Gay — and gay-seeming — men are singled out for execution by Islamic State

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Twenty-six-year-old Faraj Ali Shalwi was a dapper dresser.


And while his tight-knit circle of friends in his Libyan hometown, Derna, admired his sense of style, his neighbors treated him with suspicion. They said that his clothes were “contemporary.” They also said they were “effeminate.”

Shalwi’s sartorial choices were different from those of most men, but they were probably not dangerous. That changed in November when the local Islamic Youth Shura Council raised the black flag of the extremist group Islamic State, pledging allegiance to the caliphate. It installed a new local government, an Islamic police force and an Islamic court.

Islamic State-allied militias in eastern Libya have committed numerous atrocities, including summary executions, public floggings and beheadings. Unidentified assailants were responsible for at least 250 seemingly politically motivated assassinations in 2014. Because of the collapse of the judicial system in the region, no one has been prosecuted or punished for these killings.

Gay men or men perceived to be gay run a particular risk in Islamic State-controlled territories. According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Islamic State executed at least 17 men in Syria and Iraq accused of indecent behavior, sodomy and adultery between June 2014 and March 2015.

Derna’s roughly 100,000 inhabitants live between mountains, the desert and the Mediterranean Sea. Just 50 miles west is the larger city of Bayda, where Shalwi graduated as a pharmacist from Omar Al-Mukhtar University. He knew this city well, and even after university it remained the hub of his social life. In Bayda, with its quarter-million inhabitants, he could be a bit more relaxed about expressing his homosexuality, albeit among a group of trusted friends.

“According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Islamic State executed at least 17 men in Syria and Iraq accused of indecent behavior, sodomy and adultery between June 2014 and March 2015.”

It was in this city that he met Saad Fakhakhiri, 40, who ran a clothes shop in Derna’s historic downtown. Soon the two became inseparable. Shalwi confided to a friend that he was in a relationship with Fakhakhiri and liked him. He was frustrated because it was risky to express his feelings publicly. Any sexual relations outside marriage as well as “lewd acts” are punishable with up to five years in prison under the Libyan Penal Code.

Although they were careful, the relationship that blossomed between Shalwi and Fakhakhiri did not go unnoticed. In November, the two men were strolling on Derna’s boardwalk, talking and joking, when an Islamic police patrol stopped, searched and questioned them. The patrol warned them to not loiter in that area. It was intimidating at the time and, in retrospect, ominous. Soon after the boardwalk incident, Shalwi and Fakhakhiri disappeared.

Through word of mouth, Shalwi’s friends learned that the two men had been detained by the Islamic police in December on suspicion of homosexual conduct in a parked car. They were held in an unknown location for five months by extremist groups that pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

On April 30, the two men and a third also accused of homosexuality, Nassib Jazawi, were brought to the courtyard of the Sahaba Mosque, where masked men awaited them. Blindfolded, kneeling and with their hands tied, they were shot in the back of the head. The masked men yelled “Allahu akbar!”

Shame born of social stigma prevented the families from holding funeral services for the three men. Nor would they receive condolences. It was as if nothing had happened.

“Blindfolded, kneeling and with their hands tied, they were shot in the back of the head. The masked men yelled ‘Allahu akbar!'”

These weren’t the first executions in Derna of men accused of homosexuality. An activist in Derna told Human Rights Watch that 45-year-old Fathi Katish, who was relatively out as a gay man, was shot near his home in March 2014 by unidentified assailants.

And in July, 26-year-old Yousef Ghaithy, who had been jailed in 2008 under Moammar Kadafi’s rule for three years on sodomy charges, was thrown by unidentified armed men from the edge of a mountain.

Islamic State has published at least eight online visual reports depicting executions of accused homosexuals in Iraq and Syria. On Tuesday, it posted photographs taken in Nineveh province, northern Iraq, showing a man accused of homosexuality being held by his feet over the edge of a high building and then dropped in front of a crowd of onlookers.

Although establishing the veracity of the stories behind the gruesome images is almost impossible, the fact that they are broadcast as executions for “sodomy” or the “act of the people of Lot” has terrorized people who run afoul of Islamic State’s warped morality. In this sense, the truth of the accusations is less important than the message.

