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Humanitarian Workers

A Deadly Year for Humanitarian Workers

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Yesterday was World Humanitarian Day — a day established in the wake of the August 19, 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq to commemorate the sacrifices of humanitarian workers. Alas, 2013 was the deadliest year ever for humanitarians. “Last year was the most dangerous on record for humanitarian workers, with 155 killed, 171 seriously wounded and 134 kidnapped as they attempted to help others in some of the world’s most dangerous places, new research has shown. The study, released to mark World Humanitarian Day, also reveals that 79 aid workers have died so far this year, making the first eight months of 2014 deadlier for the humanitarian community than the whole of 2012. The 2013 statistics, compiled by the Humanitarian Outcomes partnership, show a 66% rise in fatal attacks on the previous year, with Afghanistan – where 81 aid workers were killed – remaining the most dangerous place to operate. (Guardian

An here’s a link to the report: (Humanitarian Outcomes

Some “Good” News on Ebola…The WHO is touting some encouraging signs that Ebola is coming under control in Nigeria and Guinea. “The situation in Lagos, Nigeria, where the first imported case was detected in July, looks reassuring. At present, the city’s 12 confirmed cases are all part of a single chain of transmission. Those infected by the initial case include medical staff involved in his treatment, a patient in the same hospital, and a protocol officer in very close contact with the patient…The outbreak in Guinea, where the virus made its first appearance in west Africa last December, is less alarming than in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Public awareness of the facts about Ebola is higher there than in the other affected countries. Innovative solutions are being found. For example, respected community leaders have been used to secure the cooperation of 26 villages that were highly resistant to outside help.The opening of these villages has resulted in a surge of reported cases. (WHO

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 The World Health Organization says another 84 people have died in West Africa as a result of the Ebola virus, bringing the death toll from the epidemic to 1,229. The U.N. health agency announced Tuesday the number of confirmed and likely infections has risen to 2,240, including 113 new cases reported late last week. (VOA

Liberia has found all 17 suspected Ebola patients who fled a quarantine centre in Monrovia at the weekend and transferred them to another clinic, the information minister said on Tuesday. (Reuters

Sierra Leone urged caution over the use of experimental drugs to combat Ebola as the United Nations launched an $18 million appeal to help the country cope with the epidemic. (AP

The president of the Ghana Medical Association says the group plans on Tuesday to brief parliament about the country’s preparations for handling cases of the Ebola virus, which has so far affected four West African countries. (VOA

Cameroon has closed all its borders with Nigeria in a bid to halt the spread of the Ebola virus, state radio said on Tuesday. (Reuters

#WorldHumanitarianDay: A tribute to two Ebola heroes (IRIN


South Sudanese soldiers opened fire on a UN peacekeeping base sheltering 40,000 civilians, wounding a child and spraying bullets across the camp, the United Nations said Tuesday. (AP

Tens of thousands of Angolans living in the Democratic Republic of Congo were set to return home, for some after more than 50 years in exile, the UN refugee agency said. (AFP

Millions of dollars of arms shipments have flooded South Sudan since civil war broke out eight months ago, weapons monitors said Tuesday, with countries key to peace also involved in the supply. (AP

A mutated polio virus that slipped through vaccine defenses caused an unusually lethal outbreak in the Republic of Congo in 2010, according to a new study.  An intensive vaccination campaign was able to stop the virus. (VOA

A medical group working in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo reported Monday that there were nearly 3,000 victims of sexual violence in the region during the first half of this year. (AP

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community want the United Nations to assist in removing members of a Rwandan rebel group from eastern Congo. (VOA


ISIS released a video claiming to show the execution of American journalist James Foley, who was on assignment for GlobalPost when he was abducted in Syria in 2012. (NYT

The UN refugee agency has for the first time begun sending aid into western Libya from Tunisia to help some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by weeks of fighting in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. (UNHCR

Algeria has arrested 200 Syrians who had been hoping to reach Italy with the help of Libyan Islamists who had promised to smuggle them by boat, a security source said. (Reuters

The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday it was launching a major aid operation to get supplies to more than half a million people displaced by fighting in northern Iraq. (AFP


Amid accelerating climate change and other challenges, a major international conference in the South Pacific island nation of Samoa next month represents a key chance for Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean to turn the tide. (IPS

Thailand’s military-dominated legislature will nominate a prime minister this week, members of the national assembly said. (AP

Sri Lanka’s president said Tuesday he will not allow a U.N. panel investigating allegations of war crimes to enter the country. (AP

