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Broken Healthcare

Obamacare Typo Costs Vegas Family $1.2 Million

August 9th 2014

File folders

Mixups on a health plan bought through the state’s insurance exchange have left a Las Vegas family facing more than $1 million in medical bills.

For Kynell and Amber Smith and their five children, the Nevada Health Link has been a six-month nightmare with no end in sight.

“I have spent countless hours on the phone trying to get this resolved,” said Kynell Smith, an aircraft parts salesman. “I have contacted and pleaded with elected officials to help and was told I may have to sue to get this resolved. What kind of answer is that?”

The family’s troubles began in February, when Amber Smith delivered daughter Kinsley five weeks prematurely. Kinsley spent 10 days in Summerlin Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, and Amber’s 40-day hospital stay included two surgeries. Read more ..


Iraq on Edge

Contemplating a U.S. Humanitarian Intervention in Iraq

August 8th 2014

Yazidi refugees bury their children

The United States is currently considering whether to intervene unilaterally to protect and succor roughly 40,000 Iraqi refugees trapped on Sinjar Mountain. According to various accounts, most of the refugees are Yazidis — ethnic Kurds whose religion is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism, the religion of pre-Islamic Persia (Iran) and one of the world's first monotheistic faiths. There are also said to be many other ethnic and sectarian minorities, including Iraqi Christians, all of whom have fled recent advances by the group known as ISIS or the Islamic State, which considers all of them to be apostates, infidels and even heretics.

Elsewhere in Iraq, ISIS has reportedly slaughtered men, women and even children whom they branded with those names. Moreover, U.S. government officials and various Iraqi sources believe that the refugees are in danger of dying from thirst, starvation, disease and/or exposure as they have too little food, water, medical supplies and shelter. According to the press accounts, the White House is weighing air drops of food and other humanitarian supplies, and even direct air strikes against ISIS fighters, convoys and staging bases threatening these refugees. Rather than ask why the United States should conduct such an intervention, I find myself asking why on earth shouldn't we? Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russian Foodies React To Import Ban With Patriotism, Some Gloom

August 7th 2014

Food cooperative fruit

Moscow's upmarket food shoppers are reacting variously with patriotic approval and gloomy resignation at the prospect of going without some of their favorite foreign foods for a year.

The Russian government on August 7 approved a lengthy shopping list of foods and produce that cannot be imported from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia for its interference in Ukraine.

The one-year embargo, decreed by President Vladimir Putin, affects produce, meat, and dairy imports from the United States, the European Union, Australia, and Norway.

Despite assurances from Putin that the tit-for-tat sanctions would be designed to have minimum impact on Russian citizens, his move was immediately assailed online by gourmet sophisticates of Russia's urban middle class who have grown fond of food imports. But the reaction from shoppers at luxury supermarkets such as Moscow's "Azbuka Vkusa" were mixed.  Read more ..


Destination Tunisia

Mysterious Lake Pops Up Overnight In Tunisia

August 6th 2014

Tunisia Mystery Lake

Tunisia offers other-worldly landscapes, fantastical and mysterious. Did you know that four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in the southern part of the country? (Tunisia had a starring role as the planet Tatooine). Now, adding to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert, the tiny republic has another tourist attraction – a newborn lake.

Discovered by shepherds just last month in the middle of Tunisian desert,  there has been no official explanation for its sudden appearance. Some geologists have proposed that seismic activity may have disrupted the natural water table, pushing water from underground aquifers to the surface.  Others disagree.

- See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/08/mysterious-possibly-radioactive-lake-appears-out-of-the-blue-in-tunisia/#sthash.MNG6Wwdg.dpuf

Tunisia offers other-worldly landscapes, fantastical and mysterious. Did you know that four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in the southern part of the country? (Tunisia had a starring role as the planet Tatooine). Now, adding to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert, the tiny republic has another tourist attraction – a newborn lake.

Discovered by shepherds just last month in the middle of Tunisian desert,  there has been no official explanation for its sudden appearance. Some geologists have proposed that seismic activity may have disrupted the natural water table, pushing water from underground aquifers to the surface.  Others disagree.

- See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/08/mysterious-possibly-radioactive-lake-appears-out-of-the-blue-in-tunisia/#sthash.MNG6Wwdg.dpuf

Tunisia offers other-worldly landscapes, fantastical and mysterious. Did you know that four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in the southern part of the country? (Tunisia had a starring role as the planet Tatooine). Now, adding to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert, the tiny republic has another tourist attraction – a newborn lake. Discovered by shepherds just last month in the middle of Tunisian desert,  there has been no official explanation for its sudden appearance. Some geologists have proposed that seismic activity may have disrupted the natural water table, pushing water from underground aquifers to the surface.  Others disagree.

Authorities have calculated that the lake area exceeds one hectare, with depths ranging from 10 to 18 meters; that indicates a total water volume of one million cubic meters – liquid gold for the drought-ridden country.

Locally dubbed “Lac de Gafsa”, so far more than 600 people have traveled to the pool and a makeshift beach has grown along its shoreline.  Authorities have warned that the water, which began as a transparent turquoise until rapidly blooming algae turned it murky green, could be radioactive. That hasn’t deterred visitors who buck the 40°C  heat by swimming, diving, and floating atop inflatable rafts.

- See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/08/mysterious-possibly-radioactive-lake-appears-out-of-the-blue-in-tunisia/#sthash.MNG6Wwdg.dpuf

Authorities have calculated that the lake area exceeds one hectare, with depths ranging from 10 to 18 meters; that indicates a total water volume of one million cubic meters – liquid gold for the drought-ridden country. Locally dubbed “Lac de Gafsa”, so far more than 600 people have traveled to the pool and a makeshift beach has grown along its shoreline. Read more ..


Islam on Edge

'Anti-Sunni' Satellite Channels Under Fire In Iran

August 5th 2014

Koran and prayer beads

Shi'ite satellite television networks in Iran have come under fire for alleged anti-Sunni programming.

