Zimbabwe Doctors Call for Clean Water to Fight Typhoid Outbreak
In Zimbabwe, doctors and aid organizations have called on the government to improve the country’s water and sanitation amid a typhoid outbreak.
Authorities have started dismantling vendors’ malls as part of efforts to contain the outbreak that has struck more than 200 people in the capital, Harare, killing two, and has been detected in other parts of Zimbabwe.
Vendors say authorities must ensure citizens have adequate clean water and sanitation.
Evans Masitara, the secretary general of the group Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, told journalists in Harare that President Robert Mugabe’s government has to do more to contain the outbreak.
“We really do not want to mix issues here. Typhoid is being driven by this water and sewerage problem and not by vendors. The meat vendors, definitely is a health problem; but it is not the driver of typhoid. It is an issue which needs to be addressed, but for now I think the priority should be on water and sewerage systems and refuse collection,” Masitara said.
Last week, the doctors group called on the government to release funds to ensure medicine imports are not delayed. On Tuesday, the doctors said their call had not been answered positively.
Health Minister David Parirenyatwa on Tuesday visited Mbare township, the epicenter of the typhoid outbreak. He blamed the city of Harare for failing to ensure hygienic conditions.
“We will not be able to get rid of typhoid or cholera or diarrheal diseases as long as we have conditions like these ones. Even if I say, ‘Every hospital in this country, stop treating anything else except typhoid or cholera,’ we still do not have a solution. The solution is that we still need hygienic conditions in this country, particularly here in Harare. The filth that is there. The worms that are breeding on top and under the cabbages that are sold, and the sewage that is flowing is just a shocking, a deplorable state…. As long as you do not clean this, you will not get rid of typhoid,” Parirenyatwa said.
In 2008-2009, a cholera outbreak killed more than 4,000 people in Zimbabwe. The waterborne bacterial disease can be treated with antibiotics, but still kills more than 220,000 people worldwide each year.
Putin Scoffs At Allegations Of Trump Misbehavior In Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed as “fake” a dossier on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that was leaked earlier this month. Speaking on January 17, Putin said allegations that Trump met with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel are “ridiculous.” (Reuters)
Life on the Edge of So-called Islamic State
Thousands of people are running from the crumbling Islamic State group in eastern Mosul every day. Other families are staying put, hiding in their homes as battles rage outside, later emerging on the streets as Iraqi forces claim victory.
In the days that follow escape or military victory, remnants of IS remain on their bodies, in their neighborhoods and seared into their minds. Men and women are still dressed in IS-mandated styles. Discarded schoolbooks reveal the IS ideology, and IS licenses, newspapers and other everyday items show how deeply entrenched the group became as it terrorized the people.
On their bodies
Islamic State militants enforce a strict dress code they say is based on Islamic values. Families running from the war and the militant group are almost always Muslims, and they disagree, saying these rules are not recognized by mainstream Islam.
Regardless, when they lived under IS, they followed orders or faced harsh punishments. The women’s dress code: a black full-faced veil, gloves and covered feet, all in the name of modesty and piety.
This code is enforced in two ways. First, militants beat the husbands or fathers of women who are dressed in anyway ‘wrong.’ Additionally, female IS members, known locally as “The Biters” literally bite women who broke the rules.
As families flee, many women flip the veils off their faces when they reach Iraqi-controlled areas.
Male dress codes are just as strict, although a little more difficult for outsiders and even many Mosul residents to understand. IS militants insist all men are bearded and their hair is of even length. Pants must have elastic sewn into the cuffs so they don’t reach past men’s ankles. Many men improvise by pulling socks over their cuffs or wearing sweatpants.
Men say non-compliance with dress codes could get them just a beating on the ankles in the streets, or jail time that includes whippings and other forms of violence.
As Iraqi forces push into eastern Mosul, men emerge from their homes dressed IS-style, but change their appearance within hours or days.
“On the day the Iraqi forces took our street, we immediately shaved our beards,” says 27-year-old Ashraf, outside his Mosul shop in an area recently won by Iraqi forces. “Later in the day, we heard shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar!’ coming from behind the Iraqi army lines.
