TIME Italy

Berlusconi Sentenced To Year of Community Service

Leader of Forza Italia party Silvio Berlusconi at the end of the consultations with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on Feb. 15, 2014.
Leader of Forza Italia party Silvio Berlusconi at the end of the consultations with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on Feb. 15, 2014. Tony Gentile—Reuters

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to a year of community service on Tuesday for his tax fraud conviction last year. The 77-year-old will reportedly spend at least one half-day per week in an elderly care center in Milan

An Italian court sentenced the country’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to a year of community service on Tuesday, the BBC reports.

The sentence was a result of his conviction in 2013 for tax fraud linked to TV rights brought by his firm Mediaset. The case had been ongoing since the 1990s, and the alternative for the 77-year-old would have been house arrest. He avoided a prison sentence thanks to laws in Italy allowing for lenient sentences for people over the age of 70.

Berlusconi had denied the charges, accusing the judges of left-wing bias and of trying to neutralize his political stance. His conviction for a previous offence of paying for sex with an underage prostitute had already led to his expulsion from the Italian parliament and a six-year ban from standing for election.

The former Prime Minister will reportedly spend at least one half-day per week in a center for elderly and disabled people near his home in Milan as part of his community service. But his movements will be heavily restricted, including the requirements that he adhere to a curfew and that he not spend time with anyone else carrying a criminal conviction.

[BBC]

TIME France

French Auction House Cancels Nazi Memorabilia Sale Amid Outrage

Jewish groups objected to the proposed sale of items owned by Hitler and Goering, calling it 'obscene'

An auction of Nazi memorabilia including a chest carved with swastikas owned by Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering’s passport was canceled in Paris, France on Monday, reports the BBC.

The event was scrapped after it faced strong objections by Jewish organizations. An influential French association of Jewish groups, the CRIF, described the event as “harming the memory of victims of Nazi barbarity.” French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti joined them in calling for the items to be withdrawn from sale, saying it was “necessary in the light of history and morality.”

The sale had been scheduled to take place on April 26, featuring 40 items seized from Hitler’s former home in Bavaria in May 1945 during the last days of the Third Reich. They included a 17th century manuscript belonging to Goering and a napkin bearing Hitler’s initials.

Laudine de Pas, the co-manager of the auction house Vermot de Pas, said the sale had not been intended to cause any controversy. “We were pitching this as part of the responsibility to remember – but in no way to shock or create a polemic,” she told the BBC.

[BBC]

 

 

 

TIME Syria

Assad: Syrian War Is At ‘Turning Point’

Syrian President Bashar Assad claims government forces are handily beating the diverse range of opposition fighters in his country's civil war, now in its fourth year, as his loyalists capture former rebel-held towns near the Lebanese border

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Monday claimed the upper hand in what he described as a “turning point” in the country’s civil war, reports the BBC.

Government forces loyal to Assad have been gradually reclaiming rebel-held towns near the border of Lebanon for the last few months. The president’s army has also managed to secure Syria’s main north-south highway, allowing them to cut off crucial supplies to the rebels. Assad claimed this showed his forces winning what he called the “war against terror.”

“This is a turning point in the crisis,” said Assad. The president is expected to announce soon that he will run for a third term in office.

Since the civil war between rebels and pro-government forces erupted in Syria over two years ago, more than 150,000 people have been killed and millions more have been driven out of their homes.

[BBC]

TIME Libya

Libya Begins Trial of Gaddafi’s Sons

Two sons of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi and thirty of his former associates will be tried for widespread corruption and war crimes

Libyan prosecutors on Monday prepared to begin the trial of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi’s two sons, reports Reuters.

Saadi Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam will be tried alongside more than 30 former officials of the Gaddafi regime in the capital city Tripoli’s Al-Hadba prison. The case’s chief investigator, Sidiq al-Sour, said that Saadi would not be present on Monday due to ongoing investigations, but procedures would carry on against the others. They face charges including war crimes and corruption.

Since the overthrow of Gaddafi, Libya has suffered from weak governance, with armed protesters blocking oil exports and former revolutionary fighters refusing to hand over their weapons. Human rights organizations have also expressed concern over the fairness of the North African state’s justice system.

“So far, there have been problems with legal representation. Many of those on trial did not a have a lawyer from the beginning – the cornerstone of a fair trial,” said Hanan Salah, Libya researcher with Human Rights Watch. “If they don’t get fair trials then it casts doubt over whether the new Libya is not about selective justice.”

[Reuters]

TIME Nigeria

Child Bride in Nigeria Poisons Husband

The 14-year-old in the northern region of Kano killed her husband during a dinner celebrating their wedding

A 14-year-old Nigerian girl confessed Friday to poisoning and killing the man she was coerced into marrying, police said.

Police in the northern Nigerian state of Kano said Wasilu Umar admitted putting rat poison in her husband’s food, BBC reports. Three of her husband’s friends who ate the same food were also killed, and 10 were hospitalized. She is likely to be put on trial in a juvenile court.

Police Superintendent Musa Magaji Majia said that the marriage between Umar and 35-year-old Umaru Sani had taken place the previous week. The poisoning happend during a celebratory gathering in his village 60 miles north of the city of Kano.

[BBC]

TIME Africa

7 Ebola Patients in Guinea Fight Off the Disease

An international medical charity confirms at least seven people infected with the deadly Ebola virus in Guinea, where 101 people have died so far during the recent outbreak, have recovered well enough to return home

At least seven patients infected with Ebola virus in Guinea have recovered well enough to return home, the BBC reports. The medical charity Medicins San Frontieres (MSF) confirmed the patients had managed to shake the virus despite its high mortality rate.