Iran's Intelligence Ministry said in an August 4 statement that a number of people working for local and foreign-based Shi'ite satellite channels were arrested during recent raids on "illegal offices" in the provinces of Qom, Tehran, Isfahan, and Khorasan.

The arrest warrants were issued by the country's judiciary, according to Iranian media reports. The offices of an unspecified number of satellite channels were closed, according to the ministry, on the basis that they were involved in "clandestine and illegal" activities, "creating sectarian rifts," and "intensifying division in the Islamic world to damage the image of Shi'ism."

It was unclear where the foreign-based channels had been broadcasting from and what content they had been airing. In May, Iran's Culture Ministry said the activities of such satellite channels were illegal and warned they could be prosecuted. Several of the channels are known to have the support of hard-line Shi'ite clerics in the holy city of Qom. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Astronomers Get a Clearer Look at Supermassive Black Holes at Galactic Centers

August 4th 2014

Gamma Ray Burst

Many of the astronomers and physicists invited to the meeting feared for their safety. Others felt that the event should be cancelled outright. To hold a conference in Dallas, Texas, only weeks after US President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated there — it just seemed disrespectful.

In the end, the first Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics went ahead as scheduled, starting on 16 December 1963, and most of the invited scientists did go — after the mayor of Dallas sent them a telegram urging their attendance. But the shadow cast by Kennedy’s death added to the already surreal mood as they grappled with a phenomenon that seemed unfathomable. That year, observers had discovered that a collection of mysterious ‘quasi-stellar’ objects, dubbed quasars, were not just oddball versions of ordinary stars. They were cosmically distant, glowing with radiation that had travelled for billions of years to reach Earth. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Supplying The Front Lines In Eastern Ukraine

August 3rd 2014

Pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine

As the deadly fighting continues to rage in eastern Ukraine, activists on both sides of the conflict are stepping up efforts to funnel equipment, basic necessities, and even fighters to the front lines.

In Ukraine, dozens of groups have sprung up to support the country's cash-strapped army in its bid to stamp out pro-Russian separatist from the eastern regions.

Activists have been raising money for the army and the National Guard, a force composed of reservists and volunteers, and delivering supplies to troops, often risking their own lives in the process. With the rebels appearing to wield increasingly advanced military technology, the needs of the Ukrainian Army are rapidly evolving.

"The nature of the fighting has changed," says Yuriy Kasyanov, a coordinator for the volunteer group Army SOS. "At the beginning we needed the most basic supplies, such as bulletproof vest, helmets, or drinking water, but we are overcoming these shortages. What we need now is high-tech equipment: night-vision devices, drones, secure radio systems, radio transmitters, all-terrain vehicles, and stuff like that." Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Ukraine Struggles To Find Strategy For Getting Back Crimea

August 2nd 2014

Protest in Ukraine

Although the raging fighting and heated rhetoric in eastern Ukraine still command the headlines, the dispute between Kyiv and Moscow over Crimea simmers on and seems as intractable as ever.

Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula in March, a move that Ukraine and most of the rest of the world have refused to acknowledge.

Speaking on Ukrainian television on August 1, President Petro Poroshenko said his country "will not give up Crimea."

"Ukraine will use all methods that are at its disposal to defend its national interests," he said, announcing his order that the Justice Ministry pursue all legal avenues.

Poroshenko's deputy chief of staff, Valeriy Chaliy, repeated the position the same day, saying there is "no chance" Kyiv will ever recognize the "occupation of Crimea." "Crimea was, is, and always will be part of Ukraine," he said.  Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Ebola Outbreak “Worsening” in West Africa

August 1st 2014

child being vaccinated

The Ebola outbreak continues to roil West Africa, with the World Health Organization announcing Thursday that the death toll has climbed to 729 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. More than 1,300 people are infected.
 
To help limit the spread of the disease the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the agency is now “surging” its response. Thursday afternoon the agency issued a new level 3 travel warning for the affected countries—asking Americans to halt nonessential travel to those locations and unveiling plans to send 50 additional CDC staff to the affected areas. Once there, CDC workers will help to ramp up airport screenings to ensure that sick people do not leave the country, augment laboratory testing for Ebola and help local health personnel to track individuals who may have been exposed to sick persons. (There is little risk of transmitting Ebola before a person becomes symptomatic, and even then transmission occurs through exposure to bodily liquids, not via the air or water). “The bottom line is that Ebola is worsening in western Africa,” CDC director Tom Frieden told reporters on Thursday. When it comes to controlling this outbreak, “It’s not going to be quick. It’s not going to be easy, but we know what to do,” he says.

Yet containing this outbreak remains a complex undertaking that requires following every potentially exposed individual and isolating them if they become symptomatic—a significant challenge in any location but more so when there are limited health personnel and health infrastructure systems in place. Read more ..


China Rising

What Can China Learn from World War I

July 31st 2014

Soldiers

The centennial of World War I is being commemorated this month, however this was not a major event in China’s history. In fact, other than a little known battle in which a combined Japanese-British force conquered a German garrison in Qingdao in Shandong Province, the war was fought far away, and most Chinese were barely aware of it. But one hundred years later some lessons of the 51-month war, one of the longest and deadliest in human history, carry great importance for China’s future as it becomes a global power.

First, the war taught us that contrary to common belief globalization and economic interdependency are not guarantors of peace and stability. During the pre-war years the world experienced the biggest wave of globalization with an unprecedented flow of goods, capital, information and workers, enabled by secure sea lanes, telegraphs and free trade policies. Just like today, economic integration was viewed as a cementing force in world politics and an antidote to international conflict. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

MK to European Envoys: "The Day Islamic Terror Will Reach Your Homes is Near"

July 29th 2014

Western/Wailing Wall

The Danish, Swedish and Dutch ambassadors to Israel, as well as officials from the embassies of Britain, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Austria and Germany took part on Monday (Jul. 28) in an urgent meeting of the Knesset Immigration,
Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee on the situation of Jewish
communities in Europe.

MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), a former deputy director of the Shin Bet internalsecurity service, told the ambassadors: "NATO bombed 5,000 civilians in Kosovo just because it was insulted; 27,000 Iraqi civilians were bombedduring the American invasion because they posed a danger to the US; there isnot a country in the world that can talk to us about morality."

MK Hasson told the foreign envoys that "if the European countries fail to protect the Jews within their territory, the State of Israel will. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

U.S.-Provided Weapons To Afghans Have Gone Missing, Sparking Insurgent Fears

July 28th 2014

US Attack Helicopters

Weapons bought and paid for by the United States for Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have gone missing, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released on July 28.

The Department of Defense has provided the ANSF with 747,000 weapons since 2004 for approximately $626 million, and cannot account for all of their whereabouts due to poor recordkeeping.

The United States also provided Afghan forces with more than 112,000 excess weapons, and the Department of Defense has no authority to recapture or remove them, according to the report.

The Inspector General concluded that due to the Afghan government's inability to account for or dispose of the weapons, that there is "real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the ANSF, and Afghan civilians."

The report comes at a perilous moment in Afghanistan. "The New York Times" reported on July 26 that Taliban fighters are making key advances near Kabul, beyond their strongholds. Read more ..


Operation Protective Edge

Assessing Secretary Kerry's Latest Proposal and His Track record

July 27th 2014

Assad

The value of Secretary John Kerry's proposals are consistent with Kerry's track record.

Kerry's Syrian Track Record

Until the eruption of the civil war in Syria, Kerry was a member of a tiny group of US Senators – along with Chuck Hagel and Hillary Clinton – who believed that Bashar Assad was a generous, constructive leader, a reformer and a man of his word. Kerry was a frequent flyer to Damascus, dining with Assad and his wife at the Naranj restaurant in central Damascus.  Following a motorcycle ride with Bashar al-Assad, he returned to Washington referring to Bashar as "my dear friend.”

In September 2009, Kerry opined that "Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region,” while Assad was conducting hate-education, repressing his opposition, hosting and arming terrorist outfits like Hezbollah, cozying up to Iran, and facilitating the infiltration of Jihadists into Iraq to kill US soldiers. WikiLeaks disclosed that on February, 2010, Kerry told Qatari leaders that the Golan Heights should be returned to Syria and that a Palestinian capital should be established in East Jerusalem.  "We know that for the Palestinians the control of Al-Aqsa mosque and the establishment of their capital in East Jerusalem are not negotiable.” Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Absent International Investigators, Western Journalists Build Case That Separatists Shot Down MH17

July 27th 2014

Russian tourist in Ukraine

Russian officials and state-run media have widely panned a U.S. intelligence assessment of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash that relied heavily on "social media reports."

But 10 days after MH17 was blown out of the sky, killing all 298 passengers and crew members on board -- and with international investigators still struggling to gain access to the disaster site in eastern Ukraine -- the combined reporting of foreign correspondents appears to corroborate social media and intelligence accounts that link the crash to a Buk missile launcher fired by pro-Russian separatists.

Here is the evidence gathered by reporters in eastern Ukraine: Associated Press journalists saw a Buk missile launcher near the scene of the crash three hours before the plane went down

"It was hard to miss the bulky missile system, also known as a Buk M-1. It left deep tread marks in the asphalt as it rumbled by in a small convoy. The vehicles stopped in front of journalists from The Associated Press. A man wearing unfamiliar fatigues, speaking with a distinctive Russian accent, checked to make sure they weren't filming. The convoy then moved on, destination unknown in the heart of eastern Ukraine's pro-Russia rebellion. Three hours later, people six miles (10 kilometers) west of Snizhne heard loud noises." Read more ..


Africa on Edge

Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering

July 26th 2014

African subsistence farming

A new report states that genetically-modified crops -- also known as GM crops -- would dramatically improve agriculture in Africa. The report,  published by the policy group Chatham House, argues the technology is being held back by scaremongering from opponents.

Inside a temperature-regulated laboratory, scientists in Uganda are developing what they call a "golden banana" -- more hardy, and with higher levels of vitamins and minerals. Priva Namanya, one of the researchers, said, “We have been able to show that we can in crease our vitamin A levels six times.”

GM crops offer the best hope of increasing productivity and coping with climate change in Africa, according to the co-author of the Chatham House report, Rob Bailey. “There is a whole host of GM crops in development in Africa specifically designed to address the needs of poor farmers and poor food consumers. Crops like cassava, sorghum, bananas, sweet potato, drought-tolerant maize. And it’s precisely these crops that are stuck at the field trial stage,” he said. Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Families Turn to Scientists in Fracking Cases

July 26th 2014

Marcellus gas well

Like people in other regions transformed by the shale energy boom, residents of Washington County, Pennsylvania, have complained of headaches, nosebleeds and skin rashes. But because there are no comprehensive studies about the health impacts of natural gas drilling, it's hard to determine if their problems are linked to the gas wells and other production facilities that have sprung up around them.

A group of scientists from Pennsylvania and neighboring states has stepped in to fill this gap by forming a nonprofit — apparently the first of its kind in the United States — that provides free health consultations to local families near drilling sites. Instead of waiting years or even decades for long-term studies to emerge, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPA-EHP) is using the best available science to help people deal with their ailments.

Read more ..

The Battle for Ukraine

As Attention Focuses On Dead, Ukraine Crash Site Remains Gray Zone

July 25th 2014

Malaysia airlines

The contrast could not be more stark.

In the Netherlands, some 1,000 relatives of those who died aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 gathered on July 23 in Eindhoven to receive the first bodies returned from the crash site in eastern Ukraine.

The sad occasion, attended by Dutch leaders and representatives of all the other countries who lost citizens in the tragedy, was marked by tears and renewed vows to determine the cause of the crash. More bodies arrived on July 24 and still more are expected in the coming days.

But at the crash site in eastern Ukraine, there is almost no activity currently that could help prove what killed all 298 people aboard. Western officials believe the plane was downed on July 17 by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian separatists, but the separatists blame Ukrainian forces instead. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Leading Russian NGOs Muzzled By 'Foreign Agents' Label

July 24th 2014

Russian soldiers Red Square

Russia's Justice Ministry has included five more Russian nongovernmental organizations on the so-called black list of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) acting as "foreign agents."

