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Rihanna's Tweeting World Leaders About Their Plans To Fund Education

Mon, 2017-06-26 12:33

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We’ve known for a while now that Rihanna is a renaissance woman, but the singer’s most recent project is A+. She’s currently advocating for education funding worldwide, and calling out world leaders to get a move on it.

Over the course of the last few days, RiRi has tweeted messages at her “navy” (what she calls her fans), as well as Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s spokesman for the Federal Government Steffen Seibert, about their plans to #FundEducation.

Hey Navy – step up w/ me and be a @GlblCtzn ! Demand that #G20 leaders agree in July to support 4 @GPforEducation

— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 23, 2017

hey there @mauriciomacri, what's your plan for Argentina to commit to #FundEducation?

— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 23, 2017

@JustinTrudeau I know you had our backs during the #GlobalCitizen Festival, will you recommit Canada to #FundEducation?

— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 23, 2017

bonjour @EmmanuelMacron, will France commit to #FundEducation?

— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 23, 2017

Germany, I'm checking in to see where we are on the commitment to #FundEducation w/ @GPforEducation? @regsprecher, I'm depending on you!

— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 23, 2017

These tweets are further proof that Rihanna is pretty much America’s leader, since the woman is constantly using her fame to make a difference.

Just last year, she launched a scholarship to help citizens or natives of Brazil, Barbados, Cuba, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana and Jamaica attend college in the U.S. Earlier this year, she visited a school in Malawi to learn about the educational challenges students are facing there there. She’s the founder of the Clara Lionel Foundation, which along with Global Citizen and the Global Partnership for Education advocates for “effective education and health ​programs around the world.” Oh, and Harvard named her Humanitarian of the Year in March.

The tweets came about as part of Rihanna’s initiative to get G20 leaders to discuss how they will help the “121 million children and adolescents” who are currently “out of primary and lower secondary school worldwide” when they meet at the G20 Summit in Hamburg in July.

And the messages don’t appear to have been for naught. Macri, Trudeau, Seibert and even the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard (who Rih didn’t even tweet at!), have responded to her:

Hola @Rihanna! Education is in the central core of our political aims. Only education can change the world. @EstebanBullrich

— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) June 24, 2017

.@rihanna we've got your back! Thanks to @mclaudebibeau who made sure girls' education is in our feminist international development policy.

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 26, 2017

Hi @Rihanna, education is a key area of German development policy. We have nearly doubled spending since 2013.Thanks for spreading the word!

— Steffen Seibert (@RegSprecher) June 24, 2017

Thanks to @rihanna Global Ambassador for @GPforEducation - for urging #G20 leaders to #FundEducation …. JG

— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) June 24, 2017

Rihanna, along with the Global Partnership for Education, hopes the G20 leaders will fully support the GPE’s replenishment plan and secure $3.1 billion between 2018 and 2020.

She is truly always work, work, work, working. 

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Here's A Bunch Of Pics Of Justin Trudeau Marching At Toronto Pride Because... Swoon

Mon, 2017-06-26 11:38

Justin Trudeau seemed firmly committed to be the dreamiest ― and queer-friendliest ― public leader in the north-western hemisphere on Sunday. 

The Canadian Prime Minster began the day at a “Faith And Pride” ceremony at Toronto’s Metropolitan Community Church.

At @mcctoronto's Faith + Pride service this morning - thanks to Reverend Hawkes for an inspiring service & all the best in your retirement.

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 25, 2017

He then marched in the Toronto Pride Parade, along with his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and their children Xavier and Ella-Grace.

Trudeau, who was decked out in Ramadan-themed socks which read “Eid Mubarak” and wore a rainbow maple leaf on his cheek, spoke to reporters before the parade began about his presence at the annual event.

“We celebrate the multiple layers of identities that make Canada extraordinary and strong and today we celebrate with the entire LGBTQ community,” he said.

PM Justin Trudeau speaks ahead of Pride parade #PrideTO

— Erica Vella (@ericavella) June 25, 2017

Trudeau also tweeted out photos from the parade with the caption “Love is love”:

Love is love. #PrideTO

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 25, 2017

Earlier this month Trudeau celebrated Pride in Canada with a ceremony that included raising the rainbow flag and transgender flag above the country’s parliament building. He also promised to introduce legislation later this year that would “acknowledge and apologise for the historical discrimination" LGBTQ Canadians have faced in the past.

“I believe that it’s essential to make amends for past wrongs, and not to simply gloss over them,” Trudeau said. “Our government believes in equality and equal treatment for all Canadians. We will passionately defend the rights of all our citizens regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Trudeau’s American counterpart, President Donald Trump, on the other hand, neglected to offer an official proclamation designating June as Pride Month in the United States. This is the first time in eight years that no such proclamation has been offered. Trump did offer six other proclamations for June, including “National Homeownership Month” and ”National Ocean Month.” 

This month also marks the first time in over two decades that the White House did not host an iftar dinner, the meal Muslims eat to break their daily fast during Ramadan.

Below, check out more photos of Trudeau looking adorable and affirming at Toronto Pride.

Wonder Woman is on site for #Prideto #toronto @PrideToronto

— Adam Scotti (@AdamScotti) June 25, 2017

Justin Trudeau at pride Toronto! ❤️ ✌️ #PrideTO #goals #Liberals @JustinTrudeau

— Julie Service (@JServii) June 25, 2017

They marched in the @PrideToronto parade as a family. Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau his wife, Sophie Grégoire, and children.

— Devin Heroux (@Devin_Heroux) June 25, 2017


— Dan Schaumann (@danschaumann) June 25, 2017

Happy #PrideTO @JustinTrudeau @PrideToronto @PeelSchools #diversity #pride #Toronto #sikh #EqualityForAll @PeelEquity @Canada

— Jiwan (@jiwanjotgill) June 25, 2017

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How The Gas Industry Can Help Fight Climate Change In Siberia

Mon, 2017-06-26 11:06

Andrew Hopkins, Australian National University

Permafrost is the layer of permanently frozen earth – over a 1,000 metres thick in some places – that lies just beneath the land surface in Arctic regions. It formed over the past few million years when ice ages predominated.

Now, under the influence of global warming, it is melting. And research suggests that this may have reached the point of triggering runaway climate change, unless we can find ways to intervene.

The problem is that permafrost contains huge amounts of methane, anatural gas that’s being progressively released as the ice melts. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, having up to 80 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide.

We can’t stop this process, but could we capture the methane as it is released? It just so happens that the gas industry has the technology to do just this, and join the fight against climate change.

Trouble on the tundra

Scientists working in northern Siberia announced in March this year that they had identified some 7,000 small hillocks created by methane that has been released underground and is pushing the ground upwards. The hillocks are between 50 and 100 metres across.

In 2014, scientists also started discovering strange craters in the landscape, which appear to have been formed as a result of explosions. It seems that the pressure inside the hillocks builds up until a huge methane bubble is released with explosive force. These violent gas releases are dangerous to people and infrastructure, and scientists are working on ways of estimating the local threat.

Similar mounds have been discovered in the shallow waters off the Siberian shelf, and in 1995 a drilling vessel accidentally drilled into one, releasing a vast bubble of methane that almost sank the vessel.

“Leaking pingos ‘can explode under the sea in the Arctic, as well as on land’”

— nextlinkinfo (@nextlinkinfo) November 25, 2015


These releases have global consequences. They are a massive new source of greenhouse gas, making runaway climate change more likely. And there’s something that the gas industry could do about it.

The right kind of mining

The industry is already experienced in collecting coal seam and shale gas from large numbers of widely distributed, relatively small wells. It should be possible to use the same technology to tap into these massive gas bubbles before they burst, collect the methane and transport it to market.

If this turns out not to be commercially viable, internationally funded subsidies may be needed to provide an incentive to the gas industry.

If there is no prospect at all of marketing the gas, at least it could be flared - burnt - converting methane into CO₂ This would be far better environmentally than allowing the methane to escape. But it would need to be fully funded by governments.

Petroleum companies, meanwhile, are considering mining reserves of frozen methane that lie far below the surface of the Arctic, and that are unlikely to be released by natural processes in the foreseeable future.

In order to be exploitable, these stable reserves need to be stimulated in various ways, such as by pumping hot water underground. But if gas producers were to focus on these stable reserves of methane, they would contribute to climate change rather than help combat it.

Any scheme to encourage gas companies to take up the challenge identified here would need to guard against this possibility.

And now the sea bed

A second type of methane release has also been discovered, coming from the Arctic seabed. The area is shallow, with an average depth of 50 metres, and was once dry land. At that time, it froze to great depth.

Now beneath the sea, it is thawing in particular spots known as taliks.

The result is that areas of the sea floor – some about a 100 metres across and others up to a kilometre across – are releasing streams of small methane bubbles that are rising to the surface in continuous fountains, and escaping into the atmosphere.

Arctic methane gas emission 'significantly increased since 2014' - major new research.

— HDWOOL™ (@HD_WOOL) October 7, 2016

Russian scientists have been monitoring these releases for several years and their most recent research, published in late 2016 , shows that the area from which this seepage is occurring has expanded.

They conclude that the rate of permafrost degeneration may have increased. They also note that the amount of methane being released from the Arctic seabed is comparable with that being released from the tundra.

For the continuous fountains of methane being released from the Arctic seabed, it should be possible to place domes over the escaping gas and bring it to the surface in a controlled fashion.

The gas industry already has the technology to do this. But this technology aims to stimulate the release of methane that might not otherwise be released.

Again, this would be counterproductive from an environmental point of view. So again, if the industry were to receive a subsidy for harvesting methane in this way and transporting it to market, or at the very least flaring it, controls would need to be in place to ensure that no additional methane was being harvested beyond that which would have been released in the normal course of events.