The Americas

Scores of schools in northern Mexico remain closed almost two weeks after large quantities of sulphuric acid leaked into a river from a copper mine. (BBC

Police came under “heavy gunfire” and 31 people were arrested, authorities said on Tuesday, during racially charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman 10 days ago. (Reuters

The Second Annual Meeting of the Houses of Peru-Cuba Friendship called to investigate covert actions of the US agency USAID against the Caribbean nation. (Prensa Latina

The Rockefeller Foundation and USAID have announced a new partnership, which has initial funding of $100,000,000 intended as a “bold, new vision” for building resilience to disasters and other factors contributing to poverty across Asia and Africa, called the Global Resilience Partnership. (VOA

Egypt on Tuesday urged US authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri – echoing language Washington used to caution Egypt as it cracked down on Islamist protesters last year. (VOA

Homes for orphans or children in vulnerable situations in Mexico lack the necessary state regulation and supervision, which leads to scandalous human rights violations. (IPS


We Don’t Need Another Hero (AidSpeak

Visualizing the surprisingly massive toll of suicide worldwide (Humanosphere

The Worst World EVER…in the Past 5 or 10 Years (Dart-Throwing Chimp

The way to mark World Humanitarian Day in South Sudan is to work for peace (Guardian

Are Sweatshops good for women in Bangladesh? (Waylaid Dialectic

Episode 002: SWEDOW, being smart and sexual healing for aid workers (Mission Creep

 Dear Supporter: We’re sorry… (WhyDev

Women aren’t human (The XX Factor

Poverty is not a Disease (Think Africa Press


The World Health Organization warns of a growing trend of targeting health workers and hospitals during conflicts and humanitarian crises. (VOA

Global education advocate Malala Yousafzai joined the UN secretary-general Monday to mark the 500 Days countdown until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.  The teen activist has inspired other young people with her commitment to making education available to children everywhere. (VOA

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How Conflict in Ukraine Could Shake Global Food Prices

As the conflict in Eastern Ukraine drags on, Russia and the West are also continuing their diplomatic back-and-forth with each accusing the other of unwarranted interference in Ukrainian matters and aggression towards the opposing side. Following a series of sanctions against Russia by the US and the EU, Russia fired back earlier this month with an extensive list of sanctions against the US and the EU, mainly focused around agriculture and food products. But the size of the agricultural trade at the heart of these sanctions means that this tit-for-tat may wind up having global ramifications.

Starting in March following the unrecognized pro-Russian referendum in Crimea, the US, EU, Australia and Canada levied travel restrictions for key Russian officials and business people, which were expanded in the second round of sanctions announced in April. As the conflict escalated between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government in the east, new sanctions were announced by the US, EU, Canada and Norway in July and August targeting the Russian financial and energy sectors while Switzerland and Japan announced new travel restrictions.

In response, Russia issued their own travel bans against high ranking Western officials in March but the biggest blow came earlier this month when it announced a one year ban on the import of most agricultural products from the US, EU, Canada, Australia and Norway in retaliation.

While there is significant trade between Russia and the US, Canada, Australia and Norway, it is the EU that is poised to bear the brunt of these sanctions. Russia represents the EU’s second largest food export market at nearly $16 billion a year, a full 10% of the EU market. This means two things: Russia must now find a way to fill the gap on their own shop shelves while producers in the EU must find a way to keep producers afloat as they lose one of their biggest markets.

For Russia, this means finding new trading partners and improving accounts with existing partners not on the sanctions list. While domestic farmers constitute a significant minority of the Russian population and President Putin’s base, it is unlikely they will be able to fill the gap especially in major cities where 60% of food is imported.  BelarusTurkey and Brazil are already major partners and could benefit enormously from a trade boom but are also facing increasing pressure from the EU to not ramp up exports to Russia in wake of the sanctions as it would undermine the intention of leveraging diplomatic pressure in Ukraine. Such pressure is limited to diplomatic urging but depending on how long the sanction battles last, could easily develop into more robust efforts to stop agricultural trade from key partners who also have significant trade relations with the EU.

The long term impact on the EU is unclear, with growth forecasts downgraded but the emergency funds issued to producers representing a much smaller number than anticipated. In the immediate future producers are left struggling to find something to do with their produce. The current surplus helps European food banks and may drop food prices locally but could serve as yet another setback for economic recovery in countries such as Greece and Spain which have little margin to absorb more austerity measures. Increasing exports to other trading partners is not particularly feasible for the current summer harvest and only time will tell if the EU can successfully adjust in future months through new trading deals and increased domestic consumption. Encouraging local sales will help European producers but may hurt current agricultural exporters outside the continent. It appears that incentives will also be given to farmers to curtail production as a means of stabilizing food prices for member states.

