GlobalPost - Home C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en These charts show just how bad gun violence is in the US, compared to developed peers <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ferguson's story isn't just about racial inequality in the United States — it's about guns, too. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simran Khosla and Sara Yasin </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The world&#39;s eyes have turned <a href="">once more</a> to Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury decided Tuesday not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer who shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August.</p> <p>The decision sparked <a href="">a night</a> of violent unrest in Ferguson, with photos emerging of the St. Louis suburb on fire, and its protesters facing off once more with heavily armed police.&nbsp;More than 80 people were arrested overnight.</p> <p>Brown&#39;s story is tragic to so many people because it isn&#39;t unusual. According to ProPublica, young black males like Brown are 21 times <a href="">more likely</a> to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts. For many inside and outside of Ferguson, it&#39;s a case emblematic of persistent racial inequality in the United States that remains unaddressed by the justice system.</p> <p>Earlier this month, prominent activist and scholar Angela Davis <a href="">pointed out</a> that despite having a black head of state, the United States is far from being &quot;postracial&quot;:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>Trayvon Martin&nbsp;in Florida and&nbsp;Michael Brown&nbsp;in Ferguson, Missouri, are only the most widely known of the countless numbers of black people killed by police or vigilantes during the Obama administration. And they, in turn, represent an unbroken stream of racist violence, both official and extra-legal, from slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan, to contemporary profiling practices and present-day vigilantes.</p> </blockquote> <p>She goes on to point out that the international response to Ferguson &quot;suggests a growing consciousness regarding the persistence of US racism at a time when it is supposed to be on the decline.&quot;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">What people around the world are saying about Ferguson</a></strong></p> <p>But the huge response hasn&#39;t stopped Brown&#39;s story &mdash; that of a law enforcement officer using deadly force against a black youth &mdash; from being repeated. Over the weekend, a Cleveland police officer <a href="">fatally shot</a> Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy carrying a BB gun.</p> <p>Writing for the Toast about the decision, author Roxane Gay eloquently <a href="">summed up</a> the exhaustion powering the outrage over Brown, Rice, Martin, and the long list of young black men whose killings have gone unpunished:</p> <blockquote><p>Another young black man was murdered. It is hard to make sense of how many times I have had to type these words, mourning young black life. I am tired of having to type these words. I will have to type them again, far sooner than I would like.</p> </blockquote> <p>While the Ferguson story is about race, it&#39;s also about guns. Like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis <a href="">before him</a>, Mike Brown was an unarmed young man, perceived as a threat without a weapon.</p> <p>Officer Wilson claimed that Brown looked &quot;aggressive&quot; and said the 18-year-old &quot;looked like a demon&quot; during their confrontation. <a href="" target="_blank">Wilson testified</a> that he wasn&#39;t carrying a non-lethal taser at the time because he finds them uncomfortable to wear; instead he was armed with mace and a handgun. He also told the grand jury that Brown appeared to reach into his waistband as he charged him.</p> <p>Back in August, Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA, <a href="">argued that</a> &quot;the problems of racial harassment and police militarization are exacerbated by the fact that America has a heavily-armed civilian population.&quot;</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Win McNamee/Getty Images"> Demonstrators take part in a protest in Washington, DC against the Missouri grand jury&#39;s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown.</div> <p><a href="">According to</a>&nbsp;the Washington Post, the US has the world&#39;s highest gun ownership rate, and tops other developed countries when it comes to firearm-related murders per capita.</p> <p>&quot;Because there are so many guns out there, police officers are trained to live in fear of the very people they are supposed to protect and serve,&quot; Winkler wrote in the Huffington Post. He pointed out that gun control could help address the problem, since &quot;restricting unusually high-powered weaponry reduces the need for the police to have even more powerful weapons for protection&quot; &mdash; but said it would only be part of the solution.</p> <p>Here are two charts to help you understand where America stands in relation to other developed nations when it comes to gun violence.</p> <!-- <p--><!-- <p--><p><img src="" width="100%" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Source: <a href="">UNODC, compiled by Washington Post</a></p> <p>In the chart above, we see the number of guns in each country per 100 people on the left in blue. On the right, in red, we see how many homicide deaths are caused by firearms in that country, per 100,000 people.</p> <p>The data used here came from the Washington Post, which compiled numbers from the <a href="">United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime</a>&nbsp;in 2009 and 2010, the years that had the most complete data sets. They also used data from the&nbsp;<a href="">Small Arms Survey&nbsp;</a>from 2007, the last year they carried out the survey. It&#39;s important to note how tough it is to actually estimate how many guns there are in a nation. As the Small Arms Survey notes:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>Differences in national gun culture &mdash; each country&#39;s unique combination of historic and current sources of supply, laws and attitudes towards firearms ownership &mdash; often have distinct effects on the classification, ownership, and perception of firearms, and this complicates the calculation of international figures.</p> </blockquote> <p><img src="" width="100%" /></p> <p>Source: <a href="">UNODC, 2013 Homicides Report</a></p> <p>The chart above shows which are the weapons of choice for homicides in different parts of the world. The data here come from the UNODC&#39;s 2013 Homicide Report. With 60 percent of homicides committed using a firearm, the United States is a large contributor to the high firearm percentage in the Americas.</p> Need to Know Health United States Wed, 26 Nov 2014 02:09:00 +0000 Simran Khosla and Sara Yasin 6324966 at This video of a woman busting some sweet moves on Tehran's subway is kind of a big deal <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It looks like a bit of harmless fun, but it could have serious consequences. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Dancing in front of passengers on a subway takes a lot of guts whoever and wherever you are &mdash; but its particularly true if you are a woman in Iran.&nbsp;</p> <p>This <a href=";set=vb.858832800797482&amp;type=2&amp;theater">video</a> posted on the Facebook page <a href="">&ldquo;My Stealthy Freedom,&rdquo;</a> where Iranian women upload photos and videos of themselves without the mandatory hijab, shows a young woman breaking some serious dance moves on the Tehran metro, without her head covered.</p> <p>It looks like a bit of harmless fun, but the unidentified woman is actually breaking two laws that require women to wear the <a href="">hair-covering veil</a> and prohibit them <a href="">dancing</a> in public.</p> <p>As we saw with the group of young Iranians who filmed themselves dancing to Pharrell William&#39;s song&nbsp;<a href="">&quot;Happy,&quot;</a> such an act can have serious consequences. They were <a href="" target="_blank">arrested</a> in May after the <a href="" target="_blank">video</a> came to the attention of authorities.</p> <p>In September, they were handed <a href="" target="_blank">suspended sentences</a> of 91 lashes and up to one year in jail following international condemnation of their jailing and calls for their release.&nbsp;</p> <p>Here&#39;s to hoping that her sweet dance moves don&#39;t get her arrested.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div id="fb-root"> &nbsp;</div> <script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-post" data-href="" data-width="466"> <div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"> <a href="">Post</a> by &lrm;<a href="">My Stealthy Freedom آزادی یواشکی زنان در ایران</a>&lrm;.</div> </div> Want to Know Iran Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:19:19 +0000 Allison Jackson 6325113 at The Kremlin is loving the Ferguson riots <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nothing is better for Russian propaganda than some good old fashioned American disorder. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MOSCOW, Russia &mdash; Explosions, violence and social injustice: it&rsquo;s not the Middle East, North Africa or eastern Ukraine, but Ferguson, Missouri &mdash; which is just how the Kremlin likes it.</p> <p>As the world watches the Midwestern US suburb descend into chaos, Russia&rsquo;s powerful state media machine is exploiting the disorder to highlight what it&rsquo;s long argued to be America&rsquo;s penchant for double standards, especially over the crisis in Ukraine.</p> <p>Never mind deep-seated complexities of race relations and social identity. America beats its own citizens, and that&rsquo;s all that matters.</p> <p>&ldquo;You want to export that kind of democracy?&rdquo; the political scientist Alexander Domrin declared during a state television appearance on Tuesday. &ldquo;Thanks, but no thanks.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Ferguson riots have received generous coverage in Russia by state-controled television, from which a majority of Russians get their news, ever since they first erupted last August.</p> <p>They&rsquo;ve been a gift to Kremlin propagandists keen on exacting payback for American support of Ukraine&rsquo;s recent pro-democracy revolution.</p> <p>Moscow bills that upheaval as a &ldquo;fascist&rdquo; military coup that ousted a key ally and installed pro-Western lackeys &mdash; a charge that rings absurd with most of the international community.</p> <p>But now the Ferguson episode &mdash; which the state media here liberally calls &ldquo;pogroms&rdquo; &mdash; has presented the perfect opportunity to show just how contradictory America can be.</p> <p>Igor Korotchenko, a defense analyst who&rsquo;s become a key pro-government talking head, urged viewers on Tuesday to &ldquo;draw a conclusion from the two-faced politics of the US.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;In one case, they fan the flames [of protest] like they did on Euromaidan in Ukraine,&rdquo; he said during a television talk show, referring to the protests in Kyiv. &ldquo;But in the analogous situation at home, they behave extremely severely.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;And that is what&rsquo;s called American democracy,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p>Korotchenko and other Kremlin shills have even darkly warned that police brutality may lead to a larger rebellion. The popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda ran a headline Tuesday asking, &ldquo;Will Ferguson become Obama&rsquo;s Maidan?&rdquo;</p> <p>The riots also make perfect fodder for the Kremlin&rsquo;s well-funded English-language propaganda outlets, such as the television network RT, which are aimed at broadcasting Moscow&rsquo;s official point of view to a massive global audience.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s especially important now, as Russia drifts further into global isolation over its support of the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>Sputnik, the sleek new international arm of the flagship state media agency Rossiya Segodnya, ran a <a href="">story </a>on Tuesday discussing how more American citizens were killed by police in the last decade than died during the Iraq War.</p> <p>The report, which contained little discernible news, cited a 10-minute American documentary on police abuse produced more than a year ago.</p> <p>&ldquo;These numbers are shocking, especially since the Iraq war is considered by the American public as having been incredibly brutal and bloody,&rdquo; the report said.</p> <p>&ldquo;But it seems that there is an even more brutal war waged against US citizens &mdash; by US police, on American soil.&rdquo;</p> <p>Meanwhile, top Russian officials took aim at what they&rsquo;ve consistently described as America&rsquo;s unilateral sway over much of the world.</p> <p>Parliament speaker Sergei Naryshkin even suggested on Tuesday that NATO should kick the US out of the military alliance to ensure greater stability in Europe.</p> <p>He went on to slam Washington for creating more problems in the world than it&rsquo;s solved.</p> <p>&ldquo;One must say they&rsquo;re paying for it today, tied down as they are in many unresolved conflicts at once,&rdquo; the TASS state news agency reported him as saying.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">What people around the world are saying about Ferguson</a></strong></p> <p>For most, however, it was a prime opportunity to employ the tried-and-true Soviet tactic known as &ldquo;whataboutism&rdquo; &mdash; deflecting criticism by pointing to your opponent&rsquo;s own internal problems. Race relations were once a key component of this strategy.</p> <p>Some even saw a chance to turn Ronald Reagan&rsquo;s infamous term for the Soviet Union against their old adversary.</p> <p>&ldquo;America is an evil empire not only in relation to the entire world,&rdquo; tweeted Dmitry Agranovsky, a leftist opposition lawyer who supports the Kremlin&#39;s Ukraine policy, &ldquo;but in relation to its own people.&rdquo;</p> Annals of propaganda Need to Know Conflict Zones Diplomacy Russia Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:34:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6324989 at Sierra Leone Ebola burial workers dump bodies in the street to protest pay <!--paging_filter--><p>Burial workers in Sierra Leone have dumped dead bodies in the street outside a hospital in protest at authorities&#39; failure to pay bonuses for handling Ebola victims, in the latest strike to hamper the fight against the worst known outbreak of the virus.</p> <p>A spokesman for the striking workers in the eastern town of Kenema, who asked not to be identified, said they had not been paid their weekly hazard allowance for seven weeks.</p> <p>Authorities accepted that the money had not been paid but said that all the striking members of the Ebola Burial Team would be dismissed.</p> <p>&quot;Displaying corpses in a very, very inhumane manner is completely unacceptable,&quot; said the spokesman for the National Ebola Response Center, Sidi Yahya Tunis.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Some people would rather die of Ebola than stop hugging sick loved ones</a></strong></p> <p>He added that the central government had paid the money to the district health management team. &quot;Somebody somewhere needs to be investigated (to find out) where these monies have been going,&quot; he told Reuters.</p> <p>Residents said up to 15 bodies had been abandoned, three of them at the hospital entrance to stop people entering.</p> <p>The head of the district Ebola Response Team, Abdul Wahab Wan, said the bodies had included those of two babies, and that some had been displayed around the hospital.</p> <p>Sierra Leone has become the biggest hotspot in the West African Ebola epidemic, which has killed nearly 5,500 people since March.</p> <p>While the outbreak appears to be coming under control in neighboring Liberia and Guinea, infection rates have accelerated in Sierra Leone, prompting the head of a special UN mission on Ebola to admit on Monday that it would not meet targets for containing the outbreak by early December.</p> <p>Despite pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, and the deployment of troops by the United States and Britain, the weakness of healthcare systems and infrastructure in the worst-affected countries has complicated the fight.</p> <p>Healthcare workers have repeatedly gone on strike in Liberia and Sierra Leone over lack of pay and dangerous working conditions.</p> <p>Two weeks ago, health workers walked off the job at a clinic in Bo, the only Ebola treatment center in southern Sierra Leone.</p> <p>(Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Emma Farge and Kevin Liffey)</p> Africa Need to Know Middle East Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:34:16 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6324943 at Occupy Kenya: Protesters march in Nairobi for an end to violence <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A march and sit-in dubbed Tumechoka, meaning 'We are tired' in Swahili, protests government inaction in the face of rising insecurity and terrorism. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tristan McConnell </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NAIROBI, Kenya &mdash; Apathy and thuggery greeted an attempt to kickstart an Occupy movement in Kenya to protest against government inaction in the face of rising insecurity and terrorism.</p> <p>The march and sit-in dubbed <a href=";src=typd">#Tumechoka</a>, meaning &ldquo;We are tired&rdquo; in Swahili, was called on Tuesday after the execution of 28 people on a bus in Mandera in the far northeast of the country over the weekend.</p> <p>That attack, claimed by Somalia&rsquo;s Al Shabaab militants, left some Kenyans questioning their government&rsquo;s capacity and willingness to prevent terrorism.</p> <p>&ldquo;The government does not recognize that this is a religious battle,&rdquo; said Stephen Omodia, a 39-year-old businessman, who clutched a red-painted wooden cross in his hands to symbolize the lives lost in terrorist attacks in recent years.</p> <p>In Mandera the gunmen separated people according to their religion before executing the non-Muslims. Omodia said the government must strengthen security before &mdash; not after &mdash; attacks, and hold talks with Muslim leaders.</p> <p>Next to him Stephen Wachira, a 34-year-old driver, agreed the government was not responding adequately to the threat of insecurity and called for a change of leadership. &ldquo;Innocent Kenyans are dying everyday. [Joseph] Ole Lenku must go,&rdquo; he said, referring to Kenya&rsquo;s interior minister.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Tristan McConnell/GlobalPost"> Protesters march in Nairobi against government inaction in the face of rising insecurity and terrorism.</div> <p>Protest organizer Boniface Mwangi, a photographer and activist, said the issue of insecurity cut across the political, tribal and religious divides in Kenya, and yet the turnout on Tuesday was derisory.</p> <p>Perhaps 100 people wearing T-shirts with the slogan &ldquo;Mr President We Need Your Action on Security&rdquo; attended the protest on Harambee Avenue, a road that runs past government offices.</p> <p>The crowd of onlookers was about the same size. &ldquo;The problem is we live in an apathetic society,&rdquo; said James Rogor, a 30-year-old activist who works for a film company. &ldquo;People believe that if it&rsquo;s not happening to them it doesn&rsquo;t matter.&rdquo;</p> <p>Security sources say there have been 136 terrorist attacks in Kenya since 2011. Most affect poor and remote parts of the country and so are easily ignored by the political and social elites of Nairobi. The exception was the assault on Nairobi&rsquo;s Westgate Mall in September 2013 which left 67 people dead.</p> <p>The most exercised group at Tuesday&rsquo;s protests were a couple of dozen aggressive, wild-eyed men carrying a banner declaring themselves &ldquo;Young Kenyan Patriots.&rdquo; They tried to break up the protest by charging through the small crowd, blowing whistles, smashing the wooden crosses and throwing a few loose punches as police looked on.</p> <p>Activists muttered that they were &ldquo;paid goons.&rdquo; After an hour of disruptive antics they disappeared.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Tristan McConnell/GlobalPost"> An anti-demonstrator swears at people holding an &#39;Occupy&#39; protest in Nairobi against government inaction in the face of rising insecurity and terrorism.</div> <p>As the protest in Nairobi struggled to gain traction, in Mandera the impact of Saturday&rsquo;s attack was still reverberating. Six Kenyan unions <a href="">advised their members to leave the area</a> as hundreds of civilians sought shelter at a military airbase afraid that Al Shabaab may launch another cross-border raid.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Tristan McConnell/GlobalPost"> Blood-red wooden crosses lie meant to represent the lives of those killed in acts of terrorist violence lie on the ground.</div> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Tristan McConnell/GlobalPost"> Protesters hold crosses aloft.</div> Africa Need to Know Kenya Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:27:00 +0000 Tristan McConnell 6324893 at Twin bombings kill dozens in Nigeria while Boko Haram seizes another town <!--paging_filter--><p>More than 45 people died Tuesday in twin bomb blasts, including one by a female suicide bomber, at a packed market in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri.</p> <p>The explosions in the Borno state capital targeted the same Monday Market area where at least 15 people died July 1 in blast blamed on the Boko Haram militant group.</p> <p>Tuesday&#39;s attack came after the militants seized control of another town in Nigeria&#39;s restive northeast.</p> <p>Health worker Dogara Shehu said he counted more than &quot;45 people killed, some of them completely decapitated&quot; in the Maiduguri blasts in an account supported by another witness.</p> <p>An official with Nigeria&#39;s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) confirmed that &quot;many people have been killed&quot; but did not have an official death toll.</p> <p>One senior police officer, who requested anonymity, described the explosion, which happened at about 11:00 a.m. (1000 GMT), as a &quot;powerful bomb,&quot; which was felt across the city.</p> <p>Market trader Usman Babaji told AFP the explosives were hidden in a motorised, three-wheeled rickshaw, which are popular throughout the country.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Since #BringBackOurGirls, Boko Haram has only gotten stronger</a></strong></p> <p>A second explosion followed moments later as people rushed to the scene of the first bombing to help the injured, witnesses said.</p> <p>Abubakar Bello, who sells chickens near the scene, said the woman was carrying explosives in a wrapper on her back, in the same way that babies are carried.</p> <p>&quot;She manoeuvered her way to the scene of the earlier explosion,&quot; he said in an account supported by three others.</p> <p>&quot;I think it was a deliberate plan to inflict much pain on unsuspecting people because the second explosion went off after many people gathered at the scene of the first one.&quot;</p> <p><strong>Boko Haram suspected&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Boko Haram will likely be blamed for the blasts, given that it has attacked Maiduguri dozens of times during its five-year fight to create a hardline Islamist state in northern Nigeria.</p> <p>The Islamist group was founded in Maiduguri more than a decade ago and the city was once the epicentre of the conflict until its fighters were pushed out into more rural parts of the northeast.</p> <p>Since May 2013, when a state of emergency was imposed in Borno and two neighbouring states, violence has increased in the countryside, killing thousands and forcing many more to flee.</p> <p>Boko Haram had earlier taken over the town of Damasak, in the far north of Borno near the border with neighbouring Niger, starting their assault with an attack on the market there early Monday.</p> <p>Maina Ma&#39;aji Lawan, who represents northern Borno state in Nigeria&#39;s Senate, said soldiers and hundreds of residents fled when the heavily armed militants opened fire on traders.</p> <p>&quot;There is not a single male in Damasak. Boko Haram is in control because all males and soldiers have fled. No one expects women to fight them,&quot; Lawan told AFP by telephone from Abuja.</p> <p>A senior security source in Maiduguri and a senior local government official both corroborated Lawan&#39;s account, although it was still unclear how many were killed in the attack.</p> <p><strong>Maiduguri targeted&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Boko Haram&#39;s territorial gains are a change in strategy from its previous trademark of deadly hit-and-run raids or high-profile strikes against government, police or military targets.</p> <p>The group&#39;s seizure of towns has raised fears about a potential loss of government control in the region.</p> <p>Many in recent weeks have warned that violence would return to Maiduguri and some have voiced concern that the Islamists might try to capture the key city.</p> <p>Losing Maiduguri would be a huge blow for Nigeria&#39;s territorial integrity, but the military dismissed the warnings as alarmist.</p> <p>Despite claims that they have since retaken a number of towns seized by the militants, soldiers have largely been unable to halt Boko Haram attacks throughout the northeast.</p> <p>Lawan said he feared that Damasak may suffer the same fate as Malam Fatori, a nearby fishing hub which was overrun earlier this month.</p> <p>&quot;When Boko Haram seized Malam Fatori recently, the military kept giving us assurances that they were going to deploy and take it back,&quot; the senator added.</p> <p>&quot;But the town is still in the hands of the insurgents and not a single soldier has been deployed to fight them. Our concern is Damasak may not be any different.&quot;</p> <p>str-abu-bs-phz/sms/</p> Need to Know Nigeria Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:08:03 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6324855 at Scuffles break out as Hong Kong authorities clear part of protest site <!--paging_filter--><p>Scuffles erupted after Hong Kong authorities cleared part of a pro-democracy protest camp in the bustling district of Mong Kok on Tuesday following a court order to reopen a road, with several demonstrators taken away in police vans.</p> <p>The gritty, working-class area across the harbor from the main protest site at Admiralty has been the scene of some of the most violent clashes during two months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled city.</p> <p>Hundreds of police stood guard as authorities enforced the court order to reopen Argyle Street to free up traffic. There was little resistance until the afternoon when police, some in rows with arms linked, faced off with protesters, several of whom were forcibly removed.</p> <p>Riot police moved into the area in the evening, with a lot of pushing and shoving as protesters blocked a portion of nearby Portland Street, where some shops closed early.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">What Beijing really fears: Hong Kong protests spreading across the country</a></strong></p> <p>More than 20 people were arrested during the day, media said.</p> <p>Workers in white helmets and vests earlier moved wooden blockades from the road after demonstrators had dismantled tents and packed up their belongings. The injunction was granted to a bus company which said the blockade had hurt business.</p> <p>Some protesters heckled and held up yellow banners demanding Beijing allow full democracy in the global financial hub.</p> <p>&quot;Even if they clear this place, our will to fight for genuine universal suffrage hasn&#39;t changed ... it will only inspire people to think of other ways to continue this movement,&quot; said protester Ken Chu, 27, wearing a bright yellow safety helmet and a gas mask.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Why Obama should keep quiet about the Hong Kong protests</a></strong></p> <p>Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, who has called the protests illegal, urged activists to go home. Hundreds of protesters remain camped out along nearby Nathan Road, part of which local media said would be cleared later in the week.</p> <p>The move in Mong Kok comes a week after the partial clearance of the largest protest site next to government buildings in Admiralty, enforcing another injunction order in a peaceful operation that left most of the main protest site intact.</p> <p>Mong Kok has been a flashpoint for street brawls between students and mobs intent on breaking up the prolonged protests to demand free elections for the city&#39;s next leader in 2017.</p> <p>In August, 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 backing from a 1,200-person &quot;nominating committee&quot; stacked with Beijing loyalists.</p> <p>More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the peak of the demonstrations but that number has dropped to a few hundred scattered in tents over the two main sites amid dwindling public support.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Diana Chan, Stefanie McIntyre, Farah Master and Bobby Yip, Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by James Pomfret, Dean Yates and Nick Macfie)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:34:38 +0000 Venus Wu, Thomson Reuters 6324844 at New report finds UK's MI5 could not have stopped Lee Rigby's brutal murder <!--paging_filter--><p>Britain&#39;s security services could not have prevented two men hacking to death a British soldier in broad daylight on a London street last year even though one of the killers had been a high priority in previous inquiries, lawmakers said on Tuesday.</p> <p>Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 23, both Muslim converts, ran over Lee Rigby near a barracks in Woolwich in May 2013 before setting upon him with knives and a meat cleaver in an attempt to behead him.</p> <p>They asked bystanders to film them with bloodied hands as terrified locals hurried past, calmly justifying their actions as a response to Britain&#39;s foreign policy.</p> <p>The murder horrified the country but also raised questions for Britain&#39;s domestic spy agency MI5 when it emerged they had been aware of the men before the attack.</p> <p>Parliament&#39;s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) said in a report however that MI5 could not have stopped the attack.</p> <p>&quot;We do not consider that, given what the Agencies knew at the time, they were in a position to prevent the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby,&quot; it said.</p> <p>The committee noted Adebolajo had been investigated by MI5 five times, twice as a high priority, but the spy agency had found no evidence of any attack planning.</p> <p>The ISC also said Adebowale, who had also been a &quot;low-level&quot; person of interest to MI5, had told an overseas extremist in an online exchange in December 2012 of his intent to murder a soldier, but that this only came to light after the killing.</p> <p>&quot;Had MI5 had access to this exchange at the time, Adebowale would have become a top priority,&quot; ISC chairman Malcolm Rifkind said in a statement. &quot;There is then a significant possibility that MI5 would have been able to prevent the attack.&quot;</p> <p>The ISC said while MI5 and the police needed to concentrate on those who posed the greatest danger, the failure to manage those who might pose a national security risk but were not under active investigation was an issue that had to be addressed.</p> <p>(Editing by Stephen Addison)</p> Need to Know United Kingdom Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:04:14 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6324809 at Chatter: The issues at play in Ferguson are resonating with the whole world <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri that took place last night matter to the whole world. And the whole world is watching. </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, 25 Nov 2014 13:01:00 +0000 Peter Gelling 5942065 at How a $1.42 billion project failed to bring water to this Tanzanian village <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Part Two: The unprecedented World Bank-supported project is not keeping pace with population growth. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tom Murphy and Jacob Kushner </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This is Part Two of a series produced by <a href="">The GroundTruth Project</a> for GlobalPost, funded by the Galloway Family Foundation. Part Three, which investigates the Tanzanian government&#39;s flawed approach to increasing water access, will be published on Wednesday, November 26.