Monday, May 30, 2016

Islamic conversion and custody conundrum in Malaysia - AJE News

Islamic conversion and custody conundrum in Malaysia - AJE News: "Divorce is often fraught, but the breakdown of the kindergarten teacher's marriage was further complicated by her husband's decision to become a Muslim, converting their three children, including Prasana, without telling his wife.

He went to the Islamic court - Malaysia has a dual legal system - not only to seek a divorce, but also to secure custody of the children - even though Indira, as a Hindu, had no right to appear there.

Indira has challenged the unilateral conversion of her children through the civil courts. A series of decisions have gone in her favour, with judges granting her full custody of the children in 2010 and an annulment of their conversion in 2013."

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Europe announces that all scientific papers should be free by 2020 - ScienceAlert

Europe announces that all scientific papers should be free by 2020 - ScienceAlert: "This week was a revolutionary week in the sciences - not because we discovered a new fundamental particle or had a new breakthrough in quantum computing - but because some of the most prominent world leaders announced an initiative which asserts that European scientific papers should be made freely available to all by 2020.

This would legally only impact research supported by public and public-private funds, which are a vast portion of the papers produced annually; however, the goal is to make all science freely available.

Ultimately, the commitment rests on three main tenets: "Sharing knowledge freely", "open access", and "reusing research data"."

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Confronting the Parasite Economy

Confronting the Parasite Economy: "Of course, some will argue that the question is moot—that the labor market efficiently determines wages, not well-meaning CEOs or self-serving policymakers (or meddling know-it-alls like me), and that if a Sam’s Club cashier is worth $15 an hour, then that is what the labor market would force Sam’s Club to pay. “Supply and demand,” and all that.

That is nonsense. Take it from someone who has created dozens of businesses—people don’t get paid what they are “worth.” They get paid what they negotiate. We can all point to examples of CEOs who negotiated far more than they are worth, but there are many, many more people in our country who are worth far more than they negotiated.

That’s because more than any other market, the labor market is distorted by a profound imbalance of power between buyers and sellers; in fact, other than the small share of workers who have a collective-bargaining agreement, the vast majority of workers enjoy little bargaining power at all. Most workers have limited resources and immediate needs—to eat, to pay rent, to provide for their children—while most employers could leave any particular position unfilled indefinitely without suffering any personal hardship at all. As Adam Smith noted in The Wealth of Nations: “In the long run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate.”"

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Don't blur the lines between development and humanitarian work | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian

Don't blur the lines between development and humanitarian work | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian: "To most ears, I imagine that sounds pretty good. Inspirational, even; as thoughtful and as grand a dream as one can have. To my humanitarian ears, well, I hear alarm bells going off. And so did MSF.

The WHS misjudges the extent to which the distinctions between ‘humanitarian’ and ‘development’ form the lifeblood of the humanitarian endeavour. Making the SDGs the common overall results and accountability framework amounts to making over the ultimate goal of humanitarian action. Would you want ambulance teams to aim at strengthening the hospital system or improving nutrition? No. Should humanitarians be held accountable for ending hunger? No. They should be held accountable for feeding people who are starving."

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Brazil's Temer calls for unity, confidence for Brazil recovery | Reuters

Brazil's Temer calls for unity, confidence for Brazil recovery | Reuters: "Brazil's crisis brought a dramatic end to the 13-year rule of the Workers Party, which rode a wave of populist sentiment that swept South America starting around 2000 and enabled a generation of leftist leaders to leverage a boom in the region's commodity exports to pursue ambitious and transformative social policies.

But like other leftist leaders across the region, Rousseff discovered that the party, after four consecutive terms, overstayed its welcome, especially as commodities prices plummeted and her increasingly unpopular government failed to sustain economic growth."

