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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 South Korea (5)

Sunday
Mar252012

No Nukes? Or More Nukes? As the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Begins (REPORT)  

(PHOTO: Activists attend a rally opposing nuclear power in Seoul March 19, 2012/ChinaDaily)(HN, 3/25/2012) - World leaders including US President Barack Obama Monday will launch the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit a meeting on the threat from nuclear-armed terrorists, but the atomic ambitions of North Korea and Iran are set to feature heavily.

Leaders or senior officials from 53 nations will attend the Nuclear Security Summit, with Interpol, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union and the UN also taking part.

Participating countries, which also gathered at the 1st Washington Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 include:  South Korea, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK, Ukraine, USA and Vietnam.

Though not at the summit, next -door, North Korea’s upcoming rocket launch has overshadowed the run-up to the two-day meeting in Seoul, which seeks agreement on locking down fissile material that could be used to build thousands of terrorist bombs.

The nuclear-armed North says its rocket will merely put a peaceful satellite into orbit. The United States and others believe next month’s launch will test a long-range missile which could one day deliver an atomic warhead.

Gary Samore, coordinator for arms control at the US National Security Council, warned that North Korea would face a “strong response” from Washington and its allies if it goes ahead with the launch. “We will be working with other countries, when President Obama is in Seoul, to try to discourage North Korea from going ahead with the proposed satellite launch,” he told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Friday.

Obama will hold talks on the launch plan and other issues with leaders of China, Russia and host South Korea during his visit.

The IAEA, while worried about nuclear proliferation by North Korea, also suspects that Iran is bent on making nuclear weapons. Iran says its uranium enrichment activities are peaceful.  Neither Iran nor North Korea are on the formal agenda in Seoul. (Source: Wikipedia)

   NPT Nuclear Weapon States (China, France, Russia, UK, US)
   Non-NPT Nuclear Weapon States (India, North Korea, Pakistan)
   Undeclared Nuclear Weapon States (Israel)
   States suspected of having nuclear weapon programs (Iran, Syria)
   NATO weapons sharing weapons recipients
   States formerly possessing nuclear weapons

 

But leaders of five nations involved in stalled nuclear negotiations with the North — the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan — will all be present, offering an opportunity for consultations.

 Pyongyang sees the summit as a chance for Washington and Seoul to gang up on it. Any South Korean move to address the North’s nuclear program at the summit would be seen as a "declaration of war", it said.  

Seoul says the formal event is not about nations but “non-state actors” such as al-Qaeda, Nigeria's Boko-Haram terrorist group, and others groups which it fears could lay their hands on loose nukes as proliferation continues.

(via PressTV)

Obama in a 2009 speech described nuclear terrorism as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security”, and announced a drive to secure all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide within four years, a process which led to the first nuclear security summit in Washington in April 2010.

Since then, according to a joint report by the Washington-based Arms Control Association (ACA) and the Partnership for Global Security (PGS), which campaign against nuclear proliferation, acknowledged major progress since then.

Former Soviet republic Kazakhstan secured over 13 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, while Chile eliminated its entire HEU stockpile, the report said.

The United States and Russia signed a protocol under which each will dispose of 34 tons of plutonium — enough for 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Russia ended plutonium production. Ukraine eliminated two-thirds of its HEU and was expected to dispose of the rest by the Seoul summit.

But experts say much more must be done to end an apocalyptic threat.

“The commitments on the books will not get the job done,” said Michelle Cann of PGS, the report co-author.  “To prevent nuclear terrorism in the years ahead, the global nuclear security system must grow and adapt to new threats,” she said.

“There is a danger that early successes of the summit process will lead to complacency.”

The ACA says there have been 16 confirmed cases of unauthorized possession of HEU or plutonium documented by the IAEA since 1993, mainly in the former Soviet Union.   Alexandra Toma of the Connect US Fund, which promotes nuclear non-proliferation, said a sophisticated extremist group could plausibly take advantage of such lapses.

“It takes only 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of highly enriched uranium to make a crude nuclear bomb” the size of a grapefruit, she told a Seoul forum Thursday.

The summit agenda has been expanded to cover the securing of radioactive material, freely available from hospitals and other sources, which Stanford University expert Siegfried Hecker told the forum Thursday would be the most likely nuclear threat as a “dirty bomb... a weapon of mass disruption” since radiation sources were everywhere.

