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Updated: 1 hour 19 min ago

Weekend Roundup: When Negotiating With Terrorists Works

5 hours 26 min ago

Former U.S. President George W. Bush once said, “No nation can negotiate with terrorists, for there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death.” Numerous leaders have made similar statements.

And yet, democratic governments have negotiated with internationally designated terrorist groups, including with the Irish Republican Army, the Basque separatist group ETA and ― making history this week ― the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. On Monday, the Colombian government and the FARC signed a peace deal promising to end a 52-year war. The Colombian people will vote on the agreement Sunday and are expected to approve it.

Both the FARC and the government committed human rights violations and inflicted terror for decades. Many are celebrating the deal as the long-overdue end of a conflict that has left about 220,000 people dead and more than 6 million displaced from their homes. Others are criticizing the deal as too soft on the rebels who, if they confess their crimes, will avoid serving their sentences in jail and will instead have to carry out acts of reparation to their victims.

So when does it make sense to negotiate with terrorists? Several factors facilitated negotiating with the FARC. First, the group was in a weakened, war-weary state after a brutal U.S.-backed Colombian military offensive that started in 2000. Also, the FARC doesn’t have an apocalyptic goal like, say, the so-called Islamic State. Although its ideology took a backseat to the drug trade over the years, the FARC was born under a banner of rural land distribution reform for the poor. In response, as a part of the pending deal, the government pledged to better support rural communities and to improve land accessibility.

In other words, negotiating with terrorists entails the psychologically and politically challenging concession that, in some cases, they are not simply criminals but also warriors with a cause that can be partially accommodated. Former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted the IRA regarded as common criminals. But the government needed to treat the group with more dignity than that before a peace deal could be negotiated.

One fear is that validating terrorists’ political goals also validates their violent means. However, this fear may be unmerited as long as the terrorists make enough concessions (maybe because they’re so weakened) that it’s clear they’re not being validated. Instead, the violent means to their end is being proven wrong, which, of course, is their crucial concession.

Sergio Munoz Bata asserts that U.S. military aid to Colombia ― through an initiative called Plan Colombia ― helped the country gain the upper hand against its FARC rebels, making negotiations possible. However, Bata notes, Plan Colombia was accompanied by egregious human rights violations and a failure to curb the drug trade and thus must be evaluated in its totality.

Reporting a WorldPost feature from remote southern Colombia, Sibylla Brodzinsky details the hopes and fears of a FARC squad commander as he prepares to leave behind guns and the drug trade to join society as a law-abiding citizen. Sara Elkamel, in collaboration with HuffPost international editions, brings us the voices of Colombians from various parts of the world who fled the civil war; they share a mix of hope and skepticism ahead of Sunday’s referendum vote.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim explains how peace in Colombia could lead to inclusive economic growth. World Reporter Nick Robins-Early explores the logistical challenges of implementing the ambitious deal.

A man well acquainted with the challenges of negotiating peace, former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres died at the age of 93 this week. WorldPost Editor-in-Chief Nathan Gardels contends that Peres never stopped searching for new solutions to old problems ― the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict chief among them.

From New Jersey, reporter Willa Frej finds that refugee resettlement agencies ― struggling to meet the U.S. quota ― have left some refugees living in poor conditions. U.S. President Barack Obama had promised to resettle 85,000 refugees by the end of the federal government’s 2016 fiscal year, which ends Friday. The U.S. came close to meeting its goal, with 83,661 refugees resettled, including more than 10,000 Syrians.

Still, Turkish leaders, among many others, are adamant that the U.S. and Europe are not doing nearly enough to help the 4.8 million refugees of the Syrian war, Ilgin Yorulmaz reports. From Amman, Dominic Graham of Mercy Corps laments that Aleppo residents are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, especially baby formula, but his organization can’t deliver any of it because ongoing airstrikes and ground clashes continue to make roads impassable.

Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off in the first debate this week. Howard Fineman, who’s been traveling to presidential debates since 1988, dubs Trump’s showing the “worst debate performance in modern times.”

“It was so bad that in a normal year, it would disqualify him from getting anywhere near the White House,” Fineman estimates. “But this is 2016, a year so weird, unsettled and unsettling, that even the spectacle of an unprepared and almost incoherent Trump, reeling from blow after blow from Clinton, may not be enough to slow him down.”

Berggruen Institute fellow Sam Fleischacker tells us that “for a large number of Americans, Trump represents a heroic rebel against what they see as a massive conspiracy — among scientists, historians, journalists and policy experts — that governs what is taken as ‘fact’ in America.”

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador calls for the global community to work together to put an end to tax havens as they expand and drive inequality. In a photo piece, reporter Roque Planas shows us what the search for Mexico’s missing 43 students looks like, two years later.

Reporter Kate Abbey-Lambertz describes a “smog vacuum” that aims to clean China’s air and turn the pollution it collects into jewelry. Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden share with us a short film that puts a face to the prejudice felt by Chinese in Africa and Africans in China.

From New Delhi, Jeong In-seo reports on the “terminator train” that India has launched to combat dengue and chikungunya. To curb mosquito breeding, trucks spray insecticide on bodies of water along railway tracks.

Finally, our Singularity series this week looks at an embryo study that expands our understanding of how life begins.  

                                                 WHO WE ARE

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 the Advisory 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 Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo,Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto ZedilloAhmed Zewail and Zheng Bijian.


From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti,Robert 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

Syria Decimated Under World Watch: A Letter from Syrians Working with US, UK, And European Funded Organizations

6 hours 11 min ago

H.E. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
H.E. François Hollande, President of France
H.E. Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
H.E. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
H.E. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
H.E. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
H.E. John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America
H.E. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France
H.E. Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom
H.E. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany
H.E. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

We Syrian actors work for US, UK and European organizations or implement US, UK and European-funded programs both remotely and in Syria. Months ago, many of us signed a statement warning that our work was endangered due to escalated Assad regime and Russian attacks. Since that statement, the situation in Syria has spiraled out of control with little more than spineless admonishments from the so-called Friends of Syria. Aleppo City, home to over 300,000 Syrians, has been besieged by the regime twice over with food and fuel running dangerously low. Starting last week, Russia and the regime launched a barbaric air campaign dropping unprecedented amounts of air munitions, including most recently Bunker Bombs that make even underground shelters unsafe. On average, over 100 civilians are being killed a day in besieged Aleppo City alone and the two largest hospitals in the city were put out of service following airstrikes in the last two days.

Similarly, the regime and Russia are setting Idlib, Deir Ezzor, Daraa and Damascus countryside on fire using internationally-banned phosphorus and napalm weapons. The regime continues to use chemical weapons throughout Syria and has accelerated its campaign of demographic change, forcibly displacing Syrians and emptying entire cities of their residents including most recently Daraya and now Waer, Homs.

We cannot continue to operate in denial of the realities in Syria and the complete policy failures of the "Friends of Syria". While we seek to direct our own futures, Syria has become a proxy war where we are merely spectators as our fate is being decided by the international community under the guise that "might is right."

Our programs promise to have little to no significance if they are not coupled with policy and military actions that protect civilians and ensure that Syrian civil society and local governance will have a place in the future Syria. Indeed, Syrian civil society organizations recently suspended their activities in Aleppo City due to the regime and Russian onslaught that is destroying their centers and killing their personnel. In meetings with high level US, UK and European officials, we are told that no new policy changes will take place until a new US administration comes into power. By then, we wonder what will be left of Syria and Syrians to protect and programmatically support.

Words and public shaming of the regime and Russia are not enough. They never have been. Without the use of force, we are guaranteed annihilation. In the past five years, the regime and Russia have only temporarily halted their brutality following a threat of force whether it was the threat to strike regime targets following the massive 2013 chemical weapons attack or the threat to drop aid into Daraya resulting in the first aid convoys into Daraya after four years of severe siege.

To continue to operate, we need protection from air munitions either through a No Fly Zone, No Bomb Zone or anti-aircraft missiles. We do not want and never have asked for boots on the ground; we merely need to be protected from the death and destruction that come from above. The skies must be cleared.