I watched a video of the April 30 execution, recorded by a witness standing at a distance. It is the routine nature of the execution that is so unsettling. In the aftermath men slowly leave the square. One wags his finger, laughing, while another hobbles across the screen on crutches.

What is more chilling? Is it the casual chatter of the men departing the execution site, as if leaving a football match, or is it the white vans reversing into the square to collect three bodies?

Graeme Reid is LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. This snapshot of Shalwi’s life was provided by a journalist based in Benghazi with whom Reid is in communication. He spoke to six men who knew Shalwi. He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

Meteorites hold clue to methane mystery and potential for life on Mars

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The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, could have implications for the biological potential of the Red Planet.


“The availability of methane and hydrogen is critical to the potential of the Martian crust as a habitat for microbial life,” the study authors wrote. “The hostile Martian surface is probably less habitable than the subsurface, and several scenarios have been proposed for deep Martian life.”

The mystery of methane on Mars has long dogged astrobiologists looking to assess whether life could have existed on the Red Planet. Methane can be made in nonbiological ways, but on Earth, the majority of it is made by living things. Methane can also be consumed by certain types of microbes, so the presence of methane could potentially be a food source for them.

But even as Mars increasingly looks like it had a life-friendly past, methane has proved remarkably difficult to pin down on the Red Planet. NASA’s Curiosity rover searched for months only to turn up empty, but later picked up what appear to be intermittent plumes. (Some scientists think the methane readings might actually be contamination from the rover itself, so the jury is still out on Martian methane for the moment.)

“The putative occurrence of methane in the Martian atmosphere has had a major influence on the exploration of Mars, especially by the implication of active biology,” the study authors wrote. “The occurrence has not been borne out by measurements of atmosphere by the MSL rover Curiosity but, as on Earth, methane on Mars is most likely in the subsurface of the crust.”

For this paper, an international team of researchers turned to data they could hold in their hands: six Martian meteorites that have landed on Earth. These little chunks of the Red Planet might not be as pristine as a rock sitting on Mars right now, but they still offer a chance to answer some pressing scientific questions up close and personal.

The researchers crushed rock from the meteorites, thus forcing out the gases trapped inside. (Many experiments involve “cooking” the rock to reveal its contents, but that often ends up forming new molecules in the process that can muddle the readings.)

“It’s an interesting, complementary way of getting information,” said Paul Mahaffy, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who was not involved in the paper. Mahaffy serves as lead scientist for Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite, which among other things uses the cooking method to study rocks on Mars.

Among the released gases (which included carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen and trace amounts of oxygen and argon), the researchers found significant amounts of methane and hydrogen. The relatively high levels of these two very important gases make sense, the authors said, given that the rocks were altered in the presence of water.

Methane is a pretty big deal in the Earth’s “deep biosphere,” where methane-eating microbes may use it as fodder. If Martian microbes ever existed, perhaps they played a similar role on the Red Planet, the scientists said.

“The evidence presented here indicates that a methane-bearing subsurface habitat is similarly available on Mars,” the authors wrote. “Whether or not the habitat has been occupied remains to be determined.”

But Mahaffy warned that there are plenty of ways that methane could have been brought to or produced on Mars that have nothing to do with living things. Very little is known about the amount of methane, its origins and its dynamics on the Red Planet, he said.

“I think that the whole methane story together, where it comes from and how often it appears in the atmosphere, is still not a solved problem,” he said.

Women’s program shown to reduce rapes by nearly half

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The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the effects of attending a four-session course in resisting sexual assault to a more typical university approach of providing brochures on sexual assault.


The program is one of the first to demonstrate success in a controlled trial — and among the first to be published by the medical journal, best-known as a forum for clinical drug trials.

The study comes just weeks before colleges and universities across the United States are required to detail how they will deal with sexual assault. Those reports, due to the U.S. Department of Education on July 1, are mandated by the 2013 Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act.

At least 1 in 5 women has been a victim of sexual assault that occurred while she was attending college. By far, most of the attempted or completed sexual assaults on college campuses are perpetrated by classmates, dates or acquaintances of the victim.

Freshman and sophomore women are thought to be at the greatest risk of sexual assault.

“At least 1 in 5 women has been a victim of sexual assault that occurred while she was attending college. By far, most of the attempted or completed sexual assaults on college campuses are perpetrated by classmates, dates or acquaintances of the victim.”

