protesters <a href="">stormed</a> onto the field at a soccer match, attacking players from Israel&#39;s Maccabi Haifa in town during a scrimmage against a French club.</p> <p>In Berlin on Monday, 13 protesters were detained at a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy for throwing stones at the police, who have prohibited specific slogans as a threat to public order after facing criticism for failing to silence earlier anti-Semitic chants.</p> <p>&ldquo;Especially in Germany, anti-Semitic protests have a very strong impact because of our history, and there always should be resistance to make clear that this is not what the public thinks,&rdquo; Berlin police spokesman Stefan Redlich Redlich said.</p> <p>&ldquo;But for the police, we can only stop people from shouting slogans if the law says they are not allowed.&rdquo;</p> <p>However, the American Jewish Committee and other Jewish groups say they were disappointed by the initial police response. Diedre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin, said it&#39;s difficult to understand how officers at the scene could have doubted that what they were hearing was hate speech.</p> <p>&ldquo;Free speech has nothing to do with threatening people and creating an atmosphere of physical violence,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>In a joint statement <a href="'">issued</a> Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Germany,&nbsp;France and Italy vowed to fight anti-Semitism, giving the issue equal prominence to remarks from the UN high commissioner for human rights suggesting that Israel&#39;s actions in Gaza may be classified as war crimes.</p> <p>More demonstrations are expected on Friday, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.</p> <p>Opponents of the Israeli offensive worry that more violence will further mute their message.</p> <p>&ldquo;The protests are against the war, but of course there are some ignorant people who shout slogans against the Jews,&rdquo; said Mohammed Barkat, editor of a magazine for Arabic speakers in Germany. &ldquo;The problem is that the media in Europe is always on Israel&#39;s side &mdash; whether they&#39;re right or wrong.&rdquo;</p> <p>Online debates suggest some believe the shift is part of a deliberate Israeli public relations strategy.</p> <p>Israel is &ldquo;again hiding behind the anti-Semitism flag,&rdquo; said a comment under an <a href="">article</a> in the Huffington Post.</p> <p>&ldquo;The greatest weapon of the Zionists is the term anti-Semitism,&rdquo; added another.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">The Grand Budapest Hotel is actually a department store in Germany</a></strong></p> <p>That perception may have been boosted by some ill-considered remarks by Israel&#39;s ambassador to Germany, whom the Daily Mail quoted as saying, &ldquo;They pursue the Jews in the streets of Berlin&hellip; as if we were in 1938.</p> <p>However, the American Jewish Committee&rsquo;s Berger says the focus on anti-Semitism by the press here is natural given Germany&#39;s history and the recent advances made by far-right parties across Europe.</p> <p>&ldquo;The notion that concerns about anti-Semitism are raised to squash criticism of Israel is a pretty shocking assertion,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a good way to deflect attention from very serious incidents of anti-Semitism.&rdquo;</p> Israel-Gaza Conflict Need to Know Conflict Zones Germany Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:20:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6214364 at Honduran special forces are struggling to keep children from fleeing to the US <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Honduras is a top sender of the historic flow of unaccompanied child migrants to the US. Can this elite security force come to the rescue? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ioan Grillo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CORINTO, Honduras — Clad in flak jackets and bearing automatic rifles and side arms, elite forces are scouring the ragged countryside that straddles this border between Honduras and Guatemala.</p> <p>The officers are used to fighting heavily armed drug cartels and murderous “mara” street gangs. But now they have a new mission: trying to stop the flow of children who are fleeing the country for the <a href="">United States</a> by the thousands.</p> <p>“Honduras is not a prison. This is not an arrest operation. It is more a mission of rescue and information,” says Capt. Miguel Martinez, of the Honduran national police’s version of a SWAT unit, which is leading the campaign.</p> <p>To stress its humanitarian function, officials dubbed the mobilization Operation Rescue Angels.</p> <p>“We are not going to handcuff a child, or a person that is crossing. We identify coyotes [human smugglers], rescue children, give children medical help, give them food and take them to the city to child support facilities.”</p> <p>Also backed by militarized units of the Honduran police known as Cobras and Tigers, the operation comes amid rising heat over the migrant issue.</p> <blockquote class="pullquote"><p><em><span em="" style="font-size: 16px"><strong><u>By the numbers</u></strong><br> -Over 57,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended crossing into the US from Oct. 1 to June 30.<br> -In 2015, officials predict, 145,000 children will be detained.<a href="" target="_blank"><br>More here</a>.<br></span></em></p> </blockquote> <p>US officers have detained more than 57,000 unaccompanied child migrants — from infants to 17-year-olds, mostly from <a href="">Central America</a> — so far this fiscal year. Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday he’s sending out the National Guard to strengthen border security.</p> <p>The presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador will meet with President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss solutions, which could include new aid packages to help Central America keep its children at home.</p> <p><a href="">Mexico</a> has also mobilized federal police and soldiers to round up undocumented Central Americans passing through its territory.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">These are the women helping child migrants make their way to the US (VIDEO)</a></strong></p> <p>But while Honduran migrants are used to dodging Mexican and US forces, it is a new obstacle having to avoid their own police.</p> <p>“Why are they trying to stop us?” asks Osman, a 16-year-old migrant who was recently caught in Mexico and bused back to the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. “I am just trying to survive. There is nothing for me here. My mom is in Miami and I haven’t seen her for four years.”</p> <p>Like many Honduran minors, Osman cites violence, poverty and a separated family as his motives to head to “El Norte,” the north. He says he’d like to go to school there and perhaps join the US Army when he is old enough.</p> <p>However, Capt. Martinez said children are only allowed to leave the country if they have a passport and are accompanied by both parents — or one parent with the signed authorization of the other.</p> <p>That effectively counts out the vast majority heading northward. Some like Osman are traveling unaccompanied, with their parents already in the US. Others are traveling with their mothers but have little contact with their fathers.</p> <p>In other cases, children are traveling with an uncle, cousin or with a family friend. Martinez said this is illegal and those taking minors who aren’t their direct children out of the country could face up to three years in prison.</p> <p><img src="" width="100%"><br><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial,&lt;br /&gt; Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">The Honduran city of San Pedro Sula was the top sender of unaccompanied child migrants caught in the US from January to May. (Screengrab of Homeland Security report via Adam Isacson. <a href="" target="_blank">PDF here</a>.)</span></p> <p>Some parents even entrust young children directly to the coyotes, paying them between $5,000 and $7,000 to deliver them from Honduras to the US.</p> <p>“This is the worst thing that a parent could do,” Martinez says. “We all know the problems that Honduras has — poverty, lack of jobs, crime. But this is not an excuse to send your child with somebody unknown to the United States, a journey that could last from one to five months. People come to me and say they gave their little girl to some coyote called Mario and after five months she hasn’t arrived and he doesn’t answer his phone. What could have happened? She could be a sex slave or in child prostitution. I wouldn’t rule out organ trafficking, or she could be buried in the desert in Mexico.”</p> <p>Martinez said his officers found an 8-month-old whom the smugglers abandoned on a path when the authorities approached.</p> <p>In total, officers have picked up 103 minors since Rescue Angels launched in late June, Martinez says. The main roads and much of the countryside around them have now been secured, he says.</p> <p>US officials said this week that daily detentions of minors at the border have recently reduced. That could indicate Honduras’ effort and others like it in Central American countries and Mexico are having an impact, but it’s difficult to tell.</p> <p>However, the Honduran captain concedes that in the cat-and-mouse game of border security, smugglers and migrants will simply look for new routes. One way is on boats through the Gulf of Honduras, another through mountainous jungles in more remote areas.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Meet the journalist who accuses Mexican presidents of drug cartel links</a></strong></p> <p>Hector Espinal, the Honduras spokesman for the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, says the government is within its rights to enforce its laws on the movement of children. However, he said that it is only a Band-Aid that could temporarily reduce the flow but won't address root causes of the emigration wave.</p> <p>“The governments in Central America need to wake up now to this crisis,” Espinal said. “They need to work harder to reduce the violence here. If they don’t, then more children will be going north, however many police and soldiers are in their path.”</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="800" src="//" width="100%"></iframe></p> Americas Want to Know United States Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:22:09 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6214116 at Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigns over coalition break up <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Thursday resigned in a shock move in protest at the disbanding of the ruling parliamentary coalition, plunging the strife-torn nation into political uncertainty.</p> <p>"I announce my resignation in connection with the dissolution of the parliamentary coalition and the blocking of government initiatives," a furious Yatsenyuk told parliament.</p> <p>Yatsenyuk said the "government and the prime minister must resign" after the withdrawal of several parties triggered the break up of the <a href="">European</a> Choice parliamentary majority in a move that paved the way for long-awaited early legislative elections.</p> <p>Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov called on deputies to put forward immediately a candidate for a temporary premier "until parliamentary elections are held."