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)


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Our Society in Good Hands (Perspective) 

By Dan Bena

(Video: This amazing documentary was made by The Keystone Center & 3 high school students from Racine, WI, US, in 2011 & focused on youth views of global issues/The Keystone Center)

Last week I enjoyed a morning at my alma mater, Manhattan College, where PepsiCo sponsored the Youth Policy Summit through the Keystone Center.  The Summit engages high school students - in this case, one from as far away as Alaska - to learn mediation, collaboration, and communication skills in the context of complicated policy dilemmas.  It is a great concept, and proved to be an outstanding experience.

In a survey by Accenture a couple of years ago of nearly a thousand global CEOs, I recall that 72% of them identified education as the “global development issue most critical to address for the future success of their business.”  Well, the CEOs in this survey should have seen and heard the students this morning!  It would have given them reason to be optimistic, as it did for me.  Our society really is in good hands with youth leaders of tomorrow like the ones I had the honor of engaging with at the summit.

I am fortunate to speak to many audiences but I think high-school students are quickly becoming my favorite.  They have absolutely no hidden agendas. They are not job seeking, or out to impress a college professor, or a non-profit hoping for funding or other support.  In the end, they are just kids.  Kids interested in making the world a better place to live - for themselves, their friends, their parents, and maybe even their own children someday.  They have no filters - what you see is what you get, and - more importantly, what they say is what they mean!  It is a sobering and humbling experience for any company, I think, to talk about their mission in front of high school students.

The Summits have different areas of focus each time they are conducted, and this one was about "Urban Sustainability".  I was on an expert panel for environmental sustainability, and shared how proud I am to be entering my 28th year at PepsiCo.  I talked about the positive impact we are having in environment - like water conservation and stewardship, energy reduction, solid waste elimination, and engaging farmers all across the world.  The other panelists also talked about watersheds, and energy efficiency, and vertical farming, but - in the end - it was really about the skills you need to succeed in life.  I told them, above all else, to find something they are passionate about, and learn how to act on that passion in a compelling and collaborative way.

It is so gratifying to see how PepsiCo’s work can inspire young people. This was proven to me when three of the students (14 and 15 years old!) - independently - came to me afterward and said, “after hearing about all the great things your company is doing, I know that I want to work for PepsiCo.”  My colleagues and I are proud to work at PepsiCo, and the Possibilities section of our website highlights some of our stories – many of my colleagues bring to PepsiCo the same energy as these young students!

- Dan Bena is currently the Senior Director of Sustainable Development for PepsiCo, serving as liaison between technical functions, government affairs, public policy, and field operations to develop key strategies and messaging to internal and external stakeholder groups. In 2009, Dan was appointed to the Steering Committee of the United Nations CEO Water Mandate, and also serves on the Mandate's working groups for Water as a Human Right and Water Policy Engagement. He also serves on the Global Agenda Council for Water Security of the World Economic Forum and is a contributing member to the Water Core Working Group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).  This editorial originally appeared on July 31, on the Pepsico Employee Blog,` Living The Promise'.   


Chicago Prepares for NATO Summit (REPORT) 

(Video Al Jazeera)  

US president Barack Obama's hometown of Chicago is this weekend's venue of the NATO summit about the future of the foreign forces in Afghanistan, which commences Sunday after this weekend's G8 meeting, with more than 60 heads of state scheduled to attend. Thousands of protesters are also expected to converge on a city with a history of violent protests, notably the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  Security is a primary concern & Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now the mayor of the city, is tasked with seeing the event through without incident.  Al Jazeera's John Hendren reports from Chicago.


Soothing Sendai (REPORT)  

(PHOTO: Japanese & New York team at Sendai school for healing event/DRJUDYK)(HN, March, 22, 2012) - American psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky and famous Japanese and US  musicians traveled to the earthquake-affected area in northern Japan to do workshops and concerts for survivors, especially children, on the day after the one year anniversary of the 3.11 disaster.

“Many singers, sports stars, and helpers came to our town to help right after the natural disaster hit, but over time now, people have forgotten. The residents, and especially the children, are suffering now as ever before,” Go Osaka of The Recovery Assistance Center of Miyagi told international psychologist and NGO representative to the United Nations, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, when they met recently in New York at the United Nations concert in honor of the one-year anniversary of the Japan tragedy.

“Now we need to keep paying attention to the people and especially to their emotional needs,” Osaka told the noted psychologist.

Kuriansky, an expert in trauma who has done psychological first aide workshops and trainings after many international disasters, offered to help. That night, a plan was made for her to help design recovery workshops for the children of the affected areas.

