GlobalPost - Home C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en Here's what's left of Kobani, the Syrian border town wrecked by the Islamic State (PHOTOS) <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Syrian town has paid a high price for liberation from the Islamic State. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>This is Kobani. Or what&rsquo;s left of it.</p> <p>The Syrian town, which is located on the Turkish border, is in ruins after several months of fierce fighting between US-backed Kurdish forces and Islamic State (IS) that left hundreds of people dead.</p> <p>Relentless shelling, bombings and airstrikes have destroyed buildings. Abandoned cars and mortar shells litter the streets. Electricity and running water are non-existent.</p> <p>Yet the Kurdish fighters who declared victory over the IS insurgents earlier this week are <a href="" target="_blank">celebrating.</a> They have been firing their weapons into the air and dancing in the streets. After <a href="" target="_blank">four months</a> under siege, their city is liberated.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">How the Islamic State was halted in Kobani</a></strong></p> <p>While relative peace may have been restored to Kobani, the fight against the IS is far from over. The IS has been pushed out, but not defeated.</p> <p>The US and its allies have launched multiple <a href="" target="_blank">airstrikes</a> against IS forces around Kobani in recent days, while Kurdish <a href="" target="_blank">peshmerga fighters</a> from northern Iraq have reportedly been attacking IS strongholds in nearby villages.&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the ongoing fighting in the area, many of the <a href="" target="_blank">200,000</a> refugees who were forced to flee across the border into Turkey are desperate to <a href="" target="_blank">return</a> to see what&rsquo;s left of their former lives.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Meet the Yazidi family heading the fight against the Islamic State</a></strong></p> <p>But before anyone can even think about rebuilding homes, businesses, schools and hospitals, fighting has to stop and the bodies of fighters and <a href="" target="_blank">unexploded</a> bombs strewn throughout the town removed. And that will take time.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to talk about any reconstruction at this stage. It will take a long time before people can safely move in, and we need help from the international community,&rdquo; <a href="" target="_blank">said Idres Nassan</a>, a senior Kobani official.</p> <p>It&#39;s hard to know where they would even begin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> &nbsp;</div> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption">AFP/Getty Images&nbsp;</span></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> &nbsp;</div> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> &nbsp;</div> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption"> </span> <span class="inline_image-src"> AFP/Getty Images </span></p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption"> </span> <span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images </span><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption"> </span> <span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images </span><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption"> </span> <span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images </span><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption"> </span> <span class="inline_image-src">AFP/Getty Images </span></p> Syria Want to Know Thu, 29 Jan 2015 21:52:29 +0000 Allison Jackson 6380049 at Watch footage of the gunman who briefly took over a Dutch TV studio <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Crisis averted... </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>It&#39;s been just three weeks since the attack on Charlie Hedbo, so it&#39;s unnerving to learn that a gunman in the Netherlands on Thursday forced himself into a TV studio at Dutch national broadcaster NOS and demanded to be put on TV.</p> <p>So don&#39;t worry, everything is fine.</p> <p>The story is still developing, but the <a href="">BBC has the main details</a>.</p> <p>Apparently, the man &mdash; wearing a suit and tie and looking, you&#39;ve got to admit, rather dapper &mdash; showed up at NOS and demanded that a guard bring him to the studio where the main evening news was being broadcast live. The guard brought him to a different studio instead.</p> <p>Here&#39;s what the studio&#39;s camera recorded.</p> <div gp-youtube-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p>It&#39;s not clear what the man&#39;s motivations were, but he reportedly gave a list of demands and asked to be put on air.</p> <p>He also <a href="">mentioned</a> being part of a hacker collective and claimed he&#39;d been hired by intelligence services.</p> <p>NOS went down for around thirty minutes and then broadcast the footage from the incident.</p> <p>Here&#39;s <a href="">their account of the incident</a>.</p> Evening News Strange But True Europe Thu, 29 Jan 2015 21:19:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6380075 at EU foreign ministers agree to extend Russian sanctions <!--paging_filter--><p>European Union foreign ministers proposed on Thursday that the bloc extend asset freezes and travel bans to further individuals deemed responsible for hostilities in eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>&quot;We have decided to have a proposal within one week of further names of individuals and entities to be added to this list. That decision will be taken at the next foreign affairs on February 9, so in 10 days,&quot; EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference.</p> <p>Mogherini also said any decision on new economic sanctions would have to be decided by EU leaders.</p> <p>(Reporting by Adrian Croft and Robin Emmott, writing by Philip Blenkinsop)</p> Need to Know Europe Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:02:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6379929 at Survivors say Iraqi forces watched as Shia militias executed 72 Sunnis <!--paging_filter--><p>Survivors tell the same story: they were taken from their homes by men in uniform; heads down and linked together, then led in small groups to a field, made to kneel, and selected to be shot one by one.</p> <p>Accounts by five witnesses interviewed separately by Reuters provide a picture of alleged executions in the eastern village of Barwanah on Monday, which residents and provincial officials say left at least 72 unarmed Iraqis dead.</p> <p>The witnesses identified the killers as a collection of Shia militias and security force elements.</p> <p>Iraqi security and government officials have disputed the accounts, with some saying radical militants from Islamic State could have perpetrated the killings.</p> <p>The government said on Wednesday it was opening a probe into the killings.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Think the Islamic State is bad? Check out the &#39;good guys&#39;</a></strong></p> <p>&quot;The prime minister has ordered an urgent investigation and we are awaiting the results,&quot; said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi&#39;s spokesman, Rafid Jaboori. &quot;I don&#39;t want to come to any conclusions now. When the results of this investigation come out, we will have a full picture.&quot;</p> <p>Iraq&#39;s Shia-led government, backed by US-led airstrikes, has been trying to push back Islamic State since it swept through northern Iraq in June.</p> <p>Monday&#39;s alleged massacre followed a three-day offensive in which Shia militias and Iraqi security forces captured two dozen villages from Islamic State near the town of Muqdadiya in Diyala province.</p> <p>Since September, hundreds of civilians have fled to Barwanah&#39;s relative safety from fighting in Sinsil, about 3 miles to the southwest, and other nearby villages.</p> <p><strong>Taken out and shot</strong></p> <p>Abu Omar, a businessman displaced from Sinsil, was at home in Barwanah on Monday around 3:30 p.m. when about 10 Humvees arrived carrying a few dozen men.</p> <p>Black and brown uniforms suggested some were affiliated with Shia militias and government security forces; others appeared to be civilians.</p> <p>They dragged residents up to age 70 from their homes, beating and cursing them with sectarian slurs, Abu Omar told Reuters by phone.</p> <p>He said the fighters took the men&#39;s mobiles and ID cards, then bound their hands, tying Abu Omar to his 12-year-old mentally ill son with rope. They did the same with his two older sons and three brothers.</p> <p>The men were led a few hundred yards to a field where Abu Omar said more than a hundred others had been gathered.</p> <p>For about two hours, they were forced to kneel and stare at the ground as the fighters selected their targets and led them to a spot behind a mud wall.</p> <p>&quot;They took them behind the wall. Less than a minute, then a gunshot,&quot; said Abu Omar. &quot;All we could hear was the gunshots. We couldn&#39;t see.&quot;</p> <p>Survivors say victims were taken also to alleyways, houses, behind a mosque, or an area used to collect garbage, and then shot.</p> <p>Abu Maz&#39;el, 25, a farmer from Sinsil who was displaced to Barwanah five months ago, gave Reuters nearly identical testimony.</p> <p>He said some of the fighters wore green headbands emblazoned with the name Hussein, a defining figure in Shia history.</p> <p>They took him and his cousin from their home to the field, walking single file, heads down, with their hands on the other men&#39;s shoulders.</p> <p>Kneeling beside his 35-year-old cousin, Abu Maz&#39;el heard others beg for their lives as the gunmen dragged them off and shot them.</p> <p>&quot;My cousin raised his head, so someone slapped him,&quot; he said. &quot;Five minutes later, they came and took him away and executed him.&quot;</p> <p><strong>&#39;Falling like dominos&#39; &nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Diyala has been plagued by sectarian violence with Islamic State and Shia militias fighting for control of the strategic region northeast of Baghdad.</p> <p>Sunni militants carry out frequent suicide bombings and assassinations. In turn, Shia militias have been accused of carrying out killings of Sunnis, including two other mass atrocities in Diyala in the last year.</p> <p>Monday&#39;s alleged massacre happened in the presence of Iraqi security forces, compounding Sunni doubts about Baghdad&#39;s control over the militias, which took the lead in battling Islamic State after the Iraqi army nearly collapsed last summer.</p> <p>Abdullah al-Jubouri, a 23-year-old college graduate who fled to Barwanah from Sinsil a month ago, said the army let him go when they came to his house on Monday. Other witnesses told Reuters that soldiers stood by helplessly, some crying, as the militias executed civilians.</p> <p>Jubouri told Reuters he fled when he saw Humvees entering Barwanah and hid in a pile of garbage. He watched as a group of soldiers and militiamen near the school fired at a line of 13 men, some with their hands bound.</p> <p>&quot;I saw them falling like domino pieces,&quot; he said.</p> <p><strong>Surrounded</strong></p> <p>Jubouri said he heard shots and screams until about 7 p.m., when the vehicles left. He discovered a neighbor and his two sons among the bodies by the school.</p> <p>Women and children emerged to cover the men&#39;s bodies. Some spent the night in the streets mourning the dead.</p> <p>Jubouri said he found the body of another neighbor outside his house with bullet wounds to his head and chest. He saw bodies with similar wounds in the field and in five separate streets throughout the village.</p> <p>Abu Omar, the businessman, returned home after the fighters withdrew, and was reunited with his sons. He later found six brothers also from Sinsil had been killed, one at his home and the others behind the mud wall in the field.</p> <p>A cosmetics salesman and four teachers were killed in the field, along with three other brothers and their cousin, Abu Omar said.</p> <p>Haqqi al-Jobouri, a Sunni member of the Diyala provincial council, told Reuters at least 72 men were killed in Barwanah on Monday. He said 35 others were missing and suspected detained by the militias.</p> <p>Sajid al-Anbuki, a Shia member of the same body, urged restraint in drawing conclusions ahead of the government&#39;s investigation.</p> <p>&quot;If it revealed that those men executed were terrorists, then we don&#39;t have any problem because in this case they got what they deserve,&quot; he told Reuters.</p> <p>&quot;If the findings prove they were civilians, then justice should be done and those who did it must be arrested.&quot;</p> <p>In the meantime, remaining residents of Barwanah fear further violence. They told Reuters the same militias and security forces encircled the village late on Monday, preventing anyone from leaving.</p> <p>&quot;We have been surrounded for days,&quot; said Abu Ahmed, 27, another survivor from Sinsil. &quot;We have no food. We have nothing.&quot;</p> <p>(Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Giles Elgood)</p> Need to Know Iraq Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:54:38 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6379780 at Islamic State purportedly sets new deadline for hostage swap <!--paging_filter--><p>An audio message purportedly from a Japanese journalist held by Islamic State militants said a Jordanian air force pilot also captured by the group would be killed unless a woman jailed in Jordan was released by sunset on Thursday.</p> <p>The message postponed a previous deadline set on Tuesday in which the journalist, Kenji Goto, said he would be killed within 24 hours if the Iraqi would-be suicide bomber in prison in Jordan was not freed.</p> <p>Roughly an hour before the new deadline was due to pass, government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said Jordan was still holding Sajida al-Rishawi, who is on death row for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack that killed 60 people in Amman.</p> <p>&quot;We want proof ... that the pilot is alive so that we can proceed with what we said yesterday - exchanging the prisoner with our pilot,&quot; Momani told Reuters.</p> <p>The pilot, Muath al-Kasaesbeh, was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against Islamic State, which has seized large tracts of Syria and Iraq.</p> <p>&quot;...We have not received any evidence that Kasaesbeh is alive. This is what we asked and have not received any proof,&quot; Momani said.</p> <p>He said separately that Jordan was coordinating with Japanese authorities in an effort to secure the release of Goto, a veteran war reporter also being held by the radical Islamists.</p> <p>In the latest audio recording purportedly of Goto, he said that Kasaesbeh would be killed &quot;immediately&quot; if al-Rishawi was not at the Turkish border by sunset on Thursday, Iraq time, ready to be exchanged for the Japanese hostage.</p> <p>That would be some time around 0930 ET.</p> <p>The implication that the Jordanian pilot would not be part of an exchange deal has left Jordan in a difficult position.</p> <p>Any swap that left out the pilot would be deeply unpopular after officials insisted he was their priority, and could leave Amman subject to further demands from the militants.</p> <p>But refusing the insurgents&#39; ultimatum could heighten domestic opposition to Jordan&#39;s unpopular role in the US-led military campaign against Islamic state.</p> <p>Protests have erupted in Karak, hometown of the pilot, who is from an important Jordanian tribe that forms the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy.</p> <p><strong>Test for Abe</strong></p> <p>The hostage crisis is the biggest diplomatic test for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since he took office in 2012 pledging to play a bigger role in global security.</p> <p>Jordanian comments have raised concerns in Japan that Goto might no longer be part of any deal between Amman and Islamic State.</p> <p>&quot;Kenji has done nothing wrong,&quot; Goto&#39;s mother, Junko Ishido, told reporters. &quot;I hope he comes home safely, that&#39;s my only feeling as a mother.&quot;</p> <p>Abe said the government was making every effort to ensure Goto&#39;s early release.</p> <p>He reiterated that Japan would not give in to terrorism and Tokyo would keep cooperating with the international community.</p> <p>&quot;If we are too afraid of terrorism and give in to it, this will give rise to fresh terrorism against Japanese and it will become a world in which the will to carry out despicable violence has its own way,&quot; Abe told parliament. &quot;Such a thing is totally impermissible.&quot;</p> <p>The hostage crisis erupted after Abe, while on a tour of the Middle East, announced $200 million in non-military aid for countries contending with Islamic State, but his government has rejected any suggestion it acted rashly and stressed the assistance was humanitarian.</p> <p>Goto went to Syria in late October. According to friends and business associates, he was attempting to secure the release of Haruna Yukawa, his friend and fellow Japanese citizen who was captured by Islamic State in August.</p> <p>In the first video purportedly of Goto, released last week, a black-clad masked figure with a knife said Goto and Yukawa would be killed within 72 hours if Japan did not pay Islamic State $200 million.</p> <p>A video on Saturday appeared to show Goto with a picture of a decapitated Yukawa, saying his captors&#39; demands had switched to the release of al-Rishawi. Tuesday&#39;s video featured an audio track over a still picture that appeared to show Goto holding a picture of a now bearded Kasaesbeh.</p> <p>(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Elaine Lies in Tokyo, and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Nick Tattersall and Mike Collett-White)</p> Need to Know Japan Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:41:28 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6379707 at Gas truck blast rocks Mexico City hospital, killing 2 and injuring dozens <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Update: Officials have revised the death toll back down to two from earlier reports.</em></p> <p>MEXICO CITY &mdash; A gas truck explosion decimated large parts of a maternity hospital on the western edge of Mexico City on Thursday, killing one woman and a child and leaving dozens injured, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said.</p> <p>The head of national emergency services earlier said that seven people had died, but the death toll was revised down by Mancera, who said there had been confusion around the number.</p> <p>One of the people who was believed to have died was actually in very serious condition, he added.</p> <p>The explosion destroyed around 70 percent of the hospital and injured 66 people, 22 of them seriously, Mancera said. Three people have been detained for their roles in the gas truck explosion, and two of them have been hospitalized, he added.</p> <p>Several babies were found alive under the rubble. Scores of rescue workers continued digging through the concrete and twisted metal for survivors.</p> <p>People seeking information on family members gathered around police lines that were set up to keep bystanders away from the chaotic scene. Some of the injured were evacuated by helicopter, and aerial footage showed firefighters scrambling over the skeletal wreckage of the building.</p> <p>&quot;I am so worried about my sister. She&#39;s supposed to have given birth. We brought her in yesterday,&quot; said Monserrat Garduno, a 32-year-old nurse. &quot;They won&#39;t let us pass. I want to know how she is.&quot;</p> <p>Ambulances waited at the scene to treat survivors. Around 100 people were in the hospital at the time of the explosion, according to a city official.</p> <p>A leak in a hose from the truck, which was fueling the hospital&#39;s tanks, was believed to have triggered the explosion, officials said.</p> <p>&quot;They tried to stop the leak, but it was not possible,&quot; Mancera said.</p> <p>President Enrique Pena Nieto expressed sadness and solidarity with the families of the victims on Twitter.</p> <p>Many areas of Mexico City have no mains gas supply, and rely on deliveries from gas trucks. Mancera said the gas truck company involved had been working in Mexico City since 2007.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">#Lo&Uacute;ltimo</a>: Bomberos controlan la flama que resta en la pipa. Colocan l&aacute;minas <a href=""></a> <a href="">#Cuajimalpa</a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; (@Pajaropolitico) <a href="">January 29, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></p> Need to Know Mexico Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:26:00 +0000 Lizbeth Diaz and Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein, Thomson Reuters 6379685 at South African police officers accused of detaining women in order to rape them <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A new report reveals that a large number of police officers have been charged with crimes ranging from murder, armed robbery and rape. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Erin Conway-Smith </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JOHANNESBURG, South Africa &mdash; A report into crimes committed by South Africa&rsquo;s police force draws a disturbing picture: dozens of officers charged for the murders, armed robberies and rapes of citizens they are sworn to protect.</p> <p>Particularly worrying is the number of reported cases of police officers detaining women in order to rape them.</p> <p>&ldquo;These are not &lsquo;isolated incidents&rsquo; but a &lsquo;pattern of behavior,&rsquo;&rdquo; warns the &ldquo;Broken Blue Line&rdquo; report, released Wednesday by the Johannesburg-based Institute for Race Relations.</p> <p>&ldquo;Violent crime levels in South Africa won&rsquo;t turn around while the &lsquo;wolf guards the sheep.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p> <p>The study of 100 randomly selected media reports about alleged police crime was funded by Afriforum, an Afrikaner rights organization. Relatively petty offenses, such as bribe taking, were not considered.</p> <p>Of the 100 incidents described, 32 were murders and attempted murders, 22 were armed robberies, and 26 were rapes, in addition to other serious offenses. The results were then compared against two additional sources of information on disciplinary action against police officers implicated in crimes.</p> <p>According to the IRR, more than 1,400 serving police officers, or about one in 100, have a criminal record for serious, violent offenses.</p> <p>While South African Police Service management is trying to deal with the problem of criminality on the force, there appears to be limited success. A 2011 version of the &ldquo;Broken Blue Line&rdquo; report found similar results, including a major problem with sexual violence by police.</p> <p>The latest report describes &ldquo;significant evidence of a trend&rdquo; of police officers detaining women in order to rape them. South Africa has one of the highest recorded rates of rape in the world.</p> <p>In a number of incidents reported by media, a police officer would stop a young woman in a public place, before taking her away to be raped in the back of a police vehicle and then setting her free.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is often with good reason that the public fear the police, especially with regard to sexual violence and rape perpetrated by officers against vulnerable women &ndash; the most frightening finding of the report,&rdquo; the report said.</p> <p>South African police have faced numerous allegations of corruption and brutality in recent years.</p> <p>A two-year audit of the country&rsquo;s police service, released in 2013, found that of 157,500 officers, 1,448 of them had been convicted of crimes.</p> <p>Responding to the report, the South African Police Service criticized the methodology as containing &ldquo;dangerous generalizations, apparently mostly based on media reports, interviews with journalists and some form of engagement with the IPID [Independent Police Investigative Directorate, an independent oversight body].&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;We do not support it and feel that it was funded and released with malicious intent,&quot; Riah Phiyega, South Africa&rsquo;s national police commissioner, said in a statement.&nbsp;</p> Africa Need to Know South Africa Thu, 29 Jan 2015 14:01:00 +0000 Erin Conway-Smith 6378733 at In Ebola response, Big Pharma and public sector strive to make up for lost time <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A new US law could expedite vaccine development through public-private partnerships. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Rena Murray </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">By the time the first Ebola cases were diagnosed in the United States and Europe early last fall, the deadly, destructive disease had already killed <a href="">thousands</a> of people across five countries in West Africa.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Only then, with fears of a global epidemic spreading even more quickly than Ebola itself, did private pharmaceutical companies begin teaming up with government entities to move forward with developing an Ebola vaccine. The delayed response is an example of the diverging interests of public and private sectors when it comes to addressing a public health crisis, say experts from both sides.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">A new law passed by the US Congress last month aims to close this gap, providing government subsidies to private companies in order to expedite the development of an Ebola vaccine. Under the law, the <a href=" ">handful</a> of pharmaceutical companies currently racing to produce viable vaccine candidates could get their candidates to market within six months of finishing clinical trials. &nbsp;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">At a public lecture at Georgetown University this week, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim <a href="">underscored</a> the importance of public-private partnerships for responding to a health epidemic like Ebola.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&quot;The private sector does have a huge stake in helping us,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We need to get the people who are never in rooms together, to sit together. We have got to make sure that these conversations happen.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Still, some experts question whether the public-private partnership model will be successful in making a vaccine available to the poorest populations. They caution that when private companies get involved in public health, profit motives could dictate who ultimately benefits from the drugs.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;The [law] creates incentive for the private sector and doesn&rsquo;t ask anything in exchange,&rdquo; says Judit Rius, the access campaign manager of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a failure.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 15px; line-height: 20px;"><strong style="font-size: 15px; line-height: 20px;">A subsidy for private vaccine development</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The science and technology to produce an Ebola vaccine have existed for decades, experts say, but private companies never invested much in the effort because there was no profit to be made.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;The development of an Ebola vaccine was languishing because of a lack of a sustainable commercial market,&rdquo; says Aur&eacute;lia Nguyen, director of policy and market shaping at the GAVI Alliance, an international organization that purchases over a billion dollars worth of vaccines annually to inoculate the world&rsquo;s poorest communities.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The <a href="">new legislation</a> passed in December adds Ebola to an 8-year-old Food and Drug Administration program that incentivizes companies to develop drugs for neglected tropical diseases.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Under the Priority Review Voucher (PRV) program, first authorized by Congress in 2007, pharmaceutical companies can purchase vouchers for an expedited FDA review and get products on the market within six months of completed clinical trials. Although each voucher&rsquo;s cost &mdash; as much as $10 million &mdash; is significant for the pharmaceutical companies, the benefit of getting drugs to the market faster often outweighs it.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The vouchers are potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars and can be sold between companies. Last November, a PRV for the parasitic disease leishmaniasis was <a href=" ">sold</a> by Knight Therapeutics to Gilead Sciences for $125 million.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Proponents of the new law believe the vouchers will get the much-needed vaccines onto the market faster.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;[Ebola] is the closest thing we have to smallpox,&rdquo; says CDC spokesman Frank Mahoney.&ldquo;We have to get this back in the box or we&rsquo;re going to be plagued by it.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Other experts criticize the law because for-profit companies stand to benefit from large public subsidies, yet they are not required to provide their products at an affordable cost to countries that need it most. For example, under the bill, a pharmaceutical company would be able to patent its vaccine. But it would not be required to share its research with other companies or research institutions &ndash; a lack of transparency that could hinder the drug&rsquo;s availability and affordability.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">MSF&rsquo;s Rius considers the new law a missed opportunity to require the resulting treatments and vaccines to be considered public goods, accessible to those who need them.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;Society might end up paying twice,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;as a taxpayer at the beginning and then again as a consumer.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 15px; line-height: 20px;"><strong style="font-size: 15px;">Vaccines in the pipeline</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Several private companies are working with the public sector in public-private partnerships (PPPs) to produce an Ebola vaccine. Their efforts make them eligible for the PRV to prevent Ebola. One frontrunner in clinical trials is led by GlaxoSmithKline and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Although NIAID began testing three Ebola vaccine candidates in 2003, the vaccines were never developed because there wasn&rsquo;t enough of a commercial incentive for companies keeping an eye on their profit margins.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;Getting a company to invest in an Ebola vaccine instead of something else is difficult,&rdquo; explains MSF&rsquo;s director of policy, Rohit Malpani. &ldquo;The costs are very high compared to developing other vaccines that are blockbusters and make a lot of money.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">GSK joined NIAID&rsquo;s effort in 2013, after having acquired a Swiss biotech company that had been working on an Ebola vaccine for a few years, but didn&rsquo;t launch clinical trials on humans until September 2014, well into the current West African outbreak.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The delay in getting vaccine trials underway, says GSK spokesperson Mary Rhyne, was a result of the fact that Ebola &ldquo;was not on anyone&rsquo;s priority list&hellip; Nobody expected it would get to be so big so fast.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Rhyne says that while it can take up to 10 years to develop, test, and produce a vaccine, PPPs can speed up the process. For GSK&rsquo;s Ebola vaccine candidate, the US National Institutes of Health, which includes NIAID, has facilitated Phase III clinical trials in Liberia &ndash; testing that would be challenging for the company to do on its own.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;The cooperation between public and private partners to accelerate the Ebola vaccine is an example of the best cooperation,&rdquo; Rhyne says. &ldquo;Through a broad range of partners, we have been able to accelerate discovery at a rapid pace.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">GSK says in addition to partnering with NIAID, it is relying on significant support from the World Health Organization, regulators, governments and others involved in the global response to help overcome a number of hurdles in the clinical development and manufacturing processes.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The company also says it has received funding from public and private entities to support Ebola research. In October the company was promised $3 million from the Gates Foundation to manufacture a second round of vaccines for testing if current trials prove successful. The Swiss government also gave $1.8 million and the European Commission contributed about $19 million to support the next phase of clinical testing.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">GSK, for its part, says it has donated approximately $675,000 to support healthcare worker training, disease education and prevention efforts and about a million dollars worth of antibiotics. And last week, the pharmaceutical heavyweight sent an initial shipment of 300vials of the vaccine for the clinical trials in Liberia, where more than 3,500 people have died from Ebola.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The company says it has also begun manufacturing an additional 20,000 doses of the vaccine and claims it is &ldquo;assessing all options to scale up production&rdquo; and that it &ldquo;supports stockpiling the vaccine for future outbreaks.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 15px; line-height: 20px;"><strong style="font-size: 15px;">The promise of partnership, but who benefits?</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">GSK is but one pharmaceutical company chasing an effective Ebola vaccine. NewLink Genetics and Merck Vaccines USA are currently working with the Canadian government on testing a product in human clinical trials. Other efforts led by Johnson &amp; Johnson and Bavarian Nordic as well as by Novavax are also rushing to produce variants of an Ebola vaccine candidate.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">It is too soon to know the cost of any vaccine for consumers, but GSK is considering a number of options to make it affordable in developing countries, collaborating with partners like the Gates Foundation and GAVI, says Rhyne.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Still, MSF&rsquo;s Rius voiced concerns that the vaccine will be stockpiled and used to protect Americans and Europeans instead of Africans.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">And many are questioning why the global community, especially pharmaceutical companies, waited so long to intervene in the first place.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a real shame and stain on the international community that it&rsquo;s taking this long to come up with a vaccine,&rdquo; says Phuoc Le, program director for global health hospital medicine at the University of California San Francisco who has spent significant time in Liberia training community health workers who are the first point of contact with Ebola patients.