</p> <p>Early parliamentary elections in Ukraine have been expected since the February ouster of Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych following months of deadly protests.</p> <p>The formal dissolution of the majority coalition in Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada gives President Petro Poroshenko the right over the next month to announce a fresh parliamentary poll.</p> <p>Poroshenko had pledged though that the possibility of upcoming elections would not paralyse the work of parliament at a time when Kyiv is struggling to end a bloody separatist insurrection tearing apart the east of the country.</p> <p>del/yad</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:52:34 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6214286 at Chatter: Air Algerie flight disappears with 116 on board <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The plane went missing over Mali, Palestinian death toll tops 700 and the Islamic State is thinking big. They're thinking bus tours. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5942065 at Mali's president says wreckage of Air Algerie flight has been spotted in the north <!--paging_filter--><p>UPDATE:</p> <p>Reuters — Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said on Thursday that the wreckage of a missing Air Algerie flight had been spotted in his country's desert north.</p> <p>"I have just been informed that the wreckage has been found between Aguelhoc and Kidal," Keita said during a meeting of political, religious and civil society leaders in Bamako. He did not give any more details.</p> <hr><p>Spanish private airline company Swiftair on Thursday said it had lost contact with one of its airplane operated by Air Algerie with 110 passengers and six crew members on board.</p> <p>The company said in a notice posted on its website that the aircraft took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 local time and was supposed to land in Algiers at 0510 local time but never reached its destination.</p> <p>Its six-member crew were all Spanish, said <a href="">Spain</a>'s airline pilots' union Sepla, while Swiftair confirmed the aircraft had gone missing less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou.</p> <p>Many French nationals were thought to be on board the plane, <a href="">France</a>'s Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said in Paris.</p> <p>He said after a government meeting that top civil aviation officials were holding an emergency meeting and a crisis cell had been set up.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Flight path of missing Air Algerie Flight <a href="">#AH5017</a> <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> — BBC News Graphics (@BBCNewsGraphics) <a href="">July 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <p>"The plane disappeared at Gao (in Mali), 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the Algerian border. Several nationalities are among the victims," Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was cited as saying by Algerian radio.</p> <p>Despite international military intervention still under way, the situation remains unstable in northern Mali, which was seized by jihadist groups for several months in 2012.</p> <p>On July 17, the Bamako government and armed groups from northern Mali launched tough talks in Algiers aimed at securing an elusive peace deal, and with parts of the country still mired in conflict.</p> Africa Need to Know Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:31:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse and Thomson Reuters 6213969 at The US has invested tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to try to get Afghans to eat soybeans <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It hasn't worked. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Alexander Cohen and James Arkin, Center for Public Integrity </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>This story was published by <a href="" target="_blank">The Center for Public Integrity</a>, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.</em></p> <p>Afghanistan has a rich culinary tradition, but soybeans have not been a part of it. American agricultural experts who consider soybeans a superfood find this dismaying, and so over the past four years, they have invested tens of millions of US taxpayer dollars to try to change the way Afghans eat.</p> <p>The effort, aimed at making soy a dietary staple, has largely been a flop, marked by mismanagement, poor government oversight and financial waste, according to interviews and government audit documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.</p> <p>Warnings by agronomists that the effort was unwise were ignored. They said the country’s climate is not appropriate for soy cultivation and that its farming culture is ill-prepared for large-scale soybean production. Soybeans are now no more a viable commercial crop in Afghanistan than they were in 2010, when the $34 million program got started, according to a government-funded evaluation of the effort this year.</p> <p>These are the bureaucratic explanations. The ambitious effort also appears to have been undone by a simple fact, which might have been foreseen but was evidently ignored: Afghans don’t like the taste of the soy processed foods. This view survived even the US government’s use of what it called “food technologists” to teach families how soybean products can be used to make tasty meals.</p> <p>As one of the project’s managers said, it was a “risky but honorable endeavor,” meant to improve the nutrition of malnourished Afghans by raising the level of protein in their diets. As such, the project’s problems model the larger shortcomings of the estimated $120 billion US reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, including what many experts depict as ignorance of Afghan traditions, mismanagement and poor spending controls.</p> <p>No one has calculated precisely how much the <a href="">United States</a> wasted or misspent in Afghanistan, but a special congressionally-chartered group known as the Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated in 2011 that it could be nearly a third of the total. A special auditor appointed by President Obama the following year said he discovered nearly $7 billion worth of Afghanistan-related waste in just his first year on the job.</p> <p>“We didn't have a reconstruction effort, we just spent a lot of money,” mostly to get the Afghan military working and keep its government afloat, commented Anthony H. Cordesman, a <a href="">Middle East</a> specialist and former defense intelligence analyst who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonprofit group in Washington. The funds allocated to rebuild the country mostly went to “short-term aid projects, without an assessment of the overall economy, with reliance on contractors. And for most of the time you didn't have effective auditing procedures,” Cordesman said.</p> <p>The Afghan diet reform effort, formally known as the Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal in Afghanistan Initiative, was overseen by the Agriculture Department (USDA) and implemented by the main trade association for the industry, the American Soybean Association. It encountered problems from the start.</p> <p>The first crop failed, and subsequent harvests didn’t produce enough soybeans to operate a special factory in Mazar-e-Sharif — constructed and managed by a nonprofit organization based in Iowa at a cost of at least $1.5 million — that was meant to create a local soybean economy. Afghan farmers participating in the project, discouraged by crop failures, largely abandoned their growing efforts.</p> <p>As a result, the factory has instead been forced to use at least 4,000 metric tons of soybeans imported from America at a cost of more than $2 million. But its operation has been so hobbled by shortages that those involved in the project worry that its equipment could soon be dismantled and sold by its local owner.</p> <p>In March, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko met with project and government employees in the country who told him there is no "significant demand for soybean products in Afghanistan,” as he wrote in a letter the following month to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This should have been expected, since Afghans apparently have never grown or eaten soybeans before,” Sopko wrote.</p> <p>Moreover, those running the program told him that “Afghans don’t like the taste of bread made with soybean flour,” Sopko wrote. He requested that the department turn over all of its internal documents on the program.</p> <p>Then, after reviewing the documents, Sopko wrote Vilsack again in June, expressing alarm that a feasibility study was not performed before the department started spending tens of millions of dollars on the idea, and that it was not halted when problems were flagged in a USDA-financed review this February.</p> <p>“What is troubling about this particular project is that it appears that many of these problems could have been foreseen and, therefore, possibly avoided,” Sopko said.</p> <p>Asked for comment, the Agriculture Department called Sopko’s criticisms “premature.” Spokeswoman Gwen Sparks said, “The project has produced positive results in the direct distribution of soybean products, renovation of irrigation systems and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads.” She also said the effort, slated to end in five months, was modified after the special expert review and would be reexamined before it is extended.</p> <p>But Food for Progress, the USDA program financing the soybean project, has a broader history of mismanagement and oversight failings, according to a March 2014 report by USDA Assistant Inspector General for Audit Gil H. Harden.</p> <p>The program has “significant…management control weaknesses,” Harden said about Food for Progress. His audit did not encompass the soybean project. But 10 of 11 food aid projects it did examine lacked required status reports, and so they could not be properly assessed by those in charge, it said.</p> <p><strong>A large program sprouts from a small taste test</strong></p> <p><img alt="" class="imagecache-gp3_full_article" src="" title=""></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">Soybeans. They weren't made for Afghanistan. (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>By all accounts, the idea for the soybeans-in-Afghanistan endeavor came from Dr. Steven Kwon, a food biochemist who first visited the country eleven years ago, while he was a nutritionist in California with the Nestlé food company, to give a lecture at Balkh University in Mazar-e-Sharif. He became convinced that Afghans needed more protein in their diets, according to Sonia Kwon, his daughter, who handles public relations for the effort.</p> <p>During a subsequent visit to Mazar-e-Sharif, Kwon held a blind taste test between two beverages — one a soy-based product, the other milk-based — with about 20 participants, including university faculty and students, local government officials and community leaders, according to Sonia Kwon. She said that every member of the panel preferred the soy-based product.</p> <p>This tiny, unscientific survey formed the foundation of the US government’s four-year effort to change the Afghan diet, according to multiple sources.</p> <p>To promote his vision of a soybean-filled Afghan future, Kwon formed a nonprofit company called <a href="">Nutrition and Education International</a>, retired from Nestle, and started trying to teach Afghans the wonders of the bean. His funding came solely from private donors, and by 2009 his budget of $752,000 funded small-scale soybean projects in 26 provinces.