Syrian Truce, Pope In Mexico, Columbine Mother Speaks

HOW FAR CAN SYRIAN TRUCE REACH?

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, announced this morning that they had agreed on the rapid delivery of desperately needed aid to besieged Syrian cities. Talking to reporters in Munich, the two top diplomats expanded on yesterday's announcement of what amounts to an extremely fragile, and partial, ceasefire.

  • "We have agreed to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities in one week's time," Kerry said early today, The New York Times reports. "The real test is whether all the parties honor those commitments."
  • The agreement would mark the first sustained and formally declared halt to fighting in Syria since the civil war began in 2011. Kerry conceded that the agreements were "commitments on paper" only, adding that a cessation-of-hostilities agreement would merely constitute a "pause" in the fighting, and that further efforts will be required need in order to transform it into a full-fledged ceasefire. Indeed, even a successful agreement would be partial at best, as the current agreement doesn't include ISIS or the al-Nusra Front, both key players on the ground, considered terrorist organizations by the United Nations.
  • The Washington-Moscow efforts have not pleased everyone. Colonel Abdul Jabbar Akidi, supreme commander of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, told Swedish Daily Dagens Nyheter that the U.S. is "no longer a friend of the Syrian people as they have now allied with Russia." Since September, Russia has been conducting an extensive air campaign in Syria in support of the Bashar al-Assad government.
POPE'S VISIT TO MEXICO

Mexico got ready to welcome Pope Francis, who was making a historic stopover in Havana to meet with his counterpart from the Russian Orthodox Church. Read more about it on Le Blog.


ON THIS DAY


Which famous painting was stolen on this day, 22 years ago? Find it out here, in your 57-second shot of history.


END OF SIEGE AT OREGON REFUGE

The 40-day armed occupation of a remote Oregon wildlife refuge — prompted by longstanding grievances over federal government ownership and management of vast acreage in the West — ended peacefully yesterday as the last four occupants surrendered to the FBI. Three of the occupiers emerged in quick succession, hands raised in surrender. The fourth and final occupant eventually followed, but not before repeatedly threatening to shoot himself, ranting about UFOs, drone strikes in Pakistan, and complaining that he couldn't get marijuana. Read the latest coverage from The Oregonian newspaper.


CIA DIRECTOR: ISIS HAS USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS

U.S. intelligence officers believe the Islamic terrorist organization ISIS has already used chemical weapons, CIA Director John Brennan told CBS's 60 Minutes television program.


EUROPEAN STOCKS REBOUND

After a week of near panic in global stock markets, European share prices rebounded on higher oil prices and reports of economic growth in Germany, AFP reports. Gains of around 2% were reported in this morning's trading in Frankfurt, London and Paris.


THE SIXTH DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

Hillary Clinton sought to smother Bernie Sanders' momentum with a cool dose of realism in last night's Democratic party presidential debate. Here's a quick recap from American newssite Vox, as the candidates squared off on topics such as race, foreign policy, and the legacy of Barack Obama.


U.S. AND SOUTH KOREA TO DISCUSS MISSILE DEFENSE

Photo: Lee Jae-Won/AFLO/ZUMA

Following North Korea's rocket launch last weekend, Washington and South Korea will begin talks on deploying an advanced U.S. missile defense system, reports Reuters. South Korea suspended operations at the North Korean-based Kaesong industrial zone on Wednesday in response to the rocket launch, and yesterday anti-Kim Jong-un protests marched in downtown Seoul. North Korea referred to the news of the Seoul-Washington talks as "a declaration of war," and accused the South of being a puppet of the U.S.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

As dengue and the fear of the Zika virus continue to spread, local authorities across Brazil are desperately looking for doctors as they set up field hospitals to treat patients infected by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits both diseases, Marcelo Toledo writes for Brazil's Folha de S. Paulo: "If the installation of field hospitals and the recruiting of doctors alleviates the situation for patients suffering from dengue, it's far from being a lasting solution, experts say. Only better trained health professionals and measures against the mosquito can both improve the patients' conditions and reduce the transmission of the fever and Zika.

Read the full article, As Zika Spreads, Desperately Seeking Brazilian Doctors.


MOTHER OF COLUMBINE KILLER GIVES FIRST TV INTERVIEW

It's been 17 years since her son and his friend shot dead 13 people at Columbine High School. Tonight at 10 p.m., Sue Klebold gives her first TV interview to ABC's Diane Sawyer. According to a snippet released yesterday, Sue states in the interview, "I had all those illusions that everything was OK because, and more than anything else, because my love for him was so strong."


MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD



MERYL STREEP SLIPS UP

Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep is catching some heat after a remark she made at the Berlin International Film Festival yesterday when answering a reporter's question about diversity in the film industry. CNN reports that Streep said, "I do think inclusion is the name of the game … The thing I've noticed from my different roles is there is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture. And, after all, we're all from Africa, originally."

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Mariam Nabattu, a religious studies teacher, must work at two schools in central Uganda to make ends meet.

Patricia Lindrio/GPJ Uganda
Edna Namara and Patricia Lindrio

KAMPALA — Allen Asimwe has dedicated more than two decades to teaching geography at a large public high school in southwestern Uganda. Her retirement age, as a public servant entitled to benefits, is just six years away.

She doubts she will wait that long.

“I am determined, I want to quit,” she says, calculating that she could earn more by shifting full time to the salon she opened six years ago to supplement her income. “Given the frustration, I cannot continue in class anymore.”

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