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In Sierra Leone, short reconciliation ceremonies restore social ties | EurekAlert! Science News

In Sierra Leone, short reconciliation ceremonies restore social ties | EurekAlert! Science News: "Short, low-cost interventions can help communities to recover from a civil war, a new study evaluating the efficacy of a postwar reconciliation strategy in Sierra Leone shows. However, while the strategy created positive effects, it also had negative ones, suggesting policymakers need to restructure such processes. In a Perspective related to this study, Katherine Casey and Rachel Glennerster highlight the frequency of civil wars globally. "How can individuals and groups recover from such violent conflicts?" they ask. Efforts aimed at recovery are particularly daunting in developing nations, where resources are limited. While community-driven reconstruction efforts have shown some promise (namely related to improving infrastructure in such communities), they've been costly, and they've done little to promote trust among individuals. Meanwhile, truth and reconciliation process (whereby victims can air war-time grievances) continue to be promoted as methods for restoring social ties in war-torn communities, but researchers have little knowledge of whether and how such strategies - particularly those that induce person-to-person forgiveness - help societies heal"

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Obama administration to instruct schools to accommodate transgender students - The Washington Post

Obama administration to instruct schools to accommodate transgender students - The Washington Post: "The directive comes from two top administration officials: Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, and Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. It will put state and local officials and higher-education institutions on notice that they risk losing federal education aid if they limit students to areas or teams based on their gender assigned at birth."

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sow and you shall reap, Burkina advises jobless youth

Sow and you shall reap, Burkina advises jobless youth: "Ouagadougou (AFP) - The government of Burkina Faso, which is battling high unemployment, on Wednesday urged young people to return to the soil and take up farming, previously written off as the lot of losers.

In an appeal published in daily newspapers across the west African nation, the government said it wanted to "break with society's view of farming activities, previously seen as the last resort of men and women having tried everything else in life, in vain."

Declaring "the land doesn't lie" the government promised to supply 4,000 tonnes of seeds, 16,000 tonnes of fertiliser, 11,000 ploughs, carts and sowing machines and 6,000 draught animals to spur growth in the sector.

It also announced plans to set up a bank for farmers and boost the national network of agricultural advisors.

Agriculture is mainly a subsistence enterprise in Burkina Faso, one of Africa's poorest countries, which is prone to drought."

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Uganda arrests opposition leader ahead of Museveni's swearing in | Reuters

Uganda arrests opposition leader ahead of Museveni's swearing in | Reuters: "Ugandan police arrested opposition leader Kizza Besigye, just hours before the man he accuses of winning a sham election, Yoweri Museveni, is sworn in for a fifth term as president on Thursday.

A former guerrilla who seized power in 1986, Museveni, 71, was declared winner of the election in February with 60 percent of the vote, allowing him to extend his rule to 35 years.

Besigye, who got 35 percent of the vote, rejected the result, citing alleged rigging and other irregularities."

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I told myself: 'Get over yourself. Stop snivelling. Stop whining...' - Telegraph

I told myself: 'Get over yourself. Stop snivelling. Stop whining...' - Telegraph: "Here is another fragment from that lost time.
A friend telephones to ask how I am. The sun is shining. The sky is a merciless blue. It is only 11 in the morning but I have been awake since 3.20. Now I am back in bed but only because I can think of nowhere else to go. I say that I am feeling low. Low is the depressive's euphemism for despair, for the enveloping blackness at the bottom of the pit.
She says: "How can you be depressed on a day like this?" I want to say: "If I had flu, would you ask me how I could be sick on a day like this?" I say nothing. She means well. There are no words to explain my despair, the depth of my grief.
I cannot explain it myself."

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US sticking with calling Myanmar minority 'Rohingya'

US sticking with calling Myanmar minority 'Rohingya': "YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar and the United States appeared to agree to disagree Tuesday on what to call the Southeast Asian nation's beleaguered Muslim minority that Washington and most of the world know as Rohingya.

Many Buddhists inside Myanmar prefer to call them "Bengalis," arguing that the 1 million or so members of the minority are mostly illegal immigrants and not a native ethnic group. In fact, the families of many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations.

U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel said the U.S. calls communities by the name they themselves prefer.

"The normal U.S. practice and the normal international practice is that communities anywhere have the right, or have the ability to decide what they are going to be called. And normally when that happens, we would call them what they asked to be called. It's not a political decision, it's just a normal practice."

Because Myanmar does not officially recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, it denies most of them citizenship and basic rights. Conflict over land and resources in the western state of Rakhine, where most of the estimated 1 million Rohingya live, caused deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims which later spread to other parts of the country. More than 100,000 Rohingya were forced to flee their homes and now live in poor conditions in decrepit camps."