Experts say the ubiquity of alcohol, freedom from parental monitoring, and an atmosphere that celebrates macho and athletic bravado are all factors that foster sexual assaults.

Canadian psychologist Charlene Y. Senn, lead author of the study, said that the socialization of young women often prevents many would-be victims from acknowledging and responding to a sexual predator in ways that will thwart an assault.

Young women arriving at college have widely been socialised to be friendly and likable, which can blind them to the aggressive advances they might encounter at a party, she added.

In 2005, Senn devised a curriculum to help young women overcome the emotional barriers that delay or prevent their recognition of sexual aggression and respond to it.

Over four three-hour sessions, the course worked on skills to assess, acknowledge and, if necessary, rebuff unwanted sexual advances.

Those sessions included instruction in recognising sexual coercion and the circumstances in which it can take place. Participants also had two hours of self-defense training based on the martial art Wen-Do.

Experts caution that reducing sexual violence by focusing on a victim’s will or ability to resist has fallen out of favor in recent years.

“Senn devised a curriculum to help young women overcome the emotional barriers that delay or prevent their recognition of sexual aggression and respond to it.”

In their place are programs that address the motives of potential perpetrators and energize bystanders to intervene. Such approaches place the blame for sexual assault squarely on the perpetrator.

By focusing on a potential victim’s power to thwart her attackers, some experts warned that such a program might contribute to blaming victims.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Kathleen C. Basile, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote that the study’s “primary weakness is that it places the onus for prevention on potential victims, possibly obscuring the responsibility of perpetrators and others.”

But teaching women how to identify and resist are still important strategies, Senn says.

Between September 2011 and February 2013, 893 freshman women at the Universities of Calgary, Windsor and Guelph in Canada took part in the study.

Holding three-hour sessions on weeknights and marathon sessions on weekends, Senn and her coauthors put 451 women through a series of lectures, problem-solving exercises, discussions and self-defense classes aimed at helping them define their own sexual desires and boundaries, recognize and discourage sexual aggression and resist an assault.

“By focusing on a potential victim’s power to thwart her attackers, some experts warned that such a program might contribute to blaming victims.”

The remaining 442 women were assigned to a control group, in which they attended a 15-minute session and were provided brochures on sexual assault.

About a year after the sessions ended, Senn and her colleagues surveyed the participants, asking detailed questions about their sexual contacts in the preceding year.

Among women offered the brochures on sexual assault, 9.8 percent reported they had been raped and 9.3 percent reported they had been the intended victims of attempted rapes.

Roughly 40 percent reported other nonconsensual sexual contact, in which they experienced unwanted sexual touching or fondling.

An additional 14 percent said they had been subject to coercive sex in which a perpetrator pressured or manipulated them into compliance.

Among women who got the resistance training, 5.2 percent said they had been raped and 3.4 percent reported attempted rapes — reductions of 46.3 percent and 63.2 percent respectively.

Rates of nonconsensual sexual contact reported by this group were 34 percent lower than those in the control group, and reports of sexual coercion were roughly 24 percent less common.

Sarah Yang, a 2014 graduate of the University of California, Davis who was president of that campus’ Women’s Health Initiative, said publication of the study in a medical journal boosts the profile of the issue.

“It validates campus sexual assault as a public health issue — and that’s huge,” said Yang, an aspiring physician. “It’s national now. It’s international.”

Senn emphasized that training only women to avert sexual assailants addresses just part of the solution.

“There’s no quick fixes,” she said. “We have to make stopping sexual violence everyone’s problem — everyone’s business — to hold men accountable, to support victims. But we also need to give women the tools they need to fight back.”

DCE poses problems for Maroons

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How do you solve a problem like Daly Cherry-Evans?

That looms as the biggest conundrum for Queensland coach Mal Meninga ahead of next month’s State of Origin series decider in Brisbane.


Meninga and Queensland captain Cameron Smith were the first to defend the halfback’s display in their 26-18 Origin II loss to NSW in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

However, the jury is out on whether Cherry-Evans will stamp his mark on Origin after, yet again, letting a golden chance slip.

Filling in for injured halfback Cooper Cronk (knee) for the second time in as many years, Cherry-Evans never found his feet on Wednesday night – albeit after a fearsome NSW campaign to target him all night.

