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Scale of child slavery shocking in India’s spinning mills – research | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Various forms of slavery, including child labour, are present in more than 90 percent of south India’s spinning mills which produce yarn for Western brands, researchers said, calling for mapping of supply chains and tougher audits.The India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), a human rights organisation, spoke to workers from almost half the mills in Tamil Nadu, the largest producer of cotton yarn in the country.Most female workers employed in the 734 mills involved in the research were aged between 14 and 18, it said, and up to 20 percent of the workers were younger than 14.It said employees were forced to work long hours by employers who often withheld their pay or locked them up in company-controlled hostels. Many also faced sexual harassment.”We have raised the issue for five years now, but even to us the scale of this problem came as a shock,” ICN Director Gerard Oonk said in a statement.K. Venkatachalam, chief advisor of the Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association, said he was not aware of the research.He said the state government had recently filed a report to the Madras High Court “clearly stating that these issues are no longer prevalent in the industry”.”The matter has been closed,” Venkatachalam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“TORTURE”
India is one of the world’s largest textile and garment manufacturers. The southern state of Tamil Nadu is home to some 1,600 mills, employing between 200,000 and 400,000 workers.Traditionally the dyeing units, spinning mills and apparel factories have drawn on cheap labour from villages across Tamil Nadu to turn cotton into yarn, fabric and clothes, most of it for Western high street shops.Most workers are young women from poor, illiterate and low-caste or “Dalit” communities, who often face intimidation, sexually offensive remarks and harassment.

ICN said in more than half of the mills it researched, workers were not allowed to leave company-controlled hostels after working hours.Only 39 mills paid the minimum wage and in half the mills, a standard working week involved 60 hours or more of work. “Supervisors torture girls to extract work beyond their capacity,” ICN quoted an 18-year-old former worker as saying.Another teenage girl, Kalaichelvi, who earned around 8,000 rupees ($118) a month, told researchers she was forced to work for 12 hours straight with no breaks for lunch or to use the bathroom.

She said she suffered from burning eyes, rashes, fever, aching legs and stomach problems due to the working conditions. About a third of the yarn produced by workers like Kalaichelvi is used in export factories in Tamil Nadu that produce garments for many global brands.Citing poor enforcement of labour laws and “superficial audits” by buying brands, the ICN called on the industry and government to map supply chains and publish sourcing details.It also called for factories that upheld standards to be rewarded.($1=67.8650 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 19:34 IST

Mexico fireworks market blast kills at least 27, hurts scores | Reuters

Mexico fireworks market blast kills at least 27, hurts scores | Reuters

Dec 21, 2016 05:26 IST

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MEXICO CITY At least 27 people died in an explosion at a fireworks market outside the Mexican capital on Tuesday, according to a local emergency services official.The blast at the San Pablito fireworks market in Tultepec, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Mexico City, also injured at least 70 others, according to a tweet from federal police.Isidro Sanchez, the head of Tultepec emergency services, said the death toll was preliminary as rescue workers scoured the site.

Local television showed a flurry of multi-colored fireworks exploding in all directions as a massive plume of smoke rose above the market while people frantically fled.Aerial footage showed charred stalls and destroyed buildings.

A blast struck the popular market in September 2005 just before independence day celebrations, injuring many people.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 05:26 IST

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Box Office: ‘Rogue One’ scores massive $155 million debut as Star Wars fans flock to theaters | Reuters

By Brent Lang

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” sold out multiplexes around the country and brought fanboys and fangirls out in force over the weekend. The “Star Wars” prequel scored the second largest December opening in history, the second largest launch of the year, and one of the top debuts in history, opening to a massive $155 million.Globally, the film has earned $290.5 million, after touching down in nearly every major foreign market save for China and South Korea.Disney, which shelled out $4 billion to buy “Star Wars” creator LucasFilm in 2012, had been trying to downplay expectations for “Rogue One.” Executives noted that the film is the first “Star Wars” movie to exist outside of the main Skywalker clan storyline. It’s also a darker, war-themed tale; one that has an unusually high body count for a popcorn flick.But the “Star Wars” pedigree proved irresistible to audiences, and the film seems positioned to play well through the holidays. Disney is planning to do more “Rogue One”-style spinoffs. The company is already working on a film about the early years of Han Solo that will star Alden Ehrenreich.

Most studios steered clear of “Rogue One,” but Warner Bros. and New Line offered up “Collateral Beauty” as counter-programming for audiences unmoved by tales of Jedi warriors. The drama about a grieving ad executive (Will Smith) was savaged by critics, and only managed to eke out a paltry $7 million debut for a fourth place finish. That’s a rough start for the picture and continues Smith’s bumpy period at the box office. The actor scored with last summer’s “Suicide Squad,” but struck out with the likes of “Focus,” “After Earth,” and “Concussion.” “Collateral Beauty” cost $36 million to produce. Village Roadshow also backed the picture. The opening weekend crowd skewed female and older, with women comprising 59% of the audience and 58% of ticket buyers clocking in over the age of 35.Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. domestic distribution president, acknowledged that the poor reviews hurt the film, but stressed that its A-minus CinemaScore indicated that audiences were enjoying “Collateral Beauty.”

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “But the film plays well with an older audience, and we hope that over Christmas, they’ll have more free time available to go out and discover it.”Disney’s “Moana” snagged second place, picking up $11.7 million and pushing its stateside gross to $161.9 million. Paramount’s “Office Christmas Party” nabbed third, earning $8.4 million and bringing the raunchy comedy’s total to $31.5 million after two weeks of release.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” rounded out the top five, picking up $5 million to push the Harry Potter spinoff’s domestic total to $207.7 million.Oscar-frontrunner “La La Land” performed nicely in its expansion. The acclaimed musical picked up $4 million after moving from five to 200 theaters. That brings its total to $5.3 million. Lionsgate is backing the film, which stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as two Angelenos in love.Amazon and Roadside’s “Manchester by the Sea” capitalized on a slew of Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, adding $4.2 million to its $14 million haul while moving from 356 to 1,200 theaters.In limited release, “Fences” picked up $128,000 in two theaters. Paramount is backing the adaptation of the August Wilson play, with Denzel Washington directing the film and co-starring opposite Viola Davis. It cost just over $20 million to make.

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First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 22:35 IST

India’s cash crackdown linked to drop in child trafficking | Reuters

By Roli Srivastava and Nita Bhalla

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Business has been slow at the Thakkar Bappa Colony shoe manufacturing hub in eastern Mumbai since the Indian government withdrew high-value bank notes last month in an attempt to curb tax evasion and counterfeit currency.Orders to the numerous shoemakers lining the slum’s narrow streets have almost dried up due to a dearth of bank notes in circulation, say the businesses which mainly rely on cash transactions.Yet while factory owners complain of a slump in profits and a dip in productivity, child rights activists say “demonetisation” drive has a silver-lining: it has stemmed the steady stream of children trafficked here to stitch shoes. “Children came from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan to work here,” said Sugandha Patade from the charity Pratham which rescues and rehabilitates child workers in the area.”In the last month, no new child workers have come and those who were working here have been sent back to their villages as there are no orders for them to work on.”Police agree the cash crunch could be hitting traffickers who buy and sell children for labour, but say more detailed analysis is required before they can make a direct link.India has almost 6 million child workers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), but activists say this is a gross underestimate. More than half are employed in agriculture and more than a quarter in manufacturing – embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making match sticks. Children also work in restaurants, shops and hotels and as domestic workers.

The children – mostly from poor rural areas – are taken to cities by gangs who sell them into bonded labour, force them into sex work or hire them out to unscrupulous employers. In many cases, they are unpaid.ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE
The shock currency move, announced on November 8 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aims to bring billions of dollars worth of unaccounted wealth which people are hoarding, or “black money”, into the mainstream economy and curb corruption.

High denomination 500- and 1,000-rupee bank notes have ceased to be legal tender for transactions and can only be exchanged at banks for smaller notes or the newly introduced 2,000-rupee note.Banks are meant to alert the Reserve Bank of India and tax authorities of any unusually large sums being exchanged which may be the product of illicit activities.There is no study on the impact of banning high denomination notes on child labour, but some children’s groups say they have anecdotal evidence of its repercussions in areas such as Mumbai, Delhi and other urban centres.Child rights activist and Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who has welcomed the demonetisation policy, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that human trafficking and child labour were among the largest sources of black money.

His own charity – Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), or Save the Childhood Movement – has reported fewer children in areas where there are small-scale factories and ‘placement-agencies’ which often traffick girls and women for domestic work. “These days, they don’t frequently see transportation of children by traffickers in these areas and they are not able to operate so easily because they cannot use the black money which funded their illicit businesses before,” said Satyarthi.BBA has for example found no cases of girls being trafficked at three popular railway stations in the northeast state of Assam over the last two months, compared to a monthly average of six before the demonetisation policy.In Uttar Pradesh, the charity Safe Society says five children were rescued in the last month from the town of Gorakhpur, against a monthly average of 15 to 20.But Satyarthi warned that child labour would persist unless human trafficking is addressed in the impoverished areas where the children are taken from.”This means punishing offenders, providing protection on the ground such as introducing social welfare programmes for the poor, raising awareness on trafficking and child labour, and providing good quality education,” he said. (Reporting by Roli Srivastava and Nita Bhalla; Editing by Emma Batha. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 19:32 IST

India’s landmark forest rights law hobbled by conflicting policies: Report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A landmark Indian forest rights law passed 10 years ago with the aim of protecting indigenous people has been crippled by conflicting legislation, and a lack of political will and funds to ensure its implementation, according to a report.More than a fifth of India’s population were expected to benefit from the 2006 Forest Rights Act covering vast areas of forest land roughly the size of Germany.Instead, only 3 percent of potential community forest rights have been granted so far, and conflicts between states and indigenous communities have been rising as demand for land increases in the world’s fastest growing major economy.”(The law) has the potential to conserve forests and biodiversity (and) improve local livelihoods,” Neema Pathak Broome, a researcher with rights group Kalpavriksh, said in the report released Tuesday by a citizens’ advocacy group.”Unfortunately, due to a lack of political will and intentional efforts to undermine the law, this vast potential for democratic forest governance remains unrealised.”In the decade since the law was passed, the federal government and several states have introduced other laws that sometimes run counter to the Forest Rights Act.For example, a new federal law introduced in July that compensates for deforestation ignores the rights of indigenous people and the requirement for consent of the village council for use of forest land, activists said.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is charged with implementing the 2006 law, is “understaffed and under-resourced”, while state forest departments are largely “hostile, at best apathetic” in implementing it, the report said.The western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the eastern state of Odisha and the southern state of Kerala lead in recognising community and individual forest rights, the report said.States including Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have lagged behind, it said.As well as conserving forests, the law has the potential to secure livelihoods, promote women’s rights and contain conflicts in areas hit by violent extremism, it said.The government needs to mobilise political support and funds for its implementation and strengthen the Tribal Affairs Ministry and state agencies, the report said.”The biggest stumbling block is that there’s very limited understanding of the Forest Rights Act, even within the government,” Tushar Dash, from advocacy group Vasundhara, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”They believe granting forest rights obstructs development, and are instead giving forest lands for industrial use. But it’s been established that protecting forest rights encourages development and helps conservation efforts far more.”

India’s landmark forest rights law hobbled by conflicting policies – report | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A landmark Indian forest rights law passed 10 years ago with the aim of protecting indigenous people has been crippled by conflicting legislation, and a lack of political will and funds to ensure its implementation, according to a report.More than a fifth of India’s population were expected to benefit from the 2006 Forest Rights Act covering vast areas of forest land roughly the size of Germany.Instead, only 3 percent of potential community forest rights have been granted so far, and conflicts between states and indigenous communities have been rising as demand for land increases in the world’s fastest growing major economy.”(The law) has the potential to conserve forests and biodiversity (and) improve local livelihoods,” Neema Pathak Broome, a researcher with rights group Kalpavriksh, said in the report released Tuesday by a citizens’ advocacy group.”Unfortunately, due to a lack of political will and intentional efforts to undermine the law, this vast potential for democratic forest governance remains unrealised.”

In the decade since the law was passed, the federal government and several states have introduced other laws that sometimes run counter to the Forest Rights Act.For example, a new federal law introduced in July that compensates for deforestation ignores the rights of indigenous people and the requirement for consent of the village council for use of forest land, activists said.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is charged with implementing the 2006 law, is “understaffed and under-resourced”, while state forest departments are largely “hostile, at best apathetic” in implementing it, the report said.

The western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the eastern state of Odisha and the southern state of Kerala lead in recognising community and individual forest rights, the report said.States including Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have lagged behind, it said.As well as conserving forests, the law has the potential to secure livelihoods, promote women’s rights and contain conflicts in areas hit by violent extremism, it said.

The government needs to mobilise political support and funds for its implementation and strengthen the Tribal Affairs Ministry and state agencies, the report said.”The biggest stumbling block is that there’s very limited understanding of the Forest Rights Act, even within the government,” Tushar Dash, from advocacy group Vasundhara, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”They believe granting forest rights obstructs development, and are instead giving forest lands for industrial use. But it’s been established that protecting forest rights encourages development and helps conservation efforts far more.” (Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell; @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 00:03 IST

Getting children into school is not like going to Pluto, says Julia Gillard | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The world is facing a crisis if countries do not increase their education budgets and get more children into school, warned Julia Gillard, chair of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a global education funding agencyThere are 260 million children and adolescents out of school globally, says the Education Commission, a global organisation of former prime ministers, academics and business leaders set up last year to campaign for investment in education.This is attributed largely to poverty with parents unable to afford to send their children to school but also other factors such as discrimination based on ethnicity, caste or religion. Education Commission data forecasts that by 2030, half of the 1.6 billion young people in the world will not have secondary level skills, and will not be easily absorbed into a job market which is demanding higher skill levels.Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia, said this was a crisis not just for the individual child who misses out on school, but also at the global economy level. “One of things we have learned is that we can overcome these problems if we try

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South Korea’s President Park faces historic impeachment vote | Reuters

By Jack Kim and Cynthia Kim
| SEOUL

SEOUL South Korean President Park Geun-hye, engulfed in an influence-peddling scandal, faces a historic impeachment vote in parliament on Friday that could see her become the country’s first democratically elected leader to be ousted from office.Parliament is expected to vote in favour of impeachment, with support from some members of Park’s conservative Saenuri Party, but the Constitutional Court must decide whether to uphold the motion, a process that could take up to 180 days.Park is accused of colluding with a friend and a former aide, both of whom have been indicted by prosecutors, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives. She has denied wrongdoing but apologised for carelessness in her ties with the friend, Choi Soon-sil.The 64-year-old president said this week she would await the court’s ruling, signalling that the six-weeks-long political crisis marked by huge Saturday rallies calling for Park’s ouster is set to continue.

Parliament introduced the impeachment bill on Thursday and it must be voted on within 24 to 72 hours. The speaker, Chung Sye-kyun, asked for a vote on Friday.If the motion passes, the Constitutional Court will determine whether parliament followed due process and whether there are sufficient grounds for impeachment, a process that will involve arguments from the two sides in public hearings.The court is considered conservative in its makeup but some of its former judges have said the case against Park is strong and was likely to be approved.

The Bank of Korea will hold emergency meetings to review policy measures that may be taken against any fallout from the vote, a central bank official said.In 2004, parliament impeached then-President Roh Moo-hyun, suspending his powers for 63 days while the court reviewed the decision and the prime minister oversaw state affairs.The court overturned Roh’s impeachment.

The stakes are high for both sides. The leaders of the two main opposition parties said their 159 members would all resign if the impeachment motion failed, taking responsibility for their inability to follow through on the demands of the public.Park, the daughter of a former military ruler, is under intense pressure to resign immediately. Her approval rating is at a record low of 4 percent. A Realmeter poll released on Thursday said 78.2 percent of respondents wanted Park to be impeached. (Reporting by Jack Kim and Cynthia Kim; Editing by Tony Munroe, Robert Birsel)

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First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 02:32 IST

Book hand-written and illustrated by J.K. Rowling up for sale | Reuters

LONDON “Harry Potter” fans will be able to bid for a piece of history next week when a book designed, hand-written and illustrated by J.K. Rowling goes on sale at Sotheby’s auction house in London.”The Tales of Beedle the Bard” is one of six copies the author produced to give as gifts to those who helped bring the story of the boy wizard to life, and is seen fetching 300,000-500,000 pounds ($378,000-$630,000) at Tuesday’s sale.A seventh copy was produced for a 2007 auction to raise money for the author’s charity, Lumos, raising 1.95 million pounds.    “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” is a volume of five wizarding fairy tales left to Hermione Granger by Albus Dumbledore in the final book in the “Harry Potter” series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”.

The manuscript being offered for sale was presented to editor Barry Cunningham who signed Rowling and published her magical debut “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” and contains a personal dedication from Rowling.    “This one has an inscription to Barry, thanking him,” said Sotheby’s books and manuscripts specialist Philip Errington.

“It says, ‘To Barry, the man who thought an overlong novel about a boy wizard in glasses might just sell’, which is a lovely little insight into the role of author and editor.”

