Israel reopens Jerusalem holy site amid rising tensions after activist shot

October 31, 2014

JERUSALEM — Israel partially reopened one of Islam’s holiest sites Friday amid soaring tensions that had Israeli security forces on high alert and the Palestinian president calling for a “day of rage.”

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WorldViews: Why Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream is leaving the West Bank

October 31, 2014

Sodastream, an Israeli company that has won international recognition for its carbonated drink machines, announced this week that it plans to relocate its operations next year to a factory in southern Israel and away from its current facility in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

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WorldViews: How Canada faked its place in space

October 31, 2014

The picture above shows a spacewalk during the space shuttle mission STS-114 in 2005. The astronaut in the picture is Stephen Robinson, an American, but the giant robot arm to his left is Canadian: It’s the “Canadarm1,” a high-tech robotic arm.

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WorldViews: Uruguay election leaves pot plan a little foggier

October 31, 2014

Uruguay, budding world capital of experimental marijuana legislation, is proving that legalized pot may indeed be a gateway drug to something more powerful: voter backlash.

Last year, the South American nation (population 3.5 million) blazed a bold regulatory path when lawmakers approved the production and sale of cannabis through an elaborate state-run system to supervise users’ monthly intake. No country had ever gone so far.

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WorldViews: Hong Kong politician likens protesters to American slaves

October 31, 2014

A leading Hong Kong businesswoman and member of the city’s Executive Council, which deliberates policy, compared the struggle of pro-democracy protesters to that of slaves in the American South in the 19th century. The remarks, which ran in a local English-language daily, have triggered an angry response from many in the Chinese territory.

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WorldViews: How pranks, assaults and social media led a French town to ban clowns for Halloween

October 31, 2014

Clowns are a perennial Halloween costume: Not particularly zeitgeisty or inspired, but timelessly creepy and easy to recognize.

This Halloween, however, one town in France has other ideas. In a decree issued Oct. 28, just days before the big day, Pierre Dudieuzere, mayor of Vendargues, a small town near Montpellier, banned all clown costumes for anyone over 13 on Halloween and for a month afterward. The decree makes clear that the ban is “absolute” on the eve of Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, and that anyone violating it would be arrested and prosecuted.

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WorldViews: Letter to Obama: Don’t be fooled if Beijing’s skies are blue

October 31, 2014

When President Obama arrives in Beijing in November for an important Asia-Pacific summit, he shouldn’t be surprised if the skies are a brilliant blue.

The Chinese government is mounting a concerted campaign to make sure the capital’s infamous smog is under control when Obama and regional heads of state arrive for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. It is an operation similar in scale to that mounted for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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WorldViews: Crossword: What in the world, this week

October 31, 2014

We hope you’ve been following the news this week, because it’s time for our weekly quiz.

The clock starts when you click the “START” button. The target time to complete this puzzle is 15 minutes. To see how scoring works, read this post.

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WorldViews: Happy Halloween! Here are 7 spooky images from the Middle Ages

October 31, 2014

There are times when Halloween seems very much a modern fad, what with the profusion of industrially-produced candy and the annual emergence of terrible costume ideas riffing off current events. But what frightens us is largely the same as what spooked peoples centuries before. With the help of the British Library, WorldViews offers a few examples of scary motifs meant to inspire fear in a faraway time.

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WorldViews: Burkina Faso’s long-serving leader resigns — and why it matters

October 31, 2014

The current crisis in Burkina Faso largely comes down to one fact: Blaise Compaoré, the president of the landlocked West African state, came to power in a 1987 coup d’etat, and – despite a 2000 constitutional amendment that limits presidents to two five-year terms – had led the country ever since.

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WorldViews: The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, but Germany is still divided

October 31, 2014

It can be hard for visitors to Berlin to imagine where the Berlin Wall once separated Germany’s communist East from the U.S.-friendly West. Today, commuters run to catch a metro where trains stood for nearly 30 years. Curried sausages are sold and illegal (but popular) parties are celebrated in empty warehouses just feet from where East Germans were shot by their own countrymen as they tried to cross the border to the west.

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An Indian courthouse investigates reports of unusual suspects: Ghosts

October 31, 2014

Over the past year, some unusual events have occurred at a courthouse in eastern New Delhi. Books have disappeared, strange noises have been heard. Computers and lights have seemed to switch on by themselves.

