Egypt Independent: World-Main news en US commander 'believes Kunduz hospital strike broke US rules': report <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" /><div>The top US commander in Afghanistan believes American forces broke their rules of engagement in calling in an air strike that pummelled a Kunduz hospital, a report said, after he admitted the bombardment was a mistake.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The strike Saturday on the hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the northern Afghan city killed 22 people, sparking international outrage in an incident the medical charity branded a war crime.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>US special forces on the ground in Kunduz were unable to verify whether the hospital was a legitimate target before the bombs were dropped, a <em>New York Times</em> report said Tuesday, citing officials close to General John Campbell.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Obviously, the investigation is still underway, but Campbell&#39;s thinking now is that the Americans on the ground did not follow the rules of engagement fully,&quot; the report quoted one of those officials as saying.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the official stressed that no final conclusions had been reached and a formal inquiry could yield a different conclusion.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Under the rules of engagement, airstrikes are called in to eliminate insurgents, protect American troops and assist Afghans who request air support.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the US special forces most likely did not meet any of that criteria, Campbell said in private discussions with his colleagues, according to the report.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Campbell told the US Congress Tuesday that the &quot;hospital was mistakenly struck&quot; and he had ordered American forces in Afghanistan to undergo re-training on rules of engagement.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The general stressed that while it was the Afghans who called for the strike, ultimately the decision to launch rested with Americans.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He said US officials were communicating with the charity, also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), to get &quot;all sides of the story&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Three separate investigations into the strike are underway.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The remarks came as Campbell urged Washington to consider boosting its post-2016 military presence to repel a Taliban upsurge and stabilize a &quot;tenuous security situation&quot; in the war-ravaged nation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The White House is reviewing whether to press ahead with plans for the final exit of US troops by late 2016, the end of Barack Obama&#39;s presidency, and leave an embassy-based force of about 1,000 in Afghanistan.</div> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 11:43:00 +0000 AFP 2458933 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/10/07/501010/us.jpg Climate-linked insurance a boon for poor farmers <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Poor farmers the world over are increasingly falling prey to natural disasters, droughts and torrential rain largely due to climate change. But there is some good news as well.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Thanks to new technologies, the widespread use of satellites, and more powerful computers, such events can largely be predicted in advance, thus making possible novel and more efficient insurance schemes for those at risk.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In earlier times, a natural disaster or sustained inclement weather would be followed by a tedious and lengthy insurance process with an expert being sent out to a farm to inspect the damage: too costly in poor or emerging countries where small holdings are often located in the back of beyond.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But all that is in the past. Now climate-linked insurance schemes are increasingly helping protect poor farmers against bad harvests.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>These so-called index-insurance schemes differ from traditional indemnity coverage in that they are based on factors such as rainfall rather than actual measured loss, and kick in the moment a threshold fixed in advance is breached.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>One key advantage is that the transaction costs are lower, making index insurance financially viable for private-sector insurers and affordable to small farmers. This is critical for vulnerable growers whose fortunes are waning by the day.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;For many farmers, climate change means basically more bad years,&quot; said Daniel Osgood, an expert on index-linked insurance at Columbia University.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;For them, adaptation means taking advantage of the remaining years.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Index-linked insurance drastically cuts costs for farmers, giving them more spare cash for fertilizers and seeds and help them avoid penury by bypassing distressed sales of assets to escape the debt trap.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;They have opportunities to improve productivity in normal years by, for example, taking a loan to improve the productivity of their seeds,&quot; Osgood said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But only a fraction of such farmers have been benefitted so far.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>&#39;Simple products&#39;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Out of 400 to 500 million farmers who are potential candidates for index-based insurance only 40 to 50 million have had coverage so far,&quot; said Gilles Galludec, the head of World Bank-run Global Index Insurance Facility.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The majority of them are in emerging countries such as India -- where a healthy monsoon is vital for the agriculture sector -- and China, Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Pilot projects have multiplied in the past 15 years. In Kenya and Rwanda, 230,000 farmers and maize, sorghum, coffee and wheat cultivators have taken advantage of the scheme to protect themselves against drought, excessive rain and storms.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>On an average, such farmers have been able to invest 19 percent more in their farms and earned 16 percent more than those who did not enjoy such insurance cover.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We wanted simple products with a simple message,&quot; said Benjamin Njenga, the head of business analysis at Acre, a Kenyan company running index insurance schemes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Their solutions are innovative. Like a farmer buying seeds in a packet with a scratch off code, the number of which is sent to insurer Acre, which can then localize the farmer and register the purchase.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>If there is a compensation claim, payment is transferred directly to the farmer&#39;s mobile phone to buy a new packet.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The price of index insurance plans is usually around 10 euros (US$11) per season but can vary depending on the weather and the value of the crops grown.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>If the figure is too steep for some farmers, other actors can intervene to subsidise the premium, experts say, citing seed and fertilizer manufacturers and retailers, banks, farm cooperatives and even governments.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Experts also say the success of index-based insurance also hinges on trust that science is not being used to benefit one party over another and have also stressed the need for a completely neutral arbiter to determine what kind of climate variation deserves a payout.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>They also stress on the financial backing of governments for such schemes and a regulatory mechanism to prevent misuse.</div> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 10:34:00 +0000 AFP 2458921 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/10/07/501010/farmer.jpg Death toll from China typhoon rises to 19: Xinhua <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>The death toll from a typhoon that struck China on the weekend has risen to 19, with four people missing, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Seven people were killed in typhoon-triggered tornados in the southern province of Guangdong while seven died in landslides, Xinhua said citing the provincial civil affairs department.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Three fishermen died in boat accidents at sea while one person was found dead in the debris of a house that collapsed during the storm. Four fishermen were missing, Xinhua said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The storm made landfall in the southern province of Guangdong on Sunday, triggering widespread blackouts, state media said. Winds knocked out power grids along the coast and authorities cancelled dozens of flights and suspended high-speed trains.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Guangdong&#39;s civil affairs department said the province suffered 23.24 billion yuan (US$3.66 billion) in losses from the storm, which affected 3.5 million people and damaged 282,700 hectares of cropland.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>One person was also killed by a falling tree in the neighboring province of Guangxi, Xinhua reported. Nearly 1.9 million people in Guangxi suffered losses and 417 homes were destroyed, it said.</div> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 07:38:00 +0000 Reuters 2458906 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/07/11/501271/chn.jpg Guatemala mudslide toll climbs to 171 dead: official <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Emergency workers unearthed 10 more bodies from a landslide outside the Guatemalan capital, bringing the number of confirmed dead to 171, officials said on Tuesday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;So far, 171 bodies have been recovered,&quot; from the tons of sodden earth that buried some 125 dwellings last week, said Sergio Cabanas, the official heading up the search.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Crews braved dangerous conditions at the site, some 15 km (10 miles) east of Guatemala City, where hundreds more potential victims are still missing.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The landslide tore through the village of Cambray II Thursday night after heavy rain.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Rescuers resumed their search for victims at dawn Tuesday with the help of a Mexican team with trained rescue dogs, but hopes of finding survivors are growing slim, officials said.</div> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 07:36:00 +0000 AFP 2458905 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/10/03/501010/guatemalal.jpg