Bound in brown Morocco leather, the copy is adorned with silver ornaments with a skull in the centre and has seven mounted rhodochrosite stones, according to Sotheby’s. (Reporting By Sara Hemrajani; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 23:37 IST

Wounded Kashmiris blocked from medical help during clashes – rights group | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Indian security forces in Kashmir blocked medical care for injured protesters by firing on ambulances, holding up emergency vehicles and preying on hospital patients during clashes in the restive region this year, a health rights group said on Tuesday.At least 80 civilians were killed and more than 10,000 wounded in almost five months of clashes between protesters and security forces, sparked by the killing of a leading separatist militant in a joint army and police operation on July 8.Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said not only did police and paramilitary forces use excessive force during the unrest, they also delayed wounded people seeking medical attention, increasing the likelihood of permanent injuries and deaths.”Such delays in care are violations of the longstanding protections afforded to medical workers and facilities in times of conflict and civil unrest,” said Widney Brown, director of programs for PHR, a New York-headquartered advocacy group.”What’s more, the doctors we interviewed said police were present in their hospitals, intimidating patients and monitoring those being admitted.”The report also said security forces harassed medical workers attempting to treat protesters and prevented doctors from reaching the hospitals where they work.

Police in Kashmir said they would respond to the allegations once they had studied the PHR report. Kashmir is at the centre of a decades-old rivalry between India and Pakistan, which rules a northwestern section of the divided region, and backed an insurgency in the late 1980s and 1990s that Indian security forces largely crushed.The unrest, sparked by the killing of Burhan Wani, a popular separatist militant leader, is the worst in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region for six years, and critics accuse Indian security forces of heavy-handedness in quelling the protests.

Many of those killed in the clashes died from shotgun pellets or rifle bullets fired by police and paramilitary troops. Hundreds of bystanders were blinded by the pellet rounds, the report said.While Indian authorities say the use of such weapons was meant to reduce the potential for injuries or fatalities, PHR found that their use actually caused serious injury and death.Police in Kashmir say pellet guns are non-lethal weapons but they have been fired from short distances in “unavoidable circumstances” when protesters target security forces.

PHR’s report – based on hospital records and interviews with doctors, witnesses and victims – found police used 12-gauge shotguns loaded with metal pellets that directly caused an estimated 5,200 injuries and at least a dozen deaths. “Injuries inflicted by ‘less than lethal’ weapons like pellets, rubber bullets, and shot guns require early medical intervention to avoid permanent or debilitating injury, including loss of life,” said the report.”In Kashmir, delays in accessing medical care for hundreds of injured protesters increased the risk of permanent damage, including for those with eye injuries.” (Reporting by Nita Bhalla. Additional reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar. Editing by Katie Nguyen.homson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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First Published On : Dec 6, 2016 18:14 IST

Transgender women in India face bias despite laws, says activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Transgender women in India face persistent bias that denies them education and jobs despite India having progressive laws for transgender people, according to a leading activist.In a landmark judgment in 2014, India’s Supreme Court ruled that transgender people had equal rights under the law, and granted legal status to the third gender. Alongside the right to marry and inherit property, they are also eligible for quotas in jobs and educational institutions.But most of India’s estimated 2 million transgender people face discrimination from a young age with transgender women particularly abused, reflecting the entrenched patriarchy in the country, said Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a founder of the Asia Pacific Transgender Network. She said many transgender people are thrown out of their homes by their families, lack a formal education and are denied jobs. They are forced into sex work, begging or dancing at weddings to make a living.”We have among the most progressive laws for transgender people: the 2014 judgment gives us the right to choose our gender identity, so if I believe I’m a woman, I’m a woman,” Laxmi said at a panel hosted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Asia Society on Monday. “But people are still biased. That’s why no one will hire us, except in the non-profit sector, and we have no choice but to beg or do sex work.” Laxmi, who prefers to go by her first name, was born into an orthodox Brahmin family. She became one of the most flamboyant advocates for transgender people, petitioning to recognise the category on all official documents including passports. Transgender women, known as hijras, have long been considered auspicious in India. They are featured in Hindu mythology, and their blessings are sought at weddings and births, even as abuse and exploitation are common.TREATED AS INFERIORTransgender people were included in India’s census survey of 2011 for the first time. There are 490,000 transgender people in the country, according to official data, a number that activists say is only a fraction of the real number. But there are moves to extend more benefits to the community. The eastern state of Odisha this year became the first to give transgender people welfare benefits such as pension and housing.India is also revising its rehabilitation scheme for bonded labourers to include transgender people. Laxmi said while the law is supportive, biases against transgender women reflect the entrenched patriarchy in India, where the mistreatment of women has become a major issue in recent years.Women face a barrage of threats ranging from child marriage, dowry killings and human trafficking to rape and domestic violence, largely due to deep-rooted attitudes that view them as inferior to men. “When to be feminine itself is not acceptable, then everything becomes taboo: red lipstick is taboo, being flamboyant is taboo, dressing a certain way is taboo,” said Laxmi, wearing a bright orange saree with chunky jewellery, and her trademark scarlet lipstick and red sindoor on her forehead.”When a woman still becomes powerful, the patriarchy assassinates her character and calls her names.”But the community cannot wait for laws to improve its lot, and must continue to fight for its rights, she said. “No one will bring us our rights to our doorstep; we have to lobby, we have to all be activists. We have to demand and take our rights,” she said.

Cyrus Mistry defends his position in letter to six Tata firms | Reuters

Cyrus Mistry defends his position in letter to six Tata firms | Reuters

Dec 5, 2016 20:16 IST

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By Euan Rocha
| MUMBAI

MUMBAI Ousted Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry has reached out to shareholders of six Tata group companies defending his position and laying out reasons for why he should not be removed as director at their upcoming shareholder meetings.Mistry, in a letter to shareholders in Tata group companies seen by Reuters, has also highlighted the need for governance reforms at the Tata trusts, Tata Sons and Tata group companies.

Tata Sons has called shareholder meetings at group companies including Tata Motors and Tata Consultancy Services in an attempt to drive out Mistry from the operating businesses of the $100 billion steel-to-software conglomerate after ousting him as group chairman in October.

(Writing by Aditi Shah; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 20:16 IST

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Bolivia suspends airline as Colombian crash probe points to lack of fuel | Reuters

By Daniel Ramos and Fredy Builes
| LA PAZ/MEDELLIN, Colombia

LA PAZ/MEDELLIN, Colombia Bolivian authorities on Thursday suspended the license of a tiny charter airline whose plane crashed in Colombia this week after apparently running out of fuel, killing 71 people and wiping out a Brazilian football team on its way to a regional cup final.Monday night’s disaster sent shock waves across the global football community and plunged Latin America’s largest nation, Brazil, into mourning as it reels from a deep recession and political crisis. The small Chapecoense team was travelling to the biggest game in its history, the final of the Copa Sudamericana.Colombian investigators said the crash might have resulted from lack of fuel on the plane operated by charter airline LAMIA Bolivia. Freddy Bonilla, secretary of airline security at Colombia’s aviation authority, said investigators combing the crash site on a wooded hillside outside of Medellin found no traces of fuel in the wreckage of the BAe 146 made by Britain’s BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L). Air traffic control at Medellin airport asked the LAMIA pilot to wait while another flight made an emergency landing. International flight regulations require aircraft to carry enough reserve fuel to fly for 30 minutes after reaching their destination. “In this case, sadly, the aircraft did not have enough fuel to meet the regulations for contingency,” Bonilla said. Bolivia said on Thursday that it was immediately suspending LAMIA’s operation certificate and would replace the management of its aviation authority in the wake of the crash, to ensure a transparent investigation. It said the moves implied no wrongdoing. LAMIA Chief Executive Officer Gustavo Vargas on Wednesday said the plane had been correctly inspected before departure and should have had enough fuel for about 4-1/2 hours.”It’s a decision that the pilot makes,” Vargas told reporters in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. “Weather conditions influence a lot, but he had alternatives in Bogota in case of a fuel deficiency.”

A crackling recording obtained by Colombian media of Bolivian pilot Miguel Quiroga’s final words showed he told the control tower at Medellin’s airport that the plane was “in total failure, total electrical failure, without fuel.” He requested urgent permission to land, and then the audio went silent. BRAZIL GRIEVES
In the football club’s small farming hometown of Chapeco in southern Brazil, workers on Thursday erected temporary structures in the stadium to shelter the coffins of 51 victims – players, staff and journalists – expected to arrive back on Friday for an open-air wake.

Some 100,000 fans, about half the city’s population, were expected to attend, as were Brazilian President Michel Temer and Gianni Infantino, president of world football governing body FIFA.On Wednesday night, when the Copa Sudamericana final had been scheduled, tens of thousands of fans assembled in tribute at Chapecoense’s arena and the stadium in Medellin of rival team Atletico Nacional. “We Brazilians will never forget the way in which Colombians have felt as their own the pain of this terrible disaster that ended the historic dream of Chapecoense,” Foreign Minister Jose Serra told the crowds in Medellin.Fox Sports Brasil, which lost six of its journalists in the crash, broadcast 90 minutes of a black screen in the time slot of Wednesday’s game.

BLACK BOXES
A spokesman for Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said an inspector for the agency and Colombian officials would transport the aircraft’s black boxes back to the United Kingdom, where the information will be downloaded.Only six on board the flight survived: three Chapecoense team members, a journalist and two Bolivian crew members.Some have wondered why Chapecoense used the charter company instead of a commercial airline. Club Vice President Luiz Antonio Palaoro said LAMIA had a track record of transporting football teams around South America, and it had used the airline before. “We are dealing with the humanitarian aspect of the families and the victims,” Palaoro told reporters in Chapeco. “After that, we are going to have to think about restructuring the team and also the appropriate legal measures.”Among surviving players, goalkeeper Jackson Follmann’s right leg was amputated, while defender Helio Neto was in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs. Fellow defender Alan Ruschel had spinal surgery. Two of the Bolivian flight crew, Ximena Suarez and Erwin Tumiri, were bruised but not in critical condition, while journalist Rafael Valmorbida was treated in intensive care for multiple rib fractures that partly collapsed a lung. (Reporting by Daniel Ramos in La Paz, Brad Haynes in Chapeco, Julia Symmes Cobb in Medellin, Anthony Boadle in Brasilia, Helen Murphy in Bogota and Tim Hepher in Paris; Writing by Helen Murphy in Bogota and Daniel Flynn in Sao Paulo; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Von Ahn)

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First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 23:36 IST

India to raise awareness on adoption after ‘heinous’ baby smuggling racket uncovered | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – India plans to launch a public awareness drive on adoption procedures to curb the buying and selling of children after the police found stolen babies and infant skeletons during raids on charities, clinics and homes for the mentally ill and elderly.Thirteen babies have been rescued, and the remains of two other infants uncovered, in a series of raids in West Bengal over the last 10 days, as police investigate a suspected international human trafficking racket.Eighteen people, including doctors, midwives, owners of charities and clinics in North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas districts have been arrested, suspected of stealing babies from women who delivered at clinics, but told they were stillborn. The babies were then smuggled by road in cardboard biscuit boxes and kept in homes for the elderly and disabled until they sold for adoption within India and overseas, say police.

Ministry of Women and Child Development said on Wednesday the discovery had prompted Maneka Gandhi to take action to stem the crime of baby smuggling.”We are convening meetings to sensitise (the) public about adoption procedure as laid down by law to avoid such heinous incidents,” said the statement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page and on its Twitter account. The social media post also included photographs of the some of rescued babies, all under 10 months old, lying in the intensive care unit of a local hospital, where they are being treated for malnutrition, skin and respiratory infections.

Reports of human trafficking in India increased by 25 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, with more than 40 percent of cases involving children being bought, sold and exploited as modern day slaves, government crime data showed.There were 6,877 cases related to human trafficking last year against 5,466 in 2014, with the highest number of cases reported in the northeast state of Assam, followed by West Bengal, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Thousands of children are lured to big cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into domestic or sex work or to industries such as textile workshops.Often they are unpaid or held in debt bondage in sectors such as construction and agriculture. Children are also abducted for slavery or for sale for adoption using fake documentation. (Reporting by Nita Bhalla. Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 23:09 IST

Thriving on raw eggs, world’s oldest person marks 117th birthday in Italy | Reuters

By Reuters Staff
| VERBANIA, Italy

VERBANIA, Italy Emma Morano, thought to be the world’s oldest person and the last to be born in the 1800s, celebrated her 117th birthday on Tuesday, still swearing by her diet of two raw eggs a day.Morano was born in November 1899, four years before the Wright brothers first took to the air. Her life has spanned three centuries, two World Wars and over 90 Italian governments.Friends, neighbors and her doctor gathered in her small apartment in the northern town of Verbania, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, to mark the latest milestone, presenting her with a large white birthday cake.

“My life wasn’t so nice,” she told Reuters TV as she sat in an armchair by her window, a white shawl over her shoulders. “I worked in a factory until I was 65, then that was that.”In an interview with La Stampa newspaper five years ago she said her fiance had died in World War One and that she had then been forced to marry a man she did not love.

“‘Either you agree to marry me or I will kill you’,” Morano said, recalling his proposal. “I was 26. We got married.”It was not a happy marriage. They had a boy in 1937, but the baby died after just six months and the following year Morano kicked out her abusive husband. “I separated from him in 1938. I think I was one of the first in Italy to do that.”

Morano lives alone and has outlived all her eight brothers and sisters, including one who died at 102. She has thrived despite an unorthodox, unbalanced diet. “When I first knew her she used to eat three eggs a day. Two raw, and one fried. Today she has slowed down a bit, reducing the number to two some days because she says three can be too much,” her doctor Carlo Bava told Reuters TV. “She has never eaten much fruit or vegetables. Her characteristic is that she always eats the same thing, every day, every week, every month and every year.”

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First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 21:26 IST

Samsung Elec says reviewing shift to holding company structure | Reuters

Samsung Elec says reviewing shift to holding company structure | Reuters

Nov 29, 2016 05:19 IST

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SEOUL Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) said on Tuesday it is reviewing options for its optimal corporate structure including the possibility of establishing a holding company amid growing calls for improved transparency and governance. Samsung, in a statement, said it is also considering the potential benefits of listing its shares on other overseas markets and hired advisers for a thorough review.

“The review does not indicate the management or the board’s intention one way or another,” the company said, adding the review process would take at least six months.

(Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 05:19 IST

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‘Viva Fidel!’ – Tens of thousands pay last respects to Cuba´s Castro | Reuters

By Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh
| HAVANA

HAVANA Tens of thousands of Cubans, some wrapped in red, white and blue Cuban flags, paid final respects in Havana on Monday to Fidel Castro, who led a leftist revolution, ruled for half a century and resisted the United States throughout the Cold War.Castro died on Friday at the age of 90, a decade after stepping down due to poor health and ceding power to his brother Raul Castro. While he had been retired as an active leader, his death removed any impediment on his brother to pursue deeper relations with Washington if U.S. President-elect Donald Trump warms to the idea of improved ties. Castro was admired by leftists and people of the developing world who saw him as a revolutionary champion of the poor, but vilified by those who viewed him as a dictator who oppressed Cubans and ruined the economy through socialism.”Long live Fidel! We can hear him, we can feel him, he´ll always be here,” a crowd gathered near Havana’s Revolution Square chanted, holding up a banner that read “We are Fidel”.The government invited people to the square for a two-day commemoration that started with a 21-gun salute heard throughout much of the capital.While some world leaders have sent admiring messages of condolences, Castro has been condemned by critics, including Trump, who in a weekend statement called him “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people.”Before Castro’s death, Trump had threatened to reverse President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba, which has included restoring diplomatic ties, increasing trade and pressing the U.S. Congress to end years of economic embargo.The Republican Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, reiterated that on Monday, saying in a Twitter message he would end the U.S. “deal” with Cuba if the government in Havana did not reciprocate with “a better deal for the Cuban people.” He did not give details of what this might entail.Castro was cremated on Saturday and the government has declared a nine-day period of mourning. His ashes will be carried in a cortege to a final resting place in Santiago de Cuba, the city in eastern Cuba where he launched the revolution.While many Cubans report a certain pressure to attend the government’s many staged events and Castro was hated by many who fled for Miami, he was also widely loved and people appeared to shed genuine tears on Monday.

“I’m devastated because it’s as if my own father had died, he was like my second father. Everything we have, my education as a doctor, it’s thanks to him,” said Maria del Carmen, 57, who had been standing in line since before dawn, and who gave only her first name.Some people arrived as early as 4 a.m. to be at the head of one of three lines of mourners entering a square that has been central to Cuba’s recent history, and where Castro gave many of his rousing, lengthy speeches.Each of the lines of people paraded by a photo of a young Castro dressed in military fatigues, with a rifle and pack slug over his back. At each station, a military honour guard and some civilians standing at attention flanked the photo and an arrangement of white flowers.Among the mourners was Belkis Meireles, a 65-year-old civil engineer who arrived two hours before the start.”I am very sad. I came to pay homage to our father, friend, commander,” Meireles said in a hushed voice. “He was a man who freed us and sent doctors and teachers everywhere around the world.”

Political opponents stayed away or kept quiet, allowing admirers to say goodbye to a man who elevated the island to the world stage during the Cold War by forging a communist-run state just 90 miles (145 km) from Florida and then resisting Washington’s long efforts to force change.”He wasn’t perfect. Nobody is,” said Roberto Videaux, a 72-year-old retiree who was nonetheless proud of Castro. “Fidel was a teacher, a patriot.”OBAMA’S DETENTE THREATENED
After decades fighting what he termed the “empire to the north,” Castro was distrustful about the rapprochement his brother achieved with Obama, publicly expressing his reservations in columns published in the Communist Party newspaper.

