Job consultant Saskia Ben jemaa sits in a welcome center for immigrants on Aug. 18 in Berlin. The center assists immigrants and refugees with asylum status in finding jobs, housing and qualification recognition of their previous employment and education.

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Job consultant Saskia Ben jemaa sits in a welcome center for immigrants on Aug. 18 in Berlin. The center assists immigrants and refugees with asylum status in finding jobs, housing and qualification recognition of their previous employment and education.

Carsten Koall/Getty Images

A year ago, as Germany opened its borders to a surge of migrants and refugees, Chancellor Angela Merkel said,“Wir schaffen das” — “We can do it.” More than a million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year, and they’re eligible to start working after three months.

Many expected that the influx of new arrivals would help Germany’s economy, already the strongest in Europe. Big players in German business were enthusiastic. Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of Daimler, the big car maker, predicted a new “economic miracle.” Frank Appel, the CEO of Deutsche Post, the huge courier company, praised the additional value for the labor market that the refugees would bring.

Germany, like most every country in Europe, has an aging workforce and a low birthrate and needs more young workers in the years to come.

But the miracle hasn’t happened. The easy entrance to the German labor market was overestimated, especially for Syrian refugees, says Wido Geis of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research. The challenges include language skills, education, training and Germany’s own bureaucracy.

One out of three German companies says it plans to hire refugees this year or next. But only 7 percent of all German firms have actually done so in the last 24 months, according to the Institute for Economic Studies in Munich, which polled managers earlier this year.

And a grand total of 54 refugees have managed to find employment with the country’s biggest 30 companies, according to a survey in June by the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Fifty of them are employed by Deutsche Post.

While small- and medium-sized companies have made efforts to bring in refugee employees, Germany’s biggest economic players have not done enough, says economy minister Sigmar Gabriel. In July, he wrote to 30 Frankfurt stock exchange companies, urging them to hire more refugees.

“Without you,” he wrote, “the bridge is not yet complete.”

Language skills are the biggest challenge, says Geis, because 98 percent of the asylum seekers are not familiar with German. Eighty-six percent of German managers surveyed by the Institute for Economic Studies call the language barrier “very huge.”

The assumption was that asylum seekers would primarily include people with relatively high education levels, comparable to German degrees. But in fact, many who arrived are unskilled and can understand neither English nor German.

Many unskilled refugees have been discouraged by Germany’s dual apprenticeship system – which involves both on-the-job training and going to school – and would rather take a better paid job without further qualification right at the beginning. Some have taken low-skill “one-euro” jobs as a springboard into the labor market, though it’s not a long-term solution.

“Many refugees need money quickly to send it back to their relatives in their home country or pay their bills and they do not see the advantages of an apprenticeship that starts with less pay,” explains Susanne Eikemeier from the German Federal Agency for Employment. “We try to convince them that this would be better in the long run and we try to figure out what skills they actually have. The problem is that a mechanic from Afghanistan may repair cars, but he never went to a professional school and got a certificate.”

So German companies cannot really compare him to other applicants. At the same time, refugees face financial pressures: Some have exhausted their savings to flee their home countries or must pay off human traffickers.

And there are administrative and bureaucratic hurdles. Companies want to know if the refugees they’re considering hiring will be able to stay in Germany permanently. Otherwise, efforts to integrate somebody in an organization seem in vain.

The employment of refugees generally requires the approval of the Federal Agency for Employment and the immigration office. Even with a new law to facilitate integration in the labor market, companies in some regions still have to make sure there is no German applicant who is more qualified for the position. In theory, refugees are allowed to work after three months — but in reality, it might take a year.

To make matters even more difficult, refugees are unfamiliar with German procedures – so sometimes they miss job interviews or fill out forms incorrectly. Unlike in Sweden, where refugees are assigned guides to help them, or the U.K., which is training former refugees to mentor newcomers, refugees in Germany often navigate their new country on their own.

It may take years for most refugees to land full-time employment in Germany. A March 2016 report of the European Parliament says the likelihood of finding work quickly in the German labor market is minimal.

But work is the key to successful integration, German politicians and economists say. And the potential workforce is huge. Eikemeier is still optimistic. It is not a question of if somebody can be fully integrated, she says, but only when.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/08/28/489510068/despite-early-optimism-german-companies-hire-few-refugees?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Firefighters gather near the damaged Sant’Agostino church and rubble and debris of destroyed buildings inside a cordoned-off area on Sunday in the central Italian village of Amatrice.

