Professional rock climbers set up an art installation Monday at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum.
Professional rock climbers set up an art installation Monday at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum.
Worldcrunch

DONETSK AND LUHANSK START UNIFICATION TALKS
The self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk have initiated talks that could lead to the two cities forming a single state after Sunday’s referendum demonstrated that voters wanted to secede from Kiev, Ria Novosti reports. This comes after Donetsk voiced its collective wish to follow in the footsteps of Crimea and join the Russian Federation, while Luhansk hasn’t ruled out the possibility of putting the question to a future vote. But according to RT, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow so far had no response for Donetsk.

  • German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in Kiev, where he met with Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk to push for “round table” talks between the government and pro-Russian and separatist groups from eastern Ukraine. “I hope that under these conditions it is possible to take steps to bring back occupied buildings and eventually to disarm illegal groups and restore the state’s monopoly on violence,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

  • The European Union and Canada yesterday expanded their list of sanctioned Ukrainians and Russians, with several officials threatening to impose more sanctions if Russian hampers the Ukrainian presidential election planned for May 25. Russia’s Foreign Ministry branded the new sanctions as “feckless” and “irresponsible.”

36%
A new global Amnesty International survey conducted in 21 countries across every continent shows that 36% of people believe torture can be justified to obtain critical information.

FORMER ISRAEL PM SENTENCED TO JAIL
A Tel Aviv court has sentenced former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison after finding him guilty on two counts of bribery in a high-profile corruption case, The Jerusalem Post reports. Olmert, who was accused of accepting a bribe over a controversial real estate project called Holyland when he was mayor of Jerusalem, was also fined 1 million shekels ($290,000). He announced he would appeal the decision and the sentence to the Supreme Court.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
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ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET COLLAPSE “UNSTOPPABLE”
Researchers at NASA and the University of California at Irvine said that the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet was underway and that the process was “unstoppable,” although it would take centuries, The Washington Post reports. According to the scientists, the melting will eventually lead to a rise in the sea level of up to 12 feet. In another study also due to be published this week, researchers at the University of Washington explain that “The fastest scenario is 200 years, and the longest is more than 1,000 years.”

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As The Economic Observer’s Qi Yue reports, China has published a tough new environmental law that will take effect next year. “Both lawmakers and the public are placing high hopes that this new text can truly push China to urgently face its environmental challenges,” the journalist writes. “Pollution in the country is no longer anecdotal — it has become a full-blown emergency. Daily smog has become the norm for many urban residents. Only 40% of cities at and above prefectural level met with national air quality standards in 2012.”
Read the full article:
The Missing Teeth Of China's New Environmental Law.

FAREWELL
Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who won a 1980 Academy Award for his creation of the alien monster in the film of the same name, has died at 74.

SOUTH SUDAN CEASEFIRE BROKEN
Fighting between the South Sudanese army and the rebels resumed yesterday, with both sides accusing each other of breaking the ceasefire agreed on Friday, AFP reports. According to Defense Minister Kuol Manyang, government troops were ordered “not to go and attack, but only to fight in self defense” in response to rebel attacks in the oil-producing state of Upper Nile. On Sunday, President Salva Kiir announced that the country’s first general elections, planned for next year, would be postponed until 2017 “because reconciliation between the people will have to take time,” Sudan Tribune quoted him as saying.

SNAPSHOT
Professional rock climbers set up an art installation Monday at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. Read more about it here.

THE NSA SPIED ON UN ENVOYS
In his new book No Place To Hide, journalist Glenn Greenwald publishes documents showing that the National Security Agency spied on envoys from the United Nations’ Security Council in 2010 at the request of ambassador Susan Rice, in order to “develop a strategy” to secure a vote for new sanctions on Iran. The Pulitzer Prize winner publishes other documents, including a list of foreign embassies and missions that were spied on. Read the full story on The New York Times.

HEAVY METAL HUNGER
Scientists in the Philippines have discovered a plant that feasts on nickel, absorbing it from the soil without poisoning itself. Read more about the Rinorea niccolifera here.

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Geopolitics

Taliban Redux, Cleaned-Up Image Can't Mask Their Cruel Reality

Twenty years later the Islamist group is back in power in Afghanistan, but trying this time to win international support. Now that several months have passed, experts on the ground can offer a clear assessment if the group has genuinely transformed on such issues as women's rights and free speech.

The Taliban have now been in power for almost five months

Atal Ahmadzai and Faten Ghosn

The international community is closely monitoring the Taliban, after the group re-seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

There is legitimate reason for concern. The Taliban are again ruling through fear and draconian rules.

The Taliban’s last regime, in the mid-1990s, was marked by human rights violations, including massacres, mass detentions and rape. The regime collapsed on Nov. 14, 2001, shortly after the U.S. launched its global war on terrorism.

Even after the Taliban officially fell from power, their subsequent two decades of insurgency produced various gross human rights violations, an encompassing term under international human rights law.

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