Japan to take action with US after N Korea missile test

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his country will join the United States in taking concrete action against North Korea after its latest ballistic missile test.

On Monday, North Korea test-fired a Scud missile into Japanese waters, the third test in as many weeks and the 12th this year – carried out in defiance of UN sanctions warnings and US threats of possible military action.

“We will never tolerate North Korea’s continued provocations that ignore repeated warnings by the international community,” Abe told reporters shortly after the test.

“As agreed during the G7 summit, the North Korean problem is the international community’s top priority. In order to deter North Korea, we will take concrete action with the United States.”

READ MORE: North Korea fires missile in third test in three weeks

Isolated but nuclear-armed, North Korea has test-fired a missile almost every week for the past three weeks.

The latest, a short-range Scud, flew about 450km before landing in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, the US Pacific Command said.

Monday’s test also marked the second time this year that a North Korean missile fell close to its neighbour Japan.

South Koreans watched a news report on the North Korean missile test in Seoul [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

Michael Penn, president of the Tokyo-based Shingetsu news agency, told Al Jazeera that the latest test was part of a North Korean effort to strengthen its military against any possible threats from the US.

“The missile technology tests themselves do seem to be the priority of the North Korean regime, to get their technology as strong as possible, as quickly as possible.

“They feel this is their best way forward – to show their own ability to defend themselves against a Trump administration they cannot predict,” Penn said.

US: Conflict would be ‘catastrophic’

Despite Trump’s strident warnings, James Mattis, the US secretary of defence, said in an interview that aired on Sunday before the launch that a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic”.

“The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, which is the capital of South Korea,” he told CBS News.

“This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. In the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well.

READ MORE: North Korea’s nuclear weapons – Here is all we know

“But the bottom line is, it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat, if we’re not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means.”

Mattis declined to say what kind of action from Pyongyang would constitute a “red line” for Washington, saying the administration needs “political manoeuvre room.”

‘Direct challenge’

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-In, ordered a meeting of the national security council to assess the launch, which came a day after North Korea said its leader Kim Jong-un had overseen a test of a new anti-aircraft weapons system.

South Korea condemned the test as a “grave threat” and a challenge to the new leader who advocates dialogue with North Korea in a break from his conservative predecessors.

OPINION: Is war coming to North Korea?

“That the North repeated such provocations after the inauguration of our new leadership… is a direct challenge to our demand for peace and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” the foreign ministry said.

The missile launches, and Pyongyang’s threat to stage its sixth nuclear test, have prompted calls for tougher UN sanctions and a warning from Trump that military intervention was an option under consideration.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Is the UK doing enough to investigate child abuse?

Glasgow, United Kingdom – Across the United Kingdom, a series of inquiries are attempting to the lift the lid on one of society’s gravest criminal acts – child abuse.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales – one of the inquiries charged with looking into the historical abuse of children in Britain – began earlier this year. The first phase examined decades-old abuse of children who were sent abroad with the aim of reducing pressure on UK orphanages. It heard from many who were part of British government-approved schemes that saw thousands of children sent to Australia in the aftermath of World War II. Edward Delaney, who was placed at the Bindoon Boys Town orphanage, in Western Australia, told the review body that he accused “the British government of kidnapping”.

“It’s not deportation, it’s not sending me to another country to uphold the British flag or whatever,” reported Delaney, who is in his late 60s and revealed that he was regularly beaten and raped as a child. “I was taken from my mother, which is a very serious offence …”

A separate Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI), set up by the devolved Scottish government in 2015, is scheduled to begin its first phase hearings at the end of May. The English Football Association (FA) and the Scottish Football Association (SFA) have launched their own reviews, which are looking into allegations of historical child abuse in their respective sporting authorities. Northern Ireland’s Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry reported its findings in January this year.

READ MORE: Time to speak out against the abuse in English football

Where it all began

The catalyst that triggered Britain’s hard look into allegations of historical child abuse were the revelations surrounding the past conduct of Jimmy Savile, the BBC DJ and celebrity charity fundraiser who died in 2011. Following his death, hundreds of people stepped forward to reveal that he had sexually abused them as children. Savile, knighted in 1990 in recognition of his charity work, was soon outed as a serial paedophile, prompting the establishment of the IICSA in 2014 from which the other inquiries followed.

