Those 'other' things we can't quite categorize


Why did Congolese soldiers kill a surrendered militia leader? | 

Congolese military (FARDC) members.
Congolese military (FARDC) members.
Radio Okapi

The death of a Congolese militia leader who surrendered to the military is raising serious questions.

A brutal militia leader known as Morgan surrendered to the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Saturday. He was joined by somewhere around 40 of his militia members.

He was killed during a firefight while being transported to be taken in by the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo. According to the government, Morgan and some of his men tried to escape from the soldiers providing escort.

“He caused a shootout which resulted in the deaths of two army soldiers and two of his own men. He tried to flee but suffered a serious injury,” said government spokesman Lambert Mende to Reuters on Monday.

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USAID hopes to boost innovation in development with new lab | 

Former Sec State Clinton at the USAID Innovation Lab launch.
Former Sec State Clinton at the USAID Innovation Lab launch.
Rob Baker

Innovation is the buzzword for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the launch of its new Global Development Lab. The agency held an event, featuring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to unveil its collaboration with 32 “cornerstone partners” including US universities, major corporations, foundations and nonprofits. It comes with a roughly $1 billion annual budget, marking a significant shift in US development priorities.

The new lab puts more emphasis on discovering and spreading solutions to the biggest challenges in international development.

“With breakthroughs that reach a global scale, we can really bring an end to global poverty,” said Lona Stoll, senior adviser to USAID Administrator Raj Shah, to Humanosphere. ”It gets us to development impact better, cheaper and more sustainability.”

Its creation is the realization of a recommendation included in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, carried out when Clinton was at the helm of the US State Department, to review the performance of the entire US  State Department. USAID’s head Raj Shah has talked a lot about the need to support innovation. He has made previous forays with programs such as Development Innovation Ventures.

Private-public partnerships are increasingly getting  attention for both their positive and negative potential. The lab features notable corporate partners: Cargill, Cisco, Citi, Coca-Cola, DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Nike, Syngenta, Unilever and Walmart.

The event came on the same day that an attempt by the agency to create a Twitter-like platform in Cuba to spark civil unrest, was revealed by the Associated Press. It gave cause for concerns that US development policy was not purely humanitarian. Critics the public-private partnership rush are concerned with what the lab will actually accomplish.

“This preposterous idea that corporations will solve the world’s development challenges is so out of touch [with] reality that it would be comical if it were not for its disastrous consequences,” said Anuradha Mittal, the founder and executive director of the US-based Oakland Institute thinktank, to the Guardian.

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Video of the Day: 5 Myths about Immigration in the US | 

This video comes from the pro-immigration reform group, so it should be said that it comes with a political and activist slant. The founders are some big names, including Bill Gates, Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerburg. It’s supporters include some more stars of the tech industry, one that admittedly would benefit from the easier migration of high-skilled workers.

Though limited in information, given its intent to support immigrants, it does knock down some major myths. Here are the five:

  1. It’s easy to gain legal status in the U.S.
  2. Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.
  3. Most new immigrants come from Latin America.
  4. DREAMers affect the U.S. economy negatively.
  5. Most immigrants are undocumented.

Watch the video to learn the facts.

Revealed: USAID’s Twitter-like attempt to foment unrest in Cuba | 

Students in Cuba gather behind a business looking for a Internet signal for their smart phones in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Students in Cuba gather behind a business looking for a Internet signal for their smart phones in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

A report by the AP today reveals that a US-backed program attempted to develop a Twitter-like service with the goal that it would help spark political unrest in Cuba.

Most surprising is that it was backed by the humanitarian arm of the US government, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). By channeling funds through offshore accounts and working with US and Spain-based contractors, USAID helped to establish ZunZuneo (a slang term for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet). At its peak, the text-message based application had more than 40,000 users.

There are already concerns that the revelation will cause harm to US foreign policy and future US humanitarian work.

ZunZuneo was built on the back of the state-owned mobile phone company Cubacel. The contract between USAID and Creative Associates International, was to build a system where people could connection on issues related to news, sports and entertainment. Data was to be collected about the users so that more political messaging could be shared, at the direction of USAID.

Taking a page out of Iran and other places where social media aided civil unrest, the hope was ZunZuneo would lead to “smart mobs” and other actions that may “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society,” as a USAID document obtained by the AP, states.

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Two important visuals for new global migration data | 

Migration is a much debated subject around the world. We are investigating the impacts that migration on countries, migrants, business and more. Read more on Migration Matters.

We have looked previously at visual representations of migration, but these two visuals manage to capture the scale of movement and its impacts. Also, they are interactive and really interesting.

First up is a visualization of 20 years of migration collected by geographers and published in the journal Science. The interactive version is even better as it reveals changes over five year periods from 1990 to 2010. You can also isolate out by country or region over the periods and see just where people are going, quickly and easily.

Among the interesting trends is the contraction of migration out of Africa over the past two decades. The big changers over the period are North America, Europe and South Asia.

Zooming out a bit more, the bigger trends point to a steady global flow of migrants since roughly 1995. As is already known, the big movement is coming from the middle income countries like Mexico and India, not the poor ones.

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An Expat’s Guide to Surviving Malaria | 

The following is an excerpt from Expat Etiquette: How to Look Good in Bad Places, by Michael Bear and Liz Good.

The first time I got malaria was, as is often the case, the worst. No, actually, that’s not true: the fourth (and most recent) time I got malaria was the worst, but only because it was an unexpected relapse that struck while Christmas’ing in Athens. Talk about unfair.

expat etiquette

But anyway, the first time was definitely the scariest. I’d started getting sick on a Friday, and being new to West Africa, and thus not knowing how to get help or who to call, I decided to ride out the weekend in the hopes that my body aches and fever were “just” the flu and/or might miraculously go away on their own.

Besides, I told myself: people here live and work with malaria all the time. Right? Right. Surely if they can do it, so can I. Right?


By Monday my fingernails had turned blue and my bedroom walls had begun to undulate. By the time my coworkers showed up to rescue me, in response to my hysterical phone call, I could barely move, let alone walk. They all but dragged me down to the car, before starting a frantic round of phone calls to determine which hospital was our best bet. In a country that boasted only 50-60 local, legitimately-licensed doctors to serve a population of 3.5million, this was not as simple a question as you might think.

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