We also need the siege on Aleppo City to be immediately broken lest we witness a modern-day Srebrenica with the massacre of hundreds of thousands rather than 8,000.

There cannot be a future Syria with the Assad regime. These five years have shown time and again that an Assad Syria is one devoid of Syrian civil society and local governance. An Assad Syria will be nothing more than rubble and a country emptied of its people. Indeed, the regime is manipulating international laws and treaties to permit more aggressors into Syria, like Russia and Iran, with the sole purpose of killing Syrian civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure. It has categorized all perceived opposition, including medical and aid workers and even the heroic White Helmets, as terrorists to justify obliterating them. Ultimately the regime is fulfilling its promise that it will be Assad or it will burn the country.

Nor can a future Syria be mediated by Russia, the second largest murderer after the Assad regime of Syrian civilians since its offensive started one year ago.

For us, our work is neither a nine to five job nor an exercise in futility to buy time as we develop a Plan B that requires us to immigrate to Europe. Rather it is our lives, aspirations, future and country. If the US, UK and Europe are not willing to act to end the nightmare that plagues our daily lives, we ask that they pull out of Syria and end the farce of political and ceasefire negotiations. Leave Syrians without the false hope that our work will one day achieve the inclusive pluralistic country we have tirelessly strived for or that our so-called Friends will act upon our pleas for help.


181 Syrians working on programs funded by: US State Department, USAID, FCO, DFID, ECHO, EU, Aid Resilience and Stabilization, Danish Foreign Ministry, French Foreign Ministry, German Foreign Ministry, Swedish Foreign Ministry, and Dutch Foreign Ministry.

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Categories: News Monitor

The 20-Something's Guide To Celebrating Rosh Hashanah

6 hours 25 min ago

Rosh Hashanah is here, and it’s a time when Jewish faithful are commanded to wake up and hear the shofar.

But not all Jews are sure where to begin. A witty new video produced by Jewish youth organization the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation lays out a simple and fun guide for celebrating the Jewish new year for those who may be daunted.

“You keep hearing about honey and rams’ horns and fasting and forgiveness, and suddenly you’re stumped,” the video narrates, addressing young Jews out there who don’t quite know how to go about celebrating.

But never fear, the video continues: “You don’t need to wander the desert for 40 years; you don’t need to harvest your own honey; you don’t have to make your own shofar.”

Instead, consider the holiday a spiritual wake-up call, mirrored by the blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn. That wake-up call is an invitation, much like the secular New Year’s holiday, to cast off old habits and set intentions for the months and years to come.

The video lays out five steps to have a meaningful Rosh Hashanah, and they’re practices people of all faiths and non-faiths might benefit from.

1. Practice some self-reflection. Break out your journal and reflect on how the last year went for you and what you’re grateful for. Is there anyone you need to apologize to? Make amends so you don’t carry over any lingering negativity into the new year.

2. Get ready to set intentions. Consider what hopes and goals you have for the upcoming year and what needs to change to get you there. You can even throw some crumbs into a nearby body of water to symbolize casting off regrets.

3. Let go. Rosh Hashanah is a great time to say goodbye to old habits and possessions that may be cluttering your physical and spiritual space.

4. List your goals. Write them down and put them up on the refrigerator where you can see them every day.

5. Now celebrate! There are many forms that can take, and the video suggests a few. Find something that speaks to you and grab a friend to ring in the new year in company.

“Rosh Hashanah 2016” was produced by Rob Schlissel, with creative direction by Eileen Levinson, both of the Schusterman foundation’s ROI Community. It stars actor William DeMerrit.

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Categories: News Monitor

Malaysia's Dangerous Path

6 hours 46 min ago
Muslims from around the world have long chosen Malaysia as a holiday destination, being widely viewed as a moderate Muslim country, where people of diverse ethnicity and religion live in harmony. Muslims account for approximately 60 percent of the population (most of them being ethnic Malay), with Chinese and Indian minorities accounting for most of the rest, practicing Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism as they please. That is part of what makes Malaysia unique. Its tranquility is now under threat, however, a combination of simmering ethnic tension and government action that is taking the country down a dangerous path.

For decades, Malaysia's main opposition party - the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) - has promoted the adoption of Islamic law, and for decades the government has objected to such law, until now. Prime Minister Najib Razak has for many months been embroiled in a corruption scandal, in which he has admitted accepting nearly $700 million as a "donation" to him. Moreover, his government is in trouble, as urban voters are increasingly rejecting the ruling United Malay National Organization (UMNO) and it policies. Many Malaysians have had enough of Mr. Najib, UMNO, and the current government.

Mr. Najib and UMNO have therefore decided to court rural Malays, who tend to be more conservative and who support PAS in greater numbers than their urban counterparts. In May of this year, UMNO fast-tracked the reading of a bill drafted by PAS which sought to increase the punishment courts may impose on those Muslims convicted of religious offenses through existing Islamic courts. Opening that Pandora's Box has naturally created an uproar among moderate Muslims in the country.

Islamic law is already enforced in some capacity in the more conservative parts of the country, where, for example, religious authorities already check patrons' religion in hotels and bars. The authorities may already jail those who do not practice official interpretations of the law. Some PAS members want Muslims convicted of drinking alcohol to receive up to 80 lashes of the rattan cane, and for adulterers to receive up to 100 lashes of the cane, in ominous echoes of the punishment already dispensed in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Is the next step amputations for stealing and hangings for being gay? Moderate Muslims know that such a pivot toward the imposition of Islamic law usually only leads in one direction: more of the same.

UMNO had previously maintained that it opposed such measures, but it, and Mr. Najib, appear already to have concluded that floggings are a small price to pay to elicit the political support of PAS. The very idea that Mr. Najib and UMNO would embrace Islamic law for political gain is despicable, but also extremely short-sighted, given that doing so would likely prove to be difficult to reverse in the future, as well as having unintended consequences.

The imposition of Islamic law could embolden the country's most reactionary Muslims, who already favor the establishment of an Islamic state in Malaysia. More than 10 percent of Malaysians said just that in a recent survey. In July, Malaysian police arrested 14 suspected members of the Islamic State (IS), who were planning attacks on nightclubs and a Hindu temple. Recent estimates suggest that Malaysia is home to up to 150 members of the IS.

Promoting Islamic law also undermines the social compact the government has had with the Malaysian people since the 1970s, though that has been flawed. Following the severe race riots between Malays and Chinese in 1969, the government put in place its New Economic Policy, designed to ease conflict between different ethnicities and achieve national unity through what was supposed to be equality in economic opportunity.

However, concurrent with the NEP, the government implemented its "Bumiputra" system of preferential treatment for citizens of Malay descent (which for example resulted in the civil service being 85% populated by Malays and quota systems being put in place to favor Malay students in universities). Bumiputra was supposed to be temporary, but ended up becoming a pillar of modern Malaysian politics. It has since served as a source of resentment for citizens not of Malay descent. Racial tension has been simmering beneath the surface ever since. Anti-Chinese sentiment never disappeared and has recently flared up, as Malay nationalism rises in conjunction with Mr. Najib's and UMNO's actions.

A Muslim country that once defined moderation and modernity is now in danger of traveling down a judicial slippery slope leading to the Dark Ages. Should that occur, Malaysia would undoubtedly prove to be a breeding ground for the IS and other Islamic extremist groups, with implications for countries throughout the region, most notably neighboring Thailand and Singapore. The Malaysian government's fierce opposition to Islamic extremism over the past 15 years, and its successes in opposing it, stand to be overridden by what is becoming its own self-destructive behavior. Should Mr. Najib and UMNO continue down that path, racial divisiveness is sure to become further inflamed. With the Malaysian stock market near its low since Mr. Najib's re-election, and with the Malaysian ringgit brushing up against its all-time low with the U.S. dollar, the markets have little faith in the country's near term future - and with good reason.

*Daniel Wagner is Managing Director of Risk Cooperative and co-author of the new book "Global Risk Agility and Decision Making".

