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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Egypt Army Chief Calls For ‘Rallies’

In a speech he delivered at a military graduation ceremony, General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi called for nationwide rallies to give the military a popular mandate to combat “violence and terrorism.” He said it was not a call for violence, but soon after, the military was put on a “state of alert.” Despite reiterating his vow to stick to a political roadmap, his call has underscored the fact that Sissi, and thereby the military, is the one truly in power.

His speech also raised concerns that he is simply securing a public cover for dismantling the sit-in camps protesting the ouster of President Mohammad Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood quickly responded saying that Sissi’s speech was “an announcement of civil war.” After the speech, Egypt’s second-largest Islamic party, Nour, rejected the call for rallies, and the United States delayed the delivery of F-16 jets. The country’s public prosecutor has since ordered the re-arrest of eight Brotherhood leaders.

House to Vote on Restricting NSA Funding

Yesterday, the House of Representatives forced a vote on an amendment that would limit NSA bulk surveillance. It would end the NSA’s authority “for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act” and stop the NSA from collecting America’s phone records.

The White House has urged Congress to reject the amendment, saying it would dismantle a vital tool in preventing terrorist attacks. Regardless of the House vote, the amendment is unlikely to pass the Senate and would face a near-certain veto by Obama.

The Republicans new interest in privacy, however, seems merely to be a larger part of the GOP’s push to enact the sharpest spending cuts in a generation. Essentially, they have threatened to hold government financing hostage until the Affordable Care Act is stripped of funding. Their proposals also include a 34% decrease in the EPA’s budget, as well as cutting education grants to poor students and eliminating PBS entirely.

Syria: Homs in Crisis, Rebels Secure Western Aleppo

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that Syrian authorities were not allowing humanitarian assistance into Homs, Syria’s third largest city. For the past month, Homs has been the target of a sustained air assault and shelling, leaving thousands of civilians trapped and in dire need of food and medical supplies. Under international law, warring parties are obligated to allow humanitarian relief groups access to the wounded, but of course, this doesn’t always happen. The Red Cross has been trying to get into the city for 20 days.

In Aleppo, the Syrian Red Crescent has managed to broker a program called “Food for freedom,” in which the rebels release captured regime soldiers, while the surrounding army allows food and humanitarian aid into the city. At this point, the rebels have secured the entire western area of Aleppo, a northern province that borders Turkey.

Rape, Torture at Australia’s Detention Center in Papua New Guinea

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s new law banning asylum-seekers from Australia and sending them instead to Papua New Guinea instead, came under even more criticism today, as another boat of refugees capsized off the coast of Indonesia and increasing reports of rape and torture at the new refugee detention center are being reported.

Rudd defended his asylum policy, saying that it would deter refugees from trying to sail for Australia in the first place. In a newly-aired interview, however, former Head of Occupational Health and Safety, Rod St George, recounted the horrible conditions in the Manus Island refugee detention center. Among his accusations are the fact that detainees rape and sexually assault other detainees with the full knowledge of the staff, local ‘heavies’ force some detainees to sew their lips shut, and attempted suicides happen “almost daily.”

News That Isn’t Awful

The video of an 11-year-old runaway from Yemen vehemently rejecting child marriage, which is a common practice in Yemen, has gone viral on YouTube. In part of it, the young girl demands to know: “What have the children done wrong? Why do you have to marry them off like that?”

A new superhero has appeared in Pakistan, the Burkha Avenger. Using her burkha to hide her identity and boasting incredible martial arts skills, she fights the villains who attack girls’ schools and education (mostly, this is the Taliban, of course).

Official in Pennsylvania defies statewide ban and marries same-sex couples anyway.

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