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“Cuban Twitter” exposed as US spy plot IPS 14/04/2014

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been revealed as the organisation behind the social media network in Cuba called ZunZuneo – often called the “Cuban Twitter”. The network, used by some 40,000 people, was set up to target Cuban youths with the aim of destabilising the government of Raúl Castro. It only came to an end when the project ran out of funds. Critics say the covert project was further evidence of USAID being involved in subversive operations in foreign countries, often denied by the White House.

Taliban provokes new hunger for education IPS 14/04/2014

The Taliban’s campaign against modern education in troubled northern Pakistan has backfired, causing a rise in literacy among boys and girls whose parents are sending them to school in defiance of the terrorist organisation. The Taliban have destroyed some 500 schools in Pakistan, including 300 schools for girls. But this has only propelled more students towards school with enrolment up by 16 percent on last year. Some of the public are viewing the Taliban’s activities as “anti-people” with one parent saying “anything opposed by the Taliban benefits the people”.

To live, you must spy IPS 07/04/2014

It has been claimed that Palestinians suffering from serious illnesses are being blackmailed into becoming spies for Israel in return for life-saving medical treatment. The Israeli blockade of Gaza has caused a severe shortage of medical supplies resulting in thousands of patients having to be referred to hospitals in Israel and the West Bank. However, many patients and their families claim they were pressured into spying in return for their treatment. Those who refuse are often imprisoned or left to die without medical assistance. Over the last three years, 13,000 people have been referred to Israeli and Palestinian hospitals outside Gaza, according to the Ministry of Health.

Aung Sung Suu Kyi: from activist to politician and realpolitik IPS 07/04/2014

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung Sung Suu Kyi is a beacon of hope in military-ruled Myanmar and, indeed, around the world. Nicknamed “The Lady”, she founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the late 1980s but – despite campaigning peacefully – was placed under house arrest from 1989 to 2011. Many members of the NLD were also arrested and tortured during this time. Now free, Suu Kyi is set to stand in the 2015 election, with the aim of removing the government of President Thein Sein, but some fear this move from activist to politician will sully her reputation. Indeed, the enduring image of The Lady as a champion of rights in the Gandhian mold is now being challenged by the more practical image of Suu Kyi the politician.

Fears over HIV in Pakistan IPS 31/03/2014

Experts have warned that although Pakistan currently has a low prevalence of HIV/AIDS, the nation is at high risk of the disease escalating due to the growing number of injecting drug users. According to a survey, 420,000 people in Pakistan inject drugs such as heroin with the number of people sharing needles more than doubling in Peshawar alone. The easy availability of heroin from nearby Afghanistan, where huge swathes of land are used for growing poppies, is said to be a major factor. There are fears the country is ill-equipped to deal with the likely increase in HIV/AIDS patients.

Monk sparks row between Spain and China IPS 24/03/2014

A Tibetan Buddhist monk with Spanish nationality has caused a row between Spain and China by filing a case of genocide against former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and other top officials. Thubten Wangchen’s petition was heard by a Spanish High Court judge who is seeking international arrest orders for Chinese leaders on the grounds they knew about the torture, execution and forced sterilisation of Tibetans.

Pepsi recognises land rights IPS 24/03/2014

Soft drinks giant PepsiCo has agreed to recognise land rights across the world. New policies implemented by the company – which also owns brands such as Gatorade, Tropicana and Quaker - will see a zero-tolerance policy towards land-grabbing and a pledge that all future acquisitions should come with the consent of local communities. The move follows a similar promise by rivals Coca-Cola and is being viewed favourably by anti-poverty campaigners.

Canada targets environmentalists IPS 24/03/2014

Canada’s government is targeting environmentalists in an attempt to limit research showing that extracting oil from the tar sands in Alberta is having a devastating effect on climate change. Government scientists recently produced new research confirming that toxic chemicals from Alberta’s oil sands were leaching into local rivers and groundwater. But only weeks later it was announced the same department would face 1000 job cuts. Experts on the environment now fear there will be much less government focus on the problem.

Sea swallows the stories of Africans drowned at Ceuta IPS 17/03/2014

Immigrants’ rights groups are calling for an investigation into the deaths of 16 migrants who drowned off the coast of Spain in February while attempting to swim from Morocco to a shore near the Spanish city of Ceuta. As they approached the coastline, Spanish police opened fire with rubber bullets and teargas. Every year thousands of Africans, mostly from the sub-Saharan region, try to escape dire poverty and access Europe. In 2013, a total of about 100,000 immigrants were intercepted trying to cross maritime and land borders into the 28 member countries of the EU.