</p> <p>Eventually, Kwon reached out to Jim Hershey, who runs the American Soybean Association’s longstanding effort to promote the use of soybeans in food aid. They were at a 2008 soybean trade conference in St. Louis when Kwon approached Hershey and said, “Let’s do a project together,” Hershey told the Center in an interview.</p> <p>Kwon said that after Hershey accompanied him on a trip to Afghanistan, Hershey suggested they obtain federal funding for the effort. The trade group was a logical partner. Hershey’s operation, known as the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health, had overseen several dozen food aid projects since its creation in 2000, mostly in <a href="">Central America</a> and Africa — albeit at a comparatively low annual budget of around $2 million. The association has repeatedly touted how such projects create new soy markets.</p> <p>A 2009 project with food processors in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua noted, for example, that “this type of technical assistance … opens the door for increased sales of US soy ingredients.” The program’s chairman, David Iverson, wrote in a 2010 annual report that “three powerful sources influence our compass: More people. More demand for soy protein. More buying power in developing countries.”</p> <p>The association previously had little experience with teaching large-scale soy cultivation, or overseeing the construction of soy protein factories, Hershey acknowledged. But he said the association’s board had approved a strategic plan for 2009-2010 that called for expanding its development work. “We saw it as an opportunity to put our shoulder to the wheel,” Hershey said, distinguishing this aim from “building the demand side of the value chain.”</p> <p>The association had, moreover, forged close ties to officials in Washington.</p> <p>Its annual conference in Washington, typically held at a hotel on Capitol Hill and co-hosted with agriculture giants such as Cargill, Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland, regularly attracts foreign aid officials from USDA and other agencies, as well as lawmakers such as Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, D-Ill., providing its co-sponsors with coveted access to key decision-makers.</p> <p>The USDA did not ask for a feasibility study, Hershey said. So he and Kwon jointly submitted a proposal to USDA in the summer of 2009, where it eventually wound up on the desk of Janet Nuzum, the assistant administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, who signed it. She’s an Obama political appointee and former registered lobbyist for the International Dairy Foods Association, where she was general counsel and vice president for international affairs from 1997 to 2002. In 1999, she and <a href="">Steve Censky</a>, the soy association’s top official, were both members of the same USDA advisory committee on foreign trade agreements.</p> <p>Censky said he did not recall meeting Nuzum there, and Nuzum did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the reasons she signed off on the funding. But Ron Croushorn, director of the Food Assistance Division at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, said in an interview that the department was mostly impressed by what Kwon had accomplished.</p> <p>He said the USDA staff-level evaluator for the proposal noted the absence of any prior feasibility analysis for a major program but hailed the fact that “there had been a lot of work in the soybean sector” in Afghanistan by Kwon’s group.</p> <p>Nuzum and Censky agreed in September 2010 on the scope, duration and funding for the project, making it the second-most costly such grant approved by USDA that year. The contract specified that the project managers would use existing soybean association affiliates as subcontractors. So an Iowa-based nonprofit, SALT International, whose president had done previous work for the association, was brought on board to build and manage the soybean processing factory and train its workers.</p> <p>In December, the first of the project’s three country directors was hired, and Nuzum went to Portsmouth, Virginia, to celebrate the first shipment of 80 tons of American-made soy flour — provided by Cargill — for Mazar-e-Sharif. The program, <a href="">Nuzum wrote</a> on the USDA blog after her visit, would ultimately benefit 400,000 Afghans, and help transform Afghanistan from a “food insecure nation — unable to produce or procure enough food to feed its people.”</p> <p>“It’s more than soy flour,” Nuzum wrote. “For many Afghans, it’s a hope.”</p> <p>A few months later, however, Kwon and his organization — which had played a key role in winning the contract — withdrew from the effort altogether, following a dispute with the trade association over the project’s goals. They couldn’t agree on “strategy and vision,” a program participant said. They “would not have been good partners.”</p> <p>Steven Kwon told the Center in an interview that he disagreed with the soybean association’s demand that farmers sell soybeans to the processing factory, instead of using the product to feed their families at home. “They used us to get the grant and then, when they received the grant, they started dictating, overriding our core value,” Kwon said.</p> <p>Jim Hershey told the Center that Kwon’s group’s insistence on teaching the farmers how to cook soybeans for home use was “a dealbreaker.”</p> <p>“That's their philosophy, but it wasn't the philosophy of this development project,” Hershey said. “The farm is just the first step in the value chain. If the farm is consuming the soybeans, that runs counter to the project."</p> <p>Kwon’s departure in the spring of 2011 — two months before the first planting took place in June — initially left the association without a partner to manage soy production, as well as the cooking and nutrition seminars and soy distribution. Those tasks were subsequently picked up by a nonprofit Minnesota company originally hired to construct and repair roads and irrigation systems, known as Shelter for Life.</p> <p>But “the loss of NEI as the production partner in the first few months of implementation … has had a negative impact on the possibilities for success,” according to the February 2014 independent evaluation of the program financed by USDA, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.</p> <p><strong>Sowing but not reaping</strong></p> <p><img alt="" class="imagecache-gp3_full_article" src="" title=""></p> <p><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">A farmer harvests wheat, a traditional crop in Afghanistan, on the outskirts of Mazar-e-Sharif. (AFP/Getty Images)</span></p> <p>The program ran into early trouble when its new planting managers, who had prior experience in the northern Afghan province of Takhar, decided to plant a soybean seed variety there that required four months to reach maturity. A major snowfall occurred in late September, before the harvest, and most of the crop was lost.</p> <p>“The season in Takhar,” the independent evaluation noted, “is just too short.”</p> <p>As it turns out, a feasibility study conducted three years earlier by a British group, Joint Development Associates International, for the principal British foreign aid organization highlighted the special challenges posed by Afghanistan’s weather patterns. It concluded that “the crop production cycle and available water means that soybeans do not fit profitably into the Afghan farming system.”</p> <p>The group’s report, obtained by the Center, said it “strongly advise[d] against any further encouragement of farmers growing soybeans in Afghanistan.” It bluntly noted that while many government agencies “have been approached by people wanting to promote soybean production,” agreeing to do so would result in “the waste of development funding.”</p> <p>Hershey said he was unfamiliar with the British report until 2013, and that ”had we known about the report, we might have approached things a little bit differently.”</p> <p>According to the independent evaluation for USDA, the Afghans recruited into the US-led effort were predominantly illiterate, small subsistence farmers, who resisted planting soybean seeds as densely as they should have, sharply reducing crop yields. They also had no crop insurance, so the early crop failure due to weather killed their family income.</p> <p>It “put the program in total jeopardy because farmers are told this is going to work, we’ve got your market, and then the crops fail because you don’t have the varieties right,” said Don Dwyer, a private agricultural consultant who has worked on crop substitution in Afghanistan with the US Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense.</p> <p>The independent evaluation, conducted by EnCompass LLC, based in Rockville, Maryland, said that while thousands of farmers received training and planted soybeans in 2011 and 2012, less than 100 of those farmers replanted in 2013.</p> <p>The project’s first country director left in November 2012, and the second left the project on Oct. 15, 2013. The third was the association’s former regional office director in Istanbul; he was teamed with an Afghan spokesperson to serve as a liason to the Afghan government, part of what Hershey called the “Afghanization” of the project.</p> <p>The program also cycled through five chief agronomists over a three-year period, according to the EnCompass report. “It was a revolving door,” one of the project’s members told EnCompass, which concluded that staffing gaps “seem to have undermined implementation.” The report added that those with a stake in the project’s success concluded that “leadership in-country did not have the requisite experience in agriculture or rural development to oversee the project.”</p> <p>The program also ran into a host of troubles that have afflicted other US-led Afghanistan aid programs:</p> <p>·       Shelter for Life staff members were unable to reach some soybean “production areas” due to security risks, which included three kidnapping threats and farmers who responded with guns in hand when the staff attempted to verify that seeds had been received and planted, according to the EnCompass report.</p> <p>·       One of the agronomists quit when Takhar was hit by riots, Hershey said. Bombings there made clear that “we were dealing with a place with all kinds of risks I hadn’t dealt with before,” he said.</p> <p>·       The soybean processing factory was initially supposed to be constructed at an industrial park in Kabul, the capital, but “security issues” there forced its construction instead in Mazar-e-Sharif, roughly 100 miles from where the soybeans were planted, the report said. It said this drove up costs.</p> <p>·       Traditional discrimination made it hard for women to pick up soy shipments and attend sessions meant to train them on using soy flour.</p> <p>Due to these and other problems, indigenous farmers in 2013 produced less than 3 percent of the 4,500 metric tons per year needed for the factory to operate at full capacity.</p> <p>The soybean association responded to the evaluators’ blunt critique that success would take more time — at least five to seven years “to introduce a new crop,” according to the report.</p> <p>But the signs are not good. As of this spring, the report said, the program’s managers still had not figured out a “mechanical” planting method and the best cultivation techniques to increase yields. And data show that soy is not “more profitable than alternative crops,” giving farmers in the program little incentive to keep going.