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Turkey declares war on Syria's only democratic hope & Western allies look the other way

Middle East, Sept.8.─ The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says 4475 people were killed in the nation's horrific civil war during July. Of these, 1289 were civilians, including 263 children.

Almost three quarters of these civilian casualties were killed in airstrikes by the government or its ally, Russia, and other attacks by the pro-government side, SOHR said.

Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed, between 4-to-5 million people have left Syria as refugees and about 8 million have been internally displaced.

The government is responsible for the highest civilian body count, but it does not have a monopoly on atrocities. Among their opponents is ISIS, whose sadism is well known.

But many of the other armed opposition groups, including those affiliated to the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC), share a similar Islamist ideology to ISIS. Even secular affiliates to the SNC have, like ISIS, made videos advertising their own cruelty.  ROJAVA - Red: Claimed by Rojava and controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces - Pink: Territory partly under control of the SDFROJAVA - Red: Claimed by Rojava and controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces - Pink: Territory partly under control of the SDF


Amid this carnage, there has emerged a region of hope: the self-administered areas of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and Northern Syria.

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US Congress returns with just weeks to prevent government shutdown

House Speaker Paul RyanHouse Speaker Paul Ryan Washington DC, Sept.5.─ Congress returns Tuesday from a seven-week recess that has left lawmakers with less than a month to fund the federal government and prevent a shutdown. But the scramble to solve that problem will not stop Republicans from casting votes on other issues designed to register their opposition to the Obama administration.

Federal agencies ranging from the National Park Service to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could face closures unless lawmakers vote on a stop-gap spending bill to keep the government running past the end of September.

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Venezuela ordered to pay Vancouver-based mining firm more than US$1.2 billion

An international arbitration tribunal has ordered Venezuela to pay for expropriated mines

Vancouver, Aug.23.─ An international arbitration tribunal has ordered Venezuela to pay a Vancouver-based mining company more than US$1.2 billion for expropriating its gold mines.

Venezuela took over Rusoro Mining's investments in the country as part of a nationalization of the gold industry in 2011.

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Africa’s fragile democracies stall

  • Since the end of the cold war, multi-party democracy has flourished. In many countries it is now at risk
  • Democracy advances stall in Africa just as it is happening in Latin America from the very begining of this Century  

Aug.20.─ Some call it Africa’s second liberation. After freedom from European colonisers came freedom from African despots. Since the end of the cold war multi-party democracy has spread far and wide across the continent, often with impressive and moving intensity. Remember 1994, when South Africans queued for hours to bury apartheid and elect Nelson Mandela as president in their country’s first all-race vote.

Many of Africa’s worst Big Men were swept away. Mengistu Haile Mariam fled Ethiopia in 1991; Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) decamped in 1997; a year later Sani Abacha of Nigeria died in office (or, as rumour has it, in the arms of prostitutes).

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Participatory Democracy vibrant in Malaysia

Associate Professor Farish Noor considers, however, that it will be more difficult to predict election results with so many parties in the fray  Panoramic view of Kuala LumpurPanoramic view of Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, Aug.16.─ The emergence of new political parties in Malaysia suggests participatory democracy is quite vibrant, academic and respected observer Dr Farish A. Noor says.

It shows Malaysians still believe in playing by the rules of constitutional democracy, says the Associate Professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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