Global News Blog
• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
Now I remember why I normally take my summer vacation long before mid-August.
The press is full of the most alarming stories as the country sweats through its second major heat wave this year. In the southern city of Wuhan, witnesses last weekend reported seeing a willow tree spontaneously burst into flames, “which rarely happens under normal circumstances,” according to a local forestry expert.
In the eastern province of Zhejiang the same thing happened to a billboard, which presumably is equally unusual.
I myself have sometimes felt I was about to go up in flames recently, and I am not alone. The Chinese National Meteorological Center announced on Monday that temperatures had exceeded 95 degrees Fahrenheit in eight provinces on more than 25 of the previous 41 days.
It hasn’t been that hot here since 1961. For the first time ever the government has declared the heat to be a level two weather emergency – a warning normally reserved for typhoons and floods – amid reports that more than 40 people have died from the high temperatures.
There is not much to be done about it, of course, except stay indoors as much as possible if you have air conditioning, which most city-dwellers do nowadays. Those that don’t have been flocking to malls – not for the shopping but for their cool air.
Some brave entrepreneurs have been profiting from the soaring temperatures. Near the city of Turpan in the far-western desert province of Xinjiang, a stall holder at a popular tourist spot at the foot of Flaming Mountain has been baking eggs in the 108 degree Fahrenheit heat and selling them for 90 cents a pop.
Farmers, of course, are taking a different view of the record-breaking heat, especially in southern provinces where drought is taking its toll. They have suffered losses of $760 million, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, as their crops have shriveled.
In the meantime I have been staying as close to home as possible, cycling in slow motion so as not to melt into a pool of sweat, and checking the temperature in Scotland, where I shall be going on vacation this weekend.
At the moment it is a refreshing 61 degrees. This year, that sounds like ideal holiday weather
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In Europe, it is possible to have an 11-day holiday during which you visit eight countries – and never show your passport once.
I just came back from a road trip through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Belgium, and since all the countries are part of the Schengen Agreement, crossing border after border was no problem.
But despite Europe's single-border area, you will still notice nationally distinctive driving styles and differences in road qualities. And one key thing we noticed in our travels is how we pay for using the roads.
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Car owners in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium pay for the maintenance of the roads indirectly, through taxes. So as long as I stayed in those countries, I didn't have to pay extra to use the roads.
Most major highways in France and Italy, however, are toll roads. In France, you receive a ticket at the beginning of the toll road and pay when you exit, depending on how many kilometers you drove. In Italy, you pay a set amount for each toll booth.
I encountered a third option in two Alpine countries. Switzerland and Austria are among the nations that require foreigners to buy a "vignette" – a kind of road pass – the revenues from which are invested in infrastructure quality. Austria has a 10-day vignette available for €11.25 ($15), while driving any number of days through Switzerland requires the driver to buy a vignette for €35.95 ($48), valid for an entire year.
A leading German politician announced last Sunday that he also wants such a system. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Horst Seehofer declared that foreigners should start contributing to the German infrastructure by buying vignettes.
And Mr. Seehofer, leader of the Bavarian party Christian Social Union (CSU), made clear how important an introduction of vignettes is to his party: He said that the CSU will refuse to sign any coalition agreement after Germany's September elections if it does not include vignettes. Considering that the CSU is the traditional sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a critical part of her coalition government, Seehofer's demand for vignettes – which neither the CDU or its junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, support – is not to be taken lightly.
On Sept. 15, elections will be held for the parliament in the German state Bavaria, and a week later for the federal German parliament. A breach between the two would impede Chancellor Merkel's chances of continuing her reign.
Seehofer pointed out that three countries near the southeastern German state of Bavaria – the Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland – all have a system of vignettes. According to the German newspaper Die Welt, Seehofer called it incomprehensible that the Bavarians have to pay for using the neighboring countries' roads, but those countries' citizens can drive the Bavarian (and German) roads at no extra cost.
Germany is not the only country where a debate has flared on foreign contributions for the use of infrastructure. Political negotiators in Belgium had planned to introduce such a vignette for foreign drivers. But the Belgian government decided to withdraw the plan last month, following protests from the Netherlands and the European Commission. A uniform European system for an electronic toll service has been proposed, but the road to such a common policy, as with other European measures, is long.
