FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Tuesday:  November 25, 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 Ukraine (9)

Wednesday
Feb152012

Foreign Medical Teams Admitted to Examine Ailing Former Ukrainian PM (REPORT)

Yevhenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of the ex-Prime Minister, has complained of lack of access to her mother. CREDIT: Interfax Ukraine(HN, Feb 15, 2012) - Amid growing fears over the well-being of the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, medical teams from Germany and Canada have arrived in the country to carry out their own examinations of the imprisoned opposition leader.

Tymoshenko, who was given a seven-year sentence for financial wrongdoing whilst in office after a trial that the European Union and the United States said was politically motivated, has been suffering from medical problems - primarily serious back pain - for several months.

A German team examined Tymoshenko Tuesday evening and were allegedly detained for three hours, according to her defense lawyer and Ukrainian politician, Serhiy Vlasenko. He added that prison officials have denied him the right, as a Ukrainian legislator, to access Tymoshenko at the Kachanivska penal colony in Kharkiv.

Vlasenko was also quoted as saying that, for more than five hours, the Canadian doctors were being pressured to disclose the diagnosis to representatives of the Health Ministry of Ukraine. He said the results of the checkup could be disclosed only to the patient, and "any person indicated by the patient," the Kyiv Post reported.

According to a joint order issued by the Foreign Ministry, Healthcare Ministry and Penitentiary Service, the medical commission comprises Ukrainian doctors, three Canadian and two German specialists.

The Canadian team were dispatched after strong intervention from the Government of Canada.

The Interfax news agency reported that the Germans left early on Wednesday with the results of their examination in a sealed envelope, which is to remain closed until another round of medical examinations are completed by Canadian doctors on Wednesday.

In addition, Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevgenia, said she was not allowed to visit her mother.

She said: “They’re not letting me in for the second day in a row. We don’t know what is going on. We don’t understand what pressure she is under there. Yesterday we had all the prosecutor’s office and prison service representatives there. They put a lot of pressure on her to make her agree to the (presence of) Ukrainian doctors, which she has solid grounds to refuse....we don’t know either her diagnosis, or what is happening to her.”

She said she did not rule out that the diagnosis of her mother made by the foreign doctors might be falsified.

The Canadian team is composed of general practice doctors George Rewa and Peter Kujtan, and also an obstetrician-gynecologist Christine Derzko, according to Ukrainian media reports.

"We are here on a humanitarian basis. We were welcomed very well, and we will be conducting the research on strictly scientific basis. We proceed from the premise that the Government will make a conclusion judging from the results of this humanitarian mission," Rewa told journalists at the airport, according to the Ukrainian News Agency.

Western governments, led by European Union officials, have criticized the politicization of Tymoshenko's trial and had put pressure on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to release her. The two are long-time political opponents.

In a recent statement, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said: “Canada is very pleased that our government’s interventions have paved the way for three Canadian doctors to participate in the international medical commission being established by the Government of Ukraine to independently assess the health of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

"While this is a welcome development, we hope that outstanding issues can be resolved expeditiously to allow doctors access to Ms. Tymoshenko as soon as possible. Ms. Tymoshenko’s health, diagnosis and treatment should remain the primary focus of all involved.

"Canada remains concerned by the apparently arbitrary and politically biased nature of judicial proceedings against Ms. Tymoshenko and other individuals, which undermine the rule of law. We stand ready to work with Ukraine to help build a democratic, open and prosperous society.

- HUMNEWS staff

Wednesday
Dec282011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/28/11

Afghanistan 

India, Iran to resolve crisis in Afghanistan

(PHOTO: Canada's 1915 IDP's in La Ferme, Canada. MONTREAL GAZETTE)Albania

 Ton of cannabis seized in Albania

Algeria

Turkey accuses France of genocide in Algeria

Angola

Government pledges to cultivate human rights 

Antigua & Barbuda

World Bank says climate change talks bring ‘good and bad news’ for the Caribbean

Argentina 

Five Argentines Die in Traffic Accident in Southern Brazil

Armenia

Armenian women’s national team beats Vietnam’s team

(PHOTO: Tariq Ramadan at the Toronto1 gathering. The convention lured an impressive galaxy of distinguished scholars, including Prof. Tariq Ramadan ONISLAM.NET)Bolivia

