GlobalPost - Home C. 2011 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en Remember Obama's whole pivot to Asia thing? Well, he's trying to revive it <!--paging_filter--><p>When a Philippine government ship evaded a Chinese blockade in disputed waters of the South <a href="">China</a> Sea last month, a US Navy plane swooped in to witness the dramatic encounter.</p> <p>The flyover was a vivid illustration of the expanding significance of one of Asia's most strategic regions and underscored a message that senior US officials say President Barack Obama will make in Asia next week: The "pivot" of US military and diplomatic assets toward the Asia-Pacific region is real.</p> <p>Washington's Asian allies, however, appear unconvinced.</p> <p>During Obama's four-nation tour of Asia that begins on April 23, his toughest challenge will be to reassure skeptical leaders that the <a href="">United States</a> intends to be more than just a casual observer and instead is genuinely committed to countering an increasingly assertive China in the region.</p> <p>Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula — and perceptions of limited US options to get Moscow to back down — has heightened unease in <a href="">Japan</a>, the Philippines and elsewhere about whether Beijing might feel emboldened to use force to pursue its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas.</p> <p>There is also suspicion among some Asian allies that if they come under threat from China, the United States — despite treaty obligations to come to their aid — might craft a response aimed more at controlling damage to its own vital relationship with China, the world's second-biggest economic power.</p> <p>For Obama, the tricky part of the trip, which will include stops in Japan, <a href="">South Korea</a>, Malaysia and the Philippines, will be deciding how to set limits on China in a way that soothes US allies in Asia but avoids stoking tensions with Beijing.</p> <p>"Obama's upcoming visit will be the most critical test of this administration's Asia policy," said Richard Jacobson, a Manila-based analyst with TD International, a business risk and strategic consulting firm.</p> <p><strong>A sign of anxiety</strong></p> <p>US officials say the Obama administration's long-promised "rebalancing" of America's economic, diplomatic and security policy toward Asia is on track, largely unaffected by the attention demanded by the crisis in Ukraine or persistent troubles in the <a href="">Middle East</a>.</p> <p>The Asia "pivot" — as the White House initially dubbed it — represented a strategy to refocus on the region's dynamic economies as the United States disentangled itself from costly wars in Iraq and <a href="">Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p>But doubts about Washington's commitment to Asia are simmering in some allied capitals.</p> <p>"It was a welcome policy change, but will they do it?" Yukio Okamoto, a former Japanese government adviser on foreign affairs said of the strategic shift toward Asia that Obama announced in 2011. "We do not see any actual sign" of its implementation.</p> <p>When Obama announced the eastward shift, the most dramatic symbol of the new policy was the planned deployment of 2,500 US Marines in northern Australia, where they would be primed to respond to regional conflicts. It took until this month to build up forces to 1,150 Marines based in Darwin, and the full contingent is not due to be in place until 2017.</p> <p>"The US pivot towards Asia has had very few tangible, concrete outcomes so far," said Adam Lockyer, a foreign policy and defense analyst at the University of New South <a href="">Wales</a>.</p> <p>The administration has promised that the United States will reposition naval forces so that 60 percent of its warships are based in Asia-Pacific by the end of the decade, up from about 50 percent now. But as the US military budget contracts, that likely would represent part of a shrinking US defense pie.</p> <p>Obama's aides brush aside complaints about the US follow-through on the pivot strategy, saying that no matter how much attention Washington devotes to friends and partners in the region, the allies will always want more from their superpower friend.</p> <p>"Questions by Asia-Pacific allies about the degree of American commitment has been a constant component of our relationship for 60-plus years. It's not new," said a senior US official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to comment publicly. "It doesn't mean the US won't do more to work with them."</p> Need to Know United States Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:54:00 +0000 Matt Spetalnick and Manuel Mogato, Thomson Reuters 6123245 at The Pakistani Taliban says it's ended a 40-day ceasefire with the government <!--paging_filter--><p>The Pakistani Taliban have formally ended a 40-day ceasefire but are still open to talks with the government, a spokesman said on Wednesday.</p> <p>Government negotiators were not immediately available to confirm if talks would continue.</p> <p>Shahidullah Shahid said the insurgents were not extending the ceasefire, which began on March 1, because the government had continued to arrest people and had killed more than 50 people associated with the insurgency.</p> <p>The government has also continued to carry our raids and had arrested more than 200 people, he said. Shahid also complained that unidentified Taliban prisoners had been tortured in prison.</p> <p>"However, the talks will continue with sincerity and seriousness and in case there is clear progress from the government side, (the Taliban) will not hesitate to take a serious step," Shahid said in a statement.</p> <p>Peace talks between the Taliban and the government began in February but the first round collapsed after less than a week because the Taliban bombed a bus full of police and executed 23 kidnapped men from a government paramilitary force.</p> <p>The government suspended talks and threatened to launch a military operation against Taliban bases. Talks only resumed after the Taliban declared a ceasefire on March 1.</p> <p>Since then, the government has released a few dozen low-level non-combatant prisoners, but the Taliban want hundreds of men released and the army to pull back from tribal areas bordering <a href="">Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p>The Taliban have been fighting for years to overthrow the democratically elected government of <a href="">Pakistan</a> and impose strict Islamic law on the nation of 180 million people.</p> <p>But in recent weeks fighting has broken out between rival Taliban commanders in the powerful Mehsud tribe. One commander wanted talks to continue but another is violently opposed. Around 50 people have been killed in the infighting so far.</p> <p>The ceasefire did not ensure peace. More than 100 were injured and 34 were killed in two attacks in the capital of Islamabad during the ceasefire. Militants attacked a court and bombed a vegetable market. It was not clear whether a faction of the Taliban carried out the bombing or another of Pakistan's many militant groups.</p> <p>The Pakistani Taliban are a loose alliance of militant groups separate from but allied to the Afghan Taliban.</p> <p>Pakistani police have warned that the Pakistani Taliban are preparing to carry out devastating suicide attacks in the capital if the army moves against Taliban bases near the Afghan border.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Islamabad; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Alison Williams)</p> Need to Know Pakistan Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:17:47 +0000 Saud Mehsud, Thomson Reuters 6123230 at One Indonesian governor's solution for adultery: Attend mass prayers <!--paging_filter--><p>An Indonesian governor said Wednesday he has ordered all civil servants in a central province to attend mass prayer sessions and religious sermons in a bid to stop adultery.</p> <p>It was just the latest attempt by Rusli Habibie to encourage government employees in Gorontalo province — which is mainly Muslim like most parts of the vast archipelago — to stay faithful.</p> <p>He enacted a local law earlier this month requiring all government employees regularly to pray together and attend half-hour sermons each Friday in the hope it would discourage them from cheating on spouses.</p> <p>"I have heard so many reports of married civil servants cheating. They have one girlfriend or boyfriend one day, and another the next. They are not allowed to do this," Habibie told AFP.</p> <p>"Their behavior is destroying the image of the government. They cannot do this," he added, rejecting criticism that infidelity was a private matter.</p> <p>In March last year Habibie gave instructions that male civil servants' salaries be paid into their wives' bank accounts to stop them spending cash on their mistresses, saying men with money were "unable to control themselves."</p> <p>In July he banned male employees from having female secretaries. He said the secretaries often became the men's mistresses and were given gifts of "perfume and branded bags" while their wives were neglected.</p> <p>More than 90 percent of <a href="">Indonesia</a>'s 250 million people are Muslim, with most practicing a moderate form of Islam.</p> <p>ad/sr/sm</p> Need to Know Indonesia Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:41:40 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6123091 at Loathing and lawlessness in occupied eastern Ukraine <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukrainian forces are proving unable to reassert control over pro-Russia activists with serious grievances. </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>SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — Even before Ukrainian troops rolled into this crumbling city on Wednesday and promptly surrendered or defected to the pro-Russian rebels who had seized it last weekend — as conflicting reports suggest — it already seemed a lost cause.</p> <p>Since Saturday, the central streets of this former industrial outpost of about 130,000 have been patrolled by heavily armed, masked men, some of whom bear a striking resemblance to the Russian troops who appeared in Crimea shortly before Moscow annexed the Black Sea peninsula last month.