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WorldViews: North Korea’s reaction to Ebola makes fears of a zombie apocalypse look rational

October 31, 2014

Turns out North Korea wasn’t kidding about protecting itself from Ebola. Kim Jong Un’s regime is not taking any chances when it comes to keeping out the virus — despite the fact that it’s happening half a world away and that North Korea is the most closed state in the world.

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Ukraine, Russia sign deal to end natural gas cut-off ahead of winter

October 31, 2014

MOSCOW — Russia agreed Thursday to resume selling natural gas to Ukraine, ending a cutoff that had threatened to leave Ukrainian households shivering as winter approached.

The stopgap deal will secure critical energy supplies for Ukraine through March and will also help assure European countries that their own natural gas supply will not be disrupted during chilly winter months. Russia cut off gas to Ukraine in June, following a price dispute and months of geopolitical turmoil.

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WorldViews: Chart: Asia is the most optimistic part of the world

October 30, 2014

The chart above, part of a slew of new data released by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, reflects one of the results of a survey regarding the population moods in a range of countries around the world. Populations in developing countries in Asia and Africa are far more optimistic about their future than their Middle East equivalents.

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Syrian regime denounces Turkey for allowing foreign fighters to enter Kobane

October 30, 2014

ISTANBUL — Ten Iraqi Kurdish fighters crossed into the embattled Syrian border town of Kobane from Turkey on Thursday, drawing an angry response from the Damascus government, which accused Ankara of violating national sovereignty by allowing foreign troops to enter Syria.

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Israel blocks Jerusalem holy site amid rising tensions after activist shot

October 30, 2014

JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces temporarily sealed off one of Islam’s holiest sites Thursday in a rare move that reflected soaring tensions after a suspected Palestinian gunman tried to assassinate an ­American-Israeli activist who advocates greater Jewish access to the contested religious ground.

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WorldViews: Russia warns citizens not to travel abroad because of Ebola

October 30, 2014

Fears about the spread of Ebola have driven many countries to restrict incoming travelers from abroad. In Russia, those same fears are being given as an official reason why Russians shouldn’t leave home.

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Airstrikes against Islamic State do not seen to have affected flow of fighters to Syria

October 30, 2014

More than 1,000 foreign fighters are streaming into Syria each month, a rate that has so far been unchanged by airstrikes against the Islamic State and efforts by other countries to stem the flow of departures, according to U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

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WorldViews: The White House would be a tiny wing of Turkey’s new presidential palace

October 30, 2014

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week unveiled his new palace in the outskirts of the country’s capital, Ankara. The gaudy residence boasts 1,000 rooms and apparently cost some $350 million to construct. Its total area, according to the AFP, encompasses some  2,150,000 square feet. Unsurprisingly, such largesse has led to criticism.

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Looters raid Jordanian crypts in search of gold, jewels and artifacts

October 30, 2014

The tomb-raiders no longer even wait for night to fall before they loot the ancient crypts.

In recent weeks, grave-robbers here dug into 2,000-year-old tombs right in front of a house rented by archaeologists. Dozens of shallow pits now mark the spot. The field is littered with cracked, carved stones that once covered the dead.

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WorldViews: Charting the murky leadership structure of the Islamic State

October 30, 2014

While it’s tempting to imagine them as a disorganized horde, the reality of the Islamic State — the extremist Islamist group who have taken over vast swathes of Syria and Iraq — is that the sheer scale of their military operations, not to mention their Caliphate ambitions, are not possible without some kind of organized leadership structure.

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WorldViews: Israeli politician wants to silence the Muslim call to prayer

October 30, 2014

A right-wing Israeli member of parliament has proposed legislation that would ban the Muslim call to prayer in Israel, where 20 percent of the population is Arab (the majority of whom are Muslim). Robert Ilatov, a MP from the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, argued for restricting the ability of mosques to project the ‘Adhan,” or call to prayer, which are sung out usually by a local muezzin five times a day.

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Family of jailed Washington Post journalist, held for 100 days, asks Iran to free him

October 30, 2014

The family of a Washington Post reporter held without charge in Iran for more than three months called Wednesday on the authorities in Tehran to free him.

An open letter signed by Jason Rezaian’s brother, Ali, and his mother, Mary Breme Rezaian, was released 100 days after Rezaian was arrested under still-vague circumstances, along with his wife and another couple. Rezaian’s family said he is being held in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison, which houses common criminals as well as dissidents, intellectuals and journalists.

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For Turkey and U.S., at odds over Syria, a 60-year alliance shows signs of crumbling

October 29, 2014

ANKARA, Turkey — The increasingly hostile divergence of views between Turkey and the United States over Syria is testing the durability of their 60-year alliance, to the point where some are starting to question whether the two countries still can be considered allies at all.

