China’s gradual expansion in the East China Sea poses a challenge for Japan

November 30, 2013

TOKYO — When a half-dozen Chinese patrol vessels entered Japanese waters 14 months ago, Japan’s then-prime minister called an emergency meeting. The Chinese ambassador in Tokyo was summoned for a tongue-lashing. A Japanese government spokesman described the move as an “invasion” of “unprecedented scale.”

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Syrian government offensive pushes 20,000 Syrians into Lebanon

November 30, 2013

ARSAL, Lebanon — Its dusty streets lined with cars bearing Syrian license plates, this Lebanese mountain town has long felt as much Syrian as Lebanese. But as Bashar al-Assad’s army squeezes rebel-held towns just across the border, 20,000 new arrivals have left locals significantly outnumbered and forced Lebanon to open its first official transit camp for Syrian refugees.

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Britain targets Guardian newspaper over intelligence leaks related to Edward Snowden

November 30, 2013

LONDON — Living in self-imposed exile in Russia, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden may be safely beyond the reach of Western powers. But dismayed by the continued airing of trans­atlantic intelligence, British authorities are taking full aim at a messenger shedding light on his secret files here — the small but mighty Guardian newspaper.

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Q&A with Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian

November 30, 2013

The following is a transcript of questions and answers with Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, about British government pressure on the newspaper. The Guardian and The Washington Post were the first publications to report on government surveillance programs revealed in classified files obtained by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor. (The exchange was conducted Wednesday by e-mail; some questions have been edited for clarity.)

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North Korea releases video of elderly U.S. tourist apologizing for ‘indelible crimes’

November 30, 2013

TOKYO — North Korea acknowledged Saturday that it is holding an elderly U.S. citizen and said he had apologized for committing a “long list of indelible crimes” during the Korean War six decades ago. It did not indicate whether the man, Merrill E. Newman, would be released.

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New enmity between Japan and Korea plays out in Tokyo’s Koreatown

November 30, 2013

TOKYO — The main streets of Shin-Okubo — Tokyo’s Koreatown — are lined with smoky barbecue restaurants and overlit cosmetics emporiums. Staircases lead down to basement music venues and up to hidden drinking holes.

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Fair Trials International group urges reforms for Interpol arrests

November 30, 2013

MOSCOW — The case of a Russian environmental activist who fled the country but was later arrested, despite finding sanctuary in Finland, reveals how political motives can sometimes improperly influence international police work, a London-based group said this week.

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In Egypt, university campuses emerge as the latest battleground

November 29, 2013

CAIRO — Students who support deposed president Mohamed Morsi have intensified their anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks, staging strikes and clashing with police on university campuses as security forces clamp down on dissent.

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Coalition apologizes for killing Afghan child, seeks to shore up prospects of security deal

November 29, 2013

KABUL — The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan apologized Friday for mistakenly killing a 2-year-old boy during an airstrike, the latest crisis to confront American officials hoping to finalize a long-term security agreement between the two countries.

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China sends warplanes to patrol new air defense zone

November 29, 2013

BEIJING — China said it had sent warplanes to patrol its newly declared maritime air defense identification zone on Thursday, while Japan and South Korea have also sent surveillance aircraft into the area.

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WorldViews: Photos of the day: Dubai goes a little overboard with fireworks celebration

November 29, 2013

Dubai has just won the right to host the World Expo in 2020, when it will become the first-ever Middle Eastern city to host the annual event also known as the World’s Fair. Naturally, the wealthy Emirate city celebrated in the Dubai way, with a massive and elaborate fireworks display. While not quite as awe-inspiring as the 2010 opening ceremony for the Burf Khalifa, Dubai’s 163-floor skyscraper, it was still pretty impressive. Did we mention that the Burf Khalifa shoots fireworks out of its sides? Here are some photos of the event:

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WorldViews: Why did China impose an ‘air defense zone’ that was so likely to fail?

November 29, 2013

China has one of the largest and most consequential militaries in the world, but how Beijing thinks about its military and makes military decisions is largely a mystery to the outside world. The People’s Liberation Army is technically attached to the Chinese Communist Party, rather than to the Chinese government, and scholars often describe it as a “black box” because it is so difficult to understand from the outside.

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WorldViews: High-profile media scandal poses first major test of India’s new sexual assault law

November 29, 2013

NEW DELHI — A young journalist has accused the editor of a leading investigative magazine in India of sexually assaulting her, creating a scandal that has transfixed the country for the past eight days and reignited debate about violence against women here.

