Archive for 2014 Spring

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Kai Richter: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Kai Richter.

Rachel Yang: And I’m Rachel Yang. Russia has rejected a United States-backed draft resolution for humanitarian aid to Syria. Instead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that his country’s draft focuses on condemning terrorism. The Syrian opposition has long been wary of the word “terrorism”, which the government often defines as any armed resistance to its rule, including by groups supported by opposition delegates. Russia’s draft also leaves out plans for a transitional government, a key section championed by the United Nations mediator at these talks. Violence in Syria has spiked since talks began in Geneva three weeks ago. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that nearly five thousand people have died in that time–the highest death toll since the conflict began.

Richter: This week, representatives from Taiwan and China held their first direct talks since the states split after the 1949 civil war. At the meeting, the representatives agreed to maintain regular, formal communication. Since the split, the Chinese government has kept missiles pointed at Taiwan and has threatened to attack if Taiwan declares formal independence. The vast majority of Taiwan’s inhabitants still, however, oppose reunification with China. Recent developments may suggest a better relationship for the future. President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008 in Taiwan and eased restrictions on cross-strait travel. In that time, trade has doubled between the island and the mainland. However, Ma has become increasingly unpopular at home, which may make additional progress difficult before the upcoming elections in 2016.

Yang: A military transport plane crashed in a mountainous eastern province of Algeria earlier this week. 77 passengers were killed and the only survivor remains in critical condition. The aircraft was carrying military personnel and their families to the northern city of Constantine when it crashed. The Algerian Defense Ministry cited, quote, “unfavorable weather conditions and storms accompanied by snow in the region” as the cause of the crash. The recently uncovered black box of the plane containing the pilot’s final communications may shed more light on the events leading up the accident. Earlier this week, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared a three-day mourning period to commemorate the victims of the tragedy.

Richter: According to a report released this week by the Human Rights Watch, Sudanese and Egyptian police forces have colluded with human trafficking groups to kidnap and extort Eritrean refugees over the last ten years. Hundreds, if not thousands, of refugees fleeing their oppressive home government have been kidnapped, tortured, raped, and killed by traffickers in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. Despite attention to this issue by numerous human rights groups, Egyptian officials have arrested only one person for participation in the attacks–an accomplice of a trafficker. Officials in the Egyptian government stated that they were attempting to control crime in the Sinai peninsula, but human rights activists have noted that the number of trafficking victims has only increased in recent months.

Yang: Earlier this week, representatives from the United Nations and Amnesty International declared the mass Muslim exodus from the Central African Republic an ethnic cleansing. The country’s minority Muslim population has recently been the target of violence by Christian militias. Many of these militias have blamed the Muslim community for the rise of the Seleka rebel group, which came to power in March 2013 and committed abuses against Christian citizens. Human rights experts have expressed fear that the discrimination against Muslims will soon snowball into a full-blown genocide. 2.5 million Muslim individuals have been displaced, and attacks against those who remain have only grown more common. Interim President Catherine Samba Panza, however, rejected the ethnic cleansing label. Instead, she suggested that the, quote, “security problem” be solved by increasing the international peacekeeping presence in the country.

Richter: Anti-government protests in Venezuela turned violent this week. Security forces fired rubber bullets at student demonstrators in the capital city of Caracas. The protest marks the latest in a string of opposition efforts against Nicholas Maduro’s government. The goal of the opposition efforts, according to opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, is to gain support for a 2016 referendum to bring down Maduro’s administration. In particular, Lopez cited rampant corruption, crime, and supply shortages as the key failings motivating the protests. Since Maduro entered office, Venezuela has had rising crime rates and significant economic problems, with a scarcity of staple products and an annual inflation rate over 50%. Last year’s elections signaled a deeply divided Venezuelan public, with Maduro winning by only one and a half percent of the vote.

Yang: Protests and burnings of government buildings began in Bosnia and Herzegovina last week in response to the sale of four state-owned companies to private owners that resulted in mass layoffs. Protests were precipitated by unemployment rates hovering around 40 percent, as well as widespread reports of regional government corruption. The average monthly Bosnian salary is less than 350 euros, while local parliamentarians make up to 3,500 euros–the highest salary in the region. Although some reporters have characterized the conflict as ethnic, most indicators point to socioeconomic disparity. Over the past week, protests of local governments have occurred in dozens of cities across the country, and some reports have even deemed the movement “the Bosnian Spring.”