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Bangladesh hangs Islamist leader for rape and genocide in 1971 war

Bangladesh hangs Islamist leader for rape and genocide in 1971 war: "DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh hanged Islamist party leader Motiur Rahman Nizami on Wednesday for genocide and other crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, the law minister said, risking an angry reaction from his supporters.

Nizami, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was hanged at Dhaka Central jail just after midnight, Law Minister Anisul Haq told Reuters, after the Supreme Court rejected his final plea against a death sentence imposed by a special tribunal for genocide, rape and orchestrating the massacre of top intellectuals during the war.

Nizami, 73, a former legislator and minister during opposition leader Khaleda Zia's last term as prime minister, was sentenced to death in 2014.

Hundreds of people flooded the streets of the capital, Dhaka, to cheer the execution. "We have waited for this day for a long 45 years," said war veteran Akram Hossain. "Justice has finally been served.""

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Obama to pay historic visit to Hiroshima this month:The Asahi Shimbun

Obama to pay historic visit to Hiroshima this month:The Asahi Shimbun: "WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama will travel to Hiroshima this month in the first visit by a sitting American president to the site where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb.

The White House announced the visit in a statement Tuesday morning, saying Obama will visit along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a previously scheduled visit to Japan.

Obama's visit will "highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapon," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. The U.S. bombing at Hiroshima killed 140,000 Japanese on Aug. 6, 1945.

The president's visit has been widely anticipated since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the memorial to the Hiroshima bombing in April. Kerry toured the peace museum with other foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations."

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Millions in US aid to Syrians suspended over graft probe | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

Millions in US aid to Syrians suspended over graft probe | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR: "The U.S. Agency for International Development's independent government auditor said it had "established grounds resulting in the suspension of 14 entities and individuals involved with aid programs from Turkey."

Among the revelations, it said in a statement Friday, was "a network of commercial vendors, NGO employees, and others who have colluded to engage in bid-rigging and multiple bribery and kickback schemes related to contracts to deliver humanitarian aid in Syria."

USAID did not identify any of the charities, but among those affected are the International Medical Corps (IMC), the Irish charity Goal and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), headed by former British foreign minister David Miliband, humanitarian sources told AFP.

All the allegations relate to buying goods in Turkey, with NGOs systematically overpaying."

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Lyft settles with CA drivers for $27 million

Lyft settles with CA drivers for $27 million: "SAN FRANCISCO – Lyft will pay $27 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by drivers in California who said the ride-hailing service had misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees.

The case revolved around whether the drivers were entitled to reimbursement for expenses including gasoline and vehicle maintenance, which employees would be paid for but which independent contractors would not.

Uber, a much larger company also based in San Francisco, settled a similar suit late last month for a payout that could reach as much as $100 million."

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Smart infrastructure is the key to sustainable development

Smart infrastructure is the key to sustainable development

"But as nations set out to reflect these commitments in planning and budget processes, they face difficult choices: coal or renewables? Highways or public transport? Suburban sprawl or compact cities?
And the window for making such choices is narrow. Existing and projected carbon emissions show the urgency of implementing the Paris commitments. But infrastructure projects are time-consuming and long-lasting. Power plants, for example, take from five to 15 years to plan and build and can then last for half a century. And 70% of the forecast increase in emissions from developing countries is expected to come from infrastructure that has yet to be built.
This means that infrastructure decisions we make in the next few years could cement our ability to meet the Paris goals – or condemn us to a future in which global temperatures rise well above 2C. In the latter scenario, environmental conditions could be so hostile that development goes into reverse, leading to rising poverty and social conflict.
Unfortunately, infrastructure planning is largely disconnected from climate change agendas for many governments and the current economic downturn threatens to widen this disconnect."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

This Gorgeous, Sustainable "Leather" Is Made From Pineapple Waste | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

This Gorgeous, Sustainable "Leather" Is Made From Pineapple Waste | Co.Exist | ideas + impact: ""It's created from a byproduct of agriculture, meaning it's a total waste product," she says. "This really means that in order to have Piñatex, a textile, we don't have to use any land, water, pesticides, fertilizers ... we are actually taking a waste material and 'upscaling' it, meaning that we're giving it added value.""