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Categories: News Monitor

The Public and Private Lives of Candidates

6 hours 46 min ago
What struck me about the presidential debates was the complete absence of decorum. The candidates are obligated to show that they can respect each other despite their differences. They may not respect each other privately, but as candidates for president, they claim to be leaders. If you are going to lead you have to set an example of how to treat those who disagree with you. I thought decorum was called for in this place and time.
I am not arguing that our presidents should have led decorous private lives. I want leaders who have lived, who have made errors, fought fights, done business, fallen in and out of love. I want them to have been drunk and stupid, and have taken absurd chances. I want them to have cut corners, sometimes getting away with it and sometimes paying the price. I want the president to have lived a life like I have. In a democracy, the leader ought to be drawn from the people, and in whole or in part, or practicing other vices, this is how the American people live.
When I was in college I knew someone who intended to go into politics. He was 19 and systematically avoided anything that might prove "a problem" to his future career. What he avoided was everything that a normal 19-year-old might do. I couldn't articulate then what I can now: I do not want to be led by someone who has led a life free of trial, error, remorse and forgiveness. I do not want to be led by anyone who hasn't moved to the edge of the abyss because I want my leader to know what the abyss looks like and how to back away slowly. I do not want what we think of as a flawless leader, because being flawless is itself a vice. I want to be led by someone who has grappled long and hard with life. I will not list the venal sins humans are prone to, but I want the person who walks into a room with Vladimir Putin to know the demons that can drive a person. It is a dangerous world and I want a president who knows how to be dangerous if he has to be - and knows when not to be.
As a voter, I simply want to know that this is someone who has lived. I do not want to know the details. I have lived a life I have enjoyed immensely. I have tried many things, failed at some, succeeded in others. I have many regrets and many things I wish I could live again. I do not intend to lay out all the things I have done in public. This is my private trove, and not meant to be shared. I would not respect a presidential candidate who has none of these things, nor would I respect a presidential candidate who sent out a press release detailing them. I value privacy and I value a presidential candidate who demands it too.
I believe that character is far more important than policy proposals. A president's policies are rarely enacted. The president is not an emperor. He is one of three branches of government. The most important challenges in a presidency are those the president never thought he would face. George W. Bush had no policy for 9/11. At that moment, all the policy papers he read and had written were rendered meaningless. The only thing that mattered was what he could conjure up on the edge of the abyss. His response was a reflection of his soul, not of the writers of policy papers. And in putting character above policy I want to sense his soul, to anticipate how he might deal with the unexpected. I want to know that the president has faced adversity and knew how to make decisions when he was afraid. And I don't want a president who hasn't experienced fear.
Two of the greatest leaders of the last century were Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Roosevelt had a serious illness but did not flaunt his disability. Nor did he publicize the fact that he was terribly ill with heart failure in 1944. Churchill was an alcoholic. I do not know whether he could stop drinking if he chose, because there is no evidence that he ever chose to.
Neither could be elected today because these things would disqualify them. And that would have been a catastrophe for Western civilization. Abraham Lincoln was clearly manic depressive. John F. Kennedy was a prodigious womanizer. Thomas Jefferson was in constant financial difficulty. Dwight Eisenhower had a frightening temper.
There was more to all these men and having them lose elections because of their vices would have been disastrous. What would we have done without them? Yet, none could be elected today.
There is the sense that leaders ought to be held to higher standards. I fully agree. We must demand from the president courage, generosity, vision and above all the ability to lead. We cannot and must not demand that he not have lived, and it is in that living that we encounter good and evil. It is our task as voters to determine what he has learned.
And one sign for me that the candidate has the ability to lead is that he has self-control, both at the debate and during the campaign. Other signs are honesty, the willingness to listen as well as speak, the tenor of the voice when angry and the ability to impose self-control at all times, the ability to think without a staff present.
I do not want a president who has led a decorous life. I want a president who can be gracious in public, not because he wants to be seen as gracious, but because he has learned to be. And I want a president who has lived through the dark night of the soul, and can do it again, because the president will have to.

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Categories: News Monitor

Bill Clinton Takes His Time Getting On Air Force One -- And President Obama Is Not Having It

7 hours 3 min ago

It was a scene from a yet-to-be-made buddy movie you never knew you wanted.

President Barack Obama was back on Air Force One Friday in Jerusalem after delivering a eulogy at the funeral of Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president and elder statesman. With his jacket off, sleeves rolled up and tie loosened, Obama was clearly ready to head home.

But former President Bill Clinton, who also spoke at Peres’ funeral, was taking his time.

Standing at the plane’s doorway, Obama playfully encouraged Clinton to come aboard.

“Bill! Let’s go. I’ll take you home,” Obama said.

Sky News captured video of the hilarious exchange.

Eventually, the famously talkative Clinton makes his way up the stairs, joining Obama on board.

Peres, who died on Tuesday at age 93, was one of Israel’s longest-serving politicians, playing an active role in the Jewish state since its founding in 1948. Peres spent much of his career building Israel’s military edge, including its acquisition of nuclear weapons, and leaves behind a controversial legacy.

But as Israeli foreign minister, he also was an architect of the Oslo accords, an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that created the first semi-autonomous Palestinian governing body.

Speaking at the funeral on Friday, Clinton, who presided over the Oslo accords, called Peres a “wise champion of our common humanity.”

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Categories: News Monitor

Tons Of Pit Bulls May Be Euthanized In Montreal Next Week Due To Ban

7 hours 5 min ago

It’s a taxing time for animal advocates in Montreal.

The Canadian city has passed a new bylaw, which makes it illegal for residents to adopt or buy a pit bull. Any dog considered to be of the breed that is living in a shelter faces euthanasia on Oct. 3, the day the bylaw goes into effect, Montreal SPCA told CTV.

But there are ways to help.

You can sign petitions to ban visiting Montreal as long as the city continues to ban pit bulls, which you can sign here and here.

There are also rescue groups on the ground that are transporting pit bulls out of Quebec that need support. These groups include Nova Scotia-based PAWSAbilities Rescue Society and One Last Chance Animal Rescue in Montreal. To check out their GoFundMe pages, click here and here, respectively.

If you think you can help transport or home dogs outside of Quebec, you can also contact the Montreal SPCA at tbenoit@spcamontreal.com.

The ban was passed on Tuesday and forbids residents from adopting or buying any breed deemed a “pit bull.” According to the law, this includes American pit bull terriers, bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers or any mix of those breeds, CBC News reports.

Alanna Devine, animal advocacy director of the Montreal SPCA told CTV that determining a dog as a pit bull or mix is not easy.

“We have no idea what breed these dogs are, and the way that the bylaw is drafted, it’s technically any large dog with short fur could fall under this legislation,” she told the outlet.

Devine told The Dodo that her group’s shelters take in about 700 pit bull-type dogs each year.

The law also states that anyone who already has a pit bull as a pet must not only microchip and spay or neuter their dog, but also undergo a criminal background check, keep their dog muzzled and on a leash less than four feet long in public and pay a $150 permit fee. The Montreal Gazette estimates this will affect the owners of 7,000 pit bull type-dogs.

It’s a costly checklist that some might not have the money for.

“There are a lot of low-income and homeless people in Montreal who simply won’t be able to afford all of the criteria they need in order to get the special permit,” Devine told The Dodo. “Those dogs will have to be seized and have to be euthanized.”

A proposal for the ban was announced in June — days after a Montreal woman was mauled to death by a loose dog in her backyard. Police characterized the dog as a pit bull.

But CBC News reported that the Humane Society obtained proof that the dog in question was registered with the city as a boxer, not a pit bull.

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Categories: News Monitor

Meet The Afghan Girl Who Raps Against Women's Oppression

7 hours 8 min ago

Sonita from Moving Docs on Vimeo.

Sonita Alizadeh, an 18-year-old girl from Afghanistan, dreamed from a young age of becoming a singer.

Admiring artists like Michael Jackson and Rihanna was a way for her to deal with the harsh life she had working as a cleaner in a refugee camp in Tehran, where she found herself at the age of 14.

Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami met her there, when Sonita’s family decided to take her back to Afghanistan to sell her as a bride for $9,000.

In an unexpected turn, the director herself decided to pay Sonita’s mother $2,000 to keep her in Iran.

