ISIS Captures Palestinian Refugee Camp

Yarmouk is a long suffering settlement. Things are poised to get much worse. “Islamic State (IS) militants have entered the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Damascus, activists and Palestinian officials say. Clashes erupted between the militants and groups inside the camp, with IS seizing control of large parts of the camp, reports said.The UN says about 18,000 Palestinian refugees are inside the camp. IS militants have seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq. But this is the group’s first major attack near the heart of the Syrian capital.” (BBC http://bbc.in/1yCjhqp)

A Horrid  Week for Aid Workers…”The International Red Cross has issued a warning about the safety of humanitarian workers in modern conflict zones after three of its staff were killed in three separate countries on the same day. The three volunteers with the Red Cross and Red Crescent were all killed on Monday, in apparently targeted attacks as they were working in Syria, Yemen, and Mali.” (Telegraph http://bit.ly/1COYBAK

Welcome to the ICC’s newest member…The Palestinian Authority became a member of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, with a low-key ceremony at the court’s headquarters marking the high-stakes move. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BNqjsH)

Human Achievement of the day: 117. That was the age of the world’s oldest person, Japan’s Misao Okawa. She passed away one month after turning 117. “Her birth on March 5, 1898 predated the Wright brothers’ first powered human flight by five years, she was already a teenager when World War I broke out and in her 70s by the time of the first moon landing.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1xYC4l0)

Africa

A day after becoming the first politician in Nigerian history to succeed a sitting leader by ballot, president-elect Muhammadu Buhari promised on Wednesday to “spare no effort” to defeat Islamist militant group Boko Haram. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1C9CVKq)

Sierra Leone found 10 new Ebola cases during a three-day countrywide shutdown, an official said Wednesday, declaring that the West African country is now at the “tail end” of the epidemic. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ghg0D2)

Unknown attackers fired shells at a United Nations base on the outskirts of a town in northern Mali early on Wednesday, residents said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1xzNfAb)

The U.N.’s human rights chief said Wednesday his office has received reports that Boko Haram fighters retreating from advancing military forces in Nigeria murdered women and girls they had taken as “wives,” along with other captives. (AP http://yhoo.it/1DpTkBF)

Africa’s envoy to the European Union warned Wednesday that EU plans to process migrants in the countries they leave or transit on their way to Europe are “a dangerous approach.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ghg85D)

The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that it would lend Burundi $6.9 million to shore up the aid-dependent central African nation, months before a presidential election in June. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BNqSCT)

MENA

Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed Shiite rebel positions Wednesday across Yemen as a missile strike on a dairy factory killed 35 workers, authorities said, as both sides disputed who fired on it. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HjxxJz)

Egypt and Nigeria accounted for an “alarming rise” in the number of death sentences handed out around the world in 2014, often on the back of security concerns, Amnesty International said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Ghg7yu)

Jordan on Wednesday closed its main border crossing with Syria amid fierce clashes between rebels and pro-regime forces for control of the post. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HjxzB8)

Asia

Thailand’s junta lifted martial law in most of the nation, but 10 months after staging a coup, it remains firmly in control — with new laws invoked Wednesday that essentially give it absolute power. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HjxCwS)

A rockslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed at least nine miners, and rescuers were searching for around 20 others, state media reported on Wednesday, two days after the accident. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1HjxIVh)

Thousands of doctors in Nepal stayed away from work at clinics and hospitals Wednesday to support a colleague who has been on a hunger strike for 10 days demanding reforms in medical education and services. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HjxwW2)

Residents of the Micronesian State of Chuuk were struggling to clear the roads of huge pieces of debris and return to damaged homes Wednesday as Super Typhoon Maysak cut a destructive path across the central Pacific leaving at least five dead. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HjxFc3)

Female genital mutilation, banned by the WHO, seems to be common in the three Muslim-majority southern provinces of Thailand, but officials are taking no action. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1I5BtkM)

The United Nation Children’s Fund on Tuesday denied a media report that measles has broken out in North Korea. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OZXcfD)

The Americas

Mexican police have arrested a man in connection with the 2010 massacre of 72 migrants, officials said Tuesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HjxCNr)

