Generative AI May Need News Organizations, Journalism to Succeed

In the year since Open AI introduced ChatGPT to the world, almost 600 media organizations have blocked the technology from scraping their content. 

Two other AI chat bots — Google AI’s Bard and Common Crawl’s CCBot — are also blocked by some or most of those same news organizations.

The list grows longer each day, according to Ben Welsh, a news applications editor for Reuters, who compiled a survey of news organizations for his media blog. 

“What we are seeing here is that news publishers, at least half of them in my survey, want to put the brakes on this a little bit and not just allow themselves to be included in this without some sort of conversation or negotiation with the Open AI company,” Welsh said. 

Open AI, the creator of ChatGPT, offered 1,153 news organizations the option to block its chat bot in August 2023. As of Wednesday, nearly half have taken up that offer.   

While most are U.S. organizations, including The New York Times and CNN, the list also includes international media groups, including Australia’s ABC News, The Times of India, and The South African.   

Welsh’s survey didn’t dig deeply into the reasons for blocking ChatGPT, but he said that commercial media tend to be among the groups that stop ChatGPT whereas nonprofits are more likely to share content.  

VOA’s attempts to contact ChatGPT via LinkedIn, email and at its offices in San Francisco were unsuccessful.

Seen as threat  

Many media analysts and press freedom groups see AI as a threat to publishers and broadcasters, as well as a threat to ethical journalism. 

Among the chief concerns are the use of artificial intelligence to create false narratives and fake visuals and to amplify misinformation and disinformation. 

“It is clearly possible that some groups or organizations use and fine-tune models to create tailored disinformation that suits their projects or their purpose,” said Vincent Berthier, who manages the technology desk at Reporters Without Borders, or RSF. “But right now, today, the higher risk of disinformation comes from generative AI from pictures and deep fakes.” 

RSF organized a commission made up of 32 journalism and AI experts, led by Nobel laureate and disinformation expert Maria Ressa, to regulate how media use the technology.  

The resulting Paris Charter on AI and Journalism, released in November, sets parameters for the use of AI for news organizations and makes clear that journalists must take a leading role.   

RSF’s Berthier believes that many of the organizations opting out are sending a clear message to AI developers. 

“What media companies are saying is AI won’t be built without us and it is exactly RSF’s position on this topic,” Berthier said. “It is the spirit of the charter we released this month saying that media and journalism should be part of AI governance.”   

Media freedom is already at risk from Big Tech and social media algorithms, Berthier said. 

“That’s why we fight every day to protect press freedom and just make sure that journalists can still do their jobs to give the most accurate information to the public,” he said. 

The Associated Press became partners with OpenAI in a news content and information sharing agreement in July.  

Pamela Samuelson, a MacArthur Fellow, University of California-Berkeley law professor and information technology expert, said the deal might be just the beginning of many licensing agreements and partnerships between AI and journalism.  

But she also predicted that companies would work to develop their own AI. 

“So The New York Times might be doing it, CNN might be doing it, we just don’t know,” Samuelson said. “They will announce either their own generative stuff or they will just keep it in house.” 

Ethical concerns

As the debate over the use of AI in journalism unfolds, many news organizations and journalists cite ethical concerns and reservations about its use.   

Others cite economic factors, such as the use of their copyrighted materials and unique intellectual property without payment or provenance.   

But, said Samuelson, “The predictions of doom, doom, doom are probably overblown.” 

“Predictions that everything is going to be perfect, that is probably wrong, too,” she added. “We will have to find some new equilibrium.” 

Generative AI can write computer code, create art, produce research and even write news articles. But makers widely admit in disclaimers that there are problems with its reliability and accuracy.  

There is also growing fear among researchers that a dependence on generative AI to both produce and access news and information is spreading and that too often the information being dispensed isn’t reliable or accurate. 

“There is one thing that journalism puts right up at the top of the list and that’s accuracy and that is a weakness of these tools,” Welsh said. “While they are incredibly great at being creative and generating all sorts of interesting outputs, one thing they struggle with is getting the facts right.” 

Some AI analysts and watchers say the growing list of news organizations blocking AI bots could further affect that quality.

your ad here

Seychelles Declares State Of Emergency After Blast, Floods

Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan declared a state of emergency on Thursday, ordering all citizens except essential workers to stay at home, after a blast at a store and flooding due to heavy rainfall, the presidency said.

“Following an explosion at the CCCL explosives store that has caused massive damage… and major destruction caused by flooding due to heavy rains, the President has declared a State of Emergency for today the 7th December,” it said in a statement.

“All schools will be closed. Only workers in the essential services and persons travelling will be allowed free movement. This is to allow the emergency services to carry out essential work,” the statement added.

The explosion occurred in the Providence industrial area in Mahe, the largest island in the Indian Ocean archipelago, and caused huge damage there and to surrounding areas, the presidency said, without elaborating further.

“The Seychelles International Airport is still operational and ferry services between islands are operating for visitors,” the tourism-dependent country said on its official Visit Seychelles account on X.

A former British colony, the Seychelles is made up of 115 islands and according to 2021 World Bank data is the richest African country as measured by per capita gross domestic product, with tourism and fishing the biggest contributors to the economy.

However, the high cost of living means that around 40% of the country’s 98,000 inhabitants live in poverty.

The archipelago is famous for its idyllic white beaches and high-end tourism.

Mahe, where the capital Victoria is located, is home to 87% of the country’s population.

Parts of Africa — particularly Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia — have experienced heavier rainfall than usual since October, linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon.

According to the UN, the situation has been exacerbated by the combined impact of El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole — a climate system defined by the difference in sea surface temperature between western and eastern areas of the ocean.

El Nino is typically associated with increased heat worldwide, as well as drought in some parts of the world and heavy rains elsewhere.

El Nino last occurred in 2018-2019 and was followed by an exceptionally long La Nina — El Nino’s cooling opposite — which ended earlier this year.

your ad here

Australian Laser Technology to Help Future NASA Missions to Mars

A new optical ground station has been built by the Australian National University to help the U.S. space agency, NASA, and others explore space and safely reach Mars.