Richter: A 3-year old girl from Kabul was diagnosed with polio this week, marking the first appearance of the disease in Afghanistan in twelve years. The case has since been traced back to neighboring Pakistan, where the virus is far more widespread, particularly in the tribal border areas. Today, there are just three countries in the world in which polio is endemic–Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. In Pakistan, polio vaccination became highly politicized after Dr. Shakil Afridi used a vaccination campaign as his cover for helping the United States Central Intelligence Agency locate Osama Bin Laden. In recent years, Taliban militants in the country have made frequent attacks on vaccination teams, accusing them of working with American spies. In response to the diagnosis, Unicef, the Ministry of Public Health, and the World Health Organization have launched a campaign to vaccinate tens of thousands of children in Kabul to prevent further spread of the disease.

Yang: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Nora Bailin, Anita Desai, Amy DiPierro, Joelle Hageboutros, Sabrina Merold, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Will Sullivan, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Rachel Yang.

Richter: And I’m Kai Richter. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Atos via flickr

This week on War News Radio, “Tremors.” First, we learn more about the growing conflict in South Sudan. Next, we present our editorial segment, “Filibusted.” Then, we take a look at the media’s speculation about the possibility of a terrorist attack at the Olympic Games. Finally, we hear from two prominent figures about the roots of genocide in the modern era. Stay with us.

snamess via flickr

This week on War News Radio, government military offensive against rebel groups in the Philippines, updates on anti-government protests in Ukraine, journalists charged with conspiracy in Egypt, a zone of peace in Latin America and the Caribbean, tensions over Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and more.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Pendle Marshall-Hallmark

Caroline Batten: And I’m Caroline Batten. At least 37 people were killed on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines this week, as the Philippine government launched a military offensive against rebel groups. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, or B-I-F-F, opposed a peace deal made last week between the government and another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The group was granted control of an autonomous area of Mindanao in exchange for a ceasefire. But the B-I-F-F, along with the al-Qaeda-linked group Abu Sayyaf, continue to seek the establishment of an Islamic state. Government officials have expressed concern that opposition to the peace deal might affect future negotiations. In a statement, Colonel Ramon Zagala noted, quote, “There is no direct link between the signing of the peace agreement and this operation, but it has an effect on the peace process.”

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: The President of Ukraine has taken sick leave – but without signing a repeal of harsh restrictions on free speech and assembly passed earlier this month. A statement on the website of President Viktor Yanukovych says he is suffering from respiratory illness and does not indicate when he will return. The streets in the capital city of Kiev were reported calm Wednesday, but tensions remain high. Opposition leaders say a measure freeing two hundred eighteen activists and urging an end to protests is unacceptable so long as efforts to overhaul the Constitution fail. Russia has also withdrawn financial aid to Ukraine, a move designed to put economic pressure on the country as it considers aligning with the West. Protests began in November when Mr. Yanukovych rescinded a trade deal with the European Union and instead drew closer to Russia.

Caroline Batten: It has been seven months since US Secretary of State John Kerry launched Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and tensions within the two camps continue to threaten their success. The Secretary of State’s plan calls for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state drawn along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Earlier this week, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home Party, criticized a statement made by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The statement alluded to the likelihood of some Israeli settlers living under Palestinian authority as minority citizens, should a peace deal be brokered. Bennett argued that, quote, “imposing Palestinian sovereignty over Israeli citizens is dangerous and it was my duty to remove this idea immediately from our agenda.” The Prime Minister’s office warned that if Bennett did not apologize, his seat in the cabinet would be threatened. While no official apology has been given, Bennett’s criticism reveals the deep fractions within the Israeli government over the existence of a Palestinian state and its potential nature.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: The 33 countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states agreed to respect the right of all countries in the region to select their own political systems, as representatives convened at a summit in Cuba this week. The announcement is significant, as Cuba is the only one-party state in the Western Hemisphere. At the summit, the leaders also agreed to, quote, “not intervene, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any other state and to observe the principles of national sovereignty.” Cuban President Raul Castro proclaimed Latin America and the Caribbean a, quote, “zone of peace.”

