TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 20

1. Smart labels that monitor food can reduce food-related illness and waste.

By Adrienne LeFrance in the Atlantic

2. With a “Right to Work” law that lets refugees earn a living, Uganda avoids the pitfalls of wartime migration. Other countries can too.

By Gregory Warner in National Public Radio

3. Integrate the protests: Why Ferguson needs a “Freedom Summer.”

By Jay Caspian Kang in the New Yorker

4. To deter Putin and defuse the crisis in Ukraine, policymakers must be creative, strategic and collaborative.

By David Ignatius in the Washington Post

5. Extra ISP fees for companies like Netflix only stifle Internet innovation.

By Reed Hastings in Wired

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Uganda

Lawyer Who Led Challenge of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law: ‘Long, Long Way to Go’

Uganda Gays
A Ugandan homosexual photographed in a safe-house at an undisclosed location in Uganda, in March 2014. AP

Nicholas Opiyo talks human rights, the U.S.'s role in his country's morality-politics, and what's next for LGBT rights in Uganda

Nicholas Opiyo, the lawyer who led a constitutional challenge of Uganda’s anti-gay law, says that while the days of gays, lesbians and transgendered people getting publicly flogged may be gone, ongoing acts of discrimination against LGBT Ugandans keep him pushing for equal rights in the East African nation.

“That is what is most scary,” Opiyo told TIME. “The unseen, the unreported, the unwritten discrimination in the shop you go to, in the medical center you go to, on the bus you take or on the motor bike you take into town. That breaks your spirit.”

In March, just days after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the restrictive bill that punished gays with life imprisonment as punishment for their sexual activities, Opiyo and a group of Ugandan activists and lawyers challenged the law in court. On August 1, they found success through a somewhat unusual means: Uganda’s constitutional court declared the law null and void because Parliament didn’t have a quorum when it was passed.

While the law was stricken down on account of a technicality, and lawmakers said Tuesday they had the votes necessary to re-pass the bill, activists have declared the court’s decision a victory, albeit only one step in an ongoing battle. For Opiyo, who says he grew up wanting to stand up for the underprivileged, the decision to join the fight for LGBT rights in the country was simple.

“I’m a human rights lawyer,” said Opiyo, the executive director of Ugandan human rights organization Chapter Four. “This is human rights. You’re talking about the right to associate; the right to choose your partner; the right to love who you want to love. These are human rights. To call it LGBTI rights is misleading.”

Having traveled to Washington, D.C. for the U.S.-Africa summit, Opiyo said that though he was able to meet with human rights workers, lawmakers and other stakeholders in the global fight for equality, the summit itself was a missed opportunity to have substantial conversations about the struggles Africans are facing across the continent on a daily basis.

The following Q&A is a sampling of the conversation between TIME and Opiyo. It has been condensed and edited for space.

TIME: What would you say the status of LGBT rights is in Uganda in the wake of last’s week’s decision?

Opiyo: Nothing has changed much. The deep sense of homophobia in Uganda remains unchanged. In any case, it’s only been made worse by this ruling, because the debate has been reopened in a more bitter and fierce manner than we’ve seen before. To be positive, certain incidental things that are good will happen because of the ruling. First, individuals and organizations that have been facing arrest, intimidation or investigation will now have all those cases against them dropped, because the very foundation for these cases has now been declared unlawful. Organizations that have been closed under the [Anti-Homosexuality Act] will now have their operations resume without the fear of the law constricting their work. Even if parliament is resolved, as they are now, to reintroduce the law … they will at least pay attention, some attention to the issues that we have raised in our petition, and perhaps have a somewhat watered down or even—I’m hoping—progressive law in that regard.

This law was one of a couple of instances of morality politics coming into play in Uganda. What do you think the draw is to laws like this in Uganda and across Africa?

There has been a growing influence of American evangelical ideologies in the policies of government in Uganda. The examples are plenty in Uganda—in the HIV/AIDS campaign, Uganda was praised for its response to the HIV/AIDS campaign because it had the message for condom use. When the Christian evangelists got a foothold in influencing government, the policies changed from condom use to abstinence and being faithful. Condoms were “by-the-way;” that was the influence of what we call in Uganda people who are saved. If you look at the laws that have passed since then, whether it is a media law or an NGO law, it has a strong element of public morality. That’s new, what seems to be in my view, a moralization of the legislation process. They have a strong foothold in government mainly because the Pentecostal movement is a big movement. They have numbers, they have young people, and they have a huge following. Politicians like numbers.