• A summary of global news reports.
After alarming reports last month revealed that hundreds of tons of contaminated water were being released into the ocean every day, more problems have arisen at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Ten workers at the disaster-ridden plant were exposed to radioactive material after being sprayed by contaminated mist. How the mist, which is used to cool some of the building, became contaminated is still a mystery.
Tokyo Electric Power Compnay (TEPCO), the company that operates Fukushima, announced that it believed the misting system was contaminated after detecting traces of radioactive material on some of its workers Monday, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The contamination was detected on Monday, after an alarm from a radiation monitor in front of the command center went off. Routine scans of workers after they finished their shifts at the plant Monday also found some traces of radioactive contamination – the largest amount was 19 becquerels per square centimeter – on the surface of the hands and faces of 10 people, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.
That amount of contamination is five times the maximum level Tepco has set as its limit, but none of the workers appear to have inhaled radioactive particles, or reported any illness, the NRA said.
Though the level of radioactive exposure is low enough so as not to cause grave concern, TEPCO still has not been able to identify the source of the water’s contamination.
This is only the latest in a string of debacles that has plagued the Fukushima plant and TEPCO since March 2011, when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused system shutdowns at the plant, resulting in a nuclear meltdown. The radioactive materials released by the meltdown forced the evacuation of the surrounding area in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Since then, the Fukushima site has remained unstable.
Last month, it was made public that ground water, contaminated by the reactors, had breached its barrier and was spilling into the ocean, according to Reuters. TEPCO had denied that the contaminated water was flowing into the sea, but after reports of spiraling levels of radioactive materials in the ocean, the company finally came clean.
The Guardian reports that 300 tons of radioactive water spills into the ocean every day, and that the leaks probably began soon after the disaster in 2011.
According to The Japan News, the water leakage has prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to have the government take a much more active role in the clean up and maintenance of the Fukushima site, rather than leaving it to TEPCO.
In the mean time, the environmental fallout has already taken its toll on fishing communities, whose livelihoods are at risk of being destroyed by the heavy amounts of contamination at sea, according to The Guardian.
"It's like there's an allergy to the name Fukushima," said Takashi Niitsuma, head of sales at the Iwaki fisheries co-operative….
"Even if we could catch fish for sale, no one would buy them. We're talking about the Pacific Ocean, so it's not just Fukushima that's affected by the contamination. If Tepco allows more water to leak into the sea, the criticism will be worldwide. For us as fishermen, it's not a question of whether we can revive the Fukushima brand – we have no choice. We have to at least try."
Mr. Bae’s mother, sister, and brother received letters and a video from him and were informed that he had been transferred from a labor camp to a hospital and that his health was deteriorating after nine months of incarceration.
"I don't see any action. I want to ask them, send an envoy or do something. As a mother, I am really getting angry, really getting angry. What do they do?" Bae's mother, Myung-Hee, told CBS News.
North Korea has previously used detained Americans as bargaining chips with the United States, which wants Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program. Analysts say that North Korea may be holding out for a high-profile visitor from the US to discuss six-party talks before allowing Bae’s release. Such a visit, analysts also say, could help bolster leader Kim Jong-un’s image at home.
Although there have been some signs of warming, tensions are still high on the Korean Peninsula after a spring that saw Pyongyang unleash a torrent of bombastic threats in response to tightened UN sanctions over a nuclear test by the North in February.
The US has called for the release of Bae, on humanitarian grounds, but to no apparent effect. Analysts say North Korea may want to use Bae to get a top-level visit from the US. At least five other Americans have been detained in North Korea since 2009. Each was permitted to leave without serving out his or her prison time after visits by prominent Americans. Former President Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang in 2009 just before the release of two US journalists. And former President Jimmy Carter made a trip in 2010 ahead of the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes.
Former US pro basketball star Dennis Rodman visited North Korea in February and made a call to Mr. Kim over Twitter to release Bae, and has offered to visit Pyongyang again, but US officials have said they are pursuing quieter clemency efforts.
Last month reports emerged that Mr. Carter was set to visit North Korea to negotiate for Bae, but those were denied as false recently, reports Reuters.
