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A blog devoted to on-the-ground reporting around the world.

Up for reelection, US representatives remember less wealthy constituents

New ‘inequality’ calculus has GOP concerned about cutting jobless benefits.
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People looking for work stand in line to apply for a job during a job fair at the Miami Dolphins Sun Life stadium on May 2, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Election years have a way of focusing the mind, particularly in Washington.


Resolving to keep the focus on rising income inequality in 2014

GlobalPost Special Reports offers a complimentary ebook titled "The Great Divide: Global Income Inequality and Its Cost."
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BOSTON – The issue of rising income inequality pushed its way into the American consciousness in 2013 in a way it never has before.

A consensus has formed around the idea that income inequality is the single most important challenge facing the world, a conviction shared most notably and passionately by two leaders with two very different world views:

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis.


2013: The year income inequality went mainstream

After decades of sitting on the back burner, the data — and the pain — became too much to ignore.
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A man smokes a cigarette outside a restaurant in Hong Kong on September 28, 2013. The same day, Hong Kong announced its first benchmark to measure poverty and found almost 20 percent of residents live in such conditions, a move hailed as a step towards tackling worsening inequality (Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Viewed from the towering heights of America’s financial capital, there are reasons aplenty to celebrate the coming new year.

The official unemployment rate — which peaked at 10 percent in October 2009 — fell to 7 percent by the start of December, a level that prompted President Obama to claim the US economy is “ready for lift off” in 2014.

Perhaps, but Spaceship USA seems intent on leaving an awful lot of people behind on the launch pad.


Overseas Press Club pens open letter to Egypt's el-Sisi after 'deplorable' detention of journalists

Four Al Jazeera journalists have been arrested in Cairo, accused of spreading "false news" that "damaged national security."
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General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attends the funeral of Giza security chief Nabil Farrag in the district of Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, on September 20, 2013. (Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images)

There is more disturbing news today about the continuing crackdown on journalists in Egypt. If the cornerstone of a democracy is indeed a free press, then there is reason for those of us who care about democracy to be concerned. And there is reason for all of us who care about fairness and accuracy in reporting to be concerned.


Deep-sea mining could make 'largest footprint of any single human activity on the planet'

Honolulu, Hawaii is emerging as a hub for a race to extract billions of dollars worth of minerals from the ocean floor.
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The Clipperton Fracture Zone is the nearly horizontal line No. 15 below the Clarion Fracture Zone (14), and the Middle America Trench is the deep-blue line No. 9. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Courtesy)

Modern technologies like cell phones, laptops, wind turbines and hybrid vehicles all require rare minerals, often difficult and expensive to extract from the earth.


Why Madagascar's children have the most at stake in Friday's presidential election

Madagascar’s children have borne the highest costs of the nation's social and economic turmoil since the 2009 coup d'etat. And it will be up to the new president to refocus government priorities.
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Children carry bricks on December 19, 2013 in Antananarivo, ahead of the upcoming presidential election. (Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — As the east African island nation of Madagascar picks a president on Friday, five years after a coup d’état sent the country spiraling into crisis, the political dynamics will be closely scrutinized. Will there be post-election violence? How will the impasse between the toppled former president Marc Ravalomanana and his successor, Andry Rajoelina, resolve itself? Will the government shed its pariah status among the international community?

But those with the most at stake will play no role in the political intrigue. Amid unprecedented social and economic turmoil since the 2009 coup, Madagascar’s children have borne the highest costs.

“It’s what you would see in countries like DRC,” says Steve Lauwerier, the UNICEF country director. Except, he adds, “We didn’t have a war. There was no big economic crisis. There was no reason that this should happen.”

What has happened is a peacetime humanitarian collapse of startling proportions. While other African nations have progressed rapidly in health and education, Madagascar has stagnated or regressed. Half of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnourishment, or “stunting,” the fourth-highest rate in the world. At least 1.5 million children do not attend school — which the world bank estimates could be an increase of 600,000 since 2009.


Anti-corruption protests in Bucharest take off as Romanians get political

"I don't want to be an activist," said one demonstrator. "But I want kids, and I don't want to them to grow up in a world like this so I will keep coming as long as they need me."

BUCHAREST, Romania — At least a thousand people took to the streets of Bucharest on Sunday night to protest a series of amendments to the criminal code passed in secret earlier last week, which reduces criminal consequences for politicians and eliminates public investigation of their crimes.

