Brazil thrashed Panama in a friendly Tuesday, looking very much ready for the World Cup, although off the pitch, the hosts were still rushing to finish their stadiums nine days from kick-off. Star striker Neymar opened the scoring as Brazil routed their visitors 4-0 in the central city of Goiania, with Daniel Alves, Hulk and Willian all adding goals. At Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo, which will host the opening ceremony and kick-off match between Brazil and Croatia, workers are still finishing temporary stands for 20,000 fans and VIP seats intended for heads of state. Meanwhile, protests that have shaken Brazil before the World Cup continued in Goiania, where about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the hotel where the Brazilian team were staying ahead of their match.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s former ambassador to Damascus harshly criticized the White House Syria policy on Tuesday, saying Washington should have done more earlier to arm moderate rebel factions. Robert Ford said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour that as a result of U.S. hesitancy, extremist threats to the United States had grown. He had left the country in 2011 after the United States received threats against his personal safety in Syria. His remarks appeared likely to refuel the debate over Obama's cautious approach to the war, just as the White House has launched a campaign to counter criticisms of the president’s foreign policy.
The White House apologized for keeping lawmakers in the dark regarding the exchange of an American soldier for five Taliban fighters, senators said Tuesday, as controversy grew over the issue. Administration officials plan a classified briefing for the full 100-member chamber Wednesday, with lawmakers from both parties fuming over the trade, which saw captured soldier Bowe Bergdahl released Saturday to US special forces in Afghanistan. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, a senior member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, said the White House breached US law when it failed to alert Congress to the proposed trade.
Brazil is building five submarines to patrol its massive coast, including one powered by an atomic reactor that would put it in the small club of countries with a nuclear sub. The new submarines aim to protect that resource, said the navy official coordinating the $10-billion project, Gilberto Max Roffe Hirshfeld. "Brazil has riches in its waters. The new submarines, which will replace Brazil's aging fleet of five conventional subs, are being built at a sprawling 540,000-square-meter (135-acre) complex in Itaguai, just south of Rio de Janeiro.
Vladimir Putin is proving a hard man to snub. US-orchestrated efforts to isolate Russia over the Ukraine crisis saw Moscow ejected from the G8 and the summit shaved to a G7 in Brussels starting Wednesday. But when world leaders gather in France Friday to honour soldiers who waded ashore under Nazi fire on D-Day, Putin will be conspicuous by his presence. And leaders of the key European triumvirate of France, Britain and Germany will not be fighting Putin on the beaches -– they will be meeting him one-on-one.
Arabs believe the Obama administration has little commitment to a Palestinian state, should not intervene militarily in Syria and mostly failed to support Egypt's interim leaders, a new poll released Tuesday showed. Five years after President Barack Obama's landmark speech in Cairo aimed at re-setting ties with the Arab world, the poll revealed that while support for Obama, which had fallen in recent years, is on the rise again among most Arabs it still remains below an average of 50 percent. Zogby Research Services polled about 7,000 people across six nations as well as the Palestinian territories in May for its annual survey, focusing on some of the most pressing issues facing the Arab world in 2014, including the negotiations to rein in Iran's nuclear program, which most broadly supported. Just weeks after the latest US effort to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed, the poll found most Arabs "believe that the United States is not even-handed in its approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making."
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to announce his candidature for presidential elections in August despite deepening concern over his polarising rule. Already in his third term as prime minister -- the maximum permitted under his Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s rules -- Erdogan has made no secret of his ambition to run for president. Don't make me say it," deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc told journalists on Sunday. But while a few other names have circulated for the presidency -- including deputy prime ministers Ali Babacan and Besir Atalay, and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan -- all are Erdogan loyalists.
Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Isolated in the region and facing a major economic crisis in Gaza, Hamas ceded power to gain breathing space and recuperate, and will remain in the background politically, analysts said. Gaza's Hamas government stepped down on Monday after a new unity government took oath in Ramallah, the first fruits of a surprise April deal between the Islamist movement and the Western-backed PLO, which is dominated by the rival Fatah faction. The resignation ends Hamas' seven-year tenure of political authority in the besieged Strip, an experience that ultimately weakened the movement. "Hamas gave in, either from a genuine desire for reconciliation or from a lack of options, and it still needs time to repair the damage sustained from being in power," said Adnan Abu Amer, politics professor at Gaza's Ummah University.
Despite a promise from the US ambassador to London to look into creating nap rooms in the American embassy, stuffy State Department officials Tuesday nixed the idea. Ambassador Matthew Barzun was only being, well, "diplomatic" when he told Huffington Post editor Arianna Huffington that he would consider the proposal she made during a private visit to the embassy on Monday. Huffington had "touted the productivity benefits of getting more sleep, something we can probably all attest to, and urged the ambassador to follow the Huffington Post's example of installing nap rooms," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
A Norwegian heavy metal musician accused of inciting racial hatred denied posting racist blogs as he went on trial Tuesday in France, claiming they were penned by someone posing to be him. Kristian Vikernes, 41, was arrested in July last year in France's central Correze region on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks but was released after 48 hours due to lack of evidence. The rocker, who adopted the name of Varg ("wolf" in Norwegian), first made front-page news in August 1993 when he killed a fellow musician in Norway.
Fotokol (Cameroon) (AFP) - Stray bullets regularly whizz through the courtyard of the Fotokol highschool in northern Cameroon, a terrifying reminder of the Boko Haram gunmen carrying out deadly raids just across the border with Nigeria. "We are always on the alert," school headmaster Jean Felix Nyioto told AFP, seated behind his desk in a cramped office. "At any moment gunfire crackles on the other side, but also from time to time here" in Fotokol. The other side refers to Gamboru, a Nigerian village descended upon by swarms of Boko Haram fighters in May. The extremists opened fire on residents in an attack which local sources say left at least 300 people dead.
The sudden termination of a Hungarian editor's contract sparked protests in Budapest Tuesday after allegations he was fired for publishing a story which embarrassed Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government. -- a subsidiary of German firm Deutsche Telekom AG -- said that the site's editor Gergo Saling was stepping down "by mutual consent", but were forced Tuesday to deny allegations Saling had been booted out for political reasons. An Origo journalist told AFP anonymously however that Saling was "forced out" for political reasons after the site published a story about an extravagant expenses claim made by Janos Lazar, Orban's chief-of-staff.