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Firefighters gather near the damaged Sant’Agostino church and rubble and debris of destroyed buildings inside a cordoned-off area on Sunday in the central Italian village of Amatrice.

Andreas Solaro /AFP/Getty Images

Italy’s state museums are donating their proceeds today to reconstruction efforts, following a massive earthquake that killed at least 291 people and nearly leveled three medieval towns.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini is appealing to people to visit the country’s museums to show their solidarity with the victims of the powerful temblor, as NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley tells our Newscast unit.

Franceschini made the appeal in a post on Twitter. “He said the idea is to harness the nation’s rich artistic heritage to help recover and restore other art damaged by the earthquake,” as Eleanor reports.

This comes as officials involved in rescue operations say that now, there is “no change of finding anyone else alive,” Eleanor says. As The Associated Press reports, “nobody has been found alive in Italy’s earthquake ruins since Wednesday, and hopes have vanished of finding any more survivors.”

Florence’s Uffizi Gallery posted this video on Twitter, showing a moment of silence in their galleries as part of the relief campaign:

Franceschini said “293 culturally important sites in the area affected, many of them churches, had either collapsed or been seriously damaged,” as the BBC reports.

In the hard-hit village of Accumoli, Eleanor spoke with Fabio di Prospero, who is leading a military police unit aimed at recovering art.

“It’s a very difficult job for us because this land is a mountain land. And we are checking each church in each small town,” di Prospero said.

Meanwhile, Italy is beginning to plan rebuilding efforts, which Eleanor says are “forecast to cost over a billion euros.”

But clean-up and rebuilding plans are complicated by continuing, powerful aftershocks. As reporter Christopher Livesay tells our Newscast unit, the town at the epicenter of the quake is facing an increasingly desperate situation.

“The mayor of Amatrice, Sergio Pirozzi, warned that aftershocks are gnawing away at the few accessible entry points that remain in the town, and that it could be completely shut off if conditions worsen,” Livesay reports. Other towns also face bridges and road closures.

Also on Sunday, Pope Francis announced plans to travel to the impacted area during his Sunday Angelus service. “I want to renew my spiritual closeness to the inhabitants of the area that was heavily hit by the earthquake. I will visit you and personally offer the comfort of faith, as soon as possible,” the Pope said, as Christopher reports.

Italian firefighters pull out Giorgia Rinaldo from under the rubble of the town of Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, on Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, the majority-Catholic country held its first Sunday mass service since the earthquake struck. In the town of Ascoli Pecino, the bishop told worshipers this tragic story about two sisters, as Eleanor reports:

“Nine-year-old Giulia, whose body protected her younger sister Giorgia. The five-year-old Giorgia lived, while Giulia died. Giulia was one of the victims honored in a state funeral Saturday. A note had been left on her coffin by the firemen who rescued her sister. It said: ‘Ciao, little one. Sorry we arrived too late.’”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/28/491699042/campaign-from-italian-museums-aims-to-help-earthquake-relief-efforts?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Five members of the Jouriyeh family, who are Syrian refugees headed to the U.S. from Jordan this week as part of a resettlement program.

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Five members of the Jouriyeh family, who are Syrian refugees headed to the U.S. from Jordan this week as part of a resettlement program.

Raad Adayleh/AP

The 10,000th Syrian refugee is set to arrive in the U.S. on Monday, fulfilling a goal set by the Obama administration one year ago.

The U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, Alice Wells, made the announcement after she met with families bound for California and Virginia. The group of several hundred fleeing violence in Syria will depart from Jordan in the next day, she said, according to The Associated Press.

“Soon they will land in the United States to start their new lives,” she said, as the AP reported. “And we wish them the best of luck as they settle in their new homes.”

Wells emphasized the exhaustive screening process refugees go through ahead of departure. “The immediate goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees did not come at the cost of our comprehensive, robust security measures. Refugees are the most thoroughly screened category of traveler to the United States,” she said, as the wire service reported.

The U.S. ambassador to Jordan, Alice Wells, shakes hands with Syrian refugees Sunday ahead of their departure to the United States.

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The U.S. ambassador to Jordan, Alice Wells, shakes hands with Syrian refugees Sunday ahead of their departure to the United States.

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Former construction worker Nadim Fawzi Jouriyeh is part of the group bound for California with his wife and four children. He told the wire service that he feels “fear and joy, fear of the unknown and our new lives, but great joy for our children’s live and future.”