The death toll from heavy rains and flooding that battered Chile last week has risen to 23, with another 57 still missing, and President Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday she would cancel upcoming trips to lead ongoing reconstruction efforts. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BNqQe7)

The once-popular presidents of Brazil and Chile have both seen their approval ratings plunge amid corruption scandals that have battered their center-left governments, according to polls released Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Hjxu0m)

The Brazilian army began to pull out of one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent slums on Wednesday, with police assuming responsibility for security in the area. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HjxDkn)

In addition to other forms of discrimination, lesbian and bisexual women in Cuba face unequal treatment from public health services. Their specific sexual and reproductive health needs are ignored, and they are invisible in prevention and treatment campaigns for women. (IPS http://bit.ly/1GhlZI3)

…and the rest

Turkish security forces on Wednesday shot dead a female assailant after she and an accomplice sought to attack the Istanbul police headquarters, as the city reeled from its second deadly shoot-out in two days. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Hjxy03)

A record number of migrants will drown in the Mediterranean this year if the current death rate remains unchecked, after 10 times as many migrants lost their lives during the first three months of 2015 as during the equivalent period in 2014. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1I5BvJt)

Trevor Noah, the South African comedian chosen to replace Jon Stewart as the new host of the late-night comedy parody, “The Daily Show” was feeling the heat on Twitter on Tuesday for past comments he made about Jews and women. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GhmaTY)

Opinion/Blog

A Human Rights Catastrophe is Unfolding in Yemen. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1MzY9gb)

The way we give disaster aid to poor countries makes no sense (Vox http://bit.ly/1Ca4bsk)

Trevor Noah is funny but he’s no Jon Stewart, South Africans say (Fusion http://fus.in/1Ca4jYN)

Where Do the World’s Hungriest People Live? Not Where You Think (Huffington Post http://huff.to/1InqNuv)

Nepal’s failed development (Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/19KV7U8)

Will Nigeria’s New President Live Up to His Country’s Promise? (CGD http://bit.ly/1DpYE86)

SDGs: The 169 commandments (The Economist http://econ.st/19KUtpE)

Key points in Buhari’s Nigerian election win (AFP http://yhoo.it/1GhfmFJ)

#Nigeriadecides: how Buhari’s election played out on Twitter (Guardian http://bit.ly/1I5B2Xu)

Syria pledging conference: Three key trends (IRIN http://bit.ly/1xzKgHP)

World Leaders Lack Ambition to Tackle Climate Crisis (IPS http://bit.ly/1GhlyxA)

Nigeria: Analyst Predicts Security Revamp After Buhari Victory (Deutsche Welle http://bit.ly/1xzO0Jo)

A Key Climate Deadline Passes. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1yCkduR)

Discussion

comments…

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USA is Pulling Military from the Ebola Fight

At one point nearly 3,000 troops were deployed to the region. “President Barack Obama is set to announce on Wednesday that he will bring back nearly all of the 1,300 U.S. troops deployed in West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic by April 30, the White House said late on Tuesday. Obama, who was excoriated last fall for a slow start to his Ebola outbreak response, will hold a White House event to showcase how U.S. leadership helped stem the epidemic, which has killed almost 9,000 people, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The number of new cases each week has dropped to about 150 in recent reports, down from more than 1,000 new cases per week in October, the White House said.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1E66qjc)

Just in time for the new season of House of Cards…Netflix began selling its Internet video service in Cuba in what appears to be a largely symbolic move driven by the recent loosening of U.S. restrictions on doing business with the communist-run island. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ATjvig)

Bend it like…David Beckham has marked his 10th year as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF by setting up a new personal fund, saying he wants to “raise millions” to help protect the world’s most vulnerable children. (AP http://yhoo.it/1vgC3lq)

Humanity Affirming Missive of the Day: Slain aid worker Kyla Mueller wrote an extraordinarily beautiful letter while being held captive by ISIS. She was confirmed to have been killed today. (Vox http://bit.ly/1E65yv9)

Stat of the Day: The number of deaths from Ebola has risen to 9,152, a sharp increase following weeks in which the outbreak appeared to be weakening. (VOA http://bit.ly/1E3nzdp)

