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Butterfly Wings & Wheat: How The Ukraine War Could Spark Global Food Crises

In an interconnected world, we are faced again with the negative implications of the so-called "butterfly effect" when a localized conflict can have far-reaching consequences and trigger lasting crises. For our world's broken food systems, the war in Ukraine should be a wake-up call.


Could the conflict that erupted in Ukraine cause a new bread revolution in Egypt? Alas yes, the conditions are in place for this — and other similar upheavals — to happen.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The outbreak of war in Ukraine — which is upsetting, unexpected and utterly unjustifiable — again leaves us feeling powerless and overwhelmed by circumstances far beyond our control. In a deeply interconnected world, this also forces us to again reckon with the negative implications of the so-called "butterfly effect:" how a dramatic event limited to a specific geographical area can have unexpected consequences in faraway areas of the planet, laying the foundations for serious and lasting crises.

Here, I want to focus specifically on the agri-food sector, in light of a sad fact: conflict and hunger are intimately connected phenomena, when one occurs the other follows almost naturally.

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Tokyo State Of Emergency, Betancourt For President, World’s Oldest Man Dies

👋 નમસ્તે!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Tokyo gets a new COVID state of emergency, Ingrid Betancourt is running for Colombia’s presidency, and the oldest man in the world dies at age 112. Meanwhile Die Welt shows us how Germany's legendary clubbing scene looks in pandemic times.

[*Namaste - Gujarati, India]

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Huge Haul Of Whale Vomit Worth Millions For Fishermen In Yemen

It's a modern tale with a rich and fragrant whiff of Jonah and the Whale, when a group of Yemeni fishermen made the catch of their lives this week in the Gulf of Aden.

After a large, dead whale was spotted floating in the waters of the coast of Yemen, 37 fishermen helped drag it ashore, the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National reported. But what they found in the belly of the beast could make them incredibly rich in one of the world's poorest countries: a giant blob of unexpelled and very valuable vomit.

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Yemen's Nomadic Honey Traders Face The Sting Of Civil War

Yemen’s itinerant beekeepers must follow the flowering season. But this nomadism, essential for their bees to produce this liquid gold known around the world, is hampered by the nation's ongoing civil war.

SHABWA — You will meet the beekeepers late at night on the roads, stacks of wooden lockers stowed in the back of their pick-up trucks. In war-torn Yemen, with its endless checkpoints and occasional explosions, no one travels as much as the beekeepers — migrating with their hives, chasing the flowers.

Honey is a serious business in Yemen. In this sparsely industrialized country, with its dizzying winding mountain roads, this liquid gold is reputed to be one of the best in the Middle East, if not the world. There is no need to engage in the national debate about which region holds the prize for the finest honey.

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One More Enemy: Coronavirus In War Zones Around The World

Shortage of masks and respirators, lack of hospital space, muddled government action: inadequate responses to the COVID-19 outbreak are evident even in the world's most stable countries. So what happens when the virus arrives in places already under the weight of war?

Yemen: Given the ongoing stalemate, many had hoped Saudi Arabia would take the opportunity of the global pandemic to cut its losses, and pull out of Yemen altogether. The first coronavirus case was recorded in Yemen this week, coinciding with Saudi Arabia announcing a ceasefire with the Houthi rebels. Yet Houthi forces were wary of the truce and broke the ceasefire within in 48 hours, according to the Saudi-backed coalition fighting to restore Yemen's former government. For Yemeni civilians stuck between war and illness, half the UN's aid in the country will shut down due to a funding crisis caused by a withdrawal from donors such as the United States earlier this year.

Syria: So far, COVID-19's toll in the war-ravaged nation are only 2 deaths and 19 confirmed cases, but testing for the virus is woefully lacking. As 70% of healthcare workers left at the beginning of the civil war in 2011, the population has already been vulnerable to poor health for nearly a decade. Al Jazeera reports that social distancing is nearly impossible in displacement camps in Idlib, the last province held by the rebels.