</p> <p>Most strategic points around town — the city council building, the local police station and the state security headquarters — remain surrounded by barricades of sandbags and tires, guarded by rag-tag, crudely armed teams of local “self-defense” forces in surgical masks.</p> <p>Amid real anger here, the Ukrainian government’s writ is disappearing.</p> <p>Local residents say they’re fed up with the new pro-Western government — backed by the months-long protests on Kyiv’s Independence Square, the “Maidan” — that’s shown little interest in extending a hand to the Russified, industrial east.</p> <p>“For three months, we watched this scene on the Maidan and were against it, but no one listened to us,” said 55-year-old local Olga Vladimirovna, standing near the blockaded police station on Tuesday.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>Such grievances have helped feed the wave of pro-Russian sentiments here in Ukraine’s east, where several other cities have fallen under at least some control by anti-government rebels seeking to break ties with the new Kyiv government.</p> <p>“We knew how this would all end,” Vladimirovna added. “We’re not stupid people here — we knew it would result in collapse.”</p> <p>In Slovyansk — a gray city of decrepit roads, shuttered factories and ramshackle, Soviet-era apartment blocks — that collapse appears to have at least somewhat materialized.</p> <p>There are virtually no police officers in sight and local officials have made few attempts to regulate the situation. The vast majority remains loyal to ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.</p> <p>Slovyansk Mayor Nelya Shtepa had earlier supported the protesters’ occupation of local buildings and suggested a referendum on the country’s federalization, a key demand voiced by disenfranchised protesters in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>But by Tuesday, she had fled the city and changed tack, claiming well-trained Russians had spearheaded the siege on Slovyansk and were handing out arms to homegrown rebels.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>The Kyiv authorities, meanwhile, have clumsily scrambled to regain control in the east by launching an “anti-terrorist” operation that’s stalling by all accounts.</p> <p>While they appeared to have partially succeeded on Tuesday in recapturing an occupied airfield in the nearby city of Kramatorsk, scattered reports on Wednesday suggested the troops who arrived in Slovyansk were Ukrainians who had sided with the pro-Russian rebels.</p> <p>A senior Kyiv lawmaker denied those charges, claiming the Ukrainians had rolled into the city under the guise of pro-Russian support as a “guerilla tactic.”</p> <p>Later, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry announced that “Russian saboteurs” had captured the vehicles, the Kyiv Post reported, and that those in control were unrelated to Ukraine’s army.</p> <p>That followed shortly after Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused <a href="">Russia</a> of “exporting terrorism” by fueling the discontent and supporting the armed rebels.</p> <p>In Slovyansk, with no police on the streets, protesters have set up checkpoints on all the roads leading in and out of the city, where they roam in makeshift combat gear — some armed with automatic rifles — and inspect passing cars at will.</p> <p>In a dose of glaring symbolism, they’ve hoisted the Russian flag as well as their own self-styled rebel banner above the seized city council building, where several municipal workers were spotted Tuesday removing their belongings.</p> <p>Ukraine’s national coat of arms, the trident, has been torn down.</p> <p>But amid the outward defiance looms a sense of deep paranoia among the protesters who’ve sustained the anti-government movement here, stemming from fear the allegedly nationalist authorities — with help from their Western allies — are looking to persecute them.</p> <p>That’s fed by the Russian state media on which most pro-Russian Ukrainians rely for their information, and which has cast the armed unrest in eastern Ukraine as a peaceful uprising.</p> <p>Locals here celebrate Russian media as a counterweight to what they see as a pro-Kyiv disinformation campaign aimed at painting them as separatist criminals.</p> <p>On Tuesday afternoon, an angry mob swarmed a local middle-aged woman, demanding to see her passport after she’d become embroiled in a political debate with another protester. The crowd loudly denounced her as a “provocateur” — ostensibly sent to sow chaos — before chasing her away with threats of physical violence.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>Meanwhile, rumors have swirled about mysterious looters who’ve been marauding shops around town. Locals insist the culprits are pro-Ukrainian forces bent on undermining the protest movement here.</p> <p>That’s among the many reasons people here look to Russia, which they claim would provide support and stability for a region that feels politically and socially slighted by Kyiv.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Putin warns of civil war as pro-Russian separatists capture Ukrainian armored vehicles (LIVE BLOG)</a></strong></p> <p>Slovyansk’s once powerful industry has been gutted since the collapse of the Soviet Union and now faces even worse prospects as Ukraine pivots westward. Residents see Kyiv as a black hole for the money they say the Donetsk Region — Ukraine’s industrial heartland — contributes to the federal budget and while getting little in return.</p> <p>Some, like Sergei Kharchynsky, a 53-year-old construction worker, says federalization would allow the region to conduct its own economic affairs with Russia, on which the surviving industry here relies.</p> <p>“Look at it this way: Donetsk should pay a fixed tax to Kyiv once a year, and then after that it’s off the hook — it’s free to do whatever it likes,” he said.</p> <p>“And when another Maidan breaks out and they ask us for more money to pay for all the damage, we’ll say ‘That’s your problem.’”</p> <p>Others are more worried about their wellbeing under Kyiv’s rule.</p> <p>“We’ll be plagued by hunger and outright poverty with this government,” said Vladimirovna, the protester standing by the barricades.</p> <p>“And if that’s not enough, they’ll start cutting us up,” she added, referring to the more aggressive nationalist supporters of Ukraine’s new government. “‘Hang the Muscovites’ is what they say, isn’t it?” </p> Crisis in Ukraine Need to Know Conflict Zones Diplomacy Military Europe Russia Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:14:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6123088 at Mexican authorities arrest mayor for helping a drug gang extort city council members <!--paging_filter--><p>Mexican prosecutors have arrested the mayor of a town in the troubled western state of Michoacan on suspicion of collaborating with a violent drug gang.</p> <p>The state government of Michoacan said in a statement it had detained Uriel Chavez, the mayor of Apatzingan, a city that has been a major stronghold of the Knights Templar.</p> <p>Michoacan state prosecutors said Chavez had aided suspected members of the drug gang in extorting members of the city council to the tune of 20,000 pesos ($1,500) monthly to help the gang purchase weapons.</p> <p>Chavez could not immediately be reached for comment.</p> <p>Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto pledged to restore order when he took office in December 2012. But <a href="">Mexico</a> has been racked by drug-related violence in recent years. All told, more than 85,000 people have died in killings linked to drug gang violence since the end of 2006.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Will this deal solve Mexico&rsquo;s vigilante problem?</a></strong></p> <p>The Knights Templar has openly defied the government in Michoacan, and at the start of this year, federal forces began working with local vigilante groups in an effort to crush the cartel.</p> <p>Since then, the government has killed or captured most of the senior leadership of the Knights Templar, though the face of the gang, Servando Gomez, remains at large.</p> <p>The Knights emerged from a split in another cartel in Michoacan, known as La Familia, and have controlled large swaths of the restive mountainous state in recent years, extorting farmers and local businesses and even diversifying away from drug trafficking to industries such as mining.</p> <p>($1 = 13.0983 Mexican pesos)</p> <p>(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, editing by G Crosse)</p> Need to Know Mexico Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:23:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6123064 at A Belgian conservationist who protects mountain gorillas was shot in DR Congo <!--paging_filter--><p>Environmentalists around the world condemned on Wednesday the shooting of a <a href="">Belgian</a> conservationist who has struggled to protect <a href="">Africa</a>'s mountain gorillas in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.</p> <p>Emmanuel de Merode, director of the Virunga National Park in the DR Congo's war scarred North Kivu province, was attacked on Tuesday as he travelled alone by jeep from the regional capital Goma to a nearby nature conservation center.</p> <p>A colleague said he was attacked after filing a report into the actions of a British oil company, SOCO International, which had sought to prospect in an area overlapping the park.</p> <p>"This is the first time the director de Merode has been directly attacked. We don't yet know the motive for this attack," Norbert Mushenzi, the director's assistant, told AFP.</p> <p>"Mr. De Merode had just filed a report with the public prosecutor in Goma comprising the results of months — even years — of investigation into SOCO International.</p> <p>In 2010 SOCO International won a government contract to jointly prospect for oil on a concession overlapping the park's territory, but Kinshasa later suspended the permit under international pressure.</p> <p>De Merode, who is around 40, was reportedly rescued by an army patrol and rushed to the Heal Africa hospital in Goma where he underwent surgery to remove bullets.</p> <p>"He was shot in the stomach and the thorax. He had surgery and is still in intensive care, and according to the surgeon, so far there is hope," hospital spokesman Ferdinand Mugisho told AFP.</p> <p>North Kivu province has been ravaged by successive conflicts for more than 20 years.