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Wednesday: April 2, 2014 

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in FIFA (4)

Wednesday
Sep152010

South African World Cup Border Policy Turns Lesotho Into "Gaza of Africa"

A river divides some parts of Lesotho with South Africa(HN, September 15, 2010) -- Border controls imposed at South Africa's border posts with Lesotho during the World Cup are causing havoc with the small mountain kingdom's economy.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where one senior government official in Maseru said it has transformed the landlocked nation into "the Gaza of Africa" - equating it to a blockade by South Africa.

Last weekend HUMNEWS visited the main crossing between the two countries at the Maseru Bridge. Pedestrians and car drivers alike were reporting waits of up to 90 minutes Friday. However diplomats and expatriate business people say they have also experienced waits up to four hours to make a crossing that used to take just 5 minutes.

The costly bottleneck started in the run-up to the World Cup in June, when South Africa unilaterally slapped new conditions on Lesotho nationals. The change - reportedly demanded by FIFA amid reports of criminality originating from Lesotho - meant that passports needed to be produced for entry into South Africa instead of just six-month certificates that did not require time-consuming id scans.

During Friday's inspection, HUMNEWS calculated at least a one to two minute processing times per traveller. To make matters worse, the South Africans have only one pedestrian checkpoint in each direction and few vehicle booths.

For the expatriate community and for business people crossing back and forth on day trips, the delays translate into huge delays - and costs. One hotel manager who lives in Ladybrand - a popular border town on the South African side of the border - complained it has turned a commute that had taken just 30 minutes into a multi hour headache.

Commercial and private vehicles compete for space on the narrow border bridgePeople had hoped that the misery would be alleviated when South African President Jacob Zuma visited Lesotho last month on an official state visit. But according to published reports the issue was hardly raised, if at all. The Government of Lesotho has little leverage on its larger, wealthier neighbour as it relies on the latter for most of its food supply. 

It’s not only ordinary people and commuters being inconvenienced. Trucks laden with crucial imports are also stuck in long lines. On Friday the only vehicles that moved quickly were in a heavily guarded armoured vehicle convey carrying diamonds - a crucial export from Lesotho.

The border changes couldn't come at a worse time for Lesotho, one of the poorest nations in the world. The country of 2-million is struggling to deal with the impact of the global economy crisis - which has slowed the flow of foreign remittances and triggered at least 10,000 layoffs in the garment industry. One of Lesotho's main streams of income - revenue from the South African Customs Union - has been dropping, from 35% of GDP in 2009/10 to a meager 14% in 2010/11, according to the World Bank. Since 1990, an estimated 65,000 mining jobs based in South Africa have been lost.

The new controls are also hurting border businesses on the South African side. Lesotho national and expatriates who used to cross on weekend are cutting down on spontaneous cross-border shopping trips.

Diplomats have expressed concern about serious medical cases being tied up at the border due to the new controls. And business owners worry about the knock-on effect it will have on Lesotho's small but important tourism and convention business. There are frequent and convenient daily flights between Maseru and Johannesburg - operated and controlled by South African Airways - but flights tend to be expensive and fill-up quickly.

Expatriate workers say if the border chaos continues for much longer, it could make it harder to attract aid workers and consultants to the small nation. "Being able to crossing on a moment's notice into South Africa on weekends - even if just to walk our dogs - is one of the biggest benefits of working here," said one.

Part of the government's new economic policy is to transform Maseru into a dynamic economic node, integrated with the southern African regional economy. It also wants to link Lesotho small agribusiness into the high end of the South African value chain. But these goals now seem more distant than even with the ongoing border squeeze.

Said the World Bank in a report issued this year: "Inefficient customs procedures and processes on Lesotho's borders with South Africa hamper trade with this important neighbour."

---- Reporting by HUMNEWS in Maseru, Lesotho.  

Wednesday
Aug112010

THE POST WORLD CUP MOOD IN SOUTH AFRICA (Perspective)

By Roxy Marosa

(HN, August 11, 2010) -- Many South Africans seem to be proud of the upbeat mood generated by the World Cup 2010. After all, it was the first time that the world’s most watched sporting event was hosted on African soil. It was also a coming out party of sorts for cool South Africa, for a post-apartheid country yearning to shake off years of being seen an ostracized state.

South African President Jacob Zuma said the World Cup is "the single greatest opportunity we have ever had to showcase our diversity and potential to the world."

National and regional governments spent an estimated 40 billion rand ($5.2 billion) to host the games. When all is said and done it could boost economic growth in South Africa by as much as 0.5 percentage points this year.

On the first day of the World Cup on June 11, many companies closed early allowing for their employees to join in the festivities. Some people described this day to be more festive than Christmas or New Year’s day.

A white Afrikaner friend, Sandra Barr, who owns a modelling agency, said she and her husband, James, did something June 11 they’d never contemplated doing before. They travelled by train from their safe suburb of Bellville - about 20kms west of Cape Town - to one of the main fan parks in the city. Sandra says the mood on the train was surprising, with people chatting amicably.