The Australian team has developed a new type of space communication using lasers.

Researchers say the system will allow them to connect with satellites and NASA-crewed missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

The project is supported by the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars initiative.

The Australian National University Quantum Optical Ground Station is based at the Mount Stromlo Observatory, near Canberra.

It is a powerful telescope that will support high-speed advanced communications with satellites orbiting at distances from low-Earth orbit to the moon.

Kate Ferguson, associate director for strategic projects at the Australian National University Institute for Space, told VOA current communication systems relying on radio frequencies can be slow and cumbersome.

“I am sure some of us remember the grainy pictures that we got of the moon landing that came from the Apollo era,” Ferguson said. “So, again the current radio frequency systems, they have these much slower data rates and especially over really long distances.  For space exploration those become very slow but with optical communications we will be able to increase the rate of that communication.”

She said the new system, based on powerful lasers that are invisible to the naked eye, will transform communications in space.

“What we are aiming to do is to be able to receive high-definition video from future crewed missions. Not only will that be great for us here on Earth, seeing what is happening with the astronauts on these types of missions, but it will improve the connectivity between those missions,” she said. “And what we are doing here is optical communication, which uses laser beams to communicate and these offer much higher speeds and increased security over the current systems and this is really important for us to be getting that data down and being able to use it here on Earth.”

Scientists say the Australian-developed systems will be compatible with NASA missions.

They say the laser-based technology will improve astronauts’ ability to connect with Earth from the moon and also allow high-definition video to be sent from the moon and Mars.

NASA has said previously that astronauts could be sent on a mission to the red planet by the mid-to-late 2030s.


your ad here

Biden Clears Path for Tribal Nations to Access Federal Funds

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that his administration is committed to writing “a new and better chapter of history” for more than 570 native communities in the U.S. by — among other things — making it easier for them to access federal funding. A leader of one of the largest communities speaks to VOA about those efforts and how some of the themes of native history continue to play out halfway across the planet. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from the Department of the Interior.

your ad here

Biden Clears Path for Tribal Nations to Access Federal Funds

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that his administration is committed to writing “a new and better chapter of history” for its more than 570 native communities by, among other things, making it easier for them to access federal funding.

“It’s hard work to heal the wrongs of the past and change the course and move forward,” Biden said. “But the actions we’re taking today are key steps into that new era of tribal sovereignty and self-determination. A new era grounded in dignity and respect, that recognizes your fundamental rights to govern and grow on your own terms. That’s what this summit is all about.”

Biden, speaking at the U.S. Department of the Interior, which sits on the ancestral land of the Nacotchtank people, announced more than 190 agreements during a two-day summit of some 300 tribal leaders.

They include an executive order that will make it easier to access federal funding, plus efforts to clean up nuclear sites, support clean energy transitions and work toward the repatriation of native remains and sacred objects.

The administration will also release a progress report on its efforts to date.

Hope for more

The leader of one of the largest groups told VOA that the government’s efforts have been “very, very positive” and said he hoped to see more.

“The most important thing for the Cherokee Nation, I think — and all tribes — is the efficient deployment of resources, and then allowing tribes to decide how to use those resources,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

But, he said, as his people know too well, land dispossession and conflict is not ancient history. Here’s his advice to Biden and Middle Eastern leaders as war rages in Gaza after the October 7 attack by Hamas militants:

“We have a history of being dispossessed from our land,” he said. “And so, I would just say, remind people that there’s a way to balance rights. I think we’re trying to do that in the United States in terms of Indian Country versus the rest of the country.

“We haven’t perfected it, but I think we’re making some progress,” Hoskin said. “So, all I would say is the respect and dignity that every human being deserves ought to be on display.”

Youth see potential

Younger tribal citizens say they have high expectations. Sareya Taylor, the inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of Phoenix, is a member of the White Mountain Apache and Navajo communities.

“I voted for Biden in 2020,” said Taylor, 21. “And I believe there’s so much more that can be done, especially in terms of climate and how we look at food sovereignty.”

But if she could ask the president for anything, she said, it would be for a cease-fire in Gaza.

“As an Indigenous person, I see my history, like, being like, livestreamed right now,” she said. “If that were happening to us, I’d like to believe that it would be stopped immediately. But you know, considering President Biden won’t even call for a cease-fire, I don’t know about that.”

Hoskin, who is nearly three decades older than Taylor, took a more measured view.

“Obviously, if these were easy issues, somebody would have solved them a long time ago,” he said.

But, he said, step by step, the U.S. government is working to right past wrongs on its own soil.

“Certainly, it would be accurate to say the United States has an appalling record towards Indigenous peoples,” he said. “Is it perfect now? No, it’s not. But we’re making progress.”

your ad here

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Meets Virtually With G7 Leaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday met virtually with leaders from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, telling them that Moscow is counting on Western unity to “collapse” next year.

Attendees, including Kyiv’s key allies such as U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. leader Rishi Sunak, said they remained committed to supporting Ukraine. Their comments came amid fears that Western support for Ukraine could wane as Kyiv makes limited progress on the battlefield.

“We are determined to support an independent, democratic Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders,” leaders of the G7 said in a statement after the meeting.

The leaders announced actions to be taken against Russia, including banning imports of nonindustrial diamonds from Russia by January, and Russian diamonds processed by third countries by March, in an effort to decrease Russian revenue.

The G7 announced additional measures, including increased enforcement of a price cap on Russian oil, and called on all third parties to immediately stop providing Russia with military materials or face a “severe cost.”

The leaders also committed to increasing humanitarian efforts for Ukraine as winter approaches, calling on Russia to end its aggression and pay for the damage it has already done.

As Zelenskyy met with G7 leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin took a rare trip abroad — a one-day visit to the Middle East with stops in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — to try to increase Russia’s standing in the region.

The UAE, host country of COP28, the U.N. climate summit, is a U.S. ally with close ties to Russia. UAE officials greeted Putin warmly in Abu Dhabi.

Putin also met with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, discussing many topics, including what he called the “Ukrainian crisis,” before continuing on to talks with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Those talks were also expected to include Ukraine.

