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Friday, July 12, 2013

Snowden Asks For Asylum in Russia, Says His ‘Job Is Done’

In his first appearance in three weeks, US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden met with Russian human rights activists at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on Friday and asked for temporary political asylum in Russia. According to Tatyana Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, Snowden would stay in Russia for the time being as “he can’t fly to Latin America yet”. When asked if Snowden had any more revelations to make, Lokshina said Snowden had told her his “job is done”. This was a condition set out by Russian President Vladimir Putin for granting him asylum in Russia, that he could remain if he no longer harmed the US with his revelations. “He does not intend to harm the US in the future”, said Russian MP Vyacheslav Nikonov. Russian authorities should be able to decide on Snowden’s asylum request in two to three weeks’ time.

Egypt Prepares For Ramadan Protests

Protesters in favour and against the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi planned large rallies for the first Friday of Ramadan in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the party of the deposed president, hopes a strong turnout will show that support is turning in their favour. They say they are not seeking confrontation or violence, according to the BBC’s correspondent in Cairo, Jim Muir, but that the potential is always there. Those in favour of the coup are planning for a mass rally at Tahrir Square, including a mass iftar, the breaking of the fast at sundown. Meanwhile, Egyptian prosecutors are planning to investigate allegations that Morsi and other leaders escaped from jail in 2011 with the help of Islamist militant group Hamas, whose fighters would have stormed the Wadi Natroun prison in Cairo where the group was being held.

Syrian Rebel Commander Killed by Rival Rebel Group

A senior rebel commander in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is reported to have been killed by a rival group with links to al-Qaeda, potentially opening up a civil war within a civil war. Kamal Hamami, of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council, had been meeting with members of the rival group to “discuss battle plans” and that his death came amidst a dispute over control of a strategic checkpoint in Latakia, the main port city in Syria. “We will not let them get away with it because they want to target us”, said a senior FSA commander after learning of Hamami’s death. “We are going to wipe the floor with them”, he added. His death could also prompt Western powers to arm the FSA, desperate for firepower, against the other al-Qaeda-backed rebel groups.

Irish Parliament Votes to Allow ‘Life-Saving’ Abortions

Irish lawmakers have decided to allow abortions under strict conditions for the first time in the country’s history after a marathon debate. The law will be passed to the upper house, the Seanad, on Monday and will be signed by President Michael Higgins if there are no amendments to it. “We had 21 years of inaction, 21 years of inaction. What’s going on here is medical clarity and legal certainty for the women of our country who have had a constitutional right conferred upon them”, said Irish Prime Minister End Kenny. The new law, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, gives a women the right to an abortion if her life is at risk, including from suicide. The legislation was prompted after the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who died in an Irish hospital after being a denied an abortion because “Ireland is a Catholic country”.

Malala Celebrates 16th Birthday With Education Appeal at the UN

A teenager shot by the Taliban in Pakistan last year has marked her 16th birthday by addressing the United Nations in New York on Friday, telling them that “books and pens frighten extremists”. Wearing a pink head scarf, Malala Yousafzai told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and another 1,000 delegates that education was the only way to improve lives around the world. “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution”, she said. She presented the secretary general with a petition signed by four million people in support of the 57 million children who are not able to go to school, demanding new teachers, schools and books and the end to child labour, marriage and trafficking.

Weekend Read: Party-Time on Spaceship Nursultan

Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, “has all the weirdness of Pyongyang and little of the human scale of Canberra. It is a collection of monuments and boulevards on a scale that screams ‘L’état, c’est moi’”. In the Economist.

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