Still, the stage was set for Cherry-Evans to emerge as Queensland’s white knight on Wednesday night.

Instead he remained one of rugby league’s black sheep.

Cherry-Evans was booed when he appeared on the MCG big screen as he ran out in the fallout over his much publicised NRL contract backflip.

Just as he was recently at Queensland’s home ground Suncorp Stadium while playing for Manly.

And there were few cheers when his game two stint ended, capped by a team high five missed tackles.

He may avoid a game three jeering at Suncorp Stadium on July 8 with Cronk set to return from injury and form NRL No.7 Ben Hunt breathing down his neck.

Cherry-Evans polarised the public when he backflipped on a Gold Coast NRL deal and stayed at Manly on a “lifetime” $10 million deal.

Yet he found a way to bring Origin’s tribal rivalry together on Wednesday night when inundated by boos.

There was plenty of pressure – but no excuses.

Last year Cherry-Evans struggled to step up in Cronk’s absence in Origin II after having just one training session due to a knee niggle.

This time Cherry-Evans had a full preparation in the Maroons camp.

Yet it seemed to be the same old result.

Meninga said he was “pretty sure” Cronk would return for Origin III after the halfback flexed his regenerative powers by returning early from a broken wrist in 2014’s game three.

But he still felt compelled to defend Cherry-Evans.

“They ran at Daly quite often,” he said.

“I don’t know how many tackles he made but it was considerable.”

Smith empathised with Cherry-Evans’ plight.

“There’s no doubt they sent Ryan Hoffman at him a few times,” he said.

“I think he was up to 20 tackles at halftime.

“The effort was great and when you’re only making 15 or 16 tackles a week for your club…it does take a bit of starch out of your attack.

“It’s his second game starting at No.7 in Origin – it takes guys a fair while to get used to that role.”

Woods powers NSW to Origin decider

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Aaron Woods assumed the mantle as rugby league’s premier front-rower with another standout State of Origin performance in NSW’s game two win.


Woods stomped over his Queensland opposite Matt Scott to score midway through the second half at the MCG to give the Blues a lead they never relinquished and force the series to a decider in Brisbane next month.

Woods ran for a game-high 150m from 17 runs and made 21 tackles as the Blues prevailed 26-18.

But even more important was his first Origin try, which returned NSW the lead which they had meekly surrendered shortly after halftime.

“It was probably one of the best experiences ever,” Wood said of the try.

“I just didn’t expect it, but I just backed myself, I thought I was going to tip it on to Gal (captain Paul Gallen) but I just went for it.

“I just wanted to get the ball down as quickly as possible, we are a tight bunch of boys and to get that win with them is the best thing ever.”

Wood said he wasn’t interested in talk of a changing of the guard, after NSW again dominated up front as they had done in Origin I.

“We couldn’t care less,” he said.

“We just wanted to go forward and if they were going to be dirty we would just play footy back at them.”

Woods’ Wests Tigers skipper and Blues teammate Robbie Farah said he continued to improve.

“I’m so proud. he’s come a long way, he’s one of the best front-rowers in the world,” Farah said.

“I’ve seen him develop and grow as a person and a player, from a 17-year-old kid and it makes me so proud to see where he’s at right now.

“He’s a leader at such a young age, not only here but at the Tigers.

“He’s got a long career in rep footy, that’s for sure.”

Orphanage tourism: Who are foreign volunteers actually helping?

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Sylvie Gjerde travelled to Cambodia because she wanted to help children.


She knew the country’s history and had heard about the extreme poverty people were living in, and thought she could do some good. She was recommended an orphanage in Siem Reap, so she arranged to volunteer there for one month in 2011.

But once she was there, things were not as she had imagined.

The orphanage was co-owned by a New Zealand man based in Auckland and a Cambodian man who lived nearby. Ms Gjerde, now 28, noticed the man drove an Escalade and his wife wore expensive rings. She was told the couple was building a second storey on their nearby home.

Meanwhile the children at the orphanage were living in very basic conditions with only two Cambodian women, who lived there full-time, to care for them. “One toddler had special needs and often defecated all over the ground,” Ms Gjerde said.