It’s now widely believed that even if human emissions of greenhouse gasses could be reduced to zero in the near future, it wouldn’t be enough to prevent catastrophic global warming. One of the additional steps we need to take is to curtail naturally occurring emissions.

Given the rate of technological change occurring in the renewable energy industry, the role of gas as a transition fuel may not last as long as the industry hopes. But if it can find a way to harvest methane escaping from the melting permafrost, it will have assured itself a longer term future.

The Paris Climate Summit envisaged developed countries finding US$100 billion a year to subsidise the efforts of developing countries to reduce greenhouse emissions. If that kind of money could be found to fund the capture of Arctic methane emissions, then the projects sketched above could become feasible.

Andrew Hopkins, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Climate Change Could Threaten Up To 2 Billion Refugees By 2100

Mon, 2017-06-26 11:02

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Charles Geisler, a sociologist at Cornell University, spent much of his career researching where poor people go when rich corporations swoop in and buy the land out from under their feet.

But his focus began to shift in 2005, after observing how storm surges tainted farmland in Bangladesh with salt water. Later that year, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, submerging communities once believed to be safe behind levees and dikes. As floodwaters inundated Vietnam’s Mekong Delta last year, Geisler’s new worldview came into sharp relief.

The rising sea, he surmised, is the one displacement force more powerful than greed.

Geisler began collating climate and demographic research, and came to a dire conclusion: By the year 2100, rising sea levels could force up to 2 billion people inland, creating a refugee crisis among one-fifth of the world’s population.

Worse yet, there won’t be many places for those migrants to go.

His findings appear in the July issue of the journal Land Use Policy.

“We have a pending crisis,” Geisler, a professor emeritus of development sociology at Cornell, told HuffPost. “This relocation and huge mass migration from the coastal zone, it’s going to take place in this century and the next century.”

To get the 2 billion figure, Geisler extrapolated from a 2015 study published in the journal PLOS One. That research predicted that by 2060, there would be some 1.4 billion people living in low-lying coastal regions at risk from sea level rise. Drawing from nearly a dozen other studies, Geisler and his co-author, the University of Kentucky climate researcher Ben Currens, modeled what he called a “rather extreme scenario.”

“The paper is the worst-case scenario,” Geisler said. “We looked for estimates in these various barriers to entry that were coming from the most draconian changes that could hit us from climate change and sea level rise.”

Geisler outlined three obstacles, or “barriers to entry,” to relocating people driven inland from their homes by rising seas. The first problem is that climate change isn’t just affecting coastal communities. Droughts and desertification could make areas safe from sea level rise uninhabitable at worst, and incapable of sustaining a large influx of migrants at best, Geisler said. The second issue is closely linked: If climate refugees flock to cities, increasing the urban sprawl into land once used to farm food, those metropoles could lose the ability to feed their inflated populations.

The third issue involves physical and legal barriers, meaning regions and municipalities might erect walls and post guards to prevent climate migrants from entering and settling down. Geisler dubbed this phenomenon the “no-trespass zone.”

Geisler warned that too much of the conversation around climate adaptation is focused on building sea walls, learning to live with regular flooding, and relocating communities inland, as has happened in Alaska. These limited ideas of “adaptation” could leave humanity woefully unprepared for a mass migration that Geisler said could dwarf the current refugee crisis in Europe, driven by war, poverty and drought-linked famine in regions south and east of the continent. At least 65.6 million people have fled their homes, and the United Nations estimates that 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute by war and persecution alone. Adding unfettered climate change to that mix threatens to yield human catastrophe on a scale that is difficult to describe without sounding bombastic.

The U.S. is particularly at risk. Millions of mainland Americans could be forced to flee inland, sending the populations of at least nine coastal states downward, according a University of Georgia study released in April. Texas alone could have to take in as many as 2.5 million internal migrants.

The rising sea, he surmised, is the one displacement force more powerful than greed.

“My hope is that this paper will reorient planners and policymakers who use the term ‘adaptation’ in a very narrow way,” Geisler said. “It’s used either to mean fortifying coastal structures to keep the sea off the land, or it’s used to refer to moving a population from a coastal zone in some organized way.”

There are better ways to prepare, he said. He pointed to four counties in South Florida that began sharing hydrological data and research on the rate of sea level rise, then drafted a joint evacuation plan. Dealing with the possible results of runaway climate change requires “transboundary” planning, he said.

“Climate change is going to be with us for a long time, and the coastal zone population is going to be overwhelming as it moves inland,” Geisler said. “How are we going to employ these people? Where are we going to house them? What energy sources are they going to need?”

“Bottom line: Far more people are going to be living on far less land, and land that is not as fertile and habitable and sustainable as the low-elevation coastal zone,” he added. “And it’s coming at us faster than we thought.”

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The Obamas Went Rafting In Bali And They're Clearly Having A Blast

Mon, 2017-06-26 09:52

Anything a member of the Obama family does is major news. So when the entire group is spotted together ― engaging in water sports and wearing matching rafting gear, no less ― you can consider the internet broken. 

Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama were spotting on a rafting trip Monday during a vacation to Indonesia, and it is truly a delight for all the senses.

Just look how happy they are, rafting down the Ayung river in Bali.  

Check out the former president rafting into the future and away from the current state of U.S. politics: 

The activity surely fits into Michelle Obama’s summer fitness program. The former first family is currently enjoying a 10-day trip to Indonesia, where Obama spent some of his childhood. He moved there at age 6 when his mother married an Indonesian man, and stayed until he moved to Hawaii to live with his grandparents at age 10. 

The Obamas will also visit the ancient city Yogyakarta and President Obama will address the Indonesian Diaspora Congress in July, the Associated Press reports. 

On Sunday, the group visited Bali’s Jatiluwih rice terraces. 

Here’s hoping for even more family photo ops to come. 

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This Former MTV Icon Found Inner Peace Through Islam

Sat, 2017-06-24 10:29

BERLIN/LONDON ― In her early 20s, Kristiane Baker was having the time of her life. She was living her dream as a presenter for MTV Europe, brushing shoulders with celebrities like Mick Jagger and Bono on a regular basis ― and getting paid to do it. From the outside, it was everything she had ever hoped for. But on the inside, she sometimes felt a crushing sense of depression and anxiety that she couldn’t shake.

And then she met Imran Khan, the famous Pakistani cricketer who through music would lead her to Islam and a new sense of inner peace.  

“He was my introduction to Islam,” she said of Khan. “I like to say I wasn’t looking, I was found.”

As a German growing up in Hamburg, Backer had always been passionate about the arts, so when she heard a qawwali, the devotional form of music often associated with Sufi Islam, during a trip to Pakistan to visit Khan, it was no surprise that she was intrigued and moved by its beauty. What was different this time though, was the depth she experienced with every note. Each lyric seemed connected to a higher form of love that could not be felt between humans.

Beyond the music, Backer said she was “very much touched by the humanity of the people, by the hospitality, by the warmth,” in Pakistan. Everyone she came across, no matter what their financial situation, was willing to donate funds to Khan’s charity project, a cancer hospital in Lahore.

“We met people who were very poor in the mountains, in the northern areas of Pakistan, who welcomed us with generosity,” she said. “Men in rags with teeth missing dropped a few rupees into Imran’s hands ― for the hospital. Women took off their jewelry and donated it for the hospital.”

'I like to say I wasn’t looking, I was found.'

Backer was in awe. She was taken aback by the stark difference between the attitudes she experienced in the entertainment industry life, especially the superficiality of Western pop music, and the spirituality she witnessed in Pakistan.

It would be three years before she finally converted to Islam, but the trip had struck a chord.

Backer began researching about Islam, spending many days with Khan constantly exposed to his religion and way of life. This, she would later admit, helped her to spiritually awaken and discover a way of life that she could truly identify with.

“I read a lot of books, and what I discovered was mind-blowing,” she said. “It was like a whole new universe. I was intrigued from the first book I read, and I wanted to know more. I realized … there is one God ... and that we’re self-responsible for our own deeds and [that] babies are born pure, not as sinners. ... I also learned how verses from the Quran can help me in my daily life.”

Backer was inspired by it all.

“I was convinced,” she continued. “I converted because I wanted to bring God into my life, and I wanted to purify myself to taste the spiritual fruits I was reading about.”

But just as Backer’s interest in Islam was growing, something in her life shifted again. Khan, the man she had hoped to marry, abruptly ended their relationship and married another woman.

At that point, Backer no longer had a direct reason to understand Islam. If she had recoiled against Khan and his religion, it would have been understandable. Instead, she embraced the faith without skipping a beat and converted.

Islam provided Backer with the solace and strength to remain dignified throughout Khan’s instant and very public marriage to another woman. What began as a journey of discovery prompted by love for a man became a discovery of eternal love for someone else: God.

It was her newly adopted faith that helped Backer reconcile life in a glitzy pop icon world ― where she had previously felt unsure of her place ― and find meaning in European culture. There were no more clouds in her life; the confusion and inner conflict had lifted.

A Rocky Conversion

Backer, now 51, is one of the most well-known German converts to Islam. But sadly, her conversion was not well-received by everyone at home. 

“When it became known that I am a Muslim, a very negative press campaign followed,” Backer said. “I was an award-winning TV presenter, a popular icon over there for over seven years, and suddenly I was accused of being a supporter of terrorism. The papers suggested I had lost the plot. … Soon after, I was sacked from all my TV programs and practically lost my entertainment career in Germany.”

'It’s fine if you … have a piercing in your tummy and wear miniskirts, but it’s not fine to wear long clothes and a headscarf? That’s wrong.'

This reaction had surprised Backer, because while she did enjoy an increased sense of modesty in her Muslim life, she had never associated Islam with the compulsion to wear burqas or found the stereotype of repression of women in the religion to ring true in her personal experience.

