Ukraine's Tentative Truce, "Jihadi John" Unmasked, Super-Supermassive Black Hole
FIGHTING DIE DOWN IN EASTERN UKRAINE
The shaky truce in Eastern Ukraine finally appears to be taking hold. Wednesday marked the first casualty-free day since the Minsk agreement and the official start of a ceasefire on Feb. 15, the BBC reports. Pro-Russian rebels continued to withdraw their heavy weaponry from the frontline and the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic said nearly 80% had been withdrawn, according to news agency Tass. Ukrainian forces, he claimed, have only withdrawn 15-20% of their weapons.
- The situation on the diplomatic side, however, escalated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accusing Vladimir Putin of “destabilizing” Ukraine through “land grabs.” Kerry threatened to impose more sanctions on Russia’s struggling economy and said that “to date, neither Russia nor the forces it is supporting have come close to complying with their commitments.”
- In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said such statements were intended “to whip up public hysteria and distract attention from the need to fulfill the Minsk agreements.” In reference to Kerry’s threats, which echoed those made yesterday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Lavrov claimed: “These calls signal that the politicians from the particular countries and organizations, the U.S. and the EU, do not wish to seek the implementation” of the Minsk deal.
IDENTITY OF “JIHADI JOHN” REVEALED
British security services have revealed that “Jihadi John,” the man with a British accent pictured in videos of the beheading of Western hostages, including U.S. journalists, is a British citizen from West London. Read more from The Washington Post.
ON THIS DAY
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SPYLEAKS POINT OUT SOUTH AFRICA’S MISTRUST OF ISRAEL
South African intelligence services accused Israel of conducting "cynical" policies in Africa that include "fueling insurrection," "appropriating diamonds" and even sabotaging Egypt's water supply, in secret documents leaked to and published by Al Jazeera. According to the documents, the South African services believe Israeli scientists have created a type of plant that flourishes along the Nile but absorbs vast quantities of water so as to drastically reduce the amount of water in Egypt. Another document alleges that Israel fueled “insurrection inside Sudan,” ultimately leading to the country’s breakup and the creation of oil-rich South Sudan with which Tel Aviv has close ties.
SUPER-SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE
Photo above: NASA/Caltech
The discovery of a black hole with a mass 12 billion times that of our sun is leading scientists to question growth theory. Astronomers are puzzled at how the black hole, which was formed 900 million years after the Big Bang, could have expanded so much in what is in galactic history such a short period of time. “It's time for a new hypothesis and for some new physics,” said one of the scientists. Read more from Australia’s ABC.
NEIN! TO GREEK BAILOUT
As Germany’s parliament gets set to vote on the extension of the Greek bailout Friday, tabloid Bild got straight to the point in its Thursday edition: “No! No more millions for the greedy Greeks!" The daily even suggested that readers who oppose the bailout send in a selfie with the front page. Read more in today’s Extra!
ISIS ABDUCT MORE CHRISTIANS IN SYRIA
The number of Assyrian Christians abducted by ISIS in villages in northeastern Syria rose to 220 after a third day of attacks, Reuters reports. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says ISIS fighters now control 10 Christian villages in the region. According to the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network, as many as 1,000 families have fled the villages. The abducted are believed to have been taken to one of ISIS’ strongholds. Fights rage on meanwhile between the terrorist group and Kurdish and Christian militiamen for the control of these villages, which are located near a strategic river. Read more from AP.
Global art sales set a new record in 2014 with a total of $15.2 billion sold at auction during the year, Artprice said in its annual report. This represents an increase of 26% compared to 2013. A record number of 1,679 sales worth $1 million or more were recorded over the year, four times more than a decade ago.
As the satirist magazine’s new edition hits the stands, Le Monde’s Raphaëlle Bacqué asks: Can Charlie Hebdo survive life in a bunker?
“The few people Charlie Hebdo recently tried to recruit declined the offer. ‘They ask us if they'd have to attend editorial meetings, if they’d have to sign with their real names,’” Riss says.
At the back of a cafe where we agreed to meet, two policemen from the anti-terrorist unit are sitting at a table, discreetly keeping a close eye on all entrances. Riss, a former railroader with grey eyes, says he understands why cartoonists are reluctant to come work for the paper. “For days, I was in hospital thinking that killers would come to finish me off,” Riss openly admits. “And I still wake up at night with the same nightmare.”
Read the full article, What Now For Charlie Hebdo?
92 ARRESTED IN DENMARK HUMAN TRAFFICKING OP
Police in Denmark have arrested 95 people in an operation The Copenhagen Post describes as “probably the biggest human trafficking bust in Danish history.” Among those arrested, 22 are accused of human trafficking, most of them Romanians. A Danish lawyer and an accountant were arrested on suspicion of fraud and tax evasion. The rest are believed to be victims in the case. The police believe their identities were misused to commit the crimes, which brought in an estimated $8.2 million.
“Nobody even tries to use any diplomatic words,” Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser told The New York Times just days before Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to the U.S. Congress. He added that the relationship between Israel and the U.S. “has never been so terrible as it is today.”
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
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SOUTH KOREA LEGALIZES ADULTERY
South Korea’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a controversial 1953 ban on adultery is unconstitutional. “Even if adultery should be condemned as immoral, state power should not intervene in individual private lives,” said presiding justice Park Han-Chul.