Syria Talks Kick off in Vienna

For the first time the USA, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other major players will sit down in the same room to discuss the possibility of an internationally negotiated end of the conflict. The hopes for real progress of this meeting are not sky-high, but the fact that a dialogue has been opened can be considered a step forward after years of international paralysis. Reuters offers the topline description of this meeting: “Washington stuck to its demand on Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leave power, ahead of peace talks which will include Assad’s main ally Iran for the first time, reflecting his stronger position since Russia joined the war on his side.”

Podcast: What does Russia really want in Syria? If you have 15 minutes and want to understand the political context of these peace talks, and why Russian military intervention is so politically consequential Mark speaks with Michael Kofman of the Woodrow Wilson Center in a Global Dispatches Podcast episode:

China Ends One Child Policy…China announced the end of its hugely controversial one-child policy on Thursday, after decades of strict, sometimes brutal enforcement left it with an ageing population and shrinking workforce that has heightened the challenges of slowing economic growth. (AFP

Vultures headed for extinction…Africa’s vultures are vanishing, according to a report released on Thursday, a situation that could affect human health and livestock since populations of other scavengers such as rats and jackals could rise as a result. (Reuters

#Longread of the Day: Tyler McCormick in Foreign Policy takes a deep dive into the international community’s failures in Central African Republic.


Three more people in Guinea have been infected with the Ebola virus, a senior health official said, further dampening hopes of an imminent end to the world’s worst recorded outbreak of the disease. (Reuters

Four people were killed by mobs in Central African Republic’s capital Bangui on Thursday, witnesses said, in escalating religious violence that could threaten a December election. (Reuters

The International Criminal Court on Wednesday axed plans to hold a hearing in Uganda to confirm charges against a notorious LRA commander, fearing political tensions ahead of upcoming elections. (AFP

Uganda’s defence minister is in Burundi in the latest bid to kickstart peace talks between rival factions in the impoverished central African country, presidential officials said Thursday. (AFP

Tanzania’s ruling party candidate John Magufuli won hotly contested presidential elections, officials announced Thursday, but the opposition said the vote was rigged and also claimed victory. (AFP

Tanzanian police have arrested several youths in semi-autonomous Zanzibar who were blocking roads in protest at a local election being scrapped after the opposition said it won, the police commissioner said on Thursday. (Reuters

In a country where only 40% of people have access to grid electricity, the government of Tanzania is looking to sunshine to power health centers and homes. (Guardian

Backed by tanks, armoured vehicles and plenty of EU cash, thousands of African soldiers took on an imaginary enemy in the arid heart of South Africa this week, the last joint exercises before a homegrown continental strike force goes live. (Reuters



A “significant increase” of air strikes on Syrian hospitals recently has killed at least 35 patients and medical staff and wounded 72, Doctors Without Borders said Thursday. (AFP

Torrential rain caused chaos across several parts of Iraq Thursday, with flood waters sweeping a toddler to her death and damaging camps for displaced people. (AFP

This month’s Palestinian uprising that started with a wave of knife attacks in Jerusalem has shifted some 18 miles south to Hebron, another holy city with a stark history of violence and tension. (NYT

A Saudi Arabian blogger, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, was awarded the European Union’s top human rights prize Thursday in a gesture of support for freedom of expression in the conservative kingdom. (LAT )


China, the world’s biggest source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, will impose tougher penalties on firms that fail to comply with emission targets, according to draft market regulations seen by Reuters on Thursday. (Reuters

Fuel-starved Nepal has signed an agreement with China to import gasoline, diesel and cooking gas, effectively ending a monopoly on supply from India, which has restricted fuel convoys as a result of political protests in the Himalayan nation. (AP

A United Nations rights investigator raised concern on Wednesday about whether Myanmar’s election next month could be considered free and fair because dozens of candidates had been disqualified and hundreds of thousands of people denied the right to vote. (Reuters

Tens of thousands of North Koreans are being sent to work abroad in conditions that amount to forced labor to circumvent U.N. sanctions and earn foreign currency for the country, amounting to between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion annually by one estimate, a U.N. investigator said. (AP

China’s leaders on Thursday affirmed plans to double the size of the country’s economy by 2020 from 2010 levels, a goal that sets up a potential clash with efforts to nurture more self-sustaining growth. (AP

The Americas

Chile’s environmental regulator said that it has imposed its largest fine ever on a salmon-farming company. (AP

Argentina’s ruling party standard-bearer is trying to quash rumors that outgoing President Cristina Fernandez is lukewarm about his candidacy on the heels of a disappointing first-round election finish. (AP

A huge fire engulfing a swath of Brazilian jungle threatens the existence of remote indigenous tribes and may have been started by illegal loggers invading the territory, Greenpeace said. (AFP

and the rest…

Authorities on the Greek island of Lesbos search Thursday for 38 people believed still missing after the sinking of a wooden boat carrying migrants. Earlier, 242 people were rescued and three bodies were recovered. (AP

Four UN staff members have been sacked for distributing and storing child abuse images on work computers and email accounts in the last 18 months, while ten more have been fired for child rape and sex abuse cases in the last decade, according to an internal UN report. (Guardian

The U.N.’s weather and climate agency said on Thursday there was no cause for alarm about a record-size hole this month in the ozone layer, that shields life on earth from the sun, as it should shrink again. (Reuters

Amnesty International used full-page ads in Australian newspapers on Thursday to accuse border protection officials of illegally paying people smugglers and endangering lives in their efforts to prevent asylum seeker boats from reaching Australia. (AP


Poverty in the U.S.: It’s is worse than you’re led to believe (Humanosphere

Global Dispatches Podcast: Can the Syrian Peace Talks Succeed?

World Health Organisation right to be wary about first malaria vaccine (Guardian

Should Europe follow Brazil’s example on humanitarian visas? (IRIN

Community Health Workers Can Reach Some Patients That Doctors Can’t (NPR

How comprehensive sexuality education can help reduce violence (Devex

Has the governance agenda lost its mojo globally? (People, Spaces, Deliberation

If your husband beats you and you’re a refugee… good luck (Jina Moore

Are Commercial Banks Ready to Serve the Base of the Pyramid? (CFI

The tyranny of distance, up close (Africa is a Country

A nice example of how government-to-government peer pressure can lead to innovation (From Poverty to Power