Bolivian Minister Highlights Economic Growth 

Brazil

Due to Too Little Structure & Too Much Pesticide Brazil Exports Less than 1% of Its Fruit

Cameroon

Eto'o launches mobile network

Chinese Goods Top Christmas Wish List In Cameroon

Canada

Toronto Convention Inspires Canada Muslims

Remembering the spirit of Canadians unjustly interned

China

Chinese dissident Chen Wei gets 9 years in prison

Snack makers face expired food probe

Facebook Follows Server Brains From Taiwan to China

Colombia

Colombia, The Netherlands  Sign Rivers Dredging Agreement

(PHOTO: In Cyprus, poaching of the Blackcap birds is surging in defiance of a European Union ban. József Szabó.)Congo (DRC)

Congo: What’s Rwanda got to do with it? Interview

Cyprus

Illegal bird trapping a surging problem in Cyprus

Egypt

Egypt’s Amina Diab forges ahead with handbag collection

From Burning Bodies To Burning Books: Egypt Becoming “House Of Dust’ (Perspective)

Equatorial Guinea

Seadrill semi-tender rig gig off Equatorial Guinea

Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Swedish journalists to spend 11years in prison

Finland

Finland Authorities Clear MS Thor Liberty With 11 Ukrainian Citizens On Board After Finding Explosives To Travel Again 

Guinea

Guinea to review mining contract – Mr. Alpha Conde

India

Guwahati campus to become operational next June, says TISS Director

Don’t write off the India story yet (Perspective)

Iran

(PHOTO: Taiwan election-inspired merchandise on display in a shop. CHANNELASIA.NET)Iran and Russia survey regional developments

Iran envoy:  Abducted engineers in Syria are safe and sound

Iran threatens to stop Gulf oil if sanctions widened

Stop worrying and learn to love the Iranian bomb (Perspective)

Japan

Anti-Whaling Activists Use Drone to Track Japanese Fleet

Japanese PM Noda in India on economic mission 

Jordan

Libyan health minister visits Jordan field hospital

Kosovo

Serbia returns to dominate Kosovo market

(PHOTO: Screen shot of Tunisia's new Islamic TV channel, "Al Kalam")Kuwait

Kuwait donates 1 million to support Gaza preschool children 

Second consignment of Kuwaiti fuel donation arrives in Benghazi 

Lebanon

Lebanese al Qaeda operative eulogizes Jordanian killed in Afghanistan

Libya

Aid workers in Libya ponder future role in oil-rich country

Benetton Donates UnHate Statue To Libyan Capitol

Malta

(PHOTO: S. Sudan, the planet's newest nation opens its embassy in Washington, DC this week. WASHINGTON POST) PM, wife unharmed as shots fired close to Girgenti Palace

Montenegro 

Montenegro police arrests 16 members of international drug trafficking ring

Morocco 

Journalist Denied Access Into His Office

On the Verge of a Clean Energy Transformation: Morocco

Myanmar 

Burmese embassy in Thailand appoints labour official

Niger

A 'children's crisis' unfolds in West and Central Africa's Sahel region (Press Release)

(PHOTO: A gorilla stops to groom a tourist in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. DISCOVERY NEWS)Nigeria 

Christians flee north as Nigeria mourns church bomb victims

North Korea

Web blackout helps North Korea craft new cult of Kim

Oman

Pirates Seize Enrico Ievoli Ship With Five Ukrainians On Board Near Oman

Philippines

The Rights of the Child (Perspective)

Russia

Egyptian Foreign Minister in Russia to discuss Syria crisis

Rwanda

Country Committed in Fight Against Climate Change - Kamanzi

(PHOTO: `Harare Beyond Words' opens at H Gallery, Bangkok Thailand Jan 5-30th, 2012)Saudi Arabia

AIDS patient sues Qunfuda hospital

KSA residents protest fines for 'wasting water'

Value of Saudi's delayed public projects hits $147bn

Mobile phone subscriptions in Kingdom up to 56.1m in Q3

'Hafiz' flayed for precluding job hunters above 35

Endless debate over death penalty (Perspective)