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;Now we&rsquo;ve spent much more money on the crisis here than we ever would have had we nipped it in the bud if we had addressed it in April,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p style="font-size: 15px; line-height: 20px;"><strong style="font-size: 15px;">Lessons learned</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Today, public fervor around Ebola has died down. Advocates worry that the waning media attention will leave West African countries even more vulnerable to future outbreaks, citing the decimated public health infrastructure, abandoned hospitals and doctors who died from Ebola themselves after treating sick patients.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Public awareness groups like ONE are promoting accountability by <a href="">tracking</a> public and private funds pledged and delivered to address Ebola. GAVI already has committed $300 million to buy Ebola vaccines.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;In the lead up to the [US midterm] elections, Ebola was one of the biggest issues,&rdquo; says Erin Holderfelder, ONE&rsquo;s Global Health Policy Director. &ldquo;How quickly we forget&hellip;We have to make sure this stays on the global agenda.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"><although an="" and="" are="" areas="" away="" be="" december="" declining="" dry="" ebola.="" end="" exposing="" from="" he="" in="" infections="" le="" many="" means="" monrovia="" months="" more="" new="" of="" p="" people="" phuoc="" potentially="" rates="" reports="" rural="" season="" seeing="" spans="" still="" that="" the="" to="" traveling="" warns="" we="" which="" will=""> </although></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">With more than 8,500 deaths from Ebola, producing a viable vaccine is still a top priority for the public health community, one that will likely receive a boost thanks to the PRV subsidy made available through the new law.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">The World Bank&rsquo;s Kim emphasized this point at Tuesday&rsquo;s Georgetown lecture. He said that greater incentives, like PRVs, to produce vaccines and drugs are part of adequately handling a public health crisis. Not partnering with the private sector, Kim warns, has been shown to have dire consequences.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">Still, the WHO&rsquo;s spokesperson Margaret Harris is cautious about the incremental progress PPPs have made thus far in the fight against Ebola, pointing out that porous borders compromise traditional means of containing an epidemic and disseminating vaccines.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;Infectious diseases don&rsquo;t care who you are or where you are, they come and get you,&rdquo; she says. When it comes to the consequences of ignoring resource poor countries lacking basic infrastructure, Ebola is a devastating lesson.</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&ldquo;When the crisis ends, we need to take stock&hellip; It&rsquo;s a bit of a black eye on all of us,&rdquo; ONE&rsquo;s Holderfelder says. &ldquo;A problem there is a problem here. Nobody realized that until Ebola hit.&rdquo;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"><em>Editor&#39;s Note: This is a follow-up piece to &quot;Branding Health,&quot; a Special Report for GlobalPost published in September 2014 and produced by The GroundTruth Project. The multimedia series, which investigated the rising role of the private sector in global health, was supported in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation.&nbsp;</em></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;"><em>Laura Rena Murray is a San Francisco-based investigative journalist covering public interest and accountability stories that highlight corruption, mismanagement and human rights violations. She has written for Al Jazeera America, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Weekly, 100Reporters and the Center for Public Integrity. Her work has been recognized by the Overseas Press Club, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Initiative, the Nation Institute and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association. @laurarenamurray</em></p> <p style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&nbsp;</p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Africa Need to Know Health Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:52:15 +0000 Laura Rena Murray 6378821 at China's latest bribery and sex scandals involve schoolgirls and Party officials <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Forced child sex in return for business favors. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Robert Foyle Hunwick </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BEIJING &mdash; In several highly publicized cases, Chinese influence-peddlers stand accused of procuring schoolgirls as sexual favors for local officials. The public is outraged.</p> <p>According to Chinese media reports, the goal of the crimes is often to curry favor with authorities, in an effort to acquire permission for business opportunities &mdash; essentially child rape as a form of bribery.</p> <p>Accusations of schoolchildren being sexually exploited by Chinese officials are <a href="">shockingly</a><a href=";cid=1103"> common</a>. The alleged rapes follow a similar pattern. Victims are typically lured to a suitable venue &mdash; such as a hotel or a karaoke parlor &mdash; by older females acting in cahoots with businessmen. In some incidents, when parents have complained, authorities have attempted to cover up the crimes. In one case, police arrested the parents to prevent them from seeking justice.</p> <p>In December, authorities in Yunnan confirmed they were investigating a ring <a href="">said to involve </a>&ldquo;dozens&rdquo; of high-school girls &ldquo;given as gifts for leaders outside the county to use.&rdquo; A female intermediary, known as &ldquo;Xu,&rdquo; bribed the girls to visit a local karaoke bar, where they were plied with alcohol &mdash; some say they were drugged &mdash; and raped.</p> <p>Xu&rsquo;s reputation at the school seems to have been fearsome: &ldquo;No one dared to disobey her,&rdquo; one girl told reporters.</p> <p>The school&rsquo;s headmaster denied the claims. &ldquo;If that many students were selling sex,&rdquo; he wondered, &ldquo;what would people think of our school?&rdquo;</p> <p>The familiar ingredients &mdash; disappearing schoolgirls, seedy hotels, blackmail, drugs, denials &mdash; crop up again and again.</p> <p>The Yunnan case <a href="">echoed a previous racket </a>in the provincial capital of Kunming, in which as many as 50 schoolgirls were recruited. In <a href="">Hainan, </a>a school&rsquo;s headmaster allegedly joined a local official and six students in drug-induced sessions; <a href="">in Henan</a>, naked photographs of dozens of schoolgirls were used as blackmail to force sex with officials and to bring in new recruits. This crime allegedly occurred at a nightclub and spa just yards from a police station.</p> <p>In the latter case, arrests were finally made (including of several underage suspects), but to many local citizens the convictions were not satisfactory. The club&rsquo;s owner was given seven years for running a brothel. Five junior officials received only suspended sentences for neglecting their inspection duties. &ldquo;There&#39;s nothing we can do about it given the fact that the government turns a blind eye to these dark things,&rdquo; one man <a href="">told</a> a McClatchy reporter about rumors that senior cadres had paid their way out of trouble.</p> <p>Similar uncertainty surrounds a grievous case at the Wuqi County High School in Shanxi last September. (Due to local censorship, it was <a href="">only reported</a> in late December).</p> <p>According to a Chinese language press account, in the Wuqi case five girls were hauled before a &ldquo;tribunal&rdquo; of seven older female students. Over the next six hours, they were hit, stripped, examined and insulted. They had their clothes removed with blades, and were forced to hit each other. The proceedings were photographed, and the victims were threatened with exposure, in what the parents claim was a failed attempt to force the girls to sell their virginity. The victims ended up in the hospital for several weeks. Two suffered perforated eardrums.</p> <p>After this, the story gets hazy. Sources told Legal Weekly the recruitment of Wuqi schoolgirls for officials by seniors is common, with the students usually taken to a hotel to be &ldquo;assessed&rdquo; by a recruiter. Suitable virgins would fetch 5,000 yuan. According to at least one victim&rsquo;s parent, two of the adolescent bullies had &ldquo;ill-gotten&rdquo; sums of about $130,000 and $195,000 in their bank accounts, allegedly handed over by unnamed businessmen to procure girls. The bullies&rsquo; parents claimed the funds show that their children were &ldquo;victims&rdquo; too.</p> <div gp-pullquote="" gp-pullquote-position="left" gp-pullquote-source=""> Like an endangered species, virgins fetch higher prices, serving an appetite that covets the rare and indulges the powerful.</div> <p>Headmaster Zhang Junyin declined any responsibility other than mediating a settlement. (Zhang has since been removed from his post). The school&rsquo;s indifference prompted several parents to petition Wuqi authorities. The parents were eventually physically evicted for their troubles. They then tried kneeling before the county&rsquo;s city hall, a tactic of last resort that resulted in five days&rsquo; imprisonment for interrupting the government&rsquo;s &ldquo;work order.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;We really had no choice,&rdquo; a government spokesperson claimed.</p> <p>The involvement of local officials remains, for now, an allegation: The <a href="">Beijing News quoted police saying that</a>, despite <a href="">reports to the contrary</a>, none have been detained, and &ldquo;repeated investigations&rdquo; had failed to unearth &ldquo;any public official involved in prostitution.&rdquo;</p> <p>China&rsquo;s president Xi Jinping has invested his credibility in the Party&rsquo;s moral authority, <a href="">evoking traditional writings</a> such as Confucius and the Tao, while vowing to stamp down on present-day abuses.</p> <p>Of the Kunming victims, the BBC noted, &ldquo;most were motivated not by absolute poverty but by curiosity. Many said they were impressed by the wealth and power of their clients.&rdquo; In school, sex education <a href="">barely exists</a>, even while outside, the image of expensive cars waiting for concubines at their gates has become clich&eacute;.</p> <p>&ldquo;Prostitution can be contagious,&rdquo; says criminologist Pi Yijun of the China University of Political Science and Law. &ldquo;Youngsters are very materialistic nowadays. &hellip; When their family can&rsquo;t meet their demands, they could turn to [prostitution] and think there isn&rsquo;t much harm to themselves. Then with one girl telling another, that&rsquo;s how it starts.&rdquo;</p> <p>An especially pernicious aspect is the fetishization of innocence within the business. &ldquo;Buying virginity is a very heinous hobby of Chinese,&rdquo; says Pi. It&rsquo;s partly based on <a href=";pg=PA576&amp;lpg=PA576&amp;dq=taoist+14-yearold+premenarche&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=VB2oSIiS7c&amp;sig=gziStMbEuvur4WfpN5eJf3hu5_0&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=w5S3VNShDsuoyASHsYHIAw&amp;ved=0CCcQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false">ancient Taoist belief </a>that the most desirable partners for men are 14-year-old pre-menarche girls, whose &quot;yin&quot; will supposedly nourish their<em> </em>&quot;yang&quot; and grant longevity.</p> <p>More pressingly, though, it&rsquo;s a matter of economics: Like an <a href="">endangered species</a>, virgins fetch higher prices, serving an appetite that covets the rare and indulges the powerful &mdash; particularly officials, whose self-importance is enabled by an ingrained culture of deference. &ldquo;Chinese care about the chastity of girls, which doesn&rsquo;t exist for boys, and is therefore very discriminatory,&rdquo; says Pi. &ldquo;So when sex is available for sale, [virginity] is like a drug to be yearned [for].&rdquo;</p> <p>Powerful officials caught with partners aged 14 and above are typically charged with &ldquo;underage prostitution,&rdquo; which carries a maximum 15 years&rsquo; imprisonment, rather than child rape, a capital crime. &ldquo;When this crime was first established as separate from rape [in 1997], it was to protect underage girls,&rdquo; says Liaoning-based criminal lawyer Chi Shusheng, whose clients include Chongqing&rsquo;s infamous <a href="">ex-police chief Wang Lijun</a>. &ldquo;But the execution went astray.&rdquo;</p> <p>In 2003, Supreme Court Vice President Huang Songyou made a particularly narrow interpretation, concluding that if a &ldquo;third party&rdquo; (or pimp) was involved, the court regarded the crime as prostitution, whether or not the victim was informed or coerced. (Huang later received a life sentence <a href="">for corruption </a>in 2010.)</p> <p>There have been <a href="">campaigns</a> in the legislature to abandon a law that shields officials while criminalizing children, but little progress has been made either there or through grassroots efforts. One activist, Ye Haiyan, was <a href="">beaten and detained </a>after a public demonstration in 2013 Ye declined to comment for this article.</p> <p>&ldquo;I absolutely think [the law] should be abandoned,&rdquo; adds Chi. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know why it hasn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p> Want to Know Emerging Markets China Thu, 29 Jan 2015 07:00:16 +0000 Robert Foyle Hunwick 6368189 at This is what a homegrown jihadi might look like, according to France <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> #Stopdjihadisme: The French government's new counterterrorism plan involves a website and a hashtag. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>On Jan. 21, two weeks after two gunmen killed 12 people and wounded 11 others at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls <a href="">announced</a> a plan to invest $490 million in counterterrorism efforts over the next three years.</p> <p>Today we&#39;re getting a glimpse of how that money&#39;s being put to use. Among the first new blows the French government is striking against terrorism are a website and a hashtag, <a href="">Le Monde reports</a>.</p> <p>Welcome to&nbsp;<a href="">#Stopdjihadisme</a>. It&#39;s a new online campaign that attempts to prevent the radicalization of French citizens at home and battle the Islamic State (IS) on the social media front.</p> <p>There are more or less two messages.</p> <p>For French residents who might be feeling attracted to jihadi ideologies and are considering either joining IS or answering its call to launch terrorist attacks at home: Don&#39;t do it. Bad idea.</p> <p>The centerpiece of the website is a video that presents some idealized visions of foreign jihad and then offers the &quot;reality.&quot; So you might think you&#39;ll travel to Syria to &quot;help children,&quot; but once there, you&#39;ll be complicit in the &quot;murder of civilians,&quot; according to the video.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" src="//" width="100%"></iframe><a href="" target="_blank"><br /> #Stopdjihadisme : Ils te disent&hellip;</a> <i>by <a href="" target="_blank">gouvernementFR</a></i></p> <p>The site also speaks to French residents who, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings, are increasingly concerned about radicalizing neighbors and homegrown terrorism.</p> <p>The site notes that every case of radicalization is unique, but still provides an infographic &mdash; the effectiveness of which remains uncertain &mdash; that lists what it claims are common signs that a person is becoming radicalized.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="nothing" gp-image-embed-source="Communications Kit/"> &nbsp;</div> <p>So that&#39;s what a homegrown jihadi might look like, according to France.</p> #Stopdjihadisme France Strange But True Wed, 28 Jan 2015 22:20:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6378925 at Human rights groups criticize Mexico for declaring 43 students dead <!--paging_filter--><p>Human rights groups criticized Mexico&#39;s government on Wednesday for concluding that 43 students missing since September were killed, saying it was premature because unanswered questions remain in the case.</p> <p>Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued separate statements questioning the conclusions of Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam in a case that has engulfed President Enrique Pena Nieto in the biggest crisis of his administration.</p> <p>Both international organizations said the investigation relied mostly on confessions from gang suspects, who said they killed and incinerated the students after they received them from corrupt local police in southern Guerrero state.</p> <p>Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at New York-based HRW, said the investigation generates &quot;a lot of skepticism and many doubts.&quot;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">43 haunting portraits of Mexico&#39;s students now officially pronounced murdered</a></strong></p> <p>&quot;We know that in Mexico confessions are extracted on the basis of pressure, torture and irregularities,&quot; Vivanco told MVS radio.</p> <p>Amnesty International said Murillo Karam&#39;s conclusion was &quot;premature and risks curtailing a full and thorough investigation into this tragedy.&quot;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Angry protests mushroom in Mexico over the forced disappearance of 43 students</a></strong></p> <p>&quot;If the attorney general hopes that this announcement will draw a line under this tragedy then he is wrong. There are still many, many questions left unanswered, including the possible complicity, by action or omission, of the army and other authorities in the attack against these young student teachers,&quot; said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at London-based Amnesty.</p> <p>Murillo Karam said on Tuesday that there was no evidence of any role by the army, which has a base in the city of Iguala, where the 43 young men were attacked on September 26.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Mexican mass graves: A survivor&rsquo;s story</a></strong></p> <p>Karam concluded that he now had &quot;legal certainty&quot; that all 43 aspiring teachers were kidnapped by municipal police, handed over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, slaughtered and set ablaze in a bonfire of tires and fuel.</p> <p>An Austrian laboratory was only able to identify one of the students and said the other remains sent by the Mexican authorities were in such bad shape that they lacked useable DNA.</p> <p>Families of the students refuse to believe their sons are dead until they are shown scientific proof.</p> <p>csc/gbv/lth/rcw&nbsp;</p> Need to Know Mexico Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:46:28 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6378896 at EU rebuffs Greece's criticism of Ukraine statement <!--paging_filter--><p>The European Union rebuffed on Wednesday criticism from the new Greek government that it had not been consulted about a statement calling for work on possible new sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.</p> <p>EU leaders issued the unusual joint statement on Tuesday in response to an upsurge in fighting in Ukraine, a day after left-winger Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as Greece&#39;s prime minister.</p> <p>Tsipras&#39;s office said on Tuesday the EU should have secured consent from Athens before issuing the statement. It said Tsipras had voiced his dissatisfaction in a phone call with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Greece: What next?</a></strong></p> <p>A spokesman for Donald Tusk, head of the European Council of EU leaders, said the council regretted that the Greek government could not associate itself with the statement.</p> <p>&quot;We consulted all member states including a representative of the new Greek government. It was our understanding that the statement had been agreed by all Monday evening,&quot; the spokesman said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Greek elections: The view from the Kremlin</a></strong></p> <p>&quot;When we learned of the Greek hesitation Tuesday morning ... we suggested to insert a footnote explaining that Greece was not covered by the statement. As Greece did not want such a footnote, it was clear to us that we could publish the statement as agreed in the evening,&quot; he said.</p> <p>In a further sign that the election of the new Greek government will make it even harder to forge EU unity on sanctions, Greece&#39;s newly appointed Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis was quoted on Wednesday as saying Greece had no interest in imposing sanctions on Russia.</p> <p>(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Angus MacSwan)</p> Need to Know Europe Wed, 28 Jan 2015 19:25:06 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6378841 at Mexico not planning to extradite drug kingpin Guzman to the US: official <!--paging_filter--><p>Mexico is not planning to extradite to the United States captured drug lord Joaquin Guzman because he will first have to serve out jail time at home, an official at the federal attorney general&#39;s office said on Tuesday.</p> <p>Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo said last week a US request was imminent for the extradition of Guzman, who is best known in Mexico as El Chapo, or Shorty, because of his height.</p> <p>But given the number of charges pending against him, Guzman was likely to spend years in Mexican prison before he could face trial in the United States, an official at the attorney general&#39;s office said, speaking on condition of anonymity.</p> <p>&quot;At the moment, the extradition of El Chapo is not being contemplated,&quot; the official said, adding that only once Guzman had served his sentences in Mexico could extradition be considered.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Where are Mexico&rsquo;s top 10 drug lords now?</a></strong></p> <p>Guzman was the most wanted capo in the country until he was captured by security forces last February in northwestern Mexico, where he headed the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug smuggling outfits in the world.</p> <p>Bloody clashes between drug gangs and security forces have claimed about 100,000 lives in Mexico over the past eight years.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Mexico&rsquo;s vigilantes are building scrappy DIY tanks to fight narcos</a></strong></p> <p>Captured for the first time in 1993, Guzman escaped his Mexican prison in 2001 and later made it into the Forbes list of billionaires thanks to his drug trafficking exploits.</p> <p>Guzman is wanted in the United States on a host of criminal charges including cocaine smuggling, money laundering and running a criminal enterprise, which included murder.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">How Mexico&rsquo;s cartel crackdown smashed its iron industry</a></strong></p> Need to Know Mexico Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:22:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6378775 at Here’s what moviegoers in Baghdad think of ‘American Sniper’ <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Portrayals of the Iraq War look a little different from Iraq. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Susannah George </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>When Gaith Mohammed, a young man in his twenties with a degree in accounting, went to see &quot;American Sniper&quot; during its opening week at Baghdad&rsquo;s Mansour Mall, he says the theater was full and rowdy.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Some people watching were just concentrating, but others were screaming &lsquo;F*ck, shoot him! He has an IED, don&rsquo;t wait for permission!!&rsquo;&rdquo; Mohammed laughed, recounting the film&rsquo;s many tense scenes when US Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, radios in for authorization to take out a potential threat in his crosshairs.</p> <p>The film, set during the US-led occupation of Iraq and released on Christmas Day, hit nerves in the United States immediately. Some critics and commentators lauded it as patriotic and unflinching; others dismissed it as reductionist and racist.</p> <p>Many people also objected to the film&#39;s portrayal of Kyle &mdash; a man who described Iraqis as &quot;savages&quot; <a href="">in his memoir</a> &mdash; as a hero.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">CSI Baghdad &mdash; Meet the small forensics team struggling to deal with a new wave of violence in Iraq</a></strong></p> <p>Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie is based on a book by the late Kyle, now known ubiquitously as the most lethal sniper in US military history. It has proven to be a blockbuster, breaking records and topping box office sales since its wide release on Jan. 16 and racking up Oscar nominations, including one for <a href="" target="_blank">best picture.</a></p> <p>It&rsquo;s been stirring controversy in Iraq, too.</p> <p>In Baghdad, where much of the film is set, the movie drew full crowds at one of the city&rsquo;s new upscale cinemas. Dressed in a fur-collared coat and loafers, Mohammed says many of the showings were sold out, and he knows of people who had to book their tickets a day in advance during opening week.&nbsp;</p> <p>But after just a week on screens, the Mansour Mall theater pulled the controversial war movie. A theater employee sitting at the box office says management made the decision &ldquo;because the hero of this film boasts of killing more than 160 Muslims.&rdquo; &nbsp;The employee declined to give his name because he did not have permission to speak to journalists.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mansour Mall attracts a largely upscale crowd in Baghdad. Behind tall gates and multiple layers of security complete with metal detectors and X-ray belts, the theaters here show a mix of Western and Arab films. Moviegoers interviewed at the mall say big budget action movies are usually the most popular, but romantic comedies and family dramas also do well.</p> <p>Mohammed says one of the film&rsquo;s opening scenes, when Kyle spots a woman and child who appear to be preparing to attack US troops during the initial invasion of Iraq, had the entire audience on the edge of their seats.</p> <p>&ldquo;When the sniper was hesitating to shoot [the child holding the RPG] everyone was yelling &lsquo;Just shoot him!&rsquo;&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>It&#39;s the same scene featured in the official trailer for the film:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="377" src="" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>Mohammed, who lived through the events in Baghdad the film depicts, admits that scenes where women and children were killed were hard for him to watch. But all in all he liked the movie.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;I love watching war movies because especially now they give me the strength to face ISIS,&rdquo; he said, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State. When asked if he thought the movie was racist or anti-Arab &mdash; a charge made by some critics in the West &mdash; he replied, &ldquo;No, why? The sniper was killing terrorists, the only thing that bothered me was when he said he didn&rsquo;t know anything about the Quran!&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href=",0">A comprehensive 54-step guide to how the US ruined Iraq</a></strong></p> <p>But not all Iraqis were cheering on &quot;Chief&quot; Kyle&rsquo;s kills. Wael, a government ministry employee in his thirties, says the film was too violent. He&rsquo;s happy it&rsquo;s no longer being shown in some Baghdad theaters.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;To some extent, I considered it against all Muslims,&rdquo; he said. He also referred to the opening scene in Fallujah where a woman and child are killed.</p> <p>&ldquo;The sniper, he has a chance to hit the child and his mother in their foot or anywhere without killing them, but he didn&rsquo;t because he&rsquo;s bloodthirsty like all the American troops.&rdquo;</p> <p>Wael, who asked to only be referred to by his first name because he fears for his security, says he still watched the movie three times: twice at the cinema and again at his friend&rsquo;s house.&nbsp;</p> <p>Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Al-Daradji says he sees the mixed feeling Iraqis have toward war movies in the reception of his own films, including &ldquo;Son of Babylon,&rdquo; which showed at Sundance in 2010 and told the story of a young boy and his grandmother searching for his father who never returned from the 1991 Gulf war.</p> <p>Daradji says even his own family sometimes complains about the subject mater of the movies he makes. &ldquo;They say, we&rsquo;ve had enough of war and wartime, can you not make any love stories?&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>But Daradji says audiences respond emotionally to war movies because conflict plays such a big part in day to day Iraqi life.&nbsp;In just the last week bombings in the Iraqi capital have killed more than 20 people, including at least 13 dead in a single day.</p> <p>&ldquo;When Iraqis see a film [about war] they&rsquo;ll be engaged in it because they feel part of them is there.&rdquo;</p> <p>Daradji hasn&rsquo;t seen &quot;American Sniper&quot; yet, but he says he isn&rsquo;t surprised that the movie is being criticized for inaccurately depicting Iraq.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;There is no American films [about Iraq] &mdash; and I saw a lot of them &mdash; that have given justice to the Iraqi people and the events that happened in Iraq,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I sort of understand why not, because when an American filmmaker and an American company make a film they think about it from the American point of view, they don&rsquo;t care about Iraq, they care about themselves.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s why we Iraqi filmmakers have to make films about Iraqi people,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p>The Iraqi film scene is small compared to its Middle Eastern neighbors, but it&rsquo;s growing. Daradji and his brother run the Iraqi Independent Film Center, a production house aimed at training the next generation in Iraqi filmmaking and bringing filmmakers who fled under Saddam Hussein&#39;s rule back to Iraq.</p> <p>At the Mansour Mall foodcourt outside the theater, Omar Jalal, a university student, says he&rsquo;s upset &quot;American Sniper&quot; is no longer being shown.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even though he saw it on the big screen already, Jalal says he was hoping to bring his family back to see the movie again. Instead, they&rsquo;ll just watch it at home, he says, holding up a pirated DVD in a thin plastic sleeve that he bought from a shop a few doors down. Most of his other friends have already downloaded it illegally.</p> <p>Jalal says the movie doesn&rsquo;t strike him as racist or anti-Arab. He says he finds the main character appealing regardless of the fact that he&rsquo;s an American soldier killing Iraqis during the US-led occupation of his home country.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;He was a hero and he went through difficult training,&rdquo; Jalal explained, saying Chris Kyle was just serving his country, a universal duty for all men. &ldquo;Besides,&rdquo; he shrugged, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s just a movie, and I like war movies. If they are true or not, whatever!&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p><em>This story was reported by Susannah George in Beirut and a journalist in Baghdad.</em></p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">Captured by the Islamic State, these two teenagers went through hell. Then they ran</a></strong></p> Iraq War Need to Know Entertainment War Iraq Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:57:00 +0000 Susannah George 6378705 at Chatter: Hezbollah tells Israel it is not seeking an escalation in the conflict <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The message came a day after Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Peter Gelling </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p></p> Home Need to Know Regions Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:01:00 +0000 Peter Gelling 5942065 at Hezbollah kills two Israeli soldiers in border attack <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Militant group Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for an attack on an Israeli army convoy near the Israel-Lebanon border. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Richard Hall </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BEIRUT, Lebanon &mdash; Hezbollah fighters targeted an Israeli army convoy near the border between the two countries on Wednesday, killing two soldiers and prompting a barrage of shell fire into southern Lebanon.</p> <p>The attack, coming just days after an Israeli airstrike killed a number of Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general in Syria, marks a significant escalation of tensions between the two sides, who fought a bitter war in 2006 that killed more than 1,000 Lebanese nationals &mdash; mostly civilians &mdash; and around 150 Israelis.&nbsp;</p> <p>The current crisis represents the most serious confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah since the Israeli invasion, and has prompted fears of another damaging conflict.</p> <p>Lebanese officials <a href="">told the Associated Press</a> that retaliatory Israeli shelling hit the border villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba near the Shebaa Farms area, while Israeli jets were reportedly seen flying over southern Lebanon.</p> <p>Hours after the attack, a spokesman for the Israeli army said that <a href="">two soldiers had been killed and seven injured</a>.</p> <p>A spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon said that one of its peacekeepers had been killed in the south of the country &mdash; likely as a result of Israeli shelling.</p> <p>In a statement released Wednesday, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack on the convoy of several military vehicles in the Shebaa farms area of the Golan Heights &mdash; a strip of territory on the border between Israel, Syria and Lebanon, most of which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.</p> <p>The Lebanese militant group said that the attack was carried out by the &ldquo;al-Quneitra Martyr&#39;s Brigade&rdquo; &mdash; a reference to the area in the Golan Heights where Hezbollah member Jihad Mughniyeh and several other fighters were killed in an Israeli airstrike 10 days earlier.</p> <p>&quot;The convoy included Israeli artillery, an officer and several soldiers many of whom were injured,&quot; the statement read.</p> <p>Tensions have been high in the Golan Heights since Israeli strike on Hezbollah on January 18. Jihad Mughniyeh, one of the casualties, was the son of assassinated high-ranking Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, and his death prompted calls for revenge from the group;s supporters.&nbsp;</p> <p>Two rockets fired from Syria hit the Israeli side of the Golan Heights on Tuesday, prompting Israel to respond by targeting Syrian army positions in the area.