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Current Event Cat of the Day: Day of Rage

Day of Rage

Palestinians declare a “day of rage” to coincide with the final Friday of the holy month of Ramadan. Israel responds with intensified attacks on Gaza. And there goes any hope for a ceasefire…

Last week, after 10,000 Palestinians protested on the West Bank, the Fatah political party called for Palestinians to have a day of rage in response to the shelling of a United Nations shelter that killed 16 people. Shells from Israeli tanks hit a UN school compound (where hundreds of Palestinians had come seeking shelter from the fighting) on Thursday in the Gaza Strip, leaving at least 15 dead and dozens more wounded.

Solution? Declare a day of rage and a fire a slew of rockets into Israel.

Isreali response? More air strikes!

After the so called day of rage, Israel intensified its bombardment of Gaza and warned of a long conflict ahead. Sixty airstrikes were carried out Tuesday targeting sites associated with Hamas, including one that hit the Gaza Strip’s only power plant. The power facility was forced to shut down, leaving Gazans, many of whom have been living with just a few hours of electrical supplies for the last three weeks, in a tricky situation. Hamas’ Al-Aqsa satellite-TV station was also damaged in the air strikes, along with government buildings and the home of a top Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh.

Palestinian officials now say 1,156 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the since the most recent fighting broke out on July 8 – and another 6,700 have been injured. Israel has lost 53 soldiers, three civilians, and shows no signs of stopping.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahau declared Monday: “We will continue to act aggressively and responsibly until the mission is completed to protect our citizens, soldiers, and children.”

The rest of Israel agrees. Recent polls say almost 90% of Israelis are in favour of the Gaza offensive.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry is desperately pushing for a ceasefire that both sides will agree on. Yeah, he’s going to be working on that one for a while…

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Current Event Cat of the Day: MH17

Current EVent Cat - MH17

All 298 people on board flight MH17 died when it crashed over the pro-Russian rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine on July 17. The good news is that CNN will have enough material for the next 3-6 months. The bad news is… everything else.

Since the tragedy, the US and other nations are growing increasingly suspicious of Russian complicity in the crash.

Secretary of State John Kerry said “it’s pretty clear” the missile that downed the commercial jetliner came from “a system that was transferred from Russia.”

As for Vladimir Putin, he pointed his finger at the pro-Western government in Ukraine, arguing Ukraine’s crackdown on separatist rebels stoked tensions that led to the disaster.

“I believe that if military operations had not resumed in eastern Ukraine on June 28, this tragedy probably could have been avoided,” Putin said, referring to the end of a 10-day-old cease-fire.

Interesting theory. And how can you not trust a guy who kills his political rivals?

Putin’s involvement aside, there has also been international outcry over the way rebels have handled the whole situation. Pro-Russian rebels have delayed access to the site, allowed untrained volunteers to comb through the area, and even seized the remains of MH17 victims and stored them in train cars, much to the dismay of the international community.

John Kerry said on television on Sunday, “Drunken separatists have been piling bodies into trucks and removing them from the site. What’s happening is really grotesque and it is contrary to everything President Putin and Russia said they would do.”

Pro-Russian rebels have since allowed Dutch investigators to examine bodies from the crashed MH17 flight at a railway station in eastern Ukraine, but internatonal investigators are still being denied full access to the wreckage at the accident site.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels on Monday – the first fight since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down. Ukrainian military tanks reportedly launched an assault in Donetsk in an attempt to break the separatists’ hold of the city.

All in all, you know it’s a rough situation when it’s eclipsing an onslaught of Israeli air strikes and a (mainly civilian) Palestinian death toll of 500.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Happy Fourth of July Chiraq!

Current Event Cat - CHicago Fourth of July

For those of you celebrating the Fourth of July in Chicago this year, those weren’t fireworks you heard – they were gunshots.

The Fourth of July weekend was a bloody one in Chicago, or Chiraq as it is *affectionately* referred to. In total, at least 82 people were shot, 14 of them fatally, during the holiday weekend. So much for those strict gun controls…

The Fourth of July fireworks/gunshots kicked off on Thursday afternoon when two women were shot as they sat outside a two-flat within a block of Garfield Park. By Saturday morning the number had shot up to 36 people, including five who were shot by the police. But the most violent stretch of gun violence happened between 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 3:30 a.m. Monday when four people were killed and at least another 26 wounded.

Most victims were in their late teens and 20s, although a 66-year-old woman was grazed in the head as she walked up the steps of her porch on the Far South Side. Many of the long weekend’s shootings occurred on the South Side, clustered in the notoriously gang-ridden neighborhoods of Englewood, Roseland, Gresham and West Pullman. So don’t worry – Reagan and the cats were safe. Although the cats may be suffering from some PTSD from the fireworks…

Ever since Chiraq was named the Murder Capital of America, the Chicago Police Department has been pursuing a wide range of strategies to stem the violence, much of which is gang-related. So far, nothing seems to be working

“Going into a holiday weekend like this, we obviously had a plan— [the] plan included putting hundreds of more officers on the streets at the times that we needed them and in the places we needed them,” said Chicago Police superintendent Garry McCarthy. “What were the results? The results were a lot of shootings and a lot of murders unfortunately.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has made reducing violence a top priority for his administration, was likely equally disappointed in the holiday violence. For now, Emanuel has declined to comment on the weekend shootings – at least until he can find something to blame it on. Illegal gun proliferation? Gang culture? Insufficient police presence? Meh, just blame it on the NRA and move on.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Not So Friendly Fire

Not so Friendly Fire

Five Americans troops were accidentally killed by an airstrike in southern Afghanistan in one of the worst friendly fire cases involving United States and coalition troops since the start of the nearly 14-year war.