Obama, a Democrat, began the opening to Washington’s old Cold War foe after he won his second term in office, and has brought about his policy change through executive actions, including allowing scheduled commercial airline flights. A scheduled flight from the United States landed in Havana on Monday for the first time in more than 50 years: an American Airlines plane that made the hop from Miami. Scheduled service from U.S. airports to the Cuban provinces restarted in August.The only Cuba-focused stock fund in the United States rallied more than 13 percent Monday, a sign investors expect detente to prosper despite Trump´s rhetoric.Given Castro was no longer in office and the mixed feelings abroad over his legacy, Tuesday’s ceremony in Havana was likely to attract only a scattering of world leaders.The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin would not attend as he was preparing for a major speech, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also skipping after warm comments he made about Castro triggered a backlash.Brazilian President Michel Temer was also not attending. But Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old president of Zimbabwe, was expected to arrive.North Korea called for three days of mourning and said it would keep flags at half mast to honour Castro, its state news agency said.Cuba’s rich variety of music, a soundtrack on the streets of Havana, has been muted since Friday night and the government has also temporarily banned alcohol sales and suspended the professional baseball season. (Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow, Tony Munroe in Seoul, William Mallard in Toyko, Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Simon Gardner and Frances Kerry)

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First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 03:04 IST

Pakistan’s new army chief brings no change in policy – defence minister | Reuters

By Drazen Jorgic
| ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD There will be no immediate shift in Pakistan’s military policy under the new army chief, the country’s defence minister said, after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed a new military leader on Saturday.Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa will replace retiring army chief Raheel Sharif when his three-year term ends on Tuesday, a rare example of a smooth transition in a nation where army chiefs have a history of clinging to power.General Sharif, who is not related to the prime minister, has proved popular with ordinary Pakistanis but during his tenure relations between the army and the civilian government have often been tense.Relations abroad have also frayed, with the United States and Afghanistan complaining of a lack of action by Islamabad against Afghan Taliban militants based on Pakistani soil, while a stand-off with old foe India over Kashmir has soured relations.Bajwa was one of several high-ranking candidates put forward for the job by the army but little is publicly known about him or his ideological stance on key issues, including relations with India or how to tackle home-grown Islamist militants.Defence Minister Khawaja Asif dampened any expectations that Bajwa would immediately push for a radical policy shift.”The military policy will continue and there will be no immediate change in it,” Asif told Geo News TV channel.”The legacy of General Raheel Sharif would continue in the light of the examples he set,” Asif added.Security in Pakistan has vastly improved during General Sharif’s tenure, but the country remains vulnerable to internal strife, with Islamist militant groups carrying out major bomb and gun attacks. In recent months a hospital, a mosque and a police training college have been targeted.

Islamic State, which has claimed several large-scale attacks in recent months, is also trying to establish a foothold in the nuclear armed nation of 190 million people.The United States on Sunday issued a statement welcoming Bajwa’s appointment and said it wanted to assist Pakistan with its domestic and regional counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism efforts.In a statement, the U.S. embassy in Islamabad also said it wanted to help “Pakistani authorities to honour their pledge to prevent the use of Pakistan’s soil for terrorist attacks against its neighbours”.India has in recent months sought to isolate Pakistan after an Indian army base in the disputed Kashmir region was attacked and 18 soldiers killed in a September raid that New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based militants. Islamabad denies involvement.

INDIAN ARMY CHIEF PRAISE
General Sharif will become the first army chief in more than 20 years to step down at the end of his term. Previous army chiefs have either obtained extensions or in the case of General Pervez Musharraf, staged a coup.One cabinet minister told Reuters Bajwa was chosen because of his low-key approach and a belief by Prime Minister Sharif that he would shun the limelight, in contrast to his predecessor, while ceding more policy space to the civilian government.The army plays a big role in Pakistani politics, including dominating foreign policy strategy on key areas such as relations with India, Afghanistan and the United States. The military also runs a vast business empire.

Zahid Hussain, a security analyst, said heightened tensions with India, kept inflamed by fierce cross-border shelling in the Kashmir region, means in the short term the army was likely to maintain a tight grip on foreign policy issues related to India.”Since the tension is so high, Nawaz (Sharif) is not in a position to manoeuvre out of that,” Hussain said.Bajwa, who was first commissioned in the army in 1980, has served in Kashmir and other regions bordering India but it is not clear if he will take a less hawkish approach to Pakistan’s historic foe.General Bikram Singh, a former head of India’s army who served with Bajwa in the Congo as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, praised Bajwa’s conduct as a soldier during their time in Africa.”In the international environment, his performance was professional, outstanding,” Singh told India Today TV channel.But when reporters asked Singh if he expected Bajwa to alter Pakistan’s military policy, he said: “I do not see any change”. (Additional reporting by Asad Hashim, Mehreen Zahra Malik and Amjad Ali; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 21:18 IST

India’s dance bar owners confident Supreme Court will end decade-long ban | Reuters

By Roli Srivastava and Suchitra Mohanty

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Owners of scores of illegal dance bars in India’s financial capital Mumbai said on Friday they were confident a ruling by the top court would finally end a decade-long ban which has left up to 75,000 bar dancers, singers and waiters without jobs.The government of Maharashtra state, where Mumbai is located, in 2005 suspended the licenses of bars and hotels where young women were employed to dance to racy Bollywood tunes for male customers, claiming they were a bad influence on society.But after several appeals over the years by dance bar owners and workers against the ban, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that bars could once again apply for licenses to the government. “Now there should be no hurdle. The court has said all new applications will be processed as per the old set of conditions the government had laid,” said Bharat Thakur, president of the Dance Bars Association, which represents 150 bars in Mumbai.Mumbai’s famous dance bars made a lucrative business before 2005. Frequented by middle class business men as well as a meeting point for the city’s mafias, the bars provided work for thousands of young poor migrant women from across India.

But local authorities, as well as some women’s rights organisations, said the thriving sector was not only corrupting moral values, but was also a front from human trafficking rings where girls and women were bought and sold into sexual slavery.Some of the bars continued to operate under police patronage for many years, but most have now gradually shut down, with bar and hotel owners and workers fighting the ban in the courts.The Supreme Court in March ordered the ban to be lifted, but the Maharashtra government disagreed, saying bars would have to comply with numerous conditions – including a prohibition on the sale of alcohol and a closing time no later than 11:30 pm.

The bar owners challenged this and in September, the top court said three bars could apply for licenses without following the new conditions. This was extended to other bars on Thursday.”We are waiting for the court order to be uploaded and then we will meet the concerned authorities for the licenses,” said Adarsh Shetty, president of the Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association.But Shekhar Naphade, lawyer for the Maharashtra government, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the court order was not final, and another hearing will take place on Jan. 11.

“Some bar owners had approached the Supreme Court seeking licenses to be provided to them on old norms. To this, the court asked them to file their respective applications and responses,” said Naphade.Police in Mumbai also said that they would treat all dance bars as illegal until they had received a directive from the Maharashtra government.”We will wait for the Supreme Court’s directions in writing and for the state government’s directive before we proceed on this matter,” said Pradeep Sawant, Deputy Commissioner of Police in Mumbai. (Reporting by Roli Srivastava in Mumbai and Suchitra Mohanty in New Delhi. Writing by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell)

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First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 21:19 IST

Colombia, FARC rebels to sign new peace deal on Thursday | Reuters

BOGOTA A new peace accord between Colombia’s government and Marxist FARC rebels will be signed on Thursday and sent to Congress for approval, the two sides said on Tuesday, bringing an end to the five-decade-long civil war ever closer.The revised document will be signed in Bogota between FARC leader Rodrigo Londono and President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last month for his efforts to end the conflict with the insurgent group.”Consolidation of peace requires that we advance with a firm step toward implementation of the accord that permits us to overcome so many years of conflict in Colombia,” the government and FARC negotiating teams said in a joint statement.The government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been in talks in Havana, Cuba for the last four years, hammering out a deal to end a conflict that has killed more than 220,000 and displaced millions within the Andean country. The government published the revised peace deal last week in a bid to build support after the original draft was rejected in an Oct. 2 referendum amid objections it was too favourable to the rebels.

Santos and Londono signed the original deal two months ago in an emotional ceremony before world leaders and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The decision to ratify the revised accord in Congress instead of holding another referendum will anger members of the opposition, particularly former President Alvaro Uribe who spearheaded the push to reject the original accord and wants deeper changes to the new version.

The expanded and highly technical 310-page document appears to make only small modifications to the original text, such as clarifying private property rights and detailing more fully how the rebels would be confined in rural areas for crimes committed during the war.The FARC, which began as a rebellion fighting rural poverty has battled a dozen governments as well as right-wing paramilitary groups.

An end to the war with the FARC is unlikely to end violence in Colombia as the lucrative cocaine business has given rise to dangerous criminal gangs and traffickers.Uribe has criticized it as just a tweaked version of the original and wants rebel leaders to be banned from holding public office and for them to be jailed for crimes. The government has said it will make no more changes to the deal. (Reporting by Helen Murphy, editing by G Crosse)

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First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 05:22 IST

Drop in sex trafficking cases in India may mask real number, experts say | Reuters

By Roli Srivastava

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – India has seen a 70 percent drop in cases filed under an anti-trafficking law between 2001 and 2015, which experts attribute to a lack of reporting of the crime and more sex workers moving out of brothels to escape police detection among other factors.According to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of cases filed under India’s anti-trafficking Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act fell to 2,424 in 2015 from 8,796 in 2001. The Act is one of a number of laws under which human trafficking and modern slavery are prosecuted in the country. The drop in sex trafficking cases is in contrast to a more than doubling of crimes against women recorded by the bureau over the same period, and could mask the real number of women trafficked into sex work across India, anti-slavery experts say. “A drop in numbers could be due to under-reporting or not filing of FIRs (complaints),” said Priti Patkar, co-founder of anti-trafficking charity Prerana.Campaigners estimate there are between three and 9 million victims of sex trafficking in India but say many do not come forward for fear of being ostracised by society, abused by their traffickers or not taken seriously by the police.

Many victims, often from poor backgrounds, are duped with the promise of a job before being sold into the sex trade. Michael Yangad, director of operations at campaign group International Justice Mission, said prostitution in India had become more covert.”Activity has moved from classical brothels to private places. In private networks too, unless a case is investigated or studied well, you are not sure if it is a case of sex trafficking,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The police say activities that earlier led them to traffickers have now moved online. Social media platforms are used to offer girls and many financial transactions are made online, making the crime virtually invisible. “Our investigation pattern is changing with these changes. We have busted online sex rackets,” said Pravin Patil, deputy commissioner of police in Mumbai, India’s financial hub.

“Earlier, brothels were at one place, but no longer so. It is not difficult (to monitor activities), but we have to keep changing our investigation plan,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.Cases filed under India’s Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act accounted for 38.4 percent of the total number of human trafficking cases in 2015. Cases of procuring minor girls made up another 44 percent. About 14 percent of cases related to the trafficking of people into slavery and the remaining cases involved the buying and selling of minors for prostitution. (Reporting by Roli Srivastava; Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 21:10 IST

Freedom business offers Indian sex workers alternative to red light district | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An Indian quilt and bag company which employs women trapped in the sex trade has appointed two former sex workers to its board, its co-founder said, calling the move a first in the industry.Sarah Lance, who helped to set up Sari Bari a decade ago to provide sex trafficking victims with alternative means of earning a living, said the company had also invited 19 of its women workers to become shareholders in the firm.The company, located on the fringes of Sonagachi, Kolkata’s red light district, employs 120 women to stitch old saris together to create quilts and bags – with each item named after the woman who made it.”It is their company,” said Lance, who won the 2016 Opus prize for non-profit innovation and humanitarian work.The 10-year-old company, which calls itself a “freedom business”, is one of many enterprises in India that aim to help by providing economic opportunities for victims of sex trafficking. “The idea of the business grew in response to the fact that girls who were rescued and sent to shelter homes were asked to leave after they turned 18 or once their cases were over,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “They went back to the same situation which made them vulnerable to trafficking.”

Initially, the women had to be convinced to work for Sari Bari.”Now we have a waiting list of women wanting to join us,” Lance said, adding that the company planned to hire another 150 women in the next five years.In September, the National Crime Records Bureau said cases of human trafficking in India increased to 6,877 cases last year, from 5,466 in 2014 – a jump of more than 25 percent.

Cases of minors being sold into prostitution increased by 53 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, with West Bengal state, where Kolkata is located, accounting for 82 percent of the total cases registered in 2015.Former sex workers Chaya and Supriya, who asked to be identified only by their first names, were unanimously voted to Sari Bari’s board at a meeting in September.Campaigners said providing survivors of human trafficking with an alternative source of income to sex work was crucial in preventing them from being re-trafficked.Cultivating pride in new skills was also important in helping survivors to recover from their ordeal, experts said.

“That sense of pride is actually very important,” said Sarfaraz Ahmed Khan, an assistant professor at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences who has written manuals on efforts to combat trafficking.Khan said it was difficult for sex trafficking survivors to do “just any other job”.”Besides economic stability, they are looking for a dignified life. These opportunities give them that,” he said. (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, editing by Alisa Tang and Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 19:24 IST

Indian farmers fear lost crops and income after ‘black money’ move | Reuters

By Mayank Bhardwaj
| BAJNA, India

BAJNA, India For Indian farmer Buddha Singh, who works a small plot of land in the village of Bajna south of New Delhi, the government’s decision to abolish 500 and 1,000 rupee bank notes to crush the shadow economy could hardly have come at a worse time.He and millions of other farmers cannot get enough cash to buy the seeds and fertilisers they need for their winter crops, threatening production of key commodities and hurting rural communities only just recovering after two years of drought.”We can’t buy our full requirements of seeds, fertiliser and pesticides on credit. There is a limit,” said Singh, a turbaned man in his 50s, who tills a two-acre field near the highway running from the capital to the holy city of Mathura.”We’re running out of time as we’ve only 10-15 days more to plant crops like wheat, mustard and chickpeas,” he added, to murmurs of assent from around 30 fellow farmers sitting under a neem tree and discussing their predicament.India’s 263 million farmers mostly live in the cash economy, exposing them to the full impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s shock Nov. 8 announcement that larger denomination bank notes would immediately cease to be legal tender.Modi’s drive to purge “black cash” from the economy has, at a stroke, wiped out 86 percent of the money in circulation. Delays in printing new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes mean that money could be tight for weeks to come.While city dwellers are still queuing up to exchange or deposit old money at the bank, and to draw new funds, many villagers live miles from the nearest branch and have yet to see the new notes being rushed into circulation.DRAGGED DOWN
Delays to the planting season that began last month threaten to dent India’s agricultural and overall economic growth, wiping out gains for farmers who this year cashed in on decent monsoon rains after being hit by drought in 2014 and 2015.Farmers who have already spent money on ploughing and irrigation to keep the soil moist can ill afford to leave their land fallow. Late sowing typically reduces yields and increases the risk that inclement spring weather could damage crops.

“In all likelihood we’ll not be able to recover our cost of cultivation as the prime sowing time has nearly lapsed,” said Prakash Chandra Sharma, another local farmer.The farmers said they spent an average of 58,000 rupees ($855) per hectare to grow wheat, only to eke out an income of 70,000 rupees. That assumes a crop yield of about 3.2 tonnes per hectare.A drop in wheat output would boost local prices that are already near record highs. Stocks are at their lowest level for nearly a decade, and even before the latest cash crunch, private traders were expected to import around 3 million tonnes this year.Devinder Sharma, an independent food and trade policy analyst, said rural communities in particular would suffer from the demonetisation move.”It’s a little early to hazard a guess about the extent of crop loss,” said Sharma. “But both rural income and demand will take a big hit before things start improving from April next year.”

THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
In the latest in a series of ad hoc steps, the government on Thursday allowed farmers to withdraw up to 25,000 rupees ($368) a week against their crop loans to ensure that sowing of winter crops “takes place properly”.Shaktikanta Das, a top finance ministry official, also said a time limit for farmers to pay crop insurance premiums had been extended by 15 days.But that cuts little ice with farmers, who often rely for their cash not on banks but on money lenders charging annual interest of up to 40 percent.”Most farmers have already availed of their farm loan for the previous summer season and, for the handful who can still withdraw, the ceiling is too low,” said Tejinder Narang, a New-Delhi-based farm expert.After selling their rice crop last month, many are stuck with old 500 and 1,000 bills they can no longer spend.

