[News] Around The Rest of World

A posting place for news from places around the globe, outside of the US/Europe.

It's not always bad!

Six Turkish journalists jailed for life for 'coup links'

A Turkish court has sentenced six journalists to life in jail for alleged links to the July 2016 coup plotters.

The judgement came as another Turkish court decided to release German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, who has been held for a year without charge.

The six were found guilty of links to US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, blamed over the failed coup.

The six are: Nazli Ilicak, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Fevzi Yazici, Yakup Simsek and Sukru Tugrul Ozsengul.

The Istanbul court found them guilty of "attempting to abolish the order prescribed by the Turkish constitution or to bring in a new order", Turkish media reported.

The Altan brothers - Ahmet and Mehmet - were accused of giving coded messages in a television talk show on the eve of the coup attempt.

Military officers led a mutiny against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which resulted in the deaths of 250 civilian protesters.

'100,000 orangutans' killed in 16 years

More than 100,000 Critically Endangered orangutans have been killed in Borneo since 1999, research has revealed.

Scientists who carried out a 16-year survey on the island described the figure as "mind-boggling".

Deforestation, driven by logging, oil palm, mining and paper mills, continues to be the main culprit.

But the research, published in the journal Current Biology, also revealed that animals were "disappearing" from areas that remained forested.

This implied large numbers of orangutans were simply being slaughtered, said lead researcher Maria Voigt of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

All Eyes on North Korea

With talk of a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea being debated in Washington, public attention has focused on conventional military preparations for a U.S. attack on Pyongyang. Less noticed, but possibly even more telling, is the surge in recent months of intelligence resources.

Senior officials have made no secret of the fact that the administration is ramping up its intelligence capabilities to focus on the Korean Peninsula, but six sources familiar with U.S. planning described a nearly unprecedented scramble inside the agencies responsible for spying and cyber warfare.

In fact, the initial strike against the North Korean regime could be digital rather than physical, according to two former intelligence officials with knowledge of the preparations.

“The first shot will be cyber,” one of the former officials said.

As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un flaunts his nation’s strides in missile development, the U.S. government for the past six months has covertly begun laying the groundwork for possible cyberattacks on North Korea in countries including South Korea and Japan. This process involves installing fiber cables as bridges into the region and setting up remote bases and listening posts, where hackers may attempt to gain access to a North Korean internet that’s largely walled off from external connections.

Preparations for a cyberattack reflect a larger issue: America’s spies are pivoting the magnifying glass, funneling much of the weight of billions of dollars in technical infrastructure and trained professionals toward Pyongyang, current and former intelligence officials told Foreign Policy.

“The national technical focus is being switched,” one former intelligence official with knowledge of the developments told FP.“The national technical focus is being switched,” one former intelligence official with knowledge of the developments told FP. There are “wholesale” shifts worth billions of dollars redirecting signals intelligence, overhead imagery, geospatial intelligence, and other technical capabilities, toward Pyongyang.

Regional analysts are also getting reassigned. “If you’re an Africa analyst, you’re f*cked,” the former official said.

.....alright, it's always bad.

And Russia is just laughing at how easily the U.S. is distracted.

As Ramaphosa Hails a ‘New Dawn,’ South Africans See More of the Same

SOWETO, South Africa — Refiloe Mapanya had closely followed the tumultuous changes in South Africa’s leadership in recent days: a political knife fight inside the long-governing African National Congress that brought to power President Cyril Ramaphosa.

But Friday evening, midway through Mr. Ramaphosa’s first state of the nation address, Ms. Mapanya switched channels and watched her favorite show, “Generations,” the long-running soap opera about black South African life in the post-apartheid era.

Mr. Ramaphosa promised a “new dawn.” Ms. Mapanya was skeptical.

“I don’t think changing President Zuma will change anything,” she said on Saturday, referring to Jacob Zuma, the scandal-plagued leader who was forced out after nearly nine years as president. “At the end of the day, as long as you have power, even the new president will do the things the other guy did.”

That doubt, however, was not enough to change the way she votes.

“A.N.C. is the best,” said Ms. Mapanya, 27, who studies business administration. “It’s the one that took South Africa out of apartheid. Yes, it’s the best. I wouldn’t vote for any other party.”

Many others at Maponya Mall, Soweto’s most fashionable shopping center, echoed Ms. Mapanya’s comments Saturday morning. Few expected the sudden change in presidents — after several days of intense negotiations among a few party leaders — would bring change to their lives, though they expressed the hope that it would.

They also showed the resignation shared by many A.N.C. supporters: They had lost hope in the party but could not bring themselves to leave it.

