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Unification Talks Begin, Shocking Torture Survey, Ex-Israel PM Sentenced

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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.

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 Tribunequoted him as saying.

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

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.

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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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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