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Friday, June 14, 2013

U.S. to Arm Syrian Rebels

After coming to the conclusion that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have used chemical weapons yesterday, the Obama administration has elected to overtly supply Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunition. The Syrian government says the allegations of chemical weapons use are a pretext to arm insurrectionist groups like, Jabhat al-Nusra, with arms and money. The group, also known as the Nusra Front, is an al-Qaeda affiliate that has emerged as one of the most effective rebel factions in Syria. Officials suggested that current shipments would be mostly light arms, but that future shipments might include anti-tank weapons; they have not yet considered sending controversial anti-aircraft weapons that Free Syrian Army commander, Salim Idriss, has so often requested. These weapons may have come too late for the Syrian rebels; since the beginning of the year, the rebels have lost a series of strong holds, and now rebel held areas in Aleppo and Homs are seeing the worst fighting the war’s seen in months. Almost 100,000 people are known to have perished in the nearly three year old conflict, with millions having been driven from their homes. Free Syrian Army spokesperson Loay Mikdad stressed the urgency of the situation, “we hope they start arming immediately. Any delay costs blood of Syrians. It is not water, it is blood of the Syrians, women and children and its future.”

Bus Fare Demonstrations Continue in Brazil

At least 5,000 people took to the streets of São Paulo yesterday for the fourth day of demonstrations agains a bus fare hike. Bus Fair increased on June 2nd, from 3 reais to 3.20 reais, about a seven percent or ¢10 increase. At least 55 people were injured including two journalist that had been shot in the face. Police arrested more than 200 demonstrators after firing tear gas and rubber coated bullets into the crowd. Rio de Janiero also saw protests last night. More than 2,000 people marched down Rio’s central Rio Branco Avenue to demand lower bus fares, which rose from $1.29 to $1.38. Similar protests in the eastern Brazilian city of Goiana prompted a judge to rule that a fare increase there was abusive, as transportation companies had received significant tax breaks which were not passed on to their riders. The fare in Goiana returned to 2.70 reais on Thursday. But São Paulo’s Mayor Fernando Haddad said that his city’s fares had been raised by an amount below the inflation rate, and would be kept at the new level. He said he didn’t plan to discuss the situation with the protesters. According to the mayor São Paulo “doesn’t accept the violence.” But the Free Pass Movement said the police’s “violent actions” had “transformed the protest into a popular revolt.”

Iranians Vote for New President

Iranians headed to the polls today to elect the successor to outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The interior ministry extended voting hours by five hours until 23:00 local time (11PDT) citing greater than expected turnout. Ballot connoting began an hour after the polls closed and the results should be announced within 24 hours. Six relatively conservative candidates are contesting the election, but one of them, cleric Hassan Rouhani, has earned the support of some reformist politicians in recent days. As of late, Rouhani has suggested that he would work to free political prisoners, repair relations with western governments, and called for greater reform of the media. These announcements pit him against hardline conservatives and members of the Grand Ayatollah’s inner circle. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei has not backed any of the candidates publicly, but has instead called for a massive turnout, saying, “Inshallah (God willing), the Iranian people will create a new political epic.” If no candidate secures 50.1% or more of the vote, a second run off election will be held in a week.

South Korean Spymaster Indicted for Interfering with Presidential Elections

South Korean prosecutors said Won Sei-hoon, true former head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service [NIS], ordered NIS agents to post comments online slandering opposition candidates and praising conservative presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye. Park went on to win last December’s elections. Won faces charges of breaking the national election law, which bars government officials from using their influence to affect a vote, and of violating a separate law that prohibits government intelligence officials from meddling in domestic politics. If convicted, Won faces up five years in prison. State prosecutors have also indicted the former head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, Kim Yong-pan. He is accused of pressuring police investigators to overlook the allegations against the NIS.

Weekend Read: How James Turrell Knocked the Art World Off Its Feet

James Turrell is one of the most celebrated contemporary artists, noted for his focus on the concepts of light and space. Wil Hylton devels into Turrell’s significant contributions to art, and highlights the hree-museum retrospective taking place this summer, in the New York Times.

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