Caroline Batten: Tunisia’s new caretaker government, led by Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, was sworn into office earlier this week. Jomaa and his cabinet replaced the Islamist Ennahda party, which came under fire for failing to combat terrorism and stabilize Tunisia’s economy. The power transfer comes just days after the country’s national assembly passed a new constitution. The caretaker government will preside until elections are held later this year, supervised by an electoral commission. Ennahda’s leader spoke out in favor of the regime change, stating, quote, “Ennahda handed over power for the benefit of our country.” Jomaa will be the fifth prime minister to take office since the 2011 revolution that overthrew former dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: The first peace talks between the Syrian Government and the opposing Syrian National Coalition began earlier this week, facilitated by United Nations Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi. At the beginning of the talks, Mr. Brahimi noted a large gap between the two sides but a growing interest in continuing dialogue. Both parties have agreed to use the “Geneva communiqué,” a document produced by UN Security Council members, to illuminate possible steps to ending the violence in Syria. As talks continue, twenty-five hundred Syrians living in the Old City of Homs remain under siege, and await a UN aid convoy of food and medicine that has yet to be approved by the Syrian government.

Caroline Batten: Edward Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two members of Norway’s Socialist Left Party. Snowden leaked National Security Agency documents in 2013 that revealed mass surveillance of individuals in the US and around the world. The nomination letter claims that Snowden has contributed to making the world more peaceful, because President Obama was encouraged to make changes in surveillance programs, after the public backlash resulting from Snowden’s whistleblowing. White House officials claim that Snowden should be tried as a felon for damaging security interests, rather than receive the same prize won by President Obama in 2009. Snowden currently has temporary asylum in Russia.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: Earlier this week, Egyptian prosecutors charged 20 Al Jazeera journalists, including 4 foreign correspondents, with aiding a terrorist group. Prosecutors have accused the journalists of, quote, “manipulating video footage to produce unreal scenes to suggest abroad that what is happening in the country is a civil war that raises alarms about the state’s collapse.” If they are convicted, the journalists could spend several years in prison. Many see the charges against the journalists as only the latest in government attempts to stifle public dissent. In a statement by Al Jazeera, a spokesperson called the detainments a, quote, “challenge to free speech, to the right of journalists to report on all aspects of events, and to the right of people to know what is going on.”

Caroline Batten: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Caroline Batten, Amy DiPierro, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, Chloe Wittenberg, and Rachel Yang. I’m Caroline Batten.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: And I’m Pendle Marshall-Hallmark. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Categories : 2014 Spring, Newscast
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photo by snamess via Flickr

This week on War News Radio, anti-government protests in Ukraine and Bangkok, a ceasefire in South Sudan, the militant targeting of health care workers in Pakistan, the inauguration of the new Central African Republic president, and more.

Dylan Okabe-Jawdat: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.

Jerry Qin: And I’m Jerry Qin. Anti-government protests in the Ukraine turned deadly this week after five people were killed and hundreds more injured in violent clashes on the streets of Kiev. The deaths marked the first fatalities in two months of protests following the Ukrainian government’s failure to sign a deal that would have strengthened the country’s ties with the European Union. Two of the deaths were reportedly due to gunshot wounds, although Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov blamed the demonstrators and insisted that police forces were not carrying live ammunition. The protesters have since agreed to a temporary cease-fire in response to the bloodshed, as opposition leaders have begun another round of negotiations with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich .

Okabe-Jawdat: The Thai government, led by Yingluck Shinawatra, imposed a state of emergency in Bangkok in response to increasingly violent protests in the capital. The protesters aim to disrupt elections scheduled for February 2 and believe an unelected people’s council should run the country. The 60-day emergency laws allow the government to implement curfews, censor the news media, disperse gatherings, and use military force to maintain order. According to Labor Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who will manage the joint operation between the military and the police, the government will not use weapons and will not attempt to disperse protesters at night. The United States and other foreign governments have praised the Thai government for its restraint in managing the protests. However, human rights groups worry that the state of emergency could, quote, “boil over” if protests increase the pressure on Ms. Yingluck’s administration.