As NPR’s Deborah Amos reported, the resettlement program had a “slow start” this year, but “accelerated to 8,000 by early August.” She added that “more than half of the arrivals are under 18.”

The administration has “been under intense pressure from aid agencies and advocacy groups that raised doubts the resettlement goals would be met,” as Deborah reported.

On the other hand, Republican lawmakers have pushed back against refugee resettlement, Deborah said. She explained:

“The Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, wants to ban anyone coming from an area with terrorism ties and a majority of governors, all but one a Republican, insist Syrian refugees are not welcome because some could pose a security threat. The opposition has grown after last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris. State legislatures have proposed laws to bar refugees, but state governors have no legal authority to halt federal immigration programs.”

Opponents to the resettlement program argue that it opens the door for militants to enter the country, while supporters emphasize the thoroughness of the security screening process.

As Deborah reported, “Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said that ‘hundreds’ of Syrians have been denied entry based on rigorous security checks.” Rodriguez told reporters at a recent briefing that “our approval rates are 80 percent, our denial rates are 7 percent, with the remainder on hold.”

According to government figures, the number of Syria refugees resettled in fiscal year 2016 stood at 9,902 as of Sunday. That’s in comparison to 389 in fiscal year 2015.

It’s important to note that the number of Syrians resettled in the U.S. is a minuscule percentage of the total number of Syrian refugees who have fled from the ongoing war.

There are currently more than 4,800,000 Syrian refugees registered with the U.N. refugee agency. The vast majority of them live in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. In Lebanon, one in five people in the country is a Syrian refugee, according to Amnesty International.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/28/491715836/the-10-000th-syrian-refugee-is-set-to-arrive-in-the-u-s-this-week?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

The Chichu Art Museum, designed by celebrated Japanese architect Tadao Anda, is built mostly underground. Open courtyards and skylights bring in natural light. The island is internationally known for its works of modern art and architecture.

Seiichi Ohsawa Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima


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Seiichi Ohsawa Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima

The Chichu Art Museum, designed by celebrated Japanese architect Tadao Anda, is built mostly underground. Open courtyards and skylights bring in natural light. The island is internationally known for its works of modern art and architecture.

Seiichi Ohsawa Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima

Art can enlighten, soothe, challenge and provoke. Sometimes it can transform a community.

Case in point: a 5.5-square-mile island called Naoshima in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea.

Once upon a time, the biggest employer on Naoshima was a Mitsubishi metals processing plant. Actually, it’s still the biggest employer, just not nearly as big as it once was.

Blame automation. The population of the island has dropped from around 8,000 in the 1950s and 1960s to a little over 3,000 now.

In Japan, this is not that strange. Populations of small towns are declining all over the country. Some towns are disappearing altogether. The reasons are a combination of the country’s overall shrinking population and an increase in the number of people moving from rural areas to big cities.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Time Exposed seascape is exhibited at the Benesse House Museum.

Shigeo Anzai Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima


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Shigeo Anzai Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima

Naoshima might have been headed for the same relentless decline.

Enter Benesse Holdings, an education and publishing conglomerate based in the nearby city of Okayama. Its best-known brand is Berlitz, the language school company. Benesse’s other claim to fame is its world-class modern art collection, including paintings by Claude Monet, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, as well as many Japanese artists less famous in the U.S.

The former head of Benesse Holdings, Soichiro Fukutake, wanted a special home for the collection, someplace where it would have a local impact and could also be shared with the wider world.

So, nearly 30 years ago, Benesse bought a big hunk of land on Naoshima’s south side. It hired world-famous architect Tadao Ando, and over the next two decades, he designed museums and adjacent luxury lodgings. The buildings follow the natural contours of the landscape. One museum is mostly underground, with open courtyards and skylights bringing in natural light.

And if you build it, they will come. This year, Naoshima’s triennial arts festival is expected to attract at least 800,000 tourists to the island.

Visitors to the island can stay at Benesse House, a hotel with direct museum access.

Tadasu Yamamoto Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima


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Tadasu Yamamoto Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima

“Now that we have tourists and a very active tourist industry, some people have moved here to open shops on our island,” says Naoshima Mayor Michiru Hamanaka. “Last year, we even saw a little bit of a rise in the population.”