The project is a partnership of The Recovery Center of Miyagi and Kuriansky’s NGO accredited at the United Nations, the International Association of Applied Psychology.  Another partner is the Stand Up For Peace Project that she co-founded with internationally acclaimed New York composer Russell Daisey.

(PHOTO: Japanese Soprano Tomoko Shibata and New York composer Russell Daisey performing in Sendai/DRJUDYK)

The Recovery Assistance Center of Miyagi plans to buy abandoned school houses and set up after-school programs for the children.  The programs will offer varied services.  Besides psychological help, famous musicians will give concerts and teach the children music.

Kuriansky enlisted the participation of two good friends who are famous Japanese musicians: world-class operatic soprano Tomoko Shibata and internationally acclaimed pop star Shinji Harada.  Both have performed concerts in the affected Sendai area, but are happy to do more, and to work with the two new partners.

“I feel pain and sadness over what happened in my country on 3/11,” says Shibata. “And I also feel the pain of America after 9/11 since I was in New York and saw the second plane hit the tower. I know that music has the power to heal, for myself, for all the people in Miyagi and all those who suffer.”

Harada feels similarly.  He has been devoted to performing Global Harmony peace charity concerts for years worldwide, including at the United Nations. He has a project helping impoverished children in the Philippines and he has written children's songs and a school anthem specifically for the children of Japan after this disaster.  Born in Hiroshima, he knows the pain of loss and devastation in his hometown from what happened in WWII. 

(PHOTO: Japanese pop star Shinji Harada singing for Sendai schoolchildren/DRJUDYK)

“The time has come to show how “kindness” is crucial to saving the world,” says Harada, and music has always been one way to send out positive messages.”

All concerts and workshops were free.  

On the night of the 3/11 anniversary, Shibata produced and performed in a memorial concert, the fourth in her series “Songs for Hope,” at the prestigious Yamaha Hall in Tokyo.  Kuriansky and Daisey flew to Tokyo from New York to be present at the concert and introduce their healing anthem `Towers of Light’ which they co-wrote after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, and which Shibata recently translated into Japanese, renaming it “Souls Become Stars.” The song debuted on the 3/11 night.

For the two day mission in Sendai, Kuriansky organized her `Healing Hearts' workshop to teach children techniques to reduce stress, build energy and personal strength, and regain hope.  These techniques are part of her toolbox used in her `Global Kids Connect' project, which connects children of trauma worldwide. The Japanese children drew messages of hope on cranes that will be brought to children in Haiti who have also been traumatized by an earthquake and will return the favor.

“This creates a circle of caring and support that psychological principles prove helps people, and especially children, heal in the face of trauma,’ says Kuriansky.

(PHOTO: NY psychologist Judy Kuriansky making cranes with Sendai schoolchildren/DRJUDYK)Kuriansky has applied these techniques in her psychological first aide interventions and training of local supporters in other parts of the world, including after the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in the USA, and earthquakes in Haiti and in China.

“I know how well children respond to these experiences that are not only helpful but also fun, so children feel safer and not alone,” says Kuriansky, who has taught her students these techniques in classes at Columbia University Teachers College.

“As an international psychologist, it is my honor to teach the Japanese children techniques I have taught children all over the world, after many disasters that can make them feel stronger and also connected to other children around the world who care about them,” Kuriansky adds.

The centers in Miyagi will offer not only music, arts, drawing, theatre, but also sports training.  Kuriansky has already enlisted friends who will send sports stars to meet with and teach, the children.

(PHOTO: Sendai school children at healing event/DRJUDYK)“The project warms my heart, thinking of bringing so many people from diverse fields of expertise to continue with supporting the people in Miyagi,” says Kuriansky.

The other important aspect is to create sustainability.  “People need to know you will continue the programs, and not just ‘helicopter’ in and leave.  You have to set up programs that last,” she says.  “That’s why we will have many volunteers in these fields and also we will train the local people, like teachers, to continue this work.”

--- HUMNEWS.  Dr. Judy Kuriansky is a clinical psychologist at Columbia University Teachers College, an NGO representative at the United Nations for the International Association of Applied Psychology and a member of the HUM Board of Advisors.


No One Asked Their Names 

By Qais Azimy

Nine of the 16 victims were children [AFP]

In the days following the rogue US soldier’s shooting spree in Kandahar, most of the media, us included, focused on the “backlash” and how it might further strain the relations with the US.

Many mainstream media outlets channelled a significant amount of  energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three were women.