Ukraine: The arrival of the virus did nothing to quiet the war between Kiev and Russian separatists in Donbass. With around 30 soldiers killed and 85 injured, March was one of the deadliest months on the front since the conflict started six years ago, according to Courrier International. And since April began? Ukraine has registered more than 3700 coronavirus cases and 107 deaths, but also 66 attacks from separatist forces.

Raising awareness in Syria — Photo: Moawia Atrash/ZUMA

Libya: Though only 26 cases have been recorded, the United Nations fears a potential outbreak spreading as military operations continue to ravage the country, with civilians trapped amid the clashes. Libya may be unable to cope with an outbreak as hospitals and clinics, damaged during the conflict, are already struggling with large numbers of victims of the fighting. "This is a health system that was close to collapse before you get the coronavirus', Elizabeth Hoff, head of mission for the WHO in Libya, told Reuters.

Sahel: The northern African region has been subjected to terrorist attacks since 2012. Entire areas in Mali have been cut off from state services, because of jihadist insurgencies and intercommunity conflicts, reports Le Monde, while fears are rising for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in packed camps across Sahel. "If we have coronavirus here, it will be a catastrophe," a man living in one of the three camps outside Mali's capital Bamako told The North Africa Journal. People living in these camps have been advised to use turbans as face masks, as protective gear is scarce.

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Watch: Cinq — Lorenzo Tugnoli, Yemen Humanitarian Crisis

"I try to tell what's happening, but I try to be considerate, and also make poetic and beautiful images. It's important to be sensitive, and acknowledge the complexity of what's going on." That's how Italian photographer Lorenzo Tugnoli of the Contrasto agency recently described his work to the British Journal of Photography.

A long-term project focused on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen just earned him the 2019 World Press Photo award for General News, Stories.

Tugnoli recounted the stories behind five of his most powerful images from Yemen for this OneShot: Cinq video production.

Yemen Crisis — © Lorenzo Tugnoli / Contrasto for the Washington Post / OneShot​​

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Jean-Philippe Rémy

Yemen, Al-Qaeda's Laboratory For 'Invisible' Relaunch

AQAP, the local al-Qaeda branch, is determined to learn from its mistakes. They've learned that they can't go too quickly and spill too much local blood.

ADEN — The ink stain that leaked from a pen inside his shirt pocket looks like a Rorschach test on the light-blue fabric. With his jacket tight around the shoulders, the man based in Yemen's port city of Aden could pass for an mid-ranking government officer, except maybe for his large Ferrari sunglasses and his constant whispering. When it's time to deal with money, he doesn't go to the bank.

This man — let's call him Ahmed — sometimes leaves Aden to return to his home region, the Shabwah province in southern Yemen, to talk to some of the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local branch of the global jihadist organization.

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Yemen, Airstrikes And Air Time

Beyond the threats expand=1] and name-calling, foreign policy was high on the agenda of Sunday night's second U.S. presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Russia was mentioned 35 times. Syria 14 times. China, usually a Trump favorite, was uttered a mere four times by the candidates during the 90-minute debate. That was still more than one troubled country that did not feature at all — Yemen.

On Saturday, a day before the debate, an airstrike targeting a funeral killed more than 140 people and injured hundreds of others in Sana'a, Yemen's capital. The small but strategic Middle East country has been at war since 2014 when Shiite Houthi rebels allied with troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh forced into exile ruling President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who is supported by a coalition of Sunni Arab states. This coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been bombing rebels in Yemen since last year, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations says has killed at least 10,000 people and left more than half the country facing food shortages.

The Saudis haven't claimed Saturday's funeral attack but say they are investigating it. The U.S., which condemned the air raid, is already mired in this underreported regional war in the Middle East. A supporter of the Sunni coalition, U.S. sold $1.3 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia last year. And now, news agency Reuters is reporting that American officials are worried that the U.S. could be implicated in war crimes for their involvement.

