U.S. Advisers Sent To Iraq, Putin Convoys Barred, RIP Lauren Bacall

Crowds gathered Tuesday in Clayton, Missouri, to protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson Saturday.
Crowds gathered Tuesday in Clayton, Missouri, to protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson Saturday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Washington is sending 130 more military advisers to northern Iraq to assist in the evacuation of displaced people trapped on Mount Sinjar, The New York Times reports. The article quotes U.S. officials as saying that a ground presence is needed to secure the evacuation, although they insisted they “will not be engaged in a combat role.”

Meanwhile, after a meeting with UK officials in London, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would not rule out sending troops to Iraq. According to The Guardian, this comes as Britain intensifies its involvement in the country, with British helicopters flying Yazidi refugees out of Mount Sinjar and aircraft transporting Jordanian military equipment to the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Iranians officials say they support the nomination of Haider al-Abadi as Iraq’s new prime minister, a crucial endorsement, while ousted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday urged the army and security forces to stay out of the political crisis, suggesting a smooth transfer of power is possible.

Protesters held their hands up in the air as crowds gathered Tuesday in Clayton, Missouri, to protest the fatal Saturday shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed at the time, by a police officer in Ferguson.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are in Cairo to continue talks on a permanent truce as a 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza conflict expires tonight. There is no sign of a breakthrough to bring to an end to fighting that has killed 1,945 Palestinians and 67 Israelis, 64 of them soldiers, Reuters reports.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says that if the ceasefire collapses Israel must "take the initiative,” and “finish the story in the shortest time possible." Read more about his comments in our Verbatim feature.

AFP reports that a foreign journalist and four Palestinians were killed as an Israeli missile was being dismantled in Gaza.

Legendary Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall, born Betty Joan Perske, died Tuesday at age 89 after suffering a major stroke.

Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says that Russia’s humanitarian convoys will not be allowed in the Kharkiv region. “First they send tanks, Grad missiles and bandits who fire on Ukrainians, and then they send water and salt,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

A new infographic on the daily caloric intake of various countries shows the United States tops the chart with 3,770 calories per person.

The retrial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak began this morning in Cairo without him, as the helicopter that was supposed to deliver him to the court where he was expected to testify was grounded by bad weather, Ahram Online reports. The ex-president is accused of complicity in the killing of some 850 demonstrators in the revolt that ousted him from office in 2011, and it is believed he will plead innocent.

For a bit of lighter fare today, our music blog Hit It! features Berlin-based American musician Anton Newcombe, lead singer of the Brian Jonestown Massacre band, performing a cover of French composer William Sheller's "Philadelphia Story." Although he tweeted that “it’s hard to sing in French,” we found his French crooning quite good. Check out the video here.

Canada has announced plans to donate up to 1,000 experimental Ebola vaccines to the World Health Organization in a bid to halt spread of the disease, which has killed over 1,000 people in West Africa. It came just hours after the WHO said it was ethical to use untested drugs on Ebola patients. Read more from CBC.


Japan’s economy shrank 6.8% in the second quarter compared to last year’s, its worst economic contraction since the tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster three years ago, the Financial Times reports.

Iranian-born Stanford University mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani has become the first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, math’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."


Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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