</p> <p><strong>'Dedicated conservationist' </strong></p> <p>The reserve, which covers 800,000 hectares (two million acres) of land on the border with Uganda and Rwanda, has attained worldwide renown for its rare and endangered mountain gorillas.</p> <p>The attackers did not steal anything from de Merode.</p> <p>A group of North Kivu environmentalists condemned the attack, which they said was aimed at "discouraging community development and conservation efforts."</p> <p>The provincial governor of North Kivu, where Goma is located, visited de Merode in hospital on Wednesday.</p> <p>"He is lucid, he is talking, and he thanked the army for rescuing him, as well as the doctors who saved him," Julien Paluku told AFP.</p> <p>Created in 1925 in the far east of what was then the Belgian Congo, the Virunga park has been declared an "endangered" part of the global heritage by UNESCO.</p> <p>Poachers and logging teams have damaged the reserve, as elsewhere in Africa, but the park is also criss-crossed by rival armed groups and soldiers, while local people have taken up illegal residence.</p> <p>The quest for oil is the latest threat to Africa's most venerable wildlife reserve.</p> <p>WWF head of conservation Lasse Gustavsson said de Merode was a "dedicated conservationist" who put his life on the line every day to protect the park and the people who depended on it for their livelihoods.</p> <p>"I know how much Emmanuel loves this park. He continues to be a source of inspiration to those around him and I wish him a swift recovery."</p> <p>hab/cc/er/txw</p> Africa Need to Know Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:45:33 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6123028 at An Egyptian court sentences 119 supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi to prison <!--paging_filter--><p>An Egyptian court sentenced 119 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood of former president Mohamed Morsi to three years each in prison on Wednesday in connection with protests last October against his overthrow, judicial sources said.</p> <p>More than 50 people were killed in the October 6 protests called by Morsi supporters, one of the bloodiest days since his overthrow by the military on July 3. Judge Hazem Hashad acquitted six people in the case. They faced charges including unlawful assembly and thuggery.</p> <p>The army-backed authorities have banned the Muslim Brotherhood and driven it underground, killing hundreds of its supporters in the weeks after Morsi was toppled and arresting thousands more.</p> <p>In another case, a court in southern <a href="">Egypt</a> sentenced 529 Morsi supporters to death last month. The ruling has drawn criticism from rights groups and Western governments.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Court bans Muslim Brotherhood members from running in Egypt's elections</a></strong></p> <p>The Brotherhood was Egypt's best organized political party until last year but the government has declared it a terrorist group and accused it of turning to violence since Morsi was overthrown following mass protests against his rule.</p> <p>The Brotherhood says the group remains committed to peacefully resisting what it views as a military coup.</p> <p>(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Janet Lawrence)</p> Egypt Need to Know Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:28:53 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6122959 at Nearly 300 people are missing after a ferry capsizes off South Korea <!--paging_filter--><p>Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off <a href="">South Korea</a> on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.</p> <p>The ferry was carrying 459 people, of whom 164 have been rescued, coastguard officials said.</p> <p>The coastguard said one person was found dead inside the sinking ferry. An official from the Mokpo Hankook hospital on the mainland said another person died soon after arriving at its emergency ward. That person was identified as one of the students on the school trip.</p> <p>Four people were confirmed dead in total.</p> <p>It was not immediately clear why the Sewol ferry listed heavily on to its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast, but some survivors spoke of what appeared to be an impact prior to the accident.</p> <p>"It was fine. Then the ship went 'boom' and there was a noise of cargo falling," said Cha Eun-ok, who said she was on the deck of the ferry taking photographs at the time.</p> <p>"The on-board announcement told people to stay put ... people who stayed are trapped," she said in Jindo, the nearest town to the scene of the accident.</p> <p>Survivors there huddled on the floor of a gymnasium, wrapped in blankets and receiving medical aid. One woman lay on a bed shaking uncontrollably. A man across the room wailed loudly as he spoke on his mobile phone.</p> <div class="ndn_embed" data-config-playlist-id="13434" data-config-site-section="globalpost" data-config-tracking-group="91868" data-config-type="VideoPlayer/Single" data-config-video-id="25812503" data-config-widget-id="2" style="width:425px;height:320px">  </div> <p>Furious relatives of the missing threw water at journalists trying to speak to survivors and at a local politician who had arrived at the makeshift clinic.</p> <p>Most of the passengers on board the ferry appeared to have been teenagers and their teachers from a high school in Seoul who were on a field trip to Jeju island, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the Korean peninsula.</p> <p><strong>Confusion over number missing</strong></p> <p>An official from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb, had earlier said all of its 338 students and teachers had been rescued. But that could not be confirmed by the coastguard or other officials involved in the rescue.</p> <p>The school official asked not to be identified.</p> <p>The Ministry of Security and Public Administration earlier reported that 368 people had been rescued and that about 100 were missing.</p> <p>But it later described those figures as a miscalculation, turning what had at first appeared to be a largely successful rescue operation into potentially a major disaster.</p> <p>There was also confusion about the total number of passengers on board, as authorities revised the figure down from 477, saying some had been double counted. It added to growing frustration and anger among families of the passengers.</p> <p>Witnesses said many people were likely to be trapped inside the vessel.</p> <p>According to a coast guard official in Jindo, the waters where the ferry capsized have some of the strongest tides of any off South Korea's coast, meaning divers were prevented from entering the mostly submerged ship for several hours.</p> <p><strong>'Loud impact'</strong></p> <p>The ferry began to list badly about 20 km (12 miles) off the southwest coast as it headed for Jeju.</p> <p>A member of the crew of a local government ship involved in the rescue, who said he had spoken to members of the sunken ferry's crew, said the area was free of reefs or rocks and the cause was likely to be some sort of malfunction on the vessel.</p> <p>There were reports of the ferry having veered off its course, but coordinates of the site of the accident provided by port authorities indicated it was not far off the regular shipping lane.</p> <p>Several survivors spoke of hearing a "loud impact" before the ship started listing and rolling on its side.</p> <p>Within a couple of hours, the Sewol was lying on its port side. Soon after, it had completely turned over, with only the forward part of its white and blue hull showing above the water.</p> <p>Coastguard vessels and fishing boats scrambled to the rescue with television footage showing rescuers pulling passengers in life vests out of the water as their boats bobbed beside the ferry's hull.</p> <p>Other passengers were winched to safety by helicopters.</p> <p>The ferry left from the port of Incheon, about 30 km (20 miles) west of Seoul, late on Tuesday.</p> <p>It sent a distress signal early on Wednesday, the coastguard said, triggering a rescue operation that involved almost 100 coastguard and navy vessels and fishing boats, as well as 18 helicopters.</p> <p>A US navy ship was at the scene to help, the US Seventh Fleet said, adding it was ready to offer more assistance.</p> <p>The area of the accident was clear of fog, unlike further north up the coast, which had been shrouded in heavy fog that led to the cancellation of many ferry services.</p> <p>The ship has a capacity of about 900 people, an overall length of 146 meters (480 feet) and it weighs 6,586 gross tons. Shipping records show it was built in <a href="">Japan</a> in 1994.</p> <p>In 1993, the Seohae ferry sank, and 292 of the 362 passengers on board perished.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Ju-Min Park, Choonsik Yoo, Meeyoung Cho and James Pearson in SEOUL; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mike Collett-White)</p> Need to Know South Korea Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:35:00 +0000 Narae Kim, Thomson Reuters 6122931 at Chatter: Words like civil war and defections are flying around Ukraine <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Putin warns of civil war as Ukraine moves on eastern towns, Australia's scientists worry about a Tony Abbott government, and lions face starvation in Crimea. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Priyanka Boghani </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:00:00 +0000 Priyanka Boghani 5942065 at Will this deal solve Mexico’s vigilante problem? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mexico’s militia leaders and government have made a breakthrough. Here's what their new pact means. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ioan Grillo </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">MEXICO</a> CITY — The rise of thousands of vigilantes bearing assault rifles to rout a drug cartel in western Mexico’s Michoacan state has presented the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto with a policy nightmare.</p> <p>Attacking the vigilantes is unpopular and morally questionable. But tolerating these gun-wielding militias, who are manning checkpoints, detaining suspects and swarming on towns, shows a breakdown of the basic rule of law.