GlobalPost - Home C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en Uruguay's presidential challenger wants to roll back landmark pot law <!--paging_filter--><p>Uruguay's leading opposition candidate said he would try to repeal much of the country's ground-breaking marijuana law, which permits the commercial production and sale of the drug, if he wins Sunday's presidential election.</p> <p>The South American country became the world's first to allow the cultivation, distribution and use of marijuana, but almost two in three Uruguayans oppose the pioneering experiment that aims to wrest control of the trade from drug gangs.</p> <p>"I will keep the law's articles that allow users to grow their own cannabis at home and authorize smoking clubs and repeal the rest, in particular the state's commercialization of the drug," Luis Lacalle Pou told Reuters.</p> <p>This was the first time the 41-year-old candidate for the centrist National Party has commented on the actions he would take on the marijuana law.</p> <p>"I will send a bill to parliament to repeal it," Lacalle Pou said. "We will need a majority in parliament, and I will look for support."</p> <p>The presidential candidate for the right-wing Colorado Party has publicly opposed the law.</p> <p>Polls show Lacalle Pou trailing the candidate for the left-wing Frente Amplio ("Broad Front") ruling coalition, Tabare Vazquez, who has endorsed the law.</p> <p>But with both men projected to fall short of the absolute majority needed for a first-round victory, they will probably go to a late November runoff, where polls show them running neck and neck.</p> <p>Uruguay passed the marijuana law in December, but leftist incumbent President Jose Mujica, has struggled to roll out the reform, which other <a href="">Latin American</a> states have followed closely.</p> <p>Mujica, a 79-year-old ex-guerrilla, is constitutionally barred from running for a second consecutive term.</p> <p>Lacalle Pou also said he would not grant asylum to six Guantanamo Bay detainees whom Mujica has offered to receive.</p> <hr><p>Below are the two main candidates and their policies.</p> <p><strong>Tabare Vazquez, Ruling Broad Front  </strong></p> <p>In his first term as president, Vazquez pursued a center-left agenda, mixing social welfare reforms with pro-business economic policies.</p> <p>A popular leader first time around, a constitutional cap on terms in office prevented him running for a second consecutive period in office. He was followed by Jose Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter and ally in the leftist Broad Front coalition.</p> <p>Vazquez opposed Mujica's legalization of abortion but backed other social reforms. His endorsement of a law legalizing the production, distribution and use of marijuana has dented his re-election hopes.</p> <p>Vazquez says a third left-wing administration would improve conditions for the most vulnerable, including a program to sponsor full-time carers of the sick.</p> <p>He pledges to maintain Mujica's tight monetary policy but has not detailed how he would rein in inflation, which stands at 9 percent.</p> <p>Vazquez pledges to cut the above-target fiscal deficit, which stands at 3.3 percent of gross domestic product, by cutting wasteful government spending. He has ruled out new taxes or a sharp fiscal adjustment.</p> <p><strong>Luis Lacalle Pou, National Party     </strong></p> <p>Lacalle Pou is a 41-year-old lawyer touted as the fresh face of Uruguayan politics who has strived to rid the center-right National Party of its stuffy image.</p> <p>Lacalle Pou has tapped into a vein of discontent toward the far-reaching social reforms. He says he would try to reverse much of Uruguay's pioneering marijuana law.</p> <p>He also said he would not grant asylum to the six Guantanamo Bay detainees. Many Uruguayans oppose the offer Mujica made to US President Barack Obama without consulting lawmakers.</p> <p>Lacalle Pou says taming inflation would be a priority and that he would curb fiscal spending. He would encourage the creation of more savings instruments in pesos to continue de-dollarizing the economy.</p> <p>Lacalle Pou has said he would reduce the fiscal deficit by 1.5 percentage points, partly through greater efficiency at state-run firms.</p> <p>He has also campaigned on a platform to offer tax relief, including the abolishment of a tax on pensions. His National Party favors a stronger role for the private sector.</p> Need to Know Americas Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:12:00 +0000 Esteban Farat, Thomson Reuters 6295060 at Governor of Mexican state where 43 students disappeared quits <!--paging_filter--><p>The governor of a Mexican state roiled by the disappearance of dozens of students that has sparked protests and embarrassed President Enrique Pena Nieto, bowed to pressure on Thursday and said he was standing down.</p> <p>Angel Aguirre, governor of the impoverished state of Guerrero in southwest <a href="">Mexico</a>, said he was taking a leave of absence. The move is the only option open to him given he cannot resign by law. His replacement will be chosen by the Guerrero state assembly.</p> <p>Aguirre, 58, a member of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), has faced sustained criticism since the disappearance of 43 students in the city of Iguala after clashes with police there the night of Sept. 26.</p> <p>Police suspected of being in league with local gangsters shot dead one of the students that night and abducted at least two dozen more, according to Mexico's attorney general.</p> <p>A gaunt-looking Aguirre said he was standing down to help improve the political climate around the investigation.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Angry protests mushroom in Mexico over the forced disappearance of 43 students</a></strong></p> <p>"Let it be clear that Angel Aguirre, even though he's no longer in the job, will be ready to contribute to investigations to clear up the facts," PRD leader Carlos Navarrete said.</p> <p>Dozens of bodies have been uncovered in mass graves in the hills around Iguala, whose mayor, accused with his wife and police chief of orchestrating the students' disappearance, is on the run. However, investigators say they have yet to identify the remains of any of the students.</p> <p>The incident, which has shocked the country and sparked protest marches across Mexico, was the latest in a string of killings and discoveries of mass graves in recent months.</p> <p>Ruling party politician Gilberto Sanchez, a former Mexico City lawmaker who is standing in for federal Congressman Manuel Anorve, was shot dead outside his home in Mexico City late on Wednesday.</p> <p>Two other politicians have been murdered since September, one of whom was kidnapped in broad daylight from his vehicle on a busy highway.</p> <p>Lawmakers fear the security lapses will undermine Pena Nieto's reforms aimed at bringing in investment to revive the economy, which has been the main focus of his government.</p> <p>Critics say Pena Nieto's economic reforms have come at the expense of a strategy to stop gang violence that has claimed around 100,000 lives since the start of 2007.</p> <p>Aguirre, who once belonged to Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), also served as governor of Guerrero for the PRI from 1996 to 1999 after the then-incumbent stepped down following a massacre of 17 farmers by state police.</p> <p>Over the past two years, government buildings and political offices in Guerrero have been trashed, occupied and set fire to by critics of the administration of Aguirre, who had cut an increasingly isolated figure within the PRD in recent weeks.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Simon Gardner, Diane Craft and Cynthia Osterman)</p> Need to Know Mexico Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:24:45 +0000 Dave Graham, Thomson Reuters 6294941 at Democracy protesters in Hong Kong to vote on government proposals <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Hong Kong</a> protesters plan to hold a straw poll on government proposals they rejected earlier in the week as their street campaign pushing for democracy for the Chinese-controlled city entered its fifth week on Friday.</p> <p>With crowds likely to swell at the weekend, student leaders late on Thursday announced a plan for an electronic poll of protesters on reform proposals tabled by senior city government officials in talks on Tuesday that failed to break the deadlock.</p> <p>"The government always says that the students don't represent the people in the plaza and Hong Kong citizens, so we are here to make all our voices heard and we will tell the government clearly what we think," Alex Chow, one of the students guiding the movement, told protesters.</p> <p>In the poll, to be held on Sunday, demonstrators would be asked whether the government's offer to submit a report to the central government's Hong Kong and Macau affairs office on the protests would have any practical purpose.</p> <p>Hong Kong returned from <a href="">British</a> to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows it wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms and specifies universal suffrage as an ultimate goal. But Beijing is wary about copycat demands for reform on the mainland eroding the Communist Party's power.</p> <p>Friday marked the start of the fifth week since tens of thousands began blocking major roads to oppose to a plan by the Chinese central government to let Hong Kong people vote for their leader in 2017 for the first time but limit candidates to those vetted by a panel stacked with Beijing loyalists.</p> <p>Opponents of the protests tried to forcibly dismantle makeshift barricades around a protest zone in the heart of the densely populated Mong Kok district, as they have done on many days during the occupation, but police intervened.</p> <p>Last weekend saw bloody scuffles between protesters, opponents of the movement and police, who have labeled the Mong Kok protest zone a "high-risk area."</p> <p>The United Nations Human Rights Committee on Thursday gave a boost to the protest movement by calling on China to ensure universal suffrage in Hong Kong, including the right to stand for election as well as the right to vote.</p> <p>Chinese Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that while the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights applied to Hong Kong "the covenant is not a measure for Hong Kong's political reform."</p> <p>It was not immediately clear how, if the covenant applied to Hong Kong, it could have no bearing on its political reform.</p> <p>A chasm exists between the Hong Kong government and the protesters who have also been calling for the current leader, Leung Chun-ying, to step down. The government branded the movement's occupation of streets illegal and has repeatedly said open nominations are not allowed under Hong Kong laws.</p> <p>The talks on Tuesday marked a shift in the government's approach from stonewalling to dialogue, although expectations for a breakthrough had been low.</p> <p>The poll would be the first potentially constructive response from the protesters after the student leaders emerged from the talks disappointed. They planned to hand the results to the government on Monday.</p> <p>A massive yellow banner with an umbrella symbolizing the movement and calling for "real universal suffrage" was hung from the Lion Rock mountain on Thursday that could be clearly seen from the city below.</p> <p>Firefighters and mountain rescue crew pulled it down on Friday.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Nick Macfie)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:04:52 +0000 Diana Chan and Donny Kwok, Thomson Reuters 6294893 at Tunisian security forces kill 6 after standoff with militants <!--paging_filter--><p>Tunisian security forces on Friday killed six people, including five women, after a standoff with an Islamist militant group on the outskirts of Tunis two days before a parliamentary election, authorities said.</p> <p>The raid on the house in Oued Ellil, west of Tunis, was the latest operation in Tunisia&#39;s crackdown on Islamist militants authorities say threaten the country&#39;s transition to democracy following the 2011 fall of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.</p> <p>A number of militants including women had been holed up in a house since Thursday after clashes in which one police officer was killed when troops surrounded the building, according to security officials.</p> <p>Authorities said one man and five women were killed when troops stormed the house on Friday. Officials said two children were also rescued from the house.</p> <p>&quot;Our special forces have killed six people from this terrorist group that included five women, who also exchanged fire with our forces,&quot; Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said by telephone.</p> <p>Details about the raid and what the authorities had suspected the group of doing were still unclear. Another militant and one other woman were arrested, he said.</p> <p>Tunisia has struggled to subdue hardline Islamists and jihadists opposed to the transition to democracy following the revolt against Ben Ali, and the military has cracked down hard on militants in the run up to Sunday&#39;s election.</p> <p>Security and economic advances are major concerns for Tunisians voters, who hope the vote will consolidate democracy in the country after a year of political disputes that almost scuttled the transition process.</p> <p>(Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Hugh Lawson)</p> Africa Need to Know Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:58:23 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6294821 at WHO expects around 200,000 Ebola vaccine doses for use in West Africa by mid-2015 <!--paging_filter--><p>The World Health Organization (WHO) set out plans on Friday for speeding up development and deployment of experimental Ebola vaccines, saying hundreds of thousands of doses should be ready for use in West <a href="">Africa</a> by the middle of 2015.</p> <p>The Geneva-based United Nations health agency confirmed that two leading vaccine candidates are already in human clinical trials, and said another five experimental vaccines were also being developed and would begin clinical trials next year.</p> <p>"Before the end of first half of 2015..we could have available a few hundred thousand doses. That could be 200,000 - it could be less or could be more," the WHO's Marie-Paule Kieny told reporters after a meeting in Geneva of industry executives, global health experts, drug regulators and funders.</p> <p>Researchers are already testing two candidate vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline and NewLink Genetics, with a third from Johnson &amp; Johnson set to enter human trials in January.</p> <p>(Reporting by Kate Kelland, Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles, editing by Ben Hirschler)</p> Africa Need to Know Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:44:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6294813 at Angry protests mushroom in Mexico over the forced disappearance of 43 students <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A mayor in hiding, corrupt cops and narco gunmen are all implicated in the crime, which thousands of officers so far haven’t been able to solve. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ioan Grillo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MEXICO CITY — The fathers of the disappeared students took to the stage one by one. They spoke of their sons’ hopes of becoming teachers, of the last time they saw them, of their agony in going almost a month with no news after they vanished.</p> <p>As one dad described his son’s dreams, he could not hold back his tears in front of the tens of thousands of protesters in Mexico City’s central square. As he wept, the protesters shouted in his support, “You are not alone!” and, “Justice!”</p> <p>The demonstration on Wednesday night was one of dozens that have been taking place across Mexico in response to the disappearance of 43 trainee teachers and the shooting death of three more by police and drug cartel gunmen on Sept. 26.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Mexican mass graves: A survivor&rsquo;s story</a></strong></p> <p>The protests have mushroomed into some of the biggest the nation has seen in years, mobilizing thousands of university and high school students while also galvanizing support from unions, vigilante groups and many others.</p> <p>The case and public anger over it have become a landmark challenge for the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, which has come under criticism for failing to find the students after four weeks.</p> <p>This is a country that's endured years of a <a href="">United States</a>-backed <a href="">drug war</a> that's claimed more than 70,000 lives and left thousands of others missing.</p> <p>Since coming into power in 2012, Peña Nieto has labored to sponge Mexico’s bloodstained image. But the horror of corrupt cops and narco gunmen killing teens has sent crime and corruption straight to the front pages.</p> <p>“It is not possible that the government shows off its advanced technology and then can’t use it to trace and rescue the 43 students,” one father, who introduced himself as Rafael, told the crowd in Mexico City. “They must find our sons or face the consequences.”</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src">Ioan Grillo/GlobalPost</span></p> <p>The victims were attacked by police officers and the alleged cartel gunmen in the city of Iguala in southern Guerrero state. Witnesses last saw officers bundling the disappeared into police cars.</p> <p>Federal Attorney General Jesus Murillo on Wednesday said federal forces had arrested more than 80 people, including dozens of police officers and members of a drug cartel called Guerreros Unidos — Warriors United — in connection with the attack.</p> <p>“Warriors United has sewn a web of complicity with several mayors and above all with security officials,” Murillo said. “In Iguala, the complicity was between the authorities, the local police and the Warriors United.”</p> <p>The Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife are also linked to the Warriors and involved in the incident, Murillo said.</p> <p>Mayor Abarca told police to go after the students because he thought they would disrupt an event in which his wife was speaking, Murillo said. The police then handed the students over to the cartel gunmen, he said.</p> <p>Both the mayor and his wife are on the run.</p> <p>Thousands of soldiers and police have been unable to determine exactly what happened to the students after they were given to the cartel. They have dug up a series of mass graves with at least 30 badly burned and dismembered bodies but none so far match the disappeared.</p> <p>“It was a form of terror against students and this affects the whole population,” says Marco Antonio Morga, a 17-year-old high school student marching in Mexico City. “These crimes are a worry to us all. We have to show solidarity.”</p> <p>The Wednesday night demonstration attracted what appeared to be more than 100,000 people — a surprisingly large number for a midweek event. On Thursday, students also blocked major roads across the capital, snarling up traffic.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-src">Ioan Grillo/GlobalPost</span></p> <p>While the capital city’s protests have been peaceful, demonstrators in Guerrero state have smashed and burned several buildings, including the Iguala mayor’s offices, and have occupied town halls and radio stations.</p> <p>Two different armed cartel-fighting vigilante groups that operate in Guerrero have supported the protests, while a local leftist guerrilla group has also promised to avenge the students.</p> <p>As well as criticizing Peña Nieto, protesters are furious with the leftist Democratic Revolution Party or PRD, which runs Guerrero state and the town of Iguala.</p> <p>Demonstrators along with many senators and deputies called for the resignation of Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre, and on Thursday night he finally said he was throwing in the towel.</p> <p>“To create a favorable political climate and to find a solution to these problems … I have decided to ask the honorable state congress for my leave,” a shaken Aguirre said.</p> <p>However, protesters are angry with politicians across the board. When PRD founder Cuauhtemoc Cardenas joined one march, demonstrators threw bottles at him until he escaped in a car. Meanwhile, many carried placards calling for Peña Nieto to resign.</p> <p>The marches have coincided with other student protests adding to the pressure on the president.</p> <p>Students at Mexico’s technical colleges have been taking over campuses in protest against a change in their courses that would downgrade them to technicians instead of engineers. They see this as a ploy to pay them less as the president looks for a bigger role for foreign companies in Mexico’s energy and other sectors.</p> <p>Meanwhile, students in Guanajuato state marched on Thursday after a classmate was murdered. Witnesses claim he had been taken by police officers although a state prosecutor denied this.</p> <p>“There is a lot of anger that has been building up over different issues,” said school teacher Ricardo Rivas, marching in Mexico City. “Once the anger is unleashed it could shake this country up. These protests could become much bigger.”</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//;byline=0&amp;portrait=0" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="670"></iframe></p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Mexico Fri, 24 Oct 2014 04:22:00 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6294563 at Ukrainians place huge hopes on crucial elections this weekend <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kicking out parliament’s old guard is seen as a critical step toward overhauling the crippled country. That will be the easy part. </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>KYIV, Ukraine — As Ukrainians prepare to vote in parliamentary elections on Sunday, a broad array of pro-European parties is poised for an easy victory that would lend a final degree of legitimacy to last winter’s bloody street revolution.</p> <p>But these elections are more about securing the country’s future than providing closure for the recent past.</p> <p>As the government confronts <a href="">Russian</a>-backed separatists in the country’s east while seeking to stave off a looming economic crisis, expectations are running high that the vote will help hold the authorities to carrying out promises of sweeping reform that would transform the country’s corrupt political system.</p> <p>Polls give a bloc led by President Petro Poroshenko a commanding lead with around 30 percent of the decided vote.</p> <p>Trailing far behind, a collection of new and old political parties includes both dodgy establishment politicians and trusted civic leaders who built their reputations during the months-long protests on Independence Square, or “Maidan.”</p> <p>The group that once dominated the rubber-stamp parliament — disgraced ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions — has virtually dissolved, although some of its former members have made it into other parties that are bound to win seats.</p> <p>Critics say allowing that to happen represents only one relatively minor failure by officials who’ve been taken to task even by the Poroshenko administration.</p> <p>Plagued by mismanagement, the military remains in dire condition as it faces off against the insurgents in eastern Ukraine under an ineffective ceasefire.</p> <p>Reports abound of lingering corruption in state agencies, which has forced some of the new reformers — who took up ministerial posts on the wave of protests after Yanukovych’s ouster — to resign in frustration.</p> <p>“In actual fact, the revolution produced changes only in faces and the nameplates on the doors,” says Serhiy Melnychenko, a grassroots political activist who decries what he says has been the slow pace of reforms.</p> <p>Making good on last winter’s upheaval is especially important after the democratic Orange Revolution of 2004, which ended in vicious political infighting that spread wide disenchantment with politics.</p> <p>Besides ending the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, one of the country’s top priorities is guiding the tattered economy out of a downward spiral that’s left the currency devalued nearly 40 percent against the dollar.</p> <p>It’s an uphill battle given the kind of chaotic order that prevails amid weak institutions and official inaction.</p> <p>The atmosphere is partly responsible for the success of the Radical Party, led by firebrand nationalist Oleh Lyahsko. It’s set to take second place with up to 12 percent of the vote, thanks to its leader’s outlandish populism and anti-Russian fervor.</p> <p>His on-camera abuse of suspected crooked officials has helped spawn a wave of street justice in which protesters publicly heap unpopular politicians associated with the old administration into garbage cans.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>Critics are worried that more than 40 percent of Ukrainians support the practice, dubbed the “Trash Bucket Challenge,” according to a poll by the Gorshenin Institute, a Kyiv-based think tank.</p> <p>Nearly as many said they would return to the streets for mass protests if they feel the authorities fail to make good on their promises.</p> <p>“It’s a very hard thing to control the sea, and that’s what this is: a sea of people, a sea of emotions,” says Vadim Karasyov, head of the Institute for Global Strategies.</p> <p>Some recent developments may help keep discontent at bay, though.</p> <p>On Thursday, Poroshenko signed a raft of anti-corruption legislation passed earlier this month, following up on a key demand by protesters.</p> <p>And after the elections, a new pro-European parliament would theoretically provide broad support for legislation that would meet criteria Western donors have set for providing crucial loans.</p> <p>Still, days ahead of the vote, there’s little positive energy on the streets as a climate of volatility highlights the many uncertainties plaguing the country.</p> <p>This past week saw several murky attacks on politicians running for office, while officials have ominously warned of planned attempts by pro-Russian forces to destabilize the vote.</p> <p>On Thursday morning, the city’s main train station was evacuated after an apparent bomb threat, which locals complain has become a regular occurrence.</p> <p>“As if we didn’t have enough problems,” grumbled an elderly taxi driver as he sped away in the crisp October air.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">China pivots to Europe</a></strong></p> <p>There are also signs that the campaigning is encouraging political forces to keep playing by old rules: The grassroots vote-monitoring group OPORA has already registered nearly 500 electoral violations across the country, including by members of Poroshenko’s own party. And it’s still counting.</p> <p>That may be partly why some experts are urging caution.</p> <p>Gwendolyn Sasse, a Ukraine researcher at Carnegie <a href="">Europe</a>, says the vote represents a necessary step toward formalizing the country’s post-revolutionary leadership.</p> <p>“But the vote does not provide answers to the many pressing political and economic issues Ukraine currently faces,” she wrote on the think tank’s website on Wednesday.</p> <p>“It ‘simply’ establishes parts of the political foundations needed to address these issues.”</p> Crisis in Ukraine Elections Want to Know Europe Fri, 24 Oct 2014 04:21:03 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6294281 at The world's third largest democracy is now run by a populist neophyte <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Despite the ovations, Jokowi's challenges are as massive as his public appeal. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Marie Dhumieres </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JAKARTA, Indonesia &mdash; It was an extraordinary public party, and a first in Indonesia&rsquo;s history of presidential inaugurations. Tens of thousands of Indonesians hit the streets of the capital on Monday to celebrate their new president, who this day more than ever deserved his man-of-the-people reputation.</p> <p> From the horse-drawn cart that took him to the presidential palace, Joko &ldquo;Jokowi&rdquo; Widodo waved to the crowd. He shook many hands. On stage at an evening celebration concert, in front of his euphoric supporters, the <a href="">heavy-metal fan</a> looked like a true rock star.</p> <p> A former furniture seller, Jokowi has often been described as a breath of fresh air on Indonesia&rsquo;s political scene. That&rsquo;s hard to dispute. With his simple looks and manners, he&rsquo;s not your typical leader, and he&rsquo;s quite proud of that.</p> <p> Jokowi enjoys telling how public servants often confused him for an aide when he started gaining power, first as a mayor then as governor of Jakarta. Indonesian politician Sarwono Kusumaatmadja put it more crudely. The old traditional political elite, <a href="">he said</a>, hates having for a leader someone &ldquo;looking like a waiter and speaking in a lower-class Javanese accent.&rdquo;</p> <p> The &ldquo;ordinary people&rdquo; love it. They brought him to power. But at his inauguration speech, Jokowi addressed all Indonesians alike.</p> <p> &ldquo;To the fishermen, laborers, farmers, meatball sellers, hawkers, drivers, academics, teachers, the Indonesian Military, the National Police, business people and professionals, I&rsquo;m calling on [all of us] to work hard, hand in hand, in partnership. This is a historic moment for all of us, to move together to work &hellip; work &hellip; and work,&rdquo; <a href="">he said</a>.</p> <p> Now the party is over. Jakarta&rsquo;s roads are packed with cars again. It&rsquo;s indeed time for Jokowi to get to work.</p> <p> And that&rsquo;s where things might get a bit complicated.</p> <p> With no national experience, the 53-year-old Jokowi is now in charge of the world&rsquo;s third largest democracy: 250 million people, 17,000 islands (at low tide), a slowing economy, and rampant corruption. Almost half of his compatriots live on less than two dollars a day.</p> <p> He also has no majority in parliament, and faces a powerful opposition that doesn&rsquo;t seem too keen on helping the outsider implement an ambitious reform agenda.