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Unlivable Conditions in Macedonian Student Dorms Worsen

The Student Plenum, a grassroots movement fighting for the rights of university students in Macedonia, published new photos of the unlivable conditions that students in Macedonia's capital of Skopje live in. The movement has steadily been following the situation in the state-owned student dorms and has called on the state several times to improve basic hygiene and safety conditions in the student living quarters. Student Plenum recently informed the public that the living conditions and structural safety of at least one of the largest student dormitories in Skopje has worsened since and has reminded that the government promised to fully reconstruct the dorms more than a year ago, after being shamed in international media.

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In the accompanying text, Student Plenum indirectly address the new institution of special public prosecutor, which is supposed to handle corruption cases that the regular public prosecutor in Macedonia actively ignores.

Домовите се распаѓаат исто како и системот во државата, но ние сè уште немаме добиено нов специјален студентски дом за да се спасат студентите живи од бедата во која живеат и која се руши околу нив.

Ова е блокот В во студентскиот дом “Гоце Делчев”, во кој пред некој ден како што може да се види на сликите се срушил дел од кровот во еден од ходниците.

Овојпат немало повредени. Дали и наредниот пат нашите колеги ќе бидат еднакво среќни или пак до тогаш ќе добијат нов (специјален) студентски дом?

Student dorms are falling apart just like the state system and we have not received a new special student dorm to save the students’ lives from the misery in which they live and which crumbles around them.

This is the Block V of the “Goce Delchev” student dorm. The ceiling fell in one of the hallways a few days ago.

This time no one was injured. Will our colleagues be so lucky the next time or by then will they get a new, (special) student dorm?

Search Coordinator for Ayotzinapa Students Assasinated

Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, coordinator of the search for the 43 Ayotzinapa teachers’ college students, was assasinated in Mexico.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, 45, was found dead last weekend in a taxi he owned with a gunshot to the head.

In response to authorities’ lack of action against organized crime, he founded a self-defense group in 2013 in the Mexican state of Guerrero. A year later, the group formed a commission to launch the search for the 43 students of the rural teachers’ college in the community of Ayotzinapa who disappeared on September 26, 2014.

The BBC interviewed him about the search:

The activist never found the students, but thanks to his efforts, the search discovered 129 bodies which have been turned over to the authorities for identification.

Candlelight Vigil for the 23 Victims of Boko Haram Suicide Bombings in Chad

Images in the aftermath of the bombings from Eric Topona with his permission

Image in the aftermath of the bombings from Eric Topona with his permission

Two suicide bombings killed at least 23 people Monday (June 15) in Chad's capital N'djamena. Chad government stated that four attackers belonged to extremist group Boko Haram and were killed by the blast which targeted police. More than 100 people were also injured in the incidents. Chad has committed his army against Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has repeatedly threatened to attack Chadian interests before monday's bombings. Chadian activist Abdelkerim Yacoub Koundougoumi Egrey announces that a candlelight vigil to show solidarity with the victims will take place in Paris, place de la république on June 16 at 18h.


Mexican Indigenous Community Accuses Famous Designer of Plagiarism

French designer Isabel Marant has made a name for herself in the world of fashion, owing to her eclectic style, which blends materials and ethnic influences together in her designs. These creations carry a price tag starting in the hundreds of dollars.

However, for the authorities and citizens of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, a Mixe community in Mexico, they were more than just a source of inspiration. They accuse Marant of selling her creations as if they were her own take on the traditional dress of the territory.

“Tlahuitoltepec defends its embroidery; accuses Frenchwoman Isabel Marant of plagiarism”.

The famous dressmaker sells this piece for $290, close to 4,500 Mexican pesos, while the price of the garment in the indigenous community is around 600 pesos ($40).

Marant is “hijacking a cultural heritage for commercial benefit, which puts indigenous communities at risk, as well as the originality of the fashion industry”, maintained the mayor, Erasmo Hernández González, who stated that they will be taking legal action.

Did Saudi Arabia Bomb Yemen's Ancient Marib Dam?

Unconfirmed reports say that Saudi coalition forces, which have been bombing Yemen for more than two months have targeted the Marib Dam, one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world.

On Twitter, Hussain Albukhaiti claims:

In a follow up tweet, Albukhaiti posts a photograph of ruins, of what he describes as the dam, which dates back to the 8th century BC and is considered the oldest known dam in the world:

The size of the destruction of Yemeni infrastructure and history is still unaccounted for. We are gathering information and leads here on the damage on Global Voices Checkdesk, a collaboration project between Meedan Checkdesk, an online news verification tool, and Global Voices Online.

