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Updated: 25 min 42 sec ago

ISIS Sets Sulfur Plant Ablaze In Northern Iraq, Choking The Air With Deadly Chemicals

3 hours 27 min ago

ERBIL, Iraq ― Plumes of noxious smoke are wafting through parts of northern Iraq, after militants from the self-described Islamic State set ablaze part of al-Mishraq sulfur plant in their retreat. 

At least two civilians died from exposure to sulfur dioxide released by the fire, south of Mosul, according to Ahmed Younis, a 29-year-old medical assistant in nearby Qayyarah. More than 100 people sought medical attention over the incident on Friday, Younis added.

American and Iraqi officials voiced concern last week over the hardliners using chemical weapons during the battle for Mosul, Iraqi’s second largest city. The U.S.-backed, Iraqi-led operation ― the largest such operation since 2003 ― could see ISIS driven out of their last main stronghold in Iraq. The battle could take months, U.S. military officials estimate.

Iraqi forces drove ISIS fighters out of the area on Friday, but the militants are destroying as much as possible on their retreat, as part of a brutal scorched earth campaign. The group routinely detonates explosives, rigs booby traps and sets alight oil wells, buildings and farmland as it withdraws from areas.

“There was a big cloud [of smoke] even in Qayyarah,” 30-year-old Hossam, a civilian living in the nearby town of Qayyarah, told The WorldPost late Friday. “We couldn’t breathe well.” 

ISIS torched part of the Mishraq sulphur plant between Qayarah and Mosul this afternoon. Toxic fumes over area now much worse. (image: NASA) pic.twitter.com/2Szhoyl8sf

— Patrick Osgood (@PatrickOsgood) October 21, 2016

U.S. troops based at Qayyarah Airfield West, next to the town of Qayyarah roughly 18 miles from Mishraq, are wearing gas masks at their own discretion, according to a U.S. military source there reached by phone. 

The U.S.-led coalition has targeted key Islamic State chemical weapons sites over the past year in an attempt to curb their chemical capabilities. The United States military and other coalition countries have trained partner forces in the event of such attacks, though Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have said that they don’t have enough gas masks. 

ISIS still has only rudimentary chemical weapons capabilities, despite recent casualties in places like Taza, just south of Kirkuk, where some civilians are still physically and emotionally scarred from a mustard attack in March, military and chemical experts say.

Such weapons pose a “dreaded risk,” Gregory Koblentz, associate professor and director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University, told The WorldPost last week. It’s a “risk that people instinctively react to with a high degree of fear and panic because it is invisible, insidious, and indiscriminate.” 

“Even if they only kill a few, they will terrify large numbers,” he added. 

Chemical experts have reportedly been dispatched to Mishraq sulfur plant and firefighters were still trying to contain the blaze as of Saturday afternoon. It could be days until the fire is under control.

Civilians in Qayyarah are covering their mouths and noses with wet cloths and trying to seal their homes, according to locals. They were already reeling from smoke billowing out of oil wells, that ISIS set alight when Iraqi forces drove them out of the town that’s some 18 miles south of Mosul in late August.

Civilians are reportedly trying to leave Qayyarah, but they are facing roadblocks from security forces there who won’t let them pass. 

One resident of Qayyarah, populated mainly by Sunni Arabs, complained that civilians are barred from leaving, despite the potentially toxic fumes, due to widespread security concerns over possible ISIS sympathizers and collaborators leaving the town to launch attacks elsewhere.

Just Friday, ISIS fighters attacked the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk, killing dozens and wounding many more.

“The people are trying to leave, but the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces won’t let them leave unless they have a sponsor in the KRG,” he said angrily, referring to Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish area.

Basil Rasol and Kamiran Sadoun contributed reporting. 

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Categories: News Monitor

Iraqi Army Drives Islamic State From Christian Region Near Mosul

3 hours 48 min ago

Iraqi army troops on Saturday stormed into a Christian region that has been under Islamic State control since 2014 as part of U.S.-backed operations to clear the entrances to Mosul, the militants’ last major city stronghold in Iraq.

The advance took place as U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived on a visit to Baghdad to meet Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and assess the campaign that started on Monday with air and ground support from the U.S-led coalition.

A military statement said Iraqi units entered the center of Qaraqosh, a mainly Christian town about 20 kms (13 miles) southeast of Mosul, and were carrying out mop-up operations across the town.

Further action was under way to seize a neighboring Christian village, Karamless, also known as Karemlash in the Syriac language. The region’s population fled in the summer of 2014, when Islamic State swept in.

Earlier this week, Iraqi special units also captured Bartella, a Christian village north of Qaraqosh.

A U.S. military official estimated there were fewer than a couple of hundred Islamic State fighters in Qaraqosh.

“I’ve seen berms in Qaraqosh. I anticipate there’ll be trenches, there’ll be passageways between different buildings,” the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.


The offensive on Mosul is expected to become the biggest battle fought in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The army is also trying to advance from the south and the east while Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are holding fronts in the east and north.

U.S. forces at Iraq’s Qayyara West airfield, south of Mosul, put on protective masks after winds brought fumes from a nearby sulfur plant set alight by Islamic State fighters, U.S. military officials said.

A Reuters reporter in Qayyara saw Iraqi soldiers wearing gas masks on top of their heads, ready to pull them down. A cloud of white smoke blanketed the region to the north, where the factory is located, mingling with black fumes from oil wells that the militants torched to cover their moves.

The Iraqi army’s media office said about 50 villages had been taken from the militants since Monday in operations to prepare the main thrust into Mosul itself, where 5,000 to 6,000 IS fighters are dug in, according to Iraqi estimates.

Islamic State also controls parts of Syria.

“It’s the beginning of the campaign. We do feel positively about how things have started off, particularly with the complicated nature of this operation,” said a U.S. official who briefed reporters ahead of Carter’s trip to Baghdad.

Carter signaled during a visit to Ankara on Friday his support for a possible Turkish role in the campaign and said there was an agreement in principle between Baghdad and Ankara ― potentially ending a source of tension.

Officials said the details on any Turkish participation still needed to be worked out.


Roughly 5,000 U.S. personnel are in Iraq. More than 100 of them are embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces involved with the Mosul offensive, advising commanders and helping ensure coalition air power hits the right targets.

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Finan was killed on Thursday by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq as he was accompanying Iraqi forces, in the first U.S. casualty of the Mosul campaign.

The militants retaliated to the advance of the Iraqi forces and the Kurdish fighters in Mosul by attacking on Friday Kirkuk, an oil city that lies east Hawija, a pocket they continue to control between Baghdad and Mosul.

Authorities in Kirkuk regained control of the city on Saturday and partially lifted a curfew declared after the militants stormed police stations and other buildings. The region’s oil producing facilities were not damaged.

At least 50 people have been killed and 80 others wounded in clashes between security forces and the militants in Kirkuk, according to a hospital sources.

Four Iranian technicians doing maintenance work at a power station north of the city are among the dead, they said. The toll does not include the jihadists who were killed or who blew themselves up during the fighting.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took control of Kirkuk in 2014, after the Iraqi army withdrew from the region, fleeing an Islamic State advance through northern and western Iraq.

Kurdish leaders say they will never give up the ethnically mixed city, to which they, as well as Turkmen and Arabs, lay claim. Arabs complain that Kurds have since flooded to Kirkuk to tilt the demographic balance the other way.

(With additional reporter by Saif Hameed in Baghdad, Mahmoud Mustafa in Kirkuk; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Helen Popper)

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Categories: News Monitor

Here’s How The World Can Adapt To The Rapid Rise Of Cities

15 hours 29 min ago

Leaders from more than 150 countries came together this week to formalize a sweeping guide that charts a sustainable future for new and existing cities, rapidly growing across the globe.  

More than 35,000 people attended a United Nations summit in Quito, Ecuador, this week, and on Thursday, UN member countries formally adopted the New Urban Agenda. The document focuses on sustainable, inclusive development, covering things like the role of climate change in urban planning and how cities get rid of residents’ trash.  

The UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, commonly referred to as Habitat III, occurs every 20 years. This was the third time it was held.

Over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and the number of city dwellers could increase by 3 billion by 2050. Cities can provide a better quality of life and greater economic opportunities, but they’re also places of persistent inequality and are putting a major strain on the earth’s resources.

The New Urban Agenda says ending poverty “is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.” Here are some of the other fundamentals outlined in the New Urban Agenda:

  • Ensure everyone has access to affordable and adequate housing, safe drinking water, suitable nutrition, education and health care.  

  • Create public gathering places and green space that is open to everyone.

  • Develop emergency response plans to protect residents and come up with long-term strategies to make cities more resilient to natural and manmade disasters.

  • Protect the environment and combat climate change; reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution; conserve natural resources and ecosystems.

  • Promote equitable economic growth.

  • Design transportation systems that give all residents mobility.

The New Urban Agenda particularly emphasizes that cities should respond to the specific needs of women when it comes to policy and urban design ― women should have equal access to jobs and education and be safe from violence in public and private space. They should also be involved in city decision-making and represented in local government

The agreement isn’t binding, and while there are general policy recommendations (like giving cities more political power and funding), it purposely leaves many details of implementation up to individual countries and cities. Some see this as a major flaw and criticized the guidelines for being too weak.