</p> <p>The largest challenge, however, may be the most fundamental one — namely, how to make Afghans appreciate the product’s taste and want to buy it.</p> <p>The soybean association, in its formal response to the evaluation, said it was “in the process of conducting a baking study to determine the optimum amount of low fat soy flour that can be incorporated into Afghan naan [bread] while maintaining total acceptability to local Afghan people.”</p> <p>In the interview, Hershey said that “most of our acceptability work” suggests that making naan with four to five percent soy flour will extend its shelf life without greatly changing its traditional flavor. But many Afghanis, he added, still “aren't ready to pay a little more” for what’s being sold under the label “Strong Naan.”</p> <p><em>Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity.</em></p> <!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. --><!-- Place with body copy. Can go at bottom if story is not paginated. If story is paginated, please put on every page. --><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="0" src="//" style="border: none; background: transparent; width: 0px; height: 0px;" width="0"></iframe></p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Afghanistan Business Want to Know War Politics United States Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:23:27 +0000 Alexander Cohen and James Arkin, Center for Public Integrity 6213084 at A chain of Thai restaurants is storming the West. But it's no McPadThai <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Does bad Thai food depress you? There’s an upscale Mango Tree coming to a city near you. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ehrlich </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BANGKOK, <a href="">Thailand</a> — Move over, Big Mac. Tom yam kung is storming in.</p> <p> A Thai restaurant that started with one Bangkok outlet has become a global brand in spite of the international fame of Thai cuisine and the fierce competition from family-owned restaurants.</p> <p> “There’s an international boom for Thai food and we aim to be at the vanguard of that boom,” says Pitaya Phanphenonsophon, CEO of Bangkok-based Mango Tree, already considered one of the world’s biggest Thai restaurant brands.</p> <p> What 57-year-old Pitaya started in 1994 has grown into 70 locations in 16 countries worldwide. The company expects to double its annual turnover to $100 million by 2015, growing to 100 restaurants. Pitaya plans further expansion throughout Asia, <a href="">China</a>, the <a href="">Middle East</a>, and Australia. </p> <p>He’s opening his first US location in Washington, DC in October in partnership with celebrity chef Richard Sandoval. Other US locations could include Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami and New York, says Pitaya.</p> <p> “Our success is down to expanding carefully, choosing great partners, having a unique concept, a sound strategy and, above all, a team which believes it itself,” he says, over a flavorful salad of large, juicy grilled prawns mixed with fragrant lemongrass, yam sauce and fresh greens at Mango Tree’s original restaurant — a former colonial mansion built during the reign of King Rama IV almost 100 years ago in Silom, a vibrant district in the Thai capital. The restaurant was named for a mango tree, still here, planted out front.</p> <p> Although Pitaya grew up in a restaurant-running family in Bangkok, the business didn’t interest him at first. Enjoying himself as a university student studying economics in Vancouver, he was in no rush to return. But the distance never ended his “love affair” with Thai food.</p> <p> “Myself and my fellow Asian students missed rice from Thailand. So it all started with a small rice cooker, soy sauce and sweet Chinese sausage. Later, I’d add mushrooms and chicken before moving on to more elaborate recipes,” he says.</p> <p> During his studies his father passed away and Pitaya was called home to take over the restaurant Coca, which serves Chinese-Thai cuisine. At about the same time, the mansion across the lane became available. Pitaya saw an opportunity to branch out.</p> <p> “The first goal was to come up with a new concept so we wouldn’t compete with Coca," he says. "My idea was to make it more home-style cooking with contemporary twists.”</p> <p>Dishes included tom yam scampi, Maine lobster in a rich yellow curry and char-grilled rib eye with chili dipping sauces typical of northeastern Thailand.</p> <p>“Who wants just to copy and paste an idea? We aren’t looking to have hundreds of restaurants everywhere like some chains, just for the sake of numbers. My vision is to plant a Mango Tree in every major city in the world.”</p> <p> But not every planting brought financial fruit. He attributes an initial failure in Shanghai to going in too quickly, without lining up the partners.</p> <p> Opening in London also proved challenging. “We hired a <a href="">British</a> chef who had top credentials running a restaurant," he recalls. "Soon after, I came into the kitchen one morning and saw him eating one of those British breakfasts of sausages, eggs and beans. I asked, 'Why are you eating that?' And he told me he doesn’t like Thai food. He had to go. You can’t work in a restaurant where you don’t enjoy the food you’re cooking.”</p> <p> Adding Trevor MacKenzie to the team, another accidental restaurateur, has benefited the business. MacKenzie is managing director, responsible for marketing and expansion, but his previous skills included being a cowboy in <a href="">Canada</a>’s Rocky Mountains and bartending at night in his native Vancouver.</p> <p> “I bought into the vision right away,” MacKenzie says. “Nobody gets a franchise very easily. When it comes to partner selection it can take up to two years. What I tell them is this is like a second marriage, so please tell your wife that you’re having an affair — because we're very hands on. I also say if you are looking for glamor, forget it. If you're looking for quick money, also forget it.”</p> <p> Hitching up with Sandoval in Washington, DC was "a perfect marriage,” MacKenzie notes. Sandoval, with over 30 Latin restaurants across the <a href="">United States</a>, Europe, <a href="">Mexico</a> and the Middle East, “shares the same philosophies, passions and vision when it comes to creating brands and continuing to push the envelope with innovation,” Pitaya adds.</p> <p>“These are indeed exciting times. I don't know what happens when you mix tom yum kung and tequila, but it's bound to get hot, spicy and a little crazy.”</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets Thailand Thu, 24 Jul 2014 05:10:51 +0000 Paul Ehrlich 6196198 at The Grand Budapest Hotel is actually a department store in Germany, and it’s about to become much grander <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A German entrepreneur aims to revitalize a moribund town in the former East by renovating an Art Nouveau icon. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>GOERLITZ, Germany &mdash; Standing on a ladder, workman Roland Freund dips his trowel into a bucket of mortar and carefully smoothes a wall under a molding. The work is painstaking and the air choked with dust, but he&rsquo;s happy to be here.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s because he&rsquo;s taking part in a project locals hope will herald the revival of their town in the former East Germany, which industrial decline and an exodus of people has left depopulated and depressed since German reunification in 1990.</p> <p>Expectations are high because this is no ordinary construction project.</p> <p>Recently made famous as the setting for Wes Anderson&#39;s film &ldquo;<a href="">The Grand Budapest Hotel</a>,&rdquo;&nbsp;the Goerlitz department store is a majestic, airy structure with a beautiful leaded glass dome over the atrium, striking brass chandeliers and a grand staircase leading to the balconied terraces of the upper floors. When it opened in 1913, the Art Nouveau establishment <a href="">rivaled</a> London&#39;s Selfridges and Berlin&#39;s Kaufhaus Des Westens (KaDeWe).</p> <p>Recently facing a battle for survival, however, the store is now in the midst of a $30-million facelift financed by entrepreneur Winfried Stoecker, the founder of a multimillion-dollar medical technology company based in nearby Luebeck.</p> <p>He wants to leverage Goerlitz&#39;s growing reputation as a movie-shooting location to help rejuvenate the town, which is among the poorest in Germany.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is crucial for the revitalization of the downtown. But it is also a beacon of hope for the entire city of Goerlitz,&rdquo; says Rainer Mueller, chairman of an earlier citizens&#39; initiative to attract a buyer for the site. &ldquo;With the planned for October 2015 re-opening of the store, the dead heart of the city will begin to beat again.&rdquo;</p> <p>After escaping World War II unscathed, the Goerlitz department store had been closed for years when Anderson chose it for &ldquo;The Grand Budapest Hotel.&rdquo;</p> <p>Even though Goerlitz had managed to <a href="">attract</a> a steady flow of film crews from Hollywood and Germany&#39;s Babelsberg over the years, featuring in &ldquo;The Reader,&rdquo; &ldquo;The Book Thief,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Inglourious Basterds,&rdquo; among other films, the town itself was slowly dying.</p> <p>Like others in former East Germany, it lost many of its young people to the more vibrant West in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Although Siemens and the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier still operate facilities here, unemployment ranges around 12 percent.</p> <p>The elderly outnumber the young and the town ranks dead last among German cities in purchasing power, according to a <a href="">recent study</a> by Germany&#39;s Association for Consumer Research.</p> <p>Many are optimistic the renovation will change that, says Corinna Schneider, the area manager for the German Parfumerie Thiemann, the last company to operate a boutique in the department store.</p> <p>&ldquo;Many people came to Goerlitz especially to see the Kaufhaus,&rdquo; she said, seated at a nearby cafe. &ldquo;They all said they&#39;d be back when it opens.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, it&#39;s hard to make the potential foot traffic numbers add up for retailers, even though locals like Mueller say the time of outward migration is over and tourism figures are up, thanks to the so-called <a href="">Goerliwood</a> phenomenon.</p> <p>On a sunny summer day at least, tables are packed at the swish outdoor restaurants near the Hotel Boerse, where Anderson and actors Jude Law and Ralph Fiennes stayed during the filming of &ldquo;Grand Budapest.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Everyone says this is a pensioners&#39; town, but suddenly stores and kindergartens are opening, so something is definitely happening,&rdquo; says Stefanie Eggers, spokeswoman for the renovation project who notes that 4,000 people turned up for the project&#39;s recent open house.</p> <p>As Stoecker&#39;s team works to attract international brands and smaller boutiques to fill the store&#39;s 70,000-square-foot space, new trends emerging at the end of the European economic crisis present some advantages, says project manager Juergen Friedel.</p> <p>Across the Neisse River from Poland, Goerlitz&#39;s local boutiques are already attracting Czech and Polish shoppers, whose purchasing power and thirst for Western products is growing faster than their hometowns can satisfy. Moreover, the picturesque town lies directly on the route from Poland to the larger city of Dresden, the current shopping Mecca for wealthy Poles.