The meeting will also discuss the link between nuclear security and nuclear safety after Japan’s March 2011 Fukushima disaster.   Experts say the accident showed terrorists could create the same conditions as a tsunami did, by damaging cooling systems and cutting off power.

 -- HUMNEWS. An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in The Arab Times

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Thursday
Feb022012

Military Exercises and Stability on the Korean Peninsula (PERSPECTIVE) 

North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un (L) applauds as he visits the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su 105 Guards Tank Division of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in Pyongyang, in this picture released by KCNA January 1, 2012.

By Daniel Pinkston 

Last Friday, 27 January, the U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) Combined Forces Command (CFC) announced the dates for two joint and combined military exercises in the ROK. Key Resolve, an annual command post exercise will be held from 27 February to 9 March, and Foal Eagle, a tactical field exercise, will be held from 1 March to 30 April. The DPRK immediately denounced the exercises, which Pyongyang has labeled an “unpardonable grave military provocation to the sovereignty of the DPRK and a wanton challenge to the international community’s desire for peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula”. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) asserts “Key Resolve is a nuclear war rehearsal for aggression on the DPRK” that is “intolerable while the nation is mourning the loss of Kim Jong-il”Rodong Sinmun calls the exercises “a test nuclear war to invade the DPRK through a surprise attack”. DPRK media reported several appeals throughout January to cancel the exercises even before the CFC announcement.

U.S.-ROK combined military exercises often have been controversial, particularly during crises or during times of inter-Korean tensions. The U.S.-ROK Team Spirit exercise, which was launched in 1976 to reassure the ROK when it abandoned its nuclear weapons program, was repeatedly cited by Pyongyang as a “rehearsal for nuclear war against the DPRK”. Team Spirit then became a bargaining chip and was cancelled in the mid 1990s as reward for DPRK cooperation in the Agreed Framework. This led some to believe that ROK and U.S.-ROK military exercises exacerbate the security situation on the peninsula, and that the best way to reduce or eliminate DPRK belligerence is to cancel military exercises.

Some on the left in South Korea (ROK) have suggested that Key Resolve and Foal Eagle should be cancelled as a gesture for beginning a new cooperative relationship in the Kim Jŏng-ŭn era. A reduction in tensions and greater inter-Korean cooperation is desirable, but cancelling the exercises is unlikely to achieve this result for several reasons.

First, despite Pyongyang’s harsh criticism of exercises in the South, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) has continued its winter training exercises. Aircraft sorties reportedly have increased this year, and the North has conducted flight tests of short-range missiles over the last two months. It seems disingenuous to ask others to stand down when ramping up one’s own military training. And on the other hand, it would be irresponsible for the ROK and U.S. to neglect military training requirements without a reduction in the KPA force posture.

Second, the DPRK clearly has stated its intention to adhere to its sŏn’gun [military first] policy line. Sŏn’gun is a slightly modified Leninist world view that emphasises the importance of military power to resist “imperialist aggression”. The DPRK under the leadership of the Korean Workers’ Party has not renounced the use of force to unify Korea. Military weakness is more likely to invite greater military adventurism from the DPRK rather than arms control and nuclear disarmament. The good news is that sŏn’gun has strong “realist” overtones. In other words, power is what matters in sŏn’gun, and the KPA leadership probably has no delusions about the balance of power on the peninsula. The DPRK can be deterred, but deterrence can fail in the case of poor readiness and inadequate training.

Third, militaries have to train if they are to fulfill their tasks when called upon. ROK Army conscripts serve 21 months, and most U.S. military personnel serve for one year in the ROK, although some serve for 2-3 years. This turnover in forces requires annual training, which is scheduled well in advance. The KPA has been notified of the exercises, and CFC has invited the KPA to observe the exercises. Personnel from the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) will observe the exercises to verify they are in compliance with the Armistice.

So why is the rhetoric out of Pyongyang so shrill? It’s always shrill, but slightly more so this year, possibly because of Seoul’s response to the Ch’ŏnan sinking and Yŏnp’yŏng Island artillery attack in 2010. Those events triggered a reassessment of ROK military readiness and a reorganization of the command and control structure. The ROK has been increasing procurement and deployment of weapons systems to counter the DPRK’s asymmetric threats, and ramping up its military exercises.

Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are not the only ROK exercises these days. In January, ROK forces participated in Cobra Gold, a multi-national exercise in Thailand that included the U.S., Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The 2012 Cobra Gold exercise included simulated UN peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance, which mirrors some of the activities ROK troops would have to perform under ROK contingency plans for the North.

Furthermore, the ROK Air Force dispatched F-15s to Nellis Air Base in Nevada to participate in the Red Flag exercise from 2 January to 3 February. The ROK Air Force has participated in Red Flag before, but this is the first time since 2008. The exercise typically includes training in interdiction, ground attack, air superiority, air defense suppression, airlift, air refueling and reconnaissance. This training provides realistic scenarios for responding to DPRK provocations near the North Limit Line (NLL).

Despite the rhetoric, the likelihood of military conflict during the training period is low. The DPRK will continue its military training through the spring, and Pyongyang should be well behaved in the lead up to the Kim Il-sung centennial celebration in April. However, conventional provocations after April cannot be ruled out. In that case, military training and readiness in the South will be instrumental in dealing with any crises that could arise.

If the KPA is a professional military force, as it proclaims under its sŏn’gun doctrine, it should accept invitations to observe military exercises, just as the PLA, Russian military and others have done at Cobra Gold and elsewhere. The commanders of the KPA, the PLA (or technically, the Chinese People’s Volunteers, who no longer exist), and the United Nations Command all have the responsibility to uphold the Armistice. Transparency, mutual observation of all military exercises in the region, and other confidence-building measures are the appropriate pathways for tension reduction and stability on the Korean peninsula.

- Daniel Pinkston is the Deputy Project Director, North East Asia Program. His work focuses on inter-Korean relations, domestic politics, regional security, nonproliferation and the reform process in North Korea. Originally posted on the International Crisis Group's blog on Korea 'Strong and Proserous'

Monday
Jan302012

`Resilient People, Resilient Planet': New UN Report says World is running out of time, resources. 

(PHOTO: Global Greenhouse Warming.com)(HN/January 30, 2012) - A high level Global Sustainability panel organized by the UN released its report on resilient sustainability for both people and the planet today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The report release by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon comes on the sidelines of the 18th ordinary African Union Summit which opened here this weekend.

The report says a “Future Worth Choosing” must be based on true costs to people and the environment and that the world is running out of time to create real solutions to ensure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population expected to reach 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of middle-class consumers which will increase by 3 billion over the next 20 years.  As a result, demand for resources will rise exponentially.

Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50% more food, 45 % more energy and 30 % more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply. The report warns that if the world fails to tackle these problems, it risks sending up to 3 billion people into poverty.

"The current global development model is unsustainable. To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is required," the report said.

There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in 2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost per year - an area the size of Costa Rica; 85 percent of all fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted; and carbon dioxide emissions have risen 38 percent between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk of sea level rise and more extreme weather.

Among the panel's goals for governments is to agree on a set of sustainable development goals which would complement the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) by 2015 and create a framework for action.

(PHOTO: File) The 22 member panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity, was co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma.  The final report contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.  “Resilient People, Resilient Planet” calls for the integration of social and environmental costs in how the world prices and measures economic activities. It also calls for a set of sustainable development indicators that go beyond the traditional approach of Gross Domestic Product and recommends that Governments develop and apply a set of Sustainable Development Goals that can mobilize global action and help monitor progress.

The Secretary-General, in receiving the Panel’s report, stated that sustainable development is a top priority for his second term of office. “We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet,” said the Secretary-General.  The report of provides a timely contribution to preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012.

Addressing the Secretary-General via video, co-chair President Halonen stressed the importance of placing people at the center of achieving sustainable development. “Eradication of poverty and improving equity must remain priorities for the world community,” noted President Halonen. “The Panel has concluded that empowering women and ensuring a greater role for them in the economy is critical for sustainable development.”