A statement by the respected rights group Memorial -- the most prominent of the 11 NGOs now included on the list -- said the "forced inclusion" of the NGOs on the list was a blatant attempt to restrict their activity.

"We are certain that all the organizations, including those that were previously placed on the list against their will, are acting exclusively in the interests of Russia since they effectively help defend the rights of citizens from abuses by state officials," the Memorial statement said.

The Justice Ministry added the five NGOs -- Memorial, Agora, Public Verdict, Yuriks, and Ekozashchita -- to the list on July 21 in accordance with a controversial 2013 law that requires NGOs that receive funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents." Read more ..


The Caliphate

Terrified Christians Driven out of Mosul

July 24th 2014

ISIS Takes Homes in Mosul

Rawan Jinan, a 25-year-old Iraqi Christian, says when she received an order on June 18 to leave Mosul within 24 hours, she could not believe her eyes.

The order came in the form of a letter delivered to every Christian home by the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which rules Iraq's second-largest city. The letter offered the recipients just three choices: to convert to Islam, to begin paying a monthly tax for practicing a religion other than Islam, or to be executed if they remained in Mosul.

Jinan, now in a refugee camp near Irbil, in the Kurdish autonomous region, says she and her husband stared at the paper in amazement. "We were prepared for anything, but we were not expecting to be banished from our city in this manner," she says. "When we first heard Christians should leave the city, we thought this meant that Mosul was about to be targeted by heavy shelling. We did not know they were going to rob us and throw us out."

The couple initially thought the letter was an evacuation, not expulsion, order because they and their two young sons -- one 4 years old, the other 18 months -- had already fled fighting in Mosul once. That was when ISIL captured the city in three days of combat that ended with the rout of the Iraqi Army on June 9.

The Honeymoon's Over

But after that fighting ended, the family returned amid reports that the Islamic State promised to guarantee the safety of all religious minorities in the city, so long as they respected Islamic law.

At first, she says, the militants seemed almost protective. "They welcomed us, and asked us what we needed, asking us to contact them if anyone bothered us."

In return, the city's Christians saw no reason why they would offend the city's fundamentalist new rulers. Christian women had already long been wearing the "abaya," the figure-shrouding outer garment Muslim women wear for modesty outdoors, and both Christian men and women mostly stayed within their own neighborhoods to avoid trouble.

But the honeymoon period, which contrasted starkly with the Islamic State's reputation for cruelty toward religious minorities in areas it occupies in Syria, did not last long. As soon as the militia was firmly in control of Mosul, the mood began to change.

Then, Jinan says, the militants began to enter Christian churches, intimidating priests and making people afraid to go to their places of worship. "They did not only enter the churches," she says. "They also went into the shrine of Prophet Younis [the Old Testament prophet Jonas], which they demolished. They also demolished monasteries."

The reported destruction of the tomb of Jonas was shocking for Mosul's Christians and many mainstream Muslims alike, because he is revered by both faiths. The tomb itself is housed in a mosque built on a site where a church once stood, and the interlayering of faiths around the site had long been a symbol of Mosul's tradition of religious tolerance.

Things soon got worse.

On July 16 and 17, Jinan says, a black painted symbol began appearing on Christian homes. "They began marking Christians' homes with the letter 'N' within a circle and the phrase 'property of the Islamic State.' When we asked why, they said that 'this would ward off anyone coming to loot [your home] because looters will fear that this house belongs to us. You need not be afraid; there's nothing wrong,'" she recalls.

But the Christians were feeling terrorized. The letter N stood for "Nasrani," a term used for Christians in the Koran that refers to Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus Christ. By this time, the Islamic State was also replacing the crosses atop some churches with their own black jihadist flags, as if they had been seized in a holy war. "I saw the flags on the Orthodox Mar [St.] Ephraim Cathedral and the Chaldean Bishop's Seat," Jinan notes.

Driven From Their Homes

When the order with three choices came, Jinan says she and the other several thousand Christians in the city had no trust left in the Islamic State. She personally did not even inquire about the amount of the "jizya," or religious tax, the militants promised would grant Christians immunity. The amount has been variously reported by other refugees as being around $100 monthly.

Instead, Jinan and her husband rushed to get their sons and fled by car to one of the Christian towns to the east of Mosul on the Nineveh plain. From there, they proceeded on to the greater safety of Ayn Kawa, a town just inside the Kurdish autonomous region where they remain today.

The Kurdish autonomous region, which is religiously tolerant and is guarded by its own powerful security forces, puts her beyond the reach of the Islamic State. But Jinan says she and most other refugees lost many of their possessions to the Islamic State's fighters, who shook them down as they fled from Mosul.

The fighters took the money her husband was carrying and searched their luggage thoroughly, stealing clothes and even baby diapers. They also treated their victims with open contempt. "They opened the can of baby milk and poured its contents into the street," she says. "We begged them to give us a bottle of water for the children, to quiet them, but they opened the water bottles and poured out the water in front us."

Now, with Mosul less about 80 kilometers to the west but her former life closed to her, Jinan says she doesn't know what to expect next.

Her options range from waiting for the Iraqi government to retake Mosul -- something she calls unlikely when the Islamic State is at the gates of Baghdad -- to emigrating, something she says she never had to consider before.

Her only certainty is that her family now would not want to return to Mosul even if it could. "No Christian, and I for one, will return to the place where I lived, where I was persecuted, and from which I have been expelled," she says.

Reported from Irbil by RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondent Abdelhamid Zebari. Written by Charles Recknagel in Prague. Translation from Arabic by Ayad al-Gailani. Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/terrified_christians_driven_out_of_mosul#sthash.UGEhb8sl.dpuf

Rawan Jinan, a 25-year-old Iraqi Christian, says when she received an order on June 18 to leave Mosul within 24 hours, she could not believe her eyes.