</p> <p>Hezbollah is currently fighting in several parts of Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, a long-time backer of the group. It joined the fight across the border in 2012, and has since sent thousands of fighters to battle rebels aiming to overthrow Assad.</p> <p>Hezbollah&rsquo;s involvement has proved unpopular with many Lebanese, many of whom support the Syrian uprising. It has also brought the war closer to home, as jihadists have sought to hit Hezbollah targets in the country.&nbsp;</p> <p>It remains unclear whether Wednesday&rsquo;s confrontation will spill over into a wider conflict with Israel.</p> <p>With Hezbollah already entangled in Syria&rsquo;s brutal civil war, a new conflict with Israel would likely stretch the organization to its limits.</p> <p>News of Wednesday&rsquo;s operation was followed by the sound of celebratory gunfire in the southern suburbs of Beirut, an area that is home to a large number of Hezbollah supporters that was almost entirely destroyed during the 2006 Israeli invasion.</p> <p>Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking after Wednesday&rsquo;s attack, <a href="">warned that the IDF was &ldquo;ready to act with force on any front.&quot;</a></p> <p>&ldquo;I suggest that all those who are challenging us on our northern border, look at what happened in Gaza, not far from the city of Sderot,&rdquo; referring to Israel&rsquo;s bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza last year, a conflict that killed around 2,200 Gazans &mdash; most of them civilians.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13px;">&nbsp;</span></p> Israel Need to Know Conflict Zones Syria Israel and Palestine Middle East Lebanon Wed, 28 Jan 2015 12:37:00 +0000 Richard Hall 6378463 at Nine killed, including American, as gunmen storm luxury hotel in Libyan capital <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Militants claiming ties with the Islamic State said they were responsible for the attack. All the same, officials in Tripoli blamed Gaddafi loyalists. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>TRIPOLI, Libya &mdash; Heavily armed gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Tripoli favored by Libyan officials and visiting delegations on Tuesday, killing at least nine people, including foreigners, before blowing themselves up with a grenade.</p> <p>Officials said shooting erupted inside the five-star Corinthia Hotel and security forces evacuated guests, including Tripoli&#39;s prime minister and an American delegation, after at least two gunmen blasted through the building&#39;s reception.</p> <p>It was one of the worst assaults targeting foreigners since the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi and fractured the oil-producing North African state into fiefdoms of rival armed groups with two national governments, both claiming legitimacy.</p> <p>Militants claiming ties with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said in a Twitter message they were responsible for the attack, which they said was revenge for the death in the United States of a suspected Libyan al Qaeda operative, according to the SITE monitoring service.</p> <p>But Tripoli officials who have set up their own self-proclaimed government blamed Gaddafi loyalists bent on killing their prime minister, who was at the hotel, and said he was rescued without injury.</p> <p>&quot;The attackers opened fire inside the hotel,&quot; Omar Khadrawi, head of Tripoli security, told Reuters. &quot;When the attackers were completely surrounded by the security forces, one of them detonated a grenade, but we don&#39;t know if it was deliberate.&quot;</p> <p>Tripoli security spokesman Essam Naas told Reuters later that an American and a Frenchman were among five foreigners killed. He said the other foreigners who died at the hotel were Asian but gave no nationalities.</p> <p>The American who was killed was a security contractor working for Virginia-based Crucible LLC, said Alan John, an executive of the company. He said the name of the contractor was not being released at this time and gave no other details.</p> <p>A security officer was also killed in the clashes and three guards died when the attackers set off a car bomb in the car park outside the hotel.</p> <p>Most foreign governments closed their embassies and pulled staff out of Tripoli after factional fighting erupted in the capital last summer. But some diplomats, business and trade delegations still visit the capital.</p> <p>Envoys from the United Nations, which is holding talks in Geneva with some of Libya&#39;s warring parties to try to end hostilities, have also been in Tripoli.</p> <p>Libya is caught in a conflict between the two rival factions, one allied with the internationally recognized government, the other with &quot;Libya Dawn&quot; forces who took over Tripoli in the summer and set up their own government.</p> <p>But in Libya&#39;s post-revolution chaos, armed groups, from brigades of former rebels to federalist fighters and Islamist militants, have grown in power and control more territory.</p> <p>Islamist militants, including those who claim loyalty to Islamic State, operate in pockets of Libya, especially eastern Benghazi and Derna. Recently, they claimed to have kidnapped two Tunisian journalists, and groups of Egyptians.</p> <p>Foreigners and embassies have also been targeted in shootings, kidnappings and bombings in the past.</p> <p>In 2012, militants attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi, killing the US ambassador and three other Americans. US officials blamed a Libyan Islamist group, Ansar al Sharia, for orchestrating that attack.</p> <p><strong>REVENGE ATTACK</strong></p> <p>The Corinthia, a luxury high-rise overlooking the capital&#39;s coastline, is frequently used by top government and foreign delegations. In 2013, the then-Libyan prime minister was briefly abducted from the hotel by former rebels on the state payroll.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Khadrawi, the capital&#39;s security director, said security forces had spirited the Tripoli government&#39;s premier, Omar al-Hassi, from the 22nd floor of the hotel, where he was staying, to safety. Four Americans were also rescued, he said.</p> <p>&quot;The attackers were attempting to assassinate him,&quot; he said.</p> <p>But SITE monitors, citing social media, said a militant group had claimed the attack as revenge for the death of Abu Anas al-Liby, a suspected al Qaeda member accused of helping plan the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Liby died in a New York hospital this month ahead of his trial.</p> <p>The Libyan national was snatched by US Special Forces from Tripoli in 2013.</p> <p>Since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled Gaddafi, Libya has struggled to find stability and a conflict has gradually emerged between two loose confederations of politicians, armed groups and regional factions.</p> <p>Tripoli is controlled by a faction that is allied to the city of Misrata and their powerful armed forces, but also includes some Islamist-leaning former rebel fighters and politicians allied to the Muslim Brotherhood.</p> <p>They are faced by the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and the elected parliament who now operate out of the east of Libya. Thinni&#39;s government is allied to several armed factions, including a former Gaddafi army general battling Islamist militants in Benghazi.</p> Africa Libya Need to Know Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:17:42 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6378325 at Australian court rules it wasn't illegal to detain migrants at sea for a month <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The decision is a win for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his tough immigration policy. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Australia&#39;s highest court ruled on Wednesday that the detention of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka on the high seas for almost a month was lawful, a win for the government&#39;s tough immigration policy.</p> <p>The High Court ruling means the group of 157 ethnic Tamils, who were picked up by an Australian customs boat last June after setting out from India, are not entitled to seek compensation.</p> <p>Lawyers for the asylum seekers were disappointed with the decision, but noted it was not unanimous and said the case succeeded in drawing attention to Australia&#39;s secretive &quot;Operation Sovereign Borders&quot; activities.</p> <p>The United Nations refugee agency, which has criticised Australia&#39;s treatment of asylum seekers, made submissions in the case.</p> <p>&quot;It took this case for the government to finally break its secrecy and confirm that it was detaining 157 people - including 50 children as young as one &ndash; on a boat somewhere on the high seas,&quot; Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre, told reporters.</p> <p>The case also prompted the government to promise not to return the group, who are being held in a detention centre on the South Pacific island of Nauru, to India or Sri Lanka.</p> <p>Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the decision vindicated government policies.</p> <p>He said only one boat had reached Australia since the policies were implemented a year and a half ago and authorities were seeing a decrease in the number of boats attempting the perilous voyage.</p> <p>&quot;We have stopped people drowning at sea, we have stopped the boats and this government is absolutely resolved the operation will continue,&quot; Dutton told reporters in Canberra.</p> <p>Australia got 16,000 asylum applications last year, just less than 0.5 percent of the 3.6 million lodged worldwide, U.N. figures show.</p> <p>But it is a polarising political issue.</p> <p>Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott campaigned on a vow to &quot;turn back the boats&quot; before winning elections last year.</p> <p>Following the High Court case, the government revised its immigration laws to reduce its obligations to follow international law and restrict the oversight of Australian courts.</p> <p>The High Court&#39;s 4-3 split in favour of the government meant the judgment needed to be analysed to determine its full impact, lawyers said.</p> <p>&quot;There are points of law in which the majority agree with the minority,&quot; said George Newhouse, a lawyer for the group. &quot;We need to distil those decisions and there may well not be a blank cheque to the government to do whatever they want to people in this position.&quot;</p> Australia Want to Know Asia-Pacific Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:49:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6378253 at The Nisman files: A who’s who in Argentina’s deadly whodunit <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The cast of characters around the mysterious death of the prosecutor who alleged his government was covering up Iran’s role in a Jewish center bombing. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simeon Tegel </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LIMA, Peru &mdash; Some have described it as stranger than fiction.</p> <p>The night before he was due to testify before lawmakers about what he claimed was a cover-up of Iran&rsquo;s alleged role in a devastating Buenos Aires bombing, prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead with a single bullet wound to the temple.</p> <p>He had been making waves by accusing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of blocking his investigation into the unresolved 1994 blast at the AMIA Jewish center that killed 85 people &mdash; often called Latin America&rsquo;s deadliest terrorist attack.</p> <p>Her motive, Nisman claimed, was to bolster trade with oil-rich Iran unhindered by accusations that Iranian officials, including former Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, were suspects in the case. Tehran has denied any part in the attack.</p> <p>Nisman&rsquo;s death initially bore the hallmarks of a suicide. A gun and a single bullet casing were found by his body in his apartment, which had been locked from the inside.</p> <p>Still, there&rsquo;s widespread suspicion he did not kill himself. Many Argentines even regard the president as a suspect in his death.</p> <p>Here is the cast of characters in a baffling mystery that Hollywood might have struggled to dream up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> The body</h2> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Don&#39;t spy for me Argentina The deep background to Nisman&#39;s death <a href="">@guardian</a> <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Uki Go&ntilde;i (@ukigoni) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Alberto Nisman, 51, was widely regarded as a tenacious, savvy federal prosecutor. A father of two, he shook up the floundering AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) bombing investigation when he took it over a decade ago.</p> <p>He swiftly pointed the finger at Tehran and issued an Interpol arrest warrant for six Iranian security officials, including defense minister Vahidi. He also unsuccessfully called for the arrest of former Argentine President Carlos Menem. Ever since, he received numerous death threats and lived under armed guard.</p> <p>Initially an ally of Fernandez de Kirchner, he was even considered for the role of attorney general. But the pair grew apart two years ago when she signed a highly controversial deal to set up an AMIA truth commission jointly with Iran.</p> <p>Nisman, who was Jewish, subsequently alleged that a secret condition of the deal was &ldquo;<a href="" target="_blank">impunity</a>&rdquo; for Tehran over the atrocity.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Argentina&rsquo;s bedeviled pact with Iran</a>&nbsp;<br /> </strong></p> <p>Differing accounts have emerged over Nisman&rsquo;s final days. Some witnesses have described him as combative, while one sensed the prosecutor was &ldquo;<a href="" target="_blank">scared</a>.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> &lsquo;La presidenta&rsquo;</h2> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">#Argentina</a>: Dark Forces, Suspicious Suicides - CFK Fuels Conspiracy Culture <a href=""></a> (<a href="">@charliedevereux</a>) <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Nate Gill (@_ngill) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Now coming to the end of her second and final term, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been president of Argentina since 2007, when she took over the job from her late husband Nestor Kirchner.</p> <p>During that time, her administration has staggered from one corruption scandal to another. The Argentine economy has also been on shaky legs, prompting Fernandez de Kirchner to clamp down on independent economists who calculated inflation at more than double the official figure, even reaching <a href="" target="_blank">40 percent</a> last year, according to some.&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, her family&rsquo;s wealth reportedly increased by <a href="" target="_blank">nearly 1,200 percent</a> while in office.&nbsp;</p> <p>While Fernandez de Kirchner still has many devoted followers in her homeland, critics accuse her of demagoguery. For them, her handling of Nisman&rsquo;s death only confirms that dark reputation.</p> <p>Recovering from a broken ankle, she initially only responded to the bombshell via Twitter, Facebook and her website. Surprisingly, perhaps, she agreed with her many compatriots who believe Nisman&rsquo;s suicide was induced, and suggested that he was being manipulated by rogue Argentine security agents.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t have proof. But I don&rsquo;t have doubts either,&rdquo; she <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a>.&nbsp;</p> <div gp-youtube-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p>Then, on Monday night, one week after Nisman&rsquo;s body was discovered, she finally appeared on TV to announce that she was disbanding Argentina&rsquo;s national spy agency.</p> <p>Sitting in a wheelchair and dressed head to toe in white, she expressed no condolences to Nisman&rsquo;s family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> The last witness</h2> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">#Internacional</a> Diego Lagomarsino, el hombre que le facilit&oacute; el arma al fiscal Alberto Nisman <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; 6to Poder (@6toPodermovil) <a href="">January 23, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Diego Lagomarsino, an IT expert who had been working on Nisman&rsquo;s team since 2007, was the last person known to have seen him alive.</p> <p>Lagomarsino, 35, who had also become close friends with his boss, visited the prosecutor&rsquo;s house in an upmarket Buenos Aires neighborhood on the eve of the shooting.</p> <p>According to his official testimony reported by local press, it was then that Lagomarsino lent Nisman the .22 caliber Bersa pistol found beside his colleague&rsquo;s body some 24 hours later. The prosecutor had requested the weapon, Lagomarsino said, out of fear for his safety as the death threats against him multiplied.</p> <p>The aide could now face up to <a href="" target="_blank">six years</a> in jail because Nisman didn&rsquo;t have a firearms license.&nbsp;</p> <p>Lagomarsino voluntarily met with investigators to give his testimony shortly after Nisman was discovered dead. He has now handed over his passport and is barred from leaving the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> The spy</h2> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>STIUSSO GHOST WRITER <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Edgardo Meraviglia (@EMeraviglia) <a href="">January 23, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Media and administration officials say much of Nisman&rsquo;s information about the AMIA bombing came from Antonio Stiusso, sometimes described as the strongman of Argentina&rsquo;s intelligence agency.</p> <p>Before Nisman, Stiusso, 61, was the Argentine official with the greatest knowledge of the case. He is also reported to have wielded enough power behind the scenes in Buenos Aires that, on at least one occasion, he got a <a href="" target="_blank">cabinet minister fired</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>He was dismissed himself last year, after stepping out of the shadows to give a magazine interview claiming that the government was scapegoating him.</p> <p>Since Nisman&rsquo;s death, officials have been briefing journalists, suggesting that Stiusso was feeding Nisman false leads about the AMIA bombing in revenge for losing his job and the considerable power that came with it.</p> <p>That theory has gained momentum with at least one prominent opposition congresswoman saying Nisman told her he had been <a href="" target="_blank">betrayed by an unnamed spy</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> The locksmith</h2> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>La puerta del servicio de la vivienda del fiscal argentino estaba abierta <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Globovisi&oacute;n (@globovision) <a href="">January 22, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Conflicting evidence emerging from the investigation has only fueled the conspiracies around Nisman&rsquo;s death.</p> <p>No gunpowder residue was found on Nisman&rsquo;s hands, indicating that he may not have pulled the trigger himself. On the other hand, there was so much blood at the scene that forensic scientists doubt anyone else present could have left without leaving prints.</p> <p>Yet, initially at least, investigators were saying Nisman&rsquo;s apartment was locked from the inside, pointing to his death being a genuine suicide.</p> <p>But that was thrown into doubt by the locksmith who opened the apartment for the police. Named by local media simply as <a href="" target="_blank">Walter</a>, he told reporters a service door had been left unsecured.</p> <p>Subsequent reports said the door had two locks, only one of which had been used. Then some speculated that Nisman&rsquo;s mother unlocked the other in a desperate attempt to find her missing son. The definitive version has yet to be nailed down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> The prosecutor investigating a colleague&rsquo;s death</h2> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Caratula: Muerte dudosa: &quot;De ninguna manera la causa est&aacute; cerrada como suicidio&quot;. Fiscal Viviana Fein <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Carola Sarubbi (@Carolasarubbi) <a href="">January 19, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Viviana Fein is the experienced attorney probing Nisman&rsquo;s death. She picked up that responsibility by being in charge of the 45th public prosecutor&rsquo;s office of Buenos Aires, which has jurisdiction over his neighborhood.</p> <p>She appears to be keeping her options open while also fiercely maintaining her professional independence. One of her first acts, upon arriving at Nisman&rsquo;s apartment, was to tell Interior Minister Sergio Berni that his presence at the scene was inappropriate.</p> <p>She has publicly stated there is no evidence of anyone else being present inside Nisman&rsquo;s home at the time of his death, while also refusing to rule out the possibility of an induced suicide.</p> <p>After hearing of Fernandez de Kirchner&rsquo;s speculation about Nisman&rsquo;s untimely demise, she <a href="" target="_blank">responded</a>: &ldquo;She is free to think, like any citizen. ... I&rsquo;ll stick to my investigation.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> Iran</h2> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Terrorist groups have nothing to do with Islam: Iran president <a href=""></a> <a href="">@HassanRouhani</a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Press TV (@PressTV) <a href="">January 26, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Behind the commotion over Nisman&rsquo;s dramatic passing looms the long shadow of Tehran, the main beneficiary of the Argentine government&rsquo;s alleged cover-up of its supposed involvement in the AMIA bombing.</p> <p>It seems improbable that the reformist administration of President Hassan Rouhani would do anything as crazy as knocking off Nisman while it attempts to negotiate a nuclear deal and improve relations with the West.</p> <p>Yet even as she focuses on potential suspects closer to home, Fein likely will at least be leaving open the longshot possibility that rogue, hardline elements in Iran&rsquo;s security apparatus were involved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> The journalist</h2> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Argentine journalist Damian Pachter has landed in Israel, says he fled &quot;because the Argentine government pursued me&quot;. <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; John Reed (@JohninJerusalem) <a href="">January 25, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The news of Nisman&rsquo;s death was broken almost immediately by Damian Pachter, a journalist for the Buenos Aires Herald and Israel&rsquo;s Haaretz newspapers.</p> <p>Since his first <a href="" target="_blank">tweet</a> about the bombshell events inside Nisman&rsquo;s apartment, Pachter says he has received death threats and accuses security officials of tapping his phone.</p> <p>Fearing for his life, he has now fled to Israel and says he will not return to Buenos Aires while Fernandez de Kirchner remains president.</p> <p>As if to confirm Pachter&rsquo;s fears, the Casa Rosada, Argentina&rsquo;s presidential office, caused a stir by publishing <a href="" target="_blank">details of his flight</a> on its official Twitter account.&nbsp;</p> <div> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--></div> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">&#39;Suicide&#39; of prosecutor probing Jewish center attack rocks Argentina&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Argentina to disband intelligence service after prosecutor death</a></strong></p> Argentina Want to Know Iran Politics Wed, 28 Jan 2015 05:30:12 +0000 Simeon Tegel 6377925 at It looks like Americans might be stuck eating Hershey's from now on <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Or there's about to be a booming black-market trade in Cadbury eggs. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sara Yasin </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>There are many things that the British do better than Americans: Soccer, comedy, <a href="">all-girl pop groups</a>, tea, chocolate.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s a noticeable difference, devotees of UK chocolate will tell you, between the British variety and the standard American candy bars lining most grocery aisles. For a start, it actually tastes like chocolate, and doesn&#39;t have that overly sugared, stale aftertaste that becomes more difficult to ignore as you get older. Cadbury is one of the most beloved and widely known British brands.</p> <p>But it looks like British chocolate lovers in the United States might not be able to get it on this side of the pond any longer.</p> <p>Cadbury&rsquo;s products made overseas will no longer <a href="">be available</a> in the US, after Hershey&rsquo;s Company struck a deal recently with Let&rsquo;s Buy British Imports. The deal also means the end of British-made KitKat bars and Rolos, as well as a long list of wonderful British chocolate bars &mdash; like Toffee Crisps, Yorkie, and Maltesers &mdash; for being competitors to American products.</p> <p>Over 17,000 people <a href="">have signed</a> a petition protesting the decision, which has outraged both British expats and American converts.</p> <p>Cadbury still <em>makes</em> candy bars in the United States, mind you. But they&#39;re not the same as the ones coming from Britain.</p> <p>British chocolate bars tend to have <a href="">higher fat content</a>, and creamier texture. That&rsquo;s because the UK <a href="">requires that</a> their chocolate have a minimum of 25 percent fat, and 20 percent cocoa and milk solids.</p> <p>It is why some believe that the British are even better at making <a href=";_r=0">American classics</a> like the KitKat bar (produced by <a href="" target="_blank">Hershey&#39;s</a> in America, but <a href="" target="_blank">Nestle everywhere else</a> in the world.)</p> <p>Nicky Perry, who runs <a href="">Tea and Sympathy</a>, a New York-based shop that sells British goods, <a href=";_r=0">shared her theory</a> with The New York Times. Perry believes that the superior taste of British chocolate comes from a recipe that uses fewer stabilizers. In other words, US chocolatiers are ruining their product with preservatives. It&rsquo;s also the reason British chocolate melts faster than its American counterpart.</p> <p>Social media users <a href="">are now calling</a> for a boycott of Hershey products, and the owners of Tea and Sympathy are even urging outraged chocolate lovers to appeal directly to the company&rsquo;s CEO.</p> <p>It might be time to stock up on your favorite British chocolates &mdash; or you can always <a href="">try your hand</a> making it at home.</p> Business Food & Drink Strange But True United Kingdom United States Tue, 27 Jan 2015 22:47:57 +0000 Sara Yasin 6377888 at Here is Boris Johnson not contributing in any way to the fight against the Islamic State <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The mayor of London, like so many mayors, loves a photo op — even in a war zone. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Boris Johnson, perhaps the world&rsquo;s most famous mayor, never misses a photo op.&nbsp;</p> <p>So it should come as no surprise that during a visit&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">this month</a>&nbsp;to Kurdistan &mdash; yes, that semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq where Kurdish peshmerga have been fighting the Islamic State &mdash; he posed for an action shot.</p> <p>Ostensibly, the mayor of London went to Kurdistan to <a href="" target="_blank">boost </a>economic relations and to visit British troops who are there training Kurdish fighters.</p> <p>But then this happened:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Not from The Onion RT <a href="">@ianbremmer</a>: Boris Johnson helps Iraq&#39;s Kurds take back Kobani. <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Lucy Kafanov (@LucyKafanov) <a href="">January 27, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>This photo, which is worthy of a caption competition, shows exactly what it seems to show, but it&#39;s worth spelling it out anyway: Here is Boris Johnson lying on the ground in a business suit taking aim with an <a href="">AK-47 rifle</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>It&#39;s a silly photo from a serious trip. Johnson was clearly moved by his visit to Kurdistan, where the Kurds have been fending off attacks from&nbsp;<a href="">IS fighters</a> with the help of US-led airstrikes.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">How the Islamic State was halted in Kobani</a></strong></p> <p>In an opinion piece for <a href="">The Telegraph</a>, Johnson wrote emotionally about trying to comfort a widowed mother of seven, about the depravity of IS and the importance of more British support for the Kurds.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is hard to think of another conflict where righteousness coincides so overwhelmingly with the British interest,&rdquo; Johnson said. <span style="font-size: 13px;">&quot;We should consider intensifying our military support. In a struggle against savagery that washes up on our shores, their cause is our cause.&rdquo;</span></p> <p>It&#39;s a heartfelt piece, but the photos upstaged the message.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Boris Johnson in <a href="">#Hawler</a>, <a href="">#Kurdistan</a>. Hilarious. <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; ☁️ (@_Shariz) <a href="">January 23, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Performing silly stunts has become an important part of the Boris brand, and it&#39;s earned him plenty of criticism. The wisecracking mayor has been described as a&nbsp;<a href="">&quot;mop-haired joker&quot;</a> and a &quot;bumbling buffoon,&quot; among other things.&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet Johnson has managed to win two terms as mayor of the British capital because, it seems, even his critics can&#39;t help but laugh at his antics.&nbsp;</p> <p>That he ruffles feathers with his&nbsp;<a href="">provocative</a> statements and deliberately makes himself look ridiculous sets him apart from many of his comparatively dull colleagues in the conservative political establishment. And that wins votes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Here are six other memorable moments involving the man simply known to most as &quot;Boris.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Boris boxing</strong></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images<br /> Ads by Adblade<br /> "><br /> &nbsp;</div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Boris playing wheelchair tennis</strong></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Tom Shaw/Getty Images"> &nbsp;</div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Boris on a zipline</strong></p> <div gp-youtube-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Boris playing soccer</strong></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source=" Carl Court Getty Images"> &nbsp;</div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Boris wearing a Hindu headdress</strong></p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Rob Stothard<br /> Getty Images<br /> "><br /> &nbsp;</div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Boris shearing a sheep&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><img class="inline_image-photo" src="" width="100%" /> <span class="inline_image-caption"> </span> <span class="inline_image-src">Matt Cardy Getty Images </span></p> Want to Know Iraq Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:53:17 +0000 Allison Jackson 6377657 at 7 news stories you might have missed while freaking out about #blizzardof2015 <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Stay warm. Be safe. Catch up. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BOSTON &mdash; Have you heard? It&#39;s snowing in Boston. It&#39;s SNOWING in Boston. IT&#39;S SNOWING IN BOSTON.</p> <p>If you live anywhere in the northeast United States, you&#39;ve spent the last 24 hours inundated with snow, but if you leave anywhere even remotely near the northeast US, you&#39;ve spent the last 72 hours inundated with news reports about that snow.</p> <p>There&#39;s nothing quite like TV news during a blizzard. Politicians are wearing fleeces and baseball hats. People are cross-country skiing places, which is apparently reason enough to interview them on camera. Reporters are showing the size of snow drifts by using their own bodies for scale. Graphics editors are breaking out all their favorite blizzard graphics, banners, and alerts.&nbsp;</p> <p>Well &mdash; surprise &mdash; the world didn&#39;t stop just because your local Whole Foods is out of eggs, Target is out of sleds, and CNN is out of non-snow-related news.</p> <p>Here are some things that happened in the past couple of days that you might have missed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 1) Kobani was liberated from Islamic State</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="nothing" gp-image-embed-source="Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images"> People watch as smokes rises from the town of Kobani, also known as Ain al-Arab, on October 26, 2014, at the Turkish border near the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province.</div> <p>The Syrian town of Kobani, which sits at the border with Turkey, has been a frontline in the battle against the Islamic State for months.</p> <p>Now, after four months of intense ground fighting led by Syrian Kurdish People&rsquo;s Protection Units (YPG) and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga &mdash; along with significant US military coordination and air support &mdash; it looks like Kobani is <a href="">once again</a> under Kurdish control.</p> <p>The news came first from Kurdish troops and was later confirmed by US Central Command, which <a href="">said</a> IS had been driven from 90 percent of the town.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a major victory against IS, but don&rsquo;t think for a second that the battle for Kobani is finished. IS has dedicated a huge of material resources and manpower in Kobani, and the town has become as much a symbol as a strategic target. Don&#39;t expect them to give it up easily.</p> <p>Read more about how it went down <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 2) The FBI busted a Russian spy ring in NYC</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="nothing" gp-image-embed-source="Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images"> Russian President Vladimir Putin and his defense minister look through binoculars at Navy Day celebrations in July.</div> <p>This is either a real story or a very clever false flag created by FX to promote this week&rsquo;s season three premier of &ldquo;The Americans.&rdquo;</p> <p>The FBI <a href="">arrested</a> one man, Evgeny Buryakov, and identified two others who no longer live in the United States, Victor Podobnyy and Igor Sporyshev. They worked for Russia&rsquo;s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) in a unit known as &ldquo;Directorate ER,&rdquo; which focuses on intelligence collection relate to economic matters.</p> <p>According to the FBI&rsquo;s complaint, the agents were attempting to recruit intelligence assets, including &quot;several individuals employed by major companies, and several young women with ties to a major university located in New York,&rdquo; and a &quot;number of other Russian-origin individuals associated with&quot; the same university.