Senegal

EALA roots for disaster experts in the region

South Africa

SA envoy visits drug mules in Thailand jails

Discovery of world's oldest bedding in SA (VIDEO)

South Sudan

South Sudan’s entrance on world stage includes setting up Washington embassy

South Sudan: Africa’s next farming frontier

Creating a film industry in South Sudan from scratch

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Fresh Insights On Attempts To Join ASEAN – Analysis

Sudan

Steps to Launch the Sudanese Satellite

Swaziland

(PHOTO: First community of hackers, called Hacekerspace were found in Tunisia this week. Nawaat.org) Electricity consumers soon to decide on tariff hikes

Whoonga - a new social threat

Switzerland

Swiss village in uproar over asylum centre

Switzerland slips in global ranking

Switzerland to renew Turkish-Armenian mediation

Syria

Telecomix hackers helping Syrians detect and avoid government surveillance online

Syrian NGOs: A dual-use technology?

“30%” Syria Oil Production fall, Minister

Syria refugees find sanctuary in Libya

Taiwan

(PHOTO: Zimbabwe farmers tend their fields. IITA) Taiwan poll campaigns spark merchandise

New prevention policy needed for tuberculosis: medical expert

Renowned Taiwan Lantern Festival set to light up heavens on February 6

Taiwan monastery hopes to attract tourists to see Buddha's tooth

Tanzania

Diplomatic, Trade Row As Dar Blocks Ugandan Exports

Serengeti Investor Speeds Up Social and Economic Development

World Bank stresses improvement of public health facilities in Tanzania

Investor: Tanzania good for pay TV

Thailand

Thailand battles with post-flood clean-up (VIDEO)

Thailand wires up with free Wi-Fi

Thailand prepares to be cloud hub

Seventh Anniversary of Thailand's Boxing Day Tsunami (VIDEO)

Zimbabwean art show opens next week in Bangkok

The Arctic

NOAA issues draft study for Arctic Sea oil drilling

The Netherlands

The battle for free speech continues

Tonga

Tonga’s Speaker facing arrest when he returns to the country

Tunisia

First Community of Cyber-hackers Founded in Tunisia

Train Operators Join the National Wave of Strikes

New Islamic Tunisian TV Channel “Al Kalam” Announced

Douz: Gateway to The Desert

Air France launches new direct flights to Tunisia destination

Turkey

Tourists visiting Turkey hit 30 million this year, surpassing target

Turkey is the answer (Perspective)

Uganda

Man Groomed by Gorillas On Trek in Uganda

Activists oppose plan to build railway through national park

The Joys of a Christmas Celebration in the Village

A List of the Most Corrupt Would Help the Poor More (Perspective)

Time is now for Ugandans to rise against the cancer of corruption (Perspective)

Ukraine

Ukraine becomes the European capital of rabies

Russia, Ukraine do not envision gas war this year

Ukraine, Turkey sign visa-free travel agreement

United Arab Emirates

UAE pledges to bolster China-Arab trade relations

100 distressed overseas foreign workers in Abu Dhabi spend Christmas in shelter

UAE launches first association for policewomen in Arab world

Property market is being rebuilt in the UAE

Meet the UAE's Marathon Woman

Emirates Airline Launches U.S. TV Ad Campaign (VIDEO)

United Kingdom

UK businesses investing in social media for 2012

Morrissey named PETA UK Person of the Year

United States

U.S. population growth slows

America’s Best Kept Secret: Rising Suburban Poverty

U.S. gets holiday gift in the form of Occupy Wall Street (Perspective)

US needs to act as melting ice transforms Arctic (Perspective)

Uruguay

Uruguayan Economy Grows

Uzbekistan

No more panties in public eye in Uzbekistan

Venezuela

Venezuela: UN human rights experts voice alarm at extended detention of judge

Hugo Chávez claims that Venezuela's economic strengthening "is amazing"

Vietnam

Vietnam freezes oil product prices, eyes import tax on gasoline

Vietnam masterpieces in auction for the poor

New high-income consumers emerge in Vietnam

Endangered wildlife dealers arrested in southern Vietnam 

Virgin Islands

A windsurfing nightmare called Maho Beach

Western Sahara

U.S. foreign aid done right (Perspective)