The order came in the form of a letter delivered to every Christian home by the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which rules Iraq's second-largest city. The letter offered the recipients just three choices: to convert to Islam, to begin paying a monthly tax for practicing a religion other than Islam, or to be executed if they remained in Mosul.

Jinan, now in a refugee camp near Irbil, in the Kurdish autonomous region, says she and her husband stared at the paper in amazement. "We were prepared for anything, but we were not expecting to be banished from our city in this manner," she says. "When we first heard Christians should leave the city, we thought this meant that Mosul was about to be targeted by heavy shelling. We did not know they were going to rob us and throw us out."

The couple initially thought the letter was an evacuation, not expulsion, order because they and their two young sons -- one 4 years old, the other 18 months -- had already fled fighting in Mosul once. That was when ISIL captured the city in three days of combat that ended with the rout of the Iraqi Army on June 9.

The Honeymoon's Over

But after that fighting ended, the family returned amid reports that the Islamic State promised to guarantee the safety of all religious minorities in the city, so long as they respected Islamic law.

At first, she says, the militants seemed almost protective. "They welcomed us, and asked us what we needed, asking us to contact them if anyone bothered us."

In return, the city's Christians saw no reason why they would offend the city's fundamentalist new rulers. Christian women had already long been wearing the "abaya," the figure-shrouding outer garment Muslim women wear for modesty outdoors, and both Christian men and women mostly stayed within their own neighborhoods to avoid trouble.

But the honeymoon period, which contrasted starkly with the Islamic State's reputation for cruelty toward religious minorities in areas it occupies in Syria, did not last long. As soon as the militia was firmly in control of Mosul, the mood began to change.

Then, Jinan says, the militants began to enter Christian churches, intimidating priests and making people afraid to go to their places of worship. "They did not only enter the churches," she says. "They also went into the shrine of Prophet Younis [the Old Testament prophet Jonas], which they demolished. They also demolished monasteries."

The reported destruction of the tomb of Jonas was shocking for Mosul's Christians and many mainstream Muslims alike, because he is revered by both faiths. The tomb itself is housed in a mosque built on a site where a church once stood, and the interlayering of faiths around the site had long been a symbol of Mosul's tradition of religious tolerance.

Things soon got worse.

On July 16 and 17, Jinan says, a black painted symbol began appearing on Christian homes. "They began marking Christians' homes with the letter 'N' within a circle and the phrase 'property of the Islamic State.' When we asked why, they said that 'this would ward off anyone coming to loot [your home] because looters will fear that this house belongs to us. You need not be afraid; there's nothing wrong,'" she recalls.

But the Christians were feeling terrorized. The letter N stood for "Nasrani," a term used for Christians in the Koran that refers to Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus Christ. By this time, the Islamic State was also replacing the crosses atop some churches with their own black jihadist flags, as if they had been seized in a holy war. "I saw the flags on the Orthodox Mar [St.] Ephraim Cathedral and the Chaldean Bishop's Seat," Jinan notes.

Driven From Their Homes

When the order with three choices came, Jinan says she and the other several thousand Christians in the city had no trust left in the Islamic State. She personally did not even inquire about the amount of the "jizya," or religious tax, the militants promised would grant Christians immunity. The amount has been variously reported by other refugees as being around $100 monthly.

Instead, Jinan and her husband rushed to get their sons and fled by car to one of the Christian towns to the east of Mosul on the Nineveh plain. From there, they proceeded on to the greater safety of Ayn Kawa, a town just inside the Kurdish autonomous region where they remain today.

The Kurdish autonomous region, which is religiously tolerant and is guarded by its own powerful security forces, puts her beyond the reach of the Islamic State. But Jinan says she and most other refugees lost many of their possessions to the Islamic State's fighters, who shook them down as they fled from Mosul.

The fighters took the money her husband was carrying and searched their luggage thoroughly, stealing clothes and even baby diapers. They also treated their victims with open contempt. "They opened the can of baby milk and poured its contents into the street," she says. "We begged them to give us a bottle of water for the children, to quiet them, but they opened the water bottles and poured out the water in front us."

Now, with Mosul less about 80 kilometers to the west but her former life closed to her, Jinan says she doesn't know what to expect next.

Her options range from waiting for the Iraqi government to retake Mosul -- something she calls unlikely when the Islamic State is at the gates of Baghdad -- to emigrating, something she says she never had to consider before.

Her only certainty is that her family now would not want to return to Mosul even if it could. "No Christian, and I for one, will return to the place where I lived, where I was persecuted, and from which I have been expelled," she says.

Reported from Irbil by RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondent Abdelhamid Zebari. Written by Charles Recknagel in Prague. Translation from Arabic by Ayad al-Gailani. Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/terrified_christians_driven_out_of_mosul#sthash.UGEhb8sl.dpuf

Rawan Jinan, a 25-year-old Iraqi Christian, says when she received an order on June 18 to leave Mosul within 24 hours, she could not believe her eyes.

The order came in the form of a letter delivered to every Christian home by the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which rules Iraq's second-largest city. The letter offered the recipients just three choices: to convert to Islam, to begin paying a monthly tax for practicing a religion other than Islam, or to be executed if they remained in Mosul.

Jinan, now in a refugee camp near Irbil, in the Kurdish autonomous region, says she and her husband stared at the paper in amazement. "We were prepared for anything, but we were not expecting to be banished from our city in this manner," she says. "When we first heard Christians should leave the city, we thought this meant that Mosul was about to be targeted by heavy shelling. We did not know they were going to rob us and throw us out."

The couple initially thought the letter was an evacuation, not expulsion, order because they and their two young sons -- one 4 years old, the other 18 months -- had already fled fighting in Mosul once. That was when ISIL captured the city in three days of combat that ended with the rout of the Iraqi Army on June 9. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

War Crime Question Hovers Over Malaysian Airliner Tragedy

July 23rd 2014

Malaysia airlines

Countries seeking to prosecute those responsible for downing a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine last week face a complex legal question: Is the tragedy a war crime?