Masaaki Yamagishi, 38, is one of the island’s new shop owners. His place, Shimacoya, is part cafe, part bookstore, part campground and part community center, where neighbors gather to learn English or watch movies.

Yamagishi first came to Naoshima from Tokyo as an art tourist. “I was so struck by the kindness of the people and fell in love with the whole island,” he says. “And I thought, ‘What a wonderful place to be.’ “

Masaaki Yamagishi, 38, owns Shimacoya, a business on the island that is part cafe, part bookstore, part campground and part community center, where neighbors gather to learn English or watch movies.

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His cafe is in the village of Honmura. The narrow streets are dotted with abandoned houses. Benesse Holdings bought a few of them and turned them over to artists, who transformed the houses into permanent installations.

The “Art Houses” draw tourists from the museum campus into the village. And it has turned Naoshima residents into enthusiastic supporters of contemporary art.

One of them is 74-year-old Morohiro Nambara. He’s a docent at a house where locals used to meet to play the board game Go. Artist Yoshihiro Suda has replaced the Go parlor with his camellia sculpture. It’s juxtaposed with a real camellia tree and with an empty space. You’re supposed to contemplate what is real, what is fake, what is art.

Nambara likes discussing this with visitors.

“At the beginning, I had no idea how to appreciate [contemporary art],” he says. “But little by little, you become comfortable with it and start to grow very close to the artwork here in the town. So I feel like I understand it a little bit better.”

It seems like you can bump into art anywhere on this island. Benesse has commissioned several site-specific works. Visitors can see a couple of sculptures near the harbor before they even get off of the ferry. A giant red pumpkin covered in Yayoi Kusama’s signature polka dots has become a Naoshima icon. A similar piece of hers — a yellow pumpkin on an undeveloped beach — perches at the end of an old concrete pier.

Yayoi Kusama’s work Pumpkin perches at the end of an old concrete pier.

Shigeo Anzai Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima


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Shigeo Anzai Courtesy of Benesse Art Site Naoshima

Toshihiko Okuda, 80, who retired last year as head of the Naoshima Tourism Association, says art tourism has brought big changes to the island and the lives of its residents. In the beginning, he says, some were skeptical about the Benesse art projects. But they’ve now had years to see the many benefits.

For example, “We’re making conscientious efforts to learn other languages,” says Okuda. “Even young children in elementary schools are starting to learn English. We want to be able to respond [to a visitor] if asked a question.”

Naoshima residents are even dressing better, says Okuda, emulating the foreign visitors.

‘We feel that we’re starting to see things we never knew existed,” he says. “The level of our sophistication has gone up considerably.”

But not too much. Naoshima has kept its laid-back, beachy vibe — even if gigantic polka-dot pumpkins by a famous artist decorate its shores.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/08/27/490101453/how-art-transformed-a-remote-japanese-island?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Bangladeshis gather near the scene of the raid Saturday in Narayanganj, on the outskirts of Dhaka.

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Bangladeshis gather near the scene of the raid Saturday in Narayanganj, on the outskirts of Dhaka.

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Bangladeshi police say they have killed the suspected “mastermind” of an armed attack on a café in the capital last month that left at least 22 people dead.

They say two other suspected militants were killed in the standoff. As top counterterrorism official Monirul Islam told The Associated Press, “police sharpshooters raided a two-story house in Narayanganj district near the capital, Dhaka, after receiving a tip that Tamim Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi-born Canadian, and others were hiding there.”

As we reported last month, gunmen stormed into the Holey Artisan Bakery café on a busy Friday night and took a group hostage, including foreigners. An hours-long standoff followed, ultimately resulting in the deaths of 2 police officers and 20 civilians. Six gunmen were also killed.

Bangladesh has seen a recent wave of attacks targeting individuals, particularly secular writers and religious minorities. But as Syed Zain al-Mahmood of The Wall Street Journal told Weekend Edition Saturday, this attack was particularly shocking because it “was something that’s new to Bangladesh – an armed group storming a very popular café and taking hostages.”

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, though Bangladesh’s government has repeatedly denied that the organization has a presence in the country.

Now, Bangladeshi authorities say Chowdhury is “a leader of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, a new branch of the domestic terrorism outfit that produced the café attackers and is affiliated with the Islamic State,” as The Washington Post reported.

“The chapter of Tamim has ended here,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters, according to the AP. Khan said he “was one of the main suppliers of funds and arms for several recent attacks.” The wire service reports that police believe he returned to the country in 2013 and was coming from Abu Dhabi.