An ambassador from Sweden met with Bae at the hospital last week, according to Bae’s sister. Sweden represents US interests in North Korea.
In May, The Christian Science Monitor reported that North Korea released details of the crimes for which Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor last week, painting the American as a subversive who was plotting to overthrow the government.
Bae, a Korean-American from Washington state, had been leading a group of businessmen from China on a tour of the special economic zone of Rason in northeastern North Korea when he was arrested in November. Bae is a naturalized US citizen who was born in South Korea and moved to the US with his family in 1985. He has spent much of the past seven years in China, where he started a business leading tour groups into North Korea. He was also a Christian missionary.
Bae’s son, Jonathan, has called for his father’s release on Change.org. His petition has received more than 10,000 signatures.
“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said in a videotaped interview from prison broadcast on CNN last month. “And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon.”
Since the Battle of Midway in World War II, the weapon that has most defined naval power is the aircraft carrier.
By enabling countries to deploy air power far from their own shores, carriers have become the unit by which modern navies are measured. Only a handful of countries have them and can build them, with the majority of such vessels in the hands of the US Navy.
So it's no small thing that India today launched its first domestically built carrier. With the first-phase launch of what will eventually be named the INS Vikrant, India joins an elite club of countries that have built their own carriers: Only the United States, Russia, France, and Britain have done the same.
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The Vikrant weighs in at 37,500 tons, and will carry as many as 36 aircraft, reports The Times of India. Though small compared with the world's largest, the US Nimitz class carrier, which is two-and-a-half times heavier and carries 85 aircraft, the Vikrant marks a major milestone for India's military capabilities.
Building an aircraft carrier is a rare feat, and as the BBC notes in a May 2012 article, "Nuclear weapons give a nation 'cachet' ... [b]ut carriers give a nation 'capability'."
[C]arriers are still as relevant as ever, says Lewis Page, a former naval officer and author of Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs: Waste and Blundering in the Military. The drone might be all the rage but you still need somewhere to launch it from.
Nuclear submarines are "excellent" at many things. Their Tomahawk cruise missiles flew hundreds of miles to knock out Colonel Gaddafi's air force.
"But a submarine can't tell you where the targets are. And they can't be easily rearmed apart from at a naval base."
The Times adds that the Vikrant's successful float-out – taking it out of drydock – is expected to spur the Indian Navy to soon green-light construction of a second domestic carrier. India already has a smaller carrier, the Viraat, which it acquired from the British in 1987, and plans to commission a carrier it bought from Russia in 2004, the INS Vikramaditya, later this year.
The Vikrant's initial launch doesn't change the global balance of power. It still has to undergo several years of outfitting, and is not expected to be commissioned for duty until 2018, reports the Times. And even when it does enter service, the US will likely still retain the huge edge in carrier might that it currently enjoys. According to IHS Jane's figures from last year, the US has 20 plane-carrying ships, 10 of which are the huge Nimitz class, while the rest of the world combined has only 13.
But it does underscore India's increasing military influence in the region, and puts it in deeper competition with Asia's other emerging naval power: China. Last year, China launched its first aircraft carrier, which it purchased from Ukraine and refitted, and it is reportedly constructing a new carrier at a facility near Shanghai, according to IHS Jane's.
According to the Times, Zhang Junshe, the vice president of China's Naval Research Institute, told Chinese state media that the Vikrant, "along with reinforced naval strength, will further disrupt the military balance in South Asia."
Still, as the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported in June, to have an effective aircraft carrier, a navy needs a large fleet of support ships to assist it. And China – like India – has a way to go before it has that fleet.
The PLA Navy may soon be comparable in strength to the Spanish or Italian fleets, but launching an aircraft carrier isn’t enough to make it competitive with the top powers, [Ralph Cossa of the Pacific Forum in Hawaii] said.
“You need to be able to support it [an aircraft carrier] with missile boats and submarines, and all this looks like it is years away for China,” he said.
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A roundup of global reports
Arguments between the two countries started with Gibraltar’s attempts to create an artificial reef by sinking massive concrete blocks off its coast in July. Spain’s government was infuriated, claiming the artificial reef prevented Spanish ships from fishing and demanding that the blocks be removed. This month Spain imposed harsh custom-border controls in what analysts say may have been a retaliatory move.