They are only allowed to exchange 2,000 rupees into new money, and the rest must be deposited before the notes cease to be accepted by banks after Dec. 30.”Four banks cater to 200 villages of about 2,000 people each. It’s not easy to get your old currency notes converted,” said Harbir Singh, another local farmer.MARKETS IDLED
The breakdown in the cash economy is causing major disruptions to the supply of produce to India’s cities, with payment alternatives such as plastic cards or digital wallet apps on smartphones yet to gain widespread acceptance.At Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi, Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable wholesale market, traders said business was at a virtual standstill, and labourers who usually earn between $4 and $6 a day sat idle.”The bosses are giving us 500 rupee bills, but we are refusing to take those notes,” said porter Raju Kumar Rathore. “Then they are telling us to collect our money after a week or 10 days. For us that is a big problem.” ($1 = 67.79 rupees) (Additional reporting by Sunil Kataria in NEW DELHI and Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Mike Collett-White)

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First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 23:03 IST

Jaguar Land Rover says half of its new cars will have electric option by 2020 | Reuters

Jaguar Land Rover says half of its new cars will have electric option by 2020 | Reuters

Updated: Nov 17, 2016 00:52 IST

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LONDON Half of all new Jaguar Land Rover vehicles will be available in an electric version by the end of the decade, Britain’s biggest carmaker said on Wednesday, after showcasing its first electric car this week. The automaker, owned by India’s Tata Motors (TAMO.NS), unveiled the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE Concept SUV at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The model is due to hit the streets by 2018, in a sign of how car manufacturers are seeking to tap growing demand for more environmentally-friendly vehicles. “We are shaping the future, developing our own approach to autonomy, connectivity and electrification to offer our customers more choice,” said Chief Executive Ralf Speth.

Last year, Jaguar Land Rover said it would double the size of its powertrain engineering centre in central England to support the development of more low-emission vehicles, the fastest growing market for new cars in Britain.

Speth told Reuters in September that it would make sense for the firm to build both electric batteries and vehicles in Britain. The company said cleaner diesel and petrol engines and plug-in hybrid vehicles were also part of its plans.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Mark Potter)

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First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 00:52 IST

Underground ocean found on Pluto, likely slushy with ice | Reuters

By Irene Klotz
| HOUSTON

HOUSTON Scientists have found evidence that tiny, distant Pluto harbors a hidden ocean beneath the frozen surface of its heart-shaped central plain containing as much water as all of Earth’s seas.The finding, reported on Wednesday in two research papers published in the journal Nature, adds Pluto to a growing list of worlds in the solar system beyond Earth believed to have underground oceans, some of which potentially could be habitats for life.Pluto’s ocean, which is likely slushy with ice, lies 93 to 124 miles (150 to 200 km) beneath the dwarf planet’s icy surface and is about 62 miles (100 km) deep, planetary scientist Francis Nimmo of the University of California, Santa Cruz said in an interview.With its ocean covered by so much ice, Pluto is not a prime candidate for life, added Massachusetts Institute of Technology planetary scientist Richard Binzel, another of the researchers. But Binzel added that “one is careful to never say the word impossible.”Liquid water is considered one of the essential ingredients for life.

The discovery was made through an analysis of images and data collected by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto and its entourage of moons in July 2015.”It shows that nature is more creative than we are able to imagine, which is why we go and explore,” Binzel said. “We see what nature is capable of doing.”Despite being about 40 times farther from the sun than Earth, Pluto has enough radioactive heat left over from its formation 4.6 billion years ago to keep water liquid.

“Pluto has enough rock that there’s quite a lot of heat being generated, and an ice shell a few hundred kilometers thick is quite a good insulator,” Nimmo said. “So a deep subsurface ocean is not too surprising, especially if the ocean contains ammonia, which acts like an antifreeze.”Scientists made the discovery as they were trying to figure out why a 621-mile (1,000-km) wide impact basin known as Sputnik Planitia, which contains the curious heart-shaped region, was located in its present position near Pluto’s equator.

Computer models showed the basin likely filled with ice, which caused Pluto to roll over, cracking its crust. That could happen only if Pluto possessed a subsurface ocean, the analysis found.New Horizons is on its way to another frozen world in the Kuiper Belt region of the solar system about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) past Pluto. A flyby of the object, known as 2014 MU69, is scheduled on Jan. 1, 2019. (Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Will Dunham)

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First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 23:47 IST

Moody’s affirms India’s rating, says reforms yet to produce results | Reuters

Moody’s affirms India’s rating, says reforms yet to produce results | Reuters

Updated: Nov 16, 2016 21:25 IST

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NEW DELHI Moody’s Investors Service on Wednesday affirmed India’s sovereign ratings, citing economic and institutional reforms under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but said the measures have yet to produce enough dividends to warrant an upgrade.Moody’s becomes the second ratings agency after Standard & Poor’s to decline an upgrade to India’s ratings despite government lobbying. Moody’s rates India at “Baa3”, the lowest investment-grade rating, but with a “positive” outlook.The credit agency welcomed economic and institutional reforms introduced under Modi, saying they “offer a reasonable expectation that India’s growth will outperform that of its peers over the medium term.”However, Moody’s said “the reform effort to date has not yet achieved the conditions that would support an upgrade,” saying the country still needed to accelerate private investment in order to reduce the government’s debt burden.

Since taking office in May 2014, Modi has taken a slew of measures to control inflation, revive investments and boost economic growth. He has revamped the country’s monetary policy framework, giving the Reserve Bank of India an explicit mandate to target inflation. He is also on track to roll out a goods and services tax next April that will transform the $2 trillion economy into a single customs union.

While India has emerged as the fastest growing major economy, those initiatives have not yet succeeded in convincing cautious companies to commit to fresh capital spending. Nor have they materially improved public finances.Earlier this month, S&P affirmed India’s sovereign ratings, but ruled out any upgrade this year or in 2017 because of weak public finances and low per capita income.

S&P’s decision had caused disappointment within the Modi administration, which criticised it for not reflecting its efforts to improve economic growth and public finances. (Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Rafael Nam)

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First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 21:25 IST

Workers laying roads in Karnataka rescued from debt bondage | Reuters

Workers laying roads in Karnataka rescued from debt bondage | Reuters

Updated: Nov 14, 2016 19:22 IST

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By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A group of 32 labourers caught in a cycle of debt bondage were rescued from a road construction site in Karnataka, police said Monday.The labourers, all from the tribal areas of neighbouring state of Telangana, were building a road between the towns of Nipani and Mudhol when they were rescued by Karnataka police on Saturday.”It is a clear case of (debt) bondage,” revenue department official Geeta Koulgi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”Their statements have been recorded and we are now in the process of issuing release certificates to the workers. They will then be sent back home in a day or two.”The suspected trafficker and the contractor of the road project have both been arrested under anti-trafficking and bonded labour abolition laws, police said.Activists say Saturday’s rescue is one in a series illustrating the extent of debt bondage across India, the most prevalent form of forced labour in a country where an estimated 18 million people live in some form of modern slavery, according to the latest Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation.

The 22 men and 10 women had all taken loans of up to 60,000 rupees ($885) from the sub-contractor. They had been promised wages of 3,500 rupees ($52) per month but no one had been paid.”In one instance, a worker had taken as little as 500 rupees ($7) as loan and had been working in terrible conditions for three months,” said P.H. Vasudev Rao of the non-profit Foundation for Sustainable Development, which received the first distress call from the family of one of the workers.”It has taken us six months to help these workers,” Rao said.

“The contractor would keep moving them to various project sites in the region. We finally caught up with them now, in Chikodi, and discovered that there were at least six people who had been in bondage for two years.”Officials said that they had also recorded at least two cases of sexual abuse and two infants were among those rescued.In one of the statements, a worker described how he was not allowed to go home when his mother died.

“The trafficker just gave him 100 rupees ($1) and said he should do the ceremonies at the work site. His mother’s last rites were done by relatives back home,” said Rao, who was also part of the rescue team along with a police anti-trafficking unit.”The man was inconsolable when we rescued him.”($ 1 = 67.7599 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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First Published On : Nov 14, 2016 19:22 IST

Sun Pharma expects U.S. drug pricing pressures to continue | Reuters

Sun Pharma expects U.S. drug pricing pressures to continue | Reuters

Updated: Nov 10, 2016 21:50 IST

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By Zeba Siddiqui
| MUMBAI

MUMBAI Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd does not expect pressure on generic drug prices in the United States to abate anytime soon, its managing director said on Thursday, signalling a challenging year ahead in the company’s largest market.Dilip Shanghvi’s comments followed publication of Sun Pharma’s second-quarter results in which profit more than doubled from a year earlier, driven by higher sales in nearly all its markets.The United States began an investigation into generic drug prices last year and the possibility of another U.S. probe hit Indian pharmaceutical stocks last week. Sun, the world’s fifth biggest generic drug maker, did not comment on this on Thursday, but said it believed pricing pressures would continue. Like most of its Indian rivals, Sun has had a tough year in the United States due to few regulatory approvals to launch new products, and regulatory restrictions over its Halol drug factory in Gujarat that caused supply constraints.

Sun has now completed an overhaul of that facility and is awaiting an FDA re-inspection, Shanghvi told analysts on a conference call. But he said he was not sure if the plant would win regulatory clearance in the next five months. “Looking at the experience of some other sites, it may take more than three months post-reinspection to get clearance,” Shanghvi said. Analysts are waiting for Sun’s tildrakizumab, an experimental psoriasis drug that showed positive results in late-stage trials, to be put forward for U.S. approval. Shanghvi said the company is also considering testing the same compound in other disease areas.

Sun reported that July-September profit rose to 22.35 billion rupees ($335.8 million) from 10.29 billion rupees a year earlier. Analysts expected an average profit of 16.46 billion rupees, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.Sales in its largest market, the United States, rose 9 percent, while those in India rose 11 percent. In emerging markets, Sun’s sales rose 22 percent, the company said in a statement.

“The synergies from the Ranbaxy acquisition are gaining momentum and we are on track to achieve the targeted benefits,” Shanghvi said.Sun has earlier said it expects to reap $300 million in synergies by fiscal 2018 from its purchase of rival Ranbaxy Laboratories last year.($1 = 66.5600 rupees) (Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in Mumbai; Editing by Keith Weir and Jane Merriman)

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India uses foreign funding law to harass charities: rights groups | Reuters

India uses foreign funding law to harass charities: rights groups | Reuters

Updated: Nov 9, 2016 01:44 IST

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By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – India’s refusal to renew the foreign funding licences of 25 charities is a violation of their right to freedom of association and appears to be a move to quell criticism, two rights groups said on Tuesday.Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s right-wing nationalist government has tightened surveillance on non-profit groups regulated under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)since sweeping to power more than two years ago.”The home ministry’s decision to prevent NGOs from receiving foreign funding without sound justification is mystifying. The ministry has an obligation to show how these restrictions are necessary and proportionate,” said Aakar Patel, Amnesty International India’s executive director, in a statement.Home ministry officials were not immediately available to comment. More than 10,000 civil society groups in India have had their licences to receive overseas donations cancelled or suspended since 2014, impairing their ability to work in areas ranging from health to the environment.The government has previously said that the groups had violated the FCRA by not disclosing donation details or by using foreign funds to engage in “anti-national” activities.

Amnesty International India and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the latest group of charities to be affected included the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns, a prominent human rights group also known as People’s Watch.A statement on the FCRA website did not give any reason.This is not the first time People’s Watch has been targeted. In 2012 and 2013, the previous government suspended its FCRA licence three times and froze its bank accounts. People’s Watch challenged the move and the Delhi High Court ruled in its favour. Other charities such as the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and Sanchal Foundation, which work in areas including land and housing, health, education and governance, have also not had their FCRA licences renewed, Amnesty and HRW said.

In July, a group of U.N. experts said they were stunned by the way India was applying the law to stymie its critics, adding that the FCRA was “overly broad” and activities deemed political or against the economic interest of the state were vague.There is no official number of charities operating in India, but the government estimates at least 2 million non-profits work in areas such as the environment, climate change and protecting minority rights.A 2013 home ministry report said some 43,500 groups were registered as charities that received foreign funds but slightly less than half provided details.

Home ministry officials have said they are enforcing the FCRA to make the non-profit sector compliant and transparent and ensure charities are not engaging in illegal political or anti-national activities.But Amnesty and HRW urged the government to repeal the FCRA or amend it so that is not misused to restrict charities’ work. “While India is actively encouraging foreign investment in key industries, it is trying to deny funding for efforts to assist the most vulnerable and marginalized,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director.”The government should engage with those seeking rights reform and empower these groups, instead of treating criticism as a threat to be quashed.” (Editing by Emma Batha. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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Clinton, Trump clash over economy in closing campaign stretch | Reuters

By Amanda Becker and Emily Stephenson
| CLEVELAND/HERSHEY, Pa.

CLEVELAND/HERSHEY, Pa. Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump battled over the strength of the economy in the final stretch of their race for the White House on Friday, with Clinton praising the latest U.S. jobs report and Trump dismissing it as a fraudulent disaster.With four days left in an often bitter contest that has tightened considerably in the last week, each candidate attacked the other as unfit to be president in a late push for votes in battleground states that could decide the outcome in Tuesday’s election.Clinton leads Trump by 5 percentage points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll released on Friday, maintaining her advantage in the national survey even as the race tightens in several crucial swing states.In the Oct. 30-Nov. 3 opinion poll, 44 percent of likely voters supported Clinton while 39 percent supported Trump. At a rally in Pittsburgh, Clinton cited the government’s latest jobs report as evidence of the economy’s strength. The report showed higher wages for workers as well as the creation of 161,000 jobs in October and a fall in the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent from 5 percent.”I believe our economy is poised to really take off and thrive,” Clinton told the gathering, after being introduced by billionaire investor Mark Cuban. “When the middle class thrives, America thrives.”Trump disputed Clinton’s rosy view, telling a crowd in New Hampshire that the jobs report was “an absolute disaster” and was skewed by the large number of people who have stopped looking for jobs and are no longer in the labour market.”Nobody believes the numbers anyway. The numbers they put out are phoney,” he said of the figures released by the Labor Department at a rally in Atkinson.The economy and the candidates’ competing visions for the future could be critical in swaying voters in ailing Rust Belt states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.Both candidates made stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania on Friday, with Trump adding a stop in New Hampshire and Clinton adding one in Michigan. Each of those states is critical in the state-by-state quest for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.The race has tightened significantly in the past week, as several swing states that are considered must-wins for Trump shifted from favouring Clinton to toss-ups, according to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project.

The two candidates are now tied in Florida and North Carolina, and Clinton’s lead in Michigan has narrowed so much that the state is too close to call. Ohio remains a dead heat, and Clinton has a slight lead in Pennsylvania.Clinton is still the favourite to win Tuesday’s election, with a clearer path to winning of the Electoral College. But Trump now has a plausible route to victory, especially if there is a sharp fall in turnout among African-Americans from the levels of the 2012 election.(For grpahic on race to the White House, click tmsnrt.rs/298mTyD)THE RUST BELT VIEW
Trump, a New York businessman and former reality TV star, has made a pitch for blue-collar workers who have been angered by free-trade deals and feel abandoned by Washington. But his protectionist rhetoric – he has promised to review trade agreements – appears to be having mixed success in the Rust Belt.

Reuters/Ipsos polling from mid-October found a majority in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, that international trade benefits Americans by keeping the cost of goods low, although they also think it hurts “average Americans” by depressing wages and causing job losses at home.Clinton appears to be leading among labour union households in both states, the poll found. She has a double-digit lead with women in both, while Trump has a more modest lead with men. Among whites, Trump has a 7-point lead over Clinton in Ohio and a 3-point lead over Clinton in Pennsylvania.In the final stretch, the two candidates continued to paint a dire scenario of life in the United States if their opponent captures the White House. Trump said the FBI’s fresh examination of emails that may be related to Clinton’s use of a private email server for government work while she was secretary of state could lead to “a constitutional crisis.””Aren’t we tired of all this stuff?” he asked. “America deserves a government that can go to work on Day One.”

GET OUT THE VOTE PUSH
Clinton suggested the volatile Trump, who has feuded with and insulted a wide array of people and groups including Muslims, Mexican immigrants and women, was too unpredictable to trust.”Think about what it would mean to entrust the nuclear codes to someone with very thin skin who lashes out at anyone who insults him,” Clinton said.Clinton has deployed high-profile supporters to campaign for her in the final days of the campaign. President Barack Obama praised her work as his first-term top diplomat during an appearance in North Carolina.“She was outstanding in her job. She was loyal to me,” he said. Obama is trying to energise African-Americans, with whom he is very popular, and young people to turn out for Clinton the way they did for him in 2008 and 2012.Hispanic groups in swing states cranked up their get-out-the-vote efforts for the final stretch of the race on Friday, hoping to push the contest Clinton’s way.Lizet Ocampo, director of the Latinos Vote! programme for People for the American Way, said the group has Spanish-language radio and television ads up in Nevada and North Carolina and radio ads in Pennsylvania, and will soon launch Arizona radio ads as well.The Love Bus – an old school bus repainted in various colours by nine Miami-based immigrant artists – will make the rounds in south Florida all weekend offering to take voters to the polls early in Haitian and migrant worker communities, said Ruth Moreno, state coordinator for the immigrant rights group iAmerica Action. (Additional reporting by Maurice Tamman and Luciana Lopez in New York, Roberta Rampton in North Carolina; Writing by John Whitesides and Jeff Mason; Editing by Frances Kerry and Leslie Adler)

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Hospital staff in Karnataka arrested for stealing babies for illegal adoption | Reuters

Hospital staff in Karnataka arrested for stealing babies for illegal adoption | Reuters

Updated: Nov 4, 2016 20:14 IST

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By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Six hospital staff in Karnataka have been charged with stealing babies and young children and selling them to childless couples in an illegal adoption racket, police in Karnataka state said on Friday.The three men and three women, who worked as nurses and lab technicians at five private hospitals and a government-run hospital in Mysuru city, were part of a bigger, organised gang involved in trafficking children, investigating officer Ravi Channannavar said.”The gang targeted poor couples coming to the hospitals to deliver or get an abortion, in which case they convinced them to deliver the child. They would then steal the babies,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.In other cases, the gang would steal children from beggars on the streets and sell them for 200,000 rupees ($2,995) in cities like Bengaluru. “Our investigations have revealed that the group had sold at least 15 children to different childless couples,” Channannavar said.

