Category Archive: International

Many Worldwide Don’t Have Access To Clean Water

An estimated 768 million people were using drinking water sources that weren’t adequately protected from outside contamination, particularly from fecal matter, and 185 million used surface water (from lakes, rivers, streams or oceans) for daily drinking.

— 2.5 billion people, or about 36 percent of the world’s population, did not have access to a bathroom that hygienically separated human waste from human contact, say by flushing. Of those, 761 million used public facilities and 693 million used facilities that didn’t meet minimum hygiene standards.

— Diarrhea was the leading cause of illness and death in the world, and the majority of diarrhea-related deaths resulted from a lack of access to bathrooms, as well as unsafe drinking water and insufficient access to clean water for hygiene.

via Many Worldwide Don’t Have Access To Clean Water.

worldwide water crisis
(Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) | Paula Bronstein via Getty Images

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George Zimmerman’s brother thinks Obama ‘tapped’ his phones

Apparently paranoia runs in the family:

Robert Zimmerman says that his family has not spoken to his brother, George Zimmerman, since he was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin because President Barack Obama’s administration may be listening to their phone calls.

In an Tuesday interview on Fox News, Robert Zimmerman said that George Zimmerman’s parents had not spoken to or seen their son since the verdict on Saturday night.

“We do have concerns and always have of having our phones tapped, having our phones, you know, listened to by the administration or whomever because George is now as we know continually the subject of ongoing investigation.”

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6 Years Since Ex-FBI Agent Went Missing in Iran


Later today thousands of former FBI agents across the country are expected to observe a moment of silence in honor of their missing colleague, ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, who six years ago Saturday was kidnapped in Iran.

Levinson, who spent more than two decades in the Bureau before retiring in 1998, was traveling as a private businessman when he was taken captive by unknown assailants on Iran’s Kish island March 9, 2007.

Since then, his family has mounted a worldwide campaign demanding that Iran set him free, pushing U.S. officials in a meeting in the Oval Office last March to negotiate for him. Today the family is scheduled to meet with the FBI and State Department about the case, but as one family member told ABC News, “There is no news, unfortunately.”

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Video: Syrian rebel leader: We need ammunition

The U.S. announced this week that for the first time it will provide non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels. One of the rebel leaders, Salim Idris, was a general in the army of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad until 10 months ago. That was when he defected. In a rare TV interview, Idris spoke to CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan in Turkey.

General Idris took command of the fighters in December. His safety is so precarious he does not sleep in the same place more than one night.

Margaret Brennan: You defected from Assad’s army?

Salim Idris: Yes.

Brennan: You’re fighting your friends right now. What is that like?

Idris: It is very sad. It is not so simple for us to fight against our friends and against our citizens because the army is destroying everything. It is not the army to defend the country. It is an army now to defend the killer, the murderer, Bashar (Assad).

Brennan: The U.S. says right now it’s giving food and medicine.

Idris: Yes.

Brennan: What do you need?

Idris: What really we need is ammunition and I mean anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

The rebels need those heavy weapons to fight Assad’s military — armed chiefly by Russia and Iran. The Obama administration fears those arms may end up in the hands of extremists. Idris also asked the U.S. for training to turn his fighters into a unified army and to protect against a chemical weapons attack that he thinks Assad may carry out.

via Syrian rebel leader: We need ammunition – CBS News.

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Israel struggles to keep cloak of secrecy over spy story

The mysterious death of an Australian prisoner in Israel has put the spotlight on a military-run censorship system that is finding it harder to black out secret information often only a mouse click away on the Internet.

The case involves a man reported by Australia’s ABC channel on Tuesday to have been a member of Israel’s Mossad spy agency. According to the report, he committed suicide in prison in 2010 in an isolated top-security wing originally built for the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Why the man, identified by ABC as Ben Zygier, an immigrant to Israel, was jailed is still a closely guarded secret, and reports dealing with matters of state security must be submitted to military censors for vetting.

In a highly unusual move within hours of the ABC broadcast, Israeli editors were summoned to an emergency meeting in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and asked not to publish a story “that is very embarrassing to a certain government agency”, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

via Israel struggles to keep cloak of secrecy over spy story – Reuters.