</p> <p> When the constitutional court confirmed Jokowi&rsquo;s electoral victory against his rival, former General Prabowo Subianto, the Jakarta Post <a href="">proclaimed</a> &ldquo;Game over, Prabowo!&quot; This might have been too optimistic. Prabowo and his backing coalition have actually been well in the game in the past few weeks.</p> <p> Last month the parliament voted to <a href="">scrap</a> direct elections for local leaders. These polls had been a key step in the country&rsquo;s democratic transition. Prabowo and his supporters deemed them &ldquo;un-Indonesian.&quot; The vote was perceived as a political move, and a direct attack on Jokowi, who couldn&rsquo;t have risen to power without direct elections.</p> <p> Then, Prabowo&rsquo;s Red-White coalition, which controls almost two-thirds of the parliament, won all the key seats in the two chambers, making many fear Jokowi&rsquo;s reform agenda might face legislative gridlock.</p> <p> Jokowi says he&rsquo;s not worried. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not scared of parliament,&rdquo; he <a href="">told</a> reporters in early October. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s politics. It can change every second, minute and hour.&rdquo;</p> <p> There were rumors the hostile parliament would try to disrupt his inauguration, but tensions eased just a few days before Jokowi&rsquo;s big day. Quite unexpectedly, Prabowo and Jokowi met, for the first time in months, and Prabowo finally congratulated Jokowi on his victory.</p> <p> Prabowo then attended Jokowi&rsquo;s inauguration, during which Jokowi referred to him as his &ldquo;best friend.&rdquo; Prabowo has now promised not to sabotage the new administration.</p> <p> &ldquo;Competition in politics is natural,&rdquo; <a href="">said</a> Prabowo after his meeting with Jokowi, but &ldquo;all actions must be conducted based on the people&rsquo;s interests.&rdquo;</p> <p> Political analyst Maswadi Rauf has no doubt Prabowo and his supporters will try to &ldquo;block Jokowi&rdquo; in parliament but says Prabowo will indeed have to &ldquo;remember the people are the real judges.&rdquo;</p> <p> &ldquo;It would be very dangerous for [Prabowo&rsquo;s party] to oppose good policies,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p> According to political analyst Djayadi Hanan, &ldquo;the people&rdquo; might actually be Jokowi&rsquo;s biggest challenge.</p> <p> &ldquo;Jokowi relies on his image of man-of-the-people. If the people are disappointed, he&rsquo;s going to have a problem,&rdquo; &nbsp;he says.</p> <p> Jokowi&rsquo;s first real test could come soon enough. His agenda includes plans to improve access to health and education, launch badly-needed infrastructure projects, and tackle poverty, red tape and corruption. That&rsquo;s quite a program, and for this, he needs money.</p> <p> One of the first measures he&rsquo;s set to put in place is to cut fuel subsidies &mdash; increasing gas prices at the pump. Previous cuts have led to street riots, and actually contributed to the fall of former dictator Suharto&rsquo;s regime in 1998.</p> <p> &ldquo;Many will oppose this,&rdquo; especially among the less fortunate, says Hanan. &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s see if he can convince the people.&rdquo;</p> World Leaders Want to Know Emerging Markets Indonesia Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:41:00 +0000 Marie Dhumieres 6294189 at England's National Health Service appeals for more government funds <!--paging_filter--><p>Leaders of <a href="">England</a>'s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) warned on Thursday that billions of pounds in extra funds were needed to maintain patient care, laying down the gauntlet to politicians ahead of May's general election.</p> <p>A new analysis by NHS bodies set out plans for major savings over the next five years by changing the way they operate, such as focusing on public health issues such as obesity and smoking, and reorganising local care.</p> <p>But it warned these changes would not close a predicted £30 billion ($48 billion, 38 billion euros) funding shortfall by 2020, saying that central government must increase the money it provides by another 1.5 percent a year above inflation — about £8 billion a year.</p> <p>"Healthcare in this country has improved dramatically over recent years and has weathered recent financial storms with remarkable resilience," said NHS England's chief executive, Simon Stevens, at the launch of the report.</p> <p>But he warned: "The NHS is now at a crossroads — as a country we need to decide which way to go."</p> <p>Stevens, who took over earlier this year, later told BBC radio that extra government funding was "perfectly feasible as the economy improves."</p> <p>The NHS in England had a budget of £95.6 billion last year. The proposed increase goes well beyond what either Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party or the opposition Labour party have promised they will provide if they win next May's general election.</p> <p>Chris Ham, chief executive of health charity The King's Fund, said politicians must respond to the appeal for more funding.</p> <p>"Even if the very challenging estimates for productivity improvements outlined here can be achieved, an additional £8 billion a year in funding would be needed by 2020," he said.</p> <p>"With the national leaders of the NHS speaking with one voice on this issue, politicians now need to explain whether and how they will find this money."</p> <p>Created in 1948 after World War II, the NHS paid for through taxation and provides universal healthcare free at the point of delivery.</p> <p>But the world's fourth-largest employer is coming under severe pressure from a growing population and increasingly expensive treatments, at a time when government spending across the board is being cut.</p> <p>Cameron's coalition has protected the NHS budget from austerity measures and the prime minister has vowed to do the same between 2015 and 2020 if he wins the next general election.</p> <p>Meanwhile Labor has promised an extra £2.5 billion a year for the NHS.</p> <p>ar/kah/yad</p> Need to Know United Kingdom Thu, 23 Oct 2014 16:46:27 +0000 Alice Ritchie, Agence France-Presse 6293980 at UN rights watchdog starts pressing China for a free vote in Hong Kong <!--paging_filter--><p>GENEVA — The United Nations Human Rights Committee called on China on Thursday to ensure universal suffrage in <a href="">Hong Kong</a>, stressing that included the right to stand for election as well as the right to vote.</p> <p>The panel of 18 independent experts, who monitor compliance with an international treaty on civil and political rights ratified by Hong Kong, agreed the move after voicing concern at Beijing's plan to vet candidates in the former <a href="">British</a> colony.</p> <p>The committee agreed on "the need to ensure universal suffrage, which means both the right to be elected as well as the right to vote. The main concerns of Committee members were focused on the right to stand for elections without unreasonable restrictions," Konstantine Vardzelashvili, who chaired the session, said at its conclusion.</p> <p>Thousands have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in protest against central government plans to allow only Beijing loyalists to stand in 2017 elections in which Hong Kong people will vote for their own leader. Talks between student leaders and senior officials on Tuesday failed to break a deadlock.</p> <p>Christine Chanet, a <a href="">French</a> judge and panel member, told Reuters: "The committee doesn't want candidates filtered. The problem is that Beijing wants to vet candidates ... We have now put some pressure, but not too heavily, as we absolutely need China's cooperation."</p> <p>Emily Lau, a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and chair of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong who attended the Geneva session, welcomed the UN watchdog's stance.</p> <p>"One person, one vote, but the problem is the people who will stand is very limited. The committee was clear that what is proposed by China is not compliant with the Covenant, it is not universal suffrage," Lau told Reuters.</p> <p>The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a landmark treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, was signed by China in 1998 but never ratified. The pact guarantees fundamental freedoms including the right to self-determination and free and regular elections.</p> <p>Law Yuk Kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, an activist group in Hong Kong, said: "The committee rightly pointed to the right to stand and the problem of scrutiny by a vetting committee, which is not representative of the Hong Kong population."</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Thu, 23 Oct 2014 15:30:00 +0000 Stephanie Nebehay, Thomson Reuters 6293937 at If this generation continues to stumble, the economy will fall <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Analysis: Millennials will not be the only ones suffering the consequences if we let youth unemployment rates soar unabated. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Charles M. Sennott </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NEW YORK &mdash; After a year-long reporting effort by The GroundTruth Project, a clearer picture is emerging of a millennial generation facing an uncertain global economy.</p> <p>Our team of 21 GroundTruth reporting fellows journeyed to 11 countries to tell the story of their own generation. It&rsquo;s a complex picture which combines devastating realities for many young people who economists believe will be the first generation to be worse off than their parents.</p> <p>But it is also a demographic group, typically defined as being born between 1980 and 2004, that holds out great promise for innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit that seems woven into their identity as digital natives. And this generation is actively, some might say desperately, being courted by President Obama as the swing vote in American electoral politics.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>This year, it seems the world has begun to realize that a large piece of the millennial generation has suffered the consequences of an increasingly unequal global economy that has fostered despair and in many places, from Brazil&rsquo;s street protests to the uprisings of the Arab Spring, violent expressions of dissatisfaction.</p> <p>In Brazil, they mobilized <a href="">to boycott the World Cup</a>, accusing the government of squandering their future to host wealthy tourists rather than create opportunities for the country&rsquo;s residents.</p> <p>In Spain, they are known by the Spanish-language shorthand &ldquo;NiNis&rdquo; because they&rsquo;re neither working nor in school in a country <a href="">with a youth unemployment rate above 50 percent</a>.</p> <p>In the Philippines, which has one of the youngest populations in the world, a small cohort are fighting over jobs at call centers in a&nbsp;booming &lsquo;outsourcing&rsquo; sector while a much larger number slipping deeper into poverty.</p> <p>In Nigeria, young people represented a &ldquo;<a href="">kidnapped generation</a>&rdquo; long before Boko Haram abducted 270 schoolgirls in April as a seemingly indifferent government was shamed on the world stage by the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.</p> <p>In Egypt, the young people who inspired what became known as a &ldquo;Facebook Revolution&rdquo; that toppled a dictator are redirecting their energies to <a href="">building technology startups</a> out in the desert, defying a sinking economy in an increasingly authoritarian political climate.</p> <p>In America, young people living in the country&rsquo;s former industrial heartland are finding jobs are scarce while an innovation economy is creating a thriving culture of digital startups on the coasts.</p> <p>If there is one truth that cuts across the different cultures and histories of the countries where our young reporters went to find stories, it is that the problem is global and rising in its urgency.</p> <p>GroundTruth Managing Editor Kevin Grant, who has headed up these reporting teams in the field, said, &ldquo;Our reporting revealed that youth unemployment has remarkably similar effects on societies around the world. When the future looks so bleak, it&#39;s very difficult for young people to feel like they are part of something that matters. The mundane tasks of seeking a job can feel like a waste of energy when there is so little payoff. That has led many millennials to organize, to lash out and in some cases, to give up altogether.&rdquo;</p> <p>But Grant hastened to add that while there is frustration there are also streaks of hope and innovation in a generation that, as President Obama put it in a recent policy speech on millennials, has &ldquo;an entrepreneurial spirit in its DNA.&rdquo;</p> <p>Research shows the youth unemployment crisis is not limited to any particular country or region. It is no kinder to developed nations than to developing ones. Catastrophic levels of youth unemployment have emerged since the global economic downturn began in 2008 as a sort of plague on a &ldquo;lost generation,&rdquo; with powerful implications for the planet.</p> <p>And what is increasingly clear is that we are all in this together. If this generation continues to stumble, the economy will fall.</p> <p>A research report by the Young Invincibles, a post-recession youth advocacy group, found that persistently high unemployment among young people accounts for up to <a href="">$25 billion a year</a> in uncollected tax revenue and additional strains on existing funding for social services.</p> <p>Rory O&rsquo;Sullivan, the director of the advocacy group and co-author of the report titled &ldquo;In This Together,&rdquo; explained, &ldquo;When you have an entire generation of people that are out of work, it&rsquo;s going to create tremendous costs for taxpayers both now and in the future.&rdquo;</p> <p>The report also highlights the fact that federal youth jobs programs have been cut by $1 billion a year since 2002, and it calls for the Labor Department to expand apprenticeship programs and national service programs such as AmeriCorps, which had 500,000 applications last year for just 80,000 positions.</p> <p>The World Economic Forum, which focused on the problem at its gathering in Davos in January, has emphasized the need for an entrepreneurial, &ldquo;collective approach&rdquo; to the problem to better match open positions with potential employees with required skills, providing training and mentorship programs to <a href="">those who might be otherwise unemployable</a>.</p> <p>And <a href="">the European Union has committed to an initiative</a> that &ldquo;seeks to ensure that member states offer all young people up to age 25 a quality job, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.&rdquo;</p> <p>As London-based economist Umair Haque, a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, <a href="">wrote in January</a>, &ldquo;So let&rsquo;s call it what it is. Not just unfair &mdash; but unconscionable. The world&rsquo;s so- called leaders have more or less abandoned this generation.&rdquo;</p> <p>As a culmination of our year-long reporting effort, The GroundTruth Project and International House are co-hosting a conference titled &ldquo;<a href=";gid=1&amp;pgid=2482">Generation Jobless</a>&rdquo; that is a gathering of thought leaders, politicians, economists, advocates and talented young people to work together to find solutions to the problem. We hope our reporting around the world on this issue will provide a framework for understanding the complexity and the layering of the economic realities for young people today.</p> <p>As our own Kevin Grant put it, &ldquo;We coined the concept of &#39;Generation TBD&#39; to describe a large and often neglected demographic whose future is &#39;to be determined.&#39; The uncertainty in that can be awful, the lack of trust in traditional institutions as some of the old paths to success disappear. But there is also freedom in not knowing what the future will look like, in forging new paths, and in taking it upon yourself to make the future you&#39;ve been dreaming of. Our reporters say that seeing that process firsthand has been the most inspiring part of this project. I certainly feel the same way.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>This post is part of a series produced by <a href="">The GroundTruth Project</a>, presented in partnership with The Huffington Post and International House in conjunction with the Generation Jobless conference (Oct. 24-25, New York City). The event is a solutions-based conference, offering viable, real-world solutions to remedy the critical issue of global youth unemployment. For more&nbsp;information on the conference, read <a href=";gid=1&amp;pgid=2482">here.</a> And to follow the conversation on Twitter, look for the hashtag <a href=";src=tyah">#gentbd.</a></em></p> <p class='u'></p> youth unemployment Global Economy GroundTruth Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:46:00 +0000 Charles M. Sennott 6293867 at US-led airstrikes have killed 521 fighters, 32 civilians in Syria: monitor <!--paging_filter--><p>Airstrikes by US-led forces have killed 521 Islamist fighters and 32 civilians during a month-long campaign in <a href="">Syria</a>, a monitoring group which tracks the violence said on Thursday.</p> <p>The <a href="">Britain</a>-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the vast majority of the deaths, 464, were militants from Islamic State, an Al Qaeda offshoot which has grabbed large areas of Syria and neighboring <a href="">Iraq</a>.</p> <p>The attacks also killed 57 members of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, the Observatory said. Six of the civilians were children and five were women, it added.</p> <p>The <a href="">United States</a> has been carrying out strikes in Iraq against Islamic State since July and in Syria since September with the help of Arab allies. Britain and <a href="">France</a> have also struck Islamic State targets in Iraq.</p> <p>Washington justified its action in Syria under Article 51 of the UN Charter, which covers an individual or collective right to self-defense against armed attack.</p> <p>US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said on Saturday that Washington took "reports of civilian casualties or damage to civilian facilities seriously and we have a process to investigate each allegation."</p> <p>Close to 200,000 people have been killed in Syria's three-year civil war, according to the United Nations.</p> <p>Coalition strikes have hit the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Deir al-Zor, Idlib, Raqqa and al-Hassakah, the Observatory said.</p> Need to Know Syria Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:19:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6293840 at Canada 'will not be intimidated' by parliament attack <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Canada</a>'s prime minister vowed the country would "not be intimidated" after a gunman stormed parliament and killed a soldier, the nation's second 'terrorist' attack in days.</p> <p>The gunman, whose name was on a terror watch list, attempted to force his way into Canada's parliament Wednesday before the assembly's sergeant-at-arms shot him dead.</p> <p>The attack — the second this week targeting Canadian military personnel — came as Canadian jets were to join the US-led bombing campaign against Islamist militants in <a href="">Iraq</a>.</p> <p>"Canada will never be intimidated," premier Stephen Harper told the nation in a televised address after the shootings on Wednesday.</p> <p>"In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts and those of national security agencies to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe," he said.</p> <p>The security breach came two days after an alleged Islamist ran over two soldiers in Quebec, killing one of them, in what officials branded a terrorist attack.</p> <p>In audio of the attack on parliament, repeated shots could be heard booming through its chambers.</p> <p>The suspect, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who was said to be a convert to Islam, had a record of drug offenses and robbery.</p> <p>Dave Bathurst, who met the 32-year-old Zehaf-Bibeau in a mosque about three years ago, said his friend did not at first appear to have extremist views, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.</p> <p>But he said at times he exhibited a disturbing side.</p> <p>"We were having a conversation in a kitchen, and I don't know how he worded it. He said the devil is after him," Bathurst told the the CBC. He said his friend frequently talked about the presence of Shaytan in the world -- an Arabic term for devils and demons. "I think he must have been mentally ill."</p> <p><strong>Shooter was 'high risk' </strong></p> <p>Bathurst last saw Zehaf-Bibeau praying in a mosque in the Vancouver area six weeks ago and said he spoke of wanting to go to the <a href="">Middle East</a>.</p> <p>He insisted he was only going abroad with the intent of learning about Islam and to study Arabic, Bathurst said.</p> <p>Zehaf-Bibeau was considered a "high risk" suspect, according to reports, whose passport had been confiscated to prevent him joining jihadists abroad.</p> <p>He first shot and killed a Canadian soldier who was on ceremonial guard at a war memorial on Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa, before storming into the nearby parliament building.</p> <p>The slain soldier was named as Corporal Nathan Cirillo. At least three people were admitted to hospital with minor injuries.</p> <p>The attacker was killed, reportedly by a shot fired by the bearer of the House of Commons' ceremonial mace, Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, who was hailed as a hero by lawmakers.</p> <p>Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said it appeared the shooter had acted alone.</p> <p>Lawmakers, staff and reporters, evacuated from the historic building, spoke of intense gunfire inside.</p> <p>Paul Clarke, a builder who was working in parliament at the time, said, "It's just been a nightmare."</p> <p>A member of parliament, Maurice Vellacott, told AFP that House of Commons security had told one of his aides the suspect had been killed inside parliament.</p> <p>"I heard this 'pop, pop' — possibly 10 shots, I don't really know," Liberal Party member John McKay told reporters outside.</p> <p>Passers-by told reporters that a bearded man had gunned down the soldier and hijacked a passing vehicle to take him the short distance to parliament.</p> <p>Local media reported that the suspect, raised in Laval, Quebec, about 10 miles from Montreal, had an extensive criminal record, including robbery and drug charges to which he pleaded guilty.</p> <p>A photo of Zehaf-Bibeau circulated in the Canadian media, showing him with a scarf over the lower half of his face aiming a rifle straight ahead.</p> <p>Harper had been scheduled to bestow honorary Canadian citizenship on Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban in <a href="">Pakistan</a> for campaigning for girls' right to education, on Wednesday in Toronto. The ceremony will be rescheduled, his office said.</p> <p>On Monday, 25-year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau mowed down two soldiers near Montreal, killing one of them, before being shot dead by police as he emerged from his wrecked car wielding a knife.</p> <p>Couture-Rouleau was reportedly a supporter of the jihadist Islamic State group operating in Iraq and <a href="">Syria</a>, and on the same watch list as Zehaf-Bibeau.</p> <p>The two attacks came days after Canadian authorities warned they were tracking 90 suspects, and "intelligence has indicated an individual or group within Canada or abroad has the intent and capability to commit an act of terrorism."</p> <p>mac-sab-bmr/cist-md/dw/fg/yad</p> Need to Know Canada Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:35:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6293730 at China pivots to Europe <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Beijing is snapping up investment bargains in struggling European economies. Is that threatening their future security? </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 — Billboards showing alluring pictures of seaside villas and luxury apartments have become a common sight here, which wouldn’t seem unusual except for the accompanying text — written not in Portuguese, but Chinese characters.</p> <p>That’s because Chinese investors have been first in line to take advantage of a government scheme designed to help finally pull Portugal out the <a href="">euro zone debt crisis</a> by offering European Union residency visas to foreigners who invest at least $638,000 in property here.</p> <p>The program has already injected more than $1.15 billion into Portugal's ailing real estate market since its launch in 2012, with Chinese citizens claiming 80 percent of the over 1,500 "golden visas" handed out so far.</p> <p><a href="">Spain</a>, Greece and Cyprus have launched similar schemes.</p> <p>More than a simple search for investment bargains, the millionaires' rush to grab prime Atlantic and Mediterranean beachfront is evidence of a major Chinese investment pivot to Europe, part of a globalization of <a href="">China</a>’s financial industry.</p> <p>Here in southern Europe, the Chinese are using some of their vast currency reserves to snap up bargains from crisis-hit countries forced to sell off state companies, and to make some savvy purchases among technology leaders and global brands.</p> <p>European leaders anxious for capital to boost the region's stagnant economy have been loath to bother Chinese investors with pesky US-style concerns about dependency, national security or industrial espionage.</p> <p>"At this moment, Chinese investors are really paying attention to our country, and we are very happy about that," Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said in Milan last week, just after inking trade deals worth more than $10 billion with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.</p> <p>That’s raising concerns that some European governments are too eager for short-term gains at the expense of their countries’ future security.</p> <p>Chinese investment in Europe quadrupled from 2010-2012 at the height of the euro zone crisis, according to a report released by Deutsche Bank in July.</p> <p>In 2010, China's $7.8 billion stock holdings in the EU were less than those of <a href="">Nigeria</a> or Iceland, the report showed. Two years later, it had risen to $34.1 billion, overtaking the likes of <a href="">Mexico</a> and <a href="">South Korea</a>.</p> <p>Although the rate of investment slowed last year, there are signs the Chinese buy-up of European assets is picking up pace again.</p> <p>In <a href="">Italy</a>, the $3.8 billion China is estimated to have invested so far this year is more than double the total for the past three years.</p> <p>Recent European deals have included Chinese investments in <a href="">German</a> banks and engineering firms, buy-ups of an electric car maker and a $1.4 billion pizza parlor chain in <a href="">Britain</a>, and Fosun International's $1.3 billion acquisition of Portugal's leading insurer.</p> <p>Fosun also looks poised to wrap up its pursuit of Club Med, after the <a href="">French</a> vacation group’s board backed the Chinese bid valuing the company at $1 billion.</p> <p>Despite the current surge, Chinese spending in Europe is still dwarfed by the flow in the other direction. EU investment in China reached almost $150 billion in 2012, but the gap is narrowing.</p> <p>China’s investments in Europe are motivated by more than simply a desire to seize opportunities thrown up by the euro zone crisis. The Chinese know they must diversify their assets and can’t afford to leave a $3.9 trillion horde of foreign currency reserves — the world's largest — just lying around.</p> <p>"China needs to invest because it has such a surplus of reserves that depend on currency values and if they go down, they lose out," says Gauri Khandekar, head of the Asia-Europe program at the Madrid-based think tank FRIDE.</p> <p>That means looking beyond China’s traditional focus on African raw materials and the US market, where Chinese companies have been squeezed by lawmakers' security concerns.</p> <p>"China sees Europe as a safe investment destination, but there is also a geopolitical aspect to this, Chinese investments in the US have decreased slightly and those have been transferred to Europe," Khandekar said by phone. "There is a rebalancing of where China invests. ... China is investing its reserves strategically."</p> <p>Chinese investment in Europe could get a further boost from negotiations for an investment treaty that Li and EU leaders agreed to speed up during the Chinese leader's visit to Milan last week.</p> <p>Such an agreement could ease the concerns of Chinese business leaders who complain of high costs and bureaucratic barriers holding back investment in Europe, according to a survey published last year by the EU Chamber of Commerce in China.</p> <p>On the plus side, the survey found, "the EU is perceived by Chinese enterprises as a stable investment environment with advanced technologies, skilled labor and a transparent legal environment ... in addition it is regarded as a relatively open market, with few market access barriers and little history of opposition to Chinese investments on national security grounds."</p> <p>The last point is raising concerns thanks to the nature of some Chinese investments in the EU.</p> <p>In Portugal, China's firms secured a slice of the privatized power provider Energias de Portugal and 25 percent of the company that runs the electricity grid and gas pipeline network.</p> <p>Chinese companies are frontrunners to expand their interests in the Greek transport network ahead of the planned privatization of seaports, airports and railroads.</p> <p>Huwei, the Chinese telecoms company, faces severe restrictions in the US because of security concerns. But it’s welcomed in Europe, where it enjoyed sales of $4.7 billion last year and is planning to almost double its local workforce of 7,500.</p> <p>Could China's economic power give it political leverage over European countries?</p> <p>There are worries that state-run Chinese companies may function as the Communist government’s foreign policy tools rather than in their own interests as commercial enterprises, and that China's troubled record on export controls could result in sensitive European technologies ending up in the wrong hands.