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Merkel Plays Defense, New UK Newspaper, Leo Finally Wins

Merkel Plays Defense, New UK Newspaper, Leo Finally Wins

DESPITE VIOLATIONS, SYRIA TRUCE STANDS

Saudi Arabia accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and its ally Russia of "ceasefire violations" yesterday, Al Arabiya reports. "We are discussing this with (the 17-nation) Syria Support Group," co-chaired by Russia and the United States, said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. Despite the accusations of 15 ceasefire breaches of over the weekend, the Syrian opposition said yesterday that it would stick to the truce.

  • The Russian military also said Sunday that the ceasefire had been breached nine times over the past 24 hours, but concurred that it was mostly holding. "We do not know which planes carried out the strikes, and also we are not sure if this is considered a breach to the truce because it is not clear if these towns are included," reads a statement from The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, which monitors the conflict. Meanwhile the UN and partner organizations plan to deliver aid to 154,000 Syrians in besieged areas in the next five days, Reuters reports.

EXTRA!

Defying doomsday predictions about traditional journalism, the UK welcomed its first standalone national print newspaper in 30 years today. The New Day's publishing company Trinity Mirror, whose flagship paper is the tabloid Daily Mirror, hopes the new title will find a particular readership among women. Read more from Le Blog here.


DEADLY BOMBINGS ROCK IRAQ AND SOMALIA

At least 73 people were killed in Baghdad yesterday after a twin suicide bombing claimed by ISIS, Reuters reports. The bombers were riding motorcycles and blew themselves up at a market in a Shia district of Sadr City, also wounding more than 100 people. "Our swords will not cease to cut off the heads of the rejectionist polytheists, wherever they are," ISIS wrote in an online statement,referring to Shia Muslims. The suicide bombings in Sadr City were the deadliest attack in a wave of explosions that targeted other commercial areas in and outside Baghdad yesterday and brought the day's overall death toll to 92.

  • Another twin suicide bombing by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab killed at least 30 people and injured at least 60 others in Baidoa, Somalia, the BBC reports. Witnesses said the first explosion was a car bomb outside a popular restaurant and the second was a body bomb inside a restaurant a kilometer away. The attacks were part of the terror group's violent campaign to topple Somalia's UN-backed government.

MERKEL AGAIN DEFENDS MIGRANT POLICY

In a nationally televised interview Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel once again defended her open-door migrant policy, rejecting any limit on the number of refugees allowed into the country despite deep divisions within her government, Deutsche Welle reports. "I have no plan B," she said, adding that she was convinced she was on the right track with efforts to redistribute refugees within Europe.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

The village of Sutera, Italy, was facing demographic doom with the constant exodus of young people leaving for opportunities elsewhere. Then locals started to wonder about those migrants coming into the country, Niccolo Zancan reports for La Stampa. "Sutera's decision to welcome migrants began after the sinking of a boat in October 2013, when 366 people died near the island of Lampedusa. It wasn't easy for the town to embark upon this path, and some of Sutera's elderly had serious doubts, and even fears, about the plan that cut against the widespread policy of confining migrants to the peripheries and out of public view. ‘The isolation is the only problem,' says Chris Richy, a Nigerian immigrant. ‘There's only one bus that leaves at 5:50 in the morning, but in Sutera there are good people, not racists. They really do help us, and when I finally get a job as an electrician I want to repay them for the help they've given us.'"

Read the full article, A Dying Town In Sicily, Reborn With Immigrants.


NORTH KOREA DETAINS U.S. STUDENT

During a press conference this morning, 21-year-old American student Otto Frederick Warmbier confessed to crimes against North Korea, CNN reports. Warmbier was detained in Pyongyang on Jan. 2, accused of trying to steal a banner bearing a political slogan. North Korea alleges he was encouraged by a secretive university society and the CIA. "I apologize to each and every one of the millions of the Korean people, and I beg that you see how I was used and manipulated," he said after confessing to the attempt of stealing the banner. It's unclear whether the student was forced by North Korean authorities to speak.


ON THIS DAY


On the morning after an Academy Awards ceremony that some boycotted for its lack of diversity, learn about the first-ever black Oscar winner in today's 57-second shot of history.


TRUMP RETWEETS FASCIST

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump once again caused media hysteria yesterday after retweeting a quote from a Mussolini parody Twitter account, Newsweek reports. When asked during a Sunday morning talk show why he had retweeted the words, "It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep," Trump simply replied that "it's a very good quote." The incident has fueled further questions about why the candidate has not disavowed endorsements from white supremacists such as former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. The Republican frontrunner initially told CNN Sunday that he didn't know "anything about David Duke" or "white supremacy," but later in the afternoon changed his statement in a tweet, writing that he "disavows" the former Ku Klux Klan leader.


MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD



REFORMISTS WIN IN TEHRAN PROVINCE

Early election results from Iran this morning indicate major support for reformists and supporters of President Hassan Rouhani, BBC reports. Iranians went to the polls Friday to vote in two key elections: for a new parliament, and for the top clerical body known as the Assembly of Experts. Rouhani and his allies won 15 of 16 seats in Tehran, while votes for the rest of the country are still being counted.


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Dasril Roszandi/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Children are pushing their bikes through high water to get back home in Cipinang Melayu, Jakarta. Two days of heavy rain have caused flooding in many areas in the Indonesian capital.


LEO FINALLY GETS HIS OSCAR

The fifth time was the charm for Leonardo DiCaprio, who finally won a best acting Oscar at last night's Academy Awards for his role in The Revenant, the Los Angeles Times reports. Spotlight, the film about the Boston Globe's investigation into priest sexual abuse, was the surprise win for best picture, while Mad Max: Fury Road led all films with six awards, including several in technical categories.

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Geopolitics

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023

Before heading to South Sudan to continue his highly anticipated trip to Africa, the pontiff was in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he delivered a powerful speech, in a country where 40 million Catholics live.

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — You may know the famous Joseph Stalin quote: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” Pope Francis still has no military divisions to his name, but he uses his voice, and he does so wisely — sometimes speaking up when no one else would dare.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Belgian Congo, a region plundered and martyred, before and after its independence in 1960), Francis has chosen to speak loudly. Congo is a country with 110 million inhabitants, immensely rich in minerals, but populated by poor people and victims of brutal wars.

That land is essential to the planetary ecosystem, and yet for too long, the world has not seen it for its true value.

The words of this 86-year-old pope, who now moves around in a wheelchair, deserve our attention. He undoubtedly said what a billion Africans are thinking: "Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered!"

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