“The planet has already moved beyond critical planetary boundaries related to climate, biodiversity, land use and fertilizer use,” urban ecologist Timon McPhearson said in a press conference at the summit. “Yet, urgency is entirely absent in the New Urban Agenda.”

There is also at at least one glaring omission from the wide-ranging set of goals outlined in the document: LGBTQ rights are never mentioned, even though it is repeatedly stated that cities must be inclusive and accessible to other marginalized groups who face discrimination.

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A push to address LGBTQ rights in the document was blocked by a group of 17 countries, led by Belarus, according to Reuters. The U.S. is one of the countries that fought to include LGBTQ protections, but is still an example of why they’re critical, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro explained in one of the Habitat III sessions. 

“People are still denied housing because of their sexual orientation to this day in the U.S. and elsewhere,” Castro said, according to the Guardian.

“The 21st century will belong to those nations which embrace freedom and equality for everyone,” he added.


Kate Abbey-Lambertz covers sustainable cities, housing and inequality. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.   


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Categories: News Monitor

The Summer Estate Too Lavish For The Pope Is Now Open For Tourists

16 hours 20 min ago

Pope Francis may be too humble to spend time at the lavish palace of Castel Gandolfo, but we aren’t.

The Vatican announced on Friday that the papal 135-acre estate will now be open to the public for visits. Popes throughout the decades have used the palace and gardens as a summer residence, but Francis has turned down this opportunity since becoming pope, opting for humbler accommodations.

Some 15 miles south of Rome, Castel Gandolfo is a feast for the eyes. The estate houses the Papal Palace, the Vatican Observatory, the Barberini Palace, and apartment housing for 21 employees, as well as a sprawling garden and working farm that supplies fresh produce, eggs, honey and dairy to the Vatican.

Pope Francis first opened the gardens to the public in 2014, in part to help offset economic downturn in the lakeside town where the estate is located, reports the Associated Press.

Now visitors can tour inside the papal apartments and even view the bed in which Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI died and John Paul II recovered from an assassination attempt in 1981.

If you aren’t able to make it to Italy ASAP, then scroll down for a virtual tour of the gorgeous property:

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Categories: News Monitor

I Thought Single Parenting Was Hard. Then I Became A Stepparent

17 hours 48 min ago

As part of our Blended Family Friday series, HuffPost spotlights a different stepfamily to learn how they’ve worked to bring their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life! Want to share your family’s story? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com. 

After 25 years of step-parenting, Grace de Rond and her husband Ron are definitely well acquainted with the challenges and joys of bringing two sets of kids together. 

Below, de Rond, who blogs at Partnering, Parenting and Living Well, shares her family’s story.

Hi Grace. Please introduce us to your family. 

My husband Ron and I share four children. They’re adults now and the guys have young children of their own. Gabriel is 41, Michael is 36, Joe is 34 and Zosha is 27. We have four grandchildren, a girl and three boys.

How long have you and Ron been together? 
Ron and I met in 1991. I was turning 40 and I’d been a single parent of my three sons for seven years. Toward the end, I only wanted one more romantic relationship in my life and I wanted it to be based on real love and shared purpose. And since I wouldn’t settle for less, I’d gone years without a date. Meanwhile, 4,000 miles away, Ron had set his career as an OB-GYN aside to be a stay-at-home dad to his daughter. And then he saw my photo on the back cover of a book on parenting I’d coauthored, and he says that he “knew inside” that I was the one he would marry and he traveled from Amsterdam to America to find me.

What are some of the biggest challenges of blended family life?
We’re not only a blended family, but we’re also a bicultural one. Our biggest challenge has always been the pain of separation caused by the distance. Even today, our family is spread across two continents and three countries. So someone’s always missing someone else. How did we make it work for two decades? We’ve always viewed our nontraditional relationship as a plus rather than a problem. We’re always each other’s first priority, FaceTiming several times a day when we’re apart. We stay super supportive of each other’s needs and interests. And we don’t take each other for granted. When we’re together, there’s appreciation and when we’re apart, there’s anticipation.

What’s the best thing about being part of a stepfamily? 
To be honest, I thought being a single parent was the most challenging thing I’d ever done and then I discovered that step-parenting could be harder. So it wasn’t all easy and wonderful. The best part is that there’s been so much growth. Ron and I are far better and smarter people now than we were in our 20s and 30s. Never giving up and continuing to search conscientiously in every situation for the best thoughts, words and actions has truly trained us to become competent, goodhearted people.

How do you deal with stress in your household? 
I meditate daily, so that keeps me pretty peaceful. My oldest son told me once that I couldn’t even see the hill that stress lives on from where I am. It’s not true; stuff comes up for me, too. But I believe that the way I view life shapes what I’ll experience so I deliberately hold onto a positive norm. I avoid worrying because it doesn’t help.

Criticizing and blaming are off-limits, especially concerning the other parents because if we make our exes wrong, our children will see it as a negative message about themselves. When stuff comes up, we talk it out: We talk about why we do what we do and why we want what we want, so that we can understand each other’s motivations.

What makes you proudest of your family?
I’m most proud of how cool our kids turned out. All four of them are rich in authenticity, integrity and self-knowledge. And I’m most grateful that we’re all friends.

What advice do you have for other blended families who feel like a peaceful family dynamic is out of reach? 
We can’t expect our kids to practice anything that we’re not living. And the best example we can give them is a person who’s enjoying life. When our kids see us stay calm, kind, even happy when life is messy and relationships are stressed, they learn to not be afraid of life. They’ll be more likely to appreciate life and other people. Most importantly, never, ever send them a message that causes them to question their self-worth. If they can hold onto an awareness of their innate goodness and value and think, “I’m alright because I’m alive, not because of something I’ve done or not done,” they’ll turn out just fine.

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Categories: News Monitor

A Catholic Charity Is Reaching Out To Transgender People In India, Just Not All Of Them

18 hours 44 min ago

While Catholic bishops in the U.S. debate over gender neutral bathrooms, one church-run charity in India is looking to new ways to embrace the transgender community. 

Caritas India, a branch of Catholic social welfare organization Caritas Internationalis, announced the launch of a program earlier this month designed to fight discriminatory attitudes toward transgender people.

“Caritas is open to work with transgender people. I am even open to recruiting them,” Rev. Frederick D’Souza, executive director of Caritas India, said in a statement reported by Vatican Radio.

The group’s initiative aims to combat bias by conducting outreach to transgender communities as part of its development programs, but it reveals the church’s own internal bias in the process.

D’Souza said he hoped the initiative would mark the “beginning of a new school of thought,” in which Catholic leaders offer greater “attention and support” to those dealing with “sexual confusion in their body.”

In the same breath, D’Souza clarified that the outreach would only go so far. By “transgender,” he said, he was referring to a group he classified as “biological transgenders,” which to him denoted those who identify with a different sex but have not undergone surgery. 

“We don’t want to confuse the two,” D’Souza said. “We have an opinion on those who undergo sex change, we are not in favor of that. We believe that the natural gender one is born with is what he/she is supposed to cherish and contribute to creation.”

We are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”
Pope Francis

The statement reflects the Catholic Church’s complicated relationship with the trans community. In a document on family issues released in April — titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love” — Pope Francis warned that “an ideology of gender” is threatening to ruin the family structure.

“Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift,” he wrote. “At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”

The pontiff also recently decried what he called the “ideological colonization” supposedly happening in elementary schools, in which children learn that they can choose their gender.

Francis later clarified his position, saying, “It is one thing for a person to have this tendency, this option and even to have a sex change, but it is another thing to teach this in schools in order to change mentalities.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, a summary of church doctrine, makes no reference to issues of transgender identity. There is one section on “body integrity,” which states that “except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.”

In 2003, the Vatican issued its official stance on gender confirmation surgery to bishops, declaring that such procedures do not alter a person’s sex in the eyes of the church.

“The key point is that the surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female,” the document stated, according to Catholic News Service.

With this statement, the church revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender.

There are roughly 500,000 transgender people in India according to the country’s census, and activists estimate there may be many more who aren’t open about their gender identity.

Despite the presence of hijras, or trans women, in ancient Hindu and Jain texts, negative attitudes toward the trans community have been entrenched in Indian society. Access to jobs, housing, health care and higher education is often a struggle for trans individuals, and a section the Indian Penal Code bars “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”  

In part to combat this discrimination, India’s Supreme Court officially recognized a “third gender” in a 2014 ruling, which served as an umbrella for the country’s longstanding hijra population and other trans-identified people. 

This summer, Indian lawmakers proposed legislation aimed to further guarantee trans right in education, employment, healthcare and more. But activists rejected the measure which would have required trans individuals to attain identification cards in order to secure these rights.

As Robert Shine, associate editor for LGBT Catholic group New Ways Ministry, wrote in response to Caritas India’s announcement, “trans communities in India remain quite marginalized.”

Shine said the charity’s initiative falls short of full inclusion, but marks an important step that other faith-based organizations may follow to combat anti-trans bias.