“We have rescued three children so far and are looking for the others. There may be many more.”Statements by the arrested gang members indicate the involvement of a doctor as well, police said.The six were arrested on Tuesday following a lengthy investigation triggered in April when police received a complaint from a woman who said her two-year-old son had been snatched off the street.

Crime data released by the Indian government in August showed more than 40 percent of human trafficking cases in 2015 involved children being bought, sold and exploited as modern day slaves.”This case is one of the few that has come to light, but there are many more unreported cases,” said Paul Sundar Singh of non-profit Karunalaya, which runs a centre for street children in Chennai.

“Stealing children is a big organised crime that police are still struggling to clamp down on across the country. Cases of young children stolen from the pavements of Chennai city earlier this year are still unsolved.”($1=66.778397 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Emma Batha. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Help us! Women in Indian mill pen letter describing sexual abuse at work | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

DINDIGUL, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A letter from six women at a spinning mill in Tamil Nadu, describing the sexual harassment they face at work and asking for help, exposes the widespread exploitation of women in the multi-billion-dollar textile industry, campaigners said.”He forces himself on us, constantly hugging us and squeezing our breasts,” the women write, describing the behaviour of their male supervisor.”Any worker who resists his advances loses part of her salary. We need this job and don’t know who to talk to about the abuse we face everyday. Please help us.”Sent to the social welfare officer in Dindigul, a district in Tamil Nadu, the eight-page letter dated Aug. 29 is a plea for help from abused and exploited women, rights campaigners said.”Women normally share their experiences only after quitting their jobs,” said S. Thivyarakhini of the all-women Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union.”This is the first time, we have such raw details of ongoing exploitation. The letter has exposed the underbelly of the textile industry in the region.”The mill management said they were unaware of the letter and had not received any official complaint.

“There were unsubstantiated allegations against the same person around a year back by a woman worker,” said K.R. Shanmugavel, senior manager at the Rama Spinning Mills.”We gave him a warning and also terminated the (employment of the) woman worker to avoid further problems.” India is one of the world’s largest textile and garment manufacturers. Many of the workers employed in this $40-billion-a-year industry are trapped in debt bondage, face abuse or are forced to work long hours in poor conditions, activists said.

Traditionally, the dyeing units, spinning mills and apparel factories have drawn on cheap labour from villages across Tamil Nadu to turn the cotton into yarn, fabric and clothes, most of it for Western high street shops.More than 2,000 units employ an estimated 300,000 people, most of them young women from poor, illiterate and low-caste or “Dalit” communities.There are around 100 women working in the Rama Spinning mills near Nallamanarkottai village in Dindigul district. “There is constant use of vulgar language and other male workers are also encouraged to seek sexual favours from us,” the letter states.

“Some desperate women go along with the exploitation and they are exempt from over time work. But those of us who resist are forced to complete the work orders. Any show of protest results in wage cuts.”The women said that they were unable to communicate their problems with the mill owner, who lives in a different city and relies on the manager for feedback.”We don’t mind the wage cuts and the overtime work. It is the sexual harassment that we cannot bear,” the women wrote in the letter. “It is something we cannot talk to our families about. We dread going to work every day.” Dindigul social welfare officer G. Shanti told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were in the process of putting together an enquiry committee to inspect the mill premises and look into the allegations. (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Gunmen attack police academy in Pakistani city of Quetta | Reuters

Gunmen attack police academy in Pakistani city of Quetta | Reuters

Updated: Oct 24, 2016 21:24 IST

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By Gul Yusufzai
| QUETTA, Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan Gunmen stormed a Pakistani police training academy in the southwestern city of Quetta late on Monday night, wounding up to a dozen recruits, officials said.Reports from police sources of hostages could not be immediately confirmed. Some 200 trainees are stationed at the facility, officials said.”Around five terrorists entered police training centre and they have taken police recruits (at) gunpoint,” a senior security official in Quetta said, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault.

Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister of Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is the capital, confirmed early on Tuesday that at least five or six gunmen had attacked a hostel where police recruits were staying. The attack appeared well coordinated, with senior law enforcement agencies saying that assailants had fired at the police training centre from five different points.

Later, the attackers entered the centre’s hostel where around 200 to 250 police recruits were resting and sleeping, the security officials said.By about 1 a.m. Pakistan time, at least three explosions had been reported at the scene by local media, but there was no immediate word of any additional casualties. Gunfire could still be heard, media said.

The Police Training Centre covers about an acre of land located about 13 kilometres outside the main city of Quetta. (Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik in ISLAMABAD; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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India’s children of bonded labourers use memories to rescue others | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

BENGALURU (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – They are not easy to spot. Working in vegetable patches and on millet fields in Karnataka, farm labourers caught in debt bondage suffer mainly in silence. But Gopal V has lived with this silence for long enough. Now 44, the son of bonded labourers is on a mission to identify workers trapped in debt bondage – and to make sure they get justice.”My parents worked endless hours not for money, just food,” Gopal said. “They worked for a landlord in my village, whose house I still can’t enter. He paid them back with a little food, and my father died in bondage.”Now, he travels across villages around Anekal, near the city of Bengaluru, looking for people like his parents. There is an urgency to his search, he says, because he wants to “get them out before they die”.India banned the practice of bonded labour in 1976, but the country is still home to 11.7 million bonded labourers, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The labourers may be working to pay off a loan from their employer, or a debt inherited from a relative.Jeevika, a non-profit organisation that works to eradicate bonded labour in the southern state, said it identified 12,811 bonded labourers in Karnataka between 2012 and 2015. Most of them are still waiting for state authorities to give them release certificates and compensation money, it said.Its founder, Kiran Kamal Prasad, estimates that there are up to 200,000 bonded labourers across Karnataka.”It is a perennial problem that persists in the agriculture sector,” said Druthi Lakshmi of the state’s rural development department.”We know they are really poor, illiterate people who often go back to the same landlord for work after they are rescued because the rehabilitation money is not enough.”

The government is in the process of undertaking a more comprehensive survey to identify people in bondage, she added.Gopal and others like him who work in partnership with Jeevika use their childhood memories of suffering and debt bondage to encourage others to find a way out of it.”The fear of the landlord still exists in our (lower-caste) Dalit communities and people refuse to acknowledge they are in bondage,” said Ramakrishna V, also the son of a bonded labourer.”It takes a lot of talking before they break down and admit they are paying off a loan they took many, many years ago,” said Ramakrisha, now a lawyer fighting for workers’ rights in court.

THREATS
Activists say most people trapped in bonded labour are unaware of the fact they might have paid off their initial loan 10 times over. In addition, the 1976 Abolition of Bonded Labour Act cancels any dues that may be pending when a worker is rescued from bondage, they said.Jayaboraiah, 47, recalled how he was studying in his room when the landlord of his hostel came knocking.”He said my father had disappeared without repaying the 800 rupees ($12) loan he had taken to start a sericulture (silk production) business. I dropped out of school and spent eight years working in his home and field to pay off that loan,” Jayaboraiah said.But a glance at a report on bonded labour in a newspaper one morning led him to a government office to ask for help.

“Now I know the law and am able to explain to families in debt bondage that they have repaid their dues and should now be demanding minimum wages,” he said.All three men said their personal experience of growing up in the shadow of debt bondage helps them to start a conversation about the issue in villages where traditionally lower-caste people still find it “almost impossible to leave the clutches of a landlord”.Gopal said: “We are constantly threatened and so are workers, but we keep going to villages and areas where Dalits live and we lived until recently. “It takes a lot of probing before anyone admits to having taken a loan and working to repay it. It takes us months to build trust,” he said.Gopal’s three daughters have documented the lives of their grandfather and uncles who worked as bonded labourers.”I tell them about it because it is the reality from which they have emerged, and it makes them sensitive to the fact that many more still need help,” Gopal said.($ 1=66.7827 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Jo Griffin and Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Facebook, Twitter weigh bids for media rights to India cricket league | Reuters

Facebook, Twitter weigh bids for media rights to India cricket league | Reuters

Updated: Oct 19, 2016 00:47 IST

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The Indian cricket board said it had received interest from Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) for media rights to the popular Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament.The social media companies are among a host of other firms including Star India Pvt Ltd, Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Reliance Jio and ESPN Digital Media that have shown interest in acquiring media rights for the annual tournament.The bids for the rights – for 2018 onwards – are expected by Oct. 25.

Cricket is the most popular sport in India and teams in the IPL count Bollywood stars and major conglomerates such as Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) as investors.

(Reporting By Nayyar Rasheed and Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru)

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Slumscapes: How the world’s five biggest slums are shaping their futures | Reuters

By Paola Totaro

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As the United Nations prepares a 20-year plan to cope with the challenges of booming urbanization, residents of the world’s five biggest slums are battling to carve out a place in the cities of the future.Home to more than 900 million people worldwide – or nearly one in every seven people – the U.N. says slums are emerging spontaneously as a “dominant and distinct type of settlement” in the 21st century.Today one quarter of the world’s city dwellers live in slums – and they are there to stay. The U.N.’s 193 member states are set to adopt the first detailed road map to guide the growth of cities, towns and informal settlements, ensure they are sustainable, do not destroy the environment and protect the rights of the vulnerable.Held once every 20 years, the U.N.’s Habitat III conference comes at a time when, for the first time in history, more people live in cities than rural areas.In 2014, 54 percent of the global population lived in cities but by 2050, this is expected to rise to 66 percent.”We live in the urban century … when planned, built, and governed well, cities can be massive agents of positive change,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a recent statement.”They can be catalysts for inclusion and powerhouses of equitable economic growth. They can help us protect the environment and limit climate change. That is why we need a new vision for urbanization.”The U.N.’s policy document, titled the New Urban Agenda, says there has been “significant” improvement in the quality of life for millions of city residents over the past two decades, but the pressures of population growth and rural-to-city migration are increasing dramatically.Billy Cobbett, director of the Cities Alliance partnership for poverty reduction and promoting sustainable cities, said urban growth in many parts of the world, particularly Africa, is not driven by rural migration alone but by population growth.The U.N. plan stresses that providing transport, sanitation, hospitals and schools is imperative but city strategies must also “go beyond” physical improvements to integrate slums into the social, economic, cultural, and political life of cities.Experts say this policy represents a significant shift in thinking among city planners and authorities who have historically seen bulldozers as the answer to slum settlements.High-density communities geared to pedestrians along with properties that mix business with housing can offer lessons for management of future growth, they say.Today, unchecked population growth and migration in many world cities – from Kenya to Mexico to India – mean slums and the informal economies and communities created around them must increasingly be seen as an important part of the wider city.SECURITY FIRST
The U.N. roadmap highlights that a critical impediment to upgrading informal settlements and sustainable redevelopment is the lack of tenure or ownership of land or property.In 2003, 924 million city dwellers were estimated to be without title to their homes or land and this number, according to the United Nations, is expected to have grown “exponentially”.This is a particularly pressing problem in Africa where more than half the urban population – or 62 percent of people – live in shanty towns and 90 percent of rural land is undocumented.Living without secure tenure means living under constant threat of eviction. Slum dwellers who have no way of proving ownership of assets also have no access to credit, further eroding any motivation to improve homes and neighbourhoods.For governments, particularly in poorer countries, slum areas without title are a particularly vexed problem as the great majority are not mapped, little is known about demographics or spatial use, and the way residents have settled is often so dense that housing and services are hard to fit in.The lack of basic information also means they cannot use the most commonly used official land registration systems.ROADS BATTLE IN KENYA
Nairobi’s vast Kibera settlement – coming from the Nubian for forest or jungle – is described as Africa’s largest slum and comprises more than a dozen villages from Soweto East to Kianda.A mix of ethnic groups make their home there although nobody knows exact numbers. According to the last Kenyan census, the population was 170,070 in 2009 but other sources, including the UN, estimate the settlement is now home to anywhere between 400,000 and one million people. Much of Kibera’s employment comes from the nearby industrial area of Nairobi but an estimated half of Kibera’s residents are jobless, surviving on less than $1 a day.Only 27 percent of Kibera’s 50,000 students attend government schools, with most attending informal institutions set up by residents and churches, according to the charity Map Kibera. Violence, alcohol and drugs are rife and clean water scarce.Kibera’s residents also struggle with no garbage services, free flowing sewage and the slum became infamous globally for the so–called ‘flying toilets’ – throw away plastic bags used by residents forced to relieve themselves outdoors.Yet amidst the squalor there are many residents like Peter Nyagasera and his family who have worked tirelessly to improve their neighbourhood.Nyagasera and his wife Sarah Oisebe up part of a former dump site in Kibera to create a playground for the resident-run school and a children’s centre for orphans. For these children, he says, school is the only place they receive a hot meal each day.But despite all their hard work, the community has been forced to mount a court challenge to stop construction of a road planned to cut through the area and demolish the school – and this community is not alone.A second group of residents from the marginalised Nubian group are also without formal titles and fighting for ownership to protect their homes, many recently marked with red crosses for demolition to make way for the highway.Their case will be heard in Kenya’s High Court in November but residents are despondent.”Children will suffer,” said Nyagasera.

WORKING SLUMS
One of the toughest and most vulnerable aspects of life in the slums is the battle to find regular work. Cities are job hubs and proximity to employment has long been a major driver of slum development and expansion.Globally, according to the International Labour Organization, 200 million people in slums were without jobs in 2013 while UNESCO estimates that more than a quarter of the young, urban poor earn little more than $1.25 a day.Despite this, in many developing economies, the engine room of job creation is found in the heart of informal economies like those in the favelas of Rio or the bustling hives of activity in big Indian cities like Mumbai.Author Robert Neuwirth spent four years researching his book, ‘Shadow Cities’, which looked at informal economies in global shanty towns. He believes these unlicensed economic networks are vastly under appreciated in scope and power and estimates they account for some 1.8 billion jobs globally.”It’s a huge number and if it were all together in a single political system, this economic system would be worth $10 trillion a year. That would make it the second largest economy in the world,” he said.In Mumbai, where an estimated one million people live in the bustling Dharavi slum, resident-owned small businesses – from leather workers and potters to recycling networks – have created an informal economy with annual turnover of about $1 billion.Residents live and work in the same place and are now campaigning actively to ensure that any redevelopment of their homes or construction of new housing takes into account the need for home-based ground floor workspaces.”People think of slums as places of static despair as depicted in films such as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’,” said Sanjeev Sanyal, an economist and writer, referring to the Academy Award-winning movie that exposed the gritty underbelly of Dharavi.”If one looks past the open drains and plastic sheets, one will see that slums are ecosystems buzzing with activity… Creating neat low-income housing estates will not work unless they allow for many of the messy economic and social activities that thrive in slums,” he said.Rahul Srivastava, a founder of Mumbai’s Institute of Urbanology, said the biggest impediment to upgrading informal settlements is their “illegitimate” status due to the absence of title.Settlements that are home to fifth-generation migrants cannot be classed as “informal”, he says, and it is high time the narrow perception of these neighbourhoods is changed.DYING FOR A PEE
In Cape Town, the shanty towns of Khayelitsha stretch for miles, a grim brown sea of ramshackle wood and iron shacks that confront visitors arriving at the airport but are out of view of the city’s glass towers or the leafy suburbs on nearby hills.Khayelitsha’s population, according to the 2011 Census, is 99 percent black.Jean Comaroff, a Harvard professor of anthropology and African Studies, said despite “valiant efforts” from city authorities and activists in recent years, Cape Town itself still offers little room for its slum residents beyond “servitude” – work as domestics or in the service industries.

“It is poised on a knife edge and the differences between the beauty of the city itself and what you see on the Cape flats is the starkest you will ever see in the world.” she said.In Cape Town, city authorities are not only struggling with providing housing and sanitation for a burgeoning population but face the task of trying to reverse the apartheid era engineering that built the spatial segregations that still exist today.Experts say that not only is there not enough new affordable housing but what has been built remains distant from employment, forcing long commutes for those who are lucky enough to work.Inside, however, residents are struggling – and at times losing their lives – due the absence of the most basic service – toilets.According to the Social Justice Coalition’s Axolile Notywala, using a toilet can be one of the most dangerous activities for residents and a major problem for women and children.A Commission of Inquiry into Policing in the shanty towns in 2012 found that 12,000 households have no access to toilets and the link between violence, particularly against women and children, and the need to walk long distances at night was highlighted by researchers and activists.A mathematical model built by Yale University researchers last year concluded that doubling the number of toilets to 11,300 in Khayelitsha would reduce sexual assaults by a third.”Higher toilet installation and maintenance costs would be more than offset by lower sexual assault costs,” lead researcher Gregg Gonsalves told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.DIY SERVICES
Across the world in Pakistan, Orangi Town in the port city of Karachi is believed home to around 2.4 million people although nobody knows exactly as the last census was in 1998.Widely cited as Asia’s largest slum, it sprawls over 8,000 acres – the equivalent of about 4,500 Wembley football pitches.Known locally as “katchi abadis”, the first informal settlements emerged in the wake of the Indo-Pakistani war of 1947, which led to a huge influx of refugees. Unable to cope with the numbers – by 1950 the population had increased to 1 million from 400,000 – the government issued refugees “slips” giving them permission to settle on any vacant land.The settlement’s population really exploded in the early 1970s when thousands of people migrated from East Pakistan after the 1971 war of independence, which led to the establishment of the Republic of Bangladesh.Since then, land has also been traded informally, usually through a middleman who subdivided plots of both government and private land and sold them to the poor.Unlike many other slums worldwide the lack of services – not housing – is the major problem.Communities have built two and three-room houses out of concrete blocks manufactured locally, say activists. Each house is home to between eight and 10 people and an informal economy of micro businesses has emerged as people created livelihoods.In the early 1980s, however, some residents within the enormous slum decided they’d had enough of waiting for governments unwilling or unable to fund sanitation and so embarked on building a sewerage project on a “self-help” basis.

