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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 Palestinians (4)

Monday
Jun202011

On World Refugee Day, UNHCR Reports Highest Number of Refugees Worldwide in Fifteen Years 

(CREDIT: UNHCR, World Refugee Day 2011) (HN, June 20, 2011) - June 20th is always the United Nations globally recognized `World Refugee Day’.  But this year the day holds significance for more people on the planet than in the last 15 years. 

That’s because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that as of last year, 43.7 million people around the world have been displaced from their countries by war, conflict or persecution.  

Adding insult to injury, eighty percent of those refugees fleeing the safety of their own homes are being kept safe with food, shelter and water by some of the world’s poorest nations, and UNHCR is warning that these countries cannot continue to afford this cost alone.

This past weekend António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, spent time with the actress Angelina Jolie meeting with some of the refugees who most recently fled  Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain and other Middle East nations currently experiencing internal turmoil which has forced thousands to stream across their nations borders for other countries such as Turkey and Malta.  

(CREDIT: UNHCR, Gooodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie at a camp for Syrian refugees in the southern Turkish town of Altinozu.)In a statement reflecting `World Refugee Day’, Guterres says, “Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. It’s poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden.”

UNHCR’s 2010 Global Trends report, flags Pakistan, Iran and Syria as the world’s biggest hosts of refugees by amount of people who have fled there – totaling three million collectively that the countries have taken in; 1.9 million refugees are being housed in Pakistan alone.

And the world’s refugee populations are only expected to grow as predicted by UNHCR, next year and beyond.  In 2010, the refugee agency projected that 747,000 locations places were needed to resettle the global flow of refugees, and the 22 countries that accept such displaced people, led by the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden and Norway, took in only 98,000 people. In 2011, UNHCR estimates that 805,000 locations for refugees to be resettled will be needed.  

The developed nation housing the largest refugee population is Germany, hosting 594,000 people.  Guterres urged industrialized nations to increase the number of people they accept who are seeking asylum, lessening the burden on already poor and overwhelmed countries, some whom, like Syria, are going through their own internal strife and seeing its own people flee to Turkey.

Civilians fleeing the fighting in north-west Syria has picked up significantly in the last two weeks with more than 9,600 people now living in four camps managed by Turkey and the Turkish Red Crescent.

(CREDIT: IGEO, a camp for Darfur, Sudan refugees in Chad.)Not only are there more refugees in the world today but more people are staying in a `refugee state’ much longer than ever before.  Some like those in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere spend their whole life in refugee camps. 

In 2010 for instance, 7.2 million people, the highest number in ten years, had been exiled from their home countries for five years or more; mostly due to the length of the conflict they were fleeing from, which prevented people from returning to their homes. Only 197,600 refugees, were able to return to their homes in 2010, the lowest number since 1990.

UNHCR puts the official number of refugees who registered with it last year, along with the agency for Palestinian refugees at 15.4 million in 2010; with another 27.5 million people – the highest level in ten years - having been displaced by conflict within their own home countries’ borders.

--- HUMNEWS staff

Monday
May232011

Change in a New World (PERSPECTIVE)

By Alina Vrejoiu

Many people have criticized Barack Obama for putting his reputation on the line by being the first U.S president to boldly declare that the Israeli border should go back to the 1967 lines and insisting that a Jewish state "cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation" of Palestinian lands.

The dramatic remarks were made only a week after Obama successfully caught one of the biggest terrorist masterminds.President Obama delivers the historic Middle East speech. CREDIT: White House

It is by no accident that Obama is carefully strategizing his move in terms of the juxtaposition events from the past - comparing the upheaval in the Middle East and Africa to the American Revolution and the Civil Rights movement - and present in order to make his next move in the Middle East. He knows that there is a thirst by the public for dignity and freedom and he is willing to move out ahead into the torrent of change. Israel, on the other hand, is not ready for this sudden change to happen even though a democratic approach would work in its favor.

Obama has reassured the Israelis in his recent meeting on May 19th with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, “Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakable. And we will stand against attempt to single it out for criticism in international forums.”