Nigeria/Boko Haram

The UN food agency on Tuesday voiced concern for the 125,000 Nigerian refugees who have fled to southeast Niger, where Boko Haram militants have launched attacks in recent days. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1DfPwAC)

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamic extremists have abducted about 30 people including eight Cameroonian girls and killed seven hostages in two bus hijackings in Cameroon and Nigeria, Cameroon residents and a Nigerian intelligence officer said Tuesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1y7wt4Y)

The decision to postpone Nigeria’s elections by six weeks has met with criticism at home and abroad. Voters in Nigeria say they are disappointed. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vgC5tH)

Niger’s parliament unanimously authorized sending troops to battle Boko Haram militants as part of a regional force, lawmakers said after a vote late Monday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1y7wupH)

Africa

International troops clashed with ex-Seleka rebels in Central African Republic Tuesday, just a day after at least 10 villagers were killed in a new flare up of violence. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ztxvsx)

Rebels in South Sudan stormed towns in two states on Tuesday and were repulsed, the army said, barely a week after signing another ceasefire deal with the government that was meant to end 15 months of conflict. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1DfPxo3)

International donors at a conference in Nairobi have pledged an additional $529 million toward humanitarian relief in war-torn South Sudan. But despite the outpouring of goodwill at the conference, there was an undercurrent of frustration with the country’s leadership for prolonging the civil conflict. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vgBV5x)

Around a dozen Guineans were wounded Monday in clashes with police after the arrest of an imam who led funeral prayers for a suspected victim of Ebola. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ATk5N0)

Rights activists have demanded the release of a former government minister and a top army officer they say are being held without charge by Gambian secret police. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1vgBYhJ)

Rebel fighters in South Sudan bombarded government positions Tuesday in the oil town of Bentiu, a day after the UN launched a $1.8 billion aid appeal to stave off famine in the war-wracked country. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1y7vdPk)

Nearly a quarter of a million people have been affected by the devastating floods that ripped through Malawi a month ago, and with rains still falling, many of the 230,000 who were forced to flee their homes have been unable to return and rebuild their lives, the UN said. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Df09ne)

In Guinea, where West Africa’s Ebola outbreak began, hostility towards aid workers – fuelled by ever more far-fetched rumours – is undermining efforts to contain the deadly virus. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1y7wLZH)

Some 16,600 children are registered as having lost one or both parents, or their primary caregivers to Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but less than 3 per cent have had to be placed outside family or community care. (UNICEF http://bit.ly/1CdSELK)

More than 300 people, including opposition leaders, remain in detention in Democratic Republic of Congo after protests last month, reinforcing concerns that President Joseph Kabila plans to cling to power beyond his legal mandate. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1y7wG8s)

A British gold mining firm whose hired police officers​ were involved in an incident that saw ​Tanzanian villagers killed and injured has settled claims brought against it in the London high court. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1DB7nSV)

MENA

The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Egypt has released video purporting to show the beheading of eight Bedouin men it accused of working for the Egyptian and Israeli armies. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Df0bve)

Saudi Arabia’s state news agency says authorities have executed a Syrian man convicted of smuggling a large quantity of amphetamine pills. (AP http://yhoo.it/1DeZMcg)

Human Rights Watch urged the Louvre and Guggenheim museums Tuesday to pressure the United Arab Emirates to end worker abuse on a project that will host branches of the institutions. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E3nuX7)

The offensive by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq has displaced an estimated 2 million people, and psychiatrists say as many as half of them may be suffering psychological effects from their ordeal. (VOA http://bit.ly/1DfPU1L)

Asia

An upstart anti-establishment party crushed India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in a Delhi state election on Tuesday, smashing an aura of invincibility built around Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he swept to power last year. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1CdSIes)

Malaysia’s highest court has upheld a sodomy conviction against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, rejecting a final appeal in a case dating back almost seven years. (VOA http://bit.ly/1M9IyB5)

Nepal formed two commissions Tuesday that would probe crimes committed during a decade-long communist insurgency and investigate the cases of hundreds of people who disappeared during the period, a government minister said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1y7v6Do)

