NEW AID TO REACH BESIEGED SYRIAN TOWNS
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.
- Hürriyetquotes 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 DEPLOYS MISSILES ON CONTESTED ISLAND
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."
"HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE" UNFOLDING IN YEMEN
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 CHIEF BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI DIES
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.
MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD
SARKOZY PROBED OVER 2012 CAMPAIGN FUNDING
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.
ON THIS DAY
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.
DOGS CAN READ HUMAN EMOTIONS
Photo: Mindy Schauer/ZUMA
No doubt dog owners already know this, but for the first time, scientists have proven our pooches can recognize how we're feeling.