Government watchdogs believe the changes to the code "shield elected officials from corruption prosecution" by giving officials the option of instead replacing lost funds and paying a criminal fine.

"In other words," said activist group Transparency International Romania, "the grand corrupt will be able to buy their freedom."

The amendments also recriminalize "defamation" — which had been decriminalized in 2006 — which the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said could "stifle debate and be used to protect public officials from criticism. Fear of criminal charges might lead to self-censorship and can ultimately have a chilling effect on investigative journalism." 

The United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and European Commission have all criticized the recent amendments to the criminal code, according to a Romanian national news agency and an official press release from the US government.

What started as static protests in Bucharest’s University Square, quickly turned more aggressive as protesters marched to Palatul Victoria, the seat of the Romanian government. Hundreds of riot police, sometimes three deep, armed with batons and gas, formed barricades as protesters attempted to reach the government building.

Police officers broke protesters into groups and blockaded their march to the government building. After breaking through the lines of riot police, demonstrators moved against traffic through standstill cars, many which honked in solidarity, and continued almost 2 kilometers to the government headquarters.

Protests in Romania have grown in frequency, happening every Sunday night for the past several months since September 1, when more than 20,000 people came out against the Rosia Montana project. Many Romanians said these kinds of protests are out of character for this country, even considering the 1989 fall of the communist regime.

But these rallies seem different, demonstrators said.


Seeking the will to prosecute modern-day slavery

Human trafficking remains a massive global undertaking with a surprising number of cases in the US. Though prosecution is exceedingly rare, a London gathering celebrated those who are fighting to change that.
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An alleged Indian human trafficking victim (R) is hugged by her sister after being rescued from a village in Karnal around 100 kilometers from New Delhi on September 16, 2013. In India, mostly women are trafficked or tricked into different forms of slavery ranging from domestic service to prostitution. Desperately poor parents also sell their children who are then forced into begging rackets and manual labor. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, some 38,000 children were kidnapped last year in India compared with 33,000 the year before. Child rights groups say the actual number is probably much higher. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — From the global underworld of human trafficking came stories of modern-day slavery: prostitutes from Eastern Europe with barcodes tattooed to their arms to signify ownership by pimps in New York; Nepalese men kept inside storage containers and forced to work as bonded labor in Dubai; and Indian girls, some as young as eight, trapped in a labyrinth of brothels with padlocked cages in Mumbai.


The definitive glossary of modern US military slang

The past 12 years at war in Iraq and Afghanistan have given rise to an expansive (and amazing) new military vocabulary.
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Moon Dust: The earth around a combat outpost is rent by heavy construction vehicles. As the loosened dust dries, it gains the consistency of flour. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

KABUL, Afghanistan — It's painful for US soldiers to hear discussions and watch movies about modern wars when the dialogue is full of obsolete slang, like "chopper" and "GI."

Slang changes with the times, and the military's is no different. Soldiers fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have developed an expansive new military vocabulary, taking elements from popular culture as well as the doublespeak of the military industrial complex.


US opposition to ambitious Indian program a 'direct attack on the right to food'

Opinion: The Obama administration's objection to India's newly approved Food Security Act is an act of hypocrisy.
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A low-wage earning Indian day laborer removes excess rice from a bag at a grains depot near New Delhi on August 27, 2013, one day after the Indian parliament passed a flagship $18 billion program to provide subsidized food to the poor that is intended to "wipe out" endemic hunger and malnutrition in the aspiring superpower. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

BALI, Indonesia — In the lead-up to this week’s World Trade Organization negotiations, the Obama administration has tried to block the implementation of a new program approved by the Indian government that could help feed its 830 million hungry people in a cost-effective way.

The Obama administration’s objection to the program is a direct attack on the right to food, and it threatens to kill the chances for any agreement at the WTO.

The Indian government’s newly approved Food Security Act is one of the world’s most ambitious efforts to reduce chronic hunger. Under the new program, the Indian government will buy staple foods from small farmers at administered prices, generally above market levels, thereby supporting the incomes of some of the country’s most impoverished people. From those stocks, the government will provide food to the poor, generally at below-market prices, and to public initiatives such as school-based lunch programs.