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Tue, 21 Feb 2017
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More than 680 Cubans deported after US immigration status end

Cuban migrants, who often travel through Panama to reach the US, can now be deported unless they can convince US officials that they fear persecution or have valid humanitarian reasons to be let in.
More than 680 Cubans have been deported back to Cuba since the United States ended its decades-old policy giving them preferred immigrant status in January, state media reported Saturday.

According to official Cuban reports, 683 people have been sent back to the Caribbean island from the United States, or from Mexico, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, where they were crossing in a bid to reach the US border.

On January 12, then-president Barack Obama scrapped with immediate effect a 1995 policy that had given Cubans near-automatic entry to the United States if they managed to set foot on American soil, regardless of their visa status. Cubans attempting to enter the country by sea had been turned back.

The end of the so-called "wet-foot, dry foot" policy was part of the broader normalization and warming of US-Cuban relations after a half-century of hostility that Obama helped engineer in 2015 along with Cuban President Raul Castro.


Veteran Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, drops dead in New York City

© Associated Press photo/Seth Wenig
Vitaly Churkin, who served as Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations since 2006, "died suddenly" in New York, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced.

Churkin would have turned 65 on Tuesday.

The announcement "of the untimely passing away of Ambassador Vitaly Churkin this morning" was met with shock when it was delivered during a session at the UN headquarters.

"He was a dear colleague of all of us, a deeply committed diplomat of his country and one of the finest people we have known," a UN official who delivered the news to her colleagues said.

The moment of silence in Churkin's memory was announced at the UN.

Comment: On the same day in Syria...

Four Russian officers assassinated in remote-detonated car blast outside airbase in Syria

Someone is trying to create tension...


Rising concerns about a possible nuclear incident in Europe after radioactive iodine levels spike

© Institute de Radioprotection et de Süreté Nucléaire.
Concerns about a potential, and so far unsubstantiated, nuclear "incident", reportedly in the vicinity of the Arctic circle, spread in the past week after trace amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 of unknown origin were detected in January over large areas in Europe according to a report by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, the French national public expert in nuclear and radiological risks. Since the isotope has a half-life of only eight days, the detection is an indication of a rather recent release. As the Barents Observer adds, "where the radioactivity is coming from is still a mystery."

The air filter station at Svanhovd - located a few hundred meters from Norway's border to Russia's Kola Peninsula in the north - was the first to measure small amounts of the radioactive Ionide-131 in the second week of January. Shortly thereafter, the same Iodine-131 isotope was measured in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. Within the next two weeks, traces of radioactivity, although in tiny amounts, were measured in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain.

Norway was the first to measure the radioactivity, but France was the first to officially inform the public about it.

"Iodine-131 a radionuclide of anthropogenic origin, has recently been detected in tiny amounts in the ground-level atmosphere in Europe. The preliminary report states it was first found during week 2 of January 2017 in northern Norway. Iodine-131 was also detected in Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain, until the end of January", the official French Institute de Radioprotection et de Süreté Nucléaire (IRSN) wrote in a press release.

Comment: There were spikes in radioactive iodine in Europe in 2011 as well. Are you taking your iodine?


Daesh militants subjecting Sunni women to abuse, detention and forced marriage

© AP Photo/Seivan M. Salim
Islamic State militants (ISIL or Daesh, outlawed in Russia) in Iraq are detaining, abusing and forcing Sunni Arab women into marriage, a prominent rights watchdog said on Monday.

"Little is known about sexual abuse against Sunni Arab women living under ISIS rule... Their care and rehabilitation requires a multifaceted response, with authorities providing the needed medical and psychosocial support and working to stamp out stigma around sexual violence within the wider community," Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said.

The watchdog's researchers in January 2017 conducted interviews with a number of women, who had escaped from the Daesh-held town of Hawija, Iraq, to Kirkuk. Four of the interviewees said they had been detained by Daesh in 2016, for periods between three days and a month. The interviews revealed cases of destruction of property, physical violence, forced marriage and sexual abuse.