Ukrainians in the UAE for COP28 condemned Putin’s visit to the region, citing environmental crimes Russia has committed in their country.

“It is extremely upsetting to see how the world treats war criminals, because that’s what he is, in my opinion,” said Marharyta Bohdanova, a worker at the Ukrainian pavilion at the COP28 climate summit. “Seeing how people let people like him in the big events … treating him like a dear guest, is just so hypocritical, in my opinion.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

your ad here

As Gravity on US Immigration Shifts to the Right, Parties Seek Deal

It was a decade ago that Capitol Hill was consumed by an urgency to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, fueled in no small part by Republicans who felt a political imperative to make inroads with minority voters by embracing more generous policies.

But nothing ever became law, and in the time since, Washington’s center of gravity on immigration has shifted demonstrably to the right, with the debate now focused on measures meant to keep migrants out as Republicans sense they have the political upper hand.

Long gone are the chatter and horse-trading between parties over how to secure a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, or a modernized work permit system to encourage more legal migration. Instead, the fights of late have centered on how much to tighten asylum laws and restrain a president’s traditional powers to protect certain groups of migrants.

Now, Democrats and Republicans are again struggling to strike an immigration deal — and the consequences of failure stretch far beyond the southern border. Congressional Republicans are insisting on tougher border measures as their price for greenlighting billions in additional aid to Ukraine, and the stalemate is putting the future of U.S. military assistance to Kyiv at risk as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears the two-year mark.

Democrats have “ceded the ground to Republicans on immigration and the border,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, a nonprofit that advocates for immigrant rights. “The administration seems to see no advantage in leading on this issue, but I think that they’re shooting themselves in the foot.”

The intractable nature of immigration debates is coming into sharp relief this week as a bipartisan group of senators tasked with finding a border deal is running out of time to reach an agreement. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has promised to put up for a vote a nearly $106 billion emergency spending request from Biden to cover national security needs including Ukraine, Israel and the border. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, is an unwavering backer of Ukraine yet has stressed privately to President Joe Biden that the administration will need to bend on border policy to unlock that money.

In remarks at the White House on Wednesday, Biden made it clear that he was prepared to agree to at least some of the changes Republicans are seeking.

“I am willing to make significant compromises on the border,” he said. “We need to fix the broken border system. It is broken.”

Behind closed doors, Democrats have resisted demands from Republicans to scale back Biden’s executive powers to temporarily admit certain migrants into the country. Yet Democrats privately appear willing to concede to GOP negotiators in other areas, particularly on making it tougher for asylum-seekers to clear an initial bar before their legal proceedings can continue in the United States.

That’s a shift in favor of Republicans from even last year: There were similar agreements around asylum among Senate negotiators back then, but that would have been in exchange for a conditional pathway to citizenship for roughly 2 million “Dreamers” who came to the United States illegally as children.

Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, a perennial negotiator on immigration, stressed that in “every Congress, the foundation for compromise changes.”

“The Democrats have to understand we lead one of the two chambers on Capitol Hill,” Tillis said. “They have to understand that we rightfully will get something more conservative than some of the deals that are negotiated in the last Congress.”

Throughout the Senate border negotiations, the White House has remained visibly hands off, largely trying to replicate its strategy on previously successful legislative talks like those that eventually led to tougher gun restrictions becoming law.

But it’s also no secret the border is one issue Biden would prefer to avoid.

Though Biden as vice president spearheaded the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts in Central America, the border specifically is one of the few issues that he did not manage during his 36 years in the Senate nor two terms as vice president.

As president, Biden’s aim has been to adopt a foreign policy approach to the border, framing the issue as a hemispheric challenge, not solely a U.S. problem. Biden almost immediately after taking office unraveled some of former President Donald Trump’s more hardline policies. And last year, he oversaw the end of Title 42, the pandemic-era health restrictions at the border that had made it easier to deny migrants entry into the U.S.

He has tried to broaden legal pathways while cracking down on illegal border crossings. But the number of migrants at the border, after an initial dip following the end of Title 42, has been climbing dramatically. Now, cities like Chicago, New York and Denver are struggling to manage the migrants who have been relocated to their cities, forcing Democrats in areas far north to confront similar challenges to those long faced by border states.

Inside the White House, deputy chief of staff Natalie Quillian — tapped initially to oversee implementation of Biden’s signature laws, like the massive infrastructure package that just turned two years old — is now coordinating the administration’s response to Democratic-led cities and states that have asked for help managing the influx of migrants.

“There is a fundamental shift in the Democratic Party on immigration” that has happened within the past six months, as the number of migrants in those cities has swelled, said Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow and director of the Migration Policy Institute office at New York University’s law school.

Before, Democrats would bristle at any potential discussion over the border, particularly following Trump. But Chishti added: “That’s no longer true. Their backs don’t go up when they see someone saying we want to make some changes in the policies at the border.”

Aides and allies to Biden have said the president is willing to accept new restrictions on asylum and potentially other Republican-led immigration policy changes, particularly as the numbers at the border continue to rise. His supplemental funding request, which seeks $14 billion for the border, would hire more asylum officers, increase detention capacity for migrant families and hire more immigration court judges.

There’s now a backlog of more than 1 million cases, and it’s only increasing. Some migrants are released into the U.S. and wait for years before they are told whether they qualify for asylum.

Arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border in August through October more than doubled over the previous three months as migrants and smugglers adjusted to new asylum regulations following the end of Title 42. Illegal border crossings were at 188,778 in October, down from 218,763 in September, which was the second-highest month on record.

The White House decision to lump additional funding for the border in with Ukraine assistance has given lawmakers, Republicans say, an implicit nod to negotiate policy changes that would otherwise make Democrats feel uncomfortable.

“The fact that they are trying to actually work and figure out what we can do to come up with border security tells me he understands the American people are getting fed up with their current posture,” Tillis said of Biden and the White House.

Bolstering the GOP posture even further is a new House Republican majority that is largely resistant to continued Ukraine assistance, making the price of additional aid for the White House that much higher.