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Ebola hits home in Britain even with no victims</a></strong></p> <p>Many in the business world who say these concerns are overblown believe the benefits of Chinese investment outweigh any risks.</p> <p>"It's clear Chinese investment is helping Portugal out of the crisis," says Joao Marques da Cruz, president of the Portuguese-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Energias de Portugal, which has been 21 percent owned by the China Three Gorges power company since 2011.</p> <p>"It would be a contradiction to welcome an investment, then admit there are sovereignty or security issues," he told GlobalPost.</p> <p>"That said, any government should create regulatory mechanisms that are stable, reliable and investor-friendly, while defending the state's legitimate strategic interests,” he added. “This should be a generic issue, not discriminatory against Chinese investment."</p> Euro crisis Want to Know Europe Global Economy Thu, 23 Oct 2014 06:18:49 +0000 Paul Ames 6292851 at Russia says Ukraine should find money to pay for gas within a week <!--paging_filter--><p>Ukraine should be able to find ways of paying for Russian gas supplies within a week, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday, suggesting a standoff would end once Moscow received financial guarantees from Kyiv.</p> <p>The latest round of gas talks between Moscow and Kyiv ended late on Tuesday in <a href="">Brussels</a> with no agreement in a dispute that prompted <a href="">Russia</a> to cut off gas supplies to its neighbor in mid-June, potentially hurting flows west to the European Union.</p> <p>But while Novak said he was optimistic for new talks on Oct. 29, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said he was skeptical about building ties with Russia, underlining how efforts to reach a deal are hampered by a wider political conflict between the two countries.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Russia increased the pressure on Ukraine, which is dependent on Western aid, demanding assurances on how Kyiv, would find the money to pay Moscow. Earlier Ukraine asked the European Union for a further 2 billion euros in credit.</p> <p>Novak told reporters at an energy conference in Moscow that the two sides had almost reached a deal but that the talks came unstuck "by another issue — where will Ukraine get the money to pay in advance for gas supplies in November and December."</p> <p>"If the Ukrainians have the money, then the documents will be signed. If not, then we will wait."</p> <p>Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for Russian gas exporter Gazprom, told Reuters that gas flows to Ukraine would be restarted once Kyiv received financial aid.</p> <p>"If <a href="">Europe</a> gives them the money, then gas will flow," he said.</p> <p>In Kyiv, Yatsenyuk said Kyiv was negotiating with its European partners on re-exporting gas to Ukraine and was not optimistic about the talks, overshadowed by a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea.</p> <p>"I am rather skeptical about building relations with Russia, but will see what happens on the 29th," he told a government meeting.</p> <p>Kyiv and Moscow have agreed on a price for Russian gas supplies during the winter at $385 per 35 cubic feet, but the two sides have stumbled over other issues, including whether Ukraine should be asked to pay up front.</p> <p>The deputy head of Ukraine's state energy company Naftogaz. Serhiy Pereloma, said Ukraine expected to get 201 billion cubic feet of gas in reverse flows from Europe between October and March. The country needed 26.7 bcm between those two months, down 24.5 percent from last year, he added.</p> <p>Those needs Ukraine wants to cover by its own gas production and gas from storages.</p> <p>(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Elizabeth Piper, editing by William Hardy)</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:26:13 +0000 Katya Golubkova, Thomson Reuters 6292707 at Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan says US weapons airdrop on Kobani was wrong <!--paging_filter--><p>Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday it was wrong of the <a href="">United States</a> to air drop military supplies to Kurdish fighters defending the <a href="">Syrian</a> border town of Kobani, as some weapons were seized by Islamic State militants besieging it.</p> <p>The Pentagon said on Tuesday the vast majority of the US supplies dropped on Sunday had reached the Kurdish fighters despite an online video showing Islamic State militants with a bundle.</p> <p>"What was done here on this subject turned out to be wrong. Why did it turn out wrong? Because some of the weapons they dropped from those C130s were seized by ISIL (Islamic State)," Erdogan told a news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara.</p> <p>Asked about a plan for <a href="">Turkey</a> to facilitate the passage of <a href="">Iraqi</a> Kurdish peshmerga fighters to Kobani to help in its defense, Erdogan said he proposed this move in a telephone call with US President Barack Obama at the weekend.</p> <p>"I have difficulty understanding why Kobani is so strategic for them because there are no civilians there, just around 2,000 fighters," Erdogan said. "At first they didn't say yes to peshmergas, but then they gave a partial yes and we said we would help."</p> <p>He added that talks were continuing among officials on the details of the peshmergas' transit through Turkey. One Turkish journalist close to the government said on Wednesday some 500 of them were expected to cross into Kobani this weekend.</p> <p>(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Daren Butler, editing by John Stonestreet)</p> Need to Know Turkey Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:59:07 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6292679 at Red Cross head Elhadj As Sy calls Ebola travel bans 'irrational' <!--paging_filter--><p>Closing borders will not effectively curb Ebola infections, the head of the Red Cross said on Wednesday, amid debate over whether bans on travel from hardest-hit African countries would help combat the spread of the deadly virus.</p> <p>This year's outbreak of the highly infectious haemorrhagic fever thought to have originated in forest bats is the worst on record, having killed more than 4,500 people, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.</p> <p>Travellers from the region have infected two people in the US state of Texas and one in <a href="">Madrid</a>, prompting some leaders, including some US lawmakers, to urge a ban on travel from West <a href="">Africa</a>.</p> <p>Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said such restrictions would not make sense.</p> <p>"It (Ebola) creates a lot of fear and extreme panic that sometimes lead to very irrational type of behaviors and measures, like closing borders, cancelling flights, isolating countries etc.," Sy told reporters in <a href="">Beijing</a>, where the IFRC, the world's largest humanitarian network, was holding a conference.</p> <p>"Those are not solutions. The only solution is how can we join our efforts to contain those kinds of viruses and epidemics at their epicenter, right where they start."</p> <p>Sy said he believed it was possible to contain the disease in four to six months if proper practices were implemented, but that additional investment in the West Africa's health infrastructure would be needed to prevent future outbreaks.</p> <p>Sy joins <a href="">world leaders</a>, including World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, in voicing opposition against such travel restrictions.</p> <p>The World Health Organization (WHO), which so far has not recommended blanket travel or trade restrictions on the West African countries, has warned of 5,000-10,000 new cases of Ebola globally every week by December.</p> <p>It has said the outbreak constitutes an international public health emergency and has urged the screening of passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.</p> <p>Health experts warn that excessive constraints on air travel could have severe economic consequences that could destabilize the region and possibly disrupt essential health and humanitarian services.</p> <p>The US Department of Homeland Security ratcheted up safeguards against Ebola on Tuesday, requiring travelers from the three African countries to fly into one of five major airports conducting enhanced screening for the virus.</p> <p>The White House has said President Barack Obama remains open to a travel ban if public health experts advise it, but Obama has said if a ban was implemented some travelers might attempt to enter the <a href="">United States</a> by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.</p> <p>(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)</p> Need to Know Health Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:09:41 +0000 Michael Martina, Thomson Reuters 6292612 at In a second, a bomb destroys one man's dream of reopening his Baghdad hotel <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bombings across Iraq take lives and put others on hold. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Susannah George </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BAGHDAD, <a href="">Iraq</a> — When a series of bombings ripped across Baghdad on Friday night targeting crowded street corners, cafes and a nightclub, the Hamurabi Hotel wound up caught in the crossfire.</p> <p>Shuttered for more than 10 years, the building — once a dusty time capsule of life in Iraq before car bombs and sectarian violence became a daily feature — is now shattered. The lobby and front steps were still littered with fragments of turquoise glass the morning after the attack.</p> <p>By Baghdad’s standards, the attacks Friday night had relatively low death tolls: government officials say in total 26 people were killed and more than 50 injured. At least six of those killed died outside Farig’s hotel, on streets packed in the evenings with restaurant-goers and pedestrians.</p> <p>But in addition to the lives lost, each bombing brings with it smaller tragedies: businesses destroyed, hopes crushed and lives put on hold.</p> <p>“All of this building’s design was inspired by Iraq’s past,” explained Ghanim Farig, the hotel's owner, who happened to be inside the building when the blast struck.</p> <p>Slowly walking around the lobby, Farig pointed to the blown-out windows, sofa cushions and matching wall paint. “The blue, that’s from the Gates of Babylon,” he said.</p> <p>The original gates of ancient Babylon, long since eroded and pillaged by colonial archaeologists, remain a powerful symbol of Iraq’s rich heritage. Their image adorns everything from key chains to coffee mugs. Saddam Hussein rebuilt a garish version of the gates in the 1980s, which reopened to tourists in 2010 and attracted thousands of Iraqis from all over the country before security concerns kept people away.</p> <p>Farig first opened the doors of the Hamurabi Hotel in 1979, just as Hussein formally rose to power and the country’s economy was experiencing an oil revenue boom. The hotel attracted guests from all over the world.</p> <p>A row of stopped clocks showing the time in New York, <a href="">Cairo</a>, <a href="">France</a> and <a href="">England</a> hung in the rubble-strewn reception area on Saturday, beside a bar still stocked with dusty bottles of Johnnie Walker.</p> <p>Farig had hoped to reopen the hotel, but the damage has made his dream even less likely. As he spoke, workers were arriving with plywood to board up broken windows. </p> <p>His clothing still dirty from the debris kicked up by the blast, he said he was talking on the phone with his brother in San Diego as the bomb hit the night before.</p> <p>“I was standing right here,” he explained, pointing to the cafe area just off the lobby that bore the brunt of the blast. “Thank God I had just walked around the corner before the attack, just ten minutes and I would have been dead.”</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">Hamurabi Hotel owner Ghanim Farig holds part of an old hotel stationary set in one of the building's upstairs rooms.</span> <span class="inline_image-src">(Susannah George/GlobalPost)</span></p> <p>After closing briefly during the Gulf War, the Hamurabi was shuttered more permanently in 2004 as violence following the US-led invasion of Iraq began targeting establishments frequented by Westerners. Unlike Western hotels that have continued to operate in Baghdad despite unrest, the Hamurabi’s main entrance sits directly on the street, unprotected by a fortress of blast walls and checkpoints.</p> <p>One of the reasons he closed his hotel 10 years ago was to avoid attacks like the one on Friday night, Farig said.</p> <p>Over the past month, car bombs in Iraq have struck at a steady, deadly pace. In the past week there have been 10 such attacks. While there are few claims of responsibility, Islamic State (IS) militants often use car bombs to target majority Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad.</p> <p>The rise of IS in Iraq and the increase in violence that has come with it is destroying livelihoods and pulverizing an already struggling economy. Foreign investors are being scared off, trade is declining and large areas of agricultural land have been lost in IS-controlled areas. </p> <p>More checkpoints and an increased militia presence in the capital have done little to stop the attacks. While the Iraqi government calls for more airstrikes and heavy weaponry to fight IS militants on the front lines in Anbar and Diyala provinces — and anxiety grows about the possibility IS militants could take Baghdad — for many Iraqis living in the capital, the war has already come to them.</p> <p>“I just don’t understand,” Farig said. “Why did they target me? There wasn’t even anyone here.”</p> Need to Know Travel/Tourism Conflict Zones Iraq Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:43:26 +0000 Susannah George 6292016 at Ebola hits home in Britain even with no victims <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Struggling to find the right note of caution at home, the UK is sending aid and volunteers abroad to help with the crisis. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Corinne Purtill </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON, <a href="">UK</a> — Javid Abdelmoneim returned from Sierra Leone so recently that he still advises people not to shake his hand, for their own peace of mind, until after the three-week incubation period for the Ebola virus has passed.</p> <p>At London’s Royal Society of Medicine one night, the doctor with the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres displayed a slideshow of photos taken at MSF’s emergency clinic for Ebola patients in eastern Sierra Leone. Images showed a chart noting how many orphaned children each dead patient left behind; a whiteboard list of referrals to the mental health clinic showed a scribbled note next to one patient’s number: “child died today.”</p> <p>“You will be confronted with death,” Abdelmoneim told an audience that included many considering following in his footsteps. “You will be confronted with six out of 10 of your patients dying. Think about where you’re going and what you are going to do. You’re not invincible.”</p> <p>Abdelmoneim was speaking as part of a recruitment drive organized by SLWT, a network of Sierra Leonean expatriates in Britain that’s helping find the estimated 600 to 1,000 foreign health workers needed to supplement local staff in the country’s emergency Ebola clinics.</p> <p>The current outbreak, which the World Health Organization called “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times,” has infected nearly 10,000 people and killed more than 4,500, primarily in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.</p> <p>For those with personal ties to the stricken countries, the news is particularly painful.</p> <p>“You feel kind of helpless,” said Anifa Cole, 48, a social worker from Sierra Leone who’s lived in the UK for 13 years. “There must be something you can do, even from a distance.”</p> <p>Britain is sending $200 million in aid and 100 army medics to Sierra Leone to help with the crisis.</p> <p>But it’s been criticized for waiting too long to respond to the unfolding emergency and exacerbating the economic devastation the disease is causing.</p> <p>Many airlines have suspended flights to Ebola-stricken countries. In August, British Airways canceled all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone through the end of this year.</p> <p>Relief agencies say the airline’s decision has hampered their efforts to deliver aid and could cause needless panic in affected countries.</p> <p>“We were just beginning to lift our heads above the parapet,” Cole said, referring to Sierra Leone’s recovery from a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002. “For this to happen now … how long is this setback going to last?”</p> <p>The only known case of Ebola on British soil during the current outbreak was a British nurse who contracted the virus in Sierra Leone and was airlifted back to the UK in August for treatment. William Pooley, 29, made a full recovery and returned to Sierra Leone last week.</p> <p>Since the outbreak first attracted attention, the authorities have sometimes struggled to strike the right balance between prudence and alarmism.</p> <p>At Heathrow Airport, the world’s busiest international air hub, and Gatwick Airport, immigration officials are taking temperatures and questioning passengers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Similar precautions will soon be in place at the Eurostar rail terminal in London and other regional airports.</p> <p>Health screeners at Heathrow were criticized after some were spotted shaking hands with passengers from affected countries.</p> <p>The public health department, Public Health England, initially said shaking hands posed no risks because the virus is spread only via bodily fluids. It revised its position days later: For the moment, the hand-shaking ban stands.</p> <p>“Ebola virus disease is not spread through intact skin, or by ordinary social contact, such as shaking hands or sitting next to someone,” the department said in a statement many here found confusing. “However, we have advised PHE staff responsible for screening people from countries with endemic Ebola to not shake their hands.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:<a href="">Refugee abuse scandal in Germany is highlighting failing EU policies</a></strong></p> <p>At one south England hospital, an emergency room patient with a fever was placed in isolation this weekend after he revealed he’d recently returned from <a href="">Africa</a>.</p> <p>Officials <a href="">relaxed</a> when tests showed he wasn’t carrying the virus and hadn’t visited any countries where Ebola is actually present.</p> <p>Now officials believe it’s a question of when, not if, Ebola will reach here again.</p> <p>"We will see someone with Ebola arriving in the UK,” Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters earlier this month, “and the chief medical officer thinks it will be a handful of cases in the next three months.”</p> Ebola Travel/Tourism Want to Know Diplomacy United Kingdom Wed, 22 Oct 2014 06:34:00 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6292048 at Despite the recent gunfire, Korea’s DMZ is a surprisingly nice place <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In fact, South Korea wants you to forget war and think of the militarized border as a rare animal sanctuary. </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>CHEORWON, <a href="">South Korea</a> — Bill Clinton called the heavily armed demilitarized zone here “the scariest place on Earth.”</p> <p>It is at this border between North and South that the legacy of the 1950 to 1953 Korean War — which never resulted in a peace treaty — remains tense. It’s the tangible remnant of a “forgotten war” in which more than 2 million civilians died.</p> <p>Occasional violence rattles this 2.5-mile-wide area, full of landmines, listening posts, and four known underground infiltration tunnels (now tourist sites) leading from North Korea to the South. At the iconic United Nations truce village, the Joint Security Area, North Korean guards in brown Soviet-style uniforms stand face-to-face against South Korean military police in fatigues and aviators.</p> <p>On Sunday, South Korea fired warning shots at North Korean soldiers provocatively advancing toward the demarcation line. The North angrily blamed Seoul for the incident, claiming that the troops were on a routine patrol. That was the second time this month that forces used their weapons. On Oct. 10, Kim Jong Un’s troops open fired on balloons carrying propaganda leaflets, set aloft by anti-regime activists. Though such hostilities occasionally bring tragedy, no one was wounded in either incident.</p> <p>Casualties or not, the DMZ remains a painful reality for both sides, especially for older generations whose families were separated by the Korean War. Many South Koreans see it as a reminder of the sorrows of conflict. The North Korean regime, which stakes its existence on an unending state of military emergency, views the national division as the ultimate betrayal of Koreans to the supposed empire-building of the US.</p> <p>Now, the South Korean government wants to reboot the DMZ’s image, highlighting its immense wildlife, undisturbed scenery, and corresponding potential to bridge the division between two bitter foes.</p> <p>With decades of minimal human activity, the world’s most fortified border — with its diverse plains, hills, swamps and prairies — has ironically emerged as a vast wildlife refuge with few equivalents, home to a variety of endangered cranes, Siberian tigers and black bears, among others.</p> <p><img alt="DMZ and birds" class="imagecache-gp3_full_article" src="" title=""></p> <p>In the latest of a raft of state rebranding campaigns, South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye is pushing for the construction of a “Peace Park” smack in the middle of the DMZ, part of a trust-building strategy that she calls "Trustpolitik."</p> <p>Park hopes her park will someday be a first step toward tossing out historical baggage. “By making the Demilitarized Zone a symbol of peace, we can erase the memories of war and provocations, and create a new beginning of trust, cooperation and unity on the Korean Peninsula,” the president said in a speech in August.</p> <p>The $28.7 million project would require an unusual degree of cooperation from a finicky regime, along with support from the United Nations Command, which has DMZ jurisdiction. Thanks to widespread skepticism, the South Korean parliament has so far declined to earmark the requested budget.</p> <p>This isn’t the first ambitious plan to overhaul the DMZ. Under the previous administration in 2012, South Korea rebranded parts of the perilous border with a new name, the “Peace and Life Zone (PLZ)".</p> <p>Few visitors actually use the PLZ moniker, but in many areas, the state-concocted title lives up to the hype. Here in the Cheorwon Basin, a grain-basket region on the eastern side of the DMZ, tourists can observe flocks of rare migratory birds lingering near one of the Korean War’s bloodiest battlefields. “Yes, the DMZ is tense and there can be fighting. But this war has also given us a source of beauty,” asserts a nearby South Korean army guard, pointing to the cranes on a pristine shimmering lake.</p> <p>The government is also looking into constructing an industrial park for eco-friendly South Korean companies, potentially offering them cheap North Korean labor. In other areas of the DMZ, there are early plans to erect a “world peace culture town” and ecological park.</p> <p>One industrial zone already set up on the North Korean side of the border, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, has long trucked in cheap North Korean laborers to work in South Korean factories. But it’s long taken the brunt of inter-Korean frictions, with operations occasionally halted or slowed down when tensions flare.</p> <p>Critics question whether a peace park should even be entertained until more pressing matters are addressed. Former North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il declined a similar proposal from the former South Korean president in 2007, citing ongoing security concerns, according to a transcript of the rare meeting that was leaked last year.</p> <p>“I guess it doesn’t hurt to go through these rhetorical motions, but it’s basically just that — rhetoric,” said Robert Kelly, political science professor at Busan National University in South Korea. “Until North Korea really changes, calling the DMZ a ‘peace park’ is a pleasant fiction.”</p> <p>“Maybe renaming it would help rebrand Korea,” he said. “But that too is rhetoric.”</p> Want to Know North Korea South Korea Wed, 22 Oct 2014 05:24:00 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6291768 at Latin American and Caribbean countries to launch Ebola action plan <!--paging_filter--><p>Twelve Latin American and Caribbean countries agreed Monday to tighten border checks to stop Ebola from spreading to the region and draft an action plan to deal with the epidemic.</p> <p>"We agreed to coordinate our efforts to prevent Ebola and deal with the epidemic," said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the close of an extraordinary summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in <a href="">Cuba</a>.</p> <p>The leftist regional bloc adopted a 23-point response to the outbreak, which has not spread to <a href="">Latin America</a>, despite several false alarms, but has killed more than 4,500 people, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.</p> <p>The measures include increased security at ports and airports and marching orders for the group's health ministries to develop a regional Ebola action plan by November 5.</p> <p>Health experts from the region will meet in Havana on October 29 and 30 to draw up the plan.</p> <p>Cuban President Raul Castro opened the Ebola summit — the first of its kind in Latin America — warning his fellow leaders that "a terrible epidemic is spreading among our brother peoples in Africa and threatens us all."</p> <p>"If this threat isn't stopped in west Africa... it can become one of the most serious pandemics in human history," said the communist leader.</p> <p>"African blood runs in our veins," he added.</p> <p>Cuba has sought to place itself at the forefront of the international response to the Ebola epidemic, sending 165 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone to combat the disease.</p> <p>Castro announced another group would leave Tuesday for Liberia and Guinea.</p> <p>UN sources said there would be 90 doctors and nurses in the new deployment. Cuba has pledged to send a total of 461 health professionals to combat Ebola.</p> <p>The ALBA summit came on the same day European foreign ministers met in <a href="">Luxembourg</a> on the epidemic, calling for a "united, coordinated and increased effort" to contain the outbreak.</p> <p>Founded by late socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez, ALBA has nine member states: <a href="">Venezuela</a>, <a href="">Bolivia</a>, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.</p> <p>Haiti, Grenada, and Saint Kitts and Nevis also joined Monday's summit.</p> <p>The UN coordinator on Ebola, David Nabarro, and the director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne, also took part.</p> <p>fj/jhb/jm</p> Need to Know Americas Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:15:25 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6291816 at Mexico announces reward for information on 43 missing students <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Mexico</a>'s government announced Monday a $110,000 reward for information in the disappearance of 43 students in a case of alleged collusion between a drug gang and police.</p> <p>The reward was announced in national newspapers and featured black and white photos of the 43 students, who went missing three weeks ago in the southern city of Iguala.</p> <p>The reward applies to information on the whereabouts of the students or for the identification of those responsible for their disappearance.</p> <p>Meanwhile, representatives of the students' families expressed wariness over the government's probe of the case. The disappearances have triggered an uproar in this country painfully used to drug-related violence.</p> <p>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Mexican mass graves: A survivor's story</a></p> <p>The representatives raised their concerns after meeting with Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong and Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam.</p> <p>"We do not believe in the results (of the investigation) so far because there is nothing that takes us close to the truth," said Felipe de la Cruz, a relative of one of the missing.</p> <p>"Today we tried to trust the federal government but the results do not satisfy us," de la Cruz said.</p> <p>Authorities say Iguala's police force shot at buses carrying the students on September 26 and handed them over to officers in the neighboring town of Cocula, who then delivered them to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.</p> <p>A total of 36 municipal officers in Iguala have been arrested in the case, along with 17 Guerreros Unidos members and their boss.</p> <p>The attorney general has said investigators are still analyzing the contents of three mass graves found near Iguala after declaring last week that 28 bodies found in one pit did not belong to the students.</p> <p>yo/gbv/dw/rmb</p> Need to Know Mexico Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:29:22 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6291770 at Sweden says it's ready to use force against suspicious submarine <!--paging_filter--><p>Sweden's armed forces chief warned Tuesday it could use force to bring to the surface a suspected Russian mini-submarine its navy has been hunting for days.</p> <p>Battleships, minesweepers, helicopters and more than 200 troops have scoured an area about 20 to 40 miles from the Swedish capital since Friday following reports of a "man-made object" in the water.</p> <p>Supreme Commander General Sverker Goeranson said there was "probable underwater activity" off the coast of Stockholm and he was ready to use "armed force" to bring the mystery vessel to the surface.</p> <p>Sweden released a hazy photograph of what might be a mini-sub on Sunday.