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Karzai says U.S. drone strike killed child, won’t sign security deal if similar attacks continue

November 29, 2013

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the United States of launching a drone strike that killed a 2-year-old child Thursday and vowed not to sign a long-term security agreement if similar attacks continue.

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China sends warplanes to new air defense zone after U.S., Japan, S. Korea incursions

November 29, 2013

BEIJING — China said Thursday that it had sent warplanes to patrol its newly declared maritime air defense identification zone, as a dispute over an island chain ratcheted up into a dangerous regional standoff.

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Hong Kong activists test China’s red lines over election with Occupy Central campaign

November 29, 2013

HONG KONG — After a decade of negotiations, sociology professor Chan Kin-Man realized the Chinese government was not going to grant Hong Kong genuine democracy. Not without a struggle, anyway.

So with another academic and a Baptist minister, Chan has threatened to organize a sit-in for democracy in Hong Kong’s business district.

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Despite Ukraine triumph, Russia’s relations with its neighbors are under strain

November 28, 2013

MOSCOW — Russia’s success in getting Ukraine to pull back at the last minute from signing an agreement with the European Union obscures a deeper trend: Moscow’s relations with its neighbors have been on a downward slope for several years, and they show no signs of improving.

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U.S. flies two warplanes over East China Sea, ignoring new Chinese air defense zone

November 28, 2013

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it had defied Beijing by flying two warplanes over the East China Sea on a training exercise, ignoring a recent edict from China that it be informed in advance of any such flights in the region.

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A year after Benghazi attack, killings continue

November 28, 2013

BENGHAZI, Libya — It is exceedingly easy to get away with murder here.

Just ask any Libyan: Who killed more than 50 police officers, soldiers and judges here and in the eastern city of Darna this year?

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Islamist women and girls receive heavy prison sentences for Egypt protests

November 28, 2013

CAIRO — Nearly two dozen Islamist women and girls, some as young as 15, were handed heavy prison sentences for protesting in a court ruling Wednesday that came a day after police beat and terrorized prominent female activists in a crackdown on secular demonstrators under a tough new anti-protest law.

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World Digest: Nov. 27, 2013

November 28, 2013

MALI

Coup leader Sanogo arrested, charged

The military strongman who led last year’s coup in Mali was arrested Wednesday in Bamako and charged with kidnapping, hours after he was escorted from his home in the capital by soldiers.

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Fine Print: Report surprises with ‘Ugly Deal’ on Iran

November 28, 2013

Insights can come from unexpected places.

For example, a report this month discussed what it called an “Ugly Deal” that could be done regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

The suggested deal “would allow Tehran all key elements of a civilian nuclear program in exchange for limits on the amount of fissile material it could possess and the number of centrifuges it could operate.”

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Karzai faces growing pressure in Afghanistan to sign deal to maintain U.S. troop presence

November 27, 2013

KABUL — President Hamid Karzai is facing a growing backlash from Afghan political leaders over his reluctance to sign a long-term security agreement with the United States.

Karzai had appeared to reach an agreement last week that would permit up to 15,000 foreign troops to remain in Afghanistan after the formal end of U.S. combat operations in 2014. But Karzai has since refused to sign the accord until the U.S. government agrees to a series of escalating demands.

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China’s move to establish air defense zone appears to backfire

November 27, 2013

BEIJING — It was designed as a forceful response to Japanese assertiveness. But Beijing’s creation of an air defense zone may have backfired, experts said, eliciting a strong joint response from the United States and Japan.

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Pakistan has a new, little-known military commander

November 27, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif named a new military chief Wednesday, bypassing seniority to install a low-profile army general in the powerful position.

Sharif’s selection of a new army chief of staff after months of deliberations comes as Pakistan is struggling to contain violence by Islamist militants that has killed more than 45,000 civilians and soldiers over the past decade. Pakistan’s military is facing renewed tension with India and is concerned about security in neighboring Afghanistan as most NATO troops prepare to withdraw by the end of next year.

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In Pakistan, political party reveals alleged CIA station chief in protest of drone strike

November 27, 2013

A Pakistani political party revealed on Wednesday what it said was the name of the CIA’s highest-ranking officer in the country in protest of a CIA drone strike last week that killed as many as six people and prompted allegations that the agency had attacked a religious school.