The dead:
Mohamed Dawood son of  Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed 
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir 
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali 

The wounded:
Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim

- Originally published on AlJazeera under Creative Commons License 


Ecuador's Sarayaku See an Existential Threat

By Anand Naidoo

(PHOTO: Al Jazeera)

The pilot tried for the third time to land the plane. Wind and rain lashed us from all sides. The plane swayed a bit, then banked sharply to the left and dropped. But this time we made it.

There were no runway lights, no radar, no instrument landing system and, to be frank, no real runway - just a long clearing surrounded by thick jungle.

Later the young pilot would tell us the first two attempts get the plane down failed because he could not see the runway.

That was comforting and I was glad he made that admission when we were on terra firma.

After a trip that had started 48 hours earlier in Washington DC, we had arrived in the land of the Sarayaku, deep in the Ecuador's Amazon region.

“Let’s get out of this tin can, “ cameraman Steve Harper said, his face slowly recovering its normal colour after the plane stuttered to a stop at the far end of the clearing.

The “tin can” he was referring to was the small, single-engined five-seater that had brought us here from the grimy oil town of Coca about two hours away.

There was a small reception committee waiting for us. Chief Jose Gualinga was in full tribal regalia, with his face painted, and other tribal elders were on hand to welcome us to their remote village.

Self-contained life

The Sarayaku [meaning "River of Corn"] are a native people who live in several villages along a stretch of the Bobonaza river in the province of Pastaza in the southern part of the Ecuadorean Amazon.

They number about one to two thousand and lead a frugal, self-contained life. Everything they eat is produced here. Their main sources of income are farming, hunting, fishing and eco-tourism.

For the last 100 years, very little has changed in their way of life. They grow their own food in neaby jungle tracts - mainly yams and corn - and live in simple homes sitting on stilts made with broad wood beams covered with thatch walls and roofs.

Children study the indigenous Kichwa langauge. Women do all the farming and cooking - and almost everything else. A council of elders presides over an assembly of 200 members which meets twice yearly to discuss issues affecting the group. It’s about as carefree as it gets.

But all that is now being threatened. The threat is oil. Lots of it. And, unfortunately for them, it sits right under their ancestral lands.

The Ecudorean government and Big Oil want to exploit these reserves, but the Sarayaku fear that any attempt to drill on their land would - in the words of Chief Gualinga - “destroy their unique way of life”.

So they are mounting a vigorous human-rights campaign to keep the oil companies out.

Al Jazeera producer Tom Szypulski, cameraman Harper and I were there to get their side of the story.

After the welcome formalities, we were shown to our quarters, three neat single-person tents with colourful, folded blankets placed outside the entrance flaps. Not quite sleeping under the stars but pretty close to it. The rain had steadied to a persistent drizzle.

Harper hoisted the camera onto his shoulder and we wandered around the village followed by a small ground of giggling girls and boys. We visited the small school where kids sat squeezed up on on long benches. We stood in the rain and talked with the villagers.

They wanted to know if Gaddafi was still alive and whether Castro was dead. Then we sailed a short way upstream in a very unstable dugout to the main village and made our way over a field of thick, deep mud to the cavernous auditorium where the people’s assembly meets.

PowerPoint presentation

We watched a lengthy PowerPoint presentation powered by a quiet generator about the Sarayaku complete with maps, slides and graphs [Microsoft has quietly slipped in there].

When a break in the clouds brought the sun out, we paddled back, going downstream where a lunch of boiled chicken and corn awaited us.

Later, in the dying embers of an Amazon afternoon, we shot an outdoor interview with Chief Gualinga.

He acknowled his people were poor and and the region was under-developed, but he was adamant that oil was not going to fix that: “One cannot fight poverty by destroying nature. It is not good policy, it is not logical.

"It is not scientific. It is not technical. And it is not democratic. Poverty in Ecuador should be fought in a way in which resources are used wisely ... Ecuador is an exporter of petroleum but that does not mean the whole Amazon should be turned into a petro-zone.”

But, as one would expect, the government sees it very differently. It issued a statement through the Ecuador attorney general’s office which said Ecuador believes there should be a balance between the good of society and the good of one particular group.

It said it respects and would protect the interests of any indigenous community, but would not allow any group to impose its will on the entire nation. So, here in the idyllic surrounds of the Amazon jungle, the battle lines are drawn.

Faced with what they see as an existential threat, the Sarayaku have taken their case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which sits in Costa Rica. The court has heard testimony from both sides in this dispute and is expected to issue a ruling later this year. An entire people’s future will depend on it.

We rose the next morning with the roosters and after a light breakfast - more corn - we made our way through the thick wet grass to the clearing, where the same single-engine plane that we’d arrived in was waiting to take us back.

- Originally published on AlJazeera under Creative Commons License