Even as the Turkey migrant route closes, the Mediterranean sea route, which includes many migrants from Africa, is as deadly as ever. “The United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday that 500 people may have died in the choppy waters of the Mediterranean last week, when a large boat packed with migrants from Africa and the Middle East capsized in an unknown location between Libya and Italy. If confirmed, it would be the worst humanitarian calamity in Europe’s migrant crisis since more than 800 people died last April near Libyan shores as they tried to reach Italy. The agency based its findings on interviews with 41 survivors of the shipwreck, although it was not able to verify the episode independently. The migrants — 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, six Egyptians and a Sudanese — were picked up by a merchant ship near Greece on April 16 after days of drifting at sea. They were transferred to a migrant camp in Kalamata, a city on the Greek mainland.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1U6PeW5)

Vaccinators Attacked…Taliban gunmen attacked policemen guarding medical workers administering polio vaccinations in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Wednesday, killing seven of them. While militants in Pakistan have on numerous occasions attacked teams trying to eradicate the crippling childhood disease, a police chief said his men were target this time, not the health workers. The policemen were killed in two attacks in the sprawling port metropolis of more than 20 million people that has been plagued by ethnic, sectarian and political violence for years. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1VBUpim)

2016 World Press Freedom Index is Released…For the first time in more than a decade, the press is freer in Africa than in the Americas. Yet a global “climate of fear and tension” continues to erode press freedom around the world, according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. The group’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index reveals a “deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels.” Global press freedom violations are up 14 percent since 2013, according to its scoring system.” (WaPo http://wapo.st/1U6PCnf)

Stat of the Day…The World Bank and other development partners have revealed that the total money transfers by African migrants to their region or country of origin surged by 3.4% to $35.2 billion, in 2015. (Africa News http://bit.ly/1U6Q1WM)

Africa

At least two people have been burned to death in Zambia during riots targeting Rwandan-owned shops over allegations that foreigners were behind a string of ritual killings, police said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1qDSZ9p)

A senior Burundi army officer involved in intelligence has been missing from his post since the weekend and fellow officers said he had gone into hiding, the latest in a growing list of senior officers who have fled a nation where rebel groups have emerged. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1WdXune)

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, says the United States will provide nearly $40 million in new humanitarian assistance for nations in Africa’s Lake Chad region, to provide aid to people whose lives have been affected by Boko Haram violence. (VOA http://bit.ly/1qDUAfx)

Sierra Leone’s government helped British private security service firms recruit former child soldiers to work as guards in Iraq from 2009, said a Danish academic who has spent years investigating the issue. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1WdXy6v)

The United Nations Security Council expressed serious concern over the failure of South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar to return to Juba to take up his old post as deputy to President Salva Kiir as part of a peace deal. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1WdXseU)

Rhodes University…All lectures and teaching have been canceled at a South African university as student protesters demonstrating against a perceived rape culture clashed with security forces for a third successive day on Wednesday. (Newsweek http://bit.ly/1U6Q9Wi )

MENA

A senior leader of Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels has said the Iranian-backed movement has reversed course and would participate in U.N.-sponsored talks designed to end the war in the impoverished Arab nation. Houthi representations would leave for Kuwait, the talks’ venue, later Wednesday, he said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1qDSZpT)

The head of a Turkey-based Syrian opposition group said Wednesday that the government of President Bashar Assad has effectively “buried” the cease-fire, warning that already-troubled peace negotiations may collapse completely. (AP http://yhoo.it/23JMQur)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging the Security Council to restore the full peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, warning of full-scale war if the mandate is not renewed. (VOA http://bit.ly/1qZoTh9)

With fresh friction wearing on an old alliance, President Barack Obama pressed Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf nations on Wednesday to step up efforts to defeat the Islamic State group and help rebuild war-torn Iraq. (WaPo http://wapo.st/1U6Py6Y)

Asia

Weeks of sweltering temperatures have caused more than 160 deaths in southern and eastern India, officials said, warning that any relief from monsoon rains was still likely weeks away. (AP http://yhoo.it/1WdXtj2)

Air pollution in western China jumped in the first three months of 2016, a Greenpeace report showed Wednesday, while the vast majority of cities throughout the country failed to meet national standards. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1rjQNow)