Now globally renowned, the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) has helped residents design, fund and build their own sewerage systems and pipelines and, since 1980, has brought latrines to more than 108,000 households in a project continuing today.To date, say OPP statistics, 96 percent of the settlement’s 112,562 households have latrines with residents footing the bill of 132,026,807 Pakistani rupees ($1.26 million) – all DIY.”In fact, people in the town now consider the streets as part of their homes because they have invested in them and that’s why they maintain and clean the sewers too,” said OPP’s director, Saleem Aleemuddin. BOTTOM UP DEVELOPMENT
Jose Castillo, an urban planner and architect in Mexico City, says that Ciudad Neza, home to 1.2 million people, should serve as a model for other blighted urban areas and slums.Short for Nezahualcóyotl, Neza sits on the bed of Lake Texcoco which was slowly drained in a bid to combat devastating flooding over a century and more.However the dry land ended up being too salty for farming and was slowly picked up by developers who laid out a grid of streets and sold off boxy parcels, most without proper titles.The settlement really grew in a burst of urban migration in the mid-20th century when new arrivals to Neza set up shacks of wood and cardboard, living without electricity, a sewage system or running water, schools or paved roads. Old timers remember in the early days they’d be lucky if a bus came every two hours.Victoria Gomez Calderon, 82, moved to Neza from eastern Mexico as a young woman, and remembers clearly the putrid remains of the lake just a half block from her tiny home.”It was a pure wasteland,” she said.In the early 1970s, residents banded together to demand services and a government programme to formalize ownership and provide land titles.Neza’s reputation as the world’s largest slum, coined when its population was combined with two other blighted areas decades ago, no longer applies, they said.Today, despite its severe problems from continuing poor access to transport and schools to high crime rates, Neza’s development holds lessons in growth and resilience for others.Planner Castillo says Neza is teeming with micro entrepreneurs working from home or sharing spaces in what would be called co-working in trendier places.”My argument is let’s stop asking what urban planning can do to fix the city and let’s focus on understanding where we could also learn from those processes,” he said.”There’s a strong sense of pride in place. It’s a community based on the notion that jointly these people transformed this territory.”Priscilla Connolly Dietrichsen, a professor of urban sociology at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, agrees.”The story isn’t, ‘Oh dear, dear, what a terrible slum.’ In a way, it’s a success story, in spite of the present problems,” she said.SLUMS ARE CITIES
The 23-page draft document up for adoption at Habitat III in Quito is the result of months of closed-door negotiations, held in several nations, including Indonesia and the United States.Some critics are disappointed the policy framework contains no tangible targets and will be non-binding on member states.”It’s easy for governments to sign something that is not enforceable,” said Michael Cohen, a former senior urban affairs official with the World Bank, who has advised U.N. Habitat.”It doesn’t have much bite. It talks a lot about commitments but has no dates, places or numbers.”Supporters, however, argue the New Urban Agenda will not only focus attention on the urgent need for holistic planning of cities but also work to fundamentally change the way urban growth is debated and discussed both nationally and globally.Important drivers of planned growth are a well-oiled system of land ownership, title and tenure which then paves the way for governments to collect revenue to pay for new services.Equally important is the need for concerted planning approaches so new hospitals, bus services, and schools are placed where they are needed with thought given to future growth and employment opportunities.There has, however, also been some criticism of the U.N.’s shift from a traditionally rural focus to a city driven, urban one and its failure to link the New Urban Agenda to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals and climate change benchmarks.Shivani Chaudry, executive director of the Housing and Land Rights Network in India, said the bias away from rural interests in the New Urban Agenda will leave many people behind.She said many countries had argued forcefully for the adoption of goals and targets, for example a reduction in numbers of the homeless, increases in housing for the poor or a drop in forced evictions, but nothing was agreed.”Rural populations have not been adequately represented: farmers, forest dwellers, indigenous and coastal communities – all suffer the consequences of uncontrolled urbanization,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”There is so much exploitation of these people and our fear is that so many have been left out.” (Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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Militants shoot dead political party worker in Kashmir | Reuters

Militants shoot dead political party worker in Kashmir | Reuters

Updated: Oct 12, 2016 19:47 IST

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By Fayaz Bukhari
| SRINAGAR

SRINAGAR Militants shot dead a political party worker from Indian-controlled Kashmir’s ruling coalition on Wednesday, police said, hours after two suspected militants were killed by armed forces in the region.Local police said Ghulam Nabi, a party worker of the People’s Conference in Kashmir was shot by at least two armed militants in the Kupwara district.Kupwara is near the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, which both claim the Muslim-majority region.Tensions in the state have been running especially high in recent weeks after an attack by militants last month on an army base in the Indian-controlled part of the disputed region claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers.

New Delhi blamed the attack on militants, who crossed over from the Pakistan-controlled part of the region. Pakistan has denied any involvement. In retaliation, India said its troops had crossed into Pakistan’s side of Kashmir and killed suspected militants in a “surgical strike”, an operation Pakistan says never took place.Nabi was rushed to hospital but died of his wounds, Police Superintendent Ghulam Jeelani said. The People’s Conference that he worked for, headed by Sajad Lone, is a part of the coalition in power in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier on Wednesday, the army in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed two suspected militants, holed-up in a large government building, ending a three-day stand-off.Last week, Indian soldiers shot dead seven suspected militants who tried to attack two army bases in Kashmir. Three of them were shot in the Kupwara district where Nabi was killed on Wednesday.

The latest round of tensions over Kashmir initially erupted in July when protests erupted after Indian forces killed a separatist leader.India accuses Muslim Pakistan of backing the separatists and helping them infiltrate Indian-ruled Kashmir. Pakistan denies this, saying it only offers moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their campaign for self-determination. (Writing by Euan Rocha; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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Trump says ‘shackles’ are off, assails U.S. House speaker, McCain | Reuters

By John Whitesides and Susan Heavey
| WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Presidential candidate Donald Trump angrily lashed out at U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and other “disloyal” Republicans on Tuesday and vowed to campaign in whatever style he wants now that the party establishment has largely abandoned him.Trump condemned the Republicans who have backed away from his White House run in a barrage of stinging Twitter posts, deepening a dramatic rift in the party over his struggling campaign.”It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to,” Trump said on Twitter, adding he would engage Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on his own terms.Describing “disloyal” Republicans as more difficult than Clinton he said, “They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win – I will teach them!”A string of Republicans have distanced themselves from Trump since a 2005 video surfaced on Friday showing him bragging crudely to a reporter about groping women and making unwanted sexual advances.Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, told party lawmakers on Monday he was breaking with Trump and would not campaign for him, all but conceding Clinton would win the Nov. 8 election. The move angered some Trump supporters, although Ryan said he would not withdraw his endorsement of the New York businessman.Trump slammed Ryan as a “very weak and ineffective leader” and complained in another tweet that it was hard to do well with “zero support” from Ryan and others. He also took aim at U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, who said on Saturday that he could not vote for Trump.”The very foul mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his primary (I gave, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks,” Trump said. There was no immediate reaction from McCain, who secured his primary election win in August. Trump, whose campaign has been marked for months by controversies over both his policies and his brash style, has slipped further behind Clinton in opinion polls.A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken after a Sunday’s debate and released on Tuesday showed Clinton with a 9-point lead on Trump, winning 46 percent of likely voters compared to Trump’s 37 percent.

Many Republicans are worried his chaotic campaign could hurt their chances of holding majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate in next month’s election, and will inflict long-term damage on the party.PARTY REVOLT
In an extraordinary party revolt, nearly half of all 331 incumbent Republican senators, House members and governors have condemned Trump’s lewd remarks on the video, and roughly one in 10 have called for him to drop out of the race, a Reuters review of official statements and local news coverage indicates.Unlike Ryan, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told RNC members on Monday that the committee, the party’s leadership and fundraising arm, still backed Trump, two RNC members told Reuters.

Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, reinforced his support in television interviews on Monday.New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a former rival for the White House who has became a close ally of Trump, also reaffirmed his backing although he called Trump’s comments in the 2005 video “completely indefensible.” Trump, 70, who has portrayed himself as tough on national security, released a hard-hitting television advertisement on Tuesday featuring footage of Clinton, a 68-year-old former secretary of state, stumbling last month after leaving a service commemorating the Sept. 11 attacks. Her campaign said she had been diagnosed a few days earlier with pneumonia.”Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the fortitude, strength or stamina to lead in our world,” the ad’s narrator says. “She failed as secretary of state. Don’t let her fail us again.

‘INSULTED EVERYONE’
Both Trump and Clinton headed to the key battleground state of Florida on Tuesday.Ahead of her Florida rally with former Vice President Al Gore, Clinton told a Miami radio station that Trump had “insulted everyone.””People need to understand what’s at stake in this election,” she told WMBM.The White House said on Tuesday that Trump’s remarks about groping women in the video amounted to sexual assault. President Barack Obama had found the comments repugnant, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One.The Reuters/Ipsos State of the Nation project released on Monday estimated that Clinton had at least a 95 percent chance of winning the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become president. The polling did not capture reaction to Trump’s performance in Sunday’s debate or Friday’s news reports on the video.Clinton, the first woman to be picked as a presidential nominee by a major U.S. party, tried to focus on issues that could win over undecided women voters on Tuesday, proposing to expand the child tax credit so more low-income families can benefit and to increase by $1,000 a year the tax credit available to families for each child up to age 4. (Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Samsung says to halt sales, exchanges of Galaxy Note 7 globally | Reuters

Samsung says to halt sales, exchanges of Galaxy Note 7 globally | Reuters

Updated: Oct 10, 2016 22:31 IST

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Florida braces for deadly Hurricane Matthew | Reuters

By Scott Malone and Gabriel Stargardter
| ORLANDO/MIAMI, Fla.

ORLANDO/MIAMI, Fla. Matthew, the first major hurricane threatening a direct hit on the United States in more than 10 years, blasted the Bahamas on Thursday as it headed for Florida after killing at least 140 people in the Caribbean, mostly in Haiti.Matthew, carrying winds of 140 mph (220 kph), pounded the northwestern part of the island chain en route to Florida’s Atlantic coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.The storm was likely to remain a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity as it approached the United States, where it could either take direct aim at Florida or tear along the state’s coast through Friday night, the centre said, warning of “potentially disastrous impacts.” Hurricane conditions were expected in parts of Florida later on Thursday and a dangerous storm surge is expected to reach up to 11 feet (3.35 meters) along the Florida coast, Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the Miami-based NHC, said on CNN.”What we know is that most of the lives lost in hurricanes is due to storm surge,” he said.Some 136 people were killed in Haiti, local officials said, and thousands were displaced after the storm flattened homes, uprooted trees and inundated neighbourhoods earlier in the week. Four people were killed in the Dominican Republic, which neighbours Haiti. As the storm passed near the Bahamas capital of Nassau, howling gusts of wind brought down palms and other trees and ripped shingles off the rooftops of many houses. The eye of the hurricane was later poised to move over or near Freeport in the Bahamas.It was too soon to predict where Matthew might do the most of its damage in the United States, but the NHC’s hurricane warning extended up the Atlantic coast from southern Florida through Georgia and into South Carolina. More than 12 million people in the United States were under hurricane watches and warnings, according to the Weather Channel.The last major hurricane, classified as a storm bearing sustained winds of more than 110 mph (177 kph), to make landfall on U.S. shores was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.Jeff Masters, a veteran hurricane expert, said on his Weather Underground website (www.wunderground.com) that Matthew’s wind threat was especially serious at Cape Canaveral, which juts into the Atlantic off central Florida. “If Matthew does make landfall along the Florida coast, this would be the most likely spot for it. Billions of dollars of facilities and equipment are at risk at Kennedy Space Center and nearby bases, which have never before experienced a major hurricane,” Masters wrote.

NASA and the U.S. Air Force, which operate the nation’s primary space launch site at Cape Canaveral, have already taken steps to safeguard personnel and equipment.A team of 116 employees were bunkered down inside Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center to ride out the hurricane.“We’ve had some close calls, but as far as I know it’s the first time we’ve had the threat of a direct hit,” NASA spokesman George Diller said by email from the hurricane bunker.ROADS FILLED WITH EVACUEES
Roads in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina were jammed, and gas stations and food stores ran out of supplies as the storm approached.

Florida Governor Rick Scott warned there could be “catastrophic” damage if Matthew slammed directly into the state and urged some 1.5 million people there to evacuate.”If you’re reluctant to evacuate, just think about all the people… already killed,” Scott said at a news conference. “Time is running out. This is clearly either going to have a direct hit or come right along the coast.” Scott, who activated several thousand National Guard troops to help deal with the storm, warned that millions of people were likely to be left without power. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina opened shelters for evacuees. As of Thursday morning, more than 3,000 people were being housed in 60 shelters in Florida, Scott said.Those three states as well as North Carolina declared states of emergency, empowering their governors to mobilise the National Guard.President Barack Obama called the governors of the four states on Thursday to discuss preparations for the storm. He declared a state of emergency in Florida and South Carolina, a move that authorized federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

A White House statement said he was “committed to providing necessary federal resources to help the states respond.”Hundreds of passenger flights were cancelled in south Florida, and cancellations were expected to spread north in coming days along the storm’s path, airlines including American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Airlines (DAL.N) and United Airlines [UALCO.UL] said. At about 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), Matthew was about 100 miles (160 km) east-southeast of Florida’s West Palm Beach, the hurricane centre said. It was heading northwest at about 13 mph (20 kph) and was expected to continue on this track through Thursday.On Tuesday and Wednesday Matthew, the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since Felix struck Central America in 2007, whipped Cuba and Haiti with 140 mph (225 kph) winds and torrential rain, pummeling towns and destroying livestock, crops and homes.In Florida, fuel stations on Thursday posted “out of gas” signs after cars waited in long lines to fill up. At a Subco gas station in Orlando, the pumps ran dry on Wednesday afternoon. The shop was a stopping point for coastal residents seeking shelter inland. Among them was Jonas Sylvan, 44, of Melbourne, Florida, who planned to hole up in a hotel with his wife, two daughters and dog. “We’re just trying to get away from the coast,” he said. “It’s safer here.”Bumper-to-bumper traffic extended for more than 10 miles (16 km) on the main highway leading west to Orlando from the coast.In the central Florida coastal city of Jupiter, people scrambled to make preparations.”Our house is wood construction, so who knows what will happen,” said Libby Valentine, 75, of Jupiter. “The whole idea is to stay safe and hope you have the grace to deal with the aftermath because you might not have a house.” (Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Neil Hartnell in Nassau, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Nick Carey in Chicago, Harriet McLeod in Charleston, S.C., Doina Chiacu in Washington, Joseph Guyler Delva in Haiti, Irene Klotz and Laila Kearney; Writing by Frances Kerry and Tom Brown; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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More than 1.5 million and rising sign UK petition for new EU referendum | Reuters

LONDON Just days after voting to leave the European Union, more than 1.5 million Britons and UK residents had signed a petition calling for a second vote, forcing lawmakers to at least consider a debate on the issue.

The petition on the British parliament website was posted before the June 23 referendum, saying the government should hold another plebiscite on EU membership if the support for Leave or Remain in a referendum is less than 60 percent based on a turnout of under 75 percent of electors.

The result on Thursday saw 52 percent of voters back a British exit on a turnout of 72 percent of eligible voters.

Since then, the petition — which only British citizens or UK residents have the right to sign — was proving so popular that by 1417 GMT on Saturday, 1,580,220 people had signed it with the number rising quickly.

It appeared to be rising at a rate of around 1,000 signatures a minute at one point.

Most of those who signed were based in areas where support for staying in the EU was strongest such as London, the website indicated.

Parliament has to consider a debate on any petition which attracts more than 100,000 signatures.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who said on Friday he would resign after leading the failed campaign to keep Britain in the EU, has previously said there would be no second referendum.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa/Jeremy Gaunt)

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‘Udta Punjab’ exposes plight of women trapped in India’s drug trade | Reuters

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new Bollywood film gives a rare glimpse into the exploitation and enslavement of women in India’s drug trade, highlighting how the stigma surrounding women drug users leaves them vulnerable to abuse.

‘Udta Punjab’ (Flying Punjab), directed by Abhishek Chaubey and released last week, shows how one of India’s most prosperous states has been blighted by drug use, with corrupt politicians and police complicit in the trade that largely afflicts young men.