“This effort by Caritas India is hampered...by not fully understanding gender identity and expression issues at a sufficient level,” Shine wrote. “But the new program plants a seed from which loving accompaniment that is increasingly competent and informed by modern science can grow.”

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Iraqis Who Sued Over Torture At Abu Ghraib Win New Round In Court

19 hours 24 min ago

A group of Iraqi nationals who were detained at the U.S.-controlled compound at Abu Ghraib in Iraq may proceed with their case against a federal contractor that they claim is largely responsible for subjecting them to acts of torture, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

The case of the four men — Suhail Al Shimari, Taha Rashid, Salah Hassan and Asa’ad Al-Zuba’e — has had a long history in the courts. In this latest round, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the contractor could be held liable on the basis of criminal or otherwise illegal conduct by its employees.

The contractor, CACI Premier Technology, Inc., described in court documents as a provider of “contract interrogation services,” had been fighting for years to get the lawsuit dismissed. In this instance, CACI argued that the case presented a “political question” that federal courts should simply stay out of.

The appeals court thought otherwise.

“We recognize that the legal issues presented in this case are indisputably complex, but we nevertheless cannot abdicate our judicial role in such cases,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Milano Keenan in the ruling ― the fourth time her court addressed this case since it was filed in 2008.

In their complaint, the Iraqi prisoners said that the interrogators working at Abu Ghraib for the military contractor operated in a “command vacuum” that left them free to conspire with low-level service members in the abuses ― including sustained beatings, choking, sexual assault, electric shocks, threats with dogs and food and water deprivation. These acts, the plaintiffs said, were aimed at “softening them up” for later interrogations.

If proven, the court said, this kind of egregious misconduct ― for which a number of soldiers have been convicted or faced administrative sanctions ― means that courts have ample power to review and adjudicate it.

“The political question doctrine does not shield from judicial review intentional acts by a government contractor that were unlawful at the time they were committed,” the court said.

The practical effect of the decision is that the case may move forward before a trial court, which will now have to determine the scope of these acts and whether there are any “grey areas” that may allow the contractor to escape liability.

The determination of specific violations of law is constitutionally committed to the courts, even if that law touches military affairs.
U.S. Circuit Judge Henry Floyd

In a separate concurring opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Henry Floyd emphasized that even if it was military officials who directed the contractor to engage in acts “amounting to torture,” that it is not up to the military ― or the president, for that matter ― to set the contours of what’s legal.

“The determination of specific violations of law is constitutionally committed to the courts, even if that law touches military affairs,” Floyd said.

Though limited in reach, the ruling was welcomed by Salah Hassan, an Al Jazeera journalist who was imprisoned at Abu Ghraib in November 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq War.

“Today, part of justice was achieved and this is something wonderful, not only for me and the other plaintiffs, but for all the just causes in the world,” Hassan said in a statement. “I wish to see in the coming period a ruling in our favor in this case. No doubt the result will be a white light in the process of justice in the world at the time.”

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Weekend Roundup: Gene-Altered GloFish Light the Path to a Bright Human Future. Or Not.

19 hours 49 min ago

In this age of science nonfiction, the newfound fusion of big data and biological discovery enables the redesign of species, including our own, accelerating evolutionary processes that once took millennia into the span of a few years. As we explore in a WorldPost video this week, genetic modification promises to feed a planet where thirsting crops are plagued by a warming climate, to cure what has long ailed our human immune systems and even to conjure up unique pets like fish that glow in the dark. It also springs the trap of genetic perfectibility and the quest for immortality. Some Silicon Valley tech titans have already declared they are seeking to defy death and are putting their money where their genes are. 

Such God-like capacities stir the foundational questions of origin and destiny associated with the religious imagination. And they raise the challenge of which path to take. One path follows the imperatives of ecology, which recognizes that humans are embedded in community and nature. This perspective seeks an equilibrium between human potential and our environment. It aims to protect the dignity and autonomy of the person from a brave new biocracy that would manage life from womb to tomb.

Another path, singularity, seeks to further empower the individual and the species in a kind of hyper-Anthropocene surge, extending the dominion of humankind and the reach of its algorithmic order over all. To some, this rehearses the hubris of the Tower of Babel; to others, it only demonstrates that the limits of Promethean prowess have been consigned once and for all to the dustbin of ancient myth. In this view, we should commit to our mutation and just get on with it.

The WorldPost has addressed these issues before with Craig Venter, who first mapped the human genome, and Ray Kurzweil, the apostle of singularity. In this week’s video, Nobel scientist and former CalTech president David Baltimore cautions against too much caution. We already understand some genetic functions with enough confidence to modify them to the benefit of humanity, he says. “[Another] century of scientific progress, given the rates things are moving now,” he enthuses, will yield “enormous” advances.

Following this artificial intelligence theme, Ariel Conn of MIT’s Future of Life Institute reviews a new book by Robin Hansen on brain emulation, “The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth.” Conn summarizes Hansen’s scenario of a world in which “people will choose to have their brains scanned, uploaded and possibly copied, creating a new race of robots and other types of machine intelligence.”

In what is perhaps the strangest election campaign in American history, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sparred in their last debate this week over how the U.S. should deal with Russia and Vladimir Putin. The fuzzy polemics worry former NATO commander James Stavridis. “It is in no one’s interest to stumble backwards into a new Cold War, and we are not yet embroiled in one,” he writes. “But without a thoughtfully constructed strategic approach ― based on national interests on both sides and a transactional mentality ― we are stepping toward danger. A bear and an eagle can coexist in a relatively small ecosystem, but not if they are repeatedly and deliberately hostile to each other.”

Relations with China have also figured in the presidential election campaign. Our partner publication, the South China Morning Post, examines Hillary Clinton’s 21-year history with China, where familiarity has bred contempt in some quarters of that nation’s leadership.

A hallmark of the Trump campaign has been his continued attacks on Mexicans and Muslims. Writing from Muscoy, California, Muhammad Safwatullah busts through all the hateful rhetoric by describing the work of the Muslim health clinic that he manages. It’s an all-volunteer, free clinic that treats mostly underinsured Latinos based on the teachings of Islam ― “compassion for the sick and service to the needy.” Isis Gaber tells the odd tale of what it is like to be named “Isis” in today’s fraught political atmosphere. “I say Isis, and what do you think?” she asks. “Terrorism, death and pretty much every negative word the media has found in the dictionary.” Her personality in the eyes of others, she says, has been reduced to an association.

Turning to the Middle East, novelist Kaya Genc writes from Istanbul about how the widespread suspicion that foreign forces were behind the recent attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has fueled a new fervor of national independence and self-determination among Turkey’s youth.

The long-anticipated assault to liberate Mosul from control by the so-called Islamic State continued this week. WorldPost correspondent Sophia Jones reports from Dohuk, Iraq on whether the assault will save, or doom, the Yazidi women who have been held in Mosul by ISIS as sex slaves. She also profiles an Iraqi bomb-defusing technician who risks life and limb to remove explosives and reports on fears by the U.S.-backed coalition that they will face chemical weapons deployed by ISIS. Nick Robins-Early explains why the massive Mosul assault matters and how the capture of Dabiq undermines the end-of-times prophecy so central to the ISIS narrative. These apocalyptic images portray the hell-on-earth reality of soldiers engaged in the siege. 

Writing from Makhmur, Iraq, Fréderike Geerdink worries that still more ethnic and religious strife could engulf the region after the liberation of Mosul unless the rights of minorities are protected through grassroots democracy.

Fourteen years ago, a government military operation aimed at FARC guerrillas in Medellin, Colombia detained, killed or “disappeared” many innocent residents. Angelika Albaladejo explains how the victims are still seeking justice for the episode, which witnesses say was supplemented by paramilitary forces. Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden look at a new phenomenon in Africa — Chinese “government-organized non-governmental organizations,” or GONGOs, such as the Nairobi-based Care for All Kids.

Film critic Brian Formo reviews a new documentary on Netflix, “Sky Ladder,” about the Chinese contemporary artist, Cai Guo-Qiang, who creates magical effects using explosives. Cai has also designed the 2016 Berggruen Prize for philosophy, which will be given to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor at the New York Public Library on Dec. 1.

Our Singularity series this week details how nanosensors and urine tests can detect cancer early on.



EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at The Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Nick Robins-Early and Jesselyn Cook are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is World Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as theAdvisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei KudrinPascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon MuskPierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel RoubiniNicolas SarkozyEric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter SchwartzAmartya SenJeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry SummersWu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony BlairJacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar IssingMario MontiRobert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.

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Categories: News Monitor

Donald Trump Victory Would Send Stocks Plummeting 10 To 15 Percent

20 hours 2 min ago

A victory for Republican nominee Donald Trump would send stock markets in the United States, the United Kingdom and Asia down by 10 to 15 percent, according to a new economic analysis.

In a paper released Friday by the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, economics professors Justin Wolfers and Eric Zitzewitz tracked overnight trading during the first presidential debate last month between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. They found that markets around the world surged as it became clear that Clinton had won the face-off.

“Markets believe this election will have huge ramifications for the global economy,” Wolfers wrote in a flurry of tweets breaking down his findings. “It’s not just about us; it’s about the world.”