The answer, legal experts say, rests largely on whether governments can establish that those behind the attack intentionally shot down the plane on July 17, killing all 298 people onboard. And even if that determination is made, prosecuting the perpetrators as war criminals will be difficult.

"The problem is, it's not a war crime to shoot down a civilian airliner by mistake, as egregious as that sounds," David Glazier, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says. "It's a war crime to shoot one down deliberately." The United States and Western governments accuse pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine of striking the airliner with a surface-to-air missile, while the rebels have accused the Ukrainian government of carrying out the attack. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Democrat Donors Miffed by Lack of Progress in Ambassadorial Postings

July 22nd 2014

Partisan gridlock blocking President Obama’s nominees for prestigious ambassadorships has created vacancies in a slew of top diplomatic posts at a time of growing international instability.

It has also prevented Democrats from rewarding some of their biggest donors and bundlers in the midst of an intense campaign year, when they are eager to raise more money than Republicans.

Ambassadorial nominees used to sail through the Senate. But as Obama has tapped an increasing number of them with strong political ties to the Democratic Party, the confirmation process has been bogged down, leaving gaps in important posts around the world. Secretary of State John Kerry warned earlier this month that the United States “continues to operate without a complete diplomatic toolbox” as the Senate backlog has left the nation without ambassadors in 40 countries. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Ukraine To Give Control Of Airline Crash Probe To International Experts

July 21st 2014

Malaysia airlines

Ukraine says it will hand over control of an investigation into the Malaysian airliner crash to international experts and suggested the Netherlands should lead the process.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also said in Kyiv on July 21 that Kyiv officials will allow "Western partners" to coordinate the probe into the plane's July 17 downing.

He said Ukraine was prepared to "transport all bodies to Amsterdam" for forensic tests. Yatsenyuk said 272 bodies of the 298 passengers have been recovered from the crash site.

Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said reports from the group's investigators in Ukraine suggest some bodies were incinerated without a trace. Dutch investigators arrived in eastern Ukraine on July 21 and are checking the refrigerated train cars with the bodies, near the town of Torez. They are also expected to visit the crash site. Read more ..


The Edge of the Universe

Hubble Telescope Reveals Deepest View of the Universe Yet

July 19th 2014

Hubble XDF image, Sep 2012

The Hubble Space Telescope has glimpsed farther into the universe than any observatory before, producing the first of six new "deep field" images that show objects from the first billion years after the big bang. The new photo was exposed for 50 hours to gather enough light, and reveals extremely faint, tiny galaxies that may be more than 12 billion light-years away. "It is the deepest view of the universe ever taken," says project leader Jennifer Lotz of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. "We're seeing things 10 or 20 times fainter than anything we've seen before." Lotz and her colleagues presented the image today here at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Hubble's first Deep Field image, released in 1996, became instantly famous for revealing about 3,000 previously unknown galaxies that showed up in an apparently "blank spot" of space when Hubble trained its camera there for dozens of hours. The newest deep fields, called Hubble "Frontier Fields," use updated cameras on Hubble, and look even farther by taking advantage of the universe's own "natural" telescopes, called gravitational lenses. Read more ..


Broken Borders

Teen Immigrants Await Fate At An Oklahoma Army Post

July 18th 2014

Illegal migrant children sleeping in ICE facility

Plastered on the walls of an old Army barracks in Oklahoma are childish drawings depicting the American dream. One crude picture showed a brown building with an American flag flying on top. The building was labeled “high school” in English with “God Bless America” written next to it in an uncertain scrawl. Another featured a school with a big sign that said "Welcome" next to a smiley face. Other children drew pictures of flowers or messages about Jesus.

But the nearly 1,200 teenagers detained on this military base on the dusty plains of southern Oklahoma aren't likely to realize those dreams any time soon.  They are awaiting deportation hearings after having crossed the border on their own, unaccompanied by adults, fleeing their violence-torn home countries in Central America. The Obama administration says that most of them will be deported as soon as the backlogged immigration courts get around to hearing their cases. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Savchenko 'Not Complaining' About Detention: But Nearly Everyone Else Is

July 17th 2014

Russian M17 Helos

Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian military pilot kidnapped by separatist rebels and transferred to a Russian jail, is said to be in good condition as she enters her fifth week of captivity.

The 33-year-old helicopter navigator, whom Moscow has accused of complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists caught in a mortar attack in eastern Ukraine, is now being held a detention center in the southwestern Russian city of Voronezh.

Visitors say she is being kept alone in a four-person cell with a private toilet, soap and hot water, food, and reading materials. Anatoly Malakhov, who heads an observation mission for the rights organization Russia Without Torture, says Savchenko's only requests have been for coffee, cigarettes, and extra shoes and clothes in her size. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Love On The Barricades: Ukraine Crisis Makes Couples ... And Breaks Them Apart

July 15th 2014

Ukraine protest

There's a new power couple in the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic."

Meet Arsen Pavlov, aka "Motorola." Short in stature, and with a gap-toothed smile and a sling around his injured right arm, he is called a "legendary rebel" by Russian media. In an interview with the Russian nationalist magazine "Zavtra," the 31-year-old claims to have taken a train to Ukraine from his home in the central Russian republic of Komi when fighting broke out between armed pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops.

Meet Yelena Kolenkina. Tall, with long black hair, and a handgun hanging at her side, she's a Slovyansk local who has become perhaps the most prominent female face of the pro-Russian separatist movement. Aside from appearing regularly on LifeNews -- an ardently pro-Russian online video news site believed to have ties to the Russian security services -- she has recorded a series of amateur videos accusing the Ukrainian government of atrocities. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Slobodan's Ghost

July 14th 2014

Vladimir Putin cool sunglasses

There's a specter haunting Vladimir Putin -- the specter of Slobodan Milosevic.As the

Ukraine crisis has unfolded, it has become fashionable -- and even a bit of a fetish -- to compare the Kremlin leader to the late Serbian dictator.

Writing recently in "The New Republic," Vera Mironova and Maria Snegovaya noted how Milosevic and Putin "fueled intense nationalism...against Croats and Ukrainians through mass media propaganda" and how each "empowered the uprising of ethnic minorities."

