A Palestinian boy looks at statues that are made of fiberglass and covered with clay by Palestinian artist Iyad Ramadan Sabbah, 40, which are depictions for the Palestinians who fled their houses from Israeli shelling during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the eastern Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
Vladimir Shramko, 48, stands next to his neighbor’s house, which was damaged by shelling in the village of Spartak, on the outskirts of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, October 21, 2014. Shramko remains in the village to protect property from looting, as well as to feed abandoned dogs. He is one of the few local residents remaining in the village that has been left without water, natural gas and electricity due to fighting over nearby Donetsk airport, Reuters reported. Nearly every building in the Spartak region has been either damaged or destroyed. Some stand only as a pile of bricks. By the end of this week, temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing in the sharpest cold snap since war broke out in April between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels. More than 3,700 people have been killed in the fighting.
(Photograph Credit: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)
Kurdish women shout slogans during the funeral of Kurdish fighters killed during clashes against Islamic State insurgents in Kobanê, Syria, at a cemetery in Turkey’s southeastern town of Suruç, Şanliurfa province, Tuesday, October 21, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)
In this October 18, 2014 photo, maestro puppeteer Premin Ganvari (L) and his team perform with Sri Lankan traditional puppets during a puppet show in the capital Colombo. Premin comes from a family of puppeteers from the south coastal town of Ambalangoda, which was popular for traditional puppeteers. His grandfather, Ganwari Podisirina Guru, started the family profession of puppeteering in 1922, followed by his father, Jamis Gurunnanse, in 1930 and later Premin in 1950. According to Premin, who leads the Saranga Puppet Theater that has performed around the world, a puppet costs at least US$300 to make. Puppet shows have become less popular since the 1980s, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living as a puppeteer, Premin says. He believes the puppeteer profession is facing a natural death, due to new technology and westernization. (Photograph Credit: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo (C) and his Vice-President Jusuf Kalla (R) greet supporters as they are paraded through the streets on their way to the presidential palace after their inauguration in Jakarta, October 20, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Bismo Agung/Reuters)
Joko Widodo, a commoner who was born in a Javan slum, was sworn in on Monday as president of Indonesia, completing an improbable political rise from hometown mayor to leader of the world’s most populous Muslim state. The 53-year-old Widodo, widely-known domestically as Jokowi, is the first Indonesian president not to have emerged from the country’s political elite or to have been an army general. He succeeded Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who stepped down on Monday after serving two five-year terms. “Unity and working hand in hand are prerequisites for us to be a great nation. We will never become a great nation if we are stuck with division,” Widodo told Indonesians after reading the oath of office, the BBC reported. The new president has promised more “people-centric” government programs; particularly for farmers, fishermen and other traditional laborers, and more spending on education, health care and social services for the poor. In Indonesia, despite its membership in the Group of 20 major economies, more than 100 million people live on US$2 a day or less and the disparity between the rich and poor is at an all-time high. Regardless of his image as a common man, with supporters’ high hopes in the country of 252 million people, his insistence on transparency and can-do approach may face resistance in the legislature. Having a minority governing coalition, Widodo has said he expects members of Prabowo’s coalition to eventually switch sides and join his administration, thereby giving him a majority and increasing his ability to pass legislation.
Kurds watch the Syrian town of Kobanê from near the Mursitpinar border crossing, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Turkey’s southeastern town of Suruç on Sunday, October 19, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)
US military aircraft have dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish forces defending the Syrian city of Kobanê against Islamic State (IS) militants. In a statement Sunday night, US Central Command said US Air Force C-130 aircraft “delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and intended to enable continued resistance against ISIL’s attempts to overtake Kobani.” The airdrops Sunday were the first of their kind and followed weeks of US and coalition airstrikes in and near Kobanê.
