Phil Bicker | Lightbox | Time
Jeff Holt | Bloomberg/Getty Images
April 29, 2013. Workers leave for their lunch break in a building that houses garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bangladesh authorities said they were accelerating rescue efforts at the factory complex that collapsed last week as hopes fade for more survivors after the nation’s biggest industrial disaster.
John Hudson | Foreign Policy
On Thursday, North Korea sentenced U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae to 15 years of hard labor for committing “hostile acts” against the government. The severe punishment raises a pertinent question: What’s it like to do “hard labor” in one of the world’s most repressive countries?
. . . According to a Newsweek story by New York Times reporter Ravi Somaiya, an American named Aijalon Mahli Gomes was imprisoned in a “brutal labor camp” in 2010 and “tried to commit suicide” due to the poor conditions. “Swedish diplomats, acting on behalf of the U.S.-which has no diplomatic relations with North Korea-are aware of his condition,” reported Somaiya. Aijalon’s release was eventually secured by former President Jimmy Carter. Another American, Robert Park of Los Angeles, saw the inside of a labor camp that same year after he crossed the Chinese-North Korean border via the frozen Tumen River. He was only held for six weeks, but when he returned to the United States he was institutionalized “resulting from severe sexual abuse he was subjected to in jail,” according to Somaiya.
We know more about the treatment of Korean political prisoners. A 2009 Korean Bar Association report based on testimony from survivors and former guards detailed the daily misery of the 200,000-some political prisoners estimated to be inside the country’s labor camps.
“Eating a diet of mostly corn and salt, they lose their teeth, their gums turn black, their bones weaken and, as they age, they hunch over at the waist,” read the report, according to the Washington Post. “Most work 12- to 15-hour days until they die of malnutrition-related illnesses, usually around the age of 50. Allowed just one set of clothes, they live and die in rags, without soap, socks, underclothes or sanitary napkins.”
Henry McDonald | The Guardian
Pro-choice activists in Ireland are risking up to 14 years in prison with a guerilla-style information campaign designed to help the estimated 11 Irish women per day who travel to Britain for terminations.
They are targeting cafes, pubs, clubs, gym changing rooms and public toilets with thousands of leaflets giving contact details for British abortion clinics as well as the price of terminations. The literature includes a website where Irish women can buy early abortion pills (effective up to nine weeks of pregnancy) online via womenonweb.org.
CHART: ITALY’S ECONOMY
Graphic Detail | The Economist
The OECD, a rich-country think-tank, released its latest economic survey of Italy this week.
Julie Turkewitz | The Lens | The New York Times
Sub, a photography collective based in Buenos Aires . . . in 2004, five of them officially formed a cooperative. They would share the costs, split the profits equally and sign projects as one.
They also shared a political outlook.
“Before being photographers, and I believe I speak for everyone in Sub, we were militantes, activists,” said Mr. Molina, 34, who joined the collective in 2009. “I don’t think we wanted to amass journalistic capital from an objective point of view, but rather, we wanted to change our world in some way or at least intervene strongly in it.”
Sub’s work has focused on the subterranean — people living outside, or beneath, power structures
. . . Sub turned toward the gated communities that dot Argentina: Wisteria Lane-like neighborhoods called “countrys” — a moniker ripped from the American “country club” — where the nation’s powerful residents live, learn, play, pray and often work in controlled, manicured, privatized ecosystems. The communities first took shape during a military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 to 1983. They spread in the 1990s, just as other Argentines were losing their jobs and savings.
It took two months to persuade a family to agree to the project. But eventually, six Sub members were welcomed into the home of Horacio and Silvina, who own a vineyard in western Argentina and real estate agencies in Miami and Uruguay. For two months, the group followed the couple; their three children, Mercedes, Horacito and Titi; and their three maids, Eva, Fatima and Liliana.
The goal of the project, Mr. Molina said, was not to indict a certain lifestyle, mock the family or create images that distorted reality. Instead, Sub wanted to present Silvina and Horacio in the context of their larger body of work. “I remember days in which we argued a lot over what to show and what not to show,” he said.
NEIGHBORS IN ARMS: HOW US GUNS ARE TURNING LATIN AMERICAN INTO ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACES IN THE WORLD
Colby Goodman | Foreign Policy
When President Barack Obama meets with various Central American leaders in Costa Rica this weekend, he will likely face criticism of U.S. domestic firearm laws. Like Mexico, where he met with President Enrique Peña Nieto on May 2, Central American countries have increasingly raised concerns about U.S. firearms trafficking. They have good reason to do so: more and more arms that originated in the United States are being used in violent crimes across the region. And given the recent death of background check legislation in the U.S. Senate, Obama may find it difficult to reassure his critics that the United States is effectively tackling the problem at home.
. . . According to a new Woodrow Wilson Center report focusing on Guatemala, ATF discovered that 2,687 (or 40 percent) of the 6,000 seized firearms it analyzed from just one Guatemalan military bunker in 2009 originated in the United States. In the past five years, there have also been at least 34 U.S. prosecutions related to American firearms trafficking to Guatemala involving a total of 604 U.S.-origin firearms.