</p> <p>"The most important value of the operation — regardless of whether we find something — is to send a very clear signal that Sweden and its armed forces are acting and are ready to act when we think this kind of activity is violating our borders," the general said.</p> <p>"Our aim now is to force whatever it is up to the surface... with armed force, if necessary," he added.</p> <p>Despite widespread speculation that the "activity" is a Russian U-boat — amid unconfirmed reports of intercepted transmissions to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the other side of the Baltic Sea, and the presence of a near stationary Russian oil tanker off Swedish waters since the operation began — authorities in Sweden have not singled out <a href="">Russia</a> in their comments.</p> <p>Russia has denied having any submarine in the area, and pointed the finger at <a href="">the Netherlands</a>, which laughed off the claim, saying its submarine had already docked in the Estonian capital Tallinn after taking part in exercises with the Swedish navy.</p> <p><strong>'Difficult to locate subs' </strong></p> <p>"We have not found any vessel. We consider that the reports... confirm something is happening. There is probable underwater activity," Goeranson told reporters, adding that it was it was "extremely difficult" to locate submarines.</p> <p>"We never succeeded in the past — and no one else has either."</p> <p>Still, he said the massive military operation — which focused Tuesday afternoon on the island of Ingaroe, just 30 kilometers from Stockholm — would continue for as long as necessary.</p> <p>During more than a decade of hunting Russian U-boats in the 1980s and early 90s, Sweden never succeeded in capturing one, except in 1981 when the U137 ran aground several miles from one of Sweden's largest naval bases, triggering an embarrassing diplomatic stand-off for Russia.</p> <p>Early Tuesday afternoon, at least five naval ships were stationed for more than two hours in an area east of Ingaroe, the closest reported point to the Swedish mainland since the operation began. The daily Dagens Nyheter reported that one of the ships had "made contact" with something, but General Goeranson denied the claim.</p> <p>Tensions have risen around the Baltic since the military operation began with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics calling it a potential "game changer" for the security of the region.</p> <p>Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius told Swedish newpaper Expressen Tuesday that the suspected Russian activity was a "warning to the Baltic countries and Scandinavia".</p> <p>"What began in Ukraine is visible in other locations. EU countries must now stand united... Only by being united can we meet these challenges and threats," he added.</p> <p>ts/ph/fg</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:03:39 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6291732 at Afghan poppy cultivation hits new high despite $7.6 billion US counter-narcotics efforts <!--paging_filter--><p>Opium poppy cultivation in <a href="">Afghanistan</a> hit an all-time high in 2013 despite years of counter-narcotics efforts that have cost the <a href="">United States</a> $7.6 billion, the US government watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction spending said on Tuesday.</p> <p>The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Afghan farmers grew an "unprecedented" 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres) of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous high of 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) in 2007, said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.</p> <p>"In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the US government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production," Sopko said in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top US officials.</p> <p>"The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts," he said.</p> <p>Afghanistan produces more than 80 percent of the world's illicit opium, and profits from the illegal trade help fund the Taliban insurgency. US government officials blame poppy production for fueling corruption and instability, undermining good government and subverting the legal economy.</p> <p>The United States has spent $7.6 billion on counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since launching the programs following the start of the 2001 war, it said.</p> <p>Sopko said the UN drug office estimated the value of poppy cultivation and opium products produced in Afghanistan in 2013 at about $3 billion, a 50 percent increase over the $2 billion estimated in 2012.</p> <p>"With deteriorating security in many parts of Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases in cultivation are likely in 2014," Sopko said in the letter.</p> <p>He said affordable deep-well technology brought to Afghanistan over the past decade had enabled Afghans to turn 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of desert in southwestern Afghanistan into arable land, much of it devoted to poppy production.</p> <p>The US Embassy in Kabul, in a letter responding to the findings, said the rise in poppy cultivation and decline in eradication efforts by provincial authorities was "disappointing news." It said US officials were helping Afghans develop the ability to lead and manage a long-term counter-narcotics effort.</p> <p>The embassy said the fight against poppy cultivation had an impact on growers, resulting in a change in where the crop is planted.</p> <p>"Essentially, poppy cultivation has shifted from areas where government presence is broadly supported and security has improved, toward more remote and isolated areas where governance is weak and security is inadequate," it said.</p> <p>Michael Lumpkin, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said in a response letter that the Pentagon had supported counter-narcotics operations by other US government agencies but was not responsible for managing poppy eradication programs.</p> <p>"In our opinion, the failure to reduce poppy cultivation and increase eradication is due to the lack of Afghan government support for the effort," Lumpkin said.</p> <p>(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)</p> <p>  </p> Afghanistan Need to Know Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:43:18 +0000 David Alexander, Thomson Reuters 6291715 at Britain sends drones to fly surveillance missions over Syria <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Britain</a> said on Tuesday it was authorizing spy planes and armed drones to fly surveillance missions over <a href="">Syria</a> "very shortly" in order to gather intelligence on Islamic State (IS) militants.</p> <p>Britain announced the deployment after Turkey said on Monday it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce fellow Kurds in the Syrian town of Kobani on Turkey's border.</p> <p>Michael Fallon, Britain's defense minister, said both Reaper drones and Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft would fly over Syria as part of "efforts to protect our national security from the terrorist threat emanating from there."</p> <p>But in a written statement to parliament he stressed that Reapers would not be allowed to use their weapons in Syria, something he said would require "further permission," meaning a vote in parliament.</p> <p>Fallon announced last week that Britain was deploying armed Reaper drones to the <a href="">Middle East</a> to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State in <a href="">Iraq</a>. So far, the Royal Air Force has conducted around 38 combat missions against IS in Iraq.</p> <p>Parliament voted to approve air strikes against IS in Iraq last month, after a request from the Iraqi government. But Britain isn't conducting air strikes in Syria. It has previously said such strikes would require fresh parliamentary approval.</p> <p>(This story has been refiled to clarify that Rivet Joint is a piloted aircraft)</p> <p>(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn)</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:12:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6291709 at Human Rights Watch says Ukraine may have used cluster bombs <!--paging_filter--><p>Evidence collected by Human Rights Watch suggests government forces have used cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists may also have done so, the New York-based watchdog said on Tuesday.</p> <p>Spokesmen for the Kyiv government's military operation and the pro-Russian rebels they are fighting in the east denied the accusations.</p> <p>Cluster bombs explode in the air, scattering dozens of smaller bomblets over an area the size of a sports field. Most nations have banned their use under a convention that became international law in 2010, but Ukraine has not signed it.</p> <p>Human Rights Watch said in a statement that it had carried out a week-long investigation in eastern Ukraine, where more than 3,700 people have been killed in fighting since April, and documented widespread use of cluster munitions.</p> <p>It said it could not conclusively determine responsibility for many of the attacks but "the evidence points to Ukrainian government forces' responsibility for several cluster munition attacks" this month on Donetsk, the rebels' main stronghold.</p> <p>"It is shocking to see a weapon that most countries have banned used so extensively in eastern Ukraine," said Mark Hiznay, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Ukrainian authorities should make an immediate commitment not to use cluster munitions and join the treaty to ban them."</p> <p>In 12 incidents documented, cluster munitions killed at least six people and wounded dozens, but the toll could be higher, the watchdog said.</p> <p>The incidents included the killing of a Swiss International Red Cross worker in Donetsk on Oct. 2, it said.</p> <p>Human Rights Watch said it had identified the cluster munitions by their distinctive crater and fragmentation patterns, by remnants found at the impact sites and by remnants of the rockets found in the vicinity.</p> <p>"We do not use cluster munitions. They can only be used by aviation and our aviation has not flown since the announcement of a ceasefire on September 5," said military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.</p> <p>Another ATO spokesman, Vladyslav Seleznyov, described the accusations as "utter nonsense."</p> <p>Human Rights Watch added: "While not conclusive, circumstances indicate that anti-government forces might also have been responsible for the use of cluster munitions."</p> <p>Andrei Purgin, who has been appointed deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said rebel forces had no access to Uragan (Hurricane) rockets which the rights group accused Kyiv of using with cluster munitions.</p> <p>"We have old Soviet rockets but no Uragans. We simply haven't seized them from the Ukrainians," Purgin said by telephone.</p> <p>Pro-Russian rebels say most of their weapons are from seized Ukrainian arms stockpiles, though Kyiv and the West accuse Moscow of sending the separatists weapons and soldiers.</p> <p><a href="">Russia</a> has denied sending troops or weapons to help the rebels but Human Rights Watch urged Moscow to commit to not using cluster munitions and accede to the cluster munitions treaty.</p> <p>(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv and by Thomas Grove in Donetsk, Ukraine; Editing by Timothy Heritage)</p> Need to Know Europe Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:34:33 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6291702 at Chatter: Don't freak out but Ebola is in New York City right now <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Doctors confirm first case of Ebola in New York City. But don't worry about it. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Peter Gelling </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:50:00 +0000 Peter Gelling 5942065 at Hong Kong leader says elections could be 'more democratic' as talks with protesters begin <!--paging_filter--><p>The panel chosen to pick candidates for <a href="">Hong Kong</a>'s 2017 election could be made "more democratic," the territory's leader said on Tuesday, the first indication of a possible concession to pro-democracy protesters who have blocked city streets for weeks.</p> <p>Leung Chun-ying was talking just hours before formal talks got under way between student protest leaders and city officials aimed at defusing the crisis in the former <a href="">British</a> colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.</p> <p>"There's room for discussion there," he told reporters. "There's room to make the nominating committee more democratic."</p> <p>In August, Communist Party rulers in Beijing offered Hong Kong people the chance to vote for their own leader in 2017, but said only two to three candidates could run after getting majority backing from a 1,200-person nominating committee, which is widely expected to be stacked with Beijing loyalists.</p> <p>The protesters decry this as "fake" Chinese-style democracy and say they won't leave the streets unless Beijing allows open nominations.</p> <p>Discussion of the injection of more democracy into the formation of the nominating committee could only start later in the year when the city government launches a new round of consultations for electoral methods, Leung told reporters in a conference room in his office building.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">10 incredibly inspiring things about the Hong Kong protests, in photos</a></strong></p> <p>After more than three weeks of demonstrations that have snarled traffic, and mostly tough talk from Leung and other government officials, expectations are low for a major breakthrough in Tuesday's talks.</p> <p>Three large screens and projectors were set up at the tent-strewn main protest site on a thoroughfare in the Admiralty district, next to the government offices. Thousands of people jammed around them to watch the dialogue, with periodic cheering during the opening remarks by student leader Alex Chow and jeering when Chief Secretary Carrie Lam spoke.</p> <p>"The students' voices and demands have been clearly heard by the special administrative region government, Hong Kong society and the central government," said Lam, seated on one side of a U-shaped table with four colleagues facing an equal number student leaders wearing black t-shirts.</p> <p>"But no matter how high the ideals, they must be strived for through legal, appropriate and rational means."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Meet the enemies of Occupy Hong Kong</a></strong></p> <p>For their part, the students urged the government to build trust by putting forward a "realistic and feasible" timetable and roadmap for democratic development.</p> <p>"The Hong Kong government is in the best position to get the people of Hong Kong to go home (and end the protests)," said Chow.</p> <p>China's CCTV showed the talks live, but only the government officials, not the students.</p> <p>The protests have sparked occasional scuffles between demonstrators and the police, who once fired tear gas on the crowd and have also used pepper spray and batons, but have not attempted to clear the streets.</p> <p>Leung told reporters, however, that such action "could take place whenever the police see it as necessary. It is their duty to maintain law and order in Hong Kong.</p> <p>"We are not tying the dialogue with the students to police actions ... we have never said that while dialogues go on — and there will probably be several rounds of dialogue with the students — the police will not carry out necessary actions."</p> <p>Leung, who was not taking part in the talks with students, declined to say if there was a deadline for clearing the protesters from city streets and said the government did not have "any instructions from Beijing."</p> <p>But he said he believed that people of Hong Kong were losing patience.</p> <p><strong>A numbers game</strong></p> <p>In blunt remarks on Monday that could inflame students, Leung told some foreign media that free elections were unacceptable partly because they risked giving Hong Kong's poor and working class a dominant voice in politics.</p> <p>"If it's entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month," Leung told the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.</p> <p>"Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies," added Leung, warning of the dangers of populism and insisting that the electoral system needed to protect minority groups.</p> <p>Critics say the political system already favors the rich in Hong Kong, which has one of the biggest wealth gaps in <a href="">Asia</a> and where the vast majority of people cannot afford their own home.</p> <p>The government canceled talks scheduled for earlier this month after the students called for the protests to expand.</p> <p>Hong Kong's streets have been calm after dozens of people were injured in two nights of clashes over the weekend in the Mong Kok shopping district, including 22 police.</p> <p>Besides Mong Kok, where demonstrators remain, about 1,000 protesters are camped out at the headquarters of the civil disobedience "Occupy" movement at Admiralty in a sea of tents on an eight-lane highway beneath skyscrapers close to government headquarters.</p> <p>Hong Kong is ruled under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows it wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms and specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal. But Beijing is wary about copycat demands for reform on the mainland.</p> <p>Leung told the foreign newspapers that Hong Kong had been "lucky" that Beijing had not yet felt the need to intervene.</p> <p>The Hong Kong leader appears hamstrung, unable to compromise because of the message that would send to Chinese on the mainland, while using more force would likely only galvanize the protests.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Clare Jim, Farah Master and Yimou Lee; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Nick Macfie)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:49:40 +0000 James Pomfret and Clare Baldwin, Thomson Reuters 6291626 at Refugee abuse scandal in Germany is highlighting failing EU policies <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As growing numbers flood into Europe, the crisis is straining the continent's ability to cope. </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>ESSEN, Germany &mdash; Midway through describing his alleged abuse by security guards at a home for asylum seekers here, Badr Abboussi breaks off to answer a call on his cell phone.</p> <p>After speaking rapidly in Italian, the 21-year-old originally from Morocco hangs up, shrugs his shoulders and says ruefully, &ldquo;Transfer.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ordinarily, that would be good news. Getting transferred from the dormitory-like processing center where he&rsquo;s been living for the past two months to semi-permanent housing would normally signal that the government has agreed to evaluate his asylum claim.</p> <p>But with his complaint against the Opti-Park refugee home in this western German city still pending, Abboussi is worried that it represents an effort to shut him up by shuffling him out of sight.</p> <p>&ldquo;They treat animals better than they treat us,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>Abboussi says private security guards beat and kicked him so severely that doctors at a nearby hospital wanted to keep him overnight for observation. Dozens of others have recently filed similar <a href="">complaints </a>about humiliating treatment at homes across the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.</p> <p>As Germans wake up to that and other news of grim conditions in overstretched facilities, cases like Abboussi&#39;s are prompting locals to <a href="">call for</a> other European Union members to help by taking on more refugees.</p> <p>But with millions of Syrians fleeing to Lebanon and Turkey promising to increase refugee rosters in Europe, a looming crisis is putting pressure on ties already strained between EU members.</p> <p>Among those calling for change, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is proposing that EU member states accept refugee <a href="">quotas </a>based on their population sizes or GDP in order to limit the flow into Germany.</p> <p>Berlin will host an international <a href="">conference </a>next week to discuss aid to countries hardest hit by the exodus from Syria, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.</p> <p>But much-needed reforms of the EU&#39;s own refugee policies probably won&#39;t make the agenda.</p> <p>Instead, human rights activists say, Europe remains <a href="">focused </a>on building border fences and stepping up patrols to keep people out.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&#39;t see the EU member states taking a great share with their resettlement programs or humanitarian mission programs,&rdquo; says Franziska Vilmar of Amnesty International.</p> <p>Critics of Germany&#39;s abuse cases say they highlight the fact that current policies are encouraging people to think of asylum seekers as invaders or lawbreakers.</p> <p>Nearly 10 days went by before local police turned up to investigate Abboussi&#39;s claims. In another <a href="">case </a>guards took videos and photographs of themselves stepping on the neck of a handcuffed resident.</p> <p>Those victims are the lucky ones.</p> <p>For many others, Europe&#39;s fortification of its land borders has proven deadly. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say hundreds of thousands have tried to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats this year, resulting in a <a href="http://year.">record </a>death toll of more than 3,000 people.</p> <p>As EU member countries squabble over the high cost of absorbing the refugees who do make it to Europe, there are <a href="">signs </a>of an even greater emphasis on policing the borders on the horizon.</p> <p>The EU has already spent billions of dollars on building fences, installing electronic surveillance and conducting patrols in Bulgaria, Greece and other border states.</p> <p>But that&rsquo;s done little to stem the flow.</p> <p>Next month, Italy will turn over its Mare Nostrum naval search and rescue operation to the EU&#39;s comparatively underequipped Frontex border police agency because other member states <a href="">aren&#39;t willing</a> to share the $8 million-a-month bill.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s worrying observers.</p> <p>&ldquo;If Mare Nostrum stops and Frontex takes over, we will with open eyes have a large zone in the Mediterranean where people will drown,&rdquo; Vilmar says.</p> <p>Germany&#39;s own refugee crisis is shining a spotlight on how EU policies are contributing to the problem.</p> <p>Under an <a href="">agreement </a>forged in Dublin in 2003, the first EU state to process asylum seekers&rsquo; arrival typically assumes responsibility for taking them in and evaluating their claims for refugee status.</p> <p>The idea was to prevent asylum seekers from being shuttled from country to country in interminable limbo or &ldquo;asylum shopping&rdquo; in various states to increase their chances of being accepted.</p> <p>In practice, the scheme has pitted EU border states against others on the continent &mdash; and states that are relatively friendly to refugees against the more refugee-averse &mdash; which has both worsened conditions for the refugees themselves and strained EU ties already stretched thin by infighting over austerity measures and other issues.</p> <p>Many Germans believe the current policy, together with the effects of the euro crisis, have forced a small number of wealthy countries in northern Europe to accept responsibility for around three-quarters of the EU&rsquo;s asylum seekers.</p> <p>However, refugee advocates who point to the problems inside Germany say new quotas would only exacerbate poor conditions for asylum seekers.</p> <p>Germany allots refugees to its states based on local wealth and population, as it hopes the EU will begin doing at the country level.</p> <p>But critics say restricting people from moving freely within Germany after they&#39;ve been granted temporary residence has inadvertently encouraged administrators to treat them like criminals.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">This Spanish family physician wants you to know more about illegal drugs</a></strong></p> <p>&ldquo;Of course the discourse in Germany leads to even more negative and hostile attitudes in large parts of the German population,&rdquo; says Karl Kopp of Frankfurt-based Pro Asyl.</p> <p>At the EU level, current policies have even more severe consequences, critics say.</p> <p>The fact that countries processing asylum seekers are responsible for not only evaluating their claims, but also providing for their well-being if they&rsquo;re granted refugee status, is creating an incentive for EU border states to pack arrivals onto trains and buses destined for other countries instead of processing them as required under the Dublin convention.</p> <p>As Europe&rsquo;s refugee crisis deepens, some say a change that allows refugees a choice in where they land is the only solution.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Dublin system is collapsing,&rdquo; Kopp says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s time for a real alternative which is taking into account the needs of asylum seekers.&rdquo;</p> Europe migrants Want to Know Germany Politics Tue, 21 Oct 2014 07:20:53 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6290985 at War in the Philippines has raged for decades due to neglect and bad management <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> That's what Patricio P. Diaz says. He has spent life covering it. He’s 88. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jake Soriano </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MANILA, <a href="">Philippines</a> — The works of journalist Patricio P. Diaz would make a comprehensive history of the conflict in the Southern Philippines. He was only in his 20s when he started off as a reporter and columnist for a Mindanao publication.</p> <p>But covering the conflict continues for Diaz, now 88 years old.</p> <p>“Conflict was still very manageable” back in 1969, he once wrote in retrospect.</p> <p>“A problem that could have been nipped in the bud had been allowed to grow into its present crisis through indifference, neglect, miscalculation and misunderstanding,” he noted.</p> <p>Peace in the region has long remained elusive, although there have been promising recent developments. In March the Philippines government signed a “final” peace agreement with rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). And on Sept. 10, after several months of delay, President Benigno S. Aquino III submitted to congressional leaders the draft bill that would create a more autonomous region in Mindanao.</p> <p>This new political region is to be called Bangsamoro. It is set to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Unlike the rest of the Philippines, it will have a parliamentary form of government. The draft bill lists 58 powers exclusive to the Bangsamoro government, including authority over economic zones and industrial centers.</p> <p>Writing in his column for MindaNews, Diaz sees many challenges ahead. The biggest hurdle is limited time, as the Bangsamoro region is expected to be set up by 2016.</p> <p>The House of Representatives hopes to pass the Bangsamoro bill by December this year, and the Philippines Senate by early 2015. Yet even with the lawmakers’ best efforts, the law designating this new region should face stiff challenges before the Philippines Supreme Court.</p> <p>“Too many possible complications within so short a time seem too real for comfort,” writes Diaz, who still lives in Mindanao and still writes with the same incisive and biting prose as before. (About the peace deal and the future of the Bangsamoro, he recently wrote: “There is no better deal than the best.”)</p> <p> These are words of caution from the same journalist who has been proven right by history many times in his career.</p> <p>“Muslim problems should not be taken lightly,” Diaz wrote in a 1969 piece about land disputes in the Southern Philippines. He warned the national government in the same article to do more than just placate Muslim leaders in times of tension.</p> <p>The warning went unheeded. By the 1970s, rebellion exploded in Mindanao.</p> <p>In 1989, amid government efforts to legislate an autonomy act for Muslim Mindanao, Diaz wrote that autonomy is good only if it reconciles Christians and Muslims in the region and brings back to the socio-political mainstream the rebel groups MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).</p> <p>Autonomy, no matter how constitutional, should be “reconsidered, rethought and revised” if it fails to achieve these goals, he said.</p> <p>He took issue with the use of the name “Muslim Mindanao” for being divisive. He warned that it is dangerous “to enact an autonomy based on legal and political principles” without addressing squarely the roots of the problem in Mindanao.</p> <p>That same year, the Philippines Congress enacted a law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.</p> <p>More than 20 years later, President Aquino himself admitted that ARMM has been “a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun.”</p> <p>The similarities between this assessment and the scenario Diaz saw coming two decades ago are striking.</p> <p>With discussions on the Bangsamoro bill ongoing, Diaz notes that the law creating ARMM was never questioned on the grounds of constitutionality. The same is not the case for the Bangsamoro bill.</p> <p>“We have to prepare for the worst, not just the best,” he writes.</p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Philippines Tue, 21 Oct 2014 07:20:50 +0000 Jake Soriano 6270239 at Japanese PM Shinzo Abe loses 2 ministers over cash scandals <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Japan</a>'s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suffered a double setback Monday with the resignations of two female cabinet ministers over claims they misused political funds, dealing a blow to his proclaimed gender reform drive.</p> <p>Industry minister Yuko Obuchi and justice minister Midori Matsushima quit after days of allegations that they had misspent money in what opponents insisted was an attempt to buy votes.