"The airdrops are almost certain to anger the Turkish government," The Associated Press said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday rejected calls for Turkey to arm the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, describing the group as a “terrorist” organisation. The armed wing of the PYD, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), has been engaged in heavy fighting in recent weeks with the IS militants for control of Kobanê. “There has been talk of arming the PYD to form a front here against the Islamic State. For us, the PYD is the same as the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], it’s a terrorist organisation,” Erdogan said aboard a plane returning from Afghanistan. “It would be very, very wrong to expect us to openly say ‘yes’ to our NATO ally America to give this kind of support. To expect something like this from us is impossible,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency. Referring to the US demand for access to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, Erdogan said that any demand which ran counter to Turkish interests would not be acceptable. He asked: “What do they want from us in Incirlik? This is not clear yet. If it becomes clear, we can evaluate it with our security forces. But it is impossible to say ‘yes’ to something which we don’t see as appropriate,” Erdogan said according to Anadolu Agency. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last Thursday that the key military assistance the US sought from Turkey was access to the military air base within the scope of coalition forces targeting the Islamic State in Syria. The high cost that the US pays for air operations will be decreased if Turkey allows it to use the Incirlik airbase, as it is located near northern Syria.
Turkish daily Hurriyet reported Sunday that US President Obama spoke on the phone with Turkish President Erdogan, October 19, to discuss developments in Syria, including the situation of Kobanê. The conversation came after Erdogan returned from an official visit to Afghanistan. “The President called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last night to discuss Syria, particularly the situation in Kobani, and steps that could be taken to counter ISIL advances. The President expressed appreciation for Turkey hosting over a million refugees, including thousands from Kobani. The two leaders pledged to continue to work closely together to strengthen cooperation against ISIL. They also discussed the need for continuing close cooperation on efforts to consolidate peace and stability in Afghanistan,” a statement released by the White House said.
Reuters photographer Mohammed Salem shot these photos in the east of Gaza City on the rainy Sunday morning of October 19, 2014. Winter is coming in Palestine, and the long nights and heavy rains will deepen the misery of many thousands of families whose homes were destroyed during a seven-week Israel’s summer offensive across the Gaza Strip. (Photographs Credits: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
Densely populated by 1.8 million people — mostly refugees of long-time wars, and always poorer than the other portion of occupied Palestine in the West Bank — the Gaza Strip was widely devastated in a July-August war between Israel and Hamas. The latest Israeli offensive has left more than 65,000 Gazans facing a winter without shelter. One in five have access to water only once a week and around 4 billion tons of rubble have yet to be cleared from the tiny territory of just 360 square kilometres (139 square miles) on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The bombardment and fighting killed over 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, as well as 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians on Israeli soil. UN agencies estimate that almost 90,000 homes must be rebuilt, in addition to hundreds of schools and other major infrastructure systematically destroyed in Israel’s attack, or degraded by years of blockade. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lamented the vast destruction in Gaza as he visited the area on October 14, calling the situation “beyond description” and urging a speedy reconstruction effort.
At a conference in Cairo last Sunday, international donors had pledged US$5.4 billion in aid to Gaza, although a large portion of that money will go to support the Palestinian budget, not directly to rebuilding Gaza which could take years. According to The Economist, much of the money comes from rehashed earlier pledges — “US$2 billion might be a more accurate figure,” says a Western official. Palestinian officials have said that most of the money pledged after Gaza’s conflict with Israel in 2009 never came. For the moment that US$5.4 billion “has a rather theoretical feel to it,” the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent Kevin Connolly has written. All of the donor countries are no doubt motivated by a desire to help the people of Gaza, and some have their own political and strategic motives for getting involved too. The largest single donors, Qatar (US$1bn) and Saudi Arabia (US$500m), are rivals for influence throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world. The same can be said of both Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (US$200m each). The United States (US$212m) and the European Union (US$568m) may see their contribution as part of the price of continuing to play a role in the wider Middle East — aside from any humanitarian concerns they might also feel. Global Post’s senior correspondent for the Middle East Laura Dean headlined her piece: “The Gaza aid conference was kind of a charade,” published on October 16th. “Of the $5.4 billion announced … only $2.4 billion-$2.7 billion is going to Gaza reconstruction. It remains unclear how much of that is new and how much is money already spent,” Laura Dean said, asking: Who really benefits from the fanfare surrounding these conferences? “The US benefits more than most from being seen to be taking an interest in rebuilding what was destroyed. It provides Israel an average of about $3 billion annually in defense aid, which is used to buy arms and other security equipment. The US also supplied Israel directly with mortar rounds and grenades used during the summer’s offensive,” Mrs Dean writes in her article.