</p> <p>Cold War: It&#39;s on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 3) Greece elected a &lsquo;coalition of the radical left&rsquo; to run the country</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="nothing" gp-image-embed-source="Matt Cardy/Getty Images"> Alexis Tsipras, leader of the radical leftist Syriza party, campaigns at a pre-election rally ahead of this weekend&#39;s general election on Jan. 22, 2015 in Athens, Greece.</div> <p>Greece was hit hard by the global financial crisis, as you&#39;ve probably heard. A euro zone bailout kept the national economy afloat but came with austerity demands that seemed to make things much worse for Greeks. Unemployment ballooned. Social services disappeared. Standards of living declined. Lots of people got mad.</p> <p>Many Greeks blame creditors in Brussels and Berlin and Greece&#39;s conservative and center-left political establishment that both created the conditions for economic collapse and then agreed to the punishing conditions of the euro zone bailout.</p> <p>And voters made those feelings about as clear as they possibly could in Sunday&rsquo;s general election, <a href="">voting by landslide margins</a> for the Coalition of the Radical Left party, also known as SYRIZA. Greece&rsquo;s newly elected prime minister Alexis Tsipras promises to fight back against austerity, invest in jobs and public services, restore taxes on the wealthy, and lead Greece as it &ldquo;leaves behind five years of humiliation and anguish.&rdquo;</p> <p>Anti-austerity parties are gaining ground in other hard-hit EU countries like Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and the rise of SYRIZA could add fuel to their campaigns.</p> <p>For now, EU officials deny that the power shift in Greece will lead to changes in the country&rsquo;s debt obligations, but if a wave of anti-austerity parties sweep southern Europe, the pressure will be on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 4) An Egyptian court convicted a doctor for female genital mutilation for the first time ever</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="nothing" gp-image-embed-source="Deena Adel/The GroundTruth Project/GlobalPost"> Somaya, like 91 percent of Egyptian women ages 15-49, underwent FGM when she was young and vows not to subject her daughter to the procedure.</div> <p>Female genital mutilation (FGM), the controversial ritual of removing part or all of the clitoris, has been illegal in Egypt since 2008. But despite that ban and diligent campaigning by NGOs, the practice is still widespread. According to UNICEF, 91 percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone FGM.</p> <p>There was some good news this week in the fight against FGM in Egypt. On Monday Jan. 26, an Egyptian appeals court <a href="">found a doctor guilty</a> for performing FGM on a 13-year-old girl named Suhair el-Batea, who died in June 2013 after undergoing the procedure in her small village near the city of Mansoura. Her doctor, Raslan Fadl, received a sentence of three months for the procedure and two years of hard labor for manslaughter.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s the first FGM conviction under Egyptian law.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 5) Russia&rsquo;s credit rating dropped to &ldquo;junk&rdquo; status</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="nothing" gp-image-embed-source="Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images"> Pedestrians walk past a board listing foreign currency rates against the Russian ruble outside an exchange office in central Moscow on Dec. 16, 2014.</div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the first time in more than a decade, Russia&rsquo;s foreign currency credit rating <a href="">has fallen below</a> investment grade to BB+, according Standard and Poor&rsquo;s. The ratings agency also said the outlook for Russia, where the economy is suffering under Western sanctions and low oil prices, is &ldquo;negative.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Russia&rsquo;s monetary-policy flexibility has become more limited and its economic growth prospects have weakened,&rdquo; S&amp;P said in the statement. &ldquo;We also see a heightened risk that external and fiscal buffers will deteriorate due to rising external pressures and increased government support to the economy.&rdquo;</p> <p>S&amp;P is the first of the three major ratings agencies to list Russia&rsquo;s credit at junk status. Fitch Ratings and Moody&rsquo;s Investors Service both recently downgraded Russia to the lowest possible investment grade above junk: BBB-.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 6) Germany (maybe) suspended arms deals to Saudi Arabia</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="nothing" gp-image-embed-source="Mohammed Mashhur/AFP/Getty Images"> Saudi Arabia&#39;s newly appointed King Salman arrives for the funeral of his half-brother late King Abdullah at the Al-Od cemetery in the center of Riyadh on Jan. 23, 2015.</div> <p>German newspaper Bild am Sonntag <a href="">reported</a> on Sunday that a secretive committee in charge of the nation&rsquo;s arms exports had decided to suspend exports to Saudi Arabia due to regional instabilities.&nbsp;</p> <p>A government spokesperson <a href="">wouldn&rsquo;t confirm or deny</a> the report during a press conference on Monday, saying that members of the council couldn&rsquo;t discuss its decisions publicly.</p> <p>In 2013, Germany approved $400 million worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia. It&rsquo;s not clear whether the decision to halt exports was influenced by the death of King Abdullah Jan. 23, although it&rsquo;s possible Angela Merkel&rsquo;s government wants to feel out King Salman for a bit before sending him weapons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 7) Canada put its own Patriot Act on deck</h2> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="nothing" gp-image-embed-source="Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images"> Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.</div> <p>Canada could be getting its own Patriot Act soon if Prime Minister Stephen Harper has his way.</p> <p>Law enforcement agencies in Canada already have expanded powers under the 2013 Combating Terrorism Act, but the lone-wolf attack on Canada&rsquo;s Parliament in October has led to calls for even stronger police powers. With federal elections less than a year away and Harper&rsquo;s Conservative party needing a boost in the polls, it&rsquo;s prime time for a new terrorism law.</p> <p>Harper <a href="">announced</a> the new legislation on Sunday during a speech in Ottawa.</p> <p>&quot;These measures are designed to help authorities stop planned attacks, get threats off our streets, criminalize the promotion of terrorism, and prevent terrorists from traveling and recruiting others,&quot; he said. &quot;It will contain a range of measures to ensure that our police and security agencies have the tools they need to meet evolving threats, and keep Canadians safe.&quot;</p> <p>The legislation will go to Parliament on Friday.</p> <p>Meanwhile, similar things are happening in France in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack. More on that <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Need to Know Snowpocalypse United States Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:34:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6377779 at How the Islamic State was halted in Kobani <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Analysis: The Islamic State controlled half of the Kurdish city a few months ago. Now they are on the run. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Richard Hall </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BEIRUT, Lebanon &mdash; The Islamic State&rsquo;s offensive against Kobani began quietly, almost unnoticed in the international press, in July of last year.</p> <p>The group&rsquo;s fighters had just swept through large parts of north-western Iraq, sending the ill-prepared and ill-motivated Iraqi army fleeing and capturing many heavy weapons in the process.</p> <p>Rather than focusing their might on a push eastwards in Iraq, towards Baghdad, they brought a great deal of those weapons to Syria, to the edge of the Kurdish area of control around Kobani.</p> <p>The siege that followed would develop into one of the most closely followed battles of the Syrian war.</p> <p>Despite its small size, the fight for the city, home to some 45,000 before the fighting began, would take on symbolic significance and become a crucial test for the US strategy to push back the Islamic State.</p> <p>After facing the prospect of the city falling on more than one occasion, the Kurds declared victory in Kobani on Tuesday, claiming to have pushed IS out of the city and sent them on the run in the surrounding area.</p> <p>So how did it happen? How was the Islamic State&rsquo;s seemingly unstoppable advance halted in this nondescript town?</p> <p><strong>The island of Kobani </strong></p> <p>One only has to take a quick look at a map to see why Kobani was an attractive target. It is relatively small and stands apart from the other Kurdish areas of Syria &mdash; an island in a sea of IS control.</p> <p>The border with Turkey lies immediately to the north, close enough so that when fighting was raging throughout the previous months, television cameras could capture every explosion and boom of artillery fire from a hill of the Turkish side. More on that later.</p> <p>The capture of Kobani would have provided a number of strategic benefits for IS. It would have given the group control of another yet key border crossing, cementing its control of a long stretch of the border from Jarabulus in the west to to Tal Abyad to the east. Controlling that stretch would have made it easier to bring fighters into Syria from Turkey and severely disrupted the ability of Kurds to fight back across north-eastern Syria.</p> <p>The Islamic State&rsquo;s offensive was launched in early July. The villages of Zor Mughar, Beyadi and Ziyarete &mdash; to the west of Kobani &mdash; were the first to fall. By September, the group went on to capture 300 villages surrounding the city limits before pushing on to control around half of the city itself.</p> <p>The situation looked bleak. Tens of thousands of refugees spilled over the border into Turkey, abandoning their cars when the roads became clogged. The poorly-armed fighters of the People&rsquo;s Protection Units (YPG) &mdash; the main Kurdish militia in Syria &mdash; and the city&rsquo;s remaining residents were all that stood in the way of an emboldened IS, who were yet to suffer a major defeat in their most recent expansion.</p> <p><strong>A clear blue sky </strong></p> <p>Kobani could have easily suffered the same fate as so many other, larger towns that the Islamic State had overrun. But when Kurdish fighters were struggling to defend their ever-shrinking part of the city, a solution came from the clear blue sky.</p> <p>On September 23, in an effort to stop the advance of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the United State began bombing the group&rsquo;s positions across the territory it held.</p> <p>Nowhere was the force of that campaign felt more than in Kobani. The city and its surroundings were the target of around half a dozen airstrikes every day, <a href="">according to the Associated Press</a>. The more than 700 airstrikes rained down on the area, constituting 80 percent of all coalition strikes in Syria.</p> <p>With the help of air support, and despite some back-and-forth, the defenders of Kobani were able to win back the city, neighborhood by neighborhood.</p> <p>US Central Command gave a cautious statement on Tuesday, saying that anti-Islamic State forces controlled about 90 percent of Kobani.</p> <p>The airstrikes were to have a &ldquo;crucial&rdquo; impact on the defence of Kobani, according to Alan Semo, a member of the foreign affairs committee of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) &mdash; the largest political force in Kurdish Syria and sister organization of the YPG.</p> <p> &ldquo;The last week has seen an intensive bombing campaign that has made a big difference,&rdquo; he told GlobalPost on Tuesday.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="AFP/Getty Images"> A picture taken on January 26, 2015 in Sanliufra shows smoke billowing from the Syrian town Kobani.</div> <p>Another factor that contributed to the success of the Kurds was the close coordination between the coalition and fighters on the ground &mdash; a first, and something could prove an effective model to be replicated elsewhere.</p> <p>But although the coalition played an important role in supporting the fighters on the ground, ask any of them who the victory belongs to and they will likely answer &ldquo;the Kurdish people.&rdquo;</p> <p>There is some truth to that. The battle in Kobani, and in other Kurdish areas threatened by the Islamic State, has heralded a period of Kurdish cooperation unseen in recent history.</p> <p>In Kobani, as well as in Sinjar and Shingal in Iraq, something akin to a national mobilization occurred, bringing together Kurdish fighters of different nationalities and political stripes.</p> <p>In all those towns, once overrun by IS, Peshmerga fighters from the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan fought alongside guerillas from the Kurdistan Workers&rsquo; Party (PKK) &mdash; a militant group that fights for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.</p> <p>Speaking to GlobalPost in December, the military chief of the PKK, Cemil Bayik, said that the IS offensive had backfired in that sense.</p> <p>&ldquo;ISIL is a great threat to the Kurds, but ISIL at the same time, unwillingly, served to unite us. Because despite our internal differences, the threat has brought together Kurds from all parts,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p><strong>The world watching</strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s easy to see why Kobani became a rallying point for the Kurds. But the same is true for the US and the Islamic State.</p> <p>Its close proximity to the border meant that the battle was broadcast into living rooms around the world. When a strategic hill fell to IS, when a neighborhood was lost, the world heard about it. It was because of this, at least in part, that US Secretary of State John Kerry declared it would be &quot;morally very difficult&quot; not to help Kobani.</p> <p>Both sides quickly recognized the propaganda value of the battle, and both sides poured significant resources into the fight. That has come at a cost.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Gokhan Sahin/ AFP"> A Turkish soldier watches journalists at their position on top of a hill overlooking the city of Kobani, near the Mursitpinar border crossing on October 13, 2014 on the Turkish-Syrian border.</div> <p>More than 1,000 Islamic State fighters are thought to have been killed in the fight for Kobani, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors deaths in the Syrian civil war.</p> <p>In the last days of the battle, activists reported that IS sent inexperienced fighters and teenagers to the frontline due to a shortage of recruits.</p> <p>Aside from the physical damage to the Islamic State&rsquo;s ranks, the defeat is likely to have an impact on the group&rsquo;s morale.</p> <p>The Islamic State is a group that claims its victories are awarded by God. That was easier to pass off then it swept through Iraq and Syria last year, and worked as a powerful recruitment tool. But now the group&rsquo;s limits have been revealed.</p> <p>The defeat in Kobani also comes at a time when IS gains elsewhere are under threat.</p> <p>Kurdish forces recently <a href="">broke the IS siege of Mount Sinjar</a>, where hundreds of civilians had fled following a brutal offensive on the towns and villages below.</p> <p>The Iraqi army <a href="">is making progress against IS in Diyala province</a> and preparing, along with the Kurdish Peshmerga, to launch an offensive on Mosul this summer.</p> <p>It would be premature to call Kobani the Kurdish people&rsquo;s Stalingrad, <a href="">as some people would have it</a>. Or even <a href="">Islamic State&rsquo;s Waterloo</a>. What it is though, is a defeat. And perhaps a model for the anti-IS coalition to provide further defeats.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Ilyas Akengin / AFP"> Kurds perform a tradional dance during a rally on January 26, 2015, in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, following news that Kurdish fighters expelled Islamic State (IS) group militants from the Syrian border town of Kobani.</div> Need to Know Syria Middle East Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:42:00 +0000 Richard Hall 6377556 at Despite first conviction, female genital mutilation remains common in Egypt <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ninety-one percent of Egyptian women ages 15-49 have undergone female genital mutilation. Though the practice was outlawed in 2008, Monday's conviction was the first. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Deena Adel </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CAIRO &mdash; It was almost 20 years ago, but Somaya&rsquo;s hands still shake when she recalls the day she was cut.</p> <p>&ldquo;There was blood everywhere,&rdquo; she said. She was 12 at the time, and little Somaya had been told this was something all girls went through before they enter womanhood &mdash; a rite of passage. They had to be &ldquo;purified.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>Somaya, who has requested the use of only her first name to protect her identity, told herself to be brave as the local doctor approached her with his tools. But she couldn&rsquo;t stop herself from screaming. She felt excruciating pain as he proceeded to cut and remove her clitoris. Then she blacked out entirely.&nbsp;</p> <p>When she regained consciousness, she was lying in a pool of her own blood.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;The doctor told them to leave me on the floor until the bleeding stopped, so that I wouldn&rsquo;t dirty the bed or the furniture,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>The most damaging and distressing moment of Somaya&rsquo;s life was a routine procedure in her village in Al Sharqia, Egypt. Her experience was hardly unique &mdash; her mother, sisters, neighbors and friends had all gone through it, too.</p> <p>Ninety-one percent of Egyptian women ages 15-49 have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), according to data from Egypt&rsquo;s 2008 Democratic Health Survey. UNICEF reported that as of 2013, Egypt had more than 27.2 million victims of FGM, more than any other country in the world. In this destructive procedure, the female genitals are partially or entirely removed, with one goal: to inhibit a woman&rsquo;s sexual feelings.</p> <p>FGM was officially outlawed in Egypt in 2008, but the practice remains widespread. Though the practice is illegal, no one had actually been convicted for committing this particular crime &mdash; until now.&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr. Raslan Fadl, the first doctor to ever face trial in Egypt for performing FGM,was sentenced to two years and three months in jail for the death of 13-year-old Suhair al-Bata&#39;a, who died during the procedure in June 2013.</p> <p>It is a legal precedent that activists consider a big step forward in their fight against the practice.</p> <p>This is a crushing victory,&rdquo; said lawyer Reda al-Danbouki, head of the Women&rsquo;s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness. &ldquo;We are very pleased with the verdicts.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, the practice remains widespread and underreported in Egypt, though anti-FGM activists say they hope Monday&rsquo;s verdict will work to change this pattern.</p> <p>Families who carry on the practice believe it&rsquo;s essential for religious and moral reasons and value the time-honored tradition over the new law. Thus <a href="">cases of FGM largely go unreported</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>If a case is filed, it is unlikely to make it to court because many local prosecutors believe that female circumcision is a private issue.&nbsp;</p> <p> And even if the ban on FGM is implemented, activists have criticized the law for being too lenient. Punishments range from three months to two years in prison or an alternative fine of 1,000 to 5,000 Egyptian pounds (about $136-$680).&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Why the practice continues</strong></p> <p>The exact origins of FGM are disputed, but it is widely believed that female genital cutting started in pharaonic Egypt. The first historical mention of male and female circumcision appeared in the writings of the Greek geographer Strabo, who visited Egypt around 25 B.C.</p> <p>&quot;One of the customs most zealously observed among the Egyptians is this, that they rear every child that is born, and circumcise the males, and excise the females,&quot; Strabo wrote in his encyclopedia of geographical knowledge, Geographica.</p> <p>Many in Egypt believe that FGM is rooted in religion, and that it is parents&rsquo; duty as Muslims to cut their daughters. Though this claim has been refuted by Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world&rsquo;s premier Islamic institution, the conviction remains, and the practice continues among the majority of Egypt&rsquo;s Muslim families.&nbsp;</p> <p>Many Christian families in Egypt also practice FGM, claiming that they are continuing the practice for &ldquo;moral&rdquo; reasons&mdash;FGM is viewed as a sign of a woman&rsquo;s chastity.&nbsp;</p> <p>Generation after generation, regardless of religion, mothers allow their daughters to experience the same unspeakable pain and permanent damage they went through, carrying on an ancient tradition banned by law and not endorsed by religion.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Part of it is myth,&rdquo; said Vivan Fouad, a prominent anti-FGM campaigner and a leading figure in the governmental campaign against FGM. Many still wrongly believe that if they don&rsquo;t circumcise girls, they will grow up to be sex-obsessed creatures &ndash; a belief that is perpetuated by respected community and religious leaders, who also circumcise their own daughters.</p> <p>Many also believe the practice has actual health benefits. To the contrary, the long-term implications of FGM include infections, infertility and difficulties during childbirth, said Dr. Iman Anwar, a Cairo-based gynecologist. And there are immediate negative effects, too, including excessive bleeding, trouble while urinating, and even, sometimes death.</p> <p><strong>A legal milestone</strong></p> <p><span style="font-size: 12.7272720336914px; line-height: 20px;">Suhair&rsquo;s al Bata&#39;a&#39;s father took her to the private clinic of Dr. Fadl </span><a href="">despite the young girl&rsquo;s protest</a>. Fadl was a respected figure in the neighborhood known to perform several FGM &lsquo;operations&rsquo; per day.&nbsp;</p> <p>After reading about the incident in the local paper, a group of campaigners against FGM, including the lawyer Danbouki, lobbied Egypt&rsquo;s general prosecutor to pursue the case. It wasn&rsquo;t easy. The first prosecutor they approached was not receptive to the idea. &ldquo;He himself believed that female circumcision was a necessity,&rdquo; said el-Danbouki. &ldquo;So he sympathized with the doctor.&rdquo;</p> <p>Eventually the group of activists succeeded in getting a different prosecutor to understand the significance of the case, and prosecution took the case to court in March. Suhair&rsquo;s father was also tried for his role.</p> <p>The initial verdict didn&rsquo;t go as activists had hoped &mdash; both the doctor and the father were acquitted. Lawyers and anti-FGM activists pressed the prosecution to file an appeal, a move that finally reaped success.</p> <p>Fadl has been sentenced to two years in jail for manslaughter and an extra three months for performing the illegal FGM operation. His clinic was also ordered to close for a year.</p> <p>Suhair&rsquo;s father was also found guilty for taking his daughter to be mutilated. He was handed a three-month suspended sentence.</p> <p>&rdquo;Overall, it was still considered a success that the case made it to court at all,&rdquo; said Fouad, who is a member of the Cairo-based National Population Council. &ldquo;This sets a legal precedent. We had one case this year, maybe next year we&rsquo;ll have two.&rdquo;</p> <p>Fouad thinks the importance of the law lies beyond putting people behind bars, and in creating awareness and getting people to recognize that FGM is wrong.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;People used to say that female circumcision is just part of our culture, but now more people are starting to refer to it as a crime,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>The legal framework to protect women and children does exist in Egypt, said Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF&rsquo;s representative in Egypt, but more needs to be done &mdash; the law needs to be enforced more effectively.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;The penal law criminalizes FGM, and the child law protect the rights of children,&rdquo; said Duamelle. All the legal instruments are there, he said, and yet the tradition continues.</p> <p>&ldquo;I know how delicate it is to address cultural norms and traditions here,&rdquo; said Duamelle, who has been UNICEF&rsquo;s representative in Egypt for more than four years. &ldquo;But with all due respect to cultural norms and traditions, those which have such dramatic negative impact on people have to be changed and abandoned.&rdquo;</p> <p>Along with it being ingrained in Egyptian culture and traditions, Fouad says part of the reason FGM continues is discrimination against women. The practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between men and women, she said, and reinforces stereotypes that prevent women from advancement in society.</p> <p>&ldquo;People think this will help control a woman and her natural instincts,&rdquo; said Fouad.&nbsp;</p> <p>To combat that, Fouad and the campaigners say they need to work on empowering women in society, which is no easy feat. A recent <a href="">poll conducted by Thomson Reuters</a> ranked Egypt as the worst country for women&#39;s rights in the Arab world.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Affecting the whole family</strong></p> <p>This is not, however, a fight between the sexes, said Fouad. Women aren&rsquo;t the only ones harmed by FGM. It harms men, too.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;It affects the intimate relationship between a man and a woman,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;This is not just women&rsquo;s rights, it&rsquo;s also men&rsquo;s rights, child&rsquo;s rights and family rights.</p> <p>In Somaya&rsquo;s case, FGM did not just break her, it also tore her family apart. Her unwillingness to open up emotionally or sexually led to her divorce - only a year after her wedding day. She could not tolerate the slightest touch from her ex-husband.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;It was physically painful,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I cried on my wedding night because the minute he came too close, all I could see was flashbacks of me lying in my blood.&rdquo;</p> <p>She was 19 and pregnant when he divorced her.&nbsp;</p> <p>Upon hearing the news of the country&rsquo;s first FGM conviction, Somaya broke into a happy ululation.</p> <p>&ldquo;I hope they get every last one of these doctors who have ruined the lives of many generations,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>There has recently been a significant drop in the procedure. The most recent survey by the DHS in 2008 found that 74 percent of Egyptian girls ages 15-17 have undergone FGM, compared to the overall figure&mdash; which includes older women &mdash; of 91 percent. The numbers are lower in wealthier families and women who live in urban areas, as well as girls whose mothers have a high school or college level education. The DHS report also indicated that a further decline is expected in the next 15 years.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Now what is important is not just that the progress continues but that progress accelerates,&rdquo; said Duamelle. &ldquo;And this would happen by not only having a solid legal framework but also in enforcing these laws.&rdquo;</p> <p>Since her divorce, Somaya has moved to Cairo and has been raising her child on her own. Her daughter is now 11, almost the same age as she was when she went under the knife.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;I will never do to her what my mother did to me,&rdquo; she vowed.</p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--> Egypt Want to Know Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:40:47 +0000 Deena Adel 6376558 at Kurdish forces finally drive Islamic State out of a key Syrian town <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The fight for Kobani took four months. And it's probably not over yet. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BEIRUT, Lebanon &mdash; Kurdish forces took control of the Syrian town of Kobani on Monday after driving out Islamic State fighters, a monitoring group and Syrian state media said, although Washington said the four-month battle was not yet over.</p> <p>Some Islamic State supporters took to Twitter to say the fight for Kobani, a focal point of the international struggle against the ultra-hardline Islamist group, was still raging.</p> <p>Islamist militants launched an assault on the predominantly Kurdish town last year, using heavy weapons seized in Iraq and forcing tens of thousands of locals into exile.</p> <p>The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian Kurdish People&#39;s Protection Units (YPG) had retaken the town, close to the Turkish border, but were proceeding carefully in the eastern outskirts where Islamic State had planted mines before fleeing.</p> <p>&quot;I can see the YPG flag flying over Kobani. There are the sounds of jets flying above,&quot; said Tevfik Kanat, a Turkish Kurd who rushed to the border with hundreds of others, including refugees from Kobani, after hearing about the advance.</p> <p>&quot;People are dancing and singing, there are fireworks. Everyone feels a huge sense of relief,&quot; he said by telephone.</p> <p>The Islamic State still has fighters in hundreds of nearby villages, and called on supporters on Monday to target people in the West with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on.</p> <p>U.S.-led forces have carried out almost daily air strikes on Islamic State positions around the town, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic. It has been a frontline in the battle against the group that has captured expanses of Iraq and Syria and proclaimed an Islamic caliphate.</p> <p>&quot;The people of Ayn al-Arab were able to expel the terrorist organization Daesh from their town and control it almost completely,&quot; Syrian state news agency SANA said, citing local sources.</p> <p>The Pentagon said it could not declare the battle for Kobani over, but said the Kurds had the upper hand.</p> <p>&quot;I am not prepared to say the battle there is won. The battle continues. But as of now, friendly forces ... I believe, have the momentum,&quot; spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.</p> <p>U.S. Central Command said in a statement that anti-Islamic State forces controlled about 90 percent of Kobani.</p> <p>U.S. COORDINATION</p> <p>Photographs posted on social media showed male and female Kurdish fighters shaking hands and Kurdish flags flying over recaptured territory. Reuters could not immediately confirm the pictures&#39; authenticity.</p> <p>Some militant supporters denied there had been a retreat.</p> <p>&quot;It is untrue (what) had been said in the media about the takeover ... still fierce battles ongoing,&quot; one tweeted.</p> <p>Months of fighting in Kobani prompted Iraqi Kurdish forces known as peshmerga to travel to Syria to support the YPG after the United States asked Ankara to let them join the battle.</p> <p>The struggle for Kobani is the only publicly declared example of U.S.-led forces closely coordinating militarily with a ground force to battle Islamic State.</p> <p>The United States says it wants to train and equip non-jihadist groups to fight Islamic State elsewhere in Syria, but fighters say there is uncertainty surrounding the plans.</p> <p>The recapture raises the question of what Islamic State will do next. Its fighters halted a westwards advance in the countryside north of Aleppo in September when it launched the offensive against Kobani.</p> <p>In the east of the country, the Syrian army and pro-government militia recaptured an area north of Deir al-Zor military air base from Islamic State fighters, killing at least 19 of them, the Observatory said.</p> <p>The airport is one of the last remaining government strongholds in eastern Syria and Islamic State has been trying to capture it for weeks. Government forces have held on to the base and parts of the provincial capital.</p> <p>In an audio clip posted online on Monday, Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said supporters should attack Westerners with whatever weapons they had, &quot;whether an improvised explosive device, bullets, a knife, car bomb or a fist&quot;.</p> <p>&quot;We repeat a call to followers in Europe and the infidel West to target the crusaders in their own lands and wherever they are,&quot; he said, praising attacks in Paris, Ottawa and Sydney.</p> Need to Know Syria Syria Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:35:36 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6377198 at Pain and gain: Inside the world of Australia’s female body builders <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Badass women building figures out of solid muscle now rule this formerly male-dominated sport. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lucinda Kent </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>GOLD COAST, Australia &mdash; The first thing that hits you is the smell.</p> <p>It is a near-toxic combination of aerosol cooking oil and a dark brown, thick tanning paste that backstage assistants nickname &ldquo;Vegemite&rdquo; &mdash; for its resemblance to the quintessential Aussie snack.</p> <p>Hundreds of muscle-bound men and women smear themselves in both substances as they prepare for a state final on Australia&rsquo;s professional bodybuilding circuit. The floor is slick and greasy. Many slide their way onto the stage.</p> <p>The male competitors cut impressive figures, but for the judges and crowds alike, the women are the stars &mdash; by far.</p> <p>&ldquo;Seventy percent of bodybuilders in our competitions are female,&rdquo; said Paul Graham, head of the International Federation of Bodybuilding in Australia.</p> <p>Graham has been bodybuilding since the 1960s. His proudest possession is a photograph of himself with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the pair flexing their biceps in front of Sydney Opera House in 1975.</p> <p>&ldquo;In the past two, three years the entire industry has just become all about the girls. It&rsquo;s unbelievable,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>There has been an influx of Australian women into the country&rsquo;s weight rooms, working away their soft stomachs and thighs to build new figures made of solid muscle.