And unlike gun talks last year — when Democrats wielded political advantage after mass shootings galvanized public calls for increased restrictions — immigration is largely seen as an issue that is being fought on Republicans’ turf.

But in the Democrats’ view, Trump and his hardline immigration policies, coupled with antipathy toward Ukraine aid, continue to loom large, rendering Republicans unable to close any deal that would involve irking portion of their base that remain staunchly opposed to Ukraine aid and anything less than the hardline policies they’ve already laid out.

Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, one of the chief authors of the 2013 immigration bill that never became law, said the U.S. immigration system, writ large, still needs an overhaul.

But “we can’t do that right now in the context of this Ukraine bill,” he said. “It’s too complicated. It’s too far reaching. And frankly, there’s no reason to be attaching the border to Ukraine funding.”

your ad here

Britain Proposes Bypassing Rights Laws to Let Rwanda Plan Take Off

Britain published draft emergency legislation on Wednesday that it hopes will allow its Rwandan migrant deportation plan to finally take off by bypassing domestic and international human rights laws that might block it.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill, published the day after Britain signed a new treaty with Rwanda, is designed to overcome a ruling by the United Kingdom Supreme Court that the government’s proposed initiative to send thousands of asylum-seekers to the East African country was unlawful.

The government said that the bill was “the toughest immigration legislation ever introduced” and that it would be fast-tracked through parliament. But it suffered a blow when the immigration minister resigned over it.

It shows the divisiveness of the proposals in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s governing Conservative Party, and it could also trigger further legal challenges.

“Through this new landmark emergency legislation, we will control our borders, deter people taking perilous journeys across the channel and end the continuous legal challenges filling our courts,” Sunak said in a statement. He has vowed that flights would begin in the spring next year.

“We will disapply sections of the Human Rights Act from the key parts of the Bill, specifically in the case of Rwanda, to ensure our plan cannot be stopped,” he said in the statement.

The bill will instruct judges to ignore some sections of the Human Rights Act and “any other provision or rule of domestic law, and any interpretation of international law by the court or tribunal” that might deem that Rwanda was not a safe country to send asylum- seekers.

Ministers alone would also decide on whether to comply with any injunction from the European Court of Human Rights, which issued an interim order blocking the first planned flight last year.

The Rwanda plan is at the center of Sunak’s immigration policy, and its success is likely to be key to the fortunes of his Conservative Party, trailing by about 20 points in opinion polls, before an election expected next year and with the issue one of the biggest concerns among voters.

It was not clear whether the bill will satisfy Sunak’s critics on the right of the party who have called for Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights altogether. Earlier, former Home Minister Suella Braverman warned that a weak bill would lead to “electoral oblivion.”

Interior Minister James Cleverly confirmed that Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick had resigned from government after he was absent from a debate in parliament on the issue.

Meanwhile, conservatives who had warned they might not support a bill that flouts international law welcomed assurances from the government that the measures were legal.

“It is a bill which is lawful. It is fair and it is necessary, because people will only stop coming here illegally when they know that they cannot stay here,” Cleverly told parliament.

However, legal commentators said the new legislation would inevitably face challenges in the courts.

“If the government had wished to avoid legal challenges and had also had a high degree of confidence that Rwanda, in fact, is — and will continue to be — a safe place, it seems unlikely that it would have chosen to introduce a bill in this form,” said Nick Vineall, chair of the Bar Council.

The government says the Rwanda initiative would deter migrants from paying smugglers to ferry them from Europe across the channel to Britain. Almost 29,000 people have arrived on the southern English coast without permission this year, after a record 45,755 were detected in 2022.

Meanwhile, the cost of housing the 175,000 migrants awaiting an asylum decision is costing $10 million a day.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the plan would violate international human rights laws enshrined in domestic legislation because deficiencies in the Rwanda asylum system meant migrants were at risk of being sent back to homelands where they were at risk of abuse.

The government said its new binding treaty, which replaced a memorandum of understanding, together with the new law, will satisfy those concerns.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said it was important that the partnership with Britain was lawful.

“Without lawful behavior by the U.K., Rwanda would not be able to continue with the … partnership,” he said.

The opposition Labour Party’s home affairs spokesperson Yvette Cooper criticized the government’s new law, saying, “The only thing stopping the British government ignoring international law completely is the Rwandan government.

“[Cleverly] has a treaty and a law he knows will not stop dangerous boat crossings,” she said.

your ad here

COP28 Declaration Seen as Good News for World’s Small Farmers

Agriculture and climate experts say there is good news for the world’s small farmers in a declaration endorsed by 134 world leaders during the opening days of COP28, the global climate summit unfolding this month in Dubai.

In what is known as the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, the leaders have mobilized more than $2.5 billion to begin addressing agriculture-related climate issues, summit officials announced.

The declaration was accompanied by the announcement of several other initiatives, including a $200 million partnership between the host UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to go toward agriculture-related research.

“Countries must put food systems and agriculture at the heart of their climate ambitions, addressing both global emissions and protecting the lives and livelihoods of farmers living on the front line of climate change,” said Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE minister of climate change and environment, at the release of the declaration on December 1.

“Today’s commitment from countries around the world will help to build a global food system fit for the future,” she said.

Agriculture and climate experts have enthusiastically welcomed the recognition of the link between food and climate in the declaration, endorsed by countries representing more than 5.7 billion people and nearly 500 million farmers.

“If all this is well-managed with farmers at the center of operations, accompanied by civil society organizations, these resources and partnerships will enable farmers to scale up the sustainable food systems they are already practicing, but with limited means,” said Richard Ouedraogo, project manager for the Secrétariat Permanent des Organisations Non Gouvernementales (SPONG) from Burkina Faso.

“This will considerably reduce their vulnerability when it comes to food, and they will be able to take a greater interest in and give more of themselves to climate change issues by putting into practice and scaling up techniques to combat climate change,” he told VOA.

Rosinah Mbenya, country coordinator for a Kenyan network of agriculture-oriented nongovernmental orgranizations, was similarly hopeful in an interview on the sidelines of the Dubai conference.

