Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 12:37 pm
Aleppo's storied old city, which dates to the 12th century, has suffered much in the fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels over the past few months. But parts of the city remain intact, as I saw on a recent walk through the winding, stone alleys on the way to the front line.
Centuries ago, it took Muslims from this area months in a caravan to make the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, which is now part of Saudi Arabia.
Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 1:45 pm
King Abdullah kept a promise to Saudi Arabia's women last week, when he appointed 30 of them to four-year terms in the new Consultative Assembly, the pseudo-legislature that advises the monarch on laws and regulations.
As usual with such developments in Saudi Arabia, there is a catch: The women will have to meet in a room separate from the men.
Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 12:46 pm
Imagine one-third of the entire U.S. population — 100 million or so people — visiting Dallas in the next 55 days.
That gives you a sense of what began today in Allahabad, India, a northern city of about 1.1 million people. Over about the next eight weeks it is expected to host nearly 100 times its population in pilgrims (not all at once, obviously). They're coming for the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela, which happens every 12 years.
On this fourth day of French military operations aimed at routing Islamist militants in Mali, the al-Qaida-linked rebels are "vowing to drag France into a long and brutal ground war," Reuters reports.
"France has opened the gates of hell for all the French. She has fallen into a trap which is much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia," a spokesman for the MUJWA Islamist group told Europe 1 radio, the wire service writes.
In China's capital, they're calling it the "airpocalypse," with air pollution that's literally off the charts. The air has been classified as hazardous to human health for a fifth consecutive day, at its worst hitting pollution levels 25 times that considered safe in the U.S. The entire city is blanketed in a thick grey smog that smells of coal and stings the eyes, leading to official warnings to stay inside.
Originally published on Sun January 13, 2013 1:16 pm
An Egyptian court overturned a life sentence against ousted President Hosni Mubarak and ordered a retrial for the former autocrat.
The decision to retry the strongman who was serving a life sentence for failing to stop the killing of protesters came as no surprise. When the judge overseeing the original case made his ruling last June, he criticized the prosecution for failing to produce concrete evidence against the leadership.
Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 3:32 pm
Lebanon has had some of the worst winter weather in decades. First, record rainfalls flooded the low-lying part of the country, then ice and show bent trees and blocked roads. The frigid conditions are making it even harsher for Syrian refugees trying to take shelter from the violence in their home country.
The al-Marj refugee camp sits wedged between snow-covered vineyards, a community center and an unfinished warehouse in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, just a 10-minute drive from the Syrian border.
It's not clear whether a French intelligence agent is dead or alive after a botched rescue attempt in Somalia on Saturday morning. As the AP reports:
"France says the agent, code-name Denis Allex, was killed in the raid, along with a French commando and 17 Islamist militants. But the militant group al-Shabab, which held Allex for more than three years, says it still has Allex and claims to have captured a French soldier."