On July 16, 2014, Chief Warrant Officer (retired) Yves Roy began a trek of nearly 2,000 kilometres to raise money for two funds that support ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members as well as their families.
Following a long and rewarding career of nearly 40 years, I retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force as a chief warrant officer. I served across Canada, in Germany, in Kosovo and twice in Afghanistan; those last two deployments totaled 14 months in that war-devastated country.
I am a serious walker, and over recent years I have walked thousands of kilometres. Last summer, as I was on a long-distance trek in the French Pyrenees, I thought that I could combine my passion for walking with raising funds to help my brothers and sisters in arms.
I have called this initiative “Operation Wàbigan”. My trek will cover 1,938 kilometres, beginning in Cluny, France, going to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and then to Muxià and Fisterra on the Spanish coast. My route, which will conclude on October 19, 2014, follows the medieval Christian pilgrimage routes known as El Camino de Santiago or the Path of St. James.
For years, Hamid Karzai has wielded tremendous power as the president of Afghanistan — all while heading off discontent by doling out government positions to prominent members of long-warring ethnic groups and factions.
With the two-term president leaving office, however, a nasty dispute between Karzai’s possible successors showed that the system he so carefully managed would need to be altered to keep the country together.
Rival candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani each claimed victory following the June 14 presidential runoff, raising the specter of a protracted battle for power, an impending coup, and even civil war.
To move on, something had to give.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of NATO forces strengthening positions closer to Russia’s border.
Speaking at a July 22 session of the Russian Security Council in Moscow, Putin said Russia needs to react “appropriately and proportionately” to NATO’s moves but he added he currently sees no direct threat to Russia’s sovereignty or territorial integrity.
But the Russian president used the example of the NATO missile-defense system being deployed in Europe, saying the defensive system “is nothing of the kind but an offensive” system.
Putin recommended boosting Russia’s defense potential, “including in Crimea and Sevastopol, where we have to build a military structure practically from scratch.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed several laws on July 22, increasing liability for separatism and violation of regulations for holding rallies.
The Kremlin’s website said on July 22 that the new penalty for separatist calls will be a fine of between 10,000 and 30,000 rubles ($285 and $855).
The maximum punishment for the felony will be imprisonment of up to four years.
Previous legislation had a penalty of three years in jail.
Publicly calling for separatism on the Internet, or by using online resources, will be punished by up to 480 hours of community service and a maximum of five years in jail.
As the circle around the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk draws tighter, residents are finding it more and more difficult to leave the city.
Local blogger Denis Kazansky tells RFE/RL that people are growing increasingly nervous and dissatisfied as separatist militants dig in for possible street-by-street fighting with approaching Ukrainian government forces.
“People can leave,” Kazansky tells RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, “but it is very risky because all the routes out of the city cross the front lines where there is shooting. But the trains are running and, in principle, the tracks are undamaged. There are still ways to get out of Donetsk.”
The already tense situation in Donetsk has been made more uneasy by reports that water supplies to the city have been cut and reserve supplies might last as few as five days.
PARIS —The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy denounced Tuesday rising anti-Semitism in their countries, where thousands have protested in recent days against Israel’s strikes in Gaza. The fallout has been significant in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities.
Like elsewhere in Europe, French have taken to the streets in recent days to demonstrate against Israel’s deadly offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 500 people. Most of the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, but in the Paris area, where protesters defied government bans against the rallies, they have taken a violent turn. Youths have attacked synagogues and Jewish businesses.
Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions President Roger Cukierman said French Jews are anguished and fearful.
JAKARTA —After a drawn-out election process and dual claims to the presidency, Indonesia has officially announced Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, as the country’s next president.
Widodo, an ex-furniture entrepreneur who won 53 percent of the vote, is expected to give a victory speech on Wednesday.
BANGKOK —Cambodia’s Prime Minister and opposition parties have announced an agreement ending nearly a year of political deadlock that is expected to enable the National Assembly to fully reopen.
The agreement between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy followed five hours of closed-door talks Tuesday – the third round of discussions since the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party boycotted parliament after the July 2013 elections.
The opposition had refused to take up their 55 seats in parliament, alleging the polls were rigged. They had called for reforms before fresh elections.
In the settlement, both sides agreed to work together at the National Assembly to solve major issues and reform independent institutions to “benefit the nation, the people” and democratic pluralism.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has met with parents of some of the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in April.
More than 150 people took part in Tuesday’s meeting at the president’s office in Abuja, including some of the girls who managed to escape after they were kidnapped by the Islamist militants.
Afterwards, a presidential spokesman said the meeting was “frank” and that participants “spoke their minds” to Jonathan.
He also said the president repeated his promise to find the girls.
Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan will reassure parents and community leaders from Chibok that his administration is committed to rescuing the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, a presidential spokesman said Monday.
The president is scheduled to meet with the parents Tuesday at the presidential villa in Abuja, according to officials of the administration.
Spokesman Ruben Abati said Tuesday’s meeting forms part of the president’s effort to address the challenges of terrorism and acts of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram militants in parts of the country.
A new series in the medical journal The Lancet says achieving an AIDS-free generation will not be possible unless the human rights of sex workers are recognized. Researchers say sex workers face violence and discrimination and are not able to access the care, treatment and prevention measures they need.
The Lancet articles say people who sell sex – whether in high or low income countries — “face a disproportionate risk and burden of HIV.” These include women, men and transgenders. Much of the problem, the authors said, has to do with “repressive and discriminatory law, policy and practice.”
The series was presented at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
“We set ourselves [up] to evaluate whether or not a supervised injection site could help us to control HIV, as well as a whole lot of other issues around injection drug use,” says Julio Montaner, a physician who directs the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. “And time and time again, the data came in saying yes, it helps, and no, none of the concerns that me, and my colleagues, and the community at large have expressed have materialized.”
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI —Haiti has been plagued with the highest prevalence of HIV infection in the Western Hemisphere. While it has declined significantly – from nearly 10 percent of those screened a decade ago to 3.7 percent as of 2012 – AIDS-related deaths have taken a toll on the Caribbean nation’s children. Roughly 100,000 of those age 17 and younger are orphans of the disease, according to the most recent count provided to UNICEF.
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA —Next year marks the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo, when French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by an international force led by England and Prussia. Just in time for the observance, a retired U.S. military officer is recreating the battlefield – in miniature, with a quarter-million tiny hand-painted soldiers.“Each soldier is approximately six millimeters high or one quarter of an inch,” said Steve St. Clair, who has been painstakingly painting those tiny figures for 20 years.
So far he has 250,000 of them.
”Actually it is one of the most decisive battles in military history. It ended the Napoleonic era, number one. Number two, it had units from so many different countries in so many different uniforms. I thought that will be very interesting to paint,” he said.
PENTAGON —U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor.It was a brutal assault that has gone down as one of the bloodiest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan – a July 13, 2008 attack near the northeastern village of Wanat.
Setting up at a new outpost, former Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts and his fellow soldiers faced a pre-dawn onslaught from about 200 Taliban fighters.
“Almost instantly every one of them was wounded,” Obama said. “Ryan was hit by shrapnel in the arm and both legs and was bleeding badly. Already three Americans in that valley had fallen, and then a fourth.”
Obama said the terraces near the outpost erupted, with more fire and grenades coming from the village itself. Pitts fought back, holding off the Taliban, helping to call in airstrikes even as the attack claimed the lives of nine fellow soldiers.
“It is remarkable that we have young men and women serving in our military who day in day out are able to perform with so much integrity, so much humility and so much courage,” the president said. “Ryan represents the best of that tradition.”