The declaration “gives hope that the small-scale farmers and pastoralists will be at the center of climate action through increased attention on resilient programs and financing,” said Nbebya, whose group, known as PELUM Kenya, promotes agro-ecological principles and practices to improve the livelihoods and resilience of small-scale farmers and pastoralists.

The new funding is expected to boost the sort of initiatives already underway in places like Ethiopia, where a warning system has helped farmers save millions of dollars by avoiding losses from a crop disease.

Farmers in several African countries are also growing new varieties of crops that are more resilient to stress caused by climate changes.

But the experts say there is a growing gap between what farmers hope for and the resources available to help them. Climate models show that in Africa and Southeast Asia, where small family farms are vital for food and jobs, there could be a significant drop in food production, leading to greater poverty, hunger and economic inequality in these regions.

Edward Leo Davey, who has advised the COP28 presidency on food this year, said if leaders in the signatory countries move toward genuine implementation of the declaration in their nations, “this will represent a significant positive step forward in the lives of smallholder farmers.”

“Farmers across these regions and elsewhere require support and financing for extension services, including more resilient and diverse seed varieties,” said Davey, the London-based partnerships director for the Food and Land Use Coalition at the World Resources Institute.

He said they also have needs for “more resilient and diverse seed varieties; for digital technology and access to meteorological data; and for the kinds of infrastructure and access to capital that will enable them to get their products more quickly and safely to market in the context of a changing climate.”

Ewi Stephanie Lamma, a self-employed climate justice advocate from Cameroon, noted that the declaration encourages farmers to adopt sustainable farming techniques, such as agroecology, organic farming and agroforestry, as is being done by the Voices for Forests Alliance in her home country.

These environmentally friendly practices “help reduce the use of harmful agrochemicals, conserve water resources, and protect soil health,” she told VOA. “Adaptive measures, such as crop diversification, improved irrigation systems, enable farmers to better withstand climate-related risks.”

your ad here

Nigeria’s Probe of Drone Strike Not a Guarantee of Accountability

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday ordered security agencies and state authorities to investigate a bombing that reportedly killed at least 120 Muslim worshippers in northern Kaduna state on Sunday.

Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency announced that 85 people died in the bombing, mostly women and children, and said 66 others were seriously injured. Amnesty International said at least 120 people were killed, citing reports from field staff and local residents.

In his statement, Tinubu described the bombing as unfortunate, disturbing and painful. He called for calm and said survivors must receive proper medical attention.

The Nigerian military said a drone on routine patrol wrongly profiled and bombed local villagers in Tundun Biri while they were gathered to celebrate Maulud — the birthday of the Muslim Prophet Muhammed.

Nigerian forces often target the hideouts of armed groups with aerial bombardment.

Jabir Ibrahim, whose farm is near the site of the drone attack, said the government is making empty promises with its call for an investigation.

“Nothing will happen. It’s just noise,” he said. “The government will just go there, make noise and say unnecessary and useless things, and leave after two days. Nothing more. They’re just saying it for people to calm down.”

The Nigerian military also has ordered an investigation and promised the outcome will guide future operations to eliminate gaps in human and artificial intelligence.

Authorities also promised to compensate families.

But rights group Amnesty International says authorities have reneged on past promises made to families of errant military bombing.

“It’s becoming an impunity on the part of government not to hold those who do this accountable,” said Aminu Hayatu, Amnesty International’s conflict researcher. “And in the end, we will not hear the story again. The families of those who become victims of these airstrikes are not compensated in any way. It is really worrisome.”

Hayatu insisted that the government be held accountable this time.

“The civilians who have become victims are supposed to be protected by government,” she said. “We have consistently called on government to be accountable and transparent in the investigations — who is behind the airstrikes and what judicial procedures they will be subjected to.”

Nigeria is struggling to quell a 14-year-long insurgency in its northeast, as well as kidnap-for-ransom attacks by armed groups in the northwest and central states.

In January, 39 civilians were erroneously bombed in Nasarawa state near the capital, and authorities promised to investigate. But rights groups like Amnesty International are still demanding accountability for that strike and others.

your ad here

Cyclone Michaung Batters Southeastern India

Rescuers used boats to help people stranded inside their homes in southeastern India amid widespread flooding caused by Cyclone Michaung, which left at least 13 people dead and forced thousands of evacuations.

Torrential rains preceded the cyclone, which made landfall Tuesday in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Trees were uprooted and infrastructure damaged.  

In nearby Tamil Nadu state, the storm also caused widespread damage and forced the closure of the airport in the capital, Chennai. Many vehicles were swept away in the flooding.

Rescuers had to wade through waist deep waters to reach people stranded in some houses in Tamil Nadu.

Air force helicopters have been used to deliver food to those who are stuck.

Tamil Nadu State Chief Minister M. K. Stalin requested $600 million from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help pay for recovery efforts.

Some residents of Chennai questioned if the infrastructure could withstand the severe weather. Though improved storm drainage would have helped in “moderate and heavy rainfall,” it would not have prevented flooding in “heavy and extremely heavy rains,” according to civil engineer and geo-analytics expert Raj Bhagat P.

Cyclones are common along the coast of India, although the effects of changing climate have made them more intense and caused difficulty in preparing for severe weather.  

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France Presse.

your ad here

Former US House Speaker McCarthy Announces Resignation

Two months after his historic ouster as leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Kevin McCarthy of California announced Wednesday that he will resign from his congressional seat by the end of the year.

His announcement capped a stunning end for the one-time deli owner from Bakersfield, who ascended through state and national politics to become second in line to the presidency before a contingent of hard-right conservatives engineered his removal in October.

McCarthy is the only House speaker in history to be voted out of the job.

“No matter the odds, or personal cost, we did the right thing,” McCarthy wrote in The Wall Street Journal, announcing his decision.

“It is in this spirit that I have decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways,” he wrote.

An announcement on McCarthy’s future had been expected, with the filing deadline to seek reelection only days away. But his decision ricocheted across Capitol Hill, where his departure will leave the already paper-thin House GOP majority even tighter, with just a few seats to spare.

