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UN Declares Iraq Emergency, Gaza Truce Extended, Robot Cooks

A Palestinian boy plays amid the rubble of his destroyed family home.
A Palestinian boy plays amid the rubble of his destroyed family home.

Aug. 14, 2014

The United Nations has declared the situation in Iraq a “Level 3 emergency,” its highest for a humanitarian crisis, as deadly fights between the army and ISIS terrorists killed at least four children west of Baghdad, AP reports.

This came as U.S. troops and aid workers arrived on Mount Sinjar yesterday to help Yazidi refugees taking shelter. According to the Pentagon, the people were fewer in number and in better conditions than earlier thought, making a rescue mission unnecessary, The Washington Post reports.

Israel and Hamas negotiators agreed late yesterday on a five-day extension to the temporary truce despite Israeli strikes in response to alleged rocket fire in the last hours of the previous ceasefire, The Guardian reports. According to Haaretz, the Palestinian delegation to Cairo will meet with several Palestinian leaders before returning to the Egyptian capital Monday for more talks.

A Wall Street Journal report says that Washington halted the transfer of Hellfire missiles Israel requested during the Gaza offensive. This apparently came after senior U.S. officials “were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval,” the newspaper writes.

“I can only write one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one book at a time,” Game of Thrones author George RR Martin told the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Four books and four accompanying TV series later, he says he can't rush the two books yet to be completed.

SWAT police officers attacked demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., last night as they peacefully gathered to protest the Saturday police killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. According to The New York Times, “scores of police officers in riot gear and in armored trucks” trained their guns on the crowd and fired tear gas and rubber bullets, while a police spokesman said protesters threw Molotov cocktails. Several people were arrested, including a Washington Post journalist and two reporters from the The Huffington Post. Read the Washington Post writer’s account here. For more, check out this Slate video of yesterday’s violence.


As part of a plan that sounds almost like a movie plot, 500 white rhinos are set to be evacuated from South Africa's Kruger National Park and secretly taken to new homes to protect them from poachers. Although international trade in rhino horns has been illegal since 1977, demand remains high in some Asian countries, the BBC reports, where it is used both in traditional medicine and as a symbol of wealth. The Ministry for the Environment made the decision in an effort to stop the illegal hunting. Read more from Worldcrunch’s Zoo’d blog.

A convoy of more than 100 trucks carrying Russian aid has resumed its journey to eastern Ukraine with its final destination believed to be the rebel-held city of Luhansk, where civilians lack water, food and electricity, the BBC reports. A senior Red Cross official is expected in Kiev and Moscow to discuss aid delivery amid accusations from Kiev that Moscow is using the convoy as cover to send arms to rebels. This comes as separatists in Donetsk said neighborhoods around the city are under heavy shelling from Ukraine government forces.

Pope Francis arrived in South Korea early today for the first papal visit to the country in 25 years, just hours after North Korea fired at least five short-range missiles. Speaking in English at a press conference with President Park Geun-hye, the pontiff said dialogue, not "displays of force," would bring peace between the two countries. Read more from AFP.

Brazilian presidential candidate and leader of the country's Socialist Party Eduardo Campos, 49, was among those killed in the crash of a small plane in Santos, Brazil, Wednesday morning, the country's state news outlet Agencia Brasil reported.

The eurozone's gross domestic product (GDP) stagnated in 2014's second quarter, recording zero growth, according to the statistical office of the European Union, Eurostat.


Automation is spreading fast in China, the world’s biggest consumer of industrial robots, which are now used to stir-fry meat and vegetables and welcome customers in this restaurant near Shanghai.

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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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