Qin: The government of South Sudan and rebels aligned with the country’s ousted former vice president signed a cease-fire agreement after over a month of fighting. Both sides promised to put down arms, refrain from taking actions that could lead to military confrontations, and set up a monitoring and verification team. Although humanitarian groups have praised the ceasefire for its potential to restore stability to the new nation, the cease-fire is only a temporary measure. A formal peace agreement has yet to be negotiated. As talks progress, tens of thousands of South Sudanese refugees continue to flee to neighboring countries.

Okabe-Jawdat: Gunmen fired on a Spanish cyclist and his police escort in Pakistan earlier this week, killing six police officers and injuring the cyclist and nine other officers. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack. Authorities, however, suspect that the gunmen were members of a group of militants that orchestrated a recent bus attack in which 28 Shiite Muslims were killed. Over the last few years, violence against the minority Shiites by radical Sunni militants has skyrocketed in the southern Pakistani region of Baluchistan. Over the past week, militants across Baluchistan have targeted health care workers carrying out polio vaccinations, as well as the police officers in charge of protecting the workers.

Qin: Earlier this week, Israel announced its arrest of three Palestinians who were allegedly plotting a suicide attack on the United States embassy in Tel Aviv. The suspects were affiliated with Al Qaeda. While sources in Washington were unable to corroborate the Israeli claims, the Shin-Bet intelligence agency said that the three men were recruited by an operative in the Gaza Strip working for Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Shin Bet has claimed that the Palestinians harbored plans to storm a Jewish conference center with firearms and then to detonate a truck bomb to kill rescue workers while simultaneously executing the embassy attack. The arrests marked the first instance of Al Qaeda being linked to an attack in Israel, although several Al Qaeda-inspired groups have formed across the Gaza Strip in recent years.

Okabe-Jawdat: Catherine Samba Panza, the new interim president of the Central African Republic, was sworn in earlier this week. Her inauguration followed former president Michel Djotodia’s resignation in the face of growing violence by the radical Muslim rebel Seleka group. Samba Panza is the first female president of the country, and many leaders and activists have expressed hope that she will bring peace to the ethnically divided nation. Marie-Louise Yakemba, the head of an interfaith civil society organization, stated, quote, “Everything we have been through has been the fault of men. We think that, with a woman, there is at least a ray of hope.”

Qin: Samba Panza has vocalized her commitment to repairing the divide between Muslim and Christian militias and to building political structures to stabilize the country. In a statement, she vowed to, quote, “safeguard the peace, strengthen national unity, ensure the wellbeing of the Central African people, and conscientiously fulfill my work without any ethnic, regional, or religious considerations.”

Okabe-Jawdat: United States military leaders outlined their proposed troop withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this week. According to senior government officials, the US plans to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization–or NATO–mission ends in December of 2014. The 10,000 soldiers would stay in the country to train Afghan military personnel, as well as root out leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. An unnamed source at the Pentagon noted, however, that if 10,000 troops cannot be committed to the mission, the best strategy would be to withdraw all troops by the end of the year. The future of US involvement in Afghanistan further rests on Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s willingness to sign a bilateral security agreement. Without the agreement, which includes provisions to protect American soldiers, American officials predict that the US will likely pull out all forces and abandon its Afghan military training program.

Qin: Chinese human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong stood trial earlier this week on charges that he participated in protests against the Chinese government. Xu is a member of the New Citizens Movement, which has been pushing for the Chinese government to crack down on corruption. Xu and other members of the movement will likely all be convicted because, according to their lawyers, their cases have been pre-determined by the politically controlled courts. The lawyers cannot call or cross-examine witnesses, and no defendants from the movement will be allowed to testify in other trials. Xu and his lawyer have declined to speak at his trial, which his lawyer called a, quote, “ piece of theater”. Reports on the trial have been censored in China, and members of the foreign press have struggled to gain access to the trial. If convicted, Xu will face upwards of five years in prison.

Okabe-Jawdat: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Nora Bailin, Caroline Batten, Sabrina Merold, Collin Smith, Will Sullivan, Tyler Welsh, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.

Qin: And I’m Jerry Qin. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Categories : 2014 Spring, Newscast
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We asked students at Swarthmore College what they think of drone strikes. It turns out that more than political party determined their answers.

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