Many in Soweto, the black township south of Johannesburg famed for its resistance to apartheid, cannot imagine leaving the party because of the indisputable good it brought to their lives. Maponya Mall itself, built a decade ago, was proof of that.

Inside the mall, SUVs from Mazda, Kia and Renault were on display. The storefronts were mostly South African brands and restaurants, but McDonald’s, Burger King, Timberland and Le Coq Sportif, the French manufacturer of sportswear, had also set up shop there.

Snooks Estates, a real estate agent, advertised properties for sale across Soweto, including a two-bedroom ranch-style house with a fitted kitchen, a carport, and a wall and gate, for $82,000.

Dipuo Kalodi, 34, a domestic worker, said she had cast ballots for the A.N.C. in every election since the end of apartheid in 1994. Mr. Ramaphosa is “the same as Zuma,” she said, adding, “They’ve been together for quite a long time. So what can you expect from that?”

I can completely understand the sentiments, and yet find them dismaying.

Brazil Looks to Crack Down on Fake News Ahead of Bitter Election

RIO DE JANEIRO — Worried that Brazilians will soon be flooded with fake news ahead of a critical presidential election, the country is setting out to crack down on organized efforts to intentionally mislead voters.

The officials leading the effort argue that the right to free speech cannot come at the expense of an illegitimate outcome, in an election that could dramatically alter the course of Brazil, the world’s fourth-largest democracy.

“It is necessary to consider which of these two principles must be sacrificed in the name of an election that is neutral and not tainted by deceitful news,” said Luiz Fux, a Supreme Court justice who recently assumed the presidency of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the highest authority on election laws and regulations. “Sometimes the excessive concern with freedom of expression ends up violating a more important principle — the democratic principle.”

At Justice Fux’s direction, Brazil’s Federal Police recently established a task force of law enforcement and intelligence personnel, which is developing strategies to prevent fake news from being produced and to limit its reach once misleading content starts spreading online.

“It is not our intention to infringe on anyone’s freedom of expression or their right to voice an opinion,” said Eugênio Ricas, the director of the Federal Police’s organized crime division, who is leading the fake news task force. “The big question is when does a personal opinion become a lie about a candidate that is published with the specific intent of harming them and in doing so interfering with an election.”

Wow a spam account who posts in a relevant thread with a copy/paste from a news article. Points for trying more than most I guess!


I can completely understand the sentiments, and yet find them dismaying.

Ramaphosa is making the right noises, but our latest budget is a disaster thanks to shortfalls over the last 10 years. We'll have to see how things play out. He also has a pretty poor track record in some business matters.

As for some good news.

South Africa to cut ties with Israel.


The relationship has always been fraught thanks to Israel's support of the apartheid government, and continuing to pursue apartheid policies domestically.

LeapingGnome wrote:

Wow a spam account who posts in a relevant thread with a copy/paste from a news article. Points for trying more than most I guess!


Wait... do you have a problem with this thread?

Meanwhile, in the Philippines...

The number of new HIV cases reported in the Philippines has surged over the last few years, according the country's health agency. In 2007, fewer than 400 new cases were reported; in 2017, more than 11,000 new cases were identified.

The country had the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region, according to UNAIDS last year.

At a time like this, the country's leader could encourage safer sex, to prevent further sexually transmitted infections.

Or he could do what Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte did last week — and urge his citizens to forgo condoms during intercourse because "they don't feel good."

The subject arose during a characteristically bizarre digression in a speech to Filipino workers back just from Kuwait. Hundreds of Filipino workers in Kuwait have accepted the Philippines' offer of a free flight home after a Filipino woman's body was found in a freezer of her employer's home in the Gulf state.

Duterte began talking about population growth in the Philippines.

"Filipinos don't know anything else but [mimes gun action] — 110 million, which is why life is hard," he said, according to a translation by CNN. "If we were just 50 million, we could manage food."

He then suggested that women use birth control pills or injectable hormones.

"Pills are free. Don't use condoms because they don't feel good," he continued.

He mimed eating a piece of still-wrapped candy.

"Here, try eating it without unwrapping it," he said, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. "Eat it. That's what a condom is like."

Prederick wrote:

Wait... do you have a problem with this thread?

There was an unusually convincing spam post just before LeapingGnome's post that has since been removed.

Prederick wrote:
LeapingGnome wrote:

Wow a spam account who posts in a relevant thread with a copy/paste from a news article. Points for trying more than most I guess!


Wait... do you have a problem with this thread?

LeapingGnome was responding to a spammer that actually posted an international news story as a cover for their spamming. That post was deleted.

EDIT: Ferretthausered

Ah, gotcha.