Comment: Life under Daesh: Women who escaped Mosul describe atrocities


Milo Yiannopoulos triggers social media backlash after 'defending' pedophilia

© Drew Angerer / AFP
Milo Yiannopoulos
Far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has sparked outrage on social media after apparently "defending" pedophilia.

The British Breitbart news editor has been accused of "defending child abuse" after saying "we get hung up" on it.

"We get hung up on this sort of child abuse stuff to the point where we are heavily policing consensual adults," said Yiannopoulos.

Warning graphic language:

Red Flag

UK police deny there is any link between reported spikes in hate crimes and Brexit vote

© Neil Hall / Reuters
An anti-Brexit protester holds a sign outside the Houses of Parliament, London
There is "no evidence" indicating that there is a link between Britain's vote to leave the EU and the current spike in hate crime, police say.

The majority of Britain's police forces reported a higher number of hate crime incidents in the three months that followed the Brexit vote than in any quarter since 2012.

According to the Home Office, the month of July 2016 saw a 41 percent spike in hate crimes.

However, Essex Police says 33 of the country's 42 police forces saw the highest number of reports on record due to greater awareness and confidence in officers.

"There is no evidence to suggest any increase has been specifically and directly caused by any one event or issue," a spokesperson for the force told Echo News, a local Essex paper.

Comment: See also: UKIP leader Nuttall: Blatant spike in post-Brexit hate crime is 'fabricated'

Light Saber

Leading by example: Indian man's single mission turned a dying river into a paradise

© Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal
In the year 2000, Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal decided that it was time to clean up a sacred part of the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, the Kali Bein river.

For centuries, city governments along the river had been dumping their human waste and garbage into this sacred Sikh waterway. After unsuccessfully attempting to convince the governments to stop dumping waste into the river, Seechewal drew on the Sikh tradition of kar sewa (free voluntary service).

That's when Sant Sichewal (also spelled Sancherwal, Sabarwahl, and Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal) jumped in for a cleansing bath of a different kind: one designed to awaken the people. He began cleaning the river single-handedly until his example, and his many narrations on the history and value of the Bein to Sikh history drew hundreds of followers to the task.

Stock Up

Long way to go: Saudi women take top financial jobs in major shift from tradition

© Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
The country's stock exchange is worth $439 billion.

For the first time in its history Saudi Arabia has appointed women to senior positions in national financial institutions, marking a dramatic social shift in the highly-conservative nation with strict laws curtailing female independence.

In a move greeted as a victory for gender equality, Samba Financial Group named Rania Mahmoud Nashar as their new CEO on Sunday. Her new role began this week, reported Bloomberg.

The appointment comes days after Sarah Al Suhaimi was named the first female to chair the country's stock exchange (Tadawul), worth $439 billion. Something of a gender equality trailblazer, Al Suhaimi became the first female head of a Saudi investment bank, NCB Capital Co, in 2014.


The joy and fear of being a mother in Gaza

© Nesma Seyam
The author with her daughter.
The doctor studied the test results, raised her head and smiled.

"Pregnant," she said. "Congratulations, you are pregnant!"

All I could muster in response was: "Why?"

Joy, excitement and fear knotted inside me. My husband and I would soon have a baby, filling our life with love and noise.

But a storm of questions raged in my head. I immediately began to fear that Israel would bomb us again.

How would we run away if that happened? How would we survive?

I was scared and nervous. The memories of all the wars I had lived through came alive and overpowered me.


Fox News poll shows Americans split on whether to trust Trump or media

A new Fox News poll finds that slightly more U.S. voters trust President Trump's administration to tell the truth than the media.

The survey released on Friday found that 45 percent of voters trust the White House to "tell the public the truth" while 42 percent of voters could say the same about the news media.

Ten percent of responders remained undecided.

Comment: Do the people trust Fake News polls too?

Further reading: Taking names and kicking butt: Top 8 moments from yesterday's Trump press conference