The director’s decision to get directly involved with her subject sparked some debate, but Sonita came out of the experience stronger, as shown in a song she wrote, titled “Brides for Sale.”

“Like all other girls, I am caged. I am seen as a sheep grown only to be devoured,” Sonita raps about the trials of girls sold as brides in the video, directed by Ghaemmaghami and showcasing her transformation from a fragile teenager into a powerful voice advocating women’s rights in her country.

The documentary “Sonita,” which won both the jury prize and the audience award for world documentary in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, is being screened by the CineDoc festival in a number of Greek cities in October.

This story was originally published in HuffPost Greece. It has been translated and adapted for HuffPost.

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Why These Famous Jews Are Celebrating The New Year With 18 Words

7 hours 9 min ago

According to tradition, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is the “birthday of the universe,” the day that God finished the great work of creating the world. Rosh Hashanah also marks the beginning of the High Holy Days, a time of introspection, repentance, and renewal. 

The American Jewish World Service, a faith-based human rights organization, is welcoming in the New Year with a campaign to inspire hope. They collected New Year’s wishes from Jewish leaders and the broader community, asking specifically about the changes people hope to see come about in the new year. 

Each wish was limited to 18 words. Eighteen has long been a sacred and cherished number in the Jewish tradition. Through gematria, a system that assigns a numerical value to letters in Hebrew, the number 18 is linked to the Hebrew word “chai,” which means life. As a result, the number is associated with blessings and celebration. Some people give monetary gifts in multiples of 18, with the intention of blessing the recipient with a good life. 

Robert Bank, president and CEO of AJWS, said that the organization hoped the #18Words campaign would encourage people to commit themselves to the work of justice during the New Year. 

“While it is easy to become discouraged by the voices of intolerance, hate and xenophobia, we at AJWS cannot and will not be discouraged because it is our obligation to build a better world,” Bank told HuffPost. “Because we share a belief in the dignity of every person, no matter their background, we have reason to be hopeful about the future.”

Here are just some of the wishes AJWS received from people around the world. Head over to their website for more. 

More justice for those who have waited far too long, less silence by those who
should know better #18words @ajws

— Timi Gerson (@timigerson) September 23, 2016

@ajws In 5777, let’s each strive 2 make our civic discourse civil again by listening earnestly & judging sparingly. #18Words

— Beth Sholom SF (@BethSholomSF) September 16, 2016

#18words: Courage and compassion to end oppression and intolerance & to ensure the rights and dignity of every child @ajws #RoshHashanah

— Jonathan Todres (@jtodres) September 26, 2016

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First Debate Showed that Both Major Candidates Are Severely Wanting in Foreign Policy

7 hours 11 min ago
Although Hillary seemed more likeable than usual in the first presidential debate and Trump was his old angry and agitated self, they both still have record-breaking unfavorable ratings as candidates. Yet that is because overwhelmingly, people just don't like their normal personalities. And sadly, most voters never get beyond a superficial grasp of their policy differences. They just know that Hillary has many years of public experience and represents the status quo and have a vague notion that Trump, who has none, wants to shake up the system. Yet a closer examination of their policy stances in foreign affairs should likely lead voters to the same place--both candidates stink.

When bipartisan agreement exists on foreign policy, the voters should not rejoice but instead be wary. On the foreign policy issue of our time, despite Trump's repeated denials, he initially supported the unnecessary and costly--in lives and money--Iraq War; so did Hillary, who later repudiated that stance.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement both candidates are now against it, after Trump appropriately pointed out that Hillary originally called it the gold standard of trade agreements. Arguments always exist over how many American jobs are lost or gained by such trade agreements, which also include the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that President Bill Clinton got ratified and Trump continues to malign. Trump insisted that, "Our jobs are fleeing the country. They're going to Mexico. They're going to many other countries...They're leaving, and they're leaving in bigger numbers than ever." Statistics show, however, that although the economic recovery from the Great Recession has been slow, the U.S. economy has added 14.9 million jobs since the depth of the recession in 2010.

The vast majority of economists tell us that free trade is good, because it allows countries to concentrate on efficiently producing and exporting their specialty products and services while importing cheaper specialties of other nations. With trade agreements, Americans benefit from both because prices of everyday items go down, thus making everyone wealthier. (Trump's and Hillary's current positions that the TPP is bad are reminiscent of the unfortunate bipartisan consensus that energy independence (really protectionism) is desirable--but only if the consumer wants to pay a lot more for energy when often cheaper imports of foreign energy are reduced or eliminated.)

Trump claimed that the trade deficit is $800 billion a year, but it was only $500 billion in 2015 and that was down from its high water mark of $762 billion in 2006. Yes, $500 billion is still a large number, but the trade deficit is an overrated measure of U.S. economic decline. In fact, when the domestic economy is humming, the trade gap often yawns, as American consumers take greater advantage of the cheaper imports.

Although Hillary raised credible questions about voters letting the mercurial Trump have control of the nuclear trigger, she has some problems in this realm herself. Unlike Trump, she did not disavow the first use of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, the United States never gave up the option of "first-use" in its nuclear doctrine, because it planned to use nuclear weapons to defend against an attack by what were then thought to be superior Soviet and Warsaw Pact ground forces near the border with Western Europe. The Cold War has been over for some time and that massive Soviet tank army no longer threatens the vast economic resources of Western Europe. Furthermore, even without a needless first-use posture, the United States always has been able to ride out a nuclear first strike and still retaliate with its potent surviving nuclear weapons, thus deterring any nuclear attack by adversaries in the first place. By not following Trump and adopting a "no-first-use" nuclear pledge, Hillary is unnecessarily elevating the chances of nuclear war.

Both Trump and Hillary have overstated the threat from Vladimir Putin and Russia. Although Trump previously had said some kind things about Putin, in the debate, he implied that the U.S. military was losing out to Russia by saying, "Russia's been expanding. They have much newer capabilities than we do." Despite being weakened by a plummeting price for oil, its major export, and Western economic sanctions, since 2010, Russia has been enlarging its military and adding new weapons. However, the United States spends almost 10 times annually what Russia does on defense--and that advantage has been cumulative since the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, both candidates need to have a sharper realization that in the face of a rising China, U.S. disputes with Russia over Syria and Ukraine should be resolved so that the two great powers can cooperate as greater Chinese power looms on the horizon.

The last point illustrates that neither candidate has developed a coherent grand vision for what a sustainable future U.S. role in the world should be, given the country's imperial overstretch (U.S. defense spending accounts for about 38 percent of the world's total, but its GDP is only 16 percent of the global tally) and the powerful constraint of a $19 trillion national public debt at home. The voters deserve better.

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Holiday Weight Gain Is Real No Matter What You Celebrate

7 hours 42 min ago

If you’re worried about holiday weight gain this year, you might have cause for concern: It seems weight gain surrounding festivities is a nearly universal truth, according to a new study conducted in Germany, the U.S. and Japan. 

Researchers found that citizens of these three countries put on weight at different times of year, each time corresponding to specific holiday celebrations in each country. This may come as a surprise to those who believe that weight gain in the holidays is a unique phenomenon in the U.S., or even only in the West.

The common denominator in all three countries was the Christmas-New Year holiday. The first 10 days after Christmas led to the highest average weight increase for all three groups: Americans gained an average 1.3lbs, 1.8lbs for Germans and 1.1lbs for the Japanese.

But the study also found that Americans gain weight during Thanksgiving, too, while for Germans the equivalent is the period around Easter. And for the Japanese, the bump happens surrounding a holiday period in the beginning of May called the “Golden Week.”

Researchers chose the three countries because they represent different continents, said co-author Elina Helander, a postdoctoral researcher at Tampere University of Technology, Finland. 

Her study included 3,000 participants in all three countries who were given wireless digital scales to monitor their weight every day for a full year, starting from August 1, 2012. The researchers then assessed changes in the participants’ weight compared to their initial weight.

The most interesting discovery the researchers made was that, while people would shed around half of the weight they gained during the holiday season almost immediately, the other half would remain intact well into summer and even longer.