Yemen

Yemen malnutrition data should "shock"

The Emergence of a New Political & Social Consciousness in Yemen (Perspective)

Zambia

Stray Dogs 'Besiege' Kapiri Mposhi, Spread Rabies

MTN Zambia deploys first solar-powered site

Zimbabwe

WFP buy local scheme helps farmers

Zimbabwe loses again on AIDS funding‏

Labour Law - Dilemma of New Employers

Saturday
Dec032011

Child Labour Widespread in Ukrainian Mines (REPORT)

 

(HN, December 3, 2011) - Children in their early teens have been observed and filmed working in coal mines in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Government is ignoring the problem, activists say.

There are at least 800 illegal coal mines in Ukraine, where children work alongside adults, according to a video released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2005. However, sources say today the conditions are much worse, with the number of mines at well over 2,000.

The ILO has described the illegal coal mines, or kopankas (копанки), as "one of the most dangerous workplaces in the modern world." One American journalist called the conditions "medieval."

The front line of the situation appears to be in the eastern oblast of Donetsk (Донецьк) and the surrounding Donbas region. Ukraine's richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov (Рінат Ахметов), who owns the Ukrainian football club, Shakhtar Donetsk, comes from Donetsk.

The Donetsk region is also where the elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, spent his troubled childhood and where he started his political career.

Children working in the mines are reported to be as young as 12 and receive as little as $1-a-day. (The Ukrainian Labour Code sets a minimum working age of 16). Children as young as 12 are said to work in illegal Ukrainian coal mines. CREDIT: Дзеркало тижня

Many of the pits where children have been seen working are extremely rudimentary, with small entrance ways located under homes and fences, deep in wooded forests - even in vegetable gardens. In some villages in Donetsk Oblast, the holes are so numerous that it causes a risk to children, who could fall as deep as 50 meters.

A documentary produced by a Baltic company called "Pit Number Eight" shows teenage children collecting coal deep underground with the most minimal of safety equipment and no adult supervision

The ILO documentary (above) says working children have no fixed hours and work in unsafe working conditions using primitive, hand-made instruments. It says that even the simplest of safety measures - emergency exits, ventilation, gas detectors and ceiling reinforcements - are missing.

Rights activists say the industry is so lucrative that the oligarchs and senior politicians - right up to the President's Administration and his circle - profit handsomely from it and have little inclination to stop the use of child labour.

The previous administrations of Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko were successful in closing many of these illegal mining operations, but over 2000 kopanka’s reopened just as soon as Yanukowych and the Party of Regions came to power in March 2010, activists say.

In fact, earlier this year, a Ukrainian government working commission was set up in Donbas, to explore ways of legalizing kopanka’s instead of eliminating them.

Ukrainian activist Lyubov Maksymovich confirmed recently that Kopanka’s are an “open secret” in Ukraine. "Everyone knows about this abuse, but everyone including many journalists are too scared to talk about it publicly, fearing repercussions from the mafia and or the government."

Activists say there is a direct link from the kopankas to the top captains of industry.

Said one: "The business model that kopanka coal pits employ is simple. The illegally-produced coal using child labour. is delivered to the local trading site –or coal bazaar (usually by the truck loads), where it is bought, usually for cash, hand-to-hand by the representatives of conditioning and refinement factories. No paper trail. Afterwards, this illegal coal undergoes conditioning and refinement, where it becomes fully “legal” and a standardized product of these factories, which is then sold for metallurgy, power generation, or is exported."

The profitability of kopanka operations was estimated by the Segodnya newspaper at $125,000 per month per mine, a “backyard cottage” industry that produces 100 tons of coal per day.

Activists and volunteers in Canada and Ukraine say they have sifted through thousands of Russian documents, stories, videos  and TV news items looking for facts (the smoking gun) that could link illegal child labor practices in Kopanka’s directly to the Ukrainian State Coal Mining companies in Donbas. They allege that, through the transaction process, coal and money are laundered to create the appearance of legality.

