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Water On Mars, New Ocean Reserve, The World In NY

Water On Mars, New Ocean Reserve, The World In NY


Photo: Klimentyev Mikhail/TASS/ZUMA

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin met Monday evening on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss the Syrian conflict and efforts to end it.

  • The meeting highlighted disagreement between Washington and Moscow about how to end the conflict. Obama insisted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had to go, but Putin said it would be an "enormous mistake" not to work with Assad's regime to tackle ISIS, The New York Times reports.
  • The Russian president said his country is considering whether it will follow the U.S. and its allies in conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, the BBC reports.

  • Putin said Moscow would not carry out airstrikes without the UN's approval. He also ruled out a Russian ground operation in Syria.

  • Putin described the 90-minute meeting as "very constructive, business-like and frank."

  • "The Russians certainly understood the importance of there being a political resolution to the conflict in Syria," Reuters quoted a senior U.S. official as saying after the meeting.

  • For more on this topic, we offer a Süddeutsche Zeitung/Worldcrunch op-ed, Assad Is Not The Answer: Just Say No To Putin's Syria Solution.


Take a look at our collection of front pages from planet Earth — plus bonus coverage from the hometown rag ...


The Afghanistan military has begun an operation to retake the northern city of Kunduz after Taliban fighters overran it Monday in its biggest victory since the terror group was toppled in 2001, Al Jazeera reports.Government forces were forced to retreat to the city's airport Monday as Taliban fighters freed hundreds of prisoners and captured government buildings, effectively taking control of Kunduz. Officials said this morning that Afghan forces had cleared the area around the prison and police headquarters. The U.S. also launched an airstrike to aid the Afghan government, which also sent reinforcements from the neighboring Kabul and Balkh provinces. "The Taliban are being pushed back. In a few hours the city will be free from their hands," The Guardian quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Dowlat Waziri as saying.


"The king is not in stable condition and in reality the son of the king Mohammed bin Salman is ruling the kingdom," The Guardian quoted a senior Saudi prince as writing in two letters calling for significant change in the country's leadership. "The public are also pushing this very hard, all kinds of people, tribal leaders. They say you have to do this or the country will go to disaster."


More than 500 inmates are believed to have escaped from the Ngaragba prison in Bangui Monday amid increasing violence between Muslim and Christian communities that has left at least 42 dead since last weekend, France 24 reports. Central African Republic President Catherine Samba-Panza left the UN General Assembly in New York yesterday to return to the country's capital, where new violence was sparked Saturday with the murder of a Muslim motorcycle-taxi driver whose body was left near a mosque. Protesters have accused UN peacekeepers of shooting and killing three people, but the MINUSCA (the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) denied this.


India successfully launched its first hi-tech telescopes into space yesterday as part of its "low-cost" program to study stars, the AFP reports. A rocket carrying the 150-ton mini space observatory known as Astrosat, along with six foreign satellites, blasted off on schedule Sunday from India's main southern spaceport of Sriharikota.


Jerry Lewis, rock 'n roll's "first great wild man" was born 80 years ago today. That and more in today's shot of history.


A vast South Pacific area the size of France, around the Kermadec Islands north of New Zealand, is set to become one of the world's largest ocean sanctuaries, Prime Minister John Key announced during a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York today. "The new sanctuary will preserve the home of a huge range of species — millions of seabirds and whales and dolphins, endangered turtles and thousands of species of fish and other marine life will be better protected," the New Zealand Herald quoted him as saying. This sanctuary will mean a prohibition of prospecting and mining as well as commercial and recreational fishing.



Cuban President Raul Castro told the UN General Assembly yesterday that relations between Cuba and the U.S. could only be normalized if the American trade embargo on his country were lifted, the BBC reports. He also demanded that the U.S. return the Guantanamo military base to Havana and end anti-communist broadcasts to the island. President Barack Obama echoed his statements, saying he hoped Congress would soon lift the embargo. The two leaders are expected to meet today in New York for the second time since last December's announcement that the two countries would re-establish diplomatic relations after 50 years of antagonism.


With the United Nations General Assembly meeting this week, heads of state and all the many faces of the world are filling the streets of New York.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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