</p> <script type="text/javascript">(function() { var a = document.createElement('script'); a.type='text/javascript'; a.async=true; a.src=""; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(a,s); })();</script><div class="inkEmbed" data-id="ig-751340880619161012_1323570560"> <a href="" target="_blank">View original instagram</a> or visit <a href="" target="_blank">INK361</a></div> <p><strong>&ldquo;Normal girls are just jealous</strong><strong>&rdquo; </strong></p> <p>Their male counterparts&rsquo; efforts pale in comparison to the female body builders&#39; sacrifice.</p> <p>Competitors in the elite <a href="" target="_blank">figure category</a> cut otherworldly shapes in their minuscule bejeweled bikinis; with broad, strong shoulders, almost impossibly taught bottoms and ubiquitous breast implants jutting at unlikely angles on a shelf of pectoral muscles.</p> <p>&ldquo;We all get the boob jobs done in Thailand,&rdquo; said a bleach-blonde competitor, adjusting her dazzling pink bikini.</p> <p>&ldquo;It is cheaper there and they&rsquo;ll go bigger with the implants than doctors in Australia would.&rdquo;</p> <p>When men gain muscle mass it enhances almost every aspect of their masculinity, but for women the choice to bulk up is tantamount to abdicating traditional femininity.</p> <p>Most of the professional women admit they have lost their natural breasts and their menstrual cycles after taking up the sport.</p> <p>While few are willing to admit their use of testosterone in the quest to be fit, the dressing (or undressing) rooms at the competition show the telltale signs; deep voices, square jaws, shadows of facial hair.</p> <p>Tiny bathing suits do little to cover their clitorises, which swell to double and triple their normal size as a side effect of the male hormone.</p> <p>&ldquo;That is my ideal body, right there,&rdquo; said a brunette competitor gesturing to the woman who would go on to win the final of the figure competition.</p> <p>She only had a moment to sigh as she scarfed down a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips.</p> <p>After up to 12 weeks &ldquo;cutting&rdquo; their figures on minimal calories, mostly from chicken and broccoli, competitors feast on candy and salty snacks minutes before going on stage, to make their veins &ldquo;pop&rdquo; and muscles separate.</p> <p>&ldquo;People might look at us like we&rsquo;re crazy or we&rsquo;re freaks, but look at us,&rdquo; she continued, gesturing at her slickly-coated abs.</p> <p>&ldquo;Normal girls are just jealous of this.&rdquo;</p> <p>While the women look physically strong, coach Laura, whose thick frame was clothed in an almost childishly small pair of dungarees, conceded that many were at their weakest, mentally and physically, on competition day.</p> <p>&ldquo;They are absolutely starving and tired, in the last week they really are down to minimal calories,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>&ldquo;There is a lot of cattiness between girls, a lot of fights, I don&rsquo;t like my girls getting caught up in the drama.&rdquo;</p> <p>A minute later one of the biggest girls in the contest comes running from side stage, straight to a friend&rsquo;s open, bulging arms.</p> <p>&ldquo;I-I-I didn&rsquo;t get all my poses in,&rdquo; she cries, mere seconds after appearing poised and triumphant on stage.</p> <p>&ldquo;All of this for nothing.&rdquo;</p> <p>As she weeps, her fake tan and eye makeup form wet, black streaks down her face. A friend fans her off with a shoebox lid from a pair of competition-standard Lucite stripper heels.</p> <script type="text/javascript">(function() { var a = document.createElement('script'); a.type='text/javascript'; a.async=true; a.src=""; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(a,s); })();</script><div class="inkEmbed" data-id="ig-766907280731360792_509617514"> <a href="" target="_blank">View original instagram</a> or visit <a href="" target="_blank">INK361</a></div> <p><strong>It takes a village to build a body</strong></p> <p>Bodybuilding can be an all-consuming sport, and no competitor arrives to an event on their own.</p> <p>Pale sisters and brothers pat down the dark competition-regulated tans, boyfriends yell out praise as competitors go on stage and coaches, most former champions, bark out the number of poses.</p> <p>Between hours of the gym, daily posing practice, macronutrient measuring, careful meal preparation and posting regular updates to social media, bodybuilding is a lifestyle.</p> <p>Backstage at the final, when asked what their full time job is, around a dozen women answer &ldquo;Instagram.&rdquo;</p> <p>For an elite few it is possible to make tens of thousands of dollars through fitness modeling, sponsorship from supplement companies and prize money. For most competing is a costly exercise.</p> <p>It is hard to pin down why so many women want to change themselves and enter the world of bodybuilding. Although they are far from conventionally attractive, the women&rsquo;s muscle mass is certainly impressive, a testament to human willpower.</p> <p>The best answer may come from the competitor who ran crying off stage, after her eyes dried and she went on to win her division.</p> <p>&ldquo;I want to be strong,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s beautiful.&rdquo;</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div> </div> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;"><a href="" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;" target="_top">A photo posted by Lisa Carrodus (@lisa_carrodus)</a> on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2014-10-16T05:19:09+00:00">Oct 15, 2014 at 10:19pm PDT</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script> Entertainment Want to Know Asia-Pacific Tue, 27 Jan 2015 05:30:21 +0000 Lucinda Kent 6368256 at 5 things to know about the UK elections <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Point 1: Anything can happen. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Corinne Purtill </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON &mdash; There are 100 days left until the UK general election on May 7. As Europe reels from a shocking <a href="" target="_blank">electoral upset in Greece</a>, Britain is preparing for the most unpredictable vote in living memory. Here are a few things to discuss next time you&rsquo;re at the pub sipping a warm beer and watching soccer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 1. Anything can happen!</h2> <p>&ldquo;Blimey,&rdquo; said Peter Kellner, president of the UK polling firm <a href="" target="_blank">YouGov</a> on Monday. &ldquo;As a journalist and a pollster I&rsquo;ve been covering elections for 45 years, and I&rsquo;ve never been as uncertain as I am right now.&rdquo;</p> <p>Usually, at this point in the race, pollsters can offer predictions with some confidence. Not this time. The major pre-election <a href="" target="_blank">polls are so close</a> and so rapidly changing that they&rsquo;re barely worth mentioning here. Some have Labour eking out a narrow majority. Others see a repeat of the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="450" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src=";in=1&amp;st=01/10/2014&amp;en=27/01/2015" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="650"></iframe></p> <p><em>Polling averages from October 2014 to Jan. 25, 2015. Red = Labour; blue = Conservative; purple = UK Independence Party; yellow = Liberal Democrats; green = Green Party.</em></p> <p>And there&rsquo;s no shortage of events that could suddenly upset things in the months to come &mdash; a terrorist attack, more fluctuations in the price of oil, political and economic volatility in Europe.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s one thing UK pollsters agree on: We&rsquo;re on our own for this one.</p> <p>&ldquo;If you want to bet on any of these, it&rsquo;s down to you,&rdquo; Kellner told a gathering at the Foreign Press Association in London. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not offering any money-back guarantees.&rdquo;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 2. Smaller parties could change everything!</h2> <p>For the last half century,&nbsp;two parties have dominated&nbsp;British politics: Conservative and Labour. In 2010, neither earned enough parliamentary seats to form a government outright. The Tories, as the Conservatives are also known, and the centrist, libertarian-leaning Liberal Democrats made a deal to form the first peacetime coalition government since the 1930s.</p> <p>Since then, the political landscape has been scrambled up. Support for the Liberal Democrats plunged during their time in (shared) power. The Scottish National Party has surged in popularity since its narrowly defeated independence referendum in September, at the expense of traditionally Labour votes. Minority parties once considered on the fringe &mdash; the UK Independence Party on the right, the Green Party on the left &mdash; have both had exponential growth in membership and expect to peel seats away from the majority parties in Parliament.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s anyone&rsquo;s game.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 3. David Cameron could remain prime minister. Or not!</h2> <p>Surely you remember every minute of high school comparative government and don&rsquo;t need any of this explained. But just for the record &mdash; UK voters cast ballots for their local representative, not for head of state. The party with a majority of Parliament&rsquo;s 650 seats forms a government, and the queen names that party&rsquo;s leader prime minister.</p> <p>If incumbent David Cameron&rsquo;s Tories don&rsquo;t win the election, he would almost certainly step down as party leader. If not, he would most likely be named prime minister once again, barring a last-minute leadership coup.</p> <p>Meanwhile, one of Labour&#39;s biggest problems is that few people in Britain can really picture leader <a href="" target="_blank">Ed Miliband</a> &mdash; who bears a striking resemblance to the human half of &quot;Wallace and Gromit,&quot; the UK claymation comedy duo &mdash; as prime minister. (Google &ldquo;Ed Miliband bacon sandwich.&rdquo; You&rsquo;ll see what we mean.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 4. There will be televised debates. Maybe!</h2> <p>The last election in 2010 was the first time party leaders debated each other on live television in the run-up to voting. British politicians still aren&rsquo;t sure what to make of this newfangled technological advance.</p> <p>For months, parties have been arguing about whether there should be televised debates, and if so who should get to participate.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s <a href="" target="_blank">looking now like there could be</a> two featuring the leaders of the country&rsquo;s seven biggest parties, followed by two more closer to the election with just Cameron and Miliband, the top parties&rsquo; leaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2> 5. People don&rsquo;t care. (Yet!)</h2> <p>British elections are <a href="" target="_blank">not like US ones</a>. There is probably more media coverage in the US of its next presidential election 650 days away than there is in the UK of the one in three months.</p> <p>The public doesn&rsquo;t really start to pay attention to this whole election thing until the prime minister dissolves parliament, a traditional step before a general election. That will happen on March 30. And that&rsquo;s when things will get interesting.</p> Elections Want to Know United Kingdom Tue, 27 Jan 2015 05:30:00 +0000 Corinne Purtill 6376785 at Egypt's 'deep state' in context <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Analysis: General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the new face of the old military guard holding tight to a huge piece of the Egyptian economy. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Charles M. Sennott </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story was originally published Sept. 16, 2013 as part of The GroundTruth Project&#39;s Special Report &quot;<a href="">Egypt in Crisis</a>,&quot; which was a partnership of GlobalPost and PBS FRONTLINE. Charles M. Sennott, GlobalPost co-founder and GroundTruth&#39;s executive director, provided on-the-ground coverage of the &quot;January 25 Revolution&quot; from its origins in 2011 through to today&#39;s re-emergence of &quot;deep state.&quot; We&#39;re republishing this report to provide context and continuity for the reporting in this new Special Report.</em></p> <p>CAIRO &mdash; Egyptians call it the &ldquo;deep state.&rdquo;</p> <p>And it was there all along for anyone who wanted to see it throughout the two and a half years since the world watched Egyptians take to the streets in what was so widely viewed as a revolution by the people, for the people.</p> <p>It was reflected in the dark sunglasses of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi this summer as he moved in on July 3 with tanks and troops to topple the new government dominated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and to detain Egypt&rsquo;s first democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi before he had served a full year in office.</p> <p>It was echoed in the rumble of the Egyptian Air Force jets that streaked overhead and painted the sky with tri-color vapors of the Egyptian flag as the huge crowds of anti-Morsi protesters cheered in the streets below.</p> <p>And it reverberated in the silence of Washington as the Obama administration watched these events unfold on Fourth of July weekend without interfering or offering condemnation of what was in effect a military coup, even if the White House refused to use those words.</p> <p>To Egyptians, the &ldquo;deep state&rdquo; has become a part of the national vocabulary, a phrase ubiquitous in Cairo these days after a tumultuous and violent summer of protest marches and street battles that ended with the military once again back in charge.</p> <p>The expression refers to the layers of military, political and bureaucratic bedrock that make up the 60-year rule of Egypt&rsquo;s military generals that was embodied for 30 years by President Hosni Mubarak. That is, until he was deposed in the wake of the popular unrest of early 2011 that came to be known as the January 25 Revolution.</p> <p>In present day, the democratically elected Morsi is under arrest and the ousted Mubarak has been released from jail pending trial. So Egyptians and the world are left wondering if the heady events of early 2011 really was a revolution after all. To many analysts, activists and historians here, it is hard to see it as one since it is clear the &ldquo;deep state&rdquo; has so dramatically and violently reasserted its authority.</p> <p>DEFINING THE &lsquo;DEEP STATE&rsquo;</p> <p>So what exactly is the &ldquo;deep state?&rdquo;</p> <p>It is a pyramid of power with 350,000 military troops at the base with a command structure that routinely trains at the US Army War College. In the inner chamber is the treasure chest of $1.3 billion in annual military aid from the US Brick by brick, the structure is supported by a vast economic empire controlled by the military, including manufacturing, construction, fuel, energy and more. These are managed through a network rife with cronyism and corruption, according to many experts quoted in a 2012 GlobalPost-FRONTLINE investigation of the military&rsquo;s economic power.</p> <p>Then there is the police state, the Supreme Court, the state-run media and, holding it all together, the 21 military generals of the Supreme Council of Allied Forces, known as the SCAF. At the very top of this pyramid is the youngest of those SCAF generals and the one now presiding over this structural &ldquo;deep state&rdquo;: Gen. al-Sisi.</p> <p>Nathan Brown, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University and an expert on Islamist movements in the Middle East, said, &ldquo;The term &lsquo;deep state,&rsquo; originally comes from Turkey. The sense that the military is not necessarily ruling directly but what you have is kind of underneath the surface of politics, this underlying set of structures that&#39;s running things.&rdquo;</p> <p>And as Amr Darrag, a member of the Executive Committee in the Muslim Brotherhood&rsquo;s Freedom and Justice Party who was part of the inner circle around Morsi as the dramatic events unfolded in early July, said, the &ldquo;deep state&rdquo; is &ldquo;much deeper than what everybody thought.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;It is really very deep because it&#39;s a result of 60 years of bad governments and corruption, so you need some time. And you need real&mdash;drastic measures in order to be able to get rid of that,&rdquo; Darrag added.</p> <p>LONG, HOT SUMMER</p> <p>It was a simmering summer of unrest and violence in Egypt which began on June 30 when as many as 20 million demonstrators took to the streets across Egypt to protest what they saw as the failed leadership of Morsi.</p> <p>Morsi&rsquo;s handpicked defense minister, a relatively young and charismatic general who emerged from the Supreme Council of the Allied Forces, or SCAF, suddenly and dramatically issued an ultimatum to Morsi to call for new elections or face his ouster. On July 3, Gen. al-Sisi delivered on his threat when security forces escorted Morsi out of the presidential palace and placed him in detention at an undisclosed military location.</p> <p>Counter-protests by Morsi supporters and members of the lumbering Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic movement from which Morsi and his political party emerged, were brutally suppressed by the police and military.</p> <p>In one clash on July 8, more than 50 civilian protesters were gunned down. The Muslim Brotherhood dug in at a sprawling camp around the Raba&rsquo;a al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr City just as the holy month of Ramadan began. For the next 30 days, the Islamists fasted all day and fought all night in running street battles against the security forces.</p> <p>Until the military decided enough was enough.</p> <p>On August 14, troops moved in with tanks, tear gas and snipers on rooftops to clear the square. By day&rsquo;s end, more than 600 people were killed in the military crackdown.</p> <p>The Muslim Brotherhood has been crushed, at least for now. Their leaders were arrested or sent into hiding. Some fled the country. The movement was forced underground, the place where for the last 80 years it has built its base and thrived in the shadows.</p> <p>The question now is how does the country move forward without some form of reconciliation with this vast movement that captures the hearts of so many Muslims in Egypt. Experts on Egypt and Islamist movements agree that the Muslim Brotherhood, with some 700,000 dues-paying members and a wide support that gave it nearly 40 percent of the seats in parliament in 2012 elections, is a political and religious energy source that will not go away any time soon.</p> <p>It remains to be seen whether the Brotherhood&rsquo;s political energy will be harnessed for the future of Egypt, or thwarted and left to build in pressure underground just as it did for so many decades before the streets of Egypt exploded in revolution in 2011.</p> <p>History will provide an answer. But for now, the &ldquo;deep state&rdquo; is still in charge.&nbsp;</p> Egypt Need to Know Mon, 26 Jan 2015 21:01:00 +0000 Charles M. Sennott 6376786 at US charges 3 in alleged Russian spy ring in NYC <!--paging_filter--><p>The US government on Monday unveiled criminal charges against three men for their alleged involvement in a Russian spy ring operating in New York City.</p> <p>Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy conspired to gather economic intelligence on behalf of Russia, including alleged information about US sanctions against the country, and to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources, US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.</p> <p>Monday&#39;s charges are linked to Buryakov&#39;s alleged covert work on behalf of Russia&#39;s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, according to a criminal complaint.</p> <p>Buryakov, 39, masked this work by posing as a banker for Russia&#39;s Vnesheconombank, according to the complaint and the bank&#39;s website.</p> <p>The alleged conspiracy began in 2012, following the 2010 expulsion of several Russian spies from the United States.</p> <p>Federal prosecutors said Sporyshev, 40, worked as a Russian trade representative from November 2010 to November 2014, while Podobnyy, 27, was an attach&eacute; to Russia&#39;s mission to the United Nations from December 2012 to September 2013.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The presence of a Russian banker in New York would in itself hardly draw attention today, which is why these alleged spies may have thought Buryakov would blend in,&quot; US Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement.</p> <p>Each defendant was charged with acting as or helping Buryakov to act as an unregistered agent of a Russia, which carries a maximum 10-year prison term, and conspiracy.</p> <p>Prosecutors said the case was built on physical and electronic surveillance of dozens of meetings, including several in which Buryakov met with an FBI agent posing as a wealthy investor who hoped to develop casinos in Russia.</p> <p>They said Buryakov would seek information &quot;far outside&quot; what a banker in his position would care about, including a list of Russian entities that might face future US sanctions.</p> <p>Buryakov was arrested on Monday in the Bronx borough of New York City. His lawyer was not immediately available for comment.</p> <p>Sporyshev and Podobnyy have not been arrested and no longer live in the United States but had diplomatic immunity while they were in the country, federal prosecutors said.</p> <p>Russia&#39;s UN mission and Vnesheconombank did not immediately respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker)</p> Need to Know Russia Mon, 26 Jan 2015 20:35:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6376763 at Greece: What next? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tsipras or Merkel will have to give ground if Greece is to stay in the euro zone. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Paul Ames </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LISBON, Portugal&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;&quot;Greece is leaving behind catastrophic austerity,&quot; newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told a cheering crowd in Athens on Sunday night. &quot;It leaves behind five years of humiliation and anguish.&rdquo;</p> <p>It&#39;s easy to understand why Greek voters gave Tsipras and his Coalition of the Radical Left party, also known as SYRIZA, such an emphatic victory in Sunday&#39;s election.</p> <p>Their country has been the epicenter of the euro zone&#39;s debt crisis since 2009. Since then, Greeks have seen their economy shrink by a quarter. Public services have crumbled, living standards plummeted, unemployment and poverty rates hit record levels.</p> <p>Voters blame governments of the established conservative and center-left parties: first for creating the economic mess by secretly running up massive budget deficits and debt levels; then prolonging the agony through slavish adherence to austerity diktats imposed by the euro zone powers in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin.</p> <p>SYRIZA campaigned on an offer of hope.</p> <p>Tsipras &mdash; at 40, modern Greece&#39;s youngest leader &mdash; promises a break from the past by overturning austerity policies, challenging international creditors and relaunching the economy with taxes for the rich, and new investment in jobs and services.</p> <p>SYRIZA moderated some of its demands to win over wavering centrist voters&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&mdash;</span>&nbsp;it no longer wants to pull out of NATO and, together with over 70 percent of Greeks, the party says Greece should keep the euro.</p> <p><strong>GlobalPost Live Blog: <a href="" target="_blank">Greek voters give crushing victory to anti-austerity party</a></strong></p> <p>Despite that, Tsipras&#39; campaign promises have Greece on a collision course with its European partners &mdash; or at least with those in northern Europe, especially Germany the biggest contributor to the &euro;240 billion ($279 billion) bailout program, which has kept Greek finances afloat over the past five years.</p> <p>Battle lines were being drawn up even before Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister on Monday morning.</p> <p>Two seats short of an absolute majority in Greece&#39;s 300-seat parliament, Tsipras chose as his coalition partners the christian conservative Independent Greeks (ANEL) party &mdash; whose views on issues ranging from immigration and education to gay marriage are anathema to many of SYRIZA&#39;s leftist supporters.</p> <p>What unites the two parties&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;">&mdash;</span>&nbsp;besides a strong pro-Moscow approach to foreign policy &mdash; is their stated determination to renegotiate the term&#39;s of Greece&#39;s massive public debt even at the cost of confrontation with the European Union.</p> <p>As Tspiras was wrapping up his coalition, officials at EU headquarters and in northern capitals were insisting there will be no major reworking of the bailout terms. Greece, they say, will have to stick to its debt repayments and commitments to keep government finances tight.</p> <p>&quot;The Greek election result will not change Finland&#39;s positions with regard to the management of the euro-area crises,&quot; said a statement from Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb. &quot;Finland will not accept a demand for debt cancellation.&quot;</p> <p>The most Finland would be prepared to countenance is giving Greece few months grace to meet its targets, provided the new government sticks to all previous commitments and reforms,&quot; Stubb said.</p> <p>If Greece is going to stay in the euro, one side will have to blink.</p> <p>Tsipras could well be forced back away from election promises to halt interest payments, demand creditors write off a big chunk of Greece&#39;s debt, and roll back painful economic reforms.</p> <p>Alternatively, he will have to do what leaders across cash-strapped southern Europe have failed to do over the past five years &mdash; persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel to reverse her conviction that austerity and reforms are the best way to put the economy back on its feet.</p> <p>That will be difficult.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">You really should be paying attention to Greece right now</a></strong></p> <p>Merkel refused to give in to repeated appeals to cut Greece some slack when they came from a political ally &mdash; defeated conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.</p> <p>If she buckles under demands from SYRIZA, disgruntled citizens elsewhere will be encouraged to follow the Greeks in turning away from the political center.</p> <p>Spain&#39;s new We Can (Podemos) party is already topping polls there on a SYRIZA-inspired program ahead of elections due there before December.</p> <p>In Italy, Portugal, France and other struggling euro zone economies, populist anti-austerity parties of the left and right might also be boosted if SYRIZA is seen to win Greece advantages that the mainstream couldn&#39;t.</p> <p>If neither Athens or Berlin backs down, Greece could be facing both a default on its debt and ejection from the euro zone.</p> <p>That&#39;s a scenario Tsipras and Merkel say they want to avoid. A Grexit would risk throwing Greece and other euro zone countries into renewed crisis, triggering fears the whole bloc could unravel with uncertain repercussions for the world economy.</p> <p>Despite the entrenched positions, some economists see a chance of squaring the circle.</p> <p>&quot;Lack of an agreement may lead to Grexit, which would be so bad for all that both the new Greek leadership and euro-area partners have very strong incentives to avoid it,&quot; writes Zsolt Darvas, senior fellow at the Bruegel economic think tank in Brussels.</p> <p>&quot;The Grexit threat will be hanging over the negotiators like the sword of Damocles.&quot;</p> <p>Darvas says a mutually beneficial deal could be worked out that gives Greece more time to repay its debt and at lower interest rates, while a relaxation of EU deficit rules could give the new government in Athens some fiscal leeway to reduce social pain and support investment.</p> <p>Officials attending a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday suggested there could be some wriggle room. &quot;We have common goals, ensuring Greece as a nation can stand on its own two feet, clean up its finances and become a jobs generator again,&quot; EU Economic Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.</p> <p>Despite the bluster against the bailout conditions, Tsipras has limited short-term maneuver room and needs to persuade creditors to maintain backing to Athens.</p> <p>The country&#39;s coffers remain close to empty and without the EU and International Monetary Fund freeing up more money fast, the government may run out of funds within the next three months.</p> <p>Meanwhile, it&#39;s not just the economy that has Greece&#39;s partners spooked.</p> <p>Parties in the new government share a strong pro-Russian tendency that could make it more difficult for NATO and the EU to adopt a tougher line in response to Moscow&#39;s renewed military action in Ukraine.</p> <p>Tsipras has echoed Russia&#39;s portrayal of the Ukrainian government as &quot;fascists.&quot; His new coalition partner &mdash; Panos Kammenos, leader of nationalist ANEL party &mdash; last week said the EU should drop all sanctions against Russia.<br /> &nbsp;</p> BeNeLux Need to Know Business France Europe Germany Ireland Italy Spain Mon, 26 Jan 2015 19:06:00 +0000 Paul Ames 6376678 at Greek elections: The view from the Kremlin <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Analysis: For Putin's Russia, the Syriza win comes in handy. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>KYIV, Ukraine &mdash; With much of Europe looking at Greece with anxiety, there&rsquo;s at least one leader who isn&rsquo;t panicking too much: Vladimir Putin.</p> <p>The leftist Syriza coalition&rsquo;s victory in Sunday&rsquo;s Greek vote is spreading worries for some of further financial turmoil in Europe, and hope for others of an anti-austerity uprising.</p> <p>But it also means the Russian president, who&rsquo;s become increasingly isolated on the world stage, thanks to Russia&rsquo;s meddling in the Ukraine crisis, may have just won a new friend.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Follow the live blog for updates on the Greek election</a></strong></p> <p>First, Russia&rsquo;s close historical, cultural and religious ties with Greece &mdash; both countries are predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christian &mdash; go way back.</p> <p>Then there&rsquo;s the politics: While Syriza members have tried to allay fears the radical leftist coalition would seek to pull Greece out of NATO, they do openly challenge the military alliance&rsquo;s utility and importance.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s key because the Kremlin isn&rsquo;t exactly NATO&rsquo;s biggest fan either. (Putin himself on Monday even slammed Ukraine&rsquo;s army as a &ldquo;<a href="" target="_blank">NATO legion</a>&rdquo; serving foreign geopolitical interests.)&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps even more important is speculation that Syriza may help block crippling European Union sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, measures the radical Greeks have repeatedly criticized.</p> <p>The party leadership has also spoken out against Kyiv&rsquo;s new pro-EU government, which the Kremlin slams as a &ldquo;fascist junta.&rdquo;</p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">All 28 EU member states must vote unanimously to extend the punitive measures when they&rsquo;re up for renewal in July. The trickle-down effects of sanctions &mdash; such as a drop in Russian tourism to Greece &mdash;&nbsp;have been felt by Athens, </span><a href="" style="font-size: 13px;" target="_blank">Bloomberg News reported</a><span style="font-size: 13px;">.</span></p> <p>It&rsquo;s unclear just how closely Syriza will pivot toward Russia. But hints are emerging.</p> <p><strong>More GlobalPost analysis: <a href="" target="_blank">Greece &mdash; what&#39;s next?</a></strong></p> <p>Costas Isychos, the coalition&rsquo;s foreign policy chief, told the official Russian newspaper, <a href="" target="_blank">Rossiyskaya Gazeta</a>, on Sunday that one of newly minted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras&rsquo; first foreign visits might just be to Moscow.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;We should remember that the relationship between our countries is much deeper than just the current agenda of the day,&rdquo; he said.</p> Greece is the Word Elections Want to Know Global Economy Political Risk Russia Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:04:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6376559 at For the first time, Egypt has convicted a doctor for female genital mutilation <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Campaigners praise the prosecution as a 'historic moment' for the practice, which is widespread despite being outlawed in 2008. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Dean </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CAIRO, Egypt &mdash; An Egyptian appeals court on Monday handed down the first conviction in the country&rsquo;s history for female genital mutilation (FGM).</p> <p>Dr. Raslan Fadl was sentenced to two years in jail for manslaughter following the death of 13-year-old Sohair al-Bata&#39;a, who died during the procedure in 2013.</p> <p>He was sentenced to a further three months for performing the operation, which is illegal in Egypt, and his clinic has been ordered closed for a year.</p> <p>The girls&rsquo; father, who paid for the surgery, was also found guilty and given a suspended sentence of three months with labor.</p> <p>Fadl was <a href="">originally found not guilty</a> of the crime at a court in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura in November, despite strong evidence against him.</p> <p>Monday&#39;s decision represented a victory for the anti-FGM movement in Egypt, where &mdash; despite FGM being outlawed in 2008 &mdash; prosecutions were non-existent.</p> <p>&quot;It&#39;s a historic moment,&quot; said Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a consultant at Equality Now &mdash; a human rights organization focusing on the rights of women and girls. &quot;It&#39;s a lesson for doctors to ban medicalization of FGM in Egypt.&quot;</p> <p><strong>Egypt tops the list&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Ninety-one percent of Egyptian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, <a href="">according to UNICEF</a> &mdash; about 27.2 million people, the largest number in any country in the world.</p> <p>According to Equality Now, nearly one in four survivors of FGM worldwide is Egyptian.</p> <p>In Egypt, most FGM operations are performed by a doctor. In the past, traditional midwives, barbers or sometimes mothers themselves would perform the procedure, often stopping the bleeding by putting dust or salt on the wound.</p> <p>FGM includes an array of practices, including the partial or total removal of the clitoris, the removal of the clitoris and labia minora, and infibulation, which involves cutting and sewing up the outer labia.</p> <p>In Egypt the most widely practiced version is the removal of the clitoris and labia minora. Most girls undergo the procedure between the ages of 9 and 13 but victims can be as young as 9 months old.</p> <p>Many believe the procedure curbs women&rsquo;s sexual appetites and makes them less likely to commit adultery. Others say that if a woman has not undergone FGM it limits her prospects for marriage.