. . . Examples of north-south arms trafficking abound. As Los Zetas, a notorious Mexican drug cartel, has pushed into Guatemala in recent years to secure narco-trafficking routes, they have brought with them their U.S.-purchased weapons. After an apparent Zeta killing of 11 members of the Guatemalan Leon organized crime group in Zacapa in 2008, for instance, U.S. authorities traced two Beretta 92FS 9mm pistols found on the perpetrators to a McAllen, Texas gun store. In another case in May 2011, Zetas reportedly killed 27 farm workers, including two women and three teenagers, in Los Cocos, Guatemala,
At the same time, organized crime groups and common criminals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are also accessing U.S. firearms purchased at gun stores and gun shows throughout the United States. In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that Honduran nationals had purchased hundreds of firearms — including Glock and FN Five-Seven semi-automatic pistols, and AR-15-style rifles — at gun shows in Florida for the eventual illicit transfer to Honduras and other Latin American destinations.
Kathrin Hille | The Financial Times
A group of prominent writers led by star novelist Salman Rushdie has called on the Chinese government to release dozens of jailed authors and allow freedom of speech, highlighting how Beijing’s authoritarian rule is undermining its quest for global soft power.
In an open letter signed by more than 100 writers including Ian McEwan, Nadine Gordimer and Mario Vargas Llosa, PEN International, the global writers’ group, said on Friday: “We celebrate the growing international recognition of Chinese artists from all disciplines, a development exemplified by Mo Yan’s 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, and we welcome the ever-expanding avenues of cultural exchange.”
Jom Muir | BBC
Some observers see the current flare-up in Iraq as the worst crisis to afflict the country since its emergence into statehood in 1921. others deem it the most critical moment since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003… or since the final withdrawal of US troops at the end of 2011.
Many are convinced that Iraq is on the brink of a destructive sectarian civil war that would herald its disintegration as the country we know, and that agreement on partition would be the least-bad option. Apart from its own often centrifugal internal dynamics, Iraq finds itself caught up in acute regional tensions, with its disparate components pulled in different directions by the same outside forces engaged in the struggle in neighbouring Syria, whose conflict is impacting directly on Iraq.
However you look at it, it is not good.
Nicholas Schmidle | The New Yorker | print
Dozens of Serbs have been convicted of war crimes since the fighting stopped, but they were not the only ones responsible for violence. In Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, rumors circulated that, in the summer of 1999, K.L.A. paramilitaries had trucked prisoners across the border to secret detention camps in Albania, where they were tortured and, sometimes, killed. But, in public, Kosovars embraced a “silence taboo,” in the words of Vehbi Kajtazi, a journalist in Pristina. The men who led the K.L.A. remained a fearsome presence in the country, posing a threat to anyone who spoke out, and ethnic Serbs were a powerless bloc, falling to less than two per cent of the population. Unlike Argentina, South Africa, and Sierra Leone, Kosovo failed to establish its own truth-and-reconciliation commission.
The task of accounting for the missing was left largely to outsiders. One of them was Michael Montgomery, an American radio journalist who had helped expose the massacre of forty-one Kosovar Albanians by Serbian forces in the village of Qyshk, on May 14, 1999. He began amassing troubling stories involving the K.L.A. Multiple sources told him that, in the days after Milosevic’s defeat, the K.L.A. had shipped accused traitors to camps in Albania. A former K.L.A. member recalled guarding seven prisoners in the back of a van, their mouths taped and their hands cuffed, as they crossed the border. A K.L.A. driver said that he had been given orders not to hurt anyone; once his captives were in Albania, they were taken to a house where doctors were present. The driver heard that the doctors sampled the prisoners’ blood and assessed their health. Several sources implied that this caretaking had a sinister purpose: the K.L.A. was harvesting the prisoners’ organs and selling them on the black market.
Alex Cuadros | Bloomberg Businessweek
Edir Macedo is 5-foot-6, slight, and 68 years old. He has deformed fingers, a sparse crown of graying hair, and more than 5 million followers, whose donations over the last 36 years have made him a billionaire. In Brazil, where he was born and raised, he is a major national figure, the subject of dozens of criminal inquiries, and the owner of Rádio & Televisão Record, a media conglomerate that runs the country’s second-largest television network. He is known to most everyone by the title he created for himself: He is O Bispo—“The Bishop.” Macedo is the founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Pentecostal denomination specializing in prosperity theology, which links faith to financial success.
Ranjit Dhaliwal and Mee-Lai Stone | The Guardian
Social activist Rajendra Kumar Tiwari poses with burning candles and a photo of Sarabjit Singh tied to his beard as he pays tribute to Singh in Allahabad. The Indian farmer, convicted by a Pakistani court of spying and carrying out four bomb blasts that killed 14 people in 1991, was beaten to death by fellow inmates while awaiting his execution in prison. Photograph: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
Indonesian Islamists protest near the Burmese embassy in Jakarta. Police have tightened security following the arrest of two men who are suspected of planning an attack on the embassy in retaliation for the persecution of Burmese Muslims. Photograph: Beawiharta/ Reuters
Robert Looney | Foreign Policy
The country has suffered negative economic growth in three of the last four decades. As of early 2013, roughly three-quarters of Haitians were either unemployed or trying to make ends meet in the informal economy. Big foreign investors, worried about the political risks, are reluctant to make major commitments. The inability of poor Haitians to exploit opportunities that could lead to growth fuels a vicious circle of high unemployment, persistent poverty, aggravated inequality, and the mass emigration of skilled workers. Today, roughly 82 percent of Haitians with a college education have left the country.
