The News February 14-19: Death of a SCOTUS-Man

Stories of the Week

Death of a firebrand. Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving US Supreme Court justice, passed away last weekend at age 79. His death had only been known for mere hours when politicians began to launch attacks from both sides of the political spectrum. As Scalia was a deeply conservative justice on a bench that is highly polarized, his death has created a 4-4 split. An Obama appointee would likely secure the first liberal majority bench the Court has had in years. Sensing this, Republicans have already threatened to obstruct any nomination the president puts forth. 

A horrifying attack. At least 50 people were killed by bomb blasts in Syria on Monday. Five hospitals were hit, including a Doctors Without Borders-backed facility. It is hard to tell if the strikes were carried out by Bashar al-Assad's government or Russia, but either way they did lethal damage. Regardless, Turkey has essentially accused Russia of war crimes and tensions between the two countries have disintegrated even further following the incident.

Terror in Turkey.  A bomb detonated in Ankara during rush hour on Wednesday killed around 30 people and wounded around 65 more. The Turkish government implemented a media blackout during the event to block images from social media. Meanwhile, officials are linking the attacks to Kurdish rebels, something that isn't uncharacteristic of the government - there's been tension between Ankara and the Kurds for many, many years. For its part, the PKK has denied its involvement.

Ankara street sceine (Flickr -  Jorge Franganillo )    

Ankara street sceine (Flickr - Jorge Franganillo)



Blues Buzz


Regional Updates

South Asia:

  • Students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in India are protesting en masse over a variety of offenses. Much of this stems from an event a group of students planned in commemoration of the hanging of Afzal Guru, who was convicted of attacking Parliament. The protests now involve accusations that certain students shouted anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans and that JNU in general is a drain on taxpayer rupees. At the crux of the dispute is the underlying Hindu extremist culture ushered in by Narendra Modi's BJP government, and its tension with the leftist students who want nothing to do with it.
  • Pakistan's Sindh province has passed a bill allowing Hindus to register to marry. Pakistan is majority Sunni Muslim and minorities face considerable discrimination, so the bill is VERY big news.
  • A polio worker in Lahore was wounded by a gunman, according to local reports. Polio workers in the country face extreme violence, something that has escalated significantly since a polio drive was used by the CIA as a front during the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. 
  • Dozens of Afghan soldiers have been killed in clashes in Helmand province, led by the Taliban.
  • Freedom 251, an Indian company, claims it is about to launch the world's cheapest smartphone. The price is rumored to be under 500 rupees, which would make it less than US$5. Update: the phone reportedly launched Thursday, but sales had to be suspended as the website crashed almost immediately.

Southeast & East Asia:

  • Indonesia has banned social media website Tumblr over its pornographic content.
  • Once a haven for political dissidents, Thailand is moving towards a cozier relationship with China, alarming many onlookers.
  • Tension between China and Taiwan, meanwhile, is escalating as the former steps up its muscle in the South China Sea.

Europe & Eurasia:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she supports a no-fly zone in Syria, where a civil war has been raging for several years.
  • EU reform talks are underway in a hasty effort to entice Britain; the powerful country has been threatening to leave the Eurozone for some time. EU leaders met in Brussels on Thursday to discuss both Britain and immigration reform, as refugees continue to stream into the continent.
  • The Ukraine's prime minister faced a no-confidence vote this week after the country's president asked for his resignation. His government survived the vote, but animosity is running high throughout the country.
  • Sweden says the Afghan army raided one of its clinics in the country, killing three people inside.

Middle East & North Africa:

Sub-Saharan Africa:



  • Australia and China are sparring over their claims in the South China Sea. China has seen spats with numerous countries over its creation of man-made islands in the area, but Australia's response has seen less media coverage than China's arguments with Vietnam and other neighbors.

Quote of the Week

Today, the surrounding area is one of the poorest in the U.S., physically dominated by a poverty exposed and isolated: Trailers abutting county roads, shotgun shacks in small towns, and low-income ranch-style houses in the bigger towns. It is also one of the most religious regions in the country; scattered amongst the homes are churches, which, other than Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, are quiet and still, devoid of any presence but the divine. - "Where Jesus Lives" - The Awl

Blue Out: Hairy panic.