Syria war: Families struggle to survive in Eastern Ghouta, under siege

A four-day-long bombardment by Syrian government forces is reported to have killed more than 300 civilians in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area. Here, people living there tell their stories.

The enclave - home to an estimated 393,000 people - has been under siege since 2013. But pro-government media say a major military operation might soon begin to clear rebel factions from their last major stronghold near the capital Damascus.

The relentless air and artillery strikes are leaving civilians, particularly women and children, in a state of fear and forcing them to seek shelter underground, where they are largely deprived of food and sanitation.

Yeah the spammer copied and pasted a paragraph from the NYT article and posted it as their own post with a spam link in their signature. I've seen a few of those lately where they put the spam link in their signature, I guess to get SEO rankings up.

'The training stays with you': the elite Mexican soldiers recruited by cartels

Delfino was handpicked twice. At 18, he was chosen by the Mexican army to join its elite unit, the airborne special forces group known by its Spanish acronym, Gafe, where he specialized as a sniper.

Ten years later, he was recruited again – this time by the very people he’d been trained to kill.

Nowadays, the only outward sign of his military background is the camouflaged hat on his head, and the Panther .308 sniper rifle slung across his back.

Delfino belongs to what remains of a cult-like drug cartel called Los Caballeros Templarios, or the Knights Templar, whose original leaders and claimed a mandate from God.

Once a dominant force in the rugged western state of Michoacán, the group is now locked in a bitter war for survival with rival crime factions.

But Delfino describes himself as an instrument of divine justice.

“God has his will,” he said. “But he still needs people to do his work here on Earth.”

Over the past decade, Mexico’s drug violence has undergone a dizzying escalation, claiming more than 230,000 lives and last year pushing the country's murder rate to the highest level since records began.

Security analysts and cartel sources agree that a key factor in the transformation of underworld rivalries into a full-throttle war has been the cartels’ recruitment of elite soldiers.

The leakage of Mexican special forces into organized crime began in the 1990s when the powerful Gulf cartel recruited a group of ex-Gafe troops to create its own paramilitary enforcement unit, known as Los Zetas.

They eventually turned on their masters, establishing the Zetas as a cartel in their own right. But other narco bosses followed suit, turning to the military for skilled recruits.

The scale of the problem remains unclear – not least because the Mexican government has been unwilling to release data, said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at George Mason University and author of Zetas Inc.

“It’s an inconvenient issue for the government, so they deny freedom-of-information requests. But what we do know is that special forces helped turn Mexico’s narcos into the paramilitary armed groups we see today.”

Is Mexico Ready for a Populist President?

With the July 1 presidential elections approaching, Mexican voters will soon take their turn to vent their anger at the established political order. Like previous disruptive long shots — Brexit, Emmanuel Macron’s election in France, and Donald Trump’s election in the United States — the ascension of a populist to Mexico’s presidency is an increasingly good bet.

But the leading candidate is not exactly a breath of fresh air. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 64, has been active in partisan politics for over 40 years. Despite a successful tenure as mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005, he lost two successive bids for president in 2006 and 2012. Largely, this was because he was unable to shake the image of a left-wing, populist rabble-rouser with Hugo Chávez-like tendencies. López Obrador himself reinforced this perception when he had himself sworn in as the “legitimate president” in the aftermath of the 2006 election, a stunt that caused him to lose credibility with many Mexicans.

This time around, however, he has maintained a disciplined focus on the two issues that overwhelm all others in the current electoral season: corruption and out-of-control violence. In the last four years, nine of 32 state governors have been imprisoned, indicted, or are under investigation for money laundering, fraud, or racketeering. Last August, the former head of the state oil company (and a top campaign aide to President Enrique Peña Nieto) was shown to have accepted $10 million from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. In 2014, Peña Nieto himself was indirectly tainted by charges that a government contractor had paid for a $7 million home for the first lady. Somehow these frequent allegations tend to go nowhere, leading to a pervasive disgust among Mexicans and a feeling that politicians from the two major parties — the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the National Action Party — can get away with nearly anything.

Meanwhile, Mexico just completed its most violent year since at least 1997, when the government began tracking murders. Homicides topped 29,000, with cartel executions driving the numbers. Add to that, however, increases in other types of crimes, and Mexicans feel under siege. Many blame the violence not solely on the cartels, but on failed government strategies and outright collusion between senior government officials and cartel leaders.

Consistently leading in the polls by double digits since last fall, López Obrador faces uninspiring opponents from the main parties and a handful of independents. His campaign message is relatively simple. Everyone else is corrupt or craven, while he is not. Sensitive to criticism that he is a radical in waiting, he has highlighted policy proposals of austerity, low taxes, transparency, and nonintervention. The ruling party has done its best to depict him as sympathetic to, and longing for, authoritarian government, but there is little evidence that this strategy is working.