Yet Haiti may be about to make a turn for the better. And the reason has a great deal to do with technology.
Haiti’s long record of dysfunction has promoted the creation of a huge overseas diaspora, mostly in the United States and Canada. These emigrants are increasingly affluent, and new information technology is allowing them to play a more active role in Haiti’s economy. Until recently the main contribution of overseas Haitians came in the form of remittances to family members back in the homeland. Roughly a third of the country’s population depends on income from remittances, which run from $1.5 billion to $2.0 billion annually. But while money transfers certainly help, they aren’t as useful as actual investment in Haitian products and services, which would not only create jobs and infrastructure, but also bring in much-needed management expertise and know-how.
A.R. Abidjan | Boabab | The Economist
THOUGH 60% of Ivorians are under 25, the country’s politics is still firmly in the grip of old men. The president, Alassane Ouattara, is 71, while his prime minister, Daniel Kablan Duncan, soon turns 70. The leader of the ruling party’s coalition partner, Henri Konan Bédié, a former president himself, is nearly 79. So Jean-Louis Billon, the commerce minister, who is 49 this year, is a relative stripling. More to the point, he is one of the government’s few ministers who genuinely believe in the free market and liberal values.
After studying at universities in France and Florida, he cut his teeth in the cocoa industry in Wisconsin before returning home in 1995 to work for his family business. His father, Pierre Billon, was a tycoon and close confidant of Côte d’Ivoire’s founding father, Félix Houphouët-Boigny. SIFCA, the family firm, was the country’s leading cocoa exporter. In 2001, the younger Mr Billon took the helm after his father died, diversifying it into one of Africa’s biggest agro-industrial firms.
CHINA | INDIA
Heather Timmins | India Ink | The New York Times
The latest alleged Chinese military incursion into Indian territory, in the form of dozens of soldiers who Indian officials say are camped six miles over the border in the Himalayas, has caused turmoil within India about the proper response.
The tensions harken back to the 1962 border war fought between India and China over an area hundreds of miles away. Then, as now, the Congress Party maintained a low-key response in the face of Chinese incursions over the border, and was roundly criticized for it.
“As the dispute enters its third week, alarm in the Indian capital is growing,” Gardiner Harris and Edward Wong wrote in The New York Times Friday.
“NO TO racism, no to corruption,” bellows Anwar Ibrahim from a stage in front of 50,000 delirious supporters, braving heavy rain to acclaim their idol in Penang. It is the last week of campaigning before Malaysia’s general election on May 5th and the leader of the opposition has been criss-crossing the country to shore up his support and make inroads into government territory. The task before Mr Anwar (pictured) is one of the most daunting in the annals of modern democracy: to unseat the world’s longest continually elected governing coalition, the Barisan Nasional (BN). It has ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.
He will never have a better chance than now. In the latest poll, in 2008, Mr Anwar’s Pakatan Rakyat coalition won five out of 12 state contests and for the first time robbed BN of its two-thirds majority in parliament. This time it could be closer. Mr Anwar’s rallying-cry of “ubah”, meaning “change”, has captured a widespread feeling among younger, mostly urban and increasingly affluent voters that their country requires fundamental restructuring to break out of the “middle-income trap”, to move away from the race-based politics of BN, and to become a modern democracy. No fewer than 2.6m new voters have registered (out of a total of 13.3m). Their tweets and texts will have a vital say in the outcome of the election.
Mr Anwar’s problem, though, is that the prime minister, Najib Razak, is wooing exactly the same voters by campaigning for much the same vision—a “transformation” he calls it—and he is doing it even more effectively. Over the past two years Mr Najib has repealed many oppressive colonial-era laws, for instance, and encouraged private-sector business with his Economic Transformation Programme. His argument is that if voters want more change then they should stick with the incumbent. He is embellishing this message with rallies featuring pop and television stars, aimed at his target audience.
THE FINANCIAL TIMES: Indonesia foils attack on Myanmar embassy
THE NEW YORK TIMES:Bangladesh Arrests Engineer Who Warned of Dangers
AL JAZEERA: UN records spike in Iraq violence
BBC NEWS: US rethinks arming Syria rebels, says Chuck Hagel
THE NEW YORK TIMES: Syria’s War Has Once-Quiet Border Area in Israel on Alert
THE WASHINGTON POST: U.K. Independence Party surges in elections
THE WASHINGTON POST: Obama’s trip to Mexico hints at new balance of power
THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Freedom Still Eludes the Press, Despite the Arab Spring
FOREIGN POLICY: The World in Photos This Week