Even though they were of a different race and colour, the camaraderie on the train got everyone interacting with each other. This is something they had not witnessed in years, given South Africa’s racial historical background.

Arriving in Cape Town, Sandra and James walked through the streets, taking in the festive mood. They even treated themselves to a traditional Cape Malay meal – Vetkoek (a traditional Afrikaner pastry) and curry mince, and ate while walking in the street – all unusual to them. They felt safe and later took the train back to Bellville.

Being enthusiastic rugby fans who always have season tickets, Sandra said they rarely watched soccer games from home. Many rugby fans not keen on soccer say that during the World Cup, they actually enjoyed the soccer more than the concurrent rugby games. Some say that they are still surprised at their newfound curiosity and love for a game that has been traditionally embraced by black South Africans.

In the immediate aftermath of the World Cup, one could still hear the vuvuzela’s been blown as pedestrians were walking in the streets. Of course this happened a lot during the eight weeks the World Cup was being played in our country. 

Even though it’s now been almost a month since Spain’s Andres Iniesta scored his victorious goal over the Netherlands in Johannesburg’s Soccer City, many people say that they are still recovering from the hectic socialising and outdoor life of the World Cup. I have spotted some cars still driving around with the South African flag, a patriotic symbol that was commonly seen during the games period. Yet some people miss the ‘vibe’ and the mood. In the streets, the improvements are visible and many people are glad to be enjoying the roads, train links, new signage and other upgrades that brought our cities up to world class standards. 

Though not everyone had smiles during this euphoric period. Some businesses took a knock, and one of the activities forced to cease during this time was filming in public areas. That meant the film industry - which employs 30,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than R2.65 billion - and especially production of commercials, took a painful hit. Sandra said her agency had little to no work coming in for her models and talents. Some agencies are said to have closed down. Fortunately, the challenges she experienced in the years previous running her business were great lessons for her to manage in this challenging time. 

Clearly, the socialising and the hustle and bustle of the World Cup encouraged many people to spend a lot of money during this time. The street dwellers also seem to have benefited from people’s generosity, although they are still living in the streets. 

In short, the World Cup was a badly-needed shot in the arm for a country mired in tough economic times. It also demonstrated that a once-divided South Africa can come together. 

As retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu said during the World Cup: “Yet again we've been shown just how we are a rainbow people..that we are there for one another."

---Cape Town-based Roxy Marosa is host of the Roxy Marosa Show and runs several projects assisting people affected by HIV and Aids in South Africa

Saturday
Jul102010

Using Soccer to Fight HIV in Lesotho

(HN, July 10, 2010) Maseru, Lesotho -- In 2005 brothers Steve and Pete Fleming of the United Kingdom founded Kick4Life, a non-profit organization focused on tackling HIV/AIDS in Lesotho in southern Africa. 

They could not have selected a more needy country: Lesotho has the third highest HIV prevalence in the world - about a quarter of the population is infected - and hundreds and thousands of children have been orphaned by the disease. Out of a population of 1.9 million, there are an estimated 64 new HIV infections and 50 deaths due to AIDS each day. Kick4Life is committed to playing and important role in addressing this crisis. Kick4Life co-founder Pete Fleming. (PHOTO: MBociurkiw, HN, 2010)

Using football and sport to inspire, unite and make a difference by providing sports-based health education, voluntary testing, life-skills development and support into education and employment. 

Kick4Life has two main projects that it focuses on: National HIV Prevention and Testing Programme which includes the K4L Curriculum to youth across Lesotho. If focuses on heath education, HIV prevention and life-skills development. It also incorporates the award-winning Test Your Team Campaign – a series of one day football tournaments where HIV education and HIV testing is provided on site. Teams earn tournament points for completing HIV educational sessions, getting HIV tested, and for winning matches. 

In the last three years some 8,000 children have been tested, Pete Fleming told HUMNEWS in an interview. Most would have been tested for the very fist time.

The second project is the Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Initiative focused on supporting extremely disadvantaged youth who are living on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital city. It included the Maseru Street League, mentoring and Fit4Work - a training course offered to orphans and vulnerable children who have completed high school. The aim of the programme is to equip young people with the skills to continue into further education, training or employment. 

Pete - who has a degree in sport science - says that since its inception about 25,000 children have gone through a 12-hour education programme. "For the testing events we use football as the hook," says Fleming. "We arrange one-day football tournaments with interactive education focused on the importance of getting tested. We have trained up the national football team to deliver the curriculum to the youth. It's a tremendous tool to have."

 (A short video introduction to Lesotho.)

In addition to the work Kick4Life does they also play an active part in several international networks including Football for Hope, a global streetfootballworld and FIFA movement.  

Funding for Kick4Life comes from a variety of sources, including UNICEF, the Vodafone Foundation, Sentebale and the English Premier League. 

