News in the Humanosphere: Chemical weapon attack in Syria

Political map of Syria

A toxic chemical, almost certainly chlorine, was used “systematically and repeatedly” as a weapon in attacks on villages in northern Syria earlier this year, the global chemical weapons watchdog said. “Both sides in Syria’s conflict blame one another for using chlorine, but dropping heavy explosives from helicopters is a tactic often blamed on forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Human Rights Watch said in May that it had strong evidence that in April this year Syrian army helicopters dropped bombs containing chlorine on the same rebel-held villages mentioned by the OPCW report.” (AP)

Conflict Mineral #Fail…A law meant to curtail the money that rebel groups in DR Congo make off the mineral trade has done more harm than good, say researchers and activists in an open letter. “Nearly four years after the passing of the Dodd-Frank Act, only a small fraction of the hundreds of mining sites in the eastern DRC have been reached by traceability or certification efforts. The rest remain beyond the pale, forced into either illegality or collapse as certain international buyers have responded to the legislation by going ‘Congo-free’.” (Humanosphere)

A top-level international panel called for a major shift in global drug-control policies from prohibition to decriminalisation and regulation. (IPS)

Amnesty International said on Wednesday it had documented evidence of war crimes by both sides in the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Ebola
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it is committing $50 million to help combat the growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. (Humanosphere)

Health workers in Liberia reported being overwhelmed by new Ebola cases on Wednesday, as the epidemic was blamed for shattering economic growth in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The first case of the Ebola virus detected in Senegal, a 21-year-old student who arrived from neighboring Guinea last month, has recovered from the deadly disease, a senior official said on Wednesday. (VOA)

Liberia’s national existence is “seriously threatened” by the deadly Ebola virus that is “spreading like wild fire and devouring everything in its path,” the country’s national defense minister told the United Nations Security Council. (Reuters)

Africa
China is sending hundreds of troops to join the UN peacekeeping force in war-torn South Sudan, where Chinese companies have major oil interests. (VOA)

Gambia’s national assembly has passed a bill to introduce the crime of aggravated homosexuality into the criminal code and make it punishable by life imprisonment in some cases, according to a copy of the bill. (Reuters)

Experts say that Africa’s extensive land subdivision is emerging as a significant threat to food security. (IPS)

The Malawi government has presented its budget for the next financial year, which has been designed to regain donor confidence and encourage political stability at home. (Guardian)

Zimbabwe has had to “cough up” $180 million in Chinese loan repayments or face losing its credit line, its finance minister said on Wednesday, in a sign Beijing is tightening its lending terms and expects debtors to be more accountable. (VOA)

More than 3,000 families in Zimbabwe’s southeastern Masvingo Province who accuse the government of forcibly resettling them to small plots of undeveloped land, are facing hardships including a lack of adequate food, shelter, health and education facilities. (IRIN)

A new medical study out of South Africa has found heartening news in the nation with the world’s highest burden of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Their findings reveal that South Africans with HIV can live as long as HIV patients in the United States – provided they begin antiretroviral therapy early enough. (VOA)

ICRC warns hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan are facing starvation and are in urgent need of international assistance to survive. (VOA)

A Botswana newspaper editor has been charged with sedition after a story claimed the president was involved in a car accident, prompting angry allegations of stifling press freedom Wednesday. Prominent Sunday Standard editor Outsa Mokone was arrested on Monday over a story alleging Ian Khama had a night-time crash, which resulted in the other driver being given a new Jeep.

MENA
Dozens of Egyptians have begun a hunger strike to demand the release of activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, a symbol of the 2011 uprising, and others they say are being unfairly detained in an effort to crush new-found freedoms. (Reuters)

A Yemeni draft law envisaging strict penalties for those involved in trafficking migrants, including kidnapping them and demanding ransom, may finally bring an end to decades of exploitation. (IRIN)

Asia
Continuing military operations in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district are disrupting the education of more than 85,000 students in state-run schools. (IRIN)

One year after a violent siege terrified the southern Philippines city of Zamboanga, tens of thousands of displaced survivors feel they have been forgotten. (IRIN)

Indonesia, one of only three countries in the Asia-Pacific region that is seeing a trend of increased HIV infections, must plug a $30 million funding gap in its fight against HIV, a U.N. health official said. (VOA)

Myanmar’s political opening has been hailed for loosening the ruling military’s tight grip on power and allowing for more democratic rule. But some critics, like one of the monks who led the 2007 uprising known as the Saffron Revolution, says little has changed overall. (VOA)

As flood-ravaged Indian Kashmir faces a communication blackout, social media posts on Facebook and Twitter are playing a huge role in tracing people stranded in the region. (VOA)

The Americas
The Argentine government said Wednesday that its refusal to repay a group of US hedge funds that stand to profit on the country’s defaulted debt was vindicated by the United Nations’ support for a multilateral plan handling bond restructurings. (Reuters)

The figures were published in a report that Cuba prepares for the United Nations each year in requesting a resolution urging an end to the comprehensive US. (AP)

Haiti has received a large shipment of treatment packets to help it deal with an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus known as chikungunya amid a rainy season expected to result in a surge of new cases in the country, officials said. (AP)

Top law enforcement officials from North and Central America are forming a multinational task force to address the massive influx of child migrants to the United States. At a meeting in Mexico City with his counterparts from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, US Attorney General Eric Holder agreed to create a working group that will focus on the criminal elements behind child migration. (VOA)

Venezuela’s central bank publishes long-awaited figures showing annual inflation has reached a six-year high at 63.4%, the highest in the region. (BBC)

Opinion/Blogs
A New European Foreign Policy in an Age of Anxiety (IPS)

Three Illicit Flows Targets for the Post-2015 Framework (CGD)

Covering Ebola: Fear And Love In Liberia (NPR)

The danger of programs that pay for performance (Development Impact)

Fresh water in a village called death (Baobab)

Towards an Alternative Perspective: Against Hobbes (Why Nations Fail)

How to write about development without being simplistic, patronising, obscure or stereotyping (From Poverty to Power)

The Things We Do: Shame is a Powerful Thing (People, Spaces, Deliberation)

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.