“In the UK, we’ve had a long history of child abuse scandals and inquiries, so it’s not surprising that we’ve got that [inquiry-led] focus,” said Lorraine Radford, professor of social policy and social work at England’s University of Central Lancashire.

Radford tells Al Jazeera that “there are a number of forces that are driving this move towards having inquiries about child abuse.

“Some of it is linked to changes in society, in culture and in politics in terms of the gradual uncovering of the extent of interpersonal violence and violence against children,” she said. “…It is also linked to the changes in social movements – feminism, human rights, children’s rights and the voices of victims in those movements.”

READ MORE: Child abuse ‘social norm’ in some areas of UK

Digging up the past

Survivors of child abuse have been central to the coverage of these inquiries. But as the likes of IICSA look to uncover past failings in the system, what do child abuse survivors, who were entitled to believe that they were safe in schools, children’s homes, National Health Service sites and football clubs across Britain, think about the emergence of these inquiries?

Ian Ackley, who was sexually assaulted over several years by a man who coached him as a youth football player, tells Al Jazeera that he felt very divorced from the proceedings.

“I don’t really know what to make [of these inquiries]. I’m not even sure what they will achieve – if anything,” said Ackley, now 48. “…No one has ever really – besides very recently engaging with a couple of organisations – historically paid me any heed from any authority or organisation. No one has really asked me my opinion or [asked] how it has affected me, so in that sense [these inquiries] all seem so unfamiliar and something very distant.”

The FA inquiry, which began after several former English professional footballers revealed last year that they had been sexually abused as youth players, has been criticised by some who contend that its “up until around 2005” cut-off point is ill-chosen.

Dino Nocivelli, a London-based solicitor who is representing a number of child abuse survivors, tells Al Jazeera that “there’s data to show that abuse did take place within a football setting in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and all the way up to the current day”.

“Independent police have information to show that children were abused in a football setting in 2016, for example – so I am frustrated and annoyed at the FA because, while things may be better now – and I appreciate there are more checks in place – children are still being failed,” he added.

Asked to comment on the proposed cut-off date, the FA referred Al Jazeera to the inquiry’s terms of reference. It included point 13, which stated: “These terms of reference may be amended … in the event they need to be widened at any time.”

Inquiries of this kind share many key themes, says Radford. They include notions of “apology, providing scope for redress and in some cases commemoration of the people who have died and have been victimised” as well as “looking at mistakes that were made, acknowledging those mistakes and preventing them from happening in the future”.

READ MORE: Is UK child sex exploitation ‘endemic’?

Future expectations

But, as these British inquiries look to right past wrongs, what can they realistically expect to achieve with respect to the survivors themselves?

“The research suggests that most victims are not necessarily looking for money – but want to have the abuse acknowledged,” adds Radford. “They want somebody to say this has happened and they also want to be rid of a kind of blame that this happened to them and feeling guilty and responsible. They want the fact that the offenders did wrong acknowledged.”

For Ackley, however, who has lived with the abuse he suffered for his entire adult life, any successes secured by these inquiries can never erase the damage done to him as a child.

“They can never take away what happened,” said Ackley, who works in property maintenance in London. “I think their powers are limited. I understand and see that they are an essential part of a process, but they are just that – a part of a process.”

Source: Al Jazeera News

US ‘might’ expand laptop ban to all flights

The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Kelly said America planned to “raise the bar” on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items.

“That’s the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a US carrier, particularly if it’s full of US people.”

Washington imposed restrictions, in March, on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports.

READ MORE: The Arab airlines using Trump’s bans for marketing

Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called “a real sophisticated threat.” He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban.

“We are still following the intelligence,” he said, “and are in the process of defining this, but we’re going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now.”

Airlines are concerned that a broad ban on laptops may erode customer demand. But none wants an incident aboard one of its airplanes.

“Whatever comes out, we’ll have to comply with,” Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines, told the company’s annual meeting last week.

Airlines were blindsided in January when President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry for 90 days to citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, sending airlines scrambling to determine who could board and who could not. The order was later blocked in the courts.

In the case of laptops, the administration is keeping the industry in the loop. Delta Air Lines said in a statement it “continues to be in close contact with the US Department of Homeland Security,” while Munoz applauded the administration for giving the company a “heads up.”

“We’ve had constant updates on the subject,” he said. “We know more than most. And again, if there’s a credible threat out there, we need to make sure we take the appropriate measures.”

READ MORE: Was Israel behind US laptop ban on Mideast airlines?

