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Um Ahmed Ahmed almost ignored Eid this year.
The Muslim holiday, which began Monday, marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. This year, it also marks three weeks since the current war in Gaza started.
"My plans were to have no plans for Eid," Ahmed says, pausing in the Firaz market area on a main street in Gaza City. "But my son kept bugging me, 'Mom, aren't you going to buy me something for Eid?'"
Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday and a family celebration. Relatives offer each other gifts of cash and chocolate. Kids look forward to special cookies and new clothes.
Ahmed's 9-year-old son Mahmoud shyly opens up a plastic bag to show off his brand-new Eid outfit: tan pants and a matching shirt. Shoes are next — bright sandals and trendy sports shoes line the window of the shop they're entering.
"The kids are suffering so much," Ahmed says, adding that her brother gave her money for Eid shopping because neither she nor her husband works. "They hear the planes. They don't sleep all night. I just wanted to make a little difference for him."
But on the first day of what is traditionally a three-day holiday, Israeli jets continued their offensive in Gaza and Hamas militants continued to launch rockets into Israel — despite a call by the United Nations for both Israel and Hamas to implement a humanitarian cease-fire for "the Eid period and beyond."
As a result, Gazans like Ahmed say they're not expecting to go visiting during Eid. Ahmed's home is crowded with relatives who have fled fighting in their own neighborhoods. With nearby explosions puncturing the air, she acknowledges it might be a risk to shop.
Indeed, few shops were open in Gaza on Sunday, the day before Eid this year — perhaps half as many as usual in the Firaz market section of town. But up and down streets in Gaza, most stores remained closed with tall, metal shutters.
"There is a big difference between Eid this year and last year," says Ali Rajeh, also out buying clothes for his children. "Last year we could enjoy it at least somewhat. This year, as adults, we can't at all. Many of my cousins were injured. I know some people who died. One of my close friends is in the hospital. He'll be there for Eid."
Tens of thousands of other Gazans will spend this Eid in overcrowded classrooms. The United Nations daily headcount shows 9 percent of Gaza's population has taken refuge from the war in agency-run schools. U.N. officials say they aren't distributing any special Eid treats. They're barely keeping up with basic demands.
"It's just the scale," says Scott Anderson, deputy director of UNRWA, the major U.N. agency operating in Gaza. "One-hundred and seventy thousand people take 200 metric tons of food a day."
Much of that food is brought in through Israel, via the sole commercial crossing. Unfortunately for U.N. logistics, Kerem Shalom is near the border with Israel and has been closed periodically due to fighting around it.
By special agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the crossing will be open on Eid, Anderson says.
"The government of Israel has done a lot to try to keep it open," he says. "But I prefer to have redundancy."
Merit Heitanen, who coordinates water deliveries to schools, worries about Eid. Many adults fast all day during the preceding month, not even sipping water.
"After Ramadan finishes, how much more will people be drinking?" she wonders. Already some schools have run out of water after two deliveries a day.
During a 12-hour cease-fire on Saturday, thousands of people who had left their homes for safety rushed back to pick up mattresses, clothing and cooking pots. Their focus was on survival rather than celebration. Hamas rejected a cease-fire extension proposed by Israel early Sunday — but then suggested a cease-fire itself the same afternoon, in part citing Eid.
"Based on a U.N. request and because of the circumstances our people face and the holiday of Eid, the resistance factions have agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire for 24 hours," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri in a statement.
Despite clashes Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on all parties "to prolong the suspension of the fighting for an additional extendable period of 24 hours to allow vital humanitarian efforts to continue." He reiterated his demand for "a durable cease-fire that could set the ground for the start of comprehensive negotiations."
Ali Rajeh, the father buying his children clothes Sunday, hasn't been following cease-fire politics. He says he told his children to just expect the worst during this war.
"I'm expecting the worst," he says. "I'm telling my kids we might get bombarded in our house, even before reaching Eid. Security or safety are like canceled concepts for them because of what is going on."
Cinematic sweep is hardwired into Band of Horses' sound: Ben Bridwell's voice always seems to be echoing through some canyon or other, whether the guitars are chiming to the rafters or drifting along drowsily. The group's most recent records, Infinite Arms and Mirage Rock, have tended toward the latter half of that equation, but Band of Horses remains versatile in tone, especially onstage.
Open-air festivals often bring out the group's anthemic energy — whether in plugged-in workouts or in an acoustic configuration like the one heard in Band of Horses' recent live album, Acoustic at the Ryman. Hear the band perform as part of the 2014 Newport Folk Festival, recorded live on Friday, July 25 in Newport, R.I.