See more of his analysis below:

Want to know what markets think of Clinton? Analyze how they responded when Trump's debate meltdown made her a more likely POTUS. pic.twitter.com/5biZ9F5B8K

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

How do we know this was due to the greater likelihood of a Clinton win? Well, what else would cause the Peso to skyrocket at the same time? pic.twitter.com/7tV4f27i4B

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Are we over-analyzing a blip? No. Overnight markets rarely move this much. Something big happened during the debate. pic.twitter.com/SP1cmGQYdz

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Compared to typical stock movements on a Monday evening, the debate-related move was large. Very large. pic.twitter.com/sqP2BkijQD

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Indeed, an increasing likelihood of a Clinton win drove equity markets around the world to rise sharply. Bigly, even. pic.twitter.com/apc1JTit2Q

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Here you see that many currencies rose strongly during the first debate. Most prominent? Mexico, Canada, Korea and Australia. pic.twitter.com/vklTmGSU2W

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Why are the effects largest in Mexico, Canada, Korea & Australia? They're countries the US has free trade agreements with.They're at risk.

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

The inverse ― that the likelihood of Trump losing would give markets a boost ― also appears to be supported by evidence.

Let's examine another experiment: What happened after the Trump tapes were released? His odds of winning plummeted. pic.twitter.com/W8qtRxWO20

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Unfortunately for me, the Trump groping scandal occurred when markets were closed. But when they re-opened, they opened higher. pic.twitter.com/QnGnlZCQnd

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Trump's groping was good news for markets, because it made a Trump Presidency less likely.

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Let's put the market rally in historic perspective. Romney beat Obama by more in the first debate, but the market moved much less. pic.twitter.com/7h0xwdjIRg

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 21, 2016

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly
political violence
and is a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-911_565b1950e4b08e945feb7326"> style="font-weight: 400;">serial liar, href="http://www.huffingtonpost
.com/entry/9-outrageous-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-latinos_55e483a1e4b0c818f618904b"> style="font-weight: 400;">rampant xenophobe
.com/entry/donald-trump-racist-examples_us_56d47177e4b03260bf777e83"> ">racist, .com/entry/18-real-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-women_us_55d356a8e4b07addcb442023"> style="font-weight: 400;">misogynist and href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-stephen-colbert-birther_56022a33e4b00310edf92f7a"> >birther who has
repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from
entering the U.S.

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Categories: News Monitor

Without Plan B, Mosul Will Be A Disaster

20 hours 4 min ago
A shakier foundation cannot ensure the long-term durability of a two-storey walkup. Expecting it to support a towering skyscraper would be akin to living in a state of extreme delusion.The battle for Mosul -- touted as one of the final death blows to ISIL -- has begun on a shaky foundation. So shaky, in fact, that the building of enduring Iraqi peace can't be constructed on it. The Mosul offensive has the trappings of Amerli, Fallujah, Kirkuk and Tikrit combined into one -- and with a much greater human toll. ISIL will undoubtedly be wiped out from Mosul in a few months, if not weeks. The problem lies in the post-ISIL Mosul. A massive refugee crisis, rampant war crimes perpetuated by the Iran-backed militias; and a total collapse of the civic infrastructure are some of the likeliest outcomes.

On paper, the blueprint for the recapturing of Mosul looks perfect. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces would enter from the east; the Iraqi army will advance from the west; and the US will carry out the air strikes. The Shiite militias, a key part of the campaign, are assigned to take positions at the periphery of the city with only the regular Iraqi army entering the city center. The plan would ideally ensure the fall of Mosul in a few weeks. This has happened before. American military advisers and US military equipment played a key role in the retaking of Amerli, Fallujah and Kirkuk. Before that, Americans mounted a successful offensive against the extremists in Fallujah in 2006. It was the aftermath that paved ground for the ultimate rise of ISIL.

The Plan A doesn't take into account the "day after" impact of the offensive. It overlooks the human toll, both in terms of lives lost and mass uprooting of civilians from their ancestral homes. It also favors quick results over enduring success. Fallujah in 2006 is the prime example of this approach. After enabling the locals to rise against Al-Qaeda, Americans left them at the mercy of a deeply sectarian Iraqi government. Years of neglect, abuses and state brutalities ultimately gave rise to ISIL. Only then the Americans woke up and dust up the old plans for re-implementation.

The operations against ISIL reflect this harrowing trend. US practically turned a blind eye to mass executions and grave violations of human rights by Shiite militias and the Iraqi army. The abuses, which bordered on war crimes, were pervasive and systematic, as reported by the Amnesty International. The trigger-happy militias were often joined by the regular Iraqi army in inflicting some of the worst torture on hapless civilians. In Fallujah alone, over 900 men and boys were abducted and are still missing -- presumably dead.

These blood-thirsty militias are now ready to pounce upon the Mosulawis (residents of Mosul). They have already started terrorizing the civilians on their way to the second largest city of Iraq. The regular forces could also use torture and summary executions, fears the Amnesty International. If past precdents are taken into account, both the militias and the regular forces may kill thousands of civilians in Mosul. The U.S. has no plans in place to check on this carnage and might as well become an accessory to the murder. Thus the Mosulawis will transition from being under one tyrant i.e. ISIL to an even greater one i.e. the militias and vengeful Iraqi forces.

This will trigger the refugee crisis. United Nations can only handle up to 250,000 refugees in the coming months. With a population of over one million -- and many wanting to flee -- the refugees could number upwards of 750,000. This could create another uptick in the refugee population in Europe. Although US is actively participating in the offensive, it will most likely not share the burden, as was evident during the Syrian refugee crisis. Has the coalition taken steps to mitigate the crisis? Or is it solely interested in quickly eliminating the ISIL and letting the partisan Iraqi government pick up the pieces?

There has to be a Plan B for the Mosul offensive to be successful. This should essentially exclude the murderous Shiite militias and rely solely on the Kurds, Sunni allies and the regular Iraqi army. More importantly, the US should work with local partners to enforce a safe zone outside the city of Mosul. With humanitarian corridors ensuring safe exits and provision of basic amenities in the safe zone, the flow of refugees can be stemmed.

In an ideal scenario, the refugee crisis should only be a transient situation with everyone returning to their homes. U.S. has not shown the commitment in the past to achieve this end. The existing Iraqi political structure has been designed in a way to deny equal participation to the Sunnis. ISIL owes its very existence to this harsh reality. There is no guarantee a new extremist group won't emerge if ISIL is somehow eliminated. The Plan B should strive to reboot the Iraqi political structure to ensure fair treatment and equal participation of all. Only then can the prospects of enduring peace can be ensured in the region.

Is the U.S. ready to commit? The answer appears to be in the negative. A swift and superficial victory in Mosul will end President Obama's career on a high note. He doesn't seem much interested in the human cost and long-term fallout of the offensive. It will most likely be President Hillary Clinton who will have to clean up the mess. And what a mess it will be!

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Categories: News Monitor

A Belated Victory For Egypt's 'Golden General'

20 hours 5 min ago
The fates of Hosni Mubarak and General El-Shazly collided in Tahrir, with one honoured in death and the other disgraced.

Veteran Egyptian war correspondent Yehia Ghanem recalls the day in February 2011 when it seemed as if the Egyptian people had finally broken free from the cage of dictatorship. Read the rest of his series, Caged, here.

On the morning of February 10, as the revolution was at its peak, I received a call from a former Egyptian diplomat, Ambassador Mohamed el-Shazly. He was calling to break the news of his uncle's death. Saad el-Shazly had been a legendary Egyptian military leader. Known as the Golden General, he had led the reconstruction of the Egyptian army after it had been shattered during the 1967 Six-Day War against Israel.

The timing of his death seemed symbolic.

As chief of staff, el-Shazly had led the army during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the most successful in modern Egyptian history.

After the unprecedented success of the first 10 days of that war, the tide began to turn as a large Israeli force led by General Ariel Sharon broke through between the Egyptian 2nd army, which was positioned on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal in the Sinai Peninsula, and the Egyptian 3rd army, which was on its western bank.

El-Shazly wanted to respond by redeploying two brigades and a battalion from the 2nd army in order to besiege the Israelis. But Sadat refused. He feared this would look like a withdrawal and that military morale would be damaged. The military consequences of ignoring his chief of staff were grave.

After the war ended, the bitterness between the two men continued. Wanting to remove el-Shazly from the army, Sadat made him ambassador to the United Kingdom, and later to Portugal. It was during this time that Sadat undertook his historic visit to Israel in November 1977.

El-Shazly publicly opposed the Camp David Accords, signed between Egypt and Israel in 1978, and resigned from his post. He was forced into exile in Algeria, from where he wrote a book that gave his account of the 1973 war. For this, he was court-martialed in absentia, accused of writing the book without approval and of divulging military secrets within it. He strongly denied the latter charge. But el-Shazly was sentenced in absentia to three years of hard labour, while all of his Egyptian assets were confiscated.

When Sadat was assassinated in 1981, the bitterness towards el-Shazly was passed on to his successor, Hosni Mubarak, who as the commander of the air force during the 1973 war, had been one of el-Shazly's subordinates.