Thus while this may be a diplomatic battle between the EU and Russia, it will likely have far-reaching trade consequences for states in Latin America, Africa and Asia. It also comes at a time when several African countries are facing potential food shortages due to conflict, the current Ebola outbreak and drought in the Sahel. These shortages are typically due to lack of funding and the disruption of supply chains but the sanctions game Russia and the EU are playing may wind up disruption the global agricultural market even more at a time when millions are already vulnerable. One thing is for sure: the aftermath of these August announcements will affect countries far beyond Ukraine for some time to come; what happens next depends on whether cooler heads prevail or if the sanctions continues to escalate into a war of attrition.

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The Awful-Ebola Maternal Mortality Nexus

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You don’t need ebola to die from it.Reporting from Monrovia, Jina Moore describes how fear of ebola and a broken health system are killing pregnant women. “Liberia has one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world. Giving birth here is always risky, even when you can count on a clinic being open.The women serving the maternity ward at a clinic in West Point keep coming to work — for now. West Point is a densely packed informal neighborhood (or “slum”) that just this week has become a hotspot of Ebola in Monrovia. In a normal week, before Ebola, the maternity ward might see 10 or 15 births. Now, they’re seeing only one or two — and not all of them stay until they give birth.”  (BuzzFeed


Doctors and nurses fighting Ebola in West Africa are working 14-hour days, seven days a week, wearing head-to-toe gear in the heat of muddy clinics. (AP

A crowd in a slum in the capital of Liberia attacked an Ebola holding facility Saturday. As the government tries to save face, the residents try to separate truth from fiction. (BuzzFeed

Authorities in countries affected by Ebola should check people departing at international airports, seaports and major border crossings and stop any with signs of the virus from travelling, the WHO said on Monday. (Reuters


Security forces in war-torn South Sudan have shut one of the country’s main independent radio stations and arrested its news editor after it broadcast rebel views, the station said Monday. (AFP

Cameroon’s border area are becoming increasingly deserted due to persistent attacks, looting and kidnappings by suspected members of the militant group. (VOA

Eight people were killed following the renewal of tribal clashes between Reizaigat and Ma’alia in East Darfur state. (Sudan Tribune

Somalia’s journalist union on Monday urged the government to ensure a fair trial of three colleagues arrested last week when security forces stormed a major radio station for “negative” broadcasts. (AP

The West African country of Cameroon has many problems, reflected in its dismal social indicators. But it is the issue of homosexuality that seems to excite the most comment from government and church leaders. (IRIN

Kenya’s internationally funded anti-terrorism police have carried out a series of killings and “enforced disappearances” following a string of attacks in the country, Human Rights Watch said. (Reuters

Children and teenagers who were drawn into Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010-2011 post-election conflict are joining armed gangs in the commercial capital Abidjan after being abandoned by politicians and others who exploited them at the time, according to local officials who blame the government for not taking action. (IRIN


Pope Francis delivered a mixed verdict on US airstrikes in Iraq on Monday, saying that while it’s morally legitimate to stop an unjust aggressor, as America says it’s doing with regard to the radical Islamic State in northern Iraq, a single nation shouldn’t decide for itself when the use of force is warranted. (Boston Globe

Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Monday it had thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, though it offered few details. (AP

The United Nations said Monday it was undertaking a mass polio vaccination campaign in Iraq, hoping to reach millions of children as the highly contagious virus crosses from Syria into neighboring countries. (AP

Britain has moved past a strictly humanitarian mission in Iraq — and the country’s leader warned Monday that the effort won’t be over any time soon. (AP

Talks in Cairo on ending the Gaza war showed no signs of a breakthrough on Monday, with Israel and the Palestinians entrenched in their demands hours before the expiration of a five-day ceasefire. (Reuters


The death toll from three days of flooding and torrential rain in Nepal and India rose to more than 180 people Monday, as relief teams sent food, tents and medicine to prevent any outbreaks of disease. (AP

In a blow to efforts to improve often-hostile ties, India on Monday called off talks with Pakistan over a meeting between its ambassador and Kashmiri separatists. (ABC

The Americas

Police hurled tear gas and marched on protesters late Sunday in Ferguson, the St Louis suburb wracked by race riots since police shot dead an unarmed black teenager. Some of the youths carried signs protesting police brutality. (AP

A survey by Feeding America, a network of US food banks, found that one-quarter of all U.S. military households used a food pantry in 2013. But service members are often reluctant to seek such help. (NPR


