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he sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, during a partial solar eclipse.
he sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, during a partial solar eclipse.

Friday, October 24, 2014

There is a new accusation that ISIS fighters launched a chemical attack, this time against Iraqi security forces north of Baghdad, The Washington Post reports just hours after unconfirmed details emerged of a similar attack against Kurdish fighters in Syria. U.S. officials are investigating. A senior administration official also said that Washington was considering bombing oil pipelines in an effort to deprive ISIS of its primary revenue source. It makes millions of dollars by reportedly selling smuggled oil even to U.S. allies such as Turkey and the autonomous Kurdish government in Iraq. Read more from the Financial Times.

Lebanon has announced it would not accept anymore Syrian refugees, except in “exceptional cases,” instead encouraging them to “return to their countries, or go to other countries,” AP reports. Officially, 1.1 million Syrian refugees have been registered in Lebanon, which has a population of 5 million. The decision will likely put pressure on other countries to welcome the refugees, including European nations, which have been reluctant to do so.

The sun set over the Gulf of Mexico off Sand Key last night, during a partial solar eclipse.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the 32-year-old gunman who killed a Canadian soldier during a Wednesday shooting spree, was “certainly radicalized,” but no evidence so far has linked him to the ISIS terrorist group, Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird told the BBC. The Canadian police also said that the man, believed to have acted alone, had in fact not been identified as a “high-risk traveler” despite his intention to travel to Syria. In an extensive report, The Globe And Mail portrays him as a “deeply troubled man” trapped in a “sewer of petty crime and drugs.”

“I swear I didn’t go there!” Japan's newly appointed trade and industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa has come under fire after it was revealed his cabinet billed 18,230 yen ($171) as a political expense for a 2010 visit to an S&M bar in Hiroshima.

Craig Spencer, a New York doctor who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea, tested positive for the virus yesterday, becoming the fourth person diagnosed with the disease in the United States and the first in New York,The New York Timesreports. He has been placed in isolation, along with at least three people who have been in contact with him in recent days. The Mali government also announced its first case of Ebola after a 2-year-old girl tested positive. Her mother died from the disease in Guinea a few weeks ago, and relatives took the baby to Mali, the BBC reports. The World Health Organization said it would send experts to the West African country to reinforce its “preparedness” against the virus, which has already killed nearly 4,900 people.

Experts from Yale University and Liberia’s Health Ministry have found that each patient around Liberia's capital of Monrovia are infecting on average 2.5 people.

European Union leaders have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2030,The Guardian reports. The 20-country bloc also set up a 27% target for renewable energy market share and pledged a 27% increase in energy efficiency improvement. Outgoing European Commission president José Manuel Barroso hailed the package as “very good news” and said that “no player in the world is as ambitious as the EU.” The deal will also be used a working platform for a global summit in Paris next year, but it includes a clause that allows the EU to review these targets if other countries do not meet these ambitious plans.
For more, check out this morning’s Zoo’d blog dispatch that deals with the Emerald Isle’s unique greenhouse gas problem, Good News For Ireland’s Farting Cows.

Islamist group Boko Haram abducted about 60 more women and young girls last weekend in northern Nigeria despite government claims last Friday that it had achieved a truce with the militants, The New York Times reports. Nigerian newspaper Vanguard reports, however, that the elderly kidnapped women were later released while the young girls were married off to Islamist militants or made to be cooks. The Guardian explains that skepticism about government information is growing, especially in the northern Nigerian town of Chibok, where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in April. Despite claims that Boko Haram had agreed to release the girls earlier this week, families are still waiting for their return.



Protest leaders in Hong Kong have announced plans to poll their supporters Sunday about whether to accept government proposals put forward during Tuesday talks, the South China Morning Post reports. The government offered to send a report to Beijing reflecting the protesters’ views and to set up a platform for dialogue on future constitutional changes. Student leaders have already rejected these proposals but are hoping that a strong backing for their stance would strengthen their position in the negotiations for a fully democratic 2017 election. The protesters received support from the United Nations Human Rights Committee yesterday, which called on China to “ensure universal suffrage, which means both the right to be elected as well as the right to vote.”

As Philippe Arnaud writes in Le Monde, two new books and a docudrama are asking hard questions about how so many people can still go hungry in a world of technological advancement and economic growth. “Though the situation is slightly less critical than in 2008, a year that saw food prices soar, hunger still affects 850 million people around the world,” the journalist writes. “Bruno Parmentier, author of Zero Hunger, Ending Hunger In The World, connects that number with another one, the 1.46 billion people who are overweight. To this expert on agricultural affairs, hunger is neither a technical nor an economic problem, in the strict sense of the term. ‘Hunger is first of all political,’ he writes. ‘It has always been the consequence of ignorance, war and the absence of state, of conflicts to gain control of natural resources. And now it's also a byproduct of globalization and the absence of public control over multinational companies.’”
Read the full article, Why World Hunger Won't Go Away.

Madonna fans will have the chance to bid on some of the singer’s memorabilia in a Bevery Hills auction next month. Among the more than 140 items are the dress from her 1985 wedding to Sean Penn (bids start at $20,000), latex underwear (for a minimum $1,000), and a signed cheque (bids start at $300).

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Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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