In a world where news comes as fast as your Internet connection, and breaking stories are first announced on Twitter, confusion is bound to happen. On Thursday, news of Nelson Mandela's death unfortunately coincided with the London premiere of a new movie about the legendary South African leader -- "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." On Twitter, the rumors of his passing, which turned out to be true just minutes later, became interwoven with the discussion of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton's red carpet outfit, creating a jarring dissonance.
Here are some examples:
Vanity Fair's Royal Hairdo Watch didn't get the memo:
While the world turned to Johannesburg, People magazine kept a close eye on the Royal Date Night.
Some Twitter users just embraced the coincidence:
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One Russian TV host has had a vision of the awful fate that awaits Ukraine if it moves toward the European Union. It's a picture of Western decadence, and it can be glimpsed in a Swedish public television show that tries to teach children about their bodily functions.
The show is called "Biss och Kajs" -- a play on the Swedish words for pee and poop -- and on Sunday, the Russian news anchor Dmitriy Kiselev delivered a bizarre tirade against the program, denouncing it as a representation of "European values in all their glory."
With hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets of Kiev to protest their government's decision to reject an association agreement with the European Union, the government-backed Russian media turned to propaganda to maintain the Kremlin's influence in Ukraine, a former Soviet satellite state that Russian President Vladimir Putin would very much like to keep in Moscow's orbit.
To that end, Kiselev held up Stream of Pee and Turd-- a pair of characters on Biss och Kays -- as examples of a culture that has more or less sanctioned a "sharp rise in child abortions," where "early sex is the norm - from the age of nine", and where "it is not surprising that child impotence starts at 12."
This, Kiselev -- and Moscow -- intone is the future in store for Ukraine once it embraces "Europe" and rejects its Russian heritage.
A spectre is haunting Poland -- the spectre of George W. Bush.
In the years following 9/11, as the White House accelerated efforts to strike back at al Qaeda, the CIA detained two high-ranking al Qaeda operatives, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah. Both those men are now being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison, but prior to being shipped off to Cuba, the two men allege that they were tortured at secret CIA prisons in Poland.
That's a history that Polish authorities would rather forget, and on Monday and Tuesday government representatives went through the strained motions of trying to defend their country against allegations that Nashiri and Zubaydah had their human rights violated while on Polish soil. The two men have brought suit against the Polish government before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, which is currently trying to establish the facts in a case that has already deeply embarrassed the Polish government.
The case goes to the heart of Poland's political future. Since breaking off from the Soviet Union in 1989, Poland has established itself as a close ally of the United States. In the aftermath of 9/11, Poland was one of the few European countries to fully back the Bush administration's wartime efforts in not only Afghanistan but also Iraq. Now, Poland is moving back toward Europe, having joined the European Union in 2004 and serving as a bulwark of European influence in the east.
The case in Strasbourg has become a litmus test for the Polish government's allegiances and convictions. Torn between its ties to the United States and its role as a regional human rights champion -- both of which have historically been a great source of pride for the country -- Poland is facing a painful dilemma in which the imperatives of America's war on terror have run headfirst into Poland's -- and Europe's -- human rights commitments.
The Shinawatra political dynasty just won't go away, but if protesters on the streets of Bangkok get their way, Thailand's most powerful political family would be on the way out. Despite being ousted in a military coup in 2006, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister and billionaire media mogul, is thought to now rule the country remotely through his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the current prime minister. Protesters have now flooded the streets of Bangkok by the thousands and are engaged in a violent stand off with police as they demand Yingluck's ouster and seek to destroy the Shinawatras' political influence once and for all.
While these protests are unlikely to spell the demise of the Shinawatras, they have brought a level of political unrest to Bangkok not seen since 2010. The demonstrators managed to succesfully storm several government buildings last week, including the Finance Ministry and even the Thai army headquarters. It's a political crisis that has set the stage for a violent showdown between police and protesters.
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Poor Silvio Berlusconi. On Wednesday, his colleagues in the Italian Senate effectively declared him unfit for office and voted to expel him from the body.
The vote effectively caps the former prime minister's tumultuous fall from grace, one that has featured rampant allegations of tax fraud, underage prostitutes, and wholesale corruption. In short, Europe is losing arguably its worst and most entertaining politician.
That has headline writers around the world in dismay, and no one would like to see Berlusconi launch a second act more than the journalists who have gleefully covered his time in politics.
To that end, here at FP we have some ideas about how good ol' Silvio might spend his retirement. Without further ado, here are some suggested career paths for how Italy's most polarizing politician can put his sunset years to good use.
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If Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing, as Benjamin Netanyahu claims, then this sheep has one savvy media team.
Mere days after Iran inked a landmark nuclear deal with a team of Western negotiators, the producer for Rouhani's electoral campaign ads released a video called "The New Journey" or "Aspirations," depending on the translation. It's a clip with remarkable overtones to the 2008 Obama-inspired viral video, "Yes We Can." Instead of will.i.am and 30 of his celebrity friends singing over an inspirational Obama's speech, the Iranian version performs a similar trick with Rouhani's inaugural remarks. Released to mark the first 100 days of Ruohani's time in office, the video stars Iranian celebrities and even includes a sign-language cameo -- just like its American counterpart.
For the past several weeks, the world's attention has been fixed on a Geneva luxury hotel where Western negotiators and their Iranian counterparts have flitted in and out in search of a deal to end the stand-off over Tehran's nuclear program. But the real action, it turns out, took place 3,000 miles away in the Omani city of Muscat.
Working through the Sultan Qaboos-bin-Said, the ruler of Oman, U.S. diplomats have secretly huddled with a team of Iranian diplomats since 2011 to carry out bilateral talks aimed at securing an agreement to put the brakes on Iran's nuclear ambitions. While negotiations in Geneva appear to have generated all-important consensus among Western powers, the meat of the agreement looks to have been hammered out in Muscat, far from the prying eyes of the international media gathered in the Swiss city.
That subplot -- secret negotiations carried out in a little-known Middle Eastern capital known for the production of exceptionally aromatic frankincense -- has added a level of subterfuge to what is already one of the biggest diplomatic developments in recent memory. That a landmark nuclear deal could be worked out in secret is perhaps not surprising but it does cast the spotlight on the man who shepherded the agreement. Just who is Sultan Qaboos?
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Warsaw's red-and-white National Stadium will return to its usual role as host of soccer matches and Madonna concerts after the United Nation's marquee climate change conference draws to a close on Friday. The talks, which started on Nov. 11, intended to lay the groundwork for a plan to replace the expiring Kyoto protocol, to be signed in Paris in 2015, and hash out new goals for curtailing greenhouse gas emissions after 2020. And while the conference was slated as little more than climate-negotiation housekeeping -- perhaps the single most boring phrase in the English language -- the talks became a rollicking display of collective dysfunction.
Against the backdrop of the disastrous cyclone in the Philippines and Japan's sharp revision of its carbon targets, developing nations clashed with developed ones, green groups staged one of the biggest walk-outs at a climate conference to date, a Filipino delegate went on a hunger strike, and the talks' hosts -- Poland -- gave a terrible PR performance. Effectively, the conference just became a rendition of the constant tug-of-war that occurs when money and the environment come into the same equation.
Welcome to the latest chapter of the stumbling, bumbling international effort to reach a climate agreement. Here are the highlights.
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