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For Kurds in Kobane, a long-awaited boost as reinforcements begin arriving via Turkey

October 29, 2014

ISTANBUL — A small group of Free Syrian Army fighters moved across the Turkish border Wednesday into the embattled Syrian town of Kobane to reinforce a Kurdish militia struggling against an Islamic State offensive, ahead of an expected convoy of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga­ forces.

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Michael Sata, Zambian president, dies at 77

October 29, 2014

Zambian President Michael Sata, once dubbed “Mr. King Cobra” for his sharp-tongued remarks, died Oct. 28 at a London hospital, the Zambian government said. He was 77.

The cause was not reported. Mr. Sata had traveled to London for medical treatment earlier this month.

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Unnamed U.S. official’s slur about Israeli leader shows acrimony of relationship

October 29, 2014

The sometimes acrimonious relationship between the Obama administration and the current Israeli government burst into public view on Wednesday when an anonymous U.S. official was quoted using a barnyard epithet to describe Israel’s leader.

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NATO says Russian jets, bombers circle Europe in unusual incidents

October 29, 2014

MOSCOW — NATO said Wednesday that it had intercepted a large number of Russian aircraft flying close to European airspace in the past two days, in an “unusual” series of incidents that brought Russian bombers as far afield as Portugal.

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WorldViews: Zambia’s new president may be white, but that’s not what makes him interesting

October 29, 2014

On Tuesday, Guy Scott was the vice president of Zambia. Now, he’s being hailed by many in the international press as the first white leader of a sub-Saharan African country since the fall of apartheid two decades ago (that’s not quite accurate).

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Islamic State publicly kills at least 46 Sunni opponents in captured Iraqi city

October 29, 2014

BAGHDAD — Islamic State gunmen on Wednesday publicly killed dozens of men belonging to a resistant Sunni tribe, witnesses said, in another chilling message to authorities seeking to galvanize opposition to the militants.

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WorldViews: How Israelis responded when a White House official called their prime minister a ‘chickens——t’

October 29, 2014

One way or another, Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in the Atlantic on the strained relations between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government was always going to be a big deal.

However, there was one key quote in it that seems to have captured everyone’s imagination: “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickens–t.”

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WorldViews: Colombia peace talks enter ‘toad swallowing’ phase

October 29, 2014

With every incremental advance in the peace negotiations between Colombian government negotiators and FARC rebel commanders, President Juan Manuel Santos faces an increasingly unpalatable spectacle — the Bogota equivalent of the “Satan sandwich.”

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WorldViews: A tax on the Internet seems like a crazy idea, but it fits right in for Viktor Orbán’s Hungary

October 29, 2014

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It seems like they thought no-one would notice. Tucked into Hungary’s 2015 budget was a tax that would force Internet service providers to pay 150 forints ($0.62) per gigabyte of data downloaded or uploaded by users. It would be, quite simply, the world’s first tax on the Internet.

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World: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting – The Washington Post 2014-10-29 09:01:44

October 29, 2014

Kurdish militiamen from Iraq arrived in Turkey early Wednesday to join fellow Kurds in their battle against Islamic State jihadists in the embattled Syrian border town of Kobane, news agencies reported.

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WorldViews: 7 countries where Americans can study at universities, in English, for free (or almost free)

October 29, 2014

Since 1985, U.S. college costs have surged by about 500 percent, and tuition fees keep rising. In Germany, they’ve done the opposite.

The country’s universities have been tuition-free since the beginning of October, when Lower Saxony became the last state to scrap the fees. Tuition rates were always low in Germany, but now the German government fully funds the education of its citizens — and even of foreigners.

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WorldViews: Donetsk airport: From a shiny testament of hope to a burned-out hulk

October 29, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — Just months ago, Donetsk’s airport was a gleaming testament to Ukraine’s hopeful future. Now it is a dystopian burned-out hulk where intense fighting continues despite a nearly eight-week-old cease-fire.

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Iraq’s victory over militants in Sunni town underlines challenges government faces

October 29, 2014

JURF AL-SAKHAR, Iraq — Iraq renamed this town on the banks of the Euphrates this week to reflect the triumph of its security forces here against Islamic State militants, who were driven out last week. Jurf al-Sakhar, or “rocky bank,” became Jurf al-Nasr, or “victory bank.”