“The first thing I changed was my sense of dress a little bit,” she said. “I ditched the miniskirts … I felt more feminine … Who needs those whistles on the streets?”

“I was working in this industry where the motto was: ‘If you’ve got it flaunt it,'" she continued. “And now [I was] suddenly learning about the concept of modesty. You know, how it’s actually more dignified for a woman to cover her assets and not show them to everybody.”

But others didn’t seem to understand her abrupt identity change. She found the double standard towards Muslim women confusing.

“It’s fine if you … show your tummy and have a piercing in your tummy and wear miniskirts, but it’s not fine to wear long clothes and a headscarf? That’s wrong.”

Her parents also held these unfair perceptions of Islam, and though they loved her in spite of her conversion, they struggled to move beyond them. 

“They had some serious prejudices against Islam and especially Muslim men ― prejudices that Imran’s way of ending our relationship had only confirmed,” Backer recalled. “I tried to explain to them that I had discovered the religion for myself and had made it my own. Imran had merely opened the door for me … My father even mentioned the word ‘pantheism’ ― in his view, Muslims wanted to take over the whole world. He eventually asked me to stop talking about Islam and from then on, the topic became taboo in the house.”

The reactions frustrate her to this day. In Backer’s experience, German identity is not all that different from Islamic identity, so why should she have to choose between the two?

“Being German,” she said, “doesn’t mean drinking beer and being nationalistic. I wholeheartedly believe and know that Islamic values are compatible not only with German values, [but] with European values generally. Islam is a religion for all times and all worlds ― and therefore also for Europeans in our day and age. I’m living proof.”

And the Germans before her were proof as well, Backer said. In embracing Islam and Eastern culture, she was merely following in the footsteps of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Martin Heidegger and Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller ― German thinkers who were influenced by Eastern and Islamic texts, including those by Persian poets Jalaluddin Rumi and Hafez.

But Backer’s own convictions couldn’t change the perceptions at home, and she found many German doors closed on her. She decided to relocate permanently to London, where she had converted, and continued working as a broadcaster.

In England, Backer found a much different reception to her adopted religious identity. Despite continued Islamophobia across Europe, the United Kingdom had a more established group of Muslims working across the country. This was largely due to the fact that a number of Muslims in England had often come to the country for educational and intellectual pursuits, whereas those entering Germany historically came as guest workers, she said.

'I wholeheartedly believe and know that Islamic values are compatible not only with German values, [but] with European values generally.'

But life as a Muslim here isn’t entirely easy, especially as a convert. There is a sense of community among Muslims in general, Backer said, which makes the climate for converts in particular quite lonely.

“We are a minority within the minority. Where do we pray? Which mosque do we go to, the Pakistani, the Persian or the Turkish mosque?”

Instead of feeling included in one of those ethnic groups, converts sometimes find themselves pushed aside for not being Muslim enough, or regarded as trophies that other Muslims flaunt around at parties and events, with little regard for the person themselves, she said.

For Backer, the lack of acceptance from her family, as well as the sense of rejection from within the Muslim community, is one of the reasons she is determined to maintain her role as a prominent Muslim TV presenter in England ― a career path that she thinks will help change perceptions of Islam in the West.  

“Do your job ― whatever you do ― really well so people admire you,” is the advice she gives Muslims struggling to assimilate in Western society today. “Remember [that] whatever you do, … you are not only a servant of God, but also an ambassador of Islam,” she said.

But Backer knows that Muslims doing good in their own communities can only go so far, so as a member of the media, she constantly advocates for stronger and more accurate representations of Muslims in pop culture.

“Nowadays,” she said in light of the disproportional and often Islamophobic coverage of terrorist acts, Muslims need “to compensate for the news coverage in other sections of the media, to make documentaries on Muslim culture and have Muslims characters featured on soap operas.”

This need for a more accurate representation of Islam and Muslims is why she published a book about her journey to the faith. With From MTV to Mecca: How Islam Inspired My Life, Backer aspires to show Europeans that outside of the terror and suppression they see on the news, the majority of Muslims are in fact normal, wholesome and productive members of their society.

And she has already seen results. In her newfound role as a spokesperson for Islam in Europe, she’s noticed some attitudes in Germany toward her greatly improving.

Yet the future of Islam rests on the youth in the community, not her, Backer said. Young Muslims, she stressed, must teach the world that Islam is a modern religion and show people that it’s not something backward or incompatible with the West.

“Islam here in Europe is a little fossilized, and it is up to the young people to take this forward and to really look into the sources of Islam, study the religion thoroughly through contemporary and classical scholars. And then educate not only the mainstream society, but even their own parents, because I tell you, I’m always so shocked when I hear young Muslims here are losing their faith.”

'It’s befriending other people; it’s reaching out. That is how I became a Muslim. Because I was touched by the generosity and friendship of the Muslims I met.'

Ultimately, Backer said, it’s about making others understand the faith and closing the empathy gap, like Imran Khan did with her all those years ago in Pakistan.

“It’s befriending other people; it’s reaching out,” she said. “That is how I became a Muslim. Because I was touched by the generosity and friendship and the wonderful manners of the Muslims who I met.”

Her parting advice to Western Muslims, convert and otherwise?: “Never retreat just in your own Muslim bubble … Mix with mainstream society.”

If professional Muslims in the West “suddenly roll up their prayer mat in their offices and step away to pray or fast on Ramadan,” colleagues will be exposed to Islam, she said. “And [this is how they] will understand it better. ”

After all, Backer said: “The beautiful values of Islam and the teaching[s] of our noble Prophet [Muhammad] are [some] of the best-kept secrets in the West. ... [It’s] time we lift that veil.”

* * *

This Ramadan has been an especially trying month for Muslims. Long summer days without food or water have been made all the more challenging given such tragedies as the attack on a mosque in London, the heartbreaking story of young Nabra in Virginia, who was on her way to the mosque to start her fast when she was bashed to death with a baseball bat, and the numerous attacks on innocent civilians in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries in the Muslim world. The only antidote to the despair brought on by such suffering and violence is the message of Ramadan ― a message of compassion, of unity and of spiritual connection to our fellow human beings and to God.

I hope that the stories in this series of Western Muslim converts reveal how every individual is constantly seeking spiritual fulfillment. In our case, these individuals have found their spiritual home and solace. I pray that the readers of this series, in their own way, through their own traditions, also find the spiritual solace they are seeking.

Although the month of fasting has come to an end, we need more than ever to keep the message of Ramadan alive. Muslims across the world are marking the end of this holy month this weekend with the festival of Eid al-Fitr and a message of “Eid Mubarak.” So to all of you, Muslim and non-Muslim, I wish to extend these greetings of compassion and unity to you as we end our series. Eid Mubarak!

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This Airline Lets You Pay A Little Extra For 'Neighbor-Free' Seats

Fri, 2017-06-23 17:42

Seatmate uncertainty is one of the most daunting parts of air travel. Who knows if you’ll be assigned a spot next to someone smelly and annoying, or nobody at all?!

Etihad Airways lets passengers guarantee the latter with “neighbor-free” seating in economy class, it announced this week. The program lets travelers pay extra to keep the seats surrounding theirs empty to secure some extra elbow room or even an entire row for lie-flat napping.

Here’s how it works: Before a flight, a passenger can place a bid online for one, two or three seats next to theirs, depending on the type of plane and how full it is. It’s not guaranteed they’ll score any extra space, according to Etihad, but they’ll receive a confirmation 32 hours before the flight. If the bid is accepted, the passenger pays for keeping the extra seat or seats empty and enjoys some bonus space. If not, they’re out of luck.

An Etihad spokesperson wouldn’t confirm how much “neighbor-free seats” are going for. There are minimum and maximum bidding amounts for each flight, according to the carrier’s website, but it doesn’t specify what those prices are.

“Neighbor-free” bidding is among moves the Abu Dhabi-based airline is making to generate more revenue streams in a difficult Middle East market, Bloomberg notes. Etihad flies into the U.S. through Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C.

Indeed, airlines have found all sorts of creative ways to play with profits lately, like shrinking seats to fit more passengers and introducing “no frills” tickets that come at a cheaper upfront cost but tack on extra fees for necessities like checked bags.

This latest offer, however, has us intrigued. And ready for some elbow room. 

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Weekend Roundup: Spotlight On The Apprentice

Fri, 2017-06-23 15:01

It is where Donald Trump’s reality-TV persona from “The Apprentice” meets his presidency that he can make the most significant difference for the “left behind” constituencies that voted for him. Last week, President Trump issued an executive order calling for the doubling of funding for apprenticeship grants in the United States ― a key area, like infrastructure, where a consensus can be built across America’s divided politics.

In an interview with The WorldPost this week, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers makes Trump’s case: “We don’t do anything for people who don’t go to college. They are left to either sink or swim, and mostly they sink. I’m thinking here of the kind of vocational apprentice arrangements that Germany has implemented successfully.” Summers also argues for international economic policies that benefit the average person more than the global corporations, such as closing tax loopholes and shutting down tax havens as a priority over securing intellectual property protection for pharmaceutical companies. “Right now,” he says, “when we discuss the global economy, we mainly talk about things that improve ‘competitiveness’ and are painful to the regular worker.”

Alongside greater investment in public higher education, on-the-job vocational training is essential to creating workforce opportunities not only in a global economy, but, more importantly, when faced with the perpetual disruptions of digital capitalism. As economist Laura Tyson points out, “about 80 percent of the loss in U.S. manufacturing jobs over the last three decades was a result of labor-saving and productivity-enhancing technological change, with trade coming a distant second.” Constantly adjusting to an ever-shifting recomposition of the knowledge-driven innovation economy is only possible if skills remain aligned to the needs of employers.