Both also used the pretext of protecting minorities to "engage the military" and "established self-proclaimed, semi-independent republics in both Croatia and Ukraine" that were under the de facto control of Belgrade and Moscow respectively.

"But the resemblance between Putin and Milosevic’s cases is more than just a similarity in tactics -- it embraces the fundamental myths and historical clashes between Serbs and Croats, and Russians and Ukrainians," they wrote. And it isn't just Putin's critics who are dredging up the Milosevic comparisons. So are his erstwhile allies -- as a cautionary tale. Read more ..


Inside Washington

The Mysterious CIA Museum

July 12th 2014

Click to select Image

Five years ago, traveling on the Capital Limited overnight to Chicago, I chanced into a conversation that was remarkable even by Amtrak's usual high standards. After leaving DC at 4:05PM, we journeyed along the Potomac to Harpers Ferry. That part of the ride is so scenic that I always savor it with a craft beer in the "Viewliner Lounge," which boasts an all-glass upper level. At 6PM I walked to the diner (not the cafe car, no, a real dining car with selections like steak, fish, pasta, etc.). As usual, Amtrak seated me with other passengers.

First to sit opposite me was a man who introduced himself as Bert Sacks, the founder of IraqiKids.org, an organization devoted to making Americans aware of the plight of the children of Iraq before and during our second War on Iraq. He was going back home to Seattle (a three-day trip!) and inquired where I was going. I told him to a speaking engagement in Milwaukee, and he asked what about. I told him about my bestseller, Lies My Teacher Told Me, and he replied, "No kidding? You wrote that book? I love that book." Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Ecuador Resorts to Dirty Tricks in Eye-Popping PR Campaign

July 11th 2014

Click to select Image

The government of Ecuador is paying more than $6.4 million for the services of two U.S. public relations firms, a stunning figure in the niche business of foreign government lobbying.

The contract, which was revealed in forms released on Thursday by the Justice Department, states that the government of Ecuador is employing the American firms to improve the country’s image and combat “the activities of multi-national organizations and corporations to diminish the reputation of Ecuador.”

The documents show that the New York-based PR firm MCSquared has been working for the South American country since last year, and began partnering on the contract in December with Fitzgibbon Media — a firm that represents Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who received asylum in Ecuador. Read more ..


Brazil on Edge

Brazil Racism Out of View at World Cup

July 10th 2014

Brazilian Slums

Football's (soccer's) World Cup will end this Sunday in Brazil, a nation with the world's largest black population outside of Africa.  Although many Brazilians think of their country as the model of race relations, racism is a hidden reality. 

On the country's Atlantic shore, the tropical city of Salvador de Bahia faces the African coastline far beyond the horizon.  It's a city symbolic for Brazil's African roots.

Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888 and here, more than anywhere else, the links with Africa are evident.  In Salvador, African descendants represent more than 80 percent of the population.  In Brazil, more than 50 percent of the population is of "metis," or mixed-race - and social contact, friendships and marriage between the races are common.

However, on television or seen from abroad, Brazil still portrays a white image.  Blacks, indigenous or other non-white people are seen less than whites on TV commercials and programs. Racism is both everywhere and invisible, and has its effect on education, employment, income and life expectancy. Celene Fonseca, an anthropologist, explains why racism is hidden in Brazil. Read more ..


The Media on Edge

Israeli Ambassador Rips New York Times Editorial as Embarrassment to Journalism

July 9th 2014

Click to select Image

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, attacked The New York Times for an editorial it published on Monday entitled Four Horrific Killings. Questioning the integrity of the paper in a BuzzFeed post, Dermer highlighted five key points of contention:

1. The New York Times writes that “after days of near silence,” Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the murder of a Palestinian teenager on Sunday. But Netanyahu called the murder “reprehensible” on Wednesday, the day it occurred, and the next day, in his first public appearance since the murder, again forcefully condemned the killing on prime-time national television. Early July 4th weekend for the entire New York Times editorial board?

2. The New York Times omits that Prime Minister Netanyahu called the father of the murdered boy yesterday to personally express his outrage and condemnation. Maybe the New York Times didn’t get that press release?

3. The New York Times gives numerous examples of hate rhetoric on the margins of Israeli society – rhetoric that has been strongly condemned and rejected by Israel’s political leaders. The New York Times writes Palestinians have also been guilty of hate speech, but neglects to mention that Palestinian incitement is government backed, that Palestinian Authority leaders hail terrorists as heroes, name public squares after them and teach schoolchildren to emulate them. For daily dose of government-backed Palestinian incitement, check out – Palestinian Media Watch. No summer interns in the New York Times research department this year? Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Moscow To Kyiv, Tbilisi, And Chisinau: EU Deals Will Cost You

July 7th 2014

Russian soldiers Red Square

Russia has never hidden how it feels about neighbors forging closer ties with the European Union.

So it was no surprise when Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said there would be "grave consequences" for Ukraine when it signed a landmark deal on closer economic ties with Brussels on June 27. Georgia and Moldova signed similar deals strengthening both financial and political ties the same day.

The Kremlin is seen as deeply reluctant to lose influence over the former Soviet republics -- so much so that it has continuously lobbied to keep Ukraine and Georgia out of NATO, and pressured then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to abruptly back out of an EU Association Agreement days before it was due to be signed in November 2013.

Moscow, which frequently uses sanctions as a form of intimidation, has in the past banned Georgian mineral water, Moldovan wine, and even the Ukrainian chocolate produced by the country's current president, Petro Poroshenko. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

After Jewish, Arab Murders, Netanyahu Declares: They Name Public Squares After Killers, We Don't

July 6th 2014

Bibi Netanyahu with Glasses

At a condolence call on Sunday with the families of three Israeli teens abducted on June 12 and killed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted the difference between Palestinian reactions to the deaths of the trio, and Israeli reactions to the murder of a Jerusalem Arab by suspected Jewish extremists last Wednesday.