(GRAPH: EOLSS.COM)Among the panel’s other recommendations they said that governments should work with partners to create an "evergreen revolution," which would at least double productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further biodiversity losses, the report said.  Water and marine ecosystems should be managed more efficiently and there should be universal access to affordable sustainable energy by 2030.  Carbon and natural resource pricing should be established through taxation, regulation or emissions trading schemes by 2020 and fossil fuel subsidies should also be phased out by that time. National fiscal and credit systems should be reformed to provide long-term incentives for sustainable practices as well as disincentives for unsustainable ones. Sovereign wealth and public pension funds, as well as development banks and export credit agencies should apply sustainable development criteria to their investment decisions, and governments or stock market watchdogs should revise regulations to encourage their use.  Science should be behind environmental progress and the UN should consider naming a chief scientific adviser or board to advise the organization, and calls on the Secretary-General to lead efforts to produce a regular Global Sustainable Development Outlook report that integrates knowledge across sectors and institutions

The 22 members of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability included current and former heads of states, ministers, and representatives of the private sector and civil society.  In addition to the Co-chairs, the Panel included Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates; Hajiya Amina Az-Zubai, Former Senior Special Assistant and Adviser to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals; Ali Babacan, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey; James Laurence Balsillie, former Co-Chief Executive Officer of Research in Motion; Alexander Bedritsky, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, Special Envoy for Climate; Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway; Micheline Calmy-Rey, Former President and former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland; Julia Carabias Lillo, Former Secretary of the Environment of Mexico; Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden; Luisa Dias Diogo, Member of Parliament and former Prime Minister of Mozambique; Han Seung-soo, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Green Growth Institute and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea; Yukio Hatoyama, former Prime Minister of Japan; Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action; Cristina Narbona Ruiz, former Minister of the Environment of Spain, Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development of India, Susan E. Rice, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Kevin Rudd, Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Prime Minister of Australia; Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados; Izabella Mônica Vieira Teixeira, Minister of the Environment of Brazil, and Zheng Guoguang; Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration. Mr. Janos Pasztor was an ex-officio member as Executive Secretary of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

The full report is available at www.un.org/gsp.

---HUMNEWS

Tuesday
Nov232010

South Korea vows 'stern retaliations' against North Korea (Updated 00:29 GMT)

South Korean K-9 self propelled artilleries carry out shooting exercises in June 2008 in Cheolwon, Gangwon. North Korea mainly attacked a military base of K-9 artilleries on Yeonpyeong Island yesterday (photo courtesy of JoongAngDaily)(HN, November 23, 2010) -- President Lee Myung-bak ordered his military Tuesday to punish North Korea for its artillery attacks "through action," not just words, saying it is important to stop the communist regime from contemplating additional provocation.

"The provocation this time can be regarded as an invasion of South Korean territory. In particular, indiscriminate attacks on civilians are a grave matter," a stern-faced Lee said during a visit to the headquarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in central Seoul, according to South Korea’s news agency Yonhap.

North Korea fired some 100 coastline artillery rounds across the western sea border onto Yeonpyeong Island Tuesday afternoon, killing two marines and wounding more than a dozen others.

The attack set houses on fire on the island that lies just south of the Northern Limit Line, the de-facto maritime border between the two Koreas drawn at the end of their 1950-53 war.

The South Korean military launched an immediate counterattack, firing about 80 K-9 self-propelled artillery shells toward the North's coastal areas. The exchange of fire lasted for about an hour.

Tuesday's attack was the North's most serious provocation since it torpedoed a South Korean warship in March that killed 46 sailors. It marks the first direct artillery attack on South Korean territory since the Korean War ended in an armistice, not a formal peace treaty.

"Reckless attacks on South Korean civilians are not tolerable, especially when South Korea is providing North Korea with humanitarian aid," the president said. "As for such attacks on civilians, a response beyond the rule of engagement is necessary. Our military should show this through action rather than an administrative response" such as statements or talks, he added.

"Given that North Korea maintains an offensive posture, I think the Army, the Navy and the Air Force should unite and retaliate against (the North's) provocation with multiple-fold firepower," Lee said. "I think enormous retaliation is going to be necessary to make North Korea incapable of provoking us again."

Lee's strongly worded comments came after a series of emergency meetings with senior presidential aides and security-related ministers at the underground bunker of the presidential compound Cheong Wa Dae. Participants included Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, Home Affairs Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu and Won Sei-hoon, chief of the state spy agency.

Earlier in the day, Cheong Wa Dae issued a statement denouncing the North's latest provocation.

"North Korea will have to bear full responsibility" for all consequences, Hong Sang-pyo, senior secretary for public affairs at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, said. He also warned that the South will"resolutely retaliate" if the North makes any further provocations.

Hong said the government was trying to figure out the North's intentions, adding it regards the attack as a "localized situation," rather than a prelude to a full-scale war

"We have informed our allies and neighboring countries of the current situation through diplomatic channels," he said.

