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Top of the Morning: Booted from Bahrain

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Bahrain Expels Top US Diplomat…The Bahraini government formally made the top American human rights diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State for Rights, Democracy and Labor Tom Malinowski persona non grata. The USA  has a large naval base in Bahrain and provides the monarchy with significant military assistance. “Mr Malinowski ‘held meetings with a particular party to the detriment of other interlocutors, thus discriminating between one people, contravening diplomatic norms and flouting normal interstate relations’, state news agency BNA reported. Mr Malinowski was expected to visit Bahrain for three days, and had meetings scheduled with Al Wifaq, government officials, and a leading human rights activist, Nabeel Rjab. (BBC http://bbc.in/1jixG90)

United Nations Secretariat Extends Same Sex Partner Benefits…”The policy change was announced on Monday. “Previously, the United Nations only recognized the unions of staffers who came from countries where gay marriage is legal, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. “This is a step forward that many of the staffers at the United Nations had been seeking for some time,” Haq said. The new policy became effective June 26, and will impact the U.N.’s approximately 43,000 employees worldwide. Employees of separate U.N. agencies, such as the children’s agency UNICEF and the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, are not affected by the change in policy, Haq said.” (USA Today http://usat.ly/1jiyXwQ)

Africa

International donors who withheld aid over Uganda’s anti-gay bill “misinterpreted” the law whose main focus was to stop promotion of homosexuality to children and others, the government said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1mBgkEU)

UNHCR said an unprecedented number of refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria are still flowing into Cameroon, fleeing violence by anti-Balaka and Boko Haram militias. (VOA http://bit.ly/TYIey4)

A U.S. citizen in Ghana is being tested for Ebola, which has killed nearly 500 people in West Africa this year. (VOA http://bit.ly/TYIxcb)

Police fired tear gas at anti-government protesters in Kenya on Monday, shortly before an opposition rally in the capital, stoking tensions in a nation haunted by past political violence and battling a wave of militant attacks. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1mBcICJ)

Somalia’s food security crisis is expected to worsen over the next several months following poor performance of the major rainy season, shrinking humanitarian assistance and access, increasing malnutrition, conflict and surging food prices, analysts have warned. (FAO http://bit.ly/TYK1Dk)

More than 60 Nigerian girls and women abducted by Islamic extremists two weeks ago have managed to escape, officials said Monday, though more than 200 girls who were kidnapped in April remain missing. (AP http://yhoo.it/TYKHbZ)

Jill Biden, wife of US Vice President Joe Biden, is returning Monday from a week-long trip to Africa, where she stressed the need for girls’ education and for women to work in government. (VOA http://bit.ly/TYI1v0)

MENA

Hamas has fired a volley of rockets into southern Israel following a series of air strikes by Israeli forces. (BBC http://bbc.in/1jiy9bq)

Iraq’s parliament has postponed meeting until August, adding to the chaos and uncertainty of the future of Maliki and the stability of the Iraqi government. (CBS http://cbsn.ws/1jiRBEZ)

Asia

The five BRICS nations have reached a broad consensus on their $100 billion development bank though some differences remain, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday ahead of a summit in Brazil next week to be attended by President Xi Jinping. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1mBc6gm)

India’s Supreme Court has ruled Sharia courts and fatwas have no legal power over the country’s Muslims. (VOA http://bit.ly/TYIb5z)

Myanmar is beginning its citizenship verification process, which many people feel is a ruse to exclude the Rohingya a term recognized by the UN, and foreign nations, including the US. Burmese authorities are calling them “Bengalis.” (VOA http://bit.ly/1mBbhEg)

Recent heavy rain, coupled with the after-effects of a recent aid worker pull-out, is prompting health concerns in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State for the more than 140,000 IDPs mostly from the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1mBdxeO)

Thailand’s military government said on Monday peace in the Muslim-dominated south was an “urgent national priority” for the Buddhist-majority country following a decade of unrest blamed on separatists. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1mBemV3)

The Americas

Football’s World Cup in Brazil is drawing to a close leaving great sporting memories. It also leaves a legacy of controversy over evictions and land dispossessions that made way for the event. The scenario is repeating itself as Brazil prepares for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (VOA http://bit.ly/1mBbVBQ)

Opinion/Blogs

Fighting Killer Diseases Is Essential in the Post-2015 Agenda (IPS http://bit.ly/1mBcY4S)

New thinking needed on food aid for refugees in Africa (IRIN http://bit.ly/TYJBNi)

Back to the People: Reorienting China’s Health System to Primary Care (CGD http://bit.ly/TYJGk4)

Vulnerability and Poverty: Which 7 countries are most committed to ending hunger? (IDS http://bit.ly/1mBi5li)

