NEED TO KNOW
Welcome to the "Friday of rage." That's what Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is calling today, as it prepares to lead nationwide protests over the deaths of hundreds of its supporters earlier this week. The warning signs that blood will be shed are there in abundance. A Brotherhood spokesman says "emotions are too high to be guided by anyone." Yet more worryingly, the police have permission to fire live ammunition on protesters if they deem it self-defense.
Parts of Cairo are barricaded with barbed wire and guarded by troops as the capital awaits the end of midday prayers that will signal the beginning of the Brotherhood's "march of anger." Reports say the streets are quiet, for now; follow GlobalPost's live blog for the latest updates as that, inevitably, changes.
Remembering Marikana. It has been one year to the day since South African police shot dead 34 striking workers at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. Hundreds of people are gathered at the site where their colleagues, friends and relatives died to commemorate the deadliest use of police force in South Africa's post-apartheid history.
Notably absent, however, is any representative from the African National Congress: the ruling party has announced it will not attend the memorial since, it claims, the tragedy has been politically hijacked. While South Africa's powerful unions and their political allies tussle over what the killings mean for them, the police force has yet to hold anyone to account for any of the 34 deaths.
WANT TO KNOW
There are rules, they said. We can't spy on whoever we want, they said. We do only what the law permits us to, they said. But then, they are the nation's biggest experts in secrets. Former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden has blown his whistle on a new set of privacy violations by the National Security Agency, this time in specific contravention of American laws on who can and cannot be placed under surveillance.
The latest leaked papers document thousands of instances of the NSA overstepping its legal authority to collect data on Americans and foreigners on US soil alike. At best, it's incompetence; at worst, impunity. President Barack Obama says "it's right to ask questions about surveillance" — and by the looks of it, urgent too.
Shaken, not stirred. Central New Zealand was rocked by a powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake earlier today, followed by a slew of aftershocks almost as strong as the quake itself. Power cut out, water pipes burst, and rattled office workers hid under desks or went scurrying into the streets.
Happily, no serious damage or deaths have been reported, only some minor injuries. In a country that lies on some of the world's biggest fault lines, today's tremblors are no big sweat: the worst they've done is give travelers a reason to grumble, as rail transport is suspended, flights are disrupted and traffic jams pile up.
Europe's pot capital isn't where you think. Forget Amsterdam: this is Lazarat, Albania, and there's not a spliff-smoking tourist in sight. The mountainside village has turned its fields over to a cannabis crop that's worth almost $6 billion per year, according to some estimates, and as many as nine out of every ten residents are involved in planting, harvesting and protecting their profitable plants.
So defensive are they of their illicit business that anyone approaching Lazarat — police, journalist or simple passerby — risks taking a bullet. We get as close as we can to the village where grandmas wield machine guns, and money grows on weeds.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
The little lion that could. Could bark, that is, for it turns out Simba was Fido all along. A zoo in China recently stuck a Tibetan mastiff in a cage and labeled it "African lion," in a ruse that was uncovered when the big cat began to go woof. It then emerged that the zoo's "wolf" was also a dog, its "leopard" a white fox, and a "snake," er, two coypu rodents.
Keepers maintained that they had no intention of duping visitors and the whole thing was a big mix-up. It's really a funny story, see, since the real lion had to go to a breeding facility, and then this one keeper had a big dog, and it just happened to have sort of a mane but that's a coincidence, and we wanted it to be extra safe so we put it inside a cage, and... um... hey, have you seen our Indian elephant? It miaows.