From the rise of Islamic State to the Ukraine crisis, we all watched history in the making this year. Here's Murad Gazdiev's wrap-up of the events that
31 Dec 2014
A little girl was confiscated from her loving parents because they smoked marijuana. Hill’s two-year-old daughter Alex, short for Alexandria, was removed from her parent’s home last November for “neglectful supervision” following her parents’ admission that they smoked pot after she was put to bed, reported KVUE.
“We never hurt our daughter. She was never sick, she was never in the hospital, and she never had any issues until she went into state care,” Hill told KVUE. This is a truly heartbreaking example of the state’s atrocious ‘war on drugs.’ The war on drugs is nothing more than a license to destroy innocent lives. To all those who enforce such immoral and unjust laws against humanity, how can you sleep at night?
30 Dec 2014
The Humane Society of the United States rescued 111 chimpanzees from horrendous conditions in testing facilities, and gave them — for the first time, or for the first time in a long time — their natural right to a peaceful habitat.
Rescuers brought the chimps to Chimp Haven, which is a vast stretch of land designated exclusively to rescued chimpanzees, located in northwest Louisiana. This group of apes has nearly doubled the size of the sanctuary, and is the largest number of chimps ever rescued at once.
29 Dec 2014
Russia is launching a new national defense facility, which is meant to monitor threats to national security in peacetime, but would take control of the entire country in case of war.
The new top-security, fortified facility in Moscow includes several large war rooms, a brand new supercomputer in the heart of a state-of-the-art data processing center, underground facilities, secret transport routes for emergency evacuation and a helicopter pad, which was deployed for the first time on Nov. 24 on the Moscow River. The Defense Ministry won’t disclose the price tag for the site, but it is estimated at the equivalent of several billion dollars.
The new National Defense Control Center (NDCC) is a major upgrade on what was previously called the Central Command of the General Staff, a unit tasked with round-the-clock monitoring of military threats against Russia, particularly ballistic missile launches, and deployment of strategic nuclear weapons. It was roughly a counterpart to the US National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s principal command and control site.
27 Dec 2014
Two Saudi women detained for nearly a month in defiance of a ban on females driving were referred on Thursday to a court established to try terrorism cases, several people close to the defendants said. The cases of the two, Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi, were sent to the anti-terrorism court in connection to opinions they expressed in tweets and in social media, four people close to the two women told The Associated Press.
They did not elaborate on the specific charges or what the opinions were. Both women have spoken out online against the female driving ban. Activists say they fear the case is intended to send a warning to others pushing for greater rights. The four people spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of government reprisals.
The Specialized Criminal Court, to which their cases were referred, was established in the capital Riyadh to try terrorism cases but has also tried and handed long prison sentences to a number of human rights workers, peaceful dissidents, activists and critics of the government. For example, this year it sentenced a revered Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a vocal critic of the government, to death for sedition and sentenced a prominent human rights lawyer, Waleed Abul-Khair, to 15 years in prison on charges of inciting public opinion.
25 Dec 2014
24 Dec 2014
To the Catholic Church's "seven deadly sins," Pope Francis has added the "15 ailments of the Curia."
Francis issued a blistering indictment of the Vatican bureaucracy Monday, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who serve him of using their Vatican careers to grab power and wealth, of living "hypocritical" double lives and forgetting that they're supposed to be joyful men of God.
Francis turned the traditional, genteel exchange of Christmas greetings into a public dressing down of the Curia, the central administration of the Holy See which governs the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church. He made clear that his plans for a radical reform of the structures of church power must be accompanied by an even more radical spiritual reform of the men involved.
23 Dec 2014
A campaigning MP has called for the reinvestigation of the suspicious deaths more than 20 years ago of two whistleblowers who he believes had significant information relating to organised child abuse by a group with alleged links to Westminster. Labour's John Mann made the comments after he handed Scotland Yard a dossier that includes allegations about the involvement of 22 politicians - some of them apparently still serving - in paedophile rings. He told Sky News: "What I want to see is both those suspicious deaths reinvestigated because what links them together was both were people who in essence were blowing the whistle on child abuse." One was council official Bulic Forsythe, whose body was found in a burning flat in 1993, and the other an unnamed Lambeth caretaker who died in a suspected arson attack a couple of years earlier.
The two men's deaths were "undoubtedly linked to child abuse and potentially linked into the wider scandal", Mr Mann added. "There are figures in authority who are linked in, in both cases, and therefore it's all the more important that they are fully investigated," he said. "And that means putting significant resource in. That's what I'm calling for - enough police officers with enough specialism in there so that every stone is turned over to see what lies beneath it. There's certainly a lot there with these two cases." It was "crystal clear" that Mr Forsythe's death was highly suspicious and that he had "crucial information about child abuse" which was "very precise and relates to what's come much more to light in the last 12 months", said the Bassetlaw MP.
22 Dec 2014
18 Dec 2014
Leather gloves, shoes and other goods being sold in British shops and online may be made out of dogs slaughtered in horrific factories in China, it has been claimed. Dog skin produced in the slaughterhouses are used in products, labelled real leather, destined for export to the West, according to an animal rights group.