</p> <p>However, the government and vigilantes may have found a way out of this conundrum.</p> <p>Late Monday, Peña Nieto’s envoy and a council of vigilante leaders made an agreement in which a new state police force could incorporate militias, others could be demobilized and many imprisoned vigilantes may be released. Vigilante chiefs would also be given protection to avoid revenge attacks by disgruntled gangsters.</p> <p>Experts hailed it as the most significant political solution so far to Mexico’s new wave of vigilantism.</p> <p>As Michoacan self-defense squad leader Jose Mireles said in a conciliatory video statement released Monday, “We are not going to focus on violence, we are not going to kidnap, we are not going to rape, we are not going to cut people up, we are not going to extort, we just want to defend ourselves.”</p> <p>The agreement came amid heightening tensions. In recent weeks, police and soldiers arrested dozens of vigilantes for crimes including murder. In reaction, Mireles — a medical doctor turned vigilante — threatened to blockade roads throughout the state unless prisoners were released.</p> <p>However, it also comes as the vigilante militias and federal forces have worked side by side to crush a common enemy: the brutal <a href="" target="_blank">Knights Templar</a> drug cartel, accused of terrorizing Michoacan villagers and controlling crystal meth and illicit iron ore smuggling routes across the region.</p> <p>Mexican marines <a href="" target="_blank">shot dead</a> the Templar boss Nazario “The Craziest One” Moreno on March 9 while soldiers killed his sadistic lieutenant, Enrique Plancarte, at the end of the month.</p> <p>These takedowns were possible after the vigilantes had taken the bastion towns of the Knights Templar, decimating the cartel’s rackets and forcing its leaders to go on the lam.</p> <p>The deal has its pitfalls. New arrests or violence could easily derail it. The Knights Templar is down but not totally out. Vigilante leader Mireles and the federal government commissioner Alfredo Castillo vary on their interpretations of the agreement.</p> <p>Here's a look at the main points of the pact and what they mean.</p> <p> </p> <h2> 1) From vigilantes to uniformed rural state police</h2> <p><img src=""><br><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">(Hector Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images)</span><em> </em></p> <p>The police force, which will be created by May 10, is the key to a political solution. It could allow the vigilantes to maintain security to stop the Knights Templar cartel from returning, and to wear uniforms to undo the specter of ragged civilians with Kalashnikovs manning roadblocks. This is markedly different from a previous idea of making vigilantes into volunteer members of the army’s rural corps, which failed because most militia members did not meet the requirements. The new state force could make its own rules to fit the circumstances.</p> <p>Security analyst Alejandro Hope said the force is the most realistic proposal to rein in the vigilantes. “It is an institutional solution that could work,” he said. “But there are concerns, like how you would stop the new force from falling into the same vices as previous police forces.”</p> <p> </p> <h2> 2) Handing in unregistered guns</h2> <p><img src=""><br><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">(Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images)</span><em> </em></p> <p>The state’s monopoly on the control of guns in Michoacan is crucial in re-establishing the rule of law. However, there are varying interpretations of what this could mean. Mireles said in an interview on MVS radio Tuesday that vigilantes would hand in heavy weaponry such as grenade launchers and .50-caliber rifles. However, most vigilantes have Kalashnikovs, and Mexico bans the use of the AK-47 by both police and civilians.</p> <p> </p> <h2> 3) Concessions on vigilante prisoners</h2> <p>More than 100 vigilante prisoners from Michoacan are held in state and federal prisons around Mexico. The government said in a statement that those who are being held on firearm charges would be moved to a low-security prison in Michoacan, close to their families. However, Mireles said they have been promised that most vigilante prisoners would be released, no matter what the charges.</p> <p> </p> <h2> 4) Protecting militia leaders</h2> <p><img src="" width="670px/"><br><span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;">Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles, a vigilante leader in Tepalcatepec, Michoacan state, Mexico. (Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)</span><em> </em></p> <p>The government promised to protect vigilante leaders, whom the Knights Templar has vowed to kill. This is an important point for figures such as Mireles (above) who have put themselves in the firing line. But it’s potentially problematic. The Mexican government often fails to protect its own police officers and politicians from gangster assassins.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">With friends like these, can Mexico find justice?</a></strong></p> <p> </p> <h2> 5) Finishing off the Knights Templar</h2> <p>The vigilante militias formed because of the way the Knights Templar drug cartel preyed on the community, accusing the gang of shaking down businesses and committing wanton rape and murder. Mireles says the cartel has now been decimated in 30 municipalities occupied by self-defense squads. But the vigilantes want to clean the gangsters out of all 113 municipalities in Michoacan. They also want to see the capture or killing of the remaining leaders such as Servando “La Tuta” Gomez. This last point is particularly problematic as there could be much debate as to when the Knights Templar can be officially declared kaput.</p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Military Politics Mexico Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:06:41 +0000 Ioan Grillo 6122412 at The zero-emission engine is getting ready for prime time <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the global market for electric and hybrid cars expands, Germany is also betting on another alternative power source. </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>STUTTGART, <a href="">Germany</a> — At the Mercedes-Benz headquarters here, a showroom display illustrates the rapid evolution of the iconic luxury brand’s hydrogen-fueled cars.</p> <p>In a 1992 prototype, the fuel cell takes up the entire cargo area of a delivery van. Across the room, today's model — now merely the size of an average television set — is displayed in front of a neon-lit outline of a compact passenger car.</p> <p>This “zero emission” engine, it appears, is ready for prime time.</p> <p>With the aid of government spending and joint efforts by Ford and Nissan, Daimler — Mercedes’s parent corporation — aims to start selling hydrogen-fueled cars to the public as early as 2017.</p> <p>If they take off, the biggest impact may be felt not in the car industry but in wind energy. Experts say a large commercial market could enable green energy producers to use their excess power to make clean hydrogen instead of storing it in costly batteries.</p> <p>To meet <a href="">Europe</a>'s aggressive targets for emissions reductions, Daimler is developing hybrids and electric cars, too. But although hydrogen-powered cars have been slower to hit the market, their potential benefit to the wind-power industry means they may become even bigger in Germany, says Christian Mohrdieck, director of Daimler's fuel cell program.</p> <p>“We’re very sure we can achieve a product cost level which is competitive [with today's hybrid cars]," he says. “But to get there, we still need to work very intensively on the business side.”</p> <p>The selling points for consumers are strong.</p> <p>Unlike hybrids, hydrogen-fueled cars are truly “zero emission” vehicles, powered by a chemical reaction with water as its only by-product. And unlike plug-in electrics, hydrogen-powered cars have the same range as those running on gasoline or diesel — and can be refueled just as quickly.</p> <p>That doesn’t mean the going will be easy.</p> <p>Expensive platinum components hydrogen cars require mean it will be challenging to bring their cost below $100,000.</p> <p>Moreover, while drivers of hybrids can refuel at ordinary gas stations and battery-powered car owners can plug them in at home, hydrogen cars will require a network of special fueling stations.</p> <p>Prominent critics such as Elon Musk, founder of the burgeoning electric car manufacturer Tesla, joke that hydrogen is the fuel of the future — and always will be.</p> <p>“The fuel cell is so bulls**t,” he <a href="">told employees</a> at the launch of a new service center for his plug-in sports cars in Germany last year.</p> <p>“It's suitable for the after-stage of rockets, but not for cars.”</p> <p>Skepticism like this hasn’t discouraged investment, however.</p> <p>In 2012, Germany's Transportation Ministry, Daimler and several other companies agreed to finance a network of 50 refueling stations across the country by 2015.</p> <p>In September, Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and Total <a href="">unveiled plans</a> to expand that network to some 400 stations by 2023, with the first 100 in place in time for Daimler's commercial launch.</p> <p>Klaus Bonhoff, who heads Germany's National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology, says that would be enough to pass the industry’s first major test.</p> <p>“In order to sell the first vehicles that will show up in the showrooms, you have to give the customer a certain gut feeling that he is able to refuel the vehicle he's about to buy,” he said in a telephone interview.</p> <p>There’s another important factor at play.</p> <p>In Germany, where an aggressive shift to green energy production known as “Energiewende,” or “energy transition,” has created a booming wind-energy industry, the impact could reach far beyond the automotive business.</p> <p> Unlike conventional power plants, the output of wind and solar energy plants fluctuates dramatically — so much so that Germany's many wind-power companies sometimes produce as much as four times the amount of energy being consumed, which <a href="">destabilizes the grid</a>.