Typhoon Vongfong makes landfall in Japan

Typhoon Vongfong makes landfall in Japan

After injuring at least 30 people on the island of Okinawa, Typhoon Vongfong has made landfall on the Japanese island of Kyushu, causing hundreds of flights to be cancelled and hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. This is the strongest storm to hit Japan this year.

Meteorologists predict that Typhoon Vongfong, which means “wasp” in Cantonese, could pass over Tokyo sometime tomorrow. The massive storm has wind speeds that can reach up to 75 mph (120 km/h), with gusts reaching as high as 110 mph (175 km/h).

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Clashes break out in Hong Kong between protestors and counter-protesters

Clashes break out in Hong Kong between protestors and counter-protestors

Pro-democracy protestors occupying one of the most crowded areas of Hong Kong came under attack earlier today from people seeking to break apart the sit-in. The group began tearing down tents, and have been described by demonstrators as pro-government gangs.

The protests started as a sizable student rally, but have since grown into a massive protests. However, the movement has come under increasing strain from external blows and internal discord and exhaustion. Some were afraid that the demonstration was close to unravelling, and the two student groups and the pro-democracy movement that are supporting the protests have issued a warning that they could call off proposed negotiations with the government.

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EU condemns Israel’s East Jerusalem settlement plans

EU condemns Israel’s East Jerusalem settlement plans

The European Union expressed its believe on Friday that Israel’s plant for new settlements in East Jerusalem are a blatant threat to peace and put Israel’s relationship with the 28-member bloc at risk, joining the United States in its criticism of the decision.

“This represents a further highly detrimental step that undermines prospects for a two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,” the European Union’s External Action Service said in a statement. “We stress that the future development of relations between the EU and Israel will depend on the latter’s engagement towards a lasting peace based on a two-state solution.”

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Munitions factory in Bulgaria leaves 15 missing, presumed dead

Munitions factory in Bulgaria leaves 15 missing, presumed dead

As many as 15 people could be dead after an explosion occurred at a munitions factory near the village of Gorni Lom in Bulgaria on Wednesday. The privately-owned explosives factory had been issued numerous penalty notices, but continued to operate. Now somewhere around 15 people are dead, and 3 have been severely injured.

“There are no signs of life at the site of the explosion,” civil defense force head Nikolay Nikolov said. “Unfortunately, all currently available data from the specialized teams that are at the crash site leaves little hope that there are survivors.”

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Serbia hosts its first Gay Pride march in four years

Serbia hosts its first Gay Pride march in four years

Gay rights activists in Serbia have held the nation’s first Pride Parade since the practice was banned back in 2010, walking through the streets of Belgrade, the nation’s capital, which were emptied of traffic and pedestrians by a massive security operation.

Thousands of riot police – on foot, horseback, and in armored vehicles – armed with a combination of water cannons and shields, sealed off the streets that led to the site of the short Pride match from the government headquarters to parliament in order to prevent a repeat of the running battles with hardline nationalists and football hooligans that took place at the last march.

After the fiasco that occurred at the last Pride Parade in 2010, authorities banned future marches for the next three years, citing security concerns. Serbia, as well as many of its Balkan neighbors, suffer from widespread homophobia.

However, with Serbia looking to join the European Union, the bloc has made it clear that it sees Pride Parades as a test of the nation’s commitment to defending the human rights of all. Hundreds took part in the most recent march, waiving rainbow flags and blowing whistles as a police helicopter hovered over them.

“For the first time the institutions have publicly supported the organization of the pride and media reports were more favorable for the LGBT community,” one of the organizers, Boban Stojanovic, told reporters on Saturday.

Read more about the story at BBC News.

 

Low sex drive in women could be causing Hong Kong’s baby drought

Low sex drive in women could be causing Honk Kong’s baby drought

The Hong Kong Family Planning Association has published a new study that blames women’s low sex drives for the city’s extremely low birth rates. According to the association the birth rates for every 1,000 women back in 1981 were recorded at 1,933. That number has fallen to just 1,285 births for every 1,000 women as of 2012.

The city’s family planning authority conducted a poll among 2,100 ethnic Chinese women between the age of 21 and 40. Six out every ten women polled said that they had one problem. From that number 400 said they had no drive to have sex at all, 430 said that they experienced discomfort while having sex, and 500 said they were not able to experience orgasms.

Family Planning Association senior director Doctor Lo Seen-tsing said that the reason for the low sex drive of many women in the city was due in large part to a lack of communication with their partners. According to him, many women are uncomfortable with talking about sex and rarely discuss it. He also believes that it isn’t a lack of desire that’s the issue, it’s many women’s belief that they aren’t supposed to have the desire at all.