Thailand and Myanmar are working on big plans to boost trade and entice businesses to locate along their long land border. The influx of money is reshaping a region that has suffered from long-running ethnic conflicts. (VOA http://bit.ly/1DeTOIl)

Ten infants and young children died in a single night in an overcrowded state-run hospital in northeastern Bangladesh, prompting authorities to investigate whether staff negligence was involved, officials said Tuesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1DeZFxe)

The U.N. Human Rights office said on Tuesday it was “disappointed” by the Malaysian Federal Court ruling upholding the conviction on sodomy charges of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1y7viCD)

East Timor’s president chose former health minister Rui Araujo to be the new prime minister of the poverty-stricken country, the government said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1y7wAO8)

Myanmar troops fought Kokang ethnic rebels in clashes near the Chinese border that the government says the guerrillas provoked, state media reported Tuesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1E3niqU)

The Americas

Mexican officials have been approached by more than 100 people who fear their relatives are among 60 bodies found rotting in an abandoned crematorium in Acapulco, authorities said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1M9IjWK)

Police in Haiti have clashed with anti-government protesters angry about the high cost of fuel. Several people were injured as police moved in to clear roadblocks set up in the capital, Port-au-Prince. (BBC http://bbc.in/1CdSBj0)

An Argentine prosecutor’s mysterious death days after he made criminal charges against President Cristina Fernandez is part of an attempt to unseat her and bring neoliberals back to power, a senior government official said”. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1M9Ivp5)

Condoms are the latest item to become scarce — and costly — in Venezuela. Once easy to find, condoms disappeared from pharmacy shelves as the year started, along with many food and cleaning products. (AP http://yhoo.it/1vgC5d7)

The HIV pandemic in the Caribbean is fueled by a range of social and economic inequalities and is sustained by high levels of stigma, discrimination against the most at-risk and marginalized populations and persistent gender inequality, violence and homophobia. (IPS http://bit.ly/1ztxiFL)

A plan to reduce climate-changing emissions from Brazil’s steel industry has failed, causing the amount of carbon pollution produced by the sector to double in less than a decade, researchers said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1DfPlVZ)

Opinion/Blogs

Why democracy may have to wait in the Central African Republic (IRIN http://bit.ly/1y7fIa7)

People Power, the Solution to Climate Inaction (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1Df05DZ)

Can Somalia Pull Out of Perpetual Crisis? (VOA http://bit.ly/1ztxPaA)

When did extreme poverty end in today’s “rich world”? (Chris Blattman http://bit.ly/1vhtQh1)

Economics has an Africa problem (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1zTUccY)

Key Economic Debates in Nigeria’s Election (Sahel Blog http://bit.ly/1zTUhgT)

Things You Can’t Say in Burma (Wronging Rights http://bit.ly/1MaD214)

Making Sense of the Decision to Postpone Nigeria’s February 14 Elections (An Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1zTUrVr)

Debunking 4 arguments in favour of voluntourism (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1MaD6xX)

Research/Reports

Safety Nets in Africa: Effective Mechanisms to Reach the Poor and Most Vulnerable (World Bank http://bit.ly/1E3pdLZ)

Discussion

comments…

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And the Most Corrupt Countries Areā€¦

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North Korea and Somalia, says the latest corruption perceptions index from Transparency International. “More than two thirds of the 175 countries in the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). Denmark comes out on top in 2014 with a score of 92 while North Korea and Somalia share last place, scoring just eight. The scores of several countries rose or fell by four points or more. The biggest falls were in Turkey (-5), Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda (all -4). The biggest improvers were Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (+5), Afghanistan, Jordan, Mali and Swaziland (+4). (TI http://bit.ly/1pUDLeX)

Desperate times….The World Food Program is resorting to crowd funding to feed 1.7 million Syrian refugees because our humanitarian system is broken (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12ngoPX)

Ebola

A health official says another Sierra Leonean doctor has tested positive for Ebola, the 11th from that country to become infected. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yPNhSc)

British actor Idris Elba and a host of international football stars launched a public awareness campaign on Wednesday to help halt West Africa’s Ebola epidemic and recognise the health workers fighting the deadly disease. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNOKGp)