</em></p> <p>LUPETA, Tanzania &mdash; It&rsquo;s a full day&rsquo;s bus ride from Dar es Salaam to the district of Mpwapwa in north-central Tanzania. It is here that the earliest signs appeared of trouble ahead for Tanzania&rsquo;s ambitious water development program.</p> <p>Engineers dug boreholes in 2004 and 2005 to get at water trapped deep in the ground in Mpwapwa <a href="">and in 13 other places across the country</a> in a precursory step of <a href="">a failed $1.42 billion water initiative</a> supported by the World Bank, known as the Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP).</p> <p>The idea was to learn how expensive it would be to create functioning water points, how long they&rsquo;d take to build and how best to establish &ldquo;community water councils&rdquo; capable of keeping the water flowing. Leaders would learn from mistakes on a few pilot projects and work out all the kinks before the plan went national. But critics say those lessons went unlearned.</p> <p>The Tanzanian government launched the initiative in 2006, and the World Bank brought its hefty support in 2007. In that first phase, five water systems had been completed in Mpwapwa. Less than a decade later, three of them are not functioning, said village leaders. A fourth failed, too &mdash; it only resumed operation recently thanks to the emergency intervention of a private NGO.</p> <p>And rather than seek a new model for ensuring that its rural water points don&rsquo;t fail, the WSDP continues to forge ahead with the very same program that failed the villagers of Mpwapwa, including the farming community of Lupeta.&nbsp;</p> <p>A World Bank spokesman in Washington said the initiative, to which the World Bank has contributed $200 million, did succeed in providing 8 million more people with clean water in rural areas. But due to rising population, the data still shows a slight decrease in the overall percentage of people with access to clean water.</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" src="" width="680"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This lack of access is evident on the ground. On small plots of land, the farmers of Lupeta grow corn, ground nuts and sunflowers. A typical family earns just about $212 a year from their crops, says village chairman Wilfred Msumu. On a dry year, even less. Since before Tanzania&rsquo;s 1961 independence, these families had been making an hours-long trek to fetch water.&nbsp;</p> <p>Then in the 1970s the government built pipes into the community from a faraway stream.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;It was not sufficient,&rdquo; said Msumu, 67. The water flowed at a trickle, and what little did arrive had to be shared with another village. And so, most families went back to fetching water from afar.&nbsp;</p> <p>When residents learned in 2004 they were slated to receive a brand new system &mdash; a WSDP pilot project &mdash; they were wary. But they rejoiced when the project successfully brought a source of water directly to the village.</p> <p>&ldquo;People were so happy they were dancing,&rdquo; says Msumu. The new system delivered water right to the center of the village &mdash; reducing dozens of hours each family spent fetching water every week.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;That (extra) time we used for people to farm, for children to attend school instead of fetching the water,&rdquo; says Msumu. &ldquo;Children go to school for many more hours now, many more days.&rdquo;</p> <p>The water flowed for six, fruitful years. But then it slowed. &ldquo;The place where they were building a new intake, the water was not enough,&rdquo; says Msumu. Seven years after the system was built, the water stopped altogether. &nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;We had no water for nine months,&rdquo; says Msumu. For the third interval since Tanzania&rsquo;s independence, the residents of Lupeta &ldquo;were going to another village, 10 kilometers (away), with a bucket on their heads.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>Msumu tried to raise money to build a new water intake, which an assessment by water engineers estimated would cost $92,000. The small fee of 20 shillings (about 1.2 cents) that community leaders had been collecting for each bucket of water consumed was not nearly enough.</p> <p>He was unsuccessful in getting the Tanzanian government to make up the difference. At last, the private water relief NGO WaterAid answered the call, furnishing a $92,000 gift to build a new intake and replacing some of the old pipes.&nbsp;</p> <p>But Lupeta is just one of many failures during the pilot program and Phase I of WSDP, according to Mpangala &mdash; and WaterAid is in no position to step in and fix every one.&nbsp;</p> <p>An hour west of Lupeta in the village of Masagali, a brand new water storage tank cracked two years after the WSDP built it. Twice the community pooled together money to patch it. Eventually, they gave up. That was in 2008.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the village of Chalodewa, East of Lupeta, an engine used to pump water broke down ages ago. It sits idle to this day. In nearby Seluka village, a borehole sits full of water &mdash;but there is no way to get it out. &ldquo;Some pipes dropped into the hole,&rdquo; says Mpwapwa District Water Engineer Simon Katiti. &ldquo;They&#39;ve been planning to fix that.&rdquo;</p> <p>But the community can&rsquo;t. At least, not on their own.</p> <p>Seven years after the official start of the WSDP project, communities across Tanzania are finding themselves unable to fix, operate and maintain what are sometimes incredibly costly water systems, built in places that are incredibly poor.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;The per capita income of these communities... they&rsquo;re not able to meet operation and maintenance,&rdquo; said Kashillilah. He says some communities &ldquo;do not even have the money to maintain a diesel generator.&rdquo;</p> <p>Today, it isn&rsquo;t just the pilot projects that are faltering. In Goima, in Tanzania&rsquo;s Northern Kondoa district, a pump-based system had been approved by the government and built under Phase I of the WSDP. On the day residents turned it on, it didn&rsquo;t work.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> &ldquo;They tried to pump it and the water didn&rsquo;t reach,&rdquo; says Goyagoya Mbenna, a top engineer in the Ministry of Water&rsquo;s Rural Water Supply bureau. &ldquo;The pumping head was too long.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> &ldquo;The Minister (of Water) himself told us to intervene,&rdquo; says Goyagoya, who was assigned to redesign it himself. He decided on an &ldquo;in-line boosting system,&rdquo; a pump to make the water go further using an electric generator or solar. Fortunately, the local government was able to pay for the fix. But not all local governments are so lucky.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Near the city of Mtwara in the county&rsquo;s south, one project had a series of flaws. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t include the other villages on the line, the feasibility study was not done well. When we told him (the contractor) to redesign, (but) he didn&rsquo;t agree &mdash; he was already paid,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>Again, the Ministry of Water is redoing the project.</p> <p>In Rukwa, also in the South, only one project out of 10 that were due by this June has been constructed.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Nine had a lot of technical problems. So we have to redesign all of them,&rdquo; says Goyagoya. &ldquo;The costs were not realistic. In many of these cases had they done it in-house the value for their money could have been more&rdquo; had they relied on government experts instead of contractors. &nbsp;</p> <p>But by design, even the smallest water systems planned under the WSDP were to be contracted out.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;We were thinking the private sector would take care of maintenance and the communities would pay back the private companies,&rdquo; says Goyagoya. &ldquo;But what we have found is that even the private contractors are not aware of how to maintain these systems.&rdquo;</p> <p>Goyagoya argues that the WSDP should not be judged by the failures of communities to maintain the projects.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;When the pilot projects were completed, it was still early to learn about the maintenance,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But during the implementation of WSDP, we came to learn that sustainability of the projects under the private sector was not sustainable.&rdquo;</p> <p>To bureaucrats far away in Dar es Salaam, these challenges seem stubborn, out of reach, even incomprehensible. To the people of Mpwapwa, they are real, and current:</p> <p>&ldquo;I cannot wash our clothes, I cannot cook anytime I want because I must spend time going to the well,&rdquo; said Hawa Jacob, who lives in the village of Masagali where a WSDP tank sits cracked and unusable.&nbsp;</p> <p>The 29-year-old spends one hour every morning walking to a far away well, carrying a 20-liter bucket of water back on her head. Her two children &mdash; ages 8 and 6 &mdash; carry 10 liters each, about 22 pounds.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jacob recalls fondly the days when the water did flow &mdash; when she and her family could use as much as they wanted, without having to spend all morning carrying such heavy loads. She laments that the WSDP built project amounted to nothing. She insists that it isn&rsquo;t too late.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;The World Bank should fix it,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s their project that isn&rsquo;t working.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Read Part One: <a href="">The World Bank&#39;s water failure in Tanzania</a></strong></p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Africa Need to Know Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:08:00 +0000 Tom Murphy and Jacob Kushner 6324327 at Wondering if you’re corrupt? In Indonesia there’s an app for that <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> One reason graft is so rampant is that people don’t know when a gift is a bribe. (Hint: Bars of gold? Not okay.) </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; Let&rsquo;s say you work for a government agency. You&rsquo;re in charge of buying computers for the office, and you&rsquo;re asked to call private companies for bids. One of the interested companies&rsquo; representatives gives you a brand new laptop. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just for you,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Please accept it as gratitude for helping me win the tender,&rdquo; he adds.</p> <p>What do you do?</p> <p>It was a brand new &ldquo;Kasio&rdquo; laptop, and the guy seemed nice, so we just took it. A seemingly non-judgmental robot showed up, and asked whether we wished to report what had happened. We said no. The robot was not happy. &ldquo;You have to maintain your integrity,&rdquo; it said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Because, see, what just happened is not fine. The nice guy just bribed us.</p> <p>This is one of the things you learn when using Indonesia&rsquo;s anti-corruption agency&rsquo;s new app.</p> <p>Why an app?</p> <p>Because it turns out that many in Indonesia are not aware that giving or receiving gifts in such situations is an offense, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) says. Through the app, the KPK, which also launched its own TV channel over the summer, hopes to raise awareness on low-level and common graft.</p> <p>&ldquo;Corruption is widespread when it comes to winning public contracts or obtaining business licenses,&rdquo; explains Wahyudi, who uses one name and is a program coordinator for Transparency International in Jakarta. It&rsquo;s almost impossible to start a business without having to bribe someone, and people are often expected to pay public servants for services that should be free.</p> <p>The app features a theme park and includes animated quizzes, graphs and explanations to teach the general public and officials what&rsquo;s okay and what&rsquo;s not in terms of receiving and giving presents, explains KPK spokesperson Johan Budi. It also includes games, such as &ldquo;catch the corruptor,&rdquo; and one in which you have to avoid or catch gifts according to whether you think they&rsquo;re bribes.</p> <p>Just a tip: bars of gold and trips to the Leaning Tower of Pisa are not okay.</p> <p>The app was launched in early October.</p> <p>That seems to be a shame for the governor of Riau, a province in Sumatra. Had the app been released earlier, Annas Maamun would have maybe deduced that receiving 2 billion Indonesian rupees ($166,000) from a palm oil businessman in exchange for a permit to exploit forest area was an offense.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m sorry, I&rsquo;m sick,&rdquo; said the 74-year-old while breaking down in tears at the KPK agency on Wednesday.</p> <p>Not that one would assume he would have learned from the two previous Riau governors, who were both implicated in graft cases. Not that he could have gotten a hint from the fact that, just six months ago, his direct predecessor was sentenced to 14 years in jail for very similar charges.</p> <p>Annas Maamun, who was detained by the KPK in September, is just the latest high-ranking official arrested by the agency. Corruption is a major issue in Indonesia, and as &ldquo;problematic&rdquo; at local and national levels, explains Wahyudi.</p> <p>Indonesia ranked 114 out of 177 countries surveyed in Transparency International&rsquo;s latest Global Corruption Perceptions Index.</p> <p>The KPK, which focuses on high-level corruption, is hugely popular in the country, and surprisingly efficient. Since the agency was founded in 2002, it has arrested nearly 400 people.</p> <p>Corruption cases make headlines every month or so. Recent cases include the energy minister being named a suspect in September, the sport minister jailed for four years in July, and the religious affairs minister stepping down in July after being accused of misusing Haj pilgrimage funds.</p> <p>The country&rsquo;s recently inaugurated president Joko &ldquo;Jokowi&rdquo; Widodo, who has a reputation as a &ldquo;clean&rdquo; politician, has promised a series of measures to tackle corruption. After the energy minister was named a suspect, he said he would set up an &ldquo;anti-mafia&rdquo; task force to deal with corruption in the sale of oil and gas. Jokowi also moved tax collections online as a governor of Jakarta, and has announced he will do the same at the national level.</p> <p>The KPK&#39;s Johan Budi admits some officials probably don&rsquo;t need an app to tell them they&rsquo;re corrupt. But he says that while corruption is indeed widespread in Indonesia, the country&#39;s efforts to fight graft could make it &ldquo;an example for others.&rdquo;</p> <p> &ldquo;In Indonesia today no one is above the law, even at the highest levels of power,&rdquo; he says.</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets China Indonesia Political Risk Tue, 25 Nov 2014 06:15:11 +0000 Marie Dhumieres 6315391 at How to foil spies in the Snowden era <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> From typewriters to quantum cryptography, governments are exploring old and new ways of keeping information secret. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Angela Waters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BERLIN, Germany &mdash; When news broke last year that the US National Security Agency had snooped on Chancellor Angela Merkel&rsquo;s phone calls, Germans were outraged.</p> <p>Then Germany&rsquo;s BND intelligence service was caught having spied on US Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton.</p> <p>By the time it emerged in September that the two agencies were sharing information each had collected about the other country&rsquo;s leaders, the convoluted spy-versus-spy game between the two allies seemed to verge on the absurd.</p> <p>That led German lawmaker Patrick Sensburg, chair of a parliamentary inquiry into the alleged NSA spying, to propose officials use typewriters in order to avoid digital surveillance.</p> <p>The suggestion prompted amusement and disdain, but it came as no surprise to tech analyst Avivah Litan.</p> <p>&ldquo;When my clients ask me how to really secure their systems, I tell them to get off of the internet,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Nuclear reactors are not connected to the internet.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">5 things government whistleblowers say you must know</a></strong></p> <p>Now the German government is scrambling to find new ways of keeping sensitive information from prying eyes.</p> <p>&ldquo;Hackers and national security services operate in the same ways,&rdquo; Litan says. &ldquo;The techniques cyber criminals use to steal money, spies use to steal intellectual property and governments use to steal whatever they need &mdash; they&rsquo;re very similar.&rdquo;</p> <p>In the quest to avoid future security breaches, officials here are drawing inspiration from the past as well as investing in cutting-edge research.</p> <p>Although the BND wouldn&rsquo;t confirm or deny using typewriters for sensitive communiques, the idea is gaining currency.</p> <p>German typewriter manufacturer Truimph-Adler boasted in a recent advertisement that it had manufactured &ldquo;NSA-proof&rdquo; machines for Russian Federal Security Service operatives &mdash; the successors to the KGB &mdash; who wanted to communicate without leaving electronic traces.</p> <p>But not everyone has confidence in the typewriter&rsquo;s efficacy.</p> <p>&ldquo;We just have to go back to the techniques we&rsquo;ve used in the 1960s and 1970s to gather the information,&rdquo; says Vincent Houghton, a historian at the International Spy Museum in Washington.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s an entire field of typewriter forensics dedicated to stealing information from the antiquated machines. Well-placed listening devices enable spies to remotely determine writers&rsquo; keystrokes by the sound of their tapping. If typewriters fall into adversaries&rsquo; hands, spies can determine who typed what judging by the wear on the machines.</p> <p>Houghton believes only one analog technology is worth resurrecting.</p> <p>&ldquo;If you are sending incredibly important diplomatic information, like &lsquo;Hey we&rsquo;re about to declare war,&rsquo; you use a one-time pad,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;There are times in history where people should have used the one-time pad and didn&rsquo;t, like the Zimmerman telegram, which dragged the US into World War I.&rdquo;</p> <p>In that coded telegram, German Foreign Minister Zimmerman asked Mexico to reconquer US territory. The British decrypted the message, putting pressure on America to declare war on Germany.</p> <p>The system requires that two people have pads containing pages of the same random codes. They agree on unwritten signals &mdash; whether messages are sent on even or odd-numbered days, for example, or in the morning or afternoon &mdash; to settle on which code to use. That specific code and signal can be used only once. With no repetition, no one but the two contacts can decipher messages.</p> <p>When that method was used during World War I, random codes were often written in such small script that spies needed magnifying glasses to read them. In the 1980s and &rsquo;90s, spies began using computer-generated codes on CD-ROMs to exchange one-time pad communications.</p> <p>While they are completely secure, one-time pads require effort to use, making them inconvenient for digital natives who have grown up using instant communication.</p> <p>&ldquo;You use it for the most top secret information because it is so cumbersome and so difficult,&rdquo; Houghton says. &ldquo;If you have to send a message that no one can ever read except for your recipient, that&rsquo;s when you use the one-time pad.&rdquo;</p> <p>Merkel appears to be taking simpler steps. Last year, after the NSA spying revelations broke, the chancellor ordered 5,000 encrypted Z10 phones from Blackberry to keep confidential chats away from prying intelligence services.</p> <p>The phones are outfitted with Secusmart crypto-chips that protect conversations from unwanted eavesdroppers by encrypting the calls. They also use a notification service that alerts users to possible security threats from apps that aggregate more data than necessary.</p> <p>Michael Brown, Blackberry vice president of security product management and research, says although voice protection is a key part of the solution, it doesn&rsquo;t address malware, which is one of the main concerns for government clients.</p> <p>&ldquo;The concern about malware on devices is the risk of it accessing your contact information, email, and information about websites you visited,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>Even the most sophisticated devices are only as secure as their users, however.</p> <p>Brown says the biggest challenge in his 14 years at Blackberry is lost devices. &ldquo;The most important thing is to put a password on your device, whether you are an individual or an organization,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Always have passwords on your devices. That is the first line of defense.&rdquo;</p> <p>But MIT cybersecurity expert John Williams cautions that no phone is entirely secure.</p> <p>&ldquo;They may think that they can&rsquo;t get attacked, but I&rsquo;m pretty sure they can be compromised,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;As far as I know all phones can be compromised &mdash; Android, iPhone and Blackberry.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">If you build an innovation hub in Siberia, will they come?</a></strong></p> <p>Houghton believes the future of intergovernmental information security lies not in the latest technology, but in the hands of physicists who are using quantum physics to develop a new form of communication as secure as the one-time pad.</p> <p>&ldquo;You are essentially beaming information, turning it into quanta, and sending it at the speed of light,&rdquo; he says, referring to subatomic particles that display contradictory properties. &ldquo;The only way to intercept the information would be to literally grab it out of the air, but it is designed to disappear if you try that.&rdquo;</p> <p>Houghton says although most developed countries are investing in advanced technologies such as quantum cryptography, it&rsquo;s not clear whether that will mean more secure communication or more insidious surveillance methods in the future.</p> <p>&ldquo;Quantum cryptography could be the next wave in security developments, but this technology could be ten years away,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Or someone could figure it out tomorrow.&rdquo;</p> Espionage Want to Know Diplomacy Germany Technology Tue, 25 Nov 2014 06:15:09 +0000 Angela Waters 6318655 at What people around the world are saying about Ferguson <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> "American 'freedom' is laughable." </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Update: The grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, <a href="">sparking protests</a> across the country. We asked readers for their reactions. Click&nbsp;<a href="#responses">here</a>&nbsp;to jump to that section of the story.</em></p> <p>On Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., Darren Wilson, a white police officer, <a href="">shot and killed</a> Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Brown&#39;s body was left in the street for four hours.</p> <p>Brown&#39;s killing was a familiar American tragedy in a country where young black men between the ages of 15 and 19 are <a href="">21 times more likely</a> to be shot by police officers than young white men of the same age.</p> <p>But it became a global story when local police &mdash; outfitted in <a href="">tactical hardware</a> that made them seem more like an occupying army than a force meant to &quot;protect and serve&quot; the people &mdash; cracked down on protesters and&nbsp;<a href="">arrested journalists</a>. While cops were firing rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators, Missouri governor Jay Nixon <a href="">established a curfew</a> to keep people off the streets.&nbsp;</p> <p>The world noticed.</p> <p>Fellow justice-seekers expressed solidarity. Palestinians, accustomed to surviving under military occupation, <a href="">tweeted advice</a> to Ferguson protesters about how to deal with tear gas, even as Israeli air strikes were demolishing Gaza and killing thousands of Palestinian civilians. Hong Kong protesters, who began their pro-democracy demonstrations more than a month after Brown&#39;s killing, adopted the &quot;<a href="">hands up, don&#39;t shoot</a>&quot; as a tactic in homage to the Ferguson protesters.</p> <p>Countries that the US has often accused of human rights abuses seized on what seemed to be a moment of glaring hypocrisy. North Korea <a href=" ">called</a> the US &ldquo;a graveyard of human rights&rdquo; where &ldquo;people are subject to discrimination and humiliation due to their race, and are in constant fear that they may get shot at any moment.&quot;</p> <p>China&rsquo;s state news agency Xinhua <a href="">published an editorial</a> saying the US had &ldquo;much room for improvement at home&rdquo; and that it should &ldquo;concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others.&rdquo; And Egypt, sounding more like the United Nations than like a country that routinely <a href="">kills</a> protesters, <a href="">called on the US</a> to respect demonstrators&#39; rights of assembly.</p> <p>The world is still watching as a grand jury prepares to announce in the coming hours or days whether it&#39;s decided to indict Darren Wilson. At GlobalPost, we reached out to non-American readers to find out why it matters to them.</p> <p>From Israel, <a href="">Elizabeth Tsurkov</a> sees parallels in law enforcement tactics and the treatment of Palestinians and African Americans:</p> <blockquote><p>So about Ferguson, in Israel we&#39;re going through something very similar. People focus on the occupation when they think of Israel, but we have other problems too. Israeli police has been caught on tape assaulting unarmed civilians who had angered them. A lot of that violence and even torture in detention is directed toward Palestinian citizens of Israel. Recently, a video surfaced of police shooting a Palestinian-Israeli man who attempted to assault their vehicle with a knife, but he was shot when he was walking away from the car and posed no danger. This caused a huge uproar among Palestinians in Israel and Israel witnessed riots and protests just like after Ferguson. Just like in the U.S., police brutality and racism intertwine and in both countries, cops get away with violence against minorities. I think that unless racism is addressed in the general society, nothing will change.&nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p>From Greece, <a href="">Asteris Masouras</a>&nbsp;recalls crackdowns on Greek protesters:</p> <blockquote><p>Police killings of unarmed youths everywhere reverberate with Greek audiences, because of the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos in December 2008, which sparked month-long protests and riots, and resulted in the life imprisonment in the officer who fired the lethal shot. Militarized policing and police brutality, especially, as well as the &quot;limited&quot; curtailment of constitutional rights over protests, as seen in Ferguson in the past few months are also familiar, recalling scenes from Keratea, Skouries, and most recently Athens&#39; Exarchia district. Greek youths see the same tactics deployed by &quot;their&quot; state against them propagated around the world, and no prospect of justice without protest, no prospect of peace without justice.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="">Yiannis Baboulias</a>, also from Greece, now living in London, sees Ferguson as part of a larger global story of state repression:</p> <blockquote><p>What really shocked me and many others abroad were the images of the police, when they decided to show up in military gear and point sniper rifles and automatic weapons at people simply protesting. It points to a great lesson about inequality and poverty: that not only it is the main drive of how policing impacts on the everyday life of poor people (in this case, murder), but also the lengths to which they will now go to make sure dissent out in the streets is not tolerated. Militarisation of the police to such an extent, would not be tolerated in a society in which an underclass hasn&#39;t been accepted as a permanent feature, which is unfortunately the case with the US and other Western democracies.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="">Shireen Ahmed</a>, from Canada, forcefully argues that that Ferguson pulls back a veil of hypocrisy in the United States when it comes to human rights, law, and equality.</p> <blockquote><p> Beginning with the senseless death of Mike Brown, it has been angering to watch the events unfold in Ferguson. Protestors are villified; groups in solidarity are being accused of co-opting the calls for truth and justice, and gun sales in the region have risen dramatically ahead of Grand Jury decision warning of imminent violence. America claims to hold &quot;freedom&quot; in the highest regard. Yet, it stomps through much of the world, under the guise of protecting said freedoms, while exploiting resources and turning a blind eye to humanity that doesn&#39;t profit. Meanwhile, at home it allows the killings of innocent black men and continuing systems of institutionalized racism through police brutality is almost laughable. American &quot;freedom&quot; is laughable.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>And Ana Z&aacute;rraga from Venezuela:</p> <blockquote><p>&quot;I have been following Ferguson since protests erupted in August. Couldn&#39;t believe that the country that wants to champion freedom of speech abroad, has allowed the excessive use of force by police against protesters.</p> <p> People have the right to grieve and demand justice in a system that they perceive as unfair. They have the right to spark a long-overdue debate on race, policing and justice in America&quot;.</p> </blockquote> <p>San Francisco-based Canadian Sana Saeed thinks Ferguson is a watershed moment when it comes to this race, policing, and justice:</p> <blockquote><p>Ferguson is a watershed moment; it&#39;s not just about the murder of Mike Brown but about a culture and system of brutality and violence towards people of color &mdash; especially Blacks, for whom the modern Us prison and police system was meant to enslave. Ferguson is about rising up against that and pushing towards real justice, real reconciliation and ending the silence on this violent pandemic.I&#39;m following it because that very same system of enslavement and oppression of Black Americans is what also continues to churn the culture and system of Islamophobia in the United States</p> </blockquote> <p>GlobalPost&#39;s Twitter followers said similar things when I asked them why they were following Ferguson.</p> <p>From Karachi/Toronto, concern about racial oppression:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@timmybicicleta</a> <a href="">@GlobalPost</a> Yes I am. Coz I am concerned about racism hatred and bias towards any one group of people!</p> <p> &mdash; عنبر (@amberShasan) <a href="">November 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <p>From Ireland, more interest in Ferguson as part of a single, global movement for justice:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@timmybicicleta</a> <a href="">@asteris</a> justice is an international quest. Spreading the truth &amp; solidarity so important</p> <p> &mdash; Paula Geraghty (@paulageraghty) <a href="">November 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From France and London, analogies to widespread police militarization:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@timmybicicleta</a> <a href="">@ElSnarkistani</a> I am. Can make a parallel with current riots happening in France after police killed a student protester.</p> <p> &mdash; The Sharlinator (@Sharlynegger) <a href="">November 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@timmybicicleta</a> <a href="">@ElSnarkistani</a> different responses but we are seeing a rise in the militarization of police equipment as well here. Strange.