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With a suicide attack, the Taliban unwittingly puts focus on its target: a vibrant Afghan media

The suicide attack on Afghan journalists and media persons on January 20 in Kabul was another instance of the Taliban redrawing the battle lines in the grim conflict. Seven people were killed in the bombing that targeted a staff bus run by the video production company Kaboora Productions, a sister unit of the country’s largest private channel Tolo TV. Twenty-five other employees were injured. The dead included three young women – a graphic designer and two dubbing artists. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which they had warned of in October.

The tragedy has, in a way, brought to focus the emergence of a new generation of Afghan journalists and media producers who have taken on the challenges of reporting in their country. At the same time, though, it has left this young, but vibrant, community at a critical crossroads.

http://scroll.in/article/802688/with-a-suicide-attack-the-taliban-unwittingly-puts-focus-on-its-target-a-vibrant-afghan-media

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in Asia

 

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Plan Colombia’s mixed legacy: coca thrives but peace deal may be on horizon

In the lowlands surrounding the town of La Hormiga, coca was once king.

Fields of the bright green bushes stretched to the horizon in every direction and farmers were flush with cash. The surrounding municipality was the one with the most coca crops in the country that produced the most cocaine in the world.

This was “ground zero” for Plan Colombia, a massive multipronged effort funded by nearly $10bn in US aid that started in 2000. The plan aimed to recover a country that was in the grips of drug mafias, leftist guerrillas and rightwing militias, and whose institutions malfunctioned and economy faltered.

Fifteen years on, cattle graze where coca once grew by the side of the road and cacao is more easily spotted than coca. Farmer Fulgencio Quenguan traded his coca for fish farming. “I don’t make as much money but no one can take this from me,” he says as he scales a few tilapias for a customer in his own shop in town.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/03/plan-colombia-cocaine-narcotics-farc-peace-deal

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in South America

 

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Grozny 2

Près de 900 raids aériens en une semaine, soit non moins de 120 par jour, en moyenne, selon les estimations fournies samedi matin par les sources de l’opposition syrienne. Depuis lundi dernier, la province d’Alep, notamment le secteur nord, croule sous le poids du rouleau compresseur russe, enclenché dans le cadre de la vaste offensive lancée en septembre dernier par le président Vladimir Poutine pour sauver Bachar el-Assad de la chute qui pointait à l’horizon. Pour offrir à son allié une victoire stratégique après une longue série de revers, le chef du Kremlin n’y va pas par quatre chemins. Sans état d’âme, il met en jeu aveuglément ses missiles balistiques et son aviation à un rythme effréné, sans établir de distinction entre populations civiles et combattants, sans épargner les marchés populaires et les centres médicaux, dont treize auraient été détruits durant le seul mois de janvier, selon des sources hostiles au régime.

https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/969158/grozny-2.html

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in Middle East

 

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How to manage the migrant crisis

REFUGEES are reasonable people in desperate circumstances. Life for many of the 1m-odd asylum-seekers who have fled Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries for Europe in the past year has become intolerable. Europe is peaceful, rich and accessible. Most people would rather not abandon their homes and start again among strangers. But when the alternative is the threat of death from barrel-bombs and sabre-wielding fanatics, they make the only rational choice.

The flow of refugees would have been manageable if European Union countries had worked together, as Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has always wished (and The Economist urged). Instead Germany and Sweden have been left to cope alone. Today their willingness to do so is exhausted. Unless Europe soon restores order, political pressure will force Mrs Merkel to clamp down unilaterally, starting a wave of border closures (see article). More worrying, the migrant crisis is feeding xenophobia and political populism. The divisive forces of right-wing nationalism have already taken hold in parts of eastern Europe. If they spread westward into Germany, France and Italy then the EU could tear itself apart.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21690028-european-problem-demands-common-coherent-eu-policy-let-refugees-regulate

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in European Union, Reportages

 

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The tragedy of Yemen is not a marginal one

In a month, the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen will be a year old.

Strategic gains have been few. The fractured chessboard of Yemeni politics is as complex today as it was on the day the Saudis began to bomb – 26 March 2015.

Why did the Saudis and their allies start to bomb Yemen? There was no clear casus belli. The transition agreement of 2011 had frayed – President Mansour Hadi’s mandate ended a year before he resigned in February 2015.

Various groups jockeyed for position towards a new agreement, which was not on the horizon. The seizure of Sanaa was not inevitable, but it was not surprising either. The Saudi bombs followed.