Alongside a drug-addicted rock star, the film tells the story of a nameless young female migrant worker, who is enslaved by a gang of drug dealers, made an addict and forced to have sex with multiple men.

Eventually she escapes amidst a dramatic shoot-out, as the rock star and a corrupt cop turned good come to her rescue.

Once considered a male-only problem in India, drug addiction is rising among women, who are more likely to be subject to abuse and less likely to seek help, experts say.

“We have seen a big uptick in female drug users in recent years, even though a majority of them don’t seek help because of the enormous stigma they suffer,” said Shaveta Sharma, a senior psychologist at the Hermitage rehabilitation centre in Amritsar in Punjab.

“They suffer far more than male users, as they are neglected by their families and the state on one hand, and physically and sexually abused by dealers and partners on the other,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

About 70 percent of the state’s young men are addicted to drugs or alcohol, according to a 2013 government report. One in 10 female students has taken drugs, it said.

COUGH SYRUP

There are more than 11 million drug users in India, according to recent data, which does not show how many are women.

Once confined to India’s wealthy, substance abuse now straddles all socio-economic groups and ranges from addiction to heroin and cannabis, to methamphetamine and codeine-based cough syrup.

The impact of drug use is far greater on women because they “tend to lack access to the continuum of care”, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual drug report this week.

Women drug users are more vulnerable and more stigmatised, and far less likely to enter treatment programmes, it said.

In India, more than 40 percent of female drug users surveyed by UNODC for a 2008 report – among the few to focus on women – said they were forced to have sex in exchange for drugs or money. A third said their livelihood came from sex work and/or peddling drugs.

Such abuse is graphically illustrated in the film, which shows the young woman locked up and constantly drugged while a series of men abuse her. In typical Bollywood fashion, she finally shakes the drug habit herself through sheer grit.

The UNODC predicted in its 2008 report that there would be a “feminisation” of substance use among women in India, with patterns imitating male substance abuse, including rising violence and crime.

Last year, the Indian government pledged more funds for counselling, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts.

But the stigma persists: ‘Udta Punjab’, which has been declared a critical and commercial hit, ran into trouble with the censor board for its representation of drug use, and state officials complained that it defamed Punjab.

Sharma said it is a fair depiction and a call for action.

“We need a completely different approach to female drug use, and we need it soon,” Sharma said. “Otherwise, we will have a very serious problem on our hands.”

(Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Jo Griffin and Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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India’s new deal for textile workers could add to risks, campaigners say | Reuters

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A government initiative to create millions of jobs and increase exports in the textile and garment industries could put vulnerable workers at greater risk, activists said, calling for better enforcement of existing labour laws.

A package to generate 10 million jobs and boost exports by $30 billion over three years was unveiled on Wednesday but the measures, including cutting overtime, have raised concerns about workers’ rights.

India is one of the world’s largest textile and garment manufacturers, supplying many leading international brands. The $40-billion-a-year industry employs around 45 million workers.

Workers’ rights campaigners say the industry is built on the back of cheap contract labour.

“Creating more jobs will only mean even less regulation on the floor, with managements happily taking in new workers and firing old ones,” said Jayaram K.R., a member of the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU), based in Bengaluru.

“There are numerous labour laws that already exist and most of them are not being implemented in factories.”

The “labour-friendly” measures approved by the Indian cabinet include capping overtime for workers at 8 hours a week in line with International Labour Organization (ILO) norms in order to create more jobs.

The government also plans to subsidise employers’ social welfare contributions for workers. It said most new jobs would go to women, who already make up 70 per cent of the workforce in the industry, “helping in social transformation through women’s empowerment”.

But Gopinath Parakuni, general secretary of Cividep India, which campaigns for workers’ rights, said the new measures would not help workers, and urged tighter regulation to stop workplace abuses.

“When there are increasing cases of human rights violations being reported from the sector, better regulation is required. Instead, the government is dangling a carrot to the industry by offering subsidies to make more profits,” he said.

Campaigners say the seasonal nature of work in India’s textile industry, the advent of fast fashion and increasing global competition have created exploitative labour conditions.

“The industry is moving towards ‘piece rate’, where a worker is paid depending on how many pieces of garment she completes in a day,” Parakuni told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Pressure on the worker has increased and in the name of labour flexibility, managements have been given an upper hand to hire and fire at will.”

A government presentation on the reform package highlighted that in recent years Bangladesh and Vietnam have overtaken India in garment exports.

“This is what they want to fix and workers’ welfare is not the focus,” Jayaram said. “Managements are happy hiring migrant contract workers because it means no additional benefits have to be given. Even minimum wages are sometimes a fight.”

A long-standing demand of activists, not been addressed in the new programme, is to allow workers freedom of association and give them a voice in wage and pension negotiations.

(Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Jo Griffin and Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Iceland advance to last 16 after 2-1 win against Austria | Reuters

PARIS Iceland snatched a stoppage-time winner to continue their fairytale story at Euro 2016 by making it through to the last 16 after a deserved 2-1 victory against Austria in their final Group F match on Wednesday.

Iceland end their section second with five points. Austria go out with one point.

In humid conditions at the Stade de France, the islanders had the better chances in the early stages taking the lead in the 18th minute when Jon Dadi Bodvarsson coolly steered the ball home after a flick-on in the box.

Austria, who missed a penalty in the first half and laid siege to Iceland’s goal in the second, gave themselves hope when Alessandro Schopf scored in the 60th minute, but Arnor Traustason secured the win in stoppage time.

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Toby Davis)

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FACTBOX – Potential successors to RBI chief Rajan | Reuters

The RBI governor Raghuram Rajan stunned government officials and investors on Saturday by announcing he would step down when his term ends on September 4.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government would name a successor soon and a senior official told Reuters there were currently seven names on a list of possible candidates.

Here is some background on the candidates seen as potential successors to Rajan at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI):

URJIT PATEL:

⁠⁠⁠One of the RBI’s four deputy governors, Patel, 52, was reappointed in January for another three years. He has run the central bank’s monetary policy department since 2013 and is viewed as a leading contender for the governor’s job.

Seen as a close lieutenant to Rajan, Patel headed a committee that introduced landmark changes including a switch to inflation-targeting and adopting consumer prices as the new benchmark instead of wholesale prices. The changes he helped drive are considered to be among the most significant monetary policy reforms since India opened up its economy in 1991.

Patel, whose remit at the RBI included managing money markets, has faced criticism from market participants, however, with some traders and bankers complaining that he kept liquidity tight at a time when the RBI was lowering rates, starving banks of cash.

ARUNDHATI BHATTACHARYA:

A high-profile banker, Bhattacharya has been at the helm of India’s largest lender — State Bank of India

— since late 2013 and has earned praise from investors for her management of the bank’s mountain of bad debt. She was named in the Forbes list of world’s 100 most powerful women.

Bhattacharya, 60, whose term as the chair at State Bank of India ends later this year, is perceived as another front runner in the race.

She was reportedly among the candidates interviewed to head India’s capital markets regulator before the government made a last-minute decision to extend the term of the incumbent. She has spent her entire career in the banking sector and never held any policy roles.

RAKESH MOHAN:

Mohan, 68, had two stints as a deputy governor of the RBI. He also served as secretary at the department of economic affairs at the Indian government’s finance ministry and held positions at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mohan was in charge of monetary policy, financial markets, economic research and statistics at the RBI.

SUBIR GOKARN:

Gokarn, 56, also a former deputy RBI governor, currently serves as an executive director at the IMF. He looked after monetary policy during his three years at the central bank until the end of 2012.

ASHOK LAHIRI:

Lahiri, 64, a former chief economic adviser to the Indian government, also served the Asian Development Bank as an executive director.

He is the non-executive chairman of Bandhan Bank, one of India’s newest lenders.

ASHOK CHAWLA:

Chawla, 65, was last month appointed as the chair of the National Stock Exchange, India’s biggest bourse. He stepped down as chairman of Competition Commission of India earlier this year.

He has been a civil servant for most of his career, and has served on the board of the Reserve Bank of India. He has also been a director for state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp.

VIJAY KELKAR:

The 74-year-old economist has held several positions with the Indian government, including as a finance secretary.

He has authored several reports for the government, most recently writing about reviving public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects. Kelkar chalked out a fiscal consolidation roadmap under the previous government.

(Reporting by Suvashree Dey Choudhury, Douglas Busvine, Rajesh Kumar Singh, Devidutta Tripathy and Rafael Nam; Editing by Euan Rocha and Helen Popper)

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India using funding law to foil dissenting charities – U.N. experts | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – United Nations experts on Thursday called on India to repeal a law on foreign donations to charities, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government of using it to block funds to organisations considered critical of the state.

Since Modi swept to power more than two years ago, his right-wing nationalist government has tightened surveillance on foreign-funded charities regulated under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).

More than 10,000 civil society groups in India have had their licences to receive overseas donations cancelled or suspended since 2014, impairing their ability to work in areas from health to the environment.

The government says the groups violate the FCRA by not disclosing details of their donations or have used foreign funds to engage in “anti-national” activities.

But U.N. experts said they were stunned by the way India was applying the law to stymie its critics.

“We are alarmed that FCRA provisions are being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the government,” said a statement by U.N. Special Rapporteurs Michel Forst, David Kaye and Maina Kiai, who focus on human rights defenders and freedoms of expression and association.

Groups such as Greenpeace India, Lawyers Collective and the Sabrang Trust have had their licenses suspended, said the statement from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Greenpeace campaigns against nuclear power and coal mining, Lawyers Collective works on sexual minorities rights and Sabrang Trust is run by Teesta Setalvad, a prominent human rights activist and Modi critic.

A home ministry official contacted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation said he was not in a position to respond immediately to the comments by the U.N. experts.

There is no official number of charities operating in India, but the government estimates at least two million non-profits work in such areas as the environment, climate change and protecting minority rights.

A 2013 report by the home ministry said some 43,500 groups were registered as charities that received foreign funds but slightly less than half provided details of their donations.

Home ministry officials have said they are enforcing the FCRA to make the non-profit sector compliant and transparent and ensure charities are not engaging in illegal political or anti-national activities.

The U.N. experts said use of the FCRA was “overly broad” and activities deemed political or against the economic interest of the state were vague.

They singled out the treatment of the Lawyers Collective, which works on improving the rights of sexual minorities and those living with HIV/AIDS as an attempt to intimidate, delegitimise and silence the group.

“Human rights defenders and civil society must have the ability to do their important job without being subjected to increased limitations on their access to foreign funding,” the U.N. experts said.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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India imposes 20 percent sugar export tax – government | Reuters

NEW DELHI India has imposed a 20 percent tax on sugar exports to keep a lid on domestic prices, the government said on Thursday, a move that is likely to boost global prices of the sweetener.

Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan said this week the government plans to introduce a 25 percent tax on sugar exports to maintain local supplies.

Sugar output in India, the world’s no. 2 producer behind Brazil, is expected to decline this year due to a drought in major growing regions, while global prices have risen to two-and-a-half year highs.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; editing by Adrian Croft)

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Indian men given life for gang-rape of Danish tourist | Reuters

NEW DELHI Five Indian men were sentenced to life in prison on Friday for raping a Danish tourist in the heart of New Delhi’s tourist district in 2014, in a case that reignited worries about sexual violence against women in India.

The men, all in their twenties, were found guilty by a Delhi court on Monday for robbing and raping the 52-year old Dane at a secluded spot close to New Delhi railway station.

“All the five convicts have been sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment for their offences,” additional public prosecutor Atul Shrivastava, told Reuters at the court. 

The Dane was walking through an area of narrow lanes near Delhi’s Paharganj district, a tourist area packed with backpacker hotels, on the evening of Jan. 14, 2014, when she asked a group of men for directions to her hotel.

The men then lured the woman to an area near New Delhi railway station where they raped her and robbed her at knife-point, the prosecution said in its chargesheet.

India was shaken into deep soul-searching about entrenched violence against women after the fatal gang-rape in December 2012 of a female student on a bus in New Delhi.

The crime, which sent thousands of Indians onto the streets in protest against what many saw as the failure of authorities to protect women, encouraged the government to enact tougher jail sentences for rapists.

Police accused nine men of attacking the Danish woman in 2014. Three are juveniles being tried in a separate court while a fourth died during the trial.

Lawyer D.K. Sharma, representing the five convicted men, said his clients would appeal against the verdict.

(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty; Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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With win in New Jersey, Clinton cements Democratic nomination | Reuters

LOS ANGELES Democrat Hillary Clinton beat rival Bernie Sanders in New Jersey’s presidential nominating contest on Tuesday, Fox News projected, bolstering her lead a day after she captured the number of delegates needed to become her party’s U.S. presidential nominee.

Clinton, a former first lady, senator and U.S. secretary of state, would be the first woman to become the presidential candidate of a major U.S. political party.

New Jersey was one of six states holding contests on Tuesday, including the big prize of California, where Clinton is still at risk of an embarrassing loss to Sanders as she heads into a campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election.

Other news outlets, including MSNBC and CNN, said it was still too early to call the winner in New Jersey shortly after the polls closed.

Clinton secured enough delegates to the party’s convention to win the nomination before Tuesday’s voting, U.S. media outlets reported on Monday night.

But Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said the campaign was pushing supporters and volunteers to “stay at this” for the contests in New Jersey, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Mexico and California.

“We’re on the verge of making history, and we’re going to celebrate that tonight,” Mook told CNN. “There’s a lot of people we want to make sure turn out today. We do not want to send a message that anybody’s vote doesn’t count.”

HISTORIC NOMINATION

Clinton, who now must try to unify the party and win over Sanders supporters, will highlight the historic nature of her nomination at an event in Brooklyn on Tuesday night. Her campaign has compiled a video tying her to women’s rights movements in American history.

She wants to move beyond the primary battle and turn her attention to Trump. But Sanders, a democratic socialist U.S. senator from Vermont, has vowed to stay in until July’s party convention that formally picks the nominee, defying growing pressure from party leaders to exit the race.

If Sanders wins the primary in California, America’s most populous state, it would not be enough for him to catch Clinton in the overall delegate count but could fuel his continued presence in the race. Polls in California were due to close at 11 p.m. ET (0300 GMT on Wednesday).

“We will look forward tonight to marking having reached the threshold of a majority of the pledged delegates,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon told CNN, referring to delegates won in the state nominating contests. “And at that point, Bernie Sanders will be out of our race.”

Sanders, 74, has commanded huge crowds, galvanizing younger voters with promises to address economic inequality. Clinton, 68, has edged him out, particularly among older voters, with a more pragmatic campaign focussed on building on President Barack Obama’s policies.

Steven Acosta, a 47-year-old teacher living in Los Angeles, voted for Clinton on Tuesday, saying that was partly because he believed she stood a better chance of winning in November.

“I like what Bernie Sanders says and I agree with almost everything that he says,” Acosta said. “The problem is that I think Republicans would really unify … even more against him.”

‘RUSH TO JUDGEMENT’

Sanders was determined to stay in the race, even after the Associated Press and NBC reported on Monday night that Clinton had clinched the number of delegates needed to win the nomination. A Sanders campaign spokesman castigated what he said was the media’s “rush to judgement.”

Under Democratic National Committee rules, most delegates to the July 25-28 convention in Philadelphia are awarded by popular votes in state-by-state elections, and Clinton has a clear lead in those pledged delegates.

But the delegate count also includes superdelegates, party leaders who can change their minds at any time. Clinton’s superdelegate support outnumbers Sanders’ by more than 10 to 1.

The Sanders’ campaign has said it can still persuade superdelegates to switch to him, although in practice superdelegates who have announced their intentions are unlikely to change their minds.

Sanders would have to get more than 60 percent of the superdelegates backing Clinton to switch their votes. So far, his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, acknowledged they had not converted a single delegate.

Trump, 69, became his party’s presumptive nominee last month, outlasting 16 Republican challengers.

(Writing by John Whitesides and Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Jonathan Allen and Chris Kahn in New York; Joseph Ax and Frank McGurty in New Jersey; Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in California; Editing by Howard Goller)

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Djokovic joins greats with maiden French Open title | Reuters

PARIS Novak Djokovic joined the tennis greats on Sunday when he downed British second seed Andy Murray 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 to claim his maiden French Open title and hold all four grand slams at the same time.

The world number one recovered from a nervous start to impose his pace on Court Philippe Chatrier and clinch his 12th grand slam crown after three previous failures in a Roland Garros final.

Djokovic is only the third man after Don Budge and Rod Laver to hold the four majors at the same time, and the eighth man to triumph at Wimbledon and the French, U.S. and Australian Opens.

“It’s a very special moment, possibly the biggest moment in my career,” the 29-year-old, who now has a 5-2 win-loss record against Murray in grand slam finals, said courtside.

It looked like Djokovic got off to a dream start, taking Murray’s serve to love in the first game.

But the Briton, who was playing his 10th final at a major, hit the ball early to set up three break points in the following game, converting the third with a fine lob. He held to love and then broke again, winning 16 of 20 points to lead 4-1.

Tension threatened to boil over when Murray shouted “get him out”, pointing to a French TV interviewer who was in the player’s box, before Djokovic had an altercation with the chair umpire.

As Murray was serving for the set, he was awarded a point to lead 30-0, Djokovic having hit his return before an ‘out’ call on the serve was made.