One critical op-ed on the kopankas penned for the Kyiv Post was reportedly removed from the newspaper's website after it hit a nerve with Akhmetov. In an email dated November 1, 2011, and shared with HUMNEWS, Brian Bonner, a senior editor at the Kyiv Post, is quoted as saying to the writer: "Your opinion piece has created a stir with Rinat Akhmetov's people, so we have deactivated the article until we investigate."

In a July 2011 Kyiv Post article on illegal mines in Donetsk, the newspaper actually praised Akhmetov's mining companies - Pavlogradvuhilia mines, owned by Ukraine’s largest energy holding DTEK, a part of the oligarch's System Capital Management group. The Post reported: "It offers miners a salary of almost Hr 8,000 per month, stringent safety conditions and some social benefits, such as cheap holidays."

The problem of child labour in Ukraine is so widespread that a Ukrainian newspaper, Дзеркало Tижня, called it a "tradition" - estimating as many as 350,000 under-age workers in the country.

In a joint statement in 2009 with the Ombudsman of Ukraine, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said: "More often Ukrainian children become victims of worst forms of child labour, human trafficking, prostitution and pornography." It also called for more stringent enforcement and changes in legislation.

The ILO says  it is working together with trade unions and the government to put an end to child labour and create new jobs.

 - HUMNEWS staff

 

Thursday
Dec012011

World AIDS Day: Crisis in Ukraine (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, December 1, 2011) - Today is World AIDS Day and the symbolic thirtieth anniversary of the epidemic. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko speaking about the growing rates of HIV infection in his country. CREDIT: Ukrainians.ca

Ukraine has the highest HIV infection prevalence rate of any country in Europe. It also has a synergistic high prevalence of tuberculosis. HIV spreads tuberculosis and tuberculosis kills HIV/AIDS patients. According to the 2011 UNAIDS annual reportUkraine's HIV infection rate, 1.3% of over-15s, is the worst in Europe. Ukraine and Russia account for 90% of all HIV cases in the region.

UNICEF Ukraine says street children are among the most vulnerable groups.

While the incidence of new infections is going down around the world, Ukraine is still bucking that trend.

According to the WHO, only twenty percent of Ukraine's HIV infected population is receiving adequate retroviral therapy. 

That puts Ukraine in the company of countries such as Iran and Pakistan. The therapy rate is much lower than in sub-Saharan Africa.

The HIV prevalence rate in Ukraine is indicative of broadly bad health care and demographic statistics in Ukraine. Ukraine has the worst demographic statistics of any major country in the world save for a few isolated island nations in the Pacific. Ukraine's population is heading to a population of thirty million by 2050. Independence has not been kind to Ukraine. 

Despite the crisis, the response by the current and past leadership in Kyiv has been abysmal, analysts and aid workers say. "There's a line in the national AIDS programme budget for prevention," Andriy Klepikov, head of AIDS Alliance Ukraine, was quoted as saying in The Economist. "But its value is set at zero."

UNAIDS is clear on what needs to be done in Ukraine: "Ukraine needs to double its prevention budget and make it available for people, who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and sex workers."

- HUMNEWS staff, USA Programe Friends

Wednesday
Oct122011

What was really in Tymoshenko’s 2009 gas agreement with Russia? (PERSPECTIVE)

By Derek Fraser

Yulia Tymoshenko, the principal rival of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, has been convicted in a political trial in Ukraine of having exceeded her authority as prime minister in concluding a gas agreement with Russia in 2009 that was unfavorable to Ukrainian interests. For this she has been sentenced to seven years imprisonment and fined $200 million.Yulia Tymoshenko with her daughter as the sentence is read out in a Kyiv court room Monday. Credit: Юлія Тимошенко

It is worth recalling the circumstances in which she had to negotiate.

The negotiations of 2008 came at the end of the second of two gas wars in three years between Russia and Ukraine, wars that led to Russian gas supplies being twice cut to Ukraine and Western Europe.

Russia’s gas sales to Ukraine have been repeatedly been used by Russia as an instrument for bringing Ukraine to heel.

When Russia first turned off the gas supply to Ukraine and Europe at the end of 2005, a year after the Orange Revolution, it was preceded by Russia tearing up a multi-year gas supply contract it had concluded in 2004 with the more pro-Russian government of President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Statements made Russians at the time make it clear that the main aims of the Russian action were political. One purpose was to create difficulties for Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko in forthcoming parliamentary elections. Another was to take over the Ukrainian gas transit pipeline.