</p> <p>To offload and store that excess power, wind producers currently use costly batteries or pump water uphill, from where it can be allowed to flow down again to produce hydroelectric power. Neither solution is very efficient.</p> <p>The commercialization of hydrogen-fueled cars would allow them instead to use excess wind energy for producing hydrogen — which is made by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen — and tap a lucrative new market.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Ukraine&rsquo;s revolution isn&rsquo;t over yet</a></strong></p> <p>That's where hydrogen's infrastructure hurdle may turn out to be a surprise advantage.</p> <p>It’s still unclear how businesses can make a profit from plug-in car charging stations, which take six hours to charge a car. Hydrogen stations, in contrast, would operate on much the same model as existing conventional pumps, making the wind-to-hydrogen business not so different from today's petroleum-to-gasoline supply chain.</p> <p>That, Bonhoff says, would enable the industry to “get to those viable business cases" much faster. </p> Clean energy Want to Know Germany Technology Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:06:40 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6119317 at Australia’s war on science <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Scientists speak out against Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s slashed budgets and ‘anti-research agenda.’ </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lyn Eyb </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SYDNEY &mdash; Scientists here in Australia say they&rsquo;ve discovered their foe: Prime Minister Tony Abbott.</p> <p>Since he came to power in September, some of Australia&rsquo;s finest researchers point out that their budgets have been slashed. They say their expertise is being ignored in favor of the views of skeptics with a <a href=";wpmp_tp=0">dubious commitment</a> to the facts.</p> <p>Now the science community is speaking out over fears that the government&rsquo;s first annual budget could see a raft of further cuts at world-class research facilities, leading Australia to lose its reputation for cutting edge science and medical research.&nbsp;</p> <p>A leading researcher who asked not to be named out of fear for his own funding tells GlobalPost that budget reductions are leaving scientists feeling as though science &ldquo;is being systematically removed at all levels.&rdquo; He pointed to past and future cuts at universities, the Australian Research Council and even the country&rsquo;s premier science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).</p> <p>The Sydney Morning Herald recently <a href=";utm_medium=facebook&amp;utm_campaign=nc&amp;eid=socialn%3Afac-13omn1676-edtrl-other%3Annn-17%2F02%2F2014-edtrs_socialshare">revealed</a> that the CSIRO is bracing for a budget cut of as much as 20 percent. Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty responded by saying such cuts would be <a href="">&ldquo;a sure way of accelerating our transition to a Third-World economy.&rdquo;</a></p> <p>Already, the government has announced the Department of the Environment, which is responsible for overseeing funding to dozens of science-based programs, will <a href="">have its funding cut </a>by 100 million Australian dollars ($93 million) over four years, resulting in the loss of a quarter of its staff.</p> <p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s happening in Australia looks awful compared to what&rsquo;s happening [in California],&rdquo; says Alan Trounson, a renowned IVF and stem cell pioneer who has recently returned to Australia after 7 years at the helm of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Science funding in Australia is both &ldquo;suboptimal and not terribly focused,&rdquo; with a clear &ldquo;lack of leadership from government,&rdquo; he adds.</p> <p>In addition to funding cuts, researchers are outraged by Abbott&rsquo;s decision to abolish the science minister&rsquo;s post. It was a &ldquo;real surprise,&rdquo; says Les Field, Secretary for Science Policy at the Australian Academy of Science. Instead, the science minister&rsquo;s responsibilities are being spread across other ministries, mainly the education and industry departments. &ldquo;Education and Industry are both massive portfolios &hellip; and no matter how you cut it, it will be difficult to get science, research and innovation to front-of-mind where it needs to be,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>Trounson agrees that without a science minister, there is no one in government to champion research and innovation. Confining science to the fringes, he says, is unacceptable. &ldquo;We could be doing wonderful things, and we&rsquo;re not because the funding is not there and what is there isn&rsquo;t targeted in the right areas.&rdquo;</p> <p>In May, the government will submit its first annual budget to parliament, a blueprint for how it will balance its books and fund its political agenda. Field says the budget will provide the government with an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to science, and to &ldquo;signal a vision for where Australia is going in terms its support for research and innovation.&rdquo;</p> <p>The May budget will include numerous cuts. Australia&rsquo;s growth is slowing due to lower mining investment and a commodity price slump. But science and environmental sectors fear the brunt of the cuts, thanks to the Abbott&rsquo;s record of lackluster backing for science, <a href="">his solid support for heavy industry</a> (most notably the coal sector), and his penchant for <a href="">appointing science skeptics as key advisors</a>.</p> <p>The Australian Greens recently moved a Senate motion calling on the government to boost public and private R&amp;D spending from 2.2 percent of gross domestic product to 3 percent, in line with US targets. &ldquo;We have heard that some institutions and organizations have already been told to expect a funding cut in the budget [but] we&rsquo;re in the dark about whether specific areas like medical research funding will be quarantined,&rdquo; the party&rsquo;s deputy leader Adam Bandt told GlobalPost.</p> <p>Bandt points out that Australian researchers have been behind &ldquo;some amazing breakthroughs, such as the flu jab, the quantum bit, blast glass, and Wi-Fi... and the black box flight recorder.&rdquo;</p> <p>A Department of Industry spokesperson says that while the government would not speculate on the forthcoming budget, the prime minister and the ministers for industry and education &ldquo;continue to work with Australia&rsquo;s Chief Scientist and the broader science community to ensure Australia has a unified and targeted approach to science and research funding.&rdquo;</p> <p>The department says the government is delivering on various election commitments, including multi-million dollar funding for projects such as tropical health and medicine research at James Cook University in Queensland, new <a href="">Cooperative Research Centres</a>, and health and medical research with a particular focus on diabetes and dementia.</p> <p>Money has also been made available for a new <a href="">Centre of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research</a> and the <a href="">National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility</a>.</p> <p>Clouds still hang over the Abbott government&rsquo;s commitment to environmental research following <a href="">the wholesale abolition</a> of the science-led Climate Change Commission, and the recent announcement that the Australian Renewable Energy Agency <a href="">has warned its stakeholders </a>that its future is in limbo until after the May budget. The Agency has already lost almost 500 million Australian dollars ($467 million) in funding following the government&rsquo;s decision to repeal the country&rsquo;s carbon pricing legislation. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is also under attack, with government efforts to scrap the green energy backer <a href="">so far blocked in the Senate</a>.</p> <p><strong>Finding the true worth of research </strong></p> <p>Chris Fulton, senior lecturer at the Australian National points out that research funding&ldquo;creates jobs. If you sink, say, $60 million into research funding, then you&rsquo;re creating an unbelievable number of jobs for the economy, on top of the actual research that those jobs returns.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Department of Industry says the government &ldquo;understands that the contribution of scientists and researchers is critical to lifting productivity, creating jobs and building competitive advantage.&rdquo; Australia&rsquo;s unemployment level is currently just below 6 percent.</p> <p>Fulton is concerned a lack funding could lead to a brain drain. &ldquo;If we&rsquo;re not funded, you&rsquo;re going to lose a lot of knowledge and skills. We will get to the point where the Great Barrier Reef will be in crisis and the people we need to step up and make solutions won&rsquo;t be there &mdash; they&rsquo;ll be &hellip; living in the US or France or Asia where they are investing in science and research.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Department of Industry spokesperson said the government would continue to help fund large-scale projects such as <a href="">the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope </a>because such initiatives were &ldquo;attracting world-class talent, enhancing Australia&#39;s global standing and providing an iconic project to attract young people to science and engineering.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Scientific soul searching</strong></p> <p>The Abbott government&rsquo;s attitude toward science and the risk of budget cuts are leading to some serious soul-searching among scientists.</p> <p>Fulton says to maximize funding opportunities, the science community needs to present its work in terms politicians can understand. &quot;We need to ensure that the things we are discovering are translated into useful things for policy and management,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>Trounson agrees. &ldquo;Biologists and biotechnologists and people like myself need to demonstrate that it&rsquo;s worth investing in this area.