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ISIS Wants Japanese Ransom, Pessimistic IMF, Kim Jong-Un V. Balloons

ISIS Wants Japanese Ransom, Pessimistic IMF, Kim Jong-Un V. Balloons

IMF CUTS GROWTH PROSPECTS
The International Monetary Fund has sharply cut its global growth forecast of just six months ago, with almost every economy except the United States expected to grow at a slower pace than previously thought, Bloomberg reports. The Washington-based lender said an economic slowdown in China, recession in Russia, and poor prospects in the eurozone and Japan will outweigh expected benefits from cheaper oil. According to IMF projections, the world economy will grow 3.5% this year and 3.7% in 2016.

  • This comes amid warnings from the United Nations that slower growth will lead to an extra 11 million people losing their jobs in the next five years. International Labour Organization chief Guy Ryder has blamed “the austerity trajectory,” especially in Europe, as a significant factor in growing unemployment and the widening gap between rich and poor. In an alarming report published yesterday, Oxfam said that the richest 1% would own more wealth than the other 99% by next year.

ON THIS DAY
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On this day in 1929, the very first movie filmed outdoors was released. Get
your daily shot of history here.

ISIS WANTS RANSOM FOR JAPANESE
In a video posted online today, Islamist terror group ISIS has threatened to execute two Japanese hostages if the government doesn’t pay $200 million within 72 hours, The Japan Times reports. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was in Jerusalem this morning as part of a Middle East visit, demanded the hostages’ immediate release and said that “the international community will not give in to terrorism.”

SNAPSHOT
An Orthodox believer takes a dip Monday into the icy waters of a pond during celebrations of the Orthodox Epiphany near Minsk, Belarus (see lead photo).

NIPPING THE NIPPLES
Top-selling British newspaper The Sun now has “its top on” after quietly scrapping the (in)famous Page 3 that featured topless models. It was a custom that started in 1970, shortly after Rupert Murdoch bought the tabloid. Instead, the page now features famous women in bikinis.

OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION
U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tonight to his presidency’s first Republican-controlled Congress. The address is expected to focus on the middle class and his proposal for expanded paid family leave as well as possible tax breaks for middle-income earners in a bid to raise more taxes from the wealthy. Read more from The New York Times.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As La Nacion reports, protests denouncing Argentine President Cristina Kirchner erupted all over the country yesterday after prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead Sunday morning. Authorities are calling the death an apparent suicide, but protestors believe he may have been murdered for accusing the president of concealing Iranian culpability for the 1994 bombing that killed 85 and injured 300 at a Jewish community center. Read more from our 4 Corners blog here.

UK TAPPED JOURNOS’ EMAIL
Britain’s electronic spy agency GCHQ captured the emails of journalists at some of the world’s top media organizations, documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by The Guardian show. The documents also describe investigative journalists as being “of specific concern,” that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security.” The revelations are likely to increase pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been pushing for greater surveillance powers in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
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LAUNCHING BALLOONS AT KIM JONG-UN
A group of South Korean activists led by a North Korean defector have started sending balloons with anti-Pyongyang messages across the border despite requests from South Korea not to do so and threats from North Korea, AFP reports. The militants have threatened to follow the leaflets with copies of the controversial film comedy The Interview.

COEN BROTHERS TO HEAD CANNES JURY
Oscar-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen will jointly head the jury at Cannes Film Festival in May. “Presiding over the jury is a special honor, since we have never heretofore been president of anything,” they said.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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