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At Juanda Airport, relatives of the victims of the AirAsia plane crash
At Juanda Airport, relatives of the victims of the AirAsia plane crash
Worldcrunch

Monday, December 29, 2014

AIRASIA PLANE LIKELY AT “BOTTOM OF THE SEA”
The head of Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency has said that AirAsia flight QZ8501, which disappeared yesterday with 162 people on board, is likely “at the bottom of the sea,” CNN reports. Search operations have so far failed to locate the aircraft, which was flying from Indonesia to Singapore. It is the third such incident to affect a Malaysian company this year, after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the downing of MH17 in eastern Ukraine. Although high-profile plane incidents have made headlines over the past year, 2014 has seen the fewest crashes in more than 80 years. Still, if those on board the AirAsia aircraft are declared dead, the number of casualties would reach a 10-year high of 1,320.

DOZENS AWAIT RESCUE ON BURNING FERRY
Rescuers worked through the night despite difficult weather conditions to evacuate passengers from a burning ferry traveling from Greece to Italy. At least one person died, though a witness told Italian news agency ANSA that he had seen four dead bodies. At least 363 people have been rescued, but 115 were still on board this morning. Italian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the incident.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
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TALIBAN CLAIMS NATO DEFEAT IN AFGHANISTAN
NATO formally ended its 13-year mission in Afghanistan yesterday, a move the Afghanistan Taliban called “a clear indication of their defeat and disappointment,” AFP reports. The group vowed to continue to fight “so long as a single foreigner remains in Afghanistan in a military uniform.” About 12,500 NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan as part of a “training and support” mission.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Die Welt’s Fanny Jiménez writes, German researchers have discovered the neurology and psychology at play when we touch our faces, scratching our noses or stroking our chins. It turns out that we do this when we are anxious or overwhelmed. “Their conclusion is that spontaneous face-touching helps to regulate cognitive overload and stress,” the journalist writes. “This ‘self-stimulation,’ as the researchers call it, balances out disturbances in processing information and emotional swings.”
Read the full article, Unmasking The Mystery Of Why People Touch Their Faces.

GREECE TO HOLD SNAP ELECTION
Greek parliament members have failed to name a new president, paving the way for a snap general election that Reuters says “could derail the international bailout program it needs to keep paying its bills.” Far-left anti-austerity party Syriza is currently leading the polls, and a date for the election will be announced within 10 days.

THE INTERVIEW MAKES MILLIONS
Sony Pictures’ controversial comedy The Interview has earned the company $15 million in online sales, far more than the $2.8 million earned from the limited theater release four days ago, The Verge reports. The movie, which is still struggling for a good review, has aggravated the already tense U.S.-North Korea relationship, and the scandal escalated further over the weekend when North Korea compared Barack Obama to “a monkey in a tropical forest.”

  • South Korea announced it had suggested resuming high-level talks with North Korea next month on issues that stand in the way of unification. Pyongyang has yet to respond. South Korea and Japan, meanwhile, finalized a military pact today to share intelligence about North Korea’s missile and nuclear program.

SAD ANNIVERSARY FOR AL JAZEERA JOURNOS
Today marks one year since Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste were arrested under what the news network says were “false charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news.” The three were handed jail sentences ranging from seven to 10 years in June, but their appeal will be heard in court Thursday.

’O LUNA MIA
We all share the same sky, but each of us gazes up from a unique place on earth.
Find out what Simon, Italy’s most trusted astrologer, has to say in this week’s horoscope.

NSA AND GCHQ VS. ENCRYPTION
U.S. and British intelligence agencies NSA and GCHQ regard encryption as “a threat” and have gone to extreme lengths to crack all types of secure communications, documents released by Edward Snowden reveal. In one striking example, the leaked documents show that the NSA has been collecting Skype data since 2011, even before Microsoft bought it. The agency has also targeted VPNs and other protocols, although some programs are still proving to be too difficult to crack. Read more in English from Der Spiegel.

2014 IN VIDEO REVIEW
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Worldcrunch recalls the events of 2014 — in 57 seconds.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Is Turning Into A "New Israel" — Where Everyone Is A Soldier

From businessmen to farmers, Ukrainian society has been militarizing for the past six months to defend its sovereignty. In the future it may find itself like Israel, permanently armed to protect its sovereignty.

Ukrainian civilians learn how to shoot and other military skills at a shooting range in Lviv on July 30, 2022.

Guillaume Ptak

KYIV — The war in Ukraine has reached a turning point. Vladimir Putin's army has suffered its worst setback since the beginning of the invasion. The Russian army has experienced a counter-offensive that many experts consider masterful, so it must retreat and cede vast territories to its opponent.

The lightning victory that the head of the Kremlin had dreamed of never took place. The losses are considerable — Ukrainian troops on the battlefield now outnumber the Russians.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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On April 5, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted that at the end of the conflict, Ukraine would become a "big Israel". In an interview with Ukrainian media, he said then, "In all the institutions, supermarkets, cinemas, there will be people with weapons."

The problem of national security will be the country's most important one in the next decade. An "absolutely liberal, and European" society would therefore no longer be on the agenda, according to the Ukrainian president.

Having long since swapped his suit and tie for a jacket or a khaki T-shirt during his public appearances, Zelensky has undeniably become one of the symbols of this growing militarization of Ukrainian society. However, the president claimed that Ukraine would not become an "authoritarian" regime: "An authoritarian state would lose to Russia. Ukrainians know what they are fighting for."

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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