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Current Event Cat of the Day: The Anti-Suicide Bomber

Current Event Cat - Suicide Bomber

A 15-year-old Pakistani boy is being hailed a hero after he tackled a suicide bomber – blowing himself up but saving his school.

On Monday, ninth grader Aitzaz Hasan and his friends spotted a very suspicious looking man wearing a suicide vest hanging around outside of their school in Ibrahimzai, a Shia-dominated region of Hangu, in north-western Pakistan. Aitzaz and his cousin, Musadiq Ali Bangash, became increasingly suspicious of the stranger, who was attempting to pass himself off as a student by wearing a school uniform over his suicide vest.

Despite warnings from the others students to ignore him, Aitzaz confronted the stranger, hoping to stop him from blowing up the school. The confrontation led to a scuffle, which led to the suicide bomber panicking, which then led to the pre-mature detonation of the bomb.

Both Aitzaz and the bomber died at the scene. Although the blast injured two people, the school’s nearly 2,000 students were spared.

My cousin sacrificed his life saving his school and hundreds of students and school fellows,” his cousin Mudassar Hassan Bangish said.

“The suicide bomber wanted to destroy the school and school students. It was my cousin who stopped him from this…destruction.”

Aitzaz’s family is devasted by the news but are also proud of Aitzaz’s actions.

“My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” Mujahid Ali, Aitzaz’s father told reporters.

Meanwhile, Pakistanis everywhere are urging the government to give Aitzaz some kind of award to recognize his bravery. Move over Malala – there’s a new Pakistani teenage hero!

Via: BBC News

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Colorado Catnip

Current Event Cat - Colorado Marijuana

Just in time to numb everyone’s New Year’s hangover, the world’s first state-licensed marijuana industry opened for business yesterday in the state of Colorado.

The change approved by Colorado voters went into effect with the new year, and roughly two dozen stores in Colorado have already begun selling weed to residents 21 or older.

Hordes of customers hoping to get Rocky Mountain High braved the cold, snowy weather and lined up outside the various marijuana outlets. Colorado residents can buy up to 1oz (28g) of pot, while those from out of the state can only purchase 0.25oz. And the drugs must be kept within the state’s borders. The Denver airport has already put up signs warning travellers not to smuggle the weed into the rest of the country. The cannabis can also only be smoked on private property with the owner’s permission.

First Colorado PurchaseSean Azzariti, an Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from two tours in Iraq, was the first person to legally buy recreational marijuana in Colorado today. Azzariti, seen in the photo already looking high and somewhat terrified, purchased an eighth of an ounce of pot and some chocolate truffles laced with marijuana for $59.50.

Azzariti, who has campaigned to legalise marijuana, said the drug helps to ease his symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

I couldn’t be happier,” he told US media. “It’s a huge stepping stone for other states as well, so it’s a huge honour, to say the least.”

Colorado has now officially become the first place in the world where marijuana will be regulated from seed to sale. Next up: Washington State… and Uruguay.

Via: BBC News & Current Event Cats

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Michael Schumacher

Current Event Cat - Schumacher

Confirming my fear of downhill sports, Formula One racing star Michael Schumacher is in critical condition after a ski accident in the French Alps.

Schumacher was skiing with his teenage son when he fell and hit his head on a rock. Luckily, the 44-year-old German was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, otherwise he definitely would not have made it to the hospital. Unluckily, the helmet wasn’t sufficient and he suffered a pretty rough head injury anyways.

Following the accident, Schumacher arrived at a hospital in the nearby town of Moutiers, where his neurological condition “deteriorated rapidly”. After being taken to a larger facility in Grenoble, Schumacher was put in a medically induced coma while he fights for his life.

“We had to operate urgently to release some pressure in his head,” said Grenoble University Medical Center chief anesthesiologist Jean-Francois Payen.

Doctors say they are working “hour by hour” and all they can do at this point is wait.

“We cannot predict the future for Michael Schumacher,” the anesthesiologist said.

The case is pretty similar to the accident that killed actress Natasha Richardson five years ago in Mont Tremblant. Richardson, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, fell and hit her head during a ski lesson on a beginner’s slope. After initially refusing treatment, Richardson eventually died from blunt trauma to the head, causing massive internal bleeding in the brain. In a similar vein, Sonny Bono was also killed while skiing after hitting a tree and Michael Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, died in a ski accident in Colorado.

So if celebrities have taught us anything, it’s to avoid skiing. Or at the very least, wear a helmet – no matter how much of a dork you look like.

Via: BBC 

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Syria’s New Years Resolution: Geneva Peace Talks

Current Event Cat - Geneva Talks

Geneva talks worked out well for the Iran nuclear deal, so now Syria is giving it a try. Starting on January 22, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government will hold the first direct talks with opposition groups at an international peace conference in Geneva.