Among the enhanced security measures will likely be tighter screening of carry-on items to allow Transport Security Administration agents to discern problematic items in tightly stuffed bags.

Kelly said that in order to avoid paying fees for checking bags, people were stuffing them to the point where it was difficult to see through the clutter.

“The more stuff is in there, the less the TSA professionals that are looking at what’s in those bags through the monitors can tell what’s in them.”

The TSA has begun testing certain new procedures at a limited number of airports, requiring people to remove additional items from carry-on bags for separate screenings.

Asked whether the government would expand such measures nationwide, Kelly said: “We might, and likely will.”

Source: News agencies

Philippines calls off peace talks with Communist rebels

The Philippine government on Sunday formally called off the latest round of peace talks with communist insurgents, after the parties failed to resolve a dispute over a rebel order for fighters to step up attacks.

“We are maintaining the decision made not to participate in the fifth round of talks,” chief government negotiator Jesus Dureza told journalists after almost 10 hours of closed-door consultations.

“There are no compelling reasons for us to change the decision … which we announced yesterday,” he said, adding that Manila was “formally” withdrawing from the round.

It was the fifth scheduled round of talks since the resumption of formal negotiations between Manila and the communists in August.

OPINION: Peace is still possible in Duterte’s Philippines

They are meant to address such issues as a joint interim ceasefire, social and economic reforms and human rights issues.

The breakdown of the talks, held in a scenic Dutch seaside resort, came as fighting flared on Sunday between Philippine government forces and fighters linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in the south, with the death toll nearing 100 after almost a week of fighting.

Talks stalled on Saturday when Dureza objected to the communists’ telling their fighters to intensify attacks in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in parts of the country.

Philippines: Civilians trapped in Marawi as battle against ISIL-linked fighters intensifies

Dureza said on Sunday that the talks would not resume until there were indications of an “environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace.”

Asked whether this included the communists’ order to escalate attacks, Dureza said, “It is a factor.”

But Dureza, who is also Duterte’s chief advisor, emphasised that it was not a formal withdrawal from the Philippines peace process.

Duterte declared martial law on Tuesday across the southern third of the Philippines to quell what he called a fast-growing threat from fighters linked to ISIL.

Communists rebels, who are active in wide areas of the archipelago, including the south, responded to Duterte’s declaration by ordering their own forces to “carry out more tactical offensives”.

Chief rebel negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the communist negotiators had “recommended to our leadership to reconsider the order, but that takes time”.

He said the NDFP, a coalition of several groups of which the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is among the most prominent, “deeply regretted” Manila’s decision to shelve the talks.

The communist insurgency which began in 1968 in the poverty-stricken Asian country is one of the longest running in the world, and has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives, according to the military.

What’s behind the latest crisis in the Philippines? – Inside Story

Source: News agencies

Mississippi shooting rampage leaves eight dead

A man who apparently got into a dispute with his wife and in-laws was arrested in a house-to-house shooting rampage in rural Mississippi that left eight people dead, including a sheriff’s deputy.

“I ain’t fit to live, not after what I done,” a handcuffed Willie Corey Godbolt, 35, told The Clarion-Ledger, a local newspaper.

The shootings took place at three homes on Saturday night – two in Brookhaven and one in Bogue Chitto – about 110 kilometres south of Jackson, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said. The rampage began after authorities got a call about a domestic dispute, investigators said.

OPINION: Gun control in the US is not a fantasy

The dead included two boys, and Godbolt was being treated for a gunshot wound at a hospital, authorities said. They did not say how he was wounded.

Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said charges had yet to be filed and it was too soon to say what the motive was. Authorities gave no details on the relationship between Godbolt and the victims.

‘Suicide by cop was my intention’

However, Godbolt himself shed some light on what happened in a video interview with the newspaper as he sat with his hands cuffed behind his back on the side of a road.

Shot Spotters is helping America track gun crime

Godbolt said he was talking with his wife and members of her family when somebody called the police.

“I was having a conversation with her stepdaddy and her mama and her, my wife, about me taking my children home,” he said. “Somebody called the officer, people that didn’t even live at the house. That’s what they do. They intervene.”

“They cost him his life,” he said, apparently referring to the deputy. “I’m sorry.”

The slain deputy was identified as William Durr, 36. The identities of the other victims were not immediately released.

