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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Violent Protests Against Anti-Islam Film Spread Across the Middle East and North Africa

Protesters in the capital of Yemen removed the U.S. seal from the outer wall of the embassy’s compound and brought down a U.S. flag amidst attacks sparked by an anti-Islam film, with similar demonstrations spreading to other countries in North Africa and the Middle East on Thursday. A number of diplomatic vehicles were burned and security forces killed one protester in a bid to drive the crowd away. The trouble in Sanaa came less than two days after the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three staffers were killed in Benghazi. In Iran, some 500 marchers took to the streets near the Swiss embassy chanting “Death to America”. The embassy handles U.S. interests in Tehran in the absence of formal diplomatic relationships between the two countries. American flags were also burned outside the U.S. embassy in Tunisia and in the Gaza Strip, where the U.S. has no representation. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued a condemnation of the film after a third day of running battles that led to 30 people being injured in Cairo. “It is our duty to protect our guests and visitors from abroad. I call on everyone to take that into consideration, to not violate Egyptian law, to not assault embassies”, said Morsi during an official visit to Brussels. Al Jazeera reported that, despite the president’s call for calm, fires burned and protesters continued to chant in the streets of the Egyptian capital.

Pro-Europe Parties Win Vote, Anti-Immigrants Suffer Losses in the Netherlands

Voters in the Netherlands have defied predictions of an anti-European backlash and have elected two pro-Euro parties, handing heavy losses to the anti-immigrant Freedom Party. Prime Minister Mark Rutte remained in power with his liberal VVD party while the Labour party came a close second in the polls. Both parties performed better than what had been suggested in opinion polls and have clinched enough seats to form a governing coalition. The VVD took 41 seats in the 150-member lower house, with Labour taking 39. Their leaders, however, had downplayed the possibility of a coalition during the campaign. The Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, who has maintained an anti-Islam stance, suffered a serious setback after deciding to campaign on a fiercely anti-Brussels platform. It had 24 seats in the previous parliament, down to 15 after the current elections. The news was welcomed across Europe, with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeting that it “looks as if populist anti-Europeans are losing big time. Distinctly good news”.

“We’ll Bring Mining Companies to Their Knees”, Says S.Africa Miners’ Leader

The leader of the South African platinum miners protesters called on Thursday for a nationwide national strike. If confirmed, it would deepen the industrial crisis gripping the country, the biggest threat to the African National Congress (ANC) party since it swept to power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela. “On Sunday, we are starting with a general strike here in Rustenburg”, said protest leader Mametlwe Sebei to a gathering of miners in a football stadium, adding that “only ourselves and no one else can liberate the country”. The strike action, said Sebei, would “bring mining companies to their knees”. The miners have been on strike for weeks, pressing for higher pay, and some protests have resulted in violent clashes, including the shooting of 34 miners by police in mid-August. Since then a number of mines in the country have been closed, leading to the suspension of production and thousands of miners unable to work. Sebei’s call for action comes after an address on Wednesday by firebrand politician Julius Malema, expelled from the ANC for his radical views, who urged soldiers to adhere to a national strike. It led to the South African government placing the military on high alert for the first time since the beginning of democracy in 1994.

Ebola Outbreak “Not Under Control”, Death Toll Reaches 31 in the Congo

An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has already killed 31 people, including five health workers, and risks spreading to major towns. “The epidemic is not under control. On the contrary, the situation is very, very serious”, said Eugene Kabambi, a World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman in Kinshasa, the country’s capital. “If nothing is done now, the disease will reach other places”, added Kabambi, saying that $2 million were necessary to pay for measures to combat the outbreak. The contagion began after villagers in the towns of Isiro and Viadana, in the northeast of the country, ate tainted bushmeat. As well as the 31 dead, WHO figures show that there are now 65 probable or suspected cases of Ebola in the country, with 108 people being monitored. The Ebola virus is known to cause massive bleeding and kills up to 90% of its victims.

New Species of Monkey Discovered in Africa

A new species of monkey has been discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the second time such a discovery has been made in Africa in the last 28 years. The species is called Lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) and, according to a report in the Guardian, has a “naked face and a mane of long blond hairs” and is described by researchers as shy and quiet. Researchers from Yale University first came across the species in 2007, when they visited a primary school in the DRC where a female Lesula was kept as a pet. They took a few samples from it and confirmed it was indeed a new species after genetic testing. Their findings were published in the Public Library of Science’s ONE Journal. Lesulas are known to spend their days eating vegetables and fruits and make their home in a 6,500 mile habitat in the central DRC’s lowland rainforests. There is some concern among scientists, however, that the species may be vulnerable as it is known to be hunted for its meat. The school teacher who kept the monkey as a pet said that he took the animal into his home after one of his family members killed the monkey’s mother in the rainforest.

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