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Tips from a Military InsiderIn our latest "NSZ 101" how-to guide, Nolan Peterson , a former special operations pilot and a combat veteran with multiple degrees in political science, French and journalism, offers his insights, suggestions and recommendations from an insider perspective on how to most effectively and successfully cover the military. → Read the story.
Missing Journalist James Foley now thought held by Syrian government, report says
U.S. Journalist James Foley, missing in Syria since Thansgiving 2012, is now thought to be being held by the Syrian government."With a very high degree of confidence, we now believe that Jim was most likely abducted by a pro-regime militia group and subsequently turned over to Syrian government forces,” GlobalPost CEO and President Philip Balboni said on May 3 during a speech marking World Press Freedom Day. (Full story) This is the second time in 18 months that the 2008 Medill School of Journalism graduate has been taken captive in a war zone.
“The family appeals for the release of Jim unharmed,” his relatives said on a web site focused on getting him freed. He was kidnapped in northwest Syria on Thanksgiving Day, the family said.
Watch video archive of May 3 World Press Freedom Day event in Boston: “Silenced Voices: When Conflict Journalists Go Missing.”
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Yemen's water: a different national security threat
WASHINGTON–After a Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda claimed it was behind the foiled terrorist attack on Christmas day late last year, the country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula has garnered national attention.
Described as a ticking time bomb for extremism, Yemen has captured public attention as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s primary new breeding ground — a chronic politically unstable state ripe for AQAP’s exploitation. More than 100 Yemenis have been incarcerated in Guantanamo since 2002 and several hundred al Qaeda affiliated militants are said to operate in the country.
Yet for many Yemenis, the pervasive al Qaeda threat is eclipsed by more impending crises, including an increasingly violent secessionist movement in the south and a civil war in the north. In addition to civil unrest, the poorest nation in the region – and one of the poorest in the world – faces yet another catastrophe whose numbers portend a far deadlier long-term challenge.
Yemen’s population of 23 million, nearly half of whom are under the age of 15, is expected to double by 2035.
And experts claim the capital city, Sana’a, could become the world’s first capital city to run dry, raising concerns that a World Heritage City could devolve into a mere ghost town.
Yemen’s oil accounts for approximately 85% of the government’s revenue. Profit is used to subsidize expensive diesel pumps to extract water, but analysts predict that its petroleum output, already down from 460,000 barrels a day in 2002 to 300-350,000 in 2007, will fall to 0 in 2017.
“Everyone — the Yemeni people, the American government — are sitting around waiting for the crisis to vanish,” said Mohammed Albasha, press and public relations officer at the Embassy of Yemen in Washington. “They’re just talking about it and no one is giving solutions.”
Greg Johnsen, Princeton University expert on Yemen, argues that solutions have been offered – they’re just detrimental.
“Counterterrorism is the only tool the administration is availing themselves with to deal with Yemen and that is a catastrophic mistake,” said Johnsen.
Will Rogers, research assistant at the Center for a New American Security think tank, says the development community must work with locals to break the cycle and bolster the government’s legitimacy.
“You can throw money at the problem but if u don’t have a sustainable plan, you won’t see improvement,” he said.
As water becomes more scarce, the government is increasingly unable to maintain control and legitimacy over tribal governments. Pockets of ungoverned spaces present opportunities for al Qaeda to exploit economic and political challenges.
If the overarching goal is to make Yemen a more stable state, then the first and most basic task is to develop sustainable water projects. But that has become increasingly difficult.
According to a February 2009 report by Integrated Regional Information Network, eighty percent of rural water projects funded by World Bank and Yemen government programs had been seized by tribesmen near or upon completion.
“The effective implementation of programs is hampered by Yemen’s limited institutional capacity,” said Xavier Devictor, World Bank Country Program Coordinator for Egypt, Yemen, and Djibouti. “And actions are likely to require social change, which may take time to materialize.”
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affair Maria Otero recently traveled to the Middle East in a trip that was said to underscore the need to elevate America’s diplomatic efforts surrounding water.
“Yemen is perhaps the most extreme example of the problems in the region,” said Carl Schonander, primary policy person for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs under Otero.
But Yemen wasn’t a stop on the department’s tour.
“The trip was planned far in advanced and we didn’t make it to Yemen,” he said, “but the consciousness of the issues should no doubt be raised more.”
Many are counting on it. But as the Yemeni proverb goes, from a pound of talk, an ounce of understanding.
“The next big war in the Middle East wont be over oil, but water,” said Albasha.
“It’s the main source for life,” he said, “and will be the next big ugly battle.”