Sarah Collings

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South Sudan's day of independence in 2011
EL ESPECTADOR

From Northern Ireland To South Sudan, Global Lessons On The *Process* Of Peace

Peace is a process, never a single event. Negotiations for peace are always far more complicated than the public understands, and the results are not always miraculous. Even so, the majority of modern conflicts — 80%, according to the School for the Culture of Peace in Barcelona — eventually end after negotiations. The school’s reports show that 12 peace agreements have been signed in the world during the last 20 years, but some of them would be well-worth revising.

Here we take a whistle-stop tour of the ups and downs and ins and outs of peace processes from around the world.

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2013 LGBTI pride parade in Bogota
LGBTQ Plus

Being LGBT In Colombia: Victims Of Hatred, Casualties Of Civil War

BOGOTA — The LGBTI community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual/Transgender and Intersexual) in Colombia has suffered disappearances, forced migrations, mutilations, humiliation and abuse.

The phrase "damaged bodies, silent crimes' has come to be used by this community to describe their suffering often made even worse by the civil war that has torn Colombia apart over the past decades.

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 Hyderabad, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh
India

A Nation Of Dialects: The Value And Risks Of India's Linguistic Diversity

NEW DELHI — The findings of India’s first linguistic census in a century were unveiled earlier this month. Of the 850 languages identified, 300 had never previously been documented, and nearly 200 are considered at risk of extinction because they have fewer than 10,000 speakers.

The Sept. 5 ceremony took place at the Gandhi memorial in New Delhi, and the location was not chosen by chance. This enormous undertaking — four years of work — led by Ganesh Devy, recalls in a small way Gandhi’s legendary battle for Indian independence. Devy managed to rally some 3,000 volunteers to help document the languages spoken throughout the country, from the Kashmir mountains to the Andaman archipelago.

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Soldiers during the Spanish Civil War
EL ESPECTADOR

From Spain To Colombia - Ghosts Of Civil Wars, Past And Present

A father and son take shelter from the rain. Suddenly, a 76-year old man arrives, wedging himself in between the two of them. After a throwaway remark about the downpour, a question alters the course of the conversation.

“During the war, you weren’t in Fonfría by any chance?” the man asks the father, referring to the province in the north of Spain.

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On patrol
Future

Rotterdam's Newest Police Enforcers Are ... Rats

A port city just like Marseille, but less riddled with crime, Rotterdam is nonetheless equipping itself with an unlikely new unit to fight illegal activity. Forensic police plan to use five big brown rats to shed light on criminal plots.

After two years of training that will soon end, Derrick, Magnum, Poirot, Dupond and Dupont — all named after famous detectives — should prove able trackers thanks to their impressive olfactory skills that surpass those of a dog. This rat dream team will start work next year in the Dutch city. Drugs, money, explosives, bodies, blood — these rodents have shown a hitherto unsuspected capacity for differentiating between odors. Rats have 1,500 olfactory genes, compared to the 1,100 of dogs and the 650 of humans.

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Domenico Quirico back at La Stampa's newsroom in Turin
LA STAMPA

Diary Of Humiliation And Faith From A Hostage In Syria

La Stampa's veteran war correspondent Domenico Quirico was held hostage in Syria for five months by rebel soldiers. Earlier this week, along with Belgian writer Pierre Piccinin, the 61-year-old was released after what he described as a "very dangerous and complex" captivity. Here is his first account of what happened...

TURIN — We entered Syria on April 6 with the consent of the Free Syrian Army and under their protection, just like we had before. I wanted to get to Damascus to verify in person the updates on what appeared to be a decisive battle in this civil war. But they told us that we would have to wait a few days before being able to reach the Syrian capital and so we decided to accept their proposal to visit a city called Al Qusayr near the Lebanese border — which, at that point, was being besieged by Hezbollah, a loyal ally of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

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La Candelaria neighborhood in Bogota
blog

The Clash Between Environmental Reality And Utopian Dreams

-OpEd-

BOGOTA“Thinking that everything can stay the same is the biggest utopia of all...” Margarita Marino de Botero is a Colombian environmentalist who aims to be as creative as she is dedicated.

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Brazil's Dilma Rousseff and Argentina's Cristina Kirchner -- the exceptions that prove the rule
CLARIN

Latin America's Female Leadership Paradox

Despite the high profile women presidents of Brazil and Argentina, the fairer sex is notably underrepresented in cabinet positions across Latin American governments.

BUENOS AIRES — Female cabinet ministers in Latin America are few and far between. They are rare even in countries such as Uruguay, which has just one even though it is considered one of the most advanced with regards to education levels, and Argentina, where there are just two despite a strong progressive discourse there.

This bias seems to apply whether the president is male or female, left- or right-wing, from an academic background or a president of the people. Indeed, part of the paradox is that there are currently several elected female leaders in Latin America: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, for example. Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla has, unlike many of her peers, been notably effective in promoting women to positions of influence.

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Juan Valdez coffee store in Bogota
Economy

What's In Store As Starbucks Sets To Open In Coffee Mecca Of Colombia

BOGOTA — After a long, drawn-out build-up, Starbucks has confirmed it will be coming to Colombia. The arrival of Howard Schultz’s company’s in the South America country famous for its coffee production will be the start of a very interesting showdown with local chain Juan Valdez — as well as all the small coffee shops that are the national setting of first dates, business meetings, catch-ups with friends and the general comings and goings of those of us who are enamoured with the café-magic.

Betting is now open, as in Colombia we have coffee shops based on 1,000 different concepts. So many, in fact, that the Juan Valdez chain’s unique selling point is not the experience of going to a certain type of café, nor imaginary sensations, but the product itself — coffee — presented in different ways and with different intensities. This is what makes it different.

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A farmer participates in the demonstration supporting the agricultural national strike in Bogota.
EL ESPECTADOR

No, Colombian Farmers: Free Trade Is Not To Blame

Striking farmers in Colombia say free trade agreements are responsible for their woes. Better to look closer to home, including industrial cartels and all the contraband entering the country.

-Editorial-

BOGOTA — Colombia has signed a string of free trade agreements in recent years: with Canada in August 2011, with the U.S. in May 2012, and with the European Union just a month ago.

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Tanks in Azaz, Syria
LA STAMPA

Not Just Russia: Italy, Other Europeans Sold Plenty Of Weapons To Syria

ROME — Way back in 1998, Bill Clinton bet on the young Assad. He was to be his father’s successor, and the United States believed that the young Bashar al-Assad, once he reached power, would be the person to bring Syria back into the fold among the civilized nations of the world.

And so Clinton’s government, despite the controversy it provoked, took some very significant decisions: Syria was removed from the black list of narcotic-producing countries, sanctions were lifted, and the arms embargo was eased. America’s allies quickly followed suit, and Italy was the quickest to reestablish links with Damascus. The result: a massive order of what was then a payday of 400 billion lira (206 million euros) for the Italian military industry.

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1, 2, 3, 4 ... wait...
Geopolitics

Chile's Botched Census Is Major Black Mark On Its Global Reputation

-Editorial-

SANTIAGO — The fallout from the failed 2012 population census in Chile is huge, even though the country has yet to grasp its full impact. A recent report from an investigating committee advises that the results shouldn’t be used for official figures, and recommends that the census be repeated correctly in 2015.

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