Some high-profile supporters have endowed Kick4Life with valuable publicity: in 2008, England coach Fabio Capello attended a testing event in Lesotho which was widely covered by the media. Kick4Life employs 15 people full-time and is backed by a network of 300 volunteers nationwide.

"We've been amazed by the volunteer ethic here in Lesotho," Fleming said, adding that most young people are educated but can't find jobs.

As a result of its achievements, Kick4Life was selected to host a sports health and education center as part of the official World Cup Campaign, 20 Centers for 2010. 

The aim of the 20 Centers for 2010 campaign is to create twenty Football for Hope Centers in disadvantaged communities across Africa as a legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Each centre provides underprivileged communities with public health, education and football facilities.

The centre in Maseru, Lesotho will be located in the Police Training Grounds of Old Europa in Maseru and will help young people address social challenges such as HIV/AIDS awareness, education and testing; essential life skills; personal development and work training. The site of the new Kick4Life soccer pitch in Maseru. (PHOTO: MBociurkiw, HN, 2010)

At the moment, the field resembles an old soccer pitch but planned upgrades will transform the site into an incredible sports facility for children.

Kick4Life co-founder Peter Fleming says, “Being selected as a Centre Host as part of the official World Cup campaign is a fantastic development for Kick4Life that will provide a first-class- sports, health and education facility right in the heart of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital. It will enable us to deliver activities to thousands of orphans and vulnerable children in an aspirational setting, and become, we hope, a centre of excellence for the use of football as a tool for social development.”

Construction is due to begin in September 2010, with completion set for March 2011.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw, from Maseru, Lesotho.

Saturday
Jun192010

In Selling World Cup Tickets, FIFA Belatedly Grasped Realities of Africa (Updated June 20)

(HN, June 19, 2010) -- Alhassan Rano is technologically advanced compared to the average resident of Nigeria’s Kano state. With an advanced laptop and Nokia phone - and with accounts on Gmail and Facebook - he is able to communicate with the outside world with ease.Two boys blowing on the iconic vuvuzela at a public fan park in Soweto

But with 20-plus hours of daily power outages and dial-up connectivity speeds, it’s often a challenge to surf the web, let alone attempt online shopping. Moreover, the health worker has no credit card to divert part of his meager wages to online shopping.

When FIFA announced that the first-ever World Cup to be held on the African continent would be in South Africa in June 2010, soccer-crazed Africans greeted the news with a collective glee. Many - like Alhassan - dreamed of traveling to the wealthiest country in Africa to catch some of the matches.

Tickets for the World Cup 2010 first went on sale on February 20, 2009, followed by four additional sales phases.

Speak to most Southern Africans and the common refrain is that FIFA “didn't take into account the needs of the locals,” as put by Mboni, a young male soccer fan from Johannesburg who spoke to HUMNEWS today at a mostly empty public fan park in the centre of town.

Despite pronouncements by South African FIFA organizing chief Danny Jordaan that “we want this to be a World Cup for Africa,” selling tickets almost exclusively online froze many Africans out of the action and out of the stadiums.  According to Internet World Stats, Internet penetration in Africa was only 6.7% in the second quarter of 2009 - compared to a worldwide average of 24.7%.

Even in host country, South Africa, there are less than 5-million Internet users in a country with a population of almost 50-million.

Aside from the difficulty of obtaining even one of the some 3-million tickets made available - many matches sold out within hours - the cost of intra-Africa flights (a weekend flight to Johannesburg clocks in at $2600) and accommodation in South Africa would have made a trip to the World Cup out of the question for someone like Alhassan in Nigeria.

Indeed, at Saturday's matches with teams from Cameroon and Ghana, few fans from either country were visible in the stands, even with sizeable Diaspora communities in Johannesburg.

Not being able to afford World Cup tickets is not limited to out-of-towners. Many expatriates in South African complain of ticket prices as high as $900 (for the Category One final) - IF they are available. Those with resident cards have had access to as many as 15,000 discounted tickets - some as low as about $20.

One Johannesburg-based business writer said that even in South Africa, credit cards are out of reach of millions. Those who have them either distrust submitting their credit card details or do not know how to use online purchasing. “We are about as inclined to give our credit card details as going to live on the moon,” she said.

While the several fan parks in host cities have become popular free venues to take in the games via huge screens, some fans say FIFA didn’t take into account that the World Cup would be taking place in winter. Indeed, this evening, there were only a hand full of fans at the free fan park in Newtown in Johannesburg - many driven away by temperatures hovering around freezing.

One retired resident of Soweto told HUMNEWS that, with a pension of only about $150-a-month, there was no way he could afford tickets to any of the games. "If I take 150 Rand out of the 1,000 Rand I don’t have anything left for essentials,” he said.

Many tickets were put onto the local market closer to the opening day of the World Cup, but by then it was too late for many South Africans. “We have a tendency to leave things to the last minute,” said Mboni. “It’s hard to change plans at the last minute.”

--Reporting and photo by HUMNEWS staff, Johannesburg, SA