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Classic rookie aid worker faux pas ... and how to avoid them | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian

Classic rookie aid worker faux pas ... and how to avoid them | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian: "All aid workers have been there. Stepping off the plane, squinting into unfamiliar light, a freshly signed contract clutched in our jet-lagged hands – freshly minted aid workers arriving on our first ever mission. Just as at home – whether you’re national or international staff – you’re desperate to impress. But forget getting stuck in the lift or spilling coffee down your new shirt, aid environments provide entirely new ways to screw up on your first day. Even when knee-deep in post-typhoon mud, first impressions are everything. So here’s our toolkit for not putting your newly-sandalled foot in your mouth."

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It's a fight for second place in California's US Senate race | The Sacramento Bee

It's a fight for second place in California's US Senate race | The Sacramento Bee: "The state's unusual election rules have spawned a low-key contest this spring to determine which candidates advance to the November election for the first open Senate seat in a generation. The quirky part: only the top two vote-getters in the June 7 primary move on.

The front-runner to replace retiring liberal icon Barbara Boxer is not in question: Democratic state Attorney General Kamala Harris got in early and everyone else is chasing her. For now, the battle is for second place.

That's where it gets more dicey.

Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, another Democrat, appears positioned to be the runner-up, setting up a potential November battle within the state's dominant political party. But several little-known Republicans are also in the mix, representing a possible, if distant, chance of a surprise on election day."

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Republican Party Unravels Over Donald Trump’s Takeover - The New York Times

Republican Party Unravels Over Donald Trump’s Takeover - The New York Times: "By seizing the Republican presidential nomination for Donald J. Trump on Tuesday night, he and his millions of supporters completed what had seemed unimaginable: a hostile takeover of one of America’s two major political parties.

Just as stunning was how quickly the host tried to reject them. The party’s two living former presidents spurned Mr. Trump, a number of sitting governors and senators expressed opposition or ambivalence toward him, and he drew a forceful rebuke from the single most powerful and popular rival left on the Republican landscape: the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan."

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Trump says he is open to raising taxes on the rich. GOP heresy? -

Trump says he is open to raising taxes on the rich. GOP heresy? - "In a move unexpected for a Republican presidential candidate, the party's presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, said Sunday he is open to raising taxes on wealthy Americans.  

"They'll go up," the billionaire told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week." "I don't mind paying more. I'll be honest with you."  

Trump's remarks Sunday morning represent a reversal of his tax plan he put out in September, which calls for giving wealthy Americans a tax break. The richest quarter of Americans would pay 25 percent of their income in taxes, compared to the present rate of 39.6 percent."

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Friday, May 6, 2016

When development economics undermines development

When development economics undermines development

Why the “who” and “how” of data production matters

Experiencing the desperate state of data collection and, more broadly, National Statistical Offices in many parts of low-income countries, was an eye-opening experience. These sorts of issues were never covered in any course material.
As a junior development economist, you are trained on sampling issues, how to design questionnaires, what secondary sources one should use and general aspects of “data quality.” Data are seen as a “resource” feeding into our econometric modelling—we are looking for “instruments” to deal with endogeneity and are concerned about getting enough “high quality data” as time series to allow more robust analysis. The randomized control trial movement is a particular case in point, with lots of data collection to check whether or not a certain intervention has been successful. These data collection efforts are sometimes undertaken with national partners, sometimes not. The “how” and “who,” as well as the broader governance of data collection, matters for many development outcomes: Leaving them out of our studies risks undermining development efforts.  

One illustrative example: The largely donor-driven process in defining indicators and collecting data for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) led to the omission of those national statistical systems whose staff questioned the relevancy of the global indicators for national policies, possibly leading to less policy action on the ground. If we take as an example maternal mortality, we find that, in several developing regions, the large majority of data pertaining to MDG 5 is produced by international agencies through modelling, while in the developed countries this data comes from national authorities. To put it differently, in countries with the highest incidence of maternal mortality, the data are largely modeled, while in those where the problem is less severe we can rely on country data. Only recently has a movement around civil registration and vital statistical systems been created to address this important data gap.