Brookings Institution policy analyst Mark Muro thinks the president managed to get the big things right with his executive order. “In noting that a four-year college degree isn’t for everyone,” Muro writes, “he spoke reasonably about the potential of paid, hands-on workplace experiences that train workers and link them to employers. In addition, Trump rightly underscored the need for industry — rather than the government — to play the largest role in structuring those experiences.” Tamar Jacoby, president of Opportunity America, a Washington-based nonprofit working to promote economic mobility, concurs that industry, not government, knows best what skills they need. “After more than two years of unlikely promises — to restore coal mining, end offshoring and recreate the manufacturing jobs of a bygone era,” writes Jacoby, “the president is finally focusing on a solution that could make a difference for the working-class voters who elected him: skills.” 

Writing from Munich on her way to an international gathering on apprenticeships, Jobs for the Future’s Nancy Hoffman emphasizes that the most successful programs “combine structured learning in a workplace with credit-bearing community college course-taking so that a student arrives at completion of the apprenticeship not just with job-related skills, but with a useable transferable credential as well.” Joshua Pearce, who heads Michigan Tech’s Open Sustainability Technology Lab, completes the picture. “A relatively minor investment in retraining,” he says, “would allow the majority of coal workers to switch to solar-related positions.”

But not everyone is completely on board. McKinsey & Company’s Mona Mourshed offers a cautious note: only around 30 percent of youth employment programs have proven effective, according to World Bank estimates. “The hallmarks of an effective program,” she writes, “are employer engagement, a practice-based curriculum, student support services and a commitment to measuring results post-program.”

Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek is even more skeptical that the U.S. can replicate the successful German model of apprenticeship, because failing K-12 schools in America are not providing young people entering the workforce with the requisite cognitive skills to effectively prepare them for an uncertain future.

Bolstering vocational apprenticeship programs in the U.S. is imperative to enabling non-college-educated Americans to find work in a continually churning economy. But, clearly, much work will have to be done to realize that imperative itself.

Other highlights in The WorldPost this week:



EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Rosa O’Hara is the Social Editor of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at HuffPost, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Nick Robins-Early and Jesselyn Cook are World Reporters.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as theAdvisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei KudrinPascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon MuskPierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel RoubiniNicolas SarkozyEric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter SchwartzAmartya SenJeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry SummersWu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony BlairJacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar IssingMario MontiRobert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.

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Wonder Woman: Feminist Icon Or Symbol Of Oppression?

Fri, 2017-06-23 11:20

Lina Abirafeh, Lebanese American University

It’s been a busy – and controversial – year for Wonder Woman.

In October 2016, the United Nations made a curious appointment: Wonder Woman would be the global organisation’s new Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment, aligned with the launch of a new campaign to fuel Sustainable Development Goal number five, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.

The announcement, which coincided with Wonder Woman’s 75th birthday and a new Hollywood super-production about the comic book character, was met with a great deal of criticism.

While the fictional feminist icon has long been a representative of strong, liberated women, her Western appearance, sexualised image and unrealistic beauty don’t resonate with millions of young women around the world. They’re actually alienating.

Feminists skewered the decision. Was the UN implying that no flesh-and-blood woman was up to the task?

Over 44,000 people signed a petition resulting in “one less woman in politics”. Just as quickly as she’d got it, Wonder Woman lost her job.

What’s a feminist?

She’s still winning at the box office though. The film, released on June 2, has already brought in US$571 million worldwide.

Director Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman is being hailed as a “masterpiece of subversive feminism”. It is the first time since 1984’s Supergirl that a female superhero has anchored a film.

This woman-directed, woman-led film tells a story of justice, of a character who fights evil forces for the greater good. As Wonder Woman, Gal Godot overcomes the trite “damsel in distress” narrative and rescues her own damn self. But are we being overly generous with the feminist label here?

In a recent article, the Hollywood Reporter said that Warner Bros had created “what one might describe as a postfeminist Wonder Woman”, with Jenkins “temper[ing] the character’s traditional strength with vulnerability.”

Even Gadot, the film’s Israeli star, is quoted as saying, “Credit Patty for not turning [Wonder Woman] into a ballbuster” – not the most feminist of concepts.

Rather than represent real women, Wonder Woman satisfies the societal image of the ideal woman. Inhumanly strong, super sexy and bolstered by her exceptionalism, Wonder Woman is a “walking contradiction of the competing demands placed on women’s shoulders today”.

How many actual women or girls around the world can live up to Wonder Woman as a role model? Would we even want them to?

Also lacking in laudatory reviews of Wonder Woman is the idea of intersectionality – the acknowledgement that women’s multiple identities (not just sex but also gender identity, race, class, sexual orientation, religion and others) expose them to numerous forms of oppression.

Why haven’t feminists noted that the film is, quite simply, too Western and too white?

Meanwhile in Lebanon

In Lebanon, where I currently live and work, Wonder Woman was banned nationwide, upsetting fans, shocking civil liberties groups and raising concerns about government censorship.

The decision is based on the Israel Boycott Law of 1955, which prohibits economic relations with Israel, “an enemy state”, including with any “institutions or persons having residence in Israel”. Actress Gal Godot is clearly among them.

Lebanon and Israel have a long history of conflict (the most recent flare-up occurred in 2006), and Lebanon forbids its citizens from travelling to Israel. It also prohibits entry to anyone with an Israeli passport stamp and forbids the purchase of Israeli products.

More than a political disagreement, the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon explains, this is “resistance against occupation”, which is to say that the ban isn’t about Israelis or Judaism but rather about the government-supported Zionist project that has resulted in human rights violations against Palestine and the Palestinian people.

But enforcement of the law is uneven. Hewlett-Packard and Coca-Cola, supposedly banned, are actively operating here, and Lebanon has previously screened films featuring Israeli actors, including Star Wars (with Natalie Portman) and the Fast and Furious series (with Gal Gadot).

Nor is the Lebanese government consistent in supporting the Palestinian people. Palestinians here are routinely denied access to jobs, healthcare and citizenship. In Lebanon, popular sentiment on Palestine ranges from indifference and resentment to outright discrimination.

As the Lebanese researcher Halim Shebaya noted in a June 2 opinion piece, it would have been a much more powerful statement if the Lebanese people had refused to see Wonder Woman because it symbolised oppression than for politicians to make that decision for them.

If this ban was an act of solidarity, it’s unlikely that Palestinians here or elsewhere saw it that way. Letting the film run and then donating the proceeds to support Palestinians living in Lebanon – perhaps to Palestinian women’s organisations – would have been read more clearly as solidarity.

Remembering intersectionality

Lebanon’s dubious ban and Wonder Woman’s dubious feminism may seem poles apart but the two are, in fact, related – because of intersectionality, of course.

In both the Arab region and the United States, there is a growing debate about whether feminism and Zionism are compatible.

One camp claims that they are, a position that the Sarah Lawrence College student Andrea Cantor laid out for the Huffington Post earlier this year.

“Israel is more than a government” she wrote. “It is a country that allows trans people into the army,” and has “progressive stances on women’s and LGBTQIA’s rights”.

The other side questions that notion. Linda Sarsour, a prominent Palestian-American activist, has been an outspoken proponent of the view that you can’t be a Zionist feminist.

As an Arab woman raised in America, I don’t so much question the choice of Gal Gadot to play Wonder Woman – because, in point of fact, Hollywood rarely denies actors roles because of their beliefs and moviegoers hardly care – but her elevation as a global feminist icon. Is it appropriate that an outspoken Zionist – a woman who supports the idea of a national identity rooted in another’s national erasure – should become the emblem of powerful Western womanhood?

In the end, despite its efforts, Wonder Woman merely exposes the dominant narrative of white women’s feminism and the global indifference to Palestine’s plight. Its failures to challenge the status quo are too important to ignore, because a feminism rooted in oppression is no feminism at all.

Lina Abirafeh, Director, Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, Lebanese American University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Heartwarming Video Shows How Kids See Differences

Fri, 2017-06-23 10:14

A heartwarming video from BBC’s kids-oriented network, CBeebies, is showing how children think about differences. 

In the video, pairs of young friends answer the question, “What makes you two different from each other?” And their responses reveal a simple and inspiring truth about acceptance and inclusion among kids.

Though children are not colorblind, the friends’ answers show that their differences when it comes to things like race or ability are not as important to them as the differences in their interests and character. 

The video reached over 20 million views both on the CBeebies and BBC Family and Education News Facebook pages. It’s part of a BBC campaign celebrating diversity called “Everyone’s Welcome.”

“From lettuce love (and hate!) to hard-hitting opinions on ketchup and toe size, these kids know what’s important ― friendship, openness and respecting each other’s differences, a lesson we can all learn from,” BBC Children’s Director Alice Webb wrote in a blog post about the campaign.

“Their unscripted and natural responses is just what you would expect and demonstrates that children don’t make assumptions about people and their differences in the way that all too often grown-ups do,” she added.  

If these children are our future, we feel a little bit better about the world. 

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Mayors Could Shift Nearly 42 Percent Of U.S. Electricity To Renewables By 2035

Fri, 2017-06-23 07:50

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The country’s largest coalition of cities plans to vote this weekend on a pledge to make 100 percent renewable power a top policy priority over the next decade.

The resolution by the U.S. Conference of Mayors ― who represent a 148 million people and 41.8 percent of the country’s electricity use ― would be the broadest rejection of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. If each of the federation’s 1,481 cities actually converted to zero-emissions electricity by 2035, U.S. emissions of planet-warming gases would fall by 619 million metric tons, according to a Sierra Club analysis shared exclusively with HuffPost. 

That’s equal to the total combined carbon footprint of the five worst states emitting greenhouse gases: Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Florida and Ohio.