The EU had to intervene to put an end to that dispute.

In the gas war of 2008-2009, Russian motives were also not purely commercial. At the time Russia’s relations with Ukraine were especially tense because of Ukraine’s campaign to join NATO, its support for Georgia in its war with Russia, and Ukraine’s refusal to renew the lease on the Russian naval base on Sevastopol in the Crimea, which was to expire in 2017.

The Russians were also likely angry at the inability of the Ukrainians to pay a contested amount for past gas deliveries and the tough, dilatory and contradictory Ukrainian negotiating positions.

The Russians warned the Ukrainians that they would cut off the gas if the pricing issues were not solved by Dec. 31, 2008. On that day, the Russians proposed a gas price of $250 per 1,000 cubic meters. On the next day, Jan. 1, Yushchenko agreed to $250, but sought an increase in transit fees on Russian gas being shipped to Western Europe.

In response, Putin accused Yushchenko of breaking off negotiations, insisted on $450 and halted gas deliveries intended for Ukraine.

A few days later, Putin accused the Ukrainians of taking gas intended for Western Europe. In reprisal, he halted all shipments to Western Europe. He called for an international consortium to take over the Ukrainian transit system.

After the European Union observers had established that there was no evidence that Ukraine had cut shipments to Western Europe or siphoned off gas for its own use, Russia agreed to resume shipments to Western Europe, but only of a small amount, and that by a circuitous route that would have forced Ukraine to deprive much of the south of the country of gas. 

It was apparently only after the intervention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel with Putin that he and Tymoshenko finally reached an agreement on gas and transit costs. The Western Europeans also put considerable pressure on both Russia and Ukraine to put an end to the gas war.

The new contract was based on the generally accepted formula used throughout Europe at the time that linked the price of gas to the price of diesel fuel plus transportation costs. Ukraine received a 20 percent discount on this price for 2009. Russia received a discounted price on transit fees for the same period. The agreement also did away with an intermediary the gas trade, RosUkrEnergo, which had been allegedly channeling funds to the party of Yanukovych as well as to associates of Yushchenko.

The facts therefore suggest that the gas agreement concluded by Tymoshenko was likely the best she could have achieved under the circumstances. The elimination of RosUkrEnergo, in addition, removed an apparent source of corruption.

Derek Fraser was Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine from 1998-2001. Fraser is a senior fellow for the Centre for Global Studies and an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Victoria.


The trial of Yulia Tymoshenko - a mini documentary

Thursday
Sep082011

Will Gadaffi's Overseas Land Grabs Hold? (NEWS BRIEF)

A man in Bujumbura holds up a map of Africa. Several African countries have been victimized by lopsided land grabs by countries such as Libya. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, September 8, 2011) - Millions of dollars worth of Libyan land purchases from Ukraine to Mali are up in the air now that the Government of Colonel Gadaffi has crumbled.

Importing food is essential for Libya - almost all its food needs, including wheat and flour, is brought in to feed its 5.3 million people.

In May 2008, during a state visit to Kyiv, Gadaffi gave Ukraine an oil and gas contract in exchange for 247.000 ha of Ukrainian land to produce its own food.

A few years ago, according to Michael Muleba, Executive Director, Farmer Organisation Support Programme, Libya acquired control of 100.000 ha in the office du Niger, Mali’s main rice producing area. As part of the deal, Libya agreed to improve local infrastructure including enlarging canal and improving a road. But when it came to awarding these contracts and to finding a supplier of rice seeds, local firms were snubbed in favor of Chinese and Libyan ones.

Aside from Libya, Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea that have sought farmland abroad to guarantee food supplies and cut dependence on imports.

Africa is a prime target for foreign land grabs. Muleda describes various ways including: land purchases, long term leases, and large investments in existing farms as well as barter-type principles. The collective GRAIN argues that while African governments proclaim their commitments to food self-sufficiency, behind the backs of their people they are signing an alarming number of deals with foreign investors that give these investors control over their countries’ most important agricultural lands, including rice lands.

However, now that Gadaffi is gone, there is speculation that some of the deals may not stand up.