To understand how Ebola came to Taylortown, how it spread in the village and how it eventually ended in the village is to understand how the epidemic might end in Liberia, and what will be left behind. (NPR http://n.pr/1pUEtZE)

Africa

Four Somalis were killed when a car bomb hit a United Nations convoy near the capital’s international airport on Wednesday, showing the threat still posed by insurgents despite their recent loss of territory. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPAvmB)

Kenyan trade unions have urged non-Muslim public sector workers including teachers and doctors to leave the country’s lawless northern region, site of two deadly attacks by militants in the past two weeks, because of the security risks. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPuW7U)

Lawmakers in Cameroon, which is battling to stop the advance of Nigerian Boko Haram militants on its territory, will vote in the coming days on whether to impose the death penalty on those found guilty of involvement in acts of terrorism. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNMCi4)

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday rejected prosecutors’ attempts to have the trial against Kenya’s president adjourned until they had enough evidence and set a week deadline to proceed or withdraw the charges. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNMUFH)

The UN-sanctioned military mission to Somalia, known as AMISOM, is taking on a new role after freeing much of the country from al-Shabab control. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNRaos)

A multilingual mobile phone-based resource operated by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Ethio Telecom, and created by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), has proved a huge hit. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1yPIkZw)

Presidential polls in Namibia have incumbent prime minister Hage Geigob of the ruling SWAPO party leading with 84 percent of the roughly 10 percent of votes officially released so far but the new electronic polling gizmos are leaving some Namibians skeptical. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNRXGc)

MENA

An Egyptian judge sentenced 185 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death on Tuesday over an attack on a police station near Cairo last year in which 12 policemen were killed. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPBgvW)

Syrian refugees across the Middle East, some in exile for a fourth winter, face freezing temperatures, hunger and increasing hostility from locals as governments struggle to cope with the humanitarian crisis. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPGrMu)

The United Nations has begun investigating Israeli attacks that hit UN facilities during last summer’s Gaza war and how Palestinian militants came to store weapons at several UN schools, officials said on Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNRfc3)

HRW urged Turkey on Wednesday to remove from its border with Syria landmines which have killed three people and wounded nine among more than 2,000 Syrian refugees camped in a minefield. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1pUAcFE)

Belgian legislators from the ruling coalition are working on a non-binding resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, adding to the groundswell of support within the European Union. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yNnvx3)

Asia

Research on a male birth control pill from Indonesia shows that it is 99% effective. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1yPBLGz)

Hundreds of people marched through the central Indian city of Bhopal Tuesday, waving flaming torches to commemorate the thousands who perished in the world’s deadliest industrial disaster 30 years ago. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNPYSd)

India is forcing women and girls with disabilities into mental institutions where they are “treated worse than animals,” said Human Rights Watch in a new report. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPFbZP)

The two top generals of the junta running Thailand on Wednesday defended the May 22 coup that ousted the civilian government but told international audiences in Bangkok they are committed to a return to democracy. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPH6h8)

It looks like Tajikistan is following a regional trend by drafting legislation that may sharply restrict the activities of foreign-funded non-governmental organisations. Activists say the bill threatens to hinder the operations of hundreds of organisations working on everything from human rights to public health. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNStnC)

Afghanistan will send a delegation to Iran to ask the government to extend temporary visas to allow 760,000 Afghan refugees who have no documents and risk deportation to stay on for at least a year, an Afghan government spokesman said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzB6H)

Afghanistan’s foreign donors should press the Afghan government to prevent a further deterioration in the country’s human rights situation and support services crucial to rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said. (AI and HRW http://bit.ly/1yNA7nQ)

The Americas

Venezuelan opposition leader faced questions from prosecutors Wednesday over her alleged involvement in what the government says was a plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yNpzFd)

Mayor of the Honduran municipality of Victoria, Sandro Martínez, assumed the commitment of turning it into a model of food and nutritional security and environmental protection by means of municipal public policies based on broad social and community participation and international development aid. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNS9VT)

Destruction of the Peruvian Amazon is rising after expanding over more than 145,000 hectares (560 square miles) last year – an 80 percent jump from the start of the century, the government said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1vNT2xx)

Afghanistan has the world’s highest number of children killed or wounded by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, followed by Colombia, according to a leading anti-landmine group. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzM21)

