News in the Humanosphere: Syrian peace talks suspended, says U.N. envoy

Staffan de Mistura (UN photo)

Staffan de Mistura announced a three-week pause in the Geneva talks, the first attempt to negotiate an end to Syria’s war in two years, saying they needed immediate help from the rival sides’ international backers, principally the United States and Russia. ‘I have indicated from the first day that I won’t talk for the sake of talking,’ the envoy, who has described the negotiations as Syria’s last hope, told reporters.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1KYiiHd)

Did al-Shabab bomb a commercial airliner? Investigators suspect the al-Shabab militant group was behind a likely bomb blast that forced an Airbus A321 into an emergency landing this week in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, U.S. government sources said Wednesday. One U.S. government source said investigators believe the Islamic militant group al-Shabab perpetrated the attack. However, officials said that there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack. One man was killed by the blast on Tuesday on the Daallo Airlines plane, officials said. Local authorities north of Mogadishu said the body of a man, believed to have been sucked out through the hole in the fuselage made by the blast, was found in their area.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1KYisyj)

Quote of the day: “Seeing him kill people, cutting someone’s arm off … that isn’t Dad,” — former Angola strongman Joseph Savimbi’s son, regarding a lawsuit he’s filed against a video game maker. (AFP yhoo.it/1KXZxDD)

Africa

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has expressed willingness to reimburse the state for spending on his private home, the president’s office said Wednesday, reflecting an effort to end a scandal that prompted a national outcry and led to heckling and even scuffles at some parliamentary sessions. (VOA http://bit.ly/1QcuKVr)

Liberia spends less than 1 percent of its health budget on mental health, a neglected and stigmatised part of a fragile and under-resourced health system. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1mdfvn9)

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar visits Egypt Wednesday to urge Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to support the implementation of the peace agreement signed last August to end the South Sudan conflict. (VOA http://bit.ly/1PhgGu2)

Women’s rights groups have joined U.N. and African human rights leaders in urging the president of Sierra Leone to support a bill that would change the law to allow women to terminate a pregnancy under any circumstances up to 12 weeks. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PhgH13)

China is expected to start work in Djibouti soon on a naval base, Djibouti’s president told Reuters, defending Beijing’s right to build what will be its first foreign military outpost on one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1TDu3dm)

MENA

The Syrian army and its allies have broken a three-year rebel siege of two Shi’ite towns in northwest Syria, government and rebel groups said on Wednesday, cutting off a main insurgent route to nearby Turkey. (Reuters http://reut.rs/23Jujfa)

In nearly five years of conflict in Syria, sieges have become a key weapon of war employed primarily by the regime, but also rebel forces and the Islamic State group. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1nN2aDI)

Kurdish human rights organizations say fighting across southeastern Turkey has displaced 200,000 people in the last two months alone. Turkish authorities put the number at 93,000. Either way, it’s a mass displacement. There are no camps, little aid, and almost no international awareness of what’s actually going on. (IRIN http://bit.ly/2096glb)

Asia

They say profits are low and the risks high, but thousands are getting on their bikes to service a rampant petrol black market in Nepal. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1TDu7tr)

Australia’s highest court Wednesday opened the way for hundreds of asylum-seekers to be transferred to a remote Pacific outpost, including women allegedly sexually assaulted there, when it dismissed a challenge to a hardline immigration policy. (AFP http://yhoo.it/23IUqD1)

The Americas

Haiti’s outgoing president has released a brash carnival song jeering at his critics and aiming sexually suggestive lyrics at his main target, an award-winning female journalist. (VOA http://bit.ly/1QcuK7Y)

U.N. agencies are mobilizing communities in Latin America and the Caribbean to stop the spread of the Zika virus, which has infected tens of thousands of people in about 25 countries. (VOA http://bit.ly/1SsV4Bf)

…and the rest

Under huge strain from an influx of unaccompanied children seeking asylum, the Swedish government faces political pressure to undertake medical tests like X-rays to vet the age of young refugees despite opposition from doctors and lawyers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1SsV04c)

Amid continuing attacks on journalists, media representatives from around the world will meet in the French capital this week to discuss how to reinforce the safety of those working in the sector. (IPS http://bit.ly/1SsV3gB)

France’s government is calling for a three-month extension of the state of emergency that was declared after the Nov. 13 deadly attacks in Paris, a move criticized by human right groups as damaging democracy. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nN25zQ)

The mosquito behind the Zika virus seems to operate like a heat-driven missile of disease. The hotter it gets, the better the mosquito that carries Zika virus is at transmitting its buffet of dangerous illnesses, scientists say. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nN26Ut)

Opinion/Blogs

The Syria Humanitarian Crisis Enters a New Phase (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1TDxnVL)

Solving other people’s problems (Waylaid Dialectic http://bit.ly/1SsYO5C)

Syria’s plight puts the world to shame – leaders must unite to find a solution (Guardian http://bit.ly/1nN292A)

How Many Zika Cases Are There In Venezuela: 4,000 Or 400,000? (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1SsYKmx)

Is My NGO Having a Positive Impact? (Development Impact http://bit.ly/1mdiGLn)

What Next for Africa and Hague Court? (Deutsche Welle http://bit.ly/1Qcn6dH)

Five ways tech is crowdsourcing women’s empowerment (Guardian http://bit.ly/1nN21A7)

On the high cost of corruption in Nigeria (Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1TDxPDq)

Strong, independent media critical for good governance (Devex http://bit.ly/1QcyCFR)

25 New Books by African Writers You Should Read (LitHub http://bit.ly/208Z1tB)

Zika’s spread in Brazil is a crisis of inequality as much as health (Guardian http://bit.ly/23IUqmA)

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