</p> <p>Though support for the practice appears to be declining, 54 percent of women and 57 percent of men in Egypt <a href="">believe in performing FGM</a>.</p> <p><strong>Religious duty</strong></p> <p>Despite a ruling against the practice by Egypt&rsquo;s Grand Mufti in 2006, many see the practice as a religious duty. In Egypt, both Muslims and Christians perform FGM.</p> <p>The court decision represents a small victory in a country with a dismal record on women&rsquo;s rights. Egypt has become notorious worldwide for sexual harassment and hundreds of women have been victims of mob sexual assaults over the last three years.</p> <p>In fact, more than 99 percent of women in Egypt <a href="">report experiencing some sort of sexual harassment</a>. And while a new constitution enshrines women&rsquo;s rights to work, seek education and hold political office &mdash; and criminalizes violence against women and discrimination on the basis of gender &mdash; many activists have little hope that such rights will be upheld any time soon.</p> <p> Despite his conviction, Dr. Fadl could still avoid justice.</p> <p> &ldquo;He still might escape,&rdquo; said Atef Aboueleinein, a lawyer with the Women&rsquo;s Center for Counsel and Legal Defense, the prosecution lawyer in the case. &ldquo;The police still have to go and get him.&quot;</p> Egypt Need to Know Middle East Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:29:00 +0000 Laura Dean 6376467 at Egypt releases Mubarak's sons day after anniversary of revolution <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> This will probably not go over well with a large portion of the public. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The sons of deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak were released from prison on Monday, prison officials said, a day after the violent anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled the autocrat.</p> <p>An Egyptian court last week ordered the release of Alaa and Gamal Mubarak pending their retrial in a corruption case.</p> <p>Their release could further fuel tensions in Egypt. At least 25 people were killed on Sunday in anti-government demonstrations, officials said. Witnesses say security forces and police fired at protestors.</p> <p>Mubarak is still in detention in a military hospital, but judicial sources said he could soon walk free as he currently has no convictions against him.</p> <p>Many Egyptians view Mubarak&#39;s rule as a period of crony capitalism which enriched an elite but neglected millions of poor.</p> <p>Pro-democracy activists accuse President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of returning Egypt to the kind of authoritarian rule that characterized Mubarak&#39;s three-decades in power, allegations the government denies.</p> Egypt egypt Want to Know Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:49:15 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6376256 at Syria's president says US should ask permission to launch air strikes against Islamic State <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> President Bashar al-Assad said he's serious about fighting terrorism. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>BEIRUT, Lebanon &mdash; Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said US-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria should be subject to an agreement with Damascus and Syrian troops should be involved on the ground.</p> <p>Assad was speaking in an interview with the US-based Foreign Affairs Magazine, which was published on Monday.</p> <p>&quot;With any country that is serious about fighting terrorism, we are ready to make cooperation, if they&#39;re serious,&quot; Assad said, when asked if he would be willing to take steps to make cooperation easier with Washington.</p> <p>Washington supports opposition forces fighting for the past four years to topple Assad, but its position has become complicated since Islamic State and other hardline groups emerged as the most powerful rebel factions.</p> <p>Since Islamic State took over much of Syria and Iraq last summer, the United States has mounted regular air strikes against it. But it has rejected the idea of allying itself with the Syrian government despite them now having a common enemy.</p> <p>When asked what he would like to see from the United States, Assad said Washington should pressure Turkey not to allow money and weapons into northern Syria and &quot;to make legal cooperation with Syria and start by asking permission from our government to make such attacks&quot;.</p> <p>&quot;The format we can discuss later, but you start with permission. Is it an agreement? Is it a treaty? That&rsquo;s another issue,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Washington informed Damascus before it started strikes in Syria in September.</p> <p>The power of the hardline Islamists, including Islamic State and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, makes it more difficult for the United States to find a suitable ally on the ground.</p> <p>It plans to train and equip members of the mainstream Syrian opposition to fight Islamic State as part of its strategy to roll back the group&#39;s gains in Syria.</p> <p>A first group of about 100 U.S. troops will head to the Middle East in the next few days to establish training sites for Syrian opposition fighters.</p> <p>Assad said the campaign should be backed up by the Syrian army on the ground.</p> <p>&quot;The question you have to ask the Americans is, which troops are you going to depend on? Definitely, it has to be Syrian troops.&quot;</p> <p>The United Nations says 200,000 people have been killed in the civil war, which started with pro-democracy protests that were violently repressed.</p> Need to Know Syria Syria Middle East Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:36:00 +0000 Thomson Reuters 6376235 at In the Republic of Samsung, here’s the ticket to the good life <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Forget plastics. I just want to say one word for you, just one word: Samsung. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SEOUL, South Korea &mdash; In a trendy Gangnam high-rise, a whiz-kid professor named Lee Sihan urges his classroom of 28 students not to fret. The big exam you&rsquo;ve been preparing for &mdash; the one that could land you a Samsung dream job &mdash; won&rsquo;t be that bad if you put the hours in.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s an attempt to reassure, but not everybody in this exam-crazed nation is that confident. In a test prep industry worth many millions of dollars, these youngsters study for four hours a day under Lee &mdash; something of a celebrity who, for a price, can help kids get a foot in with the country&rsquo;s most prestigious nameplate employer.</p> <p>Promoting himself as a member of the elite IQ club Mensa, Lee has written more than 50 books, holds a doctorate, and regularly lectures on television for anxious youngsters in the battle to pass its national entrance test, the Samsung SAT, and a handful of other pivotal exams called goshi.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is cramming,&rdquo; he said of his $160, four-day intensive course. &ldquo;My strategy is to teach them to pass in a short period of time.&rdquo;</p> <p>Call it a dream job for many youngsters in South Korea, a country nicknamed the &ldquo;Republic of Samsung.&rdquo; In the US, we know the electronics mega-empire for its smart phones and televisions.</p> <p>But in Seoul, you can unknowingly live an entire day on Samsung creations &mdash; right down to your apartment building and even an online soap opera.</p> <p>From a young age, these students spent their lives cramming through the night, seeking entry into an elite university and, by the time they graduate, a cushy job with a sprawling and politically connected conglomerate. Every six months, some 100,000 Koreans swarm campus test centers for a shot at Samsung glory.</p> <p>About 7,000 pass and 4,000 get jobs after this rigorous sitting that includes math, science, reasoning, and until recently, a bewildering section on obscure Chinese characters. That&rsquo;s about one in 20 applicants.</p> <p>At Apple or Google, you&rsquo;d get a shot with a glistening CV and a spirited interview. But in Confucian South Korea, exams are a far graver prerequisite, determining just about everything important in life.</p> <p>University admissions, corporate and government jobs, and even entrance to the right preschool can require a strong testing score. Fail the test, and you potentially fail at life in the eyes of your family &mdash; a common reason for suicide in this nation where soaring numbers of young people are taking their own lives.</p> <p>The competition is so fierce that Korea&rsquo;s Gen Y has a history of getting into tizzies over changes to recruitment policies. In January 2014, Samsung was met with angry pushback when it announced a plan to dash part of the open testing method, asking universities to recommend a set number of high-performing students who could sit.</p> <p>Some students feared that because they didn&rsquo;t attend the right schools, all that hard work for the exam &mdash; which guaranteed the opening stages of recruitment were blind to their CV and accomplishments &mdash; would be dashed.</p> <p>Following a national uproar, Samsung quickly dropped its plans.<br /> Why the feistiness among South Korean youth? It all boils down to the prestige of being what Koreans call a &ldquo;Samsung Man,&rdquo; giving bragging rights to young adults and their watchful helicopter parents, prospective employees tell GlobalPost. (Of course, women can become Samsung employees too, but the label, still used in Korea, goes back decades before feminism.)</p> <p>&ldquo;A job at Samsung means you&rsquo;re acknowledged and accepted by others,&rdquo; bluntly explains Lee Chang-ju, a university student cramming in Lee&rsquo;s class. &ldquo;University graduates think it&rsquo;s the best way up.&rdquo;</p> <p>It also offers an element of stability in a country that remembers the trauma of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which destroyed the savings of lifetime stoic workers and permanently scarred a generation.</p> <p>In the West, corporate workers are often treated as disposable, with the terms of employment linked to the company&rsquo;s immediate performance. But in South Korea, large corporations find it harder to cut the string for employees who are supposed to be treated as family, even when times are hard and when profits plunge.</p> <p>Some call it a Confucian arrangement.</p> <p>Spouses and children, for instance, can get a helping hand following the untimely death of an employee, or should the family struggle with their finances and health.</p> <p>The typical South Korean business-employee relationship comes with other perks, too: you&rsquo;re also expected to engage in regular, <a href="">hardcore boozing</a>, and take weekend trips that require imbibing heavy quantities of soju, Korea&rsquo;s vodka-like liquor.</p> <p>So in the end, the exams &mdash; and all the suffering they put you through &mdash; could be worth it. That is, if you enjoy soju.</p> Business Want to Know South Korea Mon, 26 Jan 2015 06:15:27 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 6373609 at More than 15 dead on the 4th anniversary of Egypt's revolution <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Meanwhile tensions surged ahead of the anniversary, with the killings of two female demonstrators. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Laura Dean </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CAIRO, Egypt &mdash; This morning the streets of downtown Cairo were eerily quiet.</p> <p>Not the easy calm of Friday mornings, Egypt&#39;s weekend, when people are at home sleeping after a week&rsquo;s work or eating a leisurely lunch with their families. But the quiet of waiting.</p> <p>Sunday marked the fourth anniversary of Egypt&#39;s 2011 revolt that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak.</p> <p>Authorities had <a href="" target="_blank">tightened security in Cairo</a> and other cities after Islamists called for protests against the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former army chief who ousted his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.</p> <p>The static of a police walkie-talkie broke the silence. People walked in streets normally clogged with cars. Police officers watched them through the slits in their black balaclavas.</p> <p>As the afternoon wore on the sounds of gunfire and ambulance sirens could be heard downtown. Police officers ran down side streets, hands on their weapons.</p> <p>More than 15 demonstrators have been reported dead.</p> <p>Tensions surged ahead of the anniversary, with the killings of two female demonstrators.</p> <p>On Friday in Egypt&rsquo;s Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Sondos Reda Abu Bakr, a 17-year-old high school student, was killed during a demonstration in which she was participating, allegedly with Islamist protesters.</p> <p>The following day Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 32, was shot as she took part in a Socialist Popular Alliance party delegation putting flowers on Tahrir square to commemorate the thousands that have died in the last four years. She leaves behind a 5-year-old child.</p> <p>&ldquo;She was one of the purest young people,&rdquo; said Medhat al-Zeid, vice president of Socialist Popular Alliance at a press conference at the party headquarters Sunday. &ldquo;God grant her family patience, she was a rare personality.&rdquo;</p> <p>He said she was often on the front lines of demonstrations in Alexandria and Cairo and did much work in Egypt&rsquo;s slums and with workers&rsquo; movements.</p> <p>In 2009, the world was shocked when images flooded the internet of Neda Agha-Soltan, bleeding to death after being shot in the neck during a pro-democracy protest in Tehran.</p> <p>These days in Egypt protesters are routinely killed in clashes with the police, particularly since a draconian law was introduced outlawing protests without a permit.</p> <p>The fact that these two were women, and liberal in El-Sabbagh&#39;s case, meant that their deaths received a bit more attention.</p> <p>&ldquo;The protest law does not say if someone is protesting, you kill them,&rdquo; said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman of the Dostour Party.</p> <p>El-Sabbagh was not even demonstrating against the state.</p> <p>&ldquo;Our young people, those who went out yesterday, are politically aware. They stuck to slogans about bread, freedom and social justice. They were careful not to chant against the police or the Interior Ministry or the army,&rdquo; said al-Zeid, &ldquo;the message is that there&rsquo;s a veto on anyone going out on the street.&rdquo;</p> <p>The prosecutor general has launched an investigation into the incident. But in a country in which thousands have died at the hands of the security forces, only a handful of whom have seen the inside of a jail cell, there is little public confidence that an investigation will lead anywhere and a culture of impunity persists.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is the criminal action of an institution that considers itself above all accountability,&rdquo; said Hala Shukrallah, head of the Dostour Party.</p> <p>In past incidents the police have actively worked to insulate themselves from legal repercussions.</p> <p>In August a police general told the Associated Press that before the dispersal of the protests at Rabaa el-Adaweya and el-Nahdha that left over 800 dead, the troops were brought ammunition from multiple storehouses and ammunition release logs were suppressed to ensure that they could not be used as evidence in the event that police were prosecuted for their actions, a practice left over from the time of Mubarak.</p> <p>&ldquo;We explained to them [the troops] self-defense is legitimate and they will not be subjected to prosecution later on,&quot; the general told the AP.</p> <p>Earlier in the week, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi received a standing ovation when he spoke at the World Economic Forum at Davos.</p> Egypt Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Military Culture & Lifestyle Sun, 25 Jan 2015 21:40:33 +0000 Laura Dean 6375777 at Boko Haram wages new Nigeria attacks as Kerry visits <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kerry is expected to address poll-related violence, which has blighted previous Nigerian elections and which it is feared could erupt again, ahead of polls next month. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Nigeria&#39;s military fought Boko Haram militants in the restive northeastern city of Maiduguri on Sunday, as US Secretary of State John Kerry jetted in to discuss fears about election-related violence.</p> <p>Militants launched a dawn raid on Jintilo village on the outskirts of the Borno State capital, prompting soldiers to respond with heavy weaponry and air strikes while the entire city was put on lock-down.</p> <p>At the same time, Islamist fighters attacked Monguno, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the fishing town of Baga, where hundreds, if not more, people were killed in a devastating Boko Haram onslaught earlier this month.</p> <p>Amnesty International said civilians in the city and surrounding areas were now &quot;at grave risk&quot; and called for their &quot;immediate protection.&quot;</p> <p>The renewed violence underscored the extent of the difficulties facing Nigeria as it scrambles for a solution to enable hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the unrest to vote next month.</p> <p>It also demonstrated the uphill battle facing President Goodluck Jonathan, who was at a campaign rally for the Feb. 14 election in Maiduguri on Saturday, where he again vowed to end the six-year insurgency.</p> <p><strong>Close cooperation</strong></p> <p>Kerry touched down in the financial capital, Lagos, and headed straight for separate meetings with Jonathan and the main opposition&#39;s presidential candidate, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.</p> <p>The Nigeria visit &mdash; the first by a US secretary of state since Hillary Clinton in 2012 &mdash; was announced on Friday during a speech in which Kerry warned of the dangers of Islamist extremists worldwide.</p> <p>Kerry has previously described the attack on Baga as a &quot;crime against humanity&quot; while the United States has warned of the threat to Nigeria&#39;s sovereignty posed by the militants, who want to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.</p> <p>A senior US official told reporters traveling with Kerry that the insurgency, which is increasingly threatening neighboring countries, would likely be raised with both candidates.</p> <p>&quot;We have been working very, very closely with the government of Nigeria to address Boko Haram, and I can say very clearly that no country has done as much as we have to support Nigeria&#39;s efforts,&quot; the official said.</p> <p>&quot;And we would hope that both candidates will be able to address the insecurity and address Nigeria&#39;s response to Boko Haram.&quot;</p> <p>But US involvement in Nigeria has been fraught, with criticisms in particular of the Nigerian government&#39;s slow response to the mass abduction of 276 girls from the town of Chibok in April last year.</p> <p>US drones were deployed and the Pentagon dispatched intelligence and surveillance specialists in the hope of finding the 219 teenagers still being held but to no avail.</p> <p>Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield has accused Nigeria&#39;s military of being in denial about the threat posed by Boko Haram, which has captured dozens of towns in the last six months.</p> <p>Nigeria&#39;s ambassador to Washington has accused the United States of failing to provide the weaponry required to end the rebellion and Abuja also ended a US training programme for soldiers to take on the militants.</p> <p>But despite massive defense spending accounting for some 20 percent of the federal budget last year, Nigerian troops maintain that they lack the right weapons and equipment to take on the better-armed militants.</p> <p><strong>&#39;The world is watching&#39;</strong></p> <p>Boko Haram is thought to have increased the scope and intensity of its attacks this year to further undermine the credibility of the government, which it sees as illegitimate and un-Islamic.</p> <p>But Kerry was instead expected to address poll-related violence, which has blighted previous Nigerian elections and which it is feared could erupt again, given the closely fought race.</p> <p>Some 1,000 people died at the last elections in 2011 during protests in central Nigeria, where the predominantly Christian south meets the mainly Muslim north.</p> <p>Both Jonathan and Buhari recently signed a non-violence agreement but that has not stopped sporadic outbreaks of unrest between supporters of their Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).</p> <p>The US official said Washington expected free, fair and peaceful elections in Africa&#39;s most populous nation.</p> <p>&quot;This election in Nigeria is being watched by the entire continent and in fact by the entire world,&quot; the official added.</p> <p>The United States has pressed for the elections to go ahead, despite the raging insurgency.</p> <p>This week, Nigeria&#39;s national security advisor Sambo Dasuki called for polling to be delayed as 30 million voter cards had yet to be distributed. But the electoral body maintained it was on track.</p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Diplomacy Nigeria Sun, 25 Jan 2015 18:09:53 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6375725 at In Peru, surfing the world's longest wave <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Windswept and remote, with just a trickle of tourists, Chicama is surfing's holy grail. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Simeon Tegel </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CHICAMA, Peru &mdash; The cold Pacific waters massage my dusty feet as I survey the perfectly peeling break just 60 feet in front of me.</p> <p>After walking nearly a mile barefoot over a baking, rocky desert, the sensory release &mdash; and relief &mdash; coming from my suffering soles is extreme.</p> <p>Surfers are a hardy bunch and will put up with all kinds of suffering to catch a wave or two. But it&rsquo;s not usually like this.&nbsp;</p> <p>For most, wipeouts, sunburn, sharp coral, and even the risk of a hungry shark mistaking them for a juicy seal, are all taken as given.&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there&rsquo;s the paddling. That&rsquo;s how surfers reach the break, lying face down on their boards, moving through the water front-crawl style.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s exhausting, slow work. Along with leaden arms, an aching back and a crick in your neck, you also have to avoid having your board slammed into your face by walls of seawater that pack more horsepower than an NFL lineman.</p> <p>And all that for what amounts to a few fleeting seconds of the undeniably thrilling sensation of harnessing the ocean&rsquo;s power and riding a wave. Even at some of the world&rsquo;s best-known breaks, a ride can last under 10 seconds.</p> <p>But not at Chicama. This remote, windswept break off Peru&rsquo;s arid northern shore is thought to be the world&rsquo;s longest wave. No one&rsquo;s really sure, but the consensus among surfers is that its mile-long left is the record-holder. Check out what <a href="" target="_blank"></a> has to say. Or <a href="" target="_blank"></a>&rsquo;s take.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div style="display:none"> &nbsp;</div> <script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript" src=""></script><script type="text/javascript" src=""></script><p><object class="BrightcoveExperience" id="myExperience1154759062001"><param name="purl" value="" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#000000" /><param name="labels" value="" /><param name="flashID" value="myExperience1243251466687" /><param name="secureConnections" value="true" /><param name="isVid" value="true" /><param name="autoStart" value="false" /><param name="startTime" value="1422204862300" /><param name="isRTL" value="false" /><param name="dynamicStreaming" value="true" /><param name="playerKey" value="AQ~~,AAAA1vDIGdk~,NR1bCsD6UB4vvTuHvJsbvNWSFKTbLqyP" /><param name="isUI" value="true" /><param name="@videoPlayer" value="ref:1243251466687" /><param name="linkBaseURL" value="" /><param name="debuggerID" value="" /><param name="width" value="620" /><param name="playerID" value="1154759062001" /><param name="height" value="349" /></object><script type="text/javascript">brightcove.createExperiences();</script></p> <p><em>In the above <a href="" target="_blank">video</a>, Cristobal de Col, a rising Peruvian surf star, sets a world record of 34 &ldquo;carved&rdquo; turns at Chicama. Four or five would be a great ride for most surfers.</em></p> <p>That makes Chicama yet another surfing highlight along Peru&rsquo;s 1,500-mile coast. Here you&rsquo;ll find breaks for all levels: from newbies just looking to learn to stand up to elite big wave riders risking life and limb on stories-high waves.&nbsp;</p> <p>When Chicama&rsquo;s four distinct sections connect, which requires a 6-foot-high swell, skillful surfers who have taken the days needed to study it can catch a ride for three to five minutes &mdash; an eternity in surfing.</p> <p>That takes them from the point, an isolated rocky outcrop where the wave starts to peel, to a long industrial pier, jutting from the tiny fishing town of Chicama, on the barren coast.</p> <p>Of course, they still have that 20-minute walk back to the point, and then the quick 60-second dash of paddling, to catch their next ride. But, given Chicama&rsquo;s topography, the paddling-to-surfing time ratio here could not be tinier.</p> <p>Even when the entire wave isn&rsquo;t breaking, they&rsquo;re still longer than most surfers&rsquo; fantasies.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Chicama&rsquo;s waves aren&rsquo;t just long. They are perfectly shaped. They couldn&rsquo;t break for as long as they do if they weren&rsquo;t,&rdquo; says Gino &ldquo;Chato&rdquo; Guillen, my surf-crazed neighbor in Lima who has agreed to show me around Chicama.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t need to surf the whole break to appreciate what&rsquo;s special about this place,&rdquo; adds Guillen, who is a surf instructor, judge on Latin America&rsquo;s pro circuit and a tourist <a href="" target="_blank">guide</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Chicama&rsquo;s waves are also extremely reliable. While many other famous breaks around the world vary with the seasons, Chicama can be depended on year round to pump out beautifully formed breaks, like nature&rsquo;s assembly line.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">On Location Video: Can a cable car save this lost Inca ruin?</a>&nbsp;<br /> </strong></p> <p>No one knows Chicama&rsquo;s break as well as Victor Castillo, a 50-year-old local fisherman and surfer, whose life story is inseparable from that of the wave.&nbsp;</p> <p>He began surfing at age 6, back in 1972, when a couple of Hawaiians on a yacht pitched up at the sleepy village. The pair had been sailing down the coast from California, surfing any breaks they could find.</p> <p>At Chicama, they quickly realized they had hit surfing&rsquo;s holy grail &mdash; and stayed for a year, according to Castillo. He says they taught him to become the first local to surf and, when they finally left, they donated three old leash-less, wooden Hawaiian boards.</p> <p>Castillo, who went on to become a national juvenile champion, says he was hooked. Yet many in the small town disapproved of his new obsession.</p> <p>&ldquo;They used to tell me that I came from a poor family and that I should be helping my dad instead of wasting my time surfing,&rdquo; says Castillo, as he polishes off a lunch of ceviche, the citrus-marinated seafood dish typical of Peru, at his home overlooking the break.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;&lsquo;You are not a gringo,&rsquo; they would say. Now the same people who criticized me want their children to be surfers.&rdquo;</p> <div gp-pullquote="" gp-pullquote-position="right" gp-pullquote-source="Victor Castillo, local fisherman and surfer"> &ldquo;Surfing has changed us for the better. It has changed the culture, and given us a new appreciation for the sea and the environment.&rdquo;</div> <p>That&rsquo;s partly because surfing has done good by Chicama. It has brought a modest but steady trickle of tourists, allowing locals to set up restaurants, hotels and rental businesses.</p> <p>Still today many hardy locals surf bare-chested in the cold Humboldt Current that wells up along most of Peru&rsquo;s coast, without the expensive wetsuits that most gringo visitors wouldn&rsquo;t think of entering the water without.</p> <p>&ldquo;Surfing has changed us for the better,&rdquo; Castillo says. &ldquo;It has changed the culture, and given us a new appreciation for the sea and the environment. Here, the fishermen respect the dolphins. No one would harm them. And we don&rsquo;t litter the beach.&rdquo;</p> <p>Now at 50, a typical day for him begins in the early hours as he motors out to sea to retrieve his catch.&nbsp; He then surfs for a couple of hours around 6 a.m., when the waves are at their most &ldquo;glassy&rdquo; and perfectly sequenced, before taking it easy in the middle of the day. In the evening he heads out on his boat again to put the nets back down.</p> <p>&ldquo;When the surf is really up, I don&rsquo;t fish,&rdquo; he adds.</p> <div gp-youtube-embed=""> &nbsp;</div> <p><em>Above, Chato Guillen surfs about 10 percent of a Chicama wave earlier in January. Filmed by Jesus Florian Castillo for GlobalPost.</em></p> <p>During my 48 hours in Chicama, the swell never grew enough for the entire, ridiculously long wave to connect its different sections. I also learned that surfing the whole thing requires some serious skills and several days of studying the break &mdash; neither of which I had.</p> <p>But even just riding 5 percent of its entire length was a thrilling experience.&nbsp;</p> <p>As one visiting surfer, Thor-Magnus Sveen, a 28-year-old Norwegian taking time out between jobs to surf Latin America, put it:&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;People forget what surfing is about. But not here.<br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about having fun, getting in the water, getting active in the sun. People here all seem to have a smile on their face. Where I come from, you are surfing in icy water, with a 6 millimeter wetsuit [i.e. really thick] and there aren&rsquo;t even any waves.</p> <p>&ldquo;Chicama is a great place to surf, and to get better. It&rsquo;s not too touristy and there is a really good vibe. Everyone here is friendly and I hope that never changes.</p> <p>&ldquo;The landscape is incredible too. The desert is really dramatic and the sunsets are huge because we are so close to the equator. They are amazing. And they are even more amazing if you see them from the water, while you are surfing.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>Read the next page for more prime Peruvian surf spots.</em></p> <!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--><h2> Surfing in Peru</h2> <p>Thousands of years before the Hawaiian sport arrived in Peru, fishermen on tiny reed rafts here famously learned how to hitch a ride back to shore on the Pacific&rsquo;s crashing waves. In&nbsp; modern times, one of surfing&rsquo;s first ever world champions was <a href="" target="_blank">Felipe Pomar</a>, a Lima local who won the crown back in 1965. Surfing is now a big part of the culture along Peru&rsquo;s Pacific coast, which is home to many famous breaks. In addition to Chicama, known as the world&rsquo;s longest wave (<a href="">see previous page</a>), here&rsquo;s a selection of other prime surf spots.</p> <p><strong>Makaha<br /> </strong></p> <p>This famous Lima beach, next to the Rosa Nautica pier, is a great place to catch your first wave. Various surf schools will rent you a board and wetsuit on the spot and set you up with an instructor.</p> <p><strong>Pampilla and Punta Roquitas<br /> </strong></p> <p>These are two other classic Lima breaks a few minutes&rsquo; walk to the right of Makaha. Pampilla is a longish break, running up to 70 yards on a good day, where longboarders often hang. A bit farther along is Punta Roquitas, where younger surfers on shorter boards show off their tricks.</p> <p><strong>Punta Hermosa<br /> </strong></p> <p>Forty-five minutes south of Lima, this surf hotspot is home to numerous breaks including Se&ntilde;oritas and Caballeros, where the 2010 World Surfing Games, <a href="" target="_blank">won by Peru</a>, were staged, and Pico Alto, a humungous wave that doesn&rsquo;t even start breaking until the swell reaches around 12 feet. Pico Alto is now a staple of the world big wave circuit and, when it&rsquo;s pumping, hosts some of the biggest names in global surfing.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</p> Travel/Tourism Peru Want to Know Sun, 25 Jan 2015 17:49:28 +0000 Simeon Tegel 6375619 at Back to the future: Egypt's new 'felool' and the parliamentary election <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Four years after the January 25 Revolution began in Tahrir Square, remnants of the old regime are in strong position. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ruth Michaelson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CAIRO &mdash; In the brief afterglow of the Jan. 25 revolution of 2011, any association with the former regime of Hosni Mubarak was considered a black mark. But the overthrow of the man who had ruled Egypt for 30 years failed to rid the country of much of his clique, the business associates and higher-ups of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party. Their continued presence in political life led them to be labelled &quot;felool&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;meaning &quot;remnant.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>The new reign of President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi has ushered in what many believe is a new golden age for the felool. The networks of business interests and political cliques can once again operate openly, without fear of reprisal from the public, or even the government. This was confirmed Monday when it was announced that Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, the sons of the former leader, <a href="">had been released from prison</a>&nbsp;to await retrial on corruption charges.</p> <p>The brothers&#39; release immediately followed&nbsp;<a href="">the deaths of 23 protesters</a> as they commemorated the anniversary of the revolution this Jan. 25, a reminder that the new regime is more than ready to flex its muscles to preserve power.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the four years since Egyptians first took to the streets, the term felool has expanded to encompass anyone who supports the policies of <a href="">the military-led government</a>, including a small section who fetishize a return to the era of former leader Hosni Mubarak.</p> <p>&quot;The term felool became so broad that I became proud to be felool, proud to be against what was happening: if this is what felool means, then screw the alternative,&quot; said Adam Mowafi, a 28-year-old CFO with the M04 creative agency.</p> <p>Mowafi&rsquo;s office on the 23rd floor of a Giza high-rise is filled with white leather sofas and glass-topped desks. One room has a panoramic view, where Mowafi and his 50 employees can look down over the tops of the tallest buildings in Zamalek, the affluent central Cairo neighborhood.