</p> <p> &mdash; The Sharlinator (@Sharlynegger) <a href="">November 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@timmybicicleta</a> <a href="">@oemoral</a> London b/c here too rule of law not colour-blind. Appalled by militarisation of police &amp; demonisation of protesters</p> <p> &mdash; Maria Aristodemou (@MariaAristo) <a href="">November 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And also from London, a comparison between Ferguson and Guantanamo Bay prison as harming US image and influence abroad:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@timmybicicleta</a> <a href="">@GlobalPost</a> Yes. Issues like this weaken America&#39;s image globally - important when trying to push for democracy abroad. 1/2</p> <p> &mdash; Ben Tritton (@bwtritton) <a href="">November 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@timmybicicleta</a> <a href="">@GlobalPost</a> It allows regimes elsewhere to point at Ferguson (&amp; Guantanamo etc) and say &quot;why should we listen to you?&quot;. 2/2</p> <p> &mdash; Ben Tritton (@bwtritton) <a href="">November 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>There you have it. Many voices from many places with one message: Ferguson is about global justice, not just justice in the United States.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> <a name="responses"> <b>Post-decision reactions</b></a></h2> <p>It took St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloh more than 20 minutes of tone-deaf&nbsp;<a href="">procedural rambling</a> last night to finally say what the entire world already knew: Darren Wilson would not be indicted for killing Michael Brown.</p> <p>We checked back in with our readers to see what non-Americans thought about that decision.</p> <p>From Scotland, a short summary of what many people are feeling today:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@missyasin</a> <a href="">@rattlecans</a> not surprised.still sad.</p> <p> &mdash; gary jordan (@garyjordan51) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From Birmingham, England, feelings of inevitability and yet shock at how McCulloh delivered the news:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@missyasin</a> Sadly predictable from the moment the last shot was fired. The arrogance &amp; cynicism of the *prosecutor&#39;s* statement though... wow</p> <p> &mdash; John Horne (@JohnHorneUK) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From Canada, the American justice system is poisoned by systemic racism:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@missyasin</a> jury decided not just on wilson&#39;s guilt, but on whether young black lives r worth all the &quot;fuss.&quot; Justice system needs reform.</p> <p> &mdash; Steven Zhou (@stevenzzhou) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From India, oppression of marginalized groups seen in Ferguson is a global problem:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@missyasin</a> just awful. it is the same system that oppresses underprivileged and vulnerable communities in India as well - muslims dalits OBC</p> <p> &mdash; . (@polriskgirl) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From Scotland, militarized police, American hypocrisy, and war:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@missyasin</a>: Fully expected. Now cops equipped to invade Iraq have turned up demanding an end to peaceful protest?! Land of the free my ASS!!</p> <p> &mdash; Jake #The45 (@jakeybhoy58) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From Australia, a call for police reforms at the highest level:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@missyasin</a> scary, the police in your country need serious federal oversight.</p> <p> &mdash; Aaron Mitchell (@AaronJMitchell) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From Cairo, Egypt, a place that knows police violence:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@missyasin</a> ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS</p> <p> &mdash; Hasan Selim (@Hasanola) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And from Brisbane, one word that says so much:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@missyasin</a> fucked.</p> <p> &mdash; Bec (@Brocklesnitch) <a href="">November 25, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Ferguson Need to Know United States Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:44:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6324212 at FARC to free Colombian soldiers, sends warning to army <!--paging_filter--><p>Colombia&#39;s FARC guerrillas confirmed they will release two soldiers Tuesday in a deal to revive peace talks, warning the army not to jeopardize the separate release of a captive general.</p> <p>The soldiers&#39; release, part of an agreement to salvage a peace process derailed by the capture of General Ruben Alzate, has been put in motion in the eastern department of Arauca, where the pair were captured in combat on November 9, the rebels said.</p> <p>Operations began Monday at dawn to transfer the soldiers &quot;from a site in the Arauca forest&quot; to a Red Cross-organized humanitarian mission the following day, the rebels said.</p> <p>The FARC said the release of the general &mdash; who was captured in a separate incident in the western department of Choco on November 16 &mdash; was still planned for later in the week but hinged on the army&#39;s actions.</p> <p>&quot;We hope the defense ministry will act with prudence and discretion so as not to block the release of General Ruben Dario Alzate,&quot; the rebels said in a statement from the Cuban capital Havana, where the peace talks had been taking place.</p> <p>Alzate, the highest-ranking captive taken by the FARC in 50 years of conflict, was captured along with a corporal and an adviser as they traveled by boat to visit a civilian energy project.</p> <p>The incident caused President Juan Manuel Santos to call off the two-year-old peace talks, the most promising effort yet to end the conflict.</p> <p>Under a deal announced last Wednesday, the FARC has promised to release all five captives &mdash; Alzate, Corporal Jorge Rodriguez, army adviser Gloria Urrego and soldiers Paulo Cesar Rivera and Jonathan Diaz &mdash; in order to resume negotiations.</p> <p>But the FARC repeated accusations that the army is putting the deal at risk with aggressive operations in Choco, the jungle-covered region where Alzate heads a task force charged with fighting rebels and drug traffickers.</p> <p>The rebels accused the army of bombings, surveillance flights, troop landings and clashes with its fighters in the remote department.</p> <p>&quot;The noisy operation deployed by the army on the Atrato River in the forgotten and plundered department of Choco, presented by the defense ministry as a deployment to protect the population, is nothing but a risky, mercenary attempt to rescue the general and his companions,&quot; they said.</p> <p>The defense ministry has denied trying to mount a rescue operation, and says it has already halted operations in Arauca, where the two soldiers are due to be released -- a pre-condition for the handover.</p> <p><strong>&#39;Destroyed confidence&#39;</strong></p> <p>In a separate statement, the FARC&#39;s leader, Timoleon Jimenez, said the president&#39;s suspension of negotiations had damaged the peace process.</p> <p>&quot;He knocked over the board where we were playing the game, he destroyed confidence. Things can&#39;t just resume as they were,&quot; he said in a statement datelined from the Colombian mountains and published on the rebels&#39; website.</p> <p>&quot;The rules of the game he (Santos) always demanded were that nothing that occurred on the battlefield should affect the course of our conversations.&quot;</p> <p>The FARC has justified its capture of the army hostages as legitimate acts of war taken in the absence of a ceasefire.</p> <p>Santos has repeatedly rejected the rebels&#39; demands for a ceasefire, saying it would strengthen their hand.</p> <p>Further complicating the delicate hostage handovers, Colombia&#39;s second-largest rebel group, the ELN, has declared a travel ban in the Choco region for Tuesday and Wednesday.</p> <p>The rival guerrilla group often decrees such bans in the area, where its fighters are also active.</p> <p>The ELN (National Liberation Army) has an estimated 2,500 rebels. The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has an estimated 8,000.</p> <p>The conflict, which has also drawn in drug traffickers and right-wing paramilitaries at various times, has killed 220,000 people and caused more than five million to flee their homes since the FARC was founded in 1964.</p> <p>lda/jhb/jm</p> Need to Know Colombia Mon, 24 Nov 2014 19:46:07 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6324122 at Hungarian protesters are starting to rock the boat <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Demonstrations against an internet tax are turning into a movement against Prime Minister Victor Orban. Can it maintain momentum? </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; Hungarian street protests against government policies and plans are morphing into calls for ousting Prime Minister Viktor Orban, exposing the first chinks in the popular leader&#39;s armor to emerge since he took power four years ago.</p> <p>Initially inspired by a scheme to tax internet users, tens of thousands of protesters have since turned out to demand a crackdown on corruption, an end to spending cuts in education and a reversal of Orban&#39;s moves to centralize government powers.</p> <p>With the prime minister&rsquo;s center-right Fidesz Party enjoying a two-thirds majority in the parliament, the demonstrators face a long, uphill slog before they can hope for a change in government.</p> <p>Nevertheless, tens of thousands of young people chanting &ldquo;Orban go away!&rdquo; and &ldquo;Down with Fidesz!&rdquo; have effectively drawn a line in the sand against the prime minister&#39;s stated <a href="">goal </a>to transform Hungary into an &ldquo;illiberal state&rdquo; like China or Russia, political analysts say.</p> <p>Unlike anti-capitalist protesters in Greece, Hungarians are calling for a return to the moderate pro-Western policies of the country&rsquo;s recent past, says Peter Kreko of the Budapest-based think tank Political Capital.</p> <p>&ldquo;There are European Union flags in the crowd and even Norwegian flags, which is funny on the one hand but on the other really expresses the Western orientation of the youngsters.&rdquo;</p> <p>In June, before the protests had begun, Orban drew criticism for <a href="">raids </a>on nonprofits that received financing from Norway.</p> <p>At the end of October, as many as 100,000 demonstrators turned out to <a href="">rally </a>against an internet usage tax of $0.60 per gigabyte of data.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">19 Instagram photos that helped kill Hungary&#39;s internet tax</a></strong></p> <p>After the government caved to their demands by shelving its plan, the movement&rsquo;s leaders quickly pivoted to target corruption, inspiring tens of thousands to <a href="">challenge </a>Orban&#39;s refusal to sack the head of the country&#39;s tax authority, who was banned from entering the US because of bribery allegations.</p> <p>Although subsequent demonstrations &mdash; including a <a href="">rally </a>by teachers on Saturday protesting cuts to the education budget &mdash; have been even smaller, participants say the events are becoming more focused and better organized.</p> <p>Slogans and speeches have taken aim at what the protesters see as Orban&#39;s dismantling of democratic institutions, undermining of freedom of the press and fiddling with the election system to benefit Fidesz, says a protester named Eszter Fero.</p> <p>&ldquo;It started over the internet tax, but that was just the last drop in the glass,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>Whether the movement can sustain its momentum remains unclear, however.</p> <p>The street actions have been limited to urban areas, while in the countryside, the far-right Jobbik Party poses Orban a greater challenge than the liberals.</p> <p>Still, the demonstrations have been notable if only for progressing beyond the usual squabbling between the government and opposition activists.</p> <p>Although it&#39;s too early for bold predictions, some activists are looking to Spain&#39;s far-left Podemos Party for inspiration. Podemos <a href="">became </a>that country&rsquo;s second-largest political party by number of members and even won seats in the EU Parliament within four months of its formation in January.</p> <p>&ldquo;The mood is angry,&rdquo; says former student leader and veteran protester Benedek Cseri. &ldquo;And it is also like the masses are getting to know their strength.&rdquo;</p> <p>The authorities are downplaying the protests&rsquo; importance.</p> <p>Although he admits the protests have had a &ldquo;spontaneous element,&rdquo; government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs says they were orchestrated by the opposition rather than the result of a genuine outpouring of anger.</p> <p>&ldquo;Street demonstrations are a natural component of any nation&#39;s daily life,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We don&#39;t see it as a threat to our development agenda.&rdquo;</p> <p>The protests&rsquo; main significance lies less in any immediate impact they may have than in signifying the start of something new, says Political Capital&#39;s Kreko.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&#39;t think these protests can maintain the same intensity until [parliamentary elections in] 2018 or that they can sweep away the government,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;What I can expect is that there will be more demonstrations and the mobilization capacity can remain.&rdquo;</p> <p>As recently as April, Orban was able to build on his populist, anti-EU rhetoric to strengthen Fidesz&#39;s two-thirds majority in parliament. That puts holding a no-confidence vote in the government out of the question.</p> <p>The opposition faces huge problems at the same time. Its fractured leadership is about as unpopular with the protesters as the government itself.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">5 things government whistleblowers say you must know</a></strong></p> <p>Even if demonstrators were able to agree on enough common ground to form a political party, various constitutional changes Orban has pushed through make it difficult for newly formed political groups to make an impact.</p> <p>For now at least, Orban&#39;s move to postpone and repackage the internet tax &mdash; which government spokesman Kovacs now says was never the government&#39;s intention to pass in its current form &mdash; has galvanized normally apathetic young Hungarians who are disgusted with party politics.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s buoying the hopes of protesters like Fero, who says, &ldquo;People could feel for the first time that they have the power to challenge the corrupt political elite.&rdquo;</p> Hungary Want to Know Europe Politics Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:53:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6324094 at Philippines fines Chinese fishermen $102,000 each for poaching sea turtles <!--paging_filter--><p>A Philippine court on Monday fined nine Chinese fishermen $102,000 each after they were caught with hundreds of sea turtles in a disputed shoal in the South China Sea amid a festering territorial standoff between the two sides.</p> <p>China claims almost all of the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich with minerals and oil-and-gas deposits and one of Asia&#39;s biggest possible flashpoints. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.</p> <p>Philippine police arrested the fishermen and seized their boat off Half Moon Shoal, a disputed territory in the Spratly Islands within the Philippines&#39; 200-mile exclusive economic zone, in May. Two of the fishermen were sent home because they were minors.</p> <p>After three months of trial, Judge Ambrosio de Luna found the fishermen guilty of poaching in Philippine waters and of illegal possession of endangered green sea turtles.</p> <p>It was not immediately clear how the fishermen would find the funds to pay the fines, but they face six months&#39; jail if they fail to pay up, time already served, suggesting they could even be released.</p> <p>&quot;We&#39;re merely imposing our laws,&quot; Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters. &quot;We tried to look for ways to be lenient. I think they will credit whatever time has been served already.&quot;</p> <p>China protested against the arrests and does not recognize the trial, saying the nine were detained in China&#39;s territorial waters.</p> <p>IHS Jane&#39;s, a leading defence publication, said on Friday satellite images show China is building an island on a reef elsewhere in the Spratlys large enough to accommodate what could be its first offshore airstrip in the South China Sea.</p> <p>Del Rosario said the military had been asked to investigate.</p> <p>The building work, if confirmed, would fly in the face of US calls for a freeze in provocative activity in the South China Sea, one of Asia&#39;s biggest security issues. Concern is growing about an escalation in disputes even as claimants work to establish a code of conduct to resolve them.</p> <p>Two Vietnamese frigates were due to arrive in the Philippines on Monday on a goodwill visit, the first time Hanoi has sent warships to the archipelago.</p> <p>(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie)</p> Need to Know Middle East Philippines Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:09:20 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6324034 at Iraqi Kurds prepare for Sinjar mountain offensive against IS <!--paging_filter--><p>Kurdish forces in northern Iraq are drawing up plans to break Islamic State&#39;s siege of Sinjar mountain, where hundreds of minority Yazidis remain stranded months after fleeing their homes.</p> <p>Seeking to regain territory and repair pride in his military forces, Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq&#39;s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, is overseeing efforts to retake the mountain, senior party members said.</p> <p>Islamic State attacked the Sinjar area in August, sending thousands of Yazidis fleeing up the mountain, a craggy strip some 40 miles long.</p> <p>Hundreds of Yazidis were executed, Iraqi officials and witnesses said, by Islamic State militants who see the adherents of an ancient faith derived from Zoroastrianism as devil-worshippers. A senior UN rights official said the onslaught looked like &ldquo;attempted genocide&rdquo;.</p> <p>Kurdish peshmerga forces have regained between 65 and 75 percent of the ground lost to Islamic State in the area since the US began a campaign of airstrikes in August, said Halgurd Hikmat, spokesman for the Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry.</p> <p>But Sinjar&#39;s awkward geography &mdash; out on a limb to the west, has made it difficult to penetrate.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">They survived the Islamic State. Can they make it through the winter? (VIDEO)</a></strong></p> <p>&quot;Our priority now is Sinjar,&quot; said Hikmat. &quot;A plan will be in place within the coming days.&quot;</p> <p>The strategy was to cut off an Islamic State supply route between Mosul and Syria which runs along the southern foot of the mountain, Hikmat said. He did not elaborate.</p> <p>Controlling Sinjar would put the peshmerga on three sides of Mosul, the largest city under Islamic State control in northern Iraq, and allow them to gain positions for any future offensive to retake the city and nearby areas which have been the target of Iraqi and US airstrikes.</p> <p>&quot;After that, we must coordinate with Baghdad and the coalition (of Western and Gulf Arab states) to get Islamic State out of Mosul,&quot; said Hikmat.</p> <p>Mosul has become the focus of the government&#39;s military efforts because of both its size and its symbolic status after Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a public speech at the Grand Mosque there in July.</p> <p>Baghdadi, who sees himself as &#39;caliph&#39; of an Islamic state he has declared in parts of Iraq and Syria, told his fighters they were victorious after years of patience and holy struggle.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Captured by the Islamic State, these two teenagers went through hell. Then they ran</a></strong></p> <p><strong>Stranded</strong></p> <p>Estimates of the number of people still stranded on Sinjar mountain -- part of disputed land claimed by both the Kurds and Baghdad -- vary from 10,000 to fewer than 1,000.</p> <p>Last month, the peshmerga recaptured the town of Rabia, taking control of a crossing point into Syria and moving closer to Sinjar.</p> <p>Further advances may not come easily. An intelligence officer in the Rabia area said it would take between two to three weeks to drive Islamic State out of the villages north of Sinjar mountain, because many Arab residents either supported Islamic State, or opposed Kurdish encroachment.</p> <p>A Yazidi fighter told Reuters by telephone from the mountain that he was one of around 1,500 volunteers there, in addition to a contingent of around 150 peshmerga. Hikmat put the number of peshmerga at 2,000.</p> <p>&quot;We have received several (types of) small arms from the Kurds, including AK-47s, sniper rifles, mortars and light machine guns,&quot; said the volunteer fighter, who gave his name as Barakat.</p> <p>Politically, Sinjar has been damaging for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) &mdash; one of two main Kurdish power centers -- whose forces were responsible for protecting the area.</p> <p>Since 2003, the KDP has courted and co-opted minorities in the disputed areas along its southern border by providing them with jobs, security and services in exchange for loyalty.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">On Location Video: What the front-line fight against the Islamic State looks like</a></strong></p> <p>&quot;The KDP and the Yazidis are inseparable parts of the same body, and that also applies to the KDP and Sinjar,&quot; Barzani, who is also head of the KDP as well as commander-in-chief of the peshmerga, told Yazidi members of his last month.</p> <p>Rival parties have capitalized on the loss of Sinjar to score political points against the KDP.</p> <p>The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which crossed into Iraq and saved thousands of Yazidis over the summer has won favor with the minority, many of whom felt betrayed by the peshmerga.</p> <p>Thousands of Yazidis have since been trained by the YPG in Syria, and a small number of guerrillas remain on the mountain, according to fighters there.</p> <p>Peshmerga spokesman Hikmat said the YPG would not participate in the Sinjar offensive, but that the peshmerga would coordinate with them to protect the area afterwards.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Saif Sameer; Editing by Michael Georgy and Robin Pomeroy)</p> Need to Know Middle East Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:06:00 +0000 Isabel Coles, Thomson Reuters 6323904 at Obama announces US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's resignation <!--paging_filter--><p>Update, 11:43 a.m. ET:</p> <p>President Barack Obama accepted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel&#39;s resignation on Monday, saying Hagel had approached him last month to say it was time for him to leave.</p> <p>At a White House event in the State Dining Room, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden gave Hagel a warm sendoff.</p> <p>He said Hagel will stay on until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.</p> <p>He said Hagel has been candid with his advice and counsel and has &quot;always given it to me straight.&quot;</p> <hr /> <p>US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has resigned, a US defense official said on Monday, adding that President Barack Obama had accepted his resignation.</p> <p>Hagel will remain in the Pentagon&#39;s top post until a successor is named, the official said.</p> Need to Know United States Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:35:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6323879 at Russia is losing up to $140 billion a year due to sanctions and falling oil prices <!--paging_filter--><p>Lower oil prices and Western financial sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis will cost Russia around $130-140 billion a year &mdash; equivalent to around 7 percent of its economy &mdash; Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Monday.</p> <p>His comments are the latest acknowledgement by Russian policymakers that sanctions restricting borrowing abroad by major Russian companies are imposing heavy economic costs. But in Siluanov&#39;s view, the fall in oil prices is the bigger worry.</p> <p>&quot;We&#39;re losing around $40 billion a year because of geopolitical sanctions, and about $90 billion to $100 billion from oil prices falling by 30 percent,&quot; he told a news conference.</p> <p>&quot;The main issue that affects the budget and economy and financial system, this is the price of oil and the fall in monetary flows from the sale of energy resources.&quot;</p> <p>Official forecasts suggest Russia&#39;s gross domestic product is likely to be around $1.9-2.0 trillion this year, at average exchange rates.</p> <p>Siluanov&#39;s estimate of the cost of lower oil prices is in line with analysts&#39; rule of thumb that each $1 fall in the oil price lops around $3 billion off export earnings. The oil price has slumped from nearly $115 per barrel in June to around $80 now.</p> <p>Oil and gas account for around two-thirds of Russia&#39;s exports, making the balance of payments highly vulnerable to oil price falls.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">A visual timeline of the deadly unrest in Ukraine</a>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Natalia Orlova, chief economist at Alfa Bank, said the $90-100 billion estimate did not take into account the effect of the weakness of the ruble, partly caused by the fall in the oil price, which would help to compensate the loss by boosting exports and curtailing imports.</p> <p>The ruble has lost 25 percent of its value against the dollar since June, and Orlova said the net impact of lower oil prices on the economy would be around $40 billion.</p> <p>But when it comes to the cost of sanctions, Siluanov&#39;s estimate of $40 billion may be conservative, based on the direct cost to companies unable to borrow abroad rather than the overall impact on investor behavior.</p> <p>Other analysts have arrived at gloomier estimates, taking into account the indirect cost of sanctions and overall East-West tensions linked to Ukraine.</p> <p>In its latest monetary strategy, the central bank forecast that net capital outflow this year would be $128 billion, more than double the $61 billion seen in 2013, as a result of &quot;the events in Ukraine and the introduction of sanctions.&quot;</p> <p>Last week, influential former finance minister Alexei Kudrin said the impact of &quot;formal and informal&quot; sanctions on the ruble &mdash; and by implication the wider economy - was comparable to the impact of lower oil prices, and that foreign investor confidence would take seven to 10 years to recover.</p> <p>(Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Jason Bush and Alexander Winning; Editing by Kevin Liffey)</p> Need to Know Russia Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:09:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6323848 at Iran nuclear talks will extend through end of June 2015, Britain says <!--paging_filter--><p>Iran and six world powers will extend through the end of June 2015 talks on Tehran&#39;s nuclear program after failing to clinch a final agreement that could end a 12-year atomic dispute, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Monday.</p> <p>He told reporters that Iran and the powers &quot;made some significant progress&quot; in the latest round of talks, which began last Tuesday in the Austrian capital. Hammond added that there was a clear target to reach a &quot;headline agreement&quot; of substance within the next three months and talks would resume next month.</p> <p>It is unclear where next month&#39;s talks will take place, he said, noting that during the extension period, Tehran will be able to continue to access around $700 million per month in sanctions relief. An Iranian official confirmed the extension.</p> Need to Know Iran Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:34:00 +0000 Louis Charbonneau and Fredrik Dahl, Thomson Reuters 6323829 at The World Bank's water failure in Tanzania <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Part One: Seven years and $1.4 billion into an unprecedented, World Bank-backed collaboration to improve water access in Tanzania, a grand experiment in development aid has achieved few of its goals. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jacob Kushner and Tom Murphy </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This is Part One of a series produced by <a href="">The GroundTruth Project</a> for GlobalPost, funded by the Galloway Family Foundation. <a href="">Part Two</a>, which explores the early warning signs that the water project was failing, will be published on Tuesday, November 25.</em></p> <p>MLANDA, Tanzania &mdash; During dry season, students walk on the brownish-red sand, passing a water pump adjacent to the school buildings. The plastic bag covering the nozzle is a reminder for the central Tanzanian village of Mlanda that water has not flowed from it for years.</p> <p>Outside the school, a bright yellow bucket sits atop the head of a young girl, moving slowly across the limitless landscape. Adila is returning home from a two-kilometer walk to the nearest water source &mdash; a ground well where farmers take their livestock to drink &mdash; to fill the 20-liter bucket. She too passes the barren pump and the classroom where her classmates sit to learn.</p> <p>Adila will miss class this afternoon, like she does nearly every day. She must carry the water home before turning around and heading back to school.</p> <p>Speak with Tanzanians today, and you&rsquo;ll hear them describe an ambitious dream: to shed the country&rsquo;s 60-year legacy as a &ldquo;third world&rdquo; nation, and emerge as a thriving middle-income one, despite allegations of a culture of government corruption that has led donors to suspend close to $500 million in budgetary aid.</p> <p>For some, achieving the goal of a middle-income Tanzania begins with water. The single broken-down pump in Adila&rsquo;s home village of Mlanda is one of thousands across Tanzania. In 2007, the World Bank joined an unprecedented drive the Tanzanian government had launched in 2006 to fix its water crisis once and for all. In the past, international donors funded different projects in the country&rsquo;s water sector.</p> <p>This time, the World Bank would provide Tanzania with the financial and technical support to organize them to pool their money together, in a grand experiment that combined rural and urban water resource management into one plan.</p> <p>To date the drive has attracted more than $1.42 billion &mdash; including $200 million in direct budget support from the World Bank as well as funding from various other donors and the Tanzanian government &mdash; an incredible sum for a single project in a small country like Tanzania. The initial goal was ambitious: to bring improved access to water to 65 percent of rural Tanzanians and 90 percent of urbanites by 2010, and continue until each and every citizen had safe drinking water.</p> <p>By all available metrics, the project has failed: When the project began, only 54 percent of Tanzanians had access to what is called an improved water source &mdash; a water point, like a well or water pump, that is protected from contamination. Seven years into the project, that figure has actually decreased &mdash; now at 53 percent, according to the latest World Bank Data. Coupled with Tanzania&rsquo;s rising population, today 3.8 million more Tanzanians lack access to improved water than did before the project began.</p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /></p> <p> <the 20="" 246="" 30="" accountability="" actually="" admit="" ahead.="" although="" and="" are="" bank="" be="" being="" built="" built.="" by="" completed="" created="" due="" earliest="" either="" ensure="" government="" has="" have="" in="" initiative="" is="" longer="" maintained="" mechanism="" no="" of="" only="" operational="" or="" over="" pace="" past="" percent="" picked="" pilot="" points="" program="" projects="" remain="" rural="" s="" some="" sources="" span="" stopped="" summer="" tanzanian="" that="" the="" there="" these="" this="" to="" under="" up="" water="" were="" will="" with="" world="" years=""></the></p> <p>Others are at immediate risk of failing as communities find themselves unable to raise the money to fix and maintain them. Experts across Tanzania&rsquo;s water industry say the program is failing to address the fundamental challenges that have plagued Tanzania&rsquo;s water sector for decades.