Of course, seasonal variations in weight could also be at play: Studies show that most people exercise less and eat more during the winter. But the researchers said that holidays specifically accounted for at least some of the weight gain in the study.  

“Holidays are sharper peaks, whereas seasonal (gain) is associated with slowly varying trends,” Helander told HuffPost. In other words, we gain weight more abruptly during a holiday period, while weight changes over a season tend to fluctuate more slowly.

Overall, the study confirms what people suspected for a long time: gaining weight over the holidays is real almost everywhere. But instead of frustrating us, this fact might actually help us get more savvy with our food next time we get into festive mood.

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American And Israeli Jews Are Strongly Connected But Sharply Divided

7 hours 55 min ago

American and Israeli Jews have much more than an ocean dividing them. 

Four out of five Jews in the world live in either Israel or the United States. And while these two groups feel a strong emotional connection to each other, a new data essay from the Pew Research Center shows that they disagree on a variety of issues ― from religious identity to political ideology to the prospect of peace with Palestinians. 

Pew researchers pulled together data from a March 2016 survey of Israeli adults and an October 2013 survey of American Jews. The resulting essay illustrates broad ideological differences ― for example, most Israeli Jews place themselves on the center or on the right of their country’s political spectrum. In contrast, most American Jews identify with the center or the left. 

When asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only 43 percent of Israeli Jews believed that Israel and an independent Palestinian state could coexist peacefully, compared to 61 percent of U.S. Jews. Forty-two percent of Israeli Jews agreed that Jewish settlements in the West Bank help their country’s security, while only 17 percent of American Jews thought the same. 

Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, believes this divergence is due to differing life experiences. 

“Israelis live in the least hospitable region on the planet, not only for Jews, for everybody. And American Jews live in the most welcoming society, the most hospitable society that Jews have ever known in 4,000 years,” Halevi said in a Pew Research Center video. “That means we need to develop opposing strategies for coping. [Israeli Jews] need to be the toughest kid on the block and American Jews need to be flexible.”

Without committing to keeping the relationship going, there’s a chance these groups will grow “more and more alienated” from each other,” Halevi adds. 

Watch Pew’s interview with Yossi Klein Halevi below.

American and Israeli Jews also report different ways of connecting with religion. In Pew’s 2013 survey of American Jews, one out of five people who were raised Jewish, or had at least one Jewish parent, said they didn’t identify with any religion. In Israel, nearly all Jews identified Judaism as the religion they follow ― although not everyone is observant. 

Sixty-three percent of Israeli Jews said they keep kosher at home, while 22 percent of American Jews keep kosher. The Americans were much more likely to say they eat pork than Israelis (57 percent to 16 percent).  Since the Sabbath is a day of rest and renewal, some conservative strands of Judaism teach that handling money on the Sabbath is forbidden. Fifty-five percent of Israeli Jews said they handled money on the Sabbath, while 85 percent of American Jews did the same.

Some of these differences in observance could be due to the fact that Judaism is an integral part of Israeli society and politics ― while in America, Judaism is a minority religion. 

“Jewish observance is more ingrained in daily life in Israel than it is in the U.S,” Pew’s essay states. “For example, many Israeli businesses close early on Friday afternoon before the start of the Sabbath. Kosher food is more widely available than it is in the U.S., and major Jewish holidays are Israeli national holidays.”

In response to a question about what it means to be Jewish, both groups said that remembering the Holocaust was the most important part of their Jewish identity. They differed on other points. The Americans were more likely than Israelis to say that “leading an ethical and moral life,” “working for justice and equality,” “being intellectually curious,” and “having a good sense of humor” were integral to their identity. The Israelis were more likely than Americans to say that observing Jewish law was essential to their Jewish identity. 

Dr. Yehezkel Landau, an interfaith education an peace activist, has lived in both Israel and the United States. He told The Huffington Post that it’s important for Jews on both sides of the Atlantic to understand each other because each of these communities has a particular insight into Judaism that the other could benefit from. 

Since their lives are relatively secure compared to their Israeli counterparts, Landau said American Jews have had the chance to develop a strong connection to what he called the “universalist elements” of Judaism ― the parts of the religion that teach about justice and peace, human dignity, and the sanctity of life. 

On the other hand, American Jews can learn from Israelis what it means to consecrate life every minute of the day, Landau said, “to aspire to holiness in the marketplace, in military, in business, in government, in education, in every aspect of life. What it means to live a holistically Jewish life.” 

“There’s a lot to be learned in both directions, which is why they complement each other,” Landau said.

Pew documented plenty of good feelings between the two groups about the other. About 40 percent of American Jews said they’ve traveled to Israel, and a similar amount of Israelis said they’d traveled to the U.S. Many American Jews said they felt “very” or “somewhat” attached to Israel, and Israeli Jews said that their American counterparts had a good influence on Israel.

Halevi is confident that identifying and confronting American and Israeli Jews’ differences and similarities will help both communities grow stronger. 

“I think there’s enough wisdom in both communities and enough goodwill in trying to keep the relationship going that we will be able to figure this out,” Halevi said. “But our starting point is that not only are we all Jews together, but we are very different kinds of Jewish communities.”

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Thousands Of Colombians Fled During The World’s Longest Civil War. Here’s What They Think About The Peace Deal.

8 hours 35 min ago

The armed conflict in Colombia has lasted more than 50 years, killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. But President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, the leader of the insurgent group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), came together in Cartagena to sign a peace treaty on Sept. 26 ― a historic agreement that would end the world’s longest continuous war.

The Colombian people will vote on the peace deal, which was four years in the making, in a referendum scheduled for Oct. 2. The deal would allow FARC members to form a political party and participate in Colombia’s democratic process once they’ve abandoned armed struggle. The guerrillas have also committed to cutting all links to the drug trade and working with the government to eradicate coca production, as well as fostering development in neglected rural areas.

The deal is not without controversy. The idea that former FARC rebels would be allowed to take part in Colombian politics without serving jail time has galvanized opposition, most notably from former President Alvaro Uribe, who launched tenacious offensives against the guerrillas during his time as president from 2002 to 2010.

I want the agreement to prompt a reflection on what the country truly needs to achieve peace.
Alejandro Bahamón

Colombia’s largest rebel group emerged in 1964 as the armed wing of the Communist Party in the country. FARC’s key founders were farmers and workers who came together to fight inequality in Colombia, and the group has operated for decades as a largely rural guerrilla organization with thousands of fighters. While FARC’s attacks have focused on police stations and military posts, they have also caused many civilian casualties. Colombian security forces have violently confronted the rebels in recent decades, with financial support and training from the U.S. government. Many of the group’s top leaders have been killed in the last 10 years, and the number of FARC fighters shrank from 20,000 in its peak in the late ‘90s to 7,000 today.

If Colombia rejects the peace deal now, the country’s future is less certain. “If ‘no’ wins, we will return to what we had at the beginning of this government, six years ago,” Santos said in an interview in early September. “We return to armed conflict. That would be a catastrophe for the country.”

The violent conflict has forced millions of Colombians to relocate, both within the country and abroad. Colombians living overseas will be allowed to vote at embassies and consulates in 64 countries on Oct. 2, the country’s foreign ministry announced in early September.  

A team of editors from HuffPost’s international editions reached out to Colombians living in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Spain to talk about the peace deal and the future of their native country.




Interviewed by Roque Planas, HuffPost

Freddy Castiblanco experienced the violence of the country’s civil war on a daily basis in his work as a doctor in rural Colombia. After medical school, he moved to San Calixto, a small town in the northern Catatumbo region locked in the middle of a three-way dispute between the FARC, the right-wing United Self Defense Forces of Colombia paramilitaries and the remnants of a left-wing Popular Liberation Army guerrilla group.

Castiblanco would accompany police to recover the bodies of people who had died in combat, and would sometimes find corpses with as many as 18 gunshot wounds to the head.

Castiblanco moved to New York almost two decades ago, where he gave up his medical career to open a bar and musical hall, Terrazza 7, in the largely Latino neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens. The small business gave him the financial stability he lacked in Colombia.