When, in 1992, el-Shazly returned to Egypt after years in exile, he was arrested at the airport. Mubarak insisted upon executing his sentence, despite appeals for clemency or, at least, a retrial. The new president, it seemed, wanted to erase General el-Sazly's name from Egyptian military history.

Now his nephew was calling me, asking if I would publish his obituary in Al-Ahram newspaper. But I had another idea.

"Would you mind moving the general's body to Tahrir Square so that the hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered there can observe a funeral prayer for him?" I asked.

The ambassador was stunned.

It would be an opportunity to pay a long-overdue tribute to a much-maligned national hero, I explained.

"Could the demonstrators ensure the safety of the body?" he asked me.

"I'm sure they could," I replied.

I called some of the protesters and proposed the idea to them. They welcomed the gesture and began to make preparations to receive the body. But moving it from Heliopolis, a suburb eight miles from Tahrir Square, proved too difficult in the circumstances and the plan had to be aborted.

But on the following day, Friday, February 11, after Friday prayers, almost a million protesters in Tahrir Square and the surrounding streets observed the funeral prayer for General Saad El-Shazly.

The symbolism was not lost on those who prayed for his soul. Here was a great military leader, who had been tarnished and punished by both Sadat and Mubarak, being honoured on the very day that Mubarak was eventually forced to step down in disgrace.

On that day, millions of Egyptians celebrated. It was time for us to break free from the cage of dictatorship, it seemed.

But, in just two years, we would learn that what we had thought was the end of dictatorship was, in fact, just a hoax.


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Categories: News Monitor

A New Generation Of Chinese Social Entrepreneurs Is Emerging In Africa

20 hours 24 min ago

Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden are the duo behind the China Africa Project and hosts of the popular China in Africa Podcast. We’re here to answer your most pressing, puzzling, even politically incorrect questions, about all things related to the Chinese in Africa and Africans in China.

The story of the Chinese in Africa is one that has been largely defined by either state or corporate interests. While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Western nongovernmental organizations and other civil society groups that have long been active in Africa, there are a just a handful of similar Chinese organizations dedicated to charity and nonprofit development that are based on the continent.

The dearth of Chinese NGOs in Africa should not come as a surprise given that the rise of the nonprofit sector in China is a relatively new phenomenon. Today, there are an estimated 500,000 registered NGOs in China, most of which focus on domestic issues in areas such as poverty, environment and health. Now, however, a growing number of Chinese NGOs are looking abroad, particularly in Africa.

In much of the West, an NGO is often considered to be an independent entity, thus the name “nongovernmental.” In China, though, it is not that simple. Independent civil society groups, especially foreign groups, are largely viewed with suspicion by the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP. Over the past 12 to 18 months, the government has enacted a series of harsh new regulations to restrict the activities of both domestic and foreign NGOs operating within the country. The CCP, for its part, is worried about any organization, particularly those that deal with sensitive social issues like the environment, legal reform and human rights, as potential threats to its political supremacy. So facing pressure at home, an increasing number of Chinese nonprofits are turning abroad.

So while the Western definition of an NGO is that it is inherently “nongovernmental,” in the Chinese context that distinction is far more blurry as the lines that divide the state, the party and state-owned companies from one another are often harder to see. Within that matrix is fairly new kind of development organization known as a “GONGO” or Government-Organized Non-Governmental Organization. Typically, these GONGOs operate development projects as an extension of political or diplomatic agendas abroad, as is the case with Chinese GONGOs in certain parts of Africa.

Loise_Q&A from Care for All Kids on Vimeo.

The emergence of these so-called “GONGOs” in Africa is occurring at the same time that a new generation of young, highly-educated professionally-minded Chinese are also developing relatively new hybrid social entrepreneurship organizations focused on corporate social responsibility, education and wildlife conservation, among others. Groups such as Nairobi-based China House Kenya and Care For All Kids are among the best examples of this budding trend.

Kate Yuan and Joany Huang helped to co-found the teacher training nonprofit Care For All Kids. They join Eric & Cobus ― in the podcast above ― to discuss why there are so few Chinese NGOs in Africa, and the difficulties associated with funding and operating a nonprofit in Kenya.

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Also from The China Africa Project: + articlesList=5775ade3e4b04164640f6297,57755a4ce4b04164640ed1cb,577e9fbbe4b01edea78cfdff,576a9840e4b065534f485002

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This Halloween, Don’t Be THAT Person With The Frighteningly Offensive Costume

20 hours 41 min ago

Here’s your annual reminder that it’s not festive to dress up like a privileged jerk this year for Halloween. 

I mean, we’re already off to a pretty great start in general, society.

Walmart.com had to take down a Tranny Granny costume. Disney removed a “Moana” costume that appeared to promote “brownface.” And one retailer pulled a costume making light of Kim Kardashian being a victim of armed robbery.

Here’s a handy guide on how not to reduce someone’s culture to shiny pleather; how not to hyper-sexualize an entire gender; and how not to make light of serious issues.

Dangerous Stereotypes About Terrorism Aren’t Really A Laughing Matter

Muslim communities in America have to deal with an unjust level of Islamophobia as it is. Parading around on Halloween as a “bomber” in traditional Middle Eastern clothes just further perpetuates harmful stereotypes. Also, terrorism is no laughing matter: Groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State take the lives of thousands of people each year.


Mocking Undocumented Immigrants Is Tasteless And Insensitive

The election rhetoric around immigration has gotten intense, to say the least. So particularly in this environment, wearing a costume that boasts a derogatory term for undocumented immigrants, “illegal alien” ― and that actually depicts someone with a green card as an extraterrestrial ― is not only dangerous but it’s also tasteless. 

Some immigrants are fleeing serious violence in their home countries, while others are simply seeking a better life for their families. All of them deserve our respect as fellow humans.


Try Not To Hypersexualize Women With Every. Single. Costume.

It’s hard to ruin anything related to “Hamilton,” but somehow Halloween did.

Costume retailers, please stop making women’s costumes the “sexy” version of everything. We’ve seen sexy sharks, sexy burritos and, of course, a sexy Ken Bone. It’s hard to believe, but a regular costume, like a man gets to wear, would be fine with women, too. 


Casually ‘Painting’ On A Race For A Night Upholds Systemic Racism And Is Beyond Privileged 

To the 52 percent of white Americans who think it’s okay to dress in blackface for Halloween, here’s some advice for you: Just don’t. 

Blackface has a long and racist history that, by painting your face black on Halloween, you are actively choosing to ignore, and in fact are perpetuating.

“For so many black Americans, blackface carries unavoidable associations of hate, violence and degradation, and if you choose to wear it, you’re basically broadcasting the message ‘I don’t give a shit about black people’s feelings,’” writes HuffPost reporter Julia Craven

Plus, the ability to casually wipe off a skin color at the end of the night ― without having to live through the accompanying real-life discrimination ― is classic privilege. 

“Once you’re done masquerading as a black person — employing the same techniques used not just to belittle the black experience, but to prop up the systemic subjugation of the entire race — you get to remove the color from your skin,” Craven adds. “Black people do not have this luxury. We cannot wash our blackness from ourselves, nor can we eliminate all the stereotypes and all the forms of oppression that come with it.”


Most Asians Don’t Like To Be Depicted As Exotic And Servantile 

The depiction of geishas comes loaded with a complicated and dehumanizing history. So the act of wearing the traditional Japanese garb as a costume can make light of ― and uphold ― stereotypes related to oppression rooted in racism and sexism.

Blogger Nina Jacinto wrote about the depiction of geishas, stating:

“It’s a troubling attempt to sidestep authentic representation and humanization of a culture and opt instead for racialized fetishizing against Asian women.”


Dressing Up As Another Culture Isn’t Appreciation, It’s Appropriation

From the Red Skins team mascot to Halloween’s surge of Pocahotties costumes, American pop culture regularly takes from Native culture without permission, and uses it (or misuses it, rather) for its own entertainment.

The fact that someone can don another person’s reality for an evening, whether their culture, race or religion, and then toss it aside at their convenience, is the epitome of privilege.  

As HuffPost blogger Nadia Dawisha put it: “This is why it is so dangerous to ‘dress up’ as another culture, because a white person who dresses up as a ‘Mexican’ in Arizona doesn’t have to worry that his citizenship will be questioned. He can go to a ‘ghetto’ party and wear his hoodie up in an effort to look more ‘hood’ without fearing that he will get killed like Trayvon Martin.”


But Everyone, DO Wear This

For those of you still wondering what to wear, take a note from the funny (pun-y?) cactus above. Or you can check out these badass looks for ladies, these family-friendly get-ups, or these creative costumes for two.

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Categories: News Monitor

Through Their Voices 7.10: The Chronicler's Voice

20 hours 54 min ago
Moaddamiyeh has been an early hotspot for anti-Assad demonstrations and the following government oppression. The town has endured the siege of the Assad regime since the end of 2012, and it is one of the towns hit by chemical weapons in August 2013. Despite all the violence, these activists believe in the principle of peaceful. And after five years of the Syrian revolution, their stories and experiences must be heard, their words reflect their struggles and hopes. Ten stories will be told through their voices.

