With Zimbabwe's presidential election set to get underway on Wednesday, speculation is building about whether the country's long-suffering opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, will finally have its day.
In the absence of rigorous opinion polls, Reuters notes, the election result appears to depend "on whether [President Robert] Mugabe's control of the state media and security forces, the loyalty of independence war veterans and rural voters, and alleged irregularities with the voters' register, are enough to secure Africa's oldest leader another five years in power." Why, you might ask, would anyone want to vote for the 89-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for the past three decades?
As the campaign has kicked into high gear in recent weeks, Team ZANU-PF, an organization claiming to be the official social media arm for Mugabe's campaign, has been offering some answers in the form of a series of biting and, at times, utterly bizarre ads posted to YouTube. ("Our internal polling analysis points to a landslide victory for President Mugabe," the group boasted on Facebook on Tuesday. "Victory is certain.") Without further ado, here, according to Team ZANU-PF, are some types of voters who might choose Mugabe over Tsvangirai.
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When economists and business leaders talk about barriers to trade, they are normally referring to red tape like tariffs, regulations, and import quotas that makes doing international business frustrating and more expensive. But sometimes barriers to trade are literal -- and have a profound effect on the economies in question.
As the World Bank noted late last week, amid renewed buzz about Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, it recently set out to put some hard numbers to the effect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on labor and trade in the West Bank. After the first Intifada broke out in 1987, the Israelis constructed a series of checkpoints in the territory in an effort to promote security. They then scaled them down in the 1990s, only to ramp up their use once again following the second intifada in 2000 and the construction of the West Bank separation barrier in 2002, with the number of checkpoints peaking in 2008.
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This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin made waves in the United States by offering NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum and ragging on the Obama administration for its out-of-control surveillance programs. But today he's gotten our attention for an entirely different reason: speaking English.
In a video posted on the Kremlin's website on Wednesday, Putin makes an English-language appeal to the General Assembly of the International Exhibitions Bureau to let Russia host the 2020 World Expo, which he characterizes as a high-priority national project. He makes it very clear that Russia will fulfill all the requirements for hosting the event.
You can watch the clip in full below:
While the Russian leader doesn't speak English often, this admittedly isn't the first time he's shown off his language skills. In 2010, for instance, he spoke at the Judo Championships in Vienna. To be honest, I think he did a lot better then (perhaps his love of judo scared off stage fright).
He also spoke to CNN in 2008:
And who could forget his classic performance of "Blueberry Hill":
In comparison, Putin's appeal this week doesn't seem all that dramatic. Where was the piano?
(h/t: Miriam Elder)
Nelson Mandela is back in the news this week with the announcement that he's once again in the hospital and in fragile condition. And while the legacy of the former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary leader is open to debate, there's no denying that he's often turned to as a source of inspiration. Apparently, that even applies to the Democratic Republic of the Congo's M23 rebel militia.
On Monday, a Twitter account that appears to be run by members of the rebel movement published a series of tweets quoting Mandela and hailing freedom and peacemaking -- not exactly what you'd expect from an armed group that has used violence to battle the Congolese government since 2012.
“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting themost nimble go out ahead, ~ Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
“Courage is not the absence of fear — it s inspiring others to move beyond it.”?Nelson Mandela
“As I walkd out Z door toward Zgate Zat wld lead2my freedom,I knew if I didn't leav my bitterness&hatred behind,I'd stillBin prison~ Mandela
Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” ~ Nelson Mandela
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” ~ Nelson #Mandela
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to hishead.If u talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.~Mandela
“There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”~Nelson Mandela
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”~ Nelson Mandela#M23
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” ~Mandela #M23
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” ~ Nelson Mandela #m23
Not surprisingly, the rebel army's decision to invoke one of the world's greatest peacemakers has ruffled a few feathers.
#Protip: if you carry out human rights abuses, you don't get to quote Mandela as your inspiration.— Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) June 10, 2013
So what explains M23's love of Mandela? It's not entirely clear, but M23 members have argued that they have Madiba's principles on their side in their struggle with the Congolese government. "I appeal to our brothers, the South Africans, not to allow an individual or a group of individuals to discard the values that have built their nation and for which values Nelson Mandela sacrificed his youth," declared M23 youth leader Ali Musagara last month, in urging South Africa not to support Kinshasa.
And hey, given that M23 leaders are currently trying to hash out peace talks with the Congolese government, maybe they actually are inspired. The group has already suggested that just like Mandela, who was once labeled a terrorist, M23 may one day be known for brokering peace, not waging war.
ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan hasn't exactly been conciliatory toward protesters over the past week, condemning "extremists" and "bandits" for trying to destabilize the country. He also strongly objects to Twitter, which he has accused of being the "worst menace to society."
Menace or not, Erdogan's reference to protesters as "capulcu" (looters) has taken Twitter by storm. Turkish social media users have anglicized the word to "chapul" -- and they're bearing it proudly.
