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Ukraine's Shaky Truce, HSBC Free Fall, Oscar Speeches

Ukraine's Shaky Truce, HSBC Free Fall, Oscar Speeches

An already shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is threatening to collapse further after a blast killed two people yesterday at a march commemorating the first anniversary of former president Viktor Yanukovych’s ousting. Ukrainian authorities said they arrested four people who had been armed and trained in Russia, Reuters reports. Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces nevertheless exchanged prisoners over the weekend, as planned by the Minsk agreement 10 days ago. Kiev, however, said today that it couldn’t start withdrawing heavy weapons from the frontline as their opponents were still firing. Both sides are expected to start the withdrawal in the following days.

  • Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister told CBC Radio that Kiev was preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and urged its western supporters to “stiffen up in the spine a little” and provide Ukrainian forces with lethal weapons “to defend ourselves.” U.S. Sen. John McCain, a fervent supporter of sending weapons to Kiev, made a similar plea on CBS’ Face The Nation. “I’m ashamed of my country. I’m ashamed of my president. And I’m ashamed of myself that I haven’t done more to help these people,” he said.
  • A report in The Sunday Times featuring an interview with an elite soldier who has been training pro-Kiev forces claimed that six out of 10 casualties in the Ukrainian army, which consists mostly of volunteers and conscripts, were due to “friendly fire” and their “inability to handle weapons.” According to UN figures, close to 5,700 people have been killed since the conflict erupted last April.

The recently elected anti-austerity government in Greece has until tonight to present a list of reforms its international creditors will accept in order to secure a four-month bailout deal reached on Friday. According to Germany’s tabloid Bild, Athens is preparing to hit oligarchs as well as oil and cigarette smugglers with new measures against tax evasion. These could bring in an estimated $8.3 billion in new tax revenue. Read more from the BBC.

Photo above: Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA
“This Oscar belongs to all those people battling ALS,” said a euphoric Eddie Redmayne as he accepted the best actor award for his portrayal of disabled physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything. Check out the other notable speeches on Radio Times and the complete list of winners in The Los Angeles Times.

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Seventy years ago today, the American flag was raised on Iwo Jima. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

France has bolstered its participation in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS with the deployment of its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in the Arabian/Persian Gulf for an eight-week mission, French newspaper Le Figaro reports. Last week, the Pentagon announced plans to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul in April or May. The timing of the aircraft carrier’s deployment suggests it might have a role to play in that operation.

  • The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that coalition strikes have killed 1,600 people since they began Sept. 23. A very large majority of the casualties (1,465) were reportedly ISIS militants. Another 73 were fighters with the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front. Sixty-two were civilians.
  • Speaking to The Independent, a senior Kurdish official claimed that private donors from Gulf states were still paying ISIS, except this time it was doing so “so that it promises not to carry out operations on their territory.” Fuad Hussein did not name the countries, though their description appears to match Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have faced similar accusations in the past.

Apple announced plans to spend $1.9 billion on the construction of two new data centers in Ireland and Denmark that will be entirely powered by renewable energy. CEO Tim Cook said described it as the company’s “biggest project in Europe to date.”

British bank HSBC saw its pre-tax profits fall 17% in 2014 after what the company described as a “challenging year” in which it was hit by multimillion fines for currency market manipulation, Business Insider reports. This also comes after a series of revelations that the bank had helped people (from politicians to drug dealers and terrorist supporters) evade taxes using hidden accounts in Switzerland. In its latest report,The Guardian reveals that HSBC’s chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, sheltered $7.6 million of his own money in a tax-free Swiss account.

Handbags made out of volleyball nets and soda cans, courtesy of one of the sisters of the Fendi family used to face assaults by animal rights activists: “But what does Ilaria Venturini Fendi do? She designs handbags. No surprise there. What is a surprise is what the bags are made of: bits and pieces of fabric she buys in the factories of other Italian designers; safari tents; old volleyball nets; trash bags; soft drink cans. They are pieces of patchwork art, and no way can you tell that the materials used were originally destined for the garbage heap.”
Read Silvia Ihringfull's article for Die Welt, Ilaria Venturini Fendi, From Animal Rights Target To Slow Luxury Queen.

At least 69 people have died in a ferry accident in central Bangladesh yesterday, with emergency workers still battling to recover several people missing, AFP reports. Poor safety standards for ferry transportation are a recurring issue in Bangladesh. Yesterday’s accident is the second in a fortnight.

Check out this week's horoscope, straight from the Eternal City.

Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind, two former British foreign secretaries, are in hot water after they were caught on camera offering to use their influential positions for a minimum of 5,000 pounds ($7,700) a day. The former government officials made the offer to journalists from The Daily Telegraph and a broadcaster from Channel 4 who were posing as representatives of a fictitious Chinese company. Straw, a foreign secretary under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, even boasted that he operated “under the radar” to change EU rules and Ukrainian legislation on behalf of a company in exchange for money. The two denied the accusations, with Straw saying he had fallen into a “very skillful trap.”

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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