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ISIS Fighters Capture Ramadi in Iraq

Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Al Anbar province, has been captured by ISIS fighters. Joey Ayoub is putting the story together, tracking citizen journalists reports, news and testimonies, on Global Voices Checkdesk, a partnership project between Global Voices and Meedan's Checkdesk.

The city, in central Iraq, is about 110 kilometres west of Baghdad and 50 kilometres west of Fallujah. Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed, and thousands forced to flee their homes.

ISIS, an Al Qaeda off-shoot, has come to control larges swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, attracting news headlines for the horror it has waged against civilians in areas they have occupied.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Assistance Mission for Iraq:

UN agencies are rushing humanitarian assistance to people fleeing Ramadi for the second time in a month.

Close to 25,000 people have fled Ramadi following ISIL attacks and fierce fighting in the city. Most of the displaced are fleeing towards Baghdad, with many trying to enter through security checkpoints.

The report adds:

Within the past month, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations have provided life- assistance to more than 130,000 people who fled Ramadi following ISIL attacks in April. Tens of thousands of kits and rations have been distributed to more than 35 locations across Anbar Governorate. Thousands of families who had fled earlier had returned to their homes in Ramadi, when fighting again broke out, forcing them to flee a second time.

In July, the food pipeline will break. “Nothing is more important right now than helping the people fleeing Ramadi. They are in trouble and we need to do everything possible to help them.” Lise Grande, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator said. “Thousands of people had to sleep in the open because they didn't have places to stay. We would be able to do much more if we had the funding.”

What We Know and What Is Still Up in the Air After the Alleged Coup in Burundi

Following incumbent Burundi President Nkurunziza's candidacy for a third term, General Godefroid Niyombare announced that he has dismissed the current administration and that he is taking over until further notice. The government denies such coup has taken place and calls it a “farce”. The situation is evidently still very fluid in Burundi, but here is summary of what is known and what is still not clear in Bujumbura, the capital from Penelope Starr (via UN Dispatch blog):

President Nkurunziza was not in the country when the coup was announced (but no one knows whether he is back yet): The president was attending a Summit of Eastern African Nations when the coup was announced. He has tried to fly back to the capital city but it is unclear whether he has succeeded.

This is not (just) about ethnic conflicts :

Nkurunziza and General Niyombare are both former Hutu rebel leaders. They also belong to the same governing party, and Niyombare was both Ambassador to Kenya and intelligence chief, a post he was dismissed from earlier this year.

Like in Burkina Faso earlier this year, public opinion in Burundi seems to be in support of the coup as a way to oppose African life rulers: 

What’s happening today in Burundi is reminiscent of what took place late last year in Burkina Faso, when long-time head of state Blaise Compaore was deposed by the military after declaring his intention to run for yet another term. While the situation in Burkina Faso is still in flux, it was a key moment, as the public massively supported the coup, fed up with Compaore’s decades-long rule (..)but The situation in Burundi is also different, particularly given the protracted civil war which ended in 2005.

Former French Defense Minister Finds Excuses for the Alleged Rape of Central African Children by French Soldiers

Screen capture of video of Former Defense Minister of France arguing that challenging conditions can explain odd behaviors (such as rape)

Screen capture of video of Former Defense Minister of France arguing that challenging conditions can explain odd behaviors (such as rape)

Afrique Info reports that JP Chevènement, a former defense minister of France, stated on public radio Europe 1 on May 3 that the challenging conditions that French soldiers face in the Central African Republic could explain “behavior of that kind” (see video above). Chevènement was referring to the allegation of child sexual abuse by French troops posted in the Central African Republic. The allegations surfaced after disciplinary proceedings were taken against a United Nations employee accused of leaking the allegations to the French authorities.

At Least 30 People Killled After Heavy Rains in Chile

The heaviest rains to hit Chile's northern region in decades have costed the life of at least 30 people, according to the most recent report by the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry (known as Onemi), dated April 21.

At the time of writing the original post of this translation, a new victim was found.

LAST MINUTE: At Los Loros, the body of a new victim of the flood was found. This would be number 31.

On Global Voices, we reported about what has been considered the worst rain from the past 80 years in the Northern regions (mainly in Atacama and Antofagasta) when heavy rains caused the Copiapó river to overflow.

According to press releases, there are at least 59 people unaccounted for and 29.739 affected. Meanwhile, material damages go up to 2.000 completely destroyed homes. Over 6.000 have been severely affected, and another 11.000 have suffered minor damages.

Mexican Group Receives International Journalism Recognition Julio Anguita Parrado

Periodistas de a Pie (@periodistasdeapie), an active journalist organization that aims to raise the quality of journalism in Mexico, received the International Journalism Award Julio Anguita Parrado in Spain.

Through training and exchanging investigation techniques, experiences, reporting strategies, narrative styles and ways of approaching a story with colleagues, the group aims to challenge censorship.

The dean of the University of Córdoba and mayor hand out the 8th Julio Anguita Parrado Award.

Elia Baltazar, a member of Periodistas de a Pie, said in an interview that journalism in her country has recognition only from some sectors. We can see evidence of that in the impunity that exists when it comes to journalists being killed.

“Los que hemos elegido esta profesión no pretendemos cambiar nada sino informar para que sean los ciudadanos quienes tomen las decisiones para cambiar las cosas. Queremos una sociedad abierta, donde los periodistas podamos cumplir nuestra labor sin arriesgarnos porque una sociedad mejor informada va a ser una sociedad que tome mejores decisiones”, apunta.

Those of us who've chosen this profession don't pretend to change anything, just to inform so the citizens can be the ones who make the decisions to change things. We want an open society, where journalists might be able to fulfill out work without risks, because a better informed society will be a society that makes better decisions.