He dismissed rumors of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's death as groundless. "We concluded that it is not a meaningful rumor or intelligence," he said.

Also in North Asia, Japan has been placed on high alert and officials in Tokyo demanded a quick resolution.

"The latest act of provocation undermines the peace and security of the entire northeast Asian region including Japan, not just those of South Korea," Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshito Sengoku said at a news conference, as he called the attack an "unforgivable act." "We demand an immediate end to this kind of action," he said.

(In early trading Wednesday in Japan, the Nikkei index in Tokyo was down about two percent and has fallen below the 10,000 yen level).

Separately, Asia Society Executive Vice-President Jamie Metzl, who just returned from South Korea, called the attack "a shocking escalation" by Pyongyang.

"With the North Korean economy in free fall, the country’s leaders have likely concluded that attacks like this only increase their negotiating power," says Metzl. "The North Koreans may well have recognized that South Korea has far more to lose from any conflict than does the north, and that concessions can possibly be extracted by taking advantage of this disparity."

Referring to the latest attack, as well as recent provocations, Metlz said: "These events could very well also point to conflicts within the North Korea establishment as different factions vie for power during a time of transition."

In a separate press briefing, Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung quoted the president as telling his military to strike North Korea's missile base around its coastline artillery positions if necessary.

"President Lee instructed (the military) to strike North Korea's missile base near coastline artillery positions if necessary... if there in any indication of further provocation," she said.
The spokeswoman also said that the North's provocation might have come in retaliation for one of the South's annual military exercises.

"Our Navy was conducting a maritime exercise near the western sea border today. North Korea has sent a letter of protest over the drill. We're examining a possible link between the protest and the artillery attack," said Kim.

Foreign ministry officials said they were in consultations with the United Nations over whether to refer the case to the global organization.

South Korea's rival political parties, meanwhile, canceled a budget committee meeting and agreed on bipartisan support for the government's response to the incident.

Background

This is not the first time a conflict of this nature has occurred between North and South Korea. In fact conflict has been brewing on the Korean Peninsula for 60  years now since, after World War II, the Korean peninsula was divided, with the North falling under the Soviet Union and the South under US military administration.

In June 1950 the North and South went to war. An armistice was signed in July 1953, enforcing the divide along the 38th parallel. No peace deal has been signed.

North Korea remains a Communist state and is a military power, though poverty-stricken. South Korea has become a major global economic player and hosted the last G20 summit in its capital Seoul earlier this month.

Some key events, beginning with the most recent, in conflict between the two Koreas are as follows: 

November 23, 2010: Two South Korean soldiers die as North, South Korea trade artillery fire

November 2010: North Korea unveils previously secret uranium nuclear facility

September 2010: North Korean leader Kim Jong il makes son, Kim Jong Un, four-star general, in move seen as preparation for succession.

March 2010: Cheonan, a South Korean warship with 104 men on board, is sunk by an explosion in the Yellow Sea. North Korea is blamed for the death of 46 sailors, but Pyongyang denies responsibility.

November 2009: North and South Korean warships clash in the Yellow Sea.

May 2009: North Korea conducts its second nuclear test

October 2006: North Korea conducts first nuclear test

June 2002: Naval battles kill five South Korean soldiers. Most likely 30 North Korean are killed or injured.

June 1999: First naval skirmish between two countries since the war. North Korean ship sinks in Yellow Sea.

September 1996: Gangneung submarine incident - 24 North Korean sailors die in the incident, which is believed to have been an attempt at infiltrating the south.

November 1987: Korean Airlines flight explodes, killing 115 people. North Korea blamed for attack.

January 1968: First assassination attempt on South Korea leader Park Chung-Hee. Other efforts to target top Seoul officials, some successful, follow in years to come.

HUM News Staff - Yonhap News Agency

Tuesday
Oct122010

(REPORT) HAITI – When talking becomes doing – building back better 

(PHOTO: USGS, Red shows 1/12/10 earthquake epicenter) (HN, Oct. 12, 2010) – Nine months ago, on January 12, 2010, the island nation of Haiti experienced a massive earthquake, killing almost 225,000 people and leaving more than a million people homeless. 

