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Friday, October 19, 2012

Car Bomb Kills Eight in Beirut

A powerful car bomb exploded in Ashrafiya district, a mainly Christian, upper middle class area of east Beirut. The blast killed eight people and wounded at least another 80 at a time when many parents would be picking up children from school. At least 12 cars were destroyed by fire or explosions, including the car that was carrying the bomb, all of them at a close distance from the headquarters of an anti-Assad coalition known as March 14 and the offices of Kataeb, a Christian Maronite party. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but tensions in the country have been rising over the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the government was attempting to identify those responsible and said they would be punished. The explosion was the deadliest attack in Beirut since 2008.

Turkey Calls For Intervention in Syria to Avoid Humanitarian Disaster

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called on leading countries to take immediate action to prevent a humanitarian “disaster” in Syria. “How long can this situation continue? I mean in Bosnia, now we have Ban Ki-moon apologising 20 years after. Who will apologise for Syria in 20 years’ time? How can we stay idle?” asked Davutoglu during an interview with The Guardian. “We are doing all we can to help these people, using all diplomatic capacity to stop this bloodshed. The best way we can see now is direct humanitarian intervention.” The Turkish call comes as U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrives in Damascus in the hopes of securing a ceasefire during the Islamic holiday of Eid-al-Adha, which starts next week.

Malala Out of Coma and Standing Up at Birmingham Hospital

A Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban has managed to stand up with the aid of nurses and physical therapists at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on Friday morning. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman as a punishment for her campaign for girls’ education in Pakistan’s Swat Valley region. Dr. David Rosser, who is treating Malala, said that she was able to understand everything that was said to her and was able to reply by writing notes, but should be able to speak once a tracheostomy tube is removed. “She is happy, in fact, keen for us to share quite a lot of clinical detail with you”, said Dr. Rosser. The Taliban have threatened to target her again and have ordered followers to target any media organisations that are critical of its attempts to silence Malala.

Spain Set to Ban Photos and Videos of On-Duty Police Officers

The government of Spain is set to introduce legislation to ban the photography or filming of police officers or soldiers in the country. The Director-General of Police, Ignacio Cosidó, said that what officers want is “an equilibrium between the protection of citizen rights and those of the security forces”, with the aim of avoiding the identification of officers through photos and videos posted on the internet. An anonymous source heard by El País at the Ministry of the Interior said that the measure would not restrict the freedom of the press. As an example, the source stated that television cameras will still be allowed to capture images such as those of police charges against recent protests in Madrid. Critics say that, if passed, the legislation might lead to police abuses at a time of considerable social unrest in the country.

Muslims Live in Fear Behind Barbed Wires in Western Myanmar

Muslim residents of Sittwe, a city in western Myanmar, are being kept in a ghetto behind barbed wire and under armed guards for protection against Buddhist mobs. Local authorities imposed a state of emergency in June in response to Buddhist-Muslim clashes that left dozens dead and thousands homeless, but Buddhists gather daily at the barriers and chants slogans asking for the relocation of the Muslim residents. Troops fired warning shots to disperse the crowds, but the same shots spread panic among the 8,000 people living in the roughly 0.5 square kilometre of the ghetto. “In my opinion, living in the Sahara desert in Africa would be better than living in this situation”, said 28-year-old Mohamed Said to the AFP news agency. “We cannot suffer anymore. We have lost everything but our lives. We are human beings as well.”

Weekend Read: How Can We Stop the Next Pandemic?

At some point in the near future, a sufficiently virulent and transmissible disease might cause a pandemic capable of killing millions of people. Disease scientists and public health officials are busy making contingency plans against it. In Popular Science.

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