A federal jury has convicted one former Blackwater contractor of murder and three of his colleagues of voluntary manslaughter in the deadly shootings of 14 unarmed civilians killed in Baghdad’s Nisour Square seven years ago. The massacre resulted in a wave of popular anger in Iraq against the United States and the army of private security contractors it employed there. It also sealed the reputation of Blackwater as a trigger-happy mercenary outfit whose recklessness and insensitivity to local populations jeopardised Washington’s interests in conflict situations. IPS reports.
Climate warriors from a range of small island states including Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands and Samoa, are taking on the coal industry in Australia by paddling canoes into the sea to block ships from entering the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle. For these populations, the fossil fuel industry poses one of the gravest threats to their very existence.
For girls living in northern Pakistan’s sprawling tribal regions, the struggle for education began long before that fateful day when members of the Taliban shot a 15-year-old schoolgirl in the head. Still, the news that Malala Yousafzai – a former resident of the Swat Valley – won the Nobel Peace Prize brought hope to those battling the Taliban. “It will be a motivational force for parents to send their daughters back to school,” said Muhammad Shafique, a professor at the University of Peshawar.
The UN has estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste globally every year while at the same time 805 million people go hungry. A recent forum in Italy organised by environmental group Greenaccord saw experts, journalists and policy makers come together to try and tackle the issue. Critics pointed out that about one-third of food produced in the world goes to waste costing roughly $680 billion in industrialised countries and $310 billion in developing countries.
Fracking in Argentina has come under fire from locals living near wells who claim they’re ill and their drinking water has been contaminated. Fracking is the process of pumping water and chemicals – a cocktail of some 500 substances that remains a trade secret – into the ground to extract shale gas, a new and highly contentious issue around the world. Indeed, protests have taken place in the UK and US while Germany has put an eight-year moratorium on the practise while effects on the environment are studied. Meanwhile, this controversial drilling has brought many new job opportunities to Argentina.
Environmental groups have hit out against a new global agreement aimed at halting deforestation by 2030, claiming it was insufficient. The New York Declaration on Forests was signed by some 150 parties including heads of state, civil society groups and leaders of some of the world’s largest companies. The document was hailed as one of the best outcomes from the UN’s recent climate summit but critics say the agreement is not legally binding for states or companies and cannot be enforced.
The Panama Canal - opened 100 years ago - links the Pacific and Atlantic oceans while handling five percent of the world’s shipping traffic. Indeed, there are some 12,000 ships navigating the canal each year bringing in 1.2 billion dollars to the country annually. Now, a new $5.2 billion project is set to expand the canal to allow bigger boats through with the aim of increasing shipping traffic to 15 percent when completed next year. However, critics say the canal’s wealth is not distributed among the population resulting in high levels of inequality.
The recent rape and murder of a 17 year old tribal girl in India has once again thrown light on the country’s shocking problem with gender based violence. One in three Indian women are physically or sexually abused in their lifetime and on average 92 women are raped every single day. Experts have blamed a lack of accountability in conflict stricken areas where the presence of armed insurgencies and violent tribal clashes are a daily reality.
Drought has left thousands of people struggling to survive in Sri Lanka where destroyed crops have left the country’s impoverished farmers unable to make money to feed their families. If the heat continues many will struggle to find drinking water too. Previously, droughts were expected every ten to fifteen years but Sri Lanka has seen an increase in extreme weather. In response, the government has launched a $100m programme to hopefully prevent disaster in the near future.
Illiteracy is massive hurdle to employment in Afghanistan with some 66 per cent of the country’s 30 million people unable to read or write, including 82 percent of Afghan women. Corruption is also a major problem with parents forced to pay bribes to get their kids into schools. In Kabul, business for people who help illiterate members of the public to fill out forms and write letters is flourishing, and providing an income for many unable to find work.
Waste management is a huge problem in Mongolia’s urban areas, with 90 per cent of some cities’ rubbish ending up on the streets, posing risks both to health and the environment. But the country’s poorest people are now tackling the issue while making extra cash. Turning Garbage into Gold is a new project that encourages people to recycle litter such as discarded soda and juice cans and turn them into handcrafted products to sell. As a result, many people are grouping together to form small businesses producing brooms, chairs and containers to supplement their low wages.
