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North Korea

Kurdish Gains In Kobani, Kim's Back, NYC Rats

Kim Jong-un's first public appearance since Sept. 3.
Kim Jong-un's first public appearance since Sept. 3.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kurdish fighters battling ISIS jihadists in Kobani, Syria, near the Turkish border, announced this morning that they regained control of the strategically crucial Tall Shair hilltop following air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition. ISIS captured it more than 10 days ago. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there was heavy fighting east and south of Kobani Monday, while ISIS reportedly carried out three suicide bomb attacks. The Observatory now says ISIS controls about half the city.

Meanwhile, Turkish fighter jets bombarded Kurdish rebel positions Monday in Turkey’s Hakkari province near the Iraqi border,Hürriyet reports. This is the first major raid on the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) since a ceasefire agreement was signed in March 2013. The Kurdish targets were allegedly involved in “assassination, armed incidents and attacks on security bases” after last week’s nationwide protest, Hürriyet reports. These bombardments have sparked outrage among Kurds, after Turkey still refuses to help Kobani.

The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition is set to meet today in Washington to work on a strategy to counter the terrorist organization. More than 20 countries, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are participating in the talks.

Kim Jong-un has made his first public appearance since Sept. 3, according to a series of pictures published by North Korea's KCNA.

A Sudanese UN worker who became infected with Ebola in Liberia died in a Leipzig, Germany, hospital early today, Die Welt reports. The 56-year-old man is the first victim of the deadly virus in Germany. He had been flown in from Liberia Thursday. After his arrival at Leipzig’s St. Georg Clinic, doctors labeled his condition “highly critical, but stable.” But this morning medical staff said he died “despite intensive medical measures and maximum efforts by the medical team.”

The UN worker was Germany’s third patient infected with the virus. A Ugandan doctor contaminated in Sierra Leone has been treated in Frankfurt since Oct. 3, and an Ebola-infected Senegalese World Health Organization worker was released from a Hamburg hospital on Oct. 4 after being successfully treated for the virus.

Health experts still don’t know how a nurse became infected with Ebola while treating a patient in a Texas hospital, The New York Times reports. The nurse has received a plasma transfusion donated by a doctor who beat the virus, the AP reports.

"We have to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control,” Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday during a press conference. “Even a single infection is unacceptable," The UN Security Council is set to meet in New York Tuesday to discuss the spread of the virus.

At least 4,033 people have died from Ebola since the outbreak of the virus in West Africa, according to the CDC.

I defend the right of the Catalan people to choose their own future," Catalonia President Artur Mas i Gavarró now says of the Nov. 9 referendum on the region's independence, contradicting an earlier statement that it had been cancelled.

Hong Kong police used sledgehammers and chainsaws today to dismantle the pro-democracy barricades near government offices and the city’s financial center, the South China Morning Post reports. This reopened Queensway, a major city road, for the first time since the protests began more than two weeks ago. Other major protests remained active in the Admiralty and Mong Kok districts.

For more on the impact of the protests, read this Caixin/Worldcrunch piece, Will Occupy Central Trigger Recession in Hong Kong?

Clashes between the pro-democracy movement and opponents intensified yesterday, as hundreds of people reportedly converged in the Admiralty district to remove barricades. At least 22 people were arrested after tense scuffles broke out between both parties.

More than 100 people surrounded the headquarters of the Hong Kong daily newspaper Apple Daily Tuesday night. This is believed to be part of an ongoing effort to stop the newspaper’s operations. The protesters believe its coverage is favorable to the pro-democracy protests. The Apple Daily is banned in mainland China.

Follow live coverage of the events from the South China Morning Post.

The number of rat complaints in the Big Apple shot up by more than 2,200 in 2013 to reach 24,586, as scientists revealed they found pathogens unknown to science by examining dozens of New York rats.

Russian hackers exploited a bug in Microsoft Windows and other software to spy on computers used by NATO, the European Union, Ukraine and companies in the energy and telecommunications sectors, according to Reuters. The Washington Post also reports that the hackers are “probably working for the government.”

As Le Monde writes, Patrick Modiano’s Nobel Prize for Literature win last week was excellent news, the perfect answer to the the Cassandras of national decline and lovers of French bashing. “So the Swedish academy's decision is a bit like a thumbing of the nose at the apostles of déclinisme,” the newspaper writes. “Despite recurring announcements of the decline — indeed imminent death — of French culture and particularly its literature, the prize is a feather in the French cap and a tribute to France's capacity to maintain its rank among nations.”
Read the full article, Vive French Literature! What Modiano's Nobel Means For France.

Typhoon Vonfong was leaving Japan’s northeast coast this morning, but not before killing at least two people and injuring 91 others, The Japan Times reports. The storm hit the Kagoshima Prefecture in the southwest, the Osaka Prefecture in the west and inland of Tokyo Monday, causing airport and railway disruptions.

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Today marks the second in South African athlete Oscar Pistorius’ sentencing hearing in Pretoria. According to the BBC, the prosecution was discussing the athlete’s charity work and the kind of punishment he would face for the homicide of Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013. Pistorius faces up to 15 years in jail, although Judge Thokozile Masipa may suspend the sentence or impose a fine.

Proving once again that it is among the world’s more progressive nations, Denmark is planning to ban beastiality, which remains legal in some U.S. states. “That is happening for numerous reasons,” the country’s food and agriculture minister Dan Jorgensen, told the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet. “The most important is that in the vast majority of cases it is an attack against the animals.”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner's MIA Convicts: Where Do Deserting Russian Mercenaries Go?

Tens of thousands of Russian prisoners who've been recruited by the Wagner Group mercenary outfit have escaped from the frontlines after volunteering in exchange for freedom. Some appear to be seeking political asylum in Europe thanks to a "cleared" criminal record.

Picture of a soldier wearing the Wagner Group Logo on their uniform.

Soldier wearing the paramilitary Wagner Group Logo on their uniform.

Source: Sky over Ukraine via Facebook
Anna Akage

Of the about 50,000 Russian convicts who signed up to fight in Ukraine with the Wagner Group, just 10,000 are reportedly still at the front. An unknown number have been killed in action — but among those would-be casualties are also a certain number of coffins that are actually empty.

To hide the number of soldiers who have deserted or defected to Ukraine, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is reportedly adding them to the lists of the dead and missing.

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Some Wagner fighters have surrendered through the Ukrainian government's "I Want To Live" hotline, says Olga Romanova, director and founder of the Russia Behind Bars foundation.

"Relatives of the convicts enlisted in the Wagner Group are not allowed to open the coffins," explains Romanova.

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