Monthly Archives: February 2014

India’s Opposition BJP Will Storm the Next Election, a New Poll Finds


A Feb. 26 report from the American think tank Pew Research Center has found that Indians want their next government to be led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the incumbent Congress Party by more than 3 to 1.

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was also viewed favorably by 78% of respondents, compared with Congress’s campaign leader Rahul Gandhi, who was seen favorably by only 50%.

The survey — which sampled the views of 2,464 adults in 15 major states between December and January — also found that 70% of Indians were not pleased with the way things are going in the country today. With national elections only weeks away, that’s decidedly bad news for Congress, which has led India’s coalition government since 2004 but has been struggling to catch up with Modi’s more energetic campaign in recent weeks.

Pew says Indians’ dissatisfaction is…

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Sri Lanka Vehemently Rejects Inquiry Into War Crimes


Sri Lanka has rejected a call for an international investigation into the war crimes allegedly committed in the country’s bloody civil war, saying it was “tantamount to an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”

The call, made in a report by U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay, precedes next month’s release of a U.N. Human Rights Council review of Sri Lanka’s progress — or lack of — in investigating the alleged crimes.

Both the Sri Lankan military and the rebel Tamil Tigers are accused of committing crimes including shelling civilians, summary executions, blocking food and aid to civilians and recruiting child soldiers.

It is expected that the U.N. Human Rights Council will consider a resolution establishing an independent international investigation at a meeting in March if no progress is made before then.

As many as 40,000 Tamil civilians may have died in Sri Lanka’s bloody civil…

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Gunmen Seize Parliament in Ukraine’s Russian Stronghold


The residents of Crimea, a region of southern Ukraine, woke up on Thursday to find their country’s flag over the regional parliament replaced with the Russian tricolor. Overnight, dozens of gunmen had seized the building, taking advantage of the power vacuum that has emerged in Ukraine since last week’s revolution ousted the ruling government. Though the gunmen did not immediately state their demands, local officials said they were from the pro-Russian majority on the Crimean peninsula, which has been up in arms against the nationalist, anti-Russian elements of the uprising that overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych.

Eyewitnesses and local officials said more than 100 armed men had carried bags of assault rifles, grenade launchers and other weapons into the parliament building before sealing themselves inside early Thursday morning. The gunmen told security guards to leave the building, and they have not taken any hostages. “The men who have taken the…

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Former Pope Benedict Denies Claims He Was Forced Out


Former Pope Benedict XVI has denied he was forced to step down from the papacy nearly a year ago.

“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,” wrote Benedict in a letter that was published on the Italian website Vatican Insider on Wednesday, in response to fresh media claims about the circumstances surrounding his resignation.

The Italian newspaper Libero revived speculation this month that the former head of the Catholic church had been forced to resign from his position because of scandals and allegations of corruption in the Vatican, reports Reuters.

But Benedict called the allegations “absurd”. Vatican law dictates that a pope’s resignation is only valid if the decision is taken in full autonomous freedom, without pressure from others. “The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculation regarding its validity is simple absurd,” he…

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Ukraine Disbands Controversial Riot Police


Ukraine’s acting interior minister announced on Wednesday that it had disbanded the country’s elite riot police, known as The Berkut, which has been blamed for deadly attacks on anti-government protesters.

Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s acting interior minister, wrote on Facebook that he had signed a decree to disband the special unit. The Berkut (“Golden Eagle”) force had between 4,000 and 5,000 members stationed across Ukraine, reports the BBC.

Anti-government protesters have blamed Berkut officers for the deaths of dozens of demonstrators during the recent protests in Kiev, including in violent clashes that left scores of people dead and ultimately led to the toppling of President Viktor Yanukovych.

The special unit has in the past been accused of numerous scandals, including of intervening in  parliamentary elections and brutally cracking down on anti-government demonstrators.

However the decision to disband the unit could potentially inflame tensions in Ukraine’s pro-Russia Crimea, reports the Financial…

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Pope Francis Opens Vatican Finances to Outside Scrutiny


Pope Francis is permitting greater financial oversight of the Vatican’s scandal-ridden institutions as part of his reformist push within the Catholic church.

A new Secretariat for the Economy will have wide powers “to conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See and Vatican City State at any time,” according to a statement released Monday.

Australian Cardinal George Pell will head the Secretariat, and a 15-member council made up of eight prelates and seven lay financial experts “with strong professional financial experience” will guide its policy-making.

The two institutions at the center of Vatican finance scandals, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) and the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), will remain for the time being, with APSA formally taking the role of the Vatican’s central bank.

Monsignor Ninzio Scarano, a senior accountant at APSA for 22 years, is currently on trial, accused of plotting to…

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Ukraine Delays Forming New Government


Ukraine’s parliament signaled Tuesday that it will delay forming a new unity government until Thursday, as the country grapples with ongoing political tensions and economic challenges with parliament in charge after the president fled the capital last week.

Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchinov, who is serving as Ukraine’s interim leader, announced on Tuesday that that a new government should be in place by Thursday, the Associated Press reports. The parliament sacked some of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s lieutenants, and has yet to name a new premiere and fill other top posts.

Turchinov has essentially been in charge of the country of 46 million since Yanukovych fled Kiev on Friday after signing a deal with opposition leaders that ended days of bloody protests in the capital. Law enforcement agencies issued an arrest warrant for Yanukovych for the killing of 82 people in the clashes in Kiev. The president’s whereabouts are unknown, but he is believed to be…

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