If elected, López Obrador is likely to change Mexican policy towards the United States in at least three areas: energy exploration, security cooperation, and support for democratic norms in the region. On energy, he said he would review existing contracts, and continues to view the opening of Mexico’s oil industry to foreign investment as treasonous. A López Obrador administration could slow down or halt bidding on new oil and gas finds in the Gulf of Mexico and refuse to approve new cross-border natural gas pipelines.

Similarly, he could freeze existing security cooperation with U.S. agencies to fight heroin production in Mexico and capture cartel leaders. “Problems of an economic and social nature cannot be solved with coercive measures,” he wrote last year. “It’s not military assistance, or intelligence work, or deliveries of helicopters and arms, that will solve the problems of insecurity and violence in our country.”

Finally, López Obrador, who has never uttered an unkind word about the Castro brothers, Chávez, or Nicolás Maduro (but named a son after Che Guevara), would be likely to withdraw Mexican diplomats from the mediating role they have played in the region on Venezuela, and refuse to participate in international resolutions concerning Iran, North Korea, or Syria.

What about the personal chemistry between López Obrador and Trump? Shortly after Trump was inaugurated, López Obrador undertook a speaking tour of the United States, during which he repeatedly compared Trump to Hitler. Recently, López Obrador vowed to put Trump “in his place.” What could go wrong?

Women Are Free, and Armed, in Kurdish-Controlled Northern Syria

MANBIJ, Syria — Radwan, a 30-year-old Arab man, came with four male witnesses and a grievance with an ex-wife to a place called the Women’s House here in Manbij, in northern Syria.

He had recently divorced his second wife, Amira, 17, and he wanted back the gold he had given her as a bride price, some three or four ounces at most — worth more than few goats but less than a car.

The five men sat down with Amira and her mother, Isra, in a circle of plastic chairs around a stove to discuss the matter, with the mediation of several officials from the Women’s House.

The conversation grew heated as Amira and her mother, who asked that the families’ last names be withheld to avoid a tribal backlash against them, refused to return the gold. When the Women’s House officials said that not only was Amira right to keep it, but that she was also entitled to a houseful of furniture in compensation for the divorce, Radwan began shouting.

Chairs were knocked over and voices raised, but the women officials escorted the men out of the building politely but firmly, warning that the police would be summoned if they didn’t go quietly.

Shilan Shermooz, the administrator of the Women’s House, said the matter was not yet over. Once Radwan made the reparations, she said, they would send his case to court and see him prosecuted for beating and abusing Amira for the two weeks they were married. Radwan was also guilty of fraud, she said, because Amira agreed to the wedding not knowing he already had a wife and children.

“The patriarchy really is over,” Ms. Shermooz said, sharing a laugh with two colleagues.

China Moves to Let Xi Stay in Power by Abolishing Term Limit

BEIJING — China’s Communist Party has cleared the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely, by announcing Sunday that it intends to abolish term limits on the presidency, a momentous break with decades-old rules meant to prevent the country from returning to the days when Mao was shown cultish obedience.

The surprise move, revealed in a dryly worded proposal to amend the Constitution, is the boldest yet by Mr. Xi as he seeks to strengthen the party’s control over a modernizing society and restore China to what he considers its rightful place as a global power — an agenda that his allies have suggested requires his personal leadership.

He has pressed China’s claims over the South China Sea, begun a global infrastructure plan called the Belt and Road Initiative, drastically reorganized the military, bulked up domestic security and enforced ideological purity in schools and media — all parts of his vision of China as a prosperous, respected player on the world stage that stays faithful to its Communist and Confucian roots.

The timing of the announcement startled even experienced observers of Chinese politics: Mr. Xi completes his first term as president next month and could have waited until late in his second term to act. He also could have stepped down after his second term and run the country from behind the scenes, as some of his predecessors have.

The move alarmed advocates of political liberalization in China who saw it as part of a global trend of strongman leaders casting aside constitutional checks, like Vladimir V. Putin in Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.

The Constitution now limits Mr. Xi, who became president in 2013, to two terms in that office, amounting to 10 years. But the party leadership has proposed removing the line that says the president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms,” Xinhua, the official news agency, reported on Sunday.

By moving so early in his tenure, Mr. Xi, 64, is in effect proclaiming that he intends to stay in office well past 2023, overturning rules of succession in Chinese politics that evolved as the party sought stability following the power struggles to replace first Mao, and then Deng Xiaoping.

“Xi Jinping will certainly continue,” said Zhang Ming, a retired historian at Renmin University in Beijing. “In China, he can do what he wants to do, and this is just sending a clearer signal of that.”

