February 13, 2014 11:07 AM EST

Rouhani’s Battle With Iran’s Hard-Liners

As Iran prepared for the latest round of talks with world powers over the country’s nuclear program on Feb. 18, hard-liners in the country struck a posture at odds with the more open tone that has been adopted by the government of President Hassan Rouhani. On Feb. 12, the day after the country marked the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian media quoted the head of the country’s armed forces as saying that, if attacked, Iran was “ready for the decisive battle” against the U.S.

The remarks underscored the challenge that Rouhani faces as he tries to strike a balance between negotiating with the West–following an interim pact over the country’s nuclear program in November–and managing the pressure from hard-liners at home.

In an illustration of the forces at work inside Iran, viewers tuning in to state television for a live interview with Rouhani on Feb. 5 were instead shown a soap opera. The problem, it emerged, was that Rouhani expected to face a reporter sympathetic to his call for moderating Iran’s image, while the head of state TV wanted one aligned with those more comfortable with international isolation. In the end, 90 minutes late, Rouhani compromised, taking questions from both.

The big question is what Iran’s Supreme Leader thinks. Ayatullah Ali Khamenei never weighed in on the nuclear freeze agreed upon with European powers in 2003 but later interceded to end the deal. Rouhani may be hoping for a different outcome in 2014.


‘We can only pray to God that their hunting guns backfire in their faces.’

MORRISSEY, the British singer, in a blog post accusing Prince William of hypocrisy for reportedly embarking on a hunting trip in Spain the day before issuing an appeal to save endangered animals. Morrissey said William is “too thickwit” to realize the damage done by hunting for sport.



Univision asked 12,038 Catholics in 12 countries if women should be allowed to join the priesthood. Here, a sample of how many responded positively:

83% France

78% Spain

59% U.S.

35% Mexico

21% Philippines

The Explainer

The Implications of Switzerland’s Closing Its Borders

On Feb. 9, Swiss voters narrowly approved a referendum calling for quotas on immigrants from the European Union. Speaking to RTL radio after the result, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said the vote was “worrying because it means Switzerland wants to withdraw into itself.” The country is not a member of the E.U., but the vote–the government has three years to write it into law–puts a question mark over its trade and labor deals with the bloc, its biggest trading partner.


Skilled workers from neighbors like France, Italy and Germany–thousands of whom commute daily to Switzerland, thanks to a treaty between the Alpine nation and the E.U.–could be driven elsewhere. Retaliatory moves by other countries could hit Swiss workers.


Switzerland is home to many large companies that benefit from a free-trade deal with the E.U. The bloc could respond by introducing tariffs on Swiss goods, potentially hitting the price of everything from chocolates to pharmaceuticals.


The anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party led the charge in favor of the referendum. Its success could embolden other right-wing movements, such as Britain’s U.K. Independence Party and France’s National Front.

Pride and Prejudice


A masked supporter of the LGBT community joins others in front of the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi on Feb. 10 during a protest against an anti-gay measure passed by the Ugandan parliament. Lawmakers approved the bill in December, threatening gay people in Uganda with legal persecution, but it hasn’t yet been signed by the country’s President Yoweri Museveni.


The National Name Game

President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has suggested dropping -stan from his oil-rich country’s name to distance it from smaller neighbors such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Instead, he proposed the name Kazakh Eli (“The Land of the Kazakhs”) to attract foreigners. Here are some examples of other exercises in national rebranding:


A year after suppressing a popular uprising, the ruling junta changed the country’s name from Burma in 1989, representing a break from its colonial past.

Sri Lanka

The island was dubbed Ceylon by imperial parent Britain but dropped the name when it became an independent republic in 1972.


Meaning “Land of the Free,” Thailand officially changed its name from Siam in 1939 on the grounds that the people were “of the Thai race.”

Democratic Republic of Congo

The name was changed from Zaire in 1997 after a mutiny ended the more than 30 year rule of ex–army chief Mobutu Sese Seko.



Donation to a Silicon Valley charity by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, making them America’s top philanthropists of 2013

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The International Criminal Court in the Hague held a hearing about alleged war crimes committed by ex–Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda


The United Arab Emirates announced plans to use aerial drones to deliver official papers and small packages to citizens


North Korea pulled an invitation for a U.S. diplomat to visit and seek the release of Korean-American detainee Kenneth Bae


A Copenhagen zoo killed a young giraffe named Marius to avoid inbreeding, despite protesters’ calls to save him

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