“The more cities that not only pledge to move to 100 percent renewable energy but pass that into a local law or ordinance and begin to work on that transition,” Jodie Van Horn, director of the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign, told HuffPost by phone Wednesday from the mayors’ conference in Miami, “the closer we can get to meeting the Paris goals through city-level action.”

The Paris Agreement, a pact signed by every nation except Syria and Nicaragua, set broad, non-binding targets for countries to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause the planet to warm and alter the climate. The U.S., historically the world’s biggest emitter, agreed to scale back pollution by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Trump announced plans to pull out of the deal this month after shredding virtually every policy meant to meet those goals.

An alliance of more than 1,200 cities, counties, businesses and state leaders, led by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, formed soon after, announcing plans to meet the Paris Agreement targets anyway. The group, called We Are Still In, includes some smaller municipalities than the U.S. Conference of Mayors, whose members have populations of at least 30,000.

The Sierra Club analysis, based on data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, considered two additional scenarios. If the 34 cities who already have plans in place to transition to 100 percent clean energy achieve their goal, the U.S. emission from electricity would fall by 19.1 million metric tons. The number increases to 34.5 million metric tons, equal to 3.4 percent of U.S. electricity consumption, if an additional 84 cities whose mayors pledged to completely switch to renewables but have yet to pass a formal policy also meet their target. Of the 100 who committed to that promise, 16 already approved policies to convert their electricity supply to solar or wind.

Getting the entire U.S. Conference of Mayors to adopt solar and wind power remains the ideal, if lofty, goal, Van Horn said.

“This is the good, better, best scenario,” she said, referring to the three situations outlined in the report.

The analysis comes just days after new research sparked fresh debate over the feasibility of converting to 100 percent renewable energy. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, warned that the costs of shifting the U.S. electricity grid to renewables by 2050, as Democratic senators proposed in April, could prompt a political backlash.

“If we push down the avenue of 100 percent renewables, it will become very obvious very quickly that it is neither cheap nor effective,” Christopher Clack, the study’s lead author, told InsideClimate News. “We worry that it could be used by our opponents to diminish the role of renewable energy on the grid.  We worry if we oversell them, it will lead to disappointment and backlash.”

Rather, Clack proposed policymakers should aim for a number closer to 80 percent renewable energy.

That public discussion of clean energy has progressed at all to the percentage of renewable energy, rather than its merits compared to fossil fuels, struck Van Horn has a victory in itself. 

“We think the academic debate is healthy,” she said. “A few years ago, we wouldn’t have been having a debate.”

CLARIFICATION: This post was updated to include the official resolution’s deadline of 2035. 

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U.S. Judge Temporarily Halts Deportation Of Detained Iraqis

Thu, 2017-06-22 22:25

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A U.S. judge on Thursday halted the deportation of 114 Iraqi immigrants arrested in Michigan over the past few weeks, saying they could face persecution or torture if they were sent back to their home country.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said the Iraqis, arrested this month as the Trump administration works to increase immigration enforcement, would be allowed to stay in the country for at least another two weeks as he determines if the courts have jurisdiction over the deportations. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action petition on behalf of the detainees last week to urge the courts to halt the deportations, calling them illegal and saying they would put the Iraqis in “extreme danger.” The ACLU’s petition notes many of those arrested are Chaldean Christians who would face “brutal persecution” in Iraq.

While Goldsmith has yet to fully rule on the petition, his temporary stay cited the potential for “loss of life” should the deportations go forward without an “orderly court process.”

“Irreparable harm is made out by the significant chance of loss of life and lesser forms of persecution that Petitioners have substantiated,” Goldsmith wrote in his ruling Thursday. “The public interest is also better served by an orderly court process that assures that Petitioners’ invocation of federal court relief is considered before the removal process continues.” 

Most of the detainees have prior criminal convictions, but had been allowed to stay in the country because Iraq had refused to issue travel documents for them to return. Aside from those in Michigan, 85 others have been arrested around the country in recent weeks and eight have already been deported, Reuters reports.

Iraq reversed its longstanding policy on the travel documents earlier this year as part of negotiations with the White House to remove the country from President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban that targeted the residents of six Muslim-majority countries. The country was initially included in the ban’s first iteration.

The ACLU on Thursday applauded Goldsmith’s decision, saying the move “may very well have saved numerous people from abuse and possible death.” 

Our clients face grave danger if they are sent back to Iraq and have a constitutional right to show a judge their lives are in jeopardy.

— ACLU National (@ACLU) June 23, 2017

Christians can face severe religious persecution in the Middle East, and both the Obama and Trump administrations have declared the treatment of the group a “genocide.” As HuffPost’s Akbar Shahid Ahmed notes, many Iraqi Christians in Michigan voted for Trump in the recent election, and community members have said they were startled the arrests went ahead despite the president’s campaign promises to protect Christian refugees.

Authorities with Immigration and Customs Enforcement have defended the arrests despite the outcry. In a statement to the Detroit Free Press last week, Rebecca Adducci, the field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Detroit, said the proposed deportations addressed “the very real public safety threat represented” by those detained.

“The vast majority of those arrested in the Detroit metropolitan area have very serious felony convictions, multiple felony convictions in many cases,” Adducci said.

Goldsmith will now decide whether he has jurisdiction to decide if the Iraqis will be deported. ICE has argued district court does not have that power and the detainees can appeal any deportation decisions to immigration court.

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This Australian Senator Became The First To Breastfeed While Addressing Parliament

Thu, 2017-06-22 15:39

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In May, Greens senator Larissa Waters made history as the first person to breastfeed in Australia’s federal Parliament.

Now the politician has reached another milestone: becoming the first person to breastfeed while making remarks on the Australian Parliament floor. 

On Thursday, Waters put forward a motion on black lung disease while nursing her infant daughter, Alia Joy.

First time I've had to move a Senate motion while breastfeeding! And my partner in crime moved her own motion just before mine, bless her

— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) June 22, 2017

“First time I’ve had to move a Senate motion while breastfeeding!” she tweeted after her remarks. “And my partner in crime moved her own motion just before mine, bless her.”

Waters, who is the co-leader of Australia’s Greens party, joined many of her colleagues in urging the Senate to change its rules about children and breastfeeding in Parliament last year

The senator told BuzzFeed she nursed while giving her speech because “black lung disease is back among coal miners in Queensland and Alia was hungry.”

Back to work today with 8 week old baby in tow! I’m lucky; we need affordable childcare and flexible work for all.

— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) April 19, 2017

Alia Joy has accompanied her mother to work on multiple occasions since her birth in March.

When Waters shares photos of her baby on the job, she often touts the importance of helping all Australian parents balance work and family.

“I’m lucky,” she tweeted in April. “We need affordable childcare and flexible work for all.”

Great to be back on #qanda and to bring Bub along. Who says motherhood and politics don't mix ?

— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) May 15, 2017

As for breastfeeding, Waters told BuzzFeed she believes women should be made to feel comfortable nursing their babies whenever and wherever it’s needed.

“Women have always worked and reared children, whether that work was paid in the workplace or unpaid in the home,” she said. “I hope [this] helps to normalize breastfeeding and remove any vestige of stigma against breastfeeding a baby when they are hungry.”

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Globalization Will Work If We Stop Catering To The Elite, Says Larry Summers

Thu, 2017-06-22 12:15

Larry Summers is an American economist. He served as chief economist for the World Bank from 1991 to 1993, U.S. treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001 and president of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006. Summers is currently a professor at Harvard and a member of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council. He recently spoke to The WorldPost about globalization in the era of U.S. President Donald Trump and Brexit.

What are the key policies of a centrist politics that is pro-globalization? In the wake of Brexit and Trump’s election, you have called for a “responsible nationalism”  that responds to the needs of those voters. What does that mean in practice?

First of all, some of this is about policies. But some is about the extent to which we are projecting a global attitude that sees everyone in the world as a fellow human being and the extent to which you are projecting a concern for certain people because they are American.

'As a global leader, we have not necessarily displayed the uppermost concern for Americans in our policies.'

As a global leader, we have not necessarily displayed the uppermost concern for Americans in our policies. So, some of it is a matter of what is projected.

I would say these are the most important policies:

  1. A policy of investment in infrastructure; building things that everyone shares and can be proud of. This has the virtue of employing people who are having a tough time in the current economy. It is the best way to provide a general economic stimulus. A trillion-dollar commitment over the next 10 years would be a great step ― paid for by carbon taxes or other measures that are pro-environment.

  2. A commitment to monetary policies that create an economy in which we’d face a shortage of workers rather than a shortage of jobs. That creates a more equal leverage between employers and employees, which is the condition for real wage growth for ordinary workers. We don’t even have a central bank that takes a 2 percent inflation target seriously. We’ve gone eight years with inflation nowhere near that. We need to target 2 percent, not just be comfortable with the forecasts of inflation inching minimally up.

  3. We need a much greater level of investment in young people and their transition to work. Some of that has to do with the debt burden of a college education. But more importantly, we don’t do anything for people who don’t go to college. They are left to either sink or swim, and mostly they sink. I’m thinking here of the kind of vocational apprentice arrangements that Germany has implemented successfully.

  4. We need to reorient our international economic policy toward what benefits people, instead of benefiting the rich and focusing on the priorities of corporations. Why is it that corporate tax loopholes, which mean that ordinary Americans need to pay more taxes, is not a priority? Instead, intellectual property protection for pharmaceutical companies are at the top of the international agenda. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was recently very proud about getting credit rating agencies into China. Who cares? The shareholders come from all over the world ― and the jobs will be created for Chinese people in China. Why not tackle tax competition, jurisdiction arbitrage and tax shifting instead, all of which allow corporations to avoid their tax obligations. Tax avoidance and tax havens are the clearest example of bad international policy. And international agreement should aim as well at stopping races to the bottom on labor and environmental standards.