Is there a benefit to having this influence? And if not, what is the downside?

Not every Ugandan is Christian. Not every Ugandan subscribes to the moral values. We’re supposed to be a secular state, but we are drifting away from being a secular state to a state driven largely by religious values and thinking, and that for me is a huge downside. What happens to people who don’t believe in those values? What happens to atheists? What happens to Muslims? It creates a society where there is a majority that wants to impose their values and systems onto the whole community.

But faith can be a force for good. Faith can be an avenue for the delivery of services; many parts of our country that were under war survived because faith organizations were able to stay through the conflict and provide support—that’s the upside. But in my view I think the downside is extremely dangerous.

What role does the American government play in all of this? Can the American government in any way step in, interject?

The people who advocated for the AHA were motivated by, financed by, American evangelicals. It’s an American group driving this debate at home. This debate was not a popular debate. It was not an issue in Uganda because people in Uganda are struggling about food, employment, medical care, access to medical services, education—these are the things that occupy the people in my village, in my town. Not homosexuality—that was a non-issue. This issue was put in the national debate because of the influence of the American evangelical movement. The Americans brought this to our country they’ve got to sort themselves out back home, here, to ensure that the radical American preachers don’t spread hatred across the world.

Secondly, I think that the American government must understand that their response to this issue in Uganda at some point escalated this debate and shifted the narrative of this debate from being a human rights issue to a new colonial attempt by Americans to impose their values on Ugandans. The politicians are very quick to pounce on that. The debate shifted to America versus Uganda, not about Ugandan people who face discrimination every day. The American government can redefine this narrative by given prominence to local leaders. This is a Ugandan problem. Ugandans must find the solution to it.

What is it like working on the ground, addressing the issue of LGBT rights? How is it received?

It’s very very tough. It’s not exciting. You’ve got to have a lot of courage to stay your course. People will throw insults at you—you just have to go to my Facebook page to see the amount of insults people are throwing at me on Facebook, on Twitter. It’s difficult. People begin to put pressure on your family, on your relatives and that translates to pressure on you as a person. It’s extremely difficult. I haven’t felt physically insecure, but I felt the narrative vibe coming my way.

The height of it was in March this year, I was the Secretary General of the Bar Association of Kampala, I was in charge of managing all the affairs of all the lawyers in Uganda. At the annual meeting, a group called “The Ugandan Christian Lawyers Association” launched a campaign against me because of my involvement in this case and made sure I was booted out of the law society. Those things have happened, but in my view it is no way close to the pain and suffering that members of the community are going through. It’s not even half of it.

What makes you stay the course?

This is human rights. This is not a special category of rights. You’re talking about the right to associate; the right to choose your partner; the right to love who you want to love. These are human rights. To call it LGBTI rights is misleading. I’ve always been a human rights lawyer. I grew up in a war-torn area in Northern Uganda. I’ve been in a very underprivileged position, but I’ve always wanted to do something about it. I thought at first I should be a journalist, but I figured out writing alone doesn’t help. So I figured I should be a lawyer and here I am.

For me, whether you’re LGBTI, whether you’re a disabled person, whether you’re a woman, anybody whose rights are being abused. I will always defend your rights because to me they are human rights. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for people supporting my family and people supporting what they believed was good. It is less prestigious, but I derive immense pleasure from seeing somebody walk free after being intimidated or being arrested.

Where’s the disconnect between understanding the benefits of human rights and the impact that equality can have on the people of Uganda—like you mentioned—how do these multiple issues play hand-in-hand?

In terms of LGBTI issues in Uganda, I think the discussion has been presented in a way that they’re separate. When you talk about health care, you aren’t talking about LGBTI rights. The discussion hasn’t been–there’s no interplay. We’ve tended to compartmentalize these issues. There hasn’t been a wholistic approach to this issue—even those working on this issue tend to look at it from a very narrow lens as opposed to an overall issue of discrimination. We’ve done a lot of work around discrimination against women, against persons with disabilities, and stigma around HIV/AIDS—you’d think that the same momentum would be applied on this issue, but it is not because people tend to look at it from different lenses, but in my view it is not. In my view that’s not helpful. In my view, there needs to be a consistent, overall approach to human rights no matter who the human being is.