Days after the quake struck, just outside of Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince, a journalist covering the devastation was quoted as saying: Haiti will need to be completely rebuilt from the ground up, as even in good times, Haiti is an economic wreck, balancing precariously on the razor's edge of calamity."

And on a recent June 2010 return to the island nation, CNN journalists described Port au Prince as: “It looks like the earthquake happened yesterday.”

HURRY UP AND WAIT:

Within days of the calamity, several international appeals were launched and many countries responded to calls for humanitarian aid help; pledging funds and dispatching rescue and medical teams, engineers and support personnel to the devastated island nation. 

(PHOTO: Relief supplies being unloaded after the 1/12/10 earthquake. Wikipedia) The US, Iceland, China, Qatar, Israel, South Korea, Jordan and many others were among the global neighbors who supplied communication systems, air, land, and sea transport facilities, hospitals, and electrical networks that had been damaged by the earthquake, which hampered rescue and aid efforts. Confusion over who was in charge, air traffic congestion, and problems with cargo transportation further complicated relief work in the early days.

Mass graves containing tens of thousands of bodies were centered outside of cities as morgues and hospitals were quickly overwhelmed with the dead. Getting enough supplies, medical care and sanitation became urgent needs; and a lack of aid distribution led to angry protests from humanitarian workers and survivors with looting and sporadic violence breaking out. 

(PHOTO: Wikipedia, BelAir neighborhood, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti) Just ten days after the 7.2 quake struck, on January 22 the United Nations stated that the emergency phase of the relief operation was subsiding, and the next day the Haitian government called off the search for quake survivors. 

One aspect that made the disaster response unique was the deployment of new technology: the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters provided satellite images of Haiti to be shared with rescue groups along with help from GeoEye; the curation site Ushahidi coordinated texts, messages and reports from multiple sources; social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter aggregated members asking for help; the Red Cross and other organizations set records for text message donations.

Also in the immediate aftermath of the quake US President Barack Obama asked former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to lead a major fundraising effort to help the Haitian people. Together they established the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) - which has raised over $50 million from over 230,000 individuals and organizations, and has disbursed more than $4 million in grants to organizations on the ground in Haiti providing near-term relief and recovery assistance, designed to help the people of Haiti rebuild - and build back better. 

Since the initial round of donations were pledged, on January 25th there was a one-day conference held in Montreal, Canada to assess the relief effort and make further plans.  Haitian Prime Minister Jean Bellerive told the audience from 20 countries that Haiti would “need massive support for its recovery from the international community”.

Another donors' conference, delayed by almost 3 months, took place at UN headquarters in New York in March. The 26-member international Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, headed by Bill Clinton and the Haitian Prime Minister didn't get together until last June 2010. That committee is set to oversee the $5.3 billion pledged internationally for the first two years of Haiti's reconstruction; but only ten percent of it has been delivered, mostly as forgiven debt to Haiti. The rest is stalled in more than 60 countries and organizations that pledged help.

Still, nine months later, international officials are looking at the long term planning needs of reconstruction while also continuing to deal with the daily task of managing the emergency situation. 

Here’s where things stand at the moment:

(PHOTO: St. Felix Eves refugee camp, Haiti. Readyforanything.org) -   As of October 1, there were over 1 million refugees living in 1300 tent cities throughout the country in what’s been called `treacherous’ humanitarian situation;

-    As much as 98% of the rubble from the quake remains uncleared. An estimated 26 million cubic yards (20 million cubic meters) remain, making most of the capital impassable, and thousands of bodies remained in the rubble.

-   The number of people living in relief camps of tents and tarps since the quake was 1.6 million, with almost no transitional housing had been built. Most of the camps have no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal, and the tents were beginning to fall apart. Crime in the camps was widespread, especially against women and girls.

-   From 23 major charities, $1.1 billion has been collected for Haiti for relief efforts, but only two percent of the money has been released. According to a CBS report, $3.1 billion had been pledged for humanitarian aid and was used to pay for field hospitals, plastic tarps, bandages, and food, plus salaries, transportation and upkeep of relief workers. Incredibly, by May 2010, enough aid had been raised internationally to give each displaced family a check for $37,000.

(PHOTO: Wikipedia, Damaged buildings in Port-Au-Prince) The Haitian government said it was unable to tackle debris clean-up or the resettlement of homeless because it must prepare for hurricane season. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has been quoted as saying, "The real priority of the government is to protect the population from the next hurricane season, and most of our effort right now is going right now in that direction."

