Tuesday, October 21, 2014
NEW ISIS OFFENSIVE IN KOBANI
ISIS fighters have launched an assault “on all fronts” in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights toldAFP. The offensive came hours after U.S. airplanes dropped ammunition and medical aid to besieged Kurdish fighters. It also came after Turkey’s apparent policy reversal, as the country is now allowing Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross into Kobani from Turkey, a decision the U.S. welcomed. Meanwhile, The Independent reports that UK drones now deployed in Iraq will soon carry out reconnaissance flights in Syria and possibly missile strikes without a new parliamentary vote. When Westminster voted to support Iraq strikes against ISIS a month ago, several parliament members said they would oppose such an operation in Syria.
China has retained its title of world's top executioner, U.S.-based rights group Dui Hua reported today. The country executed 2,400 people in 2013, 1,622 more than the rest of the world combined.
HONG KONG TALKS
Pro-democracy protest leaders and Hong Kong government officials are finally meeting to discuss how to end a weeks-long crisis that has paralyzed part of the city. Such talks have been cancelled twice in recent weeks, and there is little hope that the sides will find common ground because officials insist that Beijing will not consent to demands for more democracy, the South China Morning Post explains. On its live blog, The Wall Street Journal writes that tensions are high at one of the main protest sites and that as many as 2,000 police officers will be deployed.
PISTORIUS GETS FIVE YEARS
South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to a maximum jail term of five years for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, after being found guilty of manslaughter, The Mail and Guardian reports. He was taken directly to a prison in Pretoria.
The Steenkamp family told reporters they were “satisfied” with the sentence and relieved the seven-month trial was over. “It doesn’t matter. He’s going to pay something,” Reeva’s mother June Steenkamp was quoted as saying.
Pistorius’ defense lawyer said, however, that the athlete would likely serve just 10 months of his sentence in prison and the rest under house arrest. Judge Thokozile Masipa also gave Pistorius a three-year suspended sentence for a firearms charge.
UKRAINE ARMY’S BANNED ARMS
The Ukrainian army is believed to have fired cluster munitions, weapons banned in most countries, in populated areas of the rebel-held city of Donetsk, The New York Times reveals. The findings, also reported by Human Rights Watch, show that a Swiss employee of the International Red Cross was killed earlier this month in such an attack, weeks after a fragile ceasefire was negotiated between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels. According to the newspaper, the news “could also add credibility to Moscow’s version of the conflict, which is that the Ukrainian national government is engaged in a punitive war against its own citizens.” This comes just days before Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
As Le Temps" Nic Ulmi reports, the Greek island of Gavdos is home to a group of physicists who believe that they can become immortal by programming themselves not to die. “The people who live here call themselves simply ‘the group,’” the journalist writes. “Island natives call them ‘the Russians,’ which is fairly accurate. Most of the group members are from Russia, and their story began some 30 years ago, in a village close to Stavropol. In Gavdos, everyone knows about them: No mystery, no secrets surround them.”
Read the full article, Welcome to Gavdos, The Island Of Immortals.
CHINESE GROWTH SLOWS
The third quarter saw the Chinese economy grow at its slowest pace since March 2009. Although the 7.3% growth from a year earlier is better than markets anticipated, it will cause “speculation that the government may introduce more stimulus measures,” the BBC reports. But Beijing has repeatedly said they would tolerate slower growth, an inevitable consequence of attempts to reshape the economy by boosting domestic consumption so it relies less on exports and investment. Read more from Reuters.
TOTAL OIL CEO DIES IN PLANE CRASH
Christophe de Margerie, the CEO of French oil company Total, was killed along with three crew members when their private jet collided with a snowplow as it was taking off overnight at Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport, news agency Ria Novosti reports. The snowplow’s driver is said to be in serious condition, and Russian investigators says that he was drunk at the time of the accident. French prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation. In a written statement, President François Hollande hailed the man who “defended with talent” French industry abroad, highlighting his “independent character and original personality.” Russian President Vladimir Putin also offered his condolences and said that Moscow had “lost a real friend of our country, whom we will remember with the greatest warmth.”
Oscar de la Renta, one of the most famous fashion designers of the 20th century, also died on Monday at his home in Kent, Connecticut, at age 82.
Miley Cyrus won’t like this.