Abdulrahamn when he was volunteering in the Syrian refugees camps in Lebanon 2014. Photo: Private

Like any normal young guy in Syria, Abdulrahman had his dreams and ambitions. He was only 19 when the Syrian revolution started. Abdulrahman was very shocked while watching the news about the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt. At the time he thought that things are really hard in many other Arab countries, but in Syria this would be impossible. When he heard about the first demonstration in Moaddamiyeh, he didn't believe it, so he went there to check out himself.

"I was standing there and looking at them. I was in a complete shock, but the demonstration didn't last for a long time until the intelligence forces came to throw gas bombs and to hit and arrest the demonstrators. I saw my friend who fell to the ground after he got severely affected by the gas, I refused to stand on the side and rushed to hold him and helped him to leave before they could get him and arrest him. And at that moment I knew I wanted to be part of this and support my fellows and friends against the oppression."

Abdulrahman went back home thinking about why such a simple demonstration needed such an aggressive response and why things are much harder in Syria and he planned not to tell his parents that he was in the revolution scene. He felt that they would freak out like any other Syrian parents who raised their children with a long not-to-do list. Starting with politics and ending with even complaining about the traffic jam in public.

"I had good experience with designing programs besides being a first year law student and my university was in Beirut. I was on holiday at that period of time but then decided not to go back to my university until the situation was stable again in Syria and I thought that maximum we will demonstrate for two months and then we will overthrow the regime."

People at the beginning were optimistic about the Assad's leaving soon, but things turned to be much more complicated in the Syrian situation. Abdulrahman later on participated in less demonstration due to the pressure from by his parents, so he needed to work in another supporting role, helping with graphic design for internet posters and banners to be printed.

"My first design was making Assad photos looks like Hitler because they are both the same! I was publishing my art works online using a fake name. Later, in one of the demonstrations the regime forces shot three demonstrators and dozens got injured. I saw the blood spots on the street and I was traumatised. Ten minutes ago, these guys were full of life and we were chanting together and now they were killed and they will not be here anymore. On that day, the demonstration was huge and it was very peaceful and friendly. I went back home after helping out with rescuing the injured people. My T-shirt was bloodstained and my mom started to cry hysterically when she saw me entering the house. She was trying to reach me on the phone when she was heard the shooting but I never picked up her calls. I didn't cry or talk and I locked myself in my room for couple of days and later I produced a design of Syria's flag leaking blood."

The anti regime demonstrations were growing in all of Syria. So, Abdulrahman was expanding his connections and worked with designers and activists from different areas. He also supported other activists in Moaddamiyeh with information encryption and safe internet surfing.

In 2012, Moaddamiyeh witnessed two brutal massacres, which were committed by Assad's forces. Abdulrahman and his family saw the first massacres and during the second one they left their house to go to their relatives' home. They returned after the regime's forces left, only to see that their house was totally damaged. All the furniture, the doors and everything had been damaged. That led them to take their decision to leave Syria and flee to Lebanon. After days of arguing and struggling, Abdulrahman accepted his family pressure and they left Syria. Abdulrahman thought he will go with them to Lebanon and then go back to Syria without their permission, but unfortunately his plan didn't work out because the crossings were closed later to Moaddamiyeh and the siege started at the end of 2012.

In Lebanon Abdulrahman and his family lived in a village close to the Lebanese-Syrian borders and he didn't stop supporting his fellows back in Moaddamiyeh online or in any other way in which he was able to help. He was designing posters according to the events in Syria and supporting advocacy campaigns by publishing them on social networks and producing graphic materials. He also was a co-founder for a campaign dedicated to the memory of the martyrs that were killed in Moaddamiyeh. Designing posters with their photos and producing short video reports about them. Abdulrahman was required by the Lebanese authorities to renew his residency by departing the country and then checking back in at the borders, which was something he wasn't able to do for two reasons, the first one that he ran the risk of being arrested for his activism and the second one that he is wanted for military service in Syria. He therefore didn't have any choice but to stay at home trying to hide from the Lebanese police, because he would otherwise immediately be deported to Syria if he was caught in the street without a legal residency.

Abdulrahman was trying and trying to find a way to return to Moaddamiyeh because he found the living conditions in Lebanon impossible to bear. Finally, after one year and five months Abdulrahman was able to go back to his hometown after the crossing was open for a brief period of time.

"It was really dangerous to take the risk and go back to but really I had nothing to lose. At least, I feel I'll be living here with dignity and if I died, I will also die with my dignity in tact. But, in Lebanon I had three choices, which were living with humiliation, being arrested with humiliation or dying with humiliation."

When Abdulrahman first came back to Moaddamiyeh, it was a little bit hard to cope with the situation and to live without the basic life resources such as electricity and internet. But, he developed some ways to get through the situation.

"There isn't a straightforward solution to dealing with the problems we are facing under the siege, but we are trying to do our best to deal with the daily struggles, make it a little bit easier."

He is now volunteering with a local charity to support the families and early childhood education under the siege. When I asked him about the news outside Moaddamiyeh he said:

"I guess we are the news so we don't care about watching the news because we are witnessing it live. Sometimes one of us might have a poor connection to the internet and he might catch a few scraps of news, so he will come over to the volunteers' office and tell us about it. Despite everything, I'm really happy to be here, living in my family's house and helping people and whenever I'm tired I just need to remember the smiles on the faces of the kids I'm working with to get all my strength back again."

Abdulrahman hopes now that he could find ways that might help him to provide all the different kinds of support needed for all the families who are living under siege. Recently he got a notebook with a locker and he started to write his diary under the siege and he hope that one day his stories will be published somewhere so people in other parts of the world will be able to know one day -hopefully- the truth of what is going in Syria.

"Writing the siege diary is making me feel better when I'm upset. There is a saying which says »Powerful people write history«. So, I'm trying to write it! Maybe one day we can prevent Assad's family from faking the history of Syria, which we are living currently. Everybody living in Syria should write their story. It doesn't cost anything but a pen and diary book. We are making history and we should write history."

The story was originally published in German on WirMachenDas.Jetzt

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Confronting North Korea: Friendly Proliferation May Be Safer for America than Holding a Nuclear Umbrella

21 hours 15 min ago
Looking to its legacy, the Obama administration may declare no first use of nuclear weapons. Some Asia specialists concerned about North Korea argue against making such a pledge. That's another reason it might be better for Washington to encourage its ally South Korea to go nuclear.

Washington has possessed nuclear weapons for more than 70 years. No one doubts that the U.S. would use nukes in its own defense. After all, America became the first nation to use the atomic bomb--against Japan in World War II.

However, since then Washington has extended a so-called "nuclear umbrella" over many of its allies which lack nuclear weapons. Exactly who is so protected and under what circumstances? No one really knows, especially with the Obama administration moving to narrow the circumstances for use of nuclear weapons.

Early in the Cold War the U.S. threatened "massive retaliation" in Europe to offset Soviet conventional superiority. Once Moscow acquired an equivalent nuclear arsenal that approach lost appeal. Nevertheless, Washington still promised to use nuclear weapons in its NATO allies' defense, though the precise circumstances under which the U.S. would act were not clear.

The U.S. also holds, probably, a nuclear umbrella over its Mideast allies. With perhaps 200 of its own nukes, Israel doesn't need American protection, though no election-minded U.S. politicians would admit as much. The U.S. could use nuclear weapons on behalf of Saudi Arabia and perhaps other friendly states, though that is far from clear. Certainly Washington is expected to prevent adversaries, such as Iran, from developing nukes. If Tehran moved ahead, some observers believe that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey would respond with their own programs.

Northeast Asia is the region where nuclear threats seem greatest. Japan and South Korea are thought to be snuggled beneath America's nuclear umbrella, which has discouraged both from acquiring their own weapons. Other possible claimants include Taiwan and Australia, though, again, no one quite knows what Washington would do when. Presumably the guarantee runs against Russia (and before it, the Soviet Union), People's Republic of China, and Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The "umbrella" obviously is defensive, that is, to protect American allies against the first use of nukes. However, Washington also could--and, it appears, would, if necessary, whatever that might mean--use nuclear weapons first to stop a conventional attack. While Moscow and Beijing might not be particularly friendly with America these days, they aren't likely to attack the Republic of Korea or Japan. More plausible is a North Korean invasion of the ROK.

Extended nuclear deterrence always has been risky for the U.S. It means being willing to fight a nuclear war on behalf of others, that is, Americans would risk Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles to, say, defend Berlin and Tokyo. At least bilateral deterrence among great powers tends to be reasonably stable, though credibility issues remain. Is Washington really willing to risk nuclear war over an issue of limited importance? The Chinese already have queried whether Americans believe saving Taipei is worth losing Los Angeles. It isn't, or at least it shouldn't be.

Dealing with North Korea is potentially more dangerous. Some analysts estimate that it could have 50 or more nuclear weapons in just a few more years. While Kim Jong-un, like his father and grandfather, wants his virgins in this world rather than the next, his judgment and stability are problematic. He might start a war inadvertently. Yet the DPRK eventually may gain the ability to strike the U.S. by developing long-range missiles as well as nuclear weapons. The North isn't likely to attack first, but it still could lay waste to a major U.S. city.