It comes during a wave of retirements in the House, which has been riven by Republican infighting and the rare expulsion last week of indicted Republican Representative George Santos of New York, dashing hopes for major accomplishments and leaving the majority straining to conduct the basic business of governing.

McCarthy had brought the Republicans into the majority but found it was much more difficult to lead the GOP’s hard-edged factions.

His toppling from the chamber’s top post was fueled by grievances from his party’s hard-right flank, including over his decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.

McCarthy, 58, arrived in the House in January 2007 after a stint in the California Assembly, where he served as minority leader. In Congress, he maneuvered through his party’s hierarchy — serving as majority whip and Republican leader along the way — before being elected speaker in January 2023.

The dayslong floor fight that preceded his elevation to the House’s top job foreshadowed a stormy tenure, at a time when former President Donald Trump remained the de facto leader of the party and deep divisions within the GOP raised serious questions about the party’s ability to govern.

It took a record 15 votes over four days for McCarthy to line up the support he needed to win the post he had long coveted, finally prevailing on a 216-212 vote with Democrats backing leader Hakeem Jeffries and six Republican holdouts voting present. Not since the Civil War era has a speaker’s vote dragged through so many rounds of counting.

McCarthy emerged from the fight weakened, especially considering Republicans held only a fragile margin in the chamber after a predicted “red wave” failed to materialize in the 2022 elections.

Once installed as speaker, his well-known savvy for fundraising and political glad-handing appeared ill-suited for corralling his party’s disputatious hard-right faction. And deals he cut to become speaker — including a rules change that allowed any single lawmaker to file a motion to remove him — left him vulnerable.

When he became speaker, “he faced new challenges that required a different skill set,” said Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney, a one-time domestic policy analyst for House Republicans. “The deals he made to become speaker made it almost impossible for him to succeed as speaker.”

McCarthy, the son of a firefighter and a homemaker, has long depicted himself as an unflagging battler. He is fond of quoting his father, who told him, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

your ad here

US Charges Russian-Affiliated Soldiers With War Crimes

The United States is charging four Russian-affiliated soldiers with war crimes for what American prosecutors describe as the heinous abuse of a U.S. citizen following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year. 

The charges – the first ever filed by the U.S. under its nearly 30-year-old war crimes statute – include conspiracy to commit war crimes, unlawful confinement, torture, and inhumane treatment, following the takeover of the village of Mylove, in the Kherson oblast of southern Ukraine in April 2022. 

“As the world has witnessed the horrors of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, so has the United States Department of Justice,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday.  

“The Justice Department and the American people have a long memory,” he added. “We will not forget the atrocities in Ukraine, and we will never stop working to bring those responsible to justice.” 

According to the nine-page indictment, the perpetrators include Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan and Dmitry Budnik, described as commanding officers with either the Russian Armed Forces or the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. 

Two other soldiers named in the indictment – Valerii and Nazar – are identified only by their first names. 

Garland and other U.S. officials said Wednesday the victim was a non-combatant living with his Ukrainian wife in Mylove when the four Russians kidnapped him from his home. 

They allegedly then stripped him naked, tied his hands behind his back, put a gun to his head, and beat him, before taking him to an improvised Russian military compound. 

The indictment states the victim was then taken to an improvised jail where he was subject to multiple interrogations and “acts specifically intended to inflict severe and serious physical and mental pain and suffering.” 

Additionally, the indictment alleges at least one of the Russian soldiers sexually assaulted the victim, and that the Russians carried out a mock execution.

“They moved the gun just before pulling the trigger, and the bullet went just past his head,” Garland said. “After the mock execution, the victim was beaten and interrogated again.” 

The victim was also forced to perform manual labor, such as digging trenches for Russian forces, until he was finally released after a little over a week in detention.

U.S. officials said the charges against the four Russian-affiliated soldiers stem from an investigation that started in August 2022, when investigators with the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Homeland security traveled to meet with the victim after he had been evacuated from Ukraine.

They said evidence was also collected in collaboration with Ukrainian officials.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Wednesday investigators also met with members of the victim’s family and with multiple witnesses who were able to confirm Russian forces occupied the village of Mylove and the surrounding areas during the time the alleged war crimes took place.

“We cannot allow such horrific crimes to be ignored. To do so would only increase the risk they will be repeated,” Mayorkas said.

“As today’s announcement makes clear, when an American citizen’s human rights are violated, their government will spare no effort and spare no resources to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he added. 

VOA contacted the Russian Embassy in Washington for comment about the charges. Embassy officials have yet to respond.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, indicated that while the war crimes charges announced on Wednesday are the first, they likely will not be the last.

“You should expect more,” Garland told reporters. “I can’t get into too many details.” 

your ad here

Pakistan Says 450,000 Undocumented Afghans Returned Home

A Pakistani diplomat said Wednesday that nearly 450,000 Afghan nationals returned to their home country since his government announced two months ago that it would deport all undocumented foreigners.

Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan, shared the latest data while addressing a seminar in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. He spoke on a day the United Nations renewed its warning that Afghans returning from Pakistan “face a precarious, uncertain future” in their crisis-hit and impoverished nation.

The Pakistani government says its crackdown is primarily targeting an estimated 1.7 million Afghans who have overstayed their visas or do not possess any document to justify their stay in the country.

“Those who have been asked to leave are the illegal immigrants here. They don’t enjoy the refugee status,” Durrani stressed. “So, almost 450,000 [Afghans] have left. They knew that they were illegal stayers here in Pakistan.”

Those subjects of the deportation drive include close to 700,000 people who took refuge in Pakistan after the withdrawal of the United States and NATO troops from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Durrani clarified again, however, that nearly 2.3 million documented Afghan nationals, including 1.4 legal refugees, hosted by his country are not being asked to leave.

The envoy rejected international criticism of the “lawful” expulsions, saying countries around the world routinely deport foreigners who breach their immigration laws. “It [deportation] becomes legal there in Europe or elsewhere but doesn’t become legal here in Pakistan,” he said. “I think we need to remove this confusion.”