Leave a comment here to contribute tips to this story or to join our team.

2 Reasons Why Madagascar's President Hasn't Been Impeached Yet (Contrary to Media Reports)

Screen Capture of Media Headlines about Madagascar via Google News

Screen capture of media headlines about Madagascar via Google News

Numerous media outlets have reported that Madagascar's President Hery Rajaonarimampianina has been impeached. While members of parliament have voted 121 in favor of his impeachment out of 125, there are a few reasons why the president is still projected to stay in charge for the time being:

  1. The constitutional court has to approve of the motion to impeach. The procedure may require a prolonged period to review the allegations.
  2. The legitimacy of the vote has been challenged over accusations of fraudulent counting.

Malagasy observers have weighed in on the motives behind the motion of impeachment.

#IFellAsleepToo: Sleeping Latin American Doctors Go Viral

It's a trending topic under the hashtag  #YoTambienMeDormi (#IFellAsleepToo). In one week, there have been 17,500 comments on Twitter. The stories of tens of thousands of doctors in Mexico and Latin America who are sharing pictures of them sleeping during their long hospital shifts have gone viral.

It all started when a blogger criticized a physician whose photo showed him sleeping, according to the BBC.

“We know this work is tiring, but they have the duty to fulfill their responsibilities while there are dozens of sick people who need their attention at any moment,” Noti-blog site reports, showing the photo of a medical resident at General Hospital 33 in Monterrey, México, who fell asleep at 3 am while filling out the records of that night's patient number 18.

I Fell Asleep Too, because we are not machines but human beings like everyone else

In addition to showing solidarity, the spontaneous campaign has also been a way to put a face the sacrifices people in the profession must make, including long meal-less, sleepless shifts, which are not always financially compensated nor always provide the necessary basics for the job.

The Humanitarian Crisis You Haven't Heard of in Burundi

50000 refugees have fled Burundi ( here at the border with Tanzania)  photo via Jamii Forums

50,000 refugees have fled Burundi (here at the border with Tanzania). Photo via Jamii Forums

Following Burundi President Nkurunziza's announcement of his candidacy for a third term (unconstitutional by Burundi's existing law), a massive humanitarian crisis has hit the country as at least 50,000 refugees have fled the country after scenes of violence were reported in several cities. The occurrence of violence were often posted on social media platforms first under the hashtags #burundichaos or #sindumuja. The following infographic sums up the refugees situation as of May 8:

Pro-Russian Videos Get Fake Views With Help From Malware

Some pro-Russian videos appear to have gone viral, and not in a good sense. Motherboard reports that a group of unknown hackers has been infecting Internet users’ computers with viruses and using them to inflate views on news videos with a pro-Russian slant, as well as some other content.

New research by security firm Trustwave shows that victims got infected by visiting a compromised website that installed an exploit kit (an off-the-shelf software package allowing for easy attacks) on their computer, along with a trojan virus. The infected computers would then stealthily rack up views on the videos.

The videos identified by the researchers all appear to be pro-Russian, such as a one from the Iranian English-language broadcaster PressTV that quotes a Russian Parliament member justifying the annexation of Crimea. The goal of the operation, according to Trustwave researchers Rami Kogan and Arseny Levin, was to artificially increase the popularity of a video and make it more visible to users of the site Dailymotion.

Trustwave experts say the suspicious videos all share the same traits: they all have a fairly high number of views (around 320K, most of them within minutes of each other) but no social media shares or comments. By artificially inflating the clip's popularity, the fraudsters also make the video more visible to other users of the video site.

Using bots to generate fake traffic to video clips is nothing new. It is a technique to raise a clip's popularity score and achieve higher visibility. However, this is the first time we've observed the tactic used to promote video clips with a seemingly political agenda.

Both Trustwave analysts and independent security researchers told Motherboard that using malware for political aims was new, but that such ‘invisible propaganda’ could be very effective, as only its results were visible,but not the fraudulent mechanisms behind them.

“We have seen hacks that are motivated by money and other ‘hacktivist’ attacks that are motivated by politics,” Karl Sigler, the threat intelligence manager at Trustwave, told Motherboard. “This current campaign shows that those two motivations are starting to evolve and blend together.”

While it is unclear who is behind the campaign, Trustware experts speculate that those who spread the exploit kit and the malware simply aimed to make money, and that someone else paid them to add fake views to pro-Russian propaganda videos.