On October 14, Israel opened the border to the first truckloads of building materials for post-war reconstruction in Gaza. Palestinians said at least 200 tonnes of cement had reached Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing point. These bags of cement might enable some people to plug holes in their houses caused by artillery shells. But those whose homes were entirely demolished will have to wait longer. In any case, Palestinians have little faith that Gaza will be rebuilt anytime soon. British charity Oxfam has warned that unless the Israeli blockade is lifted, it could take 50 years to rebuild Gaza and urged donors to put pressure to end the blockade. Gaza Strip was blockaded by Israel and Egypt for years before the most recent conflict. Any material intended for the reconstruction of Gaza is going to end up passing through Israeli territory. Egypt does have a crossing point with the Palestinian territory, at Rafah, but it argues that it is a facility suitable for people only and was not built to deal with a substantial flow of goods. Israel’s security authorities have reasons for concern: Every bag of concrete will have to be searched to make sure it does not have guns, ammunition or rocket parts hidden somewhere inside, and, probably most importantly, for what are called “dual-use” materials — anything that could be used to build either houses or concrete rocket silos and tunnels by Hamas militants.
Earlier this month, Israel announced plans to build 2,600 housing units in the “neighborhood” of Givat Hamatos on occupied land on the southeast fringes of Jerusalem, close to the Palestinian West Bank city of Bethlehem. The move would cut Palestinians off from Jerusalem, forming a ring of Jewish settlements around the southern flank of the city. UN Secretary General and many western governments called on Israel to scrap plans to expand settlements in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state. Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War and annexed the city’s eastern half in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians seek to establish statehood in the three territories, while Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital.
The sun sets as people gather on a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruç, at the Turkey-Syria border, overlooking Kobanê, Syria, during fighting between the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces and the militants of Islamic State group, on Saturday, Octοber 18, 2014.
(Photograph Credit: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP photo)
The internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar Caballero delivers a speech before receiving the 6th Lumière Award at Lyon’s Lumière Film Festival on October 17, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Robert Pratta/Reuters)
On Friday night at the Halle Tony Garnier, in Lyon, France, Pedro Almodóvar Caballero received the Lumière Award 2014 during a joyful, sensual, and musical ceremony full of surprises and speeches of admiration, all of which went straight to his heart. Keanu Reeves, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Gaspard Ulliel, Édouard Baer, Valeria Golino, Michael Cimino, Louis Garrel, John McTiernan, Paolo Sorrentino, Xavier Dolan, Tahar Rahim, Guillaume Gallienne, Patrick Chesnais, Bérénice Bejo, and Juliette Binoche were just some of the international cinema figures who had come to Lyon to pay homage to Pedro Almodóvar, recipient of the Lumière Award 2014. Two Hollywood stars that Almodóvar had helped to stardom, Penélope Cruz Sánchez and José Antonio Domínguez Banderas, both spoke via videos projected in close-up, looking straight at the camera, face to face with Almodóvar, who kept his sunglasses on a long while to hide his great emotion. The 65-year-old Spanish filmmaker arrived at the venue accompanied by emblematic actresses from his films: Marisa Paredes (“High Heels,” “The Flower of My Secret”), Elena Anaya (“The Skin I Live In”), and Rossy de Palma (“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”), along with his younger brother Agustín Almodóvar Caballero, an actor and producer all of Pedro’s films since 1986.
The ceremony was naturally conducted with a distinctive Spanish flair, featuring poignant flamenco songs performed by Agnès Jaoui, Camélia Jordana, and the star of Spanish flamenco music, Miguel Ángel Poveda León. Other powerful moments were included in the tribute. An elegant and collected trio, composed of Xavier Dolan, Tahar Rahim and Guillaume Gallienne, took turns reciting, amidst an impressive silence, a text written by Pedro Almodóvar on the death of his mother. French director Bertrand Tavernier then arrived on stage to proclaim how the work of Almodóvar had built Spain, including “bikini-ing” the country — giving it life, while tightening the strings! He was followed by Juliette Binoche, who pronounced a thank you on behalf of all the actresses and expressed gratitude for what Almodóvar films give to women, before reading alongside Almodóvar, moved and proud, the French translation of his acceptance speech, in which Almodóvar explained how, through his work, he had tried to vindicate the years of sadness that the rigid Spanish society of the time had imposed on his late mother.