</p> <p>&ldquo;On the motorway, the first exit across the German border from Poland is Goerlitz,&rdquo; Friedel says. &ldquo;We&#39;d like to make sure the Polish people take that exit and don&#39;t go to Dresden.&rdquo;</p> <p> The key to success, however, will be turning the Kaufhaus into a &ldquo;destination store&rdquo; that customers are willing to make the centerpiece of a day trip. In the US, that has mostly worked for megamalls or specialty stores such as Cabela&#39;s outfitters, which incorporates attractions like a simulated trout stream where anglers can test-drive fly rods.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">Here&#39;s the evidence (so far) that pro-Russian separatists shot down MH17</a></strong></p> <p>Friedel says <a href="">Garhammer</a> &mdash; a 65,000-square-foot, family-owned fashion boutique located 60 miles from Munich &mdash; proves that the right package of top products and personalized service can work in Germany, too.</p> <p>Gourmet restaurants, espresso and Prosecco bars and other signature features are planned for every floor, and the team has sketched out ideas for festivals and events to recapture the sense of the department store as a center of sophistication and culture &mdash; as dramatized in the popular ITV series &ldquo;Mr. Selfridge.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, it&rsquo;s a battle to get potential vendors to come look at the place, Friedel says. But if he can get them into town, he adds, most of them bite.</p> <p>&ldquo;Once they see the building and the town,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;they can imagine how nice it will be.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> Kaufhaus Goerlitz Travel/Tourism Business Want to Know Germany Thu, 24 Jul 2014 05:10:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6213321 at Israel is really not happy about those suspended flights <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Authorities say Hamas wins when international carriers stop flying to Ben Gurion. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Noga Tarnopolsky </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em style="font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 20px;">This post has been updated following the lifting of the FAA ban.</em></p> <p>JERUSALEM, Israel &mdash;&nbsp;The US Federal Aviation Administration&#39;s <a href="">suspension</a> of all US carriers arrivals and departures from Tel Aviv&#39;s Ben Gurion Airport lasted only 36 hours, but hit Israelis like a punch to the gut. &nbsp;</p> <p>Transport Ministry Director General Uzi Itzhaki called it an &quot;unfortunate, miserable decision&quot; and said he hoped it would be reversed quickly.</p> <p>On Wednesday night, when the FAA renewed its directive for a further 24 hours, only 27 out of the hundred carriers that normally serve the bustling airport were active, and the transportation reporter for Israel&#39;s Channel2 news referred to the impasse perhaps hyperbolically as &quot;a national crisis, with tens of thousands of Israelis stuck abroad.&rdquo;</p> <p>By Thursday morning, having &quot;carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,&quot; the FAA <a href=";cid=TW237">announced</a> the ban had been lifted. &nbsp;</p> <p>The FAA&#39;s original decision came after a rocket, it claims &mdash; or merely the shard of one intercepted and shot down by Israel&#39;s anti-missile system Iron Dome, claim Israeli authorities &mdash; fell in the town of <a href="">Yehud</a>, about a mile from the airport.</p> <p>Leisure travel may sound like a luxury during wartime, but for Israelis, the summer season is a sacred thing.</p> <p>So hallowed is the tradition of vacationing during the hot months of summer that some 4,000 Israelis found themselves trapped in Turkey, unable to come home, when European carriers followed suit &mdash; and Israeli airlines, still flying, could not land in Turkey due to a two-month-old travel advisory.</p> <p>The trapped tourists? They had simply ignored the advisory.</p> <p>Late Wednesday night, Israel was organizing an elaborate air and ship convoy using neighboring countries to bring its citizens stuck in Turkey home. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Israelis&#39; sense of their society as open and accessible was dealt a heavy blow by what authorities in Jerusalem universally referred to as an attempt to curtail freedom of movement.</p> <p>&quot;We won&#39;t give Hamas a prize for affecting normal life in Israel,&quot; Itzhaki asserted.</p> <p>Yitzhak Ahaonovich, the minister of internal security, echoed him in an interview with Israel Army Radio, saying, &quot;It&rsquo;s a miserable decision. There was never any danger to the airport. I was there and I know exactly where [the rocket] fell. It is far from the airport.&quot;</p> <p>Many observers assumed the FAA was particularly jumpy only days after a Malaysia Airlines flight was downed over eastern Ukraine, but Giora Romm, the director general of Israel&#39;s Civil Aviation Authority, dismissed the comparisons in frustration.</p> <p>Speaking to Reuters, he <a href="">rejected</a> any association between the relatively primitive ballistic rockets launched out of Gaza and the high-tech missile believed to have downed MH17.</p> <p>&quot;I am a little upset by the hysteria from that rocket [from Gaza],&quot; he said. &quot;One of the most unbelievable arguments is that there is a connection with rockets and the ground-to-air missile that shot down the Malaysian aircraft in Ukraine.&quot;</p> <p>Some observers, such as American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, saw in the FAA decision a victory for the Israeli right, which has long claimed West Bank settlements can never be abandoned because of the danger of an armed Palestinian state mere yards from Israel&#39;s only international airport.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Hamas&#39; victory over Ben-Gurion Airport may very well mean that Israel holds the West Bank forever. Congratulations, everyone.</p> <p> &mdash; Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) <a href="">July 22, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From the opposite perspective, elsewhere in the US, far-right critics of the Obama administration argued that the FAA move was the action of a generally anti-Israel administration, using the FAA to force Israel to a premature ceasefire that would end the Gaza conflict.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Meanwhile, defying the ban, US Secretary of State John Kerry <a href="">landed</a> in Tel Aviv for another leg of his determined pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace.</p> <p>And former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg flew in, too. Earlier he <a href="">declared:</a> &quot;This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel. Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>But the last word of the long night was had by Khaled Meshaal, Hamas&#39;s leader in exile, <a href="">speaking</a> in Doha. It appeared to confirm the opinion of those who believe that Hamas, frustrated by the lack of casualties caused by its constant barrage of rockets &mdash; 80 were launched into Israel on Wednesday, according to the IDF &mdash; and stymied by Israel&#39;s ground assault on its network of tunnels, is trying to hit Israel where it hurts: at its cosmopolitan port.</p> <p>&quot;What is happening in Ben Gurion today is a taste of what we suffer from. Continue to surround us and we will surround you.&quot;</p> Need to Know Israel and Palestine Middle East Thu, 24 Jul 2014 01:23:00 +0000 Noga Tarnopolsky 6213481 at TransAsia Airways plane crashes in typhoon-hit Taiwan, killing 47 people <!--paging_filter--><p>A domestic TransAsia Airways plane crashed on landing on an island off the west coast of typhoon-hit Taiwan on Wednesday, killing 47 people, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said.</p> <p>The plane, a 70-seat turboprop ATR 72, crashed near the runway with 54 passengers and four crew on board, it said.</p> <p>"It’s chaotic on the scene," director Jean Shen told Reuters.</p> <p>Eleven injured people had been taken to hospital, the government said.</p> <p>The accident happened on one of the Penghu islands, also known as the Pescadores. No more details were immediately available.</p> <p>Typhoon Matmo slammed into Taiwan on Wednesday with heavy rains and strong winds, shutting financial markets and schools.</p> <p>TransAsia Airways is a Taiwan-based airline with a fleet of around 23 Airbus and ATR aircraft, flying chiefly on domestic routes, but with some flights to <a href="">Japan</a>, <a href="">Thailand</a> and Cambodia among its <a href="">Asian</a> destinations.</p> <p>Apart from Wednesday's event, Taiwan's aviation safety council says Transasia has had a total of 8 incidents since 2002, including 6 involving the ATR 72.</p> <p>(Reporting by Faith Hung and Michael Gold; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:17:37 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6213113 at Red Cross worker in Gaza: 'The psychological wounds are many' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Q&amp;A: Maria Cecilia Goin describes the mounting difficulties in providing aid to civilians in Gaza. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Indrani Basu </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>More than <a href="">600 people have died in Gaza</a> since a wave of new violence between Palestinians and Israelis erupted two weeks ago. The United Nations estimates that over three quarters of those dead in Gaza are civilians, with at least a hundred of them children. A hospital that was hit by <a href="">Israeli</a> shells on Monday, Al-Aqsa Hospital, claimed five more lives, and injured over 70 people.</p> <p>The fighting in the region during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan has robbed people of basic utilities like water and electricity, and made many others homeless. Aid workers in Gaza told GlobalPost that more than 90,000 people are currently without any water supply, and 18-hour power cuts have become the norm. The bombing intensifies during night, according to one aid worker, terrifying locals who can barely sleep until there is a relative lull after sunrise. And hundreds of people have taken shelter in basements, schools and hospitals.</p> <p>The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been working in Gaza since the recent fighting began, providing medical and infrastructural support to local aid workers. GlobalPost spoke with ICRC’s spokesperson Maria Cecilia Goin, who is in Gaza, to learn more about the organization’s efforts.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p> <strong>GlobalPost: What kind of aid work have you been involved in, in the past couple of weeks?</strong></p> <p>Maria Cecilia Goin<strong>:</strong> The intensity of the violence and hostilities has affected the entire population here. For the Red Cross, the priority at the moment is to do immediate evacuation of the sick and wounded so that they can receive medical attention. We are really working hard in the care and treatment of civilians, which is top priority.</p> <p>We are also trying to coordinate the repairs of vital infrastructure on the streets, including water sanitation and electricity. Thousands of people in Gaza right now have no electricity in their houses. We are helping the local authorities to repair the facilities that were damaged by shelling and fighting.