The not so friendly fire incident took place on Monday night in Zabul province, where Afghan troops were conducting security operations. When the group was attacked by enemy forces, they called for air support. Instead they got ambushed by a different kind of enemy – Nato forces. The Nato aircraft accidentally struck the location of the U.S. soldiers, killing five of them and at least one Afghan soldier.

“Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation,” a statement from international forces in Kabul said.

While friendly fire incidents are not as few and far between as they should be, Monday’s case is among the most serious in Afghanistan, where Nato-led troops have been battling Taliban and other various insurgents since 2001.

Since the war began, there have been more than a dozen instances of airstrikes or friendly fires on allies and fellow coalition troops.  One of the worst friendly fire incidents came in April 2002 when four Canadian soldiers were killed by an American F-16 jet fighter which decided to drop a bomb on a group of troops during a night firing exercise in Kandahar. But the Americans have had their fair share of casualties too – perhaps the most famous resulting in the death of NFL player Pat Tillman in 2004.

Still, five in one strike is quite a lot – the U.S. must be pretty upset.

“Five American troops were killed yesterday during a security operation in southern Afghanistan. Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

As for the Afghan casualty? Meh.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Pakistani Taliban Attack

Current Event Cat - Karachi Airport Pakistani Taliban

The Pakistani Taliban are at it again, this time claiming responsibility for the bloody attacks on Karachi’s airport that killed least 24 people, including 10 members of their organization.

Surprisingly the 25-year-old pregnant woman who was beaten to death by her family for marrying against the family’s wishes was not the worst thing to happen in Pakistan this month. Never one to be outdone by angry family members throwing bricks at a pregnant woman in the name of “honor”, the Pakistani Taliban decided to step up their game and attack the country’s busiest airport.

On Sunday night, Taliban militants launched a violent assault on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi complete with rocket-launchers, suicide vests, and grenades. Gunmen disguised as police guards stormed the international terminal, set off explosions and opened fire with machine-guns and rocket launchers, triggering a gun battle with police.

“They were well-trained. Their plan was very well thought out,” Qaim Ali Shah, chief minister of Sindh province, said.

Well not that well-trained… At the end of the six-hour assault, all ten attackers were dead and no planes had been hijacked.

After Pakistani officials reclaimed control of the airport, the Pakistani Taliban was quick to claim responsibility for the attack.

A spokesman for the group, Shahidullah Shahid, said the aim of Monday’s assault had been to hijack an aircraft, and was “a message to the Pakistan government that we are still alive to react over the killings of innocent people in bomb attacks on their villages”.

Needless to say, the prospects for continued government-led peace talks with the Taliban are not looking so hot.

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Current Event Cat of the Day – Black Hawk Down: Ukraine Edition

Current Event Cat - Ukraine Helicopter Black Hawk

So much for not turning into Somalia… Rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down a government military helicopter black hawk down style Thursday amid heavy fighting in the town of Slovyansk.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov (until the Chocolate King takes over) said the rebels used a Russian-made anti-aircraft system to bring down the helicopter. Ukraine’s National Guards put the death toll at 12 soldiers, including one general.

Slovyansk, a city of 120,000 residents in the Donetsk region (one of the two provinces in eastern Ukraine that have unilaterally declared independence from the evil government in Kiev), has seen fierce fighting between separatists and government forces in recent weeks. And it’s not the first time the region has been some black hawk down action. Earlier this month the separatists shot down two other army helicopters, also near Slovyansk, killing a pilot and another serviceman.

Shortly after his election win, President-elect Petro Poroshenko (aka the Chocolate King) vowed to tackle the “bandits” in the east “in hours”, not months.

“The anti-terrorist operation should not last two or three months. It should last for a matter of hours,” Poroshenko said on Monday, adding: “They (pro-Russian separatists) want to preserve a bandit state which is held in place by force of arms. These are simply bandits. Nobody in any civilized state will hold negotiations with terrorists.”

He also vowed not to let eastern Ukraine turn into Somalia.

“Their goal is to turn Donbass (east Ukraine) into Somalia. I will not let anyone do this to our state and I hope that Russia will support my approach.”

Well, he better hurry up and take over office, because once you go full Somalia, it’s hard to go back. Just ask Somalia.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: The Chocolate King

Current EVent Cat - Chocolate King

All hail the Chocolate King! While the rest of Europe took the ultra right-wing xenophobic route, Ukraine turned to chocolate, electing the billionaire candymaker Petro Poroshenkohas.