Obama was, unfortunately, criticized for siding with the Israelis instead of understanding that we are not going to take sides. Yes, the United States sees Israel as an ally because we are supposed to share the same values and because it is the only country in the Middle East that embraces democracy and freedom.

However, in Obama's landmark Cairo speech of June 2009 he strongly recognized the suffering of Palestinian people through dispossession, occupation, and refugee status.

Said Obama: "...It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."

With the Palestinian population steadily growing and technology and social networking playing a big role in revolution and change, there is an urgency like never before to establish peace between these two parties. The existing state of affairs is no longer sustainable; there must be agreement to conform to a peace process and Israel should take the lead in these negotiations.

Obama has made it clear that neither he nor the United Nations can force an agreement if face-to-face discussions don’t happen and there is no real determination for peace to occur. After all, the 1967 line settlement was supposed to be for Israeli defense purposes and we have seen Jewish family settlements put in place instead.

Transparency and open dialogues with a fair redrawing of state lines is the only way a peace process can begin to flourish. I hope we will not allow misconceptions to contaminate history once again.

Establishing a new government and a new state for Palestinians that will allow for freedom of speech, thought and free elections is better than one that imposes its ideology by force.  Israel needs to step up to the plate and recognize a Palestinian state in order to move forward into the new world.  Waiting for a peace accord is no longer an option in the Middle East.

Alina Vrejoiu is a faculty member of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York and has taught international students for the last four years.
Wednesday
Mar162011

OPT: Blockade Frustrates Gaza Students (Report)

Undergraduate students on the green at Islamic University in Gaza City, photo courtesy Erica Silverman /IRIN(March 16, 2011) -- The next generation in the Gaza Strip may be less educated, less professional and perhaps more radical because an Israeli blockade has restricted educational and employment opportunities, say UN and other sources.
 
The four-year blockade has particularly affected youths aged 18-24, limiting access to higher education, academic exchanges and professional development, says Gaza’s education ministry. About 65 percent of Gaza’s 1.6 million people are under 25, according to UN estimates.
 
“Higher education in all its forms is absolutely critical to a functioning society and the creation of a future Palestinian state,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Max Gaylard told IRIN, and “to maintain a necessary level of skills in professional sectors, like medicine and engineering.”
 
Gaza’s unemployment rate - nearly 50 percent according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) - indicates dire prospects for the rapidly growing and youthful population.
 
The economic blockade, imposed by Israel after the Islamist resistance movement Hamas took control of Gaza, has obstructed the import of books, science laboratory and other educational equipment to Gaza, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Israel allows in limited humanitarian supplies.
 
The lack of facilities, new information and experiences has caused a marked deterioration of Gaza’s whole educational system. Noor, an English education student at Al-Azhar University, ranked second in Gaza, said she lacked essential books for her coursework and even chairs were missing from lecture halls.
 
“Our universities are not ready for new generations,” she explained. “We only have one laboratory and two computer labs, and it is not enough.”
 
Enrolment levels at Gaza’s 14 public and private universities and colleges remain high, but conflict and the stringent blockade have seriously undermined access to, and the quality of, higher education, said UNESCO in a report.
 
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, “Under the policy of complete closure imposed since June 2007, Palestinians from Gaza who once constituted some 35 percent of the student body at universities in the West Bank are virtually absent from West Bank education institutions.” 
The development of two separate systems due to the Israeli-imposed movement restrictions, meant fewer subjects and facilities for Gaza’s university students, said UNESCO.
 
Can't pay fees 

About 80 percent of the Gaza population is aid dependent, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and higher education institutions in Gaza are feeling the financial strain.
 
According to UNESCO, students are increasingly unable to pay tuition fees, resulting in drop-outs and postponement of studies.
The inability of students to cover fees has hit Gaza universities hard, since student fees provide about 60 percent of university running costs, according to Palestinian NGO Sharek Youth Forum.
 