</p> <p>We have a Red Cross surgeon in the main hospital – Al-Shifa – to help with people who are wounded. People also call us when there are people wounded in the family. We need to arrange with both the Hamas and Israeli government before going with ambulances and taking the injured people to hospital.</p> <p><strong>Your team went to the Al-Aqsa Hospital yesterday after Israeli shells damaged it. What did you see?</strong></p> <p>As soon as we got the information about yesterday’s shelling of Al-Aqsa we sent a team of experts. This was to do an evaluation of the situation and the extent of the damage and also to check if the hospital authorities needed the Red Cross. By the time we arrived they had managed to evacuate everybody. We spoke to the medical team there and they are concerned that the area around the hospital is becoming dangerous. This hospital is located in the middle of Gaza and is a reference hospital, which is unique in the region. The patients have to go to the hospital but they are too afraid. The capacity of the medical system is also under a lot of stress.</p> <p><strong>What kind of difficulties are you facing while doing the relief work in the area?</strong></p> <p>We work jointly with the Palestinian Red Cross Society in the area in Gaza where fighting is going on. It is difficult to reach people in need while the fighting is taking place. It is easier to go to some of the other places where fighting has subsided. We take ambulances there and transfer the injured to hospitals.</p> <p>It may seem obvious to you that every person who is sick or injured should be able to rush to the hospital. But that is not happening because of the ongoing fighting.</p> <p>We have to inform Hamas and the Israeli authority each time we need to go into the area where fighting is taking place. We have to be ready outside where fighting is happening, informing them how many ambulances and aid workers will be going inside. But the coordination is not easy; it takes a lot of time to get approval from both sides.</p> <p>The staff is working round the clock to help the injured. They are working as much as they can but they are under a lot of pressure. Dozens of the ambulance drivers continue working till night. Last week, two local municipal technicians went to fix a water line and died because of shelling.</p> <p>The hospitals and medical personnel must be respected under international humanitarian law, as well as civilians who should be protected under the law.</p> <p><strong>What is the condition of the civilians that you have seen in the past few days?</strong></p> <p>Hundreds and thousands of the locals are staying in UN schools. Others are living in schools run by the Ministry of Education. While many people have lost their lives, the entire population is in panic. Because Gaza is such a small area, the psychological wounds are many.</p> <p>This is the third war that the Gaza population is facing in the past six years. The inhabitants are quite strong but there is a lot of frustration because they are not allowed to go out into the streets. Several have lost their relatives, their houses.</p> <p>Everyone is tense because they don’t know when the hostilities will finish.</p> <p><em>This interview has been edited for clarity. </em></p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Palestinians seek UN inquiry into Israel assault on Gaza</a></strong></p> <p class='u'></p> The Gaza Strip Israel and Palestine Health Rights Global Pulse Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:20:00 +0000 Indrani Basu 6212350 at Ukraine says pro-Russian separatists have shot down 2 fighter jets <!--paging_filter--><p>Pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets on Wednesday, not far from where a Malaysian airliner was brought down last week in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers on board.</p> <p>A spokesman for Ukraine's military operations said the planes were downed near Savur Mogila, a burial mound in the Shaktersky region where a memorial marks ambushes by the Soviet army on occupying Nazis during World War Two.</p> <p>He said he did not have any information about the pilots.</p> <p>Igor Strelkov, who is now in charge of the rebel ranks in the eastern city of Donetsk, said the separatists had brought down one plane and that the pilot had ejected. He gave no further details.</p> <p>Fierce fighting raged near the rebels' two main centers in Donetsk and nearby Luhansk, where they have been pushed back by Ukrainian government forces, who have taken control of villages and suburbs around the cities.</p> <p>Earlier on Tuesday, Kyiv said the separatists were leaving their positions on the outskirts of Donetsk and retreating towards the city center.</p> <p>Residents said the rebels, who rose up in April demanding independence from Kyiv in the mainly Russian-speaking east, had dug trenches in downtown Donetsk outside the main university, where they have been living in student dormitories.</p> <p>"In Donetsk, rebels abandoned their positions en masse and went towards the central part of the city," the headquarters of what Kyiv calls its "anti-terrorist operation" said in a statement.</p> <p>"It cannot be ruled out that the appearance of such movements could suggest the spread of panic and attempts to leave the place of warfare."</p> <p>Residents said they had heard shelling during the night and a shell struck a chemical plant in the city, causing a fire.</p> <p>Local health officials said 432 people had been killed and 1,015 wounded since hostilities started in the Donetsk region following the removal of a president in Kiev who was sympathetic to Moscow and after <a href="">Russia</a>'s annexation of the Crimea region.</p> <p>(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:37:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6212931 at HIV pill: Progress or setback? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> New WHO recommendation on prevention medicine highlights debate about how to end the virus for good. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jessica Mendoza </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The World Health Organization&rsquo;s new recommendation that men who have sex with men should consider taking preventive medicine to help avoid HIV infection has renewed debate in the global health community about the best way to combat the disease.</p> <p>In <a href=";ua=1 ">a set of guidelines on HIV treatment, care and prevention </a>released this month, the WHO announced for the first time that among men who have sex with men, PrEP &ndash; short for pre-exposure prophylaxis &ndash; &ldquo;is recommended as an additional HIV prevention choice within a comprehensive HIV prevention package.&rdquo; Such a package should include monthly HIV testing, counseling and condom use, according to the report, published just ahead of the 20th&nbsp;<a href=" ">International AIDS Conference</a>, which started July 20 in Melbourne.</p> <p>The announcement met a mixed response, with some AIDS experts and advocates saying that the recommendation is a step forward in HIV prevention strategies. Critics argued, however, that encouraging the use of PrEP could result in a drop in condom use and reverse existing prevention and treatment efforts.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>PrEP involves the regular intake of a pill containing the drugs tenofovir and emtricitabine (TDF/FTC), both already used to treat HIV infection. The pill, marketed as Truvada, acts as a barrier against infection, preventing the virus from taking permanent hold in case of exposure. When taken consistently, it could cut the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent, <a href="http://">according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a>.</p> <p>&ldquo;Anyone at risk for HIV should consider PrEP for additional prevention,&rdquo; said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the international nonprofit AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC).</p> <p>When taken daily and combined with other prevention methods, PrEP is a powerful tool in efforts against HIV, Warren said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Other experts who support the new recommendations also touted the need to inform the public about their prevention options, including PrEP.</p> <p> &ldquo;There needs to be much more aggressive public education about how and why PrEP should be used,&rdquo; said Carl Sciortino, executive director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC), a nonprofit based in Boston. &ldquo;It helps organizations [like ours] to educate the community, and it helps individuals make informed decisions.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still even PrEP proponents have concerns about the preventative medicine.&nbsp;Because the WHO&rsquo;s recommendation is restricted to men who have sex with men, Warren said, it could unintentionally boost the perception that PrEP is only for gay men. That concept could curb PrEP&rsquo;s future impact on other populations, such as heterosexual women in developing regions who remain at high risk for the disease, he added.</p> <p>Then there are those who outright oppose the WHO recommendation.</p> <p>Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based advocacy group AIDS Healthcare Foundation <a href="">told National Public Radio</a>: &quot;If people are taking this medication, they&#39;re definitely not going to use condoms. And if they&#39;re not taking it regularly, they&#39;re not going to be protected when they think they are. We would have many, many more infections in this country &ndash; particularly among men who have sex with men &ndash; if no one was using condoms. And we can do harm by telling people that you can pop this pill.&quot;</p> <p>The medical community doesn&rsquo;t know enough about Truvada to be &ldquo;raving so uncritically and warning so little,&rdquo; wrote Larry Kramer, a gay rights advocate and playwright who is living with HIV, <a href="http://">in a column for The New York Times</a>.</p> <p>The debate surrounding PrEP is an extension of discussions among advocates and the medical community about the best ways to tackle HIV &ndash; and whether the time, resources and cash going into the HIV/AIDS effort should focus on prevention or on treatment.</p> <p>By the end of last year, about 13 million people were on antiretroviral therapy (ART), the most common treatment method for the disease, according to the WHO. AIDS-related deaths around the world dropped by 30 percent between 2005 and 2012, based on the latest&nbsp;<a href=" ">UNAIDS report</a>.</p> <p>But prevention efforts continue to lag especially for what the WHO calls key &ndash; or high-risk &ndash; populations: Men who have sex with men, people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers and transgender individuals. These same populations and their partners make up a big chunk of new HIV infections. For instance, prevalence among people who inject drugs is 22 times higher among non-syringe users, <a href="">according to the Foundation for AIDS Research</a>. In low- and middle-income countries, men who have sex with men are 19 times and female sex workers are almost 14 times more likely to have HIV than the rest of the population.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Yet only 70 percent of countries surveyed for the WHO&rsquo;s new guidelines have programs in place that cater to the needs of men who have sex with men and sex workers. The figure drops to 40 percent for people who inject drugs. Transgender people are almost never mentioned in HIV strategies, according to the health organization.