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>Field says it&rsquo;s just as important to convince the public of the benefits of scientific work. &ldquo;Governments today are very much driven by public opinion,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;A significant groundswell of public support &hellip; for investment in science and research would be the most powerful message that would influence government.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p> <p>The last word goes to IVF and stem cell pioneer Trounson: &ldquo;I think there will always be enough of us who are crazy enough to want to push the boundaries. There&rsquo;s plenty of us with really great ideas that will help change the world, but we can&rsquo;t do it by just wringing our hands. We have to go out and show that we are worth supporting &mdash; that&rsquo;s the challenge.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> Global Warming Want to Know Asia-Pacific Energy Global Economy Technology Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:06:00 +0000 Lyn Eyb 6122186 at Chinese workers are staging a massive strike at a factory making Nike and Converse shoes <!--paging_filter--><p>Thousands of workers at a giant Chinese shoe factory shrugged off an offer for improved social benefits on Tuesday, prolonging one of the largest strikes in <a href="">China</a> in recent years amid signs of increased labor activism as the economy slows.</p> <p>The industrial unrest at Yue Yuen Industrial (Holdings), now stretching to around ten days and sparking sporadic scuffles with police, has centered on issues including unpaid social insurance, improper labor contracts and low wages. Workers have demanded improved social insurance payments, a pay rise and more equitable contracts.</p> <p>"The factory has been tricking us for 10 years," said a female worker inside a giant industrial campus in Gaobu town run by Yue Yuen in the southern factory hub of Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta. "The Gaobu government, labor bureau, social security bureau and the company were all tricking us together."</p> <p>A spokesman for Yue Yuen said the firm, which makes shoes for the likes of Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Asics and Converse with a market capitalization of some $5.59 billion, had agreed to an improved "social benefit plan" on Monday, while stressing the business impact had been "mild" so far.</p> <p>"Basically, the terms that we announced yesterday was after a very thorough internal analysis and calculation and considering all the factors including the affordability from the factory perspective," the spokesman told Reuters by phone.</p> <p>"The revised plan will be effective from May 1, about a couple of weeks from now."</p> <p>Despite this, thousands of workers, most out of uniform but with factory lanyards and ID cards around their necks, loitered in and around the leafy industrial estate, lounging on plastic chairs, sitting on curbs, chatting, drinking tea and nibbling nuts, refusing to return to their production lines.</p> <p>Hundreds of police remained stationed in the area, some with riot shields and <a href="">German</a> Shepherds on leashes.</p> <p><strong>Social insurance dispute</strong></p> <p>The strike fits a growing pattern of industrial activism that has emerged as China's economy has slowed. A worsening labor shortage has shifted the balance of power in labor relations, while smartphones and social media have helped workers organize and made them more aware than ever of the changing environment, experts say.</p> <p>A key point of contention at Yue Yuen has been the perceived scamming of workers through inadequate contributions from the firm into a social insurance scheme each month, and the difficulty of cashing in or transferring this money later.</p> <p>But Yue Yuen's spokesman said: "If we raise the social security payment on the company part, which we are committed to do, it will also be a larger deduction from the employees' monthly checks, so the net they can pay may be lower as a result."</p> <p>Li Qiang, a labor expert with China Labor Watch, a US-based labor NGO, said the social insurance problem was longstanding and one which workers were no longer willing to tolerate, given improved legal and rights awareness.</p> <p>"This is a costly lesson to multinationals to not ever ignore the rights of workers," Li told Reuters.</p> <p>In over 400 factory probes conducted by the group over the past decade, none was found to have bought full mandatory social insurance for workers as stipulated under Chinese law.</p> <p>Scores of factory hands interviewed by Reuters said thousands, even tens of thousands, remained on strike, including those in other Yue Yuen factories in the region, including Huangjiang town, accounts that matched those of online and social media posts.</p> <p>An independent labor organization run by labor rights activist Zhang Zhiru, who has been in close touch with Yue Yuen strike organizers, said more than 30,000 workers went on strike on Monday, and even more on Tuesday in as many as six plants.</p> <p>Online posts by workers have also called on Nike to pressure management to reform the firm's labor union and allow workers to elect their own president.</p> <p>Yue Yuen says on its website it is "the world's largest branded footwear manufacturer" and made over 300 million pairs of shoes last year, with its production evenly split between China, <a href="">Indonesia</a> and <a href="">Vietnam</a>. It notched up net profit of $434.8 million in 2013 off $7.58 billion in revenue.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Fiona Li and James Pomfret; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie)</p> Need to Know China Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:58:49 +0000 John Ruwitch and Donny Kwok, Thomson Reuters 6122414 at Court bans Muslim Brotherhood members from running in Egypt's elections <!--paging_filter--><p>A court on Tuesday banned members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement listed as a "terrorist group," from running in <a href="">Egypt</a>'s upcoming elections, a lawyer and state media said.</p> <p>Egypt's military-installed authorities are engaged in a deadly crackdown against the Islamist movement, which swept all elections in Egypt since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.</p> <p>A court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria ordered authorities to bar any candidacies from Brotherhood members or former members in presidential and parliamentary elections.</p> <p>The ruling came after an anti-Brotherhood group filed a petition calling for the ban.</p> <p>"It is illogical to receive such candidacies after the government designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation," Tareq Mahmoud, a lawyer from the group told AFP.</p> <p>"We submitted videos, photos and documents showing terrorist acts carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is why it is illogical that they lead the country or represent its people in elections."</p> <p>In December, authorities blacklisted the Muslim Brotherhood as a "terrorist group" after blaming it for a deadly bombing north of Cairo.</p> <p>Egypt is to hold a May 26-27 presidential election, widely expected to be won by ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to be followed by parliamentary polls.</p> <p>Sisi is riding a wave of popularity after he ousted Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July. Morsi belongs to the Brotherhood.</p> <p>Since his overthrow, the authorities have cracked down brutally on the movement and its members.</p> <p>Amnesty International says more than 1,400 people have been killed in the crackdown, mostly Islamists.</p> <p>More than 15,000 Islamists, mainly Brotherhood members, have been jailed, while hundreds have been sentenced to death following often speedy trials.</p> <p>Under Mubarak's rule, the Brotherhood was an illegal organization but had candidates run as independents in polls and won a sizeable number of seats.</p> <p>The 85-year-old Brotherhood, Egypt's most organized opposition group during decades of dictatorship despite being banned, stepped out of the shadows after the 2011 uprising.</p> <p>It won a string of polls culminating in last year's presidential election, when its candidate Morsi became Egypt's first freely elected leader.</p> <p>Tuesday's court ruling against the Brotherhood came hours after a bomb attack in an upmarket central Cairo district wounded two policemen and a passer-by.</p> <p>ht-jds/hc</p> Egypt Need to Know Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:50:58 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6122406 at The EU hesitates to act over Ukraine <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Although Europe has the economic power to hurt Russia, here's why it’s reluctant to use it. </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 — As tension mounts in eastern Ukraine, Europe's declarations of a strong and united response are starting to sound as credible as Russia's claims not to be involved in fomenting the unrest.</p> <p>On Monday, foreign ministers from the 28 European Union countries filed out of a day-long meeting in Luxembourg to assure journalists that the bloc's position was "clear" and "strong" in response to the takeover of government buildings in several Ukrainian cities by armed units loyal to Russia.</p> <p>However, they announced no concrete action against the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin beyond a pledge that an unspecified number of names would be added to a list of 33 Russian and Ukrainian figures currently banned from traveling to the EU and subjected to a freeze on their assets in Europe.</p> <p>Stefan Meister, an expert in EU-Russia relations at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says the group’s reaction to the latest escalation is consistent with its response throughout the crisis. “It's just not sufficient. It's the minimum,” he says.</p> <p>"EU member states can’t agree on serious sanctions on Russia," he said in a telephone interview from his office in Berlin. "They have economic interests in Russia and they can agree on neither energy sanctions nor financial sanctions, that's the problem."</p> <p>Officials at EU headquarters in Brussels expect the extended list of names will be released this week. They declined to say whether the bloc would follow the <a href="">United States</a> by blacklisting business leaders close to Putin as well as politicians.