Women turn potatoes into gold in Zimbabwe’s cities IPS 17/03/2014

Shyline Chipfika is one of thousands of Zimbabwean women in urban centres who have struck gold by growing potatoes. An import ban on the staple vegetable has meant a boom in sales for people who are growing potatoes in their back gardens. In cities, potatoes are grown in sacks of fertile soil, thereby requiring only a small amount of land. Urban potato farming has not only given a boost to poor families but is also providing employment for Zimbabwe’s women, a country where 66% of females are unemployed.

Oscar win boosts Kenya’s entertainment industry IPS 10/03/2014

Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar victory for her supporting performance in the critically acclaimed film 12 Years a Slave has raised hopes of a much-needed boost to Kenya’s fledgling entertainment industry. Nyong’o first honed her acting skills as a teenager in Kenya before later attending a prestigious drama school in the USA. Some 40 percent of Kenya’s workforce is unemployed with the majority aged under 35, and it is hoped that victories such as Nyong’o’s will push more young people into the arts and help develop a vibrant entertainment industry and lift the economy.

India’s plan to prevent public transport rapes IPS 10/03/2014

Nearly 25,000 rapes took place in India in 2012, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Astonishingly, around half of all sexual assaults took place on public transport. However, a $15m plan by the government will try and curb violence against women by fitting buses and taxis with GPS trackers, CCTV cameras and emergency phones.

Press freedom on trial in Egypt IPS 03/03/2014

Three high-profile journalists for Al Jazeera – including veteran correspondent Peter Greste – were arrested along with a string of other journalists in Egypt in December 2013 in what many critics say was an attack on press freedom. The military government in power has accused the reporters of conspiring with terrorists and broadcasting false information due to their coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood – branded a terrorist organisation after being ousted from power in 2013. Despite growing international pressure to release the journalists, the trial is set to go ahead in March. NOTE TO EDITORS: INSP is supporting the global campaign to free the above journalists as their detention is an attack on democracy and the freedom of the press. If you wish to offer your support please use this hashtag - #FreeAJStaff

Ethiopia’s Ogaden face scorched earth evictions IPS 03/03/2014

There are fears that allegations of scorched earth evictions of the Ogaden people in Ethiopia could lead to further instability in the African country. For two decades conflict has raged between the government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front, who fight for the self-determination of some 10 million ethnic Somali people living in Ethiopia. Reports of forced evictions and human rights abuses, with villages being burned down in the vicinity of oil fields, have raised concerns that foreign energy interests in Ethiopia may only deepen tensions.

NORDKOREA: Der große Hunger ist vorbei – Reformen stärken neue Mittelschicht IPS 03/03/2014

In den 1990er Jahren galt Nordkorea als Hungerland, aus dem die Menschen in Scharen flohen. Als Südkorea vor sechs Jahren seine großzügigen Hilfszahlungen einstellte, hätte sich die Lage eigentlich verschlechtern müssen. Doch das ist nicht geschehen. Der Staat mit etwa 24 Millionen Einwohnern scheint die Jahre gut überstanden zu haben.

Website for wildlife crime whistleblowers IPS 24/02/2014

A group of international organisations fighting wildlife crime has unveiled a new website aimed at assisting whistleblowers. WildLeaks will allow people to safely and anonymously reveal information on wildlife crimes to combat poaching. The illegal trade in wildlife is said to be worth some 17 billion dollars each year and there are concerns it is financing terrorism.

South Africa’s hate crimes against gays IPS 24/02/2014

Thousands of lesbians across South Africa are being terrorised by “corrective rape”. Horrific reports of such crimes are rife, but just how many women and men have been raped and even murdered due to their sexual orientation is still unknown. Many women living openly as gay are extremely vulnerable to groups of men intent on “correcting” their sexual orientation through rape. However, a new policy that would see a separate criminal category for hate crimes against gay people is being proposed to urgently address the escalating problem.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s first ski school IPS 24/02/2014

The mountains on the Iraq-Iran border are historically a stronghold for Kurds and the area was a major destination for refugees fleeing the tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Now, the highlands are home to Iraq’s first ski school where child refugees from Syria are learning to ski thanks to instructor Igor Urizar. The Spaniard is hoping that snow sports will help children to forget the bitter memories of war in their homeland.

Somalia powerless to stop Al-Shabaab mobile internet shutdown IPS 24/02/2014

Armed Al-Shabaab fighters have forced Somalia’s biggest telecoms company to switch off its mobile internet service. The move was made because the militant group feared that mobile internet and fibre optic services were being used by Western spy agencies to gather information on Muslims. The Somali government has been widely criticised for their lack of action over the issue.

Mexico deputises vigilantes in cartel wars IPS 17/02/2014

A new move by the Mexican government in its so-called war on drugs has seen vigilante groups deputised by the police and military. The vigilante groups, called autodefensas, were formed to combat the drug cartels that wage war on the streets of Mexico. So far 10,000 illegally armed men in Michoacán have been inducted into the Rural Defence Corps under the orders of the police. However, security experts have criticized legitimising such militias.

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