The Man Whose Timely Tweets Save Lives


When interviewing Norbert Almeida, you become acutely aware that every minute your discussion drags on may be putting lives at risk. His phone is off, which means he’s not tweeting out constant alerts updating Karachi’s citizens on vital information about what’s happening around the city. Almeida, a security expert, is best known for his popular Norbalm twitter account, which sends out routine alerts on security issues like possible kidnappings, crimes, deaths, roadblocks and bombings. In a dangerous place like Karachi, Almeida’s alerts can literally save people’s lives.

Dealing with security issues is Almeida’s life. He makes a living working as a security adviser focused on the Middle East and Africa. But his passion project is his alerts, which he dispenses for free. Almeida has become known as a coveted source for his speedy, unbiased, unfiltered and reliable information. His alerts give real-time information that helps people navigate their daily lives more safely and, it seems, anecdotally at least, he is more trusted (and faster) than any media outlet in the country. Many Karachiites follow him avidly, the way a New Yorker might check The New York Times and 1010 WINS. Almeida also has a blog and bimonthly column in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, where he gives advice on security and personal safety, like how to stay safe on New Year’s Eve.

Read the rest on OZY.

Sympathy for the Jihadists


Few sentiments will lose you friends faster in modern America than professing sympathy for jihadists, but that’s the unenviable place I found myself in last week after reading the U.N.’s new report on human rights abuses carried out against the Rohingya in northern Myanmar. The 43-page report, published on Feb. 3, is essentially a catalog of the most horrific acts humans can inflict on one another. The crimes include gang rapes, murders of pregnant women and the killing of babies. In each case the victims were Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted minority group, who purportedly did nothing to provoke their attackers — Buddhist neighbors and Burmese authorities.

And that brings me to the jihadists.

On the same day that the report was released, CNN published something remarkable — the first-ever interview with a Rohingya jihadi leader. Jihadi terrorist groups are well-established across much of South Asia, but in Myanmar they are almost nonexistent. This one — Harakat al-Yaqeen, or “Faith Movement” — carried out their first attack on a border post on Oct. 9, 2016, and killed nine guards.

Read the rest on OZY.

Pakistan's trailblazing all-female comedy troupe


In July 2016, Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani celebrity and social media personality, was strangled to death by her brother. According to reports, her sibling felt Baloch’s openly sexual and sassy online persona had brought such dishonor to their family that the murder was justified. The incident made headlines around the world, sparking anger and calls for an end to Pakistan’s outrageous tradition of “honor killings.”

Remarkably, in the midst of this stormy debate of what image is appropriate for a young Pakistani woman, Faiza Saleem quietly started the Khawatoons, Pakistan’s first all-female comedy troupe.

The Khawatoons (a portmanteau of “khawateen,” which means ladies in Urdu, and “cartoons”) were inspired by the American sketch television program Whose Line Is It Anyway? and their shows follow its rapid and collaborative improv format. Jokes, characters and conflicts are created live onstage, and the performers take turns playing off of each other’s riffs. Their shows, which are only advertised on social media as a safety precaution, are consistently packed, and their reviews have been largely positive. This much success so early on would be heady for a group of comedians anywhere, but in Pakistan, where the simple act of a woman joking in public can be considered a transgression, it’s even more impressive. 

Read More on OZY. 

Puerto Rico's ignored public health crisis: 'I've lost a lot of friends to drugs'


It's just after noon in the hills of Cayey, and life in this sleepy Puerto Rican mountain town continues at a predictable pace.

Old men lounge in a local park swapping stories amid the sweltering heat. Stores and diners bustle with customers, and the local church, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, rings its bells on the hour.

Nearby, hidden behind a thicket of lush trees and tall grass, Cecilio Camacho expertly pierces his skin with a hypodermic needle. He pulls back the syringe's plunger and clouds of blood spill into the barrel. He sighs after finding the vein. Then, with the dexterity of an addict who has injected thousands of times, he gently shoots about five dollars' worth of heroin into his bloodstream.

For the last three decades, Puerto Rico's public health officials have unsuccessfully fought a full-scale public health crisis. Today, the island has one of the highest HIV/Aids infection rates in the US, and more than 50% of all newly reported cases come from intravenous drug use.

Read the rest on The Guardian 

Bronx ministry lures addicts from Puerto Rico aloft promise of salvation


Eduardo Rosa was homeless at 50, on the streets of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, after his brother kicked him out of his house for smoking crack. But what Rosa did have was a name from 1,500 miles away.

“I want the guy they call ‘Palmares,’” Rosa told local officials when they offered him aid. With his mayor’s financial help, he boarded a plane to New York.

In towns across the island, the name of Julio Palmares, a pastor in the Bronx, is synonymous with recovery from addiction.His Ministerio Renovación Cristiana claims to cure drug addicts through prayer.

Rosa still lives in the ministry, a year later. “I like it here and I don’t want to go back,” Rosa said. “The change in people and in my life, I’m grateful.”

Many alumni remain in the Bronx. Jeffry Salgado arrived in 2001 with 15 other men from Dorado, courtesy of their mayor. At the height of his heroin addiction, Salgado had stolen his grandmother’s oxygen tank to sell. “I knew she could die, but in that moment I didn’t care,” said Salgado. Today, his beard neatly trimmed, he wears clean, fashionable clothes. Salgado takes English classes, lives with his wife, aspires to become a mechanic.

Read the rest on The Guardian. 

3D 'Wiki Weapon' guns could go into testing by end of year, maker claims


Prototypes of what would be the world's first fully 3D-printable plastic weapon could go into testing before the end of the year, the organization behind the controversial project has claimed.

"We're ready," said Cody Wilson, a spokesman for Defense Distributed, the company that hopes to manufacture the "Wiki Weapon". "We're sitting on the logistics, time, resources and money. We're just waiting on a little piece of paper."

That little piece of paper is a federal firearms license, the permit that is needed to legally make and manufacture firearms in the United States. Barring an unexpected issue, Wilson expects the license will be granted within the next two or three weeks. Initially, the group planned to create prototypes without a license, but after the media discovered the Wiki Weapon, the group has been under increased scrutiny and several problems have threatened to derail the project.

Read the rest on The New York World. 

Brooklyn's Sea Gate feels insult added to injury after Sandy's devastation


The tiny Brooklyn enclave of Sea Gate has received relatively scant attention from the media and public officials in comparison to other areas hit hard by hurricane Sandy. On Friday, five days after the storm, mayor Michael Bloomberg and other politicians visited the area to survey the damage and promise more government relief. But for many Sea Gate residents Bloomberg's visit didn't come soon enough.

"Why are we not on the map?" asked Jay Younger, a Sea Gate resident of over 25 years and owner of Brooklyn Sanitation, a local company that was assisting with the clean-up. "Other communities – like Hoboken – we know got hit tremendously. But what are we to do? Why are we not included in the plan? Why does no one talk about us?"

Read the rest on The Guardian.