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24 Nov
2017

Eastern Partnership issues controversial invitation to Belarus president

BELGIUM (WNF) - Belarusian leader Aleksander Lukashenko, often called Europe’s “last dictator,” has been invited to the Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit at European Union headquarters in Brussels. The invitation has upset some EU members.
Ahead of the previous four EaP summits, the EU made it clear that Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for over two decades, was not welcome, according to regional publication RFERL. If Lukashenko accepts, it will be his first visit to the EU capital.

The European Observer reports that former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who now advises the Ukrainian president, sees dialogue with Lukashenko as “beneficial for Europe” because it could weaken the Minsk-Moscow axis.

The publication notes that Lukashenko’s 23-year rule has been marked by the murders and jailing of opposition leaders, rigged elections, and goon-squad beatings of peaceful protesters on the streets of Minsk.

Europe lifted its visa ban on Lukashenko and 169 other Belarusians in Feb 2017 in acknowledgement of improving human rights in the country.

The summits, which take place every two years, are designed to build closer EU relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. #22338 Published: 10/15/2017

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26 Nov
2017

Controversy still surrounds King Tut 95 years after discovery of his tomb

EGYPT (WNF) - British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the then-intact tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, 95 years ago. The anniversary sees some Egyptian archaeologists believing that the boy king, who reigned from 1333–23 BCE, is being slandered 3,300 years after his death.
A new virtual reconstruction of Tutankhamun portrays him as a broad-hipped, big-breasted, weak-boned pharaoh who died in his teens due to congenital problems brought on by incest. The analysis is the centrepiece of recent documentaries aired by Smithsonian Magazine in the United States and the BBC in the United Kingdom

The Egyptian archaeologists take issue with claims that King Tut suffered from genetic disorders because he was the progeny of a line of incestuous royal marriages, and they complain about the an unflattering body reconstruction that shows Tut with protruding buck teeth and a gnarled clubfoot.

Al-Ahram Weekly quoted Cairo University archaeologist Ahmed Said as saying that the results are speculation, without any archaeological or historical evidence. Encyclopedia Britannica notes that in 2010 scientists found traces of malaria parasites in Tut’s mummified remains and posited that malaria in combination with degenerative bone disease may have been the cause of death.

The lack of definitive evidence arises in part from the way the pharaoh’s mummy was handled in the decades after the two archaeologists found it, with incomparable treasure, in the untouched tomb. They came upon a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nesting within each other. Inside the final coffin, made out of solid gold, was the mummified body. His treasures, including the iconic death mask, are housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. His remains are said to show signs of extreme mishandling, which adds to confusion about the cause of his demise at 19, with some damage possibly incurred during the mummification process. #21937 Published: 10/15/2017

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26 Nov
2017

The National Hockey League turns 100

CANADA (WNF) - The National Hockey League holds a party in Montreal, the League’s birthplace, to celebrate its centennial. Wayne Gretzky, the League’s all-time leading scorer and holder of dozens of NHL records, is the NHL Centennial Ambassador for the anniversary events throughout 2017.
The first games were played on Dec 19, 1917 in Ottawa, and the finale of the celebrations will be held in that same city in Dec 2017.

Four teams played in the fledgling league's first two games, which featured superstars and tons of scoring, according to The Star, a Canadian newspaper. They also included three hat tricks and a goalie substitution.

The League has grown to 31 teams in the 100 years since. #22003 Published: 01/11/2017

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26 Nov
2017

Honduras president makes controversial bid for second term

HONDURAS (WNF) - The Central American nation elects a president and 128-seat congress, and there is a chance the vote will send the country leftward because of controversies surrounding President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
His challengers for the presidency and for opposition congressional seats will argue that the government has failed to address endemic poverty, instability and crime.

Controversially, Hernandez, of the conservative National Party of Honduras (PNH), is running again despite a constitutional bar to second four-year terms. Honduras’ Supreme Court cleared Hernandez to run again.

