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Geopolitics

Thai Tensions, Buying A World Cup, Red Hot Ferrell

Thailand's military held firm Friday, a day after suspending the constitution and taking power.
Thailand's military held firm Friday, a day after suspending the constitution and taking power.
Worldcrunch

Friday, May 23, 2014

MORE CLASHES IN DONETSK
At least five people died in fresh fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian groups near Ukraine’s eastern city of Donetsk, with an AFP photographer saying that four of the dead appeared to be rebels and the fifth a member of a “volunteer force attached to the military.” Earlier, Reuters reported that a convoy of Ukrainian self-defense fighters had been attacked by pro-Russian gunmen using automatic weapons and snipers. Yesterday, at least 13 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a firefight south of Donetsk. RT, meanwhile, quotes witnesses from the separatist side in Luhansk as saying that Ukrainian troops yesterday had opened fire on some of their own fighters who refused to obey orders and surrendered.

According to Interfax, the U.S. State Department is, however, confident that the recent violence won’t have a “significant impact” on Sunday’s presidential election, which some expect “Chocolate King” Petro Poroshenko to win in the first round.

THAI POLITICAL LEADERS SUMMONED
The Thai army has summoned political leaders for talks today, including recently ousted Prime Ministers Yingluck Shinawatra and Niwattamrong Boonsongpaisan. One day after taking power, it has also banned some 150 politicians and activists from leaving the country, The Washington Post reports. The Bangkok Post, meanwhile, warns of the danger of sanctions from foreign countries, saying that although the $6 million in U.S. aid to Thailand’s military is “insignificant,” losing it “will cause a loss of face and dent the image of the Thai military.” In its editorial, the newspaper denounces the coup as a move that “will only cause the situation to deteriorate further.” NewspaperThe Nation, however, argues that the coup is an opportunity that could lead to “real sweeping reform.”

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Karim Janker, German artist Ignacio Uriarte explains how and why he became fascinated with creating art that documents and comments on the tedium of office life. “I work with the themes that I know best,” Uriarte says. “I worked in an office for 10 years, so I can’t now act as if I’m an artist in the bohemian tradition. Because the materials I use anchor my art in the real world, my work holds a mirror up to people. Everybody can relate to the objects I use.”
Read the full interview, The Monotony Of Office Life Is This Artist's Reigning Inspiration.

PRO-ASSAD RALLY ATTACKED IN SYRIA
At least 21 people were killed and more than 30 injured after a mortar hit a pro-Bashar al-Assad rally yesterday in southern Syria, just a week and a half before an election that the incumbent president is expected to win, AP reports. The attack came as Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution to refer Syria to the international criminal court over war crimes. “The vetoes today have prevented the victims of atrocities from testifying at The Hague,” U.S. ambassador Samantha Power said. The Russian Foreign Ministry replied that the draft resolution is “filled with biased assessments and intends to place all responsibility for the massive violations of human rights in Syria on the government.”

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


BARCLAYS FINED FOR GOLD FIXING
UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has ordered Barclays Bank to pay a 26 million pound fine ($44 million) for manipulating the price of gold, explaining that the bank failed to "adequately manage conflicts of interest between itself and its customers." According to ITV, this is the first time that such a fine has been issued. Barclays in one of the four banks that sit in the “Gold Fixing” mechanism, which sets the price of gold twice a day. Earlier this year, The Financial Times published an article (it was later removed) revealing that “global gold prices may have been manipulated on 50% of occasions between January 2010 and December 2013.”

91 EUROS
What's the cost of victory? Ninety-one euros ($124), says Belgium. According to an unusual poll conducted for ING Bank, Belgians would be willing to pay to see the country's Red Devils team win the World Cup.

HOPES FOR NEW MALARIA VACCINE
Based on antibodies found in the blood of Tanzania children, American scientists have developed a new type of vaccine against malaria, which kills about 600,000 people every year, The Independent reports. “Most vaccine candidates for malaria have worked by trying to prevent parasites from entering red blood cells,” said Dr. Jonathan Kurtis. “We’ve taken a different approach. We’re sort of trapping the parasite in the burning house.” The vaccine proved efficient on mice and will soon be tested on monkeys, with phase one of clinical trials expected within a year and a half.

VERBATIM
“Do you play for the Lukewarm Chili Peppers?” Comedian Will Ferrell asked his look-alike, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, on Jimmy Fallon’s show last night. Fans of the two men have been waiting months for this. And yesterday, NBC's Tonight Show turned dreams into reality by staging a traditional "drum-off" between Ferrell and Smith. See the video and read more here.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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