June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

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



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


San Marino     Mongolia
Vancouver     Ghana





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Entries in Soweto (2)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



`Soweto’s Children Find Play, Protection - and Food - Amid World Cup Uncertainty’

(HN, June 17, 2010) - The winter sun is blazing outside as about 20 children draw, play and chat inside a huge white tent in the middle of Johannesburg’s sprawling Soweto Township.A young boy at the Safe Play Area in Soweto shows off his drawing

The set-up is one of several so-called `Safe Play Areas’ supported by UNICEF and other organizations to keep vulnerable children protected from those who prey on young victims. They are situated in remote, fenced off areas of the public fan parks for the month-long World Cup here in South Africa. 

Visiting the historic township yesterday was highly symbolic as it coincided with International Day of the African Child - a public holiday to mark the June 16, 1976 Soweto Uprising, when mass protests were sparked over a government decision to enforce education for Afrikaans.

But yesterday a festive atmosphere could be seen everywhere in Soweto’s public fan park. Children blew the iconic vuvuzelas in unison, while gigantic loudspeakers and videos screens relayed key moments from a match the previous evening.

The `Safe Play Areas’ have also served an unintended purpose: to keep children fed during the four-and-a-half weeks that they are out of school. Because schools are closed nationwide for the World Cup, many students are missing out on the daily crucial hot meals that are routinely provided at many educational institutions.

The `Safe Play Area’ in Soweto provides one hot meal to the several dozen children - who average about eight to nine years old - dropping in each day, said Carol Bews, Assistant Director of Johannesburg Child Welfare, which has received funding from UNICEF to run several areas at public fan parks where thousands gather to watch World Cup matches on giant, outdoor screens. “With the schools being closed for four and a half weeks children are going to go hungry during this time.”

At the public fan park in Soweto, there is enough capacity for up to 30,000 visitors and officials worry that in other locations, children can end up separated from their parents and are easy prey for traffickers and others. Those wanting to enter the `Safe Play Area’ are provided with blue wrist bands, with their name and parent’s phone number scribbled on.

 “We need to ensure that children are safe. There is a potential for children getting lost, abused or neglected,” says Bews. She added that amid the festivities of the World Cup, some parents may have had too much to drink and are unable to provide proper supervision of their children.

One group of siblings that dropped in yesterday – a child aged eight and two other’s two six years old - said they only had one living parent.  As in other parts of Africa, HIV/AIDS is a common factor in the premature death of parents, leaving many children orphaned or with just one parent.

The children who visit the `Safe Play Area’ do more than play. Bews said they are offered awareness sessions on such topics as “stranger danger” - to help better equip them for dealing with potential predators - such as child traffickers.

In a place like Soweto - where poverty levels are high - there are many families headed by only one parent. Says Bews: “That means children have to become almost adult-like at a very young age. We see young children looking after younger siblings....children who are way too young to take on that responsibility.”

Bews said grave cases where children require special child protection services are referred to entities that have specialized skills and programs. Many of the child protection services in South Africa are provided by non-governmental organizations such as the Johannesburg Child Welfare Society.  

It only takes a short time in South Africa to realize how soccer flows through the veins of almost everybody here - both young and small.

In a place like Soweto - densely populated, containing about one-third of Johannesburg’s population and with high unemployment of up to 50% - soccer provides a glimmer of hope unlike anything else. Many of the drawings created by children the day we visited - on the evening of the crucial match between South Africa and Uruguay - anticipated the competition and included the South African flag with pride.

Bews said that because soccer does not require special shoes or equipment, the game is accessible to anyone. She recalled seeing two groups of children at a squatter’s settlement in downtown Johannesburg play with makeshift soccer balls that were made of metal bottle tops and plastic Coke bottles.

“We have seen that children can really lose themselves in soccer. They become children again, which is really important. And they’ll play with anything at hand,” said Bews.  “They learn how to deal with life through soccer. They learn how to deal with conflict, how to be a team player, how to win, how to lose. And it’s something that equips them for life.”

Of course the Soweto `Safe Play Area’ has its own fenced-in soccer pitch just to add to World Cup excitement.

--- Reporting/photo by HUMNEWS staff in Johannesburg, SA