PBS NewsHour

Beijing marathon goes on despite heavy air pollution

The 34th Beijing International Marathon went on as scheduled Sunday despite heavy smog polluting the city as competitors raced to the finish line wearing face masks and sponges.

About 30,000 people were expected to take part in the 26-mile marathon, which started at Tiananmen Square and ended at the Chinese capital’s Olympic Park, the Associated Press reported.

Estimates said that pollution soared above the maximum recommended World Health Organization levels.

The U.S. Embassy, which tracks the Beijing air from a monitoring station on its roof, said the air was hazardous showing a reading of 344 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 particulate matter.

The World Health Organization considers 25 micrograms within a 24-hour period a safe level.

The organizing committee made 140,000 sponges available at supply stations along the runners’ trail so they could “clean their skin that is exposed to the air,” the Beijing News told the AP.

The post Beijing marathon goes on despite heavy air pollution appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Sweden steps up search for possible ‘foreign underwater activity’

         Swedish Navy fast-attack craft patrols the waters off Sweden on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. On Friday, the Swedish military announced
         the operation in the Baltic Sea, following reports of suspicious "foreign underwater activity".  Photo by PONTUS
         LUNDAHL/AFP/Getty Images.

A Swedish Navy fast-attack craft patrols the waters off Sweden on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. On Friday, the Swedish military announced the operation in the Baltic Sea, following reports of suspicious “foreign underwater activity”. Photo by PONTUS LUNDAHL/AFP/Getty Images.

In a military move not seen since the Cold War, Sweden stepped up a search for possible “foreign underwater activity” in waters located approximately 31 miles from Stockholm Saturday, Reuters reported.

“The intelligence operation that the defense began yesterday has now lasted for about 24 hours and we still consider the information we received yesterday very credible,” said Swedish Navy Commodore, Jonas Wikstrom, in a news conference on Saturday.

“I, as head of operations, have therefore decided to increase the number of units in the area, units with qualified sensor capability.”

The military operation of more than 200 personnel using navy fast-attack craft and helicopters, was announced at a press conference on Friday, after officials received information about suspicious activities in the waters from a reliable source.

“It’s important to point out that we are still conducting an intelligence operation,” said Wikstrom on Saturday. “The purpose is to verify whether there is or has been foreign underwater activity.”

The post Sweden steps up search for possible ‘foreign underwater activity’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

A step forward in ISIS fight? Iraq lawmakers approve Sunni, Shiite ministers


Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And now more of our continuing series, “The War on ISIS.”  Detailed analysis of the administration’s efforts to halt the advance by Islamic extremists who have captured large portions of Syria and Iraq.

For the latest, we are joined once again tonight from Washington by Douglas Ollivant.  He served with the National Security Council under President Bush and President Obama and is now a partner with Mantid International.

The Iraqi parliament today approved nominees for the interior and defense ministry positions.

So what’s the significance of that and what can be done now that they are in place?

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, it’s very significant.  We’ve not had a parliamentary-approved minister of defense or minister of interior since 2010.

So to have the Sunni minister of defense and Shia minister of interior is very important moving forward.  President Obama has talked about getting an inclusive government, and the hardest part of that was the security ministry.

So now that we have a parliamentary-approved minister of defense and minister of interior, we have yet another step to go forward on really coordinating the response to the Islamic State in Iraq.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.  Well, we’ve been talking a lot about ISIS in the context of Syria and Iraq.  It seems that Lebanon is starting to get dragged into this fight as well.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, that’s right.  The Islamic State has made no bones about the fact that it has designs on Lebanon and Lebanon has a very fragile stability from its own civil war 20 years ago.  It’s taken in a lot of Syrian refugees, which has put great strain on its state, its service and its balance.

And again now you have the Islamic State probing the Lebanon border, clearly trying to bring them into this conflict.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.  We’re going to put a map up on the screen that illustrates that ISIS advanced through the Anbar province west of Baghdad during the last seven weeks.

What is important about the Anbar province?

And what is the Iraqi military army doing to stop ISIS there?