</p> <div> <p>They are only trying to intervene for a short time &mdash; &lsquo;let&rsquo;s keep the system working for a couple years,&rsquo;&rdquo; says Herbert Kashillilah, chair of Water Witness Tanzania. &ldquo;If I am from the World Bank, it is easier to count new projects than try to ensure people are running their own systems.&quot;</p> <p>The World Bank defends the program, arguing that despite its slow start and the likelihood that some water points will stop working, it is better than doing nothing.</p> <p>The problem of providing rural water around the world hasn&rsquo;t been cracked,&rdquo; said Philippe Dongier, World Bank country director for Tanzania. &ldquo;You could say, &lsquo;if that&rsquo;s not going to be sustainable, why should we build it?&rsquo; But that could be said all over the world.&rdquo;</p> <p>A World Bank spokesman in Washington interviewed Monday said that while the data used to analyze the initiative is &quot;factually correct,&quot; it combines rural and urban data. The spokesman said that combined data can hide some of the overall successes the project has had in improving access to clean water in rural areas.&nbsp;</p> <p>The spokesman added that the government, with support from the World Bank, had brought access to 8 million more people in rural areas through this initiative. But due to an increase in population, when viewed as a percentage, access to clean water has actually decreased in Tanzania.</p> <p>And so governments and international financial institutions continue investing hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the project going, despite evidence that it hasn&rsquo;t succeeded. Plus $102.9 million more has been committed to the program in the past year alone, and the deadline for completion of the first stage has been extended for a third time, to December 2015.</p> <p>Meanwhile, revelations about <a href="">the transfer of $122 million from Tanzania&rsquo;s central bank</a> into overseas private accounts led a dozen funders, many of the same ones who backed the project, to halt payments. The money was sent by the state-owned power company TANESCO to IPTL, an independent power company. Both groups say it was legal, but opposition politicians and watchdogs cried foul.</p> <p>Allegations of a cover up have dogged the government and they got louder as the prime minister asked for parliament to cancel debating the corruption allegations earlier this month.</p> <p>Why is such an unprecedented project lagging behind its lofty goals? And why does the World Bank continue to solicit hundreds of millions of dollars for it?</p> <p>An investigation undertaken by <a href="">The GroundTruth Project</a> for GlobalPost interviewed more than two dozen government and World Bank officials, Tanzanian water engineers and independent experts along with community leaders in places where water projects were to take place.</p> <p> <those a="" access="" and="" as="" avoided="" bank="" because="" challenges="" confidential="" data="" evaluations="" evidence="" failed="" familiar="" for="" gone="" has="" have="" implementers="" improve="" in="" including="" its="" livelihoods="" of="" opportunity="" or="" pages="" paint="" picture.="" plagued="" project="" reports="" s="" sector="" several="" solve="" span="" tanzania="" tanzanians="" that="" the="" this="" thousands="" to="" troubling="" unprecedented="" water="" well="" world=""></those></p> <p>Only recently have steps been taken to address the worst of the challenges. Meanwhile, millions of Tanzanians in villages across the country are clamoring for improved access to water and demand accountability for the millions of dollars in loans.</p> <p>Their cause is urgent: In 2004, 32,665 Tanzanians died from illnesses directly related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene, <a href="">according to the World Health Organization</a>, accounting for a startling 12 percent of all deaths that year for any reason. That&rsquo;s 9,000 more water-related deaths than in neighboring Kenya, which has roughly the same population.</p> <p>The project&rsquo;s failures thus far raise serious doubts about the ability of international donors to achieve lasting progress anywhere, even as institutions pour billions more dollars into global water pipelines. In Tanzania, the setbacks have a direct impact on millions of Tanzanians.</p> <p>For Adila, it means time away from school, the risk of falling behind her classmates and a cascade of negative consequences that could continue the rest of her life. And she is but one example of a problem facing an entire country.</p> <p><em>A previous version of this story stated the World Bank launched the water initiative in 2006. It was the Tanzanian government that launched the project in 2006. The World Bank joined and brought funding to the project starting in 2007. It was also revised to include additional comment from the World Bank.</em></p> <p><strong>Read Part Two: <a href="">How a $1.42 billion project failed to bring water to this Tanzanian village</a></strong></p> </div> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Africa Need to Know Mon, 24 Nov 2014 09:34:00 +0000 Jacob Kushner and Tom Murphy 6322027 at Hello Kitty fans are in shock after learning the global icon is not a cat <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 'Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat,' a company spokesperson told Kotaku gaming blog. What? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>It has been a decidedly catastrophic week for Hello Kitty fans around the world.</p> <p>The shocking revelation that the Japanese cartoon character is not a cat but a little British girl living in the suburbs of London has left millions of fans reeling.</p> <p>Their sense of betrayal is understandable.&nbsp;For the past 40 years, fans have assumed Hello Kitty was a fancy feline.&nbsp;Even Hello Kitty experts &mdash; yes, they really exist &mdash; didn&#39;t know the truth until recently.</p> <p>University of Hawaii anthropologist Christine Yano, who has spent years researching the Hello Kitty craze, told the <a href="">Los Angeles Times</a> that she was corrected by Sanrio, the Tokyo-based company that created Hello Kitty, when she described the cartoon character as a cat.</p> <p>Yano apparently sent a written piece for an upcoming <a href="">Hello Kitty </a>retrospective&nbsp;at the Japanese American National University in Los Angeles to Sanrio for proofreading.</p> <p>&quot;I was corrected &mdash; very firmly,&quot; Yano <a href="" target="_blank">was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times</a>.&nbsp;&quot;That&#39;s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She&#39;s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat.&quot;</p> <p>It seems only a paw-full of Hello Kitty fans had actually bothered to read the feline&rsquo;s <a href="">back story,</a> which describes her as a &quot;happy little girl with a heart of gold&quot; who &quot;loves to bake.&quot;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Why are people so surprised about <a href="">#hellokitty</a> not being a cat?? If they were true fans they&#39;d know about this. <a href="">#justsaying</a></p> <p> &mdash; BriBri (@BrigiiBear4) <a href="">August 29, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>But if Hello Kitty really isn&#39;t a cat, does that mean Snoopy, who walks on his hind legs, rides a skateboard and plays the saxophone, isn&rsquo;t a dog?</p> <p>Nope. According to this tweet Snoopy is still the real deal. Phew.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Despu&eacute;s de lo Hello Kitty, Snoopy pone esto en su cuenta de twitter. <a href="">#FernandaF</a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Fernanda Familiar (@qtf) <a href="">August 29, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Such a debate about the identity of a famous cartoon character is unusual. It&#39;s normally reserved for Olympic mascots. Remember the 2012 London Olympics? More than two years after the event, people are still trying to work out what Wenlock and Mandeville represented.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Maybe it&#39;s just me, but the London Olympic mascots look like the aliens from the Simpsons <a href="">#Olympics</a> <a href="">#hideyourkids</a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Marc D (@Dr_Habs) <a href="">July 27, 2012</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>In the wake of the Hello Kitty uproar, Sanrio appeared to retreat from its earlier claims that the cartoon character was not a cat, but in doing so created further confusion.</p> <p>This is what a company spokesperson told gaming news site <a href="" target="_blank">Kotaku.</a></p> <p>&quot;Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It&#39;s going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.&quot;</p> <p>This <a href="" target="_blank">Wall Street Journal</a> interview with Sanrio left the issue more tangled than a hair ball.&nbsp;</p> <p>Our best guess is Hello Kitty is a hybrid cat/girl.</p> Strange But True Japan Mon, 24 Nov 2014 07:39:00 +0000 Allison Jackson 6244534 at 5 things government whistleblowers say you must know <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The US government sees Americans as 'the enemy' and other common sense advice in the Snowden era. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Corinne Purtill </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON, UK &mdash; No matter how much they dislike it, governments need calling out.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s what a group of whistleblowers who risked their careers, reputations and personal freedom to uphold said Friday. Now serving on the advisory board of <a href=""></a>, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy in Washington, they said the nature of government secrecy ensures that more people will have to take similar risks in the future &mdash; and that the consequences could be even greater.</p> <p>&ldquo;If whistleblowers are suppressed, which is the clear intention of the US and British governments, all that&rsquo;s left is a flow of official information&hellip; which adds up to lies and war,&rdquo; said ExposeFacts coordinator Norman Soloman.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">A panel of people who blew whistles on US and UK government activity, organized by ExposeFacts and the FPA in London. #globalpost</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Corinne Purtill (@corinnepurtill) on <time datetime="2014-11-21T16:49:37+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Nov 11, 2014 at 8:49am PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script><p><strong>The government doesn&rsquo;t need to spy on people all the time to keep them in line. It just needs them to know that it can.</strong></p> <p>The US National Security Agency and British equivalent, GCHQ, aren&rsquo;t using all the information they&rsquo;re gathering today, said J. Kirk Wiebe, a former NSA employee who went public after his 2001 retirement with information about the agency&rsquo;s mass collection of individuals&rsquo; data. It&rsquo;s being stored in a server to be used as evidence of crimes committed down the road.</p> <p>Those who condone spying because they personally have nothing to hide should remember that it&rsquo;s not clear what future governments will consider illegal, he said.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">&quot;I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the US, not to agree with the NSA.&quot; -J. Kirk Wiebe, former NSA employee who went public with its surveillance program.</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Corinne Purtill (@corinnepurtill) on <time datetime="2014-11-21T16:43:01+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Nov 11, 2014 at 8:43am PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script><p>&ldquo;The next time you hear someone saying &lsquo;I&rsquo;m not worried, I&rsquo;m not doing anything wrong&rsquo; &mdash; rubbish,&rdquo; Wiebe said. &ldquo;You don&rsquo;t get to choose what&rsquo;s wrong.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Surveillance doesn&rsquo;t guarantee security.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;We are told that governmental secrecy is protecting us, when the truth is the opposite,&rdquo; said Coleen Rowley, a former FBI special agent who exposed the agency&rsquo;s intelligence failures before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">&quot;Go back to following the law. Of you (do), slowly, you&#39;re going to regain the trust.&quot; Coleen Rowley, former FBI special agent who exposed pre 9/11 intelligence failures.</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Corinne Purtill (@corinnepurtill) on <time datetime="2014-11-21T16:41:01+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Nov 11, 2014 at 8:41am PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script><p>A refusal to share intelligence within agencies, across agencies and with the public contributed to the attacks, the 9/11 Commission found.</p> <p>Matthew Hoh, who resigned from the US State Department in 2009 to protest American policy in Afghanistan, offered another example. In the wake of disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the Obama administration argued that the NSA&rsquo;s surveillance tactics thwarted 54 terror attacks. After pressure from journalists and US Sen. Patrick Leahy, the NSA confirmed just four cases, none of which were a direct result of the spying program.</p> <p>&ldquo;The government can scare and intimidate, but there has been no evidence that these tactics are helping,&rdquo; Hoh said. &ldquo;This is actually causing us to be much less secure.&rdquo;</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">&quot;Both Chelsea (Manning) and Edward (Snowden) are on the right side of history, and they will be vindicated.&quot; Matthew Hoh, who resigned from the US State Dept in 2009 to protest Afghanistan policy.</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Corinne Purtill (@corinnepurtill) on <time datetime="2014-11-21T16:45:15+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Nov 11, 2014 at 8:45am PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script><p><strong>In the US, whistleblowers are worse than foreign spies.</strong></p> <p>The Obama administration has prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined, Solomon wrote in The Nation last month. It&rsquo;s gone after journalists and government employees suspected of leaking information. It also created the <a href="">National Insider Threat Policy</a>, requiring government employees to report coworkers who may be passing on classified information.</p> <p>&ldquo;In effect, the people of the US are to be viewed as the enemy from whom basic information about government actions should be withheld,&rdquo; Solomon said.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">&quot;If whistleblowers are suppressed...all that&#39;s left is the flow of official information, (which) adds up to lies and war.&quot; Norman Solomon, coordinator</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Corinne Purtill (@corinnepurtill) on <time datetime="2014-11-21T16:38:23+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Nov 11, 2014 at 8:38am PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s nothing a government hates worse than embarrassment,&rdquo; Wiebe added. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s almost worse than leaking a top secret.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Woodward and Bernstein&rsquo;s Watergate scoop probably couldn&rsquo;t happen today.</strong></p> <p>Deep Throat, The Washington Post&rsquo;s key anonymous source implicating President Richard Nixon&rsquo;s administration, was FBI associate director Mark Felt.</p> <p>Today, the first call reporter Bob Woodward placed to Felt would have been logged into NSA databases and easily traced by officials searching the leak&rsquo;s source, Rowley said. Never mind all the security cameras that are surely covering the parking garage where they met.</p> <p><strong>History proves whistleblowers right. Eventually.</strong></p> <p>In 1963, the FBI <a href="">called </a>surveillance target Martin Luther King, Jr. the &ldquo;most dangerous&hellip; Negro leader in the country.&rdquo; Today, Rowley pointed out, he&rsquo;s an American icon with his own federal holiday.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s incredible what time can do,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And the reason is, facts come out.&rdquo;</p> <p>Similar reappraisals could be in store for whistleblowers such as Snowden and Chelsea Manning, who passed documents to Wikileaks, panelists said. Today, Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence and Snowden is in exile in Russia.</p> <p>&quot;Both Chelsea and Edward are on the right side of history,&quot; Hoh said, &quot;and they will be vindicated.&quot;</p> Security Want to Know Politics United Kingdom Mon, 24 Nov 2014 06:00:06 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6321839 at Tunisians vote for first freely elected president of post-Ben Ali era <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 'Now we are the only country in the Arab world who does not know who their president will be until after the vote is finished,' said Mouna Jeballi, a voter in Tunis. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tarek Amara and Patrick Markey, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>TUNIS, Tunisia &mdash; Tunisians went to the polls on Sunday to pick their first directly elected president, the final step in the North African state&#39;s transition to full democracy following a 2011 revolution that ousted long-time ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.</p> <p>Official results were yet to be announced, but shortly after the polls closed, Beji Caid Essebsi&#39;s secularist Nidaa Tounes party claimed he was ahead in Sunday&#39;s election by at least 10 percentage points.</p> <p>Essebsi, a former Ben Ali official, and rival Moncef Marzouki, the incumbent president, were expected to be front runners, but analysts said neither were likely to win enough votes to avoid a run-off in December.</p> <p>&quot;Essebsi is ahead according to initial results, with a big difference to the next candidate,&quot; Essebsi&#39;s campaign manager Mohsen Marzouk told reporters. &quot;There is a strong possibility of a second round.&quot;</p> <p>The campaign manager for Marzouki said his candidate would get through to the second round with Essebsi, but gave no polling figures.</p> <p>Political parties have observers at polling stations who act as witnesses to oversee preliminary counts, which allows them to tally results unofficially for their party.</p> <p>More than three years since overthrowing Ben Ali&#39;s one-party rule, Tunisia adopted a new constitution, and rival secularists and Islamist parties have largely avoided the turmoil that has plagued other Arab states swept by popular revolts.</p> <p>Sunday&#39;s vote follows the general election in October when the Nidaa Tounes party won the most seats in the parliament, beating the Islamist party Ennahda that had won the first free poll in 2011.</p> <p>&quot;Another distinguished day in the history of Tunisia,&quot; said Mouna Jeballi, voting in Soukra district in Tunis. &quot;Now we are the only country in the Arab world who does not know who their president will be until after the vote is finished.&quot;</p> <p>Tunisia&#39;s new government is already facing tough choices, with international lenders demanding difficult reforms in public spending to boost growth and create jobs.</p> <p>At the same time, it has launched a crackdown on Islamist militants linked to Al Qaeda who have attacked the armed forces and killed two secularist opposition leaders last year.</p> <p>Tunisia was the first to topple its long-standing ruler, giving birth to the Arab Spring revolts that followed in Libya, Egypt and Yemen and the war in Syria.</p> <p><strong>Octogenarian front runner&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Essebsi, an 87-year-old former parliament chief, presents himself as the experienced statesman Tunisia needs while Marzouki has warned the rise of one-party era figures will be a setback after the 2011 uprising.</p> <p>Around 200 protesters gathered to heckle Marzouki, shouting at him &quot;Leave, Marzouuki, leave&quot; in the coast town of Sousse where the president had gone to vote. A Reuters photographer at the scene said police detained several people.</p> <p>Deal-making between secular and Islamist rivals has been a feature of the political stability Tunisia has enjoyed compared to its chaotic neighbor Libya.</p> <p>Tunisia&#39;s Islamists have taken a more flexible approach to allowing officials in the Ben Ali era to return to politics, and avoided the turmoil that has gripped Libya since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2011.</p> <p>But the ascent of former ministers and members of Ben Ali&#39;s RCD party worries some critics who say they fear their return will be a setback for the revolt against one-party rule and widespread corruption.</p> <p>Essebsi and other former officials deny involvement in the abuses under Ben Ali, presenting themselves instead as technocrats with the skills needed for government.</p> <p>A new Nidaa Tounes-led government will be formed after the presidential ballot but its narrow majority in parliament over the Islamists of Ennahda will mean tough post-election negotiations over the cabinet line-up and new laws.</p> <p><em>(Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Jon Boyle and Stephen Powell)</em></p> Africa Need to Know Elections Middle East Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:41:48 +0000 Tarek Amara and Patrick Markey, Thomson Reuters 6323266 at Suicide bomber kills 45 at volleyball match in Afghanistan <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Taliban and other jihadist militants have unleashed waves of suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year as foreign forces pull out after 13 years of war. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Samiullah Paiwand, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>GARDEZ, Afghanistan &mdash; A suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest in a crowd of spectators at a volleyball match in Afghanistan on Sunday, killing 45 people, a provincial official said, as foreign troops withdraw from the country after more than a decade of fighting.</p> <p>Mukhles Afghan, spokesman for the governor of Paktika province, said at least 50 more were wounded in the attack in Yahya Khel district, where residents had gathered to watch a tournament final.</p> <p>He said most of the casualties were civilians.</p> <p>No one immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday&#39;s attack. The spokesman said around 50 more people were wounded.</p> <p>Casualties were high because the crowd was so dense, since people had come from nearby districts to cheer on their team. No other details were immediately available because of the remoteness of the location.</p> <p>The Taliban and other jihadist militants have unleashed waves of suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year as foreign forces pull out after 13 years of war.</p> <p>About 12,000 international troops will remain in Afghanistan next year to train and support Afghanistan&#39;s security forces.</p> <p>Paktika was the site of one of this year&#39;s deadliest attacks in July, when 89 people were killed by a bomb in a crowded market.</p> <p>International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach condemned the &quot;cowardly&quot; attack.</p> <p>&quot;It is an attack on sport itself and on the positive values it can bring to help build strong communities and foster peace and reconciliation around the world,&quot; he said in a statement.</p> <p>The Taliban banned public sports events as un-Islamic during their five-year rule before the 2001 US-led intervention that toppled them from power after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on US cities.</p> <p>Paktika province has an active Afghan Taliban insurgent presence and lies along the porous border with Pakistan&#39;s North Waziristan region, used as a base by both the Haqqani militant network and the Pakistani branch of the Taliban.</p> <p>The Pakistani army for months has been waging an offensive against militants in North Waziristan, driving refugees and militant fighters across the border into Afghanistan.</p> <p>This year has been one of the bloodiest for Afghan civilians, according to the United Nations, which recorded nearly 5,000 deaths and injuries of civilians in the first half of the year.</p> <p><em>(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Peter Graff)</em></p> Afghanistan Afghanistan War Need to Know Conflict Zones Politics Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:26:56 +0000 Samiullah Paiwand, Thomson Reuters 6323234 at Rwanda’s disappearing dissidents <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emile Gafirita said he had evidence that Paul Kagame ordered the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential plane 20 years ago. And then he disappeared. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tristan McConnell </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NAIROBI, Kenya &mdash;&nbsp;The last time anyone saw Emile Gafirita was late on Nov. 13, when he left a restaurant in the Nairobi suburb of Dagoretti. He never made it home.</p> <p>Two men accosted Gafirita near his house shortly before midnight. Shouting and the sound of a scuffle alerted neighbors who looked outside to see Gafirita being handcuffed and bundled into a vehicle.</p> <p>Witnesses say the men spoke to Gafirita in a language they didn&rsquo;t recognize, neither Swahili nor English.</p> <p>Gafirita, whose real name is Emmanuel Mughisa, was due to give evidence in December before a French inquiry into the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential plane 20 years ago.</p> <p>The death of President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, was the spark for three months of genocidal killing that left at least 800,000 people dead, mostly ethnic Tutsis. The slaughter was ended by Tutsi rebel leader Paul Kagame who has been in charge ever since.</p> <p>Gafirita is a former soldier who claims to have evidence that Kagame ordered the plane to be shot down. This has led some to suspect that his is just the latest in a long list of disappearances and deaths carried out at the behest of the Rwandan government in its efforts to silence critics, dissidents and traitors.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Kenyan police have denied he was arrested, so he has clearly been kidnapped,&rdquo; said Gafirita&rsquo;s French lawyer Francois Cantier. The lawyer said he had spoken to Gafirita on the day he disappeared to inform him of the date of his scheduled appearance before the inquiry.</p> <p>&ldquo;This man is not a fantasist. If [the judges] decided to listen to him, to reopen the investigation, it&#39;s because they considered his testimony to be interesting,&rdquo; Cantier told AFP.</p> <p>Mystery still shrouds the downing of the plane. It is important because whoever shot down the plane bears a large share of responsibility for the slaughter that followed.</p> <p>Over the years competing inquiries have drawn opposing conclusions. A 2006 inquiry by French judge Jean-Louis Brugui&egrave;re accused Kagame and his close associates of plotting the attack. (France got involved because the three crewmembers were all French.)</p> <p>Then in 2010, Rwandan judge Jean Mutsinzi rebutted the French inquiry saying that Hutu extremists were to blame, eager to get the moderate president out of the way in order to begin the killing.</p> <p>The to-and-fro has continued. In 2012 another French investigation led by Marc Tr&eacute;vidic and Nathalie Poux inspected the crash site and agreed that Hutu extremists were the likely culprits. But soon after announcing the conclusion of their inquiry earlier this year Tr&eacute;vidic and Poux reopened the inquest in order to hear Gafirita&rsquo;s evidence, and now he has disappeared.</p> <p>Alongside Rwanda&rsquo;s post-genocide reputation for domestic peace and stability, law and order, cleanliness and tech-savvy economic growth co-exists a body of evidence pointing to internal oppression, external brutality, illegal renditions and assassinations.</p> <p>The most high profile killing was that of Patrick Karegeya, a former spy chief strangled in a Johannesburg hotel in January. Karegaya&rsquo;s political allies blamed &ldquo;agents of Kagame&rdquo; for his murder. No one has yet been arrested.</p> <p>In August a South African judge found four men, including two Rwandans, guilty of the attempted murder of Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a friend of Karegeya&rsquo;s and co-founder of opposition-party-in-exile the Rwandan National Congress.</p> <p>According to research by Human Rights Watch there have been at least 10 assassinations, attempted assassinations, disappearances or attacks on Rwandan government opponents and critics abroad since 1996. One of the earliest was the killing in Nairobi in 1998 of former minister Seth Sendashonga</p> <p>More recently Joel Mutabuzi, a former member of Kagame presidential guard living as a refugee in Uganda, disappeared in October 2013 only to resurface in Rwanda days later.</p> <p>Rwanda says Mutabuzi was extradited by the UN refugee agency decried his removal as an illegal &ldquo;forced return.&rdquo; A court in Rwanda found Mutabuzi guilty of terrorism and in October sentenced him to life in prison.</p> <p>In 2011 British police warned two dissidents living in exile in London of an assassination plot against them. &ldquo;Reliable intelligence states that the Rwandan Government poses an imminent threat to your life,&rdquo; detectives wrote to Jonathan Musonera and Rene Mugenzi.</p> <p>Rwanda denies involvement in the string of disappearances, threats and killings but Kagame shows no regret for the demise of his opponents. Days after Karegeya&rsquo;s death Kagame addressed a prayer meeting in Kigali. &ldquo;You cannot betray Rwanda and get away with it. There are consequences,&rdquo; he said.</p> Africa Need to Know Rwanda Genocide Conflict Zones Politics Culture & Lifestyle Sun, 23 Nov 2014 17:25:39 +0000 Tristan McConnell 6323073 at Iran open to extending nuclear talks by up to one year <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tehran said it's open to having the nuclear negotiations extended if no real progress towards an agreement is achieved on Sunday. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The United States and Iran sought Sunday to bridge gaps in negotiations on the eve of a deadline for a nuclear deal, as Iran signaled it was open to extending the talks by up to a year.</p> <p>US Secretary of State John Kerry went into a fifth round of talks in Vienna with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif ahead of Monday&#39;s deadline.</p> <p>The two key players in the protracted on-off negotiations have been trying since Thursday to secure a deal that would curb Iran&#39;s disputed nuclear activities in exchange for broad relief from punishing international sanctions.</p> <p>It could end a 12-year standoff that has even raised the prospect of Israeli military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. Kerry spoke to Israel&#39;s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Saturday.</p> <p>&quot;We&#39;re working hard,&quot; Kerry said Saturday in Vienna. &quot;And we hope we&#39;re making careful progress, but we have big gaps, we still have some serious gaps, which we&#39;re working to close.&quot;</p> <p>German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also in the Austrian capital, called the weekend of talks a &quot;moment of truth.&quot;</p> <p><strong>&#39;We must avoid confrontation&#39;</strong></p> <p>An Iranian source told AFP that Tehran is open to having the nuclear negotiations extended by six months or a year if no real progress towards an agreement is achieved later Sunday.</p> <p>Such an extension would be under the terms of an interim accord reached in Geneva a year ago that traded a temporary freeze on some aspects of Iran&#39;s nuclear activities for limited sanctions relief, the source said.</p> <p>&quot;We are still focused on agreeing to a kind of political&quot; understanding which would not be written but which would allow for negotiators to fine-tune technical aspects of the agreement later, the source said.</p> <p>&quot;But if between now and this afternoon or this evening we don&#39;t get there, the solution is we consider an extension of the Geneva accord,&quot; he said.</p> <p>&quot;That could be for a period of six months or a year. We must absolutely avoid a climate of confrontation with escalation from one side and the other,&quot; the source said.</p> <p>The five permanent members of the UN Security Council &mdash; Britain, China, France, Russia and United States plus Germany &mdash; the so-called P5+1 &mdash; have been locked in talks with Iran since February to turn the interim Geneva accord into a lasting agreement.