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>More than 2 million people are still newly infected every year, the WHO estimates.</p> <p>Scaling up efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in key populations is an essential issue at the 2014 International AIDS Conference, which has pushed forward with its agenda despite the death of at least six delegates in the fatal crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 late last week.&nbsp;</p> <p>This year&#39;s theme is &ldquo;Stepping Up the Pace.&quot; There needs to be &ldquo;more effective and intensive interventions in &#39;hotspots&#39; where Key Affected Populations (KAPs) are being left behind,&quot; according to the official conference website. &quot;There is the need to involve KAPs and address the stigma and discrimination which they face, including punitive government policies.&quot;</p> <p>Advocates such as AVAC&rsquo;s Warren say that to stem the epidemic, the focus should be on expanding options and combining strategies for both treatment and prevention &ndash; including PrEP.</p> <p>&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t treat our way out. We also can&rsquo;t prevent our way out. No one of those interventions alone is enough,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>&ldquo;Until there is a vaccine or a cure,&rdquo; AAC&rsquo;s Sciortino added, &ldquo;we continue to have a public health obligation to promoting education and access to care, treatment, and prevention, including PrEP.&rdquo;</p> <p>For some, however, the discussion itself is an added benefit of the WHO&rsquo;s announcement: The more people talk about HIV, the better it is for efforts to fight the disease, Renato Barucco, head of the Transgender Family Program at Community Healthcare Network, <a href=" ">wrote for The New York Times</a>. It&rsquo;s a call for action to keep educating the public, he said in the article.</p> <p>&ldquo;PrEP generates debates that allow people to gather information, learn about HIV, consider possibilities and reflect on the complexity of human sexuality,&rdquo; Barucco wrote. &ldquo;I welcome PrEP.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href=" ">The case for taking one pill a day to prevent HIV</a></strong><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> HIV/AIDS Health Global Pulse Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:18:08 +0000 Jessica Mendoza 6211868 at EU holds off announcing new Russia sanctions <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Europe continues an incremental approach toward Moscow despite public outrage over MH17. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal — A meeting of <a href="">European</a> Union foreign ministers on Tuesday produced no immediate new sanctions in response to the killing of 298 people on flight MH17, but the EU says it is moving toward tougher measures that could include restricting defense exports and limiting <a href="">Russia</a>'s access to capital markets.</p> <p>The EU is set to approve an expanded list of individuals, companies and entities to be hit with travel bans and asset freezes on Thursday.</p> <p>At the same time, EU experts will present proposals for wider sanctions, "including on access to capital markets, defense, dual use goods, and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector," said a statement from the 28 ministers after their meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels.</p> <p><a href="">Polish</a> foreign minister Radek Sikorski — among the leading voices calling for strong European action — said the decision "should make President Putin realize that this time we're for real, that this is serious."</p> <p>However, the incremental nature of the European response is a disappointment to those who had hoped for quick action. Britain had appealed for an EU arms embargo while Lithuania asked for the Russian-backed groups who have seized parts of eastern Ukraine to be blacklisted as terrorist organizations.</p> <p>Frans Timmermans, the foreign minister of <a href="">the Netherlands</a> — which lost 193 people in the apparent missile strike over Ukraine — declined to directly answer a journalist's question about whether he was satisfied with the EU decision.</p> <p>"I'm happy with the fact that so many of my colleagues expressed solidarity and support for the victims and their loved ones," he said after the meeting. "I'm also happy that we did take a decision that is, I think, quite forceful and we reached this decision unanimously."</p> <p>Getting unanimity on more direct action proved impossible.</p> <p>On the eve of the meeting, <a href="">French</a> President Francois Hollande made clear he would resist pressure from several EU nations to suspend the planned delivery to Russia of a high-tech warship — designed to carry surface-to-air missiles and attack helicopters — which is currently being constructed in a French shipyard.</p> <p>"The deal was concluded in 2011, the ship is almost finished and it must be delivered in October," Hollande was quoted telling reporters in Paris. "The Russians have paid, we'd have to pay them back 1.1 billion [euros, or $1.5 billion]."</p> <p>Hollande did, however, suggest the delivery of a second Mistral class assault vessel planned for 2016 would depend on "Russia's attitude."</p> <p>Earlier on Monday, <a href="">British</a> Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament in London that it would be "unthinkable" for Britain to consider delivering a warship to Russia under similar circumstances.</p> <p>French officials retorted that Cameron should focus more on cracking down on Russia's use of the City of London's financial markets, BP energy deals and London's role as a playground for Russian oligarchs.</p> <p>Britain’s finance minister, George Osbourne, on Monday said London was now prepared to take an economic hit in order to increase pressure on Putin.</p> <p>The range of areas the EU is looking at could include limiting Russian access to European capital markets, which could further harm the country's recession-hit economy.</p> <p>Restricting so-called dual-use exports that might have military purposes and the sale of high-tech goods to Russia's key energy sector could also have a serious impact.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Here's all the evidence (so far) that pro-Russian separatists shot down MH17</a></strong></p> <p>And there may yet be an EU arms embargo, albeit one that excludes the French warships by covering only new military contracts.</p> <p>Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini — who has been criticized for taking too soft a line due to <a href="">Italy</a>'s close energy ties with Russia — said the imposition of economic sanctions looked "inevitable" unless Putin displays a major turnaround.</p> <p>To avoid sanctions, the EU wants the Kremlin to ensure that Russian-backed fighters in eastern Ukraine cooperate with the international investigation into the missile attack, end the flow of weapons and fighters over the border, and withdraw Russian forces massed close to Ukraine.</p> <p>But there will be no be automatic adoption of economic sanctions. Some officials said a new summit of EU leaders would be needed for that. </p> MH17 Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:20:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6212162 at The Kremlin digs in its heels <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the international community pressures Russia over MH17, attitudes in Moscow appear to be hardening. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, <a href="">Russia</a> — Vladimir Putin didn’t even wait for the conclusions of a meeting of Russia’s Security Council on Tuesday to denounce alleged Western meddling in Ukraine and reassert the need to bolster his country’s military capabilities.</p> <p>That’s because the Russian president’s position on last week’s downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was already clear: Despite receiving major international flak for the incident, the Kremlin is accepting no responsibility.</p> <p>Since the crash — which much of the world has pinned on the Russian-backed separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine — an alternate narrative has played out over the airwaves and through official channels here placing the blame on Ukraine’s doorstep and diminishing Moscow’s alleged support of the rebels.</p> <p>The state-run media — where most Russians get their news — has provided the first line of defense, running reports implicating the Ukrainian military in the crash.</p> <p>Conspiracy theories have been given unusual prominence, with one even suggesting that Putin’s plane was the target.</p> <p>On Monday, a group of dour-faced Russian generals gathered to present what they said was evidence linking Kyiv to the tragedy.</p> <p>Exhibit A, said Lieutenant General Andrei Kartapolov, a senior general staff officer, were data he said indicated that a Ukrainian fighter jet armed with air-to-air missiles was trailing the doomed Malaysia liner shortly before its crash.</p> <p>Kartapolov pointed to satellite imagery he claimed revealed the location of Ukrainian missile systems — the same type allegedly used to down MH17 — within functional range of the plane.</p> <p>In an apparent attempt to soothe international outrage, Putin announced on Tuesday that he would respond to calls urging him to use Moscow’s leverage over the rebels, who still control two key eastern Ukrainian cities.</p> <p>But he also issued a stern reprimand to Western officials over what he calls foreign influence in Ukraine’s crisis.</p> <p>“Russia is being presented with what is almost an ultimatum: ‘Let us destroy this part of the population that is ethnically and historically close to Russia and we will not impose sanctions against you,’” he said at the Security Council meeting, referring to the Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east.</p> <p>“This is a strange and unacceptable logic.”</p> <p>The piling up of evidence in recent days that appears to point to the rebels’ accidental downing of the plane — including alleged phone intercepts between rebel leaders released by Ukraine’s security service — has helped bolster public opinion against the Kremlin.</p> <p>Some Kremlin critics believe the crash has raised the stakes for Moscow in its standoff with Western countries and pushed Putin into an uncomfortable corner. However, Kremlin supporters suggest officials here are less concerned about the heat they’re getting from abroad.</p> <p>“The category of ‘global public opinion’ is a bit broader than those who are convinced that Russia is to blame for this tragedy,” said Alexei Mukhin of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information.</p> <p>Many officials and observers here argue that Ukraine is presenting flawed evidence aimed at maintaining Western support.</p> <p>“You can cast as much doubt as you’d like over the facts and explanatory materials presented by the Ministry of Defense,” said Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Kremlin-linked Institute for the Commonwealth of Independent States, referring to Monday’s meeting of Russia’s military leadership.</p> <p>“But only in the case that other facts and materials contradict them, and not some video clips from the internet or clearly falsified conversations between whoever.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Here's the evidence (so far) that pro-Russian separatists shot down MH117</a></strong></p> <p>Like many others here, Zharikhin suggests at least part of the blame belongs to Ukraine.