«I was born in the ‘50s, a good time for cinema, but I fear a terrible time for Spain. If I’d been born in America, maybe Spielberg would have phoned me and given me a Super-8 camera to play with. But in Spain after the Civil War, I only had my own life and my family’s to initiate myself in the world of fiction. Fiction for me was the world of my home’s patio, the neighbors, my sisters taking lessons in the coolness with their friends, the cats, the gypsies, the flamenco-singers at the August fair, the twist, hanging and skinning a still bloody rabbit, my mother talking to her neighbors in the street door in the coolness of the long summer nights, talking about stories of suicides, incest, or singing all together. Fiction was for me all that happened in and outside the big screen of the open-air cinema, a wall, a fetish object. Behind the screen, the guys relived ourselves: Myth and physiology. I didn’t know it, but I was learning very early the essential. My mother was always the territory where everything happened. In 1987, I asked her to take a cameo role in “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” We were in the dressing room where the costume designer had chosen some dresses for her. I was attending to something else. Suddenly, I heard indirectly my mother day to the costume designer: “I don’t want black dresses, give me something brighter.” And she went on to explain her long relationship with black, something I hadn’t heard before. When she was pregnant with me, she had dressed in black, because she was in mourning. From the age of three, she had backed one morning with another. The first 30 years of her life, she dressed exclusively in black, and she didn’t want to use that color ever again. I didn’t imagine my mother was forced to wear black when she bore me. Frequently, people have asked about the use of color in my films. I think I used the colors of my childhood, Technicolor, brilliant explosive colors that were very difficult to achieve in ‘80s laboratories. After losing my mother, I began to think about the origin of my films’ colors. I’d like to think that my passion for color is my mother’s reply to so many years of mourning, blackness. Although she was dressed in black when she bore me, in her she was gestating her vengeance towards the dark monochromes obliged by tradition. I was her vengeance, and I hope I’ve been good enough. For 35 years, I’ve been trying with all my heart,» Pedro Almodóvar said.
Marionettes backstage before a performance at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in Los Angeles, California, October 17, 2014. The playhouse started in 1960, has 2,000 handmade marionettes and is the oldest continually running marionette theater in the United States. It was recently bought by a developer who wants to turn the historic landmark into a 104-unit apartment complex. (Photograph Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
• Reuters : Oldest marionette theater to close (a slideshow — 20 photographs by Lucy Nicholson)
• The Eastsider (a Los Angeles news/opinion blog) : Is the Bob Baker Marionette Theater worth saving without puppets?
Police officers detain Getty Images photographer Paula Bronstein during a confrontation between police and protesters at Mong Kok shopping district in Hong Kong on Friday night, October 17, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Bronstein, a multiple award-winning veteran photographer who is best known for her coverage of conflicts in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Indonesia and Pakistan, was covering the on-going chaos in Mong Kok as police and pro-democracy Occupy Central protesters are engaged in a stand-off. According to Hong Kong publication Ming Pao, the Getty Images photojournalist was taken in by the police after she stood on a car, possibly to get a better capture the action. Although the car was undamaged, the car owner lodged a complaint with the police, and Bronstein was quickly arrested. Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) condemned the Hong Kong police for detaining Bronstein, and claimed that the police also threatened “other journalists at the scene; one was told he would be beaten with a baton if he tried to cross the road.” “These tactics are a flagrant violation of the media’s right to report this unfolding story,” the press club said in a statement, demanding “the immediate release of Ms Bronstein and an end to such intimidation.”
Earlier in the day, police had cleared out the protesters in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok neighborhood, but they returned at night to hold their ground. Hong Kong riot police used pepper spray and baton charged pro-democracy protesters who mobilised en masse on Friday evening after a pre-dawn clearance of a major protest zone in the Chinese-controlled financial hub. The demonstrations began nearly three weeks ago to denounce rules for the territory’s chief executive election in 2017. The rules, imposed by authorities in Beijing, would limit candidates to two or three people approved by a special committee packed with pro-establishment figures.