Mr. Xi already serves as the party’s general secretary and the military chief, positions with no term limits.

Oh. Good.

This is a video but it is all about Italian politics so I thought I would put it here.

Italian Election: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Brazil military's growing role in crime crackdown fuels fears among poor

Police with automatic rifles slung around their necks stood behind an armoured car near the entrance of the Salgueiro favela, a half-hour drive from Rio across the Guanabara Bay.

Nearby, Joelma Milanes, 38, cried as she recalled the night last November when she and her husband found her son Márcio Sabino, 21, lying dead with several others after a police and army operation.

The army told the Guardian its special forces battalion – Brazil’s equivalent of the US navy Seals – participated in the operation which left seven dead, but denied they fired the shots.

“The people who should be protecting us are killing us,” Milanes said. “They do what they want. There won’t be justice.”

Such concerns have intensified since 16 February, when President Michel Temer declared a “federal intervention” in Rio de Janeiro state, putting a general in charge of its police forces, prisons and security.

On Monday, Temer announced the creation of a new extraordinary ministry of public security and appointed another general, Joaquim Silva e Luna, as minister of defence.

Since Temer sanctioned a new law last October, investigations into civilian deaths during police actions by the armed forces have been handled by military courts and prosecutors. But Human Rights Watch says the army is stonewalling an investigation into the Salgueiro massacre, whose death toll rose to eight after a victim died in hospital.

And while the “federal intervention” has the support of Rio’s middle and upper classes – spooked by rising crime – poorer Brazilians like Milanes, who works in garbage recycling, are apprehensive.

“I think it will get worse,” she said. “It’s not a solution.”

Slovakia grapples with murdered journalist's last story

he headline reads: "Italian Mafia In Slovakia; Its Tentacles Reach As Far As Politics".

It sits at the top of Jan Kuciak's final, unfinished article, published at midnight not just on his own news site - aktuality.sk - but, symbolically, by a number of others.

The young investigative reporter and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova were found shot dead in their home on Sunday; the first killing of a journalist in Slovakia's history.

The attack, which police say bears all the hallmarks of a contract killing, has left the country reeling.

Kuciak's last article - published posthumously - alleges links between the Italian mafia and figures close to the Prime Minister, Robert Fico.

His byline is accompanied by a small colour photograph of the author. A larger, black-and-white version of the same image - this one propped up against a wall, surrounded by candles and flowers - tops the page.

Kuciak alleges that Italian businessmen with ties to the feared Calabrian organised crime syndicate the 'Ndrangheta have settled in eastern Slovakia, and have spent years embezzling EU funds for this relatively poor region on the border with Ukraine.

These men, he alleges, have cultivated business links with senior officials, including people close to the prime minister. One, a former glamour model named Maria Troskova, was until Wednesday the prime minister's "chief state adviser". Another, Ms Troskova's former boss Viliam Jasan, was secretary of Slovakia's national security council.

The two said in a joint statement that they would step down from their roles in government with immediate effect until the case had been investigated. They said attempts "by some politicians and the media to link our names to these repellent crimes" were unacceptable. They were stepping down so their names could not be used in a political battle against Mr Fico, they added.

The Minister of Culture Marek Madaric, a member of Mr Fico's SMER party, has also resigned, saying he felt it was his only choice as a minister in the wake of the killings.

At the time of writing, Mr Fico's office had not responded to the BBC's request for comment. But at Tuesday's surreal press conference, speaking by a table laden with a million euros in cash - the government's reward for information on the murders - Mr Fico was adamant.

"Do not link innocent people without any evidence to a double homicide," Mr Fico told journalists.

"It's crossing the line. It's no longer funny," he went on, castigating the opposition and the media for using the tragedy to further their own ends.

Why Italy’s Insular Election Is More Important Than It Looks

ROME — The campaign before Italy’s national elections on Sunday has been self-obsessed and often petty and unedifying. But it has been instructive about one thing: The political forces that have torn at the global order and the European Union have settled into the mainstream.

Fascists rallied in large numbers in Italian piazzas. The country experienced its worst political violence in years. Formerly unthinkable suggestions, like the mass deportation of migrants, became virtually routine.

The reanimation of Italy’s political ghosts is a worrying harbinger for a European Union already weakened by Britain’s decision to leave the bloc, the electoral setbacks of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the long shadow of Russia and the rise of an illiberal bloc of nations in the eastern part of the Continent.

In elections in the United States and elsewhere in Europe, the far right had shifted the debate within the political establishment. But in Italy, the birthplace of fascism, they are a full partner in it.