Washington is pressing Islamabad to prevent the deportation of approximately 25,000 “vulnerable” individuals who fled the Taliban’s August 2021 takeover in Afghanistan and could be eligible for relocation to or resettlement in the United States.

Julieta Valls Noyes, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, discussed the resettlement of the Afghan refugees with Pakistani officials during her visit to Islamabad this week, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement Wednesday.

It stated that Noyes “discussed how both countries can work together to accelerate the processing of Afghan nationals eligible for relocation or resettlement in the United States, expressed the U.S. desire to continue working with the government of Pakistan as we process individuals in U.S. resettlement pathways, and encouraged upholding international humanitarian principles, including non-refoulment, and protecting vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers.”

Noyes also met with U.N. officials in Islamabad and “heard directly from Afghan refugees on the concerns most important to them,” said the embassy statement.

A Pakistani official privy to the Noyes’ discussions with counterparts in Islamabad told VOA on Tuesday the United States did not oppose Islamabad’s deportation of illegal Afghan nationals but requested the process be slowed down during winter.

Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Program said Wednesday that returnees are unsure how they will survive a devastating winter in Afghanistan, where more than 6 million people are already internally displaced nationwide.

“These families arrive at the worst of times and face a bleak future in a country where one-third of people do not know where their next meal will come from,” said Hsiao-Wei Lee, the WFP country director. “Leaving behind their homes and livelihoods, they return to start over in a country that gives them few economic opportunities and where many struggle to survive.”

The WFP said it urgently needs $26.3 million to support 1 million returnees from Pakistan arriving in Afghanistan and help them through the winter and into the first months of next year.

In his Wednesday speech, Durrani cited growing terrorist attacks in the country, among other factors, for unleashing the crackdown on undocumented Afghan and other foreign nationals. He said fugitive militants linked to the anti-state Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, are plotting the bloodshed from their sanctuaries on Afghan soil.

“The TTP’s enhanced attacks on Pakistan while using Afghan soil have been a serious source of concern for Pakistan,” the envoy reiterated. He reported a 65% increase in TTP attacks in the country’s border areas this year, saying suicide bombings shot up 500% during the same period.

“Another worrying aspect of these attacks has been the involvement of Afghans. Out of 24 attacks by the TTP, 14 were Afghan nationals,” Durrani said.

your ad here

Gabon Coup Leader Visits Cameroon to Press for End to CEMAC Sanctions

Gabon’s military leader, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, visited Cameroon on Wednesday, asking central African states to lift economic sanctions on his country before the 2025 elections.

When Nguema ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba in a bloodless coup on August 30, economic sanctions were imposed on the country by CEMAC, the six-nation Central Africa Economic and Monetary Community, which condemned the unconstitutional power shift and suspended Gabon. 

Nguema said Wednesday that he and Cameroonian President Paul Biya discussed the possibility of lifting economic sanctions before he transfers power to constitutional rule in October 2025. Nguema said he took power to save Gabon from a long rule that ruined the country, and he wants to ensure order is brought back to Gabon before handing power to civilians.

Nguema’s visit to Cameroon ended a tour that has taken him to Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo since he seized power in August.  

Jean Rene Oba, an international affairs lecturer at Omar Bongo University in Gabon, said Nguema has been able to convince central African leaders that a military coup was necessary to save Gabon from the Bongo family’s long and autocratic rule that impoverished civilians and created political and ethnic tensions.

“The president of the transition, Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, is totally mindful of the reality that here is no single country on earth that can live in its own bubble in the 21st century, so he started a campaign explaining the legitimacy of the action he took on behalf of the Gabonese people and I think the arguments that he has been making are very powerful and that is why we could see he is so welcomed and understood,” Oba said.

Nguema told several hundred Gabon civilians in Yaounde that he seized power to improve living conditions in their oil-producing nation because its citizens remained poor during the 56-year reign of Ali Bongo Ondimba and his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba.

Gabon’s military ruler reiterated that he would hold elections in August 2025.

He said a new constitution that is being prepared would be presented to all citizens in October 2024 and a referendum on its adoption would be held that same year.

Before the elections, Gabon’s military junta says it will fight corruption, accelerate economic reforms, ensure sustainable economic development, restore stability and revise the electoral code. 

Georges Mpaga, president of Gabon’s Network of Free Society Organizations for Good Governance, said Nguema’s insistence on executing so many projects looks like a plan to hold onto power.  

Mpaga said Nguema should give priority to Gabon’s supreme interest, which as of now is the quest for a return to constitutional order. He said Nguema should make sure Gabon has a constitution which grants and limits powers of government officials, and paves the way for democratic, credible, fair and transparent elections that meet international norms and standards.

Nguema said he will keep his pledge to hand over power to civilians and that he will never betray the confidence entrusted upon him by his country’s civilians and military, as well as a majority of political parties and civil society groups.  

your ad here

Chinese Authorities Host Food Festivals in Kenya

As a debate over loans and trade relations with China heats up in Kenya, the Chinese embassy in Nairobi is looking to boost cultural ties with Kenyans by launching food extravaganzas. Victoria Amunga has more from Nairobi. (Camera and Produced by: Jimmy Makhulo)

your ad here

Suspect in Custody After 6 Dead, 3 Wounded in Series of Attacks in Texas

A daylong series of attacks in Austin has left four people dead and at least three wounded, and a man believed to be connected to them and the deaths of two other people near San Antonio was taken into custody, Texas authorities said.

Those who died were found in two homes in Austin and a residence east of San Antonio. The wounded, who were shot, included two police officers and a bicyclist, police said. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

The man, who is in his 30s, was charged with capital murder, Austin Interim Police Chief Robin Henderson said at a news conference Tuesday night. His name was not immediately released.

“We strongly believe one suspect is responsible for all of the incidents,” Henderson said of the Austin attacks. She said police “did not determine that these incidents were connected until the last incident occurred” Tuesday night.

Henderson and others provided a timeline, saying an Austin independent school district police officer was shot in the leg about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday in a parking lot at Northeast Early College High School. Then about noon, police who responded to a home after getting calls about gunshots found two people with signs of trauma. Police say one was dead and the other died at a hospital.

