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Ukraine Wants Deal, Rio Floods, Mandela Interpreter Speaks

Floods in Rio de Janeiro
Floods in Rio de Janeiro


  • EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych assured her he intended to sign a free-trade deal with the European Union, although he didn’t specify when, the BBC reports.

  • A government delegation will be travelling to Brussels later today for further talks with EU officials, according to Interfax.

  • Meanwhile, the U.S. State department is considering imposing sanctions on Ukraine after police removed protesters from Kiev’s Independence Square, Ria Novosti reports.


  • The commander of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idris, has fled Syria after Islamists took over the main opposition group’s headquarters, The Wall Street Journal quotes U.S. officials as saying.

  • The United States and Britain had already announced yesterday the suspension of non-lethal aid to the opposition after fighters for the Islamist Front took control of bases belonging to the Free Syrian Army.

  • According to Reporters Without Borders, four Syrian human rights activists were abducted from an office near Damascus, in an area controlled by the opposition. One of the activists, Razan Zaitouneh, had apparently received threats from at least one armed group. This comes after reports Tuesday that two Spanish journalists have been kidnapped by a group linked to al-Qaeda.

  • For more on the Islamist presence in Syria, we offer this Radikal/Worldcrunch piece, After Backing Syria's Islamist Rebels, Turkey Now Fears Al-Qaeda "Boomerang"

A powerful explosion that hit an arms depot near the U.S. embassy in Kabul early this morning was apparently accidental, alleviating fears of an attack, Reuters reports. According to Afghan officials, nobody was injured in the blast.

At least two people are reported dead in the state of Rio de Janeiro after torrential rains caused floods and landslides yesterday, Folha de São Paulo reports. More than 2,000 families have lost their homes. Two municipalities of the region declared the state of emergency and will receive federal aid, including police officers, to help stop lootings.


The sign-language interpreter for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service who has been widely blasted as an “imposter” for his “fake” and unintelligible performance has apologized, saying he is a schizophrenic.

World-famous photographer Kate Barry was found dead late Wednesday on the pavement below her fourth-floor apartment in a tony Paris neighborhood.

Forbes magazine has released its annual list of highest-ranking celebrities. See who tops the female category.

A Japanese cat lover was arrested on suspicion of stealing $185,000 to feed his 120 cats.

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food / travel

Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

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”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

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