Which would be very bad indeed. Yet advocates of extended deterrence are criticizing proposals for an American pledge of no first use of nuclear weapons. Writing for NK News analyst Robert E. McCoy argued that the U.S. should not announce the conditions under which it would use nukes given Kim's threats to use them: "It is imperative that Kim Jong-un is made to understand that he faces the destructive power of our entire weapons arsenal at all times when it comes to threatening the U.S. or its allies."

Yet that is precisely the problem. It is one thing for Washington to use nuclear weapons, including preemptively, to protect America. It is quite different to do so for allies. Alliances are a means, not an end, that is, a mechanism to help defend the U.S. A North Korean attack on the ROK would be awful, a humanitarian tragedy. But American security would not be directly threatened. Certainly there is no threat warranting the risk of nuclear retaliation on the U.S.

Of course, those being defended have configured their security policy and force structure in response. The Brookings' Jonathan D. Pollack and Richard C. Bush note: "Non-nuclear states living in the shadow of nuclear-armed adversaries have long relied on U.S. security guarantees, specifically the declared commitment to employ nuclear weapons should our allies be subject to aggression with conventional forces." But future policy should not be held captive to the past.

Pollack and Bush warn against putting allies' security at risk. However, Washington's chief responsibility should be America's security. Backers of the status quo act like there is no alternative to leaving the ROK (and Japan, which faces a real, though less direct, threat from the DPRK) vulnerable to attack. However, Seoul is well able to deter and defeat the North. The ROK possesses around 40 times the GDP and twice the population of North Korea, as well as a vast technological lead and an extensive international support network. Japan, which long possessed the world's second largest economy, also could do far more.

The South is capable of developing nuclear weapons. Indeed, a half century ago the current president's father, President Park Chung-hee, dropped the ROK's program under intense U.S. pressure. But interest in a South Korean bomb never entirely died, with polls showing public support for such an option today.

Opposition to nuclear weapons is stronger in Japan, but an ROK weapon would put enormous pressure on Tokyo to conform. The U.S. should not press either nation to choose the nuclear option. But Washington should indicate that it no longer plans to put its cities on the line for anything other than truly vital interests involving America, which are not at stake here.

Obviously, there are plenty of good reasons to oppose proliferation, even among friends. The more nuclear powers, the greater the potential for instability, proliferation, and use. However, the alternative in this case is not stability, nonproliferation, and nonuse. Rather, it is entangling Washington in the middle of other nations' potential conflicts involving all of Asia's threatening powers, China, Russia, and North Korea. The result is to make America less secure.

Pollack and Bush write about "Northeast Asia's inescapable realities." However, precisely such realities suggest withdrawing the U.S. from that region's nuclear imbroglio. Then America's allies could engage in containment and deterrence, just as America did for them for so many years.

This article was first posted to Naitonal Interest online.

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Public Perceptions on Constitutional Reform in Sri Lanka

21 hours 28 min ago
The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is out with a new report on constitutional reform in Sri Lanka. The paper is based on field research that was conducted in August and September of this year. It includes data from all of the country's twenty-five districts. This is another clearly written and compelling report from CPA's survey unit, Social Indicator. Constitutional reform is a major component of the coalition government's agenda.

Let's look at some of the findings.

Broadly speaking, Sri Lankans are not very aware of the constitutional reform process. 1.1 percent of Sri Lankans are extremely aware that such a process is taking place. 21.9 percent are somewhat aware. Approximately 25 percent of respondents didn't know that a constitutional reform process had been undertaken.

Moreover, nearly 70 percent of respondents have not heard of the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PRC), the entity created to get feedback from the public vis-à-vis constitutional reform. Less than 1 percent of respondents are extremely aware of the PRC.

In terms of the specifics pertaining to reform, 34 percent of respondents believe the country needs a new constitution. On the other hand, 34 percent of respondents say what's needed is for changes to be made to the existing constitution. There are other interesting data points about whether the executive presidency should be abolished and how the state should be described, among other matters.

Aside from the public's overall lack of awareness about the process, another key takeaway from the report is that there doesn't appear to be any sort of national consensus about what should be done. That isn't surprising, although it means that the government's messaging, awareness-raising and communications strategy surrounding this initiative is crucial. Quite evidently, Colombo's performance thus far leaves a lot to be desired.

*This piece first appeared in The Diplomat.

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Snow Leopards And Humans Are Competing For Food, With Tragic Results

21 hours 30 min ago

Humans kill hundreds of snow leopards every year, often as “retaliation” for attacking livestock, according to a new report from wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

The elusive, endangered felines — nicknamed “mountain ghosts” — roam the high mountains of central Asia, and population estimates vary.

As few as 4,000 snow leopards may remain in the wild, according to a news release from TRAFFIC, which is a joint effort by the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However, big cat protection group Panthera notes that scientists estimate between 4,500 and 10,000 wild snow leopards are left.

TRAFFIC’s survey found that between 221 and 450 snow leopards have been poached each year since 2008, based on the estimates of experts working in regions where the cats live. Those numbers could actually be higher, the report says, noting that it’s difficult to monitor illegal trade.  

Snow leopards live in 12 different countries, but more than 90 percent of the apparent poaching of the animals takes place in China, Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Tajikistan.

More than half of those leopards are killed by herders who are targeting animals that have preyed on livestock like sheep and cattle.

A single leopard can kill up to 20 sheep or goats when it enters a pen, Rishi Kumar Sharma, a snow leopard conservation expert with WWF, told The Huffington Post in an email.

“Most of the communities living in the high mountains are impoverished and marginalized and loss of livestock to wild predators has significant bearing on their livelihood,” he said.

A smaller proportion of the cats — 21 percent — were killed specifically for their pelts, teeth, claws and bones, all of which can be sold through illegal channels.

There is sometimes a connection between so-called “retaliatory killings” and this illegal trade, according to the report: Herders who kill leopards primarily to protect their livestock may end up selling the carcass for a profit.

“The snow leopard doesn’t turn up that often in markets, what the report authors have concluded is that it’s a bit opportunistic, if a snow leopard is killed and the parts or the pelt is saleable it’s almost like getting your own back for the livestock you’ve lost,” TRAFFIC’S James Compton told the BBC.

Therefore, the report suggests it’s important to take steps to decrease conflicts between leopards and humans, including introducing “predator-proof corrals” for livestock and educating herders in how to minimize encounters with leopards. The report also recommends government compensation programs to give money to herders who have lost animals to leopards, so that they would have less of a financial incentive to kill the wild animals.

“We have to enable mountain communities to co-exist with snow leopards,” Sharma said.

The organization also calls for stronger enforcement of anti-poaching laws and better monitoring of the illegal wildlife trade.

“TRAFFIC’s analysis confirms the worrying scale of illegal killing of snow leopards,” Compton said in the release. “This urgent wake-up call provides a blueprint for [Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program] action at national and transboundary levels to protect snow leopards from threats posed by poaching and trafficking.”

But hunting isn’t the only threat looming for the beautiful big cats. Scientists believe that if climate change continues unchecked, more than one-third of the leopards’ habitat could disappear, according to a WWF report released last year.

But Sharma said there’s still hope.

“Snow leopards will not go extinct if we act now and reduce the myriad range of threats to snow leopards,” he said. “But we need to act quickly and scale up the good conservation models to truly benefit snow leopards as well as mountain communities.”

This article has been updated with comment from Rishi Kumar Sharma.

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London City Airport Declared Safe After Mass Evacuation

22 hours 6 min ago

LONDON (Reuters) - London City airport was declared safe on Friday after hundreds of passengers had to be evacuated and two were taken to hospital with breathing difficulties in a suspected chemical incident.

The airport was briefly closed as police and firefighters in protective equipment swept the terminal building of the airport with chemical detectors after several people were taken ill, some of them coughing violently.

“Two complete sweeps of the airport building were carried out jointly by firefighters and police officers ..,” the fire brigade said. “No elevated readings were found and the building was ventilated, searched and declared safe,” it added.

The airport later said it had reopened but that flights would be staggered and some disruption was expected.

There was no immediate explanation for the incident.

Ambulance teams trained in dealing with hazardous substances raced to the airport at around 1500 GMT.

Medics said they treated 27 people for breathing difficulties at the airport itself and took two to hospital.

Among those caught up in the incident was boxer David Haye who Tweeted: “CityAirport got evacuated when everyone started coughing uncontrollably!”

The fire brigade said about 500 people had been evacuated from the terminal of the airport east of London’s Canary Wharf financial district, which mostly serves short-haul, European destinations.

Photos posted on social media showed many passengers milling around on the tarmac, some sheltering from the rain under the wings of parked planes.

The incident came shortly after police said on Friday they had arrested a teenager under terrorism laws following the discovery of a “suspicious item” on a London underground train near Canary Wharf.

Officers discharged a stun gun during the arrest of the 19-year-old in north London who was detained on suspicion of preparing terrorism acts.

