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Updated 3 March 2014 - 5 stories|
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Magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits off
TOKYO—A 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan’s
Okinawa Island early Monday, but US geologists said it was too deep
to cause a tsunami.
The quake hit 68 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of the city of
Nago just after 4 a.m. (2000 GMT), at a depth of 70 miles (112
kilometres), according to the US Geological Survey.
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Wars and Rumors of Wars
Syria civil war
'horrors' lead US human rights report
A global human rights report released by the US has singled out
Syria's civil war as a tragedy that "stands apart in its scope and
The US said a chemical weapons attack in Syria that it says killed
1,429 was "one of many horrors" in the war.
The annual state department review also noted the increased
crackdown elsewhere on protesters and civil society groups.
The report cited official persecution of dissidents in Ukraine,
Venezuela, Turkey and China in 2013.
The review known as the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
includes indictments of countries in every corner of the world.
But it saved its harshest condemnation for the government of Syria,
where well over 100,000 people have been killed and millions more
forced to flee since March 2011.
It cites the 21 August 2013 chemical weapons attack on Ghouta, an
agricultural belt around Damascus, as one of "many horrors in a
civil war filled with countless crimes against humanity, from the
torture and murder of prisoners to the targeting of civilians with
barrel bombs and Scud missiles".
In remarks after the release of the report on Thursday, Secretary of
State John Kerry also condemned the government of Ukraine for the
recent violence against protesters.
"In Ukraine, as we all just saw in real time in the last days, tens
of thousands took to the streets... to demonstrate again the power
of people to be able to demand a more democratic and accountable
governance, and to stand up even against those who would sniper from
roofs and take their lives in the effort to have their voices
heard," Mr Kerry told reporters.
Mr Kerry described Ukraine as one example of a nation in which
public backlash against corruption and overbearing governments has
been further inflamed by official violence.
Ukraine's ex-President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the capital after
months of unrest.
The report criticises Mr Yanukovych's government for parliamentary
elections that did not meet international standards for fairness or
transparency, security forces beating protesters during a peaceful
30 November demonstration, and a general crackdown on the country's
Mr Kerry also criticised the government of Venezuela, where a
crackdown on anti-government protests this month left at least a
dozen people dead.
The report gave poor marks to both former Egyptian President
Mohammed Morsi and Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, head of the
armed forces which overthrew him.
Also, Assistant Secretary of State Uzra Zeya said Iran had seen
"little meaningful improvement" in its human rights record since the
election last year of President Hassan Rouhani.
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Wars and Rumors of Wars
troops after Russia's 'declaration of war'
by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, Ben Wedeman and Ian Lee, CNN
Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- As Ukraine's new leaders accused Russia of
declaring war, Russia's Prime Minister warned Sunday that blood
could be spilled amid growing instability in the neighboring nation.
Kiev mobilized troops and called up military reservists in a rapidly
escalating crisis that has raised fears of a conflict. And world
leaders pushed for a diplomatic solution.
In a post on his official Facebook page, Russian Prime Minister
Dmitry Medvedev called the recent ouster of Ukrainian President
Viktor Yanukovych a "seizure of power."
"Such a state of order will be extremely unstable," Medvedev said.
"It will end with the new revolution. With new blood."
Officials said signs of Russian military intervention in Ukraine's
Crimean peninsula were clear.
Russian generals led their troops to three bases in the region
Sunday, demanding Ukrainian forces surrender and hand over their
weapons, Vladislav Seleznyov, spokesman for the Crimean Media Center
of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, told CNN.
By late Sunday, Russian forces had "complete operational control of
the Crimean Peninsula," a senior U.S. administration official said.
The United States estimates there are 6,000 Russian ground and naval
forces in the region, the official said.
"There is no question that they are in an occupation position --
flying in reinforcements and settling in," another senior
administration official said.
Speaking by phone, Seleznyov said Russian troops had blocked access
to bases but added, "There is no open confrontation between Russian
and Ukrainian military forces in Crimea" and said Ukrainian troops
continue to protect and serve Ukraine.
"This is a red alert. This is not a threat. This is actually a
declaration of war to my country," Ukrainian interim Prime Minister
Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.
Speaking in a televised address from the parliament building in the
capital, Kiev, he called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to
"pull back his military and stick to the international obligations."
"We are on the brink of the disaster."
A strange scene, somewhat polite standoff in Crimea
Kerry heading to Kiev
Ukraine opposition leader speaks out
A sense of escalating crisis in Crimea -- an autonomous region of
eastern Ukraine with strong loyalty to neighboring Russia --
swirled, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemning what he
called Russia's "incredible act of aggression."