And as the Post reports, “Chowdhury’s death provides a key window in a growing threat for Bangladesh — affluent members of the diaspora who were radicalized overseas returning home to Bangladesh to wage jihad in their home country.”

Animesh Roul, executive director of the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict in New Delhi, tells the newspaper that “Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable because of to its large diaspora in such places as the United Kingdom and Canada.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/27/491613262/bangladeshi-police-kill-alleged-mastermind-of-cafe-attack-that-left-22-dead?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Relatives mourn over a coffin of one of the earthquake victims prior to the start of the funeral service on Saturday in Ascoli Piceno, Italy.

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Relatives mourn over a coffin of one of the earthquake victims prior to the start of the funeral service on Saturday in Ascoli Piceno, Italy.

Gregorio Borgia/AP

Italy has started to bury its dead following a devastating earthquake on Wednesday that killed at least 290 people and left whole towns in ruins. The country has declared Saturday a national day of mourning for the quake’s victims.

Reporting from a state funeral in the town of Ascoli Piceno, NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley described a community overcome with grief. She said the service was held in a gymnasium, where 35 caskets were laid out. “People cried and held each other,” Eleanor said.

Among those in attendance were Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Aerial view of the village of Saletta in central Italy on Friday where a strong quake hit early Wednesday.

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The earthquake struck Wednesday in the Apennine Mountains, an area that is a popular with tourists. And as we reported, the aftershocks have continued ever since, even as hopes fade that rescue crews will be able to find survivors of the powerful temblor.

Mourners gather under an olive tree during the state funeral in Ascoli Piceno.

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Eleanor Beardsley

As Eleanor reported, this is what the bishop said during the service:

“He told people not to be afraid to cry out their suffering. At the same time, he told them not to lose courage. He said that only together can we rebuild our houses and our churches and restore life to our communities. And then the bishop, he talked about the earthquake a lot. The terremoto. … He talked about nature. He said nature is wise, and we must commune with nature and not provoke it relentlessly.”

Prior to the funeral, Mattarella visited the town of Amatrice, which “bore the brunt of destruction with 230 fatalities,” as The Associated Press reported. Reporter Christopher Livsay told our Newscast unit that in Amatrice, a festival had been planned for today:

“It was supposed to be the day that the town of Amatrice was going to hold the 50th annual festival of its famous pasta dish, bucatini all’ Amatriciana. Amatrice was at the epicenter of the earthquake. Chefs around the world are putting the dish on their menus and donating the proceeds to the victims of the quake.”

As Livsay explained, festivals this this one are a major tourism draw, and area towns in the area “easily double or quadruple” during the summer months. Many foreigners are among the dead, he reported.

At the state funeral in Ascoli Piceno, mourners overflowed from the packed gymnasium to a nearby church, while some sat under the shade of an olive tree and watched the service on screens, as Eleanor reported.

A woman touches a coffin of one of the victims of Wednesday’s earthquake inside a gymnasium in Ascoli Piceno.

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Gregorio Borgia/AP

Mourner Raphaela Baiocchi told Eleanor that “we are participating, all our pain for our population. And it’s not the first time for our people.” She added: “Italy is a very beautiful and dangerous place. And so we are here to share the pain today, then we will speak about other things.”

Things like justice, she told Eleanor. “There’s a growing anger about the construction of some of the buildings that collapsed,” Eleanor says. Here’s more:

“Granted, many are medieval but there are earthquake codes that need to be followed. For example, one bell tower rebuilt ten years ago collapsed and killed a family. And the Italian prosecutor in charge of the quake investigation said what happened can’t simply be chalked up to nature. He said if buildings had been built like they are in Japan, they would not have collapsed.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/27/491615045/italy-in-mourning-funerals-underway-for-earthquake-victims?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Smoke wafts over the highway linking the Bolivian capital of La Paz with the Chilean border during an ongoing clash between striking miners, who are blockading the road, and police.

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Smoke wafts over the highway linking the Bolivian capital of La Paz with the Chilean border during an ongoing clash between striking miners, who are blockading the road, and police.

Aizar Raldes/AFP/Getty Images

A high-level government minister in Bolivia has been kidnapped by striking miners and beaten to death, Bolivian officials said.

Rodolfo Illanes, Bolivia’s deputy interior minister, was traveling to talk with the miners when he was seized Thursday, according to multiple media accounts.