France Launchs National Campaign to Curb Racist and Anti-Semitic Acts

"The Republic United Against Racism" Infographic on the national campaign - Public Domain

“The Republic United Against Racism and Anti-Semitism”. Infographic on the national campaign. Public domain

On April 17, the French government unveiled a national campaign to combat racism and anti-Semitism in France. The objective of the campaign is to fight all prejudices, raise awareness and get citizens engaged in the conversation.

One hundred euros will be allocated over three years to educate and promote cultural diversity. The hashtag #planantiracisme (the plan against racism) was the number one trending topic on Twitter on the day of the announcement.

According to the Report on Racism and Antisemitism by the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme CNCDH (National Comission on Human Rights), there was a 30% increase in racist acts in 2014 (from 1,274 in 2013 to 1,662 in 2014). Anti-Semitic acts went from 423 in 2013 to 851 in 2014, including the attack on the kosher store after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

Predictions for an Opposition Party Win in Trinidad & Tobago's General Elections

By midnight Trinidad and Tobago time, the country should know which political party will form its next government. As predicted, it has been a tight race — out of just over a million eligible voters, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has thus far tallied over 400,000 votes. Many seats have already been declared, but two critical marginal seats, St. Joseph and La Horquetta/Talparo, both in the east Trinidad, are still up for grabs.

As expected, the two Tobago constituencies have gone entirely to the opposition People's National Movement (PNM).

Should the PNM win the two marginal seats — and by all appearances, they are poised to claim victory for at least one of them, St. Joseph — they will have beat the incumbent by 23 seats to 18 — a slim majority, but a win nonetheless. Some media houses and pollsters have been taking the liberty of calling the election in favour of the PNM, even though final numbers have not yet come in:

The still-sitting prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, retained her seat by a definitive margin:

As things stand now, it looks as though her victory may remain limited to her personal triumph in the constituency of Siparia and the ‘safe seats’ that her party enjoys in east and central Trinidad.

Macedonian Activist Ends Hunger Strike for Migrant Rights

On Saturday, June 20, human rights expert and activist Suad Missini ended the hunger strike he started six days prior in protest of inhumane treatment of migrants passing through Macedonia. Mr. Missini issued the following statement [links added]:

While the effects of the changes of the Asylum Law are yet to be seen in practice, the conditions in the migrant center in Gazi Baba has not been improved. The refugees are still kept in the center which gains characteristics of a concentration camp, under impossible, inhuman and degrading conditions, out of the legal framework and international human rights standards which are part of the national legal system.

Authorities in Republic of Macedonia chose to remain deaf to the demands for solving of this problem by numerous international organizations and institutions. They act blind to the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture characterized the treatment of refugees in this center as torture and breach of the UN Convention Against Torture in its latest report. And all this while our country is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

On the other hand, I'd like to stress that Macedonia, as member of Council of Europe (CoE), received a visit by the CoE Committee for Prevention of Torture, which included a visit to Gazi Baba center. This summer, the president of this committee Mikola Gnatovskij visited Macedonia and also talked to the authorities about this center, among other things. I emphasize that Macedonian authorities have still not issued approval for the report of this visit to be published.

Finally, two days before the start of the hunger strike, the Ombudsman of Republic of Macedonia presented the catastrophic situation and lawlessness that rule in this center.

Today, we can acknowledge that the public in Republic of Macedonia, as well as the international public and foreign media and organizations, are fully aware and informed about the problem with this center. These days, Gazi Baba center is an international topic. If the government decided that this catastrophic problem should not be a subject of immediate reaction and subsequent solution, then this definitely puts our country among those which openly and unscrupulously conduct torture, while the authorities are legitimized as institutions lead by persons which have no respect for human lives. The lives of hundreds of people detained within this center. And finally, about my life.

Therefore, on this day I end the hunger strike. Because the limits of health risks are already surpassed, and because the potentials of this strike are fulfilled.

My demands, which are demands by an enormous part of the public in Republic of Macedonia, are partially fulfilled.

My civic act was a drop which made waves, which, I sincerely hope, together with all the other efforts, will lead to solving of this problem which turns our country into an uncivilized space.

I am immensely grateful to the thousands who sincerely and unambiguously expressed their support, making this civil act as much theirs, as it was mine.

Meanwhile, Twitter users continue sharing leaked photos showing the conditions of detained refugees.