This week was the U.S.-Africa summit. A couple of years back, President Barack Obama said Africa needs “strong institutions, not strongmen.” A number of people, including Daniel Bekele of Human Rights Watch, said this week’s summit should be about more than paying lip service to human rights. How do you think this conference succeeded in doing that and how do you think it failed?

This conference seemed to be more focused on issues of securities and investments, at least the ones I’ve taken part in, there has not been a meaningful engagement between civil society and those working on human rights issues and the heads of states. The thing about the heads of states, they did not engage enough on the issues of human rights. Yes, in the final press statement President Obama talked about good governance, rule of law, but it appears to me the focus has been on economics. In that room were leaders of the continent who have questionable human rights records, it would have sent a strong message if these leaders were excluded from this conference or excluded from relations of dealing with the American government.

How do you not invite Mugabe but invite Jammeh of the Gambia? What’s the difference? They are all dictators. They have been in power for over 30 years. I think the American government needs to focus on dealing with human rights as a core function of their foreign policy towards the African continent, and must not put economic and security interests above human rights issues. I thought in this summit the discussion about human rights has been very, very light.

When do you think gays, lesbians, transgendered people will be completely safe in Uganda? How long do you think that will take?

That is difficult to tell, precisely because the sense of homophobia, the sense of discrimination is so deeply entrenched. It’s going to be a long journey that will require patience; that will require deliberate actions on the part of both sides of the debate. But ultimately it’s going to take the commitment of the politicians and the leaders to reshape the narrative and the debate in our country. There has to be an honest debate within the faith community on this matter. In much the same way that they’re having an honest debate about the rights of women—that debate must come out. As long as the leaders are playing by the popular sentiment and not enforcing the values and obligations that signed up to do in their various human rights instruments this matter will still be delayed. It’s a long, long way to go. I can’t put a number to it but I think that it’s going to be a long walk and a difficult one at that.

TIME Foreign Policy

The U.S. Will Spend $110 Million a Year on African Peacekeeping Efforts

Uganda
A soldier from the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) engages in weapons training at the Singo training facility in Kakola, Uganda Monday, April 30, 2012. The camp provides different training courses run by the U.S. Marines and also by instructors contracted by the U.S. State Department. Ben Curtis—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The plan is to help fund African rapid-response forces that will deal with armed Islamist groups

Correction appended, Aug. 7

During the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington on Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled plans to invest $110 million annually over the next three to five years to help six African countries create rapid-response forces, Reuters reports.

At a summit news conference, Obama said the funds the funds would boost African Union and U.N. operations in crisis spots around the continent, using peacekeepers from Ethiopia, Uganda, Senegal, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana.” Obama said that the funds are meant to remedy the current “gap in systematically supporting these peacekeepers to help them deploy more quickly.”

The U.S. has become more involved in supporting African military efforts to combat Islamic extremists recently, training over a quarter-million African police and military.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., added that the U.S. hoped to create “troop-contributing countries” that would fight off extremist groups like al-Shabab, al-Qaeda affiliates and Boko Haram, which has killed over 10,000 people since it began its uprising in Nigeria in 2009.

Obama also announced intentions to spend an initial $65 million on strengthening security efforts in Niger, Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Kenya. Along with the funding, Obama unveiled a plan called the Security Governance Initiative, which will help bolster security sectors and other infrastructures that offer crises resolution in Africa.

[Reuters]

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified countries as crisis zones where African Union and United Nations peacekeepers would be deployed.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 5

1. The grinding stress of life in poverty – not the scarcity of healthy options – leads the poor to unhealthy eating.

By James McWilliams in Pacific Standard

2. Cutting out the middlemen: Loan servicers aggravate the college debt crisis.

By Chris Hicks in the Reuters Great Debate

3. We must treat addiction as a learning disorder.

By Maia Szalavitz in Substance

4. Stop trying to be the “next Silicon Valley.”

By Ross Baird and Rob Lalka in Forbes

5. A first step: The Ugandan Constitutional Court strikes down that country’s vicious anti-gay law, but more fight remains.

By James K. Arinaitwe and Adebisi Alimi from the Aspen New Voices Fellowship

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Uganda

Uganda Court Throws Out Anti-Gay Law on Technicality

Supporters of the anti-gay law prepare for a procession backing the signing of the anti-gay bill into law, in Kampala
Supporters of the anti-gay law prepare for a procession backing the signing of the anti-gay bill into law, in Uganda's capital Kampala March 31, 2014. Edward Echwalu —Reuters

Judges say the legislature didn’t have a quorum when the bill was passed into law

Uganda’s Constitutional Court invalidated the country’s controversial anti-gay law Friday, finding that the legislature violated its own procedural rules when passing the bill earlier this year.