In the past 15 years, studies in Africa have found that circumcision lowers men’s risk of being infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. Being circumcised also reduces men’s risk of infection with the herpes virus and human papillomavirus. Those health benefits prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s proposed recommendation that doctors counsel parents of baby boys and teenagers, as well as men, on the benefits and risks of circumcision. (NPR http://n.pr/1yNt7XY)

Opinion/Blogs

Did the movement to reform development start above a Chipotle? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1vOyvZW)

The World Food Program is Crowdfunding to feed Syrian Refugees Because our Humanitarian System is Broken (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12ngoPX)

One Village’s Story: How Ebola Began And How It Ends (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1vOywgl)

#ISurvivedEbola Campaign Releases First Video (Global Voices http://bit.ly/1yPCUxH)

Why are people with disabilities being denied their right to food? (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1vNRnrT)

‘Why we need to end drug war’ (CNN http://cnn.it/1vNPziz)

How to make the developing world’s cities better … and it’s not just about money (Guardian http://bit.ly/1vNPHia)

Stand in Solidarity with Courageous Women’s Human Rights Defenders (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNRKm9)

Bob Geldof’s Band Aid – Thank You but Africa’s Image Is Sagging (The Independent http://bit.ly/1yNyEOp)

The ADB Says Poverty Is Rising in Asia: I Have My Doubts (CGD http://bit.ly/1pUGvJd)

Research/Reports 

Marleen Temmerman, director of the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said that a safe, effective vaccine exists to stop cervical cancer and that it’s advisable for girls age 9 to 13 to get vaccinated before they become sexually active. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPEAHF)

This year is on track to be the hottest on record, or at least among the very warmest, the United Nations said on Wednesday in new evidence of long-term warming that adds urgency to 190-nation talks under way in Lima on slowing climate change. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzJmJ)

Thousands of men, women and children fleeing war-ravaged countries face dreadful holding conditions and a dysfunctional reception system after risking their lives in smuggling boats to reach Greece’s Aegean Sea islands, an international medical aid organization warned on Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pUAXP4)

Developing nations called on the rich to do more to lead the fight against climate change in line with scientific findings that global greenhouse gas emissions should fall to net zero by 2100 to avert the worst impacts. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1yNsbmy)

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Press Releases: U.S. Engagement in the 2014 ASEAN Regional Forum

On August 10 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, Secretary of State John Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the 21st Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), an annual gathering of foreign ministers and senior officials representing 26 countries from Pakistan to the Pacific Rim, and the European Union. The ARF is the region’s main foreign minister-level forum for promoting security, and this year it addressed pressing political and security issues including: maritime cooperation in the South China Sea and diplomatic solutions to decrease tension among claimant states; concerns over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear program and human rights situation; the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza; and regional cooperation on issues ranging from cyber-security to nonproliferation to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). The ministers adopted statements on cooperation for offshore oil spill incidents and maritime and aeronautical search and rescue.

The ARF ministers also endorsed ARF activities held during the past year and approved over 20 proposed activities for the coming year. These activities cover several key security areas, including: preventive diplomacy; maritime security; disaster response; counterterrorism and transnational crime; and nonproliferation and disarmament. The United States is actively engaged in all areas and is committed to working through the ARF to shape a rules-based order that is stable, peaceful, open and free.

Preventive Diplomacy

A top priority for U.S. engagement in the ARF is advancing the forum from a body focused on confidence building to one capable of preventive diplomacy. Preventive diplomacy refers to timely, non-coercive and peaceful methods consistent with international law to deal with disputes and conflict.

  • In March, the United States, Brunei, China, and New Zealand hosted a Roundtable on Training Resources for Preventive Diplomacy in Wellington, New Zealand that established a foundation for future preventive diplomacy training in the ARF.
     
  • Building on momentum from the Wellington roundtable, the United States with support from the United States Institute of Peace will partner with China, New Zealand, and Thailand to hold a preventive diplomacy training course later this year.
     