“The level of education is being compromised and we have trouble hiring qualified professors and staff,” said Kamalain Shaath, president of the Islamic University, ranked top in Gaza and the West Bank. Half the students at the university, he added, were unable to meet tuition requirements this semester.
Damaged buildings still not rebuilt 

Islamic University’s first medical school class of about 50 promising young doctors will graduate this spring, and will be desperately needed in this conflict area, although the university science labs that were destroyed during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead - aimed at ending rocket attacks into Israel - were never rebuilt.
 
Seven universities and colleges were damaged during the offensive, which ended in January 2010, with six buildings fully destroyed and 16 partially, according to UNESCO. As of March 2011, rebuilding has not been possible owing to the embargo on building materials.
 
Overcrowding in schools is another problem. About 81 percent of Gaza’s public schools operate on double shifts, according Gaza’s education ministry director-general, Sharif Nouman. In 2010, only three new schools were built due to lack of building materials, yet another 100 need to be built, he said.
 
Meanwhile, the internal conflict between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas is putting pressure on the education system, due to the lack of communication between the Gaza and West Bank ministries, he added.
 
Rising unemployment 

The unemployment rate among those aged 15-19 is about 72 percent, while unemployment affects 66 percent of those aged 20-24, according to a January socio-economic report by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO). West Bank unemployment rates were 29 percent and 34 percent for these age groups, respectively.
 
About 70 percent of industrial establishments in Gaza have closed under the blockade, according to OCHA, while 120,000 private sector jobs were lost in the first two years of closure. A recent easing has allowed the limited export of cut flowers and strawberries from Gaza to Europe.
 
“When young people graduate they have almost no opportunity to find a job in a company or association,” said Bassam, a multi-media student at Al-Azhar University. Some try to start their own businesses, but “this cannot succeed in Gaza now because of the blockade,” he added.
 
UN officials in the region have expressed concern that isolating youth in Gaza from broader values and opportunities will backfire. “A rapidly growing society, becoming poorer, that is subject to restrictions on education will encourage extremism in its worst forms,” warned Gaylard.
 
Deputy director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy, Danny Seaman, however, said: “Hamas uses access to Israel to perpetrate terror attacks against our civilians and this immediate threat outweighs the concern over increased militancy amongst youth in Gaza.”
 
Some 71 percent of university students surveyed by UNESCO reported they were not hopeful about the future and almost the same number worried there will be another war.
 
“Most of my peers want to emigrate,” said Shadi, a 26-year-old physical therapist in Gaza City. “We are isolated and frustrated.”
 
- Report by IRIN humanitarian news and analysis
Thursday
Jan202011

IOC Nudges Palestinians and Israelis Closer - in Lausanne (Report)

(HN, January 21, 2011) -- Snow-covered Lausanne was the setting Thursday for top officials from the Palestinian and Israeli Olympic committees to try to bridge differences and seek common ground for cooperation.

Nader Al Masri - the only athlete from the Gaza Strip in Beijing, one of the four-strong Palestinian team.

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the two sides conducted cordial and productive discussions - to the point of the Israelis offering Palestinian athletes training facilities for the 2012 London Olympics.

"The representatives of the Olympic Committee of Israel said that they were ready to offer training opportunities to Palestinian athletes." the IOC said in a statement sent to HUMNEWS.

The IOC also confirmed that it would provide experts to work on a long-term sports development strategy in Palestine in order to continue to assist not only the athletes but also coaches and sports administrators, and to identify ways to better promote sport and its values at grassroots level, the statement said.

The two sides agreed to meet in Lausanne following IOC President Jacques Rogge’s visit to the Middle East last October. During that visit he must have seen the dilapidated state of sports and training facilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A second meeting will be scheduled in two months’ time to review the progress made, the IOC said.

There was also an indication that the Israelis agreed to ease access for Palestinian athletes, coaches, officials and sports material, as well as foreign visiting athletes.

Athletes from the Palestinian Territory were first represented at the Olympic Games at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

- HUMNEWS staff, IOC