Footage taken by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows workers stood by a door at a slaughterhouse in the northern province of Hebei. As dogs are led through the door, the men kill them with a heavy stick. Sometimes it takes several blows to finish off the unwitting animals.
A pair of gloves made using dog skin. With dog meat restaurants popular in many parts of the country, several establishments later sell the animals' skin to leather producers, which likely sell to Western stores. 'Skin looks the same, whoever it comes from, and Chinese dog killers are not likely to advertise their skins honestly, so it's impossible to tell if those leather gloves or wallets are made out of dog, cow, pig, or goat skin.
'PETA is calling on British shoppers to consider the terror that dogs and other animals endure when they're mercilessly slaughtered and make the safe, vegan choice in clothing and accessories for the holidays and every day.'
17 Dec 2014
15 Dec 2014
Earlier this year, VICE News correspondent Ben Anderson traveled to Bahrain undercover to document the ongoing protests there. Bahrainis — inspired by the Arab Spring — have been taking to the streets every night for almost four years, calling for democracy.
One of the people Ben interviewed was Yousif Badah. His son, Ali Badah, was killed while protesting three years ago, when a police SUV repeatedly ran into him, pinning him against a wall.
On the third anniversary of his son's death, Yousif and others held a vigil for Ali. That vigil turned into a march, and was similarly met with police violence, this time resulting in injury to Yousif himself.
14 Dec 2014
The massive protest marches against police brutality on Saturday in Washington D.C. and New York City have received a fair bit of media attention, but just how big were those protests? Although some officials have released numbers, we still don't have a final, definitive call on just how many protesters came out. Some reports put the D.C. march at 10,000, while others, from the NYPD, put the New York march at 12,000 (a number that has been disputed by protesters on the ground).
But one aerial video of the MillionsMarchNYC march in New York, shot from a window overlooking 6th Avenue and 29th Street, offers a hint at just how large the march was. It's impossible to get an accurate count from watching the video, but the stream of humanity is impressive, whatever the final number.
12 Dec 2014
Code-breaking genius Alan Turing was murdered, a new book claims. The brilliant mathematician who cracked Hitler's Engima wartime code machines was found dead in 1954 at the age of 41. Author Roger Bristow claims a note from the pathologist casts doubt over the official conclusion of suicide. The post mortem report said he died from cyanide poisoning, but the note adds that: 'Death appears to be due to violence.'
Mr. Bristow, a former mayor who has spent almost 30 years researching Turing and his work at Bletchley Park, said he was carrying out secret work before his death. He believes the code-cracker was killed by the FBI because he had information that would be 'extremely damaging or embarrassing.' Mr Bristow adds that Turing had been working on the top secret operation Verona, deciphering wartime radio signals to identify Russian agents in the United States. He describes how some of the agents managed to get themselves into highly prominent positions, with one even becoming a personal assistant to President Roosevelt.
Turing, who was prosecuted for being gay, was found dead in his bedroom in Wilmslow, Cheshire in June 1954. Two years earlier he had been convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to chemical castration. A post mortem found traces of potassium cyanide in his body - a substance he used for his chemical experiments.
'My theory is that he had stumbled upon some information that could be extremely damaging or embarrassing to certain people in America. 'His body was found on the Tuesday morning and he was buried by Wednesday afternoon. How could proper tests have been conducted in that time? 'Also there is no evidence he was depressed before his death. In fact there are reports from neighbours that he seemed cheerful. 'But the final sentence on the pathologist report says it all: 'Death appears to be due to violence.'
11 Dec 2014
The US and Russia are preparing for “many long years of confrontation,” according to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Writing on Wednesday in the Russian state newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta, the 83-year-old delivered his grim assessment, warning that the frosty relations between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin could have “terrible consequences”.
The "new Cold War", as Gorbachev recently described increasing tensions between Washington and Moscow, was brought about by the crisis in Ukraine, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military encroachment into the state on the side of pro-Russian separatists.
The elder statesmen, whose policies of perestroika and glasnost led to the dissolution the Soviet Union in 1991, wrote: "The result of events in recent months is a catastrophic fall of the level of trust in international relations. Judging by the recent declarations, diplomats of both sides are preparing for many long years of confrontation. This is extremely dangerous."
He continued: “With such emotions running so high, as we have now, we may not survive through these years. Somebody may just lose control of himself. We must do our best to overturn this tendency.”
Al Jazeera's groundbreaking series Africa Investigates goes undercover to expose corruption at the heart of Uganda's judicial system.
10 Dec 2014
The full, abhorrent scale of how the US used torture as an everyday weapon in the ‘war on terror’ was laid bare last night. On a day of shame for the West, a Senate investigation revealed the sadistic abuse of detainees in a network of secret prisons around the world. The devastating report – described as ‘a stain on the values and conscience’ of the US – last night triggered demands for a similar, full-scale inquiry in Britain to uncover its own secrets.