Ukraine’s Chocolate King-turned-politician Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine’s presidential elections with 54 percent of the vote, eliminating the need for a run-off vote. The 48-year-old billionaire and former foreign minister, was formally declared the winner on Monday and wasted no time in promising to negotiate an end to a pro-Russia insurgency in the east and saying he was willing to begin talks with Moscow. If anyone can sweet talk Putin, it’s the Chocolate King!

But things aren’t going as smoothly as the Chocolate King would like. During the elections, armed separatists in the eastern regions took over polling stations, blocking some citizens from casting their ballots. And then after the election… trouble continued with bloody clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk. At least 30 pro-Russia separatists were reportedly killed after a failed attempt to take over the airport early on Monday.

“The airport is under our full control. The enemy suffered heavy losses. We have none.” Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement.

So far, Poroshenkohas has taken a no-nonsense approach with the pro-Russian troublemakers.

There are no talks with terrorists,” said the centrist pro-Western tycoon.

“Their goal is to turn Donbass (east Ukraine) into Somalia. I will not let anyone do this to our state and I hope that Russia will support my approach.”

Vowing not to let Ukraine turn into Somalia, the go-to example of a failed state? Don’t set your goals too low Chocolate King…

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Boko Haram Havoc

Current EVent Cat - Boko Haram

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is in desperate need of good luck these days because Boko Haram is wreaking some serious havoc on his country.

On Tuesday twin car bombs exploded in a market in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing at least 118 people. More bodies may be uncovered once the rubble from the targeted building (a crowded market and a hospital) is cleared away.

Goodluck Jonathan said those behind the terrorist attack were “cruel and evil”.

Cruel and evil, you say? All signs point to Boko Haram, the Islamist group who kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls last month.

But a double bombing wasn’t enough for Boko Haram. The next day the militant Islamists attacked another village in north-eastern Nigeria, killing more than 25 people and burning nearly all the homes to the ground. Two other villages were raided earlier this week in north-east Nigeria, killing 27 people.

Yeah, Goodluck Jonathan really needs some good luck. Maybe he should try killing an albino and using their body parts as good luck charms? And if that doesn’t work, maybe sending in 80 US Marines will.

President Obama announced on Wednesday that he is deploying 80 Marines to Chad to look for nearly 300 missing Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram.

“These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” Obama said.

“The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required.”

Well, 80 troops will probably do more than a hashtag, and will certainly do more than the Nigerian government.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Flooding in the Balkans

Current EVent Cat - Balkans Floods 

Hundreds of thousands of Bosnians were forced to evacuate their homes on Sunday, after floodwaters caused more than 3,000 landslides in the Balkans.

Bosnia and Serbia have been pounded by three months worth of rain in recent days, producing the worst floods the Balkans have seen since they began measuring rainfall over 120 years ago.

At least 35 people have died as a result of the flooding, hundreds of thousands have had to be evacuated, and about a quarter of Bosnia-Hercegovina’s four million people are without clean water.

The floodwaters hit Bosnia the worst, managing to wipe out entire villages. Helicopter airlifts rushed to pluck families from rooftops but more than 100,000 houses and other buildings were destroyed and the road infrastructure was also badly damaged. To sum up, it’s pretty bad.

Foreign minister Zlatko Lagumdzija said the destruction was “terrifying” and compared it to Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

“The consequences of the floods are terrifying,” Lagumdzija said.

“The physical destruction is not less than the destruction caused by the war.”

“During the war many people lost everything. Today, again they have nothing.”

And to make matters worse, floodwaters are threatening major power plants and have unearthed land mines leftover from the region’s war in the 1990s. Nearly 120,000 unexploded landmines remain in more than 9,400 carefully marked minefields, but the flood-induced landslides may have knocked a few loose.

“We are faced with the biggest problem and disaster after the war,” Ahdin Orahovac, director of Bosnia’s Mine Action Centre, said.

“All of our mine warning signs have been moved. We have to warn our local population that they shouldn’t hurry back to their homes because there are many locations where landmines are now in new places.”

But with every cloud spewing out torrential rains, there’s a silver lining: cute pictures of animals being rescued!

Serbia Dog Flood

serbia-bosnia-weather-flood-1 Bosnia Puppies

Wait a minute… where are all the cat rescue pictures???

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Death for Apostasy

Current Event Cat - Apostasy

A Sudanese judge has sentenced a woman to hang for apostasy after she left Islam and married a Christian man.

“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death,” Judge Abbas Moham med Al-Khalifa told the woman.

Despite appeals by Western embassies that freedom of religion should be respected, the judge meant business. In Sudan, which is governed by Islamic law, the rule is that apostasy – the abandonment of one’s religious faith – is a serious crime. Apparently serious enough to warrant the death penalty.

In addition to death by hanging, the woman was also sentenced to 100 lashes. The lashes were the result of her being an adulterous slut, since her marriage to a Christian man was not valid under Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.

“I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy,” the woman calmly explained to the judge.

Turns out she was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood. But the judge didn’t care. Death sentence still on!

The one upside to this whole situation is that the woman is eight months pregnant. Therefore, her 100 lashes won’t be dished out until she has recovered from giving birth and the courts won’t go through with her death sentence for two years after she has given birth. Yay!

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