And if natural disasters weren’t enough to slay the spirit of the Haitian people, a new UN Report out this week states that “Wars, natural disasters and poor government institutions have contributed to a continuous state of undernourishment” in some 22 nations, including Haiti.

The hearty island nation is no stranger to turmoil and chaos: anyone reading its history from the time of the colonial powers would conclude this. Haiti is the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States and did not receive U.S. diplomatic recognition until 1862.  What should also come as no surprise to many is that before the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the nation needed help to survive, and now after the earthquake, the country is even more in need of help. 

But what kind of help does Haiti need?

Refugees International, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, made some startling claims in its latest field report, called "Haiti: Still Trapped in the Emergency Phase," just one day after former president Bill Clinton toured a Port-au-Prince camp. It says Haitians living in refugee camps set up after a devastating January earthquake are at risk of hunger, gang intimidation and rape.

“People are being threatened by gangs, and women are getting raped," said Refugees International President Michel Gabaudan in a release.  "Practically no one is available to communicate with the people living in these squalid camps and find better ways to protect them."  Refugees International says there are still 1,300 camps in Haiti, mostly run by the International Organization of Migration (IOM).  Melanie Teff said Haitians still living in camps often have "no one to turn to for help."

"Young men come with weapons and rape the women. They haven't reported it, because the hospitals, the police — everything was destroyed in the earthquake," reports Hannah, a nurse who sleeps in a makeshift tent in a volatile camp outside of Port-au-Prince.

Bill Clinton, the co-chair of the commission overseeing Haiti's reconstruction, expressed frustration with the slow delivery of promised funds by donors who have delivered about $732 million of a promised $5.3 billion in funds for 2010-11, along with debt relief.

What’s needed according to Haitian officials, citizens and other experts are communication systems, project management, security, food, jobs, housing, mediation, regulatory easing to doing business, and political stability.  According to Transparency International, an NGO which studies corruption levels worldwide in their annual Corruption Perceptions Index, Haiti has a particularly high level of corruption making the rebuilding job even harder.   

INCREASINGLY, PRIVATE EFFORTS ABOUND: 

As the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation struggles to rise up from one of the most destructive natural catastrophes in recent history, Haiti and the huge international aid operation assisting it are looking to private enterprise and investment to be the powerhouse of reconstruction.

Despite $11 billion pledged by donors, the aid commitments work out at $110 a year for each of Haiti's 10 million people, a per capita sum which paled in comparison with huge needs in housing, infrastructure, health and education, on top of daunting humanitarian costs.

In the 2010 Doing Business report prepared by the World Bank, which ranks business conditions around the world, Haiti already lagged at 151 out of 183 economies.

To help Haiti, companies such as The Timberland Co. says it plans to plant 5 million trees in the next five years in Haiti and in China’s Horqin Desert, two regions “that have long suffered severe and widespread impacts from deforestation.”   And to increase its efforts, the shoe marketer is also launching the Timberland Earthkeepers Virtual Forest Facebook application. Consumers can help Timberland plant additional trees in Haiti (above and beyond the five in five commitments) by creating a virtual forest on Facebook.  The larger the virtual forest, the more real trees planted.  

(PHOTO: NASA, deforestation on Haiti/Dominican Republic border)The environment is one of the most significant factors most experts point to as both a past problem and a future solution for the beleaguered country.   In 1925, Haiti was lush, with 60% of its original forest covering the lands and mountainous regions. Since then, the population has cut down an estimated 98% of its original forest cover for use as fuel for cook stoves, and in the process has destroyed fertile farmland soils, contributing to desertification.

In addition to soil erosion, deforestation has caused periodic flooding, as seen with Hurricane Jeanne in September, 2004. While Jeanne was only a tropical storm at the time with weak winds, the rains caused large mudslides and coastal flooding which killed more than 1,500 people and left 200,000 starving and homeless. The UN and other nations dispatched several hundred troops in addition to those already stationed in Haiti to provide disaster relief assistance. Looting and desperation caused by hunger resulted in turmoil at food distribution centers.

Earlier that year in May, floods killed more than 3,000 people on Haiti's southern border with the Dominican Republic.