Illanes was then killed — government minister Carlos Romero says he was beaten to death in what Romero called a “cowardly and brutal murder.” Illanes’ body has now been handed over to the country’s attorney general and labor minister, La Voz reports, and will undergo an autopsy.

Long-running tensions between miners and the government has grown increasingly violent over the past few days. The miners, who have been on strike for weeks, have blockaded a highway 80 miles south of La Paz since Monday, The Associated Press says, stranding thousands of passengers and vehicles.

Two miners were killed Wednesday after shots were fired by police, Reuters reports.

There are about 100,000 informal or artisan miners in Bolivia, the AP says, working in self-managed cooperatives.

“They want to be able to associate with private companies, which is prohibited,” the wire service reports. “The government argues that if they associate with multinational companies they would cease to be cooperatives.”

The miners also wanted greater union representation and mining concessions, with less stringent environmental restrictions, Reuters reports.

Negotiations devolved into a violent standoff.

The shift represents a deteriorating relationship between the country’s president and a former ally, The Guardian explains:

“The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia (Fencomin), once a strong ally of the leftwing president, Evo Morales, began what it said would be an indefinite protest after negotiations over mining legislation failed. …

“The vast majority of miners in Bolivia, one of South America’s poorest countries, work in cooperatives, scraping a living producing silver, tin and zinc. There are few foreign-owned mining firms, unlike in neighboring Peru and Chile.”

After Illanes’ death, Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira broke down on television, the Guardian reports.

“This crime will not go unpunished,” Ferreira said, telling audiences that about 100 people have been arrested.

On Twitter, Attorney General Hector Arce called Illanes “a great man and lawyer who served his country,” vowing that justice would be served.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/26/491462439/in-bolivia-striking-miners-kidnap-and-kill-high-level-minister?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte attends a news conference on Aug. 12 in Rio de Janeiro.

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U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte attends a news conference on Aug. 12 in Rio de Janeiro.

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The saga of the swimmer and the robbery-that-wasn’t continues: Ryan Lochte has been charged with filing a false police report.

Brazilian police say Lochte and the International Olympics Committee’s ethics commission will both be informed of the charges, NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro reports.

The charge carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison and Lochte could be tried in absentia, Lulu says. She notes that the U.S. has an extradition treaty with Brazil but that it’s unlikely Lochte would be sent there if convicted.

As we’ve reported, Lochte told his mother, police and the press that he and three other U.S. swimmers were robbed at gunpoint earlier this month after thieves posing as police stopped the taxi they were traveling in.

That turned out to be, well, not what happened.

“There was no robbery,” Rio de Janeiro Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said. Video showed the swimmers stopping at a gas station, as NPR reported:

“Referring to that video, Veloso says multiple witnesses have described a scene in which the swimmers vandalized the bathroom, were asked to pay for it, and got testy. He added that the video supports that version of events.

“The police did confirm one element that’s common to all versions of the events that transpired around 6 a.m. local time this past Sunday: that the group of U.S. swimmers had a gun pointed at them. But instead of a robbery, it seems that the guns were wielded by security guards who kept the swimmers from leaving.

“Contrary to some earlier reports, the police say there was no physical violence between the swimmers and workers at the gas station who reportedly wouldn’t let the Americans leave without paying for damages.”

NPR’s Greg Myre reflected on the “silly story” last week, writing, “Lots of teenagers don’t give their moms the straight story about what happened on a Saturday night. But Lochte is 32.”

He “has badly tarnished one of the great Olympic careers of all time,” Greg notes. “After his remarkable career, he is likely to be best remembered for a bit of late-night mischief that he then turned into an international incident.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/26/491469384/brazilian-police-charge-ryan-lochte-with-making-a-false-report?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Syrian soldiers walk at the entrance of Daraya, a besieged Damascus suburb, on Friday.

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Syrian soldiers walk at the entrance of Daraya, a besieged Damascus suburb, on Friday.

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After four years of siege and bombardment, the evacuation is underway of civilians and rebels from embattled Daraya, southwest of Syria’s capital Damascus.

Rebels and the government struck an agreement to hand over control of the city in exchange for safe passage. Under the terms of the deal, about 4,000 civilians will be transported to temporary accommodation outside of Damascus. Approximately 700 fighters will head to rebel-held Idlib after surrendering their weapons, according to Syria’s SANA state news agency.