“We thought maybe they were counterattacking, so we ran to the sinks to retrieve our hair,” he jokes.
Small shops that have recently opened around refugee camps say razors are their biggest seller.
People fleeing IS in Iraq often laugh bitterly about the school curriculum the militants developed that cause most families to keep their children at home. “In the schools,” they say, “they only teach one bullet plus one bullet equals two bullets.”
A textbook for children around the age of seven reveals that their assessment of IS education is no joke. The books aggrandize violence, with cartoons of weapons and fighters on almost every page. Arithmetic problems on one page ask things like: If one fighter has 85 mortars and another fighter has 60 mortars, what is the difference?
At an IS clinic, posters explain why beards are required for all men and satellite television is banned. People who have escaped say punishments for non-compliance with these rules ranges from whipping to imprisonment to death.
IS legacy: Fear and destruction
As graffiti gets painted over, beards are shaven and city services are hopefully restored, IS’s real legacy is expected to remain for the unforeseeable future. Neighborhoods are crushed, families are torn apart, children have been out of school for three years, and so many people have been killed, tortured or raped that it could take years to count the victims. And if all goes as planned in the next few months and IS is driven out of Iraq, a million people could be newly homeless.
Around noon one Friday, 30-year-old Nabil stands by the gate to his house, quietly watching as soldiers display weapons they captured from IS to visiting journalists. With a thick beard and pants cuffs synched well above his ankles, he looks like an IS supporter.
Less than 24 hours before, he was not a supporter, but silently complicit, trying to protect his family under IS rule.
“They were staying in that house for a week,” he says, pointing to the house next door. “We could hear them talking on their walkie-talkies.”
As news reached Nabil that the Iraqi army was getting closer to his area, he still felt powerless over the heavily armed militants. “We couldn’t tell them to leave. We were scared.”
In villages and city centers, locals describe the two-and-a-half years they spent under IS as life in a prison, and are eager to share some of the horrors they survived.
“They killed my brother and my mother after accusing them of helping the Iraqi police,” says 20-year-old Farah, a few minutes after arriving at a makeshift bus station set up just outside the war zone. She and her family had fled on foot only an hour ago, and they duck behind a building when they hear the far-away crack of gunfire.
“They murdered my brother in a mosque while he was praying,” she adds. “This is not Islam.”
Kosovo Prime Minister Urges Calm Over Conflict with Serbia
Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa urged for calm in relations with Serbia following a war of words that erupted between the two countries over the weekend.
In an exclusive interview with VOA’s Albanian Service, Mustafa was responding to comments by Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic who said his country “is ready to send troops to Kosovo to protect Serbian nationals, if necessary,” after a train painted with the words “Kosovo is Serbia” was stopped Saturday from entering Kosovo.
Mustafa called Nikolic’s statement “irresponsible” and a threat “not only to Kosovo but also to the Balkans.”
“We do not want to respond to that threat with the same language,” said Mustafa. “We are interested in living in good neighborly relations with Serbia.”
U.S.ambassador calls for ‘restraint’
The United States ambassador in Pristina, Greg Delawie, said on Twitter that he was concerned about the train issue. Delawie called “for restraint from all parties,” adding that what was needed was “normalization not confrontation” between Serbia and Kosovo.
Nikolic said the two countries were on the verge of a conflict. He said Kosovo had shown it wanted war after it deployed special forces to prevent the train painted with Serbia’s national colors from entering its territory.
Mustafa told journalists the train “sent a message of occupation.”
Train returned to Belgrade
According to reports, Serbian officials accused Kosovo authorities of attempting to mine the railroad with bombs.
Kosovo officials strongly denounced the accusations, adding they found no explosives on the railway.
Saturday’s ride was the first from Belgrade, the Serbian capital, to the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica since the 1998 war. Reports say the train later returned to Belgrade.
About 120,000 of Kosovo’s 1.8 million inhabitants are ethnic Serbs.