Now, a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that Britain may seek legal action against its fellow European Union member, reports Reuters.
Cameron's spokesman said Britain thinks the tighter border controls are "politically motivated and totally disproportionate" and should be stopped.
"The prime minister is disappointed by the failure of the Spanish to remove the additional border checks this weekend and we are now considering what legal action is open to us," the spokesman said.
Taking legal action against Spain would be “unprecedented,” said the spokesman. Britain could lodge a complaint with the European Commission, arguing that Spain is in breach of EU law by blocking free movement, according to the BBC’s James Robbins.
However, as Britain is not part of the group of 26 European countries who have abolished passport and immigration controls across common borders called the Schengen Area, inspections at the border between Spain and Gibraltar are legal.
Spain has heightened border checks, resulting in very long queues that have disrupted not only tourists but also locals who commute in and out of Gibraltar for work, reports Reuters.
The government in Madrid claims that the increased customs measures are needed to prevent smuggling, writes the Financial Times.
Gibraltar has been a point of contention between Britain and Spain for centuries. The territory was officially ceded to Britain in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht that ended the Spanish War of Succession. Since then, Spain has challenged Britain’s sovereignty several times, though Gibraltarians have voted overwhelmingly against even shared sovereignty, most recently in a 2002 referendum.
Spain announced that it has considered appealing to the United Nations over the spat. They are also considering reaching out to Argentina, whose dispute with Britain over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands led the two countries to war in 1982, reports FT.
An official from Spain’s official foreign ministry said that Madrid was considering using a planned trip to Buenos Aires by Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo in September to establish a joint front over Gibraltar and the disputed Falkland Islands off the coast of the South American country.
“We are analyzing this possibility among several others, such as appealing to the United Nations,” the official said. “There is nothing defined yet, but there are several options being considered.” The official declined to comment on whether any approach had already been made to the Argentine government.
Meanwhile, several British naval vessels set sail for the Mediterranean today, with one ship set to dock at Gibraltar, reports Agence-France Press. Though reports in the Spanish media have called this an effort to spook Spanish authorities, British officials claim the naval exercises have been planned for months.
Seven decades after he allegedly organized the deportation of 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz, 58 years after he lied to immigration officials to become a Canadian citizen, and a year after his arrest in Hungary, Nazi war crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary died Saturday in Budapest.
One of a rapidly dwindling number of surviving Nazi commanders, the 98-year-old Mr. Csatary was waiting to stand trial for his role in sending Jews from the Hungarian city of Kassa (now Kosice in Slovakia) to the notorious Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland in 1944. At that time, he was a Hungarian police officer.
Csatary was arrested in July 2012, when police found him living in Budapest after being tipped off by information from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks and advocates for the arrest of Nazi war criminals.
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The arrest brought an end to a 65-year chase for Csatary, which began in 1948 when a Czechoslovakian court sentenced him to death for mass murder – though his whereabouts were then unknown.
By then, authorities later learned, Csatary had already fled Hungary. In 1949, he immigrated to Canada, where he told officials he was a Yugoslavian and that his last name was Csizsik. Six years later, the Canadian government granted him citizenship.
Csatary remained in Canada, working as an art dealer in Toronto and Montreal, until the mid-1990s, when the Canadian government launched an investigation into allegations that he had lied about his past. In 1997, his citizenship was revoked.
As deportation proceedings began, Csatary fled the country, once again eluding arrest. The case lay dormant for more than a decade until tips from the Wiesenthal Center, which had placed Csatary at the top of its “most wanted” list for Nazi war criminals, led Hungarian authorities to reopen their investigation.
Meanwhile, the media also took a keen interest in the case. In July 2012, a reporter from the British tabloid The Sun knocked on the door of the two-bedroom Budapest apartment where Csatary was allegedly living.
Csizsik-Csatary, who speaks English with a Canadian accent after decades living in Montreal and Toronto, answered the door in just socks and underpants.
When we asked if he could justify his past, he looked shocked and stammered “No, no. Go away.” Questioned about his deportation case in Canada he answered angrily in English: “No, no. I don’t want to discuss it.” Our reporter asked: “Do you deny doing it? A lot of people died as a result of your actions.”