</p> <p>Their loss reduces to three the number of women in the cabinet, after Abe's widely-praised move in September to promote a record-tying five to his administration.</p> <p>"I'm the person who appointed the two. As prime minister, I take responsibility for this and deeply apologize for this situation," Abe told reporters.</p> <p>Yoichi Miyazawa, a lawmaker and nephew of former prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa, will replace Obuchi as industry minister, Abe said.</p> <p>Yoko Kamikawa, a 61-year-old female politician and former state minister in charge of Japan's declining birthrate, was named as the new justice minister.</p> <p>The double resignations are the first significant problem for Abe since he swept to power in December 2012, ending years of fragile governments that swapped prime ministers on an annual basis.</p> <p>While commentators generally agreed that this would not be the end of the hard-charging premier, who has moved to reinvigorate Japan's lacklustre economy, they cautioned that he was now vulnerable.</p> <p>"This is Abe's first major stumble," said Tomoaki Iwai, professor of politics at Nihon University in Tokyo.</p> <p>"His approval rate is likely to fall and Abe will be under pressure. If he repeats similar mistakes, it's going to be a fatal blow to his administration."</p> <p>Obuchi, who carried on the dynasty of her father, a former prime minister, offered a fresh, youthful face on the front benches -- a place generally dominated by older men.</p> <p>As a mother of two, her family-friendly image was expected to help convince a sceptical public on the safety of re-starting Japan's stalled nuclear power plants.</p> <p>But her elevation had also reportedly irked some longer-serving male politicians who felt they were passed over in favour of a younger woman with little cabinet experience.</p> <p><strong>Subsidized theater trips </strong></p> <p>Obuchi's downfall started last week when reports emerged that she had spent political funds on make-up and accessories as gifts for supporters.</p> <p>They were followed by claims that she had subsidised theatre trips for voters from her rural constituency.</p> <p>The claims, which were priced at tens of millions of yen (hundreds of thousands of dollars) over several years, were taken as evidence of attempted vote buying.</p> <p>"It is not permissible for me as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to have economy and energy policies stalled because of my own problems," she told a press conference carried live on multiple television channels.</p> <p>"I will resign and focus on probing what has been called into question," she told reporters after a 30-minute meeting with Abe.</p> <p>Matsushima has been under fire for allegedly giving out cheap paper fans with her name and picture printed on them, in what critics said was a bid to buy support.</p> <p>One of those fans was for sale on an Internet auction site Monday, with the price having reached 2,100 yen ($20).</p> <p>Money scandals are not uncommon in Japanese politics, where the pork barrel reigns and rules on spending tend to be slightly opaque, barring little except explicit bribery and vote buying.</p> <p>The promotion of five women to his cabinet was seen as part of Abe's bid to boost the role of women in society, a move viewed as vital to help plug the holes in Japan's workforce and make better use of a pool of latent talent.</p> <p>Asked if she felt her relative youth and her gender had played a role in the way the scandal emerged, Obuchi demurred.</p> <p>"I only learnt now that this issue could be seen in this light," she said.</p> <p>Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary-general and the number two in Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, earlier said Obuchi's resignation was "extremely regrettable."</p> <p>"As Ms Obuchi was symbolic of women having an active role, I think there will be damage (to the government)," Tanigaki told reporters.</p> <p>mis-kh/si/pb/kjl</p> Need to Know Japan Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:40:13 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6290939 at European Commission President Barroso warns Britain against 'historic mistake' on immigration <!--paging_filter--><p>European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday he risked upsetting allies and losing international clout if he pursued an anti-immigration agenda designed to placate domestic voters.</p> <p>Cameron retorted that British voters were concerned about immigration, and he was responding to those concerns. He has pledged to hold a referendum on Britain's European Union membership if his Conservative party wins a 2015 election, as he takes an increasingly hawkish view on curbing migration within the EU and reviewing its freedom of movement principle.</p> <p>Cameron hopes to persuade voters that he has a workable plan to address their concerns over immigration. He also wants to curtail the growing support for the hardline anti-EU <a href="">UK</a> Independence party (UKIP), which threatens his chances at next year's vote.</p> <p>Barroso, whose 10-year term as head of the EU's executive body ends next month, warned Cameron on Sunday against trying to seek changes to the EU's freedom of movement rules, saying they were essential to the bloc's internal market.</p> <p>In a speech at London's Chatham House on Monday, he went further, saying that by engaging in such rhetoric on immigration, Britain risks isolating itself in <a href="">Europe</a> and undermining its attempts to achieve wider reforms.</p> <p>"It would be an historic mistake if on these issues Britain were to continue to alienate its natural allies in central and eastern Europe," Barroso said.</p> <p>"It is an illusion to believe that space for dialogue can be created if the tone and substance of the arguments you put forward question the very principle at stake and offend fellow member states."</p> <p>Cameron has broadly outlined areas in which he wants to win reform from the EU, such as migration controls, retaining lawmaking powers at a national level and cutting red-tape for businesses. He has not given specific details, however. Other British parties also want reforms, but there is no consensus on a re-negotiation strategy.</p> <p>Cameron has long said he would like Britain to stay in a reformed EU, but British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said last week the bloc would have to come up with a meaty reform deal if it wanted to avoid a break.</p> <p>Cameron rejected Barroso's criticism, saying the British people were his boss and he answered to them.</p> <p>"We need to address people's concerns about immigration," he told reporters on Monday. "They want this issue fixed, they're not being unreasonable about it and I will fix it."</p> <p><strong>Friends</strong></p> <p>Barroso said that while he understood British voters' concerns over Europe, the country has benefited from having the backing of other EU states on geopolitical issues such as climate change negotiations and sanctions against <a href="">Russia</a>.</p> <p>"In short, could the UK get by without a little help from your friends? My answer is probably not," he said.</p> <p>The Sunday Times newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reported that Cameron wanted to cap the number of low-skilled migrants from within the EU who could register to work in the country.</p> <p>Barroso said while there was great willingness among other EU countries to accommodate Britain's concerns, there were clearly red lines that could not be crossed. He said he thought an arbitrary cap on immigration would "never be accepted".</p> <p>"Are we going to create a European Union of first- and second-class citizens? No," he said.</p> <p>Barroso warned of the impact leaving the bloc would have on Britain's prosperity, saying some of the "most important" global companies had said both publicly and privately that they would move out of the country if it were to leave the EU.</p> <p>Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cameron's pro-Europe junior coalition partner, said Britain would not be made stronger or more prosperous by leaving the bloc. Cameron's party was being pushed closer to EU exit by their "blind panic" over the rise of UKIP, he said.</p> <p>"The Conservatives have now embarked on a strategy which has only one final destination, which is leaving the European Union altogether," Clegg told reporters on Monday.</p> <p>(Editing by Angus MacSwan)</p> Need to Know Europe Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:59:00 +0000 William James and Kylie MacLellan, Thomson Reuters 6290909 at Here's how Nigeria successfully curbed its Ebola outbreak <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Nigeria</a> was declared free of the deadly Ebola virus on Monday after a determined doctor and thousands of officials and volunteers helped end an outbreak still ravaging other parts of West <a href="">Africa</a> and threatening the <a href="">United States</a> and <a href="">Spain</a>.</p> <p>Caught unawares when a diplomat arrived with the disease from Liberia, authorities were alerted by Doctor Ameyo Adadevoh, who diagnosed it, kept him in hospital despite protests from him and his government and later died from Ebola herself.</p> <p>They then set about trying to contain it in an overcrowded city of 21 million where it could easily have turned a doomsday scenario if about 300 people who had been in direct or indirect contact with him not been traced and isolated.</p> <p>"This is a spectacular success story," Rui Gama Vaz from the World Health Organization (WHO) told a news conference in the capital Abuja, where officials broke into applause when he announced that Nigeria had shaken off the disease.</p> <p>"It shows that Ebola can be contained, but we must be clear that we have only won a battle, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola."</p> <p>This year's outbreak of the highly infectious hemorrhagic fever thought to have originated in forest bats is the worst on record.</p> <p>The virus has killed 4,546 people across the three most-affected countries, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and travelers have from the region have infected two people in Texas and one in Madrid.</p> <p>It was imported to Nigeria when Liberian-American diplomat Patrick Sawyer collapsed at the main international airport in Lagos on July 20.</p> <p>Airport staff were unprepared and the government had not set up any hospital isolation unit, so he was able to infect several people, including health workers in the hospital where he was taken, some of whom had to restrain him to keep him there.</p> <p>Lagos, the commercial hub of Africa's most populous nation, largest economy and leading energy producer, would have been an ideal springboard for Ebola to spread across the country.</p> <p>"Nigeria was not really prepared for the outbreak, but the swift response from the federal government, state governments (and) international organizations ... was essential," said Samuel Matoka, Ebola operations manager in Nigeria for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).</p> <p>The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was involved in managing the outbreak, said officials and volunteers reached more than 26,000 households of people living around the contacts of the Ebola patients.</p> <p>President Goodluck Jonathan urged Nigerians to "replicate the unity of purpose and all-hands-on-deck approach adopted against Ebola in other areas of national life."</p> <p>"Nigeria’s globally-acclaimed success against Ebola is a testimony to what Nigerians can achieve if they set aside their differences and work together," a presidential statement said.</p> <p><strong>'Stand your ground'</strong></p> <p>Adadevoh, doctor on call at the First Consultants hospital in Lagos where Sawyer was brought, prevented the dying man from spreading it further, Benjamin Ohiaeri, a doctor there who survived the disease, told Reuters.</p> <p>Ebola is much more contagious once symptoms become severe.</p> <p>"We agreed that the thing to do was not to let him out of the hospital," Ohiaeri said, even after he became aggressive and demanded to be set free.</p> <p>"If we had let him out, within 24 hours of being here, he would have contacted and infected a lot more people."</p> <p>Sawyer was reported only to have malaria, Ohiaeri said. But Adadevoh noticed he had bloodshot eyes and was passing blood in his urine — telltale signs of hemorrhagic fever. She left instructions by his bed that under no circumstances should anyone let him leave.</p> <p>At one point, Sawyer ripped off his intravenous tube and a nurse had to put it back, according to a source close to the hospital staff. She later got infected and died. Sawyer then became aggressive and had to be physically restrained.</p> <p>Ohiaeri said a Liberian government official on the phone had even threatened negative consequences if they did not release Sawyer, saying that holding him was tantamount to kidnapping.</p> <p>"The lesson there is: stand your ground," he said.</p> <p>Once the hospital contacted the ministries of health in the state of Lagos and the federal ministry in Abuja, authorities quickly set up and equipped an isolation unit.</p> <p>Lagos state governor Babatunde Fashola rushed back from a pilgrimage to Mecca to handle the crisis, Ohiaeri said.</p> <p>Nigeria used an existing health surveillance system for Polio for contact tracing, so was able to trace and isolate Sawyer's primary and secondary contacts quickly. Mobile technology meant live updates could be made to the contact list.</p> <p>"Everyone played their part. We're so proud," Ohiaeri said.</p> <p>IFRC's Matoka said contact tracing of suspected cases was key to preventing the disease from spreading into communities where it would have been harder to control.</p> <p>"It was effective in identifying all suspected cases and keeping watch on them before they developed symptoms and infect other people. We were able to remove people from communities once they showed symptoms and (before they) infect many others," he said.</p> <p>Even when the virus found its way to the oil hub of Port Harcourt in the southeast, authorities were able to quickly contain it, an example WHO said others should be able to follow.</p> <p>"If a country like Nigeria, hampered by serious security problems, can do this ... any country in the world experiencing an imported case can hold onward transmission to just a handful of cases," WHO Director Margaret Chan said in a statement.</p> <p>For the three impoverished countries at the epicenter of the crisis it is a different matter. According to consultancy DaMina Advisors, Nigeria has one doctor per 2,879 people compared with one per 86,275 in Liberia. [ID:nL2N0QI01Y]</p> <p>Nigeria's success in preventing the spread of the disease contrasts with its slower and more fractious response to crises such as the kidnapping in April of more than 200 girls still being held by Islamist militant group Boko Haram.</p> <p>"The approach to Ebola was pragmatic, patriotic and non-partisan," said Lagos-based political analyst and lawyer Emekanka Onyebuchi.</p> <p>"They put the nation first and this is what we should have done in other areas, like the (kidnapped) girls."</p> <p>The cooperation between the central government in Nigeria and the opposition-led administration in Lagos state contrasts with the United States, where bickering between Republican and Democrat lawmakers over Ebola has eroded public trust.</p> <p>Alex Okoh, Nigeria's director of Port health services, said the lesson the United States and other countries can learn from Nigeria is to "put aside the political barriers and focus on the issues at hand."</p> <p><a href="">Senegal</a>, where one case was imported from Guinea, was declared Ebola-free on Friday.</p> <p>Officials hope such success stories will change the way the West, where many are currently in the grip of a panic about a disease brought to their shores from "Africa," sees the crisis.</p> <p>"There is focus on the worst-case scenarios, which again perpetuate the wrong, negative image of Africa as opposed to looking at some of the areas where there has been success," said Abdul Tejan-Cole, a Sierra Leonean who is executive director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg, Tim Cocks and Bate Felix in Lags; writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Bate Felix and Philippa Fletcher)</p> Need to Know Nigeria Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:27:02 +0000 Camillus Eboh and Angela Ukomadu, Thomson Reuters 6290888 at This is the simple but effective Islamic State strategy to win hearts and minds <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Village by village, the extremist group has manipulated Arabs, Yazidis and Christians alike with a campaign of kindness one day, terror the next. </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>SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq — The men in the video appear tense as the conversion ceremony begins. They are Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion that originates in northern Iraq. But here, they are seen converting to Islam under the watchful eye of armed Islamic State (IS) militants.</p> <p>After the ceremony the film cuts to a new scene where the men stand together in a group. The converts and the militants call on Yazidis who’ve fled their homes in the region of Sinjar to return to be “protected by the Islamic State.” IS militants dressed in dishdashas welcome the Yazidi men as “brothers.”</p> <p>These men were likely spared death in exchange for their conversion. Hundreds of other Yazidis have been systematically executed in villages across Sinjar since early August, including 600 in the village of Kocho alone.</p> <p>Later in the video, a man with a microphone interviews an IS militant.</p> <p>“Various politicized media outlets published false reports that you had killed the Yazidis, and forced them to convert to Islam, and violated the honor of their women. How do you respond to these reports?” he asks in Arabic.</p> <p>“This is the opposite of what really happened,” the fighter responds. “The Islamic State does its utmost for the repentance of any infidel — whether Yazidi, Crusader [Christian], or Jewish. We have been fighting for no other reason than to extract people from their ‘kufr’ [‘unbelief’] and to usher them into the fold of Islam.”</p> <p>The world is now familiar with the most grisly of IS propaganda. The videos that have made international headlines and grabbed viewers on YouTube and Twitter show massacres, executions and beheadings. These shows of uncompromising violence are meant to deter anyone who may oppose the group, and so far, they’ve succeeded: both Iraqi and Kurdish forces have withdrawn from IS onslaughts against populations across Iraq, often without putting up a fight or even hanging around long enough to warn defenseless civilians they were on their own.</p> <p>Far less dramatic, and largely unnoticed by international media, is the equally strong IS campaign to win the hearts and minds of those they wish to make part of their “caliphate.” While portraying themselves as merciless warriors on the battlefield, IS has also gone to great lengths to show that living under their rule, at least for Muslims, is not so bad.</p> <p><strong>First 'trust,' then 'atrocities'</strong></p> <p>Highly produced IS videos, tweets and magazines — even glossy print versions — contain plenty of nonviolent content that caters to a wide audience. In one video, a man describes being part of IS as "<a href="" target="_blank">paradise</a>." In another, women speak of the purity of IS family life and the joy of being widowed through martyrdom. In some of its most chilling propaganda aimed at foreign audiences, IS has even used captive British journalist John Cantlie to present a video series in English that counters Western media reports of IS atrocities. Cantlie calmly narrates the videos while seated at a desk.</p> <p>In the recently released issue No. 4 of Dabiq, the IS magazine printed in English, an article outlines "services for Muslims" under IS rule that include street cleaning, care for the elderly and even a children's cancer center in Nineveh province.</p> <p>In IS-controlled Mosul, according to residents there, the full school curriculum has been changed to reflect the extremists’ ideology. Even popular video games, including a <a href="" target="_blank">doctored version of Grand Theft Auto</a>, have been altered to include IS flags and fighters.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%"><span class="inline_image-caption">"Grand Theft Auto," Islamic State edition. </span> <span class="inline_image-src">(Screengrab/YouTube) </span></p> <p>As it expands its borders town by town, IS issues statements and holds public meetings in the early stages of occupation offering messages of welcome, tolerance and multicultural brotherhood.</p> <p>By all accounts the militants at first defy expectations: they are polite, even when carrying out evictions and arrests of local residents. According to their victims, they don't swear or yell, displaying more outward courtesy and control than government and police forces often do.</p> <p>But early promises are quickly replaced by a system of brutal laws and sometimes mass executions.</p> <p>Speaking by telephone to GlobalPost last week, several of the Yazidi men shown in the conversion video said they remain prisoners of IS in a village in Sinjar. Many of the converts have been allowed to reunite with their wives, who also converted under duress, they said. The converted have greater freedom than other Yazidi captives — the ability to make and receive phone calls, for example.</p> <p>More female family members remain among the thousands kidnapped by IS. Several of the captives speaking by phone said that their younger children were recently returned to them with their wives, but that IS soon took away the daughters who are 9 and older. As <a href="" target="_blank">GlobalPost has reported previously</a>, hundreds of Yazidi girls and women have already been sold as wives or slaves in both Iraq and <a href="">Syria</a>.</p> <p>“I want to tell you this is how IS operate(s): They make traps,” said Dr. Salim Hassan, a geologist and professor at the University of Sulaymaniyeh. Hassan is from the village of Kocho in Niniveh province, where authorities estimate the Islamic State executed 600 men on Aug. 11. The professor now heads the Committee for Yazidi IDPs (internally displaced people) in Sulimaniyeh, where he is documenting the stories of those who’ve survived IS violence.</p> <p>“Always when they first control they say ‘We don't kill anyone, you are all our brothers,’ like when they controlled Mosul. But after they win trust they begin to enforce their laws and commit their atrocities. This is their way,” he said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Think the Islamic State is bad? Check out the 'good guys'</a></strong></p> <p>Choosing to trust the word of brutal militants might seem unfathomable to those living in safe and peaceful societies. In Iraq, violence and brutality are commonplace no matter whose rule you live under.</p> <p>Many minority groups had no clear safe haven after IS overran much of northern Iraq this summer. They felt the Kurds had abandoned them or even sold them out. Desperate to believe they could safely stay in their own homes, welcoming words from IS invaders may have been a great relief.</p> <p><strong>A pattern of takeover tactics </strong></p> <p>When Sunni Muslim IS entered Mosul on June 11, at the start of a great sweep of territory across Iraq, Shia families were told they were welcome to stay and even given phone numbers to call if “anyone hassled them,” according to a local reporter and historian who has been secretly documenting IS activities from within the city under the pseudonym Mosul Eye.</p> <p>Within weeks, those families had disappeared and IS had seized their homes and property. It’s unclear whether they ran, were taken captive, or were killed.</p> <p>Christians who were forced out of Mosul also say IS was kind at first. For more than a month, Christian families who had remained in the city after the IS takeover said they were treated well and urged to tell fellow Christians who had fled that it was safe to return. Many did.</p> <p>But then on July 17, the armed militants delivered an ultimatum: Christians had two days to either convert to Islam or pay a protection tax, or they’d be killed. The only other option was to flee and leave everything behind.</p> <p>Christian families were forced to abandon their homes, their savings, and their possessions. They walked out of Mosul carrying nothing.</p> <p>Perhaps no group has suffered from IS deception as much as northern Iraq’s small Yazidi community. The militants have apparently compelled local Arabs, already trusted in their neighborhoods, to persuade Yazidis as well.</p> <p>When IS entered the Yazidi villages of Sinjar on Aug. 3, survivors report they were told if they stayed in their homes and raised a white flag, they would be safe.</p> <p>“The man who told us this was our neighbor,” said a survivor who asked to remain anonymous because IS is still holding his two wives and 25 children.</p> <p>“He is Arab but we have known him for years. We trusted him. He told us IS were taking over the town but as long as we didn’t fight we would be welcome to stay.”</p> <p>Many families from Sinjar reported being told the same thing from Arab friends or neighbors. It is unclear whether these neighbors supported IS, or were pressured or deceived into relaying these messages.</p> <p>"We had no reason not to believe it," said one Yazidi man said who now lives at an <a href="" target="_blank">abandoned building site in Zakho</a>, his family captured or dead.</p> <p>Another Yazidi man from Sinjar said IS militants charged him with carrying a message to other Yazidis sheltering in the Sinjar Mountains, where tens of thousands had fled in early August to escape IS.</p> <p>“They told me I must go to the mountain and tell everyone the fighting is over and it is safe to come back down,” he said. He traveled there alone, leaving his family behind. He learned by phone later that his family members were taken prisoner and split up shortly after he left. He didn’t try to go back, and is now living as a refugee in Turkey.</p> <p>For Mosan Aliaz, 24, his first contact with IS was at his uncle’s house close to the Sinjar Mountains, where he and a large group of his relatives were sheltering in August.</p> <p>A car arrived. “In the car with them was one of our relatives from the village,” he said. “[The relative] said we had nothing to fear, [that IS] only wanted to change the government and get rid of the Shia. He told us to stay where we were and we would be safe.”</p> <p>The car left, but shortly after, 20 more vehicles showed up and surrounded the house.</p> <p>The women and children, along with the valuables, were packed into pickup trucks and driven away. The 90 Yazidi men, along with some of their Shia neighbors, were told they must convert to Islam. All refused. They were then taken to a valley and lined up in rows.</p> <p>“Two of my cousins ran. They couldn’t help themselves. You should have seen these guys. They were big and mean. My cousins just got scared,” Aliaz said. “[IS] opened fire on them.”</p> <p>Aliaz stood with his father and his five brothers, the youngest just 13.</p> <p>“My father said [to IS], ‘My son is 13 years old. Why would you kill a boy?’ They said that is the law and they fired.”</p> <p>The bodies rolled down the valley and Aliaz with them. Then another round. A bullet hit Aliaz in the arm. Another clipped the side of his head. His ears were bleeding from the shockwaves of point-blank gunfire. But he survived and made it to safety, alone.</p> <p><strong>The moments before a massacre</strong></p> <p>In Kocho, south of Sinjar, IS had also told villagers in early August that they would be safe. There had been rumors of IS atrocities against the Yazidi people at that point, but no proof.</p> <p>Salim Murad, 24, said for a time IS mostly left his village alone.</p> <p>“They came several times to ask if we needed anything,” he said. “We didn’t think there was any need for us to leave our homes.”</p> <p>The tribal leader of Kocho, Ahmed Jasa, had several meetings with IS leaders and trusted their word, according to Hassan, the doctor from Kocho who is documenting IS violence.</p> <p>“He told the people not to be afraid,” Hassan said.</p> <p>On Aug. 11, people from the neighboring village of Hadmaya fled to the mountains. The Hadmaya village chief didn’t trust IS, Hassan said, so the residents made a collective choice to run in the dead of night.</p> <p>Later that day IS surrounded Kocho.</p> <p>“[IS] called all people to gather at the largest school and bring their money, valuables, phones and laptops. An IS man announced, ‘We told you to be Muslim, but you didn’t agree. No problem, you are free to choose. Give us all your valuables and we will take you to the mountain to join your friends,’” Hassan said.</p> <p>The people were relieved, he said. They believed these words. But instead of the mountain, the trucks took them to an execution site. Only a few survived. The violence in Kocho represented the <a href="" target="_blank">largest IS massacre of Yazidis</a> reported to date.</p> <p>“They gave them their word, but then they killed them all, including [tribal leader] Ahmed Jasa,” Hassan said. “It has become a lesson to all people not to trust IS.”</p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Need to Know Iraq Middle East Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:36:44 +0000 Tracey Shelton 6290142 at This Spanish family physician wants you to know more about illegal drugs <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Meet Dr. X, who's fighting taboos with the help of drug marketplaces on the ‘deep web.’ </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Koren Helbig </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MADRID, Spain &mdash; Pop into the medical center where Fernando Caudevilla works by day, a public practice in this city&rsquo;s southern Carabanchel neighborhood, and he will appear to be just a regular family physician, all crisp white coat and reassuring advice.</p> <p>Just 20 minutes across town in a swanky private practice near the Prado Museum where Caudevilla spends his afternoons, however, the atmosphere is markedly different.</p> <p>Publications like Cannabis Magazine and &ldquo;Ecstasy: The Complete Guide&rdquo; line the bookshelves. Caudevilla occasionally props open his office window to suck down a cigarette.