This should be the orientation – protecting regular people rather than protecting the interests of the people who know a lot about the international system and how to game it.

Right now, when we discuss the global economy, we mainly talk about things that improve “competitiveness” and are painful to the regular worker ― things that are aimed at promoting the interest of companies headquartered in the United States with global scope.

No wonder people don’t like globalism.

Is the greatest threat to jobs displacement and inequality from rapid technological advance or globalization?

It is pretty clearly it is from technology. Manufacturing employment as a share of GDP is substantially less in both Germany and China ― the big surplus export states ― than it was in 1990. So, I don’t see how you can avoid the conclusion that technology is the larger and more fundamental issue. And wealth is concentrating in the big tech companies. We are going to need to find ways of more progressive taxation if there is to be acceptance of the market system as a model. We should be moving toward more progressive taxation.

'If we are going to employ everybody, we’re going to have to find ways of making sure that that work can get done.'

Also, in terms of inequality, I think the idea of wage subsidies should be seriously considered. There is an important distinction between an “earning subsidy” and a “wage subsidy.” In an earned income tax credit, if I earn $20,000, the state gives me $10,000. If I am earning $30,000, the state gives me $5,000. If I earn $50,000, the state doesn’t give me anything and I pay taxes.

A wage subsidy works like this: I earn $8 an hour and the government pays an extra $4 for every hour I work. If I earn $10 an hour, the government gives me $3 dollars. In other words, because it is based on my wage rate, it doesn’t distort my level of effort. It is more complicated to enforce, but more attractive. It is a better alternative to universal basic income where no level of effort is required. I think people want to work.

There are all kinds of important work in our society to do ― such as elderly care, child care, practicing preventive medicine  ― for which there is not a readily apparent business model. If we are going to employ everybody, we’re going to have to find ways of making sure that that work can get done.

Another important thing to understand about wages and costs in this context is how the world has changed. If we assume consumer prices at 100 in 1983, the consumer price for a TV in 2017 is much, much less because the technology has improved and made it much cheaper. But the cost of a year of college has skyrocketed ― it is 600 today to compared to 100 in 1983. So, there has been a huge change in relative prices of those two goods.

It is hard to believe in that context that we shouldn’t have more spending by the government to help pay for one ― college costs ― and not the other.

Some have  argued that the centrist “third way” politics practiced by you, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair failed because of its blind spot on financial deregulation. In retrospect do you think so?

We’ve done a lot with Dodd-Frank in the U.S. and with the various global versions of financial regulatory reform.

There are still problem areas ― shadow banking probably the largest among them. Surely finance was under-regulated before 2008. But I don’t think more regulation of finance is the foremost issue today. The place that had the biggest bubble and biggest crash was Japan ― yet it was and is a highly regulated financial system. They didn’t have derivatives or financial innovation. Continental Europe has a far less financial culture than U.S. or Great Britain, and they have performed worse over recent years.

Before 2008, yes, we should have had more regulation. Is there a fundamental principle around redefining the financial sector as a public utility? I don’t think so.

'There is no question that the center of global economic gravity is moving to the South and East.'

The Chinese see the center of gravity moving to the developing world and are describing a new phase of globalization in which their “Belt and Road” investment in infrastructure initiative boosts that growth to the benefit of the entire global economy. Do you agree with them?

There is no question that center of global economic gravity is moving to the South and East. There is no question that the dislocations associated with trade are greater when the wage rates in the developed world are five to eight times greater than in the developing world. It is a dislocation that wouldn’t take place if you were talking about economies with similar levels of development and wages. We’ve never seen anything quite like China that has a total economy of immense scale and huge financial power ― $3 trillion in reserves ― but has average income levels that are 20 percent of what America has.

We just haven’t seen history put together that kind of combination before. It is hard to guess how it will play out. There is no question that economies that are large by virtue of population rather than being at the cutting edge of productivity are going to be much more defining of the global system in the future than they have been in the past.

China’s “Belt and Road” initiative is constructive – connectivity and infrastructure is constructive. It is constructive to help countries develop. The question will be if it is done in the spirit of altruism that ultimately also benefits the altruist, or a more narrow, mercantile interest on the part of China. I don’t think the path is entirely clear

Should the U.S. join up with one of the central institutions of that effort, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank?

Yes. It was a mistake for the U.S. to not join the AIIB during the Obama years. We would be well advised to join it now.

Despite our not having joined it, there are Westerners such as Germany and France in prominent roles. It is open to American companies for procurement contracts. Projects so far have been co-financed with the traditional development banks so they have the kind of environmental and transparency standards that we advocate. Is that true of all the various institutions and practices involved in the Belt and Road initiative? I’m not so sure.

'It was a mistake for the U.S. to not join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.'

Economists such as Laura Tyson and Branko Milanovic are stressing the notion of “pre-distribution” policies to tackles inequality. That means investing in public higher education and finding ways to share the wealth before taxation instead of relying solely on redistribution of wealth after it is created. Do you share that view?

Yes, if it means bolstering the educational system, investing in human capital. That is central. No, if the emphasis is on giving away capital. Yes, if it means supporting universal health care and affordable housing. No, if it means regulating wages in economies beyond the minimum wage or governments getting involved in capping compensation. Here I’m more skeptical about the degree of disruption that will result. Yes, if it means leveling the playing field of opportunity.

Countries like Singapore share the wealth with all their citizens through a mandatory national savings and investment scheme ― the Central Provident Fund ― in which all share in the returns on profitable investment. Wouldn’t a scheme like that help spread the wealth and reduce inequality in the U.S.?

There is a case for a more aggressive investment of Social Security trust funds in diversified pools of equities. Yes. These proposals deserve serious attention. On balance, it would give more people more stake in the profitability of the entire country’s economy.

In the U.S. context, though, I’m skeptical of the merits of establishing a fund so the government can allocate capital. In a small export-oriented economy like Singapore where you are looking across a whole range of global opportunities for returns, that works. But the way you establish funds like that is to build chronic budget surpluses – not something the U.S. is likely to see for a long while.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Fitness Blogger Dies After Whipped Cream Canister Explosion

Thu, 2017-06-22 11:03

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A popular French blogger and Instagram influencer died last week after a whipped cream dispenser exploded and hit her. 

Rebecca Burger, who regularly posted about fitness, lifestyle and beauty to her almost 200,000 followers on Instagram, suffered cardiac arrest after being hit in the chest by a faulty siphon on a pressurized canister at her home in Galfingue Saturday, according to French newspaper 20 Minutes.

Firefighters were able to restore her heartbeat, but she was unconscious when she arrived at the hospital and died the following day. 

Her family announced her death in a statement on Instagram. 

A post shared by Rebecca Burger (@rebeccablikes) on Jun 21, 2017 at 9:07am PDT

They also shared a photo of a similar canister, which uses highly pressurized nitrous oxide that expands to make cream texture, to warn others of the possible dangers. 

“Here’s an example of the whipped cream siphon that exploded and struck Rebecca’s chest, killing her,” the post reads. “Take note: the siphon that caused her death was sealed. Do not use this type of device in your home! Tens of thousands of these appliances are still in circulation.”

A post shared by Rebecca Burger (@rebeccablikes) on Jun 20, 2017 at 12:08pm PDT

Consumer magazine 60 Millions has been reporting on injuries due to such canisters dating back to 2010, including broken teeth and the loss of an eye. However, Burger’s death is reportedly the first. 

“It is, to our knowledge, the first time there has been a death from such an explosion ... We knew it would happen one day,” deputy editor Benjamin Douriez told the Associated Press. 

The manufacturer of the product, Ard’time, posted an announcement on its website following Burger’s death. The company has apparently been recalling the products since an incident occurred in 2013 and has reached out to more than 100,000 customers to stop using the siphon. 

France’s Local reports that the family plans to sue

A post shared by Rebecca Burger (@rebeccablikes) on Jun 8, 2017 at 9:07am PDT

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Accidental Alert Warns California Of An Earthquake That Happened In 1925

Thu, 2017-06-22 10:14

An algorithmic error told Californians they’d be in for a major earthquake on Wednesday, but the earthquake had already happened ― in 1925.

The automatically generated report from the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that a magnitude 6.8 quake would occur in the Pacific Ocean 10 miles west of Santa Barbara. 

Alerts were sent for a M6.8 in California. This was an error. More information to come.

— USGS (@USGS) June 22, 2017

As a frame of reference, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in 1989 killed 63 people and caused $6 billion of damage in California.

So what gives with this quake scare?


— USGS (@USGS) June 22, 2017

The quake did happen, but it happened in 1925,” Rafael Abreu, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told The Associated Press.

This should seem like good news, but the false alarm still sent shockwaves through social media. Many automated tweets, synced with the USGS alert system, were pushed out, sparking concern.

Additionally, people around the country began to scratch their heads as no one had reported feeling tremors ― something that most certainly would have happened in large numbers had an earthquake of that size actually come about.

@DrLucyJones M6.8 90 miles away Im sure we'd feel it right? Is this real?

— Alex S (@alxxdes) June 22, 2017

Still, publications like the Los Angeles Times, which has automated emails from the USGS to aid in its coverage, ended up alerting the public about the fake quake and then had to rescind the messages.

Please note: We just deleted an automated tweet saying there was a 6.8 earthquake in Isla Vista. That earthquake happened in 1925.

— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) June 22, 2017

We have an algorithm (Quakebot) that automatically writes stories about earthquakes based on USGS alerts. The USGS alert was incorrect.

— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) June 22, 2017

The LA Times bot even generated an article about the fake quake:

Was the article automated too?

— Colin Cooley (@runwicked) June 22, 2017

Yes: Quakebot is an algorithm that automatically writes stories based on USGS alerts.

— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) June 22, 2017

So, how did the USGS casually send out an alert that confused even the LA Times?