“Many of the reasons people migrate aren’t necessarily humanitarian ones,” he told HuffPost. “I’d say most Colombians who live abroad left for principally economic reasons.”

He learned to weld by watching YouTube videos, and built a small stage for his music hall. Some of his home country’s most prominent left-wing politicians and activists have addressed gatherings of Colombian immigrants and expats from that stage.

The peace deal is “the best news that we’ve been able to hear for as long as I can remember,” Castiblanco said.

“It’s particularly moving because many of us know how much people have suffered in the countryside, in the rural areas, from this conflict,” he added. “For all of the ethnic minorities ― indigenous people, Afro-Colombians, farmers ― who have suffered the war, this is absolutely moving, full of happiness and emotion.”

Castiblanco said that beyond just ending the war, many Colombians hope the agreement will bring about changes in the country’s social and economic structures ― addressing problems such as inequality, the educational system, and health care that have “pushed Colombians to emigrate.”




Interviewed by Zi-Ann Lum, HuffPost Canada

Cookie Martinez was 14 when she saw her first dead body. The dead man was her grandmother’s boyfriend, and there were four other dead bodies strewn across her small town in the Colombian countryside that morning in 1995.

Martinez and others in her town had learned to live with the violence. “You would just keep carrying on with your lives,” she told HuffPost Canada. “And the police, they couldn’t do anything about it.”

Martinez left Colombia in 2003 and moved to Canada, which is home to nearly 77,000 Colombian immigrants. She now sells homemade Colombian arepas and empanadas out of a brightly painted food stand in Toronto.

Martinez talked about the peace deal referendum as she pressed arepas in her small kitchen. “I’m going to vote ‘no,’” she said.

The idea of a peace deal that would put an end to the violence initially excited Martinez, but skepticism soon got the better of her. She echoed concerns many Colombians have expressed about whether the guerrillas will honor the commitment to put down their guns.  

Martinez expects the public will approve the peace deal, despite her own apprehension. “People in Colombia want to forgive,” she said. “Because we’re tired. We just want to get it over with.”




Interviewed by Laura Riestra, HuffPost Spain

Luz Alba decided to leave Colombia on the day FARC rebels killed one of her brothers: May 22, 1999.  

Alba’s 7-year-old son found her sitting at their kitchen table in at their home in Anserma, tears streaming down her face. “Why are you crying, mom?” her son asked.

She didn’t bother disguising the truth. “Because FARC has murdered your uncle,” she said.

The child’s response was coldly pragmatic. “Don’t cry over that, mom,” he said. “It’s normal. FARC kills people every day.”

It was then she decided to leave. “I felt that if my son saw this as something normal, he would one day join their ranks and fight with them, an idea that simply terrified me,” Alba told HuffPost Spain.

“All of my memories from when I was younger are of fear,” she said. FARC guerillas killed four of her brothers and her mother. She said that experience makes it difficult for her to hang much hope on the peace deal.

She plans to vote in the referendum, but hasn’t decided if she’ll vote “yes” or “no.” Alba fears that either decision will come with its own set of challenges. For one, she finds it difficult to believe that the deal could truly end the “corruption that exists in the highest ranks” of the government.

For as far back as she can remember, Colombian leaders have neglected the people, she said. “The leaders have not looked after us, or the state, but rather their own interests,” Alba said.

She’s skeptical of how much the deal will actually change.

“I am very angry with the politics of my country,” she said. “I don’t know who we can and cannot trust.”


Interviewed by Laura Riestra, HuffPost Spain

Erika Antequera’s father was killed when she was 10 ― an incident that radically changed the course of her childhood.

Her father was the director of the left-wing Patriotic Union, a party formed in 1985 during an earlier attempt at a peace process between FARC and then-President Belisario Betancur.

The peace talks that Betancur initiated with FARC and other rebels in 1982 failed miserably, and a dramatic escalation of violence followed the attempt. President Andrés Pastrana tried again in 1998, but backtracked four years later after FARC showed no commitment to the talks.  

“The memories that I have of my childhood are of seeing my parents’ friends having dinner in our house one day, and hearing that they were dead the next day,” she told HuffPost Spain.

Antequera moved to Spain at 23 to study journalism. Now 38, she has not returned.

“The truth is that I have lost the desire to return to Colombia,” Antequera said. Spain is home now, she said, but she will be eagerly following the referendum on the peace deal. “At the end of the day, peace was my father’s dream,” she said.

She intends to vote yes, “without a doubt.” But she’s nervous about what will come next.

“It would be necessary to reform the armed forces, empower women, guarantee basic rights, and to re-educate our children” for the agreement to be meaningful, she said.

“In Colombia, the roots of the conflict lie in corruption and in impunity,” she said. “For this reason, I welcome the agreement with happiness, but also with caution.”




Interviewed by Teresa Villa, HuffPost Mexico

Camilo Olarte was struggling to make a living as an industrial engineer when he decided to move from Colombia to Mexico 17 years ago. Now 44, Olarte has reinvented himself as a journalist in Mexico City.

Olarte said he plans to vote “yes” at the Colombian consulate on Oct. 2. If Colombians adopt the peace deal, he said, it will achieve more than just stopping the decades of conflict in his home country.

“We would also be voting against the root causes of the conflict: the agrarian problem, the abandonment of many regions, the stigmatization of political currents and social movements, inequality,” he said.

But Olarte is concerned about the safety of human rights defenders and activists in the country. “More than 3,000 activists affiliated with the Union Patriótica, the leftist political party founded in the ‘80s by demobilized guerrillas, were massacred [following incessant waves of violence by right-wing paramilitaries],” he said. “That can’t happen again.”


Interviewed by Eythel Aracil, HuffPost Mexico

Alejandro Bahamón grew up moving between Colombia, Guatemala and San Andrés, a Colombian island located in the middle of the Caribbean. He studied architecture in Bogota before leaving for Barcelona in 1996, and spent 18 years there. He relocated to Mexico five years ago and now works as an architect and editor.

The years he spent in Bogota were filled with fear and violence. “I remember the kidnapping of an entire Catholic mass service, the explosion of an airplane in mid-air, and the bomb that blew up the DAS [Administrative Department of Security, Colombia’s former security agency] headquarters, which could be heard all over Bogota,” Bahamón told HuffPost Mexico.

While Bahamón plans to vote “yes” in the upcoming referendum, he believes that it will take much more than a signed agreement to achieve peace in Colombia.

“I want the agreement to prompt a reflection on what the country truly needs to achieve peace,” he said.

One form of violence that he doesn’t see the deal addressing is economic segregation. “Segregation is so severe in Colombia that it doesn’t allow you to forge connections with persons from different social strata,” he said. “The barriers are so large, and I think that’s much more violent than anything else.”

He said the country needs to invest in its mass transit system, because it would allow Colombians to move and work between the countryside and the cities. “There is no peace without transportation,” he said.“Peace will come when funds are actually used to provide infrastructure and education in the country ― this is what I believe will actually generate a lasting peace.”

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UN: Hard-won Transparency Being Dealt Away Behind Closed Doors

8 hours 56 min ago

As someone who has worked with, outside and inside the UN, and observed up-close the perfidies of both big powers and small powers, I had hopes that the election of the new UN Secretary-General for 2017-2022 would be different this time, with a measure of integrity and transparency. 

It started off well early this year when the past President of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketof led efforts to democratize the process of electing the new Secretary-General with well-structured public hearings, allowing for candidates to articulate their vision and priorities and answer incisive questions from Member States and Civil Society. The public interviews reminded me of the US Senate hearings on senior appointments by the Administration.

One candidate, Antonio Guterres, impressed all with an unmatched mastering of the complex international social and security challenges facing us all; he also displayed exceptional understanding of the stifling UN bureaucratic machinery. He gained decisive support among at least 13 Security Council Members. Even the strongest advocates for a woman to be the next UN Secretary-General have surrendered to Antonio Guterres. 

It is interesting to note that every time Portugal sought a seat in the UNSC for a two-year term as a non-permanent member it easily defeated some heavy weight competitors like Australia and Canada (1979-1980,1997-1998, 2011 - 2012).