  • Leveraging regional think tank and academic expertise is important to the development of an effective, comprehensive approach to regional preventive diplomacy. To this end, the United States will co-chair with New Zealand and Thailand a Preventive Diplomacy Symposium to facilitate the exchange of ideas between governmental and non-governmental experts on how best to implement preventive diplomacy training in the ARF.
     
  • The United States submitted input to the ARF Annual Security Outlook, which provides a comprehensive outline of U.S. regional security policies and capabilities in the region, to encourage full transparency in military resources and strategy among ARF members.

Maritime Security

With over 40 percent of the world’s seaborne trade flowing through the Asia Pacific, maintaining open sea lines of communication and ensuring freedom of navigation and other lawful uses of the seas are critical for regional security and stability. As a Pacific nation, the United States continues to prioritize maritime security cooperation through the promotion of freedom of navigation, international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and unimpeded lawful commerce.

  • In May, the United States, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea hosted the Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security in Bali, Indonesia, concluding a three-year co-chairmanship. The agenda focused on building confidence and sharing best practices on safety of navigation, maritime search and rescue, and combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Participants also exchanged views on pressing maritime security issues in the region, including concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea, where tensions have risen over disputed territorial and maritime claims. The United States will continue to encourage greater multilateral cooperation through increased transparency and confidence building as it continues its co-chairmanship of the Maritime Security ISM for another three years, partnering with Japan and the Philippines.
     
  • The United States, through a partnership with Brunei, China, Japan, and Singapore, promoted positive maritime cooperation through two marine environmental protection workshops that focused on offshore oil spills, leading to the ARF Ministers’ Statement on Cooperation.
     
  • The United States will also co-chair a seminar next year on counter-piracy with Japan, Malaysia, and India, that will address challenges faced by coastal countries in addressing piracy and armed robbery in Asia.

Disaster Relief

Seventy percent of all natural disasters occur in the Asia Pacific, costing the region $68 billion annually over the past ten years. Through continued, dedicated efforts, ARF participants have made considerable progress in the area of disaster relief, taking lessons learned, including from the recent super typhoon Haiyan, and working to improve the capabilities of ASEAN’s Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre).

  • The United States has participated in three ARF Disaster Relief Exercises (DiREx), including as co-chair in 2009. In order to strengthen regional cooperation and improve regional disaster response, the United States will continue robust participation and support for DiREx in 2015, led by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and supported by U.S. Pacific Command and other U.S. agencies.
     
  • Climate change is a complex strategic driver with significant economic, societal, and political implications. Initiatives to adapt to a changing climate are already underway in the Asia Pacific, including in the ARF, where the United States and Brunei will co-chair a climate change adaptation workshop to build regional awareness and capacity to address this challenge. The United States is also working with Singapore and Vietnam to promote the use of renewable fuels within the U.S.-Asia-Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership.
     
  • The United States is working with Australia and Malaysia to develop a multi-year strategic exercise plan for the region’s various HA/DR bodies and mechanisms—namely the ASEAN Committee on Diaster Management, ARF, the ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting Plus and the East Asia Summit— to prepare us to better coordinate delivery of life-saving relief in future disasters.

Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime

The ARF addresses four core areas in its work on counterterrorism and transnational crime: illicit drugs; cyber security; counter-radicalization; and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) issues. The ARF is making efforts to improve collaboration among regional governments to address these issues:

  • The United States is working with Singapore to conduct the next in a series of cyber workshops focused on developing confidence building measures for the region. As national security interests are increasingly tied to cyberspace, the development of confidence building measures that facilitate increased transparency, greater cooperation, and improved capacity within the region is essential to reducing the risk of future conflict.
     
  • The ARF Cross-Sectoral Security Cooperation on Bio-Preparedness and Disaster Response project, led by the United States and the Philippines, is a series of workshops and activities designed to implement the best practices approved by the 20th ARF. ARF participants can draw from their best practices to develop their respective national guidelines and enhance regional capacity for preparedness and collective response to a biological event .
     
  • This year the United States, Indonesia, and Myanmar will host a workshop on migration and human security to strengthen regional knowledge and capacity to address the human security challenges of migration and to promote the benefits of legal, safe, and orderly migration.
     
