A hugely controversial Russian law banning curse words in films, theatre, the media and arts came into force on Tuesday, part of a Kremlin-backed drive to play up traditional values and root out swearing. The legislation, wich was signed off by President Vladimir Putin in May, imposes hefty fines on offenders -- up to 2,500 rubles ($72) for individuals and up to 50,000 rubles ($1,460) for businesses. The legislation does not spell out what constitutes profanity but the law is widely seen to be targeting Russia's hugely potent lingua franca of obscenities known as "mat". Many ridiculed the legislation, saying efforts to outlaw what essentially is an inalienable part of Russia's culture will fail.
In a victory for two small upstate New York towns, the state’s highest court on Monday upheld their local bans on fracking, the bitterly contentious method in which high-pressure water and chemicals are used to extract subterranean natural gas. It is a decision that many observers say could reverberate through New York’s energy industry for years to come, as it affirms the “home rule authority” of towns and local communities, granted by the state’s constitution, allowing them to forbid fracking (also known also as hydraulic fracturing) and other forms of gas drilling within their borders. Drilling companies sued the municipalities, saying only the state had the power to regulate gas drilling. The decision comes, too, as more than 100 municipalities from Pennsylvania to New Mexico have passed similar bans and moratoriums on fracking, according to FracTracker, a national nonprofit that compiles data on the oil and gas industry.
The United States Tuesday welcomed a historic shift by Japan to expand the role of its military by reinterpreting the terms of the nation's US-imposed constitution. "We have followed with interest the extensive discussion within Japan on the issue of exercising its right under the UN Charter to collective self-defense," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "We welcome the government of Japan's new policy regarding collective self-defense and related security matters." After months of political horse-trading and browbeating of opponents, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his cabinet had formally endorsed a reinterpretation of rules that have banned the use of armed force except in very narrowly-defined circumstances.
The White House Tuesday called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to preserve security cooperation, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mulls action against Hamas after the murder of three Israeli teenagers. The Obama administration also backed Israel's claims that the Islamist group was to blame for the killings, and reiterated a call for restraint on both sides. Israel has vowed to hunt down the militants it believes are responsible for the killings, which were followed by Israeli raids on Hamas targets in Gaza earlier in the day. White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated President Barack Obama's outrage over the killings and call for both sides to avoid destabilizing action, expressed on Monday in a written statement.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Their Senate majority in peril, anxious Democrats have seized the Supreme Court decision that some companies need not provide birth control to women as fresh evidence of the GOP's "war on women" — an argument they hope will energize female voters who could decide the balance of power on Capitol Hill.
The declaration of an Islamic caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria is a direct challenge to Al-Qaeda and could set off a dangerous contest for the leadership of the global jihadist movement, experts say. "This competition between jihadists could be very dangerous," said Shashank Joshi of the London-based Royal United Services Institute, warning that Al-Qaeda may look to make a "spectacular" show of force. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced on Sunday it was establishing a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria where it has seized control.
The Sunni militant onslaught in Iraq has created "an extremely volatile and dangerous situation for children," a top UN official warned Tuesday. There were "disturbing reports" of the recruitment of child soldiers and other "grave violations" against minors in the conflict, said Leila Zerrougui, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict. The jihadist group leading the Iraqi offensive had since 2011 been on the United Nation's black list in particular because of its attacks against schools, Zerrougui noted. It accuses seven national armies and 50 armed groups of using child soldiers -- including Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Syria.
US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated Tuesday Washington's calls for Central American cooperation in addressing the plight of tens of thousands of illegal child migrants making their way to the United States. The rapid surge in unaccompanied children making the dangerous journey, most of them from Central America, has prompted US officials to talk of a "humanitarian crisis" and to issue reminders the vast majority of the minors will be deported. Kerry met with Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren and Guatemalan President Otto Perez plus Honduran Foreign Minister Mireya Aguero in Panama City.
A Swedish law firm Tuesday reported several top Eritrean leaders to the police for crimes against humanity, as a new law took effect enabling such crimes committed anywhere else in the world to be prosecuted in Sweden. The report lists a series of alleged crimes including torture and kidnapping, and targets Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki and several of his ministers by name. We believe there are legal grounds to prosecute the people we have named," human rights lawyer Percy Bratt told AFP. The legal move was the first of its kind in Sweden, filed the same day that crimes against humanity were introduced into the Swedish penal code.
Britain should take a tougher stand towards Spain in disputes over Gibraltar, including using legal action and more diplomatic protests, a parliamentary committee urged on Tuesday. Spain disputes British sovereignty over the peninsula, which has long been a point of contention in relations between the two countries, with tensions increasing over the last year. The Foreign Affairs committee, a group of lawmakers who analyse the work of Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, urged the government to "get off the fence and take a tougher line with Spain" in a report to Westminster.
The United States again pressed Iraqi leaders Tuesday to form a new government as soon as possible, warning as the new parliament broke up in chaos that "time is not on Iraq's side." "It was important that Iraq's new parliament convened today, as they pledged to do," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Iraq last week to try to push the fractious Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish sides to accelerate steps to filling the three key government posts -- speaker, president and prime minister. The aim is to unify the government and help it confront the threat of Islamic militants who have captured a swathe of northern territory, and declared Iraq and Syria a new Islamic state.
Iran will not send troops to fight a militant offensive in Iraq but will supply weapons if the government in Baghdad asks for help, the deputy foreign minister said Tuesday. "We have no intention of sending our armed forces into Iraq. Iraq has its own powerful army," Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on a visit to Moscow, although he said the country would be sending military "consultants". He said Iraq had not yet asked for arms but "in the case that there was such a demand... we would supply the necessary weapons for the fight against terrorism."
A watershed free-trade deal between China and Switzerland came into force on Tuesday, the first such accord between the Asian giant and a mainland European economy. Marking the start of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann and Chinese trade envoy Yu Jianhua presided over a ceremony in the northern city of Basel. "I am convinced that both sides will benefit from this agreement," he added, noting that Swiss industrial and farm goods would benefit from Chinese tariff cuts, while China's industrial products would have duty-free access to Switzerland. The deal also bolsters intellectual property protection for Swiss goods -- a persistent concern for Western firms on the Chinese market, though Beijing has stepped up its battle against the pirates.