According to one Urban Dictionary definition, chapul is a verb that signifies "resistance to force" -- to "demand justice" and "seek one's right."
To use the word in a sentence you could say one of the following:
Even Noam Chomsky has gotten in on the action:
It'll be hard, though, for activists to top this:
For more fun with the Turkish protests, be sure to check out Andy Carvin's collection of humorous political art.
Twitter User @BBabayev
On Thursday, Gawker's John Cook announced that the news site's Indiegogo campaign to buy a video allegedly showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack could be in trouble. Raising the necessary $200,000 isn't the problem -- with four days to go, Gawker has already received more than $160,000 in pledges. The problem is that the owners of the footage have gone silent, perhaps in light of the intense media scrutiny the story has generated. "Our confidence that we can get a deal done has ... dimished," Cook wrote.
But that might not be the only snag awaiting the campaign. Canada's National Post has put forward another theory: If Gawker purchases the video from people involved in Toronto's drug trade, the payment could attract the attention of U.S. and Canadian regulatory agencies -- and be seized on the suspicion that it is helping the video's owners "profit from criminal activity."
The article goes on to explain how the case would boil down to whether the person who recorded the alleged footage was simply present at the scene and whipped out a camera, or involved in illicit activities:
[A]n electronic transaction that large between Canada and the United States will likely get flagged to both countries' financial regulatory bodies, said Christine Duhaime, a B.C. lawyer with a specialized anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing practice.
Electronic cross-border transactions over $10,000 must be declared, she said.
"Anyone is going to be concerned at any regulatory agency and any police force is going to be concerned with a company coming out and saying they're raising money to buy something from a drug dealer.... There are going to be some red flags. I don't really know how much this is going to be monitored, other than the fact that somebody is going to monitor the payment from Gawker fairly closely, because people have come out and said it is drug dealers [involved]."
The purchase of the video itself isn't illegal, but if the recipient - the details of which must be known for wire transfers and other electronic transactions - is a known criminal and shows up on a list of suspects or suspicious individuals, it will be reported to FINTRAC in Canada or FINCEN in the U.S., she said.
"Assuming it's a legitimate video and it's legally taken, that's not a problem," she said. "Except that it's going to a known drug dealer. Paying to a known drug dealer for a legitimate sale is problematic in and of itself, because the vendor [is] of questionable character and there are questionable activities."
Just one more wrinkle in an incredibly convoluted story.
Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
On Friday, chaotic clashes broke out in Georgia as an angry mob -- comprised mainly of young men but also including robed priests and some women -- descended on a gay rights rally commemorating International Day Against Homophobia. A day earlier, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church had demanded that authorities stop the rally, calling it a "violation of the majority's right."
According to EurasiaNet, the mob, which numbered in the thousands, shouted violent slogans while chasing activists away from downtown Tbilisi. Clamors of "Kill them! Tear them to pieces!" and "Where are they? Don't leave them alive!" rang out as police herded activists into municipal buses and away from the area. As the activists left, protesters pelted the buses with stones and overpowered policemen trying to contain the scene. Seventeen people have reportedly been injured in the violence.
The video footage is quite dramatic:
Members of the Georgian government have spoken out against the attacks. UNM parliamentarian Gigi Tsereteli dismissed today's events as "anarchy" and added that "this is not the state we were building," while Justice Minister Tea Tsulukuani affirmed that "both groups have the right to hold peaceful rallies. Violence is unacceptable." While many have condemned the violence, comments later came from several ruling Georgia Dream party members that criticized the LGBT activists for raising tensions.
On May 15, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili declared that sexual minorities "have the same rights as any other social groups" in Georgia and that society will "gradually get used to it." Judging from today's episode, Georgian society still has a ways to go.
(H/T: Arianne Swieca)
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In the latest example of crisis-mapping during natural disasters, the World Food Program's GIS Coordinator, Fabrice Recalt, has charted out the trajectory and intensity of Cyclone Mahasen and also made a map of available storm shelters, with detailed information on their facilities and potential vulnerability to the storm (everything from number of toilets to available water supply to date of construction).
The "digital humanitarian response" trend of compiling such crucial information has been extremely important in past disasters such as Typhoon Pablo in the Philippines, when geotagged tweets referencing previously publicized disaster hashtags (as in #PabloPH) were mapped out and provided to disaster response teams. The United Nations has embraced crisis-mapping as well.
Cyclone Mahasen, which hit Bangladesh on Thursday and threatens more than 8 million people, including displaced Rohingya Muslims in Burma, has so far mainly affected residents of fishing villages, who may not have benefitted much from Recalt's map. The category 1 cyclone has reportedly killed at least 12 people so far, making the storm much less serious than Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which left more than 130,000 people dead, and it is expected to dissipate within the next 24 hours. But had the storm been more serious, initiatives like Recalt's may have helped save lives.
(h/t Mari Ramos)
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