One detainee was so brutalised he was left unable to speak and on life support. Another, chained almost naked to the floor, died from hypothermia while a third was hung by his arms from an iron bar for 22 hours. The agency – which worked hand in glove with MI5, MI6 and the Blair Government – repeatedly lied and misled the White House, Congress and the public about its so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’. In the long-awaited report, immediately rejected by the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee said the claims – repeated in public by former President George W Bush – had been ‘inaccurate’. In fact, the plots had already been foiled by the time any information was extracted from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others.
9 Dec 2014
The United Nations children's agency UNICEF declared 2014 a devastating year for children with as many as 15 million caught in conflicts in Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and the Palestinian territories.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said the high number of crises meant many of them were quickly forgotten or failed to capture global headlines, such as in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Globally, UNICEF said some 230 million children were living in countries and regions affected by armed conflict.
"Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves," Lake said in a statement. "Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality."
Significant threats also emerged to children's health and well-being like the deadly outbreak of Ebola in the West African countries Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which has left thousands orphaned and some 5 million out of school.
"Violence and trauma do more than harm individual children - they undermine the strength of societies," Lake said.
7 Dec 2014
The death of Staten Island man Eric Garner after New York police Officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a banned choke hold horrified civil rights advocates nationwide. When a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo earlier this week, despite video evidence clearly showing that his actions led to Garner's death. The Young Turks
From behind the bars around his bed, on the third floor of Athens’s Gennimatas hospital, Nikos Romanos could hear the thousands who took to the streets last week screaming his name, as heavily armed police looked on. Monitored by machine-gun-wielding riot police himself, the 21-year-old anarchist, imprisoned for participating in an armed bank robbery two years ago, has no desire to become a “martyr”.
“He is a fanatical lover of life. He wants to live,” his father, Giorgos Romanos, said in an exclusive interview with the Observer. “But this is his 27th day without food and his condition is deteriorating. He is getting weaker.” Death is not a word that crosses the dentist’s lips as he describes the descent of his son – his only child – from being a ski-loving model student to mascot for a seething segment of Greeks baying for a fight with officialdom at large.
But “martyrdom” is a distinct possibility. As protesters marked the sixth anniversary of the police killing of teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos – an event that would trigger weeks of violence widely seen as the prelude to Greece’s great economic crisis – the 58-year-old acknowledged that the desire for a martyr is real among the country’s growing contingent of angry, unemployed youth.
Clashes between 6,000 protesters and riot police erupted in central Athens on Saturday as teargas and water cannon were used to beat back protesters in the bohemian Exarchia neighbourhood, where about 200 black-clad youths hurled stones and molotov cocktails. A cloud of smoke billowed into the sky from the clashes. Dozens of shops were damaged and nearly 100 demonstrators were detained.
4 Dec 2014
3 Dec 2014
Many young French jihadist fighters who joined the Islamic State militants have started questioning what they are really doing with them. Their lawyers say they want to come home but dread possible criminal charges, France’s Le Figaro has reported.
2 Dec 2014
The father of a 14-year-old child bride accused of murdering her husband said Thursday he was appealing to a Nigerian court to spare his daughter the death sentence. Wasilat Tasi'u is on trial for the murder of her 35-year-old husband, Umar Sani, who died after eating food that Tasi'u allegedly laced with rat poison. "We are appealing to the judge to consider Wasilat's plea," her father, Isyaku Tasi'u, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
On Wednesday witnesses told the High Court in Gezawa, a town 60 miles outside Nigeria's second largest city of Kano, that Tasi'u killed her husband two weeks after their wedding in April. Three others allegedly died after eating the poisoned meal. The prosecution, led by Lamido Soron-Dinki, senior state council from the Kano State Ministry of Justice, is seeking the death penalty.
The case calls into question the legality of trying a 14-year-old for murder under criminal law and the rights of child brides, who are common in the poverty-stricken, predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria region. "She was married to a man that she didn't love. She protested but her parents forced her to marry him," Zubeida Nagee, a women's rights activist in Kano, told AP. Nagee and other activists have written a letter of protest to the Kano state deputy governor. Nagee said Tasi'u was a victim of systematic abuse endured by millions of girls in the region. Activists say the blend of traditional customs, Islamic law and Nigeria's constitutional law poses a challenge when advocating for the rights of young girls in Nigeria.
More than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt are facing a disastrous and hungry winter after a funding crisis forced the UN’s World Food Programme to suspend food vouchers to hundreds of thousands forced into exile by the conflict. Since the war began in March 2011, the WFP has brought food to millions of Syrians inside the country, and has used the voucher programme – which allows refugees to buy food in local shops – to inject about $800m (£500m) into the economies of those countries hosting them.
But after finding itself unable to secure the $64m it needs to support Syrian refugees in December, the WFP announced on Monday that it was halting the scheme. Severe funding shortfalls have already led the UN body to reduce rations within Syria, where it is trying to help 4.25 million people. Its executive director, Ertharin Cousin, issued a blunt and urgent appeal to donors, asking them to honour their commitments and warning that the suspension would have a devastating effect on the lives of more than 1.7 million people.