The leftist Honduras Opposition Alliance, which was formed to field candidates this year, is made up of the Freedom and Refoundation Party, known as Libre, the Anti-Corruption Party and the Innovation and Unity Party. Telesur reports that Salvador Nasrallah from the PAC and Xiomara Castro from Libre are the presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively, for the coalition. Other presidential candidates include: Luis Zelaya Medrano of the Liberal Party, Lucas Aguilera of the Christian Democracy party, Vasquez Velasquez of Patriotic Alliance and Jose Alfonso Diaz of Democratic Unification.

Hernandez promised a zero tolerance approach towards organized crime and pledged to bring down the high levels of drug-related violence, but Honduras is often described as one of the most dangerous countries on Earth. Corruption scandals have set off huge protests. Journalists, lawyers and activists have been assassinated. A United States government travel advisory tells visitors to be careful: “With one of the highest murder rates in the world and criminals operating with a high degree of impunity, U.S. citizens are reminded to remain alert at all times when traveling in Honduras.”

Up to eight political parties will be competing for congressional seats. Libre appears poised to present a significant challenge to the PHP, which holds 49 seats to Libre’s 31, unless Hernandez can convince Honduras that he has achieved his election promises of 2014. #22219 Updated: 10/15/2017 UPDATED OCT 15 TO REFLECT OPPOSITION COALITION

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26 Nov
2017

Casablanca turns 75 with no loss of appeal

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Warner Bros. released Casablanca 75 years ago, and the decades in between have not dimmed the allure of the movie. The wartime romance has been screened more times in theaters and on television than any movie in history, and anniversary screenings will add to the record.
A wartime romance starring Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Lisa Lund, it won three Academy Awards in 1943, including Best Picture.

The movie turned Bogart, known for his tough guy characters, into a romantic lead and Warner Bros.’ highest paid actor. For Bergman it was also a breakout role.

Analyzing its popularity, film critic Roger Ebert described it as a movie “about a man and a woman who are in love, and who sacrifice love for a higher purpose.” This is an immensely appealing theme, he added, as “the viewer is not only able to imagine winning the love of Humphrey Bogart or Ingrid Bergman, but unselfishly renouncing it, as a contribution to the great cause of defeating the Nazis.”

Dooley Wilson played a memorable role as Sam, the piano player. In 2014 Sam’s piano from Rick’s Cafe sold at auction for U.S. $3.4 million.

“People who have never even seen the movie, they quote the lines,” said Noah Isenberg, director of screen studies at the New School in New York in a CBS interview. He’s also the author of the book, We’ll Always Have Casablanca. “To this day, it’s probably the most widely taught screenplay in screenwriting courses,” Isenberg told the broadcaster.

The anniversary promises to inspire renewed debate about which was the most memorable line in a movie overflowing with them. Bogart’s, “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” and “Play it again, Sam,” rank as frontrunners.

It is still screened every Valentine’s Day in some cinemas. #22333 Published: 10/09/2017

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26 Nov
2017

Pope Francis makes pastoral and political visit to Asia

BANGLADESH & MYANMAR (WNF) - Pope Francis will visit the bordering countries on a pastoral mission that takes in advocacy for climate protection and for Rohingya Muslims.
The pope, who has made waves as an environmental activist, recently created the first-ever cardinals for both countries. Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario in Bangladesh and Cardinal Charles Bo in Myanmar are climate protection advocates who quote from the pope’s environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si” in their homilies. Both countries suffer cyclones and floods that are expected to worsen with climate change. Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable because of its low elevation. Cardinal Bo’s signature theme is the “green theology of liberation,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Some 519,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since Aug 25, 2017, according to Reuters, when attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts in Rakhine sparked a ferocious military response. The refugees join hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled earlier violence and are now crowding camps in Bangladesh. The pope is likely to take issue with Dhaka’s widely reported proposal to relocate refugees to uninhabited Thengar Char Island.