</p> <p>“In the end, no matter what anyone says, the Malaysian airliner crashed on Ukrainian territory, and the Ukrainian government carries responsibility for that.”</p> <p>As <a href="">European</a> Union officials prepare to announce new sanctions against Russia this week, such words seem to indicate the standoff with Russia will only deepen.</p> MH17 Need to Know Conflict Zones Russia Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:00:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6212138 at MH17 is changing Europe's game on Russia <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Outrage over the downed airliner is pushing the EU toward tougher sanctions, but divisions remain over just how hard to hit Putin. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal — Media reports compounded the anguish in <a href="">the Netherlands</a> on Monday with the information that the Russian company that exports missile systems of the type suspected of downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 operates an Amsterdam office in order to profit from Dutch international tax loopholes.</p> <p>"Supplier of the MH17 rocket sits in Amsterdam's Zuidas," said a headline in the daily De Volkskrant, referring to the Dutch capital's business district.</p> <p>The paper cited a report from an investigative website that says an office in Amsterdam is linked to the Russian conglomerate Rostec, whose complex web of subsidiaries includes the arms exporter that sells BUK anti-aircraft missiles.</p> <p>Russian companies and their oligarch owners are among the most enthusiastic users of Dutch fiscal laws enabling international businesses to recycle profits and avoid national taxes.</p> <p>Tens of billions of Russian dollars flowing through the Netherlands — and other fiscally relaxed European Union countries such as Cyprus, Luxembourg and <a href="">Ireland</a> — go some way toward explaining why the EU is finding it so difficult to impose hard-hitting sanctions against Moscow.</p> <p>EU officials will try again on Tuesday. This time, several leaders are insisting that the outrage over MH17 means they'll finally have to take meaningful action against Vladimir Putin's regime.</p> <p>"It is time to make our power, influence and resources felt," <a href="">British</a> Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.</p> <p>"Russia cannot expect to keep on enjoying access to European markets, European capital, European knowledge and technical expertise while she fuels conflict in one of Europe's neighbors," he told parliament in London. "We must do what is necessary to stand up to Russia."</p> <p>Cameron said French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with him that Tuesday's meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels should set tougher sanctions in place.</p> <p>However, it's not clear that they will back Cameron's specific proposals. They include an arms embargo on Russia, widening asset freezes and travel bans on individuals to include "cronies and oligarchs" close to Putin, and so-called "third-tier" sanctions that would target sensitive sectors of the Russian economy.</p> <p><a href="">France</a> in particular has been reluctant to consider an arms embargo as it prepares to hand over two high-tech Mistral warships to Moscow under a $1.65-billion contract. Around 400 Russian navy operatives arrived in France in June to begin training on the first of the ships.</p> <p>Merkel on Sunday joined voices suggesting France should suspend the contract, and Cameron said it would be "unthinkable" for Britain to consider making such a delivery to Russia under the current circumstances.</p> <p>However, in recognition of French reluctance, it's expected the proposals for an EU arms embargo to be debated Tuesday will exclude existing contracts.</p> <p>Since the downing of the Malaysian airliner with the loss of 298 people, Cameron has emerged as the loudest voice calling for a tougher EU approach toward Russia, joining hawks such as <a href="">Poland</a>, Sweden and the Baltic states.</p> <p>Britain had previously held back, cautious about the $46 billion worth of Russian stock invested in London, British energy investments in Russia's oil and gas fields, and "Londongrad's" role as the playground of choice for big-spending Russian tycoons.</p> <p>Cameron dodged a question about that Monday, saying only that a crackdown on Russians' access to London's financial center was something that should be considered and would not hold back a stronger EU stance. His finance minister, George Osbourne, insisted Britain is prepared to take an economic hit to put pressure on Putin.</p> <p>Among the other backers of a tough line, Lithuania said it wants Tuesday's meeting to blacklist Russian-linked separatists in eastern Ukraine as terrorist organizations, a move that could have serious implications for their backers in the Kremlin.</p> <p>There are doubts, however, over how far others are prepared to go in taking Putin on.</p> <p>Hollande has stressed that decisions should be made only after an international inquiry has ascertained full details of what happened to the plane. The Italian government has limited itself to saying Europe must have a united position.</p> <p><a href="">Germany</a>'s main business lobby had warned the day before the missile strike about the impact of additional sanctions that were already under discussion by the EU. It noted German exports to Russia had already fallen by 14 percent in the first four months of 2014 — to $13.5 billion.</p> <p>However, the mood in Germany has hardened. German media are calling for soccer's governing body FIFA to reverse a decision to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia.</p> <p>Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appears to have joined the hawks after the slaughter of 192 Dutch citizens aboard the flight. "All political, economic and financial options are on the table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible," he said over the weekend.</p> <p>Until last week, the Netherlands had been one of the EU countries most wary of confronting Putin.</p> <p>The Dutch have worked hard to woo Russian business: 2013 was declared Dutch-Russian Friendship Year, harking back four centuries to when Czar Peter the Great took inspiration from the Netherlands to modernize the Russian Empire.</p> <p>Human rights violations were overlooked as Putin was invited to the Netherlands and the Dutch royals headed for a state visit in Moscow.</p> <p>King Willem-Alexander was back in Russia in February. While human rights and Ukraine led many Western leaders to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Dutch monarch knocked back Heineken with Putin and Rutte attended the opening ceremony.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Russia isn&rsquo;t an immutable force</a></strong></p> <p>"There has been a lot of hypocrisy in the Dutch attitude to Russia," says Michiel van Hulten, a Brussels-based consultant on EU affairs and former chairman of the Dutch Labor Party.</p> <p>"They ... refused to take any measures that would damage economic relations," he said in a telephone interview. "Dutch society is now being confronted with those double standards and it's clear which way things are going to go because this is a kind of 9/11 for the Netherlands."</p> <p>Sympathy for the Dutch, van Hulten added, could see <a href="">Italy</a>, Germany and other soft-line EU members joining the Netherlands in toughening their stance on sanctions.</p> MH17 Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:42:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6211200 at The FBI is entrapping Americans and charging them as terrorists, according to a new report <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School have confirmed all your worst fears about how the US government handles terrorism cases. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School have <a href="">just released a damning report</a> in which they accuse the US government of repeated abuses in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases.</p> <p>Duh, right?</p> <p>Well, you might still be surprised by the report's most troubling allegation: that US government agents, by employing methods of investigation that border on entrapment, have actively encouraged ordinary <a href="">Americans</a> to become terrorists.</p> <p>The HRW and HRI focused their investigation on 27 post-9/11 terrorism cases involving 77 defendants. They based their report on information from court documents, publicly available documents, Freedom of Information Act requests, and more than 215 interviews with people involved in terrorism cases, including defendants, lawyers, family members, academics, and government officials.</p> <p>They found a pattern of encouragement, facilitation, and grooming of targets that's worrying if not illegal.</p> <p>“Indeed, in some cases,” the report claims, “the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act... All the high-profile domestic terrorism plots of the last decade, with four exceptions, were actually sting operations, splots conducted with the direct involvement of law enforcement informants or agents, including plots that were proposed or led by informants.”</p> <p>A former FBI agent, Michael <a href="">German</a>, explained it to HRW and the HRI this way:</p> <blockquote><p>Today’s terrorism sting operations reflect a significant departure from past practice. When the FBI undercover agent or informant is the only purported link to a real terrorist group, supplies the motive, designs the plot and provides all the weapons, one has to question whether they are combatting terrorism or creating it. Aggrandizing the terrorist threat with these theatrical productions only spreads public fear and divides communities, which doesn’t make anyone safer."</p> </blockquote> <p>Take the case of Hosam Smadi. The FBI began investigating Smadi in Jan. 2009 because he'd been posting to jihadist discussion boards. FBI agents intiated contact with him online, and during these early conversations, Smadi insisted that he didn’t want to hurt innocent people and was unsure about violent jihad. The FBI placed him in the “first stage of the radicalization process known as pre-radicalization,” but rather than discourage further radicalization, the agents actively pushed him toward violence.</p> <p>After months of encouragement and conversation, Smadi agreed to participate in a terrorist act. He'd plant a bomb in the parking garage below a large Dallas building. When the day arrived, he deposited the explosive, which the FBI agents had made, and then met an undercover agent in a car. There he dialed a number into his cell phone, believing that it would detonate the device. He was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and sentences to 24 years in prison.</p> <p>What would have happened to Smadi if the FBI had just left him alone?</p> <p>The HRW and HRI report finds lots of other reasons to be concerned about the handling of terrorism investigations and prosecutions. Check out <a href="">the report</a> and you'll find plenty of information about the use of "material support" charges, the admission of various types of inappropriate evidence, and the reliance on pre-trial solitary confinement.</p> Counterterrorism Americas Want to Know United States Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:47:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6210943 at 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