The five-judge panel found that the speaker of the parliament did not have a quorum—sufficient members present—to vote on the bill. At least three objections were made over a lack of quorum when the bill was passed, the Associated Press reports.

“The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum,” the court wrote in its decision. “We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally.”

The decision vacates a controversial law that imposes potentially lifelong prison sentences for having homosexual intercourse, as well as lengthy sentences for “attempted homosexuality” and “promotion of homosexuality.” The law enjoyed widespread support in Uganda but was condemned by Western countries and civil rights groups, many of whom have cheered the court’s decision.

An attorney for the state said it hasn’t yet been decided whether the decision will be appealed to the country’s Supreme Court.

[AP]

TIME Uganda

Uganda Court Invalidates Anti-Gay Law

(KAMPALA, Uganda) — A Ugandan court on Friday invalidated an anti-gay bill signed into law earlier this year, saying it was illegally passed and is therefore unconstitutional.

The panel of five judges on the East African country’s Constitutional Court said the speaker of parliament acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure despite at least three objections over lack of a quorum.

“The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum,” the court said in its ruling. “We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally.”

The ruling was made before a courtroom packed with Ugandans opposing or supporting the measure. Activists erupted in loud cheers after the court ruled the law is now “null and void.”

Ugandan lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, an attorney for the activists, said the ruling “upholds the rule of law and constitutionalism in Uganda.”

Kosiya Kasibayo, a state attorney, said a decision had not been made on whether to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court.

The anti-gay measure provided for jail terms of up to life for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. It also allowed lengthy jail terms for those convicted of the offenses of “attempted homosexuality” as well as “promotion of homosexuality.”

Although the legislation has wide support in Uganda, it has been condemned in the West and rights groups have described it as draconian. The U.S., which wants the law repealed, has withheld or redirected funding to some Ugandan institutions accused of involvement in rights abuses.

The law was passed by lawmakers in December and enacted in February by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who said he wanted to deter Western groups from promoting homosexuality among African children.

TIME Uganda

U.S. Embassy Warns of Attack at Uganda’s International Airport

Airport Departure Lounge
Yongyuan Dai—Getty Images

"According to intelligence sources there is a specific threat to attack Entebbe International Airport by an unknown terrorist group today."

The U.S. Embassy in Uganda warned of a “specific threat to attack” the country’s only international airport Thursday evening.

The warning, posted to the Embassy website, says the Ugandan Police Force provided the embassy with information about a possible attack by an “unknown terrorist group” planned for between 9 and 11 p.m. local time at Entebbe International Airport, about 20 miles from the capital of Kampala.

“Individuals planning travel through the airport this evening may want to review their plans in light of this information,” the statement says.

Uganda is one of several countries, including neighboring Kenya, that have sent troops to bolster the government in Somalia. That’s put it in the sights of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, which opposes the military presence in Somalia. In 2010, an attack orchestrated by al-Shabab in Kampala killed at least 74 people. Last year, Shaaab militants stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, killing 67 people.

The statement from the Embassy also warned of the overarching terrorist threat in Uganda.

“U.S. Embassy Kampala wishes to remind U.S. citizens of the continued threat of potential terrorist attacks in the country,” the statement said. “The targets for these attacks could include hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls, diplomatic missions, transportation hubs, religious institutions, government offices, or public transportation.”

TIME Uganda

U.S. Takes Action Against Uganda Over Anti-Homosexuality Law

People stand on a float holding signs saying 'Love Uganda, hate homophobia' in reaction to Uganda's law banning homosexuality in Cape Town, South Africa, on March 1, 2014.
People stand on a float holding signs saying 'Love Uganda, hate homophobia' in reaction to Uganda's law banning homosexuality in Cape Town, South Africa, on March 1, 2014. Jennifer Bruce—AFP/Getty Images

NSC spokesperson announced a range of sanctions targeted at Ugandans involved in human rights abuses and corruption

The United States unveiled a range of measures Thursday intended to punish Uganda for its worsening crackdown on homosexuals.