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It’s Time for a Pope of Color

For centuries the Catholic church has been led by Europeans. The World has changed dramatically since the early days. Now the fastest growing number of members are found in African and Latin America. It would send the wrong message to once again chose a White European Pope. The Catholic Church hierarchy needs to show they are not a hopelessly reactionary organization. Jesus was not a European. Now it’s time for a Pope who is not:

Expert Vatican watchers all name the same four ‘papabile’ — the Cardinals, princes of the church, who could be the next pope.

Three expert Vatican watchers list some of their leading papabile — Italian for cardinals who might be elected as the next pope. In alphabetical order…

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Israel Does as it Pleases

Source: Haaretz:

The prevalent basic assumption in Israel is that it is allowed to do anything. It is rooted deep in its consciousness, and any criticism or even doubt is seen as heresy and treason.

Israel may fly in Lebanon’s sovereign airspace ‏(or any other Arab state’s‏) as often as it desires − that’s taken for granted. It may, of course, bombard anytime that someone foresees danger. It may invade any place, settle anywhere. It may do ‏(almost‏) anything.

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Russia moves to enact laws against ‘homosexual propaganda’

Kissing his boyfriend during a protest in front of Russia’s parliament earned Pavel Samburov 30 hours of detention and the equivalent of a $16 fine on a charge of “hooliganism.” But if a bill that comes up for a first vote later this month becomes law, such a public kiss could be defined as illegal “homosexual propaganda” and bring a fine of up to $16,000.

The legislation being pushed by the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church would make it illegal nationwide to provide minors with information that is defined as “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism.” It includes a ban on holding public events that promote gay rights. St. Petersburg and a number of other Russian cities already have similar laws on their books.

via Russia moves to enact laws against ‘homosexual propaganda’ | Fox News.

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U.S. Government has Abandoned the Syrian People to Assad

U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has always been about protesting oil interests. The welfare of the average Muslim or Arab matters very little to them. The fear of an Islamic state far outweighs the murderous acts of a dictator. This is the calculation that the Obama administration has made. We’ve seen it many times before:

We should grant American diplomacy under the stewardship of Secretary Hillary Clinton its due: It ran out the clock on the Syrians. There was always another “Friends of Syria” diplomatic gathering, another meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and always another test of pluralism and inclusiveness that the Syrian opposition had to meet before we deemed it worthy of our support. When Kofi Annan failed and called it quits, another United Nations envoy was dispatched, the Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.

Mission accomplished: The war in Syria never intruded on the U.S. presidential contest. Many months earlier, in August 2011, President Barack Obama had given up on the legend of Assad the reformer, and called on the Syrian ruler to abdicate. That declaration was the sum of U.S. policy. America had put itself on the side of good things in Syria, and no more needed to be done. “Complexity” was always the cover, and the pretext, for abdication.

[...]The political calculus had its own power: There was no constituency for a Syrian rescue. One would have thought that it is the burden of leaders to lead, to spell out to a skeptical, reluctant public what the stakes are in distant quarrels. But that is too much to ask for in this moment of American doubt and retrenchment.

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Putin Turning Russia into a Dictatorship

This could lead to a new cold war. We should all be worried:

Every week, the police summon people who have been to street protests around Russia, while in Moscow, prosecutors question activists in connection with violent clashes at an anti-Putin rally on May 6 on Bolotnaya Square. Political refugees say they will not return while the Russian court system remains compromised, and law enforcement agents continue to violate human rights.

Last month, Suren Gazarian, a 38-year-old environmental activist, received a telegram: police invited him to come and answer questions in a criminal case against him. The trip could mean five years in prison, if he were arrested at the interrogation, as often happens. Earlier this year, Gazarian had already been convicted to three years of probation for causing damage of private property: he had written “This is Our Forest!” on a fence around a mansion belonging to Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachev, and that activists say violates environmental laws. This time, the police said Gazarian had threatened the lives of security guards outside a luxurious palace on the Black Sea that Gazarian and his group’s activists believe belongs to President Vladimir Putin. They say its construction violated legal requirements for building in the area.

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Mob sexually assaults French reporter in Egypt’s Tahrir Square

A French female television reporter was sexually assaulted during a protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, she told AFP on Saturday, the latest in a series of such attacks on women covering unrest in Egypt.