Another shooting happened shortly before 5 p.m., when a male cyclist suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Police responding around 7 p.m. to a call of a burglary in progress at another home later found two people dead there.

Henderson did not say how the four people died.

During the last call, an Austin police officer saw a man in the back yard. The man shot at the officer and the officer returned fire, Henderson said. The officer suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

Police said the man, who was not hit, drove away and police pursued him. He crashed at about 7:15 p.m. at a highway intersection and was taken into custody. The man had a gun, Henderson said.

She said the officer who was shot and the other officers were wearing body cameras and that the video would be released within 10 business days.

The relationship between the man and the victims, if any, was not immediately known, Henderson said.

In Bexar County, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) south, Sheriff Javier Salazar said his agency got a call from Austin police at about 7:45 p.m. about some shootings. They said the man they had in custody had links to a home east of San Antonio.

As two deputies approached that home, “I believe they saw water coming out of the residence, appearing as if something was leaking inside,” Salazar said. Two people were found dead in the house, but Salazar did not say how they died.

Salazar said it’s believed the deaths in the home happened before the attacks in Austin.

your ad here

In India, News Outlet Gives Voice to Low Castes

In India, a journalist and a member of the country’s low caste community runs a news website where the reporting is focused on groups that have been marginalized for centuries. Meena Kotwal hopes that turning the spotlight on issues affecting the 300 million strong Dalit community will help redress the discrimination they often suffer.

Meena Kotwal is on her way to interview a former teacher at Delhi University who is protesting her termination from a temporary post, blaming it on caste discrimination.

It is one of many stories concerning the low caste Dalit community that her news website, The Mooknayak, has covered in over two years.

Kotwal, a Dalit and a journalist, launched her outlet after seeing that injustices suffered by the community often went unreported. She attributes the lack of coverage to the near absence of low caste journalists in leadership positions in mainstream media.

According to Kotwal, stories about Dalits are covered in a few lines or small columns in newspapers. They don’t get coverage in prime time or debates because there are no editors from the community.

For centuries, the Dalits were at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Caste-based discrimination has been outlawed and some Dalits have risen to high political posts. But prejudice is still pervasive against the nearly 300 million strong community.

Although caste-based discrimination is outlawed and some have risen to high political posts, discrimination is still pervasive according to author and political analyst Neerja Chowdhury.

That is what Mooknayak, which means “the voice of the voiceless,” aims to do. Kotwal’s team highlights instances where marginalized communities suffer injustice.

Kotwal cites the example of a story on how the Dalit-dominated Balia village in Uttar Pradesh had not been given an electricity connection for 75 years. Within three months the government provided power to the village. She says these kind of stories have an impact.

The emergence of such media can help amplify the concerns of the Dalit community according to Chowdhury.

The Mooknayak initially relied on crowdfunding and donated equipment, but is exploring other sources of funding as it grows. Kotwal is optimistic. Her main goal is to establish credibility.

Kotwal points out that if BBC, Al Jazeera or other big news outlets do a  story, it is seen as factually correct. That is the kind of trust she aspires to build — that if her news website reports on an incident, it will be regarded as absolutely accurate.

Through its reporting, The Mooknayak’s website hopes to make a mark by raising awareness about the issues of the Dalit community.

your ad here

Russian Artist Explores Migration Caused by War

The plight of fugitives and refugees has been part of the artist Dima Alekseevs’ work since he left Russia in 2016. He now lives in the U.S. Nina Vishneva visited the artist and has this report narrated by Anna Rice. (Camera: Vladimir Badikov, Elena Matusovsky; Produced by Elena Matusovsky, Anna Rice)  

your ad here

Taliban’s Abusive Education Policies Harm Boys as Well as Girls in Afghanistan, Rights Group Says

The Taliban’s “abusive” educational policies are harming boys as well as girls in Afghanistan, according to a Human Rights Watch report published Wednesday.

The Taliban have been globally condemned for banning girls and women from secondary school and university, but the rights group says there has been less attention to the deep harm inflicted on boys’ education.

The departure of qualified teachers including women, regressive curriculum changes and the increase in corporal punishment have led to greater fear of going to school and falling attendance.

Because the Taliban have dismissed all female teachers from boys’ schools, many boys are taught by unqualified people or sit in classrooms with no teachers at all.

Boys and parents told the rights group about a spike in the use of corporal punishment, including officials beating boys before the whole school for haircut or clothing infractions or for having a mobile phone. The group interviewed 22 boys along with five parents in Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Bamiyan and other communities in eight provinces.

The Taliban have eliminated subjects like art, sports, English and civic education.

“The Taliban are causing irreversible damage to the Afghan education system for boys as well as girls,” said Sahar Fetrat, who wrote the report. “By harming the whole school system in the country, they risk creating a lost generation deprived of a quality education.”

Students told Human Rights Watch that there are hours during the school day when there are no lessons because there is a lack of replacement teachers. So they said they do nothing.

Taliban government spokesmen were not available for comment on the report. The Taliban are prioritizing Islamic knowledge over basic literacy and numeracy with their shift toward madrassas, or religious schools.

The Taliban have barred women from most areas of public life and work and stopped girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade as part of harsh measures they imposed after taking power in 2021.

According to the U.N. children’s agency, more than 1 million girls are affected by the ban, though it estimates 5 million were out of school before the Taliban takeover due to a lack of facilities and other reasons.

The ban remains the Taliban’s biggest obstacle to gaining recognition as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan. But they have defied the backlash and gone further, excluding women and girls from higher education, public spaces like parks and most jobs.

The new report suggests that concerned governments and U.N. agencies should urge the Taliban to end their discriminatory ban on girls’ and women’s education and to stop violating boys’ rights to safe and quality education. That includes by rehiring all women teachers, reforming the curriculum in line with international human rights standards and ending corporal punishment.

“The Taliban’s impact on the education system is harming children today and will haunt Afghanistan’s future,” Fetrat said. “An immediate and effective international response is desperately needed to address Afghanistan’s education crisis.”

your ad here