A group of NGOs including Friends of the Earth have hit out at the newly founded Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, claiming it merely serves the need of big business trying to green-wash in the face of allegations of land grabbing and damaging the environment. The Global Alliance includes more than 20 governments and 30 corporations including McDonald’s and Kelloggs. Some have warned Global Alliances’ “Climate-smart agriculture” is simply a promotional stunt for businesses whose only interest is to remain dominant in the market place.
For decades, Mary Ondolo and the women of her hunter-gatherer community have been denied life opportunities compounded by a cultural perception in Kenya that women are mere housewives. But two years ago, a donation of livestock turned this around, with Ondolo and a few other women turning their hand to farming and making a steady income for their families. While traditionally Ogiek women had only been seen as housewives, the opportunity to work and make money has also given them a decision making role in the community.
“Today we are learning that the wealth of Wall Street and so many major corporations, insurance companies, shipping companies, banks, private families, even churches, is still tied to slavery,” says Ricki Stevenson. She works with Black Paris Tours, a company that focuses on African people’s historical and contemporary contributions to Paris, France’s capital city. Black Paris Tours is one of many projects across the world attempting to ‘break the silence’ on the slave trade and its legacy of racism and modern day slavery. IPS reports.
Experts have called for a global-wide change in attitudes to tackling drug misuse. The Global Commission on Drug Policy denounced the so-called “war on drugs” as a failure and argued that new approaches prioritising human rights and health were urgently needed. The proposals include legalising drugs such as marijuana and seeking alternatives to prison for non-violent participants in the drug trade, an industry many are forced into by poverty.
A recent child trafficking scandal in India with 580 kids illegally moved into Muslim orphanages in Kerala provoked national outrage. But experts warn this is just the tip of the iceberg with probably thousands more children lured or abducted from their homes and then sold into prostitution. Others are maimed for the purposes of begging or even killed for their organs. The practise is particularly rampant in India’s underdeveloped villages where some families willingly sell their children for measly sums of cash. Poverty has been blamed as a major factor in the country of 1.2 billion people where almost 70 per cent live on less than two dollars a day.
Experts have condemned Latin America’s anti-drug laws which mostly affect poor young men, slum-dwellers and single mothers while letting major criminals off the hook. A recent conference in Costa Rica saw activists, experts and decision-makers come together to demand reforms to ease the pressure on vulnerable groups and shift the focus of law enforcement measures to those who benefit most from the drug trade. Currently, many of those in prison serving long sentences for drug smuggling are poor people who were forced into the illicit trade by poverty.
“Together with our seven children we fled into the hospital grounds and slept our first night under trees to escape the Israeli missiles that were destroying whole areas, killing entire families,” said Islam Abu Sheira, speaking about the Israeli shelling of the Gaza Strip that came to an end recently after 50 days of conflict. The war is over but now thousands are without homes to return to, having fled with only the clothes on their backs. Many are still living in temporary refuges such as schools, which are overcrowded and lack appropriate sanitation. Already with a deficit of 70,000 homes following previous conflicts, Gaza now faces a catastrophic housing crisis in one the most densely populated places in the world.
The United Nations has condemned the criminalisation of homelessness in the USA in a damning new report. Homelessness in America has increased substantially in some cities in the wake of the economic recession leaving thousands more people on the streets. Yet, in many places the authorities have responded by cracking down on activities such as sleeping, loitering and eating in public while simultaneously defunding social services. There was also criticism from the UN that homelessness has disproportionately affected ethnic minorities. In recent years, street papers have been at the forefront in exposing the criminalisation of homeless people across the world. IPS reports.
“My husband was shot with a poisoned arrow, and my children hacked to death. Everything was burnt to ashes, I barely escaped with my life,” says Mary Wacu. She was speaking about violence in Kenya that erupted after a disputed general election in 2007 that left 1,500 people dead and resulted in the rape of 3000 women and the displacement of 300,000. Top government leaders, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, have since had charges of crimes against humanity levelled at them. However, a new law that will grant immunity from prosecution to heads of African states has been condemned by human rights campaigners. Miriam Gathigah of IPS reports.