The White House canceled a joint military exercise due to be held there, and announced it would impose harsher visa restrictions on Ugandans involved in human rights abuses and corruption, and cut or redirect funds for a number of aid programs in Uganda.

“As President Obama has stated, the Government of Uganda’s enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) runs counter to universal human rights and complicates our bilateral relationship,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “We announced in April a series of initial responses, and we have since considered how further to reinforce our support for human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Senior administration officials told Reuters that the new measures will not affect HIV/AIDS and food programs that help local Ugandans, adding that the steps were specifically targeted at Ugandans involved in implementing the anti-gay law and ones guilty of corruption.

Hayden noted in the statement that the steps will not hinder the U.S.’s cooperation with the Ugandan government in countering the Lord’s Resistance Army—a militant movement accused of numerous human rights violations—and improving general security in Africa.

Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo told Reuters on Thursday that the announced cuts will not cause the government to amend its anti-gay laws.

“Uganda is a sovereign country and can never bow to anybody or be blackmailed by anybody on a decision it took in its interests, even if it involves threats to cut off all financial assistance,” he said.

Ugandan president Yoweri Musevini signed the anti-gay bill into law in February. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, but the Anti-Homosexuality Act imposes a life sentence for repeat offenders guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.”

TIME Research

Researchers Hope ‘Super Bananas’ Will Combat Vitamin A Deficiency

If approved for cultivation, the genetically engineered fruit could revolutionize child health in much of the developing world

+ READ ARTICLE

Genetically engineered bananas, packed with micronutrients, are to undergo their first human trial in the United States to test their ability to battle rampant vitamin A deficiency — a large cause of infant death and blindness throughout low-income communities around the world.

“The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire with 650,000 to 700,000 children worldwide dying … each year and at least another 300,000 going blind,” the project leader, Professor James Dale from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, told AFP.

The six-week trial backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation expects to have results by the end of the year and plans to have the bananas growing in Uganda by 2020.

Standard Ugandan bananas provide sustenance to East Africa but have low levels of nutrients such as iron and vitamin A. “Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food,” said Dale.

Researchers infused the staple crop in Uganda with alpha- and beta-carotene — which the body turns into vitamin A — as an easy solution to the problem that plagues the country, but the same modification could be used on different crops as well. If the bananas are approved for growth in Uganda, other staple crops in Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya could also be engineered with micronutrients.

“In West Africa farmers grow plantain bananas and the same technology could easily be transferred to that variety as well,” Dale said.

[AFP]

TIME Uganda

Ugandan Nurse Jailed for Negligence Over HIV Exposure

Ugandan nurse Rosemary Namubiru sits at the dock at the Buganda Road Magistrates Court on May 19, 2014 in Kampala during a ruling on a case where she was charged with "Criminal Negligence" and sentenced to 3 years in prison after she was found guilty by the Ugandan court.
Ugandan nurse Rosemary Namubiru sits at the dock at the Buganda Road Magistrates Court on May 19, 2014 in Kampala during a ruling on a case where she was charged with "Criminal Negligence" and sentenced to 3 years in prison after she was found guilty by the Ugandan court. Isaax Kasamni—AFP/Getty Images

Rosemary Namubiru, who is HIV positive, claims she accidentally used a needle that she had pricked herself with on a baby, whose tests have not yet shown an infection as a result. Authorities found her guilty of negligence and sentenced her to three years in jail

Correction appended, May 22, 2014

A Ugandan nurse was sentenced on Monday to three years in jail for criminal negligence involving HIV exposure.

The court found Rosemary Namubiru, who is HIV positive herself, guilty of exposing a patient to the virus, the Associated Press reports.

Namubiru has maintained her innocence, saying she accidentally pricked herself with a needle she then used to give a baby an injection. The child’s mother realized the needle had not been changed and alerted authorities, after which Namubiru was immediately arrested. According to court records, two tests have shown the child was not infected with HIV. The nurse was denied bail as a magistrate ruled she posed a danger to the public.

International activists claimed Namubiru was the victim of discrimination because she is HIV positive, and said that her trial was unwarranted. Uganda is one of the 60 countries that criminalizes the intentional transmission of HIV. According to the Ugandan Ministry of Health, 7.3%of the population is HIV positive.

[AP]

Correction: The original version of this story misstated that Rosemary Namubiru intentionally spread HIV to a patient. She was found guilty of criminal negligence.

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