A Palestinian woman braids a girls hair in a building destroyed during the 50-day conflict between Hamas militants and Israel, in Shuja’iyya neighbourhood in the east of Gaza city on October 16, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo shows graves of Kurdish people killed fighting alongside People’s Protection Units (YPG) against Islamic State jihadists for the control of the mainly-Kurdish Syrian town of Kobanê, also known as Ain al-Arab, in the cemetery of the Turkish town of Suruç, Şanliurfa province, on October 15, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)
The Britain-based ”Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” (SOHR), with sources inside Syria, reported Thursday that 662 people have been killed in the month-long battle for the town of Kobanê, along Syria’s border with Turkey. This figure includes 374 Islamic State (IS) militants, 258 Kurdish fighters from YPG and al-Asayesh, 10 others supporting the Kurds and 20 civilians. The SOHR, a one-man band that provides casualty figures on Syria’s civil war often quoted by Western media, said it believes the overall death toll about the fighting in Kobanê could be twice the number it gave, citing “extreme secrecy” about casualties from both the IS and Kurdish forces, “in addition to the difficulties to access too many areas and villages, which witnessed clashes and bombings from both sides.”
The recent air strikes by US warplanes have slowed an advance by IS militants against Kurdish forces defending Kobanê, according to media reports. The strikes had seen the militants’ advance slow, but “the security situation on the ground in Kobanê remains tenuous,” the US military’s Central Command statement said. A journalist in Kobanê said air strikes had allowed Kurdish forces to go on the offensive for the first time since IS launched their assault four weeks ago. "We walked past some (YPG) positions in the east yesterday that were held by IS only two days ago," Abdulrahman Gok told Reuters on Thursday. ”Officials here say the air strikes are sufficient but ground action is needed to wipe out IS. YPG is perfectly capable of doing that but more weapons are needed,” he added.
A Bahraini women holds up a portrait of prominent Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr during clashes with riot police following a protest in solidarity with Al-Nimr, in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama, Bahrain, October 15, 2014. (Photograph Credit: Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images)
The 54-year-old Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, a figurehead of the Shia minority protests that have rumbled in Saudi Arabia since 2011, was sentenced to death on Wednesday morning, his brother announced on Twitter. Mohammed al-Nimr said his brother was found guilty by a Riyadh court of seeking “foreign meddling” [from Iran] in the kingdom, “disobeying” its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces. The verdict was the conclusion of a trial that began in March 2013, according to news agencies. The cleric was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Saudi Arabia’s restive Eastern Province in 2011. Al-Nimr was arrested in July 2012 when he was shot by security forces in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. His arrest triggered days of unrest. Protests are banned in Saudi Arabia, where many ultraconservatives view Shiites as heretics. Oil-rich Eastern Province is home to a Shia majority that has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni royal family. Protests began there in February 2011 after the start of the pro-democracy uprising in neighbouring Bahrain, which has a Shia majority and a Sunni royal family. The Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia and blame Iran for stirring up discontent. Al-Nimr was a key leader of Shiite protests demanding equal rights. He also openly criticized the Sunni government of Bahrain’s handling of Shiite protests there. Saudi Arabia sent troops to help Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy quell its Shiite uprising in the tiny island nation. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 1,040 people were detained in Shiite protests between February 2011 and August 2014. There are at least 280 still imprisoned.
A passenger looks out of the window of the bar car of a historic Tehran-bound train as it leaves Budapest, October 15, 2014. The luxury train that connects the capitals of Hungary and Iran, left Budapest for the first time on Wednesday, with 70 passengers set to cross the eastern Balkans, the Bosphorus and Kurdistan on the way to Persia. The two-week trip sets back each participant at least 9,000 pounds (US$ 14,400, euros 11,200) and some as much as 25,000 pounds including full service with private bathroom, a sightseeing program and the beautiful scenery that rolls leisurely by for about 7,000 kilometres (4,350 miles). “There is a huge vacuum in the tourist industry for people who would like to go to Iran, but want to do it in comfort and safety,” the founder of Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, Tim Littler, told Reuters while aboard a pre-war sleeper as a steam locomotive pulled the cars through the Hungarian plains. (Photograph Credit: Bernadett Szabó/Reuters)