</p> <p> While felool is typically used to mean the older generation who were resistant to the demands of the revolution, Mowafi represents a slice of society who were the same age as the young demonstrators who filled Tahrir Square, but who have come to realize they favor the regime&#39;s way of doing business.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sisi reclaimed Egypt for the military regime by capitalizing on massive street demonstrations in June 30, 2013 against former president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi took power and arrested Morsi in an undisclosed location, carrying out what many observers termed to be a military coup. The army then brutally suppressed pro-Morsi demonstrations, notably at Raba&rsquo;a al Adawiya Square in August 2013.&nbsp;</p> <p>President Sisi later called for elections, <a href="">in which he won 97 percent of the vote</a>. The election was brought into question by international observers, who were concerned about extending the presidential run-off. Observers from <a href="">Democracy International</a> also later stated that they had &ldquo;limited access to some polling places.</p> <p>The upcoming parliamentary election has been presented as the next pivotal phase in Egypt&rsquo;s modern history. Some observers believe the parliamentary election could end up showcasing a range of new voices and faces, as the supporters of the new electoral system have espoused. Others believe the election is simply an opportunity to rubber-stamp Egypt as being on a path to democracy.</p> <p>But critics point out that even if most of the faces are new, their beliefs look like a return to ideas that prevailed before January 2011.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;I feel part of a band of people who love Egypt, love equality and love rights. But we also understand the importance of work,&quot; Mowafi says.&nbsp;&quot;The word felool was why June 30 happened.&nbsp;When people talk about binaries, they forget that the revolutionaries created that binary themselves &mdash; if you&#39;re not with us, you support the police crackdown.&quot;</p> <p>Mowafi speaks English with an accent that belies the expensive British education he had before returning to Egypt six years ago to start his business. He is proud of having weathered what he sees as three years of economic turbulence after the revolution, and now has high hopes that the forthcoming parliamentary election will aid what he believes is a simultaneous weakening of corruption and a strengthening of business under Sisi.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We understand the advantage of having an army man in charge. Roads and bridges need to be repaired. There are things he&#39;s done, like subsidy reform, which would have taken the Muslim Brotherhood or the liberals 10 to 15 years,&quot; says Mowafi. &quot;There are advantages to authoritarian tendencies when you understand the reason behind them.&quot;</p> <p>The first round of parliamentary elections is due to kick off on March 21 after a series of delays. Mowafi says he doesn&#39;t yet know who he&#39;ll vote for, but that &quot;like any voter&quot;, he&#39;s looking for practical promises that will help grow business, and not ideology. He credits the changes that have happened after June 30, 2013, when former president Morsi was ousted, with having created an environment that is now &quot;open for business.&quot;</p> <p>He is pleased that companies like Samsung and Coca-Cola are now looking to do business in Egypt, and believes that a growing economy better answers the needs of the common man.</p> <p>&quot;Everyone going into Tahrir Square to protest every little thing hurt a lot of people, the people the revolutionaries claimed to be helping,&quot; he says.&nbsp;&quot;Jan 25. was essentially a revolution about bread &mdash; the right to work.&quot;</p> <p><strong>New System, New Faces, Same Policies</strong></p> <p>In one sense, there is plenty of choice for Egyptians when it comes to choosing who to vote into parliament. The past 18 months have witnessed an explosion of political parties. <a href="">A ban on religious parties enacted in September 2013</a> means that there is no threat from the Muslim Brotherhood, although the Salafist Nour Party has not been prevented from running in the elections.</p> <p>Critics of the party like Mowafi say that this is a way of ensuring that the &ldquo;Salafist bogeyman&rdquo; is still around to scare voters into handing power to secularist liberal parties.</p> <p>But a reform of the voting system sets the stage to hand power back to those who were powerful at a micro level under the Mubarak era, relying as it does on individual candidates rather than parties.&nbsp;</p> <p>The new voting rules are complex. The system will draw 74 percent of representatives by popular vote, and 21 percent from winner-take-all party lists (meaning that a candidate or list need only to get 51 percent to win a seat or block), plus 5 percent directly appointed by President Sisi.</p> <p>This has been combined with widespread redistricting, leading many Egyptian political parties <a href="">to criticize&nbsp;the changes</a>, saying they are designed to weaken parties&rsquo; influence.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="">The International Foundation for Electoral Systems agrees</a>, arguing that redrawing the electoral boundaries to include far larger areas means there can be no relationship between a party candidate and their constituency.</p> <p>Analysts and political parties alike say that this all adds up to a return to power for those who led districts in the Nile Delta region and Upper Egypt under Mubarak, meaning prominent and relatively wealthy local families who either ran as members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), or <a href="">became NDP members after being elected</a>.</p> <p>Former NDP members had been banned from running in elections, <a href="">but a court overturned this ruling in July 2014</a>, meaning 2015 looks to be the year they stage a comeback.&nbsp;</p> <p>Adding to this resurgence is a tradition that Egypt&#39;s parliament serves as a &quot;<a href="">rubber stamp</a>&quot; to the president&#39;s decrees. Thus parliamentarians tend to focus on providing municipal services to those they represent rather than being a check on the government. This has fostered a political culture that favors the wealthy and connected, who are likely to be better placed to fulfill these demands.&nbsp;</p> <p>Analyst Ahmed Morsy, formerly of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Foundation, argues this return to power makes the term &quot;felool&quot; somewhat redundant.</p> <p>&quot;In a way we are all felool,&quot; he laughs &quot;we were all around before the Jan. 25 revolution. Felool is just a term for stigmatizing people,&quot; he said.</p> <p>Morsy argues that understanding the current situation means taking a wider focus beyond the resurgence of former NDP members and Mubarak&#39;s clique.</p> <p>&quot;The Salafist Nour party&nbsp;Al-Nour stood by Sisi and the regime, so they could be called felool by these standards,&quot; he says. &quot;It&#39;s not 2011 anymore, the old cadres of the NDP are there, but they&#39;re not the most influential on the scene,&quot; explains Morsy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Morsy uses the example of <a href="">Ahmed Ezz</a>, an infamous Mubarak-era steel tycoon who was acquitted of an array of corruption charges in June 2013.</p> <p>&quot;Technically he&#39;s at home working on his business in Monofuiyeh, where he used to run. But now we hear that&nbsp;he&#39;s quietly supporting candidates financially, and could form coalition or group, and that by 2022 after eight years of Sisi he could run [for president] himself,&quot; says Morsy.</p> <p>&quot;But there are now new versions of Ahmed Ezz,&nbsp;connected to the state one way or another, who are not necessarily always in favor of the every single policy, but they see that survive they have to align themselves with the current regime and leadership,&quot; he adds.</p> <p><strong>The New Grey Area</strong></p> <p>This growth in new candidates who support old ideas has created a grey area in Egyptian politics.</p> <p> &quot;We are often punished with the idea that we are a felool party. But I say, show me five names of people who are felool in my party. We haven&#39;t more than three,&quot; says&nbsp;Dr. Magdy Morshed, vice president of the Conference Party (also known as the Congress Party).</p> <p>The pary&rsquo;s founder is Amr Moussa, a longtime foreign minister under Mubarak and former head of the Arab League. Moussa is also a failed presidential candidate <a href="">who went on to back Sisi</a> and become his political adviser.&nbsp;</p> <p>Morshed distinguishes between hardcore felool, who he estimates included up to 500 formerly powerful individuals, and the 3 million rank-and-file members of the NDP.</p> <p>&quot;To call someone part of the old regime, they really had to have a powerful place in the old regime, not just be a regular member of the NDP,&quot; he explained.&nbsp;</p> <p>But fundamentally, he says that someone being considered a felool politician shouldn&#39;t necessarily be a black mark.&nbsp;&quot;If someone is a felool but they&#39;re honest, not a thief, not stealing the rights of others, there is nothing pending before a judge or in the courts for example, there&#39;s no problem for them to continue &mdash; this person can continue to practice politics,&quot; he argues. The independence of Egypt&#39;s judiciary, particularly after Morsi&#39;s ouster, has routinely been called into question by groups such as <a href="">Human Rights Watch</a> and <a href="">Amnesty International</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Morshed argues that there is a diversity of views within his party, and within the six-party Egyptian Hope Coalition. <a href="">All espouse secular liberal politics</a> and are headed by prominent Egyptian businessmen or longstanding politicians.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> He argues that the political culture has changed in Egypt in a way that will influence the parliament.</p> <p>&quot;Normal citizens have had a political education these past four years, the mentality of people has completely changed,&quot; he says.</p> <p>Even so, he is more than able to wax lyrical about the advantages of having Sisi as president.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Our party, the people hoped the president wouldn&#39;t be from the military.&nbsp;But the presence of someone who actively and clearly touches the desires of the people like Sisi changed the minds of most people to elect a military man. He came to us not as someone from the military but as a kind person,&quot; he explains.&nbsp;&quot;Emotions play a big role in the way that Egyptian people make decisions. In Sisi they saw a kind, caring person who will protect them. When he talks to the people, he talks to their hearts, people want that.&nbsp;He got 97 percent in an election. That&#39;s an abnormal result.&quot;</p> <p>He denies that the role of the coming parliament will be to &quot;rubber stamp&quot; Sisi&#39;s decrees or to provide services. &nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Finding agreement inside parliament will be very difficult as there&#39;s no majority or ideology &mdash; there are more individuals than parties and a two-thirds majority is needed to pass decisions,&quot; he says.</p> <p>Morshed argues that the main job of parliament will be &quot;the problem of translating the constitution into laws and rules. This is a massive job for parliament, including all the decisions that our president took up until now. There are more than 400 to be legalized.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>He agreed that it may be difficult to have genuine debates about the laws given the nature of the parliament. Citing a law that his party would like to change, he named the controversial 2013 Protest Law, saying&nbsp;&quot;we want to change the law in part, so that you&#39;re not forced to ask permission from the police to protest, but just forced to inform them.&quot;</p> <p><strong>What&#39;s Left of What&#39;s Left</strong></p> <p>&quot;Democracy is not like instant coffee. You can&#39;t prepare and drink it in five minutes,&quot; says Khaled Dawoud of the Constitution Party, quoting its leader Mohamed ElBaradei.</p> <p>Dawoud, the spokesman for the party, is trying to find political space to reflect the values of the Jan. 25 revolution inside the forthcoming parliament.&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, he has lost what he dismisses as his own idealism that took place around the time of the revolution, as well as the ouster of Morsi, in which he also participated.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;There&#39;s no intention to change the state institutions,&quot; he says.&nbsp;&quot;When we propose to restructure the Interior Ministry to focus on human rights, it&#39;s seen as a threat to the state.&quot;</p> <p>The Constitution Party, with its support base firmly with those who took to Tahrir Square in 2011, is split over whether participating in elections is wise in the current political climate. The debate has peaked with a series of votes, none yet conclusive, which began on Jan. 18.&nbsp;</p> <p>Dawoud thinks they should participate. &quot;To have a definite banner, a voice in parliament to speak the values of January 25th, is better than staying outside &quot;If we don&#39;t take part, we&#39;ll be marginalized.&nbsp;I fear for our existence, so we have to take part.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>Even so, he is highly critical of the new electoral system. He describes the current state of Egyptian politics as one where he feels he has a giant &quot;X&quot; on his head each time he gives a public appearance. He recently appeared on a cable TV channel, to be greeted by the news that someone had opened a court case against him.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We don&#39;t have an NDP now, but it&#39;s coming,&quot; he says, citing the example of Sisi&#39;s economic adviser and <a href="">former Prime Minister Kamel El-Ganzouri&#39;s ongoing efforts to create a single list of non-Islamist candidates</a>. &quot;They&#39;re tailoring the election to create public support for Sisi, as it&#39;s treason not to support Sisi. The old state machinery is trying to make a pharaoh out of him whereby he&#39;s the only one capable of doing stuff.&quot;</p> <p>As the machinery of elections slowly grinds into gear, many of the people who went out into Tahrir four years ago say they are looking at a bleak future, whatever the outcome. <a href="">Opinion polls show</a> that slogans about stability, security and the economy are winning out &mdash; ones that the current regime have positioned in opposition to democracy and human rights.&nbsp;</p> <p>Dawoud sums up a widespread cynicism in Egypt these days, saying &quot;I&#39;m negative about the current prospects for democracy.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p> <p><em>Support for this project was provided by The Correspondents Fund with additional funding from the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. The reporting fellowship is dedicated to the spirit of late colleagues Anthony Shadid, Marie Colvin and James Foley who all dedicated themselves to on-the-ground reporting to tell the stories of the people caught in the tumult and conflict of the Middle East. </em></p> <p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story has been updated with the increased death toll of Jan. 25 protesters and news of the release of Gamal and Alaa Mubarak.</em></p> <p><!--pagebreak--><!--pagebreak--></p> Egypt Need to Know Sun, 25 Jan 2015 17:08:00 +0000 Ruth Michaelson 6375645 at Greece votes in make-or-break election <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The left-wing, anti-austerity Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras looks likely to win the Greek general election. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Greece began voting Sunday in a crucial general election that could bring the anti-austerity Syriza party to power and lead to a re-negotiation of the country&#39;s international bailout.</p> <p>Syriza, led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, leads the incumbent conservative New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras by around four points, according to pre-election opinion polls.</p> <p>Some 9.8 million people are eligible to vote. Polling stations close at 1700 GMT, followed immediately by the results of exit polls.</p> <p>Tsipras wants to renegotiate Greece&#39;s massive 318-billion-euro ($356 billion) debt and end the wage cuts and public spending reductions linked to its bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.</p> <p>The possibility of a victory for the radical left-wing party has sparked fears that Greece could default on its debt repayments and quit the group of 19 countries using the single European currency &mdash; a so-called &quot;Grexit&quot;.</p> <p>Elli, a 20-year-old student casting her ballot in the middle-class Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni, said she would vote for Syriza, but admitted she had concerns.</p> <p>&quot;I was undecided until this morning because I&#39;m afraid that the outcome of a Syriza win could be a default,&quot; she told AFP. &quot;We need to stay in Europe.&quot;</p> <p>Yannis Papacostas, a 50-year-old self-employed man, said he wanted the Greek people to &quot;wake up&quot; after six years of economic hardship.</p> <p>&quot;The worst scenario is that the parties will not cooperate,&quot; he said.</p> <p>He said he would vote for To Potami (The River), a new party that could form part of a coalition government.</p> <p><strong>&#39;Restore dignity&#39;</strong></p> <p>Tsipras has pledged to restore &quot;dignity&quot; to Greece and confront the so-called troika &mdash; the EU, IMF and European Central Bank (ECB) &mdash;which imposed the conditions linked to a 240-billion-euro bailout deal that began in 2010.</p> <p>The Syriza leader says Greece has been put in an &quot;unsustainable&quot; position, forced to make spiralling debt repayments while the economy shrinks.</p> <p>The IMF, meanwhile, has warned Greece that failure to repay its debts will carry &quot;consequences&quot;.</p> <p>German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is seen as the driving force in the EU&#39;s austerity drive, said she hoped Greece would stay in the eurozone.</p> <p>&quot;I want Greece, despite the difficulties, to remain part of our story,&quot; Merkel said Friday.</p> <p>Greece has seen a rapid economic decline since the eurozone crisis began, pushing unemployment above 25 percent.</p> <p>Samaras argues it would be disastrous if voters bring Syriza to power just as the fiscal reforms he has supported could be about to bear fruit.</p> <p>The 63-year-old Harvard-educated prime minister came to power after back-to-back elections in 2012 that routed the once-dominant Pasok socialist party.</p> <p>Samaras initially argued for an easing of the terms of the bailout, but once in office he agreed to implement the deep cuts demanded by lenders.</p> <p>He took a gamble last December by attempting to push forward a presidential election, but when lawmakers failed to agree on a candidate he was forced to call parliamentary elections.</p> <p>Tsipras, a middle-class boy from Athens who trained as a civil engineer, says Syriza wants to smash the &quot;oligarchy&quot; that has traditionally dominated Greek politics and the media.</p> <p>A Syriza official told AFP on Saturday the party was confident of victory. If it fails to gain the 151 parliamentary seats needed for an absolute majority in the 300-seat parliament it believes it would have little difficulty in forming a coalition government, the official said.</p> <p>&quot;Polls show we are five to 10 points ahead of New Democracy. What remains to be seen is whether we will have a clear majority,&quot; he added.</p> <p>A likely coalition partner is To Potami, a pro-European party founded last year by investigative journalist Stavros Theodorakis.</p> <p>Tsipras has said he wants to slash the debt in half and reach a new deal with the ECB by July.</p> <p>A victory for Syriza could pave the way for other anti-austerity parties to break through in Europe. The leader of Spain&#39;s radical Podemos movement, Pablo Iglesias, appeared with Tsipras at his final campaign rally in Athens on Thursday.</p> Need to Know Elections Europe Sun, 25 Jan 2015 16:51:39 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6375666 at Abe remains defiant, says Japan will never give in to terrorism <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> With one hostage remaining with the Islamic State, Abe said Sunday that Japan is 'not wavering at all on this policy.' </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday branded the murder of a Japanese hostage by Islamic State militants as &quot;outrageous and unforgivable&quot; and demanded the immediate release of a second captive, amid a tide of global revulsion.</p> <p>The apparent beheading of self-employed security contractor Haruna Yukawa was announced in a video generally agreed to be credible, and appeared to mark a grave turn of events in a crisis that has gripped Japan for nearly a week.</p> <p>&quot;Such an act of terrorism is outrageous and unforgivable,&quot; Abe told broadcaster NHK.</p> <p>&quot;I condemn it strongly and resolutely,&quot; he said, calling for the immediate freeing of Yukawa&#39;s fellow captive, freelance journalist Kenji Goto.</p> <p>In a city outside Tokyo, Shoichi Yukawa told of the horror he had felt when he learnt that threats to kill his son had been carried out.</p> <p>&quot;I thought &#39;Ah, this finally happened&#39; and was filled with regret,&quot; he said.</p> <p>&quot;I went totally blank, I was only sorry ... I had no words,&quot; he said. &quot;In my mind I wish very much that this wasn&#39;t true.&quot;</p> <p>US President Barack Obama led the worldwide condemnation of what he called the &quot;brutal murder.&quot;</p> <p>Obama, who arrived in New Delhi Sunday for a three-day visit, telephoned Abe from the Indian capital &quot;to offer condolences for the murder... and to convey solidarity with the Japanese people,&quot; said a White House statement.</p> <p>British Prime Minister David Cameron decried the Islamic State movement&#39;s &quot;murderous barbarity,&quot; and French President Francois Hollande labeled it a &quot;barbaric assassination.&quot;</p> <p>Australia&#39;s Prime Minister Tony Abbot called it &quot;an absolute atrocity&quot; carried out by a &quot;death cult.&quot;</p> <p>Germany&#39;s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned the killing as &quot;an odious crime.&quot;</p> <p>EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said the beheading &quot;is yet another demonstration that this organization&#39;s ideology and actions are in breach of all universally recognized values and rights.&quot;</p> <p><strong>$200 million ransom</strong></p> <p>Japan was continuing to analyze the images released overnight to confirm the authenticity of the video, said Abe, but he acknowledged it appeared credible.</p> <p>The recording, which lasts nearly three minutes, shows a still image of a gaunt and drawn Goto holding what appears to be a photograph of Yukawa&#39;s slain body.</p> <p>It was posted with an audio recording in which a man claiming to be Goto blames Abe for his fellow captive&#39;s death because he failed to pay a $200 million ransom.</p> <p>The voice also reveals a new demand for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for her part in multiple bombings in Amman in 2005 that killed 60 people.</p> <p>The man, who speaks accented English, said the militants are no longer demanding money to save his life, but want &quot;their sister&quot; to be freed.</p> <p>&quot;It is simple. You give them Sajida and I will be released,&quot; the voice says. &quot;At the moment, it actually looks possible and our government are indeed a stone throw away.&quot;</p> <p>Japan dispatched a minister to Jordan earlier this week. Abe declined to comment on whether he would ask Amman to release Sajida.</p> <p>Some commentators have noted that the voice does not resemble that heard on videos featuring Goto. However, one specialist interviewed by Japanese media was reported to have said it was &quot;more than 99 percent certain&quot; the voice was his.</p> <p><strong>&#39;Very tense&#39;</strong></p> <p>The appearance of the video was met with initial skepticism, partly because it was not posted on an official IS channel and does not bear their usual black and white flag. The killing of Yukawa is also not shown.</p> <p>Goto&#39;s mother Junko Ishido told reporters Sunday she was left with little hope after seeing the picture of her son, in which he &quot;looked very tense.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;Japan never abandons its people,&quot; she said. &quot;I believe the government is united and doing its best.&quot;</p> <p>The Islamic State group, which rules large swathes of Iraq and Syria under a strict form of Islamic law, has murdered five Western hostages since August last year, but this is the first time it has threatened Japanese captives.</p> <p>Japanese officials have repeatedly said they are trying to make contact with the militants. One adviser to Abe reportedly said there had been some &quot;indirect&quot; communication with the militants, but &quot;nothing direct.&quot;</p> <p>The Islamists linked their $200 million ransom demand to the amount Abe said he would earmark to help countries dealing with the influx of refugees fleeing fighting between IS militants and regular forces.</p> <p>Abe was defiant Sunday.</p> <p>&quot;We will never give in to terrorism, and we will actively contribute to the peace and stability of the world together with the international community. We are not wavering at all on this policy,&quot; he said.</p> Need to Know World Leaders Conflict Zones Syria Iraq Japan Sun, 25 Jan 2015 16:09:57 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6375613 at Obama, Modi break nuclear impasse, hail new 'friendship' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In a break with protocol, Modi greeted Obama with a bear hug as he stepped off Air Force One. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>US President Barack Obama and India&#39;s Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke the deadlock on a long-stalled nuclear pact Sunday as they hailed a new era of friendship between the world&#39;s two largest democracies.</p> <p>After greeting Obama with a bear hug as he stepped off Air Force One, Modi then trumpeted the &quot;chemistry&quot; with his fellow leader on the first day of a three-day visit to the Indian capital.</p> <p>Obama, whose administration treated Modi as a pariah until barely a year ago, said their new &quot;friendship&quot; reflected a natural affinity between the two countries. Both are looking for a counter-balance to a rising China.</p> <p>While there were no major policy announcements apart from the unblocking of the nuclear agreement, Modi said Obama&#39;s decision to become the first US president to visit India twice while in office had huge symbolic importance.</p> <p>&quot;Relations between countries depend less on full stops and commas and more on the relationships between leaders... the chemistry between them,&quot; Modi told a joint press conference.</p> <p>&quot;Barack and I have struck up a strong friendship... this chemistry has not just brought me and Barack closer but also brought Washington and Delhi &mdash; and the people of our countries &mdash; closer together.&quot;</p> <p>After opening his remarks with a few words in Hindi, Obama also hailed the &quot;personal friendship&quot; with his counterpart, saying the closeness reflected a shared commitment to values such as democracy and entrepreneurship.</p> <p>&quot;In addition to a personal friendship, we are also reflecting the warmth and affection between the Indian people and American people,&quot; said Obama.</p> <p>&quot;It&#39;s not surprising that we have a friendship because hopefully we are reflecting the values of our peoples.&quot;</p> <p>The two men spoke for more than three hours, capping a remarkable turnaround in relations between the two countries after a diplomatic row in late 2013 that saw the Stars and Stripes torched on the streets of Delhi.</p> <p>Modi&#39;s election in May 2014 was a potential headache for the US, which had blacklisted the Hindu nationalist for more than a decade after deadly communal riots in Gujarat when he was state chief minister.</p> <p>He was only brought in from the cold last February when the then US ambassador Nancy Powell travelled to Gujarat once it appeared Modi was likely to end the centre-left Congress party&#39;s 10-year rule.</p> <p>Since coming to power, Modi has borne no obvious grudge and personally invited Obama to become the first US president to be chief guest at India&#39;s Republic Day parade on Monday.</p> <p>The Indian premier has also invited Obama to co-host a radio phone-in show and is reportedly planning a private dinner for him at his Delhi home.</p> <p>After flying into an overcast Delhi, Obama received a welcoming ceremony that included a 21-gun salute and full guard of honour. He also laid a wreath at a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, India&#39;s independence hero.</p> <p>The US president, who is being driven around in his armoured limousine known as the &quot;Beast&quot;, said at the ceremony it was &quot;a great honor&quot; to return to India and thanked his hosts for their &quot;extraordinary hospitality&quot;.</p> <p>He and his wife Michelle had been scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal, but their trip has been cut short to allow Obama to travel on to Saudi Arabia and pay respects to new King Salman.</p> <p><strong><span style="font-size: 13px;">Stronger on symbolism&nbsp;</span></strong></p> <p>Obama&#39;s trip comes just months after Modi&#39;s first official visit to the United States, and with so little time to lay the groundwork it was always expected to be stronger on symbolism than on content.</p> <p>The headline-grabbing announcement was over the nuclear pact, which has faced a series of delays since being signed in 2008.</p> <p>The agreement should give India access to civilian nuclear technology but has been held up by US concerns over India&#39;s strict laws on liability in the event of a nuclear accident.</p> <p>&quot;I am pleased that six years after we signed our bilateral agreement, we are moving towards commercial cooperation, consistent with our laws (and) international legal obligations,&quot; Modi said at the press conference.</p> <p>While there were no immediate details on how the impasse had been broken, India has reportedly offered to set up an insurance pool to indemnify companies that build reactors.</p> <p>&quot;Today we achieved a breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation and we are committed to moving towards full implementation,&quot; said Obama.</p> <p>&quot;This is an important step that shows how we can work together to elevate our relationship.&quot;</p> <p>The two men also discussed climate change, with India seen as one of the main obstacles to a global deal on limiting emissions that should be signed in Paris in December.</p> <p>In a statement issued by the White House,&middot;both men agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation on climate change &quot;to achieve a successful and ambitious agreement in Paris&quot;.</p> <p>Modi told reporters he did not feel under any &quot;pressure&quot; from Obama over climate change but did feel &quot;pressure when we think about the future generations and what kind of world we will give them&quot;.</p> Need to Know Diplomacy India United States Sun, 25 Jan 2015 15:11:48 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6375580 at This is the gruesome aftermath of another rocket strike on civilians in eastern Ukraine <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civilians keep dying as pro-Russian rebels promise more war. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>KYIV, Ukraine &mdash; Ukrainian officials say at least <a href=";sec=02.03.09&amp;iface=Public&amp;cmd=view&amp;args=id:23642;tags%24_exclude:46" target="_blank">30 civilians were killed Saturday</a> in an artillery strike on a port city in eastern Ukraine, just as a top pro-Russian rebel leader announced a new offensive in the area.&nbsp;</p> <p>The attack &mdash; which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called a <a href="" target="_blank">&quot;crime against humanity&quot;</a> &mdash; came after days of steadily intensifying violence in a nine-month-long conflict that&#39;s killed more than 5,000 people. It was at least the&nbsp;third deadly artillery strike against civilians in eastern Ukraine in about a week.&nbsp;</p> <p>It marks a very serious level of escalation in the war between Ukrainian forces and Moscow-backed separatists, and follows numerous pledges by the rebel leadership to launch a new offensive aimed at capturing more territory.</p> <p>As local officials counted the bodies in Mariupol &mdash; in Ukrainian-controlled territory on the Sea of Azov, just an hour&#39;s drive south of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk &mdash; rebel chief Alexander Zakharchenko claimed &quot;today the advance on Mariupol has begun,&quot; <a href="" target="_blank">Russian media</a> reported.&nbsp;</p> <p>The following footage, filmed by a member of the pro-Ukraine Azov paramilitary battalion, purports to show the aftermath of the strike (Warning: <a href="" target="_blank">graphic scenes</a>):&nbsp;</p> <p> <div gp-youtube-embed=''></div> </p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Europe Politics Russia Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:25:00 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6375150 at Japan condemns apparent IS execution, demands release of remaining hostage <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A video released Saturday allegedly showed a gaunt Kenji Goto in an orange T-shirt saying his colleague Haruna Yukawa had been executed. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Antoni Slodkowski and Nobuhiro Kubo, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>TOKYO, Japan &mdash; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday called for the immediate release of a Japanese journalist held by Islamic State after an audio recording claimed that a fellow Japanese captive had been executed.</p> <p>Japanese government officials said they had not confirmed the authenticity of an image of what appeared to be Haruna Yukawa. Abe and other officials demanded the immediate release of the remaining Japanese captive, reporter Kenji Goto.</p> <p>Yukawa was seized by militants in August, after he went to Syria in what he described as a plan to launch a security company. Goto, a veteran war correspondent, went into Syria in late October seeking to secure Yukawa&#39;s release, according to friends and business associates.</p> <p>A video, which was released on YouTube on Saturday before being deleted, showed an image of a gaunt Goto in an orange T-shirt and a recording of what appeared to be him speaking in English.</p> <p>In the apparent recording, Goto says Yukawa had been executed. But the journalist said the government of Japan could take action to save his life.</p> <p>&ldquo;We are using every diplomatic channel and means to work towards a release,&quot; Abe told reporters in brief remarks after a hastily called meeting with his foreign, defense and other ministers.</p> <p>&quot;This act of terrorism is an outrageous and unacceptable act of violence,&quot; Abe said. &quot;I feel a strong sense of anger and firmly condemn this. I again strongly demand the immediate release of Mr. Kenji Goto unharmed.