</p> <p>Such a deal is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities.</p> <p>The Islamic Republic hotly denies it wants to build the bomb and insists its programme is entirely peaceful.</p> <p>A European source at the talks said there had been &quot;no significant progress&quot; and that &quot;the chances of getting a deal are pretty reduced.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;In order to get a deal the Iranians will have to budge in a rather substantial manner,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Many experts believe that the deadline may be extended, as happened with an earlier cut-off point on July 20, but officials insist that this is not on the table &mdash; yet.</p> <p>However, a senior US official said late Saturday that the aim was still to reach a deal by Monday night &quot;but we are discussing both internally and with our partners a range of options.&quot;</p> <p>British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius also joined the talks on Friday. Both have since left but were expected to return.</p> <p>Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a key player in the talks, is expected in Vienna late Sunday, RIA Novosti state news agency reported, citing a diplomat.</p> <p><strong>Complex deal</strong></p> <p>Some areas under discussion appear provisionally settled in what would be a highly complex deal that would run for many years, even decades.</p> <p>But two key issues remain: the enrichment process that renders uranium suitable for peaceful uses but also at high purities for an atomic weapon; and the pace of the lifting of sanctions against Iran.</p> <p>The OPEC member has been hard hit by the sanctions, coupled with a slide in oil prices.</p> <p>Tehran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges &mdash; in order, it says, to make fuel for future reactors &mdash; while the West wants them dramatically reduced.</p> Need to Know Diplomacy Iran Sun, 23 Nov 2014 14:50:15 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6323018 at Al Shabaab Islamists execute 28 non-Muslims on Kenya bus <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Some 60 passengers on board were ordered off the vehicle, and the gunmen separated the travelers into Muslims and non-Muslims. </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>Somalia&#39;s Al Shabaab Islamists on Saturday ambushed a bus in Kenya and executed 28 non-Muslim passengers in what they said was revenge for police raids on mosques in the troubled port of Mombasa.</p> <p>&quot;I can confirm... that 28 innocent travellers were brutally executed by the Shabaab,&quot; regional police chief Noah Mwavinda told AFP.</p> <p>The bus, which was headed for the capital Nairobi, was ambushed shortly after departing from Mandera, a town lying on the border with Somalia in Kenya&#39;s northeasternmost corner.</p> <p>Some 60 passengers on board were ordered off the vehicle, and the gunmen separated the travelers into Muslims and non-Muslims.</p> <p>The militants then had the non-Muslims reboard the bus and tried to drive off with them, but the vehicle got stuck.</p> <p>&quot;So they executed their prisoners&quot; before escaping back into Somalia, Mwavinda said.</p> <p>Kenya&#39;s Red Cross confirmed the death toll in a tweet after its team arrived at the scene.</p> <p>An Al Shabaab spokesman said the deadly attack was in revenge for raids this week on four Mombasa mosques that hiked simmering tensions in the city.</p> <p>&quot;The Mujahedeen successfully carried out an operation near Mandera early this morning, which resulted in the perishing of 28 crusaders, as a revenge for the crimes committed by the Kenyan crusaders against our Muslim brethren in Mombasa,&quot; Ali Mohamud Rage said in a statement sent to AFP.</p> <p>Police closed the four mosques in Mombasa, a largely Muslim city unlike much of Kenya where Christians make up 80 percent of the population, on the grounds they had come under the influence of hardliners.</p> <p><strong>Al Shabaab a threat despite strikes</strong></p> <p>A 25-year-old passenger on the bus, who asked to be identified only as Ibrahim, told AFP that the vehicle came under fire several times after leaving Mandera, leaving one passenger dead.</p> <p>The driver tried to escape but was finally forced to stop by the group of around 70 assailants, he said.</p> <p>&quot;When the bus came to a stop ... the passengers were divided into two groups, one made up of people they believed were Muslim, and those they believed who weren&#39;t,&quot; the eyewitness said.</p> <p>The attackers, who identified themselves as members of Al Shabaab, read verses from the Quran to the Muslims, urging them to combat the Kenyan authorities.</p> <p>Ibrahim said they were then ordered to walk to a nearby village.</p> <p>He said he witnessed the execution of two non-Muslim passengers, who were shot in the head.</p> <p>Mandera&#39;s police chief said the hostages were first put aboard the bus but that when it bogged down &quot;they executed their prisoners.&quot;</p> <p>Kenya has suffered a series of attacks since invading Somalia in 2011 to attack Al Shabaab, later joining an African Union force battling the Islamists.</p> <p>Al Shabaab carried out the September 2013 attack on Nairobi&#39;s Westgate shopping mall, killing at least 67 people, as a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of southern Somalia.</p> <p>During the Westgate attack, some of the victims were killed after the gunmen weeded out non-Muslims for execution by demanding they recite the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith.</p> <p>Al Shabaab has lost a series of key towns and ports to the AU force and Somalian government army, heralded as advances that would stem the militants&#39; multi-million dollar business trading charcoal to Gulf countries.</p> <p>But in a recent report, UN investigators warned that the air and drone strikes on the militia have done little to damage it in the long term and that the insurgents continue to pose a serious regional threat.</p> <p>Indeed, pressure on the fighters has forced them to &quot;become more operationally audacious by placing greater emphasis on exporting its violence beyond the borders of Somalia&quot; and across the Horn of Africa, said an October report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Somalia Kenya World Religion Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:29:26 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6322543 at West wants Russian regime change over Ukraine, says Kremlin <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke out against Western sanctions on Russia after US VP Joe Biden hinted Friday at possible further measures. </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>Russia on Saturday accused the West of seeking regime change in Moscow, raising tensions over the conflict in Ukraine in the worst crisis in relations since the end of the Cold War.</p> <p>Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke out against Western sanctions on Russia after US Vice President Joe Biden hinted Friday at possible further measures over its &quot;unacceptable&quot; role in the former Soviet state.</p> <p>Kyiv&#39;s defense minister charged Saturday that there were 7,500 Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, although Russia denies claims that it provides military support to pro-Moscow separatists locked in conflict with government forces.</p> <p>&quot;The West is showing unambiguously that they do not want to force (Russia) to change policy, they want to achieve a change of regime,&quot; Lavrov told a forum of political analysts in Moscow.</p> <p>&quot;Now public figures in Western countries are saying that it&#39;s necessary to introduce sanctions that would destroy the economy and rouse public protests,&quot; he added in comments cited by TASS news agency.</p> <p>The United States and European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine targeting the key energy, defense and finance sectors. These have sent the ruble into freefall and inflation soaring.</p> <p>On a visit to Kyiv on Friday, Biden accused Russia of failing to honour a peace agreement signed in September, which includes a tattered ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>&quot;So long as that continues, Russia will face rising costs, greater isolation,&quot; Biden added.</p> <p>Some 4,300 people have been killed in the conflict in seven months, according to the United Nations. Nearly 1,000 have died since the ceasefire came into effect.</p> <p><strong>NATO membership &#39;science fiction&#39;</strong></p> <p>Lavrov&#39;s comments came after Ukraine&#39;s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak claimed Russia had thousands of troops in the east and vowed to boost Kyiv&#39;s military capacity.</p> <p>&quot;Unfortunately, the stabilisation of the situation in the east of Ukraine does not depend only on us,&quot; Poltorak said. &quot;The presence of 7,500 representatives of Russian armed forces in Ukraine destabilises the situation and prevents us from stabilising it.&quot;</p> <p>Cash-strapped Ukraine also plans to &quot;increase the strength of the armed forces&quot; and boost levels of arms and equipment, he added, pledging that this would take place &quot;in the nearest time&quot; but not giving a specific timeframe.</p> <p>The minister&#39;s comments came after Ukraine&#39;s new coalition declared that joining NATO was a priority, stipulating that a law be passed by the end of the year confirming the intention to push for membership.</p> <p>The five-party coalition, agreed on Friday following October elections, features the groupings of President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former premier Yulia Tymoshenko.</p> <p>But experts play down Ukraine&#39;s chances of joining NATO anytime soon.</p> <p>&quot;The idea of the alliance accepting a country in armed conflict with Russia is science fiction,&quot; said Vasyl Filipchuk, a former senior Ukrainian official who is chairman of the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv.</p> <p>NATO, a military alliance of 28 nations including the United States, this week warned of a &quot;very serious build-up&quot; of Russian troops, artillery and air defense systems inside Ukraine and on the Russian side of the border.</p> <p>In the latest batch of US assistance to Ukraine, three radars designed to detect incoming mortar fire were delivered Friday following Biden&#39;s visit, with a total of 20 arriving in the next few weeks.</p> <p>The United States has so far ruled out providing weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, approving only &quot;non-lethal&quot; assistance such as radars, night vision goggles and body armor.</p> <p><strong>More unrest in east</strong></p> <p>Ukraine&#39;s head of security operations in the east said that 20 units of Russian &quot;military hardware&quot; had crossed the border Saturday.</p> <p>In the past 24 hours, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one civilian have been killed in eastern Ukraine, officials said.</p> <p>Ukraine&#39;s military on Friday accused Russia of shelling its territory for the first time since the ceasefire was signed.</p> <p>Also on Friday, Kyiv marked a year since the start of protests on the city&#39;s Independence Square which led to the ousting of the previous pro-Moscow regime, Russia&#39;s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the east.</p> <p>On Saturday, Ukraine marks the 10th anniversary of the Orange Revolution and holds a day of mourning for millions of victims of the Soviet-era famine in the 1930s.</p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Diplomacy Europe Russia Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:11:17 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6322536 at Obama signs order expanding US Afghanistan role: NYT <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The decision ensures a direct role for American troops in fighting in Afghanistan for at least another year. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; US President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing a broader military mission in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, the New York Times reported on Saturday.</p> <p>The decision ensures a direct role for American troops in fighting in Afghanistan for at least another year, it said, adding Obama&rsquo;s decision was made during a White House meeting with national security advisers in recent weeks.</p> <p>In May, Obama said the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Missions for the remaining 9,800 troops would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the &quot;remnants of Al Qaeda,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Obama&rsquo;s new order lets American forces execute missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening US troops or the Afghan government.</p> <p>The new authorization also allows US air strikes to support Afghan forces on combat missions and US troops occasionally to accompany Afghan troops on operations against the Taliban.</p> <p>The Times did not mention if the change would affect the number of American troops deployed to Afghanistan.</p> <p>The change emerged from debate over two imperatives: Obama&#39;s promise to end the war in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon demand to let American troops fulfill their remaining missions there, the Times reported.</p> <p>Some civilian aides have argued against risking American lives next year in operations against the Taliban, saying there should only be a narrow mission against Al Qaeda, it said.</p> <p>But generals urged Obama to define the mission more broadly if intelligence showed extremists threatening American forces.</p> <p>Two issues shifted the debate, the Times said.</p> <p>Obama&#39;s Afghanistan strategy faces stiffer criticism after the advance of Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, it said, while Afghanistan&#39;s new president has been more accepting of a broader American military mission than his predecessor.</p> <p>Asked about the report, a senior administration official said the US combat mission in Afghanistan would be over by year-end, as Obama had announced in May.</p> <p>&quot;Safety of our personnel is the president&rsquo;s first priority and our armed forces will continue to engage in operations in self-defense and in support of Afghan security forces,&quot; the official said.</p> <p>&quot;While we will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban, to the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to Al Qaeda, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe.&quot;</p> <p><em>(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Steve Holland; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jeremy Laurence)</em></p> Afghanistan Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Military United States Sat, 22 Nov 2014 15:34:10 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6322515 at After Obama's immigration speech, a gringo abroad suddenly feels popular <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Opinion: Can the United States win hearts and minds by simply not deporting them? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will Carless </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay &mdash; As an American expat, one gets used to abuse.</p> <p>Not long ago I found myself outside a shabby corner bar in Montevideo being shouted at by a couple of bearded communists, to whom I&rsquo;d dared suggest that the United States occasionally does things right.</p> <p>Dear Americans, please understand, the US government is widely reviled. I&rsquo;ve found seething hatred against the stars and stripes in many corners of the world, from dugout canoes in the Solomon Islands, to Calcutta traffic jams, to remote Patagonian steppes.</p> <p>Much of the world doesn&rsquo;t like us, and it loathes our government.</p> <p>What a glorious moment, then, Friday morning in the checkout line at my local supermarket, Devoto on Avenida Italia in the Carrasco neighborhood of Montevideo.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Will Carless/GlobalPost"> Devoto supermarket in Uruguay&#39;s capital.</div> <p>I live right across the street. I&rsquo;m the neighborhood &ldquo;gringo&rdquo; (though there are a few others), and I&rsquo;m in there just about every day. The checkout ladies always say hi.</p> <p>It was Friday morning, hours after President Barack Obama had announced an executive action to shield millions of immigrants from deportation. That move is winning <a href="" target="_blank">applause especially in places like Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras</a> &mdash; but also, apparently, at this Uruguayan supermarket.</p> <p>This time, cashier engaged me in a conversation that began something like this:</p> <blockquote><p>Cashier: &ldquo;You&rsquo;re from the United States, aren&rsquo;t you?&rdquo;</p> <p>Me (cautiously): &ldquo;Yes.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cashier: &ldquo;This law that Obama wants to pass &ndash; this immigration thing &ndash; can you tell me how it works?&rdquo;</p> <p>Me (caught off guard): &ldquo;Well, the president wants to give amnesty to certain immigrants living illegally in the United States.&rdquo;</p> <p>Cashier (grinning with joy): &ldquo;How wonderful!&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>We spoke a little more and I stumbled to explain the policy. (It was early). It turns out the cashier&rsquo;s brother lives in the United States. She said he&rsquo;s a resident, so Obama&rsquo;s move won&rsquo;t impact him, but she said this law was great news for her other friends and family all over the US.</p> <p>&ldquo;My family are everywhere, all over North America!&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>As I paid for my groceries, she thanked me. Not just for the transaction, but also for the actions of my president, thousands of miles away in Washington, who had done a courageous thing, she said.</p> <p>I left the store with a curious feeling.</p> <p>What was this? Could it be? Pride in being from the United States? A feeling of being part of an empire that&rsquo;s capable of both policies that make people smile, as well as carpet-bombing <a href="" target="_blank">weddings</a>?</p> <p>It was a nice feeling. Nice enough for me to write a quick <a href="" target="_blank">tweet</a> about the experience.</p> <p>I just wish it happened more often.</p> <p><em>Will Carless is a correspondent for GlobalPost.</em></p> immigration World Leaders Americas Want to Know United States Sat, 22 Nov 2014 15:03:00 +0000 Will Carless 6322429 at Romanians choose change <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A surprise new president offers renewed hope for reform in central Europe. </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; The surprise victory of a political outsider in Romania&#39;s presidential election last week has offered a boost to the country&#39;s nascent battle against corruption as well as a renewed commitment to its Western allies.</p> <p>But Klaus Iohannis&rsquo;s promise to shake things up also introduces new elements of uncertainty.</p> <p><a href="">Tipped </a>as an <a href="" target="_blank">also-ran</a> from the beginning, the center-right National Liberal Party&#39;s candidate overcame a ten-point deficit in the first round vote to come away with a ten-point margin of victory in the runoff last weekend, defeating sitting Prime Minister Victor Ponta with a 54 percent majority.</p> <p>The win put to rest fears that Ponta&#39;s Social Democratic (PSD) party would stymie the fight against political corruption by gaining control of presidential powers to appoint the head of the National Anti-corruption Directorate, the NAD, as well as other key posts in the judiciary.</p> <p>The vote also signaled a renewed optimism in Romanian politics that &mdash; along with recent anti-corruption protests in Hungary &mdash; may herald winds of change across central Europe, observers say.</p> <p>The vote for Iohannis was a clear affirmation of Romania&#39;s pro-Western stance amid worries that the region is drifting toward Russia, says Paul Ivan of the Brussels-based European Policy Center.</p> <p>&ldquo;It was clear during the campaign that he had a very clear, pro-Western message,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>In contrast, Ponta&#39;s controversial efforts to consolidate power at home and focus foreign policy toward China rather than Europe had prompted comparisons to Hungary&#39;s President Viktor Orban, whose<a href=""> open declaration</a> that he&rsquo;s seeking to create an &ldquo;illiberal&rdquo; state is now helping motivate tens of thousands of anti-corruption protesters in Budapest and other Hungarian cities.</p> <p>Iohannis is a member of Romania&#39;s German minority and observers have also hailed his win as an important rejection of the ethnic nationalism on the rise throughout the region.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a very good message of tolerance,&rdquo; Ivan says.</p> <p>Corina Rebegea of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis agrees early indicators for reform are promising.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a good sign for the fight against corruption,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>In his first speech as president-elect, Iohannis called on the legislature to scrap a controversial proposal to offer amnesty to political leaders jailed for corruption and lift immunities for others that had been shielded from investigation by parliament.</p> <p>The Social Democrat-led parliament responded within a week even though <a href="">rejecting amnesty</a> will threaten several prominent leaders from Ponta&#39;s party, including former PSD Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who was jailed for a second time in January.</p> <p>It was a strong signal that Iohannis&rsquo;s popular mandate offers him a window of opportunity.</p> <p>&ldquo;I wouldn&#39;t go so far as saying this is a new commitment and things will be different from now on,&rdquo; Rebegea says, adding that nevertheless &ldquo;he seized the legitimacy he gained through this vote. This gives him the weight and the leverage to demand that from the political class.&rdquo;</p> <p>In other ways, the election results make Romania&#39;s future path more uncertain, however.</p> <p>The swing against Ponta, who was aiming to gain control of the executive as well as the legislative branch of the government, could presage the breakup of his center-left coalition before parliamentary elections scheduled for 2016, says Otilia Dhand of the political risk consultancy firm Teneo.</p> <p>Moreover, Iohannis&rsquo;s political future still hangs on an unanswered legal issue despite his having won the presidency.</p> <p>As mayor of Sibiu, a Transylvanian town located 130 miles northwest of Bucharest, he allegedly violated the law by simultaneously serving on the board of directors of a local public utility, a violation that could still make him ineligible to hold the presidency.</p> <p>A lower court acquitted him of wrongdoing and the parliament has since passed a law allowing mayors to serve on such boards to represent voters&rsquo; interests. Nevertheless, Romania&#39;s top court is set to review the law and Iohannis&#39; so-called &ldquo;incompatability&rdquo; case later this month.</p> <p>Although not even the country&#39;s constitutional lawyers can predict the outcome, Iohannis&#39;s commitment to judicial independence probably gives him an advantage in the proceedings.</p> <p>However, if the judges rule against him before he officially takes office &mdash; and gains presidential immunity &mdash; on December 22, a protracted court battle could well determine the country&#39;s next president.</p> <p>Assuming Iohannis overcomes that hurdle, as most observers do, he could still struggle to deliver on some of the broader reforms he promised during his campaign after the early sheen of victory fades.</p> <p>Opposition legislators have already begun criticizing the president-elect for &ldquo;issuing orders&rdquo; &mdash; a veiled reference to the historical prominence of ethnic Germans in Romanian society, says Laura Stefan, a former official in the Justice Ministry.</p> <p>&ldquo;In Romania, miracles only last for three days, so I expect we&#39;ll recover quite soon and go back to the old ways of doing business,&rdquo; she says.</p> <p>On corruption, he will need to distance himself from controversial members of his own party and build on a marriage of convenience with civil society that emerged as a de facto anti-Ponta coalition rallied behind him in the election runoff.</p> <p>A first step could be using the bully pulpit to expand the public&#39;s focus from prosecutions to prevention &mdash; comparatively boring work on <a href="">transparency and accuracy</a> in reporting on the use of public resources, Rebegea says.</p> <p>Still, specific measures to reform economic policy and the political process lie outside the reach of presidential powers, which are limited to foreign policy and judicial appointments.</p> <p>&ldquo;When it comes to economic policy, his input is relatively limited,&rdquo; Dhand says.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Why Ukrainians still care about Lenin</a></strong></p> <p>But with a far-reaching national security policy &mdash; one of the president&#39;s most powerful tools for influencing the country&#39;s direction &mdash; Iohannis also has an opportunity to emphasize Romania&#39;s ties with the EU and US in ways that could encourage Western investment.</p> <p>With some deft maneuvers, he could step into a vacuum of pro-Western leadership created by Hungary&#39;s Orban in the region.</p> <p>&ldquo;His new strategy needs to really substantiate what he means by pro-NATO, pro-EU and so on,&rdquo; Rebegea says. &ldquo;He needs to look at defense modernization and concrete projects by which Romania can really take on a leadership role in Southeast Europe.&rdquo;</p> Romania Elections Want to Know Europe Sat, 22 Nov 2014 05:30:12 +0000 Jason Overdorf 6322037 at Thai orphanage girl wouldn’t live with Kim Kardashian 'even for tons of money' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 13-year-old Pink — whom the reality star wanted to adopt — is 'indifferent' to Kardashian’s riches. </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; From obscurity in a coastal Thai orphanage, a 13-year-old girl named Pink has become an internet hero.</p> <p>All she had to do was say &ldquo;no&rdquo; to a life with tabloid queen Kim Kardashian.</p> <p>Kardashian grew infatuated with the teenage girl while visiting an orphanage called Home and Life on a TV shoot in Thailand.</p> <p>But the kids had no clue who she was, the manager Bhudit Maneejak tells GlobalPost.</p> <p>That made Kardashian&rsquo;s offer to adopt Pink &mdash; one of 14 girls living at the group home &mdash; all the more jarring.</p> <p>&ldquo;When Kim Kardashian came, she bluntly asked, &ldquo;Pink, you want to come live with me?&rdquo; Bhudit says. Kim gushed on camera for her show Keeping Up with the Kardashians: &ldquo;I literally cannot stop thinking about her.&rdquo;</p> <script height="500px" width="100%" src=""></script><p>So goes the story of Pink, the impoverished Southeast Asian girl who rejected a new life of wealth and fame under Kardashian&rsquo;s maternal wing. As the <a href=";ns_mchannel=rss&amp;ns_campaign=1490">Daily Mail reported</a> it, Pink prefers to stay in her orphanage in lieu of becoming the daughter of Kardashian and eccentric rapper Kanye West.</p> <p>The full story is a bit more complicated.</p> <p>Pink is not an abandoned urchin desperate for a rich family to spirit her away to America.</p> <p>For Pink, Kardashian&rsquo;s proposal was not so hard to turn down. Imagine a billionaire sheikh (who can&rsquo;t speak English) dropping by a US group home, selecting his favorite teen and offering to become the child&#39;s dad. He might not find so many takers.</p> <p>Kardashian&rsquo;s adoption offer was never taken all that seriously by the orphanage or by Pink herself, Bhudit says.</p> <p>For starters, Pink is not an orphan per se. Pink&rsquo;s mother placed her at Home and Life after her father left the family, nudging them into poverty. But Pink&rsquo;s mom lives nearby and visits frequently.</p> <p>Even if her mother was absent, Bhudit says, Pink simply isn&rsquo;t up for adoption. He also notes that outsiders like Kardashian aren&rsquo;t allowed to spend time with children unsupervised.</p> <p>&ldquo;Say adoption was an option. She still wouldn&rsquo;t live with Kim even for tons of money. Because her happiness will be greater here,&rdquo; Bhudit says. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think she&rsquo;d do well. A young kid going from Asia to America, that&rsquo;s too big of a change.&rdquo;</p> <p>While filming their TV show, Kardashian and her family seemed to regard the group home&rsquo;s conditions as impoverished. (They were also staying at an $18,000-per-night resort at the time.)</p> <p>But Pink&rsquo;s foster group home, established in the aftermath of a devastating 2004 tsunami, is not at all bleak. Housing 25 kids, it offers a quality of life common for kids across Thailand. They study and play by day. They sleep on mats under whirring fans at night. There&rsquo;s even an in-house coffee shop where Pink is training as a barista.</p> <p>&ldquo;The concept of our orphanage is, it&rsquo;s like a home,&rdquo; Bhudit says. &ldquo;They grow up like kids in a normal family: studying, activities around the house, learning to be good people in the Thai way.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;When Kim came, it&rsquo;s not like she announced she&rsquo;s from a family of millionaires. The kids found out later,&rdquo; Bhudit says. &ldquo;Later, when Pink realized Kim&rsquo;s a millionaire, she was indifferent. She was just happy to have met someone who&rsquo;s famous around the world.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">7 important news stories you might have missed thanks to Kim Kardashian and the comet</a></strong></p> Entertainment Want to Know United States Thailand Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:24:36 +0000 Patrick Winn 6321895 at Egypt closes schools in Sinai towns as area inches toward open war <!--paging_filter--><p>Egypt has indefinitely shut schools in two border towns in northern Sinai as the army prepares to intensify a battle with Islamist militants that turned the daily trip to lessons into a &quot;journey of death.&quot;</p> <p>Local people say children&#39;s education has fallen victim while the military stages air strikes against jihadists, who are targeting soldiers and police, and have started beheading army informers.</p> <p>&quot;We are putting our lives at risk on a daily basis,&quot; said Mohamed, a teacher who lives in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. &quot;Sometimes there is fire between gunmen and the armed forces and sometimes stray bullets hit some of us.&quot;</p> <p>Militancy has surged in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal, since the army ousted an elected Islamist president last summer. At least 33 security personnel were killed last month and one Sinai-based group has pledged its loyalty to Islamic State, which has overrun large areas of Syria and Iraq.</p> <p>Army checkpoints dot the main roads in northern Sinai which residents fear is turning into an all-out war zone. This made the daily school run arduous, and dangerous if militants targeted the troops manning them. &quot;We&#39;ve started calling the trip to and from school the journey of death,&quot; said another teacher, declining to be named.</p> <p>Since the militant attacks on Oct. 24, Egypt has imposed emergency rule in parts of Sinai, evicted hundreds of families and demolished their homes to create a buffer zone along the Gaza border about 220 miles northeast of Cairo.</p> <p>The government hopes that by clearing the 1 km-deep area of residents, buildings and trees, it can stem the flow of arms via tunnels from Gaza to the Sinai-based jihadists.</p> <p>&quot;The buffer zone is a principal part of the solution,&quot; President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in an interview with France 24 television on Thursday. &quot;This should have been done years ago ... There was an understanding with the residents about the need for Egypt&rsquo;s security.&quot;</p> <p>Not everyone agrees with him, and the heavy-handed approach is breeding resentment among local residents who have long complained of neglect by Cairo.</p> <p><strong>Near standstill</strong></p> <p>A night time curfew has brought life to a near standstill while extended internet and phone disruptions aimed at breaking the militant&#39;s communications also cause problems. Local people say they cannot even call an ambulance to pick up casualties or inform police if they spot militants nearby.