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07 Mar

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

The Foreign Press

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

A Save the Children study says Syria’s mental health crisis has reached a tipping point, and that severe distress among children could cause life-long damage

Children in Syria are suffering from “toxic stress”, a severe form of psychological trauma that can cause life-long damage, according to a study that charts a rise in self-harm and suicide attempts among children as young as 12.

A report by Save the Children and its partner agencies in Syria paints a harrowing picture of the country’s children, 5.8 million of whom are in need of aid, after a war which reaches its sixth year next week.

Authors of the study, the largest of its kind to be undertaken during the conflict, warned the nation’s mental health crisis had reached a tipping point, where “staggering levels” of trauma and distress among children could cause permanent and irreversible damage.

More than 70% of children interviewed experienced common symptoms of “toxic stress” or post-traumatic stress disorder, such as bedwetting, the study found. Loss of speech, aggression and substance abuse are also commonplace. About 48% of adults reported seeing children who have lost the ability to speak or who have developed speech impediments since the war began, according to the report, entitled Invisible Wounds (pdf).

Mohammed, an aid worker with Shafak, a Save the Children partner in Idlib, said children were in a state of constant anxiety: “We notice that they are always stressed and react to any unfamiliar noise – [such as] if a chair moves or the door bangs – because of their fear of the sound of airplanes and rockets. Children are increasingly isolated and don’t like to participate in our activities, and in the young children we’re seeing a lot of cases of involuntary urination.”

Firas*, the father of Saeed*, three, said: “My son wakes up afraid in the middle of the night. He wakes up screaming. A child was slaughtered in front of him, so he started to dream that someone is coming to slaughter him.”

The majority of children interviewed showed signs of “severe emotional stress” and 78% of them felt grief and extreme sadness some of the time. The study focused on 458 children, adolescents and adults, and was undertaken between December 2016 and February 2017, in seven of Syria’s 14 governorates. It also revealed:

  • 51% of adults interviewed said adolescents are turning to drugs to cope with stress

  • 59% of adults said they knew children and adolescents who had been recruited into armed groups. Almost half knew of children working at checkpoints or barracks

  • One in four children is now at risk of developing a mental health disorder

Of the adults questioned, 60% cited the loss of education as one of the biggest impacts on their children’s daily lives. Since war began there have been more than 4,000 attacks on schools in Syria, according to Unicef.

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Wording of new law leaves open possibility it could be used against Palestinians temporarily residing in Israel, says Haaretz

Israel’s parliament has passed into law a bill barring entry into the country to those supporting a boycott of the Jewish state.

“The knesset [parliament] passed on its second and third readings the entry into Israel bill,” it said in a statement on Monday night.

“A visa will not be granted nor a residence permit of any kind to any person who is not an Israeli citizen or permanent resident if he, or the organisation or body in which he is active, has knowingly issued a public call to boycott the state of Israel or pledged to take part in such a boycott,” the statement said.

Israel has been faced with a boycott movement over its nearly 50-year occupation of the West Bank but it has lately intensified the diplomatic and legal fight against it.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement campaigns for a global boycott of Israel until, among other demands, the country withdraws from all occupied Palestinian territories. Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of antisemitism – a claim BDS denies.

Haaretz newspaper said the wording of the new law left open the possibility that it could be used against Palestinians living in Israel as temporary residents while their applications for permanent residence were being considered. Such a process is required by Palestinians seeking right of abode with their Israeli-Arab spouses.

Last year, Israeli authorities refused to renew the travel documents of prominent BDS campaigner Omar Barghouti. His family are Palestinian but he was born in the Gulf state of Qatar. He is married to an Israeli-Arab and as such has permanent resident status, although not full citizenship. But interior minister, Aryeh Deri, has been considering revoking Barghouti’s residence permit, the ministry has said.

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Report warns of catastrophic consequences and blames manufacturers for ‘systematic denial of harms’ and ‘aggressive, unethical marketing tactics’

The global pesticides market is worth $50bn and companies lobby heavily to resist reforms and regulations.

The global pesticides market is worth $50bn and companies lobby heavily to resist reforms and regulations. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

The idea that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population is a myth, according to UN food and pollution experts.

A new report, being presented to the UN human rights council on Wednesday, is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.

The report says pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole”, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”

The world’s population is set to grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion in 2050. The pesticide industry argue that their products – a market worth about $50bn (£41bn) a year and growing – are vital in protecting crops and ensuring sufficient food supplies.

“It is a myth,” said Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food. “Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”

Elver said many of the pesticides are used on commodity crops, such as palm oil and soy, not the food needed by the world’s hungry people: “The corporations are not dealing with world hunger, they are dealing with more agricultural activity on large scales.”

The new report, which is co-authored by Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, said: “While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions, or harm to the ecosystem, presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agroindustry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.”

Elver, who visited the Philippines, Paraguay, Morocco and Poland as part of producing the report, said: “The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies – that is why [we use] these harsh words. They will say, of course, it is not true, but also out there is the testimony of the people.”

She said some developed countries did have “very strong” regulations for pesticides, such as the EU, which she said based their rules on the “precautionary principle”. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which harm bees, on flowering crops in 2013, a move strongly opposed by the industry. But she noted that others, such as the US, did not use the precautionary principle.

Elver also said that while consumers in developed countries are usually better protected from pesticides, farms workers often are not. In the US, she, said, 90% of farm workers were undocumented and their consequent lack of legal protections and health insurance put them at risk from pesticide use.

“The claim that it is a myth that farmers need pesticides to meet the challenge of feeding 7 billion people simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said a spokesman for the Crop Protection Association, which represents pesticide manufacturers in the UK. “The UN FAO is clear on this – without crop protection tools, farmers could lose as much as 80% of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant disease.”

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The Foreign Press

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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