Q&A: Jeffrey Sachs on why the SDGs are big on science (SciDevNet http://bit.ly/1mBiog1)

Food Prices and Food Riots: How High — Not Volatile — Food Prices Cause Food Riots (Marc F. Bellemare http://bit.ly/1oepUcd)

Africa’s big gender gap in agriculture #AfricaBigIdeas (AfricaCan End Poverty http://bit.ly/1j94Ura)

Research/Reports

In a new report that capitalizes on the “data revolution” for development, the Center for Global Development and African Population and Health Research Center identify core issues behind a lack of good data in Sub-Saharan Africa and provide strategies to help donors and governments overcome them. (CGDev http://bit.ly/1jiRbyu)

The UN and international NGOs are failing to respond to humanitarian emergencies despite having more resources at their disposal than ever before, warned MSF. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1mBdGij)

According to World Bank official Daryl Fields, understanding the water-energy nexus is critical for addressing growth and human development, urbanisation and climate change, but many policy-makers are finding it challenging to transform this concept into a reality. (IPS http://bit.ly/TYMtda)

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ISIS is Another Example of Saudi Arabia’s Myopic Foreign Policy

For years , Saudi Arabia has exported and subsidized a violent and extreme version of Islam espoused by Wahhabi clerics throughout the world.  Fueled by this fanatical ideology, many Saudi nationals left to take up arms in Iraq and Syria over the last decade.  Now the Saudi kingdom is alarmed that ISIS is on its northern and southern borders and that many of their own radicalized citizens will find their way home. While the United States continues to search for a way to maneuver the threat of ISIS (born partly out of its own flawed strategies), Saudi Arabia’s chickens are coming home to roost, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

Although a 2003 al-Qaeda-led attack in Riyadh led to tighter reins on terrorism, the House of Saud has continued to bankroll Wahhabi-led intolerant religious centers across the globe, as well as militancy abroad during the Iraq War and the Syrian civil conflict. Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables from 2009 have confirmed that the Saudi kingdom is still considered the “critical financial base” for the export of terrorist activities. Saudi-funded extremism has not only assaulted and defaced an entire religion, but has also heavily fractured regional stability in the Middle East and continues to threaten global security.

Yet Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most undemocratic and fundamentally “religious” states, has shared a prosperous relationship with the United States for close to a century. In the last few decades alone, the Saudi kingdom has obtained military weapons, training, and technology to counter the rise of Shi’ite extremism. In exchange, the U.S. found a steady oil supplier in the region, benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s increased production to stabilize rising oil costs when needed.  In fact, this relationship has allowed the Saudis to provide a counterweight to both nations’ common adversary, Iran, since the Iranian Revolution.

But the alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has also allowed undemocratic practices in the Gulf nation, usually publicly condemned by the U.S. in other parts of the world, to continue unabated­­.  In 2011, while the Western world welcomed democratic transitions in the Arab world, the Saudi monarchy, suspecting similar unrest within its own borders, provided close to $200 billion in stimulus packages to its citizens while simultaneously sending Saudi troops to crush the Shi’ite majority’s uprising in neighboring Bahrain.  While many perceived these acts to be a bribe and an obstruction to democracy respectively, there were little to no repercussions on the House of Saud.

As the U.S. continues to grapple with ISIS’ debilitating effects on Iraq and careful, strategic avoidance of a military presence in Syria, perhaps it ought to reevaluate its questionable relationship with the Saudi kingdom—a relationship that is not only counterproductive to U.S. interests, but also unsustainable in light of backfiring developments in the Middle East. And for Saudi Arabia, it might be helpful to remember that you reap what you sow; if the House of Saud wants to fortify its borders and keep terrorism out of its country, it ought to stop funding and supporting it elsewhere.

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Live from the UN 2014 (Part 2)

It’s a special edition of the podcast today! I have a number of officials from the United Nations on the show. These interviews were conducted on location at the United Nations. Each conversation lasts about 10 minutes or so and focuses on some aspect of my interviewees work. Enjoy!

In order of appearance:

Richard Wright, UNRWA (Palestinian Refugees agency)

George Papagiannis, UNESCO

Valere Mantels, Office of Disarmament Affairs, Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch

Sarah Crowe, UNICEF

Gary Fowlie, The International Telecommunucations Union

Silke von Brockhausen, UN peacekeeping mission to Sierra Leone

Warner Schmidt, UN Capital Master Plan (renovatin the UN building)

 

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Previous episodes

Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

Podcast | Leave a comment
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Top of the Morning: Kenya Reeling from Weekend Attacks