He recently rebuked Buddhist Myanmar for violence against the Rohingya. Myanmar’s government and Nobel Peace Prize winner San Suu Kyi have denied ethnic cleansing allegations. Buddhist Myanmar, emerging from years of military rule, inaugurated diplomatic relations with the Holy See in May 2017. #22277 Updated: 10/11/2017 UPDATED OCT 10 TO SHOW FIRM DATES FOR VISIT AND LATEST REFUGEE NUMBERS

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29 Nov
2017

Incendiary UN resolution that partitioned Palestine turns 70

UNITED NATIONS (WNF) - New political realities mean little chance that the 70th anniversary of United Nations Resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, will prompt new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The only certainty on the day is Israel’s reenactment of the vote where it happened.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon will host a celebratory replay of the vote in the main gallery of the Queens Museum, which hosted the UN General Assembly in 1947.

Previous talks over the decades, mainly the initiative of Western leaders, were aimed at bringing about the so-called two-state solution, a concept that envisions an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The bitterly contested 1947 vote produced a checkerboard state, and has reverberated violently down the decades. The Jewish community in Palestine considered the resolution to be a legal basis for the establishment of Israel, a position rejected by the Arab community. The resolution was succeeded almost immediately by violence.

Foreign Policy Magazine in Aug 2017 described the chance of a breakthrough, or even renewed talks, as beyond reach for now because changes in the circumstances of three critical players in the peace issue – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and United States President Donald Trump – make forward movement virtually impossible.

Under investigation by the Israeli police on multiple allegations of corruption, according to the magazine, Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. He has turned for support to his right-wing political base, which is deeply opposed to any concessions for Palestinians. His supporters regarded his backing off of recent security measures at Temple Mount as capitulation. Endorsing an expansion of Greater Jerusalem to take in West Bank settlements and backing a settler takeover of a Palestinian-owned house in Hebron, he has doomed any renewal of peace talks.

Abbas, for his part, is less flexible than ever, according to the magazine, as the 82-year-old is in an escalating battle for legitimacy with Hamas and his bitter rival in his own Fatah party, Mohammed Dahlan. Hamas and Dahlan are now joining forces in Gaza.

Trump’s political survival at home is so threatened by problems that include falling poll numbers and protecting his legacy that he has little time for the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum. The magazine sees his so-called Middle East policy as “dead in the water.” #22288 Published: 08/25/2017

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29 Nov
2017

Palestinian farmers join international farmers’ movement

WEST BANK (WNF) - Palestinian farmers launch La Via Campesina-Palestine at a conference in Ramallah. The territory will be the first Arab member of the La Via Campesina, also known as the International Peasants Movement.
Fuad Abu Saif, the director general of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, told Al-Monitor, which reported the story, that the launch of the Palestine branch of the organization is vital. He explained that “Palestinian farmers are not only struggling under the bad economic situation or poverty, they are also denied access to their rights and are unable to exploit their resources controlled by Israel, amid marginalization and neglect by the Palestinian Authority and its government.”

According to La Via Campesina, the movement was founded in 1993 by agricultural organizations from different countries around the world as an independent movement opposed to globalization and global capitalism and its monopoly policies. It promotes food sovereignty as a political concept that requires sovereignty over land, resources and water, and is based on the right of nations and peoples to exploit their own resources. #22348 Published: 10/18/2017

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30 Nov
2017

Colombia peace deal reaches first year with new challenges in the second

COLOMBIA (WNF) - One year ago Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed an agreement that ended over half a century of war. A court ruling in Oct 2017 should help to buttress the agreement during a difficult second year.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos negotiated the agreement and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

Reuters reports that the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that Colombia’s next three governments must comply with the deal, shielding it from potential changes should the opposition win the 2018 congressional and presidential elections. Former President Alvaro Uribe, still powerful and influential, opposes the agreement.

The remaining difficulty is financing the promises made to the rebels, which include aid, education, land reform, rural infrastructure, guaranteed political representation and protection from the reprisals of right-wing paramilitary groups. A Los Angeles Times analysis notes that the bill for the promises is big for a country running fiscal deficits and suffering from price declines in its principal exports, oil and coal.