Human Rights Activist Begins Hunger Strike for Migrants in Front of Macedonian Parliament

The growing migration crisis has recently also affected countries in southeastern Europe, with new issues arising almost daily. Reacting to the inhumane treatment of migrants who pass through Republic of Macedonia, renowned human rights activist Suad Missini started a hunger strike in front of the Parliament building in Skopje. He began the strike immediately after publishing his three demands in a Facebook post on Sunday, June 14, which garnered almost 300 likes and over 90 shares in just the first day.

I am just starting a hunger strike.
In front of the Parliament.

I demand urgently and immediately:

  1. Urgent adoption of the changes of the Asylum law, that would enable safe transit or temporary stay of refugees passing through the Macedonian territory, as well as free use of all publicly available means of transport.
  2. Concrete and publicly announced measures by the Ministry of Interior in view to safeguard the life, security and possessions of refugees passing through Macedonia.
  3. Immediate liberation of all refugees and migrants detained in the Gazi Baba center and its immediate closure.

The strike will not end unless these demands are fulfilled.

Suad Missini

Thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and other war zones pass through Macedonia, traveling from Greece towards Serbia on a path to try to reach Germany or other well-off EU countries. The migrants used to follow the railway tracks on foot, suffering horrific “accidents.” Lately the migrants buy bicycles, reportedly at inflated prices, in southern Macedonian towns and cycle on the main highway. Many of them fall victim to human trafficking rings and gangs of robbers. Some of the refugees are held as “witnesses” in the Reception Center for Foreigners “Gazi Baba” in Skopje in what Macedonian Ombudsman Idzhet Memeti has called “inhuman, unhealthy, and undignified” conditions.

The Government is supposed to discuss the amendments to the  Asylum Law on June 16.

After Citizen Uprising in Burkina Faso and Burundi, Are Niger and Togo Next?

Protests in Niamey, Niger via Abdoulaye Hamidou on twitter (with his permission)

Protests in Niamey, Niger via Abdoulaye Hamidou on twitter (with his permission)

20,000 Nigeriens took to the streets in Niamey, Niger on June, 6. There are multiple causes for the protests: endemic poverty, mediocre governance and restricted free speech are among the main grievances from Nigerien civil society.   These protests come on the hill of similar uprisings in Burkina Faso, Burundi and Togo. The government resigned in Burkina Faso while elections are postponed in Burundi. In May, citizens in Lome protested presidential election results  that saw Togolese president Faure Gnassingbe won a third term.

FIFA Elections Are in Progress

Despite the recent arrests of FIFA officials due to indictments laid by the US Department of Justice, the world football governing body has said that its elections, which it calls the 65th FIFA Congress, will continue as scheduled today. Current FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who headed the organisation while the two-decade siege of corruption, bribery and money laundering was allegedly taking place, is seeking a fifth term at today's congress. Blatter has refused to resign amidst the scandal, despite several calls for him to step down.

You can watch the live feed of the FIFA elections here.

ISIS Fighters Capture Ramadi in Iraq

Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Al Anbar province, has been captured by ISIS fighters. Joey Ayoub is putting the story together, tracking citizen journalists reports, news and testimonies, on Global Voices Checkdesk, a partnership project between Global Voices and Meedan's Checkdesk.

The city, in central Iraq, is about 110 kilometres west of Baghdad and 50 kilometres west of Fallujah. Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed, and thousands forced to flee their homes.

ISIS, an Al Qaeda off-shoot, has come to control larges swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, attracting news headlines for the horror it has waged against civilians in areas they have occupied.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Assistance Mission for Iraq:

UN agencies are rushing humanitarian assistance to people fleeing Ramadi for the second time in a month.

Close to 25,000 people have fled Ramadi following ISIL attacks and fierce fighting in the city. Most of the displaced are fleeing towards Baghdad, with many trying to enter through security checkpoints.

The report adds:

Within the past month, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations have provided life- assistance to more than 130,000 people who fled Ramadi following ISIL attacks in April. Tens of thousands of kits and rations have been distributed to more than 35 locations across Anbar Governorate. Thousands of families who had fled earlier had returned to their homes in Ramadi, when fighting again broke out, forcing them to flee a second time.

In July, the food pipeline will break. “Nothing is more important right now than helping the people fleeing Ramadi. They are in trouble and we need to do everything possible to help them.” Lise Grande, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator said. “Thousands of people had to sleep in the open because they didn't have places to stay. We would be able to do much more if we had the funding.”