Haiti was again pummeled by tropical storms in late August and early September 2008. The storms – Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Ike – all produced heavy winds and rain in Haiti. Due to weak soil conditions, the country’s mountainous terrain, and the devastating coincidence of four storms within less than four weeks, valley and lowland areas throughout the country experienced massive flooding. A September 10, 2008 source listed 331 dead and 800,000 in need of humanitarian aid in light of the flood. 

And, this, many experts agree, is just where Haiti’s reconstruction effort should begin – and could, in fact become a model for the rest of the world if done well.

(PHOTO: the Haiti Huddle 2010, Douglas Cohen) Last week’s Haiti Huddle 2010 an effort of Helping Hands for a Sustainable Haiti, an organization founded by Lisa McFadin and Thera N. Kalmijn at San Francisco’s Fort Mason, brought together development, humanitarian and investment experts from both the US, Haiti and from other countries tackled several crucial issues.

The groups’ main mission was to work on breaking the logjam of red tape which has seemingly kept 1.3 million people living in refugee camps for the past nine months by focusing on culturally-appropriate solutions for and by Haitians; and working on practical sustainable solution to recreate an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable Haiti.  

According to John Engle, of Haiti Partners, “Education and community infrastructure are the foundation to get to a meaningful development plan.  The country must recognize what got us here. A lack of investment in education and lack of cultural sensitivity and in fact connectivity and communication is why little to no progress has been made in the emergency of what many Haitians are still dealing with.“ 

Sam Bloch, Country Coordinator in Haiti of Grass Roots United says, "There were literally hundreds of NGO's on the ground before the earthquake focusing on community empowerment, collaboration and providing basic resources. But even before the earthquake the fabric of this community was torn and broken. Starting now it must be re-woven.  The Haitian community in country and in the larger Diaspora must re-unite and mobilize, in collaboration with all the organizations that pushed us aside after the disaster. We need to reconnect the service providers for such services as counseling, education, water, structures, food systems with community leaders.”

In fact one of the most important efforts that must be made according to Douglas Cohen, Founder of the Sustainable Haiti Coalition is, “Massive investments in education for longer term solutions, jobs, building schools, and revamping curriculum that includes wireless transmission for the whole country and which provides educational materials, and increases teachers’ salaries; paving the way to inter-active curricula; films, and video highlighting Haitian success stories, with Haitians implementing their own solutions.”

Other private efforts include electricity generators from E-Power, a $56.7 million Haitian-South Korean private investment that has forged ahead despite the January 12th earthquake; as well as an industrial park and garment manufacturing operation involving Sae-A Trading Company Limited, one of South Korea’s leading textile manufacturers, in a potential investment of between $10 million and $25 million being backed by the IFC and the U.S. State Department.

Last month, an Argentine entrepreneur announced a project with the Haiti-based WIN business group to build a $33 million, 240-room airport hotel in Port-au-Prince and there are government plans to create several special economic zones across the country. These would concentrate private businesses and investments in manufacturing, tourism and services, creating essential jobs and housing and driving development.

ELECTIONS COMING UP IN HAITI:

(PHOTO: Singer, activist Wyclef Jean, VIA Treehugger) In Haiti, campaigning for next month's November 28 presidential elections is well under way. Nineteen candidates are vying to lead the earthquake-ravaged nation; and with Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean out of the race there's no clear front-runner. It could be a contentious battle for one of the toughest political jobs in the world.

The next president will have to oversee the reconstruction and try to redirect what was already one of the most dysfunctional nations on earth.  Before the quake, roughly 80 percent of the population lived in poverty. Roads, electrical lines, sewers and other infrastructure were in desperate need of repair. Now, they need to be completely rebuilt, along with most of the capital city.

Allegations of fraud in Haitian elections are practically inevitable, but this year's balloting faces additional challenges. The quake destroyed 40 percent of the polling stations in the country, killed tens of thousands of voters and displaced hundreds of thousands of others; and  numerous people lost all their documents and no longer have voting cards.

(PHOTO: Haiti's Presidential Palace, Wikipedia) But whatever happens in Haiti’s elections, and whoever wins the crumbling Presidential palace, will have their hands full, eleven months later with the still critical priority of getting the lives of Haiti’s citizens along with the entire infrastructure of a long and storied nation, back on its feet again.  And this, will certainly take a global village effort – private, NGO, corporate, government, and otherwise. 

--- Written by HUMNEWS staff.

"WE ARE THE WORLD: FOR HAITI"