Godbolt said he did not intend for police to capture him alive.

“My intentions was to have God kill me. I ran out of bullets,” he said. “Suicide by cop was my intention.”

Source: News agencies

Morocco: Al-Hoceima remains tense over protest arrests

The situation in the northern Morrocan city of Al-Hoceima remains tense on Sunday following the arrest of at least 20 protesters over the weekend by security forces.

According to a statement from the general prosecutor in Al-Hoceima carried on MAP state news agency, the arrests of the 20 individuals were made on May 26 and 27 for “threatening national security” in the North African kingdom.

“The preliminary investigation showed the individuals received money transfers and logistical support in order to carry out propaganda activities to undermine the integrity of the Kingdom and to undermine the allegiance of citizens to the Moroccan state and its institutions,” the statement read.

Activists and local residents said clashes erupted in the city after authorities sought to arrest a well-known activist who led recent demonstrations.

Nasser Zefzafi, leader of the “Hirak” movement, interrupted a Friday prayer sermon in a local mosque. Authorities sought his arrest for “interrupting a religious ceremony,” a crime punishable with a prison term.

Authorities failed to arrest Zefzafi, who fled the city, while supporters poured into the streets protesting against the attempt to detain him.

READ MORE: Morocco’s Al-Hoceima protests reflect ‘a heavy legacy’

Political protests are rare in Morocco, but tensions in Al-Hoceima have been simmering since October after the death of a fishmonger who was crushed inside a garbage truck while trying to retrieve fish confiscated by the police.

His death sparked anger against “Hogra,” a colloquial Derja Arabic term for deprivation of dignity from official abuses or corruption, and prompted some of the biggest protests since Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations in 2011.

On Saturday, health officials said three policemen were critically injured following the clashes on Friday. Activists say several protesters have also been hospitalized.

Source: News agencies

Lawyer Mohammed al-Roken awarded human rights prize

A prominent UAE lawyer sentenced to 10 years in 2013 for plotting against the government was on Saturday awarded a major human rights award.

Mohammed al-Roken was among 69 people jailed on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government of the United Arab Emirates following a mass trial criticised by rights groups.

Awarding him the Ludovic Trarieux Award, the prize committee said Roken had devoted two decades to defending fundamental freedoms.

A former head of the UAE Jurists’ Association, Roken, 54, was arrested in July 2012, after taking on the defence of several government opponents.

The prize jury lamented that Roken’s trial had gone ahead behind closed doors and demanded his immediate release.

‘Convicted on bogus charges’

Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director at the time staunchly criticised both the proceedings and the verdicts.

“Not only do the defendants appear to have been targeted simply because of their views, but they have been convicted on bogus charges and denied the basic right to a fair trial,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“The only thing this trial shows is the fundamental flaws in the UAE justice system,” she added.

According to Amnesty, the trial “was marred by allegations of torture which were blatantly ignored, the rights of defence were flaunted, and independent observers were banned from the court room”.

The annual award, which is worth 20,000 euros ($22,000), recognises lawyers of any nationality who have sought to defend human rights, often at great risk to themselves.

The Luxembourg-instigated European Bar Human Rights Institute, made the award, named after Trarieux, who in 1898 founded France’s Human Rights League.

Source: AFP news agency

Why young South Koreans are turning away from religion

Seoul, South Korea – On a warm spring Sunday morning, the rows of pews inside Seoul Cathedral Anglican Church were nearly full with congregants singing a traditional hymn accompanied by a blaring organ.

Among the attendees was Park Hyun-jung, a simply dressed woman in her early 30s, currently taking time away from her career to raise her children, aged two and six.

Park comes from a devout Anglican family and attended church regularly while growing up in Seoul. As she entered adulthood and the challenges of completing university, finding a job and marrying came to dominate her schedule, she started going to church less often. She now only goes two or three times a year.

“I’m so busy trying to raise kids and manage our household. I can’t find time to do everything,” Park said.

Her trajectory of straying from religion in early adulthood is increasingly common among South Koreans, and is reflective of a national trend towards increasing secularism, particularly among young people.

Experts say that young South Koreans are too wrapped up in a demanding education system and job market to spend much time on religious activities.

In many South Korean cities, there are more churches than convenience stores. Around 20 percent of South Koreans identify as Protestant, the largest group in the country, followed by 15 percent who identify as Buddhists, and nearly eight percent as Catholics.