Two thirds of the world community are small and mid-size countries who resent the bullying tactics of the major powers, who often bulldoze their views and agenda on the rest of us. Yet we all know that the larger powers with the most weaponry are also the ones most responsible for fueling conflicts by pouring arms and ammunition to their respective client groups.  

Antonio Guterres comes from a small country that is friend of all and enemy of no one. He is a brilliant and honest political leader and eloquent communicator. As UN High Commissioner for Refugees, he managed a large and complex UN organization, and succeeded in streamlining its bloated bureaucracy saving tens of million dollars at HQ core costs. 

As Prime Minister of Portugal he led numerous highly sensitive and successful EU Summits and EU relations with Asia, Africa and Latin America. He is not a conservative, a centrist or a socialist. A deeply spiritual person Guterres is above all a humanist, a humanitarian. It is clear to all that based on professional merits and human qualities, he is unquestionably the best candidate to replace outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

However, a process that began well with a very welcoming transparency is now running the risk of becoming a farce. Early in the process, Bulgaria, a former Soviet Union vassal State, and still trusted by Moscow, put forward Mrs. Irina Bukova, UNESCO Director-General, as its candidate for Secretary-General. As she fared very poorly in the straw polls, on Wednesday the Bulgarian government unceremoniously dumped her and pulled another Bulgarian, European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva from the hat.

Supporters of Mrs. Georgieva argue that her stint as a World Bank official and EU Development Aid Commissioner qualify her for the top UN job but many question her grasp of global complex security challenges. Unlike Antonio Guterres, a democrat and statesman with a long and impressive track record in diplomacy, Mrs. Georgieva has a relatively sparse international experience.

By tossing her in the ring late in the game the Bulgarian government is acting in a manner that harms its new candidate and makes a mockery of the very hard won transparent process launched this year by the UN General Assembly. 

This process, now in its final stages has yielded a formidable, experienced and proven global citizen. It is being undone by back-door dealings meant to serve the interests of one or two permanent members of the Security Council over the interests and judgement of close to 200 member nations, big, mid-sized and large.

The so-called "P5" should not have the illusion that the practices of a bygone era when they alone determined and imposed "solutions", including the new UN Secretary-General, can be sustained today. The selection process has gone beyond its earlier days, when the choice was the sole prerogative of the so-called big five. 

UN General Assembly members are demanding a decisive say on the election of the new Secretary-General, and will no longer rubber stamp a decision made by the "P5" who may still think they are the Emperors. They may end up Emperors without people; and the people are all represented in the General Assembly. 

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Unexpected Marriage Proposal Sweeps Woman Off Her Feet, Literally

9 hours 29 min ago

Talk about being head over heels in love.

Reyna Renteria was so shocked to receive a ring and a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Germán Benítez Giles, that she fainted before she could respond. Don’t worry, she definitely said, “Yes” after she woke up.

The Mexico City couple were engaged on Sept. 24, and Renteria was quick to share the news in the now viral video with Facebook friends the following day. 

“Soon I’ll share the video of the ‘moment’ so you can laugh a little at my faint, level of embarrassment, 10,000, and destroy me with meme after meme,” Renteria posted when sharing the happy news on Facebook. “I’m excited, incredulous, shocked but happy and sure.” 

The video has since been viewed over 4 million times, and its popularity has resulted in offers of sponsored services for their wedding.

Watch the viral moment that made it all possible below:

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U.S. Officials Launch A Zika Travel Advisory For Southeast Asia

9 hours 33 min ago

U.S. health officials issued a Zika virus travel warning on Thursday, recommending that pregnant women consider postponing nonessential travel to 11 counties in Southeast Asia.

The new travel warning was issued for Brunei, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor) and Vietnam, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Travelers have returned from certain areas of Southeast Asia with Zika virus infection,” the agency noted on its website.

On Friday, officials reported two cases of Zika-linked microcephaly in Thailand, the first confirmed cases of the birth defect in Southeast Asia. According to the Associated Press, Thailand has 349 confirmed cases of Zika virus, 33 of them in pregnant women. 

The difference between Southeast Asia’s “endemic” and Latin America and the Caribbean’s “epidemic”:

It’s important to note like the map above that there’s a difference between the Zika “epidemic” sweeping South and Central America and the Caribbean ― for which officials issued a travel alert ― and the lower-level “endemic” in Southeast Asia, for which officials issued a travel consideration

According to the CDC, Zika virus has been present in parts of Southeast Asia for years, and a large portion of the local population has likely developed immunity to the virus. Occasional Zika cases may occur, but it’s less likely that there will be a virus outbreak there than in virgin Zika territory. (Of course, travelers without such immunity may always be vulnerable.)

In comparison, Latin America and the Caribbean are experiencing a Zika epidemic. In those countries, the Aedes aegypti mosquito that primarily transmits the virus is present, and because there haven’t been reports of Zika virus in the area in the past, it’s unlikely that any local population has built up immunity. In Brazil, for example, where Zika virus spread rapidly this year, there have been 1,800 confirmed cases of Zika-related microcephaly.

Practically speaking, there’s not a big difference between the travel consideration and the travel warning. Both advise pregnant women or couples who are planning to become pregnant to consult a medical professional before traveling to an area with Zika virus, and to take steps to avoid mosquitos bites if they do decide to travel.

On September 30, the CDC changed its guidelines for men who have recently visited an active Zika outbreak area and want to conceive. Men should now wait at least six months following their last possible Zika exposure to conceive, up from an eight-week waiting period under the agency’s previous guidelines, regardless of whether or not they’ve experienced Zika symptoms.

For babies exposed to Zika virus in-utero, the effects can be devastating. Infants born with microcephaly typically have abnormally small heads and can have developmental disabilities. And even those born with normal-sized heads can have damage from the infection, including brain abnormalities and joint malformation linked to the virus, according to a report published in August in the journal Radiology.

The article has been updated to reflect the CDC’s latest Zika recommendations for men trying to conceive. 

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Chuck Grassley Gave Trump 'Credit' For Obama Releasing His Birth Certificate In 2011

9 hours 33 min ago

WASHINGTON ― Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spent years pushing the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and therefore could not legitimately be president.

Trump conceded this month that’s not true and it’s time to move on. But he didn’t explain why he thought it was OK to float such a flagrantly racist idea in the first place, and for so long. It probably had something to do with the Republican establishment enabling him, even if subtly.

Take Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). In a May 2011 interview with KCJJ radio, a recording of which was obtained this week by The Huffington Post, Grassley said Trump deserved “credit” for forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate. This was after the show host said Trump looked “very racist” for demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship.

“Give him some credit, though, from this standpoint: He finally got the birth certificate,” Grassley said with a laugh. “Nobody else could.”

The audio clip is below. Trump comes up in the final two minutes.

Now, Grassley’s comment was off the cuff. He hadn’t been actively casting doubts about Obama’s citizenship like some in his party had. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), for instance. Or Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.). Or Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.). Or Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). Or Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Or Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). Or then-Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.). Or the other 12 co-sponsors of Posey’s 2009 bill, the Presidential Eligibility Act, which would have required presidential candidates to provide a copy of their birth certificate.

(The bill never went anywhere. But notably, when the House voted later that year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hawaii becoming a state, some of the co-sponsors of Posey’s bill did not cast a vote.)

Grassley wasn’t part of that fringe group. But like so many other Republicans at the time, he didn’t do much to tamp down on birtherism, either. He let it percolate. A year after his KCJJ interview, he said nothing in response to a proposed plank in the 2012 Iowa GOP platform to require presidential candidates to prove they’re natural-born U.S. citizens.

A Grassley campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

GOP leaders took the same approach. They tiptoed around these racist theories about the president’s legitimacy instead of condemning them.

“This is a leadership moment here, OK?” NBC’s David Gregory said to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in a 2011 interview on “Meet The Press.” “There are elements of this country who question the president’s citizenship, who think that his birth certificate is inauthentic. Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?” 

“I don’t think it’s nice to call anyone crazy,” Cantor replied.

They went back and forth, with Cantor trying to change the subject. Gregory finally asked, “Why won’t you just call it what it is? Because I feel like there are a lot of Republican leaders who don’t want to go as far as to criticize those folks who ...”