- "St. Augustine"
- "Part One"
- "Weed Party"
- "Everything's Gonna Be Undone"
- "The Great Salt Lake"
- "Is There A Ghost"
- "No One's Gonna Love You"
- "Islands On The Coast"
- "The General Specific"
- "Ode To LRC"
- "The Funeral"
- "Am I A Good Man?"
When scientists talk about the destruction of rain forests or the acidification of oceans, we often hear about the tragic loss of plants and animals.
But ecologists at the University of California, Berkeley, say there's also a human tragedy that frequently goes unnoticed: As fish and fauna are wiped out, more children around the world are forced to work. And more people are forced into indentured servitude, scientists wrote Thursday in the journal Science.
"My students, postdocs and I spent a year stepping back and trying to connect the dots between wildlife decline and human exploitation," says ecologist Justin Brashares, who led the study. "We found about 50 examples around the world."
One those examples made international headlines in June when the Guardian published a report about slavery in the Thai shrimping industry.
"Large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns," the British newspaper reported. These shrimp are "sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco," the report said.
The world's food supply, both here in the U.S. and abroad, is increasingly connected to child labor and human trafficking, Brashares says. And the problems isn't just in the fishing industry or large supply chains that stock megagrocery stores. Many of the world's poorest people are turning to exploitative labor practices to earn a living and feed their families as traditional sources of food disappear.
Wild animals, both on land and in the sea, provide incomes for about 15 percent of the world's population, Brashares and his team wrote. These animals are also the main source of protein for many of these people.
"We have more than one billion people on our planet whose livelihood and survival is tied to rapidly declining resources," Brashares says. "They're not going to take it lying down, nor should they."
As the fish in the ocean decline and forests are destroyed, families have to work harder and harder to get the same nutrition or wages. For instance, many communities in West Africa have hunted animals in local forests for thousands of years. Because of deforestation, now many hunters there must travel for days to find prey, Brashares and his team wrote in Science.
To make up for these extra costs, hunters and fishermen around the world have increasingly turned to cheaper labor. In many cases that ends up being children or people in desperate situations.
"Child labor and slavery is exploding because the time needed to catch fish [or hunt animals] has gone up exponentially," Brashares says.
But many policies and laws aimed at stopping these abuses focus on stopping traffickers, instead of trying to fix the source of the problem, he says. "The government's strategy of tracking down key traffickers and arresting them is missing the scale of the problem, and the underlying issues driving them: The rapid destruction of wildlife."
Brashares thinks biologists need to work together with politicians, economists and social scientists to figure out ways to slow down the destruction of the environment. At the same time, communities that depend on local wildlife for food and income should have the rights to these natural resources, he says.
"We need to target areas where we know reliance one wildlife is the largest," Brashares says. "Then local communities need to have tenure rights to these animals. This strategy may be working against the U.S. economically in the short term, but in the long term, it's a no-brainer for the world."
For a second day in a row, Dutch and Australian experts were unable to reach the debris field left by downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.
CNN reports that team members were attempting to make their way to the area when they heard explosions and were told there was heavy fighting, so they turned back. The network adds:
"Among other things, the team had hoped to work on the retrieval of human remains from the fields strewn with wreckage from the passenger jet, which had 298 people on board when it was brought down by a suspected surface-to-air missile on July 17.
"The team of observers, investigators and experts had anticipated getting good access to the site after negotiating with both sides in the conflict, said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission, before the team was forced to turn back.
"Ukrainian government forces have been battling pro-Russian rebels in the region for months, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Now, as Ukrainian troops attempt to cut off access to Donetsk, fighting is heading north, closer to the crash site, which sits amid rebel-held territory."
Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, there are two headlines:
— Bloomberg reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, said Germany wants the European Union to agree on new sanctions against Russia.
As we've reported, the United States says it has found no evidence of direct involvement by the Russians in downing the passenger plane, but American officials say the missile system used was Russian-made.
— U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says the downing of MH17 may be a war crime.
"Pillay's comments coincided with a new report by her office that says at least 1,129 people had been killed and 3,442 wounded in Ukraine's fighting as of Saturday, and more than 100,000 have fled the violence since April.
"'This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime,' Pillay said of the downed jetliner, which U.S. and Ukrainian officials say was shot down by a missile from rebel territory, most likely by mistake.
" 'It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event,' she said."