Syrian Aid, Chinese Missiles, Romance Scams


The Syrian government has granted aid convoys access to seven besieged towns, the United Nations announced today after talks in Damascus. The aid is due to arrive "within days," Al Jazeera reports. The areas concerned are Deir ez-Zor, an eastern city under siege by ISIS, Foah and Kefraya, northern cities besieged by rebel forces, and the cities of Madaya, Muadhamiya, Kafr Batna and Zabadani near Damascus, under siege from government forces. "It is the duty of the government of Syria to want to reach every Syrian person wherever they are and allow the UN to bring humanitarian aid," UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said in a statement.

  • Russia has rejected accusations of war crimes over the bombing of schools and hospitals Monday. "We categorically do not accept such statements, the more so as every time those making these statements are unable to prove their unfounded accusations in any way," a Kremlin spokesperson was quoted today as saying by The Guardian.
  • The Russian foreign ministry, meanwhile, said that Turkish artillery strikes on northern Syria are "absolute lawlessness," Reuters reports.
  • Hürriyet quotes Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu as saying that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and European allies want to set up a ground operation in Syria, but there is no consensus on a coalition or on a strategy for such an operation.


China has deployed advanced surface-to-air missiles to one of the disputed islands it controls in the South China Sea, satellite images published by Fox News show. This has been confirmed by Taiwan and U.S. officials. The presence of such missiles will undoubtedly increase tensions in the disputed area. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi brushed off the missile deployment reports as "hype."


Top UN official Stephen O'Brien warned yesterday that a "humanitarian catastrophe" was unfolding in Yemen. More than 20 million people are in need of some form of aid, including food, water and sanitation support, urgent health support and education. A humanitarian response plan for Yemen is set to be launched in Geneva tomorrow, asking for $1.8 billion to address the crisis. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber killed at least 10 recruits this morning at a Yemeni army camp run by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi's government in the southern port city of Aden, Reuters reports.


Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali died yesterday at the age of 93, Jeune Afrique reports. The Egyptian-born diplomat, who led the UN from 1992 to 1996, was the first African to hold the post. His term was marked by the massacres in Rwanda, war in the former Yugoslavia and repeated battles with the United States.



Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was put under investigation yesterday over the funding of his 2012 presidential reelection campaign, the Paris prosecutor's office said in a statement, France 24 reports. He is suspected of illegal financing of his campaign, which went beyond the legal limit for electoral spending. This probe is seen as a blow to Sarkozy's hopes to return as the center-right candidate for the presidential election next year.


According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, 5,883 "romance scams" — a fraud trick involving the gain of affection of a person followed by access to the victims' money — led to the theft of $86.7 million in the U.S. in 2014, The Guardian reports. This comes as romance scams through the dating app Tinder seem to be on the rise.


Opera, politics, basketball: On This Day's got it all!


The siege of Madaya began in July, but global pressure on the Syrian government to allow humanitarian access didn't begin to build until nearly 30 people had died of starvation. Writing for Syria Deeply, Shawn Carrié recounts why it took so long: "By November, there were already reports of deaths by starvation, inflated prices and claims of hoarding food and supplies. Yet people in Madaya could do little but hold small protests continuing their appeals for the world to intervene. It wasn't until Jan. 7, after dozens of starvation deaths and a chorus of international outcry, that the United Nations announced its plan to intervene. Humanitarian organizations operating inside Syria were harshly criticized for their failure to save lives in the besieged town. Just 15 miles from their offices in Damascus, they could have reached Madaya in under an hour."

Read the full article, The Tragedy Of Madaya Explained.


Photo: Mindy Schauer/ZUMA

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Texas In Germany? Saxony Mixes Anti-Vaxxers And Far-Right Politics

When it comes to vaccination rates, there are striking parallels between Germany and the United States. The states with the most opposition to vaccines differ politically from those with the highest vaccination rates. Now the consequences for booster shots are starting to become visible, especially in the United States.

A protest in Saxony last year against COVID-19 restrictions

Zentralbild/dpa via ZUMA
Daniel Friedrich Sturm


WASHINGTON — Ok, so Saxony was singled out last week in a New York Times article as an example of the disastrous vaccination situation in parts of Europe. The article talks about the link between anti-vaxxers and the political success of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the eastern German state.

In a sense, Saxony is Germany's Texas. For instance, 59% of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated, but in strictly Republican Texas, where Donald Trump overwhelmingly won the 2020 election, this figure stands at 54%.

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