Who took Sanaa? Two rival political formations – the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress – came together against Hadi’s government to take the capital. Saleh had prosecuted a war against the Houthis from 2004 to 2010. Nonetheless, they allied for this thrust.

https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-tragedy-of-yemen-is-not-a-marginal-one/

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Middle East

 

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In the chaos of the Middle East, the world must stand behind the Kurds

It is one year since the lifting of the Siege of Kobanî. Many of us can recall harrowing images of the black flags of Isis flying threateningly from the surrounding hills, of car bombs being driven into the city’s defences, and of heroic citizens defending their houses and families from the despotic invaders intent on killing them. The Siege of Kobanî was the Stalingrad of the Syrian civil war – a true turning point in the battle against Isis.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/02/chaos-middle-east-world-must-stand-behind-kurds

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Middle East

 

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The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth

The Swedish Migration Agency in Malmo, the southern port city on the border with Denmark, occupies a square brick building at the far edge of town. On the day that I was there, Nov. 19, 2015, hundreds of refugees, who had been bused in from the train station, queued up outside in the chill to be registered, or sat inside waiting to be assigned a place for the night. Two rows of white tents had been set up in the parking lot to house those for whom no other shelter could be found. Hundreds of refugees had been put in hotels a short walk down the highway, and still more in an auditorium near the station.

When the refugee crisis began last summer, about 1,500 people were coming to Sweden every week seeking asylum. By August, the number had doubled. In September, it doubled again. In October, it hit 10,000 a week, and stayed there even as the weather grew colder. A nation of 9.5 million, Sweden expected to take as many as 190,000 refugees, or 2 percent of the population — double the per capita figure projected by Germany, which has taken the lead in absorbing the vast tide of people fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/10/the-death-of-the-most-generous-nation-on-earth-sweden-syria-refugee-europe/

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in European Union, Reportages

 

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Trapped between airstrikes and locked gate, Syrian refugees are pawns in a wider war

Turkey angrily rejected demands Wednesday that it open its border to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees driven from their homes by relentless Russian airstrikes, saying that to do so would amount to complicity in the Russian-backed offensive to drive rebels out of the province of Aleppo.

The blunt acknowledgment that politics are part of the calculus in this latest humanitarian crisis in Syria underscores the dilemma confronting Turkey as it grapples with the prospect of a new refugee influx as well as the fear that hostile forces­ will overrun territory adjoining its border.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/trapped-between-airstrikes-and-a-locked-gate-syrian-refugees-are-pawns-in-a-wider-war/2016/02/10/c7de23dc-d010-11e5-90d3-34c2c42653ac_story.html

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Middle East

 

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Israel’s Putinisation: Israel’s Putinisation

Ahmad Tibi, a long-standing Arab member of the Knesset, once remarked that ‘Israel is democratic towards Jews, and Jewish towards Arabs.’ For many years, that soundbite nicely captured the contradictions of ‘Jewish democracy’: fair elections, press freedom, cantankerous debate and due process for some; land theft, administrative detention, curfews, assassinations and ‘muscular interrogations’ for others. Tibi meant to call attention to the hypocrisy of Israel’s claims to be a democratic state, but as he effectively admitted, Jewish democracy did work for Jews – even Jews radically opposed to the occupation and indeed to Zionism itself. For as long as it did, liberals in Tel Aviv could tell themselves that things weren’t so bad behind the Green Line, the border between Israel and the territory it captured in the 1967 war. Indeed, the resilience of Israel’s democratic institutions helped sustain the illusion that the Green Line was still a frontier, even as it vanished under the weight of the settlement project, launched when Labor was in power and subsidised by every subsequent government.

Colonial rule, however, is corrosive in its effects. Since the Second Intifada, Palestinian citizens in Israel have been reminded at every turn that they are not welcome, from the police killing of 13 demonstrators in October 2000, to Benjamin Netanyahu’s election day warning last May: ‘Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organisations are busing them out.’ The spectre of ‘Arab voters’ was hardly new: the Israeli right has never looked fondly on Arabs exercising their voting rights, unless they can be presented as evidence of the virtues of ‘Jewish democracy’. What is novel is the intensifying campaign inside Israel against those ‘left-wing organisations’ Netanyahu mentioned: human rights NGOs and their (mostly) Jewish leaders. The campaign has been launched both in the Knesset and on the street, with an apparently high level of co-ordination between state officials and ultra-nationalist militants. Israel is increasingly ‘Jewish towards Arabs’, as Tibi said, but it’s also on its way to becoming less and less democratic for Jews.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n04/adam-shatz/israels-putinisation

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Middle East

 

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Exodus and betrayal: How a Syrian Nakba was created

US Secretary of State John Kerry came close to revealing his true thoughts when he was accosted by two Syrian aid workers at a reception in London after the collapse of the Geneva talks last week.

The Syrians accused him of doing nothing to protect civilians from the onslaught they are facing in Aleppo. Kerry replied: “Don’t blame me – go and blame your opposition,” laying the fault for the government’s offensive on the opposition walking out of the talks.

Kerry got flustered in the encounter: “What do you want me to do? Go to war with Russia? Is that what you want?” the aid worker said Kerry told her. Kerry then anticipated three months of bombing during which time “the opposition will be decimated”.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/exodus-and-betrayal-how-syrian-nakba-was-created-480764536

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Middle East

 

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