Yemen is certain to be on the agenda for the next U.S. president. Will it get a mention at the next debate on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas? Don't bet on it.

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Humanitarian Risks And Recognition

Aug. 19 is World Humanitarian Day, an annual United Nations tribute that often goes by unnoticed. This year is different: It falls on a week when we've been acutely reminded of both the world's humanitarian crises, and the danger aid workers face every day.

Yesterday the world was shocked by the photograph and video of Omran Daqneesh, a Syrian boy pulled from the rubble of Aleppo by local rescuers. The chaotic images that turned the boy into an overnight symbol of Syria's suffering also show two other children being saved by medical workers in the city — just a sample of the enormous task that falls on the shoulders of Syria's humanitarian volunteers.

In Aleppo, like elsewhere in the Middle East, humanitarian workers and hospitals are under constant threat of attack. On today, of all days, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders announced it would evacuate all staff from hospitals in northern Yemen after an airstrike earlier this week hit one of its facilities. That was the fourth attack on the group's hospitals since the beginning of Yemen's civil war.

Humanitarians don't only risk their lives in war zones, they toil in countries across the globe from Australian migrant camps in Nauru to hospitals in Angola fighting the spread of yellow fever. To get a small (and virtual) sense of what humanitarian workers are up against every day, take this quiz to find out "which world you would rather live in."

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The Life And Death Of An Al-Qaeda Wunderkind

Born in Egypt and educated in journalism at university, Mohannad Ghallab became an extremist and joined al-Qaeda after 9/11. He went on to become an influential voice for the terror group before being killed by a U.S. drone strike.

CAIRO — With a sense of relief, Mohannad Ghallab, the Egyptian spokesperson for Yemen's al-Qaeda branch, texted me, "I'm on the corniche."

I was a thousand miles away at the time and had been corresponding with him on and off for six months. It was April 21, 2015, and he had just arrived in Yemen"s seashore city of Mukalla — the provincial capital of Yemen's largest province of Hadramawt — which al-Qaeda had just gained control of in its search for a new safe haven.

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Chinese stock losses, Trump tops GOP poll, Pee-proof walls

Photo: Hani Ali/Xinhua/ZUMA


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So Long Sarajevo

This one is for the History books: Sarajevo would be almost entirely destroyed during the Bosnian war some 20 years after I took this picture.


New Nepal Quake, Francois And Fidel, Jetpack Daredevils


A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Nepal, near Mount Everest, today, two weeks after the devastating quake killed at least 8,000 in the Himalayan nation.

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Rouhani's Demand, Greece And Russian, Moldova's Lost Money

Photo: Hani Ali/Xinhua/ZUMA


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Fehim Tastekin

Cover Your Eyes, Yemen Is Dying

A view from Turkey on the new conflict that is not only shaking the map of the Middle East, but costing the lives of innocent victims.

ISTANBUL — Now that Saudi Arabia's attack on Yemen has the support of Turkey and a large part of the international community, feel free to be deaf and blind to what will actually happen to this country.

Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan claimed that Iran has Yemen under its control and ordered their withdrawal. From this moment, Turkey will not bother with questions such as who are the rebelling Houthis in Yemen, who is fighting whom, what is really driving the Saudis or even the alleged "Iran factor" itself. And do not bother to ask about the civilian losses either. Nobody cares about the 40 people dead and 200 wounded at the al-Mizrak refugee camp on March 30. Who will ponder the numbers offered by Amnesty International either?

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Iran Deal Reaction, Kenya In Shock, Complaining Co-Workers

“Terrorists make the earth shake again,” reads the front page of Kenya's Swahili-language newspaper Taifa Leo after yesterday’s attack on Garissa University College in eastern Kenya. At least 147 people were killed and 79 were wounded when gunmen claiming to belong to the Somalia-based militant group Al-Shabaab stormed Garissa University College — around 200 kilometers from the Somalian border — specifically targeting Christians and taking hostage. The siege lasted 15 hours and ended with four gunmen shot down by police. Read more on our 4 Corners blog here.