“I think the president is a citizen of the United States,” Cantor interjected. “Why is it you want me to go engage in name-calling?”

So what is the takeaway from Trump’s five-year crusade to force the nation’s first black president to prove he’s an American? It’s that a man desperate for attention was willing to appeal to the worst in people to get it, and leaders in the Republican Party were willing to go along for the ride so they didn’t lose those voters in their next elections.

That’s depressing. On a more entertaining but still depressing note, here’s some 2009 footage of lawmakers literally running away from videographer Mike Stark when asked if they think Obama was born in the United States. Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, then a congressman from Indiana and chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), who now chairs that conference, make cameos.

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UN Appoints First Expert To Protect LGBT People From Discrimination

9 hours 38 min ago

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday appointed its first independent investigator to help protect homosexual and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination.

The United Nations expert Vitit Muntarbhorn will have a three-year mandate to investigate abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Muntarbhorn is an international law professor at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and has served on several U.N. bodies, including inquiries on Syria and as a special rapporteur on North Korea.

The U.N. agreed on the new role in June, after the 47-member council overcame strong objections by Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries to adopt a Western-backed resolution by a vote of 23 states in favor and 18 against with six abstentions.

Human Rights Watch welcomed Friday’s appointment, saying the U.N. council “made history.”

“This critical mandate will bring much-needed attention to human rights violations against LGBT people in all regions of the world,” John Fisher, the group’s director in Geneva, said in a statement.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) said the newly created role was critical to give justice to LGBTI people who have been attacked, abused or discriminated against.

“Never has there been a more urgent need to safeguard the human rights of LGBTI persons around the world,” executive director of ILGA, Renato Sabbadini, said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Hundreds of LGBTI people have been killed and thousands injured in recent years, in violence that included knife attacks, anal rape and genital mutilation, as well as stoning and dismemberment, the U.N. said in a report last year.

More than 2,000 transgender and gender diverse people were murdered in 65 countries between 2008 and 2015, according to The Trans Murder Monitoring project, which is coordinated by LGBT rights group Transgender Europe.

In 2011, the U.N. rights body declared there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation.


(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women’s rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories)

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In Inge Morath's Photographs, Womanhood Is Beautiful And Urgent

9 hours 51 min ago

When words failed her, Inge Morath turned to photography.

Born in Austria in 1923, she studied German in Berlin, eventually working as a translator and journalist there early in her career. Her schooling during World War II introduced her to modern art, but, under the Reich she felt compelled to keep her interest in it hidden.

When she moved to Paris to work for Magnum Photos as an editor — not a photojournalist — she found that her command of German was a disadvantage for her socially and professionally. 

On her site, she’s quoted as saying, “After the war I had often suffered from the fact that my native language, German, was for most of the world the language of the enemy, and although I was able to write stories in English or French it did not touch the roots. So turning to the image felt both like a relief and an inner necessity.” 

And we should be thankful that she did. She was among the first women members of Magnum. Even today, gender parity in the field hasn’t been achieved, so this accomplishment is worth reflecting on.

But her work, regardless of her gender, stands alone as lively, fun, and contemplative all at once. Slowly, she transitioned from her editorial role into taking on photography assignments ― most of which, at the beginning, involved taking portraits of women living in London. She later worked as a photographer on several film sets, including “The Misfits,” starring Marilyn Monroe.

In the below images ― from the book Inge Morath: On Style ― Morath’s sense of humor and flair for capturing quiet, peculiar moments are on display. A woman peers into a broken storefront window; rows of women methodically apply face masks in a beauty class in New York.

In her photos, the story of womanhood becomes beautiful, and urgent.

All photos © The Inge Morath Foundation/Magnum Photos.

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Congressional Saudi Appeasers Hide Behind Faux Concerns About Americans' Liability

10 hours 2 min ago
Some Members of Congress claimed to have "buyer's remorse" the day after they voted overwhelmingly to override the President's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, otherwise known as the "Saudi 9/11 bill." The vote was 97-1 in the Senate, and 348-77 in the House, a 4-1 margin (a 2-1 margin was necessary to override.)

The preposterous claim now from the Saudi appeasers is that they didn't realize before voting that some people claimed that the law might have a negative impact on some Americans. Some people had claimed that if we weaken the sacred principle of sovereign immunity, other countries might do the same, and some Americans could face broad new liabilities in foreign courts. Some people had claimed that the veto override would lead to horrible retaliation by Saudi Arabia - by selling assets in the U.S., or by refusing to purchase U.S. weapons, for example.

Here are five reasons that these "buyer's remorse" claims are nonsense.

First, all the claims about possible harm from the bill were fully aired by the Administration and the Saudi lobby before the vote to override the veto. These people now claiming that they had no idea that there were claims that passage of the bill could eventually expose some Americans to increased legal liability overseas or that Saudi Arabia might retaliate should swear it under oath. Or maybe they should just resign their seats immediately, if they're too stupid to do their jobs or too lazy to come up with a more plausible lie.

Second, as was pointed out repeatedly during the Congressional debate on the veto override that these Saudi-appeasing Members of Congress apparently missed, there are already exceptions to sovereign immunity in U.S. law. One of these exceptions is for terrorism. The Saudi 9/11 bill did not create a new exception to sovereign immunity in U.S. law. It simply expanded the existing terrorism exception. The status quo was that you could only sue countries that were on the State Department's "state sponsors of terrorism" list. Now that the Saudi 9/11 bill is law, you can sue Saudi Arabia over terrorism even though Saudi Arabia isn't on the State Department's list. The Establishment is having a coronary because the 9/11 families broke the State Department's monopoly on who can be called a "state sponsor of terrorism," which monopoly was useful to the Establishment for other purposes. Cry me a river.

Third, anyone who honestly thinks that the dispute over the Saudi 9/11 bill has anything to do with the prospect of U.S. soldiers being hauled in front of Iraqi courts must have slept through the (ongoing) debate over the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, which hinges on the question of immunity for U.S. troops in Iraqi courts. Here is a recent example. For our purposes here, it doesn't matter who is right in the 2011 Iraq withdrawal dispute. What matters here is that both sides of 2011 Iraq withdrawal dispute - that is, both wings of the Establishment - are so unconcerned about the prospect that U.S. soldiers will be hauled in front of Iraqi courts that they are content to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq right now on the basis of a diplomatic note, with no action to immunize those troops from liability by the Iraqi parliament. Any Member of Congress who has any doubt about this should be calling for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq unless their immunity from Iraqi courts is clarified. The fact that no-one is doing this shows how fraudulent the claim is that the dispute over the Saudi 9/11 bill has something to do with U.S. troops in Iraq today. When U.S. troops are stationed in another country with that country's permission, the question of legal immunity for the troops is governed by the agreement to station the troops there.

Fourth, there is the question of threatened Saudi retaliation. The Saudis' very expensive lobbying operation in Washington huffed and puffed and threatened that there was going to be big retaliation if Congress overrode the veto. Congress overrode the veto anyway. Where's the big retaliation?

One of the threats was that the Saudis would sell their assets in the U.S. Here's some cold water for that threat.

Another threat was that the Saudis would stop buying U.S. weapons. Here's some cold water for that threat.

Finally, there is the question: how does the "buyer's remorse" crowd propose to modify the bill? During a lame duck session of Congress after the election - when, they hope, Members of Congress won't be so afraid of public opinion - they propose to limit the bill to 9/11.

A key problem with that plan is that it has already been considered and rejected by the 9/11 families. And the reason is simple: it's not about the past, it's about the future. They're trying to ensure that the State Department can't hand out "get out of jail free" cards to purported U.S. "allies" like Saudi Arabia in the future. They hope that in the future, nobody else will have to experience what they've experienced, and that's why they don't want to limit the law to 9/11.

The 9/11 families didn't let the Saudi appeasers in Congress roll them before, when they needed two-thirds of both Houses to take their side to override the veto. Why would they let the Saudi appeasers in Congress roll them now, when they only need 41 Senators to protect the law?

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