The Geneva conference will be the first time the two sides of the civil war will convene since the conflict began. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the little get-together on Monday, saying that the aim of the talks will be to agree on an acceptable transitional government with powers over military and security.

“We go with a clear understanding: The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria,”  Ban Ki-moon told reporters at UN headquarters.

But the news of the upcoming Geneva peace talks still leave many questions unanswered. Who should legitimately represent the divided Syrian opposition? What should they do with Bashar al-Assad? Should Iran be involved or completely banned from the table?

The rebel groups are skeptical that the talks will do any good because 1) the opposition is not united.

“Opposition political delegations do not have any power or influence on the Syrian street,” said Fahed Al-Masri, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army. “As the Syrian street does not recognize them, it would be impossible for them to be able to commit to anything, much less fulfill any pledges.”

And 2) the rebels don’t believe their demand to get rid of Syrian President Bashar Assad will be met.

In fact, Syrian government officials have maintained that Assad will not resign and may even run for another term in presidential elections scheduled for mid-2014. If he can win an election after starting a two-year civil war that has so far claimed 100,000 lives, including that of more than 11,000 children, then either the ballots are rigged or all that sarin gas is seriously messing with Syrians’ brains.

Via: USA Today

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Illinois Goes Gay

Current EVent Cat - Gay Marriage Illinois

Illinois’s gay marriage bill is signed, sealed, and delivered, making it the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Sweet 16 and only 34 more to go!

Just days after Hawaii switched sides, Illinois followed suit with their own marriage equality legislation. The Illinois bill is set to go in effect on June 1, 2014, just in time for gay wedding season.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the legislation on Wednesday in front of 2,330 supporters gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“What we’re celebrating today is the triumph of democracy, the triumph of liberty,” Governor Pat Quinn said before he signed the bill on a desk once used by President Abraham Lincoln.

“We understand in our state that part of our unfinished business is to help other states in the United States of America achieve marriage equality.”

After the bill was signed the crowd shared celebratory kisses and waved miniature rainbow flags featuring the outline of Illinois. Congratulations Illinois! Welcome to the 21st century!

But while it was all fun and games in Chicago, the mood was less celebratory in downstate Illinois where some of the state’s most well recognized religious figures continued to express their opposition.

In Springfield, Illinois, a crowd gathered around for an exorcism by the local Catholic bishop in protest of the governor’s action.

“It is not the church that must change to confirm its teachings to the views of the world, but it is each individual who is called to be configured to Christ,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki said during the service.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a conservative catholic gathering if they didn’t try and tie the recent Illinois tornadoes to the state’s approval of the marriage equality bill. If acceptance of marriage equality equals destructive tornadoes, then I guess all Midwesterners are secret gay marriage fans – especially Oklahoma.

Via: The Chicago Tribune

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Iranian Embassy Double Bombings

Current Event Cat - Iranian Embassy

Dozens were killed when twin suicide blasts shook the Iranian embassy in Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut.

At least 23 people have been killed and more than 140 injured in the double bombing just outside the Iranian embassy. According to the local media, a suicide bomber on a scooter was behind the first blast, while the second came from a suicide bomber in an SUV. 

Who was behind the deadly blasts? The Sunni jihadist group Abdullah Azzam Brigades.

How did they announce it? On Twitter of course! After claiming responsibility in a tweet, the group described the attack as a “double martyrdom operation carried out by two heroes from the heroic Sunnis of Lebanon”. They went on to tweet that similar assaults would continue until the Iran-supported Shiite group Hezbollah stops sending fighters to help Syrian government forces.

The motive (obviously)? It’s alllll about the Syrian war – and about the ongoing Sunni-Shia rivalry. Iran is a super supporter of the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, which has sent a bunch of fighters to Syria to back the government of Bashar al-Assad. On the other side of the conflict, Lebanese Sunni Muslim fighters have joined forces with the mainly Sunni rebels in Syria – some of which are affiliated with al-Qaeda.

So the suicide bombs outside of the Iranian embassy are just a classic retaliation for something the embassy workers and unsuspecting civilians likely have no control over.

Via: CNN & Current Event Cats

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Nuclear Deal

Current Event Cat - Iran Nuclear Deal

Despite his best efforts, Secretary of State John Kerry has so far failed to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.

Representatives from Iran and the so-called P5+1 – the US, UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany have been in Geneva trying to hammer out a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program and ease up on Western sanctions. On Monday Kerry revealed that negotiators had been “very, very close … extremely close” to reaching a deal with Iran. But sometimes close just isn’t enough – as Kerry learned in 2004 – and the deal fell through over the weekend.

So what happened? Well, Iran is blaming it on the West – namely France. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, blamed France for “gutting over half” of the U.S. draft.

The U.S, however, is blaming it on Iran. Kerry said Iran backed out of the nuclear deal on the last day of talks. He also maintains that the West was unified when they presented their proposal to the Iranians.