He replied: “No I didn’t do it, go away from here,” before slamming the door.
Days later, Csatary was placed under house arrest, though the case against him was complicated by questions of whether it constituted double jeopardy – since a court technically convicted him in 1948. When he died Saturday of pneumonia, a court in Slovakia – the site of the original conviction – was in the process of deciding where he should serve his life sentence, Bloomberg reports.
"This is a very unfortunate end to a saga that lasted far too long," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, in an interview with CNN Monday. "Csatary should have been brought to justice shortly after the war.... We gave the Hungarian prosecutors evidence two years ago, and this should have been taken care of months ago in Budapest."
Csatary joins a small number of other alleged Nazi war criminals tracked down and prosecuted across Europe in their old age. In May, for instance, German police arrested 93-year-old Hans Lipschis, alleged to be a longtime Auschwitz guard (and also among the Wiesenthal Center’s most wanted).
Mr. Lipschis’s case reopened an old debate about the culpability of mid-level functionaries in the Nazi system, who frequently argue they were simply following orders in carrying out acts that were or led to mass murder. For his part, Csatary simply denied the charges against him.
At least one Holocaust survivor from Kosice, however, said she has never forgotten Csatary or his role in the murder of her family and community.
“I can see him in front of me,” Edita Salamonova said to The Associated Press last year. “A tall, handsome man but with a heart of stone.”
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Today marks the 68th anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. The bomb, named “Fat Man,” was the first plutonium bomb ever to be deployed, and followed the Aug. 6 dropping of the uranium bomb “Little Boy” on Hiroshima.
But even after 68 years, both the history of nuclear weapons and their future are still the subject of debate.
Speaking at the memorial ceremony in Nagasaki, Mayor Tomihisa Taue publicly condemned Japan’s government for failing to push nuclear disarmament. Mr. Taue spoke out against the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – who was present – for failing to sign a UN disarmament agreement in April, according to the Japan Daily Press. Taue said the refusal to sign meant Japan was “betraying the expectations of global society.”
The nonproliferation agreement – which asks that the signatories pledge to never use a nuclear weapon – was meant to be largely symbolic, as none of the signatories has a nuclear arsenal. Japan refused to sign because of its relationship with the US, and its prior agreement to allow the US to use Japan as a launching ground in the event of a threat from North Korea, reports The Washington Post.
Japan does not have nuclear weapons and has pledged not to produce any, although some hawkish members of the ruling party say the country should consider a nuclear option.
Taue said that as the world’s only victim of atomic bombings, Japan’s refusal to join the initiative contradicts its non-nuclear pledge.
The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 people, and while some argue that they helped end the war, many today regarding it as a stain on the US's moral history.
In a piece for the Huffington Post, Greg Mitchell, a writer and blogger for the Nation, called the bombing of Nagasaki a war crime:
After all, by this time, Truman (as recorded in his diary and by others) was well aware that the Japanese were hopelessly defeated and seeking terms of surrender--and he had, just two weeks earlier, written "Fini Japs" in his diary when he learned that the Russians would indeed attack around August 7. Yet Truman, on this day, did nothing, and the second bomb rolled out, and would be used against Nagasaki, killing perhaps 90,000 more, only a couple hundred of them Japanese troops, on August 9. That's why many who reluctantly support or at least are divided about the use of the bomb against Hiroshima consider Nagasaki a war crime--in fact, the worst one-day war crime in human history.
According to a separate report from the Japan Daily Press, American film director Oliver Stone, who currently is visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki and whose films about key historical events have attracted their share of controversy, criticized the US bombing of Hiroshima.
“If the Nazis had dropped the bomb, they’d lost the war, the bomb would be seen as a monstrosity, and the Nazis would be condemned forever,” Mr. Stone was quoted as saying.
Dissent over the use of the bomb is not new. Albert Einstein – whose work led to its development and who wrote a letter to then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt urging him to pursue the project – eventually came to deeply regret the bombings. "Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would have never lifted a finger,” he said, according to the Atlantic.