Even the Ukraine deal ran into trouble shortly after it was negotiated by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is now being prosecuted for alleged corruption. After a visit to Tripoli in 2009 she defended the deal, saying "Libya is a bridge to African countries. Africa can be a great consumer of Ukrainian grain and food. We worked out a draft agreement which is to be signed."

- HUMNEWS staff

Tuesday
Aug162011

Foreign Migrant Labour Being Exploited - in Iraq (NEWS BRIEF)

In 2007, migrant workers from developing countries sent home through formal channels more than US$240 billion. International migrants could number 405 million by 2050 if migration continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, CREDIT: IOM(HN, August 16, 2011) - As western nations withdraw from Iraq amid a flurry of reconstruction projects, shocking tales are emerging of abuse of foreign migrant workers.

In some cases the situation is so dire that the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been forced to step in to assist the victims.

In the latest case, the IOM provided humanitarian assistance to a group of 35 Ukrainian and Bulgarian workers left in desperate straits by their employer in Iraq.

In another case this month, more than two dozen boys from Punjab approached the Indian mission in Baghdad for help, saying they were trafficked into Iraq and forced to clear defused and live ammunition for preparing fields for agriculture. The young victims were promised $800 every month, but were not paid any money for months and forced to live in inhumane conditions, India Today reported.

Earlier today, at a media briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS, the IOM appealed to private companies to honour their obligations to take care of their workers and follow national immigration, labour and human rights norms.

IOM staff found the abuse during several visits a day to a construction site where the migrants are living in crowded, dark, dirty and unventilated conditions. Staff brought food, water and medical assistance. 

The Ukrainians and Bulgarians being assisted by IOM are part of an original group of 217 migrants, including Nepalese, recruited to work on a construction project inside the international zone in Baghdad in December 2010. 

According to IOM, the men, who had been promised salaries of US$2,500 when hired, have so far only received a few hundred dollars despite having worked very long hours for months. When a sub-contractor absconded, work on the construction site stopped, leaving the migrants without money or clean water and little access to food. 

With their employer also having failed to get them the necessary residency permits as promised, the migrants automatically became undocumented workers. 

Some of the 217 migrants have been moved to work on another site while others have succumbed to pressure by the employer and agreed to leave the country for a one-time payment of US$1,000. However, after being forced to pay their transport home and charges for overstaying a 10-day visa, the migrants were left with little money. 
 
The 35 migrant still at the site are living in unsanitary conditions and without electricity. Some of the migrants have health problems related to poor food intake and drinking unsafe water. Having borrowed money to pay recruitment agents to get the job in Iraq in the first place, the migrants are in debt which they are unlikely to pay off unless they are paid their salaries.

"As an immediate step, their salaries need to be paid, for the employer to stop threatening them to leave the country without due remuneration and for the migrants to eventually be assisted home in a safe and dignified way," says Livia Styp-Rekowska, from IOM Baghdad. "In this particular case we are fortunate that the migrants are in the International Zone and we have direct access to them. This is not true of the vast majority of the migrant exploitation cases we know about."

IOM says the case highlights the need for more long-term responses to foreign labour exploitation in Iraq as contractors, many of them foreign, take advantage of reconstruction efforts. 

While many are aware of the problem of internal displacement in Iraq, the same cannot be said of human trafficking for labour or for migrant exploitation. 

"This is a very serious problem in the country. Many if not most of the foreign workers in Iraq are undocumented through no fault of their own, leaving them in an extremely vulnerable position," Styp-Rekowska adds. "We are talking of many tens of thousands of foreign workers. What is needed to stop this kind of exploitation is a comprehensive labour migration policy in Iraq and for the new counter-trafficking law to be passed by parliament combined with an effective system that protects trafficked or stranded migrants."

Labour mobility, says IOM, is a key feature of globalization with a significant impact on the global economy. In 2007, migrant workers from developing countries sent home through formal channels more than US$240 billion.

International migrants could number 405 million by 2050 if migration continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, IOM says.