Groups of Iranians gathered last night to celebrate what U.S. President Barack Obama characterized as an “historic understanding” between Iran and six world powers on its nuclear program, The New York Times reports. “We have been disappointed so many times, I can’t really believe there might be an end to this,” a Tehran resident was quoted as saying.

  • Under the framework deal reached yesterday in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iran will reduce the number of centrifuges from 19,000 to a little over 5,000, and will not enrich uranium over 3.67%, well below the levels required to develop nuclear weapons. International sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy will be lifted after the country demonstrates that it is abiding by the deal, a process that may take from six months to one year. More details from the Financial Times.
  • Many crucial details remain to be worked out. Negotiations will now focus on a “comprehensive deal” with a June 30 deadline. According to the BBC, these talks are expected to be “tougher” than the previous round.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with his security cabinet to discuss the framework deal, The Jerusalem Post reports. Commenting on the news yesterday, he said that the agreement “would threaten the survival of Israel.”
  • Read more global reaction in a special Worldcrunch wrap-up.

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Jack the Ripper began his killing streak 127 years ago today, committing the first of many murders in the Whitechapel area of London. Get today’s 57-second shot of history.

Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels have left the presidential palace they seized yesterday in Aden after overnight airstrikes from the 10-country Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia drove them away, Middle East Eye reports.
Photo: Abdullah Hassan/Quds Net News/ZUMA
According to UN figures, at least 519 people, including many civilians and children, have died in Yemen in the last two weeks. What has been described as a proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, which supports the rebels, is showing few signs of ending. Speaking to Tasnim news agency, an advisor to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Riyadh would “sooner or later pay the heavy price for this military attack and the massacre it has launched in Yemen.”

An American sailor who spent 66 days lost at sea has been rescued from his disabled boat about 200 miles off the North Carolina coast after apparently surviving on raw fish and rainwater.

Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security csar, has become the latest target in the government’s corruption crackdown after being charged with bribery, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets, Global Times reports. Zhou is the highest-ranking Communist Party official so far to be indicted on graft charges. Read more from The Wall Street Journal.

“We know there are serial killers of humans, but we've never heard of a serial killer of dogs.” The people in northern Mexico’s Hermosillo are facing a ruthless and unusual threat from a person or group that has killed at least 64 dogs since mid-March. A Los Angeles-based actor has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the culprit or culprits. Read the full story from AP.

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Amid Argentine and international pressure to open negotiations on the disputed Falkland Islands, Britain’s intelligence agency GCHQ spied on Buenos Aires, launched offensive cyber operations, and may even have spread false propaganda to discredit the Argentinian government, The Intercept reports.

As America Economia’s Daniela Arce Valiente reports, studies show that complaining to colleagues creates untold amounts of stress at the office. Two writers recently tried to abstain from sharing the woes for a whole month and were pleasantly surprised by the results. “A recent study by the psychology department at Germany's Friedrich Schiller University indicates that exposure to stimuli that generate strong negative emotions, or being close to toxic individuals, is stressful. Characterized as demotivators, these are the people we are told to avoid at work. An article in Forbes magazine likewise describes them as most dangerous to their colleagues' mental well-being, because negative attitudes are contagious.”
Read the full article, The Worst Co-Worker Of All? Joe Complainer.

The French Parliament approved a law today that bans the use of anorexic and too-skinny models. According to Twitter" data-cke-saved-href="http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2015/04/03/97001-20150403FILWWW00087-loi-sante-l-assemblee-interdit-les-mannequins-trop-maigres.php#xtor=AL-155-Twitter">Le Figaro, those who break the law now face up to six months in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($82,000).

With the season five premiere of Game of Thrones approaching, author George R. R. Martin, whose book series inspired the show, has released a chapter of the next and long-awaited installment, The Winds Of Winter. Read Alayne’s story here.

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