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Top of the Morning: Bad Signs in Mali; Bribes Cost Afghans Big Time, Was There a Famine In DPRK?

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All is Not Well in Mali: Soldiers Mutiny and First Suicide Bomb Attack

After a relatively easy campaign, it seems that the fissures that precipitated this crisis still exists. Also, the first sign of an insurgency. “Malian government soldiers fought mutinous paratroops in the capital Bamako on Friday in a clash that threatened to undermine a French-led military operation to drive al Qaeda-allied Islamist rebels from the north…More than 1,200 km (750 miles) north of Bamako, French and Chadian forces backed by French warplanes are trying to flush the Islamist rebels out of mountain hideouts in the rugged Adrar des Ifoghas range that straddles the border with Algeria. But in a sign that the Islamist jihadists could fight back with guerrilla tactics, a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up on Friday at a checkpoint north of the Saharan town of Gao, recently recaptured from the rebels.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/VIIgoA)

Bribes Cost Afghans, Big Time

Some staggering figures in a new UN report. “According to the United Nations, bribes paid in Afghanistan in 2012 totaled almost a quarter of the entire amount of aid the international community has pledged to the war-ravaged country. Although Kabul appears to have made some progress towards reducing graft – a key condition for receiving international aid – the total cost of corruption has increased to almost $4 billion. The latest survey by the United Nations found that half of Afghanistan’s adult population had to pay at least one bribe to a public official last year, a 9 percent drop from 2009. However, the total amount of bribes paid to public officials increased 40 percent to $3.9 billion.” (VOA http://bit.ly/W0Whjv)

Did North Korea Experience a Famine Last Year?

A new report suggests death rates from malnutrition may have exceeded famine levels for part of last year. “A famine in a key North Korean grain-growing region in 2012 may have killed thousands of people at the same time as the country was staging mass celebrations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the state’s founder, according to a news agency based in Japan. It was impossible to verify the report independently, and sporadic famines are commonplace in North Korea, according to experts based in South Korea. A United Nations analysis in 2011 showed that around a third of children were malnourished. The report from Rimjin-gang/ASIAPRESS said that, based on its own reporting from the region and from contact with North Korean defectors and people crossing the border, a famine hit the North and South Hwanghae provinces in January-May 2012.” (AlertNet http://bit.ly/W0ZKyp)


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