With reports of more mass killings in Syria, the UN Human Rights Council today will call for an independent inquiry into who and what is behind the gruesome deaths. Observers have confirmed 108 people killed in Houla a week ago-49 children and 34 women. It's widely believed that Syrian forces are likely behind the massacres, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice called reports to the contrary "a blatant lie," as new reports of mass killings in towns held by the Free Syrian Army are emerging today. One way to follow developments: #Houla hashtag on Twitter today.
Blasts in Baghdad have left at least 12 dead and wounded several dozen. The attacks appear aimed at Shiite targets and are taking place during an international auction of oil and gas leases.
USAID changed its rules last year to allow more contracting for goods and services overseas through local businesses rather than U.S.-based contractors. It plans to increase funds spent through local agents from 11 percent in 2011 to 30 percent in 2015-a savings to U.S. taxpayers and a boon to local overseas businesses. But now Congress has stepped in to block reforms. At the behest of Beltway lobbyists hired by the U.S. contractors, Republicans in Congress, led by Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., want to return contracting to apparently entitled Americans.
Since 2005, aid to Ethiopia has more than doubled-to more than $4 billion annually-chiefly from the United States, the World Bank, and the United Kingdom. Yet during that time repression and limits to press and other freedoms have increased, thanks in part to those aid dollars: "The Ethiopian government uses aid to build schools, vaccinate children, and provide social safety nets for the poor. But a Human Rights Watch report found that the government also systematically uses aid as a political weapon to discriminate against non-party members and punish dissenters," writes New York University's Laura Freschi.
"In Europe soon, millions of people will wake up to realize that the euro-as-we-know-it is gone. Economic chaos awaits them," write Baseline Scenario bloggers Peter Boone and Simon Johnson. They argue that a single currency for Europe is impossible, and explain the domino scenario that's becoming increasingly likely once Greece defaults and has to resort to the drachma in order to (maybe) pay (some of) its bills. Keeping in mind that the European economy accounts for one-third of global GDP, these doomsdayers insist that, "A disorderly break up of the euro area will be far more damaging to global financial markets than the crisis of 2008."
By ignoring the role of religion in Afghanistan, "the United States is omitting a key piece of the complex jigsaw puzzle that is Afghanistan's future," argues Knox Thames, director of policy and research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Thames points out that religion is not addressed in the Strategic Partnership Agreement Presidents Obama and Karzai recently signed, nor in the summit declaration from the recent NATO meeting in Chicago-yet remains a key sticking point as the Karzai government has attempted to prosecute apostasy cases and imposed severe restrictions on women.
British Conservative Home head Tim Montgomerie, a sometime contributor to WORLD, is Britain's "most powerful man in politics," according to this profile in Tatler.
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Mindy Belz and her Globe Trot column will take a break next week and will return on June 11.