  • The United States and Malaysia will co-chair a workshop on mitigating demand for illegal wildlife trafficking in the Asia Pacific. Wildlife traffickers have become increasingly well-armed and organized, and what was once small scale or opportunistic killing has escalated into the coordinated slaughter of endangered and protected wildlife commissioned by terrorist organizations and organized crime syndicates. This joint U.S.-Malaysian effort will complement wildlife trafficking-related activities planned in APEC and other fora, as well as the work of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

Nonproliferation and Disarmament

The ARF is the premier regional venue for multilateral cooperation on nonproliferation and disarmament issues through tangible capacity building programs and open discussions to coordinate efforts and build common understanding.

  • The United States partnered with other members to institutionalize the discussion on nonproliferation and disarmament issues in the ARF and to develop a work plan that promotes balance for the three central pillars of the global nonproliferation regime: preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and advancing global disarmament efforts.
     
  • This year, the United States, the European Union, and Singapore will host a technical workshop on nuclear forensics.

Space Security

Capitalizing on the first ARF space security workshop, the United States, Indonesia, and Japan will lead a workshop to explore the benefits of space assets for ASEAN states, address current issues facing the space environment, and assess approaches to space security to ensure the benefits for future generations.

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Top of the Morning: Malawi Election Problems

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Malawi’s ruling People Party has found “serious irregularities” in the counting and announcement of results from its May 20 election, President Joyce Banda said on Thursday, ordering a “manual audit” of the process. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1n4Osat)

Nigerian teachers went on strike and staged rallies nationwide on Thursday in protest against the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Islamist Boko Haram sect and the killing of nearly as many teachers during its insurgency. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1n4N4F1)

Waring forces in South Sudan are continuing to block United Nations peacekeepers as the civil war that has devastated the young nation continues to rage, the UN said. (APhttp://yhoo.it/1n4UGXV)

Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab vowed Thursday to move their war to neighbouring Kenya, one of the top commanders said in broadcast urging fighters to launch attacks. (APhttp://yhoo.it/1n4TFz1)

Continued fighting and displacement in the Central African Republic has left tens of thousands of abandoned and severely traumatized children in critical need of mental health care, says the international organization, SOS Children’s Villages. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nvksTF)

MENA

Syria’s presidential election is just a fortnight away and Damascenes fear rebels will mark it with fierce mortar bombardment on the capital, or even a devastating tunnel bomb similar to attacks in northern Syria. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1nvfmGM)

Syria has made no progress in relinquishing a last batch of chemical weapons it says is inaccessible due to fighting, making it increasingly likely it will miss a final deadline to destroy its toxic stockpile, Britain said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1n4X94O)

Turkish relief agency said it would oppose what it called an imminent Israeli offer to pay compensation for a commando raid on its Gaza-bound aid flotilla in exchange for dropping lawsuits over the attack. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1n4XRyU)

Asia

According to a new UN report, seizures of illegal methamphetamine drugs around the world last year reached a new high, in response to the growing supply and demand of the illegal drugs in East and Southeast Asia. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nvbCFt)

“Land grabs” in Laos are driving poor farmers, including ethnic minorities, off their land, away from livelihoods they know and into further poverty, activists and experts say. (IRINhttp://bit.ly/1n4QabW)

Anti-government protesters in Thailand have dispersed for the first time since the country’s latest political crisis began six months ago. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nvg4Ed)

An Asian Development Bank official warned Thursday of a largely unnoticed crisis in Southeast Asia: private investment in infrastructure has not recovered in the nearly two decades since the Asian financial crisis. (AP http://yhoo.it/1n4VLPr)

The Americas

Democracy may have swept almost all of Latin America, but one of its pillars is looking shaky. Press freedom in the region has sunk to a five-year low. Now just 2 percent of the region’s population lives in a completely free media environment — on par with the Middle East and North Africa. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1nv8B80)

Pending legislation calling for US President Barack Obama to impose sanctions against key Venezuelan officials is unlikely to defuse the ongoing crisis there and could prove counter-productive, according to both the administration and independent experts. (IPS http://bit.ly/1nvbllP)

Opinion/Blogs

Ethiopia crackdown on student protests taints higher education success (Guardianhttp://bit.ly/1n4Qo2G)

 

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