&quot;</p> <p>Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the recording. If confirmed it would be the first time Islamic State, which has beheaded several foreign hostages, has issued a recording rather than a video to announce such a killing.</p> <p>US intelligence agencies were working to verify the authenticity of the recording, US National Security Council deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.</p> <p>A deadline by Islamic State militants for Japan to pay a $200 million ransom for Yukawa and Goto expired on Friday.</p> <p>The audio on Saturday purported to record Goto saying the militants would release him in exchange for the release of Al Qaeda linked attempted female suicide bomber Sajida Rishwai, an Iraqi held in Jordan.</p> <p>In the recording, the voice identified as Goto&#39;s says that the group has dropped its demand for a ransom.</p> <p>&ldquo;I want to believe in the government and wait,&quot; Goto&#39;s mother, Junko Ishido told reporters. &ldquo;The Japanese government will not let my son down. He will come back.&rdquo;</p> <p><em>(Reporting by William Mallard in Tokyo, Mariam Karouny in Beirut and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by David Evans and Stephen Powell)</em></p> Need to Know Conflict Zones Syria Iraq Politics Japan Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:02:00 +0000 Antoni Slodkowski and Nobuhiro Kubo, Thomson Reuters 6375148 at Why King Abdullah was buried in an unmarked grave <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Your questions answered. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>You may have imagined a somewhat lavish burial for King Abdullah, the Saudi king who died Friday at the age of 90.</p> <p>He was, after all, one of the richest men in the history of the world.</p> <p>But King Abdullah&#39;s burial was nothing out of the ordinary, nor is his unmarked grave, both of which are in accordance with Wahhabi Sunni Islam.</p> <p>Wahhabism holds that public displays of grief are sinful, akin to idolatry.</p> <p>Abdullah&#39;s body was bathed, according to tradition, shrouded in a simple beige cloth and buried, without a coffin, between two unmarked stones at Riyadh&rsquo;s Al Oud cemetery.&nbsp;</p> <p>After the king&#39;s body was laid to rest, it was covered in dirt and stones.</p> <p>Other heads of state are also buried in unmarked graves at Al Oud, as are many of Abdullah&#39;s commoner subjects.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Reuters</a> reports that there is no official mourning period in Saudi Arabia and flags around the kingdom fly at full staff. Despite his apparent popularity at home, there were no spontaneous gatherings on city streets to mark Abdullah&#39;s passing.</p> <p>Tony Street, an expert in Islam from Cambridge University, told <a href="" target="_blank">Newsweek</a> that when it comes to burial, Wahhabists are &ldquo;hostile to leaving anything that might become a site for veneration.&rdquo;</p> <p>They characterize their belief as &ldquo;simply a commitment to utter and absolute Tawhid, the affirmation of God&rsquo;s supremacy,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p>In fact, the House of Saud doesn&#39;t like to be referred to as Wahhabi because using the label &ldquo;is awarding exactly the kind of eminence to a Muslim that they try to avoid,&quot; Street said.</p> <p>There are, of course, a few exceptions to the no pomp and circumstance rule surrounding King Abdullah&#39;s death.</p> <p>Before the burial, <a href="" target="_blank">Reuters</a> reports, afternoon prayers took place before ranks of Muslim leaders, Saudi princes, powerful clerics and billionaire Arab businessmen.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Tens of thousands are expected</a> to pay their condolences in the coming days during a traditional &quot;bayaa&quot; ceremony.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;It would take a considerable suspension of disbelief to accept that the bayaa is anything like an open process of popular participation, rather than a stage-managed event by the Saud dynasty and the ultra-conservative Wahhabi clerical establishment which provides its religious legitimacy,&quot; the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">BBC</a> reported upon the death of King Fahd in 2005, who preceded Abdullah.</p> <p>Certainly heads of state from around the world don&#39;t attend the average Saudi funeral.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Obama canceled his trip to the Taj Mahal</a> in India and is headed to Saudi Arabia to pay his respects to the Saudi royal family and<a href="" target="_blank"> King Salman</a>.</p> World Leaders Want to Know World Religion Saudi Arabia Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:22:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 6375120 at Thousands of Yemenis stage biggest anti-Houthi protest in Sanaa <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The demonstration comes two days after President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's resignation left the country in political limbo. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mohammed Ghobari and Yara Bayoumy, Thomson Reuters </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SANAA, Yemen &mdash; Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets on Saturday in the biggest demonstration yet against the Houthi group that dominates Yemen, two days after President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi&#39;s resignation left the country in political limbo.</p> <p>Witnesses said a crowd estimated at up to 10,000 people marched from Sanaa University towards Hadi&#39;s home some 1.8 miles away and back, repeating chants denouncing both the Shia Muslim Houthi group and predominantly Sunni Al Qaeda.</p> <p>&quot;Long live the Yemeni people. No to Houthis and no to Affash,&quot; the crowd shouted, using a nickname for former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who was toppled in a 2011 uprising against his 33-year-rule.</p> <p>Saleh had been cited by the UN Security Council for aiding the Houthis to capture Sanaa, capital of the predominantly Sunni country, in September.</p> <p>Hadi, who stepped down on Thursday, blamed the Houthis&#39; control of Sanaa for scuttling his attempt to steer Yemen toward stability after years of turmoil, tribal unrest, deepening poverty and US drone strikes on Sunni Islamist militants.</p> <p>The Houthis virtually held Hadi prisoner at his home residence this week. They accuse him of reneging on a power-sharing agreement they signed with the country&#39;s main political parties in his presence after they seized Sanaa.</p> <p>&quot;We came out today to reject the coup and against the Houthi militia&#39;s control of the capital,&quot; said one student who identified herself as Maimouna, holding a placard opposing plans to incorporate the Houthi fighters into the army.</p> <p>Demonstrators stopped traffic in front of Hadi&#39;s home, booed Houthi fighters in the area and chanted &quot;Leave, Houthis, leave.&quot;</p> <p>Houthi fighters prevented protesters from getting too close to Hadi&#39;s house but they and the police largely kept their distance and the protest ended peacefully, witnesses said.</p> <p>Similar protests erupted in other provinces, including Taiz, Hodeida, al-Bayda and Ibb, residents said.</p> <p>On Friday, thousands of Houthi supporters gathered in Sanaa with placards calling for &quot;Death to America, Death to Israel,&quot; a slogan that has become the group&#39;s trademark.</p> <p>With no central government in Sanaa, local authorities in some parts of the country announced they would no longer take orders from the capital, raising fears the country could start to splinter.</p> <p>Such declarations came from provinces that comprised the former South Yemen &mdash; where a secessionist movement has been demanding independence &mdash; and the oil-rich Marib province east of Sanaa.</p> <p>The Yemeni parliament is scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss Hadi&#39;s resignation. Under the constitution, parliamentary speaker Yahya al-Ra&#39;i, who comes from Saleh&#39;s General People&#39;s Congress party, takes office for an interim period while new elections are organized.</p> <p><em>(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Yara Bayoumy,; writing by Sami Aboudi Editing by Rosalind Russell)</em></p> Need to Know World Leaders Yemen Middle East Sat, 24 Jan 2015 16:12:31 +0000 Mohammed Ghobari and Yara Bayoumy, Thomson Reuters 6375057 at Pope Francis, Dostoyevsky and the tears of a child <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Analysis: Francis' improvisational style empowers him to speak beautifully about humanity's moral problems. It can also backfire. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Berry </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>On each pilgrimage, Pope Francis gives the global audience another glimpse into his complex mind.</p> <p>The first unscripted pope in the age of mass media gives lengthy airborne press conferences, as when he famously replied, &ldquo;Who am I to judge?&rdquo; in reply to a question about gay priests on the flight from Brazil to Rome last year.</p> <p>Pope Benedict avoided reporters and the charismatic John Paul rarely exposed himself to long encounters with the press. Both popes gave selective interviews to reporters or biographers they trusted.</p> <p>Francis thrives on the intellectual agility of being interviewed, a trait consistent with Jesuit training in the Socratic method: question sparks answer, answer drives new questions and the wheel of learning turns.</p> <p>But improvisational remarks have unpredictable receptions.</p> <p>At a Sunday Mass for 40,000 people at University of Manila, 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar, who lives in a foundation home for abandoned children, read a statement in her native dialect, translated for the pope and press.</p> <p>Well-groomed, in a lovely dress, she said: &quot;There are many children neglected by their own parents...[and] are also many who became victims and many terrible things happened to them like drugs or prostitution.&quot;</p> <p>Voice breaking, Glyzelle asked, &quot;Why is God allowing such things to happen, even if it is not the fault of the children?&quot;</p> <p>As she broke down, Francis moved close; she wrapped her arms around his waist, burying her face in his side.</p> <p>&ldquo;Certain realities of life are seen only with eyes that are cleansed by tears,&rdquo; he said as part of a longer, almost cinematic response.</p> <p>And yet on the plane ride home from the Philippines, Francis&rsquo; moving response to the young girl sank in the deluge of his almost immediately infamous comment about birth control.</p> <p>&ldquo;Some think that &mdash; excuse the language &mdash; that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits,&rdquo; Francis said. &ldquo;No. Responsible parenthood.&rdquo;</p> <p>&quot;<a href="">Pope: Catholics need not breed &lsquo;like rabbits</a>,&#39;&quot; ran a USA Today headline, echoing others as the pope waded into the no-win waters of the contraception debate. Francis never said &quot;breed,&quot; but his awkward endorsement of sexual abstinence upheld Paul VI&rsquo;s 1968 encyclical banning artificial contraception, a position that surveys show few Catholics support.</p> <p>In the Philippines, <a href="">35 percent of children live in poverty</a> and an estimated 1.2 million children live on streets, according to Child Protection Network Foundation data from 2009.</p> <p>At that same papal Mass in Manila, a 14-year-old boy saved from homelessness, Jun Chura, told Francis about &quot;feeding myself with what I can find in the garbage... sleeping on the sidewalk.&quot;</p> <p>The pope took both Jun and Glyzelle in his arms &mdash; a powerful image.</p> <p><a href="">The Vatican transcript of his comments</a> in Spanish, translated for the crowd who spoke English, reveal a pontiff grappling with the question that haunts <a href="">The Brothers Karamazov</a>, the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky whom the pope recently called &quot;a life mentor to me.&quot;</p> <p>The weeping Glyzelle echoed the question posed by the spiritually tormented Ivan Karamazov. How can an all-loving God allow children to be brutalized, neglected and tortured, enslaved, raped and killed? For Ivan, the agony of children contradicts the existence of of a loving God.</p> <p>&quot;Listen,&quot; cries Ivan to his brother Alyosha, a seminarian. &quot;If all men must suffer to pay for the external harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me please? It&rsquo;s beyond comprehension why they should suffer.&quot;</p> <p>Alyosha counters that he has forgotten the sacrifice of Christ, who atoned for the sins of humanity. At that, Ivan scoffs.</p> <p>Francis was speaking to Glyzelle, the larger crowd of Filipinos and to an audience around the world.</p> <p>&quot;Women are able to see things differently than men,&quot; he began, complimenting the girl. &quot;Women can ask questions that we men just don&rsquo;t get. Pay attention. She today asked the one question that doesn&rsquo;t have an answer. And she couldn&rsquo;t say it in words. She had to say it with tears.&rdquo;</p> <p>The pope went on, telling the boy: &ldquo;I thank you, Jun, for being so brave in talking about your experience.&rdquo;</p> <p>He turned back to the girl: &ldquo;Your question, deep down is almost unanswerable.&rdquo;</p> <p>And then he began to answer: &quot;Only when we are able to weep over the things that you experienced, can we understand and give some kind of response. The great question for everybody is: &rsquo;Why do children suffer?&rsquo;... Only when our hearts can ask this question and weep, can we begin to understand.&rdquo;</p> <p>Francis, like Ivan, is horrified at the unanswerable question; but the pope continues in a cri de coeur: &ldquo;The marginalized weep, those who are neglected weep, the scorned weep, but those of us who have relatively comfortable life, we don&rsquo;t know how to weep. Certain realities of life are seen only with eyes that are cleansed by tears. I ask each one of you to ask: Can I weep? Can I weep when I see a child is hungry, on drugs and on the street, homeless, abandoned, mistreated or exploited as a slave by society?&rdquo;</p> <p>Ivan, in reference to the sobbing of an abused child, tells his brother: &ldquo;Those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for or there can be no harmony...And if the suffering of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.&rdquo;</p> <p>Francis, seeking to comfort the child next to him, says: &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s learn to weep, the way [Glyzelle] taught us today. Let&rsquo;s not forget this witness. She asked the big question &ndash; why do children suffer? &ndash; by weeping; and the big answer which we can give, all of us, is to learn how to weep.&rdquo;</p> <p>Francis ties the child&rsquo;s question to a larger mystery. &ldquo;In the Gospel, Jesus wept. He wept for his dead friend. He wept in his heart for the family which lost its daughter. He wept in his heart when he saw the poor widowed mother who was burying her son....If you don&rsquo;t learn how to weep, you are not a good Christian....Be brave. Don&rsquo;t be afraid to cry!&ldquo;</p> <p>Bravery is the act of overcoming fear. Francis is telling people to loosen social restraints and bear witness.</p> <p>But do tears dry in healing, relief for the afflicted, a rough form of justice?</p> <p>In a December interview <a href="">with Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa/Vatican Insider</a>, Francis said that the question of children suffering &rdquo;has always gone round in my heart. There is no explanation... When I come across a suffering child, the only prayer that comes to mind is the &lsquo;Why&rsquo; prayer. Why, Lord? He doesn&rsquo;t explain anything to me. But I can feel Him looking at me. So I can say: You know why, I don&rsquo;t and You won&rsquo;t tell me, but You&rsquo;re looking at me and I trust You, Lord, I trust your gaze.&rdquo;</p> <p>The Social Darwinists who control the US Congress would cheerfully support God&rsquo;s gaze and go on rationalizing their war upon the poor. But Francis sees God as the face of the the poor, the other, and has tied &rdquo;globalization of indifference&rdquo; to the plight of refugees and immigrants.</p> <p>Back in Rome, at his Wednesday public audience, Francis made a point of saying that large families do not cause poverty, a clear nod to people who took offense at the&quot;rabbits&quot; image; instead he blamed &quot;an economic system that has removed the human person from its focus and has placed the god of money&quot; in its place, according to Catholic News Service.</p> <p>Struggling for an answer to Glyzelle&rsquo;s Dostoyevskian question, Francis showed a rare moment of vulnerability, and another side of the compassion that has made him such a popular figure.</p> <p>What he has not articulated is an ethos of justice for all people clinging to the edges. Meanwhile, as this probing, intrepid moralist searches for that credo, his journey is a story the world keeps following.</p> <p><em>GroundTruth religion blogger Jason Berry is the author of</em> Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church.<br /> &nbsp;</p> Need to Know World Religion Sat, 24 Jan 2015 15:57:00 +0000 Jason Berry 6375038 at World leaders head to Saudi after king's death <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> King Abdullah won praise for his role as mediator between Muslims and the West, but campaigners criticized his rights record. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Agence France-Presse </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>World leaders headed to Saudi Arabia Saturday to offer condolences following the death of King Abdullah, with US President Barack Obama cutting short a trip to India to pay respects.</p> <p>Obama had been scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal but cancelled that following the death of Abdullah and will travel to Riyadh on Tuesday to meet new King Salman, the White House said.</p> <p>Since Abdullah took the throne in 2005, Saudi Arabia has been a prime Arab ally of Washington, and last year joined the coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State jihadist group.</p> <p>Other dignitaries arrived in Riyadh on Saturday to pay respects, including Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a rare visit to the regional rival.</p> <p>British Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Charles and French President Francois Hollande were among other leaders expected to fly in to offer condolences.</p> <p>Abdullah was a cautious reformer who led the Gulf state through a turbulent decade in a region shaken by the Arab Spring uprisings and Islamic extremism.</p> <p>He died on Friday at the age of about 90 after being hospitalized with pneumonia.</p> <p>World leaders have praised the king as a key mediator between Muslims and the West, but campaigners criticized his rights record and urged Salman to do more to protect freedom of speech and women&#39;s rights.</p> <p>Gulf rulers, and leaders including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, were among those who attended Abdullah&#39;s traditionally simple funeral at Riyadh&#39;s Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque on Friday.</p> <p>Africa was also represented, with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.</p> <p>President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and other leaders from the continent arrived on Saturday to pay respects.</p> <p>On Friday the late king&#39;s body, wrapped in a cream-colored shroud, was borne on a litter by members of the royal family wearing red-and-white checked headgear.</p> <p>The body was quickly moved to nearby Al-Od public cemetery and buried, in a grave marked only by a book-sized plain grey stone.</p> <p>Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Malaysia&#39;s Prime Minister Najib Razak arrived later to deliver condolences, as did Iraqi President Fuad Masum.</p> <p>Masum had met with Abdullah last November, helping to repair long-strained relations between the neighbors.</p> <p>On Friday evening hundreds of Saudis queued to enter a royal palace where they rubbed cheeks and kissed the hands of their new leaders, in a symbolic pledge of allegiance.</p> <p>Mourning ceremonies were planned for Saturday and Sunday evenings at another palace, official media said.</p> <p><strong>Valued ally</strong></p> <p>Obama paid tribute to Abdullah as a &quot;valued&quot; ally as the State Department indicated cooperation between Washington and Riyadh would continue.</p> <p>Salman pledged to keep the conservative, oil-rich Muslim kingdom on a steady course and moved to cement his hold on power.</p> <p>In his first public statement as king, Salman, 79, vowed to &quot;remain, with God&#39;s strength, attached to the straight path that this state has walked since its establishment&quot;.</p> <p>He called for &quot;unity and solidarity&quot; among Muslims and vowed to work in &quot;the defence of the causes of our nation.&quot;</p> <p>Moving to clear uncertainty over the transition to the next generation, he named his nephew, Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, as second in line to the throne behind Crown Prince Moqren, 69.</p> <p>That helps to solidify control by his Sudayri branch of the royal family.</p> <p>Salman also appointed one of his own sons, Prince Mohammed, as defense minister of the world&#39;s leading oil exporter and the spiritual home of Islam.</p> <p>&quot;In spite of all the earlier articles and fears surrounding the succession, the Saudi royal family handled the succession without even a hint of crisis, and laid the ground work for the future,&quot; wrote Anthony Cordesman, of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.</p> <p>Since the death in 1953 of the kingdom&#39;s founder, King Abdul Aziz bin Saud, the throne has passed systematically from one of his sons to another.</p> <p>As the top producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Saudi Arabia has been the driving force behind the cartel&#39;s refusal to slash output to support oil prices, which have fallen by more than 50 percent since June.</p> <p>Ali al-Naimi remains the kingdom&#39;s oil minister, and the International Energy Agency&#39;s chief economist said he did not foresee major policy shifts.</p> <p>&quot;I expect and hope that they will continue to be a stabilization factor in the oil markets,&quot; Fatih Birol told AFP.</p> <p><strong>Royal family stalwart</strong></p> <p>Saudi Arabia is home to Islam&#39;s holiest sites, and its role as a spiritual leader for Sunni Muslims has seen it vying for influence with Shia-dominated Iran.</p> <p>Tehran nonetheless offered its condolences and dispatched Zarif.</p> <p>Behind his thick, jet-black moustache and goatee, Abdullah had a shrewd grasp of regional politics.</p> <p>Wary of the rising influence of Islamist movements, Saudi Arabia has been a generous supporter of Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since the army ousted Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.</p> <p>Egypt declared seven days of official mourning for Abdullah, and sent its prime minister to the funeral.</p> <p>Riyadh has also played a key role in supporting opposition to Iranian-backed President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and will allow US troops to use its territory to train rebel fighters.</p> <p>Salman is widely expected to follow closely in Abdullah&#39;s footsteps, in foreign and energy policy as well as in making moderate reforms.</p> <p>Abdullah pushed through cautious changes, challenging conservatives with such moves as including women in the advisory Shura Council.</p> <p>He promoted economic development and oversaw accession to the World Trade Organization, tapping into massive oil wealth to build new cities, universities and railways.</p> <p>But the kingdom is still strongly criticized for a dismal human rights record, including the imprisonment and flogging of dissidents. It is also the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive.</p> Need to Know World Leaders Saudi Arabia Sat, 24 Jan 2015 14:58:00 +0000 Agence France-Presse 6374986 at None of these things work anymore in Crimea <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It’s been downhill ever since Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula last March. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dan Peleschuk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>KYIV, Ukraine &mdash; Moscow&rsquo;s swift and widely condemned annexation of Crimea last year may have boosted <a href="" target="_blank">patriotism</a> in continental Russia, but life on the Black Sea peninsula isn&rsquo;t exactly getting better.</p> <p>In fact, a steady stream of recent news suggests Russia&rsquo;s newest region faces growing financial and international isolation, thanks partly to Western sanctions against the Kremlin.</p> <p>On Friday, major global payment company PayPal stopped servicing its Crimean clients, with the Russian daily <a href="" target="_blank">Komsomolskaya Pravda reporting</a> customers&rsquo; accounts have been either blocked or frozen.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s only part of the unfortunate financial picture: Late last month, <a href="" target="_blank">Visa and MasterCard both announced</a> they would stop servicing local cardholders.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Mysterious bombs are exploding in Ukraine &mdash; and not in the war-torn east</a></strong></p> <p>Then there are the tech giants: <a href="" target="_blank">Apple ceased product sales</a> in the region this week and scrapped its contracts with local software developers, TechCrunch said Thursday; and Google has blocked some of its own services such as Google Play, Russian news outlet <a href="" target="_blank"></a> reported Friday.</p> <p>All that is certainly bad news for techies and any Crimean who relies on their plastic &mdash; or PayPal&rsquo;s web-based equivalent &mdash; for payments.</p> <p>But it gets downright grim for others.</p> <p>Earlier this week, the United Nations&rsquo; AIDS envoy told journalists in Paris that up to 100 drug addicts in Crimea may have died from a lack of access to effective treatment, <a href="">according to Agence France-Presse</a>.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s because methadone, used by formerly Ukrainian-run clinics to wean addicts off heroin, is outlawed under Russian law.</p> <p>&ldquo;The causes of death, from what we have been hearing, are mainly from suicide and overdose,&rdquo; AFP quoted envoy Michel Kazatchkine as saying.</p> <p>Russian health <a href="" target="_blank">officials denied that charge</a>, claiming instead that drug-related deaths have decreased.</p> <p>Whatever the case, that&rsquo;s only added to the peninsula&rsquo;s mounting problems since it joined Russia amid the fiercest geopolitical standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.</p> <p>By the end of last year, inflation was up an astonishing <a href="" target="_blank">42.5 percent</a>, according to federal statistics. Meanwhile, the region&rsquo;s tourism industry &mdash; its main economic lifeblood &mdash; suffered a major blow last year after would-be travelers were spooked away by potential turmoil.</p> <p>But authorities appear to be taking it all in stride &mdash; or at least seem prepared for the consequences Russia&rsquo;s fast-track annexation has brought.</p> <p>Oleg Saveliev, the country&rsquo;s Crimean affairs minister, told <a href="" target="_blank">Bloomberg News</a> late last month that &ldquo;a great number of problems&rdquo; still awaits the peninsula as it gets used to living in Russia&rsquo;s orbit.</p> <p>&ldquo;For 23 years people lived in different legal systems, in different paradigms,&rdquo; he said, &quot;and now it is hard when in every nuance, in every spot there is a problem.&rdquo;</p> Companies Crimea Want to Know Emerging Markets Europe Politics Political Risk Russia Technology Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:14 +0000 Dan Peleschuk 6374702 at 7 times celebrities made embarrassing political statements on social media <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Lindsay Lohan's Instagram tribute to the late Saudi king was pretty weird, but celebrities have done worse. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The <a href="" target="_blank">Instagram account</a> of Lindsay Lohan, who describes herself as an <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;artist&rdquo;</a> but is better known to the rest of us as being a train wreck even by Hollywood standards, is full of sultry selfies, tropical islands and luxury shopping bags.</p> <p>So it raised the eyebrows of social media users when&nbsp;Lohan posted an <a href="" target="_blank">obituary</a> for Saudi Arabia&#39;s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, according to web outlets.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">Saudi Arabia&#39;s new king might seem like the old one, but change is coming</a></strong></p> <p>Lohan posted the obituary with a comment in Arabic that roughly translates to &quot;I love and adore you, and you are the world to me.&quot;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Even Lindsay Lohan Instagramed about late <a href="">#KingAbdullah</a> of Saudi &amp; wrote something in Arabic. <a href="">#Confused</a>! <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Sattar Saeedi (@SattarSaeedi) <a href="">January 23, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s unclear why Lohan would care about the elderly monarch&rsquo;s passing. Unless he once gifted her a pair of&nbsp;Manolo Blahnik&nbsp;pumps?</p> <p>Her only apparent connection to the ultraconservative Islamic kingdom is, or was, Saudi film producer Mohammed Al Turki, whom she was <a href="" target="_blank">rumored</a> to be dating at one stage.</p> <div> <div getty-height="594" getty-image-embed="//;sig=rgktOSOHA0Xc2X90ZWr9iFfwFfL0kyZ_E679Scf-4uU=&amp;caption=true" getty-position="none" getty-width="395"> &nbsp;</div> </div> <p>Social media users&nbsp;<a href="" style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px;" target="_blank">later claimed</a>&nbsp;that the post had been removed. Lohan has not acknowledged the post, but her entire <a href="" target="_blank">Instagram account went&nbsp;down</a> Friday afternoon, so we haven&#39;t been able to verify whether the tribute is there.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"> </a></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p> <a href="" target="_blank"> </a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">My Instagram will be back to normal shortly. When LA wakes up to help me fix.</a></p> <p> <a href="" target="_blank">&mdash; Lindsay Lohan (@lindsaylohan) </a><a href="">January 23, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <p>Lohan&#39;s post and slightly off use of Arabic made us think about other celebrities&#39; ill-advised use of social media to share their personal opinions on politics and foreign affairs.&nbsp;</p> <p>Here are seven examples:&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>1. Donald Trump</strong></p> <p>Loud-mouth billionaire businessman and wannabe president <a href="">Donald Trump</a> caused a stir on Twitter earlier this month when he <a href="">blamed</a> the massacre at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on a lack of guns.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>If the people so violently shot down in Paris had guns, at least they would have had a fighting chance.</p> <p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">January 7, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Remember, when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns!</p> <p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">January 7, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>2. Joyce Carol Oates</strong></p> <p>Author and <a href="" target="_blank">frequent tweeter</a> Joyce Carol Oates knows the power of words, so the <a href="" target="_blank">backlash&nbsp;</a>that followed her tweets on Egypt, rape and religion must have come as no surprise. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Where 99.3% of women report having been sexually harassed &amp; rape is epidemic--Egypt--natural to inquire: what&#39;s the predominant religion?</p> <p> &mdash; Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) <a href="">July 5, 2013</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>3. Kim Kardashian</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Kim Kardashian&#39;s</a> misguided foray into <a href="" target="_blank">Middle East politics</a> in November 2012 didn&#39;t go well.&nbsp;The reality TV star deleted these two posts after receiving some nasty tweets in response, including death threats.</p> <div gp-image-embed="" gp-image-embed-position="NOTHING" gp-image-embed-source="Screengrab<br /> Ads by Adblade<br /> "><br /> &nbsp;</div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>4. Dennis Rodman</strong></p> <p>No doubt the retired <a href="" target="_blank">NBA star</a> is claiming credit for the <a href="" target="_blank">release</a> of Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae from North Korea in November. Rodman had asked his BFF, otherwise known as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to free Bae as a personal favor to the basketballer.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>I&#39;m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him &quot;Kim&quot;, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.</p> <p> &mdash; Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) <a href="">May 7, 2013</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>That&#39;s probably why Kim did it, yeah.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>5. Rupert Murdoch</strong></p> <p>The octogenarian <a href="" target="_blank">media mogul</a> probably wishes he had kept his <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;jihadist cancer&rdquo;</a> comments to himself following the deadly shootings in Paris earlier this month. His subsequent attempts to clarify his point only seemed to provoke more outrage.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.</p> <p> &mdash; Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) <a href="">January 10, 2015</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>6. Orlando Jones</strong></p> <p>Actor <a href="" target="_blank">Orlando Jones</a> took plenty of heat for <a href="" target="_blank">this tweet</a> he sent out after the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Jones defended the controversial post as <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;artistic expression&rdquo;</a> rather than a call to action. Sarah Palin might disagree.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="">@TwitchyTeam</a> don&#39;t forget about <a href="">@TheOrlandoJones</a> wanting liberals to kill Sarah Palin in 2011 <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; CJ The RINO (@CommieJuice) <a href="">August 24, 2014</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>7. 50 Cent</strong></p> <p>Rap star and actor Curtis <a href="" target="_blank">&ldquo;50 Cent&rdquo;</a> Jackson has a habit of posting outrageous tweets. This is just one of many.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Speaking of MILF. I wanna do something that impact kids in a positive way, thats why im opening an abortion clinic. Ima call it 50/50 chance</p> <p> &mdash; 50cent (@50cent) <a href="">September 7, 2010</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Enough said.</p> World Leaders Want to Know Culture & Lifestyle Saudi Arabia United States Fri, 23 Jan 2015 22:20:02 +0000 Allison Jackson 6374579 at