The suspect item, which is still being forensically examined, was found by staff on Thursday morning on a train at North Greenwich station in east London near Canary Wharf and close to the O2 music venue.

The station was evacuated and bomb squad officers carried out a controlled explosion to make the item safe. The investigation into the incident is being led by London’s Counter Terrorism Command.

(Additional reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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Richard Branson Recalls 'Bizarre' Lunch With Revenge-Obsessed Trump

22 hours 24 min ago

Richard Branson skewered Donald Trump on Friday, describing a “bizarre” meeting at some point in the past that left the British billionaire “disturbed and saddened.”

In a blog post on his website, the Virgin founder said the Republican nominee invited him over “some years ago” for a one-on-one lunch at his gilded Manhattan apartment. Soon after sitting down to the meal, Branson said, Trump launched into a vicious tirade, vowing vengeance on people who’d refused to lend him money during one of his six bankruptcies.

“Even before the starters arrived he began telling me about how he had asked a number of people for help after his latest bankruptcy and how five of them were unwilling to help,” Branson, 66, wrote. “He told me he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying these five people.”

Branson said Trump “didn’t speak about anything else.”

“I was baffled why he had invited me to lunch solely to tell me this,” Branson wrote. “For a moment, I even wondered if he was going to ask me for financial help. If he had, I would have become the sixth person on his list!”

Valued at about $5 billion, Branson is now one of several people in the so-called “three comma club” to criticize Trump.

Warren Buffett, the world’s third richest person with $64.5 billion, admonished Trump earlier this month for refusing to release his tax returns. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, worth about $3.3 billion, has repeatedly antagonized Trump on Twitter and in the press. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose wealth Forbes puts at about $43.6 billion, has called him “risky and reckless” and questioned the former reality TV star’s net worth.

Trump’s actual net worth is unclear. The real estate mogul claims to be worth $10 billion, but Forbes pegs his wealth at $3.7 billion. Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index valued him at $3 billion, and Tim O’Brien, a former Huffington Post editor and author of a book about Trump, claimed last year that the mogul could be worth as little as $150 million.

Even Charles and David Koch, the billionaire conservative megadonors, have refused to back Trump for president. Charles, worth $42.1 billion, compared Trump’s proposed policies on Muslims to those of a Nazi. David, valued at $17.5 billion, pulled his support for the Republican National Convention in July after it was clear Trump would be the party’s nominee.

“What concerns me most, based upon my personal experiences with Donald Trump, is his vindictive streak, which could be so dangerous if he got into the White House,” wrote Branson, who, as a British citizen, cannot vote in the U.S. election. “For somebody who is running to be the leader of the free world to be so wrapped up in himself, rather than concerned with global issues, is very worrying.”

By contrast, Branson said, the conversation at the first one-on-one lunch he shared with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton revolved around education reform, the war on drugs, women’s rights, conflicts around the world and the death penalty.  

“She was a good listener as well as an eloquent speaker,” he wrote. “As she understands well, the President of the United States needs to understand and be engaged with wider world issues, rather than be consumed by petty personal quarrels.”

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly .com/entry/donald-trump-violence_us_56e1f16fe4b0b25c91815913">incites political violence and is a serial liar, .com/entry/9-outrageous-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-latinos_55e483a1e4b0c818f618904b">rampant xenophobe, .com/entry/donald-trump-racist-examples_us_56d47177e4b03260bf777e83">racist, .com/entry/18-real-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-women_us_55d356a8e4b07addcb442023">misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Battle For Mosul Overwhelms Efforts To Shelter Fleeing Civilians

23 hours 1 min ago

The military efforts under way in Mosul are dwarfing the humanitarian response. Campbell MacDiarmid reports from near the front line, where aid agencies are rushing to build camps for fleeing civilians, while displaced Iraqis explain how difficult it is to escape.

HASANSHAM, IRAQ – Bulldozers worked under the light of a full moon in Hasansham in northern Iraq on Sunday night, rushing to level the earth for an enormous new displacement camp. The impetus was the revving of the engines nearby – a huge military convoy was preparing to advance towards ISIS-held Mosul, 16 miles westwards.

Iraq’s second-largest city has been under the control of the so-called Islamic State for the past two and a half years, and now the military operation to retake the city is under way. The U.N. estimates that up to 1.5 million civilians are still trapped in Mosul and fears that the battle to retake ISIS’s Iraq capital could cause the largest humanitarian crisis in a generation. Relief organizations anticipate that up to 1 million could flee the fighting, but warn that if they stay in their homes, their situation could be even more dire.

In the nearby completed section of Hasansham camp, row upon neat row of tents stood dust-covered and empty, awaiting the expected influx of civilians. Up to 200,000 could flee just in the first days of the offensive, according to Norwegian Refugee Council media adviser Karl Schembri, but existing camps like Hasansham can only accommodate 60,000 people at present.

If the predicted numbers of civilians flee from Mosul and its surrounding villages, emergency relief services will be stretched beyond capacity.

The scale of the military operation by far overshadows the humanitarian response operation in terms of size, funding and government backing, says Tom Robinson, director of Rise Foundation, an organization that monitors displacement in Iraq’s Nineveh province.

“What everyone has accepted is that this response is going to be focused on emergency shelter rather than fully established camps built to good standards,” he said.

Mixed Messages

When and how people flee Mosul depends on the duration and intensity of the military operation, and how the military facilitates safe passage from areas under ISIS control, Robinson says.

Messaging from the Iraqi government to civilians inside Mosul and otherISIS-controlled areas has been mixed on whether to flee from ISIS or stay put. Leaflets air-dropped over Nineveh province in the past months urge civilians to stay away from ISIS positions. In a densely populated place like Mosul, this may be difficult to do while remaining in the city.

But exiled mayor of Mosul, Hussein Ali Hachem, is telling civilians to stay in their homes regardless of the proximity of fighting. “People will stay put, for three, four months, even if there are no services,” he said last month during a visit to the recently recaptured town of Qayyarah.

One resident of Qayyarah, 18-year-old Idris Mohamed, explained why he stayed at home during the Iraqi forces’ operation to retake the city in August. “We stayed inside once the fighting started,” he said. “Security forces told us on the television to remain inside.”

Even if civilians want to flee, ISIS is preventing some from escaping. In the recently retaken town of Haj Ali last month, Wisem Shonet sat in a wheelchair in a temporary displacement camp, his shattered leg elevated. “Daesh caught me trying to flee,” the 25-year-old former police officer said of a failed escape attempt, using the Arabic term for ISIS. “Then they ran my leg over with a car as punishment.”

Recent reports out of Mosul suggest ISIS is shooting civilians who try and leave. “It’s going to be very, very hard for civilians to make the safety points to escape,” said Rasha al-Qeedi, a research fellow from Mosul at Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre in Dubai.

“No one’s going to leave – if 1,000 manage to escape that’s very good.” The geography of the city – with easily guarded choke points – will enable the militants to prevent civilians from fleeing, she says.

Human Shields

The U.N. warned in a statement on Sunday that civilians remaining behind in Mosul could be in extreme danger. “I am extremely concerned for the safety of up to 1.5 million people living in Mosul who may be impacted by military operations to retake the city from [ISIS],” said U.N. Aid chief Stephen O’Brien. “Tens of thousands of Iraqi girls, boys, women and men may be under siege or held as human shields. Thousands may be forcibly expelled or trapped between the fighting lines.”

Those who have recently escaped from areas under ISIS control tell of acute food shortages and a complete breakdown of social services. “We were starving,” said Aisha Saleh, a mother who fled on foot from her village of Ganous with her seven children. “Grinding up wheat to make flour was the only food we had for months.” Staying in a temporary displacement camp in Haj Ali, she said she was eager to return to her village as soon as it was liberated.

The desire to return home and the Iraqi government’s emphasis that civilians should not flee means displacement may be more localized and temporary than some of the U.N.’s more dire estimates, Rise Foundation’s Robinson predicts. “People are so keen to get back to their villages as soon as possible,” he said.

This raises protection concerns as recently recaptured villages are often rigged with booby traps by departing ISIS fighters. “I’ve seen kids playing in fields with Katyusha rockets and grenades lying around, but their families would rather be there than living in a camp,” said Robinson. “What we as humanitarians have to do is make sure there’s informed consent and they know what they are returning to.”

Others who have been living in exile since the ISIS occupation say they are in no hurry to go back. Ali Fazil Abbas fled Mosul in June 2014 and has lived in Harsham displacement camp ever since. “There’s no future for us there now,” the 23-year-old former laborer said of Mosul, wiping a tear from his eye. “My neighbor threatened to kill me and my family, I can’t live next to them again.”

This sentiment was echoed by Muntaha Salih Kalaf, one of 4,000 former Mosul residents in Baharka displacement camp outside of Erbil, whose family is now facing its third winter under canvas. “Our tent is leaking, it’s getting cold at night and we have only these filthy blankets for warmth,” the mother of eight said last week as she picked up crumbs from the floor of her tent. “But I’d rather stay here than ever go back to Mosul. There is nothing for us there.”

This article originally appeared on Refugees Deeply. For weekly updates and analysis about refugee issues, you can sign up to the Refugees Deeply email list.

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