Bitcoin shakes up remittances as poorer people offered digital deals (Guardian

Procedural Safeguards and Corruption-Resistant Institutions (Global Anticorruption Blog

Data Revolution from the Bottom-Up (CGD

Fed on food aid: does emergency nutrition cripple local economies? (Guardian Professional

Australia’s economic diplomacy: is this good development? (DevPolicy

Mark talks with Jeff Sachs about growing up in turbulent Detroit, why he gravitated towards economics in college, his experience helping countries transition from communism to market economies, and how he became devoted to global health and development. (UN Dispatch

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Episode 30: Jeffrey Sachs

Jeff Sachs is on the line this week! The famed economist and anti-poverty activist discusses his up-bringing in turbulent Detroit, why he gravitated towards economics in college, his experience helping countries transition from communism to market economies, and how he become devoted to global health and development.

We recorded the conversation at the 500 day mark until the Millennium Development Goals are due. These are set of eight international development targets agreed to in 2000 that countries around the word committed to acheive by 2015. At the top of the interview, Jeff Sachs discusses how the MDGs were a game changer for the international community. It’s a great conversation. Have a listen! (And if you like what you hear, subscribe on iTunes.)




Previous Episodes

Sex Slaves in Iraq

Episode 29: Chris Hill, former Ambassador to Iraq and North Korea nuke negotiator

Kevin Jon Heller discusses the  International Criminal Court’s Palestine Problem

Episode 28: Nancy Birsdall, founder of the Center for Global Development

The WHO explains Why this Ebola Outbreak is So Hard to Contain

Episode 27: Daniel Drezner, counter-intuitive wonk

Michael W. Hanna on How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire

Episode 25: Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, USA. Long-time AIDS-Fighter

One Campaign’s Erin Hofhelder How Humanity is Winning the Fight Against AIDS

Episode 24: Joseph Cirincione, Nuclear Policy Wonk 

A Migrant’s Story: Why are So Many Children Fleeing to the USA?

Episode 23: Live from the UN 2014 (Volume 2); A special edition with a slew of UN officials.

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


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Yes, Africa is ‘Emerging’. But These Crises Are Holding It Back

Ed note. This item by International Rescue Committee President David Miliband first appeared in Project Syndicate and is reprinted with permission. 

Africa is changing dramatically – and so are outsiders’ attitudes toward it, with the US finally seeming determined to catch up with China, Europe, and India in their interest in the continent. US President Barack Obama’s recent summit with 40 African heads of state and more than 200 US and African business leaders suggests a new, more confident mood. That is encouraging; but as long as parts of Sub-Saharan Africa continue to struggle with violent conflict, poverty, and corruption, the continent’s economic potential will not be fully realized.

Africa’s economic growth and commercial opportunities are exciting and enticing. The region’s 300 million-strong middle class is growing by more than 5% annually. The continent leads in mobile banking. Consumer spending per capita is close to Indian and Chinese levels. If foreign investment, in partnership with the continent’s vibrant private sector, can benefit key sectors – particularly education, health care, and infrastructure – Africa may gain the broad-based development boost that its people need.

But investment and growth – “Africa rising” – are only part of the story. There is also the Africa that is struggling, with conflict and crisis afflicting much of the continent, especially the tens of millions of people living in a belt of countries running from Mali to Somalia. Even before the recent Ebola outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone, South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Mali were at risk of joining a long list of fragile or failing states that already includes Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ethnic, religious, economic, and other forms of strife in these countries too often overshadow the objectives of effective governance and the delivery of the most basic services.

These countries come to the wider world’s attention – and then only briefly – following a mass killing or a refugee crisis. Then attention shifts, leaving problems to grow and living conditions to worsen. In South Sudan, the world’s newest country, political unity across ethnic lines was maintained during the fight for independence, but collapsed this year into violent conflict. Roughly 1.5 million people have now lost their homes, and 400,000 have fled to neighboring states.

Amid the widespread terror, no one is safe. In April, my own organization lost two staff members working inside a United Nations compound with displaced people. And, in early August, seven locally hired aid workers were targeted and executed.

In the CAR, attacks on Christians by Muslim ex-Séléka fighters have been superseded by Christian and animist Anti-balaka militias’ violence against fleeing Muslims. CAR’s Muslim population has dropped from an estimated 15% to less than 5%. As always, women and children suffer the most. In the past three months alone, International Rescue Committee centers in the CAR’s capital, Bangui, have witnessed a surge of women escaping violence and abuse.