As Myanmar emerges from a half-century of stagnation under a military regime, all eyes are on the new government to protect its most vulnerable citizens – underage children who are made to work instead of going to school. (VOA http://bit.ly/1qZp4Je)

A fifth North Korean nuclear test could trigger new sanctions including an effort to choke off hard currency earnings by its workers abroad, the top U.S. diplomat for the Asia-Pacific region has said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/240lkFN)

China suspended an international anti-corruption task force earlier this year after taking over the G20 presidency, according to six individuals in the group, who called it a setback to global efforts to crack down on shell companies used to conceal assets. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1VBWNWj)

Laos, one of the world’s last communist nations, elected its top government leaders Wednesday at a meeting of its newly seated National Assembly. (AP http://yhoo.it/1qDSWuc)

Witnesses to a boat capsize off Myanmar that left some 20 people dead, including children, say the victims were from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and blamed the tragedy on travel restrictions that forced them to journey by sea. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1STBfO5)

The Americas

The death toll from Saturday’s devastating earthquake in Ecuador has risen to 525 and could increase by many more, authorities in the country say. (BBC http://bbc.in/23JMQdL)

Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro rallied support against him halfway through his mandate, leaving him prey to legal measures to drive him from office. (AFP http://yhoo.it/23JMUKA)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that launching an impeachment process against her will harm political stability. (VOA http://bit.ly/23JMUKv)

The former guerrilla fighters who founded Cuba’s single-party government will hold power for years to come after a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress kept President Raul Castro and his hardline deputy in the top leadership positions. (AP http://yhoo.it/1qZp0t3)

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said he is open to the legalization of medical marijuana in Mexico and that his government would announce new measures in the coming days. (VOA http://bit.ly/240leha)

The Canadian government announced Wednesday that it will introduce legislation next year to decriminalize and legalize the sale of marijuana, making Canada the first G7 country to permit widespread use of the substance. (WaPo http://wapo.st/1U6PFiZ)

…and the rest

Migrant flows to Greece have decreased markedly in recent months, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday, defending his government’s support of a deal between the European Union and Turkey to tackle the migrant crisis. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1VBUthX)

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders says there has been a “deep and disturbing decline” in respect for media freedom at levels both regional and global. (VOA http://bit.ly/1VBWOd1)

The UK’s Department for International Development does not fully understand how taxpayers’ money is spent, and the value of its aid is undermined by inadequacies in the UN system, a parliamentary spending watchdog says. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1qZoPOq)

France’s government is calling for a two-month extension of the state of emergency that was declared after the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, the country’s prime minister said Wednesday. The move, which will require parliament’s approval, is intended to cover the European Championship soccer tournament and the Tour de France. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1WdXzHt)

A UN meeting on worldwide drugs policy has opened in New York in what has been billed as the most significant such conference in years. The summit will try to rethink global strategy but divisions among members have immediately been laid bare. (BBC http://bbc.in/1qDUAMx)

No new cases of malaria originated in Europe, Central Asia or the Caucasus in 2015, the first year without a transmission for almost 30 years, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1qDSTi3)

Opinion/Blogs

Expat wages up to 900% higher than for local employees, research shows (Guardian http://bit.ly/1WdWMq5)

Is the 1.5C climate change target a mirage? (AFP http://yhoo.it/240lcGc)

Will US Let Some Undocumented Immigrants Stay? (VOA http://bit.ly/1NB8iF7)

Why Over-Treating Malaria in Africa Is a Problem (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1VBTTRx)

We won’t solve the world’s drug problem by locking up Latin American women (Guardian http://bit.ly/1qDRwjj)

Why Companies Are Missing Out On Chance for Reinvention (Innovation in Africa http://bit.ly/1rjMPMz)

Podcast: Inside Colombia’s City of Women (Guardian http://bit.ly/1VBT0IG)

The Problem With Western Activists Trying to Do Good (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1WdXh3h)

Q and A: Dominic Medley, Spokesperson of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1QnZHp2)

What developing countries want: a new ‘age of choice’ for development finance (ODI http://bit.ly/23KjOL1)

Where are they hiding? (IRIN http://bit.ly/23KjRXn)

Shifting Narratives: Ongwen and Lubanga on the Effects of Child Soldiering (Justice in Conflict http://bit.ly/1VFPVGY)

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