</p> <p>Even the inclusion of so-called oligarchs on the US list has failed to persuade Putin to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, prompting many to call for wider economic sanctions in response to the actions of pro-Russian gunmen in the country’s eastern cities.</p> <p>NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen flatly rejected Russia's claims that the heavily armed units involved in the storming of Ukrainian police stations and other official buildings were disgruntled local pro-Russians.</p> <p>"It's very clear that Russia's hand is deeply engaged in this," he told reporters at a meeting with EU defense ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday.</p> <p>Ukrainian forces responded on Tuesday, recapturing an airfield in a military operation against the separatists.</p> <p>Despite condemning Russia's actions, Fogh Rasmussen again stressed that NATO has no plans for any military intervention to defend Ukraine.</p> <p>Instead, the alliance is working on strengthening the defenses of its eastern members, particularly <a href="">Poland</a>, Romania and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They are all concerned spillover from the Ukraine crisis could threaten their territory.</p> <p>The top alliance commander in Europe, US Air Force Gen. Philip E. Breedlove is scheduled to present enhanced plans for protecting the eastern allies in a meeting of the alliance's policymaking North Atlantic Council in Brussels on Wednesday.</p> <p>Poland's Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak on Tuesday said those plans should include the permanent stationing of NATO military bases in the eastern states — in defiance of Russian objections.</p> <p>Fogh Rasmussen hinted the alliance is looking at such options by saying NATO's plans would include "appropriate deployments."</p> <p>However, European countries are divided about such moves. Some — including <a href="">Germany</a>, <a href="">the Netherlands</a> and <a href="">Italy</a> — are concerned about provoking Putin.</p> <p>Divisions with Europe are also holding back economic sanctions that could inflict real pain on Russia's already struggling economy by cutting off access to Western financial markets, curtailing energy exports that keep the state budget afloat, or restricting Russian arms sales.</p> <p>EU headquarters has been tasked with drawing up a list of possible economic sanctions that could be applied in the event of a further escalation of the crisis.</p> <p><a href="">French</a> Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested that an emergency EU summit may be called for next week if talks scheduled in Geneva on Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the United States do not lead to a breakthrough.</p> <p>At those talks, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to ask Russia to pull back troops from the border and revoke a resolution by the upper house of the Russian parliament authorizing the use of force against Ukraine.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">How Europe can kick its Russian gas habit</a></strong></p> <p>In theory, the EU has greater economic clout to deter Putin than the United States.</p> <p>The European bloc is Russia's biggest trading partner, accounting for 41 percent of its total international trade. Two-way sales were worth over $450 billion in 2012, more than 10 times the value of US-Russia trade.</p> <p>However, EU nations remain wary of imposing the sort of tough economic sanctions that would hurt a Russian economy battling to stay out of recession. The Dutch foreign minister on Monday said it was too early to impose wider sanctions. His Luxembourg counterpart cast doubt on the effectiveness of punitive economic measures.</p> <p>Meister says the risk to European economies tied up with Russian investments and energy exports may mean the EU would be reluctant to act decisively even if faced by an open incursion into Ukrainian territory by the force of 40,000 Russian troops that NATO says is massed across the border.</p> <p>"It must be a model like the <a href="">Iran</a> sanctions — financial and banking sanctions, which would really hurt the Russian economy," he said. "I'm very skeptical the EU will really do that... because it's very costly." </p> Crisis in Ukraine Need to Know Diplomacy Military Europe Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:11:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6122386 at Iraq shuts down its notorious Abu Ghraib prison <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Iraq</a> has closed Abu Ghraib prison, made infamous by Saddam Hussein's regime and US forces, due to security concerns following a mass breakout last year, the justice ministry said Tuesday.</p> <p>The country is suffering a protracted surge in violence that has claimed more than 2,550 lives this year, and the area west of Baghdad where the prison is located is particularly insecure.</p> <p>The ministry announced online the "complete closure of Baghdad Central Prison, previously (known as) 'Abu Ghraib,' and the removal of the inmates in cooperation with the ministries of defense and interior."</p> <p>The statement quoted Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari as saying 2,400 inmates arrested or sentenced for terrorism-related offenses have been transferred to other facilities in central and northern Iraq.</p> <p>"The ministry took this decision as part of precautionary measures related to the security of prisons," Shammari said, adding that Abu Ghraib prison is "in a hot area."</p> <p>It was not immediately clear whether the closure was temporary or permanent.</p> <p>The prison is located between Baghdad and the city of Fallujah, which has been held by anti-government fighters since early January.</p> <p>Shelling in Fallujah on Tuesday killed five people and wounded 16, while mortar rounds and twin suicide bombings in Anbar provincial capital Ramadi, farther west, left one dead and eight wounded.</p> <p>Abu Ghraib prison served as a notorious torture center under now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein, with an estimated 4,000 detainees perishing there.</p> <p>It later became a byword for abuses by US forces following the 2003 invasion, with photographs surfacing the following year showing detainees being humiliated by American guards, igniting worldwide outrage.</p> <p>And in July 2013, militants assaulted Abu Ghraib and another prison in Taji, north of Baghdad.</p> <p>Officials said hundreds of inmates escaped and more than 50 prisoners and members of the security forces were killed in the assaults, which were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a powerful jihadist group.</p> <p>Iraq has been hit by a year-long surge in violence, driven principally by widespread anger among the Sunni Arab minority, who say they are mistreated by the Shia-led government and security forces, and also fuelled by the civil war in neighboring <a href="">Syria</a>.</p> <p>Violence has killed more than 340 people since the beginning of the month, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.</p> <p>bur-wd/al</p> Need to Know Iraq Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:51:22 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6122367 at These 50 lions may starve to death because of the crisis in Ukraine <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The safari park in Crimea has had its bank account blocked since the Russian annexation. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sarah Wolfe </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Fifty lions are at risk of starvation over the crisis in Ukraine.</p> <p>The group of <a href="">African</a> lions, among them a breed of rare white lions, are among a menagerie of animals at a safari park in Crimea whose bank account was <a href="" target="_blank">blocked</a> after <a href="">Russia</a> annexed the region.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Live Blog: The latest updates on the crisis in Ukraine</a></strong></p> <p>The move was part of a slew of economic restrictions imposed last month.</p> <p>Oleg Zubkov, director of <a href="" target="_blank">Taigan Park</a> near Simferopel, <a href="" target="_blank">told Sky News</a> the most pressing problem is finding food for the lions because they eat so much every day.</p> <p>"There is only enough meat in the park for a few days," he said. "We will have to come up with something."</p> <p>"It's impossible to explain to tigers that they have become victims of somebody's political ambitions or a revolution."</p> <p>The park, which opened in 2012, is also home to tigers, giraffes, miniature zebras, parrots, ostriches, Himalayan bears, monkeys and kangaroos.</p> <p>It sits on 90 acres of land that once <a href="" target="_blank">housed</a> a Cold War-era military base.</p> <p><object data=";edition=<a href="">UK</a>" height="259" id="rcomVideo_307800293" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="460"> <param name="movie" value=";edition=UK"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"><param name="wmode" value="transparent"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" height="259" src=";edition=UK" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="460" wmode="transparent"></embed></object></p> Need to Know Wildlife News Europe Russia Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:45:34 +0000 Sarah Wolfe 6122274 at Young, unemployed Spaniards are saying adios to their homeland and fleeing to London <!--paging_filter--><p>More and more young Spaniards, forced to leave home by crippling unemployment, are attracted to London by the prospect of work and the chance to learn English — but often run into a fresh set of problems.</p> <p>While debate is raging in Britain about newcomers from eastern <a href="">Europe</a>, this group has arrived almost unnoticed.</p> <p>More than 51,000 Spaniards, most of them under the age of 34, made the journey north to Britain last year, making them the second-largest group of arrivals behind the Poles.</p> <p>"Over the past two years there has been a huge increase in the number of Spaniards who have come to find a future and also to learn English," says Eduard Manas, president of the London branch of the Barcelona football supporters club.