The jury of the 8th Julio Anguita Parrado Award, named after the Spanish journaist that passed away ten years ago while covering the war in Irak, valued the “informative work, silent, without showing off, carried out by communicators in absolute heroic circumstances, in a place where their ives and integrity are under constant threat”.

#IFellAsleepToo: Sleeping Latin American Doctors Go Viral

It's a trending topic under the hashtag  #YoTambienMeDormi (#IFellAsleepToo). In one week, there have been 17,500 comments on Twitter. The stories of tens of thousands of doctors in Mexico and Latin America who are sharing pictures of them sleeping during their long hospital shifts have gone viral.

It all started when a blogger criticized a physician whose photo showed him sleeping, according to the BBC.

“We know this work is tiring, but they have the duty to fulfill their responsibilities while there are dozens of sick people who need their attention at any moment,” Noti-blog site reports, showing the photo of a medical resident at General Hospital 33 in Monterrey, México, who fell asleep at 3 am while filling out the records of that night's patient number 18.

I Fell Asleep Too, because we are not machines but human beings like everyone else

In addition to showing solidarity, the spontaneous campaign has also been a way to put a face the sacrifices people in the profession must make, including long meal-less, sleepless shifts, which are not always financially compensated nor always provide the necessary basics for the job.

The Humanitarian Crisis You Haven't Heard of in Burundi

50000 refugees have fled Burundi ( here at the border with Tanzania)  photo via Jamii Forums

50,000 refugees have fled Burundi (here at the border with Tanzania). Photo via Jamii Forums

Following Burundi President Nkurunziza's announcement of his candidacy for a third term (unconstitutional by Burundi's existing law), a massive humanitarian crisis has hit the country as at least 50,000 refugees have fled the country after scenes of violence were reported in several cities. The occurrence of violence were often posted on social media platforms first under the hashtags #burundichaos or #sindumuja. The following infographic sums up the refugees situation as of May 8:

Pro-Russian Videos Get Fake Views With Help From Malware

Some pro-Russian videos appear to have gone viral, and not in a good sense. Motherboard reports that a group of unknown hackers has been infecting Internet users’ computers with viruses and using them to inflate views on news videos with a pro-Russian slant, as well as some other content.

New research by security firm Trustwave shows that victims got infected by visiting a compromised website that installed an exploit kit (an off-the-shelf software package allowing for easy attacks) on their computer, along with a trojan virus. The infected computers would then stealthily rack up views on the videos.

The videos identified by the researchers all appear to be pro-Russian, such as a one from the Iranian English-language broadcaster PressTV that quotes a Russian Parliament member justifying the annexation of Crimea. The goal of the operation, according to Trustwave researchers Rami Kogan and Arseny Levin, was to artificially increase the popularity of a video and make it more visible to users of the site Dailymotion.

Trustwave experts say the suspicious videos all share the same traits: they all have a fairly high number of views (around 320K, most of them within minutes of each other) but no social media shares or comments. By artificially inflating the clip's popularity, the fraudsters also make the video more visible to other users of the video site.

Using bots to generate fake traffic to video clips is nothing new. It is a technique to raise a clip's popularity score and achieve higher visibility. However, this is the first time we've observed the tactic used to promote video clips with a seemingly political agenda.

Both Trustwave analysts and independent security researchers told Motherboard that using malware for political aims was new, but that such ‘invisible propaganda’ could be very effective, as only its results were visible,but not the fraudulent mechanisms behind them.

“We have seen hacks that are motivated by money and other ‘hacktivist’ attacks that are motivated by politics,” Karl Sigler, the threat intelligence manager at Trustwave, told Motherboard. “This current campaign shows that those two motivations are starting to evolve and blend together.”

While it is unclear who is behind the campaign, Trustware experts speculate that those who spread the exploit kit and the malware simply aimed to make money, and that someone else paid them to add fake views to pro-Russian propaganda videos.

France Launchs National Campaign to Curb Racist and Anti-Semitic Acts

"The Republic United Against Racism" Infographic on the national campaign - Public Domain

“The Republic United Against Racism and Anti-Semitism”. Infographic on the national campaign. Public domain

On April 17, the French government unveiled a national campaign to combat racism and anti-Semitism in France. The objective of the campaign is to fight all prejudices, raise awareness and get citizens engaged in the conversation.

One hundred euros will be allocated over three years to educate and promote cultural diversity. The hashtag #planantiracisme (the plan against racism) was the number one trending topic on Twitter on the day of the announcement.

According to the Report on Racism and Antisemitism by the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme CNCDH (National Comission on Human Rights), there was a 30% increase in racist acts in 2014 (from 1,274 in 2013 to 1,662 in 2014). Anti-Semitic acts went from 423 in 2013 to 851 in 2014, including the attack on the kosher store after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

Tracking Infrastructure Damage in the War in Yemen

Hundreds of people have been reportedly killed in fighting in Yemen since Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against the country on March 26. Backed by its Gulf Arab allies, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco,and Sudan, Saudi Arabia started an airstrike operation, dubbed Decisive Storm, against Houthi fighters who took control of Yemen in January.

Reports from the ground say that a refugee camp, schools, airports, a bridge, factories and homes have been destroyed so far.

Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia explains:

She adds:

We are tracking news and stories on the infrastructure damage in Yemen in this war at Global Voices Checkdesk, a partnership project with Meedan.

Checkdesk is a liveblogging tool for journalists, with built-in tools to allow citizen journalists and staff journalists alike to make and verify reports. Anyone from the newsroom community can submit a report — a Tweet, a photo, video or other type of media — and add details that bring important context to the report. Staff journalists can then add these reports to a developing story.

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