However, at the time, the bombs were seen as necessary by many Americans. After all, the atomic bombs had brought a brutal war to an end, and many thought their use possibly saved more lives that would have been lost had it continued. As Henry Stimson, the wartime Secretary of War, wrote in Harper's in 1947:
Two great nations were approaching contact in a fight to a finish which would begin on November 1, 1945. Our enemy, Japan, commanded forces of somewhat over 5,000,000 men. Men of these armies had already inflicted upon us, in our breakthrough of the outer perimeter of their defenses, over 300,000 battle casualties. Enemy armies still unbeaten had the strength to cost us a million more. As long as the Japanese government refused to surrender, we should be forced to take and hold the ground, and smash the Japanese ground armies, by close‑in fighting of the same desperate and costly kind that we had faced in the Pacific islands for nearly four years.
...My chief purpose was to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of the men in the armies which I had helped to raise. In the light of the alternatives which, on a fair estimate, were open to us I believe that no man in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hands a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterwards looked his country men in the face.
He continued by noting that, in his opinion, the use of the atomic bombs was "the least abhorrent choice," as it put to an end the fire bombings – which caused massive casualties – of Japanese cities, and would cause fewer casualties in Japan than a ground invasion.
As time went on, however, many scholars and public figures began to question whether or not the bombs were necessary to end the war, and whether that rationale was worth the devastating toll the bombs took on civilian lives. In an interview with Education About Asia, MIT historian John Dower, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II," challenged that line of thinking and raised questions about the moral implications of targeting civilians in wartime:
As the history of Hiroshima and Nagasaki recedes further into the past, it is becoming more difficult to create a sense of urgency around these questions. Writing in the New Yorker this week about the documentary "Things Left Behind," about a major art exhibit devoted to Hiroshima, Roland Kelts, the author of "Japanamerica," says that "... sixty-eight years later, the story of Hiroshima, its possible meanings and emotions, are fast becoming dead artifacts, especially in Japan, where the platitudes and memorials are broadcast live once every year, dominating the airwaves with about as much salient impact as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade."
To fight domestic violence
Between 2000 and 2006, more than 10,600 people were killed in domestic homicides in the United States. About 3,200 US soldiers were killed overseas during the same period. A new approach to assessing domestic homicide risk could change the trajectory of these crimes.
In The New Yorker, Rachel Louise Snyder highlights cases overseen by Kelly Dunne, chief operating officer of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Amesbury, Mass. In 2005, Ms. Dunne created a Domestic High Violence Risk Team, which began including local police, hospitals, and courts when assessing domestic homicide risk case by case.
“Dunne attributes the prevalence of domestic violence, in part, to a deep cultural misunderstanding of how violence operates,” writes Ms. Snyder. “We assume that victims incite abuse, or that if the situation at home was truly threatening they would leave. Restraining orders, when filed, are thought to keep perpetrators away. And, if a woman fails to ... renew a restraining order, the assumption is that the problem has somehow been resolved.”
It usually means the opposite, but that is where Dunne’s strategy comes into play: recognizing potentially lethal behavior and helping victims take steps to avoid it. Since 2005, none of Dunne’s cases have ended in homicide.
Lion king or coalition
Why do lions live in prides when many other big cats (like jaguars, cougars, and tigers) lead a solitary life?
“Continual risk of death, even more than the ability to cause it, is what shapes the social behavior of this ferocious but ever jeopardized animal,” writes David Quammen for National Geographic. “The lion is the only feline that’s truly social, living in prides and coalitions, the size and dynamics of which are determined by an intricate balance of evolutionary costs and benefits.”
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Mr. Quammen followed a group of researchers in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, where the highest concentration of the world’s 35,000 lions live. They use 40 years of data to uncover patterns of lion behavior in such wild, harsh conditions.
An app to end global poverty?
There are applications that know what you want before you do. But can Silicon Valley’s ingenuity apply to ending global poverty? In Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny and Justin Sandefur raise some doubts. They point out that technology has already done much to improve lives in the developing world – think vaccines, radios, bicycles, and cellphones. But many well-intentioned high-tech projects (like One Laptop Per Child or Soccket) fail to meet the reality on the ground. Despite the fact that extreme poverty has decreased by half, millions of people still die from preventable diseases.