Speaking on the CBS program "Face The Nation," Kerry -- who is set
to arrive in Kiev on Tuesday -- said several foreign powers are
looking at economic consequences if Russia does not withdraw its
"All of them, every single one of them are prepared to go to the
hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion," he
said. "They're prepared to put sanctions in place, they're prepared
to isolate Russia economically."
Kerry rebukes Russia's 'incredible act of aggression'
But Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations said his country
needs more than diplomatic assistance.
"We are to demonstrate that we have our own capacity to protect
ourselves ... and we are preparing to defend ourselves," Yuriy
Sergeyev said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And nationally, if
aggravation is going in that way, when the Russian troops ... are
enlarging their quantity with every coming hour ... we will ask for
military support and other kinds of support."
Pushing diplomatic possibilities
In Brussels, Belgium, NATO ambassadors held an emergency meeting on
"What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the
U.N. charter," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told
reporters. He later added that Russia's actions constituted a
violation of international law.
He called upon Russia to honor its international commitments, to
send it military forces back to Russian bases, and to refrain from
any further interference in Ukraine.
Rasmussen also urged both sides to reach a peaceful resolution
through diplomatic talks and suggested that international observers
from the United Nations should be sent to Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office said Putin had accepted a
proposal to establish a "fact-finding mission" to Ukraine, possibly
under the leadership of the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe, and to start a political dialogue.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dispatched a special envoy to
Ukraine Sunday evening, a spokesman for his office said.
20 questions: What is Russia's interest in Ukraine?
Lean to the West, or to Russia?
Ukraine, a nation of 45 million people sandwiched between Europe and
Russia's southwestern border, has been plunged into chaos since the
ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22 following
bloody street protests that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded.
Anti-government protests started in late November when Yanukovych
spurned a deal with the EU, favoring closer ties with Moscow
Ukraine has faced a deepening split, with those in the west
generally supporting the interim government and its European Union
tilt, while many in the east prefer a Ukraine where Russia casts a
Nowhere is that feeling more intense than in Crimea, the last big
bastion of opposition to the new political leadership. Ukraine
suspects Russia of fomenting tension in the autonomous region that
might escalate into a bid for separation by its Russian majority.
Ukrainian leaders and commentators have compared events in Crimea to
what happened in Georgia in 2008. Then, cross-border tensions with
Russia exploded into a five-day conflict that saw Russian tanks and
troops pour into the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and
Abkhazia, as well as Georgian cities. Russia and Georgia each blamed
the other for starting the conflict.
By Sunday night, electricity had been cut off at the headquarters of
the Ukrainian Navy in Crimea, and officials feared there could soon
be an attack, Seleznyov said.
CNN has not independently verified that claim, and Russian officials
could not be immediately reached to respond.
Cold War-style conflict hits Crimea: 3 things to know
Word of the power outage came hours after the newly named head of
Ukraine's navy disavowed Ukraine's new leaders and declared his
loyalty to the pro-Russian, autonomous Crimea government.
Rear Adm. Denis Berezovsky, who was appointed Saturday by interim
Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov, said from Sevastopol on the
Black Sea that he will not submit to any orders from Kiev.
He was quickly suspended and replaced by another rear admiral, the
Defense Ministry in Kiev said in a written statement.
These scenes come one day after Putin obtained permission from his
parliament to use military force to protect Russian citizens in
Ukraine, spurning Western pleas not to intervene.
Putin cited in his request a threat posed to Russian citizens and
military personnel based in southern Crimea.
Ukrainian officials have vehemently denied Putin's claim.
Opinion: Putin's move could be costly to U.S., Middle East
Western governments worried
The crisis set off alarm bells in the West and fueled a stern rebuke
from the leaders of the G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany,
Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In a statement Sunday, they condemned Russia's "clear violation of
the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," saying they
were temporarily suspending activities related to preparation for
June's G8 Summit in Sochi, Russia.
Canada recalled its ambassador to Moscow.
Senior Obama administration officials Sunday portrayed Russia's
intervention in Ukraine as weak, describing it in a conference call
with reporters as a kind of desperate measure from a man who
realizes he has lost support of the international community.
When asked what concrete measures the administration has taken to
signal its strong opposition to Russian involvement in Ukraine, the
officials noted that planning meetings about the upcoming G8 summit
in Sochi had been canceled. In the long term, economic sanctions
could be employed, they said. The officials declined to be more
specific about what those sanctions might involve.
In discussions over the weekend with Putin, Obama "made clear that
Russia's continued violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and
territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia's standing in
the international community," according to a statement released by
the White House.
During that call, one administration official said, Putin did not
"slam the door" to the idea that international monitors could travel
to Ukraine to make sure violence doesn't flare up, one official
According to the Kremlin, Putin told Obama that Russia reserves the
right to defend its interests in the Crimea region and the
Russian-speaking people who live there.
Obama met Sunday with his national security team and called U.S.
allies afterward, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he and Obama were of the
same mind when they spoke on Sunday.