What We Know and What Is Still Up in the Air After the Alleged Coup in Burundi

Following incumbent Burundi President Nkurunziza's candidacy for a third term, General Godefroid Niyombare announced that he has dismissed the current administration and that he is taking over until further notice. The government denies such coup has taken place and calls it a “farce”. The situation is evidently still very fluid in Burundi, but here is summary of what is known and what is still not clear in Bujumbura, the capital from Penelope Starr (via UN Dispatch blog):

President Nkurunziza was not in the country when the coup was announced (but no one knows whether he is back yet): The president was attending a Summit of Eastern African Nations when the coup was announced. He has tried to fly back to the capital city but it is unclear whether he has succeeded.

This is not (just) about ethnic conflicts :

Nkurunziza and General Niyombare are both former Hutu rebel leaders. They also belong to the same governing party, and Niyombare was both Ambassador to Kenya and intelligence chief, a post he was dismissed from earlier this year.

Like in Burkina Faso earlier this year, public opinion in Burundi seems to be in support of the coup as a way to oppose African life rulers: 

What’s happening today in Burundi is reminiscent of what took place late last year in Burkina Faso, when long-time head of state Blaise Compaore was deposed by the military after declaring his intention to run for yet another term. While the situation in Burkina Faso is still in flux, it was a key moment, as the public massively supported the coup, fed up with Compaore’s decades-long rule (..)but The situation in Burundi is also different, particularly given the protracted civil war which ended in 2005.

Former French Defense Minister Finds Excuses for the Alleged Rape of Central African Children by French Soldiers

Screen capture of video of Former Defense Minister of France arguing that challenging conditions can explain odd behaviors (such as rape)

Screen capture of video of Former Defense Minister of France arguing that challenging conditions can explain odd behaviors (such as rape)

Afrique Info reports that JP Chevènement, a former defense minister of France, stated on public radio Europe 1 on May 3 that the challenging conditions that French soldiers face in the Central African Republic could explain “behavior of that kind” (see video above). Chevènement was referring to the allegation of child sexual abuse by French troops posted in the Central African Republic. The allegations surfaced after disciplinary proceedings were taken against a United Nations employee accused of leaking the allegations to the French authorities.

At Least 30 People Killled After Heavy Rains in Chile

The heaviest rains to hit Chile's northern region in decades have costed the life of at least 30 people, according to the most recent report by the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry (known as Onemi), dated April 21.

At the time of writing the original post of this translation, a new victim was found.

LAST MINUTE: At Los Loros, the body of a new victim of the flood was found. This would be number 31.

On Global Voices, we reported about what has been considered the worst rain from the past 80 years in the Northern regions (mainly in Atacama and Antofagasta) when heavy rains caused the Copiapó river to overflow.

According to press releases, there are at least 59 people unaccounted for and 29.739 affected. Meanwhile, material damages go up to 2.000 completely destroyed homes. Over 6.000 have been severely affected, and another 11.000 have suffered minor damages.

Mexican Group Receives International Journalism Recognition Julio Anguita Parrado

Periodistas de a Pie (@periodistasdeapie), an active journalist organization that aims to raise the quality of journalism in Mexico, received the International Journalism Award Julio Anguita Parrado in Spain.

Through training and exchanging investigation techniques, experiences, reporting strategies, narrative styles and ways of approaching a story with colleagues, the group aims to challenge censorship.

The dean of the University of Córdoba and mayor hand out the 8th Julio Anguita Parrado Award.

Elia Baltazar, a member of Periodistas de a Pie, said in an interview that journalism in her country has recognition only from some sectors. We can see evidence of that in the impunity that exists when it comes to journalists being killed.

“Los que hemos elegido esta profesión no pretendemos cambiar nada sino informar para que sean los ciudadanos quienes tomen las decisiones para cambiar las cosas. Queremos una sociedad abierta, donde los periodistas podamos cumplir nuestra labor sin arriesgarnos porque una sociedad mejor informada va a ser una sociedad que tome mejores decisiones”, apunta.

Those of us who've chosen this profession don't pretend to change anything, just to inform so the citizens can be the ones who make the decisions to change things. We want an open society, where journalists might be able to fulfill out work without risks, because a better informed society will be a society that makes better decisions.

The jury of the 8th Julio Anguita Parrado Award, named after the Spanish journaist that passed away ten years ago while covering the war in Irak, valued the “informative work, silent, without showing off, carried out by communicators in absolute heroic circumstances, in a place where their ives and integrity are under constant threat”.

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