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, Anwar’s always been important.  It is a very large province in the west of Iraq and it borders a number of other provinces.  It borders Baghdad, most notably, but also Babel, Karbala, Najaf.

It’s a very significant, very large province, and ISIS first moved here in January, long before its sweep into Mosul that garnered everyone’s attention.  So ISIS has been here a long time.

And in fact, some would say ISIS never really left, that even when the former AQI, now ISIS, the former Al Qaeda in Iraq, went to ground, it never really left Anbar.  It always had a foothold there.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.  Now they also control a town just about 12 miles west of the Baghdad airport, and they’ve been able to fire mortars into the green zone on the eastern side of Baghdad, where the U.S. embassy is.

How safe is Baghdad now from ISIS?

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, in the mega-picture, Baghdad is not going to fall to the Islamic State like Mosul did.  That’s simply not going to happen.  Baghdad is a  majority Shia city that is just — whose citizens find ISIS to be absolutely anathema and it will not be welcomed in any way, shape or form.

Now, that said, ISIS does have sanctuary in and around Baghdad and can do harassing attacks.  What everyone is most concerned about, of course, is the Baghdad airport.  The western edge of the Baghdad airport is just a few kilometers from Anbar province, and it is not inconceivable that ISIS is trying to not capture but interdict the Baghdad airport.

You put one or two artillery rounds on the runway at Baghdad airport and, all of a sudden, international air travel shuts down for that city, which would send into a tizzy the international community that’s in Baghdad, all the embassies, all the military assistance, et cetera.  So that’s a very real problem that we’re watching.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Doug Ollivant with Mantid International, thanks so much.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Thank you so much, Hari.

The post A step forward in ISIS fight? Iraq lawmakers approve Sunni, Shiite ministers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Catholic bishops nix pro-gay language from synod document in sign of split

Catholic bishops scrapped their initial welcome of homosexuals into the church, a measure sought by Pope Francis, as their two-week synod in Vatican City concluded Saturday.

         Francis (L) greets French cardinal Roger Etchegaray at the end of the mass at St Peter's basilica on October 5, 2014 at the
         Vatican. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis greets French cardinal Roger Etchegaray on Oct. 5 at the end of the mass at St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican. Photo credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

The bishops failed to approve even a watered-down version ministering to gays in the church, the Associated Press reported.

Instead, the revised version of the document referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families have to confront.

The document had also stated “people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy,” with reiteration of church teaching that marriage is only between man and woman, the AP reported.

The paragraph failed to get the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass, the AP reported.

A conservative bishop vowed the change in language of the original document was due to confusion among the faithful and threatened to undermine the traditional family, Reuters reported.

In a recent NewsHour interview, Boston Globe reporter John Allen explained the church’s stance on marriage:

JOHN ALLEN: What it is not is a change in Catholic teaching on marriage. The bishops at this gathering, which is called a synod, have made it abundantly clear there is not going to be any change in Catholic doctrine, which is that marriage is a relationship between a man and woman that is permanent and it’s open to life.

Now, that said, the bishops have also made clear that they want a more positive way of engaging people who don’t live that teaching, whether we’re talking about gays and lesbians, whether we’re talking about people who are cohabitating outside a marriage, whether it’s people who have divorced and remarried or whatever.

Watch the full interview here:

The post Catholic bishops nix pro-gay language from synod document in sign of split appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

BBC News

Turks to let Kurds join Kobane fight

Turkey is to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to Kobane to fight Islamic State militants, its foreign minister says.

Two Japan ministers quit amid rows

Two of five women in Japan's cabinet resign over funding scandals, in a blow to PM Shinzo Abe's plans to bring more women into top-level politics.

Nigeria declared free of Ebola

The World Health Organization declares Nigeria officially free of Ebola - hailing it a "spectacular success story" - after six weeks with no new cases.

Amnesty deplores abuses in Ukraine

Amnesty International finds evidence of atrocities committed by both warring sides in eastern Ukraine, but not on the scale reported by Russia.