Activists rally around infant wounded in government attacks
Activists have launched a campaign in support of a Syrian infant who lost an eye and had his skull crushed in two separate government attacks on his besieged hometown near Damascus. Karim was first wounded in late October when artillery shells struck a market in Hammouria, in rebel-held eastern Ghouta, killing his mother. Ten days later, shrapnel tore through the roof of the weeks-old baby’s house, knocking him unconscious. Residents of eastern Ghouta and sympathizers have posted pictures online of themselves covering one eye, in tribute to the now 3-month-old infant. The Solidarity with Karim campaign is the latest effort to bring attention to the government siege, which dates back to 2012. The conditions in eastern Ghouta, home to some 400,000 people, have rapidly deteriorated in recent weeks as the government has tightened the siege, causing severe shortages of food, medicine and fuel as winter sets in. The U.N. children’s agency said last week that 137 children require immediate evacuation, saying five have already died because of the lack of medical care. The U.N. also says President Bashar Assad’s government has refused to allow it to transfer nearly 500 people requiring medical evacuation to hospitals minutes away. Qussai Nour, a local journalist who visited Karim on Monday, said the baby is seeing local doctors but his unemployed father is struggling to care for Karim while raising his other children. A medical report following the first attack said specialized care is needed, but such help is not available in eastern Ghouta. "If shelling against civilians doesn’t stop, there are going to be a hundred or a thousand like Karim," said Moayed al-Halafi, a member of the Syrian Civil Defense, volunteer first-responders known as White Helmets.
Marquis de Sade salacious text declared a ‘national treasure’
The writings, etched in dark ink on a small scroll, tell the sordid story of four debauched aristocrats who lock themselves away in a castle to play out their wildest sexual fantasies, from orgies and animals to torture — including placing a firework up a bottom. Even their author — the Marquis de Sade, the 18th-century nobleman whose libidinous antics helped break sexual mores and inspired the word sadism — considered his work "the most impure tale ever written since the world began." France considered Sade such a notorious philanderer that he was jailed under royal orders in the late 1700s, including in Paris’ Bastille prison for over a decade where he wrote his salacious text. And on Tuesday, France recognized that work — 120 Days of Sodom, or The School of Libertinage — as a national treasure. The government decision came a day before Sade’s work was to be auctioned off in Paris. The state is expected to shore up funds to purchase it at international rates. Sade’s earliest work of fiction, on a scroll measuring 3 feet long and 4 inches wide, "is a serious document of literature, of France’s literary history," said Frédéric Castaing, an expert on 18th-century manuscripts and a member of a commission that advises the government on what works should be designated as national treasures. Sade, he added, was one of France’s most influential authors of the 18th century and inspired the surrealist movement in the 20th century.
President calls for peace after vote
President Juan Orlando Hernandez called on the country’s leaders Tuesday to accept his disputed re-election and bring peace, even as his challenger said he would once again challenge the official result. Street protests continued Tuesday, two days after the Electoral Tribunal rejected complaints by Salvador Nasralla and declared Hernandez the victor in the Nov. 26 election. According to the court’s official count, Hernandez won with 42.95 percent to 41.42 for Nasralla, a former sportscaster backed by a left-leaning coalition. However, the Organization of American States, which had observers monitoring the election, called for a repeat of the vote, saying the official version of the count included "extreme statistical improbability." A Georgetown University researcher who advised the OAS said an implausibly uniform wave of late-breaking results pushed Hernandez past Nasralla after a daylong interruption in counting. The election began in controversy over the mere fact Hernandez was seeking re-election. The constitution explicitly bans it, and a former president was ousted from office by the army, legislature and courts just for allegedly considering it. But a pro-Hernandez Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the ban violated his rights.
As signs of mass grave emerge, government cracks down
Two journalists arrested last week in Myanmar had obtained photographs from residents of a village in which, the army chief has said, a mass grave was found. The area is in northern Rakhine state, where a military campaign against Rohingya Muslims has raged for more than three months. Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 after meeting with police officers. At the time, the Ministry of Information said the journalists had tried to illegally procure information about Rakhine state, where international human-rights monitors say the military has killed and raped thousands of Rohingya. Three days after the reporters were arrested, five residents of the Rakhine village of Inn Din were detained, including the principal of the local school and three teachers. A relative said the five were arrested because they gave some photos and documents to the Reuters reporters. — tbt* wires