“The call was after you hit the ball. I’m 100 per cent sure,” Damien Dumusois told a frustrated Djokovic.

Murray, who beat Djokovic in the Rome Masters finals on clay last month, went on to win the set when his opponent netted a backhand.

He had a break point in the first game of the second set but that was as good as it got for the Scot.

Djokovic, his aggression now channelled and matched by his accuracy, won the remaining games.

He raced to a 4-1 lead in the third set, breaking in the fifth game with a delicate angled drop shot that triggered chants of ‘Nole, Nole, Nole, Nole’ in the stands.

There was no comeback in that set for the 29-year-old Murray, who then dropped serve in the opening game of the fourth set.

Djokovic, who is now on a 28-match winning streak in grand slams, broke to love to lead 5-2. Murray pulled a break back but Djokovic shook off late jitters to win the title on his third match point when the Scot netted a backhand at the end of a nail-biting rally.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Wall St. flat as energy offsets utilities’ gain | Reuters

NEW YORK The S&P 500 wrapped up its third straight month of gains on Tuesday on a flat note, as weaker energy shares were countered by a rise from Amazon and safe-haven utilities.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 87.66 points, or 0.49 percent, to 17,785.56, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 2.06 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,097 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 14.55 points, or 0.29 percent, to 4,948.06.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Almost 46 million people trapped in slavery with North Korea, India key offenders – global index | Reuters

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Almost 46 million people are living as slaves globally with the greatest number in India but the highest prevalence in North Korea, according to the third Global Slavery Index launched on Tuesday with Australian actor Russell Crowe.

The index, by Australia-based human rights group Walk Free Foundation, increased its estimate of people born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labour to 45.8 million from 35.8 million in 2014.

Andrew Forrest, founder of Walk Free, said the rise of nearly 30 percent was due to better data collection, although he feared the situation was getting worse with global displacement and migration increasing vulnerability to all forms of slavery.

Forrest, an Australian mining billionaire and philanthropist, urged businesses to check their supply chains for worker exploitation, saying he found thousands of people trapped in slavery making goods for his company Fortescue Metals Group.

“But I’ve had some of some biggest entrepreneurs in the world look me in the eye and say I will not look for slavery in case I find it,” he said at the launch of the index in London.

Crowe, who played Roman general-turned-slave Maximus in the 2000 movie “Gladiator”, described the plight of people “in our communities who are stuck, utterly helpless and trapped in a cycle of despair and degradation with no choice and no hope.”

“As an actor, my role is often to portray raw human emotion, but nothing compares with the people’s lives reflected in the report published today,” he said.

“The shock of reading the Global Slavery Index was one that I wouldn’t step away from.”

Incidences of slavery were found in all 167 countries in the index, with India home to the largest total number with an estimated 18.4 million slaves among its 1.3 billion population.

But Forrest said India deserved credit for starting to address this problem with the government this week unveiling a draft of its first comprehensive anti-human trafficking law to treat survivors as victims rather than criminals.

North Korea ranked as worst in terms of concentration with one in every 20 people – or 4.4 percent of its 25 million population – in slavery and its government doing the least to end this with reports of state-sanctioned forced labour.

“We need to make it clear we’re not going to tolerate slavery and when there is slavery in a regime we should not trade with them,” Forrest told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

NUMBERS CRITICISED

Forrest acknowledged the latest data was likely to attract criticism with some researchers accusing the index of flawed methodology by extrapolating on-the-ground surveys in some countries to estimate numbers for other nations.

The 2016 index was based on interviews with about 42,000 people by pollster Gallup in 53 languages in 25 countries.

But Forrest said a lack of hard data on slavery in the past had held back efforts to tackle this hidden crime and it was important to draw a “sand in the line” measurement to drive action. He challenged critics to produce an alternative.

The United Nation’s International Labour Organization estimates 21 million people globally are victims of forced labour but this does not take into account all forms of slavery.

“Without measurement you don’t have effective management and there’s no way to lead the world away from slavery,” he said.

Forrest said the Global Slavery Index aims to measure the prevalence of slavery in the 167 most populous countries as well as the level of vulnerability of people to enslavement and strength of government efforts to combat this.

The 2016 index again found Asia, which provides low-skilled labour in global supply chains producing clothing, food and technology, accounted for two-thirds of the people in slavery.

About 58 percent of people living in slavery are in five countries – India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.

However the countries with the highest proportion of their population enslaved were North Korea, Uzbekistan, and Cambodia.

The governments taking the least action to tackle slavery were listed as North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Hong Kong.

By contrast the governments taking most action were the Netherlands, the United States, Britain, Sweden and Australia.

Forrest said a reason for launching the index in Britain was to acknowledge the lead set by the UK government which last year brought in the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

While Europe has the lowest regional prevalence of slavery, Walk Free said it was a source and destination for forced labour and sexual exploitation. The impact of a mass influx of migrants and refugees fleeing conflicts and poverty has yet to be seen.

Crowe said slavery was a problem that was not going away.

“I think all of us should keep focused on it until we get to that point … where it just gets pushed over the edge and it’s finished,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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Nobel Laureate Satyarthi says companies cannot flourish on child slavery | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Big corporations must do more to clean up their supply chains and ensure that there is no child labour involved in the products which they manufacture and sell, Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi said on Friday.

From cosmetics and clothes to shrimp and smartphones, the supply chain for most products is often complex with multiple layers – whether in sourcing the raw materials or creating the final product – making it hard to identify exploitation.

Speaking at a conference on bonded labour in India, Satyarthi said a new anti-trafficking law being drafted by the government would hopefully make it harder for corporations to use child labour in their supply chains.

“Every national or international corporate must adhere to national as well as international laws. Those who are working in India should know that they cannot continue to violate the laws of the land,” Satyarthi told journalists.

“We have laws in this country and we will have another clearer law on trafficking soon – so then there would be much more robust law and mechanisms to deal with that.”

A draft of a comprehensive new anti-trafficking law is expected to be unveiled in India on Monday which will aim to unify several existing laws, raise penalties for offenders as well as provide victims with rehabilitation and compensation.

The law will also provide for the establishment of a central investigative anti-trafficking agency to coordinate and work between states and special courts to hear such cases.

Nearly 21 million people globally are victims of forced labour, an industry which generates $150 billion a year in illegal profits, says the International Labour Organization.

The British charity Anti-Slavery International on its website documents 122 products made by child labourers across 58 countries ranging from Latin America to Asia.

These children might be employed at the start of the supply chain, forced into mines to extract gold, mica, diamonds and coal or made to toil in farms to produce commodities such as cotton, sugar, tea, coffee and cocoa.

Children are also found working further down the supply chain, such as in the stitching of garments, manufacturing of footwear, weaving of carpets or in the assembly of fireworks.

Satyarthi, whose charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) is credited with rescuing more than 80,000 enslaved children, said big companies are increasingly being held accountable by consumers and the media.

“The power of the consumer and the media is growing everywhere. Companies should not ignore the power of consumers,” said Satyarthi, who was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.

“If they are exploiting children for their own benefit then that it is illegal and ethical. They cannot continue flourish at the expense of children in India or in any country.”

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla,; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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Microsoft to cut 1,850 jobs at struggling smartphone unit | Reuters

HELSINKI/SAN FRANCISCO Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) announced more big cuts to its smartphone business on Wednesday, just two years after it bought handset maker Nokia in an ill-fated attempt to take on market leaders Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS).

In a move that clearly puts the stamp of two-year chief executive Satya Nadella on the U.S. company, Microsoft said it would shed up to 1,850 jobs, most of them in Finland, and write down $950 million from the business. It did not say how many employees currently work on smartphones in the group as a whole.

Shares of Microsoft were trading around $52 late Wednesday, roughly flat with their $51.59 close Tuesday, but significantly up from $34.20 when Nadella became CEO in February 2014.

Remaking Microsoft, known primarily for its software, into a more device-focused company was a hallmark of previous chief executive Steve Ballmer.

In one of his last major acts, Ballmer closed a deal to buy Nokia’s (NOKIA.HE) struggling but once-dominant handset business for about $7.2 billion in late 2013. The deal closed in April 2014, two months after Nadella became CEO.

Since then, Nadella has shaved away at the phone business, starting with a 2015 restructuring that put the devices group, previously a stand-alone unit under former Nokia chief Stephen Elop, under the Windows group. Run by Terry Myerson, the Windows division is the company’s biggest.

A Finnish union representative told Reuters the cuts would essentially put an end to Microsoft’s development of new phones.

“My understanding is that Windows 10 will go on as an operating system, but there will be no more phones made by Microsoft,” said Kalle Kiili, a shop steward.

Microsoft said in a statement it would continue to develop the Windows 10 platform and support its Lumia smartphones, but gave no comment on whether it would develop new Windows phones.

Global market share of Windows smartphones fell below 1 percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to research firm Gartner.

Last year, Microsoft announced $7.5 billion of writedowns and 7,800 job cuts in its phone business.

Earlier this month, Microsoft sold its entry-level feature phones business for $350 million.

The company said on Wednesday it expected to cut all 1,350 jobs at its Finnish mobile phone unit and close down a research and development site in the country. A further 500 jobs will go in other countries, it said, without giving details.

“We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation,” Nadella said in a statement.

“We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms.”

Nokia dominated around 40 percent of the world’s mobile phone industry in 2008 before it was eclipsed by the rise of touch-screen smartphones.

As a result, Nokia and Microsoft have slashed thousands of Finnish jobs over the past decade, and the lack of substitute jobs is the main reason for the country’s current economic stagnation.

Nokia, now focused on telecom network equipment, just last week said it was cutting around 1,000 jobs in Finland following its acquisition of Franco-American rival Alcatel-Lucent (ALUA.PA).

The Microsoft phone business still has a dedicated fan in Ballmer, who bragged about his device at a San Francisco dinner hosted by Fortune in March.

“It’s a Windows phone,” he said as the audience laughed. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl, Tuomas Forsell and Sarah McBride; Editing by Adrian Croft and Andrew Hay)

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H&M says working to improve labour conditions in India, Cambodia factories | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) said it was collaborating with trade unions, government as well as the U.N. to improve workers’ conditions after a study found violations in supplying garment factories in India and Cambodia.

The study by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) found workers stitching clothes for H&M in factories in Delhi and Phnom Penh faced problems such as low wages, fixed-term contracts, forced overtime and loss of job if pregnant.

The AFWA, a coalition of trade unions and labour rights groups, accused the Western high street retailer of failing on its commitments to clean up its supply chain.

An official from H&M told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Saturday that the fashion firm has been working actively to improve the lives of textile workers for many years.

“The report raises important issues and we are dedicated to contribute to positive long-term development for the people working in the textile industry in our sourcing markets,” said Thérèse Sundberg from H&M’s press and communications department.

“The issues addressed in the report are industry wide problems. They are often difficult to address as an individual company and we firmly believe that collaboration is key.”

H&M has partnered with the International Labour Organization, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency as well as global and local trade unions to seek out solutions, she added in an emailed statement.

The fashion industry has come under increasing pressure to improve factory conditions and workers’ rights, particularly after the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh three years ago, when 1,136 garment workers were killed.

FORCED OVERTIME, SACKED FOR PREGNANCY

The study, which surveyed 50 Indian workers from five factories and 201 Cambodians workers from 12 factories from August to October 2015.

It found that overtime in all the factories was expected by employers. Cambodian workers reported they had to do two hours of overtime daily, while Indian workers reported working at least 9 hours to 17 hours a day.

“Workers are routinely required to work until 2 a.m. in order to meet production targets — and then to report to work at 9 a.m.,” it said, referring to workers in Indian factories.

“The financial imperative of working overtime due to the persistence of minimum wage standards below living wage standards can be viewed as a form of economic coercion that leads to involuntary or forced overtime,” it added.

The study also found that fixed-term contracts were being used in 9 of the 12 Cambodian and all Indian factories surveyed.

These contracts facilitate arbitrary termination and deprive workers of job security, pension, healthcare, seniority benefits and gratuity, say activists.

Workers also reported discrimination in maternity benefits in both the Indian and Cambodian factories, said the study.

Cambodian workers from 11 of the 12 factories reported either witnessing or experiencing termination of employment during pregnancy, while Indians from all five factories said women were fired during their pregnancies, said the study.

“Permanent workers report being forced to take leave without pay for the period of their pregnancy,” it said.

“Contract, piece rate and casual workers reported that although most of the time they are reinstated in their jobs after pregnancy, they receive completely new contracts that cause them to lose seniority.”

H&M’s Sundberg said solving all these issues was a long-term process which continues “step-by-step” and that the Swedish retailer was committed to improving labour rights in its supplying factories.

“The continued presence of long-term, responsible buyers is vital to the future development of countries such as Cambodia and India, and we want to continue to contribute to increased improvements in these markets,” said Sundberg.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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Lauda blames Hamilton after Mercedes duo collide | Reuters

BARCELONA Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg’s hopes of an eighth win in a row disappeared on Sunday after a collision with Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Britain’s triple world champion Hamilton had started on pole position, with Rosberg alongside on the front row at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The German, aiming to make it five successive wins for the season, passed Hamilton around the outside of turn one and the Briton was then squeezed on to the grass as he tried to regain the lead at turn three.

His car skewed sideways and smashed into Rosberg’s, with both drivers ending up in the gravel and the safety car deployed.

Watching Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche shook his head in dismay, while Hamilton threw his steering wheel out of the car.

The pair returned to the paddock on scooters and trudged up the stairs for a debrief with Mercedes team bosses, motorsport head Toto Wolff hot on their heels, before also seeing the stewards.

The team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, a triple world champion himself, blamed Hamilton before going to see the drivers.

“It is stupid, we could’ve won this race,” the Austrian told the BBC. “Lewis is too aggressive. I need to talk to them and hear their explanation and then we will see what happens.”

Rosberg still has a comfortable lead in the championship standings, being 43 points clear of closest rival Hamilton before Sunday’s race.

However, the collision ended Mercedes hopes of extending the team’s winning run to 11 races and equaling McLaren’s 1988 record streak of success.

Only one driver in the modern era has won eight consecutive races — Germany’s Sebastian Vettel, with nine in a row in 2013 for Red Bull — but Rosberg had hopes of continuing his run after winning at the circuit last year.

Victory would also have made him only the third F1 driver after compatriot Michael Schumacher and Britain’s Nigel Mansell to win the first five races of a season.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

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Ukraine’s Jamala takes home Eurovision crown with song about war | Reuters

STOCKHOLM Ukraine’s Jamala struck a surprise gold in the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday with a song “1944” about war-time deportations of Crimean Tatars by the Soviet Union in one of the most controversial winners in the competition’s history.

In a show known down the years for its playfulness and camp, 32-year-old Jamala struck a sombre tone with her lyrics about strangers coming to “kill you all”, in reference to the forced removal of ethnic Tatars by Josef Stalin during World War 2.

Jamala, herself a Tatar, stood on the Stockholm stage singing “you think you are gods” against a blood-red backdrop.

She said her great-grandmother was one of the Crimean Tatar victims of Stalin who deported the group en masse to Central Asia after accusing them of sympathizing with Nazi Germany. Many of the 200,000 deported died on the way or in exile.

Jamala pleaded for “peace and love to everyone,” when collecting the trophy ahead of Australia in second place and Russia in third spot. Despite being far from Europe, Australia attended the competition for the second time after an invitation from organisers.

While the Eurovision voting has long been tainted by political alliances among competitor countries, songs are not allowed to be political but Jamala’s entry seemed to come close to breaking that rule.

Event organiser, the European Broadcasting Union, said Ukraine’s offering did not contain political speech and therefore did not break Eurovision Song Contest rules.

“The song refers to a historical fact and Jamala makes reference to a story that happened in her family,” EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre told Reuters after the show.

She said the song referred to what happened in 1944 and not recent events. Crimea was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.

At a press conference, Jamala appeared to struggle with tears when she talked about a close relative that the song was about.

“I would prefer that all these terrible things did not happen at all to my great-grandmother and I would even prefer this song not to exist,” she said.

Bookmakers had tipped Russia to win the competition followed by Australia and Ukraine at number three.

Russian contestant Sergey Lazarev played down any political implications of Ukraine’s victory.

“I am trying to think that it is all about music and not about politics. We are at a song contest, not a political one,” Lazarev told reporters after the contest was over.

As late as last year, Ukraine decided not to take part in Eurovision with war again ravaging the country as troops take on Russian-backed rebels.

Tatars, a Muslim people from the Black Sea peninsula, opposed the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which followed the overthrow of a Moscow-backed president in Kiev.

Inside the stadium on Saturday, the world’s biggest international music show took place with the audience dancing and partying.

But the hosts of the contests, last year’s winner Mans Zelmerlow and comedian Petra Mede, also struck a serious chord.

“This competition was created in 1956 to unify a continent torn apart by war, and right now Europe is once again facing darker times. That reminds us just how important this evening actually is,” Zelmerlow said. And Mede filled in:

“Because tonight, we set aside any differences we might have, and unite through our love for music,” she said.

The organisers expected more than 200 million to tune in – more viewers than the Super Bowl.

And the competition is reaching ever wider outside Europe with this year’s final being live broadcast for the first time in the United States and China.

One of the most memorable Eurovision winners in recent years was Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst who won in 2014 with the ballad “Rise Like a Phoenix.”

(Editing by Ruth Pitchford and Alistair Bell)

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