- HUMNEWS staff, IOM

Sunday
May152011

Creeping Decay of Chernobyl Captured in New Photo Exhibit (NEWS BRIEF)

One of the stunning images from Volatile Particles. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, May 15, 2011) - As the world watches another nuclear disaster unfold in Japan, a pair of Canadian photographers have launched an exhibit of images that explore another disaster's aftermath - creeping decay contrasted with regeneration and transformation.

Mathew Merrett and Olena Sullivan have created "Volatile Particles: 25 Years after Chernobyl", a photographic journey through Chernobyl's exclusion zone.

Volatile particles refer to the contaminants that were released into the air from the Chernobyl reactor meltdown, half of these landing outside the immediate area and affecting regions as far as the United Kingdom.

The exhibit was unveiled yesterday in Toronto at the Bezpala Brown Gallery(BBG). It is part of the CONTACT Photography 2011 Festival.

In an interview with HUMNEWS (click here), Sullivan said the exhibit is particularly timely given the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan. Now that the so-called exclusion zone around Chernobyl is being open by Ukrainian officials to tourism, she voiced concerns that articles left behind by first responders and evacuated residents may be taken by visitors as souvenirs.

"Tourists don't have as much as a personal take on going to see this location as someone like Mathew and myself may have," Sullivan told HUMNEWS.

The images on display certainly distinguish themselves from most others released to the public: the photography and the superimposing of the day-to-day images of pre-disaster life on current day images that succeed in distinguishing this work from others who have explored the exclusion zone.

In a twist that endows the exhibit with an added element, QR codes link to videos of the disaster or to recipes still used by some of the survivors.

- HUMNEWS staff

Thursday
Jan062011

Soaring Food Prices Cause Concern Worldwide (Report)

(PHOTO: Bikyamasr.com)(HN, January 6, 2011) - Noah commandeers his battered taxi through the early morning haze of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, wondering how he will come up with the money to pay for a trip to the market. Not only has the price of produce shot up in recent months, the price of parking at the market has double in recent weeks.

Noah’s worries were confirmed this week by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), which reported that its food price index – a basket tracking the wholesale cost of wheat, corn, rice, oil seeds, dairy products, sugar and meats, has jumped to a record high – even surpassing prices that sparked riots in more than 30 countries – including Haiti, Somalia and Cameroon - in 2007-2008.

While the price of staples such as rice and wheat are below the crises level, sticker shock in markets around the world is being caused by corn, sugar, meat and vegetable oil.

“We are entering a danger territory,” Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist at the FAO told reporters Wednesday.

(GRAPH: FAO) But some believe the world food supply is more fragile than it ever was, mostly because of extreme weather worldwide last year. Major wheat producers such as Ukraine and Russia have banned exports of wheat in 2010 after extremely poor harvests. And recent severe flooding in Australia’s agricultural heartland of Queensland is already having global repercussions on the world food supply.

This week, young people in the capital of Algiers, Algeria, rioted mostly because of rising food prices – including oil, sugar and flour.

There is also evidence to suggest that in the poorest countries, mothers are being forced by rising prices to cut back on essentials. In Niger - where one in four children die before their fifth birthday, mainly due to malnutrition – record numbers of children are being admitted to the country’s 822 therapeutic feeding centres, according to UNICEF.

Even in developed countries, people in the food business are being forced to cope using innovative means. Cynthia Thomet, co-owner of Atlanta’s Lunacy Black Market, a trendy eatery, said fluctuating prices of produce means much more frequent menu changes.

The sharp increase in commodity prices has prompted food companies like General Mills, Kraft, Sara Lee, Kellogg and ConAgra Foods to drop discounts and start rising prices on many products, said Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.

According to the FAO not only is their Food Price Index which tracks 55 commodities in total at a record high, but December 2010 was the sixth month in a row of surging prices - the highest since records began in 1990. The organization says it fears that prices will continue to soar in coming months as supply will fall short of world demand.

(PHOTO: City Farmer)Additionally, in a continuing to struggle world economy rising food prices would see consumers left with less money for discretionary spending on things like eating out and retail items as every day eating becomes more expensive.

Compounding the issue is the growing global population, scheduled to top 7 billion people sometime this spring.  The FAO has previously warned that worldwide food production must rise by 70% by 2050 when the global population will increase to 9.1 billion people, mostly in Asia and Africa.

--- By HUMNEWS’ staff