Help is urgently needed but slow to come. The UN appeal to raise $565 million for the CAR is still only 39% funded. The UN appeal for South Sudan, which faces famine after fighting prevented farmers from planting crops, has reached only half of its funding target. Donor fatigue – and the multitude of global crises now confronting policymakers – is taking its toll.

Humanitarian action is undoubtedly essential to address immediate crises. But it is important to recognize that, just as political crises often lead to humanitarian crises, humanitarian need can cause political instability, with mass exodus from crisis-ridden neighboring countries destabilizing entire regions. Indeed, civil wars are rarely contained within the countries where they begin.

Refugee problems are deeply rooted. Half of the world’s poor, for example, live in fragile and conflict-ridden states – 20% more than ten years ago – and 75% of refugees live among locals in urban areas. Crisis and under-development are closely interlinked.

We increasingly know what kind of humanitarian action works. Community-based initiatives that build trust are better than centrally or externally administered projects. Empowering women to protect themselves from violence, or teaching displaced children how to cope with their trauma, are among the most effective paths to recovery. We also know that without security, there can be no development. Today, more than 100,000 UN and African Union peacekeepers are stretched across struggling African states. More are needed, especially in the CAR and South Sudan.

Economic investment in Africa is important and deserves serious thought and long-term planning. The Obama administration is right to promote commercial opportunities on the continent. But that alone will not address the sources of violent conflict that still blight millions of lives. Humanitarian relief must stand alongside economic development and good governance as the pillars of Africa’s drive to achieve its true potential.

 –David Miliband, Britain’s Foreign Secretary in 2007-2010, is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee


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New Warnings of a Looming Famine in South Sudan

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The signs are not good. “The international community has warned that famine could arrive as early as December. At least 1.1 million people are facing emergency food shortages. And – until fighting actually stops – aid agencies do not have access to tens of thousands of people who need their help. There are no indications from the field that the clashes will stop any time soon. On Tuesday, during a visit of the United Nations Security Council to South Sudan, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power shared reports they had received ‘of more arms being brought into this country in order to set the stage for another battle.’” (IPS

Nouri Al Malaki Goes (Mostly) Gentle to the Night…This is one less crisis Iraq has to deal with. “Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Thursday night that he had agreed to relinquish power, a move that came after days of crisis in which his deployment of extra security forces around the capital had raised worries of a military coup. Mr. Maliki’s decision held out the prospect of a peaceful transition of power, based on democratic elections and without the guiding hand of American military forces, which would be a first in modern Iraq’s troubled history of kings, coups and dictatorships.” (NYT


The WHO reminds everyone that Ebola is not an airborne virus and the risk of transmission via air travel is quite low. Still…Korean Airlines suspended its flights to Kenya over ebola concerns (AJE

What’s next for Uganda’s anti-gay law? (IRIN

A local vigilante group says that Boko Haram militants kidnapped about 100 boys and men from a remote town in northeastern Nigeria on Aug. 10.  (BuzzFeed


The USA and UK are calling off a mission to rescue stranded Yazidis on Mount Sinjar, saying their condition was better than expected. (Guardian

Turkish authorities were moving hundreds of Syrian refugees Thursday from the southern city of Gaziantep to camps, after three nights of violent protests by locals angered by their presence, reports said.

ISIS is making key gains in Syria, despite coming under assault in Iraq (Telegraph

At least two people were killed in fighting between Egyptian security forces and protesters on the first anniversary of the killings of hundreds in the forceful dispersal of sit-ins set up by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi. (Bloomberg


The UN says an estimated 500,000 Afghan children are suffering from malnutrition (OCHA

 Pakistan: Police battled gunmen armed with automatic weapons, grenades and wearing suicide vests after thwarting two separate attacks on military airbases, killing six of the attackers. (the News, Pakistan

An investigative report by Al Jazeera uncovers how “voluntourism” in Cambodian orphanages may be exploiting both the children and the volunteers.

Bangladesh’s garment industry wrestles with global pressure to improve safety while remaining economically viable. (Global Post

The Americas

The late entry of environmentalist Marina Silva into Brazil’s presidential race following the death of her running mate could rally young voters and those upset over a sluggish economy and corruption, but introduce new uncertainty for investors wary of her record of unpredictable decisions. (Reuters

The crisis of small scale fishing in Latin America (Global Voices


Can a New Prime Minister Save the Central African Republic?

Iraq’s Sex Slaves (Global Dispatches Podcast

To Unlock Innovation, Procurement is Key (Devex

Want to End the Crisis of Sexual Violence Against Women? Fix the Men. (Bina Shah in Al Jazeera

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