</p> <p>Ten civilians were killed in their home this week during clashes between the army and militants. Security sources said insurgent mortars hit the house but had earlier raised the possibility of an army air strike gone wrong.</p> <p>Egyptian officials say extraordinary measures such as the school shutdown are necessary for both national security and residents&#39; safety.</p> <p>Schools in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, both on the border with Gaza, would remain closed while the army secured the surrounding areas, North Sinai governor, General Abdel Fattah Harhour, told state news agency MENA on Thursday.</p> <p>An army spokesman declined to comment on the military&#39;s plans or whether they were related to the school closures. However, security sources said the army was planning major operations in the coming days and did not want children caught in the crossfire.</p> <p><strong>Ghost town and garrison</strong></p> <p>With neighboring Libya in chaos and Islamic State trying to establish a cross border &quot;caliphate&quot; in Iraq and Syria, Egypt is determined to regain full control of Sinai. But its battle is growing more complicated.</p> <p>Last week, five navy seamen were wounded and eight declared missing after what the army called a &quot;terrorist incident&quot; at sea. This was about 30 miles from Port Said, the Mediterranean entrance to the Suez Canal which is a major international shipping route and revenue earner for Egypt.</p> <p>A bomb in a Cairo suburb wounded six people around a police checkpoint on Thursday, security sources said. This was the latest in a string of attacks in the capital whose targets included the supreme court, foreign ministry and Cairo University.</p> <p>Militants from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt&#39;s most active jihadist group, have claimed responsibility for beheading a number of Egyptians in recent months they accused of being informants for Israeli intelligence. The group now may be able to boost its funding, recruiting and fighting abilities by vowing loyalty to Islamic State.</p> <p>Ansar released a slickly-produced video resembling those of Islamic State, appearing to claim responsibility for the Oct. 24 suicide attacks that provoked the Sinai crackdown. This has left rubble where some homes in Rafah once stood.</p> <p>&quot;Rafah has become a ghost town by night and military garrison by day,&quot; said Salem al-Araishi, a resident. &quot;All our memories are gone with our houses.&quot;</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy and Shadi Bushra; Writing by Shadi Bushra, Editing by Lin Noueihed and David Stamp)</p> Egypt Need to Know Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:44:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6321896 at Western leaders step away from nuclear talks with Iran as deadline nears <!--paging_filter--><p>With three days to go to the deadline for a deal to defuse stand-off with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, Western power foreign ministers stepped away for consultations on Friday while Tehran&#39;s chief envoy canceled plans to leave the negotiations.</p> <p>The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China began the final round of talks with Iran on Tuesday, looking to clinch a pact under which Tehran would curb its nuclear work to help ensure it cannot be diverted to bomb-making in exchange for a lifting of economically crippling sanctions.</p> <p>But officials close to the negotiations in Vienna said at mid-week the two sides remained deadlocked on key issues, were unlikely to secure a definitive accord by Nov. 24, and might need to extend the deadline.</p> <p>Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry agreed &quot;additional efforts&quot; were needed to reach a deal by the self-imposed deadline, Russia&#39;s Foreign Ministry said.</p> <p>&quot;The sides did not rule out the possibility of holding a ministerial meeting of the parties to the talks on Iran&#39;s nuclear program, if the prospect for progress appears,&quot; the ministry said in a statement.</p> <p>British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said after separate meetings on Friday with big power peers in Vienna: &quot;These are complex issues and there are still significant gaps between the parties. We&#39;re all going away to have technical discussions with our experts and we&#39;ll resume again over the ... weekend.&quot;</p> <p>Western powers suspect Iran has aimed to covertly acquire a nuclear bomb capability from its enrichment of uranium. Iran says the program is for producing civilian energy only. The decade-long dispute has raised fears of a wider Middle East war.</p> <p>Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif canceled announced plans to return to Tehran for top-level discussions with the deadline looming, Iranian media reported. The reason for his reversal of course was not immediately known.</p> <p>&quot;The talks have not reached a stage that necessitates Zarif to go to Tehran,&quot; an unnamed senior member of the Iranian delegation told the IRNA and ISNA news agencies. &quot;Therefore he is not going to Tehran and the talks will continue.&quot;</p> <p>US and French officials said earlier that US Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius would return to Paris later in the day for consultations.</p> <p>Kerry spoke on the telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday and the two men agreed that &quot;additional efforts&quot; were needed to secure a deal by Monday, Moscow&#39;s Foreign Ministry said.</p> <p>A source close to the talks told Reuters that Zarif had received a document from the powers that outlining the main principles of a possible agreement on removing sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.</p> <p><strong>Sticking points</strong></p> <p>Western diplomats told Reuters earlier this week that a US-drafted proposal shown to Iran at preparatory talks in Oman earlier this month called for the Islamic Republic to reduce the number of its uranium enrichment centrifuges to 4,500, well below the current 19,000 Tehran now has in operation.</p> <p>Iran has about 10,000 of those machines in operation. Iranian officials have refused to reduce the volume of uranium they are capable of enriching, a stand Western officials say is unacceptable as this would potentially allow Tehran to amass enough fissile material for an atomic bomb in little time.</p> <p>This is a major sticking point in the talks.</p> <p>Another sticking point is the pace and sequencing of sanctions relief. Iran wants them terminated swiftly, not suspended and gradually scrapped, depending on the degree of Iranian compliance with the deal terms, as the West wants.</p> <p>Another dispute is over the deal&#39;s duration &mdash; the powers want it to be up to 20 years, Iran wants this much shorter.</p> <p>It was not clear when Kerry would be back in Vienna. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said he was leaving &quot;for consultations with his European counterparts about the ongoing Iranian nuclear negotiations.&quot;</p> <p>Aides said Fabius would return to Vienna over the weekend.</p> <p>&quot;We have to get more flexibility from the Iranians,&quot; Britain&#39;s Hammond told reporters upon arrival. &quot;In return we are prepared to show some flexibility on our side. But time is short, we are up against a deadline here.&quot;</p> <p>An interim accord struck on Nov. 24 last year yielded steps by Iran to curb some sensitive nuclear activity, such as higher-grade enrichment, in return for some sanctions relief. That pact will expire on Monday.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Louis Charbonneau and Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Mark Heinrich)</p> Need to Know Iran Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:55:29 +0000 Jonathan Allen and John Irish, Thomson Reuters 6321817 at Japanese PM Shinzo Abe dissolves parliament for 'Abenomics' snap election <!--paging_filter--><p>Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved parliament&#39;s lower house on Friday for a snap election on Dec. 14, seeking a fresh mandate for his struggling &quot;Abenomics&quot; revival strategy just two years after he returned to power promising that &quot;Japan is Back.&quot;</p> <p>Abe had vowed to revive the economy with a mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and reforms, while moving ahead with plans to rein in Japan&#39;s massive public debt.</p> <p>But doubts have grown about his strategy, especially after data showed this week that the economy had surprisingly slipped into recession in the third quarter after an initial rise in the sales tax to 8 percent from April.</p> <p>&quot;This is an &#39;Abenomics&#39; snap election. Will &#39;Abenomics&#39; go forward, or stop in its tracks? That is the question in this election,&quot; Abe told a news conference. &quot;Are our economic policies a mistake, or are they correct? Is there really any other way? This is what we want to ask all the people.&quot;</p> <p>Abe has said he would delay for 18 months a second tax hike to 10 percent that had been slated for October 2015. He pledged that the second increase, which advocates say is needed to fund the bulging social security costs of a fast-ageing population, would go ahead in April 2017.</p> <p>No general election needed to be held until late 2016, and surveys show around two-thirds of voters are wondering why Abe is taking the plunge now. &quot;The whole reason is a bit unclear, or a bit trivial,&quot; said Yutaka Watanabe, a middle-aged tourist snapping a photo of the parliament building on Friday morning.</p> <p>But the prime minister hopes to cement his grip on power before his support ratings slip too far. Next year, he plans to tackle unpopular policies such as restarting reactors that went off-line after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.</p> <p><strong>Trickle down or bottom up?</strong></p> <p>An Asahi newspaper poll published on Friday showed Abe&#39;s support fell to 39 percent &mdash; the lowest since he took office in December 2012 &mdash; and just a bit more than the 40 percent who do not back him.</p> <p>Still, 37 percent said they would vote for Abe&#39;s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in proportional representation districts, compared with 13 percent who planned to vote for the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).</p> <p>Thirty percent were undecided.</p> <p>&quot;Unfortunately, the DPJ has not recovered to a point where we can say to voters, &#39;Entrust the government to us&#39;,&quot; DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano told a news conference. The Democrats were trounced in 2012 after three years in power.</p> <p>Edano said the DPJ wanted to give voters a choice between Abe&#39;s &quot;trickle down&quot; policies that critics say favour the rich and big firms, and the Democrats&#39; &quot;bottom up&quot; strategy that focuses on the middle class.</p> <p>Faced with a weak and divided opposition, the LDP and its junior partner, the Komeito party, are not expected to lose their majority in the lower house, where they held two-thirds of the 480 seats. There will be 475 seats up for grabs this time after reforms to rebalance between sparsely populated rural districts and dense urban areas.</p> <p>Abe said he would resign if his coalition failed to win a majority, an outcome experts dismissed as almost impossible, though he could end up weakened if the LDP loses too many seats.</p> <p>(Editing by Edmund Klamann, Dean Yates and Alex Richardson)</p> Need to Know Japan Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:28:21 +0000 Linda Sieg and Elaine Lies, Thomson Reuters 6321801 at Violence in eastern Ukraine seems endless now — here's how we got there <!--paging_filter--><p>It&#39;s been a tough year for Ukraine. The country has been shaken to the core, with every sector taking a hit from the geopolitical quagmire it&#39;s been mired in for the past 12 months. Thrust into the spotlight last November following protests over its decision to forgo a trade deal with the European Union, Ukraine has been forced to face its national struggles on the global stage. In the course of a year, the country overhauled its leaders, lost Crimea to Russia and created the conditions for a second Cold War.&nbsp;</p> <p>More than 4,300 people have been killed in the conflict, and more than 430,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes, per the latest UN figures. Many continue to languish in war-torn regions.&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout the revolution&#39;s tumultuous year, GlobalPost has reported from Ukraine&#39;s east, west and center &mdash; starting at Kyiv&#39;s Maidan, the movement&#39;s nucleus of protest. This timeline featuring our best reporting and analysis from correspondents and editors breaks down the sweeping changes the country has undergone in the past year.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> Rumblings of revolution &mdash; November 2013</h2> <p>The Ukrainian government bows out of a trade pact with the European Union, angering pro-EU opposition leaders who call for protests.&nbsp;GlobalPost senior correspondent&nbsp;Dan Peleschuk <a href="" target="_blank">reports from Moscow</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Protesters in Ukraine are hoping to stage a nationwide campaign to denounce the government&rsquo;s suspension on Thursday of plans to sign landmark agreements with the European Union, a move they say marks the abandonment of the country&rsquo;s European aspirations.&nbsp;Calls to protest from opposition leaders, civic activists and ordinary Ukrainians flooded social networks on Friday, a day after the cabinet announced it would forgo sweeping political and trade agreements with the EU in favor of renewing relations with Russia, its Soviet-era ruler.&nbsp;</em></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images"> Deputies of the pro-European opposition hold EU and Ukrainian flags prior to the parliament session in Kyiv on Nov. 22, 2013.<br /> &nbsp;</div> <h2> Goodbye, Lenin! &mdash; December 2013</h2> <p>As anti-government protests continue to swell at the Maidan, Kyiv&#39;s central Independence Square, <a href="" target="_blank">demonstrators topple a statue of Vladimir Lenin</a> on Dec. 8, 2013.&nbsp;Peleschuk explains the significance of the moment:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Those who greeted the statue&rsquo;s destruction say it represents a symbolic moment in a wave of demonstrations aimed at establishing Ukraine&rsquo;s European identity and wresting the former Soviet republic once and for all from Moscow&rsquo;s grasp.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>They blame President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov for capitulating to Russian pressure and engineering a violent, Soviet-style crackdown on protesters last week.</em></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="BRENDAN HOFFMAN/AFP/Getty Images"> A man tries to stop anti-government protesters from destroying a statue of Russian communist revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin on Dec. 8, 2013 in Kyiv, Ukraine.</div> <p>Russian President Vladimir Putin offers Ukraine a $15 billion aid package.</p> <p>&quot;Putin&#39;s intervention raised the stakes in the battle over Ukraine&#39;s future,&quot; <a href="" target="_blank">The Guardian&#39;s Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker notes</a>.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images"> Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, on Dec. 17, 2013.<br /> &nbsp;</div> <h2> Protests turn deadly &mdash; January 2014</h2> <p>Ukrainian parliament passes a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">controversial anti-demonstration legislation on Jan. 16</a> and repeals it a few weeks later.&nbsp;The protests continue to rage on, and three people are killed in clashes between security forces and demonstrators.&nbsp;</p> <p>Peleschuk sends in<a href="" target="_blank">&nbsp;video</a> from the epicenter of the clashes in Kyiv, which resembles a war zone:</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <h2> Yanukovych flees &mdash; February 2014</h2> <p>Ukraine&#39;s parliament votes President Viktor Yanukovych out of office, and he flees Kyiv. His archrival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is freed from prison. What does this mean for Russia?&nbsp;</p> <p>GlobalPost Europe editor Gregory Feifer <a href="" target="_blank">weighs in</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Even after Yanukovych was sent packing the first time during Ukraine&rsquo;s Orange Revolution after winning a fixed presidential election in 2003, Putin eventually found common language with Yanukovych&rsquo;s great rival, Orange Revolution heroine and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The two managed to sign a natural gas deal in 2009 that looked set to finally begin setting Ukraine free from Russian influence exerted through its wrangling over gas prices.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>After he eventually won the presidency in 2010, Yanukovych immediately set about undoing the deal by agreeing to new Russian subsidies in exchange for extending Moscow a long lease on the port of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>But Putin is playing a long game. He&rsquo;s shown in the past that he can lie low and rely on energy deals and propaganda to try to influence events. Surely that will continue in Ukraine, which will remain Russia&rsquo;s southern neighbor, an important trading partner where many people speak the Russian language and have relatives and other close ties to the old Soviet master.</em></p> <p>GlobalPost news editor Ambika Kandasamy <a href="" target="_blank">talks to</a> Christopher Miller, a former editor at Kyiv Post, about the violence on the ground and the radicalization of some protesters:</p> <div class="ab-player" data-boourl=""> <a href="">listen to &lsquo;Radical protesters&rsquo; on Audioboo</a></div> <script type="text/javascript">(function() { var po = document.createElement("script"); po.type = "text/javascript"; po.async = true; po.src = ""; var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })();</script><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kyiv protesters <a href="" target="_blank">hold a memorial</a> for their&nbsp;comrades who were killed in clashes with Ukrainian forces.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>Ukrainians get a glimpse of Yanukovych&#39;s decadence after protesters storm his deserted mansion. This short video produced by GlobalPost contributors Ben C. Solomon and Nadia Parfan shows the reaction of one babushka upon seeing his home.</p> <p>&quot;My heart can&#39;t take everything that&#39;s happened here,&quot; she says.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <div gp-vimeo-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <h2> <br /> Crimea secedes from Ukraine &mdash; March 2014</h2> <p>Crimea holds a referendum to decide whether it should join Russia, on March 6, 2014. Here&#39;s what <a href="" target="_blank">one voter</a> &mdash; a pensioner &mdash; tells<a href="" target="_blank">&nbsp;</a>Peleschuk:</p> <div gp-pullquote="" gp-pullquote-position="NOTHING" gp-pullquote-source="65-year-old Aleksandr Naboichenko"> I was born in Soviet Russia, in Crimea, but they handed me off to Ukraine like a sack of potatoes, along with my native land.</div> <p>Crimea votes to join Russia.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>The US and EU enact <a href="" target="_blank">sanctions against Russia</a> &mdash; GlobalPost&#39;s Jason Overdorf gives the details:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The European Union and United States have enacted visa bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials after Crimea applied to join Russia on Monday.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Ukraine&rsquo;s Black Sea peninsula on Sunday held a referendum in which local officials say almost 97 percent of voters supported seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The US and EU say the referendum as well as Russia&rsquo;s military invasion of Crimea are illegal.</em></p> <p>Reports emerge of curious &quot;little green men&quot; in Crimea.&nbsp;</p> <p>From <a href="" target="_blank">the BBC</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1">Another phrase used by reporters in Russia and Ukraine alike is &quot;little green men,&quot; which refers both to the colour of their uniforms and their unconfirmed origin.&nbsp;Their involvement in Crimea is a &quot;tragicomic masquerade,&quot; says Russian liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which argues that &quot;the little green men will turn into Russian troops very soon.&quot;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> Protesters seize government buildings &mdash; April 2014</h2> <p>Eastern Ukraine is thrown into tumult as separatists seize government buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv. Mass pro-Ukraine rallies are held in Donetsk:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Happening now. RT <a href="">@PaulSonne</a>: Pro <a href=";src=hash">#Ukraine</a> rally in Donetsk <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) <a href="">April 17, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <p>Yet fears of the new regime in Kyiv persist in eastern Ukraine, as this video by GlobalPost contributor Greg Brosnan reveals:</p> <div gp-vimeo-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p>Meanwhile, Putin finds&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">allies in Europe</a>. GlobalPost&#39;s Paul Ames writes:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Many on Europe&#39;s radical right admire Putin&#39;s strongman image. Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, last week said Putin was the world leader he most admired. &quot;Compared with the kids who run foreign policy in this country, I&#39;ve more respect for him than our lot.&quot;</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Russian media have widely reported his comment that the EU has &quot;blood on its hands&quot; by meddling in Ukraine.</em><br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> Poroshenko becomes president &mdash; May 2014</h2> <p>Chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko is elected as Ukraine&#39;s president. Peleschuk describes <a href="" target="_blank">the hurdles that are in store</a> for him:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Before Petro Poroshenko, who won Ukraine&rsquo;s presidency in the election on Sunday, had even detailed his priorities in a post-election press conference Monday, he was slapped with a fresh raft of reminders of just how tough his job will be.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>By dawn, armed pro-Russian rebels had seized the central airport in Donetsk, the regional capital of the industrialized eastern heartland and the hotbed of Ukraine&rsquo;s separatist movement. Flights were suspended , and clashes with pro-government forces erupted shortly after.</em></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>There&#39;s the Chocolate Man himself, claiming victory in <a href=";src=hash">#Ukraine</a> president elex <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Dan Peleschuk (@dpeleschuk) <a href="">May 25, 2014</a><br /> &nbsp;</p></blockquote> <h2> Ukraine-EU sign landmark association agreement &mdash; June 2014</h2> <p>Poroshenko signs a free-trade agreement with the EU in Brussels, promptly drawing the wrath of Russia.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Reuters reports</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1">Russia&#39;s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin immediately said the signing would have &quot;grave consequences&quot; for Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported.</p> <p>Poroshenko announces a ceasefire with separatists in eastern Ukraine which lasts less than two weeks.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> MH17 is shot down &mdash; July 2014</h2> <p>Malaysia Airlines&nbsp;Flight 17 is shot down in eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people, including three infants.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Brendan Hoffman/AFP/Getty Images"> Men search the wreckage of a commercial passenger plane that was shot by a missile on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.</div> <p>Peleschuk <a href="" target="_blank">reports from Soledar, Ukraine</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Once buzzing with activity, this sleepy compound in the rolling hills of eastern Ukraine emptied quickly on Thursday as the last of a team of international experts left, their mission to identify the remains of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 indefinitely suspended.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>The development comes as fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels rages on despite pledges from both sides not to interfere with the work of identifying the remains of around 80 bodies still believed to be scattered throughout the sprawling site.</em><br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> Controversial aid convoy enters Ukraine &mdash; August 2014</h2> <p>Russian invasion? Nope.</p> <p>Peleschuk <a href="" target="_blank">explains</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>Ukraine&#39;s Western allies had likewise warned Moscow against unilaterally deploying the caravan of white tractor-trailers, suggesting the move was aimed at resupplying rebels and thereby infringed on Ukraine&rsquo;s territorial integrity.</em></p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>But Saturday&rsquo;s delivery to the besieged city of Luhansk &mdash; currently in the throws of what Moscow has cast as a &quot;humanitarian crisis&quot; amid heavy shelling &mdash; seemingly ended as quickly as it began, without any of the provocations critics feared would serve as a pretext for Russian military involvement.</em><br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> The Minsk deal &mdash; September 2014</h2> <p>Another ceasefire between Ukraine and separatists goes into effect. The BBC takes a <a href="" target="_blank">comprehensive look at the 12-point ceasefire</a>.</p> <p>And NATO gives a stern warning to Putin. Ames has <a href="" target="_blank">the story</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>On paper, at least, NATO&#39;s conventional forces still outgun Russia&#39;s despite Putin&#39;s massive investment in defense in recent years and the steady decline in military spending by European members of NATO since the end of the Cold War. ...&nbsp;However, NATO&rsquo;s weakness lies less in the number and quality of forces at its disposal than on whether its member nations have the political will to use them. Many allies will be hoping against hope that Friday&#39;s ceasefire could mark the start of a genuine de-escalation that ensure their will won&#39;t be put to the test.</em></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="PETER MACDIARMID/GETTY IMAGES"> Obama: NATO and international support for Ukraine is &quot;a testimony to how seriously people take to the principle that big countries can&#39;t just stomp on little countries.&quot;<br /> &nbsp;</div> <h2> Fears of a &#39;gas war&#39; subside&mdash; October 2014</h2> <p>Ukraine and Russia agree to a natural gas supply deal. Reuters <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>:</p> <p class="rteindent1">Ukraine, Russia and the European Union signed a deal on Thursday that will see Moscow resume vital supplies of gas to its ex-Soviet neighbor over the winter in return for payments funded in part by Kyiv&#39;s Western creditors.</p> <p class="rteindent1">After several failed rounds of talks in recent weeks as conflict rumbles on despite a ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, the accord also eases concerns that a new &quot;gas war&quot; could disrupt winter supplies if energy to EU states, notably through pipelines shut down across Ukraine since June.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h2> The truce frays &mdash; November 2014</h2> <p>Another truce between Ukraine and separatists fails. The UN says at least 1,000 people were killed during the ceasefire.</p> <p>Peleschuk writes that Ukrainian &quot;officials and ordinary people are still figuring out how to patch together a traumatized and divided society.&quot;</p> <p class="rteindent1">&nbsp;</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="SERGEY BOBOK/AFP/Getty Images"> A statue of Vladimir Lenin is toppled in Ukraine on Sept 28, 2014.</div> <p>From Peleschuk&#39;s piece:</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>There&#39;s a war with Moscow-backed separatists in the east, a tanking economy and a hugely corrupt state bureaucracy desperately in need of reform. There&#39;s also Vladimir Lenin, whose toppling in Kyiv became an early symbol of the protests against the ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. Lenin&#39;s legacy &mdash; or rather, how it&#39;s being handled &mdash; has become a barometer for how quickly Ukraine can heal its post-revolutionary wounds. &quot;On one hand, it&rsquo;s a symbol of separating from the totalitarian past,&quot; says Volodymyr Paniotto, a leading sociologist in Kyiv. &quot;But on the other, it&rsquo;s a characteristic of a radicalized society using uncivilized methods instead of civilized ones.&quot; </em></p> <p>Ukraine continues to fight its other battle:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Helping its thousands of displaced citizens.</a></p> Need to Know Europe Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:27:00 +0000 Ambika Kandasamy 6320614 at Women in Singapore are embracing pole dancing (PHOTOS) <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> This seductive and demanding art is not just for strippers anymore. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Rob O&#039;Brien </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SINGAPORE &mdash; This tiny island nation of 5.4m people is known for being meticulously managed. On a continent of charmingly chaotic megacities, Singapore is a polished showpiece of tidy office towers, sleek shopping malls and infrastructure that actually works.</p> <p>The government tends to keep a tight rein on anything that might disrupt its finely kept veneer. Earlier this year it tried to <a href="">ban three children&#39;s books</a> perceived to promote homosexuality, but backed down after an online uproar. A local <a href="">film</a> called &ldquo;To Singapore, With Love,&rdquo; about political exiles, was labeled a threat to national security and banned in September. Earlier this month the city-state <a href="">banned</a> shisha tobacco.</p> <p>In this context the quiet rise of exotic dance would seem to be ground-breaking. But across the city dance studios are starting to install 38mm brass spinning poles. Pole dancing, it turns out, is taking off in the conservative capital of Southeast Asia.</p> <p>In a shop-house near Singapore&rsquo;s business district, a group has gathered to see a routine from the renowned Australian pole dancer Michelle Shimmy, who is in town to launch a local franchise of her Sydney-based Pole Dance Academy (PDA).</p> <p>One of the Singapore dance instructors, Salmah, steps up to introduce her &ldquo;Ghetto and Sass&rdquo; class. &ldquo;I do the booty work around here,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I know people say we&rsquo;re conservative, but this is sexy, it involves gyrating and a lot of hip and thigh work. &hellip; It&rsquo;s like twerking, although I&#39;d rather not call it that.&rdquo;</p> <p>Four new pole dancing studios have opened up recently &mdash; among them an Italian franchise, Milan Studio &mdash; all looking to cash in on the growing interest in pole dancing. Many gyms in Singapore are now offering pole dance fitness classes as an alternative to yoga and pilates.</p> <p><strong>Hoop Tricks at Milan Pole Studio</strong></p> <div gp-youtube-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p><strong>Exotic Dance at Milan Pole Studio</strong></p> <div gp-youtube-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p>&quot;Pole [dancing] has increasingly become a norm among women here in Singapore,&rdquo; says Sueann Tan, co-owner of the new PDA studio. &ldquo;I don&#39;t think it&#39;s because we are getting less conservative as Singaporeans, but rather, that people are starting to understand that pole dancing is moving further away from its &lsquo;stripper&rsquo; roots.&rdquo;</p> <p>Most of the new pole dancing additions have been founded by students of <a href="">Bobbi&rsquo;s Pole Studio</a>, Singapore&rsquo;s original pole dancing destination, located next to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Pole dancing has grown and its image has improved a lot over the years,&rdquo; says Singapore&rsquo;s pole dancing matriarch, Linna Tan, founder of Bobbi&rsquo;s. &ldquo;But this growth is good, it expands the market. The more studios we have here in Singapore the more it brings the sport up.