The abundance of churches is a legacy of how people turned to organised religion, mostly brought by US missionaries, for structure and guidance after the 1950-53 Korean War devastated the country and tore apart families. But according to Statistics Korea, a government body, the percentage of South Koreans identifying as having no religion rose from 47 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2015. This falling religiosity is especially pronounced among young adults: a poll the same year by Gallup Korea found 31 percent of South Koreans in their 20s identifying as religious, down from 46 percent 10 years earlier.

In many Korean cities, churches outnumber convenience stores. In this picture, a neon red cross, a common sight in Korean cities at night and which denotes the Protestant Church, is seen in Guryong village in Seoul’s Gangnam district [Kim Hong-Ji]

READ MORE: South Korea’s first black model

Updating styles of worship 

When Park does attend service, she goes to Seoul Cathedral, a 126-year-old Anglican church located on a leafy property in the centre of Seoul.

Seoul Cathedral Anglican Church is one of a few houses of worship that, facing down the possibility of a slide into irrelevance, are making efforts to retain their young congregants, updating teachings and holding events modelled on typical TV talk shows, where instead of just discussing scripture, young people can speak openly about personal or spiritual matters and seek support from peers and church leaders.

At Young Nak Presbyterian Church, also located in central Seoul, to help retain congregants, church officials took inspiration from a TV panel discussion show called “Yoo Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook“. Religious leaders now host informal conversation events with churchgoers, allowing them to discuss personal or theological questions.

Some have pointed to smartphones as one thing distracting young South Koreans from religious observance. With this in mind, some young South Koreans last year organised a joint prayer event they called “Uprising“, which aimed to get young people off their phones and into an in-person prayer gathering. 

Other churches have accepted the primacy of smartphones in how young people access information. SaRang Church, one of South Korea’s biggest, developed a smartphone app with a searchable Bible.

Reverend Nak-hyon Joseph Joo, 49, vice dean at Seoul Cathedral Anglican Church, organises programmes for young congregants. The church has roughly 3,000 members, roughly half of whom regularly attend mass.

Joo says the church is constantly working to update its teachings to be relevant for young people, and to hold gatherings specifically geared to them. Joo argues that as many long-time members age and become less active in church activities; for the church to remain vibrant, it must continuously be attracting new and younger congregants.

READ MORE: Who is Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s new president?

Dismantling hierarchy 

Joo drew inspiration from Theology on Tap, a practice founded in the United States, whereby churches hold lectures and discussions in informal settings, usually restaurants or bars (the “tap” in the name comes from the lever used to pour draught beer).

On the evening of the third Thursday of every month, Joo organises a gathering at a coffee shop, where anyone is welcome, from church congregants and their friends to curious atheists, to discuss not just theology, but personal concerns, as well as social and political issues. Usually, around 20 people attend and participate in spirited conversations, or remain quiet with their beverage, if that is what they prefer.

The church also holds a 13-week educational programme on the basics of the Christian tradition and the church’s mission for new members, roughly two-thirds of whom are in their 20s and 30s, Joo says.

On the last Sunday of every month, he holds a special mass only for young people, where he invites the participants up to the altar, the most sacred space in the church, to receive the Eucharist. During that service, Joo gives a sermon without a lectern. He says he does this to undermine any sense of hierarchy within the church.

“I choose to let the younger generation into this most holy place because they are the most important people for the future of our church,” Joo said. He says that these efforts have made it possible for his church to buck the trend of falling numbers of young congregants.

Francis Jae-ryong Song, a professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, has conducted research into the phenomenon of churches attempting to retain young congregants, and argues that churches, like so much else in South Korea, are a competitive ecosystem.

Similar to how businesses compete for customers, churches compete to attract congregants, and larger numbers of worshippers are taken as indicators of health in a church.

Song says that so far, efforts to retain young churchgoers have not been highly successful, as they have not addressed core issues that many young Koreans find unappealing.

“Many Korean churches have authoritarian structures and there is no interactive or democratic communication structure. This prevents young people from participating actively in the church decision-making process,” Song said.

Song adds that the types of live conversation events some churches are using are vital in allowing young members to express themselves in a language they are comfortable using.

In his research, Song described a “mismatch of language of faith between generations” where church leaders still used old-fashioned manners of speech which alienate young people.