</p> <p>Unlike their eastern European counterparts, they are mostly transient, hoping to take advantage of the relatively good prospects in Britain until things improve back home.</p> <p>Youth unemployment is almost 55 percent in <a href="">Spain</a>, which is only slowly emerging from the disaster wreaked by the implosion of a decade-long property bubble in 2008.</p> <p>Manas, who has been in Britain for 15 years, says most new arrivals are aged between 20 and 30, "with good training but without work in Spain."</p> <p>This was the situation facing Digna Pilar Blanco Gonzalez, an economics graduate from Galicia who came to London in March 2012 after spending two months fruitlessly sending out CVs back home.</p> <p>The 32-year-old quickly found work in a London hotel, which she juggles with a job looking after two English children.</p> <p>"I started by cleaning the rooms, like all those who can't speak English," she says. Gradually, she was given more tasks including washing and cooking.</p> <p>"I am now only in the kitchen, hopefully I'll never have to do cleaning again."</p> <p><strong>'Life is expensive' </strong></p> <p>Whatever their training or education, new arrivals who cannot speak English are frozen out of good jobs and often end up working in hotels and restaurants.</p> <p>Often, though, acquiring the language itself is the goal, making London the preferred destination above other European cities.</p> <p>Joana Sala Treig and Marc Serres Recorda, a couple from Barcelona, arrived in the British capital last October before finding work in a bar in Picadilly Circus.</p> <p>Treig, 22, is a qualified teacher and her boyfriend is trained in audiovisual production, "and in both cases we need English to succeed in our careers."</p> <p>"I do not have much hope to work in my field because of my poor level of English," says 23-year-old Recorda.</p> <p>Where language is not such a barrier, London can offer different opportunities to Spain.</p> <p>Ulises Lopez, a 27-year-old artist from Alicante, works as a freelance cartoonist and is grateful for the openings offered by London's vibrant cultural scene.</p> <p>"I've made cartoons, I've illustrated books and am currently working on <a href="">African</a> scarves," he says.</p> <p>The new arrivals delight in London's dynamism and cosmopolitan character, but also point to its high costs.</p> <p>While Lopez has the financial support of his partner, a shoe designer for a large fashion house, he admits to having to hunt down bargains in the supermarket.</p> <p>"What is negative in London is that everything is very expensive: transport, accommodation," adds Gonzalez.</p> <p>"Simply to come here and survive one month is already huge. I have other friends who did not manage."</p> <p>For her the only solution is to work relentlessly. With two jobs, she rarely has a day off, although this allows her to "live comfortably."</p> <p>"Here, working for 12 or 14 hours (a day) is normal," agrees Recorda, who earns the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour ($10.50, 7.50 euros) in a bar.</p> <p>Lopez believes he and his partner will not be able to settle in Britain unless they both find well-paid jobs — such as that landed by Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, a Spanish nanny recently employed to care for baby Prince George.</p> <p>al-jb/jwp/ar/gd</p> Need to Know Spain Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:12:21 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6122306 at In fight for gender equality in Africa, clean water plays a key role <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Fetching water is a household chore traditionally delegated to women and girls in Africa. Reducing the need for it holds not only health benefits, but also the potential for social change. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Olga Khvan </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — An average woman in <a href="">Africa</a> spends about 60 percent of her day fetching water for her household. The chore not only forces women to walk miles to the nearest water source—which is highly likely to be contaminated—but it also prevents them from using that time to pursue educational or job opportunities instead.</p> <p>Providing better access to clean water, therefore, can result not only in improved health, but also in gender equality, according to Saran Kaba Jones, the founder and executive director of FACE Africa, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit dedicated to improving water quality in remote parts of the continent.</p> <p>“The water issue is a women’s issue,” said Jones at the <a href="">MIT: Africa Innovate Conference</a> hosted by the MIT Sloan Africa Business Club on Saturday, where she participated in a panel on “Women in Africa.”</p> <p>“Women are the ones responsible for walking long distances every day to fetch water for the household, which means that they spend less time focusing on activity, on education, on childcare.”</p> <p>The five panelists — all prominent female leaders in the government, business and media sectors — said that change for women in Africa needs to start at home.</p> <p>“Our upbringing teaches us that women have to take the backseat,” said panelist Agatha Amata, the CEO of <a href="">Nigeria</a>-based Inside Out Media, a production company that offers documentaries, talk shows, dramas and other media-related services. “That is the African upbringing, but it’s changing very quickly.”</p> <p>Jones said that re-examining the traditional delegation of water fetching to female members of a household is an important way to start the conversation about gender equality at home and beyond.</p> <p>FACE Africa, in fact, started out as an education initiative, but its mission changed once Jones realized that access to education was majorly inhibited by lack of access to clean drinking water. Since 2009, the organization has funded and supported water, sanitation and hygiene projects in rural Liberia that have benefitted more than 10,000 people with the help of partners like Chevron, the Voss Foundation, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, Chase Community Giving and more. </p> <p>“Children were not showing up to school for extended periods of time because they were suffering from waterborne illnesses,” Jones said, citing a World Bank estimate that waterborne illnesses kill more children under 5 than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.</p> <p>But in addition to the significant health implications, there are also social ones.</p> <p>Panelist Anna Othoro, who works for the Trade Industrialization, Cooperative Development, Tourism and Wildlife branch of the Nairobi City County Government, lamented that despite <a href="">Kenyan</a> legislation that reserves 30 percent of all government appointments to women, not enough women are stepping forward to fill that quota.</p> <p>“In our minds, we’ve been ingrained with the fact that we are homemakers more than we are businesswomen, so we need to change that attitude,” she said.</p> <p>For Jones, eliminating a household-level problem—the time needed to fetch water and the health risks associated with its quality—would allow women to take advantage of the opportunities that are now increasingly provided for them.</p> <p>“We take the issue of water very seriously because we see it as a catalyst for change and development,” said Jones. “The more you can empower women and girls with access to water, the more we can give them the opportunity to improve their lives and those of their communities.”</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Most African leaders not making promised investments in agriculture</a></strong></p> <p><em>Olga Khvan is a Boston University senior with a Kazakh passport and a northern New Jersey upbringing, set to graduate in May with a dual degree in journalism and art history. She’s a contributing digital editor for Boston magazine, where she started out as a digital intern last summer, and has previously worked as a collegiate correspondent for USA TODAY, making national news more accessible and easily understandable for a college audience. You can follow her at @olgakhvan.<br>  </em></p> <p class='u'></p> Health Global Pulse Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:48:00 +0000 Olga Khvan 6121426 at Japan slaughters 112,000 chickens after bird flu outbreak <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">Japan</a> has finished slaughtering 112,000 chickens after confirming its first bird flu infections for three years, with authorities stepping up efforts to swiftly contain the latest outbreak, officials said Tuesday.</p> <p>Workers on Sunday started culling 56,000 chickens kept at a poultry farm in Kumamoto, southwestern Japan, where DNA tests confirmed the H5 strain of the virus after owners reported sudden deaths in the flock on Saturday, a Kumamoto prefectural government official said.</p> <p>Another 56,000 birds were slaughtered at a separate farm run by the same owner after it was identified as a location of possible infections, the official said.</p> <p>"We finished the slaughtering operation late Monday and are now preventing the virus from spreading to other areas," the official said, adding that no further infections had been reported by Tuesday morning.</p> <p>It was the first confirmed outbreak of bird flu in Japan in three years. Scientists say there have been no cases of the disease being contracted by people who have eaten poultry or eggs.</p> <p>In Tokyo, agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Yoshimasa Hayashi was also quoted by Jiji Press as saying: "We will do our best to contain (the outbreak) as quickly as possible."</p> <p>The ministry has been warning farmers about infection risks, citing the continued spread of the disease in <a href="">Asia</a>, including in neighboring <a href="">South Korea</a>.</p> <p>Local authorities on Saturday banned movement of chickens from the two affected farms as well as other farms in their vicinities.</p> <p>Authorities were sanitizing areas around the two farms and testing birds at other area farms.</p> <p>Officials were also setting up areas to disinfect vehicles traveling on major roads around the affected farms to prevent the virus from spreading further.</p> <p>si/hg/kjl</p> <p>  </p> Need to Know Japan Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:24:41 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6122193 at