&rdquo;</p> <p>Tan trained in the UK and Australia and partnered with the Australian-owned Bobbi&rsquo;s to bring pole dancing to Singapore in 2006. Bobbi&rsquo;s has a database of 4,000 dancers, more than 700 of them &ldquo;active.&rdquo; Until recently its oldest member was 74. It also reserves pole space for a group of cancer survivors called the Pink Spartans.</p> <p>Tan says the new popularity is mainly because of the fitness benefits of pole dancing as well as a desire to &ldquo;feel sexy&rdquo; among Singaporean women. Those who are taking it up are mostly working professionals, students and expat moms.</p> <p>But Singapore is not known as a shining beacon of self-expression, even among its neighbors. The island&rsquo;s young men and women are so career-oriented that for years the government has run campaigns urging them to <a href="">date, have sex, and reproduce</a>.</p> <p>Pole dancing hasn&rsquo;t been caught in the government&rsquo;s crosshairs to date, although setting up shop wasn&rsquo;t easy for Bobbi&rsquo;s.</p> <p>&ldquo;We had difficulty renting this place. The church almost got us evicted, but we stood our ground and told them &lsquo;we are not a strip club,&rsquo;&rdquo; Tan says. &ldquo;In the beginning I tried to keep it within the fitness theme, but the truth is that pole dancing is very sexy &hellip; not &lsquo;dirty&rsquo; sexy, but it can be naughty and sensual.&rdquo;</p> <p>Even today, Bobbi&rsquo;s has to keep its blinds down at all time. But &ldquo;now it&rsquo;s much better [than before]. The girls come here and have a good time, then they leave,&rdquo; she added.</p> <p>Although a few extra pole dancing studios don&rsquo;t necessarily mean things are loosening up in the city-state, dancers say that young Singaporeans are more confident, vocal and less inhibited than previous generations.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s always been there,&rdquo; says Penny Pun, a student of Bobbi&#39;s. &quot;It&rsquo;s just not very mainstream. In America you get encouraged to be very independent and to express yourself freely, but that&rsquo;s not so much the case here.&rdquo;</p> Conflict Zones Want to Know Asia-Pacific China Innovation Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:15:18 +0000 Rob O&#039;Brien 6297594 at These charts show Miss Honduras is now a data point in her nation’s horrific homicide statistics <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The fatal shooting of the beauty queen and her sister highlights how the ultra-violent Central American nation has the highest murder rate in the world. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simeon Tegel and Simran Khosla </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LIMA, Peru &mdash; Why do some homicides attract more attention than others?</p> <p>That deceptively simple question raises all kinds of complex issues about our own prejudices &mdash; regarding culture, race, class, and even our notions of sexual attractiveness.</p> <p>So, when a teenage beauty queen is shot dead just days before she was due to travel to London for the Miss World pageant, it&rsquo;s a story.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s what happened this week to 19-year-old Maria Jose Alvarado, aka Miss Honduras. On Wednesday, police discovered her body, and that of her older sister Sofia, buried beside a river.</p> <p>Violent death is hardly unusual in Honduras. In fact, the country has a truly unwanted claim to fame &mdash; it is the world&rsquo;s most homicidal nation, at least for those not at war.</p> <p>According to this <a href="" target="_blank">2013 United Nations study</a>, Honduras&rsquo; 2012 homicide rate was a just-plain-scary 90.4 per 100,000 residents.</p> <p><img src="" width="100%" /></p> <p>In other words, your chances of being murdered in Honduras that year were nearly 20 times higher than in the United States.</p> <p>To put things further into perspective, Honduras&rsquo; rate were going on twice that of the world&rsquo;s second most murderous country, Venezuela, which had just under 54 slayings per 100,000 residents, according to the UN.</p> <p>Most of Western Europe hovered around a single murder per 100,000 people per year.</p> <p>Although Honduras&rsquo; killing spree is extreme even compared to its neighbors, Latin America is by some counts the world&rsquo;s deadliest region, with 24.5 homicides per 100,000 residents annually.</p> <p><img src="" width="100%" /></p> <p><em>Note: This chart does not include statistics for the Middle East and North Africa. 2012 data weren&#39;t available for those regions.</em></p> <p>Experts point to a gamut of reasons: from the US-backed drug war to income inequality, a history of armed conflict, corrupt police and courts, bad public education, and, in some countries like Honduras, easy access to guns.</p> <p>The UN also has noted a rising tide of violence against women. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of females killed in Honduras <a href=";LangID=E" target="_blank">more than tripled</a>.</p> <p>The authorities say Alvarado actually had no known links to the drug cartels and ultra-violent &ldquo;mara&rdquo; street gangs that are blamed for most of the country&rsquo;s bloodshed. Police on Wednesday arrested the boyfriend of the elder Alvarado sister.</p> <p>No doubt most readers will silently count their blessings they don&rsquo;t live in Honduras.</p> <p>But, for those in the United States, it might also be worth asking why America has the highest murder rate of any industrialized Western nation.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Murder of Miss Venezuela shocks the mecca of beauty queens </a></strong></p> Americas Conflict Zones Want to Know Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:15:08 +0000 Simeon Tegel and Simran Khosla 6320744 at Why Ukrainians still care about Lenin <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A year after the start of its pro-European revolution, Ukraine is still battling the communist leader’s ghost. </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>POLTAVA, Ukraine &mdash; Before he resigned as governor of this central region last week, Viktor Buhaychuk gave a simple order: get rid of every last remaining Vladimir Lenin statue in the region.</p> <p>It was part of a controversial wave of so-called &quot;Leninfalls&quot; &mdash; the toppling of Lenin statues by protesters and activists &mdash; that&rsquo;s washed over Ukraine throughout the past year. Hundreds have been removed or violently demolished across the country, where they had remained standing two decades after the end of communism.</p> <p>Few realized that Buhaychuk also ordered an accompanying information campaign to help shed light on Lenin&rsquo;s legacy.</p> <p>&ldquo;Just to destroy and not explain anything isn&rsquo;t right,&rdquo; he said in a recent interview.</p> <p>As Ukrainians this week mark one year since their pro-European revolution broke out, officials and ordinary people are still figuring out how to patch together a traumatized and divided society.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s a war with Moscow-backed separatists in the east, a tanking economy and a hugely corrupt state bureaucracy desperately in need of reform.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s also Vladimir Lenin, whose toppling in Kyiv became an early symbol of the protests against the ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. Lenin&rsquo;s legacy &mdash; or rather, how it&rsquo;s being handled &mdash; has become a barometer for how quickly Ukraine can heal its post-revolutionary wounds.</p> <p>&ldquo;On one hand, it&rsquo;s a symbol of separating from the totalitarian past,&rdquo; says Volodymyr Paniotto, a leading sociologist in Kyiv. &ldquo;But on the other, it&rsquo;s a characteristic of a radicalized society using uncivilized methods instead of civilized ones.&rdquo;</p> <p>The first casualty in the flood of Leninfalls came when protesters <a href="">toppled and destroyed</a> central Kyiv&rsquo;s main Lenin statue early last December, just as the anti-government protests there were heating up.</p> <p>A handful of regional cities took the cue and demolished their own statues before the nationwide campaign kicked into high gear in February, in the days following Yanukovych&rsquo;s ouster amid bloody street battles.</p> <p>Despite criticism from certain corners, the trend has steadily continued since then.</p> <p>In the past two weeks alone, more than a dozen statues have been destroyed, toppled or removed, according to local media reports and an online database tracking the status of Lenin statues nationwide.</p> <p>In one sense, there&rsquo;s never been a better moment for dumping Lenin: Last month, the Communist Party failed to enter parliament after landmark elections for the first time ever.</p> <p>Although one moderately pro-Russian party managed to gain some seats, the legislature is now overwhelmingly pro-European.</p> <p>The Kremlin&rsquo;s aggressive policies against Ukraine have been key for consolidating anti-Russian anger, even outside the traditionally patriotic western and central regions.</p> <p>For many Ukrainians, Lenin symbolizes Moscow&rsquo;s centuries-long dominion over their country as much as communism.</p> <p>Still, messing with the first Soviet ruler remains a sensitive affair.</p> <p>For one, it could further alienate the largely pro-Russian population in rebel-held eastern Ukraine that the Kyiv authorities hope to wrest away from separatist rule. Even local officials appear to understand that.</p> <p>Oleksandr Kikhtenko, the pro-Ukraine governor of the war-torn Donetsk region, stepped out against the removal of Lenin statues earlier this week, arguing that the authorities &ldquo;need to find other ways&rdquo; of coming to terms with the past.</p> <p>&ldquo;I am not a supporter of fighting with monuments,&rdquo; he said on Monday during a meeting with local students.</p> <p>Toppling Lenin also plays into the hands of the Kremlin&rsquo;s potent state propaganda machine, which casts Ukraine as a &ldquo;fascist&rdquo; basketcase in a vicious information war being waged between the two countries.</p> <p>Russian state media capitalized on the toppling in late September of the main Lenin statue in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine&rsquo;s second-largest city, which experienced its own brief but bloody pro-Russia uprising.</p> <p>Paniotto, general director of the Kyiv International Institute for Sociology, points to a recent poll by his organization that found that 90 percent of the population in eastern Ukraine trusts Russian television.</p> <p>&ldquo;This high rate of trust in Russian TV shows that the Ukrainian state, at least for its own citizens, is not winning this information war,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s probably why officials like Buhaychuk feel the need to take a civilized approach.</p> <p>Although he describes socialism as a &ldquo;primitive understanding of honesty and fairness,&rdquo; he wants everyone else &mdash; especially older Ukrainians who look back fondly on the Soviet Union &mdash; to understand why.</p> <p>He has recommended film showings, special training for teachers in local schools and roundtable discussions in his region to help hammer home the evils of communism &mdash; chief among them, the great famine engineered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the 1930s that killed millions in Ukraine.</p> <p>&ldquo;A large portion of people is poorly equipped or unable to recognize their mistakes,&rdquo; Buhaychuk said. &ldquo;Only a smart person can analyze for himself, look back into history and say, &lsquo;This wasn&rsquo;t right, I made a mistake.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p> <p>Although he resigned last week citing his political party&rsquo;s poor performance in last month&rsquo;s parliamentary elections, an aide said his order would most likely remain in place.</p> <p>Buhaychuk isn&rsquo;t the only politician who senses the controversy.</p> <p>In Zaporizhya, the capital city of a southeastern region bordering Donetsk, the local authorities hosted a meeting last week of a working group dedicated to &ldquo;urban toponymy,&rdquo; according to a statement on the city&rsquo;s website, focused on settling the issue once and for all.</p> <p>The officials, historians and civic leaders present agreed on the need to dismantle statues of both Lenin and Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police.</p> <p>&ldquo;In this case, Zaporizhya can become an example of how to do this in a civilized way, having taken decisions within the framework of the law,&rdquo; the statement read.</p> <p>It may have helped that local activists gave the authorities a deadline to deal with the issue or apparently risk the forced toppling of the city&rsquo;s main Lenin statue.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">If you build an innovation hub in Siberia, will they come?</a></strong></p> <p>In any case, historical memory will continue to haunt Ukraine as it&rsquo;s buffeted by post-revolutionary uncertainty &mdash; and Russia as it seeks to exploit its neighbor&rsquo;s instability.</p> <p>Lenin is only part of the picture. The increasingly visible role nationalism has played in the protest and politics is also contentious.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s still no full consensus on World War II-era nationalist groups such as the guerilla Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), venerated by many but criticized by some older generations and Kremlin supporters for their fleeting alliance with the Nazis.</p> <p>Paniotto suggests that officials and activists look for other ways to consolidate society.</p> <p>&ldquo;All these historical topics &mdash; Lenin, UPA, and others &mdash; only further divide people,&rdquo; he says.</p> Crisis in Ukraine Conflict Zones Want to Know Europe Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:15:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6319767 at An Egyptian court just dealt a blow to the fight against female genital mutilation <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The acquittal of a doctor in the country's first prosecution against female genital mutilation may encourage the practice. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Dean </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CAIRO, Egypt &mdash; The first attempt to prosecute someone for carrying out female genital mutilation in Egypt failed on Thursday when a doctor accused of performing the procedure on a young girl was acquitted.</p> <p>The girl at the center of the case, 13-year-old Sohair al-Bata&#39;a, died during the procedure in 2013.&nbsp;</p> <p>A judge in the Nile Delta province of Mansoura threw out the case against Dr. Raslan Fadl Halawa, and acquitted him of manslaughter.</p> <p>The girl&#39;s father, Mohamed al-Bata&rsquo;a, who brought her to the clinic was also absolved of responsibility.&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite police and health officials testifying that Sohair&#39;s relatives had taken her to the clinic for the operation, the doctor claimed that he had been treating Sohair for something unrelated and that she had died as a result of an allergy to penicillin, which he had not administered.</p> <p> The prosecutor, Atef Aboueleinein, a lawyer with the Women&rsquo;s Center for Counsel and Legal Defense, says there is &ldquo;little hope for an appeal&rdquo; because the girl&rsquo;s family accepted a financial settlement from the doctor.</p> <p> The truth is that Sohair&rsquo;s case is just the tip of the iceberg.</p> <p> <strong>A staggering number of women have undergone the procedure&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Over 90 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone the procedure <a href="">according to UNICEF</a>, the vast majority of the operations having been performed by a doctor. In the past, traditional midwives, barbers or sometimes mothers themselves would perform the procedure, often stopping the bleeding by putting dust or salt on the wound.</p> <p>FGM can encompass a number of procedures, including the partial or total removal of the clitoris, the removal of the clitoris and labia minora, and infibulation, which involves cutting and sewing up the outer labia.</p> <p>In Egypt the most widely practiced version is the removal of the clitoris and labia minora.&nbsp;Most girls undergo the procedure between the ages of 9 and 13 but victims can be as young as 9-months-old.</p> <p><strong>Not everyone is against it&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Though support for the practice is decreasing, 54 percent of women and 57 percent of men in Egypt <a href="">support FGM</a>.</p> <p>It is practiced all over the country but support for the practice is influenced by socioeconomic situation and education: the same report found that 71.8 &nbsp;percent of people with no education said they would have FGM performed on their daughters, compared to 43.7 percent of those who had finished secondary school or had some higher education.</p> <p>Even after Sohair&rsquo;s death, residents in her village say they will have FGM performed on their girls. Soheir&#39;s relatives <a href="">told the BBC</a> her death was &ldquo;God&#39;s will.&rdquo; Her uncle added, &ldquo;without circumcision girls are full of lust.&rdquo;</p> <p>Many believe it curbs women&rsquo;s sexual appetites and makes them less likely to commit adultery. Others say &nbsp;say that if a woman has not undergone FGM it limits her prospects for marriage.</p> <p><strong>It&#39;s illegal, but authorities do nothing to stop it&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Although it was technically outlawed in 2008, no one is being prosecuted for it. Activists were hoping jail time for the perpetrators in this case could have served as a warning to others who carry out the operation and seek to have it performed on their daughters. But now they fear that other doctors will see it as a green light to continue the practice.</p> <p>&ldquo;Of course after this verdict there will be no fear among doctors and they will perform FGM as though it&rsquo;s normal. They won&rsquo;t be afraid,&rdquo; said Aboueleinein, the prosecutor.</p> <p>Though Egypt&rsquo;s Grand Mufti, the highest religious authority in the land, ruled against it in 2006, many see the practice as a religious duty. In Egypt, both Muslims and Christians perform the practice.</p> <p><strong>FGM is symbolic of the poor state of women&#39;s rights in Egypt</strong></p> <p>Egypt has become notorious worldwide for sexual harassment and hundreds of women have been victims of mob sexual assaults over the last three years.</p> <p>In fact, 99.3 percent of women in Egypt <a href="">report experiencing some sort of sexual harassment</a>. And while a new constitution enshrines women&rsquo;s rights to work, education and hold political office, criminalizes violence against women and discrimination on the basis of gender, many activists have little hope that such rights will be upheld anytime soon.</p> <p>The main legal process of divorce for women requires her to relinquish her financial rights. Over 60 percent of working women are in the informal sector, vulnerable to abuses and men retain control over the majority of the economic decision-making.</p> <p> <strong>It&#39;s not just an Egyptian problem</strong></p> <p> The practice takes place in 29 countries across East and West Africa as well as a few others in the Middle East, including Yemen,&nbsp;<a href="">according to the WHO</a>.</p> <p>In Djibouti, Guinea , Somalia and Sudan more than 90 percent of women undergo the procedure. In Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Niger, more than a quarter of cases involve infibulation &mdash; sewing the vagina closed &mdash;which is a particularly invasive and dangerous form.</p> <p>Somalia is the worst-affected country, with 97.9 of women undergoing the most dangerous method of FGM.</p> Egypt Need to Know Middle East Thu, 20 Nov 2014 23:31:00 +0000 Laura Dean 6320813 at US transfers 5 more Guantanamo detainees to Slovakia and Georgia <!--paging_filter--><p>GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba &mdash; After a decade at the US Naval base, five Guantanamo Bay detainees left their jail cells on Thursday to board a C-17 Air Force plane bound for new soil.</p> <p>The men are being transferred to Slovakia and Georgia, reducing the count of detainees in Guantanamo Bay to 143. One is a Tunisian national and four are from Yemen. All had affiliations with Al Qaeda, but the United States has now deemed they do not pose a significant threat.</p> <p>Only one of the detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay is convicted of a crime. Within the first few days of his presidency in 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the detention facility, following a campaign promise that he has yet to make good on. During his administration 95 detainees have been transferred to other countries while the military prison in Cuba has remained open.</p> <p>Since 2002 the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station has held detainees for alleged war crimes against the US, but more than half of them are no longer considered significant threats, according to an executive order task force made up of representatives from six government agencies and departments. Members of that low-risk group are eligible for transfer.</p> <p>The challenge is finding countries that will take them. While Obama originally suggested a detention facility in Illinois for all the detainees, the National Defense Authorization Act prevents the Defense Department from spending money on transferring detainees to US soil.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">5 things you didn&#39;t know about Guantanamo Bay</a></strong></p> <p>&ldquo;His hands are kind of tied,&rdquo; said Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, the Pentagon&rsquo;s spokesman for detainee policy.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s up to the countries that accept transfers to decide whether a Guantanamo detainee will remain in detention or be released. Destination-country representatives interview the detainees before they are transferred, and the foreign governments decide whether to transition them into the work force. Some have been set up with jobs and language classes while still at Guantanamo Bay to help with resettlement.</p> <p>Last week Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and six other senators visited Guantanamo Bay calling for its closure.</p> <p>&ldquo;The detention center at Guantanamo Bay does not make us safer, and it is wildly expensive,&rdquo; Manchin said in a statement. &ldquo;The status quo is not an acceptable solution, and I am confident we can find a solution that protects Americans and responsibly manages our tax dollars.&rdquo;</p> <p>Caggins said that it&rsquo;s a slow process for the Defense Department to make good on Obama&rsquo;s executive order.</p> <p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no magic key, get a plane and throw somebody on it,&rdquo; Caggins said.</p> <p>In total, 47 countries have taken Guantanamo Bay detainees. Slovakia and Georgia, which received the new transfers on Thursday, have previously accepted detainees from the facility, according to <a href="" target="_blank">data maintained by The New York Times and NPR</a>.</p> <p>The men transferred on Thursday were Hashim Bin Ali Bin Amor Sliti of Tunisia and Yemenis Husayn Salim Muhammad Al-Mutari Yafai, Salah Mohammed Salih Al-Dhabi, Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim, and Abdul Khaled Al-Baydani.</p> <p>Congress was notified of the transfers.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Forever Gitmo: How Obama will try, and likely fail, to close Guantanamo</a></strong></p> <p><em>Hayat Norimine is a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism based in Washington, DC.</em></p> Guantanamo Bay Need to Know War Middle East Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:51:00 +0000 Hayat Norimine 6320859 at A Polish town council rejected Winnie the Pooh as its playground mascot because he's a 'hermaphrodite' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Not the Onion, folks. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BREAKING: Winnie the Pooh is a hermaphrodite, exposes himself in public, and has no business being around children.</p> <p>Officials in the Polish town of Tuszyn (around 87&nbsp;miles southwest of Warsaw) were deciding on a mascot for its town playground, when the classic children&#39;s character was suggested as a candidate. They decided to rule Winnie out, because he&#39;s&nbsp;an &quot;inappropriately dressed&quot; bear of &quot;dubious sexuality.&quot;</p> <p>Sure, Winnie is a honey junkie who spends most of his time with a chronically depressed donkey and a suspiciously energetic tiger, and if you don&#39;t want your kids hanging with that sort of crew, then fine. But if you don&#39;t want Winnie at playgrounds because he doesn&#39;t wear pants and has no external genitalia, you&#39;re living in the past, my friend.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="">According to the Croatian Times</a>, members of the Tuszyn town council were having this totally reasonable conversation about Winnie&#39;s biological sex and choice of outerwear when one of them decided it was worth recording and leaking to media. We all owe this person a debt of gratitude. Because now we know the following things about the members of the Tuszyn town council.</p> <p>Resident and councillor Ryszard Cichy apparently believes this about Winnie: &quot;The problem with that bear is it doesn&rsquo;t have a complete wardrobe. It is half naked which is wholly inappropriate for children.&quot;</p> <p>An unnamed official apparently knows why: &quot;It doesn&rsquo;t wear underpants because it doesn&rsquo;t have a sex. It&rsquo;s a hermaphrodite.&quot;</p> <p>And another resident, councillor, and human who lives on this Earth, Hanna Jachimska, apparently blames Winnie&#39;s creator, Alan Alexander Milne: &quot;This is very disturbing but can you imagine! The author was over 60 and cut his [Pooh&#39;s] testicles off with a razor blade because he had a problem with his identity.&quot;</p> <p>We also learned that some members of the Tuszyn town council are biased against intersex individuals. So there&#39;s that.</p> <p>Winnie&#39;s out of the running for playground mascot, but as the councillors move forward with the decision-making process, they should consider that their no-pants rule excludes nearly every cartoon character ever invented, except for Goofy, who rocks an orange turtleneck sweater, charcoal vest, blue slacks, and laceless brown shoes. Classy.</p> <p><a href="">h/t the Independent</a></p> <p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story was also reported on <a href=",32,m/spor-o-misia-rozgrzal-radnych-w-tuszynie,489592.html" target="_blank">Polish-language</a> television stations. Here&#39;s one of the reports:</em></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="//" width="100%"></iframe></p> Want to Know Poland Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:02:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6320673 at Mexico's embattled President Enrique Pena Nieto reveals $3 million in assets <!--paging_filter--><p>Facing conflict of interest accusations over a luxury home, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto disclosed late on Wednesday ownership of nine properties among assets worth at least 45.2 million pesos ($3.3 million).</p> <p>The assets also included investments, jewelry and works of art, a document posted on the president&#39;s website showed.</p> <p>Owned by a government contractor that was bidding for a lucrative rail contract, the nearly $4 million house at the center of the scandal was being acquired by Pena Nieto&#39;s wife.</p> <p>First Lady Angelica Rivera, a former leading actress, said she was paying for the property with her own earnings, but on Tuesday said she would give it up.</p> <p>The contractor, Mexican company Grupo Higa, was part of a Chinese-led consortium that won the $3.75-billion high-speed rail contract. That deal was abruptly canceled earlier this month.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Angry protests mushroom in Mexico over the forced disappearance of 43 students</a></strong></p> <p>Rivera was one of Mexico&#39;s most popular soap actresses before marrying Pena Nieto in 2010. Also on Tuesday, she said that in that year she was paid severance of 102.8 million pesos by broadcaster Televisa.</p> <p>Televisa reported to the US Securities and Exchange commission that it paid 98.4 million pesos in 2010 for &quot;retirement and termination benefits&quot; for the entire company.</p> <p>Reuters could not immediately ascertain if Rivera had been paid from the same pool of cash, and analysts said she could have been paid from a non-consolidated subsidiary.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Mexican mass graves: A survivor&rsquo;s story</a></strong></p> <p>Televisa and the president&#39;s office did not immediately respond to questions about the difference.</p> <p>Rivera&#39;s explanation and details of the payout spurred ridicule across social media on Wednesday.</p> <p>Many users plastered jokes over her image, some suggesting&nbsp;the payout was way out of line with industry standards. Ana de la Reguera, a former Mexican soap star now working in Hollywood, joked on her Twitter account that she never should have left Mexico.</p> <p>Rivera said her salary proved she could afford the home, but other social media users said this glossed over whether Pena Nieto had questions to answer.</p> <p>&quot;The problem was never Angelica Rivera&#39;s patrimony, but the conflict of interest. Her husband is the one who should be facing up to this,&quot; wrote political columnist Jesus Silva-Herzog.</p> <p>The government canceled the rail contract days before a local news outlet published an investigation into the house.</p> <p>(Reporting by David Alire Garcia, Noe Torres, Elinor Comlay and Michael O&#39;Boyle; Editing by Simon Gardner and John Stonestreet)</p> Need to Know Mexico Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:57:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6320576 at Russia calls UN resolution on North Korea human rights record 'counter-productive' <!--paging_filter--><p>Update:</p> <p><em>Agence France-Presse: Russia on Thursday slammed as &quot;counter-productive&quot; a landmark UN resolution on North Korea&#39;s rights record that lays the groundwork for putting the Stalinist regime in the dock for crimes against humanity.</em></p> <p><em>&quot;In my opinion, it is counter-productive to try to make some loud statements through confrontational resolutions at the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council,&quot; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.</em></p> <p><em>&quot;We are convinced that UN structures dedicated to human rights should not turn into judicial or prosecution bodies,&quot; said Russia&#39;s top diplomat, adding that such resolutions were aimed at &quot;publicly punishing&quot; countries instead of achieving a solution.</em></p> <p><em>His comments came as Pyongyang threatened Thursday a fresh nuclear test in response to UN condemnation of its rights record, as new satellite imagery suggested North Korea may be firing up a facility for processing weapons-grade plutonium.</em></p> <hr /> <p>Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Wednesday for deeper ties with North Korea to improve regional security, a day after holding talks with a personal envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.</p> <p>Senior North Korean officials visit Moscow infrequently but the isolated country is trying to counter a UN resolution urging Pyongyang&#39;s referral to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.</p> <p>Russia is also one of five countries involved in talks with North Korea on its nuclear program. The others are South Korea, China, the United States and Japan.</p> <p>The Kremlin gave no details of Putin&#39;s meeting on Tuesday with Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to Kim and a senior official from the ruling Workers&#39; Party who is a seven-day trip to Russia.</p> <p>But receiving the credentials of North Korea&#39;s new ambassador to Russia, Putin said during a televised Kremlin ceremony: &quot;We maintain friendly relations with one of our neighbors, the Democratic People&#39;s Republic of Korea.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;A further deepening of political ties and trade and economic cooperation is definitely in the interests of the peoples of both countries and ensuring regional stability and security,&quot; he said.</p> <p>A Russian Foreign Ministry source told Interfax this week that the visit would include discussion of bilateral ties, economic developments and North Korea&#39;s nuclear program but made no mention of the UN resolution.