Seoul Cathedral Anglican Church, in central Seoul, is one the few houses of worship that, faced with the prospect of becoming irrelevant, is updating its style of worship to try to entice young Koreans [Steven Borowiec/Al Jazeera]

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Unemployment and scepticism

Experts say rising youth unemployment, which OECD data shows is now at its highest point in South Korea since 2000, and young people feeling beset by problems to which religion does not provide any direct solutions, are major factors in the falling numbers of young people who identify as religious.

South Korea has a time-consuming process for young job seekers. Applicants often need to sit for tests and fill out elaborate forms. According to data from the Korea Employment Information Service, South Koreans in their 20s spend an average of 111 days looking before finding a job.

“Young people nowadays are caught in this long cycle of studying hard to get into university, then having to get a good job. They also have technology and many options for leisure activities. All these things have brought young people away from churches,” said Andrew Eungi Kim, a professor at Korea University in Seoul.

Kim argues that South Koreans are becoming less trusting of hierarchical institutions and that turning away from religion is part of this.

“Young South Koreans are far better educated than their parents and are more likely to be sceptical of the claims religious leaders make,” Kim said.

Furthermore, as unemployment can carry a heavy social stigma in South Korea, unemployed young people might avoid social settings, such as the church, where they are expected to mingle.

Joo says he regularly counsels young church members, many of whom are anxious about their careers or finances.

“I don’t tell them what is wrong or what is right in their life, I just listen to them and try to educate them about Christian tradition,” he said.

Nevertheless, more South Koreans are feeling like churches, and religion generally, don’t provide answers to their most pressing needs.

“We can’t offer practical assistance when it comes to jobs or financial hardships. All we can do is provide emotional consolation and try to encourage harmony,” Joo added.

Kim Hyun-ah, 27, took time away from her own search for a job at a large conglomerate to attend the Sunday service at Seoul Cathedral Anglican Church.

“I just come here because it’s an open-minded church. I like the atmosphere,” she said. Kim says she finds occasional church attendance a boost to her spirits during a challenging time.

After the service she said she was planning to move to a nearby coffee shop to resume her online job search, saying: “It’s good to come here sometimes, but finding a job is my real occupation. And going to church won’t help me with that.”

Source: Al Jazeera

Bulgaria to conduct food product checks amid quality concerns

Bulgaria said on Saturday it would conduct checks on different food products of multinational companies sold in the Balkan state and compare them with food sold in richer western European countries, amid concerns over quality.

Consumer groups have complained that popular brands use poorer-quality ingredients in products sold in central and eastern Europe than in countries like Germany and Austria.

However, they have had little recourse to complain because the European Union only requires that the packaging contain a clear list of all ingredients.

Bulgaria’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Rumen Porozhanov said experts had already purchased chocolate, dairy and meat products, non-alcoholic beverages, juices and baby foods from Germany and Austria and would make the quality checks after buying the identical products in Bulgaria.

“Next week we will buy identical products that are sold on the Bulgarian market by the big chains and then the analysis will start,” Porozhanov said after a government meeting.

“We have a united vision of conducting such measures with the countries of the Visegrad Four,” he added, referring to Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary which have already criticized several global food companies on the issue.

The eastern European countries want to lobby within the EU to stop companies from offering identical brands and packaging but different lists of ingredients in the “old” and “new” EU member states.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Yemen rivals urged to free wrongfully held detainees

Human Rights Watch has urged all warring sides in Yemen, the Houthi-Saleh fighters, the government troops and forces backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to seize the advent of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to remedy the wrongful treatment of detainees and to free those who were arbitrarily held.

HRW said in a statement that detainees should have access to lawyers and family members, and urged warring sides to reveal the fate or whereabouts of those forcibly disappeared.

“The forces should also release children and others being needlessly held and hold to account officials responsible for mistreatment,” HRW said in the statement.

Documented cases

The organisation said it had documented arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances by Houthi rebels and those loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as the government troops and UAE-backed security forces in the southern and eastern parts of the country, including in Aden, Abyan, and Hadramawt governorates.

It said Yemeni non-governmental groups estimated that the number of people currently held by all sides was in the thousands.

HRW itself documented 65 cases in which Houthi-Saleh forces forcibly disappeared people and arbitrarily detained at the Political Security Organisation headquarters, Zain al-Abdeen mosque in Hiziyaz and the National Security Bureau in Sanaa’s Old City.

UN urges $2.1bn aid for Yemen crisis

Source: Al Jazeera News