The populism, the electronic misinformation, the crumbling of the left and the rise of the anti-immigrant, post-fascist hard right that has floated in the European ether for years all crystallized in the Italian campaign.

Italy’s election “epitomizes everything, it is pure populism,” said Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of President Trump’s populist message who served as Mr. Trump’s chief strategist until he was forced out in August.

Mr. Bannon is in Italy as part of a European tour to help build a broader populist movement throughout Europe, the subject of a speech he will deliver on Tuesday in Switzerland. He said he was busy learning from the country’s populists leaders. “The Italian people have gone farther, in a shorter period of time, than the British did for Brexit and the Americans did for Trump,” he said in an interview on Friday. “Italy is the leader.”

Populist and far-right parties now stand to make some of their deepest inroads anywhere. Chief among the populist forces, the insurgent Five Star Movement, polling around 30 percent, is likely to come out on top in a fractured field.

Italy’s center-left prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, has sought to sound the alarm, telling the newspaper Corriere della Sera on Friday that the election was the most important in a quarter-century, a “contest against populism” with the system of free markets and an open society at stake.

Hand Grenades and Gang Violence Rattle Sweden’s Middle Class

Weapons from a faraway, long-ago war are flowing into immigrant neighborhoods here, puncturing Swedes’ sense of confidence and security. The country’s murder rate remains low, by American standards, and violent crime is stable or dropping in many places. But gang-related assaults and shootings are becoming more frequent, and the number of neighborhoods categorized by the police as “marred by crime, social unrest and insecurity” is rising. Crime and immigration are certain to be key issues in September’s general election, alongside the traditional debates over education and health care.

Part of the reason is that Sweden’s gang violence, long contained within low-income suburbs, has begun to spill out. In large cities, hospitals report armed confrontations in emergency rooms, and school administrators say threats and weapons have become commonplace. Last week two men from Uppsala, both in their 20s, were arrested on charges of throwing grenades at the home of a bank employee who investigates fraud cases.

An earlier jolt came with the death of Mr. Zuniga, who on Jan. 7 picked up the grenade, which the police believe had been thrown by members of a local gang targeting a rival gang or police officers.

Paulus Borisho, 55, was in his kebab shop around 50 feet away, and the explosion made his windows shudder. He ran outside to see a thin column of black smoke rising. Mr. Zuniga lay on the bike path, curled on his side.

Like many of his neighbors in Varby Gard, Mr. Borisho had sought asylum in Sweden to escape a war. He knew what a grenade sounded like. As a commando in a Lebanese militia, he had handled grenades, and remembered the strict protocols he complied with, locking up the weapons for safe keeping the minute he returned to camp.

That a grenade should be found on the sidewalk outside a kebab shop, a few steps from an elementary school, was difficult for him to take in.

“Now, when I think of the future, I am afraid,” he said. “I am afraid for Europe.”

Illegal weapons often enter Sweden over the Oresund Bridge, a 10-mile span that links the southern city of Malmo to Denmark. When it opened, in 2000, the bridge symbolized the unfurling of a vibrant, borderless Europe, but in recent years it has been more closely associated with smuggling, of people, weapons and drugs.

The influx of heavy weapons has caught Sweden’s criminal justice systems unprepared.

The border with Denmark is open, with insufficient personnel to search every vehicle entering the country. Hand grenades were, until last year, classified as “flammable products” rather than weapons, so sentences for detonating them were mild. The police are struggling to gather information in immigrant neighborhoods, and clearance rates for gun homicide cases have fallen steadily since the 1990s.

“We have lost the trust from the people who lived and worked in this area,” said Gunnar Appelgren, a police superintendent and specialist in gang violence.

I'm almost glad that they're suspected as coming in from Denmark instead of any other Baltic neighbor.

WP: North Korea Is Willing to Discuss Giving Up Nuclear Weapons, South Says

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has told South Korean envoys that he is willing to begin negotiations with the United States on abandoning its nuclear weapons and that it would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while engaged in such talks, South Korean officials said on Tuesday.

I assume this will make trumpists feel vindicated about trump's ...unconventional diplomacy.

We are about to get our lunch money taken.


Norway set to deport teenager to country she's never visited

For Taibah Abbasi, the goal was always the same: school.

When she was 9 years old, she remembers staring out the window in Tehran. The longing she felt was painful.

"It was so hard to watch the other children and especially girls wearing their uniforms and going to school and I was just staying back at the window," Taibah recalled to ABC News on a recent afternoon, at a burger joint in Trondheim, Norway. She didn't even know what those little Iranian girls did when they arrived at the school building, but she wanted to join.

She asked herself at the time, "Have I not the right to go to school? Are we not the same?"