She refused to pay the $A100 fee the orphanage requested of its volunteers because she wanted to make sure the money went directly to the children, so she bought food for the children and sanitary products for the girls. “The orphanage was a bit annoyed that I didn’t pay,” she said. But they let her stay.

As the weeks wore on, Ms Gjerde became increasingly suspicious about where the money going into the orphanage – from foreign donors and the high volumes of volunteers – actually went.


She and another volunteer began to investigate and approached the owner. “He told me that ‘In Cambodia, every mountain has a tiger’,” she said, “which I took to mean that every community has a leader and it made sense that they get more luxuries and wealth.”

Unsatisfied, the pair continued to search for answers. But the orphanage staff were not happy and eventually they were asked to leave.

Ms Gjerde thought of the children and the never-ending tide of smiling foreigners who came to take photographs with them, and felt sick. 

“I just thought, ‘This is f—ed’,” she said. “I felt gross that I was going to leave and they would just stay and keep going to the toilet in a bucket.”

When she got back to New Zealand she arranged to meet with the co-owner and complained to him about the conditions and alleged corruption. “He was defensive and refused to accept any criticisms,” she said.

She now questions the ethics of “voluntourism” and says she would definitely not do it again.

The business of orphans

The voluntourism industry is reportedly worth $A2.6 billion worldwide.

James Sutherland, of Cambodia-based NGO Friends International, said there is about 300 registered orphanages in Cambodia and hundreds more that are not registered. Many offer volunteering opportunities for short stints or extended stays as well as day visits, for a fee.

“I felt gross that I was going to leave and they would just stay and keep going to the toilet in a bucket.”

He said Ms Gjerde’s experience was not unique. 

“We see many people talking about how they have come to see orphanages in Cambodia because it’s on the itinerary and how uncomfortable they feel about it after going there and seeing the reaction from the children.”

But he said people like her were part of the problem.

“They don’t set out to hurt children; they’re setting out to help children,” he said of foreign volunteers. “But they’re really unaware of the complexity of what is an orphanage business in countries like Cambodia.”

Mr Sutherland said the reason there was a large number of orphanages in Cambodia was not because there were a lot of orphans needing homes but because orphanages had become profitable businesses. 

Shockingly, an estimated 75 per cent of children inside these orphanages were not orphans at all and had one or more living parents. Mr Sutherland said parents were being pressured into putting their children into care to ensure the orphanages, which raked in money from well-intentioned volunteers and donors, were populated. Orphanages were being billed as better, safer options for children in poverty.

“The problem is when people are seeing this as the only option, they feel pushed into doing it,” he said.

Friends International has three campaigns underway to shed light on “orphanage tourism” and to discourage volunteers coming from places like Australia to spend time in orphanages. 

“Your money might not actually be getting to the children it’s meant to help. Your donation of rice may be re-sold back to the shop it’s come from, and that cycle goes on. There are many, many of these orphanages that are operating as businesses pure and simple, they’re a scam.” 

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Mr Sutherland said the vast majority of orphanages in Cambodia were owned and operated by foreigners and said the concept of orphanages was an introduced one.

“There’s a misconception about Cambodia sometimes that that people can’t care about their kids because they give them up to orphanages. Totally untrue,” he said. “Cambodia is such a family-oriented society, an extended-family-oriented society.

“It’s the orphanages that are actually alien to Cambodia. But over the years, because it’s business and it brings money in, they’ve proliferated.”

Who are you helping?

At the heart of the industry lies an uncomfortable question: What motivates people to volunteer? 

Volunteers often say they are driven by a desire to help but Mr Sutherland said if people really wanted to help they would consider more sustainable options.

“If you have transferable skills in childcare, for example, why not use them to train Cambodian staff? Rather than spending your time in the orphanage, working there. You’re from a different culture, you’ve got lots of work to do before you can actually start to fit in there and also you’re not doing anything sustainable because when you go, that knowledge goes with you,” he said.

“Foreign volunteers don’t set out to hurt children, but they’re really unaware of the complexity of what is an orphanage business in countries like Cambodia.”

Steve Cooke of World Vision Cambodia said volunteers need to think about how they might be contributing to the problem.

“There are many people who come to Cambodia with really fantastic intentions and a lot of them make a really great contribution, but they really need to make sure and do their research to ensure that their contribution is going to be sustainable and isn’t actually contributing to an industry that is actually profiting from the neglect of children,” he said.