“None of this is for a lack of science; often it isn’t even for lack of money. It is because parents don’t follow simple health practices like washing their hands, government bureaucrats can’t or won’t provide basic water and sanitation programs, and arbitrary immigration restrictions prevent the poor from moving...,” the authors write. “Sorry, but no iPhone, even one loaded with the coolest apps, is going to change all that.”
Youth unemployment in Greece
“Absent a rapid and dramatic economic turnaround, an entire generation in Southern Europe faces years, possibly decades, of dependency and disillusionment – with consequences that can’t be measured in economic terms alone,” writes Stephan Faris in Bloomberg Businessweek.
For many young Greeks, this means living with their parents and waiting to start families. Although the economy is showing signs of mending, there still aren’t enough jobs to be found. About 160 young Greeks apply for one job opening, although that number is down from 330 in January 2012, according to a jobs website.
Secret committee sets Medicare prices
In Washington Monthly, Haley Sweetland Edwards takes an in-depth look at the hidden process behind determining how doctors bill Medicare for specialized procedures and general care. Based more on politics than science, prices are set by the Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (or RUC), convened three times a year by the American Medical Association.
The RUC sends its recommendations to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which doesn’t have the resources to investigate the prices independently.
“Because of the way the system is set up, the values the RUC comes up with wind up shaping the very structure of the U.S. health care sector, creating the perverse financial incentives that dictate how our doctors behave, and affecting the annual expenditure of nearly one-fifth of our GDP,” Ms. Edwards writes.
The small group of doctors, driving up fees for their services, drive up the entire cost of health care in the country. The author argues that the process requires major reform before Americans will receive the best care at the lowest cost.
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• A summary of global news reports.
After months of failed negotiations and halted operations, North Korea has lifted the ban on South Koreans entering Kaesong Industrial Complex and will hold talks with its southern counterpart over the resumption of activities there. The North’s offer to negotiate comes just in time – South Korea was on the cusp of shuttering the plant for good.
The potential reopening of the complex, which symbolized the last vestige of inter-Korean activity, may portend the softening of relations between the two rivals after a year of tensions driven by the North’s nuclear ambitions.
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North Korea’s offer to restart talks over Kaesong, following six failed attempts between April and July, was readily accepted by the South, reports South Korean Yonhap news agency.
The Ministry of Unification said that the North's offer to hold working-level talks on Aug. 14, which would be the seventh round following the failure of the previous six, can be viewed in a positive light.
"Seoul views the latest talks proposal as the North responding to repeated calls for dialogue from Seoul," ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said. "We hope the North will engage in dialogue in an earnest manner that can contribute to the constructive growth of the complex."
According to the Associated Press, North Korea’s decision to ban South Korean managers and its subsequent withdrawal of workers from the plant was in response to annual US-South Korea military exercises and fresh United Nations sanctions against the North following a nuclear test in February.
The North's announcement came only an hour after South Korea stated it would begin insurance payments to many of the companies locked out of Kaesong, a move widely speculated to spell the end of the joint industrial endeavor.
Officials in Seoul say they are optimistic about the upcoming talks. “We hope that the coming talks should settle issues and produce reasonable ways to normalize the Kaesong industrial complex constructively,” said unification ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-seok.
But there is still doubt as to whether Pyongyang will agree to the South’s demand that it guarantee to not repeat its sudden and costly suspension of work at the complex, writes The Wall Street Journal.
The Kaesong Industrial Complex, opened in 2004, is the only last example of inter-Korean cooperation left from a series of joint projects that were initiated when the two countries enjoyed a period of détente, according to The New York Times. In Seoul, it was the period of "the Sunshine Policy."
Eventually, South Korean firms provided the infrastructure and employed 53,000 North Korean workers to produce consumer goods for the market, whose value in 2012 alone was estimated to be around $470 million.
The talks may also mark a turnaround in relations between the two countries, writes the Times. North Korea’s most powerful ally, China, has been pushing Pyongyang towards moderation. Moreover, the North is in dire need of cash, as the sanctions and closure of Kaesong have taken their toll on currency reserves.
Kaesong Industrial Complex generates about $100 million in revenues for North Korea every year, reports Bloomberg. “North Korea probably couldn’t ignore the fact the park is a cash cow and feeds not only the 53,000 workers there but also their family members,” Yoo Ho Yeol, a North Korea professor at Korea University, told Bloomberg.
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