They were not, she learned, the same under Iranian law.

As an Afghan refugee born in Iran, her education during those years consisted of reading children's books with her mother, and occasionally attending an informal class with other refugee children in someone's home. At the age of 12, Taibah had never seen the inside of a proper classroom.

She's now a senior at Thora Storm High School in Trondheim. Six years after setting foot inside a real school, she's staring at a future on the outside, again.

This Russian Official Has Been Accused Of Sexual Harassment. But Almost Everyone Is Defending Him

This is Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament's lower house, or the State Duma. And over the last few weeks, he's been at the center of what should be a massive sexual harassment scandal.

But despite multiple women coming forward to accuse him of groping them — including one who recorded audio of his advances — he's been getting little to no pressure to resign, or even change his ways, from his fellow lawmakers.

Last month, independent TV station Dozhd reported that three women, who wished to remain anonymous, had been groped and otherwise harassed by Slutsky over the years.

Oh, and:

British Police Say Former Russian Spy Sergei Skripal And His Daughter Were Targeted With A Nerve Agent

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were specifically targeted with a nerve agent, Britain's top counterterrorism officer said on Wednesday.

At a press conference, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police said the incident was being treated as "attempted murder by a nerve agent".

Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, have been critically ill in hospital since Sunday afternoon, when they were found collapsed on a bench near the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury.

Rowley also revealed that a police officer who was among the first on the scene to help the Skripals on Sunday is now also seriously ill in hospital. Fellow officers from Wiltshire police are providing support to his family and colleagues.

Appearing alongside Rowley at the press conference, the UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said that the risk to the public was low, adding that all sites that had been visited by the Skripals had been secured.

In a statement, the Met said the exact nerve agent had been identified but that information was not being released. "Scientific tests by government experts have identified the specific nerve agent used which will help identify the source but at this stage in a fast-paced ongoing investigation we will not comment further."

Rowley did not answer further questions from reporters on what the nerve agent was or how it had been administered, saying he could not go into more details at this stage.

He said that officers were working to establish who was behind what is believed to have been a targeted attack on the Skripals, who he said were “very seriously ill” in hospital. Specialist detectives were working to account for their previous movements and who they had come into contact with, he added.

The attack is being treated as a major incident, and hundreds of counterterrorism officers have been deployed from across the country to work on the investigation.

Rowley also repeated a call-out to anyone who was in the area on Sunday afternoon who may have seen something that could help police.

He said: "Did you see anything out of the ordinary? It may be that at the time, nothing appeared out of place or untoward but with what you now know, you remember something that might be of significance. Your memory of that afternoon and your movements alone could help us with missing pieces of the investigation. The weather was poor that day so there were not as many people out and about. Every statement we can take is important."

I somehow have been enlisted onto an SPD mailing list in a region of Germany in which I've never lived, so it's been fairly fascinating watching this unfold (and I have no idea what this will cause the next election to look like).

Germany's New Milquetoast Government

Germany's future cabinet could become the venue of a rather odd competition: Who can show the least amount of emotion, the chancellor or her deputy? Angela Merkel was born in Hamburg, a city known for its excruciating reticence. And her vice chancellor-designate, Olaf Scholz, has been the Social Democratic (SPD) mayor of Hamburg for years and has lived almost his entire life in the port city.

So far, Scholz would seem to have upper hand in ennui. On Sunday, after months of uncertainty surrounding Germany's next government, the SPD finally announced the results of its party-member vote as to whether to join yet another governing coalition with Merkel. The result was 66 percent in favor versus 34 percent opposed. But instead of relief, instead of joy, instead of enthusiasm, Scholz merely remarked: "We now have clarity." His face looked as though his hometown football team had just been relegated to the second division. "The SPD will join the next government."

Patrolling Mexico's most densely populated suburb

Flying over Nezahualcóyotl in a police helicopter gives a sense of the challenges its residents face.

Originally built on the drained bed of Lake Texcoco, the suburb stretches out below in a patchwork of low-income housing with more than a million people crammed inside.

Ciudad Neza, as it is commonly known, is now the most densely populated place in Mexico, part of the vast urban sprawl outside Mexico City.

Over the years. criminal networks have taken hold, often with the complicity of local police.

Municipal officers insist they have changed, saying that their force has been purged, that corruption is being weeded out and replaced with a sense of civic duty.

The man they credit for the turnaround is Jorge Amador, a former sociology professor turned police chief.

"I think we've broken with the traditional way of thinking on local policing here," he says, in a rare show of pride.

"Unfortunately all too often in our country police chiefs and politicians have seen security not as a public service but as a business, as a way to make money."