FARC, paramilitaries and the Colombian army fought over territory for decades, with fighting and atrocities on all sides that caused massive death and displacement. The 1980s saw a push for peace that collapsed. The Santos agreement, involving some 7,000 FARC rebels, was signed in Havana after four years of negotiations. A majority of voters rejected the peace deal in Oct 2016, reflecting Uribe’s campaign against it and a widespread opinion that it was too favorable to the rebels. The pact was revised and put to vote in Congress in Nov 2016. Congress said Yes, and ratified the agreement in the following month.

The euphoria that followed the agreement has given way to the sobering realities surrounding its implementation, according to the LA newspaper. Some analysts fear the financial, political and security challenges may be too much for the Colombian government to handle. #22190 Published: 10/14/2017

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30 Nov
2017

173rd OPEC Ordinary meeting to look for results from recent historic deal

AUSTRIA (WNF) - OPEC and non-OPEC nations agreed in 2016 to coordinate production, and the 173rd Ordinary OPEC meeting in Vienna will want to see evidence of oil market stability – the aim of a deal that the producers describe as historic.
On Dec 10, 2016, 24 leading global oil producers signed a Declaration of Cooperation in Vienna that committed the countries “to a sizeable adjustment in crude oil production in support of much-needed market stability,” according to the press statement at the conclusion of the meeting. It added that the historic move between the 13 OPEC Member Countries and 11 non-OPEC producers was the culmination of many months of intense discussion and negotiation, often involving the highest level of heads of state and government. They seek to accelerate the rebalancing of the global oil market through an adjustment in combined production of 1.8 million barrels per day.

The resulting declaration, which came into effect on Jan 1, 2017, was for six months. It is extendable, depending the status of supply and demand, as well as global inventories. In May 2017 the two sides decided to extend cuts in oil output by nine months to Mar 2018.

The production adjustments are voluntary, and the success of the agreement will rely in large part on compliance.

Over the last two and a half years, the oil industry has experienced its deepest downturn since at least the 1990s, according to the New York Times. #22266 Published: 07/28/2017

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01 Dec
2017

Pristine area of Antarctic Ocean receives protection

ANTARCTICA (WNF) - A 1.5 million sq km area of the Ross Sea off the Antarctic coast comes under protection as the world’s biggest marine reserve. Commercial fishing will be banned from the entire area, while 28 per cent of it is to be designated solely for research.
National Geographic Magazine reports that the new reserve, which will remain protected for 35 years, was created by a unanimous decision in Hobart, Australia, of the international body that oversees the waters around Antarctica. The United States and the European Union are among the 24 members of the body, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

In the research zone, scientists can catch limited amounts of fish and krill, tiny invertebrates that provide food for whales, penguins, seals and other animals. The area features underwater mountains that are habitats and foraging areas for mammals, birds and fish. These include Weddell seals, killer whales and emperor penguins.

The commission also renewed, for five years, a measure that limits fishing for krill, a crustacean that is vital to the Antarctic ecosystem. #21891 Published: 11/13/2017

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01 Dec
2017

Argentina takes over G20 presidency

ARGENTINA (WNF) - The helm of the G20 passes to Argentina from Germany, handing President Mauricio Macri an opportunity to incorporate Latin American priorities into the larger agenda of the bloc.
Macri’s challenge will be establishing that list of priorities at a time of political uncertainty in the region. Mexico and Brazil hold elections in 2018, and the conservative Argentine president can’t count on the incoming governments to share his business-oriented views.

He can count on like minds in most G20 countries if he uses the presidency to boost his push into environmental issues. Macri has declared 2017 to be the “year of renewable energy,” and committed Argentina to meeting 20 per cent of its electricity demand with renewable energy by 2025. Americas Quarterly sees the climate initiative as Argentina’s desire to catch up with neighboring Chile, which has turned itself into the continent’s renewable energy powerhouse.

The G20 groups: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, United States and European Union. #22313 Published: 09/25/2017

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