“I am visiting today with my family, the families of Gilad (Shaer), Naftali (Frankel) and Eyal (Yifrach), who were murdered by Hamas terrorists. I promised their dear families that we will continue to stand by them, even after the days of mourning,” Netanyahu said at the home of the Frankel family in the town of Nof Ayalon.

Stressing that Israel would track down the captors of the Jewish victims, Netanyahu pointed out that “The murderers came from the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority; they returned to territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Fears Rise over Proximate Release of CIA Report on 'Enhanced Interrogations'

July 6th 2014

Click to select Image

Security concerns are complicating the release of a controversial report on “enhanced interrogations techniques,” with officials fearing the document could inflame the Arab Street and put Americans in danger.

The White House and the CIA are working on final redactions to a 481-page executive summary of the investigation, which was conducted by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee but boycotted by Republicans, who dispute its findings.

A congressional staffer said the report wouldn’t be ready for a “couple of weeks,” while the CIA said the declassification process should be finished by August 29th. Read more ..


Crimea on Edge

Tourist Season A Washout In Annexed Crimea

July 5th 2014

Dead Sea Resort

If some Crimeans are still enthusiastic about their region's annexation by Russia, tourism workers are not among them.

With Crimea now under Russian control, Ukrainians, who traditionally account for two-thirds of tourists to the region, are snubbing it in favor of other destinations.

European vacationers, deterred by Russia's controversial takeover and the current bloodshed between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, are also steering away from Crimean shores.

Moscow has pulled out all the stops in an effort to boost the number of Russians spending their summer break on the peninsula. But as the promised stream of Russian visitors fails to materialize, the many Crimeans relying on tourism for their livelihoods are reporting catastrophic losses. Read more ..


Inside Washington

Saving Pennies Makes Cents for Zinc-backed Front Group

July 3rd 2014

Money Jar

Americans for Common Cents was created in 1990 to “inform and educate policymakers, consumers, and the media about the penny’s economic, cultural and historical significance.”

Members sought to rally support behind the penny in response to those who would prefer that it be done away with. Its “executive director,” Mark Weller, spoke before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology in 2012.

He described the group as “broad-based and comprised of, and endorsed by, many of the nation’s leading coin and numismatic organizations, charitable organizations … and companies involved in the manufacturing and transport of the penny.” Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Facebook 'Messed with People's Minds,' FTC Sanctions Sought

July 2nd 2014

Eye biometrics

Facebook "purposefully messed with people's minds" in a "secretive and non-consensual" study on nearly 700,000 users whose emotions were intentionally manipulated when the company altered their news feeds for research purposes, a digital privacy rights group charges in a complaint filed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed the complaint Thursday, asking the FTC to impose sanctions on Facebook. The study violated terms of a 20-year consent decree that requires the social-networking company must protect its users' privacy, EPIC said. EPIC also wants Facebook to be forced to disclose the algorithms it uses to determine what appears in users' news feeds. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Swearing Ban Leaves Many Russians Speechless

July 1st 2014

Kremlin

In the past year, Russia has banned everything from public smoking and Ukrainian chocolate to synthetic lingerie and alcohol in sports stadiums.

But as Russians watched their right to vice steadily dismantled, for some the worst was yet to come: a sweeping ban on swearing that took effect July 1.

The legislation, signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin in May, comes amid a Kremlin drive to promote traditional values and protect the "purity" of the Russian language.

The law prohibits the use of foul language in theater and film performances, and it requires books and music featuring profanity to be sealed and carry special warnings.

Violators can be punished with fines of up to $70 for private individuals and $1,400 for businesses.

The law fails to specify what officially constitutes swear words, known in Russian as "mat." While most Russian profanities spring from four key words -- which for propriety’s sake could be described as the f-, c-, d- and w-words -- their variations are so colorful and profuse as to be virtually limitless. Officials say violations will be vetted on a case-by-case basis by a panel of experts.

The vagueness of the law suggests it could be used -- much as the gay "propaganda" ban before it -- to broadly stifle debate in a country that has seen a systematic attack on free-speech rights. More immediately, the ban has horrified natives who say profanities are an essential element of the rich Russian language and deserve their well-chosen moments in the spotlight. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Lost in Big Data: Digital Zombies

June 30th 2014

Oak Ridge Super Computer

The latest estimates from market research firm IHS Technology hint at over 6 billion Internet-enabled devices to be produced in 2014 alone, with another 19.42 billion such devices literally flooding the planet between 2015 and 2017.

From whatever angle you look at it, it is a promising market for providers or low-power microcontrollers, sensors, RF modules of many sorts, GPS chips, energy harvesting units, supercapacitors and batteries just to name a few of the component categories that will invariably find their way to landfills if not decommissioned properly or lost in nature.The real-time sensing, data logging and reporting applications seem endless, all tied to specific benefits for the end-user, whether it be in the name of safety, health, efficiency, productivity, security or leisure. Now, if it is good for business too, where is the harm? Read more ..


The Way We Are

No Smoking In Russia? Tough New Antitobacco Rules Come To The Land Of Cigarettes

June 28th 2014

cigarette in ashtray

A group of pro-Kremlin youth activists approaches a middle-aged woman smoking outside a subway station -- a no-smoking zone as of last year. Filming her with a handheld camera, they insist that she put out her cigarette.

Initially, the woman refuses. "Why don't you get a job?" she says, showing her backside to the camera. But in the end, she gives in, throwing the lit cigarette at one of the young men and storming off in a huff.

This Moscow street scene, circulated on the Internet in a video, illustrates the tensions between smokers and antitobacco activists as tough new legislation comes into force in Russia, the world's second-largest cigarette market. The latest provisions of the law came into force on June 1 and prohibit smoking in most public indoor places -- including bars, restaurants, offices, and public transportation.

"It's horribly inconvenient!" says Anush Zogranyan, an accountant and smoker in her 40s, who on a cool, overcast weekday was smoking outside a Moscow cafe that until this month would be thick with tobacco smoke. She adds that she has "morally" steeled herself for the ban, but is not looking forward to smoking outdoors in winter.  Read more ..



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