Bannon to address Front National as French far-right leaders seek unity

The Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, will attempt to pull her divided far-right party together when it meets this weekend for its first conference since she lost to Emmanuel Macron in the final round of the French presidential election.

Hours before the conference opened it was revealed Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon would be speaking on the first day of the event.

Beset by political and personal rifts, and with her popularity in the post-election doldrums, Le Pen is facing opposition to her plan to rename the party in an attempt to improve its electoral chances.

The move is seen by the traditional wing of the FN, founded by Le Pen’s father in the 1970s, as a betrayal of the party’s heritage. The new name will be voted on after it is unveiled on Sunday.

The surprise guest speaker Bannon was announced on Twitter by the FN deputy president Louis Aliot. He wrote: “Welcome to Steve Bannon who will address the FN tomorrow at our congress and will meet ML [Le Pen]. The people are waking up and taking their destiny in hand.”

Shortly afterwards Aliot tweeted a photograph of him shaking with Bannon, who he wrote “represents rejection of the establishment of which one of the worst symbols is the EU in Brussels. He has understood like Trump and Matteo Salvini [the head of the Italian League] the wish of the people to control their own destiny.”

Ten months ago, the party was on a high after Le Pen saw off the Socialist candidate to take the FN into the second round of the presidential election with unprecedented support, though not enough to defeat Macron. However, this weekend’s conference to transform and “refound” the party is threatening to fall short of its goals of unity and optimism.

Bruno Cautrès, of the centre for political research at Sciences Po, said the party was undergoing a “crisis of Marine Le Pen’s leadership”.

“Voters and even party members are questioning her ability, or not, to continue the feeling that the adventure continues and the party can still go forward,” Cautrès told 20 Minutes.

Statues Across India Are Vandalized as Political Tensions Rise

MEERUT, India — The vandals attacked a statue of Gandhi in the southern state of Kerala, breaking its wire-rimmed eyeglasses.

They targeted a monument to Lenin, using a hydraulic jackhammer to destroy the sculpture in the northeastern state of Tripura.

They shattered a statue of a revered figure among Dalits, lower-caste Indians, leaving it in pieces in Meerut, about 50 miles north of New Delhi.

The attacks were part of a wave of vandalism that has unleashed accusations and recriminations and sent political tensions boiling over as one by one, at least six monuments have been vandalized since Monday.

Indian opposition parties blame the attacks on supporters of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, emboldened after a landslide victory in state elections in the country’s northeast last weekend.

The opposition parties say the backers of B.J.P. and its allies foster a climate of intolerance and target other Hindus that oppose them, as well as religious minorities such as Muslims.

But the B.J.P., which says the party is inclusive, denied its supporters were behind the attacks and dismissed the accusations as part of a political smear campaign. It noted that someone had taken a hammer to a bust of its own founder.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who heads the B.J.P.-led government, issued a strong condemnation on Wednesday of the vandalism, promising swift retribution against the vandals, no matter their affiliation.

But the vandalism appeared to be aimed mostly at figures who are important to Dalits, whom some B.J.P. supporters disdain. Discrimination, although forbidden by law, is widespread in India’s stratified society.

On Wednesday morning, district officials in Meerut discovered a statue of B.R. Ambedkar in pieces. The Dalits revere Mr. Ambedkar for enshrining their rights in the Indian Constitution.

Officials, hoping to avert anger from the local Dalits, moved within hours to replace the statue, erecting a new one so hastily that most of the fingernails chiseled into the hand clutching India’s Constitution were missing. The ears were rendered as blocklike ovals on either side of the head.

“He’s like our god,” said Kapil Kumar, 25, who helped replace the statue. “What we have today is because of him. Whatever respect and chances in life we have, is because of him.”

The violence began in the town of Belonia in Tripura state, after the B.J.P. swept local elections, ending more than two decades of Communist control. The Tripura branch of the Communist Party of India says B.J.P. supporters had celebrated their victory by ransacking and burning the party’s offices.

Then, on Monday, a crowd chanting B.J.P. slogans surrounded a statue of Lenin in Belonia, in the state of Tripura. Using a construction vehicle with a hydraulic jackhammer they destroyed the monument — an episode captured on a cellphone camera and shared widely.

“Victory to mother India,” protesters can be heard chanting on the video.

Victor Shome, the media officer for B.J.P. in Tripura, said the Communists had destroyed the statue. “We are a responsible party,” Mr. Shome said on Friday. “With the help of the local administration, we are looking seriously into this incident to see how it happened.”

They targeted a monument to Lenin, using a hydraulic jackhammer to destroy the sculpture in the northeastern state of Tripura.

Hopefully they'll leave that one down.