MSF to pull out of World Humanitarian Summit | Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International

MSF to pull out of World Humanitarian Summit | Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International: "Last year, 75 hospitals managed or supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) were bombed. This was in violation of the most fundamental rules of war which gives protected status to medical facilities and its patients, regardless if the patients are civilians or wounded combatants. Beyond the hospitals, civilians are being wounded and killed by indiscriminate warfare in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.  At the same time, the treatment of refugees and migrants in Europe and beyond has shown a shocking lack of humanity. A humanitarian summit, at which states, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations come together to discuss these urgent issues, has never been more needed. So the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) this month could have been a perfect opportunity.

MSF has been significantly engaged in the WHS process over the past 18 months, including preparing briefing notes on various themes – a sign of our willingness to be involved. The WHS has done an admirable job in opening up the humanitarian sector to a much wider group of actors, and leading an inclusive process.

However, with regret, we have come to the decision to pull out of the summit. We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations. Instead, the WHS’s focus would seem to be an incorporation of humanitarian assistance into a broader development and resilience agenda. Further, the summit neglects to reinforce the obligations of states to uphold and implement the humanitarian and refugee laws which they have signed up to."

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Barack Obama claims deficit has decreased by two-thirds since taking office | PolitiFact

Barack Obama claims deficit has decreased by two-thirds since taking office | PolitiFact: "Our ruling

Obama said since taking office the country has seen "our deficits cut by two-thirds."

His claim is accurate if you use 2009, his first year in office with an historically high deficit, as a starting point.

The claim ignores a stark reality about the deficits, however. The country’s spending is not expected to continue its downward route, according to federal forecasters, for factors that include increased interest payments on the debt and the lack of substantial policy changes for the country’s biggest programs, like Social Security and Medicare.

The deficits have largely come down as a result of the improved economy for which Obama cannot assume full credit.

We rate the claim Mostly True."

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Deficit shrinks by $1 trillion in Obama era | MSNBC

Deficit shrinks by $1 trillion in Obama era | MSNBC: "In the not-too-distant past, talk in the political world of the U.S. budget deficit was all the rage. As the Tea Party “movement” took shape, conservatives quite literally took to the streets to express their fear that President Obama and Democrats were failing to address the “out of control” deficit.
Congressional Republicans agreed. As recently as 2013, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was asked about the radicalism of his political agenda and he responded, “[W]hat I would say is extreme is a trillion-dollar deficit every year.” Around the same time, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) argued that Congress should be “focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.”
The Republican rhetoric was ridiculously wrong. We don’t have a trillion-dollar deficit; the deficit isn’t the ultimate problem; and it’s not growing.
Strong growth in individual tax collection drove the U.S. budget deficit to a fresh Obama-era low in fiscal 2015, the Treasury Department said Thursday.
For the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 the shortfall was $439 billion, a decrease of 9%, or $44 billion, from last year. The deficit is the smallest of Barack Obama’s presidency and the lowest since 2007 in both dollar terms and as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Keep in mind, in the Obama era, the deficit has shrunk by $1 trillion. That’s “trillion,” with a “t.” As a percentage of the economy, the deficit is now down to just 2.5%, which is below the average of the past half-century, and down from 9.8% when the president took office."

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Africa's Great Green Wall is making progress on two fronts

Africa's Great Green Wall is making progress on two fronts

“The Great Green Wall is about development; it’s about sustainable, climate-smart development, at all levels,” says Elvis Paul Tangam, the African Union Commissioner for theSahara and Sahel Great Green Wall Initiative.
Development at all levels means sustainable land management to provide jobs and money to keep people in their communities and able to thrive in a harsh climate. Tangam says it’s a matter of life or death for millions, particularly young men.
“Every young person wants to be valued,” Tangam says. “In the African context, every young person, especially a young man, has the responsibility to take care of their family.”
Tangam says idle young men, who have no work and have seen crops and animals die, face terrible choices. They might join rebel groups, or terrorist groups like Boko Haram or join the exodus of desperate migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean on rickety boats to find work in Europe.
The idea of the wall of trees, while a decade old, remains more vision than reality, yet Tangam says a lot has been achieved in terms of cooperation.

Will the development community face fallout from Malaysia's 1MDB corruption scandal? | Devex

Will the development community face fallout from Malaysia's 1MDB corruption scandal? | Devex: "Late in 2014, just over a month before its financial relationship with the United Nations was set to expire, the humanitarian news agency IRIN found a new benefactor.