</p> <p>Here, most of his patients are drug users.</p> <p>The fit 40-year-old, his left ear studded with a small silver piercing, has specialized in illegal drugs since graduating from medical school 15 years ago. Last June, he stumbled across Silk Road, an online marketplace for illegal drugs on the &ldquo;deep web&rdquo;&mdash; sites that aren&rsquo;t indexed by standard search engines &mdash; and abruptly created an alter ego: Dr X.</p> <p>Under his pseudonym, Caudevilla began freely doling out advice on the risks and benefits of almost any drug imaginable.</p> <p>He&rsquo;s since received more than 600 questions and 50,000 visits.</p> <p>&ldquo;They ask me many different things,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s the best way to use a certain drug? I have a health problem, can I use this drug? I&rsquo;m taking this prescription drug, can I mix it with this?&rdquo;</p> <p>Made possible by anonymous internet browsing and anonymous money transfers using the alternative currency Bitcoin, <a href="">Silk Road</a> was shut down by the FBI last year.</p> <p>Silk Road 2.0 promptly materialized along with a host of other imitation sites. An April <a href="">report </a>found the online trade in illicit drugs is now bigger than ever.</p> <p>Caudevilla, who&rsquo;s been <a href="">described </a>as the Roger Ebert of illegal drugs, exploits the popularity of deep web forums to connect with drug users disenfranchised by the traditional medical system.</p> <p>He says his work is aimed at making drug use less risky. Caudevilla is critical of the catch-all &ldquo;say no to drugs&rdquo; prevention model, arguing that it alienates drug takers.</p> <p>&ldquo;People are afraid of doctors,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s similar to what happened with sex 50 or 60 years ago. Now you can be divorced, homosexual, you can have orgies: It&rsquo;s your personal life and the professional&rsquo;s work is prevention.&rdquo;</p> <p>He praises the drug forums for helping break taboos and offering reliable information.</p> <p>&ldquo;We have to cover both sides: the negatives like addiction, dependence, problems with purity, health problems, but also the positive aspects,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t say: &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t take this drug.&rsquo; We say: &lsquo;If you are going to do this, you have to know these things.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p> <p>This year, Caudevilla stepped his activities up a notch.</p> <p>After years working with Energy Control &mdash; a Spanish non-profit laboratory that tests the purity of illegal drug samples collected by volunteers at raves and parties &mdash; he opened the lab to donations from around the world in April and began receiving drugs from all corners of the globe.</p> <p>&ldquo;About 50 or 60 percent come from within Europe, but we&rsquo;ve had some from the United States, Australia, Japan,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We received 70 samples in four months and we had 20 different types of drugs &mdash; cocaine, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, ketamine, speed, methamphetamine, synthetic cannabis, methadone, even some prescription drugs.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cocaine is most often adulterated. It&rsquo;s cut with caffeine or, more dangerously, the anti-parasite drug levamisole, which has appeared in 30 to 50 percent of all samples analyzed by Energy Control and other testing facilities.</p> <p>A 2013 Energy Control <a href="">report </a>found 38 percent of pills sold as ecstasy didn&#39;t contain any of the drug.</p> <p>Although Caudevilla&rsquo;s work has attracted criticism from opponents who argue he&rsquo;s simply promoting drug use, calls for more education and less prohibition are growing.</p> <p>Among the proponents, David Caldicott, an emergency medicine specialist in Australia, advocates a stronger focus on harm minimization.</p> <p>&ldquo;Young people don&rsquo;t use these drugs because they want to rebel or they want to be naughty,&rdquo; he <a href="">told </a>ABC radio last month.</p> <p>&ldquo;They use these drugs because it makes them feel great, and that&rsquo;s where the dialogue in preventing people from using drugs needs to start. If you tell them that they&rsquo;re naughty or that what they&rsquo;re doing is merely illegal, they will laugh at you.&rdquo;</p> <p>While Caldicott supports tightly controlled legalization of medical marijuana, Caudevilla believes in more widespread legalization. He says that would ensure minimum levels of purity, safeguarding users from toxic adulterations, and prevent dealers from cooking up new drugs with untested risks and toxicity levels.</p> <p>&ldquo;The more dangerous a drug, the more reason to make it legal, to make it controlled,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We have tomatoes, tobacco and antibiotics &mdash; they&rsquo;re all legal products, but each one is available in different ways.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Legalizing drugs doesn&rsquo;t mean you&rsquo;ll be able to buy cocaine everywhere,&rdquo; he adds. &ldquo;Each substance would have a different status.&rdquo;</p> <p>Most governments continue to balk at calls for widespread legalization, except in Uruguay, which last December became the first country to <a href="">legalize </a>cannabis production, sales and consumption.</p> <p>Drug decriminalization seems more likely. That already exists to an extent in Spain, where marijuana can be grown and consumed for private use, an allowance that&rsquo;s fuelled the development of hundreds of members-only cannabis <a href="">clubs</a>, especially in Barcelona.</p> <p>Although buying and consuming pot in public is illegal, it&rsquo;s punishable by a fine rather than jail time. Only selling is considered a crime.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Is the American right wing influencing Ireland&rsquo;s vote on same-sex marriage?</a></strong></p> <p>In July, the World Health Organization made a discreet but clear <a href="">call </a>for countries to consider decriminalizing drugs, including injecting drugs. The move surprised observers, not least because another influential global organization, the UN, follows a longstanding policy advocating the criminalization of drug use.</p> <p>However, Caudevilla hopes the WHO&rsquo;s move prompts action elsewhere.</p> <p>&ldquo;Prohibition is a moral experiment that we started in the 1920s,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve spent 80 years with wrong drug politics. Anything is better than what we have right now.&rdquo;</p> Drugs Want to Know Culture & Lifestyle Spain Mon, 20 Oct 2014 05:54:31 +0000 Koren Helbig 6288084 at Spanish nurse cleared of Ebola <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Teresa Romero, who was hospitalized on Oct. 6 at the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, has tested negative for the deadly virus. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>A Spanish nurse who was the first person to catch Ebola outside of <a href="">Africa</a> no longer has the virus, according to medical test results Sunday, the government said.</p> <p>Teresa Romero, who was hospitalized on Oct. 6 at the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, has tested negative for the deadly virus, the special committee responsible for monitoring the virus in <a href="">Spain</a> said in a statement.</p> <p>She will be given another test to confirm the results "in the coming hours", said the statement, adding that her "health was... developing favorably."</p> <p>"I am very happy today because we can say Teresa beat the disease," her husband, Javier Limon, said in a video filmed in the hospital room where he is being kept under observation.</p> <p>He and another 14 people who had contact with Romero before she was diagnosed with Ebola are still being kept under observation at the Carlos III hospital. The statement said none of them have yet shown symptoms.</p> <p>"We both started to cry, to laugh" after hearing the news, Romero's friend Teresa Mesa told media gathered outside the hospital after speaking to the nurse by phone.</p> <p>"She really wants to leave... She is already up and eating almost everything," she added.</p> <p>Romero is the first person known to have become infected with the haemorrhagic fever outside Africa, where it has killed more than 4,500 people.</p> <p>The 44-year-old nurse caught the deadly virus, which is passed by contact with the bodily fluids of those infected, after caring for two Spanish missionaries who were repatriated from west Africa. The two men later died.</p> <p>Mesa said Romero told her she fought for her life after catching Ebola, which begins with fever and can then escalate to diarrhoea, vomiting, internal bleeding and organ failure.</p> <p>The hospital must now wait 21 days — the virus's incubation period — to be sure that the 50 or so people who cared for Romero were not infected during her time in the hospital.</p> <p>Second tests of two other suspected cases, one who had contact with the nurse and a traveller from <a href="">Nigeria</a> who developed a fever on an Air <a href="">France</a> flight from Paris to Madrid, were both negative, the committee statement said.</p> Africa Need to Know Health Spain Sun, 19 Oct 2014 22:23:15 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6290074 at Fiercest fighting in days hits Syrian border town <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish fighters with mortars and car bombs. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Humeyra Pamuk, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>URFA, Turkey — The fiercest fighting in days shook the Syrian border town of Kobani overnight, sources inside the town and a monitoring group said on Sunday, as Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish fighters with mortars and car bombs.</p> <p>Islamic State, which controls much of <a href="">Syria</a> and <a href="">Iraq</a>, fired 44 mortars at Kurdish parts of the town on Saturday, some of which fell inside Turkey, according to the <a href="">British</a>-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It said four more were fired on Sunday.</p> <p>The month-long battle for Kobani has ebbed and flowed. A week ago, Kurds warned the town would fall imminently and the US-led coalition stepped up air strikes on Islamic State, which wants to take Kobani to consolidate its position in northern Syria.</p> <p>The coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since August and extended the campaign to Syria in September after Islamic State, a group that espouses a rigid interpretation of Islam and initially focused on fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, made huge territorial gains.</p> <p>Raids on Islamic State around Kobani have been stepped up, with the fate of the town seen as an important test for US President Barack Obama's campaign against the Islamists.</p> <p>NATO member Turkey, whose forces are ranged along the border overlooking Kobani, is a reluctant member of the coalition, insisting the allies should also confront Assad to end a civil war that has killed close to 200,000 people since March 2011.</p> <p>"We had the most intense clashes of days, perhaps a week last night. [Islamic State] attacked from three different sides including the municipality building side and the market place," said Abdulrahman Gok, a journalist in Kobani.</p> <p>"Clashes did not stop until the morning. We have had an early morning walk inside the city and have seen lots of damaged cars on the streets and unexploded mortar shells," he said.</p> <p><strong>Car bombs</strong></p> <p>The Observatory reported two Islamic State car bombs hit Kurdish positions on Saturday evening leading to casualties. A cloud of black smoke towered over Kobani on Sunday.</p> <p>A fighter from the female units of the main Syrian Kurdish militia in Kobani, YPG, said Kurdish fighters were able to detonate the car bombs before they reached their targets.</p> <p>"Last night there were clashes all across Kobani ... this morning the clashes are still ongoing," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.</p> <p>The Observatory said 70 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the past two days, according to sources at the hospital in the nearby town of Tel Abyab, where Islamic State bodies are taken. Reuters cannot independently confirm the reports due to security restrictions.</p> <p>The Observatory said some Syrian Arab fighters from the Revolutionaries of Raqqa Brigade, which are fighting alongside Kurdish fighters, had executed two Islamic State captives.</p> <p>"One was a child of around 15 years old. They shot them in the head," he said.</p> <p>Islamic State have also used executions throughout their campaigns in Syria and Iraq, killing hundreds of their enemies and civilians who are opposed to their cause, according to Islamic State videos and statements.</p> <p>Hundreds of thousands have fled their advance. Turkey hosts about 1.5 million Syrian refugees, including almost 200,000 Syrian Kurds from Kobani.</p> <p>Ankara has refused to rearm beleaguered Kurdish fighters, who complain they are at huge disadvantage in the face of Islamic State's weaponry, many of it seized from the Iraqi military when it took the city of Mosul in June.</p> <p>Turkey views the YPG with suspicion for its long-standing links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 30-year armed campaign for self-rule in Turkey.</p> <p>President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted in the Turkish media on Sunday as saying Ankara will never arm the YPG through its political wing, the PYD.</p> <p>"There has been talk of arming the PYD to establish a front here against the Islamic State. For us, the PYD is the same as the PKK, it’s a terrorist organization. It would be very, very wrong to expect us to openly say ‘yes’ to our NATO ally America giving this kind of support. To expect something like this from us is impossible," he was quoted as saying.</p> <p>This stance has sparked outrage among Turkey's own Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of the population. Riots in several cities earlier this month killed more than 35 people.</p> <p><em>(Additional reporting by Hamdi Istanbullu in Mursitpinar, Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul and Oliver Holmes in <a href="">Beirut</a>; Editing by Giles Elgood)</em></p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Syria Military Iraq Politics Turkey Sun, 19 Oct 2014 15:06:48 +0000 Humeyra Pamuk, Thomson Reuters 6289836 at US-led coalition jets strike Kobani, Islamic State shells hit Turkey <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Islamic State militants have battled Kurdish fighters for a month to take control of Kobani. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Humeyra Pamuk and Oliver Holmes, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MURSITPINAR, Turkey, and BEIRUT, <a href="">Lebanon</a> — US-led coalition jets pounded suspected Islamic State targets at least six times in the besieged Syrian town of Kobani on Saturday after the fiercest shelling in days by the insurgents shook the town's center and hit border areas within Turkey.</p> <p>Shelling continued after the strikes hit the center of Kobani. Several mortars fell inside Turkey near the border gate, called Mursitpinar, according to witnesses.</p> <p>Islamic State militants have battled Kurdish fighters for a month to take control of Kobani and consolidate a 60-mile stretch of land they control along the Turkish border, but stepped-up air strikes in recent days have helped Kurds fend off the advance.</p> <p>The coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in <a href="">Iraq</a> since August and extended the campaign to <a href="">Syria</a> in September after the Islamic State, a group that espouses a rigid interpretation of Islam and initially focused on fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, made huge territorial gains.</p> <p>NATO member Turkey is a somewhat reluctant member of the coalition, insisting it must also confront Assad to end a civil war that has killed some 200,000 civilians since March 2011.</p> <p>On Saturday, the <a href="">Britain</a>-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said US-led forces bombing Islamic State in Syria killed 10 civilians in two separate air strikes.</p> <p>But US Central Command said there was no evidence to back up the report. Its forces use mitigation measures to reduce the potential for civilian casualties, a spokesman said.</p> <p>Reuters cannot independently confirm the reports due to security restrictions.</p> <p><strong>"Cut off"</strong></p> <p>In Kobani, a commander for the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia defending Kobani, who would only gave her code name Dicle, said Islamic State's renewed attacks were aimed at severing the town's last link with Turkey.</p> <p>"They want to cut off Kobani's connection with the rest of the world," she told Reuters by telephone. "Turkey is not allowing in fighters or weapons, but they send aid at Mursitpinar. The Islamic State wants to destroy this gate so that we will be completely trapped here."</p> <p>Turkey has refused to rearm beleaguered Kurdish fighters, who complain they are at huge disadvantage in the face of Islamic State's weaponry, many of it seized from the Iraqi military when it took the city of Mosul in June.</p> <p>Turkey views the YPG with suspicion for its long-standing links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 30-year armed campaign for self-rule in Turkey.</p> <p>President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this month the PKK was no better than the Islamic State in his view.</p> <p>This stance sparked outrage among Turkey's own Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of the population. Riots in several cities earlier this month killed more than 35 people.</p> <p><strong>Intense shelling </strong></p> <p>The Syrian Observatory said the Islamic State had launched at least 21 mortar attacks on Saturday close to the border.</p> <p>Abdulrahman Gok, a journalist inside Kobani, said by telephone said the fighting was the worst in two days. "In the past hour, the shelling has intensified. They are firing almost one every two minutes," he said, adding that the insurgents were aiming at the east side of town towards the Mursitpinar gate.</p> <p>A cloud of black smoke towered over the center of Kobani following the latest air strike as the roar of fighter jets could be heard from a blue sky. Gunfire popped in the west and center of town.</p> <p>Elsewhere in Syria, government forces shelled neighborhoods in Damascus, the southern province of Deraa and the central province of Homs, opposition activists said.</p> <p>Army helicopters were dropping improvised barrel bombs on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in northwest Idlib province, which also borders Turkey, they said.</p> <p>Islamic State supporters circulated what they said was a nine-second video clip of a fighter jet said to be flown by Islamic State militants.</p> <p>The Observatory reported that Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria were training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo.</p> <p>US Central Command said on Friday that it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria. Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the footage, which showed a jet flying at low altitude.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the United Nations said the Lebanese government has cut back sharply on the number of Syrian refugees it is allowing into the country. The country's Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said in comments published a newspaper: "Lebanon is no longer officially receiving any Syrian refugees," except with those with pressing humanitarian needs.</p> <p>Lebanon has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world, with one in four residents a refugee, many of them living in the poorest areas, and the government has said it cannot cope with the more than a million Syrians and has asked for funds to help look after them.</p> <p>Turkey hosts about 1.5 million Syrian refugees, including almost 200,000 Syrian Kurds from Kobani.</p> <p>Amid the escalated fighting, Turkish trucks could be seen carrying about two dozen Kurdish refugees away from the border.</p> <p>Several hundred people are still sheltering in a minefield to the west of Kobani in order to stay with their vehicles and farm animals, which are not allowed in Turkey.</p> <p><em>(Additional reporting by Hamdi Istanbullu, writing by Ayla Jean Yackley, editing by Rosalind Russell)</em></p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Syria Military Iraq Politics Middle East Turkey Sat, 18 Oct 2014 22:08:01 +0000 Humeyra Pamuk and Oliver Holmes, Thomson Reuters 6289445 at Hong Kong gov't to open talks with democracy protesters next week <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Friday saw a third night of violent clashes between police and protesters, with officers using batons and pepper spray on crowds in the Mongkok shopping district. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Hong Kong</a>'s embattled government said it will open talks with student demonstrators Tuesday, after three nights of violent clashes between police and protesters who have paralyzed parts of the city with mass pro-democracy rallies.</p> <p>The city's leader Leung Chun-ying made a dramatic U-turn Thursday by announcing a return to talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the groups leading the protests, after abruptly pulling out of discussions a week earlier.</p> <p>"Right now we are planning that it will take place on the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 21," Leung's deputy Carrie Lam told reporters on Saturday.</p> <p>Lam said the talks would be focused on constitutional reform, with both sides allowed to bring five members to the meeting that will last around two hours and will be broadcast live.</p> <p>But hopes of any breakthrough are slim, with the government unlikely to cede to protesters' core demands — Leung's resignation and free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city in 2017.</p> <p>Beijing insists that candidates for the vote must be vetted by a committee expected to be loyal to China — and Leung has warned that the country's communist authorities have no intention of backing down.</p> <p>"I'm not sure anything will come out of it because the government does not seem to listen to public opinions," 15-year-old student protester Crystal Yip told AFP.</p> <p>The demonstrators have held sit-ins at three key intersections since Sept. 28, causing major disruption in an <a href="">Asian</a> financial hub usually known for its stability.</p> <p><strong>No common ground</strong></p> <p>Friday saw a third night of violent clashes between police and protesters, with officers using batons and pepper spray to fight back surging crowds in the high-density Mongkok shopping district.</p> <p>The fighting broke out as demonstrators battled to retake a protest camp that police had mostly cleared at dawn, tearing down tents and barricades in a bid to restore traffic to the busy junction.</p> <p>Police said 26 people had been arrested and 15 officers injured in the clashes — including after being jabbed by the umbrellas that have come to symbolize Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, as protesters use them as shields against pepper spray.</p> <p>Police chief Andy Tsang told reporters his force had been tolerant since the rallies began in the hope that protesters would "calm down."</p> <p>"Unfortunately these protesters chose to carry on with their unlawful acts, including acts which are even more radical and more violent," Tsang said.</p> <p>Police used tear gas against protesters on Sept. 28, in a move that grabbed worldwide attention and led tens of thousands of Hong Kongers to spill onto the streets in support of the pro-democracy movement.</p> <p>But the demonstrations have remained largely peaceful for the last three weeks. The recent spike in violence came after shocking video footage emerged of plainclothes police officers beating a handcuffed protester as he lay on the floor.</p> <p>Many residents have become increasingly frustrated over the disruption caused by the protests, with road blockages causing heavy traffic jams in the city of 7 million, and local companies complaining of a downturn in business.</p> <p>The crowds of protesters have shrunk dramatically from their peak of tens of thousands earlier in the month.</p> <p>A former <a href="">British</a> colony, Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" deal that guarantees freedoms not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.</p> <p>But fears have been growing that these liberties are being eroded, while anger has also soared over perceived political interference from Beijing and increasing inequality in the freewheeling financial hub.</p> <p>The mass rallies come as one of the biggest challenges to Beijing's authority since the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests of 1989.</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Politics China Culture & Lifestyle Sat, 18 Oct 2014 15:49:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6289341 at Europe is getting dangerously close to euro crisis 2.0 <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Political uncertainty in Athens is triggering turmoil in the continent's nervy markets. </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 — When the European Union's head office starts putting out statements saying "there should be no doubt that Europe will continue to assist Greece in whatever way is necessary," it's a clear sign something bad is happening.</p> <p>This week, Europe's markets have been hammering Greek stocks and bonds like it’s 2009 all over again.</p> <p>That's prompting fears that the euro zone's weakest link could become the catalyst for another deep, dark crisis for the European currency bloc.</p> <p>"Stocks, rates, oil: the great fear returns to the markets," headlined the French daily Le Monde on Friday as the jitters spread beyond Athens to shake indexes across Europe and beyond.</p> <p>The prospect of political instability in Greece is just one of the factors spreading panic to the markets.</p> <p>Also in the mix are stagnant economies across the euro zone — even in previously immune <a href="">Germany</a> — as well as worries of a global slowdown heightened by falling oil prices, the east-west standoff over Ukraine, Ebola and chaos in the <a href="">Middle East</a>.</p> <p>Then there's a looming policy split among the euro zone's big hitters as <a href="">France</a> and <a href="">Italy</a> kick back against years of German-inspired austerity.</p> <p>Markets calmed on Friday, but no one's sure if the burst of volatility was a temporary squall or the harbinger of euro zone crisis 2.0.</p> <p>Greece was both tripwire and principle victim of this week's turmoil.</p> <p>Already nervous, traders were spooked by concerns that the coalition of conservatives and socialists that has just about held the Greek government together over the past two years could be forced into early elections next year.</p> <p>Polls show a vote would bring victory to the far-left Syriza Party, which wants to tear up agreements with Greece's international creditors and divert the economy along a radical leftist path — even at the risk of ejection from the euro zone.</p> <p>Aiming to head off the Syriza threat, Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras wants Greece to exit its $300 billion rescue program with the European Union and International Monetary Fund at the end of the year, which would give the government more freedom to set its own economic policy.</p> <p>Many economists warn that's premature and have raised doubts about Greece's ability to fund a national debt that, at 175 percent of economic output, is proportionally the highest in the world.</p> <p>As panic blew through markets this week, the benchmark rates Greece has to pay to maintain that debt soared to 8 percent, more than 10 times what Germany pays.</p> <p>It was the widening spread between Germany and euro zone periphery countries that drove <a href="">the debt crisis</a> that wiped out a quarter of Greece's economy since 2008 and spread recession across southern Europe.</p> <p>Hence Thursday's hastily released statement by European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen talking up the Greece economy.</p> <p>"Greece has made immense progress in creating a basis for a sustainable growth model, based on sound public finances," he said. "There is strong evidence that the country has now turned a corner."</p> <p>The EU's economic problems go way beyond Greece, however.</p> <p>Figures released by the 28-nation bloc on Friday actually showed a big increase in the size of economic output — but that was down to a new calculation method that, among other things, takes into account the contribution of prostitution and illicit narcotics sales.</p> <p>In reality, growth is flatlining.</p> <p>Germany's economy shrank in the second quarter of this year. Italy is already in recession. France is recording zero growth.</p> <p>"We are in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation," Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Thursday.</p> <p>He also proposed a solution. "Europe has to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigor and austerity," he added on the sidelines of a Europe-Asia summit in Milan.</p> <p>The Italian premier has teamed up with French President Francois Hollande to demand that the EU relax the budgetary rigor imposed in response to the crisis and embark on a more expansionary path.</p> <p>The center-left governments of both France and Italy this week announced tax-cutting budgets they hope will stimulate the economy.</p> <p>France in particular has thrown down the gauntlet to the euro zone's financial authorities, saying it won't stick to an agreement to bring its budget deficit down to 3 percent by next year.</p> <p>"France must be respected, we're a big country and we won't accept lectures in good management,"<br> Prime Minister Manuel Valls said last week. "It's for us to decide our budget. The only thing we're asking the Europeans is to take into account the reality affecting us all, the crisis undermining the euro."</p> <p>Austerity advocates, particularly in northern Europe, have been quick to criticize the French and Italian plans, but budgets in Paris and Rome belie traditional cliches about spendthrift southerners and tax-and-spend socialists.