Monday:  March 23, 2015

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)



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 Viktor Yanukovych (2)


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


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