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WorldViews: Israel mourns Arik Einstein, one of its most celebrated musicians

November 27, 2013

JERUSALEM — For many fans, Arik Einstein was the “soundtrack of Israel,” the singer-songwriter who defined his country’s best aspirations. Einstein was a crooner who sparked Israeli rock n’ roll. He died Tuesday night, at the age of 74, of a ruptured aneurysm.

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WorldViews: Is Iran already hedging on a key nuclear concession?

November 27, 2013

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the country’s legislature Wednesday that Iran will continue construction at its controversial nuclear facility at Arak, according to Reuters. A key provision of Iran’s recent nuclear agreement, sealed just this weekend in Geneva with the United States and five other world powers, requires it to halt all “activities” at Arak. Zarif’s announcement, though not an outright contradiction of this agreement, pushes Iran’s interpretation right up to the limits of the deal. But the question of how much this matters, if it matters as all, is complicated.

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India’s popular beach destination Goa debates price of tourism

November 27, 2013

The American tourist sipping a frosty beer by an oceanside shack had been in Goa just a few hours before a man sidled up to him and asked whether he wanted to buy drugs.

“I heard the waves, my toes dug into the sand, and my weekend holiday had just begun,” said Pablo Rosa, 48, from Texas. “Even before I got my feet wet in the water, I was offered drugs. That’s how easy and open it is here.”

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Tension increases in Honduras, as election sparks competing claims of victory, fraud

November 27, 2013

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Honduras careened toward a new political crisis Monday, a day after voters in the country turned out in record numbers to elect a new president and Congress.

At a midday news conference, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, the leftist president toppled in a 2009 coup and the husband of presidential candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, told a hotel ballroom full of feverish supporters that their Free Party had rejected the electoral process and would “take to the streets if necessary” to force a ballot-­by-ballot recount.

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The Central African Republic descending into ‘complete chaos’

November 27, 2013

The warnings have become more dire: The Central African Republic “is descending into complete chaos before our eyes,” the U.N. deputy secretary general said this week. France, the country’s former colonial power, pledged Tuesday to send 1,000 troops there after declaring last week that the situation was “on the verge of genocide.”

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Changes to Bangladesh garment industry grind ahead, but slowly

November 26, 2013

Among the more useful things that the international community has done for Bangladesh since a textile factory collapse killed more than 1,100 workers this past spring was to send DNA kits.

They came courtesy of the U.S. government and helped identify dozens of bodies crushed in the collapse of Rana Plaza in April, said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, a research director at the Dhaka-based Center for Policy Dialogue.

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Leakers, privacy activists find new home in Berlin

November 26, 2013

BERLIN — During the Cold War, Berlin was one of the most spy-ridden cities in the world. Now it’s the place where people go to escape government surveillance.

An international cadre of privacy advocates is settling in Germany’s once-divided capital, saying they feel safer here than they do in the United States or Britain, where authorities have vowed to prosecute leakers of official secrets.

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Egyptian police forcibly disperse protesters under new law curtailing demonstrations

November 26, 2013

CAIRO — Egyptian police violently disbanded a small protest mounted by pro-democracy activists in central Cairo on Tuesday night, arresting dozens of well-known rights advocates just two days after the military-appointed interim president signed an acutely restrictive law regulating demonstrations in the turbulent country.

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani delivers optimistic 100-day progress report

November 26, 2013

TEHRAN — One hundred days into his first term as Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani offered an upbeat progress report to the country Tuesday, two days after a nuclear deal with world powers gave his young administration a much-needed boost.

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WorldViews: Oops: WHO says it was wrong about Greeks giving themselves HIV en masse

November 26, 2013

The World Health Organization has just published a doozy of a correction. In a 188-page report published last month on health issues in European countries, the WHO’s European office said something very alarming: large numbers of Greek people were deliberately infecting themselves with HIV to get public benefits worth about $1,000 per month. This was causing HIV rates in Greece to rise “significantly,” it warned, with about half of the new cases being self-inflicted.

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WorldViews: Iranian President Rouhani now has his own ‘Yes, We Can’ music video

November 26, 2013

You remember “Yes, We Can,” the 2008 music video that turned then-candidate Barack Obama’s stump speech into a song. You remember the all-star cast, the black-and-white close-ups, the strumming guitar, the highly earnest and sentimental singing, the millions of YouTube hits.