Apparently false alarms are fairly common, though the AP says “they rarely report quakes so big or in such populated areas.”

Also, researchers from the California Institute of Technology were using new information to analyze the epicenter of the 1925 earthquake in the Santa Barbara Channel. That earthquake ― a real one ― leveled several buildings and killed many people. You can see the LA Times’ article from that quake below:

False alarm: Caltech staffer accidentally sends alert for large 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake

— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) June 22, 2017

Even more intriguingly, the full quake report associated with Wednesday’s tweet listed the date as June 29, the same date as the 1925 quake, but indicated it would happen in the year 2025. So, yeah, that USGS report was all sorts of screwed up.

Let’s just hope they were wrong about any quakes in 2025 too.

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Trump Substitutes Policymaking For Bomb-throwing With His Job Training Plan

Thu, 2017-06-22 09:14

President Donald Trump’s embrace of apprenticeships as an effective way to train workers for meaningful, middle-skill careers offered a break last week from the Trump administration’s near-total indifference to serious policy development.

For once, Trump carried out a relatively normal policy announcement, complete with a relatively cogent speech. Likewise, Trump focused on a topic of both genuine relevance (how to improve job training) and bipartisan appeal (expanding the reach of private-sector apprenticeship programs).

What is more, the president managed to get the big things right with his executive order. In noting that a four-year college degree isn’t for everyone, he spoke reasonably about the potential of paid, hands-on workplace experiences that train workers and link them to employers. In addition, Trump rightly underscored the need for industry — rather than the government — to play the largest role in structuring those experiences. While some are criticizing that emphasis, it’s actually the right one.

The executive order is welcome not only because it seeks to build on — rather than trash — ApprenticeshipsUSA, a popular grant program that was previously championed by the Obama administration. Equally important, Trump’s move to reorient and grow the program seems to reflect a constructive bid to enhance the effectiveness and reach of the nation’s main apprenticeship program by nudging it into closer alignment with the private sector.

The executive order seeks to build on ApprenticeshipsUSA, a popular grant program that was previously championed by the Obama administration.

Industry influence is not always desirable, to be sure, especially given the Trump administration’s excessive coziness with powerful interest groups in the oil, gas and financial sectors. But in the case of workforce training, a high degree of coordination with industry — ideally on everything from program design to curriculum, certifications and job placement — is now seen by most stakeholders as a crucial dividing line between programs that work and programs that don’t. Such alignment ― and ideally co-development ― of programs with the private sector serves as a strong check on the biggest problem of American workforce training: training divorced from market demand. 

And so Trump’s moves to encourage the establishment of more “industry-recognized” — as opposed to “government-registered” — apprenticeships are actually the most welcome element of the new executive order, after the doubling of the program’s budget to $200 million. Trump-weary critics are wary of the order’s plan to give more flexibility to “third parties” — including companies, trade associations and unions — to design new apprenticeship programs. However, the order’s flexibility represents a needed reduction of overly rigid regulations, even as it responsibly tasks the secretary of labor to establish a new review process for maintaining the quality of both the existing government-registered and the new industry-certified apprenticeships. As such, the order represents a welcome encouragement to employers to embrace apprenticeships as an effective way to recruit and train workers.

Now of course, there are some problems here ― the usual Trump flimflammery. For one thing, last week’s announcement follows Trump’s endorsement of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s “moonshot” challenge to Trump to create 5 million apprenticeships in five years ― but the numbers don’t add up. Specifically, Trump proposes to multiply the nation’s 500,000 registered apprenticeships by a factor of 10 but appears committed to only doubling the program’s $90 million budget. In similar fashion, the new expansion of apprenticeship comes against the backdrop of draconian cuts to the entire workforce development budget. In this regard, the president’s budget proposal for 2018 calls for slashing the Labor Department’s budget to $9.6 billion, a reduction of about 21 percent.

Development of programs with the private sector serves as a strong check on the biggest problem of American workforce training: training divorced from market demand.

And then, in the same vein, there is Trump’s focus on apprenticeships to the exclusion of all else in the workforce development realm. While the creation of 5 million apprenticeships would be a worthy strike against the nation’s alleged “skills gaps,” apprenticeships won’t solve the nation’s other large labor market problems. Apprenticeships won’t by themselves address the “hollowing out” of the middle of the market as technology substitutes for routine-based tasks, for example. 

Nor will expanding apprenticeships do much to address the problem of skill obsolescence in a changing economy, when many employers may prefer to return to the entry-level market rather than retrain their existing workforce. And neither, for that matter, will apprenticeships help much with addressing the increasing numbers of prime-age workers who choose not to participate in the labor force at all.

And yet, with that said, Trump’s initiative to expand apprenticeships by allowing new actors to develop standards for a new crop of industry-recognized apprenticeships to complement the existing ones is — at least in concept — an incremental but genuine advance. For once, a reckless president has brought forth a constructive plan for supporting a beneficial development in the economy. 

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Trump Faces North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, But South Korea’s Moon Jae-In May Pose A Bigger Challenge

Thu, 2017-06-22 08:56


SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—Another day, another North Korean crisis, it seems. But the new South Korean leader, Moon Jae-In, set to visit Washington next week, may prove to be a bigger problem for President Donald Trump than North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un.

Unlike America’s presidential election, South Korea’s contest yielded no surprises. Left-leaning Moon topped a multi-member field to take over from disgraced Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and removed from office on corruption charges.

The contest was a rushed affair, held several months earlier than originally scheduled. Moon was the losing candidate five years ago and had served as chief of staff to the last liberal president. He won support by criticizing South Korea’s influential corporate conglomerates, or chaebols, targeting income inequality, and promising to reduce unemployment.

The ruling party split over Park’s ouster and had little time to recover. Moon was briefly threatened by a more centrist opponent who had backed him in the last election, but then faded in the stretch after a bad debate performance. Moon won with 41 percent of the vote, not exactly a record mandate, but nevertheless reflecting a sizeable margin over the next finisher.

Although Moon will face opposition to his leftish economic nostrums, his foreign policy views likely will generate more controversy at home and abroad. Moon formally affirmed his commitment to the alliance with America in a post-election phone call with Donald Trump, but the former may be less enamored of his nation’s long relationship with Washington than he admits.

Moon rose to prominence as a left-wing lawyer and human rights activist. He was jailed for opposing the long-running military dictatorship, which only gave way in 1987 in response to mass demonstrations by Koreans demanding elections. He helped elect Roh Moo-hyun in 2002, a fellow activist attorney who won a narrow victory in the midst of surging anti-American sentiment. Roh stood out among South Korean presidents for his hostility toward U.S. policy, though the latter accepted the alliance as a reality. Moon served as Roh’s chief of staff and lost to Park five years ago. As head of the principal opposition party, however, he was well-positioned when Park’s presidency collapsed.

Moon’s views are no secret, though like any good politician he downplayed his more controversial views during the brief campaign. He started as an opponent of the THAAD anti-missile system, which has been deployed in the ROK despite China’s angry opposition. He urged revival of the so-called Sunshine policy, which sought to win North Korea’s friendship with aid and commerce. (His proposal has been nicknamed Moonshine.) He promoted the idea of an “economic community” with the North, urged talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, endorsed revival of the Six-Party talks (which include Japan, Russia, and China), and expressed his desire to take his first foreign trip to Pyongyang.

As the polls tightened he carefully qualified his positions, adding conditions for any approach to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Yet many suspect such promises were merely convenient election add-ons. In fact, some of Moon’s top appointees share a radical past. For instance, his newly appointed chief of staff, 39-year-old Im Jong-Seok, once was jailed for promoting contacts with the North and led a student group which occupied the U.S. ambassador’s office.

There’s nothing wrong with South Koreans criticizing both America and the U.S.-ROK alliance. In fact, the South is longer overdue in taking over responsibility for its own defense. Today South Korea enjoys a roughly 40-1 economic advantage and 2-1 population edge. The South is ahead on most other measures of national power as well; it could devote as much money as necessary to its military.

However, Moon’s attitude towards the North suggests more than a tinge of naiveté. Engagement makes good sense, but any contacts should be without illusion. To appear anxious to visit Pyongyang is reminiscent of President Kim Dae-jung’s historic trip north in 2000, which, it turns out, was bought with a half billion dollars in payments from Hyundai and the South Korean government.

Moreover, the new government in Seoul is likely to run into sharp conflict with President Donald Trump’s administration. There is no shortage of inconsistencies among the positions articulated by the American president and his aides. Indeed, the latter have spent more than a little time walking back President Trump’s comments.

Nevertheless, in broad terms Washington is committed to applying maximum pressure on the North, through military threats and enhanced economic sanctions. The administration plans to condition talks with North Korea on prior agreement to America’s demands: dismantling the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs. The U.S. expects China to more fully enforce existing sanctions and make additional cuts in aid and trade.

South Korean officials with whom I met last month were particularly circumspect with their government in transition and generally avoided direct criticism of the American president. The best argument they could make was that Presidents Moon and Trump have used some of the same language to describe their respective positions, but it is obvious that the meanings differ substantially. And these details matter.

For instance, South Korea’s initiation of a new round of investment and aid would undercut the U.S. objective of “maximum pressure” on the North. If Seoul increased economic ties, Washington could not easily demand that China sever its commercial connections with the North. If President Moon flew to Pyongyang to negotiate a nuclear freeze, Washington’s insistence on full disarmament before talks began would be stillborn. The more America threatened military strikes, the more uncomfortable and even antagonistic South Koreans would likely become: most were appalled that U.S. officials might risk triggering a Second Korean War.

