Monday, June 2, 2014

BATTLE AROUND LUHANSK
At least five separatists were killed after hundreds attacked a border post with automatic weapons in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk near the Russian border. According to the AP, seven Ukrainian troops were also injured in the early morning attack. The news agency also quotes the spokesman for Kiev’s military operation as saying that another attack had taken place on Sloviansk, where rebels reportedly “mined a number of power plants” and threatened to detonate them if the government sent its forces against them.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Energy Ministry confirmed it had received a payment of $786.4 million from Kiev to cover the country’s gas bill for February and March, ahead of a new round of talks on gas in Berlin later today.

VERBATIM
“This is the best moment for the transition of the crown to take place with complete normality,” Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said today in making the surprise announcement that King Juan Carlos is abdicating his throne.

ROW OVER RELEASE OF TALIBAN-HELD U.S. PRISONER
The Afghan government joined critics of the deal reached between Washington and the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five fighters detained at Guantánamo, Reuters reports. The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry say the deal violates international law. "No government can transfer citizens of a country to a third country as prisoners," an official said as the five Taliban prisoners were flown to Qatar as part of the agreement. Over the weekend, several Republicans denounced the deal, arguing that negotiating with terrorists sets a dangerous precedent and endangers U.S. soldiers.

7 SECONDS
Google has announced that it is receiving one request every seven seconds for its new "right to be forgotten" program. The initiative’s online form was used 12,000 times on Friday alone.

QATAR’S 2022 WORLD CUP IN DOUBT
Pressure is mounting on soccer’s governing body FIFA to organize a re-vote for the siting of the 2022 World Cup after strong allegations of corruption against Qatar, appeared in the British press over the weekend. According to the reports, which rely on leaked emails, soccer officials were paid 3 million pounds ($5 million) in “cash, gifts and legal fees” to support Qatar’s bid against the other candidates — South Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States. The Qatari organizing committee is due to meet with a FIFA investigator today, the BBC writes.

SNAPSHOT
A boy dressed as Captain America strikes a pose at the fourth annual Comic Con Chile in Santiago. The event, which is based on San Diego Comic-Con International, gathers comic books enthusiasts and pop culture fans and drew an estimated 20,000 people over the weekend.

DOZENS DEAD IN EASTERN NIGERIA
At least 40 people were killed in eastern Nigeria yesterday after suspected Boko Haram fighters threw a bomb at soccer fans near a field, Nigerian Tribune reports. The blast’s location is near a military base, but some sources told the newspaper that no soldiers were among the casualties. This came after more deadly raids in villages in the northern Borno state and amid reports from Cameroon that the country’s security forces had killed some 40 Boko Haram militants in clashes after the release of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun. Read more from Reuters.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


PALESTINIAN UNITY GOVERNMENT TO BE SWORN IN
A Palestinian "national reconciliation government" formed by Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party will be sworn in later today amid vocal opposition from Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet yesterday that the reconciliation between the two Palestinian parties “will not strengthen peace, it will strengthen terror.” According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Netanyahu was assured of America’s support, as he said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had promised Israel that Washington would not immediately recognize the new Palestinian unity government. Meanwhile, AFP reported this morning that Israel had launched air raids on the Gaza Strip after two rockets were fired.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As La Stampa’s Lucia Sgueglia reports, Russian fighters — Chechens in particular — are showing up to fight the Kiev-backed military in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. “Alexander Borodai, the ‘chief separatist,’ concedes that there are foreign fighters among the ranks of the rebels. ‘They are Russian volunteers, from Russia,’ he says, explaining his blind trust in the Chechens. ‘Since Kadyrov came to power — a leader who is unquestionably loyal to Putin — the Chechens are more Russian than the Russians themselves. They’re true patriots.’”
Read the full article, In Donetsk, The Chechens Have Arrived.

37 EGYPTIAN “DEMONS” SENTENCED TO DEATH
The infamous Egyptian court that sentenced hundreds of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi to death last month has condemned another 37 Islamists to death and handed life sentences to 492 others, AFP reports. The court justified its decision by saying that the men were “demons” who “came out of the depths of hell ... to plunder Egypt's wealth, tyrannize its people.” It also accused them of having followed and promoted the teachings of the Talmud, Judaism’s central scripture.

IN PRAISE OF BILINGUALISM
New research suggests that learning a second language, even in adulthood, improves our “reading, verbal fluency and intelligence,” effectively slowing brain aging.