On its website, The Lonely Planet lists “dos” and “don’ts” for orphanage volunteering, stating:

“Do work with the local staff rather than directly with the children. Teach the local staff how to speak English and you have created a sustainable impact. You may not have photos of you hugging cute little children, but you will have done some good.””Don’t volunteer at any orphanage without thoroughly researching it. Is it regulated? Do they require background checks on volunteers?”On the ground

The number of orphanages in Cambodia has ballooned in the past 20 years and the government has done little to monitor them. 

Prior to 2006 there were no regulations around owning and operating orphanages in Cambodia, meaning anybody could come to the country and set up an operation with children in their care. 

In 2006, the government introduced the The Policy on Alternative Care for Children, which stated that orphanages should be a last resort and children should be in a family environment where possible. In 2008, the government introduced The Minimum Standards on Alternative Care for Children and in 2011, the Prakas (proclamation) on Procedures to Implement the Policy on Alternative Care for Children came into effect. Both set minimum standards for care facilities in Cambodia. Before that, there were none.

Mr Cooke said the government had made progress but it was slow.

“The sooner we can close these centres because there’s no longer a need because children are being taken care of by families, the better,” he said.

A spokesman for UNICEF said that a 2014 Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) report showed seven care facilities had been closed down since the minimum standards were introduced.

“Children from those institutions have been reunified with their families and communities, and some have been referred to other residential care institutions and state orphanages waiting for proper family tracing, assessment and reunification,” he said.

“If you have transferable skills in childcare, for example, why not use them to train Cambodian staff rather than spending your time in the orphanage.”

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the goal was for children to be with their families.

“We don’t want to separate a kid from their own community,” he said. “The family must play a more important role. We don’t want to keep them in the camp.”

He said foreigners were no longer able to open new orphanages in Cambodia, but SBS could not verify this information.

Mr Sutherland of Friends International said his understanding was that the opening of new orphanages had been “restricted,” rather than banned altogether.

“In some orphanages they’ll try to encourage the kids to look malnourished to encourage donations. There are many, many tricks involved in the whole process.”

A spokesman for UNICEF told SBS: “Presently, opening orphanages or residential care institutions requires authorisations from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs for International NGO and Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation. And for some cases especially with local NGOs, they get authorisations from provincial authorities or local authorities. There is no particular Ministry in charge in managing or overseeing the residential care institutions.”

“Because of this, UNICEF supports MoSVY to develop a Sub-decree on Management of Residential Care Institutions for Children in order to establish legality and responsibility of MoSVY to provide oversight, including for opening and closure of residential care institutions, with proper case management, family assessment and reunification of children from residential care centres if they are found to be under performing or violating children rights.”

Living conditions

Conditions inside the hundreds of orphanages in Cambodia vary greatly.

According to Mr Sutherland, some lack basic amenities. “The children [in them] are more at risk than they would be in the family situation”. While others that receive more funding are and often in nice new buildings. “Fundamentally they are still institutions and the children are still institutionalised,” he said.

Mr Sutherland said orphanages regularly used children to raise money by handing out flyers or putting on shows. “In some they’ll try to encourage the kids to look malnourished to encourage donations. There are many, many tricks involved in the whole process.”

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On the outskirts of Phnom Penh along a long and dusty road sits Little Hearts orphanage. The orphanage is home to about 33 children and a further 120 children come in from the community each day for schooling. Little Hearts was opened six years ago by Belgian man Tony Geeraerts and his brother Jimmy. Inside the grounds there is a classroom, a kitchen, an office, and a number of rooms filled with tiny bunk beds for the children.

Mr Geeraerts said it wasn’t always easy to ascertain whether children were “real” orphans and said he had turned a number of children away.

“Sometimes people are just knocking on the door and they think they can have a better life here at Little Hearts and it’s very difficult. If we’re going to accept everyone that’s poor, that’s impossible.”

He shrugged off suggestions that the orphanage industry in Cambodia was plagued with corruption and neglect. “We don’t have time to get involved in other organisations … We just try to do our own thing.  And we really try to help the kids and help the community and we have very good communication with the government.”

