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Failed U.S. Hostage Rescue, Yoga Guru Dies, Gambling Japan

Violence resumed in the Gaza Strip Thursday, two days after the collapse of a 10-day ceasefire.
Violence resumed in the Gaza Strip Thursday, two days after the collapse of a 10-day ceasefire.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A secret operation involving “several dozen U.S. commandos” failed earlier this summer to rescue photojournalist James Foley and other American hostages held by Islamist terrorists in northern Syria,The Washington Post reports. An article in The New York Times, meanwhile, explains that the infamous ISIS jihadist group “pressed the United States to provide a multimillion-dollar ransom” for James Foley, which Washington refused to pay.

Britain has launched a hunt for the man who killed Foley with a knife on camera. The Daily Mail has characterized him as the “masked British butcher.” Authorities now believe that the jihadist killer is “the leader of a group of British fighters who have been holding foreign hostages in the Syrian city of Raqqa,” The Guardian writes.

It is believed that ISIS fighters have captured four more foreign citizens near the Syrian city of Aleppo, meaning they are now holding more than 20 hostages.

After yesterday’s call from President Barack Obama “to extract this cancer so it does not spread,” the U.S. Air Force hit 14 targets near the Mosul Dam in Iraq, destroying Humvees, trucks and explosives, Reuters reports.

Arriving in Missouri, where public anger over the Aug. 9 police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown still rages, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told residents about his own skepticism of police. “I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man.” Read more here.

Even amid violent street battles with pro-Russian rebels, Ukrainian government forces are now in control of "significant parts" of the eastern city of Luhansk, a spokesman for the country’s National Security Council told reporters yesterday. Meanwhile, in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, residential neighborhoods are being hammered by heavy shelling, Reuters reports. At least 52 people were reported dead yesterday, most of them civilians, and the violence shows no sign of abating. On the border, the BBC reports that four trucks from the 280-strong Russian aid convoy have moved into the customs zone, but still need to be checked by Ukrainian border guards.

Around 5% of Japanese adults — 5.36 million people — are considered addicted to gambling and cannot resist the impulse to wager, a study released Wednesday shows.

It’s a good thing planned retaliatory Russian sanctions against the West won’t include wine, because as Kommersant reports, global wine makers are looking to the isolated giant for sales. “Wine imports from the West have been growing, particularly in Moscow, which accounts for 40% of the sales of expensive wine in the country,” journalist Aleksander Zotin writes. “The capital is where new tastes and a new wine culture are developing, and it is slowly spreading to the rest of the country.”
Read the full article, Why The Vodka Nation Is Ripe For Wine.

Three Hamas commanders were killed in early airstrikes from the Israeli air force in Gaza this morning, Ma’an news agency reports. According to Haaretz, close to 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza since the ceasefire collapsed on Tuesday. Israel, meanwhile, has hit more than 110 targets, killing at least 22 Palestinians, four of them in a Gaza cemeterywhere they were burying relatives.

The Ben-Gurion airport is Tel Aviv is operating as usual, despite threats by Hamas to fire rockets in the area. Read more from Arutz Sheva.

The UN Security Council called on both parties to resume negotiations for a “sustainable and lasting ceasefire,” urging Israel and Hamas to “prevent the situation from escalating.” But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “Operation Protective Edge is not finished, not for a minute. We are talking about a continued campaign.”

Albert Reynolds, the former Irish prime minister who played a key role in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process, died yesterday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. So too did B. K. S. Iyengar, the yoga icon who helped bring his practice to the West.


Three months after a bloodless coup, Thailand’s military rule will continue. The country’s junta-chosen National Legislative Assembly voted unanimously to name Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha the new prime minister, The Nation reports. Critics see the move as one that “will only extend the General’s time at the helm and consolidate the military's grip on power,” AP reports. No elections are planned until October 2015. “The generals clearly do not plan to restore democracy,” a Human Rights Watch researcher told AFP.

The teenage girls clearly had a good time at British boy band One Direction’s recent Nashville gig, but the same can’t be said of their clearly sad dads.

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Flexing Against Sexism: Meet The Women Bodybuilders Of Nepal

Women bodybuilders are rare in a society that prefers them thin, soft — and fully clothed. But with sports, gold-medal winners like Rajani Shrestha are helping inspire change.

Photograoph of four female bodybuilders holding their country's flags on stage.

Judges and attendees observe the 55th Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship in Kathmandu

Yam Kumari Kandel/GPJ NEPAL
Yam Kumari Kandel

KATHMANDU — Rajani Shrestha exercises at a gym near Baneshwor Height, a neighborhood in Kathmandu, as she prepares for a major bodybuilding championship. As the 42-year-old lifts around 50 kilograms (110 pounds) in a deadlift, her veiny arms and neck muscles bulge out. A woman with “muscles like a man,” she says, is a very rare sight here.

The men bodybuilders in the club stare at her. “I don’t care what anyone says or does. I must win the competition anyway,” Shrestha says. As the day progresses, she is the only one left in the club. For Shrestha, there is no time to waste. On this August weekday, it’s only a month to go till the 55th Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship.

In 2019, Shrestha won silver medals at the 12th South Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship, held in Kathmandu, and the 53rd Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship, in Batam, Indonesia. The National Sports Council also recognized her for excellence.

Shrestha does not fit the normative definition of an ideal woman in Nepal. In a society where a thin body is considered beautiful, women bodybuilders with brawny bodies are labeled “men” and are often the target of ridicule and derision.

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