“Gunmen killed at least 29 people in two coastal areas of Kenya in raids the deputy president indicated on Sunday were the work of political rivals, despite Somali Islamists al Shabaab claiming responsibility. The raids will hammer Kenya’s beleaguered tourist industry after a wave of militant attacks and will deepen public frustrations about poor security, a day before a big opposition rally in the capital.The Interior Ministry said one of the Saturday night attacks killed nine in the trading town of Hindi in Lamu County, close to where 65 people were killed by gunmen last month in Mpeketoni. Another was further south in the Gamba area, where 20 died. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1mY7Vpb)

Clashes Reported in Remote Uganda Border Region… Ethnic tensions are likely to blame. “A Ugandan military official said Sunday more than 40 gunmen were killed in clashes between Uganda’s security forces and a tribal militia near the country’s border with Congo, in what appeared to be coordinated attacks targeting police posts and military barracks in three districts. Ugandan troops killed at least 41 gunmen and repulsed others before containing the situation, Ugandan military spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said.” (CBC http://bit.ly/1mY8teH)

What you need to know about the Iran Nuke Talks. Mark speaks with journalist Laura Rozen and Darly Kimball of the Arms Control Association who take listeners inside the negotiations. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/NukeTalkz)

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Africa

Nigeria’s military said on Saturday that it had killed 53 Boko Haram Islamist fighters when it repelled an attack on a military base in the northeast Nigerian town of Damboa. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1mY8aAH)

Access to water and sanitation are major challenges for thousands of new IDPs in Zamzam, Kalma and Al Salam camps in Darfur, according to the WASH sector. (OCHA http://bit.ly/1td2NHe)

MENA

The Israeli police have arrested a group of Israeli suspects in connection with the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian youth from East Jerusalem who was found beaten and burned in a Jerusalem forest last week, a spokesman for the Israeli police said Sunday. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1mY9l2X)

ISIS has expelled more than 30,000 people from their homes in the eastern Syrian town of Shuheil, a monitoring group said on Sunday. (Al Arabiya http://bit.ly/1mY9a7L)

Under the new restrictions, Palestinians from Syria cannot enter Lebanon unless they have permission from the Lebanese General Security and meanwhile the Syrian authorities are not giving permission for any Palestinians to leave for Lebanon without prior consent from the Lebanese embassy. (IPS http://bit.ly/1xCns6c)

Asia

India wants to join the nuclear suppliers group of 48 countries, created to  ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military purposes, as was done by India itself.  (NYT

Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election is too close to call, according to regional analysts. Some pollsters give Jakarta governor Joko Widodo a slight edge over former military general Prabowo Subianto in Wednesday’s vote, but nothing is certain they say. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xCoj6W)

Thousands of refugees fleeing an offensive by Pakistan’s army have poured across the lawless border into ramshackle camps on rugged hills in Afghanistan, stirring unease that Taliban militants may be hiding among them. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1xCpqUm)

Eleven construction workers were killed Sunday in southern India after the boundary wall of a warehouse collapsed, in the country’s latest building disaster. (AP http://yhoo.it/1xCpYJS)

The Americas

Cuban President Raul Castro told parliament on Saturday the communist country’s market-oriented reforms must remain gradual, a clear signal he would resist calls to accelerate change in order to address an underperforming economy. (VOA http://yhoo.it/1xCoRdc)

Opinion/Blogs

Malawi: 50 years after independence education remains a big challenge (Guardian http://bit.ly/1td2sUP)

The Litmus Test of Karzai’s Leadership (VOA http://bit.ly/1td2Vq4)

Reflections on the new aid paradigm, part 1: continuity in Australian aid policy (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/1n61yF7)

What the Dutch court ruling against blackface figure Zwarte Piet means (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1n61GV5)

Three ways to avoid being misled by humanitarians who lie (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1n62idk)

The Ethics of Political Science in Practice (Dart Throwing Chimp http://bit.ly/1r1kWnd)

Top of the Morning | Leave a comment
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Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

All eyes are on Vienna as delegations from the USA, Germany, France, the UK, Russia and China meet with Iranian officials in a final push to secure a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. They have until July 20 to come to terms.

The negotiations are complex and the issues vexing. But one thing is certain: if an agreement is struck it could change international relations in the entire Middle East and even the world.

Here to take us inside the negotiations is veteran journalist Laura Rozen. She sets the scene for what to expect in Vienna in the coming days. I then speak with Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association who breaks down the wonky key points of negotiation in an easily digestible way.

I think you’ll enjoy this episode. This is a hugely significant moment for Obama’s foreign policy legacy, the Middle East, and the cause of non-proliferation. Have a listen. And remember to subscribe on iTunes! 