At the time of my visit, there was only one foreign volunteer, also from Belgium, living on the premises. Mr Geeraerts said volunteers like her were extremely important to the running of his orphanage.

“They’re like mums and daddies for the kids. They take them to the shower, they teach activities, they teach English. They’re very, very important and that’s why we need a good selection of the volunteers because it’s very important that the kids are surrounded by good, trustworthy people.”

My visit to the orphanage was cut short when two government officials arrived to meet with Mr Geeraerts. The Belgian volunteer offered to show me out. “See,” she said, as I walked through the large gate, “we do good work here.” 


Mr Sutherland said the pathway to unwinding such a vast industry was complex.

“A lot of it has happened under the radar and it’s been allowed to grow, particularly over the past 10 years,” he said. “But now people are realising – there’s something wrong here.”

And beyond the crackdowns and closures, there were vulnerable children with uncertain futures.

“It’s a complex process because you’re talking about reintegrating children with their families,” he said.

“In some cases they may have only left their families for a few years, in others it’s longer term. So the reintegration process has to be carefully managed.

He said the children also needed to recover from the impact of being exposed to so many volunteers.

“Children do form attachments with people that are broken,” he said. “They get to know someone really well for two weeks, for six months, for a year, and then that person leaves.

“Of course that’s damaging to them.”

For more information on orphanage tourism, visit:

ChildSafeOrphanages.NoFriends InternationalUNICEFChild Safe Tourism

Follow @SylviaVarnham

Sylvia Varnham O’Regan was in Cambodia on a journalism fellowship with the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre.

Obama promotes healthy eating in Milan

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Michelle Obama has taken her campaign for healthy eating overseas but let it slip she still has work to do at home.


The US first lady on Wednesday prepared a lentil, barley and rice salad with middle school students at the James Beard American Restaurant in Milan on a European tour that promotes some of her core initiatives, including eating well to fight obesity.

Obama emphasised to the 20 international students from the American School of Milan the importance of sitting down for a meal with the family as often as possible. She said taking time to talk about the day’s events over dinner was one way to slow down and enjoy a meal.

“And you probably eat less because you are not just shovelling. … We don’t shovel. Well, the president shovels sometimes,” the first lady said to laughter.

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Milan to catch a glimpse of her motorcade as it travelled from the restaurant near the Duomo in the heart of the city to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.

There, in keeping with the food theme, the first lady and her entourage viewed Da Vinci’s The Last Supper with Italy’s premier, his wife and daughter.

Obama’s teenage daughters Malia and Sasha and her mother, Marian Robinson, joined her for the cultural outing. They were greeted by Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, his wife Agnes and 9-year-old daughter Ester.

On Thursday, Obama leads a presidential delegation to Milan’s Expo 2015 World’s Fair, which focuses on food, nutrition and world hunger.

Her overseas trip continues on Friday with a visit to US troops stationed in Vicenza, northern Italy. Her final stop will be Venice, where she has more cultural outings, including a visit to the award-winning US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale contemporary art show.

US shark attack teen tells of losing arm

Posted February 14th, 2019 by admin and filed in 苏州纹眉
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A teenager who lost an arm in a shark attack in the US state of North Carolina says he felt the big fish before he saw it and didn’t realise what it was until it was “biting up my left arm”.


“We were just playing around in the waves, and I felt a hit on my left calf,” 16-year-old Hunter Treschl said in a videotaped interview released on Tuesday night by the hospital where he is being treated.

“I thought it felt like a big fish, and I started moving away. And then the shark bit my arm – off.”

Treschl said he was able to make it on to the beach in Oak Island, North Carolina, with the help of a cousin who had been in the water with him.

He said one of the people who ran to his aid had a belt with him that he used as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding, while others “were all helping me kind of stay calm until the ambulance got there”.

Asked if he ever saw the shark, Treschl said he first felt it hit his left leg before it hit his arm.

“That was the first time I saw it, when it was biting up my left arm,” he said in the videotape released by the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The Colorado teen says he is going to try to live a normal life despite the loss of his dominant hand.

“I have two options: I can try to live my life the way I was and make an effort to do that even though I don’t have an arm, or I can just let this be completely debilitating and bring my life down and ruin it,” he said.

“Out of those two, there’s really only one that I would actually choose and that’s to try to fight and live a normal life with the cards I’ve been dealt.”