As NPR’s Alice Fordham tells our Newscast unit, some civilians “say they’ll flee with the fighters, because they fear the regime.”

About 300 rebels and their families will leave for Idlib on Friday, and the remainder will leave on Saturday, a field commander told SANA. Daraya will be “free of militants tomorrow,” he said.

This ends the years-long standoff in one of Syria’s most desperate places. “The town of Daraya was one of the first to kick out security forces in Syria’s 2011 uprising,” Alice reports. “That rebellion was all but crushed in 2012. But a few thousand clung on.” She says an “unequal struggle” continued, with “starving civilians living in basements to avoid bombs.”

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied permission for aid to enter the area, meaning aid access has been extremely limited. Here’s how Alice described the situation last month:

“When the U.N. sent a fact-finding mission to Daraya in May, officials were followed around by crowds of hundreds of civilians — including malnourished women and children. The U.N. estimates there are at least 4,000 civilians still there. Residents and activists say it is 8,000. These are the few who remain from a city that numbered as many as 200,000 before an uprising was crushed in 2012.”

The New York Times pointed out this tweet from activist Hussam Zyadeh. He “fled Daraya in 2013,” and “summed up the ambivalence of ending the fight amid a feeling that the world had stopped caring and had provided no help.”

The newspaper added that “this agreement was the first in the Damascus area to envision a complete emptying of a town.” And, “for people in nearby holdout suburbs, it was ominous.”

The United Nations says it was not involved in the negotiations that resulted in this deal, as The Associated Press reported. The office of U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura issued a statement “calling for the protection of people being evacuated … and says their departure must be voluntary.”

It concludes: “The world is watching.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/26/491474426/after-4-years-of-siege-civilians-and-rebels-evacuate-syrias-daraya?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Brazil’s suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, smiles during a rally Wednesday in Brasilia, Brazil.

Eraldo Peres/AP


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Eraldo Peres/AP

Brazil’s suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, smiles during a rally Wednesday in Brasilia, Brazil.

Eraldo Peres/AP

The impeachment trial opens today for Brazil’s suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, over alleged fiscal mismanagement.

It’s the final phase of a long process that could potentially remove her from office, as NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro reports from Rio de Janeiro. “It’s really the end of the line,” she tells Morning Edition, and says witnesses from the prosecution and defense will appear in the Senate and face questioning.

Rousseff is accused of “juggling the books to hide the real state of the economy” as she was running for re-election in 2014, Lulu says. And this trial will wrap up quickly — “Rousseff herself is set to testify on Monday, and then after that the Senate will vote. The whole thing will be over by next week.”

Lulu has this recap of how we got to this stage in the process:

“Rousseff was re-elected in 2014. That was only two years ago, but it was by a very slim margin, it was a very tight election, and right after that the economy just began tanking. We saw huge protests, the largest in Brazil’s history. And then her coalition partners started turning against her because there was this massive corruption investigation implicating many in the political class.

“And she always says that she has not been implicated in corruption while many of those who are judging her in the Senate, in Congress have been. She says this is a coup. She says she’s innocent. And she says the people taking her down are trying to protect themselves from prosecution and undo years of progressive policies.

“So two very different ways of looking at what’s happening to Dilma Rousseff.”

And as Lulu reports, “everything points to the fact that she will not survive this.” If 54 senators vote against her, interim President Michel Temer will be sworn into office for the remaining two years of her term. He’s also deeply unpopular and used to be Rousseff’s vice president.

Should Temer become president, his biggest challenge will be Brazil’s ailing economy, as Lulu reports: “We’ve seen massive job losses, unemployment is at over 11 percent, and ultimately his fate hangs on whether he can resolve the important question of the economy for Brazilians.”

As The Two-Way has reported:

“Rousseff has become increasingly isolated. She is living in the presidential residence but is rarely seen at public events. She refused to attend the Olympics opening ceremony because she says the move to impeach her is a coup by her right-wing political rivals. Even Rousseff’s own political party, the Workers’ Party, has largely abandoned her.

“Her mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is also facing legal troubles. He’s being investigated over allegations that he was involved in a massive corruption scandal at the state oil company Petrobras. Temer is also under investigation, accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions linked to the Petrobras scheme.”

Do you have more questions about Brazil’s complicated impeachment process? Head here for our explainer on the proceedings.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/25/491330705/beginning-of-the-end-impeachment-trial-opens-for-brazils-dilma-rousseff?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world