The two presidents spoke by phone shortly after Moon took office and agreed to a summit, scheduled for next week. Talks might help, but even friendly discussions won’t hide the fact that the two countries’ interests differ in substantial ways. And if President Moon pursues policies which undercut Washington’s objectives, relations could prove quite difficult: President Trump doesn’t suffer criticism gladly. The frigid relationship between George W. Bush and Kim Dae-jung might serve as a model.

U.S.-South Korean ties have varied over time, in response to changing international conditions as well as shifts in the respective governments. However, the Trump-Moon match likely will present a special challenge. Donald Trump may find the serious and principled Moon to be a tougher adversary than Kim Jong-un.

This article was first posted to Forbes online.

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If Trump And Modi Talk Climate

Thu, 2017-06-22 06:38

This article first appeared as an op-ed in my column in the Indian Express.

As is now well known, President Donald Trump has fulfilled his promise to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement. This “Trexit” had all the hallmarks of a scorched earth strategy. Trump bashed not only the agreement, calling it “less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage”, he also singled out China and India as free-riders and the main advantage-seekers. Paris gives China licence to “build hundreds of additional coal plants” while India can “double its coal production by 2020”, he said. “We can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.” Trump also took a second swing at India by pulling out of a special fund set up by developed nations as part of the Paris agreement to finance investments in renewable energy by developing nations.

All this makes for an awkward prelude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington — a pity, since the two headstrong heads of state have a lot in common. Diplomacy may demand that the climate kerfuffle be kept off the agenda. In the unlikely event that it does come up, though, here is a cheat sheet for the PM. First, Modi should understand the climate issue — that hoax “created by and for the Chinese” — the way Trump sees it. In the Trumpian worldview, there are two competing narratives: There is Paris, and all the effete things it stands for and then there is Coal Country, where men are men, and these men voted Trump into the presidency. The fact that there wasn’t a chorus line of cheering coal miners behind the president as he announced pulling the plug on Paris must have been an oversight on the part of some incompetent White House staffer.

Second, Modi has picked up a climate superhero swagger in his recent trip to Europe; he may need to keep that in check. It wouldn’t be politic to remind Trump about the fact that the US now joins a select club of Paris-boycotters, notably Syria and Nicaragua, and abandons another select club, that of Paris-beaters, notably China and India. The latter countries are poised to beat their own Paris emissions goals: China’s coal use has dropped for three years running and it has cancelled plans for a hundred new coal-fired plants; India’s proposed electricity plan could cover 57 per cent of its energy needs by renewables in 10 years. Third, Modi should know that beating Paris would not impress his Washington host. Trump would say that both China and India are projected to exceed their goals because their goals were too easy. Moreover, his biggest quarrel is with the idea that China and India can increase their emissions, while the US is expected to decrease emissions en route to the Paris agreement target date of 2030.

What kind of a game is this, Trump might ask, where each player has wildly different goals? China’s goal was set at hitting peak emissions by 2030. India’s goals were to simply lower the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The goals for the US, meanwhile, were to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent below its 2005 level in 2025. Without question, America was set the toughest goal of making cuts from its peak level in 2005, while the others increase emissions. A RIGGED GAME, Trump might remind everyone on Twitter.

Fourth, Modi should know what the Chinese would have said if they were the ones invited to the White House. They would counter that the US has had its chance to get rich and emit with abandon. China is a late entrant and only recently has it taken on the mantle from the US of being the world’s top emitter of CO2. Over the period 1850-2011, the US accounted for 27 per cent of all CO2 emitted, while China accounted for just 11 per cent. Despite its fast economic rise, China still has the equivalent of the entire US population to lift out of poverty. When you are not yet rich, economic growth leads to emissions especially since coal is cheap.

Fifth, Modi might remind Trump that whatever his quarrels with China may be, India should not be tarred by the same brush. Nominally, India is the third-largest emitter after China and the US, but India’s emissions are not in the same league. Over 1850-2011, India’s contributions add up to only 3 per cent. The average American emits more than eight times the average Indian, while the average Chinese emits four times more than the average Indian. India is a poor country experiencing high growth; it has a long way to go before it can be expected to cut emissions.

Sixth, given the differences in the circumstances of the three countries, Modi might need some benchmarks for a fair way to play the game and set climate goals. If he even gets to the unlikely juncture where Trump acknowledges that goals should be different, Modi might need to come armed with third-party referees to keep track of fairness. According to Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific assessment of the pledges made by all three, the US, China and India, are rated “medium” on a scale that ranges from inadequate to sufficient (there is an extreme rating of “role model” that no country satisfies). That was before the US pulled out of Paris.

Modi ought to feel a tiny bit emboldened to take on the task of educating an uneducable man with the knowledge that India is more than fulfilling its pledge. The “medium” grade that India earned would, in all likelihood, be upgraded to a “sufficient” if India’s many post-Paris policy advances were factored in: Plans to achieve 175 GW of renewable power capacity by 2022; an, albeit overly, ambitious plan to turn all new cars into electric vehicles by 2030; the UJALA scheme, under which 238 million LED bulbs have already been distributed nationwide, etc.

Alas, Trump may write off all the fancy climate math as fake news. Climate may not even make the agenda. It may just be smiles, handshakes and the Modi bear-hug. Given the barrage of investigations into his links with Russia and possible obstruction of justice, Trump desperately needs all three these days; though I would skip the bear hug — the man is a germaphobe. The talks may remain limited to the predictable: H-1B visas, trade and an invitation for Trump to visit his properties in Mumbai.

Too bad. If Modi were to add this red-hot topic to the agenda, he could, indeed, return with a legitimate climate superhero swagger. A scorched earth is in no one’s interest — even American coal miners will lose in the end.

Bhaskar Chakravorti is senior associate dean, International Business & Finance at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, founding executive director of Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context and non-resident senior fellow, Brookings India. He has authored ‘The Slow Pace of Fast Change.’

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Wall Street Journal Fires Reporter Jay Solomon For Alleged Spy Plane Deal

Wed, 2017-06-21 15:56

The Wall Street Journal has fired longtime foreign affairs correspondent Jay Solomon for what it said was a violation of “his ethical obligations as a reporter.”

The paper announced the move minutes before The Associated Press reported that Solomon was offered a 10 percent stake in a company headed by a news source ― an Iranian-born businessman who was once an arms dealer with CIA ties. Among the ventures Solomon discussed was a $725 million contract that would allow surveillance planes to spy inside of Iran, according to AP.

AP said it could not confirm whether Solomon received money from Farhad Azima, the businessman, or accepted a stake in his company, Denx LLC. Denx ceased operations last year, according to AP.

Solomon’s firing ― and the idea that a reporter could have positioned himself to collect more than $70 million in a shady international arms deal ― seemed straight out of Hollywood, and immediately sent shockwaves through journalism circles. 

Solomon denied any business venture with Azima. “I clearly made mistakes in my reporting and entered into a world I didn’t understand,” he told the AP on Wednesday. “I never entered into any business with Farhad Azima, nor did I ever intend to. But I understand why the emails and the conversations I had with Mr. Azima may look like I was involved in some seriously troubling activities.”

The Wall Street Journal told HuffPost that Solomon was no longer employed by the paper and said it was conducting its own investigation into the allegations.

“We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgement of Jay Solomon,” a spokesman for the paper said. “The allegations raised by this reporting are serious. While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards. He has not been forthcoming with us about his actions or his reporting practices and he has forfeited our trust.”

Paul Beckett, the Journal’s Washington bureau chief, notified staff Wednesday afternoon that Solomon was fired following ethical violations, but did not go into great detail, according to sources. He informed staffers that publication of an AP story was imminent. 

The Associated Press obtained tens of thousands of Azima’s emails that include communications between the businessman and Solomon. The AP also obtained an March 2015 operating agreement for Denx, which listed “an apparent stake for Solomon.”

AP reported that Solomon’s early email conversations with Azima appear aimed at cultivating him as a source. But the emails suggest their relationship evolved.

“Our businessman opportunities are so promising,” Solomon texted Azima in October 2014, the AP reported. Later that month, Solomon asked Azima if he had mentioned their business plans to a mutual friend. “Hell no!” Azima wrote.

The next year, Azima wrote Solomon to discuss a $725 million contract with the United Arab Emirates that would allow surveillance planes to spy inside of Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Azima, a U.S. citizen and an aviation magnate, asked Solomon to float the idea with the UAE government at an upcoming lunch, according to an April 2015 email obtained by the AP.  

“We all wish best of luck to Jay on his first defense sale,” Azima wrote to Solomon and two of his business partners ― former CIA officers Gary Bernsten and Scott Modell. 

Before Deux was shuttered, its partners considered a scheme to instigate regime change in Kuwait, AP reported. It’s unclear if they acted on the plan.

Solomon, who had been nominated by the Journal for multiple Pulitzer Prizes, led the paper’s coverage of secret negotiations that culminated in a nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S., and five world powers. In a book published last year, Solomon criticized the nuclear accord, arguing that “rather than calming the world’s most combustible region, [it] risks inflaming it.”

Investigators in the U.S. and abroad are now probing whether Azima, in a separate deal, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing an Emirati official to profit from a hotel sale in Tbilisi, Georgia, AP reported on Tuesday.

Azima has a decades-long history of questionable business deals. But until recently, he evaded law enforcement, in part because of past work with the CIA.

Jeffrey Fegley, a former employee of Azima’s airline, Global Airways, described himself to AP as “the guy who filled up the briefcases with $100,000 worth of small bills so you could bribe the ground crew to get your cargo unloaded in a foreign land.” When AP pressed Fegley on who Global Airways’ clients were, he named the CIA.

Azima’s CIA connections later served him when prosecutors began investigating a Kansas bank  in the 1980s with possible mob ties. Azima was one of the bank’s directors, but he was off-limits to law enforcement, a retired prosecutor told AP.

“It became apparent that we were not able to pursue prosecution of Azima, Lloyd Monroe said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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