A little more than an hour before the shark attacked Treschl and about three kilometres away on Sunday, a 12-year-old Asheboro girl, Kiersten Yow, lost her left arm below the elbow and suffered a leg injury when a shark bit her.

Yow was in stable condition on Tuesday at the Children’s Hospital at the University of North Carolina, according to a statement from her parents, Brian and Laurie Yow.

Star-struck Kokkinakis exits Queen’s

Posted February 14th, 2019 by admin and filed in 苏州纹眉
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Star-struck Australian tennis star Thanasi Kokkinakis has finished an emotional Queen’s Club debut with a tennis lesson.


But it wasn’t the clinical world No.13 Gilles Simon who had grabbed Kokkinakis’ attention – it was some high-profile faces in the crowd.

Kokkinakis took to Twitter immediately after the 6-4 6-2 loss to apologise for his poor performance, and some interesting revelations afterwards gave an insight into why he might have been off his game – ex-Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and One Direction singer Liam Payne were sitting courtside.

“I saw that and got a bit distracted actually,” he joked when asked about Clarkson.

“Oh, there he is from Top Gear. Again, a disappointing performance in front of him.

“What can you do sometimes?

“Was the guy from One Direction here too?

“I’ve just got to do better than that really.

“I got distracted a little bit, but I looked over when I was down a set and double break.

“At least I saw some important faces in the crowd!”

The 19-year-old, who defeated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy after flying back home to Adelaide to be with his family and ailing grandmother over the weekend, came out firing on centre court and won the opening nine points of the match, before going on to lose in straight sets.

He dedicated the Chardy victory to his grandmother but said there would not be another chance to head home in the near future.

“I doubt I will go back again,” he said.

“She’s still going for now. She’s struggling, though.

“It’s a bit of a waiting game, really, which is disappointing.

“You feel like you can’t really do anything. That’s what it is.

“She’d prefer me to go out and play and do what I do. Happy I got the win for her yesterday but today wasn’t to be.”

Kokkinakis had on Tuesday admitted he was feeling fatigued following the three-set victory over Chardy.

The effects of a 33,000km round trip and spending nearly 48 hours on planes over three days also appeared to take its toll on the youngster.

“I just wasn’t feeling confident with my shots. I felt bad for everyone watching, really,” Kokkinakis said.

“It was a bit disappointing.

“I felt like it was one of my poorest performances in a while.”

Simon advances to face Canadian third seed Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals.

Later, Kokkinakis, who partnered Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt in the doubles, suffered a second defeat of the day – going down to French duo Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 7-5 6-3.

Meanwhile, Casey Dellacqua went down to Serbian 15th seed Jelena Jankovic 7-6 (13-11) 6-3 at the Birmingham Classic, leaving no Australians remaining in WTA or ATP tournaments this week.

Ireland in shock at balcony deaths

Posted February 14th, 2019 by admin and filed in 苏州纹眉
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Ireland is “frozen in shock” after six students plunged to their deaths when a balcony collapsed during a 21st birthday party in the US.


A number of them were students at University College Dublin and had gone to Berkeley, California, to start a dream trip on popular summer working holiday visas.

They were named as Ashley Donohoe, 22, and Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, who were all 21.

Donohoe was an Irish-American from Rohnert Park, California, while the others lived in Ireland.

They died from multiple blunt traumatic injuries when they plunged 12 metres to the ground.

Another seven were seriously injured in the incident and remain in hospital.

In a twist of fate, local police had received a call to reports of noise from the apartment shortly after midnight local time, but diverted to an emergency after a reported shooting in the city was prioritised.

The balcony collapsed less than 45 minutes later.

Philip Grant, consul general with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs in the region, said the tragedy had touched everyone in Ireland.

“For many of my countrymen (the visa working holiday) is a formative experience and to have this happen at the start of this season is something that has left us all frozen in shock and disbelief,” he said.

“We are a very close, tight-knit group. Ireland is a small country and when you have the numbers that we had here today, very few of us have been left untouched by this tragedy.”

It is believed there were 13 Irish students on the fourth floor of an apartment complex in the college city shortly after midnight when it came apart from the building.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told parliament 13 people had been on the balcony at the time, citing police.

“My heart breaks for the parents who have lost children,” he said.