Sonia Dridi, a correspondent for France 24, said a mob of mostly young men surrounded her on Friday while she was on the air and then began to grope her. The attack lasted several minutes before a male friend managed to pull her out.

“I was groped everywhere. I realised (later), when someone closed my shirt, that it was opened, but not torn off. I avoided the worst because I have a good belt” and a friend helped her out, she said.

via Mob sexually assaults French reporter in Egypt’s Tahrir Square | The Raw Story.

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Al Jazeera: Hackers Sent Fake Texts

Al-Jazeera says hackers have targeted the Qatar-based TV satellite channel for the second time in a week, sending out false news reports on its mobile phone alert service.

A pro-Damascus group known as the Syrian Electronic Army quickly claimed responsibility for the Sunday hack on Twitter. Qatar is a harsh critic of the Syrian regime and a leading backer of the rebels.

The inaccurate texts sent included a claim that the Qatari prime minister had escaped an assassination attempt. A spokesman says an investigation is ongoing.

Hackers posted a pro-Syrian statement on Al-Jazeera’s website last week.

via Al Jazeera: Hackers Sent Fake Texts.

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Syria’s defected PM Riad Hijab says Assad regime on “verge of collapse”

Syria’s defected prime minister said Tuesday that Bashar Assad’s regime was near collapse and urged other political and military leaders to tip the scales and join the rebel side.

“The regime is on the verge of collapse morally and economically,” Riad Hijab told a news conference in his first public comments since leaving his post and fleeing to Jordan with his family last week. Hijab is the highest-ranking political figure to defect from Assad’s regime.

via Syria’s defected PM Riad Hijab says Assad regime on “verge of collapse” – CBS News.

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U.N. Commission Calls for Legalizing Prostitution Worldwide

Boy, these people are really on the wrong track. This is how you end the spread of HIV? I bet it was mostly middle-aged men coming to this conclusion:

A report issued by the United Nations-backed Global Commission on HIV and the Law; recommends that nations around the world get rid of “punitive” laws against prostitution – or what it calls “consensual sex work” — and decriminalize the voluntary use of illegal injection drugs in order to combat the HIV epidemic.

The commission, which is made up of 15 former heads of state, legal scholars and HIV/AIDS activists, was convened in 2010 by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and is jointly backed by the United Nations Development Programme and UNAIDS – the Joint U.N. Programme on AIDS/HIV.

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Mexico recounts votes from over half of polling booths

Mexico’s election officials on Wednesday recounted votes from more than half the polling booths in Sunday’s presidential and congressional elections, responding to claims of fraud and requests for recounts in areas where the race was tight.

Officials with the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) said the recount would not significantly change preliminary results of the presidential vote, which showed Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) winning with more than 38 percent of the vote, 6.5 points clear of his nearest rival.

via Mexico recounts votes from over half of polling booths | Reuters.

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Congress Pushes for War With Iran

This could be the first step in the preparation for war with Iran. We saw the same kind of saber-rattling before the attack on Iraq. But any decision to bomb/invade Iran will be left for after the election. And it doesn’t matter who’s elected President:

In another resolution apparently designed to prepare for war against Iran, the U.S. House of Representatives, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan 401-11 vote, has passed a resolution (HR 568) urging the president to oppose any policy toward Iran “that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

With its earlier decision to pass a bill that effectively sought to ban any negotiations between the United States and Iran, a huge bipartisan majority of Congress has essentially told the president that nothing short of war or the threat of war is an acceptable policy.

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Canada says will Expel Remaining Syrian Diplomats

Why hasn’t the U.S. expelled the Syrian ambassador?

Canada will immediately expel the three remaining Syrian diplomats in Ottawa in response to a massacre in the town of Houla last week, Foreign Minister John Baird said on Tuesday.

Baird told Ottawa’s CFRA radio that the trio – a charge d’affaires and two other officials – had been told they were being kicked out. France and Germany have already announced they are expelling the Syrian envoys.

“Canada and our partners are speaking loudly, with one voice, in saying these Syrian representatives are not welcome in our countries while their masters in Damascus continue to perpetrate their heinous and murderous acts,” Baird said in a separate news release.

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