During his imprisonment on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela found inspiration in what has come to be one of the most hackneyed poems in the English language. Mandela is hardly alone in his admiration for the Victorian-era poem 'Invictus' -- other fans included John F. Kennedy and Timothy McVeigh -- and Mandela is just one of many to appropriate (or misappropriate) the poem.
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Because of her iconic role in pushing for democracy in a once authoritarian country, Aung San Suu Kyi has often been called Myanmar's Mandela. Now, in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death, Aung San Suu Kyi's ability to navigate one of the more remarkable democratic transitions in recent memory seems particularly significant.
The similarities between Aung San Suu Kyi's life and Mandela's are striking. Both came from relative privilege: He was the son of royals, she is the daughter of the revered Burmese General Aung San. Both became involved in democracy movements and both were jailed -- he for 27 years, she for 20. During their respective imprisonments, they both emerged as national heroes, and later as worldwide democracy icons and nobel laureates. Upon release, both drew criticism for embracing (at least politically) their former jailers. Mandela went on to become the president of his country, ushering in democracy and landmark constitutional reforms. Aung San Suu Kyi is trying to do the same for Myanmar right now.
Everyone loves pandas, but Americans may be a little too obsessed. On Dec. 1, the Smithsonian National Zoo announced that its resident panda cub -- who had just celebrated her first 100 days on Earth -- would be named "Bao Bao," based on the results of online ballots cast by more than 123,000 people around the world. In the media blitz that followed -- which included national television coverage and a write-up in the New York Times -- one Chinese news outlet has declared the U.S. fascination with pandas "almost impossible to believe."
This was no passing remark: The Dec. 4 article in the Communist Party paper Beijing Youth Daily stood out among China's sometimes shoddily-researched, state-run media with its convincing, sourced points. The paper noted that Chinese pandas on loan to the zoo in Washington, D.C. have drawn visitors from around the country, and that even frequent treks to see the pandas at the zoo "could not satisfy the demand" of the American people, some of whom watch the adorable symbols of U.S.-China friendship online via a newly-installed Giant Panda Cam. Pandas "easily find their way into the pages of major, mainstream U.S. papers," wrote the paper with evident amazement, "on their birthdays, 100-day celebrations, or even when they get headaches."
While the world remains fixated on anti-government demonstrations in Kiev and Bangkok, perhaps the most intractable political standoff of the past weeks is also the one getting the least attention.
Twenty people were injured in Bangladesh's Kurigram district on Thursday after police reportedly fired 89 rubber bullets and six teargas canisters at anti-government demonstrators. The incident is only the latest in the spat of violent clashes between protesters and Bangladeshi security forces that have left at least 40 people dead and thousands injured in recent weeks. The opposition party alliance led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has organized mass protests calling for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who leads the governing Awami League, to step down and establish an impartial caretaker government in the lead-up to the January 5 elections.
Threatening a "tougher movement," BNP spokesperson Saluddin Ahmed set a Thursday deadline for the government to address the opposition's demands. With the deadline having come and gone, and Hasina still firmly in power, Bangladesh's violent political standoff may be only just beginning.
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In a world where news comes as fast as your Internet connection, and breaking stories are first announced on Twitter, confusion is bound to happen. On Thursday, news of Nelson Mandela's death unfortunately coincided with the London premiere of a new movie about the legendary South African leader -- "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." On Twitter, the rumors of his passing, which turned out to be true just minutes later, became interwoven with the discussion of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton's red carpet outfit, creating a jarring dissonance.
Here are some examples:
Vanity Fair's Royal Hairdo Watch didn't get the memo:
While the world turned to Johannesburg, People magazine kept a close eye on the Royal Date Night.
Some Twitter users just embraced the coincidence:
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South African President Jacob Zuma announced on Thursday night the death of Nelson Mandela. He was 95.
"Our nation has lost its greatest son," Zuma said in announcing Mandela's death on South African television. The iconic leader of the country's struggle against racism and its first post-apartheid president, Mandela died after a long battle with lung disease, an aftereffect of the tuberculosis he contracted during his 27-year imprisonment.
While Mandela's health has been in decline during the past several months, his death on Thursday nonetheless came as a shock and sparked an outpouring of grief.
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Chinese investors have helped drive up the price of Bitcoin to dizzying heights. Now, the Beijing government is doing its best to drive enthusiasm for the cryto-currency back down.
The Chinese central bank warned consumers about the risks of Bitcoin and banned Chinese banks from trading the digital currency. The bank said that Chinese people could still invest in the currency, but they do so at their own risk.
Chinese regulators are the latest to issue rules for Bitcoin, as governments around the world struggle to come to terms with the anonymously-created currency's role. Authorities are stepping in to warn investors as the currency's meteoric rise in value has attracted more and more speculators and to crackdown on the illicit uses of the currency in online black markets such as Silk Road.
The announcement comes as the value of the currency has skyrocketed over the past month peaking at over $1200, according to popular Bitcoin trading site Mt. Gox. It's unclear yet what the ramifications of the announcement will be on that price, or whether traders' interest in Bitcoin will be dampened by the announcement. Some news reports Thursday pointed to the falling value of the currency as proof that investors are scared-off by China's move. Though the value was dropping at last look, Bitcoin is too volatile to attribute the drop to China's crackdown.
As many as 200,000 men, women, and children reportedly languish in North Korea's vast prison camp system, jailed for defying the state's strict edicts on anything from possession of foreign media to petty theft. Even being associated with someone who has broken the law can be grounds for imprisonment. Now, new satellite imagery of two of North Korea's infamous gulags suggest that the prison population is growing.
Satellite imagery analysis commissioned by Amnesty International and released Thursday reveal new housing blocks and an expanded industrial zone in kwanliso 16, a camp three times the size of Washington, D.C. In 2011, the organization estimated that 20,000 people were imprisoned in kwanliso 16. Another camp, kwanliso 15, is believed to have 50,000 prisoners; satellite images show that within the camp, housing blocks have been recently demolished and replaced. Both camps appear to exhibit significant economic activity, such as mining, logging, and the processing of timber in what appears to be a furniture factory.
The grave human rights conditions inside the camps -- forced labor, torture, rape, executions -- have been documented by eyewitnesses and former prisoners. Less well known is the extent to which activity within the camps benefits the national economy.
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