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Tunisia, after igniting Arab Spring, sends the most fighters to Islamic State in Syria

October 28, 2014

TUNIS — Tunisian pastry chef Slim Gasmi died on a Syrian battlefield and was lionized with a hashtag: #martyrdomofabuqatada.

Gasmi, 28, had been trying to build a life for himself and his new fiancee in a working-class Tunis neighborhood, but a radical Islamist roommate persuaded him to travel to Syria to fight in that country’s civil war. By the time he was killed in April more than 1,500 miles from home, he had transformed into a warrior with a long beard and a nom de guerre, Abu Qatada, celebrated on a radical jihadist Twitter feed.

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Iraqi Kurds gather forces to aid embattled Syrian town fighting Islamic State

October 28, 2014

Kurdish militiamen from Iraq took their first steps Tuesday to enter the battle against the Islamic State in Syria, news agencies reported, in a mission that underscored the regional political tensions complicating the U.S.-led alliance confronting the militants.

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WorldViews: Watch: Canadians stand up to an ‘anti-Muslim bigot’

October 28, 2014

There’s a long tradition of activist videos where filmmakers attempt to expose the hidden prejudices of their societies through secretly-staged scenes in public. These often yield depressing, unsavory results.

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WorldViews: The quiet, controversial partnership between the Israeli and Palestinian police chiefs

October 28, 2014

RAMALLAH, West Bank — When Palestinian police discovered a torched car with Israeli license plates near the West Bank city of Hebron this summer, they immediately suspected foul play. It was only later that afternoon, however, that they learned that the abandoned vehicle was the first piece of evidence in the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the area, according to Maj. Gen. Hazim Attallah, the Palestinian police chief.

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U.N. human rights report says it’s time to hold North Korea to account — in court

October 28, 2014

TOKYO — The United Nations’ point man on North Korea’s ­human rights violations called Tuesday for Pyongyang to be referred to the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, saying it is time to take actions against the regime “to a new level.”

The damning report from ­Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations’ special rapporteur dealing with North Korea, comes six months after a U.N. commission of inquiry released a 372-page report detailing brainwashing, torture, starvation and imprisonment for “crimes” such as questioning the system or trying to escape it, or secret Christianity.

That report contained a litany of human rights abuses and seems …

WorldViews: Iran and China deepen a ‘blue water’ friendship

October 28, 2014

Last month, visitors to Bandar Abbas on Iran’s southern coast gathered to witness a never-seen-before event: two Chinese warships pulling into port.

It could be just the start of a budding naval alliance stretching from the Pacific to the Persian Gulf.

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WorldViews: Pope Francis says evolution is real and God is no wizard

October 28, 2014

Delivering an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis continued his habit of making provocative, seemingly progressive statements. The pontiff appeared to endorse the theory of the Big Bang and told the gathering at the Vatican that there was no contradiction between believing in God as well as the prevailing scientific theories regarding the expansion of our universe.

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WorldViews: Why Britain won’t save drowning migrants in the Mediterranean

October 28, 2014

On Tuesday, the British Foreign Office announced that it would not support any future search-and-rescue operations aimed at preventing migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. It was only confirmation of what was already known: The British government had quietly spelled out its position on Oct. 15, when Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay took questions in the House of Lords.

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WorldViews: Map: How your country treats women

October 28, 2014

The World Economic Forum’s annual report on the global gender gap contains some predictable data. Nordic countries blessed with robust social democracies make up the top five places in the rankings, beginning with tiny Iceland. The bottom five countries — Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria and Mali — are racked with political instability and conflict and are home to large rural populations within which traditional mores hold sway.

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WorldViews: Why a protester wore a Ku Klux Klan outfit to Australia’s parliament

October 28, 2014

Wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe, a niqab and a helmet, three protesters tried to enter the Australian Parliament House on Monday. Their attention-grabbing plan was meant as criticism of the recent revocation of a partial burqa ban in Australia’s legislature.

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WorldViews: Photos: Inside a Liberian slum fighting the Ebola epidemic

October 28, 2014

In one of Liberia’s largest slums, containing Ebola is an almost impossible task — everything in this mile-long peninsula is shared — from food, to mattresses to toilets. It is a city where thermometers, let alone proper treatment, is hard to come by.

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Lebanon’s once-mighty Hezbollah is facing attacks in Syria — and also at home

October 28, 2014

BEIRUT — Hezbollah has won grudging respect, even from some foes, for its tenacious guerrilla campaigns against Israel. But now Lebanon’s most powerful military organization is losing its aura of invincibility.

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