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WorldViews: Iran’s supreme leader publicly blesses the nuclear deal

November 26, 2013

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the top political authority in Tehran, has sent a public letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praising the interim nuclear agreement that Iran reached in Geneva this weekend with the United States and other world powers. Perhaps just as importantly, the letter also implicitly criticizes Iranian opponents of the deal who’d wanted to get more for Iran. That’s especially important not just for Iran’s willingness to adhere to this temporary, six-month deal but for its willingness to move toward a permanent agreement in the coming months. Here’s the important part, as translated by Al-Monitor’s Arash Karami:

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As Ukraine turns to Russia, Yulia Tymoshenko stays in prison

November 26, 2013

MOSCOW — For many in the United States and Europe, Ukraine’s future had been bound up with the fate of a former prime minister with halo-like braids who was jailed in an act of political retribution.

Freeing Yulia Tymoshenko, according to this view, would affirm Ukraine’s commitment to the rule of law and democracy. Her release, it was said, would demonstrate Ukraine’s fitness to enter an “association agreement” with the European Union and declare itself a Western nation.

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Karzai tells Susan Rice of more demands for accord extending U.S. troop presence

November 25, 2013

KABUL — Efforts by the United States and Afghanistan to finalize a long-term security arrangement appeared on the brink of collapse Monday as Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a new set of demands, and the Obama administration said it would be forced to begin planning for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces at the end of 2014.

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Afghan President outlines plans for extened U.S. mission

November 25, 2013

KABUL – Afghan President Hamad Karzai said Thursday the security agreement with U.S. will permit thousands of American troops to remain in Afghanistan for 10 years, but suggested it could still be months before the partnership is finalized.

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WorldViews: 9 questions about Iran’s nuclear program you were too embarrassed to ask

November 25, 2013

The United States and five other world powers reached a deal with Iran over its controversial nuclear program Sunday. The agreement sets stringent limits on Iran’s nuclear activities; in exchange, the country will get about $6 billion in unfrozen foreign assets and relief from sanctions. Some people think it’s a good deal, some think it’s bad deal but everyone agrees it’s a big deal.

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Iranians see economic promise in nuclear accord

November 25, 2013

TEHRAN — A new sense of economic optimism has reverberated across Iran since the signing over the weekend of an initial deal between Tehran and world powers that is aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

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Pakistan unveils its own military drones, as protests continue against U.S. attacks

November 25, 2013

KABUL — Pakistan’s military unveiled two domestically produced drones Monday, even as the country is facing growing protests over U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil.

After years of preparation, the Strategically Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were formally announced by Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, chief of Pakistan’s military. The drones, called Burraq and Shahpar, will not be armed and are to be used only for surveillance, military officials said.

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Long-delayed Syrian peace talks set for January

November 25, 2013

BEIRUT — A long-planned Syrian peace conference is scheduled to take place in January, the United Nations said Monday, potentially bringing the government of President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents to the negotiating table for the first time since the conflict began in 2011.

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WorldViews: The good, the bad and the ugly of the Iran nuclear deal

November 25, 2013

The United States and five other world powers signed an agreement with Iran over its controversial nuclear program this weekend, a significant step toward resolving this years-long dispute. Iran says it wants to reduce international economic sanctions and, for purposes of its own national dignity, retain a right to a peaceful nuclear program. The U.S. and the five other world powers want to restrict Iran’s ability to ever make a nuclear weapon. Some countries not at the talks Israel and Arab Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia want this too, although they think about it differently.

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After Honduras vote, competing presidential candidates claiming victory

November 25, 2013

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — ­After a day of relatively trouble-free voting in a tight race, Honduras appeared headed for a new political showdown late Sunday, as competing presidential candidates began claiming victory with less than half of the ballots counted.

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Israel, Gulf states and many U.S. lawmakers share deep unease about Iran nuclear deal

November 25, 2013

JERUSALEM — The signing of a short-term nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers on Sunday left ardent critics of the Islamic republic — most vocally the Israeli government and many U.S. lawmakers — deeply worried that the Obama administration and its partners were making a historic mistake.

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Vatican displays bones purportedly belonging to St. Peter, the first pope

November 24, 2013

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Sunday publicly unveiled a handful of bone fragments purportedly belonging to St. Peter, reviving the scientific debate and tantalizing mystery over whether the relics found in a shoe box truly belong to the first pope.

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After Iran nuclear deal, tough challenges ahead

November 24, 2013

GENEVA — The euphoria over the signing of a historic nuclear agreement with Iran gave way to sober reality Sunday as the parties clashed over a key element of the deal and congressional skeptics threatened to thwart it.

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