Global health officials say the outbreak in West Africa has killed over two-thirds of the people infected so far, including 101 in Guinea and 10 in Liberia. MSF and the World Health Organization, which has labeled the outbreak one of the “most challenging” ever, have been trying to help Guinea’s health ministry prevent the virus from further spread.

MSF spokesman Sam Taylor called the homecomings “great news” for the patients’ families and communities that would improve “everyone’s morale.” But that’s a tall order when, during past outbreaks, the sick were abandoned by loved ones and survivors were still shunned.

The Ebola virus is passed on through contact with infected fluids like blood, sweat and urine and has been known to kill up to 90 percent of sick patients. There is no cure, but some deaths can be prevented if the virus is caught and treated early.

[BBC]

TIME russia

Russian Deputy PM Dismisses Threat of Energy Sanctions

Igor Shuvalov has said Russia has other potential partners to sell oil and gas to if sanctions become more stringent

A senior Russian minister has said the country has other options if the West declines to use its energy in protest at its action in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

First deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov said on Thursday at an event in Berlin that Russia is a reliable supplier of oil and gas to the West, yet it has other possible partners.

His comments came in the wake of attempts by the European Union and the United States to impose sanctions upon Russian politician and businessmen, and a financial institution. The actions were meant to punish the Kremlin for its annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine, an area containing a large number of ethnic Russians. The move provoked widespread condemnation globally.

Shuvalov insisted that forcing sanctions upon Russia would not change President Vladimir Putin’s actions. “It’s impossible to force sanctions on Russia. The more calls for sanctions, the harsher the sanctions placed on Russia, the more mobilized Russian society will become, and we will search for various ways to get around these difficulties,” he said, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

[Reuters]

TIME North Korea

Kim Jong Un Re-Elected Chairman of Defense Body

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as he greets commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang, April 2, 2014.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as he greets commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang, April 2, 2014. KCNA/Reuters

The young North Korean leader is kept in power as the head of the National Defense Commission, the country's top governing body, allowing him to keep his consolidated power following the execution months ago of his powerful uncle and other elites

The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, was re-elected on Wednesday as head of the country’s top governing organization, consolidating his power after the recent execution of his powerful uncle and various other elites.

The parliament in Pyongyang met to re-confirm Kim’s position as chairman of the National Defense Commission, the New York Times reports. The move is expected to demonstrate his continuing power over the North, despite increased U.N. sanctions.

The meeting was also thought to be a formality allowing Kim Jong Un to put younger, more unquestioning supporters in key government posts left vacant by the leader’s purges. Since gaining power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in late 2011, Kim has sidelined and executed various elite members of the ruling Workers’ Party. Among them were his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was executed supposedly because of his position as the second most influential man in North Korea’s capital.

The North’s government-run news agency, the Korean Central News Agency, claimed Kim Jong Un’s re-election to the post was a sign of “the unchanged will of the military and the people to uphold and follow the respected marshal as the only center of solidarity and leadership.”

[NYT]

TIME Math

And the World’s Favorite Number Is…

British mathematics writer Alex Bellos launched a worldwide survey asking people which number is their favorite after being posited the question many times while chatting with students or at lectures over the years and seeing that people take the choice seriously

A survey launched by a British mathematics writer has found that seven is the world’s favorite number, reports The Guardian. The results of the online survey were published on Tuesday, with three, eight and and four coming second, third and fourth.

Alex Bellos said he started the survey because of his belief that people have strong feelings about numbers, something he learned from giving talks about math in schools, colleges and festivals. “I am always asked for my favorite number – it’s guaranteed this question will come up,” he said.

Bellos, whose new book is entitled The Grapes of Math, claimed he received over 30,000 responses within a few weeks of launching the survey, with total responses currently standing at 44,000. Out of all the submissions, almost half of the votes cast were for the numbers between one and 10. The least favorite number turned out to be 110, which was the lowest number to receive no votes.

The writer suggested that the reason for seven’s popularity is its prevalence in global culture, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, to the existence of seven days in a week.

“We love seven because it is unique. It reflects our uniqueness. Of course it’s the world’s favorite number,” he said.

[Guardian]

TIME Middle East

Saudi Clerics Condemn Gym Classes for Girls

Plans to expand physical education for girls beyond private schools has caused outrage among conservative clerics, who consider it a pathway to adultery and prostitution

A move to introduce physical education for girls to Saudi Arabian public schools has been condemned by conservative clerics, reports the Wall Street Journal, who say allowing girls to take gym classes will only end in adultery and prostitution.

Currently only private schools in Saudi Arabia allow girls to do P.E. The Shoura Council, a body in Saudi Arabia appointed by King Abdullah, voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday in favor of encouraging the kingdom’s education minister to look at introducing physical education for girls. After the news broke of the vote, several conservative clerics condemned it on social media.

“We are giving the Shoura Council a green light to continue the steps of Westernization and these steps will end in infidelity and prostitution,” tweeted Abdullah Al Dawood. Others called for the mass resignation of Saudi Arabia’s most senior council of clerics, a body normally responsible for declaring fatwas.

King Abdullah has loosened various restrictions on women in recent years, including laws allowing women to vote in municipal elections and also to work in retail. He has upheld, however, conservative objections to women driving cars and traveling without a male guardian.

[Wall Street Journal]

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