Both countries seek EU membership
Both countries are seeking European Union membership to boost their struggling economies.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a decade after it split from Serbia. The country has been recognized by the United States and more than 110 countries, but not Serbia.
The split triggered a bloody yearlong conflict between Serbian and Albanian forces. Many of the 40,000 ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo have refused to recognize the ethnic Albanian majority’s 2008 secession from Serbia.
Ilir Iknomi, Isabela Cocoli and Aline Barros contributed to this report.
Facebook Moves to Head Off Tougher Regulation in Germany
Facebook is stepping up efforts to head off tougher regulation by Germany, a fierce critic of the social media network operator, saying Monday it would do more to combat fake news as its chief operating officer met with officials in Berlin.
Top German lawmakers are planning legislation this year to force Facebook to remove “hate speech” from its web pages within 24 hours or face fines, a push that could force the social media giant to bear more responsibility for content posted by users.
Chancellor Angel Merkel, who is running for a fourth term this year, has warned that the internet is not “a space that is free from the law.”
Germany’s strict libel and slander laws are meant to protect citizens by making it a crime to defame others. More than 218,000 cases involving insults were filed with prosecutors in 2015. But few internet-based cases were prosecuted.
Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, visited Berlin on Sunday to meet with German government officials considering new regulations on Facebook, according to a Berlin-based source at a rival internet company.
Dan Rose, who is in charge of partnerships for Facebook, on Monday acknowledged that it was no longer a simple communications platform.
“There is no question we play an important role in the media landscape,” Rose told the DLD technology conference in Munich.
“There are people who are discovering their news and consuming their video and other media types on Facebook. … We take that role seriously.”
The issue has taken on more urgency amid concern by Germany’s political establishment that a proliferation of fake news and racist content, particularly about the 900,000 refugees that arrived here last year, could sway public opinion in the election campaign.
Facebook on Sunday announced a partnership with German third-party fact-checking organization Correctiv, promising to update its social media platforms in Germany “within weeks” to reduce the dissemination of fake news.
Rose said it aimed to expand that model to other countries.
Code of conduct
Tougher legislation poses challenges for the company’s lucrative business model. Like most media companies, it is based on generating advertising revenue but without all the costs of producing and managing content.
Analysts expect Facebook to have generated $27.3 billion in revenue last year, more than 43 percent of which is set to fall to the bottom line as net profit.
But measures that would legally oblige such social media platforms to set up “complaints offices” and invest more resources into deleting hate posts or fake news would chip away at that profit.
A year ago Germany got Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube to sign up to a code of conduct, which included a pledge to delete hate speech from their websites within 24 hours. A similar voluntary code was adopted by the European Union in May.
A September report by a group that monitors hate speech said it found Facebook deleted about 46 percent of illegal content reported by users in Germany within 24 hours, more than the 10 percent and 1 percent removed by YouTube and Twitter respectively.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas wants that rate to be increased to 70 percent. “A company that earns billions from the internet also has a social responsibility,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper last month.
Social networks such as Facebook are concerned that if they actively search for illegal content such as child pornography or incitement to terrorism, they could be deemed legally liable for such content.
To combat that disincentive, the European Union is considering adopting a so-called “good Samaritan” principle from the United States that would exempt platforms from liability in such cases, according to an EU Commission official.
Senior conservative lawmaker Volker Kauder has said platforms should also provide information when requested about the identities of those posting fake news and hate speech.
“They say there is too much [hate speech],” he said. “But a big auto manufacturer that produces millions of cars can’t say: ‘I produce so many cars that I can’t guarantee they are all secure.’ No, that is not on. I expect and demand from Facebook that laws are upheld.”
Reports: Istanbul Nightclub Attacker ‘Captured’
A man suspected of killing 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day has been caught in the city’s Esenyurt district, Turkish media report.
France’s Hollande: EU ‘Has No Need For Outside Advice’
French President Francois Hollande has responded to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the European Union by saying that the EU “has no need for outside advice” on its affairs.
Wife Of Orlando Shooter Arrested
The wife of the gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub last year has been arrested in connection with the mass shooting, the U.S. attorney general has said.