</p> <p>&quot;The subject of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is constantly present on the agenda of our dialogue with North Korea,&quot; the source said. &quot;Moreover, progress in this field is a mandatory condition of lifting the sanctions against the country which naturally impose big limits on our bilateral relations.&quot;</p> <p>On Tuesday, a UN Assembly committee dealing with human rights passed a resolution calling for the UN Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.</p> <p>The vote followed a UN Commission of Inquiry report published in February detailing wide-ranging abuses in North Korea, including prison camps, systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.</p> <p>North Korea has dismissed the UN move as part of a US-led plot to destroy its political system.</p> <p>Diplomats say North Korea ally China would be likely to use its Security Council veto to knock down an ICC referral and that Russia would probably support Beijing&#39;s stance.</p> <p>(Editing by Timothy Heritage/Mark Heinrich)</p> Need to Know Asia-Pacific Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:15:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse and Thomson Reuters 6320494 at Britain is heading for defeat in its challenge to EU's bankers' bonus cap <!--paging_filter--><p>Britain&#39;s relations with the European Union took another knock on Thursday when its legal challenge to a limit on bankers&#39; bonuses was rejected by an adviser to the bloc&#39;s top court.</p> <p>The EU law aims to curb the kind of risk-taking that led to the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis by limiting bonuses awarded from next year to a sum no more than a banker&#39;s fixed pay, or twice that level with shareholder approval.</p> <p>Britain, home to the City of London where most of the bankers hit by the cap are based, said the law would push up fixed pay and goes beyond the EU&#39;s powers, a sensitive subject at a time of rising British anti-EU sentiment.</p> <p>The adviser, whose opinions are non-binding but are generally followed at least in part by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, supported the limit on banker bonuses and said it did not restrict the total amount of pay.</p> <p>&quot;Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen suggests that all the UK&rsquo;s pleas should be rejected and that the Court of Justice dismiss the action,&quot; the ECJ said in a statement.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The head of the world&#39;s biggest economic bloc is facing calls to resign over &lsquo;magical fairyland&rsquo; tax deals</a></strong></p> <p>&quot;Fixing the ratio of variable remuneration to basic salaries does not equate to a &#39;cap on bankers bonuses&#39;, or fixing the level of pay, because there is no limit imposed on the basic salaries that the bonuses are pegged against.&quot;</p> <p>Jaaskinen said that bonuses were an internal market matter as they relate to risk taking at banks that could affect financial stability in Europe.</p> <p>Britain&#39;s finance ministry said it was considering the opinion and its implications. The full court is expect to issue its ruling on the UK challenge in early 2015.</p> <p>&quot;It doesn&#39;t give the UK much hope of success when the Court hands down its decision early next year,&quot; said Rob Moulton, a regulatory partner at Ashurst lawfirm.</p> <p>&quot;Some may even say it&rsquo;s a clear indication of the likely winner in the power struggle between the EU and the UK.&quot;</p> <p>The opinion is a setback for Britain and gives ammunition to anti-EU campaigners who object to having decisions imposed by Brussels. The UK Independence Party, which rejects the EU&#39;s influence over Britain, is hoping to win a vote on Thursday that would give it a second seat in the British parliament.</p> <p>Steven Woolfe, a UKIP member of the European Parliament, said the opinion showed UK Prime Minister David Cameron&#39;s attempts to reform the EU before a promised referendum on Britain&#39;s EU membership &quot;were dead in the water.&quot;</p> <p>Britain, the only EU state to oppose the bonus law, had said that giving the EU&#39;s European Banking Authority powers to set the cap was illegal but the opinion said the EBA had flexibility to interpret the law.</p> <p>Barclays and Standard Chartered have raised allowances to compensate for the impact of the bonus limit. The EBA has said most of these allowances are illegal.</p> <p>Bank of England governor Mark Carney and others have said that bankers&#39; fixed salaries may also need regulating.</p> <p>&ldquo;The bonus cap alone is too blunt an instrument to curb risk taking in the banking industry,&quot; said Tom Gosling, head of PwC&#39;s reward practice.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&#39;s unlikely that the bonus cap itself causes existing business to up sticks and move away from London. However, it does make London somewhat less attractive as a place to build new capability.&quot;</p> <p>The British Bankers&#39; Association said shareholders and not politicians should have the powers to determine pay.</p> <p>(editing by Adrian Croft and Anna Willard)</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:53:26 +0000 Philip Blenkinsop and Huw Jones, Thomson Reuters 6320414 at Can traditional Chinese doctors really tell if you’re pregnant by touching your wrists? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A top Beijing surgeon challenges the multibillion-dollar industry to prove itself. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Robert Foyle Hunwick </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BEIJING &mdash; &ldquo;Stick out your tongue. Now give me your wrist.&rdquo;</p> <p>That&rsquo;s how &quot;Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)&quot; practitioners begin to diagnose what ails you. It&rsquo;s often followed by a prescription of foul-tasting herbs, to be taken daily, along with exhortations to consume or avoid certain &ldquo;hot&rdquo; or &ldquo;cold&rdquo; foods.</p> <p>But after more than 2,000 years of practice, the question remains: Is there scientific evidence that traditional Chinese medicine actually works? A doctor at one of Beijing&rsquo;s top hospitals is challenging these time-honored methods with a modern proposal: cash prizes for proof.</p> <p>Dr. Ning Fanggang <a href="">is offering</a> 100,000 <span class="st">renminbi </span>($16,300) to anyone who resolves the common claim that traditional practitioners can tell if a woman is pregnant just by taking her pulse. &ldquo;If [someone is] successful, I will never state that Traditional Chinese Medicine is a fake science,&rdquo; Ning promised. The 38-year-old is chief surgeon at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, which specializes in burn victims, and is also one of the best-known doctors on Weibo, China&rsquo;s version of Twitter.</p> <p>His challenge calls for readings of 80-percent accuracy, using the pulse method alone. Critics complain that isolating the wrist from the rest of the system undermines the validity of a diagnosis, and thus the challenge.</p> <p>So far, only one person has taken Ning up &mdash; but he appears to be backing out.</p> <p>Another doctor from Chengdu, Lu Jilai, author of the <em>&quot;</em>Chinese Encyclopedia of Losing Weight and Body Building&quot; and <a href="">&quot;Traditional Medicine Trinity Theories</a>,&quot; boasted that he could even determine the date of his patients&rsquo; next menstrual cycle. Liu flunked his own blindfold test, complaining he needed &ldquo;the use of all senses.&rdquo;</p> <p>On Weibo, where he&rsquo;s known as Ah Bao (&ldquo;Baby&rdquo;), Ning posts criticism of medical practices, including TCM, to his 140,000 or so followers. Such is their enthusiasm that Ning&rsquo;s original reward, a mere 50,000 <span class="st">renminbi </span>($8,150), was quickly doubled by supporters.</p> <p>But to thousands of practitioners and millions of adherents, Chinese medicine is not a spectator sport. It is a tradition dating back thousands of years, incorporating a vast corpus of literature, pharmacopeia and philosophy, along with a broad range of practices, including acupuncture and reflexology. It&rsquo;s also a business worth around $80 billion a year.</p> <p>The State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine &mdash; more a Big Herbal-style lobbying group than an industry watchdog &mdash; has <a href="">responded</a> to Ning&#39;s challenge solemnly, noting that Chinese and Western medicine are different but equal, complementing each other to provide &ldquo;the best possible benefit.&rdquo; The spokesperson labeled the contest meaningless, with anyone accepting it &ldquo;lacking comprehension.&rdquo;</p> <p>Beijing University of Chinese Medicine&rsquo;s Yang Zhen had been the first to condemn the challenge, telling China Daily that Ning had harmed TCM&rsquo;s reputation as a science.</p> <p>Chinese medicine can be a minefield for officials, where &ldquo;science&rdquo; is wielded as a progressive term. To the students and intellectuals of the 1910s progressive New Culture Movement, China&rsquo;s backward culture was typified by values placed on its traditional medicine. In his preface to &quot;Call to Arms,&quot; Lu Xun wrote that it was &ldquo;simply a lie, purposely or not.&rdquo; But even today, Lu &mdash; a brilliant satirist who studied medicine in Japan &mdash; is considered controversial.</p> <p>As educated liberals began celebrating Western science, the old methods survived both the Republic of China (1911-49) and the iconoclastic Cultural Revolution. This was partly due to medicine&rsquo;s entrenched role within society. Practitioners were inheritors of secrets handed down through generations; while Mao waged civil war, &ldquo;barefoot doctors&rdquo; provided comfort and assistance when no alternative existed.</p> <p>During imperial times, traditional medicine had come to include astrology, divination and incantation. In the post-Mao era, nationalists celebrated TCM as a unique Chinese philosophy, stripped of feudal practices, and a bulwark against foreign imperialist thinking.</p> <p>Ironically, it was this logic that allowed many of these egregious elements to creep back in, fueled by lingering superstition and wholesale greed. &ldquo;The government policies in recent years have mostly treated TCM as placebo,&rdquo; says Xu Yunyun, a gynecologist with 227,000 followers on Weibo. &ldquo;While the public craze has exaggerated its effects but made it less scientific.&rdquo;</p> <p>This has, in turn, fostered a minor industry debunking TCM fraud.</p> <p><strong>Traditional medicine fraud</strong></p> <p>One practitioner, Zhang Wuben, was infamous for his cure-all diet of mung beans. He hawked DVDs, books and $45-a-minute consultations. When bean prices shot up in 2010, Zhang&rsquo;s medical qualifications were exposed as fake.</p> <p>Celebrity Taoist &ldquo;master&rdquo; <a href="">Wang Lin told</a> clients &mdash; such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li and China&rsquo;s richest man Jack Man &mdash; he had cured cancer and could <a href="">produce</a> &ldquo;snakes from thin air&rdquo; using qigong, a spiritualist practice with TCM techniques including breathing exercises and meditation. Amid accusations of medical fraud, tax evasion and consorting with gangsters and corrupt officials, Wang fled to Hong Kong in 2013.</p> <p>Yang Zhen &mdash; the first to sign up for Ning&rsquo;s pregnancy challenge &mdash; was also the first to begin throwing shade. The sample size of 32 women, Yang claimed, meant the results would &ldquo;lack persuasiveness.&rdquo; Just as persuasive was Yang&rsquo;s excuse that hospital regulations might forbid him from &ldquo;practicing&rdquo; outside.&nbsp;</p> <p>Xu, the gynecologist, who describes himself as a supporter of TCM&rsquo;s physiotherapy benefits, says the best way to test its effectiveness is &ldquo;random double-blind tests, which is the same for any medical theories.&rdquo;</p> <p>Unfortunately, most TCM doctors prefer using &quot;scientific&quot; methods to confirm bias, rather than prove or challenge their assumptions. As a review of 72 such trials <a href="">by the Cochrane Collaboration</a> concluded in 2009, there was simply &ldquo;not enough good quality trial evidence to make any conclusion about the efficacy of the evaluated treatment[s] &hellip; due specifically to the poor methodology and heterogeneity of the studies reviewed.&rdquo;</p> <p>Currently, organizers say Yang has pulled out of the challenge &mdash; he&rsquo;s denied this &mdash; and they are waiting for other qualified TCM practitioners to take his place. If none do by the end of next week, the contest will be canceled.</p> <p>The debate on TCM&rsquo;s limitations, however, will go on. &ldquo;The fact is, legitimate doctors prefer &mdash; and rely on &mdash; modern scientific examination methods,&rdquo; says Xu. &ldquo;Only &lsquo;legends&rsquo; and television would try to make the pulse diagnosis seem magical.&rdquo;</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets China Thu, 20 Nov 2014 05:30:24 +0000 Robert Foyle Hunwick 6314977 at Brazil's rich and powerful may no longer be above the law <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The country's first trial for insider trading and a major investigation at Petrobras oil company could change Latin America's powerhouse forever. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Will Carless </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay &mdash; Some of today&rsquo;s headlines in Brazil would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.</p> <p>Years after South America&rsquo;s largest and most populous country transitioned to democracy in the mid-1980s, Brazil&rsquo;s rich and powerful enjoyed near-absolute impunity. Corruption wasn&rsquo;t just rampant, it was also almost never investigated or acted upon.</p> <p>Looks like the times, they are a-changin&rsquo;.</p> <p>In recent months, a string of high-profile public prosecutions have targeted the elites, leaving some Brazil observers hopeful that the country&rsquo;s finally getting serious about targeting graft in the higher echelons of society.</p> <p>Here&#39;s a look at three cases and the trending hashtags <span dir="ltr" id=":26x">Brazilians are using to talk about them on Twitter</span>. Each relays a pointed message to Brazil&rsquo;s ruling class.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> #Petrobras</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="(Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)"> The headquarters of the Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras in Rio de Janeiro.</div> <p>An enormous scandal is unfolding at Brazilian energy company Petrobras. It&rsquo;s notable not just because of the vast amounts of money thought to be involved &mdash; billions of dollars, the authorities allege &mdash; but also because the accusations implicate some of the country&#39;s most powerful business executives and the governing party. To date, the case has netted some 27 arrests.</p> <p>Allegations of money laundering and profit-skimming at Brazil&rsquo;s semi-public oil company have ensnared a former top official at Petrobras, as well as leading execs at some of Brazil&rsquo;s biggest construction companies.</p> <p>And there are signs that the charges could go even further.</p> <p>Prosecutors allege that some of the money embezzled from Petrobras found its way into political campaigns, including that of President Dilma Rousseff&rsquo;s Workers Party. Rousseff and others at the party have steadfastly denied the accusations.</p> <p>But the recently re-elected leader did acknowledge the case&rsquo;s significance.</p> <p>&ldquo;This may change the country forever,&rdquo; Rousseff said in Australia during the G20 summit, <a href="" target="_blank">Reuters reported</a>. &ldquo;How? By ending impunity.&rdquo;</p> <p>Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, said the Petrobras case echoes another big corruption case known as the &ldquo;mensalao&rdquo; (a big monthly stipend) scandal, which went to trial in 2012. That case led to the arrest of 18 congressmen on charges of vote-buying. Then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva&rsquo;s chief of staff was brought down by the affair.</p> <p>&ldquo;Everybody thought that case would end in the proverbial Brazilian pizza &mdash; where everybody discusses it, then they all go and get pizza together,&rdquo; Sotero said. &ldquo;But 25 people were found guilty and some of them went to jail. Mensalao buried the idea that actions against powerful people inevitably end in pizza and impunity.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Petrobras case could well be the next mensalao, Sotero said, and as such, it&rsquo;s a sign that Brazil&rsquo;s prosecutorial and judicial systems are maturing.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s one more building block in the affirmation of the rule of law in Brazil,&rdquo; Sotero said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> #EikeBatistaClasseMedia (Translation: #EikeBatistaMiddleClass)</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="(Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)"> Eike Batista on Tuesday sitting between lawyers during the first day of his trial for alleged insider trading.</div> <p>A couple of years ago, Eike Batista was Brazil&rsquo;s richest man. He made a fortune on a succession of companies that specialized in gold and silver mining and oil and gas. But last year, his empire fell apart when it was revealed that his offshore exploration projects were largely failing.</p> <p>Batista lost most of his fortune as the stocks in his companies plummeted. In September, he <a href="" target="_blank">told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo</a> that he had landed back into the middle class with a &ldquo;gigantic thud,&rdquo; a quote that garnered him ridicule across social media sites as Brazilians competed to shame the once flamboyant playboy.</p> <p>But Batista has bigger problems than public ridicule. He&rsquo;s currently being investigated for insider trading and has been accused of selling off millions of dollars in stock in his companies early to avoid bigger financial losses. Batista has denied the claim, pointing out that he lost billions in the downfall of his stocks.</p> <p>Insider trading cases might be run-of-the mill these days on Wall Street, but in Brazil, the Batista case could be a game-changer. Nobody has ever gone to jail for insider trading in Brazil, <a href="" target="_blank">The New York Times</a> reported.</p> <p>Jamie Cooper, a law professor at California Western School of Law in San Diego and an expert on South American legal systems, said the Batista case, just like the Petrobras scandal, shows that Brazil is rising to the democratic challenge of holding its most powerful citizens accountable.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think we can make grand statements yet, but these are hopeful signs,&rdquo; Cooper said. &ldquo;I hope we can look back one day and say these were incredibly important as Brazil opened up.&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> #Juiznaoedeus (Translation: #JudgeIsNotGod)</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="(Pedro Ladeira/AFP/Getty Images)"> The Justice Statue in front of the Supreme Court Building in Brasilia.</div> <p>The furor over the actions of a circuit judge in Rio is building into a scandal that shows it&rsquo;s not just Brazil&rsquo;s most famous elites who are feeling a backlash against their perceived impunity.</p> <p>The scandal, which judging by social media is making Brazilians&rsquo; blood boil, concerns news reports that Judge Joao Carlos de Souza Correa was pulled over in a routine stop checking for drunk drivers in Rio de Janeiro. He wasn&rsquo;t over the limit but was reportedly driving without a license, registration or plates. When traffic inspector Luciana Tamburini issued him a fine, Souza Correa responded angrily and told her he was a judge.</p> <p>&ldquo;You may be a judge, but you&rsquo;re not God,&rdquo; Tamburini responded, according to media accounts of the interaction.</p> <p>Tamburini was later convicted of &ldquo;offending the honor&rdquo; of the judge and was fined $2,000, a punishment that was upheld on appeal. The media caught on to the story and a legal fund raised more than $27,000 for Tamburini, according to Brazilian news site O Globo.</p> <p>Currently, calls are growing on Brazilian social media for justice against Souza Correa. Online petitions have been set up to demand his ouster and the Brazilian Bar Association&rsquo;s Rio de Janeiro chapter has <a href="" target="_blank">called for his immediate suspension</a>.</p> <p>Souza Correa is still hanging in there, but the response from the public, the media and the bar association indicate that he&rsquo;s in deep trouble.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">This lawyer helped topple a crooked president. Now he&rsquo;s taking on corruption worldwide</a></strong></p> scandals Want to Know Emerging Markets Brazil Political Risk Thu, 20 Nov 2014 05:30:00 +0000 Will Carless 6318485 at The head of the world's biggest economic bloc is facing calls to resign over ‘magical fairyland’ tax deals <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Just days into his tenure as president of the European Commission, document leaks put Jean-Claude Juncker in the hot seat. </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 &mdash; No one who follows Europe&#39;s economy was surprised to hear that Luxembourg helps multinational companies dodge taxes any more than celebrity gossip fans were surprised to see Kim Kardashian has a shapely backside.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the sudden, very public revelation of the shape and size of it &mdash; we&#39;re talking about Luxembourg&#39;s tax-break scheme, here &mdash; has sent shockwaves across Europe&#39;s financial and political establishment.</p> <p>Leaked documents published this month have laid bare the complex accounting mechanisms used by more than 300 companies to funnel profits through the tiny country in order to shave billions off their tax bills.</p> <p>Pepsi, IKEA, Deutsche Bank and FedEx were just some of the corporate colossuses named in the &quot;LuxLeaks&quot; reports.</p> <p>Many were clients of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a leading international accounting firm that has said the leaked information was &quot;stolen&quot; and &quot;outdated.&quot;</p> <p>Nothing the multinationals were doing was illegal. Everything was in accordance with the laws of Luxembourg.</p> <p>The country&#39;s financial authorities helped corporations create networks for shifting profits from country to country until they vanished from the view of tax collectors outside the diminutive nation.</p> <p>In some cases, companies were paying less than 1 percent tax on their profits, the arrangements sealed with so-called &quot;comfort letters&quot; from the authorities.</p> <p>The landlocked nation wedged between France, Germany and Belgium is a &quot;magical fairyland&quot; for corporations seeking to slash bills, Harvard tax expert Stephen E. Shay told the <a href="" target="_blank">International Consortium of Investigative Journalists</a>, which broke the story.</p> <p>The spotlight LuxLeaks has thrown on the secretive setup is prompting demands at the highest level for an overhaul of international taxation rules. It&#39;s also making life very uncomfortable for the man just appointed to head the world&#39;s biggest economic bloc.</p> <p>Jean-Claude Juncker took over this month as president of the European Commission, the body that runs the 28-member European Union. His previous employ: 24 unbroken years as finance minister, then prime minister, of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.</p> <p>&quot;There is nothing in my past indicating that my ambition was to organize tax evasion in Europe,&quot; Juncker told reporters at EU headquarters in Brussels last week. &quot;I&#39;m not the architect of what you might call the Luxembourg model.&quot;</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> Three monkeys symbolizing &quot;hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil&quot; sit behind a euro symbol on a desk at the entrance of Luxembourg&#39;s prime minister&#39;s residence, Hotel de Bourgogne, in Luxembourg on July 14, 2011.</div> <p><strong>How quickly things change</strong></p> <p>The LuxLeaks storm broke just five days after Juncker took office, providing an immediate distraction from his avowed priority, raising $375 billion to boost Europe&#39;s stagnant growth.</p> <p>The revelations will almost certainly harm his plans to rebuild faith in the EU, whose support among voters has been sapped by years of economic crisis.</p> <p>Juncker says he won&#39;t interfere as the EU&rsquo;s antitrust authorities press ahead with investigations into the tax practices of Luxembourg and other EU countries.</p> <p>Claiming the problem lies not with Luxembourg but rather discrepancies in the international tax system, Juncker has tasked the EU staff to draft new rules to ensure fiscal authorities across Europe automatically share information about their tax-break rulings.</p> <p>Prompted by a public outcry over the LuxLeaks revelations, G-20 leaders committed to share tax information at their summit in Australia last weekend, although not until 2018.</p> <p>&quot;Real pressure is building for some kind of new global framework of rules for taxing multinational companies,&quot; says John Christensen, director of the pressure group Tax Justice Network.</p> <p>&quot;Within Europe, there is a lot of pressure across the system, public pressure especially from the small business community which is saying this is anti-competitive, and demanding change,&quot; he said by phone from his base in England.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Putin&#39;s awkward weekend at the G-20, as explained by &#39;Mean Girls&#39; GIFs</a></strong></p> <p>The LuxLeaks revelations have been a boon to Juncker opponents.</p> <p>Far-right and euro-sceptic members in the European Parliament teamed up on Tuesday to secure the 10 percent of votes needed to introduce a motion of no confidence calling for Juncker&#39;s dismissal.</p> <p>He is expected to survive. The mainstream center-right and Socialist parties that voted him into office are likely to stand by him during the vote, expected next week.</p> <p>Parties in government across Europe are aware that the sudden removal of the EU&#39;s top official would seriously undermine the bloc&#39;s credibility.</p> <p>But there is growing pressure for Juncker to recuse himself from the EU head office&#39;s efforts to reign in tax avoidance. Having him in charge is like putting &quot;Dracula in charge of a blood bank,&quot; one Australian campaigner said during the G-20.</p> <p>Even mainstream political parties that supported Juncker&rsquo;s appointment are critical.</p> <p>&quot;It is indeed a shame, with regard to austerity, that Greece and other member states have been asked to implement very harsh measures on social expenditures while at the same time multinational enterprises are eluding taxes thanks to the cooperation of European national governments,&quot; Gianni Pittella, who heads the Socialist faction in the European Parliament, said in a statement.</p> <p>&quot;Juncker has to demonstrate his willingness to become the trigger for a genuine revolution against fiscal dumping,&quot; he added.</p> <p>Of course, not all the outrage expressed by European politicians rings true.</p> <p>Although the LuxLeaks reports have uncovered details relating to specific companies, Luxembourg&#39;s role as a tax hideaway was well known when Juncker was voted into the EU job.</p> <p>Moreover, Luxembourg is far from alone in using fiscal loopholes to attract investors.</p> <p> Juncker has pointed out that most EU countries have schemes similar to Luxembourg&#39;s even if others don&#39;t go so far.</p> <p>EU antitrust investigators are already looking into tax deals between the Netherlands and Starbucks and Ireland and Apple, as well as Luxembourg&#39;s arrangements with Amazon and Fiat. More probes are expected to follow.</p> <p>Dutch tax rules in particular are facing scrutiny, and not just as a bolthole for American multinationals.</p> <p>The Netherlands received almost a quarter of all Russian foreign direct investment in the first three months of this year, around $4 billion, according to Russian central bank figures. Dutch-based investors are also the second-biggest group of foreign stockholders in Russia, behind those from fellow EU member Cyprus.</p> <p>Much of the investment is believed to be recycled Russian money.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Europe looks left</a></strong></p> <p>British euro-skeptics howling for Juncker&#39;s skin are silent about corporate tax breaks in mainland Britain, not to mention the fiscal practices of UK offshore territories such as the Cayman Islands, Jersey and Bermuda.</p> <p>Little Luxembourg, however, gets a lot of attention. The authorities there were hugely successful transforming the country into a financial center in the 1980s, when the iron and steel industry that had long been its economic mainstay was in deep decline.</p> <p>Today, the country&#39;s 550,000 inhabitants rival those of Qatar and Kuwait as the world&#39;s richest, with income per head more than double that of neighboring Germany&rsquo;s.</p> <p>Now the country is facing intense pressure to revise its tax policies and Juncker will have to play poacher-turned-gamekeeper if he&#39;s to have any hope of restoring his moral authority among the many people who have seen their own tax bills soar during the economic crisis.</p> BeNeLux Tax dodges Want to Know Politics Global Economy Thu, 20 Nov 2014 05:30:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6319754 at Suicide attackers target foreign compound in Kabul <!--paging_filter--><p>Taliban militants launched a car bomb and suicide attack Wednesday on a compound in Kabul that houses many international contractors, but only the attackers died in the assault, Afghan officials said.</p> <p>One insurgent was killed as he detonated a car packed with explosives at the gate of the &quot;Green Village&quot; compound, while three other attackers were shot dead as they tried to get inside, said deputy interior minister Ayub Salangi.</p> <p>&quot;There are no casualties to our foreign friends or to Afghans, they are all fine,&quot; Salangi said on Twitter.</p> <p>The attack on the Green Village &mdash; a large fortified complex where many foreign employees live and work &mdash; was the latest in a series of suicide blasts in Kabul as US-led NATO troops end their 13-year war against the Taliban.</p> <p>All NATO combat operations will finish at the end of this year, though 12,500 troops will remain into 2015 to support the Afghan army and police who are now responsible for security nationwide.</p> <p>An AFP photographer said gunfire erupted shortly after the blast on Wednesday evening as security forces rushed to the scene in the east of the city.</p> <p>The attack was claimed by the Taliban via a recognized Twitter account that said: &quot;A car bomb targeted Green Village, one of the most secure areas of foreigners.&quot;</p> <p><strong>Kabul targeted&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>On Tuesday, a Taliban suicide truck bomb struck at the entrance of a foreign security compound in Kabul, killing two Afghan guards.</p> <p>And on Sunday, Afghan lawmaker Shukria Barakzai escaped a suicide blast in the city as she drove in a convoy near parliament. Three civilians died in that attack.</p> <p>Kabul has been hit by regular attacks in recent years, often against US-led military forces, foreign workers or government officials.</p> <p>The Green Village was attacked last year when a Taliban suicide bomber detonated another explosives-laden car near the compound entrance.</p> <p>It was also hit in 2012 when seven people were killed after attackers dressed in burqas detonated a similar car bomb.</p> <p>Afghan stability could be at risk as US-led troops pull out, leaving national soldiers and police to take on the lead role in thwarting the Taliban.</p> <p>This year alone more than 4,600 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed in fighting, according to recent US figures.</p> <p>The Taliban launched several offensives this summer during a prolonged political deadlock in Kabul as Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah both claimed to have won the fraud-mired presidential election.</p> <p>The two men eventually signed a power-sharing agreement, with Ghani inaugurated as president and Abdullah appointed to the new position of &quot;chief executive,&quot; a role similar to that of prime minister.</p> <p>Efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban collapsed acrimoniously last year, though the new administration may make fresh moves to open negotiations and bring the conflict to an end.</p> <p>emh/bgs/erf</p> Afghanistan Need to Know Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:20:33 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6319679 at