</p> <p>The French budget contains a record $27 billion in cuts, mostly in health care and family support. Italy will reduce spending by $19 billion. However, the savings will be matched by reductions in revenues as both countries seek to stimulate investment by reducing companies’ tax burdens.</p> <p>Renzi and Valls have also launched reform programs to free up the economy, provoking anger from interest groups and left-wing critics.</p> <p>In return, they’re hoping the guardians of austerity will cut them some slack.</p> <p>That looks unlikely.</p> <p>"All member countries must accept the strengthened rules in full," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.</p> <p>She told parliament in Berlin that those rules setting targets for low deficits and falling debt must be "the central anchor for stability and, above all, for trust in the euro zone."</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">This celebrity scientist wants Germans to stop recycling. Here's why</a></strong></p> <p>That’s setting the stage for a potentially damaging clash when EU leaders meet for a summit in <a href="">Brussels</a> next week as the bloc's headquarters decide whether to accept the budget plans of all 18 euro zone members.</p> <p>Given the discord among Europe's leaders amid a backdrop of global tensions and a euro zone economy facing long-term stagnation, it's small wonder markets are nervous and prone to panic at signs of a possible sudden crisis, even in a small country like Greece.</p> <p>"Greece can be ring-fenced rather quickly," says Jens Bastian, an Athens-based financial analyst, referring to EU support mechanisms set up after the 2009 crisis. "Greece is not going to create that kind of profound crisis anymore, but Greece can still be a trigger for uncertainty."</p> Euro crisis Need to Know World Leaders France Europe Germany Global Economy Italy Fri, 17 Oct 2014 21:10:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6288977 at Boko Haram agrees to release kidnapped girls after ceasefire <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The break in violence is a relief for Nigeria and for the world, but experts don't expect the peace to last. </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 Nigerian government and the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have reportedly agreed Friday to a ceasefire which would set free more than 200 schoolgirls the group abducted in April.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve assured us they have the girls and they will release them,&rdquo; Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur <a href="">told BBC Focus on Africa</a>. &ldquo;I am cautiously optimistic.&rdquo;</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">The agreement was reached Thursday night and comes after one month of negotiations, Tukur said. No details have been reported about the terms of the girls&#39; release.</span></p> <!--break--><!--break--><p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">It has been six months since the militants seized the girls from their school in Chibok, a farming community in northeast Nigeria. In that time, Nigerian president Jonathan Goodluck and his administration have been criticized for their slow response to the kidnappings and their military&rsquo;s inability to end the insurgency. More than 11,000 people have died since the Boko Haram uprising escalated in 2009, with 5,000 dead since January alone, according to a <a href="">report</a> by the Nigeria Social Violence Project, which documented violence in Nigeria from 1998 to the present. Non-Muslims and women have been <a href="">especially vulnerable</a>.</span></p> <p>But while the girls&rsquo; release would be a step in the right direction for Nigeria, it does not solve the larger issues of violence and gender discrimination that are embedded in Nigerian society and that have led to the challenges facing the nation today, said Evon Idahosa, founder and executive director of Pathfinders Justice Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit that works for gender equality and female empowerment.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m a perpetual optimist, but there needs to be a shift in the way things are, in the way people think,&rdquo; Idahosa said.</p> <p>She recalled trying to launch a campaign patterned after the international women&rsquo;s rights group MADRE&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="">Blow the Whistle on Rape</a>&rdquo; in Haiti.</p> <p>&ldquo;I was told that it was great idea, except no one would ever blow the whistle,&rdquo; said Idahosa, who is Nigerian by birth. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s how embedded in the minds of women this subjugation is.&rdquo;</p> <p>Women have historically been considered second to men in Nigerian society, according to <a href="">a 2011 study </a>on gender roles in the country, conducted by Delta State University in Nigeria. After the nation achieved independence in 1960, women&rsquo;s access to education and reproductive health improved, according to the report. But their value continued to be based mostly on their husbands&rsquo; importance to the community, while their own economic contributions to the household were less highly regarded, the report found.</p> <p>That view of women as less or &ldquo;other&rdquo; leads to the idea that they &ldquo;are chattel or property that can be carted off in the middle of the night,&rdquo; Idahosa said.</p> <p>The situation is further complicated by the Nigerian government, notorious for its corruption. Goodluck&rsquo;s administration has been accused of stealing billions of dollars in oil revenues and creating a corrupt civil service, among others, <a href=" ">according to reports</a>.</p> <p>The accusations of abuse have made it difficult to quell the insurgency and made Western governments, including the United States, hesitant to send military aid and weapons to Nigeria, said Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations and Africa Specialist for Amnesty International USA based in Washington, DC.</p> <p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t trust what they&rsquo;re doing,&rdquo; Akwei said.</p> <p>That atmosphere of corruption extends to the Nigerian military, tasked to protect the people from Boko Haram and other armed insurgents: In the last few years, <a href="http://">Amnesty International</a> has released several reports documenting abuses, executions and tortures that the security forces have committed on both militants and civilians.</p> <p>&ldquo;The military are supposed to defend people, not to carry out further abuses themselves,&rdquo; Salil Shetty, AI&rsquo;s secretary general, said in a statement. &ldquo;Sadly, the same communities are now being terrorized in turn by Boko Haram and the military alike.&rdquo;</p> <p>Until all these issues are faced, the average Nigerian will find no lasting peace, Pathfinders&rsquo; Idahosa said.</p> <p>&ldquo;For the short term, we&rsquo;ll take it,&rdquo; she said of the ceasefire. &ldquo;But [the situation] goes beyond the idea of girls being abducted &hellip; to the displaced people, the humanitarian crisis and the security issues that need to be addressed.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> Boko Haram Nigeria Rights Fri, 17 Oct 2014 19:23:53 +0000 Jessica Mendoza 6288733 at Why Turkey won’t support the Kurds against IS <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Analysis: Age-old hatreds are playing a central role in the country’s foreign policy today. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Charles M. Sennott </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>ISTANBUL — Traveling through Istanbul on my way back from a reporting trip in the <a href="">Middle East</a>, I sipped a cup of Turkish coffee in a café and picked up a stack of bustling daily newspapers.</p> <p>From the headlines in these traditionally nationalistic papers — stories that feature the state of the Turkish economy and a fair bit of fretting over its image in the European Union — you’d hardly know there was a war raging on the country’s doorstep.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>For most Americans watching the region, <a href="">Turkey</a> seems stunningly indifferent to the peril that the Islamic State (IS) presents as the fighting heats up along its border with <a href="">Syria</a> and Iraq.</p> <p>This week US airstrikes and Kurdish forces pushed IS back from the town of Kobani, just inside Syria, while the Turkish military’s tanks sat idle at the border. For months, Turkey allowed IS fighters and weapons to funnel into Iraq and Syria unimpeded as IS arrayed against the Syrian regime.</p> <p>The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made clear how much it detests the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, but Erdogan’s moves have been ponderous and vacillating. The country is basically slow walking the US government’s request to step up as part of the multi-national coalition to fight against IS.</p> <p>To understand where Turkey is coming from, you have to look at the fighting in Kobani from the Turkish perspective, and you have to keep in mind the axioms of power and revenge that rule the Middle East.</p> <p>And if you look at it from that perspective, Turkey is simply watching two of its enemies kill each other in Kobani.</p> <p>Kurdish fighters are long-time enemies of the Turkish state, which this week actually launched airstrikes at fighters in the Kurdish PKK forces inside Turkey. The Turkish government has also been at best begrudging and often obstructionist to the Kurdish fighters inside Syria who are trying to prevent IS from slaughtering the Kurds of Kobani.</p> <p>It reminds me of my days in the late 1980s as a police reporter in New York City when narcotics detectives would shrug with indifference as the city’s murder rate surged amid turf battles between rival drug gangs. They used to call one drug dealer killing another a “public service murder.”</p> <p>That kind of tough-guy logic doesn’t wash with the international community when it comes to the ominous darkness of the Islamic State and the peril it presents to the region and the world. It is short sighted in the extreme. But it also serves to underscore the tangled and complex dynamics at work in the war in Syria as it has spilled across the borders into Iraq and seems to threaten to engulf the region into a wider war.</p> <p>All this reveals a simple truth: Turkey is still a predominantly Sunni Muslim country. Many regional experts therefore believe that Turkey, and particularly Erdogan, has some sympathy for the Sunni population in Iraq that is enraged by the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad.</p> <p>That Sunni-Shia divide in Iraq fuels the fire of conflict and is the source of heat from which IS draws at least some level of community support — especially in the province of Anbar, where IS has gained considerable momentum.</p> <p>If you want to understand the complexity of the equation in the war in Syria and how it is spilling into Iraq, just consider the relationship between the US and <a href="">Iran</a>.</p> <p>The two countries, long-time enemies, are fighting on the same side against the Islamic State, but will quickly part ways when it comes to the Syrian regime. Iran, which is a Shia theocracy, supports Assad, who is a member of the minority Alawite community, a stream of Shia Islam.</p> <p> That tangled web of geopolitics raises the specter of a global war that could break down along Sunni and Shia lines. For some, there is enough evidence to believe that war may have already started. Only many years down the road will we understand that it began on that day in June when the Islamic State stunned the world by crossing over from Syria and invading the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq.</p> <p>This war cuts along lines drawn in the sand by the Western powers after World War I that set the boundaries for the modern Middle East, and those lines are rapidly disappearing in the desert winds of war. My trip to the region is part of a long-term reporting project on the 100th anniversary of World War which we are titling “<a href="">The Eleventh Hour: Unlearned Lessons of World War I</a>.”</p> <p>Pondering that history can add a new level of insight into how Turkey views this moment. Remember: The Ottoman Empire controlled the Middle East prior to World War I. After the war, the <a href="">British</a>, <a href="">French</a> and American forces carved up the region for their own interests, which revolved mainly around the new discoveries of oil deposits in places like Mosul.</p> <p>The Ottoman Turks desperately warned Arab leaders that they were fools to fall for the Western powers’ ploy by falling in alongside their fight. Back then, the Ottomans sought to cast the narrative of World War I in the theater of the Middle East as a battle of the Muslim world against Christian invaders.</p> <p>But Sir T. E. Lawrence famously convinced the Arab tribes otherwise, leading them into battle on the side of the British.</p> <p>The role of Lawrence of Arabia and his Arab Revolt proved pivotal in defeating the Ottomans. With that century-old backdrop in a corner of the world with a long collective memory, there is a view in Turkey and around the region that the imperial designs of the West have now come home to roost.</p> <p>I caught a glimpse of this sentiment in the Israeli-occupied West Bank just before traveling to Turkey. I drove through the checkpoint from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in the West Bank, past the 20-foot high concrete barriers that divide Israelis and Palestinians, and past the expanding footprint of Israeli settlements that surround Bethlehem.</p> <p>Jad Isaac, director general of the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, which is dedicated to research and analysis that promotes Palestinian self-reliance through greater control over their natural resources, is researching the lingering impact of World War I and the way it shaped the modern Middle East.</p> <p>“Those who drew the boundaries of the modern Middle East were the Western colonial powers. And they made sure the tensions and the fissures divided those of us who live here,” Isaac said. “They took Kuwait out of Iraq and made it the largest port in the Gulf. They divided Kurdistan into five countries. They made the boundaries to suit their own interests. And those lines that came after World War I are falling apart. It was intended as divide and conquer, and it has fractured and failed and that is what we are seeing today.”</p> <p>“The fighting stopped 100 years ago, but the war has never really ended,” Isaac explained.</p> <p><img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" title=""></p> <p>He added, “I think the Ottomans are coming back. Turkey is not going to accept — and in many ways never has accepted — the limited role it was given in the region after World War I...</p> <p>Turkey has a successful economy and a strong military and Egypt has lost its leadership role. Turkey is already emerging to say that they alone can play a critical role on dealing with ISIS, with Hamas and even in the details of the Israeli-Palestinian process, such as the crucial issue of water rights.”</p> <p>I left Bethlehem pondering his words as we were stuck in the long line of traffic that builds up at the sprawling checkpoints that Israel has imposed to divide the West Bank town of Bethlehem from the city of Jerusalem. The cement walls have become a canvas for political graffiti and huge painted murals.</p> <p>One of the messages stood out in stark black-and-red spray paint about six feet high. It read, “The Ottomans Will Come Back!”<br>  </p> <p class='u'></p> Islamic State Turkey GroundTruth Fri, 17 Oct 2014 18:29:00 +0000 Charles M. Sennott 6288759 at Russia and Ukraine didn't make much progress in talks in Milan <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Russia</a>, Ukraine and European governments failed to make any progress towards solving the crisis in Ukraine on Friday in talks that the Kremlin said were "full of misunderstandings and disagreements."</p> <p>Further discussions were scheduled later in the day, but there were few expectations of any immediate accord to strengthen a faltering ceasefire in eastern Ukraine or to end a row over blocked Russian gas supplies to Ukraine.</p> <p>"I cannot see a breakthrough here at all so far," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after top EU leaders met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of an EU-<a href="">Asia</a> (ASEM) summit in Milan.</p> <p>"We will continue to talk. There was progress on some details, but the main issue is continued violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine," she added, clearly pinning the blame for the impasse on Moscow.</p> <p>The West has clamped sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea in March and its support for pro-Russian separatists battling government troops in the east of Ukraine.</p> <p>Kyiv and its Western backers accuse Moscow of aiding the separatist revolt by providing troops and arms. Russia denies the charges but says it has a right to defend the interests of the region's Russian-speaking majority.</p> <p>The European leaders urged Russia to do more to end constant, deadly violations of a ceasefire that was agreed by Putin and Poroshenko last month in Minsk, saying Russia must fulfil its commitments and withdraw forces from the area.</p> <p>Officials said local elections in eastern Ukraine and the issue of using unmanned drone aircraft for surveillance of the borders between Russia and Ukraine were particular sticking points, with Russia pushing to have its drones flying alongside those already offered for the mission by <a href="">France</a> and <a href="">Germany</a>.</p> <p><strong>'Biased, non-diplomatic'</strong></p> <p>A smiling Putin emerged from the morning to tell reporters: "It was good, it was positive." However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later gave a very different readout, saying "certain participants" had taken an "absolutely biased, non-flexible, non-diplomatic" approach to Ukraine.</p> <p>"The talks are indeed difficult, full of misunderstandings, disagreements, but they are nevertheless ongoing, the exchange of opinion is in progress," he said.</p> <p>Merkel's position as German leader in effect means that she sets the tone of EU relations with Russia, and she has taken the lead within <a href="">Europe</a> in trying to persuade Putin to change tack over Ukraine. She had a rocky time in Milan, however, with one German official saying the Russian leader had not displayed a "too constructive mood."</p> <p>An initial meeting set for Thursday was delayed for hours because Putin flew into <a href="">Italy</a> well behind schedule. They then held more than 2-1/2 hours of talks that ran well past midnight, with both sides acknowledging discussions had been unproductive.</p> <p>On Friday, Merkel reprimanded the former Soviet KGB spy in front of the assembled leaders at a closed-door session of the ASEM, according to people present.</p> <p>After a speech in which Putin raised doubts about the sovereignty of Ukraine, Merkel reminded him of the 1994 Budapest agreement, in which Russia recognised the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea.</p> <p>"Unfortunately, I am not very optimistic," a glum Poroshenko was overheard telling Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.</p> <p><strong>Gas cut off</strong></p> <p>The crisis in relations with Kyiv has led Russia to cut gas supplies because of unpaid bills. The European Union fears this could threaten disruptions in the gas flow to the rest of the continent this winter, and is working hard to broker a deal.</p> <p>Russia is Europe's biggest gas supplier, accounting for around a third of demand, and about half the Russian gas that the EU buys comes via Ukraine.</p> <p>The stand-off over pricing is the third in a decade between Moscow and Kyiv, though this time tensions are higher because of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Russian, Ukrainian and EU officials would meet in <a href="">Brussels</a> to try to resolve the gas row.</p> <p>Putin had warned on Thursday that Russia would reduce gas supplies to Europe if Ukraine took gas from the transit pipeline to cover its own needs, although he added that he was "hopeful" it would not come to that.</p> <p>More than 3,600 people have died in eastern Ukraine since fighting broke out in mid-April when armed separatists declared they were setting up their own state.</p> <p>Although Putin announced this week that Russian troops near the border with Ukraine would be pulled back, Western officials want to see clear evidence that Moscow is acting on this.</p> <p>"Vladimir Putin said very clearly he doesn't want a 'frozen conflict' and doesn't want a divided Ukraine. But if that's the case, then Russia now needs to take the actions to put in place all that has been agreed," said British Prime Minister David Cameron.</p> <p>"If those things don't happen, then clearly the European Union, Britain included, must keep in place the sanctions and the pressure so we don't have this sort of conflict in our continent."</p> <p>(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Steve Scherer, Elvira Pollina, Francesca Landini, Giulio Piovaccari, Alessandra Galloni and James Mackenzie in Milan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)</p> Need to Know Europe Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:56:38 +0000 Andreas Rinke and Alexei Anishchuk, Thomson Reuters 6288583 at Russia and Ukraine don't make much progress in talks in Milan <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Russia</a>, Ukraine and European governments failed to make any progress towards solving the crisis in Ukraine on Friday in talks that the Kremlin said were "full of misunderstandings and disagreements."</p> <p>Further discussions were scheduled later in the day, but there were few expectations of any immediate accord to strengthen a faltering ceasefire in eastern Ukraine or to end a row over blocked Russian gas supplies to Ukraine.</p> <p>"I cannot see a breakthrough here at all so far," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after top EU leaders met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the sidelines of an EU-<a href="">Asia</a> (ASEM) summit in Milan.</p> <p>"We will continue to talk. There was progress on some details, but the main issue is continued violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine," she added, clearly pinning the blame for the impasse on Moscow.</p> <p>The West has clamped sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea in March and its support for pro-Russian separatists battling government troops in the east of Ukraine.</p> <p>Kyiv and its Western backers accuse Moscow of aiding the separatist revolt by providing troops and arms. Russia denies the charges but says it has a right to defend the interests of the region's Russian-speaking majority.</p> <p>The European leaders urged Russia to do more to end constant, deadly violations of a ceasefire that was agreed by Putin and Poroshenko last month in Minsk, saying Russia must fulfil its commitments and withdraw forces from the area.</p> <p>Officials said local elections in eastern Ukraine and the issue of using unmanned drone aircraft for surveillance of the borders between Russia and Ukraine were particular sticking points, with Russia pushing to have its drones flying alongside those already offered for the mission by <a href="">France</a> and <a href="">Germany</a>.</p> <p><strong>'Biased, non-diplomatic'</strong></p> <p>A smiling Putin emerged from the morning to tell reporters: "It was good, it was positive." However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later gave a very different readout, saying "certain participants" had taken an "absolutely biased, non-flexible, non-diplomatic" approach to Ukraine.</p> <p>"The talks are indeed difficult, full of misunderstandings, disagreements, but they are nevertheless ongoing, the exchange of opinion is in progress," he said.</p> <p>Merkel's position as German leader in effect means that she sets the tone of EU relations with Russia, and she has taken the lead within <a href="">Europe</a> in trying to persuade Putin to change tack over Ukraine. She had a rocky time in Milan, however, with one German official saying the Russian leader had not displayed a "too constructive mood."</p> <p>An initial meeting set for Thursday was delayed for hours because Putin flew into <a href="">Italy</a> well behind schedule. They then held more than 2-1/2 hours of talks that ran well past midnight, with both sides acknowledging discussions had been unproductive.</p> <p>On Friday, Merkel reprimanded the former Soviet KGB spy in front of the assembled leaders at a closed-door session of the ASEM, according to people present.</p> <p>After a speech in which Putin raised doubts about the sovereignty of Ukraine, Merkel reminded him of the 1994 Budapest agreement, in which Russia recognised the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea.</p> <p>"Unfortunately, I am not very optimistic," a glum Poroshenko was overheard telling Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.</p> <p><strong>Gas cut off</strong></p> <p>The crisis in relations with Kyiv has led Russia to cut gas supplies because of unpaid bills. The European Union fears this could threaten disruptions in the gas flow to the rest of the continent this winter, and is working hard to broker a deal.</p> <p>Russia is Europe's biggest gas supplier, accounting for around a third of demand, and about half the Russian gas that the EU buys comes via Ukraine.</p> <p>The stand-off over pricing is the third in a decade between Moscow and Kyiv, though this time tensions are higher because of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Russian, Ukrainian and EU officials would meet in <a href="">Brussels</a> to try to resolve the gas row.</p> <p>Putin had warned on Thursday that Russia would reduce gas supplies to Europe if Ukraine took gas from the transit pipeline to cover its own needs, although he added that he was "hopeful" it would not come to that.</p> <p>More than 3,600 people have died in eastern Ukraine since fighting broke out in mid-April when armed separatists declared they were setting up their own state.</p> <p>Although Putin announced this week that Russian troops near the border with Ukraine would be pulled back, Western officials want to see clear evidence that Moscow is acting on this.</p> <p>"Vladimir Putin said very clearly he doesn't want a 'frozen conflict' and doesn't want a divided Ukraine. But if that's the case, then Russia now needs to take the actions to put in place all that has been agreed," said British Prime Minister David Cameron.</p> <p>"If those things don't happen, then clearly the European Union, Britain included, must keep in place the sanctions and the pressure so we don't have this sort of conflict in our continent."</p> <p>(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Steve Scherer, Elvira Pollina, Francesca Landini, Giulio Piovaccari, Alessandra Galloni and James Mackenzie in Milan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)</p> Need to Know Europe Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:09:11 +0000 Andreas Rinke and Alexei Anishchuk, Thomson Reuters 6288585 at Ventilation shaft collapses at pop concert in South Korea, killing 16 <!--paging_filter--><p>Sixteen people were killed and nine others seriously injured when a ventilation grate gave way while they were watching an outdoor pop concert in Seongnam south of Seoul on Friday, rescuers said.</p> <p>"They were standing on the ventilation grate to get a better view when it collapsed under their weight," a spokesman for the local fire services told AFP.</p> <p>Rescuers said 16 were confirmed dead, but added the death toll might rise with some of the injured understood to be in critical condition.</p> <p>Television reports said the 25 people fell more than 30 feet into an underground parking area when the grate collapsed.</p> <p>Amateur video footage obtained by the YTN news channel showed shocked spectators surrounding the collapsed grate as the popular all-girl K-pop band 4Minute, apparently oblivious to the accident, continued performing on the stage.</p> <p>More than 700 people were believed to be attending the outdoor concert.</p> <p>"There was a sudden, loud screaming, and when I turned it looked as if people were being sucked down into a hole," one witness told YTN.</p> <p>A woman standing nearby said a great "cloud of dust" billowed up from the ventilation shaft after the grate collapsed.</p> <p>Most of the dead and injured were believed to be students, YTN said, adding that the concert organisers had repeatedly urged the spectators to move off the grate before it collapsed.</p> <p><a href="">South Korea</a> has suffered a recent series of catastrophic accidents involving young victims, including the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April that left more than 300 dead, most of them high school students.</p> <p>In February, the roof caved in on a student-packed auditorium near the southern city of Gyeongju, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100. An investigation uncovered evidence of structural flaws and lax management controls.</p> <p>The Sewol disaster prompted government promises of a national review of safety standards, as it became clear that poor regulatory oversight was a major contributor to the scale of the tragedy.</p> <p>ckp/gh/lto</p> Need to Know South Korea Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:42:17 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6288559 at Islamic State militants are reportedly training pilots to fly captured fighter jets <!--paging_filter--><p>Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in <a href="">Syria</a> are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said on Friday, saying it was the first time that the militant group had taken to the air.</p> <p>The group, which has seized land in Syria and <a href="">Iraq</a>, has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the <a href="">Britain</a>-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.</p> <p>Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report and US Central Command said it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria.</p> <p>US-led forces are bombing Islamic State bases in Syria and Iraq. The group has regularly used weaponry captured from the Syrian and Iraqi armies and has overrun several military bases but this was the first time it had been able to pilot warplanes.</p> <p>"They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein," Abdulrahman said.</p> <p>"People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back," he said, citing witnesses in northern Aleppo province near the base, which is 45 miles south of Turkey.</p> <p>It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models captured from the Syrian military.</p> <p>"We're not aware of (Islamic State) conducting any flight operations in Syria or elsewhere," US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said.</p> <p>“We continue to keep a close eye on (Islamic State) activity in Syria and Iraq and will continue to conduct strikes against their equipment, facilities, fighters and centres of gravity, wherever they may be.”</p> <p>Pro-Islamic State Twitter accounts had previously posted pictures of captured jets in other parts of Syria, but the aircraft had appeared unusable, according to analysts and diplomats.</p> <p>The countryside east of Aleppo city is one of the main bases of Islamic State in Syria, where the Al Qaeda offshoot controls up to a third of the country's territory.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Dominic Evans)</p> Need to Know Syria Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:59:00 +0000 Sylvia Westall, Thomson Reuters 6288557 at Obama’s anti-IS strategy challenged by military and intelligence leaders <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Commentary: Better to commit troops now to help ensure victory than continue a half-hearted, low-cost gamble. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Gary A. Grappo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>DENVER &mdash; Is President Obama dealing with <a href="">cognitive dissonance</a>? First, against all available information, he blames the intelligence community for underestimating the Islamic State. Then, he embarks on a strategy that fails to encompass key elements vital to meeting his mission to &ldquo;degrade and destroy&rdquo; ISIS.</p> <p>Americans were surprised to hear their president&rsquo;s admission on a recent Sunday &ldquo;60 Minutes&rdquo; <a href="">broadcast</a> that he had &ldquo;underestimated&rdquo; the Islamic State &ndash; aka, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS/ISIL &ndash; and its rapid rise to power and control in Syria and Iraq. Equally stunning, he sought to shift the blame for being caught off-guard to the US intelligence community.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>The intelligence community appears to be countering the president&rsquo;s claim. Officials assert they began <a href=";smprod=nytcore-iphone&amp;_r=1">warning</a> about ISIS late last year as ISIS took control of greater stretches of the Syrian-Iraqi border. Even the US media reported extensively on ISIS&rsquo;s rapid <a href="">advance</a> and capture of Fallujah and Ramadi in the earliest days of this year. The dismal performance of the Iraqi Army was also amply reported.</p> <p>Sufficient information seems to have been available to anyone willing to listen and reflect on its significance to conclude ISIS was becoming a very serious threat at least as far back as late 2013. Yet, in another stunning presidential admission, in a late August press conference he <a href="">said</a> that, in fact, he &ldquo;had no strategy.&rdquo;</p> <p>Only in September did Obama face the obvious and announce a strategy for the US to enter the fray with US air assets and halt the ISIS advance. But in this strategy, he again is ignoring fundamental elements &mdash; cognitive dissonance &mdash; which will either doom the US and coalition&rsquo;s effort or force a major strategy correction down the road.</p> <p>First, while he addresses expelling ISIS from Iraq, there is no cogent plan to deal with ISIS in Syria. Pledging to keep American ground troops out of the fight and to expel ISIS from Iraq, the president plans to rely on ground forces from the Iraqi Army, which caved to ISIS fighters not only in Fallujah and Ramadi but also in Mosul just six months later, and from the Kurdish peshmerga militia, marginally more capable but fewer in number With further American training, better arms and US air support, one might allow for the possibility of success, even if its timing remains unknown.</p> <p>Defeating ISIS will require attacking it on many fronts &mdash; ideology, resources, communication and recruitment. But the sine qua non is beating them on the battlefield. Moreover, ground troops are indispensable to winning on the battlefield, irrespective of air superiority, especially in unconventional warfare. Winning on the battlefield means defeating ISIS in Syria as well as in Iraq.</p> <p>Where are the ground forces to fight ISIS in Syria? The Syrian Army and other Syrian opposition forces have proven nearly as inadequate as the Iraqi army in beating ISIS. So, assuming the Iraqi Army and Kurdish militia can eventually push ISIS out of Iraq, who then takes them on in Syria?</p> <p>The president&rsquo;s strategy, other than repeated pledges to arm and train the moderate Syrian opposition, is silent. The president won&rsquo;t meet his &ldquo;degrade and destroy&rdquo; objective without defeating them in both Iraq and Syria.</p> <p>Second, the US and the coalition it has formed need allies, Sunni allies to be precise. And, they are needed in both Iraq and Syria. There is very little possibility of that happening, even if Haidar al-Abadi, Iraq&rsquo;s new Prime Minister, invites Sunni Iraqis to rejoin the government in Baghdad.</p> <p>In 2007, US troops allied with Sunni tribal and political leaders to fight ISIS&rsquo;s predecessor, Al Qaida in Iraq, in what became known as the Sunni Awakening, or al Sahwa. Iraqi Sunni and their Syrian compatriots &ndash; many of whom hail from the same tribes and clans &mdash; will now want a reliable guarantor before taking the fight to ISIS.</p> <p> The Iraqi government, because of the shortsighted sectarian policies of its previous prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is no position to play that role. And forget about the al Assad regime in Damascus; it is the whole raison d&rsquo;etre of the Syrian opposition movement, from ISIS to the moderates, most of whom are Sunni.</p> <p>Nearby Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Jordan, whose own tribes straddle their respective borders with Iraq and Syria, can play an especially helpful role. But the only real guarantor can be the US.</p> <p>Without some American boots on the ground, it&rsquo;s hard to see how we might do that. Perhaps the CIA can; it undoubtedly has contacts with the tribes. But the ones the Iraqi Sunnis know, and know they can trust, are the US Army and Marines.</p> <p>The president insists there will be no American boots on the ground. His armed forces chief, General Martin Dempsey, <a href="">seems to think </a>otherwise, and that at least some US combat troops may be necessary.</p> <p>In this case, the president and his military advisers ought to be thinking of deploying US special operators, rangers, marine recon and others to pair up with the Sunnis. Moreover, we may also have to deploy larger numbers of combat units to prove to the Sunnis that we have skin in the game.</p> <p>In fact, the Iraqis have wisely proposed forming national guard units to defend their own communities and tribal areas. Who better to pair up with such units than this limited number of American combat forces?<br /> However, it is vital that this task be undertaken now. Just as in 2007, it will take months before these special units will be able to re-establish rapport and then train and prepare these units, which some US forces will inevitably have to accompany into battle.</p> <p>Critics will argue that such a level of US forces involvement starts the US down the slippery slope of large-scale military re-engagement in the Middle East. But, a failure to completely eradicate ISIS in Iraq and Syria and ensure it can never rise again may engender a prospect necessitating even greater US involvement.</p> <p>Better to commit what is needed now &mdash; in Syria as well as Iraq &mdash; to ensure the victory we and our allies seek than to gamble on a low-cost, half measure that will mean a protracted conflict with the world&rsquo;s most diabolically ruthless organization.</p> <p><em>Gary Grappo is a retired senior Foreign Service officer from the State Department. He has served in the <a href="">Middle East</a>, including as US ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, Head of Mission of the Jerusalem-based Office of the Quartet Representative, and Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Embassy in Baghdad.<br /> &nbsp;</em></p> <p class='u'></p> Islamic State Syria Iraq Commentary Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:28:00 +0000 Gary A. Grappo 6287786 at Thailand’s junta bribes traffic cops to stop taking bribes <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Amid rampant corruption, police can score $300 just for turning down payoffs. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Patrick Winn </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BANGKOK &mdash;&nbsp;As in most of Southeast Asia&rsquo;s capital cities, driving in Bangkok is often maddening. There are street dogs to dodge. Highways strangled by gridlock. When the monsoons come, busy avenues can quickly turn into mucky canals.</p> <p>Add to that a common indignity: cops squeezing drivers for petty bribes.</p> <p>But under a moralizing military junta, which seized power in a May coup, the rules are being rewritten.</p> <p>Thailand&rsquo;s traffic police are now more strongly compelled to say no to bribes. It&rsquo;s not because they&rsquo;ve suddenly realized corruption corrodes law and order, which they&rsquo;re meant to exemplify.</p> <p>The change of heart is instead owed to a new policy: Cops who turn down bribes can be rewarded with $300.</p> <p>Most Thais already have a dim view of the police. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A <a href="">June poll</a> suggests that more than 90 percent want the police force to be reformed. The police chief, installed by the military, <a href="">proclaimed</a> that the $300 reward scheme &ldquo;could help root out the entrenched culture plaguing our society.&rdquo;</p> <p>But one of Thailand&rsquo;s most esteemed economists doubts the plan will have much of an effect. Ammar Siamwalla, of the nonprofit Thailand Development Research Institute, said the &ldquo;whole corruption problem in the police department is too ingrained. No easy formula will work.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;You could say the police department is really a corporation. It&rsquo;s a business empire,&rdquo; Ammar said. &ldquo;Their fingers are in so many pies.&rdquo;</p> <p>Thailand&#39;s police corruption is nothing if not diversified. The Thai press is routinely filled with scandals linking cops to illicit ventures in smuggling, nightclubs, gambling dens and much more. Some of these enterprises pay police for protection. Others are controlled outright by officers. Pasuk Phongpaichit, a Thai economist who has studied black markets, has written that Thai policemen &quot;effectively license illegal activities in return for a regular fee or informal tax.&quot;</p> <p>But the average Thai civilian is much more likely to run afoul of cops on street patrol, namely in traffic or during stop-and-frisk searches. Cops seldom chase down motorists with flashing red lights as in the United States. They simply saunter into traffic and wave down drivers for alleged petty offenses.</p> <p>This situation can go one of two ways. The driver can be hauled into the station for an afternoon of tedious paperwork and fines. Or a few loose bills can be discreetly pressed into the cop&rsquo;s palm through the window.</p> <p>Thailand&rsquo;s corruption problem does little to differentiate it from much of the planet. According to Transparency International, one in four people worldwide paid a bribe in 2012. The most commonly bribed institution? Police.</p> <p>For Thais, it could be worse. Transparency International ranks Thailand&rsquo;s corruption (rated by perception) as somewhat average on a global scale: the country ranks 102 out of 177 nations surveyed. That&rsquo;s a little worse than India and a bit better than Mexico.</p> <p>There is no doubt that Thais crave police reform. But there are plenty of doubts that this approach &mdash; rewarding cops to obey the law &mdash; is what they had in mind.</p> <p>Introduced in early October, the policy has sparked an online panic so noisy that top police generals briefly promised to re-evaluate the plan. The police chief, Somyot Pumpanmoung, has since publicly backed the idea &mdash; and also offered to reward citizens $300 if they can present evidence proving police are dirty.</p> <p>Ending traffic bribes amounts to a radical shake-up of the rules.</p> <p>For decades, cops have compelled motorists to bribe them. Now the cops are incentivized to double-cross drivers. Police can&rsquo;t collect their $300 without making arrests for attempted bribery, and at least two men have already been nabbed. One offered a $3 bribe and the other offered $1.50; both were stopped for making illegal turns.</p> <p>&ldquo;Game changer! ... Police fines gone legit!&rdquo; screamed one <a href="">Thai-language gossip site. </a>Another message, gone viral on social media last week, warned Thais to &ldquo;Stop bribing cops! They&rsquo;ve all got spy cameras stuck to their bodies ... it&rsquo;s junta policy!&rdquo;</p> <p>Sure enough, photos emerged online of an officer allegedly covered in secret cameras &mdash; one each in his glasses, his pen and his top shirt button. (The annotations on the images below read: &quot;glasses cam, button cam, pen cam.&quot;)</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>กล้องจับคนติดสินบนตำรวจอยู่ตรงไหนบ้าง -กล้องกระดุม,เเว่นตาติดกล้อง,ปากกาติดกล้อง ติดตามชมในรายการ <a href="">#โลกคนเมือง</a> <a href="">#NOW26</a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; NOW26_กรุงเทพธุรกิจ (@NOW26_ktnews) <a href="">October 9, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p><img alt="Thai officer with hidden cameras" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" title="" /></p> <p>Thai police are structurally incentivized to collect cash under the table. Officially, they start off making minimum wage. Many are even forced to buy their own sidearms and uniforms, which can be paid down through a layaway-style plan.</p> <p>Rookie cops working the boondocks make as little as $185 per month. That&rsquo;s roughly $50 less than a newly hired 7-Eleven cashier makes in Bangkok, where the minimum wage is higher. The real money comes from petty bribes, protection rackets and other underground sources of income.</p> <p>Dismal salaries and bribery go hand in hand. But it will be difficult to get Thais to cheer on pay hikes for the police, Ammar said.</p> <p>&ldquo;As a taxpayer, I don&rsquo;t want to increase the police salary. Not until they&rsquo;ve already cracked down hard on corruption,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re making a lot of money as it is. They&rsquo;re not downtrodden.&rdquo;</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets Myanmar India Thailand Fri, 17 Oct 2014 07:38:46 +0000 Patrick Winn 6285470 at This celebrity scientist wants Germans to stop recycling. Here's why <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Eco-warrior turned chemist Michael Braungart is trying to kickstart a new industrial revolution. </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; Michael Braungart is in a hurry.</p> <p>A former environmental activist who once scaled smokestacks to fight pollution for Greenpeace, the celebrity chemist has emerged over the past two decades as a dark horse in the race to find solutions for saving the planet.</p> <p>Braungart wants to end the current drive for people to &ldquo;reduce, reuse and recycle&rdquo; goods in order to prompt the next industrial revolution. His core idea is for manufacturers and users to no longer &ldquo;consume&rdquo; raw materials that are turned into waste, but &ldquo;borrow&rdquo; them, a concept he calls cradle-to-cradle.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s really reinventing everything,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>But he&#39;s running out of time.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&#39;re losing our industrial base so fast in Europe that in the end we know what to do, but we cannot do it anymore,&rdquo; he says, talking as though he&#39;s trying to fit two hours of interview into a scheduled one-hour slot.</p> <p>He points to a television set he helped develop for the Dutch electronics giant Philips. The first TV designed not to spew toxic fumes into your living room, it saved so much electricity the company &ldquo;could have given it away for free, if you converted the energy savings,&rdquo; Braungart says.</p> <p>Three months later, however, Philips sold its TV unit to a company in China.</p> <p>With an unruly mop of sandy curls, wire-rimmed glasses and a rumpled denim blazer, Braungart looks like a Hollywood casting agent&rsquo;s idea of a genius &mdash; Steve Jobs meets Dr. Who. Like a mad scientist turned gossip columnist, he peppers his nonstop riff with bizarre non-sequiturs and the names of luminaries who have embraced his ideas, from Brad Pitt and Steven Spielberg to<a href=""> Ford Motor Company scion</a> Bill Ford and London Mayor Boris Johnson.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&#39;t know your sexual preference,&rdquo; he begins, seemingly apropos of nothing, eventually coming around to comparing the goal of zero emissions to sadomasochism.</p> <p>&ldquo;I talked to Boris ... London wants to be climate neutral,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;How stupid! No tree is climate neutral. We want to be more stupid than a tree?&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;We think it&#39;s only organic when my own feces cannot go back [to the soil]?&rdquo; he adds. &ldquo;This is sick! This is completely perverse.&rdquo;</p> <p>It&#39;s a heady mix of ideas. But there&#39;s substance, and progress, at its heart.</p> <p>Working with US architect <a href="">William McDonough</a>, Braungart aims to transform the world&#39;s economy through manufacturing processes that not only do no harm, but actually clean the air, replenish topsoil, and, like trees, turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.</p> <p>It may sound like pie in the sky. But since first presenting the idea in his bestselling 2002 manifesto &ldquo;Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things,&rdquo; Braungart has proven the concept&rsquo;s validity.</p> <p>He&#39;s helped multinationals develop hundreds of products like Desso&#39;s <a href="">EcoBase carpet tiles</a>, designed for the backing to be easily removed and the fabric sent back to the yarn-maker for reuse, and <a href="">Steelcase&#39;s Climatex</a> compostable upholstery fabric, so green that the effluent flowing out of the mill was cleaner than the water coming in.</p> <p>The best proof that cradle-to-cradle works, according to a recent Desso annual report, is that the company&rsquo;s market share of commercial carpets in Europe rose from 15 percent to 27 percent in the period the changes were made, 2007 to 2013.</p> <p>Still, change may not be coming fast enough.</p> <p>Critics point out that the certification program Braungart and McDonnough started to push companies to adopt cradle-to-cradle manufacturing processes is woefully behind schedule: 353 <a href="">certifications </a>against a targeted 30,000.</p> <p>In contrast, the US Green Building Council&#39;s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) <a href="">certification program</a>, begun in 1994, covers more than 50,000 construction projects worldwide.</p> <p>Meanwhile, as Braungart&#39;s experience with Philips suggests, globalization is driving manufacturers to low-cost countries &mdash; where environmental issues are only now beginning to gain prominence &mdash; far more rapidly.</p> <p>Decades of research went into the development of non-toxic ink and compostable leather, for example, before the printing and tanning business pulled up stakes and migrated to China and India.</p> <p>&ldquo;It took us 18 years to have a leather which we can compost,&rdquo; Braungart says. &ldquo;But in that period all the big tanneries closed down in Europe. Now, I can show you a leather sample which is amazingly nice, but we don&#39;t have anybody to use it.&rdquo;</p> <p>His biggest obstacle may well be some of the world&#39;s most popular green ideas &mdash; in which his native Germany is an unquestioned leader.</p> <p>Obsessively sorting their garbage and reusing bathwater since the 1970s, Germans have turned recycling into a religion. But that well-meaning, paper-or-plastic mentality has spawned huge industries predicated on the creation and incineration of waste.</p> <p>Strange contradictions in so-called sustainability have resulted, Braungart says.</p> <p>Among them, the <a href="">construction </a>of high-tech incinerators to dispose of magazines printed in China with ink made from toxic chemicals, and, more remarkably, the import of more than 2,000 tons of hazardous waste to fuel those plants.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Is the American right wing influencing Ireland&rsquo;s vote on same-sex marriage?</a></strong></p> <p>Citing Germany&#39;s ballyhooed energy transition or &ldquo;<a href="" target="_blank">Energiewende</a>,&rdquo; Braungart says dramatic policy changes are needed to shift focus away from minimizing damage, which he says slows our inevitable destruction but also helps ensure it.</p> <p>First up is encouraging innovation by targeting the elimination of waste incineration by 2030 through converting to the manufacture of products that can be returned to biological cycles.</p> <p>&ldquo;Just like socialism was never social, ecologism doesn&#39;t help the ecology,&rdquo; Braungart says about well-meaning but ultimately harmful recycling. &ldquo;It just keeps us busy.&rdquo;</p> Green Movement Want to Know Germany Global Economy Innovation Fri, 17 Oct 2014 07:38:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6288030 at Think the Islamic State is bad? Check out the 'good guys' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> US-backed Iraqi forces and their band of ruthless Shia militia groups have been carrying out atrocities of their own against Sunni civilians. </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>SULIMANIYAH, Iraq — Executing hundreds of prisoners without trial. Arbitrarily arresting villagers along sectarian lines. Hanging bodies from power lines to instill fear in the local community. Gunning down dozens of civilians as they gather to pray.</p> <p>If this sounds like a checklist for the Islamic State, or IS, try looking across the front line at one of the <a href="">United States</a>’ key allies on the ground. While the world is focused on the IS terror threat, the US-trained and backed Iraqi government forces and their band of ruthless Shia militia groups have been carrying out atrocities of their own against Sunni civilians, on a scale that in some ways parallels their “terrorist” counterparts.</p> <p>“Atrocities are being committed on both sides [by government-backed Shia militias and IS],” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser. “The crimes being committed by Shia militias throughout Iraq amount to war crimes. These are not one-off cases. They are systematic and widespread.”</p> <p>The Sunni extremist IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has grabbed headlines with their ruthless tactics in Iraq. Their systematic executions of Yazidis, Shia Muslims and Western hostages have been widely reported.</p> <p>But Sunni civilians have also suffered. They are often labeled “terrorists” or “Islamic State supporters” by Iraqi authorities and civilians alike based on no more than ethnicity or sect. They also face arbitrary arrests and even execution at the hands of government forces.</p> <p>“The Kurds and minority groups have places that are relatively safe within the [Kurdish region]. Shias also have safe havens and Iraqi government protection, but for Sunni families it is really tough,” said Rovera. “Most are really quite terrified, especially the Sunni males and parents with young sons.”</p> <p>An Amnesty International report released Tuesday<em> </em>titled "<a href="" target="_blank">Absolute Impunity: Militia rule in Iraq</a>," documented hundreds of abductions of Sunni civilians by Shia militias. In Samarra alone, an area that sits on the IS-Iraqi government border, Amnesty outlined 170 abduction cases since June. In many instances the groups demanded ransoms from family members, only to kill their loved ones after payment.</p> <p>Iraqi lawyer Kassim Ali, who has dedicated his career to fighting for Sunni rights, said the bodies of victims of Shia militia groups were sometimes displayed in the streets of his hometown Baquba to “deter anyone from sympathizing with IS.” He personally has seen four Sunni men hanging from electricity poles. Local reports from July 29 described 15 bodies displayed in the Baquba public square that day. </p> <p>“For the past two years these militias have been regularly searching Sunni homes without just cause, breaking and destroying everything,” said Ali, who has fled since receiving death threats. “They arrest, murder and kidnap for ransom. They have burned or bombed Sunni mosques throughout Diyala [province], killing scores of people.”</p> <p>Ali listed the names of Sunnis killed this year in town after town across Diyala, where Baquba is located. The province neighboring Baghdad has been a <a href="" target="_blank">hotbed of sectarian violence</a> for years. Some of the Sunnis he named were killed in attacks on places of worship, including an Aug. 22 attack on a mosque in the village of Bani Wais. Medical authorities reported at least 73 were gunned down as they attended Friday prayers. YouTube <a href="" target="_blank">footage</a> shows bodies lying across the mosque floor, including at least one child.</p> <p>A <a href="">report</a> by Human Rights Watch this month detailed 255 cases of Iraqi security forces and government-backed militias executing Sunni prisoners. The reported killings took place in six Iraqi cities and villages in early June as civilians withdrew from IS advances.</p> <p>“Gunning down prisoners is an outrageous violation of international law,” said Joe Stork, deputy <a href="">Middle East</a> director at Human Rights Watch. “While the world rightly denounces the atrocious acts of ISIS, it should not turn a blind eye to sectarian killing sprees by government and pro-government forces.”</p> <p>Just this week, families living in areas recently retaken from IS by the Iraqi government and Kurdish peshmerga have reported the deliberate burning of Sunni homes and intimidation of Sunni families who have no where else to go.</p> <p>Rovera, who spoke to GlobalPost Thursday by phone from London, said the Iraqi government has not only allowed Shia militia groups to operate with impunity, but has supported and even engaged in committing some of the atrocities.</p> <p>This calls into question the accountability of governments who form the US-led international coalition currently supporting Iraqi troops fighting IS, who have so far failed to pressure the Iraqi government to crack down on militia violence. President Barack Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">four-point strategy</a> for fighting the Islamic State, which he detailed in September just after Iraq <a href="" target="_blank">swore in a new government</a>, acknowledged threats posed to Sunnis by the terror group but not by Shia militias.</p> <p>“Governments who are involved on the military side must create a concrete and vigorous oversight,” Rovera said. Training and arming local forces means international governments share the responsibility for how those weapons are used both now and in the long term, she added.</p> <p><strong>Fighting justice</strong></p> <p>Abu Makaram and his 31-year-old son both worked as lawyers fighting for the rights of Sunnis. Earlier this year his son was representing four Sunni men arrested by Shia militia group Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, when he was gunned down as he left the Baquba courtroom. Eyewitnesses claimed the same militia group was behind his murder.</p> <p>“We used to defend Sunnis who were tortured into confessions,” said Makaram, who asked for his full name not to be used because he is targeted by Shia groups for his work. “One of my clients lost his arm after being strung up and tortured for days. I had clients whose heads were split open. One man had a concrete block tied to his penis.”</p> <p>According to local media reports, at least seven lawyers known for defending clients arrested over alleged connections with Sunni militant groups have been killed in Baquba this year. Dozens of Sunnis have been killed while in detention.</p> <p>The night after his son’s murder, Makaram’s home was ransacked and destroyed moments after he fled to the Kurdish region with his remaining family, including four grandchildren and his son’s pregnant wife.</p> <p>Before he fled, Makaram also saw the bodies of Sunni men hanging in the streets.</p> <p>“One was an engineering student who lived in our area,” he said. “If Sunnis stay in government areas they are targeted by the Shia gangs. If they go to the IS territory they are forced to join them or maybe face worse than the Shia gangs would do to them. They have no options.”</p> <p>Rovera echoed his concerns.</p> <p>“Arabs are not allowed to enter the Kurdish regions anymore. Those already there are treated with suspicion. In the government areas it is really tough going,” she said.</p> <p>“In a way, as incredible as it may seem, the IS-controlled areas are safer and easier [for Sunnis] because if you do not step out of line, by and large they leave the Sunnis alone.”</p> <p>But in IS territory the rules are ever-changing. Aside from indiscriminate bombing by the Iraqi army and airstrikes by an international coalition targeting IS, neutral Sunni civilians can’t predict just how long the militants will leave them alone.</p> Islamic State Need to Know Syria Iraq Middle East Fri, 17 Oct 2014 05:22:58 +0000 Tracey Shelton 6288008 at