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Previous episodes

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

Podcast | Leave a comment
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Top of the Morning: Ebola Outbreak Getting Worse

Health ministers from across western Africa, the United Nations and NGOs met on Wednesday in a show of force against the Ebola outbreak, which has now claimed 467 people dead, a nearly 40% rise since last week. “”These kinds of outbreaks, these diseases, can be stopped,” Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health security at the WHO, told AFP, as 11 west African health ministers gathered for a two-day conference in Accra on combatting the killer pathogen.”This is not a unique situation — we have faced it many times — so I’m quite confident that we can handle this. “This is, however, the most complicated Ebola outbreak ever because it is spreading so fast in both urban and rural areas.  (AFP http://yhoo.it/TPBeDK)

More Ebola News…

The Red Cross in Guinea said on Wednesday it had been forced to suspend operations tackling Ebola in the country’s southeast after staff there were threatened by a group of men armed with knives. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1iWwUyq)

People at high risk of dying in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak should be offered experimental medicines to see if they work, despite the drugs being not fully tested, the head of an influential global health charity said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1qRjrI9)

Israel+Palestine on the Edge…”The body of an abducted Palestinian youth was found in Jerusalem on Wednesday, raising suspicions he had been killed by Israelis avenging the deaths of three abducted Jewish teens. News of the discovery of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair, who was last seen being bundled into a van earlier in the day, triggered clashes between rock-throwing Palestinians and Israeli police in the city.”  (Reuters http://reut.rs/1oppP8p)

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Africa

Ethiopia is facing a huge wave of refugees from South Sudan, where the spectre of famine threatens to heap further misery on a people already rocked by civil war, the UN’s food aid agency warned on Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/TPC8Ac)

Proposals to review the Democratic Republic of Congo’s constitution to permit President Joseph Kabila to seek a third term of office, if accepted, will only plunge the Congolese further into poverty and insecurity, experts warn. (IPS http://bit.ly/1iWxagR)

African countries are coming under strong pressure from the United States and the European Union to reverse the decision adopted by their trade ministers to implement the World Trade Organization’s trade facilitation agreement on a “provisional” basis. (IPS http://bit.ly/1iWxood)

Nigeria is suffering greater carnage at the hands of Islamist group Boko Haram than it did during a secessionist civil war, yet this has ironically made the country’s break-up less likely, Nigerian Nobel Literature Laureate Wole Soyinka said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1iWwOa8)

MENA

Hundreds of African immigrants began a hunger strike this week after Israeli police forcibly broke up a sit-in they were staging near the Egyptian border. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1iWzVPd)

Asia

Rescuers in India pulled another 20 bodies from the ruins of a collapsed building, bringing to 49 the death toll since the weekend with slim chances of finding more survivors, police said. (AP http://yhoo.it/TPCeYn)

Greenpeace campaigners are concerned that they could be deported from India ever since an intelligence report accusing several foreign-funded NGOs of stalling major infrastructure projects was leaked this month. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1qRlg81)

After suffering for years from a stagnant economy and inflation on basic items like food, even middle-class Pakistanis are feeling the economic pinch.  As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in Pakistan, many people are taking advantage of free iftar dinners sponsored by charities and wealthy individuals. (VOA http://bit.ly/TPzSbW)

The cost of health care is throwing many poor Afghans into a cycle of debt. While most now have access to basic public health care, the quality is so low that many patients seek out private services at a higher cost than they can afford – driving some of them further into poverty. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1qRl20D)

Police in Hong Kong arrested more than 500 protesters from an overnight sit-in early Wednesday that followed a massive pro-democracy rally. (VOA http://bit.ly/1rkltD7)

Prominent international human rights experts are calling on the Taiwan government to quickly enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination act, revamp the law on citizenship and take a wide range of other actions to curb gender discrimination. (IPS http://bit.ly/1rkw1SF)

The Americas

As the costs of climate change continue to mount, officials with the Commonwealth grouping say it is vital that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) stick together on issues such as per capita income classification. (IPS http://bit.ly/1iWxhsV)

Opinion/Blogs

Understanding the EU Human Rights Court’s Big Ruling on France’s Headscarf Band (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1iWWraB)

The time to act against Tuberculosis is now (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1iWXdEM)

How aid agencies can find their path in fragile states (Chris Blattman http://bit.ly/1rZeQDz)

Republican family values put women’s lives in danger worldwide (Guardian http://bit.ly/1iWzuo1)

Carbon taxes in South Africa: The political and technical challenges of pricing carbon (ODI http://bit.ly/1iWzF2Q)

Attack of the Big Tobacco Mutants (CGD http://bit.ly/1iWAB7p)

New Zealand aid needs more gender mainstreaming (Dev Policy http://bit.ly/1iWWl2J)

Nigeria’s bride price app may be a joke, but it’s not funny (Ms Afropolitan http://bit.ly/1iWWFP1)

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