According to the Shanghaiist, the opinion of the Family Planning Association is likely a result of society’s expectations of women, and that the study may have been biased and could cause a subconscious effect on the physical desires of women.

Read more about the story at Quartz.

Around a tenth of the Islamic State’s fighters are European

Around a tenth of the Islamic State’s fighters are European

The European Union counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove revealed earlier this week that, since declaring itself an Islamic caliphate back in June, the Islamic State militant group has seen a surge of European jihadists whose numbers have jumped from 2,000 to 3,000.

Mr. Kerchove says that the boost in the Islamic State’s numbers is due in large part to the militant group’s declaration of Islamic statehood in the large areas of Syria and Iraq that the group has conquered, as well as its highly intensive social media campaign to recruit jihadists from the West.

“My own assessment is that we’re about 3,000,” divulged Mr. Kerchove, in estimating the number of Europeans fighting for ISIS in the Middle East. “The flow has not been dried up and therefore possibly the proclamation of the caliphate has had some impact.”

Estimates from European intelligence agencies has stated that the number of Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq now exceeds 30,000, meaning that according to Mr. Kerchove, around a tenth of the Islamic State’s forces are European.

The leading sources of ISIS foreign fighters are France, Britain, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. Mr. Kerchove added that recently the group has seen an expanding grip in Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Austria.

Read more about the story at BBC.

The Gaza ceasefire has been extended by another 24 hours

The Gaza ceasefire has been extended by another 24 hours

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed to extend the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip by another 24 hours, mere minutes before the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was supposed to expire, in an effort to buy enough time to work out a more permanent peaceful solution to their conflict.

The agreement was reached yesterday as gaps on key issues continued to hinder the efforts to achieve a long-term deal between Israel and the armed groups that reside in the Gaza Strip, dominated by Hamas, which would allow the Palestinians in the region to receive aid and begin rebuilding after five weeks of on-and-off fighting.

The month-long war was put on hold more than a week ago when Egyptian leaders managed to secure a 72-hour truce, which was later extended by another five days, and was just extended by another 24 hours.  Palestinian officials claim that the latest extension would give both sides time “to complete the negotiations.”

Read more about the story at Reuters.

 

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have retaken the Mosul Dam

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have retaken the Mosul Dam

After two days of assistance by United States air strikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have successfully taken back control of the country’s largest dam from Islamic State militants, according to a military spokesman in Baghdad earlier today. The Islamic State, however, is denying this claim, insisting that it still controls the dam.

“Most of the dam is now in the hands of the Kurdish forces, with the Iraqi forces, and they are clearing some of those areas, making sure there are no planted bombs,” said Qubad Talabani, the deputy prime minister of the Kurdish regional government. “It has been a difficult, but successful operation so far.”

Government troops were unable to enter the facility due to booby traps which had been placed by the retreating militants, and fighting continued on the western bank of the lake that rests at the head of the Mosul Dam. However, government officials claim that the Islamic State militants were on the run after Iraqi special forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, aided by United States air support, launched their offensive.

The retaking of the strategically vital dam marks the first major victory for the Iraqi and Kurdish forces that are fighting the Islamic State militants since the United States began conducting air strikes earlier this month. This will be a significant boost for morale as the forces try to reclaim territory that was overrun by Islamic State militants in a blitz earlier this year.

Read more about the story at The Huffington Post.

 

 

Sunni leaders offer to support the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government

Sunni leaders offer to support the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government

Tribal leaders and clerics representing the minority Sunni population in Iraq have offered their support for Shi’ite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi in order to contain sectarian bloodshed and combat an offensive by the Islamic State militants that threaten to tear the country apart, on the grounds that the new government respects the rights of the Sunni minorities.

Ali Hatem Suleiman suggested that the Sunnis would take up arms against the Islamic State militants in the same way that he and his comrades joined the United States and Shi’ite-led government forces to thwart an al Qaeda insurgency in Iraq that occurred between 2006 and 2009.

As Islamic State militants continue to slaughter, torture, and enslave innocent civilians across the country, especially minority groups, al-Abadi is faced with the daunting task of trying to prevent his country from tearing itself to shreds. A particularly troublesome area is the vast desert province of Anbar, which forms much of the country’s border with Syria, where Islamic State militants control vast swaths of territory.

Iraq has been plunged into its worst violence since the peak of the sectarian civil war that broke out in 2006, with Sunni fighters led by the Islamic State overrunning large portions of the western and northern portions of the country, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee for their lives. The situation has gotten so bad that the United States and Iraq’s European allies are gradually restarting their military involvement in the country.

Read more about the story at Al Jazeera.