“The French signed off on it, we signed off on it, and everybody agreed it was a fair proposal,” Kerry said. “Iran couldn’t take it at that particular moment.”

While some say the nuclear talks failed because France really wanted tight restrictions placed on the heavy-water reactor being built in Arak and others say they failed because Iran is insisting on formal recognition of its “right” to enrich uranium, both sides are committed to reaching an agreement. Eventually.

Diplomats are expected to meet again Nov. 20 to pick up where they left off and both sides are relatively optimistic.

“We are committed to constructive engagement. Interaction on equal footing key to achieve shared objectives,” Zarif said.

As for John Kerry, he’s just happy Iran is talking.

“We haven’t been speaking in 35 years,” Kerry said. “We just talked more in 30 hours than we have in 30 years prior.”

Via: CBS News 

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Super Typhoon Haiyan

Current Event Cat - Typhoon Haiyan

Super/Monster/Really Big Typhoon Haiyan roared into the Philippines early Friday with winds of up to 320km per hour (aka really fast).

The storm, which may be the strongest tropical cyclone to ever hit land, has forced millions to seek shelter in 20 provinces and hold on for dear life. So far, three people have been killed and seven more reported injured. Another 12 million are still at risk.

The Super Typhoon, which began battering Samar at 4:30 a.m, flooded streets and knocked out power and communications networks in many areas. The super high winds meant the destruction was over quickly – but it also meant that there was a lot of destruction.

“About 90% of the infrastructure and establishments were heavily damaged,” Gwendolyn Pang, the secretary general of the Philippine National Red Cross said.

Pang also predicted that the death toll would rise as soon as aid workers could wade their way through the wreckage and the 10 feet high flood waters. Considering December’s Typhoon Bopha killed as many as 1,900 people last year, this Super Typhoon will probably do even more damage. But the Philippines is a resilient country and they will get through it. If there are two things Filipinos are good at, it’s enduring typhoons (they have an average of 20 a year) and cleaning up big messes (I have a Filipino cleaning lady).

Via: CNN & Current Event Cats

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Yasser Arafat’s Corpse

Current Event Cat - Arafat Poison

A year after digging up Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s body, Swiss scientists have determined with 83 percent accuracy that he was poisoned with radioactive polonium.

Tests (scientific tests) have confirmed that Arafat, who died in 2004 at age 75, had high levels of radioactive polonium in his body. Samples from his bones and organs showed at least 18 times the normal level of the poison.

However, the scientists would not say definitively whether polonium poisoning had caused his death in 2004, but agree that the results “moderately support” polonium as the cause.

“Was polonium the cause of the death for certain? The answer is no, we cannot show categorically that hypothesis that the poisoning caused was this or that,” Professor Francois Bochud told a news conference on Thursday.

“Our results offer moderate backing for the theory of poisoning.”

Arafat’s widow, Suha, who originally opposed exhuming her late husband’s body, was satisfied with the results. She always believed that Arafat, who fell mysteriously ill after eating a meal at home, was assassinated.

But the scientific report failed to discuss the most important aspect of the case: who killed Arafat? Arafat, who led the Palestine Liberation Organisation for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, was known for having many enemies around the world. His killer could literally be anyone (even you), but most signs point to his Palestinian rivals or the Israeli government, his sworn enemy. Either way, this new revelation will do wonders for the Middle East peace process.

Via: Al Jazeera

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Brazil Style Spying

Current Event Cat - Brazil Spying on US

After repeatedly ridiculing the United States for its excessive espionage and cancelling a state visit to Washington, Brazil was forced to make an awkward confession: they also spied on countries – including the U.S.

Brazil admitted that it had spied on diplomats from the U.S., Russia, Iran and Iraq. However, they insist the spying, which involved following diplomats and monitoring activities at the U.S. embassy, happened a decade ago.

Also, Brazil’s justice minister, Jose Eduardo Cardoso, says his country’s surveillance activities were “completely different” from those carried out by the evil United States.

“I see completely different situations. What happened in relation to Brazil and other countries was a violation. Emails and phone calls were violated, which is an affront to Brazilian sovereignty,” Cardoso told reporters.

And what about Brazil’s spying activities? Well, they were simply “counter-intelligence” operations intended to uncover whether other countries were spying on them. Spoiler alert: they were. But apparently they needed an Edward Snowden type leak to figure out what their “counter-intelligence” operations couldn’t.

If Brazil really wanted to stay under America’s radar, they should borrow a trick or two from China: smog. The smog in China has become so smoggy that it’s rendering government surveillance cameras ineffective. As the air pollution in China gets more and more hazardous, the Chinese will be shielded from government observation by thick blankets of smog. But if you think this is the incentive China needs to reduce air pollution – think again! China’s solution: build better surveillance cameras – or just rip off a design from another country.

Via: BBC News & Current Event Cats