"We agreed Russia's actions are unacceptable and there must be
significant costs if they don't change course," Cameron posted on
his verified Twitter account.
Cameron also planned to talk with Lithuanian President Dalia
Grybauskaite and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague arrived Sunday in Kiev,
where he will meet with Ukraine leaders.
Diplomatic language on Ukraine is short on specifics
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Concerns rise again over continued
bird flu outbreaks
Weeks have passed since Korea was first hit with a bird flu outbreak
that has since led to the culling of millions of ducks and chickens.
The issue had dropped out of the headlines just days before but
concerns are mounting that quarantine efforts have failed to
completely eradicate the virus.
Korea's agriculture ministry said Sunday that poultry are being
culled at a farm owned by the National Institute of Animal Science
in South Chungcheongnam-do province, after a duck was confirmed to
have died from the H-5-N-8 strain of the virus.
This isn't the only case, as reports of another outbreak in the
nation's southwestern South Jeollanam-do province led to the culling
of 70-thousand birds.
The total number of birds destroyed from this year's outbreak now
stands at above six-and-a-half million.
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Africa's hunger -
a systemic crisis
by Martin Plaut - BBC Africa analyst
More than half of Africa is now in need of urgent food assistance.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is warning that 27
sub-Saharan countries now need help.
But what appear as isolated disasters brought about by drought or
conflict in countries like Somalia, Malawi, Niger, Kenya and
Zimbabwe are - in reality - systemic problems.
It is African agriculture itself that is in crisis, and according to
the International Food Policy Research Institute, this has left 200
million people malnourished.
It is particularly striking that the FAO highlights political
problems such as civil strife, refugee movements and returnees in 15
of the 27 countries it declares in need of urgent assistance. By
comparison drought is only cited in 12 out of 27 countries.
The implication is clear - Africa's years of wars, coups and civil
strife are responsible for more hunger than the natural problems
that befall it.
In essence Africa's hunger is the product of a series of
interrelated factors. Africa is a vast continent, and no one factor
can be applied to any particular country. But four issues are
• Decades of underinvestment in rural areas, which have little
Africa's elites respond to political pressure, which is mainly
exercised in towns and cities. This is compounded by corruption and
mismanagement - what donors call a lack of sound governance.
"Poor governance is a major issue in many African countries, and one
that has serious repercussions for long-term food security," says a
statement by the International Food Policy Research Institute.
"Problems such as corruption, collusion and nepotism can
significantly inhibit the capacity of governments to promote
• Wars and political conflict, leading to refugees and instability.
In 2004 the chairman of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar
Konare, reminded an AU summit that the continent had suffered from
186 coups and 26 major wars in the past 50 years. It is estimated
that there are more than 16 million refugees and displaced persons
Farmers need stability and certainty before they can succeed in
producing the food their families and societies need.
• HIV/Aids depriving families of their most productive labour.
This is particularly a problem in southern Africa, where over 30% of
sexually active adults are HIV positive. According to aid agency
Oxfam, when a family member becomes infected, food production can
fall by up to 60%, as women are not only expected to be carers, but
also provide much of the agricultural labour.
• Unchecked population growth
"Sub-Saharan Africa 's population has grown faster than any region
over the past 30 years, despite the millions of deaths from the Aids
pandemic," the UN Population Fund says.
"Between 1975 and 2005, the population more than doubled, rising
from 335 to 751 million, and is currently growing at a rate of 2.2%
In some parts of Africa land is plentiful, and this is not a
problem. But in others it has had severe consequences.
It has forced farming families to subdivide their land time and
again, leading to tiny plots or families moving onto unsuitable,
In the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea some land is now so
degraded that there is little prospect that it will ever produce a
This problem is compounded by the state of Africa's soils.
In sub-Saharan Africa soil quality is classified as degraded in
about 72% of arable land and 31% of pasture land.
In addition to natural nutrient deficiencies in the soil, soil
fertility is declining by the year through "nutrient mining",
whereby nutrients are removed over the harvest period and lost
through leaching, erosion or other means.
Nutrient levels have declined over the past 30 years, says the
International Food Policy Research Institute.
The result is that a continent that was more than self sufficient in
food at independence 50 years ago, is now a massive food importer.
The book The African Food Crisis says that in less than 40 years the
sub-continent went from being a net exporter of basic food staples
to relying on imports and food aid.
In 1966-1970, net exports averaged 1.3 million tons of food a year,
"By the late 1970s Africa imported 4.4 million tonnes of staple
foods a year, a figure that had risen to 10 million tonnes by the
It said that since independence, agricultural output per capita
remained stagnant, and in many places declined.
Some campaigners and academics argue that African farmers will only
be able to properly feed their families and societies when Western
goods stop flooding their markets.
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