The Hong Kong-based Jynwel Charitable Foundation seemed to appear out of thin air. It did so in the form of its founder and director, Jho Taek Low, a young Malaysian financier and member of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s inner circle. Low joined U.N. officials and IRIN’s management team at a U.N. press conference to announce a gift that would secure IRIN’s future: $25 million from Jynwel to the news agency, to be delivered to IRIN over 15 years. The donation allowed the well-regarded news outlet, whose future had been in doubt, to spin off from the U.N. and relaunch as an independent, nonprofit organization.

Known for hosting lavish parties, buying luxury real estate and collecting expensive works of art, Low, through the Jynwel Charitable Foundation, has reoriented his public image around global development’s social calendar and attracted attention as an emerging-market donor and partner to high-profile development groups."

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The Two Asian Americas - The New Yorker

The Two Asian Americas - The New Yorker: "These are just a few recent stories, of course, but they stand in for many others. Asian-Americans are still regarded as “other” by many of their fellow-citizens. And yet one finds among some Asian-Americans a reluctance to call out racist acts, in part because of their supposed privilege in comparison with other minority groups. Meanwhile, much of the history of Asians in America, a history that now spans nearly half a millennium, has been forgotten."

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The Forgotten Lessons of the American Eugenics Movement - The New Yorker

The Forgotten Lessons of the American Eugenics Movement - The New Yorker: "The Virginia Colony was one of many facilities for the disabled that were founded in the Progressive Era, partly to provide care for a vulnerable population and partly to remove it from the gene pool, by sequestering those individuals during their fertile years. (On the other side of the coin, Jill Lepore has written about how modern marriage therapy grew out of one man’s effort to promote “fit” unions.) Between 1904 and 1921, the rate of institutionalization for feeblemindedness nearly tripled. Carrie was just one of this crowd, except that she happened to arrive at the Virginia Colony right at the moment when its superintendent, Dr. Albert Priddy, was looking to transform his institution from a genetic quarantine center to a sort of eugenics factory, where the variously unfit could be committed for a short time, sterilized, and then released, like cats, back into the general population, with the happy assurance that they would never reproduce."

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California's smoking age raised from 18 to 21 under bills signed by Gov. Brown - LA Times

California's smoking age raised from 18 to 21 under bills signed by Gov. Brown - LA Times: "Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a pack of bills that will raise the smoking age in California from 18 to 21, restrict the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and expand no-smoking areas at public schools.

However, Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed counties to seek voter approval of local tobacco taxes to pay for healthcare expenses for those with tobacco-related illnesses.

“Although California has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the nation, I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot,” Brown wrote in his veto message for a bill authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica)."

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With Donald Trump in Charge, Republicans Have a Day of Reckoning - The New York Times

With Donald Trump in Charge, Republicans Have a Day of Reckoning - The New York Times: "Republican elected officials, donors and strategists grappled uncomfortably on Wednesday with the inevitability of Donald J. Trump as their presidential nominee, an unexpectedly sudden denouement that left many in a state of political paralysis and others vowing to oppose the party’s new standard-bearer.

While some called for unity, many Republican leaders refrained from falling in line behind Mr. Trump, with dozens avoiding inquiries about where they stood or saying they wanted Mr. Trump to detail his policies or tone down his language first. Others tied themselves in knots as they praised and criticized Mr. Trump in a single breath, or suggested that they could abide Mr. Trump but loathed his agenda."

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Food Theft in Italy May Not Be a Crime, Court Rules - The New York Times

Food Theft in Italy May Not Be a Crime, Court Rules - The New York Times: "ROME — Stealing food from a supermarket may not be a crime in Italy if you are homeless and hungry, the nation’s highest appeals court has ruled.

In a case that has drawn comparisons to“Les Misérables,” the Supreme Court of Cassation threw out the conviction of a homeless man from Ukraine, Roman Ostriakov, who was caught trying to take 4.07 euros — about $4.70 — worth of cheese and sausage from a store in Genoa without paying for it. A trial court sentenced him in February 2015 to six months in jail and a fine of €100.

“The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the merchandise theft took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of need,” and therefore the theft “does not constitute a crime,” the appellate court wrote in its decision, which was reported on Monday by the Italian news agency ANSA."

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